Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Doctor Who-Underworld

                          The TARDIS is pulled into a gigantic spiral nebula which is pulling the surround space into its gravitational force. They materialize on a spaceship belonging to the Minyans,a race whom were the last the time lords interfered in the society of-resulting in the annihilation of their people in a nuclear war. The ship,commanded by a man named Jackson along with his compatriots Ofre,Tara and Herrick at first mistrust the time lord and Leela-seeing as they still view them as god like figures. The crew are looking for another vessel called the P7E,containing race banks with the last remaining genetic material of their species. They are pulled into the nebula as K-9 helps to stabalize the ship enough to arrive on the newly forming planet being created within. Crashing through the soft surface,the ship finds itself in a series of underground caverns.

                      Once there,an enormous avalanche overwhelms the crew of the ship,the doctor and Leela. They manage to rescue one inhabitant of this planetoid named Idas who paints for them a very grim picture. He and his humanoid companions are mining the ore used for fuel here for the seers of a great Oracle who is looking after them from a "metal citadel" that the doctor realizes is the P7E. And that the oracle,likely the computer originally built to guard the race banks has malfunctioned and taken over the lives of the descendants of the ships crew. Herrick remains behind and believes he has convinced the robot guards of the oracle of his crews quest for the race banks. When they are given to him, the doctor has discovered the actual banks in the oracle chamber,while the ones given to Herrick turn out to be bombs. The doctor makes the switch,brings along the descendants of the crew of P7E on board the ship with them and are successful in escaping the ensuing explosion of the oracle before leaving with Leela and K-9 in the TARDIS.

                       The quality that makes this story so interesting is that the doctor is essentially assisting a group of people who, while still seeing him as a god like figure, have adapted time lord technology such as regenerative systems into their world. While the doctor and Leela are as usual doing all they can to assist the crew in their quest for their race banks, they have a little help from within. That would be the rather daring and courageous John Herrick. High strung and at first very distrustful of the doctor, he is perfectly willing to sacrifice his life to the protectors of the oracle in order to save his people with the doctors help. The special effects,especially in the first part are actually quite effective for their time as well. It also gives us another glimmer into the consequences of historical interference on the part of the time lords and why they became content to observe time rather than become involved in the events within it.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Doctor Who-The Invisible Enemy

                         Upon redoing the TARDIS main control area, the doctor and Leela find themselves in the year 8000 AD,in the 50th century at a time when humans are heavily exploring their cosmos. The TARDIS is caught up in an unusual energy maelstrom, at which time the doctor and Leela are both struck by an energy beam intimidating from the strange phenomenon into the TARDIS controls. Leela is unaffected. However the doctor has some begins to have unusual symptoms upon landing in a space craft en route for a base on Titan, a moon of Saturn. Upon arriving there the crew,one by one have become infected with a strange virus  that overwhelms the doctor,who all the other people on the ship who have been compromised refer to as "the nucleus". While he attempts to fight off the infection,he and Leela are take to the Bi-Al Foundation Medical Fascility built within an asteroid. There the doctor is treated by Professor Marius,the local expert in extraterrestrial diseases along with his robot dog K-9. 

                With the help of K-9, the doctor requests that Marius use a cloning technique so that miniaturized duplicates of himself and Leela,though with short lifespans, could enter into the doctors infected body  and mind to stop the nucleus from spreading further. While this process is ultimately successful,Marius himself is affected by the nucleus during this time and attempts to send the other compromised staff around him be cloned to enter the doctors body to pursue his clone and stop the nucleus. While the miniaturized clone doctor discovers the sentient macro virus Nucleus and fails to reason with it, it turns out the cells of Leela's body are in fact resistant to the macro virus. While they use this serum to cure Marius,they still have to get it to Titan before the the virus spreads through that base. Upon arriving there,again with the help of K-9, they are able to stop the Nucleus,enlarged by Marius in his cloning machine when he was compromised to blow up the now empty base on Titan with the virus inside. The swarm which originally attacked the doctor is destroyed in the process. When they return to Bi Al to return K-9 Marius asks, as he's returning to Earth if the doctor and Leela can take K-9 with them. And they accept.

