Friday, January 1, 2010

"The Powerful Enemy"

Welcome to a new year and new adventures for the TARDIS Project! Hello everyone, the Historian here, along with Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm, rested from the holidays and ready for some classic Doctor Who! At the end of last year we saw the Doctor say goodbye to his beloved granddaughter Susan, leaving her behind to help futuristic Earth rebuild from a Dalek invasion...and to make a new life with her husband-to-be, David. This episode picks up mere hours after the last, so let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 2nd January 1965. The TARDIS lands in what appears to be a dark, featureless cave. Elsewhere, we see the remains of a crashed and broken Earth rocket, with a rotating RADAR dish and an audible "pinging" noise. Within the rocket, the beep can be traced to a piece of equipment indicating the landing of a ship nearby. A girl, looking to be in her mid-teens, enters the rocket and runs to the machine. Excitedly, she rushes further into the ship, calling out to a crew member named Bennett. Entering his cabin, she announces that the rescue ship must have landed! Bennett, who lies in bed looking haggard, tells the girl (whose name is Vicki) that it's impossible; the ship should be three days away from the planet they're on, named Dido. Vicki, however, insists that the instruments are telling her a ship has landed. Bennett suggests she contact the ship and see, but warns her to watch out for "Koquillion," and against letting any news of its existence slip to the mysterious creature. If Koquillion discovered a rescue ship had arrived, he would kill them both! Vicki, fearful, agrees. She goes out and sits at the radio, excitedly contacting the ship, but is devastated to discover that the rescue ship is still three days away from Dido. As the captain breaks the connection, Vicki wonders who has actually landed on the nearby mountain? On board the TARDIS, meanwhile, Barbara has realized that the ship must have landed. She and Ian are both surprised and amused to discover the Doctor has slept through the landing, something he has never done before. They wake him and, a bit groggy, it takes the Doctor a moment to realize what has happened. He hurries to turn off the power, but seems more amused than upset. Although the atmosphere and temperature look good, the scanner reveals nothing about their surroundings beyond the fact that they appear to be in a cave of some kind. The Doctor calls to Susan to open the doors before remembering....and Barbara steps in and offers to do it for him. The three walk out into a dark cave, lit by the light on top of the TARDIS' Police Box shell. Barbara remarks on the strange smell of the air, which reminds the Doctor of something he can't quite remember. He suggests that Ian and Barbara do a little exploring--not going too far--while he returns to the TARDIS for a nap. The two Earth people look at each other with concern; normally it is the Doctor who wishes to have a look around! They realize he must still miss Susan very much, and that it might be that the familiar surroundings of the TARDIS are comforting. At this point, the Doctor sticks his head back through the doors and reminds them he can hear their conversation, suggesting they get going. He asks Ian to hand him a stone to analyze and disappears back into the ship. The two move off towards what looks like a crack of light. As they move off, a strange creature with weird eyes and spikey face and claw-like hands walks up and examines the TARDIS. Ian and Barbara exit the cave onto a cliff face. Below they can see the remains of the rocket (which they realize, with joy, is from Earth) as well as what looks to be the wreckage of an alien city near it. There is no sign of people anywhere, but they realize they must try to find survivors. They make to return to the cave to tell the Doctor when they are surprised to be confronted by the alien creature! It demands to know whether they are from Earth, which they admit. How, then, have they arrived? In the ship inside the cavern, they reply. The creature obviously has a problem believing they could have traveled in the "box" it has seen. It asks if there are any more crew and, before Barbara can stop him, Ian blurts out that there is one other. The creature tells Ian and Barbara to move back into the cave. Ian does, but the alien stops Barbara before she can follow. It raises a strange, jeweled club at her and she backs away, falling back off the cliff! Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor has completed his examination of the rock. He was right, he had been here before! This is the planet Dido, which he had visited long before. He muses for a moment about whether he might convince Ian that he'd landed there deliberately, but then remembers he had been asleep during the landing. Pity. Outside, the alien raises the club at the cave entrance and there is an explosion. Rocks fall and block the entrance completely! Ian is knocked to the ground by the explosion and the Doctor runs out to see what has happened, returning again with a torch to help him see. Barbara, meanwhile, is lying at the bottom of the cliff, apparently unharmed, with a broken branch on top of her. The Doctor discovers Ian, waking from his shock. The two, worried about Barbara, make their way to the entrance, only to discover it to be impassable. Ian tells the Doctor that it couldn't have been an