Archive for March 2009

The Era of the Second Doctor

March 26, 2009

 

Cosmic hobo.  That’s the initial concept of the Doctor #2, and it seems to fit.  He’s a mysterious, rumpled character with a penchant for odd hats. He plays the recorder, sometimes letting it talk for him, and tends to avoid giving a direct answer to a question.  This restless, playful, childlike fellow is very different from the Doctor that Ben and Polly — and the audience — have come to know.  It’s almost as though the central core of the Doctor’s being, that permanent part of him that carries over from generation to generation (his soul, if you like), has chosen to drop the grandfather role and have a bit of fun for a change.

 

In rather short time, the new Doctor abandons the odd hats; he shelves the recorder, dusting it off now and then for an occasional tune, and learns how to give a direct answer to a question.  We also quickly learn that he has a dark side. While this Doctor can be friendly and playful, he can also be manipulative, cool, and calculating. 

 

True, the Doctor always has the greater good in mind, but sometimes his manipulations are a little disturbing.  In “Power of the Daleks”, he is a little too casual in suggesting that Bragen’s guards be used as a diversion (which could cost them their lives); in “Tomb of the Cybermen” he subtly connives to have the metal monsters awakened, with dire consequences; and in “Evil of the Daleks”, he essentially tricks Jamie into a very dangerous test. 

 

And yet he also has a deeply caring side.  In “Tomb”, a story in which he is most manipulative, he has a touching conversation with Victoria, seeking to help her through her grief, and in “Wheel in Space”, while in a semi-conscious state, his only thought is Jamie’s well-being, “Must get him to safety,” he mutters, even though he can barely walk.

 

The first Doctor’s era ended with a major turning point in the Whovian world, the introduction of  regeneration (although it wasn’t called that).  The second Doctor’s time ends with a another big turning point, the introduction of the Time Lords and the Doctor’s exile.  We know that he will eventually continue with his travels, this time with much greater control over the TARDIS, but he will no longer have complete freedom to do as he likes.  Somewhere in the background, his people will be keeping an eye on him, ready and willing to jerk his chain as occasion demands.

 

Food and Drink

The second Doctor is a restless sort of person, who doesn’t like to sit still for very long.  And so he seldom sits down for a meal; usually, when we see him eating, he’s standing up, or grabbing a quick snack in between bouts of fighting the latest monster.  An exception occurs in “Underwater  Menace” , during which he enthusiastically  eats a meal made of plankton.  He calls it “ambrosia”.  His companions aren’t quite so appreciative.

 

On one other occasion, the Doctor sits down for a substantial meal, and that’s while he and Jamie are stranded on the rocket (“Wheel in Space”).  I get the general feeling, though, that he’s trying to humor Jamie, who is hungry, thirsty, and tired.  The meal turns out to be artificial food, much to Jamie’s dismay — which leads to the question:  Shouldn’t he be used to phony food by now?

 

The answer, of course, is “no”, not if the Doctor has upgraded his food machine, or perhaps installed a kitchen.  Since Jamie is clearly not used to cubed space rations or similar type stuff, then he has not been eating the products of the original TARDIS food dispenser.  Come to think of it, I don’t recall any mention of the food machine since “The Chase”.  Somewhere after that time, the Doctor has done a bit of upgrading, so his crew can eat a proper meal if they want.

 

The Shipping Report

It’s now time to discuss the many relationship issues we find both on and off the TARDIS.  There’s quite a bit of ground to cover, so we’d better get started . . .Oh, hell, let’s just cut to the chase.  Who’s on the boat?  Who’s staying ashore?  Here, then, are my guesses:

 

The Doctor and Jamie:  Yup.

The Doctor and the rest of his companions: No, he is platonically fond of them.

Ben and Polly:  Maybe, although I’m inclined to think this is a romance that hasn’t quite happened yet.  The Doctor may be acknowledging this in his parting words to them: “Ben can catch his ship and become an admiral, and you, Polly, you can look after Ben.”

Jamie/Ben/Polly: No, although there’s some rivalry between Ben and Jamie.

Jamie and Victoria: No, Jamie clearly fancies Victoria, may even be in love with her, but there’s no indication she returns the feeling.

Jamie and Zoe: No, they’re just pals.

 

So long, Doctor Number 2.  You’ll be missed.

