Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Serial 93: The Invisible Enemy

Doctor: Tom Baker (4th Doctor)
Companion: Leela, K-9

Written by: Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Directed by: Derrick Goodwin

Background & Significance: So once again we have a team up by writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who have been mostly underwhelming in my eyes with a view gems of greatness sprinkled in here and there.

"The Invisible Enemy" is firmly rooted in mediocre Doctor Who, perhaps elevated again by the script editing of Robert Holmes (as we'll see as well in the next few weeks) but also lowered by the newly arrived takeover by Graham Williams as producer.

More than anything, it's here that you can see the first influx of Williams's influence. It's rather silly and much more focused on the fantasy and silly elements of Doctor Who than it is with the hard scifi or horror of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era. That said, the continued presence of Robert Holmes helps the proceedings, and certain elements of the horror of the monster or even the scientific elements are much more Holmesian than Williams. But more than anything, this just reinforces the idea that the next story, "Image of the Fendahl" was an anomalous hurrah than it was final last hurrah. That goes to another story we'll be talking about in a couple of months.

That's not to say it doesn't have good ideas. We get some interesting conceptual story ideas (that ultimately don't really matter) and the introduction of K-9. So that's.... that's good. I guess. Go that.

We also start to see the influx of what we'll start to call "Drunk Tom Baker", but I'll go into that more as we start to see it. Again, I blame Graham Williams.

So let's get to it!


Part 1:

We open in deep space and a ship that looks like a school bus flying among lots and lots of asteroids. On board are three astronauts, one flying and two sleeping. The guy who’s flying the ship isn’t supposed to be flying it. And he does something or another and then there’s some turbulence… so… he sucks at flying?

The Captain (I guess he’s the captain) kicks him out of the chair and starts flying himself. But then the ship flies into something anyways and it looks all bad and stuff.

I’m gonna be honest with you, this whole thing is mad boring and stupid. I don’t give a crap about this and we’ve been on it for a while. I know you have to set up your story, but come on.

The Captain asks the computer what’s been going on, but all it says is “Contact has been made”. Oh no. Ominous.

Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, The Doctor and Leela finish moving everything out of the UBER BAD ASS GOTHIC control room and back into the boring old white control room. Why? No real reason. God knows we should get rid of everything from the awesomeness of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes era.

The Doctor explains that they’ve materialized in the middle of the solar system in the 51st Century, amidst all the human expansion of the time, when everyone took to the stars. Most exciting.

Meanwhile, the school bus spaceship lands on the moon of Titan, at the aptly named Titan Base. AND THEIR LANDING TAKES FOREVER. But that’s okay, because the crew put on space suits and disembark, making sure to arm themselves before they go.

They head to the mess hall and are greeted by the outgoing crew, who are throwing a going away party for themselves. Turns out, they’re being replaced by this new crew and there will be much rejoicing.

Apparently, though, the new crew have different plans, and they pull guns on the old crew and blast them all away (which makes no sense, but I’ll talk about that later).

One of the astronauts flips up his visor and suddenly we understand that he is evil because his face is all moldy (or is his face moldy because he is evil?).

He points out that there is one more person on the base, the station supervisor. Once they eliminate him, this will be the ideal place for them to breed and multiply.

Ummmmmm… Hate to point this out to you guys, but uh… Aren’t you a bunch of dudes? You can’t really… Oh whatever. Moving on.

The supervisor is searching for his crew but views them dead in the mess on one of his cameras. He starts panicking and demanding to know what’s going on. He talks to one of the astronauts, but the moldy astronaut doesn’t understand a damn thing he’s talking about.

The supervisor presses the awesome subtle button and grabs a spacesuit and ducks into an emergency pod. The three crew members manage to break into his control room, but decide to leave him. He can’t do any harm in there.

The Doctor starts to pick up the distress call from Titan Base (get it? The distress button sent out generic distress call?) and, en route to the rescue, one of the astronauts calls in and says the distress call was just a false alarm.

Leela isn’t so sure though. She recognizes the voice on the call as “nonhuman”.

The Doctor manages to get the TARDIS stuck in that energy whatever and part of the Tardis panel sparks and a glow forms around The Doctor. He says that everything’s fine but Leela is far from convinced. She’s positive something’s wrong.

And while he’s looking at the TARDIS console, some of this electric brain stuff seems to shoot out of the console and peg him right in the eye. He hears the words “Contact has been made” and then the world goes spinny and he collapses.

