The Reign of Terror – Story #008

DW8

Jael’s Judgment:

Another audio, woohoo for me! Even though there is no video, I feel as though I have a good image of the story playing in my head. I know what the main characters look like and I have been not only to Paris, but specifically to the Conciergerie. I remember my first visit with my French “mother” and her daughter (my pen pal and host,) Capucine.

(Well that was fun! I just took a short break from writing this to rummage through my treasure box to find my first letter from Capucine over a decade ago. I have long since lost touch, but it makes me want to try to make contact again before my next trip there this March.)

I also took Tony to the Conciergerie several years ago when he came to travel and site-see in Northwestern France with me for a couple of weeks  after I finished studying over there. I fondly recall a woman holding me “otage” at a small cafe nearby while my non-french speaking husband went searching for an ATM. What lovely and fun memories this all brings up!

Anyway despite having some personal knowledge himself of the setting, I do not think Tony is a huge fan of this Doctor Who story. Yet the writers must have some affinity for France in this period. After all, as Susan points out, they make  la Terreur the Doctor’s favorite time in history. What does this say about the Doctor?

Personally I find the setting quite interesting, but the story did run a little long. A couple of times I found myself day dreaming and having to really concentrate on following the plot line. I wonder if this one may have actually been more captivating with the visual in addition to the audio. The good news is that the story picked up a little near the end. And while i do not remember the exact details of history, throughout the entire story I feel the environment of many different factions, ideals, and conspiracies was demonstrated fairly well. It was also nice that they touched on the idea of the “right” and “wrong” sides.

The bad news is that I get the impression my partner was even more bored than I…

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

Bored?!  BORED?!  Bored would be putting it lightly.  I was lucky to stay with the story because my interest was at a new low.  Sure, it was cool that I had been to a place where The Doctor was, but beyond that, nothing.  The story was meandering and with such a weak plot, so why did they stretch this out to 6 epsidoes?!

The good news?  Well, we finished our first full season of Doctor Who!  I have little more to say, because I couldn’t care less about this story.  Why couldn’t The Doctor be visiting Minneapolis on, say, October 26th and 27th, 1991?  This is history that I would LOVE to revisit if the story has to have no plot line.  (For those of you not well versed in Minnesota sports, this is game 6 and 7 of the 1991 World Series.  I was 7 and would love to revisit the greatest moment in local sport history.)

If you want further detail, here are my notes:

Great, another historical piece. Oh yay!
The Doctor is still crabby at Ian for disrespecting him and The TARDIS.
Ian gets The Doctor to say goodbye over a drink.  Way to go Ian, you got him to go with you to make sure you are in the right time and place.
Close, they’re in France.
Well, it sounds like Ian and Barbara still wish to stay, based on their dialogue.
FRENCH REVOLUTION!!!
It’s probably best that the gang didn’t choose a side.
Oh no! A fire at the farmhouse!  Ian and Susan are worried, and so am I!
OK, Madame Guillotine does sound cool.  Add that to the gang getting trapped in jail, they almost sound like thugs.
At least the splitting up is not on purpose.
Find Jack Sterling – says dying man to Ian.
And the mouth on The Doctor gets him forced into working a chain gang.
And The Doctor gets out of a jam by shenanigans at about the same time Barbara and Susan start their escape. (Poor Doctor, a whole 5k away!) …Too bad the girls got caught.
Glad the jailer left the keys in the lock, lucky Ian!
Oh to see The Doctor in his new wardrobe.
Uh oh, the tailor turned on The Doctor!
Yes!  Ian meets up with Barbara and Susan and of course the Frenchman offers wine.  He is one step closer to finding James Sterling, Webster told him of the man who took in Barbara and Susan, said he’d know James.
Glad that Susan and Barbara were caught and The Doctor is the highest ranking man on charge (2nd Officer).
Ian was set up when trying to search for Susan and Barbara, now he is being questioned by the soldiers.
Track 32 of the 2nd CD has a faint recording of the Doctor Who theme in the background while Barbara is talking… I thought I was hearing things!  (Through at least track 34)
If only The Doctor would meet up, then the gang could get on the road!!
The Doctor is forced to cut a deal in order to stay free and see Susan, the jailer is playing hardball.
NAPOLEON!!!
Glad they are escaping under war.  Scary times, for sure.
“Our destiny is in the stars!”
  • Story Grade: D-
  • This historical piece was nothing more than a story with no plot and running in circles.  I don’t know what it would take to give a story an F, but this came close.  I tried to make sure that the medium in which I took this story in did not detract from my view of said story, again, this is why it was not a total F.  Maybe when the story comes out on DVD I can review it in a better context?

 

Thank you to one of the few cool parts of the entire story, the name Madame Guillotine.  That name just sounds intense; I would not like to meet her.  Also, thank you to the writer who gave The Doctor the line, “Our destiny is in the stars!”  That line sums up The Doctor and can be spoken by every Doctor.

The Sensorites – Story #007

DW7

Jael’s Judgment:

I think Tony and I agree that our first view of the Sensorites is the creepiest Doctor Who moment thus far. Like an odd little elf man out in space. I think little is creepier than huge. Huge can be scary. But creepy is scarier than just scary.

I find myself being drawn more and more to Barbara. Perhaps this is because I am closer in age to her than Susan. I am feeling old. Maybe someday I will relate more to the Doctor. If the present is any indication then I will in fact be a grumpy old man, who likes to travel, and *fingers crossed* is intelligent.

Speaking of relating, every once in a while I have to pause the television and confirm with Tony that I understand something correctly. Because every once in a while they seem to have “made a huge mistake.” For example a cat’s eyes dilate in the dark, as do human eyes. So the TARDIS crew deduces that since a Sensorite’s eyes are fully dilated in the light, their eyes must… be the opposite of cats’ eyes and contract in the dark. So if a duck floats and wood floats, and a witch is made of wood, then a witch will weigh less than a duck. Am I right?

