Category Archives: season 8

The Dæmons

The Master sure does love Earth. He’s back again, and this time he’s dabbling in the occult, posing as a village vicar, while actually trying to summon the devil.

Rock on!

Rock on!

Okay, so the devil is actually a ‘Dæmon’, from the planet Dæmos or something. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, they visited Earth and helped humanity to learn to destroy themselves, and so they entered myth and legend of many cultures and became the image of the devil. The Doctor makes a point to differentiate between science and magic, but when he’s talking about creatures harnessing psionic energies from people’s emotions, he might as well be talking magic for all the difference it makes.

Er... rock on?

Er… rock on?

I would have to describe this one as hokey. It’s clichéd and silly and not very interesting. Even the Master plays a one-dimensional evil villain role, without engaging in banter with the Doctor this time. It is nice to have the Brigadier back, but he doesn’t have much input into the story. For most of it, UNIT is trapped outside an energy barrier surrounding the village, and when they get inside, they spend the rest of the time fighting the ridiculous-looking gargoyle monster, while the Doctor talks the daemon Azal into submission. To top it off, Azal is ultimately bested by “the power of love”, as Jo attempts to sacrifice herself to save the Doctor. I’m almost sorry she didn’t. With the Master captured by UNIT, the world is saved and everyone dances around a maypole. No, seriously, they do.

The heat barrier around the village. Causes a lot of explosions.

The heat barrier around the village. Causes a lot of explosions.

So, this brings season 8 to a disappointing close. I’ve enjoyed the Master’s appearances so far but the stories have been a bit of a mixed bag. Here’s hoping things improve.

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Colony in Space

In order to stop the Master from capturing a doomsday device, the Time Lords permit the Doctor’s Tardis to leave Earth and follow him to an off-world human colony in the future. And so the Doctor and Jo leave (unintentionally) on a proper Doctor Who Adventure™, complete with primitive aliens, spaceships, giant monsters, gun fights, and people in uniforms giving questionable orders to each other.

The miners use scare tactics to get rid of the colonists. The Doctor is not fooled.

The miners use scare tactics to get rid of the colonists. The Doctor is not fooled.

This ought to be a jolly exciting romp, and it does have its strengths. I like most of the production design, the uniforms, the ship interiors and the miniature models. The story takes place in a future where Earth is overpopulated and colonists have ventured out, but the greedy mining companies of Earth are stripping their dwellings of minerals to take back and build homes – thus setting up a conflict of interest. Sadly, a lot of this story consists the two groups (the mining company and the colonists) threatening each other, having fights and trying to sort out the legalities of their claims. Also, it’s six parts long. Yawn.

One of the colonists is Gail from Corrie!

One of the colonists is Gail from Corrie!

It’s just as well, then, that the Master shows up, disguised as an adjudicator, to make things interesting. While the two groups fight it out, the Master coerces the Doctor into infiltrating the alien inhabitants’ dwelling and uncovering their ancient doomsday weapon, with which he intends to rule the Universe. The aliens’ leader, a tiny little thing with a big head, decides to blow the weapon up, and the Master predictably escapes again.

The Master attempts to operate the doomsday weapon.

The Master attempts to operate the doomsday weapon.

This is certainly a better story than some of the recent ones, but not without its problems. Given his freedom, the Doctor is less insufferable than he was on Earth, with no UNIT to tell him what to do either. He continues to engage in a fair bit of judo-chopping action, verging on the ridiculous. Action scenes continue to date badly – and whenever guns are fired, the video noticeably flickers! Cliffhanger endings have started lying, rewinding to a few seconds earlier to show that, actually, everything was fine. Meanwhile, the music is somehow even synthier than ever.

The so-called 'Primitives' have a Tuscan Raider vibe about them. They even do that same thing with their spears.

The so-called ‘Primitives’ have a Tuscan Raider vibe about them. They even do that same thing with their spears.

There is never any question that this is a product of its time. But if the 25th century actually does see spaceships that use typewriter print-outs to relay information, I’ll change my stance.

#Am I a maaaaaan... or am I a puppet (am I a puppet)?#

#Am I a maaaaaan… or am I a puppet (am I a puppet)?#

Odd thing to mention: when the Tardis disappears and reappears in this story, it does so instantaneously rather than the usual gradual transition. Did they run out of cross-fade effects or something? It looks bad.

