Sunday, 21 February 2010


Robot 1:

One thing I’ve never really understood when it comes to fandom and its opinions on the classic series is precisely why Terrance Dicks is regarded as one of its best script writers. He’s not bad, certainly, but he never seems to be that inspired to me. Solid but workmanlike material for the most part.

Certainly, this episode is an awful lot of fun, but doesn’t really have the inventiveness of plot that would truly knock it into the region of ‘classic’. What is does have is an infectious, joyous quality, and an incredible lick of pace.

A lot of this is down to Tom Baker. Much as with Dicks, I’m not a massive fan of Pertwee without actually going to the lengths of disliking him. But Tom Baker’s breezy self-confidence blows him away within minutes. The opening ten minutes or so with him in a post-regenerative state are entertaining enough, but it’s in the rest of the story – when he starts to get involved and display character as well as personality – that he really shines. There’s a quirky energy there and it feels such a refreshing contrast to what’s gone before.

That energy seemingly infects the script. Blitzing through the establishment of the new Doctor in half the episode and avoiding the self-indulgence that later episodes would succumb to, the narrative drive in this episode is astonishing. OK, so no one appears to have told Dudley Simpson (his slow, measured ‘K1’ theme, seems completely at variance with the actual material shown, particularly when John Scott Martin’s security man gets the chop), but the amount of material the story gets through is huge. There are one or two moments – particularly when the Brigadier’s description of security arrangements is illustrated as he speaks through montage – where it feels astonishing that, leading man aside, everyone involved in this, be they writer/producer/director, is a remnant of the last regime rather than one for the new. Because this does feel very much like a conceptual shift.

There are other nice touches. Harry is immediately likeable, and his interaction with the Doctor is hugely entertaining. And Miss Winters has the makings of a corking villainess.

It just remains a bit of a shame that there remains the slightly hacky quality to the actual plot. Because everything else is so right.

(Oh, and it’s such an iconic part of the show history that I’ve never really noticed it before – but doesn’t this story have the dullest, most insipid title in the whole of the series?)

14 Feb 2010, 11:17 pm #4
Robot 2:

As seems to happen an awful lot, a story pays for going off at a blistering pace in its first episode by finding it’s run out of plot awfully quickly. I’m going to get well ahead of myself here, but the cliffhanger is a fairly good indication of the problem – a good one to show to anyone who feels the new series cliffhangers are over long to prove it’s not only a twenty first century problem– the Doctor’s attacked by the robot in Kettlewell’s lab… and the entire sequence just keeps on going til we reach a cliffhanger that could easily have happened two minutes earlier, and is essentially just a variation on every individual moment within those two minutes.

Once again, we can pretty much see the entire plot laid out in front of us already. We know who’s behind everything, and not only that but the Doctor does as well (rather pointing up the outrageous coincidence of Sarah accidentally discovering the robot just as the rest of UNIT are investigating its attacks). And this means that the entire episode is just the Doctor wandering around chatting to people and filling in information he already knows, or getting philosophical with Kettlewell.

Of course, it’s fine to have the audience know what’s going on… but having the Doctor work it out so quickly… well, it slightly weakens the villains. I’m rather taken by the entirely alienless sci-fi Who, something not done often enough in my opinion, and Miss Winters is an extremely well performed villain already, but there’s a sense of slightness about the way it all comes together. Like these people aren’t really a match for the Doctor. Certainly, their round the houses plan (stealing plans for a laser gun just so they can break into a safe) isn’t convincing – albeit, that’s mainly on the level of Dick’s just having the idea and not really having a good idea what to do with it. The robot’s got to be attacking someone, but it can’t be achieving anything too quickly. To be fair to him, it’s a difficult square to circle.

But, and this is the important point – it is still fun. Baker’s still an enormously engaging presence, and Marter almost matches him for sparkle (I still think Harry is one of the great underrated companions of Classic Who – for evidence of how to do a similar character badly, just take a listen to Jeremy Fitzoliver). Miss Winters is just arch enough to be simultaneously convincing and entertaining (though the SRS subordinate in this episode doesn’t quite pitch it correctly, looking wooden rather than cold). And the robot, along with Kettlewell, is inching towards a genuinely touching quality, an actually sympathetic ‘monster’. Outside of that, there’s a playful, TV action comic strip quality to the story, a shameless desire to be entertaining. The entirely videotaped look probably helps, giving the production an immediacy. Overall, the plotting and structure is a little wooly, but by and large entertaining performances and witty lines carry it through.

16 Feb 2010, 11:37 pm #5

Robot 3:

You know you’re in trouble when an episode takes as long as this one does just recapping the cliffhanger (and then bizarrely cutting it a little short at the end). Three minutes in and nothing new has happened. And you get a similar problem as last time at the end of this one as well – an over-extended cliffhanger that takes as long as it possibly can to a cliffhanger that could easily have appeared five minutes before. Yes, the dreaded curse of the non-existant plot strikes again.

This is, in many ways, a typical episode three. All sound and fury with nothing going on. There’s still a vague pretence at investigation – with Sarah’s hiding out at the SRS meeting an obvious example… but nothing’s uncovered that they don’t already know. There are two exceptions – one being Kettlewell’s duplicity… which whilst a genuinely surprising twist is only such because it’s actually fairly unconvincing. And the Doctor already knows this (again for sound, but not terribly convincing reasons – and it does rather make his visit to Kettlewell’s lab at the end of part two nonsensical). The other is the information from Harry about a bunker trip. Harry’s role as a spy has been wasted in the last two episodes, it has to be said. Especially because this little bit of information he passes on could easily be gleaned from elsewhere. By the end it’s clear he’s only there to be a hostage… though why this couldn’t have just worked with Sarah is unclear. Dicks just doesn’t seem to know what to do with the character.

But the big side-step in the episode is the whole SRS group meeting. Apart from giving Miss Winters a good chance to have a rant and a rave and dramatically reveal Kettlewell as a traitor as well, you have to ask the question: Why do they have a meeting at all? You’ve just got everything you want, the nuclear codes, the disintegrator gun… so rather than putting your plan into action straight away, you decide the best plan is to organise a meeting (in the world’s brightest evening) and have a bit of a shout. It’s the worst kind of plot contrivance – there’s not even the faintest attempt to justify the stalling tactics in plot terms. And another issue is becoming clear – the robot itself is pretty much the only menacing element in the story. There’s only so many times we can see it swing forward waving it’s oddly flailing arms and not quite managing to walk properly as an underwhelming musical score accompanies it without a certain degree of… well, shall we say metal fatigue? Oh dear. Perhaps not. (Oh, and that does remind me – notorious as Warriors of the Deep is for its clumsy poison set up, there’s an almost equally appalling one here as Kettlewell mentions his metal destroying poison with all the subtlety of Michael Bay movie – the only thing it has over it’s brother is that it doesn’t happen right in the first episode. It does scream out ‘here’s the solution’).


It’s all rip roaring fun though, it has to be said. The action sequences are fun (if a little daft – how the hell do no SRS members get shot when they escape? Does no-one think to shoot Jellicoe or Winters? Why concentrate the fire on the clearly bullet proof robot?), the dialogue witty and amusing (yes, the ‘foreigners’ gag is another Brig as a figure of fun gag, but it’s genuinely amusing which helps), and the story is pacey and engaging. But it’s uninspired. I bemoaned the lack of imagination in the title in the episode one review… but in some ways it’s as appropriate as they come.
The World of Dorney - Who Reviews, Episode by Episode /Day by Day

Today, 9:13 pm #6

Robot 4:

Something of a damp squib finale, if I’m honest.

I think I’ve mentioned before something I talk about as being ‘David Fisher syndrome’, and it’s something Robot 4 suffers from. A story that runs out of story very quickly in part four… and then has to add another plot on the end for the final episode to make up the time.

And if I’m honest, Robot 4 is a particularly lacklustre example of the type. The problem is that these all powerful major league threats are defeated way too easily at every point. Even if the main plot is finishing early, you still need to have that story resolve in a strong effective manner, or there’s a lingering sense of wondering why you bothered watching in the first place.

Take the Robot itself – big thing, unapproachable with a disintegrator in its hand. But the goodies get past it when it turns round at the wrong point. OK, that’s slightly unfair as it’s mainly incapacitated by its own confusion at the death of Kettlewell… but even then I feel ever so slightly dirty for typing out that last sentence. It sounds so rubbish, doesn’t it? This threat that’s been built up for three episodes is initially defeated by getting a bit confused? Poor dear. It’s been set up in the past couple of episodes I’ll admit… but that doesn’t really stop it being underwhelming. Foreshadowed underwhelming, is still underwhelming. And to top it off, the two main human villains either surrender or are defeated with a punch. You can’t see why it took our heroes this long to stop them.

This almost wouldn’t matter if it was topped off by a better finale storyline. But it isn’t. What we get is essentially a rerun of the last plot. The story just decides to have the same ending twice, pretty much. Which is, again, stopped overly quickly and easily.

It all seems like it’s Dicks filling in time, and moving hell and high water to get to the bit he’s really looking forward to instead – the giant robot and the King Kong parody. And this is probably the flattest bit of the lot.

Not because of the effects. I can suspend my disbelief enough that they don’t bother me. It’s partially the fact that it all seems so narratively unjustified. He grows to the size of a giant… just because. He’s decided to destroy humanity… just because (the story really tries to have its cake and eat it with regard to the robot’s morality throughout). And picks up Sarah just because.

But it’s also the fact that nothing’s really done with it. There are a few nice stomping around a village bits, and a good stamping on a UNIT soldier death… but it’s not really doing a vast amount more than it did when it was normal size. And even then, it’s over and done with too quickly. This is one of the problems of making it a minor subplot of its own in part four. There simply isn’t time to develop the plot. As it is, we know precisely how the robot’s going to be defeated even before he’s grown, as the Doctor is explicitly off making Kettlewell’s narrative device/virus.

