Sunday, 25 September 2011

Season Fourteen

Long considered one of the finest seasons of Doctor Who, season fourteen is a slick looking and confident year of the programme that saw Hinchcliffe and Holmes go out on a real high. Sarah departs and Leela joins and between them face a deadly supernatural evil, a galactic war criminal, a decrepit Master trying to take down Gallifrey, a schizophrenic computer, homicidal robots and another war criminal roaming about in Victorian London!

The regulars -

The Masque of Mandragora written by Louis Marks and directed by Rodney Bennett

Result: Even more than celebrated stories such as Talons and Robots, Masque of Mandragora shows the exquisite visual splendour that Philip Hinchcliffe brought to the show. His 'can we do this?' approach reaches its apotheosis in a story that sparkles with the stylish splendour of Renaissance Italy. The sets look very expensive and lush, the location convinces that they really did pop over the Italy for a shoot and the costumes and props never once let the side down. Appropriately Dudley Simpson provides one of his most classy and impressive scores too to accompany the sumptuous production. Until Big Finish came along this is the closest the series ever came to mimicking the Hartnell historicals with a strong emphasis on period detail and an extremely lavish production. Even the threat is far more intellectual than usual, the danger of bypassing the renaissance and falling back into superstitions of old proving an enticing hazard if the Mandragora Helix succeeds. Add to all of these strengths a gorgeous affirmation of the dazzling Doctor/Sarah partnership and strong performances across the board and you have an extremely striking period adventure that can hold its head high amongst the outstanding trips back in time for the show. Some people find this story boring but I would disagree with that assertion strongly, it impressed me when I first saw it years ago and it still impressed me when I watched it with my good friend Paul a month or so back: 9/10

Full Review Here -

The Hand of Fear written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin and directed by Lennie Mayne

Result: For once the script editor has managed to shape Baker and Martin’s insane quota of imaginative ideas into a simple and engaging narrative, The Hand of Fear works well for its first three episodes but concludes on a truly disappointing finale. It is the ultimate expression of the Hinchcliffe/Holmes obsession with possession and it seems fitting that the mantle should be handed to Elisabeth Sladen on her last story and she conjures up a chilling and playful nasty to kick start the story. Lennie Mayne has always been a reliable director but I would never say a particularly inspired one but he really pulls out the stops during his location scenes in his final piece, utilizing some imaginative camera work to give full exposure to some memorable locations. What a shame that the money runs out in the last episode because the story still has some great surprises up its sleeve and the Doctor/Sarah split is as every bit as emotional as it should be but the story does look every bit the tacky kids show in part four. Eldrad and the Kastrians have been very well thought through as race and there is an intelligent reason behind everything that happens in this story. The backstory is hinted at in episode one but not explained until episode four, suddenly piecing together all the clues seamlessly. It is one last chance to have an adventure with Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and for that alone this story is worth consideration, they are practically talking their own language at this stage. If I was reviewing the first three quarters it would get a 9 for its conviction but as a whole it has to be marked down to a less impressive: 7/10

Full Review Here -

The Deadly Assassin written by Robert Holmes and directed by David Maloney

Result: Politics, world building, wit and frights combine to make The Deadly Assassin not just another Doctor Who story but a genuine event. It has one of the best first episodes in Doctor Who history; a mini drama in its own right leading up to a foreshadowed but unforgettable cliffhanger. It is like a reverse of the situation with the Star Trek movies, the odd numbered episodes are stunning leaving the even numbered ones struggling to catch up. Episode two plays out very much like CSI Gallifrey with the Doctor working an investigation that will ultimately save his life and bring down his arch enemy. It is great fun and excellently scripted but after the breathtaking opening it does feel like a step down in how much it captured my attention. The third episode is justly famous for its arrangement of phobias that would leave any adult a gibbering wreck, let alone the children who are watching. Stylishly directed on film, featuring one unforgettable set piece after another and standing out as something that has never been done before or since - this is another standout episode that exists on its own. It’s a uniquely horrific experience. What a shame then that the budget cannot do justice to the epic conclusion, the only point where this story feels cheap and tatty. Robert Holmes subversive script and David Maloney’s slick direction combine to make this another Hinchcliffe jewel. They really knew what they were doing during this period of the show didn't they?: 9/10

Full Review Here -

The Face of Chris Boucher and directed by Pennant Roberts


The Robots of Death written by Chris Boucher and directed by Michael E Briant

Result: A masterpiece of suspense and horror, The Robots of Death is one of those classic Doctor Who stories that doesn’t put a foot out of place. As a drama it is expertly constructed and the world in which the Doctor and Leela drop in on is packed full of detail to make it one of the most convincing future environments. Micheal E Briant has realised that it is the cast that is going to bring this to life so vividly and assembles one of the strongest ensembles with Russell Hunter, David Ballie, David Collings and Pamela Salem in particular standing out. He might not have thought much of the script (how he considered this less worthy than something like Revenge of the Cybermen baffles me) but it convinced him to go the extra mile and ensure this piece was directed within an inch of its life. The design and effects are perfectly in tune and on his way out the door Hinchcliffe overspends outrageously and makes this as visually stunning a piece as possible. It’s a story that haunted me when I was younger and still gives me the chills when I watch it now, it sees the Doctor and Leela at their finest, continually fires great lines and memorably frightens right until the end and unusually for Doctor Who climaxes with its best episode. I want every classic Doctor Who story to be as good as this but if that was the case we wouldn’t realise just what a classic The Robots of Death is. Terrifying stuff and a top five story for me: 10/10

Full Review Here -

The Talons of Weng-Chiang written by Robert Holmes and directed by David Maloney



Anonymous said...

I greatly look forward to your review of Talons oF Weng Chiang.

However, I am not familiar with the episode Face of Chris Boucher.

Anonymous said...

Unless you are suggesting that evil and Chris oucher are synonymous. You must really have a grudge against the guy.

Joe Ford said...

Not at all, but this mistake amuses me so much I'm going to keep it until I review the story :-)