Friday, September 30, 2016

There's Always Vanilla

For Halloween this season I'll be running through every George Romero flick. His follow up to Night of the Living Dead is a weird romantic comedy about a hippie who looks as square as squaresville and a commercial model but it's too disjointed to succeed in the mainstream or the indie circuit, whatever that was in 1971. He hates it, and you should too.


(Here's my eight year old take on Night of the Living Dead.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Power of the Daleks

Only seven of the Second Doctor's twenty-one adventures have completely survived. Most of them are only missing a few episodes but a couple of them, like The Power of the Daleks, are completely lost*. Even without the original video footage, it's clear that the Second Doctor is a force to be reckoned with and a worthy successor to the First Doctor. Though he refuses to directly answer any questions asked of him and hesitates to confirm that he is, in fact, the Doctor, he is immediately captivating and in control. After his regeneration (or "renewal," they wouldn't use that term until the Third Doctor became the Fourth Doctor), the Doctor picks up a recorder and a stove pipe hat and then walks straight into a murder mystery. The Doctor assumes the identity of the murdered man and waltzes into the middle of a power struggle going on among the colonists of the planet Vulcan (no, not that one). Things only get worse after the colonists revive some Daleks that were found in a space capsule that had crash landed on their planet. The colonists get so wrapped up in their individual quests for power that they willingly overlook the fact that the Daleks are capable of deadly force. Everyone is so thoroughly convinced that the Daleks are the solution to all their problems, the Doctor's warnings of impending death fall on deaf ears. There's a great moment in the second episode when the mad scientist character reveals a revived Dalek to his superiors. The excited colonists drown out the Doctor's warnings with grand plans for their new mechanical assistant and the Dalek, seeing an opportunity to seize power, announces, "I am your servant." The Daleks have shown, time and time again, that they are capable of brutal and overwhelming force but this is truly the first time that we have seen how clever they can be.

Rating: ___% (Rating Missing)

(Image from

*Audio recordings of each episode have survived along with a few short video clips. There are a number of fan recreations of these episodes floating around the internet, if you're interested. Though recently, the BBC announced that they have put together an animated recreation of this serial, using the original audio, which they plan to release this fall commemorating the 50th anniversary of the serial's original broadcast.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Tenth Planet

The Tenth Planet is an important serial for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it's important because it's the final serial in the First Doctor era. Some say that William Hartnell's contract had not been renewed over concerns about his failing health. While some others suggest that Hartnell's clashing with the production staff had finally reached a tipping point. It could easily be an either/or situation or a combination of both factors. Christopher Eccleston (the Ninth Doctor) has suggested in interviews that he left Doctor Who after one series because of his own conflicts with the show's producers. And Hartnell's health and memory problems had been a concern for a while before this point. In either case, it was the concept of regeneration and the choice of the Hartnell's successor that allowed the show to continue on for decades after this serial.

The Tenth Planet is also important because it features the debut of the Cybermen, Doctor Who's most popular reoccurring enemies after the Daleks. This first batch of Cybermen is a bit different from the ones that would pop up later on down the line. Their hands are still human and some of their facial features are still visible behind their masks. Their voices have not become entirely mechanical yet either, giving them a strange speech pattern. They make a great impression in this serial too. Their planet, Mondas, arrives in Earth's solar system, causing all sorts of problems for the Doctor, his companions and the folks at the secret military base at the South Pole. The Cybermen are smart and coldly calculating but not above killing people with their bare hands. And though their features would continually change with each new appearance, it's clear to see why they've resonated with the show's writers and fans.

Rating: Keep warm%

(Image from

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Smugglers

The First Doctor's penultimate adventure finds him in Cornwall in the seventeenth century. The TARDIS arrives on a beach outside a small village that is seemingly populated exclusively by scoundrels. Seriously, every person that the Doctor and his companions meet in the first episode is connected to smuggling in some way. It's not until late in the second episode that they meet someone who isn't trying to capture or kill them. Though they were introduced in the previous serial, this is Ben and Polly's first real adventure as companions to the Doctor. Before they stepped into the TARDIS, these new companions really had no way of knowing what they were getting themselves into. And since there are no experienced companions aboard the TARDIS, it's clear that the writers had to cut a few corners in order to get the new companions up to speed. The Doctor is often quite curt with Ben and Polly and they're left on their own for most of the adventure. This serial is particularly violent, containing quite a few murders. Ironically, the only clips of these episode that have survived are from scenes that were cut by overseas censors for being too violent.

Rating: ___% (Rating Missing)

(Image from