Page 26 of 28 [ 415 posts ]  Go to page Previous  1 ... 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28  Next

Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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.


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

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...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

26 Jan 2013, 1:36 am

REVIEW: The Wheel in Space by David Whitaker, from a story by Kit Pedler

SERIAL:
SS, 6X25 minute episodes (episodes 3 and 6 in existence, all other episodes audio only plus telesnaps)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes (Watched existing episodes, as well as a reconstruction)

Back when I was a major, rabid Doctor Who fan, I remember once long ago watching a reconstruction of this story. I was amazed and astounded by this story, and wished it hadn't been lost. Cybermen and Zoe coming in for the first time, awe-inspiring stuff. But now the rose-tinted glasses are off, and this story is coming under attack...

Landing on a spaceship known as the Silver Carrier, the Doctor and Jamie are stranded when the TARDIS' fluid links malfunction. A robot servicing the Silver Carrier attacks them too. And they soon find themselves drifting too close to Space Station W3, a wheel in space designed to repel meteorites that get too close to Earth. Although the Doctor and Jamie are rescued, Jamie, in a desperate bid to stop the Silver Carrier from being destroyed, along with the TARDIS, sabotages the Wheel's laser array. But he may not have bothered, as something else has attacked the supply of bernalium, the laser's power source. Controller Jarvis Bennett believes the Doctor and Jamie to be saboteurs, but the time travellers, along with Dr Gemma Corwyn and astrophysicist Zoe Heriot, soon learn the true cause: Cybermen...

Perhaps the weakest part of The Wheel in Space is its storyline. Atmospheric though it is, the Cybermen's plot is so ridiculously convoluted and complex, you'd think that they'd have a simpler plan to invade Earth. Even the still complex invasion plots of The Moonbase and The Invasion made sense. A puzzlement too is how the hell someone as clearly on edge as Jarvis Bennett got to be in charge of the Wheel. The story is, in summary, an atmospheric mess that could have been bearable if it was a little shorter, and much less convoluted.

Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines as the Doctor and Jamie respectively are decent enough, and the characters, while not exactly complex, are perhaps the highlight of the show. Wendy Padbury is not completely promising as the wunderkind Zoe, but there's enough to show some potential, and she certainly improves. Anne Ridler perhaps has the most interesting character as Gemma Corwyn, perhaps the sanest member of the Wheel's crew, while Michael Turner actually makes the best he can out of the edgy Jarvis Bennett. The other Wheel crew members are fine enough, with perhaps Clare Jenkins' Tanya Lernov and Kenneth Watson's Duggan being the more interesting.

Production values are rather variable. The music, such as it is, is made of radiophonic sounds, and is actually quite good at giving the atmosphere needed. And the Wheel itself has some good sets, particularly the Power Room, although the rest tends to suffer at times. Costuming is good for the Wheel crew, although nothing dates like the future, especially in a series like Doctor Who. However, the Cybermen, the key monsters in the story, don't quite work. The costume modifications did have the potential to look eerie, but in the end, seem to be change for change's sake. The grating voices the Cybermen proper use don't quite work, and go from bad to worse briefly at the end of episode 3, thanks to a behind-the-scenes malfunction. However, the Cyberplanner has interesting design and the standard Cybervoice, and the Cybermats have a more menacing edge, being able to corrode metal and attack people with energy beams.

While not the worst Cyberman story by a long shot, The Wheel in Space is a disappointing outing for these monsters, as well as a disappointing debut for Zoe. Even The Moonbase worked better than this. A real pity that the monster season ends like this...


SCORE: 7.5/10


The next story to be reviewed will be The Space Pirates...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

28 Jan 2013, 12:25 am

REVIEW: The Space Pirates by Robert Holmes

SERIAL:
YY, 6X25 minute episodes (episode 2 in existence, all other episodes audio only)

LISTENED TO IT BEFORE?: Yes (Watched existing episode, as well as a reconstruction)

The last of the missing Doctor Who stories was Robert Holmes' second outing for the series, and the second-last one for Patrick Troughton's Doctor, save for later multi-Doctor stories. Not particularly noteworthy, The Space Pirates has only one episode in existence (including, ironically, a copy that was the first ever recorded at home on video tape), and no telesnaps. Having once watched a reconstruction, I wondered how it would feel coming back to it...

