Thursday, May 31, 2012

 Doctor Who-Attack Of The Cybermen
             In late 1984 Doctor Who found itself in an unusual situation. For one thing,Colin Baker became the first doctor to appear in his own serial before the end of a season featuring the immediate predecessor. His debut story 'The Twin Dilemma' didn't fare very well with fans of the show. So when the sixth doctor began his first former season there were some changes. For one the stories would be two part serials for the reason,only 45 minute episodes in the nature. This would be the only time the original Doctor Who series would be produced that way. Also this story briefly found the doctor fixing the TARDIS's broken chameleon circuit. So this is the first time it actually appears as something other than a police box. Also it revitalizes the cybermen for the final time in the original series run.

            The TARDIS intercepts an alien signal originating in 1985 London. Once they arrive,in the same junk yard that the doctor original arrived on Earth in during 1963,the doctor and Peri find themselves intercepted by police officers on the trail of a man who turns out to be Lytton,former Dalek agent on Earth. He now seems to be involved with the cybermen,who are trying to commandeer the TARDIS to steal it's time/space travel secrets. Why? To divert Haley's Comet's course to impact Earth to prevent the destruction of their original home world. Upon arriving on the planet Telos,current home of the cybermen the doctor and Peri find themselves commandeered by the Kryon's,icy humanoids who were displaced from this world by the occupying cyberman. When the Kryon's realize that the doctor is on their side they use a special mineral to destroy Cyber control and liberate their world. But not before Lytton is killed after the doctor learns that Lytton was actually working with the Kryons against the cybermen.

           On the human end this is a well written story about the heroes journey. Lytton,looking to redeem himself after 'Resurrection Of The Daleks' is now working to prevent the destruction of Earth. And while the doctor is somewhat blinded by his mistrust of him and wish to stop the cybermen,he does in the end grad at his conscience in the end and realizes his mistake in judgement. This is fitting since at the beginning Peri is questioning the stability of the sixth doctors  personality. With his revelation of Lytton's mission,it winds up being a hero's journey for both of them. Only it's the doctor who gets to survive the tale of course. This is also the one time we see cybermen rejects,kept as prisoners on Telos.  The Kyron's are one of first female oriented aliens seen in this series. They have a wistful,lyrical manner of movement and speech that masks their noble ambitions. This story has many story elements,most of which represent the stories main points of redemption and freedom from mistrust.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doctor Who-The Caves of Androzani
                       Following the 1983 special 'The Five Doctors',Peter Davison announced that he would be stepping down from his role as the renowned time lord for Gallifrey. Reasons were muriad,from the hectic work schedule to the advice of former doctor Patrick Troughton to remain with the program for only a few years. The fifth doctor represented an interesting departure for the science fiction serial. Still on it's shoe string budget the writers began adding more foreboding and series elements to the show. Part of that was producer John Nathan Turner's attempt to promote the show to more of an adult audience. All sorts of sociopolitical topics had always been at the core of Doctor Who's success. And since Peter Davison's fifth doctor always had a sense of vulnerability to him that wet well with the intense nature of some of his stories,this was explored in his final serial of the series.

                The TARDIS find the doctor and new companion Peri (Nicola Bryant) on the surface of a dead planet called Androzani minor. It isn't long into their scouting that they are captured and accused of being agents in a war between that world and Androzani major by General Chellak. An unknowing accident has caused the doctor and Perry to be infected by a fetal poisoning from the raw room of a revitalizing drug causing this war. It's called Spectrox toxemia. On Androzani Major, a man named Morgus is using this drug to extend his people's lifespan. The opposition is led by the vengence crazed Sharaz Jek,a brilliant cyberneticist who is forced to live like a monster after his former cohort Morgus betrayed and injured him. 

               While Sharaz first holds the doctor and Perry hostage,the doctor engineers an escape upon learning of a treatment for the poisoning killing him and Perry. During this time Chellak discovers that his subordinate Sebeteen has been one of the androids they've been fighting,while of course the Androids are part of a labor force designed to mine the deadly raw Spectrox. Once the doctor engineers the escape Sharaz Jek becomes aware that his seeming victory was another of Morgus's tricks and decides to help the doctor to redeem himself from his passion for vengence from his friend turned foe. In the end Morgus is caught,tries to escape with gunrunner Stotz and ends up dead along with Sharaz Jek. Sadly the doctor only managed to retrieve enough treatment for Perry and was forced to regenerate into his sixth incarnation.

            This story is one of the best Doctor Who ever did from the perspective of writing and even the shows occasional achilles heal in the FX department. The camera angles,lighting and color used reflect the tension in the plot wonderfully. It's a very thoughtful and serious tale about the political corruption that can result from one society benefiting from the suffering of another. This is a main cause,yet often unrealized,  of many wars. Morgus is every bit the crooked politician in this episode,never caring for anyone beyond his own needs and is willing to kill for it too. Sharaz Jek is one of the doctors most multi dimensional adversaries. At once ruthless,thoughtful and insane his motivations start out of revenge but end up in understanding. So he dies a hero as opposed to a villain. After this complex tale the doctor regenerates in his sixth incarnation,played by Colin Baker. This is the first time a new doctors image and name appear at the end of the credits since the first doctors regeneration. As the sixth doctor stated upon Peri asking him what had happened,"Change my dear. And it couldn't have happened a moment too soon".

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Doctor Who-The Tomb Of The Cybermen
                         This is probably one of the 60's era Doctor Who serials that has a lot of historical value. It's the only surviving serial of the fifth season of the program in 1967. It's also the only one available featuring companion Victoria,who the doctor encountered in the missing episode 'The Evil Of The Daleks". This episode also reintroduced the Cybermen,who had appeared in the final (and also largely missing) William Hartnell era serial 'The Tenth Planet'. Unless one is a huge Whovian whose read the Target novelizations or listened to audio recordings this episode has some highly disrupted continuity. For most it's probably best taken somewhat as a stand alone episode as it can only function to look to the future of the show than towards a currently missing past.

                     While getting new companion Victoria acquainted with the TARDIS,they all land on the planet Telos,home of the cybermen where a team of human archaeologists have uncovered a massive facility with representations of cybermen all over it. Funded by a man named Kaftan and including Professor Parry,Eric Klieg and the taciturn servant Toberman the doctor and his companions join with the team,only to all find themselves in a massive cyber tomb. Surrounded by machines they don't fully understand the team,despite the doctors objections begin to fiddle with every control they find to understand it's purpose.  Pretty soon  they locate a frozen underground tunnel where they find a massive tomb of cybermen in stasis. Parry locks one part of the team inside to confront the revived cybermen.

