Archive for the 'Character Departures' Category

15
May
11

Story 035: The Faceless Ones

Maybe landing at an airport was a bad idea.

So, the travelers land in 1966 London Gatwick airport right smack on the runway. If I’m not mistaken, they’ve landed on a runway briefly before, in one of the Dalek chasing episodes. But this time they stay, only to have Jamie flee in terror away from a “flying beasty.” While mildly amusing at first, I’m glad he only mentions the beasties one more time because it could become annoying pretty quickly. At any rate, there are very few interactions with the airplanes. But here’s my question. Why didn’t they look at the monitor? “Oh, we’re on an airport runway, there are planes everywhere. This looks like a great place to go out and explore!” Not the best decision they’ve ever made. But, I suppose they have made much dumber exploration choices so I can’t complain too much about that.

What I can complain about, though, is how painfully long and boring this story was. I thought the 6-episode story had gone the way of Dodo (see what I did there?), but apparently I was wrong. The premise of the story was great (Invasion of the Body Snatchers pod people in a location as inhuman and cold as an airport? nice work. though, admittedly, not entirely original.) and there are some definite bright points (the first appearance of the faceless ones, for example, is genuinely creepy). However, the search for what was going on in the Chameleon Tours hangar lasted just a tad too long. Like about 2 episodes too long. I found myself checking Twitter and playing Angry Birds during episodes 5 and 6. When episode 4 started, I couldn’t believe there were 3 more episodes. The truth of the matter is I started this story way back in January when I was on a mini Doctor Who roll, but I kept falling asleep and eventually gave up (my doctoral exams scheduled in March and April didn’t help). Now I know why I couldn’t make it through.

Ready for a new face!

So, the gist of the story, Polly (whose hair is now inexplicably long again. Shame.) witnesses a murder in the Chameleon Tours hangar, then goes to tell the Doctor. The Doctor and Jamie investigate, Polly is kidnapped, Ben is MIA. Meanwhile, the dude in charge of the airport, Commandant, is concerned about the TARDIS clogging up his runway and suspects Doctor and Jamie, who are standing at the immigration desk without passports. The people at Chameleon Tours are stealing the identity of airport personnel as well as some youths to replace their faces after some horrible accident on their home planet. They do this by complicated medical procedures that transfer physical characteristics but leave the original in tact. And, luckily for their victims, the originals have to be kept alive and they have to wear arm bands. If the arm bands are removed, the Chameleons simply disappear. That’s right, they disappear. Not turn back into chameleons. Not go through some painful transformation. Not fall over dead. Disappear. I don’t get it. Also, they hide the originals somewhere that they are sure no one will ever find them….in parked cars. In a parking lot. At the airport. Genius. Because no one will EVER look in cars that have been parked there for years. And the bodies will NEVER overheat, freeze, or starve. And they were bragging about their superior intelligence…

Somehow, they have kidnapped 50,000 teenagers and only one — ONE! — has been reported missing. That missing kid’s sister, Samantha, is at the airport and helps the gang unravel the mystery. Very. Slowly. In order to transport all of the originals back to Chameleonus or whatever planet they come from, they miniaturize the people and put them in drawers, a la The Ark. The Doctor solves the mystery and everyone is saved. Even the Chameleons are granted clemency and allowed to return to their home planet and find some other way to get faces. The Doctor even offers to help.

While the story was too long, it showcased Jamie’s and the Doctor’s strength. I like Jamie. As soon as his innocence completely fades (“Look out! A flying beasty!”), I think he will be quite enjoyable. Also, Troughton’s Doctor has fully grown on me. I’ve gotten into his mischievous, witty groove. And in an odd way, I kind of buy him as a younger, refreshed version of Hartnell’s doctor. It took a little bit to get there, but I could see this man becoming Hartnell in old age when he’s just as clever but not really able to move quite as quickly and starts to get grumpy. Patrick Troughton would definitely wear that sweet hat Hartnell wore during the French Revolution.

Polly and Ben didn’t really have much to do in this story. Ben spent a lot of time missing and Polly was chameleonized. This is probably for the best since it was their final story and Jamie needed the opportunity to shine. Also, the Wikipedia tells me that Samantha was asked to remain on as a companion, but she refused. As the story was going on and I realized this would be Polly and Ben’s last (They were in London in 1966. It was kind of obvious), I thought she was going to be sticking around. I even kind of hoped. She complemented Jamie well and was clearly written to be a companion. But, no such luck. Anyway, Polly and Ben left, it wasn’t very surprising. I liked Ben a lot, he was very no-nonsense. Polly I liked a little less. But, she was hot. The first hottie companion, which, if I’m not mistaken, is the path the show would take with most of the rest of their female companions. Probably a good choice.

