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!