               The concept of a macro virus that could effectively influence the mid of a human as a prelude to an invasion was an excellent science fiction concept for the era. Of course this story is important for two reasons. Since the doctor was unconscious in the care of Marius for half of this story, much of the problem solving element goes over to the cybernetic android dog K-9. He proves so popular,especially with Leela, that the doctor even reluctantly agrees to Marius's requests to look after K-9 in his absence. Another crucial thrust of the story is that difference in approach between Leela and the doctor. Interestingly enough Leela's claims that the macro virus created by the Nucleus should be utterly destroyed is as much based in logic as anything the doctor could've thought up. Even though the doctor is adamantly resistant to violence of any sort, he actually takes Leela's advice on this occasion and destroys the Nucleus and its accompanying swarm.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Doctor Who-The Invasion Of Time

                          Something is not quite right on the TARDIS. K-9 and a very confused Leela are awaiting the doctors return from private negotiations negotiations an unknown alien race. Upon returning,he is openly hostile to Leela and returns the TARDIS to his home world of Galifrey into the Citadel-home to the time lords themselves. Upon arrival he declares his intention to accept the position of Lord President of the time lords from Chancellor Borusa following the demise of Chancellor Goth. Demanding to use the presidential chamber and have it covered with a lead lining Borusa,who once mentored the doctor is  suspicious of the doctors irascible behavior. This becomes especially apparent when,upon being inducted into the matrix of Rassilon,from which all time lord knowledge derives he first collapses,banishes Leela to the wastelands of that planet and than announces that he has "sold out" the time lords to a race of telepathic aliens called the Vardans.

                     Of course all of this is a pretense. The doctor set up the lead lined presidential room to inform Borusa that the Vardans are attempting to overtake Galifrey. And because they could read thoughts of even a time lord,he had to pretend to be working against his people to protect them from a possible invasion. Leela meets up with a time lady named Rodan in charge of investigated outside spacecraft who escapes the Citadel with her while time lord Andred,who is also on the side of his people and against the new invading Vardans,stays behind to protect the Citadel. Outside Leela and Rodan encounter a race of exiled time lords led by Nesbin-willing to help the time lords fight against their invading force even if it means violating the time lord's pacifism. While they are successful, with the assistance of K-9 to his his sensors to detect the coordinates of the Vardan home world to repel the invaders,all changes when they learn this was only a front for the real invaders the Sontarans-led by the highly aggressive Commandor Stor.

                    Stor was hoping to again access through the doctor as Lord President to the rod,matrix and great key of Rassilon in order to gain all access to the knowledge of the time lords and gain access to space/time travel by taking over their Citadel and society. The doctor,Leela,Andred,Borusa and Rodan all take up inside the doctors TARDIS in order to formulate a plan handle the Sontarans and Castellan Kelner,who is assisting the Sontarans believing the doctor has betrayed his people,with the use of the Demat gun,an ancient time lord weapon and the reason Borusa withheld the great key-because it unlocked the power of the weapon. When the doctor returns to the Citadel, he vaporizes Stor with the weapon-knocking himself out,saving his world and erasing his memory of the incident. Before departing in the TARDIS,Leela decides to stay behind with K-9 on Galifrey as she has fallen in love and Andred. The doctor departs alone with the plans to construct a second K-9.

                   This is not only an excellent departure for Louise Jameson's Leela, but also a wonderfully sweeping epic story that delves deep into what life might've been like for the doctor before he departed from his home world. You have the uncertain and distrustful Borusa, the sheltered Rodan-who learns much from Leela's bravery and unwavering devotion to justice and fairness. Than their is Castellan Kelner: the collaborator who defers easily to any authority that happens to take charge at any given time. The doctor,although spending half of the story as an "actor playing a part" in pretending to turn villainous traitor to his own people in order to save them, seems very much removed from the awkwardness the other time lords seem to possess. Interestingly we also see a lot of the massive interior of the TARDIS in the final part of this story which,interestingly enough, is often much more Earthly than one would expect-minus the addition of a carnivorous plant that consumes a Sontaran of course. Overall one of the most engaging and enjoying Tom Baker era stories and the most telling about how time lord society operates.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Doctor Who-The Sun Makers

                         By an accident on the part of Leela in resetting the TARDIS's course correction system she,the doctor and K-9 end up on Pluto of the far future where they encounter a man named Cordo,who they stop from committing suicide due to the fact he cannot pay for his and his fathers death tax. Cordo works for an organization called the Company,controlled entirely by tax gatherers who maintain a series of six separate suns for each of geo structures, the Megropolis's,that the workers operate in from the profits made. Cordo leads them to a group of dissenters from this Company,led by the temperamental Mandrel, who live in an underground facility to steal what they need to survive. Meanwhile Gatherer Hade and his ward Marn attempt to trace the doctor,who they believe to be an Ajack minor, by the use of K-9 who has left the TARDIS through his logical understanding of the doctors orders. With Cordo's help the doctor attempts to gain access to Hade,but instead inadvertently ends up in the correction area. There he meets Bisham, a fellow bed mate in this center of inhumane experimentation who reveals the obedience of the workers is maintained through the release of an anxiety producing chemical called PCM into the local atmosphere, which in turn is subject to taxation. The doctor is release by Hade and Marn, who he pretends not to notice is trying to con the doctor and foil Mandrel and his dissenters, and takes the large amount of local currency given to him and returns to retrieve Bisham-who joins him,Leela, Cordo and Mandrel in leading a massive social revolution against the workers. 

