purplecat: The Fourth Doctor (Who:Four)
The Power of Kroll is not generally considered highly and certainly tends to be compared unfavourably with the rest of the Key to Time season that surrounds it. However, I had a feeling going in that it might not be that terrible and so didn't mention its reputation to Tame Layman, though I did say "All Hail Kroll!" to which he responded "Oh, it's one of those stories is it?"

And it honestly isn't that bad. On the other hand, it's not really that good either.

The biggest problem is the swampies (or, I suppose, the bad CSO of a giant squid attacking the swampie camp, but mostly I feel one is missing the point if you complain about the effects in 1970s Doctor Who). The swampies are clearly intended as an analogue for Native Americans and the story clearly wants to say something about the displacement of native peoples and the need to respect their cultures, unfortunately the swampies contrive to look faintly ridiculous and we are never invited to actually respect their culture (what little we see of it), nor does anyone ever really seek to present a point of view on what is worthwhile about their culture (beyond a little bit of random Earth people all live in metal boxes stuff which doesn't even really reach as far as suggesting that they have lost touch with nature). Their worship of Kroll (which is about all we know about them) is mostly held up for ridicule, particularly by the Doctor. Robert Holmes, of course, is neither the first nor the last author to attempt to address an injustice and contrive to be rather offensive about the victim of the injustice in the process, but he normally had a defter hand than this.

Swampies aside, the story has several decent characters, with a spectrum from narrow-minded ideology to pragmatism and compassion on display in the debates both within the refinery and in the swampy camp. The location filming is actually rather impressive and makes a change from quarries. One feels that series 11 NuWho with its anamorphic lenses and love of scenery would have made much of the flat landscape of marsh and reeds. The nuts and bolts of the plotting is perfectly coherent and has several clever bits, including the story behind Kroll's great size. We get to see the actor who played K9, which excited tame layman no end.

I suspect The Power of Kroll suffers both from comparison to the first stories in the Key to Time sequence, which are much better than this, and from a few key production points that let it down but it is mostly a perfectly solid Tom Baker story.
purplecat: The second Doctor reading his 500 year diary. (Who:Two)
The Abominable Snowmen was one of the very first Doctor Who novelisations I ever had, so I'm very familiar with the story. I'd never actually watched it all the way through, however, though I had seen the second episode (the only one remaining) a couple of times.

Superficially, its another Troughton base-under-siege story and yet it feels very different from the stories that surround it. Possibly this is because Troughton's bases tend to be full of scientists with a clearly defined external threat. The Abominable Snowmen is mostly about understanding what the real threat is, and instead of a base full of scientists, we have a Tibetan monastery full of monks and moreover, we have an antagonist who is working much of the time to minimise loss of life and is fundamentally sympathetic to the Doctor and his companions. It is also, of course, one of Doctor Who's few forays into non-Western history though it isn't very obvious that it is supposed to be set in the 1920s.

Victoria has been one of my companion disappointments with the randomiser, but she's not too bad here and given the novelisation is probably the first time I came across the character, that might explain why, as a child, she was always one of my favourite companions. I think quite a lot of the book is written from her point-of-view and she is given more inner strength than often came across on the show. That said, she is more inconsistent, than uniformly strong here. Her characterisation veers wildly almost from scene to scene, at one moment she will be your typical companion: curious, a bit reckless, determined to investigate and moments later she is the Victoria we saw more often: timid and anxious to be somewhere safe.

Somewhat to our surprise it was quite difficult to find a reconstruction of the missing episodes on YouTube. Our normal source - Loose Cannons - didn't seem to have one. Our options appeared to be two different animated versions, we picked the one that looked to have been made from telesnaps/screenshots and were, after a while, quite taken with the effect of animated still pictures against CGI backdrops. We thought it was something that with a little more time and money could have been very effective. However that gave out after episode 4 and the final two episodes were full CGI affairs made, we were fairly certain, using machinima techniques (i.e., moving the characters around inside a game engine). This was quite odd in places since much depended upon the models available in the engine. Mostly it was OK, but the final confrontation was rendered almost incomprehensible - Jamie and the monk, Thonmi, disappear behind a screen from where smashing noises are heard, the search for the right thing to smash takes place entirely unseen, meanwhile the Doctor, Victoria and Padmasabhava stand around doing nothing (presumably in reality there was much acting of struggling against mind control going on, but the 3D models weren't really up to that).

As the story which introduced both the Yeti and the Great Intelligence to Doctor Who, you would expect The Abominable Snowmen to have been an obvious choice for an attempt at animation. Instead it seems strangely neglected. I wonder if there is a concern that it will fare no better than The Talons of Weng-Chiang if exposed to 21st century fan attention - certainly the Tibetan monks are all played by people with names like Norman Jones and one has a nasty suspicion that the writers did not know a great deal about Tibetan buddhism.

That said, I nevertheless wish more of this story existed. I remain very fond of it and think it is an interesting and different take on the base-under-siege format. More than many, I think it is a story that would have benefitted from being able to see what the actors were doing.
purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
The Tardis doors open during flight and as a result of "space pressure" the Tardis crew are all shrunk to the size of an inch. Planet of Giants is one of those Doctor Who "might-have-beens". The idea of a minaturised crew was mentioned in the original outline for the series but seems like an outlandish idea now, one that, as presented here, doesn't quite fit in with the show's internal logic (even given the show has a massively inconsistent internal logic). The result is a story that is quite strong on visuals, particularly set design, but a little weak in terms of story - even more so given that episode 3 was originally intended to be two episodes, and this shows in places. Dudley Simpson's first score for the program is oddly intrusive.

Episode 1 is probably the best. The reveal of the problem takes up a lot of the episode and the secondary plot - of the development of a deadly insecticide that will eventually wipe out life on Earth, and the attempt to cover up its effects - is interestingly topical (particularly for 1964). However, as is so often the case, its easy to set up a situation in an engaging fashion, but less easy to resolve it. The result is a lot of the Tardis team climbing up things or down things. There is some really pointless stupidity on the part of Barbara (and weirdly not even stupidity that is needed to move the plot along). Barbara gets her hands contaminated by some of the deadly insecticide. Initially she doesn't mention this because events keep interrupting, but then it moves on to a point where she is just wilfully not telling people she is ill, until the Doctor works it out. At this point Barbara persuades the rest of the crew that nevertheless they need to stay to expose the creators of the insecticide and everything continues. That said, the plot about the insecticide is actually mostly resolved through the intervention of a nosey telephone switchboard operator and the Tardis crew have relatively little to do with it. Meanwhile, a lot of the discussion about how Barbara will recover if bought back to her original size, just rather highlights some inconsistencies about what does and does not shrink (or grow) under "space pressure" so that Tame Layman started worrying about how everyone's miniature lungs were coping with Oxygen.

