Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon, on Repeat.

The Gunfighters

First Doctor  - 25th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Dodo, Steven

Summary: Team TARDIS materializes in Tombstone, Arizona, USA.  The Clantons mistake The Doctor for Doc Holiday, and terrorize Steven and Dodo until they finally get what they want - revenge against Doc!  

The Doctor: He's not the star of this one, despite the confusion between The Doctor and Doc Holiday, but he does fine.  He sticks to his guns, metaphorically speaking, about not liking guns.  He's protective of the innocent, even if in this case the innocent means his crew.  His reticence at visiting the dentist is endearing, given the commonality of that fear. 

Companions: Steven's back to his comedy origins here, but since this is a silly kind of throwaway Serial, I forgive him.  Even Dodo has now clearly fleshed out her fun-loving role, and she manages to support Steven's silliness and yet be an excellent foil for him. 

Continuity: I love the companions dressing themselves from the TARDIS wardrobe in horribly period-inappropriate garb.  The TARDIS wardrobe has clothes of every era, including theatrical costumes, apparently.  He mentions being back inside the TARDIS by lunch, answering for the first time that I am aware of the question of whether the companions eat their meals there while between destinations. The "Doctor Caligari"-"Doctor Who?"-"Quite right." exchange is among the first "Doctor Who" name jokes, or at least I am pretty sure it's the first one I have noticed at any rate.

Rating: Enjoy it.  I know a lot of people pan this Serial, but I really do like it.  It's fun, a little silly, but has enough drama and tension, thanks to the Clantons and Doc Holiday's own machinations, to make it work. Let's not forget that for a good drama - and I think Doctor Who is a good drama - to work, there has to be moments of levity and relaxed tension.   It's also nice for the problem of the Serial to not hinge on the fate of the world, or the universe, or even an entire village, but just the safety of the crew.  And for that to be the case in a story where it's not the damn Toymaker is even better!  

Monday, June 17, 2013

He's no Santa Claus.

The Celestial Toymaker

First Doctor  - 24th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Steven, Dodo

Summary: The Doctor and Team TARDIS .  But the Doctor knows the place, and its diabolical controller.  This is the real of the Celestial Toymaker - a lonely player of games that wants the capture the Doctor and his companions for his own amusement. Separated and forced to play a series of deadly games, the winners being allowed a chance to go free, the losers trapped forever, the crew must ... I'm never really sure what.  

The Doctor: He's barely here for this one, so it's hard to say. He's clearly annoyed by the Toymaker, whom he has knowledge of but has never faced, but doesn't do much to struggle beyond playing along and trying to warn his companions, for which he becomes a voiceless disembodied hand. 

Companions: Dodo kind of gets into the games, but Steven is strictly annoyed by the arbitrary rules, opponents that cheat and are themselves never penalized, and challenges that are nonsense.  Dodo tries to have fun, to enjoy the games, and it seems likely she would make a fine eternal friend to the toymaker.  Keeping Steven would be a terrible mistake, though, as he'd be antagonistic to the not-very-Asian white guy in bad Yellowface (Seriously?  The show is fairly progressive on women's rights, but the first minority character we see is a white guy in makeup??  Hate it.).  For once, though, I think both companions are true to themselves, and this is the real Dodo and Steven, and I don't mind either of them.  Dodo's exuberance is a great foil to Steven's gruffness.  She's not a comic character, just a cheerful one, and that's ok.  In fact, Dodo and Steven's strong presences are the best thing about this Serial.

Continuity: The Toymaker seems to be another Time Lord, like the Meddling Monk, or to at least have that kind of power.  He can make the doctor invisible, make him unable to speak, make dolls live and people into dolls.  He is, in his realm, like unto a god.  and yet he's a spoiled little bully that kills people, cheats at his own games, and punishes the crew for both cheating and not cheating.  In short, he's a moron.  Apart form the idea that he is maybe a fellow Time Lord, he's got nothing.

Rating: Bear it.  This one's horrible.  The reconstruction I have is barely watchable, but beyond that, the Yellowface is appalling, the story is garbage, and the "tension" and games are just dumb.  The Toymaker's arbitrary rules, inconsistency on the subject of cheating, and exactly what the rules are are irritating.  I don't mind bad guys who cheat, I expect it, frankly.  But this guy isn't even cheating in a fun way, he's just being a bully.  The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I didn't say Skip It.  The only reason NOT to skip it, if you must, is because you plan to introduce the idea that the Toymaker is a Time Lord, and you need the research material.  Heck, I'm doing it.  SKIP IT.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dodo Chaplet is a Smallpox Blanket

The Ark
What are you playing at, girl, the Crusades?

First Doctor  - 23rd Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Steven, Dodo Chaplet

Summary: When the TARDIS next materializes, Dodo runs recklessly out and into some strange jungle.  Like any new companion, she is unaware of any real travel having occured.  Soon she sneezes, and begins to exhibit symptoms of having a cold.  This becomes the lynch-pin of the problem in this episode - Dodo's cold begins to kill the humans on the ship they have landed on.  For thousands of years, the cold has been extinct, and these people have no medicine or resistance to it anymore.  The Humans aboard the Ark (for that is what it is) have banded with a race called the Monoids for safety.  Both races hail from dying worlds, but now, thanks to Dodo, the Ark is itself dying...

The Doctor: He seems annoyed at Dodo, but is enthused about the Ark and the Monoids themselves.  He becomes as protective of her as any other companion until now, so his character is now consistent.  His commitment to nonviolence shines through, as he works with the Refusians to make peace with the Humans and the Monoids - although some of that is making amends for his past actions.  I do think we had a huge opportunity to see the Doctor deal with the moral issues of his travels, and it almost happened, but not quite.

Companions: Dodo is now the comedy bit that Steven had been, and Steven is now being fatherly - or at least authoritarian.  Dodo runs off without hesitation, steals silly clothing from the Doctor's wardrobe, and gallivants about like.. well.. a Dodo.  She finally begins to understand when they land on the same Ark 700 years later, to find the Monoids in charge, and the Humans about to be destroyed before the two races can land on Refusis.  And where Dodo might be being comic relief here, she's not, she's just impulsive and not aware that this is real yet.  Let's see how she does - I like her more than Steven on my first meeting of him.

Continuity:  Dodo steals her outfit from the Doctor's wardrobe, and he insists that she ask permission.    At this point I cannot recall if this is the first appearance of the wardrobe, but it certainly wasn't there in the Crusades, when the companions had to steal period clothing.  It is, then, ironic that the outfit Dodo steals from the wardrobe is one that the Doctor claims is from the crusades, and yet is not an outfit worn or acquired during that adventure.  Off-screen upgrades have clearly occurred.

Rating: Enjoy it.  It's not as strong as the previous Serial, but it continues to be a lot of fun.  The apparent drama of the trial seemed to be over, and so the next 2 parts would be a different story, except that the second half of the serial was fixing the consequences of the first half! It's remarkable to this point because, to the best of my ability to recall, even though there's a Monoid villain, One, team TARDIS is ultimately as much antagoinst to itself in this one.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tasty, Tasty Crow.

The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve

First Doctor  - 22nd Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Steven

Summary: The Tardis materializes now in 16th Century France, and Steven and the Doctor look to lay low for a while while the Doctor visits some pioneers of scientific thought in a country torn apart by religious civil war.  The Catholics and the Protestants (Huguenots) hate each other, and knowing which side of the argument the person you are talking to is key to surviving this bloody time.  Of course, before long Steven and the Doctor are separated, Steven falls in with the Huguenots, learns of their plans to kill the "Sea Beggar", discovers that the Catholic in charge of everything, the Abbot of Amboise, is either the Doctor in disguise or an exact double, and generally makes a hash of "lay low"...