                Hade has now taken his desperate case to the sadistic Collector, the overlord of the entire Company enterprise, in an attempt to maintain control. When Leela and Cordo leave the "undercity" of the dissenters in order to secure more loyalties, she is captured and sentenced to be steamed to death for public amusement  With the doctors status as a time lord now known to the Collector, and the doctor and Leela now criminals to the Company, Leela manages to escape and she,Cordo and Bisham now arm themselves to take over the air control area where PCM is distributed. When the levels diminish, the workers are now free from the manipulation of the Controller and begin to join the revolution in earnest,even Marn following a general announcement through the intercom. When the doctor And Leela burst into the Controllers office the doctor learns the Controller is actually a Usurian, a seaweed-like creature who has irradiated himself into humanoid form because his planet is using taxation to conquer other species. The doctor reprograms his computer so the Controller loses his hold on the Company and reverts to his natural form-by which time the dissenters have already thrown Hade from the roof of the Megropolis. The doctor and Leela bid Cordo, Bisham and the newly liberated workers farewell and good luck recolonizing their planet Earth before departing.

           One of the most socially relevant and even outright subversive Doctor Who stories ever made, this album epitomized the program's better qualities while at its height. The story itself doesn't espouse necessarily a capitalist or communist economic viewpoint. It only suggests that all people should question how their taxes are being used. This plot is integral to the character interactions. While the doctor uses his usual persuasive talents to play the sometimes self involved Mandrel and his more needy compatriots Cordo and Bisham to action against the decadent and sadistic Company against Gatherer Hade and the Collector's blustery immorality it is Leela's warrior heart that leads the day. Placed in charge of the disparate dissenters,who don't understand freedom and have begun warring among themselves, to mobilize themselves with honor to fight for their freedom and against their true nemesis. This is reflecting in the direction and acting of the story. The lead characters of course and the dissenters are portrayed as genuine and heartfelt. Whereas the hierarchy  of the company,such as Gather Hade and the petty,nasal voiced Collector are portrayed in as flamboyantly an over the top manner as deemed appropriate. Overall a very strong fourth doctor story which embodies every quality (not to mention how important Jelly Babies are to the plot) that made Doctor Who what is was in that era.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Happy 62'nd Birthday Louise Jameson!

                  Few Doctor Who companions of the program's original run were as controversial as Leela,played by actress Louise Jameson. For one, she was succeeding Elizabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith when she left the show midway through its 16th series. After spending two years in the Royal Shakespeare Company, she was cast as a companion like no other before her for the doctor. Leela, a very complex warrior princess who was extremely intelligent yet lacking in understanding of the ways of much of the material universe, was very much the fourth doctor's Eliza Doolittle. Unfortunately the personalities and Jameson and Tom Baker clashed and she left the program in 1978-recommending Mary Tamm for the role of the new companion Romana. Leela is one of the most unique and fascinating Doctor Who companions and I wish Louise Jameson a very happy birthday today!

Doctor Who-The Family Of Blood

                  While Martha tries to hold off the aliens addressing themselves as the Family Of Blood,the school and the village dance are completely evacuated as the Family themselves go about on a spree of killing anyone who happens to be in their way of getting to the life force of the doctor. This,however is now in the hands of Tim Latimer, who himself is on the lamb from the Family because the doctor is speaking to his superior brain through his own life force-and urging him to hold out on presenting the watch containing his life force to John Smith. While hiding in the home of one of the people taken over by the Family, Martha is forced to reveal to Smith who he actually is-that the Family are mainly after him because they have a limited lifespan and the doctors life energy will serve to make them eternal. She insists if he holds the watch, he was remember who he is.  John  then finds he is caught in a conundrum between his burgeoning love for Joan Redfern and what he now knows is his true mission.

            This is interrupted when the Family begin using the weapons on their ship to destroy the nearby towns until Smith surrenders the doctors life force. At that time Latimer shows up and gives Martha the watch containing the life force of the doctor. At first wild with racing thoughts of his true identity, John inevitably choose to hold the watch. A few moments later when the Family think John has surrendered the doctor to them,in fact the deed has already been done. The now reformed doctor destroys the ship forcing the Family Of Blood into retreat. They are placed in the cosmos,mirrors and in scarecrows before the doctor invites Joan to join him as a companion. When she rejects the offer, Martha and the doctor retreat in the TARDIS-giving Latimer his watch as a thank you present. Their last visit to Latimer is when he is an elderly war hero-the only survivor of his WW1 troop thanks to the watch's unique sense of time.

