Archive for the ‘Classic’ Category

Myth Makers   Leave a comment

“The Myth-Makers” is a British sit-com version of the Trojan War. Ineffectual Achilles kills Hector by accident and fails to get an arrow in the heel. Odysseus is a bombastic prick, Menelaus and Agamemnon are drunks, Paris is dumb as paste, and Cassandra is a screeching harpy. Cyclops is a poor dumb servant, and Helen doesn’t even appear. Meanwhile, Steven and Vicki rewrite Shakespeare and the Doctor makes Homer’s wildest invention come true.

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“My kingdom for a… oh there’s one now.”

It’s well paced and engaging, if silly, and the reconstruction is easy enough to follow. Four episodes pass quickly, and the ending – in which Vicki stays behind for love*, Steven’s war wounds threaten his life, and short-lived Katarina joins the team – fails to prepare the audience for 12 episodes of “The Daleks’ Master Plan,” coming up next.

 

*What is it with Doctor Who abandoning teenage girls with purported lovers? Am I the only one who thinks this is a terrible idea?

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Posted April 11, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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Mission to the Unknown   Leave a comment

This one is an odd little creature.

Uniquely, this one-episode story features neither Doctor nor companion. According to the introduction to the Loose Cannon version, presented by guest star Edward de Souza, the story was intended as a teaser for the upcoming 13-episode epic, “The Daleks’ Master Plan.” Written by Dalek-Man Terry Nation in yet another bid to launch an independent series, it features the old pepper-pots uncharacteristically cooperating with fellow alien supervillains to launch an attack on Earth’s own galaxy, and characteristically exterminating any pesky humans who try to interfere with their plans.

Adding to the confusion of a Doctor-less story, “Mission” does not immediately precede “Master Plan.” Instead, “The Myth-Makers” intervenes.

“Mission,” also known as “Dalek Cutaway,” is the last episode of DW produced by Verity Lambert. After 87 episodes spanning nearly two years of air time – who knows how much more in preproduction – she moved on to another Sydney Newman creation, the next step in a long and varied career.

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So long and thanks for all the Daleks

Posted February 13, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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Galaxy 4   Leave a comment

  • In which one race assumes that because another is ugly, it must be evil
  • In which, as a hammer with a nail, a soldier assumes that everyone else is an enemy
  • In which robots are adorable
get

Meet Chumbley

The serial is almost entirely missing. Loose Cannon had very little to work with in their reconstruction: a few rare telesnaps or promotional images, six minutes of surviving footage used in a documentary, and a soundtrack rendered almost incomprehensible by time and decay. Episode 3 was found in 2011 and is available on YouTube.

The Rills are horrifying to look at, but they offer sanctuary to a stranded enemy. The Drahvin are beautiful, but they struggle to understand the human habit of helping each other. The Doctor and his friends are not fooled by outward appearances.

In the introduction to the Loose Cannon recon, Peter Purves shares some misgivings about the serial – mainly, that his dialog was written for Barbara, and that the script required that he be physically overpowered by a woman. Reading between the lines I sense a twinge of fragile masculinity. However, I don’t think Steven has anything to be ashamed of. He escapes his captivity by cleverness, and chooses death in an airlock over yielding to the Drahvin, once he understands their evil.

The story is a good one if a bit long-winded, and hard to follow on recon. The one recovered episode is an excellent sample however: Maarga smiles an evil smile, Steven’s hair is charmingly tousled, and Vicki wrestles a weapon from a soldier.

Posted February 8, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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The Time Meddler   Leave a comment

This story features the first appearance of faces in the credits!

It’s not the opening credits, though, and not immediately the Doctor. Instead, Steven, Vicki, and finally the Doctor are featured over the closing sequence of the final episode, “Checkmate.” The 3/4 profile shots are much less creepy than the head-on view we get a bit later.

