Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Leisure Hive (Part 4)

Originally Broadcast 20th September 1980
Written by: David Fisher

This part was a huge improvement from the previous; despite still having it’s flaws. I seemed more into the adventure here, there were more ‘fun elements’ that go into a Doctor Who, There was the amazingly brilliant David Haig as Pangol, a mad dictator-like child, the Doctor x infinity wandering about the place giving decent dialogue in that booming unmistakable Tom Baker voice and Howell’s score is still holding up, as is Adrienne Cori’s Mena, who’s desperately trying to hold off for the end of the storyline.

Where this episode is let down, is in the final three, maybe four minutes which, for want of a better term, turn into absolute trash. The events of the story are solved by a macguffin of the Doctor leaving a machine on a certain setting before creating a terrible looking stock footage explosion, which results in the rest of the story turning into pantomime. And if anybody accuses late 1980s Who of being like panto, watch these last two/three minutes and rethink your evaluation. The acting and dialogue suddenly turns wooden as everyone turns jolly and a baby turns up. Upon recording this scene it must have been close to ‘lights off’ at ten pm, as the baby won’t stop crying with Mena desperate to shout her lines over it. If it were, say, an hour earlier, then surely this wouldn’t have gone out in this format? It’s painful!

The last scene with the Doctor and Romana was meant to be fun and a nice lead in to Meglos or wherever we go next, but instead feels rushed and a bit pointless, like a heaily-needed tack on to the end to make it a little bit closer to the running time the show needed but didn’t have.

Before turning my back on The Leisure Hive for another year or two, it has to be said again, the best, best, best thing about this serial is Adrienne Cori and David Haig, who are really fantastic throughout this storyline.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day (3 of 10) Spoiler-free review!

The third instalment in the new fourth series of the show is a huge improvement on last week. Gwen and Jack actually have significant roles to play in this episode, getting in on the action. There’s even the return of a handy gadget from series three.

It’s a shame that the majority of the episode consists of the group of four sitting in a dirty old warehouse, but at least writer Espenson gives some good dialogue that it never feels as though we’re trapped in this room with our characters.

Something that has already gotten really old is the America is different to Wales and England joke, which is the most pathetic, lazy scripting I’ve seen in a while. Yeah, it’s a funny joke the first, maybe the second, time, but here we get it four or five times in very quick succession. If I have to sit through that same old joke three times an episode until the finale, I’m going to be screaming at my television. And how stupid is Gwen, not knowing Americans call their trousers ‘pants’? Has she never watched The Simpsons?

Russell has to script edit in another of his trademarks as well, as Jack, now feeling mortal, has to go and get a gay sex scene in. Whilst this did bring up some interesting ideas about the mortality of people, it’s just Russell squeezing it in where he can, I’m starting to loose a bit of respect for him on this show after he made it so great.

Wayne Knight has been a pretty wasted character so far in this serial, not featuring here much either, but the other fantastic “special” guest star, Bill Pullman is seriously the best thing about this. I know that line probably features in the majority of peoples reviews as well as all three of mine, but it’s incredible at just how amazing an actor he really is. Pullman manages to play the sympathy card as well as merging it with a bit of evil and still make you want to see more of him, it’s everything the character of Oswald Danes requires to be a successful part of the narrative.

There’s one or two small links to the ongoing threat but Kiztenger is the character to look out for in the coming episodes, I spotted her last week where she didn’t play a prominent part but was certainly noticeable but here she’s really emerging, I’d look out for her because it’s filmed in a way to show you this woman is important. And we’ve already seen she had an interest in Danes very early on in the Miracle Day…

The Leisure Hive (Part 3)

Originally Broadcast 13th September 1980
Written by: David Fisher

We’re not really getting much better at this as I’ve hit the third episode with very little of anything really going on. We’ve learnt one or two things that are quite crucial to the overall storyline but at the same time it feels like we’ve not done or gone anywhere.

After almost three episodes we’ve finally seen the Foamasi-how lucky we are as they waddle on in their green costume, looking like an overweight grasshopper. That’s right, the Foamasi aren’t the greatest looking creatures in the universe. They stand out as one of the lesser overall mainly due to their ‘guest spot’ on BBC Comedy show It’s Only TV, But I Like It where they got ripped to shreds. Poor little monsters, they have everything against them.
But with these aliens apparently being the good guys, it leads us back a few years to a story that’s been done at least twice in just the Jon Pertwee era so why do we need it again? Arguably as it’s a different audience watching it here (upon original transmission) but the ‘aliens are friendly’ line is a little bit old, even by 1980!

Tom Baker doesn’t appear to be having much fun, bearing the make-up of an old man to give him a 100-years older look. Apparently the original plan was to keep this for a couple more weeks but Tom protested and hated the make up so much it only lasted until the final part of this story. Personally I’d have liked to see how that panned out, I don’t really think it would have worked in the ratings, but it’d be a nice alternate route to travel down just to see how it would’ve gone.

