lørdag den 11. april 2009

Who Review #89 - the Deadly Assassin

Picture: the Master (in this episode)

scene by scene, episode by episode

A gripping tale from start to finish! The Master returns (played by Peter Pratt).

The face mask is very well done; it was one of the things that scared me back in 1976. Pratt's Master captures much of the cunning and intelligence of Roger Delgado's characterisation; however, there isn't any suaveness about this one at all, as Pratt's voice is chillingly full of hate. Other good performances are Who regulars George Pravda (the Castellan) and Bernard Horsfall (Goth) as well as the sweet Erik Chitty (Engin). The big let down are the other Time Lord characters who come across as bumbling fools, with bad hearing. As many have noted before, these Time Lords are simply not the awe inspiring beings we first saw in the War Games.

Episode 3 is the most memorable part of the story as the Doctor battles Goth in the virtual world of the Matrix. (Yup - the show was 23 years ahead of the film.)

The end of episode 3 raised the sharpest of criticisms from that old witch Mary Whitehouse: the Doctor appears to drown. She is dead now, and I don't celebrate that. But are there any Doctor Who fans that hold her in high regard? Not really. She was a fundamentalist Christian who tried to impose her own sick values on people; thank goodness she didn't get it all her own way.

Philip Hinchcliffe was interviewed and spoke thus:

Your era is also associated with a perceived increase in violence and horror content, which brought a complaint from TV watchdog Mary Whitehouse. Were you surprised to be targeted by her group?

No, I don’t think so… She was very vocal at the time on a lot of programmes and she honed in on us. I think she confused violence with thrills. Our aim was to be thrilling, but I don’t think there was a huge amount of violence.

At the time television boundaries of taste were evolving very quickly. I was a young producer, and I think probably I was pushing the envelope, as it were, for that type of programme in that tea-time Saturday slot. I don’t think we ever got it massively wrong. I think we were bumping up against the limits of what we could do at that time with that audience, but I don’t think we got it grotesquely wrong at all.

You were trying to develop a more grown up version of Doctor Who, though?

What I tried to do was make the show work. When I inherited it, it worked very well for the very young audience and the smart 12-year-old, and there was something in it for mum and dad. I think what we did was to increase the appeal, so that it was more compelling. Mum and dad would continue to watch and really believe it and the growing audience of the student generation would also.

We wanted to make it more plausible, rather than have people think it was a joke. We treated the stories a bit more seriously in the way that we developed them and handled them.


I never had a problem with Doctor Who and neither did my Grandmother, who let me watch it those Saturdays, long ago. Sure I was frightened by it, but not in a way that gave me nightmares. In fact, the show was simply a great joy and I looked forward to each episode, albeit armed with a cushion to hide behind.

Sex and violence in TV and film et al is always going to be a controversial subject - the thing is whether or not those doing the "Mrs. Whitehouse" of Tonbridge act will speak as strongly about the wars they support?

The late John Nathan Turner jokingly said he would hope Doctor Who got a complaint from Whitehouse because that added a couple more million on the number of viewers.

Finally, the incidental music is once again superb. Episode 1 has an organ piece and that music builds up to the end shot, where the Doctor apparantly assassinates the President. Class!


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