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The War Games

March 25, 2009

Pure hell.  One war is bad enough, but, here, there’s no escape.  Leave one battlefield and you land smack dab in the middle of another.  What strikes me is the similarity of each war; though each situation is very different, they’re all very much the same — blood, dirt, death, anger, suspicion, darkness, misery.  And it never stops.  Even the resistance group fights among itself.

 

Somehow, it the midst of all this wretchedness, human beings are still capable of kindness and decency — when they’re not being manipulated by the aliens.  The Doctor’s jailor, for instance, promises to send him a meal. Then there’s the Confederate soldiers who are initially kind to Lady Jennifer and Jamie, or the German officer willing to listen to the Doctor’s explanations.  The alien beings who are running this show aren’t very interested in the decent side of human nature, of course, although they remark on Carstairs’ willingness to sacrifice himself for the others.  One of the aliens, who will turn out to be a Time Lord, remarks that loyalty is humanity’s finest quality.  The others don’t seem impressed.

 

The alien control center is a marked contrast to the grit and grime of the various war zones.  Here all is cool sterility, with scientists calmly experimenting with brainwashing, technicians manipulating their equipment, black-garbed security guards ready to pop up at any moment, and students observing everything.  All is not well, though, among the alien war-mongers.  There’s constant sniping between the War Chief and the Security Chief, and both are continually haranguing the Chief Scientist for a more effective brainwashing device.  Over everyone’s heads is the threat of the War Lord’s arrival.  His appearance in the plot is held back — with anticipation building, his character seems increasingly ominous.  When he does finally show up, he turns out to be a rather handsome, attractive fellow, but one who is just as cool, detached, and vicious as we would expect.

 

Into this ugly mix comes the Doctor, who discovers, to his horror and disgust, that one of his own kind is a major player —  a Time Lord who, like the Doctor, was unhappy with life on his home planet, but, unlike the Doctor, has chosen to seek power and glory by whatever means possible.  Everyone’s plans are starting to unravel, though; this includes the Doctor’s own plans, because he is forced to contact his people in order to save the thousands of trapped humans.  It’s a self-sacrificing act — he could have just hopped into the TARDIS and gone off to another adventure.  Instead, he “does the right thing”, with lamentable consequences for himself.

 

True, he does try to avoid capture.  The Doctor and his companions make a desperate attempt to escape, but it’s all for naught, and they find themselves on the Doctor’s home world, facing the Time Lord’s themselves. 

 

Like the alien control center, it’s rather sterile environment, although, with the minimal sets, far more mysterious.  The Time Lords seem like awesome beings, not heartless, certainly, but not completely benign, either.  They don’t really want to inflict torture, but they do — and quite harshly — when the War Lord refuses to co-operate. Nor do they bat an eye when they later dematerialize him; a painless execution, perhaps, but an execution none-the-less.  

 

The Doctor fares somewhat better.  The Time Lords are not unreasonable.  They acknowledge that evil needs fighting.  Still, they won’t turn him loose to live his life as he sees fit.  His companions are taken from him, their memories wiped, never to remember anything but their first adventures together.  The Doctor himself will be confined to Earth, the secrets of the TARDIS hidden from him, and his appearance forcibly changed.  

 

This is one of the big turning points in the Whovian universe. Never again, until the destruction of the race of Time Lords, will the Doctor be entirely free of outside control.  And never again will the Time Lords be able to stay entirely detached from events outside their own society.

 

And thus ends the era of the second Doctor.  

 

 

Great Moments

The Doctor puts the Chief Scientist into his own mind machine, and then adjusts the controls. “Better leave him on simmer,” he says.  Curiously, the Scientist seems to suffer no ill effect from his experience.  Maybe the machine only works on humans.

 

The slow motion “dash” to the TARDIS.

 

All of the last episode.

 

Random Thoughts

 

What, I wonder, is the purpose of the alien eye gear?  The “glasses” don’t seem to protect or enhance eyesight. Perhaps they act like badges to identify rank or function. (Students seem to wear one design, technicians another)

 

The Time Lords, although portrayed as rather awesome beings, are far from infallible.  They couldn’t, for instance, locate the Doctor (or the War Chief, for that matter), until the Doctor sent them a message.  Also, the War Lords minions were able to breach whatever security the Time Lords have, and rescue their leader (albeit temporarily), apparently killing a couple of lower ranking Time Lords in the process.

 

I’ve heard a theory that the War Chief is an early incarnation of the Master.  Plausible.

 

The Shipping Report

The Doctor displays his affection for Zoe by kissing her.  

