Literary Corner

Trash Culture Literary Corner, Batman & Robin Chapter 1

So I have to admit, I was somewhat impressed at how this novelization of Batman & Robin started out.  Sadly, now we’re in the territory of the actual film script, and…

“A copsicle,” [Freeze] observed.

Oh no.

I mean, I know Michael Jan Friedman couldn’t just throw away the dialogue.  But it’s still a little weird seeing the words presented out of the context of the worst superhero movie ever made this side of Albert Pyun. Friedman tries to capture that ’60s Batman feel the series was deliberately aiming for – perhaps, arguably, maybe, stand on your hand and squint your eyes – and to an extent it works, sort of.

Bruce Wayne pondered the trap laid out so cleverly in front of him.

Lobster thermidor.  Wild mushroom risotto.  Juliette of gingered carrots and zucchini.  All tastefully arranged on his plate.  And beside it a perfectly chilled glass of Chateau Lafitte Rothschild ’56.

He turned to Dick Grayson, his ward, who sat around the corner from him at the long, polished dining-room table.  “Cunning,” he said.

Maybe my sympathy for Michael Jan Friendman is getting to me, but I will admit that this is a cute way to kick off the book and maybe to try to align the tone to that of the movie.  Apparently Alfred has this elaborate meal decked out to distract Bruce and Dick from their Batman and Robin duties, in this instance just working on the Bat-vehicles, but…even then, it doesn’t quite make sense.  Wouldn’t this be the type of meal Bruce Wayne would normally eat?  Unless maybe he really does have a fast food addiction…

Well, to be fair, I suppose working as a super-vigilante constantly beating up the mentally ill would cause you to burn off a lot of grease and empty calories.

Anyway, naturally dinner is put in the microwave because of the Bat-signal.  We get the usual introduction to the Batcave, with the rather dark (for this story) detail that the grandfather clock hiding the entrance to the Batcave has to be set to 10:47, the moment Bruce Wayne’s parents were shot.

We even get details about Bruce Wayne metamorphing into Batman.

Though it looked like black rubber, it was actually a suit of lightweight, flexible armor, molded to the contours to his body, including his nipples.

Admittedly, part of the above may not actually be in the book.

Unfortunately, things like this are:

Standing by his side, Robin leaned over the console and chuckled.  “It’s the gear,” he said, with just a hint of irony in his voice.  “Chicks go wild over the gear.”

It’s not as good as watching the movie.  At least with the film you can try to pinpoint the exact microsecond when Chris O’Donnell realizes his tenure as a Hollywood Golden Boy was fading out.

Oh, remember the “Alfred is dying” subplot from Batman & Robin?  Probably not, because it constituted like seven minutes of the whole movie, but luckily to pad out the book we get more of that.

Alfred himself staggered forward, barely able to support himself, and grabbed the edge of the massive computer console. His suffering went on for what seemed like forever. And he remained there, gasping for air, teeth clenched against it, until the pain at last began to subside.

My God, he thought. My God.

Still, he was glad neither Master Bruce nor Master Dick [heh heh hehehehehehehed.] had been present to see his discomfort.  Gathering himself on trembling legs, he took out a handkerchief to remove the sweat that had accumulated on his brow.

I feel like I should stop nitpicking even though nitpicking is the bread and butter of blogs like these.  That said…given that Alfred was putting away a meticulously prepared meal that his only real family ditched when he had his spell, this really does make Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson look like assholes.

Besides stretching out a few subplots, the biggest recourse available to authors of novelizations is giving backstories to bit characters.  In this case, we have the adventures of Clayton Krupzic, the security guard on duty at the Gotham Museum when it gets attacked by Mr. Freeze and his men.  He was a tough farm boy who came to Gotham to work as a cop, but couldn’t get a job because of police department budget cuts (although you’d imagine they would have a high turnover rate given all the cops killed by supervillains).

Like with so many ultra-minor characters who get the backstory treatment in adaptations, he’s not around long.

“Please,” he begged Mr. Freeze.  “Have mercy…”

The figure in the silver suit descended slowly, majestically. He was shimmering, terrifying.  And he seemed to like the idea.

“I’m afraid,” he said, peering into Clayton’s eyes, “that my condition has left me cold to your pleas.”

To be fair, the I get that the whole point of “Clayton Krupzic” is to show that even a  bruiser aspiring to be a cop in Gotham City of all places would be terrified of Mr. Freeze, but I find that somewhat less believable than the whole concept of a walking, talking cryogenically frozen man armed with a freeze ray.

