Thursday, June 21, 2012

Caroline John: 1940-2012
                             I just heard the news a few moments ago that actress Caroline John passed away on June 5'th,2012 at the age of 72. To Doctor Who admirers she is known for the late Jon Pertwee's third doctor's assistant Liz Shaw. Shaw was immeasurable in using her scientific knowledge and curiosity to assist the doctor in his encounters with the Autons,the Silurians and even in a parallel universe version of herself wound up doing the same thing. Now that's devotion isn't it?
                    Training at the Central School of Speech And Drama, John worked for many years in the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theater before getting the role of Shaw in 'Doctor Who'. This was a role she only played for the short eighth season of of the show. She did however appear as Shaw in many 'Who'-related BBC Radio broadcasts over the years. She was even married to Geoffrey Beevers who portrayed The Master in the 1981 'Doctor Who' serial 'The Keepers Of Trakken".
                      Personally Liz Shaw is one of my favorite companions of the doctor on the classic series next to the also late Elizabeth Sladen's Sarah-Jane Smith. Caroline John portrayed Shaw as a very capable scientist who quickly learned to understand the doctors unusual theories  and therefore was able to be of genuine assistance to him in very touch situations.  John was an talented actress who portrayed Shaw with a complex personality and unspoken understanding of worlds beyond our own. She will be missed on my end and I wish my most heartfelt condolences to her family and closest friends.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

           Since Doctor Who first premiered in 1963,he has always been accompanied by one or more assistants. They are often referred to as companions. Their main function in the show is to serve as a human presence to ask some of the questions that audience might have of him or a situation in any given story. Each of them are as important to the story as the doctor himself. And each one has their own unique qualities. During the past year or so Character Options as been issuing various Doctor Who paraphernalia,including this exactingly crafted set of action figures represented every regeneration of the doctor this far. They've also done gift sets featuring many adversaries from Daleks,Cybermen to autons.  However very few companions from the classic series are represented by this figures. Noted is that there's some overlap in companions between many of the doctors so I'll take that into account as well. Here's a possible suggestion list for a possible 'Doctor's Companion Gift Sets":

FIRST DOCTOR SET: Including Susan Foreman,Barbara Wright,Ian Chesterton,Vicki,Steven Taylor and Dodo Chaplet 
SECOND DOCTOR SET: Including Polly,Ben Jackson,Jamie McCrimmon,Victoria Waterfield and Zoe Hariet
THIRD DOCTOR SET: Including Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart,Liz Shaw,Jo Grant,Sergeant Benton,Mike Yates
FOURTH DOCTOR SET: Including Sarah Jane Smith,Harry Sullivan,Leela,K-9,Romana,Romana II
FIFTH DOCTOR SET: Including Adric,Nyssa,Tegan Jovanka,Vislor Turlough and Kamelion
THE LAST THREE DOCTORS SET: Including Peri Brown,Melanie Bush,Ace and Grace Holloway
*Also note in the case of the sixth,seventh and eighth doctors I merged their companions into one single set due to the fact they either had one or very few.

     Since the re-launch era doctors have their companions very well represented in terms of paraphernalia I decided to stick tot he classic doctors. Thank you!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Doctor Who-The Trial Of A Time Lord
                       By this point the fate of Doctor Who in the 1980's had been sealed. The program was cancelled by the BBC in 1985,cancelling a second series staring Colin Baker in the title role. So the controversy over the aggressive nature of the new doctor,censorship  and even the suitability of Colin Baker himself resulted in this taking a whole year  to emerge. Actually representing an entire series,this is not actually one long serial but in fact four separate serials with a wraparound story. That wraparound was the "trial" itself. Within the cannon of the show,the trial was by the time lords over the doctors meddling in the affairs of other life forms. In reality Doctor Who itself was on trial on just about every conceivable level. So this big,sweeping epic was created for what turned out to by Colin Baker's swansong as the doctor.

                        The doctor finds his TARDIS whisked out of time for him to stand trial before the time lords. The prosecution is someone addressing themselves as the Valeyard. And from the beginning all of his evidence against the doctor is entirely circumstantial.  In his first piece of evidence the doctor and Peri are on Ravalox,which turns out to be Earth after a cosmic shift which rendered it nearly uninhabitable and vulnerable to con artists such as Sadalom Glitz,who makes his debut on the series in this episode. With the time lords still not quite convinced ,another story is presented where on Thoros Beta the doctor seems to ally himself with his enemy Sil whose using the planets population for biological experimentation. The doctor is lead to believe this resulted in the death of his companion Peri.

