The Power of the Daleks – Story #030

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Jael’s Judgment:

Wow! Am I ever invigorated by this second Doctor!!

I committed to soooo many adventures throughout 2013 that I find most of them go by in a blur. This is not unusual for me, as even in real life my “adventures” often blur together and linger in my mind only as moments and feelings. Now as we listen to and basically meet Troughton’s incarnation as the Doctor, I realize how slow moving the first Doctor and his adventures were. I am not saying I didn’t enjoy them, but a couple months of such a snail-like pace was loosing my interest.

I cannot get over how much I am enjoying Troughton!! I thought the recorder was going to be annoying, but I find myself enjoying it. I say that now, we’ll see how I feel in a few weeks…

Unfortunately the women in the story are incredibly disappointing. The lady scientist is pushy, cold, and gets used by the wrong side. Polly is helpless. Ugh. I got the initial impression that she was some sort if scientist, but maybe she was just some sort of assistant? I don’t know, even just working with scientists you would think she couldn’t be that stupid. Yuck, she is horrible. Can you tell I am not crazy about Polly? I guess I am being a bit tough on her, but really I am not seeing her value.

Sucker stick, sucker stick, sucker stick. That is the phrase the narrator keeps using for the Dalek plunger. I wonder if that’s what they call a plunger in the UK… I don’t think so, but I am too tuckered out to confirm it now. Anyway, those words keep sticking out to me… sucking me in… Oh man, cracking myself up! Onward ho!

The Daleks were excellent in this story. Maybe they are so easy to enjoy when all you have is audio, because the main form of acting for these characters is in fact their voice. I mean, swiveling, moving forward & back, movement of the eye stock, and waving of their sucker stick and shooter arm. That’s really not much. We know what they look like and they are easy to imagine. Just picture the Dalek’s eye stock giving you the stare down as it rolls out of the room, after checking up on the liquid/secret poison given to the human for hydration. You can feel its condescending and tricky, evil stare.

Whoever does the voice of the Daleks performs splendidly. I like the way the Daleks say “I am your servant” questioningly at first. Because we all know they don’t actually believe it, cleverly alluding to the falseness of the statement. Eventually though, their tone while saying this sentence becomes more menacing. The narrator starts using words like indignant when describing the Daleks. And they become more and more reluctant to say, “I obey.”

What fun! I am looking forward to more adventures with this odd Doctor and hopefully some more permanent companions.

  • Story Grade: A

 

Tony’s Take:

This might as well be one of those rare stories where I let Jael run with her observations and say next to nothing.  I mean, what could I say?  She is spot on, Troughton is a HUGE breath of fresh air; the Daleks are even quirkier (maybe due in part by The (new) Doctor’s attitude); and yes, the role of women, especially in early Who, is quite limited and sexist.

There was a very nice quote from this story, one that is obviously meant to be deeper than just the surface application towards the second Doctor:

“Life depends on change and renewal.”  Well said, Doctor/Troughton!

  • Story Grade: B+
  • I could really get used to watching Troughton’s Doctor, if only more episodes had survived.  Stupid BBC policy!  Though there are some great reads on missing stories HERE.

 

Thank you, Patrick Troughton.  Even though you are well in your 40s, you give The Doctor a new playful (positive) attitude.  Thank you to Richard Molesworth for putting together such a great book (Wiped! Doctor Who’s Missing Episodes), I’m excited to get the second edition in the near future.  Again, thank you to all of the early hardcore Whovians who were wise enough to record the TV show in audio form.  Without those recordings, we would not have such a great preservation of these lost stories.

The Tenth Planet – Story #029

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Jael’s Judgment:

Since this was the last adventure that we go on with first Doctor, it was sad to have so little of him in the story.

