Three Has Company


Review of The Three Doctors: SE (#65)

DVD Release Date:  13 Mar 12
Original Air Date:  30 Dec 1972 - 20 Jan 1973
Doctor/Companion:  Three, Jo Grant, the Brigadier
Stars:  Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning, Nicholas Courtney
Preceding StoryThe Time Monster (Three, Jo, the Brigadier)
Succeeding Story:  Carnival of Monsters (Three, Jo)

Whoever first decided the crazy idea of having all three Doctors in one story wasn't so crazy after all (I guess that's either producer Barry Letts or script editor Terrance Dicks, then) deserves an award, in my opinion. This first multi-Doctor story was precursor to many others, both on- and off-screen and I, for one, love that.

The story serves multiple purposes, too. Not only did it provide the fan service of bringing back the previous Doctors, but by the end Three had also regained his ability to leave Earth (which made subsequent story arcs easier, after so many invasion-of-Earth stories already in the can). And those social-interaction pieces of the story, at least, are plausible.

The science, on the other hand... ~sigh~ An antimatter universe? Through a black hole? No. Just... no. I think that - more than any other Doctor Who story - the "science" here is painfully awful. Most of the time, I can gloss over it, suspend my disbelief and say, "yeah, that sounds almost plausible," and roll with it. This bit, though, is egregious enough that it regularly jars me out of that mental story-space. I can get past it enough to enjoy the story, but I kind of have to work at it. I think Letts said it best when he pointed out in the commentary (see below) that "this is really science fantasy, rather than science fiction. It bears no relation really to what ... scientists think goes on in the middle of a black hole." Makes for a pretty good story, though. So let's move on to those good bits.


A Sense of History


Review of The Sensorites (#7)
DVD Release Date:  14 Feb 12
Original Air Date:  20 Jun - 01 Aug 1964
Doctor/Companion:  One, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, Susan Foreman
Stars:  William Hartnell, William Russell, Jacqueline Hill, Carole Ann Ford
Preceding StoryThe Aztecs (One, Ian, Barbara, Susan)
Succeeding Story:  The Reign of Terror (One, Ian, Barbara, Susan)

No one seems to have much love for The Sensorites. If I've heard it mentioned at all, it's usually with some degree of distaste. Frankly, I don't understand that reaction, since to me, Sensorites doesn't seem any less palatable that most of One's stories, and better than a few others (like the regrettable Web Planet).

There are actually some pretty classic literary themes here: cultural misunderstanding, political intrigues, and the TARDIS crew caught in the middle, as usual. Despite a rather... unusual creature design (oh, those floppy feet), the concept of the Sensorites themselves is fairly intriguing. I don't remember many races across science fiction that use both telepathy and verbal communication, for example.

As the story gets rolling, I'm immediately reminded of how much I bloody love Barbara (totally with Sue here). Her absence in episodes 4 and 5 may be part of why the story seemed to drag somewhat through the middle. The plot itself has some interesting ideas woven in, but to a modern audience, anyway, it doesn't seem terribly sophisticated. The "big surprise finish" in episode 6 ("A Desperate Venture") is not so surprising, the rather obvious clues having been dropped for several episodes.

We get a bit of character development, though. Susan has a coming-of-age (or at least testing the boundaries) moment, leading to the first ever (so they say) argument between Susan and her grandfather during all their travels. They also give us our first recollections about their adventure before the unintentional addition of Ian and Barbara to their traveling company. And at one point, Susan gets a bit misty thinking about home, giving us a description that will be echoed by Ten in Gridlock as he tells Martha what's no longer there: "It's quite like Earth. But at night the sky is burnt orange and the leaves on the trees are bright silver."


Confession #19: I Love the B&W Era


In honor of today's 48th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who (that would be An Unearthly Child, in 1963), I thought I'd talk a bit more about the early years of Who and why they're worth your time to seek out if you've never had the opportunity to see them before.

For a general sense of what they're all about, check out my recent posts on the First and Second Doctors' eras, where I give a broad overview. Let me express a bit more love for that whole black-and-white era, though. There's a special something - maybe you could think of it as an innocence - that doesn't necessarily carry over into the color/modern era. The show is so earnest and new and takes itself so seriously, even though it also clearly knows it's a bit rubbish in places.

Admittedly, it took me a while to warm to all that. Coming as I did straight off Series Four with Ten and Donna, I was taken aback at first, even though I knew I was stepping into the Wayback Machine when I sat down with An Unearthly Child that first time. Forty-five years' worth of technological advances are nothing to sneeze at, especially where television is concerned. So even though I'd steeled myself for bad (by modern standards) effects - having grown up with Star Trek, I thought I had an idea of what it was likely to look like - and the black-and-white view, I wasn't truly prepared.


Irascible and Avuncular


Review of the First Doctor's era

1963 - 1966
An Unearthly Child
The Daleks
The Edge of Destruction
Marco Polo*
The Keys of Marinus
The Aztecs
The Sensorites
The Reign of Terror*
Planet of Giants
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
The Rescue
The Romans
The Web Planet
The Crusade*
The Space Museum
The Chase
The Time Meddler
Galaxy 4*
Mission to the Unknown*
The Myth Makers*
The Daleks' Master Plan*
The Massacre*
The Ark
The Celestial Toymaker*
The Gunfighters
The Savages*
The War Machines
The Smugglers*
The Tenth Planet*
*Partially or completely missing

I think a lot of neowhovians dismiss the First Doctor as a rather grumpy ol' cuss, and to a certain extent that's a valid characterization - certainly it is if all you've ever seen is the first episode of An Unearthly Child. But there's a lot more to One than meets the casual eye. Among other things, there's a lot of character development in the first three years, if you bother to look for it.

Clearly, the beginning of Doctor Who is an era in which the show is still getting its feet under it, finding and defining the Doctor's character. If you take a look at the concept notes or background notes, you'll notice that from the beginning, it was not the Doctor who was the main character (despite the title of the show) - it was Ian! The structure of the early stories make complete sense once one has that little fact in mind. The Doctor was there as little more than plot device at this stage.


The Should've Been Better Corral


Review of The Gunfighters (#25)

DVD Release Date:  12 Jul 11
Original Air Date:  30 Apr - 21 May 1966
Doctor/Companion:  One, Steven Taylor, Dodo Chaplet
Stars:  William Hartnell, Peter Purves, Jackie Lane
Preceding StoryThe Celestial Toymaker (One, Steven, Dodo)
Succeeding StoryThe Savages (One, Steven, Dodo)

During Doctor Who's third series - the last for William Hartnell (One) - there came one of the last pseudo-historicals for a long while. Why was it among the last? Because audiences stayed away in droves. Although The Gunfighters is perhaps better than the viewing numbers at the time indicated, I can't altogether blame the public for shying away, either. An otherwise decent storyline is utterly ruined by the ubiquitous presence of a horrific saloon-style song created just for this episode: "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon."

A line or two (or eight) of this horrific tinkly little tune is sung over every single scene change in the entire story. The first one or two, OK, I can tolerate that - setting the tone, giving some "local color" by having the bar floozy sing her song. But every time? By the end of the first episode, I had such an ear worm I was longing for the strains of "Copacabana," "Hotel California," or even "The Brady Bunch" to get the damn thing out of my head! I was somewhat gratified to learn, when watching the extras, that I was not alone. The production staff and cast were also put off by the song, and still embarrassed by it years later (as well they should be).



Subscribe to RSS - One
Real Time Analytics