Saturday, December 25, 2010

"...We so rarely get a chance to celebrate, but this time, we must!"



Happy Holidays from everyone at the TARDIS Project! Here's to a great 2011 for all of you and yours!

(And yes, we'll be getting to this episode soon enough...wonder what I'll find to post next year...!)

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, December 17, 2010

"The Nightmare Begins"

Hello everyone, the Historian here. Before we begin, an important scheduling note: because of the holidays, the TARDIS Project will be taking the next two weeks off. We will return with our next episode on 7 January. Now that the housekeeping's out of the way, I was joined tonight by Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, Photobug and Cz for this first episode of a new story. I don't want to say too much, but I, for one, am pretty excited to finally see this one! Let's get to the summary!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"The Myth Makers" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here with a wrapup of the Doctor and company's adventure amongst the Achaeans and the folk of Ilium, across the wine dark sea and the wind-swept plain.....Ahem. Sorry about that. As anyone familiar with this story knows, it is considerably less lyrical than the poetry of Homer. Famously, this first story officially under the John Wiles/Donald Tosh regime was intended as a comedic departure. While the earlier "The Romans" had elements of high humor, this script (by veteran BBC Radio comedy writer Donald Cotton) takes both comedy and sophisticated dialogue to a level not seen previously. I made a joking reference to "The Navy Lark", but it's actually a decent comparison. (By the way, Doctor Who fans interested in Jon Pertwee's career before taking on the role of the Doctor might want to check TNL out. It's a lot of fun.) The interplay--especially between Agamemnon and Menelaus or Priam and Paris--has the same kind of wit adult viewers would hear on the contemporary BBC2 Radio Light Entertainment programs. I suppose there might have been a chance that the funny dialogue scenes might lose younger viewers, but this seems an obvious attempt by the new(ish) production team to try broadening the show's appeal. Although most people think it was more a miscalculation than a success, "The Myth Makers" is certainly an interesting and fun experiment, not to mention a bit of a preview of things to come.

There has been some criticism of the turn from the comedy of the first three episodes to the terror of the fourth, but it worked for me and the rest of the Project team; the change accentuates the tragedy and destruction. Thanks to the buildup, we really feel the deaths of Paris and Priam, because we liked them. In fact, I think the contrast between the comedy and the tragedy helps the story to work better, rather than the opposite.

Looking at the story in the context of the mythology (specifically what is known of the post-Homeric stories, the Odyssey and the Aeneid), there are definite oddities in the script. Both Achilles and Paris survive until the fall of Troy, for example, whereas both died prior to the coming of the Horse according to the versions of the story that has come down to us. (Paris actually killed Achilles through trickery, if I recall correctly.) On the other hand, right from the outset this story is about subverting both the story and our expectations: Achilles is seen as a coward by his fellows, and, indeed, we first see him running away from Hector. He only kills his foe by chance and the intervention of the Doctor's "temple." Far from being a bear-like figure, anxious to recover his wife, Menelaus is a timorous old man who'd rather be home. Paris and Priam, while less surprising, do make a fine double act. In fact, it is what I can only call the villains of the piece, the scenery chewing Cassandra and (far more tellingly) the complex, almost sociopathic Odysseus that fulfill expectations.

Let's step back a moment and take a look at the extraordinary character that is Odysseus. Opportunistic, quick witted, obviously highly intelligent, he is the Doctor's ally and nemesis all at once. He's certainly the most complex and interesting character in this story and the script treats him wonderfully. We loved that he listened to the Doctor and Steven's story and replied logically that no one would make up something that ridiculous, so it must be true. He also provides a wonderful foil for the Doctor in the third and fourth episode. By the end, we've almost come to like him...and then we see his savagery in the destruction of Troy, reminding us that he is not a good guy. We haven't seen a complex, ruthless villain like this in a very long time.

And then there's Troilus and "Cressida." Their story isn't any part of Greek myth; it's a medieval legend that Cotton fairly cunningly worked into the story...only to have it all screwed up by John Wiles' decision not to renew Maureen O'Brien's contract. The original romance has Cressida abandoning Troilus for Diomedes and Cotton's original idea was for "Cressida" (Vicki) to leave Troilus and disappear with "Diomede" (Steven) when the two left in the TARDIS. Would have made more sense, huh? On the other hand, it is nice to not see a betrayed Troilus killed by Achilles (as in Chaucer's version of the story), but rather a new beginning for Vicki, a character that had become dear to the Project team. If nothing else, it gives us the bit of a happy ending this story surely needed. And, if the growing romance between the two teenagers isn't quite as believable as that between David and Susan, it's still believable enough to be satisfying.

Then there's the introduction of our first companion from the past, Katarina, who believes she has died and is being transported to the afterlife by the Doctor. In fact, there was a scene in the script where she explicitly tells Vicki that the omens say she (Katarina) will die soon and Vicki sends her to the Doctor in an attempt to save her life. We'll see how she works out over the coming weeks, I suppose...

There are a lot of stories about the production of this serial, many of them centered around William Hartnell...and many of them very uncomplimentary. There's no question that Hartnell wasn't happy with the change in the production team--he had been very close to Verity Lambert and did not get along with John Wiles at all--or the cast. There are also stories about Hartnell being unhappy with how little he was in many of the scripts and how many great scenes were given over to the guest cast...and then there are the related, uncomfortable stories of Hartnell's antisemitic and homophobic remarks at the expense of Max ("Priam") Adrian. (The Brief History of Time (Travel) page has some information about this.) I want to stress that I've also read that these stories are not true. (It's worth noting, for example, that he had no problem working with Carole Ann Ford, who is Jewish.) Has anyone heard anything more definitive about this? Is it discussed in his granddaughter's biography? Please comment if you know anything!

Before I give you the individual episode links, here's the BBC episode guide for the story. And now, the links:

"Temple of Secrets"
"Small Prophet, Quick Return"
"Death of a Spy"
"Horse of Destruction"

On a final personal note, this is another one of those stories whose novelisation I remember buying and reading twenty-five years ago. I've wanted to see some version of this story since I read about it in one of Peter Haining's books even before then. And, thanks to the fans who recorded audio and what small video exists, and thanks to the great work of Loose Cannon Productions, I've finally been able to see it. I know I keep saying things like this, but one of the main impetuses behind starting the TARDIS Project was to see all these great stories and it continues to thrill me that I'm able to...and that, for the most part, they do not disappoint. Certainly, "The Myth Makers" didn't!

Up next--we begin one of the most fabled Doctor Who stories of all time! Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Horse of Destruction"

Hello everyone, the Historian here! We had a full house tonight for the last episode of our Trojan epic: Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MisterMother, Photobug, Cz and MiniSpoo! So, without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Friday, December 3, 2010

"Death of a Spy"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Photobug and a welcome return to Cz, who hasn't been part of the Project since "The Dead Planet" back in 2008! Today, refreshed from our turkey-induced comas, we return across the wine dark sea to the fair plains of Illium.....or something. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, November 19, 2010

"Small Prophet, Quick Return"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Spoo and Photobug (Schmallturm, alas, arrived too late to see the episode), with another episode of The Trojan Lark our Trojan War story. As always, we see this reconstruction thanks to the good work of Loose Cannon Productions. And, as with last week, there's no way I will ever convey the humor and enjoyment of the episode with a summary, no matter how detailed. As such, I'll include a link to an episode transcript afterwards. An important note: there will be no episode next week, due to the American Thanksgiving holiday. We'll be back on 3 December. But, for now, let's get to the summary!

Friday, November 12, 2010

"Temple of Secrets"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo, Photobug and an unfortunately ill Ketina. This week, we leave the planet Kembel and travel somewhere completely different, seeing where the Doctor, Steven and Vicki went instead, once again thanks to the work of Loose Cannon Productions. I will warn you that there's a lot of humor in this episode (and story) which I will not be able to convey...but still. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, November 5, 2010

"Mission to the Unknown"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, welcoming you to our special Bonfire Night post! Well, it's 5 November as I type this (though it may not be when I post this and almost certainly won't be when you read/listen), so that's good enough, yes? Anyway, since this episode of Doctor Who is a bit different, we decided to try doing something a bit different ourselves--welcome to our first podcast! I'm not completely certain how this post will look, but you should see a link to the audio file somewhere. Click and listen, or right-click/control-click (PC/Mac respectively), download and enjoy! And hey, if it doesn't work, tell us in the comments and maybe we'll be able to figure it out. Anyway, one thing didn't make it into the podcast, so let's get to the summary!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"Galaxy 4" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here. Doctor Who's third season (can you believe we've made it that far?) began with a story taking place in some other place than Galaxy 4, as I've been joking for a month now. And, as I said last week, I'd been waiting for somewhere between twenty-five and thirty years to see the Drahvins, the Chumblies and the Rills. And, thanks to Loose Cannon Productions, I've now seen something...that approximates the original story. Personally, I wasn't disappointed, but the same can't be said for most of the rest of the Project members. Admittedly, I was the only one who'd been exposed to the story in one form or another previous to watching, which might have helped--memories of the Target novelisation surely filled in some of the gaps that the recon was forced to leave out.

