Saturday, June 29, 2013

Happy Birthday To Maureen O'Brien And (Belatedly) To Lalla Ward!

                  You'll probably recognize the face of one of these ladies at least. Directly above is Lalla Ward, and at the top above her is actress Maureen O'Brien. These are photos of how they appear currently. O'Brien portrayed Vicki in 1965 with the first doctor William Hartnell and,of course Lalla Ward famously portrayed the regenerated Romana, as well as Princess Astra from The Armageddon Factor while Mary Tamm played the role she would undertake the following year. Ward was also married to Tom Baker from 1980 to 1982. She is at present married to the famous atheist author Richard Dawkins. Londoner Ward turned 62 yesterday while Liverpudlian O'Brien turned 70.

               These two women both had one thing in common within Doctor Who: they both succeeded a female character who was on the program for a relatively short period of time. In O'Brien's case it was Carole Ann Ford's Susan and with Lalla Ward, she played the same character as Mary Tamm only in a regenerated form as the "time lady" Romana-with Ward's character often referred to by Whovians as Romana II.  Apologies of course to all Whovians for not doing separate tributes to both actresses. But alas the events of the last few days makes me wish I had my own personal TARDIS to take care of everything in life via different time streams. All kidding aside happy birthday,one day apart, to two actresses who portrayed two vital and wonderful companions. Happy birthday to "Vicki" and the lady whom the fourth doctor called "the best Romana of them all".

Doctor Who-Galaxy 4

                         When landing on a mysteriously silent planet the TARDIS is greeted by curious,rounded and triangular shaped machines which Vicki affectionately names Chumblies. Thinking the robots cannot hear them and are giving chase,two armed females attack them telling the doctor,Vicki and Steven that they are on a world in Galaxy 4 and are members of the Drahvin race , and that the Chumblies are robot agents of a destructive race known as the Rill. They have orders to take the TARDIS crew to their leader Maaga whom,as it turns out,is aboard a primitive and non functional spaceship. They must leave the planet in 14 days,which the doctor discovers back in the TARDIS to be only two when the planet explodes. Maaga,the only genuine Drahvin  surrounded by test tube born drones bred only for fighting, explains how their ship is irreparably damaged and that their attempt to use the Rill spacecraft for their return trip met with failure due to the Rills attacking them. Vicki and the doctor venture out-leaving behind Steven as a hostage to the highly mistrustful Maaga and her Drahvin drones.

                  Along the way they find a much more advanced spaceship,in which Vicki encounters more Chumblys as the doctor attempts to secure the ammonia based gas of the ship thinking it a type of weapon. Vicki is quickly learning that the Rills are not exactly the warlike race Maaga had made them out to be,and the Chumbley's act primarily as arms,legs and especially a mouthpiece for the Rills as they have no natural vocal chords as they are telepathic. The Rills explain how they tried to make peace with the Drahvin,who instantly attacked a Chumbley scout before killing one of its own injured. While Vicki is understand why the refuse to show their faces, the Rills wish one further time to attempt to request the Drahvins escape the dying world with them. Returning to find Steven unconcious after the Drahvin's attempt to kill him in a depressurized airlock,he's revived to help the doctor,Vicki and the Chumbley's to create a power converter to recharge the energy cells of the Rill ship. During the Drahvins final surprise attack on the Rills sTARDIS part ways successfully as Maaga and her drones parish with the planet.

                   One subject Doctor Who dealt with very well was the futility that lies behind almost every interpersonal conflict. In this particular story the Chumbley's,probably one of many of the shows attempts to succeed the Daleks as a new merchandising success for Doctor Who, turn out to be heroes of the story. The Drahvins are depicted as a highly decadent race: hostile,cruel,with no compunction about lying if it served their purpose and even willing to kill their own injured rather than treat it. While murder is a way of life for them,and this oligarchical society easily dismisses its male members as "useless". Even when the Rills reveal themselves as immense Pirhanna type creatures the doctor,Vicki and Steven are far more impressed with their honesty,graciousness and helpful nature-which stood in direct contrast to the Drahvin's coldness. This is an excellent story of how propaganda from an aggressive people can shield the truth even in the face of mutually assured destruction. The fact that the Rills pointed out that the Drahvins saw them as physically hideous showcases the depths of which ethnic prejudice plays into such issues as well.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Doctor Who-The Time Meddler

                            While the doctor and Vicki lament the departure of Ian and Barbara in the Dalek time machine, they hear knocking on the TARDIS walls only to find that Steven Taylor had accidentally found his way aboard when they thought he'd died in the Mechanus. At first skeptical of the doctors claims to be a time traveler,the TARDIS lands on the English coast and he finds a Viking helmet on the beach.  The doctor,well aware he is now in 1066 Northumbria,goes to the village to secure more information as Steven and Vicki stay behind to observe a nearby Monk who is not only unaffected by the TARDIS's materialization, but is also trying to enter it as they explore further without their knowledge. In a nearby Saxon village the doctor inquires to to Edith,wife of village headman Wulnoth as to where the monastery is where he can hear chanting monks as well as learns that he has landed before the events of the Battle Hastings. What neither he nor any of the other Saxons know is that the chanting is coming from a phonograph belonging to the Monk and,when the doctor arrives at the monastery to investigate he is swiftly taken prisoner by the monk. Meanwhile a Saxon villager who also witnessed the TARDIS comes to Edith and Wulnoth to convince them that the doctor and his companions are Viking spies. While searching for the deserted doctor,Steven accosts Eldred on his return from the village to find him in possession of a wristwatch. 

