Posts Tagged ‘zombies

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!

26
Apr
10

Story 027: The War Machines

Model of Wotan

The War Machines was definitely written to be a season finale. There were some groundbreaking plot points, the involvement of a main character in a plot, a (somewhat unexpected) departure, and the introduction of two new characters. So, there’s quite a bit going on.

The plot is pretty familiar to us now: a computer is put in charge of decision making and promptly decides that humans are not really necessary, beginning to systematically destroy them. We start with the arrival of the TARDIS in London sometime in the mid- to late-60s. The Doctor and Dodo land near the Post Office Tower. I had to look the tower up to learn about it. Fittingly for the story (and probably on purpose by the producers/writers), the tower was intended to be (and still is) a major telecommunications hub. They make surprisingly little mention of Steven, given Dodo’s rather emotional sendoff at the end of The Savages.

Now here is the primary weakness of this story: The Doctor and Dodo show up at the tower and are immediately given access not only to the room storing the world’s most advanced computer, Wotan, but also continuous, unquestioned access to its creators and operators. Apparently, off screen, the Doctor convinced them that he was a computer genius. Apparently in 1960s London the general hobbyist was given access to top-secret technology. It’s a good thing the Russians didn’t know that! But, given the Doctor’s access, the rest of the story was fine as far as plotting.

War Machine Attack!

Some of that plot must have been pretty original for its day. Starting with the basic idea that Wotan could communicate and control all of the other major computers in the world. This story aired in the summer of 1966. The ideas for ARPANET, the beginning of the Internet, began in 1962. However, work on the network did not begin until 1968 and I think that it was well after that the public were aware. So, either writer Ian Stuart Black was very clever or had some inside information. The Wikipedia tells me it was the idea of a technical advisor. Nice work. More on this later.

Wotan, days before taking control of the world’s computers, begins turning the people into zombies. Like in the Dalek Invasion of Earth, these are old-school zombies of the laboring type, not the later brain-eating type which I’m not sure had been popularized quite yet. This is the second time we’ve seen humans enslaved via mental manipulation. It’s not really a plot device that survive multiple uses, and I think two is about all it can handle.

Dodo with Polly and Ben

Anyway, Dodo is one of those enslaved and is instructed to bring the Doctor into the fold. Now, here’s something interesting: Wotan (who knew what TARDIS meant) referred to the Doctor as Doctor Who. This is the first time that he has been referred to as such. Until now there has been no semblance of a name. Now I know that he is never really given a proper name, but is that because he doesn’t have one? Where could Wotan have gotten the name? Perhaps he watches the show?

Of course, the Doctor cannot be zombified. Instead, he works with Polly and Ben, two friends Dodo met at a nightclub, to solve the mystery of what’s going on. Polly is zombified, but Ben (a sailor) is able find out that Wotan’s slaves are building a war machine that will keep the humans under control while Wotan takes over.

The Doctor is able to reprogram one of these War Machines and have it destroy Wotan instead. The world is saved! Dodo, meanwhile, sent to the country to recover, has decided she wants to stay in London. The Doctor is informed by Polly and Ben. The only goodbye Dodo gets is a “She sends her love.”

The Doctor is rightfully incredulous, mumbling something about taking her through time and space and that’s all the respect he gets. Seriously. There is no goodbye to Dodo whatsoever. She really got the shaft by the show’s producers here. The last we see of her, Dodo has been hypnotized. She does not even appear in the final episode (or maybe two) of the story. Instead, she’s just gone. Such poor treatment. I wonder how Jackie Lane felt about being written off the show in such a way….

The Doctor Confronts a War Machine

While I was shocked at the way Dodo was unceremoniously removed, I had a feeling she was leaving as soon as I saw they were in London. And the attention given to Polly and Ben indicated that they were going to be sticking around. They unwittingly follow the Doctor into the TARDIS just before it leaves. They seem alright. I like Ben…but then again, I liked Steven at first, too.

Now, for more groundbreaking. I’m sure this was one of the first shows to deal with computers in this way. I know that some of themes had come up prior in the Twilight Zone. In one episode, The Old Man in the Cave, a computer is left to make all major decisions for a group of humans after nuclear war. And in another episode (I forget the title), computers are put to work and eventually put the humans out of work. However, the controlling of other computers and the world generally was knew. The War Machines themselves were predecessors of the Terminator series. And the round flashing light was very similar to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). There is little doubt that Stanley Kubrick, who moved to England in 1962 undoubtedly saw this story of Doctor Who. Additionally, the story had a very cinematic feel with moving cameras and obstructed shots. This has since become the goal of science fiction television shows such as Fringe. They all want to look more like movies and less like television.

The apparent impact of this story is impressive. On its own, the story is pretty good, although not the best I’ve seen so far. Season 3 is over and I’ve got some reflections to share in the next couple of days. Also, the First Doctor’s time is soon coming to an end. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

So long, Dodo. You got the shaft.

