Category Archives: Liz

Inferno

At first, this one seems to be falling into the same tired pattern of seven-part stories. UNIT sets up at some new science/power facility, something goes wrong, some creatures appear, the people in charge act foolishly. I can understand why the Doctor is such a grumpy man in this incarnation if this is the sort of thing he has to put up with all the time.

This Doc is a lot more physical than previous ones. Martial Arts Paralysis Poke!

This Doc is a lot more physical than previous ones. Martial Arts Paralysis Poke!

But then the story takes a turn for the interesting. Having removed the console from the Tardis for testing, a surge of power sends it and the Doctor to a parallel dimension, a mirror universe where Britain is a militaristic republic and the power station workers are slave labourers. This immediately reminded me of the episode ‘Mirror, Mirror’ from the original Star Trek series. Although I’m sure it wasn’t the first to pose such a concept, I do wonder if the Doctor Who writers took inspiration from it specifically. I was amused to see Lethbridge-Stewart’s ‘evil’ double sporting an eyepatch and a scar.

Brigade Leader Lethbridge Stewart. Eyepatches are the new goatees.

Brigade Leader Lethbridge Stewart. Eyepatches are the new goatees.

Being set in a parallel universe gives the story the freedom to do a genuine disaster without having to worry about the repercussions. In this reality, the drilling facility has achieved faster results, and manages to breach the crust of the planet. Instead of unleashing all new energy sources, it instead unleashes the wrath of the planet, which spews its molten middle everywhere. Inexplicably, green goo from beneath the Earth also turns people into stony-faced hairy zombie cavemen. Yep, I’ve no idea why, but they’re scary-looking things. One criticism, though: the Doctor seems aware of what’s about to happen just before the crust is breached… and yet he’s pretty silent on the issue until then and seems to not care what they’re up to at all.

The hairy inferno zombies attack!

The hairy inferno zombies attack!

As the planet literally falls apart around him, the Doctor manages to enlist help and transport his Tardis console back to the correct universe, where he is able to convince them to stop and shut the project down. The company director is such an irritating character, in both universes; I just wanted someone to punch him. Instead, he gradually succumbs to the zombie infection and is incapacitated.

Stuck in the time warp, the Doctor does that face. Again!

Stuck in the time warp, the Doctor does that face. Again!

Although longer than it could have been (again), I enjoyed watching this; it was a really good serial and brings season 7 to a satisfying close. But moving on, I do hope there’s a little more variety, and I would like to see the Tardis feature more. Whether the budget didn’t allow the control room to be built, I don’t know, but it’s interesting that the Doctor uses the console on its own and seems intent on leaving without the rest of it!

The Ambassadors of Death

This story follows a similar pattern to the previous one: an alien force is discovered, some people want to destroy it, the Doctor wants to help it, and the mystery behind it becomes clearer over the course of seven episodes. Unlike The Silurians, however, I found this story to be far more engaging, interesting and well-made.

The Mars probe is brought back to space centre to be opened.

The Mars probe is brought back to space centre to be opened.

I suppose part of that is down to the way the plot unravels, with more and more people revealed to be working for the enemy, and by the end of it, seemingly no-one can be trusted! But I think the main strength in this story is the portrayal of the aliens themselves. Having secretly replaced the astronauts on their Mars capsule, the ‘Ambassadors’ return to Earth and are only ever seen wearing spacesuits (aside from one briefly terrifying reveal later on). A combination of their slow calculated movements, their obscured features, and uncharacteristic deadliness (their touch can kill) make for an effectively scary presence. It reminded me of ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ (2011) – there’s just something about unseen foes inside spacesuits that works so well. It also avoids the “bloke in a suit” problem, because they’re supposed to look like blokes in suits.

The Ambassadors are impervious to bullets due to electric field something-something.

The Ambassadors are impervious to bullets due to electric field something-something.

There are some unbelievable elements, however. This is supposed to be set in the 1970s, right? The writers were perhaps a bit… optimistic of the near future of the space program. We apparently have not only sent manned probes to orbit Mars, but can get there and back in what seems like a matter of minutes or hours, rather than the months it would actually take us. It’s not even set in the US – this is all supposed to be happening in England! That said, I do like the design of the space centre set, and the space sequences aboard the capsule are quite dramatically and interestingly shot.

The rescue pod connects with the probe in orbit of Mars - literally minutes away from Earth.

The rescue pod connects with the probe in orbit of Mars – literally minutes away from Earth.

Having watched nearly seven years’ worth of Doctor Who episodes, I have now finally noticed an actor being reused in another role. The head of the space centre is the same man who played one of the Dominators from The Dominators! This was a little distracting, but he’s good in the role.

Don't trust this man, he's an alien Dominator and-... oh no, he's not.

Don’t trust this man, he’s an alien Dominator and-… oh no, he’s not.

I would have to say I did like this story, with the caveat that it was still too long. I prefer tighter, leaner, stories. Unless it’s supposed to be an epic set across time and space, you end up with a lot of repetition – people being arbitrarily captured, escaping, recaptured, and so on. It loses its urgency, especially when the climax is squeezed into the final 15 minutes. Despite this, it was enjoyable.

A variant of 'The Face'... 'The G-Force Face'.

A variant of ‘The Face’… ‘The G-Force Face’.

One final observation: in part one of this story, we see the Tardis control room in colour for the first time! Except it looks like it’s either been moved into somebody’s house, or the Doctor has redecorated the walls with chintzy paper and framed pictures. Either way, I was pleased to see it and to get some mention of him trying to fix it – with an amusing bit of timey-wimey fun thrown in.

The Silurians

The fresh new look for Doctor Who dissolves away again as it returns to the studio sets for this disappointing seven part serial. I was looking forward to the introduction of another ‘villain’ I recognise, but unfortunately The Silurians was terribly dull.