Anyway, not a bad story overall. This is mostly because it is an actual story. There is a little bit of mystery and a small twist.

  • Story Grade: B+

 

Tony’s Take:

Sorry, dear readers, this story is yet another that Jael and I agree on.  I completely agree with her assesment of the introduction of the first Sensorite at the end of the first episode… it was very creepy!  I was almost ready to laugh off the awkward amount of silence, but when they show the Sensorite on the outside of the ship in conjunction with Ian’s worried face, it makes the scene.  If I were a small child back in the 60s watching this, I would have been pretty freaked out.

Let me back up just a little bit, let’s give a brief history of how this blog started.  I had heard Steven Schapansky (Radio Free Skaro) talk about his daunting task of reviewing all episodes in order and it got me thinking… why not try this on my own?  Jael and I have watched about two-thirds of the stories, but in no particular order.  I didn’t know if I wanted to push my luck by dragging Jael into my “let’s watch them all… in order!” idea, let alone my revised idea of blogging about it.  When we started this blog, we didn’t know the specifics of “Wife In Space”, though they had been mentioned on Radio Free Skaro (yep, another plug, but it’s my favorite Who podcast).  When I finally visited the “Wife In Space” website, I read the following:

I was reading the wonderful Running Through Corridors when I was inevitably inspired to watch Doctor Who from the beginning again. I’ve attempted this feat several times before but I usually crumble in the middle of The Sensorities; if I cheat and jump to Pertwee, it’s always Colony in Space that finishes me off. My methodology was probably at fault (that and the sheer awfulness of The Sensorities).

-Neil Perryman

With that scary of a review, and the fact that we had not watched the story yet (one of the 33% we own fitting that criteria) made my expectations very low.  Maybe these low standards coupled with my pleasant surprise of the story itself led to my grading of this story, who knows?

Back to the story itself…

The Sensorites are not very well known, and are not around in the new series, so the magic of their first introduction does not compare to that of the Daleks or Cybermen, but I would argue that this may be one of the best alien introductions of any monster (stripping out any magic and history of the monster’s meaning to Doctor Who).  All this and we are talking about a story from the 1960s… an era not known for it’s acting or writing (hey, it was more like a children’s theatre performance back then).

Although the story was 6 parts (I prefer 4 parts or less), the story seemed to flow for the most part.  The story was not 100% predictable, the twists and turns, though simple, were much better than those of previous stories.  We even get to see the more scientific side of The Doctor, a side not often shown by the First Doctor, but one really that really comes out in the 3rd and 4th incarnations.

If you want further detail, here are my notes:

Oh thank you members of the TARDIS team for recapping all of the adventures we saw AND to The Doctor for teasing about adventures we hadn’t seen.  Apparently there was travel before even Susan came aboard.
Great idea Doctor, let’s just leave the supposedly dead people, there’s nothing to do or see here.
A heart resuscitator, nice idea!  Maybe a pre-cursor to AED?
Finally, a story set in the future, this one involves 28th century humans on a spaceship.
Poor TARDIS, she doesn’t deserve to be burned like that.  The lock is gone and so the TARDIS is under perma-lock.  Not good.  I want sweatshirt-like gloves that match my sweatshirt, just like a Sensorite.
In typical fashion, the group splits up, Barbara and Susan leave the main area and are followed by a zombie-like man.
OK, the reveal of the alien was pretty sweet.  The half minute of silence was odd, but the creepy dude at the glass was a nice surprise.
The mind games of the unknown worked well for such a long part of this episode.
The aliens look a lot like the Silents.  We also learn that the scenes that are used at the end of one episode and beginning of the next are actually acted out twice, not just reused and filmed from that point onward.  (The alien looked different, that’s why.)
Fight back against the Sensorites by thinking powerfully as a group… interesting.
The one Sensorite has a really nice beard!  They look like really old men with terribly burned faces.
Susan sacrifices herself for the good of the group.  She seems very adult and wants to be seen as such.  It’s somewhat unfortunate that she gives in to The Doctor, though I’m glad she lives.
..And so The Doctor says that Susan cannot make decisions on her own.  This is their first fight?!
The Sensorites have split feelings when it comes to the “Earthlings”, nearly killing the gang with a disintegrator.
Well, the writers wanted to make this one easy to solve, only the elders drink the good water, the elders do not get the disease… hmmmm.
Jael – “Is his head… foaming?!”  There was waterfall and the Sensorite’s head was unflatteringly framed by the camera.
The Doctor gets to flex his science muscle, telling the Sensorites that they should take multiple water samples and test them against each other.
And now a plot extender, the rogue Sensorite group that believes that the humans are bad decide to strip an elder of power.  The rogue leader says that the antidote is actually poison, that Ian is faking it.
“Scientist!” Says the one Sensorite to the scientist Sensorite.  I love how formal and personal they are.
Second elder sabotage.  Not good, dude, not good.
The Doctor finally admits to not liking weapons of any sort in the 5th episode (“though they look nice”).
At least the Sensorite calls Susan smart and says he can learn a lot from her.
The Sensorite shows mercy and The Doctor tells them that they are developing quite well.
Not quite a fitting and happy end, The Doctor threatens Ian with expulsion from the ship once they land in the next place (all because Ian states that the TARDIS doesn’t know where it’s going).
  • Story Grade: A-
  • Yep, I just went there, I threw it in the A range!  The introduction of the aliens and the writing was the best since the first episode of Doctor Who (An Unearthly Child), I almost forget that it was a longer 6 episode story.  I would go as far as saying that I would not only welcome a mention of the Sensorites in the new series, I would welcome them back with open arms.

