Sunday, 30 June 2013

DWM #462, The Week in DoctorWhoADay and more!

Hello faithful readers and welcome to what's becoming my 'weekly round-up' in DWAD. Has everyone read DWM #462 yet? I have to say it was one of the thinnest issues of recent times. With just one 'feature' being the rather lame and padded 'The Sixty-Seven Doctors' and a pretty good interview with Richard Franklin otherwise we just get the regular features. I've also been catching up on Big Finish's latest works and I urge you all to go listen to Prisoners Of Fate, which is brilliant starring Peter Davison as the fifth Doctor with companions Tegan, Nyssa and Turlough.

Away from that and back to the blog, I hope you've all been watching and enjoying Invasion Of The Dinosaurs with me! I'm afraid I've made a little slip up and starting tomorrow I was going to do a special on the 2013 series and chat about The Bells Of Saint John through to The Crimson Horror but I accidentally let my Hide review turn up early so it's already out there for you to read (below this post, in fact) but you can still join me each day for the other adventures, beginning with The Bells Of Saint John tomorrow morning (GMT time). After that I'll be covering the first story of a 1970s companion before I turn my gaze to a brilliant story, one of my favourites, to tie in with a release later in the month, but more on that next week! And then I'll be looking at how Doctor Who celebrated last time it had a proper on-air anniversary we all class as being canon. There's loads coming in July so don't go anywhere!

And if you want the odd sneak peak at what I'm reviewing next or if you want some random tweets (once in a while), you can follow me on twitter @Matt_Holsman and, as always, feel free to comment either on the stories I'm talking about, what you want to see, what can be improved or what works or anything else you might want to say.

See you around,


Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (Part Six)

Originally Broadcast 16th February 1974

Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: ‘The Final Phase’ is entered as the Doctor is on the run from UNIT.

Review: And here we are! Entering the final episode of Invasion Of The Dinosaurs and it’s been a pretty strong story, I have to admit I’ve been impressed with the effects, I think all the acting’s been spot on and there hasn’t been too much bad writing or directing, although most of these cliffhangers are the same, including the one we’ve just resurfaced from with the dinosaurs approaching the Doctor.

Talking of being impressed with the effects, I fear I spoke too soon, as the dinosaur fight at the opening of this episode isn’t exactly great. It’s very clear it’s two people with finger puppets and it does let down what was achieved in the previous episodes by showing too much onscreen for too long.

Back at UNIT base and the Brigadier is finally convinced of every traitor bar Yates by the Doctor. I like how the ‘extra’ UNIT Soldier doesn’t know what to do and, when told by the Brig to make tea, puts a smile on his face that says how pleased he is to do it. He’s a crazy soldier! And then Yates enters with a gun! It’s one of those ‘shocking scenes’ as Yates is fully ready to shoot one of his old friends but it gives way to a strong speech by the Doctor as he tells Yates to make the most of the planet he has.

Not the dinosaurs final moment.
This episode does feel like it’s lagging a little, it’s taken just over half the episode and we’ve not even reached the underground base yet. It all feels like, despite having five episodes to build the final up, there’s a lot of padding here until the showdown in the final few minutes. Although saying this, there are some good dinosaur effects in this part (definitely excluding the opening one). The Doctor drives underneath one dinosaur whilst later we have a Stegosaurus in the underground! The shots work quite well and I’m back to buying the dinosaurs again now. I wonder if they ever release a toy set of the third Doctor with a dinosaur, he’d look like a finger puppet? It’s certainly an interesting idea…

When I said earlier how much of this episode pads out the action until the end, I was definitely right, as we’ve reached twenty minutes before the action begins and twenty two until it’s over! I do like how all the stories tie together at just the right time. When Whitaker and Grover go to switch the lever with Whitaker’s warning, it’s brilliant as Miles shouts “he’s reversed the polarity”! The computer is extremely wobbly, making it one of the biggest over actors in this episode.

Away from this we get the ‘wind down’ as the Doctor explains away what happened. It’s a good scene with the Doctor warning us of the dangers the planet faces. This feels like it’s clearly come from Barry Letts who likes to ‘preach’ problems into the scripts in a strong and interesting manner. It’s a nice fun conclusion between the Doctor and Sarah, rounding off what I think is a pretty strong story. It definitely dips a little for part three and the final part and a half is a bit slow at times, consisting mainly of delaying the events of the finale, but it’s still great. The first two episodes are some of the finest this show has ever produced!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (Part Five)

Originally Broadcast 9th February 1974

Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: The Doctor has been framed by Finch for being the man behind the dinosaur invasion. Running out of people he can trust, the Doctor goes on the run.

