Doctor Who – The Five Doctors Review (‘A Fitting Tribute To Celebrate A Show That Deserves Recognition’)

April 18, 2013

Growing up in the 1980s and 90s, people owned far less media, whether it be games, TV shows or movies and had far less choice in terms of what they could watch and how they could watch it. I wrote a pretty extensive article on this back in 2011 and you can read it here.

How this ties in with this review is that there’s probably nothing I’ve seen more times than The Five Doctors.

With less videos at my disposal and fewer options in terms of media in general, I would revisit this Doctor Who story time and time again as a child.

And why wouldn’t I? It’s brilliant.

Indeed, beyond the fact that I’ve seen it more than anything else, it’s probably the single item I have owned the most too. What do I mean by that? Well I had the original VHS, the 1990 re-release (in part because the original one ended up with a twist in the tape at the point where they open up the box containing the Black Scrolls of Rassilon, but I’d probably have bought it again anyway), the 1995 VHS special edition that came with The King’s Demons, the 1999 DVD release and finally the 25th Anniversary DVD edition from 2008. And the chances are I’d probably buy it again if it was released on Blu Ray.

I just find that it’s a wonderful piece of television that celebrates my favourite show in a way that does it absolute justice.

As such, you can probably guess that this will be a rare complimentary review for this era of the show.

Doctor Who – The Five Doctors Review: What’s This One About?

It’s the 20th Anniversary story and all the Doctors are back. Well, almost.

It’s got one Dalek, loads of Cybermen, a Yeti, The Master, Gallifrey and a host of old companions.

A nostalgic dream.

But what’s the story about? Well it almost doesn’t matter, but The Doctor and his former selves have been brought to the Death Zone in Gallifrey by a newly villainous Borusa, who wants them to make their way to the Tomb of Rassilon so he can

It would have been nice if the Doctors got more screen time together

It would have been nice if the Doctors got more screen time together

join them there and accept Rassilon’s gift of Immortality.

Thoughts – The Story

I almost don’t know where to start.

The Five Doctors is – as I say – all about nostalgia and celebration. The idea was to find a way to bring together all the Doctors and as many companions as possible and they achieve it.

With so many pieces on the board – literally in this case – you’re never going to get the most amazing plot so in that regard the Five Doctors is thin on the ground. I mean, all it is for the most part is each of the Doctors making their way to the Dark Tower and then coming together to defeat Borusa.

And yet because there’s so much going on in terms of the characters and because it retains that level of simplicity it works so well.

You couldn’t imagine the plot working without all the other Doctors because it simply isn’t designed to, and credit must go to Terrance Dicks for that.

He says he was given the job at fairly short notice (and has a great anecdote on the DVD about how Eric Saward phoned him up at a ridiculous time in the morning while in America to ask him to take the job) and is quite self depreciating about the whole thing.

But he shouldn’t be, because it’s one of the most watchable and fun Doctor Who stories ever written. Yes, there are loads of issues you could question, and I’ll get to them in due course, but I would still say it’s a huge success. And it makes you wonder why – in the face of seeing so many crap stories broadcast over the last three years – JNT and Saward didn’t just go back to a reliable writer like him and ask for more.

It just seems bizarre that they could trust him with such an important story, but not want him to write the regular ones.

The Characters

More than any other Doctor Who story I can think of, this is about the characters, the way they are written and the performances of the actors in question.

Here’s my take on how the major players did.

The Fifth Doctor: I enjoy the writing of the Fifth Doctor in the Five Doctors. In comparison to the others, he’s the calmest and possibly the friendliest. Many Davison stories have him acting with a sort of innocence with a child like frantic

I prefer the original Black Triangle Time Scoop to the remastered version. Sometimes less is more.

I prefer the original Black Triangle Time Scoop to the remastered version. Sometimes less is more.

nature, but I find that by this point, he’s grown into the part to be more assured and comfortable. In the face of so many of his predecessors being involved, Peter Davison’s Doctor is written, performed and comes across as the lead. And that’s how it should be. Whether it was written for him or not, the best part of Davison’s performance for me is that while it’s not really written into the script and while Troughton and Pertwee ignore it completely, he acknowledges the fact that Susan is The Doctor’s granddaughter, not The First Doctor’s granddaughter. There’s just something understatedly brilliant in the look of fondness on Peter Davison’s face when he sees her for the first time in what must be – in the Doctor’s own life span – at least a hundred years.

The Third Doctor: I find the writing of the Third Doctor to be quite interesting because in the main he comes across as an aggressive prick. That’s not a bad thing, because if you watch the outtakes and listen to what people have to say about the filming of the story, that does kind of suit Jon Pertwee. And while that’s what The Third Doctor was like, it does come across slightly more like it’s Jon Pertwee playing Jon Pertwee rather than playing the Doctor. He’s got some brilliant lines in it, most notably his “What kept me?!?! Of all the confounded arrogance” retort to the First Doctor on arrival in the Tomb. I also think his introductory scene where he gets picked up by the Time Scoop is epic. It’s straight to the point; he’s driving along, sees the Black Triangle coming after him and he goes straight into “Action Doctor” mode. Other highlights include his bullying of The Master, the way he was the one written to go in through the roof, the way he had to get a kick in when the Brigadier knocked the Master out and – and this is a level of attention to detail that I love – the way he was paired against the Cybermen, since it never happened when he was the lead.

The Second Doctor: Much like in The Three Doctors, Patrick Troughton plays the part of “The Second Doctor” rather than playing the part the way he did when he was the lead. To a man and woman, everyone watches the Five Doctors and thinks Patrick Troughton steals the show, and to an extent, they are right. His performance was one of the most praised in the newspapers after it was first broadcast too. As I’ve said, I’ve watched The Five Doctors so many times – especially as a child – and before I’d seen even two of his stories, I’d made the decision that he was my favourite. There’s just so much to his performance, from his facial expressions, his boyish nature, his interaction with the Brigadier and pretty much everyone else, the way he pushes his other selves away so he can look at the stone symbols and the way he doesn’t see trouble where everyone else does. It’s just superb.

The First Doctor: I think the most underrated performance of the lot though is Richard Hurndall as the First Doctor. Here’s a guy who has never been in Doctor Who before and he’s charged with doing justice to the show’s original lead. To some degree, Hurndall doesn’t look like or play the role like William Hartnell at all, but he manages to make it both authentic to the past and put his own stamp on it as if he himself had always been a major part of Doctor Who. A stranger to the programme, he holds his own better than I think anyone could have dared to hope. As to the character, I think it’s written pretty damn well. When you think about it, it doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense that the youngest version of the Doctor is the wisest of them all, and yet it also does. The same thing happened in the Three Doctors, but because of Hartnell’s limitations it wasn’t really explored that much. Here, despite Peter Davison being the lead, it’s the First Doctor who saves the day. He’s the wisest and the most respected of the lot. In terms of great lines, Hurndall’s best are against Janet Fielding. His “Kindly refrain from addressing me as Doc” and his delivery and expression when he says “Oh, if you must. Thank you my dear” are both superb.

The Fourth Doctor: He doesn’t appear much, but could it be that that was for the best? The Five Doctors is so loaded with characters that there’s not a moment’s rest as it is. Would adding another Doctor into the mix have spoiled it? Possibly. And with the word on the street being that had he been in it, he’d have been written as the lead, I suspect what we got did more justice to the show as it was at the time. What saves it is that there were scenes from Shada available to be used, so his lack of involvement is – to some degree – hidden.

William Hartnell: The “One Day, I Shall Come Back” scene is a perfect fit and a suitable tribute to start the show off with. Well done to whoever chose that.

The Master: I imagine it won’t come as a surprise considering Terrance Dicks was the script editor during the Pertwee years, but this is by far and away, and let me stress that again, by far and away the best the Master has been written and therefore performed since Roger Delgado’s final appearance in the Frontier in Space. What other writers just didn’t get was that The Master isn’t supposed to be a one dimensional boo-hiss villain, but rather a sort yang to the Doctor’s ying. He’s the bad guy, but to sustain a level of likeability and endurance as a character, he has to have a sympathetic side to him. Here, the Master really is trying to help the Doctors and yet none of them believe him. The Third Doctor steals the Seal from him and the Fifth Doctor leaves him to the mercy of the Cybermen, so you do end up feeling sorry for him, and empathise with him when he ends up ranting at them all saying that he was actually trying to help but that they can swivel. It’s

There's just no way that The Third Doctor and Sarah would get across to the Dark Tower with the zip line drooping in the middle like that

There’s just no way that The Third Doctor and Sarah would get across to the Dark Tower with the zip line drooping in the middle like that

Anthony Ainley’s best performance, and it’s one that you really believe that Roger Delgado would thrive in.

The Companions: Nothing much to say about the companions here other than that they all do a good job. Really, they are just there to give each of their associated Doctors someone to speak to, and the fact that they end up frozen at the end is just a convenient way to ensure they don’t play a part in what was really a scene just for the Doctors. I think it’s fair to say that the brief cameos of Mike, Liz, Jamie and Zoe are filler, and in the case of the latter two, only serve to raise a few questions about how it all makes sense. Also, it’s a little unfortunate, but in amongst everyone having so many lines, Turlough is left out a bit.

The Monsters: Well the Dalek was in because it couldn’t be a 20th Anniversary without one, The Cybermen serve little purpose other than to be killed off and the Yeti wasn’t used nearly well enough, what with the poor lighting and odd direction. These are all classic Doctor Who monsters and yet they all get completely overshadowed by a character that everyone I know loves in the same way as the love Boba Fett from Star Wars- because he’s a badass. Obviously I’m talking about the Raston Warrior Robot. It looks great, it’s a tremendous idea, the way it moves is fresh and original and it’s just as hard as nails. The way it destroys that group of Cybermen is awesome by Doctor Who standards. They didn’t know what hit them, and one of them even threw up! Bring back the Raston Warrior Robot!

The Things That Don’t Make Sense

Ok, there are plenty of little niggles with the Five Doctors. Ultimately we can forgive them, but it’s worth asking the following questions…

  • At what point is the Second Doctor supposed to be from if he remembers what happened to Jamie & Zoe at the end of the War Games? Season 6B Conspiracy Theorists, this is your meat and drink!
  • At what point is the Brigadier supposed to be from considering he looks older than the younger version of Mawdryn Undead and younger than the older version? He knows Tegan, but that doesn’t necessarily answer the question either.
  • What has Pi got to do with crossing that electrified floor, and if it’s so hazardous to get across, how come the Master knows at least three ways to get over and the First Doctor’s strategy was just to walk straight across?
  • How did the Cybermen not see the First Doctor and Tegan before they hid?
  • Why didn’t the Fifth Doctor say to the Master “Christ, I only saw you yesterday” when their paths crossed?
  • Why does Borusa feel the need to change into black clothing when wants to act villainous?
  • Why didn’t the Castellan regenerate?
  • How come Borusa has regenerated again?! And how come he never regenerates into a young man? This time he’s turned into Jim Robinson off Neighbours.
  • How can a Yeti operate in the Death Zone without the Great Intelligence there to transmit a signal to the control sphere?!
  • Where’s Kamelion? You don’t need to answer that by the way.
  • What happens to Bessie? Does it get left in the Death Zone?
  • Who decided to build a road in the Death Zone in the first place?
  • Did Borusa make those lovely figurines himself?
  • How come Susan refers to all the other Doctors apart from the First as “The Doctor”?
  • Why did they not film a scene where Susan gets taken out of time?
  • Why was there a Cyberman lying on the ground on the other side of the wall from the Brigadier. That’s the only way it could have grabbed his hand.
  • And why didn’t it follow them when they got away from it?
  • Finally, how on Earth did the Third Doctor & Sarah manage to zipline over to the tower when the rope was limp and hanging down in the middle. By the laws of physics they’d surely have both stopped half way across?

These are all minor things though, and can easily be forgiven.

Differences Between The Original and Special Edition

Overall, there’s an extra ten minutes of footage added to the Special Edition of the Five Doctors, mostly in the form of added atmosphere shots like the corridor ones to begin, while there are a few other ones like Turlough setting up at the Eye of

The Raston Warrior Robot: Not only is he a badass, but he likes to rub it in too

The Raston Warrior Robot: Not only is he a badass, but he likes to rub it in too

Orion and the Castellan sorting out the transmat beam.

On the whole these do add something to it, and it makes it more polished, but there are a few things I wish they’d left as they were.

For example, even though it looks more primitive, I preferred the black triangle as the time scoop rather than the translucent whirly thing from the Special Edition. Similarly, I preferred the way the other TARDISes depart at the end rather than have the time scoop whirly thing take them away. I know the new way makes a little bit more sense, but I think it’s less effective.

