Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Doctor!

Forty-six years ago today, the day after an international tragedy (so very few people were actually paying attention), the BBC ran a strange little twenty-four minutes of television. One year ago today, the TARDIS Project began with our review of those twenty-four minutes.

Happy forty-sixth birthday, Doctor Who!

Happy first birthday, TARDIS Project!

See you in December, everyone!


Friday, November 20, 2009

"The End of Tomorrow"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, with another Daleky episode. Let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 12 December 1964. The Doctor, Susan and David realize the Robomen have left something that is ticking--an incendiary bomb! The Doctor, still weak, faints as Susan and David try to disarm it. David, unable to prise open the casing, remembers he still has one of Dortmun's bombs. He opens it, spilling the acid out onto the device. The acid melts it and David is able to remove the timing device. David then decides that, as the Doctor is unfit to travel, they should leave him temporarily and try to scout a way out of London. Although Susan argues (loudly), David reasons that the Daleks, believing this area to be firebombed, will not search it. The Doctor should be perfectly safe until they return for him. Susan finally agrees. At the Transport Museum, Barbara and Jenny are trying to get an old lorry on the first floor into shape to take on the road. Thankfully, most of the old (200 years old) vehicles have been kept in working order. Jenny asks Barbara if she knows the way to Bedfordshire and she replies that she used to, adding quickly that she doesn't know what the Daleks have done to the country. At the mines, Ian and Larry watch in horror as Robomen drive humans who are pulling a cart on rails. The two turn to get under cover, but run into a man named Wells, who asks if they are escaped workers. When a Roboman arrives, he covers for them, saying that they're from a work detail sent to help him carry equipment. The Roboman demands that Ian and Larry accompany it to stand in the Roboman selection line. As Ian and Larry move off, the Roboman clubs Wells savagely. The other two run back to help him, defying their captor; Ian tells the Roboman to "get new orders" and the two men help Wells into a shed. Outside, the Roboman's helmet lights as he requests and apparently receives new orders. It enters the shed, but Ian, hiding behind the door, clubs it unconscious. Wells suggests that the other two get out, as the Daleks always seem to know when a Roboman is killed. He can't leave as he is waiting for Ashton, a black marketeer, who is bringing food for the camp. Ian wants to meet Ashton, reasoning that the man might help him get back to London. Didn't you hear? Wells replies. London's been destroyed...Barbara and Jenny are almost ready to go. Jenny is still angry about Dortmun's death, believing he threw his life away for nothing. She decries the idea of death for an ideal with no real effect, considering it senseless. Barbara reminds her that if he hadn't made the Daleks believe he was alone, they'd all be dead. She then cuts the argument off and goes to start the lorry, which catches after a few tries. Jenny opens the front doors and the two move out. David and Susan move into the sewers, still looking for a way out of London. Susan reasons that the Daleks can't come down here, but she finds a bullet shell casing, making her wonder about the Robomen. David tells her that there are other people, scavengers who only care about suriving. The casing probably came from one of them. He checks his gun and finds he has only four bullets left, and no spares. The two turn to move down the tunnel, only to be confronted by a figure holding a gun on them! On the road, Jenny and Barbara are nervous that a passing Dalek has reported them. Seeing a cordon of Daleks in front of them, Barbara decides to simply drive right through them, destroying at least one Dalek! However, a report has been issued to Dalek saucer Alpha Major, who locates the lorry and moves to attack it. Barbara and Jenny leap out of the lorry just in time as the saucer opens fire and destroys it! Back in the sewers, Susan and David are delighted to discover the man holding the gun on them is Tyler! He almost shot them, thinking them scavengers, remarking that there are other dangers down here. During the plague, animals escaped from the zoos and alligators bred in the sewers. They decide to return for the Doctor, Tyler leading, then Susan, with David bringing up the rear. Susan and David talk about what might happen if the Daleks are beaten. Susan is taken with the idea of rebuilding a whole world from the ground up. David says that she would be welcome if she wanted to help...Before they can talk any further, Tyler beckons to them to follow him. Barbara and Jenny, walking, decide they are on the road to St. Albans. Jenny asks Barbara, with some hostility, what she'll do if they get to Bedfordshire and Barbara's friends aren't there. Barbara replies she'll deal with that if it happens. She says Jenny is free to go her own way if she wants, but Jenny decides to stay with her. That night, Ian and Larry sneak around the camp. They hear a roaring and dodge into the shed...only to find a man pointing a gun at them. He confirms that he is Ashton, the black marketeer, and tells them to get out. Ian stands his ground, asking to be guided back to London, but Ashton sneers and asks for payment. Ian says he has no gold, silver or anything else precious and Ashton sneers again. Wells arrives with some jewelery to exchange for cans of food. Hearing another roar, Larry asks what is making that noise. Wells calls it a "pet" of the Black Dalek, something called a Slyther. At night, it roams the camp, searching for food--people! In the sewer, Susan and David have lost sight of Tyler. Making a guess, they climb up a ladder, entering another junction. Susan then comes to another ladder and decides to try climbing down. But the ladder breaks off, hanging there. Susan isn't falling, but can't make it back up to the sewer junction. In the water below her, an alligator has been attracted by the noise and waits for the girl to fall! She calls to David, but Tyler, who had gone up the ladder and through a manhole, gets to her first, firing at the alligator, grabbing the ladder and pulling the it back to the wall. He leads them onward, saying he has found the Doctor and they should move quickly. Back in the shed, Ian and Larry eat some food from Wells' store, which Larry pays for with a couple of rings. Ashton teases Wells, not understanding why the other man won't leave with him. Ashton simply doesn't understand that Wells is trying to help everyone in the camp, not just himself. Suddenly, the men hear the roar of the Slyther outside. They relax, but are shocked when its claw appears behind Ashton, grabbing him! The other three run from the shed, Wells going one way and Ian and Larry another. The thing follows the latter two, who run until they discover they are on the edge of a cliff! And the Slyther, roaring, comes closer....