As far as the rest of the characters go Ben is alright. He seems resilient and energetic enough despite the melancholy we witnessed upon our first encounter with him. Polly on the other hand… I am not a fan of Polly. She offers to help in a stressful and dire situation, and all she can come up with to be useful is to make coffee. I mean, I guess coffee would help some people. It just doesn’t seem all that effective. I don’t even know how to make coffee. I would be a useless woman in the 60s. (I like that I can say “would be” since we are talking time travel and I am not restricted to “would have been.”) I miss Barbara. She wasn’t a great feminist, but she seemed more sensible and a bit tougher.

I have been having trouble relating to the TARDIS crew lately. This may be because of its high turnover rate recently. What didn’t change from the last adventure seems to be the accents. Just as I was wondering if the actor playing Cutler also played a pirate in the previous adventure, Tony speaks up asking why they are talking like pirates in the future.

The last appearance of William Hartnell brought with it the first appearance of the Cybermen. I did not realize that they came from a twin planet of earth. I guess I didn’t really know that much about them. I often forget how old this particular foe is, especially when their appearance has changed so much throughout the years. Unfortunately we do not get this first visual of the Cybermen since this is an audio only story. What I can tell you, is that they sound a little like K9.

Best, yet most bittersweet moment of this adventure? We witness the first regeneration! (Oddly enough, I do not remember anyone actually using the word regeneration.) Although this was audio only, we watched some of the footage of the regeneration. I think it was pretty good effects for back then. And even though the special effects have changed over the years, I think the subsequent regenerations have kept in pretty good tradition with this first.

  • Story Grade: C

 

Tony’s Take:

Why, oh why, does the lone episode that is missing have to be the one containing the regeneration?!  Come on BBC!  If I could go back in time to save one lone episode, I am 90% certain it’d be episode 4 of The Tenth Planet.  The good news is that the BBC and restoration team recently announced that this story would finally see a release on DVD with the last part being animated!

Since it hasn’t come out on DVD yet, this first brush with the Cybermen was all in audio form.  Audio-only stories always lack the complete feeling for me, and rightfully so, as this is a television show, not audio-drama.  Even though it was locked in to this confining medium, the story was not all bad.  Coming off a dud like The Smugglers in the story prior, this one actually got me engaged.  Maybe it’s because of such a classic “monster” like the Cybermen, maybe it’s because the story is not a historical, or maybe *gasp* it was a decent story(!).

As there are 3 episodes still remaining and there are backup telesnaps of some of the scenes, we know what the first incarnation of the Cybermen look like…

Cyberman Greendale Human Being

Exactly like a robotic version of the Greendale Human Being!!  (check out the TV show Community if you haven’t already)

By the way, the name “The Tenth Planet” is now very much out of date, since Pluto was demoted and we have 8 planets in our solar system.  Even though those in charge decided to kick Pluto out of our planet-party, I still recognize you, Pluto!  As much as scientists of today would say that this story title is wrong, I will secretly think it is right.

I have tried to tell myself not to get too long-winded, unless I have great things to say or if I can make it a great read.  As i don’t have much more, without just describing the story itself, I’ll cut myself off now.  Before I dismiss you so you can look at the generic closing of the post, heed this advice: Watch this story when it comes out on DVD!  This is historical stuff!  The end of a period (Hartnell-era) is just the epoch of a much longer era – The Great Age of Doctor Who.

(Now, don’t get me wrong, Doctor Who started at An Unearthly Child, but without this regeneration, it could have easily ended when Hartnell collapsed.)

  • Story Grade: B+
  • The costumes are fantastically terrible, a truly defining characteristic of Classic Who.  I cannot wait to revisit this story when it’s finally on video.

 

Thank you, William Hartnell.  Your time as The Doctor made for a foundation that was so strongly built that the legacy is still carried on 50 years later.  Sure, there were some duds in there, but it’s a 1960s sci-fi show in it’s infancy.  The Doctor has changed drastically over the years, but even so, there is always a small piece of Hartnell’s Doctor that lives on (maybe it’s the quirkiness, the scolding, the crankiness, or just the need to explore).

The Smugglers – Story #028

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Jael’s Judgment:

Who doesn’t like a pirate story?

