Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Season Twenty One

Probably the most stable and consistently strong Davison season with some of my absolute favourites and capped by the introduction of the sixth Doctor in controversial fashion. Here the Doctor faces up to the Silurians & Sea Devils, the Malus, Tractators, Daleks, the Master, android duplicates and the Giant Gastropods!


The regulars -


















Warriors of the Deep written by Johnny Byrne and directed by Pennant Roberts


This story in a nutshell: JNT had the choice of either going ahead and making this story and rushing the production forward two weeks or cancelling it. He made the wrong choice. And who’s to blame? Margaret Thatcher of course!

An English Gentleman: With the odd exception in his first two years this is the season where I really start to buy into the fifth Doctor but going against popular opinion I actually feel there are some serious problems with his characterisation in this particular story. Everybody is always harping on about how the sixth Doctor is such an unthinking bully and the fifth Doctor an adorable pacifist – bollocks to that! He says hello to the staff on the Sea Base by almost creating a nuclear explosion and kicking the shit out of two guards when a simple hello would do. He then goes on to disguise himself as a guard rather than just saying hello and then pointing a gun in the face of the edgy Base Commander. He also has a very odd stance on the Silurian attack on the Sea Base, suggesting that they could have blown the base apart and ‘they certainly have reason to!’ Short term memory loss means that the Doctor thinks that all the Silurians have ever wanted was to create peace with humanity when in reality they tried to wipe us all out with a plague in their first story. Then he goes on to have a right hissy fit and questions why he likes the people of this miserable planet when the Base staff suggest wiping the Silurians out when they are attempting to incite a nuclear war. And then he does just that…murders the whole bally lot of them! His logic is severely flawed, his memory is extremely hazy and his actions don't follow through from his arguments. Don’t worry though because he looks around at the end and says ‘there should have been another way.' The Doctor been is rarely this judgemental and has used such sledgehammer tactics – he even murders the Myrka rather than knocking it out. Why stun when you can kill? There’s a tiny scene between Turlough and the Doctor at the beginning, which sees them sizing each other up now that the former has decided to stay, and it's far more interesting dynamic before Tegan crowbars between them with her almighty attitude problem. ‘Tegan make a wish!’ – Peter Davison (despite the dodgy characterisation) is trying his damdest to make this story work. Basically he is fighting lazy direction, poor effects, a naff musical score, weak guest performers and the fact that he manages to find some moments of charm and shows what an incredible (and persistent) performer he is.I have no problems with Davison himself, he is actually very good throughout Warriors of the Deep but Johnny Byrne's characterisation of this incarnation is once again off the boil (in Arc he was too despondent about the whole affair, here he is too accusatory - there must be a happy medium).

Australian Attitude: Tegan says she doesn’t like walking into rooms that say ‘Radiation: KEEP OUT’ written on the door. I bet the Doctor and Turlough were dying to shove her inside. All Tegan seems to do for the first two episodes is walk around corridors and she actually manages to be quite bearable in that role (it's hardly a screaming indictment of her character, is it?) because she isn’t contributing anything to the narrative at all. At one point Tegan is flattened by a mattress, which means there is somebody up there listening to my prayers. My biggest problem is that there is nothing to do with her character anymore – back in season nineteen there was a nice little arc chugging along about her trying to return home plus she had the two Mara stories that showed her at her best but since Enlightenment it is clear that Tegan is suffering from the Charley Pollard Syndrome which is she has to go because there is nothing else to say about the character but somebody on the creative team clearly cannot bear to part with her. With nothing else to explore Tegan is just…there. Being stroppy. Maddox holds the gun on Tegan and I was screaming ‘DO IT!’ at the telly!

Shifty Eyes: Such a waste, not giving Turlough anything to do because he is such an interesting character played by an actor who cares about the material. Strickson has swallowed his melodrama pills in this story and we get the following choice scrotum-clenchingly dramatic statements: ‘FACE IT TEGAN, HE’S DROWNED!’, ‘GO TEGAN! SAVE YOURSELF!’, ‘The master control to bulkhead one…WHERE IS IT?’ and my personal favourite ‘The Doctor and Tegan…WHERE ARE THEY?’This poor actor is so desperate for something to do he seizes every opportunity he can to turn it up to factor eleven and remind everybody he is still involved.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘There should have been another way’ but only because of the irony laced in that statement.

The Good Stuff: I rather like the model work, especially the opening shot and the Silurian probe. Very Gerry Anderson. The story as written is great, two opposing nuclear powers with one expecting an attack and only a work experience lad able to operate the missiles and fire back…so why is it all lacking any atmosphere? I like the idea of the TARDIS entering the forbidden military zone; more stories should start with something juicy like that (but it’s a shame about the middle class BBC English voice that warns them to bugger off). The Doctor falling into the water is a great, unexpected stunt. There’s a really good sequence where the guards walk into the TARDIS with a look of astonishment which belongs in a much better story altogether. The Sea Devil face bubbling up with green goo is wonderful; there should have been more gore like that to make this massacre believable.