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Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967)

tombofthecybermenA group of archaeologists from Earth are trying to find an entrance into a Cybermen city on the planet Telos.  The Doctor, Victoria, and Jamie show up just after one member of the expedition is electrocuted to death while trying to open a gate. Klieg, who is funding the archaeologists, guesses that the Doctor is leading a rival expedition, which the Doctor doesn’t really deny. Klieg and his colleague Kaftan are apparently eager to keep the credit for themselves, since the Cybermen were wiped out five hundred years ago after a war with the human race and few traces are left.  Still, Professor Parry, the leader of the expedition, convinces the team to accept the Doctor’s help.  Afterward the Doctor leads everyone safely inside and discovers that the city has sections that have to be opened by solving logic puzzles.  Since apparently the horror genre doesn’t exist in the distant future, the archaeologists decide to split up. Victoria and Kaftan discover the device the Cybermen used to rejuvenate themselves.  Jamie sees an inert insect-like robot, the Cybermat, on the floor.

Elsewhere, the Doctor warns Klieg not to reactive the city’s main power source – but can’t help but assist Klieg in solving the binary sequence needed to do so.  Parry and Klieg find that, even with the power restored, one door in the control room remains sealed. Parry hypothesizes that behind it is the rumored “tomb of the Cybermen” where their records are kept. Victoria gets trapped in the rejuvenation device and Kaftan sadistically experiments with the control panel while Victoria is still inside, until the Doctor stops her and figures out how to free Victoria.  The archaeologist accompanying Jamie is accidentally killed when they trigger a weapon testing room.  After this last death, Parry decides to leave, despite the objections of Klieg, but they learn that their ship has been sabotaged and can only be repaired in 72 hours. Meanwhile the archaeologists complete the sequence that opens the last door, which leads to a sub-zero chamber containing the Cybermen’s tomb.  Kaftan stays behind and the Doctor, suspecting that she and her burly servant Toberman had something to do with the ship’s sabotage, asks Victoria to watch her. Unfortunately, Kaftan drugs Victoria’s coffee and, once she’s unconscious, seals the door. Pretending that he’s trying to open the door, Klieg enters a sequence at a control panel that begins to revive the Cybermen.  An archaeologist tries to reverse the process, but Klieg shoots him to death and reactivates the panel. Klieg explains to Parry that he represents the Brotherhood of Logicians, a society of intellectuals who hope to obtain the technological secrets of the Cybermen in exchange for resurrecting them.  Victoria awakens and tries to open the door.  However, Kaftan takes her hostage with a gun. When the Cybermat attacks and knocks out Kaftan, Victoria grabs her gun and destroys the Cybermat.

The revived Cybermen grimly walk past the archaeologists and the Doctor to open a chamber containing their leader, the Cyber Controller.  Klieg talks to the Cyber Controller and tries to negotiate a deal, who only replies, “You belong to us. You shall be like us.”  The Cyber Controller reveals that the city was designed to attract and only be accessible to logical minds, the sort the Cybermen would want to “recruit” to restore their species. The Cyber Controller recognizes the Doctor as the one “responsible” for the destruction of Mondas, but still admires his intelligence.  However, the Controller “nominates” Klieg to be converted and made into their new leader, promising, “You have fear.  We will eliminate fear from your brain.” The Controller announces that the rest will be frozen in the tomb for future use. Despite the efforts of a revived Kaftan, Victoria and the ship’s pilot open the hatch. The pilot uses a smoke bomb to help the archaeologists, the Doctor, and Jamie escape from the tomb, although Toberman is ultimately captured. Trapped in the tomb, the Cybermen send Cybermats into the upper chambers, while the others decide to imprison Klieg and Kaftan in an isolated chamber.

