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!

Episode summary: First aired 11 September 1965. The scene: a plain, full of cracked rocky ground, with occasional trees and bushes growing from the cracks. It is absolutely silent. After a few moments, the TARDIS lands.

Inside, Vicki is cutting Steven's hair as the Doctor mans the console. Vicki notes that they've landed and Steven asks where. The Doctor replies that they should check the scanner. He tells his companions to be quiet and they all notice the absolute silence coming from the scanner. The Doctor checks his instruments. Atmosphere, gravity all normal; could this be a planet that could support life, but doesn't? The three decide to go out and explore.

Outside, a small robot appears from behind a rock. It seems to be made of collapsible concentric circles with a few antenna coming off of it. It seems to chitter to itself and then moves towards the TARDIS.

Inside, the three are still preparing to go out, joking about how they might amuse themselves with a vacation on this "deserted" planet. The Doctor replies, somewhat irracibly, that this is a scientific expedition, not a joy ride!

The robot approaches the TARDIS and softly bumps against it, as if examining it.

Inside, Vicki hears the bump. The Doctor shushes them and points to the scanner.

The robot, chittering occasionally, makes its way around the ship, always keeping in contact with it.

Inside, the three watch the robot make its way. It seems to be "seeing" the TARDIS by touch, almost as if it is blind.

Outside, the robot finishes its circuit, stops and beeps and then begins to move off. As the others watch on the scanner, a light begins to pulse on one of its antennae and a beeping sound is heard. Steven speculates that it could be sending a message to...someone. As the robot moves off, Vicki is delighted by the way it moves, declaring it to be a "chumbly" motion--and the robot becomes a "Chumbly" to the TARDIS crew. The robot moves out of sight. Steven is dubious about it, but Vicki thinks the Chumbly is cute. The Doctor speculates that this could mean he was wrong about the planet being deserted--something of high intelligence must have made the robot. Steven worries that the Chumbly might have been dangerous, and the Doctor suggests they find out. The doors open and the three exit the ship.

Outside, the Doctor declares the air to be delightful, with a hint of flowers. They look around and see no Chumblies. Steven notes that the planet has three suns. Vicki discovers the source of the floral smell--a bush growing rose-like flowers. The Doctor says the silence reminds him of Xeros, but they certainly have not jumped another time track. [Editor: Thank goodness!] Just then, Vicki spots a Chumbly, er, chumbling towards them. It has a small rod pointing from its center dome. The Doctor commands the others to stand still and tries to talk to the Chumbly, telling it they come in peace. There is no answer; the robot appears not to be able to speak. Steven slowly picks up a rock, making a slight sound. Immediately, the Chumbly whips around, training its "gun" on Steven! As the other two cry out, the Chumbly stops and beeps. The Doctor notes that it didn't do anything until one of them had made a noise; it seems to be blind, but it can hear. The Doctor also speculates that it can locate them by means of a heat wave. Chirping, the Chumbly moves towards them, nudging them as if trying to herd them, but the three don't move. It stops, chirps as if receiving a message, then turns towards the "rose" bush. A puff of smoke shoots out of its "gun" and the bush bursts into flame! Some kind of light ray, the Doctor speculates, and suggests they go where the Chumbly wants them to.

They move off, with the Chumbly moving around them, continuing to herd. Behind a rocky outcrop, two blonde women, dressed in uniforms with odd eyes and holding guns, observe. They wait until the Chumbly comes close and then one of them throws a metal mesh net over it! The Chumbly deativates, its domes folding into each other. The TARDIS crew look up in surprise as the women come down to them. The women introduce themselves as "Drahvins," from the planet Drahva in Galaxy 4. Steven appreciates the Drahvin's...attributes. They tell the travellers that their mission was to rescue them from the robots and take them back to the Drahvin spaceship. There, the leader Maaga will explain. The Drahvins tell the travellers if they do not come, more robots will appear and take them to the Rills, who are "things," not people, who have already killed one of the Drahvins' comrades. They will answer no more questions, saying only that Maaga will explain. Just then, Vicki spots more Chumblies coming, which decides things for them. One of the Drahvins tries to retrieve the metal net, but it appears to be magnetically stuck to the deactivated Chumbly. They claim they were ordered to save the net, but the Doctor convinces the Drahvins they must leave. The three follow the Drahvins to their ship.

