Two

Feel the Power

Feb
22

Review of Power of the Daleks (#30)
DVD Release Date: 24 Jan 17 [Region 1]
Original Air Date: 05 Nov - 10 Dec 1966
Doctor/Companion: Two, Ben Jackson, and Polly Wright
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills
Preceding Story: The Tenth Planet (Two, Ben, Polly)
Succeeding Story: The Highlanders (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)

Although we've had some brilliant windfalls in recent years in terms of recovered "lost" episodes of Doctor Who, there are plenty that are still missing in their entirety. Perhaps the most famous/famously sought-after is Marco Polo, but Patrick Troughton's first serial Power of the Daleks is also high on many peoples' lists.

Perhaps that is the reason that BBC Worldwide took the unusual step of animating all six episodes of Power. While they have previously commissioned animations for missing episodes of stories that are incomplete in the archives, this is (correct me if I'm wrong) the first story to be reconstructed in its entirety with no surviving visual material but a few minutes of clips and stills.

Although the animated reconstruction was released on the BBC Store last November (fifty years to the minute from the original broadcast of its opening episode), a physical version (DVD, rather than digital download or BBC America broadcast) was not made available in the US until late January. Being the obsessive collector I am (and refusing to pay for it twice), I therefore didn't get to see it until just recently.

The story begins with the first-ever regeneration. As a fan fifty years out, it feels oddly portentous watching that moment, even animated (though I still find the original surviving footage more moving). Troughton's skill and the lampshading of the wildly radical concept of the lead character's complete change of not only body but personality through the Companions' reactions to him paved the way for everything that followed.

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The Monsters Behind the Curtain

Jun
22

Review of The Invasion (#46)
DVD Release Date: 06 Mar 07 (Out of Print)
Original Air Date: 02 Nov - 21 Dec 1968
Doctor/Companion: Two, Jamie McCrimmon, Zoë Heriot
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Fraser Hines, Wendy Padbury
Preceding Story: The Mind Robber (Two, Jamie, Zoë)
Succeeding Story: The Krotons (Two, Jamie, Zoë)

My decision to review The Underwater Menace last time was not in the original plan for the year, but it turns out to have made for a nice segue into this month's installment in my continuing series. Having just refamiliarized ourselves with the Second Doctor, we can now watch him in action against the Cybermen.

Many fans may be more familiar with Troughton's clash with this enemy on their native Telos in The Tomb of the Cybermen, but that doesn't mean this final encounter (of his four) is unworthy of fans' time. Although it runs twice as long as Tomb, at eight episodes rather than four, there are qualities of the story that, for me at least, make the investment worthwhile.

To be clear, two episodes of The Invasion are still missing from the archives. However, in this release those missing episodes (numbers One and Four) have been animated by Cosgrove Hall, the same studio responsible for Scream of the Shalka. As someone who struggles with audio-only versions (as with the missing episodes of Menace, discussed last time), I really loved these animations. While I don't know whether director Douglas Camfield left any camera notes nor whether any such notes were consulted in the animated reconstructions, these episodes don't feel (to my untrained eye) out of place.

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The Stinker Swims

Jun
08

Review of The Underwater Menace (#32)
DVD Release Date: 24 May 16 (Region 1/N.America)
Original Air Date: 14 Jan - 04 Feb 1967
Doctor/Companion: Two, Polly Wright, Ben Jackson, Jamie McCrimmon
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines
Preceding Story: The Highlanders (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)
Succeeding Story: The Moonbase (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the third iteration of CONsole Room, my local Doctor Who convention. I won't be posting a full recap on it this year, as I was only there for a few hours each day for the panels I was on, but among the guests were three early Companions: Anneke Wills (Polly Wright), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), and Wendy Padbury (Zoë Heriot). All three worked with Patrick Troughton (though Anneke started with William Hartnell), so there are plenty of each of their episodes that are missing.

Interestingly enough, one of the more recently recovered episodes (found in December 2011) was from early in Season Four (Troughton's first), including Anneke as Polly and Frazer's second outing as Jamie. It was finally released on DVD here in North America about two weeks ago, a week and a half before CONsole Room. I didn't manage to find time to watch it until after the con, which is a shame, because then I might have been able to (a) ask the guests some semi-intelligent questions about the story when I saw them on their main stage panel on Saturday and (b) fully appreciate the cosplay of the (highly embarrassed) young lady who got called out to show off her Polly-as-an-Atlanean costume during said panel. Alas, I did not have that much forethought. With mild regret for missed opportunities, then, I sat down to watch the last release of the home video line (barring any further lost episode recoveries).

The Underwater Menace has a reputation as one of the big stinkers. Until now, it's only been possible to watch one of its four filmed episodes, which in my opinion makes it ridiculously difficult to judge. Even with this release, Episodes One and Four (those still absent from the archives) are terribly difficult to follow, as all we have to go on are the soundtrack and production stills. Thank Prime for closed captioning.

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Confession #59: I'm Sick of the Omnirumour

May
07

Part of the mythos of our show is the sad fact that many of the early episodes from the first two Doctors are no longer in the BBC archives. Pretty much ever since the advent of home video, fans have hoped that some—or preferably all—of those would some day be recovered. We've had our share of happy surprises, most recently when The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear were returned last year.

There are nearly a hundred still absent, though, and someone somewhere always brings up the idea that more are out there, just waiting to be revealed to the public. It's the Omnirumo(u)r—the rumor that will not die—and it has many forms. One particular collector is hoarding ["The Smugglers" / "Marco Polo" / all remaining missing episodes] (strike as relevant). The aforementioned episode(s) have been found in some backwater of Africa / Asia / wherever. And so on.

Of course the BBC's tendency to deny things that later turn out to have been fuzzy versions of truth keep fans frothing. "The BBC's just being coy!" "They're covering their behinds!" "If Doctor Who Magazine (DWM) denied it, it's just that they don't know better!" And I really think the BBC buys fully into the old saw about there being no such thing as bad publicity.

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Over the Moon

Mar
05

Review of The Moonbase (#33)
DVD Release Date: 11 Feb 14
Original Air Date: 11 Feb - 04 Mar 1967
Doctor/Companion: Two, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright, Jamie McCrimmon
Stars: Patrick Troughton, Michael Craze, Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines
Preceding Story: The Underwater Menace (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)
Succeeding Story: The Macra Terror (Two, Ben, Polly, Jamie)

I'm rather behind the curve on this one. Not only was the Region 1 release three weeks later than the Region 2 release (as has often been the case), but it also fell on the day before I left for this year's Gally. So I'm afraid I'm not exactly at the cutting edge here, but perhaps not all of my readers were in a rush anyway.

For completionist fans like me, this isn't precisely a new release. Though two of the four episodes are still missing, the existing ones have been available for quite some time as part of the Lost in Time box set, so I've actually seen half of the serial before. However, the addition of the animated reconstructions makes a big difference.

There's a great deal to be said for the black and white era when it comes to tone. Something about it transcends the dated effects and lends an extra sense of tension to all the scary bits. To say such episodes are "atmospheric" might be cliché, but it doesn't make it less true.

To my mind, the Cybermen are primarily responsible for that creepy, nerves-on-edge sensation one gets so often during The Moonbase. In only their second-ever appearance, they've already been upgraded, if you will, to look even less human. While that change might remove the audience a step from the body horror, I contend the modification to the voices—a more buzzing, mechanical sound—more than makes up for it.

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