Friday, January 29, 2010

"All Roads Lead to Rome"

And we're back! The Historian here, apologizing for missing last week. But this week Ketina, Ronelyn, Schmallturm and I are back to present another chapter of our adventure in 64 CE. On to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 23 January 1965. Ascaris lunges through the curtain, sword drawn, but the Doctor is not taken by surprise. He uses his lyre to block the assassin's blade and then appears to have a delightful time attacking him with thrown wine, bedsheets, amphorae, etc. Vicki arrives just as Ascaris decides on the better part of valor and jumps out through the window. The Doctor bemoans being interrupted in his attempts to knock the man out, although he is delighted at being able to use his fisticuff skills, and explains to Vicki that he had been expecting this; obviously, someone had wanted to assassinate Maximum Pettulian, hadn't they? Vicki tells him the centurion has disappeared and the Doctor replies that he had thought the centurion had been behind the assassination from the start. It is not unusual to hire assassins in this day and age, especially dumb ones who cannot implicate you! The Doctor is tired; he tells Vicki to go to bed so they can make an early start for Rome in the morning. She is surprised that, knowing the danger, he wants to go on. But the Doctor is determined--they go to Rome! Barbara is already in the city, having been brought in with other slaves to be sold by Sevcheria. She is thrown into a cell along with a Gaulish woman who is too old and sick to fetch a decent price. Barbara tries to look after her new friend as best she can, hoping against hope that Ian will make it to Rome to help her. On a ship far up the Italian coast, Ian is rowing as a galley slave. He and his oarmate, Delos, have hit upon a plan to get away. Delos keels over and Ian calls to the galleymaster. When the man comes over to check, Ian and Delos leap up and try to grab the master's keys...but is not fast enough. The two are forced back into their seats and begin to row again. Back in the cells, Barbara is trying to get the old woman to share her food. Outside the bars, a well-dressed man watches her. He calls to her and offers to help her get out of there...but he can only do so by buying her. Barbara, angry at the idea of being bought by someone, turns away. Sevcheria approaches and addresses the man, Tavius, by name. Tavius offers to buy Barbara, but the slaver says she is to be sold at auction. If Tavius is interested, he can bid then. Angry, Tavius leaves. Sevcheria gives Barbara a new dress to pretty her up for the auction. When she asks what will happen to her friend, he tells her that the old woman would fetch no price; she is to be sent to the Arena. At sea, a storm rocks Ian's ship. The galleymaster grows increasingly frantic as waves begin to overwhelm the ship. A wave knocks him off his perch and into the slaves who grab at him for his keys as the ship founders...The Doctor and Vicki walk the streets of Rome. Vicki is excited and wants to explore, which the Doctor agrees to. But he reminds her that they cannot be too long; they must go to court and present themselves to the Emperor Nero! Vicki is amazed; even knowing the danger, the Doctor still wants to go? Well, he replies, he was invited, after all! Noticing that a slave action is being set-up near them, and not wanting to upset her with a painful reality of the period, the Doctor hurries Vicki away...just missing seeing Barbara thrust up onto the stage to the delight of the (male) audience. Sevcheria begins the bidding, which ends when Tavius offers 10,000 sestertii for her, amid gasps. Tavius smiles; he has bought Barbara after all. On a beach near Rome, Ian wakens. He is disheveled and covered with sand; he has obviously washed up on the beach. A figure approaches, carrying a rock in his hand...but it is Delos. He tells Ian that, after the ship foundered, he'd grabbed the galleymaster's keys, unlocked them from the oar and pulled Ian (who was unconscious) towards land. The rock is to strike off the chains still binding Ian's hands. Ian decides to set off for Rome, hoping to find Barbara, but Delos is fearful. Still, he agrees to go and help his friend. Tavis brings Barbara to his quarters in the palace. He tells her he was impressed by seeing her help her fellow slave; she responds that it is what anyone would have done, but he is not so sure. After seeing her care for another, he has bought her to be a slave in the household of Nero's wife, Poppaea, a far easier life than most slaves have. She thanks him, but warns him that she doesn't plan to stay. He reminds her that escaped slaves are put to death when recaptured. Just then, a messenger arrives and lets Tavius know that Maximus Pettulian has arrived. At first, Tavius makes to receive him there, but then decides to go out to meet the musician. Once again, Barbara and her friends narrowly miss each other. In the court, the Doctor and Vicki are waiting. The Doctor reassures Vicki that no one here knows Pettalian, so they will be safe from detection. That's fine, she replies, but what about when someone asks you to play? Tavius appears and attempts to get the Doctor's attention. He tells "Maximus" not to worry; there was trouble, but Tavius has "taken care of it." When the Doctor asks what he means, Tavius mentions that "he's at the apoditarium." Before he can give any more information, the Emperor Nero is announced. He arrived, flanked by servants and carrying a joint of meat. The Doctor attempts to introduce himself, but Nero angrily rebukes him for speaking before being spoken to. After Tavius introduces "Pettulian," Nero commands the Doctor to play. The Doctor immediately fawns over the Emperor, insisting that he cannot play first in the presence of such a great musician. After Nero plucks a few notes, the Doctor bluffs his way out of having to play, all the while complimenting the Emperor's playing. Nero takes his leave, telling the Doctor that they will play together later, after he has been fed--and after he (Pettulian) practices! The Doctor is delighted at his bluff, but Vicki is concerned. What will he do to get out of playing next time? The Doctor, for once, is at a loss. On the streets of Rome, Ian and Delos cautiously make their way. Ian knows Barbara must have been sold, but suggests they find a place to clean up a bit to be less conspicuous. Delos agrees, noting that their luck has been good so far...just before they walk into a group of soldiers. The Doctor and Vicki, meanwhile, have found their way to the "apoditorium." Both wonder what Tavius meant by his allusion to taking care of trouble, and a quick search appears to answer the question: behind a curtain is the dead body of the centurion who'd hired Ascaris! Ian and Delos are thrown into an empty cell next to the old slave woman. Sevcheria gloats at them and tells them things could have been worse. They will have a chance to win their lives in the Arena, if Nero is feeling merciful. After he leaves, Delos realizes they will be trained as gladiators. Yes, says Ian, but to fight what? The two look out their cell window and see lions in cages, waiting....

