Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Review: Hit and Miss 1.2

Hit & Miss: Cast and Characters
Mia and Ryan share a similar character arc.
After the intense premier, the second episode of Hit And Miss continued on a good track. This week took a much more raw look at the nature of dysmorphia, while still continuing to work on these interesting and fulfilling characters. Some of the characters aren't developing in the way I thought they would, but the series still feels compelling despite that - mainly due to Chloe Sevigny's astounding performance.
     Understandably pissed off at having been beaten up and humiliated, the Landlord put the kids' cottage up for sale. The older kids blame this on Mia; Levi is broken by the fact that he can't keep his family together after his mother's death, and Riley, having been secretly having it off with the landlord to keep his favour, is shocked by his betrayel. Levi calls Mia a freak, which causes her to go into a period of gender dysmorphia; culminating in a dark scene where Mia stands naked except for a party nose in front of a mirror and begs to be real. At the same time, Mia's son Ryan tried to emulate his father and began to experiment with female clothing. The Landlord refusing to buy the house from Mia, her concerned employer Eddie offers to use his legal existence to buy the house with her money, allowing her to keep control. They hold a party in celebration, where Mia confronts Ryan about his attempts to emulate her, and where she finally feels she can accept her femininity.
     I loved the very clever thematic device regarding gender politics that this episode used, and it worked across all of the characters. Mia's harrowing scenes in front of the mirror, and her refusal to help Leonie dance at her recital, allowed Sevigny to really dig deep into the character's recesses. Her relationship with Ryan became awfully symbolic in this regard. Ryan, named after Mia's male identity, acts as a metaphor here - Ryan experimenting with feminity and Mia telling him to be himself instead of emulating her. Levi felt his masculinity being questioned by his inability to protect the household, but then accepted that he couldn't win all of the battles. Riley lost her motherly instincts as she grew to resent both the Landlord and Mia.
Mia tries to balance her home life with cold-blooded murder.
     I was a bit weirded out by Riley's change of pace as a character, though. After the headstrong and responsible parental figure from the premiere, it felt like a drastically different character the moment she started to act like a grumpy teenager. The character spent the entire episode going off the rails, when she'd been the most mature of the kids last week. I suppose you could put this down to the clash between her twisted loyalty to the Landlord and her new mum Mia, but it was the one thing in the episode that struck me as odd.
     Hit and Miss is well on its way to becoming an absolutely brilliant drama. The way that it handled the concepts surroundng dysphoria were masterful, and Chloe Sevingy is a truly amaing actress for being able to do what she does in this episode. The script is absolutely superb and I'm enjoying this series on so many levels that other shows on British TV just aren't providing.


Review: Lost 5.17: The Incident (Part Two)
Jack Shepard, selfish jerk, prepares to not change anything
at all due to his own stupidity!
Our final hour plays out very much like a retread of all the stupid decisions that have been made over these past four episodes. What's perhaps the enraging thing is that all of the tension, all of the character work that supposedly drove this more mature and complex season is revealed to boil down to the fucking Quadrangle. This plot device was the bane of my existance in Season Four, but it never directly influenced the plot, because we had sensible characters like Ben and Locke doing things of actual interest. Now we're left with the quadrangle, and we suffer because of it. Sorry if I get a bit ranty.
     Saywer has a chat with Jack about why he wants to erase the past four years of everyone else's lives. Jack eventually explains that he's butt-hurt about losing Kate. Newsflash, Jack - that's your fault. This isn't a justification for ruining the lives of everyone around you, it's self-pity. And that still doesn't explain why nobody can see that his plan will not in any way work. Sawyer starts to beat up Jack (which I'm enjoying more than I should) but Juliet stops him, having changed her mind for the eighth time in a row and now supporting Jack's cause. The reason for this? She thinks that she and Sawyer aren't "meant to be".
      Destiny is fine. Really. It's completely BS and it can cause some really horrible storytelling decisions, but it's fine. But these four episodes really take the biscuit in that destiny guides the paths of the main characters even when it doesn't. We're supposed to sympathise with Jack in this fight. And yet what is he, after this season? After five seasons? A whiny, self-pitying, selfish jerk who destroys everything he touches and then is prepared to destroy everyone else's lives on a pipe-dream that he might save his own. How this even qualifies as a protagonist is beyond me; he seems like the villain of the piece.
Jacob tells Hurley what to do.
      Juliet's constant indecision feels less like realistic storytelling and so much more like the writers having to shift her into situations that just don't fit. Her excuse here, that they weren't meant to be, doesn't ring true now and it won't later in Season Six, where, guess what, they're soulmates. But even on a basic level, Juliet, like Jack, is a scientist. And yet she sprouts this destiny-driven meant-to-be crap like a teenage love poem. How can anyone empathise with characters stupid enough to believe that their lives are driven by destiny, which, in fact, is the exact opposite of what Faraday said?!
      Anyway, there's a firefight at the Swan and Jack drops the bomb down the borehole. Initially nothing happens, until metal starts getting pulled into the pocket of electromagnetism. Everyone tries to escape, but Juliet is pulled back by some chains and dragged into the borehole, letting go of Sawyer's hand and falling to her doom. At the bottom of the borehole, she strikes the core eight times with a rock, and the screen fades to white.
     In the past, Jacob touches both Jack and Locke. On the Island in the present, Richard, Flocke and Ben finally arrive at the Statue, where Jacob lives. As they enter, Ilana approaches with the crate, and reveals to Richard using Locke's body that Flocke is the Man In Black. Inside, Jacob tells the MiB that he found his loophole. Ben questions him on why he was ignored for all of his 35 years on the Island, and yet Locke got to visit him straight away. The answer is of course that he isn't a Candidate, but because the writers don't want us to know this, Jacob is unnecessarily mystical and deep. So Ben stabs him to death, and the MiB triumphantly burns his corpse.
Ben kills Jacob.
     A lot of The Incident (Part Two) is just excuses for the idiocy of what I dub the Faraday Fallacy storyline. I'd have loved it if these excuses had made real sense, but they really didn't and instead appealed to both the Quadrangle and Destiny themes that really have no right to be here. I loved the Jacob/MiB side of the storyline, but it was painfully short. Despite that, I prefer the one or two minutes of Michael Emerson's outstanding acting to this two hour horror story created by our supposed protagonists.


This wraps up my Lost Reviews, pretty much forever. I had at one point considered going through Season Six, but as you can tell from my ranty posts for these past few weeks, I don't think that would be a good idea. Nevertheless, it's mostly been a very fun thing to do and I've enjoyed not only watching Lost but examining it like this. I hope you've enjoyed reading and if you haven't, then you're right and I'm wrong, as usual.