Review: I’m surprised by the coldness in which the Brig announces the Doctor’s arrest. It eases a little back at UNIT HQ but Finch is driving him to fight against the Doctor. The scene works well although I think the distrust of the Doctor could have ran a little longer as it was only a couple of minutes before Benton stepped up and helped him escape.

I’ve reached the stage where I’m really just waiting for a resolution. I’ve lost whatever small interest I had in the Sarah plotline as we know it isn’t real and the scenes between Butler and Whitaker aren’t too gripping. The only plot that’s really working for me is with the Doctor as well as the lovely scenes between the members of UNIT (General Finch not included). The line from the Brig “Don’t just stand there, Benton. Put yourself under arrest” is great and is delivered in the style of it being an ending to me. Maybe the gang knew this was one of their final outings as UNIT?

Thinking about it, this is the final true adventure for UNIT with the third incarnation of the Doctor. The next two stories are set on alien planets whilst the final story features UNIT for just the first couple episodes, whereas Invasion contains them across all six instalments. It’s quite sad because UNIT have featured so heavily in the third Doctor’s life, it seems a shame to let either one of them go in just a few stories time.

A lovely moment from sacrificial lamb Benton!
The ‘action/chase’ scene featuring the Doctor and a UNIT chopper and jeep is a little unadventurous. The music doesn’t really give a sense of excitement whilst the editing and direction is also a bit tame, mainly consisting of long shots of the vehicles cut with shots of Pertwee’s face. It isn’t very gripping or atmospheric and with the lack of dialogue on top it all feels a bit dry.

Sarah finally returns to UNIT where she becomes dumb yet again and spills all the beans to Finch. How can she not know he’s a traitor yet? He’s already tried to kill her once before she blurts out “I know who’s behind it all”. Not only that she also announces she hasn’t told anyone else about this and she can prove it. I can’t believe how excitable and thick she can be in this story, always talking to the traitors. It would’ve made more sense, to me, for her to have run into Captain Yates and told him everything. It’s definitely more believable at the very least. She becomes captured (again) for what the villains are calling ‘the final phase’ before spilling the plot out to her and us, but more on that tomorrow as we enter ‘the final phase’, sorry, episode. Final episode.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (Part Four)

Originally Broadcast 2nd February 1974

Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: With Sarah apparently travelling through space for the last three months, the Doctor is stuck in London searching for a nuclear generator that will lead him to the men behind the new world operation.

Review: “We left Earth three months ago!” As soon as I hear those words I know nothing here is true. There’s a difference in storytelling between classic and new Who, whereas new Who could get away with a character being trapped somewhere for months, I don’t believe the classic run would ever take that risk with it’s characters. But keep an eye out for Sarah’s impression of Victor Meldrew, sorry, Doctor Constantine: “Three months? But I don’t believe it!”

Forgetting that, though, we’ve got the Who-mobile!!! I’m quite impressed Pertwee put his own money and time into this for the show and it goes to show just how much he loved the show and threw himself into it. Despite having read an interview or two where he tells how the show killed his career, Pertwee is one of the Doctors who I know really cared for the show, even long after his tenure. He was still giving appearances in costume up until his passing in the mid-1990s where other Doctors (Eccleston, for example) won’t even talk about the show.

There’s some really lovely lighting in this episode when the Doctor is in wherever he traced the signal too. The location isn’t told to us, yet we see Martin Jarvis entering a lift in a closet and the lighting through the door as the lift goes down is brilliant. I don’t know how they achieved that shot and I don’t think I want to as it’d spoil this stunning effect. It also strikes me as really strange that, apart from a few lines between Miles and Jarvis, there’s been no dialogue for a very long time, I’d say five minutes or even longer, perhaps. It all works and creates a good atmosphere of the Doctor being alone and makes watching somewhat unsettling as we realise how cut off the Doctor is from everyone.

Da-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Who-mobile!
One thing I never thought I’d see in Doctor Who is Jon Pertwee fighting off a Pterodactyl with a mop! The scene kind of works for me but I think it’s the sound effects that put it down. The screeching sounds coming from the dinosaur is a bit poor and unconvincing. As for the model, it’s so clearly fake but, like before, I’m buying into it. I’ve become convinced by these models and can suspend my disbelief enough to see the wonder and ambition of the story.