                          It is learned through his own revelation that the Valeyard is actually something of the doctors skin of evil created in between his final two incarnations who wishes to see his good side admit the evil within him.  The most damaging evidence is yet to come as the doctor and new companion Mel is depicted in some future time on a 30'th century Earth passenger liner where the peace is being shattered by mad scientists creating a human/plant hybrid who have the potential to cause the extinction of humanity. The doctors destruction of this hybrid race is seemed to be grounds for removal of his remaining regenerations. At this point another old adversary The Master is revealed to be a part of the scheme with the Valeyard. After going through a huge elaborate deception within the time vortex itself,the doctor (with the help of Mel's testifying and Sabalom Glitz's assistance) manages to defeat the Valeyard and return on his missions in the TARDIS with Mel in tow.

                           Each of the stories in these series presents extremely complicated scenarios. Especially when the doctor learns that for all intents and purposes it is himself whose acting as his own prosecution. The doctors behaviors involving both Peri,who the timelords claim was actually married off rather than killed on Thoros Beta as well as his actions on the space liner do in fact indicate the sort of callous behavior that might've led to the creation of the villainous Valeyard sometime later. This was probably a reflection by the serial's writers and producers that Colin Baker's portrayal of the doctor represented some of the characters darker traits. It's also perhaps hinted here that those darker elements of the Valeyard might've been responsible for the sixth doctor's difficult and unstable personality all along. So while opening a new door for the show,as well as being an exit point for companion Peri and an entrance for new companion Mel,played by Bonnie Langford this would be the end for Colin Baker on the show. He was fired shortly after this production,the only doctor ever to have this done to them. So without any hesitation,a new actor to play the seventh doctor would have to be chosen.
Doctor Who-Timelash
                Having almost completed the first series of Colin Baker's tenure as the doctor,endless banter regarding the programs unsuitability for family audiences (in particular in with it's violence) caused a great deal of scuffle within the staff of Doctor Who itself to the point where the PR crusades of producer John Nathan-Turner and different media justifications became almost more significant than the show surrounding them. It was not the easiest time to produce the show. And later on,in a time when the production of a TV show or music became more important than the creative ideas behind it,it would result in a long period of criticism leveled against the show. However when taking cultural standards aside,there was something different to be found.

                  The doctor and Peri find themselves thrown into a time corridor to a planet called Karfel,where the third doctor and than companion Jo Grant had visited in an earlier time. By the time the sixth incarnation of the doctor and Peri arrive they find a corrupt and oppressive society run by a dictator calling himself the Borad,whose face no one ever sees. A rebellion is ensuing because those who don't cooperate with the system are thrown into a one way time machine called a "time lash". Out of the people of Karfel's general trust for the doctor,he manages to unite both sides in helping him. On the other side of the timelash the doctor and Peri find themselves in 19'th century Scotland where they meet a student named Herbet who worms his way into their mission.

                All of this calls the doctor to the attention of the Borad once Peri is kidnapped and menaced by an unknown monster. Well unknown to her. The doctor knows it well. And so does the Borad. The face the Karfel see as their leader is one of his androids as the actual Borad is a mutant hybrid between a human and a reptilian creature from the same world. His intention is to intentionally create the same scenario to make Peri physically mutated as he is. In the end the Doctor uses crystals commandeered from the timelash to deceive the Borad,who uses time as a weapon out of his fear of being scene. In the end Herbert is the hero and remains behind after the doctor explains to Pert that "Herbet" will one day become HG Wells. And that this might be the very source material for all science fiction.

              Despite the naysayers among even the most ardent Doctor Who fans,I feel this is one of the most compelling and enjoyable of Colin Baker's Doctor Who episodes. The pace clips along nicely,the story is well assembled and the characters have this flamboyant in-your-face attitude. There's even an excellent message here for families in the character of the Borad about how low self esteem is at the core of many dictatorships. The crystalline set for the interior of the timelash,although made inexpensively is one of the more clever effects used for Doctor Who in it's original run. The idea of HG Wells' 'The Time Machine' being based on a true story was a clever one. And having him an active participant in this story was a great one. This is an example of something where it's important to let your own opinion guide you and see a great story for what it is.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Doctor Who-The Mark Of The Rani
                           Deciding that it was time to do a Doctor Who story that moved away from some of the intense and often sadistic plot lines of the precious couple of Doctor Who serials,it was decided at this point to do something of an historical episode. Or rather an historical setting. Considering what was happening during this time with miner strikes in England,the setting chosen was during the Luddite Revolution of 19'th century England,at which time George Stephenson would begin the industrial revolution in the UK. This invited the opportunity to introduce a new villain to the program. With The Master,Rassilon,Romana and Omega as the hugely significant time lords portrayed in the program another was introduced to another,another "time lady" in the persona of the Rani.