While this was still an adventure, it had some mystery and intrigue which also made it more of a “story” for me. A lot like most of the fictional books I read. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but didn’t really feel involved.

It started to get a little weird when I realized that all of the pirate accents were really just Irish accents.

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

To call this story dull would be doing it a favor.  I had very little interest and did not care what happened.  All I wanted was for the gang to get back into the TARDIS and get to the next story already.

Pulled from Wikipedia:

On initial airing, this story posted the lowest audience figures, at an average of 4.48 million viewers per episode, since the show had started. It would remain the least-watched story in Doctor Who history for twenty years, until The Trial of a Time LordThe Mysterious Planet aired in 1986 and posted an average of 4.35 million viewers per episode.

Sounds about right.  Good on you, British viewers!

I will not explain anything further, and I do not even have some comparison or witty remark to make.  Maybe, just maybe, the video would have saved it some, and for that I give it a barely passing grade of…

  • Story Grade: D
  • Only “watch” this story if you are doing something like us and wanting needing to take in each story.

 

Thank you, Irish actors.  Irish versus Pirate, who can tell the difference?!  (I am clearly being sarcastic.)  In a way, thank you to the writing team, your poor story made for a very short blog entry.

The Savages – Story #026

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Jael’s Judgment:

I agree with Dodo, it is funny that the Doctor has no idea of time.

I like that the idea of life force in this adventure includes artistic abilities. Someone very unexpected once told me that creating art is good for your soul. I agree that it an essential part of being a full human being. Art can come out in so many ways, so I wouldn’t want anyone to assume I am limiting it to only painting or some other sort if physical art. But I think that it is important to be able to have that beautiful, immeasurable section of time when you are so lost in what you are doing that everything else melts away. And then to be able to share that very private part of oneself with others. It is important for your well-being.

Steven is leaving. I cannot say I’ll miss him too much, but I did not really see it coming. There’s not much time to get attached to companions over the last several stories. I wonder how much longer Dodo will be with us…

  • Story Grade: A-

 

Tony’s Take:

Ah yes, a story written by Michael Ian Black Ian Stuart Black, sorry.  This is the very common struggle in societies of old and many stories in sci-fi future; the struggle between two “races” of people, where one group believes the others are savages or lesser-beings.

Up until this point, Doctor Who was not really “in your face” with it’s message, but this story definitely hammers the point home.  In later years there will be a phase where every story is a lesson or reflects ideals (whether it’s political leanings or a reflection on current culture), so this story was a bit ahead of its time.

Jael and I live close to a Native American community (the teepee lights at night from the casino serve as a good beacon to get guests within spitting distance of our house), so this story is a brutal reminder of our nation’s dealing with the native people.  Let’s just say that I am glad that the working title of The White Savages was scrapped.  Doctor Who has enough racist, sexist, and other -ist moments in its long history, I’m glad they caught this before adding yet another to the list.

Now back to Michael Ian Black.  I understand that his comedy routine and some of his movies/TV shows might not be certain people’s cups of tea, but there is one thing that I would recommend to ANYONE…  You’re Not Doing It Right.  This book is amazingly funny, and shockingly close to real life.  I am not a book reader, but I LOVED this book.  I urge you, give this book a chance.

  • Story Grade: B-
  • Great message, wouldn’t mind actually seeing if it were ever discovered.  not a classic, but stronger than average.

 

Thank you, Michael Ian Black.  Though this isn’t the forum for such mentions, your book contains more than comedy, though it made me actually laugh out loud many times.  As far as DW thanks, I mentioned this before, but thank you to either Ian Stuart Black or the show-runner, changing the name of the story was only the right thing to do.

“Mission to the Unknown” – Story #019

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Jael’s Judgment:

(Still not sure why Tony makes me give these grades. We looked back and my average is something like a B-. So right there, if a C is average, I am obviously not grading accurately.)

Alright, let’s get on with it.