It turns out, it was the exact same day (July 20, 1966) that they had previously departed with the Doctor so it would be as if they were never even gone. Now, this brings up some potential time travel paradox stuff. While the Doctor is running around Gatwick Airport, somewhere in another part of the city he is defeating WOLTAN. There are also two Polly and Bens. What if Polly and Ben go back downtown before they leave? They could see themselves and rip a hole in time-space continuum. Or, what if Troughton were to somehow meet Hartnell? All hell would break loose at that point, I’m sure. And, it seems like WOLTAN taking over the world’s computer systems would be news and Commandant would be concerned about all this Chameleon Tours nonsense happening at the same time as a major computer changeover. And, if this is an alternate Earth rather than the same Earth, there would be two Polly and Bens forever. Convenient plot device, terrible consequences.

Goodbye, Ben and Polly. Don't look so sad.

18
May
10

Story 029: The Tenth Planet

The Tenth Planet, William Hartnell’s final story as the Doctor, is so much better than season 4’s first story, The Smugglers, that I can only shake my head at how The Smugglers made it into this season. I enjoyed the story and the concept, although I felt the approach and destruction of Mondras happened a little too quickly. And it is truly a shame that the final episode, including the Doctor’s regeneration, is missing. There is a quick clip of Hartnell at the TARDIS controls, but the final scene itself is gone. The reconstruction of the episode, however, is the best I’ve seen so far.

The travelers arrive on Earth at a space command center at the South Pole in the distant future of December, 1986. A space mission is coming to an end, but it runs into some serious issues. A new planet, that looks identical to Earth, only upside down, zooms into Earth’s orbit and destroys the ship. The Doctor tells those in charge at the base that he knows what’s going to happen. They, of course, do not listen to him. Led by an incredibly irrational General Cutler, those at the base seem to be a group of angry, reactionary hotheads. With the exception of Dr. Barclay (and, of course, the filler characters that just blindly follow orders). I kind of wanted them all to be killed off by the Mondas inhabitants (the Cybermen). They were all so obnoxious. One thing I did notice, however, was that the world seemed to be full of international cooperation. There were British and American people at the base, they communicated on the phone with a chubby man whose accent I couldn’t place, and received calls from Geneva. Everyone banded together. What I liked about this, is that they didn’t point it out. Often, shows or movies will point out how well everyone is getting along and there hasn’t been a war in years and blah blah….this was just presented as natural. International cooperation has always been an optimistic image, and the writers of this story built it in as if it were not particularly remarkable. Nice touch.

Reanimated by Technology

The Cybermen are a great race of villains. For a couple of reasons. First, they’re truly creepy with their blank faces and the way they talk by just opening their mouth like a speaker. And their robot voices rule. But creepiest of all is the fact that they are something like human. The Cybermen are a depiction of our future. As humans strive for longer and longer life spans and begin replacing our natural parts with technological devices we lose our humanity. And this has happened to the Cybermen. They say that their brain are just like that of a human, but they can no longer feel emotion or empathy. They are truly posthuman Frankensteins. Elaine Graham would describe them as existing at the gates of humanity. Mondas used to be Earth, but left the solar system. While that isn’t really explained, it is implied that the Cybermen truly used to be human. Which makes their lack of humanity even more terrifying. They are us. I know that the Cybermen have at least two more stories in the future, I hope they don’t change too much, because I think they’re a great set of villains.

I must admit, though, that attacking a remote South Pole base twice is not the best strategic move. Maybe it had something to do with the bomb? Unfortunately, as terrifying as the Cybermen are, they really don’t do very much. They show up, do some talking, and are relatively easy to defeat. The plot generally doesn’t have much to it. The quality of the story lies much more in the concept of the Cybermen and regeneration than it does in excellence of script.

The supporting cast is unremarkable. As I mentioned, Cutler is a hothead reactionist. We don’t really get much out of Barclay. He’s apparently a good guy, but there is no depth. And everyone else is bland, following orders. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is standard for the show. And that’s fine. But, it is not really even worth mentioning. In fact, I think that from now on I shall only mention the supporting cast if it is good….It seems that most other reviews I read of the stories point out the flatness of the guest cast. Does it really matter? They’re only around for one story arc. If a good story is being told, I only need my main characters to have depth.

In this story, we don’t get a lot of depth from the Doctor, mostly because he spends much of the second half of it unconscious. But it seemed that Hartnell was essentially phoning in his final appearance. And Polly I’m not sure has a lot of depth. She does stand up to the Cybermen, which something Dodo never would have done. But, when the general asks her why she wants to stay with Barclay she replies “I can make him coffee or something.” Good job, writers. No wonder there are no women at the South Pole base in 1986.

Ben, however, continues to impress me. He’s still a take-charge dive right into the battle kind of companion. He has a no nonsense air about him. And he is the hero of the story. With Polly and the Doctor taken hostage by the Cybermen, Ben is left to work on the bomb Cutler had intended to blow up Mondas. He recognizes that the Cybermen are afraid of the radiation and comes up with a plan to expose and kill them. The plan is successful and enough time is bought so that Mondas, which had been sucking the energy from Earth, was destroyed by sucking up too much energy. This all happened too quickly for my taste. Obviously, they are under time constraints for the show, but it seemed like everything went down in a couple of hours. They could have given the impression that a few days had passed at least. But instead I am to believe a planet from who knows where flew at ludicrous speed into Earth’s orbit, sends some scouts, sucks the energy, sends some warships, takes two people hostage, then sucks too much energy that it melts all in the span of a few hours? That’s just not plausible for me. At least indicate that a week or two pass or something.