The main thing I wish they’d left untouched though was the voice of Rassilon. They’ve made him sound deeper and more booming in the Special Edition, but I thought it worked a lot better when his voice was presented as spoken. He sounded more genuine and his acting came across better that way. But you know the Restoration Team, they know best; or at least that’s how they like to present it.

Random Observations

  • The story was written with the intention of keeping the Doctors apart until the end, for fear of a clash of egos (mainly from Pertwee it would seem). As it turned out when they filmed the scene in the tomb together they all got on well and it’s a pity there wasn’t more interaction between them all.
  • Everyone mocks the infamous “No, not the Mind Probe” line, but I actually think Paul Jerricho’s delivery is not bad. I mean, how are you supposed to say it? Have a look on the brilliant documentary on the 25th Anniversary DVD and you’ll see an outtake where he says it with more terror. If that had made the cut it would be the most ludicrously delivered line in Doctor Who history.
  • If the Second Doctor and the Brigadier hadn’t been taken by the Time Scoop, you’d have to question why he’d bothered stopping in to visit. He appeared to go for a meeting that involved chatting for less than one minute. I’d have been pissed off if I was the Brig.
  • When I was young I mistakenly thought that the fried husk of a skeleton in the cape that the Master finds and refers to as one of his predecessors was one of his earlier regenerations. It’s not of course, but if you miss the line about how other members of the High Council had been sent to the Death Zone before him, you’d be forgiven for thinking as much.
  • The Incidental Music is far superior here than it has been at any point during the Peter Davison Era. Peter Howell does a terrific job of making it understated and yet of a high standard.
  • There are three different DVD commentaries available on the Special Edition DVD set. One with Nicholas Courtney, Mark Strickson, Carol Ann Ford and Liz Sladen, another with David Tennant, Phil Collinson and Helen Raynor and a third from the original DVD with Terrance Dicks and Peter Davison. I can’t say I’ve listened to them all, but I have heard snippets of each and I have to say the first two I bring up annoy me – especially the one with Tennant & Co. To me, a DVD commentary should aim to focus on what’s happening on screen and provide some kind of insight into it. It might be difficult for three people who weren’t involved in the making of it at all to do that, but at the very least you’d like them to discuss what’s happening and say stuff like “Oh, I love this bit coming up” rather than completely ignore the show and bore us with tales of what they had for lunch the day they first watched it.
  • Not one of the DVD commentaries pick up on the great “Fancy pants”, “Scarecrow” exchange between Pertwee and Troughton, which is one of the best parts of the whole show. If you’re only going to watch one commentary, make sure it’s the one with Dicks & Davison.
  • One thing to note from the Collinson commentary though is that he talks about how he’d love to make the 50th Anniversary in the same way as this. Let’s hope Steven Moffat agrees.
  • Compared to his earlier performance, I felt David Banks was very pedestrian as the Cyber Leader.
  • You’ll notice the one scene filmed when mist had fallen upon that area of Wales.
  • In terms of the story, having Borusa be the real villain of the piece is a nice twist. After all, as recently as The Arc of Infinity he was known to be a proper good guy and for long term viewers of the show was accepted as the Doctor’s mentor.
  • I adore the special version of the end credits theme played for this one. It really adds to the occasion.
  • The last line from Peter Davison; “Why not. After all, that’s how it all started” is a very nice line to finish on. Well done Terrance Dicks.
  • DWM Mighty 200 Ranking: #38. Scandalously low.

Doctor Who – The Five Doctors Review: Final Thoughts

So I’m writing this in April 2013 at a time when the only past characters confirmed for the 50th Anniversary are David Tennant and Billie Piper.

I’m hoping that will change because something as momentous as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who needs more returning characters than that.

The Five Doctors is the case for the defence.

This is a superb piece of nostalgia driven TV. It was done at a time when people didn’t have access to old Doctor Whos and therefore at a time when most will have forgotten about or were possibly too young to have watched or remembered the

I had a caption in mind but it would be unbecoming of what is an overwhelmingly positive review. Can you guess what is was?

I had a caption in mind but it would be unbecoming of what is an overwhelmingly positive review. Can you guess what is was?

old Doctors on display.

And that didn’t matter one bit.

Any argument that the likes of Davison, McCoy and the two Bakers are out of touch with fans of ‘New Who’ is irrelevant in my opinion. If anything, it would be good for business to grant more exposure to the show’s past. The only issue is how they look, I suppose.

And the performance of Richard Hurndall shows that it is possible to recast old Doctors effectively.

To sum up my review of the Five Doctors though, I think it’s clear to you – the reader – that I love it.

I accept the flaws with the story and I accept that by design the plot isn’t the most thrilling, but I don’t think it matters.

It was a love letter to the show which had served the BBC so well for 20 years. It’s a wonderful and fitting tribute to a TV show and it involves all the old guard bringing their ‘A’ game.

Personally one of my favourite pieces of television of all time, let alone Doctor Who and will be highly rated when I come to down my own “Mighty 241″ or whatever it’ll be by that point.


Doctor Who – The Jon Pertwee Era – Thoughts And Rankings

August 14, 2012

Solid.

That’s the word I’d use to describe the Jon Pertwee era of Doctor Who.

Looking back at all 24 of his stories from 1970 to 1974 I find that it difficult to rank the stories in order of best to worst.

Yes, there are – in my opinion at least – a clear 5 poorest out of the 24, but after that it becomes much of a muchness, as the saying goes.

I think the key is the consistency. The Hartnell Era had large-scale cast changes throughout, and the Troughton era – though staying mostly consistent with the Doctor & Jamie double act – had a significant amount of upheaval behind the scenes.

With the Pertwee era, Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks took charge from almost the word go, one assistant stayed on for the bulk of the stories and 16 of the stories featured either contemporary Earth or UNIT, while many of ones that didn’t featured The Master or the Daleks. It’s no surprise then to find that the standard remains steady throughout.

It’s clear that – by rankings at least – Pertwee’s first season is his best, and while the really poor stories are spread about, the poorest on a consistent level is his fourth, which I find mildly surprising even though it’s based on my opinion.

As a character, the Jon Pertwee version of the Doctor is –  as I say above – solid. He’s not likely to be anyone’s favourite of all time (unless you grew up with him in the role), but neither will he ever be considered anywhere approaching the worst.

24th. The Mutants

I described the Mutants as a cure for insomnia. It’s an incredibly dull plot performed by a company of miscast or exceptionally poor actors.

Grim.

23rd. The Claws of Axos

Saved from the bottom of the pile by the performance of the Master and a UNIT cast on reasonable form, this story is – to be blunt – a big pile of wank. I know that that’s me being quite crude, but sod it; it is a big pile of wank.

We all feel like this after watching the Claws of Axos

22nd. The Curse of Peladon

I said “I can’t really think of much good to say about it. It was rubbish.

Lazy writing, hammy performances, poor costumes and put together on the cheap; there was even a token, groan inducing “Doctor? Doctor who?” gag towards the end. The only good thing about it is Jon Pertwee’s coat.”

I think that sums it up.

21st. Planet of the Spiders

You’ll have likely read my review of it recently. So much of this serial annoys me, but I can accept that it’s a better story than the three above.

And it’s got a decent final episode. But it still does enough badly to justify being this low on the list.

20th. Carnival of Monsters

Bland. So so bland.

19th. Death to the Daleks

Now it becomes trickier because from here on in there are no clear ‘bad’ stories. Death to the Daleks though is the epitome of tired. By this point the Daleks are pretty much exhausted as an enemy, and the whole cast feel as though they are going through the motions.

If it wasn’t for the reasonably interesting jaunt through the City of the Exxilons it would be even worse.

18th. Invasion of the Dinosaurs

Again, it’s not a bad story, but the feeling was that they were just doing enough to get by. The story isn’t listed this low because of the puppet dinosaurs either. I just feel every one listed above it was better.

Had this been a sharper four parter I think it would have been good, but as is, it ran out of steam long before the end.

17th. The Three Doctors

It might be controversial to rank the Three Doctors this low, but I consider it merely ‘alright’. It could have been so much better.

Keep the same plot, the same sets and the same cast except for Patrick Troughton and you have a bland affair.

16th. Planet of the Daleks

It’s fine. Not great, not bad. Solidly average in the grand scheme of things.

15th. Frontier In Space

Set the very same story on Earth in the present day and you have a very basic 1970s BBC drama. But the inclusion of the Master and the Comedy Ogrons makes this a fun watch.

Terrible ending though…

14th. The Daemons

Isolated, it’s a fun story, but as part of a run-through you find yourself suffering from Master and UNIT overdose.

13th. The Green Death

A perfectly solid adventure with an excellent ending. This one was the end of an era.

Unbelievably racist though

12th. Terror of the Autons

While The Green Death was the ‘end of an era’ this was the beginning of one. Terror of the Autons launched the time of the UNIT family.

It probably makes better use of the concept of the Nestene than Spearhead, but the problem in comparison is that it doesn’t end too well.

My strange fascination for Donald Gee could have influenced the high ranking given to the Monster of Peladon

And it looks terrible in terms of the quality of picture.

11th. Monster of Peladon

Maybe if I ranked them all again six months down the line, I’d rank Monster of Peladon lower down the list, especially considering this is meant to be poorer than Curse, but I liked it.

It hits its stride and becomes an enjoyable adventure performed by a decent cast.

Or maybe it’s my fascination with Donald Gee…

10th. Colony in Space

A welcome change of pace and scenery at a time when everything was set on Earth.

Strong cast and a decent plot that didn’t need the Master but had him in it anyway. Bonus.

9th. The Time Monster

Considered by DWM to be the worst of the Pertwee stories, this gets a high rating for me based upon the performance of Roger Delgado alone. He was never better. Silly story, but that’s not a problem. He really is that good in this one.

8th. The Mind of Evil

The only problem with the Mind of Evil is the way they move the plot along nicely before thinking ‘Oh, it’s the end of the episode; let’s throw someone in a room with the Keller Machine’.

Apart from that though, top-notch.

7th. Inferno

It’s a tremendous concept, but it could be that it was borne out of the fact they didn’t have enough plot for seven episodes.

Dripping in atmosphere too.

6th. The Ambassadors of Death

I’ve always enjoyed this story, and I’m not sure why it’s not met with more favour than it is.

Like the Silurians, the Ambassadors of Death is the sort of plot that could have carried on as a TV series in its own right, and thus it possibly rushes to a conclusion in Episode 7.

Another big plus point is that it has one of my favourite cliffhangers of all time – “Right, cut it open”

5th. Day of the Daleks

This goes in not for the Daleks – who are incidental to the plot – but rather because it has a great science fiction premise.

It explored causality, time travel and paradoxes – something that just doesn’t happen enough in show about a bloke with a Time Machine

4th. Spearhead from Space

Launched the Colour era, had strong performances and a truly iconic moment in the show’s history. What more can you ask for?

3rd. The Time Warrior

A delightful romp. The main players are brilliant and Pertwee looks like he’s having the most fun he’s ever had with the part.

2nd. The Silurians

So many stories have spawned from this one (including the one at the top of the pile) but this is the definitive ‘Silurian’ plot.

Like I said above, it could have worked as its own long running TV series, and the biggest pity was that it ended when it did.

First…but only just

1st. The Sea Devils

The Silurians has a better plot overall, but this one is my favourite of the era. You’ve got all the elements of the Silurians but it’s got the Master in it, a great ‘base’ to work out of and a more angry ‘monster’ for the Doctor to contend with.

Top of the pile, but only just.

Agree, disagree? Let me know what you think about these ratings and my opinions on the era as a whole.


Doctor Who – The Planet of the Spiders Review (or ‘John Dearth Has Ruined Yoga Classes For Me. The Bastard’)

August 12, 2012

If you read my review of The Mutants, you’ll know that my viewing habit for Dr Who is to put on a DVD when I go to bed and watch as much as I can before I fall asleep. In that review I said that the Mutants was a cure for insomnia because it took me well over a week to get through the six episodes.

Well you might notice that this review comes only a day after I wrote the one for the Monster of Peladon, and so you may think that I loved the Planet of the Spiders so much that it kept my attention to the point where I watched it in a couple of nights.

And you’d be absolutely…wrong!!

My review of Planet of the Spiders is up so quick because I dislike it so much that I couldn’t face watching it over the course of a week. I just had to get it over with as soon as I could. So over the past couple of mornings I’ve grimaced and got through it. And my opinion of it going in didn’t change.

