Doctor Who: The Administrator’s Web of Schemes

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 5: Kidnap

It’s something of an understatement to say our last episode covered a lot of ground. Ian was poisoned and the Doc went to work creating an antidote. The astronaut John began the process of recovering his sanity with the help of an alien brain-get-better ray, while the City Administrator broke out what might be the strangest supervillain plot of all time, stealing his boss shirt sashes in an attempt to impersonate him. Finally, the Doctor struck off alone to get to investigate the Sensorite’s water supply only to stumble onto may or may not be a giant monster growling in the distance. Then, Ian got better and ran off with Susan to go help him.

Everybody still with me? Good, because it actually gets even more complicated from here.

We pick up with Ian and Susan arriving at the aqueducts where they overhear the same monstrous growling. Following the source of the sounds, they stumble upon the Doctor, who is passed out along the ground.

Then, we make a quick stop over at the Sensorite palace, where John continues to receive mental health treatments from what looks like an industrial grade hair dryer.

BBC

BBC

As he continues to recover, his girlfriend Carol makes a futile attempt at talking the Sensorites into going out after the Doctor, but they’re too freaked out by the monsters that patrol the aqueducts.

So hey, small aside here. One of the key things established last episode was that the Sensorites tell each other apart by the various sashes and collars that denote their occupations.

With that in mind, check out the adorable little logo this guy gets to wear.

BBC

BBC

What is his job exactly? Director of crazy science? President of leaky bottles? In any case, it’s a winner. I expect to see a good dozen of you rocking that look come cosplay season.

Anyway, back at the aqueduct, Ian and Susan tend to the Doctor, who, aside from a shredded coat, seems surprisingly unharmed.

After that, it’s a quick cut to the palace again, where the Chief Administrator delivers another one of his fantastic, strangely poetic screeds about earthlings, Their pleasant smiles conceal sharp teeth, their soft words hide deadly threats.

In addition to spinning xenophobic couplets, he’s also hell-bent on getting his hands on that radical disintegrator ray from the second episode and forces his captive, the Second Elder, to summon someone called the Senior Warrior so that they can get their hands on the weapon’s firing pin.

This culture is all about iconography, so what do they use to denote a badass title like Senior Warrior? A large sword? Perhaps a pair of crossed pistols on his chest?

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BBC

Nope, just a couple Charlie Brown stripes across his wrists. Kind of a huge fumble there guys.

With the firing key en route, the Administrator dons his boss sash and heads out to retrieve it. Unfortunately, his choice of meeting spot puts him directly in the path of the Doc and his friends, who as luck would have it, desperately want a word with the Second Elder. So, faced with discovery, the City Administrator makes a break for it, narrowly managing to escape.

Then, back at his base, he breaks out his best He-man impression, hefting the key while exclaiming, Now I have the power!

Thats apparently the last straw for the Second Elder who suddenly jumps into action mode, fighting off the administrator, then straight up bending the key with his bare hands.

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BBC

Yes, it is truly the Second Elders finest moment…for roughly thirty seconds or so. Then, the Administrators stooge walks over and conks him on the head.

Needless to say, the firing pin is a complete loss, leaving only the one in the First Elders possession, an alien who tends to frown on things like first-degree murder.

Oh, and it turns out theyve got another problem too, since the lackey killed the Second Elder good and dead.

But thats okay, the Administrators full of plans and decides to pin the aliens murder on the Doc and his friends.

And hey, speaking of the First Elder, whats he up to these days? Well, hes spared no expense for his new friends, breaking out the card tables, then presenting the doctor with a fancy new cloak.

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BBC

As Doc stands there modeling, the Administrators toadie bursts in and accuses him of killing the Second Elder.

A key part of his testimony is the fact that he saw the Doctor draw the murder weapon from his coat, which he then amends to a cloak when he notices what the Doc is wearing.

Seeing that the Elder gave him the cloak roughly 40 seconds ago, it doesnt take long to see through this subterfuge and the lackey is immediately hauled off to jail.

That does leave the matter of certain other criminal dealings unresolved, for instance, who intercepted the antidote Doc sent to Ian last episode?

The Administrator is quick to salvage the situation though, blaming the various traitorous dealings on the now dead Second Elder.

With that settled, the First Elder turns his attention to his subordinates vacant position.