At the end of the day Planet of Giants is an interesting curiosity. At only three episodes, at least it doesn't really have the time to get too dull, and it definitely looks good (better than I suspect it would have done if made 10 years later when CSO would probably have been used extensively) but the plot doesn't really work and its not clear the writer knew what to do with the concept beyond showing off some nifty ideas about how miniature people would interact with everyday objects. It's kind of Doctor Who does The Borrowers and fun for that, but there isn't much else there.
purplecat: The Third Doctor (Who:Three)
Insofar as there are unloved Pertwee stories, Planet of the Spiders, is unloved. I think The Time Monster has worse rep in fandom, but Planet of the Spiders is often discussed as too long and derided for devoting an entire episode to a chase scene.

Tame Layman loved the chase episode. This may have been because it gave him an opportunity to debate the merits of hovercraft as a mode of transport, with particular reference to 1970s attitudes to the same, but frankly one of the advantages of a chase it that events at least keep happening.

Personally, I think the story slows down mostly with events on Metebelis 3. The buddhist retreat in the UK is more relatable, as well as being something of a period curiosity, while society on Metebelis 3 is one of Doctor Who's more generic attempts consisting primarily of evil overlords/spiders, oppressed peasants (complete with Mumerset accents), and reckless young men. It doesn't help that a lot of the scenery is CSO. The spiders, a brave attempt at puppet work by the production team, are the most interesting thing there. There is a genuine attempt to differentiate them and give them some politics. The puppets themselves occasionally veer on the edge of ludicrous (especially during the several scenes where the spiders debate among themselves) but mostly, I think, the production gets away with them.

I'm inclined to agree that the story could use a trim, but its the Metebelis sections that really need the attention, not those set on Earth.
purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
I was really, really, not looking forward to the moment the randomiser would throw up The Aztecs. As a story it is generally highly regarded in fandom, in part because it has the structure of a tragedy and in part because it is the show's first attempt to address the question of whether history can be changed and possibly because it is one of the few times the show has ventured outside of European history. I've read the novelisation and watched the third episode as part of the original randomiser, plus of course reading a lot of fan commentary down the years and the whole concept has always made me curl up with secondhand embarrassment in the way some sitcom plots do.

I don't think I've ever met anyone else, even people who dislike the comedy of social embarrassment trope, who it takes the same way. When I discussed episode 3 in the original randomiser the other mailing list members were rather fascinated by my reaction, though I don't think we ever came to a real conclusion about it.

Watching the whole thing was, well, it wasn't as bad as I had expected. As Tame Layman said, towards the end, the story touches on a lot of quite meaty subjects (which are less well discussed in fandom, to be frank, than the can't change history thing). One of the moments I was most dreading was Barbara's decision early on to use her status as a god-like figure* to prevent a human sacrifice - a lot of commentary has focused on how this derives from her desire to change history and "save" the Aztecs which, even allowing for the fact she is new on the Tardis, is really something she needed to talk through with the Doctor before embarking upon - however in context it is clearer that this is, if not exactly a spur of a moment thing, a straightforward matter of the fact that she is not prepared to be complicit in allowing human sacrifice**. Ian, who has to hold the victim down, prefigures this with his own reaction to being given the task. The Doctor manages to convince Ian that, for the safety of all of them, he must go through with it but Ian is generally much more likely to sacrifice ideals for brute pragmatism and is in a position of less notional power than Barbara. I still think the way it is presented involves Barbara being a bit stupid, but it wasn't the total idiocy it has always been in my imagination.

That said, The Aztecs does seem to involve the Tardis crew taking turns to hold the stupid ball as they blunder through Aztec life making only minimal attempts to understand it and fit in, and apparently unaware of quite how precarious their position is. Weirdly, Ian who volunteers to become a warrior, more or less gets away with his stupidity even though, best will in the world and accounting for the fact he has done national service, I would not frankly rate the chances of a schoolteacher from the 1960s against the Aztec warrior elite. The Doctor, the only one who really appreciates the situation, gets away more lightly. He is aware of the risks he takes and even though he is out-maneuvered occasionally he's not obviously being stupid about it. He does manage to get accidentally engaged to be married, but frankly he doesn't seem too put out by the idea - just going to show really that the Doctor has always been a flirt. Susan gets to carry the stupid ball big time however, particularly in episode three which was the episode I had previously watched in isolation. I'm not really prepared to give her a pass for being a teenager. She and the Doctor are supposed to be experienced travellers and one feels she ought to have known to keep her head down and hope they could get away quickly, rather than loudly railing about how she wouldn't conform to Aztec marriage customs.

So, yes, there is a lot of stupid going on and, in particular, a lot of stupid that is driven by a lack of a nuanced appreciation of a society and culture. Obviously, that is partly the point. Writer John Lucarotti wants to explore cultural misunderstandings; the West's dogmatic assumptions about its own superiority and mission to "save" other people; he wants to have the debate about the tensions between cultural respect and morality; the fact that if a god orders you to do something you don't agree with you are as likely to decide the god is false as to change your beliefs; and it wants to explore how far people are prepared to go to preserve their own safety and that of those close to them or, alternatively, to promote their ideals. I can see why the people who hold the story in high regard do so, but I would still have enjoyed it more if there had been a bit less stupid on display and perhaps if it had been prepared to explore the moral dilemmas inherent in the situation a bit more, and focus a bit less on the fact that you can't change history "not one line".

I'm not sure I'll watch it again. The Aztecs still pings badly on my personal embarrassment meter, but I'm glad I saw it once.

* As a result of a frankly bizarre bit of tomb robbing. I really doubt Barbara is the kind of person who, on finding a mummified body, would just casually strip it of jewellery.
** In more recent years some of the commentary has centred around whether Barbara is more fundamentally in the wrong here for not respecting Aztec culture. There is obviously a hugely complex debate about moral relativism but, broadly speaking, its an over simplistic position to assume a culture gets to do whatever it likes just because it has a different set of ethical norms. I do not actually think it was wrong, per se, for Barbara to take the position that she can not stand by and do nothing while a human sacrifice takes place ostensibly with her blessing.
purplecat: The Sixth Doctor (Who:Six)
"You thought The Woman who fell to Earth was a bad regeneration story!" says I. "Wait 'til you see this!"

