Monday, November 12, 2012

Who Watch Part 12: OMG I totally should've planned this so there were 13 parts and called each one a regeneration so Whovians got pissed and invoked the 12 regenerations rule. Easier than promoting properly!

Story 106 The Creature from the Pit
Never thought I'd welcome the voice of K-9. However, the swap in this season . . . it hurts. New dude  is even more annoying when doing a robo-voice. OH MAN! Erato is awesome! They really robbed us in Frontier of Space by panning away from the amorphous blob of a monster but here it has more lines than some of  the humanoids. Special features tell me that the show-runners got in trouble for how poorly it was executed. Honestly, the person who conceived Erato was to blame. Something of that scale on a budget that size just isn't going to happen. Anyhow, I'm liking this season better than the last. Baker has better chemistry with Ward so the viewer suffers less. Of course, the previous  Romana started as an equal then became another damsel tied to the tracks so I'm guessing she got a bit pissed and stormed off. Fun episode, all told.

Story 108 The Horns of Nimon
I'm not sure if the design of the Nimon was caused by budget or done semi-deliberately. It crossed a beetle with a minotaur. The first one hid in a labyrinth and it was revealed they acted like locusts. So, the horns and the headpiece make sense. However, why they need to wear platform shoes is beyond me. It makes them extra stumbly. 
That aside, who can care about them as villains when there's Graham Crowden doing a Johnathan Pryce impression attacking every bit of scenery in sight? He skipped down hallways holding a shower curtain rod with a crystal doorknob on top, laughed maniacally, and held on just long enough at the end to squeeze out the final word in "you're all doomed, DOOMED." Honestly, I didn't notice much else besides him. Just such a brilliant un-nuanced performance!

Story 109 The Leisure Hive
It's kind of funny. Live action version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Cat in the Hat had large budgets and managed to turn Seuss' artwork into monstrosities. Yet, here's a show with notoriously low budgets which managed to make an alien race look about twenty times closer. Of course, one of them is supposed to be the heavy so his recalling the type of Who down in Whoville wasn't desirable. Luckily, Pangol is convincing enough to overcome his wacky hair and candy colored skin a bit and convey a bit of genocidal maniac. Fairly interesting post-apocalyptic madman story with some non-intrusive pseudo science and decent old age makeup. Nothing really struck me as groundbreaking or momentum generating but by this point in Baker's run, I'm pretty okay with the show not descending into goofy whackadoodle exploits full of The Doctor openly resenting everyone around him. 

Story 110 Meglos
Nice to see an episode not  marred by inadequate effects. Some of the doomsday device shots were a bit model-y but Baker vs. Baker looked decent and I liked the prickly cactus man makeup. It was also great to see Jacqueline Hill again. Didn't realize how much I missed Barbara until the actress showed up playing someone else. All in all, a jolly good romp.

Story 114 The Keeper of Traken
Yay! The Master is back! Wasn't initially sold on Ainsley because I loved Delgado so much. However, something in that smirk after stealing some new flesh made me giddy for the possibilities. That's not to undersell the pre-skin version. He behaved a bit less classy than the Master, IMO, should be. As the story progressed, it became apparent that this was a result of his physical state. The portrayal held things together nicely. Shame in a way that Geoffrey Beevers by default got overshadowed by the re-debut of a full-flesh master. Looking forward to the next couple stories to see how they handled things. Very hopeful that it works out so maybe the reliance on Daleks can reduce.

Story 115 Logopolis
There's a TARDIS within a TARDIS within a TARDIS! The auton with a feather boa HE'S THE 5TH DOCTOR WITHIN THE LIFE OF THE 4TH DOCTOR! MATH SHALL DEFEAT ENTROPY! Yeah. Writer got a bit big for his britches here. Shame that Tom went out on this turkey.

