Category Archives: Television

Doctor Who Serial 013 – The Web Planet

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Synopsis: The TARDIS is trapped without power on a planet occupied by giant ants who make an annoying sound.

Stream of consciousness blog post for this serial.

Vicki seems to still be wearing the skin of a dead Muppet while reclining on her beach lounger.

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My favourite part is where Barbara decides to clean up in the TARDIS for The Doctor, I assume because she’s a woman.

My god, this story is boring.

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The vaseline on the lens to give the feeling of otherworldliness doesn’t work.

History doesn’t mean anything when you travel through space and time!” – The Doctor

Ugh! That quote is so horrible, especially after a historical story!

The sound effects of this story are TERRIBLE!

The Doctor miming to the giant ants is AMAZING!

That’s the end of episode two. Do I have to watch the rest? The sad thing is there’s nothing else to do here in icemageddon 2013.

My lord, it’s like they’ve never tried to keep anyone’s attention.

The crater of needles sounds like a drug den. I wonder if they’ll find Mayor Ford there. He’s obviously not managing this emergency.

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Come along, drop this hair dryer, or whatever it is!” – The Doctor…. BEST. LINE. EVER!

I don’t know what’s going on. I think they’re at Red Alert™, but I don’t remember Picard yelling it out, and I don’t see any reason why. However, it seems our buddy Ian is panicked.

I think the way to win this war is the classic Weird Al stratagem “Look up, look down, now look at Mr. Frying Pan.”

OH MY GOD! This story is so painful. The ants have necklaces they can barely hold which puts The Doctor in a a trance. For some odd reason the broken one doesn’t work on either Vicki or The Doctor, but it does on an ant?!?!

They’re talking, but nothing is happening. At least the four main characters are back together. That means it’ll be over soon.

Final episode. I can do this!

There is something weird about William Hartnell’s hair.

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Did they just shout “KAILI!”

“If we go up, we meet the blinding hard on.” I think I misheard that.

The sound designer on this story should be shot.

At least this episode with a giant insect was vaguely enjoyable… and only one part.

Vicki is proving herself to be terrible. Her acting is almost as bad as season 1 Deanna Troi.

Did they just kill the queen?!?!

YES! IT’S OVER!

The next story, The Crusade, is missing episodes two and four. We shall be skipping that for obvious reasons. Join me next time for Serial 15, The Space Museum. That probably won’t happen until 2014, though.

Doctor Who Story 012 – The Romans

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Synopsis: The crew are split up as The Doctor and Vicki are headed to Rome, while Ian and Barbara are sold into slavery.

At the end of The Rescue we had the TARDIS standing on a cliff and falling over. The Romans picks up a month later. This is the first time we see The Doctor and his companions just enjoying themselves and taking time off from danger and adventure. The Doctor and Vicki seem to want to run for some adventure, while Ian and Barbara want to lounge and enjoy themselves.

The Doctor will eventually return to the Roman Empire.

This episode is one of the best comedic episodes of Hartnell’s run. Barbara, The Doctor, and Vicki are all in the same house with Nero, except The Doctor and Vicki don’t know Barbara is there and vice-versa. They keep on comedically missing one another. In addition, the actor who plays Caesar Nero, Derek Francis. Francis’ comic timing is wonderful and makes for a great story.

Doctor Who Serial 011 – The Rescue

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Synopsis: An Earth space rocket from the 2490s is crashed on Dido. The only surviving crew are Vicki Pallister and the injured Bennett. They’re being terrorized by Koquillion (pictured above), or is it Coquitlam? One is an alien, one is a city in British Columbia.

This is the first story with our new buddy Vicki. Her equipment picks up the TARDIS in the distance, and she’s excited to think it’s the rescue ship. We learn that the ship is still three days away, and Koquillion is unaware of their intended visit to Dido.

This is the first time The Doctor has visited a planet before the series began. He refers to the people of Dido as a pleasant people but Koquillion has tried to kill Barbara and locked The Doctor and Ian in a cave.