The Bad Stuff: Deep breath… The Sea Base is lit up like a football pitch and hugely spacious and gleaming...this should have been a clanking, dirty, cramped space dripping with lichen (think of the sea fort in The Sea Devils). The boring reveal of the Silurians is a shocking oversight; there is absolutely no attempt to build up any menace. Douglas Camfield would be appalled. The Silurian underwater sets should have been shot on film because in the harsh artificiality of video they look alarmingly like the sort of groovy sets that house children's magazine shows.  Why…do…the…Silurians…walk…and…talk…so…slowly? It makes the lackadaisical pace of the piece feel even more painful. Imagine one of these guys giving as political speech? Nitza Saul redefines the term 'a  wooden performance' as Karina and says ‘don’t throw your career away over this’ with all the passion of a plank of somebody reciting their shopping to Tesco's over the phone. You'd be hard pressed not to recognise Solow and Nilsen as the bad guys. The look and act pure villain (and at one point Solow actually turns to the camera and narrows her eyes with pure malevolence). Ingrid Pitt and Ian McCulloch are big draws but surrender to the pantomime nature of the production.  At times the Silurian dialogue is barely audible but since they hardly ever say anything worth listening that’s not a huge problem. The simulation nuclear run should have been tightly edited with quick cut shots, exciting music, tense performances but in reality the camera is stationary, there’s no music and the actors all look like they are waiting for the lunch bell to ring. I’m surprised the Doctor didn’t say ‘Oh look Hexachromite gas! That’ll come in handy in episode four!’ The Silurian suits are way too cumbersome and don’t allow much movement so the actors all walk like they need a poo. I'm not just being facetious, go and look again! Fortunately the Sea Devils walk at a snails pace too so neither of the reptilian races has to hang around waiting for the other as they plod…plod…plod through the Sea Base. Davison makes a very good point about the glacial pace of the action scenes and how they are choreographed...why do the Base personnel just stand in a line waiting to be shot down? Do they all have a persecution complex? Often mentioned but rarely seen, I definitely spotted a wobbly wall at the end of part one. I think he’s supposed to be saluting but Salvix looks like he’s waving as he heads off to attack the Base. Compare and contrast the attack on the Sea Base to the attack on Davros’ prison in Ressurection of the Daleks – in the Eric Saward scripted massacre they are genuinely shitting themselves and everything from the pace to the editing to the lighting to the music is making so much more effort to get you on the edge of your seat. It highlights the difference between a creaky old staff director and a young, new dynamic one. Compare the actions scenes here with those from Caves of Androzani and the difference is so enormous the correlation goes into meltdown. I love how the Myrka peeks his head through the mattress as if to say 'hello!' (reminds me of Big Man T-Rex from Invasion of the Dinosaurs when he comes smashing through a brick wall). The full size creature has to be seen to be truly believed – part panto horse, part seaweed and part Gorn (google it). Why didn’t they rewrite the script to excise the Myrka if it is going to be so hurriedly constructed and wind up look like that? If JNT really did see the finished creature and declare it was magnificent then he had been at this job for too long. Michael Grade had a point. Death is cheap in Warriors of the Deep, so many faceless people are cut down throughout the course of the story without any thought about them. What an unfortunate epitaph for Ingrid Pitt, her ‘judo chop!’ attack on the Myrka has gone down in infamy. The Myrka lies down so he can catch some zzzs, bless him. Watch his demise carefully, this is the work of two puppeteers trying desperately to fall over comfortably. Who’s idea was it to put bubble wrap on the beds in the sleep quarters…how annoying would that be? I’m not kidding – go and watch the sequence where Icthar tells the Doctor ‘twice we offered the hand of friendship’ – it looks like the Sea Devil behind him has fallen asleep standing up! The Silurians and the Sea Devils in a story that mimics Frontier in Space, this really is a love letter to the Pertwee era. Or an insult to their efforts. barry Letts probably watched this and wept. There’s a whopping great close up on Ichtar’s bum when he dies you get a good shot of his zip. The Commander, easily the most melodramatic thing dies screaming ‘He did it!’ What a guy. 

The Shallow Bit: A sopping wet Peter Davison. Someone hold my mum back! Oh no – the Sea Devils look like huge bulbous deformed willies in uniforms. It does sound like Cervix. What the hell is Tegan wearing? Looks like someone has been sick over her.

Result: ‘There should have been another way’ indeed! Warriors of the Deep is one of Doctor Who’s biggest embarrassments – it’s the sort of story that non-fans can justifiably point at and prove that the show was a shockingly inept pantomime. It is clear from the documentary that nobody was ready to make this and the script should have been shelved until they had the time, resources and right director to bring it to life. It's not even fun in kitsch way like The Chase and Time and the Rani because the whole thing is played (unconvincingly) so straight so there are very few laughs. It’s one of the shows lost opportunities because it is clearly Johnny Byrne’s best script; a dramatic, linear, pacy piece that ends on a very thoughtful note but any subtleties or dynamism on lost on the director who films it with all the excitement nature documentary. Warriors’ Gate and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy were made under similarly strained and pressed circumstances and they are both fantastic – Warriors of the Deep is one of the casualties of the classic series: 2/10

The Awakening written by Eric Pringle and directed by Michael Owen Morris

Open Honest Face: Davison seems a lot more confident in this story than he did earlier but that’s what three years in the role will do for you. He said that come his last season he felt he had a greater handle on the part and had he been blessed with these stories than some of the non entities in his second season that he might have stayed on for a fourth. There is something of the angry, slightly jaded hero about him, a man who left the Sea Base littered with corpses in the last story and who would go on to be bullied and pushed about for the rest of the season. Much like stories such as Black Orchid, Time-Flight and Terminus, throughout this story he is stuck with having to relay all the alarming exposition (via Jane Hampden to the audience) so rather than being able to enjoy the atmosphere of the story and its setting he is stuck explaining away every plot point to the secondary characters. The one saving grace is his chemistry with Will which is really sweet and shows you just how charismatic and engaging it could have been during the Davison era had they jettisoned Tegan and brought in somebody with a little charm.His chemistry with Jane is not a patch on the last time he had a Liver Bird in his wake.

Acidic Aussie: We're approaching the end of her time on the show (thank goodness because I've run out of negative terminology) and she is still bringing down the tone of every single story with her bad attitude and adding very little of actual worth to the narrative. Whether it was JNT or Eric Saward who kept her around because they thought she was popular I couldn't tell you but it is clear from her non-existence in the past two stories that she has long outlived her welcome. The first thing that comes out of her mouth is a complaint that they have landed in the wrong place (which is as predictable as me complaining about it). Bellyaching about her mistreatment. Hysterical about her Grandfather. Pissed off about her (hideous) handbag being stolen. Doesn’t like the carving in the church. Screams at the naff projection. Rants at Sir George. ‘Let me go!’ ‘I wouldn’t dream of putting you to so much trouble!’ ‘I’m not in the mood for playing silly games!’ ‘Thanks for nothing!’ Tegan is just vile. She finally smiles for the first time ten minutes before the end of the story. Frankly she’s only good for a May Queen burning these days.

Alien Spy: Wasted. Again. Turlough is lost amongst a huge cast and is only really actively doing something when he is locked up with Verney. Otherwise he runs about the village, with little dialogue and even less point. I quite like Turlough, his  slyness was a welcome touch of character in the frequently stilted 80’s companions but after his introductory trio of stories he was merely a cipher, Frontios and Planet of Fire excepting. A huge waste of Mark Strickson’s talents.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘You speak treason!’ ‘Fluently!’
‘The toast of Little Hodcombe…’

The Good Stuff: The ideas holding the story together are great and I can (almost) see why fans of this story are sold on them alone as they are so quintessentially, gorgeously Doctor Who. An isolated village, war games being enacted, an ominous crack in as church wall unleashing an ancient evil…it sounds like a marvellous story but unfortunately much of this is told through dissertation rather than action and all the relevant setting up pieces are missing. It feels like we are coming in at the end of a story having missed all the best bits. The derelict church set is really convincing and I love the little splash of colour in the stained glass window. A English village kissed by sunlight affords the story a few moments of sublime location filming. Will Chandler is charming, emotive and likable and feels like a an authentic person, he really shows up the current companions for the vacuous nobodies that they are. The idea of the Malus ‘having a war in him’ is really scary. I have to compliment the lighting, which is steeped in shadows and appropriately moody - not a compliment you can level at ever 80’s story.The soundtrack is memorable too, more a series of dramatic vignettes than whole pieces of music but snappy and attention grabbing ones nonetheless. Nice church explosion.

