Archive for the 'Season 1' Category

04
Oct
09

Season 01: Reflections

After completing the first season of Doctor Who, I am excited to continue on. I really enjoy most of the stories, although a few of them are a bit long. I can understand why the show continued, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what made the show stick around for 25 more seasons. I’m sure the show’s mythology is not entirely developed (in fact, I know it hasn’t), and as it does I may start to understand the show’s longevity a little bit more. One thing I can’t comment on is the level of the show’s popularity. Is/was Doctor Who a much-loved British show? Was it something that millions watched every week and was an event? Like, say, Cheers in the United States, which was of course a comedy that lasted 11 years. I’m not even sure I can think of anything that is similar here, other than perhaps a soap opera. Those are much-loved by those who watch them and some last decades. But it still isn’t the same.

What I like best about the show is that it doesn’t take itself very seriously. They were clearly working to create a show that was to be taken seriously, but it did not necessarily take itself seriously. The line flubs throughout the season seemed evidence to me that they enjoyed the show. It wasn’t so much like work for them. While at times it was a little annoying that the lines were messed up, most of the flubs were not major.

If it were not for the incessant screaming coming from Susan, I found the cast rather likable on the whole.  Later in the seaso, Barbara started to step up and come into her own. Ian manages to keep the Doctor sane, which is important. The Doctor is definitey my favorite character, however. His cantankerousness is priceless and his sense of curiousity, if slightly trying when it comes to needlessly endangering his friends and family, drives a lot of the show’s drama. If he hadn’t wanted to see their city, the Daleks wouldn’t exist. If he didn’t insist on looking around even after meeting the dirty little boy, no one would have been arrested. And then Susan. She has so much potential to be an intriguing character that could probably drive a few stories dedicated to her in some way. But instead she’s left to be wimpy and screamy. Hopefully her character is refined a little more in the second season.

To sum up my feelings on Season One: Very good, but not great. It made me look forward to Season Two, but mostly to see the mythology mature, not necessarily because I can’t wait for more stories. The stories all follow pretty much the same plot, and I don’t expect that to change much (at least not for a while). I’m interested to learn more about the Doctor’s home planet. I’m also curious as to why he and Susan are travelling around, why they left home to begin with and why they haven’t gone back. Is the TARDIS totally broken or does the Doctor just not know how to control it? Do Ian and Barbara make it home?

I’d like to thank those of you who have read this blog. I’m not sure if anyone is reading regularly or coming back now and then or if it’s once and done, but thank you anyway. I am looking forward to Season Two and will be here to share it with you.

Favorite Story: The Sensorites

Least Favorite Story: The Edge of Destruction

Best Villain: Tegana

Worst Villain: Rubber Suit Guys in the Keys of Marinus

Biggest Question: What’s the deal with the TARDIS?

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19
Sep
09

Story 008: The Reign of Terror

Apparently season finales were not much of an event in 1964. The Reign of Terror was so boring I had to watch a couple of episodes twice because I fell asleep. I was never really interested in European history after the Middle Ages anyway. One thing I will say, though, is that this story is a bit darker than has been established thus far in the series. Despite that, it resorts to a strange lightness in certain parts. It makes the story feel a little uneven overall.

An indignant Doctor, who had vowed to a whiny Ian at the end of the last story that he would get them home to London, claims that he has done so. The picture of trees on the monitor seemed good enough to convince the travelers that they were indeed in London. Ian lures the Doctor out with the promise of a pint, and it’s a good thing. Otherwise Ian and Barbara would have been left alone in the woods where they found a dirty little boy that told them they were in France. They weren’t concerned with the kids dirtiness, for some reason. Apparently even in the twentieth century the British maintained a hatred of the French that included an assumption of poor hygiene and/or child care. Also, the French kid spoke English. In fact, everyone in France spoke English, without an accent even. This is starting to bug me.

The travelers find a farmhouse where we learn they have landed smack in the middle of the Reign of Terror (the Doctor’s favorite part of Earth history, apparently) and we witness what is (I think) the show’s first instance of human-on-human violence. Some rebels are shot and killed, and the Doctor is attacked and left for dead in a burning farmhouse. Dark times, indeed. Susan, Ian, and Barbara are imprisoned in Paris, later rescued from the guillotine and become part of the resistance, which is apparently housed in a shabby-chic mansion somewhere.

