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From the Beginning: The Third Doctor


Doctor Whoovie's picture

Doctor Whoovie - Posted on 04 December 2009

And so, my travels throught the Dr Who archive move into the 1970s and colour. Although I would rank Jon Petrwee amongst my top three doctors a perusal of the episode titles make me realize that I really only know/remember about 14 of the 24 stories. Although I know I watched some of the other stories I do not remember the story just some of the key (scarey) scenes.

Idiom's picture

What? Fewer postings than any other Doctor? Well, we'll soon put that right.

In this year of very little Doctor Who, I've watched more of the programme than I think I ever have. But there is one Doctor I have been reallly, really looking forward to - The Third Doctor. John Pertwee was the first Doctor I remember seeing when I was a lad (I have a vague memory of ogrons stalking around a country house). I know I'm goona love this.

Idiom's picture

How you doing Whoovie?

You still out there?

Mr. Magister's picture

I'm not a big analyzer of episodes, I know what I like and I like the Pertwee Era best.  My first doctor was #5, but soon after my local network acquired the rights to Dr #3 and I was hooked from then on.   I just finished 'Spearhead' and find that it was shot in such a creepy way - maybe it was because it's entirely shot on film - maybe it's the vaseline smeared on the faces of the auton copies, Channing's deadpan eyes or the emotionless and sort of senseless killings shown on screen during the Auton attack - but it's a very very serious episode.  They spend alot of time establishing the Doctor - and I love the scene where the hospital Dr.s bicker of playing tricks on each other when the Doctor's blood test and Xrays come back.  Unit too is in great form and the Brig is totally military.  Love it.  Love it!

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

I whole-heartedly agree with you, Mr. M – a man after my own heart. One of my favourite and most-watched stories, for me there is something about Spearhead from Space which never fails to give full entertainment value. Maybe it’s the fact that the whole story was shot in colour and in film, which gives it the real feel of a motion picture air. Maybe it’s the introduction of one of the most iconic ‘monsters’ of this period of Doctor Who. Certainly it has a lot to do with all of the main pieces of the Third Doctor’s era being laid so quickly and firmly: the Earth-bound stories, the Brig and UNIT, the great Jon Pertwee himself. Whatever it is, the Third Doctor hits the ground running.

Thoughts:

  • If the programme settled into a run of earth bound stories now, nobody would notice the difference. However, by the time the Third Doctor begins his tenure, there have still been very few stories set on contemporary Earth (the War Machines, The Faceless Ones, The Invasion and The Web of Fear were the only ones, I believe and the latter two were supposed to be set a few decades into the future), so set in this context, the Doctor’s exile to Earth was fresh and new and a complete reset from what had gone before.
  • There is an almost comic element to the first episode as if the production team were considering carrying on this element introduced by Patrick Troughton and to take advantage of Jon Pertwee’s history of comic character acting. This culminates at the end of the first episode with the still erratic Doctor, tape over mouth, fleeing down the lane in a wheelchair. This is toned down somewhat by the end of the story and the charming, flamboyant nature of the Third Doctor takes precedence instead.
  • The Doctor has regenerated with a tattoo!
  • We see the introduction of a staple character throughout the next decade of Doctor Who: the country yokel/poacher/farmer. Others appear later in the Three Doctors and Pyramids of Mars to name but a few.
  • One thing that Jon Pertwee excelled at was gurning (although Patrick Troughton does give him a run for his money at the end of the War Games). There is an exceptionally good gurn in episode four as the Doctor is attacked by the Nestene Consciousness. I give this story a gurn-factor of 8.
  • How good are the Autons? The shop dummy scene is one of those iconic Who moment which never loses its edge, but more than that I have always remembered the scene where the Auton stumbled from the side of the road. This is the type of countryside which I grew up in and even now when I drive along country lanes I glance at the sides of the road warily.
  • But also how simple it was to make the humanoid Autons look abnormal by making their faces just slightly off-colour and shiny. So simple and yet so effective.

I love everything about this story. Even its imperfections make me laugh and I really cannot fault it. It’s the visual version of comfort food for me and always cheers me up. 10 out of 10. Of course.

                                     File:Auton Invasion novel.jpg

Doctor Whoovie's picture

Well where Indeed have I been lately? Not on the Forums, at any rate. But I have been watching my Who.

Two Sundays ago (Feb 6th) marked the end of my first Year of watching from the beginning. Despite my lack of posts, the end of that Year found me on the Third episode of 'Planet of the Spiders". Whilst It would have been nice to round off the year by coming to the end of the third Doctor, It took me until Tuesday 8th to accomplish that.

So If IMDB is correct, in one Year I have watched (listened) to three Doctors in 377 episodes. That averages a little over an episode a day (some days must have been lots of episodes because a lot of days had none.)

I will endevour to catch up with my posting in the near future (probably after Gallifrey).

namariee's picture

I have been enjoying reading your analyses of the shows so far. Particularly of the second Doctor as he is a favourite with me.  Such a shame so few of his episodes exist now.  Please continue.  :)

Idiom's picture

This is another story which I remember from the Target novelisations as a young boy. The book by Malcolm Hulke was particularly good with a fair amount of back story added (particularly for the Silurians themselves). Seen in later years (as a repeat on UK Gold), the reptile costumes (although the faces are particularly good) were never going to live up to the fertile seamlessness of my imagination and so at that time the story disappointed. Seen again now, however, and being more interested in the political subtext, I found myself really enjoying this story once more. Doctor Who stories often work best while playing on the Doctor’s anti-authoritarian nature and using this as a narrative device to explore many of the issues of the modern world. When seen as such, this season of Pertwee stories, in particular, can be said to be well ahead of its time with its focus on environmental issues, and the slant that human beings might not just be the most important species on the planet. I loved the idea that here, humanity could easily be seen by the Silurians as the invaders (turning the, by now, clichéd base-under-siege story on its head) and placing a real sense of moral ambiguity at the core of this story. 

  • I’m not sure of the order in which these stories were filmed but am amazed at how comfortable and assured Jon Pertwee looks in the role already. Of course, knowing what a great character actor he is (I’m a big fan of the Navy Lark), this shouldn’t come as a great surprise. It occurs to me, though, that although Doctor Who is the great timeless format, which can reinvent itself again and again, it would be nothing without its principal actors and over the years the production teams have consistently made the right choice for the Doctor.
  • Always good to see the Doctor in other costumes as well and here we get mining kit and science whites as well as short-sleeve t-shirt complete with tattoo (the people who make the action figures take note!).
  • The relationship between the Doctor and the Brigadier is also almost fully formed already, with the Brig rolling his eyes at the Doctor’s eccentricities and yet trusting him fully. The caveat being, of course, what happens at the end of the story when the Brigadier places the future of humanity ahead of the Doctor’s vision of a joint human-Silurian utopia. Although I wouldn’t have liked to see their relationship fall too much into mutual antagonism, it is an aspect which I would like to have seen examined more during the Third Doctor’s reign.
  • There is a top-notch supporting cast here with the great Fulton Mackay (ahh, Local Hero!) – shame he wasn’t used more; a very young Paul Darrow; and, the superbly hangdog Geoffrey Palmer.
  • For me the only aspect which seems slightly out of place is Liz Shaw. Which is a shame as Caroline John is a great actress and I like the idea behind the character. However, she seems very much at a loose end throughout much of the story and does not even really become involved in as much of the action as a traditional companion would be. She spends most of the time sitting at a desk looking worried.
  • I wonder how much time has passed between Spearhead and this story? At the end of Spearhead, the Doctor talks about getting Bessie and here he has her. At the beginning, the car seems almost sentient, more like Speed Buggy than the Bessie I remember (chuga chuga).
  • The Silurians has a much more leisurely pace when compared to Spearhead from Space, which is inevitable I suppose when considering the story length. However, this is another example of how a longer story can be well written with the first two episodes building the mystery and tension. The next two focussing on the internal politics of the Silurians and the humans and the final three adding the idea of the global disease (these episodes felt a lot like Survivors).
  • Shame about the dinosaur – ‘nuff said.
  • Here we have death of stereotypical farmer/yokel/poacher number 2 – this time attacked by one of the giant reptiles.
  • Finally, a stunning gurn-factor of 8 out of 10 – at the end of episode 6. Gurn-tastic!

A great story with almost all of the component parts fitting together perfectly. Just a shame about some of the costumes and effects which took me out of the story at times. 8 out of 10.

                                   

 

 

Idiom's picture

Come on you guys!

Any thoughts on the Silurians out there?

Let's beef up the Third Dotor's posting count!

Mr. Magister's picture

Another great story - and so much more appreciated now that it's boxed up with Warriors of the Deep.  The Silurians are well realized and who cares if their head pieces are sometimes untucked from their shoulders - it's 70's Dr. Who and that 's the best there is!  UNIT once again is looking good and there's Avon from Blake's 7 chipping in....loved all the peripheral characters too...even the overly smiling and unconvincing Dr. Quinn (not the Medicine Woman).  Geoffrey Palmer also cameo's as the 'Government Official' du jour - - - but hold on - - what a sloppy way to quarantine the center - - - the Doctor and Brig touch everyone infected despite telling everyone else 'not to touch them'....and they don't bother to check on anyone coming in contact with the first victim...until way after it's too late....and what good is it to stop Lionel (sorry, I forget Geoffrey Palmer's character name) when he gets to London, surely everyone on the train is now infected!  Oh well - I love it.   Did you catch the line when the Doctor is looking at the specimens in the microscope and Liz comes in with more samples?  He says:  "Liz, have you completed the prophylactic injections" - That made me jump!  What kind of immunizing treatment is this?  Worth a few chuckles, but I know what they meant!

