Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Mysterious Planet

The trials beigins.
The Doctor and Peri arm in arm
After a hiatus of some eighteen months and a wonderful song urging the BBC to bring back Doctor Who, the 23rd season saw the show’s return in 1986. This season would be one big story, cut to 14 25-minute episodes sadly. The Doctor is on trial for his life for meddling in the affairs of other planets, and we are shown 2 four-episode stories for the prosecution, led by the Valeyard (wonderfully played by Michael Jayston) who strangely is very keen for the Doctor to be found guilty. Then another four episode story follows as the Doctor’s ‘defence’, and finally 2 episodes to wrap everything up. Although I am reviewing the four separate stories within a story it is important to understand the context, and whilst the Doctor, Valeyard, Inquistor (Lynda Bellingham) watch the stories on the Matrix screen along with a bunch of Time Lords, we often cut back to them for comment.
I think the format and set up is where things went wrong. The idea of the trial is not in itself bad. I wonder if the stories needed to be shown on the matrix screen, if they couldn’t have been recounted (ok wouldn’t work for the third story) and we flash back to the action. There are other ways it could have been done, the first story could lead to the Doctor being taken out of time and then they could refer back to another story. However, we do get perhaps the most impressive and cinematic opening shot and model shot of the first 23 years of Doctor
Glitz and Dibber.
Who to open episode one and the camera sweeps over the space station and the TARDIS is drawn in.
‘The Mysterious Planet’ is Robert Holmes’ last full story for Doctor Who. It is a story which leaves a lot more questions than answers. It sees violence toned down considerably from the previous two years, which Eric Saward felt was the one big change that was expected from the powers that be of the BBC. The only issues I had with the violence was when the Doctor used it in situations where there was an alternative. There’s a couple of instances in ‘Attack of the Cybermen’ – not when he kills the Cyber-controller though, that seemed justified to me.
‘The Mysterious Planet’ as a story, without the constant court-room interruptions which really interfered with the story, mostly for no good reason, is ok. It’s solid, but leaves you with more questions than answers. At times it seems that the purpose of the trial is to silence the Doctor for what happened on Ravolox – the Earth-like planet the story is set on. Oh wait, it IS Earth! But it’s not in the right place. What has happened to Earth?
Joan Simms.
The Doctor and Peri seem to be much more chummy now, which is nice. Peri experienced a bad feeling about Ravolox though. The assertion by the Valeyard that the Doctor is responsible for the deaths in this story appears to be very false though, as the chain of events that results in the deaths and destruction of Drathro is down to the black light
converter being destroyed, which was thanks to Dibber.
Again we have wonderful Holmesian characters in this story. Glitz (Tony Selby) and Dibber are somewhat roguish criminals after the secrets that are stored on Ravolox. We have Queen Katryca, played by the lovely Joan Simms. She certainly does not hold back! Then there is Balazar, the reader of the books. He has some of the best lines in the story and contributes to the humour. Finally we
have Tandrell and Humker, a blond double act who are very funny with good, fast lines, but I feel the direction didn’t capture them as well as it could have.
The direction is a bit lacklustre for this story, which I think is the main issue. It also lacks action. Nicholas Mallet directed this story, his first Doctor Who story, and perhaps he wasn’t perfectly suited to the show. The music is provided by Dominic Glynn who does a great job (although at times the mixing isn’t great and dialogue gets drowned out by it). Glynn also did the new version of the Doctor Who theme, which I immediately loved. It’s very spooky and moody.
‘The Mysterious Planet’ has its faults. The courtroom stuff certainly impinges on the flow of the tale. It sets up questions such as ‘what secrets was Dratho guarding’ and ‘what was Earth doing so far away from where it was supposed to be’? It was a fun if light start to the season.


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