Season 5 (Mar 27 - Apr 15)

March 27: The Tomb of the Cybermen Episodes 1 & 2
March 28: The Tomb of the Cybermen Episodes 3 & 4
March 29: The Abominable Snowmen Episodes One & Two
March 30: The Abominable Snowmen Episodes Three & Four
March 31: The Abominable Snowmen Episodes Five & Six
April 1: The Ice Warriors One & Two
April 2: The Ice Warriors Three & Four
April 3: The Ice Warriors Five & Six
April 4: The Enemy of the World Episodes 1 & 2
April 5: The Enemy of the World Episodes 3 & 4
April 6: The Enemy of the World Episodes 5 & 6
April 7: The Web of Fear Episodes 1 & 2
April 8: The Web of Fear Episodes 3 & 4
April 9: The Web of Fear Episodes 5 & 6
April 10: Fury From the Deep Episodes 1 & 2
April 11: Fury From the Deep Episodes 3 & 4
April 12: Fury From the Deep Episodes 5 & 6
April 13: The Wheel in Space Episodes 1 & 2
April 14: The Wheel in Space Episodes 3 & 4
April 15: The Wheel in Space Episodes 5 & 6



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.



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.



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 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 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.



April 1: The Ice Warriors One & Two

After a little time away we're back on video for episode one of The Ice Warriors, with a special credit sequence too!  We've arrived in Earth's future, where a new Ice Age is threatening civilization.  The British side of things is bustling with activity (and really quite astonishing fashion), as they're only just holding the glaciers steady -- apparently without the help of their computer expert, Penley, we learn.  Into this environment the TARDIS materializes on its side, and the TARDIS crew have to climb out of the ship (with doors that open out for once, just like a real police box).  "Oh no, not again," Jamie complains as he sees all the snow.  "Tibet was bad enough, but I think you've put us down just further up the mountain."  And thus this running gag continues.

It's fun to see how quickly the Doctor inserts himself into the running of Britannicus Base, as he follows the base's leader, Clent, around the Ioniser Room and realizes the Ionizer is about to explode -- but fortunately he's able to avert disaster.  In this scene and the next we learn about how the Ice Age came about (an elimination of plants led to an elimination of carbon dioxide; er...) and how dependent Clent is upon the computer.  He basically won't do anything without the computer telling him what to do.  "Every decision is checked to eliminate risk of failure," Miss Garrett tells them.  "Because, of course, all decisions, all actions, must conform to the common good."  The Doctor clearly isn't convinced that such a reliance on computers is a good thing, but he doesn't immediately jump in and tell them all they're wrong, of course.

And the other major event in this first episode is that scientist Arden has discovered an unknown type of prehistoric man in the glacier.  Except the Doctor notices that his helmet appears to have electronic connections.  And as they start to thaw the strange man out, the creature awakens...

Episodes two and three are still missing from the archives, but the DVD has some rather nice animations in their place.  From a different company (Qurios) than the last three stories we've encountered (all by Planet 55), they're actually quite good, other than being a bit paper doll-ish.  And you can tell they've made an effort to use the telesnaps as close reference, which is a welcome move.

It's been remarked that you can lose episodes two and three and move from one to four without really losing much of the plot; this is true, but you also miss some character moments.  In episode one we've been presented with Leader Clent as someone who relies completely on science and technology (as represented by the computer), with the clear suggestion that this is not a good thing.  Episode two gives us Penley's friend Storr, who's so suspicious of anything technological that he won't even take medicine to heal his injured and infected arm: "You'd have stuffed me to the eyeballs with anti-this and anti-that.  I'd have been flat on my back for weeks...  Don't try scare me [sic] with all that scientific guff."  So writer Brian Hayles is making it clear that the opposite extreme is just as bad.

Episode two also gives us the set-up that's going to drive the plot for the next five episodes: the Doctor tells them all that the man in the ice, the Ice Warrior, is from another planet -- which means that his spaceship is still out there and could cause a terrible nuclear explosion if the Ioniser interacts improperly with it.  The rest of the story is going to be concerned with this worrying possibility.  And then added into the mix is the Ice Warrior himself, Varga.  He has a presence and a personality that comes through even in animation, and he doesn't feel like a stereotypical "monster", but rather a fully-formed character; he's concerned with rescuing his comrades in the glacier and contacting his home planet of Mars, and he's not going to let anyone get in his way.  It's a determined characterization, and the cliffhanger reveals that Varga is thawing out four more Ice Warriors just like him...



April 2: The Ice Warriors Three & Four

As I mentioned last time, not much happens in terms of plot in episode three.  The Doctor figures out how to stabilize the Ioniser (using Penley's notes), and Arden is killed by the Ice Warriors, while Jamie is left for dead.  But this misses out on a number of character moments, such as how Miss Garrett goes after Penley to try and persuade him to come back to the base, to help them out, first with words and then by gunpoint -- although that bit doesn't last long before Storr jumps her and takes her gun away.  It gives us more insight into Penley's point of view, as we learn he was concerned about being "sucked into that computerized ant-heap you call a civilization."

The Ice Warriors shoot down Arden and Jamie. (The Ice
Warriors
Three animation) ©BBC Worldwide Ltd.
But the really nice moment in episode three comes between Clent and Arden, as Arden feels bad about bringing the Ice Warrior back and starting a lot of the trouble (although the spaceship would still be buried in the glacier, ready to potentially explode when hit by the Ioniser).  Clent goes up to him and tells him not to feel too bad about it: "Don't be to too hard on yourself.  Scientists must question, you know.  I mean, if I'd been in your shoes I think I'd have done the same.  I'd have-- I'd have brought it back."  It shows a more human side to Clent, and it makes us sympathize with him and his position, even if his overreliance on the computer is a poor decision.

Back to video for the last three episodes (and thanks to Philip Morris, we can now enjoy a run of 11 episodes straight, from The Ice Warriors Four to The Web of Fear episode 2 -- virtually unthinkable even just a year ago).  Episode four, again, doesn't have a lot of plot in it (so in this respect The Ice Warriors has something in common with The Abominable Snowmen) -- Victoria escapes from the Ice Warriors (for a bit), Jamie's paralyzed, and Storr is killed by the Ice Warriors when he tries to go to them for help (under the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" logic, which clearly doesn't work out for him).  And then the Doctor has to travel to the Ice Warriors' ship to find out what kind of engine they use, to see if the Ioniser can be safely deployed.