                       Turns out Klieg and Parry have been in league all along so that Klieg could harness the power of cybermen to enact control over his people. On the other hand the cybermen have plans of their own. They decide to play Klieg and his Brotherhood Of Logicians,who seek physical might to back their intellectualism,against each other to assist the re-emerging of their own species. To the point of brainwashing Toberman to do their bidding. This is completed by the Cybermats,clockwork mouse like artificial lifeforms that disrupt human brain patters. As the doctor convinces Toberman of his humanity,Klieg and Parry play right into the cyberman's hands and perish accordingly. It's Toberman who seals the tomb at last at the cost of his own life as the TARDIS crew and the remainder of the expedition flee. Since only the body of Toberman and a single Cybermat remain,the future of the cybermen is unclear.

                        Not to mention being an important episode involving the nature of the cybermen, there are some important human themes dealt with here too. Of course there's the most obvious fact that Klieg's Brotherhood Of Logicians represented how a totalitarian mind is not dissimilar to a cold and uncaring cybernetically  enhanced life form such as the cybermen or even the computer that runs their facility. Most of the actors reflect this as well,except for George Roubicek's Captain Hooper,who seems to struggle with an apparently difficult American accent. There are also many important allusions to prejudice and emotional ties. Victoria at one point worries as to her family and the doctor gives her a kind and very fatherly pep talk about the advantages of free will.

                      Also considering the racially polarized times had Toberman,a black man depicted at first as a servant being liberated by the doctor after almost becoming enslaved by the cybermen. It's Toberman who becomes the noble hero of the piece by saving everyone's life at the cost of his own. These as well as the implied anti sexist message,with the female members of the expedition always treated as weak and vulnerable but resisting this impression. All this taken together is a a great counter balance between the 100% logic based world of the cybermen and the conflicts of human nature. Overall it's one of those Doctor Who serials that,due to it's claustrophobic settings and emphasis on dialog,that really explores the characters needs and motivations.
Doctor Who-The Mind Robber
                 Due to short sighted BBC policy Patrick Troughton's adventures as the second doctor remain  woefully unrepresented on DVD format. That is because only seven of his serials remain intact,in one case for the most part. The stories that remain available of his are luckily some of the best Doctor Who ever produced. And sometimes the most unusual. Considering the state of consciousness-altering late counterculture of the era,it was not surprising that this five part 1968 serial would openly embrace the concept of surrealism and the power of human imagination. Other science fiction shows such as Star Trek were also dealing with this concept at the time. And Doctor Who,as with that show managed to put it's own distinctive stamp on the concept.

                While sinking in a lava flow the doctor uses the TARDIS's emergency escape system to get himself,Jamie and Zoe out of danger. This pulls the TARDIS out of time and space all together and into a world where imagery,either fact or fiction from ones own mind could become reality. And even be used against them. There are friends such as Gulliver and a adversaries such as giant robots that come from no ones imagination. These robots presence lead the trio through a maze of fictional imagery intended to fool them,only to find it's all being run by a super computer who abducted a human from 20'th century England to do it's bidding with his vast writing skills.  In fact it wants to use the doctor,due to his immortality for the same purposes. After reversing this computers attempts to manipulate him and his two companions,the entire process is reversed and time and space are restored to normal.

                    Most stories on Doctor Who or most other shows over a clear bell shaped curve to them where one knows exactly what's happening. In this you never do. The imagery,from the TARDIS console flying through an ebony oblivion with Zoe and Jamie laying atop it to characters being randomly transformed into faceless cardboard cutouts is compelling. Especially for this period of the show.  Also there's an excellent implied message here. Dealing with a master computer who literally exercises it's ability to transform fact to fiction and vice versa,not only has the doctor met a match in terms of level of control but it calls to mind humans real life relationship with fiction. And that includes Doctor Who. Part of that implication is that the printed word,in a literal and figurative sense,can be used to enact great good or enormous turmoil to even one person alone. And that involves understanding the responsibility that comes from understanding the power of the human mind.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Doctor Who-Inferno
                     One of the important things that makes Doctor Who so interesting is the limited manner in which it has to handle it's limitlessness. It was a low budget BBC science fiction program whose central character could travel anywhere in space and time. In a way these two qualities ended up being complimentary and giving the show it's distinctive flavor. It also continues in the shows seventh season tradition of delivering on stories that blended terrestrially based monsters with pointed sociopolitical commentary. Since the doctor was exiled on Earth in the early Jon Pertwee years,the opportunity for this type of storytelling was boundless. There was also an interesting little gizmo thrown into this story that made it equally interesting. Main actors Nicholas Courtney,Caroline John and Stewart Levene  actually get a chance to play the duel side of their roles in this episode. The reason being is that a central element of this story has to do with what has today been somewhat childishly renamed the multiverse theory.

                  Professor Stalman (Olaf Pooley) is heading up something known as Project Inferno,an attempt to drill into the Earth's core for a nearly inexhaustible energy source. Meanwhile many of the people involved are experiencing unusual mutations. UNIT and the doctor are called in to investigate but it's soon apparent the Professor's erratic behavior is part of the same symptom. The concept of drilling to the Earth's core is proving controversial. Same for the doctors plans to use the projects nuclear reactor to restore the functioning of his TARDIS. On his second attempt to do so he finds himself in a despotic parallel universe and a run in with dictatorial alternate version of Lethbridge Stewart and his companion Liz Shaw. They are undergoing the same experiment in this universe. But despite the doctors attempt to tell them he's not a spy,their Earth is destroyed by the successful tapping of the Earth's core and the resulting lava flow. This energy allows the doctor to return to his universe in the TARDIS to warn them on ending the ill conceived project in time.

               This is one of the most intense,edgy and even stressful of the original Doctor Who serials. While at first following a similar plot line to other Pertwee era stories dealing with corporate short sightedness,particularly involving nuclear power the real captivating parts of this serial occur during the fourth,fifth and sixth episodes which take place almost solely in a parallel reality. Liz Shaw is portrayed here as a prisoner of her worlds dichotomy,which seems to indicate the up rise of some kind of British version of the Stalin era communist party or even Nazism. Lethbridge Stewart on the other hand is portrayed similarly to his counterpart only more dramatically aggressive and with self centered motivations rather than the generally selfless ones of the Brigadier. Seeing Nicholas Courtney sans moustache and plus eye patch and scars is worth it alone. It's also a reminder perhaps of the dark and light sides of each person's personality,personified here in different universes. One of the strongest and most shocking perhaps of Jon Pertwee era Doctor Who episodes.
Doctor Who And The Silurians
                Even as early as this second serial starring Jon Pertwee there was a concentrated effort to give Doctor Who a somewhat more topical edge. The program always reveled almost in it's efforts to make it's low budget rubber monsters and blue screen effects seem as genuine as possible. No one ever intended it to come off as exploitative. And this is a good example of an episode that managed to accomplish melding that low budget flavor with that flare for social and scientific commentary pretty successfully. It also began the tradition of the third doctor era of serials often being six or seven parts in nature. I've heard this was due to writers strikes at the BBC and such that limited the amount of stories they had for a season. And the programs seventh season,Pertwee's first on the show was in fact incredibly short with only four mostly very long serials. Even though one of them is not yet available,these are all excellent stories and all key contributions to the world of Doctor Who.

