Saturday, December 5, 2009

"The Waking Ally"

Hello everyone, and apologies for the delay in posting. Ketina, Ronelyn and I did watch the episode last night, but we wound up running a bit late. Although we discussed it last night, I delayed the post to give me a bit more time to write up the summary today. So, without further ado...

Episode summary: First aired 19 December 1964. Ian and Larry run, but discover the pit's cliff face in front of them as the Slyther comes closer! Larry tries to dodge, but winds up falling, just barely catching the side of a scoop bucket hanging over the pit and saving himself. Ian manages to jump into the scoop and pulls Larry up. The Slyther attempts to follow, but the two men fend it off with rocks in the scoop and it falls to its death. Larry suggests getting out of there, but Ian is afraid that the fight might have been heard and says they should lie low for a bit. At Dalek HQ, the Black Dalek is informed that the shaft has been finished and crews have been dispatched to clean out the debris. The "waste bucket" will be lowered to take the rocks out. Said bucket happens to be the scoop Ian and Larry are hiding in, and so they descend into the earth...Meanwhile, the Doctor, Susan, David and Tyler return to the sewers, hoping to avoid more Robomen patrols. Two of the human robots have followed them, however, and look down through the entrance to see the group. The Doctor suggests letting them both descend so neither can escape to bring reinforcements, but Tyler attacks the first while the second Roboman is still on the ladder. In the fight, one Roboman is killed, but the Doctor merely clubs the other into unconsciousness with his cane, saving Tyler. He is about to shoot the unconscious one, but the Doctor stops him, saying he (the Doctor) never takes life unless he is directly threatened. The group goes on, towards Bedford. Outside, a storm has begun and Barbara and Jenny, almost to the mine, search for shelter. They find a house and enter, only to discover it is already inhabited by two ragged-looking women, one old and one around Susan's age. Jenny, frightened by the women's hostility, wants to leave, but the women tell them that there is a pack of wild dogs, feral since the plague, who roam the woods. The women tell Barbara and Jenny that the Daleks let them live here to make clothes for the mine workers. Barbara tells them that they are making for the mine to find some friends. The old woman is still a bit hostile until Barbara offers to share some food with them. After that, the old woman shows the two where they can sleep. She pulls the girl aside and whispers something to her. The girl takes up a bundle of clothing to deliver and makes to go out. When Jenny suspiciously asks how she will avoid the wild dogs, the old woman says that she has made this journey many times before. Larry and Ian are still descending. The heat and the pressure have increased--they are obviously far underground. The bucket stops about 12 feet from the bottom. Ian jumps down safely, but Larry stumbles and lands on his knee. When he tries to get up, he discovers he cannot walk without aid. The two men limp to cover. Back at the hut, the old woman has started to prepare dinner. As they eat, she talks about seeing London as a girl, before the devastation, but she seems nervous. Suddenly, the girl returns and the two women cower in a corner as two Daleks glide through the door! They order Barbara and Jenny to come with them or die! As the prisoners exit, the old woman and the girl gloat over the food the Daleks have given them in exchange for information. As the old woman watches Barbara and Jenny being taken away, the girl greedily licks sugar off her fingers...Ian looks at Larry's knee. It's not broken, but Larry still can't walk. The two are baffled by the mine set-up; although the Daleks has access to high-tech mining equipment, none of it seems to be present; all the Daleks seem to be having their slaves do is move rock. The question remains: what are they digging for? Larry reminds Ian of his brother Paul's theory that the Daleks wish to remove the magnetic core of the Earth. Could they be just sinking shafts to find it? Ian decides to scout, leaving Larry, but almost immediately runs into a work party, headed up by Wells and guarded by Robomen. The two men decide to "join" the work party in order to get away, but are immediately stopped by a Roboman who realizes that there are too many people. Larry is shocked to discover that the Roboman confronting them is his brother, Paul! He appeals to Paul's memories, but the creature who was once his brother appears completely robotized. He calls them runaways and says they will be punished. Ian tries to drag Larry away, but Larry, in despair, leaps at his brother and attacks him. Robo-Paul shoots his brother, but Larry manages to kill Paul, whose last word, mumbled as he dies, is "Larry..." An alarm sounds and the miners return, led by Wells. They drag the bodies away and Ian retreats. Back in the countryside, Susan is cooking dinner over a fire when she is surprised by David. The two playfully wrestle and giggle...and then kiss. But they quickly push away from each other as Tyler and the Doctor (who has no doubt as to what was happening between the young man and his granddaughter) return for dinner. Sitting down to eat, the Doctor says that, after seeing the installation, he believes the mineworks to be the Daleks' main base on Earth. He asks Tyler why the resistance was not concentrated here and the other replies that they fought the Daleks where they could. There was no indication that the mine was anything special; the assumption was that the Daleks simply wishes to conquer humanity. No, the Doctor says, humans are only work machines to the Daleks. They must be looking for something specific. They are digging down to tamper with the forces of Earth's creation, and the Doctor and his friends must stop them! Ian hides as a work force passes him. He is overjoyed to see Barbara among them! Thankfully, so is Wells, and Ian pulls the man aside, asking him to take a message to the tall, dark haired woman. Meanwhile, Barbara and Jenny drag baskets loaded with rocks to the scoop. Jenny, dispirited, is ready to give up, but Barbara reminds her of all they've done. They can't give up now, she says. If only they could get into the Dalek control room, maybe they could do something. Suddenly, she remember's Dortmun's notes. Barbara approaches a Dalek and says she has information about rebel plans. As proof, she shows them the notes, but demands to be taken to someone in authority before she says anything more. After silent consultation, the Dalek agrees to take Barbara and Jenny to the Black Dalek. Just as Wells tries to deliver Ian's message, the two women are led off. Wells suggests Ian hide himself further into the diggings. In the control room, the Black Dalek is told that the main shaft is four miles away from the Earth's core. The next move is to send their detonation device in to destroy it, eliminating the planet's gravitational and magnetic forces. Ian discovers he has wandered into a Dalek laboratory. Hearing two Daleks approach, he hides in what seems to be a little cubbyhole. The Black Dalek broadcasts an announcement, saying that their plans have almost come to culmination. They will destroy the Earth's core and replace it with a propulsion unit, enabling the Daleks to pilot it anywhere in the universe. Ian, in his hiding place, listens with growing horror. The Daleks are ordered to load the explosive device. Ian is horrified to realize that it is inside this device that he is hidden! The device is closed around him and begins to move to be dropped into the shaft.....


