Timestamp #65: The Three Doctors

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors
(4 episodes, s10e01-e04, 1972-73)

Timestamp 065 The Three Doctors 2

 

Happy 10th anniversary, Doctor Who! Traditionally, you’d get something made of tin, but the Time Lords are feeling benevolent.

A Pandora’s box arrives in the form of a cosmic ray research module, and it’s hungry because it eats Mr Ollis, the warden of the bird sanctuary where the module crash-landed. Doctor Tyler arrives and takes the box to UNIT where the Doctor analyzes the data, and the Doctor trolls the Brigadier with a silicon rod to stir his tea. As the Doctor and Jo investigate the crash site, the module consumes Doctor Tyler, and a psychedelic cloud leaks out, menaces our heroes, and eats Bessie.

Someone needs a copy of Care and Feeding of Psychedelic Clouds for Dummies.

As if that’s not enough, several cyclopean crab creatures apparate and storm UNIT HQ. The Brigadier leaves Sgt Benton in charge of the lab and leaves to assess the situation, prompting the cloud to arrive and force the Doctor, Jo, and Benton to take refuge in the TARDIS. The TARDIS won’t dematerialize, so the Doctor plays his last resort card and calls the Time Lords.

The TARDIS has been redecorated again, and while I liked the wash basin roundels more, this is still a step up from the wallpaper that dominated the Troughton era. While I was observing that, Sgt Benton was having his “bigger on the inside” moment, which made me laugh.

The Time Lords determine that the attack is stemming from a black hole which bridges into a universe of anti-matter, but they can’t help because the same gateway is siphoning all of their power reserves. Despite the First Law of Time, which forbids the Doctor from doubling back on his own timeline (wait, what?), the Time Lords break the rules and send the Second Doctor to help the Third.

Oh, the irony.

The Second Doctor arrives, heralded by his trademark recorder, and followed by his dislike of the new décor. Sgt Benton is overjoyed, since the last time this saw this Doctor was during the Cyberman invasion. The two Doctors link together telepathically, but can’t get anything accomplished because the “dandy” and the “clown” can’t stop bickering, so the Time Lords call up the First Doctor to set them straight. He can’t come all the way in because of a plot-convenient time eddy that the council cannot overpower, but he passes the word that the black hole is a time breach and that they must cross it.

The Time Lords, by the way, call the First Doctor the “earliest Doctor”: Hartnell’s character was definitively the original.

The Third Doctor decides on a bad plan and rushes out of the TARDIS. Jo follows, and both are consumed. The Second Doctor sees that the cloud has been temporarily satiated, so he and Benton leave the TARDIS to investigate. The Brigadier meets the Second Doctor again, and he jumps to the conclusion that the Third Doctor has regenerated… er, degenerated… er, changed back into the Second Doctor. Bickering and hilarity ensue.

The Second Doctor deduce that the cloud is made of antimatter, and that it was sent by someone powerful since it hasn’t caused a matter-antimatter annihilation. He suggests confusing it with useless information, such as with a television. That’s right, Doctor Who went meta before meta was a thing. While the Second Doctor works that problem, the Third Doctor and Jo wake up on a barren world with the one-eyed crabs, pieces of the laboratory, and Bessie, and they use the car to track a set of footprints to their source.

Back on Earth, the Brigadier wants the Second Doctor to address the Security Council, calling him the Third Doctor’s assistant to sideline the whole regeneration question, much to the Second’s chagrin. The cloud gets the hunger pains again, and the Second Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton take refuge in the TARDIS. The Brigadier’s “bigger on the inside” moment trumps Benton’s as he accuses the Doctor of building the contraption from UNIT materials and funds. As the Third Doctor and Jo find Doctor Tyler and are subdued by the crab monsters, the Second Doctor works with the First Doctor who suggests letting the cloud attack the TARDIS. When it does, the entire headquarters building is transported into the black hole, which leaves the Brigadier nearly apoplectic. He goes off to call in this new development as the Second Doctor and Benton find Mr. Ollis, and then get captured by the crabs.

We also note that the TARDIS is just a prop thanks to a camera angle that peers all the way inside.

