March 31: The Abominable Snowmen Episodes Five & Six

Yes, no change to the glacial pace; thankfully though, Padmasambhava's comment from the end of the last episode is delivered at a normal speed.  But this time around we get an attack on the monastery by the Yeti, Victoria hypnotized by Padmasambhava, the Doctor going to see his old friend Padmasambhava, and the Great Intelligence working on taking over not just the cave with the pyramid, but the whole mountain as well (and presumably from there the world).

Padmasambhava pleads with the Great Intelligence. (The
Abominable Snowmen
Episode Five - from Doctor Who
Photonovels: The Abominable Snowmen - Episode Five
) ©BBC
The Doctor's conversation with Padmasambhava is quite touching, as the Doctor realizes there's nothing he can do for his old friend, who's been under the influence of the Great Intelligence for nearly two hundred years (a number which causes problems when we get to 2012's "The Snowmen", but that's a long way off).  And the bit with Victoria is nicely effective, especially when she's been "programmed" to respond to the Doctor's voice with pleas of terror: "Doctor.  There is great danger.  You must take me away.  Take me away, take me away!"  His deprogramming of her has a nice moment too: "Look at my eyes.  You're feeling tired, very sleepy.  Drift away.  Let yourself drift away into sleep.  Deeper.  Deeper.  Sleep.  Sleep.  Sleep.  Sleep.  Oh, not you, Jamie," he adds crossly, as Jamie also starts to drift off.

And the Yeti attack!  Granted, it doesn't seem to be much of an attack, concerned more with property damage than killing people, but one of the monks, Rinchen, is killed when the Yeti knock a giant Buddha statue on him.  And still, after four episodes of seeing the Yeti generally standing around looking menacing, it's good to see them put into action.  And meanwhile, more of the mountain is being consumed by the strange glowing substance that apparently makes up the Intelligence.

Episode six begins quite violently.  The Doctor realizes that the Yeti are being controlled from inside the monastery, which leads Khrisong to confront Padmasambhava and save the Abbot Songsten from his power -- Khrisong not realizing that it's too late for Songsten -- and so he ends up with a blade in the back for his troubles.  The Doctor convinces the monks to evacuate while he faces off against the Great Intelligence (along with help from Jamie, Victoria, and the monk Thonmi), which leads to a mental battle between Padmasambhava and the Doctor (with some help from Victoria), while Jamie and Thonmi smash everything they can, eventually destroying a giant sphere and a large pyramid -- thus severing the Intelligence's control of the Yeti and preventing it from taking corporeal form on Earth by way of an exploding mountain.  And Padmasambhava is finally allowed to die.

So yes, The Abominable Snowmen is rather slow, but I find I don't really mind.  There are enough character moments and interesting set pieces to more than make up for any slack in the plotting.  Yes, it's another base-under-siege tale, but we haven't quite had one like this since The Moonbase (allowing for the fact that The Tomb of the Cybermen, although sharing many characteristics of a base-under-siege plot, is different enough to not quite qualify), so it's ok.  The only real concern is how the Buddhist monk part seems a bit grafted on.  Other than the idea of a monk's mind exploring the astral plane and getting caught up by an alien Intelligence, there's nothing here to really justify this being in a Tibetan monastery.  But to be honest, this isn't a major concern, and I find that in the end I quite enjoy The Abominable Snowmen.  It's not the greatest tale, but it's by no means the worst, and the fact that it remains relatively interesting over the course of six episodes, despite the paucity of story, is an achievement in itself.

March 30: The Abominable Snowmen Episodes Three & Four

The slow pace continues, but it still hasn't become a problem.  I'm not sure why that is, to be honest; earlier I was condemning The Web Planet for moving at a glacial pace, but The Abominable Snowmen isn't moving much faster.  I suppose it could be as simple as the fact that here we have characters we can latch on to; Khrisong's frustration at being unable to adequately protect the monastery is much easier to comprehend than the Menoptra's struggles against a large vaguely arachnid creature.

But let's be honest; this is another episode where there's not much actual story development.  We do learn that Padmasambhava is the one controlling the Yeti, and that he's doing so for the benefit of something called the Great Intelligence (though it's still not clear what determines which voice is used when -- I thought the evil whisper might have been the Intelligence speaking through him, but that doesn't seem to be the case).  He's even got a little board with small carved Yeti to move around.  And the Abbot Songsten is clearly under his power, and so he takes a small glass pyramid up the mountain, accompanied by Yeti.  But beyond that, there's not much incident.  We saw the silver control sphere moving as the cliffhanger for episode two, and it takes all of episode three for it to reach the deactivated Yeti, such that its coming back to life is the cliffhanger for this episode.  But everything else consists of nice character moments, such as Khrisong's decision to give the Doctor and Jamie a little trust, or the spirit trap that the monks construct around the captured Yeti.  Although Victoria seems to be rather nosy this time around, trying repeatedly to enter the Inner Sanctum of the monastery just so she can see Padmasambhava, more out of idle curiosity than anything else.  It's not the most successful characterization for her, to be honest.

The Yeti gather. (The Abominable Snowmen Episode Four) ©BBC
Episode four is more of the same: the primary story advancement consists of the reactivated Yeti leaving the monastery, Abbot Songsten placing the glowing pyramid in the cave with the control spheres up in the mountain, the Doctor and Jamie investigating the Yeti some more (with a signal tracking device this time), and Victoria continuing to be nosy, this time finally making her way into the Inner Sanctum.  And Travers has a bit more to do this time, as he follows Songsten into the cave and discovers the pyramid, just as it cracks open and begins spewing out some sort of substance (Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #36: The Missing Episodes - The Second Doctor Volume 2 -- aka the magazine with the telesnaps for this story -- refers to this substance as "an ectoplasmic goo", but chances are good that it was the BBC foam machine being put to use).  And as we've come to expect, there's a fun scene between the Doctor and Jamie, as they find a Yeti standing guard by the TARDIS.  "Have you thought up some clever plan, Doctor?" Jamie asks.  "Yes, Jamie, I believe I have," the Doctor replies.  "What are you going to do?"   "Bung a rock at it."

The most interesting part of the episode comes at the end, when the Abbot Songsten, who has returned from the cave, tells the monks that they must abandon Detsen.  But Khrisong refuses, insisting that his warrior monks can defend the monastery against the robotic Yeti.  And Victoria, as mentioned earlier, finally enters the Inner Sanctum and sees Padmasambhava face to face, revealing an old yet babylike face smiling serenely at her, which leads to the slowest cliffhanger yet: "Come............in....................." Padmasambhava slowly says.  "You........ have.................... no.............. al....ter...........na............................tive............."

March 29: The Abominable Snowmen Episodes One & Two

Episode one is audio + telesnaps again...well, it was nice watching actual episodes while it lasted.

When you think back on this first episode of The Abominable Snowmen, you realize that not a lot happens; the Doctor goes down to Detsen monastery to return the Holy Ghanta which he took for safekeeping three hundred years earlier and is arrested under suspicion of murder, and Jamie and Victoria wander around the Himalayan mountainside and find a cave and a huge hairy beast -- presumably one of the eponymous abominable snowmen.  (Jamie having earlier been concerned that they were actually still on Telos: "Hey, is it the Earth, Doctor?  I don't fancy another tangle down the Cybermen's tomb." -- this is going to start a running theme for the next couple stories.)  And that's really about it.  Yet when you're listening to it, you don't really notice.  There's a deliberate pace to this, which means that there's no real sense of longueurs pervading the episode, because the entire thing's like that.  There are a lot of talking scenes, as the monks debate what to do about the Doctor, and Travers, the explorer looking for the Yeti, insists that the Doctor must have been the one who attacked his campsite and killed his companion.  But they're interesting talking scenes -- and Troughton is wonderful when he's defending himself over attacks he knows nothing about: "Me?  I haven't attacked anyone!" the Doctor protests, but he's led away nevertheless.  And meanwhile, Jamie and Victoria are trapped in a cave by a Yeti...

