DalekBookmark and Share

Monday, 27 August 2007 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

This is the story I wanted to see ever since I read about it, and the only one I couldn't resist spoilers on. I went and read reviews by fellow fans months ago, as well as watching the Doctor Who Confidential episode covering this story over my dial-up internet connection (a chore, to be sure). Having finally seen the episode itself, I have to say that the oldest enemy of the Doctor was redesigned and reinvented very well in my opinion.

The story itself is not bad. It's not a deep plot but it works, and writer Rob Shearman relies on the Doctor's history with the Daleks for much of its emotional impact and drama. It boils down to this: Dalek falls to Earth, is ultimately bought by Van Statten and put in the cage, until the Doctor arrives. Doctor and Dalek shout at each other, Dalek tricks Rose and escapes, slaughtering hundreds in the process. Genetically contaminated by Rose, the Dalek chooses suidcide. Fine and dandy, but I wish the one event on which the plot turns, the absorption of Rose's DNA by the Dalek, had been explained in more detail. What was it about her DNA that allowed the Dalek to recharge and escape? We're merely told that the fact that she's a time traveller allows the Dalek's renewal, with no further explanation. Of course, the answer is that the concept makes no sense, and that the writer didn't even try to make up some technobabble to explain it, which is disappointing.

The Dalek itself is wonderfully updated. It's still the same old basic design we've seen since 1963 (thank goodness) but with a few tweaks here and there. The dome with rivets and panels looks good, along with the larger "eye" lamps. The eyepiece with what is presumably the Dalek's designation underneath is a very good update, giving the faceless Dalek some individuality at last. The bronze-metallic overall finish works very well and gives more of an impression that the travel machine is made of metal than previous Dalek props have done. The force shield, levitation and the rotating midsection are just icing on the cake, really making this Dalek the threat that it should always have been. Last but not least is the depiction of the mutant inside, which takes elements from the old Raymond Cusick sketch with it's exposed brain, along with the tentacled Dalek creatures we've seen over the course of the old series. The redesign is nigh-on picture perfect.

As for the Dalek's character, it's quite accurate as well. Emotional, manipulative, deceptive and murderous, the Dalek draws on both "Power of the Daleks" and "Evil of the Daleks" for characterization. Speaking of "Evil", lest we forget, this is not the first time we've seen a humanized Dalek. Unlike the ones in "Evil" who seemed to take in stride their new human emotions and ability to question, this one becomes very self-aware and chooses suicide over ˜contamination". I almost felt sorry for the thing at the end of the episode, but considering how many people he murdered, it's hard not to see his condition and death as just desserts.

Moving along to characters other than the Dalek, there's villain number two, Henry Van Statten. The idea of an egomaniacal billionare who collects alien artifacts is a decent concept. However, Van Statten begins to fail as a character when other ideas are thrown into the mix. He owns the internet? Picks the next president? Invented broadband? Right. The character would have worked very well without these needless excesses. He is acted well enough I suppose.

Moving along, Goddard is a character who's barely there, and her sudden takeover at the end defies belief somewhat. Whose name is on the bank accounts? Though I suppose given that she had the support of the troops who were angry at Van Statten for letting so many of their fellow soldiers die, she might pull it off. Seems a shame that she wanted the museum destroyed at the end though. Adam comes across as a bit full of himself, but as someone who plans ahead a bit, given that he keeps some alien weapons stashed away just in case. Pity he couldn't have planned ahead a bit further next episode, eh? "Ithink I'll have this chip installed in my forehead..." Even the few soldiers who get lines get good ones. "Get the civilians out," one says. Nice to see that even though his boss is a ego-maniac, he takes his job seriously. Then of course there's the doomed soldier trying to hold the Dalek off on the stairway... a futile gesture and a wasted life.

It's hard not to sympathize with Rose in this episode. She doesn't know about the Daleks at this point, and doesn't realize just how terrible they are. Her compassion for the Dalek after she sees him being tortured is commendable, as are her attempts to stop him from killing Van Statten. Even though the Dalek has killed ˜hundreds of people", as she sees it changing she tries to reason with it. There's a lot of nobility in her actions.