10
Oct
09

Story 010: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

More like Awesome Invasion of Earth!

A Roboman with his TinFoil hat

A Roboman with his TinFoil hat

The second dalek story really delivers with some classic sci-fi action. There were, as I have come to expect, some questionable choices. But overall, the story is a good one that I hope is a sign of the type of show that is to come. It has an eerie beginning, probably the best beginning so far. A man with a tin-foil hat walks to the edge of the river, lets out a tortured moan, rips off his tin foil and walks into the water. It’s disturbing and intriguing and wonderful.

The travellers land in a deserted London under a bridge with a sign instructing them not to dump any bodies in the Thames. While creating a visually creepy mood would have been a bit difficult if shooting on location on a small budget in 1964, the show does a decent job. The location is creepy in its silence and in the location in which they landed. Unlike landing in the French forest, whoever, they are immediately skeptical. Apparently they learned their lesson. Susan, in a moment of idiocy tries to climb up a bank and succeeds only in twisting her ankle and burying the TARDIS in debris. The Doctor and Ian then go off to try to find some place with some tools to dig it out. In the meantime Susan and Barbara are captured.

After the creepy silence of the first episode, the story pretty much goes on a nice climb to climax, with really only one setback. It turns out the city is silent because the Daleks have invaded and the dudes in the tin foil hats are robomen that they ask to do their bidding. These are very similar to early notions of the zombie: unconscious laborers set to work by evil forces of (usually capitalist) domination (brain eating didn’t come until later, although there’s a great one from the early sixties called I want to eat your skin or something like that). So, the zombies capture people and the Daleks either zombify them or kill them by turning them into photgraphic negatives. It’s a strange way to die.

The daleks are after some precious metal. The guy leading the resistance, I forget his name, but he’s in a wheelchair and slightly deranged. I’ll call him Dr. Strangelove. Dr. Strangelove calls it dalekanium. So, the daleks have a mine out in the country (Bedfordshire?). Luckily, the travellers have arrived just when they are about to drop a bomb into the Earth’s core and turn the planet it into a gigantic spaceship. Brilliant! This is totally B-Movie schlock at it’s best. One of the greatest diabolical plots of all time. Luckily, Ian is able to foil it by blocking the bomb tunnel with a door prop. He is also able to braid about 4 feet of wire into approximately 100 feet of rope in about 3 seconds. Ian is like MacGyver.

Hussie!

Hussie!

Susan, still back in London, has fallen in love. Hard. She even makes out with the boy. They had just met! What a hussie! Luckily her ankle has healed so she’s able to help carry the doctor, who was half zombified through the city and help her new boyfriend dismantle a bomb. She’s a pretty tough girl now that she’s grown out of her screaming phase.

The worst part of the story is when Ian and some other guy are trying escape the dalek mine and get back to London (this is still pre-bomb). A strange creature called the Slither comes after them. It’s a cliff hanger at the end of one episode, then they fool it into jumping down a giant hole at the beginning of the next. Other than excitement and showing off some not-so-hot costume work, I’m not sure what the point of it was. Are slithers like the daleks’ watch dogs? No idea. I didn’t get the point of it and could have done without it. I also could have done without the running from the daleks 10 minute montage in the second episode. We saw barbara running through all of London dodging Daleks. This was the first time my wife has watched any Dr. Who with me. She refused to watch any more after that interminable chase scene. That’s how bad it is.

The Daleks visit London.

The Daleks visit London.

One story note: The doctor says that their previous encounter with the Daleks happened a million years in the future. How could he know that? And if it was in the future, what were they doing on Skaro if they could fly everywhere? And why were they referring to the bomb that deformed the Thals as happening a few centuries earlier? I wonder how this fits into the overall Dalek timeline….I guess I’ll find out eventually.

The best part of the story, though, was the very end. Susan tells her new boyfriend how much she’d like to be able to settle down, but she can’t leave her grandfather. The doctor, recognizing that she is leaving her childhood behind, shuts her out of the TARDIS to leave her behind. She’s standing there, begging to be let in, wearing only one shoe (I think the doctor has the other?). He gives a great speech about the her future and rebuilding Earth and that her place is no longer with him, but on her own. It’s a surprisingly touching moment. You don’t usually see emotional departures at the beginning of a show’s second season, but Dr. Who pulled it off. As much as Susan irritated me, it was sad to see her go and even sadder to see the doctor realize he had to leave her. It’s the first of what is bound to be many cast departures, I hope they do them all as well as this one. The Wikipedia tells me that Carol Anne Ford was bored with Susan’s character because they wouldn’t let her expand it. I can see the frustration, she had become much flatter than she needed to be. Apparently Ford reprises her role later, although I don’t know when or why. Maybe the doctor returns as he promises just before he leaves her in a deserted London some time in the future.

Left Alone

Left Alone




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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