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Spaceship Dispatcher
Terror of the Autons

This season opener was not unlike the season openers of recent years. We have three new regular characters introduced in this first story, and a very visual and iconic alien menace. Its bright, its colourful, there's lots of action, the threat is clear within a simple plot easily followed by the casual viewer, and there's plenty of memorable visual gimmicks like lethal plastic chairs and daffodils for children to discuss in school the next day. The performances are all good, but perhaps not the same as they would continue: Roger Delgado had not worked out all the quirks of his performace at this point, and he is very much the pantomime villain here; Katy Manning is playing Jo Grant as the trainee spy (like Linda Thorson in her first Avengers episode) and is not yet the 'companion'; and Richard Franklin is not yet as comfortable in the banter with Jon Pertwee and Nick Courtney as we would see in later stories. This was a good start to the new season that introduced many new elements all at once, and was a good warm up for some real classics to come later such as The Mind of Evil and The Daemons.

Not perfect perhaps, but very good. 7/10
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 13 February 2014 17:23:16
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
The Mind of Evil

This story demonstrates a massive leap in style and quality from the the previous story! Not that the Auton story wasn't good, because it was, but this is just excellent. Here are some of the points that stood out most as I rewatched it this afternoon:

# Whereas many stories start with aliens and go from there, Don Houghton created a whole branch of theoretical fantasy science for his story and made the adventure about exploring that science and speculating about it; this is right back into the Nigel Kneale and John Wyndham inspired depth of the 1970 season...
# Following on from the point above, the menace in this story is more abstract than the marauding dummies and alien octopus of the audience pleasing opener. I'm not sure how viewers reacted at the time, but the psychological nature of this story still divides fan opinion to this day. Personally, I wish most Dr Who were like this!
# The overall plot was far more complicated too, perhaps even more compex than the 7-parters of the previous season; there's so much going on from the start of this one: the experiments, the jail-break, the conference, and the missile transfer. With two very simple 'alien invasion' stories either side, the complexity of TMoE really stands out.
# The greater depth of the plot is matched also by a slower, steadier and more dialogue driven pace; but that is balanced very well by some memorable action set-pieces that use the locations to their full potential.
# Also of note is the grittier and more obviously violent drama. This is not fantasy violence; this is real violence with characters striking each other down and otherwise inflicting pain, and frequent use of firearms by all sides...
# ...which leads onto the character development of Jo Grant, who has come a long way since the previous story. Here, she is prepared to answer the Doctor back and argue with him. Also, she guns a rioter down with a pistol early on, and then the Doctor hands her another pistol in a later scene and says "you are trained to use these, I'm not..."
# The UNIT family is more firmly established here and the raport between the Brigadier, Yates and Benton much more obvious than between any previous combination of UNIT characters; this would set the scene for the Letts/Dicks era.
# The advantage of having Armed Forces co-operation is that you get to film with a real missile!
# The prison setting is extremely effective and is typical of an era that brought us Devil's End, Peladon, the Sea Fort, Omega's domain, the SS Bernice and LLanfairfach to name just a few! The use of locations matches the ideas in the script, and its a shame that we never got see the combination of Don Houghton and Timothy Coombe again.
# Finally, Roger Delgado was fully in his stride as the Master. His performance here is full of the nuances and variety that made him so much more than just another baddie. This season would be as much about the Master as the Doctor...

Really enjoyed this serial, for all these reasons and more. It would be 8/10 anyway, but the crime drama style mixed with the SF (and that in the style of Quatermass etc) makes this up to a 9/10 for me. Yes, a brilliant story.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Further thoughts the first two stories of s8...

Terror of the Autons

If the 'programmable plastic' were an invention of human origin rather than alien, and in SF/Fantasy that doesn't really make much difference to plausability, then this is the Dr Who story that would most easily work as an episode of The Avengers. The Autons are not unlike the Cybernauts and killer chairs, daffodils, dolls and phone cables are exactly the sort of thing that later episodes of The Avengers (the Tara King era) used to do so well and so often. The Doctor himself plays the role of investigator for much of the story, and its easy to imagine Steed on the trail of Col. Masters and Mr Farrell as he investigates the sinister circus and the plastics factory in his yellow vintage car! As I noted in my initial comments, Jo is very much is a similar role to Tara as the slightly inept trainee spy who ends up being captured and hypnotised but still helping to win the day by hiding in the back of a car and saving the Doctor from the villain's henchmen.

