Category Archives: Susan

The Five Doctors

Following on from the 20th season is this remarkable anniversary special, originally broadcast to celebrate the show’s 20th year on the air. To replicate the original experience, I would have preferred to have seen the originally broadcast version, but circumstances led me unwittingly to the special edition released much later, with some of the visual and audio effects updated, so I can only comment on this version.

The Doctors meet!

The Doctors meet!

Much like The Three Doctors, the story is little more than an excuse to get the previous incarnations of the Doctor together, plucked out of time and placed inside an elaborate ancient war game. It’s a shame that Tom Baker decided to opt out and that William Hartnell was no longer alive, as this special really ought to be called “The three and a Half Doctors (plus friends)”, but that’s not as catchy. Nevertheless, it’s a delight to see Patrick Troughton (does that man not age?!), and Jon Pertwee back again, while Richard Hurndall takes over as the first Doctor, and some previously unseen footage from Shada is used to explain the fourth Doctor’s absence. Clever!

Trapped within a maze of mirrors, the first Doctor and his granddaughter Susan are reunited. How's that non-existent pocket of 22nd century post Dalek-invaded Earth been keeping you, Sue?

Trapped within a maze of mirrors, the first Doctor and his granddaughter Susan are reunited. How’s that non-existent pocket of 22nd century post Dalek-invaded Earth been keeping you, Sue?

Despite the absentees, The Five Doctors is a glorious celebration of the show’s history, using every available cast member, reference and villain it can reasonably squeeze into its 100 minute runtime. I genuinely had no idea that a 20-year older Carole Ann Ford would return to play Susan, nor the cameos by Jamie, Zoe, Liz and Yates. And that’s on top of a bright yellow Bessie, Lethbridge-Stewart, The Master, Yetis, Cybermen and a Dalek all running around the battlefield (there’s even time to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow!). It’s a smorgasbord of nostalgia, a who’s who of Who, and it’s quite amazing that it all works so well.

Turlough doesn't have much to do in this story, but Tegan accompanies the first Doctor into the tower, while Susan remains in the Tardis.

Turlough doesn’t have much to do in this story, but Tegan accompanies the first Doctor into the tower, while Susan remains in the Tardis.

Essentially, the story splits and jumps back and forth to follow each Doctor and a companion as they each take a different route up to the tower of Rassilon. This allows them some breathing space (as well as time to reminisce with old friends), but it does make the story a little scattershot, never settling in one place for very long, until a satisfying culmination towards the end. The lack of arbitrarily dramatic cliffhangers is a blessing; this is just one epic feature without cuts.

Sarah Jane is still Sarah Jane, panicked and often hyperventilating. The third Doctor is still the third Doctor, determined and confident. I swear he cops a feel of her boob at one point.

Sarah Jane is still Sarah Jane, panicked and often hyperventilating. The third Doctor is still the third Doctor, determined and confident. I swear he cops a feel of her boob at one point.

The fifth Doctor is the anchoring point, but he spends much of the story on Gallifrey, outside of the Death Zone, where he uncovers the President’s secret plans for immortality. Yes, sadly, there is corruption on Gallifrey yet again. This is becoming an embarrassing cliché and I can’t blame the Doctor for not wanting to stick around as President. He does get a brief moment to meet his past selves, which is nicely done. You can get a good sense of how the different versions of the Doctor vary. Davison is definitely the least eccentric of the bunch, a normal and level-headed type by comparison. Pertwee and Troughton play their roles much as they ever did, despite the years in between, and Richard Hurndall does a reasonable job of approximating some of Hartnell’s performance, although it would have been more authentic if he’d fluffed his lines a few times and ended all his sentences with “hmm?”.

Lord President Borusa gets more than he bargained for when Rassilon grants him immortality.

Lord President Borusa gets more than he bargained for when Rassilon grants him immortality.

The Five Doctors is hardly a masterpiece of imagination, then, but it’s nevertheless well made and a lovely tribute to the history of the show. The sort of silly-but-fun “why the hell not” exercise I can easily get behind. As it’s a one-off special, the budget would appear to have allowed for better production and visuals. One scene in particular is genuinely great, as a robot ninja busts up a legion of cybermen, teleporting around and lobbing arrows at them, causing them to explode and fall to pieces, arms and heads everywhere. Earlier, a rogue Dalek shoots itself in a hall of mirrors and within its exploded remains is its rarely-sighted grotesque embryo. Marvelous!

Total carnage.  I bet Hideo Kojima was a fan

Total carnage. I bet Hideo Kojima was a fan.

