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Friday, January 31, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Mind Robber

The eruption on planet Dulkis at the end of The Dominators, leaves the TARDIS buried in molten lava, on escaping from this, the old fluid link thingie has blown, and the Doctor is left with only one option, to use a bypass, which will jump the ship completely out of time all together and into a world of complete fiction.

Yes, the Mind Robber is a bit of an experiment in how much you can push the limits of TV and it's viewers. But refreshingly it offers a break from the monsters, space bases and corridors.

The crew land in a void, which is populated by fictional characters from their own worlds. For instance the Doctor meets Gulliver, the famous traveller from the pen of Jonathan Swift, Jamie meets the Brothers Grimm's Rapundzel, and Zoe meets a creation from her home era called Karkus, a kind of superhero character. Other characters met include the cursed Medusa, a Unicorn,a Minotaur and a battalion of toy wind up soldiers.

The world they inhabit is both weird and wonderful. Castles, mazes and forests made of giant letters. At the centre of it all is the evil Master. No, not The Master, the evil time lord from Galifrey, but a writer of fiction who has been kidnapped out of his own life to write stories for this crazy non world. He's been trapped in the void for years and is growing old, so needs to find a successor to take over, and guess Who, is in the frame.

I really liked this story. The writer, Derrick Sherwin really tried to come up with something totally different from anything seen on the programme before. He took advantage of the fact that anything is fair game on Doctor Who.

Unfortunately, Frazer Hines (Jamie) caught the measles during filming so had to miss one episode, but because of the abstract nature of the story an ingenious work around was used. In a test for the Doctor, Jamie is frozen still and flat, his face is missing, and the Doctor must choose face parts (eyes,ears,nose,mouth etc) in order to put him back together. Unfortunately he fails and makes up another face, belonging to the actor who is to replace him while Frazer Hines recovers from his illness. If I hadn't known that Frazer had been ill I would have thought this was just part of the story. And even better, the actor taking temporary control over his character (Hamish Wilson) has all those Jamie-isoms down to a fine art.

Zoe's fight with Karkus is a bit naff to be honest, but it was rushed through during filming, as was the nature of filming back in the day. It's also overly long but to make up for it we get that incredible scene at the start of the story when the TARDIS has literally broken apart and the console is spinning in the empty blackness, with the Jamie and Zoe clinging on for dear life. Zoe is clad in her sparkly skin tight cat suit with her bum well placed so that the discerning viewer has a ring side seat. It's a moment where high art is slightly eclipses by the body beautiful. I can only imagine that the kids would have been perplexed as to why their dads were starring at the screen boggle eyed during that sequence back in the sixties.

Next time on Doctor Who rewind, we go from on extreme to the other with a story that is given everything the BBC can throw at it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Dominators

At last a full story to watch and gloat over. The first of the sixth series, and alas, not the best season opener.

The Doctor thinks he, Jamie and new arrival Zoe could do with a bit of a holiday and so he takes them to the planet Dulkis, somewhere he's been before, and knows is a peaceful and pleasant place to stay.

Unfortunately, things have changed since his last visit. Just before the TARDIS arrives on the planet the fashionably challenged Dominator duo touch down on the Island of Death, a nuclear test site, housing a war museum. The two Dominators, Navigator Rago and Probationer Toba look like extreme fashion victims from the 80's, clad in thick body amour which have padded shoulders that would make Alexis Carrington drool with envy.

They both have short dark hair, and have been made up with dark make up which not only makes them look well moody, but also brings out their mature features. And of course it supports the already mentioned 80's fashion theme.

So the Dominators have arrived on planet Dulkis to bore into its molten core in order to get themselves some rocket fuel. The have these little robot slaves they call Quarks, who resemble walking filing cabinets with springy out arms, and rotating spiky heads. They are only large enough to be operated by dwarfs or children, and have severe difficulty when geographically challenged by even the most modest of hills. They can, however, when fully charged, pack a punch and unleash a pretty deadly explosive charge.

Just as the Dominators arrive on the island of death, some native thrill seeking Dulkions arrive in what looks like a flying chefs hat. Bored of life back in the city, this group has been whisked away by a chap called Cully, who is dressed like all other Dulkis folk in what looks like a white pleated dress made out of curtains. The thing looks entirely ludicrous covering most of the chest area as well.

As Cully persuades his travellers to venture out into what they think is the radioactive atmosphere (though the Dominators have already a absorbed it all), they come under attack from
a Quark. Only Cully survives the attack and flees to the war museum where he meets the Doctor and TARDIS crew.