The Doc and his crew, who as off-worlders, shouldnt really have any say in the matter whatsoever, nominate the Administrator for the job, hoping to curry some favor with him.

The First Elder agrees and because it just wasnt hard enough telling these characters apart, the Administrator becomes the new Second Elder.

Then Ian walks over to congratulate him and gets a whole lot of sass from the former administrator.

When you address one of the elders, you call him sir!” 

Meanwhile, John has completed his brain treatments and meets up with Carol and the rest of the group for a touching reunion.

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BBC

During their conversation, Susan asks him about the numerous warnings he gave while still insane, but it seems that John can only recall vague details.  As he starts putting the pieces together, the old Administrator shows up to massage his story, convincing John it was the now dead Second Elder that was behind everything.

Then, having covered his ass, old Admin takes a brief moment to wise off to the Doctor, because honestly, whats power if you cant abuse it?

As he leaves, the entire group takes a moment to connect over what a dick he is, until Susan interrupts them, having worked out that the Administrator is the real traitor.

Her theory is soon backed up by John who remembers the Administrators collar when he stopped by to taunt him several episodes prior.

Then, since he cant go more than three minutes without breaking a law, the old Administrator stops by to spring his lackey from jail and has him monkey around with those weird ping-pong paddles they use as weapons.

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BBC

Back in the palace, Doctor and Ian work out a plan to prove the Administrators guilt. Doc figures the water supply is being deliberately poisoned and proposes going back to the aqueduct for another search.

They run their plan by the First Elder, who agrees to give them weapons and a map and also signs off on letting Barbara come down to the planets surface.

Unfortunately, the Administrator intercepts the map and has it altered before giving it back to them, along with the sabotaged weapons.

As they get ready to leave, Doc and Ian decide to leave Susan in the dark, so she isnt tempted to accompany them.

Then, John and Susan get ready to make dinner. Carol leaves for a moment and gets abducted giallo-style by someone off-screen.

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BBC

Wow. That was pretty dense.

I think the real takeaway here is that the Administrator is the Steven Hawking of hatching plots. There’s an entire genre written around people trying, then failing to get away with murder, but for the Administrator it isn’t even a speed bump. He quickly puts together a plan to have the victim discredited by a false witness, then, when that falls apart, he still salvages the situation by pinning his crimes on the dead guy, then breaks out his lackey to carry out a sabotage plot. Hats off to you administrator.

Doctor Who: Your Brain is too Weak to Harm Me

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 4: A Race Against Death

Last time, the Doctor and his friends traveled to the Sensorite home world. Their leader, the First Elder, offered them hospitality, including cups of the rare “crystal water”. Ian, however, is a man of powerful thirsts and after drinking water that was decidedly non-crystal in origin, contracted a deadly disease.

With Ian passed out on the floor, the Doctor leaps into action, quickly realizing that the the aliens’ regular water supply is to blame. With only three days until the disease takes Ian’s life, the Doctor requests the Elder’s permission to return to his ship for supplies. The Elder says he’ll have to think about it.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, John the astronaut is getting a space perm.

BBC

BBC

In the middle of John’s treatment, the City Administrator (who you might remember wants nothing more than to kill those pesky humans) barges in and loses it when he sees them helping one of the humans.

The Second Elder threatens to strip old Admin. of his position, but the Administrator insists that Ian’s illness is just a ploy to catch them off guard.

It’s about this time that John wakes up and starts chanting, “Evil. Evil.” It seems that John has acquired the ability to psychically gauge the intentions of others. Unfortunately, crippling mental illness also makes him pretty easy to write off, and the Second Elder dismisses his warning as random nonsense.

As he leaves the room, the Administrator takes a moment to engage in some full-on supervillain gloating, delivering the truly fantastic line, “Your brain is too weak to harm me.”

Then, Carol strolls in, mistaking the Administrator for one of his fellow scientists. When the Administrator (God, we really need to get these characters some names!) corrects her by pointing out his administrative collar, Carol is kind enough to reveal, “if you changed your badges and sashes, we wouldn’t be able to tell you apart.”

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BBC

I think we can all guess where this is going.

With Admin. stoked about his latest evil plot, we check back in with the Doctor who is having his own temper tantrum after the Elder refuses to let him return to his ship.