Story 116 Castrovalva
Ah but that time two days ago when I was all excited for the return of The Master! That was before  I knew that "written by Christopher Bidmead" meant "full of interesting ideas which a fair portion of the episode will be dedicated to fairly confusing exposition of." Ainsley I can be a bit more forgiving of. Delgado set the bar ridiculously high and had astounding chemistry with Pertwee. Anyhow, I think Davison did a decent job filling the shoes placed before him. His Hartnell impression was a bit shrill but it was refreshing to see someone be professional enough  he didn't need to be in love with an actress to work well with her. Don't get me wrong; I liked Baker overall. There were just times where his being a bitch hurt the show. Anyhow, I can see myself watching this one again whereas I'd probably stick to reading a summary of Logopolis to get the elements necessary for coherency.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Who Watch Part 11: That K-9 Does Stack the Deck a Bit, Eh?

Story 097  The Invasion of Time
They sure did like those invasion story lines, eh? A few worked quite well.  The challenge is that the Dalek and Cybermen versions early on were quite effective. Writers seemed aware of this and tried to spice things up a bit. This time, they shifted things to Gallifrey, added a false enemy, and gave us a look inside the TARDIS. Part of me wishes they'd opted out of the last part of the plan. Budgets led to their using the same hallways of the same hospital over and over and over and over. In my head, the old girl had so much more variety. Nice to see Leela leave. Hopefully, that'll put a stop to the open contempt/nastiness of Tom Baker for awhile. Got to love how he says goodbye off camera so she can't respond to being called a savage one last time.

Story 098 The Ribos Operation
This one made me wish I watched the show during its original airing. For whatever reason, the White Guardian reminded me of the machine leader from Matrix: Revolutions. Memories of that turkey made me want the Doctor to defy him and skip the whole Key to Time business. Then in came Romana with her annoying psycho-analysis of everything. Shit. What a horrible start. At least Graff  Vynda-K thinks this is Shakespeare and can't shut off his high drama voice. Quite like Garron. Also feels quite theatrical. Good presence. Not the worst thing  ever, quite enjoyable really.

Story 099 The Pirate Planet
I liked the Captain. Dude bellowed daftly like some sort of cybernetic Vogon guard. Oh wait. Douglas Adams wrote this. That explains it. Terrifying, disturbing, concept  at the core but offset by humor well enough that people may have missed that bit. Nice to see Baker having some legitimate fun for a change. That guy put so much of himself into the role that if he was having a bad day it showed. As did his contempt for Leela. Part of the reason I prefer Pertwee, honestly. Nice writing, good to see it not killed by Baker knowing better or being a gargantuan douche.

Story 100 The Stones of Blood
Interesting  concept. An alien war criminal set up a stone circle as a teleportation point and means of hiding some living rocks. Love the archaeologist, Professor Rumford. You can't count on The Doctor because he's a MAN. Vivian can't be an ancient evil in disguise seemingly because she was delightful to live with. Not sure if she's a woman or a lesbian. Either way, lots of fun to watch. Also nice to see an enemy K-9 can't simply turn around and zap. Feels like some writers just started throwing every bad thing at the Doctor, getting him trapped in a corner, then having the tin dog blast evil away.
Story 101 The Androids of Tara
Tom Baker as Errol Flynn with electric swords? This sort of thing is why I take pains to not do research ahead of watching the episode. It sounds like a fairly bad idea on paper. Yet, it's fun if you just shut off the "but but but...."s in the ole noggin. I'd freaking love this is I was a wee bairn upon the first viewing.

Story 102 The Power of Kroll
Half-assed. The Swampies dance of worship was an un-choreographed shuffle. Their drums were blatant stock loops. Performances... ugh. It felt as though someone got something kind of decent, hacked it to pieces, then decided to rely on the awe inspiring sight of Kroll for all tension. Mind you, he looks even worse than the fake Kroll the swampies sacrifice to in his stead. Then there's the ending. K-9 couldn't roll through a swamp so rather than have him mysteriously increase power for gargantuan squid zapping, they just make the leap to having Kroll be part of the Key of Time. So he gets tapped, turns into part of a cube, and everything is fine. I'd normally call it a tension killer but there really wasn't any due to failure to engage the viewer on a level beyond "I care about the Doctor because of previous adventures."