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The Doctor and his crew are arrogant and sure they know right. They insist on rescuing Vicki and Bennett from Coquitlam, even after the warnings of danger and worry of jeopardizing their rescue. Here we see Vicki sobbing while wearing a dress inspired by the fashion of Kermit The Frog.

Vicki’s not going to be an easy one to take. If this story is any indicator, at least she won’t scream as much as Susan, but she’ll sob more.

The Doctor, however, is a condescending asshole.

Maureen O’Brien is 21, while Carol Ann Ford was 24 at the time. Ford looked 14 when she left the show as Susan, while O’Brien looked 18 when she started. Apparently Doctor Who likes girls who look younger than they are. Maybe Michael J. Fox from the 1980s should be the next companion.

OH MY GOD! THIS STORY HAS A SCOOBY-DOO ENDING!

Well… a Scooby-Doo episode with genocide.

We can travel anywhere and everywhere in that old box as you call it. Regardless of space and time.” – The Doctor tells Vicki

Doctor Who Story 010 – The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Dalek ship flies through the sky

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands in London. Barbara and Ian are excited to be home, but The Doctor is hesitant, he doesn’t think they’re in the 1960s. Instead they find themselves in the year 2164 and the Daleks have taken over.

This is the episode everyone had been waiting for, the return of the Daleks, but it’s kind of horrible. You have an Earth conquered by the Daleks, a Doctor Strangelove-esque scientist who creates a grenade to kill Daleks, which doesn’t seem to work, brainwashed humans under the control of Daleks, and so many ridiculous ideas.

This story is also a proof of how slowly a Doctor Who serial can move. This six episode story is painful to watch, especially the moments where Daleks are talking amongst themselves. I think that two Daleks conversing might be the worst means to provide motion for a story, it seems to come to a complete stop when they talk.

We seem to get introduced to a monster at the end of the fourth episode which serves no purpose other than a cliff hanger. The monster appears for a few minutes for suspense, and then is killed by Ian.

The third episode features a long scene of dramatic film inserts of Barbara, Dr. Strangelove, and a rebel woman running through the abandoned streets of London, and shots of Daleks patrolling those streets. It’s all set to a soundtrack of percussive music that makes me want to kill myself.

What you need is a jolly good smacked bottom.” The Doctor to Susan

Amongst all this is a love story between the rebel David and Susan. Susan seems to like him, but he seems indifferent to Susan. They talk about rebuilding Earth together after they defeat the Daleks. They have romantic walks in the sewers of London. They abandon an unconscious Doctor and go for a stroll. It’s really quite pukey.

This is the first time a companion leaves Doctor Who, but also the first time the companion is abandoned by The Doctor, a theme that would recur. From Sarah Jane Smith to Jamie McCrimmon to Donna Noble.

It’s hard to believe that The Doctor would leave his granddaughter and travelling companion to try to survive on her own in a post-apocalyptic world.

Dr. Constantine: Before this war began I was a father and a grandfather. Now I am neither. But still a doctor.
The Doctor: Yeah. I know the feeling. – Story 164, “The Empty Child”

Doctor Who Story 009 – Planet of Giants

Ah, thus we begin season two of Doctor Who. Our Doctor is still William Hartnell and his companions are Ian (William Russell), Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), and The Doctor’s granddaughter Susan (Carole Ann Ford).

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Synopsis: An accident lands the TARDIS in England again, but this time, they’ve shrunk to be an inch tall.

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This has to be the worst episode ever. The drama of the story revolves around a murder over a pesticide, but because The Doctor and company are shrunk to tiny sizes they’re completely uninvolved in the story. Thus the viewer has no interest. Oh, and also the Honey, I Shrunk The Kids trope is well over played.

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Doctor Who Story 008 – The Reign of Terror

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May I first say, it’s ridiculous I have to add a leading double zero because Doctor Who has hundreds of stories?

“The Reign of Terror” is the final story of the first season. We’ve been through 42 episodes, broken down into 8 serials. Until “The Reign of Terror” we’ve only had seven missing episodes. Those seven episodes make up the entirety of “Marco Polo.” “The Reign of Terror” is missing two episodes (“The Tyrant of France” and “A Bargain of Necessity”).

