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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doctor Who Rewind - The Green Death

Giant maggots! In Wales! Down a mine! If course, why not?

The final story of the tenth season see's the iconic maggots, now imbedded in the nations subconscious, crawl into a hands down horror filled classic of DW.

Not only that but we also have to contend with this being the final story of Jo Grant, who really has been one of the Doctors coolest companions.

Right from the off we know something is amiss with Miss Grant as we have a poignant scene with her and the Doctor in which he wants to go to the famed Metebelis Three, to get a blue sapphire, while she wants to go to Wales, after she reads an article in the newspaper about the mysterious death of a miner named Hughes in the abandoned coal mine in Llanfairfach in South Wales: The miner, doing a monthly inspection of the bottom of the mine shaft, emerged dead and glowing bright green. Although the Doctor tries his best to persuade her to go with him she is adamant that she needs to go to Wales to investigate the work of acclaimed local environmentalist and Nobel Prize winner Professor Clifford Jones. The Doctor quietly reflects, "So the fledgling flees the coop."

In Wales, Global Chemicals oil plant, right next to an abandoned mine, is up to no good. Stevens, the head of the plant claims it can produce 25% more petrol with minimal waste. But Prof cliff Jones and his environmentally aware fiends are sure there is a lot more waste.

Jo and the brigadier head to Wales while the Doctor makes a lively trip to Metebelis three where there is some manic footage of him running from nasty creatures which we only get the slightest glimpse of. His expressions during this sequence are inspired and certainly fit the horror of the planet. He does however manage to swipe a small blue sapphire and scarper back to the TARDIS, which is being pelted with stones and rocks.

Jo and Prof Jones, hit it off right from the start, and we can see that Jo is besotted by him with his dreams of venturing up the Amazon and so forth. Though he is also consumed by his work, experiments on mould and fungus. Jo heads off to the mine and manages to hitch a lift on the lift down when the other miners try to go down to save a colleague who is trapped.

Stevens, and his cronies from Global chemicals (GC) are being controlled by an unseen force, of which we only hear a disembodied voice and a wave form on a screen in his office. Stevens is able to brainwash anyone who questions his questionable actions by using a pair of ordinary consumer grade headphones, a cool trick.

The Doctor and the Brigadier eventually make it down to the mine and find another miner consumed by the green infection, the Doctor carries on to find Jo, and they both stumble across the hideous sight of giant maggots crawling and sliming around all over the place. They make their way out up top (the Doctor managing to bag himself a giant maggot egg) in the process.

That night the egg hatches in Jones's laboratory, and tries to attack Jo. Fortunately one of Stevens men is there spying around and the maggot attacks him instead, before making its escape.

Meanwhile the Brigadier has been authorised by his commanding officer to blow up the entire mine and seal it off. The Doctor can do nothing to stop this happening and isn't happy.

The explosion only makes things worse, and the maggots start finding their way up to the surface through the slag heap.

At GC Capt Mike Yates is sent in undercover to try and get to the bottom of who is behind it all. In a comical scene, the Doctor goes in disguised as a milk man and gets through security. He then dons a cleaning lady get up, along with a high pitched voice, much to Yates's surprise. Mike has found out that there is a super computer giving Stevens orders. It's called, Bimorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor or BOSS, a supercomputer with its own megalomaniac personality. It is responsible for the mass pollution of the mines leading to the giant mutated maggots.

The Doctor goes up to see Stevens and rejects his brainwashing advances. Yates however is brainwashed and is sent to kill Jones.

The Doctor escapes and reaches Jones just as Yates bursts in and tries to shoot the brigadier and Jones. The Doctor brings him out of the trance.

The Doctor and Jones then begin work on an agent to kill the maggots. While the brigadier tries his own methods of blowing them up. Which doesn't quite work. Meanwhile the Doctor goes back to sort Stevens and BOSS out. He gives the computer an unsolvable riddle to solve, and it literally blows it's top, taking Stevens with it.

Jones stumbles across a solution when Jo accidentally spills some of his Fungus on his attempts to find a cure. But by that time she has already gone to try and bag herself a live maggot, which she thinks he will need. He races off to try and find her on the slag heaps.