And here’s why…

Doctor Who – Planet of the Spiders Review: What’s This One About

The 1970s was a stylish time.

The Doctor Who production team write a love letter to themselves in the form of a ‘Jobs For The Boys’ outing about Barry Letts’ favourite thing – Buddhism – to see Jon Pertwee off into the sunset.

Oh…you wanted the plot?

Well it’s about a recently made redundant sales manager who teams up with some giant spiders to take over the universe. Or is it a parable about change? Or is it about the Doctor’s greed?

Thoughts – What I Like About Planet of the Spiders

I’m going to get what I did like about it out of the way first. To be brief I liked

  • Cyril Shaps as Professor Herbert Clegg in Episode One
  • Episode Six

I don’t need to explain why I like Cyril Shaps. Everyone likes Cyril Shaps; he’s brilliant.

But I liked Episode Six ahead of all the other episodes because it finally got to the point. The Doctor confronts The Great One who manages to look quite impressive in amongst all the other spider puppets (which I’ll get to) and is voiced with aplomb by Maureen Morris.

It’s a good scene that manages to send off Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in a suitable way. If you think of all the other ‘classic’ Doctor demises, you’ve got

  • Becomes ill and dies unrelated to the plot
  • Made to change his appearances against his will
  • Falls to his death from a great height
  • Becomes ill and dies related to the plot
  • Bumps his head
  • Dies in surgery

And in this case you have ‘Faces his fears and returns to the Metabilis 3 knowing it will kill him’.

Certainly it’s the most grandly heroic of ends for our hero in the ‘Classic Serial’.

The other thing I liked about was that the writing prepared the younger viewer for what was to come. For many at the time, Jon Pertwee was the only Doctor they knew, and so by explaining and demonstrating the concept of regeneration

“Hello, I’m John Dearth. I ruined this whole story, and as you can see, I don’t give a toss”

before it happened, it was done reasonably well. The only better example of this is at the end of The Parting of the Ways.

Of course, my good feeling towards the story ends there as they couldn’t even get the regeneration bit right.

What I Didn’t Like – The Regeneration

Ok, so what didn’t I like?

Well let’s start at the end. The regeneration was probably the least impressive regeneration they’ve ever done. They prompt it so well and then…well it was just a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot change between Pertwee and Baker lying on the ground. How underwhelming is that? It looked pathetic.

You can’t say that it was a victim of its time because it wasn’t. The truth of the matter is the very best regeneration effect remains the one from the Tenth Planet; years earlier.

John Dearth

Central to my dislike of Planet of the Spiders is John Dearth, who plays the main villain, Lupton.

My dislike for him comes from two directions.

Firstly the character and his motivation are just stupid. He’s a sales manager who has been made redundant and decides to take his revenge by joining a Buddhist meditation retreat, from which he believes he can take over that company, if not the world. Eh? Excuse me? What? How?

We join the story at a point where he and his equally trendy mates have managed to use the Jewel of the Lotus prayer and a mandola to summon up group illusions of tractors on roads as they try to murder Mike Yates & Sarah, and it’s just assumed that that is possible. Then the same prayer manages to create a bridge between planets for the spiders to make their way to Earth. Oh, and Lupton is able to shoot lightning bolts from his fingers and transport himself across the

Just look at him. He used to be such a serious and key part of Dr Who, and here he is reduced to a smiling cretin with a non-conforming hairstyle

country just through the power of thought.

And none of it is explained.

And what’s worse than the crapness of Lupton’s character and the lack of sense in the scripting is that John Dearth is a horrible actor. Not a bad actor in the same vein as Rick James or Terry Walsh, but a horrible actor in that his style is just unwatchable as far as I’m concerned.

I find him as being unable to speak his lines properly. Every line comes out in amongst a series of uncomfortable groaning sounds that makes him sound like a recovering stroke victim. He looks and acts deeply uncomfortable on-screen, squirming about like he has something to hide. I just can’t stand him. He and his storyline ruin the whole thing.

But wait…there’s more…

Tommy

A big part of this story is the character of Tommy, who is just an incredibly crass and politically incorrect representation of someone with serious learning difficulties.

From watching Tommy we can grasp the following about the way the writer and production team consider people like him to be…

  • They are obsessed with shiny things
  • They are kleptomaniacs
  • They have silly voices that would settle down a bit if they have a bit more intelligence
  • They are violent when even remotely riled
  • Being thick also makes them immune to whatever it was that the people with the spiders on their backs shot through their fingers
  • They are treated like children by our heroes and are dismissed as completely irrelevant unless people have time to ‘aww’ and ‘aaah’ at them.

I don’t think you could get away with doing the character of Tommy these days. It’s quite unbelievable.

The Idiot Brig and his Coffee Making Pal

I also don’t like the way the Brigadier has turned into a smiling cretin. Just watch that scene in the Doctor’s Lab with the Doctor and Cyril Shaps. Take a look at the Brigadier here and compare it to – say – The Invasion or the Spearhead from Space. This man – a man who is in charge of a covert operation that may as well be called Earth Defence Force – has turned into a gormless idiot.

That series of lines about how he didn’t know about ESP until the Doctor told him this morning – said with the goofy grin of a simpleton – was embarrassing. It was embarrassing for us as the viewer, it was embarrassing for Nicholas Courtney

Yes, I’m talking about you Courtney

the actor and it was embarrassing for the character of the Brigadier.

I suppose the real one to blame is Courtney himself because he didn’t have to say his lines like that, and he’s usually very good. In fact, now that I think about it, I want you to compare that line to his show-stealing performance in Inferno. The man clearly no longer gives a toss, and that is made worse by the fact that he hasn’t even bothered to get his hair cut properly to suit the role.

Meanwhile, UNIT as a whole appears to have turned into the Brigadier and his personal coffee-making secretary, Sgt. Benton pottering about and having a laugh.

But their performances are reflective of the entire cast and crew of this one.

The Jolly Boys Outing

The story annoys me as well because it’s so blatantly a love letter from Barry Letts to himself. He brings in all his mates from The Barry Letts Repertory Company and gives them good roles (even though some of them were miscast, such as hiring a white guy called Kevin to play a Tibetan Monk-come-Time Lord with a racist accent), he writes a story about his own chosen religious beliefs and he adds in set pieces like a 12 minute chase sequence just because Jon Pertwee ‘likes his vehicles’.

The entire second half of episode two is a chase sequence. Nothing of note or worth to the viewer happens. No plot, barely any dialogue, just Pertwee and Dearth riding vehicles. And the whole thing was pointless in the end because when the Doctor finally catches up with him, Lupton just teleports himself away. Why not just do that earlier and save us all 12 minutes of that shite?

But those sequences get added in because – as I said earlier – Pertwee loved a bit of action and was seen as the ‘Action Doctor’. And yet if you watch it, almost every single piece of action the Doctor is involved in actually has Terry Walsh stepping in for Pertwee, presumably because of Pertwee’s bad back. So whether it’s fight scenes, escaping from the webbing the spiders had trapped himself in or even taking a small tumble from the TARDIS door to the floor, Pertwee really has nothing to do with it. So why write for him that way? You didn’t see the writers in the 60s writing fight sequences that William Hartnell was unable to perform, did you?

Poor Structure

No, I’m not finished yet.

The structure of the writing in this one is also poor. I’ve often criticised cliffhangers in the Pertwee era for engineering things so that after 22 minutes of TV the Doctor gets put in an incongruously life-threatening situation, while praising the

It’s Jenny Laird. The RADA trained actress with an award named after her. Yes, THAT Jenny Laird. But…she’s terrible…

ones that are a bit different. But the cliffhanger at the end of episode 4 is probably the limpest one I’ve ever seen. It’s just a stop in proceedings. Not even a hint of drama or a ‘Oooh, what might happen next week’ type deal. Nothing.

And then Episode 5 is so badly structured that – in lieu of there being a good point to stop the episode – they just pick a scene 6 minutes into Episode 6 out of sequence and put that in as it’s cliffhanger because it sort of worked.

Nearly every episode runs short and so there’s a massive reprise scene at the start of every new one. It’s just sloppy.

The Jenny Laird Award For The Worst Individual Piece of Acting In the History of Television

Now I think almost all of the scenes on Metabilis 3 are dreadful. To start with the CSO looks dreadful, but the acting of the natives is also poor. They all wear cheap costumes, have stupid hair and speak in Bristolian accents because apparently that is the all-purpose ‘country boy’ accent according to the BBC in the 1970s.

In amongst all these dodgy actors and silly accents is one significant low point.

The mother of the tribe leaders is a pathetic actress. You know when I said earlier that John Dearth was a horrible actor rather than being a bad one in the traditional sense? Well this woman – Jenny Laird – is a bad one in that traditional sense. A very bad one.

Her delivery of the line “No I shan’t…You shan’t take him. Sabor my husband, my love. Why did you do it? Why? Why? I shan’t let them take you. I shan’t I shan’t” really has to be seen to be believed. Not only does she get the words wrong at the start of the line, but she’s trying to act it like it’s a Shakespeare play and just failing miserably.

And you know what makes it worse? She’s a RADA trained actress and actually had an award named after her – The Jenny Laird Award – which was for ‘Outstanding Acting In a Thankless Role’. That just renders both RADA and acting awards meaningless as far as I’m concerned.

Random Observations

  • Mike Yates gets a fairly low-key exit. But at least he gets a chance to set his campness free for the world to see on the way out…
  • One thing you can say about Pertwee in almost all of his stories is that he’s sharply dressed…but even that aspect of this story is a let-down. Pertwee’s outfit looks ill-fitting and badly put together. He also has ridiculous hair. Terrence

    Pertwee appears to have given up on his appearance by this stage.

    Dicks says in every DVD documentary and commentary appearance that you can tell how far into the Pertwee era we are by the bouffancy of Jon’s hair. But it’s not that bad in Monster of Peladon compared to here.

  • Having K’ampo regenerate into Cho-je made little sense. How come there wasn’t a bloke hanging around with William Hartnell during the Smugglers then, if that’s how regeneration works? They try to do the same thing on Logopolis too, but again it didn’t make sense.
  • I mentioned earlier on that Letts basically hired a load of people who had been in the show before during his tenure. They include Kevin Lindsay (Lynx from the Time Warrior), John Dearth (the voice of BOSS in the Green Death), George Cormack (Dalios in the Time Monster), Terrence Lodhe (Orum in the Carnival of Monsters – and he was shit in that too), Andrew Staines (Goodge in the Terror of the Autons), Christopher Burgess (Philips in…yes…the Terror of the Autons), Cyril Shaps (Lennox in Ambassadors of Death), Walter Randall (Slocom in Inferno), Max Faulkner (who had appeared in small speaking roles in almost every story of the season) and of course Dr Who Extra Extraordinaire, Pat Gorman
  • And one actor who hasn’t appeared before now will become better known 15 years later playing the part of Nimrod in Ghost Light (and oh boy, I can’t wait to review that…). Can you spot him?
  • While I’m being very critical of this story as a whole, I won’t criticise the Spiders themselves too much. They are well voiced and though they look absolutely terrible (except for the Great One because of how it looked on scale), you can’t expect miracles in the pre-CGI era for stuff like that.
  • And I do like the writing of the ‘All Praise To The Great One’ stuff. Certainly that’s permeated my sub-conscious so that whenever anyone says The Great One in other contexts, I immediately think ‘All Praise To The Great One’.
  • One thing that’s also permeated by sub-conscious in a negative way is that I have a passionate dislike for the Jewel of the Lotus prayer. When they did it in a Yoga class I was in a few months ago it ruined the whole experience. So fuck you John Dearth, fuck you.

Doctor Who – Planet of the Spiders Review: Final Thoughts

So there you go, it’s a story I just don’t like.

There’s so much wrong with it, from poor performances, bad characterisation, nepotism and a bad overall structure that it’s difficult to say anything good about it.

My problem is that despite it being terrible, and a story I take no pleasure from watching, I still can’t say it’s the worst story of the Pertwee era.

But it’s the most disappointing because it is a story very much written on auto-pilot, and that is something that almost this entire season of the show can be accused of.

The Time Warrior was a very good story, but everything else was just a lazy rehash of what had come before. It would have been better if the Pertwee – and indeed the Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks – era ended the season before. By a long way this was his weakest season.

However, to try to end on a positive note, the Doctor did get a good send-off in Episode Six, so there’s always that…


Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon Review (or ‘Not As Bad As Received Wisdom Would Have You Believe’)

August 11, 2012

“I can’t really think of much good to say about it. It was rubbish.

Lazy writing, hammy performances, poor costumes and put together on the cheap; there was even a token, groan inducing “Doctor? Doctor who?” gag towards the end. The only good thing about it is Jon Pertwee’s coat.

