Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The Chase

The Chase 1:

Anyone who complains that not a lot happens in the Space Museum should be forced at gunpoint to sit down and watch this exercise in tedium. Over and over again.As with his previous three scripts, the first episode has very little happening at all. However those all worked by a slow build up of mysteries and tension - what is this new planet? What's happened to London? etc. - this episode fills the time with - sod all.It's all a cheat really. The episode starts with the Daleks straight away, promising the kiddies action. And then we cut away and watch the story come to a dead stop for fifteen minutes.Some aspects of these scenes are nice - it's fab to see what the regulars do when they're 'off-duty' so to speak. It seems so amazingly banal - Ian reads rubbish novels, Barbara is an amateur seamstress and Vicki sulks cos she's got no-one to play with. It's kind of sweet, but ultimately lacking in drama. However, it's endearing quality is soon overtaken with the utter drivel of the time-space visualiser sequence.If we ignore Ian's somewhat barking delight ('Have you ever seen anything like it?' Well surely every time the TARDIS lands, or on the scanner!) this scene is still pretty mad. It has nothing whatsoever to recommend it (apart from the Beatles clip - which rather wonderfully holds it back for DVD release). All the little vignettes are utterly pointless and overlong, and the Shakespeare one deeply patronising - I hardly think we needed to see him stop and say 'Hamlet - Prince of Denmark' to get the joke...None of it has any dramatic purpose or direction. After the false start you can imagine the kids at home wondering whether this episode was going to be about anything at all. A friend of mine and I used to write a story for a fanzine in several parts, and as a joke once subtitled an episode 'Jo Grant goes shopping', with the plot stopping because Jo wanted to go to a supermarket. This episode is that extreme - it has no drama, no plot, no discernable point. The tension should be building until the Daleks appear as a dramatic highpoint - but we find ourselves wishing they'd turn up just to put an end to the tedium.When they land on Aridius things do pick up, as it looks like the episode might be starting properly and we might have an adventure rather than an utterly dull way of life piece. There are major problems here too though - there's several ludicrously long shots of Ian and Vicki on the sand dunes, and Vicki's mad story about the Ring in the Field comes completely out of left field screaming 'I AM BADLY WRITTEN PADDING!'. Still no tension, sense of threat, conflict or drama. You could film me going for a coffee with my mum and have something more Whoish and exciting than this.Now, we should remember that it is quite refreshing to pair Vicki with Ian - which has never happened anywhere else in the show. Just a shame their not given any interesting material, made to look mad and a bit stupid (would Ian really just tug away at any random ring in the sand?).Barbara and the Doctor get a better deal - there's some witty dialogue between them, and they obviously get something to play off against to gain their thread some narrative drive and tension - the Daleks. Obviously their appearance on the time-space visualiser is monstrously contrived and, ultimately, it doesn't really affect the plot, so you can't really see why it occurs. But, as I say, it is the only sense that this episode has that this is an adventure and a drama, so it's ok by me. (Though that wonderfully cheap looking sequence of the same three Daleks going round and round on the entrance way to the SIDRAT to look like an army is hilarious and boring simultaneously, which is quite a feat).The difference between this and the Space Museum is clear - that's padded as hell, but it has a solid dramatic core, a tension, a dilemma. This episode has none - take it away and what's the point. I can watch people sunbathing/reading/watching tv in my own life, why would I want it in Doctor Who. We should be aware of the Daleks plans as the main characters relax, watch them get closer - that would rack up the tension and make this episode have a dramatic raison d'etre.As it is, whilst I love the main cast, you almost want the Daleks to turn up and kill them and get it over with.


