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Quatermass
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19 Jun 2011, 6:51 pm

I may be reviving this soon. :)


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19 Jun 2011, 7:26 pm

I'll believe it when I see it. :D



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20 Jun 2011, 1:06 am

gbollard wrote:
I'll believe it when I see it. :D


I'm doing a catch-up segment, where I am watching all DVDs that I am yet to watch from the eras I've already reviewed, but which I have. This includes The Ark (I'm currently on the second episode, and hating it), Terror of the Autons, and Planet of the Spiders. Then, I go on to watch the Tom Baker era. :)


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20 Jun 2011, 1:32 am

I'd rather watch 4 episodes of the Ark than all of the Space Museum...

BTW: Terror of the Zygons is horribly grainy.



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20 Jun 2011, 2:32 am

gbollard wrote:
I'd rather watch 4 episodes of the Ark than all of the Space Museum...

BTW: Terror of the Zygons is horribly grainy.


I'd sooner watch all of The Space Museum than all of The Ark. Seriously, it's a crappy story.

Terror of the Zygons ain't out on DVD yet, so I'm not reviewing it. A pity, that. It's a good story.

Review of The Ark coming soon!


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20 Jun 2011, 2:58 am

REVIEW: The Ark by Lesley Scott and Paul Erickson

SERIAL
: X, 4X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No.


When I finished the Hartnell era, I concluded that the worst stories of that era were particularly The Keys of Marinus by Terry Nation, and The Space Museum by Glyn Jones. However, The Keys of Marinus had little periods of enjoyment in what was an adventurous romp, and The Space Museum, while having a mediocre story, had an excellent first episode. And upon watching The Ark, I found that there were even worse stories in the offering...

Landing on a spaceship in the far future, the Doctor, Dodo, and Steven find that they are amongst the last surviving members of the human race, fleeing an Earth which is plunging into the Sun. But the last survivors of the human race and their servants, the alien Monoids, are in danger. Dodo has brought a cold on board, and the humans and Monoids have no immunity. Problem is, humanity may have progressed over this time, but they remain paranoid and distrustful, and the Doctor, Dodo, and Steven are on trial for their lives. And even if they manage to get out of that strife, it may very well be that this accident may have ramifications for centuries to come...

Okay, so the writing for Doctor Who at the time The Ark came out wasn't always sophisticated, but one gets the idea that this is a story full of half-baked ideas that don't come out in execution. The concept of the Ark is a good one, as is the Monoids. The return to a place where the time travellers have been to encounter the consequences of their actions is a good one, being later reused in the series (The Ark in Space/Revenge of the Cybermen, and The Long Game/Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways are good examples) There are a few special effects that are good even by today's standards, and the animals in the jungle are used well. And the regulars of the Doctor and Steven are on form, with Jackie Lane as Dodo doing as much as she can with her dialogue.

And yet, the characterisation, particularly of the humans in the first half of the story, and the Monoids in the second half is abysmal. While Zentos' paranoia echoes similar fear Noah's paranoia in the later story The Ark in Space, it is portrayed far more ridiculously. The only decently-acted roles in the humans are Rho and Mellium in the first half and Dassuk and Venussa in the second half. The others range from ridiculously camp (the Commander springs to mind) to scared cardboard collaborator (Maharis). The writing is mediocre, but the acting makes it worse. One expects to find, at times, teeth marks in the scenery.

The Monoids are pantomime villains in the second half, and one wonders exactly how they conquered the Ark in the first place, even with the help of the recurrent disease. The costumes, while an excellent and alien design, are unfortunately impractical and comical, and the voices lack just the right edge of menace most of the time.

The production design tried hard, but the term 'epic fail' comes to mind. And while they should be commended for trying their best on such a low budget, the costumes of the humans and the sets tend to look ridiculous, even by the then-standards of Doctor Who. The jungle sets both on the Ark and Refusis are the most effective, despite their limitations, so that's a plus, I guess.

Still, The Ark, I'm afraid, stands as the worse surviving Doctor Who story in the Hartnell era, in my opinion. Why The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve or The Celestial Toymaker weren't saved instead, I have no idea. But they would have been better. It does have good points and a few nice concepts, but it failed badly at delivering them.



SCORE: 5/10

Next, will be Terror of the Autons, and I'm looking forward to the new restoration. :D In the meantime, I will post the trailers for both The Ark, and the Mannequin Mania set that includes Terror of the Autons.


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20 Jun 2011, 3:03 am

Trailer for The Ark...

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GfVTPBPCWo[/youtube]


And Mannequin Mania, which includes Spearhead from Space (which I've already reviewed) and Terror of the Autons.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaJmRzCOZHI[/youtube]


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20 Jun 2011, 7:03 pm

Sorry, I meant Terror of the Autons...