The Mind of Evil

Some of the guest performances in this story were so good, and added a verisimilitude sometimes missing from shows like Dr Who. Of special note are two actors playing very different roles to other parts they played in later serials: Neil McCarthy plays the innocent Barnham, victim of the final sentence, but would later play aggresive colonialist Thawn in The Power of Kroll; and Michael Sheard plays assertive and heroic Dr Summers here, but would play the timorous Laurence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars who is almost the complete opposite! Other minor but notable performances (to name all the notable turns would mean a simple copy and paste of the cast list) include the American delegate, who carefully doesn't make the character a caricature of the sterotypical American politician, and the Master's chauffeur who manages without any lines to steal every scene with expressions in such a way that you don't realise at first that he didn't have any lines!
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Natural Stupidity
Ahh Roger Delgado... what a performance as The Master. In my humble opinion no other actor has come close to his portrayal of the character.

You... will... obey... ME!
"Oh, I'm sorry I missed that. That's the kind of natural stupidity no amount of training could ever hope to match."
 
Grade Four Ignorant
I remember reading a story that crossed over the events The Mind of Evil and Porridge.

The Master sets up his operation at H.M. Prison Slade and brainwashes Fletcher, Godber and the other inmates. The Doctor teams up with Mister Mackay and the only prisoner strong enough to resist the conditioning - 'Genial' Harry Grout.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
The Claws of Axos

This story returns to the faster paced, brighter, more colourful and more visual style of Terror of the Autons and speeds along quite quickly as the aliens land, make contact, and become a threat in the first few minutes. The narrative is very busy, with frequent and sometimes unexplained scene changes; an example being in episode 1 where the diplomatic party are all in Axos in one scene, then Chinn is back in the UNIT temporary HQ vehicle talking to the Minister, and then is back in Axos again in a few moments of screen time without any other characters noting his absense. The script is probably the weakest of the season in terms of characters and dialogue; compared with the excellent characterisation of Robert Holmes in TotA or the slow pace and character building of TMoE, the dialogue by Bob Baker and Dave Martin here is very abrupt and concentrates on the extremes of fear and confrontation to keep the momentum going. Jo Grant comes off worst from this style of wrting as she goes from the professional albeit inexperienced intelligence agent of the first two stories to a stereotypical, highly strung, hyterical 'Doctor Who companion' who acts foolishly, shouts at everyone even when there's no immediate danger, and needs everything to be explained to her. But this story does have some outstanding points of merit: visually, the creativity here is right up there with other experimental serials like The Web Planet with considerable use of special effects; there's some amazing stunt work to be seen all the way through the story; we have another excellent location with the use of Dungeness Power Station; and the solution at the end, speculating on the limitations of time travel, is intelligent and well thought out. The script is let down by a desperately bad lack of understanding of basic real life physics, so the elements that are not of alien origin of even more fantasical than those that are, but its still a good and entertaining story. 6/10
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Angry Angel
Grade Four Ignorant wrote:

I remember reading a story that crossed over the events The Mind of Evil and Porridge.

The Master sets up his operation at H.M. Prison Slade and brainwashes Fletcher, Godber and the other inmates. The Doctor teams up with Mister Mackay and the only prisoner strong enough to resist the conditioning - 'Genial' Harry Grout.


That sounds like a really fun idea.
 
