Friday, October 30, 2009

"World's End"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm. This is the first episode of a story we've really been looking forward to, so let's skip the preliminaries and get to the summary!

Episode Summary: First aired 21 November 1964. A man wearing a strange helmet walks jerkily towards a river. He tears something connected to the helmet off his neck, screams and walks into the river to drown...Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor is still frustrated with the scanner. He can't tell where they've landed, beyond the fact that there seems to be running water outside. When the others enter the control room, he has Susan check the vital readings. All seems normal, so the crew decide to go out and take a look. The TARDIS has landed on what appears to be an embankment, with a bridge overhead and a river down the slope. (In fact, they have landed on the very spot where the strange man was at the start of the episode!) The Doctor, Ian and Barbara immediately recognize the buildings on the far bank--the river is the Thames and they have returned to London! Ian and Barbara are overjoyed, but the Doctor is not so sure. It seems too deserted and decayed to be 1960s London...they are in the right place, but are they in the right time? Susan, deciding to have a better look around, climbs up one of the bridge supports, but falls. Ian barely manages to get her away in time, as the bridge collapses, blocking the entrance to the TARDIS! Ian and the Doctor examine the wreckage, realizing they would need help to shift it. And how, if this is the 1960s, would they explain having to break into a police box? Ian theorizes that an acetylene torch could cut through, but how would they get one? He notices a warehouse nearby and suggests checking it for tools. The Doctor is not very easy with this, but agrees. Both he and Ian now agree that this is not the teachers' time period. They've heard no sounds, no people, not even the chimes of Big Ben! Meanwhile, Barbara has examined Susan's ankle; it's definitely sprained and beginning to swell. The travellers decide that the Doctor and Ian will go off to the warehouse while Barbara watches Susan. Barbara takes her handkerchief down to the river to get some water to put on the ankle. The warehouse looks dilapidated and deserted. Ian calls out, but gets no answer as the two enter. Returning to Susan, Barbara sees a sign posted below the bridge: "It is forbidden to dump bodies in the river." She, too, is now certain they are not in their own time and she hurries back to Susan, who tells Barbara she is guiltily happy that they'd gone wrong. It means they won't have to separate, with the teachers remaining in their own time. Barbara decides to return to the river for more water. Ian and the Doctor continue to explore the warehouse, unaware that they are being watched by a young man hidden amongst the rubbish. Ian looks out and sees Battersea Power Station across the way. Two of its chimneys seem to have been broken! The Doctor, meanwhile, finds a calendar in a dusty desk which confirms to them that they have landed sometime around 2164. Barbara stoops to wet her handkerchief...only to see a body floating in the water! She draws back and then hurries back to find Susan. The girl is gone, however, and a disheveled man angrily asks her what she's doing out here as a target? He tells her Susan has already been taken to safety by a man called Tyler just as gunfire erupts a distance away. The man runs and Barbara follows. While looking for tools, the Doctor dislodges a large box. It falls to the floor and a man, wearing a helmet and uniform similar to the one the suicide was wearing. Ian and the Doctor, after recovering from their surprise, try to figure out what the helmet could be. Ian suggests some kind of medical aid, but the Doctor theorizes that it has something to do with receiving high frequency signals. Some kind of personal communication device? Ian asks, just as they discover the knife in the man's back. Ian also finds a whip that the man apparently carried. They hear a noise from another room. Ian makes a deal of noise with doors, trying to flush whoever it may be out, but almost falls when he kicks in a door with no landing behind it! The two men decide to abandon the search and return to Barbara and Susan. Their observer, still hidden, watches them go. Barbara follows the men, Tyler carrying Susan, in a wild run, stopping and hiding every few feet. She has no idea what they are running from, but immediately understands that there is a threat to evade. As the Doctor and Ian leave the warehouse, a strange sound from the sky makes them look see a flying saucer gliding down over London! Resting for a moment, Susan and Barbara tell Tyler they must return to find their friends. He tells them they must get to safety and then worry about the other two. Ian and the Doctor, meanwhile, have returned to the TARDIS to find the others gone. Ian expresses his frustration at the way Susan and Barbara always wander off, but they speculate that the women hid from the gunfire they'd heard earlier. The two resolve to wait there for their friends. The Doctor wants to investigate what may have happened, but Ian simply wishes to leave; he does not want to know what disaster would befall his city in (to him) the future. Susan, Barbara and Tyler have reached the man's hideout. He touches a switch and the wall opens. A young man, David (the man who spied on the Doctor and Ian in the warehouse) emerges and berates Tyler for being late. He then sees the women. He asks Barbara if she can cook; she says yes and he replies that they need cooks. He asks Susan what she does. "I eat," she replies, defiantly. David tells Tyler he'd had a fight with something called a "Roboman" at their supply depot and they would have to move it. Tyler mentions going back for the women's two friends and David realizes that he'd seen them at the warehouse. Just then, a man in a wheelchair, who the others address as Dortmun, joins them. Tyler tells him that "they" have landed a saucer at the "heliport," as well as introducing them to Susan and Barbara. When he tells Dortmun about their friends, he is pleased. More men, he says, and sends David out to collect them. Return quickly, he tells the young man, as they are to go over the "attack plan" soon. The women are taken below as Dortmun stays above on guard. Ian, meanwhile, is getting restless and wanders a bit. He comes across the sign about dumping bodies and calls for the Doctor. Could the disaster have been a plague? David, above them, sees the two men, but before he can call to them, he sees a group of "Robomen," men wearing those strange helmets, walking in a jerky, syncopated, robotic fashion, approaching them. He is too late. Ian and the Doctor decide to search for the women, but turn and are confronted by a group of Robomen bearing whips. When they turn to run, they see another group cutting off their route. Ian tries to talk to them, but, as one, they raise their whips. Thinking quickly, Ian and the Doctor decide to try to jump into the river to escape, but when they turn they are confronted with the last thing they expect: A DALEK HAS EMERGED OUT OF THE WATER, CUTTING OFF THEIR LAST ESCAPE....!

To begin with, I have to say this is a story both Ketina and I have been looking forward to since starting the Project. It's one of her absolute favorites, and I like it a lot too. I've only seen it in the edited "three hour movie" format, however, and I remember it dragging a bit, so seeing it an episode at a time will hopefully be really fun. (I also haven't seen it in something over a decade, so my memories are not quite as sharp as Ketina's.)

This first episode far, far exceeded my memories. It is, in a word, excellent. A suitably creepily building first episode in a story where, insofar as the original viewing public was concerned, anything could happen. We start with a completely inexplicable (at the time) suicide, then see Ian and Barbara's joy at returning to London (at the right size, too!)...which, as the episode goes on, gives way to a deep uneasiness and, finally, to actual terror. Barbara's panicked running, when she has absolutely no idea what she is running from was particularly effective. The complete silence of the Thames embankment is, to say the least, eerie, and the sign about dumping bodies doesn't help matters! (Or, I suppose I should say that it does.) To say the least, the regulars come off very well here, giving us a real feeling of rising tension that never really lets up for the entire episode. Even Susan, who has come off as a bit weak lately, has her moments. Her immediate initiative, even though it causes everyone to be cut off from the TARDIS, shows her resourcefulness and her guilty confession to Barbara reveals her fears. She does not like change; she is comfortable with her friends and doesn't want to be without them. And her response to David, "I eat," is just beautiful. Go, Susan, go! As for Ian and Barbara, what can I say that I haven't said before. The Project continues to love Barbara. Note that when she sees the body, she draws back, but doesn't scream. She thinks for a moment, fearful but not panicking, and decides to return to Susan to protect her. Just wonderful. Ian, too, shines here. (My particular favorite moment is his frustration at finding Susan and Barbara missing. When he said, "Why do they always do this?" I almost laughed out loud.) He is especially revealing in his response to the Doctor's wish to know what happened there. This is Ian's future, not on another planet, but in his home. And he does not want to know. To the Doctor's credit, although he doesn't seem to fully understand, he does not press the point. In fact, Hartnell's Doctor seems really comfortable with all of his companions, treating the teachers as friends and being appreciative of their talents.

The guest cast,'s a bit hard to tell thus far. They seem fine, and certainly the (as far as I know) unnamed man did an excellent job at conveying the danger Barbara and Susan were in without going into detail. I had no problem seeing why Barbara simply followed him, running headlong into the unknown from the unknown. The Robomen were just amazing. Incredibly creepy in their movement and speech, they look like robotized humans. I love the design of the helmet; it just looks like this horrible, invasive thing. Very effective. (Not all of us agreed about that last part; see below.) And the, I'm under no illusions that the Great British Viewing Public didn't know that there was another Dalek story in the offing; it had been part of the advanced advertising for the second season. Still, the sight of it rising out of the Thames, a real place rather than make-believe Skaro...just a really fine cliffhanger. And the Doctor and Ian's reaction was perfect. Quite simply, I can't wait to see how they get out of it!

Not everything was perfect, of course. Given the limitations of the time, though, the flying saucer, while a little wobbly, could have been much worse. I was impressed that it actually looked like it was flying across London. Ronelyn was a bit confused by the protective device in Dortmun's hideout. It looked like the hidden pressure plate (?) controlled a mechanism that opened a secret window. All well and good, and David climbs out through the window. But then Dortmun wheels in from offstage, not from the window, and Susan and Barbara are also not led down through it. My theory is that the mechanism also exposes some kind of door offscreen, but I really have no firm idea. I also had no problems with it, but Ronelyn asked that I put this in.

