Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – Fury from the Deep (1968)

furyfromthedeepThe TARDIS lands in the ocean near an English shore, causing Victoria and Jamie to remark (in rather annoyed tones) that they always seem to show up in England. They find a steel pipe funneling gas mined from the ocean and a lid which the Doctor opens using his sonic screwdriver (first time!). The Doctor becomes interested in a strange heartbeat-like sound, but his investigations are interrupted when the Doctor and the companions are shot by a tranquilizer gun. Right as they wake up they find themselves inside a control center whose manager, Robson, accuses them of being saboteurs hired to tamper with an emergency release valve. Less hostile is a chief technician, Harris, who explains that they lost contact with one of their rigs and the pressure in the pipelines has been dropping. Harris gets interested when the Doctor explains he heard a strange noise indicating movement in the pipes, but Harris swears it’s impossible for marine life to get inside them. Nonetheless, Robson has the Doctor and the others detained in a cell. Victoria is able to jimmy open the lock with a hairpin and stumbles across a masked man releasing gas from the pipes. The man locks her in, where she’s seemingly attacked by foam coming in through an air vent just before the Doctor and Jamie release her. Meanwhile Harris’s wife, Maggie, is stung by seaweed while retrieving a file for her husband and becomes ill.

Robson arrogantly resists the efforts by Harris and others to slow down production, despite the mounting evidence that something is causing the pipes to be blocked. In the living quarters of the complex, two strangely acting workers, Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill, enter Maggie and Harris’s apartment claiming that they’ve come for an inspection. The men emit a gas (from their mouths, you juvenile) that causes Maggie to lose consciousness. The Doctor, who Harris brought to check on his wife, deduces that Harris was the intended victim of both the stinging seaweed. As Robson continues to lose his sanity under the crisis, the Doctor and the companions in the TARDIS run tests on the seaweed, finding that it’s capable of movement and feeds on the natural gases on the floor of the North Sea, converting them into a toxic gas. In the TARDIS library, the Doctor finds references to such creatures in the North Sea from the eighteenth century. Later the Doctor deduces that the seaweed is parasitic and can control its host. The Doctor, Victoria, and Jamie return to the Harris’s apartments to report their findings, only to be attacked by foam that fills the apartments, but they narrowly escape, which still unnerves Victoria. Less lucky is Robson, who gets some gas courtesy of Oak and Quill. When Robson disappears, Harris is forced to take charge.

The Doctor and Jamie try to investigate a shaft and rescue a worker who fell into it, but are forced to flee when they encounter the creatures and more foam. The emergency reaches such a crescendo, with more rigs falling out of contact, that Megan Jones, the director of the gas company, comes to the control center. Megan is skeptical, but Harris still tries to convince her to get the government to bomb the rigs. Robson interrupts them, shouting “We won’t allow it!”, the oddne of which erodes Megan’s doubt. After Robson rushes away, the Doctor appears and theorizes that Robson is being controlled. Jamie finds an unconscious Victoria, who identifies her attackers as Quill and Oak. A convinced Megan listens as the Doctor theorizes that the seaweed is trying to form a massive colony out of the rigs and that its ultimate goal is to invade the surface of the British Isles. The Doctor advises against involving the military and having the rigs bombed, since the rig workers might be needlessly killed and the seaweed might survive and only be spread. Instead the Doctor, seizing on the fact that Victoria saw a seaweed-controlled person, notes that the seaweed acted to avoid pure oxygen. Meanwhile Jamie pursues Oak and Quill, who have been trying to release the control center’s supply of oxygen, and fights them, with Quill getting knocked out. However, the Doctor thinks it was the sound of Victoria’s scream, not the Doctor’s punch, that took out Quill. Using an amped-up recording of Victoria screaming and the pipes themselves as a transmitter, the Doctor drives the seaweed back and a mission to strike at the seaweed’s “nerve center” is a success, despite the Doctor’s awful attempt at flying a helicopter. Robson, Maggie, and all the others controlled by the creatures are freed and unharmed. Still, exhausted by the constant fear and danger she has been subjected to, Victoria elects to stay behind with the Harrises, noting that she lost her home and family in her own time. After she and Jamie say goodbye, the TARDIS leaves while Victoria watches from the beach.

