Geekbat Tunes

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Doctor Who: The Web Planet

Serial Title: The Web Planet
Series: 2
Episodes: 6
The Web Planet
The Zarbi
Escape to Danger
Crater of Needles
The Centre

Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Vicki Pallister (Maureen O'brien)

The TARDIS is mysteriously drawn in towards the barren surface of an unknown planet in the Isop galaxy-(NFS: I don't like that name...makes me think of leaking eyes) where the stars are always visible and the standing pools are filled with deadly acid. While exploring, Ian's golden pen is torn from his grasp as if by great magnetism, and Barbara, still wearing a golden bracelet given to her by Nero, is taken in a trance-like hypnotic walk to a nearby cave- wherein there are three Menoptra,, humanoid butterflies. (Yes, really.) It turns out that the Menoptra are an advance-scout for an incoming invasion force... or perhaps, more accurately, a reclamation force... as this planet, Vortis- a world the Doctor recognized but was confounded by (as it has moons that it shouldn't have), was originally theirs (NFS: Botany bay....oh nooo!). They intend to reclaim it from the sinister Zarbi, giant ants whose back legs are completely human. (Yes, really.) In point of fact, though, the Zarbi (NFS: I think you mean "ZARRRBIIIII!") are not the true threat- they are typically only dumb brutes, animals- as if cows suddenly rose up and took over our Earth. No, something is manipulating them (via control collars made of gold, which is apparently the transmitter for mind-control telepathy), controlling them hypnotically- the same someone or something that has captured Vortis and driven the Menoptra off... and the same something that captures the Doctor, Vicki, and Ian using the Zarbi.

A mysterious controlling intelligence, the master of the Zarbi, communicates with the Doctor via a telepathic helmet in the great citadel where they are taken, a being identified as the Animus. It co-opts the Doctor to track down the Menoptra spearhead force with the TARDIS' advanced technology... or he and his companions will be killed.

The Zarbi attack the Menoptra and Barbara, killing one and capturing another, while the third escapes. Barbara and the captured Menoptra, Hrostar, are taken to the Crater of Needles, in the shadow of the Great Web, where they will act as slave-labor (Barbara seems to draw this fate a lot lately) gathering the planet's sparse vegetation and dropping it into the acid rivers- feeding channels all leading to a central spot on the planet- the heart of the Animus within the citadel.

Ian escapes the citadel as the Doctor and Vicki stall- meeting up with the escaped member of the Menoptra trio, named Vrestin. (NFS: Can I just say that Vrestin freaked me out...I don't know..she had one of those voices where you couldn't imagine her as anything but this weird freaky weird looking butterfly, it's like trying to imagine the actress being a normal person was impossible...which I guess is was just kind of freaky) She explains the history of the planet- that the new moons were pulled in by the Animus, and it was to one of them that the Menoptra fled. The same irresistible attractive force is what grounded the TARDIS. The two set off for the Crater of Needles to free their respective companions, but while hiding from the Zarbi, they fall through the ground and into a deep cavern, where they meet the Optera, sentient humanoid potato-bugs that hop around like they're in a sack race. (Yes, really! I'm not making this up!) The Optera initially distrust them, but after Vrestin recognizes them as a mutated offshoot of the Menoptra race who fled underground when the Animus came, and are now subterranean, dark-adapted, wingless beings, descendants of the original Menoptra holdouts, and Ian gives a rousing speech, they agree to help to take down the Animus and free their world. (NFS: Those things were so dumb! It literally looked like hobo clowns with dirty faces in a bag.)

The landing site for the incoming spearhead is discovered by the Animus despite the Doctor's best attempts at obfuscation, and the spearhead is ambushed near the Crater of Needles. Barbara and Hroster escape but are too late to warn them. (How flying, armed invaders from space are threatened by land-bound ants is a testament to what poor tacticians the Menoptra are. Oh, and the Zarbi have pill-bug-esque living laser cannon bugs. Yes... really.) Menoptra weapons prove ineffective and the intial wave of the spearhead is routed- a few members fleeing with Barbara and Hroster into a secret citadel, one of the Meoptra's old temples, with a secret entrance unknown to the Zarbi. Meanwhile beneath the surface, Ian and the Optera begin to climb (somehow, given the Optera's single welded sack-race uni-foot) up towards the surface...

The Doctor intuits the Animus' 'gold-mesmerizing' ability and works out a way to disrupt the signal temporarily with his mysterious ring. (Seriously, we never find out- I want to know what's up with that ring!!!!) Using it, he takes control of one of the Zarbi- using it to escape- meeting up with Barbara and the Menoptra. A plan of attack is formed- while the Menoptra make a diversionary attack, the Doctor and Vicki will infiltrate in to the heart of the Animus itself to attack it with the Menoptra's ultimate weapon (which, an an absolutely horrific pun, is called an Isop-tope because they're in the Isop galaxy... Yes, REALLY!!!!), the living-cell destructor. Basically, DN6 from Planet of the Giants- a very potent pesticide for a person-sized set of insects. Hmmmmm...