This ninth Doctor is a tough one to come to terms with. I accept that he's been traumatized by the war, and by losing his home and family, but even so it's hard to like him sometimes. A lot of the characteristics of past Doctors shine through, except for charm. He has very little of that, sadly. I did feel that his actions in this episode were spot on character though. He's afraid of the Daleks, he recognizes just how dangerous they are, he hates them for taking part in the destruction of the Time Lords, and when he takes the weapon to go and destroy the Dalek at the end of the episode, it's not the action of a man becoming what he hates. His action is more than justified, given what the Dalek has just done if nothing else. For all that the script tries to draw parallels between the Doctor and the Dalek, and make us feel pity for the Dalek, said parallels are surface level only. The Dalek kills because it is xenophobic, and to it all other life is wrong. The Doctor wants to kill the Dalek because of so many past experiences where all the Daleks do is bring death and destruction, and the Doctor's instinct is to protect innocents. There may well be some revenge in the Doctor's mind as well, which while wrong is both understandable and still a long way from the Dalek point of view. The two are not the same, and never will be, despite being the "last survivors" of their respective races.

Despite my defence of the Doctor here, I have to agree that he is angry, bitter and vengeful towards the helpless Dalek in the cell. It's unpleasant to watch, but he's right: what is a Dalek good for, if it can't kill? Having seen the Daleks kill every other member of his race (so far as he knows), I think we'd be hard-pressed to fault the Doctor for his verbal abuse of the Dalek. It is a commendable scene for another reason: not since the days of Hartnell and Troughton have we seen the actor who plays the Doctor taking the Daleks so seriously(with the possible exception of "Genesis"), and Eccleston's superb acting in this scene really does sell the idea that the Doctor hates and fears these creatures unlike any other. Already this season we've seen him attempt to reason with the Nestene and the Gelth, but his approach to the Dalek is vastly different. His hate is understandable, even if we wish he would rise above it.

Some nice touches to the episode include the Cyber-head from "Revenge of the Cybermen", and the mention of Davros (though not by name, just as the Daleks creator). Numerous Dalek-POV shots were nicely done as well. Some not-so-nice touches: the horribly cheesy line "what good are emotions if you will not save the woman you love?"

The final scene is touching. "I win" the Doctor says sadly. Do we really think Susan is gone, or Romana, or the Master? I tend to believe the Doctor isn't as alone as he thinks, but it may be a long time before any writer feels like bringing another Time Lord back into the mix.

In short, the plot is functional and advances the Time War story. The episode serves to reintroduce and amplify the Daleks as the ultimate Doctor Who adversaries. It's the Dalek and the history behind it that makes this episode work dramatically. No other monster or enemy has the same effect on the Doctor. "Dalek" is not a classic, but it is a strong episode.

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television

The Christmas InvasionBookmark and Share

Monday, 27 August 2007 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

After watching the first season of the new Doctor Who, I have to admit to often being disappointed in it. Granted, the show is quite often creative, well acted and has good production values. All well and good, but subjects have been added that have no place in a family program. I’m disappointed in the gutter morality being displayed, particularly in the off-color jokes that turn up in almost every episode. For a family show to discuss and joke about sexuality of all kinds is beyond the pale, particularly since that’s a topic best left to parents. I don’t care to hear the Doctor swear. That’s a very human habit, and the Doctor’s always been above that in the past. The constant intrusion of the author’s political views also grates, as does the moral equivalence that’s been drawn between the Doctor and his enemies on at least three occasions. All of this can be laid square at the feet of Russell T. Davies, executive producer and head writer.

All of which leads me to my point, that I now go into an RTD scripted episode expecting the worst and have to be won over. One may wonder just why I bother watching the show, and it may be that like my experience with the EDAs that culminated in the utter trash that was “Adventuress of Henrietta Street”, that there may come a point when I’ve had enough and drop the new series as well, as much as I’d rather not. However, to my relief, Mr. Davies has written a pretty good script when it comes to “The Christmas Invasion”. It has some of the same flaws as his other work, but on the whole it works rather well. Unfortunately, rather than being something entirely new, it is “Aliens of London/World War 3” told with more restraint. As such, if it wasn’t for the new Doctor it would feel very much like the retread that it is. The fact that I can actually take the Sycorax more seriously as a threat (“Sycorax rock” aside... ugh) than I could the Slitheen, and the fact that I’m interested in seeing how the Doctor is ultimately characterized keep me from feeling as if I’ve seen this all before.