http://lucyravenscar.blogspot.com/
Spaceship Dispatcher
Colony in Space

The Doctor travels in space and time! After a season and a half of entirely Earth-bound stories, Barry Letts and Terence Dicks showed their desire to undo the show's self-imposed restriction and restore the variety of travelling through the Universe. Jo is initially apprehensive about the idea of being unexpectedly torn away from all she knows and being thrown into an alien environment, but soon adapts and meets the challenge; and its notable that Jo makes friends and allies amongst the colonists right from the start, demonstrating that particular strength in her personality. The characters in this story are especially well created and deep, the steady pace of the narrative allowing us to get to know both the colonists and the IMC men in both their own environments and when interacting with each other. The colony and the IMC are both well created, and while the city is not as effective it still equals what was needed. For me personally, the political struggle between the colonists and the miners was engaging and dramatic enough without the need for the more fantastical elements like the doomsday weapon and the primitives; and the story would definately have been better without Moloch's distant cousin turning up twice! But the majority of the visuals were excellent, including both electronic effects (cso) and the model work, and the episodes do look very well designed and directed from good sets and costumes to seamless editing of the final show. Credit is also due to Mac Hulke for not taking space travel for granted and demonstrating in his plot how catastrophic a minor fault on a rocket engine can be, many years before the Shuttle disaster. Maybe a little over ambitious, but a deeply engaging and character driven story that earns a good 7/10.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Klenotka
Third Doctor was my second favourite (after Peter Davison) but I think the fact he was stuck on Earth most of the time didnīt really mind. But you can create an invasion or an alien attack only a few times before it gets boring. Fortunately, they realized they couldnīt keep him on Earth forever. Maybe it is the reason why some of his off-Earth stories were so good.
But I loved the little hints in his era with Doctor actually *working* for the UNIT. He had a bagde (or ID), he was seen to eat, sleep, it was very civil and made him more human despite being still very alien. I loved that. I think the problem with the last Doctors (10 and 11) was that they were shown more as heroic types. They just arrived somewhere, solved it, waved their sonic screwdrivers and were gone. But I liked the idea of the Doctor to be more creative, to face some problems he just couldnīt solve, using his mind... If it makes sense...
I am just thrilled that with Peter Capaldi, they could get back at least something from that. At least I certainly hope so Smile
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Klenotka wrote:

But I loved the little hints in his era with Doctor actually *working* for the UNIT. He had a bagde (or ID), he was seen to eat, sleep, it was very civil and made him more human despite being still very alien...

Definately in agreement there! imo the format of the UNIT era and the Doctor's exile was something that worked very well and was good for the character; the Doctor has to live and work with people, and has to readjust to the idea of being responsable for his actions. I like the idea of the Doctor belonging to 'members only' clubs in the City and rubbing shoulders with politicians and business leaders, especially as it ties in with the implications about the pre-Unearthly Child period made in The War Machines, and being on the inside of society; it adds the background detail to why he is so good when thrown into difficult situations like finding himself within the Citadel of Peladon.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Apologies to everyone for the length of this review, but I hope its of interest anyway Grin

