Posts Tagged ‘Katarina

26
May
10

William Hartnell: Reflections and Rankings

William Hartnell lasted for 29 stories, just over 3 seasons. At this point, I have no one to compare him to, so I guess I’ll go ahead and say he’s my favorite Doctor. For now.

I almost liked Hartnell’s Doctor more at the beginning of the show than at the end. His grumpiness and mysterious nature was interesting and had potential for some good character exploration. But, as often happens with television shows, they start to determine the direction of the show and characters change. This was even more evident with Susan, originally strange and precocious and eventually just whiny and annoying. The Doctor fared better, though, as is evident by the fact that the show continued.

Hartnell showed some pretty decent range, handling his grumpiness, his sensitive side, his adventurous nature and his intelligence with ease. He easily moved between story structures, fitting into all of them. His comic timing was almost always spot on.

The Hartnell era did suffer, though, from some incidents of poor story telling. Even worse was the slow pace of a lot of the stories. This is likely just a side effect of television in the 1960s, but Hartnell’s age made it a bit worse. While in my reviews I try to give the show credit where credit is due, the truth is many of the stories are incredibly dated. While the sci-fi conventions may have been new and/or unique at the time, a lot of them have become rather tired (such as computers taking over the world). I ignored that fact for the sake of my reviews, but many other reviews I have read complain about the cliched nature of many of the Hartnell stories. While I don’t believe that is fair (many weren’t cliched at the time), it does affect our opinions of them. And that characteristic of being dated is not helped by William Hartnell being so old. It can sometimes make a lot of the stories seem older than they are.

Additionally, there is a decided lack of action in many of the stories. While that doesn’t bother me too much, it made some of the longer stories, especially in Seasons 1 and 2, drag. The missing and reconstructed episodes didn’t help much.

Overall, I enjoyed William Hartnell’s Doctor. Obviously, or I wouldn’t still be watching. I enjoyed his clever wit and thought he gave the character a nice depth. Depth, of course, is something lacking in many of the companions. Here are my rankings of the companions from the Hartnell Era:

Female
1. Vicki – Cute, endearing, adventurous, and a good relationship with Hartnell’s Doctor.
2. Barbara – A bit uneven, but strong when she needed to be and not afraid to keep the boys in line.
3. Susan – Intriguing, but her character was unable to deliver. Not sure if it was Carol Anne Ford’s or the writers’ fault.
4. Polly – Hot, strong, and smart. Would be higher than Susan if she played more of a role.
5. Dodo – Could have been higher on the list, but was really a background player.
6. Katarina – Dumb as rocks and only around for a couple episodes. Great death, though.

Male
1. Ben – I like his attitude. Very no-nonsense-let-me-at-em. I like the cut of his jib, you might say.
2. Ian – While I didn’t buy Sir Ian the warrior, he kept the Doctor in line and approached problems thoughtfully.
3. Steven – Started so strong, but faded fast. Had no real role of his own. Again, not sure if it was the actor or the writers.

Overall Top 5
1. Vicki
2. Ben
3. Ian
4. Barbara
5. Susan

Now, for some story rankings. I’ll do 5 favorite and 5 least favorite. That should not be confused with “Best” and “Worst” which might not be the same.

Favorite
1. The Time Meddler – Great comic interaction between the Doctor and the Monk, a glimpse into the Doctor’s world, a strong performance from both Vicki and Steven.
2. The Daleks’ Master Plan – This would be number 1 if it weren’t for the Chase and Egypt episodes. Chen was a great villain, the Time Destructor conclusion was intense.
3. The Myth Makers – Very clever and funny, generally a treat. It also features a good (if unexpected) departure for Vicki.
4. The Daleks – Take away the cave jumping, and this story is a great introduction to a great race of villains. I wonder whatever happened to the lame Thals…
5. The Sensorites – This story gets a bad rap, but I liked it.

Least Favorite
1. The Chase – The Daleks were bumbling disasters, the comedy was unfunny, the plot was unimaginative.
2. The Edge of Destruction – Why was this story even made? Nothing happened and this was the point at which Susan’s character began to devolve. And the explanation of the melting clock and the stabbing made no sense.
3. The Crusade – Boring!
4. The Reign of Terror – Boring!
5. The Smugglers – Boring!

I’ve already watched most of The Power of the Daleks, Troughton’s first story. I can’t decide whether I’m enjoying it or not, which probably isn’t a good sign. At any rate, I’m looking forward to the next era of Doctor Who!

25
Feb
10

Story 021: The Daleks’ Master Plan

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

Terry Nation

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

The Alien Delegation

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

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

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

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

Katarina, about to be sucked into space

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

Christmas Episode

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

Dennis Spooner

The Doctor as Indiana Jones in Ancient Egypt

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

Chen - On the Road to Insanity

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

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

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

07
Feb
10

Story 020: The Myth Makers

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

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

Zeus arrives

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

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

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

The Trojan Horse

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

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

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

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

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




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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