Whilst all this is happening, Sarah is being horribly tortured! She’s been locked in a room and forced to watch those boring low-budget science-type videos you had to watch in school that were taped twenty years before you were born and recorded onto poor grainy VHS. I wouldn’t blame her if she tried to take her own life at this point, I sadly remember quite clearly just how dire those were.

The Doctor tells the Brig how something big is happening that is rapidly approaching its end. He clearly hasn’t been told we’re only in part four. In fact, it’s his turn to be dim this time round, as Sarah was last week. Whitaker, the missing scientist who’s somehow involved in this, phones up the Doctor and asks him to come alone to meet him. The Doctor agrees. Is he mental? Thankfully, and cleverly, the cliffhanger is there to set the Doctor up rather than another “dinosaur appears and growls” moment. I didn’t see this ending coming and it really does work. I’m regaining my hope for the story now after the dip in quality last time.

Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (Part Three)

Originally Broadcast 26th January 1974

Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: After capturing a Tyrannosaurus, the Doctor, Sarah and the Brigadier discover there’s a traitor in UNIT.

Review: I have a very petty ‘fan’ thing to raise at the start of this episode which I’ve let go for the last two parts, which is the opening titles. It was known at the time this was Pertwee’s final series so why change the credits for one year? They are good, I’ve got nothing against them, but it’d be nice to let Pertwee have just the one set of credits. I have the same reaction whenever I watch Tom B’s final series as well. It’s a poor point, but one I have to make!

Anyway, back to the story at hand and the Doctor’s caught himself a Tyrannosaurus! But don’t worry, “those chains will hold it” comments the Brig. I’m sure those words will come back to haunt him in twenty minutes time. Meanwhile, Sarah’s been doing some investigative journalism and found out about a man named Whitaker who had some time travel theories but has since disappeared. I don’t like how this came about, it just feels shoe-horned into the script as a way to further a bit of plot that Hulke couldn’t work out how to put in.

The level of traitors in this episode points to one of two things. It’s either completely ridiculous that we’ve got at least three double-crossers out of such a small cast or it gives a lot of headway to where the plot will go. So many people believe in the ‘big plan’ for a new world that it should convince us it’s a good idea. I can’t quite decide which one I want to be true. Part of this story leads Finch to lure Sarah into the path of the captured Tyrannosaurus, you know, that one the chains will hold. It’s stupid for Sarah to go photographing it but then, when I think about it, it totally fits with her character. She’s headstrong, rushes into things and is a journalist. It all fits together nicely.

No Mr. Bad Guy, of course I told nobody I was coming here!
Sarah is being a bit dim this episode, isn’t she? First of all she goes and tells General Finch how she won’t stop until she gets answers leading to her almost getting killed. During recovery, she decides to go to Charles Grover and tell him all about her ideas for where a nuclear generator could be kept before revealing how she’s not actually told anyone else about her theories before Grover reveals his true traitorous nature to her. How can she fall for the two big villains on the inside in less than twenty minutes?

Anyway, her silly plans have got her captured now, which makes sense for entertainments sake as we now have two plotlines to follow as we hit the halfway point for the story even if Sarah’s story does seem a bit silly. I’m starting to worry about this serial now, because at the halfway point we’ve gone through so much story there can’t be much left to tell in the next three episodes. Also, I feel like we’ve had so many info dumps and double crossers revealed that we should be nearing the end now. Maybe something really exciting will happen to keep the tale going in the next episode? But one things for sure, the third part has got nothing on the incredible first two episodes!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (Part Two)

Originally Broadcast 19th January 1974

Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: The Brigadier and UNIT finally track down the Doctor who hatches a plan to catch a dinosaur.

Review: Given the fact Jurassic Park is now twenty years old, Invasion Of The Dinosaurs (as it’s now known) stands up pretty well in my mind. Maybe it’s my stretch of BBC imagination or maybe the dinosaurs really are good compared to what you’d expect, I don’t know. I can see they’re fake and a little rubbery, but I’m believing it and that’s fantastic! I think it must be an acting or directing thing. So far every actor has sold this convincingly and wonderfully.

We’re about thirty minutes into the serial now so it’s only fitting we get a ‘dodgy’ moment. When we meet the man from the Crusades it falls apart for a moment. James Marcus really just doesn’t do the job for me and the horrible sound effect on the time eddy just becomes irritating. It’s a small moment of naff before the Brig is reunited with the Doctor at last.

