With more of a focus on travelling to places rather than the stuffy confines of UNIT HQ, Season Nine sees a production team refusing to rest on its laurels and thinking up new exctiting adventures for a Doctor trapped on Earth. We time travel into a Dalek invasion, visit the medieval world of Peladon, take a trip to the seaside with the Navy to face the Sea Devils, beam down to the deadly wilderness of Solos and come face to face with a time beast ripped free of the vortex!
The regulars -
Day of the Daleks written by Louis Marks and directed by Paul Bernard
TO BE REVIEWED...
The Curse of Peladon written by Brian Hyales and directed by Lennie Mayne
TO BE REVIEWED...
The Sea Devils written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Michael Briant
This story in a nutshell: The Master is in prison but that doesn’t stop him, he’s contacting the Sea Devils to help them take over the Earth…
Good Grief: Even when you don’t entirely like the third Doctor you can’t deny that he has a lot of character. Malcolm Hulke’s Silurian/Sea Devils stories see the Doctor at his most obstinate and arrogant but there is still a vein of humour here that makes you love him even so. There is something about the Doctor’s bullish behaviour that makes Trenchard seem so inadequate, he’s so rude to him! When visiting he seems genuinely concerned for the Master’s well-being and he admits to Jo that they were at school together and used to be good friends. It’s an intriguing relationship. He’s happy to flash a bit of cash to get his own way. I love how he is not afraid to look like an idiot and he claims that Horatio Nelson was a person friend of his! When he is bellowing ‘mayday mayday!’ on the radio he reminded me very strongly of my gran who sounds as common as muck until she picks up the phone and then speaks proper BBC English! His cry of ‘Akidaa!’ is a little too similar to Austin Power’s ‘Judo Chop!’ The Doctor starts preaching that violence will never get you anywhere and yet he always seems to be kicking the crap out of people! Look at his confidence when Trenchard locks him up: ‘You really think you can keep me here?’ Everything scene with him is packed with character – his ‘how very kind of you…how very unkind of you!’ is brilliant. I was laughing my head off when the Doctor tells Jo to leave the explanations to him (he’s so sexist you almost imagine him adding ‘you dumb bint’ at the end of the sentence!) and then he scoffs down all her cheese sandwiches! I really like that at times we only just like the Doctor (at times in this story it is possible that you might like the Master more!). He’s trying to be a diplomat again and admits that he failed with his negotiations with the Silurians. The Doctor gives the submarine Commander a Sea Devil gun suggesting he wont kill himself but he is happy for others to do it for him…but then he gives him a hard time when he does!
Dippy Agent: Katy Manning looks fabulous in her white suit and there is no sign of the dizzy blonde here, she’s a professional spy once again and responsible for beating up three guards and rescuing the Doctor twice! The last time we saw her this resourceful was The Mind of Evil and I although she matures beautifully in her last season but I’m not sure she would ever be this practical again. Jo Grant, motorbike bitch burns rubber to rescue the Doctor! The chemistry between Manning and Pertwee is effortless at this point, I love her ‘that was my favourite DJ’ scene. She’s learnt the paralysing ‘Judo Chop!’ technique, knocking out guards with a single blow so clearly she has been taking lessons from her good pal, Tara King.
The Doctor’s Moriarty: Its wonderful to see the show serialising itself a bit more by continuing not only the Silurian story but also catching up with the Master in prison after his arrest in The Daemons. ‘You can consider yourself lucky. Quite a few people were in favour of having you executed’ says the Doctor in the story’s one moment of real life grit. Is the Master a changed man with a great deal to repent? He has everything that he wants except his freedom. The Master watching the Clangers and patronising Trenchard by pretending he thinks they are real is beyond priceless. How dapper does he look tarted up as an Admiral and saluting to the naval officers? He actually feels quite dangerous when he throws a knife at the Doctor’s back! The Master plays Trenchard like a fine instrument, suave and confident. Of course the Master escapes at the end – I would be terribly disappointed otherwise! His little wave as he departs in a hovercraft is perfect.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The point Mr Parliamentary Private Secretary is that you have not destroyed them. You have just made them angry. Very, very angry!’
‘You said man is weak!’ ‘So he is! Soon you can surge from the sea in your millions and exterminate them!’
