Doctor Who — The Crusade

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Season 2 – Episode 6 – (1965)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Thank goodness I can at least say something in general about the series here. As mentioned before, there is a sort of rough idea of balancing the futuristic sci-fi stories with the historical one. This story is the last historical to air before the introduction of the pseudo-historical. For clarification, a historical story is one set entirely in the past with the gang interacting with the locals and generally watching or getting caught up in history. The pseudo-historical warps the idea and generally includes aliens, monsters or anachronistic technology. Pure historicals only really happened in the 1st Doctor’s tenure, with a couple of exceptions. They tend to be paint by numbers progressive stories that involve the cast getting trapped or caught up in the past. I don’t always hate them, I love The Aztecs, but this one is tedious.

I suppose the main reason I don’t like this one is that it’s a less comical version of The Romans. The group arrive in the middle of the crusade and Barbara is captured starting off the story. In that time, The Doctor, Ian and Vicki meet King Richard I, and Saladin and, look, I’ll just chuck out the plot as quickly as I can!

In true style – Barbara and Ian are the ones who are caught in the underbelly of the operation while The Doctor and Vicki are more caught in the over world of the aristocracy, playing games with Richard I and trying to sort out things, while never being truly worried about what is going to happen. Obviously in this time he becomes a trusted adviser in the court and Ian is knighted Sir Ian of Jaffa. Ah I guess one more thing is that Vicki has to pretend she’s a boy – which she doesn’t like – take that, those of you who assume the classic show is old fashioned! The female characters barely ever just accept these things.

The standard way of addressing stories with missing episodes is to watch the serial with the audio (all intact) and telesnaps or screenshots that have been kept and matched up over the years. Some background… This story is actually the only one in season 2 with missing episodes. This makes season 2 as the most complete of the junkable era in the show’s history and that’s probably a good thing. This season is the most solid of Hartnell’s run and sure THIS story is forgettable but largely they are solid plots that show a great progression in the show. There exist some alternative ways of viewing this, one of them is having a rather aging William Russell (Ian) narrating the progression of the story between. They are cute, findable online and do add a bit more nuance to an otherwise rather flat story.

Mercifully four parts, but definitely a least favourite for me. My least favourites aren’t always the historicals but a couple of them really drive me away.

Favourite Quotes:

I can’t come up with one this time I’m afraid – it’s just not memorable enough

Score:

1/10 

Next time: Time isn’t behaving right and the Doctor and co. find themselves as exhibits in a space museum. Can they avoid this fate? Why are they trapped? It’s revolution and evil corporations! My inner Marxist is looking forward to it.

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Doctor Who — The Web Planet

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Season 2 – Episode 5 – (1965)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Here we go! Well many people turn around and start spinning some nonsense about classic Doctor Who being unwatchable. It has nothing to do with character, stories or writing usually but boils down to bad special effects. This is… undeniable here in this story but I have a small counter argument…

If you can watch the original Terminator movie that features stop motion about as realistic as that seen in the original King Kong you can bloody well deal with a man dressed in spandex and fur, with plastic wings pretending to be a butterfly-person! Just ignore the obvious wires, when they fly!

menoptra

Yes alright its flawed by today’s standards but the imagination behind the writing was pretty boundless. Why not try for this sort of story! It’s a six-parter and I’m already on record as saying that tends to present a pacing problem. This isn’t always true but this boils down to how much content is in the episode and this is a rather slow paced civil war between species with a malicious leader…

Let’s do a run-down. The group are pulled down to the planet Vortis – In a very abridged manner, the following happens: They find a large structure and then a pool near a rock; being 60’s Who that means it’s clearly acid and this is proved by melting Ian’s tie. Oh and his gold pen vanishes too… in a move I’m going to call Chekhov’s Nuke (a writing device that states that if a gun is introduced in the first act it must be fired in the third, while being massively telegraphed as to happening).

To be fair the gold idea also means that Barbara, wearing her bracelet made of gold, becomes possessed. What follows is the group meeting the native intellegent species, the Menoptra, a race of butterfly people who have lost the planet to the Zarbi, a race of ant people (complete with two human legs sticking out of an ant costume. The Zarbi are native too but not capable of thinking any more than a basic animal, and yet they seem to have been elevated, driving the Menoptra away from their home world.

The Doctor is, of course, a person of intrigue to the force that is elevating the Zarbi, a creature known as the Animus, and he keeps it on its toes for as long as he can. Six episodes later finally they mount an attack on the controlling force, which, surprise surprise, shows that the Animus is using gold to control things. A bomb is used to destroy the Animus and all things revert to normal.