Now, the Doctor’s regeneration. It is not exactly explained what happened. In the third episode, without warning, the Doctor simply falls over, as if from exhaustion. He lies motionless for the entire episode, I figured that was all there was to it, Hartnell would wake up as Troughton. But, no, he awoke for the final episode not particularly concerned, only to fall asleep again while being held hostage. At that point he knew there was a problem and needed to get back to the TARDIS. Once there, he fiddles with the controls while the lights flash and things go crazy all around him. He says that his body seems to have worn thin. I thought that was a brilliant description, it had been worn out and he needed a new one. Did he need to be in the TARDIS for a successful regeneration? What if he hadn’t been able to get back? What controls was he messing with? Were they helping him to regenerate?

He collapses at the controls. In the reconstruction, a closeup of Hartnell’s face fades into a closeup of Troughton’s face and that’s the end. It was all very intense, kind of in the same way as the rush to the TARDIS in the wake of the Time Destructor was intense in the Daleks’ Master Plan. Did that perhaps hasten the necessity of the regeneration? Did it have a greater impact on the Doctor than we (or he) knew?

Generally I was fascinated by the regeneration and I hope we get some more explanation in the next story.

The Tenth Planet was very good and I hope is a sign of what Season 4 will be now that Smugglers is behind us and we have a new, younger Doctor. The next story, entirely missing, is a Dalek story. Nothing like throwing the newbie right into the fire. Does the Doctor still have all of his memories? How many times has this happened to him? Had it happened to Susan before? So many questions that are probably never answered…..

William Hartnell: Funny, Grumpy, Mysterious

26
Apr
10

Story 027: The War Machines

Model of Wotan

The War Machines was definitely written to be a season finale. There were some groundbreaking plot points, the involvement of a main character in a plot, a (somewhat unexpected) departure, and the introduction of two new characters. So, there’s quite a bit going on.

The plot is pretty familiar to us now: a computer is put in charge of decision making and promptly decides that humans are not really necessary, beginning to systematically destroy them. We start with the arrival of the TARDIS in London sometime in the mid- to late-60s. The Doctor and Dodo land near the Post Office Tower. I had to look the tower up to learn about it. Fittingly for the story (and probably on purpose by the producers/writers), the tower was intended to be (and still is) a major telecommunications hub. They make surprisingly little mention of Steven, given Dodo’s rather emotional sendoff at the end of The Savages.

Now here is the primary weakness of this story: The Doctor and Dodo show up at the tower and are immediately given access not only to the room storing the world’s most advanced computer, Wotan, but also continuous, unquestioned access to its creators and operators. Apparently, off screen, the Doctor convinced them that he was a computer genius. Apparently in 1960s London the general hobbyist was given access to top-secret technology. It’s a good thing the Russians didn’t know that! But, given the Doctor’s access, the rest of the story was fine as far as plotting.

War Machine Attack!

Some of that plot must have been pretty original for its day. Starting with the basic idea that Wotan could communicate and control all of the other major computers in the world. This story aired in the summer of 1966. The ideas for ARPANET, the beginning of the Internet, began in 1962. However, work on the network did not begin until 1968 and I think that it was well after that the public were aware. So, either writer Ian Stuart Black was very clever or had some inside information. The Wikipedia tells me it was the idea of a technical advisor. Nice work. More on this later.

Wotan, days before taking control of the world’s computers, begins turning the people into zombies. Like in the Dalek Invasion of Earth, these are old-school zombies of the laboring type, not the later brain-eating type which I’m not sure had been popularized quite yet. This is the second time we’ve seen humans enslaved via mental manipulation. It’s not really a plot device that survive multiple uses, and I think two is about all it can handle.

Dodo with Polly and Ben

Anyway, Dodo is one of those enslaved and is instructed to bring the Doctor into the fold. Now, here’s something interesting: Wotan (who knew what TARDIS meant) referred to the Doctor as Doctor Who. This is the first time that he has been referred to as such. Until now there has been no semblance of a name. Now I know that he is never really given a proper name, but is that because he doesn’t have one? Where could Wotan have gotten the name? Perhaps he watches the show?

Of course, the Doctor cannot be zombified. Instead, he works with Polly and Ben, two friends Dodo met at a nightclub, to solve the mystery of what’s going on. Polly is zombified, but Ben (a sailor) is able find out that Wotan’s slaves are building a war machine that will keep the humans under control while Wotan takes over.

The Doctor is able to reprogram one of these War Machines and have it destroy Wotan instead. The world is saved! Dodo, meanwhile, sent to the country to recover, has decided she wants to stay in London. The Doctor is informed by Polly and Ben. The only goodbye Dodo gets is a “She sends her love.”