The Claws of Axos

It would seem the Master didn’t get very far in time and space before somebody caught him and brought him back to Earth. And it’s fortunate for the Doctor that this somebody, the Axos, decided to land in England, rather than anywhere else in the world!

The Axos ship descends upon Earth.

The Axos ship descends upon Earth.

Under the guise of a friendly distress call, the Axos appeal to UNIT and the British government to help them restore power to their crashed ship – a biological machine that needs nutrients to survive. In return, they will give Earth the power to grow and reproduce bio matter. However, really, the Master has lured them here in exchange for his own freedom, and the Axos want to absorb all the bio-energy of Earth, leaving it lifeless.

The humanoid appearance is not all it seems. Nevertheless, they have an interesting look.

The humanoid appearance is not all it seems. Nevertheless, they have an interesting look.

For its time, the Axos ship is quite an ambitious thing. The outside looks strangely familiar. I think it’s possibly the same model used for the alien ship in Ambassadors of Death, but I’d have to check that. Inside, organic-looking walls and doors are lined with moving tentacles, creatures and pulsating… things. The occupants’ humanoid appearance is merely a disguise and really they look like people wearing pyjamas made from twigs and pizza.

The Axos true appearance. Dangerous, too!

The Axos true appearance. Dangerous, too!

There’s a lot of deception in this one. The Master deceives the Axos, the Axos deceive the humans, even the Doctor deceives everybody when he decides to team up with the Master and escape in his Tardis and leave the humans to die… but then actually deceives the Master and the Axos by locking them in a time loop!

The interior of the Tardis! As seen in colour for the first time ever!! It looks exactly the same!!!

The interior of the Tardis! As seen in colour for the first time ever!! It looks exactly the same!!!

I must admit, I was entertained. Cool aliens, some Tardis action, and the whole thing told in a mere four parts. The Doctor isn’t so much of an annoyance here, either. For a moment, I thought he was going to go the full-on ruthless bastard route and leave them to die, but it was only a ruse, he does care, really. A couple of times, he’s quite funny.

The music is worth a mention, too. It’s gotten progressively ‘synthy’ and overt in the last couple of seasons, and here it practically sounds like retro videogame music at times. Very distinctive, if a little distracting.

The lightspeed accelerator facility... perhaps a little optimistic for the 1970s.

The lightspeed accelerator facility… perhaps a little optimistic for the 1970s.

Finally, the Master is as fun to watch as ever. It’s unclear whether he escapes the Axos ship at the end, but I’m guessing he does. Sadly, the Doctor remains trapped on Earth. Despite repairs to his Tardis, it seems the Time Lords have programmed it to always return there. Pfft… so what’s new?!

The Mind of Evil

The Master returns with another plan to conquer the world, although I’m not sure it’s a very good one. Using another false alias, he equips a prison with a new ‘correctional’ device (that he claims to have invented), which can remove the ‘evil’ emotions from habitual criminals. In reality, the device is an alien creature that feeds on these emotions and can project fear and terror into the minds of others.

The device in use... it turns this poor man's mind into that of a child.

The device in use… it turns this poor man’s mind into that of a child.

Meanwhile, he has hypnotised a Chinese delegate at a peace conference and has somehow used this device to amplify the terror through her telepathically and kill other delegates, with the intent on plunging the world into chaos. Oh, also he’s stolen a missile and plans to use it to throw the world into chaos… thus rendering the whole alien terror thing redundant, no? Coincidentally, UNIT is providing the security for the peace conference and the Doctor is visiting the prison, so everything is wrapped up in a neat little bundle of coincidence.

The 'Thunderbolt' missile.

The ‘Thunderbolt’ missile.

So, this was a bit poor, really. It’s not like the alien menace is particularly scary – it’s a brain in a jar that makes people clutch their heads and overact. The upside, I suppose, is that it makes the Doctor do that wide-eyed contorted face again (twice!). Also, it bombards him with images of the monsters he’s faced before, such as the Daleks, which was a nice touch.

Paralysed with fear, the Doctor does that face again. Yay!!

Paralysed with fear, the Doctor does that face again. Yay!!

