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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Doctor Who: The Daleks

Serial Title: The Daleks
Series: 1
Episodes: 7
The Dead Planet
The Survivors
The Escape
The Ambush
The Expedition
The Ordeal (clearly, this episode is about watching through the whole serial! :-) )
The Rescue
Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

The TARDIS, fresh from escaping the Tribe of Gum (The cavemen from An Unearthly Child), lands on the planet Skaro, in a petrified forest. The planet is highly radioactive, however the Doctor and companions manage to miss the multiple redundant warnings issued by the high technology of the dimensionally-transcendent TARDIS: A single speedometer-style gauge with a sticky needle that doesn't begin registering until several minutes after they've landed. A futuristic city is visible in the distance.

Numerous spooky occurrences on the apparently dead planet suggest someone is there- a hand which Susan believes touched her (Note from Sarah: When doesn't Susan think that there is a hand touching her? Or all the girls on the show for that matter?), a knocking outside the TARDIS- enough to scare the companions into demanding the Doctor leave. Stubbornly and irresponsibly, he sabotages the TARDIS, claiming that all of the liquid mercury needed for the Fluid Link was drained in his sabotage and that the TARDIS cannot leave (Note from Sarah: You see in the new ones...he's so charming that pretty much all he'd have to do is smile and all the companions would get that giddy look on their faces and follow him over a cliff, even if he was wearing wings and they weren't.) without finding a new supply. (Fortunately, this is revealed to be a ruse; the Doctor is not THAT irresponsible!) Now forced to explore, and searching for mercury, the group heads for the city. Upon leaving the ship, they find a box containing vials of an unknown liquid, which they place in the ship for safekeeping; the gift-bearer, like the mysterious bumps in the night, is nowhere to be found.

As the group explores, designated-screamer Barbara is separated from the group and cornered by a Dalek- a human-height creature with a appearance like a salt-shaker on wheels; a large domed tower with a protruding eye-stalk, plunger-hand, and gun-barrel. The strange being is actually a sort of vehicle, a conveyance for the true Dalek creature within.

The rest of the group locates a Geiger counter and realizes their radiation-exposure; the Doctor admits the falseness of his sabotage and prepares to leave; to prevent abandoning Barbara, Ian seizes the crucial (but still mercury-filled and functional) component (Note from Sarah: So now that things feel dangerous to the Doctor HE wants to leave? And it just happens that he wants to leave without Barbara?!). Tension mounts again, but this is cut short as the Daleks capture the remaining trio. The Doctor is interrogated, and the Daleks, not wanting to lose their prisoners, dispatch Susan back to the TARDIS for the vials- which the group has deduced to be an anti-radiation-poisoning serum- and bring it back for the group. However, after she has left, the Daleks reveal they intend to confiscate the drugs and leave the group to die upon her return.

At the TARDIS, Susan encounters an ironically-Aryan race (see my review below for the Dalek/Nazi parallels) of friendly humans (Note from Sarah: can you tell they are Aryan in black and white, I ask you?:) (the ones who left the drugs) named the Thals. The Dals and Thals (how Doctor Suessian!) engaged in nuclear warfare. As a result of the following radiation, the Dals mutated into the Dalek race, and now need radiation to survive- confining them to the city, where the radiation in strongest. The Thals, now avowed pacifists, are starving, forced to live off the land which is meager and radiation-starved. They warn of Dalek duplicity and give Susan a second set of serum to conceal. Susan agrees to act as a broker on their behalf in hopes of negotiating with the Daleks for food and peace to the now useless war.

Susan manages to distribute the serum and the Thals offer; the Daleks seemingly accept, requesting Thal aid in cultivating the land as their food stockpiles are running low- but in reality, it is a plot to lure in, trap, and exterminate the Thals.

The Doctor and companions fake a fight amongst themselves and break the camera in their jail cell in the process, then come up with a method of immobilizing the Daleks. (Hilariously, these unstoppable forces of pure evil take their power via static electricity from the metal floor; rolling over a jacket that cuts off their metal-on-metal contact renders them powerless. Clearly, much tweaking would be needed to make the Daleks fearsome warriors in future serials.) A Dalek jailer is overpowered and Ian hides in the Dalek shell, impersonating a Dalek prisoner escort long enough to affect an escape.