“You’re drawing attention to yourself.” After umpteen-million invasions of Earth in the late 20th century, an alien invasion finally occurs that can’t be covered up. I find it difficult to believe that everything from Mondas itself approaching Earth to the Slitheen crashing through Big Ben have been covered up and explained away, but that was something that much of the old series didn’t handle any better than the new one, so I’ll let it go. The idea of an invasion that affects 1/3 of the Earth’s population and thus makes aliens an everyday fact of life for our planet is interesting to say the least, as is the long overdue fact that the Earth has salvaged alien technology that enables it to defend itself. As always with Doctor Who it’s a cut-rate invasion with just one ship, although thanks to CGI we have more than ten aliens. There is an armada mentioned but not seen. The ship itself is large and impressive, casting a foreboding shadow over London. The Sycorax themselves are very much like Klingons, aren’t they? They speak a harsh guttural language, are aggressive, bound by rules of combat, and fond of melee weapons. However their apparent belief in mysticism and ‘spell-casting’ set them apart from most aliens, and their stone spaceship that looks like a flying mountain is very distinctive, particularly when it’s casting a dark shadow over London. The blood control gambit to essentially hold the world hostage is another clever idea, and a reasonable way for a single spaceship to be an effective threat.

“Harriet Jones, Prime Minister”. Yes, we know who you are. This particular character was the best part of AOL/WW3 (possibly the only good part), and it’s very nice to see her again. She has a good rapport with her ‘right hand man’, and generally projects an air of confidence and strong leadership. Except of course when she gets on national TV and begs for help from the Doctor. I’m sorry, but no national leader with any pride is going to go on television and make themselves look weak. Jones’ decision to fire on the retreating Sycorax spacecraft is absolutely correct, and it’s disappointing to see the Doctor acting vindictive and childish. One hopes that she survives the no-confidence vote.

“He left me mom. He left me!” I’m of two minds about Rose. On the one hand, I have no patience with this Doctor/Rose unspoken romance nonsense, which leads me to roll my eyes when Rose pulls a jealous fit or gushes or cries over the Doctor. On the other hand, watching the Doctor regenerate must be very much like losing a close friend, and Rose’s grief at the loss is understandable. Rose herself helps to carry much of the episode while the Doctor is unconscious, and her attempt to ‘play the Doctor’ and bluff the Sycorax is highly amusing, as well as being admirable.

“Now I know what kind of man I am.” The Eccleston to Tennant change reminds me somewhat of the changeover from Pertwee to Baker, in that we’re going from an essentially straight and earnest portrayal of the Doctor to a more eccentric and humorous one. Tennant certainly seems to exude the Doctor’s characteristic eccentricity more easily than Eccleston did. On the other hand, he often seems to be walking a very thin line between playing the character seriously and trying to be Tom Baker at his most energetic, which simply isn’t going to work for anyone other than Tom Baker. An example of a good scene played well is the Doctor’s dispatch of the killer tree. Tennant is suitably sombre when wondering about the aliens who sent the tree, and then again when threatening them from the balcony. However once he steps out of the TARDIS on board the Sycorax ship, he veers perilously close to camp. In the face of numerous threatening armed aliens he takes time to walk around and greet Rose and Harriet Jones, worried more about his hair color than the threat. Of course, it’s just as absurd that the Sycorax allow him to get away with it. The sword fight is reasonable, and is in character for the Doctor. The severing of the Doctor’s hand is remarkably blood and pain free (and thus rather unconvincing), as well as instantly bringing to mind the severing of Luke Skywalker’s hand in The Empire Strikes Back. However, the ability of the Doctor to regrow his hand due to the lingering effects of his regeneration is pretty creative. The button on the side of the ship that collapses just the right wing section to allow the Sycorax champion to fall to his death is too incredibly convenient to be believable. Please, think these things through before they are commit ed to film!

The humor in this episode is sometimes crass, as seems to be RTD’s wont. There are a couple of instances that work very well however. The repeated use of “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister” joke pays off when even the Sycorax leader says “Yes, we know who you are.” The killer Christmas tree ought to be too stupid for words, but when it starts chopping through walls and furniture, accompanied by a sort of hyper-Jingle Bells musical score while Jackie screams “I’m going to be killed by a Christmas Treeeeeee” I just have to laugh. The Doctor’s sword fight in his pajamas is genuinely amusing and the revival of the Doctor with tea just feels exactly right.