And then we meet the architect of this whole thing: The legendary long lost Time Lord named Omega. He was the solar engineer who created the supernova that powers Time Lord civilization, but was supposedly killed in the resulting explosion. In reality, he was transported to the antimatter universe, where his will and thought turned the formless matter into physical form. It’s also his cage, since his will is the only thing maintaining reality, and he vowed revenge on the Time Lords who left him stranded. Omega deduces that the Second Doctor and the Third Doctor are the same Time Lord, and boy is he angry. He places them in a cell pending execution, and they continue bickering before the companions put them in their place. I loved that!

Omega has control of the singularity, which grants him immense power, and Jo considers that the Doctor must also have some potential in this universe. The two Doctor will a door into existence, they all escape the cell, the companions get lost and escape the palace, and the Doctors get discovered by Omega in the singularity chamber, where Omega challenges the Third Doctor to a mental Thunderdome. The Third Doctor is defeated, but the Second reasons with Omega using the imprisoned Time Lord’s freedom as leverage.

The Time Lords send the First Doctor into the black hole, reasoning that together they are powerful enough to defeat Omega. The Second Doctor laments his lost recorder (foreshadowing!), but deliberately angers Omega to challenge the villain’s self control. The two Doctors reason that if Omega can transport matter to Earth on the light stream, he could transmit himself as well, but Omega reveals that he is a prisoner of his own design. If tries to leave, he loses control over the construct, and if he stops controlling the construct, he cannot leave. He brought the Doctor(s) to become the new caretakers. As he prepares to leave, however, he discovers that he no longer exists in a form that can survive outside of the antimatter construct. Omega is powered only by his will to live, and that only works on this side of the mirror. He goes all Kylo Ren on everything since he does not want to live like that, and the Doctor run back to the TARDIS just in time to let all of the companions seek shelter.

The First Doctor is unable to fully appear in the antimatter universe since the Time Lords’ power is so badly compromised, but he links with his successors and formulate a plan. They ask Omega to bring the TARDIS to him, and then ask the companions to trust them implicitly. They promise to set Omega free only if he sends the companions home, and Omega counters that he cannot be freed, but will keep the Doctors as his companions. Each of the Doctors’ companions step into the light stream and go home.

As much as I tear into the Brigadier’s character, he did have a very touching moment as he saluted the Doctors. He truly believes it to be the last time that he shall see them.

The Doctors offer Omega the TARDIS’s force field generator as a means to escape, but he physically rejects it, and the Second Doctor’s recorder (which has been on the TARDIS inside the generator the entire time and not modified to exist in both universes) annihilates with the anti-matter in a supernova, breaking the bridge and returning everyone to their rightful places. Poetically, the act also restores power to the Time Lords, making it the second time that Omega has exchanged his life for their civilization.

In exchange for his help, the Time Lords forgive the Doctor of his crimes: After fifteen serials in exile, they return his knowledge of time travel and provide him with a new dematerialization circuit. Jo is elated, since the Doctor decides that he can’t leave Earth yet since he needs a new force field generator.

Thank the Maker, we get time travel again!

Overall, this was a great story, and it was fantastic to see Troughton back in action. His madcap style is a great contrast to Pertwee’s pompous prim and proper. It was also good to see how well the companions and Doctors all interacted, although it would have been nice to bring in some of the First and Second Doctor’s companions as well. Time and budget are always constraints, and it might have also muddied the plot a little.

One place where I’m torn is with Hartnell’s final performance. It was so good to see him in character again, but he was obviously very ill and not fully back to where he left the character thirty-six serials ago. Sadly, he died two years after this performance, his last as the Doctor and his final acting performance overall.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters

 

 

 

 

Timestamp: Ninth Series Summary

Doctor Who: Ninth Series Summary

Timestamp Logo Third

 

The difference between the Eighth and Ninth Series is night and day.

Where the Eighth got bogged down in the series-long Master arc, this series got back to telling relevant and moving stories. The Master even returned in The Sea Devils and The Time Monster, which both still used the same trope of the Master trying to take over the world with power he can’t control, and they were still better than the majority of the Eighth Series because they felt fresh.

