Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Planet of Evil

Opening statement – NOBODY does mad like Prentice Hancock. Great name, great performance of crazy throughout this show. The rest of it almost gets left behind and forgotten.
The Doctor and Sarah on the wonderful Zeta-Minor set.
Prentice Hancock and Liz Sladen
No no that’s not true it’s a very clever, inventive and interesting story written by Louis Marks, back his third story and third Doctor as well. But what is most amazing is the set, again the designer was Roger Murray-Leach, who was responsible for the ark/Nerva Beacon of the previous season. The benefits of working in the spacious Eeling studio for a few days are plain to see for the viewer. Film is far more atmospheric (thankfully they did use the hand-held video cameras used in ‘Robot’ and ‘The Sontaran Experiment’) and the space at Eeling allowed them to have wet ground and shoot from more angles, and give a really ‘alien’ feel to the story and world of Zeta Minor.
The studio lighting was also great, and although there is that slight ‘jarring’ effect going from film to video, I still think it’s better to have some shot on film than none. The ideas are interesting too, the idea that Zeta-Minor is the last planet in the known Universe and connected to the anti-Universe underlines the Producer, Philip Hinchcliff’s wish to push the boundaries of the programme and get it away from the confines of Earth.
Creating a creature from computer graphics was an interesting idea that didn't
The anti-creature.
quite work. The set for the space ship though was rather good, if a little square and cornered at times. Tom Baker is in fine form, not missing a beat, and Elizabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane Smith has shown clear changes from her time with Jon Pertwee. Her character has a lot of light and dark, humour, as well as now being a seasoned traveller. Her feisty-ness is still there, but not brought out as often. This means she is calmer, although sometimes meeker and she no longer talks up women’s lib. The strong relationship with the Doctor means less questioning, more relying on him, and a sense of belonging in the TARDIS I guess. I think for the most part the character at this stage is a fantastic companion, although I don’t know is Sarah is now a stronger person (as a character).
Prentice Hancock gets mad!
Prentice Hancock appeared in ‘Spearhead from Space’ as a journalist, ‘Planet of the Daleks’ as the hot-headed Varun, and here in ‘Planet of Evil’ as Salamar, the completely bonkers, power-mad order-shouting Salamar. Compared to him you almost forget Frederick Jaeger’s performance as the luckless, lost, almost as mad Sorenson running around in dirty pyjamas for the most part. But he’s good too. As is Ewen Solon as Vishinsky, there’s a very north/eastern European sound to these characters names. Vishinsky is the only sane person aboard the ship, and a very likeable character. Finally, Michael Wisher has a small part too – I’ve lost count of how many stories he’s been in now, but I believe this was his final one.
Vishinsky helps the Doctor and Sarah
David Maloney directed ‘The Genesis of the Daleks’, and again here he proves a very strong director, mixing action, dialogue and conveying strange concepts in interesting ways to leave the audience with a great little story. The filming direction at Eeling Studios is a particular feature of his direction.
The script is slightly limiting – a lot of it is set on the space ship, with people yelling or going around in circles. This is not the ultimate classic Doctor Who story by any means, but I am always drawn to a story with interesting visuals, difficult ideas presented in an interesting way.
I also think the idea of the planet not letting the
Sorenson (Frederick Jaeger) not so taken with the TARDIS.
ship leave while part of the planet was aboard the ship is great, but it lags a bit in the last two parts, which are stuck with the ship having left Zeta-Minor but being slowly dragged back to it. The fact is that surely they would have burnt enough fuel over the time to prevent them returning to their home world.
Nevertheless, and despite some pretty poor costumes for the ship’s crew and especially Sorenson, I really enjoyed this one.


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