The Doctor: Man, he loves him some France.  I dig it. Heck, Tom's got a scarf, Peter's got celery, and Patrick had a flute.  So William has France.  He's tickled pink to be able to go visit Presleur, the guy who invented the theory of Germs, an idea highly controversial in both scientific circles and the church at the time.  Of course, the Doctor doesn't get much face time as himself - although William Hartnell does get to play the villainous Abbot of Amboise in this one.  Sadly, I don't find his portrayal of the Abbot as compelling or convincing, it just doesn't quite work.  Luckily, the serial is strong enough that that one nit-pick doesn't hurt it for me.  At the end, as the whole thing is crumbling around the Doctor - Companions have left him because they were in love, angry, or homesick; Companions have begun to die under his care; he is alone, no longer resolved to accomplish whatever it was he left his home world to do, and he contemplates returning home, his purposes failed.  It's a wonderful tragic moment, and a rare glimpse of something other than the fear he has when he's being chased, or the stern grandfatherly man he has been.  No, he's not human, but he's not actually soulless.  He's got his own priorities, and this is a real low point for him.

Companions: I've beaten Steven up a little for being little more than comic relief on a show I don't think needs to be a sitcom, and today, I take it back.  He does an excellent job here of being dramatic, involved, and central to the events.  He's not standing by being silly.  He's just watched the Daleks kill Sara and Katarina, and on the heels of that dramatic, if overly long Serial, lands in a violent fear-ruled France.  He does everything he can to help people, especially poor Anne Chaplet, and when things go from bad to worse, he's fed up.  Non-interference be Damned, the Doctor's time studies and random jumps without a human heart to drive them become too much for Steven - almost.  This is a Doctor-Light episode, with Steven being the real driving force and the lead, and far from being the clown he has been, he carries it off well enough that on this Serial alone I became a Peter Purves fan.

Continuity: This is the first time we see the Look-Alike motif - somebody in history that looks exactly like the Doctor or a companion.  The And, of course, at the very end, we meet new companion Dodo Chaplet.  In light of what we learn in another few decades, my hypothesis is that the TARDIS took Steven to precisely then specifically to get Dodo on board - to prove to Steven that Anne lived, so that he could stay.  She (the TARDIS) is not done needing him yet.

Rating: Love it. A powerhouse of a Serial, it's the first one I've rated this high in a while.  I might put it a notch below Marco Polo, but I must have rewatched this one 4 or 5 times while writing this post.  Like Marco Polo, I wish this one wasn't available solely as a reconstruction (Yes, I know the BBC released an audio version that has the TV soundtrack with Peter Purves providing linking narrations,but that's not the version I have access to without Crime) but in the end, to me, this belongs on the list of First Doctor Serials to watch if you want to see the humble but grand origins of the show.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Daleks are at it again!

Daleks Master Plan/Dalek Cutaway

First Doctor  - 19th "Serial" and 21st Serial

# Episodes, Companions: 13 total, Steven, Katarina, Sara Kingdom(?)

Summary: Dalek Cutaway:  First off, The Doctor and his companions aren't even in this one.  There's a whole host of reasons, and you can read about that else where.  So here we are on the planet Vicki spied through the scope back in Galaxy 4.  Our heroes are space travelers form earth, venturing to the Isop galaxy, also last seen in Galaxy 4.  One of the crew is infected by a Varga plant, which fills the man with an urge to kill, and makes this planet the deadliest planet, one typically avoided by all other life-forms.  The problem with this is that the Varga plants are native to, and bio-engineered on, Skaro, the Dalek home-world.  The Daleks mention are here to form the Great Alliance, and join forces with the 6 deadliest races of the Outer Galaxies.  The lone human spacecraft is not enough to stop them, as the most able crewman succumbs to the prick of a Varga plant...

Dalek Master Plan:

Summary: We begin with Steven suffering because of the poison, from Mythamkers. It is clear that no apparent time has passed since leaving Troy.  The Vargan crewman from the previous episode has managed to reduce the remaining crew to just a few.  Now, the Daleks mastermind a plan to create a Time Destructor, and form an alliance with the most vile conquerors in the known galaxies to conquer Earth.

The Doctor: The Doctor he's not taking delight here.  This is not a comedy, and outwitting the Daleks has become deadly serious business.  The fun Doctor of the past is gone, and we have a scared Doctor, who nevertheless claims tremendous confidence.  

Companions: Katarina just may be being written dumber than her ancient Trojan origins require - she starts by not understanding what a key is, even though the Trojans knew something could be locked from the inside.  Unfortunately, before we can get to know her, she is killed by the Daleks, which puts us in fear of the Daleks, at least, so her death does serve a purpose.  They aren't comedic anymore, they have killed a companion.  Many sites list Sara Kingdom, who joins the Doctor and Steven in this serial, as a companion, because she travels with them for a while, but she dies too, by the end.  Again, we prove the evil of the Daleks, making them scary again, but we don;t really get to know her much.  Steven no longer questions the Doctor, challenging him at every turn.  In the face of the companion-killing Daleks, he reassures Sara to have faith in the Doctor, that he's fought the Daleks before and can win.  This is a nice turn for him.

Continuity: Varga plants are from Skaro - well, we certainly weren't aware of this back in Serial 2, and we spent a lot of time in the jungles there.  Still, just because Baobab trees are native to earth doesn't mean there's one in Texas.  There's no universal law that planets native to a world are ubiquitous so before anybody calls that a "continuity error", they probably need to go outside more often and tell me how many native lifeforms are encountered within 2 miles of their home, and how many aren't.  The Daleks are allying with the 6 other most vile conquerors in the universe - both our galaxy and the Isop. Clearly they are not yet the genocidal maniacs they will grow to be, although it's fun to note that their reaction to finding a spaceship that they know to be empty is to destroy it.  I also note that the Daleks are allying with 6 races from "the outer galaxies", and the aliens there refer to the Daleks as being from the Solar (Sol) System.  The Earth Spaceship is from the Sol System, but the Daleks are not - Skaro is not in the Sol system.  I'd even forgive this as being the time after Dalek Invasion of Earth when the Daleks were ON Earth, but they are mentioned as being from Skaro, and the heroes try to send the message TO Earth, which means the Daleks aren't ruling there anymore.

Regarding various references to the Travelers being from The Solar System - Ok, clearly they mean the Milky Way Galaxy, Orion Spiral Arm, Sol System.  That's a mouthful. But that's how they use it, so that's what they mean.  I'm a bit of an Astronomy geek, took it in college, loved it.  But this is a science fiction TV show primarily intended for kids. So should the aliens be saying Travelers from the Milky Way? Yeah.  Or at least Travelers from the Sol System.  Not solar. Solar is a generic term for star-things - all planets that orbit stars are parts of a solar system.  The Sol System is us. A Solar System is one or more planet(s) in orbit around a star.  We are not in THE Solar System, we are in solar system.  They're going to say this more than once this Serial, and, because I had already watched most of Hartnell and some of Troughton before I started this blog, I know they're going to do it again later.  It bugs me.  But I'm not going to rant again (I will mention it though!) because I'm just assuming at this point that the writers know the sun's name is Sol and they mistakenly think the proper term is the Solar  System.  But it does bug me.  Besides, I acknowledge that this is a show.  I can get all twisted about internal continuity being wonky (although, really, it's about time travel.  When shit changed from Episode 2 to Episode 10, I pointed it out, assumed it had something to do with the Doctor meddling in the time stream, or, frankly, the Daleks meddling in it. Or the Monk, etc.) but in the end, I'm going to accept changing writers, hasty rewrites, creative decisions from upstairs reversing directions, etc and move on.  But still - The Solar System?  Come up with something Spacey like Travelers from Sector Prime or some shit, don't use hideously incorrect terminology.  It pulls me out of the show's presumed reality, kills my suspension of disbelief, and just in general drops my enjoyment of the Serial in which it happens.

Rating: Bear it.  It's a tad over long, and it spends way too much time with the Tarranium Core being chased, given over, subterfuged, etc.  The Doctor plays his outwit games over and over, and it gets repetitive and redundant.  Oh, and you can skip Episode 7, The Feast of Steven, entirely.  It's completely irrelevenat to the plot, by design, and is just a Christmas filler episode.  The Cricket Match scene in Episode 8 is kind of humorous, but I think it's the only real light moment (excluding Feast) in this one.  It's interesting, because the humor was ratcheted too high before, but I find there's not enough here. The Doctor and Steven will begin the next adventure alone, just the boys, a situation we won't see again for a while.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Of Gods and Horses

First, I want to make it clear I'm doing this slightly out of order, and I know I am, but it's my blog, and that's what I want to do.  I'm skipping my review of "Mission to the Unknown/Dalek Cutaway" and lumping it in with my review of Dalek's Master Plan.