On Titan Base, the three moldy astronauts receive word that contact has been made and the nucleus has a home. They should prepare for whatever’s imminent arrival. Speak of the devil, the TARDIS lands in the base.

Leela looks at the TARDIS and gets zapped by whatever it is that zapped The Doctor, but she shrugs it off. She urges The Doctor to wake up lest bad things happen. What she doesn’t know is outside the TARDIS are the three astronauts, and they say that whatever it is that’s going on has rejected Leela. They’ll need to dispose of her.

The Doctor comes to and seems a bit stranger and loopier than normal. He prepares to head out into the base, but walks into the TARDIS doors (which I’ll admit is funny). Leela continues to warn him not to go out and she closes the TARDIS doors.

Meanwhile, the supervisor gets out of the pod and goes out looking for the moldy astronauts. He finds them by the TARDIS and fires, taking one of them out and running away.

They chase him down and find him locked in another room. They start to flush him out by venting the oxygen.

The Doctor and Leela finally leave the TARDIS and they find the body of the just-fallen moldy astronaut. He tells Leela to stay put, but she proclaims she’s not afraid and sneaks away. So now they’re separated. Great.

And this brings us to our first youtube. It’s good because it still retains the horror feel of Hinchcliffe/Holmes, although it is a bit silly. I also think that it’s one of those bits where I really think Tom Baker does a good job in places.

Also, Leela kills a guy with a knife. Which is always awesome.

Part 2:

The voice starts to chant things like “Kill the reject” into The Doctor’s brain, urging him to shoot Leela in the back. He manages to say her name, warning her to turn around and duck just in time to dodge the shots The Doctor fires at the wall.

The Doctor collapses to the ground and the grossness on his hand starts to dissipate. He hurriedly explains that whatever’s attacking him attacks intelligence and he needs to retreat into himself for a while in order to conserve his strength and fight this thing.

The supervisor, now possessed by the evil mold, starts to give orders to the remaining moldy astronaut. He tells him to wait here while he guards the reject, as Leela and The Doctor do not suspect him.

Leela arrives and they fake the remaining moldy astronaut’s death. The supervisor puts on ridiculous goggles to hide his moldy face as he plays the part of innocent victim. Leela brings him to The Doctor and he receives word from the voice, which says “You must protect the Host.”

Yeah. We know that already. Why are you telling us things we already know?

The supervisor recommends the “nearby” center for alien biomorphology which is in the asteroid belt. I would like to point out that Titan is a moon in orbit around the planet Saturn, which is… a ways away from the asteroid belt.

They land in the center and The Doctor is taken into somewhere for examination. Leela starts to fill out a “funny” questionnaire with one of the people at the front desk. She asks to go see The Doctor, but everyone refuses because of the isolation. At some point, the moldy supervisor shows up in a panic because he doesn’t know where The Doctor’s got to.

Look, dude. You have ONE job to do. Follow The Doctor and protect him. Clearly, you can’t even follow him out of the TARDIS and after his stretcher. Some failure you are.

We cut to the laboratory of Professor Marius (who is totally a humourous old hipster German Doctor and has a small robot dog named K9) who doesn’t understand the Doctor’s physiology. Lucky for him, he has K9, who manages to scan The Doctor and tell Marius that The Doctor is not human.

And then K9 goes on to share that The Doctor has been afflicted with some kind of viral infection. Thank God K9’s here to info dump on us and tell us everything we need to know in a timely manner.

The Doctor wakes up and starts introducing himself and then we get a whole lot of exposition about how the virus thrives on mental activity. The more you think, the more it takes over. And it jumped into the TARDIS and then into The Doctor and it doesn’t affect Leela because she’s all instinct, no thought. Blah blah blah.

The Doctor passes out again and K9 informs everyone that the supervisor, who was last known to be unaffected, is in the optical department getting an eye exam. Marinus and his assistants head there, telling K9 to watch after The Doctor.

Little do they know the supervisor’s starting to infect everyone he comes into contact with.

Leela manages to track down The Doctor and gets yelled at by K9. There’s a standoff, but Professor Marius manages to talk K9 off the ledge and make him recognize Leela as a friend. And then we get some exposition on K9 and how Marius built him because he was lonely. La la la.