Pertwee does show a little anti-feminism when Liz wants to go into the caves and she pulls the female emancipation card on the Brig- - - and the Doctor dismisses her "Liz, this time I think he's right" as if to say - Yes, it's all well and good to wave the female flag, but we're serious this time and the caves are no place for women.  Ohhhh those crazy 70's!

Another English yokel sighting!  This time the Silurian takes him out in the barn. 

Of course the ending is very impressive w/ the stern Brig sending off the Doctor, knowing that he plans to blow the Silurians up....and then the doctor seeing it happen and not being to stop it - - Pertwee is the best.

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

Ha ha!

Love the ' prophylactic injections' line. I must admit I didn't spot it when I saw it.

Mr. Magister's picture

SPOILERS!

I haven't watched this one in about 5 years - and before that...probably 10 years.  So it's really my third viewing ever.  FANTASTIC FANTASTIC (so far) - I'm half way through and the Doc is about to embark on the space capsule rescue mission....

Had we gone back to the Hurt/Heal for Pertwee, this would rise much higher.  So far I'm noticing that this director is taking his time....I mean REALLY taking his time.  That's not to say I'm seeing much fluff - but AOD feels like a feature film - establishing characters and motives, explaining plot and giving us alot of fun and excitement...also panning shots, reaction shots....scenic shots....action shots through reflections of water.....so well done!!

Let's just talk about the first episode gun battle.  Yes, it's SUPER camp and I LOVE IT!  I mean, the last thing even the bad guy in charge says to his croanie: "Don't shoot anyone unless you absolutely have to"  and what's the first thing that happens?  BANG!  Dead UNIT officer who gives an unconvincing scream and falls backward - again - it's awesome!!!  Then in the middle of the gun battle, as both sides are picking each other off - UNIT decides to CHARGE the bad guys....what is this World War 1??  So the bad guys charge too and it's to fisticuffs - again great camp fighting - It's as if I directed this when I was 13 years old - all the stereotypical fight sequences of men tossing each other around, breaking holds - throwing crates (while they still have guns to shoot no less) a joyous thing to behold for a young kid  or even a 39 year old.  Also - watch for the scene when the Brig is standing in front of the metal stairs - he shoots behind him, then to the left and right - one guy he shoots is totally unarmed - he's just blowing people away!  This is the first time Who used this 'stunt company' HAVOC I think they were called - and wow, they are pulling out the stops in a seroius for the 70's, abit silly for the here and now.

Ok enough of that - - - there are so many little cool things the production and director did here - - as the alien astronaut invades the space center, he kills the guard at the gate by touching the gate and a fuse of fire runs up the gate and touches the guard SO COOL - - then there's the spooky sound of the radioactivity (I guess that' was considered possible in the early 70's) when the aliens walk around - like a hissing hurricane and they break into the safe with more pyrotechics!!!   Then there's Liz's GIANT hat and changing hair styles as well as Totallian;s (forgive the spelling) mystery accent - is he Russian?  French?  Israeli?  Love the deadpan delivery of the space center coordinator too.  Don't race Liz - she's a fast runner in those go-go boots and she does a William Shatner double cleched fist head smash on the first kidnapper almost sending him into a river. 

Wow - I feel like I could kick back with tea and scones and enjoy a nice leisurely viewing of this Doctor Who.  There's no facepaced insanity where if you 'blink' you miss something imperative like in New Who - Did I say I love the Pertwee era?  Can you guess?  OK - can't wait to see the second half. 

Watch out for radioactive lunch trays!!!

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

Fabulous review, very funny and I agree with every word! Just finished episode five so a couple to go then I'll post my own thoughts. Must just say though that I'm loving Jon Pertwee. I sit and watch these stories and all is right with the world. Great stuff.

Idiom's picture

A lot of bones have been made about the production team trying to go down the Quatermass route during the early Pertwee period, and this story is really the closest that we get to Quatermass itself. The Ambassadors of Death is a highly intelligent and exciting story which sits in perfectly with the feel of the Seventh series. It was written by David Whitaker (who I assume is the same writer to have written some of the best Target novelisations). I agree with everything that Mr M say about the directing of Ambassadors and the fact that it takes its time to tell its story. However, that is not to say that it isn’t excellently paced and certainly doesn’t drag.

Thoughts:

·         Jon Pertwee is really well into his stride as the Doctor and I had to remind myself that this was only his third story. Again some great costume changes including Doctor in spacesuit and Doctor in dressing gown (that’s an action figure must, isn’t it?).

·         Liz Shaw – just 12 episodes in and she’s making the tea!  Having said that, she does work better in this story than in any other so far. I think this is probably due to the fact that she is separated from the Doctor (kidnapped) at the end of episode three and gets to stand in her own right rather than as a mere cipher. She gets to show her intellect, bravery and fighting skills. And she has some great lines. In reply to Reegan’s warning to watch her, she says to her guard: Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. Oh, and God bless miniskirts.

·         Ronald Allen again. The last time we saw him was in the Dominators but here he puts in a cracking performance as Cornish. As smooth as a silk sheet on an oiled orgy.

·         Great fight in the warehouse, with the Brig shooting from the hip. The Havoc stunt team really do earn their money in this adventure. But the UNIT soldiers seem so bad at fighting , I’m sure for every bad guy who fell there were two or three UNIT soldiers. Anyway, good to see UNIT back on the side of right again, working with the Doctor rather than behind his back.

·         Good to see Bessie given a starring role in many of the episodes. I particularly like the Doctor’s ruse in trapping the two bad guys who had stolen the capsule by using Bessie’s in-built force field. Do we ever see this again?

·         No yokels, but two other of those Pertwee staples: the intransigent Military chief and the man from the Ministry. The latter again always doomed to some nefarious ending or other...

·         Blank spacesuit helmets –who would have believed that they could be so eerie. The scenes with the aliens walking towards the screen eclipsing the sun behind them were amazing. We do catch a glimpse of one alien later on, and I almost wish that we hadn’t.  We certainly didn’t need to and I preferred the mystery created by not seeing them.

·         The General was a particularly effective megalomaniac. I found his motivation founded in patriotism, duty and morality to be particularly convincing. The road to hell and all that...

So, one of the most under-rated of Pertwee stories. A fine 8 out of 10.

                             

Mr. Magister's picture

I finished AOD and my review remains as before.  A great Pertwee romp!  Not much to add except Nick Courtney has a right-cross/round-house that can't be stopped!  He hits one of the bad guys three times in a row with it and sends him down a hill - did we ever see the Brig in hand to hand fighting ever again?   

One question - - was it ever discovered who killed the little professor in his cell with the isoptope lunch?  Only Benton seemed to know where he was locked up and only Benton had the key.  Hmmm!!!

See you next time w/ one of my personal favorites INFERNO!

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

Inferno was one of the stories that I didn’t know very much about until a few years back. It was one of the later Target books to come out and so I hadn’t read it as a child, I never had enough money to buy the videos, and I always seemed to miss it on UK Gold years later. My first viewing of the story was when the DVD was released. When I saw it, I have to admit to wondering what all the fuss was about. And there is the problem of the current manner of DVD release – there are lots of pros (you get a surprise as to the releases every year, you don’t have to wait if you preferred Doctor is one of the later models, the company gets to mix the classics with the turkeys and not lose potential viewers/buyers who have happened to start buying when a particular run of not so great stories is released), but the biggest drawback is that stories are seen out of context. This is particularly true of Inferno: how can you really appreciate the alternate universe versions of the UNIT crew if you haven’t already spent twenty odd episodes following their exploits. I sat down last week, thinking that I’d want to get this over and down with but imagine my surprise at being totally absorbed by a story. It was as if I’d really seen it for the first time. Yes, finally I’ve learnt to give up the fight and truly love Inferno.

·         The story has the perfect Pertwee beginning: the Doctor driving along in Bessie,  humming opera and totally ignoring a keep out sign. In a nutshell, this is the Third Doctor: cultured, flamboyant and with a healthy disregard for authority. He manages to call everybody in sight a nitwit, gets himself arrested by two parallel versions of the Brigadier and gurns his way into an alternate universe. A Gurn Factor of 6!

·         A real effort is being made to establish the show as an ensemble cast again and there is a gem of a scene between the Doctor, Benton and the Brigadier regarding an old photo of Brig and his moustache. The UNIT family indeed – just two members still missing.

·         Nicholas Courtney is by now firmly established as the Brig. So much so, in fact, that it comes as a pleasant surprise to remember just how good an actor he is and his clean-shaven, eye-patched dark-side Brigade Leader is a chilling joy to behold.

·         This is also the story that I enjoy Liz the most. It’s a shame that it takes a story in which she spends eighty percent of the time as dark Liz for me to appreciate the character, but she has really grown on me. I love Jo Grant but I shall miss the experiment that was Liz Shaw (as with many before her, they never really did her justice).

·         Professor Stahlman was a particularly good mad scientist, but the character pales beside the real name of the actor to take the part. Olaf Pooley. Just fabulous!