The feather in the cap for this set was The Mutants, which nearly broke my rating scale with how dense and symbolic it was. If there was a low point for me, it was The Time Monster, and not because it wasn’t good but because it wasn’t as good for me.

This also marked a major return to space/time travel for the Doctor, despite the fact that his TARDIS is still locked out, and it really shows how much of a critical component it is in the Doctor Who formula. Having that power, despite being limited by the Time Lords who are still using the Doctor as a puppet, seems to lift a burden from the Doctor’s shoulders. He’s high-spirited again, and even though he’s still arrogant and rude, he’s less rude to those around him. Whether that’s because he’s grown to respect Jo, the Brigadier, and the UNIT team, or just because he enjoys his slackened leash, it’s made these stories much more enjoyable.

Meanwhile, I still don’t like the Time Lords. They obviously get off on yanking the Doctor around by that leash, and have no problem with the hypocrisy of sending him off to meddle in affairs of space and time so they don’t get their hands dirty. You know, despite the fact that they punished the Doctor for doing exactly what he’s doing at this point with their blessing.

Contrast that with Jo, who has become absolutely fantastic as a companion now that she and the Doctor can (in a limited fashion) travel in space and time. Her fear has been replaced with bravery, and her horizons have been broadened by getting off the planet and seeing how humanity evolves. Series Eight Jo has climbed the ranks of my favorite companions.

This series is the highest rated (so far) in the Timestamps Project, and the closest contender is Fifth Series at a 4.1. I really hope things keep climbing, even if there is so little room to do so.

 

Day of the Daleks – 5
The Curse of Peladon – 5
The Sea Devils – 5
The Mutants – 5
The Time Monster – 4

Series Nine Average Rating: 4.8/5

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Three Doctors

Timestamp #64: The Time Monster

Doctor Who: The Time Monster
(6 episodes, s09e21-e26, 1972)

Timestamp 064 The Time Monster

 

The Doctor has some weird dreams.

Foreshadowing events to come over the next three hours, he has a nightmare about the Master and trident-shaped crystal, which is (1) a bit on the nose symbolically since it comes from Atlantis, and (2) exactly what the Master happens to be holding in his guise of a science professor. Of course, this is the third time Doctor Who has tapped on the Atlantis mythos, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

The Doctor is concerned about his nightmare, and he tells the Brigadier (who has been laying low since the Daleks waged gorilla on guerilla warfare) to alert UNIT to be on the lookout for the Master. The Brigadier does so sarcastically, and then reminds the Doctor that UNIT is obligated to attend the demonstration of TOMTIT – a project that demonstrates Transmission of Matter Through Interstitial Time and the Master’s desire to spell something silly – but since the Doctor and Jo are waiting for the Master to strike and Captain Yates has the duty, poor Sergeant Benton is ordered to cancel his leave and join the Brigadier at the Newton Institute.

What the Doctor doesn’t realize is that leave is one of the most precious commodities in the world to an enlisted man. I’m not saying that he should watch his back from this point forward, but maybe he should start carrying a rear-view mirror everywhere he goes.

Instead of requisitioning a rear-view mirror, the Doctor builds a time sensor – a TARDIS “sniffer-outer” – that starts going ballistic when the TOMTIT scientists start a rehearsal of the experiment. That Master gets angry that the team started early, but Dr. Ruth Ingram points out that the experiment overloaded its circuits during the teleportation, and the Master determines that the crystal is drawing energy from outside time itself. He decides to skip the traditional post-demonstration wine-and-dine when he sees UNIT arrive for the show.

The Doctor and Jo track the source of the temporal readings in Bessie, which now has a Super Pursuit Mode sans absurd transforming sentient Trans-Am, and we also start seeing the depths of the Doctor’s obsession with Venus. He has programmed the time sensor to read in Venusian miles, requiring a conversion table for each calculation. The sensor spikes as the Master, cleverly disguised in a radiation suit, begins the experiment which turns out to be a front to summon a being called Kronos.