They arrive at the Drahvin ship, with the Chumblies right behind them, and go inside. Looking around, Steven remarks that this must have been a nice ship...once. The Doctor agrees that the interior looks backwards for a spaceship. One of the Drahvins announces that Maaga is coming. She arrives, looking almost identical to the others, but with an obvious intelligence and ruthfullness the other Drahvins lack. The Drahvins report: they have rescued and brought the "prisoners" (which surprises Vicki). The mesh worked to disable the robot, but it has been lost. The Drahvins are obviously terrified by Maaga, but the Doctor explains that it wasn't their fault; the Chumblies must be magnetized. Maaga dismisses the two Drahvins; they sit and appear to "turn off." She turns to the travellers and tries to be genial. She tells them that the Drahvins are at war with the Rills and their machines, a fight to the death. She says that even the Doctor and his friends could be obliterated! Vicki, suspiciously, accuses Maaga of wanting to kill them, but she responds that everyone dies when a planet disintegrates. The Doctor perks up at this, asking when. Fourteen dawns, Maaga replies. Steven asks how she knows and Maaga replies that the Rills, who are repairing their ship, told the Drahvins. She declares that they must capture the Rills' spaceship! The Drahvin ship cannot fly; it was damaged when it was shot down to the planet by the Rills. Neither creature comes from this planet; the Drahvins traveled here from their home planet. Four hundred dawns ago, they were examining this planet to see if it was suitable for colonization, as Drahva is overpopulated. All women? asks Steven. Maaga is confused, but finally replies that they do have a few men, only as many as they need. The rest they kill. The others on this ship--other than Maaga--are grown from test tubes to fulfill specific functions; they are not truly living beings either, unlike Maaga herself. Her Drahvin underlings have only one purpose: to fight! Both Steven and Vicki are stunned by this. The Doctor asks if the Drahvins attacked the Rills, but Maaga denies this, saying that the unknown ship fired on them first. As the Drahvin ship fell, it got off a shot and disabled the Rill ship as well. She tells them the Rills are "disgusting," and that's all she'll say. Steven breaks it down: the planet is going to die, the Rills have repaired their ship, the Drahvins haven't, so... "We have no desire to be here when this planet ceases to exist," snaps Maaga.

Suddenly, one of the Drahvins reports that a Chumbly is approaching the ship. Maaga orders the outside radio switched off. She tells the travellers that the machines broadcast "lies" and she does not wish to hear them. When the Doctor suggests that he'd like to, she snaps that it would be bad for her soldiers and orders them to fire on the robot. The blast seems to affect the Chumbly for a moment, but it recovers and appears to contact with some kind of central command. After a moment, it moves off. Back inside, Maaga claims she only wished to drive it away. The Doctor goads her by suggesting she underestimates the Rills. He asks why they even warned the Drahvins about the planet's destruction? Maaga tells him it was an attempt to "tempt" the Drahvins aboard the Rills spaceship so they can be destroyed. Steven says they might have been honest in their offer to help, and Maaga confirms that the Rills continue to claim this. They might have meant it, suggests Vicki, but the Doctor counters that is could be a pack of lies. For all they know, the planet might not even be in danger. Maaga agrees that they have no way of proving this, but the Doctor says that he does--he is a scientist! She is surprised, but asks him to investigate. The Doctor replies that he and his friends must return to his ship to do so and begins to get up. Maaga stops him. One of them must remain. Vicki asks if they are prisoners, but Maaga counters that if they should encounter the machines again, she could not guarantee a rescue. She is obviously dissembling, it is clear that she wishes to hold a hostage. Vicki offers to stay, saying the Doctor will need Steven if he encounters the Chumblies. Reluctantly, the Doctor agrees. Steven tells Vicki they won't be long and the two leave the Drahvin ship.