When I was a kid, I would record episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation on VHS, and then all other versions of Star Trek. It seems that British kids had a similar idea, and recorded episodes of Doctor Who with a reel to reel, capturing the audio. Also, there was no great way to create a demo reel if you work in television, so industry people would set up cameras to take shots of a TV every few seconds. Fans have combined the two together to create reconstructions.

If a story is incomplete and only available with reconstructions, I won’t be watching it. Most of the missing episodes are season three through six, but “Marco Polo” is available in this type of reconstruction, and I just find it SUPER BORING to watch those.

The BBC had a better idea, they commissioned an animation company to animate a few select episodes, and release those now complete stories on DVD. “The Reign of Terror” is the first (chronologically) of these animated episodes. They started with Troughton’s “The Invasion” and recently released Hartnell’s swan song “The Tenth Planet” with an animated final episode.

For the episodes that have been animated, I will watch them, hence the writing of this review.

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Synopsis: The Doctor and co. arrive in France during the Revolutionary War. They get taken prisoner.

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I don’t like the animation style, it’s as if they covered the cast in a layer of vaseline. It’s a Flash based animation where it’s slow moving an awkward. It just plainly doesn’t look very good. The audio quality varies throughout the episodes, and often it’s miserable. Oh well. At least it’s better than nothing.

The actual story is quite good. I don’t know a lot about the French Revolution, The Doctor never seems to visit Upper Canada, a history a know much better. Oh well. We have this story that seems to follow the structure of the revolution quite well, and puts our heroes and heroins into the middle of this historical time period.

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The characters are constantly being separated. They don’t know if their friends are living or dead. I’m not quite sure what side they’re fighting on. The republicans have gained power, and they’re fighting against it, but are they monarchists? I think the episode assumes a level of knowledge that I cannot bring to the story. I guess it’s a European-centric view that everyone knows their history, when I’m more interested in Canadian history.

Our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it.” – The Doctor

That wraps up season one. There was about a six week break between “The Reign of Terror” and the oh so horrible “Planet of Giants.” I won’t take that long, but I’m not looking forward to this upcoming three-part story.

Doctor Who Story 007 – The Sensorites

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Synopsis: The Doctor and his companions arrive on a spaceship to find a crew sleeping. They wake up to warn The Doctor to flee as soon as possible as the Sensorites are keeping them prisoner. The Doctor and his companions return to the TARDIS to find the locking and opening mechanism for the TARDIS has been removed. They can’t get in.

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This is one of the weirder ones; not because of the story. In 1997, a new TV channel launched called Space. They decided to show episodes of Doctor Who, and they started right from the beginning. They only showed complete serials, and they had the rights to air episodes from the beginning of series one through to the seventh. That means all of the remaining Hartnell and Patrick Troughton episodes and a handful of Jon Pertwee stories. I watched the episodes every morning before school. Space was so new, and running in the tradition of CityTV that they weren’t afraid to take risks, so they aired the episodes like they originally aired, with no commercials. They never renewed it so I was on my own to find more of Pertwee and the following Doctors.

What I don’t recall is ever seeing “The Sensorites.” I knew there would be stories I haven’t seen, but I thought the first would be the next story “The Reign Of Terror” which is missing two episodes and the BBC recently released it with animated episodes. So here I have a brand new story (to me), unfortunately it’s not the most compelling, and it’s six episodes long.

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The story quickly separates Barbara and Susan from Ian and The Doctor. They enter a part of the ship with a trapped crew member who has lost his mind. John is feared to harm the women, but in reality he tries to help them.

Why don’t you let these space people go back to their Earth?” – The Doctor

They encounter the Sensorites who are keeping the spaceship prisoner. They have encountered humans before. Discovered the humans had a desire to mine their planet, and left them in a state of disease. Basically, the Sensorites were facing what the First Nations faced 500 years ago. The creatures are supposed to be intimidating The Doctor and his companions, but they fail to convince the audience of this. This is where the First Nations argument falls apart. We only see the creatures as they are, timid and scared of the humans. We have no idea why they are like this at first, and we don’t understand why The Doctor is acting in such an aggressive manner.

