Category Archives: season 9

The Time Monster

The Master returns again! Isn’t he tired of Earth yet? Posing as a professor in the field of temporal science, he develops a machine that can peer through the gaps in time itself, and summon the ancient god Kronos to help him conquer the universe. Ambitious chap, isn’t he?

The Doctor and UNIT watch as one of the scientists is ravaged by accelerated time.

The Doctor and UNIT watch as one of the scientists is ravaged by accelerated time.

This one definitely teeters on the edge of hokiness, but unlike The Dæmons, it manages to go full circle into insane brilliance. There’s a lot to be said about a story that simultaneously deals with time travel, flying gods, Atlantis, a minotaur, and a man who turns into a baby. Frankly, I’m not sure how that could be anything other than brilliant.

All hail Lord Master of Atlantis!

All hail Lord Master of Atlantis!

What also helps is the characters. The Brigadier is back, and is fantastic at playing the role of bemused outsider. The Master is back, and is he’s completely fruit-loopy, charismatically evil and his exchanges with the Doctor are some of the best so far. There’s a sequence where the Doctor tries to follow the Master’s Tardis to Atlantis and not only manages to land his Tardis inside the Master’s, but simultaneously lands the Master’s Tardis inside his, leading to the one of the most bizarrely brilliant sequences I’ve seen in Doctor Who, new or old.

The Tardis inside the Tardis inside the Tardis inside the Tardis inside the.... Also of note, the interior of both has been "redecorated". Did the Doctor and the Master share an IKEA catalogue?

The Tardis inside the Tardis inside the Tardis inside the Tardis inside the…. Also of note, the interior of both has been “redecorated”. Did the Doctor and the Master share an IKEA catalogue?

There’s also a quiet moment where the Doctor talks to Jo about when he was a little boy and talked to an old mentor about seeing the vibrancy of life in everything around him, in which he actually SMILES! It’s uncharacteristically touching and shows a side of the Doctor that isn’t always complaining about things and being a grump. An earlier scene in the Tardis where the Doctor’s subconscious thoughts are floating around like whispers is also well done. Actual character moments – how about that? Get this writer a job.

The mighty Kronos, devourer of time and space, is sensibly obscured by blurriness most of the time.

The mighty Kronos, devourer of time and space, is sensibly obscured by blurriness most of the time.

There is of course some dated cheesiness: the Kronos creature does not look like an all-powerful consumer of spacetime, and instead looks like a man in a paper suit hanging from some wires. It supposedly destroys Atlantis at the end of the story, but then turns out not to be a monster at all and rescues the Doctor and the Master from oblivion. No mention is made of the Doctor’s previous visit to Atlantis in the future (The Underwater Menace).

The prop-maker MUST have been having a laugh with this "time scanner".

The prop-maker MUST have been having a laugh with this “time scanner”.

Jo is a little more involved in the action this time, but I still find her acting to be awful. It’s a shame, but the rest of the cast makes up for it, and the plot is just the right mix of loose science, history, and megalomaniacal villainy that Doctor Who should aim for more often. It wasn’t perfect but it turned out much better than I expected it to.

The Mutants

Watching all of these Doctor Who stories, I start noticing recurring themes and ideas. The Mutants takes sci-fi elements like the oppression of alien natives who turn out to be more than they seem (The Savages), a dystopian future where Earth is overrun and polluted (Colony in Space) and good old-fashioned corrupted officials hankering for power (half of all Patrick Troughton’s episodes ever). It’s also full of ideas that I’ve seen in countless episodes of Star Trek, and yet it’s no less compelling for being slightly overdone.

The Solonians adapt to their five century long seasons by mutating into a new form. The lesson to take home is: monsters aren't necessarily monsters.

The Solonians adapt to their five century long seasons by mutating into a new form. The lesson to take home is: monsters aren’t necessarily monsters.

While the drama does make the usual concessions for cliffhangers and reversals, there are enough mysteries to keep the plot interesting over six parts. Firstly, the contents of the box, then the identity of the spaceman, the secret of the ‘magic cave’ (what is this, Lost?), the arrival of the Investigator, and the reveal of the mutants’ true form. It’s a good story and it’s quite well plotted. I was engaged throughout.