In the Pliny system, space pirates are attacking space beacons, in order to steal the valuable metal argonite from them. A V-Ship led by Space Corps General Nikolai Hermack intends to stop them, but the pirates are one step ahead of them. Into this conflict are thrown the Doctor and his companions. Nearly killed by the Space Corps and the pirates, they are stranded in a segment of a space beacon, only to be rescued by the eccentric space miner Milo Clancey, himself the Space Corps' chief suspect for being the leader of the space pirates. But the space pirates, led by the vicious Caven, are determined to get away not only with piracy, but murder. What links the pirates to Ta, and the mines of Madeline Issigri? Is Clancey really in league with them? And can the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe get back to the TARDIS?

The Space Pirates is quite a decent story, all told. Nice romp of an adventure, it's only real faults being that it has the pace of a snail. It was probably meant to show a perhaps slightly more realistic sense of space travel than is the norm for Doctor Who, but unfortunately, it also drags things down. And while Hermack's suspicions of Clancey are rather understandable, he seems to jump to the conclusion that Clancey is a pirate rather too easily. While not quite at the later Robert Holmes level of quality, it's not too bad.

The regulars are good, as usual. Jack May as Hermack is perhaps a little too monolithic and hammy, while Donald Gee is rather staid as Warne. Perhaps better is the eccentric but enjoyable Milo Clancey as played by Gordon Gostelow, while Lisa Daniely is pretty good, if sometimes a little too hysterical as Madeline Issigri. Dudley Foster as Caven and Brian Peck at Dervish are decent enough villains.

Unfortunately, given that only the second episode exists, with no telesnaps, there isn't as much material to judge the visual material and the direction, but what exists is good enough. The model work is certainly the highlight of the story, impressive, especially for the time. The set design is pretty good, but not always up to scratch. The V-Ship's interior is perhaps least impressive, though the other seen sets in the existing material is still good. The music is quite good for the time, as is the direction.

The Space Pirates, while slow-paced, is still not a bad story overall. Just rather average by Who standards.


SCORE: 8.5/10


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


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

28 Jan 2013, 5:50 am

REVIEW: Shada by Douglas Adams

SERIAL:
5M, 6X25 minute episodes (Only available as 1 hr 49 minute 1992 official reconstruction)

WATCHED IT BEFORE?: No


Although many Doctor Who stories never make it onto the screen, only one was never completed. Shada has become legendary, partly because a strike prevented it from being completed, being more or less half-finished, literally, and also because it was the third and final story in the series to be written by Douglas Adams. Adams himself was never quite happy with the script, but the cast and crew were excited. I had read the rehearsal scripts (not the final scripts), the novelisation done last year, and watched the animated remake done for the BBC website. And with the arrival on DVD of the 1992 official video reconstruction, remastered, the time has come for me to watch what exists of the original, and judge it on its own merits...

The Doctor and Romana are called to Cambridge, 1979, by Professor Chronotis, an elderly, senile Time Lord who has retired to Earth. He wants them to take a book back to Gallifrey, a very dangerous book indeed: The Ancient and Worshipful Law of Gallifrey. However, a student, Chris Parsons, has taken it by accident, and has discovered, along with colleague Claire Keightley, its dangerous power. But someone wants the book as well: Skagra, an evil alien scientist with a mind-stealing sphere, one that he has used to steal the minds of fellow scientists, and soon uses it on Chronotis to find out where the book is. Why is Skagra so obsessed with finding the book? What links does the book have to Shada, a name from long-forgotten Time Lord history? And what does it have to do with Salyavin, an infamous psychic criminal of Time Lord yore? Skagra's plans for conquering the universe may prove to be unstoppable, even for the Doctor and Romana...