                When they arrive at the monastery, the Monk feigns ignorance of the doctors location-which Vicki picks up as he already knows the doctors description without them having told him. While the Saxon's are in heavy preparation for the upcoming Viking invasion,Steven and Vicki locate an exotic weapon,actually a nuclear cannon, on the hill above the rocky beach. Believing the TARDIS to have been swept away in the upcoming tide, they arrive at the monastery to search for the doctor to find him missing. Upon further searching they locate a sarcophagus in the Monks cell and,upon entering it find that its actually a TARDIS. While reading of the Monks alterations of Earth's timeline, the doctor has also learned that the Monk is a time meddler whose intent is to destroy the Viking fleet to allow Kind Harold to be the victor in the upcoming Battle Of Hastings. With the Monk trying to fool the doctor again by selling him out to the invading Vikings,the doctor ends up reuniting with Vicki and Steven in the Monks TARDIS,a slightly more advanced model than the doctors. The monk,believing human society in Europe would improve centuries ahead of its intended time under King Harold-with the help of his more advanced technology. The monk escapes the invading Vikings again while the doctor removes the dimensional stabilizer in the Monk's TARDIS-leaving him stranded in 1066 as they escape in the TARDIS with the congrats of Edith,convinced only that they have successfully averted a Viking spy.

            Before the term "time lord" was ever introduced into the Doctor Who lexicon, this was a story of major firsts for the series. Its the debut of Peter Purves' Steven Taylor as a companion. While beginning as an intense skeptic of what he sees around him,much to the doctors chagrin, he is soon finding himself confronting by a mystery that even confounds the doctor: a meddling Monk who is actually one of the doctors own people-as we'd learn later a fellow time lord. While his goals seem to be essentially benevolent in intention, there is a sense that he is doing it largely for his own sport and to alleviate  the time lords code of non interference in the time line which,again without using the word time lord, as made very clear by the doctor in this story. Luckily the doctor is able to arrange things carefully so his confident Saxon allies Edith and Wulnoth only ever view the meddling Monk,of course with Petter Butterworth easily equaling Hartnell's performance as a fellow "time traveler". This is also one of the earliest stories pointing to the indestructibility of the TARDIS itself which, considering this is also the first story to contain more than one TARDIS makes this a very significant story to the progression of Doctor Who. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Doctor Who-The Space Museum

                            On route from their encounter during the Crusades of Earth's 13th century the doctor,Vicki,Barbara and Ian find themselves abruptly out of their costumes of the period and into their normal clothing. When Vicki gets the doctor a glass of water she drops it,after it jumps back into her hand water and all. Realizing after this that the TARDIS is experiencing some level of time displacement,the doctor lands on the planet Xeros where they find a collection of spacecraft from different places and era's at what they determine to be a museum. After finding they make no footprints on the surface and,upon entering the museum find themselves in a maze of rooms that look exactly alike and are able to put their hands through solid objects they encounter one room where the doctor,Barbara,Ian and Vicki are on display as embalmed exhibits. After experiencing a brief physical fluctuation in time, the doctor determines that all of them have jumped a time track,keeping them locked outside of linear time in a fourth dimension and are now back in sync with themselves-as well as being suddenly vulnerable to the events that led them to be put on display in the first place.

                        With their exhibited bodies now vanished, the doctor finds himself taken prisoner by Lobos,head of security for the former Morok empire who has used this planet to construct this museum to display its former glories. He fails in vain to get the doctor to reveal secrets he's learned before taking the time lord away to be embalmed in preparation for his display with his companions  Meanwhile Ian has taken up arms against a couple other Morok guards while Barbara and Vicki,split up along with the rest of their companions encounter a group of native Xerons,whose people were destroyed to create this museum and of whom they are the children enslaved by the Moroks for labor there. While Barbara and Zeron Dako are gassed while trying to locate the doctor and Ian, Vicki encourages Xeron leader Tor to take up revolutionary arms against the Morok.  By Vicki using her technical skills to unlock a Morok doorway with the secret code, and by Ian's taking hostage of the Morok guards they are able to rescue the doctor from the embalming process,reunite with his companions while Tor destroys the museum-ending the cycle of events and saving the lives of the doctor and his companions before giving them a parting gift of a space time visualizer from the museum.

                    For a reason I only partially understand,probably due to the low budget effects (typical of a lot classic Doctor Who stories) as well as William Hartnell's growing difficulty with his lines ( a result of his arteriosclerosis induced dementia so its said), this story has been maligned as the weakest of the first doctor era of the program. In terms of plot and direction, my opinion is that its actually among the stronger. Maureen O'Brien shines in particular as Vicki-a plucky young lady who often challenges the doctor with her great knowledge,and shows her bravery by encouraging revolutionary arms by the Xeron's against the Morok. The Morok are the ideal caricatures of the last remnants of a decaying and bloated imperial system-so intent on being egoist about their past glory that they are in no position to defend it effectively. In addition to William Russell's Ian getting a lot of time as the stories main action hero of course,Hartnell gets a chance to show his absurdest humor with some of the earliest indications of the doctor as a "cosmic troll" as it were-baffling Lobos and his mind reading computers with images of old time bicycles and manatees,as well as hiding from them in empty Dalek armor.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Doctor Who-Meglos

                   While repairing K-9 following him being damaged at Brighton, Romana and the doctor attempt to set down on the planet Tigella,in the Prion system where the doctor has met with their leader Zastor half a century ago in their time. On another planet in system called Zolfa-Thura,a group of marauding space pirates called the Gaztacs (let by General Grugger) are summoned to this dessert world by what looks to be a cactus plant in an advanced control center,but whom is actually called Meglos,the last of the extinct Zolfa-Thuran. He uses an advanced array of light beams to merge his body with a human the Gaztacs have captured and demands Gruggers assistance in trapping the TARDIS,about to arrive on Tigella into a Chronic Hysteratic time loop,where the same moment repeats itself again and again-creating a time phased shadow of the doctor which allows Meglos to assume his form and lead the Gaztacs onto Tigella. His mission is to steal the Tigellan power source the Dodecahedron, which holds the power is properly challenged to provide energy for the entire galaxy. Once on Tigella,Meglos (disguised as the doctor) convinces Zastor to allow him into the chamber containing  the mysterious Dodecahedron. The doctor and Romana remove themselves from the time loop by deliberately repeating the same action themselves. However upon arriving on Tigella, they encounter more complication than was expected.

