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.

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Doctor Who: Big World, Big Problems

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 1: Planet of Giants

Hey everybody and welcome back to the continuing adventures of everyone’s favorite Time Lord.

Today we’ll be kicking off the Doc’s second season, but first off, I’d like to apologize for the late post. Tracking this episode down proved no small task. Netflix has been the go-to source for my backlog of shows, but for some reason this story is one of their few blind spots. Ditto that with my local library, so, needless to say, I’m now the proud owner of Doctor Who: The Planet of Giants. Let’s hope it’s worth it. 

We open on the Doctor tinkering with the TARDIS’ controls. He notices a hot spot on the ship’s instrument panel and sends Susan off to check the ship’s fault locator, which immediately lights up and breaks into a warning alarm.

Then ship’s doors start to open and everyone runs over to hold them shut.

So yeah, we’re about two minutes into this thing and already the TARDIS is on the fritz. Good to see some things never change. 

The crew manages to get the doors shut and the TARDIS comes to a landing. Everybody is fine, but the Doc is freaked out by what happened, like really, REALLY freaked out and goes into his usual piss and vinegar routine.

After calming down a bit, he apologizes to Barbara, explaining “I always forget the niceties under pressure.” Which is a very charitable assessment of his personality, but considering he isn’t kicking anyone off the ship, I guess we’ll chalk this up as one of his nicer days.

Since there’s nothing else to be done, the Doctor fires up the scanner, only to have the screen blow out. With that shot, everybody piles out of the TARDIS to investigate where they are. They look around for a bit, then decide to split off into groups of two.

Barbara heads off with the Doctor who stumbles upon a giant earthworm.

BBC

BBC

Not to be outdone, Ian and Susan find what appears to be a pile of giant tic tacs lorded over by an enormous ant.

BBC

BBC

It turns out that the ant, like the earthworm before it, is quite dead.

Then we cut back briefly to Barbara and the Doctor as they come upon an oversized match. This pretty much dominates the next few minutes, with both groups stumbling on a series of enormous objects. The definite highlight here is a giant matchbox which Ian immediately climbs inside of.

BBC

BBC

I think you can probably put together what’s happening here. The planet isn’t oversized after all, they were simply shrunken down when the doors of the TARDIS flew open. You know, because science.

It’s a fun little twist that climaxes in a great shot that pans up from the TARDIS to reveal a suburban backyard.

BBC

BBC

But here’s where it gets really interesting. Instead of going the Honey I Shrunk the Kids route, the episode does something completely unexpected.

A full-size man walks over and picks up Ian’s oversized matchbox and we follow him off into an entirely different story. It seems this man (who’s name is Farrow) is a scientist testing a new potential insecticide. He’s joined a short while later by the owner of this new product, a man named Forrester.

Farrow tells him that his new product is far too powerful, and ends up killing all animal life in areas where it is used. He also plans on writing a full report blocking its distribution. Farrow tries making a deal with him. Then, when that fails he pulls out a gun.

BBC

BBC

We cut back to the Doctor and his companions who hear what sounds like an enormous explosion.

Then Ian joins up with them and takes them off to find this.

BBC

BBC

It’s a pretty dated effect, but it works really well, giving a real sense of scale while bringing the two stories together.

After awhile they get tired of gawking at the man’s corpse and the Doctor says they should probably just go ahead and get out of there, which is just about the time they notice the cat!

I’ve got to say, this one really caught me off guard. I expected a typical one-note story with our characters getting shrunken down then spending the next two episodes fighting their way back through to the TARDIS with a few oversized props thrown in for effect, but this is really clever, dropping a contemporary murder mystery into the middle of a sci-fi show. I only hope they follow through with this, with Doc and company playing the role of tiny detectives as the murder investigation unfolds around them.

Next up, Dangerous Journey.

Doctor Who: Season One Retrospective

Welcome back everybody. Last time, we closed the book on the first season of Doctor Who, bringing the first chapter of this massive undertaking to a close. In keeping with the spirit of this project, I went into this almost completely blind, knowing next to nothing of the show beyond its basic broad strokes. It was an interesting experience, tackling something this long-lived from the ground floor. 

