Friday, 31 May 2013

The Web of Fear

The Yeti and the Intelligence are back! This adventure, a fan favourite, is yet another six-episode story, featuring the somewhat familiar ‘base under seige’ plotline that seems to have become very very common at this point in Doctor Who’s history. Not that the stories don’t stand out well individually, but it has already started to become repetitive.
A redesigned Yeti.

For six episodes, as well, it’s always going to be a bit of a stretch, which is why ‘Enemy of the World’ is so far my favourite story of the fifth season. It’s different. ‘The Web of Fear’ is at its heart a strong story though, even if it is going over old ground and ideas.
The setting of the London Underground is a very good one, and one that the production team managed to realise very well. There’s a great blend of characters for the story too with the return of Jack Watling as Professor Travers, Nicholas Courtney was Colonel Alistair Lethbridge Stewart, the strange Welsh soldier Evans played by Derek Pollitt who is terrified of everything.  Anne Travers, Professor Travers’ daughter and scientist is well played by Tina Packer. Chorley the reporter (Jon Rollason) and staff Sergeant Arnold (Jack Woolgar) who turns out to be being controlled by the Intelligence are both good characters well portrayed. Add three regulars in splendid form (even if Patrick Troughton does disappear for all of episode two) and the ensemble is one of the best gathered for a Doctor Who story.
Jack Watling savaged by a Yeti.
The joy is in the shades of light and dark in each character, mixed with moments of comedy and the twist that Arnold is the traitor at the end which shocks everyone. Jack Watling plays Travers’ thirty years after ‘The Abominable Snowmen’, and perhaps lays it on a bit thick, but Anne, his daughter, balances out the ‘William Hartnell’ aspects to Travers in ‘The Web of Fear’.
It’s unclear when exactly the story is set, but we can presume if it’s not present day (for the series at the time) it is the near-future. There’s some lovely twists in episode six, an episode worth finding for all those out there looking for missing Who episodes. The Doctor this time turns the Yeti on the intelligence, but Jamie lets them loose and destroys the Doctor’s plan to completely drain the intelligence.
Anne Travers and a Yeti

It’s a rare story in as much as the primary goal for the Intelligence is to capture the Doctor and consume his mind. It’s somewhat unclear why the Intelligence has taken over the London underground system, but it does supply a very claustrophobic atmosphere for the story. As for the web – there’s a lot of fungussy web-like stuff throughout the story. It’s a nice idea but at the end of the day, as a viewer you’re half expecting to see a spider or two.

The Yeti, god bless them, have been slightly redesigned and putting them in the underground with dim lighting does make them more menacing than when they were out on the mountain-side and they were, dare I say, a bit cuddly? Apparently the director, Douglas Camfield (who did a great job with this one) spent a lot of time trying to make the Yeti sound less like a flushing toilet! The sound does have a bit of a flushing feel to it!
At six episodes it didn’t drag as much as I feared it would, especially as the plot is really not that complicated. The characters drive it when not much is happening with the plot, which saves it a bit in the middle there. Episodes two and three, rather than the later ones, are probably the slowest for a change.
It’s not often the sequel is better than the original, but in this case I believe it is. Comfortably. The first episode, the only one that exists today, is very enjoyable. It has a wonderful hammer-horror feel to it with the Yeti now in a museum of sorts run by the strange Julius Silverstein.  It would be nice to see this one in full. It’s thoroughly enjoyable.


Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Enemy of the World

David Whitaker’s ‘Enemy of the World’ is a departure from previous stories, without any sorts of monsters or robots whatsoever. It makes a decent change and is very cleverly written with a couple of nice twists and a dramatic final two episodes. It seems like Whitaker was going for a James Bond feel in this story, one that is perhaps a bit more adult in its audience orientation to some of the recent stories.
It opens with the Doctor and companions being shot at on a beach and whisked away in a helicopter, and is generally very well paced throughout the six episodes. We suddenly seem to be in a rhythm of six-parters. This is the third in a row. The only really slowly paced episode is episode three, perhaps it’s ironic that only episode three exists.
Carmen Munroe
Milton John
The characters are very well written in ‘Enemy of the World’, with no monsters it was inevitable that there would be a character focus, but I was really impressed how the characters all seem to develop and have their own eccentricities and so forth. Giles Kent (Bill Kerr) is scheming all the way through, there’s the cook, a wonderful small part brought to life for just the one episode by Reg Lye, the angry Fariah (Carmen Munroe), and the nervous wreck that is Fedorin (David Nettheim). The sadistic Benik is played by Milton Johns in his first Doctor Who role, and he couldn't have been more perfectly cast. All these amazing characters before we deal with the Doctor and his companions, and the fact that the villain of the piece is the Doctor’s dopple-ganger, Salamander, and thus is played also by Patrick Troughton.
There’s no doubt of Patrick Troughton’s ability to play different and varied characters, but his performance is simply remarkable in ‘Enemy of the World’. The further the story goes, the more screen time he has as both characters. Jamie and Victoria disappear for episode five, so he is shouldering an awful lot of storyline and he does it brilliantly.
The scheme that Salamander has cooked up is the sort of crazy scheme reminiscent of such Bond films such as ‘Moonraker’. It’s truly mad, a group of humans trapped under the Earth because Salamander wants to destroy the Earth and start anew. With only thirty people! He’s been getting them to create natural disasters such as Earthquakes from a bomb shelter below the ground, but they believe they are there because there was a massive nuclear war which never happened. As for his proper motivations, it’s all very very unclear.
Reg Lye (right) gives a wonderful cameo.
Nevertheless it moves very well as a story and is clever and exciting. A unique story in a season focussing on monsters, filled with some very memorable performances. I have to admit that I enjoyed it a lot more than ‘The Abominable Snowmen’. In fact, I found it to be one of the best stories.


Sunday, 26 May 2013

The Ice Warriors

As Jamie says at the very start of this story – ‘Oh Doctor, you've just landed us farther up the same mountain’ or something similar. A very interesting choice from the production team to have two stories in a row with such similar settings/location, although in fairness there was little to no snow in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’.
Victoria screams her lungs out chased by an Ice Warrior.

‘The Ice Warriors’ has only two of the six episodes missing. Episodes two and three possibly see the most pace so it will be great when the DVD release is out later this year and they are represented with animation. As it stands in May 2013, I have had to watch the reconstructions from Loose Canon, who have done a great job with these two episodes.
As a story it’s a step up from the previous one. There are some interesting characters and some interesting paradigms presented. The setting is interesting too – in the future, the world has been plunged into a second ‘ice age’. To achieve the appearance of living in a snowy winterland the production team did really well on its limited budget. Yes, there was a reliance on poly styrene, and there are moments where it looks very dodgy, but on the whole it held up quite well.
The discovery of this new creature, dubbed the “Ice Warrior” in the ice is a great little idea, even if it is a bit ‘Quatermass’ again. There is a lot going on over these six parts, a battle between the importance of authority and science – and in this story science and scientists like the Doctor and Penly are almost painted as artists who need their space to be creative and can’t comply with society’s rules.
The action centres around the Ioniser and the base from which it operates. Cleverly located in an old house of some historic value, meaning they didn’t have to create a futuristic control room which may have turned out dodgy. Again, we are presented with a base-under-siege combined with monsters situation. The Ioniser is of course essential to the safety and well being of Earth, much liked the Gravitron in ‘The Moonbase’ was.
The Leader of the base, Leader Cleg, is a dyed to the wool autocrat, and will only act if instructed by a computer. Another theme is man’s reliance on machines. Patrick Troughton is simply wonderful here, his Doctor is even more anti-establishment than Hartnell’s was. Victoria gets a but to do in this story, which is nice for Deborah Watling, but poor Jamie is paralysed from the legs down in episode three and spends two or more episodes lying down or being pulled through the snow by Penly. Still, it probably wasn’t too taxing on Fraser Hines.
Angus Lennie (left) as Storr.

Angus Lennie plays Storr, the crazed scavenger who has rejected all of scientific ways with a wonderfully over the top accent. As was the character. Leader Clegg was perfectly cast too. Peter Barkworth does a great job and the limping was a nice touch. And then we have Bernard Bresslaw, veteran of so many Carry On films, as Varga, the Ice Warrior leader. This means we never see his face, he is hidden under the huge armour which must have made the Ice Warrior costumes as uncomfortable as any for a Doctor Who monster. I like the way they speak like a snake hissing, but sadly a fair bit of dialogue is very hard to hear. I hope the DVD release can clean that up.
Patrick Troughton and Peter Barkworth.