                      Tigella is culturally divided into two castes: the Savants,who have devoted themselves totally to the pursuit of scientific knowledge and the Deons,led by a lady named Lexa-a religious order countering that the Dodechahedron is a spiritual oracle sent from their god Ti,and to whom they must make living sacrifices to in order to facilitate this power. Zastor has been trying to mediate between the opposing factions, but by the time the real doctor arrives the Dodecahedron has gone missing and the doctor  appears of course to be the prime suspect in the theft. With Romana and a newly repaired K-9 setting off into the planet surface of Tigella,composed of carnivorous flora Romana has to dodge she is taken prisoner briefly by the newly arrived Gaztacs,who hold her hostage par Meglos's return. While Lexa attempts to arrange to have the doctor executed for his crimes against the Deons,one of the Savants discovers Meglos and learns of his treachory against Tigella as well as the doctor. Romana,the doctor and K-9 follow the Gaztacs and Meglos back to Zolfa-Thura in the TARDIS,after Lexa sacrifices herself to save Romana's life after the truth is discovered. The doctor foils Meglos's plans by pretending to be Meglos amid the Gaztacs,too blinded by power to notice and causes the screens of Zolfa-Thura that magnify the Dodecahedron's power to collapse in on itself-taking the Gaztacs and Meglos with it before he returns to advise Zastor,the Savants and Deons to unite to restore their overgrown world,ravaged by war,back to its former glory before dropping Meglos's former (and now liberated) human hostage back to Earth before answering the sudden call from Galifrey.

                        In this story, there's a very significant element that continues to resonate in modern society. And that is the schism that has continued to exist between science and religion. The main reason Meglos is so easily able to plunder the Dodecahedron is because of the continuing arguments between the Savants, who only wish to research the power source further and Lexa, far too mired in superstition and fear of her god Ti to allow that. In the character of Lexa lies the return of Jacqueline Hill,fifteen years after she discontinued the role of Barbara Wright on the series. She plays very much the opposite character of the role she portrayed in The Aztecs in the guise of Yetaxa,in the sense that she chooses the sacrifice of living beings over good judgement-until her own (and more noble) sacrifice to save Romana from a Gaztac trying to kill her. Tom Baker plays excellent double duty here as the doctor and his Cacti clone Meglos-just as adept at space/time manipulation as himself but, much as with the Master,uses this to further his own specific goals. It is Zastor, the calm mediator who emerges as the most sympathetic of the characters involved outside the TARDIS as he is caught between the Gaztac and Deons-both with separate yet similar agendas.  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Doctor Who-The Leisure Hive

                           While vacationing on Brighton, Romana's discomfort with human style recreation leads her, after K-9 is damaged due to a near drowning incident chasing Romana's beach ball, that they would be better off spending their holiday in an environment that delivers some scientific challenge. Her suggestion is Argolis, a planet with a highly irradiated atmosphere after a twenty minute atomic war whose only tourist attraction is the Leisure Hive, a recreational facility set up to express goodwill and peaceful scientific/social progress. However due to competition the Leisure Hive is near bankruptcy and the planets human agent Brock and his layer Klout have arrived to discuss allowing the reptilian species the Foamasi to live on the planet as they are the only ones who can. Being that humans were on the opposing side of the war,Chairman Morix is skeptical until he succumbs swiftly to the advanced degeneration that all Argolin's experience and dies during the negotiations. His consort Mena is forced to take over negotiations.

                         As this is occurring the newly arrived doctor and Romana are intrigued by a demonstration of the Hive's Tachyon Recreation Generator, which as demonstrated by Mena's son Pangol  uses advanced material projection to allow the body to be disassembled,reassembled and replicated at random. After another demonstration where a human is killed, the doctor and Romana agree to work with human scientist Hardin to help perfect the unstable tachyon generator. During the doctors first attempt,his replica splits into as he escapes. When Hardin and Romana believed they have stabilized the unit, the doctor is aged 500 years into a white haired and ailing elderly man. It is revealed the device has been sabotaged. Mena and Pangol blame the doctor at first and have him and Romana confined to quarters. He is let out of confinement as Romana lets him out with the help of a Foamasi ambassador, who is sabotaging the generator in order to bring juctice to the real culprits: Brock and Kloat,both of whom are disguised agents from a Foamasi group attempting to manipulate Argolis. 

                      Of course during this its revealed that Pangol is not Mena's son but a new Argolin born solely from the generator-seeing his entire race is sterile. Mentally unstable due to the instability of the device which created him, Pangol wants to return to his people's war like past to avenge their enemies. In an attempt to reverse himself to the proper age,the doctor enters the generator with Pangol who is creating an army of himself to create a New Argolin army. The doctors presence,however created a state where these tachyon replication were those of the rejuvenated doctor with Pangol's clothing. A dying Mena is sent into the device and properly revitalized by it along with Pangol,in his case to infancy. The doctor and Romana, weary of the case from the Black Guardian, decide to forgo the rest of their holiday to continue their work.

