Now here's a year that comes in for a lot of flack and its one of my favourites! Loud, proud, colourful and violent - its a year of gaudy imagination and unforgettable scenes. I love it, but I can understand why others don't. The sixth Doctor and Peri face some terrifying Cybermen, the dangers of the Dome, the Master & the Rani, hungry Androgums, the Borad and Daleks made up of dead people!
The regulars -
Attack of the Cybermen written by Paula Moore (possibly Eric Saward) and directed by Matthew Robinson
Busty Babe: Already Nicola Bryant and Colin Baker have developed a great chemistry, they bounce of each other very well in the first episode during their investigations of the signal. Peri still thinks the Doctor might be a little unstable. She is frightened as they fly in Halley’s Comets wake. Go watch the scene where the Doctor is looking off into the distance in a dream and Peri is literally jumping at his face to get his attention – love it! Peri holding the shotgun probably caused a whole generation of wet dreams. She is dragged down back alleys and into the sewers for her impressive first view of London! I really like the scene where the Doctor mentions that the Cybermen are a particularly nasty alien race…and Peri starts running away! ‘You’ll get used to it’ says Peri to Griffiths of their madcap lifestyle. Peri shows some real concern over the fate of the Earth in some nicely eerie scenes with the Cryons.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘More bulges than an anti-natal clinic!’
‘I used to use one of those when I worked for the council’ ‘This time its for swinging, not leaning on.’
‘Drop it, unless you want me to open up his throat.’
‘You’re bonkers!’ ‘That’s debatable.’
‘You murder a police officer and you’ll get thirty years!’ ‘Handful of heartbeats to a Time Lord!’
The Good Stuff: I love the dramatic POVs of the alien menace in the sewers, the opening scene screams ‘we’re back and look how good we are!’ The Minder-esque sequences of a criminal gang planning a diamond robbery are a much-needed taste of contemporary atmosphere. Criminal gangs with shotguns, this is nice and gritty. Maurice Colbourne and Brian Glover both give outstanding performances and the Earth scenes some real gravitas. Its great that they chose to film in London’s grimy, litter strewn back streets – Matthew Robinson always manages to film the real London. They really bring the lights down in the sewer scenes for some tense moments especially Payne’s screaming death. The first reveal of the Cybermen as the wall slides back takes some beating. I love the grim camera angle from the floor of Payne’s bloody corpse as the Doctor and Peri approach, some real thought has gone into making this story visually interesting. Impressively staged Telos mining scenes with some fine action, decapitations and some terrific handheld camerawork. Stratton and Bates give the Telos scenes some real character; once again the performances are very strong. The effects shot of Cyber Control in the distance really convinces. More great action scenes, Stratton and Bates attacking the Cyberman and knocking his block off is excellently filmed and very exciting. Finally we get to see the conversion process in all its nasty glory. All the violence in the TARDIS feels very wrong but its so quick cut and exciting I don’t have time to register. Griffiths should have been a companion; he’s such a marvellous out-of-his-depth cynic (‘Have you got a taxi waiting?’). Lytton as a hero comes as a complete surprise but not an unwelcome one, his performance has adjusted just enough in this story to make the idea plausible. Whilst the costumes aren’t brilliant I really enjoy the delicacy and gentle characterisation of the Cryons, an unusually sweet alien race. The scene where Stratton reveals his converted arm is a terrific demonstration of the brutality of the Cybermen and their botch jobs. The Cyberman plan to destroy the Earth with Halley’s Comet to prevent the events of The Tenth Planet do make a lot of good sense of a change and it is nice that the method was set up in episode one. Wow, the hand crushing sequence is astonishingly graphic, finally the Cybermen feel like a violent threat. Love the pan away from Flast as she sits alone in the cold ready to sacrifice herself, its poignant without saying a word. However it is horrible watching her burn to death as the Cybermen catch up with her, this really is the nastiest we have ever seen them. I like the glowing poignancy of the Cryon death scenes. Lytton wired up is really nasty.
The Bad Stuff: The music is…meh. It’s too loud and intrusive and overpowers the scenes. Nobody seems to know how to film the TARDIS set anymore, Matthew Robinson’s direction is very strong but as soon as he is back in the over lit, under dressed TARDIS set the cameras are suddenly static. That God-awful Steptoe and Son theme. The Cyber Lieutenant sounds like a very thick deep seas diver. The Cybermen on Telos are horrendous, taking the term robotic to its absolute extreme. The Cybermen look far less menacing when they are blinged up shiny silver in the glaring TARDIS lights. Opening scenes of episode two see the Doctor locked in a room and scraping up tons of continuity, raking over the plots of The Tenth Planet, Tomb of the Cybermen and Ressurection of the Daleks. It has been mentioned before but the Tomb sets lack the style and sophistication of those in the original story. Hilarious judo chop action as one Cyberman breaks from his tomb and attacks another! Look at that stupid Cyberman who tries to pat at his fireworking arm! Killing off Griffiths, Stratton and Bates is so Eric Saward – it’s a great shock moment but afterwards you are left with no hope in this story. How funny is that panicking Cyberman who finds the Vastial, beckoning hastily to his mates to retreat? It’s a shame that the last action scene with the Doctor and the Controller is so rushed and pantomimic, those spinning Cybermen make it look like a salsa class!