Now, that's just for the purpose of this Blog.  I have already watched it and written the review.  I just don't want to post it as a standalone.  So now, after watching it, I'm moving on to The Mythmakers, and I'm going to review that one.  Next post will have a special little segment for Mission. So yeah, I'm reviewing one single episode that is itself tied to the largest serial to date out of its broadcast order.


First Doctor  - 18th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Vicki, Steven

Summary: The Travelers arrive in ancient Greece, near the fields of Troy, where the Trojan war is happening around them.  The Doctor is seen by Achilles after Achilles takes an oath to Zeus to slay his opponent, Hector, and is thus mistaken for Zeus, masquerading as an old beggar.  Achilles takes Zeus back to camp, where Odysseus imprisons him until he can prove who he is.  We get to see Helen of Troy's beauteous legend turned on its ear as they discuss how he just wants to be rid of her, and the whole adventure has more to do with the wish to control Asia Minor than to recover the most beautiful woman of all time.  Steven is then captured as a Trojan Spy.  Zeus offers to perform a miracle by striking Steven down with a thunderbolt at his "Temple" (the TARDIS), but it has gone missing.  We discover it has been captured by the Trojans, and now the Doctor and his companions must rescue it to save Vicki.  The TARDIS takes the place of the infamous Trojan Horse, and even though Cassandra prophecies about it, they still fall for the original.

The Doctor: I love the Doctor as Zeus.  He clearly likes being admired, which is especially funny knowing how Steven questions and picks at him continually.  He is reasonably creative in trying to sacrifice Steven to himself, and I was kind of sad when the charade ended.

Companions: Vicki is fun in this one, too. She's flustered by the primitive Greeks, and her infatuation with Troilus makes for good drama and comedy.  Her knowledge of the future gets her wrapped up in the politics of Troy, and it's nice to see her not being menaced by monsters.  She gets forced into helping the Trojans win the war, which she knows they won't, and her struggle is palpable. Of course, she's pitted against the Doctor, who must help the Greeks win, which is another fun gambit.  I find Steven the weakest companion in this story, too, which continues to be my frustration with him.  His playfulness is ok, but the Doctor's already the big kid on this Serial, and we don't need two jokers.

Continuity: Vicki leaves the crew, to be replaced by Katarina.  She was a minor player until here, so I did not include her up to now.

Rating: Enjoy It.  This one, like the Romans, was played much for laughs.  As such the danger is light and playful, but the machinations and dramas are enjoyable.  The comedy weakens some in episode 4 of the Serial, but that's the climax of the Horse bit we have been waiting for since we discovered this was about the Trojan war, so that's ok.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's a sort of Chumblie Serial

Galaxy 4 

(Loose Cannon reconstruction)

First Doctor  - 18th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Vicki, Steven

Summary: This episode is one of the ones that was destroyed by the BBC, and so it only exists at this time as a reconstruction.  Given how watchable Marco Polo was, I decided not to let that stop me.  So we begin with the travelers landing on a barren planet mostly devoid of life.  Despite the absence of life, the planet is quite hospitable, and the travelers exit, looking forward to some peace and quiet.  Within minutes, they find a machine that investigates them - they aren't sure whether it's an attack or not - and Vicki thinks it's cute, and names it a Chumblie.  Next thing you know, a Chumblie appears slightly more menacingly, and the group are saved from the sudden attack by a squad of warrior women - the Drahvin.  Although they help the travelers, they will not offer information without their leader.  The Doctor is initially suspicious, but Steven convinces him that the Drahvin must be good - they did help them when the Chumblie attacked, after all.  Of course, soon it is revealed that the planet they are on is about to explode, and the Rills (the masters of the Chumblies) and the Drahvin are engaged in a war, the fortunes of which may leave the travelers unable to escape in time!

A Rill.  A face only a Chumblie could love.
The Doctor: He's got good instincts here.  The Drahvin are good enemies, given that they are convinced of their own rightness. But the Doctor is right to mistrust them.  They are not evil, but they have no virtue, and trust nobody, including the travelers.  Maaga (the Drahvin leader) trusts no-one except herself, which can be a good trait in a leader, but here it proves to be her downfall.  The Doctor eventually deduces that the monstrous Rills are the peaceful race here, given that their weapons could easily destroy the Drahvin but they haven't tried, when the Drahvin attack every Chumblie on sight.  He also is very protective of Vicki here, as he has been for some time.

Companions: Steven is slightly stronger here, and he's certainly not intimidated by the Doctor.  He has a tendency to accept things at face value, which gets him into trouble.  Although he does not trust the Drahvin, their mistrust of the Rills causes him to mistrust them.  He is the one that notices how weak the Drahvin ship is.  Steven also shows his rebellious streak - not just arguing with the Doctor as he has been, but in encouraging the Drahvin warriors to seek out equality - eat the leader's food, use the leader's guns.  His logic is brilliant, and he so effectively manipulates the warriors.  In this show, I finally come to like Steven.  Vicki for her part continues to be strong and smart.  She figures out how to evade the Chumblies, and has good instincts with regard to the Rills.  

Continuity:  The Drahvins grow their warriors, artificially  to fight and kill. They have a very stratified culture, with no concept of equality.  Their distrust of the Rills seems to stem entirely from visual prejudice of the very non-human looking Rills.  The Rills, for their part, understand both human nature and the Drahvin nature.  They forgive the travelers for their attempts to hurt the Rills by sabotaging the atmosphere converter, and help them escape. This is also the first mention of the Isop Galaxy.

Rating: Enjoy it.  It's slow, and the reconstruction has less footage than the others I have seen, making it one of the harder ones to watch, but the story is quite good, and the characters all grow and learn.  It's more serious in tone than many of the others, but that's not a bad thing.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Year 2 in Review

Doctor Who Second Season

First Doctor, William Hartnell

9 Serials, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Susan, Steven

The Doctor: This season the Doctor was much more consistent than Season One - the writers seem to understand what to do with him.  He still fluctuated wildly between manic, intense, and stern, but that's something I am pretty sure we will all simply get used to.  With the departure this season of all three of his original companions, we have gotten to see his sentimental side, and his deepening fear and hatred for the Daleks as well.  His fondness for participating in, but not mucking up History is well established now, although, yes, I still note he will interfere in alien cultures just fine.  Now as a secondary to that, perhaps he really is just putting right what should never have gone wrong, but that's not as evident as it is with the Earth Historical Serials.  Still, He's much more the Doctor now than Curmudgeonly old Space Grandfather and Kidnapper.

Companions: Susan left us, with less development that I would have liked.  Ian and Barbara left, and I feel it was a tad premature - I'd have liked to have them around a little more, but it had been nearly two years and they were homesick.  The wonders of the Galaxy had been trying to kill them for long enough, and I will forgive them a well earned rest. Vicki jumped right into the roles vacated by Susan and Barbara - intelligent, clever, but young and, while well educated, still in need of instruction.  Steven's still new, however, and he has yet to grow on me.  He's an amalgam right now of Ian's charge forth nature and the Doctor's own curiosity - and curiosity is a wonderful trait in a companion, so I can hope for good things before he leaves us.

Continuity: So much came to light.  Other TARDISes. Other TARDIS Operators! Other time machines. Dalek Time Travel. History CAN be changed, it merely shouldn't.  We still do not know the Doctor's origin, his planet, or why he is on the run.  But we're familiar now with the TARDIS noise, and its' quirks - which seem to get quirkier every season.

Summary: Good Season.  Not too much more to add here.  The Pacing continues to hold the show back - not because it's slow. Don't get me wrong - I fully understand that the shows of the era were simply not as fast paced as what we are used to now.  No, I mean the repetitiveness and sometimes long stretches of nothing.  There's a lot of time spent filling these 100 minute Serials (and 150 Minute!) with time, and sometimes they pad the wrong bits.  But hey, we're all learning.  The audience (of 1964) and the directors and producers and writers are learning how this thing goes.

