Episode 21: The Dalek’s Master Plan

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The Mutation of Time

Episode 21: The Mutation of Time
First Doctor
Companions: Steven, Katarina, Sara Kingdom
Written by Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Nightmare Begins
Day of Armageddon
Devil’s Planet
The Traitors
Counter Plot
Coronas of the Sun
The Feast of Steven
Volcano
Golden Death
Escape Switch
The Abandoned Planet
Destruction of Time
(Missing #1, #3, #4, #6, #7, #8, #9, #11, and #12)

Description
The Doctor faces his greatest enemy with the fate of the Earth in the balance.

Evaluation
Dear BBC,

Honestly guys…out of all the episodes to be destroyed, you had to choose the huge, massive, epic twelve part blow-out. It would have made this review a lot more easier if you had not deleted these episodes.

Sincerely,

Me, the annoyed viewer

I’ve been sitting on this review for a bit because I just can’t seem to commit to reading the second part of this adaptation. I don’t know if it’s because of its scale or because the story just isn’t connecting as I hope it would. I have some quotes and notes from the first part of the adaptation but this is one of those times that I just have to walk away. Maybe I’ll be able to come back and look at this installment with fresh eyes but I have to move on to the next episode. I miss talking about Doctor Who and this blog was a nice escape from my busy life.

There might be one reason why I’m having problems updating this blog beside the aforementioned busy schedule; the new Doctor Who episodes have simply drained me. There’s no life in the series anymore. You can see the actor’s trying but it feels like fan service instead of earnest storytelling. I miss the heart of the show, which is messing with the heart I had for the classic seasons. Talking with my friends about the program I have discovered that I’m not the only one who has this feeling.

So, the plan is to push through this feeling and start blogging again. I love the First Doctor. I love the adventure he presents and I love his companions (though Steven needs to tone down the sexist attitude ASAP). Thank you, Katarina for your sacrifice. I wish we could have more episodes with you. While the previous companions had many examples of how dangerous it can be to travel with the Doctor, you were the first one to show the audience that it’s not always fun and games.  Thank you, Sara Kingdom for being a badass. You were amazing and interesting and I wish we could have had duel adventures with you and Katarina. Thank you Bret Vyon. Your moral ambiguity was fun to watch and I wish we had more of your story as well.

And with that, let’s move on. Let’s begin that push towards the next chapter.

Historical Mentions
The only appearance of Sara Kingdom and the first death of a companion.

Episode 19: Mission to the Unknown

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Special Note

Mission to the Unknown was originally a one-shot story that presented background information for the larger story, The Daleks’ Master Plan. This review will examine the book adaptation of Mission to the Unknown which has elements of The Daleks’ Master Plan within its narrative. Consider this post as Part I of a two-part series examining this epic chapter of the Doctor’s adventures.

Mission to the Unknown

Episode 20: Mission to the Unknown
First Doctor
Companions: n/a
Written by Terry Nation
Directed by Derek Martinus
Wikipedia Entry

Description
An expedition from Earth discovers a deadly secret on a jungle planet.

Book Evaluation
I know that there have been times when I’ve read a Doctor Who adaptation and immediately thought, “Damn it, man! Why on God’s green earth did you have to destroy those tapes.” I probably should pre-apologize for how many times I’ll probably will mention this as we head towards the bulk of the Missing Episodes. This episode, which will be paired up with Episode 20, is one of those times in which I have feel very angry about the Missing Episodes. This would have been amazing to watch. I know that the audio still exists for this Episode and for Episode 20 but it’s not the same as having the full experience. I believe that is one reason why I haven’t updated in quite some time. I had thought about pairing the readings with an of the surviving audio adventures but it turn out to be too time consuming for someone with two jobs. Maybe in the future, but I’m anxious to get back to blogging, so no on the audio…for now.

So what can we say about the book adaptation of Mission to the Unknown. This is a strange thing in that Mission to the Unknown was actually a one-off episode in which it sets up the background for Episode 20. There’s no Doctor or no companions. There are humans exploring a planet but no connection to the Doctor until towards the end. In this book adaptation, it doesn’t start with this part but rather the after-effects of The Myth Makers. (And now you see why I wanted to push Myth Makers first instead of this episode.)

The adaptation begins with the point of view of Katarina, who served as a handmaiden for Cassandra, the Trojan prophetess. Before we go any further, I have to mention how much I really liked Katarina. There’s a part later on that I’m not happy with in how they treated this character but I have to mention that I admired her spirit. Katrina was the first companion of the Doctor’s in which her background was of the past as opposed to the present or the future. (Barbara and Ian were of the present timeline, while Vicki and Steven originated from future timelines. Susan could be considered neutral as she began her travels at the same time as the Doctor.) Even though Katarina possesses a more innocent mind due to her background, she is still a fighter and more than worthy to be aboard the TARDIS. It does get a bit tiring of how some of the “modern” characters will talk down to her like a child. She’s from the era of Troy, of Myth thrust upon a future setting. She’s doing pretty well considering the shock of the transition.