NEXT WEEK: Not Lost. Oh well. Ashes to Ashes. Funk to Funky.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Sea Devils

Sea Devil and Doctor face to face.jpg
The Sea Devils invade! Mwahahaha!
Doctor Who - Season 9, Story Three - The Sea Devils

What would happen if the Silurians was done again, with all of the soldiers as Navymen and with The Master as a spanner in the works? Malcolm Hulke's six-part sequel to The Silurians is by and large a much more consistently entertaining outing, if only by its comparative brevity. I wasn't looking forward to the Sea Devils because of my disinterest with this era of the show, but I was pleasantly surprised once the rather dull beginning gave way to a tale that most definitely surpassed its predecessor.
     Having been imprisoned by the authorities after Season Eight finale The Daemons, The Doctor and companion Jo Grant visit The Master (Roger Delgado). As they're about to leave, they discover that there have been a spate of killings in the area; boats going missing. As The Master conspires, The Doctor discovers that the killings are the fault of The Sea Devils, a soldier caste of reptiles that lived under the Silurians and had adapted for amphibious life. The Master reveals that he plans to help the Sea Devils, reviving their colonies and allowing them to commit Genocide upon humanity. When The Doctor attempts to make peace, human beaurocrats follow the orders given in The Silurians and try to destroy them with artillary. This fails, only making them angry. The Doctor sabotages their machinery and escapes, just as the base self-destructs.
     The most immediate thing you notice is the music, which is similar to that of its predecessor. It's jarring and often painful - sharp techno slurs at pitches usually reserved for the ears of small animals. A lot of the time it adds to the feel of the story, but quite often it just doesn't fit at all. However, nothing comes close to one scene in The Silurians where the already high-pitched beeping increases in pitch and volume for about a minute. Ouch.
Ol' Roger Delgado is helping the Devils.
     As for my opinion of the Delgado Master... this was somewhat of a new experience for me. The Delgado Master is a very different beast than the Ainley one I've been used to on my Five marathon, mainly because Delgado is the origin of all of Ainley's traits (at least in Season 19). He's suarve yet dirty, confident yet cowardly. A schemer of the more realistic kind. His presence here at least gives the six-parter something more to do, but it's a shame he takes over in a story called, "The Sea Devils." The eponymous creatures, in the end, only end up sprouting the same ideas from The Silurians but being a bit more aggressive about it.
     In this period of Doctor Who there are a lot of imperialist themes, and this story uses the Navy a hell of a lot. It helped that both producer Barry Letts and John Pertwee served in the Navy, and so they had the experience to go on. The presence is rather noticable, but it is to the story's benefit, as the eager Navy servicemen formed an army of extras for the team to use. It's a very sharp contrast for the anti-authoritatian attitudes of the Saward era.
     One of my problems is that the first half of the story is spent in the Prison environment, which is an interesting detour in the first part but then does drag a lot, considering that everyone there ends up dead anyway. This is still a four-part story that's had to be extended, and it drags. There's this one scene in Part Two where the the Doctor, out of nowhere, begins to have a swordfight with The Master. It made me giggle like mad, because it was completely over the top and clearly there just to bolster the story.
Sea Devilssss ssssay Byeeee Byeeee
      Still a little flabby around the edges, but The Sea Devils continues the Silurians' pedigree in theme and style. In parts it was a tremendously exciting piece of television. It may be from an era that isn't particularly my style, but it was very well made and performed by all those involved. The Sea Devils is yet another Doctor Who Classic to go down in the history of television.


NEXT WEEK: We start to look at the impressive Season 22, with Attack of the Cybermen (Revisited).

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Review: Hit And Miss 1.1

Mia (Chloe Sevigny) has a double life - in more ways than one.
"I don't know about the dick in your pants, but you've definitely got a dick in your brain - you're fucked in the head."

In anyone else's hands, the premise of this new Sky Atlantic drama would sound rather ridiculous. Big Love's Chloe Sevigny plays Mia, a transsexual hitwoman who discovers that she has a son and an entire family of kids left to her by her late girlfriend Wendy. Written by Shameless' Paul Abbot, the first episode of the series managed to escape any possible connotations of being a freak-show or a gimmick, which a witty script that combined powerful characterisations (especially from Sevigny) with humour and drama. Importantly enough for me, it was filmed in the city where I live, and so I got a lot of enjoyment from musing over the locations used.
     One of the things I loved was how easily it mixed a sort of Wild-West theme with a great deal of realism. At one point we see Mia undress for a shower, and we see some full-frontal nudity using a prothetic penis. Now while this is what every reviewer is going to be talking about, it speaks volumes that Mia's transsexuality is so realistically shown, and it doesn't form the entirety of her character. It helps that Sevigny is somewhat androgynous, and there have been some clever wardrobe decisions that highlight the character's former form. There's also a considerable lack of Northern stereotyping, although this is probably due to Paul Abbot's background. I was glad that it had humour; the premise is so stuffed that the series risked taking itself too seriously, and the Shameless-style humour highlights the characters' humanity.
     Sevigny is perfect for the role, and despite the actresses' controvertial comments about Manchester itself, she does a bloody good job here. I loved her in Big Love and she's even stronger here, as the broken woman who recognises what taking care of the family could do for her life. She insists that she used to love Wendy, and you can tell simply by the way that she acts around her kids and her bedroom. It was a performance that never reminded me of her American heritage, or of the actress' other works. It was a strange, strange casting decision, but it's had a great result.
Leonie, Levi (Reece Noi), Mia, Riley (Karla Crome) and Ryan.
  The children are a good selection of promising actors. Karla Crome (future Misfits star) is great as the abrasive Riley, who wants the kids to remain self-sufficient, as was Reece Noi (Waterloo Road) as troublesome Levi. Especially impressive were Mia's son Ryan and the youngest child, Leonie, both of whom managed to express their grief at their mother's death in several touching scenes - one where Mia teaches Ryan how to fight a local bully, or another where Leonie is left on her own and cuts the hair off of a Barbie doll to resemble her mother. It was a lot more raw and domestic than the advertising suggested, but that's really all for the better.
     Hit And Miss was almost nothing like I expected. It didn't use its unorthodox premise as an excuse but as a driving device and when mixed with the Shameless-style humour it was a fulfilling and empowering experience. As one of my friends commented, the series is, "Shameless, given emotional depth." Hit and Miss is like nothing on British TV at the moment and deserves to be seen as the start of something beautiful for Sky Atlantic's homegrown productions.


Friday, 25 May 2012

Josh: Doctor Who Classic: The Claws of Axos

The Time Lord enemies work together
Doctor Who - Season 8, Story Three - The Claws of Axos

