torsdag den 30. april 2009
Omega is back and this time it's personal!(The Three Doctors.) Well, he wants the Doctor in order to re-enter the world of matter. Once again, Omega evokes a sense of pity - the despair of being trapped in a lonely prison of an anti-matter world for giving Time Lords the power to travel in time - rather than hatred. That is to Peter Davison's credit as he (as Omega) runs about Amsterdam and portrays wonder at an organ grinder and a little child that smiles at him.
Omega's henchmen - the Ergons - are silly looking, skeletal chickens. Nuff said. How did he get a TARDIS?
The memorable moment for me is when Davison looks at Colin Baker (Maxil) and says "I'm the Doctor" and is promptly shot. We should have seen it coming! The symbolism.... OK, I am using hindsight but still.
The guest cast is OKish with Michael Gough as Hedin, Paul Jerricho as Castellan and Elspet Gray as Thalia (I loved her Queen in the first Blackadder!). Ian Collier's Omega isn't as impressive as Steven Thorne's but that is a question of taste.
It's alright and enjoyable.
Time Flight is an awful bit of pish. Everyone is popping into the TARDIS now and able to fly it.
The story has its bits of "look backs" with an implied referance to "the Faceless Ones" and explicit referances to Adric, Full Circle, Keeper of Traken, the Visitation and that the Doctor is given a green light on presenting his UNIT credentials. (The latter is only fair as he is still their scientific advisor, in theory.)
Some Whovians love this story. But then we Whovians are a bit sad! :-)
The cave sets; the menacing androids - an excellent design with their blank heads - that flit about in the shadows and who reduce victims to boiling puddles of flesh; the incidental music, courtesy of Malcolm Clarke, is one of the most atmospheric pieces ever; and all that building up to the mother of cliffhangers, when we see the Cybermen return after a seven year hiatus.
The Cybermen themselves have undergone another design change and are better looking in many respects - their suit is apparantly a fighter pilot suit , painted silver. Their moonboots are a bit silly and I don't like the transparent jaw. The latter shows a silver chin moving, giving them a more obvious indication that they are slightly biological, but I think it is better when their faces are expressionless masks and their mouths are black slits. Their voices are a bit naff too as they have expression and not the monotone, electronic sound from the Troughton years.
There is more reference to the show's history in this story (the trend was really beginning to pick up) with the Cybermen looking at past stories with the Doctor. It was OK back then as I hadn't seen "the Tenth Planet" or "the Wheel in Space" (clips shown along with "Revenge of the Cybermen"). The waking Cyber army is an attempt to recreate the reactivation scenes of Cybermen in "the Invasion". And we get the trivial Doctor/Cyberleader debate about emotions.
"I'm just a mouth on legs."
The body count in the story is quite high, something very noticeable in this era of Who. (The story was written by Eric Saward.) Troopers, freighter crew and Adric are all killed. Adric is the third companion to die - Katarina and Sara were killed back in the Daleks' Masterplan.
The story starts off well but begins to fizzle out as it moves along. The conclusion is dramatic, with Adric trying to solve a logic problem and stop the freighter crashing into Earth, only to see his work destroyed by a Cyberman.
Matthew Waterhouse actually makes a good swansong here but in the end I wasn't miffed to see him go. The scene before Adric is vapourised is touching; he clasps the rope belt passed on to him by his brother Varsh in Full Circle as he watches the Earth loom on the ship's monitor.
A mixed bag but enjoyable.
It's a charming little break before the rather heavier and solemn story to follow....
The Teraleptils themselves are terribly rubbery, you hear the squeaks everytime they move, and bumble about. The saving grace is the head, which looks excellent. The leader has a nice scar too. His death is a bit of monster horror as it bubbles and melts in the fire.
We lose an old friend in the shape of the Sonic Screwdriver, which is destroyed. If only new Who had let it remain destroyed. Its return is, as mentioned, a bane as it is now overused.
It's an OK story but hardly thrilling.
There are some good performances; my particular favourite is Nerys Hughes, who walks about in a sci-fi nurse uniform - nice!
The big let down is the actual Mara manifestation. It's a silly looking snake.
onsdag den 29. april 2009
Once again siding with the villains
Being an utter chauvanist
Nyssa to Adric - "Why don't you shut up!!!" [here, here]
Tegan kicks his butt in episode 3
It's an interesting story but fails as it is dreadfully slow and dull in its realisation.
The story can be split in two; the first half is the Doctor struggling after his regeneration, whilst the second half takes us to Castrovalva and a fiendish trap laid by the Master.
Christopher Bidmead's script is heavy again on maths (recursion). This allows for the lovely Escheresque design and nature of Castrovalva. It is a bit arty in that way and scores well because of it - I love Escher's art.
Less impressive is the idea that Anthony Ainley disguise himself and that his character have an anagram of his name in the credits. This was to happen several more times and produce that dreary "Oh look, it's the Master" response.
A good opener.
mandag den 27. april 2009
the Tom Baker era
"would you like a jelly baby?"
scarf, teeth, big blue eyes, curls
Logopolis has some excellent incidental music, courtesy of Paddy Kingsland; it isn't intrusive and adds to the story as it does have a melancholic tone at times, reflecting the end of a great era. The city is well made too - both in the modelling and the set design.
The plot has lots of science for a change: the idea that using computers would affect the result so Logopolitans do their maths using their brains and that their combined efforts function as a programme in a processor; the laws of thermodynamics (notably the 2nd Law, on entropy). There is also the naff ideas of the Master broadcasting to the Universe and Nyssa and Adric seeing the entire Universe (although, apparantly, that would be possible in a Black Hole).
The story introduces Miss. Leatherlungs herself: Janet Fielding's Aussie character Tegan. She's a bit hammy at times though. Anthony Ainley gets a fuller exposure, of course, as the Master and he is simply camp. You half expect him to twirl his moustache, whilst he chuckles.
All in all, a good story and a nice send off for Tom (including flashback scenes of companions and monsters). As his face shimmers, the new Doctor appears. It's Tristan Farnon!
There is a good guest cast with Anthony Ainley as Tremas (and the regenerated Master), John Woodnutt as Seron (he was also the Draconian Emperor and Broton the Zygon), Margot van der Berg as Katura (she was Cameca, the Aztec, from season 1) and Sheila Ruskin as Kassia. Also, we are introduced to Sarah Sutton as Nyssa.
The Master escapes in the end and unfortunately begins to pop up in story after story. If the Master was overused back in the Pertwee days, the use of the Master became simply batty from now on.
The make-up wasn't as good for this Master, nor was I all that impressed with Geoffrey Beevers performance.
The story is nicely paced though and is quite good.
Adric - Why don't we dematerialise and go!
Doctor and Romana - NO!!!
Romana - There are slaves on that ship [i.e. you thoughtless little...]
The story is quite complex and very unlike any other story. The problem is so much is left unresolved! I didn't make head nor tail of this when I was a kid; I am sure that still applies now. You need to see the story again to get some of the plot nuances.
The make-up/wigs/prosthetics for the Tharil creatures (half humanoid, half lion) is wonderous.
On the whole, the story is quite boring. I still cannot get into it.
Warrior's... sees the departure of K9 (until the Sarah Jane Adventures and "School Reunion") and Romana.
K9 was obviously past his sell by date in the proceeding season, spending most of his time in pieces or not doing much. The writers' ideas had run dry. Despite that, you're a good dog K9! "Affirmative Gray!"
Romana was an OK character. From the shallow side, I had a crush on Tamm but not Ward. (Tom did, as Lalla and Tom were married for a while around the time.) Whilst interesting, I don't think the Time Lady aspect of Romana was examined nearly enough. There was too much of the typical Earth female, screamer campanion about her. Mary and Lalla did have their good points and stories, though.
A story that would not have been out of place in the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era (and I have heard it said that the script was originally intended for one of those seasons). This is the first vampire story in the show's history and thus is actually a bit scary for kids.