 

Thank you, Peter Newman (writer) and Mervyn Pinfield (director: episodes 1-4), you created an awesome introduction of a monster/alien.  Thank you, Neil Perryman, for possibly scaring me into a near-love for this story.

PS:  If you have watched this story (or any others in our previouly reviewed catalogue), please feel free to share your review or thoughts.  We are also looking for volunteers who want to watch a story with us and tell us your thoughts/review of said story.  Feel free to contact us at kroWeW@gmail.com and we’ll put it on our schedule.  If you have a particular story or Doctor that you would like to watch with us, please let us know.  We are hoping to do this on a monthly basis (maybe 2 times a month).  **cough**MICHAEL!!**cough**

The Aztecs – Story #006

DW6

Jael’s Judgment:

I think we can all agree that there are two main interesting parts to this story. Both of which have to do with gender roles.

Aside from Susan’s whiny disapproval of arranged marriages, not saying I am for them, I think the winner of main feminine equality story went to Deborah. It was good to hear that she had an area of expertise in history. I also feel it was very thoughtful of the writers to have her try to manipulate time “for the better.” And equally wise that it failed. I don’t think it wise to wish changes of the past. Not that everything that has happened is good, but it certainly has happened and it shapes each of us today. The wisest move is to learn from the past. Now that is the opinion of one who does not have time travel capabilities. If time were to be “timey-whimey” from my point if view, who knows if my view would change. Or if not my opinion, then my actions.

Then we have the Doctor and his love interest. I am happy that he went for an intelligent woman. (I have to say I think Tony did pretty well in this area as well.) Although I do wish that The Doctor’s selfish use of the relationship would have been a bit more transparent to her.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

Well, this is going to be boring.  As one of our readers pointed out, the “milk” of this blog would be the disagreements that come out of these episodes; disagreements that would pin my views against my wife’s, something that sounds horrendously attractive to all married men.  I could just say that I am agreeing in order to keep the boat afloat, but the truth is that the water is shallow with this story, there isn’t much to disagree on to capsize this 2-person vessel.

Now, I am going to be lazy, yet again, and paste my notes below.  I apologize for this, but as we had a bit of a hiccup in the schedule, I find it best to paste my thoughts as they happened (rather than try to remember a story from multiple days ago, a story buried by a surprisingly good Sensorites story… but that’s for another time).

So here it is, my “cheating” for this blog entry (Please, BBWAA, do not let this sway your vote against me for the Hall of Fame, it’s not like I took PEDs when there was a definitive rule excluding usage of PEDs… my bad, that’s literally “inside baseball”):

  1. I LOVE the TARDIS miniature model prop.  I just picture myself owning this TARDIS and imagining how cool it’d be.  I could hold it in my HAND… oh the ego trip this wild fantasy would spawn.
  2. Barbara is a reincarnated high priestess, which is fun to see, since it gives her a new role to play.
  3. Oh, the fight scenes!  The fight scene in the beginning (practice spar to show Ian the ropes) was well choreographed *sarcasm*.  The slow motion moves paired with deliberate placement by the actors make this tough and fun to watch all at the same time.
  4. Barbara is trying to make a point as a high priestess, do not make sacrifices and embrace peace.  Very commendable, especially when it is all done for only a bit of rain.
  5. It is also strange that The Doctor is willing to let the Aztecs sacrifice a man, in fact, he is mad that Barbara pardoned the man.
  6. There is so much silence, so little dialogue, that it makes the episode that much more different from the new series.
  7. The Doctor plays the role of the flirt in order to get information from a gardener.  Even going as far as getting engaged, I guess that River Song was not the first in line for marriage (and the Aztec lady may not even be the first).
  8. Barbara is tested time and again by a small group of men that believe that she is not a god.
  9. Wow, cloth/leather can hold up a large stone?
  10. I have never been a fan of historical stories, they usually ignore the facts and over simplify things.
  11. The easily spotted backdrops look awesomely cheap, oh the olden days’ version of ‘special effects’.  It’s easy to see how early British television was modeled on theatre.
  12. Well, at least the writer (John Lucarotti, same as Marco Polo) said that time could not just be rewritten for entire civilizations, but a difference can be made in one man.  It wasn’t the easiest message to see fully played out, but at least it was covered at the end.
  • Story Grade: C+
  • It is probably my personal preference that is keeping this story from being graded more favorably.  I prefer adventures in space, alien lands, and the future; very few historical stories get me going.  Still, the story had many underlying themes and tones (see Jael’s review specifically), for those points made I am appreciative.

 

Thank you, Mr. Lucarotti, for making this time-period piece a 4-part story and not a long drawn out story like your previous effort.  Thank you, prop development team, for developing such an enviable piece of history, the mini model TARDIS.

(Thank you, MLB for creating such an unnecessary mess when it comes to the Hall of Fame.  We couldn’t have written clearer rules AND stricter punishments?  How about, “you get caught cheating [using PEDs] and you have your contract terminated, you are no longer allowed within an MLB stadium, and your future considerations for the hall of Fame are null and void.”?)

The Keys of Marinus – Story #005

DW5

Jael’s Judgment:

I like that Barbara flexed her independence more when they arrived in the jungle. She was not satisfied to simply take direction from Ian and be useless. Granted it got her into a little trouble, but at least she was not busy being extra  baggage. This all makes me wonder about the relationship between Barbara and Ian before they started out on their adventure in the TARDIS… Were they simply colleagues? Or were they also friends? And if friends, work only? How old are they supposed to be? I guess I am wondering in what ways can I relate to them in order to better understand the mindset of their characters.