The season long Master arc of Season Eight continues with the creators of K-9 and Omega; Bob Baker and Dave Martin writing our four-part instalment. The tag for this one is; 'The Axons promise Earth a golden age of prosperity and big frogs.' Let's hope it isn't as cheesy as it sounds.
     UNIT detect a UFO is heading towards Earth as the Brigadier, the Doctor, Jo, Yates and Benton are holding a conference with a security inspector; Chinn and an American agent; Bill Filer to discuss the threat of the Master. Chinn fails to destroy the craft with a missile, the craft then is detected to have landed nearby a power plant causing freak weather conditions, it then opens to reveal tentacles that bring a homeless man into the ship, scan him and consider him not usable so kill him. They also capture/scan Filer and keep him for further investigation along with fellow captive; the Master. The Doctor, the Brigadier, Chinn and two scientists from the power plant who shot the missiles go into the ship where the Doctor is also scanned but left alone. There they find the Axons whose world was destroyed by solar flares and now they need to refuel on Earth, in return they offer Axonite (a 'thinking' molecule that can replicate any substance). Seeing the possibility of unlimited food and power Chinn and the Nuton scientists are transfixed as they all overhear Jo's screams as she's followed them and met some kind of monster on her way to find Filer. The Axons blame her hearing on hallucinations which the Doctor agrees with, Jo doesn't accept this.
     Chinn accepts the gift of Axonite on behalf of the planet as his men put UNIT under security arrest and take control of the investigation into how Axonite works though the Doctor is allowed to assist one of the scientists; Winser. Elsewhere the Master and Filer fail at escaping and are reimprisoned for reasons unknown. The Doctor then tries to use a particle accelerator to discover Axonite's true meaning. The Master then strikes a deal with the Axons to help them distribute Axonite worldwide in order for his freedom but his TARDIS stays with them. The Axons duplicate Filer as they need a Time Lord and the duplicate goes to capture the Doctor but is killed by the real Filer who has escaped. Winser then interrupts and is killed by radiation from the Axonite which spawns monsters that turn into Axons. Axos, Axonite and Axons seem to be all the same thing as the Doctor and Jo are taken captive as the Master starts to hypnotise Chinn's men.
The Axons in one of their many forms...
     The Axons remove memory blocks the Time Lords put in the Doctor's head to allow him to reveal to them the secrets of space-time travel. The Axons plan to drain Earth and move through the universe for fuel. Meanwhile the Master has no intention of helping the Axons but tries to fix the Doctor's broken TARDIS to escape, he tries hooking it up to the power complex where he's caught by the Brigadier and troops. The latter had arrived as the Brigadier had spotted one of the Axons in monster form making its way there. Chinn has now begun to export Axonite worldwide under the UN's orders. The Axons having control of the power complex have the potential to cause a nuclear explosion but the Brigadier agrees on the Master's freedom if he helps to stop it. The Master plans to reverse the power of the Axonite against the Axons killing the trapped Doctor and Jo in the process. However the plan fails and the Doctor and Jo escape for the Master and the Doctor to work together but the Doctor plans to escape Earth and leave it to it's fate.
     As the Axons attack the power complex the newly fixed TARDIS materialises in the Axos where the Doctor makes a deal with the Axons to link ships and take on the Time Lords. They agree as the Master tries to escape in his own found TARDIS. The Doctor tricks the Axons and traps them in a time loop causing all Axonite to disappear worldwide, the Doctor just manages to break out the loop and escape a detonated power plant. The Master's fate is left unknown.
     With a predictable yet casual entrance for the Master the Claws of Axos delivers a serial with various surprising events. The Master himself isn't our main villain for the first time this season even though he has a moment where he nearly works with the Axons. Instead we're shown a different, interesting side to the Master which sees him willing to do anything to help him escape to freedom even saving UNIT and working with the Doctor. We also saw a different side to the Doctor which disappointedly turned out to be a total charade, or was it? The fact he was willing to let Earth be consumed by the Axons in order to escape for himself showed a selfish, darker side and what appeared to be the need for revenge against the Time Lord High Council who exiled him. This serial is also visually excellent with it's use of sets and costumes for the Axons, the grandeur of the serial in terms of CG work and directory is the best of the season. It also makes me wonder whether the budget had been bumped up considering the firing of the previous serial's director who overspent though compared to this Mind of Evil appears cheap.
...and in another one.
     The script for this serial is clever in many ways with it's multiple twists and turns as you never know really what's going to happen next. It was a shame we never got to see any more productive dialogue between the humans and the Axons as we saw in the first episode. I'm also happy that we've been slowly drawn to new ideas about time travel such as the time loop and the reintroduction of the TARDIS was a successful addition to the resolving of the problem. I also find myself admiring the slight political aspect to this serial that was eventually thrown out of the window with the plentiful amounts of gun-violence as per usual with Pertwee's stories. The fact we had some kind of satire was different to this season's previous two stories and made things much more interesting. The satire studied the human condition which sees the endless possibilities of power overthrow the potential negative outcomes of taking advantage of the opportunities. The Claws of Axos takes it's time to get going and has a brilliant satirical side to it's story which is sadly dwindled to an attack of monsters. However, we explore different aspects to our regular characters in a serial that eventually becomes exciting but fails to beat it's predecessing story in terms of enjoyment and creativity in plot terms.

Thanks, Josh.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Review: Lost 5.16: The Incident (Part One)
Rodger Linus. Bit of a dick.
One of the big changes for Season Six was the massive movement towards the spiritual. This was emodied by the characters of Jacob and the Man in Black, two semi-immortal brothers fighting for control of the Island (supposedly a fight of Good and Evil). We (unknowingly) first saw the Man In Black in the show's Pilot, but despite him being mentioned throughout the series this is the first appearance of the god-like Jacob (Mark Pellegrino). His presence is one of the only good things about this finalé's first half, which replaces tension with gunfights and hopes we don't know the difference.
       The mysterious Jacob visits our heroes in the past, making them his Candidates. He saves a very young Kate from the law, gives a pen to a Sawyer still mourning his parents, gives a blessing to Jin and Sun's marriage, asks for Ilana's help and then asks for Sayid's help just prior to Nadia's death. This is preceeded by a scene in which Jacob looks out upon the Black Rock, a ship approaching the Island in the 1800s. He is joined by the Man in Black in his original form, and they exposit for a while. Jacob doesn't do anything else until next week, so I'll discuss him more there.
Jacob hands Young Sawyer a pen
to write his vengeance letter with.
     In 1977, Jack and Sayid extracted the plutonium core from Jughead, Sayid placing it precariously in his backpack. Left on their own by Richard, they try to sneak through Dharma's high-security Barracks but are spotted by Roger Linus. In the ensueing gun-fight Sayid is shot, and the two are rescued by Jin, Hurley and Miles in a Dharma-van. On the Sub, Kate tells Sawyer and Juliet about Jack's plan. Sawyer, quite rightly, doesn't want to get involved - he's only likely to cause more deaths. But Juliet, blissfully ignorant of her death next week, sides with the stupid for what must be the fourth time in the past month. They surface the sub and send it on its way, rowing back to The Island, and managing to catch the Dharma van in time for a shitty cliffhanger.
      In 2007, the Man In Black continued his journey with the Others to kill Jacob. Aside from revealing to Ben that it was he who would be doing the killing, these characters really didn't do anything. That's for next week. Meanwhile, Lapidus was found by Ilana and Bram, who told him that they were the "Good Guys" - obviously working for Jacob against the Man in Black. They carry a crate taken from the plane's fuselage, which, as we'll see, is the real John Locke's corpse. Both of them seem very distressed to discover that the Man In Black may be out and about.
Getting on like a house on fire.
      In healthy comparison, There's No Place Like Home (Part One) tied up some of the themes of the season and left us on a cliffhanger that left us ready for the epic finale to come. The Incident (Part One) was so much of a simple set-up that there wasn't any real tension or excitement to back it up. So far, the finale has interested me purely in the Jacob segments, and everything else is just very, very slow buildup. There is the issue, again, that this was meant to be watched with Part Two, but if the hour isn't powerful enough on its own then it's a failure, regardless of context.
      The first half of The Incident rather ironically went by without much happening of any interest. There were a few flashback gimmicks that helped to catch my interest, but so far this finale only served to continue the stupidity from the past few episodes in really boring ways. Hopefully next week's final hour, heading into the disappointing Season Six, is enough to save it.


