Monday, December 16, 2013

"The Ice Warriors"

Aired Nov 11 - Dec 16, 1967


6 episodes

Story 39

Written by Brian Hayles

Directed by Derek Martinus

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on Earth at the time of a new ice age and the travelers make their way into a base where scientists commanded by Leader Clent are using an ionizer device to combat the advance of a glacier.
A giant humanoid creature, termed an Ice Warrior by one of the scientists, has been found buried in the nearby glacier. When thawed, it revives and is revealed to be Varga, captain of a Martian spacecraft that landed on Earth centuries ago and is still trapped in the glacier. Varga sets about freeing his comrades and formulating a plan to conquer the Earth, now that Mars is a dead planet.

The scientists fear that continued use of the ionizer on the glacier could cause the alien ship's engines to explode. Their trusted computer is unable to advise them without further information, and it seems that disaster is imminent. A scientist named Penley, who recently defected from the project, is persuaded to return by the Doctor. They eventually decide to risk activating the ionizer. There is only a minor explosion, which destroys the Martians and, at the same time, checks the ice flow.

Analysis

Season 5 is almost always referred to as "The Monster Season" for the obvious reason that every story bar one has a monster to terrify the kiddies. While it is called this with fondness, it's a nickname that implies that this is Doctor Who at its most basic. There's a little bit of truth to that, and certainly the base-under-siege setting that goes hand in hand with these stories is already becoming tiresome, but there's plenty of complexity on display as well.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

"The Abominable Snowmen"

Aired Sept 30 – Nov 4, 1967

6 Episodes

Story 38

Written by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln


Directed by Gerald Blake

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives in Tibet in 1935 and the Doctor visits the remote Detsen monastery in order to return a sacred bell, the ghanta, given to him for safe keeping on a previous visit.

There he meets an Englishman, Travers, who’s on an expedition to track down the legendary Abominable Snowmen or Yeti.

It transpires that the Yeti roaming the area are actually disguised robots powered by control spheres, which scare away or kill anyone who approaches. The High Lama Padmasambhava, whom the Doctor met hundreds of years earlier on his previous visit, has been taken over by a nebulous alien being, the Great Intelligence, which has artificially prolonged his life and is now using him to control the Yeti by way of models on a chessboard-like map.

The Intelligence's aim is to create a material form for itself and take over the Earth. The Doctor banishes it back to the astral plane, allowing Padmasambhava finally to die in peace.

Analysis

The Abominable Snowmen is both an unusual story for its era and a typical one at the same time. It's the second story in the "Monster Season", an era infamous for its reliance on the monster of the week format as well as the base under siege setting. Both of these decisions for this season came from the production team in order to capitalize ratings (viewers loved a good monster) and to save costs (fewer sets and smaller casts mean more money elsewhere), but they did reduce the show to its most simplistic premise; Doctor Who fights monsters. In that regard, this story is typical of the ones that surround it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"The Tomb of the Cybermen"

Aired September 2 - September 23, 1967

4 Episodes

Story 37

Written by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis

Directed by Morris Barry


Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Telos where an Earth archaeological expedition led by Professor Parry is attempting to uncover the lost tombs of the Cybermen. With a lot of help from the Doctor the archaeologists succeed in entering the tombs.

Once inside, the party’s financier, Klieg, reveals that he and business partner Kaftan are planning to revive the Cybermen.  He and Kaftan are members of the elitist Brotherhood of Logicians and they want to use the Cybermen’s strength to create an invincible force for the conquest of Earth.

However, the tomb is actually a giant trap designed by the Cybermen to lure humans suitable for conversion inside and augment their own forces. It’s a fate that almost befalls Kaftan's assistant Toberman but is halted before he is fully converted.

After fending off an attack by small but dangerous cybernetic creatures called Cybermats, the Doctor defeats the revived Cybermen and reseals the tombs. The Cybermen leader, the Controller, is apparently destroyed in the process.


Analysis

Thought lost for decades, The Tomb of the Cybermen acquired a reputation for being one of the all-time great classic stories. When it was found in 1991 and finally seen again, the general opinion was that it was perhaps overrated. While it does have several rather large flaws, overall the story remains the finest Cyberman story of the Troughton era, and contains more than enough essential moments to warrant its status as a "classic."