The experiment creates bubbles of time dilation, and when the Doctor arrives, he is slowed down and Jo is frozen. Stuart, the research assistant, has aged sixty years due to radiation exposure as his own personal temporal reference has been accelerated. Dr. Ingram – call her Ruth – mentions Professor Thascalos, and the Doctor’s mastery of Greek uncovers the Master’s identity. The Brigadier orders support troops, the Doctor’s TARDIS, and an evacuation of non-essential personnel from the Institute, and the Doctor investigates the crystal at the heart of TOMTIT. Kronos is a fearsome member of the Chronovore race who live outside of and eat time, and the mythology is an interpretation of actual events. The crystal is the same one that summoned Kronos to Atlantis thousands of years ago, and the rest of it is located in the Vault of Poseidon, deep in the legendary city thousands of years in the past.

The Master’s TARDIS is disguised as a computer in the laboratory, and to get to it, he tricks Benton into leaving the laboratory. Benton sees through the ruse, but gets knocked out upon ambushing the Master. The Master summons an Atlantean priest named Krasis, and the priest possesses a holy seal that contains the secret of summoning Kronos. With all the keys in place, the Master summons Kronos. The mighty creature eats the institute’s director as Stuart de-ages and the Brigadier, Benton, and Ruth get trapped by the temporal field. Kronos proves to be uncontrollable, and the Master returns it to the crystal.

The Doctor makes a temporal jamming device, but it doesn’t last long. As Captain Yates and UNIT arrive, the Master summons opposition from the past in the form of a medieval knight, a squad of Roundheads, and a V1 bomb. The V1 takes out the convoy but everyone is okay, and as Ruth, Stuart, and Benton go to the lab to take on the Master, the Doctor and Jo take to the TARDIS.

The TARDIS has a new desktop – the wash basin roundels are a nice touch – and the Doctor develops a plan to materialize his TARDIS inside the Master’s TARDIS. This concept of a TARDIS inside a TARDIS boggles the mind, but it’s possible. Really tricky, but possible. If the calculations aren’t precise, a time ram will occur that will annihilate both of them.

Jo’s bravery and spunk motivate the Doctor, and the TARDIS lands. The two are linked as the Master’s TARDIS appears to materialize inside the Doctor’s. When he leaves, his TARDIS is inside the Master’s. They leave the Master’s and emerge into the Doctor’s. They are both inside each other, creating a time loop.

When the UNIT troops arrive – Krasis’s temporal ignorance is a fantastic alarm system – and the Master extends a time field to prevent them from interfering. The duo take off for Atlantis, and since the TARDISes are linked, the Doctor and Jo go with him. Meanwhile, Ruth, Stuart, and Benton are trapped in the lab, and they work to deactivate the time field and rescue the Brigadier’s squad. The plan backfires, and Benton gets turned into a baby.

After a sequence that helps develop the franchise’s basis for the TARDIS’s telepathy and language interpretation skills, the Doctor is forced to leave his TARDIS to confront the Master. The Master summons Kronos, which eats the Doctor (setting him adrift in the time vortex) before returning to the crystal. The Master then ejects the Doctor’s TARDIS into the time vortex. After the turbulence, Jo comes to and hears several whispers from the Doctor, but a single, strong voice comes through clearly via the TARDIS. The TARDIS and the Doctor work with Jo to rescue the Time Lord before setting course for Atlantis.

In the legendary lost city, King Dalios holds court, and rabble-rouser Hippias wishes for a return to the glory during the era of Kronos. Dalios attempts to dissuade them, but the Master interrupts him with a grand entry and claims to be an envoy of the gods. When Krasis claims to have seen Kronos, Dalios takes him and the Master into private conference. The Doctor arrives shortly thereafter, and Krasis attempts to kill him but Hippias intervenes. The Doctor and Jo are taken to Dalios instead.

The Master is dismissed after failing to place Dalios under his thrall, and he’s surprised to see the Doctor alive. The Doctor and “Jo Jo Grant” meet with Dalios, and the king sends Jo to meet with his queen, Galleia. Later on, Galleia meets with the Master, who offers him the crystal. Jo attempts to inform the king and the Doctor, but she is turned away. She pursues Hippias, who is tasked with retrieving the crystal for Galleia, but is captured by Krasis and locked in with the crystal’s guardian, the Minotaur.

