Monday, August 31, 2015

"The Ark in Space"

Aired Jan 25 - Feb 15, 1975

4 Episodes

Story 76

Written by: Robert Holmes

Directed by: Rodney Bennett


After Harry gives the TARDIS' Helmic Regulator an accidental twist, the Doctor and his friends arrive in the far future aboard a seemingly deserted space station in orbit around Earth. After examining the station, they discover it contains the last survivors of humanity, held for thousands of years in suspended animation after the Earth was evacuated following destructive solar flares devastating the surface and making the planet uninhabitable. 

The Doctor discovers that during the hibernation period, the station (called the Nerva Beacon) was visited by a space-faring insect form of life called the Wirrn. The Doctor causes the humans to begin the revival process, and they meet Vira, the chief medical officer, and Noah, the commander of the mission. Unfortunately, the Wirrn has laid its eggs in the station's solar stacks, and Noah is infected by one of the larvae and begins to be taken over by the Wirrn. 

While the Doctor, Sarah and Harry try to gain the trust of Vira and the other humans, Noah is quickly taken over and transformed into a Wirrn. He is now the spearhead of an invasion of Earth by the alien insects. Apparently, human space explorers who left Earth thousands of years ago were responsible for the destruction of the Wirrn breeding planet, and now the insects are bent on seizing Earth and wiping out the humans in revenge. 

The Doctor manages to come up with a plan to lure the Wirrn into a shuttle craft on board the station, launch it into space. The plan succeeds, partially due to the transformed Noah rediscovering his humanity and turning off the shuttle's stabilizers, resulting in the shuttle's explosion.

The Doctor, Sarah and Harry offer to transmat down to the deserted Earth and ensure the transmat devices are properly calibrated to begin humanity's return to their home...

Monday, August 24, 2015


Aired Dec 28, 1974 - Jan 18, 1975

4 Episodes

Story 75

Written by: Terrance Dicks

Directed by: Christopher Barry


As the Brigadier and Sarah watch, the Doctor regenerates, becoming a totally different person. This new Doctor is younger and possessed of a wild mass of brown curly hair, wide blue eyes and toothy grin. Initially set on immediately leaving Earth and resuming his travels, eventually the Doctor becomes intrigued by the theft of top secret plans that UNIT is investigating.

Doing some investigating of her own, Sarah uncovers that the theft was committed by a large sentient Robot created by Professor Kettlewell while he was employed at scientific research facility Think Tank. The Doctor, Sarah and UNIT soon suspect that Think Tank, led by its director Miss Winters, are behind the theft and are planning to use the stolen plans to create a disintegrator gun with which they can obtain the computer codes necessary to control the nuclear arsenals of the world's powers. Winters and her allies, including a reluctant Kettlewell, are part of a society that want to reorder society along purely logical lines.

The Doctor and UNIT thwart Winters' plans, but the danger has not passed. The Robot, which Kettlewell programmed to protect human life, has been going mad since it was reprogrammed by Winters to be capable of murder. After it inadvertently kills its creator Kettlewell, it suffers a complete breakdown and tries to launch the nuclear weapons. The Brigadier attempts to destroy the Robot with the disintegrator gun, which only succeeds in causing the Robot to grow to a gigantic size. Eventually, the Doctor and UNIT medical officer Harry Sullivan devise a chemical solution that will dissolve the Robot's unique structural makeup, and succeed in destroying the tragic creature.

In the end, the Doctor and Sarah decide to travel in the TARDIS, taking along an unbelieving Harry.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Third Doctor Era: A Summary

The Radio Times cover announcing
Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor (1970)
When I began this journey through all of Doctor Who in order, I tried to jettison any preconceived notions or accepted fan-wisdom and approached the series with as open a mind as possible. Still, I couldn't help but hang on to a few ideas and opinions. I thought that I knew which eras would be favourites and which would be ones I would enjoy less, maybe even have to suffer through. 

To be honest, Season Seven aside, I had never been a huge fan of the Third Doctor's era. I thought it was too simplistic, too action-oriented, with Pertwee delivering an interpretation of the Doctor that felt too cozy and less complicated than other Doctors. I had always loved Pertwee's first season due to the quality of the stories and its attempt to create a more adult, sophisticated and morally complex tone. But everything after it had struck me as child-like in comparison.