                            The Rani,a time lady exiled from Gallifrey for her unethical practices is on Earth during key periods of it's development using the planet as a template for her scientific experiments. Upon his accidental arrival with Peri during the Luddite revolution he is surprised to find the Luddites acting far more aggressively than expected. And suddenly George Stephenson's presence is suddenly clouded by secrecy. It isn't long before the doctor is captured by the Rani only to find that the Master has been aggravating events,even to the displeasure of the unethical Rani. Using a group of engineered maggots to heighten intelligence but depriving sleep,hostility runs amok until the doctor manages to reprogram the Rani's TARDIS while her and the Master are still inside,staving them off and keeping human history intact for the moment.

                            As it turns out the Rani is an excellent protagonist. Not so much a villain as an unfeeling scientist,she has a complex and domineering personality at odds both with the doctors moralizing and the Master's sadism and megalomania. She has no interest in power or ambition. She just sees no value in life beyond her own outside what they can contribute to her scientific interests. This actually gives a lot more weight to the moral compass of the doctor. And particularly at a time when it seemed the sixth doctor might represent a weakening of that compass with his sometimes confrontation manner,this episode showcased that aspect of his personality was in fact alive and well. It was clear even by the end of this episode,with being such as fascinating character, that the Rani would make another appearance in the show
Doctor Who-Vengeance On Varos
                             During the first months of Colin Baker's tenure as the Doctor various people in the BBC and the British press began complaining very heavily that Doctor Who had become too violent for "a children's program". Not everyone on the staff of the program agreed with this.  After all,labels aside this was science fiction they were dealing with,not drama entirely based in reality. Luckily since the staff of John Nathan-Turner were actually pretty creative in terms of being able to address the shows public reputation from within,they were able to address these issues within the show in this particular serial. Nothing about the show would ever be smooth sailing during Baker's period on the program. And that effect the writing of the show in ways both literal and figurative.

                              After the TARDIS becomes stuck in limbo between time and space the Doctors only recourse is to travel to the planet Varos as a source for Zeiton-7,the only substance that can restore the functions of the TARDIS. Once there they find themselves in the middle of a power struggle between a ruling body who use sadistic video violence that apply to prisoners,guards and leaders alike. Subjected to every illusion and form of mental and physical manipulation after another,turns out this is all masterminded by an outsider named Sil,who is trying to manipulate the supply of Zeiton-7 and is using this fear based control of local media as a cover. When Peri is subjected to cell mutating experiments,the Doctor and a victimized political leader are able to overthrow the corrupt government and in favor for helping their society is given the needed Zeiton 7.

                              There's are very forward thinking concepts bought to the fore in this serial. One is the prediction  of reality television about a decade before it even began. The Fear Factor-To-The-Extreme type televised violence portrayed in this show also served as a slap in the face to those who felt the shows violence had gotten out of hand. People are shown being tortured,thrown into acid baths and subjected to DNA altering experiments. It also has another concept involved of how the horror of violence can be diminished when presented as entertainment. In particular when it's used to control the legitimate media. The character of Sil is one of the most darkly comic villain in Doctor Who,with his distinctive laugh and vulgar manner.  Overall one of the most telling and best produced episodes of Doctor Who.

Friday, June 8, 2012

                     Just wishing a very happy birthday  to this actor who portrayed Doctor Who's sixth incarnation from 1984 to 1986. He will be turning 69 today. Even though his version of the doctor was the most controversial and generally least popular,he has a small base of people who appreciate his contributions to the show and I am happy to say I include myself among them. His enormous personality and swaggering attitude made him quite a bit different from anyone else who came to play the character.