The Doctor and Steven make their way back to the TARDIS, but wait behind a rock as they see a Chumbly apparently trying to get into the TARDIS. It leaves and a second one approaches. The Doctor mentions that they shouldn't be able to get through the ship's force barrier. The Chumbly, using some kind of metal device, continues to try to get inside.

Back in the Drahvin ship, Vicki overhears Maaga dressing down her subordinates, yelling at them for losing the metal mesh net. She asks them if they want to be captured and killed by those slimy green monsters. The Drahvins groan in terror...

Back outside the TARDIS, the Chumbly is still trying to get inside. As a last resort, it tries its gun on the doors, to absolutely no effect. It transmits a message, then leaves. The Doctor is delighted; his force barrier has worked! They look around and make sure the Chumblies are gone, then enter the TARDIS. Inside, the Doctor goes to the astral map and starts to examine it. Well, Steven asks, will the planet explode? The Doctor confirms that the Rills are right, the planet is dying. They must leave, if the Drahvins will let them go. They're obviously holding Vicki to get the travellers help against the Rills. But, the Doctor says, it is imperative that they leave at once--the Rills were right about the planet exploding, but were wrong about how long they have. Not fourteen dawns, but two! Tomorrow is the last dawn this planet will see....


Ketina's Transcript

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

Sc: I nominate this as the goofiest story we've seen so far.
H: I don't know about so far...
Sc: Roombas! Ridiculous space women!
P: Chumble, Chumble.
S: wanders around the room like a Chumbly robot, poking at things
H: Okay, Spoo. We get it. I like how much use the reconstruction got out of that footage.
R: There was at least one bit they did they was clearly reshot.
H: Yes. They did a lot of new miniature filming work to make this because so little actually survived. Although the camera script survived!
P: They (the Chumblies) do look like Roomba predecessors.
R: They act like Roomba predecessors, mapping out the TARDIS. And they're about as exciting.
H: I did read about how people thought they were cute. And I think the fact the Vicki says they're adorable, and then we when see them shoot the gun and destroy the bush, it's that much more effective and surprising.
P: Up to that point they were just trying to herd them, and now they were demonstrating force.
Sc: Kind of like the chicks. This planet is full of cute things with guns.
H: I think the Drahvins are supposed to be less cute and more "hauwt!"
Sc: Okay, cute or hot things.
H: The Drahvins are actually mentioned in the new season of Doctor Who as well.
R: Ketina, you were the one who went "woot" when the Drahvin's mentioned killing all of the men.
K: Well...
R: After the second 10 minutes of seeing the Roombas trying to get in the TARDIS, I couldn't help but think "Come on baby, open up! I want to slip you some sweet robot love."
S: "I heard you're bigger on the inside!"
Sc: I thought the Drahvins were kind of like bees. A queen and a bunch of drones.
M: The queen bee from...
P: Universe 4
H: Galaxy 4
S: It's a triple sun, so each sun rise is 3 dawns. So it starts to explain how the dawns get mixed up.
R: No one will ever know!
discussion breaks down into how many dawn you would have on a planet with 3 suns, and rotations, and math, and Ketina's brain hurts attempting to type stuff up for this super nerd discussion, and gives up.
H: So, PB, what did you think of seeing your first reconstruction?
P: I liked it. I think they did a really good job, considering what was available.
Sc: "The War Against the Rill" is a book by A. E. Van Vogt. In around the 40's or 50's. So, basically the Rill in that are these shape shifting aliens.
R: It may have been a shout out.
P: Or an homage.
S: If it's done well it's an homage. Done poorly, and it's a ripoff.
H: The Rill have been sending the Chumblies to broadcast what Maaga says is propaganda to lead them into a trap. And not even the Doctor and his companions can agree if it's a trap.
Sc: Especially given the Chumblies destroyed the rose bush.
