Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Serial 65: The Three Doctors

Doctor: William Hartnell (1st Doctor), Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor), Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)
Companion: Jo Grant

Written by: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Directed by: Lennie Mayne

Background and Significance: In 1973, Doctor Who turned ten years old. There was probably much rejoicing that this little, low budget, sci-fi TV show had hit ten years (and really, what has hit ten years in this day and age? Not only that, ten years of sci-fi. Stargate is the only think I can think of) and, as such, the producers decided to throw a little Doctor Who party in the season's premiere episode by doing something they had never done before:

A Multiple Doctor Team-up.

And oh how joyously glorious that sounds... and oh how joyously glorious it turned out to be, and let's be real. It could have been terrible. How many times has the word "crossover" been met with insane disappointment? Yeah. Not here.

The idea is to take Jon Pertwee and team him up with Patrick Troughton and William Hartnell and have them have an epic adventure of day-saving that requires all three to work together in order to bring down the forces of evil.

But there was a problem.

Towards the end of his run (which ended seven years previously), William Hartnell had fallen into bad health. While it was [really] always an issue (it was because of his health that the producers needed to bring in Troughton), the seven years away hadn't given Hartnell any improvements on his condition, and he was quite the worse for wear.

Originally, the plan was to have all three Doctors share screen time equally, but when it became apparent that Hartnell would not be able to contribute the time or energy required to give the performance the story had in mind, the producers wrote around him, essentially writing him out of the show.

It would be Hartnell's final acting performance.

The story then fell almost entirely upon Jon Pertwee and the newly-returned Patrick Troughton, who upped his performance and slipped back into the role as fantastically as he ever had, and Jon Pertwee came in with a wonderful performance that matched Troughton's in Pertwee's own style.

The Three Doctors is a legendary four episode fangasm with an awesome story that is big, fun, exciting, and incredibly memorable beyond the the fact that it is a Doctor team up. It is a fantastic Doctor Who story, and if you want to check it out before I review it here, I can't say I'd blame you. You'd be in for quite a treat.

So let's get to it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Special Edition! Serial 21: The Daleks' Master Plan

Doctor: William Hartnell (1st Doctor)
Companions: Steven Taylor, Katarina, Sara Kingdom

Written by: Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner
Directed By: Douglas Camfield

Background/Significance: The Daleks need to be epic and to be written sparingly. They're like... The Joker (so's The Master, but kind of in a different way and also the same way) and they really lose their power if they appear too much or in a context that isn't... massive and epic. And you can only do massive and epic on occasion, not every week, or that power's lost too. (For more information, go watch the most recent series' "Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks" to see what I mean).

They're great villains and they deserve a great story. Which brings us to this one, "The Daleks' Master Plan." It's twelve episodes long (all but three of the episodes are lost), making it the longest single Doctor Who serial around (the next longest is Patrick Troughton's final serial: The War Games, which is ten episodes).

Fortunately for those who want them, this serial (as all those that are missing) has been released as an audio experience because (for whatever reason) all the audio survives and has been released.

Mavic Chen looks down on audio recordings; Zephon is confused.

The story was in Hartnell's third and "final" season (he did two serials in season four) and it's.... crazy long. I popped it on my iPod and experienced what was basically a five hour Doctor Who story, starring The Daleks as they chase The Doctor and his companions across time and space as they attempt to take over the Galaxy, starting with Earth.

So let's get to it.

(Also, as a note, because it's so long and because I experienced it in only audio, I'm going to try to just blast through it with minimal plot summary (because it's just so incredibly slow... and incredibly lengthy) and there's really only a few things I want to highlight).

Monday, March 22, 2010

Serial 57: The Claws of Axos

The Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor) Companions: Jo Grant

Written by: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Directed by: Michael Ferguson

Background and significance: With the departure of Patrick Troughton after just three seasons, Doctor Who saw yet another dramatic shift in content. For one thing, starting here the show is recorded and broadcast in color. The writers/producers also sought to reduce the show's content by trapping The Doctor on Earth. As a fallout to Troughton's final serial, "The War Games" (which I will blog about and I know when that's happening, so stay tuned...), The Time Lords force a regeneration upon Troughton's Doctor (regenerating him into Jon Pertwee, the third incarnation) and send him back to Earth, with his not-functioning TARDIS. They strip him of the complex mathematics necessary to fly the TARDIS again and place blocks on his memory (more on that later) to keep him from taking to the skies.

