Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Wheel in Space

So far, all of the Cybermen stories have been consistent with the Second Doctor era's reliance on the base-under-siege storytelling formula. You could even argue that The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase were practically the same story. And yet, The Wheel in Space was the first Cybermen story that I didn't thoroughly enjoy. For me, it was just too much like The Ice Warriors, a serial that was a Cybermen story in all but name. There wasn't anything in The Wheel in Space that seemed particularly unique, as if all of its pieces could have been taken from other serials. The only real takeaway from this story was the introduction of the newest companion, Zoe, a brilliant young astrophysicist. Already, her relationship with the Doctor and Jamie is much different than the one they had with Victoria. Zoe appears to challenge and exasperate the Doctor and Jamie, where their relationship with Victoria had been much more paternal and doting.

Rating: Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority%

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Fury from the Deep

I wasn't looking forward to watching Fury from the Deep. Chronologically, it's the last serial from the Patrick Troughton era to be missing in its entirety, all his remaining serials contain at least one surviving episode. So it was with some hesitation that I plowed through the episode reconstructions, doing my best not to nod off. In the end, while I found the plot to be very formulaic and not entirely dissimilar from The Ice Warriors, I wish more than just a handful of clips from this serial had survived. All that remains now are a few outtakes and some of the more violent moments that were cut from the film prints by Australian censors. Lost are the helicopter stunts, the first appearance of the sonic screwdriver and the final moments of Victoria's tenure as one of the Doctor's companions. I liked Victoria, she never got much to do but I thought she had a great rapport with Jamie and the Doctor. Ironically, during the serial she complained of being terrified all the time but ultimately it was her screams that defeated the monsters.

Rating: ___% (Rating Missing)

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Web of Fear

Going in, I didn't have high hopes for The Web of Fear. I didn't really think that the Yeti deserved another shot at the Doctor, especially so soon after their debut. Thankfully though, with just a slight update to their appearance and a change of location, the Yeti have justified their existence. These new Yeti, dubbed Mark II, have flatter faces with big light-up eyes. Given that they spend the majority of the serial chasing people around in abandoned subway tunnels, they reminded me a lot of C.H.U.D.s, which is never a bad thing in my book. This serial also sees the return of actor Nicholas Courtney, in his first performance as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (though, he's only a Colonel here). We first saw Courtney playing a different character in the First Doctor adventure The Daleks' Master Plan. He'll return once more during the Second Doctor era before becoming a regular fixture during the Third Doctor era. Most of The Web of Fear was recovered in Nigeria at the same time as The Enemy of the World, though one episode of The Web of Fear remains missing.

Rating: We keep on landing on your Earth%

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Enemy of the World

Arriving in the middle of a season full of monsters is the unexpected gem, "The Enemy of the World." The serial finds the Doctor and his companions arriving in the far-off year of 2018. After some folks in a hovercraft attempt to assassinate him, the Doctor discovers that he bears a striking resemblance to a political figure known as Salamander. What follows is a twisty tale of murder, manipulation and madness. A complete version of the serial was discovered in Nigeria in 2013, prior to that only one episode was known to have survived. While it wasn't particularly well received at the time of it's original airing, the serial stands out now because of how different it is from the rest of its season and the Troughton era as a whole. This type of story was more typical of the First Doctor era, especially with the lead actor playing multiple parts (see also: "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve"). And while I can understand that some people will be put off by his accent and the use of makeup to darken Troughton's skin while playing Salamander, this serial is also notable for being the first Doctor Who story to feature a character played by a woman of color. So I guess it all evens out?

Rating: See if there's any buckets and spades in the TARDIS%

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Ice Warriors

The Patrick Troughton era of Doctor Who gets a little flack for being formulaic. A lot of serials from this period were focused on "base under siege" plot lines and wave after wave of new monsters. And while you could definitely level some of those criticisms at The Ice Warriors, it's still a serial with a lot of charm. For the first time in a long time we get to see the TARDIS make an awkward landing, which makes for some funny business when the Doctor and his companions have to climb out the front doors. We get to see Jamie perv out a little bit over the body-hugging uniforms worn by the scientists at the ionizer base. And we get introduced to the Ice Warriors, a group of Martians who are revived after they're discovered in a glacier. (Side note: British people don't say glacier like those of us in North America would, they say "glassier." Kinda like if you were to cover a glass object with even more glass, you would have found a way to make it glassier.) The Ice Warriors are fairly well designed and they feature one of the key ingredients for enduring popularity as a Doctor Who baddie, they have voices that are very easy to imitate. And even though they only pop up a handful of times on the show, they're still highly regarded among the Doctor's rogues gallery.

Rating: We can't all be perfect%

(Image from pop-critica.com)

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Abominable Snowmen

What could be better than the Doctor going toe-to-toe with a Yeti? How about the Doctor having to face several robotic Yetis controlled by a mysterious disembodied entity? Because that's what we get in The Abominable Snowmen. The Yeti and their controller, the Great Intelligence, were the next attempt to find an enemy that the Doctor could face on a recurring basis. With the Daleks off the table, the show could not survive on Cybermen alone. And while the Yeti would make a couple more appearances on the show, they were hardly popular enough to become the next big thing.

