Saturday, 26 March 2011

17: The Time Meddler - The Birth Of Doctor Who's Sci-Fi/Historical.

Written by: Dennis Spooner.
Companions: The Doctor, Vicki & Steven Taylor.
Monsters/Villains: The Meddling Monk.
Brief Synopsis: In 1066 a mysterious Monk wants to change the outcome of the Battle of Hastings.
Rating: 5/10.

Hello blog land. It's been a while. 11 days to be precise. We have magically arrived at the last story of the second series. Ian and Barbara have left, and we find ourselves with a new dynamic in the TARDIS. I am very pleased to announce for this one I was joined by equally huge Doctor Who fan Ed Blagrove; a dear old friend of mine from Oxford, and we watched the story right after a visit to the Doctor Who Experience. Lovely.

The first thing that strikes us both is the loss of Ian and Barbara. The Doctor is getting better at saying goodbye to his companions, but as an audience member I truly feel the programme will never be the same without the terrific twosome.

We both agree that Maureen O'Biren is excellent and does really well with some fairly suspect lines. Ed points out that he misses the days when the Doctor didn't have sexual tension with his companions. I quite agree. We also find ourselves with a new member to the TARDIS crew: Steven, played by the wonderful Peter Purves. The whole story starts out as a means to prove to Steven that the TARDIS is in fact a time machine. But not before Vicki is ordered to clean Steven up and get him some new clothes. Ed comments that Steven looks like a 19th century french mime artist in his black polo neck and cloak.

As the trio exit the TARDIS I beg the question: Why does everyone have to wear capes? Ed replies "did they still have travelling capes? - I travelled here today, should I have worn a cape?" Only a short while in and we get our first glimpse of the Meddling Monk, played beautifully, and somewhat tongue in cheek by the glorious Peter Butterworth. Ed notices that the Monk has a ring just like the Doctors. Something I never noticed before. Steven refers to the Doctor as Doc, to which he replies, "Don't call me Doc." A line which will be repeated years on by Richard Hundall in The Five Doctors

The Doctor gets his first clue as to the TARDIS' location in the 10th or 11th century by discovering a helmet with horns. This is of course incorrect as any self respecting kid who read Horrible Histories will know, as there is no indication at all that the Vikings ever had horned helmets; this connotation has come from film.

Alethea Charlton with Saxon Company. 
As we get further in Ed admits he hasn't watched a black and white story for a long time. We both have a little chuckle as we spot Alethea Charlton, not as the cavewoman Hur but this time as the Saxon woman Edith. She brings the Doctor some "drink" in a conch and Ed notes "she's got the horn." It's so great to have someone here to make these jokes. Later in the story, things aren't as comical, as Edith gets attacked and suggestively raped by an invading Viking with an eye patch, who Ed lovingly dubs "Patchy." The rape is implied, but in a very subtle way. Doctor Who is often faced with the issue of having to not let itself get too real and gritty and staying inside it's 'family show' remit; this is handled very well here. The Doctor questions Edith to decipher where and more importantly when he is. He gleans that he is in Northumbria in 1066.

We then get our first anachronism as Steven attacks a man who finds a wrist watch! Both Ed and I agreed that we loved the cliffhanger, as the Doctor enters the monastery to discover not as expected an abomination of Monks, but a gramophone playing monastic chants.

The main thing The Time Meddler has going for it is that it's the first story where history and future meet. The Meddling Monk is seen running a toaster, toting binoculars, a British cross medical kit, a biro, and a rather impressive gun. For viewers in 1965 who didn't know what was going to happen this must have been thrilling and intriguing.

Ed remembers that this was the first black and white story he ever saw in a re-run in 1993. I keep noticing that there is a lot of stock footage used to signify night falling, waves crashing on the sand, and a rather hilarious group of Vikings on a Viking ship. Ed also makes a little reference to the new series which sends me into floods of laughter as Steven goes up to the monastery and bangs on the door, "he knocked four times." Ed also points out that if Saxons appeared in the series as it is today they wouldn't look they way they do in The Time Meddler

Saxon Beefcake. Not! 
Hands down the worst part of this story is the "Battle" between the Saxons and the Vikings, in which sadly "Patchy" bites the dust. Everyone appears to think they're in a benny hill sketch; as they run in and out of the Monastery, screaming at the top of their lungs for some reason, and all the while with the sound of drumming in the background, which makes the scene even more farcical. But this hilarity passes quickly and the story comes across as strong overall, with the possible exception to the cliffhanger to episode 2 which fails pretty miserably. The whole second episode suffers as Hartnell was on holiday again for the shooting. Ironically the cliffhanger entails Vicki and Steven trying to spring the Doctor from his cell, only to discover his absence.

