Episode 38: The Abominable Snowmen

 

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Episode 38: The Abominable Snowmen
Second Doctor
Companions: Jamie, Victoria
Written by Gerald Blake
Directed by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Wikipedia Entry

Description
High in the Tibetan Himalayas, the Doctor discovers creatures who threaten a monastery.

Evaluation
First of all, I’m mad that this episode has missing pieces. I want more images and gifs of these things:

Snowmen

I’m not even mad, bro.

Can we have more fluffy monsters in Doctor Who? And if not, why not? I need answers showrunners!

The TARDIS lands in the Himalayas, specifically in Tibet. The Doctor is excited to return a bell back to a monastery. But as he leaves the TARDIS, the Doctor notices strange footprints and asks Jamie and Victoria to remain in the TARDIS. Naturally, his companions follow his instructions to the letter.

Jamie Vic TARDIS

Before the Doctor’s arrival, Professor Edward Travers, who is looking for proof that yetis exist, discovers that his companion was killed by a strange creature. When the Doctor enters the monastery, he is shocked to find himself accused of killing Professor Travers companion. Meanwhile, Jamie and Victoria are searching for the Doctor when they come across an unstoppable “great, hairy beastie” with enormous strength.

When the companions and the Doctor are reunited, they are thrust upon the mystery of what exactly are these “great, hairy beasties”. What is the connection between their attacks and with the monastery’s spiritual leader? And what exactly are those magical balls?

Overall, it was an entertaining episode when I listened to the audio version. The characters were engaging. The action was exciting to the point to where I found myself  shouting at the characters to be careful when they faced a yeti attack. Jamie continues to be one of my favorite companions and Victoria continues to be a great asset to the Doctor team. The cliffhangers after each part were suspenseful and the costumes are blast to behold once I had a chance to look at the surviving piece of the episode.

Jamie and Vic.jpg

There was one issue I had with this episode. Again, the characters, specifically the supporting cast, were engaging when I listened to the audio edition. The problem was when I watched the only surviving piece of the episode. Many of the supporting actors were white actors playing Tibetan characters. I know that this was a norm for the times but this is one of those times in which the act of tanning an actor to look like a person of color doesn’t age well. The acting was still good but the representation wasn’t the best.

Again, I know that I’m writing this fifty years since its release and that this is a great example of time and age but these were things that popped out at me and lingered long after I finished the episode.

Yeti Set photos

As I’m reading about this episode I was delighted to discover that this won’t be the last time we see the Yeti in Doctor Who. I’m excited for the opportunity to see more of them in the future.

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Episode 37: The Tomb of the Cybermen

Tomb of the Cybermen

Episode 37: The Tomb of the Cybermen
Second Doctor
Companions: Jamie, Victoria
Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis
Directed by Morris Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Description
Hidden beneath a mountain, Cybermen rest and await the time in which they awake.

Evaluation
When I finally went to watch this episode I made a horrifying discovery: my disc wouldn’t work. No matter what I did, nothing worked. And because I was dealing with an equally horrifyingly busy work schedule I didn’t have the opportunity to find another copy or try to fix the disc. Hence the three month lag. Luckily, I discovered BritBox which is a steaming services that is currently hosting the classic Doctor Who titles. It’s frustrating still because I do enjoy watching the special features and the streaming service does not offer this tidbits. Hopefully the rest of the discs that I own still work.

Before we begin, let me say this: I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this, and I’m completely certain that I will mention this again, but I love the Cybermen. I love them more that the Daleks. The Cybermen are tangible in that they can be formed just as easily in our own world than in the imagination of science fiction. We can remove our emotions and become mechanical if needed to simply survive. The Daleks are just as scary due to their desire to be all powerful beings, creating the master race. But we can fight the notion of the Daleks; separating our emotions is what creates monsters that are not easily defeated. I will always be excited for Cybermen stories and they generally have been my favorite episodes.

And with that let’s plunge into the story.