Making their way inside, the Doctor and Vicki confront the Animus- a giant spider-like creature of immense and ancient power. (NFS: This for me was a real high point in the episode, I thought that thing was freaky and cool and whoever was doing the voice should get lots of candy.) Unfortunately, Vicki hides the Isop-tope and neglects to retrieve it. (Seriously, I like this girl, I really do, but... WHAT IS HER PROBLEM!?!? Between trying to poison Nero just for kicks and now this, she may be the ditziest dame I ever heard of!)(NFS: There shall be many more, young Andrew) The Animus takes control of them- only having allowed them in so that it could devour their life energy. Barbara and the Menoptra, very successful in their raid, make it inside, retrieve the Isop-tope, and make it to the Animus' central chamber- only to be likewise halted by the inexorable power of the Animus, held helpless and paralyzed at the door.

Thankfully, the Animus is housed in the Central Chamber of Ultimate Coincidental Convergence, as Ian and the Optera tunnel up... right through the floor and into this chamber, despite a lack of any indication while they were climbing that they were underneath a building. With this distraction to the Animus, Barbara breaks free in an act of great willpower and delivers the Isop-tope home, killing the Animus, freeing the Zarbi, and allowing the Menoptra, Optera, and Zarbi to reclaim the acid-free planet, slowly returning to life, to return it to the utopia it once was.

Wow. This one was... wow. It felt like the TARDIS had landed in a kindergarten play... I broke into hysterical laughter, literally, when I first saw the Zarbi, but at least they were passable if hokey. The butterfly outfits were just silly... they looked like kids' Halloween costumes caricaturing butterflies rather than any attempt to create actual insectoids, and the caterpillar-creatures who hopped like they were in a sack race (but could sometimes be seen walking when they thought they wouldn't be noticed) robbed this production of ANY dignity that it had in trying to carry on.

However, it did also generate the best laugh of the season- when that Zarbi ran smack into the camera, complete with a terrific 'thunk!' and shaking of the camera, while the poor man on a wire landing behind him ensured that there would be no re-take, I suppose, by landing correctly- I rewound it twice and my wife and I could not stop laughing; that was, bar none, the funniest blooper I've ever seen... especially one that was left in. (NFS: This outtake might outshine many of the most funny left-in outtakes on Dark Shadows...and that's saying something.)

Also, several landings during the battle on the bluff looked as if the actors were stumbling and about to fall over on the landing. At least a few were credible 'fliers,' to their credit.

The crystalline communicator (a clam-shell block of crystals in two halves that is opened and closed to transmit) looked as if it was breaking and falling apart every time they opened or closed it. Props for a unique concept with the opening and closing, regardless.

The episode did have a few good elements. The great web effect looked very nice. The evil voice of the Animus was suitably creepy and menacing. The acid-water and one of the caterpillars sacrificing themselves to block it from flooding the tunnel were effective story moments. The creepy unfurling-tentacle gun was cool- as was its lethal looking web blasts, and the image of the terrified, webbed-up Doctor and Vicki as the final cliffhanger was chillingly effective. The gold-control was an interesting idea (why was the pen snatched- and by what?- instead of being used to control Ian?) The Animus' grabbing of the Doctor and Vicki, and it's inexorable power, were a very good climax.... a truly creepy moment as it's tentacles locked around their necks as they were forced, hypnotically and half-asleep, to continue their approach.

However... the Larvae guns were so absurd, and you could see the hands and legs of the people under them half the time. The Zarbi noise was extremely annoying by the fourth or fifth time. The Animus didn't look bad, but the ending was contrived (they all end up in the same spot including CLIMBING UP UNDER IT DESPITE A COMPLETE LACK OF ANY INDICATION OF BUILDING FOUNDATIONS OR EQUIPMENT in the area they were climbing) and confusing- I'm assuming the isotope worked, just on a delayed reaction. The finale- with the caterpillars jumping around in glee and looking even sillier and less dignified than before, if indeed that's possible, was nauseatingly dumb and insipid. And the caterpillars themselves were so tritely dealt with... "Oh, yes, subterranean creatures who have lived underground with no light and adapted highly sensitive light-absent night vision eyes... all you must do is lower your hands and just LOOK at the sun for a few minutes, you'll adjust! Meanwhile, get that fellow with the broken leg doing some jumping jacks- he just has to work through it, that's all..."