Opinions are mixed on Shada. While many of the cast and crew were excited, Douglas Adams didn't like it, and some reviews are decidedly unflattering. As a story, Shada is excellent. There are, admittedly, plot holes. While these are only evident to those who have read the novelisation by Gareth Roberts, and there are a few weak points, these are by far quibbles. Reading the script book in conjunction with the DVD, the story is a fascinating one, one that should have seen the light of day. Certainly it would have been better than The Horns of Nimon or The Creature from the Pit.

Tom Baker as the Doctor and Lalla Ward as Romana are sparkling as usual, although I have to confess that I am not fond of the late David Brierley as K9. Denis Carey is a delight as the eccentric Professor Chronotis, while what little exists of Christopher Neame's performance as Skagra shows him to be a restrained, sardonic villain, at least in the surviving scenes. Daniel Hill as Parsons and Victoria Burgoyne as Claire are fine, but not spectacular.

If there is any major fault in Shada, it's the production design, what there is of it. The Cambridge location filming is good, as are the scenes in the Professor's rooms. Unfortunately, the only space scenes filmed were those in the Think Tank, and the brig of Skagra's ship. The latter seems cheap, and the former, while cheap-looking in its first scene, gains some much needed darkness to add some atmosphere. Skagra's alien costume is the epitome of camp, although I could forgive it, given some of the weirder costumes earlier in the season (Movellans and Soldeed, anyone?). The Krarg seen in the scenes filmed actually look rather cheap in motion, a pity. And given the reconstruction, the added effects (save for the sphere) look a bit cheap, and the music by Keff McCulloch is nowhere near as good as anything Dudley Simpson would have done.

I've given a high score to Shada because despite everything, it had the potential to be one of the best, but probably not the best, story of the season. This was something that was very badly needed at this stage of Doctor Who, and it's a shame that it was screwed up...


SCORE: 9/10


BTW, I'm going to be reviewing new stories as they come out from now on. The next set of reviews will be of the DVD of The Reign of Terror, as well as two missing stories I missed this time around, Mission to the Unknown, and The Dalek Master Plan. From then on, any further releases will be reviewed as they come in, and any new TV stories will be reviewed on transmission.


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

30 Mar 2013, 7:29 pm

Okay, well, my plan to review new classic series stories as they came out kinda got it in the teeth, but the latest in the new series is out, and I will be reviewing each episode as I watch it. However, due to circumstances, I won't be able to watch and review on schedule every week. The review for The Bells of Saint John will be up later tonight, after I watch it, and I will review the later episodes as they do come up. The other episodes (barring the as-yet unamed season final) are as follows:

The Rings of Akhaten

Cold War

Hide

Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

The Crimson Horror

Nightmare in Silver


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

31 Mar 2013, 5:53 am

REVIEW: The Bells of Saint John by Steven Moffat

SERIAL:
7.7, 1X45 minute episode

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


Doctor Who has had more than a few singularly irrelevant titles. Galaxy 4 seems to have little relation to the story at large, as does Vengeance on Varos, which has precious little actual vengeance. The reason for the story being called The Bells of Saint John is a tiny, irrelevant part of a story meant to be bringing the series back for an eight episode run with new companion Clara Oswald by the Doctor's side. That does not bode well...

The Doctor is contemplating his fixation on the mysterious Clara Oswin Oswald, twice dead and twice alive, when by some freak event, the phone in the TARDIS rings, with Clara asking for tech support. However, as the Doctor rushes to find her, something else has fixated on Clara, something living in the wi-fi, something that has directed the mysterious organisation headed by Ms Kislet to capture Clara, as it has done to hundreds of other humans via wi-fi connections. Why does this organisation want human minds, captured via the Spoonheads? Can the Doctor save Clara from a fate worse than death, along with the other humans? Or will Kislet and her organisation prevail?

If there is one thing about The Bells of Saint John that is excellent, it is the concept. Moffat takes a delight in turning things that are ubiquitous (children, clocks, darkness, statues, snow) into terrifying concepts, and having minds stolen via wi-fi is a horrific concept. But the story itself feels unfinished, although I don't know how much of this is due to deficiencies of the script, and how much Moffat is holding back for later in the season. The latter may very well be the case, given the reveal of the villain, but the villain's plot is rather vague. And the Doctor's meeting Clara does come off as more than a little stalker-ish.