Well. That was...certainly an episode of Doctor Who, wasn't it? In our discussion afterwards, I called it "an average episode in an above average story." Schmallturm countered that it was "a below average episode in an above average story," and I don't know that I can really disagree. It's not that the episode was bad (the scene with Susan and the stock footage crocodile alligator notwithstanding), it's just that it felt very light, especially compared to the previous three. Those episodes, as we've discussed previously, gave us both heroism and despair and really, really great characters. This episode introduced a monster and let our friends kind of advance, somewhat. (Though Ian and Larry don't do much and David and Susan don't really get anywhere.) The closest we get to our theme of the destruction of society is a vague mention of scavengers, Susan and David's rebuilding discussion (foreshadowing, perhaps?) and, probably most obviously, the character of Ashton. Yes, he is the unscrupulous black marketeer who is disdainful of the "milk of human kindness," but it's a bit too obvious, isn't it? And he's a dead end character, given his apparent death, which means he's a narrative device and not a character at all. Disappointing.

Barbara and Jenny are the obvious highlight of the whole thing, from their discussion of Dortmun's death, to their joy at running over a bunch of Daleks with a lorry, to their final scene with Jenny agreeing to stick with Barbara. It's really the relationship and contrast between these two women, Barbara believing it's possible to win through vs. Jenny's cynicism and despair, that makes this episode more than completely disposable. I'd go so far as to say that Jenny's character arc (she's obviously allowing herself to hope by the end of this week) is a highlight of this entire story.

As for the effects...Ketina has a serious problem, apparently, with the Dalek saucers, but I don't. She calls them pie tins, but I think the model is better than that. Sure, it's not all kinds of intricate model work, but it fits in perfectly with the ethos of "flying saucer" of the time. Also, for me, the design makes sense for Daleks--flat floors, one level, etc. I don't know, it works fine for me. The lorry model explosion was...well, it was certainly a model, but at least it seemed a good match for the full sized lorry and looked all right.

The only other real "effect" (actually a costume, I suppose) for this episode was the Slyther itself. Yes, it is clearly a man in a suit. But it's a very creepy, well-realized suit. The thing is monstrous, with its bulk blank of features and its dangerous looking claws. One has to wonder how the Black Dalek bred the thing...and from what...I think it's certainly effective as a danger and a decent cliffhanger-bringer. (Speaking of which, what was with all the false cliffhangers? Confronted by a man with a gun! The Daleks explode the lorry! Susan hangs over a...uh, deadly alligator! etc. It's as if Terry Nation wasn't sure exactly where the episode would end...)

And then there's the stock footage. I joked, "Hey, Doctor Who is shooting at a working quarry and they can actually show it as a working quarry!" And, as Ronelyn mentioned, yes, there was a bit too much of the "watching the dirty, overworked humans dragging the cart" footage. Yes, they're oppressed, it's horrible, we get it! I know the episode underran a bit (even with all that footage, it didn't make it to 24 minutes), but still.

All of the above being said, though, we're still having a good time with this story. One so-so episode does not overpower the three really wonderful episodes before it, and we have hopes for the next two. I can't wait!

Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

Okay, this was a mediocre episode in what has, so far, been a really good story. They didn't seem to do well in the "getting from point A to point B" episodes in these early Doctor Who stories, did they?