It's funny how you start typing a Doctor Who title and it auto-completes in your head.

Also funny that it corrects the (fair) Terror of the Autons to the superior Zygons (but never to the inferior Vervoids).

Anyway, the Grain in TOTA is the worst I've seen in any doctor who story - including all of the Hartnell ones on DVD.

I agree with your review of the Ark. It's actually a reasonably good concept/story done in the worst possible way.



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20 Jun 2011, 8:34 pm

gbollard wrote:
Anyway, the Grain in TOTA is the worst I've seen in any doctor who story - including all of the Hartnell ones on DVD.


Yeah, I was expecting a better restoration (I just finished watching it), though the VIDFIRE process does add a certain amount to it. Maybe it's a combination of the NTSC tape's quality and the quality of the black and white film. But I feel that the restoration of Doctor Who and the Silurians looked better.

Review of Terror of the Autons coming soon... :)


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20 Jun 2011, 8:59 pm

REVIEW: Terror of the Autons by Robert Holmes

SERIAL
: EEE, 4X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: Yes.


Having written the successful opening story of Jon Pertwee's era, Spearhead from Space, Robert Holmes was swiftly invited back for another story to open the next season. Not only was he given the task of bringing the Autons and the Nestene Intelligence back, but he was given the task of introducing three characters who would become beloved to fans of the Whoniverse...

The Doctor has been assigned a new assistant, the sometimes-bumbling but enthusiastic Jo Grant. But even as he comes to grips with this, he receives warning from the Time Lords that an old adversary of his, the Master, is on Earth, and he intends to ally with the Nestene Consciousness. What follows is a battle of wits as the Master not only throws the Doctor into danger after danger, but also the world into peril, helping the Nestenes engineer terrifying new weapons out of everyday plastic things. Death may strike from anywhere, from a plastic chair, to a plastic daffodil, as the true terror of the Autons begins...

I once heard that the recent two-part story The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone was the Aliens to Blink's Alien. I feel that the same applies to Terror of the Autons. Whereas Spearhead from Space was a more subtler affair, with positions of authority being usurped by plastic fascimiles, Terror of the Autons is much more action-filled. But this is by no means a bad thing. Indeed, Terror of the Autons examines the potential horror of everyday objects made of plastic coming to life. So effective this was, that Mary Whitehouse, took umbrage (but no surprise there).

We see the Robert Holmes trademark of, if not exactly deep and complex characters, then colourful and entertaining ones. We have Lew 'Luigi Rossini' Russell, shady circus owner, Rex Farrel Jr, hinted to have been domineered, if not abused, by his father, and even the scientist Goodge, who, though sounding bored and flat, is entirely in character, and ends up being the Master's first victim of his TCE (shrink-ray).

Of the regulars, the Doctor and the Brigadier have extensive repartee, although the Doctor seems more abrasive towards the Brigadier than usual, and Benton, while underused, is ever-dependable. The newcomers are wonderful, with Jo Grant, as played by Katy Manning, showing the right mix of ditziness and yet competency to be a good companion. Mike Yates is a welcome addition to the UNIT ensemble, and the actors playing these characters do well.

Of particular note is the Master, played with aplomb by Roger Delgado. Compared to later appearances, however, he seems a little disappointing, just chucking death traps and bombs at the Doctor continuously, but he does so with utter charm and panache (helped in no small way by Roger Delgado's performance) that you forgive this. Whether Delgado is the definitive Master is a matter of no small debate, but he is certainly one of the best.

The faults with Terror of the Autons lay mostly in the fact that it is one set-piece after another, and while it is brilliantly constructed for that, it is rather thin when you think about it, relying more on the horror of ubiquitous plastic coming to deadly life. It basically drops the Doctor et al in one peril after another, and while still immensely enjoyable, it does lack substance. Spearhead from Space, while lacking interesting characters by contrast, had a better, more meaty story with more subtle horror.

Still, Terror of the Autons is vintage Pertwee Who. We now see the UNIT Family coming together, for a number of good stories ahead. While a little lacking in substance, it is still one of the best adventure romps that they have done for the series.



SCORE: 8.5/10

And a trailer for the next story, Planet of the Spiders. This trailer's a very well-done one, I reckon. You'll especially appreciate it, gbollard. :)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vahgN_rXmXE[/youtube]


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20 Jun 2011, 9:07 pm

There are a comments I have about Terror of the Autons;

1. The master and hypnosis. It's cool and it's a time lord ability that even the doctor has- though possibly to a lesser extent (Battlefield). It's weird that the Master never uses it in the new series. (except perhaps on his wife?)