This episode also has a lot of really good location shooting. I was pleased at how well the location film and the studio shots matched up; it was almost seamless, especially the scene with Ian kicking through the door and nearly falling out into space until the Doctor pulled him back in. A tremendous job by director Richard Martin, especially considering this was Doctor Who's first extensive location shoot. (Prior to this, we've only had a stand-in for William Hartnell walking down a country lane in "The Reign of Terror.)

All in all, a great episode. Well constructed, well acted, well directed with a fantastic cliffhanger. I think I can say, without fear of contradiction (from the team, at least) that this is an example of Hartnell Doctor Who at its finest.

A note before I turn this over to Ketina: There is a possibility that we will not have an episode post next week due to a pressing engagement. Right now, the chances are looking about even, but we're hopeful...although if we are able to watch/post, you probably won't see anything until Sunday night rather than our usual Friday. I will try to write a post sometime this week when I know for sure. But until then, I remain



Ketina here,

This story is going to be tougher for me to review, as "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" is likely the story that I have seen the most often of any of the William Hartnell stories. It's harder to be critical and review the individual episodes in isolation when I recall the entirety of the story fairly well, although it has been a couple of years since the last time I watched it (it's so nice to be watching DVDs again, by the way.) But here goes.

The Silly (shorter list this week, so let's start here):
- Flying saucer on a string, when the space ship is shown. That was a bit of an "Ed Wood" moment - having recently seen "Plan 9 from Outerspace" (Rifftrack style) with the Historian, I definitely had some flashbacks there.
- Big silver hat things on the Robomen. When the Doctor describes them as personal communication devices I couldn't help but think "those are the biggest blue tooth devices ever made!"
- Hurt ankle? Again? Really? Didn't we just do this in the last story with Barbara? Casting directions for Doctor Who female companions: must have weak ankles.
- Barbara's hair.

The Good:
Nearly everything else, really. Especially:
- I loved the sign "Do not dump bodies in the river". While it took forever for the TARDIS crew to notice it, it was very visible for the viewers, and especially creepy. I wanted to shout at the group "Turn around! See the sign! Get back in the TARDIS and leave, you fools!" It was just especially subtle enough to give the entire first half of the story a nice forboding feeling.
- The robomen were also especially creapy, big goofy hats aside. I love the way they just appear standing out of nowhere when they surround the Doctor and Ian. And they sound rather Dalek-esk when they finally speak.
- Add to that the dead roboman in the cardboard box. Yeah, okay the actor twitched a bit. But a body in a big cardboard box! That was especially eww worthy. Awesome story to watch the day before Halloween. :)
- I also enjoyed the grittiness of the Doctor and Ian wandering around the warehouse. While the scene went a bit too long (don't they always in these early stories?), it was a beautifully grungy and dangerous looking place. Reminded me of an old (and almost certainly dangerous) basement I played in as a kid, that if my mom had found out about I would have been in tons of trouble for going into. Tetanus anyone? Anyway, it felt much more real to me than "big old empty warehouse with some junk off in the corner" that's more typical of scenes like this one.
- And yet another awesome, awesome Dalek intro. Having a Dalek come out of the river was just completely scary and maleviolent If you can put aside out of your mind all the goofy stuff they eventually do with Daleks in future stories, this scene is really cool. A Dalek, in water, coming to kill! Whoa!

Cliff hangers mean a lot more when there's a solid week between episodes (even when you know they're going to somehow be okay).

Until next time,


Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Planet of Giants" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here with the wrapup post for the first story of Doctor Who's second season, "Planet of Giants." As I've said in each episode review (see below), neither Ketina nor I were much looking forward to this story as we both remembered it as being (charitably) slight and a bit dull. It was odd to discover that, according to several interviews I read at the Doctor Who Interview Archive that this was Carole Ann Ford and William Russell's favorite story. Obviously, it was time for a reassessment, so I tried to go in with an open mind. And I was rewarded--as Ketina and I both discovered, this story, although still problematic, has a lot to recommend it.

One of the chief of those recommendations is certainly the oversized props that our miniaturized cast has to contend with. (These were actually what Ford and Russell talked about in their interviews.) Raymond Cusick, designer of the Daleks, did a tremendous job giving us gigantic phones, notepads, earthworms, ants, the sink (a brilliant set!), etc. The (still living) fly is particularly impressive, with its moving wings and legs it looks quite lifelike. Just a tremendous job on a rather small budget.

The story itself was...well, to be honest, it's servicable at best. I've mentioned some of the criticisms: that the TARDIS crew doesn't really do anything to resolve the "giant" part of the plot, or that the giants don't have all that much to do with the "tiny" plot, for instance. While I think it's overstated, conventional wisdom has a point here. Something I did not know, at least not until I read the story's production page at Shannon Sullivan's site, was that the story we saw was about a quarter shorter than originally written and recorded. The fourth episode, "The Urge to Live," was edited together with "Crisis" to produce the third episode we saw last Friday. In its full four episode length, we would have apparently seen more interaction between the crew and the "giants," including the Doctor's examination of Farrow's notes and his deduction of the reason for the latter's murder. We also would have gotten a payoff for the cat cliffhanger from episode one; apparently, the cat would have also become a victim of DN6's destructive qualities. (It's like Chekov's cat--introduced in the first act and used in the third!) On the other hand, we would have gotten more Hilda and Bert and a plot that was even more drawn out. It's honestly hard to say whether a fourth episode would have made this story feel a bit less lightweight or whether, as was decided at the time, an extra episode would have felt padded and dragged out. What do those of you who've seen this story think? (Seriously, I'd like to know. I've been going back and forth on this one.) A final note relating to this episodic editing: Episodes one through three were directed by Doctor Who's original Associate Producer, Mervyn Pinfield. Episode four, however, was the Doctor Who directoral debut of Douglas "Dougie" Camfield, one of the most prolific (and popular) directors of the show's first fifteen or so years. For some reason (perhaps more footage from four was used than three?), he is given sole credit for the televised episode three, making that his first onscreen Doctor Who credit!

All right, enough of my babbling. Here are the links to each episode review, for your convenience:

"Planet of Giants"
"Dangerous Journey"

And here, as usual, is the BBC episode guide for the story.

Next, a foe returns! Join us tomorrow (as I type this) for the beginning of a new adventure as the Doctor and company land on...but that would be telling!