Choice Quotes

“You always seem to land on this planet!”
“And it’s always England.”

-Victoria and Jamie.  (Characters pointing out odd things in the plot is not unique to our postmodern, ironic age.  It does seem like later on and in the “new” series writers get around this by implying that there are lots of TARDIS trips that we don’t see.)

“Doctor, why is it that we always end up in trouble?”
“Why, Victoria, it’s the spice of life, my dear.”

Continuity Notes

Victoria leaves the TARDIS crew.

This is the last of the “lost episodes,” but it’s also one of the hardest hit by the BBC slashing and burning its own archives. Pretty much the only way to experience the episode is through finding a fan reconstruction online or through the BBC’s official audio play.

Comments

Okay, so “mind-controlling seaweed that spews foam” does sound intolerably goofy, but here…it works. I don’t know if it’s the black-and-white or just how the show handled it, yet it’s true. Even though this story taps into many tropes that have already become well-worn in this era of the show (highstrung authority figure who is paranoid and has a breakdown, the Doctor and the companions being suspected as the enemy at first, monsters attacking an isolated complex, any one of the survivors might be a traitor/under mind control), this serial actually has an effective, creepy atmosphere – just see any scene with the ominous Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill – with a threat that’s truly completely alien, no matter how you describe it. The Second Doctor really did have a penchant for Lovecraftian villains (even if it was largely because Lovecraftian villains, depending on what interpretation you run with, tend to be budget-friendly).

If a particularly nerdy genie offered me a wish but limited that wish to which of the lost serials I’d like to see completely restored, it would be this one – well, next to Evil of the Daleks. It’s episodes like this that help explain why the show in its humble beginnings had the reputation of giving British kids nightmares.

As for Victoria, she generally isn’t well-remembered, at least compared to Jamie and Zoe, who we’ll meet next time. She was sort of a backwards-looking heroine, in the sense that she screamed and was captured and menaced a lot, although I am convinced it was deliberate on the writers’ part – after all, she was a woman from the 19th century named “Victoria.”  It is interesting to note that she does get more of a sendoff than any past companions except arguably Susan – by which I mean, she gets a sendoff at all.

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Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear (1968)

weboffearAfter Salamander falls into the time vortex, the TARDIS is spinning out of control, but Jamie manages to reach the control panel and stabilize its movement. Elsewhen in 1970s (probably?) London an elderly Professor Travers, accompanied by his daughter Anne, a scientist living in the United States, confronts a collector named Julius.  Travers regrets bringing back the robot Yeti he found from Tibet and selling them to Julius, and angrily demands that Julius let him buy back the Yeti. Anne tries to reassure him, but Travers admits that while experimenting with one of the spheres that control the robots he reactivated it and now it went missing. Just as Julius throws Travers and Anne out of his house, the sphere appears and reactivates the Yeti, which promptly kills Julius. Back on the TARDIS, the Doctor sees that the TARDIS is suspended in outer space, literally caught in some kind of fungus. He manages to rig the TARDIS controls to escape, causing it to land in an unused tunnel in the London underground near a station for Charing Cross. While searching the tunnel for clues as to what trapped the TARDIS, Victoria and Jamie are captured by soldiers preparing to destroy the tunnel and brought to an underground bomb shelter where the Professor and Anne Travers and military officers are working together to stop the Yeti, which have taken over the subway tunnels. Meanwhile the Doctor comes across two Yeti who are guarding a pyramid like the ones from Tibet.

Victoria and Jamie are reunited with Professor Travers, and Jamie volunteers to accompany some soldiers into the tunnels. When it turns out that the explosives were sabotaged, the one journalist allowed by the British government to cover the story, Harold Chorley, accuses the Doctor and his companions of being the ones behind it. Anne is convinced, finding it odd that the Doctor was present both times Prof. Travers came across the Yeti. After overhearing the Travers’ conversation, Victoria decides to return to the tunnels to look for the Doctor herself. In the tunnels, several soldiers find out the hard way that the Yeti are bulletproof and armed with deadly guns, which disable the explosives by generating the same fungus-like substance that trapped the TARDIS and is spread throughout the tunnels.  In the shelter, the Travers observe that the fungus is rapidly expanding on its own across the tunnels. Jamie, who has set off on his own with a soldier named Evans, is trapped by the fungus.