Story 103 The Armageddon Factor
So here comes the end of the Key to Time saga. And it's... about two episodes too long, honestly. The Shadow should've been played by Brian Blessed. At least his cliched lines could've been delivered with some gusto then. Dude just came across as a week and wheezy little tool. Should've known it would all prove anti-climactic when the Black and White Guardian reminded me of Matrix Revolutions so severely. Also really hope episode 104 is in the next batch from the library so I can watch them try to explain how Romana regenerates into Princess Astra from this episode. At least the arc is over. Some sort of episode-linking quest sounds like a great idea on paper but the way they seemed to just cram the idea into unrelated scripts hurt.

Story 104 Destiny of the Daleks
I got my wish! The explanation is... she though Astra was pretty and can choose what form she regenerates into. Okay. Baker could only choose between costumes during his. Time ladies get to pick their own bodies? I don't know. Let's just turn on our kid powers and focus on the action.! OOOH DALEKS! WTF Davros lived? Great. Didn't he serve his storyline purpose? Oh wait they want to teach us a lesson about how machines can never win due to a lack of imagination. I like coloring books! CRAYONS RULE! GIRLS ARE GROSS! YAY IMAGINATION! Sorry. Hard to shut that off. Guess the episode was okay. Really hope they don't go too far down Davros road. His makes the Dalek's seem insincere about their xenophobia.  and overarching mission statement.

Who Watch Pt. 10: Still going! Nothing outlasts my capacity for watching Doctor Who. It keeps going nd going and going and going...

Story 090 The Robots of Death
Needlessly ornate robots condemned to a "life" of servitude for arrogant, greedy, unlikable humanoids with rather stupid clothing and makeup decide to slaughter them all in the name of good taste. The end. Well, it should be. I mean Zelda pretty much deserved to be strangled for wearing that odd winged silver monstrosity of a hat without a trace of irony. But nooooooooo they just had to include a guy in even goofier makeup who was raised by robots and therefore corrupted Asimov's robot laws. Actually wanted to bail on this episode part way through to go read some Asimov. Word of advice to writers: don't invoke material superior to your own too loudly if you want to keep an audience.

Story 091 The Talons of Weng-Chiang
It amazes me how something like this can immediately follow up a clumsy turd like The Robots of Death. Set design was majorly stepped up. Outside of some giant rats on wheels, no effects pulled me out of the story. The villain was actually credible and managed to portray insanity with a minimum of scenery nibbling. Hell, they even had a musical number which wasn't hauntingly terrible. Also dug the supporting cast a bit. Not sure I need the Jago/Litefoot audiodramas but will probably try them out as the idea isn't repugnant. Heck, even Leela was tolerable. Didn't get the feeling The Doctor brought her along solely to tell her she was stupid for once. Nicely done, all around.

Story 093 The Invisible Enemy
If any aspect of this show stresses how inherently stupid it is to apply adult standards for programming to Doctor Who, it has to be K-9. There is no explanation for bringing the character in other than the kiddies would like him. Making him and Leela companions for a season despite the clear lack of chemistry with The Doctor are fine examples of what I refer to as "blatant bad seams moments." I'm totally fine with spotting zippers on costumes or wires on flying creatures. Those add charm in my eyes. However, it can really suck when behind-the-scenes issues with red-tape or personality conflicts intrude on the viewing experience. Even with the great pains I take to avoid knowing such things, it's very clear Baker thought he deserved better than the new staff was giving him.
Also what in the hell were the writers doing? They seemed to spend a lot of time on how Leela was immune because her instinctual drive overriding brains finally served some redeeming purpose. She could contribute something other than eye candy! Hooray! Oh wait... let's have the overly cute robotic dog explain something in terms I'm pretty sure a 12 year old who paid any attention in science class whatsoever could understand then mock her for not getting it. Oh oh oh AND have her welcome further degradation by insisting the Doctor bring K-9 along in the TARDIS. Did anyone involved with the show respect Louise Jameson for something other than her "one for the dads" charms? I guess the money must've been good.
Oh sorry. Yeah... this one doesn't make me hold high hopes for the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who. First off, I really don't like that fact I'm so aware that the show changed hands just from watching. Hinchcliffe and Co. tried things, took some stories down unusual paths, pushed the envelope once in awhile. The overall message of this episode seems to be "we're a safe show! Honest! There's even a cute robot dog and ha ha HE MIGHT BE TARDIS TRAINED! *SNORT*" Fuck you, Graham Williams.