Matt Smith is still going strong as the Doctor, albeit one who is subtly older and darker in nature than before. Jenna-Louise Coleman is not bad as Clara, but it's hard to be enthusiastic for her. She's certainly a shade better than Karen Gillian's Amy, though. Celia Imrie as Kislet is a rather average villain, although her last scenes are perhaps her best. And then, there is the villain I mentioned returning, whose appearance does promise much for the future.

Production-wise, it feels slightly more like an action thriller than an episode of Doctor Who. This isn't really a bad thing, and the special effects are fairly good, giving the impression of people submerged in a soup of wi-fi. Not only that, but there's an impressive one-shot directed that goes from outside the TARDIS to inside, and then out again, all in one shot and take. But it feels more like style over substance at times.

The Bells of Saint John is not a bad start to the new series. It just could have been a little more. But it does raise questions that this series should answer towards the end...


SCORE: 8.5/10


The next episode will be The Rings of Akhaten.


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...


Quatermass
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Apr 2006
Age: 36
Gender: Male
Posts: 21,295
Location: Right behind you...

08 Apr 2013, 5:31 am

REVIEW: The Rings of Akhaten by Neil Cross

SERIAL:
7.8, 1X45 minute episode

SEEN IT BEFORE?: No (Reviewed the day after transmission)


It's a tradition, when a new companion enters the TARDIS in the new series for them to have two adventures: one to be taken to some alien time and/or place, and another to the past of Earth. The Rings of Akhaten is clearly the former, following the steps of stories like The End of the World, Gridlock, Planet of the Ood, and The Beast Below. But should such an important adventure be left in the hands of new writer Neil Cross?

The Doctor is struggling to find out what is so special about Clara, watching key moments from her life, and those of her parents. Eventually, he relents, and takes her on a trip to the Rings of Akhaten, a series of asteroids orbiting a sun with a ceremony about to take place. But as the time travellers wander through the marketplace, Clara finds herself having to reassure Merry Gejelh, the young Queen of Years, who is crumbling under the pressure of having to perform in a ceremony. Clara reassures her, but when the ceremony goes wrong, the Doctor and Clara have to make things right. Why did the ceremony go wrong? What is the true nature of the creature known as 'Grandfather'? And what cherished memories and items will it take to stop it?

Okay, as a story goes, The Rings of Akhaten is rather simple and straightforward. Which is by no means a bad thing, and the themes of memory and loss and sacrifice are excellent. Unfortunately, there are, as there were before, some unfortunate implications that make the Doctor's investigation of Clara seem more like stalking. The story is a little too simple as well, though the resolution is pretty decent enough, and the monsters, save for the real one, are a little underwhelming and unexplained. There are other things left unexplained that could have been.

Matt Smith is really growing into the role of the Doctor, with a speech towards the end of the episode being something I daresay his predecessor may not do. Jenna-Louise Coleman is fine enough as Clara, with a few moments bringing her above her own predecessor. The role of Merry is written fairly well, save for the bit where, in what seems to be childish pique, she restrains Clara psychically, despite everything Clara (and the Doctor) have done to help her. But she was acted well enough, which is good for a child actress, by Emilia Jones, helping boost the otherwise simple story.

It is clear that a significant amount of the budget was lavished on this story. More than any other episode with a panoply of aliens, we get a sense of variety in the Whoniverse. The design of 'Grandfather' leaves a little to be desired, in that, while intimidating, also looks (as one reviewer put it) like the bastard offspring of a mummy and Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo. The special effects also help fill in the gaps with the story rather impressively, though the direction was missing a small but certain je ne sais quois.

Overall, The Rings of Akhaten was enjoyable enough. A tad too simple, but entertaining.


SCORE: 8.5/10


The next episode will be Cold War. I won't be reviewing that one straight away, due to going to a convention on the Sunday...


_________________
(No longer a mod)

On sabbatical...