Evans destroys the pyramid but it doesn’t stop the fungus. Victoria finds the Doctor with Colonel Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, who had been sent to take over the mission. The Brigi…I mean, the Colonel signs off on a plan to use explosives to seal the shelter away from the fungus, but it’s too late. The Doctor realizes that someone is working with the Great Intelligence, which is why he’s less than happy to learn that Victoria blurted out everything about the TARDIS to the erratically behaving Harold Chorley. Reunited with the Doctor, Jamie and the rest, while looking for Harold, instead find a distressed Anne, who has discovered that her father was taken by one of the Yeti. Learning about the TARDIS, the Colonel is not all that skeptical, but decides it is their last hope to escape the fungus and sends a squad to find it. Unfortunately, all of them except Evans and seemingly one other soldier are killed trying to cross through the fungus.  The rest of the soldiers fare no better: they go up to London to protect the Doctor as he retrieves electronic parts needed for a device Anne has created, but most of the soldiers are slaughtered by the Yeti, leaving the Colonel alone to escape back to the shelter for his life.

There’s no safe refuge for our heroes anymore, however, as the shelter is invaded by the Yeti who are being led by Prof. Travers, who has been possessed by the Great Intelligence. Cornering the Doctor and the others, the Great Intelligence declares that the whole scenario was a giant trap for the Doctor. In exchange for the Doctor’s companions’ lives, it wants to use a device to absorb all the Doctor’s knowledge. The Great Intelligence takes Victoria and drags her into the tunnels, with Jamie, the Colonel, and Evans following. The Doctor and Anne finish Anne’s invention, a remote control that can override the commands sent to one of the Yeti’s control spheres, but it only works in short range. Victoria and Prof. Travers, now free from the Great Intelligence’s possession, are led to a control room where there’s a larger pyramid where eventually they are joined by all the other survivors, all seized by the Yetis. The Doctor surrenders and everyone discovers that the Great Intelligence had taken over the corpses of one of the officers killed by the fungus, pretending that the man had barely survived. At seemingly the last minute, and despite the Doctor’s protests, Jamie uses Anne’s remote control to cause the “rogue” Yeti to break the pyramid and destroy the Great Intelligence’s corporeal body. An aggravated Doctor explains that he had crossed the wires in the pyramid, which would have let the Doctor absorb the Great Intelligence, meaning that the Great Intelligence has only been broken off from contact with Earth rather than destroyed.

Sign of the Times

Anne has this exchange with one officer:

“What’s a girl like you doing in a job like this?
Well, when I was a little girl I thought I’d be a scientist…so I became a scientist.
Just like that?
Just like that.”

Continuity Notes

This is the serial that introduces Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, better known as “the Brigadier” (although he’s not quite the Brigadier yet!), who despite not being an “official” companion is as much a beloved staple of the classic series as Sarah Jane Smith. Sadly, the actual episode where he first appears is missing, even after most of the serial’s episodes were discovered in 2013.  It’s still not the debut of UNIT, although honestly it might as well be.

Also, at the risk of invoking the series’ most notorious continuity snafu way too soon, I couldn’t help notice that if you look at the time frame this serial’s prequel, “The Abominable Snowmen”, was supposed to take place in and Prof. Travers’s claim that he hadn’t seen the Doctor in “over 40 years”, this serial can be said to take place in the early ’70s. Keep that in mind when we get to the confusion over when exactly the “UNIT years” take place…

Anne Travers actually raises a good point, even though the episode does begin with the Doctor being forced to appear in this particular time and place: why does the Doctor show up when there’s trouble? This does get answered much later in “The Doctor’s Wife,” where it’s pretty much spelled out that the TARDIS consciously at least some of the time takes the Doctor to where he’s needed.

