Favorable Mutation


Review of The Mutant Phase (#15)
Big Finish Release Date: December 2000
Doctor/Companion: Five and Nyssa
Stars: Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton
Preceding Story: The Holy Terror (Six, Frobisher)
Succeeding Story: Storm Warning (Eight, Charley)

You know that feeling you get when one of your friends is really excited about a story—be it a book or a show or a film—and you've got no problem with it, but it just doesn't excite you? That sense that you're either about to disappoint your friend or that an unpleasant conversation about your differing opinions is about to ensue? That's how I felt coming into The Mutant Phase.

You see, although I've always liked Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor, I've also found him slightly bland—nothing to get excited about (I know I have several friends who are about ready to dump me upon reading that...). So when I got a nudge from one such friend to try one of Five's Big Finish (BF) audios next, I agreed with a certain trepidation. My unease increased when I realized the first one on tap from the list of recommendations I have co-starred Sarah Sutton's Nyssa—another of those dichotomous "friend's favorite/just okay for me" characters.

Imagine my relief when I realized I was quite enjoying the adventure. With no need to come up with something nice to say simply to appease the Five and Nyssa fans, I could relax and take the story as it came.


Confession #61: I Want a 50th Boxed Set


Over the weekend, reports surfaced that The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot; the unofficial-but-officially-sanctioned half-hour special written and directed by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison and co-starring Colin Baker (Six), Sylvester McCoy (Seven), and (briefly) Paul McGann (Eight); would at some point be released on DVD. The source of this information is apparently C. Baker himself, sharing the news at a Doctor Who Appreciation Society event. Details are ridiculously sketchy, pretty much only including the fact that it's slated to happen and that it will be part of a "special set" focused on Matt Smith.

Folks are already speculating wildly about what will be on this rumored set, though most (like me) seem to have settled on the idea that it will be something 50th anniversary-related. My favorite overly enthusiastic and admittedly too optimistic list of items that might be included encompassed everything from the Proms to Hurt interviews to a specially created farewell to Eleven.

Admittedly, if it does turn out to be an anniversary set, there is a lot of material from which to choose. A lot of material was only available in one part of the world or another (e.g., the aforementioned Proms, or the Doctors Revisited series which didn't make it to the UK until mere weeks before the anniversary). But how likely do we really think it is that BBC Worldwide would include videos of panel interviews, for instance? Realistically, there's a pretty short list of what they're likely to use.


Retro-View #15: A Gentle Passing


The Caves of Androzani (Story #136, 1984)
Viewed 29 Jan 2014

Doctor/Companion: Five, Perpugilliam "Peri" Brown
Stars: Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant
Preceding Story: Planet of Fire (Five, Peri, Turlough)
Succeeding Story: The Twin Dilemma (Six, Peri)

    Given that Caves is generally viewed as one of the (if not "the") best stories in Doctor Who's entire fifty year history, I had really been looking forward to sharing it with G. That pesky "Real Life" (RL) thing keeps getting in the way of our viewing, though. Not only has it been three months since we last got together, but this may well be our last session for a good long time, due to other RL obligations. Good thing we had something meaty to tide us over.

    As usual, I spent a few minutes updating G on the various changes in the TARDIS crew since she last tuned in. Tegan and Nyssa have moved on, as has a completely different Companion whose entire tenure was between these episodes (that'd be Turlough; I didn't even bother with Kamelion). And when it came along, I mentioned how Davison himself had wanted an explanation for the dratted celery he'd been wearing these past few years, and that's why we got the whole bit about if it turns purple.

    Mostly, though, the first episode of the serial was spent getting back into the groove and noticing all the stereotypical details. There was an "Eew!" at the cave bat/magma creature/whatever-we're-calling-it and a laugh out loud at the ensuing panicky gunfire from the humans. There was an "Ooh, that was weird" at our first sight of Sharaz Jek and a "Boy, those are some hairy fingers. ... Got the wolfman going here" at a subsequent one. And there was the observation of the obligatory set up: "Every show starts out with a misunderstanding of who he is..." By the time we'd made it to the first cliffhanger, we were back in the swing of things.


    Retro-View #14: Taken in Stride


    Earthshock (Story #122, 1982)
    Viewed 22 Oct 2013

    Doctor/Companion: Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka
    Stars: Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
    Preceding Story: Black Orchid (Four, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
    Succeeding Story: Time-Flight (Five, Nyssa, Tegan)

      It's been four months since G and I last sat down together to watch Doctor Who. A lot has happened both in our daily lives and in the life of the show. In our flurry of catching up, the latter got lost; I never did tell her about the amazing episode recovery announced earlier this month. I did, however, manage to explain a little bit about the Cybermen.

      One of the many reasons I chose this particular serial to screen for G next is that our methodology—viewing introductory and final stories for every Doctor, with one or two "representative" stories in between—has meant that she's missed out on the Doctor's epic struggles with some of his most iconic foes. She only met the Daleks a few sessions ago in Genesis, and until now, she'd never come across the Cybermen. So it was predictable that the "big reveal" at the end of Part One—when it turns out the Cybermen are behind it all—didn't get much of a reaction: "Okay, now we're to the silver guys."

      You see, since the Cybermen are all over the DVD menu, she'd seen them ahead of time. I'd had to explain who they were, and that the Doctor had come across them often before (though it was quick). So her reaction was completely unlike any fan who watched it at the time ("Cybermen! They haven't been seen for years!") or even a post-Hiatus fan otherwise unfamiliar with pre-Hiatus stories watching this one without spoilers ("Hey, Cybermen! I guess the Doctor did say that one was an 'old friend'..."). In fact, I had to remind her that these were, in fact, the Big Bad; she'd been hoping for some sort of pyramid scheme in which we'd keep finding another kind of mechanical creature behind the last, as the Cybermen had been behind the androids in Part One.


      Retro-View #13: The Celery's Fresh, But G's Wilting


      Castrovalva (Story #116, 1981)
      Viewed 24 Jun 2013

      Doctor/Companion: Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka
      Stars: Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
      Preceding Story: Logopolis (Four, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)
      Succeeding Story: Four to Doomsday (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)

        I had high hopes for this story going in. G seems ready to try a new Doctor, and despite the fact that my kids are home on summer break from school, they have plans for how to occupy themselves while the grown-ups are involved with their silly videos.

        And it starts out well. The regeneration scene is recapped, and the action continues on right from that point. The guards catch up to our heroes and drag them off. Tegan huffs, "Take your hands off me. This is an official uniform!", causing G to chuckle and declare "I like her the best." Finally—someone who shares my fondness for the Mouth On Legs!

        G asks some good basic questions, too. "Why did the Master do that?" she wonders when he materializes in middle of the fray, then seems to go running, allowing the Doctor to escape into his own TARDIS, and leaving Adric behind to be rescued. "So he'd still have a good adversary?" Now if she'd take her speculation to the next level, we might make a Fan of her yet...

        I'll admit that I still enjoy the whole regeneration regression part (as the Doctor does impressions of himself) far more than G does; I don't even bother to pause and explain when he spouts "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" and she doesn't laugh with me. Then again, maybe she didn't even hear it. After several moments that I'd expected to get a reaction from her get none, I realize she's left me.

        Oh, she claims she's just "resting [her] eyes," but I'm not entirely convinced. At any rate, we barrel on through Part Two until we catch sight of Castrovalva itself. "That's a bit of a climb! With a box!" Indeed.



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