I’d avoid it. Certainly this is the worst Pertwee story I’ve reviewed so far, and by some considerable distance.”

Doctor Who fans around the world lament the early death of the brilliant Vega Nexos.

That was what I had to say about the Curse of Peladon. Doesn’t make for positive reading does it?

In the comments section of the review there’s an opinion from my most regular comment-leaver, Zaphod, who said that he felt that the follow-up story – The Monster of Peladon – is far worse.

Could that be possible? Going in to watching it I was sceptical…

Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon: What’s This One About?

While the Curse of Peladon was about Britain entering the Common Market…in Space, it’s often thought that this one is about the British miner’s strike…in Space.

And it is, and yet it’s not. The first half of the story features that almost exclusively, but in the latter section it’s more about the Ice Warriors, who have turned heel again for the purposes of this Peladonian get-together.

Is It As Bad As The Curse of Peladon?

In many ways, The Monster of Peladon seems to be a lazy re-run of its predecessor.

You’ve got the same sets and an appearance by Agador, as well as the young monarch – this time King Pelad0n’s daughter (who thankfully is named more imaginatively as Queen Tharila rather than Queen Peladon) – who is influenced by a bloke who looks and acts exactly like Hepesh, and you’ve also got Alpha Centauri and The Ice Warriors.

Either they are a low budget or couldn’t be arsed making a new costume but as you can see, the Ice Warrior with the stupid giant head is back loitering in the background.

And then on top of that you’ve got a rather dull tale of Miners and two extra episodes on top.

So on the face of it, it doesn’t look good.

But I actually think this story is better than the Curse of Peladon and I’ll tell you why…

Better Performances

Like for like, the standard of performance in the Monster of Peladon is higher than in Curse, both in the way the characters are realised on paper and how they are brought to the screen by the actors.

There’s a better companion, in that Sarah is at this stage a more interesting character and Sladen puts in a good performance, while Katy Manning was at her absolute worst – both in writing and execution – in the previous story.

The Ice Warriors are performed better, in that Alan Bennion gets to act as a stronger more forceful villain rather than like the host of Playschool and that his Ice Warrior chums get more to do than just stand around looking bored.

There’s Donald Gee with his spectacularly slim body shape, mesmerising bin bag costume and face like something out of Star Fox

Nina Stevens’ Queen Tharila is more likeable and better written than David Troughton’s King Peladon.

Alpha Centauri actually has some humorous lines of dialogue (although you’re reaching if you think I’m going to go back and find out what they were. Just be comfortable in the knowledge that I chuckled a few times) and is far less irritating than in Curse.

Rex Robinson – dreadfully miscast as Dr Tyler in the Three Doctors – is not half bad as the leader of the miners. He seems far more suited to a role like this.

There’s a cameo by the lead contender for ‘Character I Wish Had More Time Devoted to Him But Was Sadly Killed Off At The Start’ in the wonderfully well spoken Vega Nexos

And you’ve got Donald Gee as Eckersley.

Donald Gee

I don’t really know why, but I have a strange fascination with Donald Gee.

I think it’s to do with his shape. He has a face that makes him look like he’s a character out of Star Fox and a body with all the mass and tone of a lollipop stick. And that’s accentuated by the skin-tight bin-bag he’s wearing as costume throughout the story.

He stands out as looking more alien than any other character or actor to appear in this show (or any) and yet the irony is he’s playing one of only two humans in it.

And he’s got such a laid back style of acting. Throughout the story, he just portrays Eckersley as a single-minded mining expert who wants nothing to do with all the shit that’s going down on Peladon.

Do a Barrel Roll!

And then when he turns out he’s the villain behind it all (something that is mildly telegraphed at the start when Vege Nexos is killed but isn’t too obvious beyond that) he plays an absolute master-stroke in that he doesn’t change his acting style at all.

You watch any other TV show where someone is revealed to be the villain and you’ll see that once the reveal is made, the person in question suddenly acts completely differently to how they acted before, as if to accentuate their villainy and hammer the point home in a very unsubtle way. Gee doesn’t bother with that. He remains slumped in his chair still not giving too much of a toss about what’s going on and by doing that – even if it’s not intentional on his part – it just feels so much more refreshing.

Not All Good

Of course, it’s not all good. In terms of the actors, two stick out as being absolutely horrendous.

First of all there’s Ralph Watson as Ettis. Absolute shite.

Turns out that Watson has appeared in the show before as Captain Knight in the Web of Fear and he was fine in that, but in this he’s excruciating. While Donald Gee played it cool all the way through, Watson seems to have picked up on the character brief as ‘Oooh, he’s a bit mad this one’ and so plays it with bulging eyes and a cartoon voice. Every scene he’s in he ruins.

The other notable example of ropey acting is by – I assume – Terry Walsh as the Guard Captain. Walsh, as you might

Terry Walsh is half way through his big moment – delivering a simple line of dialogue worse than you would think humanly possible. Rex Robinson is aghast.

know was the stunt coordinator and stuntman for hire for the who for many a year, and – seemingly out of gratitude for that – they gave him a speaking role in this one.

They shouldn’t have bothered.

Towards the end of Episode 1 he gets his big moment where he has to interupt a meeting to let the Queen and Ortron know that the armoury has been invaded and he somehow manages to deliver the line “You’re Majesty! Lord Ortron! The Miners have attacked the Federation Armoury. They have escaped in to the tunnels” worse than I would have thought humanly possible.

If you’ve got the DVD, watch it. It’s 19:30 into Episode 1.

Everything about it is wrong. He doesn’t pause for breath or allow for punctuation (thus delivering the line as a string of quickly rushed words in succession in a monotone voice before suddenly accentuating the word ‘tunnels’)

He presents the line in a physically awkward manner which makes it look like he’s choreographed it badly.

And in a show where everyone speaks in that wonderfully pronounced BBC English, Walsh delivers lines like a proper ‘Apples & Pears’ cockney.

It’s truly incredible how badly someone can do something so simple. But there you go.

I would say it’s the worst delivered line in Doctor Who history, but there’s an even worse one in the next story.

The Story Itself

As to the story itself, I won’t kid you by saying it’s a classic because it’s not. But it’s not that bad and at least has a few twists and turns along the way.

They make the mistake of telegraphing the Ice Warriors being in it by having one of them clearly standing behind the frosted glass of the refinery, although I suppose one could argue that by heavily hinting they are in it, anticipation would build among fans for when they arrive properly.

The stuff with the Miners is mostly boring – and their hairpieces are just stupid.

And the whole scheme of Eckersly & the Ice Warriors doesn’t make much sense anyway; not least why they bother to have ‘Agador’ kill Vega Nexos or even how they – or the Doctor later on in the story – manage to direct the stone statue about.

But it’s still better than Curse.

Random Observations

  • With each passing story, Alan Bennion’s ‘Ice Lord’ character seems to get louder and louder. In the Seeds of Death he speaks with a sinister whisper, in Curse he’s a little bit louder, but here he’s just shouting. It ruins the character to an extent.
  • I maintain that the Ice Warriors look far better in black & white.
  • They’ve brought back the Ice Warrior with the giant helmet for this one. Obviously they were running out of costumes.
  • But speaking of the Ice Warriors, how come there are so many of them? Loads of them end up being killed off and yet Azaxyr always has one by his side. And yet when he dies – just like in the Seeds of Death – suddenly there are no more Warriors to be found. Maybe they respawn as long as he’s alive?
  • Terry The Terrible Actor appears to get killed off even more times than the Ice Warriors though. I think I counted his character being killed off by Agador or Ice Warriors at least seven times.
  • Somehow Jon Pertwee manages to look particularly young in this story. I’m not sure how.
  • One aspect of the writing which I found lazy was that they did the whole ‘Sarah thinks the Doctor is dead’ thing twice in quick succession. I suspect they were running out of plot.
  • Going back to Donald Gee, I love some of his turns of phrase; the way he calls people ‘Chum’ all the time and in particular his line to the Doctor “You’re quite handy aren’t you”
  • Incidental and unnecessary to the plot was the real Agador. It had no purpose within the story and the way it was killed off at the end just seemed to be there for the sake of it.
  • The people of the planet Nexos are apparently a practical race of mining engineers. Talk about regional specialisation on a global scale. What if one of them wanted to open a shop? Or become a gym instructor?

Doctor Who – The Monster of Peladon Review: Final Thoughts

Sometimes I write these reviews and realise half way through that I really didn’t like the story all that much at all.

That was certainly true of the Curse of Peladon.

But with the Monster of Peladon it’s the opposite. It’s actually not that bad a story, but the received wisdom is that it is, and so people automatically think bad of it.

That is typified by its position in the always debatable ‘Top 200 Stories’ as voted for by the readers of Dr Who Magazine.

They rate Monster of Peladon as the 179th best story, meaning that there are only 21 stories worse than it, while Curse of Peladon is all the way up in 82nd.

Monster of Peladon is far from a classic, I’ll grant you. I’ve detailed the stuff that’s wrong with it above, but in amongst that there’s plenty to enjoy, which is more than can be said for some stories, including Curse. It certainly deserves to be ranked higher than that one.

But then it’s only an opinion…


Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review (or ‘We’re Inching Closer to Pudding of the Daleks’)

August 5, 2012

Have I written about ‘Pudding of the Daleks’ on this blog before? I’m not sure if I have.

Basically, it’s all about diminishing marginal returns. The more Dalek stories there are, the less impact they have.

I think what got me was the Big Finish Audio ‘Time of the Daleks’ where there plan is to alter Earth’s future by killing William Shakespeare or something stupid. There’s also been a recent one where they try to alter Earth’s

I’ve not read Liz Sladen’s book, but I’ve heard that she talks about how Jon Pertwee grabbed her exactly like this and marched her over to meet the Daleks for the first time. What a lovely guy.

history by helping Napoleon win the battle of Waterloo (and yes, that’s called ‘Waterloo of the Daleks’).

My theory is that with each Dalek story, to give them something new to do it has to become even more tenuous and small-time than the one before and that we’ll end up getting a story where the Doctor goes out for lunch at a fancy restaurant, only to find the Daleks have taken over the kitchen. Hence ‘Pudding of the Daleks’. If Nicholas Briggs is reading this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the plot gets used. He’d probably sit there in his smugness thinking how wonderful he would be at saying ‘blancmange’ in a Dalek voice.

Death to the Daleks is the classic series’ version of Pudding of the Daleks. This is the last proper Dalek story from the era, as from their next appearance it becomes all about Davros, with the Daleks themselves being relegated to crappy minions who sound exactly like Zippy with a ring modulator.

Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review: So What’s It About?

An Earth mining ship with a suspiciously small crew has landed on the planet Exxilon charged with bringing back a mineral that will cure some sort of disease that is ravaging the human population.

But the Daleks want it too. Ooooh.

The problem they all have is that an ancient temple has drained all the power from their equipment, and that includes the Daleks guns.

So they have to work together…for a few minutes until the Daleks decide to use bullets instead.

Thoughts – Running Out of Steam?

I would call these Daleks the least threatening up to this point, but that would be doing them a disservice in comparison to the ones in Day of the Daleks who did nothing but hide in a back-room.

The Daleks fail to spot Galloway holding what looks suspiciously like one of their own bombs under his coat. It’s that lack of attention to detail that scuppers their plans.

But by this point the Daleks are becoming very samey. There’s nothing really new here at all and their plans are becoming more and more small-time as I alluded to earlier.

It *could* have been interesting if the entire story had seen them being unable to use their guns, but that development was quickly swept under the carpet because they turned their ray guns into projectile weapons.

And let’s take a moment to think about that. The Daleks ship is so small that the main controls appear to be in a corridor but they happen to be equipped with a shooting gallery, little model TARDISes to shoot and a large supply of bullets just in case of emergency? Ok then…

Really, the Daleks offer nothing to this story at all. Much like Day of the Daleks, it could have worked without them. It wouldn’t have been particularly interesting, but then it isn’t particularly interesting with them.

The Temple – A Lazy Plot Device or A Fun Little Distraction?

The first two episodes of this story are unremarkable. Other than inexplicably killing off the best guest artist in the show (John Abineri) nothing much happens.

In my opinion things begin to move along a bit in the third and fourth episodes with the stuff with the Root and then

The Doctor points and laughs at the moron who couldn’t get past the childishly simple ‘draw a map on the wall’ intelligence test in the first room of the temple.

the bits at the temple.

But I often read people suggesting that those temple bits, where the Doctor and The Greatest Companion That Never Was – Belal – work through a series of tests to get to the heart of the temple and try to put the power off were just lazy padding.

