Friday, December 26, 2008

"The Dead Planet"

And we're back! The atmospheric distubances have passed and Ketina and I, along with Cz, have gathered to watch what might be the most important episode of Doctor Who in its history. But enough of looking ahead, let's get on to the summary!

Episode Summary: First aired 21 December, 1963. The TARDIS crew, having not seen the malfunctioning radiation counter, explore the new planet they've landed upon. They find that they've landed in the middle of what appears to be a petrified forest on a dead planet. After exploring the forest (including the discovery of a strange metallic creature), the crew sees what looks to be an intact futuristic city in the distance. The Doctor wants to explore, but the rest wish to leave. They compromise, heading back to the TARDIS as night is falling. On the way back, Susan falls behind, but feels someone touch her on the shoulder, screams and runs. (Remember, it seems to be a dead planet, right?) In the TARDIS, we see how they eat and effects of the rad poisoning start appearing (though no one seems to realize this). Ian, Barbara and Susan demand to leave, but the Doctor subtly sabotages the ship, saying that they need to go to the city to find more mercury for a component. The next morning, they discover someone (Susan's stranger?) has left a container of vials outside the ship. The crew makes their way to the city where they split up to find some mercury. Barbara appears to be herded, with doors closing behind her. After descending in a lift, she is confronted by some kind of creature. All we can see, as she backs down the corridor screaming, is an appendage with some kind of sucker attachment, menacing her....

So! One of the things I found interesting about this right away is the contrast with the previous story which also had a lot of moving through a jungle. There, though, it was a lush, verdant jungle which the crew had to rush through, generally speaking. In this case, we have a truly alien jungle, pertrified and dead, and the crew make their way slowly, exploring. In fact, the feeling of menace grows as the ambient sound of the jungle, not quite silence, not quite sound, also builds, until suddenly, we see a person's hand appears. Like Susan, we jump! (Though I didn't scream and run.) Similarly, the city, with its weird, mechanical sound (love the sound design!), is empty, silent and dead...until suddenly a creature appears! Just wonderful.

As with the first episode, it's entirely up to the four regulars to carry the show. For the most part, I think they handle it well; we do get a "Billy-fluff" or two ("Chesterfield"?) and William Russell might seem a little forced, but everyone generally works very well. And we do get a distinct indication of Ian's growing feelings for Barbara--when she screams, he literally drops what he's doing!

The writing, by Terry Nation, again, builds tension well, even with the TARDIS interlude in the middle, which might be considered padding a bit. (I enjoyed it, but did we really need the bacon and eggs food bar bit? Definitely the 1963 "vision of the future" kind of thing.) And I want to take a moment to give thanks to designer Ray Cusack who has done a tremendous job both with the forest and, especially, with the city which looks marvelous, both as a model and as a set. And, of course, next week we'll see his most famous design...

A strong start, I'd say, to what looks to be a strong story! I'm sure I could say more, but let's see what Ketina has to say, shall we? As for me, until next week I remain



Ketina here, with my silly feedback.

The good - it was neat to see some explanations for how things work in the TARDIS. I like the way we get to see how they get food and eat, and they discuss things like cleaning up and sleeping are discussed, which implies that there are some kind of bathrooms and sleeping areas on the ship somewhere. So I think that was cool. I also liked the visuals for the forest and city - very alien looking and creapy. I'm also still loving the ambient music. I'm pretty sure it's the same music, or at least incredibly similar to the music used later for the same planet.
Also liked the effect of the elevator - with a simple light change and camera shake they did a great job at showing Barbara travelled in an elevator. More modern stuff you'd likely get dialog commenting on it instead.
And I like the subtle effect of the radiation effect on the group. They look much more tried after walking to the city than they should have, as well as barbara's headache and general acting from everyone set up the mood that radiation bad.

The bad - really obvious matte paintings for creating the illusion that the hallways were super long. The painting themselves wheren't that badly done, but the framing of the matte paintings made it look pretty obvious that they were paintings. Looked more like a mural on the wall then a big long hallway.
The jumpiness of the female companions continues to bother me. I get that they're scared, but I guess feminist in me felt like it went overboard with panicking women: Susan's apprehension when she felt like she was being watched went a little overboard to me, and then later Barbara's anxiety attack when running through the city bugged me.
The pace - slooowww.. Yeah, I'm disagreeing with the Historian here, but nothing happened until the last 20 seconds of the episode. Okay, a lot happened, but there was no action. I like character development, but not when it consists of 24 minutes of a 25 minute episode. :S

The awesome - the final, classic moment on Barbara's face as the something appears.



1 comment:

Alzarian said...

I love the sequence involving the food machine, precisely because it is such a "real" moment to me. I appreciate the acknowledgement that our characters need to eat and sleep, especially having not had a good night's sleep or food since they set foot in the TARDIS. The design of the petrified monster is fantastic. The city design is also creative, and the sense of the unknown is very real and very suspenseful... and as for that cliffhanger! I'm definitely tuning in next week!