Doctor Who: Adventures in Little Land

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 9 Planet of Giants, Episode 2: Dangerous Journey

Hi everybody and welcome back. As you may recall, last time our heroes became teeny tiny after the doors of the TARDIS flew open exposing them all to a heavy dose of shrink radiation…or something like that. It’s really not important. The takeaway here is that they’re small now and stuck in some British guy’s backyard. We were also introduced to the yard’s owner, a scientist named Farrow who went and got himself murdered after logging roughly twelve minutes of screen time. Oh, and while all this was going on, our tiny travelers were suddenly discovered by a cat!

BBC

BBC

Now seeing as how they’ve put the episode’s title right up there by the cat’s eyes, you’re probably thinking it plays a pretty important role in this week’s story. After setting up a cliffhanger like, there’s got to be some sort of payoff. Maybe a big confrontation or at the very least some sort of frantic escape, right?

Well, as it turns out, no. The crew just sort of stands there until the cat loses interest and slowly walks away. Guess what, the cat’s not the only one losing interest around here. Zing!

With our main source of conflict taken completely out of the picture, the Doctor, Barbara, and the rest turn their attention to finding a way back to the TARDIS.

They’re quickly interrupted, however, by the appearance of two regular sized people, or as Ian says, “I can see a huge leg coming!”.

In strolls everyone’s favorite scientist killer Forester along with his associate Smithers.

Fox

Fox

Nope, not that one. This far less interesting Smithers is the inventor of the insecticide that kicked off this whole murder nonsense in the first place.

As the two of discuss the finer points of body disposal, Ian and Susan take refuge in the dead man’s briefcase. Then, after a few minutes, Forester scoops up the briefcase and takes it into the house where he deposits it on a lab table.

Ian and Barbara stumble out from their journey and decide to take a stroll through their new digs. They wander past a set of giant test tubes, then stumble onto a pile of wheat seeds which Barbara immediately decides to pick up.

BBC

BBC

Unfortunately, the seed is coated with some kind of sticky substance, but before she can make too much of it, Ian hatches a plan to chain together paper clips into a makeshift ladder.

This involves an amusing little sequence in which Ian attempts to pop the lock on the giant briefcase.

While all this is going down, a fly manages to sneak on Barbara and guys, it is really gross. Like REALLY, REALLY gross!

BBC

BBC

I know this show may not always astound us with its production values, but whoever designed that thing really nailed it. God!

As Ian and Barbara labor away in paper clip land, we cut away to the Doctor and Susan who are hatching a plan of their own, which involves climbing into the house using the inside of a corroded drain pipe.

With rescue on the way, we bounce back to Ian and Susan who have discovered that the nasty ass fly has died suddenly after sitting down on that pile of wheat seeds. This is obviously pretty alarming to Barbara who moments ago touched the very same seeds.

Ian, however, remains completely oblivious and launches into a prolonged lecture about how Barbara should avoid touching them at all cost, which is insane because he watched her do that very thing not ten minutes prior. He even lent her his handkerchief to wipe the goo off her hands.

Come Ian, get your head in the game!

As Barbara breaks down into tears, Doc and Susan reach the top of the drain pipe and climb out into the middle of a sink.

BBC

BBC

I’ve got to admit, I really dig this set.

Then, in a genuinely clever moment, Susan uses the echo from within the pipe to magnify her voice.

Ian and Barbara hear her and calling and show up at the sink, but wouldn’t you know it, just as they do, those bumbling murderers Forester and Smithers show up wanting to wash their hands.

Doc and Susan dive back down into the drain pipe just before Smithers plugs up the sink and begins washing his hands. Then, in one of the series’ strangest cliffhangers, he pulls the plug, flooding the pipe with water.

This story remains one of the more unusual of the Doctor’s outings. Admittedly there’s not much going on here; it’s really just an attempt to get from Point A to Point B, but it’s fun and clever enough to keep things watchable. Plus, you know oversized props. Those are always fun.

I really wish we’d get more interaction between the regular-sized humans and our tiny stars though. This time around, the two plots remain entirely separate, only overlapping for a few brief throwaway moments. What I really want is for the Doc and company to take on the role of tiny crime busters and foil Forester and Smithers Ant Man style. After all this show has put me through, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Doctor Who in The Sensational Psychic Sensorites

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 7 The Sensorites, Episode 2: The Unwilling Warriors

Last time, the Doctor and crew stumbled onto the bridge of a spaceship where a trio of astronauts were being tormented by a group of psychic aliens called Sensorites. Barbara and Susan stumbled down the wrong hallway, accidentally locking themselves in a room with John, an astronaut suffering serious emotional trauma after his encounter with the aliens.

We pick up right where we left off, with Ian spotting of one of the Sensorites floating outside one of the ship’s windows.

As the Sensorites board, the two astronauts Maitland and Carol start going catatonic, while in another part of the ship, John starts receiving psychic messages telling him to menace Barbara and Susan.

BBC

BBC

Ian and the Doctor manage to revive Maitland and Carol, then set to work breaking down the door so they can get to Barbara and Susan.

Just about that time, the Sensorites stroll in, giving us our first good look at them and wow, the designer really broke the mold on these guys.

Dig those fantastic feet - BBC

Dig those fantastic feet – BBC

Dressed from head to toe in a pair of wild footie pajamas and looking like a cross between an old man and a goldfish, the Sensorites might be my favorite thing since that time the Daleks made Susan transcribe a letter.

BBC

BBC

And speaking of Susan, she actually contributes something useful this week by remembering an encounter she and the Doctor once had with psychic plant, in which they were able to block its mental probes. She suggests trying the same tactic against the Sensorites and, sure enough, moments later the aliens fall to their knees in pain.

Then Susan passes out, which to be fair, can’t really be held against her. That’s just kind of what she does, right?

Meanwhile, the Doctor and crew finally manage to break down the door. They put John to bed, then set about trying to come up with a plan.

As the Doc tosses out various theories, we cut back to one of the Sensorites who is eavesdropping on his conversation by placing a stethoscope to his head. My God, these Sensorites are getting better by the second!

BBC

BBC

Since John was the most seriously affected, the Doctor theorizes maybe he was targeted for some specific reason and decides to look into his work. John was the ship’s mineralogist and, after looking at his research, the crew determines he discovered a large supply of molybdenum on the planet’s surface.

Evidently, molybdenum is of incredible value in the future, so the Sensorites have been keeping Maitland and his crew prisoner so they can’t tell anyone what they’ve found.

After figuring this out, Maitland and Carol collapse yet again. This is the last straw for Ian who has had just about enough of these psychic shenanigans thank you very much. So, with Barbara at his side, he sets off to find these Sensorites and give them a piece of his mind.