Happy smiles and celebrations all around are cut short when Harriet Jones gives the order to destroy the retreating Sycorax ship. Her position is entirely reasonable given what the Sycorax have just done to Earth, and her argument that the Earth has to defend itself when the Doctor isn’t around is quite sound. Frankly the Doctor looks very petty and somewhat self-important when he takes his revenge and sets in motion events which hurt Jones’ status as Prime Minister. I suppose it’s okay for the Doctor to kill aliens who threaten Earth, but not for humans to defend themselves. It does make him look very hypocritical.

I enjoyed the sequence in the wardrobe where the Doctor chooses his new clothes. It’s nice to see more of the TARDIS than just the console room. It’s great to see the fourth Doctor’s burgundy scarf as a nod to the past. Tennant looks more Doctorish with his collar and tie and long coat than Eccleston did with his t-shirt and leather jacket, and I wonder if the pin-stripe suit is again, a bit of a tribute to Tom Baker, who seemed to wear such suits for a while back in the 90s. The Christmas dinner shows us a different side to this Doctor, who would not have sat around the table with the Tylers and Mickey before. The final scenes put a damper on the festive ending however, with ash instead of snow as the Sycorax ship burns up in the atmosphere.

Overall, a promising beginning for David Tennant. He needs to settle down and take things a bit more seriously, but he already fits the part better than Christopher Eccleston, despite the fine job Eccleston did. The story is yet another tiresome alien invasion of contemporary Earth, but at least it’s big and public and shakes up the status quo so that something new is brought into the mix. One of Russel Davies better attempts. Worth watching.

FILTER: - Christmas - Tenth Doctor - Television

DalekBookmark and Share

Monday, 27 August 2007 - Reviewed by Robert Tymec

Before we even get into the story proper, let me first of all say that this particular episode is, if nothing else, a brilliant piece of marketting. "Dalekmania", although now 40 years old, will always be an integral part of the success of the show. And Russell T. Davis knew exactly how to inject that formulae back into the new series.

Let's be honest, within seconds after hearing that the show was coming back on the air, the next thought that most fans had was: "I wonder when we'll see the Daleks". There wasn't even a notion of whether or not the Daleks would return - we knew they had to be there somewhere for the Doctor to run into or it just wouldn't be Doctor Who. And RTD, like all good producers, recognised that timing would be everything in the way these monsters would be re-introduced. And his timing was immaculate. Not only in terms of which episode(s) he chose to feature the Daleks in, but also the way in which they were featured.

"Dalek" succeeds best in this way because it features just a single Dalek. A smart way to re-introduce them to the series. For old fans, we get to learn some of the new nuances of the Daleks. And for the newbies, they just get to learn about Daleks, in general. To have an entire army of them roll in would've made this process far more complicated. But with just a single Dalek trundling around, we really get a chance to get up close and personal with him.

But, marketting aside, does the story live up to the hype?

Just about.

There are some very "classic" moments to this story but I wouldn't quite call this a classic. It's missing a few things in order to truly achieve that status. If nothing else, the plot is just a tad too streamlined. While I can appreciate a story like "Rose" being so simple in its plotting because it was the first episode of the new series, "Dalek" is now five episodes into the season. I could've used a bit more meat to my plot than just: "A Dalek's breaking out and it's going to spend the next 45 minutes killing everyone and then killing itself cause it went a little crazy from absorbing Rose's DNA."

Now, don't get me wrong, I do recognise that there is a bit more substance to this story than just that. We have Van Statten's egotism, some integral revelations about the Time Wars and Adam getting it on with Rose but these are all far too minor to really become legitimate plot threads. So, even though we've got some nice underscoring and subtext going on, we're still left with "A Dalek breaks out and is going to spend the next 45 minutes killing everyone and then killing itself cause it went a little crazy from absorbing Rose's DNA"! And that, in my book, is enough of a flaw to get it to not quite achieve "classic" status.

Still, this is a very strong story, overall. In many ways, it's superb. The conflict between the Doctor and his greatest enemy has never been so well portrayed. For the chief reason that the battle between Dalek and Time Lord is now deeply personal because of what occurred in the Time Wars. And it makes for excellent drama to watch. Particularly when you consider that one of the two combatants is really just a working prop!