                         This particular Doctor Who story is completely different in production than anything before it. Under new producer John Nathan Turner, the theme music opening title is much more advanced and ambitious-to the extent it would be used for the next two doctors' opening. Even though it wasn't to last forever, the entire presentation of this program is quite different. The special affects are extremely atmospheric and adept-with no hint of the low budget appearance from the previous few years of the show. The camera work is also compelling,making wonderful use of zoom and exotic lighting. Not to mention the extremely high quality of the acting of all participants. Tom Baker's doctor has reverted somewhat to the intelligent wit of his earlier years as opposed to the slight goofiness of his humor in the proceeding series of the show. You feel like you understand each of these characters intimately. Hardin's desire to do the scientifically ethical thing. Mena's desire to continuing peace among her people and even Pangol's anger having got the best of him and fueled his need to violent revenge. The programs intelligent take on the anti war theme,societal entropy and greed overcoming good sense are not necessarily new to Doctor Who. But this serial realizes them in a very mature and well realized manner-making this actually one of the best serials of the Tom Baker era of the show.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Doctor Who-The Horns Of Nimon

                             In an attempt to repair the aging conceptual geometer aboard the aging TARDIS,the doctor and Romana find themselves violently pulled into a highly energized spacial rupture-in the form of a black hole. The TARDIS's energy circuits,including its defense shields are disabled while it has crashed into a transport ship for the depleted Skonnoth empire. After the doctor and Romana investigate the situation,the doctor returns the TARDIS in an attempt to free it from the spacecraft while Romana remains behind with the ships cargo: a team of young people from the planet Aneth,led by "Prince" Seth and his companion Teka,who are to be sent back to Skonnon to be sacrificed to a creature called the Nimon-who has promised to rebuilt the Skonnon empire with the continued sacrifices. The doctors TARDIS is nearly drawn into the black hole for assured destruction,until he realizes he can use the resulting slingshot effect to his advantage to throw himself in the TARDIS along with the Skonnon ship back to it's home world. With her own sonic device, Romana has been able to fend of the hostile advances of the ships despotic co-pilot before both the ship and the TARDIS arrive on Skonnon.

                 On Skonnon itself Soldeed,the ambassador to the Nimon-a Bull-like creature with two golden horns, it mobilizing his people to praise the coming Sacrifice of the Aneth in order to secure his planets empire. Upon arrival the doctor and Romana discover a triangular gateway which the ships co-pilot immediately enters with the Aneth sacrifices. What they do not know is Seth is not a real prince,only assumed to be one and is actually hoping to destroy the Nimon and end the tyranny towards his people. Followed by the doctor and Romana,they all find a huge store of Aneth which Romana links to a lifeless husk of one of them to part of a Nimon system of draining the energy from this sacrifices for their continued power. After fending off another attempted attack from the Skonnoth co pilot,the Aneth and Romana confront the Nimon while the doctor attempts to understand the technology creating the black hole and it's intended us.

                  After the doctor fends off the Nimon he,Romana,Seth and Teka head off for the Nimon's control area while Soldeed attempts to discover the source of K-9's power after he emerges from the TARDIS as the doctor calls on him for assistance. He is able to determine that the Nimon are using the black holes to create a transportation device to Skonnoth, and a group of more Nimon appear on the transportation platform in an egg like pod. While investigating the pod,the doctor accidently sends Romana to the Nimon's source world of Crinoth-where she discovers through the last survivor of their race Sezom,who unintentionally sold out his race to complete destruction with the promise by one Nimon of peace and prosparity for his people. The doctor is able to pull Romana back with Sezom's Jasonite crystal which is able to overpower the Nimon's. While the corridors of the Nimon's layer can alter shape, K-9 is able to lead everyone out-even as Soldeed is killed in his pursuit. Seth and Teka are able to rescue their comrades as the Nimon's transmission center is destroyed,Seth emerges a hero to his people by destroying the Nimon(s) and the doctor and Romana leave the Skannoth to their own devices as they continue with repairs to the TARDIS.

                  This particular serial seems to have the reputation among both its creators and Whovians as being the lowest overall quality serial of the Tom Baker era. From this particular point of view, I find it to be flawed but hardly terrible. The story line about a group of parasitic nomads taking advantage of the desperation and greed of different civilizations is a perfect concept for Doctor Who's oeuvre. And for its time I find the physically disproportionate and rather surreal Nimon costumes to be fairly convincing. While the final part of the serial is excellent, this is not necessarily a story that required three parts. There is some heavy padding,including some heavy "running down corridor" syndrome and some inappropriate clowning from Tom Baker. The only irritating aspect of this story to me is the annoying character of Soldeed,not helped at all by Graham Crowden's extremely campy portrayal of the character. Interestingly enough, its Romana who is somewhat the hero of the story as opposed to the doctors uncertainty throughout much of this. And, being  the last two parts of this story were the first Doctor Who episodes to officially be transmitted in the 1980's, this has some historical value for the show as big changes were indeed ahead for Doctor Who.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Doctor Who-Nightmare Of Eden

                                   The starliner Empress,commanded by Captain Rigg finds itself crashed into by a smaller vessel Hecate while going into warp. By the time the doctor,Romana and K-9 arrive on the empress in the TARDIS they find Rigg debating over how fast they are going to to make their run with the trade ship Hecate's Commander Dymond. Posing as a member of Galactic salvage Rigg agrees to allow the doctor,from his viewpoint a mysterious newcomer to help un join the ships by revering thrust of the other. Helping out the doctor is Riggs co-pilot Secker who,as the doctor soon learns is addicted to the narcotic Vraxion,which has wrecked havoc on many worlds throughout the galaxy. Wandering in a stuper into the unstable area where K-9 is helping the doctor unlock the two ships, Secker is lethally injured and the doctor is then led to zoologist Tryst and his assistant Della. Tryst has used a rudimentary CET device,basically a sophisticated multi dimensional slide projector with a matter transportation device to catalog specimens from their voyages.  The doctor has also come to the conclusion based on the Della's secretive attitude about the disappearance of her lover Stott on Eden,one of the worlds Tryst,herself and Stott had visited on their journey's that there is some type of Vraxion smuggling operation occurring on the Empress.

