(4/8/04 3:43 pm)
Re: Day by Day
Nice to have you back Mr P, I was beginning to get worried. Hope all was good for you.
Incidentally, not sure whether you can't edit through the glitches here, or through the redesign. If it's the latter, look under the date/time bit by your name in the left hand column.
The Savages 1:
At last I can feel I'm using the right description of the episode in my title banners. Yep, it really is The Savages episode 1, no lovely fancy individual episode titles no more. Now, because the overall titles are the norm, this isn't terribly sad as such, I'm used to them this way. However, there is something rather sweet about the individual titles, and something incredibly evocative about them popping up as 'next episode' captions, giving you either clues to where the current story was going, or clues to the next one (and yep, once or twice being meaningless - Terry Nation, shame on you! - or just plain wrong). It feels slightly weird they bother to make this change so near to the end of a season, but not actually at the end - rather like the change into the Troughton titles proper, why not do it at a logical changeover point? But whatever.
Another positive here is that bar the at the time unheard of Marco Polo episodes and the two parts of the Crusade, this is my first real go with telesnaps. Now, I've got the ancient DWB photonovel somewhere, but I can't find it, so I'm going for the BBC internet site. Not sure how well this will work, frankly, as my computer is a touch slow, but we'll give it a shot - with any luck I'll be able to track down my DWBs for Power/Moonbase, etc. at some point soon.
This story is best described as forgotten. It's stuck away at the end of the third season, doesn't exist on video, and doesn't have any major monsters or terribly exciting stuff to latch it into people's memories. So far that's a shame, as this is rather a fine, straight script so far. There's some engaging shortcutting around the usual shennanigans with the Doctor and his companions already known to the Elders (and if nothing else the fact that they can track the Doctor deftly impresses on us that they are highly intelligent beings - though why the Doctor doesn't get them to tell him where he's going next I don't know). It's a good departure that the crew are immediately accepted, as opposed to being the outsiders. We get into the main plot so much more easily that way, and the exposition feels less forced.
There's a nice air of menace about this episode too - paradises always have to have their snakes in Who, otherwise there's no drama, and the darkness seems initially to be in the shape of the savages. The script plays with our expectations by making them the seeming villains to start with, which rather neatly demonstrates how much our prejudices shape our perception (I was going to make a point about how little we've learned since Galaxy 4, but then The Ark was a fairly straightforward ugly= bad, beautiful=good story, so it seems the series proper hardly learned either!). But as the unanswered questions start to build up we begin to distrust the Elders. It's a little bit of a shame that too much is given away too soon, and it is obvious precisely what the Elders are doing for the energy, so I'm not quite sure where the story has left to go. I suspect we should have been led to find out with the Doctor, rather than before him (and why does he suddenly care so much about potentially endorsing things - he's worried about his reputation? Hilarious. I love the concept that the Doctor is kind of aware of his fame by now, obviously inspired by his being worshipped).
This is also one of those stories it would be great to see properly. Watching the telesnaps at the same time as the soundtrack is an interesting experience. There are loads of great bits of composition, and beautifully paced dramatic action sequences - the chasing of Nanina and the cliffhanger most noticeably - that look like they must have been directed brilliantly, as far as we can tell. The build to the end of the episode is particularly good at racking up tension, despite the fact that we we can tell, if we've paid attention, who Dodo has met in the tunnel (a weak, unarmed man). Racking a great cliffhanger out of frankly weak material is a indication of how skilled Christopher Barry is.
The regulars are fine, none especially impressing, but none being actually bad. I once described Dodo and Steven as un-companions, the one's you tend to forget. Obviously their lack of episodes doesn't help, but Ben and Polly have always made more of an impression on me. Perhaps it's the fact that they have rather maleable personalities. It's hard to define what they are actually like. They come from a generic companion mould, rather than characters in their own right. This sounds terribly harsh, seeing as I like them both. Steven in particular has hugely personable touches, with his occasional conceitedness and rudeness - but it just varies too much. Most of the rest of the time he just isn't given the material.
The script is intelligent and well paced. As I say, I suspect the lack of obvious thrills and monsters have failed to do this story any favours, but ultimately, so far, it's an intriguing piece, serious and quite grown up.
Edited by: Dorney at: 4/8/04 3:47 pm
(4/9/04 3:39 pm)
Re: Day by Day
The Savages 2:
It's really quite cool watching the telesnaps along with the recording. You do get a faint feel, or at least you think you do, of what the original episodes must have looked like. And in deed, it does also offer clues to how far your interpretation doesn't entirely work (I wouldn't have dreamed how much of this story was shot on location - it sounds all the same on the cd).
The reprise reminded me of one thing I forgot to mention last time. The music contributes hugely to the drama of the cliffhanger, and it's one of the best pieces I've heard in the show. Not much to add to that really.
Steven is wonderfully rude about Dodo this week, emphasising her recklessness. Simultaneously the Doctor shows a lot of faith in her, which is quite interesting as a snapshot of their relationship to her (it's particularly great that in a scene that reminds me of one of the Pertwee/Jo moments in a story I can't recall - possibly Axos - the Doctor pretends to dismiss her when in reality he trusts her inherently. Rather sweetly developing a warmth between them). Dodo's ballsiness when under threat from the scientists is great, a logical development from her holding Holliday hostage. She's becoming more of a likeable character all the time.