The Doctor comforts Victoria, who is still missing her father, but soon after the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria are interrupted by the Cybermats.  The Doctor destroys them by electrifying the floor, but a bigger threat is just around the corner:  Klieg and Kaftan armed with Cybermen weaponry that they discovered.  Klieg hopes to use the weapons to force the Cyber Controller into compliance and locks the Doctor and the others outside the main control room after taking Victoria prisoner.  However, the Cyber Controller and a partially converted Toberman turn the tables, attacking Klieg and killing Kaftan. Yet the death of Kaftan at the hands of the Cyber Controller shakes Toberman from his brainwashing, and he attacks and seemingly destroys the Controller. The Doctor enlists Toberman into helping him freeze the tomb again, but Klieg appears. In a scuffle between the Cybermen and the Doctor, Jamie, and Toberman, Klieg is killed by a Cyberman and the Doctor and Toberman succeed in putting the Cybermen back into deep freeze.  The Doctor scrambles the logic puzzle that opened the entrance to the tomb and electrifies all the entrances. When the Controller appears to have lived and tries to escape the city, Toberman willingly electrocutes himself to death to seal the main gate.  As the Doctor, Victoria, and Jamie leave for the TARDIS, a sole Cybermat crawls across the surface of Telos.

Choice Quotes

The Doctor:  The power cable generated an electrical field and confused their tiny metal minds!  You might almost say that they had a complete metal breakdown.
Jamie:  *groan*
The Doctor:  I’m so sorry, Jamie.

The Doctor: No, Jamie. Don’t you see? Don’t you see what this is going to mean to all the people who come to serve Klieg  the All-Powerful? Why, no country, no person, would dare to have a single thought that was not your own! Eric Klieg’s own conception of the…of the way of life!
Klieg: Brilliant! Yes! Yes, you’re right! Master of the world!
The Doctor: Well, now I know you’re mad. I just wanted to make sure.

Continuity Notes

After the footage of this serial was rediscovered in 1991, this is now the first Second Doctor serial that survives in its complete form.

The Doctor tells Victoria he invented the TARDIS.  Of course, I’m sure this is just because the writers hadn’t thought that far ahead, but you could just say he’s lying to impress Victoria.

The Doctor tells his age for the first time after lots of vague hints that he’s very old indeed:  “Well, if we counted in Earth terms, I suppose I must be 400…yes, 450 years old.”

One of the archaeologists identifies Telos as the Cybermen’s “home,” instead of Mondas.   However, the much later serial, Attack of the Cybermen, which is a sequel of sorts to this serial, explains that Telos was just the Cybermen’s last major base of operations in their war against Earth.  Also Attack of the Cybermen makes it clear that Telos is the name of the planet, not just the city.

While on the subject of Cybermen, we get to see the first Cybermats and the first Cyber Controller.

Comments

Right after the not so permanent departure of the Daleks in Evil of the Dalekswe get an episode designed to have the Cybermen take the Daleks’ place as the Doctor’s number one threat.  That said, first I should address the politically incorrect elephant in the room:  Toberman.  A tough, silent, and intellectually backward black man is an uncomfortable sight, even if you don’t know the history of the pulp archetype of the “exotic” muscular henchman.  Now it is true that the script called for Toberman to be deaf, which may help excuse some of the parts of his character, but even if you are not the type of person to take offense at these things, it does cast a bit of a damper on the proceedings.

That said, this serial is remembered as a classic, a reputation that might have been amplified undeservedly by its once “lost” status. However, I won’t dispute its reputation too much.  But ironically once the Cybermen actually show up the story trips up a bit, losing much of the sense of menace and claustrophobia that began with the archaeologists going into the city.  The best “classic” Who is built on high-concept, irrepressible ideas that transcend the low budgets, but while this one has on the face of it a very workable premise it seems to actually skirt going in interesting directions – like making the all too human megalomaniac Klieg a Cyber Controller.  Its biggest legacy probably is that it introduces the idea of the Cybermen being able to in the most literal way “convert” people to their cause, but even that concept is barely used in the story itself, with Toberman shaking off their mind control after just half an episode.

Also it’s not as good as Evil of the Daleks…but what is?

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Ages of Golden Girls

Ages of Golden Girls: Season 1, “Guess Who’s Coming to the Wedding?”

What can I write that will give appropriate reverence to Herb Edelman and his alter-ego Stan Zbornak?

goldengirlsstan

For starters, Stan is easily one of the more memorable recurring characters in any sitcom.  As popular as he was, and clearly the writers made space for him in future episodes, I do think he got a little too cartoonish.  True, part of that is the trajectory of any American sitcom which seem universally to get loose from any anchor of realism it had, however much of a paperweight as it was to begin with, but Stan later on really became a caricature of the mid-life-crisis-suffering male.   It’s really to Herb Edelman’s credit that, no matter how unhinged the character got, he was still fundamentally sympathetic, in spite of all of Dorothy’s razor (yet completely justified!) barbs.

