Posts Tagged ‘education

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.

26
Jan
10

Story 018: Galaxy 4

It seems a shame that this story was destroyed. Galaxy 4, the Season 3 opener, was innovative and entertaining, and even had a bit of an educational moral at the end. There are no surviving episodes and a painfully small number of stills. There are a few minutes of the first episode that somebody recorded off of their television, but of the reconstructions I’ve seen thus far this one was the most lacking in visual accompaniment. That being said, Loose Canon, who did this reconstruction did an admirable job. They re-created stills by pasting together images from other episodes, added some rudimentary animation, even physically acted out some short clips. The sound was of low quality in some places, but as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my ears aren’t the best, so others may find it just fine.

The Gang and some Chumblies

The story was simple enough, but it was a step away from the typical get taken prisoner by bad guys and then outwit them plot line. This had a bit of it, but I got the impression that the Dr. Who storytelling is getting a bit more sophisticated, at least in creation. The story itself is straightforward, but some additional thought went into the planning. The travelers land on an unnamed planet and meet small robots that Vicki (looking rather cute in a sleeveless dress, incidentally) calls Chumblies because of the way they move. I’m not sure what moving chumbley means, Loose Canon just had the rolling smoothly along. Fearing the chumblies, the travelers go with a blonde woman they meet, thinking she is saving them. Turns out she’s a member of the Drahvins, a race of Amazon-like women from a planet in….you’ve guessed it…Galaxy 4. We learn that the planet is about to explode in the coming days. I didn’t really catch why. Natural causes, I suppose. Or maybe the Daleks put a bomb in the core and Ian wasn’t there to stop it with a broom handle. Ha!

The Drahvins

The Drahvins were a pretty well-developed race for Dr. Who. Throughout the story we learn a bit about their reproduction practices, the fact that there are soldier clones that can’t think, that they are bent on killing and universe domination…Their leader, Maaga, is a first-class witch. and we get our first look at the Drahvin’s sinister side when she insists that Vicki stay while the Doctor and Steven return to the TARDIS to check the astral projection and learn when the planet will explode (in two days). The Drahvins are incredibly concerned with getting off of the planet, although they admit that the Rills, another race, have offered to take them along when they leave. It was quite obvious to me that the Drahvins were the bad guys, although it was apparently quite the twist at the time. Hot blonde chicks that are villainous murderers? Never!

The Rills on the other hand are peaceful folk that have no reason to kill anyone. In fact, they want to help people. They even make one last request to the Drahvins to join them in leaving the planet. The women don’t comply, of course. No, instead they are busy keeping Steven for ransom while Vicki and the Doctor go to see the Rills. The Rills need an atmosphere of ammonia and they’re really ugly. So, they don’t go out. They send the Chumblies around instead. A note on Steven. Peter Purves introduces the story and reveals that this story was written for Ian and Barbara and that many of his lines were written for Barbara. He was upset that his character didn’t really come out much. Watching the story, I think he was justified in being upset. He actually has very few lines. And, Vicki and the Doctor going off alone harkens back to the Ian and Barbara days. This lends some more credence to my theory that Ian and Barbara’s departure was unexpected and rushed. If anyone knows anything about it, I would love to hear.

A Rill

Vicki, the Doctor and a Chumbley rescue Steven, who was being suffocated in an air lock, re-charge the Rills’ ship’s battery, and get back to the TARDIS just in time. The Rills also leave, and the Drahvins are left to explode. Now, the Drahvins being the bad guys was supposed to be a twist…a real shocker. But the 21st century in me says it’s not that revolutionary: beautiful women are not to be trusted! In fact, they use men to make babies, they treat their clone-slaves poorly, they’re a threat to the Doctor, Steven, and the Rills (the only one we meet is presumably male), and they’re bent on domination. In the end, they are punished for their evilness and left to be blown up. Sounds like your typical masculine/patriarchal story to me. Not that I was offended or thought it was bad, I just found it ironic that the story that was supposed to have a surprising twist and be shocking was just a reinforcement of classic ideals.