·         And some excellent supporting characters in Petra (a fully-fledged Phwoarrrr for her!) and the Australian driller Greg, who manage to show that love truly knows no bounds – and that includes the walls between alternate universes.

·         The story was excellently constructed, showing once again that longer stories can work if some thought is put into them. The real universe drama sandwiches the alternate universe story, and the latter is used as an effective narrative device to show us just how serious things can get if the Inferno project isn’t stopped. And for once we see the Doctor fail, he is a helpless bystander in the parallel universe and cannot even take the survivors of the experiment with him. It adds real drama to the last episode where we see the clock ticking down to Penetration Zero!

·         The Primords (is that my mistake? Are they called Primords) are paradoxically the least effective part of the story for me (I didn’t understand what they were or why they were driven to force the Inferno project to its catastrophic end) and yet, looked and were incredibly spooky. If we ignore the lack of explanation behind their creation, then they work well. Was it me, though, or did the first primord looked a bit like a cross between a zombie and a porn star?

·         Oh and mini-skirts galore! You’ve got to love the sixties!

I have really changed my mind about this story. I’m not sure how it happened but it has become a earth-shaking 10 out of 10.

                      

Mr. Magister's picture

Inferno - I LOVE

- Olaf Pooley makes the episode.  Single mindedly driven, abrupt and sarcastic.  I love the scenes where he's staring madly off into space, nearly drooling and people just react to him "Are you ok" - when it's so clearly acted that this guy is nearly seconds away from a seizure of something.  I mean, the guy is in charge of penetrating the Earth's crust and nobody thinks he should be made to have a lie down.  Don't you also love the scene where the 'Promord' Stahlman pauses to turn to the camera and scowl at us the viewers!  I could just see little kids in the 70's retreating back behind the sofa.  It's total camp now though, but that's another reason I think it's spectacular.

- John Levene's shining moment of turning into a Primord..I can see the direction he's given......"Now, John - I want you to roll around on the floor like you're on fire and trying to put yourself out.....then we'll apply more makeup and you'll look like a character from CATS..but appear to be barking like a dog"

- Love Greg Sutton.  I read somewhere that he is supposed to be Australian, but I didn't hear anything in the dialog what would corroborate this.  Regardless, here's the first example of the one off 'HOT TOUGH GUY' that they started to pepper into the series (see Bill Filer in CLAWS playing Tough Machismo American) - I like the actor who played him, but can't you see Phil from EastEnders in the role:  Oi Stahlman, what you on about?

- Sir Keith.  Fire this guy.  Stahlman was right - he has all the power to close down the operation and WON'T use it.  It's clear Stahlman is a nutter, the place has nearly blown up twice, the guy in charge is reeling with fits of delusion and has been accused of incompetance by his own consultants, safety measures are being ignored....YET he insists that only Stahlman can halt the drilling.   What does it take - the director to turn into a vampire fanged furry creature?  Guess so.

Inferno 10 out of 10.  :)

Mr. Magister

Mr. Magister's picture

Lads, when I first started watching Dr. Who in 1987 my television station was working it's way through Davison reruns - as a casual watcher, I was intrigued by Tereleptils, Daleks and Cybermen as much as put off by Murka's, Logar Supporters and Khalids - - then just after Sharaz Jek and Morgus bit the big one, the tv station jumped to the beginning of the Pertwee era (they skipped the first two episodes for some reason) and started with Inferno and it hooked me.  Inferno is the first real episode I took seriously (false wolfman teeth and all) and it set me on a course for loving every minute of Pertwee's reign.  I haven't rewatched Inferno lately, but I look forward to doing so this week and reporting back.  Until then watch out for boiling cylinders of thick primordial ooze (or at least wear a glove!)  :)

Great review Idiom - I remember that first primord guy - bad mustache and all...though I'll probably look at him slightly differently from now on!  Ha ha!

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

It feels like I’ve only just begun the Pertwee era and, yet his first season of stories is over already. Surprisingly, when I look back, it is twenty-five episodes long but it feels so short compared to the oh-so-loooonnnng series of the First and Second Doctors.

Jon Pertwee’s first series, then, is a very definite experiment  - one that is refined for the next series, but never fully repeated.

Firstly, of course, we have the Earth-bound stories. A first for a series that only visited contemporary Earth a handful of times during its first five or six years. But the fixed setting centres the stories in more than just a geographical sense, they are, also, more obviously grounded in realism in a number of ways:

·         We see the Doctor not quite winning in the Silurians and in the alternate Universe section of Inferno. It’s a fallibility which I believe we don’t really see again until the fifth doctor’s stories.

·          The stories themselves are dark and serious (with only small sparks of humour shining in the darkness)and the violence is more apparent – maybe because it’s real violence with guns, explosives and fists rather than laser beams or alien plant forms

·         The programme also focuses more directly on human flaws (especially those associated with the bureaucratic and military) rather than through allegory. Here, we are dealing with the real world. We get a sense that the Doctor can fight and overcome almost anything...anything, that is, except for the dark side of human nature. On more than one occasion, he is seen to despair over our failings.

Secondly, there is the length of the stories themselves. Spearhead, as the only four-parter, seems almost out of place in this season. However, whereas I struggled with the longer stories during the tenures of the first two Doctors, here they are done well. The stories are well-paced and although they take their time to tell a story, they do so well and do not feel too long.

Thirdly, there is Liz. A new type of companion – one supposedly equal to the Doctor in terms of intellect. A great idea but the writing team seem at a loss as to what to do with her during the first two stories and it’s not long before, like those helpless victims of sixties sexism before her, she is making the tea. There is hope however, as seen in Ambassadors and Inferno, that her character could work well. Ultimately it’s a shame that she never fulfilled her potential.

Finally, there is UNIT. Again, it takes awhile for the production team to find its feet with this new aspect of the show. Should there be conflict (the Silurians) or a more family feel (Inferno)?  History has taught us the answer to this question. And you can’t argue with the Brig, can you?

So an excellent season, overall. One in which, on paper, the stories seem very samey but in fact we have threats from without, threats from within, threats from before and threats from the side.  Favourite story: Spearhead from Space (which will always score a zillion out of ten for me), least favourite: the Silurians (but only by dint of the fact that it’s just not as good as the others – in any other season it may have stood out as my favourite). Overall, 9 out of 10 for the whole season. My favourite so far.

 

Idiom's picture

The Third Doctor, Jo Grant, The Brigadier, UNIT, the Master, Autons, Robert Holmes. Well, I could just end this review right there and you would know, wouldn’t you, that all was right with the Whoniverse? If TV were at all akin to the world of gastronomy, then this would be comfort food for the eyes and brain. This is TV to be watched under a duvet on a rainy day and to have all of the troubles and stresses of everyday life put on the back burner for just a while. With this story, we enter what must be my favourite phase of Doctor Who, one which lasted in the real world for another eight or so years, right up until the end of the Hinchcliff era.  The Halcyon days of the Doctor.

Thoughts:

·         The Doctor is as grumpy as bear with a mouth full of bees in this story. He’s obviously spent far too much time on earth, and quite frankly, everything and everyone is getting on his nerves. He grows more insulting as the story goes on calling some nitwits, others nincompoops, insulting the military (who end up having to pull him out of danger as usual), and reaches heights of irritability with his first encounter with Jo calling her a “ham-fisted bun vendor!” That, my friends, is positively Shakespearean! The Doctor’s spirits do seem lifted, however, at the thought of another time lord being trapped on Earth and the not-quite-happy ending of the Master’s escape is the only thing to bring a smile to his face.

·         Roger Delagado’s Master positively burns with malevolence from his very first second on screen. Amazing that after seven years, when most programmes are drawing to a close and running out of ideas, the production teams come up with the goods in terms of re-inventing the show yet again and providing a credible opponent for the Doctor. So evil eyes (check), evil military bearing (check), evil beard (check), evil suit and evil incidental music (check). Everything is in place. Well, almost everything, because until recently, I would have said that in terms of motivation, the Master is a first-class graduate from the Mavic Chen School of Meglomania. He thrives on chaos, but apart from that seems to have no credible motivation whatsoever for doing the things that he does (why invite the Nestenes to take over the Earth? What does he gain from that? And why does he change his mind so quickly at the brink of his plan’s success?). Then along came Russell T Davies and the End of Time, and suddenly we can see the old Master in a new light. Even back then the madness of that unending, unstoppable beat in his head along with the terror of being made to stare into the heart of the vortex as a very cruel rite of passage as a young boy, are tearing apart an intelligence as sophisticated and refined as the Doctor’s. Madness runs rife inside what appears to be the cold logic of his well-set plans. But this logic is only there to stop him from becoming the raving lunatic that he will ultimately become years later. This was the genius of RTD – I loved the way that one episode could make you reassess the previous series or two, but with the End of Time, he manages to make us look at the whole history of the Master differently and it is a view that I like; it makes what could so easily just be a pantomime villain credible. Suddenly, he needs no logical explanation for the mad things that he does. Suddenly it is the madness itself which is reason enough and helps us to see him as the tragic, tortured soul that he is. We finally understand him, and when the Doctor smiles at his escape, well, we smile in sympathy.

·         And with Jo Grant and Mike Yates the last few pieces fall into place. Jo is scatty and sexy, and although she is patronised and left to make the tea possible more than any other companion, at least there is a certain honesty in the way her character is treated (unlike Liz before her, who never fulfilled the promise of her character).

