Doctor Who: Escape From Paris

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 6: Prisoners of Concierge

Welcome back everybody. Today’s episode is something of a special occasion, marking not only the end of this story arc, but of the entire first season as well. Plus, as an added bonus, the animation portions are done for the time being, giving us a welcome return to live action. 

So, without further adieu, let’s jump right in.

As you may remember, last time the Doctor made a deal with French officer Lemaitre in order to save Susan’s life. This involved Doc taking him to the safehouse where his friends are currently residing.

As Doc strolls in to the safehouse with Lemaitre, we get a pretty fantastic moment where Jules yells out, “Your friend has betrayed us!” before everyone stands there silently, waiting for the onscreen credits to roll. 

With the cameraman properly credited, the characters come to life again and Lemaitre surprises everyone by insisting that he has come to them as a friend and that Ian will back him up on that.

Ian’s responses is a confused, “I will?” 

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Then Lemaitre reveals that he is, in fact, the long pursued James Sterling. Everyone’s pretty stunned by this, but considering our list of potential candidates included him and the idiot jailer, this doesn’t strike me as that big of a shock. 

Everyone’s also pretty pissed off that he didn’t reveal this sooner–and you can go ahead and include me in that group—but Lemaitre/Sterling (LeSterling?) tells them he needed to be sure that he could trust Ian before approaching him. 

Then the Doctor breaks in with the best line of the episode, “That’s all very well Lemaitre or whatever your name is but the only reason I brought you here was to help Susan.” 

Doc’s on the verge of one of his famous tantrums, but LeSterling offers to use his position to give them all safe passage. 

With the Doc momentarily pacified, LeSterling asks Ian to give him the message that he received in jail.

Ian tells him that he is to return to England, because the intel he’s collected is needed urgently. 

Lemaitre insists there should be more to the message. Ian thinks that over for a moment, then tells him the prisoner also mumbled a bunch of nonsense as he died. 

While they try wrapping their head around that, LeSterling reveals to them what Robespierre told him last episode about shadowing Paul Barras. That sufficiently jobs Ian’s memory and he recalls the prisoner mentioning something about Barras and a sinking ship. 

But wait, what’s this? It just so happen that there’s an inn called The Sinking Ship, which would make an ideal location for a secret meeting. 

Since Barras knows Lemaitre’s face, he suggests that Ian and Barbara show up instead.  

Then, in one of the episode’s many awkward transitions, we’re given a brief shot of the inn’s exterior before cutting inside where Barbara, dressed as a barmaid, serves wine to their friend Jules.

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Jules tells her that he has bound and gagged the innkeeper and left him in the wine cellar, so I guess it’s safe to say that some time has passed.  

Barbara heads into a back room where Ian stands there punching a peephole into the wall. 

Eventually, Barras shows up, only to be joined a few minutes later by his mysterious guest, who turns out to be none other than Napoleon Bonaparte himself. 

Barras tells Napoleon that Robespierre is to be arrested the next day and proposes joining forces to establish a new government.

As this is going on, Barbara and Ian stand there at the peephole, listening in on them like a couple of pervs. 

Napoleon thinks that’s a mighty fine idea and takes Barras up on his offer. 

Then the cameraman treats us to an extreme close-up of Napoleon’s face, which transitions into an equally crazy shot of Lemaitre staring into the camera yelling, “Napoleon? Napoleon as ruler of France?”

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Needless to say, Lemaitre is not pleased by this latest turn of events. 

The Doc, however, doesn’t give one whit about any of this and takes off with Barbara to go rescue Susan, while Lemaitre and Ian go to the palace for news of Robespierre.

In the palace itself, Robespierre locks himself in his office as a bunch of soldiers show up and break down the door.

Ian and Lematire show up just in time to see Robespierre get shot, then hauled away off to prison.

Meanwhile, back at Concierge Prison, the Doctor walks in on the jailer who is currently engaged in the 18th Century equivalent of a raging kegger.

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Doc tells them that Lemaitre has been shot as a traitor and that he is there to round up the man’s accomplices. 

He orders the Jailer’s drinking buddies to arrest him, then feigns a change of heart and allows him to remain on as jailer after getting the key to Susan’s cell. 

As Doc frees Susan, Robespierre is led inside. 

Jules, who plays a remarkably small role in this episode, wonders aloud who will be the next ruler of France and, for some reason, Ian tells him to remember the name Napoleon. 

Then Doc shows up with Susan and the whole gang leaves Paris by carriage. They hop aboard the TARDIS and the Doctor makes a grand speech about how “Our destiny is in the starts,” over footage of outer space. 

And with that, we bring our coverage of season one to a close. That’s one whole season down, can you believe it? Don’t worry, I’m not quite done talking about this season, so join me next time for my definitive Season One wrap-up. 

Doctor Who: What? The Doctor’s Alive!

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 5: A Bargain of Necessity

This week we take another trip to Toon Town as the crew of the TARDIS fights to stay alive in 18th Century France.  

