Sunday, October 19, 2014

The (Cyber)Man in the Moon


Second Doctor, Fourth Serial, 33rd Story.

4 episodes, Companions: Ben, Polly, Jamie

Summary: Following a disastrous attempt to control the TARDIS, we find ourselves on the Moon. After a few missteps in the low gravity, they encounter a Moonbase, a weather center (They control the weather on the Earth) and, unfortunately, illness. Viral infection is the least of their problems, as there's a spy at work on the base, trying to take it over. Bodies are going missing from sick bay, the Graviton beam is malfunctioing and a Hurricane is threatening the USA, and the station crew can't seem to figure out what's going on! Worse, the disease and everything else is an invention of the spies - the Cybermen!

The Doctor: I would never have expected the Doctor to not want to explore, but he seems awfully reluctant to explore the moon. His knowledge of time comes in handy, mostly guessing nearly right! He's clever, though, figuring out quickly that the virus is artificial. Once bodies start vanishing, the Doctor is eager enough to participate - to fight Evil. You can hear the capital E when he says it! I think Troughton's finally getting the role, and his performance here is wonderful.

Companions: Jamie spends half the serial unconscious. Ben spends a lot of time with very few lines. Polly, on the other hand, takes over as the brains of the crew, soundly and cleverly assaulting the cyberman menace. She's the first one to identify the abductors as Cybermen, but of course nobody listens. Ben and Jamie make good muscle, and are an excellent foil to the clever Doctor and Polly.  It's a shame that four's a crowd, as we already had to learn back in Susan's day, and will, sadly, have to learn again. Polly also refuses to be obedient when Ben tells her it's 'men's work', which is awesome. She's never really endeared herself to me, but I really like her in this story.

Continuity: We pick up from last week's loss of control, although we do hear the TARDIS Whooshes twice for no good reason. The Doctor mentions that in Glasgow in 1888, he got a medical degree - or some sort of Doctorate.  This is the first mention of such a thing.The Cyberman have definitely been Upgraded, for the best. They spend a lot of time silent, doing their jobs, and it's creepy as hell. This is also the first time we see victims being turned into Cybermen, and it's wonderfully scary! Their vocals aren't quite there, yet, but it's better than the Mondasian Cybermen vocals. I love how condescending they are, though "Only simple Earth Brains like yours would be fooled!" We also see the return of the Time Scanner, not used, if I am correct, since The Chase.

Rating: Enjoy it. It's not the best, but it's much stronger than Underwater Menace was. As much as I dislike the characters being slidelined for long periods, three companions is a bit much, and keeping Jamie (and Ben) out of the way worked to move things along. The second Episode is really slow, however, and is barely helped by the strong performances of the Doctor and Polly. Otherwise it's a pretty strong story, with a good villain. There's a lot of threats, but it doesn't feel like a pile O'Threats made just to complicate things, which is rare.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

All Wet.

The Underwater Menace

Second Doctor, Third Serial, 32nd Story.

4 episodes, Companions: Ben, Polly, Jamie

Summary: Picking up seconds after Leaving the Highlands, Jamie, Ben, Polly and the Doctor head off into unknown time and space. No sooner do they start exploring then they are gassed and wake up captives in a strange vessel. Soon taken to be sacrifices for Amdo, their God, they lead a revolution which ultimately destroys Atlantean society.

The Doctor: He's neither brilliant nor awful in this one. To be honest, I watched this one three times and came out of it with very little to say, which is why this one's so short. He Doctors a lot - fast talking, getting captured, escaping, dressing up, cracking wise, plots a way to win non-violently, and ends up causing a heck of a mess, but the bad guys learn their lesson. Nothing special, and that's kind of sad. He is definitely more comedic in this one that we've seen in the past, but it at least doesn't detract from the story. Then again, given how bland this one is, maybe that's not a good thing...

Companions: Ben and Polly and Jamie are important to helping the Doctor escape sacrifice, but I felt like they didn't really do much. Then again, neither does the Doctor. Ben has put himself in a role as the crew's protector, though, and he does it well. Polly plays the victim a bit, but It didn't seem forced this time. I mean, somebody's going to be experimented on, and at least Polly had a lot of other things to do in this one. Jamie is still learning the ropes, but he adapts well, and fits in easily.

There's a strong focus on the Atlanteans and the fish people, and I guess the "swimming scenes" where you can tell they're n wires, but it's well done, is about the best thing in the show. Despite everything else, the actual flooding scenes are also really well done, the best effects in the Series, and probably where all of the budget went.

Continuity: Nothing really new is introduced here, although at the end of his first voyage, Jamie declares that he feels safe in the TARDIS, moments before it goes out of control. This isn't really a continuity point, although it'll come up in the next Serial.

Rating: Skip it. This one is appalling. There's, ironically plenty of action, but no real good story. The motivations for the villains are apparently nonexistent, they just go through the motions of whatever it is they are supposed to be doing. The music is terrible, when there is any, and the fish people costumes are, to the best of my ability to recall, worse than even the Zarbi. Again, I know I promised not to harp on the terrible effects, but look at that picture and tell me it isn't awful.

Monday, October 6, 2014

There can be only ONE ... Companion!

The Highlanders

Second Doctor, Second Serial, 31st Story.

4 episodes, Companions: Jamie, Ben, Polly.

Summary: Scotland, sometime in the 1700's.  Eternal war with England rages on. The travelers are suspected of being traitors or rebels when they fall in with a group of Scots fighting the crown for their homeland. Ben and Jamie are captured and put on a ship bound for the Indies, where they will be indentured for their freedom - enslaved and worked to death more likely. Polly gets away, and she and the Doctor must work to help the Scots defeat a wicked and corrupt English officer, and free their friend.

The Doctor:Impersonating a German Doctor - Doktor Von Wer (Doctor of Who) - and getting into Germ Theory is hilarious. He manages to keep ahead of the soldiery and lawyers pretty much the entire time, mostly by fast talking and convincing absurdity. His flute doesn't make an appearance here, but that's ok, It's my least favorite Doctor Prop. He's getting into the role here, outwitting, fast talking, and outclassing his foes.

Companions: For once, the tables are turned. Ben is taken prisoner along with young Jamie, and Polly and the Doctor work mostly independently to rescue him. It's nice to see Polly being clever and taking initiative. Jamie doesn't contribute much, mostly being utilized strictly as a background character at this point, but Ben and Polly are useful and important - though not central - to the story.

Continuity: There's a recurrence of the Name joke - Doctor Who? Yes. I got a chuckle out of it, which is probably the first time. At this point, it's worth noting that he's still "Doctor Who" in the end credits, although he really doesn't use the full name, Just "the Doctor". The Second Episode is one of the few times the Doctor is seen with a gun, but then it is only brief. Of course, this is the first appearance of Jamie, this incarnation's constant companion beginning here, and ending only with ... well, Spoilers.

Rating: Enjoy it. I'm rating this higher than the Power of the Daleks, although to be fair, Daleks had 3 strong episodes.  It's a historical episode, where the big adventure is the Doctor and companions being caught up in some minor events - a war, capture, enslavement. No Alien menace, no fate of the Universe.  Just a serious adventure, with characters used to danger.  Something the Doctor won't have too much more of, sadly. He's getting older now, and he's about to start getting into a lot more trouble.