In the lab, Marius starts to operate on The Doctor to figure out what’s going on with the virus. And he does so with NO anesthesia. FOR NO REASON. And then he’s called out, because…

That one shuttle on Titan SOMEHOW MANAGED TO MAKE IT FROM THERE TO HERE IN THE SPAN OF ABOUT AN HOUR and kamikazes into the asteroid. It causes destruction throughout the base and cuts off the laboratory level from the rest of the base.

The Doctor wakes up and starts to ask K-9 about cloning techniques and how advanced this society is with the cloning. Among other things, he finds out it’s possible, but the most a clone will last is just under eleven minutes.

Firefights between Leela and all the infected moldy people break out in the corridors. Marius and his assistants return to find The Doctor begging Marius to clone him.

Leela falls back into the laboratory, unable to hold them off any longer. Lucky for them, Professor Marius has K9 on hand to do anything they need him to do, which, in this case, involves shooting anyone who comes near the door.

The Doctor orders Leela be a part of the cloning process and Marius takes tissue samples from Leela and then sends her back out to continue fighting. All this while the mold slowly starts to overtake The Doctor’s face and he descends into a trance.

The clones generate themselves and the clone of The Doctor steps out of the generation chamber and leaves without much of a word to anyone. He even walks past Leela without acknowledging her existence and locks the clone Leela in the chamber without any sort of explanation.

He heads into the TARDIS and removes a large component as the moldy supervisor calls the laboratory and demands they turn over The Doctor. They claim to have taken over the whole station and if Marius does not comply they will destroy it all.

… Which explains how the Clone Doctor was able to walk all the way to his TARDIS and back without running into any resistance?

The Clone Doctor returns with the dimensional stabilizer and starts to explain what’s going on. Also, they made a HUGE point to point out that a clone can only last for eleven minutes. The Clone Doctor has been gone for at least six at this point.

Whatever. Not important! Let’s do a youtube. Of the end of the episode. Because, why not? I think Tom Baker does a good job, and the part where he slams the door in Leela’s face makes me chuckle. I’d say more about it, but the plan’s rather whatever and I kinda don’t care enough. It speaks for itself.

Part 3:

So the clone versions of The Doctor and Leela (hereafter called The Doctor and Leela) wind up in The Doctor’s body. It’s also made tremendously silly because of normal activities like passing thoughts flitting through The Doctor’s head.

Professor Marius receives a call from the Moldy Supervisor, who tells him that they’re coming up to fetch The Doctor and to be ready. Once he leaves, Marius calls for Leela to be prepared to fight off the invaders as they come.

She heads off to prepare for war with K9, blocking off passageways and forcing the moldy to bottleneck their assaults through specific entry points. All of this is to buy Clone Doctor ten minutes inside real Doctor’s head.

Okay, what? Clone Doctor ain’t going to last ten minutes. How long has he been alive already? Six minutes? He has ten maximum, and he was created about ten minutes ago. Maybe a bit less, but there was that whole part where he grabbed the dimensional stabilizer and did that. That’s part of the ten minutes.

And normally I’m not a nitpicker on the science of things, but look. The writers spent the entire last episode establishing certain rules based around a mythology they just created and then blatantly violate those rules in the next story. That’s really bad. If nothing else, say that clones can last twenty minutes. Your audience won’t slam you for that. Honestly, they won’t, because YOU ARE MAKING UP YOUR OWN MYTHOLOGY. DON’T VIOLATE YOUR OWN RULES.

What I’m saying is have some god damn self-respect for what you’re writing. Ugh. Whatever. Moving on.

Anyways, we cut back into The Doctor’s brain, where Leela and The Doctor are running around trying to find whatever it is they’re finding. Little do they know, they’re being traced by anti-bodies. Which are hilarious. We’ll see them in a moment.

K9 meets up with Leela, who says they need a barrier to help provide cover against the intruders. So K9’s going to shoot down one of the columns. Any guess which one?

Hint. It’s this one.

No sooner has he shot down a column then the moldy show up and a firefight erupts in the corridor. (Fun fact; It’s always funny to watch people shoot laser guns when the effects are added in later). Leela starts retreating, covering the back while K9 holds point.

In The Doctor’s head, Leela points out one of the something or anothers of The Doctor’s brain, and then The Doctor slams her with a “that is why my brain is superior to yours.”