As the Doctor begins to rant and rave, Susan manages to talk  him down, pointing out that his loud outbursts have a harmful effect on the aliens’ delicate hearing.

By way of compromise, the Elder gives the Doc the use of a laboratory with a complement of scientists to help him out.

Then First Elder decides it’s probably a good idea to fill the Administrator in on his plans. You know that guy that staged an assassination attempt last episode? Probably wise to keep him in the loop, right?

Admin. waits for the Elder to leave, then launches into another epic rant, shouting, “These creatures are defeating us with smiles and gentle words.”

Wow. Everything out of this guy’s mouth is pure gold. Can we just go ahead and make him a regular character?

Back in the lab, Doc has discovered that the Sensorites’ water supply is laced with atropine poison. The strange thing is, only one in three of the aliens die from the disease, meaning the poison’s strength varies between various parts of the city.

So, as the Doctor tests water from each of the city’s ten districts, we get a fantastic montage sequence that shows footage of Ian getting sicker intercut with shots of the Doc playing with test tubes.

 

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BBC

Eventually, Doc isolates the poison and as he goes to work creating an antidote, that wily Administrator puts operation Sash Switch into effect.

After seizing the Second Elder, Admin. gets him to cooperate by kidnapping his family. Do you get the impression the Administrator was just sitting around waiting for an excuse to become a full-fledged supervillain?

Admin steals the Second Elder’s sash so he can impersonate him, which raises some rather troubling questions. Like, for instance, can the aliens really not tell one another apart?

As his first act as faux Elder, Admin intercepts delivery of the Doctor’s antidote, then discreetly disposes of it by throwing it onto the ground.

Unfortunately, his plan is foiled when Susan gets the radical idea to just walk to the lab herself for another sample. Damn these scheming humans!

With that out of the way, the Doctor travels to one of the city’s aqueducts to get to the bottom of this whole poisoning thing once and for all.

His Sensorite companion, however, isn’t too keen on the idea and tells him that the area is plagued by monsters, which they’ve never seen, but can hear from the city.

Between the darkness and the fear of attack, his companion gets overwhelmed and soon leaves. As the alien departs, the Doctor remarks that it’s awfully convenient that the two things Sensorites can’t stand can both be found in the space where the poison is located.

Back at Sensorite Central, Susan has administered the antidote to a grateful Ian. As he begins to recover, the two of them catch wind of where the Doctor’s gone, as well as the stories regarding the monsters that patrol the area.

Susan decides to go out after him, but since the Sensorites are all too spooked to help, it falls to the TARDIS’ resident man of action Ian to step up to the plate.

As Ian and Susan head off on their own, the First Elder is overwhelmed by their selflessness and reaches out mentally to tell his second in command.

But as luck would have it, the Second Elder is deeply entrenched in an intense game of cowboys and Indians.

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BBC

Since his arms are tied, the Second Elder can’t get his hands on that radical stethoscope they use to talk to each other, so he can only hear his boss’ message.

The Administrator wants to know what’s happening and once again threatens the Elder’s family, forcing him to reveal what their leader is saying. Now, with full knowledge of where the Doc and his companions are, Admin. plans to use their absence as an excuse to wipe them out once and for all.

Meanwhile, the Doctor discovers a nightshade plant located along the aquaducts, but before he can investigate further, something in the background starts growling.

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BBC

Wow, the crazy train just keeps on rolling. Intrigue, science, and an evil plan that revolves around stealing your boss’ shirt? This one is heading right off the rails in the best possible way and we’re nowhere near done. We’ve still got two episodes left in this puppy, so tune in next time for episode 5, Kidnap.

 

Doctor Who: Parents Just Don’t Understand

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 3: Hidden Danger

Last time, the crew of the TARDIS faced off against the Sensorites, a race of aliens with strong psychic abilities who were menacing a group of human astronauts. During their encounter, the Doctor told them he was damned tired of their monkeyshines and fully intended to fight back if they pushed him too far.

So, having been effectively told off by a senior citizen, the Sensorites devised a new strategy and talked Susan into accompanying them down to their planet as a hostage.

Needless to say, this new strategy only succeeds in making the Doctor even crankier.

Susan, however, is determined to go with the aliens and the situation quickly devolves into a round of parent vs teenager, with Susan telling her grandfather, “Stop treating me as a child.”