NEXT WEEK: The final hour of my Lost reviewing career.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Silurians

Silurian and the Doctor.jpg
The Doctor tries to reason with these strange reptiles.
Doctor Who - Season 7, Story Two - Doctor Who and The Silurians

Whatever you can say about JNT, there was one decision he had right on. Six and Seven part stories are too long. But I shouldn't let that cloud my judgement of today's story, The Silurians. The second colour serial, The Silurians took on a challenging set of themes concerning environmentalism and race issues by using the titular creatures as a proxy. The seven-parts are irritating for me, at least, but the story is incredibly well performed, written and directed - just as one would expect from a Season 7 story.
     Under the caves on Wenley Moor, workers are attacked, survivors reduced to a primitive state. Workers at the nearly Nuclear Plant suffer headaches. The Doctor and Liz, intent on discovering the source of these issues, discover The Silurians - ancient intelligent reptiles whose civilisation reaches back before the evolution of Man. A Silurian is forced up onto the surface, and The Doctor tries to reason with them. He speaks with the leader of the tribe, who is more than willing to co-exist with Man, but advances by UNIT into the caves incites the Silurian Lieutenant to take over and release a virus upon Humanity. It spreads out onto the Continant as an epidemic, as The Doctor races for time to try and find the antidote. He does so, but is captured by the Silurians. As he saves The Doctor, the Brigadier bombs and completely destroys the Silurians - much to the Doctor's dismay. Ultimately neither side comes out morally sound.
       In opposition to their later portrayal in Warriors of the Deep, the Silurians here have very distinctive characters and it's amazing how articulate these flimsy rubber costumes can be seen to be. Their heavy infantry, the Dinosaur, did give me Myrka flashbacks but at least its paint was dry. Notably, throughout the first two episodes the Silurians are only seen from their point of view, which is a wonderfully atmospheric move by director Timothy Combe which keeps the story's suspense throughout its first hour.
The Silurian on the surface.
     This story benefits from Season 7's stellar guest cast; notable performances include those of Peter Miles, Geoffrey Palmer and Fulton Mackay. Miles, a villain in two later stories (including the perfect Genesis of the Daleks) is the wonderfully anal and later deranged Dr. Lawrence who plays this story's Stahlmann - trying to look after his scientific institution and being beset by disease before dying painfully. Geoffrey Palmer... Geoffrey Palmer is just awesome.
     Compared to the Eighties, I will admit that the direction for this story is just on a different level. Not spending so much time in the Tardis or on alien spaceships, there's creative use of lighting, great cut-shots and an awe-inspiring sense of scale. Back in The Invasion you didn't really believe that London was being invaded by the Cybermen. Here you can understand why this disease has spread to the Continent and you do get the idea that this crisis is national rather than restricted to a field. The seventies' style is well-suited for the Third Doctor's requirement of sticking to Earth, and Season 7 is all the evidence you need to support this.
     If I have any criticisms, it's simply that the story is far too long. The plot can be condensed to four episodes, and you can see where the plot has been extended using extraneous plot lines. Inferno only really managed to avoid the problems of the seven-segment story because of the parallel universe dynamic, and even that comes out of absolutely nowhere. It's also a hell to review, because watching a seven-segment story twice is synonymous with watching the entirety of the Trial of a Timelord season!
     As an interesting note, this story is called Doctor Who and the Silurians because that was the name used on the production of the story. Usually the "Doctor Who and" would be removed, but this once the story ended up keeping its working title - to the consternation of many a fan, as the title implied that "Doctor Who" was the character's name. It doesn't really have any bearing on the quality of the story, but I thought I had to mention this unique mess.
The Doctor is forced to watch genocide - by the Brig's hands.
      At the end of the day, The Silurians is part of Season 7, a season that didn't get its extraordinary reputation for no reason. It's brilliantly directed in a true Seventies style, and its messages are portrayed incredibly well by a set of Silurians with much more fascinating characterisations than its successors. It may be far too long for its own good, but it's worth the watch


NEXT TIME: Two seasons later, we meet The Sea Devils and their Master.

Spearhead From Space Previous ------- Next Inferno

Friday, 18 May 2012

Josh: Doctor Who Classic: The Mind of Evil

The Doctor and Jo visit Stangmoor Prison
Doctor Who - Season 8, Story Two - The Mind of Evil

Jon Pertwee's second season as the Doctor becomes serialised as we meet the Master again in one of the darker tales of the Time Lord.
     We find the Doctor and Jo visiting Stangmoor Prison where Professor Kettering, in the absence of the inventor Emil Keller, is experimenting with the Keller Machine to enact the Keller process which removes negative thoughts in order to cure criminality. However, it causes some distress to it's test subject hardened criminal; Barnham whose reverted to a child-like state. At the same time both Kettering and a surveyor of the experiment both die of their fears when near the machine alone though neither were near anything. Jo just manages to save the Doctor when it appears he is enveloped in the memory of the 'Inferno'.
     Elsewhere, the Brigadier is heading security of a World Peace Conference where Captain Chin Lee of the Chinese delegation reports of missing papers, which she secretly burns, and of the Chinese delegate's death 30 minutes late on a secure line. As the Doctor and Brigadier investigate she manages to use the Keller process on Benton who follows her, where it fails, and then the US delegate who survives, before being deconditioned and found to be working for the Master. At Stangmoor a prisoner; Harry Mailer accesses a gun and temporarily takes control of the prison before hostage Jo allows the guards to take control. Then after hearing UNIT discuss the riots at the prison the Master supplies Mailer with gas bombs and takes control of the prison as the Doctor turns up. The Master plans to use the prisoners as a private army to hijack a Thunderbolt missile being transported by UNIT, in order to wipe out the conference and cause World War Three. He takes the Doctor and puts him into the Keller machine to experience his fear of Daleks and fire. However when the Master & the prisoners are affected by the machine too the Master switches it off, leaving the Doctor with Jo in a coma state whilst he experiences his fear of the Doctor and seals off the machine. The machine itself appears to be a life-form who feeds on fear.  When the prisoners hijack the missile Captain Yates is caught in the crossfire and taken hostage as UNIT investigate. The Doctor and Jo escape the cell as the Master leaves & the machine learns to move and starts to kill prisoners and then them.
     The Doctor and Jo are then re imprisoned and the Doctor is forced to try and control the machine by the Master which he succeeds in doing before the Master organises the set up of the missile at an aircraft hangar. Assuming the missile's at the prison the Brigadier comes to the rescue 'Trojan horse' style and UNIT takes back the prison killing Mailer in the process. As the machine becomes out of control the Brigadier heads to hangar after an escaped Yates informs him of the missile's whereabouts. The Doctor, Jo and Barnham are then attacked by the Keller machine however it appears as all the evil in his mind was removed that Barnham is immune to it when close. The Doctor then calls a meeting with the Master where he'll exchange the missile for his dematerialisation circuit from 'Terror of the Autons'. There Barnham and Jo are ready to use the machine on the Master and UNIT are ready to blow up the missile destroying both the Master and the machine. In a struggle the Doctor loses the circuit to an escapee Master who threats to destroy Earth one day and gloats about his freedom of the universe.
Benton goes undercover.
     With identical cliffhangers for parts one, three and four this six-part serial saw particular ideas repeated as the story progressed as well as many gaps. Season Eight already has begun to develop a familiar format just two stories in with recurring shoot-outs between UNIT and the bad-guys as well as the Doctor cancelling the Brigadier's raids just to meet the Master's needs. With this already been done in the previous story it doesn't feel as inventive or entertaining as it did the first time round. Continuity errors and a large hole in the plot of this serial really lets it down which is shame considering the standards it achieves. With the random disappearance of the entire police force and half the prison as well as an absent sonic screwdriver I'm left thinking this has been for plot purposes to the writer's advantage yet it leaves things messy. However, my main problem is the fact that the purpose of the Keller machine is never explained or what the Mind Parasite as it's called really is. It's like we've just been thrown an object that kills people yet as a heavily featuring and presumably important part of all six episodes I'd thought it'd have some significance.
     Nevertheless the story sagged at the beginning but soon picked itself up giving Jo Grant's character something to do and we finally got an exploration into the Doctor and the Master's relationship. It appears the Master isn't all he seems and is genuinely afraid of the Doctor and the Master becoming a regular in the show needs his character examined more and more as we progress as he's an interesting character study. Again for the second time around in the season we've got some brilliant CG work for the time but the thing was it was all well over budget! The great directorial work in this serial will never been seen in again in Classic Who's time as the director was fired and never seen again for his budgetary mistake. On the other hand we warmly welcome back writer Don Houghton who wrote 'Inferno'. Though it was a cop-out to use aspects of that serial we're given a truly chilling tone with a realistic and daunting prison atmosphere. With a jarring musical score that fits with the FX of the machine the Mind of Evil is one of the darker stories of the Pertwee era, clashing with the previous romp of the Autons. Ignoring Pertwee's incessant and pointless martial arts tricks on his fellows there's some superb acting and a cracking storyline to go forth with. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Captain Yates and the Master as I continue my journey of Seventies Who.