This episode’s entire plot is pretty minimalist in a “that Chinese restaurant episode form Seinfeld” kind of way.  Dorothy and Stan’s daughter Kate is getting married – to a doctor, no less (setting up one of this episode’s best gags, when Dorothy and Sophia expose their disappointment that the groom is a foot doctor) – and Dorothy convinces her to hold the wedding reception at Blanche’s house. What is it with sitcoms having weddings or at least receptions in people’s private homes?  I mean, I get that it’s to save the expense and trouble of offering up a whole other set, but at least do more to explain why.  At least when Marcy was getting married in Married With Children the wedding and reception was held at the Bundys’ house because the Bundys were running a con on poor Marcy.  Where was I?  Oh, right;  anyway, the whole plot is driven by the fact that Dorothy is still furious with Stan divorcing her for a young stewardess named Krissie.

Here Stan is still something of an actual person you might run into at a tropical liquors bar ogling the sorority girls.  Also it’s a surprisingly realistic touch that what really hurts  Dorothy isn’t so much what Stan did, but the fact that she learned about Stan’s plans for a divorce through a phone call from his lawyer.  This sets up the finale, where Dorothy gives a monologue on exactly why this one act pained her more than the divorce itself.   It’s slightly undercut by the fact that you can see a camera, but this is the price we pay for living in the age of DVD and HD.

goldengirlscamera

Of course, Bea Arthur totally sells the monologue, and it gives the Dorothy-Stan relationship a depth that really gets lost in later seasons when Stan devolves into a bald man-child.  It’s also a bit jarring, at least by modern standards.  It’s a type of dialogue you don’t really see in sitcoms anymore and is more of a relic of a time when theatrical tropes still held more of a sway over television than they do now.

But that’s not to say this episode doesn’t have some great gags.  The pilot had more rapid fire jokes, but at least this episode shows it’s not afraid to poke fun at Bea Arthur’s “manliness” via Dorothy, who at Blanche’s invitation takes out her stress by “gently” squeezing Blanche’s hand…

goldengirlsstan2

And then we close with Dorothy clutching a memento of the first of many unwanted visits by Stan the man.

goldengirlstoupee

Golden Quotes

You’ll be fine.  Won’t you, Dorothy?
Not until I taste his blood!

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Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – Evil of the Daleks (1967)

evilofthedaleksThe Doctor and Jamie spot a truck taking the TARDIS away from Gatwick Airport, but they can’t catch up to it.  They interrogate an airport maintenance worker, Bob, who only gives them fake information and raises the Doctor’s suspicions.  They follow Bob from the airport in a taxi, unaware that they’re being observed from a distance by another man, Kennedy, who knows who the Doctor is. Bob unknowingly leads the Doctor and Jamie to a warehouse, where they discover a barely conscious Bob who has been attacked by Kennedy and find out that Bob had been bribed to help steal the TARDIS.  Bob recovers and escapes, but they find Kennedy’s matchbox which the Doctor uses as a clue – which was exactly the intention of Kennedy, who is following orders from Edward Waterfield, an antiques dealer who specializes in nineteenth century clocks.  At a club the matchbox led the Doctor to, Jamie and the Doctor are met by Mr. Perry, another agent of Edward Waterfield, who believes that the Doctor is an antiques dealer that Edward had approached.  Perry invites the Doctor to later come to Edward’s business.  Meanwhile Kennedy tries to rob Edward, but while looking for a safe he stumbles across a hidden room with a large futuristic device.  When Kennedy activates the device, a Dalek is teleported in and kills Kennedy when he tries to escape.

The Doctor and Jamie sneak into Edward’s house/store and the Doctor observes that the “antiques” are brand new yet authentic. At the same time, a horrified Edward  discovers Kennedy’s corpse and berates a (naturally indifferent) Dalek in the teleporter room.  When the Dalek teleports away, Edward mumbles that he can’t go on with this.  Inside, the Doctor and Jamie find Kennedy’s corpse clutching half of a photograph of the Doctor, along with the teleporter room.  Inside, the other half of the photograph is stuck in a treasure box, which Jamie impulsively opens, releasing sleeping gas.  The Doctor wakes up in a country estate outside Canterbury in June 2, 1866.  There he meets Edward Waterfield and Theodore Maxtible, who tell the Doctor that “they” have abducted Edward’s daughter, Victoria.  Theodore takes the Doctor to their laboratory, where he and Edward explain that they researched time travel and their experiments caused “creatures” to appear.  Edward confesses that “they” told him about the Doctor and ordered him to set up a trap to lure him into 1866 or else they would murder his daughter.  In the middle of the explanation, a Dalek bursts into the laboratory and threatens to destroy the TARDIS and kill Jamie unless the Doctor helps in their experiments.  When the Dalek leaves, Theodore explains that the Daleks are curious about the traits inherent to humanity that has enabled them to resist the Daleks and somehow transfer those characteristics into the Daleks themselves.