We pick up where we left off, with Ian walking into an ambush set by traitorous revolutionary Leon.

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As his soldiers place Ian in some wicked looking irons, Leon reveals that what he’s really after is information.

Before we get into that though, we’re whisked off to the prison, where Barbara has been placed in a cell for questioning. It’s looking pretty dire, but, as luck would have it, her interrogator turns out to be none other than the Doctor himself.

Barbara is overjoyed to see him on account of that whole thinking he was dead thing. Oh, and get comfortable with characters reacting to his non-death because before this thing’s over you’ll get to see the exact same scene play out twice more.

So, being alive and all, the Doctor shares with Barbara his elaborate escape plot. And what is the Doc’s big plan? Well, it seems he’s going to open the door so that Barbara can walk out of the prison.

Barbara is understandably critical of this idea, but Doc reassures her, “You know my plans always work out perfectly.”

With that settled, Doc heads over to the jailer and tells him that Barbara is an important member of the underground resistance.

The jailer, in one of his more lucid moments, suggests letting her go and then following her to the other members of the resistance. 

Meanwhile, back at the old church, Leon continues trying to make Ian talk. So, you remember that subplot introduced about a billions years ago where Ian was asked by a fellow prisoner to locate a British spy named James Sterling? Yeah, me neither. But as luck would have it, Leon is far better at remembering extraneous plots than I am, assumes Ian himself is working with England, and wants to know the names of his superiors.

After asking him for something like the twentieth time, Ian starts laughing and tells him, “I flew here with three friends in a small box. When I left England it was 1963.”

Unfortunately, Leon is not as amused by that as I am and signals his soldiers to kill him.

Before they can act though, Jules storms the building in full 18th Century action mode, shooting one of the guards, then hurling his empty pistol at Leon’s face.

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As Leon crumbles to the ground, the final soldier takes aim at Jules, until a well-placed kick from Ian sends him sprawling into Jules’ arms, who uses him as a human shield, blocking a shot from Leon’s pistol, then shooting Leon dead with the fallen soldier’s own musket. It’s all pretty badass.

As Jules frees Ian, he reveals to him that Barbara and Susan have been imprisoned again, bringing their arrest count up to two. 

Meanwhile back at the prison, the Doctor finally gets around to putting in an appearance at Susan’s cell, revealing to her that he is still very much still alive.

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Remember that scene between him and Barbara? Well, here it is all over again. 

While this is going on, the Jailer walks by, notices the Doctor standing there, and pretty much loses his mind.  He asks him why he isn’t out following Barbara, but the Doctor turns it around on him saying, I thought you were going to do it.

Jailer’s pretty freaked out, so Doc suggests, hey, since we’ve already lost one prisoner, let’s just go ahead and let the second one go too, then follow her instead.”

The Jailer refuses though, on account of Lemaitre’s orders.

In the middle of all this, we cut in on a meeting between Lemaitre and Robespierre, which is as interesting as it sounds. It seems there is a political convention coming up and Robespierre’s heard rumors of a potential political motion to be taken against him by his deputy Paul Barras, a character who has been neither seen nor mentioned prior to this, but you know, history. Robespierre asks Lemaitre to shadow Barras as a means of keeping an eye on him.

From there, we travel back to the safehouse where Jules and Ian run into the recently escaped Barbara who tells them that the Doctor is stationed at the prison, where he is masquerading as an officer, giving Ian his moment to react to news of the Doctor’s survival. 

Back at the prison again, the Doctor concocts a new plot to free Susan, which involves having her hide out of sight, then conking the Jailer over the head when he moves in to investigate.

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With the jailer unconscious and Susan free, the two of them get ready to escape, only to walk right into Lemaitre and his soldiers.

As Susan is arrested for the third time, Lemaitre then pulls the Doctor aside for a private conference.

He pulls out the Doctor’s real clothes and reveals he’s well aware that the Doctor is a fake. Given the current political turmoil, however, he is eager to score a few quick, political points and tells the Doctor that if he reveals the destination of Jules’ safehouse, his granddaughter will be released.

From there, we cut back to Jules’ safehouse where a conversation between Ian, Barbara, and Jules is interrupted when the Doc and Lemaitre storm in with an attachment of soldiers, assumably to arrest them yet again. 

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I think it’s safe to say this story wore out its welcome some time ago. The past three episodes in particular feel like they’re stuck on autopilot, with the same characters getting arrested, then escaping, only to be arrested yet again. It’s also the second time in 4 episodes that we’ve seen the Doctor escape from a situation by basically going, “What’s that over there?” then hitting someone over the head.

About the only notable inclusion here are a few moments of creative gunplay, but that isn’t nearly enough to elevate the rest of the material. Luckily it’s almost over, so with that glowing endorsement, tune in next time for episode 6: Prisoners of Conciergerie.