Thanks, Josh.
P.S. It's a real shame I couldn't access this in colour. Still, black and white's lovely.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Review: Lost 5.15: Follow The Leader

Richard is a little weirded out by Flocke.
With the stupidity of The Variable, Lost is well on its way to Season Six's self-destruction. Follow The Leader was exciting and tense, but at the same time it was infected with the very thing that poisoned The Variable against me. Notably, it's the point at which those who hadn't already watched Season Six got a clue that something was up with this new Locke, and that we were going to meet Jacob very soon. Luckily there were a few genuinely interesting sci-fi moments, but the majority of it was just following on from last week's incompetance.
     In 1977, Jack manages to convince Richard Alpert and now-traumatised Eloise Hawking that he's from the future, and that by detonating a Hydrogen Bomb they can change the future and prevent Daniel's death. He admits to Kate that he really doesn't care about how other people feel about their experiences over the past three years, and that he's gonna do it anyway. Finished with his weekly dose of stupid, they head for the Bomb and are joined by Sayid. Kate decides that Jack is crazy, and so heads back to DHARMA. Under the island's tunnels, they unearth the Bomb. Back at Dharma, Pierre Chang finds Miles, Hurley and Jin trying to escape to the Beach, and based on the advice of his son he proceeds to evacuate all women and children from the island. Radzinsky, taking over from Horace, does a deal with Sawyer - he'll put Juliet and him on the Submarine with the evacuees for information on The Others. The two get on the Sub and it sets off. It's almost like Juliet won't die in two weeks.
     The storyline only continued to show how much of a selfish asshole Jack Shepherd is. His quest, based on logic that a five-year-old could repute convincingly, is one that he will undertake without any consideration for the desires and rights of other people. He is prepared to eradicate everything that has happened over the past three years - Desmond escaping the island and finding the love of his life, Saywer becoming a reformed man, John learning to walk again, Kate becoming a mother. He doesn't give a damn, and yet we're supposed to like this bastard.
5x15 Jughead.png
Jughead, unearthed after 23 years.
     In the Present, The Man In Black arrived at The Others' camp and stirred them together. Ignoring Richard's questions about his change of personality, the MIB faciliates his own existence by setting up the events of Jughead, persuading his younger self to bring people back to the Island. The following morning, he organises the Others together to go and meet Jacob for the first time. Flocke admits to Ben that he doesn't just want Jacob's help - he wants to kill him. You can really tell that Terry O'Quinn is enjoying playing the Man In Black, and despite my reservations about the character and the way that he is treated, I really loved this part of the storyline.
      The parts of Follow The Leader that focused more on the show's burgeoning mythology (that's gonna get one hell of a burgeon soon) were much more concentrated than their 1977 counterparts. It's just that I find that section of the plot completely ridiculous - a shallow, unlikeable character walking through the world and ruining everything around him for the sake of his own depressive episodes. Richard Alpert should have been the star in this story, but he was overshadowed by characters both much better and much, much worse.


NEXT WEEK: Brother Jacob, Brother Jacob, end the series, end the series.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Movie (Revisited)

See here for my previous look at this film, which covers the plot and background.
Eight relaxes, reading better sci-fi than this movie.
Doctor Who - The Movie (Revisited)

The main issue that I have with The Movie is not that it's badly made, not that it's badly casted, and not because it was badly performed by the majority of the main cast. No, the issue is that this film tries. It tries to be good, it tries to harken back to the Original Series. But it fails so badly not only due to the things I've already mentioned, but because its corporate background moulded and misshaped it to the point where any inital good intent has vanished.
      Paul McGann is good, though. Eight is rare in that he doesn't seem very alien at all; he's your stylised, charming British man. I suppose this more recogniseable characterisation mixes in with the whole half-human thing (oh boy, will I get to that later) but what this really translates into is a Doctor that is easier than ever to cheer for - just the like heroes of American television shows. If I was to have any problems with the incarnation, I'd have to just note that there isn't really anything alien about him at all, something that made The Doctor who he was and made him into the archetypal figure at the show's heart. Even Davison, who was down to earth and civilised, wore a sprig of celery on his lapel to remind you of his eccentricity.
      The Master is... not done well. Some would argue that the last good Master was his first incarnation, Roger Delgado, but I like some of Anthony Ainley's portrayl as well. In what would appear to be the "previous" story, Survival, Ainley's Master finally broke free from the camp writing that plagued his appearances in the Saward era and became brilliantly scary. Eric Roberts' Master obviously didn't get the memo, and the character-actor plays it totally camp. The character also seemed to gain brand new powers never mentioned before, like the ability to turn into and produce a goo-like substance that can help him to control minds. The Master is usually best when he can be, you know, taken seriously?
What most fans thought when seeing the film.
       And oh, the Canon. The Movie makes a few nods towards Who Canon, but it just violates so many others in ways guranteed to make a fan like me scream at the screen. Not only are the Daleks of all things overseeing The Master's trial, the criminal also gets his Last Will and Testament carried out by his arch-nemesis, who has obviously never seen The Master return to life before. And the Doctor is half-human, two words that caused such a quake of anger in fandom that I dared not speak them until now. And yes, if you noticed that I wrote them in an earlier paragraph, you're more clever than this movie. It's not just the fact that the Doctor has always been the full, bona fide Timelord that irritates me about Half-Human, but it's that they take this fundamentally game-changing idea that is in direct contradition to every word of the Original Series, and use it as a plot point! That'd be like re-booting Star Trek and making it so that the only way Kirk can defeat Khan is by admitting that Spock is his cousin. It raises more questions than it answers, and more importantly, it disrupts the show's dynamic.
     Perhaps the thing that feels the most off is just the general tone. Doctor Who really wasn't ready for the advances in film that had occurred since the show was cancelled, and the dark streets of San Francisco feel like no place for our cosily British Doctor to be having his adventures. The setting just doesn't make sense; Vancouver is masquerading as San Francisco for some reason, and the producers decided to stoke the flames of Y2K by setting it then.
Eight and Grace don't shine together.
      The Movie tried to hit the mark but missed by a considerable distance. It prided itself on making nods to the original series when presenting concepts that, while tuned for a 90s American audience, so disagree with the series' main ideas that there's little point. And when you combine this warped view of Doctor Who with a villain that is better suited to pantomime, then you know that The Movie has problems that not even time can fix.