The Time Lords give the Doctor a package to deliver to the natives. Apparently, they DO care what happens in the universe. Maybe they just don't want to be seen taking sides.

The Time Lords give the Doctor a package to deliver to the natives. Apparently, they DO care what happens in the universe. Maybe they just don’t want to be seen taking sides.

I like the ones set in space, as it allows for more ‘out there’ concepts like this, while also keeping the action locked into one location. Generally, I find space-based shows more appealing; I like all the miniatures they use, and the special effects seem to get more ambitious year on year. If the show was still struggling with budget cuts, this particular serial does not give that impression. It’s relatively lavish and unique-looking in terms of effects, costumes, models and sets. It’s aged more gracefully than most I’ve watched so far, anyway.

Mad with power, the Marshal arranges to have Geoffrey Palmer assassinated.

Mad with power, the Marshal arranges to have Geoffrey Palmer assassinated.

Additionally, the Doctor is more sympathetic than his usual grumpy self, Jo continues to add very little, but the two uncharacteristically intelligent security guards make a refreshing change from the usual drones and add some extra character. I suppose the only thing I miss in these outer space serials is the Brigadier and his witty banter with the Doctor. I guess that just reinforces that the show needs a better (or another) companion, as soon as possible. Otherwise, this was perfectly fine, one of the better stories of the Pertwee era so far.

The Sea Devils

The Silurians were not the only race of subterranean reptiles hibernating underground – a similar species, living in a fault line under the ocean, have now awoken, and are once again a bit annoyed that apes are running the planet, and want it back.

A chilling image, creatures emerging from the sea.

A chilling image, creatures emerging from the sea.

The “sea devils” are not very interesting creatures, really just a similar take on the Silurians, except they can swim and they have (admittedly pretty cool) heat guns. The plot takes too long to get anywhere interesting, and even the reappearance of the Master does little to help. If anything, the prison escape parts of the story slow everything down; and, if I’m being picky, the Master’s motives for his involvement are paper-thin at best.

That said, I liked the fact that the Doctor and the Master have a sword fight and chase each other in jet skis, and that he pulls his rubber mask trick at the end and escapes again. He’s such a devious cad! There’s also lots of footage of boats and explosions, and apparently the Royal Navy was involved in its production in some way, which shows.

The obligatory "annoying authority figure" forces the naval base to launch an attack.

The obligatory “annoying authority figure” forces the naval base to launch an attack.

But, alas, this was all very slow and boring. It was too long and the drama regularly fell flat. In addition, I must mention the music. I can accept “synthy” as a style, but this has some of the worst music I have ever heard in a television show – often so bad that it blurs the line between music and sound effects, regularly distracting me from what’s actually happening, stylistically ill-fitting with the modern day setting and tone. Did somebody give the BBC sound engineer a keyboard and say “go nuts”? Because that’s what it sounds like. Zzzzappp!! Brrrpp!!! CHNGGG!!!! The whole way through. Maddening.

A peculiar moment in which the Master watches an episode of The Clangers in his prison cell.

A peculiar moment in which the Master watches an episode of The Clangers in his prison cell.

I’ve noticed some sexist attitudes lately, particularly apparent towards Jo. Although she rescues people in this story (including the Doctor), she’s treated like a child (literally called one at one point) and the Doctor continues to do that patronising thing where he holds her chin and tells her to run along or whatever.

Nothing else about this was memorable, except for an historic moment, as the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver for something other than removing screws! It’s apparently able to detect mines, and explode them, and later able to burn open a locked door. How handy!

The Curse of Peladon

Having (seemingly) repaired his Tardis, the Doctor takes Jo along for their first “test flight”, and lands on a planet called Peladon. Thus begins another good old fashioned adventure on an alien world, complete with silly costumes, silly voices and silly rituals, as the Doctor pretends to be a delegate from Earth who, along with an assortment of little green men, must decide whether Peladon can be accepted into the Galactic Federation.

The delegate from Alpha Centauri has a comical squeaky voice, rather at odds with the tone of the episodes.

The delegate from Alpha Centauri has a comical squeaky voice, rather at odds with the tone of the episodes.

Although the aliens look silly, this is to be expected from a 1970s TV show on a tight budget, and actually they’re all quite unique and imaginative. Sensibly, Peladon’s people are humanoid, and so they are able to properly emote and empathise with. The young King Peladon is a tragic character, trying to bring his world into a new age, but held back by the traditional views of his elder advisor and mentor, who ends up betraying his king and trying to sabotage negotiations.

