Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Power of the Daleks Episode Three

The one where the Daleks will get their power...

The episode opens with the Dalek barking its repeated refrain from the end of last week - "I am your servant! I am your servant!" - giving the impression that everybody's been standing there listening to it bleat on for an entire seven days! Lesterson and Hensell are astonished that the Dalek can speak, and has some level of intelligence. It's frighteningly typical that the first thing the humans think of is using the Dalek to help and improve humankind - automation and enslavement spring to mind, using the Dalek machines in the mines for instance. It's true for all races - the Dalek is thinking of its own survival, as are the humans.

Troughton shoots a rare misfire in his delivery of the underpowered and rather naff line: "I shall stop you... I will...", but it is the Dalek (and voice artist Peter Hawkins) who steals this scene with its sheer malevolence. The Doctor orders it to immobilise itself, to prove it is a slave to the humans, but as soon as he leaves the room, it reactivates itself, explaining that the Doctor's order was simply wrong, and that it can only serve the humans if it is activated. "I serve you," it tells Lesterson, who is well and truly head over heels captivated by the creature and the potential it harbours.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Power of the Daleks Episode Two

The one where the missing third Dalek is brought back to life...

Now this is more like it! Patrick Troughton manages to make the Doctor much more likeable and recognisable in this episode, and starts to become the Second Doctor we're more familiar with. He's not quite all the way there yet, as this post-regenerative version of the Doctor is still a little more serious and doomy than what we otherwise know, but there are tantalising hints at the mercurial vagabond ahead.

Having said that, Ben still isn't convinced that this new fella is the Doctor he knew before. "The real Doctor was always going on about the Daleks," he says. But by the end of the episode he seems to be more convinced of the new Doctor's veracity, moving from disbelief to partial acceptance when he mutters that the Doctor is in two minds "and two bodies".

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Power of the Daleks Episode One

The one where the Doctor becomes uncommunicative, but musical...

The Power of the Daleks marks the overdue, but much welcome, return of former Doctor Who script editor David Whitaker, whose last work for the series was writing The Crusade in 1965. Whitaker was a very capable and professional writer, particularly of character, and that skill is more than welcome after several serials where incident and spectacle often came before character.

Whitaker uses Ben and Polly's innately opposing outlooks on life to represent what the viewers at home would have been thinking. The characteristically optimistic and more open-minded Polly represents those watching who embrace change and renewal, whereas the more stubborn-headed and pessimistic Ben represents those at home who feel unsure about what's happened, those who aren't convinced about changing the actor playing the Doctor.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Tenth Planet Episode 4

The one where William Hartnell leaves and Patrick Troughton joins...

And so here we are, at the very end of the First Doctor's era, where William Hartnell leaves the programme he helped make a national phenomenon three years earlier. Frustratingly, The Tenth Planet episode 4 is also missing from the archives, and actually begins the longest run of consecutive missing episodes - 12 episodes between October 29th, 1966 and January 14th, 1967. Luckily, we have the audio of the episode, and although it was reconstructed using animation for the 2013 DVD release, I've chosen to stick to what we have from the episode as transmitted - the fan-recorded off-air audio and John Cura's telesnaps - and reviewed the VHS reconstruction from 2000.

William Hartnell makes an early return to the action, having gotten over his bronchitis, which is just as well given that this was scheduled to be his last ever episode (goodness knows what Plan B was if he was still too ill to record!). The Doctor tells Polly that he's not sure what happened to him, but that it "comes from an outside influence. This old body of mine is wearing a bit thin." An early indicator to the audience that not all is what it seems, and that we may not have seen the last of this strange influence upon our hero just yet.

Friday, November 03, 2017

The Tenth Planet Episode 3

The one where General Cutler risks the future of Earth to save his son...

Can I just say, before we start, seeing as he's the first person we see in episode 3, a big "Woof!" to the actor playing the radar technician, Christopher Matthews. That's all.

Right, where are we? Ah yes, there's hundreds of Cyber-ships on their way from Mondas to Earth, so what better time for the Doctor to suddenly, without warning or due cause, faint. In the real world, of course, William Hartnell was not a well man, and although his performances in preceding stories such as The Smugglers and The War Machines were as good as ever, they had been recorded during the summer of 1966, when Hartnell was obviously feeling better. By the time recording for Season 4 resumed for The Tenth Planet in mid-September, Hartnell was noticeably frailer and his performance was suffering. Something had to be done, so the Doctor's role was greatly reduced for this story, and on August 6th, 1966, it was announced to the media that Hartnell would be leaving Doctor Who.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Tenth Planet Episode 2

The one where the Cybermen storm Snowcap Base...

As with The War Machines, we get some vital information about the situation transmitted to the world via a newscast (this time on International Television News), adopting Russell T Davies' method of filtering extraordinary events through everyday means almost 40 years beforehand. It's a pity we don't get to see 1966 Doctor Who's vision of the earlier serial's London boozer as it might appear in the "futuristic" year 1986! Actually, it'd probably be a wine bar rather than a pub.

The Cybermen inexplicably don their victims' anoraks in order to infiltrate the control room, before revealing themselves in extravagant fashion by whipping off their ill-fitting hoods and displaying their utterly strange visage for all to gasp at (or scream at if you're Polly). These Cybermen, as we learn they're called ("Yes, Cy-ber-men"), really are very strange to look at. They appear to have been designed in a piecemeal fashion, reflecting the spare part surgery which took place to bring these monstrosities about. Sandra Reid's costume design might have been executed rather haphazardly (the Selloptaped headgear is embarrassing), but the aesthetic is terrifying and ageless. Fifty-one years later the new series would bring back and update the design, to fabulous effect.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Tenth Planet Episode 1

The one where Earth's long-lost twin planet reappears in the Solar System...

The Tenth Planet starts with the same modern dynamism that The War Machines did (and The Smugglers didn't), complete with animated opening captions, shots of bleeping computers, and some stock footage of a rocket launching (it's actually an Australian missile test, but we'll let that slide).

We're introduced to a bunch of earnest looking men at the South Pole base of International Space Command (Snowcap Base) who are in communication with the two astronauts aboard the Zeus 4 rocket, Schultz and Williams. It's great that Williams is played by a black actor (and that his skin colour is not relevant or referred to). It's pretty progressive casting on behalf of director Derek Martinus, because although we soon discover this story is set 20 years in the future (ie, 1986), in the real world, there wasn't an African-American astronaut until 1983's third Challenger mission (interestingly, that was Guion Bluford, which is a twisted irony as the Caucasian astronaut here has the nickname "Bluey"!).