Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Dalek Invasion of Earth

This is one of the big ones.  A sweeping, incredibly ambitious epic centering around the first return of a previous villain - and the villains who put the show on the map.  It takes everything the show learned across the first season and change and then shoots for the moon.  And it comes close enough to hitting it that it deserves to have the word "Classic" thrown at it.  There are a lot of little things wrong with The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but it gets all the big things right - and one above all that makes this the first episode of Doctor Who that truly feels fully like Who.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Planet of Giants

Susan: Can you get us back to normal size?
Doctor: Well, of course!  Yes, I'll try.  There's always a chance.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Reign of Terror

Barbara: What have you done?
Ian: Oh, nothing much.

The Reign of Terror, the final story of Doctor Who's first season, introduces writer Dennis Spooner, who became the script editor for the majority of the second season, and would end up writing The Romans, The Meddling Monk, and the back half of The Daleks Master Plan, as well as contributing to the first episode of Power of the Daleks, becoming one of the best and most important figures in Doctor Who's history.  Which you never would have guessed based on his first Who script.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Irrelevant Side Trip: Men In Black III

Men In Black III is surprisingly good - fast, funny, clever, and featuring an amazing performance by Josh Brolin as the young Tommy Lee Jones.  Heck, Brolin does a better Tommy Lee Jones than Jones himself has done in years.  Everything the second film did wrong is fixed, and while it's not as good as the original, it's a highly enjoyable flick.  Of course, if, for some reason, you haven't seen The Avengers yet, that's the alien invasion movie to see.  In fact, if you've already seen it, you can safely see it a second time before MIBIII is particularly necessary.  Still, it's good stuff.

The reason I bring it up, though, is that the plot is involves putting a high-tech futuristic device on Apollo 11 to save the world from an alien invasion.  Which Doctor Who, of course, already did last year. Better.  And included an awesome cameo from Nixon. (though this film has a fun riff on another '60s icon)

So, yeah, Doctor Who reaffirms itself as the greatest thing in the world.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Sensorites

Doctor: I think it was an exercise in fear, in power... They can control, they can frighten, yet they don't attempt to kill you.  Furthermore, they feed you and keep you alive.  Oh, this is most extraordinary!

During the course of The Sensorites, Susan comes incredibly, painfully close to working as a companion.  There are problems with how she's done here, but she just about fits, to the point that you can actually see how she could have worked.

Of course, the next serial goes and melts her wings, but we'll pretend that doesn't happen for a moment.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Aztecs

Autloc: It is our law that all who attain their 52nd year shall pleasurably pass the remainder of their lives free from responsibility and care.
Doctor: Poor old souls, they must be bored to tears doing nothing.

After Marco Polo managed to weave a generally excellent yarn that seemed completely irrelevant to the show and Keys of Marinus managed to do exactly what Doctor Who should be doing and somehow failed to be good, it's strange to see Polo's John Lucarotti return to a pure historical and actually make a better Doctor Who story than KeysThe Aztecs not only has all the rich characterizations and dialogue of Marco Polo compressed into a much more tightly-plotted and exciting adventure, but even without the crazed imagination, it manages to be a better science fiction story - and a vastly more compelling addition to Doctor Who itself - than Keys.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Keys of Marinus

Writer Terry Nation cleverly structures Keys as six individual mini-adventures, each with its own unique setting and challenges.  It's a saavy move that proves he really does understand Doctor Who - particularly its ability to tell absolutely any story in any setting..  And then he goes an totally misses the point he just got by not making the TARDIS crew travel by TARDIS.

But it's probably best to just take each episode individually and judge them on their own merits:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Edge of Destruction

(from Pyramids of Mars)

Goodbye!   No, wait, not that one.  The other one.

My name is... was... will be... oh, tenses are difficult, aren't they?  My name isn't yet, because he hasn't made it.  Names are funny.  I like it when he calls me – will call me – Old Girl.  He doesn't even know that I’m alive, a soul at the heart of his ship. 

There's something wrong with me.  I’m an old museum piece, not always well designed.  My Fault Indicator refuses to go on because the jammed controls hurtling us into the energies of the creation of the solar system apparently aren't a "fault."  And my Thief, the one I stole to show me the universe, doesn't seem to know how I work at all.  He probably hasn't ever flown any model like me, perhaps only watched someone else fly one once.

At any rate, my Thief really isn't himself yet.  He calls himself The Doctor, yet he's not quite him just yet.  Yes, he brought home strays, as he always will, but he’s still young and lost.  He accuses them of sabotage, and threatens to throw them out to their deaths.  And while the strays stick with each other, the Young One is left confused between her loyalties.

