The Edge of DestructionBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 September 2004 - Reviewed by Lance Hall

"As we learn about each other, we learn about ourselves." The Doctor sums up this story pretty well with that bit of double-speak from the second episode. Is it sagacious, or is it moronic? The key to enjoying "The Edge of Destruction", as all intelligent fan-boys call it, is to give yourself over to the enigmatic storyline. This is Doctor Who pretending it's The Twilight Zone. I think that's the reason the whole thing feels a bit "off" at times. At any second we expect to hear Rod Serling pipe up with, "Submitted for your approval, an old man and his granddaughter, stuck in a box and stuck in time…" Rod doesn't interrupt, though, and we're left to navigate somewhere beyond the sun without any signposts whatsoever. The moodiness alone holds the attention for the relatively speedy 50 minutes it takes to screen this gem. There's undoubtedly a claustrophobic tone, whether intentional or not, that adds to the key scenes, particularly the ones involving Susan. Then there's the experimental feel permeating the script, direction, and acting. Was this a study in character development within the confines of a one-act play and the literal confines of the TARDIS itself? Or was it some quick filler they pounded out over a long weekend? It's hard to say. At least the cast gets to show some acting chops, specifically Jacqueline Hill. Without Daleks and cavemen upstaging them, the central cast shows us why they got the gig. Even Hartnell takes a crack at developing the Doctor, exploring the "becoming" human angle of the Time Lord's emotional journey. Or maybe he just forgot his lines... One theory is that the cast didn't know the cameras were on, and this was simply how they killed time on the set waiting for the script for Marco Polo to come through.

One detail I enjoyed was the Doctor's stripey head bandage that loses stripes as he heals. For years I assumed that the stripes were meant to be bloodstains and that his wound kept moving around, but watching closely I realize that there was actually quite a neat concept at work there. A mood bandage so you don't have to constantly check under the band-aid. Brilliant!

Of all the mysteries this episode raises, the most boggling is why "water" is the sole choice on the food replicator? I hope no one wants protein, fiber, or for that matter taste. Or maybe the "Food Replicator" is just a fancy term for "Faucet". Of course, we tend to let things like this slide when truly engaging villains are introduced to the series. The Daleks were frightening, but nothing compared to this bad guy... THE SPRING! Not since Homer Simpson and the inanimate carbon rod has a mundane object had such an affect on a space vehicle.

In the end it was a nice novelty story with a reminder that the TARDIS obeys the laws of physics too… at least sometimes. Newton (Isaac not Sydney) would've been proud of the moral learned from this story: Without action, there is no reaction. Am I talking about the plot or the spring? DooDoododoo DooDoododoo DooDoododoo…

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television

The AztecsBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 September 2004 - Reviewed by Shawn Fuller

�As one of the few surviving intact examples,� Paul Clarke says, above, ��The Aztecs� is a fine instance of the DOCTOR WHO historical stories.� In other words, like it merely because it didn�t get wiped. Now, clearly, that�s not what Mr. Clarke (and seemingly everyone who writes about this serial) actually intends to say, but �The Aztecs� largely escapes serious examination simply because it survives, not because it�s actually all that good.

Unlike most other DOCTOR WHO stories, �Aztecs� makes the changing of Earth�s known history its primary thematic and plot device. With a few notable exceptions, DOCTOR WHO avoids discussion of the issue altogether. �The Aztecs� gives us hints as to why that is. Few stories, and certainly fewer still that actually survive, deal so simply and directly with the issue of the TARDIS crew changing a part of Earth�s known past. Here it is plot, theme, character motivation, denouement, and even back-jacket tagline: �You can�t change history, Barbara. Not one line!� The story, at its most basic level, is about Barbara�s defiance of this stern edict.

And it�s hard to imagine a worse mistake that a writer could make with DOCTOR WHO. Except of course that writer John Lucarotti DOES make it worse. He puts the wrong characters on the wrong sides of the argument�and then promptly has them �forget� their own arguments. In short, �The Aztecs� is an incoherent swampland of mischaracterization, hoping that the audience won�t notice the flaws with the script amidst the generally strong acting and production design. 