             Mr.Baker studied acting at the London Academy Of Music And Dramatic Arts after studying to become a solicitor.  Know throughout the BBC television world for playing different sci-fi villains,including Commander Maxil on Doctor Who Baker actually got the role when Peter Davison stepped down from the role,making him the first actor to portray the doctor who'd been in the program as another character. During this time his son died of SIDS and since than Baker has become an advocate of research into the disorder.
           Despite the facts BBC politics of the time led the show to be cancelled during his tenure and him being the only actor to be fired from his role as the Doctor,Baker is very devoted to the Whoniverse and his fans. He was voted in by popular demand as the president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. He also was a participant in a novelty music video called 'Doctor In Distress' made in 1985,a parody of the 'We Are The World' era benefit singles designed to bring fans back to the show in it's darkest hour. Known for his good nature and wit,Colin has turned out a major asset to Doctor Who's success and I hope he,his friends and family have a great birthday with him!

The Doctor Who Appreciation Society
"Doctor In Distress" Music Video

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Doctors
                          One of my favorite features of Doctor who is one of it's most unique. That's the ability of the lead character to regenerate their physical bodies when near death. This allowed for a multitude of different actors playing the role. Up until now there have been eleven. Within the continuity of the show most of the doctors who regenerated did so at least within understandable or noble circumstances. Interesting fact is there was only one doctor who didn't meet the criterion. That was the second doctor portrayed by Patrick Troughton. This doctor was forced to regenerate and exiled to Earth under rather controversial circumstances,mainly as a example from the time lords regarding his interference in the laws of time. However the laws of actual time necessitated a new actor to play the third doctor. That was John Pertwee. In 1973 the two incarnations met got a chance to physically interact with each other in a serial entitled 'The Three Doctors' for the shows ten year anniversary.

                          Off screen Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton were such close friends they were able to playfully spare at each other like brothers. The same relationship was played up in their character. However the sparing was of a more genuine nature. In the "Whoniverse" one might wonder why this is. After all,these are merely physically different versions of the same general character. It's actually probably a simple matter with a little amateur psychology. Imagine meeting yourself in the past and finding qualities you didn't like in yourself. That was the situation faced by these two doctors. The third doctor was a debonair and mildly pompous scientist who worked through his fears and concerns by means of his love for gadgetry and action. The second doctor misdirected his adversaries with his awkward jumpiness. 

                           One major factor in the petty bickering between these two doctors may have been some time lord equivalent of sour grapes. The third doctor had managed to survive in exile on Earth and make the best of a bad situation. The second doctor had to suffer the humiliation of being forced to regenerate against his will. So it's likely the third and more daring doctor might've looked upon his second incarnation as someone of little gumption and quality. The important part of their relationship is that they managed to harness their differences in a way that allowed them to accomplish their important mission. It's easy to know who your friends or enemies are when your differences are clearly spelled out. But when you happen to be the same person with a different body? Nothing is at all as clear all of a sudden. Since none of us have had to deal with that,hard to know how we'd react. But that lack of clarity between ones duel nature is at the core of the awkward relationship between the two individual doctors.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Doctor Who-Warriors Of The Deep
                               Despite it's very limited effects budget over the years, Doctor Who has made up for it's very real fiscal limitations with inventive,expansive story lines and a healthy dose of thoughtful wit and humor. But as with anything,nobodies perfect. And sometimes the flaws in the production of any sort of entertainment can get the best of it and cause a wonderful idea to turn into a logistical fiasco. During an era where,from what I've seen,Doctor Who could do very little wrong this is an example of a fifth doctor era story that succumb to some of the production flaws that effected the very nature of the show itself. And that is very much a pity because the overall story had so many elements that could've made it one of this era's finest episodes of the show. One of them among others were the return and collaboration of two of the programs most provocative creatures: the Silurians and the Sea Devils.

                      The doctor,Teagan and Turlough arrive on board a patrol vessel in the late 21'st century,during which time two super powers are still vying for control of nuclear weapons and the domination of the Earth via outer space. And they aren't above using mind control to bring about their goals either. The only reason the doctor is there in the first place is to warn them of the presence of the Silurians who,as it turns out our reviving their last surviving brethren the Sea Devils. As it turns out they do so not to destroy humanity but to retake the Earth as humanity destroys itself. Considering the fact the doctors companions are taken prisoner and mishandled,he actually sides with the Silurians. In the end,many humans and Silurians are killed in the ensuing struggle for planetary supremacy. And nothing is truly accomplished.