The episode had some nice alien-esque looks to the world, and a few cool touches. But they couldn't redeem it from being SO hokey and silly... I can't even describe it, but something about the costumes feels like they went for completely the wrong type- like they weren't even trying for something that wasn't childish. There was an indescribable quality of "Not trying" about it.

Great moments:
The ending was creepily atmospheric.

This one was truly bad. Not bland, not dull, but BAD. Perhaps for the first time on this show. However, even though that would rate it 0-1 shrunken TARDISes at best, the amusement value does raise it up just a touch- the so-bad-it's-good humor of laughing at the train wreck. So, final total of 2 out of 5 Shrunken TARDISes, solely on laugh value.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Doctor Who: The Romans

Serial Title: The Romans
Series: 2
Episodes: 4
The Slave Traders
All Roads Lead to Rome

Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Vicki Pallister (Maureen O'brien)

In a very random little opening, the TARDIS materializes on the edge of a cliff, then promptly teeters over the edge and falls off, knocking about everyone inside. (NFS: They're just tryin to keep it interesting!)

One month later...

The TARDIS crew, after their tumble, were soon able to right the TARDIS but, decided that they required a much needed vacation from time and space travel, and so they have been renting a villa here, where they landed- Italy, 64 AD... the Roman Empire. Toga-clad, they laze about and enjoy the fruits of the vineyard- at least until Ian and Barbara are captured as slaves, and the Doctor, having just left on a journey to show Vicki Rome, discovers a elderly murdered minstrel- and is mistaken for him by a searching centurion.

Unluckily for the Doctor, the centurion was secretly searching for the body to make sure the assassination of Maximus Pettulian, the lyre player whom he now believes the Doctor to be, was carried out successfully. Since Pettulian appears to be very much alive and still on his way to an audience with Nero, the centurion sends a mute to kill him, whom the Doctor thoroughly trounces... continuing on to Rome.

Barbara is purchased as a household slave by a kindly member of Nero's household, Tavius, who saw her kindness and compassion to another slave and took pity on her. Ian, meanwhile, becomes a slave on a galley, rowing below decks in backbreaking agony.

As the Doctor plays a series of Emperor's-New-Clothes gambits to both flatter Nero and hide the fact that he has no talent on the lute, Barbara catches the eye of Nero (NFS: More of that "everyone thinks Barbara is hot" stuff.)- and the ire of Nero's jealous wife. The wife has the royal poisoner prepare a brew to kill Barbara, but Vicki discovers this (without becoming aware of Barbara's presence or involvement), switching the drinks quite knowingly and maliciously... the odd little child wants to kill Nero! But she gloats about it to the Doctor, who preserves history just in time by warning the Caesar. (NFS: She's from the future...and she was pretty much raised by a dude who murdered his entire crew...what do you expect?)

Meanwhile, a terrible storm sinks Ian's galley, and he and another slave, Delos, manage to escape and swim to shore. Though his companion wants to flee north to another nation, Ian is resolute in his desire to return to Rome and rescue Barbara, and Delos decides to accompany him. Unfortunately, they are shortly caught... and sentenced to a very short career as gladiators, to be fed to the lions in the Colosseum... a fate that Nero, humiliated by one of the Doctor's lute-faking gambits, now also plans for 'Petullion.'

Nero takes Barbara for an afternoon's light entertainment- a private battle to the death in his own little arena. Ian and Delos are set against each other, but, inspired by Ian's resolve not to kill him even if he is victorious, a victorious Delos spares Ian's life, instead attacking the guards- both flee and escape.

The Doctor finally intuits that he- or rather Pettulian- was sent on a mission to assassinate Nero. He also discovers Nero's plans for a new Rome- and inadvertently inspires Nero to use fire as his tool of destroying the old Rome to make way for it. The distracted Nero does not pursue plans to take "Pettulian's" life, and the Doctor and Vicki slip silently away.

Ian and Delos sneak into the palace with the street thugs hired to spread the fire, re-unite with Barbara, and escape, aided by Tavius- revealed to be an underground Christian living in the Caeser's household.

Rome burns, Nero fidd-... er... lutes, and the two groups of TARDIS crew retreat into the countryside- Ian and Barbara arriving back first, collapsing, exhausted onto the sedans... where the Doctor and Vicki, returning, find them, believing that they have been lounging about in luxury, never having left the villa, ever since the Doctor left them. Despite their protestations that they have been involved in incredible adventures, the Doctor and Vicki will not believe a chagrined, but resigned, Ian and Barbara.

Another good one in a row. This serial was well-written, and, though not as good as the previous entry, and sometimes a little silly, did well with the humor, character interactions, etc. The Doctor's part in the story was quite interesting, and though the farce nature and near-misses of the story could be occasionally aggravating, it was overall a fun story.