Once a writer makes the implications of time travel the central theme of a DOCTOR WHO story, he�s on very shaky ground�especially if he chooses to make the Doctor the advocate for non-intervention. Lucarotti makes his job even harder by choosing to set this argument against the backdrop of known Earth history. Do what you want to the history of Skaro, or even the events of the present day upon the future of the Earth, but stories about Earth�s actual history require much greater care than Lucarotti was apparently able to give. 

There is, after all, very little established at the beginning of episode one that isn�t contradicted by the end of it. The other three episodes are just there to let Lucarotti get himself into deeper trouble. When the TARDIS crew first arrives, the Doctor doesn�t care at all about tampering with the timeline. Instead, he gleefully helps set up Barbara as a god and all but encourages Ian to contest for the leadership of the military. While Barbara is screwing with the timeline to the benefit of the TARDIS crew, the Doctor chuckles a lot and finds it all, to use his word, �charming�. Within a few short minutes, though, this Doctor regenerates into a Time Lord more akin to Borusa than himself. When Barbara tries to intervene with the local customs and stop a ritual killing, the Doctor goes Gallifreyan on her, giving her a standard �non-interventionist� line. Then, he ignores what he�s just said, nipping off to the Garden of Peace for a little bit of local strumpet. Meanwhile, Susan and Ian both make similar incursions into local customs and the Doctor, apparently spent from his argument with Barbara, shows no concern over their polluting the time stream. Problematically, the only member of the TARDIS crew to whom the non-interventionist theme of the story applies to is Barbara--and, of course, only after she�s set up as a god. 

And there�s really no damn good reason for the inconsistencies. What did the Doctor expect was going to happen when he encouraged his crew assumed positions of high power in fifteenth-century Mexico? Surely he had to anticipate that his crew might use their newfound positions of power to affect change. If he did, then the Doctor�s just a selfish bastard, more concerned with getting back to the TARDIS than the potential damage to the time stream. If he didn�t, he�s just a damned fool. For the love of God, Lucarotti: Ian and Barbara are high school teachers from the 60s. Idealists like this are exactly the wrong humans to install as leaders of Aztec Mexico if you�re trying to avoid intervention. Regardless of his companions� �fitness to command�, the Doctor got Barbara into this mess. He�s got no business yelling at her for, well, being herself.

Worse, Lucarotti takes the Doctor�s hypocrisy inexplicably further. What, after all, does the Doctor do almost immediately after his blow-out with Barbara? He goes to sample the local cuisine, falling in love with Cameca. Now, had this been used as part of the motivation behind the Doctor�s generally romance-less TARDIS, it would�ve been cool. Very cool. The Doctor falls in love with a human from the fifteenth century, realizes the error of his ways, then takes a memento of her with him, foreswearing love with humans forever more. Instead, it�s just a rather stock �ships that pass in the night� kinda thing that exposes the Doctor�s anger in episode one as a lie. Taken with the other logical inconsistencies, the story�s theme is reduced to a legalistic punch line: �You can�t change history, Barbara. Not one line. Unless helping set you up as a God will get us back to the TARDIS. Or if I get a little action in the Garden of Peace. Or if my granddaughter is forced to marry someone she doesn�t want to. Or if Ian�s sense of macho isn�t offended. Or if you only affect the destiny of one or two locals (and you can assure me that those one or two locals don�t go on to lead a revolutionary movement). Oh, the hell with it, woman. You fly in my TARDIS. Just obey me and bring me tea when I ask for it.�

Still, having said all this, Lucarotti could�ve gotten away with it all. He could have, indeed, written one of the very best stories DOCTOR WHO had ever televised. If he had merely taken his situation, and his thesis, and written the parts appropriate to character. The thought that struck me on my very first viewing of this story was that Barbara and the Doctor were playing the wrong parts. Strictly from a character standpoint, the Doctor should have been Yetaxa. Then he would have been the one to make the timestream-altering decisions�a far more palatable position for the Doctor to be in. Imagine �The Aztecs� if the Doctor were himself, crusading against injustice, while Barbara, the history teacher, works out the implications to her time line if the Doctor carries on. The tension in the story thus becomes the alien of �Unearthly Child� doing what he thinks is best versus the human who cares about saving her own timeline. The tension would have been infinitely more effective if the history teacher had been using one of her character traits to fight for something that directly affected her, rather than the more esoteric position she finds herself defending. And imagine the fun of her upbraiding the Doctor for falling in love with the local! Instead of a quickly-mumbled line giving playful assent to the Doctor�s romance with Cameca (one that, incidentally, never has Barbara even vaguely taking the Doctor to task for being such an obvious hypocrite) we could have had a wonderful subplot with Barbara upbraiding the Doctor for messing not only with Earth�s timestream but the affections of a woman he knew full well there could be no future with. Were Barbara herself and the Doctor actually a renegade Time Lord, the line that might have been extracted for the back cover wouldn�t have been the mundane, �You can�t change history,� but the infinitely more intriguing, �You can�t fall in love, Doctor. Ian and I might never be born!� 

As televised, though, its many scripted flaws make �The Aztecs� more an �important� work than a good one. Should you watch it? Of course. But then, you�re a DOCTOR WHO fan trying to understand the history of the series. Most casual viewers today, to the extent that they would watch a black-and-white program at all, would probably switch it off after episode one. And that�s really the source of most of the enjoyment this serial offers. �The Aztecs� is important for the DOCTOR WHO fan to watch because it shows perfectly why this type of DOCTOR WHO faded. Careful observers might even see, by virtue of the story�s negative example, how the form might be revived to better effect in future. I suppose, too, �The Aztecs� provides a useful jumping-off point for broader discussions about the Doctor�s use of time travel throughout his several regenerations and format changes. It�s just a shame that the one thing �The Aztecs� fails to do is provide a consistent approach to the subject within its own four episodes. Had it at least done this�regardless of what other producers did with the subject later on�it might be entirely a classic today.

FILTER: - Television - First Doctor - Series 1

The Mind RobberBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 September 2004 - Reviewed by Joe Ford

Every season of Doctor Who has a class act in it, one that shines above the rest despite how good the rest are. Troughton Who is a little more fortunate than the rest, in his last season he was graced with three absolute belters, The Invasion, The War Games and this (and people say it was his weakest year! Hah!) and it pains me to tell you that The Mind Robber just edges those two out for the top spot (by the merest smidgeon). 

It is an acknowledged classic, you see it turning up in top ten polls all the time and I have yet to see anybody have the audacity to pan it (now there’s an invitation if I ever I heard one…). Following on from the awkward and dreadfully slow The Dominators just what is it about this story that tickles everybody’s toes…

Personally I blame the sound FX. Huh? The sound FX! Aren’t they fab in this story? Just listen to the creaky, electronic hum the White Robots make…they might already by fairly menacing in appearance but with this nerve tickling noise tacked on they make an instant impression. And how about those Toy Soldiers? Brr…that harsh, gear grinding noise every time they get close…I watched it this morning with all the lights off and was scared witless. Even more subtle sound FX, the alien hum that penetrates the TARDIS, the creaking door as Zoe peers inside, the Master Brain as it grips the Masters mind and gives him instructions…some times a Doctor Who budget cannot convincingly wring all of the atmosphere out of the script and the sound FX and music have to give it a push, the sound design for this story is nothing short of amazing and injects a lot of tension and fantasy into the finished production. 

Even better the story seems to have been supplied with a limitless budget because although the story demands a lot from the production team they manage to magic up a startling number of convincing sets, costumes and genuinely impressive FX. How can anybody forget the TARDIS snapping open in space? Or the console flying through the vortex with Jaime and Zoe clinging to edge? The sets too are extraordinarily detailed; I adore the maze set with all the flickering candles and cobwebs but they also manage to pull off an exterior fairytale castle with terrific scope. And all the fairytale characters look authentic, the BBC always excel at costume drama and creating the likes of Gulliver, Sir Lancelot, Blackbeard is a piece of cake. 