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Season 4 Overview

Polly (Anneke Wills, left) and the Doctor
(William Hartnell, center) face off with a Cyberman in
The Tenth Planet
Throughout the 26 year run of the classic series, Doctor Who faced several moments where the survival of the show was very tenuous indeed. Moments where, if a single element had not come together, the series would have ended. Surely there was no moment more fraught than the one where William Hartnell left the series that carried his character's name and Patrick Troughton stepped into the role.

The idea that the leading actor of a series could be replaced was certainly unusual, though not unheard of, but it was an idea that was risky in the extreme. The further idea that the lead actor could be replaced by another actor, playing the same character, was even more unusual. And the even further idea that the new actor could play the character in a completely different way, with a completely different look, than his predecessor, is something that could only happen in Doctor Who. The fact that so little had been revealed about the character and that the series had already established itself as the kind of show where anything could happen, is what allowed such a fantastic development to take place.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"The Evil of the Daleks"

Aired May 20 – Jul 1, 1967

7 Episodes

Story 36

Written by David Whitaker

Directed by Derek Martinus



Synopsis


The TARDIS has been stolen by antiques dealer Edward Waterfield, who lures the Doctor and Jamie into a trap. They are transported back to Waterfield's own time, 1867, where his daughter Victoria is being held hostage by the Daleks to ensure his cooperation in an unknown experiment.

The Daleks force the Doctor to monitor Jamie's performance of a test, the rescue of Victoria, with the supposed intention of identifying “the human factor”: the special quality possessed by humans that enables them always to defeat the Daleks. The Doctor, having succeeded in this task, implants the human factor into three test Daleks, resulting in them becoming friendly and playful!

Everyone is transported back to Skaro where the Doctor discovers that the Daleks' true aim has been to isolate “the Dalek factor”, the impulse to destroy, and implant it into humans, creating a race of allies that will serve their aims. The Emperor Dalek informs him that his TARDIS will be used to spread the Dalek factor throughout all time.

However, through a ruse, the Doctor is able to infect many more Daleks with the human factor. A civil war breaks out between the two Dalek factions and they are apparently all destroyed. As Waterfield has been killed during the battle, the Doctor offers Victoria a place aboard the TARDIS. From a hill-top, Jamie, Victoria and the Doctor watch the Dalek city in erupt in flames as the civil war continues. The Doctor pronounces this as the final end of the Daleks.Though in the rubble of the city, the lights from a lone overturned Dalek begins to pulse…



Analysis

Troughton's inaugural season concludes with an absolute classic, an epic battle against the programme's definitive foes that was meant to kill them off for the foreseeable future. Terry Nation was at this point putting all of his energy into setting up a Dalek TV series with NBC in America, and this meant the implacable monsters weren't going to be available for Doctor Who. The Evil of the Daleks was meant to give them an epic send off, and as Nation was too busy with negotiations to write the story, the scripting duties went to former script editor David Whitaker.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"The Faceless Ones"

Aired Apr 8 – May 13, 1967

6 Episodes

Story 35

Written by David Ellis & Malcolm Hulke

Directed by Gerry Mill


Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives on at Gatwick airport in 1966. Polly witnesses a murder in a nearby hangar and is then kidnapped by the perpetrator, Spencer of Chameleon Tours. Subsequently Ben also vanishes.

The Doctor and Jamie are left to try to convince the skeptical airport Commandant that there has been foul play.

It transpires that other young people have also vanished, all of them while on Chameleon Tours holidays. With the help of Samantha Briggs, the sister of one of the missing persons, the Doctor and Jamie uncover a plot by the alien Chameleons to kidnap humans in order to take their identities; the Chameleons have lost their own in an accident on their home planet.

After foiling their plan to replace a multitude of humans, the Doctor offers to help the Chameleons find another solution to their problem and the kidnapped humans are released.


The Doctor and Jamie are reunited with Ben and Polly. They decide to remain in their own time after discovering the date is the same as the day they first left with the First Doctor. The Doctor and Jamie head back to the TARDIS but can only watch as it is driven off on the back of a van!



Analysis

Reviewing the missing stories is always a challenge and often surprising in what they reveal. While you never escape the feeling that something is lost, some stories wind up working well in their audio form (like The Crusades), others suffer greatly. The Faceless Ones is one of the stories that suffers, I'm afraid, and it's a real shame because it actually is a cracking good story and an unusual one. However, it relies more heavily on visuals for its atmosphere and therefore you really lose a lot with their absence.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"The Macra Terror"

Aired Mar 11 – Apr 1, 1967

4 Episodes

Story 34

Written by Ian Stuart Black

Directed by John Davies


Synopsis

The TARDIS crew visits a human colony that appears to be a happy place run along the lines of an enormous holiday camp. In fact, this seemingly ideal society has been infiltrated and taken over by a race of giant crab-like creatures called the Macra.