Glass beach & acid sea = weird

Mind boggling dreams come true land = creepy (and Altos needed trousers)

Jungle = scary, but bad special effects

Ice land = OK

Trial = BORING (left me thinking, “how many more episodes did I agree to watch”)

Ending = short

And my last note, was anyone else wondering if the cousins of the Monty Python black knight made an early appearance?

Truth be told, I am a couple of days late writing this and getting it to my handsome husband. We watched The Keys of Marinus several days ago. 231 adventures in 365 days is quite a lot. And all of this gallivanting through space is not helping me be rid of a nasty cough that I acquired. So the reader will have to forgive me every once in a while if a few adventures are not very fresh in my mind by the time I get to ” put them on paper,” so to speak.

What I do remember about The Keys of Marinus is wishing that it was a bit more complex. There was not much of a twist to really get the imagination going. Altos seriously needed trousers and the trial was terribly boring.

What I did like was the mind games played on all characters on their initial stop to look for the first key. This seemed like a good story in itself to me. It makes one think an reflect.  On a less serious note I loved the eyeballs on the brainy things! Made me laugh hysterically upon viewing and still brings a smile to my face.

Also what was up with Susan losing her shoe. On an alien planet would you automatically assume that a clear liquid is water?! Well, maybe, in a moment of mental laziness, I could see myself doing just that. Here’s hoping for less and less of those such moments for myself and for the companions.

**Apparently I have already had one of these moments. I already wrote on this episode and gave it to my better half. D’oh. Well, this one is better.**

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

So, since Jael reviewed this story twice, does this mean that I have to review it at all?  I agree with nearly everything she said, minus the “too much, too soon” talk; but that is just me, and we all work in different ways.

So what did I think of the story?  Well, I was either in a salty frame of mind, or the acting and writing was just that, ummm, cheesy?  Yeah, cheesy, because I don’t want to say bad.

Notes in chronological order (salty/snarky comments in red):

  1. The Doctor suggests they split up to find Susan, who went missing after nearly taking an acid bath.
  2. Walls that give way to hidden corridors, how convenient.
  3. The Doctor even admits that as long as Ian is free the chances of survival are high.  Ian is still shown as the viewers identifiable character AND hero role.
  4. The Voord are very well designed, he said using heavy sarcasm.  A rubber SCUBA suit and a weird helmet added together equals this “scary monster”.
  5. Great acting with an invisible force field around the TARDIS.
  6. Tricky traveling technique, space-jumping.  Must have been a cool effect back then.
  7. First key is hidden in a place where anything you desire can be yours, for seemingly FREE.  But it’s just mind-games that the Brains of Morphoton are playing on their hosts (and potential slaves).
  8. …And The Doctor again suggests splitting up in the 2nd episode.  Glad this happens because Susan is sent alone into a “Screaming Jungle” so that she, herself, can scream, too.  (Have I mentioned how much I love Susan’s screams?)
  9. When all else fails, smash the ivy with a rock, right Barbara?
  10. I know, I know, the screaming jungle is scary to Jael, and for this I just have to laugh.  Please tell me that you would not be scared of an oversized statue with tiny arms!
  11. EVEN MORE SPLITTING UP IN THE THIRD EPISODE!!
  12. Caught in a tiny net, these booby traps are awesome.
  13. De3O2, great way to work in science while being a sleuth!
  14. William Hartnell was on vacation and it was apparent because after the split he is not heard from until episode 5 (since part way through #2).
  15. Plastic wrap on the walls, because that looks like ice, right?  I apologize for the snarkiness.
  16. Too wide to jump, and yet it’s a short enough distance for me to lay across and touch both sides comfortably (I’m less than 6 feet tall).
  17. It’s also strange how much the time travel itself has changed.  The travel by the 1st Doctor is innocent and the reason why they get trapped is always out of their hands.  Future episodes it is based on severe trouble that must be stopped to save the world/universe.  Both, when played only one way for too long, become old.
  18. I like to think that it is episode 5 of The Keys of Marinus that drove the public’s fascination with court-drama on TV.  Why?  Because the episode is dry and dull and shows like Law & Order and even CSI bore me to tears.  (Though at least episode 5 has judges with squids/octopuses on their heads.)
  19. Another story that ran long.  I actually enjoyed the setting of the original Voord on the acid beach, but then it got all cluttered and stretched out when they had to find the keys.
  20. Another “let’s split up!”, this time by Ian in the last episode.  How is that going, gang?

So, what went right?  Like I said above, the acid and glass beach beach could have been used more, as it was able to provide a longer story than was given.  Jael was also correct in her analysis, the first stop in the land of mind-games was very good and should have been the center of focus for this story.  If the writers would have been able to cut the story down to a 4 episode arc and focus on the beach and brainy-eyed monsters, it would probably be one of the better Hartnell-era stories.  Unfortunately, it falls flat and just turns out to be an easy to solve, long-running scavenger hunt.

Jael, it seems to me that you agreed with my analysis.  Why did you grade this story as “above average” (average being a “C”)?  Am I just being too harsh and critical?

On a personal note, I was very impressed (impressed, is that the right word?) that Jael decided to use the simple phrase “D’oh!”  My attempt to Simpson-ize her is working.  Please, dear reader, ask her what her favorite line from The Simpsons is; I know what it is, but having her say it is much more rewarding (especially given her major in college).

  • Story Grade: C-
  • The Keys of Marinus has a few things that either worked or could have worked, but in the end the story ran long and had many questionable moments (either story-wise, set-wise, or acting-wise).

 

Thank you to the costume designers.  The Brains of Morphoton and the Voord, though comical, showcase what makes Classic Who special.

Marco Polo – Story #004

DW4

Jael’s Judgment:

We have only the audio for this story. To be perfectly honest, this affected my opinion of this story in a very positive way. I absolutely love being read to!