·         Being a UNIT soldier must be more dangerous than being a food taster to the Borgias. So many soldiers cop it each episode that I have lost count. I wonder how the military manage to explain away so many deaths during peace time?

·         And with a phone cord round the neck, crossed eyes and tongue sticking out of the side of his mouth, we have a Pertwee gurn factor of 8.5 at the end of episode 3. Glorious!

A great return for the auton; a brilliant kick-start to the new series. 8.5 out of 10.

                            

Idiom's picture

An unorthodox experiment in a  maximum security prison. A machine designed to draw out the evil from people. A peace conference. The top secret disposal of an illegal missile. What could possibly go wrong? (Cue: the Master’s jingly theme tune).

Yet another fabulous story in what, for me, has been the longest consistent run of top-notch stories since I began with An Unearthly Child last April. A story which exists only in Black and White (for the time-being, surely 2 Entertain have plans to colourise this after the fantastic job they’ve done with other Pertwee stories), but this somehow adds to the dark, realism of these particular episodes (so if they do colourise it, let’s hope we get the option to watch in Black and White as well). Written by Don Houghton, the author of Inferno, we are in safe hands over this six-parter and with all the elements of the Third Doctor’s era firmly in place, this story storms along at a cracking pace.

·         Jon Pertwee is by now firmly entrenched as the character of the Doctor (or is it the other way around). He is charming (especially his relationship with Jo), petulant (with the Brig), insulting, genius and an action hero – Haaya! For me, JP is everything the Doctor should be. What stands out in this story is how protective he and Jo have quickly become of each other and the love-hate relationship that has developed with Lethbridge-Stewart (the Doctor is so insulting to him, especially after, or maybe because of the fact that, the Brig saves his life and yet there appears to be genuine affection between the two). I also like the sulky Doctor – when Jo is mourning the death of Barnham at the end the Doctor moodily asks: well, how do you think I feel?

·         Jo Grant is the perfect companion for the Third Doctor. She is feisty, brave and shows real strength of character during the prison riot. She is also first companion since Susan to cry over the Doctor. A good job that she is too dizzy to realise that she is constantly being patronised by everybody in sight (she has her chin wiggled and her head patted on a number of occasions). No, you gotta love Jo Grant (such a shame that she was so badly portrayed in the Eighth Doctor novel Genocide).

·         Well, what a surprise: the Master was behind everything. But who cares, he’s always good value for money and the more of Roger Delgado, the better I say. He has slipped into that arch-nemesis shaped hole that we can only see in retrospect had always existed in the series. You can see that the Meddling Monk was a softer prototype for this type of character, but lacked that dark edge that the Master has. There was an interesting point where the Doctor’s face, while asleep on the bed, fades out and merges into that of the Master – definite food for thought for those who believed for a long time that he actually was a dark or possible future version of the Doctor himself.

·         The Doctor is on first name terms with Mao Tse Tung and Walter Raleigh!

·         The machine plays on the greatest fears of those present. It makes the Doctor at first see fire (and he almost gurns to death!)and then the Daleks and a host of old foes. The Master in turn sees the Doctor, but not the Doctor as we know him. Rather a mocking, jeering Doctor. Is this how the Master, in his warped mind, imagines the Doctor to be?

·         More UNIT casualties. And more of the UNIT ethos of shoot first, don’t bother asking questions. The amount of criminals who just get shot in the back here or as they come running around a corner!  The Brig shoots at anything that moves. How many UNIT men have been shot by their own commanding officer?

·         Yates is given more character development and is starting to form as his own character. Was he shot?  If he was then he recovered pretty damned quickly.

·         Good to see Michael Sheard in his first appearance in Doctor Who. I was half expecting the twist that would show us he was behind everything. Imagine my surprise when he turns out to be a goody after all.

·         And of course a gurn factor of 9. We have more gurning during this story than all the other Third Doctor adventures leading up to this point. Some fabulous eye-goggling as he was attacked by the machine.

So, another strong story that relied more on good story telling than aliens or special effects. A very credible 8.5 out of 10. Keep ‘em coming! Interesting to see what I make of the next story. The Claws of Axos didn’t do much for me the last time I saw it and yet I’m currently finding myself reassessing quite a few of the Pertwee stories.

                                     

Idiom's picture

The list of contents for a do-it-yourself, self-assembly, Third Doctor episode of Doctor Who from IKEA (probably called a Terrance or a Barry) would probably read as follows:

Please find included: 1 Third Doctor (moody, insulting, dashing, heroic); 1 Jo Grant (ready to ignore orders from Doctor or other UNIT personnel; make sure is fully patronised with Allen key); 1 Brigadier; 1 Captain Yates; 1 Sergeant Benton; a handful of spare UNIT personnel (disposable); 1 Master (complete with evil jingle sound effects; to be allied with Doctor at some point during episode 4 and will have disappeared somewhere before episode fully assembled); 1 alien invasion force (fully prepared to roam around countryside); 1 yokel (disposable); 1 arrogant scientist;  1 man from the Ministry.

And there you have it, the fully assembled Claws of Axos. Cheap, cheerful but a bit wonky.

My thoughts:

·         Unusual to see the Doctor mistaken (not since the First Doctor anyway),which he is completely during episode one; he defends the aliens, whereas Chinn wants to blow them out of the sky. They then change places. In fact, the only person throughout who really seems on the ball with regards to the invaders is the Brig

·         In this episode we really see the Doctor starting to show his deep impatience with still being on Earth. He shows deep distain for the human scientists and relishes in telling them “I told you so!”Love it when he gets the TARDIS working at last and tells Jo that she’ll be the only person he misses. Also his shamefacedness at having to admit it was not on purpose that he returns to Earth at the end. He has become a Galactic Yoyo.

·         The Axons were a well designed and thought-out race. I loved the three aspects of them: ship, Greek-God looking humanoid, and monster (the latter looked mightily like Krynoids – or was that just my imagination?). The soft, emotionless voice of Axos itself was very effective.

·         What a nasty piece of work Chinn is. Just a shame that we didn’t see him finally get his just desserts.

·         A classic Yokel whose only dialogue appeared to be variations of “Oo-ar oo-ar” before he copped it.

·         Golly, gosh and slap me down with a wet kipper. The Master! Imagine my surprise. Still, we love him, so who cares.

·         Bill Filer – I felt like he was being set up as a regular, for some reason. There was a particularly strong chemistry between him and Jo. Surprised that we never get to see more of him. He does a damn fine Clint Eastwood impression.

·         Best credit at the end of the episodes: Action by Havoc. ‘Nuff said.

·         Disappointingly, no real gurnage.

Anyway, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this story. Loved the novel as a kid, but didn’t really like it the first time I saw it on DVD. However, as we’ve discussed before, often context is everything and I enjoyed it a lot more as part of the on-going story of the Third Doctor. The model for all Third Doctor stories; not the greatest Pertwee adventure, but a solid, watchable 7 out of 10.

                                 

Idiom's picture

Farmers trying to scrape a living from the land. A mining corporation who knows that there is a rich seam of gold in the local disused mines. Apaches framed for the murders of a farming family. A corrupt judge in the pay of the miners. The mystic North American Indians hover mysteriously in the background. The man-with-no-name rides into town with his young sidekick. Cue rip-roaring, galloping Western music. Well almost.

For North American Indians read Primitives. For the Apaches read Giant Lizard holograms. For the Wild West read Uxarieus, a desert planet on the outer fringes of space. For the man-with-no-name read...well...the man-with-no-name... the man with only a title, that saviour to the helpless and hopeless known only as...the Doctor.

Thoughts:

·         Off world at last! Yippee! Thinks I. Only, you know what? It took me a while to get used to seeing the Third Doctor in unfamiliar territory. Where was the Brig? Where were the UNIT minions willing to shoot others in the back and be shot in the back in turn? Where was the Master? Oh, yeah there he is. Doh! But, anyway, the Third Doctor is always so completely Earth-bound (and comfortably so) in my memories of him that it took me a while to get into this story, but once I’d got that out of my system, I have to say, yet another Pertwee winner.

·         This story really was a classic western at heart, and as such it succeeded due to the strength of a strong supporting cast of decent character actors (many of whom were destined to be soap stars of the future - Roy Skelton was Roy from Eastenders and Helen Worth: Gail from Coronation Street). I also enjoyed the portrayals by John Ringham as Ashe and Bernard Kay as Caldwell. Some very good acting in this story, I thought.

·         Jo! In the kitchen! My biggest problem with this story is how underserved Jo was. Still she did get a nice patronising light slap round the face from the Doctor. What more could she ask for? She gets to do the washing up – that’s what!

·         The Master! Imagine my surprise at seeing him for three stories in a row. But four – no, I thought, no production team would have the audacity to write him into four stories in a – oh, there he is. Well, at least we got to see his TARDIS – complete with filing cabinets (tee he!).

·         Primitives – not the most successful looking of Doctor Who aliens. More like mugging old ladies in tights.

·         The servo-robot which had been fitted with lizard claws. One of those great unintentional funny moments of classic Who.

·         And we get a good gurn at the end of episode one. Gurn-factor of 5 for this story.