          A sprawling and epic story, both in writing and scope this episode explores the more philosophical aspects of the doctors character then either its predecessor or perhaps any other Doctor Who story. Because the doctor is represented hear more as an energy force than a physical being, we are led to wonder if time lords even perceive sentience in the same manner as any humanoid being does in the least bit. Not only that but John Smith's identity crisis when learning who he really is makes one wonder if time lords don't also have completely duel consciousnesses beyond human perception. This is also illustrated in his insistence to Joan Redfern that who John Smith was is a part of his own conscience. Still it was a heartwarming ending for the doctor and Martha to visit the elderly hero Latimer when he received his heroes honor.

Doctor Who-Human Nature

                           In a 1913 British boys military school,a headmaster named John Smith has been having strange dreams about travelling through time and space. Of course his "maid" Martha Jones in fact knows a great deal about what has happened. She and the doctor were being pursued through time by an alien race calling themselves The Family. In order to escape their knowledge of him as a time lord,he has used a special device in order to alter every cell in his body to become a human being-the only source of memory being a special "infinity" watch he has entrusted Martha to use at the proper time. Meanwhile Smith has become rather smitten with the school nurse Joan Redfern,who has shown an interest in the doctors illustrated short fiction stories which, Martha comes to realize are actually shadows of his life as the doctor. Very soon things become more concerning to them however.

                            One of the boys in the school,a Tim Latimer has shown a strange psychic insight into future events. When another of his classmates a Jeremy Baines enters into the woods one evening as part of a prank, he falls upon The Family's ship. Of course this ship was seen briefly by Martha as well. Soon enough he and two other people in town have their bodies overtaken by members of the this group of aliens. One of the maids is also taken by the anthropomorphic scarecrows that have overtaken two of the other snatched bodies already and she herself is overtaken in the same manner. When she presses Martha for information on the doctor,Martha runs to John Smith to try to jog his memory-of which he of course has next to nothing. Unbeknownst to them,Latimer has inadvertently taken possession of the watch. And all this just in time for The Family to overhear Martha revealing the doctor's identity as a waltz he and Joan are attending.
                       This particular episode, with a twist of irony, gave David Tennant a chance to play a character other then the doctor. Even though,of course that is who he is supposed to be in the context of the story. This concept of playing a half character is a challenge Tennant takes with gusto and succeeds on every account. Meanwhile Martha being weary of the sexism,classicism and bigotry leveled at her as a maid in 1913  elects to try to bring the doctors memory back somehow-even as she and the psychic Latimer not only are aware of the alien threat but the forthcoming event of World War I.  Joan Redfern is a very sympathetic character. Her conscience is on similarly high moral ground as the doctors,even when she has to wonder who he is. Interestingly enough its Martha's romantic attraction to the doctor that is more the motivating factor in her helping the doctor rediscover who he is rather than merely his instructions and the threat The Family clearly pose.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Doctor Who-42

                                  Responding to a distress call,the doctor pilots the TARDIS into the interior of the S.S Pentallion ,operating in the Torajii system and about to crash into the star of that system. The engine of the ship,illegal as it is, has been sabotaged and the crew led by Captain McDonnell cannot bring the engine back online to get them away from their sun. The computer that controls the engine is locked out with a cryptic code based on an old Earth pub quiz. While Martha attempts to crack the code with the help of her mother on the doctors "cell phone" now set for universal roaming along with the Pentallion's engineers,the doctor is set upon with the problem the McDonnel's husband Korwin is in critical condition,and that he abruptly went bazerk and sabotaged the engines. When the ships pysician Abi Lerner discovers his DNA is altering, he vaporizes her-after which he proceeds to walk about the ship randomly doing the same to its crew one by one while wearing a space helmet from the ship.

                             While Martha and one of the engineers named Riley Vashtee attempt to quarantine Korwin and anothe crew member named Ashton who has been infected in the same way, Ashton is killed while Korwin locks the two in an escape pod which is released into the smoldering sun. The doctor himself suits up in order to save Martha and Riley himself-only to find himself affected by the same phenomenon that killed Ashton and is affecting Korwin. While struggling to maintain his identity, he comes to understand the sun is a sentient being from whom Captain McDonnell and her crew have been siphoning what they think is fuel from. It is really bio-matter that allows the life form to survive and its only been protecting itself. When a despondent McDonnell throws herself with Korwin back into the life force of the sun however, the Pentallion is set free for rescue.

                         This is a very emotionally intense story in which all of the characters are forced into touching emotionally vulnerable aspects of their personality. Martha faces her fears of losing her life on Earth and family, the doctor has to deal with potentially losing control of his identity due to the influence of life form within the Torajii sun. Captain McDonnell is of course driven only by her single minded obsession with Korwin, her now departed husband who she is convinced still recognizes her but also is seeking absolution from with what she realizes is her crime against another sentient being. After all the intense character melodrama, the story's most poignant scene is when the TARDIS is about to take off from the Pentallion, the doctor is at an utter loss for words for a few moments from the experience. Of course what he and Martha don't yet realize is the influence of a ghost from the doctors past-now in the personage of Minister Harold Saxon on Earth.