The Daemons

This story is widely regarded as one of the finest moments for the UNIT family, and as you watch the story it becomes clear just how focused the script is upon the regulars; almost the whole narrative is seen from their point of view, and almost everything we learn about the story as we follow along is learned from the discussions and speculations of the regular characters and Olive Hawthorne who is an honorary member of the family for these five episodes. Compared with the prominent roles of the colonists and miners in the last story, or the various leading characters like Mr Chinn and Doctor Summers before that, this almost 'first person' narrative really stands out and draws you into the story in a different way. In terms of style, this was very different to what had gone before too: the pace is slowed right down again after Axos, but much of this looks like a feature film with the use of close-ups and some more artistic location shots rather than the 'safer' and more functional wide angle shots of most budget restricted tv productions. The atmosphere is every bit a pastiche of the 'gothic horror in a modern day setting' that was fashionable in the British film industry at the time and would have been familiar to most adult viewers. This is conveyed by the direction and camerawork, the choice of music, the variety of light levels in different scenes, and the way the scenes are cut together in post-production. One film that imo was a principle influence on the production team was the Hammer classic The Devil Rides Out, which bears many narrative and visual similarities and was fairly recent in 1971; and Dr Who to this day has always loved to parody recent popular movies! This is also a great story for Roger Delagado as the Master, and perhaps the story he is best remembered for; his performance here is so central to the story that he is almost the lead character and the Doctor is merely his enemy of the week! This prominence and popularity is further underlined in the cliff-hanger to epidode three: it ends on a threat to the Master and not any of our heroes, who are all comparatively safe elsewhere. On the subject of the two main characters however, this is quite an odd story for the Doctor. In off-screen real life, Barry Letts' religious views (he was a Buddhist) meant that he didn't really subscribe to the God/Angels vs Devil/Demons premise of Christianity. The show has always existed in a fairly agnostic Universe anyway, keeping away from stating one way or the other about the nature of divine or supernatural forces but often speculating about their origins in stories like Ghost Light and The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, but here the Doctor gets up on his soap box and tries to absolutely deny the existence of purely supernatural elements that are not governed by quantifiable science and physics. This is odd in a story that features extensive use of occult symbols, incantations and psyonic powers which remain unexplained in any tangible way at the end of the story. As Miss Hawthorne says: "thats precisely what black magic is" and she's right. Just saying, as the Doctor does in response to that line, that its a 'secret science' doesn't disprove that it exists; and it clearly does in the Dr Who universe, whatever our real life beliefs, as the Doctor had already encountered unexplained supernatural forces at work in The Abominable Snowmen just for starters. In the fictional world of the show, its also interesting in retrospect to see Bok the animated statue; I wonder what conversations he would have if a Weeping Angel just happened to pass by? Of course, this is another one of those early 1970s stories with a memorable and iconic location: Aldbourne, as Devil's End. The location is virtually unchanged and you can still enjoy a nice lunch in the pub, as we did on a Horizon location visit last year! This story is permanantly engraved in the generation who watched this on first broadcast as 'the one in the church', and was there ever a more effectively and convincingly used location in the series entire history? Returning to the story itself, there's some more excellent camera work in that previously mentioned episode three cliff-hanger, and in some other scenes, as the camera itself rises above the floor of the set to show the scene from Azal's 'point of view' as he grows in height. Stephen Thorne himself gives a fantastic performance as the Daemon, booming his lines but in a skillful and cultured way as a character who is loud because he has a big voice and not because he's a scary monster. There's further good acting and direction in the scenes when the village is subjected to great heat or cold, and the cast do a very good job of struggling to stand or breathe on a perfectly stable floor; there's a wonderful synchronicity to the way those scenes are played that make them worth a special mention. Late on in the story we also have Osgood and his machine, a character and scene lovingly parodied in Planet of the Dead, and now we have a character who might well be (I certainly like to believe so) his daughter in the episode The Day of the Doctor. One other comment on how this story is slowed right down to explore the adventure and the characters to their full potential: the final confronation between the Master and Azal, which again shows how the Master is almost an equal star of the show, begins in episode four and continues right to the very end of the story. One set-piece that lasts for a full half an hour, which is two thirds of a whole new-Who story! How many producers of any drama would be brave enough to place so much expectation and trust on a single scene these days? However, no review of The Daemons would be complete without a brief look at some of the internal continuity errors; these include: 1. Why is Alastair Fergus not dead? As the presenter of the show, he must have been present when the rock was pulled at midnight. Even if he managed to flee back up the tunnel he should have been a traumatised wreck suffering from acute hypothermia, buried under a mountain of blankets waiting for an ambulance. And even if Fergus survived unharmed, there must definately be a dead camerman because we see him on screen kneeling directly behing Professor Horner! 2. The Doctor states in the pub that E=MC2 means that when mass is lost through miniaturisation, the energy dissipates into the atmosphere as heat. Presumably, the cold is caused by a reversal of the process. Ignoring the fact that even in fantasy terms, that threory sounds a bit daft, within the same story the Doctor tells Jo that she can't lift miniaturised space ship because it still weighs about 750 tons. Even in fantasy science, that is still mass being increased through compression and not dissipated into the atmosphere. So which is is Doctor? 3. Why doesn't somebody try entering the church through back gate in episode five, thus avoiding Bok, through the gate Jo used in episode four? A case of the script being written before the location was found and nobody spotting the internal logic flaw that shooting one scene would create in another? Maybe. 4. This is not really a continuity error, but more a case of a production trying to cross a bridge too far in copying a source. This being a gothic horror, Jo is dragged away to be dressed as a sacrifice. The trouble is that when she returns, she is still wearing her undies (clearly visible through the sacrificial gown) and her boots. From a real world point of view, the producers were obviously aware that if you could see Katy too clearly beneath the gown then the whole story might have been banned. But from a fictional point of view, this is a very inept cult indeed and any one of them should have known that the nudity of the victim apart from the ordained apparel was essential for the purity of the sacrifice. The best option from the producers point of view would have been to say "we cant really achieve making Jo a sacrifice in a black mass" and rewritten it. Even as it stands, the implication that Jo was dragged away by these men and stripped even almost naked is pretty strong and makes it surprising that the scene was allowed to stay. The fact that, and I know this is being picky bit it needs to be pointed out, the men must have taken Jo's boots off to remove her trousers and then put them back on again just adds to the absurdity of the scene. The real continuity error here is that, as Azal destroys himself, Jo collects her clothes and runs out of the church with them under her arm. But she was stripped in another room, so did she really run deeper into the church to search for her clothes and then catch everyone else up at the door? 5. And this is the big continuity error that undermines the whole excersise. Azal is a highly intelligent being that has been interacting with mankind for thousands of years. He is not a machine, and doesn't even behave like one. The idea that he has never seen a highly strung girl pleading for a friend's life before, and is not fully aware of the complexity of human emotion, is completely absurd. The idea that he would somehow self-destruct is beyond absurdity and drifting into surrealism. When he starts ranting like a mad computer faced with an unsolvable logic problem, it seems like a page of script from another story has got mixed up with this stories pages by mistake. So overall, how do I rate this story? As a homage to classic British horror movies, as a character drama, as a UNIT story, for its style and atmosphere, and as one of the very best confrontations between the Doctor and the Master... 10/10 on every count. Except on maybe, possibly the most important one: the story doesn't hold together once all the major players are in place in episode five, and it finishes up as less than the sum of its parts. For that reason , I give it 6/10 as a story even though many individual elements are worth much more.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Day of the Daleks

