Archive for the 'Character Introductions' Category

05
Sep
10

Story 031: The Highlanders

Jamie (right) captures the Doctor and Polly

After a summer hiatus (at this rate, I’ll never make it through all 26 classic seasons), I picked up the Doctor where I left off. Patrick Troughton’s second story. I was rather ambivalent about Troughton’s Doctor after The Power of the Daleks, and this story didn’t do too much to make me like him more. In fact, I found his somewhat childish nature to be irritating. Perhaps I just haven’t gotten in tune with his interpretation of the role. And not being able to actually see Troughton in action (nothing but reproductions so far) probably hasn’t helped.

The travelers arrive in Scotland in 1746, shortly after the end of the Battle of Culloden. We see a difference in this Doctor from William Hartnell right away as he apparently recognizes their location and is ready to go. Ben, on the other hand, is convinced that they are in England and wants to find out what the deal is. This harkens back to the time that Ian was convinced the France during the Reign of Terror was home and went off in search of a pub to buy the Doctor a beer. Instead, they end up being taken prisoner first by a group of rebels and then by the British army.

Among the group of highlanders that befriend our heroes is Jamie McCrimmon. He seems like a decent enough fellow, perhaps a bit like Ben. He was certainly introduced in a manner similar to Ben in that he was a major player in the adventure. At the end of the Story he ends up agreeing to travel with the Doctor, although he doesn’t know quite what’s going on. At this point, I have a comment on Ben. I was a Ben fan. I liked his chutzpah. But he almost seemed out of control in this story, acting foolish. Tearing up his contract, refusing to go with the other prisoners, insisting the army had no right to arrest him. It is this bit of recklessness that made him appealing to me, but he just made the situation worse.

At any rate, the Doctor, pretending to be German, Ben, Jamie, and the Laird (a Scottish Lord, I’m assuming?) are taken prisoner by Grey and Trask, illegally being sold into slavery. Polly and her friend Kirsty, though, elude capture. They hide out in a pit and use their feminine wiles to blackmail Ffinch, and army officer, into helping them. He helps them to reunite with the Doctor. Meanwhile, Ben is busy ripping up his slavery contract and being tossed overboard of the Annabelle slave ship. He manages to get loose of his ties in the water and swim to short where, luckily, the Doctor is conveniently waiting. The plan they come up with is fine: the girls give weapons to the prisoners while the Doctor distracts them. After a battle, Trask ends up in the drink, and the rebels sail the ship away to France. Jamie, however, is left behind as he helps the travelers to locate the TARDIS. After avoiding capture with the help of Ffinch (still feeling blackmailed, I suppose), the TARDIS is found. Jamie isn’t sure where he’s going to go, so Polly and Ben suggest he accompany them. He does, although he seems nervous about it.

I’m told by the Wikipedia that this is the last historical story for many years, owing to Patrick Troughton’s desire to differentiate his Doctor from that of William Hartnell. I’m a little sad to see the historicals go, I rather like them. Having said that, I was kind of bored by this story. For almost half of the story, each traveler was in a different location. This made interaction between them a bit sparse and, as is typical, the secondary cast weren’t much to write home about. Trask was like a cartoon pirate, and Ffinch was a wimp. Jamie seems alright, but was not really developed. I think that Polly’s part of the story was the most intriguing, with her cliffhanger in the pit and the blackmail of Ffinch. And then, when the plot to rescue the rebels was hatched I was impressed by her (and Kirsty’s) insistence upon being a major player in the events. Polly really took charge of her role in this adventure, while the Doctor was rather irritating and Ben was foolish. She was almost Barbaraesque, but much less old. Speaking of Barbara, I’m starting to appreciate her more.

Overall, the story was ho-hum. Much of the energy that was driving the show in Season 3 seems to have been lost somewhere. Or been redirected somehow. The next story has an existing episode, so seeing Troughton and Jamie in action may help enliven it some. I hope so, because I kept having to rewind after dozing off while watching this one.

10
Jun
10

Story 030: The Power of the Daleks

OK, after being distracted by my current obsession with Bonanza and Twin Peaks, I awoke this morning to three new comments here. When I checked in to moderate the comments, I noticed that there had been 75 hits today. I’m not sure what caused the sudden influx of visitors, but now that number stands at 90, the most popular day yet! Thanks to those who have visited, new readers that have joined in, and the two or three regular readers out there. This swell in popularity encouraged me to finally finish and write a post on The Power of the Daleks.