The Doctor is rightfully incredulous, mumbling something about taking her through time and space and that’s all the respect he gets. Seriously. There is no goodbye to Dodo whatsoever. She really got the shaft by the show’s producers here. The last we see of her, Dodo has been hypnotized. She does not even appear in the final episode (or maybe two) of the story. Instead, she’s just gone. Such poor treatment. I wonder how Jackie Lane felt about being written off the show in such a way….

The Doctor Confronts a War Machine

While I was shocked at the way Dodo was unceremoniously removed, I had a feeling she was leaving as soon as I saw they were in London. And the attention given to Polly and Ben indicated that they were going to be sticking around. They unwittingly follow the Doctor into the TARDIS just before it leaves. They seem alright. I like Ben…but then again, I liked Steven at first, too.

Now, for more groundbreaking. I’m sure this was one of the first shows to deal with computers in this way. I know that some of themes had come up prior in the Twilight Zone. In one episode, The Old Man in the Cave, a computer is left to make all major decisions for a group of humans after nuclear war. And in another episode (I forget the title), computers are put to work and eventually put the humans out of work. However, the controlling of other computers and the world generally was knew. The War Machines themselves were predecessors of the Terminator series. And the round flashing light was very similar to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). There is little doubt that Stanley Kubrick, who moved to England in 1962 undoubtedly saw this story of Doctor Who. Additionally, the story had a very cinematic feel with moving cameras and obstructed shots. This has since become the goal of science fiction television shows such as Fringe. They all want to look more like movies and less like television.

The apparent impact of this story is impressive. On its own, the story is pretty good, although not the best I’ve seen so far. Season 3 is over and I’ve got some reflections to share in the next couple of days. Also, the First Doctor’s time is soon coming to an end. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

So long, Dodo. You got the shaft.

17
Apr
10

Story 026: The Savages

I think Steven’s final story was his best. The Savages overall wasn’t too bad. It had more bright spots than bad ones and was mildly enjoyable. A bit of early misdirection on the nature of the savages and the bad guys made for some decent drama.

Spied on by Savages

The travelers arrive and the doctor is convinced he knows where they are, although Steven and Dodo have their doubts. In a nod to the show’s earlier days, the Doctor goes out on his own with a device to gather readings. He discovers that they are exactly where he thought they were, far in the future on a world that is apparently familiar to him, although he’s never been there. Meanwhile, Steven and Dodo hang out at the TARDIS where they are attacked by the presumed savages and their spears. The Doctor goes to the city where he is told that the people of the planet have been waiting for him “for lightyears,” which is nonsense of course, since a light year measures distance, not time. But at any rate, they are excited to finally meet the Doctor (the traveler from “beyond time”) and his companions (ahow were rescued and brought to the city by some soldiers).

Steven is overly impressed by how wonderful everything is in the city and we learn that there is some mysterious technology that makes the inhabitants super awesome. Skeptical Dodo sneaks off and witnesses their secret: They extract the life force from the savages! I’ve seen stuff like this before, although I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if this were one of the first times the idea that “life force” or emotion or something else could be drained in liquid form from a person in order to help another. A concept that would eventually lead to Soylent Green, even if the sources are dead in that movie.

The Doctor and Jano

The Doctor’s life force is transferred to the city’s leader Jano. And Jano comes out of the process questioning his own civilization’s actions. In order to demonstrate to us that he had started thinking like the Doctor, he did a William Hartnell impression that left a little to be desired. I guess it made it clear what was going on, but nobody can “hhmmm” and “quite right” like the Doctor.

As I mentioned, this was probably Steven’s best story. He actually grew a backbone as he led the Savage raid on the life force laboratory. He was written in this story as strong so that viewers would buy him as being able to lead the now-unified planet once the Doctor had gone. However, anyone that thought back to almost any other Steven story would know that he’s generally a wimp that hangs out in the background. In this story, though, he stands pretty strong and manages to do it without Ian’s self-righteousness. If his character had been given this kind of chance earlier in his tenure on the show, I would have liked him a lot more.

For (I think) the first time, we had a good goodbye scene. There was a touching moment between Dodo and Steven, and the Doctor’s strong vote of confidence for Steven was nice. Almost like the Doctor himself has matured a bit, being able to recognize when it’s time to let someone go.

Missing Steven Already

This story is entirely lost. The audio in the reconstruction I watched was not very good at all and most of the images were blurry and tough to make out. However, this one was done by a company with a butterfly logo (I forget the name) rather than Loose Canon and they included much more description of what was happening and subtitles. The audio was bad, but it has been just as bad on some of the Loose Canons reconstructions. The subtitles were helpful since the extant material was pretty bad.

So, not a great story, but not too bad. And easily Steven’s best story. Too bad it had to be his last. My assessment of Steven is that he was rather forgettable and disappointing. I thought he was very good when he started in The Time Meddler, but except for a little flash in The Massacre, he just couldn’t hold his own against the other primary characters (even Dodo). I’ll be interested to see his replacement in the season 3 finale…

Bye, Steven. You kind of sucked.