Doctor Who: The Animated Series

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 4: The Tyrant of France

Unfortunately, this week we’ve run up against the BBC’s regrettable junking policy once again, meaning that the video footage for this episode has been completely lost. The original audio survives though, so in lieu of the original video we have the next best thing…creepy ass animation.

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That’s right, the entire episode has been recreated in animated form, which is a rather ingenious, if slightly off-putting, way of watching these missing episodes.

Apparently this is the standard BBC policy on serials missing two episodes or less, so we might as well get used to it since we’ll be running up against it a lot going forward.

With that out of the way, let’s rejoin the Doctor as he’s paraded before French Revolutionary figure and murder-enthusiast Maximilien Francois Marie Isidore de Robespierre.

The Uniformed Man presiding over Concierge Prison (who we FINALLY learn is named Lemaitre) presents Robespierre with the latest list of execution stats, which proves that, even in a state of homicidal anarchy, paperwork is still very important.

After approving the latest kill stats, Robespierre begins laying into the Doctor regarding the low execution numbers coming out of the province he is pretending to represent.

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Now, nobody likes rudeness less than me, but considering Robespierre is the Casanova of killing, you might want to just shut and take the insult. The Doc, however, opts for a different strategy and immediately begins wising off.

“Oh you’ve reached that conclusion? Well, perhaps we have fewer enemies in our region and it may be that Paris can take an example from us.”

Then, as if that wasn’t enough, he begins questioning Robespierre’s entire methodology.

“What can this reign of terror possibly gain? For every opponent you put to the guillotine, two more will spring up.”

That’s about the time Lemaitre jumps in and points out that maybe now might be a good time for him to keep his mouth shut.

Strangely enough, Robespierre takes the Doctor’s side, insisting, “He is only warning me of the dangers I face.”

It seems that Robespierre, notorious tyrant, was strangely open to personal criticism. You learned it here first kids.

Then, as if to prove that he’s not THAT stable, he launches into a prolonged paranoid rant ending with a strange bout of self-pity.

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Aww. Poor guy just needs a hug.

Lemaitre immediately jumps on the opportunity to leave, but Robespierre insists that Lematire bring the Doctor by the next day.

Meanwhile, back in the rebel’s safe house, Susan has been transformed into a Renaissance painting.

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Whoops, seems to have mixed up my notes. Actually, she’s taken sick after her stint in the local jail.

Their rebel companion Leon suggests the possibility of bringing a doctor in to see her, but he says that it would be very risky.

Barbara insists that it’s a risk they’ll have to take.

Then Leon leaves to check on one of his fellow rebels, who is long overdue to return. As he departs, Susan wakes up long enough to point out that Barbara has the hots for him.

As Barbara takes Susan off to bed, two more of the rebels, Jules and Jean climb in through the window, lugging another man after them with a hood over his face.

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They set their captive in a chair, then yank back the hood to reveal an unconscious Ian.

Back in prison, Lemaitre congratulates the Doctor on the positive impression he somehow managed to make on Robespierre.

Doc thanks him, then immediately tries to duck out of further engagements, insisting that he needs to return home.

Lemaitre won’t hear of it though and demands that the Doc remain onsite for their visit tomorrow.

Lemaitre gets the jailer (who is straight up asleep at his post) to make up a room for the Doctor, but before he leaves, the jailer tells Lemaitre there’s someone waiting to speak with him.

Lemaitre steps into one of the prison’s dark rooms for a meeting with the Shopkeeper who sold the Doc his fancy duds.

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The shopkeeper reveals that the Doctor is a fraud. For some reason, Lemaitre insists on seizing the Doc’s old set of clothes before paying the man off and insisting he keep quiet.

Back at the safehouse, Barbara walks in on Jules and Jean and recognizes Ian seated in the chair

Ian is pretty shocked that she’s alive, given that last time he saw her she was being carted off to the guillotine.

Ian is also introduced to Jules, who questions Ian as to why he was wandering the streets looking for him. Ian tells him about his one-time cellmate Webster’s quest to find a British spy named James Sterling and mentions that the man dropped Jules name.

Unfortunately, Jules has no idea who Sterling is, but says that their friend Leon might know him.

We cut back to prison just long enough for the Doc to wake up and start bitching at the jailer about his room, before returning to the safehouse, where Jules receives a message stating that the physician refuses to visit them.

With Susan seemingly getting worse, the group decides that Barbara will take her to meet the physician at his offices in the city.

After looking her over, the Doctor (not be confused with the REAL Doctor) says Susan is simply suffering from a simple chill, then immediately begins asking questions about how she caught it. He notices the blisters on their hands, but Barbara manages to sidetrack him, asking if there’s anything he can give her.

The physician mutters something about “bloodletting”, then heads out into the city to pick up some leeches.

With him gone, Barb and Susan begin to feel suspicious. Plus, you know there’s that whole leeches thing. Yuck. They try to leave, only to find that the physician has locked the door from the outside, leaving them trapped inside his office.

