^ …I have no idea what to ssssssay.
The Seeds of Death
So we start on Earth, at the ‘T-Mat Control Centre’. Seems to be a shipping service for various goods and people. Instantaneous transportation. There’s also a base on the Moon which seems to be a vital centre of the whole network. It all seems rather interconnected, with any delay causing massive holdups. And by massive, I mean five minutes. This is enough to get people pulling their hair out in frustration. Impatient lot, aren’t they? But with a system like this where everything is instant, I guess you’d get used to that speed. A manager (Osgood) is sent up to the Moon T-Mat centre to get things in order, citing an apparently incompetent deputy manager up there as the cause of the delay (he’s called Fewsham). When he’s up there, the airlocks open and invaders storm the centre (who we can’t see because camera angles say so). On Earth, the controller there gets annoyed at Osgood not answering a call. Well, he’s a bit busy being a prisoner, and telling the invaders to shove off, before sabotaging the T-Mat and getting shot. And all the Earth workers do is get pissy.
The TARDIS lands in a museum of transport, in the far future of the late 21st Century. The TARDIS scanner improbably looks at various stills, and unable to bear looking at such an implausible display the crew go outside, look around and prod things. They find a video introducing the T-Mat system, going on about it’s infallibility, ha ha, and how it’s replaced all other forms of transport. Then someone holds a gun to them. Oh well.
Fewsham acts like a spineless toady, unable to sacrifice himself to stop the invaders getting a foothold on Earth. There’s a backup system, that only goes to Earth and not back again, but it’s damaged. Also, the video link’s broken, so they can’t communicate that way. So Fewsham tries to fix them, desperate to stay alive at the expense of everything else.On Earth the man in charge gets annoyed, and recommends that a rocket be prepared to go to the Moon to fix the T-Mat. This provokes laughter from everyone else, presumably because they’re idiots because that’s a completely sensible suggestion. On the Moon, the other technicians decide to try to repair the video link and berate Fewsham for his cowardliness as he protests, afraid that any deviation from repairing the T-Mat will get them killed.
The TARDIS crew are being held up by the museum curator (Professor Eldred). He says the museum is closed, and when they don’t leave, think they’re here as thieves. Quickly persuaded they are genuinely there to view the exhibits (well at least the Doctor is), he starts rambling on about rockets. He also mentions that humans still haven’t got beyond the Moon yet, which is rather good foresight on the part of the writers. Eldred is rather pissed that the T-Mat supplanted rocket development, which completely stalled space exploration as there was no longer any government support for space travel. They aren’t even used as backup transportation. This is absolutely retarded. In a situation like this, where the absolutely necessary lunar base becomes inaccessible to T-Mat, how will anything get fixed? Oh, and of course there is only one T-Mat expert and she is on Earth. All the other technicians are good for is minor repairs and maintenance. I can’t believe how short-sighted the humans in this period are, creating a system with such as stunning lack of backups or redundancy. Stupid stupid stupid!
The commander (Radnor) arrives at the museum, because it is where the remaining rocket is, and the only remaining qualified pilot for one is (the Professor). He’d been building and preparing a rocket. Eldred is asked to go to the Moon with his secret rocket to send the specialist (Kelly) there to fix T-Mat, with the promise of government support and funding. He snarks at the situation and refuses, like the troll he is.
The technicians on the Moon manage to send a short message to Earth, and Radnor hears, giving them the first inkling that the situation is worse than a mechanical fault. The technician is interrupted by the invaders, now shown as… The Ice Warriors!
What, don’t know who they are? Philistines! They were in the mostly missing The Ice Warriors! And they turned up again twice in the 3rd Doctor’s run, in both a friendly and a villainous role. They’re a complex race, and this story is the first viewers saw their caste system proper.
One technician is killed, the other escapes, leaving Fewsham to face the music. He cowers, and they obviously like that in their humans; he survives to try to repair the emergency one-way T-Mat.
Radnor protests that with the new evidence, it’s even more vital that they send the rocket. Also pointing out the fact that since all other travel is unused and obsolete, many communities will die of starvation without food imports. That’s a bit silly, as it would take a few weeks to die from that. Unfortunately for Radnor, the truth is the rocket’s untested and no safety checks have been made. But that’s just fine for our intrepid heroes, who volunteer for the mission. Everyone tries to remove Jamie from the mission due to not actually being useful, but he’s having none of it. Yeah, we don’t care about adding excess weight therefore requiring more fuel which they don’t really have, he’s main cast!
The escaped technician manages to evade the Ice Warrior pursuing him. He starts working on… something or other. Lamps?
The liftoff happens, but hey, the video link fails! Then the whole communications system goes in flames too! What a reliable machine! Of course the staggering danger of a fire on a spaceship isn’t touched upon.
The emergency T-Mat is repaired, and set to ‘receive’. Kelly and some technicians transmat over (HOLD ON - wasn’t that emergency T-Mat ONLY able to go to Earth and not back!? Or did I misinterpret what they meant? Either it’s a plot hole or a badly-worded explanation). Fewsham lies about where everyone is (so badly that if Kelly was paying attention she’d be able to call him on it right away - he says Osgood killed the man who communicated that Osgood was dead!). Fewsham turns off the emergency T-Mat to prevent more visitors, saying it could burn out.
The technician-at-large finishes building his own radio equipment (ahh, that’s what it was!) and starts sending distress calls. Unfortunately the Ice Warrior hears and enters. But that’s apparently what the technician wanted, as it was a trap! Oh well done! The lamps were heat beams, and he kills the Ice Warrior. The then resumes his transmissions. Unfortunately, this cuts off the homing beacon the TARDIS crew need to get the rocket into lunar orbit. Well, shit. But still, good show, almost-nameless character!
Well, the rocket picks up Phipps’ transmission (he names himself in dialogue, finally!), and he tells the crew what has happened. Seriously, this guy is insanely competent. So unusual for a minor character. During this, Kelly finishes fixing T-Mat. She’s rewarded by being captured by the Ice Warriors and all her escorts are killed. Phipps helps the rocket land and refuel, but the transmitter dies midway. Phipps repairs it, and the potential horrible crashing is averted by Phipps saving the day again. When landed, the Doctor decides to attempt to save Phipps. Zoe leaves Jamie in control of the refuelling, and Zoe goes to check the motors (motors? on a rocket? a rocket is a jet engine!).
The Doctor finds Phipps. Zoe finds that the ‘motors’ are completely useless, but is unable to contact the Doctor via radio, so she and Jamie leave the rocket to search for him. Doc and Phipps find an Ice Warrior taking Kelly… somewhere, and a chase ensues. Where the Ice Warrior lets her go for some reason. The Doctor gets cornered, and convinces the Warriors to capture him instead of killing because, and I quote, “Your leader will be angry with you if you kill me! I’m a genius…” Well damn. No arguing with that. The Ice ‘Lord’ Slaar seems unwilling to believe they came by rocket, because he’s also an idiot, so he dismisses the idea of any rockets from Earth. The Doctor manages to convince Fewsham to distract the Ice Warriors so he can see what they want to T-Mat to Earth. The Doctor is caught, but Slaar is gracious enough to let him look anyway. It’s a white ball, which inflates in the Doctor’s hand and bursts, releasing a gas which knocks him out so Patrick Troughton can go on holiday for a week. Frightened, Fewsham T-Mats another seed to Earth Control Centre, where it inflates and bursts, killing one man and starting to choke the others before the air conditioning sucks the gas outside. Eldred theorises that it was a seed pod (everyone’s been saying that! The Doctor, Radnor, Eldred… it really doesn’t look like one! It’s just a white ball!), and the smoke was it’s seeds. They’d just unwittingly released it into London’s atmosphere. Oh dear.
Phipps, Kelly, Jamie and Zoe meet up, and plan to make the base too hot for the Ice Warriors to survive. Zoe and Kelly fiddle with Phipps’ lamps, while Jamie and Phipps head to the control room. They see more pods being T-Matted to various Earth cities.
The reports of more deaths across the world trouble Radnor, but Eldred is convinced there is more purpose to the events than killing a few technicians (making him the only one who can actually see sense). The autopsy report of the man killed by the pod comes back, he died of oxygen starvation (Suffocation?! But… death by suffocation isn’t instant! AAARRGHH).
Slaar notices the Doctor isn’t dead (good ol’ respiratory bypass system) and orders him T-Matted to space. Why… why not just kill him?! Sweet jesus, what a colossal idiot. Doing what he asks takes some modifications to the T-Mat, as it’s designed only to work between T-Mat cubicles, not to random points. But before he can be T-Matted away, Jamie and Phipps open a vent in the cubicle and (somehow) pulls the Doctor out without anyone noticing. Erm…
So Slaar now wants an Ice Warrior T-Matted to Earth for an important mission. Fewsham has to put the T-Mat back together first, after Slaar’s absolutely pointless overly-elaborate execution attempt. Phipps attempts to get into the control room, leaving Jamie with the Doctor. The Ice Warriors hiss a lot. Loudly. Ow.
On Earth, the seed pods start germinating and bursting, spraying foam everywhere. As the Radnor and Eldred are receiving the reports, the Ice Warrior T-Mats into the room and spins around menacingly… I mean stupidly. It’s like it’s dizzy, or has no clue what to do now that it’s there. It shoots every extra, leaving the secondary cast untouched, and leaves. Hm. Plot armour? It them rampages across the country side (now filled with foam) and shoot more people it finds. The T-Mat control computer gets very emotional about the whole chain of events, poor thing.
