Sunday, 25 September 2011

Season Twelve

A bold new Doctor and his two fabulous assistants Sarah Jane and Harry Sullivan head out into time and space for a linked season of adventures. They come up against the Giant Robot and the facist organisation behind it, a race of deadly insects, a Sontaran commiting obscene experiments, the creator of the Daleks and a ragtag bunch of Cybermen commited to destroying an entire world!

The regulars -

Robot written by Terrance Dicks and directed by Christopher Barry

Result: Unlike anything else in the Tom Baker era, this is a hugely fun and colourful adventure that reeks of the previous management rather than the new administration that was to come. Departing Robot you might be under the impression that things were going stay pretty much the same. Certain TV stories lend themselves well to being drawn as a comic strip and Robot is a great example (Paradise Towers is another), it is full of arresting, epic imagery that needs the unlimited budget of an artists hand to bring them to life successfully. However this is Doctor Who so a certain amount of forgiveness has to be lavished on the effects work and there is much more to Robot than the Giant metal antagonist taking his anger out on a UNIT platoon. Terrance Dicks’ dialogue is fast and furiously witty and the story is full of memorable characters and moments. At four episodes it feels remarkably fast paced, especially compared to some of the more laborious Pertwee six parters. Tom Baker hits the ground sprinting with a performance that reaches into the stratosphere, pulling every trick out of the book to make sure that the audience is wrong-footed throughout. He's demented, and it's a real slap around the face after Pertwee's straight-lacedness. There's a nicely detail relationship between Sarah and the Robot that should have bombed but thanks to the efforts of Sladen and Kilgarriff, it turns out to be rather touching. Robot is one of those Doctor Who stories where it is best not to think about any of the details for too long because it all starts to fall apart (Kettlewell's behaviour, the last minute solution) but simply go along with the ride and be seduced by the adventurous tone, the charismatic performances and wonderful byplay. As a final hurrah to an incredible era of Doctor Who it is a thoroughly entertaining and energetic piece that I never tire of enjoying: 8/10

Full Review Here

The Ark in Space written by Robert Holmes and directed by Rodney Bennett

Result: You will never see a more convincing example of everybody pulling together and making a story come alive that is beyond the resources of the series’ kitty. The writer, actors, designer and musician are all working overtime to ensure that The Ark in Space is an epic yet claustrophobic SF chiller that really get under your skin. Despite some effects that fail to make the grade, the story is so authentically brought to life that I was rivetted to my seat the first time I watched and I have remained as gripped with each subsequent viewing. The Ark itself is a magnificent setting, brought to life with rare vision by Roger Murray-Leech and proving the perfect pristine environment for this graphic tale of possession to take place and really make an impact. Tom Baker is a revelation in his second story but saying that the material is so strong and instantly attuned to his more dangerous portrayal it would have taken a poor actor to fail to make it work. Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter provide fantastic support and it is immediately obvious that this is going to be a team to watch. It's such a shame that they didn't last any longer than six stories together. The Wirrn are one of the nastiest Doctor Who foes ever conceived, a breed of insects that require human incubators to plant their eggs in to gestate and tear free, the knowledge of their breeder stolen.  We get to witness this process at every stage (except the digestion of human tissue, thank goodness) and the appalled reactions of the cast do a lot of the work for us. As a script Roberth Holmes once again shows how it should be done, The Ark in Space is packed full of great ideas, it is gorgeously plotted and structured, gains momentum throughout, is full of drama and great lines and has a solution that is sufficiently set up and satisfying. It is a great piece of writing. A triumph of imagination, of performance and of design, this is a story that proves that it is necessary to push yourself to the limit because sometimes you might be surprised at what you can pull off: 9/10

Full Review Here -

The Sontaran Experiment written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin and directed by Rodney Bennett

Result: Unique at the time for only being two episodes long and shot entirely on location, The Sontaran Experiment is a pleasant breather after the stifling claustrophobia of The Ark in Space and a pause before the horrors of Genesis of the Daleks. I really wish this had been shot on film because video does make the location work look cheaper than it should. However the scenery is so spectacular it manages to get away with the awesome premise of being set on a post apocalyptic Earth, the planet having survived a battering by solar flares. Because of its brevity, this story is more effective as a coda for the story that took place before it than a gripping narrative in its own right, and also as a further glimpse at the Sontarans and emphasising their terrible war with the Rutans. Tom Baker seems a little tentative at first but soon finds his way and luckily he is backed up with the unconquerable team of Lis Sladen and Ian Marter who keep things ticking over nicely. Rather than the often cosy violence of the Barry Letts era, much of the material is quite sadistic and already the new administration is making its mark. I watch this story for its gorgeous windy locations, which makes me want to walk across South Downs where I live and breathe in some lovely fresh air. As a story with its own identity it is fairly disposable, but this is still an enjoyable enough tale that adds extra depth to the corner of the galaxy set up in The Ark in Space: 7/10