Until then, I remain


Friday, October 23, 2009


Hello everyone, the Historian here along with Ketina and Ronelyn, bringing you the final episode in our miniaturization adventure. (Schmallturm, alas, has been felled by illness, but he will hopefully be back with us next week.) Let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired on 14 November 1964. Barbara and Ian stand, helpless, as the giant Smithers washes his hands in the sink, then pulls the plug, sending the water down to where the Doctor and Susan had hidden! Luckily, the two have taken refuge in the sink's overflow pipe, so the water simply passes in front of them. Still, if the sink is filled again...Luckily, Smithers and Forester leave the lab. Ian and Barbara venture forth from hiding and make their way to the sink to see if their friends survived. The four are overjoyed at being reunited. As the Doctor says with a smile, the schoolteachers won't be rid of him that easily! Back in the main house, Forester has finished making additions and "corrections" to Farrow's report. Smithers, although he "doesn't want to know," still stands by and watches him. He gets nervous when Forester says that Farrow would have to report in as well as sending the report on, but Forester tells him not to worry. Forester places a call to Whitehall with the local operator, posing as Farrow and with a handkerchief over the receiver. He knows exactly who to call and what to say. The local operator, a woman named Hilda Rowse, is suspicious; she has placed many calls for Mr. Farrow and is convinced that the man on the phone isn't him! She turns to her husband, a local constable named Bert, and tells him of her suspicions. On the phone, meanwhile, Forester is playing up the amazing success of DN6 to Farrow's superior. He mentions that he will send the report on before leaving on his holiday and that he will "inform Forester" of the decision and then rings off. The TARDIS crew has decided to explore a bit more to find out more about the insecticide and has discovered a giant notebook. The writing is obviously partially composed of a formula, but it is too big for them to take in as a whole. The Doctor takes a notebook and, with the help of the others, starts to transcribe it piece by piece. Barbara, who still hasn't mentioned coming into contact with the DN6-laden wheat, suggests that they could use it to find a cure for the stuff, but the others say they are looking for a way to stop it; the only reason to look for a cure, Ian says, would be if someone had become infected with it, and no one has, right? Barbara does not reply. After a time, the transcription is completed. The Doctor and Ian examine it (though the latter admits it's a bit beyond him); it is clearly the formula for an insecticide, and a very deadly one at that! It will never wear off and, thus, will seep into the ground and the water supply. Eventually, not just insects, but humans could be killed by it! Barbara angrily snaps the question of why they're just sitting around and not doing anything about it? She then, realizing what she's done, apologizes and claims to be feeling weary from a lack of food. The Doctor reminds them that, even if they did find food, they must not eat any of it as it might be contaminated. But the sink's water should be fine. Besides, the Doctor noticed a telephone near the sink and he has a plan. They arrive at the phone and, luckily, find a large pile of cord that they can climb up. Barbara and Susan bring over a cork with the idea that they can place it under the receiver to hold it up. Barbara, however, does not look so good. Even Ian notices her flushed face and obvious weariness. She still claims it is hunger and urges him to go on. Another cork is brought and handed up. Ian, the Doctor and Barbara use their combined strength to lift the receiver and Susan pushes in the cork. They repeat the process for the other side. Back at the operator's station, the line from the house is buzzing, annoying Bert. Hilda picks it up and asks if anyone is there. The four travellers are meanwhile yelling their lungs out on the other end, asking for the police to be called, but Hilda cannot hear a thing; their voices are too high. Barbara, trying to listen for a response, collapses, while the Doctor explains that he'd hoped the phone would amplify their voices. Ian goes to tell Barbara and discovers her looking even worse, holding the handkerchief he'd given her. She still claims fatigue and he tells her he will go fetch her water. But when he tries to that his handkerchief back to help, she screams at him not to touch it and then faints. The others arrive and the Doctor immediately notes the smell of DN6 on the handkerchief. He deduces what has happened. Ian and Susan ask what can be done as Barbara's eyes open. The Doctor tasks her for not telling them, but tells her that the attack was only temporary. She is all right for now, though things will get worse if nothing is done. He pulls Ian aside and tells him they should return to the TARDIS soon; if he can get them to the proper size, Barbara's larger protective cells should be able to cope with what was, after all, a very small dose of the insecticide. Ian tells Barbara that they must return to the TARDIS. Meanwhile, Forester has attempted to make a call and discovered that the phone isn't working. Barbara refuses to return to the TARDIS until they are able to stop the production of the poison. After all, even if they survive, how can they return to a poisoned world? The Doctor agrees with her, as does Susan, so Ian sees he has no choice. Forester asks Smithers if there is another phone at the house and the scientist says there is one in the lab. Smithers wants to go there anyway to look over Farrow's notes. Concerned that his compatriot will discover the secrets he has been hiding, Forester checks his gun after Smithers leaves. The Doctor has decided that, in order to draw attention to the house, they must start a fire. That will surely bring someone and the body could be discovered. But how to start a large enough fire to be noticed? Ian recalls seeing a gas tap earlier and starts to form a plan. Just then, the sound of the giants returning comes to them and they hide. Forester discovers the corks holding up the receiver and is absolutely baffled. Who could have done that and why? Smithers notices the increased smell of DN6 as Forester replaces the receiver. The phone rings immediately and Forester picks it up. It is Hilda, making sure the line is working. Recognizing the voice of the man as the one claiming to be Farrow earlier, she plays her hunch and claims that a call from London is waiting for Mr. Farrow. Forester puts the handkerchief over the receiver and claims to be the government man again. Hilda has Bert listening in and, after getting "Farrow" to talk a little more, convinces him that something funny must be going on. Donning his constable's helmet, Bert leaves for the house to check it out. Forester hangs up, believing he's escaped. Smithers, meanwhile, has seen some of Farrow's notes and is out in the garden. He is aghast at what he finds: DN6 has killed everything. Meanwhile, the TARDIS crew gets to work. They loosen the gas tap, getting it ready, while Ian sets up a match and matchbox. The plan is simple: the Doctor and Barbara will turn on the gas while Ian and Susan take the match and run at an angle to the cover in order to strike it. This will ignite the gas flow and heat a giant tin that the Doctor and Barbara have set up near the tap. The Doctor realizes that it is actually an aerosol can and tells Barbara that once they turn the gas on, they must run--it will explode with such a force that, were they full sized, would be equal to a 1000 ton bomb! What none of them realize is that the can isn't simply an aerosol, it is an aerosol filled with DN6! Smithers now knows what must have been in Farrow's report and realizes the true danger of DN6. Unfortunately, Forester has seen the scientist and stands over him, menacingly. Ian and Susan are having a problem lighting the match, but finally get it. The Doctor and Barbara turn on the tap and they all run. Fire flashes out at the can. Outside, Forester confesses to Smithers, telling him too much money had been sunk into DN6 for Farrow to have lived to file the report. He then pulls his gun on Smithers and directs him back into the lab. The crew watches, behind cover, as the can heats up. Susan reminds the Doctor of an air raid they'd seen earlier. Yes, the Doctor muses, dangerous things those zeppelins! The two men enter the lab. Smithers, incredulous, asks Forester if he doesn't understand that DN6 is deadly, more dangerous than radiation! Forester does not care and uses the gun to motion to Smithers to get Farrow's notes. The scientist, having no choice, begins to comply when he sees the fire and the can. He dives out of the way as Forester moves closer. The can explodes in Forester's face, blinding him! Smithers grabs the gun just as Bert enters, takes the gun away and then takes the two men away with him. Knowing that they have succeeded in stopping DN6, the crew reenters the sink in order to return to the TARDIS. Barbara does not have much time left, so there is none to lose. Still, the Doctor stops to pick up a giant seed to take with them. Back at the TARDIS, the Doctor's fingers fly over the controls as Barbara collapses into the chair. He tells Ian to move the seed (in his cape, not touching it) to a table in the corner. The lights dim and then return. The Doctor smiles and points to the seed; it has shrunk to a tiny, proper size. They have returned to normal! It takes a moment, but Barbara appears fully recovered. The Doctor suggests the other three take the time to wash up while he sees where they will land this time. The others leave and the Doctor tries to view their surroundings on the scanner, annoying him. But, as the materialization sound fills the control room, the scanner picture resolves into a scene of running water....

Let me first say that this story was much, much better than either Ketina or I remembered it being. There were a lot of quite fun and clever bits and the props, given the time, space and budget of the show, were pretty amazing. With the exception of the obviously filmed backdrops, everything looked to scale and very real. A tremendously good job by the designer and builders.

The story itself was pretty good as well! Despite a slightly disappointing cliffhanger resolution (though Ronelyn liked it, and yes, it did make sense, but still), I really enjoyed how things developed. I will admit that, at first, it felt a bit like the Doctor and crew were ultimately extraneous to the resolution of the plot (beyond their specific bits), which was probably one of the reasons Ketina and I had remembered the story as being a bit weak. But a little closer examination shows that they were anything but extraneous. Follow along with me: Yes, Hilda and Bert were already a little suspicious. But what really piqued their suspicion and what caused Hilda to ring the house back was the phone being off the hook--thanks to the Doctor and company. And, even though Bert was already almost to the house, there's no question that Forester would have had the time to shoot Smithers (to shut him up if nothing else), had he not been blinded by the explosion of the can--again, thanks to our friends. I think the interesting/frustrating thing about all of this is that what the TARDIS crew does succeeds, but never in the way that they want and for the reasons that they want. (The phone is a "failure" because no one can hear them and it's not the fire that attracts the police.) Really, they have no idea what's happened or why, and one view could be that this is a failing of the story. After some thought, I don't think I agree; the fact that the Doctor and companions don't really know/understand what's going on is another aspect of the miniature vs. giant motif that's gone through the entire story. At that size, there's no possibility that the crew can understand events in the, er, macro-world. The fact that what they do has a good result simply shows that...well, I don't know what it shows. At any rate, I think the criticism that "the plot could have happened even without the TARDIS showing up" is not quite true. As I said above, Smithers wouldn't have survived the experience!

Speaking of Smithers, I loved the development of his character from a single-minded man, driven to succeed to feed the world, to one suspicious of his backer's motives, to someone horrified by what they had done and determined to put it right. His horror when he realizes DN6's real potential was very well played. I also liked Hilda and Bert, ostensibly comical characters, but actually very intelligent. Well, clever, at any rate. And fun!

I'm going to leave it here, since we have a small treat for you this week. Before we get to Ketina's Kommentary, we have a guest lecturer! So, I'll sign off here; see you later for the story writeup and next week for the start of a new story! Until then, I remain



Science whining with Ronelyn:
1) If you’re the size of an ant, a match alone should be enough to frizzle you into a frizzle. Lighting the match might well have killed Ian and left Susan rather badly scarred.
2) You’re a centimeter tall and you want to attract attention. So you grab and light on fire the nearest thing that’s pressurized…a can of bug spray. In aerosol form. So that when it explodes it will fill the room with…aerosolized insecticide. I know there’s a lesson in irony here somewhere but I can’t quite narrow it down.
3) Okay, this is mean but I HAVE to say it: If the molecules of poison are reduced to 1/70th of their presence in Barbara’s system, shouldn’t all the oxygen in everyone’s systems be as well? Fainting spell for the crew? No? Tardis magic? Fine.

All in all, though, not a bad classic SF adventure story. I’m not complaining, just nit-picking.



Ketina here,

The Good:
Again, there were some interesting set pieces in this one. Getting the corks under the phone was well done (if a slightly long scene), and I liked the notepad with the formulas. As someone with an actual biochemistry degree (really), I can say that the chemical formulas on the pad (esters and nitrates) are quite large, at least in comparison to things like sodium chloride and di-oxygen hydrate :) I think I would also need to rewrite them to figure them out if they were written that huge.
I also enjoyed the telephone operator being the hero of the piece. She was pretty funny. Why evil business guy thought he could get away with disguising his voice just by holding a handkerchief over the phone boggles my mind. I was very glad that they addressed it, and that it didn't actually work, and that in the end is, at least in part, why he gets caught.