We begin with Victoria being introduced to the TARDIS, having tagged along after the destruction of her previous life in The Evil of the Daleks. I was initial concerned about Victoria. Would she be a damsel in distress? As she had a Victorian background would she up to the challenge of having adventures through time and space? As I only had the audio edition with her first adventure, I was unsure of what her physical presence would entail.  My fears were unfounded. Her character was fantastic and she was a lot of fun to watch. Victoria’s relationship with the Doctor was playful. She has enough confidence to question his actions but understood enough of his past behavior to trust his thinking. Their interactions were just the lighthearted moments needed between the episodes’ action scenes. She pairs well with Jamie, who continues to be a delight with this Doctor,  and I’m happy to have a functioning companion group once again.

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As Victoria is finding her footing in this new adventure, the TARDIS lands on a planet called Telos. There’s a sequence before it lands in which we observe an archeological team exploring the planet, looking for an entrance in a mountain. They have just discovered this lost entry way, losing a team member in the process, when the Doctor and his companions arrive and begin to look around. As they enter the mountain, the Doctor is horrified to discover the truth of what the team seeks far down in the ground.

The archeological team is clearly in different sub-teams; one is focused on the archeological aspect of the adventure, the other is focused on personal reasons, quite possibly evil. As they enter the mountain, tensions are rising as each fraction’s focus begins to clash with each other. Of course, everything will be alright in the end and there will be no drama….

Jamie and Doctor

Small note: I have worked in some form of customer services for many years and the thing that will remain consistent in any form of customer service is that humans like to touch things. There’s always a part of me that wonders if our human curiosity can be controlled for a moment to assess a situation before we dive into adventure. But NOPE! Let’s push all the buttons on this Cyberman control panel! Nothing bad can happen if we PUSH ALL THE BUTTONS!

Cybermats

Okay, so great drama is created and I am treated to suspenseful cliffhangers. Each installment of this episode is wonderful. I felt engaged with the story and I was curious as to how the next installment would play out. The only issue that I had with the episode, and it’s a big one, was with the character Toberman. I was uncomfortable with the way that the only black character on screen was created to be a servant and was later sacrificed to save the team. Originally the character was to have been deaf, with his hearing aid being a means of connecting his character to the Cybermen. Hearing devices, or bluetooth ear pieces, and the Cybermen would come into play during the Tenth Doctor’s second series. It would have been interesting to see how that idea would have played out in this episode.

So far, except for my issues with Toberman’s character, this is my favorite Second Doctor episode. The suspense was fantastic and the characters were a lot of fun to watch. The threat of the Cybermen felt genuine and each episode ended with a great cliffhanger, even the last episode.

Historical Mentions
This was the first time a Cybermat and the Cyber Controller was featured in a story.

Episode 36: The Evil of the Daleks

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Episode 36: The Evil of the Daleks
Second Doctor
Companions: Jamie, Victoria
Written byDavid Whitaker
Directed by Derek Martinus
Wikipedia Entry

Description
The Doctor and Jamie are forced to play a game of life and death in the Victorian age.

Evaluation
This another audio that I listened to instead of reading the adaptation. At about 18 minutes into the audio presentation I became distracted as I heard this playing in the background:

I originally heard Hold Tight! in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. In the film, it is played right before a violent, dramatic sequence that still leaves me breathless every time I watch it. I had to re-listen to this part of the audio presentation because I found myself singing along to the song and not paying attention to the story.

After the Doctor and Jamie say goodbye to Ben and Polly, they watch as the TARDIS is loaded up and shipped to an unknown location. They are later kidnapped and sent back to the middle of the Victorian Era. The Daleks are behind this kidnapping and force Jamie to submit to an experiment in which “the human factor” will be discovered. This unknown quality is what the Daleks believe to be the reason why humans have been able to continually defeat the Daleks.