My thoughts? Oh this episode is pure pantomime but a solid enough story. Its ambitions out way its production but that should not be a negative. Without that thinking we wouldn’t have the Daleks… I can’t decide what to rate this episode, because there are so many conflicting thoughts. The story is solid but slow. The effects are laughable but ambitious. I think actually you should all know what I will rate this, because it’s damn obvious now I think about it.

Favourite Quotes:

Nothing really… I like:

  • The Doctor: My ship. My TARDIS.

Score:

5/10 

Next time: O…K… It’s one of my least liked stories – It’s just a boring playaround in the past. It’s an episode called “The crusades” and I’ve only ever been able to get through it as a story on in the background… Maybe it’s me but hell… one more go…

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Doctor Who — The Romans

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Season 2 – Episode 4 – (1965)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki

Verity Lambert, the producer of the time, had a thought. Doctor Who had become a success – season 2 had been granted more budget. You can see the series flirts with more interesting effects and more elaborate ideas – you see – the series was a success and people loved it. You have the formula that turns out to be good and as a producer, what’s your thought? Isolate the formula! So begins the series’s first experiment in tone. From now on the series is going to be pitched as more of a comedy. It’s not a detriment really it’s just a notable change that sometimes raises its head. I consider this the mark of good writing, in that it’s clearly not the case that someone is saying “how can we make this funny?” I’d say rather, sometimes, comedy happens – sometimes the feel is different… Anyway!

Yes the TARDIS landed on a cliff and fell off – and now we’re in ancient Rome. Skip ahead a few weeks (the series does) and we see our group living in the lap of luxury. The Doctor wants to leave to visit Rome and Vicki wants to join so they head out leaving Ian and Barbara… to be captured…. Sigh well actually this turns into a comedy of errors somewhat. The Doctor finds a a murdered musician and is mistaken for the man – adopting his legendary lyre skills.

What follows is an adventure of selling Barbara to slave traders, Ian is sent to the wars and escapes (naturally). While Vicki and the doctor pose in the court of the emperor of Rome, one chap called Nero. Of course the doctor convinces everyone he is the fabled musician by claiming he will play a piece so delicate that only the most atuned can hear it – read – the Emperors New Clothes…

Everything is also a little cheeky and some of the story plays like a carry-on movie. Should we be surprised? After all Bill Hartnell played the Sergeant in Carry On Sergeant… Well Barbara is sold around Rome and Ian escapes to Rome and everyone misses everyone else until finally the final conflict with the Doctor standing up to Nero and setting fire to a map accidentally with a magnifying glass. This inspires Nero to set light to Rome and we all understand how it happened!

Actually this story is pretty good and is the first post Susan story that I would say is a diving in point. It’s not too long, remembering that I said that four episodes tended to be best at this stage and it delivers a nice show.

Well this is a good story – a bit of a change of pace but if you like a farce – this story is for you

Favourite Quotes:

  • The Doctor: Alright? Of course I’m alright, my child. You know, I am so constantly outwitting the opposition, I tend to forget the delights and satisfaction of the gentle art of fisticuffs.

Score:

7.5/10 

Next time: Oh this is the one… the biggy – the one that everyone winces and cowers at. Its the one with people dressed as such unbelievable aliens. Ant based creatures with boots… Oh you’ll enjoy this one!

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Doctor Who — The Rescue

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Season 2 – Episode 3 – (1965)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Ian, Barbara, Vicki
 – (Vicki joins)

I’ve noticed a tendency in these reviews to slip in some context of production in the classic series. These are the nuggets that I’ve picked up over the years and a little something to explain the great and good and defend the shoddy and bad. Almost all die-hard fans have seen the special produced for the 50th anniversary – by that I don’t mean the fun story with Matt Smith and David Tennant teaming up – but rather An Adventure in Space and Time. This was a story showing the formulation and subsequent production of William Hartnell’s tenure. It is pretty accurate for the most part, showing the grandiose American Sydney Newman appoint the first female producer Verity Lambert to produce the series. It is a wonderful story to watch following the two stories of Lambert’s fight to make a success of a laughable idea and Hartnell’s increasing health problems leading to his leaving the show. If you haven’t seen it, watch it!

The reason I bring it up is that after the departure of Carol Anne Ford as Susan, we see less and less of the new companions’ portrayals. Maurine O’Brien’s casting as Vicki shows once again that a few magical ingredients lead to the show’s longevity. In order to not fall out of favour, the show needed to change. Sydney Newman, for example suggested O’Brien cut her hair short and dye it black – O’Brien then questioned why they didn’t bring Ford back – a great point. Vicki is … more like Susan that perhaps I would like (she is often the one grasping The Doctor’s arm and adoring him – also playing the fool a bit too much) but she is different.