The Meddling Monk – the first of the Doctor’s people, still unnamed, that we meet – is a jolly old fellow. He’s got a weird idea that he can make things “better” by screwing around in history. The Doctor, for the moment anyway, disagrees, foils the plan, and leaves the Monk stranded in Northumbria in 1066. Unlike his later incarnations, he doesn’t offer the Monk a second chance, abandoning him instead to a likely death in the imminent Viking invasion.

(Of course he can always hide in his TARDIS until things blow over. He just can’t leave.)

Overall the story is engaging and moves at a good clip. Its major flaw is Token Woman Syndrome: like many stories of its time, and even some much more recent ones (ie “The Girl Who Died”), it features a human community made up almost entirely of men. How hard is it to cast half and half? To add a few extras (maybe even some children!) to give your world life – in a fairly literal sense? Edith is great, but why is she so alone?

I ask too much. Still, I enjoyed the serial overall and would recommend it to fellow fans.

Up next: the almost entirely nonexistent “Galaxy 4.”

Posted February 8, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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Run Away   Leave a comment

“The Chase” features a weirdly jazzy score, adorable miniatures, some very 60’s vortex effects, terrible American accents, and a big ‘splodey robot fight. It also visits a new location almost every episode, as our heroes are chased through time by some very irritated and persistent Daleks. For a show on a budget, new sets and costumes every week seems extravagant – and that doesn’t even count the moments of history viewed through the Time-Space Visualizer. (For some reason, watching the past on television is EVEN COOLER than visiting it – though to be fair, it’s also a lot safer and more reliable.)

The key feature of the story is the departure of Ian and Barbara after 19 months. For a modern companion, less than two years is not that long a journey; however, modern companions don’t make nearly 80 episodes in that time. For Ian and Barbara, it’s been a long and glorious run; even though they’ve grown to love the Doctor and their adventures with him, they’ve never stopped longing for home. A Dalek time machine, left behind after its owners and the Mechanoids destroy each other in spectacular fashion, delivers them within two years of their departure, while the rattly old TARDIS hardly ever managed the same century. They celebrate their homecoming with a joyous tour around London, witnessed via Time-Space Visualizer by the Doctor and Vicki.

Future companion Steven Taylor, in the meantime, goes back into danger to save a toy panda known as “the mascot.” Assuming him to have been killed, the Doctor and Vicki appear to leave him behind – though we the audience from the future know better.

Other thoughts:

  • I missed the bit with the Beatles which I’ve read appears through the time-space visualizer. Seriously, how did I manage that??
  • I was not familiar with the story of the Mary Celeste, but once that woman jumped off the ship with her baby I knew this was not an invented scenario.
  • I found the haunted house hilarious, and was a bit surprised that Ian and Barbara never figured it out.
  • I really enjoy cranky Daleks.

Up next is “The Time Meddler,” followed by a third season almost entirely missing. Loose Cannon here we come!

Posted January 1, 2019 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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The Web Crusade   Leave a comment

“The Web Planet” is mostly unbearable. The story creeps along like cold syrup. Ridiculous aliens wave their hands and hop inexplicably. Giant ants shriek like evil emergency services. Six episodes seem to last ten hours.

“The Crusade” is nearly its opposite. Tight pacing and spectacular performances by Julian Glover, Jean Marsh, and Bernard Kay make four episodes fly. A pure historical, it’s free of badly costumed monsters, and even the villains leave the scenery mostly unchewed.

The companions follow essentially the same script for both. Barbara, self-rescuing princess, is captured and escapes ad nauseum, while gallant (Sir) Ian mostly hurts himself trying to save her. Vicki fills the granddaughter role more effectively than the granddaughter ever did, putting her faith in the Doctor and receiving his earnest affection in return. The Doctor lies, cheats, and steals, occasionally giggling like a lunatic, and everyone has a good laugh (at Ian’s expense, generally) at the end.