Rating: Enjoy it!  This season had only one Bear it, and no Skip Its.  Conversely, no Love Its.  It's falling into a pattern - which is sometimes dangerous, but here, at least it means we're settling in for the long haul. With 26 Seasons of Classic Who and the Paul McGann Movie, before we even begin the new era which is at Seven season as I write this, it's good to see the show simply be consistently good, instead of the wild fluctuations.  I do hope we see more Love Its soon, the brilliance of Season One far outweighed the bad.  I really want some of the wonderful writing to return.

Best Lines:

  •  During all the years I've been taking care of you, you in return have been taking care of me. You are still my grandchild and always will be. But now, you're a woman too. I want you to belong somewhere, to have roots of your own. With David you will be able to find those roots and live normally like any woman should do. Believe me my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me. One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye Susan. Goodbye my dear.
  • That is the dematerializing control, and that, over yonder, is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner; those are the doors; that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy! Now please stop bothering me.

Alright Folks, that's Season Two.  Season Three begins Next!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Out with a Whimper

The Time Meddler

First Doctor  - 17th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Vicki, Steven

Summary: following the events of the Chase, the Doctor and company head back to 11th century England just before an historically important Viking invasion. Soon the Doctor finds evidence of Time Travelers, in the form of a phonograph playing monastic chant, and he realizes that this serene countryside is in for worse than a viking invasion!  Forces are at work to change history, and the Doctor must work quickly to put history right!  

The Doctor: I liked the speech about Ian, Barbara and Susan.  Given the change from when he abducted them to now, that he thinks of them as friends and is sad to see them leave, almost feels betrayed, but not quite. And then he consoles himself by asking Vicki if she wants to stay, he is really showing his tender side now.  In addition to being sentimental, he's also clever, though.  And he's enjoying the game of cat and mouse he has begun with the Monk, who spends much of the time thinking he has the upper hand.

Companions: Steven, of course has stowed away aboard the TARDIS, and made the Doctor none too happy.  Vicki is clearly enjoying being the most knowledgeable, and senior, companion.  Steven plays the skeptic well.  He's willing to believe the box is a ship, because they have obviously moved, but the Monk's futuristic paraphernalia have him convinced the time travel bit is a sham.  Steven doesn't stay the background character for long, taking as active a role as any other companion might as soon as the puzzle is revealed.  I'm not sure I like him much, he's smug and always amused, although it's a slightly refreshing change to find somebody enjoying it instead of being afraid.

Continuity: First and foremost, Don't call him Doc.  Secondly, the nods to the previous companions are heartwarming.  The Doctor explains how the TARDIS has the ability to change its shape to match the surroundings, and Vicki reaffirms that several systems have technical hitches, and don't really work very well.  We've heard all this before, but it seems to come up with new companions a lot, and the audience needs reminding why he travels in a blue box.  We meet another time traveler.  He's not introduced as a Time Lord or Galifreyan or anything, simply as the Monk, variously known as the Meddling Monk.  He has his own TARDIS, the second such machine (if you conclude that the Dalek machine in the Chase was a kind of TARDIS) we have seen in as many serials.  We know he is from the Doctor's world, about fifty years after the Doctor left, assuming time has meaning there.

I particularly enjoyed the Monk ribbing the Doctor about the malfunctioning "camouflage unit" and the snide comments about the Monk's TARDIS (which we are told is a MARK IV) not being 'hit or miss' and working perfectly.  The Doctor has finally met a warrior that is his intellectual and technological equal.  The Monk has a brilliant plan, and it works very well within the framework given.  Without the Doctor here, history would be very different... or would it?  See, the Monk's TARDIS is, of course, damaged by the Doctor preventing him from escaping and trapping him in the past.  The only real danger with that plan is, now he's stranded where he can do immeasurable damage to the timestream, having excellent foreknowledge.  He apparently decides to spend his time in this strange temporal exile doing nothing much though, because unless I'm mistaken, he's never mentioned again.
Rating: Enjoy it.  It's got some good moments, and is generally fun, but it's certainly the weakest of the 's I've given.  I came close to giving it a Bear it, to be honest.  It's the slowest four-parter I have seen yet, and paces more like a sixer.  It's still fun to see the Doctor square off against another Time Traveler, and fun to see the historical setting merely be the backdrop for the adventure, where until now the past has been the adventure itself.  I watched this one four times, and liked it more on the fourth viewing than any prior.  I have no idea what that means, but there you have it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Silly Old Fussbots

The Chase

First Doctor  - 16th Serial

6 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki, Steven

Summary: Hot on the heels of the Crusaders, the Doctor fixes the Time Space Visualizer  and after a bit of R&R on a desert planet (Tatooine*), Barbara discovers that the TARDIS is being tracked through time and space by the Daleks, intent on destroying their most hated foes.  After losing the TARDIS in a sandstorm, the Doctor and Barbara must find Ian and Vicki and escape the Daleks, the Mire Beasts, and, soon enough, the terrors of the alien worlds the Daleks chase them through!

The Doctor: His loyalty to Vicki is commendable.  She is definitely a surrogate for Susan at this point.  He is able to make the companions laugh about their escape, and helps keep them together throughout the assault. He also seems genuinely afraid of the Daleks, and is intent on escaping, until they realize they need the Dalek Time-ship to recover Vicki, at which point his bold warrior spirit resurfaces.  His know-it-all side resurfaces, too, when he makes up a bunch of hooey about the Haunted House, assuming it to be a world of pure subconscious/fear/dream.  Eventually they will find a world of dreams, but this was just a mundane carnival exhibit.  Beyond that, the Doctor is only a little afraid of the Daleks.  They aren't terribly firefighting  or murderous, they ignore the typical conquer and exterminate and focus single-mindedly on the Doctor et al, which does subtract from their menace.  Yet, they have been bested by the Doctor twice before, and they're mad.  This time, they aren't waiting for him to spoil their fun, they're hunting him down.  And while they are less scary here, the Doctor is afraid - a little.  But only a little.  He's not running away, he's looking for a place that he has the advantage, because he knows - he knows he can beat them, and do so without any weapons, even.  This isn't a "Dalek" story - it's a Doctor story.  (I know, he really decided to fight only after Vicki was left behind, and he realized he had to stop running to rescue her, but my point is the same - he cares about the companions, a real tranformation from the first episode, and his compassion is stronger than any fear he once held).

Companions: Vicki stows away in the Dalek, ship, and in general, is pretty brave.  Her past as a child genius (by our standards - I have no idea if she's considered a genius in her own time) comes through again, as she demonstrates her knowledge of advanced technology and history (that is the present/near future from Ian and Barbara's perspective). Barbara may be slightly more foolish than normal, wandering about the deck of the Marie Celeste with no care for being caught, but she may also simply be emboldened by her adventures with the Doctor up to this point.  Actually, the more I think about it, the more getting out of the TARDIS anytime, anywhere seems to always be a bad idea, from a strict 'life expectancy' viewpoint, but I digress.  Ian takes a much more background role than I've become used to.  The villains of this serial get a lot more screen time than most villains, and I think that's why we see less Ian.  He does get to poke fun at Daleks and stairs, though, which stays funny for a long time!

Barbara and Ian, at the end of this serial seize the opportunity to use the Dalek time-ship to go home, and while it's played as a happy moment for them, the doctor is clearly upset.  Steven joins the cast though, and gets a quick indoctrination by the duo before they leave.  The same actor played him and the Yokel in New York, and it's obvious to the point of distraction.  I've merely convinced myself that the yokel was an ancestor, to rationalize it, but that's pure supposition.  Steven's introduced as a sympathetic character, but not much else.

Continuity: The Daleks refer to the TARDIS as the "human time ship" and the group as the "humans".  We must assume that this is because the Daleks have discovered the group on Earth, and most of them are human, so it's a simple error in their assumptions.  We also see that the Dalek Weapons are impervious to the Neutralizers of the Daleks - which at this point are lethal and not merely paralysis-inducing.  The Daleks are more single-minded than genocidal, as they leave the natives of Aridius alive in order to pursue the Doctor.  We see the TARDIS flying through the mists of what we will eventually learn is the Time Vortex.  The Doctor also refers to the Time Path Detector being in the ship "since he constructed it", which suggests he built the TARDIS.  Certainly since Susan claimed to have coined the term TARDIS, I suppose at this time the BBC believed the Doctor and Susan to have built it, although now we have camps that think the Doctor built TARDISes back on Gallifrey or just built the Time Path Detector.  At this point, there is no explanation, and I don't really care, I'm having fun.