Little character bits here and there made this one, I feel- Ian and Barbara's bantering relationship growing closer, The Doctor and Vicki's almost Tennant-and-Rose-like glee at witnessing history (and their slightly alien perspective allowing them to derive such glee even from witnessing what we would consider a gruesome tragedy), the slave-manager's ending revelation as a member of the Christian underground in Rome; not blatant or even a plot element throughout the story, but a nice touch of retroactive motivation explanation (why else would there be such a 'good Samaritan,' going to the lengths he was in Nero's court, unless he had a deeper reason for what he was doing? Turns out he did!) and a nice reminder that greater things were going on throughout the Roman empire than were witnessed in Nero's court. It served to hint at what we saw being just one small aspect of a far larger tapestry of people, places, and events that make up the richness of history.

Overall, the slightly frustrating ending (the usual comedy/sitcom/fantasy movie stuff about a great adventure that no one believes you've had) and occasional bits of silly humor don't detract, I feel, from the genuinely good humor- from Barbara's chagrined realization that Ian is going to be strutting around fancying himself a Roman insufferably for hours now, to the 'fridge' gag banter, to even the oddly amusing dark humor of Nero offing his annoying slave by getting him to test the supposedly poisoned wine. (NFS: Oddly amusing? Now you are starting to sound like Vicki.)

A final thought... what was up with Vicki? Just a childish mischievousness? Air-headed ditziness? Complete ignorance of the consequences of her actions? She just blithely, almost gigglingly announces that she thinks she's just poisoned emperor Nero... the Doctor rightly scolds her and rushes off to prevent history from being altered... but what was she THINKING in the first place? Wouldn't the smarter thing have been to replace the poisoned wine or spill it out and half-and-half it with the other wine, rendering both harmless? (Assuming you washed it to get rid of trace elements of the poison first, of course... ;-) )

Great moments:
The Doctor's defeating of a mute assassin so handily that he laughs at the poor mute, as well as his Nero-appeasing gambits. Also, the ending revelation of Tavius

All in all, 4.25 out of 5 Shrunken TARDISes. Not the best of the best, but very good. (NFS: I think I might have given it 5, I really remember this one and remember it was really funny and held my interest almost the entire time.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Doctor Who: The Rescue

Serial Title:
Series: 2
Episodes: 2
The Powerful Enemy
Desperate Measures

William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Vicki Pallister (Maureen O'brien) - Joins at end.

On a crashed Earth spaceship in the year 2493, two survivors, bedridden Bennett and youthful Vicki, are terrorized by Koquillion, a native of the planet Dido (NFS: There will be no white flag above it's door because it's a planet in love and it always will be...probably nobody else who reads this will get that but oh well...I stayed true to myself. :-D ) on which they are stranded, a supposed 'friend' who intimidates them into submission and has the ability to destroy them on a whim. (NFS: Never trust a friend who says they are a 'friend'...the quote-marks is the warning you see.)

The TARDIS, it's crew still keenly feeling the absence of the just-departed Susan, also lands on Dido, in a cavern- as Ian and Barbara move to investigate, the encounter Koquillion, and, in an altercation with a powerful sonic device, Barbara falls of a small bluff while Ian and the Doctor are sealed into the cave.

Barbara is found by Vicki and taken to the crashed ship, despite the fact that if Koquillion finds her, he'll most likely kill them both. The gruff Bennett resents her hidden presence there, warning her not to interfere or ferment trouble- a rescue ship is due within three days, and if it can be kept secret from Koquillion, he and Vicki can escape- and after Barbara kills Vicki's pet (a ferocious looking alien herbivore that Barbara thought was attacking her) with the duo's flare gun and last flare, she is none-too-popular with Vicki, either. (NFS: That was totally depressing!!! It was like "SCARY THING! KILL IT!" without thinking!!! Barbara is like those girls who think that every dude is checking them out-she thinks that every scary looking thing wants to attack her and eat's self-absorbed! :)

Ian and the Doctor make it through an ancient trap and to the ship, where the Doctor discovers Bennett's room to be empty. The Doctor then goes to the ancient meeting place of the natives of Dido, whom he knew to be few in number and peace-loving from a previous visit, and when Koquillion arrives, the Doctor confronts him in a highly atmospheric finale in which it is revealed that Bennett murdered a fellow crew-member on board his ship, which was damaged in an explosion and crashed before his crime could be radioed to Earth. Bennett killed the rest of the crew- and the natives- in an explosion with the sonic device, and, with child-Vicki unaware of these goings-on aboard the ship at the time, upon rescue would have been a free man since all witnesses to his crime were dead. The Koquillion ruse was merely a tool to keep Vicki from exploring and discovering the remains of the crew, and thereby the truth.