Ed is shocked that the cliffhangers don't match. I explain that the resolutions were re-shot in the next batch of filming. He maintains that the animal skins on the bed are different.

Peter Butterworth is excellent and gives a wonderful comic turn as the Monk. He is also involved in one of the best cliffhangers ever in Doctor Who, when Vicki and Steven stumble across his TARDIS! Imagine what that would have been like as a viewer in 1965. Another TARDIS and another 'Time Lord.' Although we won't hear them called that for some time to come, so for now we'll call him another of the Doctor's race. Inside the Monk's superior Mark IV Tardis, with working chameleon circuit disguising it as a saxon sarcophagus Vicki and Steven discover a collection, something from every period and place and a journal detailing how the Monk discussed principals of powered flight with Da Vinci. He also goes on to boast that the britons would never have made stone henge without using his anti gravity lift. Thanks for clearing that one up Mr. Spooner.

Peter Butterworth as The Monk. 
Butterworth has a real camaraderie with the Hartnell. Even though this duo are enemies, you can tell they're of the same species; the Doctor claiming he is from 50 years before the Monk. The Monk gets some great comedic lines such as "it's getting so you can't call a monastery your own." With the Doctor warning, "no more monkery." The Doctor uses a stick masquerading as a gun to subdue the Monk, again showing his nonviolent nature. Although he does hit the monk over the head with it. The Monk also hits a Viking with a bit of wood too which causes Ed to wonder: "The Time Lords like to knock people out with a bit of wood, don't they? I don't think a bit of wood would knock me out. It would hurt but it wouldn't knock me out." I reply, "maybe it's something to do with Sonic Screwdrivers not working on wood?"

The Doctor and The Monk, close enemies. 
The Doctor classes the Monk a Time Meddler and berates him for breaking the golden rule. "Never, never interfere." To which the Monk replies "And who says so!" Indeed he does! The Monk's intentions are finally revealed when he admits that he wants to improve things, speed them up! Make Harold King, change the course of history, to have jet planes by the 13th century and enable Shakespeare to do Hamlet on television.

In the end The Doctor stops the Monk by sabotaging his dimensional control within his TARDIS, marooning him in 1066. 

And this is the last story in Season 2. This one's been a very bumpy ride. Some masterpieces and some full-on haddocks! We've witnessed giants, met the Daleks for the second and third times, went to Rome, mets some oversized creepy crawlies in the Menoptra, Optera & Zarbi, went to the crusades a space museum, and met another member of the Doctor's race. We lost 3 companions and gained 2. We saw 37 out of 39 episodes, with just 2 missing ones. I gave The Romans the highest rating, but my favourite story in this season has to be The Chase, it's a guilty pleasure. My least favourite is, as expected, The Web Planet. Out of a possible 90 I scored this season 49/90. Giving it an average score of 54/100. Unsurprisingly this season doesn't beat the first overall.

The Monk's shrunken Tardis interior.
Ed's says he has really enjoyed The Time Meddler. "It would have worked better as a three parter, you'd never have an episode without the Doctor now, unless it was purposefully Doctor lite. It's a real mixed bag, some great dialogue, some... [not so great]." And he gives The Time Meddler 8/10.

I would like to thank Ed for joining me for this adventure. I am now entering the wilderness. Only three more Hartnell stories exist in their entirety, the rest have missing episodes or are audio only. This is where the journey gets difficult and where as they say "everything changes".

Join me next time for Season 3 and Galaxy Four.

Monday, 14 March 2011

16: The Chase - A Truly Epic Adventure And A Fond Farewell To Our Favourite School Teachers.

Written by: Terry Nation.
Companions: The Doctor, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, Vicki.
Monsters/Villains: The Daleks, Mire beasts, Mechanoids.
Brief Synopsis: The Daleks chase the TARDIS through space and time.
Rating: 7/10.