The fun rompy quality remains, but it really only just about hides the fact that this is something of a scrag-end of a final episode. Lots of leftovers and good individual sequences and routines, but not really a strong finale on any level.
The World of Dorney - Who Reviews, Episode by Episode /Day by Day

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Planet of the Spiders

Planet of the Spiders 1:

I’ve always had a fondness for stories where the first episode appears to present two totally unrelated storylines (like, say, Carnival). So this episode is nominally already onto a winner for me. OK, it slightly stretches credulity when you have two connected groups stumbling into the same situation, but then whole episodes of Who stretch credulity so that should hardly be viewed as a major issue, surely?

Unusually, the episode ends with the precise link between the two left unclear. Which is possibly a mistake, as the connection would have a sort of coup de theatre flourish quality that would give added impact to the finale. But nonetheless it still works quite well as a hook.

Otherwise, this is a fairly odd episode. There’s really very little movement of plot from about five minutes in. Once Yates knows Lupton’s up to know good and we know Cyril Shaps is a proper psychic, there’s really very little left for the episode to do, given where it ends. But it does go along quite pleasantly because, as I usually like, the time is used up by going into character stuff. Sloman/Letts are, unsurprisingly, always very good at characterization of the regulars, with the Brig and Benton being particularly entertaining in this part (albeit with the former when he’s not being treated as if he’s a cretin). Yates’ new incarnation is another intriguing take on the character. And the villains are already quite interestingly ordinary. I’m not entirely sure about Tommy. It’s a sensitively done performance, but it’s always a bit hard to make this sort of character anything other than a walking cliché. Nonetheless, it’s hard to dislike the character. It’s a bit of a shame that the (for obvious reasons) respectful treatment of Buddhism is slightly over-shadowed by Kevin Stoney in make-up, but it is nonetheless quite an intriguing world to see in a Who story. It takes the story to a slightly more metaphorical level somehow, a slightly deeper level.

So, a good first episode. Intriguing, and whilst slow and lacking in any real incident, it keeps you involved and is gently amusing.

Planet of the Spiders 2:

There are some episodes you dread reviewing. Planet of the Spiders 2 is one such episode. Notorious for having half its running time devoted to an extended chase sequence, it doesn’t exactly give you much to talk about.

Let’s look at the first half… well, first. There’s a good bit of a gallop to it, seemingly to get through the set up for the chase as quickly as possible. The two stories of episode one are linked together swiftly and efficiently, and the Spiders are very quickly established as an intriguing concept. There are a few nice touches of humour and we begin to get a sense of where the story is going. Lupton is already establishing himself as a rather beguilingly low-key villain. It feels an odd choice for a Doctor’s finale, given that he’s used to fighting more grandiose threats, but he’s all the more interesting for that.

So the second half – well, the commonly held view is that the chase is just pointless running around and padding. And the obvious comment to add to that is: ‘well, it’s a chase. What do you expect?’

Chases are fun. They just are. And I can’t think of a single time when they actually advance the plot. No chase in the history of storytelling couldn’t be cut. Chases are all about delaying the next plot development, not a plot development in themselves. And yet if you consider a rule of storytelling to be that every scene has to change something or advance something, every scene has to be going somewhere… they defy that rule.

Chases are about building tension and suspense. And it therefore helps if they take time. It’s no coincidence that this is the most memorable chase sequence in the history of Who, purely for being longest (unless you want to count stories like DMP and, er, The Chase). It’s better than the TVM one and is all about playing fun variations on a theme – if a smile doesn’t cross your face when a hovercraft pulls up next to the speedboat and there might as well be an on-screen caption telling you precisely what’s going to happen next, then you’ve no soul.

OK, so its definitely got a disappointing finale that appears to make the whole need for Lupton’s attempted escape utterly pointless, but it’s far more interesting than him being captured and it’s timed perfectly. Beyond all that, it’s an entertaining twelve minutes or so. Yes, an odd episode, but an enjoyable one for all that.

Planet of the Spiders 3:

And it was all going so well.

One of the frustrating things about Planet of the Spiders is that there’s so much that’s right with it. But then there’s a lot that’s appalling.

Incredibly quickly after Eckersley, we once again get the joy of the mundane villain (this time joining up with massively powerful alien, admittedly). Lupton’s backstory in this episode, as a disgruntled and now power hungry salesman screwed over by accountants is utterly wonderful on every level. It’s all so wonderfully odd and idiosyncratic (aided by John Dearth’s slightly strange performance – he never seems totally with it to me). People who complain that his cohorts are nondescript are missing the point – they’re supposed to be. These aren’t super-villains, they’re very dull men who are trying to escape their boring natures. Lupton’s spider pretty much explicitly points this up with her continual withering asides about Barnes.

Furthermore, there’s beautiful use of dramatic irony here with everyone ignoring Tommy despite him holding the key to everything. This is definitely part of the overall allegory of the story, with everyone too wrapped up in their own affairs to listen to the simplest, most honest voice. And there are some lovely moments of direction and scripting – the realisation of Sarah’s transportation (taking it from her viewpoint rather than her more traditional and expected slow vanishing) is extremely striking.

So it is rather a shame that this episode takes this, up til now, quirky and unusual tale into the land of generic sci-fi cliché. I’m never really a fan of criticising a story for its effects or costumes… but the sudden lurch into cheap ‘oh my god, we’ve run out of money’ landscape and the jolting contrast with the crisp classiness of K’anpo’s centre and the earlier episodes marks this out as an episode where the reach exceeds the grasp. We’ve gone from the complex and original character of Lupton to a group of walking stereotypes. Hell, even the Spiders seem as generic as can be. It’s a real shame that a story starting out as genuinely quite interesting is resorting to sci-fi cliché to fill in the running time. And Gareth Hunt.

Planet of the Spiders 4:

Any six part story where characters say, in the same episode, ‘this is getting monotonous’ and words to the effect of ‘what’s the point of saying the same thing over and over’ is surely offering a hostage to fortune. So it’s surely odd that repetition and monotony isn’t really a problem with this episode (apart from the blatant filler of Barnes and his cronies standing around failing to do anything) and it’s more that it doesn’t really seem to have any ideas of where to take it.

Actually, that’s probably not really true either. This is a story which clearly knows how it wants to end and where it’s going. It just hasn’t got a clue of how to spend the time whilst getting there. It’s hard not to see it as something of a jumbled mess, and the lack of a strong drive is emphasised with the structure of the individual episodes. There’s a commonly documented series of mess-ups over half this story where material is shuffled and cliffhangers created and this only really reminds you how little is going on.

This episode ends up basically being about three things. The first is padding. By the end of the episode only a couple of things appear to have changed – one we’ll get to in a moment, but the other is the Doctor’s discovery of stones that protect from Spider-blasts. It remains to be seen how much this affects the over-all story, but at the moment it’s underwhelming. Beyond that, the end of this episode (with Sarah and the Doctor captured) is essentially where the previous episode ended. Sarah’s whole ‘hiding under a shawl’ bit and the ‘Doctor in a coma’ routine are just prevarication whilst they wait to be captured again.

The second thing is exposition. This is the episode where we get the explanation of who the Spiders are. It’s all right, if a little pulpy, and it’s made more entertaining by switching between two different tellings.

The third thing is the enlightenment of Tommy, far and away the only properly interesting thing to happen in this episode, almost single-handedly redeeming it. John Kane’s portrayal of the realization, his excitement building as his voice drops away reading a Jack and Jill book is beautifully done. It would be a very good scene in a regular episode, here it’s an easy stand-out. Shame the rest of it doesn’t match it, then.

Planet of the Spiders 5

One of the things that’s becoming gradually clear about this story is that it’s rather throwing away some of it’s bigger assets.

Take Lupton for example. As I’ve said before, he’s an engagingly different and small villain for the show, the neutered former salesman looking for power. So it’s something of a shame that the script doesn’t really know what to do with him. From the moment he arrives on Metebelis 3, he’s pretty much neutered again, simply hanging round a throne room chatting to a bunch of puppets, and trying to get away with having been a bit rubbish. It remains unclear as to why the spiders bother keeping him around, unless his one just needs a lift somewhere once in a while. Like a Superhero threequel, this story is now over-dosing on villains to the degree that it loses track of where the focus should be, and none of them really seem all that threatening anymore. It’s like one of my least favourite Columbo episodes - the UK one, if anyone knows it, where the killers commit their crime by accident and are winging it as clueless idiots, and as a result never really feel like much of a match. Here it’s hard to believe that the petty squabbling spiders, making up plans on the hoof and more concerned with getting one over on each other than any overall scheme, are any real threat. Whilst I know that I’ve been raving about the entertaining banality of Lupton and his cronies, to then team them up with a bunch of equally pathetic super-beings does seem to lose the point.

This does, however, mean that the introduction of the all-powerful Great One comes as a breath of fresh air, albeit one that really makes you realise how pointless her minions are. The scenes with the Doctor under her temporary thrall are the first that really make you feel that this is a story worth sending a Doctor off in. Shame that they really don’t seem to have much connection to the very generic sci-fi gubbins they’re nominally attached to.

In deed, the other thing the Great One throws into view is that there doesn’t really appear to be any idea of what the central thrust of this story actually is. It’s like the title came first. The human revolution on Metebelis suggests that this flat sub-plot is over and done with now, but it was clearly only there to pad the story out.

Still, there’s some good Doctor and Sarah stuff in this episode, so it ain’t all bad. But it mainly is.