Jones finds Grant and they seek shelter inside a cave, but a maggot is also in there and infects him. Eventually the Doctor rescues them both and takes them back.

Jones falls ill and the Doctor races to try and make sense of his experiments to try and find a cure. Eventually it's Jo, who, recalling the accident with the fungus, leads him to the answer.

Using the fungus solution, the maggots are wiped out, and Prof Jones is cured. Much to he relief of Jo who has fallen in love with him.

Prof Jones asks Jo to go up the Amazon with him and too marry her, which she agrees. In a tearful bittersweet ending, Jo and the Doctor part, he leaving the party to celebrate her impending wedding, and heading off with Bessie across a twilight landscape. It really is beautifully done. And anyone who tells you there is no emotional impact on classic Doctor Who should be made to watch this.

So, The Green Death is not only a scary story with truly horrid monsters, it's a love story, a story about the abuse of the environment, and about the power computers could have over man. There's a lot going on here.

The use of real maggots is inspired and also the model giant ones are realistic enough to convince you to get out of their way. Also, the lighting effects on the green skin infection look fantastic, even by today's standards.

Again, the characters are strong in this story with fantastic performances from everyone. Particularly, Stewart Bevan as Prof Jones, who incidentally was just beginning a real life relationship with Katy Manning (Jo Grant). A case of fiction copying fact. So the emotional impact of that ending where the Doctor and Jo part, was felt more so, as Manning and Pertwee had such a strong connection throughout her run. He acted as a father like figure to her. Introducing her to the world of TV acting.

I think, this story had been one of, if not my favourite Pertwee's. It has such a lot going for it. And on top of that it spelled the end of an era. Doctor Who was in the process of changing again. New characters were going to come in. And Pertwee's time in the show was beginning to wind down. But not without one last series.

Some good extras on the DVD too. Including Jo's return a few years ago on The Sara Jane Adventures with Liz Sladen. The two compare notes on their time in the TARDIS and get to meet the latest Doctor, Matt Smith. Well worth a watch.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, Mr Potato Head meets the Doctor, and feisty new lady enters his life.

Doctor Who Rewind - Planet Of The Daleks

Invisible Daleks, poisonous plants and giant purple furr balls. Yes, it's the return of writer Terry Nation!

Following on directly from Frontier In Space, this story see's a wounded Doctor, assisted by Joe, getting into the TARDIS. After sending a telepathic distress message to the Time Lords, he losses consciousness and it's up to
Jo to go out and look for help on the strange planet they have landed on, or been taken too (as the Time Lords have remotely controlled the TARDIS). The planet is called Spiridon.

When Jo opens those TARDIS doors she's greeted with a technicolor forest complete with strange plants that move and spit green snot like poison. It's like Dorothy emerging into Oz for the first time.

It's a testament to Katy Manning (Jo Grant) that she's given the entire first half of the first episode to fly solo, and explore her new surroundings, eventually finding an abandoned space ship she meets up with its crew, who are Thals from Skaro.

She persuades them to help the Doctor, who, meanwhile has woken up and is starving of oxygen, as the plant life outside has totally sprayed and covered the TARDIS in a hard outer shell. They arrive just in time to free him.

When he finds out who they are he tells them he has been to Skaro in the past (with Barbara and Ian - first Doctor). They explain that there is a legend of a man called the Doctor in their history but they find it hard to believe that this is him.

Taron, the leader of the Thals explains that they are the survivors of a military expedition sent to the planet to wipe our the Daleks, who have come to the planet to try and study the inhabitants, the Spiridons, the big furry walking carpets, who have the ability to render themselves invisible. The Daleks want to conduct experiments to give themselves this ability.

And so the Doctor joins forces with the Thals to try and stop the Daleks from gaining a skill which could render the entire galaxy at their mercy.

In the process Jo gets infected with a horrible plant like fungus, the Doctor is taken prisoner by the Daleks and a secret underground base is descovered with literally thousands of Daleks, seemingly on ice, and ready to be brought into action.

There's no doubt that this story remains one of the all time classics. It's got just about everything you could want from a Who story. Amazing cliff hangers, horrible monsters and a great back story. The very continuity of DW adds to it all as well with the Doctors previous encounters with the Daleks.