There’s not really a whole lot more I want to add, this episode wasn’t great, the weakest of the adventure so far, even in terms of script as I didn’t really feel myself in the adventure this time around. We also came in short again, having a large recap and only reaching the twenty-one minute mark, Thankfully Adrienne Corri got to do a Yoda impersonation (a year before Yoda hit our big screens), she’s a fantastic actress, and there was some pretty decent music, especially in the final few minutes, even if it was paired with one of the weirdest cliff hangers in the history of the show…

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Doctor Who Series Six, Seven and new trailers/clips!

Well this has been an exciting day for any Who fan, as we've had a new trailer for series six, part two:

As well as a 2minute clip from 'The God Complex'

And Karen Gillan has confirmed she will be reprising the role of Amy Pond for the seventh series. Personally, the trailer and clip look fantastic, but I don't know about Amy in a third series, I love how the show lives on the changes it sees so frequently, so to have the same companion for three years now is a bit of a surprise (although it has happened before).

The other big (unconfirmed) news are reports stating that the second half of the show may screen as early as late-august so it's not long left to wait!

What are your thoughts on the trails, clips, series six and beyond? Please try to refrain from any spoilers.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Defending Pip and Jane-writing for fanzine FANWNAK #2

Hey everyone,

I've recently written an article all about defending the mistreated script writers Pip and Jane Baker who worked on the show between 1985 and 1987, which will be appearing in the next issue of the new fanzine Fanwnak.
The first page of my article is available as a 'sneek preview' for the issue on the website.

Link to Fanwnak

I had great fun researching and writing this so please have a look. Thanks everyone!

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Leisure Hive (Part 2)

Originally Broadcast 5th September 1980
Written by: David Fisher

The Doctor and Romana try and help rejuvenate a dying species as murder and mystery play a hand in the second of four parts for this 1980 adventure.

More spoon feeding dialogue plays a hand but luckily Fisher’s gotten rid of his book of clichés for this next part, although I’m still not being a huge fan of Bickford’s directing skills. He does have a good idea with the ‘monster’ by revealing him slowly over time, although now we’ve been waiting two episodes with still no proper sight of them, “maybe it’ll be worth the wait” this reviewer thinks sarcastically, having seen the Foamisi in all their glory.

I’m not sure who failed to do their job but this serial is seriously under running as well, this episode barely scraping the twenty-minute mark whereas it should be hitting around four minutes longer, it’s a shame this DVD doesn’t carry some deleted scenes (if any exist) as it’d be fascinating to see if anything was cut to make it this short on purpose.

The brilliant David Haig, watch out for him!
There are three particularly good things that stand out in this story that I failed to mention in my review of episode one and they are as follows:
1)      June Hudson’s costumes. Hudson is probably the most famous classic Who costume designer and I love all the costumes from the episodes she undertook, as she’s so inventive with the small budget. The Argolin costumes here are fantastic and really carry an Ancient Rome type powerful look about them
2)      Peter Howell’s incidental music. Whilst not the best at times, this music really strikes a different after the wonderful Dudley Simpson was axed by JNT. It’s quite adventurous and sets the tone well for the adventure side of the serial.
3)      The set design isn’t the greatest Doctor Who has ever had, far from it, in fact, but the sets are memorable and fairly believable, I can’t really knock them as they do the job and look effective. This paired with the more-than-brilliant lighting work undertaken in this episode and they really strike up a powerful partnership.

There’s not really a lot more to shout about in this episode, there’s some good acting and there’s some less-than-good acting, although it doesn’t get in the way too much, but is noticeable in one scene in particular (see if you can spot it, faithful reader). There’s a great idea for a cliffhanger not too wonderfully executed, but I believe this to be an editing problem and not one of Bickfords, as he directed the episode one cliffhanger with greatness.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Leisure Hive (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 30th August 1980
Written by: David Fisher

From Brighton Beach to the planet Argolis, this episode is brimming with unusual direction choices from newcomer Lovett Bickford. It’s nice to see some new styles making their way into the show as, after all, it relies on change, but sadly, most of Bickford’s choices don’t really work here. We open with a 90-second pan across Brighton Beach, which is just wrong, as it ends up being far too long. There’s a long zoom out as we leave the beach as well that’s held for a ridiculous time. I’m not sure who the blame falls on, either Bickford isn’t great or his editor is completely useless.

Moving onto the script provided by Fisher and it’s a complete mess. There can’t have been much importance to the script otherwise we couldn’t afford to watch a 90 second pan shot and if we ignore this shot, you can play a game of ‘count the clichés’. We get characters talking into their radio-rings (came up with the name myself) with lines such as “Character X, you are needed in command bay” with a repeat of it and a “Understood, I’m on my way” as well as spoon feeding some awful lines of dialogue such as “But you’re the chairman”, which is followed by “Yes and she will be the next one when I die”.