The physician shows up at the jail where he immediately rats the two women out. The Jailer dispatches a bunch of troops to accompany him to the office, where they take the two of them back into custody.

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At the safehouse Ian is getting worried about how long the two women have been gone. Jules promises to go check in on them, while Ian heads off for a late night meeting with Leon.

Back at the prison, Susan is placed in one of the cells, while Barbara is hauled off for questioning. She’s placed in a room where she finds herself face to face with the Doctor (the real one, not the one that gave her up. God, we really need to give this lead character a first name).

As the two of them begin talking, Lemaitre is shown listening outside the cell door.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, Ian heads to an old church for his rendezvous with Leon.

After briefly introducing himself, Leon pulls a gun and signals for a detachment of soldiers to step out and take Ian back into custody.

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Which means that after all that chasing around we’ve essentially ended up right back where we started. This arc’s on something of an unusual track, but I still kind of like it. This episode’s got a real crazy energy to it, with the cast escaping and reuniting, only to get themselves recaptured again. The script also does a solid job of selling the distrust permeating 18th Century France, where everyone is a potential informer.

As far as the animation goes, it certainly takes some getting used to. It heavily references the actor’s faces, so the likenesses are dead on, but it gets noticeably stiffer any time the characters start moving. Fortunately though, this is a pretty low-energy show, so it’s not terribly noticeable, plus, it does let them throw in some stylistic tricks like the light rays streaming in when Barb and Susan are arrested. Overall, it’s a pretty good workaround and a definite improvement over sitting through a  naked audio recording.

Well, it seems like everyone’s in a pretty bad place right now, so tune in next time when the crew is forced to make “A Bargain of Necessity.”

The Doctor’s New Clothes

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 3: A Change of Identity

Last time, the majority of our cast got themselves shipped off to prison while the Doctor took a scenic walking tour of France. Then, in the episode’s final minutes, Barbara and Susan were led out to the guillotine, while Ian looked on helplessly from his cell.

We open this week on a shot of a city street as the Doctor finally makes his arrival in Paris.

Then it’s off to another part of the city, where a pair of young men hover in the shadows, waiting to ambush the prison caravan on its way to the guillotine.

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Meanwhile, back in the dungeons, everyone’s favorite Jailer shows up for his regular food delivery only to be by summoned by his Uniformed Superior. In his hurry, the jailer somehow manages to leave his entire ring of keys dangling from the keyhole of a nearby cell.

The Uniformed Man, who has been waiting all of twenty-three seconds, immediately snaps at the Jailer for taking so long.

When the Jailer points out that he was delivering food, Capt. Uniform screams and knocks the pair of bowls he’s holding to the floor, shouting, “The prisoner’s food is unimportant!”

So, what is important? Long lists of execution figures, which Uniform informs us will soon be examined by Robespierre himself. He’s also quick to add that if the records aren’t correct, the Jailer himself might find his way onto the list.

Now I’ve been fortunate enough to have never lived through a genocidal purge, so my knowledge in this area is somewhat lacking, but how exactly does one screw up a list of executions? Do you accidentally check the alive box by mistake? It seems pretty cut and dried.

While this is going on, we cut to inside of Ian’s cell, where everyone’s favorite man of action searches his surroundings for a way out. He notices the keys dangling from his cell door, steals the key to his individual cell, then sticks them back exactly as he found them.

Then, with that accomplished, he sits down to reward himself with a nice bowl of Parisian slop.

Back in the main area, Uniform is apparently pleased with the Jailer’s figures and promises to put a good word for him in higher circles.

Jailer’s feeling pretty good about himself. The right word in the right ear might mean bigger prisons and bigger prisons means bigger keychains. Oh, the possibilities.

Unfortunately that’s about the time he notices that his own keys are missing and races back to the cells. He finds them hanging from the door where he left them, never suspecting that they’re a single key short.

Well played Ian, well played.

Down in the streets, Susan and Barbara enjoy what may be the worst carriage ride of all time on their trip to the guillotine.

Fortunately, their journey is interrupted when one of the horses throws a shoe.  Barbara plans to make a break for it but Susan’s not feeling well enough to move, so they just stand there hugging instead.

But then the two rebels from earlier show up, kill all the guards, and whisk the two of them off to safety.

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With that settled, it’s back to the Doctor who continues wandering the streets. He stops in at a clothing shop and inquires where the newly arrested prisoners are taken.

Then, he starts rummaging through racks of clothes, discovering a Regional Officer’s uniform. Despite possessing no money whatsoever, he talks the shopkeep into giving it to him in exchange for the clothes on his back. The Shopkeep agrees on the condition that Doc throw in his ring. Doc agrees on the further condition that he be given parchment and writing materials.

Meanwhile, the rebels have succeeded in bringing Barbara and Susan to their safehouse. The lead rebel introduces himself as Jules and gives his partner’s name as Jean.

Jules says they’ll make arrangements to have the two of them smuggled out of France, but Barbara refuses until they’ve found the missing members of their group.