The format of this story is very much like that of Inferno, two seasons previously: the Doctor is part of the UNIT team for the first part of the story, but becomes stranded in an alternate parallel universe version of our own world where he discovers what he must do to solve the crisis of the moment. The plot mechanics are of course different, but the basic premise is the same. This is a fascinating story that combines and weaves together three different plots into a single narrative in a very skillful way. We have a traditional UNIT story with all of the regulars from the previous season present, an alternate future Earth ruled by the Daleks with humanity enslaved, and a complex conundrum about the actual mechanics and limitations of time travel. Each of these would make a good story in themselves (qv The Dalek Invasion of Earth, Blink and most of season 8) but woven together they make a real masterpiece. The anxieties of the 1970s are visible in much of the plot here: the fear of a nuclear holocaust, and speculative fiction about life on Earth after such an event which in this case is alien invasion, and the Cold War itself which is seen in the future by way of a terrorist cell, a totalitarian communist-like regime, agents working inside the authorities, and the 'turning' of a senior figure within that government. There are some notable performances here, with Anna Barry as the energetic and charismatic lieutenant of the resistance and Aubrey Woods playing a Controller full of shades of grey as a character rather than being 'good' or 'bad' as such. Very good.

Day of the Daleks: Special Edition

This story never used to be one that I especially enjoyed, for two main reasons: the 90 minute movie format of the VHS release, and Daleks that just didn't convince. But the new SE corrects that, with Nick Briggs making these imo proper Daleks again! And the extra scenes and visual effects work very well and are a nice bonus. I don't ever watch the original version any more and enjoy this story a lot more now than I used to...

Rating? The original: 6/10 The SE version: 8/10
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 16 February 2014 15:32:31
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Klenotka
Day of the Daleks is probably one of my favourite Daleks episode. I recently rewatched it and I loved the paradox about it. It was actually a smart and unexpected twist, not the time twisted rebooted universe stuff they have been doing lately.