Anyway, I know I’m mocking but it comes from a good place. I’m actually incredibly fond of this story and think that the pace works incredibly well. It’s an enjoyable romp and the Havok boys get to do what they do best – lots of gun fights and falling off of platforms. This was a story that was needed, I feel, just to remind the viewing public of the time (during the show’s earth-bound run) of it roots. A solid 7 and a half out of 10. Anyway, I’m now 12 months into this viewing marathon and next is one of my all-time favourite stories!

                                 File:Doctor Who and the Doomsday Weapon.jpg

Mr. Magister's picture

I haven't watched this one in a while - I'm more fond of earth-bound Pertwee, but any Pertwee is good Pertwee.  Couple thoughts that spring to mind:

- Portrayal of Captain Dent was excellent - the actor was so stone faced, calculating, unmoved - what a terrific bad guy.  Very underrated and probably one of the best in the Pertwee era.

- Puppet leader (wow that's funny now that I think of it) was pretty rubbish.  Even as a young boy in the 80's I wondered why Pertwee called him 'Sir' when it seemed pretty obvious the thing had a feminine voice.

- Middle aged bad guys in black skivvies - well the costume department suffered monetarily due to the off world sets I guess.

- I too was genuinely surprised that the Arbiter was.....THE MASTER!  (again, que incidental Master music....).  Is this overuse?  In hind site, I say No.  Delgado episodes are so full of character and fantastic dialog between himself and Pertwee.  Had he not passed away, perhaps his appearances would have become tedious, but I am glad at the many stories he was a part of and that we have to treasure his performances.

- Yes, Roy Evans makes an appearance.  Whether he's appearing in Dr. Who or Blake's 7 I always anticipate hearing 'ROY!" off stage from Pat and her giant earrings.

- Another surprise, Ashe blowing up in the space rocket.  'They're going to make it!".....BANG!!!  Sort of a laughable moment, but chock that up to my ironic sense of humor.

OK - I'll try to do better w/ the Pertwee reviews.  See you guys later!

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

Absolutely agree that you can't have too much Roger Delgado. His performances were always so controlled, measured but chillingly effective. The was a real style and class to the scenes between The Third Doctor and the Master - although I liked Anthony Ainley, his Masters suffers from being an OTT pantomime villain (through no fault of his own, by all accounts). Still, it is nice to reassess the Master in light of The End of Time. To me, this now makes complete sense of all his regenerations.

Idiom's picture

The Brigadier: I see, Yates. So, so the Doctor was frozen stiff at the barrow, and was then revived by a freak heat wave. Benton was beaten up by invisible forces and the local white witch claims she’s seen the devil.

Yates:              Yes, sir. I know it seems a bit wild.

The Brigadier: It does indeed, Yates. Now, listen I’m bring up some men to investigate this heat barrier. Let me talk to the Doctor. Over.

Yates:               I’m afraid you can’t, sir. He’s gone up to the dig with Jo. Over.

The Brigadier: I see. Well, Yates, any further revelations.

Yates:              Just one, sir.

The Brigadier: Well, what is it?

Yates:         We found out who’s at the bottom of all this. It’s the Master. Over and out.

(From Episode Two of the Daemons)

And there in a nutshell, you have the Daemons. Few stories, to my mind, come as close to Doctor Who sheer perfection as this one and it is certainly my favourite adventure from the whole of the Pertwee era. It’s intelligent, funny, pacy and has some great lines of dialogue. Oh and it has just about every element from the Third Doctor’s tenure that made it famous. This is the whole of the Third Doctor’s exile on Earth reduced down to its essence. I for one, love it and can’t wait until we finally get a perfect new DVD copy (why are they taking so long with this?).

Reasons to like the Daemons:

·         The theme of Magic vs Science, which has been a common thread throughout much of Doctor Who. Here it comes to the fore and reveals the truth about the horned one himself. It’s interesting how the Doctor initially sides with Miss Hawthorn the local white witch, and there are some great conversations between the two about the scientific basis of magic. At one point the Doctor declares that it isn’t magic, instead it’s Azal feeding off of the negative emotions of the villages. But that is black magic, the witch insists. Another great scene is when Bok is repelled by iron. Isn’t that just a myth? Jo asks. Yes, replies the Doctor, but he believes it.

·         The Doctor is at his exasperating and brilliant best. I love the sheer hypocrisy of his constant berating of the Brigadier, but then his dressing down of Jo when she tries to do the same thing. The Doctor on a motorbike! Not seen again until the 10th Doctor, I believe (can’t remember if a motorbike is used during the chase scene in Planet of the Spiders).

·         The Brigadier has some great lines. Frustrated at being cut off from the action on the other side of the heat barrier, he states that he refuses to be a lemon waiting for the squeezer. Then of course there’s the classic ‘Chap with the Wings. Five rounds rapid.’ For years, I’ve had this clip as the sound associated with Windows shutting down on my computer.

·         Jo! That girl could be patronised for Britain. Fundamentally, it’s her willingness to sacrifice herself for the Doctor which defeats Azal. And how is she thanked? She’s told to go and get changed as she looks ridiculous in the robes that she has been dressed in.

·         Yates and Benton shine and have some great scenes. But really it’s Benton who gets all of the action and gets clobbered on more than one occasion.

·         The Master is at his best as Mr Magister. There’s something about evil vicars. Anyway, that’s five stories in a row that the Master has been behind it all. It’s a testament to Roger Delgado that each appearance is better than the last and his character never becomes tiresome or seems overused.

·         The look of the Daemons themselves – fantastically effective considering the budget restraints at the time. In Return to Devil’s End, Jon Pertwee says that the stationary Bok ended up as one of his garden ornaments.

·         Bessie is used brilliantly in the episode and is responsible for the Master finally being caught.

·         One of the locals mistaking the Doctor for an actor dressed in costume and wig

·         BBC3 –funny that they should have created a station which didn’t exist at the time but that now does and has a strong relationship with Doctor Who.

·         The scene with the helicopter flying over the imprints of giant hoof prints

·         The Doctor attacked by Morris dancers!!!!

I honestly cannot think of anything negative to say about this story. 1690 out of 10. A fantastic hopping on point in the Third Doctor’s reign for any new fans out there. And next, they’re back! And you always know that something special is gonna happen any time that Katy Manning gets near a Dalek. ;)

                      

Idiom's picture

Series/Season Eight: Overview

Series eight is probably the most archetypal season of the Pertwee era. We all know the formula and the elements that go to make up that formula (Earth-bound, UNIT, Jo Grant, the Master, the intransigence of the British civil service), but it is a winning formula and even more than series seven, this season delivers big time.

My taste, I suppose, runs to the shorter four-part stories and here we have a transition from the previous experimental series (with four very long, albeit very successful stories) to the format (mostly four-parters and the odd six-parter) which will dominate the programme (with the exception of the sixth Doctor’s Trial) until the classic series ended.

·         The Doctor himself is brilliant. To me, he seems to be the most underrated of the classic Doctors at the moment. People always talk about Hartnell and Baker, and Doctors 5, 6 and 7 and always in the news due to Big Finish. Somewhere along the way, though, Pertwee has got lost. This is reflected in the amount of postings about the third Doctor on the forum, which until recently had fewer even than the eighth and ninth Doctors. In this series, the Doctor establishes himself as action hero and in doing so differentiates himself from previous Doctors. There is plenty of Venusian Aikido and varying modes of transport, and the third Doctor is particularly pro-active in terms of confronting the enemy. He is charming, witty and has a good line in cutting criticism of both the military and the bureaucracy. At the same time, he has settled nicely into his life of earth and although we know that he would leave at any time given half a chance, still there is a genuine family feel to the UNIT group.

·         The Master – an act of genius by the production team, but the success of the character is still ultimately down to Roger Delgado. His ability to reign in a character which could so easily become two dimensional in the hands of a less skilled actor is magnificent. He exudes that combination of charm and menace, and dominates every scene he is in (a hard feat when placed next to the charismatic Jon Pertwee). It is a real risk to make him the recurring villain of every story this season, but a risk which works. Also by presenting us with the corrupt renegade time lord, by showing us what the Master is, we learn what the Doctor isn’t. We understand that he has the capacity to dominate, manipulate and corrupt as much as the Master and yet has a stronger moral compass. In a series, where so little is explained about the lead character (understandably because once the mystery has gone, it really is time to end the series), this is a fantastic device for revealing more without being explicit.

·         Jo is a much more traditional female character than her predecessor. She is dizzy, fawns on the Doctor and invariably ends up making the tea. However, she does stand out as extremely endearing, whereas previous ‘traditional’ companions (Victoria, Polly) have frustrated me in their underuse. I think this may  probably have something to do with the fact that Katy Manning  so strongly holds her own in a very male- dominated cast. It is also because she appears to genuinely care for the Doctor – she even cries for him at one point. I find her a much better foil for the man’s man who is the Third Doctor. Personally, for me, Liz never quite worked. She was a bit of a cold fish and from a plot point of view was unable to serve the companion’s role of bridging between the programme and the audience. Besides, wouldn’t we all be a bit thick compared to the Doctor?

·         The Time Lords reappear briefly to remind us of their existence and also act as a means to get the Doctor off-world occasionally.

·         Again the Earth-centric stories become a way of more directly addressing issues current at the time – the environmental impact of industry (Terror of the Autons and Claws of Axos), the dawning of the age of Aquarius (the Daemons), international relations and the tensions of the Cold War (the Mind of Evil –a story which becomes important later in the Day of the Daleks).

