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).

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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 Myth Makers – Story #020

DW20

Jael’s Judgment:

Well, the Doctor confirmed it. The Trojan war is not just a legend.

I am a little confused about the presence if the Cyclops. Maybe my limited knowledge of Greek mythology is causing this confusion, but I thought that Cyclops were giant and only had one eye. To me it sounded like this one just had (an eye patch over) one eye. And was one of the Cyclops the servant of Odysseus? Whatever. I do not want to get pedantic and anyway, like I said, my knowledge of Greek mythology  is limited and based on literature I read around a decade ago. Maybe it would be worth revisiting those stories, they still sound interesting…

“I do not fear the thunder, you superstitious, dark-dodging decadent!”

This story was really hurt by the lack of video. It was difficult to keep track of where everyone from the TARDIS group was and who they were with.

  • Story Grade: C-

 

Tony’s Take:

First off, let it be known that when Jael sent over her review for me to post (yep, I am the one running the blog, she just monitors the hit count) she named it “The Myth Busters”.  I am guessing that it was a reference to the TV show, but more importantly, the way that this story shattered the myth and lore of the Greek/Trojan war and just decided to take all liberties in writing for a TV show.  Again, this mix of history while having huge flaws and taking liberties are the exact reasons why I hate historicals…

broken record

… Sorry, I am definitely a broken record.  I’ll get back on track and review the story itself, and not the broad style that Doctor Who uses for roughly a third of it’s stories.

This story is INCREDIBLY hard to follow.  there are tons of characters, all sharing a similar voice, and on top of it all, it assumes a certain level of comfortability with Greek history.  I did more research and found out that the characters used in this story don’t even fit with Greek/Trojan history, so even the history buff will be like, “WHAT THE?!?!”

Instead of trying to review a story that doesn’t make sense to me, and does little in terms of plot or reason, how about I share my ties to Greece?

First off, I am not Greek, I am a Euro-mutt, a mixed bag of German, Luxembourger, British, Hungarian, Slovakian, and probably a few other random countries sharing boarders with those I listed.  My last name (and Jael’s new last name), Voda, is Russian, though it comes from my Hungarian/Slovakian heritage, and it means “water”.  My first and middle name is Anthony and Daniel.  Then, when I was in 10th grade, I went through Catholic confirmation and we got to choose a confirmation name, which I treated like a second middle name.  This was HUGE.

I wanted a truly unique name, something no one else had.  I thought about Bosco (as he is a saint, and we had to try to stick with saints), my great-grandma even liked the name Bosco.  I can remember her saying it over and over and laughing.  But then something clicked.  My initials were ADV, my last name is VODA.  I was an “O” away from having my intials be my last name backwards!!  Who else can say that?!

So here it is, my Greek-ness; I chose a truly unique name AND an “O”-name… Olympius!

  • Anthony
  • Daniel
  • Olympius
  • VODA

So when Olympus was mentioned in this story (and the story proved to be rather dull), I faded off thinking of how cool it was to add my own personal flare to my name.  I am glad that I was named what I was, but having that unofficial “second middle name” that I got to choose, that was the cherry on top.

Notes:

“It’s character that counts, not good looks.” -Some dude to Vicki.  This is a typical “foot in mouth” comment made by a man to a woman. He meant well, but the execution was lacking and not thought out.
“But horses don’t grow that high!” -Captain obvious addressing horses 40 feet tall – the Trojan horse.
  • Story Grade: F
  • This story is only meant for the completionists, the elitists, or the masochists.  I am probably judging this story on the media form, which I hate doing, but I just couldn’t follow along.  It’s probably my own fault, but with that said, I am the one judging and grading.

 

Thank you to the BBC for not letting this be the last story of Doctor Who.  OK, it isn’t THAT bad, but everything needs it’s low point(s).

Galaxy 4 – Story #018

DW18

Jael’s Judgment:

This story was 4 episodes long, but to me it seemed short and sweet. We are in for a dose of several audio only stories.