The story itself, while fairly simple, is solid: the beautiful, but treacherous Maaga vs. the hideous, but noble Rill, with the Chumblies as a bit of (somewhat silly) robot fun. So why did Spoo and Schmallturm dislike it so much? Well, it does move a bit slowly, thanks especially to almost no video or stills surviving. There are significant parts of the story where people are walking around or looking at things, all of which can only be conveyed by a still, sound and a running caption. Which, I hasten to say, isn't the fault of the reconstruction, which did a tremendous job with almost no material. I particularly loved the new Chumblies! Which brings up another problem some Project members had: they refused to take the Chumblies even semi-seriously. (See all the "Roomba" comments.) This, I think, is more of an "either it works for you or it doesn't." It worked for me, it obviously didn't for others.

All of that being said, it's hard for me to properly assess "Galaxy 4" while still being fair to other Project members. I do think this is a story that's easier to enjoy if you can try to approach it without being informed by forty years of, to quote Schmallturm, "preachy Star Trek episodes" and the like.

Even still, if you can get past what seems to be the obvious moral (although even that's questionable, given that the Drahvins weren't originally scripted as women), there's still a lot of meat here: questions about genetic engineering and free will, about militaristic exploitation vs. pure exploration...there's a lot more to read into this story than the obvious "you can't judge a book by its cover." On the other hand, the Chumblies are kind of silly and the story does move a bit more slowly than it has to. Then, of course, there's the fact that it was infamously written for the pre-"Time Meddler" TARDIS crew, with Steven having to fill in for Barbara and Ian's role split between the Doctor and Vicki, all of which made the story feel a bit off. (And, as others have pointed out, Steven is an astronaut from the future; how could he not know how an airlock works?) Apparently, this led to problems behind the scenes as well, with the cast members objecting to parts of the script. (I seem to remember Peter Purves in particular being unhappy with this story.) And, of course, this story began the battle between incoming producer John Wiles and an increasingly irascible William Hartnell. For more behind the scenes info see this story's "Brief History of Time (Travel)" page. And, while I'm at it, here's the official BBC episode guide.

All right, enough of my rambling. Here are the individual episode posts:

Four Hundred Dawns"
"Trap of Steel"
"Air Lock"
"The Exploding Planet"

Coming up next is an unusual episode, unique for the series. And, if things go right, our blog post covering it might be unique for the Project as well. No promises, but hopefully all will go well. Until then, I remain both mysterious and

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, October 29, 2010

"The Exploding Planet"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and Photobug, with the final episode in our adventure that does not take place in Galaxy 4. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Air Lock"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and welcoming SpookyGirl to the third episode of our story not actually set in Galaxy 4. Again, I'll plug Loose Cannon Productions, who made the reconstruction we're watching. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Trap of Steel"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and Photobug. This week, we have another reconstructed episode thanks to the fine folks at Loose Cannon Productions. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, October 8, 2010

"Four Hundred Dawns"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, welcoming everyone to Season Three of Doctor Who! With me are Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MisterMother and Photobug. With this episode, we enter a long string of reconstructions, all made by Loose Cannon Productions (plug plug). From the feedback we received to our survey (thanks again, Jon and Robin), it seems people want me to do full synopses for recon episodes, rather than simply linking to a transcript, soooooo let's get to the summary!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Special Post: "Dr. Who and the Daleks"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with a TARDIS Project Special Post! To celebrate reaching the end of Season Two, we've decided to watch the first Aaru film, which was released in late summer of 1965, right around the point where we are in the Project. I'm pretty sure that, although some of us had heard of this (in)famous Peter Cushing classic, none of us ("us" being myself, Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and Photobug) had actually seen it. So, not knowing quite what to expect, we settled down in front of the TV to watch...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Season Two Wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here. It's time to celebrate finishing the first third of the Project with a big post covering Season Two! We started just before Halloween 2009 and finished at the beginning of September 2010, which means we're maintaining our track record from Season One--about 10 months. Speaking of which, if you want to refresh your memory, or just start things from the beginning, here's a link to my wrapup of Season One. And now, on with the show!

Doctor Who Season Two: If I was forced to sum up this season in one word (and, thankfully for your verbose host, I'm not), it'd be CHANGE. From the stability of Season One, we move on to a year where almost everything changes, both in front of and behind the cameras. At the end of the year, only William Hartnell's Doctor and an increasingly battered TARDIS prop and control room remain. And even the Doctor has changed...

Let's start from the top, with David Whitaker turning story editing chores over to Dennis Spooner with the second story of this season. There was a definite change seen in the stories Spooner shepherded; as a perusal of the individual stories (see below) might illustrate, Spooner seemed keen to play with the show's premise, from the comedy of "The Romans" to the experimentation of "The Web Planet," in a way that Whitaker, who had to establish the series' basics, couldn't. Even "The Space Museum" shows an interest in examining the philosophical implications of time travel and destiny. And the last story that Spooner worked on, his own "The Time Meddler," gave us another member of the Doctor's race, the concept of the pseudo-historical and yet another discourse on the responsibilities of time travel! In a lot of ways, David Whitaker may have started things off, but it's Dennis Spooner who really established the familiar Doctor Who we know now. And, of course, one season is all we get of Spooner's story editing, as he handed things off to Donald Tosh at the end of "The Time Meddler" (though Tosh was credited for it).

Then, of course, there are the cast changes. I feel like I've gone on endlessly about Susan, Ian and Barbara's departures and Vicki and Steven's arrivals, so I'll try not to bore you too much here. (Please see the respective story wrapups for all our natterings.) Looking at the big picture, we went from the Doctor, his granddaughter and her two schoolteachers to the Doctor and his two companions, a not-quite-granddaughter-analogue (sort of) and a headstrong young man. We've not only lost our "present day" perspective, we've also lost the original moral center of the show (i.e. Ian and Barbara), allowing the Doctor to take center stage as the series' Star, with supporting characters. It's still an ensemble show, but the Doctor has definitely moved into the more important role. As such, he's also become more of the moral center--a metamorphosis that begins in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth," with his decision to let Susan create her own life and reaches its culmination with his confrontation with the Monk in "The Time Meddler," with his moral stance against disturbing the fabric of history and his disgust at the Monk's cavalier attitude. He has gone from the mysterious, slightly frightening character from the beginning to more of a Doctor that later fans would recognize...although he still has a long way to go!

The other major change is, of course, the departure of first producer Verity Lambert. Again, I think I covered a lot of this ground in "The Time Meddler" wrapup, but I'll just reiterate that it's impossible to overestimate her contributions to Doctor Who. She went on to a long and distinguished career, but I'm happy to say that she never forgot her time on the show. One of the last things she did before her passing was to take part in recording a commentary track for "Time Meddler," and her affection for the series, after all these years, shines through.

Ok, let's run down the stories.

Things started out a bit slowly with "Planet of Giants", a holdover from the previous season. Impressive props, but not so impressive a plot.

Another holdover (the last thing filmed as part of the Season One production block), "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" is fantastic. Possibly the bleakest Doctor Who would get (in the Sixties, at least), which leads to one of the show's greatest triumphs--both the victory over the Daleks and the honestly gut-wrenching departure of Susan. This story also brings us (related to the latter) one of the best on-screen romances ever on Doctor Who. Very impressive.

"The Rescue" brought us both a new story editor and a new companion, Vicki. She isn't a Susan-analogue by any means, and this short story does a good job of establishing the differences between the two "girls." It also presents us with a clever little mystery and gives the Doctor some righteously indignant development.

The first "experiment" of the season, "The Romans" brings farcical comedy to Doctor Who, though it twins it with hard reality. One of the triumphs of Season Two, a clear success.

"The Web Planet", on the other hand, is an amazing experiment that works a bit less well. It's an incredible attempt and, amazingly, almost succeeds. Certainly, Doctor Who has never been quite this daring again!

Next comes "The Crusade," an example of how wonderful acting, dialogue and directing don't wind up fully satisfying if the plot doesn't quite come together. See the various posts for this episode for more of a full explanation.

"The Space Museum," on the other hand, is just deathly dull. Although it has some really interesting ideas none of them are explored in an ultimately interesting way. I've since seen a video of Rob Shearman defending this story as a parody of a dull, bog-standard Doctor Who story...which doesn't quite ring true, if only because this is one of the earlier stories in which the clich├ęs it's supposedly parodying appear. Still, it's a more enjoyable reading that watching the story as is...

I called "The Chase" "a bit of a curate's egg," and I'll stand by that. The return of the Daleks sees an uneven, episodic story. Bits of it are exciting, bits are funny and bits...charitably don't work as well. Still, Daleks. Can't go too wrong with that...at least not for MiniSpoo!

Finally, we come to "The Time Meddler." There is no way I can be objective about this story; for me it's a bit of a masterpiece and it finally gives us a Doctor and companions that would be easily recognizable to a "modern" audience. Just a fantastic way to end Season Two!

Project Report: Change has been the watchword for the TARDIS Project this year as well. We've gone from a high-turnover in participants to a fairly regular group. More importantly, we've gone from my "write things up and try to remember what's been said" to a discussion format that, although it's harder on Ketina's poor fingers, makes the blogging a lot more fun. I will admit that writing the summaries continues to be a bit tedious and take a lot of time, but I'm much less inclined to see blogging as a chore compared to last year.

We continue to do well with the "one episode at a time" pace. It still feels more natural than watching a bunch in one go, both for story pacing and for discussion and enjoyment. I think we had more postponements this year, but, as I said up top, we still seem to be on track. Hopefully, all of this will continue into our reconstruction-heavy Season Three. (Which gives me an excuse to plug Loose Cannon Productions--the best recon makers out there right now.) I know Ketina's a bit worried about getting through the recons and I'm a bit worried about people getting bored and dropping out before we get to "The Ark!"

