Doctor Who — The Keys of Marinus

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Season 1 – Episode 5 – (1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara

Classic, and by classic I mean very classic (only the first couple of series), Doctor Who followed a formula for education. First you would have a historical serial for a few weeks – in order to teach children about history. Next you would see a sci-fi serial and this was used to teach children about science. It’s not a coincidence that Ian and Barbara are science and history teachers.

Keys of Marinus is set on a completely different world. The group land on a beach made of glass and, thanks to a fortunate accident, they discover the sea is sulfuric acid. It seems better to explore the monolithic pyramid at the center of the island. Meanwhile they are pursued by the scuba suit monsters! These are the Voord.

They make it into the pyramid followed by the creatures who are trying to invade. One of the Voord attacks a cloaked figure but he rescued by a timely Ian. He pulls a leaver and a trap door opens. The Voord (now played by a paper cutout) falls to its death screaming. The premise is this: there was once a computer aiming to purge thoughts of criminal behaviour from peoples minds. The Voord are a resistance movement. The scuba suits are actually scuba suits! – This is not how they look. The Voord set out to gain and manipulate the machine and so five keys (that make the computer work) were scattered across the planet in the hopes of preventing this. The time has come for the keys to be reunited – and the cloaked figure won’t allow the TARDIS to be accessed until our crew have retrieved the keys, with the help of teleportation bracelets.

Destination one features the group arriving in a paradise with every whim catered for. It’s an illusion and thanks to breaking the hypnotism by a badly placed mind control device, Barbara realises the place is sinister and an illusion. The hypnotised servants try to catch her, as do the remaining crew (also hypnotised). Thankfully Barbara kills the creatures that are responsible. They only feature for one episode so you should enjoy the picture of them:

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After this Ian and Barbara (everyone splits up) visit a jungle where the plants come to life and attack the place that the key is located. After a bunch of convoluted traps and the death of an old man who dies of causes: 1) strangulation by angry plant, 2) melancholic overacting, and 3) plot convenience, they find the key and proceed onwards.

They then teleport to an icy realm where they are rescued by the episode’s soon-to-be villain. He has kidnapped those who went on ahead, which is Susan and a couple of others who are also on the same mission. Our villian, Vasos, does portray quite the sinister figure actually. It’s a relief when they escape by means of the bracelets, once they are all together.

It all get’s a bit convoluted from here. Ian is framed for a murder in a city known as Millennius (residents: The Millennials *cough snicker*). The laws state innocent until proven guilty and so it’s up to someone to help out. The Doctor! Missing for two episodes of the story and now here to be very doctor-ish… down to entering with such timing that you believe that he’s been stood outside a door, waiting for his name to be mentioned.

It’s Scooby Doo for a time and you even get lines like:
“Because we know where X is hidden!”
“But you couldn’t know because I…”
Then by some bait and switch he is caught:
“But you can’t have found it, I…”

Susan is kidnapped (of course), while Ian remains on trial as an accomplice. More sneaking around and eventually the truth wins. It’s back to the computer but our cloaked benevolent figure has been killed and the Voord are waiting. Thankfully, Ian isn’t fooled by a man in a scuba suit in a cloak. He slips them a fake key and this causes the machine to explode. So quite a few are dead but free will is saved and it’s once again off.

It’s not a bad plot but it’s a bit slow going as we continue. The middle parts drag but setup and payoff are fairly well paced! A nice enough story and a fine one to check out. It features a bit of everyone being in good form.

Favourite Quotes:

  • Barbara [Of the sea]: Is it frozen?
    The Doctor: No, impossible at this temperature. Besides, it’s too warm

Score:

7/10 – Quite like it but it’s incredibly cobbled together.

Next time: Back to earth again but back in the time of the Aztecs. Are sacrifice, ceremonies and superstition really that bad? After all, Barbara is a queen here…

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Doctor Who — Marco Polo

MarcoPolo

Season 1 – Episode 4 – (1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara

There is a mix of things to write here. Let’s start with some background. Marco Polo, while not the best story plot-wise, is remembered quite fondly by the cast and crew. The setting is a little different for a number of reasons. Firstly the story is known as a “pure historical” – that is that the cast have been sent back in time and here there are no aliens or anachronistic technology. Our characters simply visit the past and are trapped there. Secondly the story is narrated by the character, Marco Polo in the style of the diary entries. These entries take place often over a map, something that will not be seen again.

The story is the first to be lost within the BBC archives. With film being expensive, it was common practice to junk old serials as repeats on television were unheard of. The serial was one of the widest sold abroad but despite this, no footage exists of the serial; not even a clip. Thankfully the audio is in tact and with the help of continued photographs taken as the story was filmed. The story can be watched in a form.

