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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Myth Makers

I expect many boys and girls huddled round the tv, of many 1960's living rooms, were, after watching Doctor Who's Mission To The Unknown (which despite featuring no DW or regular cast, did wet the appetite of fans of those tin pot exterminating Megalomaniacs) were expecting Daleks galore to make an appearance. Instead, what they got were a load of Trojans popping out of a Wooden Horse.

This then is Doctor Who's greek tragedy, The Myth Makers. A four part completely missing story, from William Hartnell's third series.

Here Mr Who accompanied by Stephen and Vicki becomes embroiled in the events of the Trojans war. It's a story that doesn't stop to catch its breath and if you so much as check your phone for twitter updates you'll miss a major plot development.

The in first half of the story Hartnell is mistaken as the God Zeus, well, Zeus disguised as a down and out anyway. And is taken to the Greek encampment by Achilles and Odysseus where they meet Agamemnon who wants him to help against the Trojans.

Later Steven, who has remained in the TARDIS with Vicki, is also captured by Odysseus and taken to the camp where he meets Zeus, or the Doctor. As Agamemnon is a bit dubious of this Zeus's powers the Doctor promises to demonstrate them if they are taken to the TARDIS, obviously where he will make himself and Steven disappear.

When the TARDIS is not found (as it's been taken inside the walled Trojan city), the Doctor decides to tell the truth and reveal his and Stevens identity.

Meanwhile King Priam of the Trojans is not impressed with the blue box and demands it is burned. But when Vicki steps out in a long flowing dress the King is enchanted by her and makes her a favoured member of his court.

The Doctor eventually, under pressure from Agamemnon designs plans for the great wooden horse and is told he must join the Greek army inside it.

Vicki has fallen in love with the Kings youngest son Troilus and wants to stop with him. I think we know what's coming.

The great horse is taken by the Trojans into the city and they rejoice at the disappearance of the Greeks. Of course we all know where this is leading...

In the ensuing bloodbath, the Doctor, and a wounded Steven escape to the TARDIS, Vicki has already said goodbye to the Doctor and left to join Troilus. We don't see the farewell, it is only hinted at.

Strangely, in the last few minutes of the story a woman called Katarina, turns up and helps the Doctor manhandle Steven into the TARDIS, which she calls his blue temple. This then, is the doctors new companion.

It seems only yesterday that Vicki was being welcomed onto the TARDIS for the first time (in fact it was one month ago by my harsh viewing schedule). It seems to early to see her go and despite finding old Troilus, she doesn't seem to have had much time for development as a character.

The Doctor is more concerned with Stevens wound than anything else right now and the story ends with them hoping that the next landing will provide some kind of medicine.

It certainly will provide doom thing, and that's the start of a mammoth 12 part story starring those mental cases themselves, The Daleks. This may hurt.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - Mission To The Unknown

We are on a jungle planet known as Kembel, three astronauts from Space Security Agency have crashed there and are trying to repair their spacecraft. One of the crewmen had been infected by a plant, called Varga, that is native to the Dalek home world of Skaro.

The infected man tries to kill one of the others but is seen and shot. His crew discover a thorn stuck behind his ear, he has been infected by the plant and is changing into the vegetable.

And so begins one of the most bizarre and strange episodes in Doctor Who's early history. It seems like the whole cast has gone on their holidays this time, as none of the regulars appears in this one part prequel to epic twelve part Daleks Master-plan coming later.

The Daleks have been plotting this one for a long time, there is talk of an alliance with seven other galaxies in an attempt to invalid our galaxy and the Earth.

The surviving astronauts discover the plot and try to warn Earth of the imminent attack.

I suppose if you follow this episode straight away with The Daleks Masterplan you could get away with it as it does serve some back story. But, one can't help thinking that the it was just slotted in at the last minute when they didn't have enough stories to fill the schedule.

It could only work too, with the favoured monster of the day, the Daleks. Who, lets not forget we're by this time, opening supermarkets, appearing at children's parties, on the back of cereal packets, sweet rappers and recreated as endless toys. The country just couldn't get enough of them.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind we spend some time with The Myth Makers of Ancient Greece.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - Galaxy Four

Only one episode of four remains of this third series opener, and that may be a blessing. Thanks to the Reconstruction contained on the special edition of The Aztecs, we are still able to feel the frustrations of a 1965 TV audience as they struggle to see the point of it all.

