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.


    Retro-View #6: That's a Wrap


    Planet of the Spiders (Story #74, 1974)
    Viewed 26 Oct, 01 Nov 2012

    Doctor/Companion: Three, Sarah Jane Smith, the Brigadier
    Stars: Jon Pertwee, Elisabeth Sladen, Nicholas Courtney
    Preceding Story: The Monster of Peladon (Three, Sarah Jane)
    Succeeding Story: Robot (Four, Sarah Jane, the Brigadier)

      Our first session started out a bit rough. G couldn't commit to sit down straight through because she needed to pop home briefly to give her dog B some meds at a particular time, and I couldn't go too late because I needed to vacate the premises at a later particular time. However, we started early enough that we figured a pause after Part 1 for dog-doping would still give us time to finish in one sitting.

      How wrong we were.

      Poor G got home and discovered B had eaten all the meds in the half hour since she'd left. Luckily, they were of the dietary supplement kind rather than the deadly overdose kind, but we spent the next hour watching Who with a kind of nervous concern at the backs of our minds as we waited for the vet to return her call. It was a weird day.

      Things started out well for the Doctor, though. G recognized the om mani padme hum chant, and figured using it as the basis for "black magic" would not go over well with Buddhists. Can't say that I disagree, but I suppose at the time it seemed as exotic as bubble wrap, so in that sense I can't get too uptight about it.

      She literally jumped and exclaimed at the near-accident Sarah Jane and Yates had. As she's been in a few more accidents herself than she'd like, it seems a logical enough reaction, even if it was on a screen. Whatever the case, it's a testament to the effectiveness of the editing that it got such a realistic reaction from her. (Similarly, she gave a bit of a shriek when the spider jumped onto Lupton's back. Even as naff as some of the effects look nearly 40 years later, this is certainly not an adventure for arachnophobes.)


      Retro-View #5: A Representative Sample


      The Dæmons (Story #59, 1971)
      Viewed 15 Oct 2012

      Doctor/Companion: Three, Josephine "Jo" Grant, the Brigadier
      Stars: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney
      Preceding Story: Colony in Space (Three, Jo)
      Succeeding Story: Day of the Daleks (Three, Jo, the Brigadier)

        As per our scheme, this time we watched something representative of the middle of our current Doctor's era, in this case meaning it needed to feature the Master and Jo.
        Granted, G is an easy audience, but those who hearken to received "fan wisdom" about the quality of any given story will be glad to hear that she quite enjoyed this adventure. No need for name-calling here.

        I'm not sure it's the same things that such fans cite as reasons for The Dæmons' "classic" status that tickled G's fancy, though. For one thing, she's got no personal history with - and therefore no particular emotional attachment to - any of the regulars. She's never seen Jo before ("She really is cute. Very pretty"), or the Master ("Isn't he just the most evil thing you've ever seen? He looks like every caricature you've ever seen of Mephistopheles"). Even the Brigadier - not to mention the Doctor himself! - were only in one other story she's seen. As for the rest of UNIT, she's never seen Yates or Benton, either. So no "jolly romp in a pastoral English village with all our favorite characters larking about" for G. More just simply "this is a good one. I'm glad you picked this one."

        So in that sense, maybe this isn't going to be everything The Fans had hoped for. Regardless, I think G's enjoyment of The Dæmons will still be entertaining for others (as long as I can get it all across adequately). Let's begin, then, at the beginning.

        The narrative conceit by which the whole situation is introduced - a BBC telecast of a breaking news event - is well received, but G's bullshit detector has not been checked at the door, either. Considering the BBC's never been allowed into the barrow before, she thinks it looks like a pretty public-ready facility, complete with wax figures. I'd have to go back and look at it more carefully myself to come up with a suitable rationalization, but I'll admit that when she pointed it out, that's how it looked to me, too.


        Retro-View #4: A New Leading Man


        Spearhead from Space (Story #51, 1970)
        Viewed 10 Oct 2012

        Doctor/Companion: Three, Dr. Elizabeth "Liz" Shaw, the Brigadier
        Stars: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
        Preceding Story: The War Games (Two, Jamie, Zoë)
        Succeeding Story: Doctor Who and the Silurians (Three, Liz, the Brigadier)
        Notable Aspects:

        • Three's first story

        Now this was not a reaction I'd anticipated - G is a shipper! She's convinced that Three fancies Liz. I suppose she might have a point. She's not far off base when, after the Doctor wiggles his eyebrows at Liz and tells her "That's Delphon for 'how do you do?'," she says, "It's also wolf for 'what a babe.'"

        Of course, she appears to fancy Three herself (have I mentioned that she's about a decade older than Pertwee was when these were filmed?). The shower scene prompts her to comment that Three's is "not a bad body." By the end of Part 3, G's praise is effusive: "This is a good one. I just like the new guy a lot. I'm in love." Perhaps, then, there's a bit of projection at work in her Three/Liz ship.

        She loves the switch to color, and comments on the updated music, too. (Not sure how updated it can be, since Dudley Simpson was also responsible for The War Games - though admittedly there was hardly any incidental music in that particular serial.) The humorous bent of the Doctor-based portions of this adventure are right up G's alley, as well. Three's first view of his own face, Liz's take-no-prisoners attitude toward the Brigadier (Brigadier: Am I interrupting? / Liz: Yes.), the way the Doctor calmly appropriates first an outfit and then a car - all of these result in the gleeful noises I so love to hear. "This is very Monty Python-ish," she declares as the Part 1 credits roll.


        Retro-View #3: The Games Are Afoot


        The War Games (Story #50, 1969)
        Viewed 25 Sep, 04 Oct 2012

        Doctor/Companion: Two, Jamie, Zoë
        Stars: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
        Preceding Story: The Space Pirates (Two, Jamie, Zoë)
        Succeeding Story: Spearhead from Space (Three, Liz Shaw)
        Notable Aspects:

        • Two's final story
        • First mention of the Time Lords (by name)
        • First appearance of the Doctor's home planet

        It is an utter joy to watch Who with G. She's an ideal audience for indoctrination from the beginning, as she comes into it willingly and with love and appreciation for television of the '60s anyway. You can always count on her to giggle with absolute glee at the poor stage fighting, Two's gurning, or the long-since-outdated science fiction props.

        On the other hand, she'll also ask the kinds of questions I imagine the audience at the time would have asked, and is often completely quiet because she's just soaking it all in, getting involved in the plot. Either that, or she's exclaiming about something being revealed on screen, "uh-oh"ing at all the right moments or gushing about the "wonderful" sets. I can just imagine if those responsible for creating this story were on hand to observe her they'd be grinning ear to ear the whole time.

        For my part, I had a hard time not interjecting things left and right ("Look! The sonic screwdriver is being used as an actual screwdriver!" "He just said his name was Doctor John Smith!" "He just mentioned the Time Lords for the first time ever!" "It's Philip Madoc! Isn't he brilliant in this role?"). It was worth it, though, to get her unadulterated reactions (e.g., "I like the War Lord. He's kind of cute.").

        As they're so charming, allow me to share a few more gems. When we first get to the German HQ in the 1917 zone and the Captain comes in to reinforce the conditioning with his monocle, G exclaimed, "Oh! This guy's only got one! He's half the rank [of Smythe, from the British sector]." She then went on to equate the mind control with the Germans, as I imagine the contemporary viewing audience might have done, despite having had our first hint that something's not right, having encountered the Romans at the end of the previous episode.



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