It’s surprising that, when the Brig is filling in the Doctor on the problem, we don’t have a big info dump on the audience. A lot of information is related to us, but not in a clumsy or complicated manner. I think the reason for this is Hulke’s ability as a writer teamed with Pertwee’s simple action with tea and sugar plus Benton giving us a great line about his colour coded map of London.

We get a meeting between the Doctor and General Finch which doesn’t go down too well. Pertwee is great against these authority figures, but we’ve seen as far back as Spearhead From Space how unhelpful these ‘big wigs’ can be and, most of the time, they turn out to be behind the attacks, so keep an eye out for Finch because I think he’s gonna turn nasty!

I’m hoping we don’t get answers too quickly in this story, as we’ve got six episodes to fill. I’m always a bit wary of the six-parters, as they tend to have a ‘dragging’ segment near part four. I agree with JNT when he was against them and feel it was the smartest thing he brought to his era of the show. We’re still in the second part and I feel we could go a little longer, maybe to the end of the third part, before we get developments on a big scale as the storyline is that big. The whole of London deserted because of dinosaurs! How exciting is that idea to kids? We could go for ages on just that line of adventure and nobody would care! I don’t want to get bogged down with Peter Miles’ character because that should come in the final two parts rather than here. At the moment I just want more dinosaurs and scenes of Jon Pertwee being brilliant.

Just what I was saying I don’t want to happen is occurring now. We’re getting so many answers in this episode there won’t be enough left to make the following four episodes as strong. The Doctor has pretty much told us the entire plot but the most important and surprising fact is that Captain Yates is a bad guy! I think this was a wise decision and one that was played well here by giving us a bit of background to him being manipulated in The Green Death last year. If it had been Lethbridge-Stewart or Benton I wouldn’t have believed it, yet with Yates it works.

As we near the end of episode two, there’s a brilliant line of dialogue that I think goes a but unnoticed as the Brig orders “Get over here and bring the Doctors…that thing too” meaning his sonic weapon. Teamed with his new weapon, the Doctor attempts to measure the time distortion, but it doesn’t work due to Yates’ sabotage. I can’t help feeling Yates has made it too obvious in this episode, even running to get the Doctor’s weapon for him. He’s not exactly hiding is he?

The end of this episode is basically the same as the last one but ten times more exciting! The Doctor trapped by a T-Rex! I still agree with my points on the first part of this story; it’s fantastic! Too much has been given away too early though and I do think the next few instalments are going to suffer from this, but so far this is just top notch Who from one of it’s strongest eras and I love it.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Invasion (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 12th January 1974

Written by: Malcolm Hulke

In a nutshell: The Doctor and Sarah arrive back on Earth to find London completely deserted.

Review: If only there were more Part Ones of Doctor Who stories called Invasion because in this DVD age I feel we’d have more treats as Doctor Who fans. Long since missing in colour, the DVD of Invasion Of The Dinosaurs brought us newly restored colour to Invasion: Part One, whilst a number of years before the same DVD geniuses brought us an animated version of the missing The Invasion: Episode One. We’ve been lucky in the last ten years with our Invasions, so maybe we should have had some more episodes called this?

The colour for Invasion makes me love it so much. I remember really enjoying the atmospheric opening episode when I was a kid, but all I had was a horribly grainy UK Gold compilation recording which wasn’t the easiest of watches so to have it in colour is truly brilliant. To top it all, I think the opening five minutes of this episode provide one of the best Doctor Who openings we have. The middle of London completely deserted and we don’t know why. I love the idea of Great Britain being closed on Sundays, they were much better and simpler times. We did get to see London deserted in The Dalek Invasion Of Earth but it wasn’t the same. The level of atmosphere and reality wasn’t there, like it is here. I’m not as keen on us having to tail a looter although when he dies in a very gruesome manner it’s a nasty shot and one I’m surprised we got to see.

Even though she doesn’t sound like she had a lot of fun when listening to the commentaries or interviews, Paddy Russell is one of my favourite directors of Doctor Who. I think she’s one of those people who, whilst not understanding the show in terms of popularity or interest, she got on with her job like a pro and really understood how to make a television programme. She’s someone who was tremendously great at her job and it’s more than evident in her Doctor Who work, especially in this one episode.

Pertwee perfection!
Surprisingly, it’s only eleven minutes in when we get our first dinosaur. I love how it comes out of thin air, there weren’t any telling clues to dinosaurs being behind the ‘invasion’. We first get a Pterodactyl flying at Sarah and the Doctor. It was always going to be obvious that the dinosaurs, on a 1974 BBC television show, wasn’t going to be greatly effective but some of the shots here are very good. The best was the close up of Pertwee with wings flapping in the foreground of the shot. There’s a real sense of this thing being real and moving rather than the stilted shots of the dinosaur in full which don’t work for me. Lis Sladen and Jon Pertwee really do sell this well, doing their best to make it believable.