As long as you live under the roof of my TARDIS... -BBC

As long as you live under the roof of my TARDIS… -BBC

With that gauntlet thrown down, the Doctor breaks out his full arsenal of parental cliches, finally telling her, “You’re not going with them Susan and that’s final.”

Eventually he succeeds in wearing her down and as the Sensorites watch their plan fall apart before their very eyes, one of them has the bright idea to announce aloud, “We must stun them with the hand rays,” which is probably not the best way to take your foe by surprise.

Needless to say, this plan doesn’t turn out so hot either and instead of getting stunned, Ian turns out the lights, rendering the Sensorites effectively blind. Seems that despite their many talents, seeing in the dark is not one of them and as they grope around blindly, Ian uses the opportunity to relieve them of their weapons.

As Ian flips the lights back on, the Doctor strolls over and announces “We have power over you, but we don’t intend to use it, only in our defense.”

With that established, the Sensorites decide they need to check in with home base, so out come those fantastic stethoscopes they use to read people’s thoughts.

As the Sensorites check in with their brain phones, the Doctor takes Susan into an adjacent room so he can lecture her some more.

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BBC

Then, after a few minutes, the Sensorites pop in to inform the Doctor that he’s to travel down with them planetside so he can meet with their leader. While they await the arrival of the spacecraft that will bring them down, we finally get to the bottom of why the Sensorites are so damn distrustful. It seems the last time they encountered people, the humans all turned on one another, destroying their ship in the process. Ever since then, the Sensorites have been dying in alarming numbers.

The shuttle finally arrives and the delegation party hops aboard. As part of the arrangement, Maitland and Barbara are to remain in space, while the Doctor, Ian, and Susan travel to the planet’s surface with Carol and the increasingly unstable John.

Meanwhile, on the surface of the Sensor Sphere, the First Elder is discussing strategy with his second-in-command and the City Administrator. The Senior Elder is remarkably progressive and believes a peaceful situation can be reached.

The City Administrator? Not so much and immediately begins putting a plan in motion to kill the entire group with the aid of a “disintegrator ray”.

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BBC

That’s right, the Sensorites have a fully automated assassination machine complete with grid-based death ray just waiting to be rolled out. As the Administrator begin punching in the Doctor’s coordinates, Battleship style, they’re interrupted by the First Elder who gives them a good scolding before making off with their firing key.

It’s just about this point that the Doc and his friends reach the council chambers, where they immediately being discussing John’s mental problems with a nearby Sensorite. This figure, who could easily be a janitor for all they know, is quick to assure them that John’s sanity can be restored given enough time. He then commands one of his flunkies to, “conduct him to one of the restrooms” which doesn’t seem like the best environment in which to recover from PTSD. Maybe he is a janitor after all?

Also, as a result of his condition, John has apparently gained the ability to read people’s intentions, making him a kind of walking morality gauge.

Then, as John and Carol are whisked off to enjoy the rejuvenating properties of the <ahem> restrooms, the Doctor, Ian, and Susan are led in for their meeting with the Chief Elder.

As they take their seats, they are given little finger bowls of water. This apparently doesn’t sit well with the Chief Elder, who angrily insists, “You will bring them the crystal water!”

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BBC

As the crew receives their water upgrades, we cut back to that rascally City Administrator who is now more determined than ever to kill the Doctor and his friends. Worse still, the Chief Elder’s second-in-command has decided to join him in his schemes.

Back in the chamber room, the humans sample the pleasures of the “crystal water,” while the Elder elaborates on the disease that’s killing his people. Strangely enough it affects everyone but the elders, who we are also told drink nothing but the crystal water.

But before anyone can make the obvious connection, Ian launches into a coughing fit, then falls over unconscious.

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BBC

As his companions jump in to investigate, the Sensorite Elder states that Ian is dying.