There is the usual sort of Hammer build up, with the Doctor and Romana learning from an inn keeper about Lords who live and rule the land in a nearby Tower; and they then meet the undead by going to their lair (as captives). However, the story doesn't have the usual vampire/Dracula plot as the victims are selected and don't get visits at their windows in the night, whilst the main vampire has a sci-fi quality to it. Furthermore, there is the interesting idea of a society regressing over centuries (science is forbidden and must be kept hidden).
The long scene at the end of episode two, as the Doctor and Romana explore the bowels of the Tower (a spaceship in reality), is one of my Who moments. The plot is developed and drips tension.
The costumes and throne room are beautifully made; Aukon, Zargo and Camilla have that ageless but decrepid look one associates with Bram Stoker figures. The death of the vampires is quite an impressive effect for its time (and for the Beeb) and quite adult for the show. The death of the great vampire is, sadly, the major let down because of the poor modelling work.
Some of the acting is wooden. Kudos goes to Emrys James who is a truly cunning and wicked Aukon and, as such, is more dangerous and interesting than Zargo and Camilla.
Adric - You remember me
K9 - Immature child; non-hostile.
He is indirectly responsible for Tarak's death.
He wants to join the vampires.
The script writers DIDN'T let Adric become an undead, get staked and please millions of fans.
The story doesn't have the same atmosphere in episodes three and four and isn't as strong, but seen as a whole I like this one.
There have been very few male companions in Dr.Who. My favourites are, though, Frazer Hines as Jamie, William Russell as Ian and Peter Purvis as Steven. I don't count the UNIT family as companions but they were a fun lot. Ian Marter was OK as Harry. (I'll wait with Mark Strickson as Turlough.) And then there is Matthew Waterhouse as Adric, the mathematical prodigy.
Adric is introduced in this story and right from the go he does nothing but irritate. He irritated me all the way through the series until he was killed in Earthshock, something fondly remembered by fans! Adric is, without a doubt, the second most awful companion in the show's history. The top spot goes, of course, to Bonnie Langford as Mel....
Romana - "He can be repaired. In fact, we always seem to be repairing him."
Moan, moan, moan
"Of course I am better than you. I am an elite!"
He is partially responsible for the Decider's death
OK, enough Adric sniping for the mo; time to review the story!
The story was written by Whovian Andrew Smith and it is a very good effort. Most fan fiction tends to be utter pants; this is the exception. I guess my own criticisms of the show should be measured by the fact I would have written a load of old rubbish had I given it a try!
The Marshmen look a bit rubbery and remind one of the Creature from the Black Lagoon but they are good despite that. The Marsh Child is the only real glimpse we get of what they are like and the little segment of the story with it is rather sad as we see its fear, confusion, like for the Doctor and ultimate death. As for the spiders which attack Romana....Well, they look only a shade better than the ones we saw in Planet of the Spiders.
There is some solid acting and overall good production for this yarn. It is a vast improvement over quite a few of the proceeding stories.
The production is OK, although the incidental music is overdone. I am simply a Dudley Simpson fan. His music was less intrusive on the action. Furthermore, what is it with the Savants' hair do?
The one HUGE problem with this story, which is alright but nothing special, is the fact that the villain is a talking cactus. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear....
søndag den 26. april 2009
The Leisure Hive is OK as far as entertaining romps go but it doesn't have that much of a plot.
There are some nice features: Tom is made-up to look very old and it looks superb; the Foamasi costumes are good, with their eyes an especially fine feature as they look and act like, say, a Chameleon's eyes; the Argolians look good, although I couldn't help thinking they were Norwich supporters in space.
- one is a BBC flash animation with 8th Doctor Paul McGann in the role of Tom's Doctor and Lalla Ward again as Romana. It's quite good and one wishes that Paul had done more than the film. (I liked him in the Monocled Mutineer.) Still, he has a great voice and has done some good audio Who adventures.
- the second has the footage, with linking narration by Tom.
Naturally, the second version is more appealing. The story is typical Douglas Adams. (In his introduction, Tom explains how Adams remarked anyone can design a visible spaceship but it takes imagination to design an invisible one! ) That the key to the story is a book is not all that surprising.
There are numerous nice shots of Cambridge, like the Doctor and Romana punting on the Cam with the university in the background. That was the scene used later in the Five Doctors. It's humerous: Romana thinks they are on Earth in Spring but it's October and when the Doctor explains they had come for May Week, which is held in June, she is confused and the Doctor says so was the TARDIS.
It isn't really a story that can be carried over six episodes and it does feel padded
mandag den 20. april 2009
The characters are limp. (e.g. Janet Ellis spends most of the story saying her hero will kill the Nimon.) Graham Crowden is simply camp as Soldeed - I am still trying to figure out if that was his intention!
This story would turn out to be the last of the season because of a strike at the Beeb. Perhaps what was to come was a result of the show looking a bit tired? I certainly must admit, looking back, that the Tom Baker era was definately brilliant during the first few years but went a tadge flat when Graham Williams took over the role of Producer.
I remember being a little scared of the Eden projection and that things could walk in and out of it!
Sci-fi can't help having technobabble but it should at least have some connection to science. The idea that Chloris has hardly any metals runs into the obvious problem: how do the plants grow? Plants need a variety of metals for growth. And what on Earth was all that about putting a metal shell around a neutron star. Que???
The creature is memorable for the wrong reason - the giant phallis design.
søndag den 19. april 2009
This was Dr. Who abroad! That weird place France. Being Paris, France, Earth, we are treated to lovely location shots. Of course, one can question all the walking about in episode 1 from the point of view it does little for the plot.
This story is one of those where script, acting, location/studio filming, incidental music (Dudley Simpson on top form with a delightful score) and costume all succeed, resulting in a class story. The last few seasons of the Tom Baker era have some weak stories but this is certainly not one of them!
Julian Glover is wonderful as the Count; the other supporting cast delightful too.
John Cleese and the gorgeous Eleanor Bron make a cameo!
One of my favourite lines from this humerous Douglas Adams and Graham Williams script is: Doctor - "I say, what a wonderful butler; he's so violent!"
I actually stayed at home to watch the first episode whilst my parents and sister went to the circus. (I don't like circuses these days; there is something very wrong in keeping animals, the delightful elephant and the majestic big cats, and making them do tricks. I simply detest clowns FULL STOP. I've yet to meet someone who hasn't got some sort of neurotic dislike of the bastards! There is a marvellous Gary Larson cartoon which puts it well: somebody goes to the cinema to watch a film called "Catch Willy and Make Him do Tricks".) Goodness knows what would be made of my parents' decision today - leaving a small kid alone at home, even if he did insist (and was bratty) on watching the Daleks!
The whole Romana regeneration scene is just silly. I expected the Python knight to emerge and hit Baker and Ward with a rubber chicken.
The Daleks are a disappointment. They disappoint because the entire plot revolves around them finding Davros in order to defeat the Movellans; also, not for the first or last time, the Dalek dialogue is so excrutiatingly limited and bad. So limited, they repeat an order several times during a scene.
I have never really liked the idea of bringing Davros back. Michael Wisher's Davros in Genesis of the Daleks was the dog's whatsits; it should have been that character's only story. The Daleks are reduced to a subordinate role because Davros returns. And please...! The Doctor throwing his hat on a Dalek eyestalk , pushing it and destroying it somehow, was pathetic. David Gooderson fails to impress in Destiny, although he does give it a good shot. His voice just sounds wrong and his movements are jerky, not the smooth motions we saw in Genesis.
The Mavellans are interesting. It is one of the great sci-fi ideas: a race of beings that are intelligent and sophisticated, 100% robotic - with computers for brains - and utterly ruthless and emotionless. Such a race is the nightmare of human endeavour in cybernetics, computer science and so forth. Despite that, they do look daft in their silvery dreadlocks...well, with the exception of the gorgeous Suzanne Danielle, who could wear a bin bag, etc, etc. They can be destroyed by removing an exposed power pack located on their arms, which is weak plotting.
The location filming in a quarry, plus the return of that electronic howling sound as background planet noise, work well and transport us to Skaro. There is a very desolate, unfriendly and inhospitable feel to those shots. Episode 1 magnifies that because we hear some unknown subterranean noises. (Location filming, though, has always had one big drawback for Doctor Who : the beautiful song of the Skylark . It would seem Skaro has Skylarks, as did the miniscope's Drashig pen in Carnival of Monsters.)