I'd like to thank all the Project members who joined me this season, Schmallturm, Spoo, MisterMother, Photobug, Ronelyn and, as always, Ketina. And I want to give a special big thank you to MiniSpoo, for delighting us with his all-important six and a half years old perspective!

What's next? Well, next Friday, 1st October, we have a TARDIS Project special! I'm not entirely sure what form the post will take, but look for (at the very least) a discussion of...but that would be telling. And then, on 8th October, we begin the next sixth of the TARDIS Project with episode one of a reconstruction of "Galaxy 4!" We're one third down, folks...here's to the next two thirds!

Thanks for reading and, until next time I remain

THE HISTORIAN

But wait! Befoooore we go! There's still time to respond to our survey! C'mon, folks! We really want to hear from you!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"The Time Meddler" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with out final wrapup of season two! (Well, all right, the Season Wrapup should be coming in the next week or so, but still.) And yes, this is being written later than I'd planned. I have to be honest--I love this story and I kept feeling I needed to wait until I had the time and energy to do it justice. But I'm quickly running out of time and here we are. Bear with me!

I know I've said it before, but this was one of those Important Defining Stories of Doctor Who's first few years; indeed, it had repercussions far beyond that. Let's start at the top with the show's first major cast change. True, Susan had left, but she'd been almost immediately replaced by a similar (but by no means identical) character, Vicki. But, with the departure of Ian and Barbara and the arrival of Steven, the dynamic in the TARDIS has been permanently changed. As we discussed in episode posts, that had to have been a bit of a risk for the program; it was pretty well established by this point, but not replacing the teachers with similar viewpoint characters (remember, Steven and Vicki are both from the future!), there was the chance the show could lose its audience.

Behind the camera, this story marked some significant changes as well. Dennis Spooner, who wrote the story, had just ceded his job as Story Editor to Donald Tosh (though the latter claims to have done basically no work on the story, it does have his first Who screen credit on it). And, even more importantly, "The Time Meddler" was Verity Lambert's last story as producer, having decided that two years (dating from her pre-production work) was enough for one project. She had shepherded Doctor Who from a few pieces of paper all the way to being one of the more successful programs on Saturday nights; it's really difficult to overstate how important Lambert was to the success of Doctor Who. One of the important things she did was managing William Hartnell, who was not at all happy by all of these changes. William Russell has said that Hartnell's reaction to the news he and Jacqueline Hill were leaving was a feeling of "betrayal," and Verity Lambert leaving put him in an even worse mood...as incoming producer John Wiles would find out very shortly.

And that's not even mentioning the other big change this story brought: the Monk himself! Yes, someone from the Doctor's home (although some fifty years behind) who has his own "time machine!" There had been some implications, previously, that the Doctor might have built his TARDIS (named by Susan; note that neither the Monk nor the Doctor use that title for the Monk's machine), but it seems now that there are others out there--and others from the civilisation that produced them! It'll be some time before we get this much new information about the Doctor in one story....

But enough of that--let's talk about the story itself! There are people out there who dismiss this story as being "dull," that "nothing really happens," etc. etc. True, the story is far more concerned with character that incident, but the plot and characterization are stitched together expertly. Absolutely nothing is wasted; things that seem to be extraneous or forgotten wind up being crucial (Eldred being left in the monastery and disappearing for most of an episode, only to be the prime mover for the climax later as an example). Yes, all right, the Saxons and Vikings are not exactly the most developed of people, but they're exactly as developed as they need to be for the story to work. Yes, Edith seems to recover a bit too quickly (the one real flaw in the story), but balance that against the absolute guts that that whole bit must have taken on a family show in 1965. (As an aside, it completely went over 6 year old MiniSpoo's head.) And yes, of course there's a serious plot hole--the Monk still has his gun and shells outside of his TARDIS at the very least (and, if he doesn't retrieve them, they're odd things to leave in 1066)! Yeah, ok, all of that is true, but to dismiss this story as dull or without incident...that I just don't understand.

What makes this story, quite simply, are the four principals. Or, for most of the story, the two double-acts of Steven/Vicki and the Doctor/the Monk. The interactions between the characters, the interplay and wit, is simply delightful. Peter Butterworth's Monk is wonderful in and of himself, so fun to watch, but when he meets Hartnell's Doctor, they spark off each other. As for the companions, who carry a good deal of the screentime on their shoulders, their bickering bantering works very well and feels like a great preview of things to come for the new TARDIS team.

My goodness, I've gone on. What can I say, I love this story! And I was really happy to discover that the Project crew (most of whom had never seen it before) loved it too. (So much for the naysayers!) Here are the links to the episode posts to help folks easily catch up or look back:

"The Watcher"
"The Meddling Monk"
"A Battle of Wits"
"Checkmate"

Given all the stuff I discussed above, I'd very much recommend checking out Shannon Sullivan's behind the scenes information on the story. And here's the BBC Episode Guide for "The Time Meddler."

Before I end this overlong post, I want to thank Jon and Robin for answering our little survey. Your feedback is definitely being taken into consideration! And hey, the rest of you, feel free to comment or e-mail! You have until 1st October (when we begin season three) to let us know what you think!

Next up will be the Season Two wrapup--coming sometime over the next couple of weeks! (Before the Project reconvenes, I promise!) Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, September 3, 2010

"Checkmate"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, MisterMother and Photobug, bringing you the last episode of the second series of Doctor Who! Before we begin, a few announcements. Firstly, just as Doctor Who takes a break between seasons, so will the TARDIS Project. Our break, though, will only be three weeks and we will be back on 1st October with a very special Project event! (I'll give you a hint: it slots right into watching Doctor Who in summer 1965, but it isn't "in continuity" with the show.) Have no fear, though, between then and now I'll be posting both the wrapup for this story and one for season two. Announcement number two is more of a plea: We still have not gotten even one response to our survey. Please take a minute and let us know how we're doing!

But enough of that--let's get to the summary!

Friday, August 27, 2010

"A Battle of Wits"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and MisterMother. Before we begin, I want to insert another plug for our Reader Survey. Thus far, we have received exactly...no responses. Please take a minute and leave use a comment or drop us a line letting us know what you think. We'd really appreciate it. Now, without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Friday, August 20, 2010

"The Meddling Monk"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and MiniSpoo (smaller group this week!), bringing you this second episode in the last story of the second season of Doctor Who. Before moving on, I'll ask you all to do us a favor and pay special attention to the request at the end of this post. Thanks! Now, let's get to the summary!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Survey for our Readers

Hello everyone, the Historian here. We're almost to the end of season two here at the TARDIS Project so, just like last time, we'd like to hear from all of you guys! We'd love to get general feedback, but here are a few things I'm really interested in hearing your thoughts about:

1. We've obviously gone through some format changes this year, going from general write-ups (that inevitably led me to stick my head around a corner into the other room and ask everyone, "What did we talk about again?") with occasional transcripts to an all-transcript/paraphrase format. What do you think? Did you like the old format better? Are you enjoying reading our discussions, including our silly Dalek jokes and digressions?

2. Once again, the summaries. As I certainly hope you can tell, I really throw myself into writing them and it's probably (definitely) the most actual work that goes into the blog. Last year, folks told us that they wanted line breaks, so I started including them along with a cut-tag for the blog page. (Since I'd bet a bunch of you follow direct links from, say, the TARDIS Newsroom, I've no idea whether any of you even see the cut-tags!) So, what do you think of them? Do they give you enough information if you've never seen the episode? Are they at all fun to read?

3. Related to the previous, we're about to move into what Ketina...lovingly...calls "Reconstruction Hell." Knowing that, I was vaguely toying with the idea of replacing the summaries with links to the episode scripts from the Doctor Who Scripts Project. Would people rather I do that for missing stories or should I keep the old summary format? (And yes, I could be fine with still writing everything up, have no fear of that.)

Those are the three big questions that occur to me now, but, as I said, we're interested in any and all feedback about any aspect of the blog or the Project in general! You can either leave a comment or e-mail us at tadisproject at gmail dot com. (Please note the missing "r" in "tadisproject." Yes, it was a typo, unnoticed until everything else was set up.)

Thanks for reading, everyone! See you for the next episode! Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, August 13, 2010

"The Watcher"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and Photobug. We're starting the last story of season two this week, so, without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"The Chase" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here. It's time to wrap up our latest Dalek adventure...and nearly time to wrap up the second season! More on that last bit later, but for now, let's talk about "The Chase," by Terry Nation, directed by Richard Martin with an assist from Douglas Camfield.

And it's a bit of a curate's egg of a story, isn't it? Some good, some bad, some very silly indeed. It's an interesting and important moment in the evolution of the Daleks; as Schmallturm remarked at one point, this story is the first time we really see them acting like the Daleks we would see and be familiar with in years to come, yelling about EXTERMINATING everything in sight, singular thinking, etc. etc. In some ways, they become easier to understand and, almost, less scary as they become more familiar and easier to understand. On the other hand, the Daleks are no less dangerous to their enemies, and certainly no less fun for us! Certainly no less fun for six year old MiniSpoo, who ran around the house yelling "EXTERMINATE!" after every episode.

