Friday, January 8, 2010

"Desperate Measures"

Hello all, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, bringing you part two of this first post-Susan story. Let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 8 January 1965. The sharpened spikes move closer to Ian, driving him towards the edge of the cliff, as the Doctor works furiously at the control mechanism, trying to retract them. Giving that up, he tells Ian to drape his coat over the spikes and use it to protect himself from them so he can swing around out of the trap. Safe now, Ian helps the Doctor to repair the mechanism. The Doctor worries about Barbara. Meanwhile, in the Earth spaceship, Barbara and Vicki tend to Bennett, who has collapsed after seeing Barbara. She wonders aloud to Vicki if it could have been the strain of dragging himself through the ship to the main cabin that brought on his weakness. Bennett awakens and tells Barbara that Koquillion said he had killed all her friends. Barbara doubts this, believing that the Doctor and Ian are more resourceful than either Bennett or Vicki think. Realizing that Koquillion believes her dead and has no idea she is on the spaceship, Barbara then suggests a plan to capture the creature. Although Vicki likes the idea, Bennett is firmly against it. Capturing Koquillion will gain them nothing and if their plan failed, he would simply kill them. Besides, the rescue ship is due soon; they must wait. Bennett tries to get Barbara to agree with his reasoning as she helps him return to his quarters, but she isn't entirely convinced. Frustrated and angry, he pushes her away and drags himself back to his quarters, shutting the door behind him. Barbara is disturbed by Bennett's obvious lack of morale, but Vicki convinces her to come back and help get dinner ready. Back in the cave, the Doctor and Ian have managed to get the mechanism working again. The spikes retract into the wall as the Doctor wonders why the peaceful Didonians he knew would create something like this trap. He and Ian begin to make their way along the path, noting that the creature who had been apparently waiting for Ian to fall so it could eat him seems to be following them for a time. However, as they turn away, it gets bored and begins to lumber off, reaching a cave opening. Outside is Vicki, who has left the spaceship to collect some water. Ian notices the glint of sunlight that marks the cave's exit, but the Doctor is more taken with what appears to be a door set into the wall of the cavern. He cannot get it open, however, and allows Ian to lead him off towards the light, although he notes a fear that someone might come out of the door and sneak up behind them. Vicki, burdened with full cans of water, rests for a moment outside the ship. She does not see the creature behind her in the cave entrance. However, inside the ship, Barbara sees it through a window as it emerges and begins to lumber towards the girl. Thinking quickly, she grabs the flare gun and runs out, yelling to Vicki to watch out. The girl yells at her to stop, but Barbara fires the flare and hits the creature! It gives a weird, piercing cry as it falls and dies. Still inside the cave, the Doctor and Ian hear the creature's death cries and hurry onwards. Barbara pulls Vicki, who is sobbing, into the spaceship. She thinks the girl is overcome with emotion thanks to her close escape, but they are tears of anger. The creature, it turns out, was a plant eater and sort of pet to Vicki, called "Sandy," and the girl is furious at Barbara for killing it. Barbara tries to explain that she was in fear for Vicki's life, but the girl will have none of it. Just then, the Doctor and Ian enter the ship and have a joyful reunion with their friend. In the cave, the door the Doctor had found opens and Koquillion emerges. He looks in the sand of the cave and sees footprints left by Ian and the Doctor which he begins to follow. A short while later, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki sit around the table in the main cabin. The Doctor uses his grandfatherly charm to try to cheer the girl, but she gets upset again when he says he wishes to speak with Bennett. As the Doctor and Barbara tries to convince her that something must be done about the situation with Koquillion, Vicki angrily says they don't know what they're talking about and should just go back where they came from. The Doctor sends Ian and Barbara outside while he talks to Vicki. She seems to trust him and agrees that she really does not want them to go away. He kindly tells her they are here to help her. Vicki says that Bennett has told her that when they get back to Earth, Bennett will tell the authorities what happened here and Koquillion and his people will be wiped out. The Doctor agrees that Koquillion deserves punishment but wonders if there might be another solution to the problem. Vicki brightens up and agrees to take the Doctor to see Bennett. The Doctor promises he will listen to the other man very carefully. She takes him into the wrecked section of the ship and he tries to send her back to the main cabin. She says, however, that she does not want to be near Barbara. The Doctor, again very kindly, tries to get her to see that Barbara had only acted because she had been afraid for Vicki's life. The girl responds to his kindness and agrees to give Barbara another chance. She leaves and the Doctor turns towards the cabin door. It opens a crack and he hears Bennett's voice saying, "You can't come in!" Although the Doctor explains that he must speak with Bennett, there is no response and the door appears to be jammed. The Doctor picks up a piece of metal from the floor and begins to try to force open the door. Back in the main cabin, the three humans try to make conversation. Barbara, confirming Vicki's