Happy 42'nd Birthday David Tennant!

              Even Russell T. Davies himself couldn't be sure that his 2005 relaunch of Doctor Who would catch on in an enormous way and genuinely continue the series. When Christopher Eccleston chose not to renew his year contract, the producers of the show were confronted with the first regeneration of the main character in the relaunched series. Luckily a certain Scottish actor,already famous for stage and screen work most notably in his portrayal of Hamlet, stepped into the role as the doctors tenth regeneration and would fast assure that the newly relaunched Doctor Who would in fact endure. This actors name was David Tennant.

                With his long tan clock and suit jacket,his thin black spectacles and often raised left eyebrow Tennant redefined the image of the doctor for the new millennium in much the same manner as Tom Baker had thirty years earlier. He also embodied that ever important balance between wit,wonder and high intelligence that had always been central to the doctors characterization since the show premiered. One important element was how Tennant extended on the loneliness and romanticism of Paul McGann's neglected eighth doctor-in particular his ambiguous relationship with his assistant Rose Tyler. 

               Though David Tennant has not played the character for five years now, he has already become somewhat of the iconic figure for the relaunched Doctor Who series. The animated series My Little Pony-Friendship Is Magic has even developed a character known in fan fiction/videos as Doctor Whooves: a pony with the physical characteristics of Tennant's 10th doctor.  Today Mr. Tennant turns 42. I am sure many Whovians and people who have come to admire the enormous talent he possesses as an actor based on his performance in Doctor Who will wish to join me in wishing him  a very happy birthday today.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Doctor Who-Four To Doomsday

                         On his first attempt to get Tegan back to Heathrow airport to continue her life on Earth as a stewardess  his attempts to give Adric control of the TARDIS backfires as it ends up inside a spaceship with far more advanced technology than any human could have during the 1980's. Upon investigating the area in oxygenated helmets due to the obscure air elements on the ship,the doctor notices that a small black floating sphere with a lens has been shadowing them. While Nyssa stays behind to investigate the technology available to them the doctor,Tegan and Adric find themselves in the company of three amphibian humanoids led by one who referred to himself as the Monarch of the Urbankans-along with his two ministers who address themselves as Enlightenment,who is female and the male Persuasion. They mention having only met humans far in the past and found them primitive. When asking at Tegan's stewardess uniform,she sketches out at their request a male and female human in casual attire from her era. Meanwhile Nyssa is confronted by a man in ancient Greek attire. Upon arriving back to check in on Nyssa, the man greets them by the name of Bigon.

                  Bigon is soon followed by members of many other Earth cultures-including Aboriginal Australian China's Futa dynasty and a native Mayan. Soon after Persuasion and Enlightenment re-emerge to speak to the TARDIS crew-interestingly enough now appearing exactly like the sketch Tegan had drawn of humans. With the revelation that the Urbankans possess great technological superiority,the doctor and Nyssa soon come to believe that these "humans" are in fact advanced androids,since they come from periods of Earth history separated by millennium and couldn't have survived so many thousand years. This is confirmed, after witnessing a "recreational" featuring various human tribal dances,Bigon reveals this to be true. Not only that but only the leaders of these human sects of androids have advanced programming-many only possess basic motor skills. It is also revealed when Nyssa is captured,while Adric is nearly seduced by the Urbankans superiority,that the Monarchs are talking of using these androids to convince humanity to embrace similar android bodies while they regain more energy.

                 This  is masking their true intent to plunder the Earth of electromagnetic energy because of the Monarchs,who is convinced he is god belief that travelling beyond the speed of light will allow him to meet himself in the center of the universe. Because the only living matter on the ship is plant life created from the bio matter of the bodies used to program the androids and lower order animals used to create the poisonous substance the Urbankans plan to use to miniaturize all human life on Earth instantly so they'll be no threat, the doctor devises a plan to go to the TARDIS,which a frightened Tegan is attempting to pilot to safety herself,utilizing his ability to survive for six minutes within a vacuum, in order to allow these Urbankan androids to return to their homes to resume a quality of life. By the time the Monarch tries to stop them, both Persuasion and Enlightenment are killed in the skirmish. Though all of them appear to have been androids,the shrinking poison works on the Monarch when the doctor,Tegan and Nyssa proceed from the ship in the TARDIS while Bigon and his companions elect to stay behind.

