Archive for the 'Regenerations' Category

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.

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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




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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