Posts Tagged ‘Science

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.

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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?




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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