Comments

A threat represented by foam and lit-up plastic sheets, a solemn fight sequence between British soldiers and shambling robot Yeti, people running around corridors…now this is “classic Who.”

It’s hard to judge this serial in retrospect, since it lays out so much of what would define the show in the Third Doctor era, and not just by bringing in the (soon to be) Brigadier. Even with the recovered episodes – or perhaps partially because of them – I do wonder if the presence of the Brigadier does give the serial more of a reputation than it otherwise would have. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good, and watching Nicholas Courtney as the stoic yet not stereotypically cold military man Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart alone explains why he became a mainstay for a show that runs through countless other characters as a matter of course.  But it’s telling that in a story where robotic Yeti and a foamy fungus invade the London tubes the goofiest thing is the overacting of the actor playing Evans (and I think there’s more than a little bit of anti-Welsh stereotyping there too).  It doesn’t help that it feels like he’s practically in every scene.

But for all that this is generally the sort of thing people think about when they wax nostalgic about old-school “Doctor Who.” At the very least it can give you an education on how frightening foam can be.

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Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – The Ice Warriors (1967)

theicewarriorsIn a scientific research station at a time when the Earth is experiencing another Ice Age, a team of scientists scramble to stop the encroachment of glaciers over Europe with a device called the ionizer.  The station’s manager Clent thinks Europe can be kept inhabitable, but scientist Jan Garrett and the rest believe that soon they’ll have to not only abandon the mission, but the station.  Outside a member of the team is conducting research on a glacier and discovers something frozen in the ice.  He guesses that it’s a warrior from a forgotten prehistoric civilization and another scientist dubs him “the ice warrior.”  Meanwhile the TARDIS arrives and instantly gets stuck in a snowstorm.  After getting out, the TARDIS crew sees two militantly Luddite scavengers, Storr and Penley, the latter of whom used to be a scientist working at the very same station, take food and supplies from the station. After jaunting inside the base, the Doctor impresses Clent with his useful advice about the ionizer and is asked to help make the ionizer fully functional after the Doctor passes a scientific pop quiz.

An avalanche kills a member of the research team outside and causes Storr to break his arm.  Nonetheless, the frozen body is bought in and left to melt.   The Doctor examines the body and rushes out to warn Clent that the frozen body’s supposed stone age helmet is actually an advanced space helmet.  While the Doctor is gone, the Ice Warrior comes alive, attacks Jamie, and abducts Victoria.  Holding her captive in a storage closet, Victoria learns the reptilian Ice Warrior crash landed on Earth with a crew from Mars, before the Ice Warrior interrogates her and decides to try to recover and resurrect his own crew.  The Doctor and Jamie are dismayed that Clent and Jan rely on diagnostics generated from computers, even when dealing with an emergency situation like the revival of the Ice Warrior. Also the team at the station decides to send Jamie and one of the scientists to save Victoria and learn the nature of the Ice Warriors’ spacecraft’s engine, which if hit by the ionizer could trigger a nuclear chain reaction.

The Ice Warrior forces Victoria to help him try to revive his crew with the station’s technology and knocks Clent unconscious when he tries to stop him.  The Doctor runs into Penley getting medicine from the best for Storr and unsuccessfully tries to convince him to stay and help with the ionizer, and later he learns from Clent that Penley did not just defect but had suffered a breakdown.  In the meantime, the Ice Warrior succeeds in finding and resurrecting his comrades.  Jan attempts to force Penley to return to the base to help, but is overpowered by Storr. However, Penley gives her a clue to pursue in his notes. With what Jan mines from Penley’s calculations, the Doctor is able to get the ionizer working. although the Ice Warriors’ engine is still a possible threat. Out on the glacier, the Ice Warriors kill the scientist and wound Jamie, who is rescued by Penley.