And, okay, come on now. But really? Did he really just say that? I mean, I guess he did. But my god. Really? What a HUGE slam and slap across the face. And really, this is just Tom Baker’s distaste for Leela kicking in. It also happens to coincide with Graham Williams’ takeover of the show and the letting go of the leash of Tom Baker. Which results in him being mean and vindictive and quick to anger while also being flighty and short on the attention span. In another word: drunk. It’s a running joke I have that Tom Baker was drunk in the back half of the run on Doctor Who, and this is… one of those times. So when I reference that, that’s what I mean.

Whatever, anyways, amidst The Doctor (drunk Tom Baker) talking about how awesome his brain is, they’re attacked by antibodies. Which are totally not hilarious. He manages to save her by making a connection in his brain and scaring them off.

In the midst of the corridor fight, one of the moldy manages to get close enough to infect K9 with the virus (Oh no! Now who will tell us all the things we need to know?!) and the moldy send K9 on a mission to kill Leela. She ducks his laser blast and feigns death while K9 bumps into a wall and triggers a reboot, thinking he’s killed real Leela.

Clone Leela receives a shock from her actual counterpart being all whatevered. (So they’re connected even though they’re clones? This makes no sense). Doesn’t matter, though. They just keep moving and trekking and walking. It’s dread boring.

Professor Marius says they have five minutes left (bullshit) just as the platoon of the moldy break into the laboratory, seizing it. They infect Professor Marius, who warns them about the clone’s plans. The moldy supervisor starts to freak out (nevermind that he super failed already…) and shrinks himself down to be injected into The Doctor’s head.

So now the chase is on? I fail to care…

Leela feels them approaching the evil thing and runs off (that’s not cowardly at all). The Doctor moves in alone, encountering the blobby grossness that identifies itself as “The Nucleus of The Swarm”.

They have a really boring discussion about existence and providing exposition about how it’s a virus and it’s been waiting and blah blah blah boring boring.

What’s not boring? The part where Clone Leela sneaks up on the mini-moldy supervisor and attempts to stab him, but he shoots her and then she stabs him and they both die. Sob. Nevermind, he was evil and she’s a clone. They deserved to die. No sob.

And then the dying supervisor gets nommed by antibodies and it’s hilarious/awesome.

Anyways. The Doctor and the Nucleus continue their conversation. There’s threats back and forth. Leela staggers in (I thought she was dead, guess not?) and hands The Doctor a gun (that’s right, a gun) and The Doctor FIRES THE GUN AT THE NUCLEUS.

In his defense. Not the most heinous Doctor-fires-gun sequence in this season. More on that when it happens (and oh what a discussion that will be).

So he fires and then the clones die (really? That’s what does them in?) and then his voice echoes back the reminder that he’d exit via the tear duct. Ho hum.

Professor Marius scoops something out of The Doctor’s tear duct and places it in the growing chamber and grows it. Turns out, he scooped out the nucleus. Which is now free. AND REALLY GOD DAMN GROSS LOOKING.

Part 4:

Somehow, now that the nucleus has been removed, The Doctor reverts to his original, uninfected self because god knows he can’t be infected if he has to save the day. So quick fix. He’s not infected anymore.

He wakes up to find Professor Marius has been taken over and shares some words with the REALLY GROSS LOOKING NUCLEUS who can’t walk around if he’s not supported by two wordless actors. The Nucleus starts talking crazy and saying how it’s going to infect everyone now and la dee da whoop dee doo.

It demands to be taken back to Titan, where it will spread and herald the new age.

Meanwhile, Leela (who was not dead) and K9 (who purged the infection because he can do anything) are hanging out in the lobby. Leela’s put on one of those deliciously sexy green rubber suits and done makeup on her face so she looks moldy.

She intercepts the traveling party with the nucleus and takes over pushing The Doctor’s gurney (why do they still need The Doctor again?) from the moldy supervisor (guess the one in The Doctor’s head was a clone?) and Moldy Professor Marius. She holds back and cuts him free.

They sneak past the Nucleus Guard in the lobby and duck into the TARDIS amidst fire from the moldies. Also, at some point, K9 randomly joins them in the TARDIS for whatever reason.

The Nucleus orders Professor Marius to stay behind and keep watch to make sure The Doctor doesn’t escape. They shan’t need him. (THEN WHY DIDN’T YOU KILL HIM? WHY DID YOU NEED TO BRING HIM ON THE GURNEY? HE WAS STRAPPED DOWN!)

Which he can’t because the dimensional stabilizer is still in the lab. The Doctor orders K9 out into the lobby to stun Professor Marius, which K9 does. Yay.