As we begin this story, the Doctor and Katarina are dragging Steven from the battle of Troy back to the TARDIS. Unlike the previous book adaptation, in which it is mentioned that Steven was fine as they left Troy, he has been wounded and it is feared that he might be in danger due to infection. The Doctor is worried about infection, while Katarina, who has seen wounds similar to Steven’s in her experience at Troy, is sure that Stephen is on his way to his death. As the Doctor sets course to a time of civilization in which antibiotics are more readily available, we now shift to a jungle setting, or the setting of the one-off episode call the Mission to the Unknown.

Let’s pause here and consider what it might have been like for the audience. Here they are expecting another exciting episode with the Doctor and they get this strange jungle episode in which men go mad and the jungle screams only add fear to those brave, or stupid, enough to explore. This entire portion is a great part of the book adaptation. It’s creepy, strange, and unworldly. I know that Doctor Who is a science-fiction program but because of the historical elements that are showcased in the show, sometimes that sci-fi portion is ignored. This portion combines the older sci-fi mentality and adds a bit of horror for a very entertaining read. I couldn’t help but consider Jeff Vandermeer’s recent Southern Reach trilogy which has roots in the weird fiction genre. There is a desperate struggle between the jungle and the human explorers only to discover that there is a bigger threat beyond the power of unworldly nature: the Daleks.

I know I’m repeating myself but I really liked this portion of the story. It sets up Episode 20 so well and provides a feeling of fear for the audience members. They know that the Doctor is about to face the Daleks in later episodes but as the jungle is a vicious force of nature, will the Doctor have more than one enemy in battle?

From here on in, the book adaptation becomes an adaption of Episode 20: The Daleks’ Master Plan, hence the need to make this a two-parted review. Except for the following notations, I will be pausing in this review and continuing to exam the rest of the adaptation in correlation with The Daleks’ Master Plan in the next post.

The thing that I really liked about this book was the various characters that were introduced and how the story began to play around with genres. At first it was a survival piece with the Doctor trying to save Stephen and the new character, Bret Vyon, who is trying to survive the jungle planet to send vital information about the Daleks back to Earth. The story will later morph into a spy/suspense thriller mixed with those sci-fi elements I touched upon previously. This marked the first time that Nicholas Courtney would play a role in Doctor Who. For those unaware of Courtney’s history with the program, he would later play the wonderful Brigadier Alistair Gordan Lethbridge-Stewart. The Brig is one of my favorite characters in some of the episodes I’ve seen from the Third Doctor. And it’s one reason why I’m anxious to get through some of these book adaptations so we can start our journey to UNIT. (I don’t want to rush my First Doctor adventures as I do love Hartnell but I realize I’ve been stuck in this era for a bit too long.)

The Daleks’ Master Plan also introduces Sara Kingdom, a great badass character played by the amazing Jean Marsh. There’s a great tension between Vyon and Kingdom that plays out really well in the book. And it’s something that I look forward discussing in the next post.

Episode 20: The Myth Makers

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Special Note

This is the one and only time that I know of so far in which I will skip a serial and move on to another. The episode Mission to the Unknown is an anomaly. It’s a one-shot episode that doesn’t star the Doctor and provides background for a serial that doesn’t happen until after The Myth Makers. I would have reviewed it first had there been any footage left. Alas, this is one of those missing episodes. I thought I would try to read the novelization for the one-shot but it’s mixed as a two-part adaptation with The Daleks’ Master Plan. When I attempted to start reading the Mission to the Unknown adaptation, it mentions Katarina, a companion that is introduced in The Myth Makers. With this in mind, I decided that the best option would be to skip Mission to the Unknown for now and push ahead to The Myth Makers.

The Myth Makers

Episode 20: The Myth Makers
First Doctor
Companions: Vicki, Steven, Katarina
Written by Donald Cotton
Directed by Michael Leeston-Smith
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
Temple of Secrets
Small Prophet, Quick Return
Death of a Spy
Horse of Destruction
(All Missing)

Description
The Doctor and his companions find themselves in the middle of the Trojan War.

Evaluation
A random Google search for
The Myth Makers lead to a wonderful discovery. Some lovely person had cut and pasted the audio transcript of the series with the remaining footage of the episode. While it is nowhere near the level of reconstruction that has been seen in the professional BBC releases, it’s still nice to have something to view instead of nothing at all.

And this is why I love the Internet.

I really wish that I had watched these installments before I had read the novelization. This was a vastly entertaining story. The characters were delightful and the overall story arc was intriguing. I even wished that the story just revolved around the Trojans instead of the Greeks merely because of the comedic exchanges between Paris and Cassandra.

This was also an interesting serial because it felt as if this was the first time we see the Doctor face the consequences of history. With The Aztecs, the Doctor and his companions understand they are merely observers of history. In any of the historical episodes (Marco Polo, The Reign of Terror, The Crusades, The Romans and The Time Meddler), the Doctor may play a part in history but often it is within the sidelines or as the potential carefree participant. The Doctor’s companions often find themselves in the thick of the adventure, seeing first hand the various tragedies in history The Romans is a fine example of this when Barbara and Ian are sold into slavery while the Doctor and Vicki find themselves on a vacation with Nero. With The Myth Makers, the Doctor is forced to design and build the Trojan Horse. He is forced to face the slaughter of the Trojans by the Greeks. He is shocked and distressed by the entire affair.