The plot is a simple two episode story showing The Doctor, Ian and Barbara landing on the planet Dido where they find a stranded vessel. The two survivors, a man named Bennett and Vicki, seem to be held prisoner by an alien native called Koquillion. The skeptic in me launched immediately into those thoughts that pick apart the appearance of the alien. “It’s clearly a carnivore”… “How could it speak?”… that sort of thing. The Doctor is puzzled, having seemingly been on Dido before and declaring they have always been a peaceful people. I’m sure the audience of the 60’s would struggle as much as I would in rectifying these two views with each other… Read on…

The team as usual does what they always do, split up and investigate, coming across perils and mysteries that will be resolved in this somewhat short and sweet story. Vicki and Bennett are from the 24th century leading to obvious questions from her about the two humans. It transpires that the seemingly injured Bennett may not be so injured as he seems to have wandered off. Eventually we get a showdown in a nearby cave with The Doctor turning to Koquillion, who had been trying a silent intimidation, and pondering that he thought that he thought the mask was for ceremonial purposes only. So Koquillion turns out to be Bennett, who is than captured by some natives of the planet (he’d been trying to kill them off), who are simply human looking in appearance. It’s a nice little reveal! Vicki, having no family or surviving crew-mates is invited to join the TARDIS crew and they depart.

This story isn’t the best, nor thought of as close to. I don’t despise it. It’s quite short and simple enough with a fairly good reveal and a nice character introduction. Mind you it’s not that interesting.

Favourite Quotes:

  • Ian: Yeah, well, he isn’t getting any younger, is he? You know, it’s the first time he’s been asleep during a landing. Barbara, I’ve got an idea he’s getting a bit… *odd mime*
    The Doctor: Remember, I can hear what you’re saying.

Score:

6/10 

Next time: The end of this episode sees the TARDIS materialise on a cliff edge! Then promptly falls off it… Look forward to the crew in Roman times, meeting Nero and doing what they do best… Splitting up! (It’s as bad as Scooby Doo, this show)

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Doctor Who — Dalek Invasion of Earth — and a tiny guide to the classic series

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Season 2 – Episode 2 – (1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Ian, Barbara, 
Susan – (Susan departs)

Let’s do some book-keeping – and do bear with me! Classic Doctor Who stories contain some level of notoriety among those who never watched them. I would say that of the modern series viewers, some have strayed to watch famous stories like Genesis of the Daleks. This is in Tom Baker’s first year, which is actually season 12 of the classic series. Let’s bloat this review with a quick run-down of how long you have to wait for various things… Here follows the brief rundown of Doctor Who moments…

We’ve met the Doctor, the TARDIS and the Daleks. For the Cybermen you will have to wait until season 4 in Hartnell’s last story; this is also the point at which we hand over to the second doctor, Patrick Troughton and then we wait until his swan-song in season 6 for the introduction of the Time Lords! We then head into season 7 for the third doctor, Jon Pertwee, whose serials introduced The Master in season 8 and the first multi-doctor story in season 10. Pertwee bows out after season 11, which contains the first mention of Gallifrey (the Doctor’s home planet), also introducing the Sontarons and the concept of regeneration. Yep! It takes that long to define it. Season 12 sees Tom Baker’s fourth doctor take over, introduce Davros and eventually K9 in season 15. Baker takes 7 years in the role before handing over to the fifth doctor, Peter Davison, who strolls through the next three years with another multi-doctor story but not too much in the way of modern-who icons. 5 becomes 6, Colin Baker, in season 21 (properly starting in season 22) introducing The Rani (a villain I would love to see back). The BBC then sacked 6 after season 23 and replaced with 7, Sylvester McCoy who ran the serials from season 24 to 26 and its death in 1989. Phew! So imagine my chance of reviewing a season through as 1/n, where n is the season number.

That little aside was important as new features is the reason that Doctor Who has continued for 55 years, it’s a constant renewal that really fuels this series and this story perhaps has the first moment that really begins that boulder’s rolling. The crew land on earth in London. Everything is quiet including the chimes of Big Ben and it quickly transpires that everywhere is empty other than bodies wearing strange helmets. Eventually it transpires that these are people being controlled by an external force, which are of course revealed at the end of the episode to be The Daleks. Thank God these enemies won’t be overused.

