A Pretty Good Trip


Review of The Claws of Axos: SE (#57)
DVD Release Date: 13 Nov 12
Original Air Date: 13 Mar - 03 Apr 1971
Doctor/Companion: Three, Josephine "Jo" Grant
Stars: Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning
Preceding Story: The Mind of Evil (Three, Jo)
Succeeding Story: Colony in Space (Three, Jo)

My reaction to this story has always been pretty much full-on Pigbin Josh: "Ooh arr?" Seriously - this one's just a bit weird. Psychedelic, even.

To a certain extent, that's on purpose. It was, after all, made in 1971, and the whole drug-tripping scene was still a Thing (or so I understand). The director and editor had a grand old time messing with the effects to make it all visually striking. And the design is incredibly creative, especially when it comes to the ship, which is both amazingly organic looking and, externally, a bit... anatomical (as Katy Manning (Jo) points out in one of the extras).

The story itself has the usual ups and downs. The basic premise is quite cool, with the alien visitors who may or may not be out to get us all, and a substance that can manipulate energy and thus solve huge problems like world hunger. But the inclusion of the Master feels utterly spurious, even if it does lead to some lovely Delgado moments (his Master is perfectly smarmy) and interesting Doctor/Master dynamics.

Oddly, I think the insults are one of my favorite parts of the whole show. For example, when Mr. Chinn, the government official nominally in charge of the whole operation, phones in to report to the Minister, he asks, "Will you scramble, or shall I, sir?" The reply is a terse, "Just your report, Chinn. I'm sure that will be quite garbled enough." Makes me laugh every time.


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.


      Now That's Diplomatic Tension


      Review of The Ambassadors of Death (#53)

      DVD Release Date: 10 Oct 12
      Original Air Date: 21 Mar - 02 May 1970
      Doctor/Companion: Three, Liz Shaw, the Brigadier
      Stars: Jon Pertwee, Caroline John, Nicholas Courtney
      Preceding Story: Doctor Who and the Silurians (Three, Liz, the Brigadier)
      Succeeding Story: Inferno (Three, Liz, the Brigadier)

      It's been a Three-rich environment around here lately, what with taking G through his era and the DVD releases for October and November both starring this particular Doctor. It's a good thing I quite like him, or I'd be in trouble.

      As far as what I've seen, Ambassadors is the penultimate story of Three's tenure. (The final one is The Mind of Evil, which is being painstakingly colorized by the ridiculously talented Stuart Humphryes, aka BabelColour, and is due out on DVD some time next year.) I was plenty surprised, then, when the opening titles kind of stopped halfway through, cut to a short "pre-titles sequence" and then finished the titles. That format was never used again (which explains my surprise), but I thought it was kind of a cool, interesting way to go about it. (It's also fun to note that this it the first story to use the "sting" into the closing credits.)

      Given the way space travel was just getting underway with the Apollo program at the time these were filmed and broadcast, I found it primarily interesting from a historical perspective. As the astronauts had trouble with their Mars Probe 7, I couldn't help but wonder how far from Apollo 13 (in which a malfunction endangered the lives of three American astronauts) this was produced. The extras (see below) answered that question - Apollo 13 launched the day Episode 4 aired, encountered its famous "problem" three days later, and splashed down safely the day before Episode 5. That had to have made things awfully weird for the viewers.


      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.



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