The story itself hearkens back to Nation's "The Keys of Marinus" from the first season--an episodic serial with a new setting/story every week or two. As with "Marinus," some of these vignettes work better than others. The beginning, on Aridius, started out strongly and then kind of slowed down, but it felt like a full (if truncated) story in and of itself. But then we get two episodes of what was certainly filler, even though it was mostly enjoyable filler, before getting on to an actual plot. The whole thing hangs together better than "Marinus," though, thanks to the "Chase" aspect. And the motif of bookending the comedy/filler episodes with two relatively solid, if truncated stories. (The second story felt especially stunted, with the Mechanoids and Mechanus feeling like they needed a lot more development. As I mentioned in the discussion last time, I'd bet we might have gotten more info if the Mechanoids had ever come back.) For all its flaw, though, we enjoyed the heck out of this story. MiniSpoo, especially, was absolutely riveted to the screen for each episode, with the exception of a few scenes from "Journey into Terror," where he got so scared he had to run out of the room. But he kept coming back in... (You'll note that he had to miss a week. We made sure he saw the episode, though. His eyes lit up when he saw the DVD--he watched the episode twice!) And that might be the best final thought for the story as a whole--it kept the attention of a six year old in 2010!

But enough about the story as a whole, let's talk about the big news this week: the departure of Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright and the arrival of Steven Taylor! Although the beginning of the season had seen the departure of Susan, Ian and Barbara leaving was an even bigger jolt--and, possibly, risk--for the show. The two schoolteachers had been a constant presence, points of identification for the viewers (since they were from 1963, they were in the position of not knowing more than the viewer at home did about things and could get away with asking exposition-inducing questions) and they were a check on William Hartnell's testiness. How would the show survive, with all but one of its original cast members gone?

Well, obviously, the answer is it would survive quite well, but that shouldn't diminish the contributions of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill. Ian and Barbara have been the heart of the show, Barbara especially, and Ian has of course been the muscle as well as a brain. As I've written many times over the course of the past couple of years, the two companions have been the saviors of many an episode. (They even made "The Ordeal" almost bearable!) I think it'll come as no surprise to any of our long-time readers that the TARDIS Project team will miss Ian and (especially) Barbara tremendously.

So, what now for the TARDIS crew? Well, we've left a contemporary Earth viewpoint behind, as Vicki is from the future, as is Steven. Will this hurt viewer identification? We'll have to watch and see!

And now, since I've gone on far, far too long, I've left no room to discuss the departure of story editor Dennis Spooner! He'll be writing our next story, though, so I'll try to leave room then.

The handy-dandy links to our individual episode posts:
"The Executioners"
"The Death of Time"
"Flight Through Eternity"
"Journey Into Terror"
"The Death of Doctor Who"
"The Planet of Decision"

And here's the backstage scoop about the story. Finally, here's the BBC episode guide.

Going into this story, Ketina mentioned that this was her favorite from the first few years. (She later added that it still was, though it wasn't as good as she remembered.) Well, our next story is one of my favorites. Let's see how I feel in the next wrapup post! Until next week, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, August 6, 2010

"The Planet of Decision"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with a full house once again: Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo (and yes, we caught him up on the episode he missed), MisterMother and Photobug. This week, the last episode in our Dalek chase through time and space! Let's get to the summary!

Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Death of Doctor Who"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MisterMother and Photobug--no MiniSpoo this week, alas--with the next episode in our Dalek Chase! The TARDIS has landed on the planet Mechanus, so lets get to the summary!

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Journey Into Terror"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with a full house again: Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and Photobug! The Daleks are catching up to the TARDIS and our friends don't have much time left, so we'd better get to the summary!

Friday, July 16, 2010

"Flight Through Eternity"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, apologizing once again for last week. I am mostly recovered from my cold, thank you. At any rate, I'm here with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and MisterMother for another Dalek-filled episode. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, July 9, 2010

No post this week

Hello everyone, the Historian here, apologizing for having to put the Project on hold for a week. I have met and been felled by the only creature in the universe more evil than the Daleks--the dreaded Summer Cold!

But have no fear! We'll be back next week...assuming I survive....

Friday, July 2, 2010

"The Death of Time"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with a full house this week! Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and Photobug joined me in watching as the Daleks pursue the TARDIS crew to the planet Aridius. Let's get to the summary!

Friday, June 25, 2010

"The Executioners"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with a somewhat reduced TARDIS Project crew of Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and MisterMother. It's the first episode of a brand new story, so, without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"The Space Museum" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here with our latest wrapup post. It's been said (well, I've read it, anyway) that "The Space Museum" has only one real problem: episodes two, three and four.

No, in all seriousness, this story is not generally well thought of by fans, and it's not hard to see why. Although it has some interesting ideas, they are trapped within a dull, lifeless mess, with leaden dialogue and mostly uninspired acting. Richard Shaw as Lobos, a cockney actor trying desperately to sound posh, is a particularly egregious example of the latter, that's for sure, though the whiny delivery from future Star Wars icon Jeremy Bulloch (in a very early role) isn't much better. The script doesn't do that actors any favors; the plot has numerous nonsensical moments (the supposed paralyzing gas, for example!) and spends much of its time going in incredibly uninteresting circles, and I can't envy the actors who tried (or, in some cases, didn't bother to try) to make something of Glyn Jones' dialogue. (The number of times we got one of the regulars saying a variant of "We must have changed our future!" only to be answered by another saying, "But what if we didn't...") The design, too, is dull. Sure, we have an alien planet and a gigantic museum, but it all looks so incredibly drab, with the exception of the cool and varied old space ships we see in a few very brief moments in episode one and the armory and freezing computers, which looked kinda cool with the blinking lights and all that. Even the "ray guns" (can you believe that's what the Moloks and Xerons actually referred to them as?) look a bit shoddy. And the costume/make-up design...well, the less said about that, the better, I think.

It's not all bad, of course; there are some very interesting ideas buried deeply in there. The question of destiny is one that all time travel stories need to deal with eventually; if you find out what your future is, can you change it? Or are you trapped? Is this a determinist universe, or does every decision change our destiny? After all, this is the Doctor who told his companions that history cannot be changed, and what is "history" to a time traveller? And, being Doctor Who, the story tries to bring the subject up in a potentially interesting way with the whole "skipped time track/here before we've arrived" thing. Indeed, it's that idea that's made the first episode...not quite a favorite among fans, but at least not as disliked as the rest of the story. Interestingly, the Project members (with the exception of yours truly) didn't like the first episode or the "skipping a time track" thing at all, finding it unnecessarily confusing--a lot of which was due to the script and some really bad fluffs from the actors, I think. (After all, most of the Project members hadn't seen this story before!) Still, the idea of destiny is an interesting one...but it gets buried in dullness and hammered in without subtlety in conversations between the regulars that go round and round, ending up nowhere.

There were fun moments, of course. Hartnell overpowering his Xeron guard and peeping out of the Dalek was the absolute highlight of episode two, with the Doctor's manipulation of Lobos' mind machine being a secondary one. And then Hartnell's line about having a conscience in episode four...in fact, it's really mainly when the Doctor is front and center that we get interesting things happening on screen--though Maureen O'Brien's Vicki has a few decent moments as well. And, of course, there's that fantastic cliffhanger at the end...the Daleks have a time machine??? Must have been absolutely mind-blowingly scary to kids in 1965!

Regardless of a few fun moments and some interesting ideas, there's no question that "The Space Museum" is not an exciting story, or (I hate to say this) even a very good one. And, looking back at the past few stories, it's one in a series of stories that don't quite work. The regular characters are still all wonderful, but it's possible that the chemistry between them, the familiarity of them, isn't working to make exciting stories as much as it used to. It could almost be time for some sort of shake up or change.....

Here are the individual episode posts, for your edification (or something):
"The Space Museum"
"The Dimensions of Time"
"The Search"
"The Final Phase"

And, if you're interested in more information about this story, here's backstage info from Shannon Sullivan's site and here's the official BBC episode guide entry.

This weekend, we leave the planet Xeros behind as the Doctor and company lead the time travel-enabled Daleks on a merry Chase, starting in the timestream and ending...? Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, June 18, 2010

"The Final Phase"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and Photobug, bringing you the...conclusion of this current adventure in the Space Museum on the planet Xeros. Yeah. Let's, um, get to the summary!

Friday, June 4, 2010

"The Search"

Hello all, the Historian here. Before we begin, an announcement: The TARDIS Project will be taking a break next week, returning on 18 June for the final part of the allegedly exciting story! Returning to this week, tonight Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and MisterMother joined me in watching an...episode of Doctor Who. Ahem. Let's, uh, get to the summary!

Friday, May 28, 2010

"The Dimensions of Time"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and Photobug. (Whew! The Project's getting a bit big, isn't it?) This week, we return to the mysterious planet of the Space Museum...Let's get to the summary!

Friday, May 21, 2010

"The Space Museum"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, as promised, along with our regular crew of Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo, MisterMother and our new member, Photobug! This week, we leave thirteenth century Palestine and arrive someplace completely different. Now, let's get to the summary!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"The Crusade" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here. Well, I did promise the wrapup post would get written before the Project reconvened on 21 May...and it is 20 May, so I'm just barely making it. My apologies, everyone. I plead low energy and a busier life than usual. That being said...

One of the things I wasn't expecting back when we started this was how popular the Historicals would be with the Project personnel. Surprisingly, we sometimes seemed to like the historical stories more than (some of) the science fictional ones! But that streak seems to have come to an end with "The Crusade," which we found ultimately a bit disappointing. (As an aside, this is one of the few Doctor Who stories that I only knew through hearsay, never having read the Target book, heard the soundtrack, previously seen a recon, etc.) Well, let me qualify that: we definitely enjoyed the first three episodes, but the disappointment we felt after the wrapup of the final part coloured the whole story.