The Good Stuff: The opening is superb and typifies Briant’s superb direction of this story and suggests horrors unseen. The story feels instantly an expensive one with the Doctor and Jo out as sea, the ripped apart cars and the castle. Hulke’s scripts always have a touch of realism about them and I really like the sea fort workers drinking and gambling. Discovering Hickman’s body and something moving in the shadows – this is the creepiest sea fort known to man! Things get dark, the Doctor and Jo’s escape vessel is destroyed – this is pure horror movie. The Sea Devil disc guns are like nothing we have ever seen before. Tilted angles as the Doctor pursues the Sea Devil is visually dynamic. I really enjoy all the scenes in the submarine scenes and the stock footage of the sub; the model work and the impressive studio interiors match seamlessly to make this feel very filmic. The submarine falls to the seabed, there are clanging noises on the hull, screams pour from the intercom, the door melts away as the Sea Devils invade – this is great stuff. The Doctor and Jo are caught between a minefield and armed guards is really exciting and I detect the hand of Terrance Dicks concocting such a memorable cliffhanger. With The Time Meddler and its fake beach and The Underwater Menace, Enemy of the World and Fury from the Deep missing from the archives it is great to finally have some action taking place on the beach. Captain Hart is a very believable character, Edwin Richfield gives a marvellously irritable and tired performance and he is unwilling to take the Doctor’s absurd suggestions at face value. Poor Trenchard is such a useless fellow even his death takes place off screen. The build up takes ages but the cliffhanger to episode four is pretty good, I remember being gripped when I saw this for the first time when it was repeated on BBC2 in the 1990s. Pretty much everything about the Sea Devils is pretty awesome (except for their eyes but I will go into that later), the detail in their hands, legs and necks is extraordinary and their sibilant voices are very original. With crushing inevitability the Doctor manages to form a friendship with the Sea Devil leader just as the ships attack. The Sub in the underground harbour – Gerry Anderson eat your heart out! The last episode is one impressive set piece after another, you have Sea Devils being gunned down, Jo escaping in the hovercraft, an army of naval officers massacring the Sea Devils on the beach with some awesome stunts, giant guns and a high speedboat chase between the Doctor and the Master! Wowza!
The Bad Stuff: This story is responsible for many years of ridicule by my Uncle who just happened to be babysitting one day when this was repeated on BBC2 and he saw the Sea Devils coming out of the sea. His obsession with ‘the monsters where the eyes don’t move’ has led to a constant barrage of pisstakes every time the show is mentioned during family occasions during my childhood! Obviously I don’t care that much in my older years and last Christmas I got my revenge and I had a T-Shirt made up with a massive picture of a Sea Devil for my Uncle which he opened and nearly pissed his pants on Christmas Day! The discordant Malcolm Clarke music veers between atmospheric and ear bleedingly dreadful and distracting. One of the sea fort workers coins the term Sea Devil and yet from hereon this seems to be their official name. Jo spots the Master out of the window and I abhor plots that hang on co-incidence like that. The padding sets in in episode two with all the ‘where is the Master’ business going back and forth to the prison. Barry Letts is right, the swordfight is stagey and it feels too rehearsed and the music distracts. Jo creeping around the castle is accompanied by something that sounds awfully like high-pitched wet farts. With its grainy location work and penchant for browns, greens and greys, The Sea Devils is a pretty ugly story to look at. When the Sea Devils leave the ocean en masse the picture quality is horrendous, its so dark and grainy it looks like they are walking out of black ink! A lesson in over reaction – watch the two guards who walk around the corner in the prison and bump into a Sea Devil! The diving bell scene is pure padding and goes on forever. Walker turns up in episode five to be another obstruction and bit of padding, he’s far better performed than Chinn from The Claws of Axos but just as vacuous. He’s all very confident when scoffing down rough cut marmalade but becomes a gibbering idiot when he is in danger (he even does this odd Hitler moustache thing when confronted with a Sea Devil!). The Sea Devil base is the first duff set, its cheap black drapes and polystyrene rocks (it would have looked so much better with sea lighting ripples on the walls). Once all the incredible set pieces are out of the way the only place this story can go is to blow up the Sea Devils because the series isn’t serialised enough to have an ongoing story of rehabilitating the creatures.
The Shallow Bit: Young or not, the sub Commander is a hottie!
Result: I have been far too hard on this story in the past. It does have some problems (like all six parters it is stuffed full of feathers and the experimental musical score is far too distracting in its own good) but it holds together far better than I have ever given it credit for. The facilities available for this story are impressive and manages to give a real sense of war movie credibility. For the most part it is impressively directed and acted, full of action and excitement (and some really well filmed scares) and Malcolm Hulke writes in lots of character even in the smallest of parts. The colour scheme for this story is pretty drab and makes it a little tiring on the eye but I was pleasingly surprised by the quality of the sea fort and submarine sections of the story and the last episode is as filmic as Doctor Who has been to this point. The Doctor and the Master dance around each other and this story sees their chemistry at its height. I would give this story a 7 for its merits but my unexpected enjoyment and love of action bumps it up to a: 8/10
The Mutants written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin and directed by Christopher Barry
TO BE REVIEWED...
