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...