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!

Episode summary: First aired 2 October 1965. Gasping, Steven replies he'd rather face the Chumblies than the Drahvins, and he reaches for the switch to open the outer door...but nothing happens! Maaga laughs, telling Steven that the outer door will no longer open, the pressure inside the airlock is too low! He must surrender, or he will die! Steven, gasping, collapses to the airlock floor...

The Doctor, Vicki and two Chumblies run to the spaceship. One of the Chumblies is carrying what looks like a small bomb. It tosses it through one of the ship's portholes. As the Drahvins inside take cover, gas starts to hiss out of it. Meanwhile, the other Chumbly fires at the airlock door, which hisses open. Steven falls out onto the ground. Vicki and the Doctor help him up and they start to move away from the ship.

Maaga and the other Drahvins, coughing, leave the ship, guns ready. They attempt to pursue, but are stopped by the Rill-voiced Chumbly. It threatens to fire on them unless they return to their ship; the Doctor and his friends are under Rill protection. It tells the Drahvins that the air in their ship will have cleared by now and Maaga, realizing she is powerless, orders the retreat.

Back inside the Drahvin ship, after chastising the Drahvin who failed in her patrol, Maaga lays her plans. One Chumbly has been left to guard them, but there is a hatch on the other side of the ship which opens silently. Maaga plans to send one of her drones out through it with orders to sneak up behind the Chumbly and destroy it. The light outside is growing dim, it will be night soon. The last night this planet will ever know...

At the Rill centre, Steven is still trying to get his bearings. The Doctor tells Vicki that there are six hours to planetary destruction. The Rill announces that the coversion process is complete, but it worries that the power transfer from the TARDIS to the Rill ship will take too long. It worries about the time travellers' safety--Vicki responds that she's worried about the Rill! That's all very noble, says the Doctor, but they need to act, not talk. A Chumbly has the cable prepared to take to the TARDIS and the Doctor makes ready to leave when Steven stops him and asks what he's doing. The Doctor explains about the power transfer and tells Steven he must stay here and recover. Steven protests, but the Doctor will hear none of it. Vicki, however, is allowed to go along, leaving Steven alone with the Chumblies and the Rill. He takes some time to look around the area and then confronts the Rill, wondering why (even though the Doctor trusts them) he should trust the Rill. After all, they could be just like the Drahvins, using the travellers for their own ends. He asks whether, if the Doctor is wrong and the Rill ship can't be charged in time, would the Rills just let the Doctor and friends go? Yes, replies the Rill. Although they believe in self-preservation, they have decided it is more important that the Doctor survives. "He travels further than we can. And everything he has shown he stands for, is what we believe in - so it is better that he goes." Steven is impressed and convinced. He warns the Rill that the Drahvins plan to take the Rill ship--and they're getting desperate! He helps a Chumbly to secure the cable.

Inside the Drahvin ship, Maaga gives the soldier an iron bar. The drone slips out of the hatch and silently moves around the ship towards the unsuspecting Chumbly...

The Doctor, Vicki and the cable-bearing Chumbly approach the TARDIS. They, too, note that it is getting dark. The Doctor estimates that night should last four hours. Vicki muses on how it's strange to think that, in a few hours, the planet will explode into nothing. Not nothing, the Doctor says, "Hydrogen gas that...springs itself out like molten silver against the other stars in the same galaxy. Hmm." He starts working to attach the cable to the TARDIS.

In the Drahvin ship, Maaga and the remaining soldiers stare out a porthole, watching the drone sneaking towards the Chumbly. Suddenly, the ground shakes violently! Maaga realizes it is the first sign of planetary explosion--they have only hours left. Outside, the Drahvin stays behind the Chumbly, out of its sight. Suddenly, she swings the bar over her head and brings it down on the machine! It gives out one beep and then...dies.

Night has fallen. Back at the Rill Centre, the Doctor and Vicki have returned and the charging has begun. Vicki asks how long it'll take and the Doctor estimates three to four hours. Steven snaps that they have less than five hours left, a fact the Doctor testily says he's aware of. Suddenly, an alarm sounds. The Rill has received a report that the Chumbly guarding the Drahvin ship has been destroyed and the Drahvins have escaped! But the Chumbly on guard outside the TARDIS is fine; the power transfer can continue. Steven says they wouldn't be interested in the TARDIS anyway--it's this ship they want...and the time travellers.

Back at the Drahvin ship, Maaga and the two soldiers exit and join the soldier who killed the Chumbly. After making sure no other machines are around, Maaga leads her soldiers towards the Rill ship.