Despite its faults, I like Destiny. The plot is weak but many scenes are well made and strong.
Season 17 marks the Graham Williams/Douglas Adams producer/script editor duo.
Mary's white , Time Lady dress.
"Optimism. Belief that everything will work out well. Irrational - bordering on insane."
I bet you've never heard this one....
"Resistance is futile!" (Astra and 1001 other characters before and after, in numerous shows.)
The Armageddon Factor must be judged on how it completes the Key to Time season. It finally gives us a glimpse of the Black Guardian (played by Valentine Dyall, whose deep voice was always fantastic) and a nice enemy he is too, although quite why he didn't seem to have the same powers as the White Guardian is a mystery. There is a real Eastern philosophical thread to the season as the Guardians are obviously symbolic of Ying and Yang. I have always thought that philosophy is a load of dingo's kidneys but it does have an appeal in story telling, much like the sides of the Force in Star Wars. Apropos which the Shadow, the Black Guardian's servant and quite a good character actually, reminds one of a Sith. Ultimately, I am disappointed at the conclusion of the story arc; the Doctor scattering the pieces, after all that effort, is rushed and unsatisfactory. Truth told, though, I am not sure there could be a better plot ending. (Some have suggested it would have been a fun development if the Black Guardian had captured the Key.)
The earlier parts to the story are basically OK. The idea that a war is being fought but the enemy doesn't exist (it's just a battle computer continuing its dead masters' plans) is - I am certain there was something like it in a classic Star Trek episode - not new. The Atrian Marshall is another of those marvellous voices, John Woodvine.
There are some weaknesses - such as the uninspired supporting cast, the truly dreadful Time Lord Drax and some unresolved plot points - but the story is enjoyable despite that.
Mary Tamm left in this story. That's a bit of a shame as she could have developed Romana's character just as well as Lalla Ward. Besides, I had such a crush on Mary when I was a kid! There are some problems with the Romana character but I'll wait with my thoughts until "Warrior's Gate".
The SPGB has written about the Chinese revolution in its pamphlet Questions of the Day.
Below is a selection of Mao quotes, pre- and post-1949. Mao's policy was one of state capitalism. (That China is just another capitalist country can be readily seen from an article in the Telegraph.)
"Since Chinese society is colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal, since the principal enemies of the Chinese revolution are imperialism and feudalism, since the tasks of the revolution are to overthrow these two enemies by means of a national and democratic revolution in which the bourgeoisie sometimes takes part, and since the edge of the revolution is directed against imperialism and feudalism and not against capitalism and capitalist private property in general even if the big bourgeoisie betrays the revolution and becomes its enemy -- since all this is true, the character of the Chinese revolution at the present stage is not proletarian-socialist but bourgeois-democratic....
However, it is not at all surprising but entirely to be expected that a capitalist economy will develop to a certain extent within Chinese society with the sweeping away of the obstacles to the development of capitalism after the victory of the revolution, since the purpose of the Chinese revolution at the present stage is to change the existing colonial, semi-colonial and semi-feudal state of society, i.e., to strive for the completion of the new-democratic revolution. A certain degree of capitalist development will be an inevitable result of the victory of the democratic revolution in economically backward
But that will be only one aspect of the outcome of the Chinese revolution and not the whole picture. The whole picture will show the development of socialist as well as capitalist factors. What will the socialist factors be? The increasing relative importance of the proletariat and the Communist Party among the political forces in the country; leadership by the proletariat and the Communist Party which the peasantry, intelligentsia and the urban petty bourgeoisie already accept or are likely to accept; and the state sector of the economy owned by the democratic republic, and the co-operative sector of the economy owned by the working people. All these will be socialist factors. With the addition of a favourable international environment, these factors render it highly probable that China's bourgeois-democratic revolution will ultimately avoid a capitalist future and enjoy a socialist future."
"The policy of adjusting the interests of labour and capital will be adopted under the new-democratic state system. On the one hand, it will protect the interests of the workers, institute an eight- to ten-hour working day according to circumstances, provide suitable unemployment relief and social insurance and safeguard trade union rights; on the other hand, it will guarantee legitimate profits to properly managed state, private and co-operative enterprises--so that both the public and the private sectors and both labour and capital will work together to develop industrial production."
"Precautions should be taken against the mistake of applying in the cities the measures used in rural areas for struggling against landlords and rich peasants and for destroying the feudal forces. A sharp distinction should be made between the feudal exploitation practiced by landlords and rich peasants, which must be abolished, and the industrial and commercial enterprises run by landlords and rich peasants, which must be protected. A sharp distinction should also be made between the correct policy of developing production, promoting economic prosperity, giving consideration to both public and private interests and benefiting both labour and capital, and the one-sided and narrow-minded policy of "relief", which purports to uphold the workers' welfare but in fact damages industry and commerce and impairs the cause of the people's revolution. Education should be conducted among comrades in the trade unions and among the masses of workers to enable them to understand that they should not see merely the immediate and partial interests of the working class while forgetting its broad, long-range interests. Under the local government's leadership, workers and capitalists should be led to organize joint committees for the management of production and to do everything possible to reduce costs, increase output and stimulate sales so as to attain the objectives of giving consideration to both public and private interests, benefiting both labour and capital and supporting the war."
"The present-day capitalist economy in China is a capitalist economy which for the most part is under the control of the People's Government and which is linked with the state-owned socialist economy in various forms and supervised by the workers. It is not an ordinary but a particular kind of capitalist economy, namely, a state-capitalist economy of a new type. It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists but to meet the needs of the people and the state.
True, a share of the profits produced by the workers goes to the capitalists, but that is only a small part, about one quarter, of the total. The remaining three quarters are produced for the workers (in the form of the welfare fund), for the state (in the form of income tax) and for expanding productive capacity (a small part of which produces profits for the capitalists). Therefore, this state-capitalist economy of a new type takes on a socialist character to a very great extent and benefits the workers and the state."
"The transformation of capitalism into socialism is to be accomplished through state capitalism....
With approximately 3,800,000 workers and shop assistants, private industry and commerce are a big asset to the state and play a large part in the nation's economy and the people's livelihood. Not only do they provide the state with goods, but they can also accumulate capital and train cadres for the state.
Some capitalists keep themselves at a great distance from the state and have not changed their profits-before-everything mentality. Some workers are advancing too fast and won't allow the capitalists to make any profit at all. We should try to educate these workers and capitalists and help them gradually (but the sooner the better) adapt themselves to our state policy, namely, to make China's private industry and commerce mainly serve the nation's economy and the people's livelihood and partly earn profits for the capitalists and in this way embark on the path of state capitalism....
One is the leader while the other is the led; one seeks no private profit while the other still seeks a certain amount of private profit, and so on and so forth; that's where the differences lie. But under our present conditions, private industry and commerce in the main serve the nation's economy and the people's livelihood (which as far as the distribution of profits is concerned, take roughly three-fourths of the total). Therefore we can and should persuade the workers in private enterprises to act in the same way as those in state enterprises, namely, to increase production and practice economy emulate one another in labour, raise labour productivity, reduce costs of production and raise both quantity and quality, thus serving the interest of both the state sector and the private sector and that of labour and capital."