The Bad Stuff: You have to question why Eric Pringle was allowed to bring in two substitution companions for the fifth Doctor (Jane and Will) when the two he has are given absolutely nothing to do. Is it an indictment of how badly they have turned out that they need replacing? Polly James, the other half of the Liver Birds is as unconvincing and melodramatic in this as Nerys Hughes was persuasive and gentle in Kinda. There isn’t one convincing piece of dialogue in the first TARDIS scene, either in the script or the delivery. Willow bugs me more than many villainous characters because he is such a crawling mincing old ham and was willing to attack people, burn Tegan and generally behave in an unacceptably violent way and yet at the story’s conclusion they are all shaking hands with him saying ‘No recriminations?’ Get off! He should be arrested for his actions and punished and it is typical of this story not having enough time to deal with things adequately. The cliffhanger features the longest ever ‘Doccctooooooooooorrrrrrrrrr!’ on record. What’s annoying is how you can see how a lot of these scenes could be worked into a longer, more comprehensive and atmospheric story with some real tension and atmosphere. Its almost as though somebody has edited all the exposition scenes together without any of the mood or scene setting. The psychic projections sequences have replaced plot development and are full of empty tension. One character states that the events here will change the future of mankind but there is no context and no substance for such a grandiloquent statement. Frankly it would be more than a little embarrassing if this pageant led to the end of the world. The Malus projections in all their guises are static and nonthreatening. There is hardly a single scene that doesn’t feel truncated in some way and they fail to flow naturally into one another. Why does the Doctor take so many people into the TARDIS at once? And why do none of them have any kind of reaction? Time was when it genuine changed how people viewed the world, now it's a quite 'Strike me Pink!' and on with the plot. What exactly do we know about Sir George, Willow, Jane, Woolsey or Verney at the story’s climax besides their occupation and their function to the plot? These aren't characters, their ciphers. The cast is so huge that many scenes feature people standing about with no dialogue. The casual explanation that the Malus was a precursor to an invasion is a shocking revelation in all the wrong ways, condemning this story as an unimportant prelude to the drama that is to come.

Result: The Awakening features a rushed plot that desperately needs another half an hour or two to sort out a lot of its problems. It would allow the plot to breathe, to set up the story rather than dumping us in the middle of it and leave some time for convincing character development (or simply some characterisation at all). The story pretty much sells itself on its location and the menace of its ideas but there is no substance or texture to the story to hold everything together. It’s a lot of running about, a few idle threats and a dozen psychic projections before everybody piles onto the TARDIS and the story is wrapped up in a bow of technobabble and screaming. This is probably the most frustrating Doctor Who story ever because I can see precisely how this could be worked into a truly phenomenal four parter. Some call it economic and pacy, I call it an empty exercise in time wasting: 4/10

Frontios written by Christopher H. Bidmead and directed by Ron Jones

TO BE REVIEWED...

Ressurection of the Daleks written by Eric Saward and directed by Matthew Robinson

This story in a nutshell: ‘So they have returned to their creator…like an errant child.’

Fair Fellow: Don’t get me wrong I think there is some superb work done with the fifth Doctor in this story and Peter Davison gives an exceptionally strong performance. What really gets stuck in my teeth is when writers like Paul Cornell enthuse about how Davison’s Doctor adheres to pacifism compared to brutes like Colin Baker’s sixth Doctor. Its bollocks, frankly. In this story the Doctor willingly handles a pistol and shoots a Dalek mutant, he shoves a gun in Davros’ face, he happily clips explosives to a Dalek and then lets off a lethal virus that murders more. He's a mass murderer. That's the whole point of the story, just like Warriors of the Deep, he realises that he has to change his ways. It's all very well coming to an epiphany after the event but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of people had to die to complete your psychological education. It just really bugs me when people criticise the sixth Doctor for exactly the same reason and yet in the same breath give the fifth Doctor a free pass because he feels bad about it – I guess its because he has no problem in taking out humanoid enemies whereas number five is a bit of coward in that respect. ‘We have to find it before it tries to kill again’ is a typically melodramatic Eric Saward line that should be awful but Davison is simply gripping, giving these scenes real gravity. Something has happened to his character since the massacre on Sea Base Four, he was full of fire in Frontios and displays a similar blazing eyed fury in this story and it is a welcome change. Tegan recognizes it in him and suddenly she wants to leave. The fifth Doctor has grown a pair of balls, that's all in a universe that is no longer plying by the rules. Davison does amazing work without saying a word; look at the look of pure abhorrence when he discovers the corpse of the Colonel and his men. His decision to kill Davros is a real shock but it does make sense if you have seen Genesis of the Daleks (to which the Doctor eludes to here). Robinson allows some for some astonishing close ups which gives Davison the chance to emote beautifully when the Doctor holds a weapon in Davros’ face and the monstrous scientist tells him he is a moral coward. It's not until Tegan turns on him and tells him she is leaving that the Doctor realises what this violence has brought him to. He begs her not to leave this and can barely shake her hand as she walks out of his life. He says he left Gallifrey for similar reasons ('if you stop enjoying it, give it up...') and he will have to sort himself out. It's powerful characterisation for a Doctor who often gets saddled with a exposition only. It seems a shame that Davison should about to depart when he suddenly feels assured in the role and Saward has started taking risks with the character. 

Mouth on Legs: It is clear from her effect on proceedings (none at all) that it is long past time for Tegan to go. She gets knocked over by a Dalek, spends an episode in bed and then escapes and runs around a bit whilst Turlough is doing all the exciting stuff on the space station. What I never predicted was that Tegan would get such an affecting departure scene, one of the finest offered up in the classic series. Saward pre-empts her decision with the sequence of the faceless extra metal detecting being shot down in cold blood, the Professor suffering the same fate and the massacre in the warehouse. There is so much death in that second episode that Tegan’s disgusted reaction mirrors the audiences. Finally I can empathize with this character and all it took was mass murder. Surrounded by corpses Tegan declares she is sick of seeing people die and that travelling with the Doctor has stopped being fun. How can you argue with that? There is no time for a proper teary goodbye because she is out of there before she changes her mind. That happens but the Doctor has already left with his tail tucked between his legs. Her decision to stay on Earth is made for her. If Tegan had been written with as much care throughout her tenure as she is during her leaving scene we could have had a genuinely engaging character on our hands rather than an angry mouthpiece of he shows fans. Unfortunately for the last two seasons she has been little but a mouth on legs with little development (only Snakedance, Enlightenment and Frontios do anything special with her) and I can only welcome the idea of the far more interesting Turlough going solo.

Over the Shoulder: Never has that description been more appropriate. Look at Turlough in the background of every scene rolling his eyes  suspiciously and watching his back. Anyone would think that he was the Dalek agent. Turlough does eventually catch up with the action but he spends the majority of the first half of the story wandering corridors and failing to interact with anybody. He trips over corpses, suffers a beating and is sent on a suicide mission - you could make an argument that Saward might not like the character. One moment that is skipped over but shows how ruthless Turlough can be despite the fact that he is living under the pretense of a happy go lucky adventurer is when Mercer asks ‘What about the guards?’ and Turlough replies ‘We kill them…’ Thanks goodness Tegan didn't hear that. Near the end of the story Turlough says ‘best news all day’ about going back to Earth. He’s changed his tune.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘The creatures of Earth have no stomach for judicial murder. They prefer to leave you to rot and die. They call it being humane.’
‘They’ll kill anybody…even if they need them.’
‘Why do they take themselves so seriously?’
‘You’re like a deranged child always talking of killing, revenge and destruction!’

