Episode 16: The Chase

The ChaseEpisode 16: The Chase
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Richard Martin and Douglas Camfield
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Executioners
The Death of Time
Flight Through Eternity
Journey Into Terror
The Death of Doctor Who
The Planet of Decision

Description
Fleeing from the Daleks, the Doctor and his companions find themselves being chased through time and space.

Evaluation
I liked this episode and then I was deeply annoyed by this episode. The initial premise of this serial was interesting; Daleks chasing the Doctor throughout time and space. Yet, the serial only goes about fifty percent in the effort/presentation. Some of The Chase scenes involved historical scenes that could have been edited and pushed for four parts instead of the longer six parts. The pacing is off and I felt bored at some times which should have been the opposite effect. The best part about the historical Chase bits was the Peter Purves scenes in New York. It was quirky enough that the sequence could be as long as it was.

I thought the opening sequence with the Time-Space Visualizer was very interesting because it reminded me of the Guardian of Forever in the original Star Trek series episode The City on the Edge of Forever. A quick Wikipedia search led me to discover that this particular Star Trek episode premiered in 1967, two years after this episode of Doctor Who aired. I can’t help but assume that writer of that Star Trek episode, Harlan Ellison, might have been a Doctor Who fan or was aware of the program.

The first part of the serial should have been the benchmark that the rest of the installments should have achieved. There is a great suspense to the first episode with the companions being separated from each other and the TARDIS. The first time that Barbara and the Doctor sees the Dalek emerging from the sand is chilling. It serves as a reminder that these creatures are horrifying and worthy of being one of the Doctor’s greatest enemies.

One of the problems that I have with this serial was that there are many “convenient” moments within the episodes that explain how the Doctor is being followed or how he escapes. While it’s fun to see these technical aspects of how the TARDIS operates, I can’t help but be annoyed. This feeling comes up again with the double Doctor plot. While the clone robot Doctor plot was fun to watch the manner in which it was presented was a little laughable. The voiceover from the fake Doctor was not lip synced very well and the fake Doctor was far too skinny to be an exact replica of Hartnell. I can’t help but wonder why they didn’t just use Hartnell for those scenes.

The final battle scene with the Daleks and the Mechonoids was a great ending. I feel that the beginning episode and the last episode were the strongest parts of the serial. The installments in the middle should have been edited to fit within these exciting episodes.

DVD Note: I usually don’t comment on the special features of the DVDs but the third disc of this DVD set has this great documentary about Daleks. “Daleks Beyond the Screen” Highly recommend.

Historical Notes
The cowboy character at the Empire State Building was played by Peter Purves, who would later play Steven Taylor, the new companion introduced in the last part of this serial.

This is the second time that Ian has destroyed one of Barbara’s cardigans, having destroyed one to use as guide through the Space Museum.

Book Evaluation
I found the book to be a little bit more fun in terms of back-story than the serial. In terms of storytelling, the serial is better but not by much.

In terms of the back-story, this almost felt like an encyclopedia for all things early Who. Okay, maybe not that extensive but I found myself writing down little things that I found interesting if I were ever to create such encyclopedia.

Things of note:

  • When the Daleks discuss their greatest enemy, there is mention of how the Doctor has changed his appearance many times over the years. While this adventure was set in the First Doctor’s adventures, I can’t help but wonder where the Daleks were in their timeline in relation to the Doctor’s timeline.
  • The book mentions that is almost 750 years old but had yet not reached his first regeneration.
  • Vicki mentions that in her timeline on Earth there had been work towards inventing a machine that would allow historians and scientists to tap into the Time Vortex to witness and record events of history. It should be noted that Vicki stems from the 25th Century. I couldn’t help but think of Captain Jack Harkness and the Time Agency of the 51st Century. It’s interesting to note the evolution of the understanding of time and how it affects science work throughout Earth’s history. As the humans were just beginning to understand the Time Vortex in the 25th Century, how long did it take before the Time Agency of the 51st Century to be a full functional time travel entity?
  • Often times the Doctor displays a great deal of arrogance that jeopardizes his companions. While this a past issue with the Doctor, and will be for the future incarnations as well, it’s distressingly annoying to read. I do realize that this is more of a youthful issue with this incarnation but it makes the Doctor seem entirely too careless when his companions’ lives as well as his own are on the line. This is made even more apparent when Vicki is left behind at the The House of Frankenstein, forced to fend for herself, and to sneak onto the Dalek vessel in order to regroup with her fellow travelers.
  • The book explores a lot about the technology of the TARDIS and the Dalek ship, particularly with one scene in which Vicki is trying to make contact with the TARDIS using radio transmissions. The Daleks also create a replicate Doctor. Since I have only begun in my Doctor Who viewing adventures, I can’t help but wonder if this is attempted by the Daleks later in their encounters or is this a one-off attempt?
  • Steven discusses a great expansion period that Earth experiences in the future but were distracted by the Draconian conflict and then the Third Dalek War.