A top season. My favourite story obviously being the Daemons. My least favourite (which doesn’t mean much considering the high quality of most of the stories) would have to be The Claws of Axos. Overall, 9 out of 10.

Idiom's picture

“You’re trapped in a temporal paradox.”

This is my very first memory of Doctor Who. When I was a young boy, my mum would take us every weekend to visit my grandmother. Every Saturday without fail. It became a ritual part of our life, and part of the ritual for me would be to get some books at the library first (invariably Target novelizations of Doctor Who stories), watch the afternoon film on BBC2, read at least one of the books and then settle down to watch Doctor Who in front of the old TV set. And woe betide anyone who spoke too loudly during that week’s episode.

My earliest memory of Doctor Who is of Daleks and Ogrons wandering around an old country house. Now this was broadcast in 1972 and I would have been about four years old at the time, but it is from this story onward which I have more and more memories of the series. Anyway, like most Pertwee stories, I am predisposed to like them and overlook any faults from the onset (nostalgia is definitely the rose tint to my spectacles), but again and predictably, I loved this story. It begins with the claustrophobic atmosphere of a ghost story and becomes a story which could well have been a template for the Terminator years later.

Thoughts:

  • There was a strong connection to the Mind of Evil in this story. Specifically, International situation which is the background to both stories. Both refer to the need for peace conferences (the first almost sabotaged by the Master, here it is the rebels who may inevitably be about to spark off the war that they hoped to avoid)as international relations worsen. Both point towards the Chinese as the Cold War enemy facing off against the UK and the US. Nowadays, this would have been more obvious as a story arc, but it is good to see connections between stories.

  • The Daleks are back but really, despite the title, are not the focus of the story. Really it is the humans who live under Dalek control in the 22nd century. The fact that they take a back seat is what makes this story work for me. They are the evil force in the background, which colours everything. They are all-pervasive, shadowy and manipulative, and plot with no regard at all for their human and Ogron pawns. For me, the Daleks as a concept has always worked much better than their actually appearances; they were overused during the tenures of the First and Second Doctors and their threat became diluted by such stories as the Chase (along with the Daleks and the Dalek Inavsion of Earth, this is one of my favourite Dalek stories).

  • In an interesting take, the human characters are not at all predictable. The rebels (the supposed good guys) are unreasonable and intransigent – forged no doubt in the harsh Dalek dictatorship of their time, they are prepared to do anything to change the time line. The Controller, on the other hand, is cultured, charming and truly believes that what he is doing is protecting humanity against the worst excesses of the Daleks. He reminded me somewhat of the O’Brien character in 1984. This is an interesting irony, which leads to the rebels causing the catastrophe that they are trying to avert, whereas ultimately salvation lays with the Controller who chooses to let the Doctor go knowing that he will dies at the hands of his masters. The true villain is the senior guard, a sadist who enjoys torturing the Doctor and eventually becomes the new controller.

  • The Doctor himself really goes through it in this story. We don’t often see him tortured but here he is also subjected to the Mind Probe and we see images of his past selves. I love his description of the wine he has pinched from Styles’ cellar in episode one: good-humoured but not sardonic!

  • The Ogrons are the best of the Daleks’ lapdogs, in my opinion. There is something refreshing about a race which is just plain stupid. Anyway with the creak of their leather and their Neanderthal foreheads, the Ogrons really do look like forerunners of the mark II Klingons in Star Trek. I’d love to see them return in the new series.

 

  • The supporting cast is up to their usual standard and there is a great scene involving Jo, Yates, Benton and some cheese and crackers. RHIP!

A cracking story that ended far too quickly. I really wondered how they were going to wrap the story up at the end of episode three. But they did and in style. 10 out of 10!         

                                         

Idiom's picture

Here is the Day of the Daleks Radio Times cover:

                               

Idiom's picture

Well, after all of the controversy which seems to be running around Moffat’s first season as ‘show runner’, it’s nice to get back something basic that we can all agree on (can’t we?). How good is the Curse of Peladon!

When I was a young lad, my great uncle Bid (whose name came from his surname Bidwell), lived in London and once every few months or so, he and my Aunt Jess would visit my grandmother’s flat – the setting for my weekly viewings of Doctor Who. He would always bring a treat with him and invariably it would be a set of typhoo tea cards which he had collected (each box would contain one or two cards in a collection – sometimes birds, sometimes cars, that sort of thing – the fact that he always came with a complete set was testament to how much tea we used to drink in those days). One particular week, the set he had been collecting, unbeknown to me, was Doctor Who aliens and the very first card on top of the set was that of Alpha Centauri. It didn’t look weird, cheap or phallic – it looked gloriously colourful (our tvs were all black and white still) and set my imagination racing. The very next week I picked up a copy of the Target novel from the library and it was to become one of my favourites. Lasting memories! And you know what? Even now I can’t see a picture of the hermaphrodite hexapod without wanting to put the kettle on.

Thoughts:

·         It is the atmosphere which truly makes this story so great. Gloriously Gothic and claustrophobic with its grotesque statues, flickering torches and secret passageways – the studio setting of these episodes on an alien planet is in stark contrast to the many Earth-bound stories which precede it. It is one of those occasions where the style just seems genuine and fitting to the story being told.

·         At first, the fact that the TARDIS works jars somewhat – I couldn’t remember if that was ever explained in the story. Thankfully it was at the end – just one line was all it needed (pay attention writers of the current series) to explain that it must have been the Time Lords manipulating the Doctor once more and I was happy. For those of you who are interested, the novel The Face of the Enemy shows what happens to Earth in the Doctor’s absence and how UNIT have to make a pact with the Master in order to protect it against invaders (a great book!).

·         This is the first real whodunit that the series tried (move over Unicorn and Wasp) and we are provided with a fabulous panoply of aliens which all work so very well. There is of course Alpha Centauri whose appearance contrasts so well with its girlish voice, a fact which makes one of the most alien creatures of all, ironically, the most human. Then the ice warriors (so good to see them in colour), with the great twist that here they are the good guys – a fact, I believe, that rounds out their characters and has led to them being one of the top four Doctor Who monsters ever (isn’t it time they were brought back?). Then of course there is my favourite: Arcturus: mean, green (well, they all were, weren’t they) and surely a fore-runner of Cassandra in the modern series– I think we should lobby to bring Arcturus back.

·         Finally, we have the badger-like Peladonians. Again, there is something that rings true about Peladon society and I loved the conflict between the secular and the religious. I also enjoyed the obvious references to the European Common Market which dominated the news of the time.

·         The setting seems to suit the Third Doctor so well. I always like seeing the Time Lord rub shoulders with royalty (it’s a shame that Pertwee was never given any pure historical – I can really see him at the court of Elizabeth I or Henry VIII). We also get to see the Doctor scrapping in Roman arena style and showing the strength of mercy as well as his abilty to tame the beast Aggedor through the use of a lullaby.

·         This is though, really Jo’s story and she shines as Princess Josephine of TARDIS. Here she is seduced by the Doctor’s true lifestyle and a truly touching relationship develops between her and Peladon himself. There is also a deepening of the friendship between the Doctor and his companion and a real affection has begun to show in the Doctor’s eyes when he speaks to Jo. This is the first time since Susan that there appears to be genuine love (of the platonic kind) between the Doctor and his assistant. In retrospect, this relationship seems even stronger than that between the Fourth Doctor and Sarah (although I’m sure that a re-watch later will help me to make a real comparison). Anyway, so good to hear that Jo is coming back (I was so disappointed with the portrayal of her in the Eighth Doctor novel Genocide).

Overall, the Pertwee era just keeps delivering and this is another 10 out of 10 for me. I urge any new fans of Doctor Who to go back and give the past Doctors a go, but especially the Third Doctor who seems so neglected in polls and forum discussions these days. He is truly fantastic!

                                   

Idiom's picture

It took me ages to get through this, and that is not a reflection on the story at all. No, real life kicked in and yes, sometimes (believe it or not) you can overdose even on Doctor Who. No, the fact that it is such a strong story meant that I did stick with it over the last few weeks.

The Sea Devils, then, provides one of those early TV memories that a lot of people from my generation seem to have – maybe as it combines two of the favourite programmes of the kids of the seventies – whatever, the reason, the scene of the Master in prison watching an episode of the Clangers seems to have wormed its way into the cerebral cortex of many of my contemporaries (see RTD’s homage to this in the Sound of Drums) and clung on there.

Overall, the Sea Devils is one of those beautiful things: a sequel that works. In some ways better than the Silurians, in other ways not as strong. But still as an entity of its own, it works perfectly well and as an exposition of the relationship between the Third Doctor and the Master, it is hard to beat.

Thoughts:

·         Obviously, my first thought is that what should be the main plot (the awakening of another group of reptiles threatening the planet) really takes second place to the complex relationship between the Doctor and the Master. The fabulous sword fight in episode 2 (or 3?) epitomises this relationship – the ‘to’ing and ‘fro’ing , the steely glares tempered by the witty banter, and neither of them wanting to really harm the other. I know that the Master finally loses his temper and throws a knife at the Doctor, but from that range he could have done some serious harm if he’d really wanted to, couldn’t he? I’m still unsure about what the true nature of the relationship between the two is (brothers? Friends? Dark incarnations?), but whatever it is, it would appear evident that there is a respect and secret liking between the two which each have for few others. Note the scene where the Doctor offers to help the Master perfect his machine to reawaken all of the Sea devil bases in the world – the Master’s smile as it appears that the Doctor has finally become his ally. It is almost the reverse of the scene in the End of Time part 2 when the Doctor asks the Master to travel with him. Yes, I believe that the Doctor is one of the few people that the Master would be happy to rule beside (so long as the Master had the bigger chair, of course). Such a shame that Roger Delgado was to appear in only one other story – how interesting it would have been to see him at least once opposite the infuriating fourth Doctor.