Wow. This arc really detoured into crazy town this week. We went from an atmospheric, Twilight Zone style thriller to something involving crystal water, disintegrator rays, and long-winded conversations about cultural differences. And throughout it all Hartnell is at his most ornery, snapping first at the Sensorites, then Susan, stopping just short of screaming that if that football comes into his yard one more time, he’s damn well keeping it. God, I love the first Doctor.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Entry Points: Gotham Central

Over the last fifteen years, superheroes have blossomed into a full-blown pop culture phenomena, dominating multiplexes and stealing their way onto television screens. With interest in comic book characters at an all time high, curious viewers may find themselves seeking out these projects’ comic book source material, only to find themselves lost in a web of reboots, crossovers and decades old continuity. In entry points I attempt to pair fans of movie and television adaptations with comic book story lines suitable for first time readers.

Recently, superheroes have seen a resurgence on the small screen with a wave of comic based shows taking over prime time. One of the newest of these is Gotham, a high-concept crime show that follows a young Jim Gordon as he negotiates the corrupt, pre-Batman world of Gotham City.

So far, viewers have remained divided on the show’s success, but regardless of what you might think of it, we can probably all agree that its central premise–offering a street-level view of Batman’s world–is an intriguing one.

The show takes its cues from a number of different comics, but while the overall concept may be similar, this is one instance where the source material far outshines its adaptation.

The cop noir angle has been a part of Batman comics for some time, stretching all the way back to 1987 with Frank Miller’s seminal story, Batman: Year One. Often touted as one of the best Batman stories ever told, Year One follows a young Bruce Wayne as he returns to Gotham City after years spent training abroad. Having studied under the best martial artists, criminologists and manhunters in the world, an inexperienced Bruce still finds himself struggling to make an impact in his war against crime.

Meanwhile, Detective Jim Gordon a recent transplant from the Chicago P.D. finds himself enmeshed in a police force where graft and corruption are just a routine part of the job.

Gordon meets his new partner Det. Flass - DC Comics

Gordon meets his new partner Det. Flass – DC Comics

Approaching Batman at the beginning of his career is certainly an inspired choice, however, the story’s true innovation lies in Miller’s portrayal of Jim Gordon. While certainly a major part of Batman’s world for decades, Gordon was often used as little more than a source of exposition, the guy who lit the bat signal then sat back while Batman did the heavy lifting. Year One went the extra step of rounding him out, treating him as a tough, honest, yet flawed human being, struggling to uphold his values after he’s targeted by his fellow cops. Miller also gives him some truly badass moments.

DC Comics

DC Comics

The story was a real departure at the time , far more influenced by crime novels and noir films than the usual colorful superhero tropes. David Mazzucchelli’s art brought a gritty, urban reality to the story, basing Gotham City on the seedier corners of pre-Giuliani New York.

DC Comics

DC Comics

The story is also highly accessible and self-contained, making it a great starting point for those curious about what comics have to offer.

The second major influence we’re going to discuss today is a wonderful little gem of a book called Gotham Central.

Released from 2002 to 2006, Gotham Central took the unique approach of tackling Batman’s world completely through the eyes of the city’s cops. Taking its cues from shows like Homicide and The Wire, the book offers a surprisingly grounded, straight forward procedural approach to Batman’s famous nightmare metropolis, with the members of the Major Crimes Unit enduring the usual assortment of day-to-day frustrations, while occasionally bumping up against criminal maniacs like Two-face and the Joker.

Police discover one of Mr. Freeze's victims - DC Comics

Police discover one of Mr. Freeze’s victims – DC Comics

Unlike the TV series Gotham, the series doesn’t revolve around a single protagonist. Instead, it follows a rotating squad of over a dozen cops, split up between the day and night shifts. Another nice little touch is that the majority of these characters are new faces, giving the book a rare accessibility to first time readers.

And what about Batman himself? He does appear on occasion, always seen through the eyes of others, leading to a much different portrayal than in his own books. While he’s certainly good to have around in a crisis, Batman is something of a sore spot for Gotham City cops, forcing them to rely on someone who often does their job for them far better than they do.

DC Comics

DC Comics

Then there’s the little things, the unique details that make the book so fun. For instance, how does a modern police force work with an illegal vigilante without openly breaking the law? One of the more clever ideas the writers dreamed up is that Gotham City police officers are forbidden from lighting the bat signal. Only civilian employees are allowed to operate it, thereby giving the cops an extra layer of deniability. It’s a unique workaround that gives the book a sense of reality without losing the sensational elements that make the world of Gotham City so fun.