Ding ding. All aboard. Welcome to "The Chase." The British Broadcasting Company would like to thank you for choosing us for your space and time travel needs. Please keep all limbs inside the Time And Relative Dimensions In Space capsule for the duration of the journey until you are informed by your tour guide that you may disembark. Your tour guide today will be, the Doctor. Now please gather round the time and space visualiser and we'll get started...

The Time and Space Visualiser.
The clue's really in the title here, it's a chase. The story kicks off with everyone lounging around the TARDIS while the Doctor finishes installing the Time and Space Visualiser. Once the Doctor get's it working each of the crew choose a period of history to view. Ian chooses the Gettysberg Address. Barbara chooses Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare discussing Falstaff's similarity to Sir John Oldcastle. We see the Queen suggesting Shakespeare write Merry Wives of Windsor. Then Francis Bacon gives him the idea to write Hamlet. Vicki then chooses The Beatles singing Ticket To Ride.

The Beatles appear in Doctor Who.
This is all good and well, but why are the crew all getting excited about this time and space TV when they're currently located in a time machine. Sod watching it. Go there instead!

Shakespeare makes his first appearance in Doctor Who.
Hello passengers, our first calling point today will be the once beautiful, ocean covered planet Aridius. Unfortunately the oceans have all dried up leaving only two sentient species the peaceful Aridians and the flesh-hungry Mire Beasts. Watch out for those little octopus-like critters. 

The Aridians.
There is a very strong parody feel to this whole story. Vicki and Ian discover an odd substance on the desert floor and Ian actually says, "at least it's not a pool of acid." To which Vicki responds "that makes a change." At the end of the first episode we see, guess what? A Dalek rising from the sand. Terry Nation loves having a Dalek rising out of something. Wether it be the Thames or the desert of Aridius. Meanwhile Ian and Vicki continue their self-referencial parody. As they encounter their first Mire Beast Ian says: "Don't just stand there screaming. Run." a few seconds later Vicki retorts "Don't just stand there gaping. Run."

A Mire Beast.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain calm but after having escaped the Mire Beasts we have come across some of the residents of Skaro, the Daleks. There is no need for alarm but if you would please return to the T.A.R.D.I.S immediately. We at the B.B.C apologise for the... umm... turbulence at our last destination. We have managed to fully evade the Daleks and should have no further problems or delays to our service. We will now be continuing on to our next scheduled stop, to the city of New York on the planet Earth.

A Dalek and Morton Dill at the top of
The Empire State Building.
The TARDIS crew manage to escape Aridius and arrive at their next location the observation gallery at the Empire State Building circa 1966. Where we meet actor, Peter Purves for the first time in this story playing the rather simple Alabamian, Morton Dill. It's wonderful watching Morton Dill mock the Dalek. He even does a Dalek impression in to the Dalek's sucker arm. 

Due to another liaison with the Daleks we have been forced to make a quick jump to another location, please stay calm while we try to return to our scheduled course. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a real treat for you, we will shortly be making an unscheduled stop, once again on the planet earth, on board the legendary ship, the Mary Celeste.

A Dalek aboard the Mary Celeste.
The next stop where our TARDIS team end is the the Mary Celeste in the 19th century. When the Daleks show up the whole crew jump overboard. Thanks Terry for explaining that one away. One of the Daleks that follows the TARDIS to the Mary Celeste falls into the water and it's head falls off.

You know what Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm starting to think that these Dalek creatures might be following us, like some kind of Chase. I would say don't panic, but I don't think that would help. Has anyone got a copy of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, cause I'm stuck for what to do. 

We've had to make another emergency stop but our guidance systems aren't working and we don't know where we are. We appear to be in some sort of old house.

Count Dracula?
The next stop is a haunted house, where the Doctor and his friends come face to face with Count Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster themselves. Ian once again mocks, saying this is a good place to fight the Daleks noting "it's got stairs and Daleks don't like stairs." The Daleks then show up once more. This time a Dalek gets destroyed by Frankenstein. This story has been going on for some time now and has really started to drag, Ian seems to agree as he states "This game of hide and seek through time is wearing a little thin." It certainly is Ian, it certainly is. The Doctor's incorrect explanation is somewhat more brilliant than the actual vindication. The Doctor explains, "that house was neither time nor space. We were lodged for a period in an area of human thought." Ian is right to challenge this although the crew never discover the truth that they were actually at a horror themed amusement park.