With no other options, The Doctor turns to UNIT and they bring him on board as their scientific advisor while he tries to fix his TARDIS. What we're left with is The Doctor stuck on Earth working for UNIT. Which is awesome (if you ask me, anyways...).

Oh. And The Master shows up.

Pertwee's second season saw the birth of a new arch-nemesis foe for The Doctor: The Master. Extremely famous, he was designed to be the Professor Moriarty to The Doctor's Sherlock Holmes. The writers brought him on with a hard push in season two, giving him a role in every serial. The Claws of Axos is the third serial of the season consisting of four episodes. By this point, The Master has appeared twice and is now considered a threat. And that's where we start.

So let's get to it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Serial 46: The Invasion

Doctor: Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor) Companions: Jamie McCrimmon, Zoe Heriot

Writer: Derrick Sherwin (based on an original idea from Kit Pedler)
Director: Douglas Camfield

Background and Significance: After William Hartnell's health forced him to abdicate the role of Doctor Who, the producers of the program (who saw what popularity the show had) sought to continue the show with a new actor playing The Doctor. A wild departure from the original, the new incarnation played by Patrick Troughton was designed as a "Cosmic Hobo" of sorts. His energy and mannerisms brought about a new life to the show in a completely different way than it had had before. The show became more action oriented, with heavy emphasis on more adventurey aspects. As such, Troughton's era saw the appearance of old favorites like Daleks and Cybermen, but also saw the creation of new alien races like The Ice Warriors and Robot Yeti.

Such is the era of Patrick Troughton. Big adventure. Big energy. Big humour. Big excitement.

Oh. And most of it's missing.

For those not in the know, the BBC had a policy in the 1960's of recycling old videotapes to save money and space, which means they wiped old episodes of Doctor Who. All of them. There has since been an effort towards extensive recovery based on lent-out screeners to foreign countries and restoration of home video recordings. This, however, has left many gaps in the original series. The hardest hit is Patrick Troughton (even though William Hartnell was also particularly affected; Hartnell's final episode doesn't even exist really at all), with all but one of the serials from Troughton's first two seasons (and he only did three) missing at least in part if not in their entirety. He has 63 episodes missing from 15 serials (out of 119 episodes and 21 serials he did in total).

The Invasion is one such story. An eight episode story, it's been reconstructed and recovered excepting two episodes (the first and the fourth). For the DVD release, the remaining two episodes were actually animated and the recovered audio was laid on top of them. Know what that's called? Badass. But more on that later.

But for now, let's talk Doctor Who!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Serial 2: The Daleks

Doctor: 1st Doctor (William Hartnell)

Companions: Susan, Barbara, and Ian

Written by Terry Nation

Directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin

Background and Significance: In 1963, Doctor Who hit The BBC as an educational children's show. It's come a long way since then, obviously, and I could go on about it more, but really that's what Wikipedia is for.

The reason I mention that here is because in their second serial, The Daleks, Doctor Who took a huge turn that no one had expected or anticipated. Some dude named Terry Nation came in and wrote this serial. Starting here, the show became this "thrilling" adventure show with aliens and action and adventure and started its evolution into the show it is today.

And really, that makes this serial important for two reasons:

1) It sets up Doctor Who as a vehicle to tell exciting sci-fi adventure stories.
2) It introduces one of The Doctor's great archenemies: The Daleks

But enough introduction. Here we start. Endless fun. It's kinda rough, but endlessly fun. The serial (collection of episodes making a story; this storytelling method holds until Doctor Who's cancellation in 1989) itself is seven episodes long (all the episodes (save a few) I'll be talking about are twenty five minutes long) and boy howdy did it not need to be. But it's still fun.There's charm and innocence coming off this in waves. It's fantastic in the way the original Star Trek is fantastic.

One more disclaimer: There is zero budget for this show. Like. There's so not. Doctor Who has always had a reputation for being a show that's made on the cheap. Even the modern stories are done on the relative cheap, but their budget is much more respectable than the budget for this. What we're watching here is an educational kids show that aired on Saturday nights. There'd be no budget anyways (look at modern American public access children's programming), but put it in the 1960's and that just makes this laughable in the most charming way.

But enough of this silliness. What happens?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An Introduction...

We all need to have an obligatory introductory post that no one will ever read ever. It's gotta be lame and completely self-indulgent as it lays out goals and talks very generally about all the stuff that I have on my brain that make this blog so completely necessary.

So let's get to it.