Strangely enough, the Teenager, was not motivated by this statement to watch The Twin Dilemma with us.

Actually way back when, in 1984, The Twin Dilemma was the story from the previous season that I chose to keep on video tape while over-writing the others with different programmes (Betamax tapes were quite expensive (at least on my pocket money) so space on them had to be rationed). This, in retrospect, seems like an odd choice but just because fan wisdom has consigned The Twin Dilemma to the very bottom of the polls doesn't actually mean its bad, does it?

Well, there are moments, particularly when Maurice Denham is on screen, that The Twin Dilemma shows signs of being good. It is not unusual for a Dr Who guest star to appear to think they are in an entirely different show from the rest of the cast. However normally this manifests as scenery chewing, while everyone else vainly tries to take things more seriously. In The Twin Dilemma we have the reverse. Denham's Azmael is restrained and dignified while everything else is over the top and garish. But then the eponymous twins will put in an appearance, or a particularly clunky piece of dialogue will go down, or the "super genius" villainous Mestor will do something pointless and/or idiotic and you'll realise that yes, it really is bad.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course. I think there is lots that is rubbish about The Twin Dilemma which has nothing to do with the Sixth Doctor himself, however the introduction of the Sixth Doctor at his most unpleasant does not, in retrospect, help the story. At the time, in so far as I remember, one of the things I liked about the story was Colin Baker's performance. This was in turn fuelled by some of the pre-publicity. I think in particular an appearance of Colin on Blue Peter where he was enthusiastic and entertaining in person, and the clips selected as previews (the "noble brow" speech, I think) seemed equally funny and entertaining out of context. In context, well, the attempted strangulation of Peri is uncomfortable to watch and the resolution awkward. Since the show is unwilling to really examine what it would be like to be stuck in a time and space machine with a dangerously unstable Time Lord who might attempt to murder you at any moment, it falls back on making Peri whiny and petulant. Thus is a Doctor and companion dynamic established that it would take the show far too long to overcome. A better script/better direction might have redeemed this presentation of the Doctor, but what we get is heavy-handed and clunky, lurching as awkwardly as the Doctor from peril, to comedy, to exposition.

Weirdly, large sections of the plot seem to have been lifted from Frontios earlier in the season. I'm not sure if that's pure coincidence, or a sign that The Twin Dilemma had to be written and produced in a hurry. However, given Frontios is pretty decent despite its dodgy monster costumes and story of giant woodlice trying to take over the universe via planetary mechanics (woodlice that turn back into harmless creatures when cut off from their leader), there is no reason The Twin Dilemma could not have been pretty decent with its dodgy master costumes and story of giant slugs trying to take over the universe via planetary mechanics (slugs that turn back into harmless creatures when cut off from their leader).

The Twin Dilemma is better than Time and the Rani. Somewhere in there, there is an at least half-decent story. We get glimpses of it from time to time - from Azmael's quietly despairing dignity, to the hints of politics both on Earth and on Jaconda. But the script feels like a first draft, the sets and direction look like they were thrown together at the last minute, the twins acting ability is functional at best, and stilted at worst. It was an unfortunate start to the Sixth Doctor's era and where Time and the Rani turned out to be very atypical for the Seventh Doctor, The Twin Dilemma functions more as a template for the era. Much of what was wrong with the 1985 season of Doctor Who has its roots here and that probably makes it a worse regeneration story than Time and the Rani, because its effect was far more long-reaching.
purplecat: The Third Doctor (Who:Three)
For some reason I'm constantly surprised by how grounded in reality a lot of the Pertwee era feels. There's obviously something about being embedded within an Earth organisation, but in some ways it's the details: travelling places by car, using locations to represent themselves. It happens in other eras as well of course, but there's something about the style of Pertwee stories that seeks to makes even its more outrageous ideas seem more everyday - at least some of the time (I'm not about to claim Carnival of Monsters feels grounded in reality).

In The Mind of Evil it is particularly the prison sequences (and the storming of the prison by the army) that convey this feeling, similar perhaps to the way I was struck by the high profile presence of the army in Claws of Axos. This may be because Doctor Who often treats even the presence of soldiers by populating the background of a scene with a couple of extras so it is a bit startling when you have lots of people on screen scaling walls with ropes and so on.

The rest of the story doesn't quite work. It's not that its disparate elements: murders at an international peace conference; a new technique for "curing" prisoners; and a nerve gas missile convoy don't fit together but some of the plot connections between them are rather thin and its easy to forget how you reached point B in the story from point A. It is also quite a convoluted plan on the Master's part, but then the Master likes over-convoluted plans so that is probably fair enough.

It's a very good story for Jo, who organises a prison recapture, knocks out the odd rioting prisoner and generally holds the fort at Stangmoor Prison, despite the presence of the Master, his henchfolk and an evil mind parasite. This shouldn't need saying, but it does.

All Pertwee stories are watchable, and nearly all of them are solid from a plot point of view. It's not my favourite era of Doctor Who and this isn't my favourite story from that era, but even so, I'd happily watch it again.
purplecat: Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor (Who:Five)
I recall from dim and distant Oxford DocSoc days a review of Frontios which described it as an excellent story up to episode three where everything went downhill (literally) to the underground evil weevils. This has stayed in my mind since as my appraisal - nice setup, all goes wrong in episode three, but I actually think that is a little unfair.

It's a grim and militaristic tale, but not in the "unpleasantly violent and fixated on space mercenaries" manner of a lot of Saward Era stories. It sets itself in a military dictatorship, but one which is shown to collapse partway through the story and one in which the dictator is at least benevolent in intention. One wonders if writer, Christopher H. Bidmead and Eric Saward had some discussion in which Saward was pushing for soldiers and military uniforms, and Bidmead went with it but chose to colour in his world in a way which showed the limitations of a military dictatorship, even one that desired to be benevolent.