Finding their ship buried in a cave deep in the glacier, the Ice Warriors work to repair it.  While they debate over whether or not to kill or further interrogate Victoria, she escapes, but while trying to elude a pursuing Ice Warrior she gets caught in an avalanche. Meanwhile the Ice Warriors plot to invade the station and loot it for fuel, while also assuming that the ionizer is a weapon to be used to destroy them. Victoria is “saved” by Storr, who set out to try to negotiate with the Ice Warriors and drags Victoria with him. Victoria is recaptured and Storr is murdered for his trouble. Armed only with a gas he deduces would be toxic to the Ice Warriors yet harmless to humans, the Doctor heads over to the Ice Warrior ship to get information on their engine. The Doctor tries to reason with the Ice Warriors, but they refuse to cooperate, believing that even if the ionizer doesn’t cause their ship to explode the melting glacier would flood their engines, trapping them on Earth, and they take away the Doctor’s communicator, leaving Clent and Jan without enough data to make sure it’s safe to use the ionizer. Penley and a recovering Jamie return to the base, and Penley pushes Clent to use the ionizer even without the data to no avail. The anxiety over whether or not to use the ionizer is ended by an Ice Warrior invasion. Back on the ship, the Doctor knocks out the one Ice Warrior left behind with the toxic gas and adjusts the ship’s sonic canon to be (somewhat) harmless to humans before firing it on the station, which, along with Penley boosting the station’s heat, forces the Ice Warriors to retreat. The Doctor and Victoria leave the ship for the base, but not before sabotaging the canon. Penley takes control of the ionizer and fires it at the glacier, which destroys the Ice Warriors’ ship without causing a nuclear explosion. The crisis solved, the Doctor, Victoria, and Jamie slip away as green growths appear in the melting snow.

Our Future History

There’s only one vague hint about exactly when this story takes place, but based on just that humanity is due for a (man-made) Ice Age by some point in the fifth or sixth millennium.  The global warming deniers will (very, very eventually) be right!

Choice Quotes

“Regulations do not apply to me.” -The Doctor

Continuity Notes

With this episode we get another iconic enemy alien species, the Ice Warriors, who also made an appearance in the 2005 series – and it’s not until then we see them without their helmets.

Comments

Besides the first appearance of the Ice Warriors, this serial is probably best known for one of the most glaring science errors in the show’s history, which is really saying something for the franchise that still defines “soft sci-fi.” The Second Ice Age is – explicitly and at length – said by the Doctor and Clent to be caused by “a severe drop in the carbon dioxide level in the Earth’s lower atmosphere” which was caused when humanity completely replaced agricultural production with technologically generated artificial food, which (for some reason?) meant that “the amount of growing plants on this planet were reduced to an absolute minimum,” to which the Doctor notes, “No plants, no carbon dioxide.”  Caught that?   Not to brag, but even a dunce like me  who hadn’t taken a science course since my senior year of high school noted the tiny flaw that plants actually use up carbon dioxide, meaning in this scenario the planet should actually be warmer.

And, anyway, who thought it would be a good idea to wipe out most plants?  I get that the implication that humanity just gave up growing crops, but did that necessitate just shrugging and declaring, “Screw the rainforests!” and going to town on most of the planet’s wilderness?

I know that classic “Doctor Who” ditched its educational mission almost toward the beginning and tended to be written and produced on the fly, especially by modern standards, but you’d think someone along the line would have caught messing up one of the first scientific facts children are taught in school. Maybe given how much the plot hinges on the wonky science it wasn’t worth the headaches from a deep rewrite, but I can’t help but feel bad for the elementary school audience who got terribly confused when the brilliant Doctor they loved contradicted their textbook or their science teacher.

Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have harped on that but there isn’t too much else to say. It’s an average “Second Doctor in an isolated base attacked by monsters” story. The plot tries to build up to a moral about not becoming dependent on technology while not ignoring the benefits of science, but it gets muddled when the climax comes down to little more than blind luck. It’s still a fun story that doesn’t rely quite so much on padding (with the big exception of poor Victoria getting captured twice) as other serials from the show’s early eras, with a couple of great moments like the Doctor making his calculations for the ionizer by crawling around and rummaging through his own discarded, crumpled-up notes and scribbling numbers on the floor. Plus the serpentine design of the Ice Warriors is simply classic. Still, besides its contribution to continuity by introducing the Ice Warriors, it’s not essential viewing for those making a tour of the Second Doctor era.