The TARDIS lands on earth in the 13th Century and … surprise surprise, there is a fault meaning that they are trapped without fuel here. The TARDIS cannot provide shelter, heat, light or water while in this state and so they are in search of help. They meet Marco Polo who captures their “caravan” and they are forced to travel with him on his journey. Marco travels with two key players – a young Chinese girl called Ping Cho and a Mongol known as Tegana.

Susan – being a similar age to Ping Cho (remember that we’re before time lords and the like) founds a friendship and naturally the third player is the villain aiming to sabotage Marco Polo’s caravan. First he aims to poison the water supply but eventually resorts to slashing the supplies open instead. The Doctor fixes the problem (sort of) when condensation builds up on the inside of the TARDIS walls. The TARDIS crew begin to suspect and build up a case to Tegana and naturally… this leads to nothing. Welcome to part 4/7 of a 60s sci-fi. (Don’t try telling me Star Trek is better, it was also quite slow).

I am not having that much of a go – I actually find these things quite watchable and even good. Over the years our tastes have seen a want for increased pace, which has been both a blessing and a curse. The point is pace vs. substance – heres a quick run-down:

  • 70s Doctor Who did it much better
  • 80s Doctor Who sacrificed a combination of both to a certain amount of “glamour”
  • Current Doctor Who is not short of pace but can absolutely miss the mark on the other things… Oh I’m coming for you, my pretty – at my zimmerframe speed. Zeno’s paradox and all that…

For current or past sci-fi, you decide and maybe get back to me on who and how things miss the mark. For us, back to the plot:

We naturally have a low point as Marco Polo’s trust in our cast is at a low. (The Doctor gave a fake key and smuggled the real one.) Ian prevents an imminent attack that Tegana is aware of and so faith is restored. Now Ping Cho tries to smuggle the keys to the party but Susan… For God’s sake Susan… She goes to say goodbye to her friend. (Fine – it’s fine, though Susan does bother me). Susan is caught by Tegana…oh and she screams…

We bicker in this fashion for a long time until finally Marco Polo delivers everyone to Kublai Kahn who also argues with The Doctor until they bond over both being old. It’s a little charming but it’s not until the next serial that we’ll really see The Doctor on form. Things build to climax and of course Tegana is shown as a traitor and of course, our group have to leave in a hurry. It’s an ok ending but well… we did take the scenic route.

Look – I am not against classic “Who” and I am very happy to watch the lost episodes but Marco Polo perhaps suffered more than most in this loss. The story is something I’m going to term “Doctor Dot”

[Based on the term dot-to-dot. As in “connect the dots” – oh it’s very A to B to C to D basically.]

The guests are fine and Mark Eden as Marco Polo is great but the side cast cause our mains to suffer, so to me it’s a rather so-so story. Oh and it’s slow to beat Edge Of Destruction…

Favourite Quotes:

  • The Doctor: We’re always in trouble! Isn’t this extraordinary – it follows us everywhere!

 

Score:

5.5/10

Next time: Something much more interesting! Back to another planet with true sci-fi problems. The story is great and the BBC have decided that monsters that capture the public imagination are a good idea. Will the Voord stand up to the Daleks?

Answer: We haven’t seen them since.

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Doctor Who — The Edge of Destruction

EdgeOfDestruction

Season 1 – Episode 3 – (1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara

Our group leaves Skaro behind and immediately the TARDIS is blasted by a force. The group is knocked unconscious and … the characters have amnesia. It’s a trope that I really don’t like; it’s frequently lazy, slows down a plot and removes established dynamics. Mercifully the bout is short and the characters recognise each other again.

I believe this is designed to sow the idea of mistrust that follows. Something is wrong with the TARDIS; the doors keep opening, the machines keep showing faults and Carole Anne Ford’s acting as Susan has become so over the top that I never recover my liking of her character.

The setup is quite interesting. We have Ian and Barbara that are new to the ship, making The Doctor and Susan suspicious. The latter two, on the other hand, could be viewed as the kidnappers of the former and are so intelligent that the teachers (and the audience) can’t trust them.

The TARDIS has no background noise and the clues begin to get more and more strange. Most of the console is charged save for one panel. The TARDIS keeps showing images increasingly far away from a planet, eventually showing a solar system – only photos though – not a true representation of what is there. The column rises in the console and the fault locator, while not showing a fault at all, suddenly shows everything is at fault at once.

The doctor is worried. The amount of power to drive the column of a TARDIS is way beyond Ian and Barbara. Suspicion is continuous and the episodes (thankfully just the two of them) go on forever.

