Episode 27: The War Machines

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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.

 

Episode 26: The Savages

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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 25: The Gunfighters

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The Gunfighters

 

Episode 25: The Gunfighters
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by Donald Cotton
Directed by Rex Tucker
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
A Holiday for the Doctor
Don’t Shoot the Pianist
Johnny Ringo
The O.K. Corral

Description
A case of mistaken identity places the Doctor in danger at the O.K. Corral.

Evaluation
In my last review, I complained about the balance of the episodes; too many series parts and not enough fun parts. Well, with the Gunfighters that balance went out the window into silly but still mixed with fun. The Doctor, Dodo and Stephen find themselves in the heart of the Wild, Wild West when they arrive at the O.K. Corral. The Doctor finds himself mistaken for Doc Holiday and that’s when the adventure begins. There’s a lot of build up towards the famous gunfight of the O.K. Corral.

The thing that drives me nuts about these episodes would be the use of music. There is a song that plays between scenes and it doesn’t really play out as well as it should have. It was catchy the first time but then it starts to distract from the story, which is actually entertaining. It’s as if the writers wanted to create a musical episode without having to put in the work. And it’s the first time in which I’m not annoyed with Steven as a character, though it was borderline for a majority of the serials.

The story could have been ridiculous and I have read a variety of reviews in which the episode is poorly received. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There’s an earnest quality about the storyline and the comedy involved is charming. I believe that this episode is one of those in which you either love it, tolerate it, or loathe it. It’s not a strong episode but I found it fun and do recommend it for the casual Classic Who viewer.

 

Episode 24: The Celestial Toymaker

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The Celestial Toymaker

Episode 24: The Celestial Toymaker
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by Brian Hayles and Donald Tosh
Directed by Bill Sellars
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Celestial Toyroom
The Halls of Dolls
The Dancing Floor
The Final Test
(Missing #1 – #3)

Description
A maniacal gamer makes trouble for the Doctor and his companions.

Evaluation
Okay, let’s discuss why the Celestial Toymaker hasn’t been back on Modern Who. I know I will encounter him again in audio adventures and various stories throughout the novels but the character hasn’t been back on TV and this needs to be rectified. Maybe it’s the use of the Mandarin costume (which should not be replicated because holy racism, Batman) but there has to be some way that the Toymaker comes to Modern Who. The character is fun and I would love to see Capaldi’s responses to the Toymaker’s snide remarks.

The entire episode is a series of games in which Dodo and Steven must play in order to win back the TARDIS. The Doctor is forced to play a separate game in front of the Toymaker. If the Doctor wins the game before Dodo and Steven reach the TARDIS, the Doctor actually loses and Dodo and Steven become dolls for the Toymaker’s amusements. The entire structure of the installments and novelization rely on the interactions between Dodo and Steven. Apparently, William Hartnell was on holiday during the shooting of installment two and three, hence why there are parts in which the Doctor has been silenced or you only see his hand.

Dodo and Steven make the story work well and there is a fondness between them that allows the reader/viewer to want to see them succeed. I’m glad that this book pointed out Steven’s constant rashness. There’s even a line in which Dodo is described as being “…irritated…(with)…Steven’s tough guy attitude…” Why was he written this way?  There are brief moments when his snarly attitude breaks free and I can see an opportunity in which he could have became my favorite, but then it passes and I’m left with the annoyed face. I want to like him but he’s a product of his time. (Not his character’s time but the time of the episode’s production.) Then again, Ian wasn’t this bad. Again, stomach through until the end.

The story itself is fun and light. The problem I’ve been having with some of these episodes has been the larger than life, intense storylines. The Daleks’ Master Plan nearly killed this blog as it became a drag to get through the storyline. Having recently finished the 9th series of Modern Who, I appreciate the balance of humor with serious with the placement of the episodes. I know that I’m not watching these classic programs in the manner that they were presented (a 30 minute episode once a week) but I can’t help but grumble. One idea that I might try in the future, once we’re past the First and Second Doctor with their missing episodes, is to only watch one part of the serial a day. That way I can process the episode as it was presented instead of binge watching the episode with multiple parts in one sitting.