Jamie, whom the Daleks plan to use in their experiments on humanity, is abducted by a thug named Toby and brought before a gentleman, Arthur Terrell, a veteran of the Crimean War and the fiancee of Theodore’s daughter, Ruth.  Arthur demands to know what happened to Victoria Waterfield, but then suddenly claims that Victoria is in Paris and denies that he hired Toby to grab him. The Doctor finds Jamie and brings him back, but Jamie refuses to participate in the experiments – which the Doctor was counting on, and he “adds fuel to the fire” by “forbidding” Jamie to try to rescue Victoria.  As Jamie acts, the Daleks are monitoring Jamie’s thoughts and emotions to help them find “the human factor.”   Meanwhile Arthur and Toby argue over Toby’s payment for kidnapping Jamie, leading to Toby knocking out Arthur and taking some keys to the manor, but instead of valuables Toby just finds death via a Dalek laser. While looking for Victoria, Jamie encounters and fights a mute Turkish strongman hired by Theodore, Kemel. During the fight the strongman nearly falls to his death, but Jamie rescues him.  In return the strongman saves Jamie from a lethal trap and helps him elude further traps while searching for Victoria.  Watching Jamie’s adventure alongside the Daleks, the Doctor argues to them that the experience between Jamie and the strongman demonstrates that the human factor must include mercy.  Back in Theodore’s lab, he begs a Dalek to give him what they promised, teaching him one of their secrets.  After roughing him up a bit and barking at him to always obey, the Dalek ominously promises that, out of all the Daleks’ secrets, Theodore will “learn the most important.”  Hearing a little of Theodore’s confrontation with the Dalek, his daughter Ruth comes down to talk to him about her concerns over Arthur’s abrasive behavior.  Theodore only tells her that he’s on the verge of unraveling the greatest secret of alchemy, turning base metals into gold.

Kemel and Jamie manage to destroy the Dalek guarding Victoria and reach the room she is kept in.  In the other part of the mansion, the Doctor talks with Arthur and points out that he’s never seen Arthur eat or drink and that he seems to be generating some kind of magnetism.  Arthur tries – badly – to dismiss the Doctor’s observations.  Later the experiment is over and the Daleks have recorded Jamie’s thought patterns from his adventure, which the Doctor is ordered to implant in three Dalek brains.  The Doctor hopes that being exposed to human emotions will drive the Daleks insane, but an increasingly unbalanced Edward is convinced that the experiment will make the Daleks invincible.  Victoria is recaptured by Arthur, who after secreting Victoria away attacks Jamie with a sword.  After a duel, Arthur is overwhelmed by a signal affecting his mind.  The Doctor urges Arthur and Ruth to get far away from the manor.  Kemel finds an unconscious Victoria in Theodore’s laboratory, but a Dalek catches him and forces him to carry Victoria into the cabinet they first entered into Victorian London from.  Elsewhere Jamie and the Doctor argue, with a disgusted Jamie accusing the Doctor of “playing a game” by letting the Daleks experiment on him and by being callous toward the human lives that have been taken by the Daleks.  The argument is interrupted when the “humanized” Daleks  awake and playfully give the Doctor a ride around the lab and pretend to be trains.  The Doctor uses Jamie to teach the new Daleks about the concept of friendship and gives them the names of Alpha, Beta, and Omega.  Before the Doctor can work with them further, Alpha, Beta, and Omega receive a signal to go to Skarro.  The Doctor guesses that Victoria was also taken to Skarro.