 

The scene of the companions parting is curiously restrained.  The Doctor shakes Jamie’s hand and briefly touches Zoe.  A hug for each would have been entirely appropriate under the circumstances; this is, after all, a permanent separation. (As far as anyone knows, that is–there’s  season 6b, but that’s another story). Perhaps everyone was a little embarrassed with the Time Lords looking on.

 

Food and Drink

While in the WWI trenches, the TARDIS crew are drinking from mugs.

General Smythe is given a metal mug of something (tea? coffee? hot bourbon with a twist of lemon?)

Carstairs pours something from a thermos for Lady Jennifer.

When the Doctor is imprisoned, a jailor promises to send him something to eat.

Jamie demands breakfast while in jail.

Prison official won’t see the Doctor and Zoe because he is having his tea; he later offers the same beverage to them when they burst in anyway.

Confederate soldiers are eating something while playing cards.

The alien held in the American civil war zone requests water.

The Doctor, Jamie, and Carstairs eat what seems to be apples (episode 7)

Arturo Villar eats something straight from a cooking pot.

 

Grade:  4/5.  There’s a lot about this story that I don’t like: the padding (capture, escape, recapture, escape again), the unceremonious dropping of Lady Jennifer from the story, and the stereotyped Mexican bandits. On the other hand, there’s some super stuff here: the very well done war zones, the effective grim atmosphere, and the superb final episode.  On balance, I give this an “above-average” rating.  A worthy story to end the second Doctor’s era.

The Space Pirates

March 20, 2009

 

 

It’s a pity.  This could have been a nice light-weight, action tale ( an outer-space Western, as I understand it was meant to be), a bit of fun before the second Doctor’s swan song.  Reduced to three or four episodes, this story probably would have worked.  Instead, we get a heavily-padded six-parter, which plods along until the last two episodes, when things finally pick up.

 

Some bits of good dialogue save this serial from being a dud.  Some of the give-and-take between Clancy and the General, and the Doctor and Jamie are fun to hear,  and Zoe gets another opportunity to show off her brains. And while I find Clancy’s accent to be a little irritating, the character is otherwise played well, and has many of the best lines.

 

Great Moments

I’m trying hard to think of some. . . Nope, there’s some fair-to-middling moments, but nothing great.

 

Random Thoughts

The pirate ship design is rather cool.  Looks like a shark.

 

The Shipping Report

Nice bit of dialogue after Zoe calculates the whereabouts of the TARDIS.  Doctor: “. . . a simple calculation.  I should have thought of that myself.”   Zoe: “Yes.  I wonder why you didn’t.”  In spite of the affection between them, they just can’t help being rivals in the intelligence department.

Food and Drink

 

General Hermack and Major Warne drink coffee out of plastic or styrofoam cups. (Egads, that styrofoam stuff’s still around?)

Clancy has breakfast on his ship, which includes a soft-boiled egg (spat out by a dispensing machine), and coffee.  He doesn’t get any toast because the new-fangled toaster burned it, and it’s his last slice of bread.

 

The General is a guest in Madeleine Issigri’s office.  He is served a beverage from a metal flask poured into a metal cylinder.  His hostess is wearing a metallic gown and is sporting a metal wig complete with a metal part on the side.  I guess she’s just proving her mettle.

 

Grade: 2/5.  Pretty much a clunker, but there’s some good dialogue and the last two episodes aren’t bad.

The Seeds of Death

March 18, 2009

Well, humanity has really painted itself into a corner, hasn’t it?  Just about everything depends on the T-Mat technology, which is naively assumed to be almost infallible.  Rockets have become nearly obsolete. So have automobiles.  And to make matters worse, there’s only one person who really understands T-Mat. That’s the redoubtable Gia Kelly, who evidently never takes a vacation.

 

Of course, this is foolishness to the point of lunacy.  What happens if Miss Kelly dies in a freak accident?  There would be no one left who is thoroughly familiar with this crucial technology.  And if something goes seriously wrong with T-Mat . . .but, of course, that would never happen. . .

 

This serial presents us with a human race which has allowed itself to become “stuck”; running in place, so to speak.  Having found a set of technologies that serves its needs (T-Mat, artificial foods, talking computers, etc), it has become complacent and tame.  On one hand, we have the oh-so-efficient T-Mat; on the other, now considered obsolete except for launching satellites, is the rocket.  The latter represents adventure, curiosity, the spirit of exploration —  and all those qualities have become obsolete, too.  