"We now have two alliances, one with the peasants and the other with the national bourgeoisie. Both are indispensable to us, and Comrade Chou En-lai has also spoken of this. What advantage is there in our alliance with the bourgeoisie? It enables us to obtain more manufactured goods to exchange for farm produce. This was precisely what Lenin had in mind at one phase after the October Revolution. Since the state had no manufactured goods to exchange, the peasants refused to sell their grain and wouldn't take mere paper money for it. So Lenin intended to have the proletarian state power form an alliance with state capitalism in order to secure more manufactured goods to cope with the spontaneous capitalist forces in the countryside. It is precisely for the purpose of securing more manufactured goods to meet the needs of the peasants and overcome their reluctance to sell their grain and even some of their industrial raw materials that we have entered into an alliance with the bourgeoisie and refrained from confiscating capitalist enterprises for the time being, and have instead adopted a policy of utilizing, restricting and transforming them. This means using our alliance with the
bourgeoisie to overcome the peasants' reluctance to sell their produce. On the other hand we rely on our alliance with the peasants to secure grain and industrial raw materials with which to bring the bourgeoisie under control. The capitalists have no raw materials, whereas the state has. If they want raw materials, they will have to sell manufactured goods to the state and go in for state capitalism. If they refuse to do so, we will deny them raw materials. In either case, they will be held in check. This will block the capitalist road the bourgeoisie wants to follow, namely, the opening of free markets, the free acquisition of raw materials and the free sale of manufactured goods, and will
in addition isolate the bourgeoisie politically. Such is the interaction between these two alliances. Of the two, our alliance with the peasants is principal, basic and primary, while our alliance with the bourgeoisie is temporary and secondary. To an economically backward country like ours both alliances are indispensable at present."
fredag den 17. april 2009
There are some nice shots of the Maltings in Suffolk and the studio shots are OK. Kroll is badly realised whilst the locals (the Swampies) wouldn't be out of place selling corn as the actors are merely painted green. The swampies raise an eyebrow because they chant, hop and wave spears, which conjures up the rather racist images of Africans in old films. (The end of episode 1 has an uncanny similarity to the original King Kong film, what with Romana's sacrifice and the huge gate between the tribe and the huge monster.) The acting isn't particularly inspired.
There is a bit of social commentary: colonists and primitives, getting resources and destroying nature. But that had been covered before in the series.
I find this story a bit tedious and certainly not Holmes's best.
Grendel's beast in episode 1 is one of those monsters that make you burst out laughing as it looks so silly.
There's not a lot to be said about this one other than nice costumes, great location filming at Leeds Castle, and Dr.Who meets the Prisoner of Zenda. It's OK as far as it goes, but no more.
The 100th story in the show's history! (Wow, it seems ages ago since we found ourselves in a junkyard with Ian and Barbara, even though that was merely a month ago. Such is the nature of a who-athon.)
Episode 1 is quite atmospheric and wouldn't be out of place in the gothic horror of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era. I remember it spooking me as a kid. There is a scary scene in episode 3, where two campers are turned into skeletons by the Ogri. The story changes nature quite rapidly, however, as the action moves onto a spaceship in hyperspace. The trial is a bit of fun.
The Ogri are silly; it was better when they are more of an unseen menace (such as the camper scene, when they are simply stone until touched).
Beatrix Lehmann is delightful as the slightly dotty Professor Rumsford; the character reminds me of Amelia Ducat, though, from the Seeds of Doom.
A bit of fun, but nothing special.
This is the story where the late and very great Douglas Adams began working in Doctor Who. Not surprisingly, the script has a certain Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy feel to it: Technobabble and witty dialogue abound.
Bruce Purchase puts in a lovely performance as the wonderfully over the top Pirate Captain - he rants and raves and can be quite vicious . He has some great exclamations : moons of madness! ; by the raging fury of the sky demon!; by the great parrot of Hades, you will pay with your blood...every corpuscle!; Doctor, beware - your manner only appeals to the homicidal side of my nature.
The special effects are not particularly good. The CSO is awful (Avatron, the parrot!) and the laser guns make red spots on the person shot. The supporting cast rarely shine and their characters are quite drab anyway. These detract from an otherwise excellent story.
It's obvious to see the changes that had happened in the show when you compare Tom's Doctor here and the nature of this story with something from season 13.
torsdag den 16. april 2009
Season 16 is based on a story arc - fulfilling a mission for the White Guardian by locating all the segments which comprise the Key to Time. This story also introduces the Time Lady Romana (played in this season by the babelicious Mary Tamm).
Another Holmes delight. Iain Cuthbertson (Garron) and Nigel Plaskett (Unstoffe) are a wonderful duo of harmless crooks. Garron is also a comic figure, like when he recounts how he sold Sydney Harbour but stopped short at the Opera House because of his scruples. Binro is interesting in that he is Ribos's equivalent of Galileo - there is a great scene where he states how he is laughed at for speculating the lights in the sky are merely other suns and with their own worlds. There is a lot of science contra superstition in the story.
The Shrievenzale isn't the greatest of monsters ( it's obviously a guy in a costume crawling on the floor) which detracts from its intimated dangerous nature, although there is a great shot at the end of episode 1 where its jaws are covered in blood.
Ribos looks really good with a number of lovely sets, whilst the fake snow and the sound of wind work well - it really does look cold! The costumes remind me of the Tartars and look great.
All in all a fine story.
Another departure, this time Louise Jameson. Leela worked very well, I thought; Louise was really cute and had a good screen chemistry with Baker . Leela was very honest because of her naivety and thus ideal for the odd bit of comedy. But what an abysmal parting! She suddenly falls in love with someone she has hardly had contact with - HELLO! It would have been better if she stayed because of the tribe outside the citadel or something.
Tom's costume was also undergoing a basic change - as the gorgeous waistcoat (which matched his scarf, a scarf that itself has undergone a "regeneration") and red kneckerchief went. I rather liked his costume from seasons 13 through most of 15).
The best feature of the story is the seemingly treacherous Doctor in episodes one and two as he hands over Gallifrey to the Vardans (stupid aluminium foil "monsters" at first). This ambiguity hadn't been seen since the Doctor helped the Daleks back in Evil of the Daleks.
There is a funny line in light of the new Doctor - one of the Time Lords explains he isn't quick or vital anymore because of his age, being in his tenth regeneration! Furthermore, the Doctor looks at camera and says even the sonic screwdriver cannot get him out of something - if only new Who writers had that as a motto on their wall!
Otherwise, the story is all over the place, with bad acting, although John Arnatt and Milton Jones do well.
onsdag den 15. april 2009
Quite simply the dullest story of the Tom Baker era, even if it does have clever referances to Greek mythology. The extensive use of CSO was annoying. The funniest moment, although unintentional, is when the seers remove their black masks - oh dear, oh dear!
This is a story which will please anybody who grumbles about taxes and bureaucracy - basically everyone! Anti-capitalists will love it too. It is a lovely satire of big business and government economists; it is quite funny in places. The story also marks Robert Holmes's departure as script editor, so it's nice he also wrote it. As is noticeable with his other scripts, there are a number of interesting characters and good dialogue. Henry Woolf's Collector is a marvellous villain, although it is hard not to think of a sort of capitalist Dr.Evil or, especially, Mini Me now. The thought of him reverting to a babbling bit of green slime, that goes down a plughole at the onset of economic meltdown, is a fate one wishes upon the capitalist class at this particular time! (Classic line - watching Leela's execution, he says this is one of those moments which give him job satisfaction.)
Leela - These taxes, they are like sacrifices to tribal gods?
Doctor - Well yes, roughly speaking, only paying taxes is more painful.
Leela - The people should rise up and slaughter their oppressors!
As has been noted by other Whovians, this was a taste of what was to come - it marks a change of direction and the feel to the show.
tirsdag den 14. april 2009
Another bit of horror and one that scared me as a child too. There is indeed that nightmare quality of not being able to run from an approaching danger - the hiker in the woods in episode 1 was an example of that. There is a black magic/covern aspect of the story but interestingly all necessary and planned by the Fendahl for its rebirth millions of years ago!
There are some solid performances. I particularly liked Daphne Heard as Grandma Tyler - a bit of a battleaxe, who knows the old ways and has seconds sight, but also cutesie in making tea and fruitcake. Wanda Ventham's Thea is a tragic figure; she is the source of the Fendahl's rebirth and used by the covern; if the Doctor hadn't escaped from a cupboard, where he was locked up, then he could have saved her because she went there to get his help.
There are some weak spots, like the Fendahl (Ventham) being a golden women who floats about alot, not doing much. However, the story is thoroughly enjoyable.
This is one of those stories that has been panned by the fans. I think it has some fun ideas and some merits, but generally the ideas are poorly realised. The special effects are awful and the less said about the Swarm Leader and its mushy pea spawn the better!
