Episode 12: The Romans

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The Rescue_Romans

Episode 12: The Romans
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Slave Traders
All Roads Lead to Rome
Conspiracy
Inferno

Description
As the Doctor and his companions take a month-long vacation in the Roman Empire, they are pulled into the world of one Emperor Nero.

Evaluation
I’m still not sure if I like this episode. Don’t get me wrong. It’s still pretty good. But for some reason it left an unsettled feeling in my stomach. The story lines are split between with the Doctor and Vicki in one plot line and Ian and Barbara in another.

The Doctor and Vicki story line is whimsical in that the Doctor finds himself involved with a plot to kill Emperor Nero. As with the case with comedy, nothing seems to go right for everyone involved. The Doctor is gleeful in his discoveries and you see a glimpse of the whimsy that will be showcased in future Doctor incarnations.

The problem that I have with this is that it is a large contrast between the whimsy and the dark plot lines of Ian and Barbara. They are kidnapped, sold off as slaves, forced to work to survive, battle against Roman soldiers (or in Barbara’s case against an insane Emperor), and somehow make it back to the TARDIS in one piece. The contrasts are very startling and unnerving. Ian and Barbara in real, tangible danger while the Doctor and Vicki are out enjoying the Roman city. Even when the Doctor does face danger, it is, again, more whimsy than suspenseful.

The set designs and the costumes are delightful as well as the background characters. The Doctor’s interactions with Nero provide for some of the best scenes in the episode.

Historical Notes
The Doctor was the inspiration of the Roman fire that destroyed the city during the reign of Nero. The Tenth Doctor hints at his involvement later on in the Fires of Pompeii.

 

Episode 11: The Rescue

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The Rescue_RomansEpisode 11: The Rescue
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Powerful Enemy
Desperate Measures

Description
Still reeling from the departure of Susan, the Doctor and his companions come across a crashed spaceship and it’s surviving crew.

Evaluation
With only two installments, The Rescue is a short but satisfying episode which introduces a new companion quite effectively. Vicki is a clever girl from a futuristic Earth. She exhibits traits similar to Susan but still maintains her own individual personality. And as a child of the future, she will have the intelligence to match the Doctor’s eccentric behavior.

In regards to the Doctor, with the departure of Susan it becomes clear once again how necessary it is for the Doctor to have a companion. There’s a slight shift in his relationship with Ian and Barbara in that he continues to grow in his appreciation of having the two of them around in their travels. If it wasn’t for their presence on the ship, the pain of losing Susan could have been devastating, despite his wish to see her grow as a person.

The story is enthralling. The conspiracy between the Koquillion character and Bennett was pretty obvious but it still plays out well in the end. The camera work is something that should be noted in that the lighting and aspect between establishing shots were of a higher quality that previous episodes. This comes into play during the final battle scene within the Temple Room with the Doctor.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures with Susan, I’m excited to see how the adventures play out with Vicki. As I’ve mentioned before in previous reviews, it’s fun to see the evolution of the Doctor as he begins to grow into the character he is today. Even when Ian and Barbara comment on the Doctor’s age, there still exists a sense of adventure and innocence that the older Doctors don’t quite possess anymore.

Historical Notes
The introduction of the new companion, Vicki.

The Doctor has visited Dido in a previous off-screen adventure, where he encountered the Didonians who are friendly people.

 

Episode 10: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

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Dalek Invasion of Earth

Episode 10: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
World’s End
The Daleks
Day of Reckoning
The End of Tomorrow
The Waking Ally
Flashpoint

Description
The Doctor and the Daleks face off for the fate of Planet Earth.

Evaluation
I know I’ll repeat this again in the end but this episode is completely brilliant. The characterizations, the story, everything was spot on. It was also the first time that filming was conducted outside of the studios. The empty city of London was a wonderful bonus for the story, showcasing the terror of a planet in ruins. Granted, there are always some cheesy aspects of the production. There’s a small animation sequence towards the end that amused me but as it fit with the storyline quite nicely, I didn’t think too much about it.

The acting skills of all of the cast continues to be impressive. The facial expressions of Ian and the Doctor at the end of the first installment was breathtaking, even more so as the horror of their situation becomes apparent for both the cast and the viewer. There’s hints of the future Doctor in the second installment. Ecceleston was fantastic in that he would always be quick to the chase and was annoyed when no one else was. Hartnell’s Doctor begins to showcase this when he dismisses a fellow captive, pushing him aside when he continues to blather about without adding anything useful. The scene is a delight and wonderful for those who have come to Who first with the reboot and later for the early episodes. (And like many Doctor Who episodes, it never quite works out like you think it will).

This comes up again in the later part of the episode when the Doctor stands confident and strong as a we see through the view of a Dalek his attack against the humans and the Time Lord. And like many future adventures of the Doctor, we find that it’s because he took a chance, a gamble, and won. This, again, begins to push the idea that the Doctor has moved from a runaway traveler to a man who will fight for injustice in the universe.