The Doctor meets with Penley and Jamie. (The Ice Warriors
Four) ©BBC
There aren't as many nice character moments in this story, but there are a few little ones, such as the Doctor urgently needing to use the chemical dispenser so that he can, it turns out, get a drink of water.  But a large part of the episode consists of Victoria being chased through the caves and crevasses in the glacier by an Ice Warrior -- it's directed quite nicely, but there's not a lot of story going on.  (Yet, as with The Abominable Snowmen, I still don't mind, as what we do get is highly enjoyable.) That chase ends with the Ice Warrior crushed under an ice fall and Victoria trapped in its (literal) death grip.  I have to say though, that while Victoria is admittedly under a lot of stress here, she doesn't come across very well, seemingly crying and whining her way through most of the episodes so far -- which also seems like a far cry from the girl who was determined to investigate the Inner Sanctum in the last story.  When Storr finds her and rescues her, you're relieved that she won't be screaming anymore...except then he takes her back to the Ice Warriors and gets killed for his trouble.  And thus ends the virulently anti-science point of view for this story.  We might consider reading into it a moral about how a complete distrust of science is just as likely to get you killed as an overreliance on it, but more likely author Brian Hayles just wanted to get rid of the character and let Penley and Jamie do their own thing in the next couple installments.

And look! Derek Martinus gets to direct another cliffhanger where one of the regulars is trapped in an airlock as the villains slowly drain the air from inside (see "Air Lock", if you've forgotten)...



April 3: The Ice Warriors Five & Six

So, not the most dramatic cliffhanger resolution ever, as the Doctor just says, "All right!  All right!" and agrees to back down and answer Varga's questions.  But we do get a nice moment right after, as the Doctor enters, sees all the Ice Warriors, and tries to go right back out.

But this is the episode where things start to come together.  Penley returns to the base with an injured Jamie, which means that he can start to have it out with Leader Clent.  "Don't you spit your stupid liberty in my face, Penley," Clent says.  "We know your kind of freedom.  Freedom to run away from responsibilities, from service, from moral judgment.  I may be a physical coward, Penley, but you're a coward in the mind."  "Well at least I have a mind and not a transistorised junction box," Penley replies hotly.  "I would act, but you daren't.  And so you're going to be destroyed along with your mechanical master."  And before that is the scene where Clent decides to wait and puts a brave face on it, making himself busy and talking with the personnel: "Well, what do you feel about all this, Walters?  Bet you didn't think you'd have ice monsters and things like that to deal with when you volunteered for the job, did you?"  "I didn't volunteer," Walters replies, which wrongfoots Clent (rather wonderfully, the way it's played): "Ah, yes.  Well, good man, anyway."

And the Doctor is inside the Ice Warriors' spaceship, and so he can learn about their propulsion system -- as well as learn that the Ice Warriors need fuel for their engines.  Varga seems to believe that they'll find what they need at the base, and the Doctor only agrees because they're holding a gun to Victoria's head.  This means that the Ice Warriors are heading to the base -- but first they're going to fire their sonic cannon at it as a show of force.  The Doctor tries to stop the remaining Ice Warrior with the ammonium sulphide he picked up in episode four.  "Ammonium sulphide?  It's only a stink bomb," Victoria protests.  "Yes, you've had the benefits of a classical education," the Doctor responds drily.  "...Harmless to humans, but to aliens very possibly deadly!"  The stuff does overpower Zondal, but not before he can manage to fire the cannon, despite the Doctor's efforts to stop him.  Well, that's the idea anyway, but it really looks like Patrick Troughton is trying to help Roger Jones find the control while making it look like maybe they're struggling.  He's not terribly successful.

Varga threatens Clent with death while Miss Garrett protests.
(The Ice Warriors Six) ©BBC
But episode six opens with a massive explosion, as the sonic cannon demolishes the records wing of Britannicus Base.  With this show of force, Varga and his fellow Warriors arrive, ready to take the fuel they need from the humans. Clent insists that the base doesn't use the mercury isotopes the Ice Warriors need, but Varga doesn't believe him and forces him to shut down the Ioniser and dismantle the base's reactor so that the Ice Warriors can take its isotopes for fuel.  But the Doctor has rigged up the sonic cannon to fire at a frequency that affects fluids, which therefore has a greater adverse effect on the Ice Warriors, who retreat to their spaceship to plan their next move.  Meanwhile, the Doctor returns to the base and sends Victoria back to the TARDIS (who's off camera at the moment -- apparently she had somewhere to be the evening of recording, so all her crucial scenes were filmed in the afternoon), and then he and Penley both try to convince Clent to use the Ioniser, even though the computer can't come to a decision either way.  Clent and Miss Garrett both refuse to make a decision, so it's up to Penley.  The Ioniser is used, the Ice Warriors' spaceship explodes (though only a minor explosion), and the base is saved from the oncoming glacier.  And then, rather touchingly, Penley allows Clent to keep his dignity: "Clent, will you check these readings with me?" he asks.  "And you've a report to prepare."  And in the aftermath the Doctor and Jamie slip away.

It's not quite as slow as The Abominable Snowmen, but there's still a general feeling of a story being stretched out beyond what might be considered its natural length -- but Brian Hayles chooses to fill these spaces with character moments rather than an excess of circling action: those bits of incident that come right back to where they started when they're over.  It's a real boon for this story, which at its heart is about the conflict between man and machine; the Ice Warriors are there as an additional threat, but they're not really at the heart of this story.  This story is ultimately about the viewpoints of Clent, Penley, and Storr, with the way forward shown as being able to use machines but not to become completely dependent on them.  Granted, this argument isn't always played out in the most subtle of ways, but it's still entertaining to watch.  And then add on that the Ice Warriors themselves, who through Varga (and actor Bernard Bresslaw) are given more specific characteristics than we might otherwise expect.  Thanks to Bresslaw and the other actors inside those fiberglass shells, the Ice Warriors come out as a distinct race, rather than a generic monster.  No wonder they made a return appearance.

(Well, that and the costumes were probably expensive, so they'd likely want to get as much use out of them as possible.38)



April 4: The Enemy of the World Episodes 1 & 2

Just to reiterate: this story exists in full!  That's such an incredible, wonderful thought, being able to view another Troughton story, and it seemed almost unthinkable just a year ago, when it looked like we were only going to get odd episodes recovered -- the last recovery of a complete serial had been The Tomb of the Cybermen in 1991: 22 years earlier.  So the fact that this story is complete is still thrilling.  And so we can see that these are in fact the first episodes shot at the higher 625-line resolution -- all previous episodes having been filmed in 405-line.  And the difference is noticeable.

And fortunately for those watching this newly-recovered story, these two episodes are quite action-packed and exciting.  Episode 1 opens with a hovercraft chase on the beach and a helicopter ride, as three assailants shoot at the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria -- but not before the Doctor gets a chance to go for a swim in the water.  But they're being hunted down for some reason, although Jamie knocks one of them out after yelling "Craeg an tuire!", the rallying cry of Clan MacLaren39 -- the first time, I think, we've heard this since The Highlanders.  The odd thing about this situation, as is often pointed out, is that the assailants and their rescuer, Astrid Ferrier, both work for the same organization -- so Rod, Curly, and Anton are all shooting at a fellow employee.  Hmm.