The brainwashed inhabitants are forced to mine a gas toxic to themselves but vital for the Macras’ survival. Ben falls under the Macra's malign influence and turns against his friends. He eventually regains his senses, however, and under the Doctor's guidance destroys the gas pumping equipment, thus killing the Macra and restoring freedom to the colonists.


Now free from the influence of the Macra, life in the colony returns to normal, with the community heaping honours on the TARDIS crew. During the celebrations, the travelers dance their way back to the TARDIS.  

Analysis

Sometimes you come across a Doctor Who story that you wind up loving even though you know it's not actually very good. You know there's flaws there, you can see them, but something about the story connects with you, so you ignore those flaws and love the story anyway.

The Macra Terror is one of those stories for me. Yes, I know there are flaws, but the things I love about this story, I love so much that it papers over any cracks in the foundation.

Friday, August 23, 2013

"The Moonbase"


Aired Feb 11 – Mar 4, 1967

4 Episodes

Story 33

Written by Kit Pedler

Directed by Morris Barry


Synopsis


The Doctor and his friends arrive on the Moon in 2070 AD, where a vitally important weather control station is being affected by a mysterious epidemic that is incapacitating the staff. However, the plague is really a poison planted in the sugar supply as part of an invasion plan by the Cybermen.

The Doctor uncovers the plague's true nature and reveals the involvement of  the Cybermen, while Polly realizes that as the Cybermen's chest units are made of plastic they are vulnerable to corrosive solvents. She, Ben and Jamie manage to destroy all the Cybermen hidden on the base after they create weapons that fire a mixture of powerful solvents that they create.

A second wave of Cybermen lands on the moon and begin to advance on the base, but the Doctor uses the weather station's powerful gravity device, the Gravitron, to send the Cybermen and their fleet spinning off into space. The crisis having passed, the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie quietly slip away back to the TARDIS.



Analysis

The Moonbase is a virtual remake of The Tenth Planet, the debut Cybermen story, which is an odd choice considering both stories aired in the same season! What's even more odd is that while The Moonbase improves on many flaws in The Tenth Planet, the elements of the previous story that were well-done are done less well here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"The Underwater Menace"

Aired Jan 14 – Feb 4, 1967

4 Episodes

Story 32


Written by Geoffrey Orme

Directed by Julia Smith


Synopsis

Arriving on an extinct volcanic island, thee travellers are quickly captured and taken deep underground where they find the hidden city of Atlantis, still populated after all these centuries.

The Atlanteans are secretive, and have created a subservient race of Fish Peope who can harvest the plankton-based food supply upon which they subsist.  These Fish People are created through a process that genetically modifies people so they can breathe underwater.

A human scientist, Professor Zaroff, has convinced them that he can raise their city from the sea to the surface, but the formally brilliant Zaroff has gone insane, and his plan will cause the ocean to drain into the molten core of the Earth, and the resulting steam created will destroy the planet. The completely mad Zaroff sees the destruction of Earth as his greatest scientific achievement. 

After meeting and enlisting the aid of two shipwreck survivors, Sean and Jacko, the Doctor forms a plan. While he works to stop Zaroff, Sean and Jacko will inspire the Fish People to rebel and stop gathering food, causing chaos in Atlantis. During the panic, the Doctor and his friends manage to put an end to Zaroff's plans by flooding the city. The madman drowns, and the Doctor helps the Atlanteans escape to the surface.

The Doctor and his companions leave, and after Jamie teases the Doctor about his seeming lack of control over his ship, the Doctor makes a concerted effort to steer the TARDIS….and they spin wildly out of control…


Analysis

"Nothing in zee vorld can stop me now!"  The Underwater Menace has amongst the direst reputations in fan circles. While that reputation is certainly deserved, these four episodes are so totally off the chart bonkers that it remains a fun, if cringe-worthy, experience.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"The Highlanders"

Aired Dec 17, 1966 – Jan 7, 1967

4 Episodes

Story 31

Written by Elwyn Jones & Gerry Davis

Directed by Hugh David


Synopsis


The TARDIS arrives in Scotland during the chaos of the aftermath of the battle of Culloden. Encountering a small band of Highlanders who are on the run, the Doctor offers to help care for their wounded Laird. However, all of them are soon captured by Redcoat troops commanded by Lt. Algernon Ffinch. Only Polly and the Laird's daughter Kirsty, who were fetching water at the time, escape capture.