So, what’s the verdict? Well, that’s a bit complicated. Obviously the show hasn’t always aged gracefully. Special effects have come a long way in the last fifty years and the show’s production values weren’t always top-notch to begin with. Yet despite all of that, it retains a certain of handmade charm and manages to come alive in small doses. William Hartnell’s performance is a standout for me, investing the Doctor with a gruff, stubborn quality that really breaks from your typical sci-fi hero.

But what about the episodes themselves? Are any of these things actually worth watching?

Admittedly the output here is something of a mixed bag, but there are a few episodes that are well worth seeking out, particularly for those interested in the character’s history.

So without further adieu, here’s my take on the most (and least) watchable episodes of Season One.

Serial One: An Unearthly Child

BBC

BBC

I definitely recommend giving the first episode a watch. It’s a solid intro that does a good job of laying out the basics of the series, introducing the Doctor and his strange time machine through the eyes of his first companions.  

It may also well be the strangest pilot of all time, with a grumpy, mean-spirited old man forcing a pair of confused school teachers to ride shotgun on his jaunts through time and space. It’s really strange just how unlikable the Doctor is. I suspect the producers were shooting for a Sherlock Holmes-style eccentric, but he’s isn’t so much eccentric here as he is just plain mean. It’s definitely a far cry from his more modern incarnations. 

With that one under your belt, you can probably go ahead and tune out for the rest of this arc, which sees the Doctor and his crew journeying to prehistoric times. What follows is three episodes worth of hairy, grunting cavemen yelling at one another about fire, which is not the most compelling of material.

Serial Two: The Daleks

BBC

BBC

Of all these stories, this is probably the one most relevant to modern Who fans, introducing the Doctor’s most recognizable foes. The Daleks are very different from anything else appearing in Season One. Featuring some clever design work and a simple, yet iconic look that has served as the characters’ visual basis for the succeeding fifty years, it’s easy to see how they became such a staple of the series. 

Unfortunately, the story here is a bit of a slog. It clocks in at a lengthy 7 episodes, much of it spent with the Daleks humanoid enemies the Thals. There’s not nearly enough going on and the writers fall back on a constant cycle of capture and escape in order to pad things out.

The Daleks are cool though and watching them deliver trays of food to their captives is something that should be experience by everyone at least once. 

Serial Three: The Edge of Destruction

BBC

BBC

Moment for moment, The Edge of Destruction has the most entertaining moments of season one. Settle in for such surreal moments as a blade-wielding Susan, people screaming at clocks, and a seemingly drunken Doctor trying to maroon his companions in space.

You won’t understand what’s happening and you won’t care. If only the rest of the series could be this delightfully unhinged. Plus, at a breezy two episodes, this is the most accessible serial by far.

Serial Four: Marco Polo

BBC

BBC

There’s really no reason to weigh on this one, since you can’t watch it anyway. The first victim of the BBC’s regrettable junking policy, this entire serial has been lost to the ages. The original audio survives, synched up with still photos into a kind of visual slideshow called a tele-snap. This appears as a bonus feature on The Edge of Destruction DVD. My advice, don’t bother. The history episodes are typically among the show’s least interesting stories, designed to add an educational component to the series. 

Serial Five: The Keys of Marinus

BBC

BBC

As crazy in many ways as The Edge of Destruction, but far more tedious, The Keys of Marinus was concocted as a quickie replacement after an earlier script proved problematic. William Hartnell was also on vacation for part of the shooting time, leading the producers to create a series of stand-alone adventures loosely connected around an attempt to locate several computer keys.

While the disconnected nature of the stories makes it pretty hard to care about the arc as a whole, I can definitely recommend a few of the episodes themselves. The Velvet Web is particularly gonzo, with Barbara facing off against a squad of telepathic, disembodied brains, while The Screaming Jungle sees Susan, Barbara, and Ian stumbling into a jungle that screams…and kills!

Serial Six: The Aztecs

BBC

BBC

One of the more dramatically satisfying offerings, the Aztecs distances itself from the series’ pulpier aspects in favor of a straightforward time travel morality play.

Landing in 16th Century Mexico, the crew of the TARDIS encounters the Aztecs. Barbara is mistaken for a goddess and uses her newfound political clout to try and end the Aztecs’ practice of human sacrifice, while the Doctor attempts to teach her that it is impossible to change history. It’s a theme that has long since lapsed into a time travel cliché, yet it remains important in establishing the show’s morality, laying down some much-needed ground rules.