Rather than dwell on the bad parts, I'll look at what I liked. The model work was far superior to anything tried before; normally, the models did seem to be all to similar to a squeezy bottle thingy , held together with doublesided sticky tape, from Blue Peter. Frederick Jaeger makes another appearance (as Professor Marius) and is quite good. The best thing about the story is the introduction of the loveable dog K9 (voice provided by John Leeson).
mandag den 13. april 2009
Horror of Fang Rock is in the same style as the previous stories, though. Terrance Dicks's script is dark and claustrophobic as the action takes place in a lighthouse. That does lead to a lot of toing and froing as the characters run up and down stairs to talk to each other or investigate something; however that is a minor irritant. I was genuinely frightened by this episode as a child. There are some lovely, spooky moments: the Rutan's eye view of Leela when she is out on the rocks; Reuben's devilish smile as he comes to kill Harker; the end of episode three when the Doctor realises he has locked the foe in with them.
"Reuben the Rutan", when he does appear, is a real let down. It looks like a slimey, phosphorescent brussell sprout and not the sort of thing engaged in a galactic war with its arch-enemies the Sontarans. The Rutan mothership is also a forgettable special effect.
There are some good performances, notably by Colin Douglas (Reuben). Dicks introduces a nice bit of class structure into the story with the keepers, Colonel Skinsale and the greedy and callous capitalist Lord Palmerdale. The character of Adelaide, though, has come in for a lot of criticism down the years. She basically contributes nothing to the plot (other than be another victim), screams alot and is hysterical. When she faints upon hearing Palmerdale is dead, the audience rolls its eyes like Leela does. However,Adelaide does have a fan!
- when she gloats at the death of the Rutan.
- when she asks to be slain because she thinks she is blind.
Vince: I go out sometimes and talk to the seals, just to get a change from Reuben and Ben.
Leela: Seals are animals? ... That is stupid. You should talk often with the old ones of your tribe. That is the only way to learn.
Vince: I'll get you a hot drink.
Leela: I could do with some dry clothes....
Vince: We don't have anything suitable for a lady.
Leela: I'm no lady [she laughs, as she starts undressing]
Leela: Silence! You will do as the Doctor instructs or I will cut out your heart!
Leela: I too used to believe in magic but the Doctor has taught me about science. It is better to believe in science.
A nice story but let down by episode four.
One of the funny things about seeing Tom Baker episodes again is speculating quite why they scared me as a child. Talons...is easy to understand though because the atmosphere is as thick as the London fog! This is Fu Manchu, the Ripper, the Phantom of the Opera and Sherlock Holmes meets Dr.Who; even the giant (albeit cuddly, puppet) rats in the sewers added a scary aspect to the story.
The sets are a delight, the costumes immaculate; there are small touches like Hansom cabs and a scene where Tom is in a rowboat on the Thames, that passes a steam barge, which leaves one feeling utterly convinced this is Victorian London.
Trevor Baxter (Litefoot) and Christopher Benjamin (Jago) make a good double act. John Bennett (Li H'sen Chang) is made-up to look Chinese. Although he puts in a good performance, this aspect is a negative feature of the story (in the sense of the Black and White Minstrels); the actual chinese supporting cast are reduced to silent tong ruffians.
There are some subtle touches to Dudley Simpson's excellent incidental music score.
grabbing a chunck of meat and eating it with her hands at Professor Litefoot's home.
the Doctor shouts Eureka, when he finds a key; Leela asks the Doctor what happens if Weng-Chiang has another eureka.
Leela: These clothes are ridiculous. Why must I wear them?
Doctor: Because you can't walk around Victorian London in skins, you'd frighten the horses. Besides... [exits the TARDIS in cloak and deerstalker hat] ... we don't want to be conspicuous, do we?
Leela: [hears a fog horn] A swamp creature. That was its attack cry!
Leela: [to a policeman] Touch me and I will break your arm! Keep back Doctor, blue guards!
Doctor: Good evening, constable.
Policeman: When I got here sir, he [a chinese man] was being strangled with his own pigtail, sir.
Doctor: Girlish enthusiasm?
Pathologist, Dr. Litefoot: Upon my soul; I am sure we shouldn't be discussing such things in front of the fair sex. Forgive us, ma'am.
Leela: What for?
Dr.Litefoot: For being so indelicate in the presence of a lady of refinement.
Leela: Does he mean me?
Doctor: I don't think so.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is worth watching. This BBC adaptation from 1982 is quite dark and has some of the Who team: Tom (as Holmes), Caroline John, Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts.
This story - cuddly rats aside - isn't just a great Tom Baker story, it is one of the best in the entire show's history.
søndag den 12. april 2009
A real whodunnit! The story has a lovely pace and the tension remains high as the body count mounts.
The crew's make-up looks a bit naff, as do their costumes; the robots, on the other hand, are beautiful designed. I was particularly frightened by this story as a child; the robots are all around the ship and one doesn't know when they are going to turn homicidal, which is indicated rather neatly by their eyes glowing red. There are also some effective shots where we see through a robot's eyes.
Leela has come a long way since we saw her stumble upon the Doctor - she has stopped believing in magic and is becoming more accustomed to the technology and science around her, even though she doesn't really understand it.
"Do that again and I'll cripple you!"
"My tribe has a saying - if you are bleeding, look for a man with scars."
A truly classic scene on YouTube.
Hinchcliffe and Holmes decided that they wanted a sort of Eliza Doolittle character as a companion. Louise Jameson, to her credit, didn't want Leela to be a screamer like other companions and had a say in her being a brave warrior, more likely to go after someone with her knife at the ready.
A great story.
Just a quick step out of time here with a fast foward to the Easter Special (BBC 1 , 11 April).
At the very shallow level, I was always going to enjoy the episode for the simple reason Michelle Ryan is in it.
She plays a character called Lady Christina; they might as well have called her Lady Croft because she is so similar to the famous Tomb Raider: intelligent, a lady, physically fit, sassy and some other things. But I don't mind - I am also a massive fan of the Tomb Raider games and love Lara! (She's not bad, she's just programmed that way - to ad lib Jessica Rabbit.)
There were several other things that came to mind (were they influences?): Final Fantasy - the Spirits Within; Pitch Black; Bart Simpson as Fly Boy from a Simpson's Halloween episode; Superman (he flies around the world to reverse time); Back to the Future (flying cars); and - that ultimate of horrors - Cliff Richard and Summer Holiday. Of course, there are parallels with last season's episode "Midnight" too.
The story builds up quite nicely. They drive through a wormhole and end up in Dubai (well, an alien world). The bus acted as a Faraday cage so they were unharmed; running back through the hole obliterates you, as the bus driver unfortunately demonstrates. The bus is damaged so it might be a problem - a hasty last minute bit of script writing as they actually did do the bus a mischief carting it to Dubai. They have the added problem of being stuck in sand. Meanwhile an elderly, psychic lady (Carmen) is hearing voices - the voices of the dead. The bus passangers are being observed on a monitor by an unseen alien - a plot device which has been used several times before (Death to the Daleks, the Sontaran Experiment, Terror of the Zygons, the Android Invasion) . Lastly, there is a storm approaching on the horizon which adds an unknown danger and a sense of urgency, since the psychic says death is coming, riding on the wind.
The Tritovores didn't exactly thrill Phil BC *(nor did this story); I thought they were very well realised compared to previous attempts at insect creatures in the past history of the show. The swarm creatures are also interesting; they are the first creatures since the Magnodon (from Hartnell's the Daleks) with a metal body, although the idea of a galactic parasite is itself rather more common Whofare (the Axons, the Krynoid). The thing that lets them down is not their design - I like alien monsters that are based on animals for their design, here sting rays - but the CGI.
Right, those are the things I really liked. Now for the dross.
UNIT are getting plain irritating; they don't have the same charm as the Pertwee UNIT of old, which was also a time when they were supposedly a top secret organisation. Will they stop saluting the Doctor already! Why the hell did that Officer not get eaten? I was really hoping she would be! Malcolm is an attempt at a comic character but just too OTT. Murray Gold's incidental music is sometimes just loud and bombastic - like the tune as the bus returns and Christina takes off. Dimensionally transcendental Police Boxes are OK , but flying London buses? (Oh well, we had a transformer that towered over London 1851 in the Xmas special.) The characters on the bus get precious little do. The aristocracy are always prepared, chirps Christina...grrrrr Finally, I really am tired of the Doctor having flirts and snogs with every girl he meets.