And I agree with you about the "Doctor on Earth" thing, obviously. I think that some of the moments when the Doctor HAD to talk to some politicians and military types without any way getting away from them was a great change of pace. It forced him to socialize. I can imagine Claraīs surprise when she heard the Doctor had a job and an office and all of that. It is exactly the thing you would expect from the Doctor the least.
But I donīt think it would work today and I noticed people actually oppose to the idea of more Earth based stories (at least the contemporary Earth) but UNIT story, especially with Kate being sort of person who can represent it now, could be a great story if done right. Just without Daleks or Cybermen or some other known species.
But I am a fan of future/space ship/space station stories so I hope they are not going to do it too often Smile

P.S. I hated The Daemons btw. Grin
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
The Curse of Peladon

This story was a real sidestep from anything seen in the Pertwee era up to this point. Its a tale of intrigue, subterfuge and sabotage, of galactic treaties and even of romance; and its all wrapped up in the most amazing psuedo-medieval gothic setting of the Citadel of Peladon! Character driven, emotional, tense and bursting with an atmosphere created with some of the best set and costume design seen in 1970s Doctor Who, this is a story that lurks in the viewer's imagination long after the final credits have rolled. Lonely passages, draped with curtains and lit with flaming torches, with all manner of shadow filled rooms and secret tunnels leading from them, the courtroom of the King, the delegates' conference room... how much more of this deep and mysterious Citadel was there to explore? The tension and isolation of the setting, but also the protective warmth of the building perched high on the mountain and shielding its occupants from the hostile elements outside, make this a fictional place that you really feel you have visited for yourself when the adventure is over. Personally speaking, I longed to see more of the Citadel and share another adventure there from the very first moment that I watched this story; and so the sequel story, season 11's Monster of Peladon, followed this story straight into my deepest affections and was in turn followed there by the novel Legacy and the audio drama The Bride of Peladon. That probably shows. As for the drama here, from a real world point of view? imo the plot, script, direction, performances, design and indeed all element of the production are simply superb. The Ice Warriors became so three dimensional from this story onwards, becoming an 'alien race' with a history and personality rather than just another monster of the week, and it surprised me that it was not until last year that they returned to the show on television. David Troughton gives an amazing performance as King Peladon, shifting through so many emotions and despairs as he struggles to reach out for maturity both as a man and as a ruler. The tearful ending is especially heart warming in retrospect, having met his daughter and heard her speak of him to the Doctor and Sarah. This is a production where everything comes together in perfect union, except Jo and Peladon of course, and once watched lives on in the heart and mind forever. 8/10.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
The Sea Devils

After visiting the far future and outer space in the previous two stories, the Doctor and Jo are back on present day Earth and facing the evil but pointless plans of the Master again; pointless plans because the Master of all people, as a fellow Timelord, knows all about mankind's future space Empire and the fact that key elements in history cannot be changed. It really does seem to be a game between him and his nemesis the Doctor, but its a great game to observe and one of the most absorbing ongoing duels in British telefantasy. This time, the Master has managed to make contact with a recently awakened undersea community of ancient reptile bipeds called the Sea Devils (by the characters in the story although, as with the Ice Warriors, why they call themselves Sea Devils in a later story is a mystery) who he plans to elevate to rulers of the planet. Truth be told, this is one of the most atmospheric and genuinely disturbing 'horror stories' in the history of the show. The sea really is still a place of mystery, and so is the pre-historic past of the Earth; so nobody can look out across the surface of the ocean from Brighton beach at all the vulnerable little ships making their way up an down the English Channel say absolutely definately that its all nonsense. It was that element of merely implausable fantasy and the reality of the locations, along with the most amazing sets of the sea-fort and castle that could have been on location except for the videotaped picture, the completely freaked me out when I first watched this when I was 10 years old. Memories of holidays at the seaside (usually on the South coast) in the past and every visit thereafter were permanantly coloured by the speculative fear of what might be under the water. Seaside castles and defences, pictures of ships or oil rigs, and definately any underwater archaeology documentaries all provided a chill of anxiety. That's what Doctor Who does when it strikes the right nerve, and an important part of why this particular show has this effect when other dramas and films don't is that you always care so much about the protagonists; its the Doctor and Jo, stranded on the seafort with the reptile trying to break into the room they are trapped inside as much as the creature itself that draws such strong emotions. Rewatching the story today, I was transported back over twenty years in my memories. All of the characters are sympathy characters in their own way: Captain Hart and Jane Blythe are always portrayed this way, but Trenchard is revealed as a misled hero rather than a conspirator, Mr Walker from the Ministry is more a fool than a villain, and even the Master is saved by the Doctor when he is cast out by his former allies. There's a bittersweet feeling in episode four, when we cut away from the castle and know that we won't go back there; it was the centre of the story for so long, but now everyone there is dead and neither the Doctor and Jo nor the viewers will ever return there again. As the credits rolled, my thoughts turned away from the main focus of the adventure toward Captain Hart arranging for either his own personnel or a special team to work through the castle to find the bodies of all those killed the reptiles inform their families. Its that special touch of realism, even if its something that's implied of screen, that makes a fantasy work as a drama and this story was written and directed in such a way that it does have that impact. Even towards the end of the story, the undersea base and the greater exposure given to the Sea Devils themselves were elements that could have fallen down; but the adventure keeps going and the direction is top drawer all the way to the end. Verisimiltude is strengthened by the cooperation of the Royal Navy of course, and the amount of outdoor filming using the Navy base and wide variety of genuine hardware give this the appearance of a flagship drama with much greater resources than it actually had. 8/10
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