The Time Monster written by Robert Sloman and directed by Paul Bernard
The Mighty Nose: This is not perhaps the best example of the third Doctor. He seems totally comfortable with his exile now; he has a well-paid job, a girlfriend and regular ego trips. He is every inch the conservative. What troubles me about Jon Pertwee’s performance in this story (aside from the alarming sexism) is how he seems to be the only actor taking this whole story seriously! Nick Courtney, John Levene and Katy Manning are having a laugh riot with their appalling characterisation but Pertwee marches on, staring into the camera and delivering his speeches as though he is in a big budget Shakespeare production. Nine times out of ten Pertwee’s serious style of acting really added to the drama of his stories but he is fighting a losing battle with this lunacy and winds up looking po faced. Imagine Tom Baker in this story, he would have played it up to the hilt and made everything far more enjoyable! I mean who would even bother to make the scene where he barks orders at the Brigadier to put out a worldwide search for the Master because he saw him in ‘a dream, not half an hour ago!’ authentic? He is so rude to Jo that you want to leap into the story and slap him round the face with a battered cod, he is utterly astonished when she manages to guess what the time sensor is and comes out with lines like, ‘Do stop whiffling Jo, there’s a good girl.’ His arrogance is highlighted as well; he has a very poor opinion of the Master and cannot bear to not have the last word. He condemns the Master as ‘Mad! Paranoid!’ and states that anybody who is a friend of the Master’s is an enemy of his. I did like the quiet mention that he is not proud of his consciousness thoughts (probably lustful ones after Jo!). The Daisy scene is one of the rare moments in this story where he shows kindness towards Jo and to his credit he cannot bring himself to kill the Master because it would mean killing his best friend.
Groovy Chick: It’s no better for Jo I’m afraid who is treated to some of the most misogynistic characterisation this side of the sixties. In the first three episodes Jo does absolutely nothing of importance but look ridiculously stupid and get bullied by the Doctor. She admits that she is ‘exceedingly dim’ and flirts outrageously with both the Doctor and Mike Yates (she’s way off in both cases). What is Jo’s reaction to being told she is facing extinction, ‘Glad to be aboard, Doctor!’ (Tegan would have exploded like a juicy spot!). She chases after the Doctor, admires him, protests at his death…does this woman have any kind of life away from UNIT HQ? It was immediately apparent with Sarah Jane that she had a very fulsome life but the Jo of season nine is empty besides feeding the Doctor’s vainglory. Major surgery was needed (and amazingly, achieved) in the next season if the character was going to gain any kind of individuality. Jo once again willingly sacrifices her life to save the Doctor, which is fast becoming her end of season spectacular defining characteristic.
The Good Stuff: The insane, hypnotic, apocalyptic opening suggests this might be something awesome. I really like the use of the slow motion window cleaner (that guy turns up everywhere…in all planets and time zones!) since it is a useful visual marker of time being screwed up by the Master’s experiments. The Master of the early episodes does manage to maintain his quintessence of smooth; puffing away on a cigar and sipping brandy by firelight, dictatorial and charming and declaring himself a lifelong pacifist! Chronovores are a nice concept, just the words time eaters provokes some interesting imagery. The first trip to Atlantis in episode two is shot on film and makes for a welcome change of scene. The TARDIS looks fab on the lorry. We finally get some fun with Roundheads, Cavaliers and Doodlebugs. Mike Yates looks really messy and cut up in the aftermath and belongs in a far more gripping story than the rest of this nonsense. I know I shouldn’t but I rather like the space age trippy TARDIS design. Suddenly we are assaulted with some genuinely clever ideas, Time Ram is where two TARDISes share the same space causing utter annihilation and the Russian Dolls TARDISes, TARDISes within TARDISes is oddly dismissed here when it is lauded in Logopolis. The Master muting the Doctor made me howl with laughter, ‘Oh what a bore the fellow is!’ The Doctor’s whispering subconscious thoughts is a nice, eerie concept. Somehow George McCormack manages to subvert his awful dialogue and create a fun and engaging character in Dalios. Apparently the Master has the ‘bearing of a God’ and he flirts outrageously with Galia before winning her heart and bossing her about like the Doctor does with Jo (maybe they are quite alike after all!). As bad as the Minotaur costume is you just know the third Doctor will be boasting to all and sundry that he manages to bait it with his red hanky! The Daisest Daisy scene is very sweet if a tad overwritten but the sentiment is very nice. The Master calls the Doctor’s TARDIS an ‘old crock!’ Barry Letts may not have enjoyed the psychedelic simplicity of Big Head Kronos but I can only imagine what overblown and embarrassing effect we would have been subjected to if Letts had been directing. I love the ambiguity surrounding Kronos; it can be good and evil, budgie and female, destroyer or healer.