Phipps can’t get in. So they go back to Kelly and Zoe. Zoe notes she can get in, as she’s smaller (oh, that old plot chestnut…). Phipps gets emotional as well, as the enormity of having all his friends killed and being hunted down by aliens sinks in. Well, that’s understandable. So he and Zoe take a break.
Guards are being killed left and right by the Ice Warrior, and Radnor seems content to just keep throwing men at it. Maybe he thinks they’ll bar it’s way with a wall or corpses or something. Eldred finally realises what connects all the locations teh pods appeared - they’re all cold climates, and in winter. Also he appears to be the only one thinking that the alien that came down is the advance party for an invasion. Does everyone only think about the small picture?! Does absolutely no-one have any forethought in this idiotic future!? I’m starting to support the Ice Warriors here. The only people making me give a shit about the humans in this one are Eldred, Phipps and the now-dead Osgood and his technicians.
Zoe and Phipps start again, and have to wait until the guarding Ice Warrior stops looking around the air vent. Fewsham notices, and for the first time in the whole story he does something right. He distracts the guard. Zoe gets in, and manages to turn up the heating, which for some reason, is controlled by a very stiff ship’s wheel. The Ice Warrior notices, and kills Phipps (even though he noticed Zoe, and only heard Phipps). The heating does it’s job, and kills the guard before it kills Zoe.
Aw. I’ll mourn Phipps… best minor character ever.
An Ice Warriors manages to somehow not see Jamie and Kelly when it enters the room they’re in, and nearly leaves - but the Doctor starts to wake (Troughton’s holiday is over!), and so Jamie starts a fight, which goes very badly until the heating kills the Warrior. Zoe reappears, and informs them what happened. Everyone seems shocked that Fewsham isn’t actively working with the Ice Warriors, but being coerced. But… surely his cowardice was obvious? Why was everyone thinking he was an outright traitor? Has lack of courage been abolished in the future or something?
Randor and Eldred are visited by a government snake in charge of T-Mat who complains at them all for the system’s failure (despite it actually working right now - didn’t Fewsham fix it?) and just being accusatory and dismissive of any effort anyone’s actually made. The Ice Warrior on Earth has made his way to the ‘Weather Control Bureau’, and kills some more people and hisses a lot. Then he breaks some equipment which is apparently just lying about rather than part of a larger system.
Fewsham T-Mats everyone on the moonbase to Earth, but lies about being able to set a remote T-Mat to come back after him. Well, that’s two acts of heroism. Slaar turns up, and manages to restore the heating to normal. Fewsham convinces Slaar he was attacked by the others and knocked out, and Slaar mentions a fleet of ships will be landing on the Moon shortly.
Kelly comes up with a plan to send up a communication satellite to replace the moonbase as a relay for T-Mat (so THAT’S why it still doesn’t work! Everything is relayed through T-Mat… what a blisteringly idiotic idea! Politically sound, meaning no nation has direct control of T-Mat, but it’s still astoundingly stupid). And how are they gonna get the satellite up there? Our survey says… ROCKETS! Which they had all along! Seems they didn’t abandon unmanned rockets, as they were still needed. Well, I suppose that’s rather a different field, I’ll forgive the writer.
The Doctor and Eldred collect samples of the reportedly indestructible foam, and run tests on it. It is a fungus of some kind, and it absorbs oxygen. A complete coating over the Earth will change Earth’s atmosphere to be more like Mars’. A pod starts to inflate, and in a panic the Doctor throws all kinds of liquids onto it to attempt to stop it. The fungus is vulnerable to… water.
70% of the Earth’s surface. Water.
No. Oh no no no. I’m not having this Signs crap. No sane plan for conquering Earth would ever rely on not coming into contact with water. No. This is totally and utterly absurd. No. I won’t have it.
Well, the good times had to end somewhere, right? Review ends.
Oh fine, I’ll keep going.
The Doctor tells Jamie and Zoe to get the Weather Control Bureau to cause as much rain as possible. Hold on, isn’t that where… oh, not bad Ice Warriors. Not bad at all. If there’s no rain, the fungus can only be destroyed on coastlines and near rivers and lakes! That’s still a bit shit for conquering the UK, but that hardly matters, given the UK’s tiny landmass. But rather than taking over the equipment to prevent rain, they’d destroyed it. Um… oh dear. Unless that extremely complex equipment they blew up was just an extremely elaborate set of controls. Knowing how this serial’s been going so far, it probably was.
Slaar (and some new Ice Warriors that we’ve never seen before who also survived somehow - it’s like they only had 3 Ice Warrior costumes or something) tells Fewsham to connect a homing device to the moonbase systems, to guide the fleet there. Because apparently the fleet navigators can’t just look out the window for the nearest Moon to Earth. The Grand Marshal (look at his sparkles! That’s a bold fashion statement) contacts the moonbase, and makes Slaar quite aware that the fleet has only enough fuel to get to the moon if they stick to the shortest route. So no deviations or they’re drifting in space to die in the sun eh? I’m sure that won’t be important. But why bring no excess fuel? It seems no race has any concept of backups at all in this future. Fewsham secretly turns the videolink on, transmitting this not-at-all-important information to Earth, and also sending the homing device’s signal in the guise of a test. Somehow from looking at the camera, Slaar finds out, but too late. He kills Fewsham, then rather than turn the videolink off, he blows up the camera. Well, by him, I mean he gets a Warrior to do all this. You know how the gentry are.
Jamie and Zoe find the Weather Control Centre’s staff dead, and the controls (I KNEW IT) destroyed. They’re forced to hide from the Ice Warrior that’s still there. The Doctor hears about them going there, and heads to the Centre. His attempts to enter attracts the Ice Warrior’s attention. A continuity error ensues, where the Doctor is covered in foam then he’s not. Jamie distracts the Warrior while Zoe opens the door, and the Doctor’s covered in foam again, then in the next camera shot he’s not. Again.
They trap themselves A-Team style, and start building another lamp trap, this one portable. Human security turns up and futilely shoots bullets at the Warrior and distract it away from the Doctor’s new lamps that would actually hurt it. Well done security. The Doctor manages to track it down and kill it. Well that’s rather pacifistic of him.
Kelly prepares a fake homing beacon, and conveniently has found a car with petrol in a museum. Not Eldred’s, as he doesn’t know what make the car is, so he didn’t have it in is collection. Also, where’d the petrol come from? Well, the car sends the beacon to the launch site to be sent into orbit.
The Grand Marshal slams Slaar for killing Fewsham, as now there is no-one on the moonbase to repair or operate T-Mat. Slaar claims he can use it, and will abduct more technicians from Earth just in case.
The Doctor repairs the rain circuits, and then hooks up his lamps to a battery, ready to be sent up to the moon via the satellite’s override of T-Mat. He kills the Warrior guarding the control room, but fails to disable the beacon before the Slaar and the guard capture him. Slaar orders him to familiarise himself with T-Mat so he can operate it for them later, so the invasion force will be T-Matted to Earth.
On Earth, the others see that the fleet is moving off course. Jamie is worried about the Doctor, as he hasn’t come back even though he’d succeeded.
Slaar is… not happy about this development. The Doctor had actually just disconnected the homing device - still on, but it wasn’t transmitting. Slaar claims “there is no power!” even though this is obviously wrong as it’s still flashing. Oh well. The Doctor lets Slaar know of the enormity of his failure - the fleet is falling into the sun with no hope of rescue, and the fungus is being destroyed so Earth is safe. [understatement]Slaar does not take this well.[/understatement]
Jamie appears in the moonbase T-Mat, and the Doctor knocks the remaining Ice Warrior’s gun aside so it kills Slaar instead. They finish off that one with a burst of solar energy from… something. But wasn’t there another one? Well, we never see it.
Everyone has an argument on Earth about acceptable safety standards for T-Mat while the Doctor and friends slip away. END.
The Seeds of Death is a difficult one to come to a conclusion about. The future is well-thought out, but it’s guiding principle of steamlining to the point of zero redundancy is completely moronic. The fact that the Ice Warriors also follow this design philosophy is what gets them killed. Everyone in this is an idiot.
Well, there are a few standout characters. I’ve already expressed my admiration of Phipps. But what gets me about his narrative role is that he’s a background character that absolutely fits the profile as someone who gets killed as soon as he sent that initial message the TARDIS crew hears. But then he killed the Ice Warrior, having invented the weapon used against them for the rest of the serial. He saves everyone multiple times. What a badass. Eldred is the sole voice of reason, making the right calls and being generally sensible in this dumb, dumb world.
Despite my criticism of the character earlier, I actually like Fewsham as a character. An ordinary person put in that kind of life-threatening situation would behave just as he did. He only stepped up to the plate when he knew there was hope for victory. Eventually he overcame his cowardice, probably through guilt, and a self-destructive impulse. His actions caused the Ice Warrior fleet to be destroyed, and saved Earth from invasion. Great character, well thought out.
Now, the real gem in this serial - the Ice Warriors themselves. At the time, no-one expected these throwaway one-story monsters to make a reappearance. The decision was apparently made due to the expense of the costumes from The Ice Warriors, and they needed to make the most of them. It was a good decision. The ‘grunt’ Ice Warriors don’t get any characterisation, but the new addition of a ruling class adds to the race’s identity. It secured them a place as a fan favourite, which lead to later serials where they would be developed further. Me, along with most Doctor Who production teams throughout the years, would really like to see them return again. How long can we ignore our neighbours in the new series? Mars is kinda… right there. And missing for some reason during The Waters of Mars, even though they’ll be back there by the end of this century in order for this story to happen.