Later Edward overhears Theodore talking to a Dalek about transmuting metal into gold.  After the Dalek is gone, Edward confronts Theodore and demands that he tell him where Victoria is.  Theodore knocks out Edward.  The Dalek returns, admitting casually to Theodore that they’ve left behind an explosive to destroy the entire manor.  While Theodore flees through the Daleks’ portal to Skarro, the Doctor and Jamie find a barely recovered Edward, who overheard the Dalek about the explosive.  Unable to deactivate the explosive, the Doctor uses the Daleks’ equipment to follow Theodore to Skarro.  On Skarro, Kemel and Victoria are kept in a cell, while the Daleks take Theodore away.  Nearby on the surface of Skarro the Doctor leads Jamie and Edward into the Daleks’ underground city.  An angry Theodore yells at a Dalek for destroying his house and asking what right they had, to which the Dalek only mockingly parrots, “Right?  Right?”  On a narrow precipice leading into the city the Doctor encounters a Dalek claiming to be Omega, but quickly learns that the mark was forged and shoves the Dalek over the edge.  Nonetheless, they are eventually captured and led to a room where a giant Dalek hooked into the city’s own mainframe, the Emperor Dalek, rests.  Triumphantly the Doctor tells the Emperor that the humanized Daleks will eventually convince other Daleks “to question,” leading to a widespread rebellion.  The Emperor counters by explaining that the real purpose of the experiment was to determine the Dalek factor, which the Emperor plans to force the Doctor to spread to Earth.

The Doctor and the humans are all placed in a cell.  Edward tries to get Theodore to use his apparent leverage with the Daleks to help them escape, but he refuses.  Instead he finally gets his “reward,” a machine that is supposed to turn lead into gold, but instead only introduces the Dalek factor into Theodore’s mind.  Later the Dalekized Theodore returns to the cell, claiming that he has removed the TARDIS from the city, but it’s a trap to expose the Doctor himself to the Dalek factor.  The Doctor pretends to go along with Theodore’s orders, but once he’s able he tampers with the machine designed to expose humans to the Dalek factor. Later the Doctor learns that Alpha, Beta, and Omega have been questioning orders and, still pretending to be Dalekized, he suggests to the Emperor that all Daleks in case of “exposure” be exposed to the Dalek factor.  The Doctor’s plan works, and it isn’t long before fighting breaks out between the “original” Daleks and the humanized ones, with the Emperor ordering the elimination of all Daleks exposed to the human factor.  Running around the city, the Doctor urges the humanized Daleks to always question and to destroy the Emperor in self-defense.  In the chaos, Edward is shot and before he dies urges the Doctor to protect Victoria.  Despite the Emperor’s protests that their actions will cause the Dalek race to die out, a squad of humanized Daleks destroy him.  Theodore, overwhelmed by the Dalek collective’s kill command, murders Kemel.  The city burns while Theodore rants, “The Daleks will live and reign forever!” before he is pushed into an abyss by Jamie.  Overlooking the ruins of the Daleks’ city, the Doctor grimly pronounces that this is the “final end” of the Daleks.

Continuity Notes

Believe it or not, this really was meant to be the final Doctor Who series with the Daleks.  Because of how the BBC handled creators’ rights at the time, the Daleks’ creator, Terry Nation, still had rights over them.  Since they were such a breakout success, he tried to get an American network to launch a full Dalek series.  These plans never panned out, but it would be five years until the Daleks would reappear in Doctor Who.  Of course, given the timey-wimey nature of the whole series, maybe this is still how the Daleks meet their “final end.”

A new companion first appears and joins the TARDIS crew, Victoria, who like Jamie is from a time not contemporary to the viewing audience.  (Originally Suzanne from the last serial was meant to replace Ben and Polly, but the actress portraying her turned down the offer, although she would much later appear as Queen Victoria in the “new” series episode “Tooth and Claw.”)

We do get one more first with the Daleks just before the “end,” the first appearance of a Dalek Emperor.

When talking about his time travel research, Theodore refers to being inspired by two huge discoveries in British science, J.C. Maxwell’s equations on electromagnetics and Michael Faraday’s work on electrochemistry.

The Daleks recognize the Doctor as “more than human,” but not an alien, although later in the serial the Doctor muses on the possibility of returning to his homeplanet with Victoria, Jamie, and the others if the Daleks do manage to introduce the Dalek factor to humans in the past.  Apparently the Daleks don’t realize the Doctor is an alien and haven’t (yet) heard of the Time Lords – or have lost that knowledge, if the “this is still the last Dalek story” theory is upheld.

The Doctor casually mentions that he personally saw the charge of the Light Brigade.

Finally, this is arguably the first time, or at least the first time since the very beginning of the series, that the Doctor is hinted at having a cold, manipulative bearing, or even a sense of morality that doesn’t exactly align with human sensibilities at all times. This will prove to be a major part of the Doctor’s character, although of course with some incarnations and stories more than others.