So, after a beauty like The Time Meddler, we get this! Basically, the TARDIS lands on a planet that is inhabited by to waring races who both crash landed there. On the one hand we have the Rill, an ammonia breathing Reptilian creatures who use small round Robots to do their bidding, and on the other, we have the
Drahvins, female clones who come from a planet called Drahva, headed up by the feisty blonde called Maarga.

Both of these races have landed on the planet and are battling to get off it before it before it blows up. The Drahva ship is damaged, so they are trying to take the Rill ship by force in order to escape.

Vicki names the Rill robots Chumblies, due to their wobbly nature, they are kind of like a demented version of R2D2, minus the loveable characterisation. Even the Rill themselves start calling the robots Chumblies, which is kind of cute really.

The Drahvin women, who also inhabit the planet, are a feminist no nonsense trouser wearing battle ready troupe who look like they've just performed a very poor sci-fi novelty song on Top Of The Pops. There leader is Maaga, who seems to have a big chip on her shoulders. When Steven asks about the male Drahvin, she cusses, "Men perform no particular function on Drahva."

Maaga is defiant that the Rill are plotting against her and that theywant to leave the Drahvin on the planet to die when it explodes in just 14 planetary cycles. But after speaking to the Rill the Doctor and Vicki discover otherwise, that the Drahvin were offered help by the Rill, who refused it.

The Doctor decides to assist the Rill to power up their ship (with the help of the TARDIS) while the Drahvin plot to take it by force.

There's not really a lot to like in this story, it bumbles along, without much humour, or come to think of it, action. The Chumblies are pretty pathetic as robots and the Drahvin are far too wooden. And the Rill, well, they sound like a demented Wizard of Oz.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind - a one episode prequel to an epic Dalek story coming later in the series, which features none of the regular TARDIS crew, and, is missing from the BBC archive.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Time Meddler

The final serial of the second series see's us back in an historical setting. It's 1066 and the Vikings are poised to invade...

With Barbara and Ian tucked up back in 60's London the TARDIS seems a pretty big place with only William Hartnell and Maureen O'Brien (Vicki) rattling around. But not for long, as the TARDIS has a stowaway, in the dishevelled shape of Peter Purves's character Steven Taylor, who managed to escape planet Mechanus in the previous story.

I really enjoyed Purves's debut in The Chase and here again I have to say he continues to put in a solid very watchable performance as the enthusiastic space fairing Taylor who seems prone to act first and think later.

So, by the end of the first episode of this four parter, you know things ain't what they appear to be. The time meddler of the title is housed in the monastery, walks around in a cloak and is generally very nice to the villagers, however we viewers know that he is prone to creeping around all suspicious like.

When the TARDIS lands he waits for the crew to depart before giving it a thorough examination, and the sheepish grin on his face tells us he knows just what is housed inside.

Meanwhile, Steven and Vicki notice that one of the villagers is in possession of a wristwatch from the twentieth century, that they acquired from the monk. Vicki and Steven go off to find the Doctor whom they haven't seen since leaving the TARDIS.

Then, when the Doctor notices that the monks chants emanating from the monastery seems to slow down like a faulty recording, he wastes no time in hot footing it over there and discovering that his hunch is correct. That the sound is being made by a gramophone player. Unfortunately, the monk is one step ahead and captures him, ending the first episode.

The next time we actually see the Doctor is episode three, as yes, you've guessed it, he's jetted off to Spain on his holidays and left Vicki and Steven right up to their necks in it. In fact when they finally reach his place of imprisonment, and surprisingly he isn't there (as he's conveniently escaped via a secret passage way) I felt like saying, he's sunning himself on the Costa Del Sol!!

The monk meanwhile is trying to persuade the villagers to light beacons on the coast, to signal a ship carrying some materials he is expecting. The real reason being to tell the Vikings exactly where to land.