Doctor Who chronology is strange - best to just say the Time War messed it all up.
So! A rather plain story, but well paced and presented, featuring great characters, both evil and good. As simple as The Seeds of Death is (and it was bound to be with a name like that) it’s enjoyable, but takes a while to get going. Stick with it, it’s a good ‘un.
Next time… oh dear. A ten episode epic, and Troughton’s finale. I think I’ll be splitting this one in half. Part 1 of The War Games soon!
^ TT-Capsule Fumigation - costs 350 Direction Points. Recommended by Dynatrope Monthly.
Crystalline conquerors completely control a culture of callow clods.
…Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Doctor Who’s doing quite well at this point. Two great serials in a row. Can it keep the trend going with a third?
What’s this here? It’s the first script sent in by Robert Holmes, later writer of some of the greatest Who ever put on screen, such as The Deadly Assassin and The Caves of Androzani. But it’s early days for him, so let’s see, eh?
Right, straight to it.
We open with some sort of award ceremony, though not everyone seems to be happy about the results. Oh, and the people here are called Gonds, as they will repeatedly say by appending it to all their names. And so the winners put on stupid silver robes with shoulders that would make Ming the Merciless envious, then walk through a door, apparently never to be seen again because ‘IT IS DA LAW OF DA KROTONZZ”
The Doctor-gond and his group land in a BBC Quarry, lark about with an umbrella and find a model city made of old carved bricks, and it smells a bit. Jamie-gond finds another door, looks a bit more advanced than everything else. Zoe doesn’t know what a door is. The door opens, and it’s the Gond from earlier. He walks out in a daze, then gets vaporized by gas projectors from the door frame. Um.
The other Gond is about to go in, but it seems they know that the door goes into a machine, which the Doctor also concluded earlier. But they’ve never seen the Krotons. So… they’re afraid of… nothing. They don’t mention punishments, so what’s causing them to obey? The crew arrive, and aren’t greeted warmly at all, as usual. Jamie-gond picks a fight with a guard, and due to being a veteran of the Jacobite Rebellion and therefore rather quite good at fighting, he wins. But, too late to stop the Gond girl from going in. She’s gone to ‘join the Krotons’, and not many people seem to be convinced this is a good thing. The crew point out the death of the Gond they saw outside, and this is met with a bit of good ol’ denial. Apparently outside is ‘contaminated’, and everyone who goes there will die. They rush out to save the girl, and a Gond called Thara (why have they stopped appending -gond on the end? Well, it did sound very silly) rushes out to help, convinced that since the crew seem fine, outside must no longer be poisoned. And apparently going outside is also ‘AGAINST DA LAW OF DA KROTONZZZZ”. They manage to save the girl, at the loss of the Doctor’s umbrella.
Umbrella (???-???). We will remember him fondly.
The girl seems to be suffering from ‘locked-in’ syndrome, and is completely unresponsive. So, Thara freaks out a bit. The leader of the Gonds is rather distressed that the Krotons, that only he believes are nice, are killing people. They’ve been under the heel of the Krotons for about a millennium, grabbing the brightest Gonds for some use or other.
The leader tells of how long ago, ‘silver men’ landed and colonised, and when the Gonds attacked them (go go xenophobia), they made the land poisonous. Well, that couldn’t be the benevolent Krotons in their silver machine, could it?
Some Gonds start bullying a teacher/mechanic to get an audience with the Krotons. When this proves unlikely, they decide vandalism will do just as well. Meanwhile, the leader decides he can’t tell his people of the Kroton’s deception as it would spark a new conflict, which the Gonds would definitely lose. That’s actually correct, so good on him. Unfortunately the vandalism is getting the Kroton’s attention. Apparently the Krotons are a tentacle with a glowing… um. Hm. And for no reason it’s decided The Doctor is a threat, even though his only appearance in the hall is arriving to stop the vandalism (and succeeding). Maybe the Krotons like their stuff being smashed with axes?
So the tentacle attacks him. And by attack I mean lunge menacingly over without doing anything. Oh, and it’s completely stupid. The Doctor finds it’s looking for his face, but doesn’t remember when it’s found it, so he just covers his face and it gets confused, poor thing. Then it gasses a random Gond and leaves.
The Doctor later finds that the Gonds have rather large gaps in their knowledge. They’re advanced, but have next to no knowledge of Chemistry. And since all their knowledge comes from the Krotons, Chemistry must be something they want suppressed. The Doctor and Zoe got to the ‘learning hall’ to see what they can find out. Left alone, Zoe stupidly starts using a teaching machine and does very well. Oh, and it’s an indoctrination machine, of course. So Zoe’s gushing about how the Krotons are pleased. At least this explains how nearly everyone’s so pro-Kroton for no reason.
The Gond girl wakes up, and blathers about a glowing ball. How frightening.
The Krotons send a message that ‘Zo-gond’ is now chosen to go inside. And she has to, or they’ll blow up the Gonds. So the Doctor takes the test, and proves the saying that ‘mathematicians can’t do maths’. So he fails utterly. On a resit, he does better, and the Krotons also want him. So they go in together. Inside, the pair work out that it’s a spaceship, and there are some prepared seats. The Doctor notices some kind of field projector, so he tries to ground it between himself and Zoe. Or something like that. The there’s a glowing ball. They grimace a bit, and some oddly close-up shots are made while a dubbing-over of them groaning can be heard. Some gas or other explodes into honeycomb… is this a metaphor for something?
When they wake up, Zoe realizes that it was draining their mental energy. Also the wall’s gone. It’s replaced by some tanks of crystal slurry. The Doctor takes a sample. Oh, it’s forming into some robots. So appropriately, they scarper. Jamie tries to break in from outside to save them. However, they manage to get out on their own, but only because the Krotons stop the death-gas from appearing, in an attempt to save them for recapture. The see they aren’t Gonds (somehow, despite looking the same) and identify Jamie as a non-Gond and let him in. He thinks he’s fine to fight them, with his metal bar. Ha ha ha.
So the Krotons try to interrogate their new prisoner. They use a spinning shiny bowl on a string to coerce him, like he’s a magpie. Well, it works. The Krotons track the Doctor and Zoe to the TARDIS, after Jamie blabs about it. One of them ventures outside to get them.
The Gonds seem to have a revolution on their hands, with a guy trying to convince a local scientist to fight them, and seem completely unwilling to wait for any chemistry research which could an actually effective weapon. So he takes over leadershi, and says they can fight the Krotons with ‘slings and fireballs’. The scientist counters with the argument that the Krotons have such advanced weaponry that any effort they make will be self-destructive.
Jamie proves how effective he actually is by subtly questioning the Krotons about what’s going on, and even gets how they can be killed (they can be reduced bay the the slurry form by ‘exhausting’). He also see that the Krotons are blind, needing verbal direction when outside their ship. He grabs one of their guns, but finds it’s completely useless against the Kroton. However, it distracts the directing Kroton so the one coming after the Doctor and Zoe gets confused and they escape.
The Kroton makes his way to the TARDIS and shoots some gas at it. It leaves, and rematerialises when the Kroton is gone, convinced the craft is ‘dispersed’. Nice safety feature, that. When the Kroton gets back, the seem to forget Jamie is there, and say that the ship will ‘exhaust’ in three hours. Now, why is it about to blow up now? Well, whatever. Jamie escapes.
The girl has recovered, and the Gond settlement has been evacuated in preparation for an attack on the Kroton ship. However, the leader has taken back control of the people, and has redirected the attack to the supports of the Kroton ship, hoping to topple it.
THE KROTON’S HEADS ARE SPINNING WHAAAAAAAAT
The Doctor runs down, telling them to stop, and gets hit by falling Styrofoam. OH NOOOOO Oh wait he’s fine. Goddamn cliffhangers.
THE KROTON’S HEAD ARE STILL SPINNING AAAAAAAand they’ve stopped when the ship rebalances. WHAT THE SHIP’S BLEEDING!? And Jamie escapes it. Also the guy trying to take over tries to take over again, claiming the leader’s attempts to fight the Krotons led to unnecessary deaths, not at all like what he proposes. Anyway, while they argue, a Kroton comes out. It demands the Doctor and Zoe, and kills a random Gond. They have a habit of doing that. It convinces the usurper, useless toady that he is, that if they turn over the Doctor and Zoe, the Krotons will leave the planet.
The crew reunite outside, and Jamie is sent to the scientist to help make loads of acid. The Doctor and Zoe get captured and are led into the ship. Before the door closes, the Gond leader dives inside to give them a bottle of acid, which gets him killed almost immediately.
The Gonds evacuate, apart from the scientist and a few others along with Jamie, after it’s pointed out that the Gond city is built structurally around the Kroton ship, and if it leaves the city would collapse.
The Krotons start telling their life stories for some reason, and Zoe subtly pours the acid into the remains of the slurry the Krotons were drawing from. This has the desired effect of dissolving them. Also the ship starts dissolving, as the scientist and Jamie pour their bulk quantities of acid onto the ship.
The Doctor and Zoe escape, meet up with Jamie, and leave quietly. The rest stand there starting at the melting Kroton ship, presumably killed offscreen as the city would then collapse around them. But since out heroes have left, who cares!