The Doctor finds out about Jo and goes after her. Hippias tries to save Jo, but the Minotaur kills him, and the Doctor does his best olé by bullfighting the guardian into a wall. As the wall crumbles, the crystal chamber is exposed, and Krasis takes the Doctor and Jo to see the king. Unfortunately, the king has been deposed thanks to Galleia and replaced by the Master. He imprisons the Doctor and Jo, and after the Doctor relates a tale about the blackest day of his life. Behind his home on a mountain was a hermit (a monk, but not The Monk) who spent half his life under a tree. The hermit listened to the Doctor’s woes, and then pointed to a flower, which presented the Doctor a new perspective on life. Afterward, Dalios is imprisoned in the same cell, shares his vision of the Doctor saving Atlantis, and then dies.

Later on, Galleia addresses Atlantis and presents the Master as king, and he offers to summon Kronos. The Doctor reveals to Galleia that Dalios is dead, and she turns on the Master. Kronos is summoned and the Master orders it to destroy Atlantis. The Master escapes with the crystal, but Jo pursues him into his TARDIS. The Doctor chases after them in his TARDIS and threatens the Master with a time ram. The Master calls the Doctor’s bluff, and Jo initiates the time ram, catapulting both TARDISes into a featureless place. They are greeted by Kronos, who was released when the TARDISes collided. She grants the Doctor and Jo a reward for their assistance, and they ask to be returned home. She intends to keep the Master in torment and punishment, but the Doctor asks for leniency. Of course, the Master takes the opportunity to escape.

With the universe saved once again, the Doctor and Jo return to Cambridge as the time field is released and the TOMTIT device explodes. Everything is back to normal, the Brigadier acts as comic relief, and Benton returns to adult form in his vintage birthday suit.

The Doctor might really want to consider that rear view mirror.

This was a pretty good serial, but not quite up to the bar set by the rest of the season. It was certainly fun, but it’s kind of hard to follow The Mutants.

I appreciated that the writers hung a lampshade on the TOMTIT acronym: Almost every time it was mentioned, one of the companions would do a double take, and it’s understandable. The device looks nothing like a small bird or a biplane, and between this and the rather unfortunate shape of the time sensor, I think the creative team was having some fun with this one.

I also liked the symmetry of the Master and the Doctor simultaneously working the overload problem in separate locations. These frenemies (hey, the word’s been around since the 1950s) are really not that different if you strip away their motivations, and if the Master could get over his self-sabotaging need to have his plans overpower him, he’d be nearly unstoppable. I also liked how the Master didn’t engage the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit when he traveled to Atlantis. It added to the shock and awe of seeing a foreign object materialize from thin air.

I enjoyed the humor behind the Doctor showing up the Brigadier and his disdain of Bessie with the car’s super drive. I also liked seeing Dave “Darth Vader” Prowse in something other than Star Wars.

Overall, this was a great story that was perhaps a bit long, and even judged on its own merits is the weakest part of an otherwise spectacular season.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Ninth Series Summary

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #63: The Mutants

Doctor Who: The Mutants
(6 episodes, s09e15-e20, 1972)

Timestamp 063 The Mutants

 

This is one dense story with a lot to unpack. Unlike a parcel where you can cut the tape, root through all the packing peanut filler, and find the gem at the bottom, everything in this box feels important.

The Doctor gets an assignment from the Time Lords, and he’s oddly excited about it. Yes, it means that he gets to travel somewhere in the (pre-programmed) TARDIS, but isn’t he still being a puppet? This assignment makes the Doctor a courier with a message coded to one person, and the Jo accompanies him as they dematerialize for a broom closet in the future. This future contains three classes of beings: The Overlords who rule from the safety of the Skybase, the Solonians who live on the ruined planet Solos, and the mutants, Solonians who have transformed into a monster-form and are better known to the Overlords who hunt them as “mutts”.

The disparity between the classes is evident from the very beginning, right down to the separate (but equal) teleportation platforms for the delegates that are arriving for a conference. The Overlords, who hail from the empire of Earth, have decided that after exploiting and industrializing Solos to near death, it is better for the dying empire to graciously grant the Solonians their indepedence. This plan isn’t without its detractors, as the Marshal (the Skybase’s commander) is in favor of destroying the native Solonians (and whatever causes their mutations) and terraforming their world for the empire.