All told, I enjoyed the story. It wasn’t my favorite, but I appreciate the innovation and improved story telling. A lot of the story was just noise. I presume something was happening, but I couldn’t see it. And in the final episode of the version I watched, the text that described the action didn’t appear on the screen. I could see the black text box scroll by along the bottom, but the text itself was just below what was visible. The moral at the end of we shouldn’t judge people just because they look different was well-placed. And 1965 was right in the center of the civil rights movement in the United States and I know that in England at the time there was an influx of immigrants from former colonies, especially the Caribbean. So, the message was timely and a bold move by the producers. It was a good season premier, it’s just too bad it starts a string of two seasons that are mostly missing.

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.

17
Nov
09

Story 014: The Crusade

This is another story I’m rather ambivalent toward. Part of that comes from the BBC destruction of two of the episodes. And the audio that exists for episodes 1, 2 and 4 is quite bad. We are lucky to have it. The wikipedia tells me that it wasn’t found until the 1990s, so at least we have it. But that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t really like the story very much.

Richard the Lionheart

The version that I watched opens with an old William Russell, acting as Ian, saying how he and Barbara didn’t tell many others about their time with the Doctor, but he feels he can trust us. This clip is in color and is apparently from a VHS release in the mid 1990s in which Russell tells the story of the missing episodes. He’s hanging out in some giant mansion we are to believe is his house. They must pay science teachers well in England.

After this intro (the rest of Russell’s descriptions weren’t included in the version I watched), we see the TARDIS appear in the forest outside Jaffa, which is apparently near Jerusalem. It is an historical story of the third Crusade and Richard I (the Lionheart).

I feel that it was meant to be educational, but I’m not sure how much education one could get…not that Wikipedia is the best source in the world, but the entry for Richard I does not mention Jaffa or that he tried to trade Joanna for peace. In the story of Dr. Who the city and her marriage are major plot points that in previous historical stories have been fictionalized, but left as semi-accurate nods. Such as Nero burning Rome or The Polo’s dealings with The Kahn.

At any rate, Richard’s forces are ambushed in the forest and The Doctor, Ian and Vicki take an injured man to the king. Barbara had been captured along with another of Richard’s buddies. Ian wants to rescue her, but Richard isn’t a fan.

Eventually, though, Richard sees the light and makes Ian a knight, Sir Ian of Jaffa. A big deal. Sir Ian then travels to see Saladin who is keeping Barbara. Now, a note about ole Barbara in this story. What a trooper. She escapes captivity three times in a four episode story. And she always does it pretty easily. Or at least it seemed that way just watching the still photo reconstructions. A grunt and a run and she was gone. She gets away and is helped by Haroun, a man whose daughter had been captured by El Akir, the Saladin’s goon. But, of course, she is recaptured by El Akir, the villain of the story, she escapes again only to hide in the Harem. This is also known as the room in which El Akir keeps all the hot women.

El Akir - Not as delightfully sinister as he appears

Ian arrives with the ridiculously giggling bandit Ibrahim, who had earlier tried to rob him. The two of them burst in just in time to rescue Barabara from the The Akir who is killed by Haroun. Oh, and Haroun’s daughter was conveniently a member of the Harem and tried to help Barbara escape.

The doctor and Vicki, branded as traders, escape Richard’s court and after Sir Ian convinces some guards that he will excute the traitorous Doctor, the escape into the ship. This is the best part of the episode. In the only known remaining footage of the fourth episode, the TARDIS lights go out and everyone is left in suspended animation. It’s wonderfully creepy and has me excited for the next story. But first, some thoughts on this one.