This was an odd story. Only one episode and no Doctor. How many Doctor Who stories are there with no Doctor? The characters/voices got a little confusing for me. I wish we could have watched the story, but alas it was an audio only. I kept wondering what the Varga plants looked like.

Gardeners beware: While recently discussing the reoccuring adversaries of the Doctor with my brother, I realized how often plants evolve into threatening, sentient beings. Or other creatures are taken over by plants to become plant/animals. Never really the same types of beings, so they are not a specific reoccurring enemy. But man, watch out for those plants!

Overall, OK story. But probably not needed to understand future stories. I am guessing William Hartnell needed a break.

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

The first one episode story and the only one for MANY years.  We are used to one-parters in present day Who, and when they are a two-parter that means something special to us; so it’s strange to “see” such a short story early on and WITHOUT the Doctor.  This was a teaser (or something we may now call – albeit incorrectly – a prequel) to the upcoming story, “The Daleks’ Mater Plan”.

I don’t know that there is much to talk about, so here are some interesting notes about this awkward story:

From the TARDIS wikia:

Terry Nation wrote this episode partially as an attempt to develop and sell the idea of a Dalek television series divorced from the larger Doctor Who universe. The proposed series would have followed the adventures of the Space Security Service, an elite organisation tasked with hunting Daleks. This approach can be seen in short stories and comic strips written for 1965’s The Dalek Outer Space Book (cover dated 1966). An unmade pilot titled The Destroyers was written, but the series concept was never sold. The Destroyers was later produced as an audio play by Big Finish Productions.

Since the story “Planet of Giants” was originally meant as a 4 part story but was edited down to a 3 part story, this left a one episode hole in the contract with the BBC and Doctor Who production team.  The original cast (speculation here) already fulfilled their contract and were too expensive for the show, so they decided to take Terry Nation’s idea and do a one-off teaser for a future story.  Since they would use the sets in the 12 episode story, this meant that there was very little addition cost associated with the production.

With all of this said, William Hartnell is still credited as “Doctor Who” because his contract said he would have lead credits in all episodes, even if he did not appear.

Notes:

Varga plants only on Skaro, they take over the brain and tell you to kill and you become half plant.
Now to warn Earth of the Daleks coming.
I’d like to see this jungle set; wait, actually I wouldn’t, the sound is probably better than the props.
Cory is really infected by the plant, not good.
  • Story Grade: C
  • Short, very short.  This isn’t a bad thing, but a 25 minute episode of Doctor Who without The Doctor can only go so far.  This was a great initial run for the Tardisodes and “prequels” that we get today (even if they weren’t directly because of this fluke of a story).

 

Thank you, Verity Lambert.  This was her last story/episode as producer.  We Who fans owe her all of our thanks for bringing this show to us.  Without Verity, we would not have this show, plain and simple.  Thank you to the BBC as well, they broke the stereotypical mold by going with a young female to run a show.  I am sure that the conditions were far from perfect, and she was probably given Doctor Who because they wrote off the show, but you have to start somewhere.

The Daleks – Story #002

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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.

Welcome to “We Work In Reverse”

This blog is brought to you by the Vodas.  We are a couple in the frozen Midwest, and this blog will contain our opinions on every Doctor Who episode.

Why the “We Work In Reverse” name?  Well, we broke the typical mold.  Jael was the one who was introduced to Doctor Who via PBS in Iowa.  After we got married, I (Tony) decided to buy a Classic Series DVD for Jael for Valentines Day.  Jael then soon found out that the series was rebooted (this was happening in early 2009); after watching Rose, I was hooked and my wife was back on the Who-train.

Fast-forward to today, we are now closing in on owning every Who story available (missing only 4 DVDs and the newest box set of the Lost TV Episodes on CD).  Since we have so much Doctor Who and it’s a festive year, why not review every story?!

Now that you have an idea of who we are, please keep an eye on our blog for a regular review of each Doctor Who story, from An Unearthly Child to The TV Movie, and Rose to… well, at least Series 8 (and hopefully beyond).