While all of this is happening, the most curious part of the story happens. The Doctor, who survives the fire, goes on a walk to Paris to rescue his friends. Aside from the absurdity of the 90-year old doctor walking all of this way (with his walking stick from the Kahn, I might add) in the summer hear, he is detained and forced to do manual labor. He makes some light-hearted jokes, then hits the foreman with a shovel! He become momentarily deranged, primarily out of concern for Susan. I wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified. But, nonetheless, he clobbers the dude, then walks off toward Paris to the beat of some sweet happy tunes. This whole sequence confused me — the darkness of murder, revolution and prison and the doctor is making jokes and clobbering to a lighthearted soundtrack? It was more than a bit odd.

Look at that awesome hat!

Look at that awesome hat!

Not as odd as the crazy hat the Doctor wore when he was pretending to be some mayor or governor or something to fool the jailers into letting his friends loose. We meet Robespierre and Napoleon (who is not nearly as grumpy as I would have expected). In the end, of course, Robespierre is removed from power, even though Barbara (AGAIN!) wants to change history and do something to stop Napoleon. I’m not even sure Napoleon played an actual role in the removal of Robespierre, but that’s what happens when you get your history education from a science fiction television show. Or, if I’m wrong, what happens when you don’t pay attention in your public education.

As the travelers leave France, the Doctor gives some monologue about travel and destiny and life. This did give the conclusion an air of season-finale and was kind of a nice touch. I would hope, though, that since the Doctor knows exactly when and where they were that he can get them back to London. I know he does by the second story of season 2, because the Daleks return. Before that, though, is Planet of Giants….after a reflection on completing season 1, I’ll be watching that. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to seeing how/if the show changes for season 2.

15
Sep
09

Story 007: The Sensorites

Two Sensorites and the Doctor

Two Sensorites and the Doctor

I have a confession: The Sensorites is my favorite story so far. It starts off kind of dark with the finding of some dead space people (they aren’t really dead), it has conspiracy (which I love), it has a strangely endearing race of creatures (the sensorites), and Susan doesn’t scream. In short, it has everything one could ask for.

For some reason the TARDIS enjoys setting the travelers down inside places. Like a tomb. And now a spaceship. What if the ship wasn’t there, would they have materialized in space? That’s not very promising or reassuring. But there in the spaceship are (gasp!) two dead humans. Don’t fret, they aren’t actually dead, just put to sleep by the presumably evil Sensorites. And at the end of the first episode an incredibly creepy-looking sensorite shows his face outside the space ship’s windshield. Incidentally, why, exactly, does a spaceship have a windshield? Is it so the pilots can see where they’re going? Are there really that many things in space one might collide with that radar or something couldn’t tell them about?

That sensorite, oddly enough, I don’t think looked like any of the others. By the intro to the next episode, he did, but i swear at the end of episode he is a different breed of sensorite. One that is a lot creepier. He looked like a deranged old man.

The Sensorite with their Sensing Disc

The Sensorites with their Sensing Disc

the sensorites are bald, except for some old man tufts, and they are afraid of loud noises and darkness. In that sense they’re a lot like my dog. Also, they are not capable of telling one another apart, except by the sash they where. I’m not sure what their issue was, I could tell them apart easily by which ones had beer bellies. HA!

Anyway, they can’t figure out why they’re dying, although after attention was paid to the water and Ian got sick, I knew what was up in about 2 seconds. The sensorites, in addition to being incredibly timid are also apparently not very smart. Despite their lack of intelligence, the sensorites can communicate by sending thoughts to one other, using some special sensing disc. We also learn that Susan is able to communicate telepathically, and does so with Barbara at some point.

I’m not sure the role telepathy will play as we learn more about the Doctor and Susan’s home, but she seemed to make the connection. And the Doctor didn’t seem surprised that she had the ability.

In the meantime, a suspicious chief of police attempts to thwart the elders’ plans to allow the doctor to help by purifying the water. He is suspicious of all humans because some had come before and tried to rob the planet of its resources. This was an interesting environmental message that may have missed the mark at the time. I’m not sure how environmental causes were doing in the early to mid sixties. Either way the chief of police, after realizing that the sensorites all look the same, kills the second elder, pretends to be the second elder and executes his plan. (Un)fortunately, he fails, as his story doesn’t match up and the humans realize he’s not the second elder. Once again, the brains are on the short side. They all have different body types and voices.

It turns out the water was being poisoned by some left over humans, although it was never made clear why they were trying to kill the sensorites, other than the craziness of their leader. And they were living in the sewers and therefore were never found because the sensorites are too afraid of the dark and the loud noise of the human’s shouts. But, no fear, the humans are caught, the water is cleaned, and the not-dead passengers on the space ship are allowed to leave.

