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14 Oct 2012, 5:23 am

And hot on the heels of that one...

REVIEW: The Krotons by Robert Holmes

SERIAL:
WW, 4X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: Yes


Robert Holmes' lifelong association with Doctor Who began when he submitted a science fiction play called The Space Trap to the BBC. While they didn't want to make it a standalone play, they referred his script to the Doctor Who department, where it languished for years until Terrance Dicks took up the role of assistant script editor. When the comedic story The Prison in Space fell through, having been too problematic, the story that became The Krotons was the only script available to fill the gap...

Landing on a seemingly desolate planet, haunted by the stink of sulfur and hydrogen telluride, the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find a city inhabited by the Gonds, a race who are primitive in many ways, but are civilised and have medicine. But the Gonds are in the thrall of the Krotons, mysterious beings that inhabit the Dynatrope, a spaceship that laid waste to the Gonds' homeworld. Their best and most intelligent students are summoned into the Dynatrope, and the Doctor and his companions witness what happen to them afterwards: dissolved in a cloud of corrosive gas. With the knowledge of their students' fate, many of the Gonds are beginning to rebel, but they have few weapons capable of attacking the Krotons. Why do the Krotons need intelligent beings? Can any weapon destroy them? Or are the Krotons completely invinceable?

For a story that was brought in as a last minute replacement, The Krotons isn't too bad. It's a fairly simple story, but with intriguing concepts that works well. And while it lacks many of the hallmarks of Holmes' later and better work, it is still workable. True, it is fairly cliched in many respects, and there are some elements which fall flat (along with at least one blatant continuity error involving a prominent character), but it works.

The regulars are all written well, with Patrick Troughton's Doctor and Wendy Padbury's Zoe getting the lion's share of the action, though Zoe does, initially, seem slightly out of character. Jamie gets things to do, but otherwise is sidelined. The Gonds are perhaps less enjoyable as characters, not quite being cardboard, but with the exception of Selris and Beta, played by James Copeland and James Cairncross respectively, not meaty roles either. Even the famed Philip Madoc's debut in the series isn't much to write home about, as he himself noted.

The design is nothing spectacular, with the interior of the Dynatrope being particularly disappointing and low budget, and the model of the Dynatrope is hard to reconcile with the way the sets are made. Even so, the production gets the atmosphere right, especially with the eerie sounds used for the serial. The Krotons, despite being lambasted as one of the more incompetent monsters in Doctor Who, are nonetheless an impressive design, from the waist up at least (the less said about the 'skirt' of their lower area, the better), and their voices, while sometimes comedic given the accents of the voice actors, nonetheless are filled with power.

The Krotons is far from the best of Patrick Troughton's surviving stories, but it is far from the worst. A bit dull and showing the joins in plenty of places, it's still a decent story in the end.



SCORE: 8.5/10


And now, the DVD trailer for the next story, The Ambassadors of Death...

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJyqcyeZN4Y[/youtube]

*Twang!*


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15 Oct 2012, 4:33 am

REVIEW: The Ambassadors of Death by David Whitaker (with uncredited rewrites from Trevor Ray, Malcolm Hulke, and Terrance Dicks)

SERIAL:
CCC, 7X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: Yes


The writing of the last Doctor Who script of former first Who script editor David Whitaker was a troubled one. Originally commissioned for Patrick Troughton's last season, the story, originally titled The Carriers of Death, involved humanity's first contact with an alien intelligence. Eventually, then script editor Terrance Dicks decided to have the whole thing rewritten to make it work, with the help of assistant script editor Trevor Ray, and Dicks' mentor, Malcolm Hulke. Considering what needed to be done, would The Ambassadors of Death work out?

Seven months ago, Mars Probe 7 took off the surface of Mars. The two astronauts within it have never contacted Earth since. Recovery 7, with a third astronaut, is sent up as well, only for contact to be lost, and an alien burst of sound heard. The Doctor is sure he has heard something like that sound before, and believes it to be an alien message, a message that is replied to by someone on Earth. When Recovery 7 comes back down, the astronauts are removed, on the orders of General Carrington, head of Space Security and a Mars Probe veteran. His reasons? The astronauts have been contaminated with a kind of contagious radioactivity. But the truth is even deadlier than that. While the astronauts are abducted once more, along with Liz Shaw, the Doctor and the Brigadier find themselves up against a conspiracy that has repercussions for the entire world. But who is a friend, and who is a foe? Are the radioactive, deadly aliens in the astronauts' spacesuits the greatest menace the world has ever seen? Or does an even greater enemy lurk closer to home?

Despite the utter nightmare that writing this story must have been, this nonetheless turns out to be one of the best, if not THE best, story of the Pertwee era. We have things not being what they seem, a conspiracy, and one of the more intriguing aliens of the Pertwee era, dangerous, but not evil. The only complaint I have about the storyline is that it seems to get resolved too quickly. That, and there's a lot of run-around. But nonetheless, it's a good story.