                 On many levels,this is a very telling story on many levels. Though taking place shortly after the fifth doctors regeneration, this was actually Peter Davison's first filmed story on the show.  Their is a quality to the Urbankans that brings to mind something of an implied take on the decaying state of the Soviet Communist regime in the early 1980's. While the Monarch is perfectly content in his concept that his conception of life has reached perfection and others should follow it,characters such as Bigon-literally a walking,thinking machine realizes all of the faux cultural education and consistent lies to those still living in "flesh time" as the Monarch calls it, are  being denied access to their souls so Monarch can gain control. We also learn a lot about the characters here. Adric's willingness to accept the intellectual superiority of the Urbankans while ignoring their emotional suppression points to his psychic immaturity . We learn that what Tegan lacks in knowledge of history and emotional control she gains in language-as she speaks Aboriginal Australian. Nyssa, with her measured attitude and love of science is revealed to be very much a kindred spirit to the doctor himself. Overall a wonderful,involving and meaningful story that goes to the core of its message and the characters.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Peter Davison 5'th Doctor Era Video Tribute For Peter's Birthday Weekend

                    Today I present to you two special videos. This first one was created in celebration of Peter Davison's birthday weekend!

                   This second video is a review for the 5th doctor action figure. Its a video I made earlier, but that figure appears in the previous video so I'm including it as a bonus. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Peter Davison!

                  Very few actors to portray the doctor in BBC's original run of Doctor Who were taking quite the chance with the public as Peter Davison. Born Peter Moffett but picking the stage name Davison to avoid confusion with the actor/director of the same name who'd he'd later work with on Doctor Who, he was at age 29 the youngest actor to portray the time lord until Matt Smith took on the role at age 26 thirty years later. He was also the first actor portraying the doctor than known for another famous television role: in his case as Tristan Farnon from All Creatures Great And Small. Of course most famously he was taking over for the actor who, up until this point, played the role of the doctor longer than anyone before or since-Tom Baker.

               Davison had watched Doctor Who in his youth,and had grown up with Patrick Troughton playing the role. When he began in the role,it was Troughton's mildly befuddled personality from which Davison used to expand on his portrayal of the character. Physically the fifth doctor which Davison portrayed had a very different image than his predecessor. He jettisoned Tom Baker's frock coats,long scarves and floppy hats in favor of a tan Cricket uniform,a V-neck vest and matching hat. And of course there was his famous stick of celery which he wore on the upper left hand corner of his coat in the manner of a broach.

               During Davison's time on the show, the writing on Doctor Who took on a decidedly more adult direction-with story lines that were often heavier handed and emphasized somewhat darkly political stories over the more satirical approach of how the program had been directed during the 1970's. At first he had three companions during a period known as "the crowded TARDIS"-a return to the triad approach of the first doctor and his three companions. He signed on for three years but didn't renew due to concern over being typecast-on the advice of the actor he most admired in the role Patrick Troughton. Still involved in Who related events to this day I would like to wish Mr.Davison a very happy 62nd  birthday and all my best to him and his family!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Doctor Who-Planet Of Fire

                           With the doctor and Turlough having just left Tegan behind on Earth following their encounter with the Daleks,the android Kamelion  has managed to interface with the TARDIS's time/space circuitry-after which the doctor homes in on a mysterious distress call- depositing the TARDIS on the island of Lanzorate on contemporary Earth. Meanwhile an  American led archaeological expedition,led by a Professor Howard Foster accompanied by his step daughter Peri have uncovered an unusual artifact with a symbol on it that Turlough discovers matches the one on his arm. Board with the expedition and wishing to travel on her own, Peri has taken this artifact and almost drowns attempting to escape. While waiting for the doctor to uncover the distress call, Turlough homes in on Peri and saves her from drowning.  When recovered on the TARDIS,Peri is accosted by a man who appears to be Professor Foster,than the Master. She soon discovers that she is actually dealing with Kamelion,who has again come under the Master's control. The Masters true intent is the planet of Sarn,where the last vestiges of the planets native population are culturally divided over the existence of a deity known as Logar. 

           Kamelion,acting as a remote adjunct for the Master,brings Peri there with his TARDIS while the doctor and Turlough go there in his.  Upon arrival the doctor and Turlough are instantly viewed as outsiders and offered to their god Logar as a sacrifice. Upon his arrival the Master/Kamelion tries to coerce the locals,willing to sacrifice themselves to Logar with the coming volcanic eruption which consistently destroys their civilization. As the doctor soon figures out,the Master is trying to use a life enhancing gas produced by these volcanic eruptions to extend his lifespan due to his regenerative illness. Turlough,having discovered that one of the natives named Malkon shares the same mark on the arm as himself,reveals to the doctor that he is actually a political prisoner from the planet Trion,and that is race have agents on planets all over the galaxy. He manages to use the device set up by their crashed ship to make a distress call. Meanwhile the doctor,with Peri's help manages to trap the Master within the volcano after being revived by the gas. This of course,after the too easily manipulated Kamelion begs to be destroyed and Turlough-offered amnesty by his people,returns to them before Peri asks to travel with the doctor.