The Shallow Bit: ‘You have enough in your hand to blow it off!’ Sounds disgusting! If you like a bit of rough, Lytton is quite hot. Peri bazumbas are extremely accentuated in that pink leotard!
Result: The first episode is very good, well paced with some lovely violent and exciting touches. The second episode fares less well with too much continuity and not enough clarity but there are still plenty of good moments and the whole story remains entertaining as a whole. What I love about Attack of the Cybermen is not only Matthew Robinson’s stylish and imaginative direction (his pacing, action sequences and ingenious use of the camera are all great) but also that despite a few bumpy moments the Cybermen actually feel like a vicious, nasty threat and their conversion process and genuinely chilling prospect. It’s a great story for the sixth Doctor because he gets to be heroic, violent, unpredictable, funny and even question his own prejudices. Attack of the Cybermen isn’t perfect but it certainly tries very hard to be a gripping thriller and for the most part succeeds. Fantastic guest cast too: 8/10
Vengeance on Varos written by Philip Martin and directed by Ron Jones
This story in a nutshell: ‘Blindness, torture…executions?’
Theatrical Traveller: We have soon settled down with the Doctor and Peri and she is poking fun at his accident proneness and inability to get anything right. We’ve had three electrical fires, a total power failiure and a near collision with a storm of asteroids, he’s also got lost in the TARDIS corridors twice, wiped the memory of the flight computer and jettisoned three quarters of the storage hold! He even managed to burn dinner last night! But then he has never said he was perfect (teehee). Again I find it very interesting that when Colin Baker’s Doctor throws a paddy his detractors (I always point to Paul Cornell simply because his works are always the most forceful when comparing the character to previous Doctors) get into a fanboy tizzy and yet when Tom Baker is furious and moody (Pyramids of Mars, Horror of Fang Rock) it is the height of fashion! The Doctor childishly sulks in a chair when the TARDIS runs out of energy but as soon as Peri rouses him from his slumber and cheekily tells her not to give up hope! I was very pleased to see him picking up on Peri’s Americanisms and once again stroking his little cat badge for luck. He can’t quite bring himself to admit that the TARDIS will work ‘like new’ when she is fed a little Zyton-7 so instead plumps for ‘like she was…’ The sixth Doctor leaves a laser on that kills a guard and all of fandom starts balling their eyes out…the eight/ninth Doctor (delete as applicable) wipes out millions of people on Gallifrey and nobody bats an eyelid. Go figure. He’s a man of action, sabotaging the cameras, taking a commanding lead role by forcing his friends to confront their fears of the giant fly and walking into danger with unthinking relish. Colin Baker plays the virtual desert scenes for real and he really convinces that he is dying. The look on his face is haunting when he stops breathing. So much has been said about the acid bath scene it almost seems churlish to try and defend it. Having just watched it I will say at no point does the Doctor try and push anybody in – the first guy falls in accidentally and the second guy gets pull in by his bloodied up mate and I hate to say it but I love the callousness of the gag as the Doctor walks away. Its called Doctor Who not Doctrine Who and I could recount many times in the past when the Doctor has quipped at people who have been hurt (‘He’s having a little lie down’ after he clobbers the slaver in The Reign of Terror, ‘I’m afraid he couldn’t make it’ about the unconscious Master left behind in The Five Doctors, ‘The Root – One, Dalek – Nil’, etc, etc). He’s quite playful with Quillam until he realises Peri is in real danger. He walks to his execution quite happily knowing that it will be a fake. Baker brings a real sense of gravity when he condemns the government of Varos and how they are being exploited by Galatron; it’s the sort of scene that you can only imagine the powerfully moralistic Doctor’s getting away with (Hartnell, Pertwee and Colin Baker really). I love how the Doctor strokes Peri’s face and hair as he tries to get her to reassert her memories, these tender moments make a mockery of their fighting.
Busty Babe: I love the interaction between the Doctor and Peri in this story, she seems to be there to remind him of his (many) mistakes and to try and convince him not to give up when he has a strop. I love the quirky scene where the Doctor and Peri pop their heads around the corner to chat with Maldak. There is something very real about Peri being slapped hard around the face that is more worrying than the threats and torture she suffers later. Its fascinating to see Peri’s devastated reaction to the Doctor’s death – all their bitching aside she really does care for the man and when she sees a chance to hurt the man responsible she lashes out at the governor viciously. Poor Peri is made to look like a screaming loony as she start gabbling about coming from another time and world! Sil thinks Peri is almost worth salivating over once she has been transmogrified but disgustingly ugly otherwise!
