No real spoilers in the episode descriptions, minor spoilers in the overview... )

The Myth Makers 7.25

For the most part Myth Makers is a highly enjoyable story, filled with wonderfully written characters. The portrayal of most of the Greeks and Trojans being over the whole ten year war is handled with a good sense of humour - they've gone beyond anger and through into boredom and tiredness.

The only member of the guest cast not to get any humour is Cassandra. Doomsaying her way through the story, naturally no-one listens.

The main cast are kept reasonably busy, except for poor old Steven who gets put out of the way. The Doctor has some fun, but in some ways this is Vicki's story. Which is odd as she gets nothing to do in the first episode.

Spoilers )In some ways, with the sheer fun of the earlier parts, the last episode feels a bit unsatisfying overall. It's not bad, but it's a hell of an about face on the previous episodes in terms of tone. But then again, it's about the destruction of a city, so it'd be hard and inappropriate to the story to fill the episode with the level of humour present earlier.
Been a while, but here you go... No real spoilers, but probably some in the comments.

3.05 Mission to the Unknown Written by Terry Nation, Directed by Derek Martinus

On the planet Kembel Marc Cory finds a dark secret that threatens the galaxy.

This is a fabulous mini-story. Wonderfully melodramatic in a very 1940's British war movie style, it builds to a satisfying ending.

One wonders what it must have been like, back in the days where the vast majority of the audience would have sat down knowing nothing about Mission, for there to be a single episode without the Doctor and no warning about this. One can imagine the audience sitting there wondering when the TARDIS would appear all the way up to the end credits.

And more than this being just a Doctorless episode, this story was nothing less than a prelude to a much bigger story, one that wouldn't be seen for another four weeks. How many people expected the following episode to pick up where this one left off and were left scratching their heads?

The characters are simply but clearly drawn, the stakes are made known, and an old enemy returns. Terry Nation at his best.

This was Verity Lambert's last episode as producer. In some ways it's kind of odd that her last episode featured none of the show's regular cast. But another point of view is that she finished on a unique rule-breaking episode, which feels sort of appropriate given the television program she helped create.


"The seven of us represent the greatest war force ever assembled! Conquest is assured!" - Robert Cartland (Malpha)

picture under cut for the curious... )
One of the real problems I've had with new Who has been the sheer amount of magic science.

Now don't get me wrong, the series has always had an iffy grasp of science, what with writers who didn't know the difference between a solar system and a galaxy amongst other things. But it usually tried to act like its science was real. It usually felt as if the writers were told, 'I don't care if you've made it up, it has to be internally consistent and make sense within the world you've built.'

Now there are plenty of examples where this isn't necessarily the case in the original series, but they usually felt like exceptions, rather than the norm.

The magic science in the new series has constantly bugged me. From the sonic screwdriver being able to do literally anything needed, except when the plot demands otherwise, through things like 'let's just mix all the medicines in together, and that'll cure all these people instantly,' 'if I let the weird lightning pass through me it'll change the nature of the dalek hybrids,' and 'all you have to do is believe in fairies... er... Timelords.'

Quick thoughts on Christmas Carol - no real spoilers, but probably will end up with some in the comments, so consider yourself warned... )
Minor spoilers in the episode descriptions, slightly bigger spoilers in the overview at the end. )

Galaxy Four 4.25

The basic core of Galaxy Four is simple but solid - don't judge by appearances. This is further enhanced by the old standby for drama, a countdown to destruction. The problem with it is that it's not just slow, it's glacial. The last episode is by far the most interesting and exciting, it's where everything comes together and happens, and even that has a deliberate awkward conversational pause that goes for thirty seconds of screen time!

I think the problem is there's an over reliance on the robotic chumblies to fill gaps. Between them, the Drahvins, and the Rills, real character and interesting conflict has been dropped in favour of pretty things on screen. But this is mid-sixties Doctor Who, and it always works best with a solid story and interesting characters. In fact it's a rule that still holds true today of any tv or cinematic endeavour.