Jamie takes a sphere from the pyramid inside the cave. (The
Abominable Snowmen
Episode Two) ©BBC
It wasn't until the release of the 1981 Winter Special of Doctor Who Monthly (as Doctor Who Magazine was then known as) that fandom learned of the sheer number of episodes of Doctor Who missing from the archives, with a staggering 136 episodes seemingly gone forever.  Episode two of The Abominable Snowmen was the first episode recovered after the publication of that magazine, returned to the BBC in 1982.  It's more of the same as episode one, with a deliberate paceyness that works to its advantage.  Jamie buries the Yeti in a rockfall and discovers a strange pyramid of glowing metal spheres.  But the Yeti is only stunned, not killed, and so it chases Jamie and Victoria down the mountain, where they run into Travers.  They convince Travers of the Doctor's innocence, but in the meantime Khrisong, leader of the warrior monks at Detsen, has tied up the Doctor outside the gates to use as bait for the Yeti.  But the Doctor has told one of the monks about the Ghanta, and he tells the Abbot Songsten, and then both of them listen to the voice of the old master, Padmasambhava (that's [pæd.mə.'sɑm.bə.və], in case you were wondering), who talks alternately in a slow calm voice and a faster, more sinister whisper -- although it's not quite clear what determines when each voice speaks.  Presumably the whisper is meant to indicate an "evil" voice, but it's rather tough to work out the differences between the two sets of dialogue.

And so the Doctor is set free, thanks to the intervention of Abbot Songsten, which means they can get to work capturing a Yeti.  "Hey, Doctor, if you really want to capture one of these beasties, I think I have an idea which might just work," Jamie says.  "Victoria," the Doctor replies, backing away, "I think this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valour: Jamie has an idea."  But Jamie's idea works and they capture a Yeti in a net, and when the Doctor studies it, he learns it's actually a robot -- but with a round sphere of some sort missing.  And by the statue of the Buddha, a silver sphere rolls of its own accord...

So like episode one, episode two also has that deliberate sense of pace that nevertheless doesn't feel like it's dragging; instead it's exactly as quick as it needs to be.  And there are definitely some mysteries going on in this second episode, including the nature of Padmasambhava and why robots are wandering around 20th-century Tibet, which are intriguing and leave the viewer wanting more.

March 28: The Tomb of the Cybermen Episodes 3 & 4

The Doctor is confronted by the Cyber Controller. (The Tomb of
the Cybermen
Episode 3) ©BBC
Having announced at the end of the last episode that "you belong to us", the Cybermen appear ready to make good on their proclamation.  They tell the expedition that the surface rooms were designed so that only intelligent people could come down into the tombs and thus become Cybermen -- hence all the logic puzzles and such.  Then the Cyber Controller explicitly marks Klieg and Parry as the first and second people to be turned into Cybermen. We're sort of used to the idea of people being turned into Cybermen now, but this is the first time it's made explicit; yes, there's that moment in The Tenth Planet where the Cybermen announce that the crew of Snowcap Base will be converted into Cybermen, but that never feels like a legitimate threat.  But here, the idea of being turned into a Cyberman is a very real threat, and it's only the intervention of Captain Hopper and his smoke grenades which saves them from this fate.

The rest of the episode is a tense waiting game, as Parry's expedition is only sticking around while the rocket crew repairs the damage done by Toberman in episode 1.  The Cybermen are trapped down in the tombs, unable to open the hatch (um, bit of a design flaw there, not having an opening lever down in the tombs), so they send Cybermats, little metallic "caterpillars" (to use Jamie's description), up small ramps to terrorize the people above.  But before this we get a nice little scene between the Doctor and Victoria, where they talk about the Doctor's family and Victoria's father.  And the Doctor reassures her and tell her, "So remember, our lives are different to anybody else's.  That's the exciting thing.  There's nobody in the universe can do what we're doing."  It's nice to have a quiet little scene like this in the midst of all the action.  But then the Cybermats attack (well, scuttle about), but the Doctor's quick thinking saves them.  "You might almost say they've had a complete metal breakdown," the Doctor puns, to which Jamie groans -- massively out of character for an 18th-century Highlander, but still entertaining.  And then Klieg emerges from the testing room in which he's been kept prisoner by the others, holding an x-ray laser.  Nice work, guys, locking him in a room with working weapons.

Episode 4 isn't quite as entertaining as the others, since it's concerned more with finishing up the story rather than maintaining the mood like the other three have been.  The Cyber Controller orders the other Cybermen back into the tombs "to conserve energy" -- a move which seems to come out of nowhere (Cybermen need to regularly recharge?) but which means that our heroes only have to deal with a couple of Cybermen, rather than a city's worth.  The Cyber Controller arrives to talk terms with Klieg, but he's clearly weakened too, so they lock him inside a cabinet with a revitalizing machine and then tie down the door.  "Jamie, I hope you made those ropes secure," the Doctor says.  "Och, the King of the Beasties couldnae get out of that one," Jamie replies, right before the Controller smashes through the door, the ropes easily falling away.  Another fun moment.  Then the Controller reenters the main room upstairs, ordering Kaftan to open the hatch to the tombs.  When she refuses, he kills her with the x-ray laser, leading to possibly the least convincing death fall in all of Doctor Who, as Shirley Cooklin gingerly lets herself down onto the floor, rather than just falling down dead.  This upsets Toberman, so he kills the Cyber Controller (or, at least, a dummy version of him) by throwing him against the control banks.37  The Doctor then goes down into the tombs to freeze the Cybermen forever.

Toberman attacks the Cyber Controller. (The Tomb of the
Cybermen
Episode 4) ©BBC
But Klieg, clearly off his rocker by this point, insists that the Cybermen will work for him, first via strength (because of the x-ray laser) and then because their Controller is killed by Toberman (who's been half-cybernized by this point -- a stark reminder of the fate that awaits the others should the Cybermen succeed).  Still, this does lead to the wonderful "now I know you're mad" moment from the Doctor.  Then Klieg is killed by a Cyberman, who is then himself killed by Toberman (with, it must be said, a really gruesome death, as a huge amount of foam spills from its chest unit -- was this what the deaths in The Moonbase were like?  It is the same director...), and so the Doctor can finally seal up the tombs.  He then reelectrifies everything, but the Controller, it turns out, isn't quite dead, so Toberman sacrifices himself by closing the doors and taking a massive electrical shock in the process.  But the Cybermen are sealed inside their tomb once again.  "Now, that really is the end of the Cybermen, isn't it?" Jamie says.  "Yes, Jamie.  On the other hand, I never like to make predictions," says the man who declared "the final end" of the Daleks last story.

When The Tomb of the Cybermen was recovered in 1991, there was a sense of letdown once people could actually see the thing again, and they noted things like the ropey special effects (dummy Controller, obvious Kirby wires on Toberman, the polystyrene door the Controller bursts through) and the rather variable performances from the guest cast.  Prior to 1991, Tomb had been hailed as a perfect classic, so you can see how people were a bit disappointed when they could watch it themselves.  But the thing about The Tomb of the Cybermen is that it still hangs together quite well.  There are some moments of lesser quality, certainly, but no more than in any other Doctor Who story.  The lapses in story logic are a bit less forgivable, but again, no worse than, say, The Evil of the Daleks and its "mirrors + static electricity = working time machine" stuff.  The sense of dread and tension that pervades the serial makes this quite a standout story, and you can definitely see why it made such an impact on children at the time (these were, after all, the people who later enhanced Tomb's reputation to such a high degree).  Only in the last episode, where we're denied a climactic battle between the humans and all the Cybermen and have to be content with fighting off merely two of them, do things start to really disappoint.  Everything before is marvelously entertaining.







37 Toberman's upset by Kaftan's death, I mean, not her lousy acting -- although I guess we can't rule out the possibility that Roy Stewart is channeling his rage at her performance in his attack on the Cyber Controller.

March 27: The Tomb of the Cybermen Episodes 1 & 2

Whew.  It's something of a relief to finally get to a complete story in the archives -- and thanks to the recent recoveries by Phil Morris, we've reached a point where over two-thirds of the remaining Troughton episodes are in existence.  I think I was getting a little tired of being tantalized by soundtracks and telesnaps and not being able to see much of anything.  This story, of course, was until 2013 the most recently recovered complete story, having been returned from Hong Kong in 1991.

Standard and special edition DVDs
Episode 1 of The Tomb of the Cybermen opens mere moments where The Evil of the Daleks left off, as Victoria is brought into the TARDIS and the Doctor and Jamie explain that it's a time machine, just like her father was working on -- which leads to Victoria's rather marvelous non sequitur, "I mean, if what you say is true then you must be, well, how old?"  As if being incredibly old is a requirement for time travel.  But this serves as a nice little recap not only of what happened between seasons, but also of the show in general.

But then we shift to a rocky planet and an archaeological crew trying to blow a hole into the side of a mountain in order to unearth the lost city of Telos36, the legendary tomb of the Cybermen.  It seems the Cybermen have disappeared from history "many centuries ago", and now archaeologists are keen to learn more about them.  The Doctor and his friends stick around as they explore the lost city (which looks more like just a largeish building up top, but never mind), and then in the cliffhanger, a Cyberman emerges to kill one of the party...

