Tag Archives: Doctor Who

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 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. 

Doctor Who Story 002 – The Daleks

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Plot Synopsis: The crew find themselves on an alien world in an alien forest where the vegetation has turned to stone. While his companions wish to leave and search for home, The Doctor is insistent they travel to the city. There they encounter The Daleks, a species of mutated organic beings encased in a metal box.

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Only on story 2 and we already see the most iconic of Doctor Who baddies. The first episode is filled mostly with exposition and positioning the characters where they need to go. The audience learns the planet is flooded with radiation, while the characters are oblivious. We see The Doctor sabotage the TARDIS to convince the companions to venture into the city to find unnecessary mercury for the TARDIS’s fluid link. The split up, obviously, and Barbara encounters a menacing plunger approaching her.

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“The Daleks” at its heart is the story of a war torn planet. The Thals are living in a petrified forest while The Daleks, encased in their living metal-tombs live in the city. The Daleks are trying to rid the world of the the Thals, but don’t know what has happened to them. It’s pretty standard 1960s story about the horrible aftermath of a nuclear war. These robotic beings are the soviets while the Thals who look like blonde adonises are the Great British public.

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The cliffhanger at the end of episode two has to be the best. Susan is about to leave the TARDIS, and gets scared of the lightning.

During episode 4, The Doctor and companions have escaped the Daleks’ prison, they rescued the Thals from a Dalek trap. While relaxing and having a victory party with the Thals, Ian decides that it’s time to lecture them. Ian is of the belief that the Thals need to go to war with the Daleks. Ian seems to believe the Daleks will escape their confinement to the city and pursue an all-out war on the Thals.

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Even three years later, I don’t think this would have happened. Ian is suggesting that the Thals take the preemptive strike. While this is before flower power, it seems unnerving and out of place for the hero of the story to tell a group of people living agricultural lives to go to war. Ian is literally looking down his nose at the “primitive” people with his British classist attitudes.

The weird thing is Ian is waxing philosophical until the revelation that the fluid link was left in the Dalek stronghold. Thus, the TARDIS cannot take off. At that point he has to convince the reluctant Thals to join him and fight. Honestly a small party to steal it back would be better, instead they pursue all-out war, something they’d be guaranteed to lose.

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This episode makes one think that the Daleks are a more interesting enemy than they become. Eventually they become plainly focused on conquering the universe and destroying all life outside of their own. It’ll be interesting to watch this evolution.

Doctor Who Story 001 – An Unearthly Child Parts 2-4

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Synopsis: A tribe of cave people have lost the knowledge of how to make fire creating a power vacuum within the tribe. The Doctor is kidnapped after being observed using matches. He must make fire for the cave people or die.

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We see an interesting power struggle between Cal and Za. Neither of these characters can control fire, but one is the son of the now-deceased fire-maker and the other a great hunter. Paralleling that, there’s a power struggle between Ian and The Doctor. At first, Ian is adamant that they’re not possibly standing in a time machine, and that they’re still in 1963 London, while The Doctor knows the TARDIS is standing on alien soil.

If you could touch the alien sand and hear the cries of strange birds, and watch them wheel in another sky, would that satisfy you? – The First Doctor (William Hartnell) to Ian

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Ian tries to lead while The Doctor is busy sulking, but he can’t get the team to follow. Instead The Doctor ends up leading out of default. We see The Doctor kidnapped, rather than the usual companion in danger. This leads to an insanely panicked Susan, who should be a seasoned traveller. Her screams are getting annoying and it’s only the first serial. Soon after Barbara seems to join in on the screaming, too. Oh those wacky women!

This story sets up an early trope of Doctor and companions are captured, Doctor and companion escape, captured, escape, use their wits, win!

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I think my favourite part of this story is the beginning of episode four where Cal proclaims that Za killed the old woman “with this knife” and produces a stone. The Doctor replies, “this knife has no blood on it. I said, this knife has no blood on it.” Cal is confused and replies with, “It is a bad knife, it does not show the things it does.” The Doctor uses this to prove that Cal is no leader. It also seems to firmly put The Doctor as the leader, and Ian as the strong arm of the team.