The Chase 2:
Ian takes the piss in this episode. He nicks Barbara's perfectly pleasant cardigan and the Doctor's rather dapper coat to make a trap for a Dalek - however, he completely fails to make use of his own rather hideous blazer.I try to avoid talking about production woes that often, but this has to be one of the most ineptly staged episodes ever. The cut in's to film when the airlock is blown up and the Dalek falling into the hole are abrupt and don't entirely match up with the rest of the footage. There are loads of awkward moments, but the strange moment when Barbara flings herself against the wall to knock it down when the mirebeast is clearly breaking through is the most blatant amateurish @#%$-up the series has had to date. It's hard to tell what was supposed to happen, but at a guess I'd imagine that the wall was supposed to collapse and it doesn't, and Jacqueline Hill improvises madly.The Daleks themselves - hmm. Obviously they've suddenly gone stupid, for no clear reason, but some of this is wonderful (one Dalek giving orders, then having to turn round and say 'Well, do it then!' is genuinely funny). My only real problem is that they don't really seem powerful or threatening. The few instances designed to show them as ruthless are trite and rather contrived (the gunning down of the Aridians who dig out the TARDIS and the one just ambling along minding his own business). In fact, it weakens the characterisation of the Daleks as it makes them gun-happy nutters rather than cold calculating killers. Of course, the further weakness is clear when we realise that they've built themselves a time machine, travelled across the universe to attack the TARDIS crew - and then they just ask the Aridians to do it for them. The Daleks of the first two stories would have broken straight in and exterminated their way through the city - but this lot are happy just to sit back, hang around, do nothing - watch how little they actually do this episode. They arrive, and that's it. Hang around, then let the regular cast escape. They are on the fringes of the episode, which is slightly more concerned with the Mire Beasts and the Aridians. They're not really trying, they're terribly casual and unconcerned, not making any effort. How can we feel a sense of threat from monsters who just can't be bothered?The Aridians are ok, but they're not really a species of their own, they're just a way of marking time. It's quite nice that they go from sympathetic to traitorous very quickly, but it does make them rather a characterless, ill-defined race. The Mire Beasts are OK when kept to the shadows, but they're full body appearances distract and their tentacles are just rubbish.A few other nice lines here. Vicki's 'you great nit' to Ian is so mad and broadly out of character in terms of the situation that it's hilarious. And Barbara's dismay at losing another cardie is lovely. But it's all so slow and lacking in drama or purpose that it's impossible to take the story as a fun romp it might otherwise be. Nation feels bored, he's just filling in time with whatever easily disposed threat he needs this week (he couldn't really care less about the Aridians, for example). It's not funny or pacey or dramatic enough to be enjoyable on any level. Not even so bad it's good. Just poor poor tv.Still the episode does at least appear to have a story of its own, albeit slight, so it's an improvement on last week.And the next one if memory serves - I have a vague recollection that episode three is my least favourite episode ever.
Edited by: Dorney at: 2/15/04 4:02 pm