There's an air of confidence about this, even as the odd accents and bizarre characterizations abound; Kaftan and Klieg might as well be wearing flashing "villain" signs for all they try to disguise their ulterior motives.  Kaftan in particular seems spiteful, apparently trapping Victoria in a Cyberman recharging closet just for the hell of it.  But there's a self-assuredness about the direction that makes up for these lapses in the serial.  And being able to see the episode adds to one's enjoyment enormously -- you wouldn't know about all of Troughton and Hines's interplay from the soundtrack alone.  Note in particular the lovely moment where the Doctor, entering the tomb for the first time, takes Jamie's hand in the belief that it's Victoria's, realizes what he's done, and throws it down in disgust.  Great fun.

Episode 2 continues the fun, as Klieg manages to open the hatch leading down into the tomb (thanks to some help from the Doctor, oddly -- he seems to be conflicted here, as he warns the expedition against meddling with things that should be left alone, yet he's eager to give them a helping hand when necessary; maybe his curiosity is getting the better of him).  But before that there's some stuff with the Cyberman in the testing room (actually a robotic dummy), with another fun Troughton/Hines moment.  The Doctor's trying to work out the sequence of events that led up to Haydon's death, and he needs Jamie to show him what buttons and levers he used.  "Now there is a distinct element of risk in what I'm asking you all to do, so if anyone wishes to leave they must do so at once.  Not you, Jamie," the Doctor adds, as Jamie moves to leave.

The Cybermen emerge from their tomb. (The Tomb of the
Cybermen
Episode 2) ©BBC
But yes, the hatch has been opened, and the majority of the party descend into the actual tomb, only to discover that the Cybermen aren't dead; they're merely in suspended animation, waiting for someone to come and reactivate them -- an action which Klieg is only too willing to perform.  He seems to think that, as a member of the Brotherhood of Logicians back on Earth, the Cybermen will be only too willing to help them take over (or something...the motivation here is a little vague, to be honest).  He doesn't seem to have counted on the Cybermen being unwilling to go along with this plan.  But they are, and as we meet the Controller of all the Cybermen (as indicated by his lack of a chest unit and his giant brain case), Klieg learns how wrong he is.  "You belong to us," the Controller says, grabbing Klieg's arm tightly.  "You shall be like us."

These two episodes are often a little loose in acting and plotting, but that aforementioned confidence helps carry things off.  It also helps that these two episodes are building up to the end of episode 2, when the Cybermen finally emerge from their tomb.  Their presence hangs over all the proceedings, and their emergence is justly iconic.  So far, The Tomb of the Cybermen is a winner -- we'll have to see how things go next time, to see if they can keep it up.








36 And note that at this point in time the name "Telos" seems to refer only to the city itself, not the entire planet.

March 26: The Evil of the Daleks Episodes 5, 6, & 7

Episode 5 is also padded, albeit not as padded as the last episode -- but really episodes 3, 4, and 5 could have been condensed into two episodes without any real problems.  We do get some interesting moments with the Doctor and Arthur Terrall (where we learn that Terrall seems to be incapable of drinking, and that he also has magnetic properties, apparently because the Dalek control box is flooding his system with static electricity), and we also learn that Maxtible is an accomplished hypnotist, and that he used this skill to get Victoria to go to the Daleks.

But there's more waffle with Victoria in that room with Jamie and Kemel, as it takes them the majority of the episode to get out again.  When they do get out it sounds like there's a good swordfight going on, so there's that at least.  However, the best part of the episode concerns the Doctor and the Human Factor, as he contemplates making the three test Daleks become humanized.  Waterfield tries to get him to stop (both by argument and by force), but the Doctor seems to think that the humanized Daleks won't be as much of a threat as initially believed: "And sacrifice a whole world?  A history, past, present and future?  Destroy an entire race?" Waterfield asks.  "Yes," the Doctor replies.  "I don't think you quite realize what you're saying.  But yes, it may come to that.  It may very well come to that."  It seems even at this point the Doctor is considering the effect his Daleks will have on the Dalek race.  This leads to the oddest cliffhanger yet, as the humanized Daleks play a game with the Doctor, pushing him around and playing with him.

The humanized Daleks play a game with the Doctor. (The Evil of
the Daleks
Episode 5 - from Doctor Who Photonovels: The Evil
of the Daleks - Episode Five
) ©BBC
Episode 6 gets us back on track, with lots of incident and excitement.   The humanized Daleks are like children, learning about the world with wonder (and there's nothing as oddly creepy as Dalek voices with curious human-like inflections) and learning about things like friendship.  The Doctor names them Alpha, Beta, and Omega -- but then they announce that they're leaving.  Yes, it's time for this adventure to head to Skaro -- once we've blown up Maxtible's house with a bomb first.

Skaro's certainly a more abstract-looking place than the last time we visited, way back in The Daleks.  There's a lot more black space and sharp angles to be seen here, which gives the place a rather German Expressionist look.  Into this city enter Victoria and Kemel, Maxtible, and later the Doctor, Jamie, and Waterfield.  This episode's about moving the pieces into their final positions, but it does so very well.  And then, at the end, we meet the big daddy of them all: the Emperor Dalek.  This is clearly a huge creature, ten feet high at least, that the telesnaps only begin to hint at.  It turns out, under the Emperor's orders, that the Daleks have been more devious than the Doctor thought; instead of isolating the Human Factor, the Doctor has allowed them to isolate the Dalek Factor, which they will use to spread Dalek-ness through all of human history, forcing the Doctor to use his TARDIS to do so...

What's this?  That's right, three episodes today!  (Otherwise episode 1's would be the second episode of a given day until Colin Baker's era.)  So let's finish off this story -- and season 4 -- by listening to episode 7 of The Evil of the Daleks...

The Emperor Dalek. (The Evil of the Daleks Episode 6 -
from Doctor Who Photonovels: The Evil of the Daleks - Episode
Six
) ©BBC
Things look bleak at the start.  The Doctor and his friends are prisoners of the Daleks, and they hold his TARDIS, so it looks like there's no way of escaping.  And what's worse, Maxtible is conditioned with the Dalek Factor when his greed overtakes him and he tries to take the machine the Daleks show him that turns iron into gold (seemingly; however, I seem to recall John Peel's novelization indicating that this was actually a hoax to get him to go through the Dalek-ifying archway).  And then Maxtible hypnotizes the Doctor and has him walk through the archway too, turning him into a Dalek-like person as well.  This is pretty crazy "how will they get out of this?" stuff.  But it turns out that the archway doesn't work on the Doctor (because in his words, "I don't come from Earth"), and he swaps the Dalek Factor capsule with a Human Factor capsule.  This sets the scene for the final confrontation, as the Doctor (while pretending to be Dalekized) convinces the Emperor to send all Daleks through the Dalek Factor archway, to try and turn Alpha, Beta, and Omega back into Daleks that don't question orders.  Now there's a large faction of humanized Daleks roaming through the city, leading to civil war on Skaro, with lots of exploding Daleks and wreckage and things.  ("Do not fight in here!" the Emperor Dalek booms memorably, as Daleks blast each other to pieces in the Emperor's control room.)  The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria leave Skaro in the TARDIS -- everyone else (with the possible exception of Maxtible) having been killed in the carnage.  Waterfield's dying wish is that the Doctor look after Victoria, and so that's what he's going to do.  And the story ends with the war on Skaro still raging...

The Evil of the Daleks is quite an accomplished piece of Doctor Who.  Yes, some of the science is ludicrous (though no more than any other Whitaker script), but there's a confidence on display here that more than makes up for this.  The Evil of the Daleks was intended to be a "final end" for the Daleks (Terry Nation intending to take his creations to America for a TV series that never happened), and there's clearly a desire to send them out in style.  And in this, they succeed admirably.  It's padded fairly obviously in the middle, but it's also a suitably epic confrontation between the Doctor and the Daleks, one that starts small but grows larger and larger until the fate of an entire planet is affected.  An impressive achievement.

Yet it's a bit of an oddity for season 4.  Season 2 saw Doctor Who push the boundaries of its format, and season 3 saw more of the same, just in new and different directions.  Yet season 4 sees the series start to play it safe.  After the newness of the base-under-siege format in The Tenth Planet, and the hand-off from one lead actor to another in the same story (handled in admittedly an impressively creative way), there's a feeling here of a lack of ambition.  Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis are content to keep telling the same basic storyline from here on out -- there may be some alterations from story to story, but the basic concept of a crusader who repels aliens attempting to attack/infiltrate/kidnap us remains the same from story to story.  And note that word "crusader"; the Doctor began this series as an explorer and a scientist, one who wanted to learn about the universe rather than shape it, but now he's simply there to fight "evil", because that's what he does now.  The exploration and discovery is a sideshow to repelling the Alien Threat of the Month. 

