Four

Retro-View #12: Melancholy Moment

Jun
05

Logopolis (Story #115, 1981)
Viewed 03 Jun 2013

Doctor/Companion: Four, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan Jovanka
Stars: Tom Baker, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton, Janet Fielding
Preceding Story: The Keeper of Traken (Four, Adric, Nyssa)
Succeeding Story: Castrovalva (Five, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)

    It seems to me that by the time Logopolis rolled around, Tom Baker was more than ready to leave his role as the Doctor. He just seemed tired, pensive, and like he simply wasn't having very much fun any more. Luckily, it fits well with the story, and doesn't translate into any sort of loss of quality.

    G is immediately intrigued by the way the police box and (Master's) TARDIS merge, and in on alert when Tegan and Auntie Vanessa pull up next to it with their flat. "Ooh dear. And they're by the box." Then when the Doctor's TARDIS turns them all into dimensionally transcendental matryoshka dolls, she catches onto the danger right away. "This is serious. It's like he's ingested poison by materializing that guy in there." She proceeds to make an analogy with holding mirrors up to each other to make an infinite regression, well before the possibility is mentioned on screen. G's all over it.

    The Watcher has her fooled, though. She reads it as all first-time viewers are meant to: a slightly creepy threat. I can't help but think of it as the precursor to Ten's departure, though in this case it's only the Doctor, rather than the whole audience as well, who anticipates what's to come. We both enjoy this particular conceit, though. When the Doctor tells Adric that "nothing like this has ever happened before," G declares that "that's the fun part."

    She's enjoying the character interactions, too. She's still loving Adric (that will make things interesting in another couple of sessions), and can't help giggle (nor can I) at the looks the Doctor and Adric give each other when Tegan finally stumbles back into the control room.

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    Now With More Alien Madness

    May
    15

    Review of The Doctors Revisited - Fourth Doctor

    By the fourth month of BBC America's Doctor-by-Doctor celebrations of the show's history, we've rolled around to the man who many still equate with the role: Tom Baker.

    Perhaps more than any other actor who portrayed him, Tom Baker embodied the Doctor. As the man himself said, "I was Doctor Who. There was no acting involved at all."

    Something about Baker just clicked, and no one before - or arguably since - was ever more perfect for the role. This new Doctor was all about humor - at his own expense, from time to time - to defuse situations and get himself out of trouble. As the narration puts it, "Suddenly a big kid was in charge of the TARDIS."

    Other key changes mentioned in the first section include his alien-ness, his bohemian wardrobe - notably, the ultra-iconic scarf - and his break from UNIT, as he finally swans off for good. Given that Third Doctor Jon Pertwee's tenure had been almost entirely earthbound, it was a notable change, and allowed for a wider variety of storytelling.

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    Retro-View #11: Winding Down, or Just Wound Up?

    May
    08

    The Keeper of Traken (Story #114, 1981)
    Viewed 29 Apr 2013

    Doctor/Companion: Four, Adric, Nyssa of Traken
    Stars: Tom Baker, Matthew Waterhouse, Sarah Sutton
    Preceding Story: Warriors' Gate (Four, Romana II, Adric)
    Succeeding Story: Logopolis (Four, Adric, Nyssa, Tegan)

      It's been a while since G has seen the Fourth Doctor. Not only has it been a month and a half since we were last able to sit down and watch together, but he's cycled through a Companion or two since our last story, which was broadcast nearly two-and-a-half years before this one. So I guess I can't blame her when her first reaction at the start of the story was, "Oh my gosh! Look at the question marks on this collar!" And later, "He's got a new scarf!"

      I have to pause and explain about Adric, too. The whole E-Space thing kind of goes over her head, but truth be told, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either, and I've seen all the relevant trilogy. She doesn't comment on his pajama-esque costume, though, and declares that she rather likes "the little guy." More than once. And why, do you suppose, she thinks so highly of him? "Because when the women used to tell [the Doctor] he was full of ****, he'd get upset, but when this guy does it, he doesn't care."