The episode is a typical Dalek story in which the silly tin pots underestimate the power of human kindness and ingenuity. It’s not to say that the story is boring but there were moments that I felt were predictable. Jamie is a character with a good heart and will always lead the cause for good. The Doctor is clever and has the charm to fool the Daleks once again. Humanity is great but there are still those who would sellout for fame and money, which leads to their own destruction. My biggest worry about this serial was the introduction of Victoria. I hope she doesn’t become just the damsel in distress for future episodes, though I have a feeling she will.

The Lost in Time DVD set does have the second part of the episode available for viewing.

Overall, it is a solid episode. The acting and writing were spot on. It is a bit slow but the end is fantastic and I wish that the last part had survived.

Episode 35: The Faceless Ones

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Episode 35: The Faceless Ones
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by David Ellis and Malcome Hulke
Directed by Gerry Mill
Wikipedia Entry

Description
The Doctor and his companions fight against a dangerous alien race.

Evaluation
I listened to the audio of this weeks ago and it had no impact whatsoever beyond the acknowledgment that I had listened to it on my commute to work. It’s not a bad story but I found myself bored and it was frustrating.

The serial begins with the TARDIS landing on an airport runway. As a plane lands the Doctor and his companions scatter. Polly sees a man murdered and runs to find help. She is captured as the Doctor and Jamie begin to investigate the crime scene. Ben is later captured. The core of the story involves the Doctor and Jamie trying to find and save Ben and Polly as well as fight the aliens that have kidnapped young travelers. A young girl, Samantha Briggs, becomes involved as her brother has been missing and she suspects it has to do with a suspicious travel company, Chameleon Tours.

The premise starts out fine but this was a serial that should have been edited to four episodes instead of six. This was Ben and Polly’s last story and they are barely in the narrative. Polly has a bigger part than Ben’s but with the introduction of the side character of Samantha, they’re both pushed aside and ignored until their final goodbye. With a quick look, I discovered that the actors, Michael Craze and Anneke Wills, were contracted up to the first two episodes. They’re ending was pre-shot and inserted. It’s a damn shame because I really like Ben and Polly. From what I’ve heard and read of their adventures, they have been charming companions and not nearly as appreciated as they should. As much as I have enjoyed Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor Adventures, I wish that Ben and Polly had been introduced earlier in the Hartnell era. They played off Hartnell quite well and it would have been a delight to see more of those adventures.

The Faceless Ones is an entertaining episode but only towards the end of the serial. Samantha Briggs was an interesting temporary character and I think she would have been a great traveling companion as she had great rapport with Jamie.

 

Episode 34: The Macra Terror

doctor_who_the_macra_terror

Episode 34: The Macra Terror
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Directed by John Davies
Wikipedia Entry

Description
The Doctor and his companions visit an Earth colony in the future that is not what it seems.

Evaluation
I have discovered through my library’s online resources that many of the audio editions of the missing episodes are available for check out. I like reading the books but the hearing the story is more entertaining and I seem to retain the story more than from the book adaptations. Granted I’m stuck in traffic five days a week, so the audio presentation is a welcome relief to the horror that is the 405.

The story begins immediately after the end of The Moonbase in which Ben, Polly, Jamie, and the Doctor see the scary image of a claw on the TARDIS scanner. They land in the future, on another planet that has been colonized by Earth. Their visit contact with this new planet is with a colonist by the name of Medok, who is running away from the police. Medok is arrested by the Chief of Police who escorts the visitors to the colony. As the Doctor and his companions become accustomed to this new world, they discover that the colony is not what it seems. There are forces controlling the colony; forces that may not be human.

This was an entertaining story. I found myself yelling in my car as I listened to the adventure. (This is usually a good sign that I’m engaged in the story) It felt like an engaging radio drama. This is a rare case in which I’m glad that the episodes are missing because it was so engaging as an audio adventure. I’m wondering if I would have thought the episode cheesy if I had seen the Macra monsters. Sometimes leaving the imagination open to possibilities is more entertaining than the actual image presented. If you can find the audio edition, it would be worth the time and effort.

