Tuesday, 18 August 2015

FTA: Doctor Who Classic: Edge of Destruction, Galaxy Four and Tomb of the Cybermen

When I was involved in Lewis Christian's amazing fan-created book Celebrate, Regenerate, I submitted 29 articles, a whopping 25 of which got published within the beautiful, non-profit book. Unfortunately, very soon after the book was published on Lulu, Christian's website was taken over and the book disappeared from Lulu altogether. Since the book, both digital and physical, is effectively out of print, I thought I'd publish all of the articles that I have stored away in my archives, staggered across the weeks (due to the sheer amount of text involved.) I hope you enjoy them, and I hope that through this, the spirit of Celebrate, Regenerate lives on. I'll also be including "See More" links to where I've previously written a full review of that story, and images to break up the text. Enjoy. :D

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The Edge of Destruction (Extra words)
By Andrew Smith

Doctor Who proves to be incredibly divisive as early as its third story. Granted, The Edge of Destruction’s rather odd plot and performance does mean that it doesn’t attract a lot of followers, but at heart it’s the finale to a 13-episode long arc that cements the personalities of our initial TARDIS team as well as introducing us to the concept of a sentient time machine. Its slightly stage-play like construction allows us a wonderful amount of tension compared with the speed of its production, and the solution is a wonderfully unassuming joke that relieves the tension of the instalment with incredible ease. The Edge of Destruction, despite the way it was cobbled together on an almost absent budget, is a masterpiece that perfectly caps the series’ opening arc and ensured the success of the series for years to come. (See more.)

Galaxy Four
By Andrew Smith

Perhaps I'm not an expert here. My first interaction with Galaxy Four came just after I'd started looking into the Classic Series, when I bought the Titan Books publishing of the serial's script. The idea of the Chumblies fascinated me; the first time in my experience where there had been a deliberate dissonance between the idea that the most alien looking ones were the baddies. I was fascinated by the commanding female presence in the Drahvins, held my breath as Steven Taylor suffocated in the air lock, and felt slightly sad when the Drahvins were left to die on the exploding planet. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I learnt for the first time about the great burnings, and that the story had been entirely destroyed.
     Until the very recent discovery of the third episode, this was something of a Ghost story, one which had very little record at all post-transmission. It wasn't alone, of course, but it wasn't exactly a high-profile loss. People were more concerned with William Hartnell's last episode, or Troughton's first story. The Highlanders, The Macra Terror, The Web of Fear. Why should anyone care about a little old story with Amazonian aliens and cute little robots, when so much of Doctor Who's most important moments are completely missing? Well, for a very good reason. What's left of Galaxy Four is a decent little story, and one that packs a lot of great sci-fi ideas into an interesting premise. For a bit.
     Ok, the elephant in the room time. Galaxy Four is a tiny bit tedious in its way, and for the experienced viewer who knows the ins and outs of TV, this is pretty much the equivalent of watching an episode of Merlin where they try to spring the surprise that Morgana is evil. But for me as a child, reading this wonderful old script... everything was fresh, everything was new. Suddenly the black and white era wasn't this impenetrable fog, but this exciting and wonderful series of stories that were just as good as the stuff I was used to. Galaxy Four was the story that let me go one step further to becoming a Doctor Who fan, and for that I am truly grateful.

Tomb of the Cybermen
By Andrew Smith

The story of Tomb of the Cybermen and it’s history in Who fandom is the result of a long saga that began and ended many years before I was even born, but it never stopped me from appreciating the story in new light. At the end of the day, when we look at Tomb, we have to wonder why exactly it’s so special. After all, it’s a fairly standard story of that era. It takes character roles from previous Cyberman stories, with the confident expedition leader, the nervous guy on the edge, and the base under siege story is almost endemic. So what makes it so… so memorable? 
     Aside from the story’s size, which is the perfect configuration for most Classic Who fans, the story is also famous for having been fully recovered after the great burnings of the 1970s. As well as large swathes of Doctor Who, shows like Dad’s Army and nearly Monty Python had their master tapes burnt. For years, even after the program ended, people lamented the fate of Tomb of the Cybermen, oft remembered for the scenes in the second episode in which the Cybermen awaken from their sleep. And then, when all hope was lost, the entire story was recovered in 1992 from a Chinese TV station. Despite sharing a lot of the Second Doctor’s era’s tropes, the story feels more modern and the four-part structure means that it might as well be a Pertwee story someone lost the colour spots for.
     The Cybermen were always one of my favourite monsters because of the fact that they weren’t fundamentally malicious in nature. Modern media often feels the need to distinguish goodies and baddies, right and wrong, the compassionate and the evil. As a child, I loved the fact that the Cybermen were the product of a society, not unlike ours, whose desperation to survive turned them into a force of evil. The fear that they provoke is not from their appearance, nor their voice, but their motives. “You will become like us.” This story takes the more conceptual Cybermen from their first story and compacts it into a more public-friendly form, creating the monster that would go on to become the Daleks’ main competition as the series’ most well known monster.
     There’s been a lot of backlash to Tomb of the Cybermen’s popularity over the years, as you’d expect. The (human) villains are all minorities, the only black man is a mute who sacrifices himself at the end to save the day, and the only reason anything happens is because The Doctor is a bit too nosy. But people are able to ignore that with Tomb of the Cybermen in a way that other stories don’t manage. And that’s simply because Tomb, if you ignore all of the rascism, is a very well crafted Who story that takes the Cybermen and shoves them into a better, scarier new direction. It’s got Cybermen, Cybercontrollers, Cybermats and even a Cyber-manakin, and if I wanted to introduce a Not-We to my favourite monster, this would be the story I’d choose. (See more.)

Thanks.

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