It occurs to me as I type this that based upon the conclusion of the set piece – that once they got to the central control room they just ran off again without putting the power off –  those people are absolutely right.

But however pointless it was to the overall plot, it was still the most interesting and fun part of the story, and nobody really complains about the same thing being in the Pyramids of Mars.

Certainly as a child I found this to be the second most memorable part of the whole story (the most being the incidental music by Carey Blyton) and as a 29-year-old man it’s still the part that I enjoy the most.

And as a consequence of it, we have one of the great Doctor Who cliffhangers…

That Cliffhanger

Up until quite recently, I’d only ever seen the Omnibus edition of Death to the Daleks. Any Doctor Who fan worth his or her salt will know that the very earliest video releases just lumped all the episodes together to make one long feature-length story without cliffhangers.

And so because of that I never got to see the actual cliffhanger to Episode 3.

Aaaaaaaah!!!!!

It seems as though Episode 3 underran because the point where the cliffhanger should have been was obvious. The Doctor and Belal wait round a corner while the Daleks approach them, all guns blazing.

But that wasn’t the cliffhanger. Oh no, instead of that we have The Flooring of Doom.

In a documentary about cliffhangers on one of the DVDs people take the piss out of it because of what it is. The Doctor and Belal walk along a corridor only for the Doctor to abruptly stop, saying ‘Stop, don’t move’. This is followed  by a close-up of the floor.

I think that’s brilliant, not crap. If I had a chance to see that cliffhanger the first time I watched the story I guarantee it would have got my attention and made me think ‘WTF is going on’.

A far more effective cliffhanger than the Daleks shooting at the Doctor. because you know fine well they aren’t going to get him.

So I say ‘Hurrah’ to the cliffhanger of Episode 3.

Random Observations

  • You can tell Pertwee has a bit of a thing for Joy Harrison, who plays Jill Tarrant. Watch how often he needlessly holds her in close, hugs her and takes her by the hand. He seems to be far more enamoured with her the Liz ‘I Don’t Suit a Swimming Costume’ Sladen.
  • I mentioned the music earlier on, and – a bit like the scenes in the Exxilon temple or city or whatever it is – it seems to polarize opinion. I like it. It’s memorable, it gets stuck in your head and it works quite well with what’s going on on screen.
  • In those aforementioned temple scenes, I wonder quite how the Daleks succeeded in passing each of those

    A shit-load of effort has gone in to making this space ship…

    tests. How did they manage to draw the map on the wall? What happened in the room where they were supposed to attack one another? Why were they even there in the first place? All unanswered questions.

  • And speaking of that map in the first room, how exactly did so many Exxilons fail to get past it? They must have been thick as mince. The Doctor and the Daleks both worked it out in a matter of minutes and yet some Exxilons spent days/weeks in there to the point where they just gave up and died? Ok then…
  • How shocking it is that in a cast of English actors, the gruff and untrustworthy one happened to be Scottish. It’s a conspiracy I tell thee.
  • One thing about the story is it has what I think is one of the best delivered lines – from a humour standpoint – in the Pertwee era. Playing it absolutely straight and in character, the guy who plays Belal somehow manages to make the line ‘An Empty Room’ brilliant. Watch it and try not to at least smirk.
  • To give the effects department a bit of credit, the temple looked good, as did the scenes of its destruction. And the Root was quite cool as well.
  • But that Dalek ship is really crap.
  • The Daleks downfall is – probably not for the first or last time – down to a lack of attention to detail. They go to all this trouble to travel all the way to Exxilon, create slave labour, mine the mineral, install different guns and oversee the planting of a bomb atop the temple, and yet what let’s them down is that they don’t bother to check that the guy standing around suspiciously with what looks very much like a Dalek bomb under his coat is off the ship when they leave, or even bother to check the bags that have sand in them instead of the mineral. Idiots.

Doctor Who – Death to the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

Death to the Daleks is a lazy script from a writer who was clearly on auto-pilot by this point. It’s not a surprise that the initial draft of the first Fourth Doctor Dalek story was another carbon copy of this type of affair. Nor is it a surprise that this one was first written to take place on a jungle planet…probably.

You watch it and feel like it’s just the Daleks showing up for the sake of the Daleks showing up.

Much like Invasion of the Dinosaurs, this story feels like it was written to get by rather than to be exciting.

Not worth seeking out.


Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs Review (or ‘Not Exactly Jurassic Park’)

July 25, 2012

The other day I read something interesting about The Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

I’d always been under the impression that the reason episode 1 is only available in black and white is that whoever junked episodes at the BBC mistook it for Episode 1 of the 1968 story ‘The Invasion’, since the ‘of the Dinosaurs’ part of the title was deliberately left off that first instalment to preserve the surprise of Dinosaurs turning up.

But it turns out that Barry Letts had authorised the wiping of this story in its entirity only a few months after broadcast, and it’s only by accident that the other episodes exist, and even more lucky that an engineers copy of Episode 1 turned up

Peter Miles doesn’t look impressed does he?

years later. Letts must have really hated this story.

And if you listen to Dr Who fandom, it’s easy to understand why. This one is deemed to be ‘embarrassing'; not for the plot or the acting but for the ‘special’ effects used in bringing the Dinosaurs to our screens.

Ah those Dinosaurs. A combination of puppets and plastic or even Papier-mâché toys that were superimposed onto the fabled ‘green screen’.

They mostly look bad; of course they do. The Tyrannosaurus Rex  especially, manages to be less convincing than the Chewit Monster, and there’s one scene in Episode 6 where we have to watch two men having a fight with their respective Dinosaur toys/sock puppets that is cringe-makingly bad. It’s like a child playing with his toys.

On the other hand, some of the other Dinosaurs get passmarks, and the close-up of the larger T-Rex model in the hanger isn’t too bad, so is it fair to criticise a story for a few lousy special effects in an era when CGI was just some bloke’s initials.

And is it fair that this story gets panned purely because of that?

Well we’ll see…

Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs Review: What’s This One About?

Funnily enough, it’s not about an Invasion of the Dinosaurs. They aren’t invading anything. Rather they’ve been brought forward in time to clear London so a group of crackpot environmentalists can roll back time and take their chosen few with them back to the ‘Golden Age’ before man ‘ruined’ Earth, which in turn would see everyone outside Central London ceasing to have ever existed.

Thoughts – The List

Whenever I write one of these reviews, I jot down a list of bulletpoints that I want to discuss. Sometimes the list is lengthy, other times it’s not. Yes, there is a structure to these reviews…

Meanwhile the Doctor is either seriously exasperated by the quality of the Dinosaur props, or he’s slammed his genitals inside a book by mistake

Generally though, I find I have a reasonable mix of good and bad things to say about a story, but apart from the great twist of having Mike Yates turn heel on UNIT and align himself with the environmentalists, I couldn’t really come up with anything positive to say.

So let’s go through them…

It Just Doesn’t Make Sense

Let’s take a moment to think about the science behind this.

I’m always up for an argument over the Grandfather Paradox; you know the one – the idea that you can’t go back in time to before you were born and kill your Grandfather because if you did that then you’d never have existed to go back in time to kill him in the first place? I’ve always found that perfectly straight forward and yet my brother and best friend will argue with me until they are blue in the face about how I’m wrong. Well I’m not…so get it up you both.

Anyway, I bring that up because if the plan is for everyone outside of the protective bubble of Central London to have never existed (and therefore none of their ancestors would have existed either) then how could the members of Operation Golden Age ever have been born to come up with that scheme. They couldn’t.

And it’s not just that either…

They want to go back to a time before industrialisation, and choose Central London – the most polluted and industrialised place in the UK – as being the safe place that will presumably remain intact. Why not base their operations in the remote Highlands of Scotland or go abroad? Then they could have got on with things without even needing to bring Dinosaurs into the picture.

And though it’s never explicitly stated, why the hell would they want to go back to a time when Dinosaurs ruled the Earth? Apart from being unsafe, there’s a meteor heading their way.

Oh and also, if watching the original series of Survivors has taught me anything, it’s that the amount of people that they plan on taking back in time with them is not enough to sustain the human race. Oh it’s so flawed.

Just awful…

Beyond their plan, I really do not know why they thought it was a good idea to put Sarah on the ‘space ship’ with the members of Operation Golden Age, when all she was ever going to do was point out how ridiculous the whole thing was. And yet that’s what they did, and so it ultimately led to their downfall. Idiots.

Padding And Repetition

Apart from not making much sense, the script is also padded out way beyond the point of reasonability.

This could have been a rather sharp 4 parter, but the plot seems to run out in episode 3 of 6. Once the pieces have come into play and all the villains have been revealed, the story could have marched on to its conclusion, but instead of that we had pointless wastes of time like the Doctor finding their base and then leaving again, Sarah being put in the ‘Ship’ and then returning to it (the whole Ship subplot – which was pretty much copied straight out of the Enemy of the World – could have gone), Sarah being betrayed identically by both Grover and Finch and the interminable chase scenes in Episode 5 where the Doctor is thought to be the one behind it all.

…but that’s even worse

So yeah, it dragged. And it wasn’t helped by the cliffhangers, which were reminiscent of The Mind of Evil (you remember; at the end of every episode someone got thrown into a room with the Keller Machine even if it had nothing to do with the plot). At the end of Episodes 1, 2, 4 and 5, the cliffhanger involves a Dinosaur showing up while the Doctor is nearby. Pointless

And Yet…

And yet despite these problems, and despite there not being much to like from a critical point of view, I really don’t mind this story. It’s stupid, but it’s very loosely built around a Doctor Who premise that works; an ‘alien’ threat in a relatable setting.

As I’ve typed this I’ve also remembered that Episode 1 manages to be quite good. The filming of an empty London (something that couldn’t be done in 2012) is eerie and there is a sense of the unknown. The Doctor’s reaction to being taken prisoner is also quite enjoyable. Certainly out of the six episodes, this is the best.

Random Observations

  • The ‘surprise’ of Dinosaurs would have been a little bit better if they hadn’t turned up half way through Episode 1 and instead had been kept for the cliffhanger.
  • Is it not a little convenient that everyone in power who has been left in London to sort out the problem is in on it?
  • It reeks of nepotism that General Finch gets Court Marshalled at the end, yet Captain Yates gets let off with retiring quietly.
  • Jon Pertwee loves the chance to speak in a Cockney accent, doesn’t he?
  • In fairness to the special effects, some of the CSO isn’t too bad, in the sense that they achieve scale between the actors and the Dinosaurs reasonably well. Certainly when you compare the CSO here to the likes of Underworld and the Mutants it doesn’t really seem all that bad…except for that fight scene.
  • And speaking of that scene, the Doctor is parked in the centre of London when it happens, and yet by running around a corner he finds himself in a spacious suburban area with trees and garages. Ok then…

    And yet in fairness, I don’t think that looks at all bad

  • There’s a scene in Episode 2 where the Doctor is trying to work but keeps on getting interrupted that just seems like a bizarre attempt at comedy. It doesn’t come across well.
  • I’ll ask again…why don’t they just kill Sarah?
  • And in Episode 4 when Martin Jarvis comes into the tube station to enter the bunker via the secret lift, would it not strike him odd that the Doctor’s new car – which wasn’t exactly inconspicuous – was parked right outside?
  • From the file marked ‘Things That Annoy Me on TV’, when someone says ‘…and come alone’ when arranging a meeting, why does the person who has to come alone a) never get suspicious and b) never tell anyone where he’s going to ensure that s/he has someone to backup should something bad arise?
  • When villains make these machines that can be so destructive, how is it the Doctor is able to make them either completely safe or turn them against their villainous owners my flicking one switch. Is that not a fairly significant design flaw?
  • While the Dr Who Restoration Team do an admirable job of trying to colourise the first episode, it just doesn’t quite work.
  • I read that the original brief for this story was that it was to be about the South of England being given over to a race of aliens who had landed on Earth. That would have been better in theory.

Doctor Who – Invasion of the Dinosaurs Review: Final Thoughts

There’s so much wrong with the Invasion of the Dinosaurs, from the dodgy puppets to the bloated script, and yet for whatever reason I don’t think it’s that bad.

No, it’s not good, but it’s not so embarrassing that is deserved to be junked forever a few months later.

The Time Warrior was a very good story, but the general belief about Season 11 is that after that one it coasts along with safe stories that offer nothing ground breaking. I’d agree with that when it comes to Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

But by no means is it the worst Pertwee effort.