accident and describes the creature he and Barbara had encountered. He is surprised when the Doctor seems to know about both the creature and its strange, club-like weapon, which he describes as a construction tool. The Doctor tells Ian that the inhabitants of Dido are peaceful and friendly, but Ian heard Barbara scream. After quickly checking his friend over for any serious injury, the Doctor suggests they move to find another way out. But he is worried; what could have turned peaceful people into killers? In the Earth ship, Vicki is patting down some covers on a cot in the corner. Hearing a noise, she grabs up a handful of glittering stones and sits at a table. The creature from the cliff enters the ship and addresses her by name, demanding to know why she had left the ship earlier. She, addressing it as Koquillion, tells it she'd gone for a walk. She had been seen dragging something; what was it? Only a bag of stones, Vicki says, showing them to the creature. It seems to believe her, but tells her she must not leave the vicinity of the ship again. Only Koquillion is keeping Vicki and Bennett from being killed by its fellow inhabitants, and Vicki would do well to remember that. Vicki asks about the explosion she had heard on the mountain and the creature replies that a ship of warlike aliens had arrived to plunder the wreckage of the Earth ship. Koquillion claims it had been forced to kill the entire crew. Koquillion pushes past her into the ship to talk with Bennett. It goes to the door, pushing it open. When Bennett's voice says not to come in, the creature identifies itself and enters, closing the door behind it. Back in the main area of the ship, Vicki waits until all is quiet and then returns to the cot, moving the covers back to reveal--Barbara! She is basically unhurt, having broken her fall by grabbing the tree branch. The two introduce themselves to each other and Barbara prompts Vicki for more information about the ship. When it first arrived, she had been sick, but the rest of the crew had gone to a welcoming feast given by the Didonians. As Vicki had lain in bed, she'd heard a tremendous explosion. Running out, she'd discovered Bennett, who had crawled back to the ship, his legs useless. He told her that the natives had destroyed the city and the Earthmen. She'd gotten him back to the ship. Barbara asks why, if they had killed everyone else, had Koquillion and its fellows kept Vicki and Bennett alive? Vicki doesn't know, but Koquillion has kept them virtual prisoners in the ship since then. She is alone other than him...her father, who had been taking her on a trip had been killed in the explosion with the others. Suddenly, Vicki remembers what else the Didonian had told her--that Barbara's companions, the crew of the ship on the mountain, had been killed! Ian and the Doctor have been walking along what appears to be a path, hoping to find another exit. Stopping to rest, the Doctor repeats his concern about what could have fundamentally changed the Didonians' outlook. Some change in leadership or other forces? Ian muses, but the Doctor replies that there were only a handful of natives. With so few, they would cling to life and peace, wouldn't they? No, something is very wrong here, the Doctor declares and then suggests they push on. In the Earth ship, Vicki believes that Koquillion must have left the ship. More relaxed, she tends to Barbara's cuts and bruises. She tells Barbara that Koquillion is the only native she's seen, although it has told her there are others nearby. She tells her new friend about the rescue ship and shows her the flare gun used to signal it, saying she always keeps it close. But Koquillion must not find out about the rescue ship, or...Barbara tries to be gentle, but Vicki reacts angrily. She doesn't need sympathy, she can survive on her own very well, she says! There is a noise in the ship and they hurriedly hide Barbara once again. It is Bennett, dragging himself out to tell Vicki that the creature has gone. Although he had been questioned, Bennett says he has managed to say nothing to Koquillion about the rescue ship, especially after the creature had told him about killing the crew of the recently landed ship. He didn't kill the whole crew, Vicki responds joyfully, and uncovers Barbara who says hello. Bennett looks absolutely shocked. Back in the cave, Ian and the Doctor make their way carefully across a quickly narrowing ledge. The Doctor, who appears to be distracted, nearly stumbles and falls off, only to be saved by his friend. A growling from below causes them to point their torch into the blackness where they see a strange, spikey creature, looking vaguely similar to the Koquillion creature. It, however, is obviously not intelligent and has large sharp-looking teeth and green luminous eyes. Ian, seeing the eyes, realizes that it must need light to see. They're on the right track! This is confirmed, seemingly, when Ian spots metal rings in the wall, obviously to be used as handholds. He and the Doctor make their way across using the handholds, but the last one comes away from the wall. Ian manages to stumble over to the safety of a larger ledge, but he has tripped a trap by pulling the metal ring out of the wall. As the Doctor examines it and desperately tries to reattach the ring, sharp metal spikes come out of the wall to surround Ian. And then more spikes begin to come out, pushing Ian towards the deep cavern! Down below, the monster waits....