“The Crusade” is half missing; the Loose Cannon version includes a delightful introduction by an elderly William Russell as Ian looking back on his adventures. The telesnap reconstruction is hard to follow in places, but the available video – and Julian Glover – more than make up for any shortcomings.

Seriously, though, this cast:

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No hopping Opteras here.

It’s not without its flaws, of course. The Crusades were a campaign of religiously motivated destruction that set Arabic civilization back hundreds of years. Did Richard really travel all that way to sue for peace? Or did he partake eagerly of the spoils of murdering the infidel? Glover’s Lionheart of course is full of the glory and honor of Great Britain, even as he offers his sister’s body as currency. Colonialist undertones are difficult to ignore – as is the little extra shading in Bernard Kay’s makeup. I’m grateful now for┬áMalorie Blackman, Vinette Robinson, Vinay Patel, and Leena Dhingra, among others, but we still have a long way to go.

Nor is “The Web Planet” entirely without merit. In spite of the costumes and characterization, it’s hard not to feel something when a felt-footed Optera gives her life to save another race. It’s hard not to be inspired when a bunch of fuzzy butterflies call their comrades home to rebuild. With 1965 technology and a BBC budget, the DW team set out to tell a grand story, alien but humane. I for one can forgive them for falling short.

Next, we depart Earth once more for “The Space Museum.”

Day of the Romans   1 comment

“The Romans” begins with a “Day of the Moon” feel: a cliffhanger promises death and destruction, then all of a sudden we’re inexplicably weeks later in completely different circumstances. Clearly Moffat came by his whims honestly.

Vicki feels understandably cheated, having been promised adventure, and the Doctor seems mysteriously unwilling to return to the TARDIS, in spite of his restlessness. So instead they head off to Rome, leaving Ian and Barbara to be kidnapped and sold into slavery.

For some reason I came into this season thinking of Vicki as an adult, in spite of her elfin tininess. However, here she’s played even younger than the orphan of “The Rescue.” The TARDIS Data Core pegs her as “sixteen at the most;” in this story I’d consider that generous. However, as Susan was alternately infantilized and handed over in marriage, so Vicki’s behavior seems to have little to do with her physical maturity. She’s enthralled by the Doctor – not as Rose or Amy was enthralled, but in the manner of those young fans who hide behind sofas and need their parents’ coaching to ask their favorite Doctor questions at comic-cons.

Barbara remains glorious. Her error gets them captured, yes, but they had little chance of overcoming two armed men on their own; likely they’d have been overcome shortly anyway. Her statuesque and regal bearing command all sorts of attention from slave shoppers, but it’s her kindness that draws a decent man.

The Doctor is a weirdly amoral character in this story. He has no qualms about assuming the identity of a murder victim (though he claims to have done so with a purpose), engaging in violence, or egging on Nero’s abuse of his subjects – even laughing while Rome burns! He and Vicki remind me of Rose and Ten in “Tooth and Claw” – they’re in it for their own amusement, and to hell with the real lives being thrown into chaos around them.

Once more Ian is the proper hero of the story. He never loses faith in his own success, never lets anyone else suffer for his actions, risks everything for Barbara and his new friend Delos. (He also has fantastic knees.) He and Barbara seem to grow more comfortable and happy together with every story. No doubt in my mind they never leave each other’s side once their TARDIS travels end.

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Doctor Who seems to have a certain fascination with Romans. Not content to leave them to their burning city, the Doctor meets them again in Pompeii, at the Pandorica, and in Celtic Britain – and that’s just in the new series. A lingering effect of the Empire’s impact on Britannia? Or simply a passion for togas?

A recent Verity game posed the question: Given “The Romans” and “The Sensorites,” and the option to save only one while the other is destroyed completely, which do you choose? For me, “The Romans” is an easy choice. It’s silly, fun, enjoyable to look at, and everyone seems to be (mostly) having a wonderful time.

I believe I’ll have another drink.

Posted October 26, 2018 by Elisabeth in Classic, The Long Way Round

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