But, while his heart is in the right place, Ian’s follow through leaves a lot to be desired. After laying eyes on them for the first time, Ian beats a not-so-hasty retreat, backpedaling slowly until he finally manages to lock them behind a door.

Unfortunately for Ian, he didn’t factor in the power of the  Sensorites’ goofy ping-pong paddle, which apparently can be used to unlock doors. Oh well, live and learn, I guess.

With the door unlocked, the Sensorites walk through it to a second door, but instead of going through it, they pull out their trusty stethoscopes for a nice trip into Susan’s mind.

BBC

BBC

Using Susan as a vessel, the Sensorites tell the Doctor they simply want to talk, so the second door is opened and the aliens stroll in for a nice heart to heart.

Never one for pleasantries, the Doctor cuts right to the chase, demanding, “Why don’t you let these space people go back to their earth?”

The Sensorites say they can’t let them go because they’ll reveal the rich deposits of molybdenum. Instead, they’ve prepared a nice place for them on their planet where the earthlings can live out the rest of their days.

The Doc tells him that’s not going to happen and that they’re more than capable of defending themselves, which leads to what may be the best trash talk of all time.

“You have only proved that you can lock doors. We can unlock them.”

BBC

BBC

The Doc counters with the equally sensational, “I don’t make threats, but I do keep promises and I promise you I shall cause you more trouble than you bargained for if you don’t return my property.”

Seeing as how no one’s going to budge, the Sensorites scuttle off to decide how to proceed. Then, with the aliens gone, the Doctor reveals that he’s been assessing their weaknesses and has determined that their eyes will not allow them to see in darkness. In light of the Sensorites’ psychic powers, you’d think he might want to play things a little closer to the vest, however, the whole thing becomes moot when the Sensorites reach out to Susan once again.

After another one-sided conversation, Susan reveals that she’s agreed to go down to the aliens planet as their prisoner in order to spare the rest of the crew.

As she departs, the hatch slams shut, bringing this episode to a close.

Another solid episode. While it doesn’t quite live up to last episode’s creepy Twilight Zone setup, it manages some pretty fun character moments. The Sensorites are wonderfully ridiculous and Hartnell gets to deliver a pretty badass speech. All in all, pretty fun.

Doctor Who: We Don’t Talk About John

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 7 The Sensorites, Episode 1: Strangers in Space

We pick up at last episode’s end, with the crew of the TARDIS escaping from Aztec era Mexico only to find themselves stranded when the TARDIS’ instruments begin feeding them contradictory information. One set of sensors tells them they’ve stopped, while another insists they’re still moving. 

As the Doctor and his companions puzzle over this latest problem, they begin reminiscing about old times.

“Boy, we sure we have changed a lot these past few months, why remember that time we fought the Daleks?”

We sure have had some wild times - BBC

We sure have had some wild times – BBC

Its so strange, that for a second I genuinely thought this was turning into a clip show.

Fortunately, the Doctor opens the door a few minutes later, sparing us all from a “very special episode”.

Leaving the TARDIS, they find themselves on the bridge of another spaceship, where a man and a woman sit slumped over the controls. After a quick check of their pulses, Ian discovers that both of them are quite dead.

Making things even stranger, the bodies are still warm, meaning they’ve only just died.

Seeing that there’s very little to be done, the Doctor and company decide to just call it a day and head back to the TARDIS for another round of reminiscing. Then, just as they’re getting ready to leave, one of the dead astronauts starts to move.

The man gets them to retrieve a strange rectangular object, which he presses to his chest, then insists they do the same to his female companion. Barbara does as he tells her and within a few seconds, the weird box resuscitates her too.

BBC

BBC

This sudden resurrection leaves everyone with a fair amount of questions, but the man, who introduces himself as Captain Maitland, sets them at ease by explaining that the object was a heart resuscitator and that, “When you found us, we were in a very long sleep, but we weren’t dead.”

Um, okay.

The Doctor asks if the two of them are from earth. Maitlind says that they are and Barbara gets very excited.

“How’s it looking?” she asks.

His companion, who is named Carol, answers that there’s “still too much air traffic.” As in flying cars.

When Ian tells them that he and Barbara are from London, the man looks at him strangely, then reveals that he and Carol hail from the 28th Century.

Captain Maitland and Carol Richmond - BBC

Captain Maitland and Carol Richmond – BBC

Then just about the time everyone’s starting to get along, Carol goes and ruins things by insisting that they all leave.

Maitland agrees, telling them, “There is only danger for you. You must go.” Which is certainly one way of getting rid of unwelcome house guests.

The proud crew of the TARDIS, however, haven’t been schooled in the finer points of hospitality and refuse to leave without an explanation.

And what an explanation it is. It seems the spaceship is positioned in orbit around a planet called the Sense-Sphere. The aliens that live there, the Sensorites, actively prevent them from leaving orbit. They’re able to do this by exerting power over not only their craft, but over their minds as well, using their influence to place the astronauts into periods of death-like sleep.

Strangely enough, despite all this, the Sensorites never do anything to actually hurt them, and in fact, take a hand in keep them alive, feeding them during these forced hibernations.

As Doc and the others brainstorm various ways of helping them, someone wanders over to the TARDIS and begins waving a 1950s TV antennae over the lock.

Meanwhile, back on the deck, Susan suggests they just bring the two astronauts with them, but Carol says they can’t on account of someone named John.

Then Barbara smells something burning.

Cut to: our antenna-wielding villain who burns the lock off the front of the TARDIS.

Eventually, after Maitland’s eighth straight plea for them to leave, the Doctor decides that’s actually a pretty good idea. Only problem is the lock’s been stolen, meaning they can’t reenter the TARDIS.

That’s about the time the whole ship starts shaking. The Sensorites take control of Capt. Maitland and set the ship on a collision course with the planet.

The Doctor grabs the controls from him and manages to steer them away at the last second.

As they all unwind from their near death encounter, the Doctor tries turning the conversation back to the astronauts’ third crew member John.

It seems that John’s is something of a sensitive topic, and after revealing that John was the only member of their crew to have direct contact with the Sensorites, Maitland suddenly clams up.

As everyone puzzles over this unusual situation, Barbara and Susan start preparing rations from their ship. They head off in search of water, stumble on a massive hatch and decide to go inside.

Inside, they find a long hallway along and a series of doors. Then, just as they disappear from view, some catatonic stranger shows up, closes the door behind them, then starts staggering down the hall. Ladies and gentlemen I think we’ve just met John.

On the bridge, Maitland and Carol remain close-lipped about their crew member until they realize Barbara and Susan have wandered off. This prompts a full-scale freakout as they try chasing after them, but alas, the hatch is locked, trapping the two girls inside.