                       In the end this Doctor Who serial isn't a very happy one at all. It's positive qualities are that it points to the futility of war,within a special especially.  The Silurians and Sea Devils are portrayed as civilized and disdainful of war and hatred. They view humans as needlessly aggressive and not different from their primate brethren. This is why the doctor sings to their tune here. The Silurians even agree to allow he and his companions to go once their mission is accomplished. So with such an excellent concept why is this one of the programs weaker serials? For one,the best part comes in the last 15 minutes of the final part. The direction is rife with many of the cliches Doctor Who haters often relish in harping on. Among them are nearly the whole midpoint of the serial featuring mostly people running up and down corridors carrying weapons.  The execution of the excellent concept makes the ending serial extremely dull. And that isn't something one often associates with Doctor Who.

Who Pride
 The Saga Of Russell T Davies & John Nathan Turner
                     Since it's LGBTQ Pride month in the United States this year I wanted to take a little break from my Doctor Who serial reviews to discuss the programs involvement in this issue,both directly and indirectly. Over the years Doctor Who has done stories on many sociopolitical and cultural topics. As with most thoughtful science fiction,it's tended to hint rather broadly at these topics rather than make any direct commentary. The old "it's happening on another planet" adage adopted by Gene Roddenberry. In serials of the show such as The Happiness Patrol the topic of same sex domestic partnerships was only hinted at very broadly. But that goes into the subjects of this blog. It's the story of two men. One was John Nathan Turner,whose ten year stint as producer of the program had him involved with said serial and Russell T. Davies,who has been involved in the relaunched version of the show.

                     Since I am far more familiar at this point with the classic Doctor Who series I'll start out by talking about John-Nathan Turner a bit. Most criticism of him is based more on how he handled the show on the promotional level than anything else. But it can't be denied that there was a definite change in the shows overall image during his era. The theme was altered to showcase a very theatrical star burst sequence. Also the coloring of the costumes and the sets became more vibrant and less Gothic,culminating in the controversial wardrobe for Colin Baker's sixth doctor. Whether he knew it or not,there were strong elements of the 1980's androgynous fashion sense in Nathan-Turner's approach to at least the look of Doctor Who. But except for perhaps broad hints he kept his social politics largely to himself.

                     Seems history is is reading Russell T. Davies a bit differently. From his involvement in 'Queer As Folk' to his openly homosexual orientation Davies has been an important contributor to this modernized Doctor Who that I know very little about at the present time. Even still all one has to do is go Youtube to find out the sort of homophobic rantings that are lobbed at "RTD" as he's called. Luckily there's a bell shaped curve here,as there seems to be an anti group on this. While some may not be keen on Davies' sexual orientation there is little heavy criticism for the newly relaunched version of Doctor Who that he has spearheaded. Especially in the case of the spin off show 'Torchwood' where an openly bisexual character is discussed and showcased.

                     Despite only occasionally broadly hinting at the issue of sexual orientation,unless one counts the two lesbian lovers who were companions to the eighth doctor in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strips,I never got the impression the Doctor Who staff were given to many prejudices. There was always the idea of an open minded moral code in the program. But more importantly was the idea that humanities rather petty quarrels were actually unimportant when compared to the type of cultural holocaust that could be incurred by Daleks,Cybermen,The Master or even misunderstood lifeforms such as the Silurians. In it's references to Earth Doctor Who often speaks to humanities obsession with opposite types of legends.

                   These legends have affected the public perception of both Russell T. Davies and the late John Nathan-Turner,let me tell you. Both people are as linked with the world of Doctor Who as any Tom Baker or David Tennant or Elizabeth Sladen. On the other hand it's hard to get away from some hidden (and not so hidden) homophobia lurking behind some of the vitriol aimed at Davies and Nathan-Turner over the years. True-some of their physical contributions to the show were controversial and bare up to some scrutiny in that regard. But is it really fair,especially in the spirit of Doctor Who's moral code,to bring their personal lives into their involvement in the show? A question worth posing I think.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Doctor Who-The Sea Devils
                                           During Jon Pertwee's second season playing the intrepid time lord he was introduced to the presence of the only other time lord he'd thus far encountered on Earth. He called himself The Master and was played first by Robert Delgado. This time lord had a TARDIS and was motivated similarly as the doctor. Difference was the Master wished to turn events in his favor only and wasn't above committing criminal acts to do so. This gave the doctor a complex and manipulative villain who shared his intelligence and abilities. Sort of the Professor Moriarty to the doctors Sherlock Holmes as it were. This was actually sort of a conclusion to a loosely assembled series of stories in the programs eighth season that revolved around the two opposite time lords.