Or maybe is just the way director David Maloney puts it all together, his polished direction is the icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned. An A-list director with the likes of Camfield, Harper and Maritinus, he refuses to let the story sink into whimsy and continually gives it a delicious edge, despite the absurdities the story throws at us we are convinced there is real danger. There are too many scenes to list that make me glow with affection, the aforementioned TARDIS explosion, the shot of Medusa in the mirror, Jaime scaling the walls of the castle, the close up on the White Robots eyes as they destroy everything in the final episode…it is a visual treat, never failing to satisfy. And may I just mention that regularly mocked Mintoaur scene is outstandingly directed, in the hands of a less talented man this could have been farcical but with only the briefest of glimpse at the costume (because it’s the ONE costume that is rubbish), scary growls and close ups of the Doctor and Zoe backed into a corner filled with skulls as a shadow grows over them…it is supremely dramatic in the strangest of ways. 

It would be a little unfair to Peter Ling to suggest that the hastily written first episode is the best of the bunch because his four episodes in the world of fiction are full of magic and spellbinding action. But that initial episode is a joy to be sure, one of the most atmospheric openers ever (and given episode one of any story is pretty wonderful) and a tense exercise in working with very little. It’s the old Who adage, the imagination soars because the budget lacks, the imagery conjured up is some of the scariest in the shows history (Jaime and Zoe zombified and treated with positive/negative effects, the TARDIS swamped by molten lava, the ship exploding…) and easily the most surreal. 

But all the clever starts in episode two and the writing is clearly the work of an extremely imaginative mind. Tricks such as the face changing game to escape the horror of Frazer Hines going ill. The forest they are hiding in constructed off words which form sayings. Zoe trapped in jam jar! The picture writing. The unicorn…and that’s just in one episode! Things get more and more insane as we meet all number of characters from fiction (Medusa coming alive is a supremely scary moment), lots of lovely tricks crop up (“It doesn’t exist!”) and the story refuses to compromise its fantasy nature, climaxing in a classic era moment when the Doctor and the Master conjour up all manner of fiction characters to fight each other and rescue/kill Jaime and Zoe. It is one of the least predictable stories I have watched, once you accept that ANYTHING can happen you just sit back and let it wash over you. 

Of course this review has been stalling this moment, the secret weapon behind The Mind Robber and why it is so damn watchable (and why it could never be repeated again despite many ‘oddball’ attempts)….the Doctor, Jaime and Zoe. What a trio, so relentlessly entertaining the five episodes are like a breath of fresh air. They are like three hyperactive children, wrapped up in each other’s company and living the thrill of their adventures together to the full. I can’t think of any other regulars I would love travel with more. 

Whereas The Enemy of the World contained Troughton’s best and most versatile performance, The Mind Robber is his best ‘Doctor’ performance by a million miles. Maybe it is just because we can watch this story in full but you get a real chance to see how much he gave to the show. He is breathlessly active throughout, every line a comedic gem, every movement impossible to drag your eyes away from to see just what he will do next. Troughton never stops entertaining, you can see why he was so tired after each story what with his puffing and shouting and laughing and pouting. 

“That noise…that vibration…it’s alien…”

“No no no no no no! Not both together one at a time!” 

“Would you mind taking that pop gun away it does unsettle me so!?” 

“If we step outside the TARDIS we will enter a dimension of which we know nothing. We shall be at the mercy of the forces…”

“I have yet to see a robot that can climb!” 

(and most brilliant of all…)

“But all the power had been used on the Soldiers and it was useless! Ooh you’ll have to do better than that!”