              What happens here is that underground workers for an experimental nuclear power facility are beginning to exhibit paranoid behavior,one even bought to making cave drawings on the walls of his hospital room. UNIT are bought in to investigate including the Brigadier, Sgt. Benton,Liz Shaw and the Doctor. The projects Director Lawrence tries to block the investigation at every turn. And pretty soon even his closest allies such as Dr.Quinn begin to experience trouble and Quinn is eventually killed. Why? As the doctor discovers during his investigation it's by an advanced underground race called the Silurians,who lived during that era of Earth's history. They miscalculated a planetary disaster and awoke from hibernation still believe the Earth to be there's. While the doctor is convinced the Silurians can be reasoned with the Brigadier and Lawrence are caught between destroying the creatures for safety reasons and Lawrence using them to gain access to their superior technology.

             The Silurians become aware of this,capture members of both UNIT and the project,and eventually conclude that humans have become an infestation on their world to be wiped out. So they develop a fast acting viral infection that,once released via a released prisoner,begins to cause an epidemic on the surface. As members of UNIT,the project and even the general public begin to die from this biological warfare agent the tensions even between Director Lawrence,UNIT and the public comes to a fevered pitch. The doctor and Liz Shaw race for a cure but by the time they finally find it, the Silurians have murdered their own leader due to his acceptance of the Doctors suggestion they learn to live with humans who they few as invading primates. In the end the Brigadier ends up being forced to answer to higher powers as the Doctor and Liz are forced to watch the Silurian race be destroyed by UNIT without any chance of a negotiated peace.

              Personally I find a consistent theme,particularly in the Jon Pertwee era,of Doctor Who is that of militaristic short sightedness versus scientific reality. It's the age old argument between aggression and reason. Even though the third doctor and the Brigadier are depicted as being very much at odds in terms of opinion in these early years,you can sense Lethbridge-Stewart is often the man caught in the middle. He inherently trusts the doctors judgement but being a career military man ends up always having to act out his strong sense of duty.  In the end it's the balanced personality of Liz Shaw who often provides the voice of reason. Considering the doctor is perceived as a lunatic by many self centered humans and the Brigadier as a naive meddler.  Themes of sociopolitical inefficiency,biological warfare as well as racial prejudice and fear abound in this story. The Silurians are depicted as an advanced but confused race,some willing to exist peaceably with Earth's new inhabitants with others willing to kill for their dominance. These elements taken together are part of what make this such a compelling story.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Doctor Who-Black Orchid
                 Since the earliest stories on this program featuring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton the producers of had generally avoided any overtly historical serials.  While a good deal of Tom Baker's stories featured historical settings,the stories were usually very fictionalized and purely fantasy based.This  avoidance could  have something to do with a belief that somehow those type of shows were linked to Doctor Who's perception as a disposable children's program and to why so many master tapes for the episodes were erased in the 70's. The Peter Davison era of the show actually revived that concept to a degree. Especially when it came to the additional face that each season of the fifth doctor era had one two episode serial in it. This is the first of them,from Davison's first year. It's also the first terrestrially based historical episodes of the show made in a very long time.

                  The TARDIS starts by arriving in a London train station in the summer of 1925,only to be picked up the chauffeur of Lord Cranleigh,who is said to be expecting the doctor for a cricket match. Dressed for the part,the doctor does well and he,Tegan,Adric and Nyssa are invited to a fancy dress ball. Especially when Nyssa is found to be the spitting image of the Lord's fiancee. During dinner and dancing in which the two physically identical ladies pull a switch the doctors curiosity peaks him to go scouting where he encounters a dead body. Seems some in the family are trying to hide that the servants at Cranleigh manner are being murdered. As the fiancee is injured by an unknown assailant dressed in the doctors harlequin costume for the ball and as the befuddled authorities struggle for proof of doctors identity to solve the murders,this makes the doctor and his companions suspects in the murder and motivates him to solve the mystery.

                 This compact serial is an excellent whodunit  type episode with a good deal of comedy involved too. It's a fun episode to watch too. In particular with it's vivid and colorful location shoots for Cranleigh Manor in the Edwardian era and the cricket field Typically Adric's main interest in the serial is filling his face with food,much to the amusement of the other companions. For her part Janet Fielding gets to have a lot of fun as Tegan,dressing up in 1920's garb and dancing the Charleston. Sarah Sutton does wonderfully in the duel role of Nyssa and Ann Talbot,who both become pawns in a mystery involving a black orchid from which the episodes name is obviously taken and a missing brother betrothed to Talbot. It's a fun,interesting,colorful and extremely well paced mystery type Doctor Who serial that the viewer will likely keep their eye on to the very end.
Doctor Who-Snakedance
                      In all honesty 'Kinda' is among,if not the most compelling and original story of Peter Davison's years on the program. It was only a year or so later that it was realized that the Mara would be n excellent villain to revisit on the show. Especially considering how different it was in nature compared to other monstrous type villains on Doctor Who. It comes at an interesting time in the show too,following the demise of Adric and the presence of two female companions. Of course this follow up was going to have to be a lot different conceptually than the first story to feature the Mara. But at the same time it would have to follow a similar lead for continuity's sake. Also this would be what I believe is the first appearance of actor Martin Clunes on television.

                 Following her previous experience with the Mara,companion Tegan finds herself having disturbing and often diverting dreams related to her experience. In a coinsidental moment the TARDIS makes a surprise visit to an open air bazaar on the planet Manussa,where this race are preparing a celebration the defeat of the Sumaran empire to which the Mara belonged. Once there Tegan again comes under the Mara's spell and begins to wreck havoc in the bazaar. Meanwhile Lon,the spoiled son of the of a local government official comes under the same spell purely out of boredom. It's now become the doctor and Nyssa's job to convince the skeptical Manussa that the Mara,understood only as a children's myth to them,is a very real and genuine threat to their society. In the the planet,and Tegan are freed from the Mara's influence and Lon meets him comeuppance.