Now some may argue that the story has been hurt because it's being listened to on audio, but let's be realistic, no other missing or incomplete story to date has rated anywhere near this low. The nearest equivalent is The Space Museum and that suffers many of the same issues that hurt this story - poor pace and characterisation - but it exists!

Spoilers! )

It's not all bad. I really like the Rills. I like their mindset and character and the way the story builds to them finally being seen. When they are it's fleeting, which plays to the strengths and weaknesses of the show. No monster is going to work if it's visible onscreen for too long, so build to it, show it briefly, and leave it at that.

Galaxy Four isn't really bad at heart, it's just way too long and slow in its realisation. I think it would have made a cracking two-parter though!

Basically, nice for the completist, but missable.

Pictures for the curious... )
Given the look of the new Daleks, this one's almost topical!

Dr. Who and the Daleks

The first of the big budget Doctor Who movies is... not very good. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to see the Daleks in colour. The Dalek control room, the section of ground that opens during the Thal attack, and the forest all manage to look quite good, but overall the production feels rushed and cheap at almost every level.

I know a lot of people don't like that the Doctor is now human, not to mention actually being called Dr. Who, but I find all this quite forgivable. In theory the movie had to work for people unfamiliar with the series, so you don't want to load it down with tonnes of exposition - that's the mistake the telemovie made years later. The point of the story is to have the Daleks on the big screen and it achieves that quite well.

I quickly got used to the multi-coloured Daleks, and in fact grew to quite like the silver/blue/gold models. And then there's that lovely group shot with eighteen Daleks onscreen at once! I don't even mind the fire extinguisher guns.

I think one of the real problems with the film is that on a fraction of the budget, and in black and white, the original serial was more creative with its ideas and design. It feels like way more care was taken with Dead Planet's production design than with this. We never see a single creature in the lake of mutations, the Daleks' control panels have been mostly made from stock equipment, and the city interior design is colourful, but ultimately fairly uninspired.

The biggest issue for me though is Roy Castle as Ian. He's there purely for laughs and, well, the gags just aren't that funny. By the tenth pratfall I was over him.

Oh and special mention has to go to the look of the Thals. The first appearance by Antodus and all I could think was, "Wow, that's the one look Julian Clary was never brave enough to try out."

However, for all its faults, as a curio it's definitely worth a look.


"But why must you destroy the Thals? Why can't you live together in peace and share your knowledge?" - Peter Cushing (Dr. Who)
For those interested, here are the links to my episode by episode reviews of Doctor Who's original second season. Each individual episode gets rated and usually the overall story rating is reached by averaging out the episode scores, though sometimes a rating will be nudged up or down for various reasons.

Links will take you to the day it was posted so you can see the non-spoilery overview. If you opt to look at the story itself, there will usually be some mild spoilers, and the occasional one that will completely destroy the story, though I'll usually warn you about them. There will usually be spoilers in the comments.

9. Planet of Giants 6/10

10. Dalek Invasion of Earth 8/10

11. The Rescue 7/10

12. The Romans 7.5/10

13. The Web Planet 7.6/10

14. The Crusade 8.5/10

15. The Space Museum 5.25/10

16. The Chase 6/10

17. The Time Meddler 8/10

Doctor Who 2nd Season Score - 7.1/10

Doctor Who 1st Season Score - 7.5/10
Minor spoilers, with big ones right near the end (though I warn you those are coming up) )

8/10 - The Time Meddler

It's a solid and amusing tale, this one. While the Monk's plans would have serious repercussions on the world, he comes across as a well-meaning but irresistibly naughty schoolboy. He knows he shouldn't be doing what he's doing, but he just can't help himself. He even looks a little upset that in order to achieve his ends, people would die.

The interaction between the Monk and the Doctor is fun to watch. Both actors have excellent comic timing, and the scenes with their characters bumping heads are always enjoyable. Hartnell and Butterworth are in fine form throughout the story.

