Thursday, 22 September 2011

Season Two

Season Two is a time of change for the show as we say goodbye to Susan early in the season and Ian and Barbara towards the end and we gain Vicki and Steven in their place. Everything is bigger and more exciting - the travellers are only an inch high, the Daleks invade the Earth, a crashed spaceship on a forgotten planet, the Doctor gives Nero the idea to burn Rome, a planet of insects, the court of Richard the Lionheart, a space museum, a chase through all time and space and finally the Saxons invade in 1066...

The regulars -

Planet of Giants written by Louis Marks and directed by Mervyn Pinfield & Douglas Cmamfield


The Dalek Invasion of Earth written by Terry Nation and directed by Richard Martin

Result: There is much that works in The Dalek Invasion of Earth but unfortunately it is far from the all-conquering classic of repute. The first episode is genuinely atmospheric, features some great location work and sets the scene beautifully for the Daleks entrance but ultimately it turns out to be the best installment of the whole story. The least successful element of this story is, oddly, the Daleks, which fail to work as the terrifying conquerors of repute and look so awkward clunking about the sets with their giant satellites strapped to their casings and effeminate voices. For what was supposed to be a devastating comeback for the creatures, they have none of the menace of their original story. The designers are working hard with what they have to make the studio locations as convincing as possible (and they are as diverse as a mine shaft, a riverside, the exterior of a spaceship and sewers) but shot in such a bland way much of the detail is lost. Fortunately the character drama boosts the story and with some fine actors on board they salvage something from the situation. Characters like Dortman, Tyler, Jenny and Ashton are well written and provide an effectively intimate way to explore the invasion when the budget cannot provide the sort of rollercoaster action that it needs. The Doctor says goodbye to Susan in what proves to be one of the most heartbreaking goodbyes the series ever presented and coming at the end of such a shallow action adventure it gives the material even more punch. It's an uneven story which frustrates because it could have been so much better than it is. If this could have been cut down to an hour and a half, shot on film and injected with more pace it would have made a far more effective tale. What I'm describing is Daleks, 2150 AD. I prefer the kick ass movie version (even with its apoplectic music score) but even I have to admit that the best moments of the TV version have much more depth than a cinematic blockbuster could ever achieve. Simon watched this one with me too and he came out far more in it's favour than I did. He even found the departure of Susan extremely moving (and he usually cannot stand the character). Ambitious but massively flawed: 6/10

Full Review Here -

The Rescue written by David Whitaker and directed by Christopher Barry


The Romans written by Dennis Spooner and directed by Christopher Barry

Result: I remember when I first showed The Romans to Simon. It was only the second Hartnell story I dared to let him watch and with great trepidation because of his love of modern, glossier television. He was smirking throughout but made no real comment about its content. When it was over he turned to me and declared it one of the most delightful Doctor Who stories he had ever watched despite the fact that barely anything seemed to happen in it. Riding on its own charm was the exact description, I seem to recall. It's one of those black and white stories that skips by effortlessly with the gorgeous regular cast delivering sparkling performances, a deliciously funny and smart script and some clever direction that suggests a much bigger world than the one it is capable of producing. Some will tell you that comedy and Doctor Who don’t go together but I would happily list ten humorous tales that prove the flaw in that argument and this gem would be chief amongst their number. I think a lot of people have been surprised at their reaction to this tale because it is another one of those stories that Howe, Stammers and Walker (who are of course as entitled to their opinion as anybody) trounced all over in their much-loved Handbooks, cementing an opinion of a generation of fans that couldn't access the story at the time. There's a brutality to the story that matches the comedy and ensures that things don't get too easy to watch and much of that comedy is of the blackest variety which really appeals to my (fairly) sick sense of humour. Vicki gets to have a real adventure in history, Ian and Barbara get to bask in the comfort of their relationship before being torn apart and proving their affection by spending four episodes trying to reach other again and the Doctor has rarely been this delightful, sparring with Nero, meddling with history (the old hypocrite) and generally having a whale of a time juggling intrigue and mayhem. Intelligent, clever, hilarious and educational, The Romans is a stirring highlight of the second season: 10/10

Full Review Here:

