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.



Thursday, December 25, 2008

And incidentally...

...A Happy Christmas to all of you at home from the Doctor and all of us here at the TARDIS Project!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Weather Delay

Hello everyone, the Historian here. I felt that I should let those few, those valiant few who are following the progress of the Project know that it looks like our viewing of "The Dead Planet" will be delayed by a few days at the very least. Here at TARDIS Project central, we are in the middle of a series of winter storms that are limiting (among other things) travel, and thus Ketina and I have been unable to meet to view the episode. We have hopes to do so, if not before Christmas, then hopefully shortly after. I apologize for the delay, but even the Doctor can sometimes be at the mercy of atmospheric disturbances, now, can't he?

Hopefully, we shall resume the Project soon, but until then, I remain


Saturday, December 13, 2008

100,000 BC wrapup

The Historian here. As we end each story, I think I'll try to include a few links that talk about the production and such. In the future, I'll try to get Ketina (and whoever else is interested) to engage in a discussion of the story as a whole and how we think it helped to develop the series from our perspective. Obviously, that's a little difficult when discussing the first story, though I think we did an all right job in the episode posts themselves. As always, if you'd like to engage more, please feel free to comment and we'll do our best to keep the conversation going.

As far as production details go, it's hard to do better than Shannon Sullivan's "Brief History of Time (Travel)" page. His page detailing the pre-production and all work on "100,000 BC" is here; among other things, it answers Ketina's question regarding the switch from video to film for the fight between Kal and Za. The BBC "Classic" episode guide page for the story, if you are so inclined, is also here.

Last night, to celebrate the completion of our first story, I also brought a little treat with me. A few years ago, the idea of animating lost Doctor Who stories (for which fan-taped soundtracks exist) came into fan consciousness, thanks in no small part to the professional release of the DVD of the sixth season story, "The Invasion." Since then, a fan named Garrett Gilchrist, with a few friends, has begin to animate selected scenes, using his own "WhoSprites." He recently put the currently completed scenes together, with some commentary, into a 19 minute video. Links to the individual videos (as well as a link to download the whole presentation) can be found here. WhoSprites is definitely still a work in progress, but it's wonderful to see how much smoother the process has been getting, and how much longer the scenes to be animated are. Anyway, everyone was very impressed and we can't wait to see what Garrett and his crew come up with next! Very highly recommended!

At any rate, that just about wraps it up for "100,000 BC," barring any further discussions folks would like to begin in the comments! If I haven't said it before, thanks to all of you for reading and taking this journey with us. See you next time, and until then, I remain


"The Firemaker"

And here we are at the last episode of "100,000 BC," the first Doctor Who serial. Tonight, Ketina and I were joined by the ever-present Ronelyn, Kroroboros, Spoo and SumGuy. Full house!

Summary: First aired 13 December, 1963. The TARDIS crew are taken back to the Tribe's cave where the Doctor cleverly managed to get Kal to admit to killing the old woman. The Tribe, led by the Doctor, then drives Kal out. Za, however, sends the crew back to the Cave of Skulls. Inside the cave, Ian makes fire! Za discovers them and demands they give him fire, which they do, expecting he will then let them return to the TARDIS. [Edit: I neglected to mention Kal killing the guard and entering the cave, leading to a brutal fight which Za wins.] In this they are mistaken, but Susan and Ian come up with a plan. Using skulls from the cave and torches, they scare the Tribe and, essentially, run away, making it back to the TARDIS just in time. Taking off, the Doctor explains that he hadn't been able to get any samples to figure out where and when they were, so he doesn't know where they're going. The crew lands and goes to clean up, not noticing the radiation monitor slowly moving into the red danger zone....

A strong finish to what I thought was a strong opening story, firmly establishing both the premise and the central characters. Opinions were somewhat divided, however, with Spoo feeling this was less of a real "story" and more of a "moment in time." (Spoo, please expand in a comment, if you want to!) The episode began with a fine showcase for the Doctor's cleverness; he plays Kal like a fiddle. Ian also shows his worth (Ronelyn remaked on Ian's fine Boy Scout skills!), both in his firemaking and his comment to Za about the Tribe being stronger that a single member--a lesson Za remembers, but seems to misunderstand, as he goes out to hunt alone. Susan had her moment, helping Ian come up with the plan to free the crew; this week it was Barbara's turn to be underused.

Which brings me to one of Kroroboros' excellent points. Being familiar with later Doctors, he was surprised that the Doctor was not the center of the action. And it's true, the series, in its first few seasons, was very much an ensemble piece, with the Doctor being only a part of the crew. (Though he will shortly become the linchpin around which the various companions operate.) At this point, though, Ian is far more of a dynamic presence, though the Doctor might be more of a clever one!

All in all, the first historical (for all intents and purposes) succeeds quite nicely; the guest cast is excellent, as is the design (both set and costume) and especially the writing. The regulars are strong too, with well-developed characters. It might be a bit of a slow start, but the absolute right turn into science fiction next week will take the show in an unexpected direction!

Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Here's my brief observations of the episode:

Good - Fight choreography was pretty good. Kal and Za beat the crap out of each other very savagely. It was brutal. However, a bit odd as they switched to film instead of video for only that scene, which was very noticable. Also the cave of skulls looked significantly larger than the cave did in any other scene.