Whew, that was a heck of a summary. (You guys are still reading them, right?)

Honestly, I don't have a lot to say this week that won't sound a lot like what I said last week. The writing and acting, while a little less with the witty banter, still works wonderfully, both in its humorous moments and its more serious. (Barbara's continued fear/anger at her slavery worked especially well.) There were even semi-comedic moments, such as Ian and Delos being captured by the soldiers. (No! Never talk about your good luck! It's as bad as asking what could be worse!) And, of course, I loved the "Action Doctor" and all the interactions between the Doctor and Vicki--who seem an excellent team. True, the stock footage was...well, stock footage, but I thought the sea and storm scenes were really well integrated into the episode. The lions in the zoo worked less well, but I can't honestly see what alternative they had.

As for their portrayal of Nero...well, it's a comical version of Suetonius' madman, of course. There's no question he was mad, bad and dangerous to know. What's important for our purposes is that he's funny, and apt to get even funnier, but with an edge of significant menace. I enjoyed the portrayal, historical or not. How did I put it last week? "BBC Costume Drama Rome"--fun!

All right, I know Ketina wanted to cover some things I probably would have talked about, but I'll just turn things over to her. I'll try to have more to say next week! Until then, I remain



Ketina here,

This week I enjoyed the story, yet I mocked the stock footage and effects. Am I being too critical or was I just in a silly mood? Probably a little of both.

So, starting off we get to see the Doctor deftly beat the snot out of a generally incompetent assassin. It echoed the end of last story "The Rescue" when he fought the evil spiky bad guy, yet this time the Doctor was even more proficient. Where was this confident brawler when Ian was getting his butt kicked in "the Aztecs"? He went from frail old man to fist swingin' bad ass in one season. It was a fun and relatively well choreographed fight scene, although you need to consider that the assassin is a moron. However, this awesomeness was countered by lots of "Billy fluffed" lines this week from the Doctor - significantly more than usual, which alas took me out of the story quite a bit.

Let's see. I found the scene on the boat particularly funny as well. Shouts of "in.. out" from the Galley Master to the slaves, yet very few of them were in sync with the directions. Then the buckets of water thrown from somewhere to indicate the storm, gave me the giggles. For once it wasn't the stock footage of the sea that I found distracting -- no, that came later when we see the stock footage of the lions at the end of the episode.