Episode 33: The Moonbase

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Episode 33: The Moonbase
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Kit Pedler
Directed by Morris Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Description
The Doctor encounters a threat from his past; a threat that forced his first regeneration.

Evaluation
After a rough landing, the Doctor and his three companions discover that they have landed on the Moon in the year 2070. As they explore the planet, they come across a Moonbase where the Earth’s weather is now being controlled. Jamie is injured so the Doctor, Ben, and Polly seek entrance to the Moonbase to take of their injured companion. (Jamie’s injury was created to help with his unexpected role of series regular. Jamie would later take some of Ben’s lines in later installments)

The Moonbase crew is dealing with a strange disease which causes the base to be quarantined. Those affected with the disease display their symptoms with an inky-substance under their skin; the first affected speak of a silver hand. As more crew-members are affected with this strange disease, the Doctor and his companions come to the realization that this disease might hide a darker, evil threat that the Doctor hoped to never see again.

Oh this episode was stellar. Everything about it worked. The acting, the direction, the set design; all of it was fantastic. Unlike, the previous episode in which the missing footage was replaced with just audio and photo stills, the missing footage here was animated and was a great improvement to the photo still method. There was news last week that The Power of the Daleks would be released in the near-future as a fully animated production. I can’t wait and I’ll be editing my original review afterwards.

Admittedly, there are silly moments in the episode. The hole in the Moonbase is fixed by a food tray? But it works for the story and the tension was wonderful. I wasn’t distracted by my phone or laptop while watching this program, which means it was fun. The Cybermen, a villain I genuinely enjoy, were creepy and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have seen them for the first time, without any knowledge that they were the creatures behind the disease. That reveal at the end of the first installment was chilling as well as the cliffhanger at the end of the third installment.

And can we discuss the guest characters? They made sense in the context of the story. The Moonbase is managed by a man named Hobson, played by Patrick Barr. Normally, the manager of a doomed or failed mission is played as a bumbling fool, someone who doesn’t listen. While Hobson may have his faults, he’s a smart character. He’s there to protect the Earth but will look out for his crew in the fiercest way possible. Hobson plays off the Doctor incredibly well, which makes sense since the making-of documentary discusses Barr and Troughton’s friendship.

Overall impression? Great episode and a lot of fun. Worth the time and effort to seek out and watch.

Episode 32: The Underwater Menace

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Episode 32: The Underwater Menace
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Geoffrey Orme
Directed by Julia Smith
Wikipedia Entry

Description
It’s a race against time as the Doctor tries to save the world against a power-mad scientist.

Evaluation
This isn’t my favorite episode but it’s not the worst episode I’ve watched. What makes this episode extraordinary is that this is the first time I’ve actually seen Patrick Troughton in action since I’ve started this blog. I had watched The War Games ages ago but my impressions of his Doctor have escaped my memory. With The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders, I had only heard Patrick’s voice or read about the Doctor’s antics in the written adaptations. Once he’s finally on screen, he’s wonderful and it made me giddy with joy while watching his performance. Anytime that Patrick was on the screen, I kept thinking of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor; the bumbling actions that hid a highly clever personality. While Smith was inspired by other programs as well as Albert Einstein in the creation of his take on the Doctor but I can’t help but see the similarities between Two and Eleven.

Unfortunately, you don’t really see the Doctor in action until the second installment of this episode. The DVD has photo stills and an audio soundtrack for the first and last installments. The problem is that the audio doesn’t give you an indication of what exactly is going on. It was distracting and frustrating. I was able to fill in the puzzle during the second installment but it doesn’t flow well because of this confusion. I had to go back to the written adaptation, which was entertaining, to understand what exactly was going on.