The Chumblies will always hold a special place in my memory. I first listened to this story on my way to my first ever con, Chicago TARDIS. My mother teaching me to knit in the back seat if the car. Ah, good times. 🙂

The story itself was alright.  A planet on the verge of disaster. Evil women in green. Women that can remind one of ones self on the worst and most thoughtless days. We got to know Steven a little better. He seems alright, even sans beard, if not a bit rash. The Drahvins were intriguing. It was interesting comparing what Tony & I envisioned their appearance to be. I pictured a giant slimy blob, bluish green, with a few tentacles. Maybe a slimier and more liquid Jabba the Hutt.

However, after the adventure is completed all I find myself wondering, is what does Steven’s new haircut look like?

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

Like Jael said, this was the second time we listened to this story.  In fact, this was the first audio-only story that we had ever listened to, and it was fittingly on our way to Chicago TARDIS.  If I wasn’t so darn lazy I would go dig up a few pictures from our first Who-con, but having an external hard-drive in a different room than your laptop is the greatest first-world problem that one could face.  (I apologize, maybe I will post a separate entry once we finish all of our reviews… seeing how we don’t want to just close the blog once we review everything.)

I will admit, this story wasn’t the best of stories, but there must be something to be said for an audio-only story that actually holds your attention (for the most part).  Having a wide array of characters, it was easy to follow along, you didn’t get confused or lost along the way, and since it wasn’t a historical, I was a bit more focused.  If I were to focus on one area of this story, what would it be?…

CHUMBLIES!!!

Sounds like Chumlee, but you instantly know that they are a harmless and cute (Is that the right word?  Cute?!  Sure.) robot.

Chumblies

Hey, they even look like Chumlee a little, granted he is wearing a crown.

I have a soft spot in my heart for these Chumbly creatures/robots.  They are supposed to be helpers and are described as clumsy, it’s very much how I would describe my co-author of this blog (my wife, Jael).  She is a great helper, very sweet, but man is she ever clumsy.  I am lucky enough to see her wake up in the morning, which means that I get the pleasure of listening to her run into doors, clip the corner of the bed, or drop heavy things in the bathroom… she is my alarm clock.

It’s also funny how I also thought of Jael when Vicki asked The Doctor, “You think it’s a baby one?”  She was asking about a deactivated Chumbly, and I KNOW that my wife would ask a question like that, I just KNOW it.

Well, that’s all I really wanted to cover.  Listen to this adventure and draw your own conclusions.  Anyone else trying to watch/listen to every Doctor Who story?

Notes:

And down goes Steven.  Knocked out like a victim of Mike Tyson!
The Rills would let the gang go if they cannot fix the ship in time.  They believe in self-preservation.  They would also save the Drahvins.  Rills sound nice and very ethical, like Time Lords in a way.
The Doctor is sick of being surrounded by danger.   I’d actually like a story of just pure adventure and fun stories, no “save the world”, just a frolic.  If done correctly, the stories could be of high interest.
  • Story Grade: B-
  • I don’t like to have an audio-story swayed by it’s lack of original form, but this lost story was not as hampered by the lack of moving pictures as others.  Plus, Chumblies!

 

Thank you to the writer who thought of the word Chumbly and to the prop department that put together the robot.  Even though we may not have video of the story, the stills of the Chumblies are wonderful.  Sure, they are Dalek-like, but they definitely draw a clumsy vibe.

The Chase – Story #016

DW15-16

Jael’s Judgment:

The TARDIS travelers are now the Daleks’ “greatest enemies.” That seems to be a pretty sudden start to their extremely long relationship with the Doctor. That 2nd story we tagged along for may have eventually led to the time war. We will see how it plays out, but the Doctor may only have himself to blame for now being alone in the universe.

This story was full of both audible and implied music. We start out right away with the Doctor singing as he and Barbara relax on the sand. The Beatles are shown in the British version of the story. The Daleks repetition of the words TARDIS and annihilate even sound sing-songish. Vicki’s lilting and creepy nervous laughter when the secret door opens.  What I imagine as an eerie wind singing in the background as Vicki & Ian struggle over the sand dunes.  The sea and mystery in my opinion are always musical. Here the Mary Celeste or Marie Céleste involves both! Haunting and fear in the “haunted house” also brings haunting notes to mind. Finally the actual hip background music that serenades the group as they run to the TARDIS.

I am sure that there are many more musical qualities, if not actual then at least subjective moments, that o did not mention. What I did not find musical, or not pleasing at any rate, were the fake American accents from New York and Alabama. Painful.