I've got to dig for the good bits here... let's see,
- I liked the parts with Barbara and Jenny. Loved the part when then run over the Dalek with the truck! Awesome!
Okay, I'm having a really hard time thinking of anything else I actually liked. Tolerated, sure. So, I guess then..
- It was better than "the Ordeal", which still ranks as worst individual Doctor Who episode so far.

- Barbara and Jenny getting chased by a pie plate from space. Evil Dalek pie plate! Woo!!!
- Dangling Susan on the ladder and the attack of the baby alligator! No, crocodile. Whatever.
- Disarming the Styrofoam bomb.
- Okay, the Slyther thing wasn't too silly, but the way it broke into the tool shed was random. I thought the black market smuggler guy was going to be a plot point, not food.

- Stock footage.
- Susan's hair. Nice butt shot as she climbed down the shaky ladder though. ;)

Okay, so the episode really wasn't as bad as I make it sound here. I mean, I didn't fall asleep or anything (although I suspect that I might have when I watched this as a kid because I don't remember any of it). Stuff happened. It just wasn't stuff that pushed the plot forward.

I'm out of ideas here, so here's some comments from Ronelyn:
- Daleks making clockwork bombs. WTF? Integrated circuits not good enough for you, eh?
- I know how we can get open this unstable incendiary device! By burning it open with the acid accelerant from a different bomb!
- From the length of time they lingered on the location shot of the slave wagon heading into the train tunnel, they must have blown their entire budget on the scene.
- And finally, the end of this season of "Life on Mars" as certainly taken an unexpected turn. (okay, that only makes sense if you actually watched the series finale of the British version of "Life on Mars", but trust me that comment was funny.)

Until next time, in two weeks! (Happy Thanksgiving folks! And, for those of you not in the US, happy end of November. Or something.)