Edmund Warwick, an identical copy of the Doctor.
The most ridiculous part of this story is when the Daleks make a robot copy of the Doctor in order to infiltrate the TARDIS gang. At times the robot is played by a different actor Edmund Warwick, and you can quite easily see that he looks nothing like the Doctor. They sometime use Hartnell to play the robot version and at other times use Warwick from further away miming very badly to Hartnell's voice. I have no idea why they didn't just use Warwick in the two-shots.

Dueling Doctors. 
There's also a rather magnificent scene where the Hartnell Doctor and Warwick Robo-Doc has a tussle and both the audience and the TARDIS crew are meant to struggle to decipher which is the real Doctor. Hmmmm, I wonder?

The Mechanoid city on Mechanus.
Next stop for our intrepid chasees is the jungle planet of Mechanus, where the crew encounter the Mechanoids and Peter Purves again, this time playing an entirely different character, astronaut Steven Taylor; along with his cuddly panda mascot Hi-Fi. 

Steven Taylor and his mascot Hi-fi.
We learn that Steven has been on Mechanus for 2 years, after he crash landed, and that the Mechanoids have been here for fifty years waiting for the colonist immigrants to arrive, but the Earth got involved in interplanetary wars and forgot about Mechanus. At this point things really heat up and the story becomes consistently marvelous. The Daleks show up yet again and the ensuing battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids is excellent. Both are destroyed. 

An epic pitch battle.
And then, totally out of left field, Ian and Barbara realise that they could use the Dalek time ship to return home. Hartnell was genuinely annoyed that William Russell and Jacqueline Hill wanted to leave the show. He couldn't understand why they didn't want to stay. The anger witnessed in Hartnell in the scene where the two school teachers ask the Doctor to help them get home is very real indeed. The Doctor begrudgingly agrees to help them. The duo arrive back in London 1965 two years after they left, just outside White City tube station. After they arrive I instantly thought what happens to the Dalek time ship? After confirming where they are, they destroy it. I feel they really miss the chance for another cliffhanger here, where the two realise they aren't in fact home at all. But Ian and Barbara wanted to go home, and boy do they deserve it. 

Farewell Ian and Barbara.
The school teaching duo were initially intended to be the moral compass to the Doctors more caviler attitude, but now the Doctor has become the kind, good, old grandfather, we no longer require them. However they have defined the show up to now and it will never be quite the same again without them. They have been the constant since the series began and just as the Doctor says "I will miss them. Yes, I will miss them." It is wonderful to see them get the happy ending they deserve. They get a great send off as we see them in a series of snap shots around famous London spots and riding a double-decker bus. There is a wonderful denouement where we see Vicki and the Doctor watching them rejoice on the time and space visualiser. The odd time TV's introduction is explained as the story comes full circle.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have safely reached our final destination: White City, London, 1965. We apologise for the length of "The Chase," we hope you didn't get too bored. We thank you ever so much for choosing B.B.C, T.A.R.D.I.S for your Time and Space needs, we value your custom and hope you will think of us for all future ventures. We hope you both: Ian and Barbara, have enjoyed your time with us and we want you to know that we will miss you. Yes, we will miss you...

Join me next time for the last of the complete stories for a while The Time Meddler.

Paul McGann's new costume mystery?

Sorry for the unscheduled blog. I'm thinking I'm a little behind the times on this one but I only just found out. This is Paul McGann's new Doctor costume and sonic screwdriver design premiered at Armageddon, Auckland, New Zealand last October.

New wooden sonic screwdriver.

The new design consists of a blue leather navy jacket not a millions miles away from Christopher Eccelston's black leather jacket, and the sonic screwdriver has a wooden finish and is designed and created by WETA.

More importantly though why has this new get-up been created? Apparently Paul McGann was never fond of the costume or wig from the 1996 TV Movie. As the movie is the only photographic material for use it could have been created for use in upcoming Big Finish Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Audio Adventures. But they have been running since January 2007 so why would you wait nearly 4 years to create new images for an audio series. Presumably any new images could be created using photoshop software anyway.

So, why this new costume design? Could it be because Paul McGann's Doctor could be returning to the new series? It's the fiftieth anniversary coming up in 2013 maybe he could make his return then...

If anyone has any ideas, or knowledge or just speculation please post here...

Monday, 7 March 2011

15: The Space Museum - A Parody Of Itself.