The Krotons is an odd one. Plot holes abound, but the whole thing is so gosh-darned interesting that I can’t disapprove of it. The Krotons themselves are well thought-out creations, crystalline robots that can exist in a dormant liquid suspended state, and functionally blind and rely on sensor readouts (though why they don’t have sensors on themselves is beyond me) and like The Dominators, reliant on diminishing power reserves. Unlike The Dominators, their power source can be easily replenished by draining a few ‘bipeds’ of mental power, which doesn’t appear to be lethal, just disorienting. But they kill the mental source anyway because.. why exactly? As another point, it’s very wise that the camera never really looks at the lower half of the Krotons, as they are in a silver dress to hide their actor’s legs and feet.
The use of a quarry for the Gond’s planet is justified, due to the prior devastation of the area. The Gonds themselves didn’t seem to work conceptually at first, but then the point of mental conditioning came up and it made sense. Then it didn’t again as it seems that the conditioning can be worn off by a stern talking to. The Gonds behaved believably, and the fact that one Gond used the situation to start a power-struggle shows that the centuries under the oppression of the Krotons caused some to react by trying to get power however they could. Or it was just a writer’s trick to add an extra obstruction in the way of the main cast.
No standout performances by anyone here, all very normal. However it’s a promising start for writer Mr Holmes, and one that would lead him to gain popularity with the production team, and write many more. However, the next one that is still in existence is the 3rd Doctor’s opening serial, Spearhead from Space. I’ll get there eventually.
The Krotons is great, despite many flaws, because it’s familiar material, spun in a new unfamiliar form.
Next time, we join our heroes on an idiotic society unable to use old, useful technology… because it’s old! Yep, it’s time for a trip to Earth!
^ Burn, baby burn, disco inferno
So, The Invasion. Return of the Cybermen, first UNIT story, and cemented the future of Doctor Who with it’s experimental format. Well good on it, it’s a corker.
I’m watching this with the DVD release, where Cosgrove Hall animated the two missing episodes and put them to the existing soundtrack.
So, onto the serial…
I WAS going to do a full summary of the serial, but it’s so long I really can’t. 8 episodes is a LOT. So, I’m going to use the old-fashioned bullet point technique to point out things I noticed, good and bad. This will of course be no use to anyone who hasn’t seen The Invasion before.
Episode 1 - The procrastination begins
- The TARDIS reforms, trying it to the end of The Mind Robber. So where is the novelist they saved? And why do none of them mention him at all?
- The TARDIS scanner is eaten by a cow.
- The TARDIS turns invisible as a malfunction, and the crew leave without making a marker showing where it is. So they’ll never find it again.
- Zoe does not understand that people with guns patrolling a walled encampment may shoot you for being there.
- ..also it seems they may shoot for anyway even if you’re outside. Poor UNIT agent guy. He was pretty cool.
- A character being shot in the head on Doctor Who (with a normal gun that shoots bullets) is an unusual enough thing that it is very effective here. These guys are mean.
- The only way any viewer would know who Professor Travers is, is if they have done research on the two stories he was previously in (both of which are missing). It’s a damn shame. And then it turns out he’s not even here.
- Handy that another professor moved in eh! Maybe they couldn’t get the actor back? Oh, he’s not there either! He’s working for the company who hire evil men who shoot people in the head because they’re eeeevil. What a good career choice.
- …Why is Isobel so obsessed with photographing Zoe? To the exclusion of all else around her?
- Ominous bit where two guys are spying on the Doctor and Jamie, apparently with dossiers about them. Who could they be? (Well, one of them is Benton, so it’s UNIT).
- Jamie, you are an idiot. Do not talk about TARDIS components around someone who had you gassed and brought to his office.
- Vaughn gives Jamie a portable radio. THIS WILL BE SOMEHOW IMPORTANT.
- Vaughn stares at a glowy thing behind his wall for no reason whatsoever. CUE CREDITS.
Episode 2 - Military men and lesbians, oh my!
- Why is Isobel lying on the floor while taking photos in such a way that Zoe can see up her miniskirt?
- Secondly, why does she have a record of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ and think it’s a good thing to show off? Zoe seems to be straining to be polite about it.
- United Nations Intelligence Taskforce! (NOT Unified Intelligence Taskforce, new series! FUCK YOUUUUUU)
- Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart! Being competent! As he should be.
- If people kept going into International Electromatics HQ and never coming out, why didn’t the police get involved at any point? Surely someone filed a missing persons report?
- That photo Vaughn has of the Doctor and Jamie could only have been taken with their knowledge. And why would you want a shot directly up their nostrils?
- Planet 14 can only be a bar. No planet would be named that by anyone ever.
- Zoe, when you walk into a building and start breaking things, of course security is going to arrest you. Don’t pretend you were justified.
- Vaughn can’t lie for toffee. He pretty much outright says to Isobel and Zoe that Professor Watkins is being held against his will and forced to work on something dodgy.
- People lifting things much larger and heavier than is possible? An actually rather good clue about what’s going on. Grats.
- Jamie, you’re an idiot. Again. I thought you were a soldier? Attacking someone within shouting range of more guys with guns is never a good idea.
- Vaughn’s permanent eye squint is unnerving me. Did the actor have eye trouble?
Episode 3 - Train and train, WHAT IS TRAIN?!
- Oh dear, those containers Isobel and Zoe were shoved in have left on that train! Why don’t you get in a car with Vaughn and go after them eh? That can’t possibly be a bad idea.
- UNIT are being very professional and competent in this story… at least compared to some of their later appearances. Shame about that.
- Hey! It’s that exact set from earlier! With justification for a change! How refreshing!
- When a villain is being as cooperative as Vaughn is, he’s definitely planning something.
- WHAT - a machine to induce emotions? That’s rather suspect.
- I can see that Vaughn’s refusal to take orders from others will bite him in the arse later.
- Talking to your watch is a sign of insanity, Packer. And stop shouting, you’re getting hysterical.
- "URA STUPID INCOMPITANT PACKA! I WAN DAT DOKTA!" Gosh, Vaughn’s getting a bit miffed.
- Jamie, you are an idiot. Just felt like continuing the pattern.
Episode 4 - A New Hope
- Jamie’s being fondled by something in a tube. He hopes it’s Zoe.
- The Doctor isn’t very good at hiding. That, or Packer is very bad at searching.
- Vaughn’s creating the emotion machine to fight his allies in an inevitable betrayal? Well, that’s a rather large clue as to who his allies are.
- Shoot down a UNIT helicopter? Vaughn’s got brass balls.
- "DON ARGU PACKA! JUS DO AS UR TOL MAN!"
- Seems Vaughn gets around. With mind control tech.
- Brig’s furious that his trespassing helicopter was shot at. Um.
- Professor Watkins is rather savvy, realizing that it doesn’t mater whether Vaughn is telling the truth or not, and that he most certainly isn’t. And guess what? He isn’t.
- Infiltration by canoe. Well that’s completely inconspicuous, right?
- Strange scientific equipment in the sewers, and some nifty SFX. I like.
- Inside the containers… CYBERMEN!
Episode 5 - Something something something Mondas
- How long after ‘The Tenth Planet’ is this? Why can’t people remember the Cybermen’s invasion? If it’s before, why are the Cybermen a more advanced design? And where’s Mondas?!
- Ha ha, Vaughn. UNIT’s a UN organisation, not a British MoD one. Good on ya, Brigadier. Vaughn hasn’t got men that high up.
- "HOW LONG BFORE DA UNIT FORCES CAN TAK AXSHUN?!" There’s hardly any scenery left without bite marks.
- Vaughn’s brow-beating the Cybermen into doing what he wants. Brass balls indeed.
- Moving the Cybermen through the sewers? Not bad. Infiltrate all over London and hardly need to kill anyone.
- Isobel is just getting in the way. The Brigadier’s annoyed. So am I. Would be nice if she served any purpose in the story at all.
- Releasing an insane Cyberman into the sewers? That’s rather irresponsible. And if any other Cybermen find it, they’ll realize Vaughn’s been experimenting on them. Not smart.
- What. Isobel’s finally got a purpose? Photography! Get some proof for the UN! Hurrah! Oh wait. Isobel’s being stupidly feminist. Jamie’s being stupidly chauvinist. The Brigadier’s being correct.
- Vaughn’s agreement with the Cybermen seems to have a few flaws he hasn’t spotted yet. Like, the Earth being full of Cybermen, then he expects them to just leave with him in charge, exporting minerals to them?
- The companions have just got a policeman killed trying to get those photos. Stupid.
Episode 6 - The one where Jamie is an idiot
- The UNIT troops have come to save them. Oh wait, Cybermen. Oh wait, grenades. Pity about the shit one who runs off and gets killed (Perkins). So that’s two dead thanks to the companions running off.
- And then the photos are shit anyway! Well that was totally worth two lives! And so Isobel proves her uselessness.
- Vaughn is definitely prime villain material. He’ll kill anyone as soon as he no longer needs them, even when it’s totally stupid to do so.
- Professor Watkins knows his limits. He knows Vaughn’s able to get him to do anything, as he can’t stand up to torture. But he did then try to kill Vaughn. And Vaughn let him. Brass. Balls. Pity Vaughn’s immune to bullets.
- Isobel realizes just how useless she is.