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Doctor Who Write-Ups

Doctor Who – The Abominable Snowmen (1967)

abominablesnowmenThe TARDIS arrives in Tibet in the 1930s and for once the Doctor leaves his companions behind after they fulfill his request to find an object stored away somewhere in the TARDIS, the Ghanta Bell.  Outside the Doctor heads into a valley containing the Detsen Monastery.  He finds an abandoned camp, a destroyed rifle, and a human corpse.   Meanwhile Victoria convinces Jamie to take a walk outside, where they discover a massive footprint.  They investigate, finding a nearby cave that Jamie thinks is manmade. While they look inside the cave, they are trapped by a Yeti.  At the monastery, the Doctor hopes for a warm welcome, but instead an injured British man, the anthropologist Prof. Edward Travers, rushes up to him and tries to convince the monks that the Doctor is the man who attacked him and murdered his companion.  The monks agree to at least detain the Doctor until his innocence or guilt can be discovered.  In his cell, the Doctor is confronted by Prof. Travers, who accuses him of being a journalist who followed him to Tibet to beat him to his planned discovery, finding definitive proof that the Yeti exist deep in the Himalayas.  The Doctor tries to convince Prof. Travers that a Yeti could have attacked him, but he refuses to believe it, claiming that the Yeti are timid animals afraid of mankind.  One of the monks, Khrisong, agrees, but hypothesizes that the Doctor is somehow causing the Yeti to turn violent, since there had been other recent attacks on locals.

Jamie manages to knock some boulders on top of the Yeti.  They find that the cave also contains a pile of faintly glowing metallic spheres. Jamie grabs a sphere and he and Victoria leave the cave, just as the Yeti recovers and begins to free itself from the rubble. Back at the monastery, the Doctor interrogates one of his captors, finding out that the monastery now feels threatened by the Yeti – and that the monks still talk about the disappearance of their sacred relic, the Ghanta Bell, in 1630, which had been entrusted to a foreigner during a time of crisis for the monastery.  The Doctor hands the monk the Bell and instructs him to give it to the abbot even as Khrisong has the Doctor dragged away. Khrisong plans to tie the Doctor to the monastery’s front gate and use him as bait, to see if the Yeti are under his control and will rescue him or just try to kill him, in which case the monastery’s guards would ideally save him.  Meanwhile the monk presents the monastery’s abbot Songsten and his mysterious master, Padmasambhava, with the Ghanta Bell, leading Padmasambhava to immediately realize that the Doctor has returned after several centuries. He orders that the Doctor be released and treated like a guest, but once the monk who bought the Bell leaves a voice not like Padmasambhava’s warns Songsten that the Doctor “may seek to hinder the great plan.” Elsewhere Victoria and Jamie stumble across Prof. Travers while he’s searching for a Yeti. At first he’s hostile, but Jamie and Victoria’s sincere ignorance of the Yeti convince him that he was wrong about the Doctor, especially once Jamie agrees to lead Prof. Travers to the Yeti’s cave in exchange for taking them to the monastery. Arriving at the monastery’s front gate, Prof. Travers tries to convince Khrisong that he was wrong and to release the Doctor, but it isn’t until Khrisong hears about the return of the Ghanta Bell and Padmasambhava’s command that he’s released.  