The story itself remains cerebral at heart, with it's main focus being on the ideas rather than the action. It's noticeable how much time in this story is devoted to debating the morality - Jano is one of the few really well motivated villains in the series, callous and immoral but never that cheap whitewash of being just plain evil. He believes what he says, that the ends justify the means, and that the elders deserve the strength. There are echoes of vampirism in the leeching of life, but the main focus is on the amorality of the Elders. They are a psychopathic people, ignoring the feelings of those they consider lesser mortals. For all their intelligence they have no hearts. Failure is punished instantly and the unworthy are dismissed. This story is in many ways a forerunner of the Happiness Patrol, with the perspective from the inside of a facist regime, a self proclaimed superior race, nominally working for the good, but sacrificing their humanity in the process. Jano's proclamation that the Elders are essentially better than the Savages due to their being cultured, and having art and learning and architecture is utterly chillling in many ways. It strikes me as possible that the whole piece is not the attack on slavery as popularly supposed but a critique of capitalism, with the rich/cultured/upper classes leeching off the lower classes.
The Doctor is on fine form here, a moral crusader. The role and attitude of the central character seems to fluctuate a hell of a lot through the Hartnell years. The more simplistic action scripts tend to have him as a righteous do-gooder, travelling the universe in search of evils to defeat. The more intellectual scripts have him as an explorer, an observer, a scientist (it's wrong to say he simply changes from the latter to the former over the course of the three years - the Doctor of the Celestial Toymaker just wants to escape, his central aim is not the defeat of the Toymaker, likewise in the Gunfighters he's not about to save lives, he just wants to get away). There's a sense in this story, featuring a Doctor of the former kind, matched with a script of the second, that the two halves are merging together. You can almost feel the character sliding between the two personas within the story. He's initially an explorer, but when his moral attitudes are challenged, he becomes the crusader. There's a wonderful scene of righteous fury from Hartnell, establishing the moral core, emphasising that the Elders are as bad as the Daleks - they may not kill, but they abuse and violate others to make their lives better (and it has to be said that there's something more obviously horrible about that than any of the Daleks' rather vague schemes).
As I said last time, it's a shame that we know from the off what the secret of the city is, and as a result this episode slightly marks time til the regulars find out too, but this is arguably part of the whole scheme. The serial isn't interested in being too Whoey, as I've said, preferring mental activity to action, and it's eschewing the traditional adventure mystery framework is indicative of that. It's all about the concepts, and the appaling ideas at the centre.
The story is so atypical that it's no wonder people forget it, but it's so utterly smart and well made that it's appealing on a grown up level, a level of themes and subtext that we haven't always had before. I like it a hell of a lot. Not sure I'd want it all the time, but with fine pace, scripting, direction, acting, who can really dislike it? It ain't exciting enough to ever be one of the classics, but it's terrific thoughtful television, so who cares?
Soviet Union a
(4/11/04 3:17 pm)
Re: Day by Day
erm, Dorney, what's happening here?
(4/11/04 3:42 pm)
Re: Day by Day
The family have been over for Easter, so haven't quite had the time to do the episode views and write ups. I should be back on track tommorow. If nothing else, it stretches out more precious Hartnell (can't believe I've only a fortnights worth of his episodes to go!)
Soviet Union a
(4/11/04 10:44 pm)
Re: Day by Day
Shame. He's my favourite doctor.
(4/13/04 2:55 am)
Re: Day by Day
The Savages 3:
Well, I got a little behind there over Easter. Had a very nice weekend, thanks for asking. But now it's noses and grindstones again.
This is the time marking episode. The story really doesn't progress a great deal over the twenty-five minutes (as I said last time, the early reveal of precisely what the Elders are doing doesn't leave the story with a vast amount of room. You can almost feel the strain as ISB tries to stop the story hurtling towards the end. I can't recall too much about part four, but I'm pretty certain all the elements that lead to the climax are all in place already and they're just being held back) However, in keeping with the quality of the script, the padding is good padding. The extra space is used to develop the characters and the culture of the Savages (their temple is utterly irrelevant in plot terms, but it does give more depth to them as a people). We begin to get to know them as individuals - even if those individuals are slightly cliched: the strong wse chief, the rebellious younger brasher man, and the kind girl. It's the Tribe of Gum again. But a cliche treated intelligently can still work and they do. The sequences that will lead to Exorse's redemption are rather believable, for a change.
The other main use for the extra time is tension. The chase through the tunnels shouldn't really work particularly well, but it does. This is due to good direction and a slow build up of menace. The sequence isn't rushed and it's all the better for it. As with any scene like this, the tension derives from those being chased, their fear and reactions. And once more Steven and Dodo give it the right weight. It's a good little scene. There's no real reason that a man chasing other people down a tunnel with basically a torch should be quite as tense as it is. But we're sold it beautifully.