Ketina here,

Okay, so we're going to try the dictated discussion this week, like we did a few weeks ago. We started later that usual, and figured this way would be a little more expedient (and possibly more fun as well). So here we go!

H - The Historian
K - Ketina
R - Ronelyn

H: I thought it was a good episode, but a bit uneven.

R: Yeah.

H: Beginning at the beginning... the interesting thing about the fight with the Slyther is that it didn't work for a strange reason. We've made fun of the incidental music, but this scene lacked music at all. I think music would have made it more exciting. The sound effects were off.

R: We did hear it plop when it hit the ground.

H: But much faster than we should have. It made the pit seem a lot smaller.

K: I thought the sound effect were off for most of the entire episode.

H: It seemed like, for at least the majority of the scenes, that the sound effects were just absent. Like Tyler's gun didn't go off.

R: I heard a click noise.

K: Me too (and please pause your thought if you still hear me typing... I'm not caught up yet).

H: Heh. "Inside of the brain of the TARDIS project. We only have one and we share it around all the time."

R: "Yes, I don't like to use it, it wears out the batteries"

K: So, we were saying? Something about sound effect... god, I can't believe I actually just typed up that tangent...

H: So, I'd say that the clear highlights of the episode were obviously:
- The women in the forest
- The scene between Susan and David

K: Dude, my favorite line EVAR... "Yes, I see something is cooking." Saucy old man.

H: Yes, "Susan's an excellent cook. Hohoho!"

R: "Maybe I'll finally be able to get in the TARDIS bathroom in less and an hour and a half..."