Of course, this conflict is best displayed in the notorious scene when the two of combatants first meet. Eccleston turns in his best performance of the season here. His horror and dismay and then sheer fanaticism are all very compelling. And the way the Dalek actually plays off of him (even though, again, he really is just a working prop) gets this whole scene to shine brightly in the memories of both old fans and new viewers. It's everything we expected the confrontation to be between these two - and more.

It's also quite interesting to see what they had done with this latest model of Dalek. Some really cool new "special features" have been added to them: rotating gun turrets and bullet force-fields and the like. This is obviously the Dalek at its ultimate form of evolution. Which seems quite sensible. It would be at this stage that they would decide they are perfect and take on the ultimate enemy in the greatest war they would ever face. It all jibes with continuity quite nicely in my book. And that's always a nice thing for a fan to see in a story!

I'm also quite impressed with how deeply the story delves into "the Dalek philosophy". It really takes the time to not just show us how nasty these aliens are, but also explain why they are so nasty. So that, at the end, when the Dalek commits suicide, we understand why. It could never stand being anything but a pure killing machine and therefore needed to destroy itself when it realised it had been corrupted. This conclusion makes sense rather than being just a cheap cop-out.

There are several other really nice touches to this story. The Doctor coming to terms with his obcessive hatred is nicely achieved. And the destruction of Van Statten is also great stuff. I even quite liked the vague reference made to Davros. But, in the end, I still feel that the two final episodes of the season were better Dalek stories. And the all-time best Dalek story, for my money, is still "Remembrance of the Daleks" - even if the title is a tad goofy! Still, "Dalek" does an excellent job of bringing this evil intergalactic conqueror back into Whoniverse - I just can't quite call it the "classic" some of you are claiming it to be.

It's pretty damned awesome - but not a classic!

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television

Tooth and ClawBookmark and Share

Thursday, 23 August 2007 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

There are a lot of little details in “Tooth and Claw” that ought to have been cut somewhere. Too much of the author’s personal politics and too much pop culture knowledge projected onto the Doctor really grate, as no doubt they’re intended to. In other words, I think Mr. Davies and some of the other writers enjoy taking jabs at the fans. The Doctor seems less like a mysterious alien and more like a teenager be-bopping around Earth’s history, listening to pop music and indulging in movies. These little asides never really come across as authentic character moments for the Doctor that we’ve been watching for 40 years now.

However, regardless of that, the episode itself is quite good overall. Despite the fact that I’m tired of RTD’s writing style, and despite the fact that this is his sixth episode in a row, for the most part he’s done a good job this time around and deserves credit for it.

“Tooth and Claw” is in many ways a very traditional monster tale with many familiar elements. There’s the old mansion out on the lonely moors, with the local legend of a monster that turns out to actually exist. True to form the monster is nearly indestructible, unaffected by bullets but allergic to a certain herb. The monster is of course is given the typical Doctor Who treatment in that it is not supernatural, but is an alien life form that crashed on Earth hundreds of years before the story takes place. The book that the Doctor finds in the library details the arrival, and the host in the cage tells Rose that he’s “so far from home”.

The idea of an alien werewolf isn’t actually new. The Eighth Doctor novel “Kursaal” introduced the Jax, a virus that migrates from host to host, and appears early on as a werewolf. The werewolf in “Tooth and Claw” could just as easily be one of the same creatures, though it’s been awhile since I read Kursaal so some of the fine details escape me. Regardless of the recycled idea, the CGI werewolf is excellently realized. It’s far more convincing than a man in a suit would have been, and is made very effective by being largely kept in the shadows of a dark house and by only being seen for brief moments. And it’s not just a mindless killer, but an intelligent alien with a plan to take over the British Empire by migrating into Queen Victoria. Presumably the monks are all for the wolf taking over, or else they’d just have killed Victoria on sight rather than set a trap. Perhaps they think that they will be able to exercise the same amount of control over the wolf once it possesses Victoria as they do over the current human host, and thereby rule the British empire.

