Saturday, 12 February 2011

Leviathan written by Brian Finch and directed by Ken Bentley

What’s it about: No one lives to old age in the village. When their Time is come, they are taken and never seen again. That is The Way. And, should anyone try to break with the established order of things, then the fury of Herne the Hunter is unleashed... When the TARDIS materializes near a castle in this mediaeval society, the Doctor and Peri befriend Gurth, a terrified youth who is attempting to flee his fate. And Herne is closing in... Why does the local baron impose the culling? What is the secret of Zeron? And who are the Sentinels of the New Dawn? The answers lie within a cave...

Softer Six: A superb showing for the sixth Doctor, even better than The Nightmare Fair because it allows us to see him as an action hero as well as a moral crusader. Colin Baker seems to really appreciate the good material as well and recovering from his embarrassing cowering under the console in Mission to Magnus he redeems himself totally with this sparkling performance. He is so full of himself at the beginning of the story, very season 22 when he tells Peri that life goes on and they can’t always interfere and then he turns on a sixpence once she is distracted pressing the urgency of helping the boy that is being hunted! He basks at the delight repast and admits that he likes to tear his bread! Casually the Doctor picks up on all the anachronistic elements around him. Once he has been banged up he has a nice conversation with his rat cellmate! Kneel to a mere Baron? Never! His manner is that of a philosopher yet his clothing belongs to a jester and he has no other purpose but to rabble rouse! I loved his rapier wit as he indulges in a spot of swordplay with the Baron, telling him he should thank himself lucky his enemy doesn’t know how many people he has killed! There is a wonderfully tender moment as the Doctor comforts a boy who is about to die, he doesn’t shy away from the fact that the kid is dying but he does try and make his passing a peaceful moment and it strengthens his resolve to defeat the Baron. He loves a good gallop and screams ‘hi ho silver!’ as they mount and ride off! Once they are done her sends the horse away as there is no point in advertising where they are. The Doctor has never shied away from a just fight and he doesn’t intend to start now. ‘That’s just his body’ he says, as though believing it himself, ‘his spirit has already passed.’ He considers it truly covering your tracks when the Time Lords lose track of you. Like most of his former incarnations he can’t say he enjoys matter transmission. I love it when he gets to show his teeth and once offered a cut of the pirates disgusting scheme he admits he is tempted to unleash the Hearne on them regardless. It’s a story that allows Sixie to be very humanistic and yet alien in his own unique way, Brian Finch should be called back to write another script because I would be intrigued to see what else he could come with.

Busty Babe: It’s a great story for Peri as well who gets to do all of her usual ‘Periness’ (you know complaining, getting into mischief) but also go off investigating on her own, meet friends and show her anger in some surprising scenes. Had this story been on the telly it might have been the making of Peri. Bless her; she says ‘excuse me’ when taking a knife from a body and when the Doctor starts tearing at the dog flesh she thinks he is skinning them! I loved Althya who just wants to continually torture, insult and abuse Peri no matter how much sense she makes – she reminded me of my husband when we watched Mark of the Rani the other day! When would she have had time to learn to ride a horse? Even though they are getting on very well these days its nice that the Doctor and Peri still have the odd fling (when meeting up again it isn’t ‘Hi how are you?’ its ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Where have I been? Where have you been?’). After the Doctor rescues Wulfric Peri is appalled that he wont return the favour! Peri has been tortured, she knows what it feels like and she knows that the people that do it are only encouraged if you don’t resist them! Nicola Bryant really comes alive in these scenes of convincing the rebels to get of their arses and actually do something – we have never seen Peri this fiercely angry before and it exposed the depth of feeling she has for the Doctor. Standing up to tyranny is always the right decision.

Standout Performance: If Colin Baker was given material like this in the eighties the BBC would have been begging him to stay not asking him to leave. He’s funny, sweet, heroic, witty and a real force to be reckoned with!

Sparkling Dialogue: ‘How about I call you excrement and flush you?’
‘Ideas in the
mselves are not evil, its those who corrupt them. In the hands of the wicked and the depraved even the finest dreams can be turned into nightmares.’