Choice Quotes

The Doctor:  Do I look strange or bizarre?
Jamie:  Well, maybe I’m used to you.
The Doctor:  That’s some comfort.

Edward:  You destroyed a human life!  Don’t you understand that?
Dalek:  That is of no consequence.
Edward:  No consequence?!
Dalek:  There is only one form of life that matters:  Dalek life!

Jamie: Anyone would think that this is a little game.
The Doctor: No, it is not a game.
Jamie: Of course it isn’t, Doctor. People have died. The Daleks are all over the place, fit to murder the lot of us, and all you can say is that you’ve had a good night’s work!
The Doctor: Jamie…
Jamie: No, Doctor! Look, I’m telling you this, you and me, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board, anything at all.
The Doctor: I care about life. I care about human beings. Do you think I let you go through that Dalek test lightly?
Jamie: I don’t know. Did you? Look Doctor, just whose side are you on?

Comments

Like so many early “Doctor Who” series, this one could stand to have some trimming.  The subplot with Arthur, Ruth, Toby, and Mollie, Theodore’s maid, really has no bearing on the story at all aside from lengthening the run time, and the sequence with Jamie and Kemel dodging traps runs a bit too long.  All that said…I love this.  I’m tempted to go ahead and declare this the best Daleks story ever, but we still have yet to get to “Genesis of the Daleks.”  Sadly this is one of the most tragic victims of the BBC’s “slash and burn the archives” policy, with only one episode coming out unscathed, and it especially hurts because of the fact that this serial does try to be more action-y than most Doctor Who serials of the time (plus I’m sure there’s some patriotic pleasure to be had in seeing Jamie in a sword duel with an uptight, rude Englishman).  Still, the quality of the story manages to survive, and it certainly does have the strongest writing I’ve seen in classic Who for several seasons.  There’s some moral ambiguity cast around the Doctor’s actions and his willingness to expose his companions to mortal danger, the brutal totalitarianism inherent to the Daleks’ mentality is conveyed flawlessly, and…well, there’s a reason why the “Choice Quotes” section finally came back for this serial. Then there’s the finale, with lots of Daleks utterly getting wrecked in a civil war, which has to go down as one of the most iconic scenes in sci-fi history.

Twenty-first century viewers might be put off by (the aptly named) Victoria and her helpless maiden hostage act, and I can see why.  However, if you see her as a nineteenth century woman, and a homage to Victorian novel heroines, her depiction does make more sense, and contributes to the sense of this serial as a bizarre but completely functional hodgepodge of sci-fi and Gothic fiction tropes, only this time with the menacing foreign man (er, Kemel, not Jamie) as the story’s greatest hero.

If you don’t mind the long running time and having to watch six of the episodes via a reconstruction, give it a watch.  I mean, if you’re not the sort of person who would want to see a serial that culminates with exploding, screaming Daleks, why are you reading this blog at all?

Victoria

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Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones (1967)

facelessone

The TARDIS lands right on an airstrip in Gatwick Airport. Finding an airplane – or a “flying beastie” as Jamie calls it – landing near them and catching the unwanted attention of airport security, the TARDIS crew scatters and flees.  Polly hides in a hangar for an outfit called “Chameleon Tours” where she witnesses a pilot kill a police detective with some kind of ray gun.  Detected, she narrowly escapes, but the pilot tells his superior, Captain Blade, about her, as well as explaining that the detective had to be killed because he found out about the “postcards.”  Polly finds Jamie and the Doctor and brings them to the hangar, where the Doctor finds that the body showed signs of being electrocuted.  The Doctor decides to try to go to the authorities, but on the way Polly is captured without him or Jamie noticing.

After struggling with airport bureaucracy, the Doctor barges in on the airport commandant, who has just ordered that the TARDIS be removed.  The Doctor barely manages to talk the commandant into going into the hangar, but the detective’s body had been removed.  Worse, when the Doctor, Jamie, and the commandant see Polly in the airport, she claims to not know them and to actually be a Swiss citizen migrating to the UK on a work permit, specifically in order to work at Chameleon Tours’ kiosk.  The commandant tries to have the Doctor arrested, but he escapes by tricking everyone into thinking a rubber ball is an explosive device.  Meanwhile Jamie meets Samantha, who is investigating the disappearance of her brother sometime during a Chameleon Tours trip to Rome.  With Jamie’s help, Samantha finds out that Chameleon Tours has been giving participants on their tours, who are all young people, prestamped postcards that they are also asked to fill out before arrival.  The Doctor and the others find each other and begin working with Detective Crossland, who is investigating the disappearance of the murdered detective.  With both Crossland’s help and by acquiring one of the chameleons’ weapons, the Doctor finally (somewhat) convinces the commandant.