Before the conference, the Marshal discusses matters with a Solonian named Varan and offers him a token of appreciation that should be kept safe, which Varan bestows upon his son. Elsewhere, one of the Solonians transforms and is killed before the Doctor and Jo, who are then taken into custody. The conference itself goes swimmingly for all of a minute before the empire’s administrator delivers a condescending speech, prompting the Solonians start protesting for their freedom. As the Solonians grow more and more irritated, Varan’s son fiddles with the token and it goes off, killing the imperial administrator with a poison dart. Ky, the Solonian leader, runs from the guards, takes Jo hostage, and teleports down to the Solonian surface.

The downside to the planet’s surface, courtesy of the Marshal’s experiments, is the poisonous mists that dominate the day hours. Solonians are immune to those gas clouds, but humans cannot survive long. Knowing this, the Marshal uses the Doctor’s compassion for Jo to solicit the Time Lord’s help in exchange for stepping up the search for Jo and Ky. The Marshal also takes the opportunity to wrap up loose threads by killing Varan’s son with a poison dart and framing Ky for the administrator’s assassination. Varan escapes with the truth in hand, but the Marshal declares him a mutt and order his execution. Meanwhile, Ky saves Jo’s life by attacking a guard, stealing his mask, and escorting her to a nearby cave. Ky rocks Jo’s world by showing her how humans from Earth have turned into a swarm of devouring locusts that leave ruined worlds in their wake. Her expression betrays the culture shock as she realizes just how terrible her own people can be.

The Doctor attempts to open the message box, which he realized was meant for Ky when the Solonian rushed by earlier, using particle reversal. The Skybase’s lead scientist, Jaeger, realizes that the same technology could be used to clean up the planet’s atmosphere. This technique is better in Jaeger’s eyes than the previous option, which would use rockets to scrub the atmosphere at the cost of planetary genocide. Meanwhile, the Doctor exposes the Marshal’s deception with Varan to officer Stubbs, and the Marshal convinces officer Cotton to lie about Jo’s whereabouts. The hero and the villain are left at an empasse, but Cotton’s conscience forces him to comes clean after consulting with his roommate Stubbs.

Knowing that the Marshal is hiding the truth about Jo, the Doctor runs an experiment on particle reversal that deliberately blows the power grid so he can sneak down to Solos. Similarly, Stubbs helps Varan escape during the outage, and Varan captures the Doctor after mistaking him for an Overlord. Once on the surface, the Doctor disables Varan with his Vensuian Aikido skills and makes him promise as a warrior that he will take the Doctor to Ky. The Doctor and Varan find Ky in the caves after he and Jo were pushed deeper into the cave system by the mutants. The mutants are driven off, but Jo has moved further into the caves to a chamber filled with light. She collapses, but is rescued by a figure in a protective suit. Meanwhile, Ky opens the message box and finds a set of stone tablets with ancient writing on them, but the language is part of the culture destroyed by the Overlords.

Seemingly ignorant to their recent treachery, the Marshal sends Stubbs and Cotton to the surface after Varan and the Doctor. He leads the team, intending to deploy gas bombs in the caves and smoke out the Doctor. While searching for the Doctor, Stubbs and Cotton confirm the Marshal’s suspicions about their earlier actions, and he seals them in with explosives that collapse the cave entrances. The group is saved from the gas by the mysterious figure in the protective suit.

The man in the suit is Professor Sondergaard, an Overlord scientist long thought dead, who turned on them because of how the Overlords treated the Solonians. The professor and the Doctor stay behind in the caves to decipher the tablets, which turn out to be a Solonian calendar, as Stubbs, Cotton, Jo, and Ky make their way out of the mountain. The group of companions are ambushed by Varan’s warriors and taken hostage, and the Doctor and Sondergaard explore the radioactive chamber of lights, in which they find a large crystal.