Silly - close ups of The Doctor's companions as they ran through the forest. Just faces with occational sticks thrown at them. Very silly.

Curious - the ending bothered me somewhat. The Doctor and companions trick the cavemen and escape and run back to the Tardis. And that was it. It didn't feel to me like there was a solid resolution to the story, While the cavemen finally got their fire, there wasn't any character resolution for the cavemen. Za became leader, but didn't seem to learn anything or establish himself as a stronger or better leader than before. I found it odd that there were no moral lessons for a show that is reportedly a family show. Maybe that's just more common in American family shows?

I'd say more, but I'm currently watching the gang we just watched the show with devolve into comedic mehem involving the central stars of our next story. More later, hopefully.



Friday, December 5, 2008

"The Forest of Fear"

Yes, we're a bit early this week, but let's look at it as a benefit, shall we? The Historian here, with a review of the third episode of the series. This week, Ketina and I were joined by Ronelyn, Blueraccoon and Krorboros. Let's get to the summary, shall we?

Summary: Originally aired 6 December, 1963. Quite a lot actually happened in this episode. The TARDIS crew is released from the Cave of Skulls by the Old Woman, who tells them they must leave so as not to return the secret of fire to the Tribe. Za and Hur discover this and go after them, but Za is attacked by a creature. Against the Doctor's wishes, the crew attempt to help him, which confuses Hur completely. Meanwhile, Kal has discovered the Old Woman in the Cave and finds out where Za and the TARDIS crew has gone. He then kills the Old Woman. Afterwards, he convinces the Tribe that Za killed the Old Woman and they follow him as the new leader. Arriving at the TARDIS, finally, the crew and Za (on a stretcher) and Hur are ambushed by Kal and the Tribe.

Goodness, there's a lot to say about this episode. We discussed it more than almost any other. Although all Blueraccoon really had to say was, "I wasn't really paying attention. There was a lot of screaming and it got on my nerves." It's true, there was quite a bit, especially from Barbara. On the other hand, think about what kind of day she's had--from 1963 London to 100,000 BC! Ronelyn was, once again, impressed with the atmosphere, comparing it to other British productions of the era. I very much agree; although some may find the pace slow (see Ketina's section), I found that the episode built, ratcheting up the tension as the TARDIS crew attempted to escape, culminating in the ambush with the ship almost within reach. I will say that I was right in that watching this episode-by-episode is a very different experience than seeing it as an hour and a half "movie."

I'd like to take a moment to mention the design, which is quite excellent. The sets, from the jungle to the Cave of Skulls, is just fantastic and, within the obvious limits of the tiny studio confines, quite believable. The costumes are simple, but effective as well.

As far as guest characters, the shining stars are Hur and Kal, the two "smart" cavemen. Kal's scene where he essentially frames Za for murder is especially good, and Hur shows reasoning and actual political savvy!

The regulars are also quite good, though I felt Ian occasionally went a bit over the top. Barbara's hysterics were, as I said above, understandable. This was the first episode where Susan felt mostly underused. And the Doctor...I've read a theory that before Ian and Barbara, the Doctor had held himself aloof from humanity and it was his connection with them that began his evolution into a caring hero. This episode certainly gives that theory a firm basis; although he expresses contrition for kidnapping the teachers and getting them into the situation (a holdover from last week's episode), he is also snappish, mean and uncaring...and, indeed, at least momentarily murderous, before he is stopped by Ian. (Or was he? Was he telling the truth about having Za draw a map to the ship?) It's a very nuanced performance by William Hartnell (still stunning) and, knowing where it's going as I do, I'm going to really enjoy seeing the development of the Doctor's character as the weeks go by.

As usual, I am sure I have all kinds of other things to say, but I think it is time to turn this over to my erstwhile companion. However, I encourage all of you (yes, even you, Ronelyn, if you want to expand on what I said above) to comment with your thoughts, questions, suggestions. I don't think we're writing in a complete vacuum...I hope?

So, until next time, I remain



Ketina here.

Good bits - I thought that Hur (the cave lady from last week, who got a name this week) once more showed some savvy. She spends the beginning of the episode observing the old woman and suggesting to Za what to do. One of her best lines "the leader is awake while the other's sleep" as a way of starting to explain why Za should be investigating things while the other cave men are sleeping. Later, while Za is concerned about why Hur didn't stop the old woman, Hur was more interested in knowing what the old woman was up to.
I also thought the sets were fairly good. At one point they show a close up of a dead boar that The Doctor and his companions discover (putting Barbara into those annoying hysterics), And even the first shot of the episode, when they show a nearly full skeleton in the cave of skulls I thought was pretty creapy.

The not so good bits -- Again, I think the pace is rather slow. They spent the bulk of the episode running through the forest, half of which consisted of The Doctor and ian arguing, running around in circles and lots of screaming. Did we mention the annoying screaming yet. And long discussion on how to put together and putting together the makeshift stretcher.

The silly -- the scene showing the cave man tribe all piled up in a heap in the middle of their cave. There were a few snickers among us watching regarding the groping potential of cave men heaps.
Also, the back door out of the cave discovered by the old woman the was obviously just covered up by some branches.

Can't think of anything else interesting at the moment. So that's all from me for now.


(A quick note from the Historian: I didn't think the Tribe sleeping together for warmth against the oncoming cold was silly....)