But Astrid spirits them away in a helicopter registered to the end of 2018 -- so get ready for a man named Salamander to rise to power in the next four years -- and takes them to her bungalow, where the Doctor treats her bullet wound in a wonderfully flirtatious scene. 
ASTRID: Oh, you're a doctor?
DOCTOR: Well, not of any medical significance.
ASTRID: Doctor of law? Philosophy?
DOCTOR: Which law? Whose philosophies, eh? ...
ASTRID: Doctor of science?... A doctor of divinity, then?
DOCTOR: You'll run out of doctors in a minute!
Then, another failed attack later, they all arrive at Astrid's employer, Giles Kent, where Giles fills them in on the world situation ("We've been out of touch of civilization for a while... On ice, shall we say," the Doctor states).   And then, in what looks like a bizarre move no matter what, it turns out that Kent has arranged for Salamander's chief of security, Donald Bruce, to arrive -- forcing the Doctor to impersonate Salamander.

Jamie "saves" Salamander from assassination. (The Enemy of
the World
Episode 2) ©BBC
Episode two isn't quite as action-packed, although there are still some good moments.  But it opens with the Doctor pulling off the impersonation, followed by a wonderful moment of Bruce feeling impotent, which he takes out on Jamie: "McCrimmon, you said?... Well, you just watch your step, that's all."  And we also get the interesting development of the Doctor not being certain which side he should trust: Kent says Salamander is trying to take over the world, but Kent himself clearly isn't very trustworthy -- so Jamie and Victoria are sent to the Central European Zone to gather more information.  This means that we get to see Troughton in full force as Salamander, playing a character so different from the Doctor that when he shares a scene with Jamie, you almost forget that these two actors have ever met before.  It also means that Jamie gets a chance to carry a larger-than-usual part of the story, which he does with great aplomb, jumping onto Salamander's terrace, overpowering a guard, throwing a (fake) bomb into the lake, and then holding his hands out with a smile as if to say, "See what I just did there?"  It's a great performance.

And we discover that Salamander is in fact as devious as Kent claims, as he blackmails Fedorin (who is presumably the second-in-command of the Central European Zone, though this is never outright stated) into helping him replace the popular and not pro-Salamander controller of the Zone, Alexander Denes, using a volcanic eruption (which Salamander somehow predicted) as a pretext for replacing Denes, with the eventual intent of assassinating him at Fedorin's hand...



April 5: The Enemy of the World Episodes 3 & 4

Episode 3 of The Enemy of the World was for the longest time the only episode surviving from this story.  This is rather unfortunate, as this episode is almost pure filler, featuring comedy characters such as Griffin the chef and bizarre moments such as the decision to guard Alexander Denes (under arrest, remember, for failing to warn the population about the impending volcanic eruptions) in a corridor rather than a room.  "It's easier to guard him here," a guard states, rather illogically.  The reputation of this story used to hinge on this episode, and the result was deemed to have been lacking.  Director Barry Letts insisted it was the worst episode of the serial, but people figured the rest was just like this.

In context, however, this episode makes more sense.  It's a pause between bouts of action, and writer David Whitaker has chosen to fill up the time with character moments.  Griffin the chef barely has a line that isn't some deadpan joke, and he's massively entertaining as a result.  And Deborah Watling seems to also play up Victoria's ineffectiveness in the kitchen, as she describes a recipe for a pudding involving "lots of almonds, eggs, lemon peel, candied peel, oranges, cream and, oh it was lovely!"  When asked how to make it, Victoria replies, "You sort of, whoosh it all up together."  Griffin's expression upon being told this is a recipe for Kaiser pudding suggests this isn't the sort of thing one simply "whoosh[es] up".

A couple other moments worth mentioning: Fedorin tries and fails to poison Denes's food, which leads to his apologizing to Salamander.  "Don't worry!  You try, you fail, so what, huh?  The moon doesn't fall out of the sky," Salamander replies, in a line I've now found myself repeating from time to time, before poisoning Fedorin with the same stuff intended for Denes.  "One chance, my friend.  I said one chance," Salamander says, standing over Fedorin's body.  And the Doctor, who only has a limited scene this episode (since Troughton's busy playing Salamander), hides in a chest while Salamander's deputy Benik comes to Kent's trailer and smashes things up.  "Sad really, isn't it?  People spend all their time making nice things, and other people come along and break them," the Doctor says sadly once Benik's left, looking at a piece of broken crockery.  But he's still not ready to help Kent take down Salamander.

And then at the end of the episode, Denes is killed in a botched escape attempt and Jamie and Victoria are taken prisoner for trying to aid Denes.  And then Donald Bruce (Salamander's security chief, remember) spills the beans about there possibly being more than one person who looks like Salamander...

Episode 4 gets back to the action, as Astrid returns to Kent's office, only to be followed by Fariah, Salamander's food taster ("What on Earth made you take a job as a food taster?" Fedorin asked her in episode 2.  "She was hungry," Salamander replies simply on her behalf, which leaves a heap of possibilities open to the imagination).  But Benik has followed them, which leads to a shootout in Kent's office and the surrounding grounds, leading to Fariah being shot by a guard.  "What do you think you're doing?" demands the guard captain to the one who shot her.  "We had orders to kill," the guard replies.  "Do you always obey orders?" the captain replies bitterly.  So it seems not everyone here is as "evil" as Benik -- a nice touch.  But Fariah is dead (though not before she gets a final slap across Benik's face -- but she dies before Benik can respond.  "She's dead," the captain says.  "Good," Benik replies impotently), and the Doctor, Astrid, and Kent are on the run.

Salamander in his underground bunker. (The Enemy of the
World
Episode 4) ©BBC
Then the story takes a bizarre left turn.  Up to this point we've had a spy thriller story, with lots of political machinations and things, but then Salamander locks himself inside the records room in his base and takes an elevator deep into the earth, where it turns out there's a small group of people living underground who are causing all the natural disasters (not sure how a group in Australia can create a volcano in Central Europe, but never mind) -- Salamander's convinced them that there was a nuclear war almost five years ago, and that they are fighting "the enemies of truth and freedom" with their natural disasters.  (And it's so tempting to think that the people hid underground because of the Mayan apocalypse thing, but alas, the dates are a year off, as they would have had to have gone down in 2013, not 2012.)  Patrick Troughton here delivers a tour de force performance, as he has to convince the people in the bunker not only that his intentions are good, but also that he's suffering from radiation sickness from the surface.  Troughton has done his "charmingly devious" turn as Salamander in the last two episodes, but now he turns it up a notch as he smoothly manipulates these people.  It's quite wonderful to behold.

But the Doctor is finally ready to impersonate Salamander -- not so much because he believes Giles Kent, but rather because Jamie and Victoria are being held prisoner by Salamander's men.  Although as they're putting the finishing touches on the Doctor's transformation into Salamander, someone unexpected walks into Kent's trailer; we don't see who it is, but the expressions on the Doctor's, Kent's, and Astrid's faces suggest this isn't exactly a welcome visitor.



April 6: The Enemy of the World Episodes 5 & 6

So that unexpected visitor was Donald Bruce.  But Bruce, it turns out, is less dedicated to Salamander than he is to justice, so the Doctor is able to convince Bruce to let him impersonate Salamander so that they can gain proof of Salamander's wrongdoing.  Meanwhile, Salamander himself is still down in the bunker, when the leader of the people down there, Swann, finds a scrap of newspaper from last year, proving to Swann that the world above isn't as devastated as Salamander led them to believe.  Salamander tells him that it's only half a life being lived by the survivors of the nuclear war, but Swann insists on going to the surface with Salamander, so Salamander grudgingly agrees to take him.

