Geekbat Tunes

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Doctor Who: The Myth Makers

Serial Title: The Myth-Makers
Series: 3
Episodes: 4
Temple of Secrets (Proposed title was "Zeus ex Machina" - or Zeus in the machine- which would have been awesome!)
Small Prophet, Quick Return
Death of a Spy
Horse of Destruction (Proposed title was "Is There a Doctor in the Horse?" which would have been HILARIOUS!)

Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Steven Taylor (Peter Purves), Vicki Pallister (Maureen O'Brien)

Picking up where "Galaxy 4" left off, the TARDIS materializes in 1200 B.C. Troy, right beside a pitched battle between Greek warrior Achilles and Trojan warrior Hector. The materialization distracts Hector and he is slain- the Doctor's emergence from the TARDIS convincing Achilles that he is, in fact, Zeus. The Doctor is escorted to the Greek camp, where Odysseus believes the Doctor is in fact a Trojan spy, while Agamemnon, in charge, enlists Zeus' aid in conquering Troy.

Vicki and Steven observe the Doctor's capture via the TARDIS monitors. Since Vicki's ankle is injured from the events of "Galaxy 4," Steven ventures out on his own. He is captured at night, brought in as a spy, and initially pretends not to know the Doctor to maintain the ruse, as Zeus plans to magically strike him down with a bolt from the gods as a sacrifice at his 'temple' the next morning (I.E. Jump into the TARDIS and disappear)- but when the TARDIS vanishes from the plains, the two must admit the truth. They spell the whole thing out for Odysseus, who, though skeptical, seems to believe them... giving them two days to use their 'future knowledge' to come up with a way of defeating Troy, or face execution.

Within the besieged city, Paris, prince and brother of the deceased Hector, a fop and first-class wimp, arrives with his prize- the TARDIS. His father, Kind Priam, berates him for using his captured 'prize' as an excuse to return to the city and put off the matter of honor- finding and challenging Achilles to avenge his brother's death- that he was sent out on... but is intrigued by the 'shrine' of the Greeks. The Prophetess Cassandra, Paris' sister and Prias' daughter, has foreseen the demise of Troy and orders the box burnt- but before it can be, Vicki emerges in period clothing. She is taken as a sign from the gods and renamed Cressida by the king; Cassandra, suspicious of her, is furious.

In private, Steven suggests to the Doctor that hey propose the Trojan Horse, but the Doctor rejects it as an absurd notion obviously invented by storytellers, not chronicled by historians.

Paris is dispatched again to challenge Achilles, and Steven convinces the Greeks to send him instead. Donning Greek armor and taking the name of its deceased owner, Diomede, Steven allows himself to be captured and taken prisoner by playing to Paris' ego, intending to search for Vicki and the TARDIS in Troy. When Paris brings him in to present his prisoner to the king, Vicki and Steven visibly recognize each other- a sure sign that they are both Greek spies. Vicki and Steven are taken to the dungeons with the warning that, if Vicki cannot use some of her divine power to help the Trojans win the war within 2 days, they will both be killed.

The Doctor proposes catapult-launched hang-gliders for the invasion of Troy... but when he is told that he will be the first test-pilot, he reluctantly and resignedly proposes... a large wooden horse.

In prison, the youngest of King Priam's sons, Troilus, brings food to Vicki, and the two begin to develop feelings for each other.

The Trojan horse is left as a gift by the Greeks, secretly housing a Greek invasion army... and the Doctor, forced along for the ride.

The Trojans, seeing the disappearance of the Greeks (who sailed away, intending to double back under cover of darkness that night, as part of the ruse) as 'Cressida' using her divine powers and summoning an image of the sacred Horse god of the Trojans to rout their enemies, frees Vicki (though not Steven, as Troilus is jealous of him, believing him to be a potential rival suitor.)

Vicki slips away during the Trojan celebrations and frees Steven- but suspicious Cassandra has her followed by handmaiden Katarina, and so she leads Steven to a hiding place before returning to the palace. Knowing full well what will soon happen, Vicki begs Troilus to go after the 'fleeing' Diomede out on the plains, to bring him honor... so that he will be away from Troy that night.

The Greeks exit the horse under cover of darkness, open the gates for the now-returned army, and the fall of Troy commences. Priam and Paris fall, and Cassandra- prophesying to a victorious Odysseus that he won't see home for another 10 years (get it???) is taken away to become Agamemnon's new plaything.

She is, however, proven right about the whole 'doom of Troy' thing. (NFS: I hate it when that happens.)

Out on the plain, Troilus encounters and kills Achilles in battle, avenging his brother. He despairs to see the city in flames in the distance.