The regulars are all doing well, with Jon Pertwee settled into the role of the Doctor, and both Caroline John and Nicholas Courtney doing well as Liz Shaw and a gradually humanising Brigadier respectively. Of the guest cast, Ronald Allen's Ralph Cornish is fine, William Dysart's Reegan oozes menace, and Cyril Shaps turns in a performance of Lennox, a scientist too deep over his own head. But the real star of the story in the guest cast is John Abineri as the driven and tormented General Carrington. In the wrong hands, he could have easily been just another madman. Abineri gives him needed gravitas and pathos.

Production-wise, apart from some dodgy CSO effects, the story is quite excellent. There's some excellent action sequences in the first two episodes, and the effects of the Ambassadors killing people is quite startling and effective. The Ambassadors themselves are only seen briefly, with one (the leader in a spaceship) being only a roughly humanoid figure half-glimpsed, and another (one of the spacesuited aliens) shown briefly as a lumpy-faced humanoid, and this, combined with the concealing spacesuits, give them an air of mystery and menace, even when their true natures are revealed. Dudley Simpson's music is at its most effectively experimental here, with only a few howlers here and there.

The Ambassadors of Death is perhaps as close to perfection as a Pertwee story can get. An underrated story sandwiched between three more famous stories in the season, it is overdue for reappraisal...


SCORE: 10/10


And now, the DVD trailer for the next story, Death to the Daleks...

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


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21 Oct 2012, 1:37 am

REVIEW: Death to the Daleks by Terry Nation

SERIAL:
XXX, 4X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No


The 1970s wasn't the best time for the Daleks in Doctor Who. Dalekmania had come and gone. And with the exception of Genesis of the Daleks, the stories, while not abysmal, seemed to be phoning it in somewhat. Maybe this was due to Terry Nation, who wrote all Dalek stories in the 70s barring Day of the Daleks, and whose writing is somewhat formulaic. Could Death to the Daleks, the last Dalek story of Jon Pertwee's time as the Doctor, buck this trend?

While on a trip to the resort planet of Florana, the TARDIS is intercepted and drained of all power, stranded on the bleak world of Exxilon, where the primitive natives fear and worship a beautiful city with a pulsing beacon. The Doctor soon learns that a human expedition is stranded here, with a mission to collect parrinium, a mineral vital to curing a space plague. But a new party enters the picture: Daleks, who, while robbed of the power to kill, are nonetheless not robbed of their evil. How long can a truce between humans and powerless Daleks last? Who built the city, and what is its connection to the power failure? And what lurks within the catacombs of the Exxilons? Friends? Or foes?

The story is rather standard Terry Nation, but this is far from a bad thing. There are some good concepts, like the Daleks losing the power for their blasters (and so having to make do instead with a miniature machine gun), and the concept of the Exxilon city itself. But even so, the story is rather simple and straightforward Nation fare, and so doesn't exactly stand out, especially when compared to earlier and later works. And there's at least one silly moment, where a Dalek commits suicide for allowing a prisoner to escape. Yeesh.

The Doctor and Sarah are good enough, but of the humans, I have to admit that only Galloway, played by The Quatermass Experiment veteran Duncan Lamont, has any interest, as he has shades of moral ambiguity that distances him from the not dissimilar character of Vaber from Planet of the Daleks. Unfortunately, the other characters, with the exception of Arnold Yarrow's Bellal, are rather flat.

The production is also an area of concern, with Carey Blyton's music at times excellent, and at times too comical-sounding, a concern I've raised before. However, the opening episode is quite suitably atmospheric, with the night-time of Exxilon. The Daleks are portrayed somewhat better in this story than in previous 70s Dalek stories, but Michael Wisher lacks some of the intimidating air that other voice artists (like Peter Hawkins or Roy Skelton) gave the Daleks, or for that matter, that Wisher gives Davros. There are some good effects, and some bad ones, but unfortunately, the bad ones are the more noticeable, as is a rather dodgy cliffhanger edit at the end of the third episode (which has been named in a doco on Doctor Who cliffhangers as "Fear of Flooring").

If given a somewhat more substantial production, I think that Death to the Daleks could have been an average production by Who standards. As it is, it slumps just below average.


SCORE: 8/10


And now, the DVD trailer for the next story, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (warning: strobing effects throughout the trailer)...

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek3wQQzYydg[/youtube]


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22 Oct 2012, 2:42 am

REVIEW: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy by Stephen Wyatt

SERIAL:
7J, 4X25 minute episodes

SEEN IT BEFORE?: Yes


After finishing location work, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy was all set to begin studio work when the BBC studios were found to have asbestos. And because the studios were closed, the story nearly went the same way as failed Tom Baker story Shada. But because most of the studio scenes were set in a circus tent, such a tent was set up in the carpark of Elstree Studios. Sometimes, Doctor Who is at its best when coping with adversity, but that isn't always the case. So would The Greatest Show in the Galaxy live up to its name? Or would it have been better to have never been remounted?