Halfway through the final episode is a brilliant fight between Cal and Za. What makes it so amazing is the beat-poetry-esque percussive music during the fight. Usually the music is very incidental and bleep-bloopy, that one scene sets a precedent that the show probably won’t live up to again.

To learn more about the making of this serial, watch the recent BBC docudrama An Adventure In Space And Time

Doctor Who Story 001 – An Unearthly Child Part 1

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After watching the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, I felt it was only appropriate to go back to the beginnings in 1963. Aired on November 23, 1963, Doctor Who told the story of Susan Foreman, an eccentric girl from an alien world who arises the suspicions of her teachers.

Susan Foreman

Most stories I will treat a whole, but “An Unearthly Child” is really two stories, the pilot and the cavemen stories that are episodes 2-4. So let’s start with episode 1.

The premise of this story is a bit ridiculous. Two teachers, Ian and Barbara are concerned with their student Susan. She eccentric. She thinks the UK is on the decimal system for its currency. She insists that history books are wrong, and that one cannot calculate using only three dimensions, but one must also use D and E to represent time and space1. So the teachers decide that the solution is to have a stakeout.

Ian

I hope that if any teachers where I work decided to do this, they would be fired. They see Susan enter the scrapyard, and follow her in. Once in they find a police box and an old man who wants to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

William Hartnell

They hear Susan’s voice and they stumble inside the police box to find a large room which is the control centre to time machine. The Doctor refuses to let them go, as they might tell people about him and his granddaughter Susan, instead he kidnaps them and the TARDIS takes off.

The TARDIS control room

The Doctor isn’t what we grow to love about The Doctor. He’s a real prick. He’s literally kidnapping people for no real reason. No one would believe an insane teacher who says that her student’s grandfather is a time travelling alien. He’s grumpy and impertinent. He purposely hurts Ian, Barbara seems to be an non-entity to him, and he treats Susan without respect.

Back when I first started at the very beginning, I was always trying to be old and grumpy and important like you do when you’re young. – The 11th Doctor (David Tennant) to the 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) in Time Crash

Susan’s a moron, and Ian and Barbara are supposed to be the action heroes of Doctor Who, but instead we’re just left questioning their judgement as to why they followed The Doctor in the first place.

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  1. Ignoring for the moment that A, B, and C are space. []

Doctor Twelve

I’m likely to use an awful lot of – what we would call – violent sexual imagery.

They’ve announced the twelfth Doctor and it’s Peter Capaldi! You might recall him from The Thick of It, which really is a brilliant show. Peter Capaldi played Malcolm Tucker, the foul-mouthed Scottish Communications Director for the UK’s PMO. Here’s a sampling. This will be a fun few years.

iPhone Ringtones

Time for a non-Rocktober post.

I’ve made some ringtones for my iPhone, and I thought I’d share. Yes I’m infringing on some copyright with these, but I hope the BBC, Nintendo, Stephin Merritt, Apple, and the TTC will forgive me.

The Magnetic Fields – “BBC Radiophonic Workshop”
Doctor Who Theme (Christopher Eccleston era)
Doctor Who Theme (William Hartnell era) 
Super Mario Bros. coin sound
The Magnetic Fields – “One April Day”
Sloan – “Cheap Champaign”
Tetris music
TTC door chime 

Most viewed posts of 2010

Here’s NH2F’s top 10 posts of 2010…

10) “Mayor Staypuft,” or Adam gets bitter about Toronto’s mayor, throws insults, but still puts forward good questions, to which no one cares to discuss.
9) “Fear Of Fighting,” or Adam yammering1 about the author.
8) “Vistek,” or Adam yammering about shitty customer service.
7) “How Did JFK Get My Spaghetti Video,” or Adam photographs a hottie.
6) “The End of Stillepost.ca,” or Adam has an idea to make the world a better place, but no one gives a shit.
5) “Poutine,” or I’m drunk.
4) “Apple & Canadian English,” or Adam doesn’t like that his iPhone neglects his nation.
3) “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” or Adam writes about a film.
2) “The Doctor Is Out,” or Adam bids adieu to the 10th Doctor.
1) “Ward 29 Debate,” or Adam visits his all-candidates debate.

  1. “Stop your yammering, and start your plannering, promposal-wise.” []