With that, we finally get an explanation of what’s going on. Carol and John were engaged, but when the Sensorites attacked, he took the brunt of the attack and it shattered his mind.

At that moment, inside the hatch, John staggers towards the two women. He opens his mouth like he’s going to speak, then promptly pitches over onto his face. Unfortunately, much like a Romero zombie John doesn’t stay down for long.

He goes after Barbara and Susan once again, then suddenly drops to his knees and starts weeping.

BBC

BBC

Being the sensitive soul that she is, Barbara comforts him, while outside, Maitland and the others use a fantastic space torch to try cutting through the door.

BBC

BBC

Then, all of the sudden a high-pitched whining sound starts up, signaling the return of the Sensorites.

Maitland tells the Doctor and Ian, “No violence unless the Sensorites start it first.”

To which Ian responds with the episode’s best line, “Why no violence? Surely we have a right to defend ourselves.”

The ship’s instruments stop responding and the scanners go dead. Then Ian looks out the window and sees this.

BBC

BBC

God! Alright, looks like I’m not sleeping tonight.

And with that, our episode comes to a close. Pretty good overall, maybe my favorite episode so far. Its got a real creepy Twilight Zone vibe to it that manages to turn the shows limited resources into an asset. The way the writer establishes the Sensorites long before their arrival is a great way of scaling up the tension. Then there’s that reveal, which is really unnerving. It reminds me a lot of the famous Shatner episode of Twilight Zone, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, released a year earlier.

The Twilight Zone - CBS

The Twilight Zone – CBS

 

Not sure if it’s a conscious influence or not, but they make for an interesting comparison.

This story’s just getting started. Tune in next time for episode 2: The Unwilling Warriors.

Doctor Who in Escape From Mexico

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 6 The Aztecs, Episode 4: The Day of Darkness

Last time, the Doctor finally discovered a way into the crypt where the TARDIS was trapped. Ian plunged in, and in true pulp fashion, found himself knee deep in a watery deathtrap.

Fortunately, a series of cave drawings along the ceiling catches his attention and after pushing on it a bit, the ceiling gives way into yet another secret passage.

BBC

BBC

As anyone who’s been following this blog knows, if there’s one thing old school Doctor Who loves, it’s a good secret passage. Hell, the entire fourth serial involves the heroes basically stumbling through one secret doorway after another.

Anyway, after escaping through the ceiling, we get a bunch of weird shots of Ian crawling around, separated by a series of equally strange fadeouts. I guess this is supposed to be compressing time, but honestly, how long is Ian supposed to be crawling around in there? Finally, after what may be minutes, hours, or days, Ian climbs through a trapdoor into the room where the TARDIS is housed.

On the far side of the room, he finds the goofy, one-sided door that got them into this whole mess in the first place.

Ian searches for a way of opening the door from the outside and hits upon a unique solution. Grabbing a long leather thong from off of the burial slab—Are Aztecs usually buried with long chords of leather?—he ties it to a table, then pulls it under the door with him as he leaves.

Then he steps out into Barbara’s throne room just in time for a convenient reunion between himself, Barbara, and the Doctor, who is very relieved to find that Ian’s not dead.

That leaves everybody accounted for, except for Susan, who has once again been taken hostage, this time as a part of a forced marriage plot arranged by Tlotoxl.

And speaking of Tlotoxl, how is everyone’s favorite scenery-chewing crabass?

BBC

BBC

The answer is, unusually well. For once, his scheme is actually going according to plan, so he leaves our number two villain Ixta behind to guard Susan.

Seeing that he’s alone with a sixteen-year-old girl, Ixta walks over to her and breaks out this cherry of an icebreaker, “Do you ask yourself where Ian is? I can tell you. He is dead.”

Which might be the most awkward trash talk of all time. Imagine Jason Statham breaking that out in the next Expendables film.

Then, just about the time things are looking bleak, Ian pops up from behind, coldcocks Ixta and hightails it with Susan

Meanwhile, back in the throne room, it seems Ian’s pull rope isn’t as effective as he had originally hoped.

Doc points out that, “What we really need is a pulley.”

Sadly, there aren’t a whole hell of a lot of those lying around 15th Century Mexico.

Instead, everybody decides to play tug of war using Barbara’s throne as a fulcrum, which lasts all of thirty seconds before the thong breaks.

∫∫ç

BBC

Then, seeing as how it’s been a whole four minutes, Tlotoxl whips up yet another of his evil schemes. This one involves braining the other high priest Ortlock with Ian’s club, then leaving it near the body as a frame.

Back in the throne room. Ian realizes his pull rope has failed and finally just says to hell with it and heads back to the garden with Susan in order to use the secret door again.

When they get to the garden though, they find Ortlock passed out along the ground.

BBC

BBC

Ian picks his club up from the ground just in time for the Aztec goon squad to show up and arrest them.

Funny little aside, this is the exact same trap Ian fell for back in episode 25. Maybe from this point forward, framing people for assault will replace the secret passageway as the writers’ favorite go-to gimmick.

Next, we cut to the doctor carving a wheel out of a block of wood. I’ve got to hand it to the guy, when he wants something done, he damn sure makes it happen, even if he has to hue it from a solid hunk of wood.

As you might recall, the Doctor is engaged to Cameca, because they made some cocoa together and…you know what, just take my word for it.

She joins him in the garden, gets a look at the Doctor’s wooden wheel and blurts out, “I do not know it’s purpose, but I’ve always known it will take you from me.” Which is just fantastic. Folks, please feel free to reenact that scene with things lying around your home or office.

As they part, Doc leaves her with the line, “You are a very fine woman Cameca and you shall always be very, very dear to me.”

Ortlock, who I should probably point out is not dead, shows up and talks to Cameca. Seems Ortlock’s beginning to lose his faith, not just in Barbara’s divinity, but in everything. So, faced with the uncertainties of life, he takes a page out of Sam Jackson’s book in Pulp Fiction and decides to wander the earth.

Before he goes though, he decides to help Barbara and her friends one last time by giving Cameca a trinket representing all of his earthly wealth to use as a bribe.

Meanwhile, over in Aztec jail, Ian and Susan are being watched by a guard wearing a fantastic birdhead.

Cameca comes in and bribes him, but Ian knocks him out anyway, then steals his awesome helmet.

BBC

BBC

Ixta—now sporting full leopard head regalia—discovers Ian and Susan have escaped and goes off to find them.

Ian is now posing as one of Barbara’s guards, Lando Calrissian style, when Tlotoxl runs in and tries to stab Barbara.

BBC

BBC

Ian manages to stop him, then, Ixta shows up to answer the question, who is stronger, birdhead or leopard face?

