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.


      Nu-View #10: Mastering the Situation


      Terror of the Autons (Story #55, 1971)
      Viewed 28 Aug 2012

      Doctor/Companion: Three, Jo Grant, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart
      Stars: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney
      Preceding Story: Inferno (Three, Liz Shaw, the Brigadier)
      Succeeding Story: The Mind of Evil (Three, Jo, the Brigadier)

        Summer has really wreaked havoc with our quasi-regular WhoFest schedule. We even watched the first episode of this story once already, at the end of our last WhoFest. Of course, that was so long ago that I didn't expect anyone actually to remember it, so we watched it again anyway. (Also, I'd managed to lose my notes.) And it's good that we did, because it had pretty much completely escaped everyone's memory (except mine, of course; I've seen it more times in the last year and a half since its release on DVD than is perhaps entirely healthy).

        In terms of pre-Hiatus Who, it's an Auton-rich environment around here lately, what with the Special Edition of Spearhead from Space coming out on DVD earlier in August, too. However, the Autons were just a bonus; my main reason for screening this particular story was to give the Ladies a proper introduction to the Master.

        Before that could happen, though, we're introduced to another new, and in her own way iconic, character: Jo. "What terrible clothes!" Clearly jA is not hip to the 1971 fashion scene. Putting things in perspective, jE chastised, "think of the year - that's not a terrible outfit!"

        Then we've seen our anti-hero, discovered that he's made off with an important artifact ("so, he stole it from a display, but he has the original UNIT box?" - don't try to slip continuity errors past jE; she's sharp), and made for a radio telescope. At this point, my own snark rears its ugly head. The Master wants to help the Nestenes with their conquest of Earth, by transmitting a guiding signal to their invasion force at the appropriate time - so why exactly the f. are they using a radio telescope? Those things are not transmitters; they're wired for reception. ~grumble~

        Back to the story, though. Our quick-witted jE spots another early indicator of danger; poor Goodge is wearing a lab coat. "Lab coat = toast," she declares. And - voop! - right she is. Clearly, lab-coats are the redshirts of the Whoniverse.



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