The TARDIS is invaded by a junk mail satellite, advertising the Psychic Circus, the self-proclaimed Greatest Show in the Galaxy, currently on Segonax. The Doctor is keen to go and participate in the talent contest, but Ace isn't so comfortable. After all, she finds clowns creepy. But Segonax is a desert, the locals disdainful, and the circus, once cheerful and fun, is now a forbidding trap. A few of the circus people have rebelled, and paid for their rebellion with their lives, or their sanity. The others, at the behest of some dark power, lure in their potential audience into deadly games of skill that will end in their deaths. Who are the three audience members who seem to have the power of life and death over not only the performers, but the circus owners themselves? What is the forbidding eye seen throughout the circus? And can the Doctor and Ace escape?

Some have pointed out that The Greatest Show in the Galaxy is an allegory for Doctor Who as a series in general, but even if that isn't quite true (and one can see parallels, especially in a rather blatant parody of a stereotypical fan), it's still quite an interesting story. Surreal and at times a little hard to follow, it nonetheless had an enjoyable plot and an intriguing set of villians. Paradise Towers, Wyatt's previous story for the series, was marred somewhat by the camp execution, but there's no problem of that here.

The regulars both get meaty things to do, though the story is particularly the Doctor's, with Sylvester McCoy getting to show off in the last episode, not to mention managing to walk away from a massive explosion without flinching. TP McKenna as Captain Cook is an interesting, if somewhat annoying villain, and Jessica Martin as Mags, a haunted young woman with a dark secret is also good. Particular praise has to go to Ian Reddington as the Chief Clown, who has got to be one of the freakiest and understated villains in the entire series. The Gods of Ragnarok and their incarnation as the Family are also an intriguing concept, and certainly add weight to the allegory theory.

Production wise, we get to visit yet another quarry, but that is overlooked once we get into the circus proper. Though filmed in a carpark, the circus scenes are nonetheless very effective and atmospheric, and indeed, the story does have an effective atmosphere, a patina of cheesiness covering some real menace, helped by Mark Ayres' music debut. In general, the story is produced very well, and I wonder how much the disruption to production hindered (or even helped) the production proper.

The Greatest Show in the Galaxy may not be the best story of all time, but it certainly lives up to its name. It also shows that, even as the show was in danger of being cancelled, it could still offer up a quality story...


SCORE: 10/10


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29 Oct 2012, 12:26 am

It's worth pointing out that I won't be able to review any further Doctor Who classic series releases for a long time, as the next normal release will be that of Shada, in January, and there won't be that many new releases left anyway. AFAIK, there are only the following stories left:

*The Reign Of Terror

*The Tenth Planet

*The Ice Warriors

*Terror of the Zygons

With the exception of Terror of the Zygons, all of the above have missing episodes. It's more than likely that they'll have the missing episodes reanimated like with The Invasion, as The Reign of Terror has been confirmed to be animated in this way.

I might review the Christmas Special when it comes out in December, but it looks like this review blog will be on hiatus for a while...


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15 Dec 2012, 12:32 am

Soon, I'll be reviewing the Christmas special, The Snowmen, when it comes out. But in the mean time, I have a mild dilemma that I'll detail in another thread...

Details here:

http://www.wrongplanet.net/postp5091552.html


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25 Dec 2012, 6:35 am

Reviewing the Christmas special tomorrow night...


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26 Dec 2012, 5:55 am

And now, the 2012 Christmas special...

REVIEW: The Snowmen by Steven Moffat

SERIAL:
7.6, 60 minute special

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed immediately after transmission)


The previous couple of Christmas specials for Doctor Who haven't been the best. While having their own enjoyable charms at time, they certainly didn't reach the heights of The Runaway Bride, Voyage of the Damned, or The End of Time. I was beginning to think that Steven Moffat couldn't write a superlative Christmas special for the series. And so, I wondered if The Snowmen would continue this trend...

The Doctor has had enough of adventures, thanks to the loss of the Ponds. Becoming a recluse in Victorian London of 1892, he refuses any attempts from old friends Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax to draw him into adventures. But all that changes when a mysterious snow begins to fall, one that reacts to the thoughts of humans, creating monstrous snowmen. Something that catches the attention of not only the Doctor, but spirited barwoman and governess Clara. The Doctor is struggling not to get involved, but soon, he can't avoid it. And the sinister Dr Simeon, proprietor of the Great Intelligence Institute, is in league with the snow, a snow that has been with him since childhood, a snow that he intends to help conquer the world...