A small party of rather well spoken Vikings lands on the shore and makes there way through the village threatening and ransacking as they go. This being the preliminary landing before the main fleet.

Vicki and Steven make it into the monastery, and discover a type 4 TARDIS hidden under the guise of a sarcophagus in the crypt. Inside this TARDIS, which obviously has a fully functioning chameleon circuit , they find evidence that the cloaked meddler has been hoping about through time for his own ends. He's visited Leonardo da Vinci to discuss powered flight, provided anti-gravitational discs to help the ancient Celts build Stonehenge, and used time travel to collect a fortune in compound interest from a bank.

The Doctor confronts him of these matters, but the monk denies the allegations and claims his plan with the Vikings is intended to stabilise England and benefit Western civilisation!

At this the Doctor intends to teach the interfering monk, (who we gather is a fellow gallifreyan who left fifty years after the Doctor) a big lesson. The Doctor disables the spacial dimension control on the monks TARDIS, therefore shrinking it and rendering it useless to the time meddler.

I really enjoyed this story for a number of reasons, firstly I like the fact that during the early years of Who, there wasn't the need to have a monster lurking in every story. These historically set stories actually served to educate the kids watching while engaging them in a really good romp. Also, I love the twist of having another time traveller to rival the Doctor. And the scene where the two TARDIS owners compare models is a joy. It's also the first hint at a back story of the Doctors home world since An Unearthly Child, and while Galifrey or Time Lords aren't mentioned yet, it gives a tantalising glimpse at a world inhabited by a race of time travellers.

Lastly, Peter Perves new assistant breathes a fresh perspective on things, instead of the mature reasoning of Ian, we now have the off the cuff impatience of Steven.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind - we meet the Drahvins and the Chumbley's of Galaxy Four.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Chase

Terry Nation must have thought this was his third and final outing for the Daleks because everything but the kitchen is sink goes into this story. It's got the lot; humour, a time travel chase, an historical slant, silly looking aliens, two appearances by Peter Purves, ghosts and gouls, the Doctor's death, good and bad special FX, and, a farewell to two characters who have been on screen right from that very beginning back at Totters Lane in 1963.

It's also very weird in places, not the least for its use of those jazzy musical links between episodes. You do get a sense as you go through this six part odyssey, that both the budget, combined with such a complex storyline, jumping through history and genres of fiction, really is struggling to keep up with itself in order to tell the story. And I think both the actors and audience to some extent, have the same problem. All that being said though, it's hugely entertaining to see where Nation takes the plot next, and to see the challenges that face the TARDIS crew.

There are some genuinely funning moments in this story, especially at the beginning where we find the crew lounging around trying to keep themselves occupied until their next adventure. We see Ian, enjoying reading a book all about monsters, and when he's asked if its any good, he replies, "it's a bit far fetched!"

A wonderful line that, which really shows that the programme wasn't afraid to poke fun at itself for a few laughs.

And later on, when Ian requests the use of Barbara's jumper and the Doctor's jacket, so he can throw them over the Daleks eye stalks and render them blind, the Doctor answers, "we're trying to defeat the Daleks not start a jumble sale my dear boy."

There's also a great moment when one of the Daleks is giving a series of commands to another drone Dalek who just keeps replying yes to every command in a monotone voice. And the commanding Dalek has to basically tell him, well, go on then get on with it.

The basic premise of the story is that the Daleks have access to their own time travel ship and have given chase to the Doctor and co. The Doctor detects the Dalek time ship on the Time and Space Visualiser, which he nabbed in The Space Museum in the last story. The device lets you view on screen, the events of history, as they were happening. It's a funny sequence as first, as they view scenes from history involving Shakespeare, Lincoln and then, The Beatles, in which we see Ian doing some very suspect Dad type dancing.

After the TARDIS has landed on what appears to be a the deserted planet of Ardius, Vicki and Ian go off exploring. The Doctor and Barbara however, view the Daleks on the Visualiser, plotting to follow their arch enemy across time and space in their own ship, seeing them land on Ardius.

Cunningly we never see the Dalek time ship interior,but from the outside it looks like a cylindrical shape, not too dissimilar from the original TARDIS shape shown leaving Gallifrey in the recent The Name Of The Doctor episode.