belief that they are from Earth, asks her what year it was when the girl left her home planet. Why, 2493, the girl replies. She and her father had left shortly after the death of her mother, heading to the planet Astra, but crashing here on Dido instead. Ian and Barbara explain that when they left Earth, it was 1963! But Vicki doesn't believe them, saying that this would make Barbara nearly 550 years old! Ian finds Barbara's stricken reaction hilarious. The two explain to their new friend that the Doctor, who is from another time and planet, travels in a time and space machine, but Vicki has a hard time believing any of it. The Doctor, meanwhile, breaks into Bennett's room and finds it empty, which doesn't seem to surprise him that much. He discovers a tape player (the source of Bennett's voice heard earlier) and an intercom system set up to "bug" the main cabin. Turning it on, he hears Vicki tell the other two that, although the Doctor dresses strangely, she trusts him for some reason she can't be sure of. Amused, the Doctor switches off. Pressing another button, he discovers a trap door in the floor--how a man can get out of an apparently locked room! A while later, his friends are concerned about the Doctor's continued absence. Ian opens Bennett's door, only to find the room empty (and the trap door shut, all trace of it concealed)! What has happened to the Doctor and Bennett? The Doctor discovers the trap door leads to a tunnel back into the cave, right to the door he had discovered earlier. He opens the now unlocked door and enters a large chamber. It appears to be some kind of meeting or worship room. The Doctor discovers a chest filled with ornate robes, but he doesn't seem at all surprised. It's as though he's been here before...Back at the ship, the three humans are still worried. Vicki thinks they should stay put, but the other two decide to head back to the TARDIS, reasoning that the Doctor is sure to return there. For safety, they decide to take Vicki with them. Back in the chamber, the Doctor, who has been waiting, suggests that the figure who has entered come forward into the light. It is Koquillion. The Doctor mentions that this chamber had been the Didonian's Place of Judgement, which he finds very fitting in this matter. He stands and addresses the creature as Bennett, telling him that ceremonial masks and robes should not be worn on unceremonious occasions. Koquillion advances, taking off his mask and revealing that he is, indeed, Bennett. He paces around the chamber angrily, answering the Doctor's questions. He had murdered a man on the Earth ship, but they had crashed before news of the crime had been radioed to Earth. After the crash, the Didodians had invited everyone (except Vicki, who had been sick and had been unaware of Bennett's arrest anyway) to a feast. It was a simple matter for Bennett to rig an explosion, killing the rest of the crew and the remnants of the Didodian race. The invention of Koquillion was to scare Vicki into corroborating his story, blaming the savagery of the Didonians for the explosion. And now the rescue ship is almost here. All he has to do is have "Koquillion" kill three more people and his plan will succeed. The Doctor is appalled--this man has committed genocide, simply to save himself. He declares Bennett to be insane and grabs the jeweled club off the table where it has lain. Bennett grapples with the Doctor, pressing a button on the club and setting off an explosion elsewhere in the chamber. A desperate fight ensues, but Bennett gains the upper hand and begins to strangle the Doctor when he looks up and sees two men staring down at him. He looks terrified; these are Didonians! They are ordinary looking humanoids, dressed all in white; the "Koquillion" disguise had indeed been simply a Didonian mask. Bennett backs away, as though from ghosts, as the two advance, passing by a barely conscious Doctor. Bennett continues to back away out the door and falls off the cliff behind, screaming! The Doctor blacks out, as the two Didonians stand over him looking concerned. He wakes up later in the TARDIS, as Ian and Barbara look on. They had found him unconscious outside the ship and Ian had taken the Doctor's key to let them inside. He starts to explain what happened, but is still a bit foggy. Instead he asks whether they had brought Vicki with them. When told that she is outside, the Doctor leaves to talk to her. Barbara and Ian discuss Vicki, wondering whether they could bring the girl with them rather than leave her here, hoping for rescue. Outside, the Doctor tells Vicki of Bennett's true nature. She realizes that Bennett killed her father, that her last possible tie with her old life is gone. The Doctor invites her to travel with him, confirming that the ship can move in both time and space. He leaves her outside for a moment to think it over. Inside, Ian and Barbara ask if Vicki can come along and the Doctor smiles as he tells them it was in his thoughts as well. He calls to the girl and she enters the TARDIS, marveling at its transcendental dimensions. She agrees to come with them and the Doctor sets the ship in flight. Back at the Earth ship, the rescue ship out in space is calling, trying to get a fix. The two Didonians enter and wreck the radio. They want no more visitors from the outside. The Doctor, meanwhile, is happy to have left Dido to its inhabitants, with no outside interference. Smiling, Ian suggests there is another reason the Doctor wishes to bring Vicki along, which the Doctor confirms, but does not explain. As the ship lands, the Doctor hopes they can have a rest, wherever they have ended up. But the ship is balanced precariously over a cliff. As it rocks, the motions are felt inside. Then, balance is lost and the TARDIS tumbles into the hole....