Full Review Here -

Genesis of the Daleks written by Terry Nation and directed by David Maloney

Result: A masterpiece of suspense and visceral and psychological horror, Genesis of the Daleks lives up to its iconic status and then some. I don’t care whose name is on the credits, this script was either heavily rewritten by Robert Holmes or he gave notes every stage. Under Terrance Dicks Terry Nation produced Planet of the Daleks and the yawning chasm that exists between that story and this is too damn noticeable to be quite believable. Whoever was responsible the script is a work of art in itself; an exercise in world building, character examination, moral dilemmas and how to pace a six part action adventure with real momentum. David Maloney is next in line for credit because he takes this script and refuses to let one iota of atmosphere bleed away. The direction is bold, violent and shocking – you wouldn’t want Doctor Who to be this way every week because it is just too disturbing in places but as a fatalistic one off it is a tour de force. The lighting is superb and Dudley Simpson’s music has really come on since Tom Baker took over the role, highlighting the drama whilst cutting away the melo. It’s a huge cast and nearly all the roles are impeccably performed from the sadistic (Hilary Minster) to the uncomfortably still (Peter Miles) with Lis Sladen and Ian Marter providing impeccable support to Tom Baker’s Doctor who has finally come into his own. The plaudits have to go to Michael Wisher though for creating such a memorable grotesque in Davros – the last three episodes see the action quotient drop but its still completely riveting because Davros’ malevolent behaviour is absolutely delicious to watch. There’s no part of Genesis of the Daleks that isn’t firing on all cylinders and it’s the first major success of many for incoming producer Phillip Hinchcliffe. Even the conclusion is satisfying, managing to be both anti climatic and loaded with irony and murderous relish. It's not a story I can watch over and over because its depressing tone can be quite hard hitting but every time I do watch Genesis I am reminded of just how good Doctor Who can be when everything comes together with absolute precision. Outstanding: 10/10

Full Review Here -

Revenge of the Cybermen written by Gerry Davis and directed by Michael Briant

Result: The Hinchcliffe era is rightly celebrated as one of the most innovative, expensive and imaginative periods of classic Who but it is worth remembering that all eras of this show are capable of producing their own duffers. Revenge of the Cybermen is terrible, one of those rare examples of a story where pretty much everything goes wrong. I will usually go to great lengths to find good things to say about the most slated stories but in this case I am stumped, its that bad. Hinchcliffe was lumbered with two scripts containing old baddies that he didn't want and whilst he and Holmes managed to salvage Genesis of the Daleks and shape it into something exceptional, the same care and attention was lacking with the season finale. The script needs hardcore dissection to make it even passable, the dialogue is perversely bad, the plot riddled with logic vacuums (you couldn’t call them holes) and characterisation lacks any finesse (and I would argue that any of these people are characters but plot functions). The spongy tubular camp-as-Christmas Cybermen fudge their comeback and by the end of the story they are so ineffective you actually feel quite sorry for them. Probably not the intended response. Not even Tom Baker, Lis Sladen or Ian Marter can raise the bar on this story with the leading actor at sea in a script that gives the Doctor so little to work with and his companions swept away in the tide of ineptitude. Worse, the extraordinary guest cast are lost somewhere in there, unrecognisable and struggling with poorly written parts. When the most exciting thing is a Carey Blyton score and the fact that they managed to shoot the story in some real caves, you have some real problems. Let's chalk this one up to experience and never mention it again: 2/10

Full Review Here -


Anonymous said...

Attack of the Cyermen was quite mediocre. However I found it had enough good thinsthat I might give it maybe a 4 or 5.

The main problem for me was that you only had three Cybermen, thus taking away the feeling of threat.

Joe Ford said...

Did you mean Revenge of the Cybermen? I was confused for a moment because I remember seeing far more than three Cybermen in Attack!