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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Moonbase

Despite a short break for 50th Anniversary Celebration excitement, it's back to completely lost or semi lost serials from the late 60's for me and we pick up again with the Cybermen's second outing,The Moonbase.

Two episodes of this four parter have survived the Troughton cull, so at least I have had some moving reference points to go on.

The story is set on the Moon some 57 years from 2013 in 2070. After landing on the lunar surface and having a bit of a lark in zero G the Doctor and pals head over to the weather tracking station manned by an international team headed by Hobson, played superbly by Patrick Barr (star of the The Dam Busters et al).

The team use a machine called a Gravitron to control Earths weather. And as far as I can see this involves a person sitting alone at a control desk in a room with a shower cap on his head. Why though, I don't know.

The team have been hit by a mysterious virus which renders them unconscious. The first to be hit with the virus is the station doctor who, on his deathbed talks of seeing a strange silver hand.

The Doctor starts investigating and generally gets in everyone's way including Hobson. Later Jamie is struck down ill and is placed with the other victims in sickbay. Delirious , he eyes a figure advancing on one of the other bodies, of which he mutters something about a phantom piper. The Cyberman carries off the body of the station employee and disappears. Jamie tells the Doctor and Hobson, who go off to investigate but Polly remains at his side when she too see's the silver plastic covered mutant advancing on him, she recognises it immediately as a Cyberman.

The Cyberman ignores Jamie, and takes another virus stricken body and disappears. When Hobson finds out about the Cyberman story he dismisses it out of hand, as he believes the robots were wiped out years ago. He gives the Doctor just 24 hours to figure out what is going on, before ejecting him and his friends off the station.

More victims fall prey to the virus and Hobson has difficulty maintaining the functions of the station. Jamie and Polly are attacked by a Cyberman and stunned by an electric pulse from its hand. It leaves with another body.

The Doctor can find no explication for the virus.
Meanwhile the antennas that the Gravitron uses on the lunar surface are broken and two station personnel are sent to fix it. Yes, we all know what happens to them don't we. Appearing from nowhere two Cybermen beat them to the ground.

After Polly makes a nice cup of tea for everyone, another crew member gets struck down with varicose vein face syndrome and the Doctor connects the dots and realises that, no it's not Polly's tea making that is infecting everyone but the sugar. Which has come from the supply in the stores, which has been compromised by the evil Cybermen.

In another attack, in which the Cybermen take over the central control of the station, they reveal they want to use the Gravitron to destroy life on earth.

Three captured moonbase crew members are mind controlled by the Cybermen and sent to take over the Gravitron. Ben and Polly gather and mix a concoction of nail varnish remover, fire extinguishers and other plastic dissolving substances and lead a fight against the Cybermen. The liquid works and the cyber-bots are rendered useless when their control front packs are melted.

The hole that leads to the food stores is blocked so other Cybermen can't get through. Cybermen on the surface damage the aerial and any further communication with earth is useless. The controlled drone workers in the Gravitron room are activate the machine to send a rescue relief ship off course and into the sun.

A hole is blasted in the station wall causing it to depressurise, Hobson and his crew mate manage to plug it with a coffee tray, as you do.

Two more Cyberships arrive and a cannon is pointed at the base, they threaten Hobson that unless he opens the doors they will fire. Hobson refuses and the Cybermen use the laser cannon, the Gravitron though, deflects the laser.

The Doctor, Polly, Hobson and others eventually manage to point the gravitron at the Cybermen, who float majestically into the blackness of space.

While the station crew members re-align the Gravitron the Doctor and his companions escape back to the TARDIS and dematerialise.

The Doctor activates the time scanner and a future picture is displayed of a giant claw.

Despite getting a little ground hogged around the third episode (a recon), I must have tried to watch it about three times, well, I was trying to watch it late at night, slipping in and out of consciousness, I eventually made it to the end.

The two existing episodes definitely helped my enjoyment of the story, and seeing the action play out, in pristine restored black and white was a joy. There's a lot to like in this story and some good ideas which are explored.

The Cybermen design, minus the large head lamps seen in The Tenth Planet is less obtrusive and cumbersome.

What really impressed me with this story was the musical score. The Radiophonic workshop seem to be back on form with this serial. The incidental effects are genuinely un-nerving and other worldly. The theme music which is used throughout is from an album of stock music used on Doctor Who from the time, it's called Space Adventures and is by Martin Slavin. It's a kind of skewed futuristic march.