All in all, it’s a pretty epic story which will make more sense to viewers once the two missing episodes are animated because a lot goes on there. The Doctor and Victoria are trapped in the Ice Warrior space ship for the remainder of the story, but the pacing is still pretty decent over the six episodes, unlike the previous story.


Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Abominable Snowmen

It's the Yeti!

Back to a story with only one episode in existence, ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ presents the viewer with a great location/setting for a story – Tibet, and a great idea for a monster – the Yeti. I thought that this would mean ‘winner’.
Deborah Watling in her first full adventure as companion Victoria.

Now I know five episodes were reconstructions (and included some good CGI for the Yeti at times), but there’s just nothing to this six-part adventure. It’s slow and very little happens, and in the end the answer to stopping ‘The Great Intelligence  – the entity controlling the Yeti and the real villain of the piece – is basically to smash all the machinery up.
Again, the one episode that exists looks very clean and sharp, great work on that. It’s just rambles along very slowly. The pace never really picks up. The Doctor is taken for a murderer and put in a cell, then used as bait for the Yeti, then freed. The story is set mostly in a monastery, where ‘The Great Intelligence’ is controlling the Abbot, who has lived for three hundred years, and his face is the worse for wear!
The imagery is very good in this story, and the design and use of location filming excellent. The Yeti look great, they are controlled by spheres which are shiny and make a great pyramid, the make-up of the Abbot also done very well. However, then we have the monks.
It’s again some embarrassing makeup on English people to make them look ‘Asian’. It’s not very convincing and obviously not the way things would be done today. I don’t think there is a single Asian actor appearing in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’! Were there really none available? Instead we have Norman Jones as the Warrior Monk Khrisong with his deep booming voice and bizarre moustache (there are a few of them in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’) and other white actors doing embarrassing accents.
Jack Watling as Travers with Victoria and Jamie.
It’s not all bad though, Patrick Troughton has another wonderful story as the Doctor, Frazer Hines has a lot of fun wrestling Yetis and Deborah Watling gets to act with her real-life father, Jack Watling, who plays the rather disagreeable Professor Travers. However, the real issues of the piece lie with the pacing and lack of action.
By about episode four very little has changed from episode one, and there’s a lot of talking about what to do if and when the Yeti attack. My concentration waned around this time, but it turns out if only they’d looked around the Monastry thoroughly they would have discovered the futuristic control room and been able to defeat the Great Intelligence by the end of episode two. I had a hard time understanding what it was all about as well. What exactly is the Great Intelligence? Some sort of sentient being – pure thought or something I guess. How such a creature builds (or indeed needs) a control room and can control robot Yeti is beyond me!


Monday, 20 May 2013

The Tomb of the Cybermen

The tombs

So nice to view a story with no missing episodes. ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is again supposed to be a ‘classic’ Doctor Who story, and was found in the early 1990s – in Hong Kong I am told! My friend Andrew remembers when it was found and very quickly was available to buy at Melbourne sci-fi/collectables shop ‘Minotaur’ in video form. How exciting it must have been! It seems unlikely whole stories will ever turn up again, but I guess Doctor Who fans can only hope.
The Doctor meets Cleeg.