                               The doctor, in trying to unlock the Empress and the Hecate from each other is eventually confronted by an strangely impatient Dymond,a pursuer who is chasing him through the passenger area of the liner and into the CET projection itself and finally two guards who are convinced the doctor is running the Vraxion himself.When opening up the power source for K-9 to begin reversing power to unlock the ships,a monstrous creature attacks the doctor,who stuns it accidentally with the device he was working with to find it entirely composed of Vraxion. Meanwhile Rigg,himself poisoned with Vraxion could obviously pay no need but drugged laughter at the chaos unfolding around him as the doctor and Romana are chased into the CET projection where they find Stott very much alive-hiding from the creatures he refers to as Mandrels. Upon their release the Doctor and Romana are at last successfully able to to remove the starliner from the Hecate when a conversation is overheard by the economically motivated guards that Dymond and Tryst are in fact the drug traffickers.  When the pair try to escape in the Hecate,the doctor traps them in the CET crystals before departing after their arrest to return the creatures Tryst had captured inside of the crystals back to their home worlds.

                                Despite a very chaotic and,according to the staff, poorly realized production this is actually a very well written and directed story that brings out one of the more sociologically conscious stories of the 17th series of Doctor Who.  From the doctors deeply concerned reaction of his discovery of Secker's addiction to the fictional drug Vraxion to the arrest of Tryst at the end of the story, the doctors barely held contained anger towards drug peddler's exploitation is apparent-totally in keeping with his renowned morality of justice and fair play. Romana for her part does a lot to help out in the story,in particular where she fends off Rigg,coming down from a Vraxion stupor, in order to activate the thrusters to separate the two ships. All of the characters, save for Rigg who realizes there's a problem before being poisoned with the drug by Tryst, are of course totally economically motivated. The doctor at first laughs at the inept and rather unlearned Tryst about the flagrant errors in his CET machine. Yet at the end of the story his mood reverses when Tryst tells him he only began peddling Vraxion to earn money for his expedition. Tom Baker's impassive expression as he twice mumbles "Go away" to Tryst attempting to explain himself as he's being arrested is one of my favorite moments from Baker during his seven year run on Doctor Who.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Doctor Who-The Creature From The Pit

                      As the doctor and Romana are cleaning out the TARDIS, an unknown gravitational force pulls them to the floral surface of the planet Chloris. When there the two find a gigantic artificial egg emitting an unusual signal. The doctor is suddenly set upon by seemingly carnivorous wolfweeds and a native named Karela, who is taking the doctor to her matriarch Adrasta since he himself landed in what the natives refer to as a zone of death. Romana is separated from the doctor and finds herself in the company of bandits seeking metal, a rare commodity on Chloris and holding her for ransom. She tricks them into calling after K-9,who pursues Romana-intimidating the bandits and allowed her to escape them. She finds the doctor in the company of Adrasta,who insists on forcing him to enter into a pit in this death zone in order to kill a mysterious creature who has been "eating" her people. The doctor himself enters the pit after Adrasta fends off a defensive attack by K-9. There he meets up with a local astrologer Oganon, who himself lives in fear of this creature.

                     Adrasta meanwhile convinces Romana and K-9,with his special laser blasting skills to themselves enter the pit to destroy the creature. What they don't know is the bandits,aware from spying that Adrasta's palace will be unguarded,are planning to rob Adrasta of all her previous metals. As Adrasta demands K-9 and Romana's obedience in her mission, the doctor has been taken aside by the creature and is attempting to communicate with it. Two of the bandits have stolen a piece of metal from Adrasta's palace which,through hypnotic suggestion leads them into the pit,where they place it on the creature-who promptly begins to communicate with the doctor using his larynx as it has none. It addresses itself as Erato,a Tythonian ambassador who came to Chloris to negotiate a trade agreement for the chlorophyll it needs to survive,which the planet has in abundance, in exchange for continual supplies of metal for the planet.  

                     With Erato and Adrasta both present, the doctor is now able to decipher the obvious that Adrasta kidnapped Erato in order to maintain her monopoly on the planets metal that kept her in power. Erato kills Adrasta much to the delight of her guards and even henchman. The doctor agrees for Erato to leave the cave-even as Karela is trying to bribe the bandits over the metal they stole from Adrasta in exchange for the egg which, as the doctor now knows, is the rudimentary space craft with which Erato came to Chloris with. Upon release Erato reveals that his people plan to destroy Chloris with a neutron star to absorb its sun due to one of their ambassadors being kept imprisoned. The doctor offers up an alternative of using the TARDIS's tractor beam to repel the approaching Neutron star before it reaches the planet-with Erata risking himself to build one of his defensive webs around the star to keep it in balance. While nearly destroying the TARDIS, the mission is successful. The doctor leaves Adrasta's seemingly reasonable former henchman in charge along with Organon-who appears to have at last correctly predicted something: the renegotiation of Erata's original trade agreement.