At this point Troughton was beginning to settle down into the role created by Hartnell. His performance is less sporadic here and you get the impression that he feels as though he doesn't need to play every scene with the same intensity as he may have before. He still lacks for many characterises that Hartnell added to his character, and I still feel a little short changed by his portrayal of the Doctor. Hopefully though, this will change in the coming stories.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, we plough on with another missing story, The Macra Terror.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Underwater Menace

Doctor Who Rewind
The Underwater Menace

I'm part way through a particularly challenging sequence of Troughton stories that are either completely missing or have one or two surviving episodes. As with this story, which has one surviving available story.

The Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben are captured by survivors of the land of Atlantis. They narrowly escape being sacrificed to the god Amdo when mad Professor Zaroff, a renegade scientist, who wants to raise Atlantis, turns up.

Jamie and Ben are sent to work in the mine but poor old Polly is selected to be converted into a fish person, who farm plankton for the city. Luckily, the Doctor manages to postpone the operation by cutting the electricity supply.

Zaroff tells the Doctor that he intends to drain the sea into the Earths core in order to restore the landmass back to the surface.This will generate huge amounts of steam which will crack the earths core and destroy the planet. Sounds like a watertight plan to me.

Polly is freed by a servant girl and the Doctor escapes from the laboratory.Ben and Jamie, with the help of two sailor friends, find a secret mine shaft and get to the surface.

The Doctor is informed, by a priest called Ramo, that Zaroff means to destroy Atlantis. With a plan like his, he'll destroy everything no doubt!!

The Doctor pleads with the king of Atlantis and warns him of Zaroff's plans but he's having none of it. The Doctor is handed over to Zaroff, who sends him for execution in the temple.

Thanks to Polly, who climbs into the head of a statue of Atlantean god Amdo, Lolem (the high priest) and his workers think the god has passed judgement, and accordingly low their heads in praise. While this is going on the Doctor is taken to another room. When Polly stops her little ruse, Lolem thinks they have been taken by the god.

The Doctor then decides to create a food shortage, getting the ludicrously looking fish people to stop production of plankton. He heads off to tackle the mad professor Zaroff, and using one of his disguises, an old soothsayer, he manages to create a ruse and capture him at the market.

When taken by the Doctor to a secret room, Zaroff manages to escape by faking his own seizure.He rejoins his followers and they march to the Royal Court where he tries to kill the King.

The Doctor finds the king bleeding and has him taken away to safety. He decides to flood the lower level of Atlantis and to trap Zaroff. The companions warn the people while the Doctor heads to the generator station. He sabotages the reactor and the sea walls around the city start to fail. Ben confronts Zaroff in his laboratory and manages to trap him there with the water level rising.

The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie all return to the TARDIS, which dematerialises.

The best thing about this story is the performance by Joseph Furst as Zaroff. It's a performance worthy of any Bond villain. You can truly see the delight in Zaroff's wicked face as he executes his evil plan. And when he shouts those immortal words, "Nothing can stop me now", the sheer delight and smirk on his face are priceless.

It was a pleasure and a relief to actually see the characters moving images with the surviving third episode. Much needed I can tell you.

The rest of the story is pretty forgettable, except for the laughable fish people who looked very very silly swimming around whichever swimming baths it was filmed at.

And the mock swimming scene in which the actors are suspended on wires and slowly projected through the air doing some kind of slow mo swimming looks more like an experimental community dance workshop gone horribly wrong.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind we travel to the Moon and meet some old friends.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Highlanders

Another completely missing serial to get through with only the help of a youtube reconstruction. This time we arrive in Scotland, and surprisingly there will be more Ooo Arrr Jim Ladding going on than Och eye nooing!!

The Doctor arrives just after the Battle of Culloden, and is captured by Scots rebels as they flee from the British Army. Ben, Polly, the Doctor and Jamie (a highland piper), the Laird Colin McLaren and his son and daughter (Kirsty) all hide out in a cottage but are found by an army patrol who take Ben, the Laird and the Doctor to be hanged, while Polly and Kirsty slip away to the safety of a near by cave.