UNIT sets up at the nuclear power facility.

UNIT sets up at the nuclear power facility.

All time and space antics are forgotten about here, as the Doctor is now a full-time UNIT employee, and the threat conveniently comes to England again. There’s not even a glimpse of the Tardis this time; the story plays out more like an episode of the X-Files, with Mulder (The Doctor) trying to convince a skeptical Scully (Liz) about the existence of aliens living underground beneath this new nuclear power facility.

The Doctor visits the caves to negotiate with the Silurians.

The Doctor visits the caves to negotiate with the Silurians.

They’re not really aliens, though, as they’ve been living under the ground for hundreds of millions of years, and now awaken to find they are no longer the dominant intelligent lifeform on the planet. The Doctor spends most of his time trying to strike a deal with their reasonable leader, who is later killed by a more aggressive Silurian, and a back-and-forth show of force occurs between the Silurians and the UNIT soldiers. Naturally, one of the facility personnel is secretly working with the Silurians in exchange for knowledge and power, and he predictably dies.

The Silurians capture the Doctor while he works on a cure for the virus.

The Silurians capture the Doctor while he works on a cure for the virus.

The plot is flabby and leaves things unexplained. The Silurians have a huge dinosaur that they control… but where did that come from and what happens to it when they all go back into hibernation? It’s never mentioned again. What was the deal with the people being paralysed by fear at the sight of these creatures, but later on able to see each other and talk normally? What was that all about with the particle accelerator room giving people headaches? Was that related to the fear thing?

Attacked by the Silurians, the Doctor does that face again. I hope that becomes his "thing".

Attacked by the Silurians, the Doctor does that face again. I hope that becomes his “thing”.

There were some good bits. When the creatures are unseen, they’re more effective. There are some first-person shots of the injured Silurian running around outdoors that work quite well. It’s only when you see them in full that they just look like blokes in suits. (Video recording under studio lights do not do these costumes any favours, they look silly.) Most of the banter between the Doctor and Liz is good fun, and I could happily watch him mixing chemicals and looking at slides under a microscope for hours. I also like the Doctor’s new car, with number plate “Who1”. Also the ending is kind of bleak, with the military deciding to just blow the Silurian base up, killing them all, despite them being no threat anymore. The Doctor is not going to be happy with the Brigadier after this, I’m sure.

The Doctor and Bessie.

The Doctor and Bessie.

Other than that, I didn’t really like this one at all. It was too long, not very interesting and it looked cheap. As this was originally a monochromatic print that was combined with the colour from a poor quality NTSC broadcast, the result is very patchy and inconsistent. Sadly, inconsistent colour is going to be a problem for a little while yet. Hopefully, boring stories won’t be.

Spearhead from Space

Holy crap, the Tardis is BLUE?!!

No, but seriously, Doctor Who appearing in colour for the first time already takes some adjusting to, but more so because this one is shot entirely on film. There appears to be few, if any, studio sets used at all – everything is shot either outdoors or in real buildings. The difference this makes to the look (and sound) of the this show is absolutely stark. It feels like a ‘movie version’ of a TV show.

The Doctor collapses outside the Tardis after arriving on Earth.

The Doctor collapses outside the Tardis after arriving on Earth.

I’m just as interested in aspects of filmmaking as I am the stories themselves, so I could ramble on about this and that until I’m blue in the Tardis. Before this, the show did use film and location shooting, increasingly so as it went on, but the studio video recordings made up the bulk of the episodes. Shooting on film, without the studio environment, changes the style of filmmaking too. While the old show would play out like a stage play, this is more naturalistic, less melodramatic, more tightly edited, more cinematic. But it does mean we don’t get to see the Tardis interior this time. It’s a really strange effect – simultaneously expensive- and cheap-looking.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Liz Shaw visit the Doctor in hospital.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Liz Shaw visit the Doctor in hospital.

This fresh new start for Doctor Who also brings with it a new Doctor, now played by Jon Pertwee. Although the Time Lords erased some of his memories before stranding him on Earth, he is still essentially the same character. He still has Troughton’s deep voice (now with a bit of a lisp, mind) but he’s a little more laid back. Still clever and cunning, but he seems to have more of a sense of humour. Some of his lines are pretty funny, like when he’s admiring his new face’s flexible eyebrows. The acting is, again, more naturalistic, less dramatic. I think I could grow to like this incarnation.

The Doctor borrows some clothes, and a rather fetching hat.

The Doctor borrows some clothes, and a rather fetching hat.

Still, not everything has changed. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart returns, still heading up UNIT. Coincidentally, the Doctor winds up in his custody and is instrumental in stopping an Auton invasion, with help from Liz Shaw, who I assume is going to be whatever equivalent to a travelling companion this series has. I really have no idea where this is going, if anywhere, but I’m okay with the change. On the basis of this story, Doctor Who can be grounded on Earth and still involve alien invasions, sinister plots, science-fiction concepts and a few scares to go along with it. Plastic duplicate people? Cool! Shop mannequins coming to life? Brilliant! Global threat on a local scale. It works here. Can it keep working? That remains to be seen.

Ooh-arr, no sir, I ain't seen no glowing meteorites around these parts.

Ooh-arr, no sir, I ain’t seen no glowing meteorites around these parts.

Noteworthy mention: the extent of the Doctor’s alienness is explicitly confirmed for the first time when the hospital X-rays him and discovers he has two hearts, non-human blood, and irregular heartbeat and brain wave patterns. I was wondering when that would first come up, and now I know. He also adopts the John Smith name again, seemingly long-term.

The Autons attack!

The Autons attack!

This was a good, fun and fresh four episodes of Doctor Who, a whole new style for a whole new decade. Let the adventures continue!