The Doctor after his Renewal

This story isn’t too bad, although it goes on a bit long. The 6 episode format does not help this story, there simply isn’t enough story to carry it. I didn’t think that it was a particularly great introduction to Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, I didn’t really get a good feel for his character. It’s depiction of the Dalek’s, though, is quite good. It does a nice job of showing their intelligence and deviousness.

The Doctor recovers from his regeneration, explaining that he depends upon “change” and “renewal.” He also points out that it is a part of the TARDIS and he could not survive without the TARDIS. I found this to be pretty interesting. What about the Monk? Does he also have that feature? What if he had to renew himself when his TARDIS was miniaturized? Would he have died? I don’t know whether this ever defined or described in more detail, but is definitely another question worth filing away.

Polly is pretty sure that the Doctor is still the Doctor, while Ben is skeptical. I’m not too sure why he was so skeptical — he witnessed the change. Did he think someone had snuck in while he was watching and steal the Doctor, replacing him with this younger fellow? These opening scenes, though, are pretty good. Troughton seems to adopt Hartnell’s wit, playing it coy with Ben, speaking of himself in the third person and acting as if he doesn’t remember, looking for his journal. It was a nice touch to mention his time in The Crusade and his friend Marco Polo, likely in order to assure the audience that he was indeed the Doctor as I’m sure it may have been somewhat confusing. I’m not sure how well the promotional material would have set the viewers up for this change, if at all. I like how the Doctor answered questions by playing a little flute, gave Ben some snarky responses and wanders off on his own. At this early point, I felt like I was learning about the new Doctor. But, for the rest of the story, I found him to be rather aloof. I’m not sure if they were trying to squeeze Troughton in Hartnell’s character, they weren’t yet sure how he was going to be, or if that will become his character. I’m interested to see his development. I imagine that it is difficult to completely re-write a show’s title character. In the meantime, we have the Daleks to deal with.

The Doctor finds a murdered man in the swamp near the TARDIS. When guards come to find the dead man, he steals his identity and the human residents of the planet believe him to be an inspector from Earth. The planet is Vulcan…a reference to the real-life planet theorized to be between Mercury and the Sun. Of course, there is no such planet. It became more famous as the home of Mr. Spock (I had originally written Doctor Spock. The pointy-eared Vulcan should not be confused with the famous advice-giving pediatrician.) a couple of years later. As has been the case a couple of times in other stories already, there are rebels threatening the stability of the colony. This is getting to be a go-to device for human space-colonies. It’s a simple way to create secondary character drama and potential danger for the travelers. In this case, we get both. The colony’s government has a couple of moles, one of which killed the real inspector. They are then able to use the travelers as scapegoats, claiming they are working with the rebels. These traitors hope to utilize the Daleks, discovered in a centuries old space capsule, as servants and weapons to overthrow and control the colony.

Army of Daleks

The Daleks are the best part of the story. They are smart enough to recognize the gullibility of the humans, claiming that they are their servants. Essentially, they fool them and lull them to sleep. In the meantime, they are building a Dalek army inside the capsule. They are smart enough to never gather in groups of more than three (the original number), and they build weapons and a power source with the material that they receive from the human scientist, encouraged by the traitorous government official. Of course they turn on their supporters and alleged masters, killing nearly all of the humans on the planet. The only way they are stopped is when the Doctor is able to kill them with a power surge from the power source they had built. I thought this was a good way to stop them and really highlighted their evil nature. Once again, they took advantage of the human thirst for power. They used Chen in the Daleks’ Master Plan, and this time they used Bragen, the man most interested in ruling the colony (and the one responsible for the murder of the Inspector and later the colony’s Governor).

A Dalek with a Power Surge

Of course, the Doctor knew all along what was happening. But nobody would believe him. Still in his continuing attempts to well by those who host him and his friends, he sticks around and attempts to convince the humans that the Daleks are dangerous. But, he is put in jail for being one of the rebels and no one will listen. Until the scientist witnesses the building of the Dalek army. But by then it is too late. After killing the Daleks, the Doctor, Ben, and Polly head off for their next adventure.

Generally, this story is all right. The length makes it kind of boring, but the nicely written Dalek plot saves it. Ben and Polly play nearly no role (although in some of the pictures it appeared that Polly wasn’t wearing pants). Each is on vacation and misses an episode, and they spend most of their time simply trying to tell the people that the Doctor is right or trying to figure out what happened to the Doctor. As I alluded to earlier, even the Doctor isn’t particularly interesting in this story. While the story is passable, it isn’t much of an introduction to the Second Doctor.

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.

