Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Serial 72: Death to the Daleks

Doctor: Jon Pertwee (3rd Doctor)
Companions: Sarah Jane

Written by: Terry Nation
Directed by: Michael Briant

Background & Significance: My question? What's up with the title?

Pertwee's final season is something of an odd bird. For one thing, we're long past the point where The Doctor is having proper UNIT adventures, so he's s free to swan off to wherever and whenever he wants, and he does. Which is good and he earned it and I'm happy for him... But it feels...

This story sees the return of the Daleks for the third season in a row. It's weird how The Daleks always move in waves. They appear like crazy in the Dalekmania of the first four seasons of Doctor Who and then just kinda... disappear for the rest of Troughton's run and then for the first two years of Pertwee and then appear like clockwork for four years. Although it's interesting to see how much the Daleks just become your standard, rote villains after a so many rote and unimportant or uninteresting appearances. They've just shown up too much and they've become stagnant (after just three Pertwee appearances), so it was time for The Daleks to get a massive, game-changing reboot in "Genesis of the Daleks", but I suppose that's another discussion.

It also sees the return of Terry Nation for Doctor Who. Nation, of course, gets first crack at writing any Dalek story because... god knows creative rights (which I'm all for, I just wish Nation was a better writer), but... man. Terry Nation. But I'll save the rest of that thought for commentary.

As a final point before we dive head long into the bulk of the discussion, it was around this time that Pertwee was starting to really become disillusioned with the programme, bored and ready to move on and all that. Of course this disillusionment/boredom happens with a Dalek story. I mean, Pertwee never exactly kept it secret that he totally never ever did have a thing for the fan-favourite pepper potts.

But with the slow weaning off of Pertwee we get the prominence of Robert Holmes, who you can almost feel conducting the background of the first episode at the very least. And... well... you know me. I loves me some Robert Holmes.

So let's get to it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Serial 23: The Ark

Doctor: William Hartnell (1st Doctor)
Companions: Steven, Dodo

Written by: Paul Erickson & Lesley Scott

Directed by: Michael Imerson

Editor's Note: Hey, kids! Matt here! Introducing Cassandra's discussion of "The Ark", which is awesome because it's a totally rad discussion and story. I'll be back next week with more talk, this time about Daleks and Pertwee! Whoo! But for now, Cassandra!

Background & Significance:
People generally have good things to say about "The Ark" and, as we'll find out soon, not without good reason.

This story comes at the end of the short-lived tenure of producer John Wiles, who actually resigned from the show before this story went into production, but he still gets credit for it, which is cool. He's no Verity Lambert, but if this serial is any indication of his vision of the show, I dig it.

It's also a unique one because this story is the only contribution to the show that both the writers and the director make, which is pretty fascinating to me and a total shame because I think this was pretty well-written and excellently directed. The director, Michael Imerson, apparently overspent way a lot (and it shows, I love the production design, it's so greatness. And live animals! Unheard of.), and he was the first to break the tradition of filming scenes in episode order (not as they appear during transmission, but to which episodes the scenes belonged), which was the first tiny step in changing the way Doctor Who was made.

This is also Dodo's first full adventure as companion, having been introduced briefly at the end of the previous story, "The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve."

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Serial 128: The King's Demons

Doctor: Peter Davison (5th Doctor)
Companions: Tegan, Turlough, Kamelion

Writtten by: Terence Dudley

Directed by: Tony Virgo

Background & Significance:
Now here's an odd one.

"The King's Demons" is one of the few two parters in Classic Who history, and it's something of a strange thing as a result. For one thing, these two parters are usually a bit of diversionary fun, but often structured strangely.

For one thing, they usually build like the first part of a four parter and then resolve and deal with complications rather quickly. In fact, there's rarely actually any sort of complication to them. They just sorta happen. Like I said, diversionary.

Terence Dudley, if you'll remember, is the fellow who did the script to "Black Orchid", which was also a two-parter. That, like this, was a bit of diversionary fun, something to intermissioncise the season between two stories--whatever was coming up supposedly being major or whatever. In this case, the plan was for "The King's Demons" to fall between the "massive" Black Guardian Trilogy and Eric Saward's revival of The Daleks in what was supposed to be called "The Return" but which turned into "Resurrection of the Daleks" a season later when it was postponed from this season (season 20) due to a labour strike (which was becoming far too common, if you ask me).

So it only makes sense that "The King's Demons" come here. I mean, The Daleks were about to come back. And now we're going to give The Doctor a cool, new, in-no-way-like-C-3PO robot companion with which he can use to fight The Daleks? Awesome. I approve.

Oh if only it were that simple.

So yes, this is the beginning of the Kamelion disaster, Kamelion being a robot so awesome he only made one other appearance in the life of the show. And rightfully so, because he totally was a botched attempt and not wonderfully realized or given that real chance to shine or whatever, but I'm sure I can talk about that as I go through it or something. Especially in part two.

Also fun to point out: it's Season 20! So we get the return of a villain. Last time we talked about this season, we talked about Omega (which was a genius callback, kids; seriously genius), but now we're at the tail end of the season and we get... Oh. We get The Master, again.

You can feel the wear and tear on the show. Producer Jonathan Nathan Turner's original plan to include The Master at least two times a season was quickly sidelined in favour of other stories that were, quite frankly, better. Also, the last time The Master showed up it was so super sucky that it makes you want to put a gun in your mouth. This is another almost famously infamous Master-is-totally useless story. Which is weird because if they had just gone straight pseudo-historical with this or maybe had the Monk (there's an idea, Captain Jonathan "Callback" Nathan-Turner) or something this would turn out a bit more interesting, but... alas, I suppose.

So let's get to it!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Serial 35: The Faceless Ones

Doctor: Patrick Troughton (2nd Doctor)
Companion: Jamie, Ben & Polly

Written by: David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke

Directed by: Gerry Mill

Background & Significance:
It's basically Troughton's "Time-Flight"?

Straight off, it should be noted that "The Faceless Ones" continues the trend of badass Troughton titles. See, I'm a huge fan of titles in general, and different eras have different feels of titles and such. The Davison titles, for instance, have a grand feeling of mysterious/ominous adventures, be that for good or ill. Troughton's stories always feel like straight up sci-fi adventures that just feel really classic and pulpy such as "Tomb of the Cybermen", "The Moonbase", "The Mind Robber", "The Ice Warriors", and "Fury From the Deep". "The Faceless Ones" is no exception and it gives a clear cut answer as to what is the big worry of the story.

Hint: It's whatever "The Faceless Ones" are.

But even beyond the title, I suppose "The Faceless Ones" is........ a story? It's the first story written (co-written really) by the quite good Malcolm Hulke and it's the final story featuring Ben and Polly (although that's a really weird thing as I'm sure I'll make fun of as we go through it), so it's got some significance and all, but... man. I couldn't tell you the good or the strong things about this story, not after the first episode or two anyways. The story itself is about airplanes disappearing and is quite clever in a lot of respects, but....

Actually, I will say that producer Innes Lloyd broke some rules here and did a six part story after doing an entire season's worth (nine stories minus one) of four-part stories.

Ah, the trap of the six part story. How it fails you, I think. It's an easy and enticing proposition, but man does it screw you in the end because holy crap this doesn't need to be six parts. No way. Make this four and tight and it might be watchable, but me? Yikes. I'm hoping I don't lose interest partway through part three. Cuz this might be a long ass blog. Ugh.

So let's get to it!