The Marshal returns to the Skybase and gets word that an Earth Investigator is en route. Meanwhile, Varan’s group takes Jo’s group to the Skybase so they can destroy it, and the Doctor returns to the Skybase to analyze the crystal after theorizing that the mutations are actually a normal part of the Solonian lifecycle. The Marshal detects Varan’s intrusion and sends guards to intercept. The Solonian warriors are all killed, and the Marshal shoots Varan and the bulkhead, which breaches and sends Varan into space. Jo and her cohort escape the hull breach and are taken into custody, subject to execution by the Marshal, as Jaeger launches his rockets. Luckily, they malfunction and only poison the surface instead of ionizing the atmosphere. This leaves particle reversal as the only option, which forces the Marshal back to the planet to find the Doctor. The Doctor avoids the guards and teleports back up to the Skybase, but is ambushed by the Marshal. With Jo’s life at stake, the Doctor is pressed into helping Jaeger. Jo feigns illness and ambushes the guards, securing their freedom long enough to relay the situation to the incoming inspector’s ship, but Stubbs dies as the Marshal captures them once again.

On the surface, Sondergaard returns to the cave and is rescued from one of the guards by the mutants. The professor explains the genetic discovery, and the mutants agree to help find the Doctor. On the Skybase, the Doctor begins the particle reversal on the planet, which undoes the damage from the rockets, but the Marshal uses Jo as collateral as a threat to finish the job. Just then, the investigator arrives, and Jo is taken to the other hostages (Cotton and Ky) in the refueling room, which will become radioactive when the ship begins refueling. They narrowly escape through the refueling boom as the investigator conducts an inquiry of the Marshal’s actions.

When Jo, Ky, and Cotton arrive, the tables turn as the Doctor tricks the Marshal into exposing his bigotry. Sondergaard arrives to testify as a mutant beams up to the station. The mutant’s presence prompts the Investigator to release the guards and fight the intruders, and the Doctor takes advantage of the chaos to analyze the crystal. The Marshal confines Jo, Sondergaard, Cotton, and Ky to the refueling chamber, but Sondergaard uses the crystal and the radiation to accelerate Ky’s evolution. Ky ascends to a higher form, then makes his way through the station to the laboratory just as the particle reversal machine overloads and explodes. Ky kills the Marshal, thanks the Doctor, and leaves.

In the aftermath, Sondergaard and Cotton remain to study the Solonians, and Cotton gets promoted to station commander. The Doctor and Jo make excuses and depart for the TARDIS, prompting another “doctor who” groaner as the credits roll.

I summarized (yes, summarized) all of that just to make sense of it. As the TARDIS vwooorp-ed away, I had to sit back and really think about what I had just watched over the previous three hours. For me, it was almost like I was back to analyzing Farscape again because on the surface, this is a typical good guy/bad guy monster tale, and that surface story has a twist with the monsters not serving the villain’s agenda. But there was more. It called to me. I knew that I had to look deeper.

This was a very dense story, and I loved pretty much all of it. There was plenty of action and intrigue – again, the frosting on the surface – but it also had delicious thematic layers that made it one of the most on-point stories I have seen so far with allegories about racism, segregation, environmentalism, over-industrialization, corruption, tyranny, economics, politics, and probably a handful of other topics that I still haven’t figured out, and all it is wrapped up in a neat presentation with a bow on top.

Quite honestly, it was like a handful of classic Star Trek episodes turned up to eleven, but it wasn’t messy or tangled. I settled on a mid-range 4 rating, and you know what happens with that when I add a drop of my patent-pending optimism.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time Monster

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #62: The Sea Devils

Doctor Who: The Sea Devils
(6 episodes, s09e09-e14, 1972)

Timestamp 062 The Sea Devils

 

The Master returns to Doctor Who, scheming and plotting from his island prison cell. The Doctor and Jo pay him a visit, and the Master claims to be rehabilitated, but he refuses to reveal where he parked his TARDIS, so the Doctor is skeptical.

Adding to the Doctor’s uneasy feeling is a recent rash of ship sinkings in the area and Colonel Trenchard, the very odd prison warden who (unbeknownst to the Doctor) is working with the Master to defeat some unknown enemy agents. The Doctor goes to the nearby naval base and enlists the help of the base commander. He and Jo head to the nearby sea fort to investigate, but are stranded as the Sea Devils destroy their boat. The Sea Devils give chase inside the fort, where the Doctor and Jo find a single half-mad survivor before calling for help and escaping.