Bennett and the Doctor battle, struggling over the sonic device... when two of the native Dido appear. They are human in appearance, and the fearsome alienesque garments of Koquillion were only worn by the natives during special rituals- the clue which revealed Bennett's alter-ego. Haunted by the seeming ghosts of his past atrocities, Bennett retreats- and the two sole survivors of the slaughtered race force him over a ledge to his death.

With Vicki all alone and reminding the Doctor very strongly of a recently departed relative (NFS: Just because she's a girl and breathes doesn't mean she's like Susan for crying out loud.), she is welcomed aboard the TARDIS as a new companion, as the two Didonians, possibly the last two of their race, smash up the communications equipment the rescue ship was homing in on- eager for no further violent visitors from the stars. (NFS: What's with all this Xenophobic species the Doctor keeps running into?....I ask as I realize that pretty much every time Xeno's come to another planet in Doctor Who...death and mayhem usually ensue. I change my answer: why is it that ALL the planets in the galaxy aren't Xenophobic?:))

After a year-long-ish break, we returned to Old Who with The Rescue. Here at last, the humor finally comes to full fruition! This episode shone, I feel, with the humor. From the very start ("The tremblings stopped!" "Oh, my dear, I'm so glad that you're feeling better!") the script was witty and well written (at least, when focusing on the Doctor.) The story was relatively simple, but any flaws were easily breezed over by the brevity of the story. This episode served mainly as an introduction for Vicki, and as that, it worked well. I had been looking forward to seeing the 3-companion dynamic, which was extremely short-lived, but that is okay.

I especially was floored by the confrontation between the Doctor and Koquillion; the moody, atmospheric approach with the Doctor, his back turned to his enemy, in a position of superiority, the confrontation, the surprisingly physical fight in an epic (for the time) location- a chamber exploding all around them... it was masterful, and felt like the very first true Doctor/monster confrontation (and Koquillion was that, to be sure!), a precursor to the now-familiar every-episode showdowns we have today.

The appearance of the aliens- completely human looking- was a little confusing; watching it, I had no idea what was going on, but all was explained before the credits rolled. All in all, a very satisfying episode that, like Marco Polo, Keys of Marinus, and the Aztecs, actually kept us watching with a compelling story, excellent writing, and good humor- rather than just a loyalty to Who and a desire to be completists.

Great moments:
That atmospheric ending confrontation... everything else is blown away by it.

Crowning moment of hilarity:
Ian's oh-so-real reaction to Barbara's irritated dismay at Vicki thinking that she's over 500, based on her date of birth.

I'd give this a resounding 5 out of 5 shrunken TARDISes!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Serial Title: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
Series: 2
Episodes: 6
World's End
The Daleks
Day of Reckoning
The End of Tomorrow
The Waking Ally

Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell),
Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill),
Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

The tone for this sometimes goofy but often eerie episode is set right at the start as a man wearing a metal colander helmet walks into the Themes river and drowns himself. Seconds later, the TARDIS materializes on the spot- in front of a sign noting "No dumping of bodies into the river." Not yet noting the macabre setting, Ian and Barbara are delighted as the Doctor surmises from the landmarks that they are in London. (NFS: Well you see they have signs like that all over the place in London so they're used to it! ;-D)

However, they soon realize that this is not the London they were looking for- this is, in point of fact, 2164... and the Daleks have invaded Earth! (Hope that wasn't a plot spoiler...) as discovered by a discarded calendar amongst the remnant of civilization and the rise of one of the cyclopean menaces from the water of the Themes. But that unfortunate occurrence is preceded by a string of unfortunate occurrences- Susan becomes a walking cliche- or rather, a non-walking cliche- by twisting her ankle, a decaying wall collapses and rubble burries the TARDIS door, and a mysterious man shows up to Barabara and Susan whilst Ian and the Doctor are out looking around for tools to unblock the door- the man, by the name of Tyler, warns them they must flee with him if they value their lives... as gunfire is heard in the distance. (NFS: I always wonder what a person like that would do if they said that they didn't value their lives...)

The Doctor and Ian, meanwhile, find a corpse wearing the same metal helment as the man who drowned himself, the helmet with an electronic reciever, the body bearing a whip, and having been stabbed to death. They spot a large cliche- in the form of a flying saucer- over the city, and return to where they left the women... only to be surrounded by 'robomen'- humans rendered as mindless automotauns by the control helmets... leading to the aforementioned arrival of the world's least lovely bathing beauty (NFS:....arguably perhaps.), the robomen's master... a Dalek, who orders the prisoners taken to the saucer.

Susan and Barbara are taken down a secret tunnel to a human Resistance. Tyler is a member, as is David Campbell, dispatched to retrieve Ian and the Doctor, but arriving too late to do anything but observe their capture- and Dortmun, the wheelchair-bound leader of the resistence cell. Inside, a young woman named Jenny tends to Susan and Barbara is pressed into service as a cook- Dalek propaganda demanding the surrender of human holdouts, the only contents of London's airwaves- is monitored in the background.