BBC

BBC

While the two of them fight, the Doc gets to try out his fancy new pulley.

After some clumsy combat, Ian pitches Ixta off of the room. Doc gets the door open and they all escape into the tomb.

With them gone, Tlotoxl is finally free to perform his human sacrifice.

Inside the tomb, Barbara waxes over her failure.

“What was the point of traveling through time and space? We can’t change anything.”

The Doctor cheers her up by pointing out that she did help Ortlock to see the truth.

“You failed to save a civilizaton but at least you helped one man.”

Now, far be it from me to deflate such a lovely sentiment, but I don’t know that pushing someone into an existential crisis that ends with them fleeing into the desert is really doing them any favors, then again maybe that’s just me.

Then, everyone piles back into the TARDIS just in time for its most recent malfunction, with the ship telling them it has simultaneously stopped and is still moving. Sounds like a fascinating set-up to next week.

Tune in for an exciting time as the TARDIS gets a tune-up in Strangers in Space.

Doctor Aztec

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 6 The Aztecs, Episode 2: The Warriors of Death

Last time, the TARDIS stranded our heroes in 14th Century Mexico. Barbara was mistaken for the Aztec god Yetaxa, Ian got drafted, and Susan got carted off to religious school. As for the Doctor…well, he got to hang around the pleasure garden, flirting with one of the aging residents, so he’s doing alright.

Barbara also stopped a ritual involving human sacrifice, drawing the hatred of high priest Tlotoxl.

Needless to say, the Doctor’s none too happy about that and launches into his best Capt. Picard.

“You can’t rewrite history,” he tells her, “Not one single line.”

BBC

BBC

It’s a really good scene that gives Hartnell the chance to really cut loose, while adding some much-needed moral responsibility to their adventures. Prior to this, they’ve  just sort of bounced around doing whatever they wanted, history be damned, so it’s nice to get some sense of their actions having consequences.

Afterwards, the Doctor apologizes for being so harsh, which is also a nice little touch. Not so long ago, the thought of the Doctor apologizing for anything was next to impossible, but now that the group has tightened, he’s falling into more of a Grandfather role.

Since Tlotoxl is now their sworn enemy, the Doctor stresses the importance of keeping the other high priest Ortlock on their side.

As this is happening, Tlotoxl struts right in during their conversation, and when Barbara demands an explanation, he counters with, “I proclaim myself only to my gods.”

That more or less sets the tone for the entire episode, with Tlotoxl playing bitchy cheerleader to Barbara’s popular new girl.

Meanwhile, back in another part of the temple, Ian and Ixta are still fighting over the right to lead the Aztec army. By this point, it’s pretty well established that Ian is the group’s man of action, but this time around, the show catapults him to the status of full-blown badass.

When Ixta tosses a spear into the wall, an unimpressed Ian counters, “Real enemies can hit back.”

Later, in the same conversation, Ian says, “I won’t kill you this time, not this time Ixta.”

It’s pretty fantastic, Jason Statham dialogue delivered by a milquetoast high school science teacher.

Finally, after a great deal of chest-thumping, Ian just holds up his thumb, claiming it’s all he needs to beat Ixta.

BBC

BBC

One Vulcan neck pinch later, Ixta is on the ground unconscious and Ian is strutting away. “Tell him to have a good rest when he wakes up,” he says on his way out. Fantastic!

When Ixta does wake up, Tlotoxl is right there, goading him into a bare knuckle contest with Ian at sundown.

Meanwhile, the doctor’s back in the garden of peace, trying to charm the secrets of the TARDIS’ resting place out of his new friend Cameca.

BBC

BBC

Cameca sets up a meeting him and the son of the tomb’s architect, who just so happens to be Ixta. Twist!

At this point we finally catch up with Susan at the seminary where Ortlock is quizzing her on The Code of the Good Housewife, which includes such gems as: “Do not spend recklessly” and “Keep clean your pot and soup pan”.

After forcing her to learn pages 1 through 40 of the misogynist’s handbook, Ortlock drops another little gem on her, casually revealing that she’s to be the subject of an arranged marriage.

Considering what she’s just been studying, this probably shouldn’t come as much of a shock, but Susan loses it, loudly proclaiming, “It’s my life. I’ll spend it with whom I choose, not someone picked out for me.”

Then, Ixta shows up for his meeting with the Doctor and since first impressions are very important to him, he wore his best leopard.

BBC

BBC

Ixta says he has a map of the tomb and that he’ll exchange it if the Doctor can provide him an advantage for an upcoming fight.

Doc creates a knockout toxin for him by soaking a needle in the juices of a local plant. Only problem is, Doc doesn’t know the opponent is Ian.

BBC

BBC

Everyone gathers together for the big showdown.

The fight begins and Ian goes on to dominate the Aztec warrior in every way. I don’t know what was going on in London High Schools circa 1963, but whatever it is left Ian remarkably suited to 14th Century combat.

As the fight draws it its end, Ixta scratches Ian with the poisoned needle. Ian starts to waver, then just as Ixta is on the verge of killing him, Tlotoxl wanders over to Barbara and insists that if she really is a goddess she’ll be able to save Ian’s life. Fade out.

The show is making some pretty big strides with this story arc. For the first time, the Doctor feels like the lead character rather than a guest star in his own show. He’s got real dimension and gets to do a lot this episode, showing off his intellect with Ixta, playing the charmer with Cameca. Hartnell  seems to be having much more fun with the role too, playing him as a kind of mischevious schemer.

Most of the other characters rate pretty well here too. Barbara’s moral struggle is interesting and Ian’s sudden transformation into a swaggering badass is pretty fun. Susan doesn’t really get to do much this time, but even she gets her brief moment of empowerment. Looking forward to seeing where we go from here.

Next episode: The Bride of Sacrifice, which doesn’t sound too good for Susan.

 

The Troubles With Haven

tv_haven_wallpaper-800x600

To celebrate (or toe-dip into) the fact that I start teaching this week, I decided to binge-watch Haven on Netflix. The first two seasons were frustrating and that is putting it mildly. Usually I give up on a series by this time if I’m not interested. The last two episodes in Season 2 finally hooked my attention, and the show has been great since then. The writers have gotten better at their cliff-hangers.

Haven is a SyFy show loosely based of of Steven King’s The Colorado Kid. It is set in Haven, Maine, a fictional town, and is about people who have supernatural afflictions called The Troubles, and what happens when they unintentionally use those abilities. The police often have to clear up the horrible effects The Troubles unleash on the town.