Well, what can I say? Moffat managed to actually pull an excellent story out of his hat, one with excellent twists and turns, and callbacks to Doctor Who history both old and new. And the concept of something as ubiquitous as snow in a British Christmas as a danger is a typically Moffat spin on primal fear. And the Doctor's retirement, although not a new concept (having been attempted by Douglas Adams as far back as the late 70s), is actually handled here better than David Tennant's Doctor abstaining from companions. The ending is a little too deus ex machina for my liking, but it is still an enjoyable one, and leaves more questions open for the future, especially about Clara. And while this story cribs a couple of notes from The Next Doctor, it is, in the end, a far superior product.

Matt Smith as the Doctor is giving perhaps one of his better performances, and Jenna Louise Coleman, whose Clara could easily come across as annoying, is actually endearing, especially in comparison to Amy Pond. Indeed, the revelations about her, and a possible connection to another character she played are intriguing, and will definitely serve as a story arc for the series to come. Neve MacIntosh, Catrin Stewart and Dan Starkey are excellent as the Silurian Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny Flint, and the bellicose Sontaran Strax respectively, though I consider Strax to be more annoying than when he was seen previously in A Good Man Goes to War. Richard E Grant is perfect as the icy Dr Simeon, who could have otherwise come across as cardboard or hammy in the wrong hands, and having Ian McKellen play the voice of the Snowmen, or rather, their controlling intelligence, is such an inspired choice, it's not funny. They are clear examples of celebrity casting done right.

Victorian England is always done well by the BBC, and this story is no exception. And almost everything about the production proper is pitch-perfect: music, direction, and special effects. The titular Snowmen could have come off as goofy, but in fact, they are bloody menacing! And the new TARDIS set is a wonder to behold, not to mention the brilliant new title sequence. The only sour note in the production proper (and unfortunately, it's a pretty big one) is the way the Ice Governess is done. The animation makes it look clearly CGI and animated, moving jerkily and wrongly. Better animation or some mo-capping might have helped matters far more.

The Snowmen, then, is the best of the Steven Moffat-written Christmas specials by far, and promises much for the series ahead. With a new mystery ahead, and a promising new companion, I have high hopes for next year.


SCORE: 9.5/10


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04 Jan 2013, 1:41 am

Okay, I've made a decision. I will start reviewing missing or incomplete stories in this section. However, I won't be able to review them all, not until later, due to availability of the audio CDs.

The first ones to be reviewed will be...

The Crusades*

The Savages

The Smugglers

The Power of the Daleks

The Moonbase*


Wherever possible, existing episodes and footage will be watched (asterisks mark those stories with audio and video existing on the Lost in Time DVD boxset), and telesnaps and publicity photos be perused.

In addition, a separate thread will soon be established to deal with audio plays, mostly those by Big Finish, but also other audio plays produced by the BBC, such as The Pescatons, Slipback, and Hornet's Nest.


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08 Jan 2013, 5:28 am

And now, the first review of incomplete stories...


REVIEW: The Crusade by David Whitaker

SERIAL:
P, 4X25 minute episodes (episodes 1 and 3 in existence, episodes 2 and 4 audio only plus telesnaps)

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Watched existing episodes, haven't listened to missing episodes)


In deciding to embark on reviewing missing stories, I would be hampered by the lack of visual material, so it is fortuitious that the first story that I do so has half its episodes in existence, as well as telesnaps readily available on the BBC website. The Crusade is perhaps one of the noteworthy stories of the second season of the Hartnell era, as it ventured into the controversial, even today, area of Christianity versus Islam. Written by Doctor Who stalwart and former script editor David Whitaker, this story is the last pure historical story before The Time Meddler began the more popular pseudohistorical stories, which would edge out the pure historicals by the beginning of Patrick Troughton's time. So how would it fare?

Materialising in the woods outside Jaffa during the Third Crusade, the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki soon find themselves caught in the middle of conflict, when a group of Saracen warriors, led by the vicious El Akir, try to capture or kill King Richard the Lionheart. Barbara is captured along with Sir William de Preaux, who claimed to be Richard to spare the king capture. When the deception is revealed in front of Saladin and his brother Saphadin, Barbara makes an enemy of El Akir, who abducts her to his emirate of Lydda. Meanwhile, Ian is knighted to act as emissary to plead for Barbara and Sir William's release, and the Doctor and Vicki find themselves caught up in the politics of Richard's court. Can Ian save Barbara from El Akir's sadism? Will Richard be able to gain Jerusalem by treaty, or by war? And can the Doctor and Vicki avoid getting sucked into the machinations of the court?

The Crusade was probably groundbreaking for its time in many regards, but by today's standards, it does feel somewhat patronising. Many of the Arab characters seem to be from attitudes of a bygone age, although there are many, including Saladin himself as well as Haroun Ed-Din and his family that are better. The story itself seems a little too simple besides, and doesn't have the poetry of John Lucarotti's The Aztecs.