But it's clear that this is the show Lloyd and Davis want to make, and that anything outside that remit isn't worth doing in their eyes (stand up, The Highlanders).  This method is a success, with ratings remaining steady throughout this period -- and the next season, which is arguably even more limited in its scope, is frequently hailed as one of the finest seasons of the entire series -- but that sense of wonder that characterized the early years is gone, and one gets the sneaking suspicion that the stories this season that are successful are successful in spite of this new direction, rather than because of it.

March 25: The Evil of the Daleks Episodes 3 & 4

So.  The Evil of the Daleks is a seven episode serial for some reason35, and the upshot of this is that episodes 3 and 4 seem to be largely padding.  Of course, this being a David Whitaker story, it's at least largely entertaining padding, but padding nevertheless.

The best bits of episode 3 involve the Doctor manipulating Jamie into rescuing Victoria Waterfield from the Daleks so that he can be studied and the Human Factor derived from his actions.  We've never seen the Doctor be this devious before, and especially not with his friends, so it's an interesting development.  The Doctor is apparently only cooperating with the Daleks because they have his TARDIS in their custody, and he's willing to place his TARDIS above all else, even though his actions will lead to the creation of a race of super Daleks.  There's also a moment where the Doctor tries to have himself used for the tests instead of Jamie, only to be told by the Daleks, "You have traveled too much through time.  You are more than human", which is a fascinating spin on the Doctor.

The rest of the episode primarily involves Maxtible bringing in a mute Turk named Kemel to be opposed to Jamie during his rescue effort, and an odd subplot with a man named Arthur Terrall, who apparently paid Toby to kidnap Jamie but then remembers nothing about it.  The implication seems to be that he's under the control of the Daleks but is fighting it, but it's handled so oddly that we're never certain what Terrall's motivations are.

The Doctor programs the Human Factor while a Dalek looks on.
(The Evil of the Daleks Episode 4 - from Doctor Who Photonovels:
The Evil of the Daleks - Episode Four
) ©BBC
If episode 3 was fairly padded, episode 4 is basically pure padding.  Jamie spends most of the episode playing Victorian Gladiators with Kemel, who initially starts out as an opponent but joins Jamie's side after Jamie saves his life.  The two of them then slowly make their way through the house, dodging lethal traps on their way to Victoria.  (And it's been mentioned before, but the Daleks want to isolate the Human Factor by subjecting Jamie to deadly surprise traps -- as if leaping out of the way is somehow an innate human quality.)  This means there's a lot of fighting and action going on, but as this episode only exists on audio this is a bit of a drawback -- although the telesnaps do make it seem like it was at least interestingly directed.

There's also a bit of stuff with Waterfield and Maxtible as they remove Toby's body from the house (exterminated last episode while looking for things to steal), where Waterfield announces his intention to "confess my part in all that has happened" once Victoria is safe.  It helps humanize Waterfield and also show that Maxtible is a bit of a snake, as he's ready to kill Waterfield until Terrall prevents him.  And we learn why Maxtible is going along with the Daleks: not because they have some hold over him as they do Waterfield, but because of simple greed; the Daleks are apparently going to tell him how to transmute metal into gold.

But yes, episode 4 is mainly about Jamie and Kemel's slow journey through Maxtible's house of horrors (and just how big is this house anyway?), with occasional prefilmed inserts of the Doctor deciding what parts of Jamie's reactions should make up the Human Factor (prefilmed because Troughton's on vacation this week).  These two episodes could have been condensed down into one without any problems, but as it is, we get a  journey that was probably a lot more tense and dramatic when seen rather than when heard.







35 Actually, is there a satisfying answer as to why season 4 has an odd number of episodes?  Season 2 had an odd number because of the Planet of Giants incident, and season 3 has an odd number as a result of needing to make up that "lost" episode.  But season 4 seems to have an odd number just because the last two seasons did, rather than for any specific production-related reason.

March 24: The Evil of the Daleks Episodes 1 & 2

We end up with a direct cliffhanger from The Faceless Ones -- the TARDIS was stolen at the end of last episode, and now we're investigating with the Doctor and Jamie as to its whereabouts.  They're given a set of clues to follow, but it turns out the clues are being deliberately planted; whoever stole the TARDIS is banking on the Doctor's cleverness.

The identity of that person is ultimately one Edward Waterfield, who seems to be going out of his way to demonstrate that he's not from around here: he has no knowledge of contemporary slang and generally has the manner of an awkward Victorian gentleman.  He's also supplying what appear to be excellent replicas of Victoriana, which seem to come from a strange machine in his back room -- which is where he speaks to his unseen and unheard bosses.  Gee, I wonder who they'll turn out to be?

The Doctor successfully follows the trail of breadcrumbs left for him and meets up with Waterfield's assistant Perry, who lets him know that Mr. Waterfield would like to meet with him at 10 pm.  Meanwhile, Waterfield's hired goon Kennedy goes snooping, and comes face to eyestalk with a Dalek...

Episode 2 is yet another one that exists as the result of a return from a private collection (and thus gives hope that there are other episodes out there from stories with only a few prints struck -- The Evil of the Daleks appears to have only had three copies made for international sales, yet one of the episodes managed to survive), and so we can see what's going on.  This means we see Kennedy's extermination at the top of the episode, and we see the Doctor and Jamie fall into the trap that Waterfield has laid.  The rest of the episode takes a bit of a turn, as we move from Chelsea 1966 to outside Canterbury 1866 and the home of Theodore Maxtible.  It seems he and Waterfield were conducting experiments with mirrors and electricity; when they tried static electricity, they attracted the attention of the Daleks, who have forced the two to work for them in trapping the Doctor.  The Daleks are being quite devious here; they've kidnapped Waterfield's daughter Victoria in order to get his cooperation, and they seem to have some sort of hold over Maxtible as well.  Maxtible surmises that the Daleks want to isolate the Human Factor, to work out what it is that humans have that allows them to defeat the Daleks and then use that knowledge against them.  And it seems that they want Jamie to be the test subject to help isolate that factor.  Only it seems that someone has kidnapped Jamie...

These two episodes are a bit pacy, but they're also effective in setting up the mood of the piece.  There's a sense of danger even before the Daleks make their appearance, with a few bits of mystery added in to help keep things interesting.  It's a good start -- we'll have to see what happens next...

March 23: The Faceless Ones Episodes 5 & 6

Episode 5 sees things starting to fall into place; the Doctor gets a lead as he proves that Meadows has been replaced by a Chameleon, and Meadows shows his willingness to cooperate -- self-preservation is clearly a higher priority for him than loyalty.  Although this is the part where we learn that the Chameleons lost their identities in a "gigantic explosion."  I'm not sure how that works, but I guess we can give them the benefit of the doubt.  Meanwhile, Jamie sneaks aboard the Chameleon space station but is soon caught, and Sam is at the mercy of the Chameleon nurse.  It's quite entertaining, and things progress as the Doctor enters and the nurse is killed when the white armband is ripped off her double (although oddly, the Doctor asks Meadows where the nurse keeps her original despite having discovered it last episode -- maybe he's just making sure Meadows isn't lying).

And then Jamie's identity is taken over by a Chameleon too!  That's very effective, not just because it means the Doctor has now lost all three of his companions to the Chameleons, but also because possessed Jamie talks in a standard Received Pronunciation accent instead of his usual Scottish one; a nice subtle way to make it clear that Jamie's also not Jamie.  But we're moving into the final phase, as the Doctor heads on board the final Chameleon flight, posing as a Chameleon himself.  Except the Chameleons haven't been fooled, and he's captured basically right after he arrives on their space station...

Captain Blade informs the Doctor that they know he's not a
Chameleon. (The Faceless Ones Episode 6 - from Doctor Who
Photonovels: The Faceless Ones - Episode Six
) ©BBC
Episode 6 is pretty thrilling too, as Gatwick Airport is engaged in a race against time to find the originals of the people the Chameleons are impersonating before the Chameleons leave for their home planet, taking 50,000 young people with them.  There're some shenanigans with Troughton as he destroys a processing unit, and a fight in the parking lot among Meadows, Sam, and Jean Rock that was probably entertaining.  There's also a great moment where they finally find the originals and pull the white armband off one of the people getting ready to process the Doctor; the Chameleons quickly change their tune once it's clear that Gatwick Airport isn't bluffing.  And, interestingly, the Doctor doesn't readily condemn the Chameleons for their actions; he makes them return everyone they've kidnapped, but he allows them go on their way (so long as they don't go back to their old ways) and even suggests he might be able to help them.  It's a surprisingly gentle resolution, particularly for this era of the show.

