Friday, 23 September 2011

Season Eight

An all round more colourful and entertaining season than the year before but securing the shows success because of it, season eight saw the introduction of most of the characters that the Pertwee era is famous for. In this year he faces the combined forces of the Master and the Autons, a fear hungry mind parasite, parasitical beings offering fools gold, an amoral mining company and the devil itself!

The regulars -

Terror of the Autons written by Robert Holmes and directed by Barry Letts

Result: An easy story to enjoy because it skips from one twisted set piece to another as the Doctor and the Master play their game of cat and mouse, Terror of the Autons is a colourful affair with lots going on and no time to get bored. With CSO being used a default setting and its crazy imagery it is like watching a comic strip come to life and whilst it might be a little gaudy in places the show is now fully exploiting the fun and visual splendour that it can have with colour. I have always thought that Terror of the Autons was nowhere near as scary as Spearhead from Space but there were quite a few moments where I felt a little chill of disquiet (clingfilm spitting daffodils and unstoppable murderous policemen being the best examples) despite the lighter mood and wittier script. Jo Grant and the Master are both very enjoyable new additions and the Doctor is more abrasive and discourteous than ever before, insulting everybody in his own irresistible (and very funny) way. There is definitely a shift from political and scientific dramas of season seven to something more shallow and quirky but I genuinely believe had this move not been made Doctor Who might have died a death had it continued in the same mature vein as the previous year. Terror of the Autons is occasionally embarrassing but more often addictive and it skips along so entertainingly that I cannot bring myself to be too harsh on its weaker effects moments. Joyously anarchic: 8/10

Full Review Here -

The Mind of Evil written by Don Houghton and directed by Tim Coombe

Result: It makes you wonder if Houghton had a clue that his hard hitting thriller was going to be nestled into the somewhat more cuddly season eight because it really is the odd one out this year, one last gasp of season seven. Whilst a lot of the material might go over children's heads, nightmarish and adult imagery makes this one of the most grown up Doctor Who adventures and for ages I was pleased that it was trapped in black and white because it only enhances the gritty direction and realistic atmosphere. However the recent colour recovery has proven me wrong (plus the 18 month job of recolouring episode one, one frame at a time - bravo to Stuart Humphries for his dedication) and spruced up on DVD it looks more polished than ever. Monstrously over budget it might have been but every penny of that overspend made it on screen and I can't think of a time when action felt quite this rough and ready on Doctor Who, where every punch and shot has consequences. Because of its multiple plot lines it never really flags even at six parts (despite a very repetitive cliffhanger where the organ of death kicks in and the Keller machine does its thing) and like the previous season all of the performances impress. Tim Coombe laments the fact that he never went on to direct any more Doctor Who stories and after his imaginative and stylish work on this and Dr Who & the Silurians I can only concur with his sentiments. If it was something as mundane as a  balance sheet that robbed us of further adventures of this quality it dud move on Barry Lett's part. The Mind of Evil is also Roger Delgado's finest two and half hours as the Master (some would say that was the Daemons but he just oozes class in every frame here), projecting a sense of danger and unpredictability that we wouldn't see in the part again for a long time. There's something very right about the Master utilising a gang of unsavoury criminals to do his bidding and the shots of him with a weapon of mass destruction within arms reach are classic moments of the era. In contrast the Doctor is an anti-hero for the first few episodes; abrasive and unlikable but come the point where he is being strapped into a torture device and is almost killed by his own demons you are sympathising with him like never before. A totally unique step into a more mature world which I found gripped me throughout: 9/10

Full Review Here -

The Claws of Axos written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin and directed by Michael Ferguson

Result: If Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks disliked the Earthbound formula so much and wanted the show take flight into the universe again but couldn't because of the impositions placed by their predecessors, this is probably the best compromise they could come up with. A genuinely outlandish alien threat coming to the Earth in their spaceship and threatening the planet. It is the best of both worlds, with the Earthbound formula being given some consideration (and there is plenty of UNIT action) but a fascinating menagerie of creatures and weird alien technology to explore. It is probably the most out there story since The Web Planet and that might explain the love/hate relationship some (including myself) seem to have with it. I have always had an on/off relationship with The Claws of Axos. I remember when it first came out on video I really struggled with it. It just looked so gaudy and crazy and weird, not really what I wanted from Doctor Who at the time. When the story came out on DVD I bought it like the sad completist that I am but had no intention of putting it on. However when I started introducing Simon to the show he fell in love with the first three Doctor's and asked if we could put this one on. I spent the first two episodes criticisng and cringing and apologising for the effects and at the end of episode he told me that if I didn't shut up and start enjoying the thing then we wouldn't watch anymore. Suddenly I started to notice the ambition in the concepts, the imagination in the design and the direction and how everybody was doing their damnedest to convince that this scenario was actually taking place. My husband made me appreciate Doctor Who more! I do think that the story struggles to balance the more adult themes of season seven with the more colourful and entertainment focus of season eight and as a result it is mixture of very clever ideas and memorable action mixed in with weak characterisation and poor logic. It juggles far too many ideas for four episodes but the resulting effect is that if you don't like where the story is at the moment there will be something else around the corner to distract you any minute. Trippy direction and a genuinely alien environments paper over some truly dodgy characterisation and performances. It’s a fun story written by two enthusiastic writers but perhaps it could have done with another rewrite to smooth out some rough edges and had a little more money thrown at it to fulfil its grand ambitions: 7/10