Throughout the majority of its short life, the book was handled by dual writers Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker who split the scripting duties, dividing their stories between the members of the first and second squads. It’s a novel approach, one that allows them to tell their own story arcs without tripping over each other’s toes. 

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t give a call out to Michael Lark’s fantastic pencilling. From page to page, Lark’s art is awash in the kind of mundane details that bring the stories alive. From the cluttered sprawl of squad rooms, to the characteristic snarl of a suspect’s face, his contributions are a large part of why the book works so well.

DC Comics

DC Comics

Despite its relatively short life, Gotham Central maintained a consistent level of quality, approaching its colorful world from a unique, fresh perspective. The series is easy to find, having recently been reissued in a number of paperback volumes.

One quick note. Although fairly approachable, the book does contain a few callbacks to earlier stories. Perhaps the most surprising thing is the absence of both long term Commissioner James Gordon and Gotham character, Detective Harvey Bullock.

My advice is to dive into the first few stories and see what you think. If you find yourself hooked, you can track down a copy of Batman: Officer Down, a multi-title crossover (released in a handy trade paperback) that explains Gordon’s absence, then follow that through to Detective Comics 758-760 (sadly uncollected), which wraps up Bullock’s story.

DC Comics

DC Comics

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 Who: The Trouble With Cocoa

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 3: The Bride of Sacrifice

Here’s the story so far: After landing in Mexico during the reign of the Aztecs, Barbara was mistaken for the goddess Yetaxa and decided to use this mistake to try purging the Aztecs of some of the more violent aspects of their culture. Instead, she drew the ire of High Priest of Sacrifice and all around scowl enthusiast Tlotoxl who at last episode’s end coaxed Ian into a battle to the death with the warrior Ixta.

We pick up mid-fight with Barbara looking on helplessly as Tlotoxl tells her to prove her divinity by saving Ian’s life.

It’s a hell of a sticky situation, saving her friend’s life without revealing herself as a total fraud. So, how does she get herself out of it? She holds a dagger up to Tlotoxl’s throat, then orders his crony Ixta to back off.

Ian saved. Godhood maintained. Tlotoxl scurries off, scowling all the way.

So, now that he’s succeeding in nearly killing Ian, Ixta decides it’s high time the two of them became friends, declaring,

“Now that I can defeat you openly, I have no need to destroy you in secret.” Which incidentally is exactly how I open each of my facebook friend requests.

Having failed yet again in his attempt to humiliate Barbara, Tlotoxl gets another one of his cronies to fix up a poison, reasoning that if Barbara is a true goddess feeding her poison will be prove it once and for all.

Professor Poison - BBC

So, could you like make me some poison? – BBC

Unfortunately for him, Ian catches wind of this and heads off to Barbara’s chambers in order to warn her.

Meanwhile in the garden of peace, Cameca confesses to the high priest Ortlock that she has the hots for the Doctor and has purchased a bunch of cocoa beans for the occasion. It seems in Aztec society, making cocoa for someone is the equivalent of a marriage proposal.

Sadly, the Doctor seems to have slept through that particular lesson, because upon seeing her supply of cocoa beans, he insists they brew up a batch right away.

It’s about this time that Ian reaches Barbara’s boss throne room. He warns her of Tlotoxl’s plot, then lectures her on the finer points of playing god. First the Doctor now Ian, seems like everybody gets a chance to put Susan in her place.

BBC

BBC

Then Tlotoxl strolls in with a bowl of strange liquid and urges her to “drink this draft with us as a symbol of our friendship.” Quick tip ladies, if you ever find yourself getting an offer like that, you’re probably going to want to go ahead and run.

Sadly, Barbara is nowhere near this astute and hunkers over the bowl ready to drink. Luckily, Ian’s there to give her the high sign and she stops and demands that Tlotoxl drink it first. He refuses, failing in yet another attempt to disgrace her.

Barbara, having endured what must be his twelfth attempt at exposing her secret, finally just says to hell with it and tells Tlotoxl she’s not Yetaxa after all.

Tlotoxl breaks into one of his villainous grins until Barbara points out that even though he knows the truth, it’s unlikely that anyone will believe him. Then she shuts him down completely saying, “I warn you Tlotoxl, you say one word against me to the people and I’ll have them destroy you.”

BBC

BBC

It’s all pretty badass.

Back in the garden, the Doctor and Cameca are sipping cocoa and talking about their future.