I might have more appreciation for the show if I had read the book because the episodes are apparently chock-full of references. I think the real problem is the writing and sometimes the characters/actors.

audrey

Via Syfy

First, let’s look at Audrey. She’s like the boy who lived, but with no character development and awesome backstory. Her switches from a running the world boss to Doctor Phil at the drop of a hat are annoying. She’s the ONLY one who can calm people down, the ONLY one unaffected by The Troubles, the ONLY one whose touch Nathan can feel….that’s a lot of onlys. I do not see her as a strong character, I see her as a confusing character. You can’t be all forgetful about relationships, all into your work, forgetful of people’s names but suddenly all Mother Theresa when people are in trouble. She’s the epitome of a Mary Jane, G.I. Jane manic pixie. She’s the girl everyone falls in love with, she always saves the day–she experiences no struggle at all. I wanted someone to kill her off at one point because I found myself not caring about her backstory.

Backstory…let’s talk about that. Audrey has nil. This does have to do with the fact that she has multiple past lives (and is semi-resolved in Seasons 3 and 4) but for the first two seasons, it made her painfully ordinary. I wondered why the writers were telling and not showing that this girl is all that and a slice of bread. We only know her likes and dislikes when Audrey #2 shows up to bring them out and she randomly sits down to play a piano, whining about how she doesn’t know that she knew how to play. Maybe if she actually took the time to find out who she is in the first two seasons, this wouldn’t be a problem. Thankfully, the writers decided to focus on that in the later seasons instead of the typical “trouble of the week” because that is much more fun.

Via Syfy

Via Syfy

Nathan. Honestly, I have nothing against Lucas Bryant, but his character is one hundred shades of stupid. Cutting him out of the show would be an improvement. I don’t condone violence, but if you were in a punching mood and Nathan’s face just happened to be available, go for it. He has the demeanor of a ten year old. This man is in his mid-thirties and has a feud with another character over a minor prank that happened when he was eight years old. He needs Oprah on speed dial and has zero character growth from seasons 1-4. Watching certain scenes had me thinking just cry me a river Nathan and while you’re at it, just eat a 5-gallon ton of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting. Nathan is nails on a chalkboard teenage angst. He is so obsessive over Audrey. In a 4th season episode, he goes crazy  and Audrey says she’s never seen him like this. Sorry Audrey, this is how he always acts although you have been gone for six months so you might have missed half the show.  He needed to have been seeing Claire.

He’s the gruff “I don’t feel anything not even emotions” type of guy who can only feel Audrey’s touch. That has the potential to be interesting, but the show really doesn’t focus on it. I was reading a Gawker post about the series and someone was saying that if Nathan can’t feel anything, he would probably be an awful kisser, and I’m inclined to agree in his relationships with women other than Audrey. Consistency people, consistency.

Also, my main bone to pick is with the random relationships that Audrey and Nathan have. We all know they’re going to end up together people, so hurry that up. It’s not like a show like Bones where Booth and Bones learn about themselves and become best friends before getting into a relationship. We all knew it was going to happen (even though they threw us off a few times) but we were happy for the ride. In Haven, these other relationships are complete time-wasters. Chris? Awesome, but honestly, if you’re going to have the only reason he’s with Audrey is because she can’t feel his trouble and then have her be a workaholic, that’s completely unfair.

Via Syfy

Via Syfy

Duke. He had the character development that Nathan needed, and Duke was already a pretty solid character. I can’t really say anything bad about Duke except that sometimes I think Eric Balfour over-acts him in the first two seasons like he’s too cool for school. Duke should be low key but witty, with occasional outbursts of awesome. When Eric does pull this off, Duke is magic and comes into his own in the last few seasons.

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Via Syfy

Season 3 Improvements:

  • Everyone got haircuts, or grew their hair out. In the first two seasons, Duke’s hair especially kept getting into or covering his eye.
  • New people! Tommy Bowen, Claire Callahan, Jordan McKee, although Jordan was more annoying than anything.
  • More of the Teague brothers. They are buckets of fun. I enjoy their arc of going from slightly questionable old men to secret keepers and old guys with questionable pasts.
  • Figuring out Audrey’s connection to Haven instead of glossing over it
  • The “almost” relationship, although that could become a drag as well
  • Duke and character development
  • Perfect use of Boys II Men in the “Reunion” episode. Perfect.
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Via Syfy

Season 4 Improvements:

  • Three words: Sheriff Jack Carter. Eureka is one of my favorite shows and Colin Ferguson is fantastic in this season of Haven. I like my villains diabolical with a touch of crazy and once they added the crazy in, everything was awesome.
  • Lexie is way better than Audrey (that gets complicated later) but for the most part I appreciate the direction the writers went with
  • The off-her-rocker coroner Gloria and Dwight as Sheriff.
  • Jennifer and Duke

General Observations:

The show does is great when it’s not the Audrey-Nathan-and sometimes Duke show. I was reading a few reviews, and I couldn’t figure out why people were so upset with season 4. Yes, the end was anticlimactic and the writers should really just wrap up the series with Season 5, but overall the season ran well and answered a lot of questions.

These characters are supposed to be in their mid-thirties and they have the coping mechanisms and conversations of five year olds. Sometimes Audrey is more like Nathan’s mother than his girlfriend. Also, the lack of parents in the show and how all the children of the main characters are conveniently written away into the far corners of earth and other realms is obvious. It’s also difficult when we have to emasculate a man to have a strong female lead (Audrey and Nathan). Why can’t we just have two strong characters and live awesomely ever after?

As a general comment, a lot of that dialogue is just plain awkward. Sometimes the actors sound like they are reading from a script, without any inflection or over-acting and it’s completely noticeable until they hit another groove. This becomes hardly noticeable in Seasons 3 and 4.

All the minorities end up being troubled/ evil and then rapidly turning good right before they’re killed off–Agent Howard, Evi, Cornell Stamoran. The only exception was the coast guard’s nurse, but she was questionable. I wanted Tommy to be good so badly. In Seasons 3 and 4, this is almost corrected with characters like the little girl who was raised from the dead, and the woman whose troubles affected other people.

I feel like the town only consists of the police station, Rosemary’s bakery, the Teague brothers with The Haven Herald, The Grey Gull, and whoever is troubled that week. I know it’s a coastal town, but it looks huge and I wish more of an effort was made to connect the viewer with the whole town instead of making me feel like Haven is a bubble consisting of whoever is in the episode that week. This was also semi-corrected in Seasons 3 and 4.

On the flip-side, the special effects are golden. The show has some interesting story lines, it just gets tired after a while because nothing is happening with Audrey, all the main characters seem emotionally stunted or immature, and the show keeps piling on more secrets without resolving anything. For every ten secrets, it resolves one. I realize that the suspense is supposed to keep people interested (and maybe that’s why I’m still watching) but if people don’t figure some of the stuff out, they’re doing to get bored and just go to another show. Season 3 finally stopped that vicious cycle and moved in a new direction. Also, I adore the main theme song.

