Retro-View #9: Return of the Fan


The Robots of Death (Story #90, 1977)
Viewed 07 Mar 2013

Doctor/Companion: Four, Leela
Stars: Tom Baker, Louise Jameson
Preceding Story: The Face of Evil (Four, Leela)
Succeeding Story: The Talons of Weng-Chiang (Four, Leela)

    Regular readers may recall that when I first saw Robots, I was not particularly enamored of it. Only after repeated viewings did I come to appreciate it, and now count it among my favorites. Thus, I was particularly interested to see how G would react.

    Perhaps everything just clicked properly this day - no family members or pets in ill health, no project deadlines pending - but G was back on her usual upbeat form, appreciative of everything the show had to offer. It doesn't hurt that she's taken quite a shine to Four.

    Her first impression of Robots is one of delighted nostalgia: "Look at that computer!" The visuals continued to impress her throughout, from costuming ("Ooh, I love the hats." and "They've got great costumes, don't you think?") to some of the directorial decisions ("We get to see from the robot's point of view. This is kinda cool.")

    As for the new Companion and general characterizations, she loves both Leela's and the Doctor's evasive answers when SV7 questions them. (I love that Leela's already figured out that discretion is the better part of valor.) She also thinks Commander Uvanov is "a bit of a boor." When he uses someone else's argument against a third party, huffily demanding, "Ever heard of the double bluff?" she adds (as Uvanov), "I just learned about it thirty seconds ago!"


    Retro-View #8: The Blossoming of a Fan


    Genesis of the Daleks (Story #78, 1975)
    Viewed 07 Dec 2012, 26 Feb 2013

    Doctor/Companion: Four, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
    Stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter
    Preceding Story: The Sontaran Experiment (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)
    Succeeding Story: Revenge of the Cybermen (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)

      Life kind of got in the way of our little experiment. In December, G's family suffered the loss of two loved ones while my family was juggling schedules around not only the holidays but my dad's medical treatments. January involved both of us regaining equilibrium, and by the time G was ready to get together again, I was on my way to Gally.

      Once we finally managed to mesh our schedules again, two and a half months had passed between our viewing of the first half (Episodes One through Three) and the second half of the story. Thanks to the wonders of the TARDIS Data Core (formerly TARDIS Index File), I was able to recap those vaguely remembered episodes in detail for G so we were both up to speed on where we'd left our intrepid heroes before jumping back into the tale.

      And what a place into which to jump! We're getting into the big time here. To hear many fans tell it, this early part of T. Baker's tenure is the start of the Golden Age of Who, and Genesis in particular is often cited as a stone cold classic. While G and I both enjoyed it ("It's a good story. A very good story," she proclaimed at the end), I don't think it's quite to my Top Ten (pre-Hiatus) list. Regardless, there's plenty to enjoy.

      Though she's seen him in Robot, G is still a little taken aback by Four's appearance. "Look at that hairdo! Man, he's got hair!" As the story opens, she flinches at the depiction of war: "Ooh! You're right; there is a lot of violence in this thing." What catches her attention most in that first two and a half episodes, though, is what happens after Sarah Jane is knocked out and left for dead in the trenches. "Why didn't the Doctor and what's-his-name [she's not quite latched onto Harry yet] even say, 'where's Sarah?' They didn't even give it a thought!"


      Nu-View #12: New Monsters on the Block


      Aliens of London and World War Three
      (Series One, Eps. 4-5; 2005)

      Viewed 05 Feb 2013

      Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
      Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
      Preceding Story: The Unquiet Dead (Nine, Rose)
      Succeeding Story: Dalek (Nine, Rose)

        Looking back, it's amazing I ever became a fan at all. In all honesty, I very nearly didn't make it past these two episodes.

        I watched the first five over a period of a week or two with the friend who introduced me to Who, and then it all kind of fell by the wayside. I don't think we came back to it again for a year or more. When we did, I was reluctant. The stuff I'd seen was OK - pretty good, even - but with Slitheen as my last impression, I was, shall we say, less than keen on continuing (perhaps understandably).

        I was willing to give it another shot, though - and obviously, I'm extremely glad that I did! But as I look back, these are among my least favorite episodes of this series. I think that's partly because the Slitheen got so overused after this, both in Who and especially in The Sarah Jane Adventures, but just something about these introductory episodes has put me off.

