The Macra Terror – Story #034

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Jael’s Judgement:

Right away this reminds me of The Prisoner. Does that make me über-nerdy? I guess the difference is that I stuck with the Doctor through this entire adventure to eventually find out why this colony is odd and slightly disturbing at first glance. I do not think I have gotten through a season of The Prisoner. Isn’t it funny how in both cases extreme pleasantness and “happiness” is stressed, even though the population is basically a captive slave force.

Jamie knows there is trouble. He tells Polly to keep her eyes peeled and distrusts the voice that speaks while they sleep. But the real mystery to me is, what does Jamie look like when in the words of Polly he looked so “smashing”? Did they do something different with his hair?? Regardless I am liking him as a companion. Very reliable and loyal with a bit of a rebellious side.

Ben on the other hand, I am not a fan of Ben’s.

The messages in this story were not very subtle. Make up your own mind and do not be unquestioningly obedient. At least they are not bad messages. Oh, another subtle message, “violence will get you nowhere.”

The whole story I was wondering where they have these stupid recordings singing instructions and “inspiration” to the workers. Turns out the colony has its own version of a Glee Club. Oh joy. And similar to current day glee clubs, it is overbearing and extremely annoying. Yay.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

I find reading my lovely wife’s reviews to be hilarious and confusing.  I shouldn’t be so confused, after all, she has told me that she does NOT want to grade the stories, but I cannot help it.  Maybe it’s the guy part of me, or maybe we are just that different, but I cannot understand how she “rates” these serials/stories.  Reading her review above, I would have expected a C-level grade at the very best, but somehow she is in the B-range.  “B-range” to me is significantly above average as a story, though not quite to the classic level which an “A” would garner.

Rebuttals to Jael’s Review:

  • The Prisoner?!  Nice reference, but we’ve only watched about 5-6 episodes of the series.  I’d say it would have almost been a badge of nerdery, but wait until completion to display that honor.  Now if you just meant The Simpson’s form of The Prisoner, I’ll let you display that proudly, though I have more pride in the fact that I converted you into a Simpsons fan.
  • Do you also see this as an early version of The Happiness Patrol?  I know that mentioning a 7th Doctor story would be incredibly out of order, but we’ve both seen it.
  • Your approval of Jamie is nothing more than a love of the Scottish accent and similar heritage of your ancestors in their Irish homeland (heck, they probably are intertwined, as I am sure they liked to mingle with one another).  As for smashing Jamie?  We’ll never know, since all 4 stories are lost to time.
  • You don’t like Ben?!  Shocking.  Maybe you just like Jamie too much. 😉
  • I do agree with your assessment of the subtlety in this story.  Being mindless slaves in order to be happy does not actually produce happy people, but just numb and distant shells of humans.
  • Your hate towards the Glee club makes me happy.  I am so thrilled that I am with someone who does not want to watch Glee.  Thank you.

As for my two cents?  This story has crabs.  Giant crabs.  I find it a bit hilarious and even ambitious that Doctor Who even tried to show these characters on screen.  Today we have special effects, incredible design/costume teams, and we still do not show everything on screen.  While nothing about the 1960s-era Who is completely believable (heck, most of Classic Who is under-budget, but that’s part of the charm), at least they pushed the envelop.  Much like the guys from Radio Free Skaro, I, too, would absolutely LOVE it if they produced a new-Who with a cheap budget and nearly 100% set/costume design, instead of graphics and tech wizardry.

Macra

It’s unfortunate for Ben and Polly’s characters that The Doctor and Jamie work so well together.  This is probably the reason why Jamie stays and the other two go in the not so distant future (OK, maybe the next story. *SPOILERS!*).

While a bit silly, I will not let the fact that this story is 100% audio bring down my grade…

  • Story Grade: B-
  • A bit of fun and your typical feel-good happy ending.  While not 100% the same, the giant bugs and Macra make it feel like Planet of Giants, which was quite enjoyable.