M: This story is evolving into political scifi.
H: It wouldn't be the first time. If you want to look at it that way.. and god knows there must be some interesting way to look at it.. even the Space Museum and the Sensorites had those types of plots.
H: So, it's an interesting way to being the 3rd season. I thought it was fun and enjoyed watching the first part.
R: I should point out for all that I made fun, I enjoyed watching it.
S: It's fun to make fun of.
H: But, compared to the opener of Season 2, "Planet of the Giants", this is pretty good.
Sc: This episode was space bees verses Roombas with guns.
S: At least we hope they're guns.
H: Wait, we're going down the robot love path again.
M: Yes, we don't want to offend our reader.
H: Hey! Two people responded to the survey!
K: I doubt we have more readers than we have people in this room right now.
H: No... we have... a couple more? :)
R: I enjoyed the moment when the Roomba...
S: Chumbly. Yes, let's dignify these creatures...
R: Pointed at the TARDIS, shot at it, stopped for a second, you could see it go "nope", turned around and wondered off.
S: Yet another in a long line of Vicki making pets of alien menaces.
P: Murderous aliens monsters.
H: Not yet.
Sc: This was only episode one.
R: Run, it's the Chumblies, don't let them catch you!!
H: I remember reading about this story, and reading how kids loved the Chumblies, there were reports of kids making Chumbly noises on the playgrounds.
R: As a mechanical design, I don't hate it. Reminds me of the DRDs from Farscape. Cute.. popping the stack thing was cool.
H: Gives you a good indication when they're off.
R: It's more the use of what they do with them.
M: It's the mechanical idea. Things in space would be simple because simple works. More Van Vogt ideas.
H: The interesting thing is that, except for that one moment of burning the rose bush, they aren't really that threatening.
R: But the problem is that they get more screen time that the people with lines.
H: That's called "we really want to make the next Dalek."
P: So, the leader, Maaga, more or less has almost religious control over her subordinates...
H: More biological.
M: Like bees.
P: But she's using fear. They have pincers, you don't want them to get you. Like a Red Commie. She's using forms of power that we, in our society don't find acceptable.
H: But the fact that she could turn her drones off and on. Growing a human being that can be turned on and off would be objectionable in and of itself. The Drahvin drone was look glassy eyed, or "off", until Maaga activated her.
K: And they kill all the useless males.
Sc: Except the few.
S: Who are needed.
P: For Saturday nights.
S: Why would the Doctor and his companions retreat to the alien ship of guys they just met, when it's possible that the guys with the ship could just take off and take them away from the TARDIS?
Sc: They did have guns. We might not have seen the aliens aim the guns at them. [Editor: Because of the nature of the reconstruction.]
R: The Doctor and his companions don't exactly react well to panic.
K: I think it's because the Doctor is incredibly curious.
H: "This is a scientific expedition, my boy."
M: He'll just make another TARDIS. There's not indication that he couldn't do that, at this point in the story.
[Ketina here. What I was unable to put in the write up, because it's was happening constantly during the discussion, particularly from Spoo, but eventually from everyone, was the constant "Mm-mmm-mm" sounds, like a Chumbly, that everyone was making between each comment. OMG!]
P: And, I'd like to remind everyone about Idophotomania, where when someone starts making a sound everyone starts to pick it up.
Everyone: Mm-mmm-mm.


And that's all for this week. But before we go, I want to welcome the new readers that Ronelyn and Ketina assure me will have joined us by now. To you guys, and to all of our readers, feel free to comment if you have a point to make, if you're wondering about something, if you have something to add, etc. etc. I'm hoping this new season might bring a little more feedback from folks and we look forward to hearing from you! Until next week, I remain



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