BBC

BBC

 

Camecah casually reveals that they’re now engaged and the Doc busts out his best spit take.

BBC

BBC

Wha?!!

This subplot really feels like it’s from a different episode entirely. Every other character is trapped in a cycle of death and danger, while the Doctor’s skipping through some mid-90s rom com.

So, seeing as how five minutes have passed, you might be wondering what Tlotoxl’s up to now? Well, having failed at his poison scheme, he’s already on to something else, this time turning his attentions to Susan.

I’ll say this for the guy. Brother sure is tenacious.

Now, last time we saw Susan, she had made her opposition to arranged marriage well-known by shouting it to anyone within earshot

Taking that as his inspiration, Tlotoxl strolls in with some creepy weirdo who immediately begins undressing Susan with his eyes. Then, just as he’s about to walk out, he casually adds, “I shall take her as my bride.”

Susan refuses, which, of course means that she needs to be punished.

And what is the punishment you might ask? Well, apparently she’s to be publicly scourged and ridiculed, then have her tongue and ears pierced with thorns. Okay, the thorns and scourging I totally get, but public ridicule? That seems a bit extreme.

Tlotoxl shares this with Barbara, failing to tell her that Susan is the one to be punished.

Now trapped in a very delicate position, Barbara once again reaches out to the other high priest Ortlock to back her play. One of the more interesting elements of this story arc is how Barbara claims she’s trying to do away with blind faith, but keeps exploiting it whenever it serves her purpose.

Meanwhile, Ian meets up with the Doctor in the garden. The Doc shows him something that proves the tomb can be opened, meaning they can get to the TARDIS and blast out of this craphole.

When Ian asks him where he got it, the Doctor responds, “My fiancee.”

Ian: “Your what?”

“Yes I made some cocoa and got engaged.”

BBC

BBC

Another moment of lighthearted comedy, moments after Susan is threatened with a forced marriage.

Cut to: later that night. Ian is sleeping next to Ixta on the ground for some reason??!! I guess they’re like roommates now?

Ian gets up and sneaks off to the garden with Ixta hot on his trail.

In the garden, Ian and the Doctor discover a hidden panel on the outside of the tomb and manage to pry it open. Ian goes inside as the Doc stands watch.

Then, Ixta shows up and the Doctor does a terrible job of playing dumb.

What’s that? Oh, nothing, just standing here. That hole? That’s probably nothing, no reason to put that back in place.

BBC

BBC

Ixta grabs the panel and uses it to reseal the passage, stranding Ian inside just at the passage starts filling with water.

Kind of strange episode this week. Barbara’s still trying to protect her secret, Susan’s being used as a pawn and the Doctor’s having a merry old time. Wonder how all this is going to play out? Catch us next time for episode 4: The Day of Darkness.

 

Thanos: History of a Mad Titan

Disclaimer: This post contains mild spoilers. However, I have attempted not to reveal story conclusions so that these tales may be sought out and enjoyed by readers picking them up for the first time.  

Probably best know from an Avengers post-credits cameo that sent nerds into overdrive, while leaving casual viewers scratching their heads, Thanos made his second appearance in this summer’s smash hit The Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s obvious from his looming presence, that Marvel films has big things in store for this character, but who is Thanos and why is he such a big deal?

Marvel films

Marvel films

Thanos is one of the more unique villains in the marvel comics stable. Unlike similar characters, he isn’t tied to any particular book or even to a particular hero. He isn’t even always cast in the role of villain. His only real constant is that he’s almost always presented as an A-level presence with close ties to a rotating cast of space-themed characters.

The character’s unusual nature is largely down to his creator, comic book writer and artist Jim Starlin, who has chronicled his adventures on and off again for the past 40 years. More than anyone, Starlin is the one who has shaped the character into the incredible powerhouse he is today.

His story begins in 1973, with Starlin using a long gestating idea for a villain in the pages of a fill-in job in Iron Man #55. Riffing on designs of the character Metron featured in Jack Kirby’s Fourth World saga (likely the subject of a future post), Starlin concocted Thanos as kind of cosmic wanderer.

Metron - DC comics

Metron – DC comics

After looking over the character designs, his editor Roy Thomas told him point blank, “If you’re going to steal one of the New Gods, at least rip off Darkseid, the really good one.”