Friday, November 13, 2009

"Day of Reckoning"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and the returning Schmallturm! We hope you enjoyed last week's little experiment, but we're back to the normal format this time. (Like the other one better? Let us know!) And now, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 5 December 1964. As the rebels board the Dalek saucer, the Doctor is prepared to be robotized! Back in the hideout, Dortmun sits, listening to the sounds of the attack, worrying. Tyler, leading the rebels, finds the Doctor. Defeating the Roboman guarding him, Tyler attempts to revive the unconscious Doctor as his men release the remaining prisoners. Outside, Susan, Barbara and Jenny are hiding in the shadows. David joins them and Susan lets slip that Ian and the Doctor were in the saucer. As David moves to help survivors, Barbara follows. Before Susan can join them, Jenny pulls her away, telling her to flee. Dortmun's bombs do nothing against the Daleks but throw up a smoke screen. The fleeing rebels and prisoners try to use the smoke as a cover, attacking the Daleks as they can, but trying, for the most part, to get away. Tyler carries the Doctor off the ship. Ian also moves down the ramp, spotting Barbara through the smoke. Their reunion is short as a Dalek appears; Barbara retreats into the shadows while Ian dodges back up the ramp and into the saucer. The Black Dalek orders no prisoners taken; rebels are to be pursued and killed. Ian hears this order, hiding beneath a metal plate in the floor. Back at the hideout, Barbara aqnd Jenny are recovering and Dortmun sits, silently waiting for more survivors. Tyler arrives, wounded, and tells Dortmun his bombs were useless and many of the rebels died because of Dortmun's frontal assault. The scientist still contends he can build a bomb to destroy their enemies, but Tyler (understandably) asks him who will be left to throw it? He announces he is going north to join up with other resistance groups. Barbara asks after Ian and the Doctor; Tyler knows nothing of Ian and tells her he and the Doctor had become separated in the confusion. He doesn't know where either of them are. After Tyler leaves, Jenny suggests also going, but Dortmun refuses to leave London. He must work on his bombs until they are effective. Barbara, too, does not want to leave without word of her friends. Dortmun suggests they go to the rebels' other hideout in the London Transport Museum. There are facilities for his work there and it's possible other survivors will gather. But the museum is also across the city, a city crawling with Daleks! Having no real choice, the three agree to journey there. Meanwhile, on the saucer, the Daleks have determined to firebomb London. Robomen will place the bombs while the saucer flies to the mineworks in Bedfordshire. Hearing no sound above him, Ian cautiously emerges from the floorplate. He isn't up a minute when two men come around the corner and confront him. One of them is Craddock, but he is now a Roboman! Craddock, no longer knowing his former cellmate, declares that both Ian and his prisoner will be robotized! Ian and the new man wrestle Craddock to the ground, tearing off his helmet. The short circuited Roboman falls against some equipment and dies. The prisoner introduces himself as Larry Madison. He is searching for his brother, who had been taken to the mineworks. They throw Craddock down a disposal chute and hide below the floor, just as an alarm sounds. David and Susan, having found each other in the confusion, hide. They hear sounds of fleeing rebels pleading for life and being killed by the relentless Daleks. Susan wishes she could simply return to the TARDIS and leave this horrible place, but David says he wouldn't leave even if he could. Susan, on impulse, offers to convince her grandfather to take David with them, but the young man refuses. This is his planet, his time. He must stay. Susan replies that she's never felt she belonged in any time or place, she just keeps travelling. David tells her she will belong somewhere, someday. They look meaningfully at each other when suddenly a rebel appears, carrying an unconscious Doctor with him! The man, Baker, tells David he is making his way to the Cornish coast and they part...only for Baker to run right into a Dalek patrol and be gunned down. Barbara and Jenny push Dortmun's wheelchair through London, running and hiding from Dalek patrols. They barely make it to the museum. Once there, they find it deserted and covered with rebel code banners (saying "VETOED") implying any survivors that had gathered here had left for the South Coast. Barbara wishes the Doctor were there to help Dortmun with the bomb; to her surprise, he says he wishes the Doctor were there too. Another man of science to look over his notes would be invaluable. He explains to Barbara that the purpose of the bombs are to pierce the Daleks' outer hull, which is made of a superhard metal that he has nicknamed "Dalekanium." Barbara thinks the Doctor would be heading towards the mine in Bedford to investigate, but Jenny snaps that her friend is probably dead. "What's so special about this Doctor?" she asks and leaves to guard one of the entrances. Dortmun apologizes for Jenny, saying she isn't really as hard as she seems, and then announces his bomb is finished. He tries to give Barbara his notes, so the Doctor will see them, but she refuses, saying Dortmun and the Doctor can go over them together. He reluctantly agrees, telling Barbara to go and get Jenny and they will leave for Bedfordshire at once. Once Barbara leaves, however, Dortmun places his notes on an empty teacup, picks up one of his bombs and wheels out. When Barbara and Jenny return and find the notes, they realize what he has gone to do and run to stop him. But they are too late. Outside, Dortmun calls to and confronts a group of Daleks. Painfully getting up from his chair, he heaves his bomb at them, just as they gun him down. Though there is an explosion, the Daleks appear to be completely unharmed; Dortmun is not so lucky. Jenny and Barbara, helpless, hide as a Dalek searches the museum. Meanwhile, the Doctor is recovering from his ordeal. The feeling in his legs has returned. While David is off scouting the area, Susan tells the Doctor of his plans to go north to join up with the resistance near Bedfordshire. The Doctor says that the two of them should return to the TARDIS instead. When Susan disagrees, saying that even if they could get back to where the ship is, they'd need help to move the debris, he angrily asks her if she is questioning his authority, which she denies. But she does insist that they should pay attention to David; it is, after all, his time and place! The Doctor, no fool, sees that his granddaughter is very interested in what her new friend thinks. When David returns from scouting, instead of announcing a plan, he asks for the Doctor's advice, as the most senior member of the party. The Doctor replies that he believes, after careful consideration, that they should journey north to Bedfordshire and look for more survivors, but insists that the decision shold be David's. After all, this is his time! Susan is delighted. Ian and Larry, still hiding, talk about their options. Larry believes that if they can find out what the Daleks are digging for, it might help the humans figure out a way to defeat the monsters. His brother thought the Daleks' objective was to mine out the metallic core of Earth. Ian is skeptical. The saucer lands, and Ian and Larry cautiously emerge from hiding. They decide to escape from the saucer through the disposal chute they had previously used to get rid of Craddock's body. Back in London, the Doctor, Susan and David continue to recover, but hear movement. Hiding, they see a Roboman place a device a few feet away from them. The device appears to be ticking....

Whew! Some of these summaries seem to take more effort than others, and this was definitely one of those. Anyway, once again, we all had a great time watching this episode. There were a few quibbly points, especially for Ketina (see below), but on the whole this continues the very strong story established in the first two weeks.

And what a bleak story it is! I know I talked last week about how just plan dark and disturbing some aspects of this story have been, and that was only confirmed this week. The world that our friends have found themselves in, so familiar (perhaps a little too familiar, given 200 years have passed for Ian and Barbara) and yet so horrible. Things look more and more hopeless in this episode; everything the rebels do, from the initial attack all the way to Dortmun's suicide run, are almost completely useless (except for the freeing of the Doctor and Ian, but even that is more to our benefit at this point than the rebels'.) Dortmun's bombs are an excellent symbol of this impotence in the face of the conquerors--no matter how destructive he makes them, no matter how much effort he puts into them, they do no damage to the Daleks at all.