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The Mutants

There's a definate late 1960s feel to this episode, aside perhaps from the ecological and political themes; but having said that, the season 5 story The Enemy of the World also touched on these. But the desolate planet (always a good setting for b/w Dr Who, but The Krotons especially came to mind), Skybase (research facilities and 'bases' in general were a common theme) and many of the smaller details like the black/silver uniforms with visors and masks of the guards, or the silver suit and research cabin of Sondergard, and even the story's structure reminded me of the later Troughton era. Filming in real caves was good choice, and it makes the alien planet feel more real than those created in the more usual quarries. Paul Whitsun-Jones is something of a pantomime villain which, although it works okay, might have been changed for a more studied and sinister figure when considering the tone and themes of the story. Bob Baker and Dave Martin are still better at writing adventure than science here, as in their previous tale The Claws of Axos, but they wisely stick to fantasy pseudo-science this time around (particle reversal rather than the actual science of particle acceleration) and it all works well enough in the context of the story. The fact that so much of the story visually and thematically repetative works too, as it conveys the bleakness and isolation better than a fast paced story with colour and changing scenery would have done. Jo is very definately cast in role of damsel in distress here, and spends almost the entire story either captured or in flight, but Katy does really well with the material and makes her character emotionally strong despite adversity. This is a well written story, atmospheric in a bleak and foreboding sort of way, and is well worth a solid 8/10.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

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The Time Monster

There's a couple of elements of this story that don't really meet their full potential: the nature of the time distorting technology, what it actually is or does and what the Master intends to achieve with it, is never qualified over a whole two and half hours and is left as a very ambiguous threat; and the variety of characters, at the university and in Atlantis, are all written and acted out as caricatures rather than making them especially memorable for 'doing' anything constructive in the plot or having anything deep or profound to say. And that's a shame, because the premise and the ideas here are very good, and the first couple of episodes have plenty of promise that this will be a good old fashioned UNIT story. But while there's plenty of incident in the story, its mostly to-ing and fro-ing and various rounds of confrontation rather than a narrative that unfolds as with the previous stories of the season that told part of planet or people's history through the eyes of an event. Ultimately, neither the technology, the Master's plan, nor Atlantis convince fully; so although its entertaining enough, it never really satisfies imo. 6/10
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

