Powerful Failure

May
22

Review of The Power of Kroll (#102)

DVD Release Date: 03 Mar 09
Original Air Date: 23 Dec 1978 - 13 Jan 1979
Doctors/Companions: Four, Romana I
Stars: Tom Baker, Mary Tamm
Preceding Story: The Androids of Tara (Four, Romana I)
Succeeding Story: The Armageddon Factor (Four, Romana I)

It's been my impression that The Key to Time as a whole is generally considered by fandom to be pretty good stuff. However, The Power of Kroll, the penultimate installment, frequently gets brought up in "worst of" conversations (and truth be told, its immediate successor The Armageddon Factor is often not far behind).

So what makes this story so dodgy? It had been long enough since I'd last seen it that my memory was pretty sparse. Vague impressions of a city-sized plant-monster and the religious fanatics who worshipped it were enough to give me pause, but I girded my metaphorical loins and pressed "Play."

Within minutes, it was clear that I'd forgotten a great deal indeed. To begin, there was John Leeson in the flesh. (As his metallic canine persona was marooned in the swamp, I can't help but wonder if his contract required him to appear in a certain number of episodes, and this is how that got fulfilled.) More importantly, there was a "Swampie" butle-ing for the colonizers in the refinery. Oh, and Kroll is meant to be some sort of giant squid, not a plant-monster (I was clearly confusing the creature itself with the vines that would contract during the ritual by which the Doctor, Romana, and gun-runner Rohm-Dutt were to be executed by stretching them on a rack).

Another key fact I'd forgotten, and somehow managed not to notice again until I started Part Four, was that this story was written by Robert Holmes. Holmes is upheld by many fans, especially those of A Certain Age, as one of—if not the—all-time greatest writer for the show. And yet, here we are. Granted, the instant I realized this was one of his scripts, a lot of things started to make more sense; Holmes never shied away from letting his personal worldview take center stage in his scripts.

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Taking Satisfaction

May
09

The Angels Take Manhattan (Series 7, Ep 5; 2012)
Viewed 16 Apr 2018

Doctor/Companion: Eleven, Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song
Stars: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston
Preceding Story: The Power of Three (Eleven, Amy, Rory)
Succeeding Story: The Snowmen (Eleven, Clara)

    This coming weekend, I get to take my daughters to their first Doctor Who con—in fact, their first con of any sort since becoming fans of the show. As you may recall, the three members of the Paternoster Gang were slated to be the guests of honor, and I was trying to figure out how to give the girls enough background to appreciate said guests.

    Since then, Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra)—the first of those guests to have been announced, as I recall—has had to cancel, and my kids have blown through so much Doctor Who that they've now seen not just one, but every extant episode in which the Paternoster Gang appears. I'm no longer worrying about their excitement for meeting these actors; now it's a matter of which Doctor do we watch next (and next, and next...).

    Not only are we watching lots of episodes together, but it's also been a ridiculously long time since the Ladies have gotten together to watch anything other than the most recent series (scheduling can be a real bear). And since a commenter suggested it might be fun to read more about what my daughters think about these new-to-them stories, I thought I'd choose a few during which to record their reactions and reboot the NuViews section of the blog in earnest.

    At the time I made that decision, we were in the middle of Series 7A. A Companion departure story seemed like a really good one to capture, so when it was time to watch The Angels Take Manhattan, I got out my clipboard and—with the girls' permission—started taking notes.

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    Four-gettable

    Apr
    25

    Review of Four to Doomsday (#117)
    DVD Release Date: 06 Jan 09
    Original Air Date: 18 - 26 Jan 1982
    Doctors/Companions: Five, Adric, Nyssa of Traken, Tegan Jovanka
    Stars: Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
    Preceding Story: Castrovalva (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
    Succeeding Story: Kinda (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)

    When I selected Four to Doomsday (4tD) to appear in my series of stories with bad reputations, I suspect I had given it more bad-credit than it deserves. Perhaps it's because on first viewing I gave the physics of the climactic "Doctor uses a cricket ball to fabulous effect" moment such serious side-eye. Mostly, though, I think 4tD simply flies too far under the radar as a middle-of-the-road installment. It is so unremarkable as to be forgettable.