Dortmun shows off a new acid bomb of his own design, which he is confident will be able to penetrate the Daleks' casings, making them vulnerable to human counter-attack at last. David, returning to report the Doctor and Ian's capture, also explains that the saucer is where the conversion to Robomen takes place- and that the proceedure is unstable; all Robomen eventually go insane and become suicidal.

The Doctor explains to Ian that though they saw the Daleks destroyed on Skaro, those events occurred much further in the future and won't happen for a long, long time. They learn from fellow prisoner Craddock that ten years before, a spaceborn plague decimated Earth after being carried to the surface by meteorites (NFS: That would have to be SOME kind of...well magical type plague, I mean unless it was INSIDE way deep inside the meteorites I should think it would be burnt up upon entering the atmosphere). Six months later, the plague insitgators, the Daleks, arrived to easily conquer the fragmented, weakened population. He also reveals that the Daleks have slave-labor humans at a great mine in Bedfordshire; what they're diging for, no one knows.

The Doctor tries to break out of the cell, but the device he believes controls the door is also an intelligence test, and the Doctor's demonstrated intelligence makes him an ideal candidate for Roboman conversion. Fortunately, the conversion is halted by an attack of the human Resistance- using Robomen helmets at Barbara's suggestion, they are able to fakes being mindless slaves long enough to get close... but while Tyler's group frees prisoners, the external assualt fails; the bombs do not suceed against the Daleks and the humans are routed, badly massacred. Barabara is injured, Ian is stuck aboard the saucer, and the Doctor is separated from Tyler.

Barbara and Jenny take Dortmun to the Civic Transport Museum, a resistence depot, to gather resources for experiments to refine the acid bombs. They wheel through an eerily deserted London still filled with signs of the invasion's prior carnage, trying to avoid the ever-present patrolling Daleks.

On the saucer, Ian overhears an order from the Supereme Dalek to firebomb London into oblivion. He frees a fellow prisoner from the now Roboman-Craddock (who is killed in the process)- a man named Larry who snuck aboard the saucer to try and find his brother at the Bedfordshire mines- the saucer's current destination.

David and Susan bond while in hiding, Susan relating her lack of ability to identify with anything, her angst at the lack of anything permanent in her life save the Doctor. They are interrupted by another resistance survivor, carrying the unconscious Doctor. He drops him off, leaves the hiding place, and is promptly exterminated. (Presumeably arriving in the afterlife to commiserate with Craddock that it is a bad idea to help the Doctor- it makes one extremely expendable.)

Hey, wait... Dortmun kind of helped the Doctor by staging a rescue, didn't he? Sure enough, shortly after determining that the problem in the Acid bombs lay with the new Dalekanium alloy of the Dalek casings (making that, by the by, the most absurd and yet hilariously self-important material I've ever heard of) Dortmun comes up with a new formula, entrusts it to Barbara, and goes outside to 'test the new bombs himself.' It also fails and he is quickly exterminated... not sure whether the wheelchair-bound guy being a complete and utter failure at every single thing he tries and then comitting suicide is pathos-engendering... or kinda... insultingly WRONG. Barbara and Jenny escape most awesomely, however, proving that while Acid may be useless against casings of pure Dalekanium, a speeding truck is not. (NFS: A speeding truck is such a multi-purposed tool I find.) Shortly thereafter, a Dalek saucer retaliates upon their awesome truck, but they escape the fiery wreck.

As the Doctor observes the start of budding romance between Susan and David back at their hiding spot- rather grumpily at first, until David defers to him in a peace-offering gesture- a firebomb is laid nearby, ticking down to the fiery destruction of London. David discovering it, burning through the casing with acid from a bomb and manages to defuse it.

Larry and Ian escape the landed saucer to infiltrate the mines, and meet up with the monstrous Slyther, a mutant creature that is a 'pet' to the Daleks. They manage to knock it off of a cliff to it's doom, but ntot before it has killed a black marketeer that they had hoped could return them to London... where the Doctor, Susan, Tyler, and David are chased through the sewers by Robomen- and the obligatory alligators.

Jenny and Barabara stay the night with a pair of women in a cottage who are allowed some small freedom as they make clothing for the miner-prisoners. However, the two sell them out for food, leaving Jenny and Barbara captives once again. (NFS: What are we? Back in Revolutionary France!?)