While Susan is a bit lame when she’s hearing all of the sensorite thoughts at once, she pretty much abstains from screaming, which is nice. Also, it was a good return to her strangeness from the first story.

I enjoyed this one.

Some questions: Is telepathy typical of those from the Doctor’s planet? Do these abilities begin to play a more prominent role?

13
Sep
09

Story 006: The Aztecs

The Aztecs were, in my understanding, a warrior nation with a very rich culture. I have always kind of imagined them as a more violent version of the Mayans. Clearly, my education in Central and South American Indian nations was a bit lacking. No fear, however, Dr. Who is here to shore up my knowledge. The Aztecs is the second history/education based story and is, I think, more valuable as such than Marco Polo. That may simply be a side effect of being able to watch the actual episodes.

In short, the travelers land inside a tomb or temple of some sort. Which is unfortunate, because had they landed a few yards to one direction, there would have been no doubt about their status as gods. They walk outside, but realize that they get back into the tomb due to the gigantic stone door. The Aztecs, in the middle of a power struggle between the peaceful priest and the human-scarifice-hungry medicine man, confuse Barbara for a goddess and therefore her friends are treated, for the most part, pretty well. Until her divine status is questioned of course. Then, it’s a mad scramble to open the tomb and get back to the ship.

The education of this story is centered, once again, on Barbara’s historical knowledge. We learn about the Aztecs’ human sacrifice and the general structure of their society. What I thought was interesting, though, was that Barbara tried to change their society. This is another instance of the travelers attempting to impose their own values on those they encounter (the Thals). This time, Barbara tries to prevent the human sacrifice under the assumption that eliminating such barbaric activities will help to preserve the civilization. The Doctor, much more experience in time travel, tells her that she cannot make any changes, even if she tries. Just like in Lost, if it didn’t happen, it can’t happen. Despite our heroes’ attempts to affect others’ cultures, this seems to be an indictment of such ethnocentric beliefs. So, not only do we have a historical lesson, but a moral one as well.

Our education is not limited to history and morals, however. We also get a bit of physics. Not from Ian, of course. He is too busy learning how to fight Ixta, the mighty Aztec warrior. Like his strange relationship with Marco Polo, Ian once again finds himself sleeping in very close quarters with Ixta. After being poisoned during a battle with Ixta, Ian becomes smart enough to warn Barbara of the same fate. Anyway, the physics. The Doctor, in a stroke of genius, decides that he can open the gigantic stone door through the use of a pulley. We witness his contruction of the wheel and his description of how the pulley works. Science education, clearly an intention from the who’s inception is most obvious here.

Speaking of the Doctor, we see a bit of humanity in him. The Senstive Doctor shows his face and it’s rather refreshing. He unwittingly becomes engaged to a lady that has taken a liking to him in the Retirement Garden where he spends most of his time whittling his pulley. The doctor comes off as compassionate and kind, something that has been lacking in his character thus far. There is actually a bit of genuine romance present in his interaction with the woman. It would be nice to see this portion of his personality developed a bit more. Susan is also engaged to be married. Here is another comment against arranged marriages. What is it with the show’s writers?

Overall, The Aztecs was a pretty average story. It stuck to the formula and didn’t really do much for me, although the educational aspects were a nice addition.

Some Questions: Do we ever get more of the Doctor’s human side? Does Ian ever teach us about science, since it’s kind of his job? Do the travelers ever stop trying to interfere with the lives of those they visit?

05
Sep
09

Story 005: The Keys of Marinus

Susan and a Rubber Suit Guy (Note the Screaming)

Susan and a Rubber Suit Guy (Note the Screaming)

After leaving China, the travelers land on a strange island with an acid sea. Some crazy guys in rubber fish suits (they’re called Voords) appear to be the villains. They meet some old dude that gives them some complicated story about a computer that makes everyone on the planet? the universe? obey the laws without complaint. The guys in the rubber suits are immune to the computer and try to stop it. I’ve gotta say I’m with the guys in the rubber suits on this one. The last thing I need is some computer acting as my conscience. Plus, the old guy forces the travelers to go in search of the five keys he needs to run the computer. He puts a forcefield around the TARDIS and won’t let them leave until they bring the keys. The flaw in his plan, though, is he removes the force field as soon as they leave. So, why don’t they just leave and return immediately to the TARDIS? Who knows. Either eay, it’s a good thing he turns the force field off because the rubber suit guys send him to sleep with the fishes immediately thereafter.