Aside from the ridiculous accents and bits of racism, I found myself very intrigued. I wanted to be part of the adventure. (Mind you I will never get to go on an adventure with the Doctor, due to a forced promise I made to a certain *ahem* someone.) I most enjoyed the friendship between Susan and Peng-Cho. There are not many individuals with whom I have had experiences that have facilitated such quick, easy, and yet lasting friendships as the one that they instantly formed. But they are some of my most treasured friendships and I can appreciate the one portrayed between the young women.

Ian took quite the leadership role in this story. Wielding a sword, gallivanting off to save Peng-Cho, being a man of his word. I’d be swooning if the women’s roles had not been quite so depressingly helpless. At least Barbara and Susan attempt in some ways to be independent.

  • Story Grade: B

 

Tony’s Take:

Wait, so there was a famous dude by this name?!  I thought it was just a fun game to play in the pool!  I kid, I kid.  Like I said on Twitter, I find it very fitting (almost so much so that it becomes ironic) that this story is the first to be lost to the grips of time, Marco is tough to find in the pool and even tougher to find at the BBC.

Below is an excerpt from my notes taken while watching the episode (yes, Jael and I both take notes using our iPhones, it’s cute to the point of being sad):

Doctor – Crabby from the get go, more so than previous episodes… especially coming off of his “I need you” speech to Barbara.
No one believes in creature even though there are prints and possible sightings (Barbara).  YOU’RE ON WHAT COULD BE AN ALIEN PLANET, TRAVELING IN A SPACESHIP THROUGH TIME AND SPACE!!  I guess that only seeing can lead to believe.
I forget that the British had a strong presence in Asia, especially China, both in the past and at the current time (1960s), makes sense why one of the first semi-historical stories is set there.
The TARDIS ‘breaks down’ and therefore the crew is forced go along this adventure.  Very loose if you ask me.
The half a minute of The Doctor laughing in episode one sounds hilarious, if only we could see this.
“Difficult and bad-tempered.” -Marco Polo on The Doctor.
Oh no!  A sandstorm!  Who would have thought that a plot-twist like this could happen?!
The first two episodes are running quite long for such a small amount actually happening.
It’s not often that The Doctor’s adventures last numerous days without interruption or travel in the TARDIS.
Wait, is The Doctor even in this story?  He has a very limited number of lines.
Logic tells me that Ian and The Doctor are all growing beards, as they would not waste rationed water for shaving.  Maybe it was a REAL 1960s hippie trip.
Episode 3: …And no one suspects Tegana yet.  WOW!
And the mention of hashish just reinforces my “REAL 1960s hippie trip” name.
The racist Chinese accents are cringe-worthy, thank god we can’t see the taped-back eyes.
I’m glad the Susan is making a friend with Peng-Cho.  She is a character you root for, probably because she has been locked up with her cranky (and at times mean) grandfather, for reasons unknown.
The Doctor in a sword fight?!  Why can’t this be on film?!
Marco Polo just will not trust Ian, it is too hard for him to comprehend time travel, though he says he can believe all else.
The Doctor loses at backgammon, and so he loses his chance to win back the TARDIS.
This story is just too long!  The number of plot-extensions is ridiculous.
I told you, my notes/reviews will not be summarized by just one typical format, whether this is good or bad, well, that’s up to you to decide.  At least one thing is consistent, and that is giving the episode a grade and a short summary, which is next…
  • Story Grade: D+
  • The terrible stereotypes that are made by the actors portraying the Mongols and any other Asian people is just sad.  Couple this cringe-worthy performance with an incredibly LONG story and you have a dud.

 

It is hard to think of a list of thank yous, especially after such a racist and bad story.  I guess I have to thank the viewers for sticking with the show, even through a bad story like this.  Also, thank you, civil rights movements around the world.  The advancement, though not complete, makes for checks and balances to be put in place to ensure that an episode like this would not be made in earnest.  I think we are to the point where the only way this could be made would be by highlighting how horribly stereotypical the acting is and doing so to be tongue-in-cheek in order to highlight how un-PC it is.

The Edge of Destruction – Story #003

DW1-3

Jael’s Judgment:

The TARDIS makes it’s first real appearance as its own character!!!! Love it!

The creepiness in the beginning reminds me of my personal aversion to horrible loud noises. I once tore off headphones, just as Barbara throws her watch, because I though they (or some sort of demons) were attacking me.

Pretty intense episode for a stuck switch.  (<– Spoilers. Highlight to view.)

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

The last story of The Beginning box-set is a fun and short little adventure all encapsulated in the TARDIS. If you read about the history of the show you will find out why it was only a 2-parter and more info about this serial, so why explain it here (that’s why you have Radio Free Skaro, they share the production info).

If I were in charge of the show for all of its entire history, I would make EVERY Doctor have one story in which they are confined to only their TARDIS. When you trap a traveler such as The Doctor, you find out what his true colors are. You learn about their personality and you find out about about their devloping relationship with their unreliable, yet longest-running companion, the TARDIS.

In this story The Doctor is crabbier than ever and then, as if he were bi-polar, he becomes instantly cooperative… but this is only to be manipulative. William Hartnell is again in the perfect role, as it seems that he does not have to act, his age and personality mesh well and make it a believable performance.

I also liked the fact that Susan got more lines and delivered a very creepy performance. We could really do without the shrill screams, though.

The semi-psychological games that are played in this episode make this story intriguing, though it falls flat because of the age of the story.  Not many television episodes were playing mind games with people, the medium was new, and rather than upset viewers, TV episodes would often be easily digestible for the masses.  Further Doctor Who episodes and totally separate TV series would cover similar mind games with much more mystery and suspense, but good for the writers for trying.