The Dominators continue the work on the drill holes, while the Doctor tries to warn the city leaders that danger is imminent. The problem with the Dulkions however is they have long removed any need for violence or war and have become a totally peaceful race. Most of the time they are happy to sit around having a good chat. And by the time the Doctor and Jamie convince them that they need to take action it is far to late. These are the kind of people that have to have a meeting just decide if they want afternoon tea!

Meanwhile the Dominators are having a domestic. Rago is constantly bickering with Toba about his handling of things. It starts when Toba allows the Quarks to kill the three Dulkions, and continues when Toba is adamant that he wants to kill those Dulkions responsible for killing a Quark. To be honest, not much effort is needed in disposing of the little square rascals, as Jamie and Cully later demonstrate with an old bed sheet.

At one point Jamie and the Doctor are captured and taken to the Dominator ship, where the two brooding invaders, who frankly walk around like spoiled kids who can't get what they want, test them for any intelligence, and ultimately usefulness. Jamie is put on a bed and from the angle of the shot and the Dominators position, it looks like poor Jamie is going to get an anal probe. But alas he is given some kind of examination to judge his ancestry. As for the Doctor he is given an intelligence test involving slotting shapes into holes. He deliberately fails and the two are excused as being dimwits.

In the end, the Dominators and silly quarks prove to be incompetent to the point of not seeing the Doctor plant a bomb in their own ship and get what they truly deserve.

Despite a good all round cast, this story is let down by a some silly designed robots (which incidentally were supposed to be a replacement for the Daleks, as they were predisposed in filming the Peter Cushing Who movie etc) and a script which really just didn't shine on the screen.

Next time in Doctor Who Rewind we go all abstract, with a story starring Gulliver, some Toy soldiers and a forest of letters.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Doctor Who - The Wheel In Space

The final story of the fifth season, with only two episodes still existing, see's the return of the Telos Cybermen. And if there's one thing you can rely on Cybermen for it's an ingenious plan to invade earth.

The failure of the TARDIS's fluid link means Jamie and the Doctor must abandon the space ship swiftly. They find themselves on a vessel floating in space, deserted except for a robot, which after detecting them turns on navigation control causing a rapid change of direction. The Doctor bangs his head and is out cold for much of the rest, and next episode, leaving Jamie to fend for himself. Jamie eventually destroys the robot when it becomes aggressive, but not before it releases a series of egg shaped objects from itself which float off into space.

The Doctor and Jamie are rescued from the vessel when an Earth Space Station (the wheel in space - which observes phenomena in deep space, and is staffed with a small international crew) become concerned when their supply vessel, which has strayed some eighty million miles off course and has gone missing, suddenly turns up. After failed attempts to establish contact, they crew decide to destroy it with an x ray laser but Jamie manages to create enough noise to be detected.

Meanwhile the egg like objects have attached themselves to the said Space Station. On board Jamie tells the resident medic that the Doctor's name is John Smith, which he reads off of a nearby piece of equipment.

Everyone is suspicious of Jamie and the Doctor, so it's decided that the supply vessel should still be destroyed. Saving the TARDIS from destruction Jamie sabotages the x ray gun.

Two egg like pods on the supply vessel crack open and reveal Cybermen, who have sent the smaller pods containing Cybermats to consume the bernalium rods in the Wheel’s stores. The bernalium is essential to power the x-ray laser. The Cybermen have engineered the star in Messier 13 to go nova, forcing the Wheel crew to look to their bernalium stores only to find them missing. The Cybermen expect the crewmen will come to the Silver Carrier for an alternate source of bernalium, which can then be transported into the Wheel – with a surprise inside. A cunning plan that only the Cybermen could execute.

The bigger reason behind securing the Wheel for themselves of course is so they can get their fleet to home in on its radio beam, and invade Earth for its mineral wealth. Crafty buggers.

The Cybermen use their powers of mind control to great effect in the story, utilising several crew members to do their dirty work unnoticed. And if course the slithering Cybermats make a welcome return, but still look utterly ridiculous slowly labouring across the floor so that anyone can see them.

Zoe, the stations parapsychology librarian, becomes friendly with Jamie after Initially showing him around. She's quite bored with the mundane life she's been leading on board the station, and is excited by the prospect of a bit of adventure. After stowing away on the TARDIS at the end of the story, she is shown, by way of some kind of mind tv link between the Doctor and a monitor, just what she's in for if she decides to travel with the Doctor.