In the dungeon, Ian calls for the Jailer. When he doesn’t answer, Ian uses the key to unlock his cell and make a break for it.

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On his way out, he stumbles on the Jailer, who is passed out drunk along the floor. Strike two Jailer.

As he escapes, the Uniformed guy secretly watches, in the hope that Ian will lead him to the British spy mentioned last time.

Back at the safehouse, Barbara and Susan use a map to show Jules where they were captured.

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After hearing about the farmhouse, Jules asks them if they encountered two men and Barbara tells them of the two men that were shot during their capture.

Jean is worried about the soldiers discovered their escape route and believes there may be an informer in their group.

Then another rebel named Leon shows up with a message for Jule.

“There is a man. A stranger. He’s been asking for you.”

Which is apparently pretty important because Jules and Jean immediately head off to investigate, leaving Barbara alone with Leon.

Back at the prison, it’s dress-up time as the Doc strides into the dungeons wearing a full French uniform. And yes, it’s as fantastic as it sounds.

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Show of hands who thinks this should become his regular look? Doc storms in and immediately begins dressing down the jailer, berating him for not providing him with an escort through the city.

Then he asks about Ian, Susan and Barb and is told that the two women were rescued and that Ian escaped.

As he stands there conversing with the Jailer, the Uniformed Man shows up and demands to see his papers.

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After looking them over, Uniform says he’s going off to discuss execution figures and since the province Doc claimed to be from is going to be discussed, he should join him.

Then, a short time later, the shopkeeper shows up at the prison and gives the Doctor’s ring to the Jailer in order to rat him out.

Well, quite a contrast from last week’s snoozefest. There’s actually quite a bit going on here and the director does a solid job cutting between the various groups, while keeping the story moving. Plus, Hartnell with a cape! There might be hope for this storyline yet.

Tune in next time for episode 4, The Tyrant of France.

 

Doctor Who: Diggin’ and A-Walkin’

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 2: Guests of Madame Guillotine

So, I’m just going to come right out and say it; this is not the Doc’s finest hour. Despite possessing a title that sounds like an Iron Maiden song, this week’s episode is kind of a snooze. It’s remarkably light on action, but what it does have in spades is walking, oh, and digging. Lots and lots of digging. You’ve been warned.

We begin where we left off, with the spy house engulfed in flames.

From there, we cut to a map of Paris, then a shot of a guillotine slamming down. We get a few paintings from the period with audio of crowds jeering laid over the background.

It’s actually quite effective, using creative, low budget techniques to build atmosphere.

Eventually we end up at Conciergerie Prison where Barbara, Ian, and Susan have been paraded before a magistrate who charges them as traitors and immediately sentences them to death.

From there, they’re led into a dungeon where Ian is locked up. Then, with him out of the picture, the jailer immediately begins hitting on Barbara.

“A lady like you shouldn’t be kept in this pigsty. Or course I have the keys. It wouldn’t be very difficult to keep a few doors open now would it?”

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Then, in case she somehow missed the subtext, he adds, “It gets very lonely in here sometimes. Very lonely indeed.”

Having exhausted his charms he opts for some light groping, which earns him a nice slap across the face.

Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with Mr. Jailer, who immediately locks both Barbara and Susan in a cell he keeps for his “special guests.”

Meanwhile, back at the burning house, we find the Doc laid out along the ground with the boy from last week leaning over him.

As the Doctor wakes up, we get some fantastic method acting from Hartnell who goes into a full-on hacking fit. He really sells it. It sounds so bad, I swear he was actually choking and they just began rolling cameras.

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With his lungs clear of all that pesky smoke, the boy tells the Doctor that his friends have been taken to Paris to await execution and this is where we begin one of the episode’s recurring highlights, shots of cross-country walking accompanied by wildly inappropriate music.

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Not exactly racing against the clock is he?

Back in the dungeon, Barbara finds some crowbars and starts trying to dig her way out, while Susan stands by as lookout.

Meanwhile, in an adjacent cell, Ian shares a conversation with his new roommate, who’s not doing well. It seems the dude went and got himself shot and now he’s slowly bleeding to death. Ugh, aren’t roommates just the worst?

The cellmate, who’s name is Webster, reveals that he is a British agent, dispatched to bring a fellow spy back with him to England and seeing as how he’s gutshot and all would Ian mind terribly taking over him?

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He manages to give Ian the spy’s name, James Sterling, then promptly dies.

But don’t worry, there’s no need to get depressed because it’s time for another nature walk.

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As he slooowly makes his way across a field, the Doctor comes upon a stout, bearded man overseeing a group of men breaking rocks. The overseer reveals that the workers are tax dodgers that have been put to work, then starts bitching about having to finish their digging project by tomorrow.

Despite the fact that he’s racing against time, Doc breaks out his legendary people skills, telling him, “If you were to expend your energy helping with the road instead of bawling and shouting at them every few seconds you might be able to get somewhere. Good day to you sir!”

