Timestamp #32: The Underwater Menace

Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace
(4 episodes, s04e19-e22, 1967)

Timestamp 032 The Underwater Menace

 

Doctor Who meets Atlantis!

It’s good to see the companions having fun together. The chemistry is nice, and it shows how the cast is really clicking. The downside is that the modern day companions are picking on Jamie’s lack of knowledge about the TARDIS. It’s kind of mean of them.

Nothing good happens in science fiction, fantasy, or horror from exploring a cave on your own, but of course Polly goes off looking around after the boys leave her behind, and of course hilarity ensues. It is a rather convenient way to separate the travelers from the TARDIS, as kidnapping them and taking them to the depths of the ocean puts a lot of distance between them.

The Doctor and his goofy hat have a clever ruse to save the companions, and luckily Zaroff has a good sense of humor about the diversion. Unfortunately, Dr. Z is also bat-dung crazy. Also, we keep seeing references (outside of each episode’s credits) to the Doctor as “Doctor Who”, this time in his note: “Vital secret will die with me. Dr. W.”

Professor Zaroff has promised to raise the city to keep working, but his plan is still incomplete… and will destroy the world. Zaroff’s insanity focuses the efforts not on the citizens and the consequences, but on his own glory as it is the ultimate achievement in science. His logic doesn’t make sense, which makes him more of a mad scientist than an evil one. He’s also quite the overactor – “Nothing in the world can stop me now!” – and left a few dental impressions in the scenery.

Ben gets a clever moment to play the god Amdo and save the Doctor and Ramo. The plan and chase was pretty exciting to kidnap Zaroff, and the plot to starve out the powers that be by cutting off the supply lines with striking slaves was intelligent. Of course, the “underwater” scenes are laughable by today’s standards, but I’m sure they were a spectacle in 1967. On the downside, Polly is uncharacteristically a whimpering “damsel in distress” in this serial.

The demise of Zaroff was a nice bit of writing, but the plan to get there was a stretch. I understand overloading the reactor to destroy it, but using it to degrade the walls? It takes a while for radiation to degrade stone/concrete walls, and the flux required to rapidly destroy walls would outright kill humans and the Doctor much faster. I waved it off as best I could as a plot conceit, but it was another indicator of how middle of the road this serial was.

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Moonbase

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

 

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Timestamp #31: The Highlanders

Doctor Who: The Highlanders
(4 episodes, s04e15-e18, 1966-1967)

Timestamp 031 The Highlanders

In the Second Doctor’s second adventure, we get a pretty straightforward story about the Scottish Highlanders, and an introduction to a new companion.

Jamie is very resourceful, but the weakest of the companions at this point simply because he doesn’t know how all of this craziness works. I’m eager to see how he develops as he travels with the Doctor, and I hope that he doesn’t turn out like poor Katarina. He seems much less shallow than she did, so he’ll fare better.

This incarnation of the Doctor is quite devious, between the (terrible!) German accent (Doctor von Wer… Doctor (of) Who) and disguises (cross-dressing as an old woman and masquerading as a wounded solider with a hilarious mustache), this Doctor is truly a man of many faces.

Ben continues to be a strong character, and the Doctor still doesn’t like guns. The ending was a nice twist, with a fate better than death (story-wise, anyway) for Grey.

I waffled between a 3 and 4 as I watched, and I think it ends up as a high 3. So, optimistically…

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

Timestamp #30: The Power of the Daleks

Doctor Who: The Power of the Daleks
(6 episodes, s04e09-e14, 1966)

Timestamp 030 The Power of the Daleks

Hello, new Doctor! And welcome to the confusion. It’s really nice to see how the Doctor has to stabilize after such a traumatic event, presumably his first, in light of my experience with the series from the Ninth Doctor on. This new Doctor seems sinister at first, but beneath his sneaky and evasive face lurks a much more physical and clownish incarnation that is very observant.

The Doctor loves his recorder, which he seems to use as a crutch to ponder his next move. He also loves that goofy hat, which… I do not.

Meanwhile, what better way to introduce the new Doctor than with the Daleks? We also get our first look, however fleeting, at what lives inside the can. I’m really enjoying this slow build around the Daleks and their mythology. It was creepy to hear a Dalek proclaim, “I am your servant,” and it was good to see them expand into trickery beyond the normal “ex-TER-min-NATE” rolling wave of death. They actually act smart and dynamic in this serial instead of focused on a singular goal.

The Dalek does not obey the Doctor, but how does it know who he is? Can the Daleks sense him even though he looks different? There was also an inordinate amount of Dalek chanting in this serial.

Overall, a well-written straightforward, highly enjoyable adventure (partially spiced with a political thriller) to debut the Second Doctor, and one that doesn’t really need the obligatory +1 for a regeneration episode.

Some last notes: Nice reference to Asimov with the positronic brain, and somebody get that TARDIS a fresh coat of paint.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Highlanders

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.