Someone once recommended to me that I should start watching Parks and Recreation, but that I should start watching at the third or fourth season. I think Haven is one of those shows. Seasons 1-2 are just brutal. I know some shows take a while to hit a groove, but I grade from the pilot episode and usually stop after four to five episodes unless someone gives me a good reason not to. Many of us have busy lives and can’t waste time waiting for something to get good.

Haven builds on a lot of previous events, but this is why we have summaries and Wikipedia. I don’t think viewers would be completely lost because the show explains everything, or re-explains everything, and many of the conflicts aren’t hard to figure out.  Seasons 3 and 4 almost make up for Seasons 1 and 2, but overall, Haven is an all right watch until Season 3 when the party really gets started.

Doctor Who: To Kill or Not To Kill

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 6 The Aztecs, Episode 1: The Temple of Evil

Hey everybody, welcome back. Quick confession before we get into the action, this is actually the first Doctor Who episode I ever saw. Long before I began this project, my curiosity drove me to Netflix and this very serial. At the time I remember thinking it was kind of a bore. Watching it again though in the context of the series, I realize it’s actually a huge step forward for the show.

Here we get the show’s first flirtation with theme and, even though the story isn’t exceptional, the fact that it’s trying to say something makes it go down much easier than some of the more disposable adventures we’ve had so far.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The episode begins with a brief shot of the TARDIS escaping the planet Marinus, then coming to rest in a small stone room.

In researching the show, I learned it was originally pitched as an educational program, with the Doctor’s time travel serving as a means to educate viewers about important people and places throughout history.

Apparently some of that mandate stuck around, as Barbara and Susan emerge from the TARDIS and immediately engage in a thinly-veiled history lesson.

“All these things belong to the Aztecs early period.”

“Cortés landed in 1520, didn’t he?”

The lesson ends when Susan discovers a large stone door that opens to the touch. Barbara steps through it alone, where she’s immediately discovered by the Aztec high priest Autloc.

BBC

BBC

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew finally pads out of the ship. Susan shows them the door and they all go through, realizing too late that it locks behind them. Yup, we’re roughly two minutes into this thing and they’ve already managed to lose the TARDIS. They really ought to start leaving someone behind to guard the damn thing.

After discussing their predicament, they too are discovered and brought into the presence of…Barbara sporting a pretty fantastic new wardrobe.

BBC

BBC

Seems Autloc believes her to be the reincarnation of the god Yetaxa, which, by extension, makes the rest of the crew her divine servants.

We’re also introduced to Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice. If you consider yourself a bad judge of character, fear not, because the show posits him as the episode’s obvious villain from the very first frame. There’s scarcely a moment where he isn’t leering like a madman, shouting his lines, or frothing at the mouth.

Nope, nothing shady about this guy --BBC

Nope, nothing shady about this guy –BBC

The problem with impersonating a god is that sooner or later people are going to start putting you to the test. Sure enough, as the story progresses, Barbara’s “servants” are recruited to serve in a variety of unpleasant ways.

First Ian gets whisked off by Tlotoxl to lead the Aztec army.

This puts him in contention with the army’s current leader Ixta, who is less than pleased by the prospect of competition. Eager to prove his superiority, Ixta displays his battle prowess with some of the most poorly choreographed fighting ever put on film.

After this brief bit of chest-thumping, Ian learns that there’s a human sacrifice taking place later that day and he gets the honor of escorting the man to his death.

And what about the Doctor? Looks like he drew the long straw this week as he gets sent off to the garden of peace, a kind of proto retirement home where aging Aztecs go to live out their remaining days. Guess for once it pays off being old.

While there, he meets Cameca, a female resident of the garden who he begins subtlely pumping for information about the tomb where his ship is held.

BBC

BBC

Then Ian shows up in full armor to tell him about the sacrifice.

Here’s where things get interesting. Despite their obvious disgust at the custom, the Doctor insists that Ian absolutely cannot interfere.

Then the Doctor returns to Barbara to fill her on what’s happening. He gives her the same lecture against interference, but Barbara’s having none of that and decides to use her power to end human sacrifice altogether, reasoning, “If I could start the destruction of everything that is evil here, then everything that is good would survive.”

Sure enough, a short while later, Barbara and crew get paraded out for the sacrifice.

BBC

BBC

Susan steps in and interferes. Barbara backs her up by trying to ban the practice, which immediately backfires when the sacrifice himself begs her to reconsider, stating that by sparing him he is robbing him of honor.

When she refuses, he runs over to the wall and promptly throws himself over the side.

Then, to make things even worse, it immediately starts to rain, making a pretty compelling case for the sacrifices to continue.

Needless to say Tlotoxl is less than pleased and demands that Susan be punished for her interference. Barbara points out that Susan didn’t understand the rules, to which Tlotoxl snaps, “Then let knowledge be beaten into her,” which I believe was a short-lived educational slogan from the late 30s.

He wants her killed, but Barbara offers to have her sent to the seminary to learn about their culture.

This sends Tlotoxl into full on supervillain mode, staring directly at the camera as he vows to destroy “the false goddess”.

BBC

BBC

Overall, a pretty decent episode. For once the characters feel like a natural part of the story, with each of them given something to do. The moral dilemma’s pretty cool too. Obviously a twentieth century school teacher’s not too keen on human sacrifice, but as the Doctor points out, you can’t rewrite history. It introduces a real moral gray area to the proceedings while grafting a sense of responsibility onto their trips through time.

Next up, The Warriors of Death

3 Reasons Why Guardians of the Galaxy Works

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Marvel Entertainment

My Guardians of the Galaxy experience on Friday was made complete with lemonade and grilled chicken caesar salad (thanks Marcus Cinemas). Eating salad in a movie theater is a supremely odd experience which everyone should do at least once in life. Top that by crashing a family for 3 hours at the same time. It makes for a rip-roaring good time.

Guardians didn’t even need any salad-eating, family-crashing shenanigans because it was perfectly zany on its own. From the bad dancing, to one-liners, to an EPIC soundtrack, I couldn’t stop laughing. Finally, a comedy. I need the DVD stat. Yesterday.

I am not familiar with the Guardians comic book run at all. In fact, I’m not really familiar with any comic book runs so I can’t even be upset if Marvel deviates or completely changes things. I guess I’m also barred from getting into arguments with devout Comic-Con attendees who have all the issues on instant perusal in their mind palaces.

Yet I react like this every time a Marvel movie comes out:

(Except for Daredevil. And the most recent Captain America movies. Ok, let’s throw in the Punisher movies as well. Plus, I have to admit I wasn’t jumping up and down to see The Amazing Spider-Man movies.)