Vicki slips away with the Doctor's blessing as Katarina, at the Doctor's bidding, retrieves Steven, who has been wounded in the chaotic battle. She carries him aboard and the Doctor makes a hasty departure when Odysseus arrives, intent on pressing the Doctor's useful knowledge into permanent service, leaping aboard the TARDIS and demateralizing- bringing Katarina with him and leaving Vicki behind- something that she had requested.

Out on the plains, Vicki finds Troilus and declares her love for him- the two starting out on a new life together as Trojan reinforcements led by Troilus' cousin help them to escape the area.

Back aboard the TARDIS, Katarina believes she is dead and traveling through the afterlife, Steven's wounds are grave, and the Doctor hopes that their next stop will be able to provide the needed medical care as the TARDIS hurtles into the unknown...

Despite my prior fury at the loss of Mission to the Unknown (The Thing/Rockbiter!!!! Nooooooo!!!!!!) I was somewhat mollified by the fact that wikipedia informed me that he and the other alien compadres would return again later. Thus, Myth Makers now crowns my list of tragically missing lost episodes. Epic battles, astounding sets, awesome humor, a romantic farewell... this one has it all, and it's a blasted shame that we can't see it in motion! The re-creation had very VERY little to work with, and intersperses sparse stills with old-style title-cards with narration, in the style of a Greek myth storytelling. And some truly heinous camera-filming, a-TV-screen shots of a re-constructed Trojan horse miniature that looks to be all of 6 inches tall. Not a stellar reconstruction- but partly due to the fact that there was NOT much to work from, and far more difficulty in recreating the more complex props, costumes, and landscapes than a serial like Galaxy 4; they did the best they could, but you can only make so good a project out of rubbish. Still, as it turns out, there were no tele-snaps for this serial and very few photos, so what is there is almost 100% photoshopped composites of actors, locations, etc. taken from other images or media in which the same actors have appeared. In light of that, I can’t be too harsh on it!

This serial's strongest suit was humor, and tons of it- especially in the case of Paris, and to a lesser extent, king Priam. Paris' effete, aside-prone, jokester nature was great, and tons of fun- the 'confrontation' between Paris and Steven was a rolling-on-the-floor hilarious moment- the definite highlight of the episode. Likewise, the Doctor's stubborn refusal to give the Trojans the idea of the Trojan Horse- believing it a silly myth that couldn't possibly have occurred- as he tries to draft all manner of assault strategies (NFS: "Perhaps if we built this large wooden badger....") including primitive, catapult-launched hang-gliders, until desperation finally forces him to suggest, with chagrin, "Have you considered a horse?" - this was pure gold.

Meanwhile, the hissable Cassandra, a shrill and annoying antagonist to Vicki, was made all the more tragic by the fact that she was right- and while her completely prescient and completely unsubtle certainty of what was to come was overplayed a little, I think, at the end, with Paris and Priam dead and Troy in flames, one feels somewhat bad for disliking her; after all, she was trying to save her home and her family.

The ending was a fantastic cliffhanger- with a wounded Steven, an unintended new companion who cannot be shaken of the belief that she is dead and undergoing a journey through the underworld afterlife, and the audience's knowledge that the Daleks are coming...

It is somewhat overshadowed, though, by the abrupt departure of Vicki! While it is foreshadowed somewhat, it still comes as a bit of a shock- especially because, in the slide-show version, it's not entirely clear that she wasn't on board the TARDIS until she shows up after it's departure. The love story is rushed, but sweet- and we can be content in the fact that Vicki's fate, and the story of her love, WAS completed.... by both Chaucer and Shakespeare. (Well, not really... in those stories, Cressida betrayed Troilus for Diomede- but clearly that was garbled historical records.)

I shall miss Vicki; she was a bit flighty, but a wonderful companion. (Note from future Andrew - At time of posting, we are mid-way through the third Doctor's tenure; we've met every companion up through the fan-beloved Sarah Jane Smith that would define the beginning of the Fourth Doctor's reign. And through it all, I think I can honestly say that Vicki was my favorite female companion- possibly tied with Zoe, but possibly winning out- sweet, adorable, with a brilliant and tender rapport with the Doctor- she felt like the perfect younger sister that you never had, and even if she was never the brightest torch in the temple, she was always enthusiastic and wonderfully devoted tot he Doctor; as Zoe and Jamie will be with the Second Doctor, so it is with Hartnell and Vicki- the bond between them seems like that of family, far more than it ever did with Hartnell and Susan; and that is what makes her time with the Doctor so special in the archives of classic Doctor Who.)

And talk about a CLIFFHANGER!!!