Ok, I just have to say it: I loved this story. It more than lived up to my memories, which was a very pleasant surprise indeed. The rest of the team seemed to really enjoy it too, which was pretty gratifying. I'll try to reconstruct people's reactions/comments as best I can.

I was very pleased, seeing as I knew that Koquillion and Bennett were one and the same, to see the reactions of Ronelyn and Schmallturm, who didn't. They both figured it out at about the same time: when the Doctor heard the recording before opening the door. It was nice to see, with all the clues laid out, that the mystery hadn't been too obvious for new (adult) viewers.

A part that I liked quite a bit, but that the others didn't have quite the same reaction to, were the Doctor's interactions with Vicki. To me, it was a grandfather trying to kindly reason with and talk to a pseudo-grandchild. Schmallturm, however, saw it as a generational political thing. I'll see if I can paraphrase him here: "The baby boomer kids can't be understood by their parents' generation (i.e., Ian and Barbara), but dotty grandpa can talk to them." Personally, I thought that was more the ideas Schmallturm brought to the scene than what's in the dialogue itself. The others also saw the Doctor as being incredibly condescending, especially in regards to the death of Sandy, but it didn't feel that way at all to me. I saw a kindly grandpa and an upset adolescent coming to an accord more than anything else. I don't know, it worked for me.

Speaking of working for me, Maureen O'Brien was excellent as Vicki. Although she was obviously older than the 15 or so the character was meant to be, I felt she did a great job of conveying the emotional state of a teenager...although, of course, Vicki was far from normal, having been trapped on Dido almost alone for an undetermined period of time. (I thought it might have been as long as a few years, though some of the others were not so sure.)

The other guest star, Ray Barrett as Bennett/Koquillion was also really great. The duality of the part certainly worked well for everyone since, as I mentioned above, people were at least a bit surprised by the reveal. (Well, they'd figured it out by then, obviously, but you know what I mean.) And we all agreed that the Koquillion costume was fantastic. It looks like a mask and gear (I loved the claw slippers!), but it could have credibly been some kind of alien visage, especially given its similarity to the only other indigenous Didonian life form we see, Sandy.

We had a like/dislike divide over Sandy too. Although we all kind of thought the design worked (all hail Ray Cusick), some of us were less than thrilled with the execution. What I especially enjoyed was the big fake-out involved; Ian is absolutely convinced that the thing is waiting for him to fall so it can eat him and, indeed, it certainly sounds ferocious. So, when it approaches Vicki, the audience is with Barbara when she shoots it. But we're all wrong; it is a vegetarian and was probably more curious than ferocious, even when it was following Ian and the Doctor. A fine example of misdirection, I thought!