So, Thanos was beefed up from a frail seeker of knowledge to a more powerful physical presence.

Darkseid - DC comics

Darkseid – DC comics

Thanos - Marvel comics

Thanos – Marvel comics

Stacking them side by side like this, it’s obvious the two characters look a lot alike, but those similarities begin to disappear when you look at them closer. Darkseid was portrayed by his creator Jack Kirby as the ultimate tyrant, a fascist god with an entire planet under his sway.

Thanos is much more of a schemer. Born on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, Thanos hails from a race of highly-evolved demi-gods known as Titans, ruled by his father Mentor. Having embarked on a failed campaign to usurp his father, Thanos was banished from his home world and wandered the universe, gathering a group of henchmen in an attempt to take the moon by force.

There’s also the matter of his romantic desires, which, shall we see, run toward the unique, but we’ll get into that a bit later.

In this first appearance, Thanos plays the part of puppet master to a group of alien brawlers known as the Blood Brothers.

The story is also significant for introducing Drax the Destroyer. Well known to fans of Guardians of the Galaxy as the gruff warrior who doesn’t grasp metaphors, Drax’s comic book origin differs greatly.

Created by Titan’s chief god Kronos as a means of countering Thanos’ threat, Drax is an interesting variation on the myth of the Jewish golem, raised from the soil of Titan and charged with ending the titan’s life.

 

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

In this earlier incarnation, Drax was much more powerful than the simple brawler viewers saw onscreen, commanding such diverse talents as flight, enhanced strength, energy projection, and powerful psychic abilities.

He also sported a much different look, consisting of a cape and headpiece, along with this fantastic championship belt.

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

After suffering an early defeat, Drax helps Iron Man defeat the blood brothers, with Thanos revealed at story’s end to be a robot stand-in.

That might have been the end of things. Fortunately, Starlin took over as both writer and penciler of Captain Marvel that same year, bringing with him the groundwork he had laid in this initial story.

Created by Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan at the end of Marvel comics’ first wave, Captain Marvel was something of a failed property. He never caught fire like the rest of his superhero contemporaries and for two years he simply coasted along, before finally landing in Starlin’s hands.

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

Starlin was a perfect fit for the floundering title and set about slowly edging away from traditional super hero tropes, as the book adopted an increasingly cosmic tone.

Thanos was a big part of this, unfurling an elaborate plan to secure the cosmic cube, a small crystalline object possessing near-limitless, godlike power.

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

In the ensuing story, the Captain fights his way through a variety of colorful henchmen, struggles with his role as a warrior, and eventually attains the status of cosmic awareness.

Thanos remains a strong presence throughout, continuing his role as a shadowy mastermind, unleashing a full-scale beatdown on the Avengers and engaging in a bizarre psychic duel with Drax before finally throwing down with the good Captain.

The story also reveals his unholy obsession with death, not the phenomenon, but the literal incarnation of this force with whom he is in love.

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

This brought another interesting facet to the character, imbuing him with frightening motivation, while simultaneously making him slightly more human.

In many ways, these read like typical comics of the time, full of never-ending fistfights and overwrought dialogue. Look beneath the surface though and you’ll notice something else going on too, a growing reflection of counter culture ideas.

Starlin’s writing played with vast themes such as eternity and death, while his artwork took on a decidedly psychedelic tone.

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

Then there was the character’s quest for cosmic awareness, mirroring the new age philosophies becoming popular in counter cultural circles.

These innovations became a part of the industry as a whole, pushing comics into what is often referred to as the medium’s bronze age. It’s something Starlin would expand upon even further in his follow up series Warlock, where Thanos would put in his next appearance.

A quick note if you’re interested in reading these stories, they can all be found in a trade paperback called, The Life and Death of Captain Marvel, which compiles Iron Man #55 together with Captain Marvel 25-34 , and a Captain Marvel-centered Graphic Novel.

Marvel comics

Marvel comics

It’s a few years out of print, but a likely find on the secondary market. You can also find all of these issues electronically on the marvel app.

A brief disclaimer, if you do go the trade paperback route, save the last chapter for later. It takes place at a much later time and spoils a lot of what happens in the second big Thanos arc.

Next time, the Thanos saga continues in Warlock

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.