Planet of the Spiders 6:

I always find reviews of final episodes difficult. It’s like I’m subconsciously done with the story by that point. Ridiculous, obviously, but once I’ve completed the story, I don’t feel the same immediate urge to write the review as when writing means I’m allowed to watch what happens next. So, as is traditional, I’m coming to write this a little after the fact.

And I’m finding it hard to remember much about it. And that’s got to be odd for the big dramatic finale of a Doctor’s life, hasn’t it? And it’s rather indicative of why the story doesn’t entirely work.

That’s not to say this is a bad episode. A lot of the story is tied off neatly, but a lot of it demonstrates wasted potential.

Whilst the story is nominally that of the Doctor facing his own fear and arrogance, accepting spiritual renewal… well, am I the only one who doesn’t find it that convincing?

It’s all very well K’anpo lecturing the Doctor on how his greed for knowledge led to him taking the crystal… but for my money, that doesn’t entirely square with he actually did. It’s not like he knew it was the perfect crystal that was going to be required in the future, and it’s not like wanting knowledge is a massively awful thing. If the Doctor died because he was reminded how he could be a cock to Jo Grant, then the metaphor might stand a bit stronger. But what happens is the equivalent of us being killed because we took a pebble from a beach.

The realisation of the Great One is also a disappointment, to me at least. Not because the puppet isn’t great – it isn’t, but neither is it actually all that bad – but because giant all powerful spider has potential – and then she doesn’t go anywhere, and is a bit of a loony who doesn’t realise her grand scheme will kill her as well.

After mentioning how Lupton is wasted last episode – and he’s killed off here for no reason either - it’s fairly clear here that Tommy is as well. His ‘enlightenment’ is nicely handled, but ultimately pointless in plot terms (other than it seemingly granting him super-powers for no obvious reason). The reveal about the human’s not having succeeded in their rebellion is a neat reversal of expectation, but it does rather underline the problem.

This story is entirely about good ideas that aren’t really used to their full potential. The themes are strong and solid, but ultimately not done all that well. The approach is good, it’s the final realisation that is flawed.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Monster of Peladon

1 Jun 2009, 12:19 am

Monster of Peladon 1:

There ain’t much love for the Monster of Peladon.

Whilst never exactly one of the stories obviously regarded as a turkey, it’s hard not to feel that it remains far from the most liked of tales. Often held up as dull, it probably manages to avoid wider distaste by not being the grand operatic folly of the major series disasters, merely being considered flat.

But I dunno – I’ve always been rather fond of it. Not sure why. I don’t think I’ve watched it since becoming aware of its less than stellar reputation, something I’ve never quite got, and am wondering if the rewatch will crystalise why I’m fond of this somewhat dismissed tale.

Certainly, I think that as first episodes go, this one is rather enjoyable. Obviously it helps that we’re comparatively familiar with the planet, but even with that as a given the story does kick off at remarkably high gear. There are loads of Doctor Who stories where there are armed rebellions (either successful or merely attempted) but I can’t think of any other where they take place in the first episode. And bear in mind that we also have three people killed off by a suspected apparition, the Doctor suspected of treason, and a lovely scene with Sarah accidentally hurting an alien’s feelings, so you’ll see that there’s a lot going on.

Now this is all with one proviso – the general tone of the piece is a touch unsophisticated. Everyone talks in the same sort of cod-sci-fi speak, for example. In comparison to the witty sophistication of the Time Warrior, say, or the quasi realism of Invasion of the Dinosaurs it comes off badly (although it has more colour than Death to the Daleks). But I remain unconvinced that this is automatically a problem. As long as it is committed to, as it is here, there’s an enjoyable pulpy quality to it. And yes, the wigs (especially those of the miners) are a little odd… but as far as a shorthand for a different species they’re neat enough. Indeed, the differing stripes per caste is a neat little touch. In many ways, I prefer this as a technique to any number of random prostetics (for some reason I find the stripey hair more convincing than any number of Trekkian nose ridges or odd ears…perhaps because it’s more about implying cultural differences than tying everything down to a sole physical difference). And, much as he’s mocked, I even like Vega Nexos!

So, not the classiest production in the show’s history, but if you’re in the mood for a rollicking bit of hokum, this is as solid as first episodes get.

And why no MoP avatars, eh? Hmm?

#829 4 Jun 2009, 4:21 pm
The Secretive Bus

I'm a fan of Monster of Peladon, like you for reasons I can't quite fathom. It's a fun story well told and it's got lots of fun aliens. Your comment that unsophisticated doesn't automatically mean bad is spot - so long as everybody's putting their all into it then it's going to be far more enjoyable than something that's perhaps a lot more literate but being performed by actors who aren't fussed. And Donald Gee's Eckersley is excellent. Looks a lot like a young Tom Baker in many of his close-ups.


#833 9 Jun 2009, 3:12 pm

Monster of Peladon 2:

Two episodes in and this story is still moving at a rapid pace. The attempted coup of the first episode is turning into full scale armed revolution. The story continues to develop and intrigue. You begin to wonder if this momentum can be sustained for another four episodes. Where exactly can the plot go from here?

Well, one of the advantages is that what appears to be the central thread of the story (the terrorising and manipulation of the mining forces) is relegated to almost a sub-plot with the miner’s reaction to it leading the script. And there remains carefully layering of this main plot in the background, adding levels of intrigue - Sarah’s discovery of the supposedly unoccupied mining facility, for example, now complete with mysterious figure inside, keeps the mystery going under the surface as the Doctor investigates. And this means we do meet with a fairly action packed episode. OK, on a few occasions it has to pad it out a touch, but for the most part this shows how you fill a long script – you could argue that this story has really committed to its padding, if you like, as that’s essentially what it is. The main story can’t really take up too much time, so let’s fill in the missing minutes in as large scale a manner as possible. And it does fairly simply and quickly establish the political forces at work on Peladon.

However, even as it does that, it does become fairly obvious that there are a few elements sacrificed. I spoke last time about the story being basically unsophisticated, and whilst I’m not totally against that, it does mean that there are a few blunt edges here and there. Most of the guest cast aren’t really characters, as such, as opposed to plot functions. Eckersley is probably an exception – he’s hard to pin down as any distinct type – and possibly Alpha Centauri too… but everyone else appears almost to have had one word character descriptions given to them. Gebek is noble, for example. Ettis, reckless. Again, the story almost gets away with it when they allow the story to move naturally (if nothing’s deep, shallow characters aren’t a major issue), but when they characters are so determinedly one note that they retain that position in the face of all logic or sense, you can feel the plot creaking desperately. The big point this becomes obvious in episode two is when Ortron (‘distrustful’) decides that Sarah-Jane is a traitor against all evidence, presumably for no better reason than to facilitate a cliffhanger. The only way this could happen is if Ortron isn’t actually a character at all, but an attitude, nothing that resembles a real person at all.

It’s a shame, because when it’s on form the story is a delightful romp. Albeit one painted in broad strokes.

#835 11 Jun 2009, 11:50 am
Monster of Peladon 3:

Well, that’s a shame.

A blatant time marking episode, part three is the kind of episode where no-one gets around to doing very much at all, and takes an awful lot of time doing it.

Actually, that’s not exactly true. Because some of the time things happen a little too quickly – the Doctor and Sarah resolving the cliffhanger is as swift as can be (and rather underlines its arbitrary nature), and then we have the faintly ridiculous sequence of Ortron confining the Doctor to the citadel for about ten seconds (yes, the Doctor’s attempted escape is a perfectly natural thing for him to do, if remarkably stupid, but given that it’s a trap by Ortron that is sprung almost immediately, there’s clearly no reason to bother with it). I am left with the inescapable conclusion that I actually prefer long scenes of padding that actually pretend to be filling the time somehow as opposed to padding that just consists of a few random events being flung at the screen.

You see, this is the problem with the first two episodes being as pacey as they are. The rebel miners are armed. But the script can’t take that anywhere, so they mainly stand around doing nothing. There’s a set piece with the sonic lance, sure, but it is, again, slightly arbitrary. Eckersley’s only remembered it about a minute ago. That’s the thing with this episode. It’s all about people not quite managing to do anything. The Doctor is sent to fetch Gebek for the Queen, but then gets confined to the citadel. Tries again, gets put in a cell. Gets released by Gebek, but then never actually gets him to her, heading off somewhere completely different. Equally, Sarah is consistently being told to stop what she’s doing and go somewhere else. Eckersley remembers the sonic lance and fails to remove it. We’ve had all the set up, but the story can’t really move forward until the Ice Warriors turn up. (Though when they do, in a relatively good cliffhanger, it’s in a context that means they might as well hold up a sign saying ‘we’re the surprise villains’. It’s almost as bad as the slow close up on Eckersley at the end of the scene just before it – the ‘Palpatine at the end of Phantom Menace’ giveaway shot - that Donald Gee at least knows blows everything and so underplays to the degree you might not actually have the plot ruined for you by odd direction).

The only bit of the episode that really plays against this water-treading mentality is the, somewhat infamous, women’s lib scene. Now, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t really mind this bit of the story. Yes, it’s rather cringeworthy and patronising from our modern perspective (though, at least, not as morally suspect as similar scenes in 21st century Who, like ‘The Unquiet Dead’), but its heart is in the right place and, at least, it demonstrates an interest in using character to advance plot – which in the face of Ortron’s resolute determination to retain the depth of a rizzler is probably a good thing.

So, a fairly flat episode, but the story still has enough of a general air of entertainment to hold on.