We also get the return of Jamie and Victoria (both on vacation during the last episode), getting ready to be interrogated by Benik -- who's particularly slimy during this episode.  "I'm looking forward to questioning them," he says at one point.  "I have a feeling they're going to be stubborn.  So much more interesting when our prisoners are stubborn."  And then, when he's actually interrogating Jamie and Victoria, Jamie says, "You must have been a nasty little boy." -- to which Benik replies with a nasty smile, "Oh, I was.  But I had a very enjoyable childhood."

Finally, we get some fun interplay with Troughton playing the Doctor playing Salamander, as he "interrogates" Jamie and Victoria to demonstrate to Bruce that Salamander isn't the white knight he pretends to be, while Kent fakes his own death, allowing him to escape from Bruce's guards while Astrid also runs away -- only to find Swann, dying from a blow administered by Salamander...

Salamander confronts the Doctor. (The Enemy of the World
Episode 6) ©BBC
Episode 6 wraps it all up.  The dying Swann tells Astrid to free the people living in the bunker, to expose Salamander's lies.  Meanwhile, Benik is suspicious of "Salamander", but he inadvertently gives up the evidence that demonstrates to Bruce that Salamander does indeed have something to hide, and so he's ready to trust the Doctor and bring in his own people to conduct a more thorough investigation.  (Although the Benik subplot is odd here -- he seems to be clearly suspicious of "Salamander" when he's in the office with Bruce, Jamie, and Victoria, but then he seems to believe that no, that was Salamander.  But then he becomes even more suspicious of Bruce, as he's seen authorizing Jamie and Victoria's release, yet in the next scene is seen working alongside Bruce trying to break into the Records Room.  That's followed up by Benik suddenly losing his nerve and trying to run away -- maybe he realizes Salamander is finished, but it's not at all clear.  Were scenes explaining all this flip-flopping cut for time?  The episode certainly ends abruptly...)  And Kent makes his way in to expose his true colors: he doesn't want to stop Salamander, he wants to replace him.  But when it all goes wrong, he's willing to blow everything up to kill Salamander and destroy the evidence.  Meanwhile Astrid is trying to evacuate the people from the bunker (once she gets them to trust her and believe that there was in fact no nuclear war), so when Kent blows up the bunker it causes some problems.  But Kent is shot down by Salamander, who then makes his way, dazed, to the TARDIS, where Jamie mistakes him for the Doctor.  But then the real Doctor shows up, they have a quick tussle, and then Salamander starts the TARDIS with the doors open and is sucked out into space...

Before it was recovered, The Enemy of the World had a pretty low reputation -- there are no monsters, it seems badly edited, and the script is designed to keep the Doctor out of the action for as long as possible.  But when you can actually watch it, the editing issues generally disappear (in fact, you see that in many cases, Letts is deliberately switching from one scene to another to underline a point made in the previous scene), you see just how good Troughton is, and you can appreciate the care that's gone into Whitaker's script.  It's also nice to get a Bond-style thriller to make a change from the monster stories, such that it really does set this story apart.  It's a story that stands up quite well, and I would be quite surprised if it didn't go up in people's estimations now that they can actually see it.



April 7: The Web of Fear Episodes 1 & 2

Episode 1 of The Web of Fear (which picks up almost exactly where The Enemy of the World episode 6 left off, with Jamie struggling to close the TARDIS doors while the other two hold on to the console for dear life) has more or less always existed, at least as far as fandom goes, so we've become familiar with the set-up and the look of things.  (The recently recovered Nigeria print is of a higher quality, however, and was used on the DVD release.  And yes, my copies of both this and The Enemy of the World are region 2; neither has been released in the United States yet.)  And so some of the lingering questions regarding the story in this episode are perhaps more noticeable because we're so familiar with it.  Why, for instance, is the TARDIS stopped in deep space by a strange web?  Is this the closest the TARDIS is going to get to roughly contemporary Earth, and so the Intelligence has to snag it while it can?  Why do the Yeti change shape right before our eyes, given they're just robots with nothing supernatural about their construction, just their controller?  And who thought it was a good idea to give them big glowing eyes anyway?  (Sorry, I guess I'm just partial to the original design.)

But what's also clear from episode 1 is both the striking direction by Douglas Camfield (returning for his first story since The Daleks' Master Plan) and the moody sense of tension generated by the proceedings.  London is an eerie place, even though we're only given hints based on the silence and the apparently abandoned Underground, but the desperation evoked by the army people situated in an old World War II bunker also helps sell the situation.  Even if the implication seems to be that Professor Travers reactivated a sphere, giving the Great Intelligence a foothold onto Earth again, and then left his daughter to deal with the resulting crisis (admittedly, the dialogue is a bit confused here, as Travers demands to know why he's been brought to the Goodge Street base, learns it was on Anne Travers' orders, and then seems to imply that he sent for Anne to help him in the first place).  And man but they do a good job of making us dislike journalist Harold Chorley, don't they?  He's slimy and dripping with the wrong sort of charm as he oozes his way around the base, looking for quotes for his own career's sake rather than because he's interested in the events happening.  (It's been suggested that he's a deliberate parody of David Frost, but as I haven't seen much of Frost I can't really comment on that -- but I thought I'd mention it for those who have.)  It's a taut episode, and it leaves us wanting more.

Now episode 2 is a Nigerian recovery, so this is brand new for a lot of people, myself included.  Yet I had to remind myself while watching it the first time that I hadn't actually seen it before, so familiar did it feel in places.  That's partly because we're still in the same sets as episode 1 -- the Goodge Street base and the London Underground tunnels, and partly because we're getting a sort of "best of base-under-siege" episode, as we watch these characters run through the same sorts of arguments we've already seen in stories like The Moonbase or the story this is a direct sequel to, The Abominable Snowmen (with only two stories intervening -- the smallest gap between recurring monster appearances yet).  But at least in this case we're getting a version which seems to have taken the best character bits from those earlier stories and condensed them down into what we see here.

But there are still some nice moments that weren't apparent from the audio: Chorley gleefully recording the dying moments of men over the phone as they're attacked by Yeti, and Anne Travers' heated attack on Chorley, as she makes it plain how much she detests him; the Yeti's attack on the troops in the tunnels, with their web-shooting guns making quick work of the explosives the soldiers had placed; and the cliffhanger, as Jamie and Private Evans, the Cowardly Welsh Army Driver™, are trapped in the Monument underground platform, with the Intelligence's fungus (looking suspiciously like the BBC foam machine at work) filling up both of the other tunnels.  Victoria has also left the base -- thanks to both Anne Travers voicing her suspicions about Victoria's story of time travel and Chorley being determined to pin blame on the newcomers, despite Professor Travers vouching for them -- in search of either Jamie (looking for the Doctor with the army troops) or the Doctor (last seen at the end of episode 1 -- it's Troughton's week off, having spent the last six playing both the Doctor and the main villain).  So the episode ends with all three of them separated from each other, wandering the tunnels.  And meanwhile, the Intelligence is on the move again, taking over more and more tunnels with its web...