H: What I liked about it was that it felt very natural. The whole relationship with Susan and David doesn't feel artificial or forced, which you usually don't get on this type of show. Everything leads up to the kiss, of course! The scene just worked for me in every way.

K: Definitely. The thing I remembered the most about this story was the Susan and David relationship.

H: One of the things I remembered the most was the women in the woods.

K: Really?

H: Yeah. I mentioned last week that there was cool stuff coming up, and this is what I was thinking of. It gets back to the theme that we were talking about for the first three weeks, the breakdown of society and absolute despair. They turned Barbara and Jenny in for a little bit of food, an orange, and a bag of sugar. That last shot of the girl licking the sugar off her hand was chilling.

R: And I imagine in 1960's England that rationing would have been within living memory.

H: Rationing ended in 1954. So only the young children watching the show wouldn't have remembered it. The idea would have resonated with the older members of the family viewing the show.
There were other good bits as well. I thought William Russell (Ian) did a fine job. The reaction shot when he heard the full plan, he looked suitably horrified. It didn't look like he was mugging for the scene.

R: Yeah, you could see him thinking "oh god, this isn't going to end well for me."

H: It's not going to end well for anyone. I also though the final model shot wasn't too bad. It was a little shaky but it's early days for them to be doing model work.

K: I thought the models were cute. The they looked like little tiny things.

H: Well, they were little tiny things.

K: But models in movies are supposed to look big even when they're little. And these just looked little. And cute. I like miniatures (Ketina gestures to the giant pile of D&D miniatures behind her... at least she will as soon as she takes a short break from typing... )

*return from short break*

H: Hahaha! You are very silly, Ketina.
Okay, what I was going to say...

R: Before you were so nonsensically interrupted.

H: ...was that the scenes in the mine in general I thought worked well. I was very happy that they brought back the character of Wells. It brings us continuity and brings in something who Ian knows.

K: Yeah, I recognized Wells, but couldn't remember from where...

H: From last week Ketina.

K: Uh, two weeks ago. Yeah, I knew he was in the previous episode, I just couldn't remember who he was at first. He was guy trading with evil black market dude who was then horribly eaten-

R: Sat upon to death...

K: by slimy thing.

H: And Larry being confronted by his brother who was robotized - Aces! The entire confrontation with Larry giving his life to save Ian and to kill himself and his brother was very effective. But it does bring up a bad point that I feel I really have to mention.

K: You mean the horrible fight blocking that they insist upon subjecting us to?

H: No not at all.

K: :P

H: What I'm talking about is the fact that the Robomen's helmets look really cool, but are the worst design when used in action. That fall off at the slightest provocation.

R: And takes brain parts with them when they fall.

H: But they look awesome.

R: I don't know. The shot of Bonnie and Beanie robo looking down into the sewer was particularly ridiculous. "DID YOU SEE WHERE WE DROPPED THE BALL? ONE OF US WILL HAVE TO GO DOWN AND GET IT? PA WILL BE REALLY MAD!"

*general laughter*

H: Yeah, you got a point there.

R: They're trying to get the Robomen to come off as emotionless. When they're moving around and acting they're perfecting fine. But when they're just holding still they're like "duh." There's a fine line between cold, unfeeling intellect and "daahgh..."

H: I would argue that they don't have intellect. They are literally Robotic pawns. Oh, we forgot about at the end of the confrontation between Paul and Larry-

K: Paul calls him Larry right before he dies!

H: It was a last emotional gut shot. And that's what this story is at it's best. Emotional shots to the gut.

K: But Paul calls him Larry. Which implies, Historian, that they are not just Robotic pawns.

H: But note that his helmet is knocked off, he's lost contact and the signal is cut off.

K: Or it fell off during the struggle because it's a crappy prop.


H: Anyway...
So, the Daleks' actual plot. It's crazy.

R: What is it, exactly? There are easier ways to make a space ship.

H: Okay, here's the Daleks' plan. They come to Earth, for no apparent reason, because there are billions of other planets probably closer to Skaro. They decimate the population-

R: Like you do.

H: Like you do. And then move in and take over. That's fine, thus far. It makes sense.

R: It's very classic.

K: It sort of makes sense?