 

It’s this situation that the Ice Warriors are exploiting. There’s one thing they didn’t count on, though, and that’s the way human nature can revive in adversity.  Ingenuity and courage defeat the invaders, and while the Doctor has an important role to play, it is the human beings responding to the crisis that ultimately saves the day. 

 

But has humanity learned its lesson?  At the end, Kelly and Eldred are arguing over the relative merits of T-Mat and rockets.  With the recent crisis over. will humans revert to complacency?  Trade exploration for expediency?

 

But, of course, this is all fiction.  In real life, this couldn’t happen.  We aren’t, for instance, entirely too dependent on fossil fuels . . .

 

Great Moments

The scenes in the rocket are rather cool.  

 

Every scene with Gia Kelly in it.  She stands up to her boss.  She faces down the Ice Warriors.  This is a woman who can take on anything, and never even blink.  (She is a little short-sighted about T-Mat, though)

 

Fewsham redeeming himself.

Random Thoughts

I’m a little surprised that such desperation develops when T-Mat has only been inoperative for a rather short time. It’s hard to know just how much time has elapsed, but it surely can’t be more than a couple of days.  I guess no one keeps canned goods in the cupboard anymore.

 

The Shipping Report

Zoe admonishes Jamie to keep an eye on the fuel gauge, and when it’s full, to shut it off. “Can you remember that?”  Poor Jamie!  He gets no credit for any brains.  Personally, I think he’s rather intelligent.

 

Food and Drink

Jamie and Zoe, after their return to earth, drink something out of squeeze bottles.

 

Grade: 4/5

The Krotons

March 17, 2009

The Krotons (mini-review)

 

I have resisted the urge to call this story “The Croutons”. 

 

Here’s another for the “not bad” category.  Some excellent ideas, but the story itself is a bit of a muddle.

 

Food and Drink

The crew are given something to drink in Selris’s home.

 

Grade: 3/5

The Invasion

March 17, 2009

(mini-review)

Not bad.  Suffers from too much padding –if I understand correctly, this was a 4 part story that got expanded to 8 episodes.  It shows.

 

It is, none-the-less, an entertaining serial that features the debut of Unit.  And then there’s Zoe in a feather boa . . .

 

Great Moments

Cybermen emerging from the sewers,  Zoe making the computer explode.

 

The Shipping Report

 

Jamie and the Doctor do an awful lot of touching in this story.  I think they’re on the boat.

 

Zoe gets a pal in this story, which I find rather pleasant.  I doubt if she’s had much opportunity to be just “one of the girls”.  

 

Food and Drink

When the Brig offers tea, the Doctor requests a “pattycake biscuit”. (Um, can anyone tell me what that is?)

 

Jimmy asks Isobel out for dinner.

 

Isobel brings tea to Jimmy and the others.

 

The rescued Watkins is drinking what is probably brandy.

Isobel make coffee and sandwiches for Zoe and herself; later, Jamie and the Doctor help themselves to the leftovers.

 

Grade: 3/5.  Lots of good stuff here, but it is far too long, and a lot of important action takes place off screen.

The Mind Robber

March 17, 2009

mini-review

 

This story is my personal favorite from the second Doctor’s era, possibly because I have a great interest in dreams.  I do hold with the view that everything here, except for the first episode, is a   shared dream or vision.  The theory I’m working with is that the TARDIS crew have stumbled into an elaborate dream of the “master”, one clue being that he says he fell asleep at his desk and woke up in the land of fiction.  It’s a false awakening — not uncommon in dreams — and he is  dreaming that he has grown old managing this realm.  

 

The TARDIS  crew bring their own subconscious minds into this dream;  Karkus, for instance, is most likely Zoe’s contribution to the mix, as the Redcoat is Jamie’s.  Of course, I haven’t worked it all out yet, but it would be fun  to try someday.

 

Great Moments

Loads of them, but the most memorable is the TARDIS breaking up, with Zoe and Jamie clinging onto the console for dear life, and the Doctor floating off by himself.

 

Food and Drink

 

One of the children tormenting the Doctor announces that it’s tea time, another says he’s hungry, and they all run off.

 

I suppose we could include the remains of the Minotaur’s meal (Ugh)

 

Random Thoughts

 

It’s noticeable how strongly affected Jamie and Zoe are by the visions of their homes.  In spite of being eager for adventures, these two are still homesick.

Grade:  5/5.  Great stuff!