The Doctor and the others are sold into slavery in the west Indies by an unscrupulous solicitor named Grey, though the Doctor manages to escape. On their own, Polly and Kirsty blackmail Ffinch into aiding them, while the Doctor secretly smuggles arms to the Highlanders and his friends, who are being held on a stolen boat before they set off for the West Indies.

Eventually, Grey and his cohorts are overpowered by the prisoners, and the stolen ship is returned to its rightful owner, who gratefully agrees to the Highlanders to France. The Doctor, Ben and Polly return to the TARDIS, but they have a new companion, young Highlander Jamie McCrimmon will join them on their journeys.



Analysis

The Highlanders marks the end of an era, as this is the final purely historical adventure for nearly 16 years. They had never been as popular as the futuristic adventures, and the production team had grown tired of them. This is a bit of a shame, as there never really was a bad historical story, but having said that, they were starting to present a problem.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"The Power of the Daleks"

Aired Nov 5 – Dec 10, 1966

6 Episodes

Story 30

Written by David Whitaker

Directed by Christopher Barry


Synopsis

The man who sits up on the floor of the console room is a completely different man from before. He is much younger, with an unruly mop of black hair and dressed in completely different clothes more in the style of a down at the heels hobo. Ben and Polly are amazed, and initially are not sure whether or not this man even is still the Doctor. It's a situation not helped by the man's initial confusion and bizarre behaviour, referring to the Doctor in the third person. He tells them he's been renewed, and while Polly seems to believe this new man is the Doctor, Ben remains unconvinced and is particularly frustrated at the man's refusal to come out and say whether or not he is the Doctor.

The TARDIS brings this new Doctor, Polly and Ben to the Earth colony planet Vulcan where the Doctor finds a murdered man. Investigating the body, he finds credentials identifying the man as an Earth Examiner, with unrestricted access to the colony. Assuming the dead man’s identity, the Doctor learns the Examiner was secretly summoned by Deputy Governor Quinn to investigate the activities of a group of rebels threatening the security of the colony. However,  Colonial Governor Hensell is not concerned by the rebels. 

Meanwhile a scientist named Lesterson has unearthed a crashed space ship, inside of which are inert Daleks, which he is now attempting to revive. Horrified, the Doctor attempts to explain the danger, but his warnings fall on deaf ears once the revived Daleks claim to only wish to be the colonists'  servants.

The rebels, meanwhile, secretly led by Head of Security Bragen, are growing more and more bold. The Daleks, deftly manipulating Lesterson, arrange to siphon the colony's power to create a Dalek production line, increasing their numbers with incredible speed. Bragen's  rebels ally themselves with the Daleks, and they begin a full-scale effort to take over the colony. The Doctor manages to defeat the Daleks and destroy them by turning the colony's power supply back upon them, creating an overload.

The defeat of the Daleks also means the defeat of the rebels, and order is restored to the colony. Though the Doctor believes this to be the final end of his foes, a crushed Dalek stands by the TARDIS as the ship dematerializes, its eyestalk slowly rising...
  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Doctor Who and Me - Part Two

In my last post, I told the story of how I wound up joining the cast of the 1996 Doctor Who TV Movie.

When I left off, I had just been cast as Gareth in the film, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. I was ecstatic. As an actor, you basically have to come to grips with the fact that most of what you're going to be paid to do is far from high art, or else this will happen to you (a little NSFW):
 
So, to get a part in something that you love and are a huge fan of is rare. It can completely recharge lagging creative batteries, and reawaken a sense of why you became an actor in the first place. And here I was, cast in Doctor Who. It was not only my favourite TV series, but it had been effectively cancelled over six years prior to this point, and it had always been filmed in England, with very minor exceptions. To say I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd ever get within hooting distance of appearing in the show is putting it very, very mildly.




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Doctor Who and Me - Part One

When you are a fan of something, no matter what that may be, you can find yourself experiencing some pretty amazing life moments. When I started writing this blog, which springs from my love for Doctor Who, I initially resisted writing about my own fandom, but I've decided to share the story of how I became a fan of this series, and how being a fan resulted in a unique experience.