I can’t help but consider David Tenant’s tenure as the Doctor, specifically in the episode, The Fires of Pompeii. He is forced to play a vital part in history, setting in motion the deaths of thousands of Pomeii citizens. He’s devastated by his actions but they are necessary for the noble good. The Doctor faces the same dilemma in this episode, having been forced to concoct a plan to finally end the Trojan War. I don’t know if that was the intention of the writers but it works and it’s worth noting.

This episode was a little heartbreaking as well because it features Vicki’s departure. Having appreciated Maureen O’Brien’s portrayal of the character, I was sad to see her character leave the TARDIS. But what a way to leave as a part of Greek Mythology/History; becoming Cressida and falling in love with Troilus. It’s a different interpretation to the myths and poetry produced about this era and it’s fun to watch.

But when one companion’s departs,  another companion enters. I’m still baffled by this idea of an introduction. In the last installment of this serial, jealous Cassandra assigns a handmaiden, Katarina, to watch over Vicki, spying on her movements. When the Greeks attack Troy, Katarina, follows Vicki towards the TARDIS. Katarina later finds Steven in the battle areas and brings him back to the Doctor. She ends up staying in the TARDIS, becoming a new companion as Vicki becomes Cressida permanently, choosing to stay for love; quite like Susan once did in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Here’s the problem with this entire Katarina business. There is no mention of her and then BAM! THERE SHE IS and now she’s part of the narrative. The reconstructed serial that I was able to watch for these installments had VERY limited footage, so I don’t know if she was in the background for any of the other Trojan scenes, but it feels weird to not have her part of the program if she was to be a new companion. Granted, I do have some knowledge of this character and I understand that she won’t be staying long in later episodes….….but come on! I will admit that maybe I’ve become spoiled with Nu! Who in which new companions have an episode devoted to their introduction. (Then again, Vicki had a huge episode to her introduction. Steven had the tail end of an episode for an introduction but it was established pretty quickly of who he was and what was his motivation to join Team TARDIS)

Overall, I really wish I could have seen the full version of this episode. While the audio tracks are fun for at least gaining some understanding of the presentation, the full experience would have been more intriguing. I pre-apologize for the previous statement because I have a feeling I’m going to be saying that a lot as we head towards the Missing Episode Eras. Oh, what could have been, what could have been…

Book Evaluation
The Myth Makers is a strange adaptation. This story took me a long time to finally finish because I just couldn’t get into the storyline. I attribute my lack of enthusiasm with this adaption to why it has taken me so long to update this site. (That and other life things) My one regret with this installment was that I found the fan reconstruction after I had finished the adaptation. I believe it would have been more helpful in pushing me to finish this story earlier than later.

I was about a fourth into the book when I realized what my issues with the narrative; Homer as the narrator of this story. The Homer depicted in this story is written with a modern voice instead of one resembling his various works. Take this quote for example:

“…but Steven had elected to climb into a small tree, where he looked ridiculously conspicuous against the rising moon, rather like a ‘possum back on the old plantation. And the hound-dog had him in no time at all.”

Huh?

Now I know I don’t possess the knowledge to be an authentic Greek scholar outside of the magical world of Wikipedia, meaning I don’t know what types of plantations the Greeks might have had or if they hound-dogs or ‘possums, but this reads as if Homer is comparing Steven’s situation with one resembling some form of an  American Southern comedy. It doesn’t fit with the setting of the story.

The problem with this adaptation is that the author felt the need to have a narrator. There was no narrator in the original broadcast. Why was there one needed here? It’s a frustrating question because the author of this adaptation is the same author who wrote all four installments of this serial.

The different shifts between story-lines (Greeks vs. Trojans) did not need a constant narrator to discuss the character’s actions or histories. There should have been a third person narrative, which would have worked out fine as it has in previous adaptations. I found myself ignoring or skimming the parts in which Homer was discussing his interpretation of the events. I was more engaged when the focus was on the characters of the story.

The story itself, once you remove the Homer aspect of the tale, is quite engaging. This is one of those stories that I wish the full visual episodes were still available. I feel grateful for the fan audio reconstruction but it’s really not the same thing.

In terms of the differences between the books and the visual broadcast, Steven is injured in the broadcast, which leads into the next episode. The ending of the book glosses over the battle sequences and Vicki’s departure. There is still great dialogue between the Trojan characters, but there is a minor focus on Helen and her role in the entire war/affair. There’s part of me that wishes that the book adaptation would merge with the visual broadcast to give the viewer a larger, overall vision of the Trojan War.

It should be noted that Katarina is barely mentioned throughout the book until the end, similar to her introduction in the visual broadcast. Again, this is the part where I lament about missed opportunities.

Both versions of the story have merits just as they have misses. Yet, they do complement each other. It would be in your best interest to watch/read them closely together.