I was initially worried about the Susan/David relationship but there’s genuine chemistry between the two characters that tugs at the viewer’s heartstrings. Even when the Doctor is confronted by David’s respect for an elder’s opinion, there’s a sense that David is attempting to impress a potential in-law. The entire sequence is adorable. The ending was very emotional and more prove that Doctor Who is more about heart than just science fiction.

Barbara’s side story continues to show her strength as a character. One of the best scenes in this episode is when Barbara pushes through a Dalek barricade using a fire truck. When Barbara and Jenny, one of the fighters against the Daleks, are captured in the middle of the fifth episode, the woman who sold them out remarked that they would have been captured eventually. It was only because of Barbara’s continued belief of good character that is her downfall. It’s because of moments like that this that drama of the traveler’s situation becomes heartbreaking. Survivors are shown to be pitted against each other just for a chance to live. People will sell out each other just for a can of food.

The idea of using the Earth has a spaceship is quite brilliant. The question that I can’t help but ask is why did the Daleks choose Earth as their primary target? It’s not something that is discussed in the episode and only because I have knowledge of future episodes do I have a small understanding of their reasoning. I wonder if Barbara and Ian ever realized their role in the Time War that would consume the universe before the Ninth Doctor emerges.

On a side note, the robomen look like early versions of Cybermen. I can’t help but wonder if they were the inspiration; even more so when David mentions that there is a transfer process from human to robomen.

Overall, this episode is one of my favorites. The story and characters are engaging. The impact of this episode has a ripple effect to future episodes in regards to Daleks, companions, and the role of the Doctor as the protector of the Earth.

(PS: My favorite moments will always be the humans against the Daleks. You’ll know what I mean when you watch the last episode.)

Historical Notes
Thanks to the discs on their backs, Daleks can now move without the use of magnetization on metal floors.

The Dalek Supreme has a pet called the Slyther, a nasty creature that attacks Ian and Larry.

Susan’s last adventure with the Doctor, Barbara and Ian. She stays with David to rebuild Earth and to create a life for herself.

 

Episode 9: Planet of Giants

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Planet of Giants

Episode 9: Planet of Giants
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by Louis Marks
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield and Douglas Camfield
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
Planet of Giants
Dangerous Journey
Crisis
The Urge to LiveĀ  (only available as an audio extension on the DVD)

Description
During the materialization of the TARDIS, the Doctor and his companions discover that they are now barely an inch tall.

Evaluation
This was a light episode. There’s a subplot involving a conspiracy between a devious man and his wish to sell a dangerous pesticide. A murder occurs and it’s up to the Doctor to bring the criminal to justice, despite his height issue. The set designs used in this episode were amusing as everything had to be exaggerated to emphasize the size differences.

The DVD offers an extended cut of the third and fourth installments, which was previously combined into a single installment. There’s a noticeable switch when the older audio is mixed with the new audio. Unfortunately, the audio doesn’t match with the visual and the lack of some scenes are only solved by cutting towards extreme close-ups of the Doctor’s face. While the audio does expand the story, I found that I preferred the shorter cut instead of the extended version. There’s not enough footage for the extended cut and what is used was presented in a loop.

Keep in mind that there are some great lines that were cut. There’s an interaction between Barbara and Ian that adds more characterization to their ability to stand fast and strong in adversity. The line was cut in the broadcast version but in the extended cut it adds to the drama of the situation. I prefer the line over what was presented. Unfortunately, this great moment doesn’t make up for how slow the episode becomes with the extra material. While it’s fun to watch the expanded cut, I’m glad it wasn’t part of the full broadcast episode.

Historical Notes
According to Susan, the most dangerous moment happens when the TARDIS begins materialization.

During the extended cut, The Doctor relies on the Scanner in his travels with the TARDIS.

 

Episode 8: The Reign of Terror

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The Reign of Terror

Episode 8: The Reign of Terror
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Susan
Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Henric Hirsch and John Gorrie
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
A Land of Fear
Guests of Madame Guillotine
A Change of Identity
The Tyrant of France
A Bargain of Necessity
Prisoners of Conciergerie
(Missing #4 and #5)

Description
The Doctor and his companions land on Earth, believing the year to be 1963. The TARDIS has actually landed in early 18th Century France under the leadership of Robespierre and his Reign of Terror.

Evaluation
This was the last episode of Doctor Who’s historic first season. The episode is very suspenseful and is a great way to cap off an interesting season. The suspense comes into play as Barbara, Susan, and Ian are captured in the earliest part of the story-arc. They are sent to the jails to either face death or a lifetime of imprisonment. Unfortunately, the girls do play into the damsel in distress mentality but the characters still strive to maintain a strength despite their situations.

The Doctor continues to be amusing as his situations turn into situations in which his clever nature naturally allows him to escape any danger. It’s amusing that his companions face terror, death, and sickness and the Doctor finds an opportunity to go shopping for new clothes. It’s sad that the psychic paper trick had not been introduced into the show as it would be very interesting to see how the Doctor could have used it to his advantage.

Overall, it’s a fun storyline to watch. The new animated scenes included with this new DVD set allows the viewer to experience what the episode could have been if the two missing installments had been found.

Historical Notes
The Reign of Terror is one of the Doctor’s favorite periods in Earth’s history.