Episode 31: The Highlanders

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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

 

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 16: The Chase

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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 11: The Rescue

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The Rescue_RomansEpisode 11: The Rescue
First Doctor
Companions: Barbara, Ian, Vicki
Written by David Whitaker
Directed by Christopher Barry
Wikipedia Entry

Installments
The Powerful Enemy
Desperate Measures

Description
Still reeling from the departure of Susan, the Doctor and his companions come across a crashed spaceship and it’s surviving crew.

Evaluation
With only two installments, The Rescue is a short but satisfying episode which introduces a new companion quite effectively. Vicki is a clever girl from a futuristic Earth. She exhibits traits similar to Susan but still maintains her own individual personality. And as a child of the future, she will have the intelligence to match the Doctor’s eccentric behavior.

In regards to the Doctor, with the departure of Susan it becomes clear once again how necessary it is for the Doctor to have a companion. There’s a slight shift in his relationship with Ian and Barbara in that he continues to grow in his appreciation of having the two of them around in their travels. If it wasn’t for their presence on the ship, the pain of losing Susan could have been devastating, despite his wish to see her grow as a person.

The story is enthralling. The conspiracy between the Koquillion character and Bennett was pretty obvious but it still plays out well in the end. The camera work is something that should be noted in that the lighting and aspect between establishing shots were of a higher quality that previous episodes. This comes into play during the final battle scene within the Temple Room with the Doctor.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures with Susan, I’m excited to see how the adventures play out with Vicki. As I’ve mentioned before in previous reviews, it’s fun to see the evolution of the Doctor as he begins to grow into the character he is today. Even when Ian and Barbara comment on the Doctor’s age, there still exists a sense of adventure and innocence that the older Doctors don’t quite possess anymore.

Historical Notes
The introduction of the new companion, Vicki.

The Doctor has visited Dido in a previous off-screen adventure, where he encountered the Didonians who are friendly people.