Vicki and Steven get a good outing, too. In fact, while it's Steven's first story as a companion, it's Vicki who gets to shine of the pair. She comes across as the old hand, wiser and slightly despairing of this headstrong newcomer. Given how poorly used Vicki was initially, it's nice to see her getting to do the explaining. Steven is likeable, and enjoyable to watch, even though his headstrong attitude can seem a bit forced at times.

Most of the rest of the cast do okay with their parts. The Vikings occasionally come across a little weak, but then again, they've not much to work with.

It's also a story with a couple of interesting firsts. It's the first semi-historical i.e. rather than being caught up in a normal set of historical events, the TARDIS crew find themselves up against an outside force whose actions threaten to change established history.

If you don't already know about the twists and turns of the story, try to keep it that way until after you've seen it. It's genuinely worth it. So don't read the back of the DVD! Nor should you let the opening menu run. Spoilers for the story, a cliffhanger, and I basically tell you the ending, so don't click here unless you've already seen it, you have been warned! )

All up, a fabulous and fun story, and one of my favourites.
Some Spoilers )

6/10 The Chase
There's a good story here, struggling to get past the over-long set-pieces that are hard to avoid on a TV show with such a limited budget. The Daleks suffer a little with what can only be assumed to be Terry Nation's boredom with the characters, as he proceeds to give various Daleks character traits such as being a bit dim, stuttering, or being worried that the Mechanoids may actually be a genuine threat.

The tone is a little variable as well. There are times when the TARDIS crew seem terrified of the fact the Daleks are hunting them, then other times when it's all treated by them as a bit of a lark.

At times the story meanders along in such a way as to be a bit dull. It also has the problem that an awful lot happens through sheer blind luck. Most TV and film relies on random chance bringing things together to create the situation, this story has a few too many elements where chance saves the day. But when the writing is on form, and the main cast are given something to do, it holds up well.
Minor Spoilers )
5.25/10 The Space Museum

Space Museum isn't a bad story as such, it's just a surprisingly dull and, at times, poorly written one. Then there's the realisation of things on-screen, which doesn't help. The Moroks are shown to be fairly incompetent, which removes any real fear of them. When a guard captures Ian, Vicki, and Barbara, he lets them have a long whispered conversation before even telling them to stop talking, then lets them have some more whispered talking.

So with villains being inept, any pity for the plight of the Xerons goes right out the window. It's bad enough the native inhabitants seem a bit wet, but how bloody hopeless does a race have to be not to be able to beat the Morok soldiers stationed on their planet?

However, the initial core idea is fabulous. Seeing their own futures and trying to avoid them, a wonderfully creepy idea wrapped in a reasonable first episode. Each of the characters gets a nice talky moment in the story, pondering their situation. Ian also gets a lovely dark moment psyching out a guard. Nicest of all Vicki actually gets to shine a little brighter than most of the rest of the cast as she steers some of the action over most of the story.

However, most of the acting by the guest cast is... lacklustre. Few seem to put in any real effort, which is something of a shame, since without that the story loses a chunk of its drive.Major Spoiler )

It's sad that a story with such a great central conceit is crushed under the weight of so much ordinariness.
Spoilers below the cut )

8.5/10 The Crusade

As you can tell by the score I've given it - Crusade rocks! Which is funny because if you'd asked me before I listened to it for an overall rating, I probably would have gone for seven out of ten. Eight just would have felt too high! As for eight and a half... But it earns this score well, due in no small part to fabulous writing by David whitaker.

Of particular note is the even-handed approach he took to the two warring leaders. A lesser writer would have been tempted to make Richard the Lionheart two dimensionally good, and Saladin just another bad guy. As it stands, Richard can be a bit of a prick, and must occasionally act unfairly in the name of court politics, while Saladin is shown to have just as many shades of grey as his English opposite number.

In fact most of the characters in the story are quite well written. Good or evil, they all get their moments. Ibrahim the thief is a particular delight. While not a subtle character, nor one lacking in the tropes of a stereotype, he's wonderfully written and enjoyably played.

