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.

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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

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.

The Space Museum – Story #015

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Jael’s Judgment:

Every evening I come home after work and wish that there was already a tasty meal ready and waiting for me. Unfortunately for me, I think my husband feels the same way. So we are both left exhausted, hungry, and often sitting down for a Doctor Who adventure after consuming a less than satisfactory meal that costs us what little energy we had left to put together. So the first thing on my mind when viewing The Space Museum, is what happened to the Star Trek-ish nourishment producing machine on the TARDIS and how can I get one?

Best line of the entire episode is arguably when the two aliens stroll right past the TARDIS group as the group is speaking, making no indication that they hear or see the group what so ever. The Doctor concludes, “It is extremely doubtful that they are both deaf.” So true. So true.

I am betting there would be some sort of museum taking up an entire planet like this if there were hundreds or thousands of civilizations in some sort of relative grouping. Of course, I am no master of probability like the Doctor is, (eg. “It is extremely doubtful that they are both deaf.”) Speaking of odds, what are the odds that when the Doctor walks through the TARDIS while it is a different time, he does not run in to the dimension that the inside of the TARDIS is in? Or maybe I am mixing up time with other dimensions… Either way it is probably less likely than even the extremely doubtful situation of both of the aliens being deaf. 🙂  See even the Doctor has trouble solving the 4th dimension. I guess that’s why it’s just described as timey-whimey. This is why it strikes me as odd that they are all trying to figure out how to change the future. To me, whether the future they saw was the one which they are currently headed towards or a different one, seems to be down to chance.

We are all thinking it, I’m just going to say it, those Xerons have some super sweet eyebrows. I like how the only evolutionary difference between these aliens and humans is that the Xerons’ eyebrows are about an inch higher. And the Moroks, they just have amazing hair. (I think that Giorgio A. Tsoukalos models his after them. And he would know, they are aliens.) And then the Xerons say something like, “can’t you see we’re nothing alike?!” (in reference to the Moroks.) You know who is like the Moroks? My wonderful co-writer and husband. See below:

MorokTony

(L: Morok R: Tony)

Finally, in addition to the obvious scene with the Daleks at the end of the last episode, there is some foreshadowing regarding this enemy throughout the entire episode. Near the beginning of the story Barbara postulates that “Even the Daleks are friendly to some.” Ian guesses that it is improbable they will meet the Daleks again. To that I say, it is even less probable that all of the Daleks are deaf.

  • Story Grade: B-

Tony’s Take:

Dang, Jael took my favorite part, as well.  I even wrote in my notes:

“It’s extremely doubtful that they’re both deaf!” -Best Doctor quote ever?

It comes out of left-field; you might expect such a quote from Tom Baker, but from William Hartnell?!  What makes it even better is that I cannot tell if he is being sincere in his delivery of this line or if it was actually meant as a perfect line of observational humor.

With the talk of two deaf people just happening to be on patrol together, I’ll put the gears in reverse and go back to the beginning of the story.  There was something somewhat strange going on, everyone woke up with new clothes.  Did The Doctor strip everyone and re-dress them?  If you ask me, I would have made a much bigger deal of this, maybe because I prefer to be more like Tobias Fünke (but only in the “never nude” sense).

The only other point that I would like to talk about with just a little more depth is the fact that Vicki can be quite intelligent.  Between Vicki and Susan, both girls are quite smart, but since this show was set in a rather sexist period, their full capabilities were never really utilized, which is very sad.  Vicki has a decent grasp of time being a dimension, maybe a product of her time period, and The Doctor goes from being a crabby old grandfather scolding a child into treating Vicki as a smart student.

Favorite notes:

Vicki just reached through a museum piece, and The Doctor just wants to scold her and not listen.  The old coot is back!
We might not really be here!  Potentially trippy story.
After snarky remarks, The Doctor is taken to the preparation room.  The Doctor is not a snitch, he doesn’t sell out his companions so easily white-guy!!
Ian does NOT want to be on display, so he Hulk-smashed a piece if equipment.
The message of changing the future could have been done so much better… oh wait, that’s why we have Steven Moffat.
  • Story Grade: B-
  • Overall, this story is decent, flirts with being trippy (which could have been played out quite well) and it does a decent job to stay on point without going long.  This might be the first story where Time is really played with and is the plot-driver.

 

Thank you, Vicki, for showing that you are smart.  thank you Doctor, you did not snitch and you will be handsomely rewarded by the family.  Thank you to the writer who put the line about the two not-deaf guys.  (And for my ego and narcissism, thank you to me for incorporating Arrested Development into our Doctor Who blog.)

The Web Planet – Story #013

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Jael’s Judgment:

The Web Planet? Lame name, for a lame story. Sorry, but this one was booo-ring. The most entertaining part was watching all of the actors try to walk around as the different bugs, especially the ants. I do not know why this story was spread out over so many episodes.

  • Story Grade: D

 

Tony’s Take:

This story SUCKED.  Plain and simple.  I will not sugarcoat it, the writing and setting for this story was a complete failure.  After the first episode I thought that withholding the “monster” and adding an element of surprise was good, and at the end of the last episode, I thought that the underlying theme of freewill and humanity (or in this case, bug-manity?) was interesting.  The problem?  The story was drawn out and lost.  I wrote the following in my notes which sums up the story perfectly in my view, “Great, now a plastic tube that talks to The Doctor.  This story is like a stoner’s dream… boiled down to a lifeless goo and molded into something kid safe.  I am convinced that there is no meaning and the plot was lost by the writer.”