All the silliness when the Doctor and Sarah are detained and having photos taken is just magical Who. Pertwee is so comfortable in the role and really knows what he’s doing after being in the part for over four years now. He pulls some silly faces and cracks some jokes, it verges on slapstick but Pertwee really makes it feel right in the middle of this scary episode and that takes real talent.

I think the Brigadier, for me, has fallen into playing his part of straight man so well I’ve rather passed him over in this episode. Nicholas Courtney has been playing the role for a good few years at this point and there’s never anything out of place in his performance. He doesn’t stand out because he’s that good. It’s not until he puts Benton in his place and when he comments about the Doctor “absolutely typical” that you’re reminded of just how great he is with little material to get his teeth into.

I love the bit when the Doctor and Sarah attempt to escape detention. Pertwee with the line “so much for honour amongst thieves” before he despatches with said thief is brilliant. It’s little touches like this that Pertwee really strives on and make his Doctor so loved to this day. Sadly there isn’t time for anymore of these, though, as our duo have been captured again before being ambushed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex at the episode’s climax! This has been a stunning first episode and really is one of my favourites from the first part. Putting it simply, Part One is in my must see episodes if you want to get to know Doctor Who, it’s just fantastic from start to finish. If this carries on for another five episodes, this would easily rank up in people’s top ten serials. I can’t wait for the next part!

The Visitation (Part Four)

Originally Broadcast 23rd February 1982

Written by: Eric Saward
In a nutshell: The Doctor must rescue Tegan and Mace and reunite with his other companions in time to stop the Terileptils. But first, can he save himself from his own friends?

Review: When the Doctor delivers his clear ‘end of the episode’ speech in desperation before suddenly jumping into action seems a bit anticlimactic. What was the point of his worried ‘end of us all’ dialogue unless he knew he had a cliffhanger to provide? I do like the little scene afterward with the Doctor using the gun on the door. It allows for a moment of smugness from Davison’s Doctor (“I never miss”) and we finally have our regulars on the move again as we edge toward the finale and I must say it’s about time.

The line about saving the Universe with “a kettle and some string” is very apt in this episode as the Doctor manages to pick locks and doors with a safety pin. What’s strange is that this is the Davison episode I’ve watched the most so I should remember it better than any other, yet I can’t remember ever seeing the trick with the safety pin before. Maybe my brain’s just trying to save the BBC budget by blocking it from memory. When our trio are sniffing around the Terileptil’s base I like the scene when the Doctor almost loses his patience with Tegan. There’s also a line that links back to his search for Heathrow in the first episode, which gives us a nice sense of continuity about the story.

Meanwhile Adric is being beaten by the Glamdroid which Nyssa then helpfully destroys with her silly time wasting machine she’s been building for two episodes. Whilst I think the characters (apart from Nyssa) got some good interaction in, this really felt like a painful and pointless subplot to get rid of some characters to give opportunity to others. I think that’s the real pain of having too many companions, in the 1980s one of them has to be sacrificed to give a good story.

Can someone remind the Doctor that this isn't how he does things?
I really like the moment between our heroes when Adric and Nyssa are trying to land the TARDIS. It’s so lovely and fitting that all it needed was a good thump on the console, which it again needs from the Doctor afterward. The Doctor does seem to get a little shirty with Adric and Nyssa but they’ve at least delivered us the TARDIS which means the episode won’t overrun as we can just materialise to the scene of the climax.

I love the Terileptil’s gun because it looks so much like a mini umbrella. I can’t help thinking it’s what gave JNT the inspiration for Colin Baker’s Doctor, it is a little embarrassing. It doesn’t feel right that the Doctor, Tegan and Mace get into a fistfight with the aliens, the Doctor always strives to find a non-violent solution. I know he must have figured out this is 1666 so the place must set on fire, but that doesn’t mean he needs to start beating up other species. Also, why the heck does he give the computer chip to Mace before leaving? Nyssa gives a simple “won’t that confuse the archaeologists?” but that doesn’t really justify it. As the episode ends, we discover this was all set in 1666 and the Doctor started the Great Fire of London which I think is the most fantastic twist of all. I know Peter Davison is a great fan of the ‘Doctor in history’ moments and this one ranks as one of my favourites. The Visitation, whilst having an uncharacteristic ending, is a hugely fun adventure with strong writing, acting, aliens and visuals. For me it’s one of the top three highlights of the fifth Doctor’s time on our screens.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Visitation (Part Three)

Originally Broadcast 22nd February 1982

Written by: Eric Saward

In a nutshell: Nyssa is hiding out in the TARDIS with Adric as the Doctor is brought before the Terileptils.