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He’s the worst Governor we’ve had since…well since…’ ‘Since the last one?’
‘Run! Run! Go on run!’ – Arak plays the part of the kids watching!
‘I like that one! The one in the funny clothes!’
‘And cut it…now!’
‘You lying liar!’ and ‘She’s laughing at us all over the face!’ and ‘Pull the lever! Stretch them out of this life!’ and ‘Gently! Gently! Take extreme care with my person if you wish to retain your skins! Ah yes, I shall wear the mantle of power so, so handsomely!’ and ‘I will be governor of governors!’ – Sil’s so fabulous!
‘This Doctor must be eliminated. He smells the truth of things.’
‘The cameras are still functioning…let the show begin. I want to hear them scream until I’m deaf with pleasure. To see their limbs twist in excruciating agony. Ultimately their blood must gush and flow along the gutters of Varos. The whole planet must delight in their torture and death.’
The Good Stuff: Typical season twenty-two, the opening is stark and brutal with a woman almost hypnotised with pleasure as a handsome man is tortured on TV. Its one of the things that the story is praised for ad nauseum but it is worth remembering just how intelligent and striking the framing device of having Arak and Etta watching the events of the story on their television just as we do on ours is. Any viewer can see themselves bitching about what is on the TV, complaining that it isn’t violent or satisfying enough and blaming the current government for all the problems. It’s almost a bit too clever for Doctor Who which makes it very special indeed. Plus the power games and opposing viewpoints of the two characters gets more interesting as the story progresses. In the hands of another director Sil might have been shot more dynamically but in this case it is worth introducing the character in long shot since we get to see the full extent of his costume (with that awesome twitching tail) and his blaze opening suggests he is just another character rather than the monster of the week (because there are far more dangers to come). Everything about Sil is fresh and deliciously grotesque from his orgasmic love of violence, his disgusting turd like appearance, that wonderful snake like laugh and the delightful performance by Nabil Shaban. We haven’t seen a worthy new race in Doctor Who like this for quite a few years and its no surprise that he was quickly pencilled in for a return visit. Martin Jarvis brings a seriousness and severity to Varosian politics; throughout you are completely on his side and watch him walk a fine line between leader and victim. The system of government on Varos makes for gripping viewing as it all comes down to numbers – if the majority disagree with the Governor he is tortured and if the majority agree he survives a blast from the disintegrator for another day. There is a dramatic shot of the greens bearing down on him that really sells the horror of the vote going against you. In a society that is starting to focus more on numbers and public image this is becoming increasingly prescient. How awful is it when a man with integrity such as the Governor gets excited by Bax’s fresh method of execution because it might please the people and spare him more pain. Quillam is one of the most repulsive characters ever to appear in Doctor Who, there is something skin crawling about such a camp, hissing man who enjoys hurting people so much (and so in love with his experiments he is even willing to mutilate himself). Varos has a fantastic music score, listen to the atmospherics as we lead up to Jondar’s execution and the fairytale tinkling as they enter the purple zone. Sil becomes even more wonderfully loathsome when you realise that Varos has a precious commodity and are being forced into poverty to make Sil money! Thanks to some effective lighting (see Pennant it can be done!) this is one studio bound adventure that is very atmospheric. One of my all time scariest moments comes in this story when they are confronted with that horrid giant fly…flies are one of my phobias - I just hate everything about them to their creepy whining noises, their uncleanliness and the idea of them eating food, vomiting it up stamping into the food and then eating it again (Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!) and so to be confronted with a giant fly with its hairy mouth opening, its legs twitching and its scary giant eyes…it gets me every time! The Governor exploiting the Doctor’s death to gain public support is so immoral and yet you understand why he is doing it – that’s how strong the undercurrents of this story are. Arak chuckling away at the Doctor falling to his death is chilling because I can see myself in a similar position in a really good death scene on the telly – Varos holds a mirror up to its audience and you might not like what you see. The various methods of death in the punishment dome are pretty strong for Doctor Who – an acid bath, hanging, cannibals, physical mutation and mental torture. I’m not keen on the pink back lighting but the music, the chanting and the image of the Doctor in the noose all combine to make a memorable scene. The theory of a man frightened for his life will find solutions of the planets problems is frighteningly logical and cruel at the same time. Even Maldak who would be a faceless guard in any other story becomes a fully-fledged character when the Governor convinces him of how impossible ruling this planet is and helps him and Peri to escape at the last minute. Arak and Etta’s scenes just get better and better with him frightened of her viewers report but stepping in to vote on her behalf to her horror. How atmospheric is that final set piece? The Doctor, Jondar and Areta amongst fleshy tendrils with blood red lighting and Quillam’s loathsome threats. Nasty makeup for Quillam’s scarring. The last scene is one of the most sublime moments I have ever seen in television – once the TV is switched off for good what do we do: ‘dunno…’ Priceless.