And the Daleks themselves have gone from being the rather nasty surviving baddies attacking another surviving group of the first story to something honestly terrifying. They are murderous, they are relentless. They will kill thousands without a thought if it advances their agenda. They will take their enemies, rip out their minds and souls, and use them as footsoldiers. Most importantly for the impact of this story, the Daleks are not doing this to Thals on some distant planet. They are in Trafalger Square, they are in Westminster--the horror has come to us. And that's why Barbara, Jenny and Dortmun's flight through London went on so long; true, it gave the team a chance to have a lot of great location shooting, but it also emphasized the Daleks' control. (And seeing all those normally busy streets completely deserted was disturbing in and of itself!) There's no question, as good as the first one was, that it is this story that cemented the Daleks as the true, heartless, frighteningly horrible villains that they are.

And then there's the almost incidental robotization of Craddock--horrifying in and of itself. This was someone Ian knew, someone he had talked to, and suddenly Craddock had become not a man, but a thing, attacking his former friends, because there is no longer any "him" left. Tell me that's not disturbing!

But, though this episode seems a bit relentlessly grim, there are some lovely moments. Susan and David have obvious chemistry; Carole Ann Ford is wonderful here, as is Peter Fraser. And the scene between Susan and the Doctor, where he realizes that she might have real feelings for this young man, is nice and subtle. Do you think they're laying the seeds for some development later in the story there? Barbara is as solid and caring as ever, worrying about her friends and refusing to desert them, throwing herself into the effort to help Dortmun and free Earth. Jenny is a really interesting character, the "appears to be hard as nails to mask her pain," and yet it works, thanks to Nation's writing and Ann Davies performance. Dortmun is great; he is absolutely obsessed with his bombs, but is also wracked with guilt at his inability to directly fight the metal monsters. His suicide, done both to test his bomb and to make sure the women could escape without being slowed down by his wheelchair, is the payoff to last episode's confrontation with Tyler, and it works fabulously well. Ian, meanwhile, doesn't have a lot to do this week, other than hide and meet a new friend, Larry. Still he comes off well.

Basically, I remain impressed and a bit shocked that this was children's teatime entertainment in December 1964. I think something this grim would certainly be post-watershed today!

I'll leave you with Schmallturm's observation that of course the first thing Barbara does in the museum is make a cup of tea for everyone! The Daleks can conquer the land, but a good, bracing cup of tea is always a help, isn't it?

See you next week! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

So, after our discussion (which I'm not transcribing this week), I've concluded that overall I really liked the story, plot, and acting of this episode, but it was full of many technical problems.
- I counted 5 line mistakes
- Explosions didn't match the audio on several occasions
- One Dalek walked right into a wall
- Running around London went a bit long, with speeding Daleks and a bit too many drums (very "Planet of the Apes" like sound track).
- And finally, during the scene where Ian and Larry (seriously, Historian, his name was Larry?) are climbing out of their hiding place on the Dalek ship, the camera pulls back showing the cutout side of the set. My fellow TARDIS project companions insisted this was intentional, rather like one would see a set in stage play. I say, however, that this is a television show, not a stage play. Don't break the fourth wall like this for me!

Okay, enough bitching. So, what was good about this story?
- Well, starting at the beginning, we get a great fight scene with the Daleks. Now I we get to see a Dalek shoot someone in the back when they try to run away! I loved the bit where two guys actually push over a Dalek, only to have one of them crushed by it then shot. See kids, don't mess with these monsters!
- While the scene with Barbara, Dortmun, and Jenny ran very long (at least 5 minutes of the 25 minute episode), there was some fantastic shots of famous London landmarks being overrun by Daleks. Trafalger square, Daleks, and pigeons. What more could you ask for, really? I'm sure the Historian will have more to say about this.
- The death, horror, and hopelessness of the situation was brutal and very effective. This story makes Daleks really scary. There was nowhere to run or hide and nowhere is safe.
- I liked the bits with Susan, David, and later the Doctor. David's concern for her was sweet. And (for once) Susan did not, in any way, annoy me. I loved the scene when the Doctor is all "don't question my authority" to Susan when she suggests he should listen to David, and then later changes his mind about David and is all "well, you're from here, so you should know best." Flashing back to the last Dalek story, David reminds me somewhat of the Thal character Alydon, just replace Barbara with Susan.