Then the overseer, who is now thoroughly pissed, turns the situation back on the Doctor, demanding to see his papers. When he can’t produce any identification, the Overseer accuses him of tax dodging and puts him to work digging up rocks.

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And hey, can’t get enough digging? Don’t worry, because as luck would have it, Barbara’s doing the exact same thing, trying to tunnel her way out of her cell, barely escaping notice when the jailer steps in to bring them food.

He notices the blankets she’s draped over the tools and walks over to investigate only to be called off at the last second.

Back in Ian’s cell, a uniformed man walks in, pulls the blanket off of Webster and asks how long he’s been dead.

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When Ian doesn’t answer, Capt. Uniform gets rough, asking him if the man said anything before he died. Ian tells him no, but Uniform is skeptical and heads out to ask the jailer if he overhead them speaking. The Jailer says he heard voices, but couldn’t make out what they said.

Cut to, the Doctor digging through rocks with the other tax dodgers. But have no fear, ‘cause Doc’s got a plan and it goes like this.

Step One: Stare up into the sky and start freaking out over “an eclipse”.

Step Two: Steal a handful of coin’s from the overseer’s pockets when he comes over to investigate.

Step Three: Scatter coins in the area where you’re digging.

Step Four: Make an unconvincing claim that you’ve found treasure.

“I just found this coin down there. It must come from some hidden treasure.”

“More likely dropped by a passing traveler.”

“No, no definitely a hidden treasure.”

Step Five: “Discover” a second coin, causing the Overseer to start digging himself.

Step Five: And this is the important one. Grab a pick while the man’s back is turned, then use it to hit him over the head.

Standing over the now unconscious overseer, Doc retrieves his coat like a boss then engages in still more walking.

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Back in the dungeon, Barbara and Susan are led out of their cell with the other prisoners. Ian is strangely absent from the group and when they ask about him, the jailer tells them that he has been crossed off the executioner’s list.

Then, as they’re all led out to the guillotine, we cut to Ian in his cell peering through the bars as his friends are paraded by.

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BBC

I didn’t lie, did I? Lots of walking, digging, and very little else. I know you’re all as hooked as I am, so join me back here next time for episode 3, A Change of Identity.

Doctor Who: A Master of His Craft

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 Reign of Terror, Episode 1: A Land of Fear

So, you remember how at the end of last episode, Ian made an offhand remark about going home and the Doctor lost his mind? Well, it turns out that gonzo moment is the motivation behind this week’s story.

As we open, The Doctor’s still fuming from that perceived slight and has brought the TARDIS back to earth with the intention of kicking Ian and Barbara off his ship for good.

Ian is skeptical that they’re actually back home, having witnessed the Doctor’s none too impressive navigational skills in the past.

Doc is adamant, however, and fires up the ship’s external camera as proof.

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BBC

Yup, that’s definitely twentieth century London, all right. No way that could be happening anyplace else.

Unconvinced a few shots of trees, Ian insists on some actual hard proof before departing the ship. This succeeds in making The Doctor even angrier, shouting, “I’m rather tired of your insinuations that I’m not master of this craft.”

This pretty much sets the tone for the entire episode, with Ian and the Doctor sniping at one another like an old married couple.

Finally at around the five minute mark, Ian succeeds in convincing the Doctor to join them, meaning we’ve dedicated a full fifth of this thing’s run time to just getting them all off the ship.

With Susan in tow the group heads out into the forest, where Susan notices a distinct lack of external lighting for what is supposed to be 20th century London.

Then, after hearing what is obviously gunfire, the Doctor suggests, “Perhaps it was a rabbit. You know Chesterton’s getting quite jumpy these days.”

Ian heads into the bushes to investigate and comes out with…a filthy child.

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The kid is completely freaked out, which is pretty understandable reaction to being questioned by an angry William Hartnell. 

Ian tries pumping him for information. He asks if they’re in England and the kid tells them they’re in France.

Doc is quick to defend his calculations, saying, “A few hundred miles or so either way is to be expected, after all it’s only a fraction of the distance we’ve covered. It’s quite accurate in fact.” 

Ian takes another jab at the Doctor’s time travel skills, while the kid manages to run away. 

He makes it to a decrepit farmhouse, where he knocks on a thick door before disappearing inside.

After some wandering, the Doctor and crew arrive at the same battered home and engage in some light snooping.

After lighting a few candles, the Doctor decides to head upstairs.

Then Susan stumbles onto a chest containing 18th Century period clothing. There’s also a bunch of weird documents inside, including one with Robespierre’s signature. Which definitely cracks the list of worst things to discover while lost in the woods.

As Ian and friends grapple with that, we cut away to the Doctor just long enough to watch him get hit upside the head.

Then it’s back to Ian and friends, who are now squeezing into old-time clothing.

As they stand there changing, Susan says the Doctor might not want to return to the ship once he finds out where they are because the reign of terror is, “his favorite period in the history of earth.”