Serial Seven: The Sensorites

BBC

BBC

This one smacks of wasted opportunity. It starts out strong with a first episode that plays out like a scenario from The Twilight Zone. Stumbling onto a stranded spaceship, the Doctor and his friends discover a group of Earth-born astronauts who are being menaced by unseen aliens. The setup is creepy and the alien reveal is especially well done.

From there, the tone changes significantly, falling back on a standard, yet serviceable aliens meet earthlings cultural exchange story before devolving into something else altogether in its final moments.

I’d recommend the first episode for its creepy atmospherics, but I wouldn’t invest any more time in it than that.

Serial Eight: The Reign of Terror

BBC

BBC

One of the most padded serials of the entire season, The Reign of Terror drops the crew of the TARDIS into France during Robespierre’s reign of terror. Unfortunately, the writers fail to pull anything interesting out of this historical backdrop and the action quickly falls into a tedious cycle of arrest and escape which ultimately amounts to very little. You do get to see Hartnell sporting some fantastic new clothes, but at a lengthy seven episodes, it’s just not worth it. 

Well, I guess that’s about it for now. There’s plenty of more Who to tackle, so be sure stay tuned as we dive into Season Two. 

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.

BBC

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”.

BBC

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!”

BBC

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.

BBC

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: 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.

The Complete Doctor Who: Serial 2 The Daleks Episodes 3-4

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

Episode 3: The Escape

Last episode we got our first look at the Doctor’s greatest enemies the Daleks. It was heavy on plot, remarkably light on interesting developments, but fear not, because this episode is wall to wall gold.

We begin with our usual recap. Susan reaches the TARDIS where she pockets the anti-radiation drugs, then steps out for a chance meeting with this guy.

BBC

Oh, did I frighten you? – BBC

That’s right, dude’s straight up chilling outside, doing his best impression of the creepy guy at the back of the bus. Susan is understandably terrified, so the man gives her his name, Alydon, and a backup supply of drugs. So just to review, a crazy looking stalker gives a box of “medicine” to a teenage girl. Yup, I’ve got a feeling this is going to turn out just fine.

He also lends her his cloak, which might be the most insane piece of clothing ever worn by anyone ever.

BBC

BBC

Wow. 

Susan takes the drugs back to the city, where the rest of the crew enjoy an improbably quick recuperation given that they were dying of radiation only moments ago.

Meanwhile, in their funny little command center, the Dalek’s concoct a plan to lure the Thals into their city.

They also decide to bring food to their prisoners, which they serve to them on a little silver platter.

BBC

BBC

This is absolutely fantastic and left me with a single burning question; how is this not a theme restaurant? Dalek waiters taking your order in a shrill robotic voice.

“Welcome. to. Daleks. Today’s. specials. are…”

I would practically live at a place like that. Seriously folks, let’s get a kickstarter campaign started to fund this thing toot sweet.

We follow this up with our first group shot of the Thal and folks, it is a thing of true beauty.

Dplanet

Any cosplayers out there looking for their next look, I challenge you to make this happen. Torn leather chaps, open chest V-neck shirt, along with that tortoise shell pattern cloak. The thought of a good half dozen of you descending on Comic Con rocking that look fills me with a special kind of glee.

You might think that’s as good as things get, but folks, we’re just getting warmed up. Next, we get what has got to be one of my top ten favorite things of all time, when the Daleks dictate a letter to Susan. A letter which she writes out in LONGHAND. The future everyone. Incredible.

BBC

BBC

Meanwhile, back in the cell, the Doctor works out that the Daleks are powered by static electricity, which seems remarkably low tech for a race of beings in possession of a paralysis ray.

The group hatches what may be their weirdest plan yet, staging a really ham-fisted fight during which they tear out the security camera that’s been recording them, then mix water with the jungle remains from the bottom of Susan’s shoes.

A Dalek comes in later with another serving tray, allowing Ian to block the door with the remains of the camera. Barbara smears mud on the Dalek’s scanner and they straight up pull the Dalek by the arms onto Susan’s tortoise cloak, thus severing its power. That’s right, they defeat a Dalek using a combination of mud and a stupid looking cape, leading me to wonder how they ever managed to reach their arch-enemy status. I guess in the world of the good Doctor, mud and capes are hard to come by.

