The Stones of Blood

Posted June 26, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: , , , ,
The Stones of Blood

The Stones of Blood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Media used:  DVD

Not bad.  The abrupt change in tone and genre doesn’t quite work, although it certainly is an interesting — even daring — thing to do.  What really lets this serial down, though, is the overly long and boring trial scene.

 

Great Moments

The scene in which the stones consume those hapless campers. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

Amelia Rumford has a number of great scenes, but this one tops them all:  Being chased by an Ogri, Rumford tells the Doctor, “In the cause of science, it’s our duty to capture that creature  <here she brandishes her truncheon> We can track it to its lair.”  Yeah, that’s the spirit!  Totally impractical, of course, but, by golly, she’s got the Right Stuff.

 

Random Thoughts

So how did the Doctor know that Cessair had the Key?  No doubt it was partly a leap of intuition, but Cessair herself gives the clue.  When the Megara pronounce sentence upon her, she reaches for her necklace, as though it could protect her.  Apparently, it did have that power, as the Doctor disperses the Megara by simply waving it at them.

This brings up another mystery, though — why didn’t Cessair use the Key to save herself?  Maybe she was too rattled by being caught to think straight?  Or maybe the Megara are more powerful in hyperspace? Or maybe the scriptwriters needed a quick resolution?

 

Shipping Report

 

It’s a sign of the Doctor’s growing trust in Romana that he confides in her about the White and Black Guardians, even though that may be against the White Guardian’s wishes.

The developing relationship is nearly derailed when the false Doctor pushes Romana over a cliff.  That’s the sort of thing that could really scotch a friendship.  Good thing K9 was there to set things straight.

The Doctor seems to have gotten over his reluctance to touch Romana (if, indeed, that was the reason he declined to shake her hand in the previous story).  He draws her close to him to be on the pick-up spot for the high-tech whatsit that’s to transfer them to real space.  She also momentarily places her hands on his waist.  Granted, there’s a practical reason for the physical closeness, but there’s also a very slight hint of something more going on.

The other relationship of interest is Amelia Rumford and Vivian Fay, who are possibly more than friends.  Rumford is quite familiar with Fay’s cottage and with details of her life, including food preferences.  This indicates that they are certainly very close, although, of course, such closeness does not necessarily mean they are lovers.

I also notice Rumford’s evident pleasure in being kissed by Romana.  Then again, a great many of us would be pleased to be kissed by Romana.

 

Food and Drink

DeVries offers the Doctor a glass of sherry.

Rumford, far more generous, offers Romana a mug of tea and some sandwiches.

She later returns to the stone circle with a flask of tea, just in case Romana has been stranded there.

Later, at the cottage, Fay serves Romana and Rumford mugs of tea and sausage sandwiches.

The Ogri need blood for sustenance; they seem particularly fond of human blood, when they can get it.

Romana reasons that the Ogri don’t attack Vivian Fay because her blood is useless to them, and therefore she is not human.  She finds significance in the foods that Fay avoids, which include lemon juice, grapefruits, avocado, and certain types of meat. With these clues, K9 helps her figure out Fay’s true origins.

In a last ditch attempt to delay his execution, the Doctor mentions some possible last requests, which include  a toffee apple and a hearty breakfast.

 

Grade: 3/5

June 26, 2013

 
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The Pirate Planet

Posted June 25, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,
The Pirate Planet

The Pirate Planet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

media used:  DVD

This story is significant for me because it was the first ever Doctor Who story I ever saw. I could see some flaws, but  I liked it a lot for its clever ideas and for the interesting characters of the Doctor and Romana, so decided to watch more.

A few years later, I saw “Pirate” again.  I wasn’t so impressed.

This is my third viewing. The humor fell flat, the Captain was ridiculous, and  I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

I guess this is one of those stories that shouldn’t be seen too frequently.

 

Great Moments

Lots of clever ideas and a nice plot twist. On my first viewing, the nurse = Xanxia = the real villain came as a complete surprise.

Most impressive part of the story is the Doctor’s “Appreciate it” speech.

