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.