Anyway the group get split up (as is essentially the custom at this point) and Barbara and Susan meet a group of resistance fighters. Finally Susan gets to be the character we want to see with a much more well rounded bite that suits the idea of her.

Doctor Who in these days, as I’ve said, is quite progressive. It doesn’t rely on gender tropes nearly as much as you would expect, sometimes subverting them entirely. Particularly memorable is Barbara driving a large lorry into the Dalek lines in order to escape a situation.

I’m not entirely sure how to sum up this story other than from some of it’s best moments. So… The Doctor and Ian are captured only to escape from their cell by completing a logic puzzle. This seems to be a fairly eye-rolling idea until you realise it’s a trap to isolate the best and the brightest humans, to convert to Robomen, the servants of the Daleks.

The Daleks are planning to convert the earth into an interstellar battle machine – why not a planet, after all? This process must be stopped by our characters in a thrilling tale of resistance. I actually don’t want to spoil that much but its tightly written and you should really check this one out.

Susan, over the course of the episodes, falls for a resistance fighter called David (who is about as interesting as plain ice cream -not vanilla, plain) and regrets her inability to stay and help him when all will be over. This format works remarkably better in a serialised format than it would in the modern series. Remember you would have watched their “relationship” grow for weeks, at this time.

Anyway, The Doctor recognises this need in Susan to do more than just bounce around the universe and he refuses her return to the TARDIS. This is arguably the best goodbye of a companion ever and why shouldn’t it be? The Doctor is bidding farewell to the only other member of his species that we know thus far. He is heading out on his own but it’s a goodbye to his grandchild, the emotions should be higher than any other separation we see. The speech he delivers, telling her that she will not be allowed to reenter the TARDIS is masterful (and will be in the quotes section) and it leaves with the Doctor abandoning his first and closest companion on Earth in 2165. The speech has gone down in Doctor Who history and I really have to urge you to check this episode out. Honestly I could do another post on so many more aspects but I’ll just say our regular cast shine brighter than they ever have done.

Favourite Quotes:

  • Dalek threat: Rebel against us and the Daleks will destroy London completely. You will all die. The males, the females, the descendants. Rebels of London, come out of your hiding places.
  • The Doctor: During all the years I’ve been taking care of you, you in return have been taking care of me.
    Susan: Oh, Grandfather, I belong with you!
    The Doctor: Not any longer, Susan. You are still my grandchild and always will be. But now, you’re a woman too. I want you to belong somewhere, to have roots of your own. With David, you will be able to find those roots and live normally like any woman should do. Believe me, my dear, your future lies with David and not with a silly old buffer like me. One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye, Susan. Goodbye, my dear.

Score:

9.5/10 

Next time: A new companion in an eye-rolling story that is perhaps cleverer than we give it credit for. It’s trope heaven and is the villain who we suspect? Yes it is… It’s not the most subtle story…

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Doctor Who — Planet of the Giants

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Season 2 – Episode 1 – (1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara

Oh dear… A word count… I can do it. Well let’s start with season 2 because it does need speaking about. Doctor Who was a success and it was down to some public capturing; the Daleks really helped in this regard and this means that season 2 had a budget that actually mattered. We’re going to see a few realisations that, for the 60’s, were really brilliant. We’re also going to see those that did not matter. Furthermore some of the writing would become genius and some would not. I can’t help but really bring up the fact that doctor who was very progressive for its age and this is something that has been squandered in retrospect. The show has attacked itself for being dated unfairly and I will point out those points with great relish.

Let’s get to this story… The concept is that the TARDIS doors open upon materialisation. That means that the crew are subject to the Time And Relative Dimensions part of TARDIS. The whole point is that sometimes things can be bigger or smaller than they seem. So when the doors open, the pressure forces the wrong dimension on our travellers. The TARDIS is pushed into the wrong proportions and the crew are reduced in size.

Everything is intriguing but the plot is utterly boring. I suspect the real budget went into the next serial rather than this one. The point of this one is that the crew go from point A to point B and back without doing anything particularly important.

This story is a crime story where the crew do nothing other than avoid a few dangers that they face on that scale. The plot’s tension comes from the fact that Barbara has received a dose of insecticide that will kill her at the present size but there is no reason for the cast to be doing any of the things they are doing. The plot is actually serviceable as a short story but this hinges on the idea of removing the regular cast.