The Bad Stuff: That opening model shot isn’t very convincing. Areta is remarkably wet for a rebel and the actress is the weak link in the otherwise strong cast. You’re actually quite pleased when Quillam tries to spook her and later turns her into a reptile! As soon as his part in the plot is over Rondal is quickly dispatched. There is five minutes or so where the action lags in episode two – basically all the gunplay in the corridors and escaping in the (very slow) buggy! The special effects lava is rubbish and if you are going to feature scary cannibals don’t stick them in nappies!
The Shallow Bit: Any story that opens up on Jason Connery topless, chained up and sweating is doing something right in my book. He actually looks very like one of my ex boyfriends and that ended in a less than satisfactory manner so seeing him being tortured so horribly is doubly satisfying. I feel at this point I should discuss the Doctor and Peri’s outfits which scream the eighties more than pretty much anything else that was on television at the time (except perhaps Saturday Superstore). Garish, bright and the cause of much weeping sores on the eyes, the thing that strikes me as odd is that if one of them had been fortunate to wear subdued clothing (say like Peri’s gorgeous red wine coloured velvet top in Revelation of the Daleks) you could excuse that one of them is simply a loud dresser but with both them sporting such eye watering (or should that be mouth watering…especially for the men who get so many eyefuls of Nicola Bryant’s cleavage in this story) proves this is the work of style icon (not) John Nathan Turner. Sil has some very kinky black slaves with him, bare chested muscle boys dressed up as Roman legionnaires.
Result: Highly original, atmospheric and intelligent, Vengeance on Varos scores highly for its Russian doll storytelling which sees a scary Doctor Who run-around taking on much deeper context as we experience the politics of the planet that is supporting such sick entertainment and get to understand the people who enjoy it. Ron Jones gives his best direction in this story and subverts the stagey nature of the story by giving the material some real integrity and still providing plenty of memorable imagery and set pieces. Colin Baker gives one of his strongest performances and has never felt more commanding in the lead role, I was riveted by his character throughout. Vengeance on Varos is a remarkably prescient Doctor Who story in that it explores a television medium that enjoys watching people suffer – the sort of reality television that has taken a grip over the schedules in recent years. The dialogue is thoughtful and Varos is fleshed out beautifully it is no surprise that Philip Martin was drafted in pretty quickly for a second story. All this praise and I haven’t even mentioned the superb lighting, a memorable musical score and Nabil Shaban’s unforgettable debut as Sil. All this and you have one of the finest cliff-hangers and final scenes to any Doctor Who story. I’ll forgive Vengeance on Varos its few faux pas (a couple of dodgy performances, the nappy cannibals) because it pushes boundaries like no other Doctor Who story and manages to tell a gripping, frightening and considerate piece of drama: 10/10
The Mark of the Rani written by Pip and Jane Baker and directed by Sarah Hellings
TO BE REVIEWED...
The Two Doctors written by Robert Holmes and directed by Peter Moffatt
This story in a nutshell: The Doctor’s nearly become cannibals and their companions are both almost eaten! Robert Holmes is trying to tell us something methinks…
Aristocratic Adventurer: I always remember Terrance Dicks mentioning that Robert Holmes always wrote in moments of charm for Jon Pertwee’s screamingly pious third Doctor that softened his character and added some much needed humour. He achieves exactly the same thing with the sixth Doctor in The Two Doctors who was suffering from a violent reputation at this point. Throughout this story he manages to be witty, clever, insulting and wonderful fun to be around. If you were not convinced at the beginning of the story he has fully emerged as the Doctor by the end, his delightful interaction with his former self selling his status as the latest to carry the torch. What’s the use of a good quotation if you can’t change it? Isn’t it lovely to see the Doctor and Peri chilling out for a change having a lazy afternoon fishing. He suffers a mind lock with his former self being tortured (does that mean all his previous incarnations have a moment of pain as well and don’t realise what was going on until he reached his sixth incarnation?). Once he gets a scent of a mystery he cannot leave. I love his arrogance mouthing off to the stations computer and then scoffing at its attempts to kill them! I love how he affectionately strokes Peri’s face after she faints. He really starts to become Doctorish when he starts using bits of old wire in improvised escape plans. How does he breathe when he closes his respiratory passages? With difficulty! Notice how he is a lot softer with Jamie than he is with Peri (its probably because he would deck him!). It’s great how he reacts to the end of the universe with poetic melancholy. There are real moments of lunatic eccentricity (‘something to do with getting my haircut!’). He puts Peri down in the funniest of ways (‘small though it is the human brain is quite effective when used properly!’). Once they arrive in Spain he strips out of that ridiculous coat and looks gorgeous in his colourful waistcoat. He’s interested in everything! The Doctor is rubbish at subterfuge; he would make a terrible spy! The Doctor gets a kiss from Anita (for a second he is dumbfounded!) and Jamie doesn’t (and he is desperate for some lip locking!). Even though he is tricking Stike that is some very quick thinking to feed Jamie lies for the Sontarans sake. Poor sod, he is chained up, knife slashed and stalked through the Spanish hills! Come on…if any character deserves to die its Shockeye, he is tried to eat both Peri and Jamie! It’s not tasteless, it’s sensible! Finishing off a nourishing story the Doctor looks over the references and examples of animal savagery and decides to turn veggie!