 

Random Thoughts

I’ve been contemplating the Mentiads, that jolly group of telepaths who live in caves and scare people.  Okay, I get they’ve been forced to live underground because of the Captain’s extermination campaign, and for the same reason they have to kidnap their new members.  Still, it make a bad first impression.

Moreover, the Mentiads must have a hell of an initiation ceremony.  Pralix has a perfectly normal appearance, even if he’s raving and off his nut.  Then he gets kidnapped.  Next we see him, he’s a zombie complete with black rimmed eyes.  Somehow, this just doesn’t inspire confidence.

I also note that the Mentiads are a male-only group.  Maybe telepathy is inherited through the male line?  Pralix evidently inherited his ability from his father.

 

The Shipping Report

The Doctor and Romana are really working together quite well, in spite of some sniping.  One odd thing happened — when Romana, in congratulations, extended her hand to shake his, he declined to touch her.  Why, I wonder?  Is he afraid to make physical contact?

 

Food and Drink

Romana offers the inhabitants some jelly babies that she pilfered from the Doctor’s pocket.

The Doctor, wanting to steal an air car, distracts the guard by throwing  a bag of candy.  It’s not full of jelly babies, though.  Romana must have stolen them all.

The Doc tries the bag of candy distraction trick a second  time, but this time it doesn’t work.

In another one of his dubious tales, the Doctor claims to have dropped an apple on Isaac Newton’s head, then explained the concept of gravity to him at dinner. (yeah, right)

 

Grade: 2/5  (I have, in the past, given this story a higher grade)

June 25, 2013

 

The Ribos Operation

Posted June 25, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: , ,

Media used: DVD

 

What a great kick-off for the sixteenth season!  I rather enjoy caper stories and this one is a dandy, filled with interesting characters and great dialog.

 

Great Moments

The introduction of Romana (I).  As the camera pans up from her feet to her head, we see the perfect, virginal ice queen, from her long white dress to her bejeweled hair.  She’s even carrying a magic wand or scepter (the tracer).

There’s a lot of terrific dialog in this tale, but I’ll restrict myself to mentioning only one instance:  the conversation between Binro and Unstoffe, especially the “Binro was right” moment.

The Graff’s final moments — despicable creature that he is, the Graff  becomes a tragic character in his death.  His grief for the death of his chief officer and friend Sholakh– probably his only close relationship — is quite genuine.  It’s enough of a blow to unhinge his mind,  and he, all unwitting, marches to his death imagining himself to be in a great battle.

 

Random Thoughts

I’m always rather intrigued by the cultures and societies being created for the series.  Generally, we only get enough info to move the plot along and to provide a bit of color for the stories.  This nevertheless spurs my imagination to fill in the blank spaces.

Ribos, for instance,with extreme seasons of hot and cold, each season lasting thirty-some years.  Their technology is equivalent to medieval Earth’s.  Their religion is . . . what?  They treat the crown jewels as sacred relics and say prayers before the display, so maybe a form of ancestor worship?  And then there’s that shaman-like character, who communicates with unseen forces and comes up with some accurate information.

She’s the only female native that we see — is this a culture in which women are confined to certain roles?  What are marriage and family life like?  The authority structure?  The captain seems to be the one in charge of this city, but is anyone in charge of him?

The Ribosians can certainly be a narrow-minded bunch, considering how they treated Binro.  But, in their favor, they have courage and initiative.  They don’t cower in abject terror after the Graff murders one of them with a weapon that, to them, must seem supernatural in nature.  No, they use their wits and go after him with the best they have.  It’s only a cannon, but it’s used to good effect.

Enough meandering . . . moving on . . .

 

The Shipping Report

Poor Doctor!  He’s built K9 the second, which, presumably, he’s programmed in such a way as to feed his ego, rather than challenge it.  Now all he wants to do is have a nice vacation, accompanied only by his faithful dog and minus any vexatious companions.  But it’s not to be.

The Doc not only gets a new assignment from the godlike White Guardian, but a new companion as well.  And if he was annoyed by Leela, he’s sure to be downright riled by Time Lady Romana.