Even given all my complaints, however, I still found the plot really fun. I especially liked the many near misses that the Doctor and Vicki have almost seeing Barbara. And the Doctor tricking Nero and delaying his musical performance was fun to watch, if a bit tense. But I don't feel that Nero threatening enough by being so easily fooled, given that he probably should be as the evil emperor of Rome and all.

The danger faced by both Ian and Barbara feels solid, although I can't help but to be reminded of "The Reign of Terror" (same writer I understand) with either Barbara or Ian once again locked in a dirty cell for half the episode. I loved Barbara's interactions with Tavius, and the way she refused to look him in the eye. He's trying to be nice to her, yet there's still something off putting about him that just makes him more interesting to watch. Which lead nicely to his cryptic message to the Doctor and the discovery of the dirty kneed body found behind the curtain (it's probably not mentioned in the summary, but dude, the body behind the curtain totally had dirty knees! I'm not kidding! Who has dirty knees?).

Anyway, I'm digressing, so I suppose that wraps up my review for this week.

Until next time!


Friday, January 22, 2010

Project postponed due to ill health

Even Historians get sick occasionally. Sorry about this, folks, but we will see you next week!

Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Slave Traders"

Hello everyone, the Historian here, bringing you the beginning of another story. Joining me, as usual, are Ketina, Ronelyn and Schmallturm. With this story, we return to our pattern of a Historical every other story, this time taking our friends back to anicent Rome. Without further ado, let's get to the summary!