Oh My Giddy Aunt: How fabulous is it to have Troughton back for the length of a six parter? He lights up any story whenever he appears. It warms my heart to think that he got to have this much fun with the part so soon before his death and he realised how much he was still loved by his fans. The sixth and second Doctors are my favourites so sticking them together charms me before the story even begins! Setting this story where he does Robert Holmes irreverently pisses off the whole of fandom by screwing up the end of The War Games and creates fan theories to explain his causal mentioning of the Time Lords. The Doctor tirades against the Time Lords continually trying to control his life! Think of the commotion if the scientists at Camera knew he had arrived – they would all be scrabbling around after his autograph! I love how he oils the console! Jamie is not for sale, more’s the pity. He’s a bit of an exile these days. Not as progressive as you might believe and his diplomatic skill s to behave petulantly, insulting and childish! Nobody sulks quite like Troughton. He reacts very dramatically to the news of Jamie’s death, bless him. ‘Oh my giddy aunt! Oh crumbs!’ – Troughton is sublime in his last performance. The Doctor suggests a Sontaran resigns and takes a pension. I love how he winds up Stike; he presses his buttons brilliantly and gets a slap around the chops for his trouble. He’s witty in the face of his own death (‘Doing the job on the cheap are you?’). Troughton’s eye rolling Androgum Doctor is irresistible; he has great fun strolling about Spain with John Stratton mentioning mouth-watering grub. ‘Some of us have these little privileges!’
Busty Babe: I always thought Peri was a little grumpy and nervous in this story but upon watching I was quite impressed at the amount of fun Holmes manages to have with her. Bryant and Baker were often given abrasive material to play but they share superb chemistry and when given sparkling lines they work magic together. ‘Perhaps you should see a Doctor?’, nice one Peri! Sometimes she makes amazingly shrewd remarks. Poor Peri is half frozen, asphyxiated, forced to clamber through miles of pipe and savaged by horny deranged Jamie! Don’t get this American babe angry, she knees Jamie in the nuts and then gropes the Doctor! It’s great that it is Peri’s suspicious mind that conjures up the idea of the Sontarans trying to set the Time Lords up. Her hilarious reaction to the end of the universe taking centuries (and the Doctor’s reaction to her). Proving that she’s learning Peri grips the console when the Doctor announces he is landing! She’s only good for causing a distraction and Shockeye describes her as a ‘beast’! Shockeye gets as far as holding a huge shearing knife to her throat and then she gets a jug of water in the face! Peri talks about tourists eating paella and chips as though she talks from experience; I bet she had plenty of holidays when she was younger. Peri trying to comfort Oscar on his deathbed is very funny even though I’m certain that wasn’t supposed to be the idea. I love how well she slips in with the second Doctor and Jamie, its like they have always been together.
Scots Babe: All Jamie has to do is stand in the background and admire the Doctor’s diplomatic skill! Hines and Troughton slip back into their old magic routine with effortless ease. He is described as having soft white skin whispering of succulence. Deranged with extreme fear at seeing the Doctor put to death. He thinks Peri’s Doctor is worse than his (many would agree but not me). The randy old sod finally gets a smacker…with Peri!
Sparkling Dialogue: I could happily recount the entire script since this is one story that is sold by its magical dialogue. Simon and I quote this story more than any other, its one that both Doctor Who addict and non fan enjoy with equal relish. Go figure.
‘You give a monkey control of its environment and it’ll fill the world with bananas!’ which is a great line but made even funnier when we see Peri chomping on one later in the story!
‘You have more letters after your name than anyone I know. Enough for two alphabets.’
‘Christopher Columbus…he had a lot to answer for!’ he says looking at Peri!
‘Like a star on my dressing room door it becomes conspicuous by its absence!’