And finally, on film, we get to see Ben and Polly again (having been gone since episode 2), only for them to say goodbye.  It turns out that it's the same day Ben and Polly left (which suggests that War Machines were terrorizing London while Chameleons were kidnapping people across Europe), and so they want to resume their own lives.  Farewell then to Ben and Polly, who were also seemingly written out of a story halfway through like Dodo -- but at least this time we got a final goodbye scene with them.

The Faceless Ones is a good, enjoyable tale.  You get a sense of the show finding a viable direction, as the idea of people putting their lives into the hands of the people operating the planes mixes with the fear of loss of identity.  There are also some good authority clashes with the Doctor that turn into a grudging trust, and really the first Jamie/Doctor interplay we see.  It's also paced well, which helps no end.  The final result is the best story since Troughton made his debut in The Power of the Daleks.

March 22: The Faceless Ones Episodes 3 & 4

Episode 3 was returned in 1987, so we can also watch this.

There's not much that actually happens in this episode, but it's filled with enough incident along the way to stay entertaining.  We do learn a little more about Chameleon Tours, and the Doctor gets a chance to do more investigating.  Ben and Polly are still missing, which means the Doctor and Jamie get more opportunities to really bounce off each other, and they make a splendid double act.  The Doctor also comes in contact with a new authority figure, Detective Inspector Crossland, who, it turns out, was the partner of the man murdered in episode 1 -- and unlike the Commandant, he's willing to believe the Doctor's story.  This means the Doctor gets to go back into air traffic control with the Commandant.

The Doctor demonstrates an alien freezing pen for the
Commandant, DI Crossland, and Jean Rock. (The Faceless Ones
Episode 3) ©BBC
Watching these scenes, it strikes you how at home Troughton is causing havoc.  The scenes in The Moonbase felt forced, but this feels much more natural, as the Doctor disrupts things just by being there, and he does it in a way that it's difficult to imagine Hartnell doing.  It's quite wonderful to behold.  And while Ben and Polly are missed, it does give Jamie a chance to shine, and his interactions with Sam Briggs are lovely, as he's awkward yet fiercely loyal to the Doctor.

And then DI Crossland heads onto one of the Chameleon Tours airplanes and learns that the people onboard are being kidnapped and disappearing on the plane...

Episode 4 is another enjoyable episode, even if it does have a silly "set up a slow moving laser beam to kill our heroes and then leave the room" action from the villain (and here we note that Goldfinger came out only three years earlier).  Sam then goes off to get onto a Chameleon Tours flight, and Jamie doesn't want to let her, so he steals her ticket while giving her a kiss -- the telesnaps don't tell us how chaste the kiss was, but it sounds like it was more than just a peck on the cheek...

And the other events are nice; the Doctor investigates the medical facility and discovers the real nurse in a cupboard, and Jean Rock learns that Chameleon Tours picks up people at airports around Europe, but it never drops off passengers -- while the Doctor seems to have already worked out what's happening.  "How high can fighters go these days, Commandant?" he asks.  When told the answer is "ten miles plus," he's dismissive: "How futile."  And indeed, we learn that the airplanes are actually spaceships, heading up to a station in orbit.  But what the Doctor doesn't know is that Jamie is on board (albeit not miniaturized like the other passengers since he was sick in the bathroom at the time).  It's a good story, paced and written well -- let's hope they can finish strong.

March 21: The Faceless Ones Episodes 1 & 2

Episode 1 exists!  Hooray!

Time has clearly passed since The Macra Terror, since Polly got a short haircut in that story and now it's long and flowing.  There's an energy here that's quite wonderful.  We start off with the TARDIS crew running across Gatwick Airport, which means that we can get them split up more quickly and get them into trouble more easily.  So Polly sees a murder happen within the first couple minutes, and the stage is set -- since this murder seems to have happened with a ray gun...

This story sees Troughton's first real direct conflict with authority figures.  He's had some conflict before, particularly in the last story, but there the Pilot was rather ineffectual as a leader.  Here he's up against the Commandant, who can more than hold his own.  We also see the first real interplay between Jamie and the Doctor, as the Doctor repeatedly elbows Jamie as he blurts out things about the TARDIS.  And set against this, the murder mystery with the airline pilots from Chameleon Tours who are definitely not of this Earth is proceeding nicely, as they first kidnap Polly and then bring a strange being to the medical facility: an eponymous "faceless one"...

Episode 2 continues the fun, as Polly reappears but apparently knows nothing of the Doctor or Jamie.  So we get another possession of a companion, but this one doesn't even have something for Polly to struggle against, since it seems to be Polly but not Polly.  Then there's some fun in a photo booth, as the Doctor and Ben flash cheesy grins at the camera while they work out their next move; Jamie looks completely confused, wonderfully.  Meanwhile the "faceless one" gains a face, as it appears to take on the appearance and identity of one of the air traffic controllers -- a creepy idea, especially when you realize this must be what happened to Polly as well...

Then the Doctor goes to clash with the Commandant some more about Chameleon Tours, while Jamie meets up with plucky Liverpudlian Samantha Briggs, who's investigating the disappearance of her brother on Chameleon Tours.  And then Ben is kidnapped by the Chameleon Tours people too!  It's a fun, exciting episode, with an intriguing mystery and enough incident along the way to keep the audience tuning in.  So far so good.

March 20: The Macra Terror Episodes 3 & 4

So how do you get out of a cliffhanger where everyone's seen that the Controller of the colony is himself being controlled by an alien creature?  Why, just order the people to forget what they've seen!

This episode doesn't have much happen, but there's quite a bit of Troughton flexing his mental muscles; he works out a complicated formula regarding the gas and he also tries to work out the purpose of the gas.  He, Jamie, and Polly have been sent to work in the mines, which pump a huge amount of gas for an unknown purpose.  Ben is still working for the colony under hypnosis, but he's starting to break free of their influence a bit.  And Jamie manages to find a way out of the mine into a disused shaft, where he encounters some Macra.  And that's basically it; it doesn't sound like much, but it is an entertaining episode -- hearing Troughton at work is a delight, and you wish you could see it.  Here, more than anything that's come before, is the first real instance of Troughton's Doctor as we know him, where he finds the right balance between quiet humor and quiet investigation.  No slamming heads on tables or dressing up as old beggars here.

The Doctor and Polly find the Macra in the control room of the
colony. (The Macra Terror Episode 4 - from Doctor Who
Photonovels: The Macra Terror - Episode Four
) ©BBC
Episode 4 ties it all together.  The Doctor and Polly rescue Jamie from the Macra by pumping fresh air into the disused shaft, and then they head into an unused door where they find the Macra controlling operations.  When they show the Pilot, the Macra panic and start issuing orders to have the Doctor, Polly, Jamie, and the Pilot killed.  But Ben has overcome his influence and saves the day, presumably killing all the Macra in the process.  Er, yes...  That's certainly the impression given, and even the earlier descriptions of the Macra as a bacteria or type of germ don't really soften this point.  The script hopes you don't notice, as it moves on to a parade in the "strangers" ' honor, but it's a bit of a sticking point.  No wonder Russell T. Davies retconned this 40 years later in "Gridlock".

Still, this is a story that seems very visual -- there are lots of sequences of throbbing heartbeats and quiet music with no dialogue to illuminate what's going on, which suggests that this is another one of those stories that we really need to see to evaluate.  But unlike, say, The Celestial Toymaker, what we have on the soundtrack inspires confidence.  In a story about paranoia and possession that's also about giant crabs, there's an element of subtlety that's rather lacking, but what we get instead sounds like a solid, entertaining tale.

March 19: The Macra Terror Episodes 1 & 2

No episodes of The Macra Terror exist, so back to the soundtracks...

Look!  A new title sequence!  Still howlround graphics, but now Patrick Troughton's face is included -- along with a new serif-font version of the show's name.  Exciting stuff!

So writer Ian Stuart Black has given us a similar sort of set-up here as in The Power of the Daleks: we have an isolated Earth colony with something horrible lurking at its heart.  But while The Power of the Daleks had its enemy in plain view, here there's just a suggestion of something horrible.  On the surface in fact the colony seems quite pleasant, with people acting contentedly.  There are some awful cheery songs playing to motivate people (drawn, it seems, from British holiday camps, where holidaygoers would go on a strict regimented vacation run by relentlessly cheery hosts).  But there's one person, Medok, who's not buying into things, because he's seen something horrible ("Have fun while you can, before they crawl all over you!" he memorably yells at one point).  What's interesting is that the Doctor is immediately drawn to Medok and seems to find him more trustworthy than those running the colony -- perhaps not surprising, given how thuggish chief of police Ola is, but on the other hand the Pilot is perfectly friendly and reasonable; yet it's Medok that the Doctor believes.  It turns out he's right to, as there is something horrible lurking at the heart of things: something terrible with glowing eyes.  And here we have to wonder if the actual video was as dark and murky as the telesnaps, or whether you could actually kind of make out what you were looking at.