Overall, I loved this episode. I know it would have been twice as excellent if it was in video! Still, even as poor-quality audio, it was a comedic highlight and the best by far of the (admittedly fledgling) third Series.

Great moments:
The 'battle' between Steven and Paris is a crowning highlight. And the fantastic ending, touching but intense...

3.5 out of 5 Chumblies for the reconstruction efforts, averaging between technical skill (4.75 at least, considering the composite images) and watchable enjoyability (a 2, since there’s only so much you can do)- it seems unfair that so much work can still result in something that, while it can be appreciated technically, is just not all that enjoyable to watch… but c’est le vis.

As for the story itself… an ‘epic’ 5 out of 5 Chumblies; it's funny, smart, witty, clever, and thoroughly enjoyable, even as just audio with a re-creation! And that's saying something! This one is BRILLIANT!!! A legend in its own right, even if its video has fallen like Troy to the Achilles Heel of BBC shortsightedness… like the horse about which it was written, its outward construction conceals within a great and mighty surprise that its outward appearance would not suggest- a fantastic and side-splitting comedy, and that’s no myth! (NFS:....were you writing that in LeVar Burtons voice just then? I was waiting for you to say "...But you don't have to take my word for it!")

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Doctor Who: Mission to the Unknown

Serial Title: Mission to the Unknown
Series: 3
Episodes: 1
Mission to the Unknown
Doctor: NONE!!!!
Companions: NONE!!! But our main characters are Marc Cory (Edward de Souza) and Gordon Lowery (Jeremy Young)

On the planet Kembel, Jeff Garvey, human astronaut, awakens in the jungle with the knowledge that he must kill. His unaware companions, Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery, are his intended victims, working to repair their downed spacecraft.

Cory manages to shoot and kill Garvey before he can carry on with his intentions, and explains to a shocked Lowery that Garvey had been stung by a Varga plant (extracting a Varga thorn from him)- a deadly toxin-producing, semi-sentient plant that induces homicidal tendencies... native to the planet Skaro.

As Garvey's body becomes a Varga plant, Cory explains to Lowery that he is a Space Security Service agent with a license to kill; he is now drafting Lowery to his secret mission, the reason they were sent to this planet- to find the Daleks, who have been conquering numerous planets of late, and have been spotted in this are. Cory believes they're here, and is tasked with finding them.

Elsewhere, in a Dalek city representatives of the Seven Planets arrive for a meeting with the Daleks.

Cory and Lowery set up an emergency beacon and prepare to record a message for it- when the Daleks appear, attacking their spacecraft and obliterating it. Cory and Lowery slip into the jungle unnoticed, but Lowery is stung by a Varga thorn- he tries to suck out the poison and doesn't tell Cory- a reasonable if unfair-to-Cory response based on how Cory dealt with Garvey.

The meeting between the Daleks and the representatives of the Seven Planets goes well; they agree to a mutual conquest treaty, setting out to conquer Earth and it's galaxy as a united front. Cory is able to overhear, notices that Lowery is becoming a Varga plant and kills him (nice guy...) and records a message warning of the Dalek threat to be transmitted by the rescue beacon. Before he can insert it, however, Daleks attack and exterminate him, then return to the city. The beacon, and the dropped recording at Cory's (corpse's) feet go unnoticed, however...

Hard to critique this one- the characters are around too briefly to get to know them- especially as voices in a series of snapshots, as they are; without a performance to see, no one leaves a strong impression. The storyline is more or less a prologue to the coming 12-part epic "The Daleks' Master Plan", so it's very simple and there isn't much to say about it- it's simply setup.

The re-creation does well, though- through use of jungle-bound Dalek closeups from The Chase, a surprising amount of this Serial/episode is in motion, and the flashing-light/dialogue syncing is very well done for the most part. Yet again, Loose Cannon does a great job in redeeming a Serial with very little to work with initially.

The one outstanding thing- and the one that fills my veins with fire at it's loss- is the fantastic alien menagerie, the representatives of the 7 worlds- there's that guy that looks like the Thing from the Fantastic Four, as portrayed by 60s makeup, whom my wife describes as having the Rockbiter's voice from the Neverending Story... then the MOGUERA-ish drill-headed guy with cool diamond-slit eyes (I like to imagine they're red) and so many others; a lot of work went into these guys, and I'm infuriated that we can't see more of it than a few grainy stills- this work deserves to be showcased! (NFS: Yeah seriously...that was what made this episode actually watchable...the alien counsel, cause they were all SUPER wow looking!!!) Hopefully, they will be well-represented in The Dalek Master Plan (next up on the viewing list at the time of this writing) but even then, there are some irreparable losses; the Thing is played by a different actor there, so Rock-biter voice will never be seen in all his glory unless- or until, I hope- this serial/episode is found and restored!