As the long ago review notes, the set up is tense and atmospheric and, for Doctor Who, we actually get a lot of world building showing us a colony on the point of collapse from bombardment by enemies unknown. As for going downhill underground to the evil weevils? Well there are some problems with the evil weevils. The costumes look great from the knees upwards, but are rather obviously skirts from the knees down (a problem suffered by a number of 1960s aliens but not really seen since) and the Tractators are definitely rather less interesting than the society above ground. I remember Bidmead complaining that budgetary shortcomings had also short-changed the depiction of Tractator technology which he had very much wanted to be constructed entirely from human "spare parts" but even what was shown here was enough to have Tame Layman comment that it was "really rather unpleasant". It's not as good as the rest of the story, but I don't think the evil weevils hugely let it down. It's a little too convenient that the solution turns out to be simply a matter of isolating the chief Tractator from the rest of them, but this will not be the last time 1980s Doctor Who decides to use this get out. However, even while we are getting a certain amount of running around underground tunnels being pursued by evil weevils, we are also seeing the collapse into anarchy of the regime on the surface, so the story doesn't really lose the atmosphere it has built up.

We watched An Adventure in Time and Space shortly after this and it was more than a little odd to see Jeff Rawle in both. In An Adventure in Time and Space, where he plays Mervyn Pinfield, you could argue he's very much playing a straight version of his George Dent character from Drop the Dead Donkey - mild-mannered, a little put-upon, wears cardigans. In Frontios he plays Plantagenet, the slightly useless son and heir of the colony's leader, Captain Revere. While Plantagenet is depicted as, well, slightly useless, the story is clearly reaching towards an idea of him as the dashing hero who comes into his own. Seeing him 30 years later in a cardigan is a bit of a shock.

The performances are generally excellent in keeping with most of the script and, even when faced with the Tractator costume, no one chooses to treat the story as a pantomime (except for, perhaps, some rather awkward dialogue in which Tegan has to pretend to be an android which fails to really be as funny as is necessary to justify its inclusion).

Frontios is an oddly over-looked story. It seems very much in keeping with the Saward era, but avoids many of its excesses. It is quite grim, but not relentlessly so, and not as an end in its own right. The result is tense, atmospheric and thoughtful... and also has evil weevils (but this is Doctor Who).
purplecat: The Fourth Doctor (Who:Four)
I was looking forward to The Ribos Operation. I've seen it at least a couple of times and had a positive memory that it looked good, had pretty solid characterisation and a nice sense of humour. It isn't an especially showy Doctor Who episode but, in some ways is the better for it. It doesn't raise over-high expectations, nor does it try to deliver on special effects beyond its ability. I was also expecting Tame Layman to like it, its a decent fourth Doctor episode with, again, a good sense of humour and I thought he'd be all over Binro the Heretic and the trials of a scientist in a superstitious culture.

Tame Layman was mostly rather unmoved by it and his main comment, in episode four, was that it was a bit of a pantomime. Now we had just watched Demons of the Punjab and I think pretty much any Tom Baker episode would look a little pantomimic next to it, but this was the moment in which the Doctor, Romana and Garron all try to hide in an alcove by lying on top of each other so you could see his point. In fact, while fandom has tended to laud Garron and Unstoffe as a classic Holmesian double-act, there is a fair bit of the DNA of pantomime in their interactions, schemes and sleight of hand.

All that said, of all the episodes of Doctor Who to get labelled "pantomime", The Ribos Operation would not be the one that instantly sprang to my mind. Everything I remembered about it still holds true: it does look good (in part because the BBC Costume department, as I've noted before, was much better at costumes with a historical flavour than it was at envisioning futuristic clothing). The characterisation is a little broad brush perhaps but the characters do benefit from being distinct and memorable with (mostly) their own agendas. There is plenty of humour not just from the "Holmesian double act", but also between the Doctor and new companion Romana and the pair of them and Garron. But I can also see why this doesn't make top ten lists, its a little too straightforward, it doesn't quite embrace its atmosphere of a medieval ice planet and the humour is often a little too arch and pleased with itself... and in direct comparison with Demons of the Punjab it does look a bit like a pantomime.

Poor Ribos Operation, I fear that circumstances on this viewing were against you.
purplecat: Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor (Who:Five)
It's 1980s Who with "Time" in the title. This never bodes well!

Actually, to be fair, there are bits of Time Flight that are quite reasonable. Most of the stuff at Heathrow is actually passable and sufficiently novel in terms of location and style to be quite interesting. One suspects if the story had managed to maintain its air of some kind of airport based procedural story it would have been much better. Both the Concorde crew and Professor Hayter are surprisingly good characters who manage (mostly) to be both interesting and competent, and the idea of a race that has converted itself into some kind of mental gestalt but still has warring "good" and "bad" sides is sufficiently interesting to have potential for good Doctor Who.

To be honest, in lots of ways, Time Flight's biggest sin is that it rather obviously ran out of money halfway through. Pretty much everything on prehistoric Earth looks shoddy and the story lacks the necessary charm or energy to overcome the general cheapness. Obviously there is also the issue of the Master and his entirely pointless disguise, but the Master obviously just likes dressing up so why not? especially since there is always a chance the Doctor will turn up. Tame Layman was genuinely surprised by his appearance so on some kind of basic level it was doing its job. It also provides a rather nice opportunity for Hayter and Captain Stapley's determined rationalism to trump the Doctor's vague assumption of more complex psychic forces, as they investigate "Khalid"'s crystal ball to reveal the electronics beneath.

I honestly think that with one more pass of the script to tighten it up, and enough money to realise its locations, Time Flight would be a much better liked story.
purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
I had heard The Sensorites both highly praised (particularly for an atmospheric first episode) and high derided (for being deeply boring) so I was kind of interested to see which I would think it was.

Ultimately I thought it was fine but unspectacular, which surprised me a bit for an episode which seems to generate such strong opinions. Like Edge of Destruction there was just a bit too much random and not terribly well explained behaviour in the first episode for me to buy into its spooky atmosphere, meanwhile there was enough event in the later episodes, even if much of it does not bear up to close scrutiny, to keep me happily watching.

The Sensorites is a bit Star Trekky in its presentation of an Earth Space Crew of the future and in its attempt at something vaguely high concept in episode 1. But, to be honest, it pretty much loses interest in this when it moves down to the planet and into its vague tale of mystery and political intrigue. As noted above, enough is happening to keep the attention (at least I thought), but the moment you actually think about any of it an awful lot of questions of the "how did that work/was that supposed to work?" arise. Like much of early Doctor Who, its very serialised plotting, with an assumption that the viewer doesn't have a detailed memory of what happened before the episode began and a happiness for each episode to go off in its own direction without necessarily much strong over-arching plot coherence. Frankly however, there is an awful lot of Doctor Who that contains an awful lot more pointless padding than is on display here.

There are some nice bits with Susan using both her telepathy (for once!) and taking a look at her relationship with her grandfather (insofar as 1963 Doctor Who does relationship development), and some quite fun bits with Ian and the Doctor down in the sewers.

