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Author Topic: Old Doctor Who  (Read 21856 times)

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Thad

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Old Doctor Who
« on: February 22, 2008, 04:01:56 PM »

All right, starting this as a single thread again; in the likely event that it diverges significantly into "Thad reviews old Doctor Who" and "people talk about new Doctor Who" threads once the new season starts, I'll get somebody to split it again.

At any rate.

Just Netflixed Earthshock, a Davison-era serial best remembered for [spoiler]the death of Adric[/spoiler].

One of the reasons it is best remembered for that is that the rest of it is pretty thoroughly forgettable.

I hope you like stories where the Doctor materializes in the middle of a murder investigation, is falsely accused and taken into custody, and his captors don't believe his story until the real killers show up and start shooting people...because for some reason that happens TWICE in this serial.

The more interesting angle is the attempt to establish a father/son relationship between the Doctor and Adric.  Unfortunately, Adric is at his most obnoxious here and what we see is full-on teen drama, which amounts to "You treat me like a child, you're not my real father, I liked Tom Baker better, I wanna go home, waaaaaaah."  (And really, who DIDN'T like Tom Baker better.)

Just to review Adric's faults, since the spotlight's on him here: while he predates Wesley Crusher, he's pretty much in his mold.  He's the precocious child who somehow manages to show up all the adults on the show every time there's a problem to solve.  Adding teen angst to his character traits does not make him more sympathetic.

That said, the attempt to explore the Doctor's companions as surrogate family is a noble one.  We see a paternal side of the Doctor that recalls the First Doctor's farewell to Susan.

After that it's largely a straightforward Cybermen story; the Fifth Doctor's first (and only, unless you count their brief appearance in The Five Doctors) encounter with them.  (As the Cybermen recognize the Doctor and recount his previous appearances, they bring up, by omission, the interesting bit of trivia that they didn't appear during Pertwee's run.)  Pretty standard stuff; they're trying to destroy the Earth for what turns out to be a supremely nonsensical reason.  (It turns out that a coalition of planetary leaders is meeting on Earth to declare war on the Cybermen; the Cyber Leader plans to wipe them all out in one fell swoop as this will "destroy their unity".  Because nothing destroys the unity of a group that wants to declare war on you like ASSASSINATING ALL THEIR HEADS OF STATE.)

The big payoff is in the last five minutes -- a frantic battle with the Cyber Leader on the TARDIS, while the rest of the cast race against time on the bridge of a spaceship to prevent its lethal collision course with Earth.  It's a tense and extraordinarily well-executed climax.

[spoiler]Adric's death is handled surprisingly well.  He dies in truly precocious-child fashion, with the words "Now I'll never know if I was right" -- managing to turn his most obnoxious character trait into something bleakly charming.  The reaction on the TARDIS is beautifully handled -- stunned, slackjawed silence, which carries over through the credits.[/spoiler]

The presentation is slick -- the transition from the caves to the ship shows some good range in setting, and the Cybermen look less ridiculous than they did during the Troughton years.  The score is solid, not nearly the overbearing early-'80's synth that characterized some of the late Baker stories.

This is one of those eps that's considered a classic by fans whose appeal I can't see so well watching it for the first time with no emotional investment.  (This seems to be a trend among Cybermen stories.)  The payoff of the last five minutes is excellent, and the pacing of the story is tight except for the fact that the first and third episode have EXACTLY THE SAME PLOT, but all in all I'd say it's a pretty average story.  Amazon's price is $20, which I'd say is $5 more than I'd recommend paying for it.  Worth a rental though.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2008, 10:31:09 AM »

The Doctor Who Classics comic has gotten pretty good.  #4 wraps the City of the Damned arc (in the first 4 pages, which leads me to wonder why, for a $4 cover price, they couldn't just make #3 4 pages longer rather than interrupt the pacing), then includes a neat little fill-in bottle story where the TARDIS is attacked by an alien monster that feeds on its time energy and regresses its inhabitants -- K-9 back to a puddle of liquid metal, and the Fourth Doctor back to the First.  The resolution is some neat pseudoscience, and it's fun seeing the cameos by the Doctor's first three forms.  (If I want to nitpick, I'd say the First Doctor talks a little too much like the Fourth; yes, there's a "tut-tut", but there's an "old girl" in there, too.)  Art in those pages is not Gibbons and is hit-or-miss, but it looks pretty good in places.