·         Like so much else in this story, Jo Grant stands back stage to these two towering giants. Even so, she once again proves herself to be the plucky, resourceful UNIT agent that matches Pertwee’s doctor perfectly. And of course from an adult male point of view, that tight-fitting trouser suit makes every second on screen a joy to watch (look out though for the terrible double used to climb aboard the sea fort in episode one).

·         The Sea Devils themselves are a masterful design, looking like gawky teenagers. The netting is a stroke of genius. One criticism I have, however, is that they didn’t walk like monsters. I’ve watched the Monster-walk choreographer of the new series on Confidentials and it is an important element to being a true monster. True monsters need to lumber – not stroll with their arms swinging. My only other criticism (and it is in this aspect that the Silurians is superior) is that there is no attempt to characterise the creatures themselves, unlike in the original in which the personalities of the different Silurians was very well drawn.

·         Some typical elements to this era of Doctor Who: the usual unpleasant man from the ministry was a joy to behold (shame he didn’t get his just desserts) and we had a return to the gurn. Yes, a strong gurn-factor of 8 for the opening scenes of episode 6. But unusually no UNIT, interesting why the production team chose to go for the Navy instead. I know that it fitted the setting but surely the Brig would have fit in nicely here somewhere.

Not my favourite but still a very strong story. 9 out of 10.

                                 

Idiom's picture

Been slowing down a bit recently. Found myself not wanting to overdo it with too much Who and then not enjoy fully the new or the classic series. Once Matt Smith’s first series has finished (next Saturday!), I’ll get back to some more regular Pertwee. That said, I have been doing a couple of episodes a week and allowing the cliff-hangers to do their job and I think that this has made the Mutants all the more enjoyable. This was a story that I’d never seen before and considering I hadn’t heard anything about it wondered whether it fell into the category of ‘distinctly forgetable’. Not so, here is yet another solid story from the third doctor’s era and I have to say that I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of the Pertwee offerings.

Another of the Time Lord’s missions (I love this idea and would like to have seen it used more over the years) and again the Doctor and Jo find themselves off-world in a futuristic space opera setting. There are some nice hints as to what may or may not be happening at the beginning: a strange disease causing mutations, the end of an imperial occupation and a message that will only open for the intended recipient and we’ve no idea who that is or what the Time Lords hope the Doctor will achieve. Even when the ball (which made me think back to the message cube the Second Doctor uses to contact his race in the War Games and the eighth Doctor leaves in Vampire Science) open, the actual message is suitable cryptic coming as it does from the Gallifreyans and we are still in the dark as to what is really going on. A lovely set up posing a number of riddles which are gradually resolved throughout the six-parter. Very nice and again saddens me that we have to sit through so many potentially great but often rushed-through stories in today’s new series (wouldn’t it be better to have 6 two-parters a year or five two parters and a three parter – that’s what we used to have after all).

Other thoughts:

·         A chilling first scene in the gassy fog of an alien planet – surely foreshadowing the opening scenes of Genesis of the Daleks?

·         I liked the atmosphere created with the feuding tribesmen, the Marshal and his unruly guards, who would rather play cards than answer an alarm call, and the enigmatic Sondergaard and the mutations.

·         A strong supporting cast with Paul Whitson-Jones putting in a great sinister turn as the Marshal and John Hollis (from Star Wars – thought I recognised him from somewhere) excellent as Sondergaard. However, I have to say that the actor who played Cotton gave one of the most stilted performances I’ve seen in the programme.

·         The Doctor’s scientific curiosity taking over as he and Sondergaard study the stones and risk being killed as the caves around them begin to collapse.

·         This episode also ends with one of the best cliff-hangers from the Pertwee era with the side of the ship blown out and Jo almost sucked into space.

·         Another fantastic scene is when the Doctor and Sondergaard venture into the radiation cave – they really were capable of great things with very little money in the early days of Who.

·         The mutants themselves were a great concept and design and the story was quite similar to Full Circle in many respects. The tantalising glimpses that we got of them in the early episodes were very effective as were the natives in their varying states of mutation/evolution.

A solid 7 out of 10 here and we can see the programme gradually moving off-world again and slowly preparing the viewing audience for the Doctor’s freedom once more in the following series. Sterling stuff!

                                 

Idiom's picture

In a word: ‘underrated’. In two words: ‘highly underrated’. The Time Monster is another of those stories which has eluded me throughout the years and one that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy at all because: a) it was one of those adventures which didn’t get a Target novelisation until after I’d stopped reading them and, b)it never seems to score that highly in votes – I believe that it was the bottom ranked of all of the Pertwee stories in the DWM ranking from 1 to 100. Part of me wonders if it suffers in these votes due to the fact that very few people have actually seen it (depends on how the actual voting system works, I suppose), because personally I feel there’s very little that is bad in this story. In fact the few criticisms that I can think of (ropey looking Monster, lack of real logic behind the Master’s plan) can be equally levelled at so many other Pertwee stories (all equally good) that it seems unfair that the Time Monster ranks so low. No, although this is not by far the best of the Third Doctor adventures, it is by no means the worst and the worst is something that is quite hard to find so far as they are all so very, very good.

Thoughts:

·         It’s a story which lays its cards on the table immediately with the Master appearing in High Priest garb in the Doctor’s dream. Is this the first time we’ve seen the Doctor dreaming?

·         I ‘ve heard Tony on the Flashing Blade talk about the Time Monster in connection with the Lodger and I can see two distinct connections: 1) the Doctor moving out of temporal-sync with other characters who are affected by time shifts, and, 2) the Doctor creating a

device from bits’ n’ bobs he finds lying around (loved the line about how the Doctor and the Master used to make such devices when at school in order to sabotage each other’s time experiments – Hogwarts for Time Lords!).

·         Benton is a bit of a star in this episode (Yates being sidelined by an exploding missile) – he cleverly outwits the Master by doubling back into the lab, but then is quickly sucker punched. Doh! And then we have baby Benton!

·         Kronos was, in principal, a great idea, but, let’s face it, the white helmeted budgie look was not great. I was expecting the Doctor to defeat it with a giant mirror and a bell. I much preferred the Greek-goddess look at the end.

·         The Master shows his real ineptitude with women and his vain attention to appearance turns out to be plain narcissism. He is grossly sexist to Dr Ingram (who although outraged goes on to perpetuate the attitudes that she hates later in the story) and greatly underestimates the strength of his charms when it comes to Queen Galleia. In this respect, he really is as asexual as the Doctor (but ironically not the Third Doctor who seems to know how to charm the women with no problems). His final escape, however, did seem a bit pathetic. Having said that, in this episode the Master displays the sort of madness that bedevils the new series Master.

·         Ingrid Pitt – in a word Phwoarr! In two words: highly phwoar.

·         The TARDIS in the TARDIS! A foreshadowing of Logopolis. Loved the way that the Master knows just how to infuriate the Doctor – stop him from talking.

·         And finally: TOMTIT – I ask you.

In general, another Pertwee corker. Very much a story of two parts and I suppose it was the first part with all of the different time fields which I enjoyed the most. Shame about Atlantis – not that I didn’t enjoy this part as well, just that it would be the perfect story to tell in new Who what with the improvement in visual effects. A very respectable 7 and a half out of 10.

                                       

Idiom's picture

Phwoar!

                      

Mr. Magister's picture

This version can karate kick me anytime

Mr. Magister

Idiom's picture

A transitional series – the production team had obviously decided that it was time to move on from the purely Earth-bound adventures of series 7 and 8 and here were preparing the ground for what was to come in the Three Doctors – the Doctor’s freedom to roam through time and space once more. Here we had a lot more variation in setting than the previous series – we were shown a bleak, dystopian future in Day of the Daleks, the colourful shenanigans of the Federation in Curse of Peladon, were treated to a space opera in the Mutants and visited ancient Atlantis in the Time Monster. In fact, it was only really the Sea Devils which fitted the archetype of a UNIT, Earth-bound adventure (and even then UNIT was conspicuous by its absence).

Less UNIT, but more characterisation of UNIT regulars – and Benton is served especially well in the stories in which he appears. Also less of the Master, but even this story (which is probably the weakest of all the Third doctor Master appearances) makes me yearn for more Roger Delgado – it wouldn’t have been great to see him square off against the Fourth Doctor at least once.

I first started watching the programme at the end of the Third Doctor’s era and continued with Tom baker so my allegiance has always wavered between the Third and Fourth. At the moment, the scales have definitely tilted in favour of the Pertwee era (I’m sure that will change once I get round to Tom Baker’s stories) –there hasn’t been one story which I haven’t enjoyed yet. But for the record – best story in this season: has to be the colourful Curse of Peladon. The story which comes at the other end of the scale (although I can’t use the word worst as I enjoyed it no end): The Mutants. Onward to the Three Doctors.

