Monday, 30 December 2013

Review: Doctor Who Classic: The Invisible Enemy

Welcome, reader to the last review of 2013. Which I'm writing in June. S'all a bit topsy turvey really.

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Hardcore Prawn, as Neil Perryman puts it.
Doctor Who - Season 15, Story Two - The Invisible Enemy
Written 30/6/13

Doctor Who is a very varied show. Some stories are overwhelming serious. Some stories aim for a political message amongst piles of cheese. Some stories are so rattled by their production problems that they fail to do anything at all. The Invisible Enemy is a mix of the first and third, a story whose special effects get weirder and weirder as one goes along but whose incredible charm, especially in its centre two epiodes, lead me to rather love it in the way that one loves the offensive stereotypes of mentally ill protagonists in Oscar bait films. With similar amounts of inner personal outrage.
     A base on the moon Titan is afflicted by a web in space which infects the minds of the crew via mental attacks. The TARDIS materialises in the vicinity and is caught in the same beam, sparing Leela but infecting The Doctor with the Nucleus, the prawn-like life-form that the other infectees want to protect and use to procreate an alien species. The Doctor and Leela go to a space-hospital to look at the disease, where they meet Professor Marius and his robot dog, K9 (!). Using a part of the TARDIS, Marius follows the Doctor's instructions and creates clones of he and Leela to climb into The Doctor's body and find the Nucleus. The clones confront it, but disintegrate before they can do anything. Leela's clone contained her immunity, helping The Doctor to synthesise a cure, but the machine works in reverse and the Nucleus is magnified to man-size. The Doctor and Leela, along with K9 in tow, blow up Titan and save the Universe. Sorry, Solar System.
     After a season or two of stories taking themselves far too seriously with old Victorian Mansions and ancient gods about the place, the appearance of Marius and his (for now) charming robot servant breathes a fresh air into the series. The serial feels very much like it's aimed towards children after the systematic violence and adult allusions that defined the previous series Marius himself (Frederick Jaeger) is a fun screen presence and the first few appearances for long-term companion K9 are quite frankly wonderful. Episode Three's homage to the common-used plot of The Fantastic Voyage fitted right in, even with the cheesy special effects that did make me laugh, especially when The Doctor's white blood cells are big white Styrofoam balls hanging from the ceiling and bouncing into things. Most impressively, The Doctor's inner fight with the Nucleus is acted rather well. At least until we see it.
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An icon is born.
     And that is where the story gets awful weird. Besides the other numerous special effects failures (and the fact that they blew up Titan, which is a pretty cool moon), the story's main downfall comes with the appearance of the Nucleus. In concept, the story is fine, if cheesy, and the execution is mostly okay. But the simple fact is, the design of that monster is fecking hilarious. Inside the body it's a binbag with a crabclaw, and outside the body it's a massive great shrimp that can't even walk around by itself. The camera angles shoot it like it's a school production and the previously tolerable standard ranting becomes just silly when we're supposed to believe that Zoidberg's less intimidating brother is going to rule the Universe.
      I enjoyed the Invisible Enemy, in a period where I was beginning to wonder if I'd make it through Season 15 into what I hope is going to be an awesome Key To Time arc. Because I like it, it obviously gets hated on a lot by fandom by what I see as incredibly trivial reasons, although the simple what-the-fuckery of the Nucleus in its larger form does turn a fairly decent story into a So-Bad-It's-Good laughfest by the end. I'm just so grateful that after two stories which bored me with their overbearing darkness and foreboding, I'm allowed to laugh at cheesy sci-fi goodness that appeals to everything I like about the show.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Yet another alien figure has been manipulating Humanity for centuries... all in The Image of the Fendahl.

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