I will start with the DVD presentation. The remastering and vid-firing of ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is absolutely brilliant! I can’t remember a story that looks so clean and sharp! The DVD crew have done a magnificent job with this one. Generally, with the exception of ‘The Moonbase’, I have found the (existing) Troughton episodes to be clearer and sharper than the Hartnell episodes, but this is glorious!
Enough of that though. It’s great to see a Cybermen story which is not a clone of ‘The Tenth Planet’, although there are still some trade-mark concepts ingrained in this story reminiscent of the previous two Cybermen stories. It’s a twist on the ‘base-under-siege’ storyline used twice already. Again people from various countries with various degrees of convincing (or not so) accents are stranded fighting the Cybermen. This time though, it’s not the Cybermen coming to Earth, rather the humans have travelled to the new Cybermen home planet, ‘Telos’, to seek out the Cybermen.
We open on Telos, (a gravel pit somewhere in England naturally) and an exploration group finds a couple of doors in a cliff face – this is the tomb of the Cybermen. It starts with a rather B-grade science fiction opening, with stock music to match. The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie arrive and into the tomb they go.
Michael Kilgariff as the Cyber-controller
The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) has some curious motives in this one. He could have left well alone, but decided not only to join the party, but to solve the logic puzzles that allow the Cybermen to be found and consequently woken by Cleeg. Cleeg (George Pastell) has an East European accent, and is the quintessential mad scientist. All the logic stuff went right over my head, but I presume it all makes sense as Kit Pedler felt it was important that this sort of stuff did.
Thereafter there is much to comment on plot-wise. The Cybermen get thawed out, and declare to the humans ‘you will be like us’. A wonderful line, and the Cybermen voices are much clearer than they were in ‘The Moonbase’, but this may be because the audio has been cleaned up to a higher standard.
It’s very well done really, for the time period. It’s only four episodes as well, which means it moves a lot faster than ‘Evil of the Daleks’ ever did. Morris Barry was the director and he did a fine job of conveying the feeling of claustrophobia that visiting a tomb in a cliff face must give. We have the introduction of the cute little Cybermats, who don’t seem to do all that much but get shot by some very accurate shots (well done Victoria!).
Deborah Watling (Victoria) gets a chance to get some proper screen time in this story, and shares a wonderful scene with Patrick Troughton’s Doctor where he talks about his family. Troughton is wonderful too in the whole story. Jamie (Frazer Hines) is strong as always. The guest cast are a mixed bunch. The two American characters, played by George Rubicek and Clive Merrison quite frankly are a bit poor. Their acting appears to be better suited to the stage, and their accents are less than convincing. Cyrill Shaps, in his first Doctor Who story, is the neurotic Professor Viner, nails the part perfectly.
The Doctor and Jami are, as always, great in this one.
Then we have Shirley Cooklin, Peter Bryant’s (the Producer at the time) wife, as Kaftan, another good performance. As for George Pastell as Cleeg, it was a wonderfully wonderfully over-the-top performance. I think.... Or did he go too far? He does have the classic evil-villain line in episode four, when he is about to kill the Doctor. ‘No wait! I have a better idea! A much better idea!’ How he delivered that without corpsing I do not know.
A lot of the story comes across as quite clich├ęd, I feel. I ask myself whether that’s only because I was viewing it more than forty years after it was made. I doubt the children watching in 1967 has seen anything like it at all!
The atmosphere is perfect, and despite the odd obvious appearance of Styrofoam, the sets and design, on the budget they had, is outstanding.

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Evil of the Daleks

The Emperor Dalek

There were two seven part stories in the first season of Doctor, then none until ‘The Evil of the Daleks’ – the final story in the fourth season. Looking back over the season, it’s been an interesting one. For the sheer range of stories and ideas I think season three is my favourite thus far, but they have all been trying different things and the fourth season has been pretty interesting. It has seen the first regeneration of the Doctor, the writing out of Ben and Polly and the end to the purely historically based stories. It had two Dalek stories, including this one, and I will start this blog by saying I believe that ‘The Power of the Daleks’ is the season’s best story, followed by ‘The Smugglers’ in second place. Honourable mention to ‘The Macra Terror’.
‘The Evil of the Daleks’ is a pseudo-historical – a science fiction story with four and a half episode set in Victorian England. It was written with the thought that it might be the last ever story to feature the Daleks. I understand it is regarded as one of the best Doctor Who stories of all time. One lousy episode exists of the seven, episode two. It’s interesting – I believe it was to be either a six or four parter originally, and had episodes added later.
Publicity shot - Jamie and Victoria
It’s possible that the first episode was an add-on. David Whitaker could have simply started with the Doctor and Jamie arriving by TARDIS in Victorian England, but instead the story continues on from the end of ‘The Faceless Ones’, with the TARDIS missing. It’s not much of an episode. It’s a lot of running around, the Doctor meeting Perry (Geoffrey Colville) who then organises to for the Doctor to meet up with Professor Waterfield at the antique shop at ten o’clock that night. There’s a whole subplot about Waterfield selling genuine Victorian antiques as well, he is in London 1966 via the Daleks’ time transmat thing.
Episode two sees the story move from the present day to Victorian times. We get one scene with Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) who is to be the new companion. The Daleks have brought the Doctor and Jamie to the house of Theodore Maxtible, because they want the Doctor to use Jamie as a test subject to discover the ‘human factor’. There’s a lot of phaffing around. Jamie has to rescue Victoria and get past several Daleks and a Turkish guy by the name of Kemel. In the end Kemel helps Jamie.
The set-up is episode two. Episode three is a bit of capture, escape and re-capture, and episodes four and five are the test. It’s just too long! Those four episodes could have easily been condensed down to 2, and the first removed. You would have a very tight four-part adventure then, because episodes six and seven are excellent. Of course, the powers at the BBC wanted the Daleks on screen as much as possible, which is why in their six adventures the Daleks never had a story which was less than six episodes.
The final two episodes are mostly set on Skaro, the first time the series has returned to the Dalek home world since ‘The Daleks’. Here we meet that pretty impressive Emperor Dalek, who declares the plan was to find the ‘human factor’ so they could determine ‘the Dalek factor’. Two or three Daleks are impregnated with the human factor, in some very funny scenes indeed. Then they start to question orders as well, it’s very good stuff.
The Doctor tricks the Emperor by converting many Daleks with the human factor, and war breaks out. The recon does a pretty good job of recreating this battle I think, although it’s a pity episodes six and seven do not exist.
There is a fine cast in ‘The Evil of the Daleks’,  but none so fine as Patrick Troughton, who has now fully settled in the role, and Frazer Hines as Jamie. In this story and ‘The Faceless Ones’ Jamie’s character has really had a chance to grow on screen, Frazer Hines’ has taken his opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. Jamie is now a character the audience can really ‘root’ for!
Maxtible and Waterfield implore the Doctor.
The guest cast is very strong, the most notable performance was by Marius Goring as Theoodore Maxtible, the crazy scientist who dreams of turning metal to gold. He becomes a human Dalek in the final episode, which is... a bit odd really. However, his characterisation is first rate! John Bailey as Professor Waterfield is a character filled with guilt and self-hatred, and very strongly portrayed, and there is Sonny Caldinez playing the mute Turk Kemel. Harder to gauge his performance via the recons as he didn’t speak. Deborah Watling’s debut as Victoria is good, but she really doesn’t get a lot to do until action moves to Skaro.
I think this is a very good story, if not a great story, somewhat ruined – a little – by the pacing of the first five episodes. I felt myself willing them to get on with it, and then willing the test to be over – it really is just Jamie and Kemel wandering through a big house half the time. Anyways, a very different Dalek story with quite an explosive ending!
Maxitble the Dalek - Episode Seven