The regulars get a lot to do, with particular praise going to Jacqueline Hill as Barbara. Despite being captured and being put into bad situations, she often manages to either find her way out of it, or defy her enemies. The resolution to the previous episode's cliffhanger at the beginning of the otherwise missing fourth episode is a good example. Julian Glover as the occasionally petulant but otherwise decent King Richard is a delight, as is Jean Marsh as the Princess Joanna. Bernard Kay is intriguing as the pragmatic, sardonic Saladin, not overtly good, but certainly far from evil, and it's a pity we didn't see more of him. Water Randall as the vicious El Akir is a study in a viciously sadistic ruler who, despite his rather singular nature, is a good villain regardless. George Little as Haroun, Petra Markham as Safiya, and Sandra Hampton as Maimuna round out the better characters.

I have to confess, though, that the design seems rather less opulent than in previous historicals, and it seemed that, good though the sets and costumes were, they could have been better. This story doesn't seem to have shown Douglas Camfield's directing abilities as well as they could have. How much of this complaint is due to the lack of visuals (barring the telesnaps) of the second and final episodes, I don't know.

The Crusade may not quite be a missing classic to end all missing classics, but it is a competent story that has aged a little badly. Woth a look for the performances and some of the story, if nothing else.


SCORE: 8.5/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Savages...


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10 Jan 2013, 6:14 am

REVIEW: The Savages by Ian Stuart Black

SERIAL:
AA, 4X25 minute episodes (no episodes in existence, audio and telesnaps only)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


One of the difficulties in reviewing the missing stories is, obviously, that there is little, if at all, visual material to match it. The Savages, in particular, only has less than a minute's worth of murky material filmed off-screen by an Aussie fan with an 8mm camera. Telesnaps are available on the BBC website, but beyond that, very little material exists. Even so, I thin I can give a fair assessment to the story...

The Doctor has claimed to Steven and Dodo that they have landed on an alien world, far into the future, in an age of prosperity and sophistication. However, they're not convinced by the barren wasteland inhabited by savages. The time travellers, however, are soon taken to a sophisticated and advanced metropolis, where nobody wants for anything, and the Elders of the city, led by Jano, have discovered a means to enhance their intelligence and physical attributes. The Doctor and his companions are honoured guests, but soon, they discover a dark secret that lies at the heart of this utopia. The wastland savages' life force are being drained by the city's inhabitants on a regular basis, and when the Doctor protests, he is forced to undergo the same process himself, while Dodo and Steven flee to find refuge with the savages...

The story of The Savages is an interesting one, but ultimately a somewhat flat one. Many of the aspects of the story are quite good, and chilling, but it lacks a certain polish and sophistication that would have elevated it further. And the departure of Steven isn't quite forshadowed well, being not dissimilar to Leela's sudden departure in The Invasion of Time later in the series.

The regulars, as usual, do well, and Frederick Jaegar, making his first appearance in Doctor Who as Jano, puts on a good performance, and even mimicks William Hartnell excellently. Ewen Solon as Chal and Clare Jenkins as Nanina are the only other noteworthies. Unfortunately, the characters, as written, come off rather flat and childish, and this doesn't quite work in the story's favour.

Another thing that is unfortunate is many aspects of the production. While the direction itself (performed by Christopher Barry) cannot be judged properly from what few fragments that exist, and the telesnaps, the production design of the city is actually quite weak. This probably was one of the more budget-conscious stories. The location filming, as well as other sets around the wild areas, is somewhat more convincing, and the music is fairly good too. It's still an atmospheric piece, and the sound effects used conjure up what the special effects might have looked like on screen.

The Savages, then, is a disappointment. Below average, at least by the higher standards of Doctor Who, it is still a decent enough story, that could have been better.


SCORE: 8/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Smugglers...


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12 Jan 2013, 2:06 am

REVIEW: The Smugglers by Brian Hayles

SERIAL:
CC, 4X25 minute episodes (none in existence, audio and telesnaps only)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


I have to confess that I am not a fan of pure historicals. Even so, in doing this review blog, I've had to watch or, in the case of The Crusade, listen to and watch them. Now, I come to the final historical story, and the penultimate story, of William Hartnell's tenure as the Doctor, one with no grand historical figures: just a tale of smugglers and pirates on the Cornish coast...

The Doctor is annoyed to find that Ben and Polly have stowed away on the TARDIS, and it takes some time for Ben and Polly, natives of London in the Swinging Sixties, to realise that they've travelled to 17th century Cornwall. Seeking shelter at a church, they are asked to move on by churchwarden Joseph Longfoot. But in thanks for healing Longfoot's dislocated fingers, the Doctor is given a rhyme: "This is Deadman's secret key: Smallbeer, Ringwood, Gurney." Not long after the time travellers are sent to an inn, Longfoot is ambushed and murdered by a pirate associate of Longfoot, Cherub, the knife-wielding lieutenant of the feared Captain Pike, who is after Avery's treasure. The Doctor is kidnapped by Pike, while Ben and Polly are considered to be Longfoot's murderers by innkeeper Kewper, and the local magistrate Squire Edwards. But the locals are involved in a smuggling ring, and Pike is not only greedy for Avery's treasure, but whatever the locals have in contraband. Between greedy smugglers, vicious pirates, and suspicious revenue agents, can the Doctor, Ben, and Polly escape alive? Or will everyone fall victim to Avery's curse?