The Doctor and Romana get a bit sidelined in the episode as well, which isn’t always a bad thing (it works well in Full Circle later this year), but here it isn’t good, mainly because when they don’t get sidelined they don’t actually do anything bar stand about listening to a lecture about some scientific thing the audience don’t have any knowledge or interest in. They finally get to have some fun around the twenty-minute mark, letting Tom off the reins for a minute or two, but that’s all. It’s surprising to see how toned down the new production team have made Baker and I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for a viewer to settle into this episode having come straight out of works like Nightmare On Eden and The Creature From The Pit where Tom is barking mad.

Looking for a good story? On Brighton Beach

Combining all the problems of this episode together (directing, writing, editing), I think it’s safe to skip the first five or six minutes of this episode and still find it as useful as the overall twenty-three. Nothing really happens for a while, the first scene on Brighton is meant as a fun little way of finding the series after it’s summer break. It works as far as the first shot of the Doctor, lifting his hat up, but other than that it’s a clear ‘murder’ scene only written in to ditch the ever-unreliable K-9. I’m not sure it was actually worth John Leeson coming back after a year’s absence for that scene?

The last small comment I’ll make before moving onto the second of four episodes, is the cast, for the most part, are pretty spectacular and probably the most entertaining thing about the episode, even more so if you put the dvd on ‘mute’ to cut out the dialogue. Just make up your own, it might be more interesting!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The OK Corral

Originally Broadcast 21st May 1966
Episode Four of ‘The Gunfighters’

Written by: Donald Cotton

With Wyatt Earp’s (or Wearp if you speak Hartnell) kid brother shot dead by the Clantons, war breaks out between the two opposing forces.

From the very first shot this episode is, for the most part, brilliantly choreographed and brilliantly shot by director Rex Tucker. There’s a fantastic scene between Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday near the end of the episode that feels slowed down and gets surprisingly a lot of screen time for a 22minute episode, making it so much more effective and atmospheric.

What this episode isn’t, however, is brilliantly scripted. The past three episodes have been brilliant and full of comedy and fun, whereas this episode tries to immediately take a darker, more serious tone, but fails to do so due to the far-too quick turn around of mood. I’m not saying the episode fails, as there’s still some great dialogue, good scenes and a very good morale to the story, one that’s precise and yet isn’t spoon-fed, giving a great feel to the episode, as well as teaching you some historical facts as well.

Despite an obviously wobbly stairway, the OK Corral scene at the climax of the episode is, whilst fairly simple, brilliantly staged. There are one or two dodgy moments of choreography but it’s certainly not anything that’ll take you away from the action.

Just prior to the gunfight, there’s a forced scene where the Doctor has to visit the Clantons, which I suppose has to be in the story for it to be complete, but it doesn’t feel right, to me it seemed like an “we need another five minutes of story” idea rather than something really well planned. As well as this the final two scenes felt drained of energy and the final moments, edited on the end to lead into the next serial, really shouldn’t have been included. They really spoil the rest of the episode and I can’t wait until the ‘final episode cliffhanger’ for the next serial is wiped, as it does tend to have this effect a lot throughout the sixties tenure.

Despite a weaker script for the final episode, this is a fantastically under-rated story, one that needs to be rewatched and revaluated as it has some cracking direction, some wonderful acting and set design and, for the most part, a great, fun script.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Johnny Ringo

Originally Broadcast 14th May 1966
Episode Three of ‘The Gunfighters’

Written by: Donald Cotton

I am still loving this underrated story, as I’ve finished the third part of the action, with more deaths and double crosses than a festive episode of Eastenders. Sadly my favourite character has bitten the dust, but at least its time to say goodbye to his wobbly set (something we saw wobble in episodes two and three!). Apart from that set, everything looks stunning and it’s so surprising the outcome is this good, looking at the studio space provided for the show during the mid-1960s.

One thing I’m loving in this story, is William Hartnell’s inability to call Wyatt Earp by his actual name, rather than Mr. Wearp, something injected into the script as an in-joke in this episode. Now every time somebody calls him by his actual name, it sounds wrong! Hartnell is absolute fun in this episode, he gets a cracker of a line saying how Doc Holliday is such a good friend of his, this story is pure Doctor Who and Billy Hartnell is lapping it up, having a real good time filming this one, making it more fun for me to watch.

The song wasn’t too much of an annoyance here, but the level of violence is quite surprising giving the broadcast date, there are numerous deaths including one made in jest with no ‘downfall’ or penalty for the character who is enjoying killing people for the sake of it. I’m not sure how some of this survived a nasty trip to the cutting room floor, but it certainly makes the outcome more effective, giving us a greater insight into the historical period.