Review: Again there’s quite a lengthy recap here, but I like the line given to the Doctor before he’s beheaded of ‘Not again’. This serial carries a nice bit of continuity, not just for the sake of relating back to old stories for ‘the fans’, but also to carry a sense that these characters don’t just ‘get over’ an adventure once the cameras stop rolling before being reset to the norm for the next serial. That’s why we get Tegan talking about only just starting to understand what the Mara did to her in Kinda at the beginning of this serial.

This episode is strange. It’s keeping my interest which won’t fade for some reason and yet nothing is happening. Tegan’s been turned into a zombie, so she isn’t giving us any fun lines of dialogue, whilst Nyssa’s just traipsing around the TARDIS as she waits for Adric to turn up with plot developments and the Doctor is locked up in a cellar. The story should feel stilted but it’s still holding me. I don’t quite get why.

There’s a bit of a ‘ropey’ moment as the glam-droid has been sent to fetch the Doctor and Mace. When attacking the villagers, he grabs hold of a scythe, making him look like the Grim Reaper. It’s a little embarrassing, as it could’ve been handled a little less obviously or maybe could’ve been done from the start as an idea by the Terileptils to scare people away. Nevertheless, it gets us moving along and the Doctor gets a ‘showdown’ scene with the monsters. It’s a little annoying that the Doctor seems to know everything about the Terileptils as a race. I like when the Doctor doesn’t know anything about the villains or, if he does, it’s because we’ve met them before. Here, it’s just because Saward wants the dialogue to be a bit more fierce between the characters.

A grim impersonation
I think one of the strongest elements of this episode I haven’t discussed enough is Michael Robbins as Mace. As a one off character, he’s brilliant. The lines he’s given as comic effect are funny and really gives a nice flow to the episode, breaking up the seriousness when needed. There was a great line at the end of episode two when he’s asking donkey if he can carry an old thespian. It’s just a character that works and is being portrayed by a brilliantly over-the-top actor who just gets how to play the part.

Back in the TARDIS Nyssa’s being irritating. She’s clearly carrying the weak link of the story this part as all she has to do is build some huge device I have no knowledge of to stop the glam-droid. Adric leaves her to it and gets captured outside the TARDIS which gives Sarah Sutton the chance to look at the camera in desperation as she delivers the ‘oh no’ line to us. It’s a poor excuse of a storyline for an episode and is only here to get a character out of the way for a while.

More importantly, the sonic screwdriver has been destroyed! It’s been often noted how this was put in place by the producer and script editor and I do agree with them. The sonic was becoming too much and this marked it’s last appearance in the classic era, apart from a second-hand version in the form of the sonic lance with the sixth Doctor. I can’t help but feel this is something that should be done in today’s show, as it’s pulled out at every opportunity, even used to pathetic lengths in this years series.

The cliffhanger to this third instalment is quite good, actually, although sparks back to the box being opened in Kinda. I like that the Doctor has already used the ‘get through to Tegan and talk her out of it’ excuse before the credits roll and it fails to work. If that’s the get out for part four it’d be weak and rubbish, so to get it out the way now means I don’t know how they’re going to escape in the final instalment tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Visitation (Part Two)

Originally Broadcast 16th February 1982

Written by: Eric Saward

In a nutshell: Adric and Tegan are taken captive by the deadly Terileptils as the Doctor, Nyssa and Mace try and find out what they’re up to.

Review: I feel we’ve recapped too much at the start here, although it’s probably because there was no real ending, the action just stopped last time. But we’ve got a lovely effect of the cast walking through a brick wall, it’s actually pretty cool and effective, it still works now, thirty years later. The first five minutes of this episode are a bit…odd. We’re a bit all over the place with the regulars and Mace sort of wondering round waiting for action to happen themselves as they chatter about the taste of ale and the smell of sulphur.

What’s most surprising is the Doctor leaves behind two of his companions and what’s more surprising is Adric shouldn’t even be unconscious, he was barely touched by the glam-droid! I can’t help but think it’s an excuse to get our characters split up to introduce new bits of the plot and make it so we’re not following the one storyline for twenty minutes.