So, overall, lots of action (minus a five minute tour of London), explosions, a bit of romance, and a cool plot. This story is lots of fun.

But, what was up with all the VETOED signs on everything? Jenny said they were an indication that the rebels had been there (or was it that the Daleks had been there so it was no longer safe for the rebels? I wasn't entirely clear on that point), but why VETOED? Vote overruled, Daleks have been here... huh?

Anyway, that's all from me this week.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

"The Daleks"

Hello everyone, the Historian here. My apologies about this week's episode being a little late, but Ketina, Ronelyn and I are back with this second episode of the return of the Daleks!

Episode summary: First aired 28 November 1964. The Doctor and Ian turn away from the Robomen only to find a Dalek emerging from the water and gliding towards them! The Dalek angrily asks the Robomen how the humans had gotten so close to the river. The men reply in a Dalek-like monotone that the patrol for the sector has disappeared. The Doctor, partially recovering from his astonishment, determines to pit his mind against the Dalek. He defiantly assures the creature that they will be defeated, but the Dalek angrily dismisses this, saying that the Daleks are the masters of Earth! It orders the Robomen to take the prisoners to the Dalek saucer. Meanwhile, Susan and Barbara are at the secret headquarters of the resistance group led by Dortmun and Tyler. They listen to a radio broadcast by the Daleks, ordering all rebels to surrender. One of the rebels, Jenny, tends Susan's foot and assigns Barbara to get food. Susan, too, will have to work, hurt ankle or no. In another room, Dortmun and Tyler debate the former's attack plan. Dortmun produces his new bomb and says the attack should happen at once, but Tyler thinks it would be a suicide mission. They just don't have the manpower. David returns from looking for the Doctor and Ian, having seen them captured by the Robomen. He reports this to his superiors and Dortmun bemoans the loss of two extra men. David reports that he believes the prisoners were taken to the Dalek saucer at the Chelsea heliport. Outside the saucer, Ian asks the Doctor how this could be--surely they'd seen the Daleks destroyed back on Skaro? The Doctor answers that those events happened far in the future at the end of the creatures' history; this "present" must be closer to the middle. Ian accepts this and notices that the Daleks are different; they have a small dish-like device on their backs that must allow them to travel on non-metal terrain. An invasion force, muses the Doctor, must adapt to the place they are invading. Just then two more prisoners, one of whom has killed a Roboman, arrive. The Daleks order all four to be taken on board the saucer, but the younger of the new arrivals, declaring he'll never return to the mines, attempts to escape. Ian holds the older man back, saying there's nothing that can be done and, sure enough, the Daleks kill the young man. The rest of the prisoners are escorted onto the saucer. David tells Susan about the capture of her friends, but asks her not to tell Barbara. They'll attack the saucer soon and, with all luck, Ian and the Doctor will be freed, so it's best not to let Barbara worry. Jenny brings over two Robomen helmets and she and David explain to Susan and Barbara that the Daleks, needing a larger security force (there aren't that many of them on the planet), take some of their prisoners and operate on them. The prisoners are turned into robotic men, under the control of the Daleks for a time. Eventually, the control breaks down and the Robomen go insane, killing themselves. Jenny adds that her brother was one of the early ones to be converted, which explains her hard attitude. Barbara remembers the body in the water. Susan, on hearing that the conversions take place in the saucer, silently worries about her friends. Inside the saucer, the Doctor admires the ship's construction. The older prisoner replies that it's escape-proof, but the Doctor they are taken to a cell, the Doctor tries to nonchalantly wander off, but is stopped immediately and put into the cell with the others. The Daleks watch all of this via a camera. The Doctor talked of resistance and is obviously more intelligent than average. The Daleks decide to give him "the test." In the cell, Ian and the Doctor discuss escape, but the third prisoner, Jack Craddock, is fatalistic, angering the Doctor. Ian asks Craddock how this happened, how did the Daleks conquer? He tells them that ten years ago, large numbers of meteorites began to fall from the sky and a strange plague broke out, sweeping over most of the world. This explains the signs against body dumping that the TARDIS crew had seen by the river! Craddock says the entire populations of South America, Asia and Africa were wiped out by the plague, but a cure was finally found. Meanwhile, David is telling the same story to Susan and Barbara. The Daleks, having weakened the Earth with plague, swooped in to conquer. Asked why the Daleks had come, neither man can tell either group for sure. Many men were rounded up to be Robomen, but the Dalek's ultimate objective (as far as someone living in Britain knows, anyway) is to take most human labor and use them as mine workers in a giant works in Bedfordshire. What the Daleks want under the Earth, Craddock tells Ian and the Doctor, no one knows. Well, says the Doctor, no time to worry about that. Their first goal must be to escape! In the hideout, the rebels listen to another broadcast. The Daleks claim that this is their final call for surrender, otherwise all of London will be destroyed. Dortmun chooses this moment to announce that the rebels will attack the saucer and brings out his new bomb which he says can destroy Dalek casings. The rebels cheer, but there are questions as to how anyone could get close enough to use the bombs. Barbara suggests using the captured Robomen helmets as disguises; a few rebels will wear them and bring their "prisoners" to the ship, getting them close enough to attack. Others will also attack from surrounding buildings. The attack is set to begin in one hour. Back in the saucer, the Doctor and Ian have discovered a small metal bar on the wall. They then find a glass box with what appears to be an identical metal bar trapped inside. The Doctor, after a small experiment, realizes the bars are both magnetic and he and Ian reason it out that they could be used to open the door. But the second bar is trapped in the box. Craddock had found a magnifying glass on the floor earlier and the Doctor, noticing a powerful light at just the right angle, uses the magnifying glass to focus the beam. Ian stands at one end of the box with the free magnet and the Doctor angles the beam so it melts that end. The trapped magnet breaks free of the box and clunks onto Ian's magnet. Realizing everything is powered by static electricity (the Daleks' main power source in their last encounter), the Doctor and Ian use the magnets to set up a magnetic field that forces the door to slide open. Triumphant, the three prisoners exit the cell--only to run straight into a force of Daleks and Robomen. The Doctor has passed "the test," and the Daleks take him away, forcing the other two back into the cell. A Dalek commands that the Doctor be taken to be robotized. Meanwhile, outside the attack begins! Susan, Barbara and David get ready to throw their bombs from cover, while Tyler (as a "Roboman") leads his "prisoners" towards the saucer's entrance. Things go wrong immediately when they are accosted by a Dalek and Tyler says he is from "sector 4," but there is no patrol in sector 4! David and the women throw their bombs and the attack begins! Meanwhile, the Doctor is forced down onto a table and anesthetized. As the attack outside begins, the Robomen are called away to defend, but a Dalek directs the one operating the equipment above the Doctor to continue. As the saucer rocks, the Doctor lies still as the operation is about to begin....