This episode is very unique among the annals of Doctor Who for so many reasons- first (and only, 'till the New Series) stand-alone single-episode serial, first not to feature the Doctor, one of only 3 totally-lost serials (though one of hundreds of totally-lost single episodes)... it's simply not as special, unique, or fantastic as an episode so unique has right to be... it doesn't stand out much on it's own. I think I'll reserve judgement, though, 'till I've seen The Daleks' Master Plan- as it hardly seems fair to judge one without the other.

Great moments:
The first appearance of that rock guy. And the Dalek destruction of the human spacecraft. I guess.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Doctor Who: Galaxy Boring

Serial Title: Galaxy 4
Series: 3
Episodes: 4
Four Hundred Dawns
Trap of Steel
Air Lock
The Exploding Planet

Doctor: William Hartnell
Companions: Steven Taylor (Peter Purves), Vicki Pallister (Maureen O'Brien)

The TARDIS lands on a desert mesa and is probed by a multi-layer dome robot (like a behive-esque wedding cake) that Vicki dubs a 'chumbley' based on its wobbly sound. (NFS: I think they look like dehumidifiers...but that is also what I think Daleks look They emerge to inspect it, but it is destroyed by a nearby warrior woman. She takes them to her her ship, a crashed hulk, at gunpoint. There, they meet Maaga, leader of these people, the Dhrahvins, a matriarchal society that kill all of their men- save for a few left over for breeding (NFS: Whoah...ew.). Maaga is the only true 'person'- all of the other women here are cloned soldiers. Maaga explains that their ship crashed after a firefight with an alien vessel, which also crashed here. The aliens- known as the Rills- operate the Chumblies- which are armed and dangerous- and the Rills send one daily to transmit harmful propaganda to them, which they block.

And also, the planet will explode in two weeks.

The Drahvin ship will not fly again, so they believe their only chance is to attack and capture the Rill ship, using it to escape the planet. As the warning of the planet's imminent destruction came from the Rills, the Doctor is suspicious of the situation and returns to the TARDIS for independent confirmation- Steven goes with him, but Vicki is made to stay behind. They witness a Chumbly trying to get inside, first with weapons, then with explosives (while the Doctor and Steven are inside.) Both attempts are unsuccessful.

Also, the planet will actually explode in two days.

The Doctor decides to keep this information to himself, instead claiming (once they return to the Dhrahvin ship) that he's confirmed the allegations against the Rills. Maaga is more determined than ever to take the Rill ship, and when the Doctor is reluctant to help (The Dhrahvin mean to put the Rill off the ship first, marooning them to die) they coerce his help by taking Steven hostage. The Doctor and Vicki reluctantly set out to scout the Rill ship.

Evading the Chumbley patrols, the Doctor and Vicki discover that the Rills are technologically superior, ammonia-breathers, and very alien- insect/lizard/lobster beasts. They are discovered and run for it, but a grille work separates Vicki and the Doctor. As the Chumblies force her back inside, the Doctor begins to sabotage the ammonia-atmosphere system, in hopes of using it as a bargaining chip to free her.

Vicki is brought before a port-hole through which the Rill observes her (though she is not shown their true appearance, which they believe will frighten her), communicating via a speaker on the Chumbley. The Rill reveal that the Dhrahvin were the aggressors in the space battle, and the Rill merely defending themselves- he also says that the Rill have been offering to take the Dhrahvin off the planet with them when their ship is repaired- they send a Chumbley daily to transmit the offer to the Dhrahvin. In fact, the Rills tried to help injured crash survivors, but the power-mad Maaga shot both the Rill and the wounded woman he was trying to help, claiming to her people that the Rill murdered the wounded crew member, and continues to block their offer of help, desiring conquest above all.

Convinced of their good intentions, Vicki stops the Doctor from sabotaging the atmosphere converter- which would have been more deadly to the Rills than previously thought- and brings him inside to hear the Rills' story.

Steven makes an escape attempt and seals the airlock behind him- but sees a Chumbley which he believes is armed and hostile waiting outside. He cannot return in, as Maaga demands, or he will be a captive yet again- but he cannot go out. To try and force him inside, Maaga begins to drain the air out of the airlock. Steven eventually decides he'd rather take his chances with the Chumbley, but can't open the outer door as the pressure differential is too great; the Dhrahvin will only restore the air if he surrenders and comes back inside.