‘Eternal blackness. No more sunsets. No more Gumblejacks. Nevermore a butterfly.’
‘I don’t speak Spanish!’ ‘That’s alright, neither do they’ ‘But what if a Sontaran answers the door?’ – this is gold! Simon adores that scene!
‘Have you ever eaten a Sontaran?’ ‘Certainly not!’ ‘No, nor have I. They always seem so tough and tasteless.’
‘But I remember a dish…Shepherds Pie!’
‘Do you serve humans here?’
‘That is a 20 Narg note! You can change that anywhere in the nine planets!’
‘This is the part where I always say you can tell a butcher from a botcher!’
‘The time continuum should be big enough for both of us…just.’
The Good Stuff: There’s a wonderful moment of nostalgia as we open on the second Doctor and Jamie in black and white. Shockeye’s kitchen is a wonderful set strewn with carcases and huge pans! John Stratton gives one of the best guest performances in the shows entire run, he says every line with sensual relish, somehow disturbing and very funny. Dastari’s set is another great set, huge gorgeous globes and plants tarting up the stock sci-fi sets. The Saward era continues to expose the hypocrisy of the Time Lords; he had a rant in Attack about their meddling, met two renegades in Mark of the Rani, their interference in other peoples time travel experiments is exposed here and we finally uncover their depths of deception in Trial of a Time Lord. It’s nice to keep the Sontarans off screen during their invasion. Servelan in Doctor Who is another of my wishes come true. It’s great to return to a location we have already seen but given new emphasis by harsh, shadowy lighting and the situation feels far more atmospheric after the attack. I love the realisation of the computer turning the station into a death trap. Setting the Time Lords up to take the blame for the attack is a fantastic idea, I wish we could have seen that followed through. The Dona Arana’s theme is gorgeous. Murdering and eating an old blind woman, those Androgums are savage! I love the service ducting set, endless scaffolding that’s atmospherically lit (look at the shadows on our leads faces and in one moment Baker’s perm is bleached blood red). Oscar and Anita are the most superfluous characters, a theatrical restaurateur and his dark eyed naiad. Its great to have Sontarans as actual characters rather than just heavies and Holmes has great fun with their comical one tracked mindedness! My Simon has a very weak stomach and Shockeye biting into the rat always makes him gag and I never fail to laugh out loud when he holds up the creature with a huge bit mark in it and caresses it and then suggests how it can be cooked! A simple mention of memory affecting drugs clears up all of our logic gaps in one foul swoop. Imagine if the Sontarans acquired time travel technology they could head back into pivotal moments in the war and turn all of their defeats into victories. Stike’s blazing eyed reaction to being called a coward. Both cliffhangers are great but the end of part two wins out because Shockeye is such a savage piece of work and having him leer down the camera at the audience is shiversome. An odd observation but I really like the sting that leads into the title music for season 22, it sounds like a thousand angry cats! Stike gets a dirk in the knee for lying to the Doctor! The first meeting between the Doctors is worth waiting for, its pure (‘SNAP!’) magic. It becomes the Seville Massacre when Chesseneye and Stike turn on each other. Love the Sontaran theme, its especially dramatic during their death scene. The Androgums are one of the most frightening races because they are both comically childish and viciously savage, a bit like those cannibalistic kids from Lord of the Flies! Stike’s death takes place in three equally undignified, hilarious stages. Step One – burning by acid! Step Two – electrified by Module! Step Three – blown to pieces by his spaceship! The final chokingly funny indignity is when Shockeye holds up his bloody leg which is so far beyond tasteless it’s hilarious. Turning the Doctor into an Androgum might feel like Bob Holmes has run out of things to do but it mixes the two themes of this story, the loss of identity and animal savagery in brilliant comic fashion. The Andalucian location work is bleached in glorious sunshine and features a wonderfully furious Spanish guitar score. Oscar’s death is screamingly funny (‘dissatisfied customers usually just don’t leave a tip’) and makes me laugh all the more because it upsets fandom so much! Chesseneye lapping up the Doctor’s blood is not only turn your stomach gross but also demonstrates Holmes’ theme of fighting your nature perfectly. Tenderising the meat and breaking up the fatty tissues, what a way to be tortured! Suddenly we’re in Texas Chainsaw Massacre territory as Shockeye draws his huge Samurai sword and hunts the Doctor’s through the dusky hills – this story is beautifully unique. They will have to send in Torchwood Spain to cleat up the mess at the hacienda as there are five alien corpses lying about! ‘That’s the point, its not in two places at the same time. My TARDIS is at least five minutes walk from here!’ – Holmes is such a tease!
The Bad Stuff: Colin Baker’s harness is very obvious at the end of part one. Bless, Oscar’s blood pouch is very apparent!