One of my first memories is of Doctor Who. I must have been three or four, and it was night time and I think I was at the home of some friends' of my parents. The TV was on, and all I recall was seeing the opening titles of Jon Pertwee's final season. If you're three or four, that's going to leave an impression.  I mean the bouffant alone...
 
 
When I was eight or nine and over at a cousins house, I saw my first full episodes. He was the son of a Brit, so he was a fan of Doctor Who in a big way. This was during the Peter Davison years, and I remember watching his videotapes, recorded from PBS, and being captivated.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The First Doctor Era: A Summary

The First Doctor (William Hartnell)
At the close of each Doctor's respective era, I'll be taking a look at their time in the TARDIS, focusing specifically on their performance as the Doctor and on all the things I loved or hated about their time. I'll be ending each of these summaries with my picks for the five best stories, as well as the three worst. This is obviously going to be completely subjective and more informal than my critical analyses, so feel free to leave some comments raging at my stupidity or praising my acumen!


When you look at polls asking people to name their favourite Doctors, you're not going to see William Hartnell top the list. In fact, he'll more likely be near the very bottom, often accompanied by Colin Baker, which is notable in that Baker is the only subsequent Doctor that I've ever heard mention he based part of his interpretation on Hartnell's Doctor.


Why is this? Why is the Hartnell era frequently the least loved by fans and almost unseen by casual viewers?


First, the era in which the series was produced is far, far removed from our modern one. These stories are now half a century old, and television and indeed storytelling in general has changed significantly. The pacing in the best of Hartnell's stories is leisurely by our standards, and in the worst ones it can be downright glacial. That in and of itself can put off even dedicated fans.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"The Tenth Planet"

Aired Oct 8– 29, 1966


4 Episodes

Story 29



Written by Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis


Directed by Derek Martinus



Synopsis

The TARDIS materializes in December 1986 at the entrance to a South Pole Space Tracking Station commanded by General Cutler. The scientists there are experiencing problems in controlling the return of a manned space capsule, and the Doctor uncovers that the problem is caused by the gravitational pull of another planet which has entered the solar system and is now heading for Earth. His theory is proven when the base is invaded by a force of alien Cybermen.

The Cybermen's world, Mondas, is draining energy from the Earth, and the situation will soon become critical. Although Ben and Cutler manage to destroy the first wave of attackers, the base is then overrun by a second. However, the scientists suddenly realize that the invaders are susceptible to radioactivity, and this suggests a means of fighting back. Using hand-held uranium rods, Ben and a group of the scientists are able to hold off and kill a number of Cybermen. In the end, Mondas disintegrates after absorbing too much energy, and all the remaining Cybermen collapse and die, having been totally dependent on their planet’s energy.

Throughout, the Doctor has become steadily weaker, and after the defeat of the Cybermen he hurries back to the TARDIS. Polly and Ben follow, and find him collapsed on the floor of the control room. As they watch, his face is transformed into that of a much younger, dark-haired man.


Analysis


For obvious reasons, The Tenth Planet is one of the most important stories in the history of Doctor Who. Not only does it introduce antagonists that are one of the series’ most memorable, it also introduces the concept of regeneration; that amazing idea that the Doctor can renew his physical form when his current body is fatally damaged or worn out. Of course, that concept is a stroke of absolute genius, one that has allowed the series to continue for 50 years, and one that has allowed Doctor Who to constantly revitalize itself.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"The Smugglers"

Aired Sept 10 – Oct 1, 1966

4 Episodes

Story 28


Written by Brian Hayles

Directed by Julia Smith



Synopsis

The Doctor is shocked to discover Ben and Polly aboard the TARDIS. He explains that the ship can travel through time and space and that his lack of control means it's unlikely he'll be able to return them to their era for some time, but they both refuse to believe him. The TARDIS arrives on the coast of 17th century Cornwall where pirates led by Captain Samuel Pike are searching for a hidden treasure while a smuggling ring is operating masterminded by the local Squire.

Pike and his men abduct the Doctor after he learns the meaning to a cryptic rhyme that will lead the pirates to the treasure. The Doctor is forced to decipher the clues for Pike, and the treasure is found. However, the militia soon arrives to stop Pike and his pirates  while Ben and Polly try to help the Doctor.

During the ensuing battle, Pike and his men are either caught or killed, while the Doctor and his friends make their way back to the TARDIS and continue
 their travels through time and space.



Analysis

I've mentioned before about how there's a popular theory among fans that there wasn't a bad historical story, but for me at least, The Smugglers comes closest so far to disproving that theory.