Now how about those humanly habits often ignored in the future series of Doctor Who?  I am talking about eating/drinking and sleeping, functions that are basic in human nature, but make for lousy TV (And does The Doctor really need to do these things?  Do Time Lords get hungry or sleepy?). I find it quirky that the Doctor makes tea and mentions that people need their sleep while on the TARDIS.  then there is Ian, who fetches a BAG of water from the automatic food machine and pours it on a washcloth for Susan.  Nothing says alien and futuristic like a BAG OF WATER!  I cannot lie, I would love to walk around with bags of water, drinking them like flavorless Capri-Suns.  Plus, when under attack, I am sure that some monsters could be defeated via water balloon.

At one point in the show The Doctor talks about the birth of a solar system, this is very odd coming from an old man on a 1960s TV show.  If you were to apply this speech to a kid’s show today, it would be unthinkable.  What The Doctor describes would be far too educational for a kid’s show, unless we are talking flat-out Bill Nye type of kid’s shows.  For this speech alone, the episode is a bit ahead of its time, even if its teachings are rudimentary and not 100% correct.

When the viewer finally learns what is going on with the TARDIS towards the end of the story, it is surprising to see how little The Doctor knows about his stubborn friend, the TARDIS and it’s ever changing console.  Although it can be explained as either this Doctor’s personality (old age/memory loss) or that he is new to traveling (despite his old appearance), I think it’s apparent that the writers could not even start to comprehend how much life and depth the TARDIS would be given in the future.

When the story is all said and done, it’s easy to see that The Doctor is much like an old stubborn grandfather that most of us can relate to or imagine.  The Doctor never really apologizes for anything, but in his own way he recognizes the need for his ‘companions’.  He tells people that they are important in an old-school, patriarchal way; its semi-sweet given the times, but also semi-sour as it did nothing to show advancement.

I leave you with two fun quotes:

“One man’s law is another man’s crime.” – The Doctor

“A machine that can think for itself?!” – Ian Chesterton (regarding the TARDIS)

  • Story Grade: B-
  • This short little story was a fun mind-game, a necessary change of pace from the overly long story that came before (The Daleks).  Trapped in the TARDIS can be quite fun!

 

Thank you, TARDIS, for trapping the crew.  I enjoy either science heavy or psychological heavy stories, so it was nice to have one early on in Doctor Who’s run.  Kudos to Carole Ann Ford for a great performance!

The Daleks – Story #002

DW1-3

Jael’s Judgment:

These early episodes are clearly a product of the times. With Neutron bombs and fear of radiation poisoning.

We learn a little bit more about our relatable characters. There are the sweet stories of affection. Ian trying to be chivalrous, comforting Barbara. But in the end Barbara is just charmed by the chivalry (or come-ons) of the locals.

I continue to enjoy Susan. She finds drawing to be soothing, which indeed it is. And I too would be delighted by a petrified flower, of course not one that oozes radiation… Her hysterics, in particular her running through the woods continue to be ridiculous. She is extremely difficult to understand when she becomes hysterical. That is a bit annoying.

However, the silly effects or unbelievable (not in a good way) acting are some of the reasons I find these early episodes charming. I enjoy chuckling with my hubby when Susan runs in place or Ian suggests, “let’s split up.” These qualities are endearing.

On a less endearing note we meet the Daleks. Their first appearance, yeah it’s kind of scary despite the corniness. My favorite quality of the Daleks is how they express the panic we all feel in certain situations. With their increasingly high and loud voices, repeating and repeating. Man, I sometimes hear that same voice in my head.

And then there are the Thals. With their white hair, tall statutes, and command of “do not be afraid” like angels.

I find serenity in the fun flirting, the petrified flowers, the smiles I share with my husband, the “other-worldly” Thals, and the fact that we all have our Dalek-esque moments.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

First things first, I think that the only way that I am going to be “consistent” on this blog is the scale in which I grade the episodes (school grades: A+ down to F).  My motives and criteria for grading will not even be consistent; how could it be?!  Opinions are nothing more than subjective “me think”.  The format in which I lay out my ideas will vary widely, and with that, so too will the length.  So without further adieu, here is my review for “THE DALEKS!”  (Hey, they deserve to have their lead story told in all caps, it’s how they speak… and the exclamation point cannot hurt.)

Views on “The Doctor”:

  • He seems to be more focused on science in this story.
  • Calls Ian by only his last name, “Chesterton!”, more often than not.  I love this!  It’s a dynamic that plays to the viewer quite easily, as if The Doctor knows he is being viewed as second-fiddle, the non-hero of the story.  His way of ‘setting things straight’ is by being rather formal and not calling Ian by his first name, like a friend would, but by his surname in order to sound like a teacher or superior.
  • “Old fool!”  Words spoken by Ian, which sum up the lies and shiftiness of The Doctor quite perfectly.
  • It’s hard to draw the line between “The Doctor” and “William Hartnell”.  I wonder how much of tiredness and weakness is actually The Doctor or the old man playing the role.
  • “No, no, they won’t be suspicious at all!” says The Doctor to Ian as he is climbing into a Dalek’s casing!  Oh the simplicity of television of old.  I love how blatantly this statement is made.

Quick bit on the TARDIS:

  • Bring back the automatic food dispenser!  This is one area where British television did things right, they were able to offer a bit of fluff and fun WITHOUT using a corporate sponsor (like Cadbury or some other food/drink company wishing to push their product).  I guess that’s due to how the BBC is a publicly owned entity and cannot sponsor privately held corporations… Good on you!