The Not So Good:
The Doctor and Susan's escape from last week's cliff hanger was a bit of a let down (hiding in the overflow pipe in the drain) but I suppose that made the most sense. At least it was a simple and realistic solution.
Barbara hiding the fact that she was poisoned for most of the story was frustrating. I couldn't understand why she wasn't willing to tell them. They could potentially do something to help her, so why wouldn't she tell them? The Doctor's reaction to her "foolishness" was spot on.
Using the match to light the gas and blow up the insecticide can was extremely silly. Lighting the match itself was cool - I loved the bit with Ian and Susan running with this giant 4x4 plank of a matchstick to get it lit. But the short scene where we see a match get held up in front of the gas was terrible - at least you couldn't see the person's fingers holding the match.

But, as much as I gripe, overall the special effects in this story were pretty good, especially considering the level of effects that could be done at the time. However, I am glad it was only a 3 part story - nearly two full stories with the TARDIS crew running around on a table top was quite enough, thank you.

And I could complain about the bad "science" in the science fiction of shrinking people (see Ronelyn's commentary this week) but I personally chalk it up to "the Magic of the TARDIS", and can suspend my disbelief. We've certainly seen much worse on Star Trek and similar scifi shows. But, that's just my opinion.



Friday, October 16, 2009

"Dangerous Journey"

Hello, the Historian here, back with our full complement of Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you the second part in our miniature adventure. Without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 7 November 1964. The seemingly giant cat looks down in interest at the TARDIS crew, as the Doctor urges everyone to keep perfectly still and especially not to look into its eyes. After a few moments, the cat gets bored and leaves, though they know it could be back any moment. Susan asks whether they couldn't make contact with the people who live in the house and ask for help. Ian explains that, even if they could get anyone's attention, no one of normal size would be able to hear them. Their voices would be tiny squeaks to a normal person, and a normal person's would sound like a deep rumble to them. Barbara adds that four tiny humans would likely be captured and exhibited as freaks. The Doctor, however, gives the final reason that they cannot appeal to the residents of the house--one of them is a murderer! Barbara wonders if they shouldn't do something about the murder, but there's nothing they can do at one inch high. The crew elect to return to the TARDIS, but before they can move a huge shadow falls over them and giant footfalls are heard. The Doctor and Susan run, but Barbara stumbles and twists her ankle, so Ian helps her off the other way towards a giant briefcase. They hide inside, while the Doctor and Susan head off towards a drainpipe. In the larger world, it is Forester, returning to the body. He has brought Smithers, the scientist who has developed DN6, to show him what happened. He tries to feed Smithers a story about Farrow pulling a gun and a struggle, but the scientist can see that Farrow had been shot through the heart from a distance. Forester is surprised at Smithers' calmness, but the scientist replies that he has seen death in famines and people starving all over the world. He is surprised at Forester's coldness, but the businessman simply says he is trying to work out what to do next. Smithers, angry, blames Forester for destroying his experiment; with Farrow's death, he assumes his researches will be stopped for good. Forester, however, has come up with a plan: He will take the body to Farrow's boat (waiting for a trip to France), tow it offshore and capsize it. Then, if the police find a body...Smithers does not wish to hear the details. All he wants is to complete his experiments developing DN6 to destroy pests and help stop hunger all over the world. He is willing to turn a blind eye so long as he can achieve that goal. They prepare to move the body to a storeroom, but first Forester takes Farrow's briefcase inside to Smithers' laboratory. Ian and Barbara emerge from the briefcase, badly shaken up, and realize that they are no longer outside. Barbara massages her ankle and complains of a bruise on her knee--caused by a paperclip!--and Ian goes to look for water. Forester and Smithers, meanwhile, drag the body past the drainpipe, taking no notice of the tiny figures of the Doctor and Susan. They have come out of hiding. Susan is sure she saw one of the giants take the briefcase--and their friends--inside. The Doctor decides to check the drainpipe, but immediately returns and complains that it stinks of chemicals. Still, he proposes climbing it to get into the house. The pipe is corroded enough to supply plenty of hand and footholds, but Susan is worried the climb will be too much for her grandfather. But, he observes, what choice have they? Better to try--Ian and Barbara are counting on them, after all. Ian returns, having found no water, but Barbara thinks she'll be able to walk all right. They head off. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Susan continue their climb. Susan is worried, but the Doctor urges her on. Ian and Barbara see a set of giant test tubes and come across a pile of gigantic wheat seeds. As Ian wanders away to look at something, Barbara examines the seeds. She picks one up and sees that they are covered with a sticky substance. Going back over to Ian, she asks to borrow his handkerchief and, without asking why, he gives it to her. She begins to wipe her hands. Ian is seated on a box of litmus papers. He reflects on how many times he'd held a tiny piece of litmus between his fingers--they are that small! He tells Barbara that this is obviously a lab, and it must be connected with that chemical that seemed to have killed everything out in the garden. He tells Barbara that she must not touch anything, and she realizes what she must have done. She decides not to tell Ian, instead thinking if they can get back to the TARDIS quickly it won't matter. Ian, having no idea, tries to think of a way for them to get off the table. He suggests going back to the briefcase to try to find enough paperclips to form a ladder. Barbara also suggests they might find something in it that would tell them more about the insecticide. Ian, not knowing why she is so interested, shrugs this off. Susan and the Doctor keep climbing, but the Doctor is tiring...Ian is struggling with the clasp of the briefcase, but finally gets it open. He calls to Barbara, but gets no response. Climbing down, he finds her transfixed in fear, face to face with a giant fly! She faints and, as Ian catches her, the insect flies away. It has been startled by someone coming into the room. Ian carries Barbara off to hide. Smithers enters the lab, followed by Forester, who asks sharply what they're doing inside. Smithers says he was coming in to get a cloth to clean the blood off the flagstones. As they converse, a few things become clear. Smithers doesn't care about the money, he only cares about DN6 as a force to eradicate crop failures and hunger. He is also unaware of the true cause of Farrow's opposition, as he thinks DN6 is a complete success. Forester has convinced him that Farrow's report is full of lies simply to stop the project. Forester confronts him with the fact that both men will do anything to see the project through to completion, if for different reasons. The men leave. Susan and the Doctor have come up into the lab sink. The Doctor needs to rest, being exhausted and almost overcome with the chemical fumes. Susan suggests getting out of the sink to look for their friends, but the Doctor has noticed their voices echo and has a better idea. Barbara wakes up and Ian tells her the fly is dead. Sure enough, it landed on the coated pile of wheat and died right away! Realizing the full extent of her predicament, Barbara is about to tell Ian what she has done, when they hear a voice calling for them--Susan's voice! They realize she cannot hear them respond and resolve to follow the sound. Ian asks Barbara what she was going to tell him, but she tells him it's nothing. Shortly, the friends are reunited, the Doctor and Susan at the bottom of the sink, the others at the top. Ian and Barbara begin to climb down the plug chain. Outside, the two men finish cleaning up the bloodstain. Their hands dirty, Smithers suggests they go to the sink in his lab to wash up. Hearing the giants approach, Ian and Barbara scramble back up the chain to hide and the Doctor and Susan crawl a little way down the drain. Smithers notices the dead fly and is delighted. Obviously DN6 is effective--he does not understand how Farrow could have lied about that. Forester says he will "amend the report" before sending it on, but, again, Smithers does not wish to know about any of that. He turns away, puts the plug in the sink and turns on the tap. Ian and Barbara emerge, watching with horror as the sink begins to fill, realizing they can do nothing. Inside the drain, the Doctor and Susan hug each other, hearing the water fill the sink above them. Smithers finishes washing and pulls the plug, sending the torrent of water down the drain, right at the Doctor and Susan....

A strong second episode! This story is certainly much stronger than either Ketina or I remembered; we're wondering if it's going to fall apart a bit next episode.

There was actually an awful lot to like about this week, even leaving aside the slight flaw in Forester's plan to dispose of the body, which I know Ketina plans to discuss below. It does bring up a fun point, that of Smithers' steadfast "I don't want to know, I just do the science" reactions to Forester's obviously less than legal activity. At first, you might think of Smithers as simply an amoral scientist, who must see the end of his experiment no matter what it takes. Look a little deeper, though, and you see a bit more of a single-minded idealist. He honestly believes he is out to save the world with his insecticide, to end hunger, and nothing can stand in the way of that goal. On the other hand, the symbolism of Smithers helping to cover up the murder and then literally washing his hands of the business hits one on the head a bit hard. He very obviously knows that Forester is completely without scruple, but he chooses to believe almost every lie the man tells him. It's obvious that Forester cannot, at any cost, allow Smithers to actually see Farrow's report...

What else. The resolution of last week's cliffhanger, I felt, was a little weak. Not unsatisfying, but I think some kind of "escape from the cat" was set up, when we actually got "hold still and hope it goes away." This week's cliffhanger, though, was very strong (if a bit reminiscent of one of the endings from "The Aztecs," where Ian is trapped in a "drain"), even if it was fairly obvious. What is not obvious is how the Doctor and Susan will escape!