The ship takes off and heads back to Titan while The Doctor and Leela attempt to devise an antidote. The Doctor deduces that the antidote must be the common link from when clone Leela was vaporized and absorbed into his bloodstream (ew). He then works to figure out a way to isolate that, replicate it, and mass produce it to generate a cure for everyone.

And after a while it works. Long enough for the ship to fly from the asteroid belt to Titan, which is in orbit around Saturn (which is… how far away? This must take so long!). And really all we get out of this five minutes of footage is The Nucleus telling everyone to go faster and faster. Kind of a waste.

The Doctor manages to cure Professor Marius and get him to synthesize the antidote while they race to Titan to stop the Nucleus.

And like, this is my problem with Baker/Martin stories. Things just happen. There’s really no investment in it from a character standpoint. These things just go on and happen and the plot plot plot drives the story story story and lack of synthesis means things just happen in an order and I really don’t care.

Oh and remember that part where I said they left? They didn’t. They’re still just overseeing the development of the antidote cuz they want it for their plan against the Nucleus. So they watch it happen and then, when they have a batch, hop in the TARDIS and race back to Titan, taking K9 with them.

Also, they’re worried about The Doctor arriving in time and ummmm… Do they not know that The Doctor’s TARDIS travels MUCH faster than the ship to Titan AND it can travel through time? I think that’s called false stakes right there.

The moldy ones bring the Nucleus to its incubation chamber (and two folk still have to hilariously walk it everywhere, like an unable-to-walk child) and lock it inside. The moldy supervisor places guards around the chamber and they wait for the plan to take effect, eggs in some chamber in the compound starting to fester and grow.

In the control room, one of the moldy watches the eggs and then leaves at the sound of the TARDIS’s arrival (what?) and The Doctor, Leela, and K9 disembark.

And this leads us to our final youtube, which is the big epic run and gun of the endgame of the episode. Sorta. Mostly it’s a lot of problematic stuff that doesn’t exactly make a terrible lot of sense. Things just kinda happen. But ah well. That’s standard Baker/Martin for you.

Also, apparently these guns fire radiation? WHOSE IDEA WAS THAT? THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA FOR GUN!

So after that whateverness they return to the asteroid to return K9 to Professor Marius. Unfortunately(?) Professor Marius has to return to Earth, a place where no robots are allowed. He asks that they keep K9 so he knows K9 is in safe hands.

And then they all fly off and Professor Marius makes a stupid joke about hoping K9 is TARDIS trained. Ha ha. Look how funny that is. Good god. Really? Ugh.

Final Thoughts!: If nothing else, "The Invisible Enemy" is a mediocre story told in a mediocre way and with points of brightness that don't even come close to masking the insane mediocrity that is most things.

Really, the things that shine in this episode are Tom Baker and Louise Jameson. This is definitely just before Tom Baker jumps the shark and starts parodying his Doctor, but if you look closely you can see parts of that starting to shine through into what we've called (and will call "Drunk Tom Baker"). Leela is pretty solid, and it's a good introduction of K9, even though K9 is, in this, a huge deus ex machina.

Unfortunately, you can start to see the budget cuts on the show spring up in this. The effects are cheap, The Doctor's head looks awful, the sets look sparse and not very rich, and The Nucleus is so disgustingly laughable it makes me want to... well... laugh.

More than anything, this story just reinforces my apathy with Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Sure, it has some cool ideas (giant virus that feeds on intellect, taking out The Doctor halfway through episode one, going into The Doctor's head (but even that's pushing it) etc.), but more than anything it just falls flat and I really fail to care about it in most respects.

Their scripts are just poorly executed. That's not a slam against the production team, they're about as good as they always are here. What I mean is a lack of cohesion within their scripts. A lot of the action just happening because it needs to happen. The stakes are always quite strange and... I'm sorry, but I'm still not over the fact that a lot of their science just doesn't make sense. I mean, I'm all for designing and creating your own science. But don't VIOLATE that after you spend so much time building it up.

Ah well. Maybe they'll do a good job next time. (And they will).

Next Time!: 3rd Doctor! Drashigs! Fancy people in the 20s on a boat! Blue-gray-people Politics! And more awesome than you can handle! Next week Cassandra takes a look at "The Carnival of Monsters!"

1 comment:

  1. The Nucleus is very funny when it materialises full grown as a big prawn!