Ian and Larry discover that the mine does not appear to be set up for anything save digging- Larry opines his brother's theory... that the Daleks are after the Earth's magnetic core. His brother then shows up to neither confirm nor rebut said theory, but simply to kill them- as he is now a Roboman. Larry is unable to get through to Phil's humanity, and the two kill each other, allowing Ian to escape. Because, after all, it doesn't matter how many good men die, so long as our heroes are okay. Bloody heck, and I thought the New Series was primarily responsible to the whole "The Doctor is death and doom to everyone around him" notion!

Susan and David share a first kiss, Barabara and Jenny arrive at the mines as slaves, Ian slips into hiding in a piece of unknown machinery, and the Doctor deduces that the Daleks are indeed working towards soemthing deep within the Earth's core. (NFS: What is it with Doctor Who and the Earth's core!? People just can't stay away from it!)

Barbara uses Dortmun's notes to claim that she has intelligence on an upcomign resistance attack, and is taken to the command center.

The Dalek's evil plan is exposed- to replace the Earth's core with a power system and guidance controls- turning Earth into a gigantic, mobile battlestation that the Daleks can use to conquer the galaxy. ( starting to sound familiar) The uniquely composed structure of it's interior made Earth the perfect target, and now that the Daleks have mined down to the outer crust, they need only drop their powerful penetration explosive into the shaft, blast through to the core, and compelte their insidious work. The penetration explosive... that Ian is currently hiding in.

Ian sabotauges the explosive to prevent it's fatal drop (with him inside), and tries to slip out as it is being reeled back in- but his descent-rope is severed by a Dalek and he slides down the shaft, knocked senseless against a hatch partway down. When the bomb is re-deployed, however, Ian has already slipped into the hatch and used nearby timbers to block the chute, halting the bomb once again.

The Daleks move their human slaves down to the lower galleries so that they will be killed in the penetration blast- issuing orders to the Robomen over a specialized microphone. Barbara attempts to reach it and issue her own orders after distracting the Daleks with an outlandish fabricated invasion plot involving famous historical figures, but is caught- she and Jenny are shackled to the walls to await their death in the explosion (NFS: What are we? In Revolutionary France aga.....nevermind). The Daleks evacuate, unaware that the bomb has been halted.

While Susan and David use the bombs as a diversion, The Doctor and Tyler enter the mine. The former suceed in knocking out a crucial piece of equipment, temporarily imobilizing the Daleks. The Doctor frees Barbara, who uses the microphone to order the Robomen to revolt against the Daleks. The mine is evacuated of prisoners and Ian re-unites with the group. As they flee the scene, the bomb explodes, collapsing the mines- but far short of it's miles-deep target; the Earth's core is safe. The explosion creates a volcanic chute, and the resultant upward blast destroys the fleeeing Dalek saucer, ending the Dalek occupation of Earth.

Back in London, the resistence excavates the TARDIS doors. David proposes to Susan, who admits to loving him, but refuses as her grandfather needs her. The Doctor, overhearing, knowing that Susan is truly in love with David and in need of permanence, but will never accept either due to her loyalty to him, following him wherever he may go, locks her out of the TARDIS- and, after a heartfelt goodbye over the intercom system, he departs with Ian and Barbara, leaving Susan with David to rebuild the Earth.

We saw this episode with all 6 parts edited together into one feature-length movie... and indeed, the second non-canon Peter Cushing Doctor Who film adapted this story, an epic special event blockbuster for Doctor Who that sees the first, and possibly most famous, departure of a companion, a great speech by the Doctor, the first recurring Villains, and an epic Dalek-filled ghost town London!

So it's surprising that I really haven't been able to find much of anything to say about it.

I don't know why; this one just didn't impact me, story-wise. I can't tell you why that is... it simply didn't.

I enjoyed it, they did a good job of setting the mood with the location shots and the wheelchair chase, though the menace factor was undercut by some of the fighting being downright ludicrous (in terms of Daleks looking rather pathetic). The mine bucket descent effect, while simplistic, was nice, effective, and relatively convincing.

And Susan, for better or worse, is gone. I found that I missed her after she left (though not horribly) and het departure does seem a little... wrong, what with being given no choice. (NFS: Well I do think it's a testament to Carol's talent and likability because even though the character can bug me because she's forever getting into trouble and being a walking disaster at times, you still really like her and I think that's Carol shining through.) The Doctor's speech, however, is excellent, and the fact that Susan so readily accepts her new life seems to indicate that the Doctor made the right choice, and she will be happy here.

So, for one of the biggest, most expansive Whos yet mounted... that's about it, really.

Great moments:
The opening drowning, the deserted London, the truck (er... "Lorry") attack, the Doctor's ending speech... chalk full of 'em, save for the duller middle.