An interesting idea that Schmallturm brought up was the possible influence of Mary Norton's "Borrowers" series on this story, especially in the interactions with giant props (which were excellent, once again) and the cat. It's something that hadn't occured to me, but once he mentioned it the influence seemed obvious. Most of the books came out in the early 50s to early 60s, so there is a better than decent chance they were known to people on the production side. The younger Historian loved the Borrowers books, so I have no problem crediting it as a possible influence!

Moving on to the cast, everyone shines in this episode, with no exceptions. The guest cast is quite good; I very much liked Reginald Barratt's Smithers. The regulars are all excellent. The Doctor's moment, where he reveals how important his friends are to him and tells Susan that they can't give up before they try! A wonderful few lines and a great delivery from William Hartnell. Once again, we see the Doctor develop before our eyes, becoming the caring character rather than the merely irritated old man we first met. The others do quite well too, from Ian's determination to Barbara's attempts to hide her despair to Susan's worrying. Just a fine, strong episode of Doctor Who. Not too different from the first season, really, though I believe we shall see some changes in the weeks to come...

There's no doubt that there are other things I thought of to talk about, but I've gone on long enough. I'll turn things over to Ketina now, but I shall see you all next week. As always, if there are things you wish to talk about, feel free to comment and I'll reply. But, until then, or next week, I remain



Ketina here,

This week we got some cool looking sets, freaked out Barbara, oblivious Ian, and a very dirty Susan and Doctor.

Several of the set pieces continue to be impressive. I especially liked the sink that the Doctor and Susan climbed up into. And if I'd been a kid, the giant fly would have scared the crap out of me (gave me the willies as it was). Alas, a few shots, like the test tubes, lacked a bit. They also gave a great impression of the scale of things, and just how weird everything is when you're itty-bitty sized.

Swoon count 1
Scream count +0
Sprained ankle count +1

Yes, Barbara faints rather than screams upon seeing the giant fly. Personally, I think I would have screamed my bloody head off - a scream would actually fit the situation. It's good to change things up a bit, but do they really need to weaken the relatively strong character that Barbara has become? And the sprained ankle, come on, was that really necessary? Yes, my feminist view point continues to show up in my reviews, excuse me.

And there was a bit of an inconsistent plot point with this weeks scientist (are they going to introduce a third scientist next week?). He immediately realizes that scientist #1 could not have gotten shot close range in a scuffle, but had to have been shot from a distance. Yet, when evil investor guy suggests dumping the body on the boat and make it look like a drowning accident, he doesn't argue. I didn't know someone could drown by bullet.

Finally, I loved the cliff hanger. I could tell it was coming when scientist #2 mentioned the sink. It leads into probably one of the silliest visuals for a cliffhanger: pulling the plug and watching the water start to drain, with the words "Next Week: Crisis" showing up in big letters. Yet I'm entirely stumped as to how the Doctor and Susan are going to get out of this one. Very fun. Here's hoping for a good resolution.

Until next time!


Friday, October 9, 2009

"Planet of Giants"

Hello and welcome to season two of Doctor Who, here at the TARDIS Project! The Historian here, along with Ketina and Ronelyn, bringing you the first in another year's worth of episodes. Let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 31 October 1964. The TARDIS crew prepares to land, having recovered from their eighteenth century adventure. Barbara puts her hand on the console and jumps back, having burned herself. The Doctor sends Susan to check the Fault Locater (see "Inside the Spaceship"); she does and finds circuits QR18 and A14D registering. Suddenly, just as the ship is about to materialize, the doors begin to open! The Doctor yells to Ian and Barbara to physically shut the doors, and, with Susan's help, they do so. The Doctor flips some switches to complete the TARDIS' materialization and collapses into a chair. Ian and Barbara bombard him with questions, but he snipes at them and sends Susan off to check the Fault Locater again. Ian dismisses the Doctor's fear, saying that since they materialized, everything must be fine, mustn't it? The Doctor snaps at him not to be childish--the doors opened before materialization and anything could have happened. The two teachers try to question him further, but he just gets more irritated. Susan returns and says no faults are registering. The Doctor goes to check for himself while Ian and Barbara ask Susan for information. All she knows, she says, is that the point just before materialization is the most dangerous time for anything to happen...and nothing like this has happened before. The Doctor returns and confirms the no fault reading, then proposes they see where they are. But when they turn the scanner on, it explodes! As if it saw something too big for it to register, the Doctor muses. Since everything is safe, environmentally, outside, the Doctor proposes they go out and take a look. He also apologizes to Barbara for being so short with her. The TARDIS appears to have landed between two great stone walls. Barbara calls the Doctor's attention to the fact that there are two different kinds of stone in the wall, and the Doctor calls Ian over to confirm that the "second stone" appears to be some form of concrete, though it is so coarse as to be hardly recognizable. There is no question, though, that the walls are man-made, not natural formations. The Doctor, keen to explore, suggests splitting up. He and Barbara will follow the wall one way, and Ian and Susan will go the other. Ian reluctantly agrees, but insists that no one go out of calling range. When they've gone a little way, Barbara is startled by what appears to be a giant snake hanging off the wall. The Doctor examines it and determines that it is dead...and it's not a snake. There are no eyes or a mouth. Barbara says she's more disturbed by its size than anything else and is relieved when the Doctor suggests they move on. Ian and Susan, meanwhile, discover a giant ant, also dead, along with a large pile of what seem to be giant ant eggs. It seems to have died while protecting the eggs, a very natural ant behavior, while all of its fellows escaped from some disaster. Ian begins to wonder, with giant ants and some mysterious force that killed them, just what kind of world they've landed in this time! Barbara and the Doctor have circled round the rock formation to find the other end of the "snake," which the Doctor now realizes is a giant earthworm! The Doctor is puzzled; it's exactly like a normal worm from Earth, except for its size. He determines to press on to get to the bottom of this mystery. Barbara has noticed that the rock formations, while haphazard, do seem to be in some kind of pattern, as if an intelligence was behind them. They continue on. Ian and Susan, meanwhile, have come across several more dead ants. They turn a corner and almost run into a giant sign advertising seed from...the Norwich Seed Company? But the sign is huge! Ian believes that, if on Earth, they must be in some sort of exhibit or fair where everyday things are shown at an increased size. The Doctor has found a large piece of obviously expertly cut timber. As he examines it, he accidentally knocks it over, scaring Barbara. After a moment, she notices the charred end, saying that it looks like a matchstick! The Doctor confirms this and is beginning to piece together the mystery...Susan, too, is also beginning to figure things out, as she and Ian round the corner of the sign and discover what looks like a gigantic matchbox. Ian climbs inside to see if there are any matches, but insists that they must be in some exhibit. Susan disagrees, saying she is sure that it's not that everything is larger, it's that they have been miniaturized! As we cut between the two groups, both Barbara and Ian are incredulous, but the Doctor and Susan unknowingly agree: it is the TARDIS fault, the doors opening during materialization, that has done this. To confirm this, the camera pulls back to show that the TARDIS is sitting on a walk between two paving stones! The Doctor decides they must reunite and return to the TARDIS immediately to try and set things right. Susan, meanwhile, continues to try and convince Ian. When the doors opened, she says, the enormous "space pressure" must have reduced everything to a tiny size--about an inch high. Before Ian can reply, the two hear a gigantic THUMP! and they're suddenly in darkness. The darkness is the shadow of a normal sized man, walking to where they are, who picks up the fallen matchbox--with Ian inside! He carries it back to the house down the path. Susan, who had ducked for cover, comes out to find the matchbox gone and the Doctor and Barbara walking towards her. She explains what happened, as best she can between sobs. The Doctor deduces what must have happened, as ridiculous as it sounds to all of them. Meanwhile, Ian is being battered inside the box as the man goes to a chair near the house and sits. With some help, the Doctor climbs to the top of the paving stone and manages to get a glimpse of the house, far (to him) in the distance. He sees the man reading a notebook, but cannot see the matchbox. As Susan and Barbara question him, the Doctor thinks. He believes he can enlarge them again, but they must find Ian and get back to the TARDIS first. They head, as best they can, towards the house. Meanwhile, the man, still reading his notebook, grabs a cigarette. Just as he is about to pick up the matchbox, a hand reaches in from offscreen to offer him a light. The man from offscreen is named Forester, and he calls the man who owns the matchbox Mr. Farrow. They shake hands and Forester asks whether Farrow has "taken any action." Farrow says he has made, but not filed, his report. Forester, angry, asks Farrow if he understands how much money has already been sunk into manufacture and marketing for "DN6." He based all this expenditure on the initial good report from the ministry Farrow belongs to. Farrow is sorry, but he cannot give DN6 a good final report. Forester asks if more refinement is needed, but Farrow says no. While DN6 at first seemed to be a breakthrough insecticide, further tests have shown that it is totally destructive, killing the necessary "good" insects/animals as well as the bad. It would hurt more than it helped! Forester again protests the money wasted, saying this will ruin him. Farrow is, again, sorry, but this is science, not finance. Forester tries to bribe Farrow, but the man dismisses the idea. Farrow is anxious to leave; his vacation was to have started the day before and his boat is ready and waiting for him, but he wanted to tell Farrow in person out of respect for him and his partner Smithers. Farrow plans on telephoning the ministry right after taking his leave, and then plans to go on his holiday. Forester tries to persuade him to put off filing the report, but the scientist refuses. This is science, he says, not business. DN6 is simply too dangerous. When he looks back at the businessman, Forester has pulled a gun. Meanwhile, the Doctor, Susan and Barbara are startled when a bee drops dead from the sky in front of them. What chance, muses the Doctor, would humans have against a bee that large? All three notice a distinct odor coming from the dead insect, the same odor that they'd smelled around the other dead creatures they'd encountered. The Doctor warns the others not to eat or drink anything until they are back in the TARDIS. Suddenly, they hear what sounds like an explosion! It almost sounds as though a cannon has been set off! Of course, it was actually a gunshot, as Ian discovers when he escapes the matchbox only to come face to face with Farrow's body, lying on the ground. Ian holds up a handkerchief to the "giant's" open mouth, determining that the man is dead. Unseen by Ian, the house's cat has noticed something amiss and gone to investigate. Ian finds the other three and tells them of the dead man. They go to examine him and the Doctor notes the distinct smell of gunpowder in the air. Barbara is shocked at the amount of death around them. The man was obviously murdered, but why? And all the insects they'd seen--how and why had they died? The Doctor says they must return to the TARDIS quickly, but before they can move, a giant confronts them. The cat has found the crew and Susan screams as it gets ready to lunge....