               Overall this is an absolutely wonderful story that is very thematically involved and densely written. Turlough and Kamelion are basically faced with the same situation here: dealing with the truth of their identity. While Turlough survives and reunites with his own people,Kamelion comes to realize he can only be of help to the doctor if he ceases to exist. The themes of revelation from ones self deceptions also comes to play with the Master,so obsessed with his own preservation he doesn't notice the fear based superstitions of the natives of Sarn he is attempting to manipulate are alternately clashing with his own ambitions. While the doctor attempts to foster the Sarn's superstitions to help them understand reality in his classic negotiating style, he shows much suspicion and even near disappointment at the return of Turlough's opportunistic behavior throughout the story. Peri,in her introductory story as the companion, shows herself to be adaptable and perceptive-if a bit skittish. In the end the story provides a potent means for one companion to transition to another,while at the same time delivering an important message about hope over mistrust.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Doctor Who-Frontios

                         The doctor,Tegan and Turlough find the themselves in the TARDIS on the very edge of its space/time travelling capacity to the Veruna star system-where humanity has escaped from an Earth crashing into its sun to the planet Frontios. Upon arriving they trio encounter two military leaders Brazen and the new leader Plantagenet,son of the Captain Revere who has recently departed, along with Medical Chief Range. The mystery of Captain Revere's disappearance is in fact the core of what is happen on Frontios. The scatter shot colony is struglling for its own survival-to the point where Tegan and Turlough have to help Range's daughter Norna locate an acid container as a makeshift batter to power a light to help aid an injured colonists. The planet is under constant barrage by what they believe is weapons fire,are convinced that war has been declared upon them and Plantagenet furthermore is convinced that the Doctor and his companions are behind the colony being terrorized. Before they can prove their truthfulness  the doctor and his companions find their TARDIS has disappeared. Lacking even the basic skills to combat the situation themselves,the colonists are facing an enormous crisis as one by one their own people are being sucked into the ground by an unknown force. 

                When this effect occurs to Plantagenet,and the Doctor ascertains this is only occurring with the injured Norna and Turlough borough into the subterranean caverns below the planet where Turlough has a post traumatic memory upon encountering an alien he remembers as being known as the Tractators. He refers to them as being responsible for the destruction of his race due to similar effects as the disappearances on Frontios. Tegan, having already become aware of Captain Revere's discovery of them before his death and records of "deaths unaccounted",regroups with them as they encounter the insect like Tractators. Their plan as it turns out using the gravitationally attuned caverns beneath the surface  to steer the planet like a spaceship so they could infect other worlds in the same manner. Upon finding the TARDIS scattered throughout the caverns, Turlough determines that the Gravis is the only source of influence-as a queen bee with the other Tractators as almost mindless drones. The doctor uses the Gravis's need of the TARDIS to amass its energy to restore it to normal and rendering the Gravis unconscious,though at the sacrifice of Brazen to destroy the Gravis's gravitational generator. Though the colonists now trust and thank the doctor greatly, he feels he has interference too much and abruptly departs Frontios with his companions in the TARDIS.

           Though not somehow the best remembered stories from the fifth doctor era Frontios is one of the strongest written and plotted character based stories from its original run. The tattered settings of the Frontios colony,the juxtaposition of pacing between dialog and action sequences as well the script are extremely well placed. The most significant quality of this story is the characters and their situation. Jeff Rowle acts out the role of Plantagenet,neophyte leader of the Frontios colony, to pieces-moving ably for severe paranoia over the doctors intents to being a trusting and vulnerable young man in all the right places. The classic Doctor Who theme of societal entropy shows up again here,in particular in Turlough's uncharacteristically vulnerable reaction when he discovers the Tractators below the surface of the colony. On a deeper level the doctor,known for his tendency to "get involved" as his second incarnation put it is reluctant here because the events on Frontios represents an somehow hugely significant event in the progression of the human race as it faces complete destruction.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy 54th Birthday Mark Strickson!

                          In the world of Doctor Who,very few of the doctor's assistants/companions have been male. There was Ian Chesterton and Jamie McCrimmon in the 1960's as well as Harry Sullivan for a short time in the 70's. I am still unsure if I count the UNIT family (most of whom were male) as official companions as the doctor was Earthbound in those years. However there was only one male companion during the 1980's and that was Vislor Turlough, a mysterious humanoid alien who after spending a time on Earth made a deal with the black guardian hoping to return to his home world. This character was provocative,complex,redemptive and full of surprises. He was played by than actor,now producer Mark Strickson whom I wish a very happy birthday today!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Doctor Who-The Awakening