#836 15 Jun 2009, 11:45 am

Monster of Peladon 4:

It’s something of a relief ten minutes into this episode when the Doctor basically points the finger at Azaxyr as a self-interest and manipulative sort who’s clearly up to no good (and all but blames him for the Aggedor manifestations). On paper it sounds like it’s a massive blowing of the plot but on screen, in keeping with the general ‘one-word characterisation’ of the script, Azaxyr is such a dyed in the wool psychotic nutcase from the get go (and his lieutenants so obviously the hiders in the refinery) that your main worry is whether they’re going to spend another couple of episodes thinking we haven’t figured it out.

Having said all that, the arrival of the Ice Warriors does provide a welcome kick in the backside for the story, through Azaxyr’s villainy in particular. Barging in, threatening to kill people at the drop of hat (he decides to kill the Doctor for no reason other than pretty much just to be on the safe side) adds a certain demented energy to proceedings, raising the stakes and making the petty little squabbles of the previous episodes look a little flat in comparison. The story is no longer union negotiation, it’s an invasion story (albeit a back-door invasion) and immense fun for that. And beyond that, it helps in other areas - the prescence of the Ice Warriors make Ortron and Gebek appear to have actual personalities. They suddenly seem more layered and complicated when there’s another threat. In other words, this is a revitalised episode that almost feels like a different story entirely.

It is a nice touch that the main plotline of the preceding few episodes – Ettis and his revolution - isn’t dropped immediately, making this two related four parters that cross over rather than two three parters. There is a faint problem with the Ettis storyline though. Halfway through, Roy Evans’ second miner in less than a year says Ettis has gone mad, and it seems to me that actor Ralph Watson has taken this way too literally. Ettis is now genuinely a loon, all wide goggling eyes and consistently at the point of demented laughter… but it doesn’t really make sense on a plot level. Why has he gone mad? Nothing much has happened to him, nothing to make him snap. Surely it’s more likely that the script intends that he’s just lost all sense of perspective – more psychosis than dementia, if you like. Watson’s performance is fun, but it doesn’t really connect to anything – although it does, perhaps, explain one of the more baffling elements of the story – untrained fighter Ettis being able to beat the crap out of the Doctor for the sake of a cliffhanger.

#837 27 Jun 2009, 3:58 pm
Monster of Peladon 5:

There’s a camera in the refinery. With full sound.

Just ponder that for a second. A camera in the refinery, the room from which Eckersley and Azaxyr are contriving and operating their entire plan, the image from which can be found quite easily just by scrolling through the options on a screen in an easily accessible room elsewhere, by anyone. Did neither of them think, just for a second ‘hold on – this is a bit friggin’ stupid, isn’t it? We’re bound to get caught!’

Other than that, it’s not a bad episode. One of the major criticisms of this story is that it has pretty much the same plot as Curse. Now, I’m sorry, but I think that’s an over-simplification. It probably fits if you make your decision on the story an episode or two in, but the further it gets in the more it drifts away. In many ways it acts as a subversion of the previous story, setting itself up with all the same tropes and then undermining them (which is possibly a pun, but not a very good one, so be assured it’s not deliberate).

The big clue to this is Ortron. Initially very much cut from the same cloth as Hepesh, if the story followed it’s predecessor’s pattern, he would turn out to be the bad guy behind everything. But for all his bluster, the moment a major league problem turns up he shifts onto the side of right and joins in with his previous foes, the miners. And, in some ways, his distrust of the Federation and the mining is proved perfectly correct – it causes more trouble to Peladon than it appears to solve.

Now, there’s a degree to which this means the story is in two halfs, one of which is pretty much redundant the moment the Ice Warriors turn up. Certainly, Ortron and Ettis – the main driving forces of the revolution plot – are killed off as swiftly as possible. In Ortron’s case this is a particular shock (again, the joy of rewatching these stories so rarely is that twists can still surprise you), but it does mean that that whole thread isn’t really going to get resolved. The whole of the first three episodes are a maguffin, a smokescreen to disguise the real plot – they’re all about getting the Ice Warriors into the thing.

Still, it’s turning into a good fun, and somewhat different, alien invasion story, with the rarity of seeing an occupying force (and an ostensibly peaceful one!). In deed, the whole thing does seem more than a little relevant to modern times more than once…

Monster of Peladon 6:

Anyone who regularly troubles themselves with looking at my reviews here may remember that something I’m fond of in a story is a slightly downbeat bad guy. The famous banality of evil thing. There’s something about the more grandiose plans of super-villains like the Master that places them at a remove. On one level their schemes are gloriously entertaining, but they always work on a fantasy, and therefore ‘fun’, level.

Whereas Eckersley and his Ice Warrior cohorts hark back to villains like Bennett – they’re just nasty pieces of work out for themselves. It’s rather telling that when, in episode five, Eckersley announces that he’s been promised he’ll be ruler of the Earth that it seems utterly ludicrous – these bad guys are far more down and dirty than that. It has all the hallmarks of someone desperately trying to ‘Who-up’ something that really doesn’t need to be changed.

And it’s a shame because they’re so much more interesting than that. One of my favourite moments in this episode is a slight and totally irrelevant little moment. When Thalira is being dragged as a hostage through the tunnels by Eckersley she comes across a group of the dead and shouts at Eckersley to look at what he’s done. Eckersley’s response isn’t a melodramatic justification, or a big speech, it’s a callous ‘Never mind’ before yanking her away again. It’s a chilling character touch that reminds you precisely how pathetic and ordinary (and therefore deeply unpleasant) this particular bad guy is. A man organizing mass murder for the shallowest ideals. Fab.

Azaxyr also gets a bit of this too. I was initially a bit grumpy that his death, during a messy scramble in the throne room was at the hands of an un-named and unidentifiable miner, rather than the more obviously apt Gebek… but that could almost be the point. This representative of a race defined by nobility has demonstrated his utter lack of honour throughout the story – an honour he, ironically, claims to crave. So it’s somehow appropriate that his death, mere minutes after his holding a woman hostage, comes in a manner without significance or grace – on the knife of a faceless man he would think nothing of. He dies as he lived.

Elsewhere this is something of a standard final episode. Enough threads have been set up that it’s just a matter of tying them all off. The use of the villain’s own weapon in order to defeat them is a lovely touch, as is the use of Aggedor himself to defeat and kill his effective blasphemer, meaning that the entire ending has a great sense of just desserts. Some of it doesn’t entirely work – Eckersley’s sparing of Sarah’s life seems massively weird, especially since he then goes on to need a hostage. And if there’s a better and more obvious example of the same actor being blatantly killed twice by different people in about five minutes then I don’t know what it is. But it’s all pacey and fun, and manages to tie everything up in a satisfying manner. A generally under-rated story I reckon.

Death to the Daleks

1 Apr 2009, 8:25 pm

Death to the Daleks 1:

Whilst I stand by my opinions in the Day of the Dalek review that holding off the monster til the cliffhanger (despite titular prescence) is not the massive act of idiocy fandom tends to assume it is, there are problems with this approach, and Death to the Daleks demonstrates one of them. Namely that you'd better be certain you've got enough plot to fill in the story before you get there.

Death to the Daleks emphatically doesn’t. And that’s a shame, because there’s a lot of potential here. The initial hook of the episode is the TARDIS losing power, which is unnerving enough to be worthwhile. But because that is, by definition, a plot about something not actually doing anything, the absence of action, then it won’t really cover that much time. And the story as a whole just seems to be unsure of what to occupy itself with.

Take the opening sequence. Man staggers along. Gets hit in chest by spear. Dies. Even written down in that bland way I’m still not managing to communicate the sheer underwhelming limpness of the sequence. It’s like everyone involved knows this is just a by the numbers way of trying to kick off the story with a bit of action. It’s all so desperately half-hearted. There’s no build up, no tension. Just an event.

And the entire story is like that. The first fifteen minutes almost entirely consists of the Doctor and Sarah wandering around Exillon having the crap kicked out of them by, or kicking the crap out of, a few faceless savages. And lots of walking.

Now, it livens up in the last ten with the appearance of the Earth expedition force, all of whom have been selected to conform to a stock stereotype rather than for any real use on the mission. OK, that’s a touch unfair, because at least they offer a bit of life. But ultimately they’re nothing we haven’t seen before.

No, for that, we have to wait for the Exillon city.

The Exillon city sequences are the exact opposite of the opening. They’re superb. The incongruous oddness of the building, especially given the generic quarry it’s placed in, give it an eerie and unsettling quality. And that revitalises the production. The sequences around the city are the exact opposite of the opening sting of this episode. Whereas the generic nature of that led to a clear lack of interest on the director’s part, you can almost see his ears pricking up when he hears about this sequence. Everything about it is inventive and original, combining beautiful sound and vision with the darker warnings of the Earth crew. Hopefully the remaining three episodes will pull this way.

Though given the heinous mis-editing of the cliffhanger, giving away its own resolution, I’m not convinced.

#811 8 Apr 2009, 11:59 pm


Death to the Daleks 2:

There’s something really frustrating about this story. It seems close to doing something really interesting, and yet never quite succeeds in pulling it off.

For example – the notion of the Daleks losing their firepower is a genuinely novel idea (ok, it does necessitate a little delicate skipping around the problem of how they’re still able to move, but at least they try). How will these dangerous and powerful creatures cope when they have that power removed? How will the fare collaborating with their enemies? It’s an intriguing prospect that sets up several potential avenues worth exploring…

But then it doesn’t do anything with them. The Dalek’s emasculation lasts all of about ten minutes. As soon as it can, the story gives them alternate weaponary. It’s a definite wasted opportunity, meaning one of the most original ideas this story had is frittered away on a cliffhanger resolution, and nothing more. Indeed, there’s no effort to carry it through – why, exactly, are the humans still treated as equals by the Daleks even after they’ve got ther firepower back?