Sometimes logic has to fly out of the window, though. For instance, the second Doctor tricks the illusion of Jamie and Zoe by recalling that they shouldn’t know who he is, since their memories were wiped when they were returned to their time zones. But by the same reasoning, how would the Doctor have remembered that, as it happened almost immediately prior to his regeneration and exile on Earth. He would have had to have been pulled from the past moments before this, but there’s no indication this is the case when he turns up to visit the Brigadier. Similarly, why exactly is K-9 with Sarah Jane? Mk.I was left on Gallifrey with Leela and Mk.II was left with Romana (in a black-and-white photograph). I suppose it doesn’t matter, really; some questions are best left unanswered for the sake of a bit of fun, and this was a lot of fun. Job done.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth

The Daleks’ second ever appearance. At this point, they are unbelievably rubbish villains. They’re stupid, slow, and apparently easily subdued by jumping on them and pulling them over. At least they have overcome their inability to move over non-metallic floors, but their only weapon is still a death ray that they rarely use, and apparently are ineffective against vehicles (Barbara runs over three of the them in a massive truck, which was pretty cool, to be fair).

The Tardis lands on Earth... but not the one we know.

The Tardis lands on Earth… but not the one we know.

They’ve got a load of robo-men (brainwashed humans with metal helmets on their heads) serving as underlings, who are also rubbish, slow, stupid and easily susceptible to being hit over the head from behind.

And apparently they took over the Earth! Something about hitting us with a virus first. They do also have pretty powerful flying saucers.

London in the twenty-second century looks remarkably like London in the 1960s. Just sayin'.

London in the twenty-second century looks remarkably like London in the 1960s. Just sayin’.

Once again, the Doctor and companions are unable to get back to the Tardis because some rubble fell in front of the door.

I’m being pretty down on it but it’s actually more interesting than a lot of the stories so far. They’ve also been using more outdoor filming, which is a rare occurrence, although it does make Future London look like 1960s London.

I don’t know when Daleks first started being scary villains, but I don’t think this was it. They’re more comical than anything.

The Daleks' robo-men slaves plant a bomb or something.

The Daleks’ robo-men slaves plant a bomb or something.

The resolution of this story is super-rushed, and makes no sense! A throwaway line about the explosion at the end taking out all the Dalek ships? Really? All of them, the whole world over, caught up in the same volcanic explosion over England? How the hell did that happen?

That said, there is an unexpected departure at the end when Susan stays behind and the Doctor gives a rather touching speech to her from the Tardis before leaving her. He delivers it well – doesn’t even fluff a line!

Overall, quite an ambitious six episodes and one of the more enjoyable so far, albeit lacking in places. Also bonus points for leaving Susan behind – she’s a tedious character. More Chesterton please!

Susan stays behind as the Tardis leaves.

Susan stays behind as the Tardis leaves.

As Susan departs in this story, I will summarise and comment on her role. I didn’t care much for the character. Her role in most stories was to scream at things and talk really fast. Dated melodrama. However, her passion for adventure did go well with the other companions’ more cautious personalities, and her excitement for exploring often rubbed the Doctor the wrong way, or got them all into trouble.
She ends up in twenty-second century London, shortly after the Dalek Invasion has been quashed. Having fallen in love with one of the resistance fighters, David, she admits she finally wants to settle down after all her travels. The Doctor understands and purposely leaves without her, for her own good. She is left behind, but in a place she wants to be, hoping to rebuild the Earth and start a family.

Planet of Giants

Oh my lol they’ve been shrunkeneded! Bravo!
A space-time accident sees the Tardis (and everyone inside it) get shrunk down to tiny size, and it lands in someone’s garden on Earth.

It's all right, this one's dead.

It’s all right, this one’s dead.

With ‘giant’ sets, big insect puppets and some clever trick photography, this story was quite unlike anything I expected to see in the series. They somehow worked a murder plot into it, too.

Trick photography or rear projection puts our travellers in front of a murder victim.

Trick photography or rear projection puts our travellers in front of a murder victim.

In their small size, everything around them happens slowly. The voices of the large humans are too slow and deep to hear properly. This shows rather good attention to detail, as often these sorts of concepts are poorly portrayed. Granted, it’s still impossible for shrunken humans to breathe the relatively enormous oxygen molecules of a normal sized world, but let’s not get too picky!

Susan takes note.

Susan takes note.

At only three parts long, it didn’t drag too much. Quite watchable on the whole.

The Reign of Terror

Right, this was… okay. Meh.

Barbara and Susan are captured. Again.

Barbara and Susan are captured. Again.

The best part was the Doctor walking through the fields of France to some jolly music, then stopping to help some impoverished workers by pretending to find gold and whacking their slave-driving boss over the head, then walking off again. And then later dressing up as some high-ranking out-of-town official by visiting a fancy dress shop!

Flawless disguise. Gets you into any prison.

Flawless disguise. Gets you into any prison.