3.5 out of 5 Shrunken TARDISes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Doctor Who: The Planet of the Giants

Serial Title: Planet of Giants
Series: 2
Episodes: 3
Planet of Giants
Dangerous Journey
Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Ian Chesterton (William Russell), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill), Susan Foreman (Carole Ann Ford)

The TARDIS doors come open during flight in the space/time vortex. As one would logically suspect, this shrinks the TARDIS to miniature size. You know, because of the space-pressure being unequal.

...Not a strong start.

The good news? The TARDIS has finally returned to modern-day (1963/64) England, Ian and Barbara's home time. The bad news? After discovering a giant dead earthworm, and a giant dead ant... the TARDIS crew realizes they are now only millimeters tall.

Ian is investigating a matchbox when it is picked up with him inside. Government scientist Arnold Farrow has come to the house of a man named Forester, a sinister businessman who has developed pesticide DN6. Farrow is here to announce that his application for a government license has been turned down... on the grounds that it is completely deadly to ALL insect life and can spread like wildfire, making it far too lethal to be a proper pesticide. (Think of the ladybugs, darn it! No one wants THEM to be killed along with the aphids! Heck, I got bit by 'em twice- twice more than I've ever been bit by aphids- and even I'd be heartbroken if they all died out!) (NFS:....Do and can ladybugs really seriously bite???)

Forester takes the news well, shooting Farrow dead.

The micro-group arrives to find Ian, having tumbled out of the matchbox, unhurt, by the dead body. Which is lying out on Forester's lawn. I am seeing a few small flaws in Forester's plan. Determining that a murder has taken place, the group is determined that the murderer be brought to justice...

After a close run-in with a cat on the hunt, Ian and Barbara are hidden inside a briefcase and taken inside by Forester, who also hides the body. Susan and the Doctor try to climb a drainpipe to gain access inside. Meanwhile, Forrester's assistant, Smithers, suspects foul play... but keeps it quiet, as his future rests on the success of DN6 as well.

Ian and Barbara encounter a giant fly (some very impressive props and puppeteer skills there) and Barbara handles a DN6-coated seed, infecting her (NFS: Biiiig surprise that it was wasn't Ian! all seriousness it's actually a big surprise that it wasn't Susan!!). She begins to grow progressively ill.

After a close call with an activated sink, the Doctor and Susan emerge in the lab and are re-united with the group.

Forester doctors Farrow's report to be a favorable one, and, disguising his voice, makes a phone call to the government to report his 'positive findings.' The local phone operator, Hilda Rowse, and her husband, Bert, a policeman, overhear the call and begin to suspect that something is up.

The group, by great effort, manage to lift the receiver and dial the phone, trying to report Forester to the police, but are so small that their voices don't register on the phone. However, the mysterious call makes Hilda and Bert more suspicious. After Forrester and Smithers return and hang up the receiver, Hilda calls back and asks to speak to Farrow- when Forester impersonates him on the phone, Hilda doesn't buy it and Bert goes to investigate the house.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Susan decide to start a fire to attract attention, and succeed in burning through a pressurized spray can of DN6, causing it to explode. This occurs fortuitously as Smithers, discovering the true report (that DN6 is lethal to everything) and trying to stop Forester, is being held at gunpoint by the now-deranged businessman. When the makeshift bomb goes off, Smithers is able to relieve him of his gun, just in time for policemen Bert to arrive and take him in.

Returning to the TARDIS, the Doctor is able to reverse their condition, and as the travelers return to full size, the nearly-microscopic dose of poison in Barbara's bloodstream does not grow with her, becoming harmless due to it's negligible amount in her now full-sized adult bloodstream.

Well, this was... interesting. Honey, I shrunk the TARDIS. Very... interesting.
The production values, props, and video quality were improvements even over the excellent Reign of Terror; everything looked fantastic, the numerous oversize props were excellent, and the pupeteered giant fly was very impressive; they must've blown the budget for this one.

The story, on the other hand... whuh? Um, okay, if you say so. The end of the story wrapped up well, but felt rushed compared to the padded-pacing of it's recent brethren; it wasn't a surprise to learn that this serial was originally a four-parter that was cut down, the third and fourth chapters being combined. The science was... iffy at best. Nothing standout performance-wise... a light fluff episode in terms of performance, but a blockbuster in terms of set pieces, effects, and production values. (NFS: But in Doctor Who....sometimes you NEED a light fluff out the kinks. :-D)

So, overall- a bizarre start for the second series, but one with great prop and effects work, at least- and the one-inch-tall looking TARDIS miniature worked for once because it really was one inch tall! :-)

Great moments:
All the bugs, but that giant fly on the tabletop was a pretty sleek bit of pupeteering! (NFS: "Puppeteering" is SO a word...but the spell checker is insisting that it isn't and that is annoying me.)

Final Rating: 3 out of 4 Shrunken TARDISes (since Blessings of Orb clearly only apply to the first series...)