A Macra attacks Polly. (The Macra Terror Episode 2) ©BBC
Episode 2 shows the colony attempting to assert control over the Doctor and his friends.  He's arrested with Medok and forced to explain his actions.  Medok covers for him (although the Doctor doesn't seem thrilled by this -- it looks like he wanted to have a direct confrontation with the Pilot about what he'd seen), so the Doctor is set free.  But the Controller of the colony (issuing orders from a video screen with a still image) doesn't want dissent, so he orders that the Doctor and company be hypnotized into supporting the colony and not asking questions -- after all, "There is no such thing as Macra!  Macra do not exist!"  The treatment doesn't work on Jamie, and the Doctor is able to stop it before Polly succumbs, but it's too late for Ben.  So one of the regulars has been hypnotized and is working against the Doctor -- something that hasn't happened since The War Machines (also by Ian Stuart Black).  But he doesn't get much of a chance to betray his friends; he gets Ola to come and lock the Doctor up for tampering with the colony's equipment, but then Polly runs off to find him with Ben chasing after, and they encounter the Macra -- and we get a full view of these strange crab-like monsters (assuming the end of episode 1 really was as unilluminating as it seemed).  But when Polly tries to explain what she's seen, Ben can't quite bring himself to back her up.  This leads to the Doctor accusing the Pilot of having a fake Controller, and they insist upon seeing him -- after which we see an old, uncertain man menaced by a giant claw...  You'd think the Macra would know better than to show themselves so blatantly (or even let the real Controller be seen at all), but I guess when you need a cliffhanger, logic is thrown to the winds.

March 18: The Moonbase Episodes 3 & 4

Back to animation for episode 3, which on the one hand is rather a shame, as there's a lot of Cyberman action in this one, but on the other hand, it's also the episode with the Cybermen denying emotion while taunting the humans.  "Only stupid Earth brains like yours would have been fooled," they say, and then they seem to mock the base crew, as the crew realize that the drops in pressure are related to the Cybermen entering the base: "Clever, clever, clever."  It also doesn't help that the Cybermen's plan to devastate the surface of the Earth makes no sense.  Hobson suggests they're just taking revenge, but the Cybermen disagree; no, they're just wiping out anything that might be a danger -- as if that makes any sense.  But unfortunately it's the closest thing we get to motivation here.

Jamie and Ben attack the Cybermen. (The Moonbase Episode 3
Animation) ©BBC Worldwide
Of course, this is also the episode where Polly makes a plastic-dissolving cocktail to take out the Cybermen, so there's a nice action scene where Polly, Ben, and Jamie attack the Cybermen's chest units, causing them to die (quite horribly in the animation, with copious amounts of foam spurting out of their chests and their mouths -- and while we're on the subject of the animation, it looks like they used the telesnaps as reference more often this time around).  This means that the Cybermen no longer have control of the Gravitron, so they have to march on the base to attack it from the outside...

Episode 4 is back to video, and we get to see the Cybermen march for real and attack the base.  Their first blast punctures a hole in the base, which the crew is fortunately able to plug with a plastic tea tray.  It's a nice idea, but where was this thinking when we saw the gaping hole into the base back in episode 2?

The Gravitron sends the Cybermen into space. (The
Moonbase
Episode 4) ©BBC
This episode is primarily a tense standoff between the Cybermen and the crew, but once the Doctor figures out that they dislike gravity (which he actually worked out in episode 3), it's just a matter of pointing the Gravitron at the moon's surface and sending the Cybermen flying off into space.  And, well, that's it.  Hobson announces that they need to get the Gravitron back under control while the Doctor and company slip away.

It's not that The Moonbase is a bad story; there are moments that are quite nice, in fact.  But we can't ignore the fact that we already essentially had this story this season with The Tenth Planet -- this is a bit more claustrophobic affair, since there aren't any shots of Geneva, and it's nice to see Hobson, the leader of the base, actually survive the story with both his skin and his sanity intact, but other than that this is just a remake of that story.  We even have a spacecraft sent into the sun and Ben defeating the Cybermen in the middle of the story, requiring them to have to come attack again.  And when you factor in the other bits of silliness in this serial (the Doctor's haphazard analysis of the base, the Cybermen's inconsistent emotional qualities, that hole blocked by sacks of flour), you can't help but feel that there's a contempt for the audience here: if they liked The Tenth Planet, they'll like it again, just redressed slightly with better-looking monster costumes, and they won't demand anything more than that.

March 17: The Moonbase Episodes 1 & 2

Thanks to the joys of animation we can actually watch a full story -- The Moonbase is only missing episodes 1 and 3, so for the DVD release33 they've been animated (although only occasionally, it seems, using the telesnaps as a reference, but that was probably too much to hope for).  Although am I the only one who's noticed it's actually a Tomb Cyberman on the front, not a Moonbase one?34

The animation here is quite good -- a significant improvement over The Reign of Terror by the same people, as the editing here isn't nearly as distracting.  It'll never replace the real thing, but it sure beats peering at telesnaps.

It's an entertaining first episode; there's some fun larking about in spacesuits on the moon before the Doctor and his companions head inside the eponymous moonbase, the crew of which is suffering from a mysterious illness that seems to strike at random.  Somewhat surprisingly, the Doctor isn't instantly under suspicion for this, and he gets to spend the first episode filling in the audience on the basic facts: "Every school kid knows about the Gravitron in there," Hobson says.  "Ah, yes," the Doctor replies, "it must be about the year 2050, Ben."  It's actually 2070, but only twenty years off isn't bad.  And it turns out that this is another remote base crewed by an international staff (although, as About Time 2 points out, with Americans curiously absent) -- at which point we note that writer Kit Pedler's last story was The Tenth Planet, which also had an isolated international base and Cybermen.

To his credit, director Morris Barry seems to be holding back the big reveal (based on both the telesnaps and the animation), showing us hints of Cybermen (including, memorably, a jug-handled shadow) without giving away the whole thing until the cliffhanger -- at which point we see that the Cybermen have been massively redesigned.  They're a lot sleeker than the Tenth Planet version, with solid metal faces, three-fingered gloves, and cables running along their limbs (actually this was present in the originals too, but it took a bit of faith to see them as such).

Episode 2 has always existed in the archives, so we're back to the real thing.  It becomes clear that the moonbase is under attack by the Cybermen for some reason, but via stealth rather than force -- which means that Hobson, the leader of the base, refuses to believe Polly's story that there are Cybermen around.  "There were Cybermen, every child knows that, but they were all destroyed ages ago."  Instead Hobson's finally decided that the Doctor and company are worthy of suspicion for this inexplicable disease, but the Doctor denies being responsible and declares his intention to help find the real cause, because "there are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything that we believe in.  They must be fought" -- as good a summation of this phase of the show as any other (and a significant departure from the ethics of the show when it began).

So to help find the cause he naturally causes as much havoc as he can, interrupting people while they're working by taking their shoes off and snipping bits of fabric from their clothing.  Yet he can't find any cause, and it's only pure chance that he learns it's the sugar that it's infected -- because apparently "pok[ing] into everything" didn't include the sugar.  (This isn't the only bit of silliness on display, by the way; we also learn the fact that the Cybermen can seal up a giant hole in the side of the moonbase with a few sacks of food, but when they go in and out there's a momentary drop in air pressure.)

And then, because Hobson didn't believe the stories about Cybermen, that means that this episode's cliffhanger also gets to be a dramatic reveal of a Cyberman.  You start to get the feeling that maybe the current production team don't have that much faith in their audience's ability to notice they're getting the same thing twice...








33 Public service announcement: the region 1 version of The Moonbase was mastered incorrectly as progressive video, accidentally eliminating the VidFIRE process that gives them that "studio video" look, as well as making the episodes run about a minute longer than they're supposed to.  If you care about such things (and you should), the region 2 DVD doesn't have this problem.
34 Unlike the Cybermen from The Tomb of the Cybermen, the Moonbase Cybermen don't have cables coming out of the bottom of their chest unit.  And yes, I'm the sort of person who knows these things.