April 8: The Web of Fear Episodes 3 & 4

Alas, episode 3 is still missing, so we're left with a telesnap reconstruction on the DVD.  It's certainly not a bad reconstruction, but you do wish it was the real thing.  Still, at least we can enjoy what's still there, and try to imagine what it was like watching Evans shoot desperately at the glowing pyramid carried by a Yeti, only for nothing to happen when he finally does smash it (so, er, why was the Yeti carrying it around then?).  And the Doctor is back!  Victoria runs into him as he's accompanied by the new base commander, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, who takes them all to the Goodge Street base.  The Doctor is able to reunite with Professor Travers and try to finally get somewhere with solving this Yeti crisis.  But it turns out there's a traitor in the base, who's planting Yeti figurines, opening the base's door, and sabotaging the explosives store.  And then, as the others head out in search of Chorley (who's determined to get to the TARDIS after Victoria has told him about it), the Yeti come in and take Travers away...

Hooray!  The last three episodes of this story exist (once again, a heartfelt thanks to Philip Morris!), and episode 4 is quite a doozy.  There's a real sense of ratcheting up the paranoia in this episode, as we're given a reason to suspect just about every single person in the base -- even the Doctor (after all, we don't know what happened to him during episode 2).  And so there are hints dropped about everyone: Lethbridge-Stewart seems to have no knowledge of Private Evans, even though Evans was the driver who was taking him to Holborn -- and there's the matter of how quickly he accepts the Doctor's story of arriving in a time machine; Evans gives the Doctor a Yeti figurine that's acting as a homing device, and the tin with the sample of web fungus that the Doctor collects at the beginning of this episode is empty when Evans gives it to the Doctor; and Chorley's disappeared while on his way to the TARDIS, seemingly swallowed up by the fungus in the tunnels.  It's all very effective, and the suspicion is a nice way of making everything seem more urgent.

The Doctor finds a Yeti homing device in Colonel Lethbridge-
Stewart's pocket. (The Web of Fear Episode 4) ©BBC
And we also get an impressive action sequence, as the Brigadier takes a squad of soldiers up to the deserted streets of London to recover the Doctor's TARDIS so that they can all escape, only to be ambushed by a group of Yeti armed with web guns.  We get lots of shooting and running around as the soldiers try desperately to fend off the Yeti, only to be brutally killed via cobwebs (skillfully directed on film by Camfield).  And even the scene with the Doctor and Captain Knight in the electronics shop, where Knight is killed by two attacking Yeti, is well done even though it's clearly in the studio (and thus a little more stagey). The action comes as a welcome release after the last three episodes of waiting tensely in the tunnels, even as it serves to brutally reduce the number of people left fighting the Yeti -- Lethbridge-Stewart is the only one to make it back, leaving only him, Anne Travers, the Doctor, Victoria, Jamie, and Private Evans left in the Goodge Street base.  Until the end of the episode, that is, when Professor Travers returns, flanked by two Yeti...



April 9: The Web of Fear Episodes 5 & 6

The Great Intelligence, using Travers as a mouthpiece, tells the Doctor he has twenty minutes to give himself up to the Intelligence -- and Victoria is seized as a hostage to ensure his cooperation.  And then episode 5 shows us all twenty of those minutes, as the Doctor and Anne try desperately to construct a machine that will let them defeat the Intelligence before those twenty minutes are up.  Yes, this episode is just marking time.

Still, at least it's reasonably entertaining time-marking.  While Anne and the Doctor are tinkering, Lethbridge-Stewart and Jamie decide to try and go after Victoria -- Lethbridge-Stewart believing it's "pointless" after his run-in with the Yeti in episode 4, "but at least we'll be doing something active."  And just in case we've forgotten about the inside man, Private Evans is sure to remind us: "Been working it out, I have, see.  Come to the conclusion one of you two must be working for this Intelligence...  It told us it had another pair of hands working for it.  Well, I know it's not me, see, so it must be one of you two.  Stands to reason, don't it?"  And the script is sure to continue casting doubt on Lethbridge-Stewart -- he seems to know where he's going in the tunnels to find Victoria without being told, and the Doctor doesn't seem to trust him either (in episode 6, for instance, he refuses to mention that they've gained control of a Yeti in Lethbridge-Stewart's presence).

But yes, episode 5 is largely filler.  The most important things that happen are that the Doctor and Anne find a way to block the Intelligence's signal to the Yeti (though only at close range) and reprogram a sphere to obey their commands over the Intelligence, and Staff Arnold returns from his apparent death in episode 4, when he went into the web and didn't come back out.  And soon the twenty minutes are up, and it's time for the Doctor to turn himself over to the Intelligence -- just as the web bursts through the wall of the lab in the Goodge Street base.

The survivors are taken to the Intelligence by the Yeti. (The
Web of Fear
Episode 6) ©BBC
Episode 6 is also quite slow, as it spends the first half ensuring that all the pieces are brought together for the final confrontation at Piccadilly Circus.  To this end anyone who's run off, like Evans, or at least not explicitly killed off, like Chorley, are forcibly taken to Piccadilly.  Meanwhile, the Doctor is being herded off alone, which gives him the opportunity to momentarily halt the Yeti accompanying him and switch some wires on the helmet they have for him that's designed to let the Intelligence absorb the Doctor's mind.  But finally everyone is brought to Piccadilly, and the Intelligence's agent is revealed to be not Lethbridge-Stewart but Staff Sergeant Arnold.  Er, what?  All right, I guess he had the opportunity to do all the things the agent needed to do, but it still seems odd to take the most sympathetic and human supporting character and make him the traitor all along.  There's certainly no hint of being controlled or acting unnaturally from Arnold before he arrives at Piccadilly.  It just feels wrong somehow.  But oh well.

The Doctor tells them not to interfere with what's going to happen as he's placed inside a plastic transparent pyramid, but Jamie (who has the Yeti control mic) tells "their" Yeti to attack the others, thus creating enough confusion to allow our heroes to pull the Doctor to safety and cut off the Intelligence's link with Earth -- though the Doctor is none too grateful.  "I told you to leave it to me!" he yells angrily at Jamie (though, to be fair, Jamie wasn't there when the Doctor told everyone else that).  "Now you've gone and ruined everything!"  Apparently the Doctor had switched some wires so that he was going to drain the Intelligence's mind, rather than the other way around.  But because of the actions of the others, the Intelligence has only been defeated rather than destroyed.  "You mean it might come back?" asks Evans (though as it turns out, not until 2012; the production team had plans for a third Yeti story, but those plans were scuppered after the fallout from The Dominators -- more on that particular tale when we get to that story).  Still, the threat to London and the rest of the world is over for now, and so the Doctor, Victoria, and Jamie head out on their way.