I've been trying to pin down precisely why the last episode felt unsatisfying. It's worth noting that this is the second story in a row where the Project team felt let down by a story's climax. In the case of "The Web Planet," it was a bad special effect combined with some writing that seemed more convenient than believable. In this case, although that formed part of our discussion, I think the problem was different. For three episodes, we were dazzled by wonderful dialogue and excellent acting and it wasn't until the climax that we realized that the Doctor and company...didn't...really do anything. The Doctor and Vicki are observers, they don't actually affect a thing that happens. Ian's part of the story seems particularly superfluous. In fact, the only thing he actually accomplishes is the delivery of Richard's letter to Saladin...and that takes place offscreen. The closest we get to a forward moving story from the TARDIS crew comes (unsurprisingly) from Barbara. Even so, she's more of a reactor than an actor in this story (although she definitely has her moments).

At this point, I think it's important to stress that "The Crusade" is certainly not a bad serial. We spent three episodes dazzled by David Whitaker's sparkling faux-Shakespearean dialogue, and there's no question that the acting was excellent from pretty much all concerned. In fact, it was all of this that distracted us from the fact that our protagonists really didn't accomplish much. I think the problem was the focus; in previous historical stories, the TARDIS crew were central to the story. Even if the actual events they participated in weren't at the very center of a period, our friends were at the center of events in their story. In this case, though, they're pushed off to the side. The story, where our attention was most drawn, was Richard, Saladin and the war, not the Doctor, Vicki, Ian or even Barbara. True, el Akir was a great looking villain, but he and his story don't feel very developed. (He is, as far as I can determine, completely fictional, unlike most of the other major figures in the story. In fact, as I was just excited to discover, a Google search for "El Akir" lists our post for "The Knight of Jaffa" as the fifth link on the first page of results!) Unlike other, similar characters (Tegana, say--remember him?), he doesn't interact with the story as a whole, remaining pretty much off to the side for Barbara's portion of the story. To be honest, except for his scar, there's really little to distinguish him from a sort of stock villain. When he dies, it feels anticlimactic. (Admittedly, this happens in a reconstructed episode, so it might have been more effective and exciting in the original.) Instead of a big struggle, Haroun just sort of sneaks in and stabs him. Ian isn't even involved, getting there just too late--which doesn't really give us any payoff for his side of the plot either. The whole thing just felt...beside the point. The first three episodes focused to a large extent on Richard, Saladin, Saphadin, Joanna...and, well, the politics of the Third Crusade. The last episode pretty much jettisoned that aspect of the story. Saladin and Saphadin don't even get screen time.

Ok, that became far too long a paragraph. (And I barely even touched on the actual history of the story!) But I hope you get the idea of what I'm trying to say. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts about this from all of you, if you've seen/heard/read the story. Or if you just have something you'd like to say!

Another thing I wanted to mention is that this serial is notable for being the first full story directed by Douglas "Dougie" Camfield, who would go on to be one of the most prolific Who directors of the '60s and '70s. He had been a crew member on "100,000 BC" and previously directed the fourth episode of "Planet of Giants," the one that got cut together with episode 3 to form that story's finale, but this was his first chance to put his stamp on a story from beginning to end. And, from casting to shooting scripts to scenery and costumes, this production is sumptuous, especially given the budget. From all reports, Dougie was loved by just about everyone he worked with and it's clear that he managed to coax wonderful performances from his actors. I'm looking forward to seeing how his style develops as we continue with the Project.

Before I get to the quick links to individual episode posts, I want to once again plug Loose Cannon Production's wonderful reconstruction. It's no exaggeration to say that Loose Cannon has helped make both our viewing of this story and, to a certain extent, the entire TARDIS Project possible. Go, order their "Crusade" recon--supplemented by the BBC's "Lost in Time" Hartnell DVD, of course! And, for those interested in more about the production side of things, here's the "Brief History of Time (Travel)" page for this story. And here's the BBC episode guide. And now, without even further ado....

"The Lion"
"The Knight of Jaffa"
"The Wheel of Fortune"
"The Warlords"

And there, at very great length, we have it! Come back tomorrow for the start of a new story, as the Doctor and friend find themselves in a different kind of adventure altogether...until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, April 30, 2010

"The Warlords"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and MisterMother. Before we begin, an announcement: The TARDIS Project will be taking a short break for the next few weeks, but we will be back with a new episode on 21 May! (The wrapup for this story should be up in the intervening time, though.) I'm running a little late tonight, so, without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Friday, April 23, 2010

"The Wheel of Fortune"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, feeling much better this week thank you! I'm here along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and introducing our newest member, Mr. Mother! It's tired and I'm late, so let's get to the summary!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Next episode postponed to next week

Sorry for the late notice, everyone, but, as I've said before, even Historians get sick sometimes. Please check back next week for episode three of The Crusade, "The Wheel of Fortune."

Friday, April 9, 2010

"The Knight of Jaffa"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, welcoming you back to the Holy Land in the twelfth century. Accompanying me this week, as always, are Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo. MiniSpoo was present, but didn't really watch with us this week, as this episode consisted almost entirely of stills and soundtrack. Yes, it's a reconstruction and I must once again thank the good people at Loose Cannon Productions for their work, which makes this all possible. (Go! Order recons! It's free, minus tapes and postage!) This was a bit of an early work for LCP, so no animation or composites or anything, just stills and sound. But if this is the closest we can get to seeing the real thing, I'll take it! And now, let's get to the summary!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"The Web Planet" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here with more apologies at the lateness of this post. But here, better late than never, is a wrapup of this very odd story.

I don't think anyone can deny that "The Web Planet" is a story that either works for a viewer or really doesn't, depending on one's ability to suspend disbelief a whole lot more than is usual for Doctor Who and see non-humanoid insect-like aliens rather than men and women in ant and butterfly costumes making weird movements. I count myself lucky that, for the most part (and with the possible general exception of Ronelyn), the Project members found themselves into the former camp. As Spoo put it, "Once you're used to them there's a 'magic moment' that I can look past the costumes, like the 3rd time I saw them." Not that everything worked, by a long shot--the Animus, for example, was honestly pretty disappointing after the fantastically eerie buildup. The Optera, who we really liked for the most part, were let down a bit by the...vestigial arms that just kind of hung there. And the Zarbi costumes...worked, but definitely not in the way that the production team--or the writer, Bill Strutton--had wanted. (Infamously, they arrived so late and were so stiff that they threw the entire production off. Check out Shannon Sullivan's page for more info about this, as well as general writing/production information.)

The Menoptra are, without a doubt, the standouts, both because of their costumes (those wings!) and because of the work of Rosalind DeWinter, who both played Vrestin and created the "insect movements" for the Menoptra and (slightly less convincingly) the Optera. I'm unsure whether the sing-songy speech of the one and the halting grunts of the other are down to Ms. DeWinter's work, the idea of director Richard Martin or in Strutton's original script, but regardless, it worked wonderfully to make the aliens, well, alien. (I think we can give Strutton full props for a lot of it, especially tidbits like Ian becoming "Heron" and Barbara "Habara" to the Menoptra.)

In the past, I've called "The Web Planet" a "failed masterpiece," a "a noble attempt," a story where the show's reach went much farther than its grasp. I really do believe all of that's true. The story, the writing is wonderful and the production, while severely limited by technical considerations, is pretty extraordinary, from the sets (helped by the weird filters used to convey an alien planet's atmosphere) to the flying effects. The acting was excellent, especially given the odd requirements both from the "aliens" and the actors having to play against them. William Hartnell and William Russell especially shone, though Jacqueline Hill isn't far behind. Maureen O'Brien suffers a bit from having very little to do after the first episode, but still turns in a good performance. Of the guest cast, the most notable is Martin Jarvis as Hilio (the Menoptra captain and "designated jerk" of the butterfly people), who would return to other roles in Doctor Who, as well as having a distinguished career. (This was apparently his first television role!)

All right, enough! Here are the individual episode post links:

"The Web Planet"
"The Zarbi"
"Escape to Danger"
"Crater of Needles"
"Invasion"
"The Centre"

And, as always, here's the official BBC episode guide for this story.

I'd talk about what's coming up next, but you already know! Our four friends journey to Jaffa in the late twelfth century to join Richard Coeur de Leon and Saladin in the second Crusade! Join us for episode two in...well, we'll be watching it in 24 hours, so I'm guessing the post will be up in about 26 hours or so. Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, April 2, 2010

"The Lion"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and MiniSpoo. Today we journey back to the late 12th century, to join the Lionheart! So, without further ado, let’s get to the summary!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Web Planet wrapup will be delayed

My apologies. I really wanted to have it out before we head into the next story, but it looks like it's not going to happen. I will try to have a wrapup post up in the next week or so.

Again, my apologies.

THE HISTORIAN

Friday, March 26, 2010

"The Centre"

Hello everyone, the Historian here with our regular crew of Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo, about to take our leave of the planet Vortis. But before we go, there's the exciting (?) climax to get to! So, let's get to the summary!

Friday, March 19, 2010

"Invasion"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo. It's the penultimate episode of this adventure on the planet Vortis, so, without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Crater of Needles"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo, for more adventures on the planet Vortis. Let's skip the preliminaries and get to the summary!