In short, it just didn’t do it for me. I kept falling asleep and I trouble hearing it. I’ve had this trouble before, but had no subtitles to fall back on. And the reconstructed episodes are a little difficult to follow at times. It just didn’t keep my interest. El Akir wasn’t a very compelling villain (not like Tegana of Marco Polo) and Richard, while well acted, simply didn’t appeal. My favorite character was Haroun. I like the resilience he showed and the dedication to finding his daughter. Not to mention being able to protect his younger daughter both from the soldiers and from the truth of what happened to her sister. I was also a fan of Barbara’s tenacity and escapability. But that was about as far as it went.

To be honest, I’m kind of tired of seeing Ian in fighting mode. I just don’t buy him as a fighter. He’s a bit of a wet blanket in my opinion. He learned to fight in The Aztecs, got some sword play in the Romans and shows off his skills now and then. But, seriously, he was a mild mannered Science teacher. Now he can be a gladiator and a valiant knight? I know knights aren’t all about fighting, but he does his fair share. And it bores me.

I think this story also may have suffered due to The Doctor’s somewhat limited role. He and Vicki were once again left alone together. The Doctor talked his way out of a jam, but this had none of the comedic flair of The Romans. One thing that this time alone with Vicki has shown us, though, is the development of their relationship. It is very tender and endearing. Their interactions are fun to watch as she teases him and he coddles her. The Doctor seems to be building upon the connection he made with Susan just before he left her in Future Earth. It’s as if their relationship continued to grow, but with Vicki instead of his actual granddaughter. It makes Vicki a likable character. She’s silly and sweet and I think much of that has to do with her time with the Doctor.

In the end, this just wasn’t a very good story, in my opinion. Dr. Who really seems to be at its best in actiony sci-fi stories. Unless the historical stories have something special, I think it’s time to consider leaving them behind. And this one just didn’t have anything special.

The Doctor, Vicki, and Joanna (Richard's Sister)

23
Oct
09

Story 012: The Romans

The Romans is a truly enjoyable story. It has a great mix of humor, which was my favorite part. The story begins with the TARDIS falling off of a cliff into some bushes, an event I wasn’t exactly sure why it happened. I thought perhaps at the end they would wake up and it would all be a dream and they had been knocked out in the fall, but nope. Plus, it wouldn’t make sense for them all to have a dream together. I suppose maybe the Doctor could have dreamed it and they could wake him up and he could bust out “and you were there, and  were there, and even you!” in classic Dorothy style. But, whatever, that wasn’t the case.

What WAS the case, though, was that our heroes were squatting in some rich dude’s Italian villa just outside of Rome. When we catch up with them, they’d been living there for almost a month! I felt like this was a bit out of their character…lounging in someone else’s house, uninvited, presumably wearing the owners’ clothes and drinking their wine. Also, they were selling his produce at bargain basement prices. Thieves.

It was an interesting historical/educational episode. Although I think the educational aspects were toned down a bit compared to the interminable Reign of Terror, they did a nice job making Nero look like an absolute loon, and worked in the burning of Rome nicely. It was amusing that it was the Doctor’s accidental idea.

We got to see Ian show off those fighting skills he learned in the Aztecs fighting as a Gladiator. It would have been better to see him fight in a giant arena.

Highlighting the humor was the scene in which the Doctor, Barbara, and Nero chased each other through the hallway a la Benny Hill. I could almost here the music playing as they ran up and down the corridor, poking their heads into different rooms and just missing one another.

We got our first look at Vicki in action and, unfortunately, she didn’t really do very much except follow the doctor around. She was kind of superfluous. I have a feeling this may be what they had in mind for Susan’s character, but Carol Anne Ford’s own thoughts on the character kept getting in the way. I hope that they realize it’s a mistake and give this character slot a more active role. Susan and Vicki both have so much more potential.

Finally, there is some indication that twentieth century English is not common to all beings in the universe ever. Barbara corrects Vicki once or twice to make her language seem more Roman/Latin (Londinium). A couple of characters also note the strangeness of the the names Ian and Barbara. I thought that was an acknowledgement a long time coming. I understand that they can’t have everyone speaking a different language….but a “the TARDIS helps us to communicate with all races” or something would be sufficient.