Not really much to add onto this episode that hasn’t been said above or previously, this is just 100% silly fun and I’m loving it.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Don't Shoot The Pianist

Originally Broadcast 7th May 1966
Episode Two of ‘The Gunfighters’

Written by: Donald Cotton

In a nutshell: Mistaken for Doc Holliday, the Doctor finds himself under threat from the Clanton brothers until Wyatt Earp rescues him. But when Steven’s live is in danger, will the Doctor get a chance to help his friend?

Review: The music is still irritating! The one obvious bad thing to say about this episode is the music. Over the first three minutes of the episode it is played to an extortionate level, hurting my ears at one point. Other than that, I’m not sure how Steven can sing and play the piano; he’s wasted in that TARDIS!

Moving on from the nasty stuff and it’s so obvious how much fun everyone is having on the set of this story, from Hartnell performing his comedy lines such as “The Clanton brothers…Oh no” and turning away to Anthony Jacobs’ Holliday asking if Earp has stolen his liquor, every actor is loving this. With the exception of Peter Purves who has openly admitted not being a fan of having to sing.

Because the script works so beautifully with the infinite amount of changes to the shows format and all the actors are having a great time, it really rubs off on the audience. I had a great time watching this, it was fun, exciting, welcoming, funny as well as being scary and nerve-wracking. It’s everything you could expect from a BBC1 Family/Children’s show, just paired with some poor music played overhand.

Something I thought when watching episode one, which struck me again watching the second part, is how at times this episode feels like a pantomime. A very good one, but still a pantomime. I think it’s due to the nature of the music with some of the shots, but the sets help as well. I think it’s obvious the sets are all studio-built with little space, but it’s such a fantastic achievement on the designer’s part. They all look stunning and believable, especially on the budget provided for the show.

After two parts, I think I can successfully say this is the most enjoyable and easy-to-watch episode of Doctor Who from the William Hartnell years, I can’t wait to press play for episode three; ‘Johnny Ringo’. See you there, faithful reader!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day (2 of 10) Spoiler-free review!

It’s impossible to watch Miracle Day without thoughts of comparing is to 2009’s epic ‘Children Of Earth’ mini-series but I’ll do my best to steer clear of that angle, as it’s being talked about so much and we all know it’s impossible to live up to. What MD is, however, is a big step up from the first two series of the show and episode two pushes past the series premiere with how good it was.

Sadly, however, it’s still not really living up to the expectations Torchwood has, quite rightly, earned. Jack and Gwen don’t really feature in this episode much at all, being more side characters of their own show now, which is a real shame, as their loss is felt at times through the episode. To compensate, there’s a fantastically emotional scene between the two in the first five minutes of the episode, building on the ending of Children Of Earth and showing how much has changed for our pair of heroes in the past couple years.

In the more centre-stage story of episode two, the CIA scenes are boring, acted out with so much wood it feels like a carpenters workshop and a great deal of horrible editing to match. The best scene of the series to date is a truly heart-wrenching scene with Bill Pullman’s character, but its ruined with cutting between that and some poor reactions from CIA workmen, almost ruining what has been built up by Pullman. I can certainly see why the scene was played out the way it was, it makes perfect sense script-wise, but it’s such an old and tired format it takes away rather than adds to this.

Sticking with the CIA storyline for the moment, (after all, the writer did), and the majority of it feels like Starz input, as they try to make a low-budget episode of 24 with small set space and low-level characters we don’t know enough to care about. Also, look out for a really stupid ‘key card’ moment, which is truly the end of all things sane.

I can’t help but feel Russell T played a big part in this script, despite not being credited as writer, with some more pathetic and obvious Welsh/American jokes being inserted at every opportunity, along with a ‘gay or not gay’ flight attendant, which is another of Russell’s overused story ideas. I don’t want to knock RTD too much as he is a scriptwriting legend and one of my favourite writers, but I can’t help feeling he should’ve left Torchwood in the UK. But if the show had to be made in America, I’m glad he was on board.

Despite all these negativities, the overall plot takes a few more (small) strides and some strands are pulled together, such as the Oswald Danes plot becoming more relevant, it’s very clear to me this is going to be the memorable and best storyline through the show, but then from the “next episode” trail it looks as though it may be abruptly cut short.

I am enjoying the new series, but it feels like there’s so much going wrong with it, such as a silly ‘formula on a plane’ thing and spies in the CIA and set ups which has all been done in countless shows before. With ‘Children Of Earth’ we got something new and original, with ‘Miracle Day’ it’s a new story packed with old tricks.

Friday, 15 July 2011

A Holiday For The Doctor

Originally Broadcast 30th April 1966
Episode One of: ‘The Gunfighters’

Written by: Donald Cotton

In a nutshell: Landing in the Wild West, the Doctor needs a dentist after suffering at the hands of a boiled sweet (see ‘The Celestial Toymaker’), but a case of mistaken identity makes him the West’s most wanted.