They’re all going crazy. (The Young One actually seems oddly more comfortable and right being crazy and than when she’s normal.) I don't get these breathing things who have to do everything in some sort of order instead of existing in all time and space.

We're at the brink of disaster.  Only a few minutes before the beginning of a sun is our end.  We haven't seen enough to end.  Never to Peladon, or Karn, or Zanak.  Never to the tears of Skaro's war, of Androzani's poisons, of the Oods' sorrow and freedom.  Never to return to home that's no longer home.  Never to tell him that big, complicated word that isn't goodbye.  Oh, what is that word?

And even if we don't end, my Thief can't become my Doctor if his strays don't become his friends.

But that one with the big hair is smart.  Even as she's going crazy, she's fighting him with logic and passion.  And it's striking him.  It's... respect, perhaps?  I can see my Doctor in him.  I just have to get them to become friends and trust each other before we sail to a fiery death.

Barbara: How dare you! Do you realize, you stupid old man, that you’d have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian hadn’t made fire for you?
Doctor: Oh, I…
Barbara: And what about what we went through against the Daleks?  Not just for us, but for you and Susan, too, and all because you tricked us into going down to the city.
Doctor: But I…
Barbara: Accuse us?  You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us.  But gratitude’s the last thing you’ll ever have, or any sort of common sense, either.

I'll give them a puzzle.  Melted clocks and watches, to start.  That will make sense to them.

Oh.  That made them scream.  Does that mean they understand?
Barbara: "We had time taken away from us and now it's being given back to us... because it's running out!" 
I knew the Big Hair was smart.  She even knows I'm here.

They're starting to work together.  But time is almost gone.  I have all of it, and I'm running out.  That doesn't make sense, does it?

My Thief took the other one aside and told him that he lied to the Young One and the Big Hair.  "We have five minutes only.  When the end does come, they won’t know anything about it."  Compassion.  For the first time, he has compassion.

He solved it!  My clues were perfect.  We have Time and Space for us now.

And now he's talking with the Big Hair.  He really does like her because of how she stood up to him.  They're... companions?  Is that the word?

I remembered what the word was.  He's not quite himself yet, but I can see him inside himself.  I'll say it to him anyway.

Hello, Doctor.


* * * ½


  • After the long, slowly-paced, atmosphere-heavy seven-part Dead Planet, it's a great relief to have a short, fast-paced, atmosphere heavy two-parter.
  • Each of the two episodes had a different director, and it's interesting to see the differences.  The first episode, by Richard Martin, is the more intense and more inventively filmed, with a wide variety of camera movements and angles and more cutting than a lot of these old serials have.  It's remarkable how ambitious he was on that tiny studio, primitive equipment, and rushed schedule.  On the other hand, his episode is also full of shots falling in and out of focus, or clumsily struggling to get the right framing after moving around.  He's trying to do some great stuff, but not always pulling it off.  Frank Cox, in the second episodes, shoots and edits in a much more straightforward and less interesting manner, but he actually puts the bar low enough that he can get across it.  Both episodes, though, drip with atmosphere, thanks to the wonderful lighting and shadows in the TARDIS and the eerie background sounds and music from the Radiophonic workshop.
  • One of the few adventures the Doctor and Susan had was to "Planet Quinnis, of the 4th Universe."  I don't have any idea what that means, but it sounds fantastic.
  • Speaking of Susan, it really is fascinating how incredibly good Carole Ann Ford is when she gets to be creepy or weird.  The scene where she's threatening Ian with scissors, and then starts to maniacally stab every prop in sight is terrifying.  It's the rest of the time, when she screams and acts childish that Susan fails to work.  It's a pity most later serials concentrate so much on the latter.

  • Of course, my entire review might be reading way too much into this.  David Whitaker was a genius and way, way ahead of his time in his Who scripts, but the idea that he had thought Edge of Destruction through that much?  That he knew the TARDIS was not only alive, but had a soul, and simply didn't understand humans enough to communicate in more obvious ways?  It seems a bit more likely that he was rushed for time, and put out a seriously cool little thriller that doesn't quite make sense.

    On the other hand, Whitaker is the guy who wrote Evil of the Daleks, a brilliant Steampunk 7th Doctor story not only 20 years before McCoy and Cartmel actually came up with the 7th Doctor's defining characteristics, but 15 years before Steampunk was invented.  Heck, half a decade before Punk was a thing. He wrote The Rescue, which was not only the first episode to introduce a new companion, but did it in 50 minutes that focused on her as a character with a simple but effective plot in the background, predicting a style that wouldn't actually become the norm until 2005. And doing it better than most of the modern ones. I wouldn't put Whitaker predicting The Doctor's Wife past him.  And even if he wasn't that far ahead, he made it possible by making her alive.