Again in this story, it feels like there are some unnecessary plot twists and turns in order to just pad the story out over several weeks. With production still so ripe even a fair few years into Doctor Who in 1968, it must have been hard to be given a block of six weeks and asked to write a compelling, exciting story without a big budget. Though other stories however did manage it, but this one falls some way short. Not through bad acting or the sets. But just having a story confined to a space station, endless corridors, and control rooms and equipment. And on the whole uninteresting characters who you don't really give two hoots about.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, shock horror, the Daleks are replaced!!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - Fury From The Deep

Oh no, the plant life is plotting to take over the world and everyone is in danger of being destroyed by rivers of soap suds. It must be, Fury From The Deep, the totally missing (apart from a few clips) sixth story from the fifth season of Doctor Who.

The TARDIS manages to dump its crew just off shore of the east coast, right in the sea. Once ashore the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria find an abundance of foam and a pipeline marked Euro Sea Gas. Jamie and The Doctor, waste no time in playing about in the white stuff like a couple of kids. The Doctor then hears something inside the pipe, like a heartbeat. During this scene, the Doctors legendary Sonic Screwdriver makes its first appearance. Though it looks just like an ordinary screwdriver and he only uses it to release a screwed panel on the pipe.

Later, the crew are captured by Robson (played by well known English actor Victor Maddern), a gas refiner, heading a pumping operation of rigs in the North Sea. He is worried about a sudden drop in pressure in the feed line and a loss of contact with one of his rigs. Mmmm could this have anything to do with noises in the pipeline?

The Doctor certainly thinks so, and it isn't long before things start going from bad to worse. Robson's assistants wife Maggie, gets infected with some seaweed and starts to act very strangely indeed. In perhaps one of the most odd and spine chilling scenes of Doctor Who so far, Maggie is visited by two very strange looking men, Mr Oak and Me Quill. Only Mr Oak speaks, explaining they are maintenance men who have come to repair her cooker. A likely story!

When Maggie tries to escape they stop her by opening their mouths impossibly wide to emit a toxic gas. The effect is like something out of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers, and is very disturbing.

Meanwhile, Robson is only convinced of one thing. That the Doctor and co are responsible for the pipeline problems. However, when the Doctor examines Maggie, and the seaweed. He discovers the seaweed is emitting a noxious gas and is still alive. The Doctor also consults the TARDIS library and finds a similar creature, identified by Mariners in the North Sea.

After that all hell breaks loose, nod every other scene seems to contain gallons of foam and suds, not to mention writhing seaweed creatures.

Maggie goes AWOL, wading into the sea, Robson is exposed to the weed and turns into some kind of zombie (like Quill and Oak), the Doctor and Jamie narrowly miss being drown in the stuff, and Victoria screams her way through most of the proceedings.

Talking of which, hinted through out the story is Victoria's growing discomfort with her travels with the Doctor and Jamie. Yes, she's turning into a nervous wreck at having to put up with Daleks, Yeti's and god knows what else. Which can only mean one thing.

I have to say she isn't one of my favourite companions by a long shot. So having her go won't be that much of a loss.

Actually it turns out that her screams are the catalyst for the end of the sea weed creatures. With all the rigs and the base seemingly overtaken with foam and spindly weedy creatures, and all hope nearly lost, the Doctor realises it is noise that kills the creatures. If only he can bottle Victoria's screams and use them against the creatures?

Well, using the pipeline, a couple of speakers and some sticky back plastic he does just that, and guess what, Victoria ends up saving the day with the very thing that is making her want to end her journey in the TARDIS, her fear. It kind of a poetic end to Victorias run on the show.

After the final act, we have a couple of awkward scenes where Victoria is deciding her future. At one point you start to think that maybe the sea weed is going to make a come back just like in all the best horror films. But, nothing happens, except Victoria watching on the beach as a confused Jamie makes his way back to the TARDIS with the Doctor.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, a rocket, a space base and metal Micky!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Web Of Fear

We continue the Rewind with another story that was recently found alongside the Enemy Of The World in Nigeria, and thanks to Virgin Media (the BBC DVD comes out in Feb) me and the lad settle down for this six parter.

We start with Professor Travers (last seen in the Abominable Snowmen, in Tibet) who is at the home of a private collector Julius Silverstein when his daughter Anne arrives to collect him, he tries to persuade Silverstein to return the Yeti robot. Professor Travers claims to have reactivated a control sphere, and now it has gone missing. Silverstein implores Anne to take her father home. Once they have left, the control sphere smashes its way into Silverstein's home and activates the Yeti, which kills Silverstein.

The nail biting conclusion to Enemy Of The Wold has meant that the TARDIS is flying uncontrollably with its doors wide open. Everyone is in danger of being sucked out but good old Jamie manages to make it to the door lever control and order is restored. Although, not for long.

