Episode 27: The War Machines

The War Machines

Episode 27: The War Machines
First Doctor
Companions: Dodo, Polly, Ben
Written by Ian Stuart Black and Kit Pedler
Directed by Michael Ferguson
Wikipedia Entry

Description
On a visit to Earth, the Doctor discovers a super-computer who is creating War Machines intent on taking over the world.

Evaluation
I love this episode. I love it and wish we had more like it. At least more like it during Stephen’s run. The story is great. The character interactions are wonderful and the writing/direction is tight and beautiful. Love it. Love it. Love it. Love it!

This episode highlights the problems I have had with the Stephen era. I didn’t like the character and, honestly, I thought he was too negative for the series. Yes, he had some bright spots here and there but I never connected with him. With the new companions, Polly and Ben, I fell in love instantly. There was great chemistry with these two new characters and they worked well with the Doctor and Dodo. This new pair reminded me of a younger Ian and Barbara, which is what this series needed. Again, I felt that Stephen was far too serious and Dodo was never given the chance to be as light-hearted as she was in this episode. Even when the Doctor was interacting with Polly and Ben for the first time, it just felt right. I couldn’t help but have my heart swell with giddiness with the chemistry.

When the story moves to the party scenes, with Polly and Dodo mingling and meeting Ben, it’s a great representation of that time: carefree with the world of possibilities at their feet. It’s easy to get caught up in the drama of other worlds and the seriousness of important subjects. As I mentioned in The Gunfighters, there needed to be a balance, more light-hearted with the serious drama. This was the first episode in a long time that it felt that this balance had been achieved. This felt like a much-needed reboot and we’re all better off because for it.

The villain of the story, a super-computer, was brilliant. The War Machine devices were similar version of the Daleks, which was distracting. We’re never given an explanation of the alienness of the WOTAN computer. Was this secretly a Dalek invasion? Even with the distraction of the Dalek-like War Machine, I can see this type of story being played out in Modern Who. Speaking of Modern Who, the military presence in the third installment reminded me of UNIT. I know that the official version of UNIT wouldn’t happen until the Second Doctor’s run, specifically the episode The Invasion, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a precursor to UNIT. I’ll say more once I get to The Invasion, but this might be where the foundation for UNIT was created. An alien threat in which regular weapons are ineffective? A mysterious man who knows how to defeat the alien threat? Let’s set-up a taskforce to fight the baddies!

The Doctor is called Doctor Who a few times throughout the second installment. It’s a little strange but luckily it doesn’t last beyond this small scene.

Dodo’s departure was crap. The character deserved better than a footnote. The actress, Jackie Lane, had her contract end during the production and it was not renewed. It feels weak, though I don’t believe that Dodo was never given a real opportunity to shine. Quite a pity since she had such potential at the beginning of her run, even more so at the beginning of this episode.

Overall, despite some bumps and bruises, The War Machines is a solid affair and worth the effort.

Historical Mentions
This marked the last appearance of Dodo and the first appearances of Ben and Polly.

According to the episode’s Wiki page, this marks the last appearance of the St. John Ambulance emblem on the TARDIS. It will be not be seen again until the Eleventh Doctor’s run.

 

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Episode 26: The Savages

The Savages

Episode 26: The Savages
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
This was the first time in which each installment had no title cards

Description
The Doctor visits an advanced society that is protecting a large secret.

Evaluation
This was an entertaining story. The overall plot involves a civilized society and a lower-class culture of “savages.” This is a power-play storyline that is similar to the various moral stories that were presented in the original Star Trek. What is a savage? Who determines the welfare of the greater society? Is a civilized world a better world when you consider the consequences? Are the savages really savages or are the “civilized” society the true villains?

The novelization handled the story well and I was curious as to how the citizens handled their changes in the coming years.

Steven’s casual dismissal of Dodo was irritating. “She always gets feelings likes that,” said Steven. “She imagines things.” I haven’t seen an example of Dodo being flighty or exhibiting hysteria. That Steven doesn’t want to listen to reason when everything looks “too perfect.” I was a little sad at Steven’s depature but I’m not going to miss his character. He was far too pushy and impatient for my liking. I think I’ll miss the potential that Steven could have been.

This is one of those novelizations in which I really want the original footage to be found. Great pacing, interesting dialogue, fun overall.

Historical Mentions
This was the last appearance of Steven Taylor.

 

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.

 

Episode 10: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

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.