As for the Daleks, I also note the Dalek Supreme being mentioned, when if I recall correctly, he was only referred to as the Black Dalek last time.  We also see the Daleks build a robot Doctor, and while it's clumsily executed, it's really perfect. These are creatures in robotic outersuits - not cyborgs, not robots, but freaking Robot Jox (it was a movie in the 80's) in power suits.  Of course they have the ability to create a robot Doctor.  Each time we see them, they learn, and that makes them worthy foes. 

Rating: Enjoy it.  Sure, you want to know why they get out of the TARDIS to explore, when they really could just wait inside while the energy recharges.  But really, there's more creative locations here than in a lot of the previous serials, and I'm glad we get to see them.  There's a lot of plot holes - Barbara's reaction to the "death" of Ian is ... absent.  She should be crying her eyes out.  Likewise, why do the robots in the haunted house attack the Daleks? And why do Dalek weapons not work on them? I suppose one could argue that Dalek weapons only affect the living or something, but they fight the Mechanoids later, and the weapons work there. But this was a kids' show back then - adults weren't recognized as the demographic until well into Jon Pertwee's era.  So forgive it the foibles and the attempts at humor, and become the kid they wanted to watch this, and laugh along with me.  The departure of the original companions and the advent of the new ones - for the first time ever the Doctor is not seen travelling with a human from contemporary Earth - both his companions are from the viewer's future.  Now, the show is very much not about Ian & Barbara anymore, and never will be again.

*Not Tatooine. I wanted to see if you were paying attention.  The real planet name was Aridius.  Because it was once a water planet, named for it being bone-dry. Becuase water planets are so dry.  Because you change a planet's name once the climate shifts.  Like how when Earth was covered in Ice and not Dirt, we called it Ice...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Vicki Saves the Day!

The Space Museum

First Doctor  - 15th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions:Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Summary: Some unusual facets of materialization exhibit themselves - a dizzy spell, an unexpected change of clothes, and a mysteriously un-breaking broken glass. The TARDIS materializes on a strange, silent world where the Doctor and companions cannot interact with any of the inhabitants. Before long, they discover that they are represented here already, exhibits in a space museum (hence the title, I'm 99% sure!).  Drawn into the struggle between armed rebellion against the curators, the companions could win their freedom, or be trapped in an exhibit forever! (cue dramatic music! Well, kind of dramatic.  They tried, and the music in this one's pretty good, for the most part, which I think  is the first time yet the music has been a part of my reviews!)

The Doctor: He's too dismissive of the odd phenomena at the outset - he should be curious.  Likewise, he continues to be causally dismissive, a trait we're coming to be familiar with in the First Doctor.  He's moderately curious, but only after the others convince them there's something interesting after all.  The Doctor continues to reiterate his policy of not wanting to change the future, even if it's his personal future.  He spends a lot of energy trying to out think the guards, but in the end, meets his match.  He also mutters like Yoda at one point, when talking to Ian.  I don't recall him being quite that cackly, Hmm! Hmm? Hmm!?  Not one of his greatest Serials, but he's still got some wit and charm.

Companions: Barbara again picks up on some of the important clues, and Vicki likewise, although unlike Barbara, Vicki is dismissed and ignored, despite being more intelligent here than any other time before, to the best of my limited ability to recall. In the end, Vicki will even solve the problems of most of the party, matching or besting the Doctor, given that he doesn't outwit the guards and she outwits their security system.  To be fair, the Doctor tries to dismiss Barbara as imagining the ominous aspects, but accepts her observation that their sound doesn't echo as valid.  Ian shows his usual strength and character, and we even see him take one of the guards hostage! This is a really good Vicki Serial, even if a mediocre Doctor one.

Continuity: First, The traditional materialization sound is back.  I say traditional - it's been present only twice before.  Nevertheless, this Serial used the classic sound we will all become familiar with.  The manifesto about changing the future becomes a major talking point, and eventually the group decide that changing their own personal futures for the best is fine.  The Doctor also acquires a Time-Space Visualizer, and we learn that the Daleks have their own time machine now.  Yes, apart from just being an empty shell int he museum  at the end, we see the Daleks have been using their own Time-Space Visualizer to watch the group, and while they could only observe the last few minutes due to the group still being out of phase until the last few minutes, they are now in hot pursuit of their 'greatest enemy'!

Rating: Enjoy it.  It might benefit from being only 3 episodes instead of four, but it's pretty fun.  There's a lot of meat here about taking charge - the companions really only get out of the pickle when they stop letting events happen to them, take charge (and hostages!) and stop worrying about changing time and simply try.  Even the 'revolution' finally wins when they decide to actually fight back (imagine that!).  Carpe Diem, companions, for your situation cannot improve until you try!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

All Hail Sir Ian of Jaffa!

The Crusade

First Doctor  - 14th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki, as before

Summary: Upon materialization, they quickly run afoul of Saracen warriors chasing European Crusaders. In the process of saving a few Crusaders (including King Richard), the Saracens make off with Barbara, and a loyal Knight claiming to be Richard.  They are exposed as frauds at the court of Saladin, but held because Barbara's beauty entrances Saladin.  Meanwhile, Ian, Vicki and the Doctor meet up with King Richard, and work to convince him to help rescue Barbara.  Political battles among both Saladin's court and King Richard's abound, and the  companions have a difficult task before them to navigate the war and the politics.  Barbara plays on her wild adventures thus far to become a veritable Scheherazade, telling the tales of classic (but future, from Saladin's perspective) literature and the TARDIS in return for her life.

The Doctor: He takes delight in stealing the clothes, not, I think because he is a thief  but because it's a challenge.  He shows himself to be a peace loving man, and an adept trickster and charlatan.  And I don't mean charlatan as a bad thing - he lives on deception of many types, and that's ok.

Companions: As Before, Barbara maintains her composure extremely well, her dignity and grace astound. When captured by the Saracen, she remains a true lady, a figure to admire and look up to.  I continue to be astounded by Barbara's portrayal.  Vicki is forced to dress as a boy to avoid capture, and does a pretty good job of not being a victim in this episode.  She's stronger here than before, and I appreciate that, but she shows some insecurities at being the newcomer to the group.  She's afraid of being left behind, and I hope she gets a chance to see that the Doctor isn't like that.  Ian is knighted as Sir Ian of Jaffa, and clearly is surprised.  He performs admirably, likewise, brave and steadfast, and even gains the respect of Saladin.

Continuity: This Serial did not feature the materialization sound they've been using, which is more or less the noise they'll use from now on.  The noise here was very disconcerting, and I;m glad they ditched it.  Also, there's no mention at this time of the Wardrobe on the TARDIS that I know we will see in future episodes - the Doctor and Vicki have to steal clothes, because they don't have any 12th century money, either.  

Rating: Enjoy it.  I really liked this Serial, the plot and pacing were good, but there was nothing truly stand out in this one.  It falls just short of Marco Polo, but is one of the better historical Serials.  The Doctor and the companions are a little upstaged by the politics of the Crusades themselves, but that is barely a speck of negative argument against this show.  The most poignant thing for me was to see that Saladin was treated very respectfully, while Richard was portrayed with little compassion.  Historically accurate, but it's nice not to see revisionist "our side was the good guys" propaganda sneaking in.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Unlucky Serial Thirteen

The Web Planet

First Doctor  - 13th Serial

6 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Summary: After a power failure, the TARDIS lands on a strange planet with unusual magentic anomalies, presumably, the planet itself is the cause of the power failure.  Vicki can hear odd noises no one else can, although soon enough, everyone does.  As the Doctor and Ian head off to explore, Barbara is pulled from the TARDIS by something controlling her against her will, and Vicki is trapped in the TARDIS as it is stolen by gigantic man-sized ants, the Zarbi.  We soon learn that the Zarbi are controlling people through Gold (yes, the element) and that the Zarbi are slaves in service to the Animus, and fighting against an invasion of the planet by the bee-like Menoptera, who are trying to rescue the larval creatures, the Optera.