Doctor Who – The Time Warrior Review (or ‘The World Has Truly Missed Out On a Lynx & Irongron Sitcom’)

July 23, 2012

It’s a new series and a new era for Doctor Who as perhaps the most well-known companion in the show’s history – Sarah-Jane Smith – boards the TARDIS for the very first time.

Season 11 is also the season that has the opening credits that make it look like the main character is a vampire; watch them and tell me I’m wrong.

And in the first story of this new season – The Time Warrior – we’re also introduced to one of the show’s most famous ‘monsters’ – The Sontarans – as well as one of the key moments of fanwankery (I’m making that a word), the naming of the Doctor’s home planet.

Doctor Who  – The Time Warrior Review: What’s This One About

A warmongering idiot from space and a warmongering idiot from the Middle Ages form an unlikely-but-mutually-beneficial alliance in a bid to get the former back to his fleet among the stars and the latter into Dot Cotton’s house.

Pleased to meet you, I’m a Vampire

Thoughts – Back in Time At Last

So for the first time since The Highlanders (as the War Games didn’t technically take place on Earth and Atlantis isn’t real) a Doctor Who story is set in Earth’s history, but with the twist of also involving an alien menace so the kids won’t get bored. So a bit like modern-day Who then…

But there’s a reason that modern-day Who has gone down that route, and it’s because it works. I much prefer a story set in the environment of the Time Warrior than a bland ‘space opera’ set on an alien planet, like we have to get used to towards the end of the 70s and into the 80s. And of course, the BBC can always be relied upon to do a good job making these historical stories look accurate.

One thing that sets this story apart from almost all of the other stories of its kind though is that the dialogue is also authentic. We see many stories set at an earlier point in Earth’s history where people talk as if it was the modern-day. But in the Time Warrior, all the Middle Ages characters speak like people from the Middle Ages. We would look at lines like ‘Is this Doctor a long shanked rascal with a mighty nose’ or ‘With paltroons like these it would ill work to lay siege to a hen coop’ and say ‘People don’t speak like that’, but the point is that they did at the time. And so it’s wonderful.

Kevin Lindsay and David Daker – An Acting Master-class

In some of my other reviews I’ve written enthusiastically about how certain actors have really lit up the screen by investing everything into their parts and taking things very seriously. Guys like Patrick Barr in the Moonbase or Kevin Stoney in both of his appearances.

The Time Warrior is blessed to have two such actors at the same time.

Kevin Lindsay (Lynx) and David Daker (Irongron) are both absolutely superb in their roles. I really can’t speak highly enough of them.

Lindsay isn’t just a man in a suit when he plays the Sontaran, in the same way as maybe John Woodnut was when he played ‘John Woodnut dressed as a Draconian’ in the Frontier in Space. No, Lindsay – who can be seen without his make-up

‘Mon Then! Actually, it’s worth pointing out how brilliant this Sontaran costume and mask is. Off hand, I can’t think of a better realised Monster throughout the show’s history

and acting completely differently as Cho-Je in Planet of the Spiders – lays down the blueprint for all Sontarans to come with his mannerisms, his alien voice, his tongue movement and even his walk. Bernard Bresslaw did something similar in The Ice Warriors, but Lindsay trumps that here.

And then there’s David Daker.

In amongst a host of actors and actresses playing at being characters in the Middle Ages, Daker’s Irongron seems by far the most authentic. While others look like they might be having to take half a second to think about speaking the lines as written, Daker puts in a truly Shakespearean performance. The lines roll off his tongue as if he really was Irongron, each sentence spoken with absolute conviction and command.

And what makes it better is that these two actors – each playing a character from the absolute opposite ends of the scale – are put together as an odd couple. And it works so well; so much so that I’d have loved it if they’d had their own sitcom. One strength of Robert Holmes’s writing is his ability to put odd couples together, whether it’s Morgus & Stotts in the Caves of Androzani, or perhaps his most famous double act, Jago & Lightfoot in the Talons of Weng Chiang. But Lynx & Irongron could be his best.

Sarah

As I said earlier, Sarah makes her first appearance in this one, and she starts off well. The longer she lasts in the show she becomes very much a ‘Doctor Who Girl’ like those who have come before and after her, but here – as the strong-willed and independent journalist – she makes for a refreshing change from Jo Grant.

In particular, her scene with Irongron & Bloodaxe where she doesn’t quite believe she is in the Middle Ages is both well written and performed. It always raises a smile for me.

I’m not quite sure why her character believes the Doctor is responsible for the missing scientists though, nor how she is so easily convinced otherwise.

But that’s a minor thing.

The Sontaran Costume

To go back to Lynx for a moment, I really have to credit whoever came up with his costume. It’s fantastically good.

If you watch modern Doctor Who, we do of course now have CGI and all that comes with that to make things look realistic, but sometimes – or most of the time if we’re being honest with ourselves – you can spot CGI a mile off. Look at the Slitheen episodes now and see how badly they have dated.

Then look at Lynx.

Through the use of makeup and what I assume is prosthetic, the costume department have managed to craft a head that looks real. I look at a close up of Lynx and I can’t really see where the actor’s head stops and the mask comes in. It’s

How the Doctor plans to sleep like that, I’ll never know. Pretty talented though.

awesome. Even the little things like having wisps of hair coming out of his head in different places adds to the realism of it.

It appears as though the idea comes from an initial brief that the character needed to have a head that fit his helmet perfectly, and they’ve certainly achieved that.

What’s sad though is that they didn’t manage to follow up on that at all. The Sontarans never managed to look even half as good again until their reappearance a few years ago.

It’s Not All Good Though

While The Time Warrior is a great story and certainly one of the better ones in the Pertwee era, it is not without its problems.

First of all there’s Rubeish, a character that I’ve been irritated by since childhood.

In a story full of great acting and well written and well-rounded characters, you have this guy who is a tiresome stereotype of an intellectual type.

Whether it’s the whole ‘He Can’t See Without His Glasses’ routine or writing equations on any surface he can find, he’s performed as the sort of ‘Potty Professor’ you’d expect in a show like

Look at those two and tell me they wouldn’t be fantastic in a sitcom together

Rentaghost rather than Doctor Who. And while there are other actors treating the task at hand with absolute seriousness, Donald Pelmear seems to be taking the piss. And the fact that he annoyed me even when I was a child watching this on VHS shows he couldn’t even do acting for children well.

Although in fairness, the line about him thinking the Doctor was ‘too old for that sort of thing’ amused me.

Apart from him though, some of the other actors weren’t up to scratch. If June Brown – who incidentally appears to have never been young – wasn’t so well-known now, you’d think ‘She’s a bit rubbish’, while Jeremy ‘Boba Fett’ Bulloch is more wooden than the arrows he’s shooting.

And what was with both the wig and accent on the woman who ran the kitchens?

Still, these are small issues heavily outweighed by the positives of this story.

Random Observations

  • I’ve not touched upon Jon Pertwee’s performance, but it’s worth noting that this seems to be one of his best. The key is that he’s having fun with the part and seems very much at home in the surroundings.
  • As I’ve alluded to already, the story is genuinely funny at times. One scene that springs to mind is the one in which Irongron’s men try to shoot the Doctor. Like I say, Pertwee has fun here, and so do the rest of the cast.
  • Similar to that is the bit before that where the Doctor dresses up in the Knight’s armour. His reaction to having to face both Irongron and Bloodaxe raises a smile, as does their reaction upon finding out it’s him.
  • And also the scene where the Doctor and Irongron meet for the first time. The Doctor shows the best way to get out of a compromising position there!
  • I wonder if the beginning part, where Lynx comes out of his ship and plants that little flag, claiming Earth for the Sontaran empire is a direct parody of the scene from the ‘Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a half Century’ cartoon where Marvin the Martian claims the planet in the name of Mars. At the very least it has to be influenced by it.
  • I’m not exactly sure how the Doctor producing that paper fan managed to repel the beam from Lynx’s gun.
  • Similarly, I’m not sure how neither the Doctor nor the Brigadier managed to spot Sarah going into the TARDIS  a matter of feet away from them.
  • Also, how is the Doctor able to sleep with his feet on the table and balancing on a chair? Talented guy.
  • And speaking of the TARDIS, the prop at this point is beginning to look mangy, but I’ll save a picture until the Seeds of Doom review when it is literally falling apart.
  • I love that Robert Holmes has gone to the trouble of creating a backstory for the Sontarans. We need more appearances from The Rutans.
  • David Daker comes back in The Nightmare of Eden, but lesser known is his role in the Big Finish Audio ‘Creatures of Beauty’, which – if you haven’t already heard it – is well worth listening to. Superb stuff.

Doctor Who – The Time Warrior Review: Final Thoughts

The Time Warrior is not perfect, but it’s very well written and has some terrific performances from the guest cast, as well as from the regulars.

My brother watched this one with me the other day and remarked that he’d forgotten how good it was, and frankly, so had I.

When I come to rate all the Pertwee stories in order, this will be near the top; guaranteed.


Doctor Who – The Green Death Review (or ‘It Seems Racism is Apparently Ok If Aimed At The Welsh’)

July 18, 2012

There’s still a whole series to go, but in many ways this is the end of ‘The Pertwee Era’ as we know it.

The Master is gone and now Jo Grant is leaving the ‘UNIT Family’ in the last story of Season 10 of the show – The Green Death

Doctor Who – The Green Death Review: What’s This One About?

Giant Maggots, Evil Capitalists, WOTAN’s eccentric younger brother BOSS and making fun of the Welsh

Thoughts – It’s Apparently ok to be Racist…it’s Only The Welsh

When you watch The Green Death, the first thing that will strike you is how unbelievably racist it all is, and I don’t use the word ‘unbelievably’ lightly. Even in an era that saw shows like Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language – shows,

Talfyn Thomas and Roy Evans don’t look amused by the ‘Broad Welshman’ lines they have to speak

incidentally, that have been cleansed from history – the production team’s portrayal of the Welsh miners as wacky caricatures from a simpler time is astonishing. In truth it’s actually quite funny but we’re conditioned these days to tut under our breath at stuff like that.

You’ve got the Welsh coming out with all the perceived vernacular stereotypes like calling people ‘Boyo’ and finishing sentences unnecessarily with ‘Isn’t It’, ‘Doesn’t It’ and ‘Can You’, and you’ve also got the English characters treating most of them with a whithering contempt.

“They’re at the Nut Hutch” says Stevens’ driver with disdain (the Welsh characters pronounced Nut Hutch as ‘Nuttuch’), while Jo talks about how she can’t believe she’s so shaken by the death of a ‘Funny Little Welshman’.

Take that last line and imagine her talking about a ‘Funny Little Indian’ or ‘Funny Little Pakistani’ and imagine the race storm that it would cause these days.

But it seems to be ok to be as racist as that because it’s only the Welsh.

Ok then.

It’s like how in 2012 it’s still acceptable to discriminate against people with ginger hair.

Despite that though, Talfyn Thomas especially puts in a memorable performance. As hypocritical as I am for saying it, his portrayal of a thick-accented Welshman is always brilliant, and though he’s not as good in this as he was in shows like Dad’s Army and Survivors, he still lights up the screen whenever he’s on it.

A Clash of Two Stories In One

Now I should point out before I go any further that I do like this story. It’s classic Pertwee faire and is one of the best remembered of his era, with all the regulars (minus Delgado of course) putting in strong performances.

Sometimes you just stumble across a freeze-frame and think ‘Words are not enough’

But the problem I have with it – if you can call it a problem – is that it seems to be two separate stories rolled into one.

On the face of it, the Green Death will be seen by most to be about the giant killer maggots that have come into being as a result of Global Chemicals secretly pumping toxic waste into the Welsh mines while presenting themselves as an environmentally sound oil fuel company.

But what it really seems to be about is a mad computer wanting to take over the world in a storyline remarkably similar to The War Machines.

When I got to Episode 6, I thought that the maggot storyline had been pretty much brushed off to the side with the B-Movie-esque ‘something every day and normal turns out to be the cure’ plot twist, and frankly it doesn’t seem feasible that the Doctor and Benton managed to get round every single maggot to feed them all the fungus before they could each turn into the Giant Fly of Doom. But hey-ho.

Of course, you couldn’t have the maggot storyline without the brainwashing computer I suppose, because if Stevens and the rest of the Global Chemicals staff weren’t brainwashed, they would have immediately shut down production until UNIT solved the maggot problem. Or am I being too kind to the ‘Evil Capitalists’ here?

And as for the BOSS storyline; it was all sorted by the Blue Sapphire from Metabilis 3. Now I don’t like that type of finish because it’s a cheat. The story is set in 1970s Wales and the solution is an alien sapphire the Doctor just so happens to have on him. I think that’s quite a cheap way to wrap things up.