While quite a bit of the world-building is stupid (or at least in need of better development), it is one of early Doctor Who's more serious attempts to present an alien society and that is not without interest as well.

Overall a perfectly serviceable slice of 1963 Doctor Who and I'm mostly mystified that anyone thinks otherwise.
purplecat: The Seventh Doctor (Who:Seven)
Back in the day, Delta and the Bannermen was one of my favourite Doctor Who stories. I think, in part, this came from watching with my parents who had been in their teens and early twenties in the 1950s when it is set. The story makes the most of the time period in its sound track and set dressing, and my parents had a nice trip down memory lane.

Delta and the Bannermen was made during what I tend to think of as the awkward transition year, after Eric Saward had left as script editor but before Andrew Cartmel had really taken control of the show. It has the whimsey/surreality of stories like The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy without having the more serious undercurrents of most of the work Cartmel edited. It also has the random and largely unnecessary massacre of a bus load of a harmless tourists which feels like a hold over from Saward's tenure.

Watching it, many years after the first viewing, with Tame Layman, it still (tourist massacre aside) has plenty of verve and is (tourist massacre aside) a fun and light-hearted tale but, beyond that, it seems a rather insubstantial. Tame Layman commented that it was basically an extended chase scene in its construction and there is some truth in that.

One of the most interesting thing about Delta and the Bannermen is Ray, the companion who never was. At this point in the show the production team knew Bonnie Langford was leaving and considered two replacements - the lovelorn Welsh motorcycle mechanic wannabe Ray from this and Ace from Dragonfire (the next story). I can see why they went for Ace, her characterisation is more immediate from the start and contemporary companions are generally considered easier to write engagingly, and I think Ace was great, but sometimes I regret that we didn't get the rather gentler Ray. She had the capacity to be just independent and capable as Ace was allowed to be while at the same time being less in your face with her attitude and issues.

I remain fond of Delta and the Bannermen. It has a rather poor reputation and fandom circles. Its characters are a collection of bizarre and somewhat random folk (including a cameo from Ken Dodd) and if you don't buy into the bizarre randomness of it as, essentially, part of its charm, then its lack of budget and weird set of characters makes it look like a reject from a children's show such as Rentaghost. I love its joy in its 1950sness and its madcap and random heart, but Tame Layman is right that it really is just a long chase scene with screwball comedy aspirations and it is marred by the unnecessary massacre of the bus load of innocent and charming tourists.
purplecat: The Third Doctor (Who:Three)
The Green Death is one of those stories that suceeds, one rather feels, in spite of itself. On paper it is a bit of a disparate mess of elements that don't quite fit together, it suffers from the standard six parter's malaise of not really having enough material to fill its length (there is a lot of wandering around the mine), and its special effects have not benefitted from the translation to HD. However it has a great deal of charm, and is carried to no small extent by Katy Manning's energetic performance as Jo Grant in this her last story. There is plenty of event and a fair bit of mystery in the plot, so much so, that Tame Layman compared it favourably (at least at the plot level) to The Woman who Fell to Earth.

It is a little bit gloriously 1970s. The matter-of-factness of there being a community of hippy cutting-edge scientists just down the road from Global Chemicals, with their pyschedelic whimsy of big signs denoting spaces "The Room for Living". Not to mention the Brigadier's clear preference for the company of hippy scientists to the businessmen at Global Chemicals.

It has been noted that Jo Grant's final season is one of the few explicit attempts by the classic show to provide a companion with some character development. Even at the start of The Green Death, it is clear that Jo is ready to move on, identifying battles she wants to fight irrespective of the Doctor's own priorities. It is a shame that the rest of the story mostly isn't one of her finest hours, emphasising as it does her portrayal as well-meaning but scatter-brained and a bit clumsy. Katy Manning manages to make it all work, but this is a story in which Jo is often side-lined and generally the cause of rather than the solution to problems. The romance between her and Cliff Jones is charming enough but, in making him clearly a lot like the Doctor, one rather wishes the production team had not chosen to have him exhibit the Doctor's condescenscion towards Jo along with his brilliance and drive.

The story has two almost entirely separate causes of peril. The eponymous Green Death and its maggots is almost unrelated to the mad computer, a side-effect of the computer's plans but of no actual interest to it. You can see the conceptual thread that joins it all together, the drive for profit and ultimate efficiency has caused both the elimination of the human from the decision-making process and the reckless generation of pollution whose side-effects are little understood, but somehow the two halves never really seem to come together in the story. Perhaps this is because the mad computer plot gets a bit sidelined into the ideas of computers programming people, not to mention the idea that BOSS is somehow linked to Stevens' brain in order to become event more efficient by introducing an element of human inefficiency into the mix. This, incidentally, was an aspect of BOSS of which I was unaware (or at least had forgotten, since I had read the novelisation at some point) when I discussed AI in Doctor Who with [personal profile] sir_guinglain for his DWM Bookazine article a while back and it has some interesting links to current thoughts about the role of emotions and their implementation in computational systems. The idea that BOSS is somehow part human, allows him/it to be given rather more character and personality than is allowed to most AIs in the classic series, which is nice but a bit distracting from the central message.

I can see why The Green Death is often spoken of highly, but rarely makes it into recommendation lists. There is a lot to like here but it is all nice bits and pieces that fails to make a strong coherent whole.
purplecat: The second Doctor reading his 500 year diary. (Who:Two)
I was very much looking forward to the Randomizer getting around to The War Games. It is spoken of highly in current fan circles (though I don't recall it getting a great deal of attention back in the day). I also had fond memories of the Target novelisation but given said novelisation packs 10 episodes worth of story into 120 pages (so I figured giving approximately 12 pages to each episode) I was interested to see what else was there in televised story.

Somewhat to my surprise Tame Layman clearly had absolutely no idea about anything to do with anything to do with this story. He was by turns intrigued, surprised and then more intrigued. Perhaps the greatest triumph of this story is that it manages genuine progression across its ten episodes with a plot that unfolds slowly through a series of reveals. Almost nothing feels like padding because while the story takes its own sweet time in places, it is always heading somewhere rather than running on the spot.

The first episode is almost a pure historical, indeed Tame Layman's first reaction to the story was to express some doubts about the wisdom of a setting so much in living memory (particularly at the time) and the risk of over-simplifying issues that were potenitally very real to the audience. However the few hints at strangeness in the episode had him commenting that it was all a little Sapphire and Steel.