Full Review Here -

Colony in Space written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Michael E. Briant

Result: Cowboys and Indians in a quarry! I think that Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had a good point about four episodes being the ideal length of a Doctor Who story…so it baffles me why they kept commissioning overlong six part stories! With the fat trimmed away Colony in Space would be a pretty decent little story; there is a solid dilemma at its heart, some strong characterisation and the idea of the Doctor and Jo exploring a new world is even more exciting than usual given he has been grounded for the past year and a half. With those two extra episodes however the story seems to go around in circles with the power baton constantly being passed between the colonists and IMC, the diversion into the primitive city proving a diversion into panto land and the tedious scenes of the Doctor and Jo in danger in the Master’s TARDIS. At four episodes this would be much tighter, pacier and excise a lot of it’s detracting elements. The twin narratives, the secrets of the primitive city and the fight for the planet run side by side but never dovetail at any point which makes me question why they were part of the same story. However I maintain that there are some very engaging elements in this story; the realistic plight of the colonists, the grim picture painted of life back on Earth, the performance of the IMC bullies that you can hiss and sneer at, the authentically functional design of the sets and the expected appearance of the Master which comes with all of Roger Delgado’s charm and charisma. I enjoy the early claustrophobia of the colonists under attack from within (Norton) and without (IMC) and the gunplay and fight sequences (especially the scrap in the clay) impress. It is the one story in season eight where Pertwee doesn’t strut about preening his ego and Manning seems to enjoy the chance to stretch Jo’s experiences on another world, although the temptation to turn her into a whimpering victim seems irresistible for the writer. Ultimately this story will never be considered one of the shows greatest successes but I refuse to place amongst its greatest failures either, it is a deeply flawed tale that needs pruning to highlight its many strengths (as it is they are hidden amongst much dross) and is perhaps a little too visually lifeless to keep your attention for its running time. What really stands out are the efforts of Pertwee, Manning, Delgado, Ringham, Pennell, Kay and Cautner. They are the ones that make you believe in this world: 6/10

Full Review Here -

The Daemons written by Guy Leopold (Barry Letts & Robert Sloman) and directed by Christopher Barry

Result: I fell in love with The Daemons through its premise alone – an alien being posing as the Devil pushing humanity's progress forward and ready to bring its experiment to a grand conclusion. It's such a brilliant idea for a Doctor Who story that when you factor in the glorious location work, wonderful characters brought to life by British stalwarts, great lines, action, stunts, grand cliffhangers and scares you have what can definitively be called a Pertwee classic. You could watch this story for its atmosphere alone. It has become hip to knock The Daemons of late, such is the way of things that are considered popular but by any standards this is a superior action adventure tale with some real love injected into it. Christopher Barry has done a grand job of bringing the script to life and milks it for every drop of tension and excitement and the whole story moves at an incredible pace. All the regulars get a moment to shine (Yates and Benton get out of their uniforms and get a great fight scene each) and the story is headed by two charismatic performances from Jon Pertwee (with his arrogance turned up to eleven) and Roger Delgado (who is the very essence of smooth villainy). With Dicks script editing and Letts writing the backbone of the adventure it is an intelligent one and it all leads to an impressive climax with a church going up in flames and a lovable closing scene of the dance around the maypole which always leaves me feeling warm and fuzzy inside. As you can tell I really enjoy The Daemons, it is seventies Who at its most confident and it looks bloody impressive too. Turn off your critical faculties when it comes to the odd illogical moment and bask in the atmosphere of this superior adventure: 9/10

Full Review Here -

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can tell the (male) producers didn't have a clue - introducing Mike Yates as 'male eye candy' when there was no need. Didn't anyone point out to them that a good part of the female audience tuned in because of the tall, dark, handsome chap in the Brigadier's uniform?
And yes - he looked delicious in his Mess Dress. No way was there not a willing female in that bed with him ;-)