The main thing that I feel lets this story down is that it's simply a straight-forward adventure story. The other historical stories took advantage of the Doctor Who concept, using the setting to illustrate the temptations and dangers of time travel (The Aztecs, The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve) or to subvert our conceptions of historical events through humour (The Romans, The Myth Makers, The Gunfighters) or to actually educate viewers about a specific event, person or period (Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror, The Crusade).  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Interlude - "Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D."

Released August 5, 1966


Written by Milton Subotsky

Additional Material by David Whitaker

From the Story by Terry Nation

Directed by Gordon Flemyng


Synopsis

London Constable Tom Campbell is on patrol one evening when he attempts to stop the burglary of a London jewelry store. He is given a knock on the head by the getaway driver, which allows the thieves to flee. Tom runs to what he thinks to be an ordinary police box to call for assistance, but instead enters TARDIS. Inside the ship he finds Dr. Who, his granddaughter Susan and his niece Louise.

TARDIS is just about to depart, and it whisks the travelers to London of 2150. The city appears to have been largely demolished in some great catastrophe. Some rubble falls on TARDIS, stranding the travelers and causing Susan to hurt her ankle. While Louise looks after the girl, Tom and Dr. Who explore the nearby area. When they return to TARDIS, they find the girls gone, and they are captured by mind-controlled human troops whose masters are revealed to by the Daleks.

Louise and Susan have been taken in by a resistance group, led by three men; Wyler, David and wheelchair-bound scientist Dortmun. The Daleks have apparently invaded Earth and destroyed whole continents, turning some humans into Robomen to act as soldiers, while others have been taken to Bedfordshire to work in a huge mining operation. What the Daleks' purpose is with the mine is unknown.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Season 3 Overview

Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney, left) views the Doctor
(William Hartnell), The Daleks' Master Plan
The third season of Doctor Who was one of great upheaval behind the scenes, upheaval that nearly derailed the series. It was a season that saw management directly interfere in the series to the point where it lost the show runners, where the leading man's health began to deteriorate to an untenable state, and where viewing figures began to suggest that perhaps the public was becoming tired with adventures through time and space.

And yet, the third season saw a run of stories that are amongst the most bold and assured of the Hartnell era. From the epic Dalek space opera to comedic historicals to the surreal adventure battling The Celestial Toymaker to the slick action oriented War Machines, the third season saw the series demonstrating that Doctor Who could truly tell any kind of story it wanted. Indeed it was arguably the uncertainty behind the scenes that was responsible for the flexibility of the stories this season.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"The War Machines"

Aired Jun 25 – July 16, 1966

4 Episodes

Story 27


Written by Ian Stuart Black

Directed by Michael Ferguson


Synopsis

When the TARDIS arrives in London, 1966, the Doctor visits the recently completed Post Office Tower, having sensed evil emanations from the building. There, he meets Professor Brett, who demonstrates his revolutionary new computer, WOTAN, standing for Will Operating Thought Analogue. Designed as a universal problem-solver, the machine can actually think for itself. Moreover, it is shortly to be linked up to other major computers around the world - a project overseen by civil servant Sir Charles Summer.

All is not as it seems, however, as WOTAN has decided that humans are inferior to machines and should therefore be ruled by them. Exerting a powerful hypnotic influence, it initiates the construction of War Machines, heavily-armed, self-contained mobile computers, with which to affect its plan of world domination. The War Machines prove more than a match for troops, but by establishing a magnetic force field the Doctor is able to capture one of them. He then reprograms it to destroy WOTAN.

Now back in her own time, Dodo decides to leave the Doctor at this point. However, the Doctor soon finds himself with two new companions, Brett's secretary Polly and her merchant seaman friend Ben Jackson, whom he inadvertently whisks off in the TARDIS when they come aboard just as it is about to dematerialize.



Analysis

The third season, one of the series' most successful and bold, ends on a high note with The War Machines. It's ironic that a season that was amongst the most variable in terms of tone and style ends with a story that establishes many of the concepts that would form the backbone of the show for much of the next decade, effectively ending the variation of the Hartnell years.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"The Savages"

Aired May 28 – June 18, 1966

4 Episodes

Story 26

Written by Ian Stuart Black

Directed by Christopher Barry



Synopsis


Having arrived on a far-distant and seemingly idyllic world, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo discover that it hides a terrible secret: the apparently civilized Elders maintain their advanced society by draining off and transferring to themselves the life-force of a group of defenseless Savages. Outraged at this exploitation, the Doctor is seemingly helpless to prevent it when some of his own life-force is tapped by the Elders' leader, Jano. However, in the process, Jano also acquires some of the Doctor's attitudes and conscience. Turning against his own people, he enlists the help of the Savages to destroy the Elders' transference laboratory - a task with which the time travelers gladly assist.