The method of death doesn’t make any sense, though. The device can project hallucinations, but even if the mind thinks it’s real, it doesn’t explain how a person can drown by thinking they’re drowning and have water in their lungs. Or how someone imagining they’re attacked by rats can have real tooth and claw marks on their body.

The Doctor and Jo are locked up when the Master takes over the prison.

The Doctor and Jo are locked up when the Master takes over the prison.

What does work well, as ever, is the Doctor and the Master exchanging threats and pleasantries. They play off of each other well and are good fun to watch. Despite the stupidity of his plan (he requires the Doctor’s help, again!), the Master manages to get his Tardis circuit back and then informs the Doctor that he’s leaving. I suspect he’ll be back, though.

The Master listens in on UNIT's telephone calls.

The Master listens in on UNIT’s telephone calls.

The Doctor’s character is starting to annoy me now. He’s so relentlessly grumpy and mean. At one point, Lethbridge-Stewart rescues him from being shot, and all he can say is “couldn’t you have been a bit quicker?” There is no joy in the man’s hearts, he takes no pleasure at anything. Granted, being stuck on Earth could be the sole cause – I just can’t see this man as someone who is filled with wonder and joy about the Universe. He’d more likely be annoyed that it’s too bloody big.

One final note, although originally made in colour, only monochrome copies of this serial exist at the time of writing. I understand they have been recoloured and will be released to DVD later in the year. I don’t think colour will help this one very much, though.

Terror of the Autons

Season 8 opens with another Nestene / Autons story, a relatively tightly plotted four episodes written by Robert Holmes again. There is a noticeable difference in style between his stories and the rest – he seems more inclined to break out of the rigid structure of the old 1960s episodes, and his characters are written with more naturalistic dialogue. Even the grumpy old Doctor occasionally makes a joke.

Autons attack! I'm never visiting a fairground ever again.

Autons attack! I’m never visiting a fairground ever again.

Orchestrating the Nestene’s plot to return to Earth and control all our plastic is none other than The Master (the actual Master, this time!), in his first ever appearance. I’m only familiar with the Master from the more recent Doctor Who series, but the character here is similarly evil, devious and cunning. More than that, though, he’s an intellectual equal for the Doctor, and from the looks of things, he’s going to be sticking around for a while. Arguably, the Netene and the Autons aren’t the focus here – there’s still the odd scary moment, like the little troll doll coming to life, or the fake policeman pulling his rubber mask off – they’re just part of the Master’s plot. But this is the sort of focus the series needs to avoid becoming stale, since we’re still stuck on Earth for the time being.

Attacked by the plastic telephone cable, the Doctor makes the now obligatory face.

Attacked by the plastic telephone cable, the Doctor makes the now obligatory face.

Doctor Who continues to have big ideas – alien invasion, deadly plastic sculptures, armed forces having shootouts and saving the country from a genocidal Time Lord – but budget cuts are becoming more apparent. We still don’t see inside the Doctor’s Tardis, and the Master’s Tardis only ever appears as a caravan! UNIT seems to ditch the jeeps for this story, and instead the Brigadier and his troops drive around in a little car. It’s quite amusing, actually. Elsewhere, bluegreen backdrops are used extensively, sometimes in place of actual sets. It’s fine, it’s just noticeably more dated than something like Spearhead from Space, which should always look good due to how it was shot.

To alert him of the Master's arrival, an inexplicably tiny Time Lord materialises in front of the Doctor. With a bowler hat. What?!

To alert him of the Master’s arrival, an inexplicably tiny Time Lord materialises in front of the Doctor. With a bowler hat. What?!

So, apparently, Liz Shaw left. I didn’t realise she wasn’t returning. I don’t have much to say about her as she wasn’t in it for long, but I liked that she was clever enough to keep up with the Doctor and take initiative herself. By contrast, the Doctor’s new assistant, Jo, is just there to look pretty and get kidnapped. An unfortunate downgrade, but I will give her a chance.

The Master poses as a businessman, using the highly inconspicuous alias, Colonel Masters.

The Master poses as a businessman, using the highly inconspicuous alias, Colonel Masters.

I like The Master. He’s the villain the show needs, and he’s a pleasure to watch. Granted, he does look like magician crossed with General Zod, but given he has the power of hypnosis, this seems entirely appropriate. I’ll be interested to see what his inclusion brings to the show going forward.