Category Archives: season 10

The Green Death

A change of scenery now, as a strange infection starts killing miners near an oil/chemical facility in the Welsh valleys. Isn’t it, boyo? UNIT is called in and the Doctor reluctantly joins them, finding a hive of giant maggots are spewing green goo everywhere, causing people to turn a luminous green and die.

The big reveal is the mysterious boss is a computer. In 1970, I would have thought "whoah!". Now I just thought "oh, right."

The big reveal is the mysterious boss is a computer. In 1970, I would have thought “whoah!”. Now I just thought “oh, right.”

The “Evil Corporation” card is pulled out of the Doctor Who Plot Generator hat for this one. A self-aware computer system, not unlike WOTAN (The War Machines) is controlling its workforce in order to… well, I’m not sure what it’s trying to do. Conquer the world using mind control seems to be its goal, but I’m not sure what this has to do with chemicals or why their products were producing massive mutant maggots. It seems to be nothing more than an unfortunate side effect. No alien interference here, just Technology Goes Wrong. It could have been explored better.

A brief interlude on an alien blue planet provides some comical moments early on. Plus a convenient hypnosis-reversing crystal.

A brief interlude on an alien blue planet provides some comical moments early on. Plus a convenient hypnosis-reversing crystal.

On the other side of the fence are the eco-warrior hippie archetypes trying to shut the plant down. Jo goes all goo-goo-eyed over their leader, Professor Jones, and by the end of the story, decides to get married and leave with him on an expedition around the world, which presumably means that is the last we’ll see of her. A clichéd end, for sure, but despite this there were some touching moments and fond farewells. Jo may have been a weak character (and I never really felt her performances were convincing), however I could really feel the connection and friendship with the Doctor in those last scenes.

Toasting the happy couple, Jo is leaving for new adventures.

Toasting the happy couple, Jo is leaving for new adventures.

There are some funny moments too, the odd witty line here and there, and a sense of fun throughout, despite the seriousness of the threat. At one point, the Doctor disguises himself as an old milkman, then as an elderly maid, which made me chuckle. Pertwee can clearly do a lot more than be grumpy and condescending and I wish he would be written humourously more often.

The Doctor, master of disguise.

The Doctor, master of disguise.

Robert Sloman’s previous season finales have both had a slightly bizarre feel to them, dealing with monsters, legends or the occult, which this one doesn’t. It’s more like the earlier stories with corporations playing with science and going too far; but it isn’t really explored a great deal and I didn’t feel the story held together all that well. I would have liked more focus on the computer ‘BOSS’ and less on the maggots. Although, to be fair, the maggots were pretty cool.

Maggots. Presumably animatronic puppets; quite well done and a creepy effect. Those teeth!!

Maggots. Presumably animatronic puppets; quite well done and a creepy effect. Those teeth!!

This ends season 10 on a reasonable if unremarkable note, and leads me into the last few chapters of Jon Pertwee’s era.

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Planet of the Daleks

So, wait a minute, what happened with the Earth/Draconia war? The Doctor calls the Time Lords and they send him to destroy a Dalek army on another planet… that doesn’t really stop the Master’s cunning plan to provoke galactic hostilities, does it? In hindsight, this rather puts a downer on the previous story – not only was six episodes not enough to wrap that one up properly, but the next six pretty much ignore it too, save for a throwaway line. I guess that’s what happens when you change writers without finishing your own story first. Poor show.

The blinged out 'Supreme' Dalek rolling through the jungle.

The blinged out ‘Supreme’ Dalek rolling through the jungle.

The writer of the very first Dalek story, Terry Nation, heads up this one. On the one hand, it’s a delightful throwback to that first Dalek story, reintroducing the Thals, now generations on and capable of interstellar flight. It even name-drops Ian, Barbara and Susan for that extra bit of nostalgia.

One of the Thals shoves a Dalek into some ice.

One of the Thals shoves a Dalek into some ice.

On the other hand, sadly, the story is almost a total retelling on that first one, albeit with the details changed (the planet is different, but there’s a forest, a Dalek ‘city’, a doomsday weapon, and a convenient weakness to exploit) and I never felt the original story was all that strong anyway. Still, there are some interesting ideas, like the invisible inhabitants and a planet filled with a molten icy core that spews out frozen goo like lava. Some of the individual moments are quite good, too, like the air-lift sequence in the vent or the moment when the Dalek army starts waking up. The final episode is fairly exciting as everything comes to a head.