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

The Faceless Ones

A strangely-titled beast, ‘The Faceless Ones’ returns us to a story in six parts after another string of four part adventures. After a story that was a bit ‘weird’ in ‘The Macra Terror’, we find the Doctor and his companions returned to Earth in present day England for this one. It’s played pretty straight, and involves a fair bit of filming at Gatwick airport, a departure (pun unintended I swear) from any sort of location shoot Doctor Who had enjoyed previously.
Doctor and Jamie behind the tyres of a 'flying beastie'.
I was impressed that Episode One in fact starts off with the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie running around the runway under planes. There’s a chilling and mysterious murder to kick start the saga, oh and the episode exists! However, four of the six episodes of ‘The Faceless Ones’ do not exist.
Polly, avec long hair. Compare please to her pic in 'The Macra Terror'
The strangest thing about this story is Polly’s hair. In episode one of the Macra Terror her hair is cut very short, but suddenly it’s back to full length in the opening episode of ‘The Faceless Ones’. The only guess I could make was that pre-filming for ‘The Faceless Ones’ took place before ‘The Macra Terror’, an entirely studio-bound story, began shooting. Anneke Wills had not had her hair cut yet, and then had it cut just before shooting started for ‘The Macra Terror’. Then they realised they had all this film shot with long-haired Anneke, and had to get her a wig for the studio scenes in ‘The Faceless Ones’. As conspiracy theories go, it’s not one of the most interesting, but it’s the best I could come up with.