 

Idiom's picture

Another of those stories which I first became aware of through the Target novelisation (which I could wax lyrical about ad nauseum), which I read and re-read as a young lad. It was one of those stories which excited me so much that it just grabbed me and never really let go. Three doctors together! A rag-tag assortment of characters transported through a black hole. The whole of UNIT HQ transported into a strange desert-like environment (this scene more than any other is always so vivid for me. Cromer, indeed!). Chases through the sand dunes on Bessie. And Omega, probably the most tragic villain of all (maybe only equalled by the newly re-invented Master, whose lifetime of madness created by the Time Lords must be on a par with the bitterness of Omega whose will alone was so powerful that it was all that remained). Loved it. Did you get that?

Thoughts:

·         What can you say that hasn’t already been said so many times about the collaboration of Pertwee and Troughton – the genius was in the decision to make them bicker and squabble like school children. Of course they would - how could an ego the size of the Doctor’s happily co-exist with its equal. As the Eleventh Doctor points out in Amy’s Choice, who could hate him as much as himself?

·         Such a shame about the fleeting appearances of William Hartnell – I’d love to know what role he would’ve played in the original idea for the script. Even so, there is a headmaster-ish quality here helping to bring everything to order. I love the scene where he the two physical manifestations sheepishly cower before the screen as he describes them as a ‘dandy and a clown’.

·         Jo – We all know that the doctor is never going to die, but even so, so few companions can sell the potential death of the doctor as well as Katy Manning’s Jo Grant. Also, Jo’s best costume ever – when they come round to make action figures of the companions, this is the style that they need to model it on.

·         Omega is one of the most believable of the megalomaniacs. Revenge is a motive which makes sense – here is a man who sacrificed everything for his people and has watched them become the super-race of the galaxy because of this without once even considering whether the progenitor of the power sauce behind time travel could actually have survived. The scene where he discovers that his body has long since been eroded by the singularity and that all that remains behind the mask is the will to survive (a will powered by hatred and desire for revenge) is extremely powerful. Such a deep anguish and despair in the cry which he lets out. Also the best mask for Omega, in my opinion. I never really liked the look in Arc of Infinity.

·         Another great supporting cast. For once we have the token country bumpkin take on a more prominent role with Ollis hiding out in the antimatter sand dunes with his shotgun evading the gelguard. Benton again is given prominence (Yates having appeared very infrequently in the last five or six stories) and the Brig is great as the practical cynic who chooses to believe that most of the experience is down to the Doctor’s failed tampering with the TARDIS.

·         And, of course, the exile is over!

As anniversary specials go, his is the story which I prefer. More subtle and understated than the Five Doctors, the Three Doctors is designed to showcase the main actors themselves slowly developing the story as the classic series was wont to do (whereas the Five Doctors, although I also enjoyed it, is more about cramming  every aspect of the show into the short time available). 10 out of 10. Of course.

                                 

Idiom's picture

As I child, I remember being vaguely disappointed with this once. Mainly because the great concept of the doctor and Jo landing on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean and being attacked by a dinosaur turns out not to be the real story, but rather a red herring. In fact, it is a scenario destined to play again and again in the futuristic version of a flea circus. Secondly because I thought there would be a more prominent role for the Cybermen (as it was, this two-second glimpse is the only time that we would see the silver giants during the Third doctor’s tenure). As an adult, the idea of the scope and the creatures imprisoned inside being used as a political scapegoat for a xenophobic regime holds much more interest. It is also, surely a forerunner for the concept behind Groundhog Day (a film I love, by the way).

Thoughts:

***Let’s get my main criticism out of the way straightaway: there are definite problems with scale in this story. I’ve always loved the idea of the Little People ever since I read the Borrowers as a child. I loved Land of The Giants, the Incredible Shrinking Man and the like. However, I always find myself focussing on scale in these stories. I can’t help it – if the scale is all wrong then it worries me and here the scale was all wrong. The Doctor is far too big when he finally leaves the scope. This could be that there is some kind of buffer size between the actual scope-size and real size. However, that can’t be so because when Vorg places his hand in the Scope to extract the TARDIS, the ship’s hold is clearly bigger than his hand and the TARDIS is at least a couple of inches high in comparison. If that is the case then the scope cannot possibly contain the landscapes it is said to contain. Very anal, I know but these things worry me. It is, though, my only criticism.

***The most exciting aspect for me was the appearance of  a young Ian Marter (following on from the tradition of Peter Pervis, and later Lala Ward and Freema Agyeman as actors who played one part in Doctor Who before returning for a completely different part as a companion later on). I loved Ian Marter because I loved Harry Sullivan, I loved the Target books he wrote, and mostly because he took the time to write back to me when I wrote to him as a young lad.

***The TARDIS is working once more but the Doctor is as haphazard in the control of his machine as ever. He insists that they are on Metabelis 3 (a theme that will run through up until the end of the Pertwee era). The Doctor himself is on top form (despite maybe a second or two of dubious face-acting when he first sees the Drashig – for a man who has gurned so much of his way through the previous three and a half years, here we see not a blink). Oh and the Doctor boxing! Queensbury Rules, of course!

***Jo is top and it adds some real comic moments to see her desperation and resignantion at having to live through the scenario on the Bernice again and again.

***Also great to see Vorg’s mistaking of the Doctor as a showman. It would appear that the First doctor’s description of the Second Doctor as a clown was something that the Third never really grew out of.

***And finally the Drashigs were a great concept despite the special effects department’s ability to ever really realise them properly.

All in all, a type of story which we hadn’t really seen in the programme up until this point and a good example of the show examining aspects of the real world through the lens of science fiction. Yet another corker, 8 and a half out of ten for me.

                                   

Idiom's picture

This was designed as the first half of a twelve-part arc planned for the tenth anniversary season and set to rival the First Doctor adventure: The Dalek Master Plan. Whether it actually succeeds in that lofty ambition is debatable, what it does do, however, is set an adventure that in terms of galactic scope does rival that of Master Plan. This is a space opera on a grand scale. Funny that for the longest running scifi series, in the first ten years at least, we had relatively few space opera stories. Having said that when Doctor Who does go down that avenue, it does it well. This is a story which has a very low-key start (as is often the case with Who)with the Doctor and Jo arriving on a cargo ship. Over the next six episodes we are treated to an ever widening story of two galactic empires set at each other’s throats by a third (and a fourth and finally even a fifth) party. It is very political and due to the inventive use of location and excellent make up and prosthetics has a grand feel to it.

Thoughts:

·         On the face of it, the whole story could just be a tour of different prison cells of the 26th century. First the travellers are locked up in one cell, then another, then broken out by Ogrons but caught again, then the Doctor escapes but then they are caught again, then they are taken prisoner by the Master and imprisoned, then they are captured by Draconian and  share a cell with the Master and so on and so on. It is a testament to the rest of the story and the great dialogues between the Doctor and Jo and the Master, that these scenes don’t become boring.  They do, however, start to wear a little thin by the sixth episode. And, why is it that nobody ever checks the Doctor’s pockets. Why?!!

·         Obviously Roger Delgado’s last turn as the Master. In much the same way as the Colony in Space, the Master enters the story half way through posing as a figure of power – here a commissioner of some kind. There are some great scenes with the Master as he: becomes infuriated with the Ogrons’ stupidity, tries and fails to hypnotise Jo, and especially when the three of them are trapped together in a cell on the ship taken over by the Draconians. The only scene which didn’t really ring true for me was the ending and the rushed manner of the Master’s departure after the Doctor is shot. We all know that there were more revelations to come concerning the Master, such a shame that Roger Delgado died before the story had a chance to run its course. The Delgado Master action figure about to be released (complete with Axon)looks great.

·         When the device which makes us perceive that which we fear affects Jo, she sees  Drashigs, Sea Devils and Mutants.

·         Nice to see the story linked into the Mutants giving us more of an overview of the history of the humanity according to Doctor Who. We are told that the society we are shown during the Mutants represents the dying days of earth’s galactic empire, while this adventures tells of its early expansion and imperial ambition

·         The Ogrons are so stooopid. I love them. Bring them back. There are so few great stooopid aline species in scifi.

·         The Draconians are that great combination of concept and realisation that Doctor Who does so well. Jon Pertwee always named them as his favourite monster and you can see why. The make up is good enough that it allows us to see both the facial expressions of and the difference in appearance between the different Draconians. Their society is drawn in a few brief but credible strokes and we are left wanting to see more  (try Big Finish’s  Paper Cuts for a more indepth view of Draconian society). Those looking at images of Doctor Who over the years who be forgiven for thinking that the Draconians had appeared on a number of occasions. Their image is often seen in old books about the programme. As with the Zygons, isn’t it time that a creation worthy of returning to the series is brought back.

·         What the hell was that monster that Ogrons worship? Was it a giant mattress?

·         This story is the closest that we come to a prison break story in Doctor Who (something surprisingly that has never really been done). However, is it just me who is disappointed that we never really find out what happened to the rest of the political prisoners in the penal colony? After the Master and the Doctor leave, it appears that they are just left to rot.

·         Finally, for the first time since the Troughton era we are treated to a story leading directly into the next with an injured Doctor calling up the Time Lords for help. However, the connection between Frontier and the following Planet of the Daleks is tenuous to say the least.

Another strong story which although perhaps padded out to fit six episodes, makes up with the interplay between some great alien races and for the only time in Doctor Who history features the Master and the Daleks working together. A credible 7 and a half out of 10.

                                 Book cover

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