The story itself is a nice, contained little drama that works for the most part. Certainly there's a lot to this story, and one feels that it's a pity that it is missing. But I also feel that there's some elements that don't quite work out. For example, why would Kewper and the Squire, smugglers though they are, try to trust Pike, even before they know who he is? Smuggling, after all, is a profession needing secrecy, and although they clearly distrust the time travellers as strangers and potential spies for the Revenue service, why would they try to trust Pike so quickly?

The regulars are pretty good, and although Anneke Wills' Polly does get too many damsel in distress moments in this story, she nonetheless seems quicker on the uptake than Ben, and certainly helps them escape from imprisonment. Paul Whitsun-Jones is splendid as the Squire, as is Michael Godfrey's Pike, and George A Cooper as the sadistic pirate Cherub. The other characters aren't as noteworthy, but do fine enough.

What little of the story can be seen through the Australian censor clips, as well as telesnaps, and while this is not quite enough to judge the direction of the story, it still seems like a competently done period drama. The BBC, as stated before, are excellent at doing it, and the massive amount of location filming (albeit only viewable by telesnaps) helps sell the story.

The Smugglers is a fine example of the historical stories of the Hartnell era, and it is a crying shame that the story is virtually completely lost. Not perfect by any means, but certainly something that should have been kept.


SCORE: 9/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Power of the Daleks...


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13 Jan 2013, 8:47 pm

REVIEW: The Power of the Daleks by David Whitaker (with uncredited rewrites by Dennis Spooner)

SERIAL:
EE, 6X25 minute episodes (none in existence, audio and telesnaps only)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes


Most debut stories of new Doctors are, rather surpisingly, below par. After all, one would like to get the new star off to a good start, and yet many are below average, and a couple are appalling. While every episode of The Power of the Daleks is missing, a substantial amount of footage, plus telesnaps, are available for the story, and hopefully, will allow me to judge whether this, the key debut story for a new Doctor, is up to scratch.

After defeating the Cybermen, the Doctor collapses in the TARDIS, and the, in a flare of light, a different man is in his place. His different appearance and demeanour draw the suspicion of Polly and Ben, the latter believing this man to be an impostor. But when the time travellers land on the human colony of Vulcan, a world infested with mercury swamps and intrigue, things get worse. The Doctor witnesses the murder of an Examiner from Earth. The colony is rife with rebellion that its governor, Hensell, refuses to acknowledge. And the colony's chief scientist, Lestersen, has discovered an alien capsule within a mercury swamp. When opened, the capsule seems empty, until the Doctor reveals a hidden door revealing two Daleks...where three should be. Lestersen, despite the Doctor's protests, reactivates the third hidden Dalek, which claims to be the servant of the humans. Only the Doctor knows that the Daleks have an agenda of their own. Is this new man really the Doctor? Who murdered the Examiner? And are the rebels so willing to use the Daleks in their bid for power? Regardless of the human powerplay, the power of the Daleks will soon come into play, and Vulcan's colony will be wiped out...

Of the story, I feel somewhat ambivalent about it. On the one hand, overall, it's a pretty damn good story, claustrophobic, filled with intrigue, with the Daleks being perhaps at their most cunning, and the Doctor fighting to have himself believed. But on the other hand, one sees many cracks when one looks at the details. It's never stated why the rebels are rebelling, other than to vague hints about Hensell being heavy-handed, and the Doctor doesn't try to convince the colonists of the danger of the Daleks through means other than protests, though this can be marked down to post-regenerative trauma.

The regulars are fine, with Patrick Troughton apparently diving straight into the role of the Doctor as if he was born to play it. Certainly there's very little hesitancy, even if a few elements of the Doctor's character (particularly with his protests against the Daleks) are a little rough around the edges. The performances are fairly good, with Bernard Archard's Bragen and Pamela Ann Davy's Janley being of particular note. Robert James as Lestersen seems a little too OTT throughout, although this could be down to a highly strung, nervous and ambitious scientist, and his breakdown is one of the best in the series.

Direction, from what few clips remain, is pretty good. Some of the production design is pretty good. Set design seems pretty good, especially within the Dalek capsule, and there's an impressive special effects set piece, albeit only available as telesnaps, where a production line of Daleks is run. But on the other hand, you also have cardboard cutout Daleks, blatantly obvious, even in the surviving clips and telesnaps. What's more, I don't think much of the colonists' uniforms, which look mostly dorky.