25
Feb
10

Story 021: The Daleks’ Master Plan

I finally made it through the epic twelve-part Master Plan. It started strong, went pretty bad, and then finished brilliantly. There’s a lot going on in this story and I think it’s best to talk about it in three parts: The first half of the the story, written by Terry Nation, the Christmas episode (also by Terry Nation), and the second half of the story, written by Dennis Spooner. Warning: This entry is a long one!

Terry Nation

The Terry Nation half of the story is brilliant. I was having the feeling that the story was to be his masterpiece, but that thought was pretty quickly derailed once Spooner took over. First of all, Nation seems to have gotten over whatever was making him write like a moron in The Chase. Picking up where Mission to the Unknown (Dalek Cutaway) left off, the travelers arrive on the Dalek-occupied planet Kembel where rescuers from Earth have gone in search of Kory, our hero from the Dalek Cutaway. The Doctor goes in search of medicine for Steven, still in trouble after being wounded in the hasty departure from Troy. Katarina, still positive that they are in the after-life and in search of the great beyond, is left to care for him. At this point we are exposed to one of the primary characteristics of this story: death. First, an injured Rescuer is killed by a Dalek. He would be the first of many deaths, including a couple of brilliantly done main-character deaths.

The Alien Delegation

Terry Nation, in his last Doctor Who story, put together a great tale. Chen, guardian of the solar system, has Taranium, an element the Daleks need to complete their time destructor, some apparent secret weapon that will allow them to take over the universe. Chen turns out to be a great villain. He is power hungry and, as the story goes on, becomes more and more insane. Along with Chen are other galactic representatives. They include a man that appears to be made of stone, like the Thing, a Mummy, a man in 1950s comic-book space suit, a man with Leaches on his face, one with bumps all over his body, and another one that looks a little like a robot. Apparently this is the greatest brain trust in the universe, but in reality they are all dupes to the Daleks.

The Daleks, in the Terry Nation half, are ruthless. Without hesitation they exterminate anyone that disagrees with them or threatens to get in the way. In this story we meet Dalek Supreme, the Dark Dalek (his only distinguishing feature is his dark color). Dalek Supreme is intense and it seems that even the Daleks fear him. As well they should, considering he has a couple of his own race whacked for failing on a mission.

The Doctor infiltrates the galactic conference and learns of Chen’s delivery of the Taranium (is this perhaps Dalekanium, from the Dalek Invasion of Earth?). He steals the Taranium and off the travelers go, accompanied by Brett, another Earth rescuer. The plan is to go to Earth to warn them of the Dalek Invasion. Unfortunately Chen follows them. On the way to Earth, however, the travelers stop on a prison planet occupied by crazed, violent criminals. The criminals attempt to board their ship, but the Doctor knocks them out, separating himself from the Daleks by saying he does not wish to kill anyone. One of the prisoners had managed to board the ship and quickly takes Katarina hostage.

Brett, the Gang, and TaraniumNow, Katarina. If I had been watching Star Trek (or Lost) she would have been wearing a red shirt and I would have known she was doomed. As I said, she was worthless. She thought they were in the afterlife and the Doctor was a god. She was always prattling on about the perfect place or nirvana or whatever. I think she was still concerned about it when she was taken hostage in the ship’s airlock. Mercifully, she decides to sacrifice herself and opens the airlock door, sucked out into space. It was the first death of a companion, and it was a good one. Plenty of tension, and I’ll have to admit, I wasn’t expecting it. The seconds leading up to the event have existing film, but unfortunately, the film of the actual death has been destroyed. I would have liked to have seen how they did it. The Doctor, after her death, wishes Katarina well. I don’t know why. I was happy to see her go.

Katarina, about to be sucked into space

Chen arrives on Earth before our travelers and brands them as traitors. As a result, Brett is forced to kill his friend and Sara, under Chen’s orders kills Brett. The deaths really mount in the Terry Nation portion of the story. It sets a tense and somber mood that is pretty unique compared to previous stories. At no point has there been this level of violence. As Season 3 has progressed, the show has matured. At this point in the story I was really enjoying it. I was intrigued, I found it exciting. While the secondary characters like Chen and Brett were a little flat, as is typical, the Daleks were at their evil best and I enjoyed both Steven and the Doctor. Even Chen, later in the story, develops some depth. Unfortunately at this point in the story, however, the plot begins to devolve a little bit. This is also the point at which Dennis Spooner took over the writing.

Christmas Episode

The Christmas episode, written by Terry Nation actually follows Spooner’s first episode in the story. The travelers have begun a sequence in which they are running from a so-far unknown pursuer, presumably the Daleks. They land outside of police station in England and on a silent movie set in Hollywood. Hilarity ensues. At the police station one is tempted to think of the scenes in A Hard Day’s Night in which Ringo is arrested and the rest of the Beatles try to get him to the show on time. On the movie set the Doctor has an amusing conversation with a young Bing Crosby, encouraging him to go into music rather than comedy. Charlie Chaplin also makes an appearance. Overall the episode is entertaining The reproduction shows some silent-movie-style title cards. At the end the Doctor (possibly in an ad-lib) wishes all those at home a Happy Christmas. While VERY similar to the absurdity of The Chase, the Christmas Episode was fine on its own, although it doesn’t really fit into the story itself. I give it a thumbs-up as a special episode that aired on Christmas Day, 1965.