The dormant army beneath the city. It's a cool shot, but that ain't ten thousand!

The dormant army beneath the city. It’s a cool shot, but that ain’t ten thousand!

The problem with Dalek stories (as with any ‘superpower’ villain; see also Star Trek’s Borg) is that they can become a bigger and bigger threat, but you then have to write them out somehow without it seeming contrived. Massive armies gearing up for full galactic invasion may sound exciting but you end up stuck in a corner. I much prefer the stories where there is a risk of danger, not an ever-present threat, and in this respect, Planet of the Daleks doesn’t quite succeed where, say, The Power of the Daleks, does.

Alternatively, it might be nice to have a story where the Daleks actually win!

Frontier in Space

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of… a blue police box.

The Doctor and Jo materialise in the 26th century and just happen to get in the middle of a plot to set the two galactic empires, Earth and Draconia, at war with each other.

The Draconians.

The Draconians.

This is another story by Malcolm Hulke; much like his earlier one, Colony in Space, he seems to have a desire to build a rich and consistent future universe, with all the politics and history worked out. This kind of world-building can make for some compelling sci-fi, as it paints a broad picture of where we are as a species and where we’re heading, the trials we may face and the ideals we must stick to. While there are some warmongering characters in this, the Earth President (a woman, how about that?!) is level-headed and reasonable and tries her best to avoid all-out war.

The Doctor is sent to prison on the moon. Draconian laws, haha!

The Doctor is sent to prison on the moon. Draconian laws, haha!

There are two good reveals in this story. Firstly, in part three, that it’s the Master who is manipulating the two galactic powers to fight each other (using a hypnotic device to create illusions of the enemy), and then secondly, in part six, minutes before the story comes to a conclusion, that the Master has been working for the Daleks! I genuinely did not see that coming. With these two very bad dudes working together, the Doctor has no choice but to call the Time Lords for help, and so the story ends without resolution, to continue into the next serial. Okay, that’s a first.

The true masters appear at the end.

The true masters appear at the end.

It’s a little too convenient that the Doctor should happen to meet the Master, yet again, in his free travels. I do like the Master, but he risks becoming overused as a villain when it’s the same thing time after time. I would have liked to see the Master and the Daleks come to a head, but maybe that’s something that will happen in the next one. After all, the Master cannot be anybody’s ally in the long run, and the Daleks obey nobody but themselves. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Jo continue to develop a rapport; their dialogue is becoming more friendly and natural, which is nice to see. I may not think much of Jo, but the one thing she seems to do well is make the Doctor mellow out a bit. He’s become much more bearable lately.

Look ma, no strings! The Doctor does a spacewalk. Twice!

Look ma, no strings! The Doctor does a spacewalk. Twice!

There’s a lot to like about this story and I think it’s visually quite remarkable for a BBC TV show from 1973, years before the likes of Star Wars hit cinema screens, in which we have spaceships flying about through hyperspace, flinging missiles at each other and so forth. The sets, props, costumes, prosthetics and miniatures are all very accomplished and well-made for their time. The Draconian make-up is excellent, very alien without looking too much like they’ve got rubber on their heads. The dimwitted Ogrons also return (this should have been my clue that the Daleks were involved, duh!), so again we have this sense of world-building, pulling in familiar elements and using them in new ways.

On location, this building has a kind of futuristic look to it.

On location, this building has a kind of futuristic look to it.

Will the war be averted? Will the Daleks take over the galaxy? Will the Master finally conquer the Earth? Find out in the next exciting adventure!

Carnival of Monsters

The Doctor and Jo accidentally materialise inside a ‘miniscope’, a collection of human and alien lifeforms inside a machine used for amusement by a couple of travelling carnies.

There are two plot threads running parallel here: firstly, the carnies trying to entertain the emotionally muted inhabitants of the planet to which they’ve hitchhiked, which is funny because they have no concept of amusement and think the carnies are spies or part of an invasion fleet, and the situation grows more and more ridiculous.

What is this "fun" of which you speak?

What is this “fun” of which you speak?