Jaime and Zoe are such fun and work just as well apart as they do together. This the first real classic Zoe gets and it exploits all of her strengths and failings. She was daft to leave the TARDIS in the void and to leap to her death in the darkened house (and even worse is her monumentally stupid moment where she walks through the castle detector beams) but who could imagine the story without her and the Doctor being all brainy in the tunnels and leaving Jaime out or her hysterical tussle with the Karkus…Wendy Padbury is divine in this, her scream as shrill as they come and she is clearly full of enthusiasm for the story. What a cutie. 

Talking of cuties…Jaime! Now I promised myself I would never, ever use this word but somehow it seems embarrassingly apt…phwoar! How gorgeous does he look in that black top? Plus Frazer Hines is playing the role to excellent comedic effect; his face every time the Doctor tells him to shut up so he can discuss something brainy with Zoe is priceless. Despite Hamish Wilson’s fabulous attempts to fill his shoes for an episode I was beaming when Frazer returned in part three. His delivery of some of the lines is priceless (“Whose the yahoos!”). 

Their chemistry is delightful; the fun they are sharing beams from the screen and envelopes the audience. Simon is not very fond of black and white Who but was captured halfway through episode one and watched the whole thing with me declaring his love for Jaime, his affection for the Doctor and clasping his ears every time Zoe let out another ear piercer. 

Maybe the story is bit anti-climatic (pressing a few buttons is hardly a spectacular dénouement) but it is the journey that matters and the truth of the matter is that The Mind Robber entertains for five dazzling episodes, it makes you laugh (“For heavens sake don’t do anything rash!”), it clutches your imagination (“You did this before! That’s how Jaime’s face got changed you got it all wrong!”) and frightens you too (the book closing on Jaime and Zoe is the most terrifying things I have ever seen, it still chills me to this day!). 

And as an example of what Troughton is capable of, the story is worthy of an Oscar.

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 6

The Edge of DestructionBookmark and Share

Monday, 6 September 2004 - Reviewed by Robert L. Torres
Can it be possible then... that this is the end?

This is another one of my favorite adventures and the placement of this particular two-part episode, being in-between the first Dalek adventure and the first proper historical adventure, couldn't be more appropriate.

In various sci-fi programs that involve travelling to different planets there are usually instances when the action is confined to a starship or the base from which they venture out to different worlds. In the case of this particular program, it is the TARDIS. These are usually referred to as 'bottle' episodes. Making these types of episodes serves a number of unique purposes; it helps cut down on expenses used on developing extravagant set pieces or of going on location for filming and production, it also makes the sense of mystery, dread and impending doom much more focused, thus making the atmosphere quite claustrophobic, and it also provides great opportunities for character development. All of this is achieved to exceptional effect in 'Edge of Destruction'. 

In the opening scene we see the crew of the TARDIS knocked out by a mysterious force. Upon regaining consciousness, each of them become dazed and slightly disoriented but they each instinctively know that something isn't right. The fact that so many strange occurrences take place that don't make any logical sense enhances the viewer's lack of knowledge regarding space travel as well as time travel and about the unknown forces that may exist. It also showcases that there is still a great deal we don't know about the TARDIS itself. When you consider how early this is in the show's history as well as in the travels of the main characters, this adventure allows us to share in their confusion and lack of understanding, as they don't know what's going on within the ship any more than we do.

This two-part adventure also showcases the exceptional talents of all four cast members. This is especially true as during the course of the two episodes a line is drawn in the sand between the two alien time travellers and the regular humans. 

Carol Ann Ford showcases a great range as she tries to come to grips with what is happening, and in her disorientation becomes highly suspicious of the two people she had held in the same admiration and respect as her own grandfather. The way Susan goes from calm and serene to murderously psychotic and paranoid to utter despair is utterly brilliant. 