There are some lovely touches throughout, and some great Thal characters. The cautious Talon, who doesn't want to put his girlfriend Rebec in danger by taking silly chances. The headstrong Vaber, who can't wait to obliterate the enemy. And Codal, who overcomes his fears enough to be the bravest of all.

In fact his scene with the Doctor, when they are both held captive in the Dalek base, is one of the highlights , both for its scope of content and emotional impact. Beautifully acted too.

I must also mention the inspired set design too, it really is an other worldly jungle and must have been a greet undertaking.

With a great cast on top form, this story stands out as one of Pertwee's finest. There may not be many laughs, but it certainly had enough action and adventure and danger to make up for it.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, something green and slimy is coming to a welsh town...

Doctor Who Rewind - Frontier In Space

Mind probes, prison cells and Orgons. This must be Frontier In Space.

The Master is up to his old tricks again. This time his skills have been utilised by a silent adversary to create a war between the Draconian's and the Earthlings in the 26th century.

Essentially he's playing both sides off against one another by using a technology which can hypnotise you to seeing what you think is your enemy, but what is in actual fact, nothing of the sort.

The Doctor gets caught up between this tussle between the two cultures after the TARDIS narrowly avoids a collision with an Earth cargo ship.

What ensues, is the flare up of hostilities between the two races, to the point of war. The Doctor must find a way of persuading both sides that what they are seeing, may not always be the truth.

This is a long an envolved six parter that see's Jo and the Doctor locked up by just about anything that moves. It gets a little tedious after a while but picks up after The Master shows himself.

Unfortunately for him, he's teamed up with the most brainless creatures in the universe, the Orgons (last seen in The Day Of The Daleks), these are a moronic ape like creature that seem to blunder everything that The Master gives them to do.

This story is sadly Roger Delgado's final appearance as The Master, as shortly afterward he was tragically killed in a car accident. It was a huge loss to the show at the time, and upset and shook the entire production team up.

For me, this story is overly long and meanders on for far to long. It could quite easily have been edited down to four or five episodes. The constant capturing and re-capturing of the Doctor and Jo starts to really rile after the eighty hot ninth time.

Eventually, the Master reveals that he is in fact working for the Daleks. Wounded and delirious the Doctor struggles into the TARDIS with the help of Jo and sends a distress message to the Time Lords using the telepathic circuits.

Next Time on Doctor Who Rewind, Terry Nation returns from trying to sell the Daleks movie rights and get them their own spin off series...

Doctor Who - Carnival Of Monsters

Drashigs, huge swamp-dwelling carnivores, time repeating itself, and a strange landscape of circuits and transisters. This ain't Metebelis Three?

If you came to this story not knowing the plot, you may get a pain in the head trying to work out what the hell is going on.

On the one hand we have the flash showman Vorg and his assistant Shirma arriving at the planet Inter Minor. They are refused entry as they are suspected of being spies and bring with them a strange mysterious box called a mini scope.

On the other hand we have the Doctor and Jo land on a ocean liner called SS Bernice, a ship that suddenly disappeared while travelling the Indian Ocean. They get caught in a time loop that keeps repeating the same sequence if events, ending in a giant sea monster attacking the ship.

They eventually realise they are trapped in a strange world inhabited by all kinds of different creatures, who roam about in quite different habitats. The Doctor realises that these habitats are in fact different draws inside the mini scope, and that he, and everyone else are caught inside this carnival machine.

Chased and hunted by ghastly creatures, the Doctor and Jo venture from land to land, trying tirelessly to find a way out of the machine, and back to some semblance of normality.

Meanwhile Vorg is trying his best to sweet talk the three members of the tribunal to let him and the machine onto the planet so that he can start making some money from it.

This is a highly original story, and says a lot about the whole business of obtaining entertainment and pleasure from other creatures captivity and suffering. It's that zoo mentality, and the morality of keeping a creative locked inside a false reality away from its own home.

The scenes in the machine itself, the circuitry and computer type electronics look great to look at too. This is the kind of story that Doctor Who does really well.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, the Doctor gets caught up in a war between two rival races.

Doctor Who Rewind - The Three Doctors

It's 1973. It's the tenth season of classic Doctor Who. And John Pertwee needs some help, err, from himself.