Review: ‘The Gunfighters’ always comes under a lot of heavy fire from fans, but it’s not actually that bad. I think the problem most fans (myself included) have is Lynda Baron’s song played over the top far too many times, it’s easy to mistake this for ‘Oklahoma!’ rather than a Doctor Who serial. Not only is the song misused, it’s even mis-edited, so the top half of the episode gets an overplay of music and the latter half doesn’t get as much. Because of this I (thankfully) forget some of the song until it plays again, sending me into depressed mode.
It’s not that I don’t like the song, I love Lynda Baron as well (who’s striking up her third Who appearance this year), but it doesn’t really fit being cut and pasted over an episode of the show.

Donald Cotton’s script for this episode can’t really be slated, because it’s great! Hartnell’s great in it, there’s some fun lines for all three of the TARDIS crew (less for Dodo, but it’s Dodo!), some good comedic actions such as Holliday giving Hartnell the gun and some good supporting artists. David Graham as Charlie is such a fantastic actor, it’s easy to spot in just the one or two snippets of scenes he makes his way into, thankfully he has more to do in latter episodes if memory serves.

The episode cliffhanger was wonderfully underplayed as well, the obvious would be to end with a close-up of a gun barrel (a cliché worn down in the Pertwee era) but instead we just get a shot of the Doctor staggering over to the Last Chance Saloon, which is wonderful. It’s so unique in the show, brilliantly directed by Rex Tucker.

Trivia: Rex Tucker was brought on as ‘caretaker producer’ for Doctor Who in 1963, before ‘first’ producer Verity Lambert was hired. Tucker was also set to direct ‘An Unearthly Child’ as well as more of the 1963-4 series, before all plans fell through. He even requested his name dropped from the final episode of ‘The Gunfighters’.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Colony In Space (Episode 6)

Originally Broadcast 15th May 1971
Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: The Doctor and the Master reach the Primitive city, where the Doctor discovers what the Master’s real game is…

Review: All I can say about this one is it was a ‘half and half’ episode. I’m still not really enjoying the colonists’ tale, although I love the Doctor/Master storyline being played out.

There was a really shocking scene with the colonists, giving probably one of the most dramatic endings to a serial. I won’t say what happens to the gang but it is really surprising and you wouldn’t have guessed that Doctor Who would go down that road with a group of humans in the final episode of a story. Sadly, other than that there’s nothing to write home about. There’s some acting that fails, as the characterisation in the script wasn’t strong enough throughout, with the ‘I told them to take off’ speech. This scene had definitely been built up to, but the moral dilemma of the characters hadn’t been exposed to the camera as much as it should have, loosing some of the dramatic effect trying to be created by the scene.

The Master’s plot comes to a close with a really crap and obvious escape, just so he can come back for ‘The Daemons’, making his target of being the villain in every story of the series just about achievable, the lucky sod. The Doctor didn’t really seem too fussed the Master got away and Jo forgot about it pretty fast too. Luckily, just as the adventure has come to an end, the colonists magically find the Doctor’s TARDIS for him and Jo to travel home in. There’s a lucky coincidence for you.

I think, overall, this is a decent idea for a story, but it’s not developed well over the six episode formula, maybe a four or (at a stretch) a five parter would do this story more justice, but the colonists story gets tedious when it has to last 150minutes for the audience. Maybe a bit more characterisation added in for certain people as well would create more interest for me to watch this over and over.

Likened to 2007's 'Last Of The Time Lords'

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Colony In Space (Episode 5)

Originally Broadcast 8th May 1971
Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: Posing as an Adjudicator, the Master is attempting to explore the native city, but he soon finds he needs the Doctor’s help to discover what lies within. With Jo Grant kidnapped by the Master, the Doctor has no choice but to help.

Review: I had to take a bit of a break between episodes four and five as I wasn’t pulled into the story enough, it was certainly enjoyable and had good ideas but I was getting tired of the drawn-out nature of the show. But have no fear, faithful reader, as I returned to find episode five much better!

Sure it still has its faults, the ‘colony vs. company’ storyline has been written to death and both sides are starting to make me yawn, but we get brilliant, fantastic writing and acting for our three musketeers; the Doctor, Jo and the Master.
Jo gets captured in a rather stupid fashion; maybe it was because most women were ‘useless’ in the 1960s and 1970s on television, at least this will change in Who with Sarah Jane Smith in just over two years time. Delgado at one-point alerts the Doctor that Jo could have a ‘foetal accident’ at any time, I’m certain of it!

The natives take a backbench in this episode, which I think works really well considering the exposure they will no doubt receive in the final episode of the serial. The one time they make an appearance they are made to look weak and crap too, a wonderful piece of setting up false expectations for the audience. The cliffhanger (occurring after the native cameo) is really badly shot here; it looks like the Master is moving in slow motion! And speaking of dull endings, the ‘get-out’ from episode four is pretty disappointing, a big letdown for people who remembered the exact same cliffhanger with a more exciting outcome just two serials back in ‘The Mind Of Evil’ (1971).