To find the keys, the travelers must use these special Dick Tracy watches that take them to where the keys are. The catch is that they have to overcome some dirty tricks. The best of the tricks is a city in which all of the citizens are fooled into thinking they are getting their fondest wishes, but really they live in a rat hole. The strangest fondest wish is Barbara’s. She wants to sit on a psychiatrist’s couch, eat grapes and have everything brought to her by scantily clad women. Why is it that all of the women in the universe are scantily clad except for Barbara?

Brains in jars. Awesome.

Brains in jars. Awesome.

The best part of this episode is that everyone is being controlled by brains with eyes that live in jars. Does it get any science-fictioner than brains in jars? Awesome. Barbara goes nuts and smashes them all. For once, she’s the hero. One person who is NOT the hero is Susan. More screaming? Oh yes. She screams when a Voord attacks. And again it happens at an episode cliffhanger (the episode is titled The Screaming Jungle of all things), so it was double the screams.

Following the brain smashing, the travelers are joined by Altos and Sabetha, each of whom had previously gone in search of the keys. Good to see they made it far. Altos and Sabetha are painfully flat characters and wooden actors. And neither of them wear very many clothes. This seems to be a theme. Altos’s pants are extremely tight and extremely short. Like hot pants. The Doctor moves ahead with the brilliant strategy of splitting up to get the keys. He doesn’t appear again for a couple of episodes and the story suffers for it. One interesting note is that the doctor is carrying his walking stick, given to him by The Kahn during Marco Polo. And Ian is wearing his ugly dragon shirt through the whole episode. And just like everyone speaks English, no one finds the dragon shirt odd. If some dude landed on my planet I’d ask what the hell the dragons were on his shirt.

The best part of the story comes when the Doctor returns and acts as Ian’s lawyer. Ian is on trial for killing a guard. What is neat about it is the planet on which our travelers are has a system that believes you are guilty until proven innocent. He successfully acquitted, presumably just moments before his execution. There is some decent drama here. The Doctor believes he knows where the key is the whole time, but waits until he can prove Ian’s innocence to bring it up. Why it was hard to do so, I’m not sure, considering the actual guilty party admits it out loud not once, but twice. The first time wasn’t enough, apparently.

The traveler’s return to the acid sea island and return the keys, but, wait! It’s not the old guy! It’s a rubber suit dude wearing his clothes! The rubber suits are dispatched without much issue, though. Immune to the computer, not so hot on the fighting front. Our travelers lead Altos and Sabetha to run the world together. I fear for that world, I really do.

This story had the feeling of an old DOS-based game. Like Commander Keen. Maybe those games were inspired by the Keys of Marinus. Overall, I enoyed it. The concept was clever and it didn’t seem to drag. The least interesting episodes were those without the Doctor (freezing in a cave? a key in a block of ice? more cave jumping?), but he is the most interesting character on the show, so that’s to be expected. I was pleased to see Barbara take more of in-charge role with her brain smashing and investigation of the Ian Affair. It seems that Ian and Barbara are maybe starting to enjoy their travels with the Doctor. Maybe it was the trip to China and the sweet shirt Ian got. I wonder if he’ll take that back to London with him.

Question: Is the Doctor’s Chinese walking stick a permanent part of the show? Do the alien people ever put on clothes?

05
Sep
09

Story 004: Marco Polo

The Doctor and The Kahn (The Polo in the background)

The Doctor and The Kahn (The Polo in the background)

Apparently, the BBC originally envisioned Dr. Who as an educational show. This is pretty evident in that the Doctor’s human companions are both teachers, one of history and one of science. While to this point I haven’t noticed much sciencey education stuff going on, I suppose Ian could teach the kiddies a thing or two along the way in the future. Barbara, the history teacher, finally finds a way to make herself useful in this story in which the travelers land in the Himalayas in the 13th century and hang out with Marco Polo for while.

Unfortunately, every episode of this story has been lost. In the sixties television executives (at least those at the BBC) decided to save money by re-using video tape. This is understandale, considering that video tape was very expensive back in the day. The result, however, is that a number of episodes of shows from that era were taped over and therefore lost. This is the case for a number Dr. Who stories. Marco Polo is the first to have fallen victim. At some point, some people used the original audio and some production stills to reproduce the episodes. The result is a kind of slideshow. The images were either in color or have been colorized.