Written by: Glyn Jones.
Companions: The Doctor, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, Vicki.
Monsters/Villains: The Moroks.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS jumps a time track and arrives on Xeros before it's supposed to.
Rating: 6/10.

Welcome back faithful reader, things are going to be a little different this time around. I have (somehow) persuaded three of my good friends to take up my invitation to watch a totally random episode of Doctor Who. Not the best episode, not the most iconic, just a bog-standard one. The Space Museum seemed like a perfect choice for the Hartnell era. 

So let me start by introducing my three hapless buddies. This is Laura, Robin & Holly. They've all watched some modern Who and Robin might have been in the room while I've watched an episode or two, but aside from that they are all Classic Who virgins. I love how random an introduction this will be for them. What will they make of it? 

As we kick off, Robin sings along to the theme tune. Some things never change. I'm a little nervous that my three friends might find this a tad dull. We sit in silence for a while and then to my surprise all three start to laugh and I realise that this a comedy again. Laura's the first to speak: "I feel like I'm watching a play."

The others agree. Then Robin points out the story trope; the Doctor doesn't know how to fly the TARDIS so they never know where they will arrive next in order to precipitate the adventure style. We all have a little laugh at Vicki noticing the erosion. Robin points out how very slow it is in comparison to modern television and how everything could happen much more quickly. Laura says it has an improvised feel to it. Perhaps due to the fact Bill Hartnell is probably ad libbing a little because he can't remember his lines. Robin's response to this is to suggest that they could have found people who can ad lib through the fluffed lines. Robin says that he likes the Doctors costume.

Then everyone begins to question the point of the story and the show. I explain at this point it was a children's adventure serial that went out at 5.15. Holly pipes up, saying that back in the 60's maybe just going to an alien planet or time traveling was enough without a more all encompassing aspect.

Robin says he thinks the Doctor is believably his age and that's why he feels like he should be telling people what to do. Holly says he isn't super smart like the Doctor is now in the new series. I point out that even though his physical appearance is older than that of Matt Smith the character is actually a lot younger at this point.

As we reach the first cliffhanger where the crew come across themselves as exhibits in the museum we all discuss what would happen if we met ourselves. We also debate for sometime what exactly has happened with the TARDIS jumping the time track. Laura questions that this is meant for children and says that she's an adult and she's confused. However, everyone agrees they like the cliffhanger and that it comes at the right place.

On to episode two. Then to my shock Laura says "She is awful," about Barbara. I don't say anything. Robin replies "they're all awful," and Holly adds "except the Doctor," to which the first two agree. I am shocked. It seems so odd to hear people put down the supporting cast who so often carry Hartnell. Perhaps the status of being 'The Doctor' gives him a free pass and he is allowed to be the 'good' one for that reason.

Both the girls point out the fact that the Xerons have two sets of eyebrows; their real ones and the character ones. As the Xerons discuss their predicament Robin says "this scene is better than the last episode, it actually has a point to it, they're not just talking for the sake of it." After a while Robin changes his mind and decides that in the role of the 'action hero' he likes Ian.

We learn the Xerons are trying to win back their planet for the Morok agressors, who have turned it in to a massive museum of the history of their wars. The Xerons kidnap the Doctor in order to ask his help. They leave one Xeron on guard and when they return the Doctor has escaped and tied up his captor. Robin says, "this is the first time I've seen the Doctor do something awesome. In the new series he just brags about stuff like this that he's done." I find that interesting as this ruse takes place off screen so we don't actually see it happen anyway.

Holly who's been quite quiet comes out with a corker. "Clothes are a really big issue in this!" She points out that the stuff with their clothes changing at the beginning, Ian's lost button, and the labyrinth idea to use Barbara's cardigan as a ball of wool to stop the gang from unwillingly having to retrace their steps.

At this point I realise that this episode is a parody of the series thus far. There's a dalek in the museum. The Doctor hides inside it, almost mocking it. Just as Ian did with the Thals, Vicki persuades the Xerons to revolt. The Xerons are the planets locals who are being oppressed by the Morons, sorry Moroks. Who are rubbish at oppressing. The Xerons leader Tor is also rubbish and seems to always have his hand on his hips. The story may not be the strongest but it is certainly challenging all three of my friends. They're asking questions at least.