              Unlike 'Kinda' this Mara story is much more of a social satire than an abstraction. In the Manussan bazaar the Mara and the story surrounding it are constantly exploited by the local population. So much so they few even notice Tegan's,or even Lon's possession by it. Not only is it a tale of capitalism's tendency to exploit religious/spiritual beliefs to it's advantage,but also of the social chaos such a dilemma creates. A Manussan antiquarian refuses to acknowledge the Mara's reality at all even in front of his face. And even at a young age Martin Clunes portrays Lon with just the right about unawareness and haughty hubris that the character required. This is what makes him such an easy pawn for the malevolent Mara. It's also a good resolution to Tegan's experience with those Deva Lokan wind chimes in 'Kinda' as well. One of those followup stories worthy of the original by virtue of the differences.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Doctor Who-The Invasion
                                   One of the most unfortunate aspects of the early years of Doctor Who is the fact that so many episodes,particularly those featuring Patrick Troughton as the second doctor,are missing due to BBC's old policy of re-using "unneeded" master tapes of old programs. As a matter of fact,as far as I know only six second doctor era episodes have survived in their entirety.  This story was not only one of the most famous of his era but also had the interesting problem of being largely complete,save for two episodes. Original audio tracks for them existed. In the past many fans and even the BBC to a degree have attempted to revive missing Doctor Who episodes using still photos with original audio or audio tracks only-to varying success. By the the of DVD a new idea came up-the possibility of using the audio track and still photos to created animation for the lost episodes of this serial. And a long serial this is at that at a whopping eight parts,six of which survive fully intact. Parts one and four are the only ones that required animation. The animation by the way is wonderful,attuned almost exactly to the movement of the human body and shot in to match the black & white nature of the original episodes.

                                We start out with the doctor,Jamie and Zoe knocked out of Earth orbit by a rocket launched from the moon. This damages the TARDIS and they begin searching for a friend of the doctors Professor Travis. This not so merry chase leads them to discover that the Professor has left his home in the care of another professor named Watkins and his struggling photographer daughter Isobel. Watkins is said to be involved with an international electronics organization led by the extremely suspicious Tobias Vaughn,who is observed to be acting strangely and rather obsessed with inhuman machines to insulate his world. When the doctor believes he and his companions are captured it turns out they have actually been rescued by the newly formulated UNIT (United Nations Intelligence Task Force) led by the now Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart. 

                              While Isobel and Zoe attempt to track down the doctor via bypassing a computerized answering service and being taken prisoner it is soon revealed that Vaughn has become the puppet of the Cybermen who intend to use his quest for the political monopolization of his company to invade the Earth.  Once the doctor,the Brigadier and the rest of UNIT survey the situation it's again Zoe who comes to the rescue,suggesting perhaps a series of internationally launched missles might create a chain reaction and destroy the cybermen's mother ship if launched properly. Once Tobias Vaughn realizes that his plans are exploding up in his face,he switches to the doctors side and tries to help him defeat the cybermen. They are able to successfully thrawt a control signal the cybermen were attempting to use to destroy humanity,although Vaughn ends up being sacrificed. Due to her capturing the cybermen on her camera Isobel ends up remaining with UNIT as the doctor and his companions go about on their merry way.

                       This is an excellent story,one of the second doctors best actually.  It explores the issue of globalization (a theme which would be consistently return to in the third doctor's era) and the over mechanization of humanity with the shows excellent sense of wit. Especially telling is how Zoe,using her mastery of verbal binary code,with the help of Isobel forces Tobias Vaughn's "stupid answering machine" (as the doctor often calls it) into smoke and flames. There's an overriding theme of "human versus machine" here in addition to Vaughn's selling his soul to the inhuman cybermen. Also this show has an early reference to sexism (the word feminist is actually used here). One important line has the Brigadier suggesting a given mission isn't appropriate for Zoe due to her sex. In the end it's Zoe's knowledge of tactical mathematics that helps greatly in saving the Earth from destruction.  It's a great,fast paced and action packed story with an important overriding message of humanity needing to mobilize it's best forces together to deal with a foe that is very much anti humanistic.
Doctor Who-The Hand Of Fear
                               Sarah Jane Smith,as portrayed by the late Elizabeth Sladen was probably the most popular and well known of all Doctor Who's companions. It was therefore understandable that Sladen worried of being type cast in the role and left after her fourth series (that's counting her debut series with Jon Pertwee's third doctor) and decided to leave the show. By 1976 Doctor Who had become extremely successful with Tom Baker as the title role. And by this time Sladen and Baker had become as much a team as the characters they played,often working in an almost symbiotic fashion with a very close camaraderie. So therefore the exit story for Sarah Jane would have to be one of the best of the series. And this is what they came up with.
                      Story begins as the TARDIS finds itself in a middle of a mining zone that's being heavily blasted. While avoiding the dynamite Sarah Jane is grabbed by a fossilized hand that,unknown to every else begins to take over her mind. It isn't long before she is hijacked herself in a nuclear power plant and some employees also begin to act strangely in a similar manner. After deducing all these events it's learned that an alien calling itself Eldrad that thrives on radiation is attempting to regenerate it's physical body and return to it's home planet. This effects makes whoever Eldrad is inhabiting impervious to radiation as well. Once the regeneration is complete Sarah Jane and the Doctor find themselves in the presence of a very exotic alien female.

                      She coaxes them into having them use the TARDIS to help her return to her home planet to correct a problem which destroyed her people. Once this is done,Eldrad is believed to have been smashed to death by a machine she claimed was to regenerate her fully. It's then revealed Eldrad's true form is an esthetically unpleasant criminal who has little to no regard for any other life and was manipulating events all along. Once the doctor and Sarah Jane are able to destroy the tyrant,who in fact was responsible for the destruction of his people out of a petty act of vengeance they return to the TARDIS where the doctor is summoned back to Gallifrey where,in this case he cannot take Sarah Jane. He drops her back on Earth,in her proper time only not exactly in the right place.

                     This is a very well paced and rather science based concept dealing with mental manipulation and the idea of a life form that feeds off radiation. This results in the scenes where Sarah Jane is possessed by the mind of Eldrad (the famous "ELDRAD MUST LIVE" parts) that include some excellent acting on the part of Sladen. Interestingly as well,in the final scene Sarah fusses at the doctor about wanting to come home. It's not genuine,just her attempt to encourage him to have her do more as an assistant. In the end he has to return her to Earth anyway. So her departure is set up as something of a "be careful what you wish for" type issue. In the end this would not be the last time she would encounter this wandering time lord from Gallifrey.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Doctor Who-The Five Doctors
                  After Peter Davison's second series as the fifth doctor the program arrived at it's 20'th anniversary. To commemorate the BBC decided to create a non serialized 90 minute Doctor Who episode called The Five Doctors. It was to be a splashy even with four of the original doctors appearing together as well as companions Sarah Jane Smith and even Carole Anne Ford reprising her 1963-1964 role as Susan Foreman. There were two small snags from the get go however. William Hartnell,who portrayed the original doctor,died in 1975 so would have to be replaced. And Tom Baker did not wish to appear in the episode so this would have to be worked into the plot as well. The first doctor dilemma was solved by casting Richard Hurndall,who physically resembled Hartnell and using old footage from the unaired 'Shada' episode of Tom Baker and Lalah Ward as Romana. So this turned out to be an exciting event for everyone involved.