The events of this story are contained within the castle.

The events of this story are contained within the castle.

This is probably one of those stories that works better as a novel, with your imagination able to fill in the gaps (see also: The Web Planet). Nonetheless, despite some silliness, it worked well enough on screen for its purposes. It also tries to develop Jo’s character for the first time… but does so by having her pretend to be a princess and fall in love with the king. An unfortunate cliché, but at least it’s something! I did genuinely think she was going to stay behind at one point, but nope.

King Peladon and Jo, sitting in a tree...

King Peladon and Jo, sitting in a tree…

Elsewhere, the Ice Warriors are fleshed out, having put their warlike ways behind them and become a peaceful member state of the Galactic Federation. It was weird to see them behaving honourably, even saving the Doctor’s life, but I liked it because they had previously been written as one-dimensional aggressors, and that just gets old. I’ll be interested to see how they are handled when they are revived in the new series.

The Ice Warriors, now a peaceful race of... er... warriors.

The Ice Warriors, now a peaceful race of… er… warriors.

Before leaving, the Doctor muses that the Tardis is probably still under Time Lord control, because their arrival was so perfectly timed to provide assistance. I found this amusing, because the Tardis’s arrival is ALWAYS perfectly timed to provide assistance! There’s no difference! Still, it does seem like the Doctor hasn’t fully broken free of his shackles. The series was probably testing the waters, I suppose, seeing what it could do on its budget with these little getaways. I can’t say I truly cared that much about the fate of Peladon or its politics, but at its heart is a story about setting aside superstitious beliefs and accepting a broader society, so I’ll give it a little credit. This wasn’t a bad effort, and at only four parts, it didn’t outstay its welcome either.

Day of the Daleks

This is the first appearance of the Daleks since their emperor and city were seemingly destroyed at the end of Evil of the Daleks. The thing with time travel is you can bring villains or anyone else back from the dead.

The ironically-named Controller is manipulated by the Daleks.

The ironically-named Controller is manipulated by the Daleks.

Actually, this story uses time travel in a way that hasn’t previously been done on Doctor Who. Not because it brings the Daleks back (these ones would be from an earlier time) but because it sets up a future history of world wars and disaster, caused by an event in the past, which is caused by the actions of someone from the future trying to stop the event but actually causing it in the first place. A causality loop, or as the Doctor calls it, a paradox.

The Guerrillas initially appear to be the bad guys... until we learn the truth.

The Guerrillas initially appear to be the bad guys… until we learn the truth.

This also neatly sidesteps the continuity issue with the first Dalek invasion, which by my recollection, should have occurred a couple of decades prior to the future events depicted here. If the timeline was (temporarily?) altered so that mankind nearly wiped itself out instead, the original Dalek invasion would not have happened, and instead we learn that they took control of Earth at a later date, more passively, controlling its leaders and building its workforce from the survivors. This would also mean that Susan would not have stayed behind. She wasn’t mentioned; in fact the original Dalek invasion is only referenced in passing, but it got me thinking and I enjoyed it.

The Daleks use a mind scanner to reveal the Doctor's identity. Nice touch.

The Daleks use a mind scanner to reveal the Doctor’s identity. Nice touch.

The Doctor is, of course, able to travel back to the past and stop the explosion that would kill the world peace delegates and plunge the world into world war three… and in doing so, allows humanity to escape its fate. A lot of sci-fi shows and movies from this era played with the idea of atomic wars in the near future, so it was nice for Doctor Who to end this story on a more optimistic note.

Alien slaves, the Ogrons are the policemen of the future.

Alien slaves, the Ogrons are the policemen of the future.

Tightly plotted into four parts, this was enjoyable, thought-provoking and clever. One slight disappointment was that the Doctor’s time experiment with the Tardis control panel at the very start (they see future versions of themselves enter the room) is not followed up on. That would have been fun to see them walk in on their past selves, completing the loop, but it didn’t happen. Never mind.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

It was good to see the Daleks back, in colour this time. With no sign of the Master, and the Doctor still stuck on Earth, we need more stories like this. Big ideas, played out on a small scale. This worked for me.