And so, the chase begins. And, in an attempt to out do the Dalek rising up out of the Thames, in Dalek Invasion Earth, we get the metal dictators rising up out of the sand.

Meanwhile after spending an uncomfortable night being hounded by the tentacled Mire Beasts, Ian and Vicki are rescued by the amphibious humanoid Aridians. You can always guarantee that someone in a dodgy leotard, with stuck on gills and face paint will turn up in Doctor Who and ruin a perfectly good story. Fortunately the Adridians are not in the story long, as things move along a pace.

Having been also rescued by the Adridians, the Doctor and Barbara are eventually reunited with Ian and Vicki and flee the Daleks by only a gnats whisker.

The last place you would think this story goes next is exactly where it does go, the top of the Empire State Building. It's basically the location for a comic skit invoking the TARDIS, the Daleks and an American tourist played by Peter Purves. It's all very amusing, especially when the Daleks don't seem to know how to handle the Yank that doesn't seem intimidated by them. They just get in a huff and get back in their time machine. Strangely, it isn't the last we'll see of Purves though.

The next stop on the chase is, wait for it, the Marie Celeste. Again it's all done with tongue firmly placed in cheek. The TARDIS crew land first and after a few scuffles with the ships crew make escape, the Daleks then turn up and force the entire crew to jump overboard. One Dalek, however, does meet its watery grave when it falls over the edge.

The next location is perhaps the strangest choice, and quite frankly I lost the plot a little here, as did everyone else I'm sure. We find ourselves in an old house, right out of a hammer horror period. The crew encounter strange fleeting versions of Frankenstein, Dracula. The Doctor thinks they have landed in a place of nightmares, but in fact the audience discover they are in fact on a famous theme attraction, the monsters being robots. In their haste to leave, Vicki is left behind and has to sneak aboard the Dalek ship in order to escape.

On the ship Vicki see's the Daleks use their replicator to produce a clone of the Doctor that will kill the original. The only trouble is , this facsimile only has a passing resemblance to Hartnell, as they used another look-a-like actor for the part. Surely it would have been easier to use just shots of Hartnell playing both parts, but you have to remember that this was made during a time when there were few edits, and most of the acting was played out in real time. There was little or no post production.

After landing on planet Mechanus, the Doctors evil doppelgänger is let loose into the menacing jungle, ripe with may eating plants. After some confusion the two Doctors meet and do battle. And, of course there can be only one victor.

Next up the crew meet the inhabitants of the planet, the Mechonoids. Who are giant robot glitter balls with squeaky voices. At first the crew think the many mirrored Mechonoids are helping them but when they become trapped in their prison they realise just what they are up against.

It's here that we again meet Peter Purves, this time playing a prisoner called Stephen Taylor, who crashed on the planet two years earlier. Surprisingly Purves delivers a convincing performance and looks genuinely glad to see his new cell mates.

In no time at all though the Daleks have broken into the Mechonoids city and are engaged in a violent battle with them. While both of the these metal monsters are preoccupied with each other, the crew and Taylor, climb down from the prison roof and make for the TARDIS.

Taylor gets held up behind and it is thought he has perished. Meanwhile Barbara and Ian realise they have the opportunity to use the Dalek ship, which is a lot more reliable than the TARDIS at hitting its preferred location in time and space. They decide its time to leave. The Doctor is angry that they should want to leave such an exciting life and go back to the monotony of normality. But they have made up their mind.

Barbara and Ian's exit is handled swift and without much fuss. Something that wouldn't happen now a days. The Doctor, as Hartnell was himself, is sad to see them go and admits he will miss them. Then they are gone and only Vicki remains.

We are then treated to a bizarre sequence, a series of photographic snaps of Barbara and Ian's return to 1965 London. As they gallivant along the Thames, visit Trafalgar Square and hop on a double decker home.

In the two years that they have been with the Doctor, they have certainly earned there return. They both brought different things to the role of the companion. Ian was the action and ideas man. While Barbara was the thoughtful, strong willed woman who didn't just scream at the monsters.