                      Story begins in the Eye Of Orion,a running destination of the doctor in the series when he begins experiencing mass memory loss where his past begins to "melt away like ice bergs" in his own words.  We soon see that the second,third and first doctors are being abducted with a time scoop to the death zone of Gallifrey to play "the game of Rassilon",the original time lord whose stories are much fabled. When all the doctors,save the fourth and their respective companions end up fighting off the Daleks,Cybermen and other adversaries set in their way it's learned that the president of the Time Lords is seeking the Rassilons ring of immortality. The story ends with him finding said ring and...discovering that in Rassilon's view immortality is literally a curse. Having met three of his other selves the fifth doctor bids them farewell after all is said and done and goes on about his mission.

                This story actually represents a very positive use of what they call "crowded TARDIS" syndrome. At different points Turlough,Susan Foreman,Sarah Jane and Tegan are all sharing the TARDIS. This culminates in a wonderful scene where Tegan scathes at the first doctor's request she "make herself useful" by getting everyone food and drinks. In the end Turlough helps out in this but it reflects the more modern sensibilities as well as the amount of time the show has been on. The story also showcases the possibility of corruption within the time lords. As one in particular seems to show some of the same megalomaniacal tendencies as many of the doctors adversaries. Some people complained later their were too many doctors,companions and adversaries to make this story coherent. But that was the point actually. This was intended as a rather epic story and worked perfectly in that regard. Not to mention that,for one last time we could see the playful sparing between Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton's doctor as well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Doctor Who-The Three Doctors
                                        One of the qualities that endeared Doctor Who to so many people over the years was the mysterious nature of the lead character and his race the Time Lords. Most knowledge of them was only portioned out in small bits throughout different episodes of the programs original 23 year run. By this time Doctor Who was a decade old. And the show was up to doctor#3 with Jon Pertwee. This was the period where the show began to develop the enormous fan cult it's maintained. So for it's tenth anniversary it was decided that they write a serial that dealt with the program's most unique aspect: the idea of the physical regeneration of the lead character. By this time it had occurred twice. So there would have to be a situation which would reveal more about the time lords and their history to bring personalities such as William Hartnell,Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee into the same program.

                               As this story starts out people suddenly begin to disappear rather at random. It begins directly effecting UNIT HQ as whole sections of the building begin being gobbled up by an unusual energy monster. Turns out the time lords themselves are aware the laws of the physical universe are being very badly manipulated even beyond their powers to control. They come to understand the doctor,with his unconventional take on time,is ideal so they pull the other two previous regenerations out of their time streams to assist the third. Though the second and third doctors vastly different personalities conflict a great deal,they are able to discover by their own involvement that all this confusion is being caused by Omega,an ancient time lord who created the idea of space-time travel. Unfortunately he is now confined in an anti matter universe that has left no more than his will to survive. In the end it's that same will that ends his self imposed imprisonment and puts the physical universe back in balance.

                               Though highly entertaining this story is a very keen science fiction one on the involvement of emotion in the physical universe. The concepts of matter/anti matter are used against the metaphor of the light and darker sides of Omega's personality. The odd couple type relationship between the second and third doctor would be comically extended into their real life characters and become a big part of Patrick Troughton's act in terms of his Doctor Who experience.  Sadly the ailing William Hartnell's participation in this tale was reduced to appearing by video screen for all of ten minutes in the whole serial,dealt with in the story as a defect in his transport pod. But there are other great qualities to make up for that misfortune. In this the Brigadier and Sgt. Benton both get to have the TARDIS experience for the first time and become actual companions to the doctor and Jo Grant,helping...well two doctors in a high stakes adventure.  In this story we first and foremost learn a great deal about the time lords,their history and some of their motivations in this superb multi doctor story.
Doctor Who-The Two Doctors
                       Perhaps because of all the political unpleasantness within the BBC in the mid to late 1980's about Doctor Who there are many excellent and interesting stories on the show,in particular during the Colin Baker years. That may have had something to do with the decision on the part of the production team to due another "multiple doctor" story. In this case it was a duel doctor tale involving Patrick Troughton,who by this time would not be long for the world (he passed in 1987). This episode also gave each doctors companions Peri and Jamie (Frazier Hines reprising his role from the late 1960's) the opportunity to interact. That along with Colin and Patrick's camaraderie in the episode that makes the story interesting.  Not to mention the fact that  this is also one of the darker and more mind bending of the Doctor Who serials that were made. 

                  Actually this begins as a second doctor/Jamie story as they investigate a time travel experiment on a space station,by someone the doctor knows well. Soon the second doctor finds himself at the whim of these experiments,which we soon learn is being fostered by his group of sentient androids called Androgum's. Not only that but the Sontarans have become involved as well. It isn't long before the second doctor and Peri arrive. At first the suspect the Time Lords of being behind all this disorder. But a cat and mouse came involving a cannibalistic Androgum chef named Shockeye leads them to 1980's Spain where the second doctor,now partially an Androgum himself is cruising the area looking to consume their prey,some of it human. Due to the time paradox this begins to effect the sixth doctors personality. After the needless murder of a waiter. While ultimately the two doctors resolve the problem,a lot of strange and questionable things occurred along the way.       

                    As many of the higher ups at the BBC were quick to point out at this time, this Doctor Who serial represented a side of the show that was definitely  not made with children in mind. The story is littered with cannibalism,inhumane violence,degenerate behavior and even the brutally  unnecessary murder of Oscar Botherby,an actor/waiter who honestly was a character I rather liked. Wouldn't have made a bad companion for the doctor actually. Although a story full of dark humor and a lot of commentary who absolute power leads very often to extremely decedent behavior is an important and good story element to this particular serial. Also this has some of the most colorful characters and surprising plot twists of just about any of the classic Doctor Who episodes. Of course being the last time Patrich Troughton would ever appear in the role of the second doctor was almost significant enough.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Doctor Who-The Green Death
                 Perhaps due to the worldwide climate of social unrest in the early/mid 1970's, it's hard for me to not notice some of the more overt sociopolitical content of Jon Pertwee's years on Doctor Who. Also of note was the fact that so much of that time was spent with the character in "exile" on Earth. During 1973 in particular this was particularly evident in particular with the US celebrating it's first Earth Day a few years earlier. Not to mention the subject of ecology and preservation of the planet becoming a topic of conversation. Overall the 70's in general were a time of particularly strong writing on this series. Even if the show was still on it's shoe string budget the quality of the acting and the stories could more than make up for it. That in essence is what this third doctor story represents. Also it's an exit point for the the third doctor's second companion Jo Grant.