Interestingly, Susan sees The Sensorites for what they are, but The Doctor shuts down her attempts to negotiate with the scared creatures. This is the first time we see Susan becoming a character more than screams. She’s willing to stand up for what she believes in, until a need to respect her (wrong) grandfather comes to the forefront, and makes her abandon her will. This could’ve been an interesting Susan to travel with; she could have given us what The Doctor would become, the saviour of the universe. Instead, the woman had to learn her place.

Ian finds The Sensorites’ class system to be disgusting, which is odd, coming from a British man in the ’60s.

They soon find out that The Sensorites have been dying since the humans departed. They are facing a disease that is slowly killing the Sensorite people. The Doctor earns the trust of the first elder, and the city administrator in turn decides that this is not acceptable; he plots to kill The Doctor.

The story gets better and better as it goes along, and it’s actually quite entertaining. I watched the last three episodes in one sitting, thus proving that it’s not as tedious as I was expecting earlier. We also have a brief description of Susan’s and The Doctor’s home planet. We’ll later learn it’s called Gallifrey, but this is the first mention of it.

At night the sky is a burned orange, and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.” – Susan

Doctor Who Story 006 – The Aztecs

Synopsis: After leaving the TARDIS, Barbara emerges from from the tomb of Yetaxa, a priest of the Aztec people. The Doctor, Ian, and Susan are mistaken for Yetaxa’s servants.

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This is second1 historical story. The original plan for Doctor Who was to have The Doctor finding themselves on alien worlds and in Earth’s past. This isn’t something that lasted longer than William Hartnell.

Pretty early on, the party discover that a human sacrifice is about to take place. Barbara refuses to allow it. In her words

If I could start the destruction of everything that’s evil here… then everything that is good would survive when Cortez lands.”

But The Doctor has a different point of view, one that doesn’t last through much of his travels…

You can’t rewrite history! Not one line!

Whether her simplistic outlook on human sacrifice or her simplistic outlook on the Aztec chance of survival if their culture were slightly modified is ridiculous, especially as it comes from a history teacher. I do have to remember, though, that she is British, and it is the ’60s. The British still have some belief in their defunct empire, and it fits that she would look down her nose on the Aztecs, and know what’s best for them.

However, she and her deception are going to be caught by Tlotoxl who is adamant that Barbara is not actually Yetaxa, but instead an impostor. In one of the most ridiculous moments in Doctor Who history, Tlotoxl breaks the fourth wall, stares into the camera, and tells the audience that he knows of their deception.

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While the regular cast of the show seem to be very comfortable with acting for a camera, the supporting cast in this story are very theatrical. They project large and they play to the back of the house. It creates a very different style of television, but it oddly works in this story due to the theme. Being an historical play, the characters take on this very Shakespearian style. I think it helps that the show was shot live to tape. As in, they rehearse for days, then record the episode pretty much in order and live. At the time, the director is in a booth switching cameras and editing live. I don’t think that these actors could make it on current Doctor Who where it is shot like a film.

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One of the more interesting aspects of this story is that it is the first time, and until the 2005 relaunch, the last time we see The Doctor with a love interest. One of the old ladies who is retired takes a liking to The Doctor and he to she.

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As someone who doesn’t know much about the Aztecs, I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of “The Aztecs.” Perhaps someone can in the comments. What I find interesting about this story is how well they weave education into the story. It’s truly and entertaining and fun story. Perhaps the best of the show, so far. In addition to its entertainment value, it shows a really good, and brief outline of Aztec culture.

  1. First surviving serial. []

Doctor Who Story 005 – The Keys of Marinus

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Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives on a beach of glass on the shore of an acidic sea. They are being stalked by a man in a scuba suit. They find a building, and for some odd reason split up. They are all captured by an old man in robes, except for Ian, who saves the old man from a scuba man. Once he knows he can trust The Doctor and his companions, the old man tells them of his machine which can save his world, but he needs the four keys of marinus to work the machine. The Doctor and his companions are forced into helping the old man.