Then we have the Doctor and Jo trapped on what initially seems like 1920s cruise ship, but is actually an artificial environment within the machine. This is also funny as the people get stuck in a loop and keep repeating the same sequence of events, repeatedly discovering the stowaways and then forgetting about them.

Yoink!

Yoink!

Things get interesting when deadly giant worm-like creatures from another part of machine escape and run amuck. Once the Doctor is able to escape the machine and return to full size, he then does his usual holier-than-thou routine to give the aliens a telling off for allowing the miniscope to be used, because they’ve been outlawed. Using the Tardis, they are able to deactivate the machine and return the creatures and people to their homes.

The miniscope, banned by galactic law.

The miniscope, banned by galactic law.

There’s certainly a colourful cast of characters in this. I like how the carnies’ attire is completely at odds with the aliens’ bland uniforms and grey faces. The looping events inside the machine were quite amusing, and the bits with the giant worms were well-realised and reminded me of the film Beetlejuice. Overall, I thought this was interesting and decent enough.

The drashigs, giant worm-like things, hunt the Doctor and Jo through a swamp.

The drashigs, giant worm-like things, hunt the Doctor and Jo through a swamp.

Noteworthy mention: apparently, the BBC experimented with new title music in this season, but it proved unpopular and they decided not to use it. For some reason, some versions of episode 2 of Carnival of Monsters mistakenly retain this new music. I can see why they didn’t use it, it sounds all sped up and boingy-boingy. Saying that, they’ve kept basically the same music for the last ten years, so I didn’t mind hearing something new.

The Three Doctors

So, ten years. I’ve managed to watch nearly ten years’ worth of Doctor Who in under ten months. This calls for an anniversary special…

When the very universe itself is threatened by an antimatter-spewing blackhole controlled by an ancient ex-Time Lord called Omega, who can the council of Time Lords turn to to save the day (and every other day)? By breaking the laws of time itself, they pull the Doctors of the past into the present. When one Doctor isn’t enough, it’s time for the power of three!

Omega, the man with no face.

Omega, the man with no face.

This is a very silly premise, purely an excuse to get William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton back for a special event… but I can’t help finding it a lot of fun. Frankly, any excuse to get Patrick Troughton back is fine with me, and he’s absolutely the highlight of this particular serial. He plays it perhaps a tad more jovial than he used to, exaggerated for effect I suppose, but he’s superb.

The Doctor's recorder quite literally saves the universe.

The Doctor’s recorder quite literally saves the universe.

William Hartnell is another matter. In 1972/73, he was very ill, and whatever role they had planned for his character was downsized to some pre-recorded segments, the idea being that he was trapped outside in a vortex and couldn’t join the other two in person. But this does suit his character well enough, as he is able to offer his wisdom and advice from afar. His eccentricities are largely absent here, understandably so – he gives quite a sober performance. I was sad to learn that this was the last bit of acting he did, and he sadly passed away a couple of years later. Quite remarkable that he managed this role one last time.

Trapped outside while in transit, the first Doctor can only offer advice through the Tardis monitor.

Trapped outside while in transit, the first Doctor can only offer advice through the Tardis monitor.

Still, it’s Pertwee’s Doctor that does most of the heroics, but he plays off of Troughton well, and their little arguments are amusing to watch – Troughton obsessing over his lost recorder and Pertwee losing his temper, it really shows the difference between the two of them. Naturally, the Brigadier is mightily confused by the whole ordeal, refusing to believe to reality of the situation happening before his very eyes. But meeting the Doctor he recognises from years ago, and trying to explain to headquarters, is fun. I hadn’t realised, but none of the UNIT lot had been inside the Tardis before this… and presumably, this is the last time they will.

The Brigadier is confused, often. He's great, though.

The Brigadier is confused, often. He’s great, though.

Having put their collective heads together, Omega is tricked into releasing them all and destroying his blackhole. Having saved the Time Lords, they grant the Doctor his freedom, ending his exile, and the Doctors of the past are returned to their time zones. Omega is a tragic character, revered for his work in making time travel possible, but abandoned by the very people he helped, and trapped forever in a world he created but cannot leave. It’s the sad side to this rather fun coin.

And it was fun. I got a kick out seeing these three versions of the character together, as I’m sure fans did back in the day as well. For once, I would have actually liked the story to be longer!