Steven is asked by the Elders and the Savages to remain behind on the planet as their leader. He agrees to do so, and the Doctor and a tearful Dodo leave him to his new life.


 Analysis

Season 3's great run continues, with Ian Stuart Black's enjoyable, if simplistic, scripts and Christopher Barry's tight direction resulting in satisfying story. The series rarely took on allegory so directly as it does here, telling a tale about both the benefits and inhuman degradations of one society exploiting another.

Other science fiction series would tackle this issue, but they would tend to focus on the physical and emotional impact of slavery on the subjugated. The story does that, of course, but it also talks about the cultural impact on both sides of the coin. Other stories would depict the oppressors as indolent and pampered, but it also true that this kind of exploitation often does allow a society the ability to make great strides. Additionally, the cost to the culture of the oppressed is examined as well. Steven and Dodo see the cave paintings of the savages, and Chal admits that they used to be capable of art, but have lost that talent through their "sessions". This mirrors how the exploited become so focused on mere survival that they have no time for advancement.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"The Gunfighters"

Aired Apr 30 – May 21, 1966


Episode 1: A Holiday for the Doctor
Episode 2: Don't Shoot the Pianist
Episode 3: Johnny Ringo
Episode 4: The OK Corral

Story 25

Written by Donald Cotton

Directed by Rex Tucker



Synopsis

The TARDIS lands in the Wild West town of Tombstone in 1881. The Doctor, suffering from a toothache, seeks out the local dentist, who turns out to be none other than the notorious Doc Holliday, currently engaged in a feud with Pa Clanton and his sons Ike, Phineas and Billy. Lawmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson are meanwhile doing their best to keep the peace.

The travelers become entangled in this conflict, with the Doctor mistaken for Holliday, Steven pressed into helping with jailbreak, and Dodo kidnapped by Doc.

Despite his best efforts to resolve the situation peacefully, the Doctor is unable to help and, in the climactic shoot-out at the OK Corral, the Earps and Holliday defeat the Clantons and Ringo, who are all gunned down. The Doctor and his companions say goodbye to Kate and Holliday, with Holliday giving the Doctor one of Doc's wanted posters as a parting gift.  

Analysis

North American actors often get a lot of flak from Brits when we attempt any sort of accent having to do with the UK. The implication is that we Colonials simply can't manage a decent accent, while classically trained British thespians can master any accent. Well, to those people I would suggest they watch any classic Who where an American accent of any kind is attempted. They are mostly laughably bad. And The Gunfighters is no exception.

But The Gunfighters is not a serious attempt to depict the Wild West, nor is it even a serious attempt to depict the event it is supposedly about. Writer Donald Cotton expands upon his aims, begun in The Myth Makers, to undermine any sense of historical accuracy in favour of a comedic look at our expectations of certain periods in our history and our fascination with creating myths around them.

Friday, May 10, 2013

"The Celestial Toymaker"

Aired Apr 2 – Apr 23, 1966

Episode 1: The Celestial Toyroom
Episode 2: The Hall of Dolls
Episode 3: The Dancing Floor
Episode 4: The Final Test

Story 24


Written by Brian Hayles

Directed by Bill Sellars


Synopsis

TheTARDIS arrives in the dimension ruled by the Toymaker, an immensely powerful immortal immortal who abducts beings and forces them to play a series of games, failure at which will result in them being added to his collection as his own personal playthings.

While Steven and Dodo are forced to play a collection of increasingly lethal children's games against the Toymaker's minions, the Doctor must face the Toymaker himself in a deadly, and complex, Trilogic game. Throughout his battle against the Toymaker, the Doctor is rendered mute, then invisible, while Steven and Dodo succeed in thwarting their cheating foes.

The Doctor eventually defeats the Toymaker by imitating the immortal's voice from within the safety of the TARDIS,  a tactic that completes the Trilogic game and destroys the Toymaker's domain as the TARDIS escapes.