Rating: This wasn't the welcome I expected%

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Tomb of the Cybermen

Finally, in his eighth adventure as the Doctor, we have a Patrick Troughton serial that has survived completely intact. The fact that it's also a fairly well-liked serial is just an added bonus. Typically, I only ever take notice of the direction and production value on these older serials when I notice the cardboard sets or when the camera literally bumps into something. But this time around I was fairly impressed with some of the directing and I loved the sets, especially the Cybermen's frozen tomb. This serial also features another all-time great speech from the Second Doctor, where he takes a moment to comfort his newest companion. Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor, has said that this serial was an influence on his portrayal of the character.

Rating: Well, now I know you're mad. I just wanted to make sure%

(Image from kotwg.blogspot.ca)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Evil of the Daleks

I won't pretend that I understand the various ins and outs of copyright law, especially not the copyright laws of other countries. I will say that I'm amazed that Terry Nation, the man who created the Daleks, was somehow able to hold the copyright to the Daleks despite having created them specifically for Doctor Who. Jack Kirby is probably still spinning in his grave over that one. Since Nation was trying to get a Dalek show off the ground in America, The Evil of the Daleks was intended to be the last time our beloved Doctor faced his most famous foes, and it was the last time... for about four years. At least it made for a pretty good serial, with several twists and turns and the introduction of a new companion, Victoria. And as an added bonus, there's definitely a hint of I, Borg in there too.

Rating: The Daleks will take pleasure in killing everyone in sight%

(Image from tardis.wikia.com)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Faceless Ones

In the previous serial, we got our first glimpse of Doctor Who's new title sequence. Now, in The Faceless Ones, we get an updated theme song to accompany the new intro. Doctor Who is, after all, a show that is continually trying to update itself. Out with the old, in with the new. And so, in this serial, we say goodbye to Ben and Polly. As this particular adventure ends, we come to find out that the TARDIS has brought the Doctor and his companions to London on the exact day that Ben and Polly had initially left with the First Doctor. Leaving them free to pick up exactly where they had left off. It's an awfully lucky coincidence considering that all of the Doctor's previous companions were either left stranded, killed, or returned to their homes years after they first left. The Doctor doesn't exactly have a great track record when it comes to parting ways with his companions.

Rating: Some sort of official mumbo jumbo%

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Macra Terror

I guess there's really no getting around it, The Macra Terror is a story about giant crabs. Not giant crab people, just giant crabs who've found a way to enslave a human colony on some distant planet. Giant crabs who would have just kept on enslaving generation after generation of colonists if it weren't for the Doctor and his friends. You know, giant hypno-crabs from outer space. That old chestnut.

Rating: ___% (Rating Missing)

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Moonbase

When the Daleks first showed up on Doctor Who, they were a cultural sensation. Without the Daleks, the show probably wouldn't have lasted this long. But the Doctor can't fight the Daleks every week. And, by this time, with a new Doctor in the TARDIS, the show's producers were desperate to find a few more iconic villains. Hence, the return of the Cybermen, only a few months after they first appeared in The Tenth Planet. Here, in The Moonbase, they've received some upgrades. Their costumes have changed, giving them more of a robotic quality. And their bizarre sing-song voices have been modified, courtesy of the Radiophonic Workshop. At times, it can be difficult to understand what they're saying, but typically their dialogue boils down to, "do what we say or we'll kill you." The Cybermen's design would change slightly with each additional appearance, a trend that has continued in the revived series. The Moonbase is also notable for containing one of the first truly iconic moments for the Second Doctor. During a tense moment, the Doctor tells his companions and the occupants of the titular base, "There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything we believe in. They must be fought." The First Doctor would have shouted such a statement to the rafters, though he probably never would have said it in the first place. The Second Doctor delivers these words with a deadly, quiet seriousness. The Second Doctor loves to goof around but when the shit hits the fan, he can be as serious as a heart attack.

Rating: There must have been a reason for that%

(Image from avclub.com)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Underwater Menace

The Underwater Menace is a real hodgepodge. It's got mad priests, mad scientists, caves, mines, fish people, and a plot to blow up the world. This probably isn't anyone's favorite serial from the Second Doctor era, but it's the earliest one with any surviving episodes. This is our first real opportunity to see the Second Doctor in action. Luckily, the main villain, Professor Zaroff, makes for a memorable adversary. His plot to destroy the planet is ridiculously dumb, but he's super evil and has a fantastic Austrian accent. Also, the Doctor dresses up as a gypsy at one point.

Rating: Just one small question: Why do you want to blow up the world?%

(Image from basementrejects.com)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Highlanders

In the beginning, Doctor Who's producers tried to balance the tone of their show by contrasting the sci-fi serials with ones based around historical drama. The First Doctor certainly spent a lot of his time rubbing elbows with famous figures. But, by the Second Doctor era, the historical serial had fallen out of favor. The Highlanders would be the Doctor's last historical adventure that didn't contain sci-fi elements for a long time. While this serial is hardly one of the best of the historical serials, it's not without it's charms. The new Doctor continues to assert himself with a series of comical disguises and accents. William Hartnell's Doctor never had as much in the past as Troughton's Doctor does in this serial. We're also introduced to Jamie McCrimmon, who joins the Doctor, Ben and Polly as the newest companion. Jamie will go on to be one of the longest lasting companions in the show's entire run.

Rating: ___% (Rating Missing)

(Image from naturalscotlandfilms.org.uk)