I cannot say I am all that sad to see Ian go. He has been quite bossy over the past few stories. And despite being a Science teacher, a profession I might think would be up for adventure, he seems very irritable and crabby. Traveling through space and time is not his cup of tea. That is aside from his sword fighting skills, which have really excelled.

Now Barbara I will miss immensely I mean, just this story we found out she loves sailing ships? I love sailing ships! Courtesy of my father, I have one that looks just like the model they used to start out the scene with the Mary Celeste.

ChaseBoat

Ian sure blew up the Dalek’s ship quickly after landing. Now they can never go back. 😦 And I am sorry, but that cannot be the Dalek’s only ship…

  • Story Grade: B

 

Tony’s Take:

I would like to focus the majority of my blog post on the one scene that cannot be viewed in North America on a legally purchased copy native to the area…

THE BEATLES!!!

Yes, the best classical artists to ever grace the planet Earth, at least according to Vicki.  Yes Ian, “Styles change, styles change.”

Recently I began a quest, much like the idea behind this blog, to listen to EVERY one of my CDs.  Having well over a thousand albums on hand, this task is a large one, but I shall not digress further into madness.  I am currently reviewing through Blur, so that means that I have already reviewed the entirety of The Beatles box set.  As a younger person, I was never really impressed by The Beatles, I wanted to find that voice for MY generation, not my parents’ or even grandparents’ generation.  I wrote them off due to them deing from the 60s and because I thought they were mainly that pop band that existed until 1967.  Finally, within the last 5 years or so, I was able to really look at the creativity of older bands and analyze their contribution to current artists that I liked, and I found something shocking… they were better than all of my current day musical icons.

Whoa!  Hold off on the musical review, tony, fall back in line.  Let’s get back to The Beatles AND Doctor Who.  I’ll cite the Wikipedia page for the following bit of info on this magical moment that combined two of Britains most decorated masters of their medium…

  • As you may have already found out through this blog, many episodes of Doctor Who have been lost or “wiped”, as was common back in the 1960s; film isn’t cheap!  What is fascinating about this episode, though, is that this is one of the lucky Who stories to survive, while the episdoe of “Top of the Pops” that the Beatles clip was taken from was actually wiped.  So this makes the clip in Doctor Who the only surviving clip of The Beatles “performing” on “Top of the Pops”!  So you could almost say that The Doctor saved The Beatles, that his Time and Space Visualizer really worked!
  • The sour note of all of this “saving of The Beatles” is that the idea for them to actually appear on Doctor Who was scrapped by their manager, Brian Epstein.  The Beatles were to appear in the episode playing themselves, but in heavy “aging make-up”.  It may have been the only way to see The Beatles together in the (theoretical) 21st century.  As hard as it is to complain of a Beatles performance on Doctor Who, I feel a bit let down knowing the grand idea that never came to fruition.

Now please take a minute to look at the notes I wrote.  I tried to stay away from adding notes, but as I wanted to cover The Beatles, I had to revert to a few of my favorites.  Enjoy the funny links!

Favorite notes:

This must be the story where the Daleks really like to yell and repeat (TARDIS, annihilate, and exterminate are all screamed in the first half of the story).
Mohawked spandex men.  Their water was taken, apparently they are fish-like things.
The Doctor just kind of shoved the fish dude into the octopus while Barbara actually tried to help.  Kind of like George in Seinfeld (pushes women, children, and the elderly).
NEW YORK!  Complete with terrible accents.  And bad Alabama accents.
Uh oh, Daleks meet the Alabaman.  I get a real Randy Quaid vibe from him.  The New Yorker giving the tour is kind of Kramer-ish.  Hey, this story would be great if I could cast those people!!
At least they made a fun story with the real Mary Celeste ship.  Using a historical mystery and infusing it with Doctor Who… THAT’S how it’s done!
“Daleks don’t like stairs!” -Ian playing the role of captain obvious.  (I kind of miss those Daleks.)
Frankenstein is going APE on the Daleks.  Vicki was left behind, though.  No one notices that Vicki is not there?  Finally, Barbara is the one to notice.  Is this just underlying sexism at it’s best (well, actually worst)?
Mechanoids vs. Daleks: Battle Bots!!  Lots if fire and destruction.
Yay!  They made it home!  This slideshow of crazy pictures was weird, but oddly fun.  The Doctor looked in on them with the Time and Space Visualizer, and he is saddened for losing them.  At least he has Susan 2.0, I mean Vicki.
  • Story Grade: C+
  • I really like the variation in this long story.  Visiting multiple places to keep the pace up was a very nice touch for what could have been an overly long adventure.  I mentioned it in my notes, but the involvement and explanation of the Mary Celeste using Doctor Who was a nice touch; you don’t have to set the whole story there, but just use actual mysteries to intertwine Doctor Who “reality”, THAT’S how you go historical in my book.