Strange note: the travelers’ Roman friend Tavius is shown holding a cross that he wears around his neck. 64AD is awfully early for any Romans in Rome to practicing Christianity. In light of that, I wonder why they chose to show the cross. Only Christians can be good people? Couldn’t he have been a good Roman without it? I tried to look him up to see if he was supposed to be someone famous, but found nothing. Just an odd production choice, I guess. Or maybe there’s a religious theme to the show that I have not yet picked up on…I’ll tag this one just in case.

Finally, the old romantic notion between Ian and Barbara reappears at the end of the story. Once they learn they have arrived back at the villa they are squatting in, it looks like they’re going to drink some wine and get busy. There’s even some good-natured pillow fighting. But, alas, they fall asleep and the Doctor returns.

I enjoyed this story a lot. I’ve found the historical stories so far to be rather bland, but the humor was good and the story moved along pretty well. It seems that Susan has been entirely forgotten, but Vicki is a suitable replacement for me. Let’s just hope they actually give her something to do. And forbid her to scream.

07
Oct
09

Story 009: Planet of Giants

As should happen, if the Doctor actually knows what’s going on, the travellers begin Season 2 by landing in London sometime in the mid-twentieth century. However, the TARDIS malfunctions again. The doors pop open and shrink everyone inside. This seems to be yet another bad design feature of the TARDIS. Is there a back-up lock? A deadbolt? A really strong magnet? One of those things where a bar is fit into two brackets like in castles in old movies? Nope. Just a fail-safe policy of shrinking the passengers.

250px-Planet_of_the_Giants

My goodness, Ian! It's Huge!

Not knowing where they are, the travellers explore the new world. They seem unsure what has happened to them, despite the obvious clues: a giant Earthworm that looks a vaccuum hose, a huge box of matches. Eventually they figure it out, but by that time, Ian has been carried away because he was stupid enough to hide in the matchbox. Now, the true adventure begins as the tiny travellers have to make there way the long distance to the house.

The dark turn of the series that began in the last couple of stories in Season 1 continues here as we see more human-on-human violence. Some jerk of a special agent wants a scientist to lie on some report about a pesticide. In an environmentalist theme, the pesticide is so dangerous that it instantly kills all life that is of small stature (like our Heroes). The jerk kills the scientist. And then, to top it off, when another scientist shows up, he makes him help hide the body. Dark times, indeed!

To make a long story short, Barbara gets into the cottage with Ian and makes a bonehead move that isn’t too bad….but her reaction is ridiculous. She picks up a piece of wheat or whatever with the pesticide on it. Does she say anything so that someone with more intelligence than her could come up with something (like, find some water to wash her hands in, maybe?) she keeps it to herself and acts like a kid who ate the last cookie and is afraid of being found out. Suck it up, woman!

Susan and Doctor eventually arrive. The best part is when they set the cottage on fire to create a diversion. Their too small to be seen or heard and the people are outside. So they light a fire. Brilliant. Luckily, the police arrive and presumably give the evil-doer his comeuppance. By doing the landing procedure in reverse, the Doctor is able to return everyone to the full size and Barbara doesn’t die from the pesticide. That should have been washed off in the sink they used to escape. Incidentally, it was strange that the drain went into the yard. Wouldn’t all of thwater just go out into the yard? I don’t think my drain does that….

If it weren’t for Barbara’s brainless reaction to touching the pesticide, I would have really enjoyed this story. Instead I just enjoyed it at a normal level. Srhinking the cast was a clever twist that allowed them to add some nice touches such as Susan and the Doctor hiding in the drain overflow, the giant pesticide-riddled wheat, the dangerous journey. Best of all, the story was only 3 episodes long. There was no canyon jumping, there was no screaming, there was no filler. Wikipedia actually tells me there was an intended fourth episode featuring the telephone operator. I don’t know whose boring idea that was, but I’m glad they ditched it.

My professor on Monday night wore a Dalek t-shirt. I was jealous.

Dalek Invasion is next. I’m expecting great things.




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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