Great Ideas: Leviathan is chock a block full of wonderful concepts that would have automatically made it onto the classics lists in the mid 80s regardless of how the production turned out. Hearne, a demonic figure from Dark Age myth has come to life and is hunting people through the forest with a skull face and antlers. The first episode throws up some intriguing mysteries to hook you in; the villagers are all little more than children, laser crossbows, what are androids doing in the past and what happens to you when it is your time to move on? The castle is branded with the corporate emblem of the Sentinels of the New Dawn. I love the scene of Peri looking out of the hut and the entire village waiting outside to threaten her – really creepy! There is a new Girth to replace the old one, a younger one. Why is there a medieval castle for show with a moat that is only a few feet deep and everything is all a bit chocolate box? The cliffhanger is an awesome moment if you haven’t been spoiled because although there are lots of hints you would never believe the scale of this surprise – the entire worlds is inside the hold of a gigantic spaceship! They simulate day and night for the villagers and the ship doesn’t want them investigating. There is another spaceship on a parallel course, a pirate ship with designs on the Leviathan. The Leviathans defied belief even on the drawing board, they were mankind’s greatest hope in the 22nd Century, the only way they could reach out beyond their solar system and colonise new planets. Several prototypes were built and in order to make their existence as pleasant as possible it would take them several centuries and many generations to reach their destination. The Xeron was designed to control the craft, running everything and utilising robot support. The Xeron decides that all specimens are to be recycled. The Doctor discovers human foetuses in various stages of development; these are the replacements in the village. When you reach a certain age where you might start asking questions you are recycled. There was a meteor storm that destroyed all navigational instruments and the Leviathan remained adrift. The Sentinels of the New Dawn were 22nd century illuminati, a secret cartel of immensely powerful and privileged people who didn’t think they were privileged enough. There aim was to exclusively advance their personal interest, a financial Empire that beggared belief! When they went out of fashion they disappeared along with the Leviathan. The Sentinels are dead now but partially preserved by the Xeron – when they were alive they were using force grown people to feed them nutrition. The Doctor suggests that dying in their sleep was a luxury that they did not deserve; it certainly wasn’t given to their victims. The pirate ship has been shadowing them for months and knows that no help is coming but as soon as they realise they are beaten they prime their torpedoes. The Doctor puts the Hearne on a very short leash and uses him to attack the pirates! The open-ended conclusion is marvellous; the medieval villagers have to face the future, literally.

Audio Landscape: Leviathan is impressively brought to life by John Ainsworth who manages to totally convince that we are in a medieval setting for the first episode and switching to a spaceship setting in the second. Birdsong, the creepiest hunting horn ever, dogs barking, splashing through a stream, dripping caves, the terrifying Hearne voice, laser beams destroying stone walls, slide stone doors, a panting horse, galloping off into the woods, a horrific electrocution torture, the Baron android stuttering and shorting out.

Musical Cues: Simon Robinson provides a simple but extremely evocative score, which plays on the same theme in various ways throughout. I particularly liked the dramatic use of drums in the opening scenes and the music swells majestically at the end of part one to keep up with the ambition of the twist ending.

Standout Scene: The cliffhanger is the obvious choice because it is so startlingly innovative but I also love the swordfight between the Doctor and the Baron.

Result: Now that is more like it! Leviathan is a magical little script that keeps peeling away layers of meaning as it progresses. The first episode is full of great mysteries and pleasingly turns out to be one big con and you would think that after the big reveal of the Leviathan it might rest on its laurels but the story continues to innovate until its conclusion. The Doctor has a multitude of problems to juggle up and as a result he is more incredible than ever for not breaking a sweat and even Peri gets lots to do. Its written and directed as though it could have been made at the time but unlike the first two stories it would also stand up remarkably well today, a pacy, intelligent, thoughtful story with more than enough going on to keep you thinking throughout. Extremely impressive: 9/10

1 comment:

David Pirtle said...

Great review of a great story! The space pirate twist seemed a bit unnecessary, and the pirates themselves rather dull as villains. Fortunately, between the Zeron, the Baron, and the downright frighteningly realized Herne, there's no shortage of more interesting antagonists.