The four escape and manage to get a warning to the approaching Thals, enabling some- but not all- to escape the deadly Dalek ambush. Back at their camp, Ian attempts to convince the pacifist Thals to fight against the Daleks as it is revealed that the Fluid Link was confiscated by the Daleks; without recovering it, the TARDIS can't leave.

The Thals and group make a plan; Ian and Barbara, with a group of Thals, will try to cross a treacherous swampland and mutant-filled lake to sneak in the back of the city. Meanwhile, The Doctor, Susan, and the remaining Thals, will make an assault on the front door as a diversion.

The Daleks, meanwhile, are attempting to cure themselves of radiation sickness with the captured serum but discover that they have become dependent on radiation, thriving on it- thus, they hatch a plan to launch another nautronic bomb and further flood the planet with radiation, making more of the surface habitable to them (and killing the Thals).

As the Doctor and Susan, successfully taking out Dalek surveillance monitors, become too bold in their sabotage and are captured, the sneaking group encounters a treacherous tunnel and a perilous ledge/jump- this, and the lake mutants, severely decrease their numbers. A thal frontal assault to rescue the Doctor and the back-door party converge in the Dalek control room, disabling the Dalek's bomb and their power source in the city, killing the now-powerless Daleks almost as efficiently as making them run over a jacket(Note from Sarah: Almost). The Doctor and his companions then bid a fond farewell to the victorious, rebuilding Thals and depart.

Well, I must say, I found this one rather dull (Note From Sarah: apparently I did too...seing as pretty much the only thing I THINK I remember is the lake mutants...maybe). The Daleks are, of course, the Doctor's most famous nemesis. A mutated, radiation scarred race living within strange, lumpy, metal shells- tantamount to personal tanks. Unstoppable, dedicated to a very Nazi-esque ideal of racial purity, full of hatred and loathing for all genetically inferior species, and possessing a will to 'Exterminate!' - their famous catchphrase.

Like Star trek's Borg, they are relentless, unstoppable, horrifically powerful juggernauts and truly frightening foes when handled well... and a group of rather incompetent boobs, rubes, and nitwits who are hollow parodies of their formed menace when overused or written poorly (as has sadly happened several times in the New series.) (Note from Sarah:....Andrew just said 'boobs.')

Still, for this outing... well, it was just too LONG. The Daleks may have been horribly menacing, but by episode 4, I just didn't care about them any more. I wanted this serial to be OVER. This happened in one or two slog-through episodes, but this remains, for me, the worst; running counter to many fans' high opinion of it.

At the time, I wrote the following:
After having made it thus far, I believe I've completed initial observations of the functions of the current TARDIS crew:
Susan is there to be useless.
Barbra exists to raise the alarm, whether it needs raising or not.
Ian is there to get things done.
The Doctor exists to say "No, you stupid man, it really could be this thing, which you dismissed, after all!"

The Dalek city looks nice, but... those hallway matte painting were a bit unfortunate- poorly angled (unless the hallways recede as ramps) and Barbara unfortunately casts a shadow on it the first time she passes it. (Having seen many more episodes since, the shadow-on-the=painted background issue is extremely common in these early serials.) (Note from Sarah: Not to mention the odd bump with the camera issues.)

Boy, these 1st Doc-era women get freaked out at pretty simple things... like walls. A lot of gasping and pressing back against the walls in terror in this episode. Susan's running... not so convincing. I'm on the verge of saying that she's not the world's greatest actress. :-)

Good thing that sucker/plunger isn't a weapon yet or the Doctor and Ian would be dead in the third episode! Actually, between the wrestling-the-Daleks-to-death and the giggle-inducing Dalek-screaming-in-terror-as-it-hallucinates... they're not quite so formidable this first time out. :-) I stopped taking notes at this point in the third episode, at which time I said ' A pretty good serial, though things seemed to get a bit dull from here onwards (who couldn't see the last chasm-jumper not making it and sacrificing himself?) but overall, pretty enjoyable. Assuredly more interesting than the last serial.' Ironic, since in my ret-conned memory, I would actually reverse the two positions.