When the Yeti attack the monastery, the Doctor convinces Khrisong to capture one of them for the Doctor to examine.  Looking at the inert Yeti, the Doctor discovers that it’s a robot. Realizing that the metal spheres Jamie stumbled across are the robot Yeti’s “brains”, the Doctor wants to look for the incapacitated robot’s sphere outside, but Khrisong refuses to let any of “the strangers” out, still suspecting one of them is secretly behind everything.  They look for the sphere Jamie recovered, unaware that it’s moving around the monastery of its own volition. The Doctor guesses that Prof. Travers took the sphere and might be behind the attacks, and manages to convince Khrisong to look outside on their behalf. Khrisong finds the sphere, but the Yeti ambush him and take it. Later Victoria, suspicious of the fact that no one but the abbot has ever been allowed to speak with or even see Padmasambhava, sneaks into the monastery’s inner sanctum, but Padmasambhava’s voice frightens her away, just as the “missing” sphere finds its way back into the Yeti.  Even though Victoria sees the Yeti come alive and warns Khrisong, the Yeti still manages to force its way out. Prof. Travers, still on his search, spies the escaped Yeti meet up with the other Yeti robots and Songsten himself. The Doctor and Jamie try to get back to the TARDIS to get something that will help, but find Yeti standing guard around it. Back in the monastery, Padmasambhava communicates with something he calls the “Great Intelligence,” pleading with it to let him rest once the experiment is done. At the same time, in the cave, Prof. Travers is horrified when he sees a pyramid resting on top of the spheres begin to generate a solid shape. 

The Doctor is able to incapacitate the Yeti guarding the TARDIS with just a rock, noting that the Yeti were made to frighten not fight people, and removes the sphere. Retrieving a tracking device from the TARDIS, he places it in the Yeti along with the sphere. Songsten secretly returns to the monastery, where Padmasambhava praises him for helping the Great Intelligence begin to obtain material form and orders that the monks abandon the monastery so that the Great Intelligence can “expand.” Jamie and the Doctor use the device to track the signal commanding the Yeti back to the monastery, where a fierce debate has erupted between Khrisong, who wants to stay and fight with the Doctor’s help, and Songsten, who insists on following orders to abandon the monastery. Songsten has the Doctor and Jamie taken to their chambers with a Prof. Travers, who never recovered from his encounter with the pyramid, while Victoria returns to see Padmasambhava. This time she sees him, an extremely aged and barely mobile man, who shows her some miniature Yeti models that he has been manipulating over a board resembling the monastery, causing the Yeti robots to attack the monastery in order to “convince” Khrisong of the error of his ways. Padmasambhava brainwashes Victoria into telling the monks with his voice to take the Ghanta Bell, leave with the strangers, and build a new monastery elsewhere. Realizing what had happened to Victoria, especially when she repeats the same message about how the Doctor needs to leave Tibet immediately, the Doctor goes to see Padmasambhava, whom he recognizes from his last visit to the monastery 300 years ago. A now weakened Padmasambhava realizes that the Great Intelligence will expand indefinitely, endangering the world, and warns the Doctor about him, but he “dies” before he can give the Doctor any details. 

As the monks prepare to migrate away, Khrisong returns to the monastery one more time to retrieve Songsten. He finds him communing with “Padmasambhava,” who has now been completely taken over by the Great Intelligence. The Intelligence forces Songsten to kill Khrisong, and the act of murder is enough to shock Padmasambhava back into consciousness, but only for a few seconds. Songsten is ordered by an again unshaken Intelligence to leave with the monks. When the Doctor and the others show up, Songsten attacks but is subdued. Most of the monks stay, but Prof. Evans convinces one monk to join him in trying to destroy the pyramid in the cave. The Doctor speaks with Songsten, who tells him that Padmasambhava built the cave and the robot Yeti to protect it over the centuries under the Intelligence’s guidance. Originally the Intelligence promised it only wanted to occupy the cave, but now it’s demanding the entire mountain to grow in. Prof. Evans finds that the glowing light has engulfed part of the mountain and is blocking the way into the cave. While the monks concentrate their prayers and meditation in order to protect their minds from the Intelligence, the Doctor engages in a telepathic tug-of-war with the force. While it’s distracted, the Doctor orders Jamie and Victoria to destroy the devices controlling the Yeti. The Intelligence is undaunted, but the Doctor tells Jamie to look for and destroy a pyramid like the one Prof. Travers discovered. When Jamie does so, the Intelligence dissipates. Padmasambhava dies, for real this time, thanking the Doctor with his last breath. Prof. Travers escorts the Doctor and the companions back to the TARDIS, where Victoria spots a real Yeti much to Prof. Travers’s delight.

Choice Quotes

Jamie:  Have you thought up some clever plan, Doctor?
The Doctor:  Yes, I really might have.
Jamie:  What are you going to do?
The Doctor:  Bang a rock at it.