- Travers is rescued off-screen. A nice action scene (that was apparently scripted), completely missed. And Vaughn kills the survivor of the attack despite the fact that he could still be useful. Yep, a true villain.
- Emotion is alien to the Cybermen’s nervous systems!? They have HUMAN nervous systems!
- Zoe chastises Jamie for sleeping during the crisis. Well, Zoe, would you rather he be sleepy when the Cybermen are actually attacking?
- Ah, Jamie’s radio is finally useful. IE, being a major electronics distributor, has put mind control tech into all their goods, ready for the invasion. They’ll shut everyone down and let the Cybermen waltz in and take over without a shot fired. Very good.
- Oh dear. Vaughn’s squint has become so pronounced, he’s almost closed his eye completely. It just looks bad.
- The invasion begins. Cue iconic imagery. I must say, it’s rather effective even now.
Episode 7 - Vaughn loses his shit
- Vaughn really doesn’t think much of the Cybermen. He asks them to wait so he can finish his paperwork, and tells them that the invasion force will remain under his control because he says so, then breaks off communications with them. I don’t think this will end well for him.
- Professor Watkins gets shot.. somewhere and Jamie gets shot in the leg, both by Vaughn’s troops. Both survive and get away, but you don’t see that kind of violence on Who now, even when it’s justified in being there, as it is here.
- Vaughn is bit backed into a corner now, but pretends he’s still in control. Packer sees the truth, and when called on it Vaughn just shouts at him. Not looking good for Vaughn.
- The Doctor correctly deduces that now the Cybermen have left the sewers, he can stroll right through them to Vaughn’s HQ. Well, that’s an oversight by Vaughn. A bit more evidence that Vaughn isn’t quite as good at all this as he says.
- Packer’s a bit fed up with his boss’ ego.
- The Doctor’s got Vaughn. UNIT have Watkins, and Vaughn needs Watkins to destroy the Cybermen invasion fleet. Also, the ones there may be playing along with Vaughn rather than programmed to be his. Vaughn responds by shouting, then deflecting the issue to seem like he’s still in control of the situation. He really, really isn’t. He’s kinda losing his grip on reality here.
- Seems he’s sticking with this out of stubbornness. Things aren’t working out and he’s determined to make them work, as he’s put too much time and effort into this to stop. Idiot.
- STOCK FOOTAGE
- THE SAME STOCK FOOTAGE
- Countdowns to pad out the time
- STOCK FOOTAGE
- THE SAME STOCK FOOTAGE
- The Cyberships do look rather neat. Shame this design isn’t used again.
- Oh dear, the Cybermen see the attack destroying their fleet from UNIT as a betrayal by Vaughn. They take over the invasion, and decide to destroy all life on Earth instead, then take what they need later. Erm, isn’t that a bit of an overreaction? Don’t they need humans for cyberconversion?
Episode 8 - Return of the Stock Footage
- Vaughn’s cracked. He blows up the communication link with the Cybermen, and breaks down.
- The Doctor snaps Vaughn out of it, but Vaughn is only interested in revenge. This doesn’t conflict with the Doctor’s objective, so they go off together to destroy the radio equipment so the bomb can’t be delivered (apparently).
- Nice to see that all characters who are about are wearing devices to stop the mind control devices from affecting them. Nice bit of continuity, as the mind control devices are still active at this point. But wait, everyone could hear the devices before, quite loudly. Why can’t they now? Are they all just used to it?
- The Cybermen make rather good clanging noises when they hit things or fall down. Feels like they have some real weight to them, something that’s been lost since then. Even though they look it, they don’t sound like men in suits.
- Rockets and grenades seem to work on the Cybermen… shrapnel blasts maybe?
- Why is Isobel there? This is a military operation. No civilians!
- Oh, Vaughn is killed by being attacked by more than one Cyberman. Well, Vaughn only had one weapon. The Doctor gets away through comedy.
- The removal of the radio equipment forces the cybership with the bomb to move within missile range to deliver it manually. Cue a long sequence of waiting for a missile to blow it up offscreen.
- UNIT blow up the bomb offscreen. Oddly, we do see the missile control room during the whole thing, with no cutaways to the actual missile strike. The missile launch is the same damn stock footage from Episode 7 again.
- Zoe looks genuinely hurt that Isobel gets a job. Maybe wanting her to come with them?
- Not leaving a marker for the invisible TARDIS bites them in the arse. They wander a field looking for it, arms outstretched. They find it, they leave. END.
The most astonishing thing about this revolutionary story, is that it is eight episodes long and feels like it deserves to be. Nearly every scene contributes in some way, and maybe the production team could have cut it down to seven, but I think it works as eight. Only at the very end with the missile sequences did I feel like the story was dragging itself along. Things were always happening.
UNIT was professional and effective; they fended off an Cybermen invasion force by themselves, with only a little investigative and technical aid by the Doctor. Vaughn was a compelling villain, suave and confident, but slowly crumbling over the course of the story until he turns on the Cybermen in a tantrum as they reveal their betrayal.
Not that the Cybermen were ever on his side anyway, they were using him as a link to Earth. They gave in to his demands as it wouldn’t matter in the end, he’d be killed or converted, and the Earth would be theirs. Pity they decided to go all genocidal at the end, probably because they could no longer invade by force due to the near-total destruction of their fleet by UNIT.
Everyone gets their chance at the limelight. The villains are interesting. Complex, tense espionage eventually opens up to action, guns and explosions. Intrigue dominates most of it, until the invasion itself at the end of Episode 6. Then it’s a frantic scramble to stop the Cybermen from taking over and saving the planet. The extra shots of Cybermen coming down from St Pauls and roaming the London streets drive home the seriousness of the invasion. It must have cost a bit to do those scenes, and they were absolutely necessary. The Invasion's got everything, all in it's proper place in the story.
I recommend this, despite my commentary above. I mock it because I love it. It’s on DVD, go get it.
Next Time: I HATE NEXT TIME TRAILERS.
^ There’s your villain folks. No, no, in the background.
The Mind Robber
Leading straight on from the bizarrely entertaining The Dominators, comes the entertainingly bizarre The Mind Robber. Time for some real mind-fuckery.
This surreal story is one that has various production problems throughout. The first and least obvious is that The Dominators was meant to be six episodes long (thank all that is holy that it wasn’t) and when it was reduced to 5, The Mind Robber had to have an extra episode. One was hurriedly written, and it fits pretty seamlessly.
We start with the TARDIS about to be engulfed in lava. Jamie is naturally concerned, and only after pointing out that the TARDIS likely hasn’t been stress-tested for this does the Doctor do anything. He can’t take off as the mercury fluid links are boiling and filling the console room with toxic gas, so he uses the emergency jump. This takes the TARDIS outside normal space-time.
The implications of this are not left unexplored. The Doctor retreats to inside the TARDIS, and in a rather neat bit of acting from Troughton shows the Doctor’s underlying terror of the nothingness outside, an empty world where all the laws we know about the universe do not apply, including a lack of time (which we later learn in the new series is very distressing to a Gallifreyan).
When something outside starts projecting images of Jamie and Zoe’s homes onto the scanner screen (Jamie’s stereotypical ‘highlands with echoing bagpipes’ vision earns the story -2 happy points), Zoe goes outside. The Doctor tries to stop Jamie going after her, but fails. It’s a telling that the Doctor is absolutely terrified of the outside when he doesn’t attempt to rescue Zoe (+3 happy points for character traits not normally seen).
So yeah, Zoe and Jamie wander around a white void where you can only see so far in front of you, and get lost. Then robots find them. Robots coloured exactly like the world they inhabit. That’s a horrific thought, as that makes them effectively invisible until they’re right in front of you. Well, they would have been more effective if the costumes were built so they actually blended in with the background, which they don’t, and it’s implied in the early scenes that they should.
Meanwhile, the Doctor tries to resist a force trying to force him outside. Eventually the plight of Jamie and Zoe as they are attacked by the robots causes him to go out. Now, this sequence is done rather well and and a rather large expense for such a short scene. In this white world, the TARDIS exterior is also white now, instead of blue, and after Jamie and Zoe succumb to the world’s influence, all their clothes become white as well. The Doctor manages to get them back inside the TARDIS, and they attempt to leave.
Jamie has a nightmare while the others find they have a power crisis and the force from earlier is still assaulting them. Jamie decides after he wakes up that ranting loudly about his nightmare will somehow be appropriate. Dumbass. Which is a shame, as Jamie usually has more common sense than the rest of the cast. Eh, it’s just a blip. Anyway, the force overcomes the crew, and the TARDIS explodes in space, tossing the Doctor away unto the void, and Jamie and Zoe desperately clinging onto the console as it spirals away into darkness.
That’s where that extra episode I was talking about ended. Promising start, eh?
Anyway, soon we see Jamie and Zoe separately wandering around a forest of strangely shaped trees. They get stopped through various means, and that leaves The Doctor. He also wakes in the forest, and starts hearing Jamie and Zoe call for help. Jamie’s voice is very obviously not played by Frazer Hines. There’s a reason for this - he was suddenly taken ill with chickenpox and couldn’t film the second episode beyond the initial part. They do get around this by having the Doctor do a puzzle to reconstruct Jamie’s face after it is removed, and he gets it wrong. Hey presto, Jamie played by a different actor! It’s done rather neatly, so no complaints here.