Story 094 Image of the Fendahl
Okay. This is a slight improvement. There's a well-intentioned scientist who accidentally awakens something so evil those stodgy old bastard Timelords broke their own rules just to lock it up. A cult forms. Charismatic megalomaniac exploits them, sees all consumed by evil because of his quest for power, and blows his head off after the camera pans away. Unlike the dark moments in the previous serial, none of the resultant tension is starkly offset because K-9 makes the bare minimum number of appearances to preserve continuity. After that clusterfuck of his introduction, I'm thinking The Dominators would look pretty good so I'm hesitant to say positive things about this episode but I ultimately enjoyed it.

Story 095 The Sun Makers
Fuck you, Graham Williams. That may well become my second catchphrase from this watch-through. I'm not entirely sure the grating flaws in this episode were his fault. The script had to have something to do with the fact a squeaky munchkin with green lipstick became some sort of bureaucratic wizard of a severely corrupted Oz. However, I avoided the making of documentary and commentary track largely because my mental image of Graham going "no no no the only thing the kiddies would love more than a robotic dog is a little person with goofy eyebrows and lip liner" could be the only thing to get me through when episodes get worse than this. I mean Adric is yet to come so it clearly gets worse and I can't blame Graham Williams for that apparently so FUCK YOU, GRAHAM WILLIAMS! THE MELTING ACCOUNTANT WITCH IS ALL YOUR FAULT! Oh and thank you for keeping the show running. I'm not seriously blaming you for everything. Your name is just there and I'm too lazy to sift through material to figure out the precise names of the asshats who couldn't take the pressure of Hinchcliffe's "edgy" direction. I do understand that your orders in this direction had much to do with Bob Holmes' attempts at political satire getting excised and the resultant directionless nature of the plot at times. Hell, maybe it even explains why it was okay for the Gatherer to be flung from a building but not for Cordo to jump from the same. Still, you've got to admit that if someone had enough love/affection for the show to not only spend hours watching it but to then spend additional hours documenting said watching for a non-existent audience the person might see reason to create a bad guy based on the blatant decline after Hinchcliffe was forced out.

K-9 & Company A Girl's Best Friend
The kiddies loved K9! Everyone adored Sarah Jane! Let's have the Doctor send the former to the latter as a present and call it a show! There have been worse premises for spin-off series. K-9 may epitomize what I semi-mockingly hated in the first few episodes of Williams-run Who but Sarah Jane is awesome. Plus, give the faux-pooch his own show and it would free Doctor Who to boldly go exactly where it had gone before the BBC ordered Graham Williams to drive the franchise a bit into the ground. Part of me wonders if the creative team behind Murder, She Wrote saw this and said "hmmm idyllic little village, writer, intrigue and murder from within... remove that distracting robot dog, move things to Maine, and no one will ever notice we ripped this baby off!" Honestly, if the writers on K-9 . . . had gone a bit less "human sacrifice" and a bit more "surprisingly innocuous considering the whole murder thing" like Murder, She Wrote then maybe this spin-off would have stood a better chance at survival.

Story 053 The Ambassadors of Death
Interesting story. False invasion. Could've fallen flat quite easily. However, General Carrington and Reegan played their parts quite well. Plus, Pertwee was the Doctor. More I see him more I marvel at how he can work with anyone no matter the script or issues with production values.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Who Watch Pt. 9: Some lovely person decided to spoil series seven for me and let slip something about Amy Pond dying. Think I'll still avoid it and continue kickin' it old school

Story 078 Genesis of the Daleks
When I started watching the show, the idea of the Daleks as an intimidating entity didn't work for me. I think that has a lot to do with Eccleston being my first Doctor. He turned in a great performance but Davies really dropped the ball with that whole Emo-Dalek fiasco. At least he didn't try to make a Dalek human hybri... oh wait. Maybe this generation of producers "cheated" by bringing in Terry Nation but Genesis . . . was simply a more effective and engaging way of introducing someone the signature villains to someone relatively new to the role. Hell, I love Tennant but his debate with the clone for genocide had much less tension than Baker standing there holding two wires. Something tells me I'll get sick of Davros rather quickly as I'm not really sure he's necessary outside of an origin story but it was interesting to formally meet him.