Tor is ready for anything, he's got his hands on his hips.
As we reach the end of episode two I give them the option to stop but they are happy to carry on. Robin points out a hilarious moment where a Morok guard discovers Ian, Barbara and Vicki and the three speak secretly for ages, even thought the guard albeit off screen is only a few feet away. It's truly brilliant.

In the scene where Vicki persuades the Xerons to revolt, we are all distracted by the odd food and drink they're eating. It looks like chocolate and fake Guinness. The Xerons leader, Tor is played by none other that Jeremy Bullock a.k.a Boba Fett. Robin finds it really funny when the Xerons claim that they are really great planners. Laura says "yeah, they throw great parties." Holly is the only one who notices that the Doctor is entirely absent from episode three.

Look Tor's got his hands on his hips again. It's so you can
tell him apart from the other Xerons.
As we push on into episode four we all question why Barbara and the Xeron guy wake up when they're still in the gas even thought they've passed out. In the end the Xerons win out and destroy the Moroks and quickly go about dismantling the space museum. The Doctor comes out of the TARDIS and explains that there is a small part of the ship that hadn't clicked into place, and that is why they hadn't really arrived and were able to walk through things, not be seen, and leave no foot prints, because it hadn't properly clicked into place. The Doctor then uses the simile of a lamp that doesn't turn on straight away, and Ian says "thanks for explaining it Doctor." We all just look at each other and laugh. Unbeknownst to my colleagues this is perhaps a little reminiscent of the unpressed button incident in The Edge of Destruction.

Tor is ready to make a plan. They're really good at making plans are the Xerons.
As Vicki and Tor say their goodbyes before the TARDIS departs Laura entreats: "kiss, kiss, kiss!" I really like that she has picked up on this very subtle romantic plot and even though there is no way she can know, this is surely another parody of all the times this has happened in the series previously. We all agree that the final cliffhanger with the Daleks is superbly to the point and therefore effective.

My only real criticism of this story is that it is clearly intended as comedy or parody but it hasn't been directed in this way. As the credits roll I ask each of my friends for their opinion and marks out of ten.

Laura says as a girl who doesn't like Doctor Who, I quite enjoyed it, but it was quite slow and gives The Space Museum:


Holly says the effects are simple and dated, but they must have been amazing back in the sixties and gives it: 


Robin says he thinks the story telling was unnecessarily sacrificed for effects, but that he is looking forward to seeing what the next guy does with the role and gives it: 


A big thank you to my three blog-a-teers for their time and thoughts. Join me next time for The Chase.

14: The Crusade - One Of The More Literate Of The Doctor Who Stories.

Julian Glover is excellent as King Richard.
Written by: David Whitaker.
Companions: The Doctor, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, Vicki.
Monsters/Villains: El Akir.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives during the Holy War between Richard the Lion-heart and the Saracen ruler Saladin.
Rating: 5/10.

In one glaringly obviously way this is just as outmoded as The Web Planet. For those of you who haven't seen this or who don't have eyes, this is because several of the people playing Saracens are white actors blacked up!

Bernard Kay blacked-up as Saladin.
Trying to look beyond this obvious racism the Saracen people are treated respectfully. Whereas they're skin colour stamps them as foreign and exotic their accents don't. Bernard Kay as Saladin matches the same shakespearian quality that Julian Glover brings as King Richard. Mr. Glover will famously return to play Scaroth opposite Tom Baker in The City of Death.

This is however one of the more literate of Doctor Who's stories, Ian quotes Shakespeare twice: 'A most poor man made tame to fortune's blows' (King Lear) and 'What judgement shall I fear, doing no wrong?' (The Merchant of Venice). 
Barbara quotes Shelley's Epipsychidion ('One heaven, one hell, one immortality'). When she is held at Saladin's court and asked to provide amusement (an allusion to The Arabian Nights), she plans to use Romeo and Juliet, Gulliver's Travels and Anderson's fairy tales. Henry IV Part I is echoed at the opening of the story when Sir William des Preaux substitutes himself for the King. Jean Marsh makes the first of her three appearances in Doctor Who this time as Princess Joanne. A year later she will return as Sara Kingdom in The Dalek's Master Plan and in 1989 opposite Sylvester McCoy as Morgaine in Battlefield.

Jean Marsh a wonderfully powerful woman. 
My favourite moment is when Ian gets knighted Sir Ian Knight of Jaffa. I also love the way Princess Joanne describes the Doctor "There's something new in you, yet something older than the sky itself. I sense I can trust you." What a perfect description of the Doctor.