Two cents on Barbara:

  • Barbara seems like she is the go-to person for Susan, almost like Susan is reaching out for a mother or at the very least another female with which to relate.  Barbara is caring, but either it is the times or the fact that she is only Susan’s teacher, not her mother, that keep her from really owning that role as a full on mentor or guardian.
  • Barbara, when she does assume the care-taking role, does so because she sees just how inept and cold The Doctor can be.

…And now my thoughts on the unsung hero of early Who, Ian:

  • Ian is much more the hero in this show for many reasons, the first of which is that he is easily relatable since he is human.
  • Ian can also be a hero because he is also a science teacher, so he isn’t always totally overshadowed by The Doctor’s reasoning or understanding (like future companions sometimes are).
  • Age is on Ian’s side.  it’s true, he is the typical male role, since he is relatively young and in shape.  The Doctor cannot compete with Ian when it comes to anything physical.
  • Ian is also forced to be the level-headed one more often than not.  With the writers making the women in this show sound like banshees (is this not accurate given the screams of Susan and even Barbara at times?), Ian has to stay focused and keep everyone on track.  The Doctor is often cold and careless, Susan and Barbara are damsels in distress, so Ian is the glue.
  • “Why don’t we separate…?” says Ian.  This statement, meant to be a plot-driver, is one that is often followed in Doctor Who, but rarely said out-loud  especially in such a direct way.  Anyone who has ever watched a horror, action, or drama film/show can tell you that this idea NEVER works.

Overall:

As a story, this is where the long history of cheapness in Classic Who really gets its start.  The thrift of design on the costumes and monsters, the cheesiness of the sets, and the exquisitely bad model shots all make for terribly out-of-date and yet close to the heart television.  The model-shots of Skaro, though bad by many people’s standards, are not a complete failure… the black and white hid what could have been excruciating in color.  Another classic piece of the puzzle is the separation of companions and The Doctor, as described above.  I hope you enjoy this formula, because you have 25 more years of this in the Classic Who catalog.

“What about the Daleks, Tony?!”

Yes, yes, dear reader, I am getting there.  To see your first Dalek is magical, and the way they were teased at the end of the first episode was great… they only show a plunger at the end of a camera while it is threatening a companion.  **SLOW CLAPS**  Now THAT’S iconic, BBC!!  Another piece of classic Doctor Who would be corridors, and thanks to the Dalek city, there are plenty of corridors to get lost in.

The Daleks themselves appear nearly identical to future versions (slight updates are made here and there, but a classic monster needs little revision), and speaking of identical, how about their voices?  Yes, we have two people voicing the Daleks, but the trouble is that between the shouting and numerous Daleks on camera at one time, it’s hard to keep them straight.  Now, you could argue that you don’t have to keep them straight, which is true, but merely relying on blinking lights on a black and white story is a tough task for those who seek clarity.

Lastly, we come to the Thals.  The Thals are a race of alien that had fought against the Daleks for 500 years and become pacifists because of they tired of the constant fighting.  Though i do enjoy the Thals, and like my wife said above, they have a certain aura of peace and humanity about them, the second plot, which drove this story to 7 parts, was a bit unnecessary.  Seven episodes is LONG!  Either revise the script and make it more compact, or eliminate the number of plots that need solving.

I often wonder what the Thals would be like if they were reintroduced to New Who.  I think that they would still be peaceful, but there is still much that we do not know about the Thal people and their history (or what they would become, or who they evolve to be).

  • Story Grade: C
  • While the magic of revealing such a historic nemesis makes this story a delight, the 7 episodes make this way too long for its own good.  If condensed into a 4 part episode, easily in the B range or higher.

 

This post’s thanks go out to Verity Lambert, Terry Nation, Raymond Cusick, and everyone else involved in the creation of these storied adversaries of The Doctor.  Please do yourself a favor and watch the special features on the DVDs.  The story about the creation of the Daleks at the BBC and subsequent rousing make for a fun, yet educational, watch.

An Unearthly Child – Story #001

DW1-3

Jael’s Judgment:

So here I am, my husband convinced me to write with him on a blog. And now the first entry I am participating on is a review of the first story of the longest running sci-fi series. A bit intimidating, as I am not much of a writer. But I do love the show, so hopefully the joy that it brings me will come through despite my lack of poetic talent. 1963. I am sure that my lovely husband will go into more detail about the time period, he is fascinated by the history of those Kennedys, so I will not worry about that. Nor will I dwell on any scientific inaccuracies as I am sure he will also mention those. They irritate him so very much. Instead I would like to mention the most intriguing parts of this first story for myself. I feel that the wonderful part of this first story is learning about the characters.

At 76 Totter’s Lane (charming name by the way) we find the TARDIS. Over the many years and countless episodes I have come to think of the TARDIS as a character all on its own. Even Ian exclaims that “it’s alive!” when he and Barbara touch it. The first ride that we witness in the TARDIS seems quite uncomfortable and oddly the TARDIS takes them back in time on the same planet; not to an alien planet or even to the future. I like the TARDIS’s taste, though I may not have gone quite so far back.

We also find a cantankerous old man, the Doctor. He is not likable nor really that relatable. His character is not much of the hero portrayed in his future re-generations.  He is alien and a mystery. This creates the question of identity associated with both his character and name which the Doctor himself  asks in this initial story, “Doctor Who?”

Moving on to not quite as much of a mystery, but a mystery none-the-less, we have the lovable Susan. “I like walking in the dark, it’s mysterious.” I agree, and the fog just makes the imagery all the more lovely. One can identify more with Susan.  She is specifically portrayed as alien in her intelligence and wealth of knowledge, however she is very human in her emotions and sympathy towards others. In fact her hysterics seem to me to be her one annoying quality.