                         One of the aspects that makes this story such as success is the witty repartee between Tom Baker's doctor and Lalla Ward. Time and again, Romana continually uses her gut instinct as the doctor would in her negotiations with Adrasta to free her and K-9 from the bondage of having to kill Erato-in the end as everyone learns only to maintain her secret bondage of the Tythonian ambassador and maintain power. While somewhat typical of Doctor Who's megalomaniac villains, the Lady Adrasta is set apart in some ways. Her motivations are largely based on economy. Not only that but she is caught between her perceived strength of character and,as we all see,her very real terror that the normally rational Erato will kill her for her crimes against himself and his people-which he does do in the end. Some rather dislike Tom Baker's portrayal of the doctor as a witty practical joker during the programs 17th series, which they also condemn in general. However this is probably the most influential characterization of the doctor-especially with David Tennant and Matt Smith: the characters use of humor to belay their own high intelligence. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Doctor Who Personal Action Figure Photographic Piece

                              Yesterday the weather was so dank and rainy outside that I had to spend the majority of it indoors. Having a great interest in photography as I do,and having done it for 20 years I decided to take some photographs of some of the random things in my bedroom. A few of them reflect my interest in Doctor Who. What you see above is one of them.
                  ...and here is another. These are figures of the first eight doctors made by Underground Toys. They are remarkable likenesses. Especially the hard to replicate facial features of Jon Pertwee,Tom Baker and Peter Davison. 
               Of course I didn't forget the newest three doctors either. The ninth through tenth. The likeness of Christopher Eccleston is very good,though he is an actor whose expressions change the way his face looks to a degree. David Tennant with his brainy specs is a dead ringer,as is Matt Smith to me anyway. With a new doctor coming up in a year or so, I may have to retake this particular photograph.
                Not sure how many of you are familiar with the program My Little Pony-Friendship Is Magic but fan fiction for that show took what is called a "back round pony" in that show named Time Turner and created a spin off fan series known as Doctor Whooves. He is based on David Tennant's incarnation of the doctor. His companion is a pony named Derpy Hooves, who has crooked eyes. Since I collected the two vinyl figurines of both I decided to place them here for a little Doctor Who light spin off fun.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Doctor Who Says Goodbye To Matt Smith's 11th Doctor

                         Now I realize this is probably coming a bit late on this blog, but it's been recently announced by the BBC that following the 50th Anniversary special airing on the BBC this fall that Matt Smith will be leaving the role of the famous time lord. As Whovians all know, there will only be able to be two more regeneration's before the doctor will have to perish forever. So if the next two actors to portray the doctor both stay for the three-four year period that Smith and most actors (barring of course Tom Baker and the five year stints of Jon Pertwee and David Tennant),there's the possibility Doctor Who might only run for another six-seven series before leaving the airwaves forever. That might change drastically in the plot of the show, but its more than worth considering.
                              Matt Smith's time on Doctor Who has represented an enormous level of personal growth for his incarnation. It bares me repeating that,following David Tennant's hugely successful run in the role, Matt Smith faced a similar dilemma to Peter Davison, before him the youngest actor to portray the doctor, did when he succeeded Tom Baker after his epic seven year stint in the role in 1982.  As with the Peter Davison era the 11th doctor held onto a stable set of companions in Amy and Rory for the majority of his run in the role. Unlike Davison, however they didn't carry over from the previous doctor. Only in the final half of his last series did he gain a new companion in Jenna-Louise Coleman's Clara.

                             Interesting enough there are a lot of people who show no great surprise or unhappiness that Matt Smith is leaving the role. This isn't something that could amount to dislike of him in the role. Some detractors I've read online do insist Smith's strong use of catch phrases severely dumbed down the character of the doctor. On the other hand its like that actor John Barrowman,who portrayed Captain Jack Harkness in the 9th and tenth doctor era's were likely unsurprised at Smith's departure mainly for the previously stated reason that most actors (barring of course Paul McGann along with Colin Baker and Christopher Eccleston's year long time in the role) stay in the role about the same amount of time generally. Although the show is going on an undetermined hiatus after the 50th anniversary special and a 12th doctor hasn't yet been chosen, I will greatly miss the late Amy Pond's "raggedy doctor".

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Doctor Who Birthdays: Carole & Colin Blowing Out The Candles In Early/Mid June!

                                 The late Spring marks two important birthday's in the Doctor Who universe. It is the birthday of actress Carole Ann Ford on the 16th,who portrayed the Doctors granddaughter Susan in the first series of Doctor Who in 1963-64 and returned to the official series again for the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors in 1983. A year later,the role of the doctor was given to someone  celebrating their birthday today: Colin Baker. I've done two separate video tributes to the two of them that I am going to post below. Please view,comment and enjoy!


Doctor Who-The Reign Of Terror

           Following their escapade in the Sense-sphere, the doctor makes yet another attempt to get Ian and Barbara back to their home. When they along with Susan,who admittedly will miss the two teachers, emerge from the TARDIS they find themselves in late 18th century France,specifically July of 1794 during the period of the revolution known as the Reign of Terror. Finding a house in which to remain inconspicuous, they all find themselves swiftly accosted by D'Argenson and and Rouvray,counter revolutionaries and held at gunpoint when some of the fake papers they locate in the home bare the signature of Robespierre,chief government orchestrator of the French government. Revolutionary soldiers discover them,D' Argenson and Rouvray are killed while Barbara and Susan and Ian are taken prisoner by them as they doctor is knocked unconscious in the skirmish. The revolutionary soliders set the home ablaze with the terrified doctor still inside.