But before that, a deceptively clever sequence happens where the Doctor runs into a traveler who speaks in an overly verbose manner, played by regular Doctor Who extra Bernard Horsfall, who I am always happy to see. Now, we later learn that the traveler is the fictional character Gulliver (of Gulliver’s Travels) and all the words he speaks are lines from the book. He mentions the man behind this world is ‘The Master’. Despite the character we all know not having been dreamt up yet, the Doctor’s face shows considerable surprise and a hint of dread. Probably me reading into it too much, but I can do that if I like dammit!
Then the Doctor engages in a game of riddles with some Victorian-era children, and he eventually susses that the world he’s in is one of words. When the children toss a sword in the air and it becomes a dictionary, the cuts in the filming work very well. I do appreciate good editing and cinematography.
Now with Jamie retrieved (sort of) they find Zoe. They discover that the forest they’re in is actually a text, the trees are letters. The letters spell out common proverbs, for reasons that are never explained or are relevant ever. It’s just there to add texture to the world, and also fuck with your head. They then run into a Unicorn that Jamie had dreamt about. It charges them. This cliffhanger does not work. Why? Because the Doctor tells them to stay still. He already has a plan, so he’ll beat it. End of episode. Start of next, he gets them all to realise that Unicorns don’t exist, and so the Unicorn doesn’t.
After the Unicorn, they enter a labyrinth. After Zoe and the Doctor avoid the Minotaur (on account of it not existing) they find Jamie’s gone off. However, the Doctor meets Gulliver again and figures out what’s going on. They’re in a world of fiction, and anything is possible. When Zoe asked, “Well, what are we doing here?” I nearly choked on my drink, it was so deliciously meta.
Speaking of deliciously meta, Jamie finds the plot. No really. He finds a machine spewing out the summerised script for the serial! Unfortunately it’s writing about an encounter between the remaining two crewmembers and the Medusa.
When this happens, Zoe suddenly becomes a complete idiot and cannot for some reason control her impulses to start directly at the Medusa. Thankfully, the Doctor gets her out of it by breaking the narrative. I’m serious. The narrative Jamie finds says the Doctor slays the Medusa with a sword, but instead he does something different. This breaks Jamie’s machine horribly.
Here’s a problem I found - Zoe and the Doctor encounter a pulp character from apparently Zoe’s time called The Karkus. A superstrong guy (shown by a very poorly-made muscle suit) with a large gun. The Doctor can’t deny his existence since he’s never heard of him and can’t be completely certain of his denial. That’s fine, but what Zoe does is horrid. She beats him up and makes him submit to her will. Zoe isn’t that good a fighter, surely? But, if she’s drawing on her knowledge of his fictional status to render him powerless against her, that’s fine, but it really looks like she just suddenly became an expert fighter out of nowhere.
They all meet up, and are taken by the White Robots to meet ‘The Master’ who turns out to be a 1920s pulp fiction writer hooked up to a sentient computer. They manage the Land of Fiction, and since he’s getting old, wants The Doctor to replace him. The explanation of why he can’t just take a member of any sentient race is that ‘humans and human-like creatures have the bets powers of imagination’. I’m not sure I like that explanation meself, but I’ll forgive it as this is a riveting story. The Doctor refuses, and Jamie and Zoe slip out - into a trap. They are caught in the library, forced into a book and cease to exist, becoming purely fictional characters.
That’s horrible! Goddamn, that’s some nasty shit right there. Effectively, they’re dead now, and in fact weren’t real in the first place, merely a figment of someone’s imagination put to paper. While that is in actual fact true for all of them, in-universe that’s a terrible fate.
The Doctor is told that if he takes over, he can undo that with a thought. However, the Doctor will refuses and buggers off to try to find another way to win. He finds a typewriter spewing out the plot, and attempts to change it. He can’t, as he would have to refer to himself in the text, and render himself fictional. Neat logic there, I approve. Eventually he gets trapped and linked directly into the computer. Bad move, villains. He starts using his new influence to free Jamie and Zoe, while distracting The Master away from them with fictional characters to fight. They cause the computer to overload, and it blows up, taking the world with it. The pulp writer and the TARDIS crew all go back to their proper places and times. Tad convenient, but whatever, it’s fiction!
Final roundup, ‘tis excellent! A surreal exploration of a world where all fiction is real, and manages to be truly disturbing at times.
Next time, conspiracies! Large missiles! Cybermen! Permanent eye squints! It’s The Invasion!
^ “What’s got a bee in your bonnet, Mr Grumpy-face? Why are you aiming that gun at mAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHH”
Oh lord, where do I begin? The planet of sodden doormats? The supposedly-terrifying burbling Ikea robots? Maybe Mr Grumpy-face and his shoulder-guards even the Time Lords would be intimidated by?
None of these, I’ll start with a brief summary of the situation and then start picking all the scabs off my brain I got after watching this and having to strike my head repeatedly with a heavy iron bar. It was the only way to dull the pain and silence the voices. The voices… they speak even to me now… no, no I don’t want to kill everyone! Stop it STOP TELLING ME EVERYONE DESERVES TO DIE IN A WORLD WHERE THE DOMINATORS EXISTS AND THE EVIL OF THE DALEKS DOESN’T!
*whack whack whack*
…That should spare me for a few hours. Anyway, the planet Dull Kiss- I mean Dulkis, gets invaded by aggressive aliens bent on harvesting the radiation in it’s atmosphere. The radiation was put there after a prior atomic explosion. The explosion somehow instantly caused the entire race to give up on weapons (and nuclear power!) entirely, so now they’re a lovey-dovey peace planet, ripe for conquest and slavery by the titular Dominators, represented here by Mr Grumpy-face and Mr Argumentative and their Don’t-Do-That robots (this is quickly becoming like an episode of Stoppit and Tidyup, I have to stop myself).
The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe arrive in the middle of all this, after a rather smashing adventure with Cybermen that doesn’t exist anymore and I’d much rather be watching.They get found by Dulcian students and a professor, who surprisingly are rather accepting of them being from another world (as they reason it’s the most logical explaination as to why they were wandering around on an island known to the whole world to be radioactive without knowing). That’s rather refreshing, and a plus in my book. Unfortunately that plus is immediately countered by them being unable to accept one of their people claiming that aggressive aliens have landed because he has a reputation of being a bit of a fibber.
The Doctor and Jamie go and investigate and inevitably get caught. The Doctor tricks them into thinking the people here are dumb and nonthreatening, and are released. Zoe and some Dulcians get caught, and are put to work drilling holes in the planet crust. They are doing this because presumably, annoyed at the lack of radiation here, they want to make more by blowing up the planet and turning it into a nuclear fuel source. Well, okay then.
The Doctor and Jamie fail to convince the ‘council of useless’ to do anything, head back and get caught up in the conflict again. Mr Grumpy-face goes to the council, and shouts a bit. Jamie, the Doc and some Dulcians muck up the Dominators’ plans a bit. Mr Grumpy-face comes back and has several rows with Mr Argumentative. The Doctor intercepts the bomb that’ll destroy the planet, puts it in their ship and it blows up after take-off. END.
The Dulcians are easily the most annoying thing in this entire serial. An entire race of wimpy namby-pamby fairies and teacher’s pets in dresses, blind to the universe around them because they have no drive to achieve or learn anything as there is no conflict on their badly-realised world. Annoyingly, it turns out the reason they accept The Doctor and pals as aliens is because they ‘don’t question facts’. Problem - THEY HAVE NO FACTS ABOUT THEM. None at all! Just that they’re there, don’t know about the radiation on the island and claim to be from offworld. With this information the professor and students believe completely that they’re aliens. At least the council disbelieve it, but then they disbelieve everything and debate endlessly if there’s any disagreement, but don’t bother to go and investigate anything. What a useless bunch of saps. They deserve to be wiped out. Even when they come to the conclusion that they can either fight the Dominators, or submit to their will, or flee, they decide to do nothing because they can’t possibly think of doing any of those. Their sole saving grace is Cully, the son of their leader who questions, thinks, explores, and generally has a laugh, and as such is dismissed by their entire people as a clown. Pluck him off the planet and then drop nuclear warheads on the Dulcian’s stupid faces.
The Dominators are little better. You have to be extremely egotistical (or just be created by an unimaginative writer) to call your entire people ‘The Dominators’ when you seem to be so shit at dominating you can’t even beat a race of wimps and three travelers with no weapons. Good god, they only brought two guys and a couple of underpowered waddling robots with stupid flatpack gun arms (with extra unnecessary barrels. Now I’m no gunsmith, but surely all those extra barrels with seemingly random sizes and positions would weaken the gun as a whole. And if it’s an energy weapon [which it seems to be] why bother? Isn’t one enough?).
…I’m getting off topic; that’s just a pet peeve.
Right. They send two guys, who hate each other, and a bunch of useless robots who can only shoot things with their guns (and their specific orders are not to destroy everything) and have to enslave the local populace to get anything done at all. Their main method of conquering seems to be walking in and shouting at people to obey them. They don’t even carry weapons themselves! When they’re without their Ikea robots they’re as threatening as a loud person standing on a box shouting about damnation.
Along with the Dulcians, they are also terrible scientists. They decide (sensibly) to study the locals to find out if they’re a threat, but when they are presented with multiple specimens, they look at one and decide the rest will all be the same. Haven’t they ever heard of scientific method? The first one could be an aberration! You need to study more and make comparisons! At least they eventually check again, and find they were wrong. But then they still check only one of their new specimens! Those stupid FUCKING FUCKFACES!