Ending on a positive note - with any luck, Lady Christina will return; the psychic mentions four knocks, that "it" is returning through the dark and that the Doctor's song is ending. The latter refers to David Tennant leaving, of course, but what else? The speculation is rife. The rumour mill has it there will be a grand finale with the Master and the Tennant companions. We shall see. Whilst brief, I liked the mention of the Robot (Tom Baker's first story) ; that Christina's father lost his fortune in an Islandic bank, an obvious reference to the present Credit Crunch; and the irreverant suggestion that the Doctor saw something quite different happen at the crucifixtion of Jesus.
Roll on the Waters of Mars!
* Phil didn't want to bother looking at how people were portrayed from a gender, etc perspective; it is worth noting, though, that the number of black people in Doctor Who, before the new show came back in 2005, can be counted on your fingers. Freema Agyeman and Noel Clarke even made it to companion status.
PS. I can't believe that Lisa Rullsenberg or The Medium is not Enough haven't blogged about the episode at the time of writing.
The Guardian has a thread with viewer reactions. A quick distillation of the commonest viewpoints: RTD is disliked, Murray Gold's music is too much, a flying bus?, thin plot, Michelle Ryan has a nice arse...fnarrr.
lørdag den 11. april 2009
This is yet another story where a bit of this and that can be chucked together in a studio to create an alien jungle and look good. The jungle sounds are the ever trustworty ones used in so many other stories.
There's a good support cast in this charming story about a schizophrenic computer and an Earth crew that has developed in two different ways through the generations (a little bit H.G.Wells inspired, no doubt). Chris Boucher's script has a number of witty lines: the Doctor arriving and seemingly addressing the viewers; the scene where Neeva performs a shamen ritual and the Doctor tries pointing out the nature of the dangerous machinery being waved about; "Would you like a jelly baby?" "It is true - the evil one does eat babies"; and so forth.
The story really stands out though because it introduces another of my favourite companions: Louise Jameson as Leela. There was a decided lack of leg on show from the arrival of Sarah Jane. Leela makes up for that aplenty in her tribal skins! It is famously said Dads hung about to watch Doctor Who after Grandstand had finished. Actually, the reason I like Leela so much is not because of Louise running about in a skimpy costume but the play that would arise in pairing off the scientific Doctor with a savage warrior. But more as we go further with my little Who Reviews. Allons-y, to coin a phrase.
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?here
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!
Sniff, cry...and all that. Hand... saw Liz Sladen depart (until K-9 and Company, New Who and the spin-off series the Sarah Jane Adventures). I love her common sense, strong character and that she could always give as good as she got in a verbal duel, be it with the Doctor or someone else. Certainly my favourite companion.
Her andy pandy like costume.
The story is really carried by Liz Sladen and and Judith Paris (Eldrad). Liz plays a possessed Sarah for a large part of the story and our loveable friend is quite creepy as she blasts people with a blue ring and says "Eldrad must live!" Judith Paris is a femme fatale - she manages to be attractive whilst also being icy cold and murderous; the make up and bluish crystal costume look gorgeous and they match her eyes!
Weak spots are the proposed nuclear strike on an atomic power station to deal with Eldrad (come again???) and the rather unsatisfactory ending to the action on Kastria.
Sarah's goodbye scene is very touching and ends the last link to the Pertwee era.
Season 14 opens with a jolly little jaunt in Renaissance Italy. This is a curious story in that it mixes a variety of genres; it goes from evil, plotting Count intent on murdering his nephew and taking over a kingdom to evil monster intends taking over the Earth.
The location shooting, sets and costumes are all top draw.
There is a strong running theme through the sory - of superstition and the scientific enlightenment.
Curiously, though, with so much on offer, this story has never really gripped me that much. It's OK but seems to plod along and be short of thrills and spills.
fredag den 10. april 2009
"The Thing" meets Dr.Who in a botanical monster mash.
The incidental music is to be applauded, again. There are some excellent guest appearances by Tony Beckley (Chase), John Challis (Scorby, and Boycie in "Only Fools and Horses") and Sylvia Coleridge (Ms. Ducat). Beckley is a great nutcase villain, Challis is Beckley's muscle and Coleridge is a very sweet, albiet half dotty, elderly floral painter.
The story nearly discusses environmentalism; it doesn't quite get there. Chase is an avid botanist, who is concerned about the state of world plant life. That aspect is lost when he gets the Krynoid and it starts to grow. If there is any commentary on "greenish things", then it is to portray "one of them" as a nut.
Some of my childhood memories are scenes of Keeler strapped to a bed, being fed raw meat and being tended to by the Butler - Keeler being a mass of plant tendrils by that time; and the Krynoid towering over the estate as Sarah and the Doctor try to get back through the door. Classic and scary! There is a lot of violence and body horror in this story: people are crushed and shredded to bits in a compost machine (unseen); people are strangled and drowned; people slowly turn into alien plants.
The Krynoid costume is actually impressive. One of my Dr.Who Club mates at school bought one at auction; rubbery, for sure, but the detail was exquisite. With the right lighting and other production touches, it is great! The full grown Krynoid (the thing at the end of episode 4 and the model in episode 6) are less well realised - a negative.
The Seeds of Doom is an absolute classic and a satisfactory close to the marvellous 13th season of the show.
This story is Frankenstein and "She" meet Dr.Who. (As an aside, I saw "She" recently - the first time since I was a kid. The scenes I remembered were people being thrown into a shaft with lava at the bottom of it, and when Ursula Andress's character grows old in the flame - both nasty, I thought!).
The incidental music is stupendous. Apart from Dudley Simpson's continued excellence, there is a cello movement by Geraldine Stephenson which I particularly like. The sets are quite good; the planet Karn looks decidely creepy at night. Morbius, although a little rubbery, is a great costume - Pot Pourri, the Galactic Ruler, as he is described.
There are good performances by Cynthia Grenville as Maran of the Sisterhood, Philip Madoc as Solon (the Dr. Frankenstein of the story) and Colin Fay as Condo (the Igor type figure).
There are some quite gorey moments in this story: Morbius's brain and when Condo is shot, blood erupting from the entry wounds. Mary Whitehouse, apparantly, was apoplectic at that; she would continue to attack Doctor Who and was one of the reasons - or so it is said - Hinchcliffe left and the show went away from the gothic horror. But more on that later.
The Sisterhood are a bit irritating at times, with their awful sacred flame chant/ritual. (The rich, red costumes they wear are delightful, though.) The Doctor continues his habit of getting knocked out at least once a story, which gets tedious. Those are the very few things I fault with this story. It is atmospheric and throughly enjoyable.
Dr. Who meets the Body Snatchers! I have never been overly impressed by the story, which I find a bit boring. I put that down to: the hollow UNIT appearance (only Benton, Harry and a Corporal played by Who regular Max Faulkner appear) in its swansong...well, until the Sylvester MacCoy era story Battlefield and New Who; the Kraals aren't all that interesting a monster. This was to be the last Who appearances of John Levene and Ian Marter - the latter passed away at a tragically early age some years ago.
Episode 1 isn't bad in that it creates the mystery of the story. There is some nice location filming at the village of East Hagbourne and surrounding countryside in Oxfordshire.
My childhood memory of this story is the scene where android Sarah's face falls off at the end of episode 2 - that really scared me!
It's not an awful story, just...dull.
torsdag den 9. april 2009
This is Robert Holmes's take on the classic mummy horror story and a very effective yarn too, since he mixes Egyptian mythology with a sprinkling of von Danicken (Sutekh is part of the alien Osirians, thought of as gods by the Egyptians in the story).
There are so many good features in this story. The music is good and atmospheric (organ music now and then); the costumes are nice (Liz Sladen is just sassy, dressed as an Edwardian lady); there are a number of good sets. Bernard Archard puts in a wonderful performance as Professor Scarman - his white face and dead countenance are terribly spooky, which is as it should be since Scarman is an animated corpse!