Delgado's most frequent job for Colony 5: Point and aim
Personally I think this was one of the stronger episodes of the serial, even more so if you don’t listen to any dialogue not spoken by our three favourite characters, making your own up instead is much more fun. Just think how much better the audience storyline could be. Instead of ‘Oh we’ve found out the Adjudicator isn’t real. Should we tell the others and make peace? Nah, lets fight for another two episodes’ we could have ‘God that Adjudicator looks rough in that picture.’ (I’m not known for my comedy, I’m sure you can do better in your own homes).

That aside, lets move onto episode six where we’ll hopefully have more natives and less colonists!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Colony In Space (Episode 4)

Originally Broadcast 1st May 1971
Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: An Adjudicator from Earth arrives on the planet to deem whether or not it should remain a colony or instead be used to gain more rare materials for humans.

Review: In all honesty I’m just getting bored of this story now; the Master’s arrival as the Adjudicator (being the biggest part of this episode) was ok, but was very underplayed from all areas of production. Hulke’s writing didn’t make a big thing of it, the direction treated it incredibly poorly and the initial reaction from Jo and the Doctor was pretty standard as well. Maybe they’ve seen him twice in a row so they didn’t really expect any different, like the audience.

Delgado didn’t do a lot different in comparison to his other appearances, although he’s not done the ‘famed’ “You will obey me” line yet (hopefully being kept back for something ‘special’) but there was a brilliant scene between him and Pertwee as they discussed the Master’s papers being forged.

There’s been some speculation in recent years (since 2007’s ‘Last Of The Time Lords’) about whether the small creature in the Native’s cave is another Time Lord, which I find quite interesting. There’s nothing at all to suggest so from neither this episode nor the 2007 three-parter, other than the small Doctor looking similar in appearance. Personally I don’t think there’s anything in it although it’s a nice little unanswered question to go with the other mysteries and unanswered questions in the Whoniverse.

Delgado complete with cardbard suit puts in an appearance
Pertwee gets some decent material here, like the aforementioned interaction with Delgado, but my favourite is his trick with the coin on a Native, the scene was fun and feels very much like something Pertwee (therefore Pertwee as the Doctor) would do.

Other than these points, the episode is really getting dull and very similar to many other stories, maybe the sheer ‘excitement’ of the Doctor being off-world for the first time since 1969’s ‘The War Games’ makes it a little more attractive, but it’s still standard material which not even Delgado or Pertwee have managed to completely save as of yet, but they still have two episodes to go!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Colony In Space (Episode 3)

Originally Broadcast 24th April 1971
Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: In order to discover more about the second group of humans, Jo investigates only to get herself captured. Meanwhile, there’s talk of an adjudicator arriving on the planet.

Review: I’m starting to really get into this story, it’s still slow in places and a lot of the story is a bit obvious, but on the whole it’s really coming into it’s own. The characters are getting better and more to do with each part that passes and Jo’s finally given something to do. She investigates, gets herself captured by one group and then another. But Jo does get to play a part in one of the shows most atmospheric cliffhangers of all time as she enters the Natives cave, a really cool shot of her (one of the few that don’t feel like a forced or out of place zoom shot.

Away from this we get a big moment in seeing the relationship between the Doctor and Jo as possibly the greatest father/daughter TARDIS crew. As Jo gets kidnapped, we see the Doctor show real affection (something rare for the third Doctor) and go out of his way to try and save her. Pertwee is given a nice bit to do in this story, he actually feels like he’s changing things and not there for the sake of it, as he can in some of his serials (‘The Time Monster’ (1972)) and Hulke is writing some good material for him, showcasing his affection and Venusian karate on natives and humans alike.

One of the problems for me with the whole ‘Natives are evil’ plot is that it’s partly a rehash of Hulke’s ‘Doctor Who And The Silurians’ from the previous year as well as numerous other Doctor Who stories throughout it’s long forty-eight year history, trying to deal with race as an issue. In some stories it works well and here it is a little unnoticeable, although once you do notice it, it does get a bit tiresome due to the overused plot already put in place by Hulke. Sadly there’s no Delgado appearance again (he MUST be here next episode), although this could be a good thing as viewers may have forgotten about the Time Lords’ line about him in the opening episode. But then he’s turned up as various different officials in the last two stories so maybe the word ‘adjudicator’ just instantly warns them off. The serials been getting better as we progress so I have a good feeling about episode four…

One of the best TARDIS teams?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Colony In Space (Episode 2)

Originally Broadcast 17th April 1971
Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: Investigating into an attack on the Colony, the Doctor discovers another group of humans have landed on the planet, but this group have deadly secrets, including something about the recent attack.