At the ten minute mark we get to see our monster, which is surprising really, as they weren’t saved for an end-of-episode moment. The Terileptil looks pretty good, it’s quite clearly a rubber monster but it still looks good. The mouth moves at the right time, it maybe a little slow moving and it doesn’t suspend my disbelief much, but there’s something there. It has a ‘quality’ for want of a better explanation. I’m not sure, though, why Adric blurts out everything about the TARDIS upon seeing him. He can’t be scared to death so why is he? I think from this and his turn in Four To Doomsday he should change his name to Blabbermouth.

The Terileptils - revealed too early?
The jumping between storylines is a good move, actually, to break up the narrative. It’d get a bit too much following jus the Doctor and Nyssa or just Tegan and Adric, so splitting them up works well, even if it wasn’t done 100% convincingly. I feel I haven’t said a lot about this episode and I’ve almost reached twenty minutes. It’s certainly not slow and events have developed well in this second episode, I think I just don’t have a lot to say because I’m caught up in it.

In the past The Visitation has always been my favourite Peter Davison serial despite never really ‘getting’ the fifth Doctor’s time of the show. I think it’s a solid story (ok there are some plot holes) with very memorable guest characters and monsters with some fun moments between the Doctor and his companions. The BBC also handles period pieces with seeming ease. It’s just hard to find something I don’t like in this story that jars too much.

Events develop rapidly by the end of the episode as the Doctor visits the Miller and Adric escapes from the villains. Tegan has to stay behind, which gives us a third storyline to follow in the next part, so maybe that’s the secret behind strong storytelling? Give us one group of characters to follow for part one, two smaller groups for part two and split them smaller for three sequences in the third part before they culminate together in the final part. It sounds like a strong theory to me. We’ll find out if it works in the next part of The Visitation tomorrow!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Visitation (Part One)

Originally Broadcast 15th February 1982

Written by: Eric Saward

In a nutshell: In an attempt to get Tegan home to Heathrow, the TARDIS instead takes them to the right place but three hundred years previous where the Doctor discovers even more trouble.

Review: There’s a lovely little introduction to this episode which sets the scene for what’s to come nicely. It has some quite nice music, some decent ‘lights in the sky’ effects, good costumes and some…ok acting. The attack is pretty cool as well and then there’s the question “From who (are we under attack)” before the glitzy disco robot breaks through the door. Uh-oh, I think the 1970s is calling.

When we reach the TARDIS team our characters are fighting. Great. That’s different from usual for the fifth Doctor’s haul of companions. But the writing and the acting is really confident, yes, even Adrics. I’m enjoying the scene but this is definitely less Doctor Who and more soap opera. I feel this is what producer JNT wanted when he took over the show, slowly integrating these elements into his first series where he managed to shoehorn Tom Baker out of the TARDIS.

Team TARDIS on form!
It has to be said, there’s a lot of action in this episode. We’ve now got the Doctor and co fighting some locals. I’m still really enjoying this episode, I think the writing is pretty strong and I’m loving what our four regulars are doing. Even with the added inclusion of dropping the homing device and the twisted ankle, I’m still a fan of this episode. Michael Robbins as Richard Mace gives us a beautiful performance, slightly over the top but because he’s so believable in himself it works without a second thought. When he delivers the line about once being a thespian until falling on hard times, do you think he’s making a metaphor for his own career?

I know the regulars have since spoken out about their costumes and I have to agree, they don’t work. I don’t understand why our companions can’t change between stories in the 1982 series, especially because every time Adric turns around or is filmed from behind we get a nasty imprint of his bum. Let’s hope he never got too excited whilst filming…

This episode does really have it all: great period piece, action, humour, brilliant acting, intelligent storytelling and even some detective work for the Doctor and Nyssa toward the climax of the episode. I have to go out on a limb and say this is possibly one of the best single episodes of Doctor Who I’ve seen and if you watch it with the DVD commentary it’s even funnier! The cliffhangers a bit limp though.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Masque Of Mandragora (Part Four)

Originally Broadcast 25th September 1976

Written by: Louis Marks

In a nutshell: The Doctor has less than one day to stop the deadly force of the Mandragora Helix.

Review: Can I just have a moment before we start…Count Federico’s dead! Finally! He’s been pushing his luck since the first episode and he’s slowly been getting more irritating and now I don’t have to see him anymore! Although the role was played brilliantly by Jon Laurimore for me to dislike him so much.