Friday, March 5, 2010

"Escape to Danger"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm, Spoo and, making his first ever Project appearance, MiniSpoo! (And, at six years old, MiniSpoo is the only one of us anywhere near the original target age for the show!) As with other episodes of this story, this was a weird one. Let's get to the summary!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"The Zarbi"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, with many apologies for the lateness of this post. Since we'd decided to review this episode in our somewhat silly transcript format, I haven't actually started writing the summary until today. Again, apologies and thanks to our loyal readers! (With a special thanks to reader Richard! We love comments!)

A couple of notes before we get to the summary. We still haven't quite solved the technical "we only want to hide the summary" problem. Again, if anyone has any ideas, feel free to let us know. Also, a word about the "transcript;" things got pretty crazy for a bit, so poor typing Ketina had a hard time. Thus, things might be a bit more paraphrased than exact this time. But she did an admirable job of getting the gist!

Now, with all of that out of the way, on to the summary!

Friday, February 19, 2010

"The Web Planet"

Hello, the Historian here, back with Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and Spoo for this very strange second season story. I'm also trying to get an idea of how the "create a jump" thing in Blogger works, to put the summary behind a cut, but I'm not having a lot of luck so far. It seems I can start a jump, but cannot come back from it...so the idea of hiding only the summary might not work. If anyone has any idea of how I can achieve this goal, please feel free to leave a comment. Until then, we'll give this a try and get to the summary!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"The Romans" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here with, as promised, the wrapup post for this tonally different historical story. Over the past few weeks, I've thought of many things to say, so I'll have to martial my thoughts and work them into something coherent. (Let me apologize in advance, in case I fail in that last task.) As always, bear with me.

Let's get one thing out of the way: as "the Historian," I ought to dislike this story. It's ahistorical to an extreme, and (apparently) intentionally so, meaning to invoke the "myth" of Nero, rather than the reality. Still, I ought to excoriate the inaccuracies....but, as a Doctor Who fan, I love this story, from the humor of the Doctor and Vicki's plot to the pathos of Ian and Barbara's. This is one of those stories that has, at most, a few bare moments that don't work perfectly (such as Tavius' odd stare into the camera in episode four).

The guest cast is excellent; Derek Francis is a wonderfully over-the-top Emperor Nero with Kay Patrick as a cool and cruel Empress Poppaea. And then there's Tuskin Raider-to-be Peter Diamond as Delos and Barry Jackson, making his first of several appearances on the program, as the mute assassin Ascarius. There are others, who I might get to, but my point is there isn't a dud among them.

Moving on to the story, again, there's a lot to talk about. Famously, this was an experiment initiated by producer Verity Lambert, who wanted to see if injecting significant comedy (as opposed to the small moments of humor in previous stories) would work for the program. Opinion at the time was a bit divided (the BBC got quite a bit of negative feedback during the story's run), but in retrospect I think I can say with some surety that it did work. Of course, as many have pointed out, the comedy probably worked as well as it did because it was in direct contrast with the very serious plight that half the cast found themselves in. As Barbara observes in the second episode, being a slave in Imperial Rome could be a terrible fate. Although Barbara doesn't fall prey to the worst of it--thanks to Tavius noticing and responding to her compassion--Ian's story is certainly a bit harrowing--within the context of watching "BBC Costume Drama Rome," as I kept referring to it. From chained slave, to galley slave nearly killed in a storm, to gladiator forced to kill or be killed...it's not funny stuff. All of which, as I said, make the light moments and broad comedy--especially in the farcical third episode--that much more of a relief. It is the balance between these two, humor and pathos, that is the key to the success of "The Romans." Excellent writing by Dennis Spooner, wonderful direction by Who stalwart Christopher Barry.

And that brings to mind another point I was going to make, something that came up in conversation after the last episode that both Ketina (who was paraphrasing/summarizing something I said) and Spoo alluded to in the episode post. They both commented on how...cold blooded Vicki seemed to be, watching Rome burn. It was like she was watching something in a movie, I think Spoo said...and, well, he's right. A good deal of it goes back to the nature of the differing experiences of the two groups. Ian and Barbara, taken as slaves, get involved with people. They make friends, they make enemies, they become a part of things. For Ian and Barbara, the people of Rome are real. The Doctor and Vicki, on the other hand, remain aloof and apart. Above and beyond the "don't mess with history," this is necessitated by the Doctor's masquerade; both he and Vicki must keep their distance from Nero, et al, to make sure they are not found out. Because of this, Vicki doesn't make a real connection with the people of Rome, not even with Locusta who she looks at more as a curiosity than anything else. And so, to her, the burning of Rome is not a personal tragedy, it's an event, a historical event that she's excited about seeing. Her experiences were not...interactions (for want of a better word), they were adventures, which is what she said she wanted, back in episode one. Because she has no real connection, she can see things from a detached, amused, interested perspective that Ian and Barbara, who might actually know people who died (and who had an honest-to-goodness enemy in Sevcheria), wouldn't be able to share. As for the Doctor's reaction, well, there's a similar argument to be made, but we have to remember that the Doctor is different, he is other. So it can be difficult to judge his reactions at times.

I feel I should say something more about Vicki, as this is her first story as a full companion. As I mentioned in "The Rescue" wrapup, she makes a good contrast to Susan. Although Susan was highly intelligent, Vicki seems to have a quicker wit. She's also much more interested in adventure and fun, rather than "protecting" the Doctor and seems less fragile than her predecessor. At least so far; we'll have to see how things develop in the weeks ahead! Maureen O'Brien is quite good, though, and injects a real sense of fun into things. She works very well with the other regulars as well, fitting in almost seamlessly.

Right, this has been a long one, so let me cut myself short and provide the episode post links:

"The Slave Traders"
"All Roads Lead to Rome"
"Conspiracy"
"Inferno"

As always, if you want fascinating behind-the-scenes info, Shannon Sullivan's page is the place to go. And, for a more official take (including the Audience Approval info alluded to above), there's always the official episode guide.

Next, we'll be tackling probably the oddest story of the '60s, if not the oddest Doctor Who story ever! Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

This post is dedicated to the memory of Derek Francis, who played Nero in this story, and who passed away last Sunday, 14 February 2010. Rest in Peace, Mr. Francis.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Inferno"

Hello, everyone, the Historian here. With me are Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and, for the first time in about a year, the triumphant return of Mr. Spoo! (Well, it was nice for us to see him.) Before we get down to things, I wanted to talk about my question from last week, regarding the summaries. Thanks to those of you who commented. Ketina and I think we have a plan. Basically, starting next week (we didn't want to change things in the middle of a stories), we're going to try to figure out Blogger's jump-cut feature. From then on, behind the cut, I'll write the summary. And yes, it will be just as complete, and yes, I will use paragraph breaks. The main reason I hadn't before was that it would have made each entry a mile long; with the jump-cut feature (which I think I've figured out), that won't be an issue. It'll also be easier if you want to completely skip the summary. (Unfortunately for those of you reading this via an RSS/LJ feed, they don't recognize the jump-cut. So either you'll have a very long entry to wade through or you might want to consider reading here at the blog. If I can figure out a good way around that, I will.)