 

Thanks again to Patrick Troughton for the breath of fresh air.  It’s easy to see why Doctor Who kept building into the show that is so loved now with Patrick as the lead.  His appeal to children is obvious, and I wouldn’t mind being old if I aged like his character.

PS: Look out for the Macra in the new series episode “Gridlock.”

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The Moonbase – Story #033

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Jael’s Judgement:

Again with the Cybermen. They look slightly different then our previous encounter. They sound like the smokers on the anti-smoking commercials that now need to speak through a machine at their throat. While they are creepy and scary, I find myself enjoying their condescending sarcasm. Similar to my enjoyment of the Daleks’ personalities.

“Only stupid earth brains like yours would be fooled.” -Cybermen

Since when is Ben a genius? On this adventure he speaks as if he has gone to school to be some sort of scientist. Then again, I guess next to Polly anyone would look like a genius.

Bad feminist moment of the story: Polly is told to go make coffee … again.

Good feminist moment of the story: After Ben tells Polly, “Not you, Polly, this is men’s work.” She doesn’t listen and follows Ben & Jamie anyway. Good for her.

  • Story Grade: B-

Tony’s Take:

While not the strongest story, at least the Cybermen are no longer Greendale’s mascot!  The design team either forgot how to replicate the old Cybermen, or there was a deliberate decision to actually make them look robotic.  I’d like to think that it was the latter and the realization that Doctor Who is catching on with the public – more money!

MoonbaseCybermen

Being relatively low on the intermediate level Doctor Who spectrum, I have an idea – probably not original – that the Cybermen were possibly influenced by the British coal-miners.  Their helmets look like a coal-mining helmet, and their protective suit is kind of similar to the complete jump suits that a miner would wear.

CoalMiner1

Miners Settle Strike

Am I just seeing things are is there a hint of Cybermen in these coal-men?

Going back to the story itself, I love when Doctor Who not only travels in the future (I’d choose a future adventure myself, if it were a randomly selected time), but when the story is also set in space… YAY!!  With all of these elements, I should have loved this story, especially with a classic baddie, but I didn’t.  Why?  The Cybermen’s role was rather weak, if they were compared to their future incarnations, they would be destroyed in 2 minutes and dismissed as impostors.

What this story feels like is a still relatively new show, growing daily and becoming a cult classic, but still not yet 100% confident in itself.  The first part of this story is that of a virus harming people in space/the moon, but then the show feels the need to tie the virus to a villain that they hope can become a rival – the Cybermen.  A virus in space, though similar to The Ark, could still have been a fun story to tell.  A chilling tale of the cold, emotionless murderers (or “upgraders/assimilaters”, if you are a stickler) on a moonbase would even be fine.  But trying to tie together the two plots seems a bit unfocused and takes away from the evilness of the silver foes.

With all of that seemingly negative talk, I will admit to two pieces of pure awesomeness:

  1. Jamie plays around on the moon and gets hurt… because he’s amazed at weightlessness.
  2. Seeing a classic enemy, like the Cybermen, marching on screen is never a bad thing, especially when used as a cliffhanger.
  • Story Grade: C
  • I’ll never tire of futuristic stories in space.  Even done sub-par (like this one), I still can’t help but be somewhat engaged.

Thank you, again, to the costume designers and whoever else was responsible for redesigning the men in silver.  While it was fun seeing the Cybermen as a weird race of sock-puppet and metal hoses, the newer “upgrades” are much more menacing, especially on the surface of the moon.

The Underwater Menace – Story #032

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Jael’s Judgment:

One question, how are these fish people efficiently swimming? From what I can tell, aside from plastic gills, they do not have any huge physical alterations. Being a former competitive swimmer myself, I can tell you that while human beings can find ways to move fairly quickly through the water, without a different body structure and fins, they just don’t seem very efficient as a food gathering device.

Tony just showed me what these fish people look like. Terrifying if you ask me.