So when Guardians was announced, I wasn’t sure how to feel. We were getting a dynamic duo consisting of a talking raccoon, referred to as a genetic experiment gone wrong and a human-like tree who had three words to his vocabulary. Then the trailer came out and my skepticism bloomed into cautious excitement. And when the end credits started rolling, I had the hugest grin on my face. Marvel had done it again. Although, the after-credits scene puts me back at square one with not knowing how they are going to pull it off and not knowing how to feel.

Here’s why it worked:

1. THAT SOUNDTRACK: I appreciate the fact that there was no crappy music, and by crappy music I mean 85% of what is currently passing for music on the radio. It just made me want to dance and upgrade my life by going back to the 70’s and 80’s to pounce on some good tunes. When the trailer came out, I turned right around and got “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede. I played it over and over and over and I’m still not tired of it yet. That is fantastic stuff.

2. That humor: Guardians was ridiculously funny on multiple levels. It had events playing out in the background with completely oblivious characters, missed metaphors, awkward and carefree dancing, singing for comedic relief at high tension moments, stellar confused looks, human vs. alien perceptions. Since I’m into writing and words, the metaphor jokes slayed me.

3. That Glenn Close. Just kidding, although she was a boss in the scenes she was in. The characters and their journey from strangers to the Guardians of the Galaxy was awesome to watch. The tone of the movie was zany, but this is juxtaposed next to some seriously emotional scenes. Selfish motivations next to vengeful motivations next to a motivation to prove myself with a side of a heroine complex. I enjoyed the way the characters weren’t perfect and they wrestled with doing the right thing.

My tiny hang up is that I wish Nebula and Gamora were more fleshed out. Gamora’s backstory worked to a certain extent, but the writers plopped just enough into the movie to get us to care. I needed more insight into the rivalry. I also wish that villains actually had reasons for destroying entire planets, solar systems, and the universe, but I guess that’s part of what makes them fun. Also, the drama surrounding the main object is a lot more fun when we don’t know what that object is. After we find out, I feel like the movie loses a little steam because everyone is hung up on it.

I definitely won’t be cautiously excited for the sequel.

2017, hurry up already.

Doctor Who: The Keys of Marinus

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 5, Episode 6: The Keys of Marinus

Last week, the Doctor threw his hat into the legal arena, defending his friend Ian on a murder charge. Needless to say, he didn’t do a very good job as Ian landed himself a one way trip to death row. Then, to make things even more complicated, Susan went and got herself kidnapped.

We open with our recap shot from last week, Barbara rocking the mic phone while the party on the other end threatens to kill Susan if they don’t back off of Ian’s case.

Fortunately, she has Altos on her side, who immediately proves his value by pointing out, “Whoever is behind this kidnapping is either in league with the murderer or is the murderer.” Thanks Kojak, so glad we brought you along.

Meanwhile, Ian sweats out his last few hours in a cell. When he asks a guard how much longer he has, he is told, “execution is set to take place when the pointer reaches the star.”

BBC

BBC

Apparently, human resources decided the death row cell block was entirely too grim and decided to spruce things up with a special Hello Kitty wall clock, complete with fun star hand and adorable beeping sound.

As Ian counts down the moments of his life, Barbara goes to work behind the scenes, trying to find Susan before the doctor finds out.

She takes Sabetha and Altos back to the house of Ayden, the flaky guard who went got himself killed in the middle of Ian’s court hearing. They talk to his widow Kala for awhile, and by talk I mean stand around awkwardly watching her cry before finally making a hasty retreat.

The moment they’re out of earshot, Kala drops her hysterics, breaks into an enormous shit-eating grin and slides open a hidden panel revealing a gagged and bound Susan.

BBC

BBC

She engages in a bit of outstanding supervillain gloating, telling Susan that her friends will never find her because “They’re like all the rest of them, stupid. Stupid.” That’s two stupids for those keeping track at home.

Outside, Barbara thinks about the conversation they just shared and realizes Kala mentioned Susan’s kidnapping. Only problem is, no one said a word about Susan, so, it’s back to Kala’s house where they find her menacing their friend with what looks like a giant hair dryer.  They sneak up and manage to disable her, leaving Susan’s bangs mercifully unsinged.

Back at the jail, the officers are all set to begin Ian’s execution when a phone call comes through. Barbara reveals that Kala was the one who killed her husband in court.

Kala gets hauled in, but whoops, she claims her co-conspirator is Ian. Hm. That kind of backfired, didn’t it?

Susan reveals she overheard Kala speaking to the real accomplice over the phone and that he plans to retrieve the key.

That sends the Doctor into a fit of maniacal laughter. He puts together a plan that involves staking out the evidence locker, waiting for their man to show. Sure enough a masked man shows up and tries to break in. They capture him, yank off his mask and reveal…the Court Prosecutor.

BBC

BBC

You see, the Doctor realized that the missing key had been hidden inside the murder weapon itself, locked in a hidden compartment on the side of the mace.

Well, I guess that about wraps things up…what’s that? We’re only twelve minutes into this thing?

Okay, everybody take a deep breath. Ready for part two? Okay? Go!

Altos and Sabetha teleport back to the pyramid from the first episode where they’re immediately captured by the Voord. Remember them? Black suits, weirds masks. You know, the villains of this story that have been absent for four whole episodes!

Well, it seems they’ve dragged themselves away from whatever they’ve been doing this whole time long enough to capture Altos and Sabetha.

BBC

BBC

One of them is also sporting Arbitan’s funky white robe, which might not be the best way to get Sabetha’s help. You know wearing her dead father’s clothes and all (Altos got stabbed to death in the end of the first episode; I know I forgot about it too).

We get some drawn out scenes that establish Altos and Sabetha are in love and then they’re packed off to jail. Cue the rest of the TARDIS’ crew, who show up, get attacked by a Voord who appears to be drunk, and decide to split up.

Ian and Susan set off in search of Arbitan. They stumble on the lead Voord sitting there with Arbitan’s robe, yanked up over his head.

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BBC

Somehow that’s enough to convince Ian, who straight up gives him the last key.

Meanwhile, the Doctor heads into the dungeon and rescues Sabetha and Altos. Ian rejoins them and reveals that the key he gave the Voord was a fake.

BBC

BBC

Sure enough the Voord sticks the keys into the computer, causing the whole thing to blow up, meaning this entire story has accomplished absolutely nothing. Arbitan is dead, the supercomputer is destroyed, and the Voord are still out there. So, the crew of the TARDIS fall back on what they do best in situations like this and decide to just leave.