The solution is one that I actually really love and I am going to spoil it – skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know. In order to escape Skaro, the doctor pressed the “fast return switch” – this is sort of reset button that is designed for a clumsy but quick exit for the TARDIS. The switch, however, is mechanical and the spring that stops its continuous pressing has jammed. To a (presumedly) electrically wired TARDIS, there has been no problem as no circuit has gone faulty, merely the switch is continually pressed. The TARDIS, sensing it is plunging ever back in time to the birth of a solar system and foretelling its own destruction is warning everyone in a set of ad hoc clues. Nothing is wrong – yet everything is.

The spring is reengaged properly and the problem stops immediately. This includes the immediate restoration of the ambient hum – something that you may not have noticed, as the audience, has been missing.

The Doctor (with a bit of minor prompting) sees that he has perhaps crossed a line by berating his “guests” continuously. He does as best as he can to apologise. This is incredibly indirect as that is how Hartnell’s Doctor expresses himself but he really cares at the end. With a minor tender moment he proffers a little wisdom and glances his thanks as well as complimenting Barbara. The story is done, with perhaps a longer than usual wrap up.

God help me I like this story. I first saw it at 18 (not at original broadcast, but YouTube worried less about copyright then). I just really like the solution to the problem in that the problem couldn’t have been found as it was a manual one. I just found (and still do find) that clever. It’s a very good writing tool.

Reputedly Doctor 1 is a really grouchy man – but with this serial and his apologies to Barbara, this reputation ceases other than some nice character quirks. From now on, the companions are very much equals. Something that will continue for quite some time. Such a simple story and not worth that much of a watch plot-wise. Character-wise though, it’s a gold mine.

Favourite Quotes:

  • The Doctor(Talking to Ian Chesterton) You know, I really believe I have underestimated that young lady in the past, Charterhouse.
  • The Doctor: As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves.

Score:

6/10 (I like its solution but it’s a slog to get to)

Next time: A purely historical story with Marco Polo – some very politically incorrect actors but what does it matter when the whole story has been destroyed. It’s time for the first Audio Reconstruction!

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Doctor Who — The Daleks

Season 1 – Episode 2 – (1963 – 1964)
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara

Taking a wander with our foursome we land in a strange landscape – a forest that is completely petrified – everything is dead. The travellers find a city, which is too much of an intriguing prospect for The Doctor. He fakes a problem with the TARDIS, where the only solution is to find Mercury in the city (naturally assumed to be common-place). Upon trespassing, they are captured by the Daleks in their first appearance and they are realising that the background radiation is killing them.

The Daleks feign a hospitable caution… Susan is allowed to leave to retrieve a mysterious package that was left, now assumed to contain an anti-radiation drug. She meets another race – the Thals – a race of David Bowie-esque pacifists who have an ancient phobia, though curiosity of the Daleks. Our travellers escape and the Thals attempt an alliance with the Daleks.

We learn some history – The Daleks are confined to the city, moving like dodgems with electricity in the floor providing their power. The two races are ancient enemies that used to be at war. The planet is Skaro – the war ended with the detonation of a nuclear weapon and the survivors on both sides went two different ways.

Of course, in the course of the ruse, the actual Mercury source was lost and the group have to invade the city to be sure of leaving, hoping that the pacifists will help them.

So with the plot out of the way we have some thoughts. The Daleks are more or less how they have come to be known – they actually never say “exterminate” though – they do yell “fire”! There is something fairly magical about this appearance and it’s really easy to see why the concept swept people away.

A fine moment shows Ian and The Doctor’s reaction to opening a Dalek. We never see the creature inside and this is a very powerful writing tool. Don’t show the true horror!

I also question whether we saw one of the first “Billy Fluffs” – William Hartnell was already suffering from a condition that addled his ability to work – his memory for lines was not perfect and the work schedule was gruelling. At this point, the shows were filmed like plays, retaking was not an option and so often actors had to improvise a line back on track. It’s certain The Doctor doesn’t seem to remember Ian Chesterton’s last name.

I also really enjoy the sheer number of Daleks sometimes present. The production only had four available – in some shots though, we see many more that are merely painted or photographed onto the background. Black and White conceals many sins and is very much a friend for this series, especially as the budget grows! Colour kills a lot of suspension of disbelief. Dear reader, suspend your disbelief if you can. Otherwise you will laugh yourself for 26 years of this show.

Score:

9/10

Next time: Well we leave immediately but there is a fault with the ship. It’s a problem with the TARDIS and we’re not leaving for the entire story.