Recent graduate Romana is an academic know-it-all, but lacks field experience, thus setting up an experience -versus -education rivalry with the Doctor.  She’s a little contemptuous of him because of his low academic scores, he looks down on her because of her immaturity. They snipe at each other, and we see right away that Romana can give as good as she gets.  She can also manipulate the Doctor with a well-placed insult.

Romana’s first encounter with a monster sends her screaming into the Doctor’s arms, and so she learns there may be a few things not covered by her classroom experience.  There’s also a hint — just a hint — of a potential attraction between these two.

 

Food and Drink

The White Guardian is sitting under a sun umbrella, drinking a green beverage.

The Doctor asks Romana if she can make tea. (he’s trying to needle her; IIRC, Doc 3 did something similar to Sarah Jane.)

Unstoffe gives drugged meat to the monster guarding the crown jewels.

The Graff and Sholakh drink from tankards .

Unstoffe brings the guard a jug of liquor (probably drugged)

The Doctor claims the tracer can peel apples.

There’s a large bowl of fruit in the Graff’s  quarters.

 

Grade: 4/5

June 25, 2013

 

The Invasion of Time

Posted June 24, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: , ,
A Vardan spaceship approaches Gallifrey from s...

A Vardan spaceship approaches Gallifrey from space (from The Invasion of Time) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Media used: DVD and novelization

What a mixed bag this serial is!  It runs the gamut from brilliance to bilge, and we see the Doctor at his best and his worst — occasionally at the same time.

 

Great Moments

The appearance of the Sontarans just when everyone is celebrating a victory.  I’ll go so far as to say that’s one of the great moments in the history of DW. (The trickster has been tricked!)  And what immediately follows is also classic.  The Doctor tries out his usual cheeky response — first by appropriating authority “I’m the Lord President of Gallifrey, call me ‘sir’” and then gets blasted for his arrogance.

When Stor announces he calls no one “sir” but his military superiors, the Doctor sarcastically remarks that must mean “ several thousand sirs”, but that too falls flat, because Stor proudly proclaims the Sontaran army numbers in millions.

Well, at least the Doc hides his true identity from the Sontarans.

Yes, great stuff.  What a shame it all goes downhill after that.

 

Random Thoughts

One of the great things about this story is trying to figure out the Doctor’s true feelings and motives.  Of course he’s playing a game — a very dangerous one —  to save Gallifrey from the Vardans, but there seems to be something more involved.  The Doctor’s laugh when the Vardans first appear is not the least bit forced.  He rather enjoys the shock inflicted upon the Time Lords. And what about his arrogance towards  Borusa? Yes, he later apologizes, but I can’t help wondering if he gets a kick out of bullying his old teacher.

Gallifrey really needs a women’s movement.  True, Rodan has a position of some importance, but she grumbles how boring it is : “Do you realize I’ve passed the Seventh Grade?  Yet, here I am, nothing more than a glorified traffic guard.”  Leela is the only female present at the Induction ceremony, and she’s only there at the Doctor’s order.  Even the Outsiders are male-dominated, having only one woman among their hunters.

Gallifrey also needs a complete overhaul of their system of government.  Imagine leaving a crucial position like Lord President unfilled!  And imagine a culture that allows someone like the Doctor to demand the office simply because he was the one of the candidates a while back.

 

Shipping Report

The big news here, of course, is Leela and K9’s defection — Leela to be with Andred and K9 to look after Leela.  Like many others, I have some trouble understanding Leela’s decision.  Why Andred?  There does seem to be a subtext of mild attraction in their conversations, but it’s certainly doesn’t amount to much.

It really doesn’t make much sense.  Why would the adventure-loving Leela choose to stick around on a planet with such a staid culture; a place, moreover, that doesn’t value women, aliens, or primitives?  And for a man in which she only displays a mild interest?

My theory:  Leela is getting fed up with the Doctor’s attitude.  Because, really, he’s always been a tad ambivalent about both Leela and K9.  Leela has finally realized that, whatever advantages the Doctor’s mentorship may have for her, the relationship also has toxic elements.  It’s time to move on. Andred just happens to be there, and he seems a nice enough guy.

Personally, though, I doubt if she sticks around for long.  I suspect that she and K9 find a way out of the doldrums of Gallifrey, and seek adventure somewhere else in the Universe.