 

Thank you to the British people for believing those RIDICULOUS American accents.  Who knew that Doctor Who was really just the launching pad for Seinfeld ab out 25 years later?!  Thank you to the group of writers and the show-runner for choosing to set this story in multiple locations, like I said, it helped the pace a lot.

The Crusade – Story #014

DW14

Jael’s Judgment:

I like to think of Barbara’s hair as a separate character. It is just so big. And longer in this episode. I’m wondering if she has extensions in again.

Anyway, on to the rest of the story. It was nice to have a few of the episodes on film even though the rest were audio only. It gave me an idea of what to imagine as we listened. Overall the story wasn’t bad. They really do minimize the element of danger that I imagine was quite present in actual earth history. But I guess that’s what you get when watching a show meant to have children in the audience.

Thus far Barbara is my favorite companion. Though Sir Ian continues to display his amazing skills with a sword. Man those science teachers in the 60s must really have had a varied skill set…

On a side note; while speaking with the Oh So Handsome Husband here, it just dawned on me how many companions I am going to have to say goodbye to. I get pretty emotionally attached to some if these characters. This could get rough.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

I have nearly nothing to add to Jael’s review.  The combo death blow of audio-only AND historic-based story make this a snoozer for me.  OK, I’ll go back, it was actually half audio-only and half-video, as two of the four episodes remain in video form, but the video did very little for me, which is why this story gets a below average grade.

Like Jael, I am shocked at how decent a science teacher from 1960s London is with a sword.  Ian is so good with a sword that he even gets knighted!  The other bit of weirdness is the Vicki/Victor bit; she is forced to go along pretending to be a prepubescent boy, since women were treated harshly back in those times, especially when battles were being fought.  I had to laugh at the one line that Victor’s “voice has not broken yet.”  I think that this is a very British and very theatrical way of talking about puberty.  Maybe it was said this way in order to keep it above the heads of the children watching this story?

Lastly, a point is established that The Doctor does not like violence as he tries to persuade the king not to fight and take arms.  He knows this part of history, and that his request is futile, but at least he establishes himself as a man who tries to solve problems without violence.  With that being said, The Doctor is not a completely moral man, as he does his fair share of lying and stealing in this story, but it’s for the greater-good, right?

The wrap-up of the story seems a bit forced and rushed, which is odd since 4 episodes is more than enough to explain this story.

Favorite notes:

Bird noises.  No dialogue, maybe the audio CD with narration would have been a better choice than the DVD of Lost Episodes.  (Oh, harp sounds, trumpets, and drums, too.)  then the end of the episode, just like that.
And now Pat Sajak in The Wheel of Fortune!…  Where are the copyright lawyers when you need them?  The BBC should lay claims to that name.
Vicki is being suited up as a boy (though The Doctor tells one man that she is actually a girl).  The man that he told was confused by a girl dressing like a boy… sounds like people still today.
Classic “no, the other boot” trick.

  • Story Grade: D+
  • Broken record, I dislike historical stories.  Do not try to force Doctor Who into history, play with the unknown throughout history, weave The Doctor into the past, do not force him into a round hole with a TARDIS-sized peg.

 

I would like to thank my lovely wife for doing this project with me.  We are only 6% of the way through our quest, but it’s fun.

The Web Planet – Story #013

DW13

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.

The Romans – Story #012

DW11-12

Jael’s Judgment:

“There’s a great deal of difference between resting and being sort of bone idle.” -The Doctor. So true and yet sometimes so difficult to keep from falling into the latter when attempting the former.

So what I am wondering is, what are they doing for money this whole time? They seem to be making purchases during this month long hiatus. LOVE Barbara’s hair soooo much better than the way she normally wears it! I also love the togas the women get to wear. I like flowy things. As Barbara and Vicki perused cloth I thought about how I would enjoy making a dress with Barbara.