The final story in the issue just gets warmed up; can't really form an opinion on it yet but it seems weak so far.  Hopefully it'll pick up next issue.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2008, 10:46:55 PM »

Latest Netflix selection (Netflick?  Netflik?) is Vengeance on Varos.  I decided I should probably check out something with the Sixth Doctor just so I could say I had, and this is apparently generally viewed as his best serial.

It IS pretty good, and manages that elusive trick of still being topical 24 years later.  There's some 1984 in there, a bit of Fahrenheit 451, and a little Running Man; Varos is a world where the government keeps its citizens in line by plopping them in front of reality TV, and the particular brand of reality TV revolves around the execution of rebels.  Varos's figurehead leader is an ineffectual governor who is physically punished every time the people vote against one of his policies; the true villain is an alien slug who sounds like Cobra Commander and who is ripping off the oblivious citizens on Varos by grossly underpaying them for their fuel source.

Hell of a lot going on there: the complacent citizens, the reality TV, the struggle for energy sources, the government figurehead being manipulated by a military-industrial complex.  On top of that, the pacing is tight (though a bit off from what I've come to expect from classic Who, as this was after the shift from 25-minute to 45-minute episodes).  The makeup's good, but the sets are pretty drab; lots of identical metal corridors in this one.

The other problem is that the Doctor and companion Peri are really just window-dressing in the story -- they're far less interesting than the supporting cast, and the story would have worked fine without them but for the Doctor's off-world knowledge of the value of Zeiton-7 ore.  I didn't really get a bead on the Sixth Doctor's personality beyond "generic", and Peri was little more than a pair of jiggling breasts -- though I'm not going to spend too much time griping about that.

It's the best I've seen in awhile.  If you're doing what I'm doing and Netflixing old eps, I'd call this a must-see; if you're looking to buy, I'd say it's worth the $18 Amazon's charging for it.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2008, 07:33:26 PM »

Destiny of the Daleks is Tom Baker's second and final confrontation with the titular monsters (memo to Rusty: yes, they ONLY DID TWO DALEK STORIES IN EIGHT YEARS), as well as Lalla Ward's first appearance as Romana (she'd played Princess Astra in the previous serial) and the second appearance of Davros.

It's a pretty run-of-the-mill story; by far the best sequences are the creepy, antediluvian ruins of the Dalek city, best used in the end of the second chapter when a cobweb-covered Davros begins to awaken.

It's sort of downhill after that.  The creepy aliens of indeterminate race and sex turn out to be bad guys, Davros and the Doctor banter back and forth about their respective philosophies, and the whole thing sort of falls apart in the last chapter where it turns out the two alien races are in a stalemate because their battle computers are evenly matched.

The Daleks' blind obedience to Davros is a pretty radical change; not only have they, over the few hundred years since Genesis of the Daleks, gone from attempting to exterminate him for being inferior to reviving him because he's much smarter than they are, but within the span of two episodes they go from "Self-sacrifice is illogical and therefore impossible" to strapping bombs to themselves on his orders.

And on the subject of logic -- I've noticed more than one fan bellyache about the "Daleks trapped in a logical impasse" element, as that sort of story is much better suited to the Cybermen; Daleks aren't generally depicted as slaves to logic.

For a serial with both Terry Nation (writer) and Douglas Adams (editor) named in the credits, it disappoints.  There ARE a few good Adams-y one-liners in there, but they're far between.  As for the "comedy" in the opening segment, Romana's regeneration scene painfully fails to amuse, and of course reminds us that no two writers can agree on how regeneration works anyway.

It's not great, it's not terrible.  Rent, don't buy.
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Cannon

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2008, 08:31:58 PM »

Interested on hearing your thoughts concerning Delta and the Bannermen and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, Thad. I know you're a ways off from the Seventh Doctor, but I'm curious.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2008, 08:55:02 PM »

Actually, I have the last three Seventh Doctor serials queued up now.

I've got those two on my list of things to check out, along with Invasion of Time; I'll watch your suggestions one of these days.

Will probably slow down on the classic rentals once the new season starts up.  BBC's been mum on the premier date, but Sci-Fi said April.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2008, 10:34:04 PM »

Actually, I have the last three Seventh Doctor serials queued up now.

One down.

The Seventh Doctor era gets a lot of (presumably well-deserved) flack, and some fans blame McCoy and Aldred for the waning quality and ultimate cancellation of the show.  Others blame the writers, and Ghost Light seems to vindicate that view, as it shows McCoy and Aldred do a perfectly good job when they have a decent script to work from.

Ghost Light tends a bit toward the confusing and I found myself hitting up Wikipedia to explain what it was I'd just seen when it was over, but that's not necessarily a negative; some of my favorite sci-fi is inscrutable.