The story begins with Jamie in awe of the TARDIS. As a man of the mid-1700s, he’s understandably wary of future technology. Unlike the First Doctor’s companion Katarina, Jamie handles the technology with ease and rolls right with and, sometimes, into the punches. The companions and the Doctor land near the ocean, on a volcanic island. When Ben, Polly, and Jamie start to explore, they find they are being followed. Polly is kidnapped with the Doctor, Ben, and Jamie captured shortly afterwards. They soon discover that they are in somewhere around Mexico, sometime in the early 1970s. Their captors are preparing their prisoners for a ritual sacrifice. These captors are survivors of Atlantis and still celebrate their old Gods. After some quick thinking, and quick talking, they are rescued from death by the mad Professor Zarloff. The Professor recognizes the Doctor’s intelligence and separates him from the companions. Jamie and Ben are to work in the mines and Polly is to become a fish person.

Circumstances change and the team is reunited by the third installment. Professor Zarloff’s designs to raise up Atlantis involve a plan to blow-up of the Earth. Naturally, the Doctor makes every effort to stop him.

There are many themes at play in these installments. There is a religious story mixed with the mad scientist story mixed with a conspiracy story mixed with a socialistic angle. It’s a tale that is everywhere. There’s even a scene in which the Atlantis fish people are seen swimming around the ocean. It felt like outakes of some B-movie version of Disneyland footage. It’s fun to watch but the overall story feels scattered. Zarloff is played over-the-top, which can be fun in a campy way but with everything going on at once, it’s overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Zarloff’s character would have been amazing in some 1960s American science-fiction film.

I did sit and watch the making-of documentary, which involved cast and crew interviews. This episode was originally meant to follow The Power of the Daleks but the scheduled director, Hugh David, thought the script was crap and publicly claimed that the budget was too much. There was a reworking of the script/broadcast schedule and The Highlanders was created to follow The Power of the Daleks with Hugh David directing that amazing episode. The Underwater Menace was pushed around until it was finally scheduled for after The Highlanders.

Patrick Troughton also thought the story was crap and the companions, now three instead of two, had lines cut to share with each other. Polly’s character, who had been a mighty force in The Highlanders (something I touched upon on in my last review), was written weak and not the strong, independent 60’s character she had been designed. I fell in love with Anneke Wills watching this mini-documentary, as she discussed why her character was created with this modern 60’s mentality. I had already loved Polly but the woman playing this fantastic character is a treasure. Sometimes writers are stuck in the past with no understanding of characters.

Overall, it’s not a bad episode but it’s still not the best. If there had been some editing of the story wherein the focus was on a smaller cast of characters, it might have been amazing. Patrick Troughton shines because he was a professional and made the best of what he had. Here’s hoping that this was a one-off thing and the rest of these adventures don’t follow this pattern.

Episode 31: The Highlanders

Doctor_Who_The_Highlanders

Episode 31: The Highlanders
Second Doctor
Companions: Polly, Ben, Jamie
Written by Elwyn Jones and Gerry Davis
Directed by Hugh David
Wikipedia Entry

Description
The Doctor and his companions land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden; Scotland 1745.

Evaluation
Random note: Did you know that Diana Gabaldon is a Doctor Who fan and named her lead male character after Jamie? While I’m not a fan of Outlander, I thought the connection was fun. (I really tried to get into the book, but I wasn’t feeling it. I might try watching the show. With my crazed schedule of late, I’m not making any promises)

The story begins as the trio land in the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden, which was the final uprising of the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart, also known as Bonnie Prince Charles.

“A few hours previously, the largely Highland Scottish troops of Prince Charles Edward, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, had drawn up their battle lines against the English and German Army led by the Duke of Cumberland, who were fighting for King George. What was at stake was the entire future of the British monarchy.”

For more information about the Battle of Culloden, here is a bibliography list from Wikipedia.

As the story unfolds, Ben, Polly, and the Doctor land in a cold, wet land. Ben immediately recognizes the weather as English-like weather. The problem is that they don’t take the moment to consider that it might not be the same timeline they originally came from. When a ten-pound cannonball lands near them, the Doctor knows the TARDIS has landed in a battle. Ben and Polly believe it to be a reenactment happening and run off to investigate. The Doctor, the cautioned participant for once, follows to ensure their safety.