All that being said, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 6 February 1965. As Delos' sword is poised above Ian's neck, Nero shouts out, "Cut off his head!" Instead, after a tense moment, Delos leaps onto the dais and attacks Nero himself! The emperor hides behind Barbara, as Ian and Delos fight soldiers who have run in. Barbara tries to pull away to run to Ian, but Nero has close hold on her. Ian yells that he'll come back for her, and he and Delos escape. Nero calls his guards back and tells Sevcheria (who had been commanding them) to set a strong guard on the palace that night. That way, when Ian returns to Barbara, he'll catch them all! Back at the palace, Poppaea commands Tavius to get rid of her new slave (Barbara) immediately. If not, Poppaea will get rid of her. Tavius leaves, very worried, and meets Barbara outside. She tells him of Ian's coming rescue that night and he promises to help her as much as he can. She also asks him if he knows Maximum Pettulian and mentions Nero's plans to set the lions on the musician when he plays in the arena. Meanwhile Sevcheria posts guards around the palace to trap Ian. In the streets of Rome, Ian and Delos hide in plain sight. They have no real plan; Ian has decided to follow the Doctor's example and dive in, hoping to figure things out as he goes. Back in the palace, the Doctor, wearing his spectacles, is examining Nero's plans for Nova Roma. The Doctor explains to Vicki that Nero wishes to rebuild Rome...and realizes that they are in 64AD! Soon, Nero will burn Rome to the ground to rebuild it! Even Vicki (from the far future) has heard of the Great Fire of Rome. Just then, they hear a hissing. It is Tavius, once again working to surreptitiously get "Maximus'" attention. He tells the Doctor of Nero's plans for his...concert in the arena and suggests the Doctor leave before this would take place...but after going through with his plan to murder Nero! The Doctor is momentarily taken aback, but realizes that this is the conspiracy he had tried to uncover and understand before. Pettulian had contacted sympathizers at court, sending word he would kill Nero. But the centurion had got word of the plot and sent out an assassin. But when Maximus had shown up, his "friends" at court had taken heart. Now, Tavius says, is the time to put your plan into effect! He leaves, and the Doctor and Vicki try to take the whole thing in. The Doctor announces that they must leave Rome at nightfall. Just then, Nero arrives. The Doctor, not wanting the emperor to see, hides his spectacles behind his back, as Nero tries to surprise him with an announcement. But the Doctor already knows about the arena concert (though he claims to have guessed), angering the emperor. As the Doctor makes more jokes alluding to the lions, Nero gets more and more upset...but, behind the Doctor's back, the sun has caught the glass of his spectacles, refracting the light onto Nero's city plans...and setting them on fire! Nero is incensed, calling for guards, until, looking at the burning of the "city," he gets a marvelous idea. If the Senate won't vote to use his ideas to rebuild Rome, he'll burn down the city; then they'd have to let him rebuild it! He runs out, telling the Doctor he'll make him rich for that idea, rich! This allows the Doctor and Vicki to brush off the guards who are trying to arrest them. Nero, still holding the burning map, meets Poppaea, who asks why guards are surrounding the palace. He tells her of his plans to trap Ian, Delos and Barbara and leaves, muttering. Poppaea, however, is smiling. Later, Nero and Tavius await his "torchbearers." Tavius sends a guard outside to look for them. The "torchbearers" are a rabble of men. As they make their way into the palace, Ian and Delos manage to join the line without Sevcheria seeing them. Inside, Nero scatters coins to the rabble and begins to give them orders to set certain buildings in the city on fire, promising more money to all. Tavius, meanwhile, sidles up to Ian and tells him that he is a friend of Barbara's. The two leave as the torchbearers start to exit and Nero muses to himself about naming his new city "Neropolis." In the corridor, Ian asks Tavius how he knew Ian would be there. It's what I would have done, answers Tavius. He reunites Ian and Barbara, who are overjoyed to see each other. Then Tavius gives Barbara a cloak to disguise her and they start to get ready to escape. Outside, Sevcheria hears a rustling in the bushes and sends a man to see whether it is Ian, Barbara and Delos. But it is Vicki and the Doctor, who fobs the guard off by saying, "It's only us." The guard leaves...and so do the Doctor and Vicki, away from the palace! In the confusion of the torchbearer's rush out of the palace, Ian, Barbara and Delos encounter Sevcheria. Delos thrusts his burning torch in the slaver's face and the three flee North, Ian and Barbara to the villa in Assessium and Delos to his home near there. Back in the palace, Tavius watches through a window as they flee. He wishes them good luck as he fingers a once-hidden wooden cross. Just outside the city, the Doctor and Vicki stop to look back at burning Rome. Vicki is amazed to really be seeing History, to realize that she's seeing something that will be talked about for thousands of years. Of course, she says, the books got it wrong: it's the Doctor himself who gave Nero the idea to burn Rome! The Doctor protests; Nero would have gotten the idea some other way, surely. But, as Vicki moves down the road, the Doctor looks back and laughs, tickled by the idea that he might be responsible. Inside the palace, Nero, too, is laughing as he plays his lyre, watching the city burn around him. Sometime later, Ian and Barbara arrive back at the villa to find things unchanged since they left--the shards of the pot Barbara accidentally hit Ian with are even still on the floor. Obviously, the Doctor and Vicki had not been there. After some horsing around, they decide to get cleaned up before their friends arrive. Later, the Doctor and Vicki do arrive, finding Ian and Barbara much as they'd left them: sleeping on couches in the villa. Believing that Ian and Barbara have been "idling away their days," the Doctor makes fun of the two, while Vicki tries to tell them of her adventures. The Doctor suggests they make their way back to the TARDIS and he and the girl leave. Ian and Barbara give each other a wry smile and follow, but not before Ian picks up a goblet and amphora of wine as a souvenir. Back in the TARDIS, Vicki refuses to believe that even the Doctor doesn't know where they'll go next. As she and Barbara leave to change, Ian leans over to see what the Doctor is doing at the console. The Doctor is worried; they have materialized and been caught by some unknown force and the TARDIS cannot break free. And the strange force is dragging them downwards. But to what....?

Whew. Next week, paragraph breaks! (We'll see how that goes.)

A great ending to a great story, this episode manages to wrap up and bring together all four plotlines successfully. We all had a blast, even Spoo (who'd only read/been told about the other three episodes). That being said, there were plenty of points where things that might not have been intended to be funny...were. For example, there's this small scene where Tavius just stops and stares blankly towards the camera, which caused me to almost involuntarily invoke Mystery Science Theatre's version of "Bride of the Monster" by saying, "Tor hungry." (Um, if you've never seen either this episode or a Tor Johnson movie, that...won't make much sense. Sorry.) And then, as the map began to smoke and burn with a small ring of fire burning in the middle of it, my mind immediately leapt to the opening titles of "Bonanza." Thankfully, I kept that one to myself. Still, for the most part, the humor was intentional (Schmallturm's invoking of another MST quote "I hate it when the women wear longer skirts than the men" aside).

And, honestly, there was a lot to like here, from Nero's scenery chewing to Tavius' wonderfully understated faith. Man, I loved that bit at the end. It was a perfect explanation for a lot of his character's motivations and made him, if anything, one of the most human of the guest cast. It's hard to find fault with this episode, or this story as a whole; one of the things I plan to talk about in the story wrapup is the contrast between the Ian/Barbara and Doctor/Vicki plotlines and how those differences inform the characters' reactions as the story ended. Really, really well-written, I think. Ronelyn loved, for example, Nero's wonderfully insane rant about punishing the Doctor for burning his plans (especially the alligators)...before doing an about-face and praising him to the skies. Just well-written, well structured and, I'd argue, well acted. Yes, Derek Francis chews enough scenery to build another Rome in his performance as Nero, but it's perfectly pitched in a portrayal of an off-his-rocker emperor. And yeah, the "fiddling while Rome burned" is a myth, and the "Nero orchestrated the burning" an ahistorical slander, but what the hey, it's wonderfully fun! Spoo, coming back to the Project after his long absence, absolutely loved the Doctor, and his "old coot crazy dodderiness," I believe was the quote. (Feel free to correct me in the comments, Spoo.) We do see a Doctor who is able to manipulate those around him nicely, improvising like mad and succeeding to a surprising extent, possibly because he does appear to be slightly senile. Again, I hope to be talking more about the regulars in the wrapup, so I'll leave that point here for now.

And, in fact, I think I'd better leave all my points for now. The wrapup should be coming sometime in the next week. Until then, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

---

Ketina here,

The silly continues this week with the finale of the Romans. Nero continues to be at his best, Ian reclaims his status as "action man", and Barbara's hair continues to take center stage.

The episode starts off with Ian getting the thumbs down from Nero, and his dueling partner jumps the emperor only to get attacked by the guards. The good choreography from last week appeared to be missing this week, as everyone clang clanged swords again. Delos proceeded to "kill" a guard by sliding a sword somewhat near him, but Nero's fantastic kick knocking the guard off the dais made up a bit for that lameness. All of Ian's fight training verses Aztecs, Cavemen, Voord, Mongols, assassins and other ne'er-do-wells has apparently paid off, as he and Delos managed to fight off about five guards (at least I think so, again fight scene very hard to follow) and escape.

Loved Nero's scene with the Doctor and the burning map. Spoo was especially amused by Nero running around with this big burning rolled up paper, waving it close to the matte painting, the Roman curtains, and the drapey costumes. Was the look of horror on the Empress's face due to fear of Nero, or of fear of being set on fire?

Ronelyn suggested a silly moment during the mob scene, as Nero shouted "Quiet! Okay, now, everyone riot and burn the city!" Like, everyone calm down so you can go crazy.

Less than impressive was the forward-rewind-forward-rewind of the burning Rome set. Spoo's comment was that it looked like the city was breathing. On fire. The full city burning on the horizon looked pretty good, though.

And I loved the bits as everyone returned to the villa. Especially Barbara and Ian's banter over cleaning things up. I nearly expected them to kiss, but there was no tension between them. Their relationship, while mildly romantic, is also very relaxed, which does make it enjoyable to watch.

Not much from Vicki this week, other than to act as a sounding board for the Doctor's antics. Although her gleeful comment about watching history was especially disturbing, given the tragedy of the number of lives being lost in that fire. But then again, she's also the one who was willing to kill Nero the week before. She's very detached in this story.

Not looking forward to the return of Barbara's helmet hair next week. Keep the Roman 'do!