Dennis Spooner

The Doctor as Indiana Jones in Ancient Egypt

Spooner takes over for Nation after Sara shoots Brett. And almost immediately the quality of the story drops. At first it’s not too bad. Sara and the Doctor are teleported to another planet by a device that was still in the testing phase. Interestingly, teleportation has not been perfected by the year 4000 when this story takes place. In fact, someone (I forget who) says that it is impossible. Beyond this, however, the episode begins a 4-episode string (including Christmas) of chasing down the travelers. Including what was likely originally intended to be its own story — two episodes in ancient Egypt. These episodes stink. Plain and simple. I felt that it was a rehash of an already poorly conceived concept. What I will mention, though, is the return of the Monk. he has fixed his TARDIS and is back for revenge against the Doctor. Chen attempts to use him to retrieve the taranium. These scenes, infused with humor, are good. But why are they in this serious story? Spooner was unable to maintain the mood that Nation established in the first half of the story and it was really disappointing. The Doctor, disabling the Monk’s TARDIS again, steals the device that allows him to control the TARDIS, navigating it back to Kembel in hopes of stopping the Daleks, once again in possession of the taranium. The arrival back at Kembel got the story back on track.

Chen - On the Road to Insanity

This is the point at which Chen becomes interesting. His desire for power, fully understood by the Daleks, becomes his undoing. He feels that he will be sole ruler of the universe, convinced that the Daleks cannot continue without him. He has no support from the rest of the council (which has been decimated by the murderous Daleks). Yet he gleefully exclaims that he is charge and will rule the universe. While I could not see his face, his voice was delightfully deranged. And over the last two episodes, which were brilliant, he gets crazier and crazier, culminating in the Dalek Supreme’s announcement that their alliance was over. Chen, proclaiming that he is immortal, becomes the latest victim of the truly evil Daleks. In these last episodes, Chen is awesome. So insane, so deranged, so obsessed with his own delusions.

The end of the story, I felt, matched if not exceeded what Nation had initially set up. The Doctor captures and activates the time destructor, the Daleks’ secret weapon. As he and Sara race to the safety of the TARDIS, the time destructor ages them and the planet around them. It has such an effect on Sara that she falls down, dead, turns to a skeleton, and then to dust. The Doctor, falls down but experiences no further effects. The planet ages and dies, the jungle turning to desert. And, lastly, the time has an impact on the Daleks’ casings, rusting them or something, and the mutated creatures within die. The Doctor and Steven examine a dead Dalek and express regret for the violence and the death, mentioning their friends Katarina, Brett, and Sara.

The end of the story was great. The scramble to get back to the TARDIS before the Time destructor could kill them was intense and, as I’ve mentioned, the insanity of Chen. The Daleks never lost their edge in the story and were a truly menacing group of villains. With exception of the downturn throughout the middle, I enjoyed this story a lot. The show is continuing to mature and Season 3, to this point, has been the best so far. If the more serious stories were to emulate what this one did, I think the show would be at its best. The elements of danger and suspense were unlike anything so far. This story really exemplifies what I’ve come to expect from Hartnell’s Doctor, especially considering the more comedic episodes. What I’m left wondering, though, is why the Time Destructor essentially had no effect on the Doctor? And, with Sara gone, how will they fill the open companion character slot? Last time they were left like this we had a quick two-episode story to introduce Vicki. The next story is The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve, four episodes. And while I don’t expect it to match the seriousness of this one, I’m hoping it’s not too much of a let down.

07
Feb
10

Story 020: The Myth Makers

This story has some good stuff going for it, but I wasn’t ready for a character departure! The story had a good pace at 4 episodes. It was lacking a bit in action and the story was simple, but like Galaxy 4, clever. The integration (and changing) of a few different myths and legends really helped the story, I think. It added a bit of smirkiness like The Romans.

Speaking of smirkiness, The Myth Makers is a truly funny story. Not in the slapstick style of The Romans, but in the well-written witty way. I found myself giggling out loud a few times, while trying not to wake my wife. The changes to Homer’s story were great. Most of the characters lose their heroic natures, which I found refreshing. I was a fan of the changes to Paris. Mostly because I hate Orlando Bloom, so anything that makes his character look like a moron is good in my book. His cowardly, nervous, please-everyone personality was perfect. The dialogue was good, full of one-liners. And the Doctor was great, at his best, both grumpy and funny. Especially when he didn’t want to try out his own catapult-flying-machine and so came up with “Plan B” and then feared for his life while in the horse.

Zeus arrives

The TARDIS appears on the plains of Troy smack in the middle of the battle between Hector and Achilles. Now one would think there would be people all over. But, no. The scene for their battle shifted to some secluded part of the plain and they apparently encountered one another by accident. Additionally, Achilles does not appear to be the fearful warrior of legend. Instead, he’s kind of wimpy and Odysseus is skeptical of his ability to defeat a warrior of Hector’s ability. In fact, Achilles probably would have lost the battle had the Doctor not appeared shortly after Hector mocked Zeus.