Having now watched all of the Pertwee era in order, I find my opinion was completely and totally wrong-headed, and it's now become one of my favourite eras. My feeling on Season Seven remains unchanged, it's still perhaps the greatest single season of stories in Doctor Who's history, but whereas I had always lamented the fact that the series didn't retain this approach, I now see how untenable that would have been in the long run. The stories of the seventh season stand out as dark, adult, morally complex adventures, but another four years of that would have been stifling and frankly would have become dreary pretty quickly.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Season 11 Overview

The New Logo
When Doctor Who returned for its eleventh season, it immediately felt like a renewed series. This was thanks to a brand new title sequence, its first in four years, designed by Bernard Lodge. Lodge was a top graphic designer for the BBC, and he had designed the titles sequences for Doctor Who all the way back to its very first one in 1963. Back then, Lodge created the programme's eerie, otherworldly titles using a technique called "howlaround" in which a video camera is pointed at its own monitor, the feedback creating abstract patterns of light. Combined with Delia Derbyshire's spooky electronic arrangement of Ron Grainer's theme song, the effect was one of the most iconic openings to any television series in history.

But, Lodge and Barry Letts wanted something different for the new titles. Abandoning the "howlaround" technique, Lodge chose a new process for the creation of the titles, namely the "slit-scan" technique first popularized during the famous Star-Gate sequence in the climax to Satnely Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The technique combines long time exposures with a rostrum camera. A rostrum camera usually shoots a series of frames while tracking toward an image at a controlled rate. But in slit-scan, the camera tracks while only exposing a single frame towards a slit that is the only light source. The effect gives a perspective version of the image on that one frame. By placing torn strips of polystyrene between polarized filters, Lodge used the slit-scan technique to create an infinite tunnel made up of a spectrum of colour. The result was the first version of what would become one of the definitive versions of the programme's opening titles. They remain my favourite titles for the whole series, classic or new. Lodge also created a new logo for the series, this time in a diamond shape. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Planet of the Spiders"

Aired May 4 - June 8, 1974

6 Episodes

Story 74

Written by: Robert Sloman

Directed by: Barry Letts


Attempting to find peace at a Buddhist meditation retreat, Mike Yates' suspicions are aroused by the conspiratorial behaviour of some of his fellow students. He invites Sarah Jane to visit and assist him in his investigations. The Doctor, meanwhile, while conducting an experiment into ESP, discovers a interstellar threat when he uses in the experiment the blue crystal he took from Metebelis III that Jo has returned to him, which causes horrible consequences.
At the retreat, Sarah and Mike uncover that a group of men, led by the ambitious Lupton, are attempting to use mediation to make contact with, and forge an alliance with, alien spiders for Metebelis III. The spiders have been sent out to recover the crystal that the Doctor unwittingly stole from the planet. 

While Mike stays behind to continue his investigation, the Doctor and Sarah journey to Metebelis III and aid the human population, which has been subjugated by the Spiders, in an attempt to overthrow their masters. Believing their attempt to have been successful, they return to Earth where the Doctor discovers that K'Anpo, the abbot of the meditation centre, is in fact his old Time Lord mentor. K'Anpo informs the Doctor that he needs to return the crystal to Metebelis, an d face up to his role in having started this crisis through his greed for knowledge. 

The Doctor does so, only to find the rebellion has failed and that he must face the Great One, a gigantic spider worshipped by the other Spiders as a god. The Great One requires the crystal for her plan to increase her mental powers to omnipotence through its insertion into the crystal lattice in her cave. The Doctor attempts to convince her that her plan will not succeed, and that the power will destroy her, but  she ignores his warning. He relinquishes the crystal, and the feedback kills her and the other Spiders. But the Doctor's body has been bombarded by the radiation in the cave, and he weakly makes his way to the TARDIS.

Back on Earth, the conspirators attempt to destroy K'Anpo, who is saved by Yates putting his body between their energy blasts and the abbot. K'Anpo sacrifices his life force to heal mike, and regenerates. 

Weeks later, the Doctor manages to return in the TARDIS, whereupon he stumbles out and collapses in front of Sarah and the Brigadier. Before their eyes, and with help from K'Anpo, the Doctor regenerates into his fourth form. 

Stunned, the Brigadier says, "Well, here we go again."