The Good Stuff: The opening scene screams of Eric Saward in all the best ways; gripping, gritty, nasty and violent – it’s an unforgettably brutal rain-lashed massacre set in the London Docks. Rula Lenska puts in a fine performance as the dispassionate, hard as nails station Doctor, she’s a million miles away from a similar character that Ingrid Pitt played far less effectively in Warriors of the Deep and yet she is given much less character to grasp hold of. The station sets look fantastic considering the budget restrictions; it looks futuristic, spacious and Robinson insists it is lit moodily. Smoking in a Doctor Who story? Whatever next? The TARDIS and Tower Bridge in the same shot is a clash of icons but perfect for publicity shots. Matthew Robinson’s dynamic direction ensures the attack on the station is pacy and dramatic with barely a second to catch a breath. Imagine if Pennant Roberts or Peter Moffatt were directing this? Some directors recognise that the Daleks need a dramatic entrance and this is one of the best examples, blasting through the shield and massacring the crew. The face melting make up is strong stuff for the tea time audience and I can imagine a portion of the audience turning their nose up at their baked beans on toast. Destiny of the Daleks was trying to build up to a spectacular return for Davros but it didn't quite come off as intended and given another opportunity to get it right, JNT ensures that everything is thrown at this story to make it as memorable as possible. Look at Davros' reveal, bathed in blue light and smoke.  A much published photograph, the Doctor pushing the Dalek from the second storey is pretty damn exciting. Terry Molloy was a superb bit of casting as Davros and he manages to get under the skin of the character like Michael Wisher did, silky voiced and genuinely psychotic. There are times when he pushes the hysterical ranting to the limit but and he comes across as a raving child but somehow that is even more frightening. I love how desperate the producers of Doctor Who have become in the eighties, I remember Verity Lambert saying she would never have shown the Dalek mutant in its entirety in fear of scaring the bejesus out of the audience and yet here we have a glistening snot coloured nasty sucking blood from an innocent squaddies neck. How times have changed. The whole sequence feels like it belongs in a (rather good) horror movie and that can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Saward is aware of the Movellan war enough to mention the conflict and keep the fans happy whilst failing to include them and blight the production. Clever chap. ‘Why am I so excited? This will be the last thing I ever do…’ – like Russell T Davies after him never let it be said that Eric Saward isn't good at building up a tense atmosphere and Styles' suicidal desperation to bring the Daleks down leads to some memorable scenes. Dalek on Dalek action is fecking brilliant; they go up like insane robotic fireworks and the child in me was screaming with excitement. How nasty is the Daleks frothing with foam from the virus and being unable to express their pain except in childish, slurred cries? I never thought I would feel pity for a Dalek but there we are. It might be a lazy way of cutting that part of the narrative dead but the explosion of the prison ship is genuinely climactic. So shocked am I by it's effect on me that I have to mention it again - Tegan's leaving scene is a real tearjerker. Who would have ever suspected? 

The Bad Stuff: What is it about designers being asked to bring the fashion of the future alive? The Thunderbird style hats are up there with the spray on uniforms from The Ice Warriors and the nappy trousers from The Seeds of Death. Check out the scene where the Daleks storm the bridge - the crew is made up of actors that have already been exterminated elsewhere (it is almost edited together quickly enough that you wont notice). There are some very funny deaths that resemble the Tarantella. The soldiers from the warehouse are duplicated very quickly.  The cliffhanger is both ridiculously melodramatic and makes no sense. If Stein was a Dalek agent why was he acting so terrified of the other troopers earlier in the episode when there was nobody to act up to? There were plenty of other moments that would have made a better cliffhanger (the Daleks approaching on the Doctor a few seconds later for example). The Daleks seem to be juggling 101 plans at once in this story (saving Davros, duplicates on Earth, curing the Movellan virus, etc) and assassinating the High Council is perhaps a thread too far. Although it provides another nice stepping stone on the path to the Time War after Genesis of the Daleks. Why does Chloe Ashcroft grab her head as though she is being deafened? What is that all about? ‘I CAN’T STAND THE CONFUSION IN MY MIND!’ – Bewes has never been the most sophisticated of performers but when handed a Saward script that asks him to contradict himself from one scene to the next he is completely at sea. The killing gets out of hand in the last episode when Saward can think of no other way to deal with his spaghetti junction of plot threads but to cut them all dead. Literally dead. An absolute bloodbath (minus blood). Some of the exterminations are pure panto. The Supreme Dalek popping up at the end should have been excised because it is another unnecessary complication. What happened to the duplicates that he activated? Big Finish? 

The Shallow Bit: Tegan has never look more like a hooker. The soldier who stops for a fag is gorgeous.

Result: Yes it is too violent, yes it is too nasty and yes it is too complicated but I still find it ridiculously entertaining. For once the Daleks feel like a terrifyingly violent force that cannot be opposed and Davros makes a very welcome return with Saward setting up some interesting tension between him and his creations. Saward himself called this the worst Doctor Who script ever written and whilst it does require a script editor to untangle it a little and find a more interesting way to tie everything up besides massacring everybody, it does have an impressive number of set pieces and an understanding of how to set up a dramatic scenario with plenty of atmosphere. Certainly there have been worse Doctor Who scripts written. Matthew Robinson’s direction must be praised because he never keeps the camera still and is constantly finding ways of making the action dynamic and looking like the budget was ten times its size. The realisation of the show during this period was generally quite slack when in the hands of theatrical directors such as Peter Moffatt, Ron Jones and Pennant Roberts but every now and again a Grimwade, Robinson or Harper would emerge to shake things up a bit. Peter Davison gives another impressive last season performance and the Doctor is pushed further over to the edge than ever before. It makes you wonder how much longer this placid incarnation can make a difference in such an ugly universe. He needs to regenerate into someone tougher and more violent in order to face these horrors head on. Resurrection of the Daleks is a terrific Cowboys vs Indians life or death struggle in space and one classic Who’s most effective action stories. Just don’t think about it too much: 8/10

Planet of Fire written by Peter Grimwade and directed by Fiona Cumming

This story in a nutshell: The Master has been cut down to size, Turlough is reminded of home and Peri causes a lot of horny young Doctor Who fans to think some very bad thoughts…

Open Honest Face: When the first line out of our heroes mouth is one this laughable (‘Daleks, I sometimes think those mutated misfits…’) you might think we are in for a troubling ride but it is so refreshing to have a fifth Doctor story without Tegan dogging his steps that I find this one of Peter Davison’s stronger performances. He seems perfectly comfortable with his decision to leave the show and embraces the holiday mood of this piece, kicking back and enjoying the adventure. I love the shot of him sitting by the quayside enjoying a glass of water and taking in the ambience. Peter Davison manages with one look of horror to suggest what a nightmare it is to have the Master back on the scene better than Fiona Cumming has managed with a whole episode of dealing with the ham fisted bun vendor. The Doctor seems to have been taking a few counselling lessons as he attacks Kamelion psychologically, using metaphor to cut his link with the Master. The Doctor and Peri are kept apart until the climax of the story but it makes their scenes together worth waiting for. They spark off each other well, she is cheeky with him and he feels more like an old man in a young body than ever. I wouldn’t change the  next season with Sixie and Peri for anything (their chemistry is awesome) but it might have been interesting if this season had introduced Peri a little earlier so we could explore more stories with this duo. The look on Davison’s face as the Doctor apparently kills the Master is either one of regret or perhaps even the Doctor figures that his old friend has become such an embarrassing parody of his old self that he needs to be put down like a sick dog.