By episode three, he was commenting on the similarity of the SIDRATs to Tardis's without apparently any idea at all that this was going somewhere. In fact, he was genuinely suprised at the appearance of the Time Lords in episodes 9 and 10 despite the fact that, by that point, it was abundantly obvious that the War Chief was a renegade time lord.

If the story has a weak section, I would say it is the sequences in the middle set in the command centre of the "aliens" (never referred to as anything else) where the War Chief and the Security Chief bicker and manuever for position. It is watchable enough and their very manuevering drives events. However it all picks up immensely when the War Lord appears who is, I think, one of the genuinely most impressive villains the show has put on screen. He looks like an administrator but conveys a sense of total competence and self-assurance. You have no doubt that he is absolutely in charge of the situation and completely efficiently ruthless in the pursuit of his aims. There is no bluster or grandiosity. It's a truly impressive performance.

The rag tag resistance (including surprise appearance by David Troughton) were not quite as I expected. I had no real memory of Captain Russell who is probably the most clearly drawn resistance leader here (though I was interested in the way he instantly started deferring to Lieutenant Carstairs once they meet up - rank in the British Army, it would seem, transcends temporal constraints). I did clearly remember the Mexican Civil War leader from the books, though I approached his appearance with some trepidation, fearing a terrible stereotype. And yes, he is basically a one-dimensional stereotype but lacked the scenery-chewing gusto of my mental image so that he was ultimately one of the more forgettable parts of the story.

I wrote, when we viewed both The Invasion and Ambassadors of Death, that they were much better than they had any right to be given their length. This is something else entirely. It fits its length seemingly effortlessly and is, I think genuinely as good as current fan wisdom would suggest.


Who against Guns made a series of podcast commentaries for these episodes, of which I have copies. I will probably listen to these at some point.
purplecat: The Seventh Doctor (Who:Seven)
Survival has a unique place in Doctor Who history. The final story of the classic run, it manages at least to give the show a decent (albeit not spectacular) send off. In many ways it encapsulates both the strengths and the weaknesses of the final couple of years of Doctor Who.

The animatronic cats, of which I recall the production team of the time being very proud, look pretty terrible by today's standards. The story manages not to look cheap in the way, say, The Happiness Patrol does, benefitting probably from its location filming. But it still suffers from being made on a shoestring with, it feels, too little time to get performances and direction really tight. The climatic motorcycle "fight" is easily the weakest part of the story being both poorly realised and largely superfluous to the plot.

The writier, Rona Munro, of course, has the distinction of being the only person to write for both new and old Doctor Who. I was struck on watching Survival to realise that both her stories have featured children (or at best teens) being forced to fight because the adults are absent or useless. I think I possibly prefer Survival to The Eater of Light but I think the latter shows a writer with better control of her material than Survival has. Survival's thematic criticism of the idea of survival of the fittest as a governing principle for human behaviour is laid on thickly with the earnestness of a young writer who doesn't quite trust the audience to figure it out for themselves - a criticism that could be made of many of the stories of this era, several of which are written by talented but inexperienced writers.

In contrast, again like much of the rest of this season, while the themes are being set out very clearly lest we miss them, much of the detail of the plot is omitted. It is assumed that the audience can figure that out for themselves. It gave the stories of this era an energy that earlier stories sometimes lacked, but at the cost of often appearing incomprehensible and a bit garbled. This lack of willingness to actually spell out the plot, and in particular to spell out what the Doctor thinks he's doing, also leads to an inflated sense of the extent to which he is manipulating situations (something many people dislike about this era). At least in Survival, it is moderately obvious that he has no plan and is unaware of the situation in advance, even if he never says as much.

Tame Layman noticed immediately that Perivale, as presented here, is leafy and middle-class (in contrast to, for instance, Rose's Powell Estate) but it isn't really clear whether this is a deliberate commentary - Ace's disadvantaged background is not as she tends to present it: she's a bored teen not an abandoned and disadvantaged delinquant - or just that the production team lacked the time and money to film anywhere other than leafy surburbia.

Survival has the energy and the ambition of much of the Cartmel era and shows how a seventh Doctor story could work when the Doctor is not manipulating events. It would have been interesting to see where the show went after this. At the same time the relative inexperience of the writer and script editor and the lack of money (and time) are all obvious. I'm glad this was the final story (not, say, The Ultimate Foe) since it allowed the show go out with an air of youthful optimism and ambition. I sometimes wish we could have seen what these people would do as they got more to grips with the nuts and bolts of script writing and production (though maybe the full Cartmel Masterplan would have been a mistake) but they definitely laid the foundations on which much of modern Who has been built.

The final lines of the story were written I believe by Andrew Cartmel to put a full stop on Doctor Who's 26 year journey. Like everything else they strive to hit the right note and pretty much succeed, but are rather obviously dubbed over the ending - the show lacking the time and money to reshoot the final scene.

"Come on Ace. We have work to do."
purplecat: Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor (Who:Five)
"So when was the last all historical story?" Tame Layman asked as The Reign of Terror drew to a close.

As if by magic, the randomizer presented us with Black Orchid. I'm very fond of Black Orchid. 1920s period murder mysteries are pretty much peak BBC and it looks much better on its budget than a lot of 1980s Doctor Who. It is deliberately low stakes and it's nice to see that the show can successfully tell a story which consists mostly of a cricket match*, a fancy dress party and, of course, a couple of murders in a stately home.

"It's a shame the acting isn't a bit better," Tame Layman said early in part one - which surprised me a little since there are much worse culprits on the acting front in the history of Doctor Who than we see here. But I suppose it is also true that if your basis of comparison is Poirot or Miss Marple rather than, you know, The Twin Dilemma then at the very least the lack of rehearsal time shows. The performances are all competent but perhaps a little rough and ready. By the end Tame Layman was charmed however.

The whole plot surrounding the disfigured, mentally ill (and therefore murderous) brother and his devoted South American native servant-cum-rescuer-but-still-very-much-servant seems a lot more cliche-ridden and thoughtless now than it did to me in 1982. Obviously, it is riffing off the literature and tropes from fifty years before that, but it is doing so fairly carelessly by taking them pretty much at face value.

I also hadn't remembered, though it was painfully obvious on this viewing, that the whole thing had been filmed in a gale. It was quite amusing, in a way, seeing all the actors gamely behaving as if they were having a lovely party in the sunshine on the terrace while the trees bend in the wind and their costumes are blown around them.