Unfortunately the episode continues on with little moments of sexism. Fortunately, Barbara usually has moments of sarcasm that make up for it a little.

Aside from the fashion, I thoroughly enjoyed the camera work. So many great end of scene shots where the camera zooms in for a head shot, “bum, bum, bum” music and a telling facial expression.

As Vicki states, it would be wonderful to be able to witness some parts of history first hand. I often wish I could view my location in the past. That is why I like to stand in ancient buildings, to reach out and touch ancient stone, to read about history. I like to connect.

  • Story Grade: B-

 

Tony’s Take:

“Oh yes!  How I do love Barbara’s hair and dress as well!” is what you will not hear coming from me.  May I go the more typical guy route and say, “TOGA!”  Yep, I think of John Belushi and fun college days, not of women’s fashion.  Now if only this story would have been able to time-travel to the future and steal some of Animal House’s humor, it would have been enjoyable.  Instead, The Romans teeters on humor, flirting with the idea a bit, but never fully committing to the notion.  There are the half-jokes, self-deprecation, and even the funny zoom-in to end scenes, but none of these things really spell laugh-out-loud comedy.

Now, as much fun as it would be to go back in time and enjoy different eras and different civilizations, I really dislike when Doctor Who touches on non-fiction in their telling of the past.  Sure, the random small influences that the Doctor or his companions have on those non-fictional characters can be funny, but I really don’t care when it is played out for the entire story.  If the story was set in Roman times, that is one thing, but to try to portray Nero and incorporate him into the Doctor Who universe for a significant amount of time… no thanks.  I am guessing that it is the love of theatre in England that influenced the writers to cast their stories in these “dramatic” times, and which actors do not want to try to play the “Roman Emperor”?

As Jael hinted at (and as we have hinted at in previous posts), the story touches on gender roles and even in doing so, there are many times where it is still just blatantly sexist.  Looking back on this story right now, it is hard to even remember Vicki’s role in this story… maybe that is because I have watched 2+ stories after this already, or because she is getting the Susan treatment – scream, ac helpless, say a couple interesting things, and then immediately play the part of “just a girl”.

The one part of the story that I somewhat enjoyed was the lute playing.  I almost found this bit funny; while I definitely found their acting skills of playing a lute HILARIOUS!  Oh, speaking of hilarious acting, The Doctor’s fight sequence as they await Nero is also fine acting.

Here are my notes:

And yet again an opening shot of a model TARDIS.
Glad we didn’t have to watch the first month of their Roman life.
The gang is being tracked and The Doctor is going a bit loony.
Ian gets a real Roman hairdo from Barbara, looks authentic to me.
Ian and Barbara get kidnapped, and The Doctor and Vicki found a dead body (and the Roman soldier believes he’s a lutist).
So you want a fight do you?! – The Doctor
It is toeing the line between comedy and absurd acting.  The music and the looks to the camera set it up, but there aren’t many over the top jokes.
Ian and Barbara are slaves, Ian on a ship and Barbara bought by a kind man.
The ship crashes and Ian is free!!!
Nero and The Doctor are such GREAT lute players.
Ian shall fight a lion! Excellent.
Seems that Nero is horny for Barbara, and the empress is none too pleased.
Ian gets to fight the other slave instead and is nearly killed.
Barbara is encouraged to escape, since the empress wants her gone.
And now Rome burns.
Ian and Barbara seem to be very flirty in this episode.
…dragged down, to THE WEB PLANET!
  • Story Grade: C-
  • I have said it before and I will say it again, I really dislike the historic pieces.  The comedy part of this could have been over the top and a nice precursor to such movies as “History of the World: Part I”, but it had to keep it’s grip and not commit to 100% comedy; what a shame.

 

Thank you, Roman culture, for playing the lute.  This out-of-date, seldom-used instrument provides for top quality humor when actors are forced to “play” a song.  Thank you to the camera crew, you did hit the marks, even if the writing didn’t set your jokes up nicely.

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 Edge of Destruction – Story #003

DW1-3

Jael’s Judgment:

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

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

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

  • Story Grade: C+

 

Tony’s Take:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I leave you with two fun quotes:

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

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

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

 

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