Over The Shoulder: It's wonderful to see that Turlough is back at his shiftiest best in his last story, deliberately sabotaging the console and driving some painful feedback into Kamelion (come on, admit it, you were cheering too). Peter Grimwade eeks out the information about Turlough’s background a bit at a time to keep the viewer guessing. His unusual behaviour in the TARDIS preventing the Doctor from receiving a Trion distress signal and the fact that he has been branded with the same symbol as Malkon leads up to an impressive revelation that they were both political prisoners and brothers. Outshining both Tegan and Adric, Turlough has been the standout companion of the Davison era (Nyssa excepted) and it is great to see him going out in a story that answers questions about his background and provides some nice surprises. There is a terrific moment where the Doctor finally calls Turlough on his secretive nature and tells him in no uncertain terms if he is hiding anything that will aid the Master that their friendship is over. It's direct and perfectly played by both actors and shows that there could have been some real potential with these two travelling alone. The Davison era seems to be a period of missed opportunities like this. That Sarn turns out to be a prison planet for political prisoners on Trion is an unsuspected turn of events and gives Turlough a strong reason to leave the Doctor. Civil war on his planet saw Turlough’s mother killed, his father was on the wrong side and was exiled to Sarn with his younger brother whilst he was sent to Earth. The mention of the batty solicitor is a lovely tie to Mawdryn Undead. I find it so odd that in a three year span where the dynamics between the regulars is so mishandled that all four Davison companions get fantastic leaving scenes – Adric goes in possibly the greatest companion exit ever (how did that happen?), Nyssa’s is tear jerking, Tegan’s is an eye opening reminder of the violence that has crept into the series and finally Turlough gets a gentle, assuming exit that shows that a deep respect has developed between him and the Doctor. Why couldn’t the companions be this well characterised all the time? Ta-ra Turlough, you were a bit of a missed opportunity but by jiminy you had plenty of potential and I’m glad we had a male companion this interesting aboard for a period.

Doppelganger: Poor Kamelion never really had a chance to shine, did he? Not even Dodo suffered the indignity of only appearing in the first and last story (although at least Kamelion had a decent exit scene which Ms Chaplet was denied) and he has apparently been locked away in a completely empty room ever since he joined the TARDIS, plugged into the wall. A couple of issues of Doctor Who Weekly with Frobisher reveal just how much fun you can have with a shape shifting companion and the production teams failiure to do anything interesting with this character is possibly their greatest sin yet. Whether he is a creaky robot, Howard in silver paint or camped up as the Master, Kamelion looks rubbish and spends most of the story having a nervous breakdown. I’m sure his death scene was supposed to be a touching moment at the hands of the Doctor but the viewers can only feel relief that he has been put out of his misery. Kamelion could have been a gorgeous chance to bring in some fine British character actors/actresses who didn't want to be tied to a series but get a chance to play a role in the show - he could be in a different guise each week. The possibilities are endless.

Busty Babe: Impulsive, fiery, sexy and resourceful, its easy to see why a whole generation fell in love with Peri (for reasons other than the purely aesthetic). There is a brilliant moment in episode one where Peri and Howard talk about her backpacking across Europe with the oceans crashing away behind them and it's like we have crossed genres into an episode of Home and Away and I can just imagine JNT watching these scenes and salivating, rubbing his hands together with glee. It's one of the few times that you get the impression that Peri is an impressionable youth because just a few stories later she would have to grow up very fast and start taking care of the Doctor. I love her little rant when she is stranded on the boat, this is one spoilt brat and no mistake. Peri’s nightmares about Howard leaving her in the dark have led to all sorts of theories that she was abused but surely they wouldn’t have been promoting that sort of thing in Doctor Who at the time? If the last thing Peri’s mother and step father knew was that she was trapped on the boat what on Earth did they think when they went out to get her and she was gone. Check out the Big Finish audio The Reaping by Joseph Lidster to find out – it is a fantastic story and Nicola Bryant plays her homecoming beautifully (plus it fills in loads of gaps with regards to her life back in the States). For a moment I was groaning at Peri screaming and crying in the TARDIS but if I had nearly drowned, found myself on an alien spaceship and watched my stepfather turn into a gangster I might be a little perturbed too. How awesome is she when answering ‘I am the Master!’ with ‘So what? I’m Perpeguilliam Brown and I can shout just as loud as you can!’ She's got some piss and vinegar, this one. It’s a shame that nothing more was made of Peri’s ‘three month vacation’ with the Doctor as she manages to swap her trip to England with some young lads for a trip around time and space (which was mostly to England anyway…actually for once that isn’t true – Androzani, Titan Three, Jaconda, England, Telos, Varos, England, Space Station Camera, Seville, Karfel, Necros, England, Thoros Beta – three times!). She will soon live to regret that decision.

How Utterly Evil: It's possibly the worst Master reveal of all time (it's between this and The Kings Demons) as he giggles his way out of fairy dust and appears to have done a dreadful job of sticking on his fake moustache! ‘You will come with me or you will remain in the TARDIS…dead!’ is just about the funniest line the Master has ever said. You’ve really lost your touch, mate. A polystyrene block bounces off his head. Was the idea to make the Master look as ridiculous as possible in this story? ‘You will be cremated…alive!’ are the sort of lines that a character spits when he has not only jumped the shark but given the ocean a wide berth too. Add ‘Infinitely superior, as I am to that galactic philanthropist!’ to the list. Remember when the Master was the epitome of cool during the Pertwee era, puffing on cigars in a chauffeur driven car and tossing out one-liners. Those days are long past. ‘Allow me to introduce the Tissue Compression Eliminator!’ he announces as though advertising the latest toy for Christmas. Why does this fella have to end every sentence on a threat… ‘You escaped from my slave but you will obey me…or die!’ I can’t take him remotely seriously. The only thing they could possibly do to bang the last nail in the coffin is make him tiny and have Peri chase him with her shoe to comedy music. Why exactly is the Master’s TARDIS black? Why would you advertise the fact that you are evil with interior decoration? Isn’t the satanic beard and all in one black jumpsuit enough? Like Kamelion, the Master’s death can only be a blessed relief for a character that has become a pantomime villain and it is only down to Peter Davison’s incredible reaction that the moment has any pathos at all. ‘I’ll give you anything in creation!’ he screams, about to burn to a crisp. How exactly? And spare me the thought of the two of them turning out to be brothers – thank goodness that line was never completed. Never fear, the Master will be back next year with no explanation as to his survival (except ‘I’m indestructible, the whole universe knows that!’) and this time demeaned even further as he plays second fiddle to a spanking new renegade Time Lord that kicks him in the bollocks when he gets on her nerves.