Story 081 Planet of Evil
All in all, a fairly decent episode. Set design deserves mention. The jungle looked endless and had some downright orgranic-appearing structures that had to be foam. Also dug the red-line crackly things as villains right up until they were revealed to be anti-matter. Could've done without the cliche know-it-all commander who struck me as an offshoot of the Dominators at times. Plus revealing the aforementioned etheral lines were cavemen was bad form. Not the best episode ever, but far from bad.

Story 083 The Android Invasion
This one starts off okay. There's some major suspense built by the Stig-like figures with the shooty hands the the re-appearance of a UNIT soldier who dove off a cliff. What is happening in this village? I must know! OMG OMG oh wait. Kraals? Look like over-cooked/exploded Sontarans? Can't so much move? Chew scenery and spout the usual remorseless baddie cliches at the typical pace? Okay. Tension killed. Baker is fun. Sarah Jane is awesome. Amazing chemistry here. Still miss Pertwee. Ouch. Ending on this is just shit. Gardner believes in the power of the exploded potato heads so much he forgets his eye works? All the androids except The Doctor's are shutdown? Even distracted by an Oberon belly, my mind screams "BULLSHIT." Decent try at spicing up the oft-recycled invasion storyline with some chilling moments but all in all it needed better baddies and an ending which didn't require multiple severe leaps of faith.

Story 084 The Brain of Morbius
Fun story. Sisters of Karn are a nice take on the whole "archaic cult" motif. Solon chews the right amount of scenery for a mad scientist. Condo is a decent Igor. They showed a downright parade of faces in that Mind Test scene. Didn't seem like they were supposed to be Morbius at the time but seeing as they introduce the 12 regenerations "rule" shortly afterward, I'm guessing they became such? Who knows? I had fun watching this.

Story 085 The Seeds of Doom
When trying to terrify people, making everyday objects we instinctively trust into baddies is perfectly logical. A problem with doing that on a show like Doctor Who which I never realized is they apparently need a spokes-being to ensure proper levels of scenery munching. Silly me thinking that a gigantic Krynoid with telepathic powers should consume a leather gloved cliche like Mr. Chase just because that was exactly the sort of creature the species was introduced as. Maybe it was cunning to have an agent inside the house but just crushing the place seemed more in keeping with the nature of the beast. Of course, a big booming voice just wouldn't have done for those great soloquies on how vegetarians needed to die. Momentum-derailing cheese aside, a pretty effective story with a moderate level of creepiness.

Story 87 The Hand of Fear
Eldrad fast became one of my favorite villains. Firstly, it possessed Sarah Jane and got some great "creepy doll" line delivery of "Eldrad must live." That line is my new catchphrase for social situations where an answer to an unanswerable query simply must be given and "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD" just seems dickish. Then there's the dichtomy between the female and male regenerations. The former is sly, manipulative, and remarkably subtle for this era of the show. Then in comes the latter striking every cliche pose, doing every predictable bit of sinister lumbering due to awkward costuming the other missed and screaming "MUHUHAHAHAHAHA." Sometimes, I love how damned clumsy Doctor Who gets.

Story 088 The Deadly Assassin
The Time Lords think they are so vastly superior to us with their fancy robes of office, caste system, and ability to travel through time with subsequent rules. Yet here they are squabbling for power like they do in Washington D. C. and getting manipulated by Dick Cheney without the mask oh. That's the Master. Gotcha. Shit. These social metaphor stories can be a bit forced sometimes. However, at least this one provides some insight as to why The Doctor would leave his life here behind. The ideals of the Time Lords may well  sound nice but it's ultimately a decayed, corrupted society which would cast him out largely for living up to what they claim to be. Or that's how it looks to me, not having scene War Games where the race made its debut. I'm pretty okay with demystifying Gallifrey like this. Don't need them to be more alien as the fallability honestly makes The Doctor more relatable, understable, and worthy of some cuddles. Well okay that last one has to do with the awesome pug sleeping next to me more than the show but who cares about anything when you've got pug belly?