NEXT WEEK: Back to Pertwee with Doctor Who and The Silurians.
P.S. That Tardis Interior is damn awesome! By far the best, ever!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Josh: Doctor Who Classic: Terror of the Autons

After his contribution to my Inferno review, Josh a series with some of his views on Classic Who. So, without any ado, here's Josh's review of Terror of the Autons. Archie.

Farrel surrenders to UNIT as the Master
 Doctor Who - Season 8, Story One - Terror of the Autons

The serial that opened Season 8 and Jon Pertwee's second as the Doctor saw the introduction of three new characters. Mike Yates, a UNIT Captain, Jo Grant, the Doctor's new assistant and the Master his Time-Lord adversary. The latter would become the Doctor's main arch-nemesis who would become a recurring villain in the Classic era and still be one of the show's staples in the present day. For his introductory story the hypnotic psychopath tries to use the Nestene and the Autons for his own use.
     With the help from a hypnotised circus owner Rossini the Master is able to steal the sole surviving Nestene energy unit from the National Space Museum. As the Doctor forcibly is made to accept Jo Grant as his new assistant, the Master then hooks up the unit to a radio telescope after killing the technician and taking the professor in charge under his control. With news of the missing men from the telescope facility the Brigadier, the Doctor and Jo investigate where the Doctor's warned by another Time-Lord that the Master is there to try and kill him. In the meantime the Master posing as 'Colonel Masters' hypnotises Rex Farrel the young owner of a plastics factory to make Autons, his father is suspicious of the Colonel. Jo who is investigating the factory  is caught, the Master wipes her mind of him and hypnotises her to open up a bomb pretending to be the found energy unit in order to kill the Doctor at UNIT. The Doctor throws the bomb away and gets Jo out of her hypnotic state and she's unable to remember the Master's whereabouts. The Master at the same time kills a suspicious Mr McDermott with an inflatable chair and later sends home the elder Farrel with an ugly plastic doll that strangles him to death at his home.
     The Doctor goes looking for Professor Phillips at Rossini's circus, both Rossini and Phillips under the Master's control. Jo, against orders, has followed the Doctor and both are temporarily imprisoned by Rossini who captures them, when free Phillips tries to kill them with a grenade. Appealing to his better nature the Doctor manages to get Phillips to try and rid of the grenade but it kills him. The Doctor and Jo are then attacked by Rossini's circus to be saved by two Autons posing as policeman shortly followed by the Brigadier and Yates. The Doctor and Jo escape the car they're in to witness a firefight between UNIT and the Autons, UNIT win and all return back to base. There the Doctor reveals he's managed to steal the dematerialisation circuit from the Master's TARDIS but it isn't compatible with his and so realises both him and the Master are stuck on Earth. Autons then disguise themselves in carnival outfits handing out plastic daffodils to the public which start to kill people. Investigating the elder Farrel's death the Doctor figures out which company the Master has been working at to produce the Autons and takes back the ugly doll that kill elder Farrel to UNIT. In that time the Master, disguised, has installed a new telephone wire and Jo is then attacked by the doll before its killed by Yates. The Doctor believes heat causes the 'alive' plastic to become sinister but is soon proven wrong. UNIT find out the Autons have chartered a bus with young Farrel and plan an air-strike as the Doctor is nearly killed by the plastic phone wire activated by the Master. It appears radio signals activate the plastic and a plastic film that dissolves in CO2 has been killing people.
Who said telephones weren't dangerous?
     Coming to retrieve his dematerialisation circuit the Master takes the Doctor and Jo hostage when he finds out about the airstrike which is called off. Farrel coming back to normal diverts the Auton bus and the Master sets off to the radio tower to activate the Nestene invasion force. The Doctor and Brigadier follow as the Autons and UNIT battle, the Master then helps the Doctor stop the invasion realises he'd die with the human race too. In the hubbub the Master escapes later to be shot dead by Yates but it turns out it's Farrel in a mask and the Master is somewhere on Earth for the next adventure.
     'Terror of the Autons' is slow and rather mildly entertaining during it's first two parts. Episode three's beginning sequence suddenly picks up the pace of the story. The serial is more or less a parallel and more camp version of Spearhead from Space but with the Master at the helm. There are some brilliant action sequences and very interesting plastic based deaths but characterisation following such events is short-lived. The story in perspective is your generic end-of-ther-world-by-invasion plot but still an interesting concept. The best part of the serial is our introduction to Delgado's magnificent Master who's true nature develops over time but when his character is formed we understand him in a way. TOTA leaves the audience speculating what's next for the Doctor and the Master and leaves things very open-ended about their history and relationship. It's a new dynamic to the mythology of Who at the time and was the inventive thing to do to keep it going strong in it's eighth season. Beginning as a slow-burner season opener radically changes and things become more exciting with a repetitive yet insightful musical score. The special effects and stunts are surprisingly good but the constant bickering between the Doctor and the Brigadier becomes predictable and sometimes time-wasting.
     Still, Terror of the Autons gradually becomes a well-written action romp with only few Autons and an interesting insight to the Doctor's mysterious past. A particularly effective season-opener but with a lot more potential in certain areas. It's a shame more screen-time wasn't available for Pertwee and Delgado's characters to talk or that Katy Manning's performance is a little empty. Still, the Pertwee-Era remains strong.

Thanks, Josh.
P.S. As Archie mentioned; I'm back. And I'm here every week to review Season 8 and onwards through the Seventies era.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

First Red Dwarf X Publicity Photo!

I'm getting really excited about this one. Many thanks to Ganymede and Titan for this image.


Review: Lost 5.14: The Variable
Will I get stuck in a time loop, Mummy? Will I?
Warning: From hereon in, this column is gonna be me ranting about a period of Lost that really pisses me off. Opinions expressed are those of the author and the issues covered are open to reader interpretation.