Until next week,
-Ketina

NEXT EPISODE: "THE WEB PLANET"

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Conspiracy"

Hello all, the Historian here. Along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, we return to the year 64. I'll warn you, there was a lot of physical comedy this week that simply won't translate into the summary at all. I'd urge you all to get a copy of "The Romans" DVD (packaged with "The Rescue") and watch it for yourself! That being said, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 30 January 1965. Ian looks out the barred window of his cell, seeing the lions who he and Delos may be condemned to fight...In the palace, Nero wanders down a corridor with a lyre, followed by his slave, Tigilinus and others. As they move off, the Doctor appears and meets Vicki. They are attracted by a hissing Tavius, who tells them that he's gotten rid of the body, but leaves before answering any questions. The Doctor decides he must carefully sound out Nero to try to get to the bottom of this mystery, since he seems to be involved somehow. Vicki plans to explore the palace, but the Doctor warns her that she must not interfere with history! In Poppaea's bedchamber, the empress and Nero recline. Poppaea suggests that Nero hold a banquet in honor of "Maximum Pettulian" at which the guest of honor will play. Tavius enters to present Barbara as a new attendant to Poppaea...and Nero is absolutely captivated by her beauty, a fact that the empress is quick to notice. After Nero has left, Poppaea warns Barbara to stay away from Nero; she likes being empress and will not have anyone supplant her. Barbara, of course, agrees. She begins to clean up and takes some dishes out into the hallway...where a playful Nero has been waiting for her. She runs and he begins to chase her...and runs right into Vicki, who has been exploring and who just misses seeing Barbara run away. Trying to maintain his dignity, Nero backs away and falls. Vicki, stifling a laugh, enters another room as Nero continues the chase. The room Vicki has entered belongs to an imperious looking woman, Locusta. Meanwhile, Nero just misses Barbara and runs into the Doctor (who has also not seen his friend). The Doctor tries to talk to the emperor, but Nero has no time, they will talk later. He runs off, leaving a bemused Doctor behind him. Back in Locusta's room, Vicki has discovered that her new friend is the official court poisoner! Locusta explains that she merely prepares her potions, she has no say or care as to how they are used. People do not take revenge on her, but on the ones who she works for. Vicki watches, wide-eyed, as Locusta mixes up another poison. Nero has, meanwhile, cornered Barbara. Just as he catches her, however, Poppaea walks in and catches him. As Barbara flees, Nero tells his wife that the strange slave had been chasing him around all morning! In the cells, the old woman hears Delos call Ian by name. She asks him if he was supposed to meet a woman called Barbara. When he excitedly asks the woman where Barbara is, he is crushed to hear that she was taken to the auction and sold. Back in the palace, the Doctor and Nero are relaxing in a sauna. After some business with a slave and hot water, the two are left alone again and the Doctor takes the opportunity to ask Nero whether any intrigue is going on at court. Nero, however, knows nothing--though the Doctor covers up the emperor's dangerous embarrassment with flattery. Nero tells "Maximus" of the banquet in his honor that night--his first concert! The Doctor, who, of course, cannot play at all, is a bit nonplussed. Poppaea, meanwhile, has given Locusta instructions. She is to prepare two goblets, one of which will be given to the emperor and a poisoned one for the new slave. Hiding under the poisoner's desk, Vicki listens carefully. After they leave, she emerges and looks at the two goblets. As Barbara and other slaves prepare the banquet hall, Poppaea points her victim out to Locusta. The Doctor and Nero, leaving the sauna (fully dressed), meet Poppaea. She sends Nero to examine the banquet hall to make sure everything is perfect--and to set up her assassination of Barbara! The Doctor, meanwhile, meets Vicki, telling her about the coming feast and the entertainment he must provide! Far from being fearful, he seems amused. Meanwhile, Nero has sidled up to Barbara and given her a gold bracelet. As Nero is expecting a kiss in thanks, Barbara is relieved to see two goblets being brought towards them. She proposes a toast to thank the emperor and gulps her wine down! Vicki confesses that she might just have poisoned Nero by switching the glasses! The Doctor, horrified that she'd be changing history by killing an emperor to save an (apparently) inconsequential slave, rushes her off. Barbara, seeing a furious Poppaea (who is angry that her slave has not died!), rushes off before Nero can drink any of his cup. Just then, the Doctor and Vicki rush in, the Doctor yelling not to drink, that the wine is poisoned! After being thanked, they both leave, the Doctor saying he must practice for the evening. Nero decides to test the story and gives the wine to Tigilinus, who takes one sip and keels over. Back in the cells, Ian is trying to make plans to look for Barbara "when they get out of here," but Delos reminds him that he should be worrying about himself, not his friend! A furious Poppaea, meanwhile, has Locusta dragged away, her destination the arena! That night at the banquet, Tavius approaches the Doctor, saying things were "set for tomorrow." Maddeningly, he again leaves before the Doctor can ask anything. Poppaea catches Nero looking around for Barbara, which he denies and then calls for Maximus to perform. The Doctor tells his audience that his new composition is so subtle that only the most perceptive will be able to distinguish the music. He then mimes playing the lyre for a few minutes, to an appreciative audience. They applaud, not wanting to be thought unperceptive. A smiling Doctor tells Vicki that it was he who gave Hans Christian Andersen the idea for "The Emperor's New Clothes," after all! Nero, leaving, is furious; no one but he should get that much applause for playing! He enters Poppaea's chamber and finds Barbara cleaning. Nero grabs her and tells her they're going to see a fight--he wants to see someone get hurt. In the cells, Ian and Delos are handed equipment; they are to fight for the emperor's pleasure. Ian wants to refuse, but Delos reminds him that it's a chance for one of them to survive. He promises Ian that if he wins, Ian's death will be quick. Meanwhile, Nero, Barbara at his side, is telling Sevcheria (who is in charge of the gladiators) that he wants to arrange an appearance for Maximus Pettulian in the arena--with the lions released at the end of his performance! For now, though, he is content to see two men fight to the death. Ian and Delos appear. He and Barbara see each other, but there is nothing they can do--they fight is on! At first, Ian has the upper hand, but he refuses to kill his friend when he has the chance, to Nero's disgust. Then Delos gets the drop on Ian. Delos' sword is about to descend, cutting off Ian's head....

Whew! A question for those who have read this far: Ketina has told me that these are less summaries than retellings. She has a bit of a point; what do you guys think? Do I give too much information, especially for the episodes that are readily available? Or do you like the point-by-point? Let us know in the comments!

This episode was a lot of fun--and very, very funny! We've left the wit of the first episode behind and have entered into full-on ridiculous farce. The "near-misses" have gone from funny to out-and-out ridiculous, especially in the chase scene. And we loved it! I think that the silly never quite overwhelmed the fun, although Derek Francis' mugging as Nero certainly came close. It really was hard to convey the humor in simple text; I hope you got some of the gist.

I'd been waiting for this episode, which I remembered chiefly for Nero's pursuit of Barbara. Of course, not everything is fun and games; the fate of Locusta (fyi, there wasn't actually an official Court Poisoner at Nero's court, although Locusta was a real person, per Apuleius) is actually a little disturbing. Vicki may not have poisoned Nero, but she certainly did cause her new friend's condemnation. While it's true that poisoning people isn't pleasant, it's not like she was doing it maliciously. Her arrest is just an accidental consequence. And then there's the other at least semi-serious thread: Just what is Tavius up to, and what was Maximus Pettulian's part in the plot? Leaving aside the humor, there was enough of this plot to keep our attention and pique our curiosity for next week.

Of course, there were a few unintentionally funny moments; the boom gets into shot for a moment early in the episode, William Hartnell badly Billy-fluffs a line ("We must not interfere with the course of progress. Or try to accelerate...man’s achievement’s or progress.")...and then there's the slow pan up Nero's legs in the sauna scene. Ok, that might have been intentional, but certainly Ronelyn's reaction of "no, no, make sure he has his robe pulled down, please...!" amused the hell out of us! I'm sure there was a lot more, but I can't recall it at the moment. Hopefully, Ketina will remember.

Speaking of whom, I think I'll turn things over to her. Until our final visit to Nero's Rome next week, I remain

THE HISTORIAN

---

Ketina here,

Well, the Historian seems to have left me with a bit more of the commentary responsibility this week. Let's go back to an older format for this:

The Good: um...

The Bad: er...

The Silly: There we go! How about nearly the entire episode. Seriously, I think this one was about as silly as things ever get on Doctor Who. You've got the crazy of Nero, the trouble making Doctor, more near-miss encounter's than in a Shakespearean Comedy, and Barbara and Nero's run through the hallway was funny enough to leave nearly anyone in stitches. This was just an overall very fun, goofy episode.

You want details?
- Let's see, it leads with another stock footage shot of those lions, thankfully much shorter this time.
- That long shot of Nero in the sauna starts at his feet. His toes, actually. Which I swear had toenail polish on them!
- The fantastic toying with the sword between Nero and the Doctor in the sauna. The Doctor's just casually gesturing with the sword, narrowly missing poking Nero with it several times. Then he cradles the blade in his arms as Nero leans forward towards him conspiratorially, then almost getting poked again. Nero nudges the sword away time and again only to narrowly get poked with it again and again as he moves around the room.
- There was the memorable and fantastic scene that I referred to as "the Emperor's New Clothes" gambit. I think the director of episode deliberately had the mics turned off for most of the scene, making the Doctor's "magical" musical yet soundless performance all the more bizarre and comical.
- Early in the episode we see what appears to be very poorly choreographed fighting between two gladiators -- probably my second biggest laugh out loud moment during the episode. But then, at the end of the episode, there's a fantastic scene when Ian and Delos battle. I was like "where was the guy who choreographed this scene during the first one?" The Historian did point out that the gladiators shown earlier were probably just supposed to be practicing, but I've seen better practice done by 6-year olds in the back yard with sticks.
- And the funniest moment, by far, was Nero chasing Barbara all around the palace (and nearly right into the background matte painting several times). Sure, they tended to rerun over the same territory, but the scenes were still incredibly well done, despite the tiny set. Nero's lechery combined with Barbara's franticness was wonderfully performed. In particular was a scene where they were separated by just a bed, with Nero all grabby hands. Awesome stuff.

The high moments definitely outweighed the low points this week.

Screams: While there was nothing exactly scream worthy, there were shrieks and yipes aplenty, and a significant cry at the cliffhanger. I guess Barbara was resting her voice.

Until next week!
-Ketina

NEXT WEEK: "INFERNO"