Episode summary: First aired 16 January 1965. The TARDIS lands, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff...and falls! Ian awakens, dressed in period clothing, in a Roman villa--and grabs a bunch of grapes. Far from just recovering from the crash, it transpires that a few weeks have passed. The TARDIS crew, finding the nearby villa empty, have decided to take the time for a short holiday. The Doctor, watering plants nearby, accuses Ian of not simply resting, but slipping into becoming "bone idle!" Ian asks if Barbara and Vicki have gone to the nearby village. The Doctor, after musing a bit on Roman plumbing, answers that they have. Indeed, the two are making their way down the road towards the village, intending to spend some time and money at its market. Vicki tries to hurry Barbara along; she is frustrated with the older people's relaxation. They'd promised her adventure! Barbara tells Vicki not to worry, rather than having to look for it, adventure normally finds them. And, indeed, a ragged looking man waits in the bushes, sharpening his sword, but he lets Barbara and Vicki pass unmolested. They are obviously not his intended quarry...At the village market, two unsavory characters survey the crowd. They are slave traders called Didius and Sevcheria, recently come from Gaul with a rather pathetic lot of slaves. They are scouting the market, looking for people who will not be missed. This is their last chance before Rome, as this village is too small for anyone to complain. They quickly spot Barbara and Vicki, who have arrived and stopped to notice an old man with long, white hair, enthralling the crowd by playing a lyre. The two women move on to a clothing stall, where Barbara reminds Vicki to watch out for anachronisms--they are not from "London," but "Londinium." As they move away, the slavers approach the stall and use coins to buy information from the stallkeeper. For a steady stream of coins, she tells them all she knows: The women and their two male friends appeared at the villa, apparently friends of its owner who are looking after it while he is away on campaign. They have come to the market to sell produce from the villa garden for prices that are far too low; it is obvious that the visitors have no idea of what they're doing. It is her last piece of information that excites Sevcheria; the stallkeeper overheard Barbara's comment about being from Londinium. Britons! The two slave traders make plans to acquire these four strangers. Meanwhile, the lyre player has finished his concert to appreciative applause. He acknowledges this, and leaves the market, travelling up the road Barbara and Vicki had taken. It is he that the skulking man has been waiting for, and the old lyre player is ambushed and killed. The man drags his body into the bushes. Later, back at the villa, the TARDIS crew relax after a large meal. Ian and Barbara ask the Doctor if they shouldn't go check to make sure the TARDIS is all right, but he testily dismisses them. It is fine, he assures them, and it matters not whether it is right side up or not; it can take off from any position. He tells them they can check on it if they want to while he is gone. Gone? Why yes, the Doctor plans to go to Rome for a few days, surely he'd told them. Vicki, bored of villa life, asks to go along and is delighted when the Doctor agrees. But he angrily refuses the other two's request to come along, realising (rightly) that they want to come to keep an eye on him. If they want to go to Rome, they can go themselves! He and Vicki begin packing provisions. After they leave, Ian and Barbara relax. The two decide that if the owner of the villa returns before the Doctor and Vicki, they will go to the TARDIS to wait. Barbara uses a comb to rearrange Ian's hair in more of a Roman fashion and he, liking what he sees, takes some time to ham out lines from Julius Ceasar. In the slavers' camp, Didius again bemoans the sorry lot they've brought from Gaul. Sevcheria, while making plans to break camp that night, reminds Didius that they must go to the villa for their prizes. The two strap on their swords and exit. Back at the villa, Barbara and Ian have been drinking perhaps a bit too much wine. The two are surprised by Didius and Sevcheria, who are visibly disappointed to find only two of the expected four at home. Ian tries to make excuses, believing one of the slavers to be the villa's owner, but the slavers quickly overpower our friends. On the road to Rome, meanwhile, the Doctor and Vicki have come upon a statue. As the Doctor stops to look at it (to Vicki's consternation), he notices something in the bushes--the body of a man! The dead man is the lyre player, still clutching his instrument, which the Doctor takes absentmindedly. Vicki recognizes the dead man from the marketplace, but the Doctor advises her that getting involved in what was obviously an assassination would not be a good idea. But, turning, they discover a centurion beating the bushes with his sword, obviously looking for someone. Seeing the Doctor--an old man with flowing white hair, currently carrying a lute, the centurion answers the Doctor's question by "recognizing" him as the great musician Maximus Pettulian, who had been journeying to Rome to meet with the Emperor Nero, a musician himself. He had been expected earlier, so Nero, concerned for his safety, has sent out an escort. The Doctor, excited at the idea of an inside look at Nero's court, decides to play along, although Vicki is unsure that this is a good idea. The Doctor introduces her to the centurion as the girl who "watches the lyres," a knowing look acknowledging the pun to her. In the centurion's company, they again set off for the camp at Assyrium. Later, Didius and Sevcheria run into a man looking to buy some slaves and begin driving a hard bargain with him. The man asks about the British woman, but is told he must go to Rome to bid at auction if he wants her. The man, still needing three "replacements," continues to dicker with the traders. Outside, Ian and Barbara are chained to a wagon wheel. Barbara is despairing; as a history teacher, she is well aware how the Romans treated their slaves, as well as how few were able to escape bondage. Ian, however, refuses to give up hope, even as Barbara adds that time is against them. Even if they could escape, how long could the Doctor and Vicki wait for them? Didius, Sevcheria and the buyer approach, having struck a deal, to examine the merchandise. The buyer picks two Gaulish men...and Ian. As he is being unchained from the wheel, Ian tells Barbara he will find her in Rome. But his new owner tells him with some relish that he will be going nowhere near Rome! At Assyrium, the centurion paces up and down angrily. The ragged looking man who killed the real Maximus Pettulian appears and the centurion grabs him, calling him by name as Ascarius. He demands to know why, when he went to look for the musician's body, why he found a live man instead? Wasn't the assassin's pay from Nero--to get rid of a better musician so the Emperor would not be embarrassed by his own lack of skill--enough to do the job? Ascarius tries to protest, but is obviously mute. Never mind, says the centurion. The musician is here, so Ascarius can go earn his fee--or be killed himself. A short while later, the man creeps along towards a curtain, behind which we can hear the Doctor and Vicki laughing as the Doctor attempts (and fails) to play his stolen lyre. Ascarius draws his sword and moves through the curtain....

As I said before the episode began, "And now for something completely different!" Breezy and witty, new story editor Dennis Spooner's script sparkles in a way that Doctor Who hasn't before, quite, with occasional almost Cowardian-like repartee. One of Ronelyn's favorite exchanges is not atypical:

THE DOCTOR (to Ian): Oh? Well, I don't know that I was under any obligation to report my movements to you, Chesterfield.
BARBARA (correcting him): Chesterton.
DOCTOR: Oh, Barbara's calling you.