I also love how all French people are really posh British people. Correction: I love how all people are really posh British people. Second correction: I love how EVERYTHING IN THE UNIVERSE is really posh British people!

A couple of the episodes were reconstructed because they were missing. Admittedly, that’s better than having an entirely missing serial. Nevertheless, I was not really interested in this story.

The Sensorites

Oh, hell yeah, proper scary alien looking through the window at the end part one!

PEEK-A-BOO!!!

PEEK-A-BOO!!!

Man, that scene would have scared me witless as a kid. I mean, I vaguely recall being scared by Daleks, and they’re just giant pepper pots!

I quite enjoyed these; I prefer the sci-fi stories over the historical ones. Here, what started as monster type aliens, become humanised very quickly once they go down to their planet. Then there’s a few episodes where the treacherous alien tries to gain control and kill the humans in various ways, then this final episode where it all wraps up in the last five minutes!

I really can’t get my head around the pacing of these old serials. Is it because they didn’t know from one episode to the next how many each story they would need to have? Is that why you have episodes where nothing happens at all, and then episodes where the whole plot has to be crammed into the last five minutes? Like in this one, we discover the human survivors, what they were were doing, the Doctor stops their plot, and reveals the identity of the bad alien, and gets his Tardis key back, and then right at the end even gets into a ten-second argument with Ian where he promises to throw him of the ship-THEENDCUTTOCREDITS! Perhaps they were all written this way far in advance, but the pacing is baffling.

This is also the first time that the Doctor and Susan have spoken about where they come from, another planet (as yet unnamed), and that part of the reason they’re still travelling because they can’t easily direct the Tardis back home.

Telepathic communication through the power of... stethoscopes?

Telepathic communication through the power of… stethoscopes?

The Sensorite costumes were terribly bland, but their face masks were effective, cleverly hiding the exposed jaws of the actors by having them covered by big bushy beards. I did find it ridiculous that any Sensorite could pass for a high ranking official just by stealing his sash! But that’s the joys of sci-fi, looking at alien concepts and playing with them. This society has no notion of lying or deception, so it only took one bad egg to throw them into disarray. It could have been explored more, I felt. Again, very rushed ending.

"I am the leader... because of my sash."

“I am the leader… because of my sash.”

Onto the French Revolution next, apparently…

The Aztecs

This was an enjoyable enough four-parter in which the characters all get to stretch their legs and have a bit of fun. Barbara becoming a goddess, Ian becoming a soldier, the Doctor getting engaged (lolwut?!).

All hail Queen Barbara!

All hail Queen Barbara!

Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and taking the whole situation rather lightly, but then of course people start getting sacrificed and it all gets a bit scary. And it is yet another “we can’t get to the Tardis until we do x, y and z” story, which is predictable, but they wrap up quickly enough, so whatever.

The Doctor accidentally gets engaged to this woman.

The Doctor accidentally gets engaged to this woman.

As for the extra cast, the bad dudes were bad, good dudes were good, and they were all surprisingly watchable with a minimum of cringe. The action, as ever, was a bit laughable.

The sets were pretty good in this one. They had this massive landscape painting behind them which looked excellent, and all the costumes were ridiculously extravagant.

Do not trust this man.

Do not trust this man.

So far, then, we’ve had historical > alien > historical > alien > historial. I’m guessing the next one will be alien again?

The Keys of Marinus

Moving on, the next serial starts with the ‘Sea of Death’, and this is much better. Once again, the Tardis is held captive until the Doctor and co can go on some quest to find some sci-fi magic keys.

A model of the Tardis is used when it first materialises on the island.

A model of the Tardis is used when it first materialises on the island.

Each story is set somewhere new, but still a part of the overall ‘quest’. I enjoyed part 2, with the illusions and the brains in jars (Star Trek borrowed this, didn’t it?). Then a couple of episodes don’t have the Doctor in it at all, which is weird, but then he comes back for a pretty neat murder mystery double.

"Doctor, help me find my keys, I've lost them!"

“Doctor, help me find my keys, I’ve lost them!”

You could probably call Chesterton the main character at this point. I find him quite likable and the best acted of the group. I have to say, I’m not won over by Hartnell; I don’t find his acting all that believable. And then there’s Susan, who just spends her time screaming at things and talkingreallyfast. I guess this is partly the style of drama of the era, but some of it is better than others. The guest actors have been pretty good I suppose, even if some of their costumes are ridiculous!

Psychic alien slug thing in a jar.

Psychic alien slug thing in a jar.

I find it strange that neither Ian or Barbara spend much time talking about going home any more. There’s been a mention of fixing the time circuits or something but it’s generally brushed away as they go on another adventure. Won’t people back home be wondering where they disappeared to? Friends, family? Their school? No mention at all. No-one’s even asked what the Doctor’s name is yet, or where he’s from, or anything! They just go along with it!