(2/16/04 4:32 am)
Well watched the Chase 3 late last night and episode 4 this morning, so it's time for a special DOUBLE EDITION of Day by Day.The Chase 3:Well it's not as dreadful as I remember but it's still pretty damn poor. The main problem is there is literally no plot - by the end of the episode the story hasn't gone anywhere. Take this episode out and I doubt you would notice anything was missing. This episode is nothing but padding. You can almost hear Terry Nation knocking this one off quickly one afternoon, rushing through it first draft... The first scene for example, with the TARDIS crew all merrily chatting and reminiscing about their Aridius adventure for two or three minutes is boring as hell. There's no point to it.In contrast to the Keys of Marinus, which had a similar rambling style, this episode's vignettes don't have any point or story in their own right. The regulars arrive on the Empire State Building and meet a tourist. Then the Daleks arrive and meet the tourist. That is a plot summary of ten minutes worth of screen time. As you can guess the padding is horrendous - there's a minute or so of tour guide talk at the beginning that serves no dramatic purpose, for example.Peter Purves isn't dreadful, he does one or two bits of fine comic business (there's a double take and a start in there that are sublime). He does, however, feel like he's in a different production, possibly a stage performance. And especially considering the fact that it's all being played as if its a comedy, it's amazing how few laughs there are. There are no noticeably funny lines at all. It's just ten minutes of self-indulgence really.The second half is mildly better as it does have a vague, very vague, plot, but again it's so rushed it ain't worth bothering with. The Daleks arrive and the sailors just jump off (and the fact this is their death is rather glossed over). Completely lacking in tension.You see, all this might be ok if there was ever any sense of danger or threat - the regulars don't seem to care that the Daleks are chasing after them trying to kill them - they chat merrily away on the Empire State Building, and then Barbara completely loses all the sense she's had in every single other episode and just decides to nip out and explore the Mary Celeste. Then Vicki knocks out Ian, despite surely being able to clearly see him, in a much less funny take on the similar incident in the Romans. But still they're all farting around and wasting time as if they've not got arch-enemy killing machines right behind them. If there's no dramatic tension, what the hell are we watching for?The dumbing down of the Daleks is annoying too - the 'well, see to it' line in part one was funny, but the 'um...err...' Dalek isn't. It's not witty like the former, it's mocking the villains, demeaning and undermining them, making them less of a real threat. And the one who just throws himself off the Mary Celeste - well maybe he was just trying to kill himself and get away from all these other idiots (Seeing as DIOE establishes Daleks can survive under water, maybe he's travelling the globe for years, until he emerges at the end of DIOE part 1? Maybe not...)And they're terribly pleased with themselves about the whole Mary Celeste thing aren't they? So much so they do the big reveal twice...The Chase 4:To be honest, I don't feel I should have all that much to add to the last episode. It has practically all the same faults - the regulars still don't seem to find the Daleks advance all that scary (yet are rendered completely immobile by bats - I mean, that's ridiculous, especially for Barbara who's proved herself braver and more resilient than this one makes her out to be). The whole plot is once more a underwritten vignette that's too slight and pointless to raise any real interest (one or two mildly amusing comedy coward moments from Ian and the Doctor but that's it). And the Daleks themselves are still completely useless - they've travelled across the galaxies in search, and they don't recognize Ian on sight? What sort of plan is that?But in general the biggest fault of this episode is monumentally sloppy direction - there's no pace in any of the 'action' scenes, there are vast gaps where things are clearly cocking up (the fireplace eyes takes too long to happen, Dracula waits a long time for his first cue, for example), and then there are bits that are just badly shot - Frankenstein's monster's first attack on a Dalek from it's point of view just looks rubbish. The marying of the last two shots - The Daleks with Edmund Warwick, then with Hartnell - just don't join together. When the Daleks finally track down the regulars, they just hang around - all these opportunities to exterminate and they just don't! It's so ineptly and awkwardly staged, one wonders if Richard Martin and Terry Nation just took the money and ran, really, going off to the pub all week or something. Missed cues, blocked actors, enormous pauses, these are all uncomfortable to watch. The whole show looks amateurish and under-rehearsed.The only vaguely nice idea this episode is Vicki's stowing away with the Daleks, which at least changes the circumstances a little. However this is thrown away by the slightness of the episode meaning that there's still ten minutes or so of padding left to go - with the regulars running around the point and filling in time until the episode reaches it's apointed length.Just dreadful.

(2/17/04 10:19 am)