The regulars all do a good job, and Whitaker makes sure that each of them gets their moment within the story. This is especially nice with Vicki, a character that was initially ignored by the show's writers, when we suddenly see how afriad she is of losing her new family. Spoiler! )

This is a great story, well written, well acted, and enjoyable. Even the weaker episodes have strong finishes. You may also notice that the two weaker episodes (in my opinion) are also the ones that only exist on audio - this is coincidence. Whereas episodes one and three start strong and build, episodes two and four are good, but each only really improves towards the end.

Even so, that's damning with faint praise. The overall quality is very good and every episode has a strong or enjoyable finish. It's stories like this that show the true strengths of the pure historical when well crafted.
Spoilers below cut... )

7.6/10 The Web Planet

Web Planet is a magnificently insane attempt to bring an alien planet full of giant insects to the screen. Even with today's effects technology it would tax a feature film. So trying to do it in 1965 on television with a tiny budget, in small studios, is unbelieveably ambitious. To give a sense of proportion, in 1966 the average cost of a 50 minute episode of Star Trek was US $180,000 (£75,000). The whole six part story of Web Planet cost £16,525.

The Zarbi are large and clumsy, however in an age where most aliens were humanoids, they are an interesting idea. The same can be said of the larvae gun. The Menoptera are also primitive costumes, but still striking and lovely. And I love the effort that has been gone into to give them an alien way of moving and talking. It may often seem a little silly, but at least some effort has been made to move away from standard speech.

I especially like how each creature has its part to play in the planet's ecosystem, even the larvae guns, as is explained at the end.

There's no doubt that Web Planet's flaws are many, but the core of the story is solid enough if one can get past the visuals and slow pace.
Some spoilers below cut )

7.5/10 The Romans

The first story with overt comedy elements is rather well done. It doesn't let the comedy overwhelm what should be dramatic moments and the various threads progress easily and fluidly. Spoiler )

Hartnell really gets the chance to show his comedic abilities, and obviously enjoys the chance. Vicki doesn't get a huge amount to do, which is unfortunate for the new companion, while the characters of Ian and Barbara get some solid storylines to follow.

Derek Francis as Nero is worth a special mention. He plays the buffoon well, and moves fluidly between Nero the fool, and Nero the dangerous fool.
Very minor spoilers below the first cut, but don't read the story round-up if you don't want the ending ruined... )

7/10 The Rescue
Not a bad little story, and a reasonable introduction to Vicki. Maureen O'Brien gets to run through a range of emotions - anger, despair, happiness - and does so rather well.

The story is a small and intimate one, which given its real job is to introduce the new companion, is actually quite a good decision. And while some people have knocked the plot from time to time, it has ideas and elements that make it quite interesting on a first viewing with no foreknowledge.

Major spoilers under the cut - I basically tell you the ending - you have been warned. )In the previous story the Doctor states that he never takes a life unless his own is directly threatened, but this story seems to show that once he's decided there's a threat, look out!

Whatever flaws one wants to pick on in this tale, you can't knock Hartnell's performance. He had a script that allowed him emotional pain, loneliness, joy, mischief, sympathy, anger, and rose to the occasion beautifully every time.

All up, quite reasonable. It works well at two episodes and really highlights the range and ability of the show's lead, while doing a good job of introducing a new companion.
Minor spoilers in the episode descriptions, major spoilers in the overview at the end. )
Dalek Invasion of Earth 8/10

All up, a solid story, hence rounding the score to an even 8.

A feeling of hopelessness and oppression runs through most of it, making the fight against the Daleks all the more desperate. The human race is essentially stuffed.

Nation is an ideas man, and possibly his best in this story is the Robomen. While it doesn't seem much on the surface, the idea is horrific. Taking human beings and turning them into automatons who can't even recognise their own family. Even more horrific is that these shambling wrecks of people are the captured humans who were smartest and most resourceful.