As the Toymaker's realm disintegrates, the Doctor predicts that they will have to face each other again. The Doctor celebrates their escape with a sweet from a bag given to Dodo by one of the Toymaker's minions, but gasps in pain…


Analysis

Doctor Who's first and somewhat tentative step into surrealist storytelling is a success, albeit a qualified one. The major high points comes from the way it takes the iconography of childhood and children's games and twists them into something menacing and strange. The idea of an almost omnipotent being who lives to kidnap other beings and force them to play bizarre children's games is certainly compelling, and the Toymaker is well played by Michael Gough. The Toymaker is not a conventional villain in many ways, he is simply an immensely powerful figure who is bored and who is above conventional morality. He does these things because he can, he cares little for what he sees as lesser beings, and this detachment helps create an unusual villain for the series.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"The Ark"

Aired Mar 5 – Mar 26, 1966

Episode 1: The Steel Sky
Episode 2: The Plague
Episode 3: The Return
Episode 4: The Bomb

Story 23


Written by Paul Erickson & Lesley Scott

Directed by Michael Imison


Synopsis

Arriving ten million years in the future aboard a giant spacecraft, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo are fascinated to discover the ship is carrying Earth's surviving plant, animal and human life, with the bulk of it being miniaturized and in suspended animation. The Ark is on a 700 year voyage to the planet Refusis II, the new home of the survivors.

Unfortunately, Dodo is suffering from a common cold, and unwittingly causes a deadly outbreak among the humans and their servant race the Monoids, as they have no resistance at all to the virus. 

A faction of the humans blame the travellers, and place them on trial, and it is up to Steven to defend them from the charge that they infected the crew deliberately. Luckily, the Doctor is successful in finding a cure, and their lives are spared and they leave the Ark as friends of the crew and the Monoids.

The TARDIS next materializes again on board the Ark as it nears the end of the journey. The Doctor and his companions are shocked to discover that in the intervening years since their last visit, the Monoids rose up and have now enslaved the humans. The Monoids plan to rule Refusis II as well, but while the Doctor and Dodo persuade the native (and invisible) Refusians to help them convince the two races to live in peace, even as Steven leads the enslaved humans in an uprising. As the Doctor and his friends prepare to leave, the two races resolve to live together with the Refusians.


The TARDIS crew depart, but while in flight, the Doctor seemingly vanishes!


Analysis

It's hard to out and out hate any story that contains the line "Take them to the security kitchen" but The Ark is certainly hard to like. It's too bad that the story and the supporting characters are all so tedious, because there is great ambition on display here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

"The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve"

Aired Feb 5, 1966 – Feb 26, 1966


Episode 1: War of God
Episode 2: The Sea Beggar
Episode 3: Priest of Death
Episode 4: Bell of Doom

Story 22

Written by John Lucarotti & Donald Tosh

Directed by Paddy Russell


Synopsis

When the TARDIS materializes in Paris, 1572, the Doctor decides to visit the famous apothecary Charles Preslin. Left on his own, Steven is befriended by a group of Huguenots from the household of the Protestant Admiral de Coligny. 

The Huguenots have saved a serving girl named Anne Chaplet for some guards, and through her learn of a plan by the Catholic Queen Mother, Catherine de Medici, to have all French Protestants massacred. Investigating this claim, Steven is shocked to discover that  it appears that the hated Catholic dignitary the Abbot of Amboise is actually the Doctor in disguise.

Held responsible for the failure of a plot to assassinate de Coligny, the Abbot is subsequently executed by the Catholic authorities and his dead body left lying in the gutter. However, to Steven's immense relief, the Abbot was not the Doctor after all, but merely his physical double. Steven is reunited with the Doctor at Preslin's shop, and they return to the ship just as the massacre begins, unable to bring Anne with them. 


Aboard the TARDIS, Steven is furious and despondent at all the people they were unable to help. He determines to leave the TARDIS at their next landing. Upon arrival in London in 1966, Steven ventures out of the ship. Left alone, the Doctor reflects on how all of his companions have now left him, and how he has no home of his own to which to return.

Suddenly, a young woman enters, thinking it to be an actual police box. There's an accident she wishes to report. Steven comes back to warn the Doctor of approaching policemen. Learning the girl's name is Dorothea "Dodo" Chapelet, the Doctor and Steven believe it's possible Anne may have survived the massacre after all. The Doctor hurriedly sets the TARDIS off, Steven warning the eager Dodo that they could wind up anywhere, and may not be able to return her to her own time, but Dodo has few ties to her life, and the travelers continue into the unknown.