While it's certainly wonderful to be able to see two more thirds of The Web of Fear, with hindsight it's not quite as thrilling to watch as The Enemy of the World; however, that might be because it's a lot more familiar -- most of the locations had already been seen in the surviving first episode, and the "base-under-siege" plot is also a lot more typical of this period in the show than anything in Enemy.  But it is very well directed, and those first four episodes are quite good indeed, giving us a better siege tale than anything we've seen yet.  It admittedly ends rather badly, as the last two episodes tend to squander the atmosphere that the first four worked so hard to create (certainly the paranoia established in episode 4 doesn't carry over to the next two episodes, no matter how hard they try to bring it up) and it ends with a bit of a bang and a partial white-out rather than anything particularly epic.  But that's honestly not a fatal flaw, and it doesn't detract too much from everything else we get.  It's not quite as brilliant as we were led to believe before we could see most of it, but The Web of Fear is certainly effective at what it does.



April 10: Fury from the Deep Episodes 1 & 2

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.  No episodes of Fury from the Deep exist, so it's back to soundtracks and telesnaps.

Fury from the Deep is another highly-regarded season 5 classic, but to be honest, it's a bit difficult to see why.  Episode 1 certainly starts as another fun Troughton runaround, with the three of them playing in the foam on the beach (so not the most exciting thing to listen to, but it was probably all right when watching it).  And then the Doctor investigates a pipe using a sonic screwdriver -- yes, it's the first appearance of the Doctor's trusty tool, here used for what it was designed to do: turn screws.

But after that, when the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria are tranquilized and taken inside the Eurogas Base (the pipe's bringing in natural gas from the North Sea, see), things really seem to drag.  Robson is the worst kind of boss, one who refuses to listen to anyone else because it might damage his arbitrary reputation.  It might be acceptable if he were pitched as a more reasonable person who happens to have a hang-up over this one thing (that's certainly the way the script seems to generally portray him), but Victor Maddern pitches his performance with a baseline of nastiness and hysteria already in place, so he's unlikeable from the moment we meet him.  And because he's both unreasonable and clearly in the wrong (not to mention the massive inferiority complex he seems to be nursing -- "You'd better have something more than a high flown theory, because if you haven't I'm going to take you and chop you up into little pieces and throw you back to your crummy little university," he says nastily to Harris, his second-in-command), all the scenes of people arguing with him to do the right thing drag on forever.  If they'd had a sensible person in charge of this place, the story would be over by episode 2.  But no, things carry on.  There's a bit of fun with our heroes when they're locked up inside a room, as Jamie scrambles through a ventilation screen while Victoria simply picks the lock, but really, it's not sufficient enough to sustain interest.  Nice cliffhanger though, as a foamy seaweed something tries to get into the room Victoria's currently occupying.

Episode 2's a little better.  Harris's wife Maggie, who was stung by some seaweed last episode, is feeling poorly, and when two men call to look at the gas cooker, they quickly make her day go from bad to worse.  This is Mr Oak and Mr Quill, and the clip of their attack, with their mouths open wide hissing gas at poor Maggie, was deemed too frightening for the Australian audience, and so this sequence exists.  It's certainly creepy, as the sound of gas hissing is accompanied by a soundtrack from Dudley Simpson that prefigures his work in the early 70s.  And we get some more creepiness with the seaweed as well, as it seems to move under its own power and produce a shocking amount of foam -- threatening to engulf the Harrises' patio.

But other than that, it's yet more arguing between Robson and whoever happens to be presenting the reasonable course of action at any given moment, be it Harris, Dutch observer Van Luytens, or the Doctor.  Robson stubbornly refuses to listen, and that's that.  And so when the impeller, the thing which pumps the gas out from the main pipeline at sea, stops working, it's treated as an inevitable consequence of Robson's inaction -- which may be true, but it's not very interesting.  Still, a heartbeat can be heard coming up the shaft as well, so I suppose it's not the worst cliffhanger ever.  It's just not one of the best either.



April 11: Fury from the Deep Episodes 3 & 4

Alas, episode 3 isn't much better.  It's yet more Robson-versus-the-rest-of-the-staff arguing, and while Robson seems to be getting increasingly unhinged, it's somewhat difficult to care as he hardly started out as a sympathetic character.

But we've reached another milestone! Fury from the Deep Episode 3 is the 200th episode of Doctor Who.  It's just a shame it's not more interesting.  Part of the problem, one suspects, is that giant masses of foam with seaweed tendrils thrashing about is an awfully visual conceit, and so the effectiveness of these sequences (such as the extended one in the Harrises' apartment) are reduced fairly significantly.  Certainly the little clips we do have are pretty effective.  But on audio all we get are sounds and screams and Frazer Hines's narration of the events (at least, on the BBC release we get narration).

It's not a total loss, though; the scenes set in the TARDIS to analyze the seaweed are rather nice (and rather unprecedented in this era: we haven't returned to the TARDIS mid-story since The Savages at the end of season 3), with Victoria showing off some science skills and an interesting use of an old book demonstrating that this thing has been around for a while -- there's a bit of flavor of "ancient evil" that will become a staple of mid-70s Who and parts of Sylvester McCoy's era.  And we seem to be getting some character development, as Victoria bemoans the fact that they always land somewhere in trouble: "I don't really like being scared out of my wits every second."  And here we note that this is the second story to be produced by Peter Bryant instead of Innes Lloyd, whose producership was marked by abrupt and unexpected companion departures; Victoria at least gets to establish that she's not having fun any more.

The Weed Creature menaces the Doctor and Jamie in the impeller
shaft. (Fury from the Deep Episode 4) ©BBC
Episode 4, it must be said, is something of an improvement, as the weed creature makes a couple suitably exciting attacks down in the impeller shaft, swallowing Van Lutyens up completely and threatening to do the same to the Doctor and Jamie.  And one can't help but notice that Robson's pretty much gone for this episode, and when he does show up he's too busy being possessed by the Weed Creature (who apparently got him in episode 3) to be tediously obstinate this time around.  In his place we have Megan Jones, who's been sent by the board (of Eurogas, presumably) to find out what's going on and why the amount of gas being pumped up from the North Sea has dropped so low that "the southern region receiving stations are working on emergency supplies."  She at least seems much more reasonable than Robson, even if she's not yet completely convinced by Harris's stories of Weed Creatures and such.  At least she's not yelling all the time.

And we get a couple more "why can't we go anywhere nice?" scenes from Victoria -- she seems to be less and less happy with her current lifestyle.  Little wonder, since here she's knocked out by Mr Oak and Mr Quill and left in the pipeline room.  There's a tender scene with Jamie as he discovers her lying on the steps and is worried about her safety: "No, you can't be dead.  Victoria, if anything happened to you, I'd never forgive myself."  It's quickly brushed aside as Victoria regains consciousness, but it's still there.  Still, no time to deal with that now, as they see that the pipes are now full of seething Weed Creature.  "It's begun... the battle of the giants," the Doctor says, somewhat oddly -- what makes the Weed Creature a "giant"?  It doesn't seem any worse at the moment than the Great Intelligence did in the last serial.  Unless we're shooting for that "ancient evil" thing again, with the implication that the older something is the more dangerous it is.  Which might be what the script is getting at, but if so it's become rather muddled in the finished product.