Great moments:
The Doctor asking Barbara to talk to Susan was, to me, the first crack of 'humanity' we've seen through the veneer.

And the Ian-commandeered Dalek, though unrealistic by current standard of how we know Dalek interiors to be, was tons of fun.

From the time: Four out of five blessings of Orb. (Five for the first 3 episodes, Three for the last... leaving aside that concepts like 'numerals' and 'averaging' are probably a bit beyond the Tribe of Gum. ;-) ) From my current memories of it: 1.5 out of 5. It seems my memory is retroactively a lot harsher; fortunately, the episodes progress on a steady upward curve of quality and enjoyment, so things that seemed stellar at the time now seem weak in comparison, knowing how much better things got!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stargate SG1: The Enemy Within

Season One Episode 3: The Enemy Within

First off I will say that this won't be a very long review... (Note from Andrew: Coulda fooled me! :-) ) because as episodes go this one doesn't really have that much to either make fun of or comment on. It's one of those episodes that's not boring; it's just that there isn't really a diversity of content, so it's more difficult to review... at least for me, that is.
First off I must just say that Jay Acovone definitely proves his acting chops in this episode. His breakdown when he's strapped on the bed, with the little hole in it for his head, is really some amazing acting. I's totally what we would all do if we found out there was this evil thing wrapped around our spines and eating our brains ('s not really eating his brain, but...). He just starts freaking out "KILL IT!!! KILL IT!! KILL IT!!!!" ....highly understandable.
I was reading in the Dialing Up guide to SG1 seasons 1-5 that they couldn't get John Diehl back to play Kawalski (Gee gotta give Alexis Cruz and Erick Avari credit for being the only original actors COOL enough to actually want to come back and reprise their roles! (Note from Andrew: You can say that again!) I could be forgetting someone else...but I am pretty sure they are the only ones. They get like fifteen coolness points for that) because he didn't want to do a television series. Which I kind of think is funny because then they decided pretty much that they would get someone else to play Kawalski and then just kill him off in the second episode. This confuses me....why not just say "Johnny boy....we've got the perfect come back for the first three episodes and then we'll kill ya off!" Maybe he would have come back then. But that said, I am glad they got Jay Acovone because he really does the character justice. He does what Richard Dean Anderson does, totally make the character his own. Although I still think it's kind of sad that pretty much they use poor Kawalski as a vehicle to get Teal'c to be able to be on SG1... they needed some kind of mission for him to complete to get him to be accepted by the real jerks who wanted to take him back and study him. Once again.... that said, I give Jay props for acting it out in real style. Knowing that he was only going to be a one-note (at least in the beginning) could have made for some shoddy acting but he really gives it his all and makes sure you'll remember him; other actors might not have tried as hard.
I also really appreciated the character development we got between O'Neill and Kawalski. I loved that part especially when he was talking to him and he just says " Listen, I gotta ask you something. It's not easy for me." and Kawalski says "We're friends." and then O'Neill says: "If you don't make it, can I have your stereo?" It's a classic moment. I gotta say this episode (since remember I've seen up to season 7 episode 3, but only have seen each episode once and wanted to rewatch and review them up to where I am now) is SEVERELY lacking Dr. Janet Fraiser. I mean, it's funny cause normally I am just kind of like feeling ambivalent to that character but when watching an episode without her suddenly I realize she kind of ties the whole team together when they are on base. I don't know why...but when she's not there it feels kinda lame! It's kind of a shocking revelation to me. (Note from Andrew: Well, now I feel like a rube; I came into this with you having 6 seasons of experience under my belt... and I never noticed this! Very insightful, hon!) I think partly it's because we know she really cares about these people and finding solutions, so we get that side of the drama too. Like Teryl Rothery plays a good character, she brings a dimension to the show in that she's really a character too, she's not just some doctor-type person who feels 2 dimensional and we never really grow much of an attatchment to, like, say, Nurse Ogawa from Star Trek The Next Generation (although, in her defense she was never given more lines than "Yes, Doctor." Although I still must say I give Patti Yasutake ALOT of credit for continuing to appear in a show where her character got basically no development) She's one of those people who I feel like should have gotten her name in the opening credits because she feels so integral to the show.