The Chase 5:
Well more of the same really. Obviously the Hartnell duplicate is desperately unconvincing, but I try, as I always do, to suspend my disbelief. It's a nice try at something different. I suppose my biggest problem with this is the constant dubbing of his voice, the make up and the switching between him and the real Hartnell depending on how convenient it is. These things are a pretence at making us think their identical, but all this does is remind us of the differences between the real one and the fake one. Far better surely to let Warwick use his own voice and do all the scenes himself and sell the duplicate on the reactions of the others - it's no different from the way the monsters are sold to us. It's like seeing a widescreen format movie on tv, or a rehearsed reading - the black bars/hand-held scripts are distracting initially but you get used to them very quickly. It's only when attention is drawn to them that you remember they're there.Once again the episode seems to have been made in a rush - the direction really is ham-fisted here and lacking in tension. Loads of messy cues and effects, and a complete lack of pace, with only the dual Doctor fight being of any interest.The Daleks are sidelined again, doing very little apart from getting attacked by plants. It seems amazing that Ian and Barbara are still prepared to joke about their defence, Babs making 'comedy' gun noises. Don't they care? If they're not all that bothered, why should we be? Where's the tension?Once more Terry Nation runs out of plot very quickly and has to mark time for the rest of the episode - for the last ten minutes nothing happens: Ian and the Doctor deciding who goes to sleep, the Daleks going on for ages pointlessly detailing their attack plan ('you go there, and you go there, then you there'), the Doctor trying to imitate his duplicate in a quickly discarded and utterly pointless moment. You can really hear Nation straining away to get the script up to length, treading water and just wasting time. And that's still due to the main problem - these little stories go nowhere at all. Brief threats get dealt with and forgotten. (Notice how the whole 'missing Vicki' subplot doesn't concern the others in the least at the start of this episode). No new characters join them on the journey, nothing changes for them, the story doesn't go anywhere, twist or change - the whole serial is filling in time rather than being about something or having any fun. It is the thinnest of ideas, Doctor Who as pointless procrastination. This is a story without imagination or effort - there because of the popularity of the Daleks not because there's an interesting tale to tell, or anything new/exciting/different to say.The sudden appearance of the Mechanoid at the end is quite cool though, and seems promising. Odd that this episode ends with the regulars finding their way out of a tight spot rather than leaving us hanging - but the mystery of who/what this new creature is has to be a good hook.


(2/18/04 4:46 am)

The Chase 6:
Well what a change. After five epiosdes of dreary meandering mess, this is actually a terrific episode. Suddenly there's some pace, some purpose, direction and commitment. It seems like an episode from a completely different story!Steven is an instantly engaging character, likeable, fun, sparky. It goes to show how good Purves is that we don't recognize this as being the same actor as Morton Dill just three episodes ago (more than just the stubble goes into this - it's the way he walks, moves, talks, everything). He's immediately ballsy and brave and his retuning to the city to rescue his mascot is sweet and human. It's quite an odd trick that we don't see what happens to him this episode (obviously we know now). Must have been quite disappointing when the episode was originally screened.The Mechanoids are immediately striking too - a rather fine bit of design if you can ignore the rather awkward arms. Can't quite see how they could have made much of a recurring foe for the Daleks though - we'd just have had lots of scenes of baffling dialogue (what are they saying half the time?)The big fight sequence is a bit odd, but wonderfully staged. Considering all the miscueing throughout this story (notice one particularly weak bit where the reprise ends this episode) and the rest of the poor direction, it's seems as if Richard Martin put all his effort into this sequence. It's faintly surreal and balletic, not really seeming like a real battle at all, more a representational impression of one, telescoped and combined. It's rather impressive, and it's non-realistic nature gives it a grander and more epic scope than a rather more naturalistically shot sequence of the Daleks and the Mechanoids bumping into each other would have done. This feels like a giant clash of the titans, frankly, in a way that, judging by the awkwardness of Martin's staging of other battle here and in DIOE, any realistic take would have completely failed to put over.Once more the story proper ends well before the episode, but as with DIOE there's very good reason for it. Say what you like about the early years, but they sure knew how to write out the regulars. I've a sneaky feeling that we drop into the slightly rushed dumpings with Vicki and Steven, but for now it's been done with as much care as Susan's was. Barbara and Ian are given a genuinely solid, believable reason to leave, and the consequences of their decision are shown to matter, and to affect the other two. The argument that covers the Doctor's hurt and affection is a triumph of subtext and performance, from all involved. In deed, it really is Hartnell, more than the others, who shines in this episode - coming over as saddened and dignified (His slow walk away from the Dalek time machine when it leaves, and his 'I shall miss them' are models of underplaying - so moving and touching through their subtlety).Ian and Barbara's return to London is joyously done and hugely heartening. OK, so there's no way they could see White City tube from where they land, but that seems a heartless critique. It's just hugely sweet to see them having a whale of a time, and you really feel happy for them. Utterly wonderful.So all in all, five episodes of dross, followed by one that's just terrific. The final episode just about saves it, but it is still probably the weakest story so far.

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