Let me start off by saying that neither Ketina nor I have particularly great memories of this story. Although neither of us had seen it for years, we both remember it being a bit weak. Which made this episode a bit of a surprise; it's quite good! True, the opening is a bit vague (ok, the doors open, um, that's bad? Doctor? Hello?), but once the crew gets outside, things definitely start looking up with the immediate mystery of where they are and what the malfunction might have done. Ronelyn, who hadn't seen it before, wasn't sure if they'd landed on a planet where everything was giant, or whether something else was going on. She says that it wasn't until the sign that she was fully sure of the miniaturization plot and that they must be on Earth. I'd call that successful! The props, from the stone walls to the matchstick, are pretty uniformly excellent (admittedly, the ant a bit less so). They really feel like "giant versions" of the real thing. As Ketina will mention below, we were all impressed with how the effects of Farrow walking and the "cannon" booming were done as well. But the "standing in front of a giant film backdrop of a dead body?" Not so much. It wasn't terrible, but it was obviously very limited by the technology of the time. (Better than chroma-key, though!)

The story also has little bits and pieces that shine through. The Doctor apologizing to Barbara, who he has developed a special, somewhat paternal, relationship with, but not feeling the need to apologize to Ian. The "switching it up" of the split teams for searching. Last season, it was Barbara and Ian or Barbara and Susan, this time it's Barbara and the Doctor. Who are, let's face it, tempermentally the best two to go together in a lot of ways. Susan and Ian work well too, with Susan taking a bit of the "Doctor explaining things" role. (Hurrah, she's smart again! We've barely seen that since the first story!)

As for the, er, "larger" plot, well, it's a bit bog-standard. The "industrialist tries to stop report that will shut him down" is something that had been done before and would be returned to by Doctor Who again and again. This time, it does take on a bit of resonance, though, as a very early pro-environmental plot. Silent Spring had, after all, been published only two years before, which kind of makes this cutting edge, doesn't it?

The acting is quite, quite good on the part of the regulars. After a season of adventures together, they've come to feel like familiar friends, both to each other and the audience, playing off each other wonderfully. As for the guest cast, Alan Tilvern's Forester comes off all right, nothing exciting, but Frank Crawshaw's Farrow is simply a dull performance. It's as if he'd seen the script, memorized his lines and decided to just speak them verbatim, with no effort or emotion involved. Not an over-the-top performance, but an under-the-water one, perhaps.

We'll see how this story develops over the next couple of weeks, since my memory's obviously not done this story justice...unless it's another "strong first episode, then falls down a bit" stories. Still, I'm very much looking forward to finding out what happens next! Until then, though, I remain



I m in ur episode bringn ur cliffhanger.

Ketina here,

Starting off with a LOL Cat quote seems appropriate this week. This story is pretty fun so far. A bit of a reality stretch, but certainly no more than most Sci-fi shows.

The good: The core cast did generally well this week. Ian and Barbara in particular, at least when physical acting wasn't involved. It was fun watching them wander around the area trying to figure everything out. It was a nice change of pace to put the Doctor with Barbara and Ian with Susan.
Also several of the set pieces and props were very cool - in particular the terrain, worm carcass, and matchbox. And I loved the effect of the huge person creating instant darkness and boom sounds just from walking over, his shadow concealing the light.

The bad & silly: Ian's being flung about in the matchbox was worse than the worst "everybody lean left" on Star Trek. And some of the props and visual effects did not hold up, in particular the grass in the background that was clearly a painting, and the grainy picture of the dead guy that Ian examines. And the cat - both scary and hysterical at the same time.

Yet another opening episode where something inexplicable happens in the TARDIS, the Doctor freaks out, staggers through his dialog, and refuses to provide an understandable explanation to Ian and Barbara. Didn't we see this in at least half the episodes of the first season?

The plot of evil corporate investor killing the investigative scientist feels a big cliched to me. However, given that this episode is from the early 60's, the heavy environmentalist message may not have been so much of a cliche at the time.

And finally, Susan's back! Poor kitty, I'm surprised Susan's shrill cry alone didn't scare it off. I guess we'll find out next week.



This Historian here with a quick note. The TARDIS Project would like to dedicate this post to the memory of that wonderful friend of Doctor Who, Barry Letts, who passed away earlier today at the age of 84. Although almost all of his work (save the direction of "Enemy of the World," which we should get to in 2013 or so) falls outside the Project's scope, we wanted to say thank you to Mr. Letts. Doctor Who fans will never forget you.


Season One Wrapup

Hello all, the Historian here, with a TARDIS Project wrapup for Doctor Who season one. Yes, we have made it 1/6th of the way through to our goal! It’s taken us just over 10 months, from 23 November 2008 to 9 October 2009. We were forced to skip one episode, due to technical difficulties, and we were occasionally forced to break our “one every week” rule for various reasons, but we still managed to get through every other episode, a week at a time. My plan is to break this post down into two basic sections, one about the season itself and the other as a bit of a “Project Report.” So, let’s begin!

Doctor Who Season One: Where to begin? I suppose I should talk about how different this experience has been for Ketina and myself (I’m speaking for her right now based on discussions we’ve had), watching an episode a week, give or take, as opposed to multiple episodes at a time or, heaven forbid, the “movie” versions. In general, the stories moved better, which makes sense since they were paced out to be seen in 24 minute chunks. Admittedly, that still didn’t help some stories at points. I’ll do a run down of the stories in a bit; we had one commenter (our second one, where are the rest of you folks?) ask that I go through the season episode by episode, but that’d take a little too much space. What I will do is link to each story’s wrapup post, allowing you to look at each episode for yourself.

First, though, let’s take a look at the year as a whole. This season is unique among the Hartnell years (and, indeed, the first five seasons) in having a stable cast. William Hartnell, William Russell (aka Russell Enoch), Jacqueline Hill and Carole Ann Ford take the space a year gave them to develop the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan from simple beginnings to more complex characters with complex relationships. William Hartnell’s Doctor, especially, shows development, running the gamut from mysterious, dangerous old man to someone who could be lovable, even when he was still mysterious. I think Barbara was a particular favorite of the team as well; passionate, caring, smart...but also impetuous and adventurous. Ian was the man of action...who started out a bit too simple, but became quite a thoughtful hero by the end. And Susan...well, she suffered the most, I think, from the least amount of character development. Even so, there was a definite attempt at showing Susan’s maturation, from the slightly flighty, yet dependent, teenager of the first episode, through the post-adolescent rebellion of “The Sensorites.” I’m sure this was all helped by the fact that the production team of producer Verity Lambert and story editor David Whittaker was also stable for this year.

As far as charting the developments specifically (as well as looking at how guest casts did), let’s start the story links. As mentioned above, I’m basically covering the Project team’s reactions to the stories here. Please click through to the individual wrapups for more details!

It looks like I didn’t include individual episode links for ”100,000 BC”, so I’ll remedy that right now. (”An Unearthly Child,” ”The Cave of Skulls,” ”The Forest of Fear” and ”The Firemaker”) Here’s a story that definitely benefited from one-a-week pace. The team had a really good reaction to the first episode (which is an undeniable classic), though the other three were a bit less exciting. I enjoyed them, but I know that, for the rest of the team, “You must make fire!” got to be a bit tedious.

Next comes the story that, as I’ve said, “changed everything,” ”The Daleks.” Seeing this story episode-by-episode allowed us to actually feel the cliffhangers, especially the end of the first episode. On the other hand, this story feels like a five to six episode story stretched to a seven episode story, with much of episodes five and six seeming a bit...slow, to be charitable. (The team in general found episode six, “The Ordeal,” to be truth in advertising, for example.) The story itself was quite good and the Daleks were...well, fantastic. What a great design!