Major Spoilers below the cuts. )

At the same time, the Daleks show a certain level of intelligent pragmatism lacking in many other stories. As is stated in the story, the two women in the cottage wouldn't be much use in the mines, so they are used to make and mend clothing for the mine workers.

The main cast all put in solid performances, playing it straight throughout. There's little levity or relief to be had in their battle against the Daleks. That said Barbara shows herself to be Queen of the Dalek fighting companions, not needing super-baseball bats or God-like powers to take out a bunch Daleks when they get in her way. Most of the guest cast do a good job, too.

The actual ending to the main Dalek story is only kind of... okay. It's not bad, but it feels like we need more. major spoilers for the ending... ) But it's thanks mainly to Hartnell's honesty of emotion during his beautifully written final speech, that what could have been an ordinary ending to a solid story, is elevated to become one of the best final episodes in the series' history.
Okay, wrote this ages ago, but only just getting it up (oo-er) now. Mild spoilers... )

Planet of Giants 6/10

The base idea for this tale dates back to the earliest story ideas of the series. It was one of the very first ideas put forward regarding situation the travellers would find themselves in.

The production team made a very wise decision with Planet of Giants. It was originally filmed as a four part story, and deciding that it dragged too much, they edited it down to a three parter. Given that I found it to drag a little this viewing, I can't imagine how slow it was originally.

The story isn't bad, and some of the production design is great. Forester comes across as fairly two dimensional, and Smithers, while passionate, obviously isn't much of a scientist to have worked on this project for so many years and missed what should have been a very clear and obvious issue. That said, it was the sixties and TV could get away with ignoring such issues a lot easier than they could these days with a better educated public.

Over all, not a bad story, a bit slow, but a nice idea and some nifty props help elevate it a little.
dalekboy: (Tenth Doctor)
( Apr. 17th, 2009 11:26 am)
Here are my non-spoilery thoughts on Planet of the Dead. Read more... )
For those that are interested, Links to my episode by episode reviews of the first season of Doctor Who. A story's rating out of ten was usually arrived at by averaging out the individual episode scores for the story, though occasionally that gets thrown to the wind.

The links take you to the day I posted, so you get a spoiler-free overview, if you choose to click on the stories themselves, there will be spoilers, so please be warned.

1. An Unearthly Child 7.75/10

2. The Dead Planet 7.42/10

3. Edge of Destruction 7.5/10

4. Marco Polo 10/10

5. The Keys of Marinus 5.8/10

6. The Aztecs 8/10

7. The Sensorites 6.3/10

8. The Reign of Terror 7.8/10

Doctor Who 1st Season Score - 7.5/10
Reign of Terror - Very Mild Spoilers )

The Reign of Terror 7.8/10

A good story and the first set during a known historical event. The crew get caught up in things and carried along, the Doctor spends a lot of time getting caught out by his own cleverness.

There's a lot a good character stuff through the story, including a great moment in part five when Ian and Barbara argue about the good and evil of what is happening, Barbara bringing in a historical perspective.

As Robert Shearman pointed out at Swancon, this is also the story that breaks the previous cycle of story-telling. In the previous stories, they get separated from the TARDIS, and all their efforts are about getting back to it so they can leave. In this story they get involved in what's happening, and it essentially sets the direction for many future stories.
The Sensorites - Mild Spoilers )

The Sensorites 6.3

Sensorites has trouble carrying its story for six episodes. At times it doesn't so much run on the spot as dawdle and twiddle its thumbs, and this hurts what is otherwise a rather good idea. Spoilers ) Sensorites is like that, a lot of good ideas in a story that only occasionally uses them well. But when it gets them right, does a great job.
The Aztecs - Contains spoilers... )

The Aztecs 8/10

Another story where the sum of the parts outweighs the strengths and weaknesses of individual episodes. After the first episode it basically becomes mainly about trying to thwart the multiple schemes of Tlotoxl, and it suffers a little because of that. However where it lacks in variety from a plot perspective, its strengths as a character piece are solid.

spoilers )


dalekboy: (Default)


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