                       A young boy Jean Pierre,whom they'd encountered upon arriving in the TARDIS helps the doctor to escape by telling him their friends were taken to the Conciergerie prison in Paris,where Barbara and Susan are awaiting execution at the guillotine as Ian is imprisoned with a cell mate named Webster,who encourages him to send a secret message to an English spy named James Stirling to return to England before Webster dies. After briefly fending off a greedy overseer of a road mending crew barring his lack of papers,the doctor arrives in Paris to a clothier to make a trade: his Edwardian era jacket and his Roman ring for the uniform of regional officer of the provinces. After arranging with the help of the drunken jailer to get Barbara and an ailing Susan out of their filthy,rat infested prison cell with the help of Government Official Lemaitre,who has also managed to cross Ian's name off the execution list after overhearing his conversation with Webster.

                   While the doctor confers with the megalomaniac Robespierre,Ian and Barbara find themselves taken in by a Jules Renan and his ward Jean-two more counter revolutionaries intent on freeing both Ian and reuniting them all with the doctor. Ian is successful thanks to the doctor in reuniting with all of them. Jules even arranges for a nearby doctor to look after an ailing Susan,and for Ian to confer with a confidant of theirs named Leon. Both the doctor and Leon have been paid off by the shop keep who is using the doctors Roman ring as evidence against him,and even Leon betrays his former companions Jules and Jean to the revolutionaries. Lemaitre shows up with the doctor,revealing that he is in fact James Stirling,after which Ian relays Websters message to arrange a meeting at the neutral Sinking Ship Inn. When their Napoleon Bonaparte  himself shows up to discuss a change in government. Knowing they cannot stop an important moment of history the doctor,Ian,Barbara and Susan watch as Napoleon and his men imprison Robespierre and proceed to take over France-before Jules and Jean bid the "mysterious travelers a quite literal adieu on the TARDIS.

              Much as with The Invasion with the second doctor, the fourth and fifth parts of this story were animated-this time by a different company. This animation was quite closer to anime-more attuned with natural human movements and done this time in a sepia line tone coloration. The story itself is an involved and rather brilliant historical serial in which each member of the TARDIS crew is forced to take matters into their own hands. In this environment where allegiances are traded with such regularity in fear of the despotic Robespierre, the doctor uses his wiliness in order to put himself into a position of authority through which he can enact just enough social change to free his companions and granddaughter from certain death. Jules Renan comes off as the sympathetic character in this story. While a member of the ruling class, his wish is only for a peaceful revolution as opposed to a violent one-as he cleverly tries to manipulate both sides to satisfy his general preference for peace. James Stirling,himself rather taken with Barbara is left wondering who she and her companions really are as they depart. And since the doctor seems to operate very easily in this difficult historical climate, the mysterious quality of the first doctor is very much on display here as well.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Doctor Who-Marco Polo

                                 After being nearly ripped apart during the formation of the universe the TARDIS,with all its systems completely out of order crashes in the Himalaya mountains in the late 13'th century. They are soon picked up by the Caravan of Marco Polo himself. While this gives Barbara in particular a chance at meeting up with history,a strange dilemma soon arises. They meet Tegana,a warlord set on sabotaging Marco's journey on the fabled Silk Road in the country of Cathay,one day to be known as China. They also meet Ping Cho,a lady in waiting from the city of Samarkand,daughter of a local official who is arranged to marry a man half a century her senior. As the doctor insists on repairing the TARDIS, Marco insists on penance for helping to drag the TARDIS out of the mountains: he wishes to present the TARDIS,which Marco sees as "a flying caravan" to Kublai Khan himself as barter for getting Marco back to his home city of Venice. Though objecting at first the doctor,Ian,Barbara and Susan-who has befriended Ping Cho take the journey from the city of Lop to Shang Tu,ancestral home of Khan.

                               Travelling across the treacherous Gobi desert,in hard conditions with no water,sings emerge that Tegana himself is also quite treacherous as his attempts at locating water from obvious areas conveniently fail. Realizing his attempts to take over the caravan for his own benefit Susan entrusts the TARDIS key to Ping Cho,who puts it in Marco's journal so that Tegana could not can access to the TARDIS through Marco. Upon arriving at the temple of Kublai Khan the doctor,who relates to Khan due to their advanced age and wisdom strikes up a deal with him: a game of backgammon whose wager will be either a collection of various goods from the city of Shang Tu or the doctor being returned custody of the TARDIS which Marco offered him as ransom to return to Venice. The doctor not only gets back the TARDIS but money enough for Marco to return to his home town. However Ping Cho has escaped to try to get out of being returned to Samarkand-wishing to marry someone of her own choice.  Tegana meanwhile,after slaying Khan's guards in an attempt to curry power,slays himself as his mission fails. Before the doctor and his companions can get further involved,the TARDIS disappears before Marco's very eyes.

                     Sadly this review is only based on a half hour production still/audio based reconstruction of this story,which was "junked" by the BBC in its entirety sometime in the mid 1970's. But this is a wonderfully revealing first historical story of Doctor Who's long history. From the available images the visualizations,costumes and sets were some of the most striking and elaborate of this earliest period of Doctor Who. Unlike many historically based episodes of the series, this presents a genuinely multi racial cast. In terms of the story,its wonderful to see Susan-a rather lonely young women travelling with an ambitious but ailing grandfather,befriending Ping Cho,who herself lives in a difficult position of being seen mainly as property in her society. While Susan gains the freedom alotted by the TARDIS key from her,Ping Cho gains from Susan the will to allow herself freedom and liberation. While the doctor,Ian and Barbara do not fully gain Marco's trust due to his own ambition to return home, he does believe them enough to keep them safe and alive. This is also one of the few Doctor Who stories to mention narcotics,in this case Hashish.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Time And Relative Dimensions In Space-Otherwise Known As The TARDIS

                       When the doctor lands on Earth,the time travelling device he uses remains in the shape of a British Police Box. While technically referred to as a Type 40 time capsule by most other time lords,it was the doctors granddaughter Susan who admitted in the first episode of Doctor Who "An Unearthly Child" that she came up with the name TARDIS-seeing as the trans-dimensional engineering used in it's construction allowed for completely different dimensions inside than out. Most human beings and other life forms the doctor encounters are captivated by the inside of the TARDIS being so much larger inside than out. That makes it probably the most unique and captivating pieces of technology in all science fiction. Not to mention that the TARDIS is built with a bioneural interface-which essentially makes it an living artificial intelligence. In this blog I am posting a video about my first (and so far only) TARDIS replica and post some other videos that explain a little about the TARDIS and the Police Box in general.



Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Doctor Who 'The Aztecs'-A Tale Of Two DVD's

                      This is something that I've actually done before. I've never bought a Doctor Who DVD twice. But I had my own reasons for doing this so,since I just reviewed this CD that I'd share some personal observations on it with you. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Doctor Who-The Aztecs [Special Edition]

                             Since I've been interested in Doctor Who, I've been a bit skeptical of these Special Edition sets of previously released episodes that promise enhanced picture and audio quality. Frankly that tends to be a marketing gimmick. Fact is though, a lot of the 60's era Doctor Who stories were in a very bad need of restoration. This set was pointed out to me as a gift suggestion on my birthday by my father at a Barnes & Noble a couple hours away. He had no idea why I was so interested in the DVD as I had the original copy already. What he didn't know was it largely had to do with the inclusion of a restored "lost" first doctor era story called "Galaxy 4",using a compilation of production stills and the lost third part of the serial.  I will review the "Galaxy 4" reconstruction at a later time separately at another time,however. Since this remains one of my favorite "classic" Doctor Who stories, I am going to do what I am going to call a Doctor Who Review Rewind-present my original review of the story itself I did hear and my opinion on the bonuses.

                  The TARDIS finds itself landing in a tomb in ancient Mexico during the height of the reign of the Aztecs. Barbara in particular is enthusiastic about this. But upon appearing before a group of Aztec warriors wearing a bracelet she'd found in the tomb she is believed to be the reincarnation of Yetaxa,the high priest of their people. Believing the Aztecs to be inherently civilized,Barbara begins using her position to effect  social change among the tribes and end the practice of human sacrifices. Though the doctor sensibly insists she mustn't rewrite "one word" of history she is able to convince Autloc,another high priest of her wishes. Of course the high priest of sacrifice Tlotoxl stands in the way,continually attempting to convince almost everyone Barbara is a false god,even to the point of an attempted poisoning and the sacrifice of Ian. Meanwhile the Doctor finds himself being the romantic interest of Cameca,widow to the builder of their temple.  She uses her influence along with Autloc to assist the doctor in rescuing Ian and Susan,who was sent to an Aztec monastery to study the culture upon her showing ignorance to their marriage rituals. They succeed in this,though Tlotoxl actually succeeds in a further sacrifice at which time Autloc loses his faith against such practices as the TARDIS departs.

                     The bonus disc of this set includes some terrific bonus features that are more than worth the price of admission alone. While true disc one is definitely the same content and presentation as the original DVD,the picture quality is clearer and the audio is a definite improvement.  My favorite bonus feature is the 1969 episode of Chronicles called 'The Realms Of Gold',narrated by Julius Norwich that discusses the symbiotic relationship in history between Cortex and Aztec the divided leader Montezuma. Very well rounded and progressive take on what is still viewed today as a controversial subject.  'The Celestial Toyroom' is a delightful and funny documentary about Doctor Who toys-including three favorite parts for me in a pair of Tom Baker boxer shorts,a Whovian's set of hand made Daleks by his father and a game of Doctor Who trump cards between the narrator and Ian McNeice-who portrayed Winston Churchill of course in 'Victory Of The Daleks'. 'It's a Square World' is a hilarious skit-the first comedy skit of Doctor Who featuring a wonderfully comic William Hartnell impersonation. This is a wonderful time capsule of the original Doctor Who cast and I'd highly recommend this Special Edition to all Whovians and Wholigans out there for all the fun and educational bonuses especially. For those who've never seen it at all,must have story and a must have edition. More than worth my...well little more than two cents.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

What's Happening Here As Doctor Who's 50'th Summer Is About To Begin?

             What would River Song say to me right now if the character heard me revealing my plans for the months of June on this blog? "Spoilers",I'm sure. Kidding aside (or just on the other end of the time vortex rather) it is fun to be surprised. On the other hand sometimes I surprise myself. So in that spirit I am going to discuss with you some of my plans for the coming month on this site. Now on June 8th there are two prominent Doctor Who birthday's: Carole Ann Ford and Colin Baker. In the program,both play grandfather and granddaughter (technically). On the other hand due the tragic limitation of first doctor era episodes available and the fact that I have already reviewed all of the sixth doctor episodes,I have some (hopefully) clever plans to deal with both dilemma's. As for anything more specific,let that be the big surprise for you.

            Later in the month are yet two more birthdays. That of Lalla Ward,who portrayed first Princess Astra in "The Armageddon Factor" part of 'The Key To Time' series of Doctor Who and in the next season the regenerated Romana. All episodes featuring her will be reviewed as well. The next day is the birthday of Maureen O'Brian,who played the first doctors second young companion Vicki in 1965. So that means that there will be a good dose of William Hartnell and Tom Baker episodes this month. This site was not created for mere episode reviews. So I am planning even more surprises such as Doctor Who related videos,critical articles and hopefully some updated information on some of the people involved in Doctor Who I'll be talking about this month. So keep your eyes to the stars and as they say ALLONS-Y!!!