One thing that's increasingly noticeable in these stories is the sidestepping of Hartnell. This is yet another episode that eases off him, with him being present but not saying a word. With Hartnell doing very little in DMP 10,11,12, The Celestial Toymaker, the Massacre and here, you can practically see him being written out of his own show. It's a real shame, as whilst I like Steven and Dodo, they're not as much fun as the Doctor. He's the charismatic centre of the series, and it loses something without him.
Having said that, the Doctor is still in this episode, sort of, with a fine impersonation coming from Frederick Jaeger. The details and quirks, all of Hartnell's performance eccentricities are done so perfectly that you can't help but smile - which is quite odd in a cerebral story like this one. Ulitmately, however, it is no substitute for the real thing.
It's impossible to watch these episodes chronologically and not adore Hartnell. He's a consistent joy, and his increasing lack of action is rather a shame. Ultimately, the quirky oddball that is the Doctor is what makes the show different, what takes it out of the realms of being a regular Star-Trek style tv show. Doctor Who without the Doctor just doesn't seem right, obviously.
Since, as I say, this episode is mainly about marking time, there's little else I can add. It's fun, that's it main plus. It goes precisely nowhere for 25 minutes, but you're enjoying yourself so much you don't really care.
(4/14/04 3:45 pm)
Re: Day by Day
The Savages 4:
Still not quite sure how I managed to make four episodes last a week, but here we are.
One of the things I'm finding it difficult to grasp about this story is that whilst it's very well-written, acted, as far as we can tell directed, somehow it doesn't quite work.
I've been dwelling on this whilst I've procrastinated on completing this story, and I suspect I've sort of got it nailed. I think the problem is it's not 'fun'. It's a script that wants to be straight sci-fi, and with the best will in the world, that ain't Doctor Who. I think I heard Janet Fielding - or someone, can't get the precise detail yet - saying the Doctor Who is a melodrama, and I think that has it in a nutshell. It's not about villains with proper motivation, it's not about moral ambiguity - ok, it can incorporate those kinds of things if it wants, but it doesn't need to. Who is about fun adventures with death and drama, it's heightened. The Savages is realistic and serious. So whilst it's good drama, it just doesn't feel like good Doctor Who. It's sort of like the least inspiring novels in the book range - or more specifically the ones that concern themselve with being good sci-fi over good Who.
RTD said in that DWM feature years ago that the central important feature of Who is death. As far as I can recall this is, bar Edge, the only Who story that has no-one die, or have the threat of death. Now whilst the Elders experiments are undeniably unpleasant and nasty, it's quite abstract. They're not hissable villains, you can't love to hate them, they're just unpleasant.
You admire the Savages, but you don't really enjoy it. You like what it says, but it's never going to be one to relax with, it's never going to be escapist entertainment. Even the sole element of humour in the rather cold script - Jano essentially possessed by the Doctor - brings a smile to your face, but it never quite manages to be as gloriously entertaining as you'd imagine it to be. It makes you smile, but it doesn't make you grin, and it doesn't make you laugh or cheer, as it really should.
The Savages is Doctor Who in a suit and tie, going for an interview. Perfectly presentable, but you'd rather it had it's hair down in the pub.
As with the last episode, the story doesn't really progress. As I said, all the plot elements to conclude the story are present and correct at the start of the episode, and it's merely about ticking the boxes. The destruction of the lab is wonderfully cathartic, though it does seem a temporary solution at best - and considering the general brains behind the script, rather a crass one. (likewise, Exorse's redemption feels slightly tacked on here - seemed to be going so nicely last time, but it ultimately fails to impact on the story).
The end of the episode proper is terribly abrupt. After the care taken with the departures of the original crew, Vicki, and the dramatic exits of Katarina and Sara, Steven's exit seems terribly rushed, and does rather show how we're entering the land of the underwritten departure. Maybe we couldn't always have the luxury of the ten minute epilogue of DIOE or the Chase, but the Myth Makers showed that a departure could be done elegantly and swiftly, if it seemed to grow out of the piece. Steven's exit comes out of nowhere. It doesn't bear too much relation to the rest of the story, and it seems to be accomplished in a minute and a half flat. Steven's never quite gelled as a character - I like him a lot when he works, but his lack of a definite background has left the writers without guidelines, and too often they forget to give him a proper personality. But he's been around for a year, and he's an important part of the show. The sudden dumping of him seems terribly ill-conceived, both in terms of the script and in actual on-screen motivation - I can't believe Steven and the Doctor could make such a life altering decision in the few moments their allowed. You can feel him being rushed out of the script, seemingly with no care at all. The Doctor seems not to think twice - his line of 'don't look back' or whatever it is, is rather sweet, and suggests the man isn't totally without heart, but it's all rather shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. The two guys seem to behave as if this is as simple as getting a job or moving house, not as if it's friends who are never going to see each other again. Dodo, who's known him so much less, seems to react far more than the others. They're not glad to see that back of each other - but they just don't seem bothered. A shame. And then, before we know it, the travellers have gone, with the plot barely finished. As I say, it all seems fairly abrupt. I can do abrupt.