But the true standouts are definitely William Hartnell and Jacqueline King. The hard felt animosity the Doctor has held for Ian and Barbara reaches its boiling point. During the last two adventures he has had to put up with two irritating strangers that had forced their way onto his ship and had time and again had the utter audacity to try and tell him what to do with his own life. Not to mention having to deal with their constant pestering over things they could never hope to understand, especially considering that he really doesn't feel at all obligated to explain things to people who are far from being his equals on any sort of level. It is this very thought that drives his utter refusal to believe or even consider any of Barbara's theories (at least at first), especially the most important one: that the TARDIS herself was trying to give them vital clue to help them figure a way out of their predicament. This is especially true considering that the Doctor (at this point in time) doesn't want to think that someone of such limited intelligence and comprehension could understand his ship better than he can. This in itself also drives home something that the Doctor doesn't even want to admit; that he doesn't fully understand how his ship works either. Of course, the Doctor being a scientist makes his conclusions and accusations based on hard facts. He accused Ian and Barbara of foul play because to him, it seemed the only logical explanation despite the inherent illogical nature behind the basis of the accusation. 

Barbara shows strength of character and obvious venom as she stands up to the indignant and cantankerous old man for daring to accuse her and Ian of trying to cause the Doctor and Susan harm, and of trying to sabotage the ship. She basically showcases that she was not about to be bullied by the likes of him, even going so far as to remind him that it was she and Ian that saved his and Susan's lives (not once, but twice), in addition that it was the Doctor's fault that they were captured by the Daleks in the first place. 

The resulting revelation of where the TARDIS had been trying to materialize in (the Big Bang) is very much well written, and the further revelation of the reason why the ship was stuck in the one particular loop of time is both humorous and a bit ironic. Because despite how technologically sophisticated the TARDIS is, the irony comes from the simple fact that something as trivial and seemingly insignificant as a stuck spring could throw all of the systems into disarray. 

'Edge of Destruction' also work well as the first of many turning points within the entirety of the series itself. This marks the turning point in which the foursome within the ship go from unwilling travellers and unwanted annoyances to a group of very good friends, almost like a family, with more respect and admiration for one another than ever before. This also marks a turning point in the characterization of the Doctor, especially in the final scene where he goes to make amends with Barbara. It is here that marks the beginning of his change from a grumpy old man to a charming and loveable elderly gentleman that he would be throughout William Hartnell's tenure on the show. 

In addition, the line he speaks to her: 'As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves' speaks volumes in that the Doctor now has nothing but the highest regard and respect for both her and Ian. It is a bloody shame that their wouldn't be another adventure in this same vein again for this series.

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television

The DaleksBookmark and Share

Saturday, 4 September 2004 - Reviewed by Lance Hall

The only way to have a really good hero, is to have an even better villain. George Lucas knew it, and Verity Lambert knew it. When Terry Nation gave birth to his maniacal little salt and pepper shakers he literally, and figuratively, created a monster. Dalek-mania swept Britain, children ran through the street screaming "Exterminate", and even the most muggle among Britons knew what a Dalek was. But was it really any good? 

Frankly… kind of. The seamless mixture of live action and model shots alone should get this one special honors in the Doctor Who hall of fame. The story itself wasn't original by any means. Wells' "The Time Machine" had mined this material the previous century. Even so, it was fresh for a TV audience. "The Daleks" was Sci-Fi with an edge. With one cliffhanger, Doctor Who would forever be known as a "scary" show kids had to watch from behind the sofa. Whereas most subsequent Dalek episodes were "War of the Worlds" re-imagined, this one was like that Aliens movie we never got to see. You know the one where Ripley gets stuck on the Alien Homeworld and has to go into the heart of their hive to retrieve Jonesy whose inadvertently eaten the one thing she needs in order to get home. Throw in a pinch of indigenous freedom fighters trying to survive in a petrified forest, and you've got the scope of this yarn. 

Unfortunately, this was also the birth of two not-so-cool Doctor Who traditions. Caves and corridors. For the bulk of the "The Survivors" and "The Escape", the time travelers are in and out of more corridors than even the Nimon could stand. Then there are the impossibly arduous cave sequences that span the most appropriately named episode of the series: "The Ordeal". What we end up with is a few snoozer episodes right in the middle of a would-be classic. And what's up with Barbara and Antodus? I mean we're barely off Totter's Lane and she's chattin' up the first blond specimen that grunts her way. This story isn't as good as people think, but it isn't as bad as it feels. "Groundbreaking" and "painfully padded" can both be used accurately, which is perfect for a story about the diametrically opposed forces on post-war Skaro.