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The Three Doctors

Its only when watching this story back to back with The Time Monster that you realise how different they are in certain ways. In my review of TTM, I commented on the fact that the science itself gets overlooked (yes, I know its fantasy science but imo that needs even more explanation of what it does and why than real science) but here the writers - Bob Baker and Dave Martin - continue the excellent style they established in The Mutants of making their field of fantasy science work within the story by making the nature and application of it part of the plot. Another difference between TTM and TTD is the actual type of story it is: whereas the former was quite energetic but was let down by shallow characterisation and a lack of plot focus this is heavily dialogue driven, contains a lot of speculation between the characters about the situation, contains very few seperate incidents and no has more running backwards and forwards than is necessary. Omega is a powerful foe who, unlike the Master, is definately not playing games and is played with genuinely chilling mood swings and moments of anger in one of the season's stand-out guest appearances by Stephen Thorne. All of the cast here are good, and play their parts with sincerity. It has often been said the Nick Courtney ended up playing the Brigadier as a blustering fool but, having watched every story from Terror of the Autons to The Three Doctors so far, that isn't what I'm seeing at all; the Brigadier has slowly been pushed away from being the main player in his own organisation by a Doctor who quite forcefully cuts him down in front of others, and its a natural human reaction to compensate by being more assertive with those you have authority over. So I don't see it as character inconsistency, but rather a natural character development. Note how the Brigadier has stopped being edgy and loud by the time of Terror of the Zygons, by which time the Doctor is no longer a rival in the camp. Back to this particular story though, everything is about right: it looks good, the dialogue is a proper SF script with characters not taking the fantasy elements for granted just because they're in a tv show, the narrative is evenly balanced and progresses at a steady pace, the conclusion is intelligent and well thought out, the fantasy science is given proper depth and explanation, and the Timelords are re-introduced well too. Overall, this is a very good 8/10.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

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Some further thoughts on The Three Doctors...

It only occured to me sometime after writting the above review that TTD made quite a bold move that no other story did before or since: it took the Brigadier away from the Earth and from UNIT, and had him travel across space to an alien world. This would not happen to the Brigadier again until after his retirement, and this is the only occassion that the character is snatched away from his home planet on screen during his time in charge of UNIT. As for notable events in the lives of the principle characters, this is the first multi-Doctor story from a real-world point of view but when the third incarnation of the Doctor meets his two predecessors it is the sixth time that the Doctor has met another incarnation of himself within the series' canon. As a real-world aside, this imo is a point where you can really see Katy Manning settling fully into the role and having the bearing of a leading cast member on set rather than the 'new girl' taking cues from everyone else. In one way its a shame that Katy only did one season after this point, but if she had not moved on then we wouldn't have had Lis Sladen; but at least Katy has now made a return appearance in the series, alongside Matt Smith and Lis Sladen in the Death of the Doctor...
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

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Carnival of Monsters

Katy Manning's new confidence in the role is again demonstrated early in this episode as Jo stands her ground in an argument with the Doctor, and we see Jo Grant the trainee agent later on she provides the means of escape from a cabin with her lock picking training. This a deep story on one level while being bright and colourful entertainment on another, more comedic level. There's lots of political satire in the dialogue of the Inter Minor officials, while the mood is kept light by the banter between Vorg and Shirna. The SS Bernice is another of the era's best locations, with a real ship being found that was afloat in the Thames and available for filming; thus reducing the need for expensive and less convincing special video-effects. As with the previous story, a branch of fantasy science is rolled out and explored in detail within the plot; miniaturisation in this instance. The technology of the miniscope is almost as interesting as the story, involving not only objects and people being miniaturised but also contained in artificial environments that appear to be both physically connected to the internal workings of the 'scope but also exist in some sort of alternate dimension. The inside of the 'scope is definately solid and engineered within a finite space, but the artificial environment extend to a distant point far away. The physical interfaces of the internal workings with the ship and the cave appear to consist of hatchways with handles. This implies that the machine was designed with maintainers entering the machine and the environments in mind, and thus interacting with those imprisoned therein. This could be to check on everything more easily, and perhaps carry out medical checks on creatures or people inside the machine in much the same way as a zoo-keeper; and of course any damage to miniaturised objects would be more easily repaired by a miniaturised maintainer. Curiously, the connection between the SS Bernice and the scope appears to be integrated into the structure of the ship's hold for most of the story, except that the ship returns to its original seaworthy condition when released from the scope which implies that the connection is some sort of illusory trans-dimensional portal. This would fit the notion that the environments are themselves in some sort of pocket dimension, as that would make the inside of the 'scope similar to the entrance to a Tardis except that you would exit the alternate dimension to enter the machine - an interesting inversion of the concept. Overall, this is a very intelligently written story that is visually well presented and full of great performances by actors who show an understanding of the deeper elements of the script. Excellent on all counts, but the concept of the 'scope and the central role that its mechanics play in the story make this a 9/10.
Edited by Spaceship Dispatcher on 19 February 2014 22:02:02
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
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