      The story is right up her alley, too. Halfway through Part One, she's already sussed out (well before we see it happen) that "ol' Melkur's marching around in the nighttime." When his presence leads to the Keeper (apparently) declaring that the Doctor and Adric are "Eviiiiiil!" she can hardly stand it. "I really hate misunderstandings." (Somehow, I'm thinking she doesn't watch many sitcoms...)

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      Retro-View #10: The Lure of an Arc

      Apr
      03

      The Ribos Operation (Story #98, 1978)
      Viewed 12 Mar 2013

      Doctor/Companion: Four, Romana I
      Stars: Tom Baker, Mary Tamm
      Preceding Story: The Invasion of Time (Four, Romana I)
      Succeeding Story: The Pirate Planet (Four, Romana I)

        Now I've done it. I should've known better than to start G on a story arc. She has a hard enough time with episodic cliffhangers that I suppose I should've expected her to tell me to pop in the next story of The Key to Time once we'd finished the first, but somehow I didn't.

        In the opening moments, I realize G hasn't met K-9 yet. We pause while I explain the general concept. Then the White Guardian (who G understandably thinks looks like Colonel Sanders; "he's even drinking a mint julep!") begins his little chat with the Doctor. No sooner has this dialog begun, though, when I have to pause again to explain about the dog bite (see the Story Notes). It's so much better than the herpes G had been assuming was the issue...

        Once we get to Ribos, G thinks Garron and Unstoffe look like Tibetans or Mongolians (and that Romana looks like the Good Witch of the North). We get tied up enough in the story that there are barely any more comments until Romana blindly walks into the shrivenzale's chamber. "Well look down, sweetie. Good god." Sometimes even the most willingly suspended disbelief gets stretched too far.

        But all is well when the story gets into full swing. I'm loving Dudley Simpson's score and June Hudson's costumes. G is loving Unstoffe's tall tale. She's in fits of giggles when the Graffe Vynda-K and the Doctor face off and trade slaps of the glove. And then Romana tells Garron that she and the Doctor are "searching for the first segment to the Key to Time." "Oh, god!" G spouts in surprise. "She just blabs that out! ... To the opposition, no less." Much as I love Romana I (aka "Fred"), she really does show how utterly green she is in this adventure.

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        Off to a Helluva Start

        Mar
        23

        Review of The Ark in Space: SE (#76)
        DVD Release Date: 12 Mar 13
        Original Air Date: 25 Jan - 15 Feb 1975
        Doctor/Companion: Four, Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan
        Stars: Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen, Ian Marter
        Preceding Story: Robot (Four, Sarah Jane)
        Succeeding Story: The Sontaran Experiment (Four, Sarah Jane, Harry)

        For someone who didn't grow up with Doctor Who, especially when watching out of sequence or without paying specific attention to such details, it can be hard to remember that Ark in Space was so incredibly early in Tom Baker's tenure (only his second story to be broadcast). He has already so thoroughly settled into the role, and the whole TARDIS crew - Harry only just having joined in the final moments of the preceding serial - has such a wonderful rapport, it feels like they've been together forever.

        The only thing that doesn't feel quite right is the holdovers from Pertwee's characterization when Sarah Jane tries to tell the Doctor something, and gets thoroughly shushed: "Doctor, look!" "Not now, Sarah." or "Doctor, will you listen?" "Sarah, we're trying to make a plan." Clearly even a writer as skilled as Robert Holmes didn't yet know how to write for this new Doctor.

        In retrospect, this story is an odd combination of the wonderfully timeless and the terribly dated. The general plot, the horror of a man's body and mind being taken over while he is powerless to stop it, the brilliant set and lighting design, and the unbeatable characterizations and acting all fall in the former category. Some of the effects (most notably the bubble wrap) and the choice of "microfilm" for the storage of the sum of knowledge from human history are among the latter. To give it its due, though, the green painted bubble wrap would have worked well at the time, as hardly anyone in the general public knew what it was yet. It simply makes for an unfortunate effect decades on. (One has to wonder how bad Tennant's episodes will look to viewers in the 2040's.)

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