The idea is that a businessman wants to successfully sell the insecticide while side stepping the government and regulatory bodies. He does this by killing those who stand in his way but eventually he is brought to justice through a set of circumstances that would probably happen anyway. Oh well.. it sort of worked. Not really though…

Favourite Quotes:

  • Doctor: What’s happening? (frantically flipping switches) Close the doors, please. We haven’t materialised properly. Quickly!
    Ian: What do you mean, close the doors?
    Doctor: Don’t argue, dear boy. It’s an emergency! Close the doors!

Score:

3/10 

Next time:

It’s time to capitalise on the creatures that made you a hit and you’ve fought them on their turf, it’s only fair that they have a crack at yours. Iconic images of London bridge in the year 2165 and an invading force of our favourite pepper pots.

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Ocean Drive — Lighthouse Family — W.A.C.#5

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My Thoughts

“1995! It’s the year…”

That’s how I started this review but actually not an awful lot was happening. Diana’s interview with Martin Bashir was this year and Rose West was found guilty… Ok… What was going on in music?

Now that’s a little more meaty – the year of Oasis vs. Blur, Michael Jackson’s Earthsong, and, well, Cotton Eye Joe. Britpop is getting very toothy and from this haze emerges an act that would not be unfairly labelled Easy Listening.

The album opens with the song that captured the nation; this is Lifted. I think I can roughly express the spirit of Lighthouse Family as: “Oh that’s the name of who did this song.” Lifted is a fine start to this album. It’s not particularly adventurous but it’s a warm arrangement of a nice relaxed song that takes advantage of some really safe but constant harmonies, strong choruses and a rather good African inspired drumbeat. This is of course following Disney’s feature film The Lion King and I might just slowly point my cynical fingers at Circle of Life from this movie but to do so with an scathing look would make me totally incorrect.

Now, if you were around and a follower of the singles charts when Lighthouse Family were popping up, you might do well to just listen to the tracks on this album that you never heard. I’m not claiming that you haven’t been served chicken soup, but I am pointing out it’s been served with croutons, cayenne pepper and an interesting Focaccia (oh for God’s sake man would you like any more stereotypical middle class stereotypes).

The next two tracks on the album really do flirt with light R & B: Heavenly and Loving Every Minute are very much following the lovely lilt with funk memories, complete with the backing trumpet that complements the tracks. The spice is mild but present. Note: Actually I was wrong here – the latter track got a single release but I still think perhaps some more exploration is necessary

Ocean Drive is the track that may be best known on the album and I don’t think there’s much I can say. It’s solid enough with a replayability and should be played with a warm smile on your face while you play but let’s progress.

What I want to point out about this album is its memorable and catchy melodies and harmonies. There are constant and continuous motifs that just stick with you and occasionally will get in your head in the day making you think “who on earth did that?” or “what song is that again?”. The arrangements are competent enough and I think it has inspired a little soapbox point from me.

I want to point out that so many people try in all fields of life: be it english, art, music or any other field would do well to remember that in order to produce something good and worthwhile that you need to know the rules properly and have a good comprehension of these principles before truly understanding how to break said rules effectively. I mean I don’t know whether I want it on my grave necessarily but I want to create the quote: Know your circle of fifths before writing a song that has nothing to do with it. The reason I bring this up is that this album shows a clear comprehension for musicality and a knowledge of how to write something pleasant. I also think it’s a tad too conforming in its style but I am not going to scorn the student who wears his tie up to the collar and tucks his shirt in. (Yes that was me.)

I don’t think the album is faultless – I think the use of synths / electronic techniques can be somewhat hit and miss and I can present Sweetest Operator as an example of overproduction but Beautiful Night is definitely scratches my production itch… somewhat.

As for the progression – it’s a sensibly paced album and the final track is definitely a track that is screaming “this is our last message”. It’s clinically put together but honestly I don’t want to look too closely. I stand between you people! I want to rip apart some music and I want to really indulge the complexity of invention and counter-culture but God dammit I am not going to spit on the mainstream! This is aimed squarely in that oh-so-disparaged genre of pop but what is wrong with that. People can be fickle but art doesn’t have to be.

Is this album for you?

Alright I think I’ve made my position clear, my scores will show my thoughts and I’ve coined one or two phrases that I can blushingly (to my credit or detriment) say are mine. Here is one. This album is by and large Chicken Soup Music and by that I mean you aren’t going to go delving to get something ultimately complicated that is made for your own musical tastes and niches. There’s nothing wrong with it – some is really pleasant – some is great – some is tedious. It’s not always my cup of tea but if I turn my nose up when being offered a nice soup, I’m a snob. Don’t be a snob!

Scores:

  • Writing: 7/10 (Well done)
  • Performance: 6/10 (A tad uninspired)
  • Style: 6/10 (Chicken Soup)
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