Four

Mutiny of the Botany

Mar
23

Review of The Seeds of Doom (#85)

DVD Release Date: 08 Mar 11
Original Air Date: 31 Jan - 06 Mar 1976
Doctor/Companion:   Four, Sarah Jane Smith
Stars:  Tom Baker, Elisabeth Sladen
Preceding StoryThe Brain of Morbius (Four, Sarah Jane)
Succeeding StoryThe Masque of Mandragora (Four, Sarah Jane)

As I've mentioned before, sometimes Tom Baker's performances as Four leave me a bit cold.  Not this time.  I can't exactly put my finger on why, but The Seeds of Doom really worked for me.  From the opening moment in the Antarctic (is that Hoth?) to the closing moments where the Doctor and Sarah Jane have a timey-wimey moment, this is a classic, full-on romp.

Obviously, there's personal danger and a threat to the entire planet, but the baddie is amusing (you know he's bad, because he wears his black leather gloves inside, and all the time) and the alien menace is suitably absurd.  Most of the effects used to realize said menace are also pretty good, as Who goes, though the spanner one character uses to bludgeon another was very obviously rubber (spanners aren't generally so wobbly), and I have to admit that the camera-flash-on-a-stick "laser guns" literally made me laugh out loud.

One thing I really enjoyed about this story was the "flash-forward" meta-references, only noticeable from this future perspective.  Several times I was put in mind of other Who episodes (like Midnight, while the Doctor, Sarah Jane, and some of the baddies are holed up, hiding from the Krynoid), and one can't help but draw the parallel with Fargo when the composter is introduced.

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Confession #6: The Fourth Doctor Kind of Bugs Me

Mar
02

If Confession #3 irked a few Neo-Whovians (and yes, I did catch some flak from the Ladies), then this one is sure to incur the wrath of some Old Skool Whovians.  Tom Baker, aka Four (you know the one - "all teeth and curls," perpetually wrapped in a ridiculously long scarf), is one of the best-loved Doctors of all time.  In fact, before David Tennant's stint, he was the most popular Doctor ever.  However, though I do generally enjoy him, a lot of times Four just sort of rubs me the wrong way.

First, there's the way he seems to work so hard on being weird.  Sure, the googly eyes give him a head start, but that's the least of it.  There are so many instances where he'll just repeat! someone else's line enough to startle ("of course!"), and then come down from that vocal high still as confused as ever ("nope - still don't know what you're talking about") that it ceases to either surprise or amuse (a trait Tennant borrowed for Ten, though I don't believe he wielded it as often).  I think it would bug me less if it weren't such an ongoing gag.  It's something that feels like it started as one of Baker's many attempts to make the cast and crew lose their composure and start laughing on set - except that once it worked, he kept inserting it as one of Four's quirks, and it lost its effect (file under: funny once).

What really irritates me, though, is how rude he is to everyone.  He frequently cuts off his Companions mid-sentence, usually when they're trying to tell him something important that he needs to know.  It doesn't matter who it is - Sarah Jane, K-9, even Romana (who's supposed to be as clever as the Doctor) - all suffer the same indignity and implication of insignificance.  Again, every once in a while it can be amusing, but it seems to happen nearly every story.  His self-centeredness in this sense feels very anti-Doctor to me, and makes me wonder:  where's the Doctor who loves and values his Companions?  Oh, I know he does, but as the saying goes, he has a funny way of showing it...

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