Equally, last episode’s most promising element – the Exillon city – is barely even mentioned this time around, as we end up spending most of our time hanging around a fairly standard sacrifice chamber, filling in time again.

It’s pretty much standard for this episode. John Abineri is killed off, then almost instantly replaced with another commanding officer type (who’ve we never really know or develop any interest in) just to die as well. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have only had Abineri mortally wounded?

And it’s still so frustrating because the story constantly skims close to genuine interest. Galloway’s deliberate mishearing of his commander’s dying wish is a great moment (although it would be better if the character wasn’t so one-note). And the Dalek who explodes after Exillon attack gets one of his species best deaths.

But it’s all just so lacklustre. There’s no real energy in the direction. Which is a shame because this has all the potential to be a good fun – if pulpy – space romp. But it isn’t quite committing enough to that.

#813 11 Apr 2009, 12:51 am


Death to the Daleks 3:

Sometimes an episode has something in it so famous you can’t help but mention it up front. A classic character, a great scene, an iconic image. And then some just have the most notoriously crap cliffhanger of all time. Yes, if there’s something that people tend to associate this story with, more often than not it’s the Doctor and Bellal reacting to a patterned floor. But let’s think about this a moment. Yes, it’s a laughably bad cliffhanger, but it’s important to notice what it tells us about the story, and its problems.

When I first saw this story this bit wasn’t a problem. It was the edited VHS release, so the precise cliffhanger locations were impossible to determine. But, when I didn’t know, I’d always take a guess, based around careful watching of the clock and guesswork. And, rather predictably I guessed the moment when the Daleks glide around the corner of the city and start firing at the spot where the Doctor previously stood. It’s a good guess, as were it not for the lack of material in the third episode, that was the scripted point.

But seen in context, there’s a full five minutes left to run. And that’s what’s interesting. The episode has to lift five minutes from the next episode and fill out it’s length, but unlike similar botch jobs (such as Planet of the Spiders 5/6), there’s no need to re-edit the cliffhanger reprise, or take it to absurd length. Episode four still runs to length without those five minutes.

When your final episode is so long that its offcuts can be used to pad out another episode without any trouble, when the earlier episodes aren’t full, doesn’t that suggest your saving too much up? That’s the main problem with this story so far. Lots of interesting ideas, but they’re left too late to be dealt with. Only now do we meet Bellal and get some exposition on the city (in one great big unashamed info-dump), for example, and seem to be moving on to something intriguing. Couldn’t this have come in a bit earlier? Too much of the story so far has been standard issue Dalek serial – slaves, shooting, threats, drilling, etc. This is the stuff that’s unique to this story, this is the element you should be focusing on.

But at the same time, there’s another problem. Whilst the city storyline is intriguing, it really isn’t marrying all that well with the Dalek plot. It’s like the Doctor is in a separate storyline. OK, there are efforts to tie it all together, but it’s clearly less than the sum of its parts.

Loads of weird little rubbish bits in this episode, btw. I don’t mean the violent root (which I like for the sound effect alone). More like the way that the logic test that’s supposed to have foiled a good three or four skeletons in the city is a simple map out of a child’s puzzle book. And Pertwee’s ‘Palpable hit’ stuff is pretentious and annoying.

Still, at least you still get the cliffhanger to laugh at.

#814 14 Apr 2009, 12:01 pm
Time Lord

So, essentially, you disagree with the idea in The DisContinuity Guide that there's too much plot in this story rather than too little?

#815 15 Apr 2009, 2:23 am
Stay warm

I've always found the concerns over stories' plot (or lack of) to be rather pointless, anyway. Doctor Who is a half-hour fun romp for all the family, half of which are too young or too hip to bother with plots and want other things - action, scares, character, cool designs and concepts, witty dialogue, even to learn something new ... why does plot always hog the limelight? Is it a fan thing?


#816 15 Apr 2009, 5:36 pm
Pete Lack


Oh, I've always had something of a soft spot for 'Death' as it was my first VHS, and like Dorney, I viewed it as an edited 'movie' version. Unlike Dorney, I have never seen the original episodic version, so I have no real problems with the cliffhangers; in fact the first time I saw the 'floor of doom' was on the Trial DVD's cliffhangers docu...

My god, I even like Carey Blyton's saxophone score, which also gets a fair bit of stick. Takes all sorts hey?


#817 19 Apr 2009, 12:20 pm
Time Lord

Originally Posted by stanmore
"So, essentially, you disagree with the idea in The DisContinuity Guide that there's too much plot in this story rather than too little? "

Not exactly. I think there probably are too many interesting ideas in the story to explore in the time... as a result they all get short shrift.

Originally Posted by AlMiles
"I've always found the concerns over stories' plot (or lack of) to be rather pointless, anyway. Doctor Who is a half-hour fun romp for all the family, half of which are too young or too hip to bother with plots and want other things - action, scares, character, cool designs and concepts, witty dialogue, even to learn something new ... why does plot always hog the limelight? Is it a fan thing? "

I think it's down to individual taste. Personally, I think that all of the things you mention, whilst important, are usually improved when attached to a storyline that actually makes sense, or has a bit of drive. Humour is always at its funniest when there is something at stake, for example. In deed, I think that whilst, yes, half the audience probably don't get the plots (I struggle to think of what I made of Kinda as a child), there has to be something for everyone in the audience - it is a family show after all. And a rollicking story helps.

#818 24 Apr 2009, 12:39 pm

Originally Posted by Dorney
"Too much of the story so far has been standard issue Dalek serial – slaves, shooting, threats, drilling, etc. "

Is this actually such a crime? For us as fans yes, because we've seen The Daleks, Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks and all the other serials that tread much the same ground relatively recently. For the average viewer in Nineteen Seventy Whatever is was it's not going to seem like a rehash of past stories because they haven't seen or don't remember those stories. Ok so this argument falls down a bit becasue Planet was only a year ago but surely that story at least can be excused it's Daleks Greatest Hits status because the hits were so long ago?

It's the logic puzzles that really fail. Ok so the non-matching symbols works becasue we're never shown which one doesn't match so we can assume that the Doctor was very clever to work it out. The maze is much harder to justify. Ok it's something that kids can understand and relate to, but it's tricky to believe that nobody got past it (and we can assume that nobody did becuase the floor of death has no skeletons in evidence).


#819 24 Apr 2009, 6:28 pm
Time Lord

Originally Posted by Raveen
"Is this actually such a crime? For us as fans yes, because we've seen The Daleks, Dalek Invasion of Earth, Planet of the Daleks and all the other serials that tread much the same ground relatively recently. For the average viewer in Nineteen Seventy Whatever is was it's not going to seem like a rehash of past stories because they haven't seen or don't remember those stories. Ok so this argument falls down a bit becasue Planet was only a year ago but surely that story at least can be excused it's Daleks Greatest Hits status because the hits were so long ago? "

I dunno - there's a degree to which that's right... but it's hard to put yourself in the mind of those who aren't regular watchers. Maybe they have clearer memories than we think.

Incidentally, part four's review will be up soon. I've been working on it for over a week, just been a bit busy!

#820 1 May 2009, 12:14 pm
Fluffy Elephant

For some reason I'd not caught up with this for a while - missing my chance to disagree with you markedly over Invasion of the Dinosaurs, I think! - but, sadly, you're spot-on with Death To the Daleks. I can never quite understand Michael E Briant's direction; in interviews and indeed in person he comes across as lively and committed, and on several stories he directs like that, too. At other times, it seems like someone utterly disinterested is saying 'yeah, whatever'. The script's so listless, too, that I can see how he'd have found it difficult to whip up enthusiasm, but still...

Anyway, I'm following your blog (excellent idea) now, so no doubt I'll see the whole lot come up eventually, which is exciting. I've now got as far as, er, The Daleks on my own 'do the lot' blog, which suggests I've cut the time it'll take me to complete it from a little under 500 years to not much over 200. Woo hoo!

(Alex, borrowing Richard. Richard writes his blog's Who reviews far more regularly)


#821 3 May 2009, 2:13 pm
Time Lord

Death to the Daleks 4:

I’m not sure how I can really finish off this review without simply reusing a phrase from the episode 3 review – ‘less than the sum of its parts’. If there’s a phrase that sums Death to the Daleks, it’s that.

I’ve read that a lot of the story ideas here come from either Dicks or Holmes working behind the scenes, and that makes a lot of sense, frankly. Not because Nation’s incapable of coming up with intriguing concepts (he clearly is), but because the story is chock full of elements that never quite fit together. Particularly, the Daleks and their miracle mineral appear to be in a different story to the Exillon city. Notice how the central issue of the story – the power drain – is actually resolved twice as the natural conclusion to two separate threads.

In deed, if you think of it that way, there’s pretty much two separate stories going on here. One starring the Doctor and about the city, one about the Dalek’s battle of wills with the humans – and they only really intersect for one episode (two). The Doctor never really gets much dealings with the Daleks after that episode – mainly hanging around out of the way whilst the City deals with them – and their threat is resolved by Galloway rather than him. At times it feels like a backdoor pilot for a Dalek TV show.

And this approach ends up leaving them both a bit short changed. Whiltst the ‘meh’ quality of the Dalek plot isn’t all that disappointing, the Doctor’s thread is far more disappointing as it’s got so much more to play with. There’s never any real sense of what to do with this super-powered city, beautiful and haunting as it undeniably is (the death of the city at the end is really rather disturbing). Having a sequence of Crystal Maze traps smacks of desperation, especially when the logic for it is so fuzzy – only allow the smartest people into your brain, possibly to be made servants, though why you need servants at all, let alone smart ones, when you’ve been surviving perfectly well for hundreds of years is beyond me. Yes, the story takes loads of interesting ideas, but just doesn’t have the time or the interest into developing them into a proper solid story. Strong concepts – but no idea what to do with them.