28
Feb
10

Story 022: The Massacre (of St. Bartholomew’s Eve)

The Winter of 1965-66 was a depressing time to be a Doctor Who companion. Fresh off the death and destruction of the Daleks’ Master Plan, The Massacre (sometimes called The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve) returns us to France for the first time since the Season 1 finale just in time for the slaughter of thousands of Protestants. It’s pretty typical Who fare until the final episode when the Doctor figures out exactly what’s about to happen (and even then it doesn’t stray too far).

Dressed to Kill!

Likely not yet recovered from events on Kembel, the Doctor and Steven land in 16th century Paris, with the TARDIS conveniently hidden behind a wall in an alley. They change into some period clothing, although I was disappointed that the Doctor didn’t wear his sweet hat from Reign of Terror. I also noticed later when we saw a close-up of the Doctor’s walking stick that he is no longer carrying the one given to him by The Kahn. I wonder happened to that one…

The Doctor is extremely excited to go and meet an apothecary in the city somewhere and leaves Steven on his own. Other than his conversation with the apothecary we don’t see the Doctor again until the second half of the final episode. I would say he was on vacation, but we do see Hartnell acting as the Abbott. At any rate, this story’s focus is on Steven’s quest to find the Doctor. Due to Hartnell’s double role, there is some suspense over the Abbott’s identity, which is really the most interesting part of the time in France. Of course, the Doctor is not the Abbott, just a doppleganger.

Steven befriends Nicholas and Gaston, two Huguenots (French Protestants) during a bitter feud with the Catholic monarchy. Gaston is employed by Prince Henri, just married to the Catholic Princess Marguerite. The story’s plot revolves around the mysterious identity/assassination of the Sea Beggar and the tension between the opposed religious camps. The Sea Beggar turns out to be the Admiral, the top Protestant in the government. The Abbot has arranged his assassination. These characters are predictably forgettable. In fact, a couple of days went by between watching the second and third episode and I had some trouble telling them apart.

In the meantime, Steven has come under the suspicion of his new friends. When the Doctor does not return they being to think he may be working as a spy for the Catholics. A trip to the Apothecary’s does not pan out and matters are not helped when Anne Chaplet, the Abbott’s servant girl, arrives. Steven and Anne eventually flee, visit the Abbott and learn of the assassination plot.. They attempt to warn Gaston, but have to flee again, going into hiding at the Apothecary’s.

Meanwhile, the assassination fails and the Abbott is blamed and killed. Steven, still thinking that the Abbott is the Doctor visits the body, but is chased back to the Apothecary. Reunited with Anne he begins to despair. Fearing the Doctor is dead and with no way to get into the TARDIS he’s not sure what to do next. At this point the Doctor appears. There is no explanation of where he was. If he wasn’t the Abbott, what was he up to? This is a pretty major plot point that isn’t explained. It bothered me a bit, but more on a sidenote humorous wtf? way than in any negative way.

At any rate, when Anne tells him the date and the year he realizes that the Protestants are about to be slaughtered and says that he and Steven must leave immediately. He tells Anne to go to her Aunt’s house. After a tense sprint, Steven and the Doctor get out just in time.

This is one of the increasingly rare educational episodes. And I learned something! I’ve seen references to the Huguenots often but have never bothered to find out exactly who they were. Now I know! French Protestant that were slaughtered in the 16th century by the Catholic monarchy, mostly led by Catherine de Medici, the ruthless Queen. I feel smarter for having watched Doctor Who, and not just because I watched Doctor Who.

This is the point at which the story departs from the track a bit. After learning the fate of his friends Nicholas, Gaston and Anne, Steven insists that he is done with Doctor whom he feels could have saved Anne. The TARDIS lands in 20th century London and Steven leaves. In a very touching monologue, the Doctor laments the loss of yet another friend. Hartnell plays this moment perfectly. We really get a sense of how truly lonely he is, saying that they just don’t understand and regrets that they are always in such a hurry to get home. He even briefly reminisces about Susan, whom he hasn’t mentioned in a long time. When Dodo (short for Dorthea), a young girl looking for a telephone, bursts in he sadly tells her to leave because he has no telephone. I have to admit that I really felt for the Doctor during these scenes. His humanity shows through in a way that it doesn’t do very often. In fact, I don’t think we’ve seen this side of him since Susan’s departure. It was a touching moment that was highlighted even more in the next scene.

Steven returns and tells the Doctor they have to leave before the police arrive. Dodo, still in the TARDIS, seems happy to go, claiming she has no family. Her last name is Chaplet and Steven wonders if maybe she is descended from Anne who may have somehow survived. The Doctor notices that she is very similar in appearance to Susan and sounds genuinely happy to have regained friends. Those that travel with him are his family and now Dodo, previously without family has a new one.I really got the sense, for the first time, that the travelers are to be understood as a family. This has been hinted at before, with the Doctor’s reluctance to send Ian and Barbara home and his relationship with Vicki. But in these scenes it’s really made explicit.