This story features pens that freeze people, doppelgangers aplenty and the writing out of Ben and Polly. It is sad to see them go. Michael Craze had been told his contracted wouldn’t be renewed, and Anneke decided to leave with him. In all fairness, they had taken on Frazer Hines (the production team) back in ‘The Highlanders’ almost on a whim, and the three companions did appear to be one too many. It would have been nice if we’d had more adventures with Polly. As it stands for Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, only one story exists complete in the archives, and it’s their first – ‘The War Machines’.
They were apparently contracted for all six episodes plus two of the next story. It’s a bit odd then that they were written out of ‘The Evil of the Daleks’, as well as episodes four and five of ‘The Faceless Ones’. They just reappear at the hanger at the end of episode six to say goodbye! Bit unfair on both that they couldn’t have a decent send-off, but at least they go to say ‘goodbye’, which is more than poor Jackie Lane got with Dodo.
Pauline Collins guest stars are Samantha Briggs in this story, and they hoped she would agree to become the next companion. A lot of the action centres around her and Jamie, and that may be why Ben and Polly disappear for so long, however she decided not to sign a contract and only features in this story. Samantha and Jamie did make a nice pair doing their investigating, there was good chemistry between them and it would have been interesting to watch that relationship develop. Frazer Hines’ role as Jamie had been limited up to this point, and it’s the first time Jamie gets to hold a fair strand of the plotline.
Another notable cast member is Bernard Kay, back again for his third (I think) role in Doctor Who. This time he plays Police Inspector Crossland, who in the end becomes the director of the Chameleons, a faceless race of aliens wanting to replace young people and take over the Earth. He plays the two roles very differently and very well. And we have Donald Pickering, the perfect villain, cast in the role of Captain Blade.
 The plot, written by first-time Who writer Malcolm Hulke and David Ellis, struggles to hold up for six episodes – it was originally planned as a four part adventure. There is an awful lot of investigating going on through the middle of the story. The Doctor has trouble convincing anyone that he’s not a lunatic, people escape, get captured again, evidence disappears, classic stuff to pad things out.
Pauline Collins, Bernard Kay and Frazer Hines.
Donald Pickering
Speaking of Patrick Troughton, he is very strong in ‘The Faceless Ones’, and in this story the Doctor really takes the lead. He plays the straight and serious stuff – which he is getting more of now – brilliantly and his Doctor is warm and honest and basically fantastic! Troughton may have taken a little while to sort out what would be the main characteristics of his Doctor, but now that he has he has quickly overtaken Hartnell as ‘my favourite Doctor’. Well, he only had one Doctor to overtake as they’d only been one!
The final part and a bit sees some of the action taking place up in space. The cgi in the reconstruction may have been better than what was originally done – the satellite that the Chameleons are based apparently frustrated the director, Gerry Mill, a lot. A bit slow in places, poor treatment of Ben and Polly, but Troughton, Hines and Pauline Collins make this story quite good.


Monday, 13 May 2013

The Macra Terror

Ian Stuart Black’s third and final story for Doctor Who is this rather strange beast, known as ‘The Macra Terror’. A completely missing story, bar a couple of very short censored clips recovered in Australia, it tells the story of a colony secretly controlled by giant crabs, known as ‘Macra’.

As ‘The Moonbase’ was basically a reworking of ‘The Tenth Planet’, in some ways ‘The Macra Terror’ is similar to Black’s first story – ‘The Savages’. The Doctor and his three companions (it is clear by now that’s one too many) arrive in the future in a place where everything seems to be paradise, but in truth something very sinister is going on. The Macra as using the colony to mine for gas, which they need to survive.
That’s where the plot differs greatly from ‘The Savages’. It’s an interesting story, a little weird and kooky in places, and one I liked a lot. It’s the last in another string of four parters – since ‘The Daleks’ Masterplan’ all stories bar ‘The Power of the Daleks’ have been four-parters. We have some very strange musical choices in a story where everyone is supposed to be happy.

Ben's beauty treatment.
There are the ‘Majorettes’, a group of girls that appear to be straight out of an American ‘pep-rally’ waving batons and marching, and curious songs telling everyone to be happy. The Macra are controlling everyone in the colony through gas and little electronic devices in the walls. The Doctor, Polly, Jamie and Ben are welcomed to the colony where an escaped prisoner runs into them and is therefore captured. They are given strange ‘beauty’ treatments. The Doctor gets all neatened up but is upset and puts himself, fully clothed, into a massage machine to mess up his hair and clothes.