              It's a story revolving around Welsh minors dying from a seemingly parasitic green ooze. They are working for a company called Global Chemicals,who are claiming they are reducing pollution and maximizing profit through an unknown knew method. This attracts the attention of the doctor and UNIT. They are able to track down a man thought to be a "wacky hippy leader" basically named Professor Jones. As it turns out he's soon cluing in that what Global Chemicals are doing has to do with these deaths. Turns out their chemical process is causing these giant fly larvae to run amok. Not only are these maggots causing these deaths but the mutation is the result of a super computer that has entirely taken over Global Chemicals. In the end,through clever decision making the entire plot is thwarted. However on Jo's part she's become taken with Professor Jones. She decides to leave UNIT and marry him in the end.

              Needless to say there's a message of environmentalism and globalization based economy written all over this story. On the other hand the characterizations are excellent as well. Professor Jones for example is a very multi-dimensional character-at once heroic and intelligent and on the other end mildly insatiable and stubborn. It's believed because he embodies some of the doctors traits,ones that Jo Grant admires,is why she is so easily attracted to him. In the end this is a story that blends a personal touch with an important message as well. Another important thing in this story is that the monsters are not typical space creatures. They are mutated lifeforms originated 100% on Earth. So the terrestrial nature of the concern and perhaps terror created by this reminds us of the consequences that could possibly be bought on by humanity's short sightedness. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Doctor Who-The Seeds Of Death
                  There is something about Patrick Troughton's era as the time lord from Gallifrey that has a somewhat different air about it than any other later incarnation of the Doctor. He's certainly bares about zero comparison to his predecessor William Hartnell. Not only that but the nature of the serials changed as well. The manner in which the doctor,Jamie and Zoey interact with each other is lot closer to being familial than the curious and distant nature of some of the earlier companions. Also there was a mildly faster pace to the serials during this era. Of course it just cannot be forgotten that Patrick Troughton's tenure as the doctor was largely erased from history. There are continuity gaps in even the best surviving stories from this era as a result. And in a sense,even though this entire six part serial remains intact,it's felt here as well. But it's a highly entertaining and often enlightening story from 1969.

                   When the TARDIS arrives in the 21'st century it finds itself confronted with a society whose sole interest in interstellar travel is confined to a teleportation between Earth and it's moon via a device known as T-Mat. They find themselves in a private museum run by the designer of advanced rocketry systems who soon finds himself again needed as T-Mat no longer functions. Turns out a Martian race known as ice warriors (as seen previously in one of Troughton's "missing" serials),who are intimidating T Mat technicians into helping them with their mission: to invade the Earth by using oxygen depleting seed pods to destroy the population. After a journey in an ion powered rocket to handle the situation on the moon,it's a race against time as almost everyone who deals with the ice warriors are intimidated by them. In the end...well it appears the solution is far less intimidating then the ice warriors approach to their invasion.

                  Although this was likely conceived as an alien invasion story,it does make a point that's very important in our real 21'st century as it was in this imagined one. The humans operating the T-Mat have lost interest in interstellar travel,due primarily to the wonder and economic feasibility of teleportation. And it's only that economic factor that motivates the T-Mat team,along with the doctors prodding,that encourages them to take the advice of the mildly cynical museum curator to embrace his advanced rocket designs. Basically it's a backhanded tale of the neglect of advancement in the space program. The story also points to some of the doctors controversial morality too. While they are literally cold,hostile and very uncaring aliens the ice warriors are,in the stories conclusion,condemned to die en mass "just as the human race would've",as the doctor himself pointed out. Awkward for a member of a civilized species to embrace the eye for an eye philosophy in a  negotiation . In the end though it's a story of all parties having to make difficult choices for survival.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Doctor Who-The Face Of Evil

                                         It's no secret that Tom Baker's seven year stint as the doctor is not only the most famous but had an excellent general run in terms of the quality. At the end of 1976 the show lost a major asset in Elizabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith, often considered to be the best of the classic doctor's companions. So this episode,broadcast very early in 1977 would have to serve as an introduction to a new companion. Up until this time most of the doctors companions had been from Earth,at some point in time. Now it was decided that his new companion would be of a very different sort. Someone with no familiarity with the world of space/time travel and might just be mildly reactive as well. Also her introduction would prove to be a very telling story in the Doctor Who series as well.

                              The new companion in question is Leela,member of a tribe called the Sevateem whom the doctor encounters while landing on a jungle planet by himself in the TARDIS. This tribe seem primitive. However the god they are worshiping leaves them in a near stone age style of life. and this "gods" face is carved in a nearby mountain side ala Mt.Rushmore. And it's...Tom Baker. Realizing that a sentient computer he created designed to guide the two warring tribes,the Sevateem and the Tesh,was the source of all this chaos he and Leela join forces to handle the situation. Turn out the Tesh are quite a bit more advanced. And her using this computer,who believes itself to still be the fourth doctor,for their own purposes. So the doctor now faces a cybernetic version of himself with an identity crisis and and overly eager new companion all at once.

                       In the end this is one of the more intellectually stimulating and less action/adventure type science fiction of all of Doctor Who. And this was a show that always balanced both very well. Here the doctor faces the consequences of his interference in another society and the cultural divisions it's created. Not only that but in facing his own consciousness via the computer being Xoanon he faces the darker side of his own nature. It culminates in one of the most powerful lines in the entire series: "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They try to alter the facts to fit their views instead of altering their views to fit the facts. Which makes it very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering". That sums up the basic theme of the entire serial. Not only that but it's an emotionally simulating way of introducing Leela,a new and somewhat different type of companion.
Doctor Who-The Happiness Patrol
                 I don't think Doctor Who is thought of (in the same way Star Trek is) as a program that has a specific social vision . Because it takes place all across time and space,it basically offers up thought provoking ideas rather than a social/political agenda. On occasion however the show has offered up serials that do make some kind of sociopolitical point in a very science fiction manner. Because so much of Doctor Who is about wit and occasional satire it works very well. Especially when you have someone in the role of the doctor with the comedic talents of Sylvester McCoy. This episode aired about midway through the McCoy's second season as the seventh doctor. Since this episode was aired in the late 80's,it seemed a good story for the show to do at that particular time was one that had to do with an opposite type of dystopian society.

                 In the episode the Doctor and Ace arrive on a human colony in the future where they find a group of candy stripped people known as the Happiness Patrol. Turns out they are a philosophically contradictory group of shock troops lead by self imposed colony leader Ellen A,who as it turns out is making anyone who doesn't act publicly happy (known here as killjoys) "disappear". With the help of a disgusted Ace,the curious doctor and a blues harp player in the shadows named Earl Sigma they discover this is accomplished by highly toxic confections created by an unusual android known as the Candyman. By pointing people in this society in the direction of their own hypocrisies the doctor,Earl and Ace are able to restore a level of cultural balance to the colony.