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They modelled this story  as each episode is nearly a stand-alone. You have each episode The Doctor and companions are searching for a different key. It’s hard to talk about it as a whole, but the things that stand out to me are:

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Using the standard 1960s sci-fi trope of a brain in a jar as the bad guy. Star Trek would later do this much better in “The Gamesters of Triskelion,” and while off the top of my head I can’t place another example, I know I’ve seen it elsewhere. It’s the whole “humanity grows to a point where our brains are too big for our bodies.” Fortunately evolution doesn’t work quite like that, and humanity won’t ever be a brain confined to a jar.

I’m really tired of Susan’s screaming. We’re only five stories into the series, and she is beyond annoying. I think the process is, “we can’t afford something actually scary, so make her scream instead.” Though as I typed that Barbara got caught under a net and was facing a ceiling of knives slowly descending. It was surprisingly shot quite well, until the ceiling started descending and the production values showed. Shakey shakey shakey! While Barbara’s screaming isn’t great, at least it isn’t constant, and actually happens when she’s in danger, rather than when she’s touched by a branch. Isn’t it time for The Doctor to abandon Susan on Earth? Five more serials.

William Hartnell isn’t in episodes three or four.

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Episode four gets really heavy as a man tries to kill the whole team of companions while stranding some out in the cold, leaving one with a bag of raw meat to draw in the wild wolves, and to keep Barbara captive to rape her. It’s kind of heavy for a children’s show.

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The guards for the key are essentially the Black Knight from Monty Python.

The next two episodes see Ian being incarcerated for a murder he didn’t commit, The Doctor trying to free him, and the mystery leading to the final key. Once they return, they find the old man dead and scuba men have taken over. They trick them into destroying the machine, and escape in a toy TARDIS.

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Doctor Who Story 003 – The Edge of Destruction

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Plot Synopsis: Doctor Who was originally commissioned for a 13 episode run. The Four episode story “An Unearthly Child” and the seven episode story “The Daleks” left the production crew with a two episode void. They decided for budget purposes to set the entire story within the confines of the TARDIS. An accident completely knocks The Doctor and his companions to the ground (except Ian who seems to land perfectly in a chair). They all wake up confused and Susan complains of pain, ready to scream “GRANDFATHER!” They find the doors ajar, and Susan freaks out and assumes something got in.

I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a big revelation, but Barbara wakes up first and the camera seems to linger on her leather pants a bit too long. In case you’re wondering, Barbara is wearing leather pants… though in England they call them leather trousers. Speaking of Barbara, about thirty seconds after she confronts The Doctor on his nastiness she screams like a little girl because a clock is disfigured, throws her watch across the TARDIS and runs crying. The inconsistencies in Barbara’s character are interesting. She’s a strong and intelligent woman, and often is reduced to screaming for the sake of… well, she’s a woman.

Much of the episode involves people waking up and collapsing. It seems to happen over and over again, as Barbara, Ian, and The Doctor try to figure out what’s going on. In some of the worst acting, I have ever seen, Susan tells her fellow companions that she’s “going to try the controls.” As soon as she touches the console he scream “Ow! No!” and falls to the floor like a master’s class in bad acting.

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Ian takes a fainted Susan back into one of the TARDIS bedrooms where he finds a murphy bed with a beach lounger inside it. He eventually finds a hilariously robotically voiced Susan waiting for him with a knife. As usual, she screams and collapses on the bed.

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We know The Doctor will eventually replace said bed with a bunk bed for married couple Amy and Rory to enjoy.

Later Barbara goes to bed, and we learn that Doctor Who predicted the most important piece of human technology… The Snuggie!

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The question is what is causing the TARDIS to misbehave, and what’s causing The Doctor and his companions to act so strangely. The conclusion is terrible. We discover that a switch’s spring broke and was being held down, so the TARDIS went to the beginning of the solar system’s life. The TARDIS was trying to leave clues for her Doctor, but it was Barbara who figured it. We’re left wondering why they were acting so strange. Why their necks hurt in the same spot. It just leaves too many questions hanging. Not the best episode of Doctor Who.

Story 004, “Marco Polo,” is missing in its entirety. Rumours are floating around that the episodes have been found. Until them, we skip this serial.