(I am amazed – I just wrote 400 positive words about The Time Monster!)
The Bad Stuff: Omega’s latest disguise (or at least Ian Collier who would play him in Arc of Infinity) is the awful Stuart Hyde! If you were really trying to impress some bigwigs you just wouldn’t call a sensible piece of scientific equipment TOMTIT, would you? You could play a game in this story; who do you want to kill first –immature hippy boff Stuart or militant feminist head teacher Ruth? Unfortunately the ‘We’ve Done It!’ dance never caught on in the 70’s. The Benny Hill-esque scenes of fast motion Bessie and horrid jaunty music don’t do the first episode any favours. The ageing Stuart is a nice, scary idea but the execution is diabolical, both the make up and the performance. What has happened to my lovely Brigadier? He’s more like a sitcom character in this story, acting like an ignorant prat throughout with stupid dialogue like, ‘I do wish you wouldn’t talk in riddles!’ and ‘Shove a couple of anti tanks in the boot!’ Somebody really needs to rein these actors in; Nick Courtney is playing the part like a comedy caricature of the same guy he played in season seven. The whole ‘get Benton out of the lab’ sequence is shamelessly boring padding (although I do love it when he beats Benton up!). Pervical is such a snivelling sidekick for the Master, why can’t he have his own ‘super bastard’ companion who is as hard as Jo is wet? An anti-Jo? Kronos is so obviously a bloke in a costume on a Kirby wire I probably would have scrapped the idea. Did the guy who plays Hippias even go to RADA? The time flow analogue made out of bits and pieces is a nice Whoish idea but it looks so improbable it loses all ability to convince (and how exactly are tea leaves the last ingredient that helps block the Master’s equipment?). It feels as though they are just making it up on set! Yates has musical grenades! There is a still photo posing as frozen time. The Doctor talking English backwards is absurd, how on Earth does the TARDIS reach into speech centres and alter your language. Wouldn’t it just be so embarrassing if the Doctor were finally murdered by a squawking, glowing budgie? The Atlantian scenes are stagier than a pantomime on Eastbourne pier, with some horrible sets (the backdrop in Dalios’ room) and sprinkled with cod Shakespearean dialogue. I never thought I would say it but during the final two episodes Roger Delgado finally gives in to farcical mire taking place around him and even his Master cannot elevate the scenes. The Minotaur costume is clearly a human body with a glistening bestial mask slapped on the guys head. In true theatrical style Dalios gets to make his final speech before croaking it. Ingrid Pitt cannot even bear to look at Roger Delgado when she declares. ‘Is this true?’ – perhaps in fear of laughing or perhaps because she cannot believe that her career has sunk to this. The fall of Atlantis is executed with all the grace and splendour of a Saturday morning kids show sketch complete with bouncing rubble and hysterical extras. The Master finally becomes a pantomime villain when the Doctor pops up on the screen and he screams, ‘Doctor! Yeuch!’ and then proceeds to snivel and beg for his life. Watch the ‘It’s going to go!’ lame explosion of TOMTIT – it just sort of goes ‘phut.’ The last shot of everybody laughing at naked Benton and the Brigadier raising an arch eyebrow is the perfect snapshot of everything that went wrong in season nine. This needs to change.
(604 words – Bad Stuff wins)
The Shallow Bit: ‘Come, Kronos, Come!’ Sorry I couldn’t resist! Despite my reservations about her character Jo is still as cute as a kitten playing about in a ball of wool. The Atlantian Jo in her lavish wig and jewellery looks stunning. Hippias the Hideous should have covered up his man boobs with his loincloth! Benton in the Buff is stomach poisoning but it could have been worse, it could have been Mike.
Result: The best thing you can say about The Time Monster is that it is not quite as bad as its bottom-of-the-barrel reputation but that really isn’t saying much. Considering there is far too many elements in play (Chronovores, TOMTIT, Atlantis, Time Ram, the Master, the Minotaur) there is an extraordinary amount of padding (Benton’s phone call, Roundheads, Time Flow Analogue…). The story is packed full of idiotic incidental characters who add nothing to the story (Percival, Crosis, the ooh-argh farmer, Hippias) and it features some of the dullest technobabble this side of a Geordie La Forge episode of Star Trek. You can add a few points for attempting an end of season spectacular with everything but the kitchen sink thrown in but minus a million points for fudging practically every element so infamously. There is no visual splendour to any of the ambitious ideas and the UNIT team come across as mock pastiche of the team at their height. Thank Christ things were about to improve in season ten: 3/10