The Web Planet written by Bill Strutton and directed by Richard Martin

Result: I admire the production team for having the balls to attempt something on this scale and some of that ambition pays off with some imaginative imagery and quirky ideas. Having the four regulars as the only human characters in a six part story must have terrified the designers but they rose to the challenge to create a fascinating world in Vortis and its insectoid inhabitants and with only a few serious missteps (the Optera, the Venom Grubs) they valiantly create an intoxicating fairytale world. Had this been brutally edited down to three episodes (you can pretty much watch episodes one, five and six without missing anything too important – try it and see) it would have made a much slicker, enjoyable experience but at six episodes the novelty wears off too soon and you are left with a long slog of episodes with very little pace or excitement. When I first saw the story I was bored senseless and agonisingly plodded through the whole thing in one go which is suicide. The Web Planet works best if you save one episode a night (preferably when everybody has gone to bed to avoid humiliation and have that blissfully naughty moment of just Doctor Who and you) and turn the lights out so you can be drawn into its eerie, alien atmosphere. I admire it much more than I like it and there are moments when I can really see Bill Strutton’s incredible vision being brought to life. I would never recommend this to a non fan but I would suggest that every Doctor Who fan needs to see this story simply for the aspiration and bravery of the original production team. I can only imagine what this would have looked like inDouglas Camfield’s hands because I hold most of the stupid mistakes at Richard Martin’s door. Insane and atmospheric, daft and imaginative, The Web Planet deserves to be applauded and jeered at. For its conception and moments of alien genius I would give it a 9 but its slack pace and embarrassing production errors warrant a 3 so I will round this up to an even: 6/10

Full Review Here -

The Crusade written by David Whitaker and directed by Douglas Camfield (that’s some impressive credentials)

Result:  Along with the other historical masterpiece (The Romans), this is the jewel in the crown of season two and there is not one part of The Crusade that isn’t firing on all cylinders. It’s a dramatic, exotic treat and whilst you could easily spend an age looking for the narrative and failing to find one but as a snapshot of history in the Hartnell era its success is unrivaled. The regulars are all afforded some fantastic moments; Ian is knighted and gets to play the ultimate hero, Vicki enjoys some subterfuge playing a boy, the Doctor dazzles in courtly politics and Barbara experiences some extreme culture shock. Her scenes being hunted and terrorised on the streets of Palestine are some of the most adult and discomforting in the entire series. Where The Crusade stands out in particular is in its scripting and direction, both of which are some of the most polished examples of their type ever to be seen in the series. It is unbelievable to think that a script as erudite, lyrical and educational as this could come from the same series as something as braindead as The Chase, let alone take place in the same season. Each character is written for distinctively and the words that come out of their mouths paint pictures in the same fashion as the best of Shakespeare. This is the point where Douglas Camfield made his name as being able to produce something visually stunning and atmospheric on a shoestring and the execution of The Crusade is practically flawless. Evocatively lit, stunningly designed and with careful camerawork and framing, the realisation is essential to its success. It is a show that is bristling with style, gaining confidence due to its unexpected success. With incredible ratings, season two is one of a few peaks in the shows popularity: 10/10

Full Review Here -

The Space Museum written by Glyn Jones and directed by Mervyn Pinfield


The Chase written by Terry Nation and directed by Richard Martin

Result: How exactly can you sum up The Chase? It really isn’t very good and yet it is one of the very few stories that transcends its faults and becomes something that is deliriously enjoyable, even addictive, the more you watch it. It's one last hurrah for Ian and Barbara and the actors seem to be enjoying themselves immensely. It’s a testament to the ambition and imagination of the Doctor Who production team at the time (to never attempt anything this ludicrous again!). It manages to make you laugh (intentionally or not) and cry. It has some damn fine design work and lighting and the Daleks (despite acting like sulky schoolboys) are often shot with real care. The Chase is all of these things and more but to me it is a number of chilled out evenings of laughter and companionship enjoying this little epic. For that it will always be one of my favourites. No matter how infantile the writing and direction is: 9/10

Full Review Here -

The Time Meddler written by Dennis Spooner and directed by Douglas Camfield


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