Continuity Notes

Early in the episode, while looking for the Ghanta Bell, he finds a jester’s cap-like object with bells and is delighted to find it, saying that he hadn’t seen it in “many years.”  A childhood toy of Susan’s, perhaps?

The Doctor’s telepathy becomes a major plot point for the first time in a while.

So the intangible elephant in the room is that this is the first (chronological, but not canonical!) appearance of the Great Intelligence, a villain that has rather unexpectedly become a big deal again recently in the 2005 series.  Basically, the Christmas special “The Snowmen” establishes that the Great Intelligence had previously encountered the Doctor’s eleventh incarnation in 1892.  Because this story makes it clear that the Great Intelligence had been manipulating humans since about at least the 1600s, it’s assumed that either this or the Great Intelligence’s scheme in “The Snowmen” was “Plan B,” although we never do find out much about the Great Intelligence’s motives, especially why it had a penchant for winter-themed plots.  (A friend of mine does have a theory that the Great Intelligence the Doctor meets in “The Snowmen” is actually what’s left of the Intelligence after its “death” in “The Name of the Doctor”, but we’re really getting into some real timey-wimey stuff here…).

You nerds might also know the Great Intelligence by another name: Yog-Sothoth.  The quasi-, sort-of, kind-of canonical “Doctor Who” books established that the Old Ones do exist in the “Doctor Who” universe and the Great Intelligence is Yog-Sothoth. At least according to the books, this doesn’t even count as the first time the Doctor matched wits with an Old One. That would be The Web Planet where the Animus was (at least according to the books) an Old One. Nothing in the Great Intelligence’s appearances really contradict that theory, so, hey, have at it!  What is certain is that, while the Great Intelligence wasn’t the Doctor’s first recurring enemy that wasn’t an entire alien race (that would be the so-called Meddling Monk, even if his second appearance was forgettable in more ways than one), he certainly was the biggest, appearing in one more serial just a year later, “The Web of Fear”, and becoming in 1995 the antagonist of a straight-to-video “Doctor Who” movie starring a bunch of former companions and associates of the Doctor without the Doctor himself, the obscure “Downtime.”

Comments

“The Abominable Snowmen” was a really successful episode in its day, so it became the first “Doctor Who” serial that actually got a direct sequel, “The Web of Fear.” Sadly like with so many of the show’s early hits, little survives, in this case one out of six episodes. But it’s still easy enough to get a sense why this one was a hit, even though the titular Yeti are less intimidating than the Coca-Cola polar bears. It’s that, even though on the surface the plot is silly even by old-school “Doctor Who” standards, it actually gives its setting a kind of attention that we really haven’t seen since the early First Doctor era.

Something else that was unexpected is how the character of Khrisong is handled.  The thuggish jerk who through ignorance or malice ends up helping the story’s real antagonist is a trope that the classic series had by this point drawn on frequently.  Here, though, Khrisong actually feels like more than just a designated obstacle.  Sometimes he helps the protagonists, sometimes he acts against them; not because he acts inconsistently but because he has his own selfless agenda, the preservation of Detsen Monastery and the well-being of its inhabitants, that compels him to act in ways that might be unwittingly harmful yet are perfectly logical based on the knowledge he has. Something similar might be said about Prof. Travers. Sure, from the viewer’s perspective he’s a paranoid ass, but why shouldn’t the sole survivor of a vicious, unprovoked attack, who saw a companion and possibly a friend be brutally murdered, believe the worst about any stranger who shows up unexpected to an isolated locale? I’m sure bigger Who fans than I can debate the point, but this might be the first time the show actually considered the ramifications of the Doctor and his companions just popping in and getting themselves in the middle of a brewing crisis and expecting people to trust them.

And, of course, I should mention that the Great Intelligence is a fantastic villain too, easily the most original the show has had in a while.  There’s a genuine sense of mystery and dread about him, and the feeling that this time the Doctor really did take on more than he could handle. The connection to the Cthulhu Mythos isn’t quite as contrived as people might immediately assume.

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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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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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