The monks are effective villains, but the martial arts are silly. Since when do Scottish monks in the 18th century know kung-fu? Their disappearance at the end of the episode ought to have been at least addressed, although it’s easy enough to surmise that with Father Angelo and the wolf dead, the jig was up and they figured that they had better leg it out of Dodge. I expect Victoria had them hunted down later and punished for their crimes. Father Angelo is only around for half the episode, but he’s a creepy villain with his quick reflexes and glaring eyes.

Queen Victoria is treated quite well by the script, and well acted by Pauline Collins. It’s not unusual for someone to play multiple roles over time in Doctor Who, but isn’t it enjoyable to have someone return after almost forty years? How many programs are still around after that length of time? It speaks well of the Doctor Who formula that it allows such longevity. Victoria is a well-rounded character, displaying good humor, wit, grief and a good measure of determination and spirit. I was cheering her on when she shot Father Angelo dead. Her grief over Albert’s death is touching, and seemed to resonate with the Doctor as well, given his silence and facial expressions during that conversation. Victoria is also used well in the story, being not only the ‘guest historical celebrity’ of the week, but also essential to the plot. The actions of the monks are motivated by their desire to assassinate Victoria and take the throne. Victoria is the voice of incredulity as well, questioning the Doctor and his lifestyle, and outright condemning it in the end. She rewards the Doctor and Rose for their actions and bravery, and then banishes them for their cavalier attitude to life and danger. Brilliant. She also is open minded enough not to rationalize away the werewolf attack, but to found Torchwood as an institute to investigate and defend Great Britain from paranormal dangers. It’s an altogether satisfying use of the character, thoroughly justifying her inclusion in the story.

The humor works sometimes. The bumpy landing in the highlands one hundred years off target is amusing, as is the Doctor’s sudden switch to a Scottish accent (Tennant’s real accent) and adoption of “James McCrimmon” as his alias. Rose’s attempts to get Victoria to say “we are not amused” grow old rather quickly though. The unavoidable gay joke is highly offensive, as well as quite honestly being a pitiful excuse for not noticing problems with the household staff. “Your wife’s away, your servants are bald and athletic. I just thought you were happy.” The wife’s away, forget marital fidelity, gay orgies everyone. It’s smut, and it’s not funny, it’s disgusting. I’m not British, but the mockery of the Royal Family at the end also disgusted me, as did the smug dismissal of Margaret Thatcher. No respect for anyone, eh Russell?

The Doctor and Rose are gelling as a team, though I think Rose worked better with the 9th Doctor than the 10th. Piper and Tennant seem like a couple of kids on a lark, laughing and irreverently mocking anything they feel like (rather like RTD), and it gets old fast. Rose in particular is becoming an annoyance. I don’t know what’s happened to her since last year, when she was such a great character. Much has been said about her attempts to get Victoria to say ‘we are not amused’ and so I won’t belabor the point, but if I were traveling in time and met a famous historical figure, I’d be trying to get to know them, not poking fun at them. It does make Rose look quite foolish, which may be the point. However she does display quite a bit more character and moral fiber when she is talking to the host and learning about the werewolf. She also shows some initiative and leadership when she leads the chained prisoners to pull free of the wall and escape the cellar as the wolf transforms.

I’m hesitant to compare David Tennant to either Tom Baker or Patrick Troughton, because I don’t think he’s anywhere near the level of those two actors, but his character seems to draw attributes from both. He’s energetic, enthusiastic and suitably eccentric. Whereas the anti-establishment attitude of the Doctor goes back all the way to Hartnell, it’s far too overt coming from the word processor of RTD and the mouth of David Tennant. Subtlety is the key. The Doctor’s rapid intellect is demonstrated in the library when he works out the trap inside a trap that Albert set up years earlier. His energy is apparent when he’s running down hallways and trying to spring the trap for the wolf. He’s sombre when listening to Victoria speak of her grief over her dead husband. He displays wonderful wide-eyed wonder at the werewolf when he gets his first view of it. It’s an excellent performance.

In short, “Tooth and Claw” is a rather traditional monster story adapted to the Doctor Who framework. It is very enjoyable, and I wish all of Russell Davies’ efforts were at this level. A good solid episode.

FILTER: - Television - Series 2/28 - Tenth Doctor

The Edge of DestructionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 8 August 2007 - Reviewed by Adam Leslie

One of the oddest Doctor Who adventures, and some of the oddest performances in the history of the series, much of this story seems to be happening at random. Indeed, once the cause of the whole sorry affair is revealed (a broken spring, of all things), it all becomes even more baffling.

