Saturday, 24 September 2011

Season Nine

With more of a focus on travelling to places rather than the stuffy confines of UNIT HQ, Season Nine sees a production team refusing to rest on its laurels and thinking up new exctiting adventures for a Doctor trapped on Earth. We time travel into a Dalek invasion, visit the medieval world of Peladon, take a trip to the seaside with the Navy to face the Sea Devils, beam down to the deadly wilderness of Solos and come face to face with a time beast ripped free of the vortex!

The regulars -

Day of the Daleks written by Louis Marks and directed by Paul Bernard


The Curse of Peladon written by Brian Hyales and directed by Lennie Mayne


The Sea Devils written by Malcolm Hulke and directed by Michael Briant

Result: I have been far too hard on this story in the past. I had always written it off as an ugly looking, tuneless repeat of the Silurians with about half it's intelligence and lacking its decent characterisation. Whilst some of those criticisms do hold water I can feel a counter argument brewing in my mind even as I type those words. Yes the story is drenched in miserable colours and the location work does look grainy and dour but the direction in general is of an extremely high quality and the action is covered dynamically throughout. Yes the music is extremely experimental but at least the show was trying something different and occasionally Malcolm Clarke manages to strike upon something genuinely spooky and atmospheric (the submarine scenes are very well scored). And yes the character work may not match Doctor Who & the Silurians for shades of grey but Malcolm Hulke is too strong a writer to let even the smallest of characters slip by without some colour and conviction. Like all six parters it is stuffed full of padding but as a complete story it holds together far better than I have ever given it credit for, aided by the high action content which adds a war movie credibility to the piece. We can thank the Royal Navy for that, ensuring that when Walker orders a strike against the Sea Devils it genuinely looks like they have the facilities to blow them off the planet. Michael Briant's direction is excellent and he ensures the pace rarely lets up, filling the story with exciting set pieces (and some nicely handled scares) and I can understand why Barry Letts kept turning to the youthful and risk taking director. The Doctor and the Master dance around each other, revelling in their rivalry and yet always on the verge of polishing each other off. It would be fair to say that in stories of this type that Roger Delgado's Master is every bit the central character as the Pertwee's Doctor and during parts of The Sea Devils you might even find yourself siding with the villain such is his mesmeric influence. On its own strenghts I would probably give this story a 7 but this has been one of my biggest surprises since I ran this higgeldy piggledy marathon and I felt a tingle of excitement that you get when discovering a great Doctor Who story throughout which bumps it up to a: 8/10

Full Review Here -

The Mutants written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin and directed by Christopher Barry

Result:Stubbsy! Mate!’ There is something terribly jarring about The Mutants from its first episode which features grim location work, claustrophobic sets, Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning wandering around the future as though they are popping out for the milk, hippy natives with big knives, OTT villainy in the form of Paul Whitsun-Jones, overdone politics and Geoffrey Palmer that feels as though it has been tossed together on the hoof without much care. Unfortunately it is then followed up by five more episodes with exactly the same kind of antipathy. Every now and again every element of a story comes together perfectly and stories like Genesis of the Daleks and Caves of Androzani are created for posterity. To keep the universe in balance there are also times when everything that can possibly go wrong does so and the end result looks a lot like The Mutants. Bizarre casting choices, an ugly aesthetic, distracting music, an overlong and all too businesslike script and a story that fails to allow the Doctor and his assistant impress, this is one such story. I like to think that every single Doctor Who story is lauded by somebody, that each adventure has somebody out there who considers it their favourite. Saying that I find it hard to believe that anybody can have their critical faculties so eccentrically attuned that The Mutants is their idea of the perfection. Whilst the idea of a metamorphosis occurring in a species every five hundred years with a radical climate change is intriguing, season eighteen’s Full Circle plays about with the same ideas with much more aplomb and provides a great deal more distraction too. For all it’s intelligent ideas and allusions it is for the most part hideously realised and there is so little that the audience can connect with on an emotional level that it is tempting to just switch off (figuratively and literally). Whatever Christopher Barry brought to the screen in The Daemons seems to have deserted him here and the general feeling is that his heart isn’t in the project. Ultimately it feels like The Mutants spends so long making its point that it forgets to entertain and feels like the most misguided attempt at playing at adult drama in the Pertwee era. Unlike stories like Colony in Space and The Monster of Peladon I don’t think reducing the episode count would remove any of its problems because most of them are concerned with its execution. Excellent monster costumes aside, this is infamously vapid: 3/10

Full Review Here -

The Time Monster written by Robert Sloman and directed by Paul Bernard

Result: People seem to queue up around the block and ask 'what went wrong?' when it comes to The Time Monster. Technically it should have everything going for it. The writers of The Daemons, The Green Death and Planet of the Spiders, the director of Day of the Daleks and Frontier in Space, Terrance Dicks at the height of his powers, Jon and Katy settled into their relationship, the UNIT family plus the Master, a script bursting with ideas that can encompass everything from TARDISes within TARDISes and a trip to Atlantis and an attempt to craft an end of season spectacular. Why then does this have such a gutter reputation? The general lethargy in the production is mostly to blame, I think. It infects everything from the writing (the dialogue lacks urgency, the plot lacks drama), the performances (everybody involved acts as though this is a jolly romp rather than an end of season spectacular) and the direction (which is flat, lacking atmosphere and quite unimaginative for the most part). Something might have been salvaged had one of these problems struck but the coming together of all three creates a feeling of this story being made up on the spot by a team of regulars (including the production staff) that are far too comfortable with each other. For a story that finishes a universe away from where it starts, The Time Monster feels startlingly unambitious and lackadaisical. It's the story you can stop and point it if you are one of those people that suggests that the Pertwee era lacked any urgency potency. The contemporary Earth scenes are so unimportant that all the characters that make up the first four episodes are written out completely when the action moves to Atlantis, only to return for a token gag at the climax. The Ancient City is realised so inadequately on every level you have to question whether the production team is in desperate need of a shake up. When Inferno is the ultimate expression of Sherwin's exiled on Earth format and Atlantis represents the production teams desire to get away from that, you have to ask who had the right approach. And look at all the embarrassment along the way; Bessie's super drive, TOMTIT, a thick as shit Brigadier, baby Benton, the Minotaur... The Time Monster is one of those rare Doctor Who stories where nothing comes together and you genuinely question your love for this silly old show: 3/10

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