The Shallow Bit: Peri just loves having her best friends on display, doesn’t she? They are squeezed together and smooshed throughout the story with hormonal glee! Jamie really gets his leg over! ‘A young one with a good proportion of meat to the bone’ – who wasn’t thinking of Peri when Shockeye made that description? Shockeye squeezes Peri boobs together like cookie dough! ‘There’s some juiceful meat on this one alright!’ – Jamie’s equipment gets a mention!
Result: I love The Two Doctors with a passion bordering on insanity! People bemoan Peter Moffatt’s direction saying that the story lacks pace but have you read the script? This is not supposed to be a dynamic piece, it’s written as a piece of theatre with character interaction and fabulous dialogue triumphing over action! This is televisual theatre with the added bonus of delicious visuals. Don’t watch The Two Doctors if you want a fast paced action romp but if you are in the mood for rich performances, a fruity script, sumptuous design and sunny locations then this is a treat. Holmes’ script is brilliantly subversive, exploring its themes of identity and animal savagery with blackly comic touches and witty loquaciousness. Everyone is running around in the sun having a great time, chewing on their lines and having a blast in each other’s company and their chemistry glows on screen. Probably the most enjoyable story to watch in the classic series last ten years: 10/10
Timelash written by Glen McCoy and directed by Pennant Roberts
This story in a nutshell: Well there is this horrid half man, half monster who wants to turn Peri into a monster so he can get off with her and at the same time he has set himself up as ruler of this planet but suddenly decides he wants to kill everybody and be the only one left alive…
Aristocratic Adventurer: It’s easy to mock the overdone characterisation of the sixth Doctor in this story but amongst the dreck there are still some gems to find. Colin Baker is trying his best to find something from the melodramatic drivel he is given to say…although at times he just surrenders to it and it makes for some cringeworthy moments. His ‘bad…bad…BAD!’ confirms all your suspicions that he is a shrieking bully (tone it down, Doc!). I prefer it when he is quiet and poetic such as when he talks about the Andromeda galaxy. He says that it is so difficult to recruit good staff these days throwing a disdainful look at Peri and he shows little mercy to time meddlers! He and Herbert share some fun chemistry, the scene where he discovers him in the TARDIS always makes me chuckle. This Doctor is about as powerful as a burnt out android, apparently! Looks like the sixth Doctor has developed exactly the same sort of lame swearing as the ‘ham fisted bun vendor’ third Doctor and ‘spack off!’ fourth Doctor – his latest attempt is ‘microcephallic apostate’ (one day he will just say ‘you ¤¤¤¤ing twat’ and I will punch the air!). Wow, that is one ugly drawing of Jon Pertwee, I would have sued! Strange how you forget how you used to look…that’s because you never used to look like that! Saying that you can just imagine the pious third Doctor lecturing Magellan on his unethical experiments, can’t you? Its hilarious the way Herbert tells the Doctor not to worry about him and he gives him a pained look and says ‘I’m not.’ You gotta love his confidence, in the face of Tekker holding a gun in his face he dismisses him with ‘do shut up and go away.’ Here is another example of the sixth Doctor killing somebody but you can hardly say that he didn’t warn him. Watch the Doctor’s amazing growing hair as he rushes into the TARDIS in episode two to stop the missile…it grows about three inches between scenes (you can really tell this padding was filmed later). Teehee – I love him picking up the struggling Peri and throwing her out of the TARDIS! Putting the TARDIS between the missile and Karfel is incredibly dangerous, what a reckless fool!
Busty Babe: Ouch, how did this characterisation of Peri ever get off of the drawing board? Eric Saward says on the documentary that Peri was one of the better companions they had but they could never find anything for her to do. Why not? As script editor I would have ripped up this script and started all over again! This doesn’t hark back to sixties sexism, Doctor Who has never been this sexist before. Peri is dragged around by a collar, treated like a sex object, just a pretty face to salivate over and scream continually in the face of the monsters. It’s unforgivably bad. In episode two she is released from her manacles and just stands there screaming like an idiot until a man comes in with a flaming torch and rescues her! However despite all this nonsense there are a few moments where I enjoyed Peri. When the Doctor threatens to take her home she jumps in immediately to stop him revealing that she does enjoy travelling with him. Her botany is brought up again (its mentioned in The Mark of the Rani, Timelash, Revelation of the Daleks and The Mysterious Planet) which is nice although she does look like a plum sticking her tongue out at the poisonous plants. Easily Peri’s weakest story, you can’t help but feel sorry for Nicola Bryant – still her best three stories are coming up.
Sparkling Dialogue: In general the dialogue is horrendous so it really surprises you when a gem comes along:
‘Time for another election…’
‘Maybe spirits from the other world might find fishing a little mundane.’
