An Eye to the Future


Review of The Ark (#23)

DVD Release Date: 08 Mar 11
Original Air Date: 05 - 26 Mar 1966
Doctor/Companion:   One, Steven Taylor, Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet
Stars:  William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane
Preceding StoryThe Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve (One, Steven)
Succeeding StoryThe Celestial Toymaker (One, Steven, Dodo)

Although we don't really figure it out until halfway through, The Ark is sort of two stories wrapped into one. Beginning with a rather typical "outsiders bring harmless-to-them germs into a closed population, threatening to wipe out said population" plot, the story soon takes a turn toward more socio-political themes.  Groups are set against each other and make plans of varying degrees of stupidity and brutality.  Obviously, this being Doctor Who, there's also a time-travel twist to the tale (which I won't completely spoil here), but that is primarily clever storytelling rather than a necessary element for plot advancement.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the story, at least on the surface, is the abysmal quality of the monster-of-the-week, which is poor even by Doctor Who's standards (and that's saying quite a lot!).  The actors playing the Monoids could not have been comfortable with body-length rubber sheaths that included huge (clearly visible) zippers up the back, mangy wigs draping down over half their faces, and ping pong balls painted as eyeballs in their mouths.  Every time one of these pathetic critters waddles on set, you can't help but snicker and think about the mechanics of wearing the costume (particularly the moutheyeball - nor does it help to learn that it actually was ping pong balls they used).  Yet somehow, the Monoids manage to fulfill their literary roles in (both parts of) the story relatively well.  Clearly that's a testament to the quality of the tale the writers had to tell.


Confession #7: I've Learned to Like Six


As I was first learning about the pre-RTD Doctors, I heard a lot of love for Three, Four and Five, and a lot of hate for Six and Seven.  Although I've never understood why Seven was so reviled (perhaps because my first experience with him was Remembrance of the Daleks, which included Ace, who was to become one of my all-time favorite Companions), I must admit that I took an instant dislike to Six, as I'd come to expect I would.

I suppose it was partly a self-fulfilling prophecy, but when you consider my first exposure to Six (not counting the regeneration scene) was in Vengeance on Varos - in which he is exceptionally snotty to Peri (who, granted, kind of deserves it, but not that much...) - perhaps it's not surprising I didn't take to him right away. All I got from him was egomania and disregard for his Companion - not a Doctorly attitude at all. It wasn't till much later that I discerned any sort of affection for Peri underlying the banter.

Since those first few months, though, I've come to appreciate him as a great character in his own right. Mostly, this is due to the brilliance of Rich Morris, artist and web comic writer extraordinaire, who penned the epic fan comic The Ten Doctors (also available in PDF format here). It was through Rich's work that I was finally able to see the beautiful potential of Six, who really had been done a disservice by his writers, in my opinion. (Not to mention the costume designer - what is up with that nasty outfit? Why couldn't they have gone monochrome?) The Six of TTD was extremely clever, yet never out of acerbic character from the televised episodes.  He was somehow simultaneously grumpy and charming. I had a lot of respect for that version of Six, and was able to superimpose the positive qualities exhibited there onto the on-screen Doctor afterward.  (In fact, I learned a lot about Doctor Who as a whole from both TTD and the associated forums, which are populated by some really knowledgeable folks in what is probably the friendliest community on Teh Intarwebs.)


Confession #6: The Fourth Doctor Kind of Bugs Me


If Confession #3 irked a few Neo-Whovians (and yes, I did catch some flak from the Ladies), then this one is sure to incur the wrath of some Old Skool Whovians.  Tom Baker, aka Four (you know the one - "all teeth and curls," perpetually wrapped in a ridiculously long scarf), is one of the best-loved Doctors of all time.  In fact, before David Tennant's stint, he was the most popular Doctor ever.  However, though I do generally enjoy him, a lot of times Four just sort of rubs me the wrong way.