2. Ditto the Tissue Compression Eliminator. A very cool device even if we only see it's after-effects in TOTA. Again, sadly missing from the new series - "laser screwdriver indeed"......

3. Plastic Attacks. Unlike Spearhead which was mainly about dummies, here, it's Dolls, chairs, telephones, daffodils etc... When the new series did Autons, it did them very poorly.

I guess that I'm saying; "Steven Moffat, watch TOTA and learn from what Russell T Davies missed"



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21 Jun 2011, 12:38 am

gbollard wrote:
There are a comments I have about Terror of the Autons;

1. The master and hypnosis. It's cool and it's a time lord ability that even the doctor has- though possibly to a lesser extent (Battlefield). It's weird that the Master never uses it in the new series. (except perhaps on his wife?)

2. Ditto the Tissue Compression Eliminator. A very cool device even if we only see it's after-effects in TOTA. Again, sadly missing from the new series - "laser screwdriver indeed"......

3. Plastic Attacks. Unlike Spearhead which was mainly about dummies, here, it's Dolls, chairs, telephones, daffodils etc... When the new series did Autons, it did them very poorly.

I guess that I'm saying; "Steven Moffat, watch TOTA and learn from what Russell T Davies missed"



1. Actually, the Master did use a form of subtle hypnosis in The Sound of Drums, with the Archangel Network to get people to vote for him as Harold Saxon. Given what it does to the Doctor when he uses it to revive himself and the Master's aforementioned expertise in Matrix-style neural networks (The Deadly Assassin), it's possibly like the Matrix. Plus, hypnotism is such an overused ability of a villain.

2. Actually, you see the TCE's after-effects in The Deadly Assassin and, after an accident, to the Master himself in Planet of Fire. The laser screwdriver being used to age the Doctor is arguably more horrific than shrinking someone to death.

3. I agree that they weren't used to their full potential, but then again, it would be hard to given the current format.


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21 Jun 2011, 2:28 am

Yeah, sorry that came out wrong... We see the TCE's after-effects in several stories and I think once or twice we see the actual shrinkage (though quite poorly managed).

The books describe it as having your insides squished - not shrunk - and in that sense it wouldn't be a great way to go.

I'd love to see the Master exhibit some of his past abilities in the new series - snake form? cat-flapping himself out of danger? serious hypnosis? body hijacking? they'd all be pretty cool to see.

In fact, a story like Alien Bodies (was that the title?) where bad guys - probably not Krotons - show up to retrieve the master's body for its potential as a weapon would be super cool.

BTW: Did you think that the ending of TOTA was a bit abrupt. "They won't thank you, you know".... "oooh gee, never thought of that....bugger .... better reverse the polarity of the neutron flow eh"



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21 Jun 2011, 2:31 am

This review is dedicated to Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen.


REVIEW: Planet of the Spiders by Robert Sloman (with Barry Letts, uncredited)

SERIAL
: ZZZ, 6X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: Yes.


Between Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, and Jon Pertwee, they made Doctor Who a success. Pertwee stayed in the role for a record (at the time) five years, but now, it was coming to an end. So when it came to send off the third Doctor, how could they write out the immensely popular character in the right way? The answer came in the final collaboration between Barry Letts and Robert Sloman...

A covert meeting of men seeking unnatural power at a Buddhist retreat attracts the attention of former UNIT officer Mike Yates. Knowing that the Doctor and the Brigadier may not listen to him because of his traitorous actions since they last met, he gets the help of Sarah. Meanwhile, the Doctor begins research into espers with the help of stage magician and real psychic Professor Clegg, only to have him die while examining the Metebelis Crystal, returned to the Doctor by mail from Jo Grant. And soon, Lupton, an ambitious and power-hungry man in the Buddhist retreat, gains aid from a mutated spider from far in the future. For the spiders are the rulers of Metebelis 3, sentient mutants who oppress the descendants of the original human colonists. They require the crystal, but why? Why does the Abbot of the Buddhist retreat know the Doctor? And can the Doctor face his ultimate fear?

When Barry Letts and Robert Sloman write, there are occasional touches of their personal philosophies, but here, the Buddhism gets laid on with a trowel. Not in a bad way, mind. While it is far from subtle, it is also not overbearing. The themes here are about the Doctor's hubris, leading to the death of Professor Clegg, his oversight regarding the human rebellion later in the story, and ultimately his fear of the unknown, and of death, which are more or less the same. We even get the sense here that the Doctor might actually die for real, being unable to regenerate, a hint that is picked up in stories in the new series.