Review: Much better than the initial part, the second ‘Colony In Space’ really gets going with it’s characterisation of both groups of humans, giving me some characters to like such as Mary Ashe (Corrie’s Gail Platt) as well as John Ringham returning to the world of Who (first appearing in 1964’s ‘The Aztecs’). On the other side of the planet, there are fewer people to like, Hulke instantly setting them up as villains and very dislikeable ones (although we do get the charming Roger Delgado soon to make up for that)!

As opposed to what these characters do and the plot itself, we’re still not travelling outside a story that’s been done countless times before. Taking elements from ‘The Faceless Ones’ (1967), ‘Doctor Who And The Silurians’, ‘Inferno’ (1970) and even ‘The Wheel In Space’ (1968), there isn’t anything new to grab the audience. Yes there’s a fancy WOTAN-styled robot and Pertwee gets to show off some more of his fantastic Venusians karate on some natives (I’m surprised they don’t get given the derogatory term ‘Swampie’ like in ‘The Mutants’ (1972)).

WOTAN redressed?
The unexpected human arrival who appears at the colony is a walking stereotype, we instantly know what he’s going to do in ten minutes, Jo instantly knows what he’s going to do in ten minutes, the only people who don’t are every other character (I’m not sure how this is Earth’s ‘best’ people to colonise planets based on what I’ve seen). I feel a bit bad for Jo as well, this is her first alien planet and she spends it washing dishes and cooking food with Gail Platt, she puts on a brave face and interacts with the humans but I have faith she’s hating it inside, this serial is a bit sexist with the chores women have to fulfil. 2472 and Germaine Greer’s changed nothing it seems.

And finally, what would one of my reviews be without a mention of the cliffhanger? All I’ll say is, undramatic, poorly composed music, poor camera shots and the exact same cliffhanger we were given for episode one. When does Delgado show up to change this again?

Friday, 8 July 2011

(Spoiler Free) Torchwood: Miracle Day, Episode One

Well I caught episode one this afternoon, it airs in US at 10pm tonight (not sure what time that makes it over here) and in the UK next Thursday.

The UK version runs for an extra 3-4minutes and the US version contains more 'racier' action scenes (mainly around the character of Jack Harkness, as over here he is a childrens hero).

It holds nothing that 'Children Of Earth' did for me so far, but it's still a good, well written episode, clearly written by the pen of Russell T. Davies with lines knocking at the Welsh and their country.

There's also some clever writing, especially for characters like Bill Pullman, but Jack himself leads a lot to be desired. They are certainly taking him in an interesting and brilliantly new direction, yet he uses some old tricks and doesn't really get explored enough in this first episode.

Gwen Cooper and husband Rhys are fantastic, I'm so glad Kai Owen has a credit on the opening and for me he's the best actor in this opening episode, he gets some funny lines and some dramatic scenes as well. It's clear where the Starz budget has gone with some 'explosive' moments, cranking Torchwood up a gear.

I'm not enjoying the use of news coverage in the episode, as it's quite distracting, it feels like one of Russell's great 2005 ideas ('Aliens Of London') blown into overload. The new American characters haven't come into their own yet, which is a shame. We've known them for almost an hour so I should be liking them more than I do. Mekhi Phifer's CIA agent Rex Matheson is funny in places, but not hugely memorable as a character, more for his humerous lines. But Alexa Havins' Esther Drummond is a really poor repeat of a 2007 Gwen, making her pretty dull.

It's certainly not the strongest 50 minutes of television and it's not Russell's strongest script, but it's great to see the team back again and it's a decent opener, but it's not lived up to 'Children Of Earth' just yet.

Colony In Space (Episode 1)

Originally Broadcast 10th April 1971
Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: The Time Lords (expecting danger from the Master) send the Doctor and Jo to an alien planet where they encounter an Earth Colony in the year 2472.

Review: A bit of a dull episode, this began really well with some pompous Time Lords discussing matters relating to the Master (briefly) and the Doctor, which kind of spoils the ‘reveal’ of Delgado eventually in episode three or four as he’s announced in the first line of dialogue!

But we digress from the Time Lords for(ever) now as we see what the Doctors up to back on Earth, still trying to make a new dematerialisation circuit for the TARDIS. I’m sure most of Jon Pertwee’s ‘episode ones’ from his first two or three series opens up with a shot of him doing this, so I’m not incredibly excited to see him doing it again as Jo leers over him, doing her best to put on the ‘dumb companion’ act Katy Manning’s stuck with in this episode. Jo acts worse than usual as she gets her first visit inside the TARDIS, revealing she never believed the Doctor’s stories, which I don’t buy into. I think it demeans the character of Jo that everybody loves and she gets to do a good deal of ‘fear acting’ as well about the TARDIS taking off and landing in an alien quarry.