#822 3 May 2009, 3:38 pm
Gravitational Pull

"Particularly, the Daleks and their miracle mineral appear to be in a different story to the Exillon city. Notice how the central issue of the story – the power drain – is actually resolved twice as the natural conclusion to two separate threads. "

Wow, I'd never actually noticed despite the fact (now that someone mentions it) it is a bit blatant.


#823 15 May 2009, 1:14 am

I was watching the "Frighten Factor" documentary on the Deadly Assassin DVD tonight, and up pops a "John Dorney, Writer" as one of the talking heads ...

... is that you, Dorney?


#824 15 May 2009, 11:05 am


Originally Posted by Xipuloxx
"I was watching the "Frighten Factor" documentary on the Deadly Assassin DVD tonight, and up pops a "John Dorney, Writer" as one of the talking heads ...

... is that you, Dorney? "

Er, yeah...

#825 15 May 2009, 3:14 pm


Cool! Congratulaions on your moment of fame, then! Because clearly there is no greater fame than appearing as a talking head on a Doctor Who DVD.

I hadn't realised you were a writer as well as an actor (you are an actor, right? I'm not going mad?), so I wasn't sure if it was you...


#826 15 May 2009, 4:08 pm

Originally Posted by Xipuloxx
"Cool! Congratulaions on your moment of fame, then! Because clearly there is no greater fame than appearing as a talking head on a Doctor Who DVD.

I hadn't realised you were a writer as well as an actor (you are an actor, right? I'm not going mad?), so I wasn't sure if it was you... "

Hey, only did it for the freebie. Technically it's my second dvd mention (having been mentioned, although not by name) for a fanzine article I wrote in the Seeds of Death commentary (a series of articles about running down corridors that was, I cannot emphasise enough, meant to be a joke...).

But yes, write and act a bit. See my sig for some of my written material (plug plug).

#827 15 May 2009, 6:43 pm
Mighty Chicken Man

Originally Posted by Dorney
"Hey, only did it for the freebie. Technically it's my second dvd mention (having been mentioned, although not by name) for a fanzine article I wrote in the Seeds of Death commentary (a series of articles about running down corridors that was, I cannot emphasise enough, meant to be a joke...).

But yes, write and act a bit. See my sig for some of my written material (plug plug). "

i didn't think there were 2 dorneys! good to see you on it


Invasion of the Dinosaurs

16 Feb 2009, 6:32 pm

Crikey, you know you're in trouble when you're not sure what to title the review....

Invasion 1:

As with a lot of the stories I'm watching on this marathon, I already have preconceived notions of what I think. In a number of cases, it's been an awfully long time since I last saw the stories in question, so those preconceived notions may not be based in reality, or at least the reality of today. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a case in point. With that proviso in mind, and in the knowledge that I may change my mind about this as the rewatching continues, here's the opening statement.

If you don't like Invasion of the Dinosaurs, I think you have your Dr Who priorities wrong.

I recall a fairly infamous article in DWM that was titled something like '25 years of Turkeys'. I can't remember the precise number of years, but it was something like that. It was nothing but a dull rehashing of accepted fan consensus. Stories that were attacked for being different (The Gunfighters, for example, although another factor was the, eventually disproved, 'lowest rating story' thing), largely humourous (Nimon) or possessing dodgy effects. Invasion of the Dinosaurs was, naturally on the list. Very few of those mentioned were stories that were completely uninteresting or dull or just poorly written. Yes, the attack was on the surface, on stories that were made a bit badly, or cheaply.

For my money, that's the last thing we should care about. In deed, when even the most recent episode of the classic series is twenty years old, it seems absurd that people genuinely called stories turkeys on the basis of cheap sets or badly designed/executed special effects/monsters. From this vantage point, all classic series sets are cheap and unconvincing, and all the effects are terrible. If you're complaining about them, you're watching the show for the wrong reasons.

Doctor Who is all about the stories. The characters. That's why you should be watching. There's nothing inherently interesting or exciting about high production values or special effects (as any number of Hollywood blockbusters, and new-Who knock off ITV dramas should prove). What counts is the story being told. Yes, rubbish monsters aren't great, but are we really saying that should matter more than rubbish stories? Shouldn't that be where we're directing our ire? If you don't have enough of a facility to suspend your disbelief, what the hell are you doing watching imaginative fiction?

I can hardly wait for this story to come out on DVD. If they've any sense, they'll do that CGI replacement thing, and it might make the more unimaginative dullards who underrate this story reappraise it. Because it's got a great story.

As first episodes go, this is a genuine corker. Opening with an eerie montage of a deserted London (something I've always had a soft spot for), we manage to have that rare thing, certainly during the Pertwee era - the Doctor doing his traditional stumbling into an already ongoing story - yet on contemporary Earth. All of the traditional mystery elements of such a scenario are present, but the fact that they’re in a world we’re used to gone utterly strange lends them a disquieting air. Equally, it means that the characters and situations are stronger as we have easier reference points. The looters in this episode, for example, are drawn swiftly but cover all we need. We know exactly what the punishments mean, we know exactly the scale of what’s happening, we know this world. Which makes its sudden lurch into an almost post-apocalyptic milieu all the more disturbing. The Doctor is lost on home turf.

The regulars are all presented well. It’s always a relief when the Brig is presented as competent and intelligent (as Benton is here too). And the Doctor is on top form, genuinely likeable for a change – his mid mugshot grinning is one of Pertwee’s best moments, imo, somehow epitomising the ‘Doctor-ish’ quality. Better, perhaps, is that the scene manages to emphasise how important it is that he does it – he’s not just messing around, he’s doing it to help out Sarah-Jane, relax her (note how she just about manages to do exactly the same, albeit a little less confidently). Even the Venusinan Karate scenes are nicely done.

If there’s anything odd about this episode, it’s the fact that given how quickly the story reveals its trump card (well, supposed trump card), the dinosaurs, the fake title does seem odd. We see them within ten minutes or so. Still never mind, eh? This episode is tense, presents an effectively well-realised world that seems unnervingly dangerous and strange, and hooks you in. Something of a runaround, it’s nonetheless extremely enjoyable and entertaining.

#789 16 Feb 2009, 6:43 pm
Liberty Hall


Love this story - although for me, as with all season 11 stories, it's always great when you realise Jo Grant isn't in it.


#790 16 Feb 2009, 7:48 pm
Doc Phibes

Originally Posted by Dorney
"As first episodes go, this is a genuine corker. Opening with an eerie montage of a deserted London (something I've always had a soft spot for), we manage to have that rare thing, certainly during the Pertwee era - the Doctor doing his traditional stumbling into an already ongoing story - yet on contemporary Earth. All of the traditional mystery elements of such a scenario are present, but the fact that they’re in a world we’re used to gone utterly strange lends them a disquieting air. Equally, it means that the characters and situations are stronger as we have easier reference points. The looters in this episode, for example, are drawn swiftly but cover all we need. We know exactly what the punishments mean, we know exactly the scale of what’s happening, we know this world. Which makes its sudden lurch into an almost post-apocalyptic milieu all the more disturbing. The Doctor is lost on home turf."

An excellent observation. We're well into the British sci-fi/horror traditions of Day Of The Triffids or 28 Days Later here.

"...for me, as with all season 11 stories, it's always great when you realise Jo Grant isn't in it. "

Oh, go stewey in your phooey!


#791 17 Feb 2009, 12:14 am


Originally Posted by Dorney
"Doctor Who is all about the stories. The characters. That's why you should be watching. There's nothing inherently interesting or exciting about high production values or special effects (as any number of Hollywood blockbusters, and new-Who knock off ITV dramas should prove). What counts is the story being told. Yes, rubbish monsters aren't great, but are we really saying that should matter more than rubbish stories? Shouldn't that be where we're directing our ire? If you don't have enough of a facility to suspend your disbelief, what the hell are you doing watching imaginative fiction? "

I read one of those Target book thingies once. Science fiction, like. It was all just words, printed on paper! Talk about cheap. And dated. At several points I had to turn a page over, completely taking me out of what little "moment" I had managed to find. At some points, there were pictures - "illustrations" - that were in black and white! Nothing like a decent Sci-Fi movie like "The Chronicles of Riddick".

Don't know what people see in 'em.

"The regulars are all presented well. It’s always a relief when the Brig is presented as competent and intelligent (as Benton is here too). And the Doctor is on top form, genuinely likeable for a change – his mid mugshot grinning is one of Pertwee’s best moments, imo, somehow epitomising the ‘Doctor-ish’ quality. "

I love it when he puts his arm round Sarah and says to the Army photographer "how about one of us both together?"


#793 17 Feb 2009, 9:27 am


Originally Posted by Dorney

"I recall a fairly infamous article in DWM that was titled something like '25 years of Turkeys'. I can't remember the precise number of years, but it was something like that. It was nothing but a dull rehashing of accepted fan consensus."

I never realised they had the Time Team back then, too!

#794 18 Feb 2009, 12:33 am


Invasion of the Dinosaurs 2:

Again, something of a minor gem.

It's striking that this story has effectively divided the first two episodes into two questions, two questions that are usually presented together. What and why?

The first episode is based entirely around the mystery of what is going on. Arguably, this is why the title card is different when the monsters get a surprisingly early reveal. With hindsight, it's clear that this is entirely about dinosaurs, but the Pterodactyl's appearance doesn't confirm that we're only dealing with dinosaurs. The mystery is maintained, and with this episode developed - the medieval peasant and the time eddies all add questions.