Meanwhile, Steven is growing more and more anxious as time ticks away. He believes that the Drahvins will simply see the cable and destroy it, but the Rill says it is prepared for that. It tells Steven that the power transfer will take another two hours "at least." The Doctor tells Steven that it would be impossible to speed things up; the panel might blow out! Steven worries about avoiding the Drahvins and getting back to the TARDIS, but the Rill says they will ensure the three will get back safely. Suddenly, there is the sound of gunfire outside and one of the Drahvin soldiers runs into the centre! A Chumbly pushes the Doctor off into the Rills' chamber as Steven and Vicki stand still in fear. The Drahvin is about to fire on the two when a Chumbly fires and she falls to the floor! She is not dead, the Rill assures them, but only paralyzed. Suddenly, Vicki realizes the Doctor has disappeared, but his voice comes to them from the adjoining chamber, inviting them in. "You may enter," says the Rill voice. "But prepare for a shock."

Outside, the remaining Drahvins work to avoid the Chumblies. They've temporarily driven the machines off, but haven't managed to damage any of them. Suddenly, more Chumblies arrive and the Drahvins take cover.

Inside the chamber, the Doctor, Steven and Vicki look at a wall of clear glass behind which are--the four Rills! The Doctor is very happy to finally be allowed to see what his hosts look like. The Rill explains that the glass is necessary to keep the ammonia atmosphere they need to survive in their chamber. "Our appearance shocks you?" asks the Rill. At first, admits the Doctor, but not now. Steven says he just doesn't understand how the Drahvins can hate them and Vicki adds that she must look as strange to the Rills as they do to her. The Rill replies that to the Drahvins, the Rills are ugly, and so they frighten the Drahvins. The Doctor responds that the Rills are intelligent, what does it matter what they look like? "Importance lies in the character and to what use you put this intelligence. We respect you as we respect all life." Suddenly, Vicki begins to feel ill; the ammonia is leaking through the glass. They must return to the outer chamber. Before they leave, Vicki realizes she will probably not see the Rills again and says goodbye.

How much longer? asks Steven. One hour, replies the Doctor. And until the planet explodes? One hour and a half! Well, says Steven, let's hope no more Drahvins get into the centre...

Outside, Maaga is frustrated; their guns cannot harm the Chumblies! She regains her composure and begins to lead her two remaining soldiers towards the spaceship area of the Rill complex.

Steven and Vicki continue to worry. Dawn is only half an hour away! Suddenly, there is a high pitched sound--the ship has finished powering! A Chumbly disconnects the cable. The Doctor, pleased, says it's time to go! The Rill tells them it will send a Chumbly with them to make sure they get back to the TARDIS safely. Once they are safe, the Rill ship will take off. They have enough power to return to space, where they'll be able to recharge using solar energy. Nonono, says the Doctor, the Rills should take off once the travellers have gotten clear, rather than waiting. Very well, says the Rill. They will now leave their chamber and reenter the ship. Then they'll begin starting their engines. The Chumbly going with the Doctor's party will obey his commands and, once the travellers are safe, it will destroy itself. That's terrible! Vicki cries. It will be painless, assures the Rill. The Doctor thanks the Rill and it replies, "It is easy to help others when they are so willing to help you. Though we are beings of separate planets, you from the solar system and we from another space, our ways of thought, at times, do not seem all that different. It has been an honour to know you and serve you." The travellers, clearly moved, leave as the engines begin to power up.

Outside, the Drahvins look on in horror as the Rill ship takes off--their hope gone! But...

The Doctor, Steven and Vicki shade their eyes as they too watch the Rill ship take off. Suddenly, Maaga catches sight of them and begins pursuit! The Chumbly fires and the Drahvins drop to the ground.

The three travellers sight the TARDIS. They are all clearly out of breath from running and Vicki is limping. As the Chumbly trundles after them, the three run into the TARDIS, avoiding the cable. Steven comes back out with the cable end and throws it on the ground, slamming the doors just as the Drahvins come into sight! Maaga and her two soldiers watch as the TARDIS dematerializes, leaving them on the dying world...

Inside the control room, the Doctor tells his friends that they won't be able to see the explosion on the scanner as they've left that time and space long behind. The scanner does show a planet in the distance, though, and Vicki wonders what could be happening on it...

We pan down slowly to the mysterious planet. It is a jungle, full of strange noises. On the floor in a clearing lies a man in what looks like a military-style uniform. He is covered with dirt and is clearly wounded and unconscious. Slowly, he wakes up as one of the jungle sounds seems to come closer. His eyes show his terror and he cries out, clutching his temples. Then, suddenly, he seems to recover from his pain. He stands, takes out his gun and says, "I remember now. I must...I must kill. I must kill. I must kill...."