According to the Doctor, these Sea Devils are related to the Silurians: They are adapted to living underwater, and they share the same motivations as their cave-dwelling cousins.

Trenchard sets the Master free, and he goes to the naval base in the guise of a Navy commander. He steals some sonar equipment, assaults a Chief Petty Officer, and escapes after being spotted by Jo. When the Doctor and Jo return to the prison, the Master is back in his cell as if nothing ever happened. The Doctor sends Jo to inform UNIT as the Master escapes and a random swordfight breaks out. Trenchard arrests the Doctor, and the Master explains his evil plan to take over the world with the Sea Devils.

Meanwhile, the Sea Devils take over a rather spacious submarine. Who knows why at this point, but they do.

The Doctor escapes with Jo’s help and they run for the beach, but are soon trapped among the Master, the colonel’s troops, a minefield, and a Sea Devil summoned by the Master. The Master’s plan goes south as the fearful soldiers attack the Sea Devil, the Sea Devil kills the soldiers, the Doctor and Jo run for the minefield, the Sea Devil enters the minefield, the Doctor triggers a mine to scare the Sea Devil back to the ocean, the colonel questions the Master about the creature who slaughtered his men, and the Master sends a handful of them to attack the prison and kill Trenchard.

Take a moment here to breathe as the secret service Sea Devils take their luxury submarine somewhere. Who knows where are this point, but they do.

The Doctor and Jo go back to the naval base, and the Doctor takes a diving bell to the foundation of the sea fort to investigate. The Sea Devils abduct him and take him to their leader, with whom the Doctor almost brokers peace, but is interrupted by the arrival the Master. Further complicating matters are Parliamentary Private Secretary Walker, a sexist, pompous, arrogant ass who arrives to “solve” the missing ship problem with his depth charges.

The Doctor escapes from the sea devils, rescues the submarine crew, and they all break free from the underwater base in a moment of okay, sure that had me setting aside my background in undersea warfare. At least they wrapped up the dangling plot thread about that stolen sub. Not to be dissuaded, the Master and the Sea Devils take over the naval base, and the Master tries to convince the Doctor to help him revive all of the Sea Devils around the world. The Doctor sabotages the machine, which incapacitates the Sea Devils so the sailors can escape. The Doctor fixes the “mistake” just as the sailors stage an assault to retake the island, but the Master runs with the machine and the Doctor gives chase. They end up back in the waiting fins of the Sea Devils, who are now tired of all of these Time Lord shenanigans. The Doctor sabotages the machine by reversing the polarity of the neutron flow (huzzah!), which creates a bomb that the Master unknowingly activates. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open the cell, and he and the Master escape. The Sea Devil base explodes, but the Master works his mental magic to escape in a hovercraft.

All of that in six episodes, which normally poses a problem for me, but this story was so well paced that it didn’t matter. Each thirty-minute block just flew by.

Despite the pace, there were a couple of down notes. First, the third episode must have been a bit short since they repeated the whole swordfight from the previous episode. It wouldn’t have been a problem if I wasn’t watching these in rapid succession, but when the episodes are back-to-back, long repeated story points shred the pacing. Second, it’s becoming standard operating procedure for the Master that his eyes are too big for his metaphorical stomach. His plans always double back on him, usually because he’s trying to wield too much power. Don’t get me wrong, it makes sense with the megalomaniacal bag full of cats that is the Master, but it’s become predictable. Especially after an entire season of stories with that common thread.

On the plus side: First, the writers did their homework with all of the naval trappings. Even though the submarine was the standard Hollywood-style hotel underwater, it was still okay with me in practice. Second, Roger Delgado is deliciously evil and melodramatic in this serial, and while Series Eight was decent with his portrayals, for some reason this serial really worked for me. Last, I loved how the Doctor used the sonic screwdriver as a tool to navigate the minefield, set off one of the charges to scare the Sea Devil, and escape from a jail cell. The prop also has a totally ’70s sci-fi vibe, and I adore it.

This fast-paced and fairly tightly written serial shook out to a high 4 when I was done, and I have no problem rounding that up.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mutants