In terms of the character development, I think the serial presentation is the better of the two in that showing the emotions the Doctor tries to hide when Ian and Barbara leave is more impactful than how the adaptation presents the scene. The book adaptation left me feeling that it was a mundane exit as opposed to the serial in which I found myself crying and hugging my couch pillows. I do appreciate how much sass Ian has when he talks to the Doctor. The Doctor is never has forthright as he should be with information and can be condescending when he explains things to his human companions. Ian retaliates with sarcasm and wit which irritates the Doctor is the most amusing fashion.

 

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Episode 15: The Space Museum

Space Museum_ChaseEpisode 15: The Space Museum
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by Glyn Jones
Directed by Mervyn Pinfield
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Space Museum
The Dimensions of Time
The Search
The Final Phase

Description
The Doctor and his companions discover they’ve landed in the future of their own timeline.

Evaluation
I really like the premise of this episode, how the TARDIS pushed the travelers farther into the future. The first part of this serial is pretty strong and I think that if they had kept the invisibility aspect of the storyline it would have made for more compelling television. Unfortunately, the idea fizzles at the start of the second part and never fully develops the potential that was showcased in the first part. There are deeper issues in this episode that should be explored, but sadly are not.

Before we go ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss the strengths of this serial. The first part explores how the TARDIS travels from one place to another, using the different dimensions of time and space. What happens when there is a miscalculation in regards to the fourth dimension, time? Are you far ahead enough to see your future? Can you change the future that you see or must you be an unwilling participant in events yet to come? How do you prevent the future when you see a glimpse of it in your past/present? Does it matter what we do in our solutions/actions or is it already pre-determined? A lot of this is discussed between Ian and Barbara during the later parts of the serial, which I think are the more interesting parts of this episode.

The larger piece of this serial is why the Moroks created the Museum in the first place. To invade a different planet and to create a museum on said planet to display their conquests is a crazed notion that works for this storyline. What better way to showcase your great acts than on the blood of others. While the overall acting and design of the characters is slightly minimal, the overarching evil of the Moroks is frightening and should be considered a lesson for those who can see past the simplicity of the storyline. It’s also a commentary about how one can become so bored after everything has been accomplished. The Moroks have done it all and seem to be longing for some form of adventure once again. The Xerons have no clue about how to reclaim their land, and have to bullied into revolution by Vicki’s desires to leave the planet with her companions in one piece.

As I mentioned before, I truly believe that they should have kept the silence/invisibility aspect longer than just in the first episode; or at least through mid-third part. Or there should have been a better connection between the Doctor and the companions with the Xerons or Moroks. It’s an “interesting’ installment and serves as a great starting point for the perils of time travel and fixed points of time.

Final Note: The leader of the Xerons, Tor, was played by Jeremy Bulloch; a man who would later have a claim to Sci-Fi fame with his role of Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back.

Historical Notes
The Museum contains a diverse collection of artifacts from around the universe, including a Dalek shell.

 

Book Evaluation
One things that was glossed over in the serial was how the TARDIS created the bump in time travel. There is a larger explanation within the book that helps discuss how the TARDIS protects itself from such occurrences. The TARDIS clock has a built-in memory and will adjust when a time friction occurs. This explains why the companions and the Doctor were asleep when they landed, blacking out their actions for their protection.

There is a bigger description about the Moroks and the Xerons in that the travelers witness the Moroks killing Xerons as the try to escape. There is a ruthless quality to the Moroks that was only hinted at in the visual presentation. It also highlights the lack of weapons that the Xerons currently possess, showcasing their position as a peaceful planet.