Ketina's transcript/paraphase

H: Historian
K: Ketina
R: Ronelyn
Sc: Schmallturm
S: Spoo
P: Photobug

P: Well, airlock.
S: What the Hell happened with the airlock?
P: If they evacuated the air out of there, how did they open the door?
H: If they were out in space, and it was empty, it wouldn't accidentally open.
P: But how did they actually get the door open.
H: The Chumblies could slice through the horribly built Drahven ship, but presumably they hadn't tried yet. How they got the ammonia bomb into the ship is unclear. We didn't hear any breaking glass or anything.
[Another discussion about if Steven would have acquired any major injuries from his time in the airlock.
K: It's Doctor Who. Continuity, shmonitunity.
Sc: I see this as a new low for the group of Doctor Who stories.
S: So they ended it with Maaga and the Drahven dying.
R: Let me give you an analogy. You are in a house in New Orleans with a rabid weasel. The levee broke. You'd like to take the rabid weasel with you, but you want to keep your fingers too. So you try to grab the rabid weasel in a towel, but it wedges itself so tightly under your porch that you can't reach it with the towel. You could grab it with your bare hands, but again with the finger issue. At a certain point you look at it in the beady eyes and you think "it's your karma."
S: That story with the weasel, much better than this episode. It had a plot I could understand, less dialog, better pacing, and I didn't mix up the main character with the weasel, unlike the Doctor and the Chumbly, because the weasel was being portrayed by a different voice actor.
P: We really could eat the weasel, you know.
R: It's rabid.
H: Anyway, one of the main themes I liked was the mutual respect for life and intelligence and everything.
S: Your appearance isn't horrifying, we have respect for all life, now let's get out of here.
Sc: But, like some of those preachy Star Trek episodes, but this was more boring.
S: I understand you, I shall jump your ship with my jumper cables, and then we shall leave them others behind.
P: Momentarily, when the Rill said enter the next room and I have a shock for you, my mind jumped ahead that he might have already had Drahven clones in cold storage or something.
Sc: That would have actually been interesting.
R: One Drahven did survive. The one that charged into the Rill ship and then Rill put her out.
H: It's not clear, but they may have taken her away on the ship. Like other parts of the episode might have been cool as well, like when Steven was wondering around the ship. But we have no pictures, so we have no idea if the pacing, etc. felt better when originally broadcast.
K: I almost fell asleep.
H: Reconstructions tend to put you to sleep, Ketina.
S: I was laughing at the stills they were using for Steven when the atmosphere was almost gone. He looked like he needed to poo.
R: I had a lot of mishearings of a lot of the dialogue.
H: More so than some of the other episodes, it was really difficult to hear what was going on. This was, of course, the nth generation of the original soundtrack tape.
Sc: I like that the Chumblies are immune to gunfire but are vulnerable to pipes.
H: From behind.
R: They should have called this episode "the tribe of dumb."
S: But, even with the Reconstruction difficulties, I'm done. Next! Bring on the jungles!
P: Well, the plot is basically "you'll reap what you sow."
H: And don't judge things by their appearances. And I liked the fact that Steven questioned the Rills, rather than just trusting the Doctor's judgement.
K: But then we couldn't hear what the Rills said.
H: I could, but it was definitely muffled.
R: I liked those things about it, but I do think that the recon took a very heavy toll.
P: On the viewer.
R: I also will adopt, as Spoo said, the idea that there's the "Recon tax." But there's also the "Casablanca" defense. This is the first time you would have seen this kind of plot.
K: Or one of the first times.
R: This is the first time, at least in Doctor Who, where the beautiful people are also the brutish morons. And that the ugly people...
H: Or things...
R: Are actually...
P: The good guys?
R: Yeah. Merciful, kind, and generous. But the plot was kind of let's say glacial. But, at the same time, yeah, it was worth watching.
H: I'm glad you think so. I've been waiting to see it for maybe 30 years. I know a lot of the pictures of the Drahvins and the Rill were cut out from Doctor Who magazine and the like. I think the Rill was a drawing that showed up somewhere.


And that's kind of where things petered out, Spoo and Schmallturm having decided they'd had enough of the discussion some time before. Obviously, I have some significant disagreements with some of their dismissive complaints (my opinion), but I'll save that for the story writeup which should come later this week. Another "programming note," next week's post might be a little later than usual. We're talking about trying something a little different for the very different episode coming up next. No promises (technical issues might prevent us), but hopefully we'll have a bit of a surprise for everyone!

As a final note, I had an old friend, one I used to get together with to watch Doctor Who and hang out years ago, pass away recently. I don't think he ever knew about this Project, but Eric, this post's for you. I'll miss you.

Until next week, I remain



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