The Good: Is there a classic story that feels more like Doctor Who on holiday than this? The opening scenes of volcanic landscapes, deep-sea diving and tumultuous oceans really give the story a strong feeling that we are on vacation and the usual picturesque England is about as far away as you can get. It gives the show a spectacular look that reminds me just what a sound producer JNT was when it comes to putting money on screen. Who hasn’t dreamed of that scene where the TARDIS lands on a sun kissed beach? The Ursula Andreas shot of Peri being draped on the beach is brilliantly done. I really like the stand off between Peri and the Master with an vertiginous backdrop ensuring that she is in very real danger from his advances. Fiona Cumming gives the location work the care that the studio work is missing and the difference is highlighted in the Master who is frightening and unrelenting out in the sunshine and camp as Christmas under studio lights. I’m not sure if the end of episode two is effective because it is so well filmed (the music is great as well) or simply because after two episodes of the Doctor Who equivalent of ballet dancing something exciting finally happens. It doesn’t last long so enjoy it while it lasts. Once again the location work comes to the rescue in episode four where Cumming manages to stage what genuinely looks like a volcanic eruption and not a collection of stock shots. Eye watering heat and smoke curls from the ground as the characters make their way across crispy volcanic sediment and you feel as though the planet could crack open at any minute.

The Bad: It seems quite unfair to pair off Peter Wyngarde (who can deliver his dialogue with a naturalism without any effort at all) with Edward Highmore (who is trying his damnedest to give Malkon some credence and failing dismally). Malkon must join the long line of vacant and soppy leaders of alien planets in Doctor Who - he joins the ranks with Queen Thalira from The Monster of Peladon and Vena from Timelash. Dallas Adams has a bit of trouble too but then he is shoehorned into a troubled role of the disapproving stepfather with lines like ‘Dammit Peri!’ Remember when the Doctor thought the idea of letting people into the TARDIS was a terrifying prospect? Clearly he has gotten over that fear in this incarnation since he is happy to let entire crowds visit in Black Orchid, The Awakening and Planet of Fire. I love how in all three of these stories there is no time to deal with anybody’s reaction to a machine that is bigger on the inside than the outside so we get a couple of seconds worth of shocked faces and then the plot moves on. It is such lazy writing (or should that be lazy script-editing) that it's inclusion (which wasn’t needed at all) defies belief. How funny is it watching the Master and Peri play musical hide and seek when they head underground? Does Timanov commit suicide at the end? All we see is him stroll over to the fire whilst everybody is evacuating. It is a disappointingly casual and ambiguous end for a character that has been so dominant throughout.

On the whole I am extremely impressed with the CGI additions (Earthshock, The Invisible Enemy, Destiny of the Daleks and The Invasion of Time all benefit from updated effects) and special editions (the 70 minute Enlightenment is fast paced and visually stunning, Battlefield benefits from shots such as the helicopter coming to and from London, Curse of Fenric has a host of new material and Day of the Daleks is like watching a whole new show) but Planet of Fire is the one exception. Whilst I have the option to watch the originals on all of these stories this is the only one where I will only ever watch the original. Some of the effects are nice but for some bizarre reason the music is almost entirely absent (and it was one of the biggest strengths of the story), there is a tacked on prologue which is completely unnecessary (and looks desperately cheap) and a few updated effects do not make this anything to shout home about. In just about every way the original is the better version and it is a rare example of this sort of thing going awry. The success of Enlightenment went to Cumming's head and she should have known when to stop. 

The Shallow Bit: Nicola Bryant is an absolute feast on the eyes, of that we are all aware but I am willing to bet nobody expected such blatantly sexist shots with the camera practically going down her knickers and  bra as she prepares to jump into the ocean. Add in shots of Mark Strickson’s tight package being unveiled as he dives into the sea and rescues her and the eye watering moment the pair of them fall to the bed in the TARDIS dripping wet and you might just have the most pornographic material in all of Doctor Who. Dallas Adams gets in on the action too and proves to be the hottest step father this side of the Atlantic with his lovely chest on display during early scenes. For those of you who enjoy the hippy look there is Roskal with his long hair and hairy chest exhibited and to those who like them boyish type feast your eyes on Malkon whose blue eyes sparkle and slim body are barely covered for much of his scenes. JNT liked surrounding himself with pretty boys and this might just be his dream cast.

Result: The first episode of Planet of Fire is like nothing we have ever seen before. Pretty, soapy, expensive and almost entirely devoid of tension. It's not the writer that is to blame because he was given a shopping list of elements to be included that made the script too unwieldy and as a result Planet of Fire tries to do too many things and winds up being unmemorable. It wants to be an exit story for Turlough with revelations about his background, an introduction story for Peri, a continuation of the Master storyline, a treatise on religion and a science fiction tale about a planet on the brink of disaster. Because none of these plot threads have any time to breathe we get individual scenes that can be very good but the actual story itself is drawn out and anti-climactic. Gorgeous location work and a great score help to smooth over some of the rougher edges (unusually for Fiona Cumming the studio work is lacking any realism) and Peter Davison, Mark Strickson and Nicola Bryant all give fine performances. Kamelion always was a joke and it's nice of the series to embarrassingly admit it and thanks to his appearances in this era the Master has become a laughing stock too. Planet of Fire is such mish mash of good and bad it is hard to judge, a pretty average tale on the whole and it's mostly aesthetics and some interplay between the Doctor, Turlough and Peri that keep it afloat: 5/10


The Caves of Androzani written by Robert Holmes and directed by Graeme Harper

Result: Climaxing the fifth Doctor’s era with style, this is Doctor Who at its most devastating and violent. Caves of Androzani is the most dramatic Doctor Who story to date (including NuWho) and features Robert Holmes’ tightest script with razor sharp characters, a frantic pace, dialogue bristling with confidence and a stunningly satisfying last episode. Graeme Harper makes it his personal mission to make this story as stylish and dynamic as possible and he kicks off his astonishing run of stories with blissfully high production values. The highest praise needs to go to Davison though and he takes hold of this awesome opportunity to show his audience everything he was capable of. He’s astonishingly good. This has been touted as the best Doctor Who story of all time and whilst there are a handful I would say are personal favourites it is so good I can completely buy into its reputation. Another example of how blisteringly good eighties Who could be when it pulled out all the stops: 10/10

Full Review Here: http://docohobigfinish.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/the-caves-of-androzani-written-by.html