”Inside the Spaceship” was, in some ways, a make-or-break story for the Project. Ketina remembered it as being deathly dull and was determined to convince me we had to stop the “one episode a week” thing for it. As it turned out, the story was fairly intriguing, though the second episode was a letdown after the marvelous first. We actually came out of this story even more determined to try keeping to the parameters of one a week!

Ah, ”Marco Polo”...Watching this story, even in reconstructed form, was probably the thrill of the entire first season for me—Doctor Who I’d never seen! (Nor had Ketina.) And what a story it was! I think “Marco Polo” was the clear highlight of the year for me, and (I think) for the rest of the team as well. I think, not having seen it before (and having it in an incomplete form), it’s difficult for me to tell whether this story benefited from the one-at-a-time format...although I suspect any seven episode story would have to, if only to keep away fatigue! (It’s worth noting that we had to bend our rules a bit for this story due to technical issues.)

From the high of the season to what might be the low, next is ”The Keys of Marinus.” This story was actually our first disappointment, as Ketina and I both had fond memories of it. I actually think this might be the only story to not benefit from the episodic format. None of the individual mini-stories were well developed, which might have been less noticeable had we watched it all at once. Still, even if this story was a bit of a low point, story-wise, we still had a lot of fun with it.

It was really interesting to see ”The Aztecs” in more of a context. Previously, of course, this was the only Historical from the first season that Ketina or I had seen. Unlike “Marinus,” though, this story was actually better than either of us remembered. And the pacing, going from week to week, worked well—possibly that’s the reason it was better!

It was back to science fiction with ”The Sensorites,” which I thought was quite a good story. Ketina was less impressed. But I felt that the stories (there were really two) worked very well, the first as a tension-building exercise and the second as a bit of an exotic mystery. Most of the characters (with the exception of the ship’s captain) were well realized and the Sensorites themselves looked fantastic. This was another story that was definitely better with our one-a-week schedule.

Hmm, it feels as though I just posted a wrapup for ”The Reign of Terror” a few days ago! This was another story neither Ketina nor I had seen before, thanks to two out of the six episodes being missing. We were pleased to find a well-written, well-acted, complex story of the French Revolution. I was particularly impressed with the psychological depth of its Robespierre (though I might have read a bit more into it than was there) and, especially, Barbara, Ian and the Doctor’s discussion of history...and their place in it. A very fine way to close out a very strong first season.

Project Report: As can be inferred from the above, I think things have gone very well indeed for our first almost-year. There was always the question (and, indeed, there still is) of how far we’d get, and how far we’d get watching only one episode a week. Ketina’s pre-Project prediction of her demanding we stop the latter by “Inside the Spaceship” didn’t come to pass; indeed, I think she’s really enjoyed the one-a-week thing, as did most of our other participants. I’m hopeful of keeping it up through at least season two; Ketina has again predicted (hopefully erroneously) that once we hit the “reconstruction hell” of season three, things might either slow to a halt or change to a multiple episode viewing. (Obviously, I’m hopeful that it won’t.) As for the blog, we have managed to keep it up fairly well, despite several weeks of...well, just not wanting to post after viewing. To be honest, watching the series has been a delight, but the blogging has, at times, become a bit of a chore. That was one of the reasons I posted our survey, to gauge how many people were reading and what they liked or didn’t...and just to see if there was really anyone out there. Big thanks to Robin and “Anonymous,” the only two people to respond. While the low response was disappointing, it was good to hear some enthusiasm from at least a couple of readers.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has participated in the TARDIS Project season one. Thanks to Schmallturm, Kroroboros, Spoomeister, Cz, Sumguy and a special “above and beyond the call of duty” thanks to Ronelyn, for technical and emotional support. I’d like to encourage you all (if you’re around) to come by for season two! You’re all always welcome. Also, here’s a plug for Loose Cannon Productions, who made the reconstructions used in the Project. It’s good stuff; you should check them out! And, since I’m writing this, I’d like to especially thank Ketina for not saying, “What, are you crazy?” last October or so when I proposed starting this thing in the first place.

What’s next? Well, season two, starting later tonight! Only one partially missing story (“The Crusades”) and a fair amount available on DVD means this will hopefully be a relatively easy year. I can say for sure that we’ll be missing at least one week in November, but hopefully we’ll be mostly sticking to “an episode a week.” Should be a blast and I very much hope you’ll be with us for it all!

As a final note, I’m also hopeful that the blog will be a bit more interactive this coming year. Please, if you have something to say about the episode, or something to say (agree or disagree) about what we say, comment! It’ll make things more fun for us and (hopefully) you, the reader. Also, if any Project member has anything to say about my assessment of season one, feel free! I wrote this up myself with minimal input from others, so if you feel I got something wrong, let me know.

And now...onward to season two! Until later tonight, I remain


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"The Reign of Terror" wrapup

Hello all, the Historian here with our last story wrapup of the season! But first, a little treat courtesy of the Doctor Who Interview Archive: an interview with William Hartnell that would have appeared during the time between the airing of “Prisoners of the Consergierie” and “Planet of the Giants.” In other words, right where we are now! (By the by, a definite TARDIS Project recommendation for the Interview Archive. Check it out!)

So, on to "The Reign of Terror," the season closer that wasn't meant to be. As detailed in the story's production page at the "A Brief History of Time (Travel)" site, "Reign" was intended to be the first story of the show's second season. But when Doctor Who was renewed (apparently it was close to a last minute decision for the production team), the decision was made to push this story back and have a shorter than planned break between the first and second season. Luckily, this reshuffle didn't affect the actual production, since the first production block was scheduled to continue through the following two serials.

So, "Reign" closing things out for season one was a bit of an accident, but also proof that sometimes accidents can be fortuitous. Although the last scene of "The Sensorites" (written and recorded before the change in scheduling was finalized, presumably) sums up the season pretty well, plotwise, "The Reign of Terror" does a far better job of touching on and summing up many of the character themes of the season. It's also a stronger story than its predecessor, I think, better written and with a wider scope for the regulars. It's also a Historical (which, to our surprise, have turned out to be the stronger stories of the season; more about that another time) and one written by the man who would be taking over as story editor for the second production block. And, of course, it doesn't hurt that it's a great story!

"Reign" is also one of the stories from this season that neither Ketina nor I had seen, due to its "incomplete" status. Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on a reconstruction of the missing two episodes--and so can you, if you go to the "Reign of Terror" page at the Loose Cannon Productions recon site. (You can also find out a bit about how they put the two recon episodes together too.)

Here are links to our individual episode posts:
"A Land of Fear"
"Guests of Madame Guillotine"
"A Change of Identity"
"The Tyrant of France"
"A Bargain of Necessity"
"Prisoners of the Conciergerie"

As usual, here is a link to the official BBC episode guide for the story. As with "Marco Polo," it's more than a shame that we don't have a complete set of episodes so "The Reign of Terror" can be accessible to more fans. This story, ultimately, is an overlooked gem and a wonderful way to end an amazing first season of the series. The (presumably rewritten, after the schedule change) final few lines, where we pull out to a starscape, sums up the endless possibilities of adventure that Doctor Who holds:

DOCTOR: Our lives are important, at least to us. But as we see, so we learn.

IAN: And what are we going to see and learn next, Doctor?

DOCTOR: Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let's go and search for it.

COMING SOON: The season one wrapup post! I hope to have it done before Friday, but I'm also hoping to get some more input from other Project crew members...and you! Was there anything in particular that stood out for you, good or bad? Either in the season (for those of you who've seen every episode, like our anonymous survey commenter) or in our coverage of it? Let us know, either in a comment at our survey post or via e-mail to tadisproject at gmail dot com. (And, yes, tadis.) I'll try to incorporate as much of the feedback as I can, though I'm still not sure how the post will come together.

Until then, I remain


Friday, October 2, 2009

"Prisoners of the Conciergerie"