However, they don’t have Crossland’s help for long.  He infiltrates the next Chameleon Tours plane only to be captured and forced to watch while all the passengers are miniaturized, to be taken to the chameleons’ spaceship in orbit above the Earth.  One more flight is planned for Chameleon Tours, and Jamie boards by stealing a ticket Samantha had purchased (which he does by seducing her, because who can resist a Scotsman?).  A trip to the bathroom, however, saves Jamie from the fate of his fellow passengers, but once the plane arrives on the ship he’s captured.  At the same time, the Doctor exposes a chameleon among the commandant’s staff, and forces him to reveal that the chameleons have been using the airport’s medical facilities to transform themselves after captured humans and that the chameleons have hidden the frozen bodies of 50,000 young people somewhere on the airport grounds, because a catastrophe on the chameleons’ own planet have caused them to lose their physical characteristics.  Using communications between the ship and the commandant’s office, the Doctor and the commandant try to bluff the ship into thinking they already found the bodies of the humans that had been copied until they manage to find them in a parking garage, which gives the humans the power to disintergrate any of the copied chameleons by tampering with the device that links each individual chameleon with the victim they copied.  Pretending to be a copy himself, the Doctor takes a flight into the spaceship where he’s brought before the aliens’ director, a copy of Crossland. The Doctor negotiates, offering to give some advice to the chameleon scientists to find an alternate means to restore their species if they completely free their human victims.  In a small coup, Blade kills the director and accepts the Doctor’s help.  Now restored and freed, Ben and Polly learn that the day is July 20, 1966, the very day they first met the Doctor. Reluctantly they decide to stay, leaving the Doctor and Jamie to find the TARDIS, which is missing.

Continuity Notes

Not only do we see two companions leave with the departures of Ben and Polly, but it’s the severing of the last link to the First Doctor era.  Even the original opening is gone.

The story takes place on July 20, 1966, probably the Doctor’s (Doctors’?) busiest day ever.  At about the same time the adventure against the chameleons unfolds, the First Doctor is combating the evil AI, WOTAN, and, right after this serial, “Evil of the Daleks” takes place.

Sign of the Times

All the people boarding planes are dressed up, with most of the men wearing hats.

Comments

Well, this one was a slog to get through, and it doesn’t help my mood that half my original write-up for this episode got lost in the digital void.  One could have cut half the episodes and the whole serial would have still been thick with near escapes by the heroes and continued exposition on the chameleons long after the audience figured out what this week’s menace was to just pad things out. And I thought “The Moonbase” was supposed to be the boring one.

I know plot holes really aren’t foreign to ’60s Doctor Who, to put it nicely, but “The Faceless Ones” breaches Ed Wood territory. What the hell kind of planetary disaster would cause an alien race to lose their faces?  How do you hide 50,000 bodies in an airport, no matter how massive it may be? Wouldn’t someone have noticed all the unconscious people in cars, sooner or later, so why if they had this miniaturization technology didn’t they take them to the ship or at least stick them in a sock drawer somewhere?  At least the uncloned chameleons do look grotesque and menacing, but their motive is so convoluted and nonsensical it completely undercuts them as villains.  It doesn’t help that the story rarely uses the potential that should be obvious with a race of shapeshifters;  really, even though the premise of this serial is tailormade for it, “The Macra Terror” did a much better job of invoking a sense of paranoia.

Also it’s unfortunate that Ben and Polly are left out of about 70% of the story.   It is true that, since he was introduced, Jamie had better chemistry with the Second Doctor than Ben and Polly (which is understandable, since Patrick Troughton and Jamie’s portrayer, Frazer Hines, were close friends off-camera).    I also understand that most likely for production reasons they had to film Ben and Polly’s departure early and leave them out of the bulk of the filming, but it still feels rushed, especially since it probably wouldn’t have been too difficult to have them learn of the date sooner and have more of them struggling with the decision to leave.  Still, at least it was more than what poor Dodo got.

goodbyebenandpolly

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