 

Food and Drink

Lots of jelly babies being consumed, so I will only mention a couple of instances:

Andred and the Doctor each — rather solemnly — eat a jelly baby.  Andred says they’re delicious, but I think he’s trying to suck up to the boss.

The Doc orders the Castellan to get him an orange jelly baby, but there’s none to be found.

Moving on to non-jelly baby topics:

Borusa drinks a mysterious blue beverage while in the TARDIS waiting for the Doctor.

The Outsiders have a meal that includes some nuts.  They also discuss how they’re going to provide food for all those seeking shelter from them.

Rodan has some tablets she’s brought with her as food.  It doesn’t look like she and Leela had much time to pick up supplies, so maybe she already had them with her — the Gallifreyan equivalent of a sack lunch, maybe.  Nesbin asks her if she’s ever eaten flesh or fruit — apparently she hasn’t.

All this suggests that the diet of the average Gallifreyan consists of artificial food.   (Of course, if we want to nitpick, Nesbin only mentions flesh and fruit, but says nothing about grain, vegetables, or dairy.  It’s quite possible a Gallifreyan could be quite happy with a certain restaurant chain’s unlimited salad and breadsticks.)

In any case, we can add another reason for the Doc to leave his home planet — to get some decent grub.

 

Grade: 3/5  (Difficult to grade this one.  Some truly great material, but lots of dreck as well.  I figure the bad and the good cancel each other out, and we end up with a “fair” grade.

June 24, 2013

 

 

Underworld

Posted June 19, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: , ,
Cover of "Doctor Who and the Underworld"

Cover of Doctor Who and the Underworld

media used: DVD and novelization

Great concepts, poor execution.  A story based on Jason and the Argonauts (not to mention a large dose of Moses and the Israelites) should be a winner, but it’s not.  “Underworld” is tedious, and, for the most part, poorly acted.

 

Great Moments

The Doctor giving Leela a pep talk after she had been pacified. “You’re primitive, wild, warlike . . .”, and so forth.

 

Random Thoughts

A weapon that pacifies rather than hurts is a rather cool idea.

This is one instance in which the novelization by Terrance Dicks is actually better than the televised script.  The book is a decent read; I didn’t have to resist the urge to nod off as I did watching the serial.

The Doctor, tampering with the fan, says “Whatever blows can be sucked”.  And I’m now going to borrow a line from Gallifrey Base reviewer, Ryback :I Can’t Believe They Let That Through

Or maybe my mind is in the gutter.

 

Shipping Report

The Doc claims that K9 is his second-best friend, which begs the question of who’s number one.  I’d like to believe it’s Leela, but . . .I wonder.  Could it be the TARDIS, maybe?  Or his sonic screwdriver?

 

Food and Drink

The people of Underworld eat processed rock.  Indeed, there’s nothing else, unless the upper caste has gardens that use artificial light.

Tala and Orfe eat emergency rations (food concentrate tablets) as they wait for Herrick to return. I believe this scene is found only in the book (page 66); it’s possible I dozed off and missed it if it played on-screen.

The Doctor takes an apple from his pocket for Leela to throw at the “dragon” door.  She takes a bite from it instead. (This bit of humor is all wrong for the character. She’s a skilled hunter/tracker/warrior on an important mission — why would she assume the Doctor wanted her to eat the apple?)

 

Grade: 1/5

 

 

The Sun Makers

Posted June 17, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: ,

media used: DVD and novelization

As a satire, this story is far too heavy-handed to be amusing; as a drama, it is, at best, mediocre.  “Sun” does have some good moments, so it’s not a total dud.

 

Great Moments

Leela gets quite a few good scenes — threatening the Others with a blood bath, trying to rouse  support for rescuing the Doctor, and so forth.

The scenes with the TARDIS on the immense flat gray roof — it’s the only spot of color there.  I found that rather effective.

 

Random Thoughts

This society doesn’t seem to have much of a future.  Who’s going to lead them once the euphoria of a successful revolution is over? (That’s assuming it is successful — there are several cities left to fall.)