It suddenly feels like we’re winding down. Federico has been killed, Giuliano is back in power and people seem happy. But then the Doctor has to tell us all our characters are still in terrible trouble, the Mandragora Helix still needs to be stopped. There’s a scene in The Family Of Blood when the Doctor is asked if he didn’t visit that place “on a whim” whether anyone would have died and it’s a strong scene. The same thing has happened here. This is all the Doctor’s fault.

The Doctor spends some time looking through a telescope and I can’t fathom why. It makes me start feeling a little bored, just as Sarah is, who saves the scene really by acting like the audience. Luckily the Doctor gets what he is looking for and decides to tell us a big old load of plot which really helps. We finally know how deadly the Mandragora is without a simple line about being able to kill from the Doctor. I love Sarah’s line “The more dangerous things are, the worse your jokes get”. The pair really know each other and it neatly gives the audience a whole new scale of worry to focus on.

The Doctor jokes around before entering the lions den...
I’ve been thinking this since episode one but haven’t said anything so I’m just going to throw it out there. Who thinks Giuliano and Marco are gay? They just seem very close together and there’s never any interest in the girls around them. Answers on a postcard, please.

Meanwhile, we’ve finally got the scene I wanted: a showdown between the Doctor and Hieronymous and it’s just what I wanted. Sadly there’s a horrible interruption which isn’t helped by the jarring change of tone in music at the end of the scene when we get to the oldest trick in the book of someone in fancy dress being mistaken for someone else.

Louis Marks has a good way of building up the danger to breaking point. We’ve been told how bad things will get and then suddenly the Doctor is nowhere to be seen and the end of the world is about to begin. There seems to be no way out but then everything happily falls into its rightful place. It is a very quick denouement and it’s almost over before it begins. But then we’re told Mandragora will try again at the end of the 20th Century. Now that was an interesting century.

I think overall this story is fun and completely carried by Tom Baker and Lis Sladen but the problem was not a lot happened and when something did it was over very quickly but somehow I’ve emerged from the story with some love for it. It looks fantastic (set design, location and costumes) and the acting is all on top form. There’s little to hate but also little that happens.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Masque Of Mandragora (Part Three)

Originally Broadcast 18th September 1976

Written by: Louis Marks

In a nutshell: Hieronymous hypnotises Sarah and orders her to kill the Doctor whilst Count Federico pushes his luck too far.

Review: I quite like the cult masks, I bet you were thinking I was going to like the cult for a minute, didn’t you? No chance! The masks actually look quite scary and menacing, with the pointy teeth and lack of plastic in appearance. Meanwhile, it’s a shame the cliffhanger with the Doctor came to sod all but it gives us a chance for him to utter the line “You can’t count, Count”. There are just so many reasons in this serial why Tom remains in the top three favourite Doctors for people (the other two being Tennant and Smith). The rest of the sword fight was a little disappointing though.

Oh no. I spoke too soon. I just praised the brilliant masks and now one of them has to go and jump about the screen like a bright ball of Mandragora Helix. What a shame. I’m now almost ten minutes into the episode and apart from Sarah getting hypnotised, I still feel like we’re not really making headway into any developments. It does feel a bit like this serial is ‘all talk’ and no action. I’m not saying I dislike my dramas without a lot of action, but I feel like this episode is stuck in a bit of a limbo, with nothing really happening for us.
Count Federico - just kill him!
I can’t help but feel I’m giving little commentary on this episode but I don’t think there’s anything noteworthy to actually…note. I’ve got just ten minutes left and not a lot has changed. I’m hoping for Federico to get killed, however. He’s been slowly pushing his luck more and more with each episode, although not just with our heroes, he’s also started pushing Hieronymous to breaking point now. Plus he’s a bad guy, so he has to die, right?

“I thought it was time we had a little chat” the Doctor says he comes face to face with Hieronymous. After almost three episodes I can’t help but agree with him. Sadly, it doesn’t really amount to anything and there’s no ‘big speech’ between the two opposites. I was hoping for a bit of a showdown akin to the likes of the Doctor and Finch in School Reunion. Maybe next episode? Finally things seem to be happening by the time this episode ends, although I thought that at the climax to episode two, so who knows!  But that is a FANTASTIC cliffhanger that’s pulled me right back into the story. After two episodes of not much happening, that ending was just what was needed! The last two episodes were worth it for that, I just hope the excitement carries on into the final episode of The Masque Of Mandragora…