April 12: Fury from the Deep Episodes 5 & 6

These two episodes are a definite improvement over the others.  Megan Jones is certainly a much more agreeable character than Robson, and she seems more willing to listen to the Doctor.  And this episode does a good job of developing the tension, as the Doctor tries to work out how to deal with the weed.  And with the foam and weed bursting into the refinery, we do get a sense of time running out.  Even if not much actually happens, we get some good moments where Megan tries to talk to Robson, to convince him to fight the weed's hold on him.

Mr Quill attempts to overpower Jamie. (Fury from the Deep Episode
5 - from Doctor Who Photonovels: Fury from the Deep - Episode
Five
) ©BBC
The stuff with Victoria being kidnapped by Robson is also pretty good, primarily because it means that Jamie and the Doctor have to go after her to one of the rigs at sea (in what looks like a pretty impressive model shot), which is just covered in foam.  And the cliffhanger's nice too, as Robson emerges from all the foam and announces that they've been waiting for him.

Episode 6 is also entertaining, especially towards the climax, as the Weed Creature launches its assault on the refinery.  The clips and telesnaps make it look like it was quite impressive, with copious amounts of foam on display as the weed creature thrashes about -- it's rather less successful on audio, but we can imagine what it might have been like.  And the tension is well developed (other than the extended sequence of faffing about with a helicopter), so that the final climax feels worthwhile.  And there's still enough time for a proper goodbye for Victoria, as she decides to stay behind.  She's clearly had enough danger and she wants to be somewhere peaceful.  And there's a very touching scene with Jamie, who clearly doesn't want her to go, on the Harrises' patio, complete with what sounds like a kiss.  And so Victoria (a character who started reasonably well in The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Abominable Snowmen before becoming little more than a terrified screamer for the rest of her stories) says farewell, as she watches the TARDIS disappear (up into the sky like a rocket, it seems).

So by the end of this story you can see why Fury from the Deep has the reputation that it does -- it would appear based on the evidence that the Weed Creature was well realized, and the sense of tension created by the last two-and-a-half episodes was effective.  Yet this doesn't quite make up for the fact that the first half of this story is fairly slow and tedious, with the wrong sort of character conflict on display.  And the other problem is that we've just had a more effective version of this sort of thing in The Web of Fear, and in many ways Fury from the Deep feels like a step back, with an unhinged leader like General Cutler in The Tenth Planet prominently foregrounded for the first part.  Fury from the Deep may succeed in its finale, with an entertaining attack and a strong leaving scene for Victoria, but this success is despite the first half, not because of it.



April 13: The Wheel in Space Episodes 1 & 2

It's almost like an exercise in contrasting styles: Fury from the Deep reached its length of six episodes by having the same arguments with Robson repeatedly; The Wheel in Space, on the other hand, chooses to go about it at a slow and deliberate pace.

The advantage that this first episode has over Fury from the Deep's one is that at no point do you get upset with any of the supporting cast, since this episode only has the Doctor, Jamie, and a robot for the majority of it.  We see (or rather hear) some exploration of a spaceship called the Silver Carrier, much of it conducted in virtual silence -- which is a bit of a problem for an episode that only exists in audio format.  But you get a sense of tension and calm at the same time (if that makes sense) as the episode indicates that things are slowly but surely going to go wrong.  And with the (somewhat) menacing presence of the Servo Robot and the sudden course correction leading to the Doctor getting a pretty severe concussion, the stakes get even higher, as there's a sense of helplessness pervading the situation.  It's an effective feeling -- so much so that it feels like a violation when in the last few minutes we cut to the crew of a space station, the eponymous Wheel in Space.  But even then we're introduced to danger, as the crew believes that no one's on board and it's a hazard, so they're going to blow it up with an x-ray laser.

Episode 2 gives us a more proper introduction to the Wheel's personnel, and it appears to be your standard international crew manning an isolated base.  The Doctor's still unconscious for this episode (Troughton's on vacation again), so Jamie has to try and bluff his way through the situation -- except he's not very good at it.  But look! it's the first use of "John Smith" as an alias for the Doctor -- a name which Jamie spies on a piece of medical equipment.  There's also some nice attention to detail in this scene and the following, as Doctor Gemma Corwyn reports the oddities of Jamie's behavior to the base's commander, Jarvis Bennett -- his blood pressure suggesting he hasn't been in space long, and his abandonment of a glass of water showing he hasn't been trained to be in space both being nice, reasonably scientific-feeling touches (the irony of this will become apparent in later episodes).  And we also get our first introduction to Zoe, described as the Wheel's librarian, but interestingly she's shown to be somewhat unlikeable, with a computer-like characterization implying a lack of understanding of humanity and pragmatic cues.  Or, as Jamie puts it, "just you watch your lip or I'll put you across my knee and larrup you."  ("Oh, this is going to be fun!  I shall learn a lot from you," Zoe replies.)

We also have the mystery of the floating eggs that we saw leave the Silver Carrier last episode, which seemed to penetrate the hull of the Wheel.  Bennett (who's a bit gruff and paranoid, but not nearly as one-note as Robson was), is alarmed enough by small drops in pressure and similar incidents to order that the Silver Carrier be destroyed anyway -- which is a bit of a problem for Jamie, as the TARDIS is still on board it.  And while that's going on, those eggs appear to be getting bigger, revealing a humanoid figure inside, one of which punches out of one of the eggs with a silver fist...



April 14: The Wheel in Space Episodes 3 & 4

Episode 3 exists, which means that we can actually see the cliffhanger reprise this time, with the humanoid figure fairly clearly resolving itself into a Cyberman (looking a little different from their last appearance, most noticeably in the face) before it punches out of its egg -- something that wasn't as clear from the telesnaps.  There are also some nice directorial touches which aren't evident from the telesnaps, such as when the Doctor tries to remember "some warning, some menace" from before he received his concussion, and Tristan de Vere Cole dissolves from the Doctor's face to a Cyberman's in the same position.

But this episode is also the one where the science, which looked like it might be pleasingly accurate last episode, goes out the window.  Stars going nova 250,000 light years away divert meteor showers into the path of the Wheel, apparently.  There's also some confusion about how travel in space works.  And the odd moments don't end there.  Crewman Bill Duggan finds a strange new space bug (in reality a Cybermat) which he then promptly fails to report, resulting in it consuming all the stocks of bernalium, the (fictional) power source for the x-ray laser, aboard the Wheel and killing one of the crew.  Bennett has Duggan relieved from duty and confined to quarters for this, even though he doesn't believe Duggan's story about a space bug.  Er...then why is he being punished exactly, if not for failure to report a new lifeform on board?  Does Bennett think Duggan destroyed all the bernalium?