This was my first dip into the delectable DVD box set Lost In Time, a compilation of all the remaining orphaned episodes. A vital addition to any Who fan's collection. Only the first and third episodes of this story fully exist so to fill in the blanks I visited You Tube. Here are links to the reconstructions of episodes two and four:

Episode 2

Episode 4

Thanks to chadmoore36 for these. By and large I wasn't overly impressed with this story, there isn't anything wrong with it aside from the dated racist casting; it might be because two of the four episodes are missing, but it failed to capture my attention. I really enjoyed all of the cameo performances but the story was somewhat non-exsistant.

Join me next time along with three Classic Who virgins for The Space Museum.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

13: The Web Planet - An Overly Ambitious, Poorly Executed Mess.

Written by: Bill Strutton.
Companions: The Doctor, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright and Vicki.
Monsters/Villains: The Animus, The Zarbi.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives on the Planet Vortis, where the Butterfly-like Menoptra are trying to regain there world from the ant-like Zarbi, slaves of the Animus...
Rating: 1/10.

I'm genuinely sorry to do this. I love Doctor Who and I would defend it fervently to anyone who dare say even the smallest bad thing about it. So, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, but this is just awful. 

I know, I did it, I actually said a Doctor Who story is 'bad.' This is the first I've watched in the run so far that I really struggle to find positives. I won't find myself doing this often but this is a couple of fruits short of loopy.

Ian and The Doctor in their ADJ's
through an odd camera filter.
The Tardis arrives on this very odd, very alien planet Vortis in the Isop (as in 's fables) galaxy, and in order to help us, the audience, understand just how odd this alien planet is they've used a strange camera filter to make everything look a bit wobbly. Yes that's the technical term, 'wobbly.' There is a long tendered myth that the camera man smeared vaseline over the lens to create this effect. This isn't true but it might as well be. 

The crew meet the butterfly-like Menoptra who are attempting to reclaim their planet from the brainwashed Zarbi controlled by the Animus, an alien intelligence which landed on Vortis. The Animus manifested itself within an organic, self-healing palace called the Carcinome. Along with the TARDIS crew, the Menoptra join forces with the Optra; who are basically woodlice, to defeat the Animus.

The Optra, possibly the worst Doctor Who monster ever?!
The Doctor and Ian don these odd coats, called ADJ's, (Atmospheric Density Jacket) as Vortis has different gravity to that of earth or any other planet the TARDIS crew have been to before or will ever go to again. This along with the scripts references to the human's struggling to breath on Vortis, attempt to make the world seem more alien, but they seem to forget about them when it's inconvenient. When Barbara and Vicki venture out of the TARDIS they aren't wearing ADJ's and they seem fine. 

There's an interesting expositional scene in the TARDIS between Barbara and Vicki, where we learn some more of Vicki's background. She finds the idea of taking an aspirin to alleviate her headache as medieval as we would find applying leeches. She admits to having studied medicine, physics and chemistry at the age of 10, an hour per week, using a machine.

The first cliffhanger is actually quite good. Left alone in the TARDIS, Vicki panics as the ship lurches violently. She operates the controls and the dematerialisation sequence starts. Returning to the ship to fetch help for the web-ensnared Ian, the Doctor is horrified to find that it is no longer there. It turns out that it was actually carried away by Zarbi.

The Animus.
My main criticism of this piece is that a lot of the ways they try to make Vortis unearthly just come across as unnecessary and inexplicable. Why do the beings of this planet move their arms around in an interpretive dance style? Why do all the creatures on this planet have such incredibly odd voices almost singing their words? Why do we see the planet through an odd misty lens? Why do the Doctor and Ian wear Atmospheric Density Jackets at the opening of the story but then later no longer require them? Why do Vicki and Barbara not need them at all? Why do they sporadically find it difficult to breath on Vortis and the rest of the time appear to be totally fine? All of these things could be fine and well but some explanation wouldn't go amiss.

The Doctor conferring with the Animus or doing his har? 
The best I can really say about this is that in 1965 this might have been an..... attempt at visualising an alien world, but today it just honestly looks like a bunch of people in silly costumes, singing, doing interpretive dane or stomping around. This was a hard one to get through, but my resolve is still strong.

Join me next time for another historical, The Crusade.