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.

Mythmakers

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.