The Twin Dilemma written by Anthony Steven and directed by Peter Moffatt


This story in a nutshell: Big sluggy eggs being scattered across the universe…

Aristocratic Adventurer: Still the most controversial characterisation of the Doctor ever despite efforts in the new series (The Doctor is Jesus! The Doctor is God!). The Twin Dilemma’s erratic and violent sixth Doctor should have been an intriguing curio at the beginning of a long reign but instead a dramatically reduced number of stories meant that it resulted in being seen as the point where the show really started to go wrong. That obviously wasn’t the intention (who would set out to do that deliberately?) and when watched with the hindsight of Sixie’s Big Finish audio adventures it makes a whole lot more sense and ultimately he shows the most character growth. This is my long winded way of saying that I don’t object to what was being attempted here (in fact after three years of colourlessness I rather welcome it) but what I do object to is the realisation where both the script and the Colin Baker (despite many flourishes of quality) push the envelope a little too far. I like it when a show moves the goal posts of expectation but this was such a dramatic shift it took many by surprise and many never recovered. This is going to be a celebration of The Twin Dilemma’s (and the Doctor’s) madness and I will try and find many moments of joy throughout this, the most lamented of stories as proof that Doctor Who offers treasure even in adversity.  

This time the Doctor can sense the regeneration has been a positive triumph in every fibre of his being. When Peri tries to show him the full horror of his visage he sees nothing but a noble brow, a clear gaze and a face beaming with vast intelligence. His breakdown in the wardrobe room is very disturbingly played by Colin Baker, switching from horror to dark poetry to maniacal laughter in a few seconds of material. You genuinely get the sense that this guy could be capable of anything. Whilst her incessant whining can grate on the nerves at times not even Peri deserves to be strangled and it might have been a step too far to have the Doctor physically attacking his friends – it turns the TARDIS into a place to fear rather than a place of refuge and that is a very uncomfortable feeling. I admire their bravery for attempting it but it does nothing but harm the introduction of the new Doctor. How can he recover the audiences sympathies after committing such an abusive action? When he realises how scared Peri is of him he suddenly has an epiphany, that he is a living peril to the universe and he must become a hermit. Poor Peri has to put up with his insulting, accusatory nature and you want to cheer aloud when she finally turns on him and tells him she never saw anybody who loved themself so much with less reason. When the Doctor started ranting on about sicknesses in the air and troubled vibrations, I thought he was losing it again. As soon as he meets up with his old friend and mentor the Doctor finally starts to stabilise and become somebody that we might like to get to know. Ten million million combinations might take even the Doctor a few days to crack. The Doctor hates hit or miss performances – he better watch what he says because he will be Sylvester McCoy in no time. In one of his strops we learn what the Doctor really thinks of himself; old, lacking in vigour, his mind in a turmoil and not knowing if he’s coming or going or being. Come the last episode he is extremely grateful to see Peri alive. I love how he so brazenly strolls into Mestor’s throne room and attempts to kill him, its about as far from the fifth Doctor’s softly softly approach as you can get and very funny. He really enjoys winding the big slug up and after four episodes of listening the Gastropod growling it is very refreshing. Colin Baker’s wife was right, Azmael’s death scene really is one of his finest moments in the series. A genuinely touching moment and the final affirmation that the Doctor is back and better than ever.

Busty Babe: Nicola Bryant is phenomenally good in this story and it is often overlooked amongst all of the dreck. Given the erratic tone of the piece more than ever do we need a human presence to empathize with and she makes the early TARDIS scenes a haunting experience. It's helped by the fact that despite their characters differences, she and Colin Baker have instant chemistry and try and make the most of their tension with some lovely little touches. Peri really doesn’t fancy shacking up in some utterly comfortless place where she and the Doctor can suffer together for his sins. She is practically his moral compass, having to convince him to save Hugo. Peri sheds real tears when she thinks the Doctor is dead so I guess she has adjusted to him after all. Even the Doctor is baffled by her response. At the end of the story the secret smile that she and the Doctor share suggest that we are about to go on a wild ride with the pair of them.

Hunky Hugo: I really wish JNT had seen the wisdom of keeping Kevin McNally on, Frazer Hines style, when it became so apparent that he shared such fun chemistry with Baker and Bryant. Hugo is sweet to Peri but doesn’t put up with any of the Doctor’s nonsense and holds him at gunpoint whilst he does as he is told. He’s young, strong, fit of limb, he’s confident in his mission, his energies boundless and he’s highly motivated to success! He even has a gun to enforce his will upon others. Hugo tells Peri not to waste her breath on the Doctor and that they will manage without him. With the Doctor’s blessing (and an insult of course) Hugo takes up the mantle of ruling Jaconda. What a shame because its clear that Peri is as sad to see him go as I am. McNally is playing a thankless role in a thankless story and he's excellent, giving far more than the material deserves.

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Nothing but the grinding engines of the universe and the crushing borderm of eternity!’
‘He’ll be as right as rain whatever that means.’
‘I find you unreliable’ ‘So is most currency. Doesn’t stop people spending money wisely.’
‘What were you trying to do? Hard boil it?’
‘In my time I have been threatened by experts and I don’t rate you very highly at all!’
‘I am the Doctor…whether you like it or not!’

Lines You Will Never Forget: ‘Thou craggy knob!’
‘And may my bones rot for obeying it!’
‘Take care not to blow their hearts or minds!’
‘I don’t feel grown up any more!’
‘Silence wretch!’
‘By heaven Peri I was right!’
‘Now your family will have to starve without your company!’
‘I’m not letting a manic depressive paranoid personality like you shut me up!’
‘What is it?’ ‘The sound of giant slugs…’
‘No! Perrrrriiiii!’
‘It's very disconcerting to have a void in the middle of ones mind!’
‘Our genius has been abused!’

The Good: Regeneration is described as a swift, volcanic experience, a violent biological eruption which is probably the most poetic description of the experience ever recorded. The model work is of an extremely high standard throughout. It is so refreshing to get outside after an episode of cheap studio sets and the flaming wreckage of Hugo’s ship is very nicely done. Look at the face of the twin on the left when they first clap eyes on Mestor, it is the very image of ‘look as if you have just shat yourself’ terror – a small moment of enjoyment but I have to take them where I can. Because he is saddled with the twins, Noma and some dreadful sets you might be convinced that Maurice Denham is giving a bad performance but he is an oasis of skill amongst a sea of amateurs. It’s a very understated, touching performance that should be admired as much as the shows faults are laughed at. There is a very funny sequence where the Doctor wants to march on regardless and Peri suggests that there might be terrible danger so he changes his mind and wants to head back and then she wants to keep going because of the kids. It's an amusing reversal and a touch of charm that shows this pairing could work through all their adversity. The story of Amzael and the fourth Doctor getting drunk together (who else but the fourth Doctor could be imagined sozzled by a fountain?) certainly raises a smile. The danger of the imminently self-destructing Titan Three base is sold through the excellent performances alone. People bemoan the ugly location work on Jaconda…but that is rather the point. Slugs are bloody hideous monstrosities and imagine what they could do today with CGI? Moving two planets into a new orbit so you can strip them of their resources is just insane enough to appeal and the Doctor pulls apart the theory quickly enough to show the writer has thought it through. The actual plan to use the exploding sun to blow the eggs across the universe is devilish madness and the most brilliantly b movie plot since The Invisible Enemy (which was also about alien eggs spawning). I like the firwork guns that actually go ‘per-chew!’ Ugh, the melting Mestor is surprisingly effective (especially the grey snot that comes shooting out of his nose). Amzael sacrificing his life is a great way of him finally trumping Mestor. The horrifying idea of the Doctor leaving at the end with twins might have lead to some speculation that they were new companions (Ugh! Just imagine...Adric Mark II & III) and I like to think there is a Big Finish spin off series with the Doctor, Peri and the twins having a whole load of adventures before returning them home. 