But as with any good story, there's only so long you want to wait for answers. So this episode starts to answer those questions. The Doctor is quick off the mark to figure out a logic to the appearances. Which, of course, shifts the questions into a different area. We're no longer concerned with what is happening, we're concerned with why it is.

And what an interesting question that is. Those of you with long memories might remember that way back in my review of Enemy of the World, I said there were three great twists in Doctor Who history. Here's the second - Mike Yates is a bad guy.

Actually, it's a little more complicated than that. The central implication of Mike working for the bad guys implies that whatever they're up to is a little bit more interesting than simple goodies and baddies. If the straight up UNIT soldier is betraying his friends, there's got to be a bit more to it than demented world domination. We get a handful of clues - perhaps too many. It's hard to tell when you already know what the plot is, but the 'green' stuff is potentially a little too obviously emphasised. Certainly Mike's talk on the beauty of the silent city stands out a touch. It's a great pointer to what's coming up, but it does feel a touch out of character. Or rather, I was going to say that but realised it isn't quite true. The problem is that this is the first time Mike has really appeared to possess a strong and obvious personality.

Generally, the story retains it's air of fun runaround, whilst maintaining enough intrigue to get you hooked. Nice bits of humour abound (Benton's dinosaur briefing leaps out in particular, as does the Doctor's almost slapstick attempts not to be interrupted, although this is pushed a little too obviously and Pertwee's final response too broadly 'comic' to work entirely). Still solid.

#795 18 Feb 2009, 2:44 am


As I only watched IOTD for the first time a month or so ago, I can see how Mike Yates' green angle seems to be too much of a clue when viewed in hindsight. When I was going through the episode though, I merely thought it was just supposed to be a nice character-touch, rather than anything integral to the plot, and thus actually does work in the way it was probably intended. Well, for me it did anyway.

#796 21 Feb 2009, 12:39 pm


Invasion of the Dinosaurs 3:

With the last Malcolm Hulke story, Frontier, we saw how he managed to survive the problems of a six-parter (just about) by constantly introducing new elements (new locations for the most part... well, new places to have cells, I suppose). And that's what happens again here.

It's probably bad form to start the review with the end of the episode, but it's kind of key to what's going on. Throughout this episode we're beginning to get the sense of where things are going - the dinosaurs are being generated by a small group determined to empty London, a group with a purpose unknown, but potentially altruistic. We're even beginning to find out who the secret masters of the scheme are. All the cards appear to be on (or at least near the table).

And then we have one of the best rug-pulls the series managed. The sudden shift into a new element (a spaceship that's left earth) that seems to have very little to do with what's gone before is a superb hook. Immediately we're back in the position of asking questions, just at the point where we thought we had got all the answers. Sublime.
I can't imagine anyone not wanting to come back. If they're not one of those people put off by the SFX.

Cos this episode does contain the best and worst of them. Interestingly, it does seem to me that the problems with the dinosaur models are overstated a touch. Firstly, it isn't all of them that are a problem. The Stegosaurus and Brontosaurus we've had so far have been acceptable enough, mainly cos they don't move. No, it's only really the big T-Rex that we have to worry about. It's a fairly rubbish model in the first place, just in terms of appearance (and it's longer than realistic arms). Though again, not all the time (the extreme close ups of its face work surprisingly well). Having said all that, we do get one truly atrocious moment when it wakes up from slumber and sort of semi-levitates to an upright position (given my episode one review, it's important to clarify - it's fine to notice that the effects are bad - it's just not a good reason to string up a decent script).

But plot wise it's all progressing nicely. We're getting the good guys making enough progress that it doesn't feel like it's all being padded out, everything falling out in a logical and character driven way (yes, Mike's sabotage holds the plot up, but that's sort of the point, and it's a strong character development. Decent stuff.

#799 10 Mar 2009, 2:04 am


Invasion of the Dinosaurs 4:

There’s an enjoyable sub-genre of the crime novel called ‘the reverse whodunnit’. Most obviously popularised by Columbo on the TV, the form does pre-exist it (Dial M for Murder being an obvious example). It’s the story where we see who the murderer is at the beginning, and the mystery and tension is provided by the question of how they’re going to be caught.

The reason I bring this up is that this story strikes me as the closest Who ever gets to the same model – a reverse Doctor Who, if you like. We meet the baddies in episode two, and from there on in the drama is entirely about their efforts to stop the Doctor discovering them. It’s all from their perspective.

Think I’m exaggerating? Look at the reveal of General Finch as one of the bad guys this episode. There’s no big moment, no deliberate betrayal of the Doctor. It’s revealed, almost in passing, in a quick scene with Yates. Furthermore, look at how much of the story is being told with the Doctor in ignorant bliss, how much of it is done with the viewer knowing more than him (Butler as Grover’s chauffeur, for example).

This all adds up to the fact that this is a story that’s about the villains rather than the heroes – and particularly about Yates. Very firmly in the character rather than plot driven camp, and all the more evidence of Hulke’s lack of interest in the whole dinosaur bit.

There’s a fairly obvious reason for this. It’s the fact that the goodies aren’t really doing much. Sarah is stuck in a subplot, albeit an interesting one (nice to see that they’re still maintaining the mystery of the startling cliffhanger by continuing the seemingly unrelated thread going). And the Doctor’s investigations are a little dull frankly. Thing is, he’ basically got it pegged from the moment he arrives on the scene. His initial scheme – to use a disappearance to trace the energy source – is bang on. So you don’t really have the usual cat and mouse game of the Doctor getting a bit more information, the old slow drip. As a result, the tension has to come from somewhere. And it’s from whether the villains can stop the Doctor, and the moral struggle of Yates. The mystery of what is going on is shifted from what is causing the appearances to what is actually motivating the bad guys (it’s noticeable that for all its moral ambiguity, the story still does paint them in surprisingly broad strokes for a Hulke story – Butler, Finch and Whitaker are all fairly directly unpleasant from the get go. Though to be fair, this probably helps in terms of viewer response. If they weren’t obviously bad, and the story was about two nice groups of people, then I’m not sure there’d be much drama).

Still very good though. The only real fly in the ointment this time round remain the dinosaurs (particularly the T-Rex standing up from supine position… I know what I’ve said about suspension of disbelief, but sometimes this story makes it really, really hard…). And that still ain’t enough to derail it completely.

#800 10 Mar 2009, 2:05 am


You know, just checking the dates, it astonishes me how long it took me to write that review. I didn't watch episode 4 too long after three, and I started writing it up fairly soon after... I've been doing bits and bobs of it for a fortnight. Crikey.

15 Mar 2009, 11:40 pm

Invasion of the Dinosaurs 5:

It does say something about where the writer’s interest lies in this script in that it’s able to shunt the Doctor off for the majority of the episode – without massively hurting it.

Now, admittedly, the chase runaround that occupies him for the majority of the episode is blatant padding. Padding that I have seen widely criticised. If I’m honest, though, it doesn’t really trouble me. It’s broken up sufficiently that it doesn’t really drag, It’s only really problematic on a narrative level. As I mentioned last episode, the Doctor’s storyline in this story is so straightforward he pretty much can’t be allowed to do anything.

Which leaves all the good stuff to the other characters. Sarah is coming over very well – in particular, the long sequences of her break-out of the fake spaceship, culminating in her stepping out of the airlock, are stronger moments than the Doctor has had all story. Oddly, there never really seems to be a big reveal for this reasonably strong twist, but that’s a minor quibble. (Incidentally, given what I said in episode four about this being a story from the bad guy’s perspective first and foremost, note how General Finch pulling a gun on Sarah would be the moment of revelation in any other version. He hasn’t really done anything plotwise that can’t be attributed to Grover somehow, so the early reveal isn’t dictated by the plot).

Equally, there’s good material for the Brig and Benton, albeit with limited screentime, both given the chance to prove their trust of and loyalty to the Doctor, with Benton’s self-sacrificial knocking out a particularly fine example.

Beyond that, there’s very little to comment on. We get the full details of the bad guy’s plans. It’s a little disappointing that it is so obviously wrong. After several episodes hinting that it was mainly about a good moral outcome, it does seem a little straightforwardly ‘evil’, to the degree that Grover now just seems mental. Still, that’s a minor quibble in a reasonably enjoyable, and helpfully largely dinosaur free, episode.

#802 16 Mar 2009, 11:55 pm

Invasion of the Dinosaurs 6:

After all of the last episode’s time wasting, and the last five’s sidelining of the Doctor, it’s somewhat surprising to see how much happens in this episode, and how much our hero actually gets to do. Why did we need to have an overlong chase in the last episode when this one almost doesn’t have enough space to do it justice?

Almost. It is packed to the very edge, but it gets away with it. Most of the regular UNIT team get their own perfect showpiece here, a little stand out scene. It is still hard to reconcile the Mike we have here with the comparatively noble and intelligent character who we’ve watched for three years, but given that it’s far and away the most interesting the character gets it’s rather more tempting to try and square the old Mike with this one. Benton makes a serious grab at making this his best story (off the top of my head, I can’t think of any that come close – possibly Inferno, but that’s probably technically closer in the battle for Levene himself’s best rather than Benton’s), with his disarming of his old friend and fight with a General. The Brigadier doesn’t get a real set piece of his own, but it’s not like he really needs them any more. He’s just well written and performed (his little lament for Yates at the end is nicely understated).

Sarah remains ballsy and smart, always on the initiative. In deed, it’s telling that the resolution of the story is fairly heavily based on her actions within the fake spaceship. In true 21st century Who style, the influence of the Doctor and his companion inspire others to save the day, with the chain of persuasion from Adam to Mark a particularly fine touch.