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Doctor Who — An Unearthly Child

Season 1 – Episode 1 – 1963
Doctor: 1 – William Hartnell
Companions: Susan, Ian, Barbara

It’s easy to forget that with 55 years of history it all started here. Well we didn’t introduce very much. Long away are the days of The Master, The Time Lords and Gallifrey. No this episode is the beginning of people lost in space and time and it’s an interesting little start, dripping with the 60s. Yet the first shot is to that theme music, haunting in its earliest iteration by Ron Grainer and arranged by Delia Derbyshire. The shot finishes on a police box in a junk yard and we (so gifted looking back) should have chills.

We introduce:

  • The Doctor – played by William Hartnell and completely enigmatic – at this point nothing has been established and we see a white haired, aging man. He is irritable and a little conniving. More on him later.
  • Susan Foreman – the doctor’s granddaughter and also mysterious. She has been travelling with the doctor until they settled in 1963.
  • Ian Chesterton – A science teacher of Susan’s as she attends the school. Upstanding is the word and honestly the kind of teacher we should hope to have.
  • Barbara Wright – A history teacher of Susan’s. She is also a well presented teacher with traits that befit the best teachers. Concern and curiosity embody both her and her colleague.

Ian and Barbara are concerned about a brilliant student at school who seems not only brilliant but also appears defensive at any idea of any teacher investigating her home life. An investigation leads them to a junk yard where the girl has disappeared. They are stopped by a man, The Doctor, who cannot prevent them from entering the seemingly discarded police box. It’s, of course, the TARDIS and we see the thing is enormous on the inside. In order to prevent them from seeking an authority and in a fit of pride, the doctor initiates the first time travel sequence and the group are transported to the stone age.

Oh if we could just watch part 1. It’s a masterful episode followed by 3 rather duff ones. Back here, the stories were separately named but in future it would be the story that took the title. The Doctor is really set out as an antagonist to begin with and the whole plot is to get the four to work together. Episode 1 fades out with that lovely TARDIS sound: piano strings scratched by a set of keys and layered over itself in feedback. The sound design is lovely and that final shot… a shadow of a man looking at police box on a desolate plain.

Episode 2 – “It’s still a police box” – quickly we establish that the TARDIS should change shape to blend in but has failed to do so. This troubles The Doctor and establishes our final piece of lore.

From now on we follow the feuding cavemen in the quest to make fire and from here it’s just a bit of a trial to watch. Our group are captured. An intriguing note is that this show is quite happy to see a bit of violence – The old woman trying to prevent our travelers introducing fire to the tribe is attacked and this is nothing short of casual at this point in doctor who. Remember folks… People die in this show! What’s more interesting…

One of the cavemen is attacked by an unseen animal. This man is following our party to catch them and our valiant troupe turn back to help. Am I on the side of the doctor? “One moment ago we were trying desperately to get away from these savages?”

So the group try and help the caveman… Except… the doctor grabs a stone to strike… and is caught by Ian… This is the only time that the doctor is seen to attempt to kill without necessity and is interesting. He won’t do this again.

Part 4 does set up SOMETHING, however. The doctor gets the best of someone through a bit of out-thinking. This is it sadly – the rest of the episode is … well it’s fine if this would be the only story ever but it’s kind of boring.

Score:

6.5 / 10

10/10 for that first episode though – I don’t mean this lightly – this is something to watch!
Next Time: We land in a forest – the radiation looks normal at first but very quickly rises to a dangerous level… Of course this early in the show we shouldn’t expect too much… especially with a title like “The Daleks”

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Lord Eels Only Connect Quiz #2

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Apparently, my last quiz was a little difficult… It was intended to be but I thought I might present three more that are just a bit simpler (either people have heard of them or the links are more obvious). Once again – please comment with the connections / sequences if you can!

Question 4: (connection)

 

Question 5: (sequence)

 

Question 6: (connection)

 

Honorable shoutouts if you get all three! Comment with the answers!

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Lord Eels Only Connect Quiz

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I thought I wanted to put together something a little different – Just for half an hour’s break of an evening … a little quiz for you.

For those who haven’t seen Only Connect – You’ll get four clues, in this case it’ll be purely sound based. There are two types of question: 1) They could be connected by a commonality or 2) They could be a sequence. Can you guess the links or sequences that define the following?

HEADS UP: I MIGHT STEAL SOME FROM THE ACTUAL SHOW…

I hope you enjoy!

Question 1: (sequence)

 

Question 2: (connection)

 

Question 3: (sequence)

 

First prize without help is an honorable mention… Leave a comment if you get it!

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