It's something of a mishmash of references to such works as The Shining, Pygmalion, and Heart of Darkness, with a dash of Douglas Adams thrown in.  But the Victorian haunted-house ambience is suitably creepy, and most of the cast -- creepy housekeeper, insane hunter, lord of the manor who wears glasses indoors, caveman, crazy hooded figure, monstrous angel -- is interesting.  The Seventh Doctor comes across as a mysteryman who manipulates Ace to force her to confront fears out of her past, and when he confronts Light in the final act, reminds the audience that he is indeed both ancient and alien.  Ace is a far more complex character than most companions in the original series, and paves the way for Rose and Martha to have involved and (sometimes) interesting backstories 15 years later.

All in all, it's better than the Tom Baker/Terry Nation/Douglas Adams Dalek story I watched two weeks ago, and that HAS to count for something.

$20 at Amazon -- worth buying.  (Note: I will not be buying it at this time, as I have no money.)
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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2008, 01:48:27 PM »

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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #8 on: April 06, 2008, 04:09:02 PM »

Back to the oldschool:

Curse of Fenric makes a fine followup to Ghost Light.  It's got vampires, Ragnarok, game theory, cryptography, World War II, sea monsters, time paradoxes, causality loops, and ancient exiled evil.

Most interesting is the "Battle not with monsters lest you become one" theme.  I can't recall an American children's show ever uttering the word "Dresden"; hell, I'm hard-pressed even to think of one that actually showed a swastika.  Acknowledging that the Allies were far from innocent in the war is powerful stuff for -- what was the expression? -- goofball foreign children's television.

The plot twists are obvious, the characters are simplistic, and all in all it's a lot easier to follow than Ghost Light.  But simplicity aside, the characterization is excellent, particularly from the Doctor and Ace during the climax.

All in all, a great mix of elements, well-written and well-acted.  I think I'm going to have to agree with the fanboys: it's a pity the show was cancelled just when it was starting to turn around.

$25 at Amazon and worth it.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2008, 01:52:04 PM »

The original 26-year run concludes with the ironically-titled Survival.  (Gloria Gaynor can relate, I'm sure.)

It lacks the deeper themes and clever storytelling of the two preceding serials, and, due to the presence of Cheetah People, is far, far sillier.  But it's a fun, if nonsensical, straight-up Doctor versus Master story, and is significant both for the last appearance of Ainley as the Master (a 1990's adventure game notwithstanding) and of course the series finale.  Plus it explains what the Master's doing with yellow cat eyes in the 1996 TV movie.

$26 at Amazon; comes with a second disc that apparently has a lot of extra features dealing with the historical significance of the ep.  For a slightly more casual fan such as myself, I'd say do what I did: Netflix the first disc and don't worry about the second.  It's worth checking out, but its predecessors are better.
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Thad

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Re: Doctor Who
« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2008, 03:10:24 PM »

Putting this in a new post because I'm considering doing what I threatened in the first post and splitting this into a new Who thread and an old Who thread.

I discovered at the comic shop yesterday that there's a 288-page collection of Sixth Doctor comics by Grant Morrison and John Ridgway called The World Shapers.  A Google search turns up a spoilery summary and review; it sounds pretty good and I'll have my eye on it for the next time the shop has a sale.  (This time I opted for Sandman vol 10 and that big ol' Locas hardback.)

...So I wonder when we're going to see the Alan Moore/David Lloyd stories collected.
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Thad

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2008, 06:34:43 PM »

Righto; thread split.  (And as the dancing Cyberman in the thread icon appears to be a modern Cyberman, that means that for the third time in recent memory, I have changed a thread so it no longer gibes with its icon.  Arc, when you get the chance, I'd say move this icon to the new thread and find something appropriate for this one.)

Just finished Scream of the Shalka, the animated Webcast from '03 that was originally intended to serve as a pilot for a new series.

All in all, the biggest weakness is Richard E Grant's Doctor: bluntly, he's a prick.  He's got all of Eccleston's sarcasm and condescension, with none of his whimsy or manic energy.

Now, there's a REASON the Doctor is a prick, it's just not a very good or interesting one.  The canonical #9 and #10 have done the "guilt and isolation" schtick too, but much better; the Doctor covering up his personal pain with constant wackiness is much more enjoyable than covering it up by simply insulting everyone and brooding all the time.

The most interesting element of the series is the [spoiler]robotic[/spoiler] Master -- one of very few hints that Grant's Doctor has a sense of humor, and the only thread I would have liked to see developed had this made it to series.  (The one brief nod on the current series: Derek Jacobi appearing as the Master in Utopia.)