March 16: The Underwater Menace Episodes 3 & 4

So episode 3 of The Underwater Menace is one of those episodes that the BBC always retained, which means that for the longest time this was the main impression people had of this story.  Out of the context of the rest of the serial, episode 3 is a weird affair, with bizarre moments interspersed with the children's television version of melodrama.  In context it's still a strange episode, but at least it makes a little more sense following on from episode 2.

The Fish People listen to Sean and Jacko's exhortation to go on
strike. (The Underwater Menace Episode 3) ©BBC
Actually, for the first few minutes this is still quite good, as Zaroff enters and orders that the Doctor and Ramo be killed.  There's a sense of real tension, and a lovely moment as Thous, having been told by the Doctor that Zaroff's eyes have an insane light when he talks about raising Atlantis, looks intently into Zaroff's eyes: "What are you staring at?" Zaroff demands.  "Nothing at all," Thous replies, but you can tell he's worried.

But once the Doctor announces his intention to kidnap Professor Zaroff, the episode goes to pot.  There's a ludicrous chase through an Atlantean bazaar as the Doctor runs around half-disguised to try and lure Zaroff away so they can kidnap him, which ends in the Doctor blowing some sort of powder through his recorder into Zaroff's face.  Meanwhile Sean and Jacko, two of the miners that Ben and Jamie befriended, convince the Fish People to go on strike, thus providing more chaos in Atlantis as the food supplies run out.  The Fish People are actually a rather good design (although the different "stages" of Fish People are a little odd, as some appear to be wearing diving masks rather than having fish eyes), but then we're treated to a long sequence of Fish People floating through the water, accompanied by a soundtrack that seems to presage the more experimental scores of the early '70s.  Again, it's actually quite an impressive-looking sequence (and allegedly was so expensive to film that it's the reason why episode 3 was never junked) -- it just has nothing to do with the ongoing storyline.

"NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN STOP ME NOW!" (The
Underwater Menace
Episode 3) ©BBC
But then Zaroff escapes by faking a heart attack and decides to take over Atlantis completely, shooting down Thous in his throne room.  This then leads to one of the most famous lines in Doctor Who fandom, as an exultant Zaroff shouts, "Nothing in the world can stop me now!!!"32  (The reprise of this line in episode 4 is a little less over-the-top.)  One does wonder if Zaroff is feeling all right, given that all he's done is escape from the Doctor's friends and shot Atlantis's beloved leader, but I guess the rush of adrenaline from his fight with Jamie has gone to his head.

Episode 4 is back to the soundtrack and telesnaps, which is a shame since it seems like, after episode 3's efforts to mark time in as outrageous a way as possible, this is concerned with actually wrapping up the storyline.  One does wonder about the Doctor's plan to destroy Atlantis by letting the sea in as a means of stopping Zaroff, which seems a bit like overkill, but desperate times and all that, I suppose.   Even this doesn't seem to slow down Zaroff though, and it's only a bit of trickery from the Doctor and Ben that prevents him from getting to the controls to detonate the explosion that will end the world.  He's still trying until the very end, when he drowns from all the water rushing into Atlantis.  The Doctor, to his credit, does actually try to go back and save Zaroff, but Ben won't let him on account of the rapidly-rising sea.  And thus the world is saved.

Make no mistake: The Underwater Menace is frequently silly and has little in the way of nuance or subtlety.  But because it made it clear from the onset that it was going to be a cheesy old-style film serial, I find that I don't mind it as much as The Highlanders.  That too ended up being a silly and unthreatening romp, but it looked like it might become something more serious; there are no such illusions about The Underwater Menace.  It's set in a stagey-looking Atlantis because that's how these things go, and Zaroff wants to destroy the world simply because he's a mad scientist, with no further explanations necessary.  But crucially, it manages to be entertaining throughout; Jamie is settling in naturally, Ben and Polly are giving fun performances, and the Doctor is becoming the figure we're familiar with from later stories -- and even his awful disguise in episode 3 feels more "right" than the disguises he wore in The Highlanders.  It shouldn't be taken too seriously, and I'm not sure you'd ever want another story like this again, but in its own decidedly B-movie way The Underwater Menace succeeds.







32 Personal anecdote time: when I first started dating my now-wife, I changed the start-up sound on her computer to this line, so every time she turned on her computer Joseph Furst yelled triumphantly at her.

March 15: The Underwater Menace Episodes 1 & 2

There's a scene early in the first episode of The Underwater Menace where, after the Doctor announces that the TARDIS is landing, we get a peek into each of the four main characters' thoughts via voiceover: Jamie doesn't know what he's gotten himself into, Polly wants it to be Chelsea 1966, Ben hopes it isn't the Daleks, while the Doctor, with childlike glee, is looking forward to prehistoric monsters.  It's very different from the style of the show so far, and then you realize: this is a comic strip adventure that they actually filmed.

It's not just comics influencing this story though; as the story progresses it becomes clear that, as guides like The Discontinuity Guide and About Time 2 have pointed out, this is the Doctor Who equivalent of a '30s adventure serial like Flash Gordon or (more pertinently, given that it, like The Underwater Menace, takes place in the sunken ruins of Atlantis) Undersea Kingdom.  The dangers the TARDIS crew encounters in episode 1 (such as passing out from the increased pressure -- the Doctor calls it "caisson disease", but that's actually decompression sickness, the opposite effect) feel like the cliffhangers of an old-style serial.  It's particularly hard not to make the comparison when our heroes are being slowly tilted into a well as a sacrifice to the fish goddess Amdo, and only the Doctor's note to a mad scientist (which he signs "Dr W" -- fortunately this is the last time this occurs) saves them from sacrificial death by shark.  And then we see the Fish People, and...well, we'll talk more about them tomorrow, when episode 3 comes around.  This episode ends with Polly being prepped to be turned into one of these Fish People, which is actually quite horrific in general but particularly so given the style this story has adopted (and we know this because it survives as a censor clip) -- watching Polly cry out and struggle in desperation while two white-coated assistants hold her down is quite disturbing.

Episode 2 of The Underwater Menace was, until October 2013, one of the most recent recoveries, having been returned in 2011.31  This means that The Underwater Menace is now 50% complete, and thus a ripe candidate for animating the missing two episodes.  The downside is that there have been delays with the animation (and the current word is that it won't be completed at all), which means that episode 2 still isn't available commercially.  However, an unrestored copy (with the censor clips inserted back in) is available online, so that's what I've ended up watching -- the first time I've ever seen this episode.

The Doctor demonstrates to Ramo how Zaroff intends to
destroy the world. (The Underwater Menace Episode 2) ©BBC
I have to admit, it certainly makes a difference being able to actually see what's going on.  Episode 1 seemed like an old school film serial, but this is a more sedate affair.  Once Polly escapes from the operating theatre (thanks to a power cut orchestrated by the Doctor), the focus is less on jeopardy here and more on exploration, both of the plot and Atlantis itself.  But being able to see the mad gleam in Professor Zaroff's eyes as he cheerfully admits to the Doctor that he fully intends to destroy the world ("Why?  You, a scientist, ask me why?  The achievement, my dear Doctor!  The destruction of the world.  The scientist's dream of supreme power!") is wonderful, as is the chance to finally see Troughton in action (this is, after all, his earliest surviving episode).  Troughton (or the script) has reined in some of the worst excesses, with this version of the Doctor somewhat less interested in trouble for trouble's sake, as he was in The Highlanders -- and the ability to see his mind working through the implications of events is also a previously unknown delight.  And it's Jamie's first story as a companion, but this episode gives him some fine material, as he works with Ben to escape from the mines they've been sent to work in.  As I said before, it's a fairly workman-like episode, as it's more concerned with setting up the plot and subplots than anything else, but fortunately it does so in an entertaining way.







31 Along with "Air Lock" (Galaxy 4 episode 3).  Honestly, pay attention.

March 14: The Highlanders Episodes 3 & 4

These two episodes are better than the last two.  Polly's less horrible to Kirsty and the Doctor seems more interested in helping out the Highlanders than last time.  And the Highlanders themselves get the chance to be more than just cyphers.  Ben also has more to do, with his tearing up of the indentured servitude contracts being a highlight.

The Doctor and Ben encourage Lieutenant Ffinch to help them.
(The Highlanders Episode 4 - from Doctor Who Photonovels:
The Highlanders - Episode Four
) ©BBC
But the thing is, it's hard to get a grip on The Highlanders, because as innocuous as it may be (and let's be clear: I may criticize the Doctor and Polly's characterizations, but there's not actually anything fundamentally wrong or offensive about them -- it's more a curious emphasis on the wrong aspects), as entertaining it may be while it's running, it's hard to work up any enthusiasm about the project.  The character interplay is there (the stuff with Lieutenant Ffinch, Polly, and Kirsty is quite charming), and there're even a couple villains to hate: a leering pirate-y captain and a slippery crooked lawyer.