The TARDIS is flying along happily until it gets caught in what can only be some kind of cosmic cobweb, rendering it unable to move. Something, or someone is trying to sabotage the TARDIS.

The Doctor soon launches into action and cobbles together some bit of tech to enable the time machine to land some distance away from its intended destination, in, of all places, Covent Garden Tube Station.

All is not well Underground however, as they soon discover the place is deserted and that the cobwebs are the culprit.

Wondering around the dark and scary tunnels they encounter a group of army soldiers who are laying some kind of power cable. Jamie and Victoria are captured by the soldiers but the Doctor escapes.

At Goodge Station HQ Jamie and Victoria discover that the Yeti have taken over The tube system and the army have set up a trap with explosives.

The Doctor spots a couple of Yeti approaching and hides while they spray the explosives with some kind of gun which covers the boxes with webs. After they leave the Doctor examines the boxes of dynamite, as he does they explode, fortunately, the cobwebs contain the blast and he survives.

Jamie and Victoria meanwhile are reunited with Travers, who has been brought down to the Underground by Anne, to help control the furry pests.
Jamie goes off with Staff sergeant Arnold to try and find the Doctor.

The yeti are spreading poisonous fungus through out the Underground and hemming in HQ. Despite attempts at using guns and explosives to stop them, they carry on regardless.

Something is controlling them? And that something is The Great Intelligence, yes the old G.I, that swirling invisible entity that can take possession over someone else's body and use it to its own ends. The fiendish so and so.

But, who is the G.I? It could be anyone, including the Doctor, or perhaps Prof Travers, or Anne? It could even be the Private Evans , a Welsh goon who Jamie, Arnold and Captain Knight encounter roaming around the abandoned tunnels. It could even be tabloid newspaper journalist Harold Chorley, who is the only pressman aloud to cover the crisis. And, it might even turn out to be Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, who is sent in to take command of the situation. Hold on, Leftbridge-Stewart? Not Brigadier Leftbridge-Stewart of UNIT I hear you cry? Yes the very same, but, he hasn't been promoted yet and UNIT hasn't been set up.

So then, lured here by the G.I, for a bit of a rematch, the Doctor is faced with a bit of a dilemma . Very cute and fluffy, but extremely deadly yeti are wondering around the circle,Piccadilly, and Northern lines creating havoc with the timetable. They are spreading web like fungus that threatens to engulf everything. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the mind that controls the yeti, via the silver spheres inside their chests, is plotting a deadly trap, which ultimately involves transferring itself into the body of the Doctor.

Of course the Doctor does what he does best. He makes it up as he goes along. He uses the very thing which is threatening him, and turns it against it's master, well, with the help of some jiggery-pokery.

The conclusion to the story is riveting and exciting as the host of the G.I is revealed and carries our his master plan. I did think, though that the story lapsed a bit during the middle, I mean, how exciting can you make walking though the same bit of Underground system. I think a four parter would have been more appropriate.

That said a few things that have to be said. First of all Patrick Troughton is missing in action after episode one and doesn't turn up until he has met Leftbridge-Stewart (off screen) in episode three. Nice holiday Pat?

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the this story was filmed on location in the Tube, but you'd be wrong. The sets are phenomenally detailed and so life like that even the London authorities thought the BBC has somehow sneaked down there to film without permission.

The Yeti design has evolved since their first outing. Here they have a more pronounced beak and glowing eyes.

Overall then, not as enjoyable for me as Enemy Of The World but nowhere near as bad as say, The Underwater Menace or The Macra Terror.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, it back to reconstructions as I tackle sentient seaweed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Enemy Of The World

If I'd started this insane project a few months earlier I would have been facing watching another static reconstruction, which, let's face it, is a pale comparison to watching the real mccoy. However, only in October, the BBC announced the complete recovery of this six part story, from, of all places, Nigeria.

The premise of this story is simple, and rather ambitious. It's 2018 and the Doctor and friends land on a beach in Australia. An assassination attempt is made on the Doctor by an operative called Astrid Ferrior, who takes the captives to see her boss Giles Kent. There, the Doctor learns he is the spitting image of another, a ruthless control freak called Salamander, who wants to take over as many United Zones as possible.

The Doctor is talked into helping Kent and Astrid when they tell him that Salamander is rotten to the core. The Doctor wanting to find out for himself, agrees to impersonate his evil double in order to gain access into his inner sanctum.

And so begins plot that would give any bond film a run for its money. Yes, it's totally ridiculous and about as far fetched as far fetched can be, but I found it gloriously enjoyable and watchable. And just when you think Salamander can get no worse, the plot twists down another unexpected route and takes it all to another level, quite literally.