Next example of their stupidity - their robots, the Quarks. Boxes with legs and fold-out gun arms and spiky heads. Their power supplies seem rather low, running out after about a day. So either the Quarks have massive power requirements or they didn’t bring much energy to recharge them with (it is made explicit that the Dominators didn’t bring a reactor with them, and are entirely dependent on stored energy). Now kids, what is the reason we use robots for some jobs rather than people? Correct, it’s more cost-effective and more efficient than using human workers. Keyword there is ‘efficient’. The Quarks are so inefficient that the Dominators have to worry about power usage every time they fire their guns which is the only purpose of their existence. They can’t be used as a labour force as they have no arms, hands or any other means of doing any menial tasks, and if they did they’d run out of power as soon as they’d lifted their first crate! If they’d just brought more people instead, with handguns, they would have probably succeeded! They wouldn’t need so much power stored on their ship, just some extra food and bedding!
What’s worse, is that the Quarks were explicitly created as a merchandiseable monster to replace the then-dead Daleks (this went so badly the Daleks were brought back with little real explaination - bet they’d never be so stupid as to kill off the Daleks again eh? …Oh for f-).
People who know me know how much I despise Dalek merchandising. I find it disgusting to trivialise and glorify space-Nazis on goddamn lunchboxes and towels. Now, the Daleks may have been a profitable creation, but they weren’t created for the explicit purpose of making money. The Quarks were, and because of this they failed utterly. They appeared in some comics and that’s about it. The Daleks were created as social commentary about fascism and their profitability was an accident. You can’t make Doctor Who monsters purely for money. However, the writers of The Dominators did not intend the Quarks to be used in this way, so the blame rests squarely at the BBC executives of the time.
This serial is hideous. It isn’t worth wiping your arse on. It isn’t even worth the effort of burning it. I would only recommend watching it to put other serials in a much better light.
^ I NEED A HUG
The Tomb of the Cybermen.
Seems a bit odd to be going from Cybermen straight to more Cybermen, but that’s the next intact serial. Hell, The Tenth Planet wasn’t even intact, but I had to make an exception for that! Sadly, much of Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor is missing from the BBC archives, and even less is fully intact. It won’t take long for me to get through what we still have.
Back to the current story. Cybermen! And it’s extremely grim, and everything is the Doctor’s fault. I’ll explain that as I go along. I won’t go into great depth on the story, just the characters and themes.
The story is one of hubris, Klieg and Kaftan of the Brotherhood of Logicians and thinking they can control or cooperate with the truly logical Cybermen, the Cybermen gambling their very existence on our bumbling curiosity and inferiority being a constant, and the Doctor thinking he can enact his plan without error and much loss of life.
"Fifty pounds to the first man to open the doors!" That was fine in the 60s, but it is horribly dated now, as is the huge black servant guy, Toberman. However, Toberman ends up being one of the most well-developed characters, despite him being a horribly cliched and slightly racist character concept on first appearance. He ends up embodying the human spirit, overcoming the Cybermen’s mental conditioning, saving everyone and stopping the Cybermen at the cost of his own life.
Klieg is rather compelling, a subpar mathematical professional getting into a situation only someone much more capable can handle. His staunch self-belief never wavers, which the Doctor uses to lead him on and reanimate the Cybermen for him. He soon goes mad through his own inflated ego, even believing himself with a gun can match the Cybermen (the latter was Kaftan’s idea, granted, but…). Kaftan is… a bit less compelling. Badly acted, looks like some hideous banshee, and I don’t like her.
Victoria is useless here. End of story. Well, she does appear to be a crack shot with a handgun, strangely. I’m being unfair. She often keeps an eye on Klieg and Kaftan and manipulates them to help the Doctor’s plans.
The Cybermen are a lingering threat throughout the story, but only appear in person halfway through, and they’ve brought a few extras with them. The Cybermats are an odd idea, a sort of infiltration and assassination device. However, they look really silly, and each later update of them keeps them looking silly. The scene where they attack enmasse is ridiculous, with characters unable to flee from very slow tiny things. The colossal Cybercontroller makes his first appearance in this serial, and he works far better. A single figure to represent the Cybermen as a whole, and the architect of the Cybermen’s plans here. Their motivation is blindingly simple - they don’t want to die.
Monda’s destruction in The Tenth Planet left the remaining Cybermen a dying species. As a splinter species from humans, their cyberconversion technology will work on them. They sealed themselves in suspended animation inside a logical puzzle on the planet Telos, leaving rumours of Telos as a lost Cyberman homeworld. They believed that one day curious and intelligent humans would find and revive them, and once converted they could use them as a vanguard to prepare a silent invasion. Good plan, undermined entirely by the Doctor’s presence.
Their redesign looks far more robotic than before, but a logical next step to remove anything unnecessary and inefficient. Now having an armoured skin, they’ve completely replaced most of the head now. The voice has changed, and is now a buzzy synthetic voice. It even slows down when low on power.
The Doctor, as soon as he heard that Telos was believed a Cyberman homeworld, started manipulating everyone to neutralise the Cyberman threat. He starts placing people strategically, knows the right buttons to push on people, and tries to goad the Cybermen into following his ends. However, his plan will sacrifice many lives, but will stop the Cybermen from succeeding. He puts this aside as it would impede him. He never makes his plan clear, or even that he has one.
He has a tender moment at one point, where he makes it quite clear he misses his family, and wishes he could see them again. The small comfort of that possibility keeps him going.
There are quite a few horrid deaths in this one - electrocutions, partial cyberconversions, bludgeonings, many gunshots. The Cybermen that die fume and spurt fluids and foams, quite graphically. It’s rather unsettling, but fitting I think. Maybe the production team were seeing what they could get away with.
"They shall never pass Toberman. The doors close." Wonderful final scene. As much as people bash The Tomb of the Cybermen, I think it’s purely because it isn’t perfect. Well, what Doctor Who serial was? Enjoy this for what it is, that’s my advice to the naysayers.
^ I’d rather have spent my Christmas with a Dalek.
The Tenth Planet.
If you understood what I was getting at with the top caption, you’re as huge a nerd as me.
Anyway. Yes, I know episode 4 is missing. However, I found a 3D modelled reconstruction of the episode based on the surviving script and soundtrack, and the first three episodes were released on VHS, along with a telesnap reconstruction (which I will not watch as telesnap reconstructions are horrible abominations of film). So let’s get to it.
The Cybermen. Brilliant, horrifying creations. Beings that were once human (well, mondasian, but given that Mondas is Earth’s twin planet, it is more implicit that they are a mirror for us, like most Doctor Who monsters, just in this case, they really are us). These beings who after their planet left our solar system had to cybernetically augment their bodies to survive, eventually getting to the point where very little human was left. But their planet needs to recharge, so it heads home to leech off Earth (a bit nebulous as to why any of this happens, but whatever) and they in their new logical method of thinking, want to save us the same way they saved themselves, by making us like them. They strip away our flesh and our humanity and they think they’re doing us a favour.
Good grief I love the Cybermen. Pity we haven’t seen them back yet in the new series. (NO those alternate universe Cybusmen aren’t the real deal. Just dumping a brain into a suit removes one of the most terrifying parts of what makes the Cybermen, the fear of dehumanising through excessive spare part replacement surgery, not 'getting the next cool and hip upgrade is bad okay' tosh the Cybusmen represent)
Yes, they look a bit silly in this one. That is, until you think about it. Their voices and their bodies are horrible, twisted parodies of our own selves. The stilted, jaunty voices of the Cybermen are close to emotional, but seem distant enough for it to be a mockery. The fact that they don’t move their lips while speaking (and don’t appear to have tongues) means it’s all a mechanical reproduction, and it’s ‘good enough’ for the job of conveying information to others, as the Cybermen have no aesthetic sense, just a need for functionality. And as for their form - no body language, no eyes to speak of, just empty holes. No skin to speak of, just bandages concealing the mesh of metal and flesh underneath.
But enough about the Cybermen themselves, what about this serial?
The crew land near a polar base in Antarctica called Snowcap, in the far future of 1986. The base is overlooking a space mission, and the ship starts to get into trouble just as the Doctor, Ben and Polly are apprehended by the base’s staff and it’s blustering commander. The commander, Cutler, is a real gem, insulting the Doctor at every turn, always suspicious and disbelieving everything unusual.
The ship notices a new planet nearby, very like Earth. The spacemen are great, quite professional and the set is conceivable to be a cockpit of a spaceship. Unfortunately, the approach of the planet starts draining them of power. This sends them mostly out of control, and exhausting the pilots.
The Doctor makes it clear that the planet is a former twin planet of Earth, called Mondas. It broke off millennia ago, and it’s return spells doom. Cut to the hilariously multicultural head office where a supposedly italian bloke says some useless things.
Then the Cybermen land. Some of the base staff are outside, trying to get into the TARDIS. Guess what happens to them.
The Cybermen proceed to invade the base, have fantastic dialogue with the cast. Cutler isn’t that fazed, and demands that they allow them to land the spaceship. The Cybermen see the ship’s destruction to be inevitable, but do not prevent them trying. When the ship runs out of fuel, it loses contact with Earth, presumed destroyed. The head office, unknowing, sends Cutler’s son in a ship to help bring the first pilots down. Polly calls out Cutler on his apparent bloodthirst about killing the Cybermen, which doesn’t please him one bit. He starts to show that the situation is getting to him.