There are similar delights sprinkled throughout the script, from Barbara and Vicki joking about anachronisms to discussion of the lack of refrigerators in Roman times! Of course, this fun is wrapped around a few serious subject, slavery and assassination, the former endemic to the period (and, with some exceptions, just as fearsome a prospect as Barbara alludes to) and the latter a standard view of Nero's time. (If writers like Suetonius are to be believed!)

As you might expect from the above, this episode was like Spooner's last story, "The Reign of Terror," in that it sparked some historical discussion, especially between myself and Schmallturm. Of course, examining the history too closely is never a good idea. Where, for example, were the slaves and other servants that should be keeping up the villa regardless of whether the master is at home? How much rest could Barbara have been getting if she was doing all that cooking and (presumably) cleaning? (I opined that the villa's owner would come home to find a room entirely filled with dirty dishes.) And, of course, there are the nitpicky things, like Barbara and Ian not mixing their water with wine, etc. etc. I think the best way to look at this story, though, is as taking place in what I called "BBC Costume Drama Rome." The best thing to do is look at it as being informed by history, but walk away from the idea that it would be bound too closely to accuracy in any way. After one does that, it becomes unreservedly delightful and engaging.

This story also continues an aspect of the historicals, going back to "The Aztecs," that the team finds endlessly amusing: once again, upon arriving in a historical period, the TARDIS crew almost immediately steals clothes and belongings. This time, though, they take things to a farther extreme than simply finding clothes to fit in. As I mentioned, they simply move into an empty villa, eating the food, drinking the wine and generally making themselves at home! Ian and Barbara are quite right, I think, to fear the owner's return! Think about how you'd feel if you came home from a trip to find your home invaded by squatters! And, of course, the Doctor continues this kleptomania by absentmindedly stealing the dead Maximus' lyre--he doesn't even realize he is doing it, which is made obvious once he begins speaking to the centurion. (As he took it, Schmallturm quipped, "That's right, loot the body!")

The entire Project team enjoyed this episode thoroughly. In fact, our discussion this week was a bit difficult because we had a hard time finding any real fault with it! The script showcased the four regulars very well; it was nice to see Ian, Barbara and the Doctor relaxing together, obviously enjoying each others' company and completely comfortable with each other. The addition of Vicki gave us another element; as I mentioned in our previous story, she feels much younger and more energetic than Susan. She wants adventure, it's why she agreed to come along, whereas Susan was there as the Doctor's granddaughter. There's a vividness about her, an excitement at being there that transfers very well to the audience, and must have resonated very well with young viewers at the time. The guest cast, for what they have been given (this is definitely the core cast's script), do quite well also. Sevcheria and Didimus manage to be quite well-drawn in their small screen time, appearing as rogue and rogue-in-training ("We'll make a slaver of you yet!"). The miming of Ascarius, the closest this episode comes to pathos as he tries desperately to make himself understood by the centurion, is an effective bit that conveys a lot with a little. Even the somewhat dull centurion comes off well, as he introduces the idea of Nero not liking rivals in skill one bit. (Although Schmallturm was amused by the thenturion'th apparent thpeech impediment--shades of "Life of Brian," according to Schmallturm!) The costumes and sets were, as I mentioned "BBC Costume Drama Rome," which means quite good within a limited budget.

All in all, a lot to like and almost nothing to dislike. If the following weeks continue this trend (and, as with the last story, it's been a very long time since I've seen it, so my memory isn't as sharp as it could be), I'd say we're looking at a very fun Doctor Who Historical indeed! Can't wait until next week, but until then, I remain



Ketina here,

So, I have to say that the start of the episode confused me. The TARDIS falls down the hill with the crew being thrown around inside. Then a shot of the TARDIS sideways on the ground, covered in weeds, looking much the worse for wear. And then Ian, laying down in strange clothes, just waking up, leans over to eat some grapes. Suddenly we're in Roman times! Is the TARDIS okay? Is it broken? Can they fix it? I'm completely distracted for the first 5 minutes of the episode wondering all this, until the Doctor finally discusses it in a completely blasé manner. I suspect, however, that I was the only one of our group annoyed by this late explanation.