Who Watch Pt. 8: Baker May Grow on Me but I Will Always Miss Pertwee

Story 063 The Mutants
The opening of this episode rather confused me. I thought that Palin's "IT'S" man was running at the camera. Then some dude who looked like Biff from Back to the Future threw off an "oxy-mask" and delighted in slaughtering him. Eventually, it all  resolved into a well-paced exploration of colonialism, race relations, and the horrors of genocide. About the only thing I didn't like was the way Ky's evolved form strongly resembled a psychedelic Prince Valiant/Tinkerbell hybrid. It just felt like a bit of a cop-out after the fairly excellent job on the Mutts.

Story 076 The Ark in Space
This story nearly turned me off classic Who twice. Not entirely sure why. Maybe it was a refusal to believe painted bubble wrap evolved into carved foam. Perhaps Eccleston and Tennant didn't adequately prepare me for Baker. All I really know is third time around with a decent exposure to previous Doctors, this serial clicked for me. I rather enjoyed the interchange between the Doctor and his companions and found Noah's decision to die rather than destroy Vira resonant.

Story 077 The Sontaran Experiment
Part of me wishes they'd use the Sontarans more often. The Time Warrior was a great step forward for the series, simultaneously introducing a credible new menace along with Sarah Jane and also establishing a new type of story for the series. The Sontaran Experiment further developed the titular species and established them as far beyond ruthless. My guess is their next appearance will be the invasion of Earth and its colonies introduced here and it will be downright thrilling to watch.

Story 079 Revenge of the Cybermen
Yeah. Cybermen fear gold. There's a whole planet of it run by the cliche wise leader who has the equally cliche overzealous military commander. An even more cliche double (or triple or quad... whatever) agent is employed so the good guys can prevent genocide by committing it against their enemies. I get that the new Doctor needed to face the classic villainy of the Cybermen but maybe they should have held out for a less clunky script. Rather enjoyed Baker in it though. And Sladen. Hell, even Harry looked awesome next to the Vogans.

Story 033 The Moonbase
I prefer the Loose Cannons approach to reconstruction. Yes, seeing the same still of Teagana in Marco Polo every 5 minutes got annoying. However, at least the images changed to try and tell the viewer who or what they should be seeing. For half the episodes in this serial, I had to infer that. It wasn't all bad though. In my head, the workers of the titular station didn't all wear overly tight t-shirts with huge plastic name tags in the center. Nor did one of the actors wear a neckerchief to remind you he was French in case the stereotypical accent got dropped for half a scene. Plus, my mental Cybermen are a bit more menacing than the  blatant thrift store cobbling variety found in early serials. Still, Troughton and Hines were magical together so even if it was ultimately just average so as a Cyberman story goes, it was often delightful to watch/listen to.

Story 058 Colony in Space
This one proved how much George Lucas sucked. It deals with mineral rights and other Galactic trade issues and was geared towards children but the characters' performances and story pacing prevented it from becoming utter garbage. Sure, I love Roger Delgado and think he was the perfect foil for Pertwee's Doctor. However, Lucas' ineptitude managed to make Christopher Lee forgettable. So three cheers to Disney for buying out Star Wars before my childhood started freebasing to forget its love for the franchise and an infinite number to the producers of Doctor Who for casting Pertwee and Delgado.

Story 60 Day of the Daleks
I think the Daleks really need to leave time alone. In this story, they figured it out and used it to seize control of Earth after a devastating war. Why not just go back to the time-frame of one of their previous narrowly thwarted conquests and exterminate the Doctor? I mean yeah it would make for a shitty episode and end the series but the bastards are ruthless and wouldn't care about such concerns. Plus, they had discovered it during Hartnell's era and it took them this long to figure it out again? That made them look even more inept than insisting on hiring an Ogron army or their apparent case of laryngitis for this serial. All told, this story served to stress the idea of the Doctor as one of the few folks wise enough to be trusted with time travel and Pertwee was delightful so it was only in the aftermath that my brain kicked in and raised a bit of a protest.