For the most part the story is rather ho-hum. As I mentioned, it’s typical Who fare. The closing scenes in London, however, really provide the Doctor with an added depth of character and act as decent introduction to Dodo, our new companion. I truly did believe that Steven was leaving and was pretty surprised by it. I thought maybe they would end the story with the Doctor completely alone. It would have been quite the ending, but the reunion made it better.

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.

15
Jan
10

Story 017: The Time Meddler

Now this is more like it. A historical/educational story meets a science fiction story with great intrigue. The Time Meddler was a great story to end the season with. And at 4 episodes, it was just the right length. It gave us a proper introduction to Steven, some more “goodbye” to Ian and Barbara, we met someone else from the Doctor’s planet, and featured what I felt were good performances all the way around, especially from Vicki, with maybe the exception of the bumbling Vikings. Jules was right in his comments, this one was good.

A space helmet for a cow?

The TARDIS lands in Northumbria in 1066 days before the Viking invasion. Steven, refusing to admit that he has indeed been travelling through time and relative dimensions in space, seems like a great companion and complement to both the Doctor and Vicki. I like him much more than I ever liked Ian, although I suppose one story isn’t quite long enough to form a firm opinion of him. He is skeptical, but nonethless adventurous. He is very anxious to explore the modern-ish items that they find in the monastery. So much so that Vicki has to hold him back. He seems smart but not annoying, enthusiastic but not ridiculous, and skeptical and grumpy enough to keep the Doctor from getting out of control. He also seems to have beeter chemistry with Vicki. I wonder if that’s why we saw so much of Vicki and the Doctor together separate from Ian and Barbara….maybe she just didn’t mesh with them very well.

At any rate, the Doctor notes sadly at the beginning that he misses Ian and Barbara, even noting his loss of Susan. Vicki comforts him. It’s the kind of scene we should have had at the end of The Chase.

The Monk

We meet a monk who is looking suspiciously at the TARDIS, and we soon learn that he is the only monk living at a recently re-opened monastery near by. He’s the only one living there because he’s…..wait for it…..not actually a monk! He has things like phonographs and other more modern conveniences, which is all very intriguing. It turns out that he is also from the Doctor’s planet and he travels around (he can control his TARDIS) changing the past. His goal for this trip was to destroy the Viking fleet so that William the Conqueror could better be held at bay by Harold’s army. I suppose his intentions were noble enough, but as the Doctor told Barbara repeatedly, meddling with time can be disastrous. Even Vicki and Steven, both Earthlings, discuss the implications of changing time. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I love time paradoxes and to see a potential paradox discussed in practical terms was good.

Of course, there are some instances of being taken prisoner and some escapes and a couple of battles. They were pretty typical Dr. Who fare. Although it was pretty funny that the Vikings were knocked out for seemingly hours after a blow from what looked like a piece of paneling. And the idea that the Doctor could convince the monk that his stick was a Winchester rifle was also a bit absurd. All that aside, however, getting inside the monk’s TARDIS was great. It was pretty much the same as the regular TARDIS, of course, lthough the Doctor marveled at the monk’s “Mark 4” model. HA! Multiple TARDIS models…..but going along with that is the implication that there are multiple travelers from the Doctor’s planet out there. All traveling around, apparently abiding by some rules, although the monk has chosen to disobey. The Doctor notes that monk’s time is about 50 years later than his own.

Vicki in the Monk's TARDIS

Some Questions: Why are they traveling? How many are out there? Was the planet destroyed so they left? Like Superman? Or when they travel is it like going on vacation? Except for the Doctor, whose TARDIS is broken? Is TARDISing like RVing?

In the end, the Doctor steals some device from the monk’s ship, stranding him in 1066 Northumbria. The device makes the TARDIS small on the inside, presumably the same size inside as outside. This is a brilliant move, although I’m not sure why the Doctor didn’t also steal the device he needs to be able to control the TARDIS or to camouflage his ship. Those would have been smart to steal. Now he’s going to have to continue with the broken TARDIS although, I suppose that’s all part of the adventure.

Tiny TARDIS

The story and season ended with sillhouettes of the three characters over an image of space. It didn’t have the thoughtful voice over of season 1, but the concluding story itself was far more satisfying than Reign of Terror, so the monologue wasn’t necessary. I think they ended with the best story of the season.

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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