The girls manage to distract sergeant Ffinch, who is intent on hanging the Doctor and co. Ffinch gives Chase after the girls. Meanwhile the sinister Grey,the Royal commissioner of prisons, who wants to ship any surviving highlanders to the colonies for his own monetary benefit, arrives and bribes the release of the Doctor and friends. He's already sorted a captain (Trask) and a ship. The Doctor, Ben and the Laird are transferred to prison in Inverness to await shipping but the Doctor manages a nifty escape.

Meanwhile Trask reports to Grey that the transportation can go ahead and Jamie, the Laird and Ben are put aboard. Most prisoners except their fate and agree to sign for transportation rather than the ghastly alternative of the gallows, but Jamie and Ben and the Laird refuse to sign up, Ben attacks grey and Trask has him thrown overboard into the murky waters.

One of the more interesting developments in this story is the Doctors ability to adopt the guise of both a kitchen maid and a German in order to go around unnoticed, seemingly invisible, though with Troughton's dubiously ludicrous accent and unmistakeable features it's a miracle he goes un-detected.

The Doctor is reunited with Polly, Kirsty and eventually Ben, who swims ashore. He comes up with a cunning plan concerning Bonnie Prince Charlie's ring and it's wearers where-a-bouts, telling him that the Prince is in fact Jamie. This distraction allows the girls to free Jamie and the rest of the prisoners. When Grey and Trask go to the hold they are captured by armed highlanders, and it's the beginning of the end for the pair.

Jamie, sacrificing his boat to France decides to help the TARDIS team find it, and when they do he has little time to decide his fate before realising he's flying through time and space in the positively crowded Police box.

Again I found this serial a bit hard going for the most part. The story just seemed a bit wishy washy with little that was imaginative. Troughton had some good chances to shine as the kitchen maid and the German but instead played the roles pretty straight. I suspect he was still finding his feet as the Doctor during this story. Then again it's hard for me to pass judgement when only viewing stills and hearing the soundtrack.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind my never ending quest for a Troughton moving image continues as things get rather fishy.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Power Of The Daleks

Doctor Who Rewind
The Power Of The Daleks

The Doctor has a new face and some kind of musical ability, which is highly debatable. While Ben, believes this new man is an imposter. And we are soon to find out, as the new boy Pat Troughton gets thrown into the deep sticky stuff with his old friends The Daleks. Yes, were on planet Vulcan, but this sure ain't Star Trek!

As with all regenerations, the Doctor is suitably messed up a bit at the start of this six part (totally missing from the BBC archives) serial.

He soon gets in way above his head when the TARDIS touches down on Vulcan and he gets mistaken for someone called the Examiner, who had come to the planet to inspect the human colony, only to be murdered. The Doctor is mistaken for the examiner as he wears a badge the dead guy had.

As this examiner, the Doctor is granted access to anywhere in the colony, and he, with Polly and Ben go exploring in a space capsule that the scientist Lesterson has discovered recently. In it they find seemingly dead lifeless Daleks.

Lesterson has been experimenting with the machines in order to make them useful for his planet. He wants to turn them into slaves. Bad idea.

The Doctor must try to stop the efforts of Lesterson to revive the Daleks, before they end up wiping out the entire universe. No pressure there then.

This serial does take a while to get going, and it isn't really until the 4th or 5th episode that the Daleks start behaving badly. Occasionally we get a flurry of collective shouting from them, such as, "We have Power!!!", as they are plugged in by Lesterson and get very excited indeed, until he pulls the plug.

Yes they are easily pleased, and manage to fool poor Lesterson into reviving them with full power. They even manage to persuade him to build a power track for them to glide around the Vulcan colony.

Lesterson worships the creatures like gods, marvelling at their design and ability to understand and follow orders. But one night he ventures further into the capsule only to discover a huge succession of Daleks being endlessly rolled off a production line Ford would be proud of.

The Doctor, who spends most of this story playing his recorder and trying to adjust to his new body, which he says has been renewed, somehow manages to overthrow the Daleks by overloading their power grid.

Given the fact that I'm now faced with watching reconstructions of several stories which are completely lost in time, I think I managed to pull through this one ok.

In my mind this is by no means the best Dalek story. It's far to convoluted and grows tiresome while your waiting for something interesting to happen.

But there are flashes of brilliance and thrills when things start to get moving.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, we go all Och aye the noo as we the the high road to The Highlanders.