Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Tenth Planet

The Doctor and Polly get rugged up for the South Pole.

And the biggest change comes over the series in this serial since the programme began. This is Hartnell’s  final story as the Doctor, and it must be said as he was too ill to make it to the filming of episode three it probably was time to move on. He seemed to be absent for a number of episodes in the third season – with the exception of ‘The War Machines’ where he had to take on a heavier than normal workload.


‘The Smugglers’ saw him featured heavily throughout the four episodes, and in some way that felt quite different to the way the character had been used before. ‘The Tenth Planet’ is his last story, as he leaves the programme for health reasons. I can only imagine the schedule was murder on him as they filmed an episode a week for most of the year. Even in his final story he required a week off because of illness, and he is not in the third episode. This, like an episode (3?) in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, was an unplanned absence so Gerry Davis, script editor and co-writer would have had his hands full doing a rewrite and many of the characters must have been given more lines.
The final episode was only a reconstruction, and now that I am in the Troughton years the episodes really dry up – so many are missing. It’s not going to be easy. As for ‘The Tenth Planet’, it’s a solid story but something about it doesn’t quite sit right for me. It just doesn’t quite click as a piece of television in my humble opinion.
We have astronauts in space, but with the limited... space in the studio their capsule is the bare minimum always shot on close up. The absence of exterior/model shots for the capsule is notable too, they would have helped. A shot looking out of the capsule is poor - it's hard to make out what you are looking at.
The story line itself is pretty linear and un-explosive, even if the Cybermen to make an immediate ‘big-time’ impact. Planet appears. Kills astronauts. Cybermen arrive, are killed, arrive again, are killed again, planet melts away incredibly fast.
Barclay to the rescue!
I guess the conclusion – just waiting for the planet to melt away, is quite disappointing. The cast is solid enough, only a few accents are really ludicrous. General Cutler (Robert Beatty) is the main protagonist amongst the humans, and I found the character and the characterisation very odd to be honest. He’s very gun-ho, and there’s something very stupid about the bomb entitled ‘the Z-bomb’. He explodes in peoples’ faces for not agreeing with him. He is over the top, but not in a sending it up sort of way. The script is centred around him for the first three parts and you think he will change and be the hero in the end, but then he’s killed off way before the end. Luckily, the very British character of Barclay (David Dodimead) balances things a little. Nice to see a show where the insane guy is the American! ;) That's for all the British villains in American shows!
Radiation kills the Cybermen – at least in this story. I have heard of the Cybermen and had no ideas that small amounts of radiation could do them in. I liked the lilted up and down way they spoke, I thought it was very original and clever, although in close up sometimes they look a tad ridiculous and I’m sure at times the costumes weren't on properly. I have been told they will reappear but as in this story they draw their power from Mondas, their planet with disintegrates by the end of the tale, that seems highly unlikely!
Michael Craze and Anneke Wills.
Hartnell is rather good in this story again, until he collapses in episode three and is passed out for the whole episode. Michael Craze has to carry a lot of the story and there are moments when he has to motivate those working on the Antarctic base to try and stop the Cybermen. I've never seen so many characters so hell bent on not trying! They appeared to have given up! It was hard to believe.
It is a base-under-siege type story, one that you’d think would work well with the show and its limited budget. And it gets a pass mark, but so many characters were stereo-types and all characters were purely functional. 

Just what is going on in Geneva?
Not to mention the crazy accents! Well, not so many of them, but we do keep cutting back to Geneva where a strange guy with an accent is trying to come to terms with the Cybermen invasion. On top of this character are a couple of men in traditional African dress which is really odd. The two astronauts also gain accents - one is Australian, the other I am not sure.
Then we have the final scene where Hartnell morphs into Troughton. Am I the only who thinks that it’s very hard to tell the difference in the two faces? People may have been confused at what had happened because it’s not very clear.
It’s a different sort of science fiction story, more grown up in many ways yet simplistic and linear, helpful for kids watching who were and are the primary audience. I think in that respect they hit a good balance. But I found it a hard story to concentrate on with a lot of loud characters.It's all a bit bizarre I think, I spent half the time wondering what was in the author's mind!

I’m now up to a new Doctor, which is very exciting, and the return of the Daleks.

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