The writing is really trying to give Jon Pertwee a spectacular send-off. There are some weak moments, but some, like the protracted chase sequence that takes up much of the second episode, are too enjoyable anyway to notice. Of more importance is the Metebelis 3 sequences. Some of the writing there is a little weak, particularly amongst the humans. However, there are also excellent sequences and character touches, like Tommy's transformation that, although it makes him intelligent, doesn't make him prideful, and Lupton, who reveals a surprisingly petty, if normal, motivation for wanting power. The Brigadier's comment in the first episode about using an exotic dancer as a trainer should be taken as a joke from the usually stoic character, although there seems to be less to do here.

Notably, Mike Yates gets a moment to redeem himself, after what happened in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It's a better send-off than the ignomious dishonourable discharge. Sarah Jane is proactive, even when she is the damsel, so to speak. And the characters of Cho-je and K'anpo are both intriguing, having a link to the Doctor's past that was mentioned in the previous Letts/Sloman endeavour, The Time Monster. And, of course, Jon Pertwee is on fine form as the Doctor, giving it all for his final send off.

Perhaps the finest moments in the script are where the Doctor encounters the Great One for the first time, where he encounters K'anpo for the first time in a long time, and the regeneration scene at the end. The Great One takes sadistic pleasure in controlling the Doctor, taunting him that he is not used to being frightened. When he encounters K'anpo, there is, after some hesitation and events getting in the way, a reunion between old friends. And finally, the regeneration, played out wonderfully like a death scene, and utterly heart-rending. No music, just the emotion of the actors, all of whom are now sadly deceased.

One of the major problems with this story is the acting. While for the most part, it is effective (notably Kevin Lindsay, usually playing a Sontaran, playing the urbane Tibetan monk Cho-je, John Kane playing the good natured Tommy and John Dearth, or BOSS from The Green Death, playing power hungry former salesman Lupton), but the humans on Metebelis and some of Lupton's allies aren't. Case in point is Jenny Laird as Neska, although Ralph Arliss as Tuar doesn't help matters, and Geoffrey Morris' Sabor would be more credible without his strong West County accent. And you get the feeling at times that there is a certain amount of padding, especially with the chase, though that was written with Jon Pertwee and his love of vehicular action in mind. Not to mention very dodgy CSO special effects, though the spiders themselves for their time are extraordinarily impressive.

Still, all in all, Planet of the Spiders was a good send-off for Jon Pertwee as the Doctor. A bit long for some, and a little stretching in terms of credulity, but otherwise, the right swansong for the third Doctor.



SCORE: 9/10


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21 Jun 2011, 2:42 am

gbollard wrote:
Yeah, sorry that came out wrong... We see the TCE's after-effects in several stories and I think once or twice we see the actual shrinkage (though quite poorly managed).

The books describe it as having your insides squished - not shrunk - and in that sense it wouldn't be a great way to go.


I don't think they could show that on TV. They get away with the Doctor remarking that a Dalek death ray causes 'massive internal displacement' (ie, the organs got scrambled by the energy weapon), but the most gory deaths they did were in The Dominators and Dragonfire.

gbollard wrote:
I'd love to see the Master exhibit some of his past abilities in the new series - snake form? cat-flapping himself out of danger? serious hypnosis? body hijacking? they'd all be pretty cool to see.


The Time Lords did give him a new set of regenerations, so the snake form and the Cheetah People abilities are probably right out. But then again, he learned how to use artron energy to fire LIGHTNING! at his opponents. And he did technically hijack billions of human bodies in The End of Time. In fact, I'm surprised that they all cooperated. The copies, I mean.


gbollard wrote:
In fact, a story like Alien Bodies (was that the title?) where bad guys - probably not Krotons - show up to retrieve the master's body for its potential as a weapon would be super cool.


You got the title right. They should really bring in an enemy like Faction Paradox, that sort of chaotic, doing paradoxical stuff to make a macabre point thing. Actually, with the Time Lords gone, Faction Paradox would be an even greater threat. They need a villain like them.

But remember, the Master disappeared. Either back with the Time Lords into the time-lock, or else his body dissipated from using too much energy. I'm not saying he's gone for good (you should never count the Master out), but it would be difficult for these enemies to find the body.

I wish the rumours were true about who was going to be the ultimate villain of this current series. Let me give a hint: ωμέγα.


gbollard wrote:
BTW: Did you think that the ending of TOTA was a bit abrupt. "They won't thank you, you know".... "oooh gee, never thought of that....bugger .... better reverse the polarity of the neutron flow eh"


They mention that in the On Target documentary dealing with Terrance Dicks. In the novelisation, the Brigadier gives the Master added incentive to help the Doctor: a gun aimed at his face.


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