The survivors consist of a murderous rabble, mostly uneducated, and a bunch of Company officials, like Marn, who joined up to save their own necks.  I suspect the revolution is going to disintegrate into a violent free-for-all.

 

Shipping Report

Not much to say here.  K9 is now a full-fledged crew member;  the Doc resents the metal dog’s superior chess skills.  The Doctor can really be a jerk sometimes.

 

Food and Drink

Doctor offers Cordo a jelly baby.

Hade is eating something when Marn tells him about the air space violation.

The Doctor offers jelly babies to the correctional center workers.  When he’s freed he gives the whole sack to Bisham.

Hade and Marn give the Doctor a raspberry leaf.  The Doctor mentions raspberry tea.  Hade says that in “primitive times” humans ate large quantities of vegetable matter .

The Doctor, in parting, offers a humbug to Hade. (or maybe calls him a humbug.)

The Others are eating a meal when the Doctor returns (the book identifies it as stew.)

 

Grade: 2/5

June 15, 2013

 

Image of the Fendahl

Posted June 15, 2013 by Mill_A
Categories: Doctor Who

Tags: , ,
Image of the Fendahl

Image of the Fendahl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image of the Fendahl

media used: DVD and novelization

I found this to be an effective tale, although marred by some sloppiness here and there (e.g., a visit from the Door Fairy, who helps the Doctor escape from the storeroom).  Also, the background story is a tad incoherent.  On the whole, though, it’s an engrossing and atmospheric serial.

 

Great Moments

Any scene with Granny Tyler.

Thea’s transformation into the Fendahl core.

 

Random Thoughts

The Doctor is far more receptive to folklore and superstition than in “Horror of Fang Rock”, although, of course, giving a scientific explanation for it all.

More explanations, this time from the Terrance Dicks novelization:

The mysterious opening door:  The Doctor’s use of the sonic screwdriver has weakened the metal.   When he kicks the door in frustration, it causes the weakened lock to shatter.  Bit of a re-write there, I think.  In any case, no Door Fairy.

Leela found on the TARDIS floor, unconscious or asleep:  The Doctor had left the console room, Leela got bored, lay down and went to sleep. (Just like that?  Just flopped down on the floor and had a snooze?  Like a dog?)

Speaking of dogs, I wonder what happened to Leakey?

 

Shipping Report

Poor K9, the third member of the TARDIS crew, still doesn’t get a chance to do much, except feebly nod his head.  For no particular reason, the Doctor has changed his mind about him, and now refers to the metal dog as “he”, instead of “it”.

A pattern is developing in the Leela/Doctor relationship.  He speaks slightingly of  her, or disparages her abilities; and then, sometime during the story, she shows her worth, thus proving him wrong.  This time, he seems amused when she promises to protect him.  Of course, she eventually does just that, actually saving his life by breaking his connection with the skull.

 

Food and Drink

In the book, the doomed hiker longs for a warm pub with beer and cheese rolls (Page 7)

Granny Tyler works as a cook for the Priory, but only for dinner.  The resident scientists take turns making the other meals.  Max was supposed to cook breakfast in part one but missed his turn because Fendleman kept him working all night.

After her encounter with the new security system, Mrs. Tyler declines to work at the Priory until things are back to normal; the four scientists have to fend for themselves now.

The hiker (now dead) was carrying a thermos of tea (in the book, it’s coffee)

Doc give Ted Moss a jelly baby.

There’s a bowl of fruit on the Priory’s kitchen table (mostly apples and bananas)

The kitchen shelves carry canisters of food supplies (and look like they were takes straight from the Lighthouse!)

Leela gives Granny Tyler a drink of liquor (identified as brandy in the book)

The Doctor eats jelly babies while investigating the laboratory, and offers one to the skull.

The Doctor tells Jack to make tea and get some fruitcake. “I love fruitcake, “ he says. (I suspect he’s the only one who does!)

The Doc’s instructions for making fruitcake involve peanuts mixed with treacle and apple cores — and baking for two weeks.  This recipe shocks Granny Tyler so much that she awakes from her trance.

After the explosion (implosion?) clears, the Doctor speculates that the others are now eating Granny Tyler’s plum cake.

 

Grade: 4/5

June 15, 2013