Hello all and welcome to the last episode review for season one! Yes, the TARDIS Project has completed one-sixth of its mandate. Will we make it to the end? Well, I certainly don't know, but thank you for joining me, the Historian, and my friends Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm this far. And now, on to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 12 September 1964. Ian, Barbara and Jules are at Jules' house. Suddenly, there is a knock on the door and in walks the Doctor...followed by Lemaitre! Jules accuses the Doctor of betraying them while Ian looks for soldiers, but the Doctor reveals that he and Lemaitre have come alone. He also says he had no choice but to bring Lemaitre as the official holds Susan hostage. Lemaitre tells them he has come unarmed and alone because he is James Stirling! Surely they must have assumed that Stirling would be in a high position of government, and surely Ian must have realized that someone had arranged for his escape! Jules asks why Stirling had not made contact with him, but Stirling replies that he had to be very careful who he could trust; it is for this reason he could not risk openly speaking to Ian in the prison. The Doctor impatiently demands Susan's release, but Stirling tells him to wait and he reluctantly allows the Englishman to continue. Stirling asks Ian what Webster said before he died. Ian replies that Webster told him that Stirling must return to England; they need his intelligence immediately. Stirling pressed Ian, asking whether Webster said anything else; Ian replies that the man had only mumbled something. Ian cannot recall what it was. Stirling tells them he had planned to return to England anyway, but only after completing one last mission. Stirling tells them all of Robespierre's fears of a coup and reveals that "Lemaitre" had been tasked with following a deputy named Paul Barrass to a secret meeting and learning what was discussed there. His plan is to take this final information back to London, as one of the people at the meeting could be the next ruler of France! Ian suddenly recalls that one of the words Webster muttered had been "Barrass," as well as the phrase "the Sinking Ship." Jules says that Sinking Ship is a name of an inn on the Calais road. Stirling immediately comes up with a plan: he and the Doctor (who may have been seen going into or out of Robespierre's office) would be known to Barrass, but Ian and Barbara would not. The latter will go to the inn and spy on the meeting. Once they have returned with the information, Stirling will use whatever influence he has left to get them all out of Paris. The two agree and Jules offers to drive them. Later that evening, as a storm comes up, Ian and Barbara pose as replacement innkeepers. (Jules has the real innkeeper tied up in the basement.) Barbara serves customers as Ian drills a spyhole from behind the bar into the back room. As the last real customers are about to leave, Barrass arrives. Barbara takes him into the back room and he orders wine for two. The last customers (including Jules) leave and Barrass' guest arrives, wrapped up so as not to be recognized. After he enters the back room, he removes his scarf to reveal...Napoleon Bonaparte! Ian and Barbara listen and watch through the spyhole as Barrass makes a deal with the Corsican: if the coup is successful and Robespierre is removed, Bonaparte, a popular army hero, will support the new government, becoming one of three consuls. However, if the coup fails, this meeting never took place. The next day, back at Jules' house, Ian and Barbara report all of this to Stirling, who is surprised, but not shocked. He knows of Bonaparte's ambition. He will not be content to be one of three. The Doctor interrupts and demands Susan's release. Jules says the meeting of Deputies will be almost over, which could mean that Robespierre has already fallen, thus bringing "Lemaitre's" usefulness to an end. Even Jules fears this; a military dictatorship could be even worse than the Terror! Stirling formulates a plan: he and Ian will go to Robespierre's office to see if the worst has happened and Robespierre is dead. Barbara and the Doctor will go to the prison where Barbara will wait outside while the Doctor secures Susan's release. Stirling and Ian will join them there. Jules, meanwhile, will procure a coach and pick the five of them up outside the Conciergerie. After the others leave to prepare, Barbara shares an almost-laugh with the Doctor: they are all rushing around to prevent something (Robespierre's fall and Napoleon's rise) that the four travellers know will happen! She knows they cannot alter history, having learned it from the adventure with the Aztecs. The Doctor agrees, but adds with a smile that, though they cannot stem the tide of history, they can keep themselves from being carried away with the flood! Meanwhile, Robespierre has retreated into his office, locking himself in and getting a pistol from a desk. But the soldiers are right behind him, mockingly calling to him to come out, then breaking the doors down just as Stirling and Ian arrive. Robespierre tries to talk his way out of the situation, but there is a gunshot and the Englishmen see him brought out, clutching a bloody jaw. There is nothing further now that Stirling can do; getting Susan out is up to the Doctor now. Outside the prison, the Doctor and Barbara have found a hiding spot out of the rain. The Doctor goes into the prison and confronts the jailer, calling him an accomplice of Robespierre's lackey Lemaitre! As his former soldier friends grab him, the jailer expresses his innocence, saying he was only following orders. The Doctor says he cannot decide whether the jailer is a half-wit (not knowing he was aiding an evil man) or a rogue, but the jailer continues to protest. The Doctor "decides" to accept the man's word and tells him to release the prisoners, clearing the cells for Robespierre's allies. Ian and Stirling join Barbara outside just in time to see soldiers arrive with Robespierre. They agree to take the Calais road, with Jules and Stirling dropping the travellers off at their designated point. Jules arrives with the coach. The Doctor manages to get Susan out just as soldiers, still mocking, bring the wounded Robespierre into the prison. Isn't it odd, the Doctor muses, that just yesterday everyone there was terrified of the man, but now they openly taunt him. The two leave, meeting the others outside. Jules tells them he will find Jean and then wait in the countryside to see what happens and who will rule. He expresses doubt when Ian tells him to remember Napoleon. What, the Corsican? he asks derisively. Stirling, meanwhile, is asking why Barbara and the others will not accompany him back to England. She tells them they must get back in their own way. As everyone boards the coach, Stirling wonders to Jules who they really are and where they might be going. Jules replies that he's not sure they know the answer to the latter, but, then, does anyone really know where they are going? After a coach trip, the crew arrives back at the TARDIS. Inside, they change out of their 18th century clothes and talk about how, even if they had decided to try to change anything, events would conspire to prevent the change from taking. Why, Ian says, if they'd shot at Napoleon, the bullet probably would have been deflected somehow! Or would it? But the Doctor, putting things into perspective, reminds Ian that their lives may unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but "they are important to us. But, as we see, so shall we learn." When Ian wonders what they will see next, the Doctor replies, "Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let's go and search for it." And off they go.....

And here we are! Not a bad ending to a very good story, and a fine ending to this first season! As the Historian, though, I feel I must point out that this is probably the least historically accurate episode of this story, if not the series so far, in its treatment of Napoleon. "The Corsican," as Jules terms him, did not rise to power after Robespierre's downfall; at that point he was still a relatively obscure officer. It was not until five years later, in 1799, that he was established as one of the consuls, after which, of course, he seized power...and the rest is history.

Now that that's out of the way, the team all really enjoyed this week, even if we were completely unsurprised by Lemaitre's reveal as Stirling. As Schmallturm said last week, we were running out of secondary characters! His identity does give meaning to all of his actions, meaning that hadn't been immediately clear. In retrospect, though, I'm only surprised we didn't suspect it from the first! Still, it is a bit surprising that the TARDIS crew and Jules accepted Stirling after a simple explanation; it probably helped that the Doctor obviously believed him.

In some ways, for me, this last episode was the least of the six that made up this story. It felt like there just wasn't all that much story left to tell once the crew was (almost) reunited and Stirling revealed himself. Still, it was great to see Robespierre's end; the Doctor's comment on seeing the First Deputy with a shot jaw being carted away by mocking soldiers was less pithy and more profound. Barbara's observations about history and their place in it in her conversation with the Doctor was also very good, reinforced by the conversation in the TARDIS between the four at the end. The very end, both the Doctor's comments and the blank starfield, did a wonderful job of bringing home the idea that the TARDIS crew are wanderers...but they wander together.

I'm not entirely sure what else I have to say; I'll be posting a wrap-up for this story sometime over the next week, as well as a separate post wrapping up Season One (and if you have any comments about the season, feel free to comment here or e-mail us at tadisproject at gmail dot com--and yes, that is not an error, there's no "r" in the "TARDIS" part of the address), so I'll try to leave some material for that! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

This week started out with the resolution of the guess we made last week regarding the identity of one James Sterling. Yep, Smallturm was right, it was indeed Lemaitre. I was very glad when they finally left Jules's house, as it was the last time we would need to see the ever opening and closing door.

The bit with Ian and Barbara in the Inn I found quite fun. My only criticism was that Napoleon appeared too tall, but according to The Historian the height thing is a misnomer. [EDIT: Well, I said "myth;" "misnomer" isn't quite the right word.--The Historian] Again, I felt like I missed a lot during that scene as I know so little about French history.
Another cool scene when Robespierre was overthrown and shot, although proceeded by a silly moment as the rebels cry out about needing to break down already collapsing door. Props in this early Doctor Who stories continue to be fragile. Anyway, I thought Ian and Lemaitre's reaction when Robespierre gets shot was cool. They did such a simple job of indicating his facial wound by having the actor cover up is face with his hand, yet just that subtle act seemed quite horrifying.
I also enjoyed the scene where The Doctor is getting the last word with the drunken jailer "from the north". The scene stretched a bit long with The Doctor pacing, but I could easily imagine him thinking "have to come up with something clever now, so I can get Susan out of here... I'll buy some time to think by pacing!"

The second half of the episode [EDIT: She actually means the last five minutes or so of the episode, but it felt that long to her! --T.H.], however, did not go quite as smoothly for me. Susan's actual rescue by The Doctor was rather anti-climatic. And she spent pretty much the entire story either sick or in a prison cell. Although, not being much of a Susan fan myself, I suppose it was just as well.
That scene was then followed by pithy words from Lemaitre / Stirling. The "I don't think even they know where they're going" speech was just a bit too over the top for me. This was shortly followed by stock footage of their carriage ride, including the exact same stock footage reversed. Ugh! I am not liking any stock footage on Doctor Who - just get on with the scene already. Enough with the filler!
Then we get a final scene of The Doctor basically commenting on all of their adventures up until now, which is fine for a nice end of season moment. But did they have to show it over a stationary field of stars? Lame.

So to sum up - first half of the episode really good. Second half, from getting Susan out of the jail and on - very lame!



Hello readers, the Historian here again. We still haven't heard from any of you, bar one, insofar as our survey goes, and here we are at the end of the season. I can't begin to say how disappointing this has been for Ketina and myself, since we really honestly wanted to know what our readers (and I know you're out there!) think of what we're doing and what we could do better--or what we're doing wrong! There's still time, though; please, please, please, if you read this blog, click on the link and comment or e-mail us. This blog takes quite a bit of work; let us know it's worth it!