Like the visual serial, the question of action becomes a larger issue with the story. Do our actions change what will happen or are the actions following the line of destiny?

It’s a quick little story that flows well; far better than the visual presentation. I would recommend reading the novelization first before watching the serial as I found myself zoning in and out of the visual presentation. At lease with reading ahead you won’t find yourself as lost as I did with my first screening of the episode.

 

Episode 14: The Crusade

The CrusadersEpisode 14: The Crusade
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Lion
The Knight of Jaffa
The Wheel of Fortune
The Warlords
(Missing #2 and #4)

Description
The Doctor and his companions are thrust into the war and politics between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade.

Evaluation
A solid and engaging episode that sadly is incomplete, thanks to the loss of footage. Overall, with the combination of the visual footage and the book adaptation, this was a fun story that should have had the missing segments animated.

Serial Evaluation
The serial was originally presented in four episodes. The first and third episodes still exist, while the second and fourth are only available through an audio presentation. Unlike previous missing episode presentations such as The Reign of Terror, there is no animated sequence to accompany the audio presentation. The serial, audio and visual, is collected in the Lost in Time set, which also includes footage from The Daleks’ Master Plan and The Celestial Toymaker. The best part about this presentation of The Crusades is that William Russell reprises his role of Ian Chesterton and introduces the footage in character.

Like with the presentation of Marco Polo, I can’t help but feel sad at the lose of footage. While the audio is engaging, the visual footage was fun and delightful. Bonus: I always feel a little giddy whenever William Hartnell starts his adorable little giggle.

Speaking of Hartnell, the fun chemistry that his Doctor displays with Vicki is touching. I’m a tremendous fan of Susan’s character but it’s fun to see a different approach with Vicki. Their interactions are some the best things about this visual presentation.

There’s also a hint of the war within the Doctor, specifically with the use of violence. While later incarnations will discuss their role in various wars, specifically the Time War, there is still a vague notion of that the Doctor has merely escaped or ran away from his people. When he discuss war with the Earl of Leicester, there are hints of the Doctor’s understanding of the true impact of war and how it has scarred his past.

This was the first serial that starred Jean Marsh, who would later play the character Sara Kingdom. Her portrayal of Joanna, King Richard’s sister is incredibly fierce and awe inspiring. While the part is small, Marsh brings a great deal of light and strength to the character. It’s fun to watch her stand her own against her brother’s plans.

Book Evaluation
The beginning of the story describes life within the TARDIS, how the companions and the Doctor relax between adventures. As much as I appreciate the newer Doctor Who story lines, I find these little bits of normality between the Doctor and his companions to be entertaining. There’s something so beautifully domestic in these interactions. I think it might that within these first story lines of this Doctor we are able to see his growth in character and begin to appreciate how these companion interactions have affected his outlook on the universe.

The book adaption really emphases a love story between Ian and Barbara; something that has only be hinted at in the past. It’s not distracting to the overall storyline but it can a little silly compared to how the characters interact on the screen.

One of the things that I appreciate within this adaptation is the exploration of Barbara’s character, specifically her growth as a strong female lead as she continues her companion adventures. The book discusses her use of wit, humor, and intelligence as she adapts to new situations. There isn’t an emphasis on her physical strength, which is a refreshing take considering how more modern audiences use the term strong-female character as one who must have a robust nature to match the physicality of male action heroes. Within the past decade or so, the definition of strong female has shifted to include those of use who don’t fit into the action-packed category. Women can be strong outside of physical strength. It’s nice to see positive example of this with the description of Barbara’s developing character. Barbara doesn’t have to be the physical type to save the day; her strength comes from her mind and it is within this role that Barbara’s character is actively celebrated.

Having said that, there was a part in this book that was never in the telecast; Barbara was lashed by the villain of the story. While it might make for a compelling storyline, I truly didn’t see why it had to be included in this adaptation or why it was even necessary at all. Keep in mind that Doctor Who was meant to be a child’s program; such plot devices seem barbaric to be included. Granted the show’s first episode did deal with potential killings in the era of cavemen.

Historical Notes
In her initial conversation with Saladin, she mentions past adventures such as The Web Planet, The Romans, and The Dalek Invasion of Earth.