Posts Tagged ‘language

28
Dec
10

Story 033: The Moonbase

More drudgery. This story was not as infuriatingly bad as The Underwater Menace, but what it lacked in crappiness, it made up for in boringness. Not helping matters, the reconstructions I watched did not feature any descriptions of what was happening. So there were long stretches of just disconnected audio with no dialogue. It’s difficult to tell what’s going on in those scenes.

The Cybermen Return

This story features the return of the Cybermen, now with metallic masks. I must admit that I still find the Cybermen to be relatively scary villains, despite their slow nature and apparent lack of intelligence. However, the lingering humanity that I commented in my review of The Tenth Planet has been entirely removed, making them less scary to me. In the space of a single story, the Cybermen have devolved from grim portrait of our own future to simple robot villains. They do, however, demonstrate a kind of chilling logic. They are not destroying Earth for revenge. Instead, they are doing it for reasons of self-preservation. This is consistent with their earlier appearance and I liked the nod.

But, unfortunately, the Cybermen could not save this yawner. Almost a complete rehash of the Tenth Planet, the Moonbase involves the attack of a remote base by the Cybermen, bent on destroying Earth for their own survival. The travelers have a bumpy arrival (I won’t say landing, although Ben calls it one) on the moon in the year 2050 (64 years after vanquishing the Cybermen the first time, for those keeping track). They discover that many of the base’s crew are becoming sick, with a strange disease that makes lines appear on their arms and face. I thought these were blood vessels, but the Doctor later explains it’s nerves. In either case, I thought it was a pretty clever depiction for the time and such a low budget production. The Cybermen finally make an appearance at the end of the first episode and beginning of the second, coming in and stealing the patients, whom they have made sick.

Polly: "No! He's sick!" Cyberman: "Oh, right, better leave him be." Me: "Huh?"

They steal the patients in order to convert them into zombie-like beings that will do their bidding. This theme has appeared a few times in the show, and while it’s kind of lazy emplotment, it gets the job done. These crew members are, following the lead of the tenth planet, international. Their nationalities are displayed as flags on their shirts. This echoes the international cooperation of the Tenth Planet and I wonder if it will continue in future depictions of Earth civilization. Worth noting, however, is that the lone non-white character that I noticed worked in the store room and was quickly zombified. And the Frenchman wore a quite effeminate neck scarf. The producers were not particularly concerned with political correctness, were they?

Other than the Cybermen, this stories distinguishing feature was that long stretches went on with nothing happening. I would stop paying attention for a minute or so, look back and have missed nothing. The cybermen moved so incredibly slow and there were long scenes of the crew working on the gravitron (a device for controlling the weather). And then, in the end, a lot happened very quickly. In the final 7 or 8 minutes, a rescue ship was deflected into the sun, more cybermen arrived and slowly marched across the entire moon, a whole was blasted in the side of the base (which was initially plugged by a jacket and then a coffee tray…can you say ridiculous?), and the gravitron was moved, fixed, and finally pointed to the moon and used for blasting the cybermen.

I haven’t said much about Jamie. He hasn’t really done anything except for act skeptical and amazed by everything. We’re on the moon? But that’s way up in the sky!” That’s right. Did you forget that you were just in freaking ATLANTIS? “maybe we’ll meet the old man in the moon.” And maybe when you meet him he’ll slap you upside your stupid scottish head and tell you stop being annoying. Beyond that, he spent more than half of this story unconscious then spouted a few lines and donned a kilt for the rest. I am unimpressed. Ben and Polly’s characters seemed to have leveled out, reached their peak depth. Which means they likely won’t be around for too much longer. I thought Polly would be better than she has been. I still like Ben, though.

Yeah, floating on the moon!