The Cybermen appear.  (The Wheel in Space Episode 3) ©BBC
We also get some more discussion of Zoe's machine-like qualities, as Leo Ryan angrily yells at her lack of emotion when she states that the x-ray laser needs to be repaired or they'll all be killed by meteors: "It's all a problem in solid geometry to you, isn't it?"  And to contrast with that we have the continuation of the Cybermen's plan, when two crew members from the Wheel head to the Silver Carrier to retrieve some bernalium (good thing Jamie sabotaged the x-ray laser so that it wasn't blown up then) and are taken over by Cybermen, whose new speech effect is virtually unintelligible -- I had to turn on the subtitles to figure out what they were saying.

Episode 4 begins with a reenactment of the cliffhanger rather than a replay, and in the meantime someone's fiddled with the Cybermen's voice effect, so they're much more understandable now.  The Cybermen are brought aboard the Wheel, free to wreak havoc on the station.  Except they don't.  This episode is another tense waiting game, as the Doctor tries to convince the members of the crew that the Cybermen are around and a palpable threat to the well-being of everyone on the station.  The Cybermen barely figure into things here, content to let their mind-controlled slaves do their bidding and cut off the Wheel's contact with the outside.  And Jarvis Bennett appears to have gone off the deep end, as he cheerfully wanders about declaring everything to be fine, when just last episode he was yelling at everyone for letting things fall apart.  All that and some more stuff about Zoe's lack of emotion ("I don't want to be thought of as a freak," Zoe says.  "I want to feel things as well").  And, well, that's about all that happens.  But we get another Cyberman in this cliffhanger too -- this one apparently advancing on the Doctor and Jamie...



April 15: The Wheel in Space Episodes 5 & 6

Episode 5 sounds so good that it's a real shame this one doesn't exist -- one suspects that if it did it would improve the reputation of this story (which isn't terribly high) no end.  There's a lot of action going on: Cybermats attacking the Doctor and Jamie, a brawl between crewman Finnegan and two Cyber-controlled men, a swarm of meteors threatening the station (but up close this time, rather than the somewhat abstract threat they've been up to this point), and finally, tragically, the death of Gemma Corwyn, who's shot down by a Cyberman at the end of the episode.  This is the episode where things move the way they should, where the Cybermen feel like a serious threat that the crew of the Wheel is helpless to defeat, as they plan to kill the crew of the Wheel and use it for their own purposes.  (Even if the Doctor's explanation of this is a bit strange: "They have an over-riding ambition to invade the Earth, plunder its mineral wealth," he says, which hasn't really been the Cybermen's priority in any previously-seen adventure (even allowing for a generous interpretation of The Tenth Planet).  But, to jump ahead, the next Cyberman story will refer to an unseen adventure with the Doctor and Jamie on Planet 14 -- was this the moment when they decided they wanted Earth's resources?)  It's a tense, gripping episode, even on audio.

The Cybermen confront the Doctor. (The Wheel in Space
Episode 6) ©BBC
Episode 6 does exist (hooray!), so we can see Jamie and Zoe threatened by meteors during their spacewalk to the Silver Carrier to get the time vector generator (a key component of the TARDIS that was removed during episode 1 and accidentally left on the Silver Carrier) in what's not a bad scene at all, even if it's clear Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury are simply suspended on wires that don't move at all.  And yes, this is the episode where Troughton tells Ryan to switch over to "sexual air supply" so that the Cybermen don't poison the air (he means "sectional"; entertainingly, Ryan's response is, "What are you talking about?").

But there are some nice touches that are only obvious on video; the giant lava lamps in the oxygen supply room are quite nifty, and the way that the Doctor's eyeline changes when he's looking out of a monitor to address different people is utterly wonderful.  Of course, we also have photographic inserts of Corwyn lying dead (presumably to avoid paying Anne Ridler for another episode), so it's not all great.  Similarly, the sight of Cybermen spaceprancing (there's no other word for it) toward the Wheel isn't the impressive shot one assumes they were going for.  And the death of Jarvis Bennett, as he sees Gemma dead and decides to go out and attack the Cybermen, comes across as a way of getting rid of the character rather than the tragedy it's presumably intended to be.  But this episode, while not as good as the last one, is still pretty good, even with these occasional misfires.  It does end a bit perfunctorily though, as the Cybermen's spaceship is blown up and the Cybermen are repelled by a forcefield.  But we still have a bit of time for Zoe to decide to stow away aboard the TARDIS -- the implication is that she feels she doesn't fit in with the Wheel anymore and she wants to see more of the universe and expand her horizons (and she's also more than a little curious about their craft).  But the Doctor wants to warn her before she decides to come aboard, so he prepares a mental projection of their most recent adventure with the Daleks -- in other words, a scripted lead-in to a repeat airing of The Evil of the Daleks.  It's a bit tempting to go back and listen to that story again, the way it was intended, but I'll resist the urge.40

The Wheel in Space is rather better than its reputation would suggest.  Although it's not up to David Whitaker's usual standards, and its placement as a "base-under-siege" story at the end of a series of "base-under-siege" stories (which, The Enemy of the World aside, have made up the entirety of this season) does mean there's an unwelcome sense of familiarity, of "oh, this again?", there's still quite a bit to like about this serial.  If you can ignore the whacking great scientific errors, then there's more than a little enjoyment to be had here, and for once the Cybermen's plans actually make a sort of sense (again, allowing for the science and ignoring the fact that there's such an elaborate plan involved to capture a space station by a race that can apparently destroy stars).  It's a pleasingly average story; it's not perfect by any means, but it does enough right to be able to forgive its flaws.

And that brings us to the end of season 5, often referred to in fandom as the "monster season".  Although most of the stories this season are reasonably well executed, viewed as a whole there is a sense of repetition, of "this worked before, let's do it again in a different setting".  In this regard we're on the same path as season 4 was, with the same lack of ambition beyond entertaining the kiddies and making a show that they could sell more easily abroad (ironic, then, that there were far fewer sales of the Troughton stories overseas than there were of seasons 1 and 2) .  But even if they're repeating the same tricks, they've gotten good enough at it to make each story a success, with each story being sufficiently entertaining even as the same plot beats are repeated from serial to serial.  Still, it seems unlikely that the show could continue on this path indefinitely, but now that both Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis have left, the time is right for Doctor Who to head off in a new direction with Peter Bryant ready to take full control with freshly commissioned scripts, rather than just working with what his predecessor left him.

Of course, as they say, be careful what you wish for, lest you end up with The Dominators...









Footnotes

36 And note that at this point in time the name "Telos" seems to refer only to the city itself, not the entire planet.
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.
38 See Genesis of the Daleks Part Two for the ultimate fate of one of the shells.
39 Actually, the rallying cry of Clan MacLaren (which Jamie was apparently the piper for, according to The Highlanders) was "Creag an tuirc!"  One wonders if it was a simple misspelling which led to the version most Who fans are familiar with.
40 I did listen to the first couple minutes of the repeat though, with a voiceover from the Doctor and Zoe at the beginning -- this can be found at the end of the Evil of the Daleks soundtrack, for those interested.