As previously, this week's episode was a focus on a member of the Science Team. In Season Four, Faraday was the show's catalyst in its transformation into sci-fi, and his character was oft given the technobabble that I so adore. A show that could have have crazy and downright strange things happening and still have them explained in mildly scientifc terms was exactly what I wanted, exactly what attracted me to Lost in the first place. This story, and the death of Daniel Faraday, signals a point in the series where this dream undergoes a very disappointing transformation.
     The flashbacks show the course of Daniel's life. From a young age he is encouraged by his mother, Eloise Hawking, to reject his musical talents and instead use his gifts for science. At one of his many graduations, Eloise tries to steer girlfriend Teresa out of Daniel's life. Later, following a memory-loss-inflicted Daniel just before Season Four, Charles Widmore approaches him and invites him to the Island. As he prepares to leave, his mother tearfully tells him that he will make her proud.
     In 1977, Daniel arrives and talks to Jack, telling him that he wasn't supposed to be here. He then talks to Professor Chang, asking him to evacuate the Island before the Incident hits in six hours time. Chang rejects him as insane, and later Daniel storms into a Lostie meeting asking for help in finding his mother. Sawyer rightfully refuses to help until Daniel reveals why he wants to compromise their security even further, but Jack is petty and so acts like a total douchebag, going against Sawyer's request and helping Daniel to break the security boundary of the facility. As Sawyer and Juliet's cover is well and truly blown, Daniel explains to Jack his theory about The Variable - that the Whatever Happened, Happened rule doesn't apply because people, and free will, are a variable that will change the outcome. He wants to change the outcome of history by detonating Jughead, "destroying" the energy pocket under the Swan station. He charges into the Other's camp, looking for his mother. She shoots him, and in his dying breath he reveals to her that he is her son, forming a time-loop.
Nothing I say makes any sense! Wagga wagga wagga!
      This forms the core idea at the heart of the Season Five finale. And it clearly reveals why the writers are not, in the end, writers of good science-fiction. (Thus this sole "Bad Sci-Fi" tag). This idea proves exactly why the Whatever Happened Happened rule works, because in the end, Daniel is wrong - in a way that is very, very clear from a single listening. His explanation verges on the philosophical, and doesn't take into account the simple logic that if he never comes to the Island then he can never go back in time to stop them from doing so. It's paradox 101, here. This is a man who has studied time-space physics "all of my life," talking to an experienced surgeon. They should have the ounce of sense between them required to realise that this plan is not going to work, and yet they continue on with it. For the writers to take such a fundamental sci-fi idea and completely fail to understand it is almost a betrayal of everything that I love about this series.
      And Jack continues to be a complete and total dick. This is our protagonist, and yet I feel much more sympathetic with Sawyer, Locke, Ben - hell, I even sympathise with The Man In Black, and he's the embodiment of pure evil! In this episode, his major dick move is to deliberately try and oust Saywer out of a sense of inferiority. Jack can't comprehend that Sawyer has worked himself into a position of respect and authority, and is too ego-centric to acknowledge that he might actually know what he's doing. Also, Sawyer approaches the group democratically, while Jack forces his will onto Kate and the others, and in doing so ruins all of the other group's plans for a peaceful life. Jack is always wrong, and always will be, and I refuse to sympathise with him as a protagonist.
I wish I'd had warning from the future.
     The Variable, like the rest of Lost, isn't badly made. But the plotting is lazy and stupid, and potentially one of the series' most interesting characters is killed off in a way that, while tragic, was seen merely seven episodes ago. When I first set out on this series, I wanted to know where the series started to lose everything I loved. 316 came close, but this is it, folks. It's all vitriol from here.


NEXT WEEK: Richard Alpert the Immortal Badass! It's Follow The Leader!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Review: Doctor Who Classic: Inferno (Revisited)
The parallel universe offers up interesting new characters.
See here for my previous look at this story.

Doctor Who - Season 7, Story Four - Inferno (Revisited)

While I'm a big fan of the Eighties, I do recognise that there are clear problems in the show's development team. Season Seven is completely and utterly different. The team, used to working on the Sixties era, took the new tech avaliable in the Seventies, added a new Doctor and ran with it, producing what is oft considered one of the show's finest seasons. Inferno is no exception, and regularly appears at the top of best episode polls.
      My first impressions of the serial when I first saw it back in 2010 were that the opening episode felt too slow. That is the serial's genius, however. The setting may not be exciting but these new characters are incredibly well-written and acted, meaning that our full cast of characters is already established and running by the time the story begins. Crucially, it also contrasts that which we see in the alternative Universe. For example, the jovial relationship between Greg Sutton and Petra Williams in our world becomes one of sharp difference, with Petra as a tool of the state and Greg as the unwilling underling.
      One also has to look at the story's context. In 1970, the worlds of Parallel universes and the like were in the domain of pure science fiction; Inferno took this concept into the living-rooms of a nation and applied it to a set of characters loved by the British people. And, even by today's standards, it's a fairly ggood execution of the plot template. The fact that the Doctor effectively loses for the first time is a big part of the story and makes the otherwise completely irrelevant parallel world storyline one of the story's most important aspects.
The Primords are good for what they are.
      The Primords are a difficult matter because they're a relatively low-scale sci-fi idea trying to co-exist alongside the parallel-world dynamic; the story's original plot, fighting with a more highly skilled immigrant. But despite that, the virus-esque nature of the Primords and their appeal to more savage, early-human tendencies takes the escalating circumstances of the Inferno scenario and sharpens it into something immensely powerful.
      I'll admit now that I'm not really a Pertwee fan. His Doctor always comes across to me as arrogant and snobbish without any of the compassion or charm to make up for it. Despite the violent and erratic nature of the Sixth Doctor, you always knew that he could save the day - something that, as Inferno shows, is not always the case here. However, I get the feeling that Pertwee's excursion to the other world tones his personality down somewhat - so as not to compete with entertaining turns by the rest of the regular cast in their parallel guises.
      And now I'll give you to Josh for his first impressions of the story.
This is 1970. Ignoring the technical faults that were bound to be a regular occurrence in television on any programme at the time, this is remarkable. I'm not just saying that as a Whovian, but 'Inferno' grapples some interesting sci-fi concepts whilst able to study the human condition and hand us some pretty decent monsters. I'm new to Classic Who and so for me it takes the story a while to get going but after the interesting second part cliffhanger things continually went upwards in my estimation. Even though the Dr Who team faced budget-cuts, they do their best to produce some great-looking aliens and the constant sound of the drill fits the tone nicely, enhancing scenes instead of spoiling them. Considering the fact that Inferno is reaching it's 42nd birthday, the visuals provided for the first in-colour season finale are excellent and I like the idea of the lava opening credits.
Douglas Camfield and Barry Letts direct.
     Down to the story; we've got two different plots running parallel to each other - The Parallel Universe and The Drilling plots. It's clever how the two interweave with one another nicely and make the concept even more innovative. Inferno is the first time Doctor Who does parallel universes and the fascist British regime we're shown seems chillingly realistic. To add to this, the performances from our regulars in that side of the plot are played naturally well. Jon Pertwee is on fine form but Nicholas Courtney's 'Brigade-Leader' steals the limelight with the strongest performance. The soundtrack to the story is unique and genuinely spooky and there's plenty of juicy dialogue and action sequences to thank the writer Don Houghton and the directors; Douglas Camfield and Barry Letts, for. Inferno is one of the staple serials of Classic Who's history and now I can see why; with its superb acting and wonderful direction it delivers a chilling tale that ties up Pertwee's first season nicely. A new Classic favourite of mine.
I'd like to thank Josh for his perspective there.
     Inferno is a great story on many levels. It takes two scientific ideas not used much on 70s TV and executes them together with the utmost style, not only showcasing the cast but providing the finale for an excellent season of Doctor Who. It's one of the best, and while it isn't my favourite, it showed me just how good Doctor Who can and should be at its heights.