From Sickly Comedy to Genuine Emotion

The plot though is not the reason I have a soft spot for this story, it’s the ending.

In the first instance you’ve got Stevens and how he redeems himself. Now, it’s true to say that the way Stevens dies is the sort of thing that is included in my ‘Things That Annoy Me in TV and Films’articles – i.e. the idea of someone needlessly

I’ve always thought this is one of the better deaths in Doctor Who. The forlorn look and single tear of the man who knows he’s about to die is always sad.

throwing their life away when they could quite easily save the day and escape – but there’s still something that pulls on the heartstrings about a man knowing he’s about to die and crying a single tear. I liked that; it was a real ‘adult drama’ moment in a series made more for the family.

And then you’ve got the exit of Jo. And ok, it may well have been telegraphed from the very start, and yes, it’s a bit odd that she and Cliff decide to get married before they’ve even had their first kiss, but we can ignore that. What makes it is the Doctor’s reaction. He slips away from a ‘UNIT Family’ party quietly, sad at the loss of his companion. It’s a departure from the usual hurried companion exit, and it’s made better by both the performances of the actors – Pertwee especially – and the direction. Although you do wonder how he’s so upset when he was happy to let her go off to live on Skaro at the end of the last story.

Anyway, the ending is all the more pleasant considering how badly the story started. The scene where the Doctor and Jo are talking to each other about different things and then both say ‘You never listen to a word I say’ to each other at the same time is absolutely cringe-making. And the ‘hilarious’ scenes with the Doctor struggling on Metabilis 3 are just as bad.

Mike Yates – The World’s Least Likely Army Captain

One character who stands out in the Green Death is Mike Yates.

Imagine what BOSS would look like in 2012? Instead of all this machinery he’d just be a small laptop sitting on a table. As it is, it looks like the Doctor is pitted against Cool Spot from the 7-Up adverts.

Now it’s fair to say that Richard Franklin is perhaps not Macho Army Captain Material. One could even say he was miscast in the first place. He’s quite a softly spoken and effete guy (and yes, I’m aware I’m venturing into dangerous waters here, but bear with me…) and has never really been believable in the role.

However, in this story he’s out of the Captain uniform and going undercover as the vaguely titled ‘Man from the Ministry’. And in truth he’s a lot better.

Franklin has a natural campness about him and he seems to revel in the chance to camp it up like he previously couldn’t in his UNIT uniform, complete with comedy pratfalls and Carry On-esque hand rubbing.

By no means does he steal the show, but you do get the feeling he’s having more fun playing the part he’s got in this one than he usually does.

Random Observations

  • The rapid ageing of Katy Manning is complete here. You’ve just got to look at a picture of her from the Terror of the Autons compared to here to be taken aback by how much older she looks. There’s only two and a half years between stories as well. Must be that old 1970s lifestyle, eh?
  • CSO is a major part of this story, with the various actors standing in front of green screen while a dodgy looking background is mounted behind them. Some of it I can understand, like some of the stuff down the mines, but there’s a scene in episode 5 with the Brigadier and Benton standing in a quarry that seems to flip between location filming and CSO with no rhyme nor reason. Perhaps the film got damaged?
  • If Jo Grant was as interested in the career of Professor Jones as she makes out, would she not have known what he looked like before meeting him for the first time?
  • Can you spot the character who had to be hastily replaced because he fell ill half way through the story?
  • If Global Chemicals is meant to be such a hi-tec security conscious establishment, is it not a little far-fetched that any old person can come in pretending to be the milkman or the cleaner?
  • Although that Fly that the maggot turned into did look spectacularly crap, I do think that they could have done a little bit more with it. There’s something more creepy about flying insects than maggots in my opinion.
  • People tend to go on about how good the actor voicing BOSS is, but I’ve never really shared that view. I think it’s because the same actor did such a spectacular job of annoying me in Planet of the Spiders and so I have a dislike for him

    The lifestyle of the Doctor Who Companion is clearly bad for you. Katy Manning appears to have aged at least 10 years in a fifth of the time.

    no matter what (but that’s a story for another time)

  • There’s this belief that the Third Doctor is ‘The Action Doctor’, but up until this point he hasn’t done that much Action stuff. In the Green Death and indeed in the next couple of stories that changes, as he seems to alter his stance to ensure violence is a first resort rather than a last one.
  • An aspect of this story I particularly like is the incidental music. More than usual it just seems to work.
  • There’s an amusing little moment where Mike Yates is supposed to look disappointed when Jo announces her engagement. This goes back to the original plan for the two of them to become romantically involved. But as I say, Yates was miscast for that sort of thing and any romance was never even remotely believable.
  • And as for Jo, when I reviewed the Terror of the Autons I described her as ‘one of the best companions’ and ‘a better actress working alongside Pertwee than Sladen was’. Now having reviewed all her stories and looked at her performances more closely, I may have to reassess that. Manning – on form – is a good actress, but too often she resorted to very shonky ‘kiddy’ acting, with a few stories like the Curse of Peladon and the Green Death standing out. Still, she’s a better character than many of her successors, there’s no doubt about that.

Doctor Who – The Green Death Review: Final Thoughts

So as I say, it’s the end of an era.

It’s farewell to Jo, and also to Bessie (f0r now)  and the Doctor Who opening credits and logo.

It’s not a bad story at all, but there are many aspects of the plot that are a little to convenient for me. It’s also deeply racist, and whether that makes it worse is up to your own interpretation.

On the other hand, the conclusion to the story is excellent, and a rare example of emotion in a show where characters leave or are killed off without so much as a moment’s reflection.

Certainly one worth seeing, even if just for that.


Doctor Who – The Planet of the Daleks Review (or ‘The World’s Worst Love Story’)

July 8, 2012

When reviewing Planet of the Daleks  – a follow-up story to the Frontier in Space where the Doctor (aided by a group of Thals) must try to stop the Daleks before they can mobilise their invasion force – I think the standard response is to say that it’s a dull rehash of old Terry Nation ideas.

It’s certainly true to say that there are plenty set pieces that have been in some of his previous Dalek stories.

You’ve got…

  • Daleks on a ‘hostile’ Jungle planet where the plant life can kill
  • A member of the Doctor’s party disguising themselves in a Dalek casing
  • A Dalek following the Doctor’s party up a sort of lift shaft
  • Invisible Aliens
  • Daleks cutting down a door with a torch
  • The Daleks threatening to unleash some force that will kill everything on the planet other than them
  • The Doctor and his party splitting into two groups towards the end
  • A Thal falling in love with the Doctor’s companion
  • An overly cautious Thal leader

Yes, this has elements from all of Terry Nation’s earlier work on the series, but I suppose the question is this; why is that a problem?

Ok, if I watch the Planet of the Daleks a few months after watching the William Hartnell era, I can see the similarities and say they aren’t original. But if I was watching this in 1973, it would either be all new to me (and therefore exciting) or a

These two Daleks must have bad history between them. They can’t even look at each other

welcome retelling of a story I enjoyed 8 or 9 years earlier.

So I don’t see that as much of an issue. In fact, I think it’s a good story on the whole.

But that’s not to say there aren’t other problems…

Thoughts – A Lot of Things Don’t Make Sense

There are plenty of things that just don’t make that much sense in this story; things that are either thrown into the mix with little regard to the overall story, glaringly inconsistent or are just inconceivable.

Let’s begin with the Doctor’s illness at the start. Other than to fill fifteen minutes of airtime, what was the point? It didn’t seem to go anywhere. One minute he was ill, and then he wasn’t. Did it exist purely to separate the Doctor and Jo from each other? Could there not have been less time-consuming ways to achieve that? Most probably.

And what about the Spirodons? What I don’t understand is that if they are invisible, why have they accepted themselves as slaves when they could easily escape from their masters by simply taking off the big purple fur coats? And when Westor decides to sabotage the Daleks’ bacteria outbreak, why did he not find his way into the base invisibly rather than wearing the fur coat and having to explain himself? Yes, I know the answer to that question is because it wouldn’t have made for good TV, but I suppose the overall question is why have the Spirodons invisible at all?

I guess the answer to that question is that so we could have had that ‘unbelievably gripping’ cliffhanger to Episode 1; a cliffhanger I say I find to be one of the worst in the history of the show.

The story is called the Planet of the Daleks and the setup to it is that the Doctor is deliberately following the Daleks to their base to try to stop them.

So it’s not a big leap to think the Daleks might be in this one.

Having been given a misleading explanation of what a handshake signifies, Latep thinks he’s well in with Jo

And yet he – and by association we as the viewer – are supposed to be surprised to find that a Dalek is on the planet? Even if the Doctor has forgotten why he is there because of his illness, surely meeting up with some Thals who keep talking about ‘them’ is a give-away?

But wait…there’s more…

The air vent that the Doctor and co. escape up is supposed to be ‘a few miles long’, and yet when they get to the top and throw a boulder onto the Dalek, it falls about 100 feet before hitting the bottom. Also, despite being ‘a few miles long’, Jo and her love-sick pal manage to climb down it via rope. I’m sorry, but there’s no chance that Jo Grant would have the physical conditioning for that (notice I didn’t even touch upon the ridiculousness of them possibly having a rope that long).

Oh, and there’s no way that the Doctor – wearing leather gloves no less – would be able to hold on and pull himself up from his precarious position when hanging on to the side of the shaft.

Then there’s the Daleks, who once again spurn many opportunities to kill the Doctor. The greatest offender is the Dalek from the Episode 5 Cliffhanger/Episode 6 Reprise. It just stands around panicking shouting ‘You are not Spirodons. Help! Help!‘. Last time I checked, that Dalek had a gun. Why did it not just shoot them all where they stood?

And what about the Bombs? It’s a staple of Dr Who I suppose, but blast radius’ of bombs are wildly inconsistent at best. There are three Thal-owned bombs in this one. The first blows up a couple of Daleks with Jo standing a few feet away. The second blows up some more Daleks while Jo and Latep duck in the next room. But the third one manages to blow up the supporting wall of and unleash the full force of an ice volcano. Ok then..,

The Worst Love Story Ever Told

The most incongruous and shoe-horned-in bit of all though is the ‘love story’ between Jo and Latep.

For whatever reason, Latep decides that he’s well in there with Jo. I think it stemmed from when Jo shook him by the hand and gave the worst description of what a hand shake signifies that I’ve ever heard. You can see in his eyes that he thinks ‘Oh yeah, I’m a stud’ from that point on, as he walks around like the Cock of the Walk, Lad McLad, The Ulimate Ladies Man, The King Shit.

He spends his time giving Jo some terrible chat and asking her to help him run around the jungle to lead the Daleks on a merry dance. Smooth operator.

And then, with the Daleks defeated and his confidence at an all time high, he plays his trump card; he asks the Doctor for permission to take Jo back to Skarowith him. The Doctor – despite being incredibly upset only one story later when Jo

And this didn’t help matters either. Whey-hey!

decides to marry Doctor Jones in the Green Death – has no problem with it.

So he swaggers up to Jo, offers her the chance to start a life with him on Skaro and she…

Absolutely shoots him down in flames.

Oh I felt for the guy. Jo may as well have kicked him right in the nuts while she was at it.

I actually think that the Thal scientist – Codal – had more of a chance wooing the Doctor than Latep had with Jo.

Despite that…

Despite all of that  – and maybe even because of it – it’s a fun story that is entertaining enough.

From an aesthetic point of view though, it was a little hard to watch sometimes.

The Look

It’s unfortunate but a significant issue with this story (and by association all of the stories in the 70s and into the 80s set in jungles) is that it just doesn’t look all that good.

For a start, you can tell that it’s a jungle atop a studio floor. It looks a little cheap. And it’s garish too. There’s just too much colour going on here, from the cheap bright greens of the plastic ‘flora’ to the bright purple of both the Spirodon fur

So he makes his move and ends up absolutely crushed. If looks could kill….

coats and the Doctor’s entire outfit. There’s too much ‘in your face’ colour going on. I actually found I enjoyed it more by putting it into black and white on my TV. That way it looked a lot more convincing as an actual jungle. Restoring the colour to Episode 3 actually works against it.

As it stands, it manages to look a lot cheaper than the stories made in the 1960s like the penultimate episode of the Chase and much of the Daleks Master Plan.

That isn’t helped either by the ultra cheap ‘animal eyes’ that watch over our heroes as they seek refuge on that plateau. In black and white it looked semi convincing. In colour it looks like a series of Christmas lights held against a black backdrop.

