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


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