                                  While visiting the Master in a maximum security island prison,it's learned that he's actually pulled the wool not only over the doctor and Jo Grant's eye but the prison staff itself. Meanwhile a series of ships are being mysteriously sunk. And the only connection each time remains the wily Master. Surviving crew members of these ships soon begin to talk of creatures from the ocean being involved. By the time the doctor has applied his usual scientific and physical actions to investigate he discovers a race of aquatic lifeforms who were present on Earth during the same time as the Silurians. Making the same argument on sharing the Earth with humans, the Master tries to convince the doctor and the Sea Devils that humans aren't to be trusted. 

                                 It turns out the Master's words are unintentionally headed an over zealous Royal Navy plans to handle the situation,in the absence of UNIT,with a nuclear based retaliatory strike. For a time the doctor and the Master are again forced to put their heads together to find another answer out of the situation. While the discover one that seems to work,in this case by "reversing the power of the neutron flow" yet again,the ensuing explosion almost ends with both time lords getting killed without much hope of regeneration. At the same time,on a number of levels,it does appear that from beginning to end the Master had been manipulating both the Navy and Sea Devils into some cat and mouse game that could at some future time resume.

                              While not as broadly based a story as 'The Silurians',this story mainly provides a catalyst by which the two opposing time lords could match wits. In one scene the doctor and the master actually engage in a rapier dueling match. This is no mere good versus evil story. In fact the Master is not 100% villainous and emerges more as an opportunistic manipulator. Most of his actions are based purely in his egoist attitudes that humanity are hopelessly inferior. And their impulsive actions,especially in this serial often prove him right in the short term. But the Masters dim and cynical view of other races aside from his own is matched by the doctors almost eternal hope and optimism. This boils down to a pitch battle between this two disparate egos. And the "monsters" involved,the Sea Devils are presented here mainly as being caught in the middle.
Doctor Who-Planet Of The Spiders
                                   It was probably a little hard to get away from the fact that Jon Pertwee's years on Doctor Who did a considerable amount to popularize the show in England. It would be a different story in America. But all good things always had to come to an end. And to avoid the problem of typecasting this would end up being Jon Pertwee's final story for the show and the serial in which he regenerated.  This also was a turning point in the relationship between the relatively new arrival of companion Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) and her involvement wit the third doctor,which could be sometimes awkward considering his close,almost paternal relationship with Jo Grant. But while we would be losing one incarnation of the doctor,the next would be gaining a relationship with Sarah Jane that would help define every doctor/companion relationship to come. 

                  UNIT member Mike Yates has taken up with a Tibetan meditation retreat while the doctor has been investigating Clairvoyance. When a test subject dies tragically,the doctor is able to use the TARDIS to trace the source of the death to a blue crystal found on the planet Metabelis III. He and Sarah Jane head  to the monastery to tell the deputy abbot about this. He seems unusually comfortable. In the meantime one group at the monastery have been taken over by a group of spiders who,at one time had discovered the secret abilities of these blues crystals. And since the were bought to Metabelis III by accident,they want to gain power. 

         It's than revealed that the deputy abbot is an elderly time lord himself and former teacher of the doctor.  And while about to regenerate he allows the doctor to return to defeat the spiders. Despite the spider queens nearly successful attempt to mentally manipulate the doctors own personal fears,he manages to defeat them at the sacrifice of his own life due to radiation over exposure. But the defeat of the maniacal meditation group is sealed by Tommy,a seemingly slow witted maintenance engineer at the monastery whose mental abilities have been increased by the crystals. Even so the third doctor succumbs to the radiation and regenerates into the fourth.

               This is one of the most complex,involving and telling of the third doctors episodes. He's all over the place in this tale,from meditation monestaries to Medabelis III to UNIT HQ. Gone forever is his exile on Earth. We also learn about the doctors past,not just with the addition of another time lord about the spiders attempts to play on his fears of loosing control over the situation. This also dealt with another topic not at this time faced in Doctor Who: the plight of the mentally challenged. The character of Tommy is a kindly and sympathetic one,who has a strong sense of friendship towards Sarah Jane in particular. He is gifted by the blue Medabelan crystal the ultimate reward of having a somewhat above average IQ,the other extreme from where he started. But his benevolent nature remains intact. The topic is handled in a wonderful way and with a character one would always root for. With the third doctor now regenerated too,the Tom Baker era of Doctor Who is about to begin.