This week is a bit strange for the Project crew, both because of the necessity of moving things to Sunday and because we had to break our normal watching/blogging format. Instead of watching the episode, spending about twenty minutes or so discussing and then heading off to blog, we had an interruption (not an unhappy one, I hasten to add) immediately after watching this week's episode. This has meant we were unable to discuss and write while things were fresh in our minds. Because of this, we're going with a slightly different format. This week's review will be a bit of a realtime transcription of our discussion, thanks to Ketina's fancy typing fingers! [Please note: this is not verbatim! She's not that fast! But we all agreed that the paraphrasing basically got our points across.]


H: First of all, this was a great episode. We all agree on that.

R: Not quite as great as the first one, but it was still very good.

K: Yeah, it was fun.

H: I think it continued the building of the menace. Craddock's fatalism helped build the tension. The idea that humanity is in little pockets, and can't communicate with each other built if further. When Africa went silent on the radio added a heavy feel to things.

H: The two groups being told the same story back and forth was very good story telling especially for the time in television.

R: I liked it too. That was impressive.

K: *nods*

H: The ship was consistent with the Dalek designs on Skaro. That was nice.

K: However, Daleks looked like the needed to pee. They constantly moved back and forth.

R: Well, that partially indicated who was talking.

H: Yeah, but even the ones not talking did it. I think it might have been a directorial decision relating to the dishes on their backs. But that's just a guess.

K: I still think they looked like they needed to pee.

H: And that's perfectly valid.

*laughter all around*

H: Pretty much all the bits on the space ship were really great. I love the part where The Doctor tries to sneak off. It was very subtle.

R: I liked the Daleks response. "WHAT DO YOU THINK WE ARE? SOME KIND OF PUTZES?"

K: Hard to type... too funny.


*further giggling*

H: The Doctor and Ian's reactions to Kradoc, and the Doctor is saying "We've dealt with them before. We're going to escape." William Hartnell is just the best.

R: But then there was "We'll match our wits with them. We'll come out on top!" and the Dalek was like "I'M RIGHT HERE!"

K: Okay, we have to interject with super silly moment here. The younger guy who tries to run off while the Doctor, Ian, and other prisoners are being marched into the ship.

R: Guy tries to make a break. Other guys tries to help him. Ian says "You can't help him." And the escaping guy says "Help me!!"

H: The scene itself was nice and effective.

