OK, I'm going to post this here for completeness sake - some time after I completed the Hartnell reviews there was a hacker on Ezboard (where they were stored) and a lot of posts got wiped. Basically, no copies exist of the original reviews for War Machines 2 through Tenth Planet 3 (TP 4 was wiped at the time too, but I found a copy of Part Four later on and reprinted it - we'll come to that when it turns up). I will come back and do these episodes later, but for the moment, this is all you're getting! ;)
(4/15/04 4:11 pm)
Re: Day by Day
The War Machines 1:
You know, totally irrelevant detail, but when searching through my loft today, I discovered I had copies of the camera scripts for The Savages. I doubt they'd have helped me in any way with my reviews, but it was interesting seeing them, so coincidentally soon.
But onto the next story, War Machines 1 - Ian Stuart Black 5. Once again a lot of the faults of part one of the Savages leap out at you again. ISB is so desperate to get into the story proper, that he forsakes all of the traditional exploratory elements of the usual part one. The Doctor here might as well be as respected and well known as he is to the Elders for all the hassle he has getting involved in the adventure - in fact, I'd guess that he is, in ISBs mind at least. This is once more the Doctor aware of his own fame, and iconic status as a hero, respected, famous and with a reputation, rather than the character we're used to. And again, in order to get into the story at light speed, we're given an akward info-dump of information for five minutes or so explaining who Wotan is, and what's going on. The writing rule of 'show don't tell' is being flaunted here. We're being told everything, shown nothing. This is also there in the initial wittering of the Doctor sensing evil in the Tower and deciding to investigate the minute he arrives. The Doctor's allergic to evil or some such guff. It's terribly silly and contrived.
The script remains pretty rushed, with the shift to the Inferno being sudden and jarring (and why it seems to be operating at full strength when surrounding scenes suggest that Polly and Dodo first enter during the afternoon is a mystery). We're also expected to really like Polly instantly, but in all honesty it just reminds me of Dodo's entrance. Too much too soon. There's a desperation to be liked that means they overdo her bouncy 'likeability'. She's practically screaming 'I'm fun, aren't I? Aren't I? You like me, don't you. DON'T YOU' all the time. Hopefully she'll mimic Dodo by calming down. Ben gets less time to prove himself, but his initial sulleness, and the script having the confidence to let us like him through his actions, rather than being force fed 'personality' is quite nice. It's rather embarrising to see that Dodo is being sidelined in the script even here, shoved into the background whilst B&P are highlighted. It seems unfair and rude, and slightly uncalled for. She's not the greatest companion, but we do, at this moment, have more interest in her than in the two interlopers.
The scenes of the Doctor marching through London and a nightclub are terribly weird and disconcerting, but in a good way. OK, the initial nightclub scenes attempts to be modern and trendy, relevant and real don't really work, in much the same way that the seriousness of the Savages didn't. Dr Who just doesn't have an interest in realism, and when it does it does it slightly half arsed. As I say, Who is heightened. It just looks like the Doctor's stumbled into a Venus Smith episode of the Avengers, rather than having an adventure of his own.
Plot wise, there is again the feeling, like with the Savages, that the cards have been put on the table too soon. By the end of this episode, we know pretty much what the entire story's going to be about. We know who the villain is, what they're up to, how they do it. In fact we know so early, that the episode gets repetitive. Yes, WOTAN, we can tell you can possess people. Do something else. By the time it's happened twice, it ceases to be dramatic.
It's all so on the button. There are no surprises, no shocks, no twists. Why not conceal Brett's possession til he drags someone new in. Make the possession the cliffhanger. As it is, there's nothing to intrigue or excite us about the story. We're told everything from the off, so once more, it's hard to see where this story has to go. There's nothing left to discover.