Near the end of the adventure, after they all make it back to the TARDIS, Jamie admits that he feels safe in the TARDIS. Oh, to be somewhere safe, where no menace can touch you. Hopefully we all know what a comforting feeling that is.

  • Story Grade: B

 

Tony’s Take:

Eight months after viewing and I can honestly say that I did NOT forget a thing remember a thing.

*checks wikipedia for notes, reads Jael’s commentary, digs for own notes, eliminates distractions by stopping Coupling from playing in the background*

Alright, I’m back.

Right, The Underwater Menace.  Jamie’s first time traveling with the Doctor… and the story is 50% missing.  The good news is that the missing episodes will be animated, but the bad news is that they were not animated in time for this blog – don;t be surprised to see revisions/double reviews in the future, as more stories are found, animated, or released.

In this story the old tale of Atlantis is played with for the first of three times in the history of the ever-expanding Doctor Who.  The most frightening thing is the idea of converting people into “fish-people”.  There is something much more scary about this compared to the idea of being converted into a cyberman.  At least with a cyberman you are essentially dead and completely different; when converted to a fish-person you are still rather human, but now have to deal with the still very real issues of living in the sea.  Giving up everything you once new on the surface and being thrown into a crazy water-world seems terrifying.

Polly still seems rather useless, but what can you expect in a story where she is not the only companion AND a female character written in the 60s.  Stick ing with the companions, I hope you like Jamie, because he’ll be sticking around for quite some time.

  • Story Grade: C
  • Not exactly a historical, not exactly pure fiction, this is a Who-take on an old tale – Atlantis.  Please, do not let science create fish people!

 

Thank you to the costume designer who created the fish person costume.  Though this is not a story on DVD yet, the still photos and partial clips make this ballet outfit look flat-out ridiculously terrifying.

See what I mean?

UW Menace

The Highlanders – Story #031

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Jael’s Judgment:

We get to meet Jamie! I am not sure why I am so happy about this. Maybe it is because he is tough even though he wears a kilt. Maybe it is because he is a piper. (On a side note he should take the TARDIS into my future and pipe at my funeral. I really want bagpipes played at my funeral.) Maybe it is the accent. Yeah, it’s probably the accent. Like Amelia Pond’s accent. Speaking of Amy, Inverness gets a shout out! And neither Karen Gillan (1960s) or Amelia Pond (1700s) were even born yet.

“Bonnie Prince Charles.” I am unfortunately guilty along with Ben, when the Doctor tells him he should have paid better attention in History class. Too bad I don’t know more about English history. They do mention the moor, and that I can connect with through books I have read. In fact, I just recently read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles. From all of the books I have read, I take it that the moor is a lovely spot for a romantic, historical adventure. The moors just seem so ancient and untouchable. This is of course written with no first hand knowledge of them.

Yay! We got to hear the phrase “Doctor who?” occurring naturally within conversation. And speaking of the Doctor, we are on our second full adventure with Troughton. I will admit that I thought the recorder was going to be seriously annoying. However we find the Doctor in a cell once again bringing out his recorder, and what a nice little ditty all of the prisoners sing together.

His second reincarnation is also a little edgier than the first. He brings more humor to serious situations. Apparently, from what I gather with only the audio, he even smacks a guard’s head into a desk as part of a plan. And then uses some rather silly jokes to fool his adversaries.

Finally Polly does something!!! She claims that crying is no good and takes action. And she has to remove her unpractical shoes! (This is a pet peeve if mine. I hate it when people in television/movies run about in impractical shoes.) And Polly figures out how to get money for her & the other woman and blackmail a soldier. I am so impressed. Where was this Polly in the last few adventures???

  • Story Grade: B

 

Tony’s Take:

JAMIE McCRIMMON.