08
Nov
09

Story 013: The Web Planet

I’m not sure how I feel about this story. It had an air of uniqueness about it, and was certainly ambitious for its time…but the alien beings on Vortis (the web planet itself) were kind of lame. I wanted to like it….but I feel kind of ambivalent toward it. The TARDIS is sucked down onto the planet by some unknown force. It turns out that the animus, a large, evil creature who has enslaved the planet’s inhabitants is responsible for this and creating the web that encases the planet (or most of it at least). Since the TARDIS cannot take off, Ian and the Doctor go to explore.

This is the first time when I couldn’t decide how I felt. The light on the planet makes everyone look blurry or luminescent or something. It was like when you have a smear or water on your glasses and then look at a light and everything streaks. It gave a bit of mood, but it kind of made my eyes uncomfortable. I kept trying to focus. It was like those Claritin commercials before they take the allergy medicine.

A Zarbi

A Zarbi

The planet is inhabited by the Menoptra and the Zarbi and the Zarbi’s pet dust ruffles. And some Menoptra descendants that live underground. For, I think, the first time, there are no humanesque characters in the story. And, also for the first time, we have a race that does not speak English. The Zarbi, giant ant-like creatures, communicate via squeals and beeps and other noises. The Zarbi are the animus’s slaves and they and the dust ruffles apparently roam around, take prisoners, then put them to work shoving organic matter into the animus’s furnace. I like the Zarbi. They’re a little corny…men with ant bodies on running around. And there’s a nice spot where one runs into the camera. But I found the fact that they didn’t speak a human language and seemed to be best friends with the dust ruffles kind of a nice touch.

dust ruffle

A Dust Ruffle

The Menoptra, however, are the source of my discomfort with the story. They’re kind of like the Sensorites in their timidity…but why did they keep moving their hands like they were performing magic at a birthday party? And they seemed to give up so easily. They figured that since their special guns didn’t work that the animus would just control the planet forever. I guess this isn’t that different from some of the other races the travelers have encountered (remember the stupid Thals?), but it kind of irritated me this time.

What I did like about the story was how we learned a bit of the history of Vortis. We learned that the menoptra had some sort of religion, and that their ancestors were split up, some of them forced to live underground. Those underground were afraid of the light and dreamed of flying like the surface Menoptra. I also liked the bit of redemption for the Zarbi. They were cruel only because they were enslaved. Once the animus was dead, they stopped trying to capture.

Ian and a Menoptra

Ian and a Menoptra

What I also liked about the story was an increased role for Vicki. I like that she paniced and tried to steal the TARDIS, only to have it dragged away. She played a consistent role in the plan to defeat the animus and escape, although she succumbed to its bizarre power at the end, leaving Barbara to throw the snitch or whatever it was in the final confrontation. She showed some cleverness in fooling the Zarbi by putting the broken paralysis necklace on. It was a key part of her and the Doctor’s escape. This escape was orchestrated by the Doctor delaying his report to the animus, who communicated with him by speaking English through a tube-like device. There was a key Doctor moment when he said in his most cantankerous of voices “Bring down that hair dryer or whatever it is.” Which, by the way, the Doctor could use. His hair seems to be getting a bit unruly. It was an interesting way to set up communication between the two…but where did the hair dryer come from? Maybe the web was closed at the top? The animus was below them…who knows.

Doctor and animus

The Doctor gets his hair done.

We got a chance to see the TARDIS interior from a couple of new angles. It seems that the producers have now built an entire room rather than just a backdrop. It gives the ship a better feel. It seems more real, although I was slightly disoriented at first. I was convinced that the ship had changed. But I don’t think it has, there’s just more of it. Although the melted clock from the Edge of Destruction is gone. They must’ve thrown it out since it was melted.

In another first (I think), the episode did not end inside the TARDIS with the travelers. Instead, we saw the Menoptra talking about the future of their race and planet while the Zarbi wander about. It was a different kind of ending. The graphic told me the next episode is The Lion, but Wikipedia tells me that in Arab regions (is that the correct way to say that?), the next story (The Crusade) was not shown, so it had a different graphic there. A neat bit of trivia. Since I am not living in an Arab country, however, The Crusade, apparently another historical story, is next for me.

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.

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.




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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