Another thing I really appreciated was O'Neill being so ready to help Teal'c through the whole episode, it's kind of a rare thing to see O'Neill handing out his trust so readily to people and I love that Teal'c has his full trust from the beginning. One of my favorite lines is when Teal'c says that he will prove his allegiance and O'Neill just says "Teal'c, I sure wish you didn't have to."Also LOVE that part when Hammond yells at Kennedy "Just what kind of an officer are you Colonel?!" That's just sheer awesomeness. It's like....if I was sitting at the table I probably would have done one of those highly annoying and obnoxious fist pumps because I just wouldn't have been able to help myself.
Okay two things that are weird with this episode. When Kawalski first escapes and it's RED ALERT everywhere....pretty much no one is acting as if it's Red Alert at all. I mean when Kawalski gets to the Dialing room everyone is just kind of like "doo-dee-doo" with their pens and papers and keyboards. It's highly.... not so good for security.
The other thing is the whole "that was just a dead husk" thing feels like a bit of a stretch. was a dead husk but it's kind of like they severed all of these little tendril things (as far as we can tell, all of them) and took it out and's like that was a husk and the thing became 'one' which means it's undetectable by anyone? (Note from Andrew: Agreed; they clearly hadn't established the symbiote 'rules' yet, 'cause I don't think this works so well within known symbiote M.O.) Like, A. They had that active scan thing going on the whole operation- and B. I am SO sure they probably would have done a few follow-up scans to make sure they got everything ( least Dr. FRAISER would have....) so it just seems unlikely. Plus, is this something we hear about ever again (keep in mind...only seen each episode ONCE so I could be not remembering...which is why you get the 'Note from Andrew" since he has them all pretty much memorized... I am working my way toward that.) at all? (Note from Andrew: Nah-uh. We see symbiotes posioning the hosts when they die in an act of spite, die in the host and get absorbed by the body leaving Naquadah in the bloodstream... and pretty much being un-removable... but never 'hiding' during a surgery or producing a 'husk.' In fact, they turn out to be amphibious, not reptilian, so the shedding-their-skin doesn't really work.) That the Goa'uld parasite can shed it's whole outer body and become like one eighth of what it looked like before? Cause I am pretty sure any time we've seen a mature host that's taken over someone it's looked exactly as long as the so called "husk'.
That was another thing...HOW I mean seriously....HOW COOL of a way to die is that? I mean Teal'c was holding Kawalski's HEAD in the event horizon and then they just shut it off!! I good way to die (I mean as an actor...not like in real life or anything). I appreciated that they really kind of let you see a little bit of the damage but it wasn't like he fell forward and his head crashed into the camera and his brain slid down the screen letting us see the full glory (Note from Andrew: Or would that be 'full gory?') of what had just happened (okay so I am exagerrating what other tv shows do...but you get the idea). Although I must say that when I was watching it I was appalled and shocked when part of his brain falls out onto the floor....that is until I realized it was the Goa'uld actually...and then I was kind of like... "ohhh." Although I realize it sizzling and shrinking was for dramatic effect, that was also a little weird. I think I just really need to read up more on how the Goa'uld take over people is all...cause the whole thing seems really confusing. Especially seeing as how they can go through your back, neck, head, mouth....bleah...and bleah. (Note from Andrew- any way that they can burrow through to the spinal column/brain stem...) It's like....and then do they attatch to your brain once they've gotten full control over you I guess? I guess it's like when they aren't fully integrated that's when they use the little filament tendrils to reach into the brain? These are all questions I am committed to finding the answers to....and many of them I am sure will be explained once my husband gets home from work. Until then.