The last installment of The Celestial Toymaker was fun to watch as it is available on the Out of Time boxset. The ending didn’t feel cheap and it did leave the possibility for the Toymaker to return in the future. (Please let the Toymaker come back for Capaldi’s next season. PLEASE!). The entire story was a lot of fun and worth the time and effort to find and read.

Historical Mentions
The Toymaker is played by Michael Gough, who would later play Alfred Pennyworth of the Batman films. He was married to Anneke Wills, a companion of the Doctor starting in Episode 27.

 

 

Episode 23: The Ark

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The Ark

Episode 23: The Ark
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by Paul Erickson and Lesley Scott
Directed by Michael Imison
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Steel Sky
The Plague
The Return
The Bomb

Description
Ten million years in the future, before the Earth is destroyed by the expanding sun, the Doctor and his companions meet the last survivors of the planet.

Evaluation
First of all, can we talk about how much I adore Dodo. What a breath of fresh air compared to Steven’s dourness. Her interactions with the Doctor brought a much-needed levity that had been missing since Vicki’s departure. It’s not entirely Steven’s fault; it’s just the way he’s been written. I liked the balance between Steven and Dodo and I hope that it continued in future episodes. (Though Steven’s interactions with the humans without the Doctor and Dodo were great.)

This episode was fun. It wasn’t the best but it wasn’t the worst. I found myself distracted throughout the various parts but still able to pay attention to the plot lines.  There really wasn’t much of the episode that seemed to stand-out. The aliens, the Monoids, were great but I was distracted by the wigs.

In terms of the plot, I really liked the use of Dodo’s cold. I was reminded of The War of the Worlds as the Martians were defeated by the common cold. It brings up an interesting point in that we don’t always see the different implications the Doctor and his companions have with diseases and immunities. What airborne diseases are the human companions taking back with them when they leave the Tardis? Has this issue been brought up in future episodes? Does the Tardis have a decontamination process before each departure? Do companions have to go through a series of immunization shots before traveling? Questions. Questions. Questions.

This serial also had the best cliffhanger so far when the Doctor and companions find themselves returning after a considerable amount of time. There was some great world building in these four episodes and it was fun to watch the show play around with group and race dynamics. I can’t help but wonder how this episode concept would play out in modern Who?

And how wonderful is the last moments of the last episode? A disappearing Doctor? Yes and please!

Historical Mentions
This is the first adventure with Dodo Chaplet.

The first mention of the Earth’s destruction due to the Sun’s expansion. This concept would be later explored in the Ninth Doctor episode “The End of the World.

 

Episode 22: The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve

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The Massacre

Episode 22: The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Dodo
Written by John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh
Directed by Paddy Russell
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
War of God
The Sea Beggar
Priest of Death
Bell of Doom
(All Missing)

Description
The Doctor and Steven are in a race for time in 1572 Paris.

Evaluation
This was a quick read. A nice historical story that didn’t really add to the mythology of the Doctor but a mere filler episode, or at least that’s what I took from the reading.

Well, I hate saying this, and I know I’ll repeat this on any lost episode, but seeing this would have been more interesting than reading the story. St. Bartholomew’s Massacre is an interesting piece of history and I felt that the adaptation grazed over the consequences and the historical significance for a thriller story. From what I’ve read in the Wikipedia entry, the ramifications of the massacre were shown more than the book version.

I wonder about Steven. He really hasn’t been my favorite companion. Granted, it’s not his fault as he had the task of replacing Barbara and Ian, the original (and most beloved) companions. Steven needs someone to balance his character. I’m hoping this will be Dodo in the future episodes.

Overall, the story is okay but I wish for a little something more.

Historical Mentions
It is hinted in the book adaptation, not the original telecast, that Dodo is descendent of the family of Anne Chaplet.