For the most part I enjoyed The Chase, an excellent set up with the first episode, great ideas that unfortunately just couldn't be realised fully, and some really good strong acting. Not too mention some really laugh out loud moments.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, when is an historical not an historical? When you meet a meddling monk that's when!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Space Museum

The Doctor is getting so old now that he's being collected up by the nasty curator mad Moroks and made into an exhibit in their space Museum.

Yes the premise behind this four part story is pretty good and it all starts off quite promising.

It begins on the TARDIS when things start going very David Lynch. The crew experience time running backwards, jumping around, and even getting stuck. One minute they are wearing their crusade clothes and the next they back in their normal ones, without having any memory of changing.

It's all very bizarre and slightly worrying but as always the Doctor thinks it's terribly exciting. He can't even be bothered to answer Ian's persistent questions about how they abruptly managed to change their clothes, brushing the whole thing off with his usual, oh don't worry about that now my dear boy.

Before the TARDIS materialises on planet Xeros, we get a rather nice looking panning shot, on film, across a number of space ships of varying shape and design. They are obviously models but the effect is so pleasing that it kind of adds a cinematic feel for a few seconds.

Once the TARDIS lands the weirdness continues, the crew don't leave any foot prints when they walk. They discover a large building housing all manner of scientific machinery. A nifty bit of forced perspective gives the impression that the Doctors hand goes right through one of these devices when he tries to touch it.

Soon the crew run into the caretakers of what they have already correctively surmised as a space museum. These are the Moroks, who wonder about the place organising the museums exhibits based on their greatest conquests. They all sport these giant Gary Glitter type quiffs and I expected them to break into a chorus of Do You Wanna Be In My Gang, whenever they were on screen.

It soon becomes apparent that for some reason, the Moroks can't see Barbara, Ian, Vicki or the Doctor. And things become even more stranger when a Darlek shell turns up as one of the exhibits. But things really enter the twilight zone when the first episode ends with the crew staring back at themselves, prominently displayed in a case, as one of the prized exhibits.

As episodes go, not bad. Intriguing, original and thought provoking. Unfortunately the problem is, there are another three episodes left, which do little to build on the promising start.

There's quite a bit of wondering around aimlessly, the fondling of chins, scratching of brows, and much pointing purposely. After which, the Doctor concludes that what they have in fact witnessed is their own future, and what they must do, is to somehow change that future so that they can avoid ending up as still life exhibits. But how they achieve this though is another matter.

Soon enough time seems to catch up with the travellers, they are no longer invisible, the Moroks can see them and lose no time in capturing the Doctor, who is bound for the machine which will freeze him in readiness for being displayed.

Through-out the course of next three episodes, the story winds along a very timey windy road in order to reach its conclusion. We meet the Xerons, supposedly young angry revolutionaries who have been enslaved by the Moroks, but you wouldn't think it, they are so laid back and reluctant to try anything which might set them free, they end up sitting around instead speaking in soft well spoken accidents. And what on earth is going on with their eye brows?

If it wasn't for Vicki turning up and giving them the idea to break into the armoury I'd be having to sit through another ten weeks of this stuff. And when they do get hold of the guns, it's like a little light bulb goes on in their heads, they even say to one another, wow we've got guns now! Look at us.

Meanwhile the Doctor goes through the freezing process, but Ian (yet again) overpowers several guards, and finds his way to the conversion room where he gets Morok leader Lobos to reverse the process.

Before the gun clad youngsters can finally take back their planet and dismantle the muesum, there is just enough time for some very suspect fight scenes. By the shear lack of enthusiasm from both sides of the battle it's a wonder anyone can be bothered to take arms. At one point a Morok guard tries to take back a gun from Ian and the attempt is so slow that Ian has chance to go off to the toilet, have a poo, read the newspaper, stop for a beer and watch Gone With The Wind, twice, before seeing the threat away.

I won't spoil the final reveal as to why the TARDIS jumped a time track in the first place but its equally as silly as the rest of the final three episodes. It's just a shame that the same level of strangeness and unpredictability couldn't have been continued from that first episode. In fact this serial would probably benefit from the BBC losing those last three episodes.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, the Daleks do battle with the Mechonoids, and we say goodbye to one set of companions for another.