Salamander is South American, and Troughton's thickly laid on accent is more of a Caricature than a true estimation. But this only adds to the fun of the role for me. Troughton is really working his magic here, and is just splendid as a villain that is totally opposed to the Doctor. And, Troughton is really playing three parts. The Doctor, Salamander, and the Doctor playing Salamander. In relation to the later, he even gets the Doctors less than convincing attempt at impersonating Salamander.

Elsewhere, there are some really good performances from a strong cast. Including Colin Douglas as the hard nosed no nonsense security chief Donald Bruce whose trusts no one eventually turns out as a positive for the Doctor.

Mary Peach, as action girl Astrid Ferrier embodies every nuance of the role, including a-hem, the tight fitting Latex body suit.

Speaking of which, the use of Latex and Lycra in this story is pretty extensive, and leads one to believe that either the BBC had a job lot sitting around somewhere with nothing to do, or, one of the production crew had a fetish that got way out of control. At times, I didn't know if I was watching Doctor Who or some Finnish art house porn flick.

Also, if there was a worst haircut in a Doctor Who episode competition, I feel sure that Milton Johns playing Benik would win hands down.

This then for me, has to be one of the best Troughton stories so far, and not a bug eyed monster in sight eh? This is why Doctor Who constantly keeps you second guessing. At that time there were no rules about what constituted a story. If it was original and a good idea it was in. Modern Who could do with taking note of that. It would be great to see some non monster stories with wacky ideas come through in Peter Capaldi's tenure.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, the Yeti's make the come back of the century in another recently found story.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Ice Warriors

The Ice Warriors has a lot going for it. Despite the fact that two of the five episodes are still missing, they have been animated to superbly to fill the gap. We also have an excellent cast. A super monster. And a good story which taps into the whole "Climate Change" problem of present day. It's no wonder then that it measures up to my expectations.

Yes, in the distant future of Earth, at Brittanicus Base in Britain the advancing Ice glaciers are set to envelope everything. If that isn't enough, a small team of archeologists uncover a frozen being in the ice.

It's here that the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria find themselves when the TARDIS lands, with a bump, outside the base.

Once back at the base the large scaled lizard type man turns out to be a not so friendly Ice Warrior from Mars, and he's not alone, his friends are similarly pissed off at being trapped in the ice for millennia when they crash landed.

At the base, leader Clent (played by Peter Barkworth) is led only by his top consultant, which turns out to be a super computer. He will listen to no one else and is incapable of making any kind of decision himself. The Doctors ability to second guess, to take a chance - is completely alien to him and throws him entirely off guard.

The machine that the base, and the world in fact, are using to try and slow the advancing ice age, is the ioniser. And it's continued use in the vicinity of the Martian craft, which has a nuclear propulsion system is brought into question when the computer deems it too much if a risk to take.

So, the Ice Warriors want to use the technology that the base has to free their ship, Clent wants to be a hereo and save mankind,but is not man enough for the job, and, in between we have defecting scientist, Penley (a very young and capable performance from Peter Sallis) who has fled the base due to differences with Clent and his computer, in order to live as a savage on the tundra.

Plus we have the Doctor, a text book Troughton performance, playing it by ear, taking calculated risks and winging it all the way with glorious results.

All these factors and character clashes make for a great dynamic, and there are some really tense scenes of dialogue between the over cautious Clent and the more wilder Penley in the conclusion.

The Ice Warriors themselves are appropriately commanding, especially Varga (played by the larger than life Bernard Bresslaw - yes he of Carry On fame). Bernard was asked to take the role and despite the fact no one would know it was him - due to the mask he would have to wear, took the role on. Even though he would produce gallons of sweat while on set.

The design of the Ice Warriors costume would change in future incarnations to make the actor inside more comfortable, but from the vantage point of 1967, when this story went out, it must have been hell to work in.
But the results must have been pretty scary to adults and kids alike. I suspect that now-a days though, they would get a bit of a laugh from children brought up on stronger stuff, especially with today's advances in CGI effects etc. But back in the day, Doctor Who was getting by admirably on a shoestring.

Also worth mentioning are the icy sets. Tunnels, Tundra and even an avalanche to boot. No doubt they used tons of polystyrene and shrink wrap during the production, but it really doesn't look half bad even today. It rivals even, Scot of the Antarctic.

The two animated episodes have been stylised to completely fit in with the others. So they are black and white too. The animators used photographic stills, set production notes including camera layouts - and the result I suspect, closely resembles what has been missing all these years.

All in all then an accomplished story and one which is rightly savoured by fans young and old.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind its double trouble with a story that was, up until a few months ago, deemed lost forever.