Then they pop the top off the thing like it’s a can of Pringles, pull out the creature inside (which thanks to a blanket we never fully see), then deposit it in the corner of the room.

BBC

BBC

Ian climbs inside and we get the Stormtrooper disguise scene from Star Wars a full fifteen years early.

After they step out of the room, we get what is actually a pretty cool cliffhanger, in which a clawed hand reaches out from beneath the blanket, revealing there’s more to the Daleks besides their metallic shells.

Episode 4: The Ambush

We pick up right where we left off, with Ian rolling down the hall in his Dalekmobile, herding his friends before him like prisoners. He tries bluffing his way past another Dalek, who decides he really ought to clear things with his boss first. Then we get a true first for this show, when Susan actually does something useful. Not surprising, it involves screaming, which turns out to be a pretty good way of distracting mutant cyborgs. Live and learn kids.

They all pile into the elevator and start their long trip to the surface. And I do mean long, as they take what might be the slowest elevator ride of all time. 

Ian gets stuck inside the Dalek, which is kind of amazing and the Doctor pulls his “every man for himself” schtick, leaving him behind.

Meanwhile, the Daleks have figured out what’s happened and are going to work on the elevator door, blasting away with a wicked looking welding torch that’s a damn site more menacing than the fall-down ray they used earlier.

The Doctor reaches the top with Susan and Barbara in tow, while Ian struggles to escape his robot costume, which is a really weird way to build dramatic tension.

The Daleks finally force their way through and straight up annihilate the Dalek inside. The top crumbles away and they realize its empty.

The elevator goes up once again and Ian FINALLY makes it to the top. That’s right folks, we’re halfway through this thing and our heroes have successfully ascended an elevator. Go team.

By this point, the Daleks are themselves coming up the elevator, so Ian destroys it by grabbing an inexplicably placed piece of modern art and pushing it down on top of it. What in God’s name is this doing here? There is literally nothing found anywhere within the halls of a city populated entirely by mutated blobs riding around in roving shop vacs, yet for some reason the top floor has a piece of corporate art?

With that insane business out of the way, our “heroes” look out a window just in time to see a group of Thals headed toward the city and an obvious ambush (like the title, see?).

Naturally, the Doctor feels no inclination whatsoever to help them, so Ian agrees to stay and warn them. I’ve got to wonder why this isn’t called the Ian Chesterton show, since he’s the only character willing to do anything.

Ian proceeds to find the Thal leader, then watches him for a solid three minutes, finally yelling a warning when it can’t do a conceivable bit of good.

The Daleks kill the hell out of the Thal, giving him what is perhaps the most undignified death of all time.

BBC

BBC

Here’s hoping they build a statue commemorating his sacrifice.

Then the remaining Thals escape the city by doing this.

BBC

BBC

Again, not really selling me on the whole menace of the Daleks thing.

Ian joins up with the others at the Thal camp and we learn a little bit about their culture. In the years since their great war with the Daleks, the Thals’ culture has done a complete 180, making them opposed to violence of any kind. This poses something of a moral dilemma. Do they convince the Thals to fight, or allow them to embrace what is a very positive break from their violent past?

At least it would be a moral dilemma if it were any other show but this one. Instead, the Doctor decides it’s time to leave, making this the THIRD time he has run away in just this episode alone.

Having witnessed Barbara’s compassion towards Za back in the last serial, one would logically assume she would have some objection to this, but no, she simply grabs Susan and gets ready to leave.

Outnumbered by the others, Ian reluctantly goes along, only to reveal the episode’s final twist. Remember the fuel cell that started this whole mess in the first place? Well, it seems it’s gone missing, taked by the Daleks at some point offscreen. GROAN. Yup, that means it’s back to the city we just spent four episodes escaping from.

I can’t believe how absolutely off the wall this episode is. I get that the Doctor is meant to be unconventional, but all he seems to do is turn tail and run, which is a remarkably strange way to anchor your outer space adventure series. At this point, Ian has become the de facto lead, only by virtue of the fact that he occasionally does something to drive the narrative forward.

It’s also important to note that there are four main characters here. This is a conscious choice on the part of the creators, so why are they given so little to do? It’s a head scratcher to be sure. Oh well, perhaps we’ll get some answers next time when our “heroes” return in The Expedition.