Polly has her hair cut, or so it sees at least. This story is a good one, if not the best, for Ben. Ben’s character is taken over and obeys control without question, but slowly through the story Ben regains control of himself. Michael Craze hasn’t got the chance to do much interesting with Ben, but in this story there is some sort of progression.
The story, like ‘The Savages’, reminds the audience – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is! It’s a nice little theme that Black explores in two of his three stories. I’m sure we can relate it easily to everyday life. These dark ideas are tempered with some comedy, and Patrick Troughton’s Doctor is again progressing. It’s not nearly as wild now as it was in the first two stories, he is the one who can see the truth behind the colony well before anyone else can. Except perhaps Jamie – the hypnotising system has no affect on Jamie. He is proving to be a companion not fooled easily despite coming from more than 200 years further back in the past than Ben and Polly. Jamie has a lot more to do in this story too than the previous two.
There’s a wonderful scene in episode four when he tries to escape whilst doing the ‘highland fling’, as he says ‘it’s called the ‘highland fling’, because at the end you fling yourself out the door.’
Peter Jeffrey and Gertan Clauber.
Again the supporting cast do not get very well-rounded characters. The chief protagonist, aside from the Macra, is the Security Chief Ola (Gertan Clauber), who is bombastic and obeys control without question as he wants to become Pilot. The Pilot is played by Peter Jeffrey. He at least is changed by events, and a great piece of casting.

There are really only two other characters of significance  Escaped prisoner Medok (Terrance Lodge) is the only colonist who seems to know the truth, a decent part well played. Then we have     overseeing the mining.
The design is hard to comment on – I only had reconstructed episodes to go on. The Macra themselves appear to be well shot. They are only seen in the dark, or a gloomy space, with their eyes lit up, but you don’t get a good look at them. This is a classic technique to let the viewer’s imagination take over, and so that the obvious design flaws are not seen by the audience. It would have been too costly to build giant crabs that looked realistic and scary in the full light of day.
The set is one that doesn't clearly show you what life is like. I was confused if they go from building to building, or if it’s all one big complex. No model/exterior shots were shown, and I don’t think any were shot. There are quite a few sets – two control rooms, shafts, an entertainment hall, sleeping cubicles and the like. They all seemed to be pretty convincing.
To summarise, being chased by a giant crab is hard work! But I think this was a rather good story. It’s odd and different , and less formulaic than ‘The Moonbase’ and less camp and over the top than ‘The Underwater Menace’.


Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Moonbase

No rest for the wicked! I moved onto this tale, ‘The Moonbase’, which saw the return of the Cybermen in a plot that was rather similar to that of ‘The Tenth Planet’ – your basic base under siege tale.
Naturally enough, ‘The Moonbase’ takes place on the moon. Kudos for the team for attempting to do ‘the moon’ in the first place! They had to create a set for the moon, and they did that pretty well. The actors then had to mimic weightlessness, which they also did a decent job of. It was story where they attempted a lot of different and difficult things for the time and budget, and although some things didn't really work, all in all it was a pretty good stab.
Cybermen on the surface of the moon!

The gravitron, far from being a ride in an amusement park, was a device used to control the Earth’s weather through gravity. It keeps hurricane out in the ocean and things like that. Actually not that big a device considering what it does, it was still as big as they could afford to make it in the studio space they had. It is manned by another international crew, the commander thankfully not being a maniac like General Cutler of ‘The Tenth Planet’ was.

The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie arrive on the moon, whilst aiming for Mars. They go for a walk out on the Moon in space suits that don’t look particularly effective or realistic. The people of the Moonbase have almost identical suits as well, with oxygen being supplied seemingly from a small plastic bottle. I rather liked the odd shape of the plastic helmets, but otherwise the suit was pretty rubbish – a miss for the production team there!
The model shots of the moon base are ok, but don’t quite match up with the interior shots, mainly because the gravitron appears to connected to the control area which can’t be seen on the model shots, or indeed the humans! The Cybermen are using flying saucers which are honestly crap. But hey, they had a lot to create on a very limited budget! Thus budget didn’t extend, clearly, to reinforcing the walls. Some of them certainly did shake, especially when Ben was trying to keep the cyber-controlled patients out in episode four!
As for the story-line, it’s ok but certainly no prize-winner. Cybermen infect the base with a virus, reveal themselves, get kicked out, attack the base, the Doctor cleverly turns the gravitron on the surface of the moon and they all drift off into space. There is some doubt about who the Doctor and his friends are initially, but that’s all sorted out by episode three.
The Cybermen have also had a redesign, and for the better. Gone is the ‘stocking’ element to their costumes, their heads are now fully ‘metal’. That certainly is an improvement. The voices are now more electronic, and whilst the idea is good, the realisation makes it very hard to understand exactly what they are saying. Their weapons are more efficient, and they can zap people from a hole on the top of their foreheads which is kinda neat.
It’s much better than ‘The Tenth Planet’. It’s not as confusing, not as silly. I mean sure, the Cybermen sneaking into the moon base regularly to poison the sugar is a bit on the silly side, as is the scene where they are flung into space, but it’s all good fun. Unlike ‘The Tenth Planet’, none of the guest characters are in the slightest way interesting. They whole guest cast is functional. Patrick Barr plays the controller of Moonbase, Hobson, and is very strong, and Andre Marrane is Benoit, his French offsider. The cast is solid, but no-one is given an interesting character to portray.
Ben and Polly (Michael Craze and Anneke Wills) do there bit, and poor Jamie (Frazer Hines) is delirious in bed for much of the first half, and does little after that. I believe he wasn't originally in the story though, so had to be added. Patrick Troughton's Doctor is growing all the time now, and plays the role of investigator well. It suits his Doctor well.
Robson in control.
It was nice to have a couple of episodes to watch, as I head into the next story which is completely missing. I believe there is a DVD release on the way, possibly with animation. A good choice!