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television

Warriors of the DeepBookmark and Share

Saturday, 4 September 2004 - Reviewed by Joe Ford

I have now decided, after a particularly fine weekend with my best friend and fellow Who-nut Matthew, that I have been far, far too kind to this story in the past. We sat through four episodes of excruciating agony, Matt finding much more positive things to say than I, and I have rarely been as bored watching television as I was during this sleep-fest. 

People blame the production for the generally poor reputation but the script doesn’t do the story many favours either. Taking the show as a whole it takes simply ages for anything to happen, the Sea Devils aren’t woken up until the end of episode one, the invasion of the Sea Base doesn’t start until the end of episode two and it takes a full one hundred minutes before the reunited reptilian forces enter the action and serve a decent plot purpose. Some might say that this is deliberate plot pacing, spacing out the juicy stuff so the third (often the most criticized instalment) and fourth episodes aren’t left to pad out the tale but as a result of this slow moving plot the story seems to drag on and on and on…

The ideas are serviceable; I can see some merit in uniting the Sea Devils and the Silurians and for them to attack the humans in response to atrocities commited against their respective races in the past. It does effectively link the two species in a way that was only hinted at in their debut stories and pairing them up does give them both a ‘hook’ (the Silurians are the brains of the operation and the Sea Devils are the brawn). However, this is the ninth story in a row to heavily involve continuity from the past and it does start to feel like overkill. Maybe its having both species back in one story or maybe its because JNT decided to heavily redesign the creatures and gets it all wrong. 

Even the Sea Base is a nice idea, during a time of international crisis, a weapons station with missiles ready to launch should the political situation become untenable. You can just imagine a really good film coming from these ideas, huge sea monsters, a base falling to pieces, traitors aboard and possible Armageddon. It could have been really tense. So can somebody explain to me why this story is so tedious? Is it the sub standard performances? The weak direction? The tacky score? The terrible special FX? The diabolical dialogue? No my friends, it pains me to inform you that it is all of the above. Oh and it has Tegan and Turlough in it. Just to rub salt into the wound. 

For a start I cannot understand why JNT had to completely redesign the Sea Devils and the Silurians. I know I was whinging in Arc of Infinity that he DIDN’T redesign Gallifrey but that was a planet in serious need of a paint job. The original designs for both these monsters was fine but here they look ridiculous, oh so cumbersome and walk so bloody slowly it takes them five minutes to get from end of the set to another. The Sea Devils are supposed to have this Samurai feel to enhance their soldgier-like appearance but their strange spiky collars have the unfortunate effect of drawing to the attention their lack of facial movement. They look dreadfully static lumbering about the corridors of the Sea Base and both races talk rea…lly…slo…wly, which makes them appear even more leisurely. Its no wonder it takes them so long to get involved, they drag themselves along like geriatrics to a bingo hall. It doesn’t help when the central threat is so…unthreatening. 

Next up…the Sea Base. Instead of a rusting, creaking, echoey castle of doom we get an airy, bright, sterile looking palace. It’s not the most inspiring settings for this tale of nightmarish monsters especially when the blinding lights continually expose the creatures deficiencies. Plus I saw three sets wobble during the story, hate to join the ranks but there were consoles, walls and doors threatening topple. Even when the Sea Base is in darkness it refuses to hide away any of production mistakes. There are lots of good places to shoot the story with, up stairs, in between storage crates, through grates, around corners…instead poisonous director Pennant Roberts decides to opt for a lifeless point and shoot approach, constantly using long shots to expose large sets when a more intimate, cramped approach would have helped. Script wise this story is no better than say, Seeds of Death with a similar low budget feel but look how well Michael Ferguson managed to disguise that money loss through his thoughtful and dynamic direction. 