               Although the character of Ellen A possesses certain personality traits of than current UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher,this story really points a lot more to the concept of joy as more an aspect of free will than a societal directive. The characters are only happy when the hypocrisy of the Happiness Patrol and Ellen A is revealed. There's also the hint that the men of this society are well aware of the enforced emotional classism of the society and are not in approval. McCoy is rousing in this episode,from manipulating his adversaries with his clever wordplay down to playing the spoons with Earl Sigma and at one point singing off key. The spirit of the blues,in playing away ones sorrows is a constant metaphor in the story. There's also an excellent 46 minute bonus where writers and directors of the show debate the sociopolitical messages of Doctor Who as a whole. One of my favorites of the series and one which I see as very underrated and misunderstood.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Doctor Who-The Movie

                By the mid 1990's Doctor Who had been off the air on the BBC for half a decade. A renewed interest in televised sci-fi seemed to indicate a possible re-visitation for the series. Of course the series had left the airwaves with a questionable reputation. After a lot of finagling within the ranks of the BBC a television movie for Doctor Who was developed for the American market via the Fox Network. Although a regeneration would be planned for Sylvester McCoy's seventh doctor,Paul McGann was cast as the new eighth doctor. It was actually a "backdoor pilot" that Fox was hoping to launch into a new series. This never happened on television. But it's still part of Doctor Who history and,interestingly enough,a favorite of mine as well. 

                      Plot goes that Sylvester McCoy's seventh doctor was returning with the remains of The Master to Gallifrey when he is accidental detoured to Earth at the turn of the millennium (the 21'st century) in San Francisco where he's killed by a Chinese youth gang. Again the hospital are baffled by his features. He of course regenerates into Paul McGann's very confused eighth doctor. But soon there's no time for any delirium. The Master has escaped and entered the body of a human (Eric Roberts) and  is trying to harness the very power of the TARDIS known as the Eye Of Beauty. He is assisted by Dr. Grace Holloway,who is convinced by the new doctors sensitive and patient nature to help him thrawt the literal "time explosion" to come.

                      Overall it's a far better film than many believed. In terms of presentation it is a harbinger of the series relaunch on the BBC in 2005. The effects are of a full budget this time around. There is a lot of that mid 90's era post-punk fatalism involved,particularly in some of the dialog. But when the doctor arrives,that sense of wonder and mystery wins the day. Paul McGann portrays his doctor as a more romantic and youthful figure-somewhere between the caricatures of Tom Baker,Peter Davison and...well even a little Samuel Taylor Coleridge I suppose.  Daphne Ashbrook is very good at Grace Holloway despite the sometimes annoying "90isms" of her personal character. It's sad due to political reasons in the network and poor fan reception we didn't see anymore of the eighth doctor on TV. So this is really the best of all there is in his case.
Doctor Who-Kinda
                    Peter Davison's era as the fifth doctor showcased a somewhat different air than earlier seasons. Somewhat more serious minded and more reliant on story lines than quirkiness and wit,many of the stories of this era showcased somewhat more abstract and an adult flavor that took the show far away from it's public perception as a family program written for children. The fifth doctor era embodies many excellent stories. But this particular one is very special to me. Honestly it's one of the most atypically themed episodes of the show I've seen. It's not about megalomaniac monsters or any huge morality play. Written by Christopher Bailey and aired in early 1982, this is one of those stories you have to think about a bit.

                    Here we find the doctor and companions Tegan and Adric  on a planet where members Earth survey team are beginning to disappear. The leader is convinced the natives of the planet,known as the Kinda are non threatening primitives. After Hindle,a mentally unbalanced member of the survey team captures the rest of the survey team,two captured Kinda along with the doctor and Adric it's realized the Kinda are not in fact primitives. In the meantime Tegan is psychically drawn into the world of the villainous snake-like entity known as the Mara,an evil being that resides in one's subconscious and manipulates events to it's favor. Using the Kinda's advanced telepathy and understanding of the unseen world the doctor is forced into a position of handling the situation. 

                 This probably amounts to being the most cerebral of Doctor Who stories every written. There are many references to Eastern philosophies/meditations such a Buddism and Hinduism as well as a heavy dose of the Aboriginal Austrailians  "dream time". This is also one of the classic Doctor Who stories that is so adult,I'd not recommend it for young children. In the character of Hindle especially. There's references to mental illness,perhaps schizophrenia,and even child abuse more directly on the part of the character. Not only that the metaphysical aspect to the story leaves a lot of loose ends open that sort of requires a more thoroughly informed consciousness. Definitely an excellent example of the wondering,sometimes cerebral nature of the fifth doctor.
Doctor Who-Spearhead From Space
                          In all honesty the best of the third doctor story to begin reviewing would be the first one.  This episode introduces Jon Pertwee to the role of the doctor. It also indoctrinated a whole new era for the show. For one it was produced in full color for the very first time. For another it's the only classic Doctor Who episode shot entirely on film. The majority of the other episodes alternated between film for location shooting and video tape for studio footage.  Even though there were six seasons of Doctor Who before it,there's an element to this story that could almost be a pilot in and of itself. It was written by Robert Holmes,who would continue to write many important stories for the series in the years to come.
                  In the most basic of terms this four part serial is a regeneration story. There's a lot of scenes of Pertwee as a mildly dizzy doctor,first wandering woozily out of the TARDIS and ending up being medically examined and,of course confounding the doctors with his unusual anatomy. In the meantime Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) is recruiting a new scientific adviser for UNIT (the doctors task force on Earth). This turns out to be Liz Shaw,portrayed by Caroline John who is very skeptical about the Brigadier's tales of extraterrestrial life and later of her involvement with the doctor,who escapes from the hospital after costuming himself.

              In the meantime objects resembling meteorites began falling and before long a toy factory is been commandeered. Turns out that various government officials,including UNIT soldiers are being replaced by mannaquin like creatures called Autons. Despite the fact the new doctor is both confusing to the Brigadier and being subtly questioned by Liz Shaw,his first mission as an exile on Earth finds him more than capable of accomplishing his missions,gaining new companions (in particularly in Liz Shaw) and establishing his new personality. Jon does an excellent job at portraying the third doctor as transitioning from a confused and freshly regenerated character into the dashing and efficient dandy we came to know.