NEXT WEEK: I'm half-human. On my mother's side. We revisit the TV Movie.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Overview: Doctor Who Classic: Season 21

After The Five Doctors, something strange happened to Doctor Who. Davison had decided, based on a chat with Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, that he would be leaving after his third season. This is also often attributed to JNT's decision to add in an American companion to make the show popular in the states, which for Davison was the last straw, as he believed that Americans (and Austrialians) liked the show for its Britishness. I've only seen five of the seven stories in Season Twenty One, but that's enough for me. The stories I haven't reviewed, The Awakening and Frontios, will be reviewed later in the year.

Davison's Doctor became darker.
Five (Peter Davison) - I'm not going to let you stop me now!
(Warriors of the Deep to Caves of Androzani)

Saward suddenly decided that he was feeling under the weather, and so for the next two years we were faced with kill-em-all bloodbaths. Warriors of the Deep, Resurrection of the Daleks and Caves of Androzani are all like this, and they all have one key feature - the Doctor inadvertantly plays an active role. Five kills Silurians with poison gas pumped into the ventilation system, he massacres the Daleks with both a gun and a genetically engineered virus, and his presence on Androzani sparks a war in which every last male character in the story (including him) dies.
     Perhaps because he knew he was leaving, Five is much more dejected and pessimistic in this season. This certainly adds to the darkness of the Saward kill-em-alls, but it even affects relatively lighter stories like Planet of Fire, where The Doctor euthanises Kamelion and watches as The Master burns to death. It just feels so unlike Five's characterisation, and in fact harkens back to Tom's era. Despite this he still demonstrates his wonder for the universe and all of its intricacies.
      This darkness of character does come into its own, however, once we reach his final story in The Caves of Androzani. Here Five shows his character's core determination - he will fight to save his companion's life no matter the cost, no matter the risk to himself. This is epitomised in Five's most badass quote, "I'm not going to let you stop me now!" where you can hear him trying desperately to resist the beckoning call of regeneration.
     Five's last days were darker than they needed to be, but his final story did justice to a season that had thus far been unimpressive. Until the end he was enthusiastic, nerdy, and always hoping that somehow, peace could prevail.

It was never fun, Tegan.
Tegan (Janet Fielding) - It stopped being fun, Doctor!
(Warriors of the Deep to Resurrection of the Daleks)

Tegan's final stories continued to fail to paint her in a particularly good light. In Warriors of the Deep she gets trapped under a polystyrene door. The final straw for the character comes in Resurrection of the Daleks, where she apparently cottons-on to the fact that it's a kill-em-all and takes her chance to wing-it. Tegan's leaving is a stark commentary on the darker nature of this season, herself commenting that, "It stopped being fun, Doctor!" Words that don't really ring true when one considers how much she found to complain about in her eighteen stories.
     Aside from that, Tegan doesn't make much of an impression. Her whining doesn't help in this more pessimistic year, and despite the Doctor's regret at losing her, I found it a bit of a relief. Her only real point of relief was Frontios, where Bidmead's writing gave her something to do.
     Although it wasn't part of Season 21, Tegan's next appearance would be in the non-canonical A Fix With Sontarans for Jim'll Fix It. There she randomly met Six, and the two work surprisingly well together. Check it out, it's awesome.

Mwhahah... wait. Did that joke
last time.
Turlough (Mark Strickson) - Pessimistic nobody.
(Warriors of the Deep to Planet of Fire)

Turlough is surprisingly pessimistic for someone who broke free from the most evil force in the Universe. This is especially characterised by the fact that he either stays in the shadows for most of the story and/or he declares that they're dead everytime a slight problem arises.
     And then, from nowhere, we suddenly find out all about him. Frontios does place some hints, but we have to wait until Planet of Fire before we learn anything about his history. He was a political prisoner from the Planet Trion, who was exiled to Earth for his own protection. This doesn't stop him from wearing the same school-boy outfit in all but one of his ten stories.
    Turlough's main problem was that he was too far outside the companion mould. He really didn't want or need to be there, he had little courage or confidance and he disagreed with The Doctor's ideas. When he leaves, one feels less sad or relieved and more concerned as to whether you should feel anything at all.
     Again, Turlough shines the most in Frontios, where he's given stuff to do. He also works very well into making Planet of Fire more managable. 

Erm... Hello?
Peri (Nicola Bryant) - I'm Perpegillium Brown and I can shout as loud as you can!
(Planet of Fire onwards)

Peri has issues. Sure she does. Like Tegan, she was conceived to make the show popular with foreign viewers, this time in the Amercian market. The problem is that they cast a very British actress, Nicola Bryant. As a kid watching the old videos I didn't really notice it, but now it's obvious to both British and American audiences why this should never have happened. The character didn't even need to be American - and if she wasn't, there's a chance Davison would have stayed for longer.
     Although she's mainly eye candy (another nod to 'the dads'), there was a token attempt at giving her some backstory. Apparently she's a botanist, and she lives with her step-dad who she appears to have a strange sorta relationship with. In the end, she's sorta stuck with the new Doctor; they argue and fight, but I think that Peri still wants to find Five's innate goodness within Six's brash exterior, something that she certainly does by the end of Season 22.
     In Season 21, she's not so lucky. While with Five she gets a few cool moments - chastising the Kamelion!Master with, "I can shout as loud as you can," and talking ethics with Karaz Jek. Rather unfortunatly for Five, her cleavage ends up being the defining image of his regeneration! By Season's end, Peri is how she is in Season 22 - stuck with a joyfully unstable Doctor, not really knowing why the hell she's there.

Six (Colin Baker) - In my time I've been threatened by experts... and I don't rate you very highly at all.
(Caves of Androzani onwards)

I've already said how much I love Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor. He's brash, he's rude. He's arrogant and he always believes that he's the most powerful person in the room. And, in his way, he is often right. The thing that differentiates Six from your average villain is that Six has these qualities and balances it out by using them for good ends.
     The coat gets so much scrutiny, and yet while it shouldn't matter to you what he's wearing, this is a time where The Doctor's costume actually reveals a lot about his character. He's brash. He doesn't care about style or class; he doesn't fit in anywhere because he doesn't accept the things people try to fit him into. Six may be a little morally sketchy, but he always tries to do what is right.
     Since this is about Season 21, The Twin Dilemma is the most hated of all stories in the show's 48 year history. But it really shouldn't be. Colin Baker was a brave move for the production team and frankly, I love The Twin Dilemma's little cotton socks off. He's promising, and after the dire season that he finished he was a wonderful splattering of colour. After I've taken a look at a few assorted stories, I'll be continuing with Colin's story when I cover Season 22.