Meanwhile, fleeing the battle is the Laird of Clan McLaren, Colin McLaren along with his children, Alexander and Kirsty, and the clan bagpiper, Jamie McCrimmon. Colin has been injured and the group is looking for shelter, fast. They come across an uninhabited  cottage; a cottage that had moments earlier been discovered by the The Doctor and his companions. Confusion occurs on both sides. As Ben and Polly hail from London, the McLarens believe them to be the enemy. Ben and Polly are confused as to why someone would want to attack them, still not realizing that they are in the past. The Doctor is just trying to call everyone down. Eventually, the McLarens allow the Doctor to examine Colin and Polly and Kirsty go off to fetch fresh water. Ben foolishly sets off a musket, allowing the Redcoats, who are searching for rebels.

The Doctor, Colin, Jamie, and Ben are captured and place in jail instead of being hanged because of nefarious plot by Solicitor Grey, who is the Royal Commissioner of Prisons. Grey has been shipping prisoners to the colonies, specifically Jamaica and Barbados; an illegal act that Grey hopes will provide him with generous funds. Meanwhile, Polly and Kirsty have a run-in with a British officer, Lt. Algernon Ffinch. They steal his money and, later, blackmail him to avoid capture.

The story ends with the Doctor and Ben enabling the prisoners to fight against their captors. Kirsty and Colin sail away to avoid capture from the English. Jamie accepts the invitation to travel with the Doctor, Ben, and Polly.

The Highlanders is a fun time travel romp. The characters were fun and the use of history was great throughout the story. As someone who is not as familiar with British and Scottish history as she might want to be, the overall story didn’t feel dumbed down and left enough for me to understand as well as provide enough of a lure for me to explore later.

Polly continues to be amazing. She’s fun, feisty, and not afraid to be tough and feminine. There’s a fun balance of this modern woman with Kristy, who is the daughter of Colin McLaren, the leader of the clan McLaren. At first I was annoyed with Kristy because of the way she is presented in the narrative. It’s unfair to compare Polly’s modern mentality with Kristy’s 1700s mentality. This is what Kristy has been taught and I believe that she has never had an example in which a woman could stand and fight before Polly appeared. Granted, I should just get off my soapbox and not freak out about a Doctor Who adaptation, but it bugged me so hence the mention. Still, it was fun to read the interactions between these two women and it provided a nice break in the story.

Poor Algernon Ffinch. While I may have glossed over him in the story explanation, he was a fun character to discover. A fob and an idiot, Ffinch is fodder for the story, but it’s fun to see him fluster around Kirsty and especially Polly. He has a happy ending in the end but he was also a nice break in the more tenser portions of the story.

Overall, it was a very entertaining story. I still adore Ben and Polly and their interactions. I love this sassy version of the Doctor. And I love the introduction to Jamie, a character that would continue to travel with the Second Doctor until the end of Patrick Troughton’s run.

Jamie, suddenly afraid of the strange looking object, hung back. He was going with these strange people into something he only dimly comprehended. Where would they take him? Would he ver see his native glen again?

As he hesitated, Polly turned back and grasped his hand. “Don’t be afraid,” she said, “it’s much nicer inside than it is out. There’s so many wonderful surprises waiting for you, you’ll see.”

Jamie allowed himself to be drawn through into the small police box. The door closed behind him and he saw to his astonishment the large, hexagonal, brightly-lighted interior of the time machine.

Special Notes
On the Lost in Time DVD boxset there is a listing for some surviving Highlanders footage. When I went to watch it, there was barely anything.

Historical Mentions and Notes
This was the last time the series would focus primarily on historical events until the Fifth Doctor episode of Black Orchid. 

The Second Doctor is shown to be very fond of hats