             As an episode this story has a very similar thread to the pilot episode of the X-Files. Liz Shaw plays up a Dana Scully type role,being recruited into UNIT as very much a scientific skeptic,not to mention her red hair. In addition the situation with the Autons force her to work with her new time lord adviser in order to effectively handle the situation. The episode has a very intelligent mystery based plot. The story has intriguing and rather frightening aliens and this implied commentary on the sometimes seemingly robotic nature of government. With it's well written/directed story and excellent acting on the part of everyone this is among the very best of the early Doctor Who stories and an excellent place to enter into the Jon Pertwee era of the show.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Doctor Who-The War Games
                   This 1969 episode of Doctor Who representing a farewell to two aspects of the show. For one it was the final episode for Patrick Troughton,the second actor to portray the Doctor. Not only that but it was the final episode to be filmed in black & white as well. It also happens to be the longest serial surviving at a whopping 10 parts,encompassing in total about 4 hours and 40 minutes between two DVD's. It should also be noted this is one of only seven second doctor stories to have survived the BBC's policy of taping over old master tapes. This was a problem that effected serials featuring the first two doctors-with whole serials missing and others only existing in parts. Patrick Troughton's era was effected the worse. So the fact that his regeneration episode survived is a blessing.

             Featuring his companions Jamie (from 18'th century Scotland) and Zoe (from 21'st century Earth so it seems)  the doctor and the TARDIS end up in the middle of what seems to be a battlefield trench during WW1. Whilst trying to escape being viewed as spies,the end up in a Roman battle. Same story. Than the American Civil war. Of course by this time we learn that these are taking place on one planet,as human soldiers from different eras are being forced into said "war games" to build up a troop of super soldiers to fight for someone called The War Lord,apparently from the Doctors own planet. Apparently he's been using what basically amount to low quality TARDIS's to bring these troops to this planet. But they along with the Doctor and his companions rebel against this.

              We learn a lot about the doctor in this story,for one "stole" the TARDIS because he felt the other "immensely civilized" time lords as he referred to them were boring. And this mostly because they chose to observe time than to contribute to it with their knowledge. Even after having to give the appearance of betraying his companions to the enemy to accomplish his mission,the doctor is forced to look onto the other time lords for help. In the end he is forced to deal with the consequences of his interference in time along with the War Lord and...well basically we go onto the Jon Pertwee era at this point. Sad in the end that the likable companions Jamie and Zoe are returned to their own time with little memory of their time with the Doctor.

             According to some sources this was a favorite episode of Patrick Troughton himself. It's an episode that asks a lot of moral questions that are similar to those addressed in Star Trek with a law known as The Prime Directive. Basically it points to when the time is right to objectify a given situation. So you'll know when to interfere and when not to.  Even the time lords putting the doctor on trial in the end find this a difficult question to deal with. Also, in seeing how the the soldiers of different wars in Earth history respond to the twists,turns and false betrayals this story offers,there's an implied anti war/violence message. In the story most shows of strong physical aggression don't meet with very positive results. In the end it's an excellent example of the main point of the show,as it showcases the doctors cunning and deduction that really wins all the battles. 

Doctor Who-Dragonfire
                    This is a Doctor Who episode released at a time when the original show was coming under enormous criticism for this reason or that. It still does it seems. Being the first seventh doctor era episode I'm reviewing,as well as being a recent DVD purchase the task seems a bit difficult. Written by Ian Briggs and airing at the end of 1987 (Sylvester McCoy's first season as the doctor) this episode is one of many three part serials,a relative rarity before this point,that would be made during this era of Doctor Who. In a way this made the story tighter and more concise. But there's a lot more here than plot.

                Basically this is a means of transitioning companions,in this case from Mel to Ace. They both actually work together in this episode. It revolves around a character named Kane who is imprisoned on an ice world called Svartos. He is not above buying and even killing those who do his bidding. The doctor and Mel have arrived there only to meet up with the now broken Sabalom Glitz,sort of the Harry Mudd of Doctor Who if you know about Star Trek,who previous appeared in the sixth doctor stor y  Trial Of A Time Lord.  Glitz of course is looking to get his impacted ship back. The story revolves around Kane's attempts to get at the Dragonfire,a source of power held within a benevolent creature whose guarding Kane from escaping. 

             We met Ace here,real name of Dorothy apparently,as a dislocated waitress working for the Space Trading Colony. In the end Kane meets up with his comeuppance as even his allies begin to betray him,culminating in a final grotesque scene where his his face melts off before our eyes. In the end,for reasons mildly undisclosed Mel decides the now again dislocated Ace is more deal to be the doctors companion that herself,as she feels the need somehow to remain with Glitz to try to keep him in line. Overall it's a very clever and surreal story,with this oddly dressed little girl whom we never learn much about who seems to have some unknown play in the events that unfold.

             Despite the fact the episode has a surreal and art David Lynch quality about it,it's rather sad to watch this episode on DVD and then see the depressing bonus features. Particularly saddening is one entitled "The Doctor's Strange Love",made by several rather mean spirited comedians who do nothing but ruthlessly make fun of the serial the viewer was just watching. Even the making of featurette "Fire And Ice',while providing many insights from the actors is filled with vitriolic mockery of the entire story,mainly it's association with the 1980's. In a way this actually helps us to understand the cultural schism's of the time that may have resulted in episodes like this being given such a harshly bad reputation. Taken out of the maelstrom of the era, this is an excellent Doctor Who episode and a good introduction to one of the more compelling companions in Ace.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Doctor Who- The Twin Dilemma
                    Considering that the 1980's was considered an unhappy time for Doctor Who,you might be wondering why I am reviewing a Colin Baker episode so early in the game of doing this. For one,a lot of ones like or dislike of this will depend on how they view the 1980's in general.  This is of course a regeneration story,the only regeneration based serial done before the official end of a season,in this case 1984,so audiences could acclimate to the sixth doctor. And that was important. Colin Baker's doctor embodied a lot of the characters darker qualities. The arrogance,instability and ruthless characteristics not seen to such a degree since William Hartnell's first doctor were on full display in his incarnation. As well as a rainbow patchwork coat which...I personally adore.

                  This is the story of two genius alien twins Romulus and Remus (whose study chamber is a colorful representation of an early 80's video game basically)  who are betrayed by a former family friend into working for a group of extraterrestrial slugs  to move certain planets in their system into alignment. In the end it's basically just their leader's plot to use a series of unhatched gastropods versions of his race to conquer the universe. In the end the doctor does triumph over the plot through his usual clever deduction. Though he is forced to make some hard hitting shows of force to emphasize his positions along 
the way.

                Now I enjoy this story. I find the plot was set up quite well. What might cause this episode such controversy is,during his regeneration crisis at the start of the story,how much the writers put emphasis on the sixth doctor's aggressive characteristics. In one scene he even has a breakdown where he nearly strangles companion Peri (played by Nicola Bryant). This culminates in him believing this regeneration to have failed. By winning out over the villainous gastropods in the end,this ends up being this incarnation of the doctors "heroes journey" as it were. If he'd strangled Peri and exiled himself after,that might have in fact been the end of Doctor Who as the character would've become instantly morally bankrupt. The fact the episodes plot offered a source of redemption is what makes this story for me.