Having won a great battle, Achilles believes that the Doctor, having appeared from nowhere out of his strange blue temple, is Zeus himself. Foolishly, though not surprisingly, the Doctor agrees that he is Zeus and reluctantly follows Achilles back to the Greek camp. Shortly thereafter, Steven, who cannot seem to do anything the Doctor tells him, is captured and also brought to camp. He and the Doctor are asked to prove that they are gods…and, of course, they cannot. The Doctor indicates a number of times that he must get back inside the TARDIS. For once, he seems to be uninterested in meddling, he just wants to get away. This is probably the most sensible the Doctor has ever been. Too bad the Greeks won’t allow it.

The Trojans take the TARDIS into the city, with Vicki still inside. They are about to set fire to it as a sacrifice, when Vicki emerges, claiming to be from the future. Now, why did she leave the TARDIS? My guess is that it cannot be burnt. It’s not actually made of wood, is it? I mean we’ve seen it fall off of cliffs and such. I would think they would light it on fire, it wouldn’t burn, and they’d keep it in the square as a monument. Vicki could have sat tight, at least until the cover of night. Instead, she comes out and King Priam, despite the protests of his daughter, takes Vicki in, giving her a more appropriate Trojan name: Cressida. Of course, Cressida is the Trojan that defected to the Greeks and then fell in love with Troilus, Priam’s youngest son. Conveniently, Troilus is right there and sure enough, he and Vicki fall in love.

The Trojan Horse

Like it was his idea to burn Rome, the Doctor comes up with the brilliant idea to build a gigantic wooden horse. There’s a great shot of his blueprints for the horse that says “Plan B: Trojan Horse.” I thought that was humorous. Anyway, the Doctor is hiding in there with all of the soldiers. At this point I wanted to punch the Doctor right in the face. He keeps wanting to wuss out. He keeps talking, risking their discovery. He even wants to jump out after the horse in Troy. What the heck was his problem?I will say that the horse was pretty impressive looking. There was a small bit of surviving footage of the horse. It didn’t appear to be show footage, but like it was filmed off screen. Like someone was really proud of the horse they had built. I’m glad that some actual footage of the horse survives, because I was really curious to see it.

Vicki, by Steven’s suggestion, convinces Troilus to leave the city. Outside the city he meets Achilles, and it is he, not Paris, who is given credit for killing Achilles. A nice revision, and way to include the hero’s death, I thought. After a slave helps the Doctor get an injured Steven into the TARDIS, the ship disappears, presumably with everyone on board. But as Troilus stands on the plain cursing Cressida for doublecrossing him, she walks toward him, having escaped the city. I was shocked. How was Vicki still there? Did the TARDIS come back? No, she never entered it. And she is leaving the show. Vicki was my favorite companion so far. I feel that there was more to do with her character and such a quick departure was unfortunate. No goodbyes were said at all, something that I imagine is going to become common places with last minute escapes and such. Like Susan, Vicki lasted just over a season. Also like Susan, she left because she was in love with a boy. Can’t a woman in the Dr. Who universe leave to be on her own rather than to identify herself as the love of some man’s life?

Vicki’s apparent replacement, Katarina, was given hardly an introduction in this series. In fact, she barely speaks until the TARDIS is left and she tells the Doctor that she thinks she’s dead. Wonderful. I imagine it would be difficult to explain to someone from prehistory about time and space travel, let alone one who thinks she’s passed on. And I still don’t feel as if we know Steven very well. He was good in the Time Meddler, but Galaxy 4 wasn’t written for him. So, we now need to get to know another new companion before we’ve gotten to know him. I can see how this might be very challenging for the writers, I’ll be interested to see how they handle it. Especially with the epic Dalek’s Master Plan coming up.

Overall, the story was good. It was consistent and well-paced. Like I said, it was funny. Vicki’s surprising off-screen goodbye was a disappointment, but also like I said, I didn’t want to see her go. It was probably the best story of the season so far, though it’s only the third, so that doesn’t say much.

The reconstruction I saw was not very good, but I saw on a website today that there is a newer, better, version that has been made recently. I probably won’t watch the new reconstruction, but it’s good to know they made a better one. The Dalek’s Master Plan is next and it’s huge, hopefully I can get to it soon. And hopefully Katarina doesn’t suck, because I really liked Vicki.

10
Jan
10

Story 016: The Chase

Wow. That was awful. I like campiness. I enjoy B-movie schlock. But this was terrible. It wasn’t even so-bad-it’s-good. The Chase is a Dalek story, but only barely. And even the Daleks were disappointing. Terry Nation must have been having a bad day. I suppose the concept was alright: the Daleks develop a time machine that is capable of tracking and following the TARDIS. Not the best concept, but it could work. However, it does not work. It stinks. Here’s my impression: Terry Nation had a bunch of concepts that he couldn’t/didn’t develop. So, he strung them all together into a single, incoherent, poorly directed story.