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Underwater Menace

And so I moved onto this story. As hard as I try I can’t steer the TARDIS to Atlantic, but the good Doctor, Jamie and co got there alright. Down a lift shaft naturally! Finally, we see Troughton take on the persona of one who seeks what’s right and to save people from grisly fates and all that. The back drop is the most bizarrely camp story so far!
Things area fishy with the fish people!

I hear that episode two turned up and year and a half ago now, but still hasn’t been released anywhere sadly, so I had three episodes of reconstructions to watch along with the one surviving episode – episode three. It’s probably the best episode to survive too, full of chases and over the top characters which showcase what this story is all about.
Joseph Furth as Zaroff

Let’s start with the cast. Jospeh Furth is Professor Zaroff. What are your expectations for a crazy European scientist? He’s got them all covered –the accent, the shouting, the hair and the moustache! He’s given people plastic gills to become fish people. But I was confused. I think there are also real fish people as well. Some of them are wearing stockings and strange masks/makeup, where as other just have goggles. Anyways, like all good Professor Who villains, he is wearing a chemist’s top, supplemented with a cape. Perfect.
Peter Stephens confronts Zaroff
BUT he is not the only camp crazy dude in the story. Special mention goes to Peter Stephens who played the high Priest Lolem. He is without a doubt the campest character I have seen in Doctor Who, and unless they give a role in Doctor to who to someone like, I dunno, Paul Darrow for example, he may be the campest character throughout the series. Will have to wait and see. Graham Crowden and Richard Briers are guys who are pretty camp too, but it’s unlikely any of them will be in future ‘Who’ I expect.
The regulars are good, and I think Patrick Troughton really starts to show how good his Doctor can be, playing the confrontational serious man, the clever clown and all between when necessary. He’s magical in his own way. New companion Jamie shadows Ben for a lot of the story, with not a lot to do. Polly’s costume – the Altantan girl costume – works really well for her. Some of the costuming is very good, some is very bad.
Anneke Wills in her Atlantan gear whilst Patrick Troughton is disguised as a gypsy.

The start of the recently recover Episode Two. Which I couldn't see.
The fish people. Sigh. I imagine that this is a sore point amongst Doctor Who fans. They aren’t realised very well. Their costumes are basically stockings with bits stuck on. The faces look okay, but the bodies are clearly not wet. Dry as a bone. Some shooting took place on location in caves, and is thusly more convincing. As a viewer, I looked at the fish people and thought ‘some poor soul had to wear that costume and pretend to be part fish/part man’. I imagine when doing their CVs, all fish people may have neglected to mention this role.
The design team had to recreate a whole under-ground city, a tall ask on any budget, so I guess we can forgive them to some extent. There is a temple, a market-square, two laboratories, corridors, rock-hewn passageways, they had a lot on their plate in a small studio. The question has to be asked though, is it a bad SCRIPT?

I ask this because, well, I personally believe most bad productions are because, primarily, of the scripts. I can forgive tackiness if there’s a great story under it. Here, there isn’t. It’s not a dreadful script, it has some nice ideas, but the story is so full of stereotypes and a lot of escapes and getting captured agains. The fourth episode, after the third episode revealing to all and sundry just what a nutter Zaroff is as he declares ‘Nothing in ze vorld can shtop me now!’ is basically everyone escaping, and not a big exciting end it might had been.
Still, it’s fun to watch. It’s bad, but enjoyable bad. Episodes two and three especially are filled with hilarious over the top characters and embarrassing costumes. What more could you ask for?