H: Well, it makes sense for the Daleks.

K & R: Okay...

H: But they're not interested in just invading Earth. Oh no! They were sent to dig into the earth, send a missile down, explode the magnetic core of the Earth but not destroy the planet (now that's crazy, but not as crazy as it gets)-

R: But wait, there's more.

H: -So after they've destroyed the magnetic core they send down a propulsion unit of some kind, that will explode up the shaft, and allow them to steer the planet like a gigantic space ship. Leaving aside the question of why earth-

R: It's always earth.

H: It's Doctor Who, the whole idea is to bring the Daleks to earth because it's scarier. But leaving that aside, WHY? Why would you do this? It's a ludicrous waste of resources. But it's already been established that there aren't many Daleks on earth in the first place. Makes you wonder if there are other Daleks doing this on other planets. But that still doesn't answer the question, why?

R: The same reason that little blond women with little rat dogs buy Hummers. Because some creatures are so evil that "mine's bigger than yours" is reason enough.

H: The TARDIS project would like to publicly state that the opinions expressed by Ronelyn above are entirely her own. We have no problems with small blond women who own little rat dogs. We love all of our readers.

K: Some of use have problems with ones who buy Humvees though...

H: Well, that's beside the point.

K: I mean, you know, people who buy them and don't need them...

H: We understand Ketina. It's all right. Anyway, was there anything else? Um.. Hartnell was great.

R: Yeah.

H: And we got an "Exterminated" this week. One of the earliest. But they still haven't said it as a battle cry. And they still use "killed" rather than "exterminate" to describe things. I think that's interesting.

K: I want the screaming Daleks yelling "Exterminate! Exterminate!"

H: It's coming. Maybe not in this story, but it is coming soon. ;)

R: I thought the visual effect of the mining bucket going down was uneven. During its descent it was okay-

H: I thought during it's descent was excellent. Just simple effect with the lighting. Very nicely done.

R: But the effect of the start of the trip at the top was kind of lame.

H: There really wasn't one. The effect really was the characters saying "We're descending!"

R: What they tried to do was they had Ian and Larry leap to their feet, as if the thing dropped out from under them. But the result of doing that shook the steel cage in a very wobbly way. And then they said "oh no, we're descending." And then the camera rose up into the air. Which might have worked, except we could still see the cliff face. What we want is the camera to rise up while pivoting down a little bit. So as to create a sense of parallax between the bucket and the cliff face. And that's what they tried to do, but with insufficient distance-

H: You could still see the cliff face not moving.

R: You could still see the relationship between the bucket and the cliff face.

H: My understanding was that they worked in a tiny little studio, which was constantly resulting in problems. Interesting idea, but not so good execution. But at least they're try to experiment with new things, and that was nice.

K: Fight choreography - really bad!

H: They were not the worst we've scene.

R: That's not just damning with faint praise. That's fainting with damn praise.

K: Or feinting. With.. pun.. thing... what? What did you mean by that?

H: Let's just go on, shall we? Okay, I thought the acting was in general pretty high caliber. Including Carole Ann Ford, which is good to see.

K: Yes, for once, rarely Susan did NOT annoy me at all. I thought it was cute.

H: She acting like a young woman. I thought it was perfectly natural. Oh, and I recently reread our first post, and you, Ketina, said that you liked Susan.

K: All I can say is that when I watched these episodes previously I was quite young - close to Susan's age. So, I would have related to her back then. Now, watching it as a grown up... eh.

H: To be fair, she hasn't lived up to her potential. They introduced something potentially interesting in "An Unearthly Child" but never really followed up on that. I suspect Ford was probably pretty frustrated about that.

K: Screams?

R: Susan yelped when she saw the fish. And there was a bit of cry when they entered the hut.

H: But no serious screams this week.

K: Yup, Susan's yelp with the fish I thought was appropriate.

H: It was playful. And actually that whole scene was really important. It was a statement of optimism and positivism in the middle of destruction and despair that was constantly weaving into this story. The idea that young love is still possible even amid despair is very powerful. And I think that's where we should end it this week.

R: I just have one question. Who the heck was "The Waking Ally?"


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