Aside from that, it's a generic alien invasion plot.  The animation is serviceable -- and, since it's properly-done Flash, vector graphics and all, looks great on an HDTV -- but very low-budget; it would definitely look at home alongside any number of current cartoons on Nickelodeon or CN.  Animations are simple, backgrounds are practically nonexistent (but lots of Kirby dots!).  The animators' later attempts (the missing eps in The Invasion and The Infinite Quest) look a good deal better.

Anyway.  It's worth checking out; the price is right.  And I'd like to see more animated Who (either new stuff or more Invasion-style fill-ins of missing episodes).  But ultimately, it's like the '96 movie: it's an interesting "What-If" for a series that never was, but the one we got instead is much better.
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Thad

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2008, 02:11:57 PM »

...Since the entire point of the threadsplit was for me to talk more about old Doctor Who while the new show's on break, I should probably mention that I watched The Three Doctors the other week, but I don't have much to say about it.

It's a pretty solid character piece; of course the interaction between #2 and #3 is the heart of it (#1 barely appears but is lovably insufferable when he does).  Brig provides some comic relief with his staunch, professional refusal to accept the rather silly and convoluted plot.

Omega's not much of a villain but has a cool mask, and the big reveal when he takes it off is a good bit.

All in all, a classic Who that most assuredly deserves to be described as classic Who.  Definitely worth at least a rental, and probably worth having in a collection.

Tangentially related: this is the first video I watched through Netflix's streaming service.  Once I got past the fundamental problems with the service -- fuck you if you don't use Windows and IE --, it ran pretty well.  There's no scene/episode selection, but when I quit out after an episode and came back later to watch the next one, it remembered my place.  There was no sputtering at all in the stream, and the picture looked as high a quality as a DVD would have been -- though of course this is early-'70's Doctor Who, and I don't know if something like Lord of the Rings would hold up as well if I streamed it.
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Thad

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2008, 07:11:06 PM »

The Ribos Operation is a mediocre story saved by interesting characters.  It's probably most remarkable as the first appearance of Romana, who isn't one of them.  At this point she's just a know-it-all college girl and general ice queen (as made less subtle by her costume).  While this is the only serial I've seen with Mary Tamm in the role, I can reasonably assume she and the Doctor warm up to each other over time -- but I can also reasonably assume she never achieves the same chemistry with Baker that Ward had, what with Baker and Ward sleeping together and all.

This is the first part of The Key to Time Series, AKA Collection Quest: The Movie, wherein a generic good-guy overlord tells the Doctor he has to collect a series of MacGuffins before a generic bad-guy overlord can get to them first.  The plot from there is simultaneously simple and needlessly convoluted: as the Doctor and Romana seek the first piece of the Key, they find that a royal exile and a pair of small-time thieves want it too.  The series shows the pacing problems faced by so many early Who serials in that nothing really happens until it's half-over.

That's saved, as I said, by a good cast of characters: the lovable con-men, the ambitious villain, an alien version of Galileo, an entertainingly over-the-top augurer, and a rubber-suit monster that doesn't get nearly enough screen time.

It ends with what I've so often complained that RTD simply can't seem to do: a short but satisfying goodbye scene.

All in all, it was probably worth the rental but leaves me fairly nonplussed about the whole Key to Time series.  I assume I will find the next serial, The Pirate Planet, much more impressive, as it was written by Douglas Adams.
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Bal

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2008, 08:29:14 PM »

So Thad, I know you love Doctor Who, and so do I, but uh, this whole thread is just you talking to yourself. Maybe you should just start a Doctor Who appreciation blog.
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Thad

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2008, 08:33:46 PM »

Or I could merge it back into the other one.  But I like what I'm doing here.
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Royal☭

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2008, 08:38:09 PM »

Actually a Doctor Who or Sci-Fi blog run by Thad would be neat.  Hell, any blog by Thad would probably be erudite and interesting.  If only such a thing existed.

Thad

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2008, 09:35:25 PM »

Yeah, all right.  Between this and the comic thread being almost Thad-only affairs and my latest blog entry being about February's strong beer fest, maybe I should consider an update.

Later.
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Detonator

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2008, 09:42:44 PM »

I'm more likely to read a political Thadblog (even if it's just repeating what you post here), so try to throw some of that in as well.
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Thad

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Re: Old Doctor Who
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2008, 09:51:08 PM »

We'll see.  I hate to censor myself, but I'm also looking for work at places that might frown on my politics.
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