And then there are the Didonians themselves in all their white blandness. They seem to come out of nowhere (though I think they were drawn by the sound of explosions in the Judgement room) and all they do is approach Bennett. They say nothing, they do nothing threatening, just walk forward. Of course, Bennett was already established as being over-nervous--remember, he saw Barbara, looked shocked like he'd seen a ghost and fainted dead away--so his reaction is understandable. Still, the only real actions the Didonians take are carrying the Doctor (do they recognize him?) to the TARDIS and destroying the radio to ensure that the rescue ship cannot land. Ketina compared them, physically, to the Thals...and it's true, the show seems to have a penchant for casting what she referred to as "Aryan types."

It's tired and I'm late, so I believe I will save any other points I can't remember right now for the story writeup, coming sometime in the next week, and turn things over to Ketina. Until next time, I remain



Ketina here,

This week the mystery was resolved and things get a little less spikey but rather more destructive.

Things started off this week with Ian mostly rescuing himself from spikey trap by covering the blades with his jacket and climbing across. I had my doubts that he could hang onto the "razor sharp blade" with only some cloth to protect him, but my fellow viewers assured me that this would work.
I was also a bit critical regarding the scene where Barbara shoots Vicki's "pet" alien critter Sandy. I was fine with Vicki's reaction, but surprised that Barbara shot it after Vicki tried to stop her. And I didn't feel that the TARDIS crew reacted well in general regarding the death of the critter - I would have expected them to be a bit more sorry about killing the thing.

The sets this week continued to be really cool, although some of the views made the models very apparent. But I still liked the set designs very much, especially the crashed ship and the Dido's judgment chamber place. The Dido chamber reminded me a bit of the Aztecs story, especially when the Doctor was digging around the chest with the clothing. I half expected to see a dead high priest.

I was surprised by the level of violence from the Doctor. First he used an i-beam to break down the door to Bennett's room, and then later tried to use both the "sonic spanner" and a sword during the fight with Bennett. Wasn't it during the last story, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", that the Doctor claimed that he didn't use weapons? Yet this week he was full of action. Then again, it did balance out the old, tired, absentmindedness that he portrayed in the first part of the story. Something about defending the young girl from the bad guy brought out the tough guy in him.

Less good this week was the soundtrack. While unusual and unearthly, it was also full of really high pitched sounds that hurt my sensitive ears. I wasn't sure if we were hearing soundtrack, Sandy the alien critter keening, or something else entirely. It was distracting enough for me though that I had a hard time following the plot at that point.

Speaking of the plot, I said last week that I would talk about it this week. I had remembered, from seeing this story ages ago, that Bennett was really Koquillion and a really evil guy, although I could not recall what he had done and why he was disguising himself. So I couldn't tell you if it came across as a surprise or not, since I was watching his every move knowing he was the bad guy. He certainly seemed to move fairly well for someone who was supposed to be paralyzed. And the Koquillion get up, while very cool looking, was a bit costume-like with it's googly eyes, but it was supposed to be a costume all along anyway.

I thought it seemed pretty unrealistic that he would have been able to kill an entire civilization of people with one explosion, although it had been pointed out earlier that there weren't that many Dido's left. I found this story generally more difficult to follow watching the two halves of it with a week in between. Many of the plot points depended on us remembering what had happened last week, and there were minimal reminders, for a change. Perhaps because it was only a two parter? Many of the longer stories do improve by spreading out the viewing of episodes, but while this one was a strong story I personally think it would have come across a little better seeing it all together. But then, I wasn't at all fooled by Bennett either, so no suspense there for me.

Scream count this week was four -- Vicki screaming at Barbara not to kill her pet, Barbara screaming at Vicki to get down while she shot the pet, the pet itself screaming as it got shot, and finally Bennett screaming as he fell to his death.

Until next time,


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