If the Doctor doesn’t get to have any ‘cool’ moments himself, that’s more the fault of the individual sequences than an absence. He does get his bit, a coda located lecture on the evils and perils of the world, but it’s a little overloaded and lacking in subtlety. Still, Pertwee performs it with conviction, so it almost gets away with it. Less likely is the moment when, after having dynamited the entrance to the lift, the Doctor insists on going down alone as he doesn’t want to attract attention. Because obviously the explosion won’t be noticed in the least.

If there’s a problem, it’s that the motivations of the bad guys are never really sufficiently developed. Grover is the only really convincing conspirator – the other three are so obviously cold and miserable that you can’t understand how they came to be involved in such a scheme. But generally, the story wraps up in fine and exciting style, throwing in intriguing new concepts right to the end (Grover suiting up to fake space walk, for example). Overall, severely under-rated.


The Time Warrior

20 Jan 2009, 11:47 pm


The Time Warrior 1:

There's something quietly subversive about the first episode of this story.

Generally speaking, the most successful opening installments follow a similar pattern. A perplexing, or at least mildly explained, situation is taking place. Odd stuff is happening. The Doctor investigates - around the end of the first episode, something happens that offers the semblance of an explanation. Carnival of Monsters is something of a template for this, but it also applies to most of the Dalek or Cyberman stories.

Time Warrior feels likes it going to go down this route - and then it just doesn't. Like Carnival of Monsters we appear to have two seperate, incompatible plot threads. An alien in the middle ages versus disappearing scientists in the modern day. All would suggest we're going to be kept guessing at how the two relate...

And then we're not. We're pretty much ten minutes in when it becomes clear what's happening in this story. The last line of the initial medieval sequence (Linx saying he will get help where it is available) tied in with the next (where a row of modern dress scientists work in the background) could not be more explicit. So given that, where's the hook?

Well, the hook is in quirkiness and characterisation. Very soon after the likeably urbane Stevens we gain the dry and erudite Lynx (or is it Linx? Can't remember...). The direct contrast with the immediately unpleasant and boorish Irongron offers a lot of enjoyment. Both are a touch unusual for a Who villain, one too thick and the other too disinterested, meaning both are pretty amusing. In deed, everything about this story is light and amusing. The Doctor seems at his wittiest here (albeit when we say that, we mean 'for the third Doctor'), Rubeish is oddball
without being annoying, and the sequences with Sarah Jane are pleasingly spikey. Much as Jo's early scenes in the Green Death seemed livilier than the traditional companion material, Sarah gets a lot to play with in her earliest scenes, coming over as feisty - almost self-consciously so, as if determined to prove herself strong - with a naive streak. As an opening appearance it is very assured, particularly in her no-nonsense response to time travel (ironically, the only bit where SJS doesn't really hit well is in the slightly unconvincing way the script actually gets her to enter the actual TARDIS). It's also hard not to feel that the banter enervates Pertwee somewhat.

All of this goes to show that the script isn't keeping us engaged through mystery, but an entertaining, playful quality. That's not to say that the plot is bad, it's enjoyable enough, but it takes second place to Holmes enjoying his characters and the use of language.

#780 23 Jan 2009, 11:34 pm


The Time Warrior 2:

After the quirky quality of the last episode, the feeling continues. There's a jokey, almost farcical quality to this episode.

Like the last episode, the Doctor takes an awfully long time to turn up in this one. He's briefly in the reprise, but the opening section of this story is entirely about Sarah. And boy does she grab it by the throat. Rich with dramatic irony, her confident breezing through an incredibly dangerous situation is one of the brightest scenes we've had in the series. The combination of her misplaced certainty and the villain's utter bemusement makes for a lot of fun.

And the use of misunderstandings and confusions as a comedic device continues through the story, though it's worth emphasising that Irongron's just as susceptible to this as the Doctor and Sarah. Letting Sarah run free proves to be a big mistake, and it is very much this that provides the farce element, with the Doctor and Sarah running in and out around the castle for the first ten minutes or so, causing chaos but all but ignored (particularly lovely is the Doctor popping on to the balcony to save Hal with a neatly dispatched arrow, seemingly unnoticed by everyone). The essence of farce is a story working on many different levels, where different characters have different levels of comprehension, and that's what we have here. Sarah's perpetual misjudgements maintain this throughout, keeping it fast, but also fun and amusing - and how different is she already, leading a raggedy bunch of soliders to attack the Doctor? Not something you can imagine Jo doing (to any degree), and showing how she is driving the plot more than the Doctor.

The Doctor is mainly establishing the premise of the story, rather than pushing the plot along - meeting the main alien enemy, finding out what he's up against. His side of the story is less exciting - although it does contain the most bizarre revelation of the series. Just throwing out the name of his home planet, casually, after 11 years is a really odd moment. It feels exactly like the sort of thing you'd see after it was a well-established element of the mythology, or something early on in the run. It's quite a big thing to say this far in.

The only real flaw is the rushed cliffhanger. For the rest of the time, it's hard not to be swept away by the sense of fun and the sparkling dialogue.

#781 24 Jan 2009, 5:27 pm


The Time Warrior 3:

This episode does slightly suffer from the old sense that the third episode is where the plot has to be put on hold. Irongron's raid on Edward's castle seems like a bit of filler.

And whilst it sort of is, it also sort of isn't. There's a degree to which most stories have a central section where variations on a theme get run through, a series of complications and obstacles to overcome if you want to use the slightly trite descriptions of screenwriting courses. Whilst the sequence doesn't really drive the main story forward, it does work as a natural result of that story. It's the point where it's been going.

In deed, with hindsight it feels like it's exactly what the story needs. This is a story about two alien beings playing real life chess in the past. Linx's attack is exactly what the Doctor is going to do in response. It fits, it's a balance. It's easy to get swept up in the notion that every scene should advance the plot, but I don't think that's true. Things should change, certainly, but in a story like this where it is effectively a battle of wills between two combatants, you need a series of clashes between them. If it just went straight to the Doctor defeating Linx, then it would be a rubbish story.

There's excellent character work here. Linx himself is terrific, with all the smug superiority of someone dealing with people well beneath him. In deed, the fact that only the Doctor is a plausible threat to him makes him wonderfully laid back for a villain, casually dismissive and indifferent to the wiles of Irongron. Irongron gets increasingly stupid and cowardly the more we get to know him, and wonderfully self-deluded (his scene with the equally vapid Bloodaxe, playing off him like a medieval Dumb and Dumber, where he pretends he's well in control of Linx is a comic highlight). If there is a flaw with this story, it's that they're all three incredibly hard to dislike. Whereas in contrast, the goodies stronghold is populated entirely by the wet.

Still, all in all it remains rollicking good entertainment.

#782 24 Jan 2009, 11:27 pm


I love The Time Warrior. "Yours is indeed a towering intellect". Bloodaxe's brain-dead hero-worship of Irongron is just one of many wonderfully delightful touches.


#783 25 Jan 2009, 4:57 pm
Max K Wilkie


Dear Lord.

I've been re-reading some of your old reviews, Dorney, and I've only now just realised what an irritating berk I was at age 14...some of my posts earlier in this thread are mind-blowingly...err...berkish.

More to the point, I thought I'd let you know I'm still enjoying your witty and insightful reviews, which are still top-notch and, I think, the best around. And I'm still a berk, just slightly less irritating.

It's been ages since I've gone through the better Pertwee stories, I really must do it again. I remember Time Warrior being particularly good, indeed.

I'm now eagerly awaiting hilarious scorn upon your viewing of Monster of Peladon.



#784 25 Jan 2009, 6:44 pm


The Time Warrior 4:

OK, I'm going to have to admit it. I'm a little disappointed by this episode.

It's not actually bad, don't get me wrong. It just doesn't quite impact the way it should. It's probably the fact that it feels more like it's a third episode rather than a fourth. In deed, there's almost a clue to this in the cliffhanger resolution - it's almost identical to the resolution at the start of part three (villain about to kill Doctor, Sarah knocks the weapon away).

The story should be driving through to a conclusion at this point, but it instead concerns itself with minor little set pieces - The Doctor dressing as the android, Sarah getting roped in to work in the kitchens, the Doctor dodging bullets. They're all well put together and enjoyable (the latter in particular, a quirky and yet genuinely tense action sequence), but they're all about holding back the plot and stalling.

This is probably down to the story having shooting it's bolt too early. With Linx indisposed a minute or so in, the plot is essentially over (it's hard to see Irongron as any real threat to the Doctor - he's just too darn thick), so our heroes have to invent obstacles for themselves to keep it going. The various elements of what needs to be done to solve the day have been planned since the end of the last episode, and all of them work. This means that the episode is entirely about them getting around to doing them, or them taking a bit of time (most obviously with the scientists having to be sent back one at a time). It's all a little easy, so there's not masses of impact.

Still, it is performed with the same gusto and wit, and that is at least able to carry it through to some degree. The three central villains remain an enormous amount of fun. In deed, the story itself is comparitively light and simple - this one is all about the characterisation.

So, the verdict. A fine story, for the most part, albeit one that tails off slowly. A jolly romp, and fine entertainment. Basically recommended.

#785 25 Jan 2009, 6:48 pm


Originally Posted by Max K Wilkie
"Dear Lord.

I've been re-reading some of your old reviews, Dorney, and I've only now just realised what an irritating berk I was at age 14...some of my posts earlier in this thread are mind-blowingly...err...berkish. "

Were you? Oh, no worries. I've completely forgotten! Thanks for the nice comments this time!

"I'm now eagerly awaiting hilarious scorn upon your viewing of Monster of Peladon."

You know, I'm genuinely unsure how I'm going to react to that story. I know it a little better than a lot of stories this season, and I seem to remember being rather fond of it as a youth. Yet, I am aware of its less than stellar reputation.