The Chumbley transmits Steven's predicament back to the Doctor and Vicki, who rush to save him with a Chumbley escort, taking a Dhrahvin patrol captive in the process. The Chumblies attack the ship with a non-lethal ammonia bomb (essentially tear gas) and manage to breach the airlock, freeing Steven. The now-trapped Dhrahvin are stuck inside their ship, plotting, as the Chumblies guard it to prevent their emergence to further interfere with the escape.

The Doctor uses a connection from the TARDIS to the Rill ship to recharge their power as the planet enters its final hours, a skeptical Steven is convinced of the Rill's good intentions (NFS: He's just skeptical because they are insect/lizard/lobster beasts and not hot babelian chicks like the chicks the Dhravins) , and the Dhrahvin escape their ship, engaging in pitched battle with the Chumblies, who successfully hold them at bay.

The Rill, in a final gesture, finally allow the group to see their monstrous appearance completely (NFS: Gee.....thanks?), and the two groups share their mutual respect for each other, appearances meaningless to them. The Rill ship is powered up and lifts off, as does the TARDIS- and the planet explodes with the few remaining Dhrahvin on it.

There's just... not much there. A very simple story- visit one camp, visit the other camp, find out both sides of the story premise... a basic 'seemingly rescued by one side, who are jerks anyway, and then it turns out the other side they're supposedly "protecting" you from are the good guys after all' plot that has been used about a million bazillion and three times. I believe it was first written by Eve during her maternity leave for Abel- at that time, it was an original story. By the time of this serial, it was not. Nowadays, it's practically expected that the aliens who rescue your heroes are bad guys; it's a surprise twist ending if they really are as decent as they seem. Even the apparent anti-racism message about the appearance of the Rill is weak and shoe-horned in. Maybe there were some good performances... somewhere... but without video, we can't see them.

As it turns out, this was written before the departure of Ian and Barbara was known, and thus lines written for them were just split up between the new characters (Star Trek: Generations Syndrome, as I like to call it.) The actor portraying Steven was saddled with many of Barbara's lines... and it shows, unfortunately, as he waffles indecisively in the airlock until it's too late and generally comes across as a bit passive; an indication that Barbara's character still had some growing to do, despite it's enormous progress.

The Dhrahvin culture was cliched and silly; hitting all the standard buttons- matriarchal society taken to man-hating extremes, cold, cruel leader of the aliens lusts for power and doesn't care about the lives of underlings, society in which clones are second-class, etc. It's like no one really gave a care about this episode- not any of the writers, at least. (NFS: And it's like....sci-fi always does that extreme. If it's a women led society it's usually run by a really cold man-hater. It's like...why can't she like guys but be in control? Would that really violate anything? Are they saying you can't like guys and be a leader? Nay you must wish to slit all their sorry throats if you are to be one respected??? Just....weird. At least Angel One in TNG did it a lot better, I mean that girl LIKED...I mean LIKE LIKED guys! :)

It's hard to comment on much else, as this is nearly a complete reconstruction, minus 5 minutes of footage in the first episode. The reconstruction team did go all-out, however- model work, landscape matching, over-the-shoulder and hand-with-prop inserts, characters photo shopped from different serials onto Galaxy 4 backgrounds, and the piece-de-resistance- apparently, a model Chumbley with full functionality built and pupeteered around- something which works well, considering the majority of the footage of the episode involves Chumblies rolling around and doing things! For a very fragmentary serial, the effort put into this one is extraordinary and truly exemplary- a shame it was wasted on such a weak serial with such a dull, uninteresting story (there was apparently a minor controversy at the time as a British newspaper accidentally released the plot 'twist'- that the bad guys were really good several weeks ahead of time in a review. I'd call it not much of a spoiler as it's evident from the get go.) ( could tell the bad guys were good from the first time that you saw the 'good guys'...I mean seriously)

Weak as a story, weaker still as a season-opener, and incredibly pathetic next to the stellar production values of the last season-opener (Planet of the Giants); this is a dull, flat, lifeless, predictable, and very poor effort on the part of the original makers (and no great loss as a missing serial)- but a stellar, phenomenal, outstanding, and above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty effort on the part of the restoration team, who were given almost nothing to work with... and decided that, in that case, they'd just make it all themselves and GIVE themselves more to work with.

Lastly, I hate that name, Dhrahvin- it looks unnatural and is hard to remember to spell right. Bah!

Great moments:
When it... ended?

Ironically for our ratings-namer for this Series, Galaxy 4 gets 0 out of 5 Chumblies- there's nothing there. Bleah.

But Loose Cannon Productions' restoration work gets a stellar 5 out of 5, and makes the lousy story worth watching anyway!