A strange blob of energy lands on earth and seemingly starts eating all manner of things, whisking them away into a black hole and another universe made of anti matter where the legendary Time Lord Omega resides.

Omega, was a solar engineer who created the supernova that helped power Time Lord civilisation. But he was thought dead in the explosion. In reality he was trapped in a universe of anti matter where his will turned anything into matter.

With the Doctor in trouble and the Time Lord home world being drained of power through a black hole, the Lords do the unthinkable. They allow the Doctor to meet his two previous incarnations, in order to treble his brain power.

Due to ill health, the first Doctor, is only seen a few times throughout the story, turning up on the TARDIS view screen, trapped inside an eddy, he offers advice and scorns, in his own inevitable way, Troughton and Pertwee, who squabble and disagree on nearly everything.

Doctors two and three, along with Jo Grant and the Brigadier, must travel to the other universe of Omega, who seeks revenge on the Time Lords for leaving him stranded and trapped.

It's the interplay, rivalry, and humour between Doctors two and three that make this a joy from start to finish. There are some great lines throughout. When Doctor one see's his counterparts he tells them, "so you are my replacements ah?, the clown and the dandy!"

The riffing between Pertwee and Troughton is wonderful, and I gather that even off camera they were arguing, as Triughton's relaxed adlib style of acting infuriated Pertwee.

This anniversary special was to set the mould for others to follow.

At the end if this story the Time Lords award the Doctor his freedom again by giving him a new dematerialisation unit. So it heralded a whole new chapter of adventures.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, a travelling showman wreaks havoc for the Doctor and Jo...

Doctor Who Rewind - The Time Monster

TOMTIT is causing all kinds of time anomalies, KRONOS is kidnapped by The Master, and someone has hit the fast forward button on Bessie's dashboard. It must be 1972, and we are watching The Time Monster.

So, Jo and the Doctor have been called to Newton Research Unit at Cambridge University on a hunch that the Master is back on Earth and up to no good. Which of course he is. On the way the Doctor engages Bessie's Super Drive mode, it's a bit of a Keystone Cops moment as the car zooms along at breakneck speed.

What they find at the Institute is time moving very slowly, plus some rather dodgy FX involving the Brigadier trying to run in slow motion, he's arrived to investigate the TOMTIT (Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time) experiments. Yes it's all very silly but highly enjoyable.

The Master is posing as Professor Thascalos (the Greek version of his name) to conduct time experiments, using a crystal trident to tap into Chronovore, a creature from outside time that feeds on time itself, who was once attracted from the vortex to ancient Atlantis. In doing so, the Doctor explains, that the whole universe could disappear up its own arse, or something similar.

The Master uses TOMTIT to transport himself to ancient Atlantis where he steals a magical Seal of Kronos that will help him control the Chronovore which attacks
Dr Percival, the director of the institute.

The Master can not control the Chronovore, a creature from outside of time which attacks time itself. Basically he's in it right up to his elbows. But as we all know the Master is anything if not persistent in his fiendish plans.

There then begins a cat and mouse battle between the Master and the Doctor, using time as the weapon, with some very strange results, the funniest of which is Seargent Benton being transformed into baby Benton.

With the Doctor being ejected out into the time vortex things don't look too good at all. But Jo is able and willing to come to his aid.

There is a fair bit gadgetry in this story, the portable time sensor is a handy device that allows its user to detect fluctuations in time, and there's TOMTIT which really does go tits up. We also get to see the Masters TARDIS (which has a fully functioning chameleon circuit).

The Chronovore when it materialises is a big white light with what looks like a white giant cockatiel flapping about inside. It's an interesting interpretation of the creature that literally snacks on time itself.

We also get to see the Doctor using his telepathic skills to reach out to Jo and get her help.

There's also a lovely quiet moment between the Doctor and Jo when he tells her a story from his youth, it's a lovely moment of reflection and wisdom that really brings out the philosophical aspect of his character.

All in all then this is a fun, thrilling time romp that has some interesting twists and turns. And a few surprises.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, we celebrate 10 glorious years of Doctor Who with a look at the 1973 anniversary special, The Three Doctors...