Then hundreds of Cybermen ships start invading the planet, and the Doctor passes out for no discernible reason.
Cutler decides to use a nuclear superweapon, the Z-Bomb, against Mondas. It could cause massive fallout to affect the Earth after the detonation, but would remove the problem of Mondas. He is advised against doing so by everyone he talks to, including the head office. He doesn’t get authority to use it, but twists the words of the Italian to convince the base that he can launch the weapon. When Ben protests and explains the Doctor’s theory that Mondas is doomed anyway - it will absorb so much energy it’ll burn itself up - he is accused by Cutler of collaborating with the Cybermen and imprisoned with the unconscious Doctor.
Polly convinces a team member to give Ben instructions on how to escape and disable the Z-Bomb (see, she’s useful too!). Cutler catches him in the act. When the rocket fails to launch, Cutler really loses it. The Doctor arrives. Cutler’s son reports Mondas pulsating, and contact is lost. Cutler becomes deranged, believing his son dead, and tries to kill the Doctor and Ben. The Cybermen burst in, and kill Cutler. The Doctor bargains with the Cybermen in order to allow Mondas time to burn up, and the Cybermen demand the bomb is dismantled, Polly held hostage in their ship, and the Doctor in the control room. The Doctor works out that the Cybermen want to use the Z-Bomb to destroy Earth to cut off the energy drain and save Mondas. Ben and the staff manage to hold off the Cybermen using radiation, until Mondas is destroyed, which disables the Cybermen. Ben rescues the Doctor and Polly from the now-empty ship. The Doctor is acting oddly, scatter-brained and desperate to return to the TARDIS.
When Ben and Polly catch up to the Doctor, the TARDIS is locked with him inside, and the controls are moving on their own. He manages to let them in just as he collapses. The first regeneration of the series takes place, and television history is made.
This serial is truly excellent. It starts a bit ropey and slow, but starts getting soem real depth when the Cybermen arrive and people are put under real threat. Cutler’s slow descent into paranoia and madness, Ben becoming the hero of the story, the Doctor pushing on despite his oncoming death, the Cybermen’s coldly logical philosophical views… I may be reading too much into this, but damn is it a good watch.
Ben’s rather bright in this one, working out the technology of the period through simple logic, and having to outwit the Cybermen on his own while the Doctor is a prisoner. He was aghast when he had to kill one in episode 2, as he was completely unprepared for the emotional impact of deliberately causing a death. Soon he started accepting the fact that he has to kill to survive the situation, and buries his feelings on the matter. It is also Ben who works out the Cybermen’s vulnerability to high radiation, and basically saves everyone.
What a damn shame the original episode 4 is missing. If it wasn’t, I’d demand a DVD release right now.
^ Whhhhrrrrr ahm a post office robot - do i not terrify?
The War Machines.
Oh dear. This is one of those ones that was written to fulfill some directive by the higher-ups. The directive this time is, use the Post Office Tower (now the BT Tower) prominently, as it has just been built around then.
Upon seeing it the Doctor immediately comments that it feels ‘alien’. This turns out to be absolutely wrong, of course. He has so little faith in us, eh? He… somehow gets in, and no-one seems to question him going right up to the control room, and chatting with the professor in charge of WOTAN, the most powerful computer in the world, installed there.
WOTAN is the most annoying thing in the entire story. Given that it’s the villain of the piece, that makes most of the serial absolute tripe. WOTAN, is described as being able to think, and never makes mistakes. The is demonstrated when it determines what TARDIS stands for from absolutely no evidence whatsoever. All it had to go on was that name. Now, that doesn’t sound like a problem solver to me, more like a goddamn magic oracle. This is not how computers work.
And even worse, is the plan of this machine. Now, it’s the usual ‘computers are better in charge than humans’ thing that we’ll later see done much better in The Green Death. But it is explicitly mentioned that within a few days, WOTAN would be linked into loads of major computer systems throughout the world. Missile defense systems, transport systems, telecommunications, the works. If WOTAN wanted to take over, all it would have to do is wait until the silly humans chucked all their eggs in one despotic basket and seize the planet. It does not need to brainwash people into making ill-equipped and cumbersome killbots to take over London with.
The worst thing of all is that WOTAN refers to the Doctor as “Doctor Who”. Again, with nothing at all to go on, and does a great big title drop. IT’S NOT HIS NAME FFFFFUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK.
Next, the current companion Dodo. From what I understand, she was a bit non-existent of a character. It holds true here, she makes a few awful attempts at jokes, gets hypnotised by WOTAN, and after being deprogrammed in episode 2, she gets shipped off to the countryside to recuperate and we never see her again ever. There’s a mention that she’d decided to stay on Earth in episode 4 but this feels very wrong. Regardless, it gets rid of her and from what little I’ve now seen of her, good riddance.
And now the new guys! Ben, a navy man who we meet in a generic 60s nightclub (because it’s trendy amirite) and he gets the new girl Polly out of a jam by confronting a thug menacing her, who stupidly insults the sailor. We can guess how that goes for the thug. These characters were introduced to be sympathetic to the youth of the time, to boost ratings. I’m not sure how well that succeeded, but they’re much better than Dodo seemed. Ben seems confident but slightly world-weary, and Polly has enough strength of will to keep some will of her own when taken over by WOTAN later on. Both have potential.
The War Machines were good, I liked them. The BBC spent some cash on creating a huge tank-like machine, aside form it’s now very dated and slightly silly design, they are rather imposing if they’re bearing down on you with their hammer arms and poison gas projectors. But one issue is their ability to disable weapons nearby it, with no real explanation. Rifles, Gatling Guns, Grenades, all are neutralised for some reason or other.
It doesn’t matter how it’s resolved, it’s all a bit of a traditional runaround with nothing really standing out as good or bad that I haven’t already mentioned.
So, with Dodo put on a bus and Ben and Polly joining the crew, hopefully for less stupid stories than this!
^ “Look! The cow wants his space helmet back!”
The Time Meddler.
Season 2’s finale, and it’s a corker. Dennis Spooner shows England of 1066 in mixed tones, brutal or peaceful whenever he needs it. And more interestingly, it was the first impure historical, much to the surprise of everyone at the time.
So I’ll summarise. The Doctor and Vicki find Steven had stowed away after The Chase. They don’t mind in the end, and they accept him as part of the crew. In an attempt to prove that the TARDIS is a time machine, they investigate outside. They find a ‘Viking Helmet’. Except it isn’t, they didn’t have horns on their helmets. Which is even more inexplicable when we later see Vikings, without horns on their helmets, and some characters use horns to drink from, which is their actual purpose. But no matter.
However, a Monk nearby is watching them with interest.. and understanding. When they’ve gone he attempts to enter the TARDIS, but cannot. The Doctor visits the Saxons nearby. He manages to work out that it is 1066 in a brilliant bit of deduction, and that the Viking incursion is imminent. He hears the chanting of the monks from above… then it slows down and gets back up to speed again. He then goes to the Monastery to find the chanting from there is a recording. He gets captured by the Monk.
Vicki and Steven find a wristwatch, and then the Saxons capture them, thinking them Viking spies. Vicki shouts a bit and they let them go. They leave to find the Doctor at the monastery. Meanwhile, the real Viking scouts land. They attack the Saxons while the men are gone, and the Vikings… well. Given the fugue state we see the woman there in later, we can guess. Rather horrible for something in Doctor Who, isn’t it? I congratulate Spooner for not turning away from it.
Later, the Viking scouts are killed by the Saxons except for two, who escaped.
After escaping, the Doctor catches the Monk off guard with a ‘Winchester’, actually a stick. This scene is marvelous. But then remaining Vikings arrive and capture them both as hostages. However, individually they both escape.
The Monk tries to get the Saxons to light beacons (secretly to bring the Viking fleet in to land) but the Saxons are not dumb. They overheard the Doctor earlier, and his claims of a Viking invasion cause them to be suspicious of the Monk’s intent. Well done Saxons.
Vicki and Steven find a power cable in the monastery, and follow it to find a TARDIS.
That must’ve been a real shock back then, for another of the Doctor’s people to appear as a villain. We’re quite used to this now, with The Master, but this was just a completely new concept. How many other time travelers are there? What are they all doing? Well, this one is trying to ‘improve’ history, by accelerating humanity’s growth as a species. His plan here is to destroy the Viking fleet by luring them into a trap, into range of his ‘atomic cannon’, to improve the morale and strength of Harold’s army so he will later win the Battle of Hastings. It’s implied this is only a little part of his grand scheme, thankfully. That plot by itself is rather dim.
The Saxons bust in, save everybody and kill the Vikings. The crew leave, after disabling the Monk’s TARDIS (by reducing the inner dimensions to better match the exterior. Lovely effect there, when the Monk looks inside).
Presumably the Vikings still invade anyway, and everyone there is killed. All off screen of course. But screw that! We don’t need to see any of that, our heroes have left!
Conclusion: a great start to a new type of Doctor Who serial which will become a staple of the show.
Complaints: THE COMPANIONS DON’T DO ANYTHING. Everything they do is entirely pointless and doesn’t progress or affect the plot whatsoever. But there really wasn’t room for them here, it was all really a battle of temporal viewpoints between two renegade Gallifreyans (not that they’re named as such here, we’ve got a long way to go until then).
Also, the Monk does appear again, unfortunately it’s in The Dalek Master Plan, of which very little still exists. Balls.