Whew! This episode, our first in a couple of weeks, was a pleasure to watch, but a true slog to summarize. Even more than usual, I've gotten to this point and had to stop and say to myself, "Ok, now that this part's done, what was I going to say again?"

This is one of the stories I've been excited to get to; short and sweet, it's one of my old favorites, though I probably haven't seen it in over a decade. I'm happy to say that it holds up quite nicely, with a number of building mysteries and some excellent acting, writing and production work. The story was written by David Whitaker who, as I mentioned last time, had been story editor for the first production block. You can definitely tell it was written by someone with a thorough knowledge of the core characters as their dialogue and interaction was excellent. I very much liked Vicki too, though Bennett was a bit of a cypher. He didn't really appear to have much to do, did he? And, what an amazing piece of costuming! I can only imagine how it must have looked to the people on set, all silver and spiky. I loved the touch of almost artificiality of it--note that the eyes seem to be jewelers instruments--which works wonderfully. I really think Koquillion is the most alien-looking alien yet.

The sets were also quite good, especially the interior of the Earth ship. I caught that actual astronomical terms (like "Aphelion") were used to label gauges and such; it really looked like the designer actually looked at NASA photos for ideas. Ah, just checked and the designer for the story was Ray Cusick, so it shouldn't be a surprise that things look great. The cavern was a bit less successful, although I was very impressed by the part where the Doctor and Ian looked down and saw the creature below--and they were all in the same shot! Not sure if that means the ledge was actually constructed above where the monster was or if it was a camera trick, but it looked great.

I'm not sure how successful it was for all the other Project members, but I really liked what the episode did with the Doctor, as he continues to feel the loss of Susan. He is a bit distracted, he is not entirely himself, he's almost a bit silly as he tries to compensate. And the moment at the console, where Barbara gently suggests he teach her how to open the doors, was wonderful. The interactions between Barbara and the Doctor have been wonderful since "Marco Polo," and this just continues to show that they understand each other better and better.

Thankfully, the Doctor has both a crisis and a mystery to confront: what has happened to the Didonians? He is absolutely convinced that they are not capable of real violence, so what could have caused such a change? Barbara, too, is confronted with a mystery: why is Koquillion protecting Vicki and Bennett? What is the creature doing and why? Vicki, somewhat understandably, doesn't seem to have thought about this question; it's all she has been able to do to keep herself together to survive, orphaned and almost alone. If only she had someone who could take her in and take care of her....

All of this really had us intrigued (especially the two of us who hadn't seen the story before). It really seems that the show will survive the loss of Susan quite well. I, for one, can't wait for the promised solutions to our intertwining myseteries next week! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

This week the group was foiled by a big spikey space monster dude. And there was another spiky space critter at the bottom of a pit. Plus a trap with lots of spikes. The Powerful Enemy should probably be renamed The Spikey Enemy.

My observations, in no particular order:

The crashed space ship was good looking model. There was even a well done rotating dish on top, giving it more of a sense of realism and scale than what you would get from just a still model. The distance shot of the ship from the top of the cliff, however, was a bit weak and "blue screeny."
The TARDIS interior was also looking good this week. There was a new pillar in the central console, I believe. I also loved the lounge chair for the Doctor's nap. However, the outside of the TARDIS was looking rather shabby. We could see aluminum foil tacked on the wall just inside the doorway.
We also generally liked the costume for Mr. Spikey Koquillion monster dude. He was really creepy looking. I loved that the Doctor described his weapon as looking like a spanner (that's British for wrench, for the American audience). It did, in fact, look a lot like a glittery wrench-like thing, and seemed to use a sonic effect to cause the cave in. Did they get the idea of the sonic screwdriver in later seasons from this sonic-like wrench?

I was a bit disappointed with the Doctor's continued frailness and fuzziness in the head. I like the references to Susan's departure (I had actually forgotten that she had gone for the first couple of minutes of the episode), but I would have expected the Doctor to behave sad, grumpy, or angry, not forgetful and tired.

Vicki started off quite strong. I liked her "I can take care of myself" attitude. But then, I liked Susan at first and that didn't last. I hope she'll stay interesting as her character progresses. She is rather panicky and defensive, however.

Thank goodness the spelunking scene didn't drag on too long. I'm not a fan of the crew bumbling around in dark caves. At least the pit critter and spike trap made things a little more interesting. But I was thinking that if Ian just sucked in his gut a bit he could squeeze between the spikes coming out of the wall and be okay until the Doctor could figure out how to disarm the thing. Maybe that's how they'll resolve the cliff hanger next week? Or maybe he'll just leap into the pit and wrestle the spike monster? Don't think so, somehow.

Alas, I remember just enough of this story to make it difficult to provide feedback on the plot while still avoiding spoilers. So I'll reserve my review of the plot itself until after they resolve things next week.

One significant scream this week. Lots of bruises for both Barbara and Ian, but no sprains or ankle issues. ;)

Until next week,


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