There are two things I remembered quite distinctly from childhood: when the poacher was crushed between two mummies, and when the black clad figure came out of the time tunnel and killed the Egyptian. The latter is pure horror as smoke rises from the footsteps it makes and then smoke rises from the Egyptian when it kills him. Lovely special effect.
There are some great scenes and dialogue: the Doctor moaning about UNIT; seeing the alternative future if Sutekh is not stopped; Sarah remonstrating with the Doctor at seemingly being callous at a death and not being human, only for him to tell her he isn't human.
One of the Baker classics.
There is a heavy "Forbidden Planet" influence to this story (and a touch of dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde).
The sets for Zeta Minor are simply impressive; once again the production team were able to create an alien jungle. The coloured lighting, smoke, incidental music, some neat sound effects and strong script in episodes 1 and 2 made the place come alive and feel dangerous. The effects used for the monsters were very impressive too.
Planet of Evil is one of the stories that truly scared me as a child because of its atmosphere. The deaths were rather nasty: the anti-matter monster attacks (unseen mostly) leaving a husk of a corpse, which was really unpleasant to kiddie eyes! There was something similar on Space 1999, also nasty as far as I remember, where some creature would grab hold of Moonbase Alpha folk, consume them and spit out a skeleton; the link here is another guest appearance of Prentis Hancock.
However, the big flaw is way anti-matter is handled. They are walking about in an anti-matter part of the universe? It can infect you like a virus and turn you into the Wolfman? I don't think so! The story gets a off the boil and contrived as soon as the action moves to the spaceship.
Still, for all the chills and thrills...
episode by episode, scene by scene runthrough
Talking of good internet sources, there is a guide to where the show was filmed here. Much of the location shooting was done in West Sussex.
Terror...has some fine features. As others have mentioned, it is a lot less cosy than the UNIT stories because it has a different sort of atmosphere, the H&H gothic horror feel. UNIT was also just about to be phased out by this story too - this would be the Brigadier's last story before Mawdryn Undead in the Davison era. Like so many other things, it has been resurrected in New Who; but I am getting ahead of myself.
The Zygons are one of the best realised monsters in the show. They are lovely blobby, organic creatures. Their ship is also realised well. This story, like a number of others from this era, utilised coloured lights or filters for lighting - although simple, I think it is effective. (Reds and greens are used in the Zygon ship, emphasising the organic nature of their technology.) The Skarasen is, alas, one of the embarrassing monsters in the show's history, being a badly realised stop motion model used in conjunction with obvious CSO.
The incidental music is uniformly good. The guest cast includes good performances by Angus Lennie and John Woodnutt, the latter putting in two performances as the Duke and Broton the Zygon leader.
There are a couple of interesting political points. The Brig talks to the Prime Minister, who is a women; even Thatcher didn't imagine Britain having a woman PM back in 1974-5. Probably reflecting the Oil Crisis of '73, the Doctor scoffs at the value placed on oil, arguing that humans should stop depending on a mineral slime and think of other energy sources.
There are weaknesses in the plot: what is going to happen when the Zygon fleet arrives; can six Zygons and a Skarasan really take over the world? I also thought the Zygons spent too much time trying to retrieve things (e.g. the monitor link) .
onsdag den 8. april 2009
The 12th Season ended with the return of a favourite monster. The Cybermen didn't appear in the Pertwee years, although there was one in the miniscope in Carnival of Monsters, so they had been away from the show for about seven years. There would go a number of years again before they appeared, in the Davison era story "Earthshock". I have never heard a reason for that hiatus, although a fan has made the reasonable remark that the silver giants were probably done to death in the Troughton era. I am beginning to get that feeling with New Who and its continued use of the parallel dimension Cybermen.
The action takes place on the Nerva station again, so I have no complaints about the sets. (There is a scene with Tom walking along one of the bending corridors which I remembered from childhood; it was only when I saw that in this story years later that I was able to put a probable date on when I started watching the show.) There is also some great location filming at Wookey Hole. I have grand memories of the caves because I used to live in Bath as a child; I went on a visit to the caves with my infant school.
You could tell flares were in fashion as even Cyber suits had them!The Vogans are interesting though, with their half masks and long white hair. The costumes are also nicely made. The winner in the costumes department though is Liz Sladen, in the Thal uniform she picked up in Genesis: combat trousers and boots - very sassy and what your average G20 protestor wears these days.
The incidental music is a bit of fun. I am one of those fans who adores the Sea Devils, Death to the Daleks and this story's music - there sure are others who have been annoyed by the scores though.
There are a number of problems with the story. The obvious one is it has a number of the same old Cyberman plot features: a beacon or station of humans is attacked by a cyber virus and cybermats and then invaded by the Cybermen. Nothing new to see here, except with the introduction of Voga and yet another way to kill the Cybermen (this time gold). Then there is the plan to destroy Voga because it is the planet of gold; astrophysics and planetary geology will readily tell you there is a lot more gold in the universe than on one small planetoid. Why should Cybermen be effected by gold anyway - that doesn't make sense because they don't breathe?
Revenge has been panned by some fans but I think it's OK.
tirsdag den 7. april 2009
I have been writing scene by scene summaries of the stories so far but I noticed all that donkey work has in fact been done! There is a magnificent Doctor Who Reference Guide on the internet. So, being a lazy sausage, I shall merely post a link to the particular story from now on.
Genesis of the Daleks - episode by episode, scene by scene.
Simply one of the best stories in my opinion and certainly Terry Nation's best Dalek script. According to my sister, I was petrified of the Daleks. I distinctly remember the end of episode five, when Tom rushes out with a Dalek embryo around his neck, throttling him; I also thought there was something horrific about how people turned photonegative upon being exterminated.
The sets are excellent. The Kaled bunker and dome are rather sterile, cold, metallic looking places which work so very well; any colour would seem totally out of place in this dictatorial, war torn society. The only real colour in the entire story is Tom's costume. The Kaled special forces are dressed in black and sieg heil, so one is in no doubt what they are. Interestingly, our old friends the Thals, who are just as ruthless as the Kaleds in this one, have green costumes and a soft pastel cream decor in their dome.
Dudley Simpson's incidental music rocks in this one! It has a very ominous quality to it, which fits nicely with the dark atmosphere of the entire story. One particular genial segment of the music is the revelation of Davros at the end of episode one - there is a quiet prelude, as Sarah looks up, before a loud "fanfare" greats our first look at Davros.
One of the things I like about the early T.Baker stories is a sort of varied, electronic howling sound accompanying scenes on a planet's surface; it is a soft background noise but sufficient to add a mysterious and creepy atmosphere to the proceedings. The stock BBC quarry was made to look sufficiently alien - you really do feel like you are on Skaro and not somewhere in Southern England.
The supporting cast was inspired. Guy Siner makes a nice appearance as a Kaled General (he was Lt.Gruber in BBC sitcom Allo Allo; apropos which, Gen. von Klinkerhoffen - Hilary Minster - has a small part as a Thal guard). James Garbutt is a concerned Ronson (he was Mr.Seaton in "When the Boat Comes In" - a series that should be repeated!!!). Stephan Yardley (most known for "Howards' Way") is the sympatico muto Sevrin. Peter Miles, a Who regular, is a really nasty Nyder.
Without a doubt, though, Who regular Michael Wisher, as Davros, is awesome. The face mask was a great piece of make-up; he had to rely on his voice because with that, his Dalek wheelchair and that he only had one free arm, there was little he could do to give Davros character. But he pulls it off so well. Every scene is a delight as he schemes, and plots and is generally nasty - Wisher would talk softly and then burst into a rant and those rants are when he sounds so close to a Dalek proper. As some reviewers point out, his experience as a Dalek voice could do nothing but help. His scenes with Tom rank as Who Moments. The scene where the Doctor asks Davros if he would use a deadly contagion, a gedanken experiment, emphasises Davros's fanatical zeal for the Dalek project. (Another admission - I don't need a special microphone; I can actually do a Dalek immitation!)