The Power of the Daleks is one of the best debuts of a new Doctor ever in the series in general. A great pity that it is lost, as this could very well have been one of the classics of all time.


SCORE: 9/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Moonbase...


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16 Jan 2013, 4:30 am

REVIEW: The Moonbase by Kit Pedler

SERIAL:
HH, 4X25 minute episodes (episodes 2 and 4 in existence, episodes 1 and 3 audio only plus telesnaps)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No (Watched existing episodes, haven't listened to missing episodes)

I have to confess that, of all the major Doctor Who monsters, my favourites, for a long time, were the Cybermen. Indeed, they are the second most popular monster ever in the series, created by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis. But the early Cybermen stories are something of a mixed bag, as they got to their feet. The Moonbase was quickly commissioned in the wake of the success of The Tenth Planet. But was it too quick?

Drawn to the Moon in the year 2070, the Doctor and his companions discover a moonbase, using a Gravitron to keep the world's weather clement. Problem is, a plague has been sweeping the moonbase, the air pressure keeps mysteriously dropping, and when the Doctor and his companions arrive, suspicion promptly falls onto them. The Doctor, however, intends to find out what causes the plague, and soon, despite the scepticism of the base's commander, Hobson, the saboteurs are soon revealed to be the Cybermen. What do the Cybermen want with the moonbase? What purpose does the plague have? And can the Doctor, his companions, and the moonbase's personnel stop the Cybermen?

As a story, The Moonbase is one of the typical 'base under siege' stories, and is certainly one of the first. Indeed, it is, in many regards, a rewrite of the first Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet. The claustrophobia of the story is good, as are many other elements, but there's some silly dialogue (including Cybermen calling humans stupid rather emotively, and being even sarcastic: 'Clever, clever, clever') and some out of character moments from Ben, who seems to know more about aspects of areas of science than he should.

The Doctor is good, as always (with an intriguing monologue sequence as the Doctor muses on weaknesses of the Cybermen), while the companions seem to have to juggle roles a lot (a side-effect of Jamie being included at the relatively last minute), although Polly gets a moment of nice competence in creating an anti-Cyberman weapon. The guest cast are fine, but not particularly noteworthy. Only Patrick Barr's Hobson and Andre Maranne's Benoit stand above the norm.

Production-wise, the story does keep a good atmosphere, and the moon sequences are, mostly, quite good. But the production values of the moonbase sets and costumes look dorky, especially by today's standards, and the model shots of the Cyberships when they move are crappy. Even so, the new and improved Cybermen are much better than the originals, with Peter Hawkins' chilling voice adding gravitas to the creatures.

The Moonbase is a rather below-average (by Who standards) story, which is a pity. Some elements work brilliantly, but are let down by an overall cheapness to the story.


SCORE: 8/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Faceless Ones...


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18 Jan 2013, 1:52 am

REVIEW: The Faceless Ones by David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke

SERIAL:
KK, 6X25 minute episodes (episodes 1 and 3 in existence, remaining episodes audio only plus telesnaps)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No


The Faceless Ones is not a story that is often at the high end of any list of Doctor Who classics. Nonetheless, the story is noteworthy not just because of the departure of Ben and Polly, but also the first story to feature Malcolm Hulke as a writer, albeit as a cowriter with David Ellis. Originally reworked from The Big Store, a story set in a department store, this story, now set at an airport, would see the Doctor up against an unusual foe: a budget air carrier...

Gatwick Airport, 1966. The TARDIS arrives in the middle of a runway, and the Doctor and his companions are forced to flee when the police take an interest. Polly witnesses a murder, committed by a man wielding a raygun, within the hangar belonging to Chameleon Tours, a budget airline catering to the young. However, when the Doctor and Jamie tries to take the story to the authorities, they don't believe him, especially when Polly vanishes, only to be replaced by an identical stranger who doesn't recognise the Doctor. Soon, Ben vanishes too. Aided by feisty Samantha Briggs, whose brother went missing on one of Chameleon Tours' flights, and Inspector Crossland, who is investigating Chameleon Tours, the Doctor must gather proof, hindered by the scpetical Commandant, and opposed by the staff of Chameleon Tours. For Chameleon Tours is the front for an alien plot, and they want the Doctor dead, no matter what...

The story is of the highest quality, which is surprising for this point in the series. But then again, Malcolm Hulke is also an excellent writer, and with David Ellis on board as well, it seems that they really got their act together. Some elements, like the Doctor being blasted with freezing gas, nearly murdered by a death button, and then nearly getting sliced up Goldfinger-style (along with Jamie and Samantha) by a laser is a bit too 'Perils of Pauline' cliffhanger style, but the story doesn't really suffer from these elements. Indeed, these are minor quibbles to an excellently written story. Even the aliens, sinister and disdainful of human life as they are, are given the Hulke signature touches of being nuanced, and having sympathetic motives.