So, to review, given the opportunity to go anywhere in history, the Doctor’s favorite period is the Reign of Terror. Not the Renaissance, not ancient Greece, no sir, Doc’s excited by a place renowned for its frequent beheadings. Maybe not the guy you want blasting you around through time and space.

While the group lets that sink in, they’re interrupted suddenly by a pair of men with old school pistols.

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The men, named D’Argenson and Rouvray, begin questioning them about their loyalties, which quickly becomes moot when a group of soldiers show up and surround the place. This immediately sends D’Argenson into a full-scale breakdown in which he recounts the details of his family’s murder.

The TARDIS crew decides that you know what, maybe now might be a good time to head upstairs and check on our friend, which is a pretty smart move since seconds later D’Argenson throws open the door, revealing their position.

The leader of the soldiers orders them to open fire, but Rouvray steps up and orders them all to stop, which they surprisingly do. 

As they stand there embroiled in a standoff, Rouvray engages in a bit of 18th Century trash talk.  

“You can give them uniforms lieutenant, but they remain peasants underneath.”

It’s pretty great moment, with the rebel using his charisma to hold the soldiers at bay.

Sadly, it’s not long before one of those same “peasants” shoots him down.

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Then, having wetted their taste for murder, the entire detachment bulrushes D’Argenson, killing him too.

And what has become of Ian and company?

Well, having successfully made it to the second floor, they are immediately discovered by the Lieutenant and his eyepatch-wearing sidekick.

As they’re paraded outside, a fierce debate breaks out between those in favor of killing them now and those that want to kill them later. The laters win, when the lieutenant finally insists on bringing them to Paris, so they’ll receive credit for their prisoners.

So, with murder momentarily off the menu, old one-eye decides to burn down the house as an alternative.

Inside, the Doctor struggles valiantly to his feet, only to pass out again from smoke inhalation.

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Some days it really doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

As Ian and the others are led away, they notice the house engulfed in flame and come to the rather troubling realization that the Doctor is still inside.

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As the crew is led away, we pan over to find the frightened boy from earlier hiding behind a bush.

Well, after a brief adventure with the Sensorites, we’re back with another history episode. It’s a strange one to be sure, with the Doctor inexplicably reverting to his earlier, angrier persona while trying to rid of himself of his companions.

There’s also the unfortunate matter of that drawn out beginning. Once the writer’s finally get everyone off the ship though, it actually turns into a pretty decent first episode. There’s something genuinely disturbing about the threat this time around. I guess it’s a lot easier to take a battalion of soldiers seriously than an alien wearing a bodysock and the director manages to tap into the frightening qualities of mob mentality.

The ending with Hartnell trapped in the house is pretty effective too, with the building becoming completely engulfed in flames. Definitely one of the stronger cliffhangers the show has managed thus far.

 Well, that’s it for this week. Tune in again next time for the fantastically titled: Guests of Madame Guillotine.

Doctor Who: A Desperately Confusing Venture

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 6: A Desperate Venture

So, quick recap on where we are at this point. After uncovering the former City Administrator and current Second Elder as their mystery foe, the Doctor and Ian headed off into the aqueducts to search for proof of his guilt. Before departing though, the Administrator (let’s just agree to call him that) managed to hatch one final scheme, having their weapons and map sabotaged before sending them off into the aqueduct’s labyrinthine depths.

Then Carol the astronaut went and got herself kidnapped, which is precisely where we pick up this week, with Carol hauled into the Administrator’s lair so he continue wreaking havoc on the humans.

Now, far be it from me to criticize the Administrator’s villain skills, so far he’s concocted some pretty wicked schemes, but I’m at a real loss to understand his latest brainstorm, in which he forces Carol to write a handwritten letter explaining her disappearance.

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BBC

Show of hands who thinks that’s going to work?

Needless to say, his plan goes immediately off the rails with Carol’s friends not only seeing through her silly note, but immediately copping to the fact that she’s been kidnapped.

As they attempt to work out where she is being held, The Chief Elder tells them about the disintegrator room, a rarely used building in another part of the city.

As they head off to rescue Carol, we cut to the Administrator’s lair, where the kidnapper has taken up his boss’ tradition of weirdly poetic monologues.

“All human creatures are naive, they live while they have a purpose, as soon as that purpose is achieved their life has no value left.”

As he stands there engrossed in poetry, John manages to slip into the room and sneak up behind him, only to be discovered at the last second.

The alien grabs some weird sci-fi gadget off the wall, then threatens to fry Carol with it.

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Carol, however, quickly disarms the situation by simply reaching over and unplugging his weapon.

With nowhere left to go, the thug is taken back into custody.

Back at the palace, Susan and Barbara interrogate the alien, which seems like a job that should probably be handled by law enforcement officials, but I suppose a London school teacher and her teenage student is close enough. The thug refuses to reveal his accomplice, but does admit to sabotaging the supplies he gave to Doc and Ian.