‘The waves of time wash us all clean…’
The Good Stuff: There’s an early sequence between Mekros and the Maylin in the darkened power distribution room, which might (almost) convince you that this story could amount to something (they are the best actors in the guest cast). The silky voiced Borad hidden behind his chair epitomises something that Doctor Who gets very right no matter how bad the story. Paul Darrow is so insanely over the top that you can’t fail to adore him as Tekker (It’s called treason and he is the traitor!’). I like the sudden cut to 1885. Herbert is hopelessly wet and yet he’s rather sweet and certainly more likable than Peri in this story. His attempted exorcism of the Doctor provides a laugh. Tekker luring Mekron to the inner sanctum with promises of promotion only to blame him for all their problems is laugh out loud funny. Its hopelessly lost in the execution but HG Wells finding inspiration in this adventure to write The Time Machine and The Invisible Man really appeals. ‘The most luminous force in this part of the galaxy!’ – oh Tekker I love you! The make up for the Borad is so good it’s shocking that a story this inept can get something so right.
The Bad Stuff: Come on own up…who on Earth designed that android with a blue face and blond hair (and musical footsteps)? Jeananne Crowley has appeared in dramas as good as Educating Rita and Tenko so why does she choose to play Vena as a monosyllabic robot – I thought she was one! The first scene in the Council Chamber (erm, a bare room with a few stools) is pure exposition (‘our old allies the Bandrils!’ and ‘all 500 of us?’) and unmasks the inexperience of the writer. Oh no! The Timelash is full of deadly tinsel! The Doctor and Peri riding the time tunnel is horribly farcical and in no way funny, it’ll leave you scrambling for the remote if somebody remotely normal who wouldn’t think to watch this nonsense walks into the room. Why did the android steal Peri’s St Christopher? I don’t mind the Bandril design, we’ve seen far worse but why did they give them such mincey voices – its like attack of the Smurfs! Why does that random person walk into the room and give Peri the cryptic note? Where is the script editor? Was he performing a JNT pantomime as well? Peri declares that Karfel ‘lacks sparkle’. Are you kidding me? Its one of the dullest, barest planets we have ever visited and fancy taking her on a tour of those boring corridors! Someone had a bright idea to add seams of minerals to the rocky areas except it looks like someone has attacked the polystyrene with crayon. The Morlox look genuinely awful, like a grinning grey turd on a stick! Why doesn’t Peri run away from it when she clearly has space to get away and the thing cannot move – that is probably the worst example of the horrible direction of this story. Probably the most useless bunch of rebels (and Dicken Ashworth sounds really bored). The terrible plotting continues as the rebels are attacked because Peri dropped her note. The Doctor invents a brand new eighties craze; it’s called the android mirror dance! The Doctor dangling from the Timelash might sound good on paper but the design is so bad it looks like Colin Baker amongst a load of cardboard and tinsel. Doctor Who has rarely looked this cheap. Some dialogue should never be uttered and the following examples qualify: ‘Unpleasant journey!’, ‘He’s dangling on the edge of oblivion!’ and ‘Don’t tell me you’ve got a fat female Morlox with a slinky walk?’ The Bandril ship looks like a flying hairdryer and comes with its own disco beat (optional extra). Those falling skeletons are hilarious! ‘You’ve tricked me!’ screams the Borad, hardly you ¤¤¤¤ he actually told you what would happen! The hastily scripted TARDIS scenes are quite fun but clearly padding. How many climaxes can one story have? The Borad is the Loch Ness Monster? Again a clever idea but it only works if he is a full Morlox! How many geezers have you seen popping out of Loch going ‘he tricked me!’? I cannot believe they had the nerve to have the Doctor say ‘I’ll explain later, it’s a neat trick’ about his surviving the missile explosion!
Result: Surely it cannot be a co-incidence that the two worst directed eighties stories were helmed by the same man and without all the excuses of Warriors of the Deep I can only conclude that Pennant Roberts is not very good. Timelash is more enjoyable than Warriors simply because it doesn’t take itself at all seriously (whereas watching a pious piece of drama fall to pieces is tragic) and with its wealth of faults stacking up over the two episodes it becomes a frothy, useless b movie slice of Doctor Who. Its rare for so many things to go wrong with a production; turgid direction, appalling performances, crass dialogue, dull music, cheap design, childish plotting and insulting sexism that you simply have to let it wash over you and bask in its ineptitude. Redeeming features are Herbert who is likable and Tekker who makes me howl with laughter every time he opens his mouth. Timelash doesn’t quite reach the enjoyment of other comically incompetent Doctor Who (The Chase and Time and the Rani are my gems in that category) but it is far more enjoyable than it has any right to be: 5/10
Revelation of the Daleks written by Eric Saward and directed by Graeme Harper
TO BE REVIEWED...