It's a pity that Ben and Polly don't get much to do, though this is due to reasons of contract more than anything else (the actors were only contracted for the first two episodes, and appear in a brief sequence at the end of the story to wrap things up). Patrick Troughton's Doctor is on fine form, and Frazer Hines' Jamie gets to do a lot too. The other characters are pretty well-written and well-performed too, with Pauline Collins as Samantha, Colin Gordon as the sceptical (albeit not without reason) Commandant, veteran Who actor Bernard Kay as Crossland, Donald Pickering as Blade, and Wanda Ventham as Jean Rock being particularly praiseworthy.

Unfortunately, only the first and third episodes of this story exist, and the latter, due to film damage, is missing some brief bits. Even so, The Faceless Ones is quite well-directed by Gerry Mill in his only credit for the series, with some atmospheric bits in the existing material. Production design should also be praised, with the only real blip being the simplistic model of the Chameleon's space station. But the Chameleons themselves, although only seen on the telesnaps, are chillingly effective.

The Faceless Ones, then, is a major surprise for me. It's a story that I wouldn't have considered a classic, but, in lieu of any actual footage, is perhaps the most impressive story of the season. Well, except for the story that immediately follows it: The Evil of the Daleks...


SCORE: 10/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Enemy of the World...


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22 Jan 2013, 12:28 am

REVIEW: The Enemy of the World by David Whitaker

SERIAL:
PP, 6X25 minute episodes (episode 3 in existence, audio and telesnaps only for all other episodes)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: No (have watched existing episode)


Season 5 of Doctor Who was noted as the 'monster' season, with six of the seven stories within all having monsters and a fairly formulaic story of the 'base under siege' type. The Enemy of the World, however, is an unusual one, being more of a futuristic political thriller. Not only would it see the directorial debut of Barry Letts, future producer of the series, but it would see Patrick Troughton involved in a double role...

Landing on an Australian beach some time in the early 21st century, the Doctor and his companions are set upon by a trio of men determined to kill him. Rescued by Astrid Ferrier, she and her boss, Giles Kent, reveal that the Doctor is the double of Mexican scientist and politician Ramon Salamander. Hailed as a man whose advances have saved the world from starvation, Kent, who had worked with Salamander before being discredited, claims that Salamander intends to take over the world. While Jamie and Victoria work to penetrate Salamnder's inner circle while he visits Hungary, the Doctor has his doubts. Salamander may be evil, but Kent is yet to offer proof, and seems altogether too eager to topple Salamander. Salamander himself topples Alexander Denes, Controller of the Central European Zones, when his predictions of a volcanic eruption turn out to be uncannily accurate, and accuses Denes of negligence. Can Salamander be capable of engineering so-called natural disasters? Can Jamie and Victoria avoid being found out? And can the Doctor determine who is truly the enemy of the world?

As a story goes, most of The Enemy of the World isn't half-bad. It's a rather slow-moving but otherwise decent thriller almost in the mould of a Bond film, and expands on the concept of an evil double of the Doctor originally presented in the William Hartnell story The Massacre. But while we are told that the shelter inhabitants are responsible for the 'natural disasters', we never quite get to understand how it happens, and the story does take some time to gain momentum, especially for a political thriller. It's a pity some of the cast's pasts weren't expanded upon, like how Fariah was coerced into becoming Salamander's servant.

Patrick Troughton obviously relishes the chance to play both the Doctor and the suave but evil Salamander. Despite the somewhat cheesy Mexican accent, I also accept what one critic said was that Troughton has a villain's face, and it's none more evident here. Jamie and Victoria, unfortunately, don't get much to do, save in the third episode, and unfortunately, there's not that much meat on the acting for them in this story otherwise. Bill Kerr and Mary Peach are good as Giles Kent and Astrid respectively, and indeed, most of the cast are quite good, from Carmen Munroe's tormented Fariah to George Pravda's Denes, from Milton Johns' slimy Benik to the acerbic chef Griffin, played by Reg Lye. Even so, David Nettheim's Fedorin and Margaret Hickey's Mary are far from impressive.

Also far from impressive is the story's production design. It does try, and succeed, but on occasion, what little can be seen of the story (the third episode) is rather dry, and it's a pity that the first and last episodes, with their action sequences, didn't survive, or else I would have been able to judge it better. Some of the costumes are good, if a bit too typical of futuristic costumes in the series, and others are just appalling (like those worn by the trio of assassins at the beginning). Stock music is used well, but overall, the story, from the surviving episode, lacks pace and has some weird edits, either to the production proper, or to the script, I dunno.

The Enemy of the World, from what I have managed to see, is a rather average entry to the series. Entertaining enough, and if there were fewer holes in the script, then it'd be better.


SCORE: 8.5/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Wheel in Space...


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