Carole Ann Ford continues to play Susan in a state of constant near-hysteria, making her probably the most grating of all the companions. If there’s overacting to be done, you can be sure Susan will be making the most of the opportunity. Every smallest problem sends her into a nervous breakdown; the rest of the time she insists on talking in that early 1960s Audrey Hepburn affectation that was so popular at the time.

So why does our bipolar friend attack Ian with scissors? Who knows. We’re led to believe she’s been possessed or is under some kind of mind control. Actually, it just turns out she’s a nut. Though it does lead to a genuinely creepy moment when Ian returns to the room to attend to the apparently unconscious girl, only to find her bolt-upright brandishing a pair of scissors.

The normally excellent William Russell is pretty disjointed in the first half – also apparently possessed, but it seems that he just forgot to act. His line readings are very odd... he appears to be attempting Beckett towards the start or something. Grumpy old Barbara holds it all together nicely though, and Bill Hartnell is at his unpleasant best.

It’s nice to see the character development of the Doctor, and you do get a real sense that he learns and changes and grows as a person from his interaction with his human companions. There’s a real feeling that this is the Doctor fresh from the stuffy insular world of Gallifrey.

This is a baffling but entertaining two-parter that opens with the main cast apparently waking up from a night of heavy marijuana usage and doesn't become much more lucid from that point on. As a side note, considering the problems this Doctor has remembering what he’s supposed to be saying, it’s little wonder he’s written the names of the controls on the console in felt tip pen.

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television

The Edge of DestructionBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 8 August 2007 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

This is a strange little pair of episodes. I wasn't very impressed when I first saw them, because frankly I had no clue what was going on. Even now that I understand it, the story still feels like improvisation, where David Whitaker just started writing strange dialogue for the characters and ran with it without knowing where he would end up. All of this is not to say that the story doesn't have merit, because it does, and I certainly like it now more than I did then. As a character piece it's fairly strong, however it's still not a very satisfying story. 

I suppose the main purposes of the story are to flesh out the characters and to show us more about the TARDIS, and it manages to do both. With no cavemen or Daleks to steal the show, it's left to the four regulars to carry both episodes on a few small sets, and they manage this fairly well. The normally safe haven of the TARDIS has become a dark and uncertain environment, which is in itself an unusual event. We have four good actors playing four great characters in a mysterious situation, which means it ought to be exciting, but it somehow never really is. On the other hand, it is interesting to a certain degree, mainly due to the strange behavior of Susan and Ian. Susan's convulsive stabbing of the couch with a pair of scissors is pretty disturbing. 

A quick examination of the plot is warranted here. The ship leaves Skaro, headed back to Earth. Along the way it crashes, knocking everyone unconscious. This evidently causes some strange side effects, such as pain, or temporary amnesia. Some time is spent trying to figure out what has happened, and the suggestion is put forth that something has gotten inside the ship, possibly hiding in one of the passengers. What has actually happened is that the fast return switch has stuck, and the TARDIS is trying to prevent its own destruction, hence the odd behavior it causes Ian to engage in, or the melted clock it produces. In the end, after a trying experience, the crew are closer together and the Doctor is less hostile and more open than he was. 

It's sound enough I suppose, but the idea of an intruder being aboard is never conveyed very well, and the fast return switch explanation doesn't really hold up to scrutiny. If it's stuck, it's malfunctioned, and should have registered on the fault locator. It's an attempt at a clever ending that doesn't quite hold up.

Where the story does hold up well is in character development. By bringing the Doctor and Barbara to a catharsis of sorts, and by putting the Doctor clearly in the wrong, and by having him realize it, the crew is finally able to have it out and settle their differences, and emerge from the experience as friends rather than reluctant travelling companions. The Doctor eats a little humble pie and becomes much more accommodating to his travelling companions, leading the way later to friendship and camaraderie rather than antagonism. 

I think "The Edge of Destruction" has more value in context of the season as a whole rather than as a story in its own right. It holds up on its own, and I'm glad it still exists, but it works far better as a bridge between "The Daleks" and "Marco Polo", allowing our characters to resolve some differences and form friendships before moving on to future adventures. While it's a decent little story, it falls short of the surrounding episodes. 7 out of 10.

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television