The Time Lords make a fleeting appearance.

The Brigadier is what steals this episode, although he only makes an appearance for a couple minutes, but his dialogue with Pertwee is really great, as he thinks he’s finally found the Master (again). The Brig is one of those characters that works really well, because the dialogue usually treats his character as a joke, yet the relationship between Courtney and Pertwee is such a great one that the character appears brilliant. This then carries on, as Pertwee becomes Baker etc, the initial actors relationship transfers itself in the audience mind. This scene is particularly great, as the Brig has mistaken the Master for the Spanish Ambassador!

But all the fun stuff aside, this plot doesn’t do a lot for me, as it’s yet to really evolve into anything brilliant. Hulke trundles out some similar elements to his previous entry into the series (‘Doctor Who And The Silurians’) such as a reptilian creature although there’s also a wobbly robot that looks like it’s been in storage since 1966’s ‘The War Machines’. At least these two devices might’ve toyed with audiences’ minds back in the day (or maybe today through DVDs-when ‘Colony’ is released). None of the guest cast have done anything to excite me yet, I’m not knocking anybodies acting, there’s just nothing attracting me to anyone, but they’ve only been on screen for a short part of the episode and I still have five more to go…

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Android Invasion (Part 4)

Originally Broadcast 13th December 1975
Written by: Terry Nation

In a nutshell: Arriving back on the (real) Earth, the Doctor and Sarah must warn the people before the invading Kraals can arrive.

Review: A step up from the terrible third episode, the fourth still gets off to a very shaky start. I don’t really care nor did I find any interest in the first ten or so minutes of this episode, where the Doctor and Sarah have a lucky escape from last times cliffhanger before returning to Earth in the android pods.

The same trick from the previous episodes was maximised far beyond the point of return, which is that of mistaken identity, with it happening to pretty much every character in the serial in this episode. The good thing that came out of this, though, was getting two Doctors fighting each other, but then came the obvious conclusion to this storyline when one of the Doctors got shot by Styggron.

Again Levene’s Benton and Marter’s Sullivan were truly wasted characters although this time round I can add Sladen’s Sarah Jane into the mix as she had terrible writing in this one too, being given pretty much nothing to do bar a very out of character and extremely random remark in the closing minutes of the episode. Sarah tells the Doctor she wants to go home by cab, to which the Doctor makes a deal about taking her home in the TARDIS. Inevitably Sarah agrees without putting up a fuss, I really, truly do not understand why this scene is here, what relevance it has or how it even fits with Sarah’s story who doesn’t even want to leave when she has to (in a years time through ‘The Hand Of Fear’).

Colonel Faraday has to be near the top of the list as one of the most pointless, boring and irritatingly generic characters in the history of the show, there is nothing to like about him, nothing to see about him, the character can just be summed up by the word nothing. Well, the word nothing and the word pointless.

Overall this is a story that began so wonderfully but slowly digressed into lesser and lesser quality, with little chance of regaining itself. At least the Doctor/Companion team is strong throughout bar Nation’s SJS characterisation in part four.

Some wasted characters get to stand around and watch

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Android Invasion (Part 3)

Originally Broadcast 6th December 1975
Written by: Terry Nation

In a nutshell: After a close encounter with the android Sarah, the Doctor is captured by the Kraals and left to die.

Review: The story for this has gone so far downhill I’m struggling to wonder why it was good now. I remember loving part one, it was fantastic, but this one has fallen into Nation-typed (my new word for a stereotypical Terry Nation plot) as the villains have turned generic, the plot has turned into genocide and the Doctor and Sarah are stuck in the middle doing pretty much what they did in last years ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’, funnily enough also by Nation.

I really don’t get why these aliens never caught on, as they are exactly the same as every other uncharacterised villain we’ve got in the show (and Saturday morning cartoons), I’ve found myself giving up caring about who/what they are and what their plan is, I heard they want to commit genocide on the Earth and stifled a yawn as Styggron becomes the fiftieth villain to do so in the part few years.

Yes it’s all good and fair to say that Tom Baker and Lis Sladen are good and funny and true to their characters throughout, but it’s the same old story, they are good but they can’t save the episode from this material. The Doctor can name as many young women called Olga he wants and the sonic screwdriver can have as many settings as it’s given, yet it doesn’t hide the boring same-old story of the plot. I’m loosing faith in Nation as, like I said, part one is just fantastic and so atmospheric yet it’s all lost here in what I like to call ‘Terror Of The Zygons 2’ or ‘Return To Terror Of The Zygons’. I’m sure if they were wheeled back in instead of making up the Kraals the episode would certainly look more attractive (although granted it would ruin the Zygons reputation as favourable monsters).

This episode really needs something to break away from the mould as we head into the final part, with Sarah’s undignified close-up given as the ending to the third of four parts.

Sarah's given a makeover.