        Imagine my surprise when, upon watching them again with the Ladies, they didn't suck as hard as I'd remembered.

        The Doctor returns Rose home, a mere twelve hours after she'd left (yay, time travel!) only to discover it had actually been twelve months ("details," scoffed jE). All of the mother/daughter stuff between Jackie and Rose is well done here, from the snarking and frustration with each other to the honest concern and regret for having caused it. RTD may have brought families a bit too much into the mix for my taste, but there's some good storytelling around it in these episodes.


        Nu-View #11: Back to Our Roots


        The End of the World and The Unquiet Dead (Series One, Eps. 2-3; 2005)
        Viewed 27 Nov 2012

        Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
        Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
        Preceding Story: Rose (Nine, Rose)
        Succeeding Story: Aliens of London (Nine, Rose)

          Last month, after we finished watching The Angels Take Manhattan, we Ladies weren't really ready to call it a night. After all, 45 minutes of Who is hardly enough. So, on a whim, we decided to watch Rose.

          Needless to say, it was a huge nostalgia bomb. For three of us, it was the first episode of Doctor Who we'd ever seen. You never forget your first. We all enjoyed getting back to our beginnings with Nine and Rose, and so it was decided that we would continue on with them for a while.

          So here we are, back at our beginnings.

          For most of the Ladies (everyone but me), it had be a long time since they'd seen Nine in action. Much of our evening was thus spent just watching the action unfold on screen, and laughing at all the jokes. But now and again, a comment would pop out.

          "Teach her not to be impressed," jE declared as Nine finished his "welcome to the end of the world" speech. Then came the opening credits. jA commented on how this version really takes her back, and I can't help but agree; this was my introduction to the entire Whoniverse, and there's something incredibly special to me about listening to that first Murray Gold theme. It puts me in a special, treasured mental space.

          Speaking of Gold and his work, I just love it here. Knowing it so well in retrospect, it's fascinating to hear the introduction of the bars that would eventually be dubbed "Rose's Theme" right after the Doctor does his "jiggery pokery" on her phone. That moment is one of several here in End of the World that show the developing relationship between Doctor and Companion, and give a sense of the franchise as a whole.


          Retro-View #7: Here We Go Again


          Robot (Story #75, 1974-75)
          Viewed 05 Nov 2012

          Doctor/Companion: Four, Sarah Jane Smith, the Brigadier, Harry Sullivan
          Stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney, Ian Marter
          Preceding Story: Planet of the Spiders (Three, Sarah Jane)
          Succeeding Story: The Arc in Space (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)

            We've finally made it up to the era G saw bits of in college. "Yep. I remember him" is her first comment as Robot begins. It's wonderful to see this post-regeneration transition period again through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before. Granted, it's only been about five years since I first saw it myself, but evidence suggests I've turned into a bit of a ming-mong since then.

            So I take great joy in her delight over things like the Doctor's erratic behavior, his mention of "the definite article," his first sight of himself in a mirror, and the way he chooses his outfit. It is, perhaps, the main reason to recommend this particular serial. Not, of course, that G doesn't enjoy it thoroughly while still pointing out the obvious and/or silly bits.

            To wit, she realizes immediately when our intrepid Companion (Sarah Jane always did have a bit more gumption than sense of self-preservation) ends up at Think Tank that, "whatever it is is going to fall in love with Sarah." She wasn't taken in by the off-screen tinkering with K1's inhibitor, either: "A little WD-40, and we're on track to kill!" As Part Two progresses, she is particularly enamored of the way Sarah Jane is so proactive (she loves the Brig's call to action, "or shall we leave it all to Miss Smith?"), and she believes she's got it sussed when Kettlewell (whose hair is truly impressive) goes to answer a knock at the door: "Uh oh. It'll be the silver dude. It'll be like killing dad."

            And, true to form, she gasps a bit and wiggles in anticipation of the resolution as the sting crashes in as K1 is about to kill the Doctor. "These guys were absolute geniuses at knowing where to leave off." Sadly, the trend doesn't continue for the next episode, but she makes a good point - when they get a cliffhanger right, they really get it right.



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