One thing I liked happened at the very beginning of the first episode. We see the Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki just chilling in the TARDIS. It was a neat look into their “daily” lives, if there can be such a thing. During this scene, the Doctor is building some machine that allows them to view any moment in time. Do they use it to see what Susan is up to? No, no. They watch the Gettysburg address. And, The Beatles. They view a clip fromTop of the Pops from 1965 in which the band is playing Ticket To Ride, a great tune. (Interestingly, the 25 seconds that appear are the only surviving moments from that show that apparently fell victim to the great BBC destruction of the late-60s/early-70s.) Ian and Barbara begin dancing and singing along. Now, they left London in the Fall of 1963. Beatlemania was in full swing, but the chances of two teachers in their late 30s enjoying it I would suspect is low. Nor would they know the words to Ticket To Ride. That aside, Vicki notes that The Beatles remain famous throughout history. Wonderful foresight, there. I can’t imagine a show in 1998 that would dare to claim Hootie and the Blowfish would become lasting classical music.

The Daleks locate the TARDIS

But back to the story. The travelers end up on some desert planet, and the Daleks arrive. How do the Daleks get around so well in the sand? Then, they go to the Empire State Building. Here we meet an irritating and stereotypical tourguide. That speaks with such an awful fake New York accent….”Heah in da tawllest buildin’ in da woild…” and an even worse Alabama boy with an even worse accent full of “gawl-ly” and “aw shucks.” While I’m sure that Brits don’t actually believe Americans sound like these people, I’m going to take this opportunity to say: Americans don’t actually sound like those people.

Then, they end up in a haunted house. And Barbara, Ian, and Vicki are terrified. Terrified? They’ve fought Daleks, burned Rome, defeated the animus. And the cheesiest haunted house in history sends them running for the hills? And why did Frankenstein actually attack the Dalek? Am I to assume he would attack a person? That’s not a very well-designed theme park attraction.

They land on the Marie Celeste. A boat that turned empty because the entire crew abandoned the ship for fear of the Daleks, beings they’d never met and who made no attempt to harm them. Simply asking “Where are the time travelers?” was the deadliest weapon ever. Way more efficient than the weapon that turns victims into photographic negatives. and how did the Daleks get up the stairs?

Daleks vs. Mechanoids

The story looks up a bit at the very end when the travelers are holed up in a cave, waiting to blast the Daleks with some strange machine the Doctor built. But it’s better when they are taken prisoner by the robot inhabitants of Mechanus (the Mechanoids?). They become exhibits in a zoo and meet Steven, who has been held prisoner for two years. He has apparently made a stuffed panda bear his best friend. His captivity has made him, as one from Alabama might say, crazier than a shithouse rat. So crazy, in fact, that re-enters the burning building to find his stuffed panda. Not even Tom Hanks jumped in the ocean to retrieve his volleyball. The last we see of Steven, he is practically crawling through the forest. However, my reading of some other reviews tells me that he is a new traveler that is going to join us in the Time Meddler. I didn’t really see enough of him in this to make much of an evaluation of him as a permanent character. I suppose he is valiant, going back in after the panda and such. I’ll have a better idea after the next story, I suppose.

The most important part of this horrible, useless story was the departure of Ian and Barbara. The Dalek’s time machine is apparently superior to the TARDIS in that it’s not broken. They can actually control where it goes. So, once the Daleks are defeated (in a surprisingly well-done battle with the mechanoids), they ask the Doctor to help them work it. The Doctor is angry, but Vicki tells him that it’s their choice. This whole exchange was done well..but the actual departure was, like the rest of the story, a let down. When Susan left the interaction was touching. This time all we got was an angry Doctor storming into and back out of the Dalek machine. Then, without a visible goodbye, Ian and Barbara were gone. It didn’t seem like Terry Nation knew how to handle the leaving, so he almost didn’t handle it. He kind of reacted like the Doctor..angry and then dismissive. The Wikipedia tells me that in the original script Ian and Barbara do not leave…so I wonder if this was a sudden decision written in at the last minute. As if they realized the departure was just as awful as the rest of the story, the writers put in a photomontage of Ian and Barbara enjoying London and the Doctor and Vicki watch them on the fancy time-watching device. It brings some better closure, but them leaving the show, especially after the farewell Susan received, seemed rushed and not very thoughtful.

Overall, this story sucked. The Daleks were no longer evil villains, but stammering idiots. The story was a hodgepodge of junk and B-Sides. Ian and Barbara’s farewell was handled poorly. We didn’t get a very good introduction to the new character. This was by far the worst story of the first two seasons. I’ve heard/seen good things about the Time Meddler, the season 2 finale. I like the injection of time plots in these last three stories (Space Museum, Chase, and I’m guessing the Time Meddler based on the title). I hope/imagine that they are starting to set up some more serious show mythology.




About These Adventures

This blog exists to document my trip through over 30 seasons of the British science fiction television show Dr. Who. Prior to beginning, I had never seen a single episode of Dr. Who and will be learning the show's mythology and experiencing it all for the first time. I began sometime in July of 2009. Hopefully it doesn't take me over 30 years to reach the end.

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