The Doctor: He's certainly worried by the TARDIS-napping, but he remains calm and constant, as we have seen before.  He keeps his wits about him as he mentally spars with the Animus, although he seems to get bested by the malignant intelligence more often than not.  

Companions: Barbara shocks us here by giving Vicki the powerful sedative, known as Aspirin.  Seriously, since when was an anti-inflammatory a sedative?  She redeems herself by keeping a cool head int he face of the Menoptera, when a more stereotypical female of the time would have been written to scream and flee.  Vicki is both more childish and more mature than Susan, and she is given the role of the screaming victim for the first time.  She doesn't stay the creaming victim, as she helps the Doctor to outwit the Animus, and while she's played as not very bright, sometimes, she does figure out how to scare the Zarbi.

Continuity: The Doctor has a ring that is able to supply the TARDIS with power.  We've never seen that before.  Also the ADJS and supplementary respirators - the first evidence that the Doctor carried technology other than the TARDIS itself with them.  We visit the ISOP galaxy for the first time, and see the Doctor's knowledge of astrogation - he knows the planet should not actually have a moon, and yet does. There's a machine on the TARDIS with a Time and Relative Dimension Link - presumably with that link severed, the TARDIS wouldn't work.

And WAIT JUST A MINUTE!  We just had a very strong lecture on non-interference in the previous episode, how you couldn't use knowledge of the future to change things.  But it's ok to use knowledge like how many moons there should be to overthrow the Animus?  OK, I totally grant you that it's the right thing to do - the Doctor is fighting for good, but man, Couldn't they have saved some lives on Earth back in France? And why is this ok but not the Aztec human sacrifice thing?  OK, I'm done complaining.  This Episode just makes me want to rant, as below.

Rating: Bear it.  Note that I would say Enjoy It, except this one suffers greatly from being six episodes instead of four.  Let me explain - six 25 minutes episodes is 150 minutes.  That's two and a half hours.  That's longer than most major motion pictures.  When you try to fill that time with a plot that has to be reiterated weekly because TV audiences are what they are, you end up both with a lot of repetitive exposition and some ridiculous time-fill, such as the heroes being captured, escaping, recaptured, re-escaping, and so forth.  Now Marco Polo was fabulous, and a few others were even pretty good, but to date, all of the skip its and bear its are 6 (or even Seven!).  You have to really be on the ball to make a great episode movie-length.  This Serial is no Marco Polo.

I promised myself I wouldn't harp on the relatively infamous bad effects of the classic series.  Back then, TV was perceived as a televised stage play and on stage, effects are what they are - audiences were expected to imagine.  We have been spoiled by Hollywood, and we just have to ignore it.  Still, I find the vaseline-smeared lens effect used to achieve the outdoors "alien atmosphere" shots comprehensible, but unnecessary. More so than any other theatrical effect, this one hurts the watchability of the show immensely.  This is notable because the story is more ambitious than most stories before it, and it overreached so badly. Until now, effects have been limited and not too bad, but here they really tried hard, and fell flat.  The Optera are the worst of the bad costumes, though, although many point to the Zarbi themselves, the clownish ballet hands of the Menoptera, or the Animus's hairdryer like communication tube, but really, those are just targets of convenience.

Ok, so if I have that much negative to say, why Bear It, and not Skip It?  Because the story is so ambitious. The Menoptera and their plight is epic. Predictable as the Optera/Menoptera thing is, it's still fun.  The animus is creepy as heck, she's an otherdimensional being that just moved moons around and killed a planet to suit her needs.  Creepy.  Heck, there's a blog out there dedicated to the idea that the Animus is a Lovecraftian Old One.  There is a pretty good story at the heart of this, and it has merit.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What has 'The Romans' Done for Us?

The Romans

First Doctor  - 12th Serial

4 Episodes, Companions:Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Summary: The Companions are enjoying a much needed rest, much to Vicki's chagrin. She was promised adventure, and so far has seen only a month of a tiny Roman village.  Of course, before long, the adventure finds them, as Barbara and Ian taken by slavers, and Vicki and the Doctor are mistaken for a bard, on his way to play for Nero.  Ian is sold to a shipmaster, who makes him a rower, and Barbara is taken to Rome to be sold at auction.  

The Doctor: The Doctor is very curmudgeonly towards Ian and Barbara, but dotes on young Vicki.  He seems also to take delight in pretending to be the bard, although he cannot play a note.  He finds the misdirection and subterfuge fascinating, and delights in pulling one over on the court of Nero.  Before long there's a murder mystery to solve, involving the centurion who was originally plotting to murder Maximus (the minstrel whom the Doctor is impersonating), and Tavius, who hired Maximus (now the Doctor) to murder Nero.  It's complex, but actually easy to follow. I think he laughs more in this Serial than in any other, although, to be fair, even though the "threat" of execution by Nero hangs over his head at all times, in this one the stakes aren't really as high as has been the norm.  He giggles a bit like Caesar Romero's 1960's era Joker up to the end.

Companions: Ian and Barbara know nothing of the Doctor's plight, and each fights wildly to get back to each other.  Barbara is bought by a nobleman, Tavius, who recognizes her sympathetic heart and desires her no harm, while Ian's ship wrecks and they are recaptured, and made to fight in the arena before Nero. Soon enough, Nero falls for Barbara, and she spends a lot of time fighting off his advances.  It's fairly clear that Barbara has feelings for Ian, and vice-versa, what with the flirting in the first part and the pining for each other later on.  This romance is rewarding for the fans who've watched them for 12 Serials, and not at all an unexpected or unwanted development.  Vicki has not yet had much development, but she seeks adventure, is thrilled by meeting historical dignitaries, and protects the Doctor from himself. 

Continuity: The Doctor reaffirms his policy to Vicki - one may not interfere with another culture, nor attempt to accelerate its achievements.  We also see that the TARDIS exterior is nearly indestructible.  It's been crushed by a bridge and fallen off a cliff, without any damage to the interior.  This marks the first time the companions had an adventure of which the Doctor remained completely ignorant - not just a secret, but the entire Serial.

Caesar Nero, the wackiest Emperor in all of history!
Rating: Enjoy it.  This one has a lot of laughs, and was played much more for comedy than anything to date.  Nero is clearly a goofball, not the frightening, often insane dictator he is usually made to be.  It's nice to not have the fate of the world int he balance, and though there's omnipresent execution, poison, murder and betrayal, because it's a comedy, it's a nice light touch after the sorrow of the previous two. Also,while there were no refrigerators in ancient Rome, but there was romance!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Curse your Sudden but Inevitable Betrayal!

The Rescue

First Doctor  - 11th Serial

2 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki (sort of)

Summary: Here we learn of Vicki and Bennett, astronauts from Earth that have crashed on planet Dido.  They are being terrorized by a being known as Koquillion, who will kill them if he learns of their impending rescue.  Koquillion has already killed all of Vicki's crew, leaven Bennett nearly paralyzed and probably dying.  There are, of course still wild beasts, and it's not long before Ian and the Doctor are trapped by one, and Barbara is found by Vicki, which may be the more dangerous position...

The Doctor: He calls for Susan, clearly missing her.  The first companion has left the ship, and already we see that he cares for them.  He also tries to teach Barbara how to use some of the controls.  This is the only planet other than Earth the Doctor has been to since we started watching that the Doctor has seen more than once, although the first visit was not on-screen.  The Doctor is the driving force here, moreso than Barbara and Ian.  He does most of the problem solving.  He is also the one that eventually invites Vicki to join the crew, presumably missing the presence of a young girl.

Companions: Barbara and Ian definitely take a backseat here.  The Doctor takes the investigative lead, as Ian and Barbara accept things at face value.  Their compassion for Vicki keeps them active in the story, as they both try and persuade Vicki not to accept Bennett's surrender to Koquillion. While neither of them shines, I don;t think either one took a step backwards either.

Continuity: I noticed the TARDIS whoosh whoosh sound here for the first time.  Also, a new companion, the first one we have ever seen be invited and go along willingly, joins the crew here.