Actually, that may get at the heart of the problem with The Highlanders.  The fact is, there actually was an issue of Highlanders being sold into slavery in the Americas, just like Solicitor Grey's plan here, but this serial barely touches upon the problem, other than as a reason for events to happen.  This is more a pantomime than anything else, and most of the characters are simply two-dimensional, with nothing for the viewer (well, listener now) to really get to grips with.  At least The Smugglers (an oddly similar story to this in some ways) had William Hartnell to concentrate on; Patrick Troughton is being a deliberate antihero here, to create a contrast with his predecessor, but it just means that it's difficult to let him be the focus of the story. 

The Highlanders would end up being the last "pure" (i.e., no aliens) historical story for fifteen years, and Innes Lloyd suggested it was because the audience wasn't as interested in those stories, and ratings would suffer.  An examination of the facts reveals this wasn't actually the case, but the fact is that Lloyd was justifying a decision after the fact to eliminate a type of story he didn't believe in, convinced that there was nothing worthwhile about journeying back into recorded history.  The Highlanders is a better example of the contemporary production team's attitude than any number of interviews.  It does its job (and even introduces new companion Jamie!30), but there's no ambition here beyond that.







30 A last minute decision of Innes Lloyd's, apparently, based on Frazer Hines' rapport with the cast and crew.  According to Hines, they'd already recorded the scene on location where Jamie waves goodbye to the departing TARDIS and had to remount it to have him join up instead.

March 13: The Highlanders Episodes 1 & 2

Er.  Well, Patrick Troughton was the Doctor...

It's a bit odd; The Power of the Daleks did its best to establish that this strange man was in fact still the Doctor, but now The Highlanders seems to delight in taking the character and pushing it as far as they can.  So Troughton here portrays a character who seems to be interested in causing trouble just for the hell of it.  He tries to get the Highlanders on his side before denouncing them loudly (yes, it's a ruse to get out of the prison, but still), he goes around slamming clerks' heads on the desk under the pretense of medicine, and he dresses up as a woman to move about unnoticed.  That's after he pretends to be a German doctor named "von Wer" (and anyone who knows German will see that Gerry Davis has struck again) but with only a passing attempt at any sort of Teutonic accent.  It's a wonder Ben still has any faith in him.

Meanwhile, Polly becomes decidedly mean-spirited, repeatedly berating the girl Kirsty for crying and calling her a "stupid peasant" after she refuses to go along with Polly's half-cooked scheme about getting money to bribe guards.  It's not very pleasant.  And yes, maybe Kirsty is a bit weepy, but given that this story takes place during the immediate aftermath of Culloden, I think it's safe to say she's had a harder day than Polly has.

And I should probably mention Jamie McCrimmon, seeing how important he'll become to Doctor Who, but to be honest here he's just one of a cast of guest characters designed to take up (story) space while the Doctor and Polly get on with the real story -- Ben's stuck with them, but he's mainly an eyewitness rather than a proactive player in these first two episodes.

But it's not just odd characterization; you get the sense that the production team don't actually believe in the idea of an historical story.  Traveling back in time isn't about learning things any more; it's about a place where you can have an adventure romp, because watching Troughton clown around for a while is apparently intrinsically more entertaining than actually exploring history.  The days of The Massacre are long gone.

You can sum up this attitude with the fact that it's not The Smugglers, a story about 17th-century pirates, that has a pirate captain walking around actually saying "Arrrrrrr": it's The Highlanders.

March 12: The Power of the Daleks Episodes Five & Six

The Daleks are reproducing, making new Daleks from the materials the colonists have provided them.  Witnessing this process sends Lesterson over the edge, and he spends episode five in hysterics, desperately trying to cut the power to the Daleks and to have them destroyed; but no one will listen to him, and the Doctor is currently in prison, put there by Bragen to stop him exposing Bragen as the true leader of the rebels.  And in fact Janley is against the idea of destroying the Daleks, as she thinks the Daleks will aid the rebels in their revolution and is ruthless in her commitment to that goal.

Governor Hensell is exterminated on Bragen's orders. (The
Power of the Daleks
Episode Five - from Doctor Who
Photonovels: The Power of the Daleks - Episode Five
) ©BBC
So although the Daleks have been making new Daleks, as one of them says, they "are not yet ready to teach these human beings the law of the Daleks!"  So they continue to bide their time, letting the humans continue their power struggles. And things are changing: having gotten Quinn out of the way, Bragen proceeds to usurp Governor Hensell's position, which he then consolidates by having a Dalek kill Hensell.  "Why do human beings kill human beings?" the Dalek asks Bragen, and Bragen doesn't answer it.  As About Time 2 points out, this is an important moment for the story: the humans are engaged in petty power struggles with each other, unable to provide a unified front; the Daleks, on the other hand, work together as a unit and are only concerned with exterminating all lesser creatures, rather than fellow Daleks.  And that's what makes the Daleks so dangerous; they won't turn on each other, and they're all dedicated to the cause of Dalek supremacy.  Combine that with the deviousness of the Daleks on display here -- they've even got people helping them set up a new source of power, under the pretense that with their own power the Daleks "will be twice as...useful."  Although you get the impression that the Daleks aren't actually that great at being this cunning, but the humans are so thick that they never notice anything amiss.

"Daleks conquer and destroy!" (The Power of the Daleks
Episode Five) ©BBC
It's episode six that sees Whitaker finally unleash the Daleks upon the colony.  There seems to have been a successful revolution while the Daleks are chanting at each other, oddly; Janley runs into Bragen's office to tell him that "We've won!  The revolution's over!" despite the fact that there was no evidence that the revolution had even begun.  (Apparently the revolution wasn't televised.) But Bragen's not done; he orders Janley to wipe out the rebels as well.  It's into this scene that the Daleks finally show their true colors, exterminating the populace of the colony indiscriminately.  It's a brutal affair; from the telesnaps alone you can see at least a dozen bodies lying in the corridors.  The Power of the Daleks sees the Daleks not only at their most devious, but also at their most deadly; although we've been told before how ruthless the Daleks are, we've never actually seen them quite this lethal, as seemingly almost the whole colony is wiped out by their guns.  It's only a plan by the Doctor which defeats them -- a plan which not only involves sending Bragen's guards to be killed as a delaying action, but also seems to involve destroying the colony's main power supply in the process.  Yes, the colony is safe from the Daleks (albeit with only two of the guest cast surviving to the end), but they don't seem happy about it.  "It'll be months before we can get things back to normal," Valmar complains.  The Doctor takes this as his cue to leave, and the TARDIS dematerializes next to a melted Dalek -- whose eyestalk twitches upward as the TARDIS departs...29

The Power of the Daleks is an exercise in mood.  It sets up the Daleks in the first episode, but it waits until the last to finally set them upon the unsuspecting colonists.  This means that their presence dominates the intervening episodes, even though they're doing little more than insinuating themselves into the colony's workings and routines.  It's therefore the human drama that drives this story forward, and fortunately this is one of David Whitaker's strengths.  He makes the conflicts interesting, so that you can't help but be drawn in, even while you know that the Daleks are dangerous and can't they see that?  Whitaker sets up the contrast between the Daleks and the colonists in such a way that the pointlessness of the politicking is made eminently clear.

And it's into this environment that the new Doctor Who is dropped.  I've mentioned a couple of differences between Troughton's Doctor and Hartnell's earlier (such as Troughton's decision to get on with destroying the Daleks without convincing the authorities he's right), but what's most striking is how quickly we come to accept this new man as the same as the old.  By putting the new Doctor up against the Daleks, we're shown how, even though he may look different and act different, at heart he's the same man, dedicated to fighting injustice and stopping an evil force like the Daleks.  (Although stop and ponder for a moment how the show's focus has changed since its beginning; there's nothing to suggest in An Unearthly Child that the Doctor wants to stop evil, but by this point it's a natural aspect of the Doctor's character -- and it'll be overtly stated as such in just a few episodes' time, in The Moonbase.)  Like Polly and then Ben, we come to accept that this new man is the same Doctor as before, so that by the end of the story, Patrick Troughton is the Doctor.

So The Power of the Daleks is a wonderful story, full of strong characterization and a sense of impending doom.  This story remains high on my wish list of "stories I'd like to see returned to the archive" (even if it's very low on the list of "stories likely to be returned to the archive", with only two copies of the prints known to have been sold overseas, one of which was returned to London and (presumably) destroyed).  A fabulous story to introduce the new Doctor with. 







29 Or so we're told.  There's no evidence of this in the telesnaps, but presumably it's mentioned in the scripts.