Terence Dudley wrote three scripts for the show of which, I would say, this is the most successful. Four to Doomsday is interesting but crammed with, possibly too many, ideas and fails to quite come to life. The King's Demons lacks the sense of period that this one evokes and has a less coherent story to tell. I have a feeling Black Orchid succeeds more because of our (and the BBC's) familiarity with the time and tropes it is using than because of any inherent strength in the plot or ideas. It basically gets a whole a lot of goodwill for free and is competent enough not to squander it.

Modern Who tried its own version of this with The Unicorn and the Wasp but I don't think it succeeded as well. The science fiction elements pushed aside the murder mystery which became more of a background joke than the centre of the tale. The Doctor and Donna spent too much time pointing out they were in a 1920s murder mystery and not enough time actually being there somehow. I'd love to see the show have another go at something like this though, with more of a focus on inhabiting a particular period (or literary version thereof), and telling a low stakes tale in keeping with it.

* which, incidentally, based on its description in the novelisation is heavily inspired by the cricket match in Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers.
purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
I was not expecting to enjoy The Reign of Terror very much, having not enjoyed The Massacre very much. I'm not sure why that would necessarily be the case, but viewed from the perspective of the story summaries you get in episode guides, they have a lot in common. Both are first Doctor historicals, set in turbulent periods in French history, which revolve primarily around the companions interacting with persecuted groups (the Hugenots in The Massacre and random aristrocratic sympathisers in The Reign of Terror) while being fundamentally unable to affect the course of events.

I found The Massacre dull and had difficulty distinguishing the supporting cast. I didn't have that problem here, which may be a side effect of the fact that all the episodes exist or are animated, while I was viewing a reconstruction of The Massacre - and not even one that could make use of telesnaps (so the available images were minimal).

However I think The Reign of Terror is much more content to simply serve up a fairly traditional story in the mode of The Scarlet Pimpernel centred around attempt(s)* to escape the Bastille and then Paris, while The Massacre was attempting to engage much more seriously with the politics and personalities of the period. The Reign of Terror does give us both an encounter with Robespierre and one with Napoleon but these are essentially set dressing with comparatively little significance to the story itself. The sense of the Tardis crew as primarily powerless observers is much less as a result.

It is not a good story for Susan (so many stories are not good for Susan, sadly). Tame Layman was particularly annoyed when she went into such hysterics about the presence of rats that she and Barbara ceased their attempts to dig their way out of their prison cell. Then she randomly falls ill and, in a moment of almost equal idiocy on Babara's part (she is, after all, a history teacher and should have a good idea of the likely ability of an 18th century french physician to do much useful about a fever), has to be taken to a physician who promptly shops them back to the authorities. I've seen Susan's hysterics defended on the grounds that she's a teenage girl in a highly stressful situation - but I think that rather misses the point that we expect more from companions in general than to react as a normal person might.

Susan aside, while the story revolves around an escape from the Bastille narrative it has plenty going on. The initial episode is set on the road to Paris, and introduces the basic set up; we have the Doctor's separate journey to Paris and assumption of the identity of an Officer of the Provinces giving Hartnell a chance to play up the wily, improvisational aspects of the Doctor's character (something you get the impression he relished); and the political maneuverings around the deposition of Robespierre and how those percolate down into the networks to help people escape out of Paris. The only bit I found a little tiresome was a subplot about an English spy who turned out to be a double-agent. That mostly seem to serve to pad out the capture-escape in the middle episodes. There is obviously supposed to be a hint of a growing relationship between him and Barbara but, to be honest, its a little blink and you'll miss it, and you don't really feel much emotional impact from the reveal of his treachery. Even the sequence where Ian and Barbara spy upon Napolean (which really is largely irrelevant to the plot) is fun - though I suspect part of that is that William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are always very watchable.

I'd go so far as to say that this is my favourite of the 1960s pure historicals that we've seen, certainly of the more serious ones. I'm sure it benefits from the fact that most of the episodes exist but it strikes a good balance between the show's remit to attempt to showcase some actual history while providing a genuine story that involves the central protagonists in a meaningful way.



*Plural, obviously, because this is a six episode Doctor Who story and so needs its capture-escape padding.
purplecat: The Seventh Doctor (Who:Seven)
There is so much about Battlefield that I really, really like and yet the whole has never really gelled for me and that continued to be the case on this rewatch.

I'm a sucker for the Arthurian legends and I love retellings and different takes and Battlefield has that in spades. I mean, of course, the Doctor is Merlin and it makes so much (ironic) sense for it to be the seventh Doctor who is essentially left cleaning up the mess left by some future incarnation who is leaving him only vague hints about what is going on. I love the way the background in Arthurian myth instantly gives Morgaine a much more complex set of motivations as the antagonist. I love the idea of this blend of magic and technology and chivalry. I love the contrasting brigadiers. I love Doris. I love the relationship between Bambera and Ancelyn.

And yet... and yet...

And yet, mostly, I hate the whole alternative universe part. A lot of the stuff I really like about this episode, the sci-fi twist on the Arthurian legend, the idea of a 20th century resolution to events from, well, probably over a 1,000 years previously that have faded into myth, and in particular the interaction on equal terms of 20th century soldiers with their Arthurian counterparts really would not work without positing that the universe in which the Arthur story played out was at some side-step to our own and yet... Well and yet I don't think the story really does the work to justify the concept. I never really believe in this alternate universe and I dislike the fact we never get any really explanation for how the Arthurian myths exist in our own. I don't like the way no thought has apparently been given to either the vast lifespans Morgaine and her ilk must have or, alternatively, to the time distortion between the the two universes. Are Winifred Bambera and Ancelyn really intended to be linked to Guinevere and Lancelot or this a coincidence or something else? If so how and why and what?

"She's a baddie, isn't she?" said Tame Layman, observing the otherwise apparent superflousness of Shou Yuing. He was a bit non-plussed when he turned out to be wrong, but it is easy to see where this comes from. The character has relatively little purpose in the story. In some ways this is nice, there are quite a few characters and touches in Battlefield that serve relatively little direct purpose but serve to flesh out the characters and themes, and it is impressive to see a story from an era which tended towards the frenetic (and indeed a story that tends somewhat towards the frenetic itself) allow itself the luxury of elements that are not entirely utilitarian in purpose, but the very inconsistency of what aspects are allowed space to breathe and which aspects are glossed over apparently without thought is part of what rankles.