Rating: Enjoy it.  This one's pretty good.  The story of Bennett and Koquillion is worth the 40 minutes, it's tight, well written, and believable   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

EX-TER-MIN-ATE! More Daleks!

The Dalek Invasion of Earth

First Doctor  - 10th Serial

6 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, and Susan

Summary: They crew lands on Earth, in London! The Doctor is overjoyed that he got it right, and even Ian says that few years one way or the other don't matter.  Unfortunately, London is deathly quiet and seemingly abandoned, and the year is 2164 (or more likely, >2174, as that was an old calendar they found).  There are a few scavengers around, and soon they find resistance fighters, who capture Susan and Barbara.  Resistance against what? No time to answer, because Ian and the Doctor then find guys with monotone voices and Special Education helmets menacing them.  Well, that's when our old friends the Daleks come rising out of the Thames.  Now it's a race for survival, as the companions must find a way to save the Earth from the Dalek conquerors and rescue the TARDIS from under the pile of bridge!  The Daleks are turning Humans into Robomen - unwilling mind-controlled cybernetic servants of the Daleks. 

The Doctor: He's true to form here.  He readily accepts the facts around him, sidesteps direct answers to questions about himself and the companions, and brings useful knowledge to the table. Here we also have him tell us that he never takes lives unless his own is in danger, and while we have learned this to be true, in light of the slaughter of the Daleks much later, we do know that this has limits he hasn't said yet - like 'being a Dalek'.  He also says he doesn't like being called 'Doc'.  This reinforces that Doctor is a kind of name, not a title.

Companions: Susan and Barbara get in with a group of resistance fighters led by David and Jenny.  Here they aid the efforts of the fight. Barbara is pretty strong here, being quite brave in the face of the Daleks, and exceptionally cunning, masterfully tricking the dull-witted Daleks.  We also get some focus on Susan as a love interest for David.  This, ultimately, is what gets Susan, who never really got the treatment she deserved, off the show.  Susan and David's romance in Part 4 is the best development she's ever had, and it's a shame that after two episodes where she's had a good role, she gets written out, but I think the writers will do better with fewer principals to worry about.

A Roboman. Note the similarities we will eventually
see to the Hartnell-Era Cybermen.  Ear bars were the
 universal symbol of being a cyborg in the 1960's.  Certainly
 carefully e-nun-ci-at-ing eve-ry syl-la-ble
was also something robots do.
Continuity: This is the first Story I am aware of that the first images take place outside of the TARDIS, instead of showing the landing first.  We see an unidentified man (later we learn it to be a Roboman) commit suicide.  Grim stuff for a "kid's show".  Ian mentions that the Daleks had been wiped out last time, and the Doctor points out that that was a million years in the future.  I guess at this point in the Dalek timeline, they were still trying to war with the Thals, but really that gets handwaved. We also see them with a cosmetic modification that allows them to operate away from the metal streets of Skaro.  I'm not sure I buy the inconsistency of the timeline, that the Daleks are off conquering other planets and still at war back home, but it's a time travel show.  Temporal inconsistencies are going to happen. We also see the Black Dalek for the first time - an indication of color-based caste or rank.  Susan Leaves the show here, marooned by The Doctor so she can have a life with David, and help rebuild the Earth.  The Daleks plan is to repalce the Earth's Core with a rocket guidance system, turning the planet into a giant missile, or possibly just to use as a spaceship (which the Doctor says will destabilse the entire 'constellation', not Solar System.  He clearly knows more than he's letting on).  Why they want a planet they can pilot when they already have spacecraft is beyond me.  Beyond that, last time we encountered the Daleks they were far less lethal. These Daleks are seen to kill resistance fighters with one hit, and they refer to exterminating the humans as the "final solution".  We also see for the first time the TARDIS has a sound system that can be used to communicate with the outside.

Rating: Enjoy it.  This is the first time an old villain has come back.  Having never before seen the Doctor fight the same foe twice, this one has the interest factor of watching him find a new solution to an old problem.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Little Problems

Planet of Giants

First Doctor  - 9th Serial

3 Episodes, Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan

Summary: Re-calibrating the TARDIS's frequency, the TARDIS has another mechanical problem - the doors fly open during materialization and the monitor that shows you where you've landed blows up.  The readouts all show that everything is normal outside, so they proceed to explore, and discover that they have all shrunk to be just one inch tall.  They soon discover the sinister plot of an insecticide chemist and salesman who intend to force through their super-deadly toxin through to market, despite the fact that it kills everything on contact. The only person, other than our heroes, that oppose the plan ends up dead, and now the inch high heroes must bring the murderers to justice while escaping the deadly house cat...

The Doctor: He's managed not to take a backseat again, although this Serial splits its time well between Ian and the Doctor.  No significant changes in character or tone now, and I feet like the writers now understand his role in the story.  

Companions: Barbara becomes poisoned by the toxin, and hides this fact from Ian, to keep him from worrying.  She spends a lot of this Serial focused inward, which is understandable, given that she spends half of it about to die.  Ian and the Doctor do most of the saving and solving, but Susan manages to get a good role in just the same.  I felt like she played too young for what she's been through, constantly asking the Doctor to explain the situation, why they couldn't be heard, etc, but she managed to not be as frustrating as half of last season.  

Continuity: I love these mechanical malfunctions.  Later era Doctor's control rooms get more and more elaborate and complex (albeit by degrees until the McGann 'era', which wildly swings towards the cinematic view we'll see in the New Series), and I love to justify that by saying that every time one doohickey breaks, the TARDIS's controls have to grow bypass levers and switches and bulbs, until the quite sedate control scheme the Doctor uses now has become the frantic running from lever to lever that the later Doctors will use.

Rating: Enjoy it.  It has a fun little story, pretty darn good shrink effects for the pre-CGI era, and a nice environmental message about responsible pesticide use.  In the modern era of Organic produce and non-GMO foodstuffs, It remains a message we can get behind.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Looking Back Again!

The First Season, In Summary

The First Season is over now.  Eight Serials have come and gone, and we have truly come to know most of the principals.  But what kind of first season was it? Well, that's what the blog is about, so I'd be remiss if I didn't cover the Season as a whole.  (As a preview, that means when Hartnell's era ends after The Tenth Planet, I'll be reviewing his Doctorship as a whole, also.  So yeah, blog readers, you can look forward to seeing how he does each episode, then each Season recapping, and each Doctor re-re-recapping.  )

The Doctor: In the individual reviews, I've charted what the Doctor has been like, and he's been a character that grew from a curmudgeonly old kidnapper to an entertaining, resourceful man.  There's the beginnings of the personalities we will see in the future - he likes to be underestimated, ignored, and left to his own devices. He's perhaps more surly then he will become, but the shortness of temper still shows up even in his younger incarnations.  It takes a while for Hartnell to grow on you, but he does by the end of this season.  The last two Serials in particular are his greatest of the eight, but that's sadly the best thing going for them.    He's also adopted the lapel-grabbing mannerism that we will see in ... I'm pretty sure every future Doctor, although I don't recall the first time I actually saw it.

Companions: Ian and Barbara steal the series at this point.  Ian's charming, handsome, and rational.  When the companions ride alone, he drives!  Barbara is strong, intelligent, observant, and clever.  I know I harp on that a lot, but there's plenty of female characters that are bad female stereotypes with dialogue, and I think Barbara is an excellent departure from this, especially at a time before the Women's Lib movement made people conscious of the negative portrayals of women.  Susan continues to default to the negative female stereotypes at this point.  I know there are plenty of people who bash Susan, and plenty who stand up to defend her, but among these first eight Serials, the preponderance of evidence is against her.  I know there's more glorious moments coming up for her, and she really needs them.  The promise of An Unearthly Child was that we'd get a brilliant but odd alien girl, and we have ended with a typical teenager that happens to live in a TARDIS.

Continuity: I notice that the companions have yet to wonder why everybody, from the Cathay, Aztecs and French to the various aliens speaks English.  I know in the future that gets answered, but it strikes me as odd that it was never asked and established early. I'll be watching for the first mention of that.  Also, we've seen the TARDIS materialize (without the whooshing sound, though), seen it be hard to pilot, and learned a little about the Doctor and Susan.  In the credits, William Hartnell has been listed as Doctor Who, not the Doctor, causing many flame wars among fans who insist that that's not his name, but what the heck, he's The Doctor, and I use "Doctor Who" in the post tags, so there you go. The only real discontinuity has been the debate over flying or materializing, and I happen to know in the future we will see both.