    The Doctor's first attempt to return Tegan to Heathrow Airport so she can finally start her new job goes (predictably) wrong, and the TARDIS crew lands instead on some sort of spaceship. The technology present is advanced enough to delight the Doctor and Nyssa as they explore. The crew soon find three slightly ominous beings in charge of the strange vessel. They introduce themselves as Monarch, Enlightenment, and Persuasion, and inform the Doctor that they are from the now-destroyed planet Urbanka.

    Meanwhile, the TARDIS team also find several people who are obviously from Earth, including an ancient Greek philosopher named Bigon, an Australian Aboriginal man named Kurkutji, one Princess Villagra of the Maya, and an imperial Chinese official named Lin Futu. The circumstances surrounding the presence of these people and their subordinates on a ship filled with (unseen) Urbankan refugees are part of the mystery to be solved.

    This is the Era of the Crowded TARDIS, with three full-time Companions to juggle, and this script does a surprisingly good job of it. The party gets split in a number of creative twists, and in various combinations. Each Companion has a different reaction to the situation, and we get some serious sparks between Tegan and Adric.

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    Confession #120: I Love a Retrospective

    Apr
    11

    My kids had spring break last week. We spent some lovely time with family members whom we don't get to see often enough, and returned home with a couple of spare days to laze around the house. The girls and I have been making our way through modern Who together over the past few months, and before we headed out of town, had reached the end of Tennant's run. Although they were resigned to the change, they were (much like their mom at that stage) not really ready to move on.

    However, with several more days of spring break stretched out in front of us, and the Smith era just waiting there invitingly, the girls decided to dive in. They grudgingly agreed to give this not-Tennant guy a try, knowing that eventually we'd roll back around to Capaldi (remember that they started modern Who by watching Series Ten), but they weren't harboring any high hopes.

    We started on Wednesday the 4th with The Eleventh Hour (S05E01, a day late for the eighth anniversary of its first broadcast) and binge-watched nearly two full series, finishing The Girl Who Waited (S06E10) by Sunday the 8th. That's twenty-four episodes in the span of five days—a serious feat, if I do say so myself. Somewhere in the middle they reached the fourth of the five stages of the Whovian's regeneration cycle (counting "Regeneration" as the first), though I don't know that they necessarily rank Eleven as their favorite. Still, they're on board with him being the Doctor, and they adore Amy, Rory, and River. Result!

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    It's the Pits

    Mar
    28

    Review of The Creature from the Pit (#106)
    DVD Release Date: 07 Sep 10
    Original Air Date: 22 Oct - 17 Nov 1979
    Doctors/Companions: Four, Romana II
    Stars: Tom Baker, Lalla Ward
    Preceding Story: City of Death (Four, Romana II)
    Succeeding Story: Nightmare of Eden (Four, Romana II)

    Looking over my spreadsheet of Classic stories I have yet to review, I can see that I've made some progress over the last seven-plus years. However, there are still a couple of Doctors whose runs are, proportionately speaking, underrepresented. So how do I choose which stories from those eras to review in the coming months?

    I decided to go with a theme of Bad Reputations.

    It was surprisingly easy to make suitable selections. You see, a person naturally gravitates towards the stories she likes when she has a choice of which ones to talk about. After all, if you have to watch something again to refresh your memory, it's no surprise the enjoyable ones rise to the top of the list. This far into the game, then, there are going to be a fair number of clunkers left. And since Verity! podcast last week released their interview with Lalla Ward from last November's LI Who, one of the stories discussed therein—Lalla's first one on set—seemed a perfect place to start.

    The Creature from the Pit (TCftP) has a well-deserved reputation. It is, hard as it tries, a hot mess from start to finish. K-9's voice is wrong (David Brierley voiced him for this single season instead of John Leeson); the folks on Chloris, the planet where the story is set, have precious little imagination ("We call it 'the Pit'" and "We call it 'the Creature'" are among the more scintillating lines of dialog...); and the plot ranges from poorly considered to straight up non-sensical. And all that says nothing of the Creature itself.

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