Another scene that bugged me was when the group finished eating dinner, as they squatted in their palatial estate. The Doctor asks Barbara what they just ate, and she describes this outrageous meal. Perhaps she was joking, but in either case cooking a dinner like that in ancient Rome would be lots of work. Yet everyone is raving as to how this trip is so relaxing? Would Barbara really think that making bread from the wheat she'd have to pick herself be relaxing? The Historian says to "just walk away" from the inaccuracies to any level of realism, but these sorts of things just bug me. But then again, I wonder where the toilets are on the TARDIS. :)

Story wise, however, this one so far is lots of fun. The Doctor is a lying old coot, and the Mr. sword swinging hero Doctor from last week seems to be once again replaced by the absent minded mischief making schemer. I guess a month lounging on the Mediterranean made him a little soft? We'll see if a long walk to Rome fixes that.

This week -
Screams: 1
Squees: 1 (we got an actual honest to god "squee" from Vicki, when the Doctor told her she could go with him to Rome.)

See you next week,


Thursday, January 14, 2010

"The Rescue" wrapup

Hello everyone, the Historian here to wrap up both the first Doctor Who story of 1965 and the first TARDIS Project story of 2010. And it's a great way to start out the new year: a well written, well acted, well directed and well designed piece of work. Not only that, but a new and promising addition to the cast in Maureen O'Brien's Vicki.

Let's talk a bit more about Vicki. Developed by ex-story editor and "Rescue" scripter David Whitaker, she could have been a carbon copy of Susan. Instead, Whitaker brings us a subtly different, seemingly younger character. It's still early days for her, of course, but Vicki is presented, due to the necessity of her circumstances, as somewhat more self-reliant than her predecessor. She also feels things very keenly; her pain at the death of her pet, and her slightly misplaced anger at Barbara, felt very natural and real. Her interactions with the Doctor and her obvious need for some kind of comforting parental figure also rang true for me. Still, as I said, it's early days yet and we have to remember that Susan's character also slipped back and forth from well-drawn to "screaming girl." But I have a good feeling and Maureen O'Brien's acting in this story certainly helped.

What else to say that we didn't cover in the individual episode posts? Well, I suppose I should mention a few firsts. The first core cast addition is covered above, but this story brought us the show's first major production change as Dennis Spooner (writer of "The Reign of Terror" and the story that begins with our next episode) took over as story editor. This story, being written by Whitaker, doesn't yet seem to have Spooner's stamp yet, but I'm sure we'll notice some subtle differences in tone as the year continues.

This story is also the first time the show fakes out its audience by using pseudonyms in the credits. Sure, we know now that both Bennett and Koquillion were played by Ray Barrett, but if you only looked at the end credits of "The Powerful Enemy," you would be forgiven for believing that Koquillion was played by an actor named "Sydney Wilson." ("Sydney," from Head of Drama and show sort-of creator Sydney Newman and "Wilson" from BBC Head of Serials Donald Wilson.) This would be a trick the show would return to many times (especially in regards to a certain Masterful villain), but it was first used here.

And then there's the "show mythology" first: In the first episode of this story, the Doctor corrects Barbara, after she tells him that the ship has landed, by telling her the proper word would be "materialised." This is, as far as I can tell, the first time the word has been used to describe the TARDIS' arrival somewhere. Does anyone know if I'm right? At any rate, soon "materialise" and "dematerialise" will become the standard description of the ship's travel.

To sum things up, I thought this story, though short, was a great success. Its plot was fun, with a great little mystery. Simple, ultimately, but satisfying, with some great character moments for everyone, especially the Doctor who gets several wonderful scenes as he deals with the loss of Susan. (His interactions with Vicki should certainly be viewed with that in mind.) Hartnell, as usual, shines. Everyone else has their moments (not to mention Jacqueline Hill nearly burning her face in the line of duty) as well. Just a fine short story.

And now that you're tired of reading my babble, here's some of our babble, links to our individual episode posts:
"The Powerful Enemy"
"Desperate Measures"

If you're interested in more production information (like the details of Jackie Hill's accident alluded to above), check out "The Rescue" page at A Brief History of Time (Travel). And here is a link to the official BBC episode guide for the story.

Tomorrow night, as I type this, the Doctor, Ian and Barbara take their new friend Vicki back into Earth's past for an adventure that has a radically different tone...See you then! I remain


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,


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,