Summary: This was a mixed bag, with 3 Love its, 2 Enjoy its, 2 Bear its, and a Skip it. The Historicals were both the weakest and the strongest. Although that statement was not entirely true, The Keys of Marinus was the only Skip It so far, and it was decidedly not a Historical. As much as I want to classify whether one or the other kind of adventure is hit or miss, the fact is, at this point, the writing is all over the place, and there's no accurate predictor.  Let's get some tighter scripts and some shorter serials (Yeah, I know, the mixed bag will continue to be an omnipresent force of the Classic Doctors, but I'm at the beginning of the era, and I can dream!)

Rating So Far: Enjoy it.  Our destiny is in the stars, so let's go and search for it!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reign of ... Meh.

The Reign of Terror

First Doctor  - 8th Serial

6 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Susan, as before

Summary: Immediately following the events of The Sensorites, the Doctor angrily drops Ian and Barbara off on what he thinks is their home - and while it is Earth, once again it is the wrong time.  Their squabble quickly forgotten in the urge to commit breaking and entering at a chateau in the French countryside, where they discover they are in the French Revolution, and quickly become entangled in the intrigue and horror of the era.  They are discovered by a pair of rebels (although in this era, everyone's a rebel right? Rebelling against the crown, the church, the rebellion itself) and then captured by French soldiers.  The Doctor is nearly killed when the soldiers randomly decide to burn the chateau, and the others are sentenced to death by guillotine.  Before long, they are all captured and released and captured again, taking sides in the Revolution and even becoming involved in the drama of espionage during the bloodiest era in France's history.

The Doctor: The Doctor is very prideful again, although he soon gets his comeuppance when he is forced to work in a peasant work crew. He soon gets the finery of a nobleman, and spends the rest of the Serial with his nose on the air, even in prison.  He plays the part really well, though.  Without the companions at his side for most of the entire Serial, he shines.  He's quite likable here, after watching him get the comeuppance he needed to put him back down from his snooty treatment of Ian.  He maintains strength of character and wit throughout the remaining 5 episodes, a hopeful sign of the writing we are likely to see from him in the future!

Companions: None of them are bad, or given to useless roles, but this one was odd in it's handling of the companions.  Most of the time, the story focused on the Frenchmen, revolutionaries or otherwise, and I felt that the companions and the doctor were once again involved observers, with occasional threats of death.  There's not really anything of note to call for any of them - Ian remains steadfast, clever, and loyal, Barbara continues to be strong and in control. Susan continues to be a victim, unfortunately.  I liked watching Ian and Barbara squabble about morality and treason in the fifth episode, it's good to see the group disagreeing with someone other than the Doctor.  Just like a real family!

Continuity: We see once again that while the Doctor has all of time and space at his command, locating a specific point in space-time is pretty darn hard. It is the first time we see the TARDIS materialize, instead of simply jump-cutting to where it was, BUT it does so without the (soon to become) familiar WHOOSH WHOOSH sound. In fact, it's completely silent, which is kind of jarring, in perspective.  I suppose at this time it's nothing unusual at all.  Actually, given the materialization, I'm reminded of the references in Marco Polo to the TARDIS flying through the air, and note here that it absolutely does not. The references to meddling in history at the beginning hearken back to The Aztecs.  And here, while the company become involved, and theoretically affect things (telling people Napoleon will become ruler, for example), they do not try to actively steer things the way Barbara did back then.  Susan started the series borrowing a Book on the French Revolution, noting it was inaccurate, which probably explains how the Doctor could go incognito so well - they had been to this era (Historically the Revolution was itself technically over at this point) so they knew the customs.  Ending the Season near the French Revolution is a nice bookend.

Rating: Bear it.  Using the Keys of Marinus as a benchmark, this wasn't that bad.  I really don't like seeing the companions and the Doctor being observers, though, and that's most of this Serial.  By the time they do get involved with the actual story, beyond getting captured and escaping and getting recaptured, I've long since lost interest.  Still, it ends well, and the Doctor is worth watching in this Serial.  Skip it if you like, but if you watched Keys of Marinus, Watch this one, so that you can see that that one truly was the worst of the Season.  If you do want to skip the first 5, go ahead.  The last one of the Serial is pretty good.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cultural Sensitivity and Penlights

The Aztecs

First Doctor - Sixth Serial

4 Episodes, Companions: Ian, Barbara, Susan, as before.

SummaryThe Deerfield Aztecs, a baseball team, crashed in Mexico and formed their own lost tribe of real Aztecs. They track their missing shortstop, Carmalita (Arthur's girlfriend) to America but grab Arthur instead. 

Sorry, that was the The Tick episode by the same name.

Summary: They arrive in ancient Mexico - in the Aztec rule, before 1520.  Barbara is quickly mistaken for the Goddess Yetaxa reborn.  The companions realize they'll all be sacrificed to make it rain again unless Barbara fools them, and, of course, actually makes it rain. Ian is made one of Yetaxa's warriors, who must acquire the human sacrifices.  The Doctor is forced to retire in a beautiful garden.  Susan stays with Barbara as her handmaiden.  Barbara creates turmoil when she abolishes the act of human sacrifice, in order to keep Cortez from wiping out the "barbarian" culture.  Barbara tries to stop it, but the sacrifice victim kills himself on the temple and it rains, causing the High Priest of Sacrifice, Tlotoxl, to vow that Barbara is a false Yetaxa, and plot to destroy her and the others. Clearly Yetaxa's friends are the weak point, so Tlotoxl targets them in a series of cunning traps.

The Doctor: He starts by trying to make sure the characters don't change history here, and this is really the first time we see that rule invoked.  He also has a relationship with Kameka, a woman that is also retired to the garden, we get to see him enjoy the nuances of a romantic relationship for the first time (our first time, at any rate, he already has a granddaughter, so presumably he has scoodlypooked before the show ever started).  He's really infatuated, and willingly becomes engaged to an Aztec woman.  He seems to have found peace, and really seems to want to settle here.  I've not seen that before, and while the romance isn't super-well developed, it is believable.  

Companions: Barbara's knowledge as a History teacher comes to the forefront here, much more so than it did with Marco Polo.  In this episode, Barbara is willful and deliberately disobeys the Doctor, the first such time since they became a cohesive unit.  Ian demonstrates bravery, cunning, and resolve.  Susan herself also tries for some social change, rebelling at the idea of arranged marriage once again, as she did for Ping-Cho.   The companions desire for meaningful social change is commendable, though doomed.  No dead weight in this one!

Continuity: The rule about not changing history - clearly they can try, but it's forbidden.  This has never come into play before, so we'll now begin watching for that rule to affect the companions in the future.  Also - was that the Sonic Screwdriver the Doctor gave to Ian in the Tunnel?  It could have been a normal penlight, but I really want to believe it wasn't. Elsewhere on the web, they say it wasn't used until 1968 by Troughton, but I'm going to vote right here that while the object was unnamed, it was Hartnell's Screwdriver.  Troughton just was the first one to name it.  There.  It is so declared*.

Rating: Enjoy it. It's really another well done Serial.  I didn't enjoy it as much as Marco Polo, but a lot of that was really I felt the recurring issue of the human sacrifices was uninteresting. In among all of the social change dialogue, I kept thinking how the Serial kept reminding us that these people's culture was their own, and that, however noble our intent, us forcing our views upon them was morally wrong.  I kept thinking that this was an interesting message coming from the historically culturally insensitive British Empire.  Then again, I guess us Yanks from the American South don't have much room to talk with regard to our oh-so-culturally accepting past, so there's that.

The hardest part for me was not the plot, or the sets or effects or anything like that.  It was all these English accents speaking Aztec words.  Funny as that sounds, I just found the accents distracting.  Five other Serials of all the aliens and everybody else having an English Accent, and I guess it's because I'm in Texas and the Mesoamerican culture is more visible here that I actually cared this time.

*Ian used it as a flashlight.  It was probably just a penlight.  Stupid logic.  sigh.