The most prolific companion to date has finally entered the world of Doctor Who.  I could tell, in an instant, that Jael would love this character.  His Scottish-ness and kilt are too much for any lady to resist. (He says with heavy sarcasm.)  But in all seriousness, she really does enjoy Jamie, he’s a bit of a comedic tool (being from the past and not understanding futuristic things) and yet a very strong willed and courageous companion.  Now if only Doctor Who would pair him up with a solid female companion with a strong character (more than screaming and making coffee), you could have one of the best TARDIS-teams of all-time.

And then there is The Doctor, the genius that is Partick Troughton.  While scheming and trying to play the trickster, The Doctor gives the German alias “Doktor von Wer”… Doctor Who.  Awesome!

And then there is the other disguise of The Doctor.  As this story was all audio, I could only picture Patrick Troughton in a very Monty Python-esque scene:

I pictured The Doctor as the old woman in the clip above, as he tried to disguise himself as a lady.

And for good measure, my mind wandered and thought of further man/woman Monty Python skits.  this time something from Life of Brian:

Do you think that Patrick Troughton, being the top-notch performer that he was, went through that internal struggle for this role and really wanted to be a lady like Eric Idle’s character above?  You’re right, probably not.  But I am REALLY liking Troughton none-the-less.  To even compare Doctor Who to the wonderful Monty Python makes me happy.  Troughton really is making this show more enjoyable and lighthearted (in a good way).  The crankiness of The Doctor is gone, and the show seems much better suited for its audience of children.

And one last comparison of Doctor Who to other pieces of comedic genius.  When Jamie is described as a piper, I couldn’t help but immediately think of “So I Married An Axe Murderer”:

  • Story Grade: C+
  • This is more of a “historical story”, but the Troughton-y moments make it much more enjoyable than in the past.  Not my favorite story, but the new life gives it a better “listen”.

 

Thank you, Monty Python, quite possibly the greatest comedic group EVER.  Thank you and welcome, Jamie McCrimmon/Frazer Hines.  Thank you, Mike Myers.  I know that he is heavily influenced by British culture, as his father was from that side of the pond, so that definitely relates to this blog, right?

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 War Machines – Story #027

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Jael’s Judgment:

Wow, what a different intro!

It’s always odd to realize that a new companion doesn’t know who the Daleks are. Especially since I know who they are. And I haven’t been on all that many adventures.  But if you ever see a little blue box fly up there in the sky, you shout for me. Oh you just shout.

They actually called him Doctor Who. I don’t like that at all. Just sounds wrong. 😦

The Royal Scientific Club, is that really a thing? And battle bots!

“When you’ve seen the ages I’ve seen, you won’t use the term quite so freely.” -Doctor in reference to Ages. No wonder the Doctor seems so exhausted, come his 9th & 10th regenerations.

  • Story Grade: B

Tony’s Take:

Ever wonder what a boxy Dalek would look like?  Wait no longer!  If you watch this story, the last full story of the First Doctor that we’ll likely ever have, you get to see these great robots in action.  The WOTAN and the War Machines are not as menacing as the Daleks, but the story holds up surprisingly well.  This is another classic sci-fi plot, human vs. robot/computer/machine.  Artificial intelligence, as we know, can be a great thing, but hopefully we also know the point at which we should stop relying on machines.

Point of note: Be on the look-out to see the actor inside of a war machine.  You’ll be able to see him clearly in the black rectangular “mouth” for a longer than desirable length (a couple long seconds).

I am sad that we will be saying goodbye to William Hartnell soon.  Sure he was crabby, old, and didn’t do a lot of acting in the last year or so, but he was the original.

  • Story Grade: B-
  • Not too bad for the first man versus machine story in Doctor Who.  The War Machines are kind of cool, in a “total rip-off of a Dalek” way.

Thank you, William Hartnell.  I mentioned that this is the last full story of his to survive in full; he will be missed.  Thank you, prop department.  you created yet another great 1960s version of an evil robot on wheels, possibly inspiring the battle-bots of today.

battlebots and war machines