Really, I think that most people would relate with Susan, Ian, or Barbara in the early episodes rather than the Doctor. Ian and Barbara act as if they are thrown into a terrifying new way of life. But really, they got themselves into the mess because of their own curiosity  As properly as they attempt to behave, I think that their lovable quality is how humanly flawed and curious they are.

  • Story Grade:  B

 

Tony’s Take:

I find it all sorts of ironic that a show that gets to play with history is, itself, embedded in such history.  November 22, 1963 was one of America’s darkest days; John F. Kennedy, a man who many saw as a figurehead for civil rights, was assassinated in Dallas.  As a child, his assassination always intrigued me, so now that I am an adult, it’s very cool that history gave me a reason to celebrate an anniversary one day after his death…

Doctor Who hit the airwaves at 5:15:08 pm on November 23, 1963 (according to my sources at Wikipedia; forgive me as I was not there to confirm it), the shock and magic still live on today.

As a person in my 20s, I was not introduced to Doctor Who until the new series was already being broadcast, BUT my first story was a classic story, thanks in part to myself, as I was giving the story to my wife as a Valentine’s Day gift.  Jael was raised on Who… well, more specifically, she was put to sleep by old Doctor Who stories on PBS in Iowa and her uncle was a huge Who-nerd.  Without this crucial bond made as a child, I may never have stumbled across this wonderful show.

OK, enough of my back story, let’s review the Who at hand…

Let me clarify this right off the bat, by no means is this a perfect story, or even a story I would try to show a newbie who is curious about Doctor Who, but that doesn’t detract from it being magical and a sentimental favorite of mine.  I mean, without this first episode, what would we have?  Answer: NOTHING.

The first episode of the story is far and away the best episode of the full “story”, in fact, I view it as a totally separate piece from the other 3 remaining episodes.  “An Unearthly Child” is, after all, the name of the first episode itself, and is nothing more than character introduction and set up for the rest of the ENTIRE SERIES!  You are first thrown into a foggy street of London, at some junkyard on 76 Totter’s Lane.  You aren’t quite sure why, and then you are briskly taken away and  introduced to Coal Hill School.  The first characters you meet are not The Doctor, but Ian, Barbara, and Susan.  In fact, you don’t get to meet this “Doctor” until nearly halfway into the episode… pretty good tease for a show centered on this “Doctor Who” fellow.

Watching the very first story of the very first Doctor, in black and white, is a thrill.  The acting in those days was not perfect, but that is only because they could not afford numerous takes like today; the film was running and film was expensive.  It’s almost like a more human version of a Doctor Who story, and you also feel that way about the Doctor, since he is a grandfather and just a crazy old man who is very apprehensive when it comes to humans (also sounds like many old people, right?!).

I haven’t even mentioned the TARDIS yet!  Oh the TARDIS, this is where the show really becomes sci-fi-y and special.  The sounds of the TARDIS, coupled with the theme music/intro, make this children’s show a near-psychedelic trip.  Once the viewer is taken through the TARDIS doors the experience has changed, and if you have ever seen other Doctor Who episodes, you feel instantly connected.  Though the TARDIS goes through many changes and looks much different here compared to today, you know you are watching the same show.

I will try not to spoil the show (though it is nearly 50 years old at this point), and in future posts, I will try to give as “spoiler-free” of reviews as possible, so I feel as though i should try to end my episode one review now.

OK, I lied, one more mention, and it’s a small (but cringe-worthy) error by the writing staff.  Science-fiction is often times a precursor to scientific discovery, but it can also highlight flaws when the writers are clearly not well versed in basic scientific knowledge.  What am I talking about?  Oh, it pains me to say it, but here it goes:

SUSAN: It’s impossible unless you use D and E.
IAN: D and E? Whatever for? Do the problem that’s set, Susan.
SUSAN: I can’t, Mister Chesterton. You can’t simply work on three of the dimensions.
IAN: Three of them? Oh, time being the fourth dimension, I suppose? Then what do you need E for? What do you make the fifth dimension?
SUSAN: Space.

Alright, now that I have aired that grievance, let’s shift to the rest of the story.  Don’t worry, it’ll be shorter than the above.

The next three episodes begin at a very logical beginning… cavemen times.  The Doctor, Susan, and his companions, Ian and Barbara, are transported, via the TARDIS, back in time to “100,000 BC”, a time in which cave-people were trying to figure out the magic of FIRE.

The plot revolves around two men looking to each lead the tribe, the first is a man trying to make fire and the other is a proven hunter that does not believe in the magic of fire.  After the now-typical plot-driver of separating The Doctor from the companions is introduced, the team must find a way out of this feud and get back to the TARDIS.

We all know that they escape, otherwise there would not be any further Who, but I will not “spoil” it for those who do not wish to be spoiled.

If I were to honestly assess the stories, I would give the first episode an “A” and the next three a combined “C”.  Most of my grading is based off of purely subjective bias.  The story itself is not perfect, the acting is also not perfect, but the charm, the magic, it more than compensates for its flaws.

Simply put:  If you are a Doctor Who fan, please consider watching the first episode once a year.  I know that many fans choose to watch this every November 23rd, so why not enjoy this annual tradition on “Doctor Who Day”?  If you live in the US like me, November 23rd usually falls around Thanksgiving… a perfect way to celebrate!

  • Story Grade:  B+
  • Yes, the first episode is THAT special, it nearly carried the 4-story-arc to an “A”-range grade.

 

Lastly, as is customary on my other blog, I would like to list off a bunch of thank yous.  Thank you, Jael, for introducing me to Doctor Who.  I may have become a super-nerd because of it, but it’s all because of you!  Thank you to Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein, Anthony Coburn and C.E. Webber, and all at the BBC that made this first story possible.  Thank you, Radio Free Skaro for being an awesome podcast.  If you, dear reader, are not familiar with them, go check them out!