As Barbara and Susan cook up a plan to save their friends, the Chief Elder pledges to help them in whatever way he can.

Meanwhile, down in the aqueducts, the Doc and Ian are wandering around lost. They hear some kind of monstrous growling, then notice something moving in the shadows.

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Ian quickly arms himself with their most powerful weapon, a rolled up piece of paper, then movies in to investigate. As he gets closer, he sees what appears to be a human man.

The two tussle briefly before the the man runs off, leaving Ian clutching a patch from the figure’s clothing. After examining it closely, the Doctor reasons that it must be a survivor from the spaceship that exploded years ago.

You’re probably scratching your head over that last sentence, so let me take you waaay back to the third episode of this arc, where one of the Sensorites tossed out a throwaway line about how a group of humans had previously visited their planet, then turned on one another before blowing up their ship.

That’s right, that obscure, half-forgotten detail is now the payoff of our seven part story.

While you wrap your head around that, we’ll head back to the Sensorite palace where Barbara and Susan have cooked up what is actually a pretty good rescue plan. Susan will remain in the palace near a map, while John and Barbara head down into the aqueducts with one of the Sensorite mind transmitters. That way, they can check in with Susan periodically for directions.

As Barbara and John leave, we get an interesting scene between Susan and the Chief Elder, during which she talks briefly about her home planet, “It’s quite like earth, but at night the sky is a burt orange and the leaves on the trees are bright silver.”

It’s kind of a throwaway moment, but significant, given that the show really hasn’t done much with the Doctor’s background.

From there we cut back to the aqueducts where the Doctor has taken to marking the walls with chalk as a means of charting their direction.

After making his latest mark, he and Ian head down a dark corridor only to find themselves surrounded by what appears to be two homeless men wielding giant number 2 pencils.

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The shabby men tell Doc that they’ve been expecting him and ask if the Sensorites are all dead.

Doc decides to play along and they lead him away to meet their Commander.

Meanwhile, John and Barbara come upon their friends’ abandoned map, then notice the Doctor’s markings on the wall. Barbara checks in telepathically with Susan, who is able to chart their location using her offical Doctor Who: Sensorites playset.

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As John and Barbara head off in pursuit, the Doctor and Ian are brought in to meet this guy.

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And yep, he’s as crazy as he looks. Turns out he’s the one whose been poisoning the water as part of a guerrilla war against the Sensorites.

The Doctor tells him exactly what he wants to hear; the aliens have been wiped out and that the planet is now his.

That’s about the time John and Susan show up and nearly blow everything. The Commander accuses them all of being Sensorite spies, but the Doc manages to B.S. him into believing Susan and John are members of a special committee there to welcome him back to the surface. Yeah, that should work.

As the Doctor leads the Commander and his men back to the surface, Barbara’s Sensorite companions are busy setting up an ambush.

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His men go peacefully enough, but the Commander bullrushes the alien, getting a nice shot of the stun ray for his troubles.

Back at the palace, Carol and John agree to take the Commander and his fellow poisoners back with them to earth and the Chief Elder explains that the human’s homicidal urges were probably brought on by mental illness stemming from experimenting with the alien’s mind transmitters.

Not only does this not make much sense, it completely undercuts the thematic underpinnings of the story. The Commander’s appearance makes for a pretty bad payoff storywise, but they could have really done something with it, playing the xenophobic Administrator off against the equally intolerant Commander.

Stranger still, is the lack of resolution regarding the Administrator, who we never see again. That’s right, despite serving as the central villain for a full seven episodes, we never actually get to see his comeuppance. Instead, he is arrested at some point off-camera, with the Chief Elder revealing he will be “banished to the outer wastes.”

Then, because this episode hasn’t been nearly crazy enough, everyone climbs aboard the TARDIS and as they watch John and Carol’s ship depart on their viewscreen, Ian casually says, “At least they know where they’re going.”

This somehow causes the Doctor to go into one of the ugliest meltdowns he’s ever had, yelling, “Implying I don’t? So you think I’m an incompetent old fool, do you? Since you are so dissatisfied my boy, you can get off my ship and the very next place we stop I shall take you off myself and that’s final.”

Fade to black.

Wow. Not even really sure where to begin. I mean seriously, what the hell was going on behind the scenes on this one?

“Okay, this Administrator guy, he’s got to go.”

“But he’s the villain. The whole story’s written around him. We can’t just get rid of him.”

“Don’t worry about it, no one will notice. No, what we need is something outside the box, I’m thinking….cave people. You know how popular they are. Crazy army cave people. With sticks!

“I’m not really sure that’s–“

“Oh, oh and what if at the very end of the episode we have Hartnell completely freak out, just lose it, you know, make the audience feel really uncomfortable right before the credits.”

“I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.”

“Are you kidding me? It’ll be brilliant.”

Well that’s it for The Sensorites I guess. Join us next time for Season One’s final story arc, The Reign of Terror.

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.

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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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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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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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 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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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BBC

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

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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.