Can I just put one thing to rest please? How you anal fifth Doctor fans (and please feel free to call me an anal sixth Doctor fan, as I am!) justify his approach to the Sea Base staff is astonishing! Yes he does hand over his gun to suggest his peaceful intentions but only after he has ran away from their security force and beaten up two of them after they tried to approach him. Hmm, yeah what a pacifist. Tegan is screaming, “Doctor!” in disgust as he is thrown over a precipice when he started the damn fight! The only time he approaches them in an orderly fashion is when he has a gun in his hand. Rob Matthews is right, he is a coward, his ‘principles’ abandoning him until he is in a position of power. 

There is an attempt to dramatise the story by having the fifth Doctor take a very moralistic approach, condemning the humans for trying to wipe out the pesky lizards that are trying to take over their nuclear base. His scorn is twisted and senseless, the Silurians and Sea Devils have invaded the Sea Base, sent in their bloody great monster before them to kill as many people as possible to achieve their position on the bridge and he thinks they shouldn’t fight back? Huh? Negotiate with these homicidal nasties when their methods have wiped out half the crew? On your bike mister! I could understand insulting both sides of this conflict (much as the third Doctor did in the Silurians) but the Doctor takes a very lizard-friendly attitude which given the plot seems hard to agree with. His later “there should have been another way!” that apparently climaxes the story on a thoughtful note would be a damn sight more effective if his principles had kicked in earlier (he himself puts the Myrka out of action!). As ever the writers don’t seem to know what direction to take this tricky incarnation into and Davison plays it every which way, pretty effectively it has to be said, his anger towards the humans and despair at the end is very palpable but the writing just doesn’t match the consistency in quality of his performance. Story of the fifth Doctor’s life really. 

The Myrka, ahh the dear old Myrka, so astonishing it deserved a second story (the rather wonderful Bloodtide!). I hate to admit this but when the Myrka is on screen was one of the few times I was genuinely entertained during this story, this lumbering, groaning beast, clearly unfinished and awkwardly pawing his way through the base is quite a vivid image. So vivid Michael Grade decided the show was a budget-less exercise in science-craption and seemed to think that every story contained a Myrka of some sort, leading to the snowballing decision to cancel the show. Its really, really bad but excusable in the same way that The Chase and Time and the Rani is, so utterly inadequate you want to weep but you laugh your head instead (or else you would commit yourself to a mental asylum for enjoying this garbage). You think nothing could be worse than the Myrka bursting through the airlock door which turns out to be a mattress that flattens dear old Tegan but then Doctor Solow receives her long overdue death scene by attempting a bizarre techno-karate move on the creature and is buzzed to death. Oh I know which scene that would turn up on Ingrid Pitt’s before they were famous…

I spent far too long pointing out the obvious mistakes of Warriors of the Deep…so I might as well continue. Hexachromite (I fear I might have spelt that wrong) and therefore the denouement are revealed in the first episode. Tegan and Turlough do sod all which seems to be their purpose in much of their scripts. The corridor wandering is endless. Continuity is royally fluffed up when the Doctor claims he has met the Silurian leader before (if it is an unmentioned story there is no indications of it). The apparent bravery of not mentioning what the two Earth power blocks are lacks resonance, it would have been braver TO name the two blocks and face the consequences (and besides when one character says “the power block opposed to this base” it becomes really obvious they are skirting around the issue!). The fact that this is the opening story to a season that is hardly a ratings spectacular is understandable. Oh and the guest acting ranges from the mildly awful to the diabolically unwatchable. 

I find it insulting that Doctor Who could produce something this bad in its twilight years and that we should be expected to enjoy it. Season Twenty-One is a real mixed bag of the generic and the magical and Warriors of the Deep kick starts the year in the worst of ways, its classic Michael Grade fuel and proof to those ‘only telly Doctor Who counts’ that their legacy wasn’t so perfect. I have never read a book or listened to a CD that has made me this embarrassed to be a Doctor Who fan.

FILTER: - Television - Fifth Doctor - Series 21