There was one point that I thought could have been great, but again, it was not well played and was instantly buried and written off.  The Doctor mentions ‘evolution’, and I can’t help but wonder what the outrage would have been like in the US for mentioning that on a kids show… in the 1960s!  We can barely get away with it today (talking about small scale evolution of insects and birds).  In future episodes of Doctor Who (around Tom Baker’s time), this point would have been the overwhelming theme and driven home in 4 episodes, not just another small piece to a scattered story which tried to address issues of freewill AND separation of races (the races being the different types of bugs).

One last comment to drive home my opinion of disdain for this story: “This is just ridiculous.” I spouted off to my wife just over 31 minutes into the disc. The steam had already run out, this story just got odd and drawn out.  It makes me really appreciate the better done “future and alien” stories.

After much feedback from an unnamed source (JAEL!!!!!!!!), I have decided to only include a couple of my favorite notes:

The Doctor is still giggly, like he was doing drugs in the TARDIS or magically 30 (human) years younger.
Barbara loses control of her arm temporarily, a la Paranormal Activity.
The Doctor is not worried about Ian losing his pants, even though he demanded that Ian give him his belt.  The belt disintegrated after dipping it in a weird ooze.
Ian caught in a net, Barbara almost walking into the pool of acid, Vicki uncontrollably moves the TARDIS. Could The Doctor finally have to save the day and save everyone?  NOPE!  Still not the hero, savior of all type.
The big reveal of the “monster” is for… an interpretive dancing tribesman that mated with a bumblebee? Odd.
“He’s very good at this sort of thing,” says The Doctor to Vicki I  regards to Ian leaving to find Barbara.  Yep, you’re right, probably because this happens in every story!
The bee-man are acting like matadors and treating the ant like a bull (or maybe they are farmers treating them like a pig, yelling “soo-ie”) and trying to get it to go after them.  This may be the most “WHAT?!”-worthy scene yet.
“Zarbi, yi, yi, yi!!!” or “Zarb-eee-eeee-eeee” your choice. Both silly.
  • Story Grade: D-
  • The only saving grace to this story was the fact that the first episode was kind of enjoyable, and the IDEA was decent.  The actual writing of the idea and the setting for the theme could have been done MUCH better.

 

I am not sure that I really have many people to thank for this story.  I guess my thank yous go out to all of the bug actors.  Those costumes looked terribly uncomfortable, you made the best out of a confusing script.

Planet of Giants – Story #009

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Jael’s Judgment:

I do not have a ton to say about this story. It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t great. Thus the average grade of C, on the scale which my husband still makes me use under protest.

I am not really sure why Barbara didn’t inform the rest of the group immediately that she had come into contact with the pesticide…

I’ll tell you what did inspire me about this story, the props! Made me want to be a prop designer. Unfortunately I am unsure about the level of training this would take, especially now, 49 years later. Some if the scaling seemed to be off. I could definitely take care of that. Plus I think I could do a decent artistic job creating props and sets as well. Hmmm, maybe I should think about this as a future career. I am sure there are many career opportunities of this vein in the Midwest United States.

  • Story Grade: C

 

Tony’s Take:

Sorry guys, after the differing viewpoints on that nasty French adventure, we are back to agreeing with each other.  The grades are identical, and our high points are the same (props).  How crazy was Barbara for keeping the pesticide contact a secret for so long?!  Just tell them already!

If you want further detail, here are my notes:

CLOSE THE DOORS!  The TARDIS is acting up yet again.
For once, the mini model TARDIS comes in handy, it’s nearly actual size for this story!
Of course the best idea is to leave the ship to figure out what happened. Next step would be to split up… and there it happens!
The first giant, a giant worm, followed by eggs, and then an ant.
Reduced to an inch, but Ian has difficulty believing that, and he’s a time-traveler.
Ian’s great acting in the matchbox was AWESOME, Susan’s screaming was not.
Weird, didn’t know that Burn’s assistant, Smithers, was in this story.
Why would being smaller change the pitch what the tiny people are hearing?  Shorter people do not hear sounds differently than taller people. If anything, they may not be able to hear certain frequencies because of smaller ear drums.  They would probably sound squeaky, since they’d have smaller vocal cords, but they would also hear each other as squeaky.  Right?
Ian’s walk in front of the dead man was priceless.  Oh how technology has changed.
DO NOT LOOK INTO THE CAT’S EYES!
We are split up again, but we learned about Smithers and the killer, they are disposing the body.
Susan touched the poison wheat, oops, spoiled that one already.  Guess we have to see how it plays out; how will they save her?!
Susan passes out when seeing a giant bug, reminds me of someone close to me.  But at least she and Ian hear Susan once she wakes up.  The gang gets back together in the drain!
Episode 2 really went down the drain, literally.
Barbara, just tell them you are poisoned already!  Geez.
The old cork under the phone trick.  Is this the inspiration for ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’?
The screams in unison are priceless, it’s almost like a blooper take, they are almost cracking.
Well, The Doctor just went all pyro, “Nothing like a good fire?!”
The phone off the hook worked, especially when coupled with previous suspicion by the telephone operator.
I’m sure the prop department had fun making all of these giant props.
Glad we had the seed as a visual to see the TARDIS going back to normal size.
  • Story Grade: C
  • The models and props were pretty decent.  The story was nice and condensed (for the 1960s era Who), and the story had average twists and plot-line.

 

All the thanks go out to the prop design team.  Making a bunch of huge props to make the group look small was very well done.  Many times the scale and proportions were well off, but this was probably at the request of the director in order ensure that the actors look tiny, plus it’s just a TV show for kids.

The Sensorites – Story #007

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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

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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.