First, there's the way he seems to work so hard on being weird.  Sure, the googly eyes give him a head start, but that's the least of it.  There are so many instances where he'll just repeat! someone else's line enough to startle ("of course!"), and then come down from that vocal high still as confused as ever ("nope - still don't know what you're talking about") that it ceases to either surprise or amuse (a trait Tennant borrowed for Ten, though I don't believe he wielded it as often).  I think it would bug me less if it weren't such an ongoing gag.  It's something that feels like it started as one of Baker's many attempts to make the cast and crew lose their composure and start laughing on set - except that once it worked, he kept inserting it as one of Four's quirks, and it lost its effect (file under: funny once).

What really irritates me, though, is how rude he is to everyone.  He frequently cuts off his Companions mid-sentence, usually when they're trying to tell him something important that he needs to know.  It doesn't matter who it is - Sarah Jane, K-9, even Romana (who's supposed to be as clever as the Doctor) - all suffer the same indignity and implication of insignificance.  Again, every once in a while it can be amusing, but it seems to happen nearly every story.  His self-centeredness in this sense feels very anti-Doctor to me, and makes me wonder:  where's the Doctor who loves and values his Companions?  Oh, I know he does, but as the saying goes, he has a funny way of showing it...


It's All About Perspective


Review of The Mutants (#63)

DVD Release Date: 08 Feb 11
Original Air Date: 08 Apr - 13 May 1972
Doctor/Companion:   Three, Jo Grant
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning
Preceding StoryThe Sea Devils (Three, Jo)
Succeeding StoryThe Time Monster (Three, Jo)

When the Doctor is sent on yet another mission by the Time Lords, he and Jo find themselves on a skybase orbiting the planet Solos.  There, officials of imperial Earth are preparing to grant the natives independence after 500 years, but the Marshal has other ideas.  He wants to make Solos' atmosphere breathable by humans (which it currently isn't), rather than to Solonians (which it currently is).  Due to the experiments he has commissioned, some Solonians are mutating into strange, bug-like creatures - derogatorily nicknamed "Mutts" - which the Marshal believes should be purged from the planet.

I must admit that, from my 21st century American perspective, I saw this story as primarily a commentary on our stewardship of the environment, and to a lesser degree about the treatment of indigenous peoples by colonizing cultures.  However, at the time, especially to a British audience not yet completely out of imperial politics, it would have smacked rather heavily of the British withdrawal from India in 1947, not to mention South Africa or the then-current conflict in Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe).  It's interesting to me that this story can play out on so many levels - standard Who story, allegory of imperialism, and allegory of environmental issues - over so many years.  Perhaps that's why I was so surprised at the way a different theme came across.


Schedule Adjustment


In the interest of maintaining the quality of my posts (and my sanity), I have decided to change my posting schedule, starting next week (Wednesday, 23 Feb 11).  Rather than trying to post a Confession every week and squeeze in Reviews and Nu-Views as they arise, I will only post something from one of those three classes every week, depending on DVD release schedules and WhoFest session dates.

Partly, this allows me to "ramp up" to my intended eventual tripartite blog structure.  A revised, custom site is under construction (don't ask about a release date for that; I've no idea at this stage) in which each type of post (Confessions, Reviews, and Nu-Views) will have its own blog-stream.  You'll be able to follow the RSS feed for any one of them, or all of them.  If I gain a real Readership, I might even consider adding a forum.  It'll be cool; just wait and see.

Another thing I hope to improve with the upcoming site is giving readers the ability to post comments on Reviews and Nu-Views as well.  Not that there are many comments yet...  (C'mon, people!  I can see you in my stats!  I know someone's at least loading my pages!)  I recognize that episode reviews are probably the most likely to inspire chatter, so that's one of the main reasons I wanted to blog-etize all three sections.  In the meantime, please feel free to comment about any section of the site on the Confessions page.

Now just because I've declared that I will only post in one category a week, it doesn't mean I won't occasionally post to more, if I get inspired.  Sometimes I'll want to write a lot - I do get slightly obsessive about things like blogging.  And, of course, there's Series Six coming up.  So pull up a chair and settle in.  There's plenty to come.


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