The Crew

The Crew

The TARDIS is broken (big surprise), but Marco Polo won’t let the doctor into the ship to repair it. Instead, he wants to give the TARDIS to the Kubla Kahn as a gift in hopes that Polo will be allowed to return home. The travelers accompany the Polo’s caravan, which is also joined by evil warlord Tegana. Tegana wishes to use the Doctor’s flying caravan against the Kahn. Tegana attempts to sabotage the caravan by destroying their water supply and various other evil deeds. Tegana is by far the most diabolical enemy we’ve seen so far.

Meanwhile, the Polo goes along blissfully unaware that the Doctor has used a second key and is fixing the TARDIS and that Tegana is trying to bring down the empire. He is in such a state because he and Ian are apparently in love. Their relationship is odd and their closeness is slightly homoerotic. Maybe it wouldn’t feel that way if I could actually watch the original episodes, but just listening to the audio and looking at the images it’s a bit awkward. Adding to the awkwardness is the Polo reading from his diary. It acts as a travelogue and really does much of the educating about Marco Polo and Chinese culture, but it also includes Polo’s personal thoughts. In our current times, we don’t exactly associate diary-keeping with masculinity, although I’m not sure how the blogging movement fits into that picture. Anyway…

Susan and Ping Cho

Susan and Ping Cho

Susan and the screaming. More danger = more screaming. Susan befriends some Chinese girl who is betrothed to some old dude and the Polo is transporting her. The two of them sneak out one night to follow the evil Tegana. A sandstorm whips up and the two run smack into Tegana! Terror! Screaming! Unfortunately for the viewer/listener this is an episode cliffhanger. So, two minutes later when I began the next episode: Terror! Screaming! Shut up, already! I’m glad I wasn’t watching it in public. Susan expresses shock and disgust at the idea of her friend marrying this old guy and tries to argue and stop the marriage. As an educational show, shouldn’t Susan’s disgust be left out? If that’s how the culture was, it should be presented as such, yes? Is the show educational or political?

A lot of things I’ve seen about this story regret that it has been lost. they feel that it’s one of the best stories and that the production stills reveal impressive sets and costumes. I’m not sure if I’m quite as devastated. I will say, however, that the adventure and intrigue in Marco Polo was top notch. Tegana heads out to the watering hole, planning to abandon the dehydrated caravan….Susan and her friend (Ping cho, I think) lost in the sandstorm (minus the screaming)…the frantic attempt at a getaway, spoiled by Susan. It’s a pretty good story and the images do make it appear as if it had good production value. I’ll withhold judgement on the level of unfortunateness in losing the episodes, but 4 stories in, it’s near the top.

03
Sep
09

Story 003: The Edge of Destruction

This story was a waste. It was the first one that I haven’t really enjoyed. The drama was alright, I suppose, but the basis of the plot was completely ridiculous. A button gets stuck so the TARDIS keeps banging against the beginning of time like a toy robot against the wall? A sticky spring in the most advanced piece of technology in the universe? If that’s not absurd enough, the TARDIS doesn’t actually tell the travellers that it’s banging it’s head on the wall. It makes them A) sleep a lot and B) go insane. Oh, and melts the clocks. I know that melting clocks is always an indication of certain doom, why didn’t they recognize it sooner? Thank goodness it only took two episodes.

Two episodes…of Susan trying to stab everyone in sight for no well-explained reason. That was a bit odd. Of Ian trying to strangle the Doctor. Also odd. Lots of blaming, lots of yelling. And then, when Barbara spots the melted clock she screams. Enough screaming already! Whenever either of the women sense danger, they scream at the top of their lungs. It needs to stop. Even if the screaming wasn’t annoying enough, why did she scream at a melted clock? One time, I thought I could pop regular popcorn in the microwave, so I put it in a plastic bowl. 10 minutes later I had a bowl full of unpopped kernels and a melted bowl. It was no longer such an attractive bowl, but I was not terrified by the site of it. Terrified by the thought of my parents’ reaction to the melted bowl, maybe. But scream-worthy terrified at the site of something that was melted? Not so much.

And, of course, the melted clock made it immediately obvious to the Doctor what was happening. Bingo-bango, fix the spring, everyone’s happy and off we go. The Doctor, in a rare moment of compassion, apologizes to Barbara for his psychosis. As far as I’m concerned he’s the only one that doesn’t need to apologize. He accuses Ian and Barabara of sabotaging the TARDIS, which wouldn’t be so smart for them, but it makes sense since they were kidnapped. I didn’t notice Susan apologizing for trying to kill everyone or Ian for his strangling episode.

The best thing about this story is that it’s only two episodes.

Question: Does the TARDIS ever get an improved fault reporting system? Like a flashing red light labeled “Banging head against the edge of time”? Anything is better than melting clocks.




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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