                          On the way to the English village of Little Holcombe to visit Tegan's grandfather Andrew Varney, the doctor notices a humanoid figure appear and than disappear as the wall of the local chapel caves in. When he,Tegan and Turlough exit the TARDIS to investigate they find the city is in the middle of a series of war games-led by Sir George Hutchinson and his reluctant Colonel Ben Wosley. A local teacher names Miss Hampton is greatly disturbed that these war games, based around the English civil war of 1643, have begun to resort to actual physical injury to its participants. More over than that, Andrew Varney has gone missing. Appalled by these events the doctor,Tegan and Turlough separate to solve this mystery. While Tegan has a frightening encounter with a strange entity at the corner of the chapel, the doctor winds up following a mysterious young man to the same location while Turlough winds up captured and imprisoned by Sir George. The young man the doctor encounters is Will Chandler, who admits to actually being from 1643. He also talks of a creature called Malus who can create hatred and "make wars worse". 

                    The doctor, already convinced that two time periods have mysteriously merged, enters into the caverns below the chapel with Miss Hampton,Tegan and Chandler and discovers the presence of alien metal.  He comes to realize that this Malus is not in fact a myth but actually the last survivor of an ancient alien vessel that crashed in Little Holcombe in the mid 17th century. The Malus uses psychic projections, capable of physically affecting living beings to create the emotions of war and hatred on which it feeds. Turlough finds this out when he is imprisoned with Andrew Varney who too made the same discovery. In the end Colonel Wosley realizes with the doctor and everyone else that Sir George was completely taken over by Malus. Will Chandler throws him to his new master before the doctor,Tegan,Turlough and their new found companions-including Tegan's grandfather Andrew all spend some time with each other before the doctor returns the guests to their respective time periods.

                    This is one of those Doctor Who stories that reveals its excellence with repeated viewings. Paired in half from its intended four parts, this story points to a classic Doctor Who theme of the complete futility of war and violence. While Colonel Wosley is only looking to preserve Little Holcombe's historical importance, Sir George has become motivated by the same general self concern and avarice that is the root cause of the villainy wrought by the doctors most feared adversaries-such as the Daleks. This gives the Malus, a life form whose only function is to produce hatred in massive quantities, a chance to flourish in this environment. Only when Wosley tries to appeal to Sir George's comradeship with him that the Malus begins to destroy it's surroundings-including itself. A very concise but also very perceptive and intelligent tale about the carnal questions humanity so often faces within itself.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Doctor Who-The King's Demons

                          The TARDIS lands the doctor, Tegan and newly arrived Turlough in 1250 AD in England during the medieval jousting of King John. All three are surprised when the King welcomes them as "demons with a blue engine" to the castle of loyal subject Sir Ranulph Fitzwilliam. When the trio are escorted to their quarters  Turlough is mislaid when he's taken prisoner on suspicion from Sir Ranulph's resistant son. In the meantime quite a bit more is amok. Sir Ranulphs wife Isabella and his son are soon taken prisoner by the kings mysterious new French champion Sir Gilles Estram along with Geoffrey de Lacy-another loyal subject of King John. Recognizing these mysterious actions are taking place as the King is about to sign the  famous Magna Carta he takes up Sir Gilles on a duel-during which Gilles reveals himself to be The Master having escaped from Xeriphus prison.  The Master continues to confuse the subjects of King John,whom even they notice is acting irrationally. 

             The doctor, Tegan and a freed Turlough then manage to convince Sir Ranulph of the truth: that The Master is planning on continuing the crusades in order to keep Magna Carta from getting signed and a democratic parliament from developing in ancient England. Upon searching the castle after, he overhears what sounds like King John's lute playing and locates an unknown silver android. The Master,also present addresses him as Kameleon, an artificial life form used by The Master to escape from Xeriphus and who is subject to the mind control techniques of a time lord. The doctor faces off the Master in a battle of wits-at which time Kameleon transforms into Tegan and the doctor and his companions take the android into the TARDIS with him and leave. Unable to accomplish his plan on Earth,The Master is left to wander unknowingly with his TARDIS as Kameleon uses his own judgement to take up the doctors invitation to join him,Tegan and Turlough on their journey to the Eye Of Orion.

            Anthony Ainley and Peter Davison person incredibly in this brief historical story whose only real science fiction element is the new, and sadly short lives, companion Kameleon. A combination of the later Star Trek characterizations of Data and Odo, this shaft shifting android is believed by the Master to have no mind. And he uses Kameleon to mislead the 11'th century royal families, themselves divided still by clan chiefs and honor guards, to prevent the beginnings of a more democratic political info structure on Earth. The Master's plans to use this power struggle to enact his own totalitarian regime is contrasted by Kameleon exercising his democratic right, before the doctor whose intention isn't to manipulate him, that he wants to journey with the doctor in his TARDIS and with his companions. An excellent sociopolitical tale about the difficulty it takes to maintain democratic freedoms.