The Bad: Starting the story (and the era) with an introduction with Womulus and Wemus, the diabolically acted titular twins is not the most auspicious of starting points. The ‘because mother gave birth to us does that automatically grant her a place in our affections?’ line conjures up Adric style feelings of irritation in seconds. They have horrid bowler haircuts (just like Adric), rubbish geeky tunics (just like Adric), they are being brought to life by hideously unconvincing actors (just like Adric) and get their jollies by immersing themselves in mathematics (just like…oh you get the idea). You get the impression that if they both were taken advantage of by a good a woman it would do them the world of good. Just like Adric. Whilst he does prove to be correct Professor Sylvest’s declaration that the twins equations could change events on a massive scale does indeed err on the wrong side of melodrama. It's made worse by the realisation which makes the game look really boring. Thanks to the robotic performances of the Conrad twins you really cant tell any significant difference once they have been hypnotised. A fabulously awful performance that is overlooked because of the twins is Barry Stanton as Noma who is the living embodiment of a slack, camp as Christmas toady. From the Bonnie Langford school of acting, he stresses every line of dialogue as though it will be his last. The Jacondan makeup is one of the few things that is universally praised about this story but it's actually pretty basic, just some silver paint, horns and feathers. Compounding this shows problems is Malcolm Clarke’s music, which is intrusive and fails to whip up any kind of atmosphere, it just scratches away at the back of every scene like an irritating itch in the back of your mind. I’m not sure which set makes the least impression – the Sylvest household, the police headquarters or Mestor’s throne room. They’re all equally dreadful and artificial looking. I cannot believe they wrapped up elements of the sets in tin foil and plastic sheets – surely they cannot of looked any cheaper than that before? Nothing will quite prepare you for the sight of the pot bellied, boss eyed, hand flapping Mestor sitting in his tacky throne room (complete with the giant frog decked in Christmas tinsel). A more cumbersome, less expressive Doctor Who monster you never did see. Umm…the Doctor has spent the entire episode acting like the villain of the piece so why should we care if Hugo kills him? The location work on Titan Three doesn’t match the image on the scanner in the slightest. I have absolutely no idea if the Doctor’s plan to send them ten seconds into the past and transporting them into the TARDIS makes any sense but he sounds convincing enough so we’ll believe him. Hmm…Hugo just happens to put on the coat which has the power pack to his gun in the pocket? The embolism scene must rank in the upper echelons of most cringe worthy scenes in Doctor Who – watch that guy shake his stuff as his blood boils like a raging stream! ‘Look at the trees!’ the Doctor cries on the Jacondan wilderness which made have had more of an impact if they had bothered to erect more than three stumps in the mud. How stupid to actually show the Gastropods walking. Spare us the thought of a giant slug salivating over Peri’s assets. It's handy that there was slug poison hanging around in the laboratory. How cheap is the revolution on Jaconda, it's just a few ‘per-chew’ sounds in the distance!

The Shallow Bit: The costume designer in this episode has a lot to answer for. The Doctor winds up decked out in the most lurid colours for the rest of his era, Peri selects a gingham blouse that would make Doris Day proud, Hugo gets trussed up like a chicken in bacofoil, the twins tunics are the epitome of geek and poor Azmael is forced to wear a cardboard wedding dress! As Peri so succinctly puts it ‘Yuck!’ Hugo is the first of a long line of hotties (especially in his black T shirt and braces) who would be appearing in Doctor Who from now on (other highlights of the Colin Baker era are Jason Connery, Gary Cady and Glen Murphy).

Result: The first episode of The Twin Dilemma is the bravest and stupidest single episode of Doctor Who ever produced. When JNT said ‘this is the one I’ll be remembered for’ he was being extremely prophetic. The idea of making the new Doctor a villainous character is fascinating (Avon in Blakes’ 7 is proof it can work) but the realisation (just like practically every aesthetic decision in this story) is appalling and really harms Baker’s attempts to settle into the role. After this shock of acid thrown in your face things quickly settle down into something a lot more tolerable from the second episode onwards and whilst there are still a mountain of problems to overcome (primarily the twins and Mestor with a special mention for the uber-camp Noma) the performances of Colin Baker, Nicola Bryant, Kevin McNally and Maurice Denham really sing and provide some great moments. Because of all the drama in the TARDIS the plot only kicks in around episode three but what transpires is a fun b movie style invasion of the universe which you might try and resist but actually becomes quite engaging despite itself. Worst first episode ever? Maybe. Worst story ever? Not even close: 5/10

5 comments:

Ed said...

Great analyses. One disagreement regarding Warriors of the Deep: I thought it made sense that the sea base would be brightly lit, given the premise of the story. Sea Base Four is written as an active part of the defense of whichever power bloc it belongs to, so having everything rusty, crumbling and non-functional would be illogical - how do you launch missiles if the electronics are in bad shape and you can't see the controls? Plus, if the crew are going to be underwater for a fairly long tour of duty, keeping the lights bright would make sense (Resurrection of the Daleks and Frontios made effective (and justified, story-wise) use of dimly lit settings in disrepair; 3 such stories would be overkill). That said, had the script been written/edited so that the base suffered a partial power loss and the lights going down and/or out as a result (and the Myrka not appeared), the attack on the base, and the story as a whole, would have been far more dramatic.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see more "Lines You Will Never Forget" sections in your other reviews. Quite entertaining.

Joe Ford said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts, Ed.

As for lines you will never forget...I will definitely keep that in mind! :-)

Samwise said...

Its my personal headcannon, and I find this season supports it rather well, that the Doctor has some influence on the character of his next regeneration, and that he cchose to become the loud, stubbborn sixth doctor because he was getting tired of people ignoring him and endangering the universe as a result. Six would have made short work of Tegan's constant complaining (see the opening scene of attack of the cybermen), and abandoned Adric long before he had a chance to get himself killed. Also I blame Tegan for the patchwork coat.

Timothy Allan said...

I always thought the reason why the Sixth Doctor was initially so volatile was caused by the Fifth Doctor fighting off the regeneration at the end of part 3 of Caves of Androzani. Kind of like how an injury can become much worse if it's left longer before it's operated on.