Some of the acting - particularly Bambera and Ancelyn (much as I like them) - is a bit poor. Battlefield suffers, as does so much of 1980s Doctor Who, from a low budget and a lack of time to get things right.

This is such a frustrating story. At one and the same time, I think it is great and feel it is a huge disappointment. Almost more than any other classic story, I'm haunted by the fieeling that this could have been truly and utterly wonderful if there had been more time, and more money, and a little bit more thought.

Tame Layman liked it even though he turned out to be wrong about Show Yuing.
purplecat: The Third Doctor (Who:Three)
The revelation of Terror of the Autons, at least as far as Tame Layman was concerned, was that Jo Grant was a trainee spy. When we started watching The Curse of Peladon therefore, I was subjected to quite a discourse on what a good thing it was to have a trainee spy in the Tardis. Certainly Jo's ability to rise to the occasion and assume a persona is well-used. It is also nice that the audience are trusted to follow what is going on without the Doctor needing to explain to his companion that it is important that she pretend to be of royal blood. It is also nice that, later on in the story, she gets to do a fair amount of investigation, making her own alliances and generally behaving like a competent adult (something Jo does not have much of a reputation for, though to be honest, I think she is very underrated in this regard).

Both the Peladon stories have a strong sense of place and benefit from their attempts to reflect real world events through the lens of politics on a far flung planet. Curse of Peladon is the stronger of the two, though I sometimes wonder how much of that is simply because it isn't trying to stretch its story out over six episodes. Monser of Peladon also suffers from lifting the character dynamics of King Peladon and Hepesh more or less wholesale for Queen Thalira and Ortron. This is interesting, in a way, since fandom has had a tendency to treat King Peladon seriously as a love interest for Jo, while Queen Thalira's character is defined almost entirely by Sarah Jane's "there's nothing only about being a woman" speech. In reality both are often indecisive and tend to rely on others to tell them what to do. Of the two, in fact, I would say Queen Thalira comes off better since she is constrained by expectations of what a woman can do, and can be seen on occasion to be quietly working around those expectations whereas King Peladon is just a bit useless. You can see why he wants to marry Jo and then presumably have her tell him what to do, but you can also see why Jo all but rolls her eyes when the Doctor suggests she might be seriously considering staying with him.

The surprise "twist" in Curse of Peladon is the reveal that the Ice Warriors are not the villain, though the moment this is revealed, it is fairly obvious who the villain must be (or at least Tame Layman by a rapid process of elimination worked it out), unless, that is, you suspect Alpha Centauri of deep and sinister motivations (which to be honest would have been amusing, if nothing else and is more plausible if you don't already know the character will reappear). The surprise "twist" of Monster of Peladon is the rather less surprising reveal that the Ice Warriors are the villains after all. I find both twists oddly underwhelming, but that may be because I know they are coming.

The Peladon stories are oddities in Doctor Who. It is something that I would like to see more of - an attempt to create an interesting world and revisit it over time. They benefit from antagonists with understandable motivations, enough politics to be believable without getting so bogged down in details as to make it boring and a generally reasonable balance of whodunnit style story with political shenanigans. They do suffer a bit from questionable costuming choices (in which I include King Peladon's shorts) and a certain amount of running around to relatively little purpose (far more noticeable in Monster).

Curse of Peladon is a decent Doctor Who story: a little marred by costuming and padding and perhaps a bit too stolid to rise above its weaknesses, but where it loses out in being a little over-earnest it gains in imagination.
purplecat: The  First Doctor (Who:One)
For a story that is so immensely important to the history of Doctor Who, I find The Tenth Planet strangely unmemorable. It may be that, as the first story to feature both the Cybermen and a Regeneration and arguably the first "base under siege" story, I expect it to be more portentious somehow. Instead it is more or less exactly like Moonbase or The Ice Warriors and, having watched those two previously on the randomiser, it just felt like more of the same, despite coming first.

One of the things I like about base under siege stories, is the characters figuring out the next way to repel the invaders. Polly working out how to melt the Cybermen chest units in Moonbase is a great moment and one that works better on screen, sold I expect by Anneke Wills' performance, than it does when described in the novelisation (as I first encountered it). There are some nice moments here, using radiation against the Cybermen for instance, but they seem less internally consistent. I wasn't tempted to ask "why are the Cybermen chest units made of plastic?" but I was bemused to discover that they vulnerable to radiation.

In fact large parts of The Tenth Planet are a rather mind-blowing piece of gobbledegook. It isn't made completely clear, but the implication certainly is that Mondas absorbing all the energy from Earth, then over-absorbing all the energy, then blowing up and returning all the energy is some kind of natural phenomenon and almost nothing about it makes any sense at all!.

The Writers' Room podcast pointed out that the story also wastes some potentially rich themes. It introduces us to monsters who have sacrificed their emotions in order to survive, but then gives us a human antagonist who's actions in no small part are driven by love for his son, short temper and a rather rigid world view. The value of human emotion has pretty much nothing to do with the progress of the story at all.

In fact, perhaps the big disappointment here, is that The Tenth Planet has no aspiration to be anything more than an adventure tale in which there is a monster to fight, peril to overcome and our heroes succeed mostly because they are the story protagonists. It thinks the Cybermen as mirrors of humanity are a cool idea but isn't really interested in using them as more than monsters, it wants the Earth to be in danger; but doesn't really care if the danger makes any sense or has anything particularly to do with the Cybermen. One feels the Cybermen deserved better for their first story.

One feels the first Doctor deserves better for his last, as well. He is suddenly absent for a whole episode which was probabily intended as foreshadowing of his eventual collapse but just appears rather strange and abrupt even for a time when the show was used to having members of the main cast randomly vanish for a week or two so the actors could go on holiday and ultimately the victory over the Cybermen that he engineers is more about delaying them long enough for nature to take its course than anything else.

I'm beginning to sound like I hated this, which is not true at all, I was just expecting there to be more to it. I am, after all, quite fond of the base under siege format and this is a perfectly aceptable base under siege story. The scenes of everyone doing their job at the Antarctic base are well presented and the interactions with the various astronauts above the Earth are tense. It is notable also that for what I think is the show's first use of a black actor in a speaking role, we are shown a man doing his job with perfect competence and no comment upon his colour at all. It's a shame, really, that less than a year later all our actors of colour will be playing mute strongmen servants.

At the end of the day I think the main problem that The Tenth Planet has is that it has no idea that it is a momentous moment in Doctor Who and that is probably more my problem than anything to do with the story itself.

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