A Beautiful, Um, Friendship?


Review of Terror of the Autons (#55)

DVD Release Date: 10 May 11
Original Air Date: 02 - 23 Jan 1971
Doctor/Companion:   Three, Jo Grant, with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, with Nicholas Courtney
Preceding StoryInferno (Three, Liz Shaw, the Brigadier)
Succeeding StoryThe Mind of Evil (Three, Jo, the Brigadier)

How can you not love stories that you know in retrospect to be The Start of Something?  At the beginning of Three's second season, having been stranded on Earth sidekicking for UNIT for a year now, the Doctor needs a new "assistant" - and a new challenge.  Enter three new regulars:  Jo Grant, Capt. Mike Yates, and the Master.  I wonder if anyone at the time had any idea how big an impact their new villain would have...

This story is full of win. Not only do we get the aforementioned introductions (including the Master's hypnotic control of others, and his Tissue Compression Eliminator), but we get some key "rare appearances," too. For example, we have only seen another Time Lord or another TARDIS a couple of times before (in The Time Meddler and The War Games), and the Autons last appeared in Three's first adventure (Spearhead from Space). There's also lots more of the same things we've already come to love (e.g., the Brigadier and the Doctor snarking at each other with some glee).


It's Just Gunge


Review of The Rebel Flesh
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Derivative much?  It's been a long time since I saw a story so predictable; I knew the major plot points by the time last week's trailer was over.  Great:  some sort of it-could-be-human-except-it's-not-alive technology becomes self-aware and gets in a fight for its life with "real" humans.  ~yawn~

Not only does this echo countless science fiction/horror classics from Frankenstein to Blade Runner to Who's own Robots of Death (fear of the nearly-us-but-clearly-Other is deep-seated), the story is a ripoff of other, newer Who stories.  There are obvious parallels with stories as recent as The Waters of Mars and The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, not to mention smatterings of The Doctor's Daughter, The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit and just about every Auton or base-under-siege story ever made. And did anyone not see the "cliffhanger" coming from the instant the Doctor first touched the Flesh?  If that had been any more heavily telegraphed, viewers would've had to set up little cable offices in their living rooms (or wherever they watch their Who) to take the messages down.


Sexy Is As Sexy Does


Review of The Doctor's Wife
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Oh, me of little faith.

Even knowing Neil Gaiman's work both by reputation and by example (e.g., the rather dark novel American Gods), I still doubted the likely quality of the episode he had written once I learned some of the details.   Specifically, when the news of Episode 4's title came out, I groaned inwardly.  OK, sure, I was 99.9999% certain it was a red herring - nothing "new" and "notable" would be learned about the Doctor's personal history, and there was going to be some tricky way in which there was and yet wasn't an actual wife (spot on there) - but just the suggestion was enough to turn my stomach, especially since I knew there were going to be fans out there somewhere saying, "I knew it! Here's where we learn about River!"

And then there was the Ood.  Now don't get me wrong - the Ood are an interesting enough race, and they certainly have their place (I happen to believe that place is firmly in the RTD era...).  Regardless, the sight of an Ood at the end of last week's trailer was enough to reduce my appetite for this episode by about an order of magnitude.  Thank goodness all of that was totally irrelevant.


In the Manner of a Sorbet...


Review of The Curse of the Black Spot
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I have to admit, I like a good pirate story as much as the next Deppophile, and what genre doesn't get better when you add Doctor Who?  Well, maybe a pirate story...

I'm not saying there was anything wrong with Black Spot, but it was a rather run-of-the-mill, overall unremarkable kind of episode.  It was a classic romp - nice and fluffy - something to cleanse the palate between that meaty season-opener and the much-anticipated Gaiman-penned episode coming up next.  I've read that it was originally intended to be aired in the episode 10 slot, and I can see that working; there's clearly no major story arc here.  There are, of course, a few nods at what has come before (e.g., a flashback to the Doctor's death) and a few hints at things yet to come, like another appearance of Creepy Eyepatch Lady (CEL).


A Pregnant Silence


Review of Day of the Moon
Warning:  This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.  It also contains profanity.  Proceed at your own risk.

This being the first story of the series, I wasn’t expecting resolution for many of the dangling plot threads in the second half of the two-parter. However, I don’t think I expected as many new ones to be woven in, either. And frankly, I’m not convinced that the threads that seemed to get tied up really are. Oh, what a tangled web Moff weaves...

Starting things off in style with a beautifully wrought mind-fuck allows the production team to squeeze in a few more shots of the good ol’ US of A (I have to say, it’s slightly amusing in Confidential to watch the Brits wax poetic about the American landscape; I suppose it’s a grass-is-always-greener situation, since I find the backdrops here beautiful but almost blasé in their familiarity, while I’d be walking around London and surrounds like a slack-jawed yokel, myself), and puts the viewer off-kilter for a beat.

But soon we’re back to the more familiar, with the Doctor having done something incredibly clever (watch him *snap* the TARDIS open), and River having trusted him with her life yet again. A little bit of exposition later, and it’s on to a truly hide-behind-the-sofa-worthy haunted house. I have to say this is one of the creepiest (darkest, if you will - that seems to be the adjective the production team is using) episodes I’ve ever seen, from any era.



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