R: Yeah, the scene was fine, just the dialog was bad.

K: I disagree, I did not like the scene. So this guy is trying to run away, there is still room to run between the Daleks. And he just stands there for a good 15 seconds waiting for them to get shoot him.

H: He panicked. He was too scared to run. The Daleks could just swivel and shoot him.

R: We're arguing small unit tactics here. He was going to die in either case.

K: Yeah, but I wanted to see him gunned down in the back, man.

H: Riiight. Well, back inside the saucer. There were some good things in the cell, and some less good things in the cell. The dialog was fantastic, even the technobabble was awesome.

R: Except for the "something or other the light beams, to static electriciy something the something yadda yadda."

K: I agree with Ronelyn here.

H: First of all, I'm must say that I'm not a scientist, I'm a historian. But they did (sort of) explain this in the scene. I'm sure they took some liberties with the science. Here's how it worked. They had one metal bar that was a magnet. They find a glass or plastic case with another metal bar in it. They run the first bar over the case, determining the second was magnet. The Doctor notices above the case is a high intensity light. Kradoc has picked up a magnifying glass. Okay. So, here's what we know -- they can move the magnet in the case, but the case is too strong to get the magnet out. The Doctor stations Ian with the magnet they have at one end of the box. Then he takes the magnifying glass and directs the beam of high intensity light to melt part of the box, to weaken it enough to enable the magnet to break through.
Then they took the two magnets to setup a magnet field around the static electricity holding the door sealed to open the door.
None of this was the silly part.

R & K: Okay...

H: The silly part, was Craddock saying "hey, I found a magnifying glass on the floor." and the Doctor didn't think that anything was amiss. Even if this is some kind of device for the Daleks to leave the room, they couldn't hold the magnifying glass! This had to be some kind of a trick.
Nevertheless, the Doctor is still wonderful, with responses to lines like "You're a genius." with "Yes I know, there's very few of us left."

R: Don't forget that when the Doctor thinks he's smarter than someone he becomes overconfident and doesn't think they can trick him.

H: And that explains why he fell for the trap. A surprising intelligent bit of scripting by Terry Nation. And I use the word surprisingly intentionally.

K: Okay, that was a lot of typing. So, no screaming this week.

H: There was a yelp!

K: Oh yeah, there was, wasn't there. God I dislike Susan.
Okay, answer me this. Why was Susan, with injury, part of the plan to attack the ship?

H: Because from inside the neighboring building she was capable of throwing a bomb. Anyone can throw a bomb. I get the feeling we'll see more of the attack next week. We didn't really see the impact of the attack. But what we did see was very confusing.

K: Was that a Roboman or a rebel disguised as a Roboman who got hit?

H: It's still not entirely clear.
I thought it was funny that Tyler was made immediately (made as in they caught him).

R: "What's your operating number?"

H: But it does speak to how desperate the Rebels were, with such a rough plan. And it led to what was honestly, I thought, a really scary and disturbing cliffhanger. Over the last year the Doctor has gone from mysterious and dangerous old man to grandfather -- super granpa. A caring and wonderful, very intelligent and funny guy. And have it all taken away for him to become an agent of the villains.

K: I'm pretty sure they're going to rescue him before he turns into a robot dude.

H: But the cliffhanger is creepy. Surprisingly dark for children's television.

R: Nine year olds would be really freaked out.

K: Six year olds maybe.

H: The whole concept of the robomen, from beginning to end, is really creepy for children's television. They have their intellects taken away, become servents of the Daleks, until they inevitably break down, go crazy, and kill themselves in incredibly destructive ways.

R: Banging their head against the walls.

H: Brilliant and dramatic, but disturbing.

R: Impressive drama, creepy kids TV.

K: Anything else?

H: I thought the acting was generally great. Jenny's story was good. The conversation between Dortmun and Tyler was strong. And we haven't even talked yet about the invasion itself. Classic early 50's / 60's science fiction. "Invaders from outer space." They send the rocks with the plague to decimate the population, absolutely classic.

R: First they send the rocks, then they send the bugs, then they send the BEMs.

H: All told a classic episode. I can't wait until next week.

K & R: *nod nod*

The Historian back again. We hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse behind the scenes of the TARDIS Project. I know the format was a bit...different. (If nothing else, it got Ronelyn to directly participate a bit more!) Next week we'll probably revert to the old version, but what do you think? Should we lift the veil and uncover the mind of the Project more often? Or would you rather we, you know, didn't?

Until next week, I remain



Friday, November 6, 2009

Next episode posponed to Sunday

Look for our post for the episode "The Daleks" on Sunday evening. Sorry for the delay!