They all pile into the TARDIS, leaving Sabetha and Altos to face what seems like certain death at the hands of the many Voord still prowling about, not to mention the half dozen other murderous creatures they’ve encountered so far.

Fortunately the two of them have true love on their side and as Isaac Newton proved, love makes you immune to all harm.

This story arc marks a bit of a departure from what we’ve seen so far. While not a wild success by any means, I must say that the done-in-one episodes were a welcome change over some of the more bloated serials that we’ve suffered through so far, some of them stretching to as many as seven episodes long.

Think about that for a minute, that’s one episode shy of the entire season of True Detective and all of it dedicated to the characters outwitting the Daleks or, trying to gain back control of the TARDIS.

Granted, we’re talking about an hour long HBO drama versus a twenty-two minute serial, but the fact remains that this show has a strong bent towards the long-winded. This was definitely a step in the right direction. It’s a shame that it doesn’t really come together at the end, but it still feels like we’re making some small strides towards a tighter viewing experience. Hopefully they can graft this quicker pacing onto one of their longer story arcs.

 

Doctor Who: Doctor, Time Lord, Lawyer?

Weighing in at an impressive 800 episodes, Doctor Who has been entertaining audiences for the past 50 years. Yet, despite this vast backlog of content, I know next to nothing about the actual series. For that reason, I’ve decided to watch this unusual show from the beginning, to discover the source of its unique appeal. Come with me as I tackle this daunting sci-fi phenomena from the very beginning in The Complete Doctor Who.

Warning: the following contains spoilers.

Doctor Who: Serial 5, Episode 5: Sentence of Death

I think we can all agree we’ve seen some strange stuff on this show; Daleks dictating letters, lakes made of acid, and people physically screaming at clocks, but even in the midst of all that, this episode really caught me off guard.

But before we get into all that though, a few preliminaries first. William Hartnell’s vacation wrapped up, meaning the Doctor is finally back this week. Now, having been absent for two full episodes, how did the producers decide to dramatize his return? No doubt something related to his unique skills as both a doctor and a time traveler, something like say, oh I don’t know, a protracted legal battle? That’s right, today’s episode is Boston Legal by way of outer space. Spoiler alert, it’s nowhere near as awesome as that sentence makes it sound.

We get our usual cliffhanger recap.

BBC

BBC

Ian wanders into what looks like J.C. Penney, finds a guy stone dead on the floor, then gets knocked out from behind. His attacker slips a mace into his hands, because honestly, if you’re going to commit armed robbery, it’s always good to proceed with a weapon that’s been obsolete for five centuries. No red flags there. Then, with Ian safely unconscious, our mystery assailant opens up a glass case and makes off with another one of those darn micro-keys.

When he awakens, Ian finds a uniformed guard in the room, just sitting there in a chair. As Ian asks what’s happened, the man proceeds to arrest him, having made the rather dubious leap that Ian himself is responsible for both the dead man on the floor as well as the stolen micro-key.

Worse still, in this…city?–I honestly don’t know where we’re supposed to be at this point–defendants are guilty until proven innocent.

Cut to Barbara, who is somehow aware not only of his location, but of everything that has happened thus far. Guess news travels fast on…wherever the hell we are right now.

She’s soon joined by Susan and needless tag-alongs Sabetha and Altos, who all join the audience in wondering just where the hell the Doctor’s at these days.

Enter William Hartnell in true sitcom fashion.

Did someone call for a doctor? Cue audience applause. Then everyone takes a moment to step back and share a group hug.

BBC

BBC

Great to have you back. Now about our friend’s impending execution…

The doctor takes over Ian’s defense, despite possessing no real qualifications in the legal arena whatsoever.

Everyone convenes in the courtroom, which contains what look like togas hanging from the wall.

Enter the tribunal of bakers.

BBC

BBC

Yup, that’s right, in this city, justice is meted out by people dressed like a trio of cereal mascots.

General Mills

General Mills

The Doctor asks for more time to review the case and is granted two days.

He hands out jobs to each of our four supporting characters. Altos and Sabetha are sent to the library where they study cases from books that look appropriately like a big fluffy loaves of bread.

Meanwhile, the Doctor heads back to the scene of the crime, using Susan and Barbara to stage a lengthy reenactment of events the audience has already sat through twice.

Oh, and as the case unfolds, the Doctor seems to be having a ball, doing his best Sherlock Holmes impression, announcing that’s solved the case long ahead of everyone else. He even drops a few “elementaries” for good measure.

If only he hadn’t lost his pipe from episode two, he could really look the part.

With the run time successfully padded, Barbara and Susan head off to speak with Ian’s arresting officer Tarron. He’s not there, so they end up speaking with his wife until Tarron finally shows up and throws a tantrum.

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BBC

Barbara mentions they know the location of the key and Tarron stops himself just shy of confessing Law & Order style.

“But you couldn’t have known where it is, I…”

Then, he threatens to slap them. His wife intervenes and the two of them leave. Then, with Susan and Barbara gone, Tarron decides he doesn’t much care who he slaps so long as it’s a woman and settles for hitting his wife instead.

After that, he shares a conversation on quite possibly the greatest phone of all time.

BBC

BBC

A microphone attached by a wire to a base? Brilliant.

Then, it’s back to the courtroom where the Doctor pulls what’s actually a pretty clever ploy, calling Sabetha to the stand where she holds up a micro-key. That causes Tarron to stand up and confess seconds before being murdered by a bright light.

The Doctor then reveals that it was not the stolen key which Sabetha used, but one of those found in their earlier adventures. Clever Doctor.

Now, you might think under those circumstances we could just wrap things up and call it a day, but it appears the denizens of this city have a little problem with pesky concepts like logic and declare that Tarron’s confession and subsequent murder somehow still don’t prove Ian’s innocence and that’s he to be executed.

Then, it’s a quick cut to Barbara who receives a handwritten note telling her that if the micro-key’s location is revealed (does anyone even know where it is at this point?) someone else will be killed. Seconds later, the phone rings and Susan reveals that she’s been kidnapped. No surprise there, that’s kind of just what she does. Roll credits and we’re done. Which means that this little legal drama’s stretching out for another whole episode.

Seriously guys, a legal drama? Okay, I’ll buy it, but a legal drama in which the legal system of the presiding authorities doesn’t really seem to follow their own rules? Hm, there’s probably some better way we could kill twenty-two minutes, isn’t there? What are those whacky Daleks up to these days?

Don’t worry though, it’s not too late to redeem this thing, just bring back all the weirdo villains from the previous episodes as witnesses.

“Your honor I’d like to call the Whispering Jungle to the stand.”

“Okay, Mr. Voord, is that your full name?” Stabs lawyer.

Guess we’ll just have to see if I’m right.