And speaking of that scene at the plateau, it has one of the most obvious switches from studio-to-location filming seen in the show. As far as I can tell, the plateau is at the very edge of the jungle, and yet just beside it is a quarry with no plant life in sight. The location shooting looked good, but again it’s that word incongruous that comes up. You can’t just switch to a quarry when the story is set in a jungle.

Random Observations

  • Jo gets hit on the head by a falling boulder and then – after a few minutes knocked out – is absolutely fine again. Let’s face it, at the very worst she’d have a severe concussion, and more likely she’d be brain-dead.
  • As much as I praised the Dalek voices in the Day of the Daleks, they are better here. Roy Skelton at this point has yet to turn his Daleks into ring-modulated Zippys and Michael Wisher has a good enough Dalek voice. There are problems that slip in during Episode 6 where Wisher does the voices of all three Daleks in the scene and they all sound exactly the same. Because of that, the Dalek operators struggle to know which one is meant to be talking, so they all flash the lights on the top of the Dalek domes. It gets very confusing.
  • If I’m not mistaken, when the Gold Dalek from the Peter Cushing films turns up at the end, they give him an individual musical score influenced by the music from Dr Who and the Daleks, which is a nice touch.
  • The Dalek eyes look quite cheap here. Back in the 60s, the eyes played a part in the emotion of the Daleks; a classic example being the way the iris of the Dalek’s eye shortened while making that speech in the Power of the Daleks. Here it’s just a black spot painted onto the eye stock.
  • How did it take the Daleks so long to burst through that pathetic barricade the Thals set up in Episode 6?
  • Why did the Doctor make his whereabouts known to the Daleks in Episode Three while trying to escape the Dalek City? I mean, if you are trying to make a covert escape and you see a Dalek facing away from you at the end of the

    There are so many questions. Why is the Dalek having trouble getting past this? Why do Daleks even own stuff like that? Why did the Thals go to the trouble of putting plastic sheeting down to ensure nothing got scratched?

    corridor, why would you scream ‘Back in the lift’ at the top of your lungs?

  • It turns out that the stories in this season were filmed wildly out of sequence, which explains the rapid aging that Katy Manning seems to have gone through between this one and the Carnival of Monsters.
  • That speech about courage was sickening wasn’t it?
  • In terms of the actors, it would be remiss of me not to menti0n Dr Who legend Bernard Horsfall as Taron. He’s one of these actors who plays every single part exactly the same way, and yet manages to not only get away with it, but do a good job.
  • There’s a scene where Jo manages to spook a Dalek by simply standing behind it. How can that do anything other than damage the aura of these supposedly unstoppable monsters?
  • There’s also a scene where the Daleks appear to have searched the body of a dead Thal and found a map on his person. How did they manage that?
  • Also, why do the Daleks have things like foldaway tables, cupboards that look like they come from MFI and what appears to be a dishwasher lying around for the Thals to use as a barricade?
  • And based on that picture, if the Thals were desperately hurrying to create any sort of barricade to stop the Daleks, did they need to go to the trouble of putting some plastic sheeting down to ensure nothing got scratched? #MeticulousToThePointOfStupidity
  • Did nobody bother to tell the makers of those toy Daleks that they use in the refrigeration scene that they were the wrong shape?

Doctor Who – Planet of the Daleks Review: Final Thoughts

So there’s plenty wrong with this story. A series of incredulous and ridiculous events, the world’s worst love story and an unconvincing look.

But most of that adds to the charm of what is a decent Terry Nation Dalek effort.

I like it, but I think it works better in black and white, and I don’t think I’m supposed to.


Doctor Who – The Frontier In Space Review (or ‘A Sad Farewell to One of the Show’s Greats’)

July 1, 2012

There’s a certain sadness in watching The Frontier in Space.

It marks the final appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master. I assume anyone going to the trouble of reading a review of this story will know that he was tragically killed in a car accident a few months later while filming The Bell of Tibet in Turkey.

I also assume you know that had he not died, Delgado was planning to leave the show in the near future anyway, and the idea was for the Master to sacrifice himself to save the Doctor in what could have been the Third Doctor’s last hurrah. I think that would have been a suitable way for the Master to go. There’s no doubt in my mind that Delgado’s Master is the best one – the definitive one.

Any actor that took on the role after him didn’t really get the character. The Master is all about evil grand schemes to conquer the Earth of the Galaxy, but despite that he’s a gentleman; the sort of person who the audience will like. Future Masters were just two dimensionally evil, and frankly a bit tiresome. There’s only one Master, and it’ll forever be Roger Delgado as far as I’m concerned.

As the Frontier in Space…

Doctor Who – The Frontier in Space Review: What’s This One About?

With the help of the Ogrons, the Master plans to start a war between Earth and Draconia. They use a machine that makes the Ogrons appear to be what a person fears the most, so when they attack the Earth ships, the Humans think

Look! It’s my boy Lobos from the Space Museum. He looks like a guy not to be trifled with…

Draconians are hijacking them and vice verca.

And the Doctor and Jo end up caught up in it all.

Oh, and the Daleks show up at the end because it turns out that they are the ones employing the Master.

Thoughts – Repetition and Padding

I like the Frontier In Space; it’s a decent story in a setting that makes for a nice change of pace from most Pertwee adventures. My major issue with it though is that it’s too long.

The first two and half episodes – before the Master turns up – are spent with the Doctor being moved from one cell to another while he fails to convince the authorities of what is going on. And having the Ogrons show up as often as they do without anyone other than the Doctor & Jo realising what is going on is flogging a dead horse. That could easily have been truncated.

Similarly, in Episode 6 the scene where the Doctor goes outside to repair the hull of the ship is nothing but filler. We’d already seen the Doctor go outside into space a couple of episodes earlier, and we absolutely did not to see it again.

Also, despite the Doctor failing to convince the Earth President and General Williams of what was going on earlier, the way they accept his story – to an extent – in Episode Six is a little bit too convenient. It’s as if the writer decided ‘Ok, we have to move things along now’, even if it doesn’t ring particularly true.

And would it not have saved years of bloodshed if Williams and the Draconians had had that chat about the misunderstanding that started the earlier war, sooner?

Despite that though, it’s still a decent serial. It just would have worked better as a four of five parter.

Another Masterful Performance

Once again this is a story where Roger Delgado steals the show as the Master. As I’ve said now in both the Sea Devils and Time Monster reviews, he has fine tuned the character to perfection. Like in those stories he plays the part as far more

Wash your hair love; you look like you’ve been rubbing butter in it.

than a sort of bland villain; he’s a bit like a loveable rogue, even if his plans aren’t all that nice.

Delgado once again plays off the rest of the cast extremely well, from calling the Daleks ‘stupid tin boxes‘ to his fantastic straight man act against the Comedy Ogrons. No matter how many times I watch this, I still laugh at the exchange of dialogue between him and the Ogron navigating his ship…

Master: “That must be them. No other ship would be on a course for Earth at a time like this”
Stupid Ogron: “WE are on a course for Earth”
Master: (Incredulously) “Well naturally because we’re chasing them!!”

The delivery of the lines from both actors is just spot on.

Similarly, the way he feels rather deflated about the idea of killing off the Doctor through long-range missile strike because it ‘Lacks the personal touch’ is brilliant.

What works best though is his interaction with the Doctor and Jo. When he has them as his prisoners he acts more like they are all friends, telling them to hold on tight and asking them whether they are ok. It’s unique.

With Jo, the scene where he tries and fails to hypnotize her is a wonderful and poignant ‘full circle’ moment. When they first met back in Terror of the Autons, the Master easily hypnotised her and got her to do his bidding. But in his final appearance, he fails to do it again. It’s a great moment because it shows how much Jo has grown throughout her time on the show as she

Extra Watch: Spot the guy in the Draconian costume who has is recovering from a heavy session the night before

too prepares to leave.

The Ending

Sadly, what ruins the Master’s unwitting final farewell is that the ending of the story is completely botched up. The original plan was for the Doctor to use the fear machine to set the Ogrons into a panic – as they would see the Doctor turn into the Ogron-Eating Monster that they fear the most – and in the confusion the Master would get away.

Unfortunately due to a cock-up on the part of the director, they weren’t able to film that because the monster – which had only been used on location – was too big to realistically fit inside the studio, and so what we have instead is a really bad ending where the Doctor activates the fear machine, the Ogrons just run about in a circle, the Master shoots the Doctor and then the room empties, because the next bit was filmed during the production of the next story.

It all looks very botched and spliced together at the last second, and what we’re left with is an ending doesn’t make sense and a really poor and unsatisfying send-off for such a terrific character.

A great pity.

From listening to the commentary on the DVD (where you’ll hear a full blow-by-blow account of what went wrong at the end of the story), it would seem that the novelization of the story gives the Master a more apt final scene, which is something I suppose.

Random Observations

  • The enforcer on the Lunar Prison is Stuart Reviews Stuff favourite, Richard Shaw, who played Lobos (he of The Great Exposition) in the Space Museum. He’s aged a wee bit, hasn’t he?
  • And on the subject of the Lunar Prison, the way the Doctor acts is a bit presumptuous. From the moment he arrives he’s decided that he knows that the Professor plans to escape and presumes that he will go with him. If I was the Professor, I’d be more than a little apprehensive of taking this curiously bold chap who I’d only known for about 3 hours as my partner in an escape bid that I’d been planning for months. It would have seemed a little suspicious.
  • You’d think the President of Earth would wash her hair…
  • On that note actually (not the hair part but the President of Earth bit) is it not a bit unrealistic how easy the Doctor and Jo manage to get audiences with both the President of Earth and the leader of the Draconian race? Surely there are procedures and red tape to get through first? Or am I looking too deeply into things?
  • The Doctor Who wikia site says that when the Doctor appears as a Dalek to one of the Ogrons in Episode 6, that Dalek is voiced by Michael Wisher. No it isn’t. You can clearly hear that’s Pertwee doing the voice. Sloppy reporting guys, very sloppy.
  • Whenever I see this story, it reminds me a wee bit of the first series of Blake’s Seven. I think that’s mostly because of the stuff on the moon and how it is quite similar to the way Blake is sent off to a penal planet in the second episode,

    The Daleks pop in for a brief chat to let people know they’ll see them next week.

    but it’s also the general feel of it, the similarity of the sets and location filming in what looks like a carpark, as well as the scene where the Doctor gazumps the Mind Probe.

  • The cliffhanger to Episode Four is a good one in that it isn’t a ‘Doctor In Peril’ moment, but rather an advancement of the plot. Rather than thinking ‘How will the Doctor get out of this one’, it’s an ‘Oh, they’re in trouble next week’ style one with the Master sending a distress beacon out to the Ogrons. I think it works far better.
  • The Draconians may well have a rather unsubtle name, they do look good. And as you’ll know, Jon Pertwee loved their half masks that allowed for more expression. Compare them to some of the other ‘masked’ Doctor Who characters – not least from the previous story – and you’ll no doubt agree that the look very effective. Indeed, those Draconian outfits would stand up well in modern Who.
  • From listening the commentary, the bit where the guard pushes the Doctor into Jo and she almost bursts out laughing, saying “Oops, no need to push” was not in the script. A nice bit of improvisation th0ugh.
  • One regular complaint with ‘Old’ Dr Who is that the lighting is terrible. People accuse it of being too brightly lit which makes it look cheap, but I have to say I was impressed with the way it was done here, not least on board the prison ship.
  • There are two ‘That Doesn’t Make Sense’ moments here. The first is that surely this whole affair could have been sorted in Episode One when the Doctor & Jo appeared as Draconians to the guards then changed back to Humans later. The second is that the Doctor would have been lost in the vacuum of space when the ship changed its course. Surely the ship was moving? Ah well, little concerns I suppose…
  • The Daleks turn up to do little more than say ‘See you next week lads’. Had they not been in Day of the Daleks the year earlier, their reappearance would have been a true ‘Holy Shit’ moment. As it was, it was a bit of a damp squib, and once again they failed to kill the Doctor when they had the chance, giving him the opportunity to thwart their plans yet again.

Doctor Who – The Frontier in Space Review: Final Thoughts

You just can’t talk about the Frontier in Space without focusing on Roger Delgado. It’s such a shame that he died when he was the best thing about the show in this period. I feel that had he lived and gone on to film that final appearance when he was going to save the Doctor’s life, it would have been a real landmark moment in Dr Who and would have been fondly remembered by all.

And it would have saved us from the likes of Anthony Ainley and John Simm.

But sadly that’s not what happened. This is Delgado’s final farewell, and though he gets a really shitty ending, he shines once again in a story that would have been far worse without him.

As it is, the Frontier in Space is – while maybe a little too long – a good story, and well worth your time.


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