Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Serial 70: The Time Warrior

Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)
Companion: Sarah Jane Smith

Written by: Robert Holmes
Directed by: Alan Bromly

Background & Significance: Again, we come back to Robert Holmes for his last Pertwee story.

I know, I know. I mention him a lot. But Doctor Who, as television is, is very writer-centric. Different writers sculpt different types of stories and have different visions of what the show could be. They write slightly tweaked and different variations on particular Doctors and use unique conventions and world views to sculpt their stories.

"The Time Warrior" is a bit of a departure from the typical Pertwee story. Rather than getting some future far-off alien planet or modern-day UNIT story, we see The Doctor go into the past on Earth and solve a big giant story.

What makes this story most interesting, I think, is the insertion of Robert "The God Damn" Holmes. It's not necessarily particularly Holmesian, but his behind-the-scenes input made this story all the more important. Holmes apparently refused to do a straight historical story because he saw that as too much of the "educational" show mission statement of the Hartnell. He would only agree to it if it was the story was rooted in the deep science fiction vision he had for the show.

Luckily, the production team of Letts/Dicks agreed, and Holmes turned around a story that introduced not just fan favourite and long-time companion Sarah Jane Smith but also the occasionally recurring, B-list Doctor Who alien-villains The Sontarans.

Which is awesome. And besides being another very good and compelling story, it's another notch on the belt of contributions by the wonderful Robert Holmes. And what a hell of a delightful contribution it is.

So let's get to it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Serial 87: The Hand of Fear

Doctor: Tom Baker (4th Doctor)
Companion: Sarah Jane Smith

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

Background & Significance: Elisabeth Sladen felt it was time to move on.

After three very successful seasons on Doctor Who, Sarah Jane Smith became the thus-far longest serving companion on the show (she would later be beaten by the "wonderful" Tegan Jovanka by something like a month). With that claim to fame under her belt, she decided to take off and try her acting hand in other places.

This is her "final" story.

She would, of course, gain insane popularity as a Companion because of her role as The Doctor's companion during the show's most popular era (Hinchcliffe/Holmes) and eventually come back for a K-9 spinoff and "The Five Doctors" and then return to the show during the Tennant era's "School Reunion" only to get her own damn spinoff show "The Sarah Jane Adventures".

Which, I gotta admit, love the show or her or not, that's pretty rad.

But this, for all intents and purposes, is the end. Now, I haven't seen a whole heck of a lot from the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era yet (and believe me, we'll get there), but what I've seen is very, very strong stuff, and this, while it perhaps might not be the best of the era, is still a strong story on which Ms. Sladen gets to depart. My only problem with it is it wasn't written specifically to be her final adventure (as opposed to something like "The Green Death", which was to that story's incredible success), but she's still as good as she's ever been, if not better and she remains one of the best things in this story, which, given the era and this story's strength, is saying something.

All things considered, her departure is quite sad. In its own way, of course. I just wish it had a BIT more "Green Death" in it, cuz that ending can't not break you.

So let's get to it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Serial 64: The Time Monster

Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)Companion: Jo Grant

Written by: Robert Sloman
Directed by: Paul Bernard

Editor's Note: Hey guys! Just popping in to give another introduction to another insight from friend-of-the-blog Cassandra! I'm trying to give her the rounds... A Dalek story, every Doctor in turn, a Cybermen story, etc. This is her Master story and boy howdy did this serial turn out to be just awful. I still feel bad about it. So as a result she's got some doozy awesome coming up in the future (one of which I just know I'm going to regret giving away, but c'est la). Anyways. This is Cassandra's take on what is probably going to end up being the WORST Jon Pertwee story we'll ever see (and please don't let anything be worse than this). So... yeah. Enjoy. Next week I'll be back with... more Tom Baker. But the good stuff. The early stuff. You'll like it. Maybe. Hope to see you back here then!

Background & Significance: After co-writing "The Daemons" with Barry Letts earlier in Season Eight, Robert Sloman was then asked to develop yet another story that combined sci-fi elements with mythology in a historical setting with UNIT and the Master along for the ride (because "The Daemons" was so popular). Also to be included were elements of the Doctor's past, which ended up beautifully realized in what I consider to be one of the greatest speeches in Doctor Who history. But we'll get to that later.

But instead of blending medieval images of Satan and cult worship and sci-fi all into some awesome, Sloman chose instead to focus this time on Classical imagery and the myth of Atlantis.

What we end up with, ladies and gents, is "The Time Monster", a seriously underwhelming serial that was boring as hell, and then in the last ten minutes totally jumped the shark in such a way that left me mystified and giggling. Again, we'll get to that later.

I'll forgive Sloman, though, because he went on to write Jo Grant's departure "The Green Death" and Pertwee's swansong "Planet of the Spiders". So that's awesome.

Also interesting to note is that this serial is the second-to-last appearance of Robert Delgado as The Master, "Frontier in Space" being his final appearance before his tragic death.

Oh, and the guy who ends up wearing the Darth Vader suit in the Star Wars movies has an appearance as well.

But enough of all that. Let's take a closer look, shall we?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Serial 27: The War Machines

Doctor: William Hartnell (1st Doctor)
Companion: Dodo, Ben & Polly

Written by: Ian Stuart Black
Directed by: Michael Ferguson

Background & Significance: As William Hartnell's tenure came to a close, producer Innes Lloyd decided to scrap the idea of historical serials and decided instead to replace them with stories set on present or near-future Earth. This would save on production costs and also help emphasize the science fiction nature of the show.

"The War Machines" is inspired by an idea from Kit Pedler, the scientific advisor Lloyd brought on to the show to make the science more realistic and believable. Pedler, most famous for co-creating the Cybermen, came up with an idea for an evil computer trapped stationary in an office building, unable to escape. In order to work around this small hindrance, it would connect to the outside world via telephone and use machines to conduct business beyond the confines of its oppressive room.

So yeah. Basically he theorized the internet and then developed a proto-Skynet. Decades before James Cameron even got behind the camera to create his Terminator stories.

Wait. And it's The Doctor's job to stop this all? It's The Doctor vs. The Internet! Again!

Also, it's got the introduction of new companions Ben and Polly (who stick around for the next season and witness The Doctor's first regeneration) and also has what is easily the WORST companion departure of all time. No really. It's horrid. It made me laugh.

So let's get to it!