The story is not without its weaknesses though. The domes are very close to each other, we must assume. Why does Davros have a button that can shut off his life support system and in easy reach? The clam monsters in the tunnel to the wasteland should have been dispensed with; they are just too embarrassing. After all the "can't change history" - the Doctor to Barbara in the Aztecs - and the trial in the War Games, why the time lord plan to destroy the Daleks forever? It is easy to forget those things though because of the many memorable scenes and Wisher's Davros.
Perhaps Genesis will be threaded into the Time War backdrop to New Who? It is about time the Time War story was resolved - how did it start, why did the Time Lords lose, are there really no other Time Lords, etc?
There is a large dose of violence in this story. Danger and death run throughout it: corpses used to defend trenches; people machine gunned in a blink of an eye; the Daleks exterminating all....It is dark and quite adult in places.
The Sontaran says its name is Styre; it shoots Roth, who tries to run, and begins to test Sarah. The Doctor crawls out of the ditch and is recaptured by Vural and co. Harry finds a human who is tied up and has been subjected to experiments. Vural and co. are taken prisoner by the robot. Harry tries to get Sarah but she is surrounded by a force filed. Syre talks with his Marshall; the Marshall insists that Styre finish his experiments quickly so that the Sontaran battleplan can proceed. It subjects Sarah to a series of tests to see her anxieties and fears. The Doctor tries to rescue Sarah; he is shot bt the Sontaran. (Which utters "Worm!" It's hysterical.) Harry meets up with the Doctor; a piece of Nerva protected him. The Sontaran subjects Vural and co to another experiment. The Doctor disables the robot with his sonic screwdriver; he overhears Styre and the Marshall talk about the series of experiments. The Doctor challenges Styre to a dual. Harry sabotages the energy unit on the Sontaran ship; Styre is destroyed when he tries to re-energise. The Doctor tells the Marshall that Styre is dead and the humans have the Sontaran battle plans. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry leaves the last humans, Vural is killed saving the Doctor in his dual, to await Vira and the others from Nerva.
It's a simple story (it was originally going to be part of a 6 parter, instead of two episodes) and has its weak points in the plot; the humans aren't great characters. I like it though and have the added sentimentality of this being my first memory of Dr.Who. (The bit I actually could remember before rewatching the story was the bit in episode 1 where Sarah catches a little glimpse of the robot; for some reason that really scared me as a kid!)
The music was once again top draw, although there are parts with no music at all. That highlights the quiet of the barren Earth (well, Hound Tor) . The sounds are good too; the robot makes a lovely electronic buzzing sound. It's design was interesting; it looks like a crab, with its two sensor whiskers at the front and stalk eyes spaced apart on a shell like head.
I always look on this one as a tasty aperatif for the next story in the season - and what a story that is too!
I shall be hosting the Carnival of Socialism on the 16th August.
No doubt there will be a collective cry of "oh no!" from the Left at the thought of what a Socialist Party of Great Britain member will do with it. Never fear - I will abjure from point scoring or petty stuff.
Hosting the Carnival will also mean doing something I haven't done and ought to: spend time surfing blogland. I have always intended reading more blogs so this should give me the motivation to get around to that.
Phil BC is the latest host.
mandag den 6. april 2009
Mission World Cup: England and Denmark won their matches. The hard times are approaching fast for Denmark, though - they have "the old enemy" Sweden twice, Hungary (at home) and Portugal (at home).
Apropos Portugal and their main man....It is time to dust off that Downfall clip again, perhaps? ( A clip I love because Hitler starts thinking of supporting a certain Kent team!)
søndag den 5. april 2009
The insect creature is dead and has been for a while. One of the cubicles starts to operate and the Doctor and Harry meet Vira. She is surprised to see them as they are not among the chosen. Vira revives Sarah and the station leader Noah. Vira explains that Earth has been ravaged by solar flares and that the station was creayed to save humanity. The humans have overslept though because the insect creature sabotaged the controls. A green, maggot creature crawls towards some controls in the solar stack room; this creates a fault which the Doctor rectifies, and which he goes to investigate. There he finds something is in the solar stack. Vira discovers an Ark human, Dune, has vanished. Noah stops the Doctor deactivating the solar stack by shooting him with a stun gun; he then heads for the solar stack, where he is stung by the maggot creature. Sarah and Harry tend to the Doctor; they rush off after Noah; Noah takes them prisoner and back to the cryogenics room. Libri is revived and he starts to shout "get back" because he saw something where Noah is standing. He is starting to act strangely; he says he is Dune and that the revivification must stop. The Doctor deduces that Dune was eaten by the insect creature's larva and that it has assimilated the man's knowledge. Libri follows Noah but is shot dead by the commander, who is beginning to metamorphosise. His left hand is gone and his arm is now a green something!
Noah sends a message to Vira. He tells her that they are in great danger from the Wirrn; she must take charge and return humanity to Earth quickly. Noah tries to fight the alien influence but is losing the battle for his mind; the Wirrn plan to absorb (eat!) all the humans. The Doctor and Vira find Noah, who is rapidly losing his human form. Noah tells the Doctor that the Wirrn is fast approaching its adult phase. More humans, Lycett and Rogin, have been revived. The Doctor wants to find the weak part in the Wirrn's cycle in order to destroy it; they will be crawling all over the station within hours. He takes a retinal membrane from the dead Wirrn to make an image of what it saw; he links up with his brain. (Despite the dangers, he does it to save his favourite species, humans.) The Wirrn larva moves towards them; they shut it out, whilst the screen shows images of the Wirrn queen's last moments. The Doctor wonders why the larvae has begun to attack; he speculates that electricity is deadly - it was the autoguard Harry and he faced earlier. The Doctor uses the T-Mat to move Rogin and Harry to another part of the Ark; there is a power failure and the air supply is cut because the Wirrn don't require air. The Doctor goes to check on the larvae; they have started to pupate. There he sees Noah who completes his transformation into a Wirrn.
Vira and Sarah rescue the Doctor. "Noah" tells Vira to leave the Ark and says how the Wirrn's breeding ground was destroyed by humans. The Wirrn had previously only used non-intelligent herbivores in their cycle; now they will use the humans, assimilate their knowledge and develop an advanced civilisation. The Doctor, on a suggestion of Sarah, plans to use power from a transport ship in order to make a sort of electric fence to protect the humans still in cryogenic suspension. Sarah crawls along a shaft with a cable in order to connect the power from the ship to the cryogenic room; the Wirrn begin hatching and one tries to get to her via a grill. She crawls on, gets stuck but manages to make her way out when the Doctor gives some "encouraging" words; i.e. he irritates her enough so that she wants to give him a verbal. The power is connected and a Wirrn is repelled; it moves off to report to the others. They begin to plan a way to break into the cryogenic room. Noah talks to the Doctor and says they should leave the Ark; the Doctor tries to get him to remember his humanity and lead the swarm away, leaving the humans. The Wirrn begin to space walk towards the cargo hold and spaceship. Rogin sacrifices himself to send the Wirrn into space in the ship. Noah radios a goodbye to Vira; he offers himself to kill the Wirrn. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry go to Earth to repair the Ark's T-Mat reception.
One of the problems with the story is its implicit eugenics. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry are viewed as dangers to the Ark's genetic pool. (The humans aboard have been chosen for their superior DNA. ) This aspect of the story seems rarely touched upon, judging by reviews I have read.
The Wirrn, both larval and adult, are not well realised. However, if one is prepared to let that one pass, the idea of basing an alien creature on the macabre life cycle of some wasps, with us as the food and host, is good. Furthermore, the action takes place on a space station which allows claustrophobic elements to be brought into the script. This story was broadcast in January 1975 - some four years before the classic "Alien" film by Shusett and O'Bannon was at the cinema.
The Ark is a lovely set, with its white interior and bright lighting. The music by this time had long since moved on from the electronica of Pertwee and had developed a different quality, which I call (surprise!) the early T. Baker sound. That music certainly gives more atmosphere to stories.
Harry is a right old chavaunist towards Sarah. In a way, that allows Sarah to's feminist side to show itself, although Liz Sladen actually has played down the Womens' Lib aspect of her character; she preferred to think Sarah was somply a strong individual.
An enjoyable story.