Timestamp #116: Logopolis

Doctor Who: Logopolis
(4 episodes, s18e25-e28, 1981)

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It is the end of the Fourth Doctor, but the moment has been prepared for.

A restless Doctor paces in thought inside the Cloister Room, a new and expansive set, pondering decay and entropy. He decides that instead of returning to Gallifrey and facing inquiries on why Romana decided to break Time Lord law and get involved in affairs of the universe, he should let “a few oceans pass under a few bridges” and head to Earth. He also plans to repair the chameleon circuit by materializing around a police box and measuring it in thirty-seven dimensions. His musings on the procedure are interrupted by the Cloister Bell, a signal of impending universal catastrophe.

On Earth, that real police box that the Doctor wants to use is replaced with a TARDIS. The police officer who was actually using it is killed. Nearby, we meet Tegan, a forgetful flight attendant. She is being driven to the airport by her Aunt Vanessa when her car gets a flat right next to the killer police box. She decides to fix it herself and avoid asking for help, and the women don’t notice when the Doctor’s TARDIS arrives, barely missing the target. The Doctor adjusts and the bad box appears in the console room. Meanwhile, Tegan notes that the spare tire is also flat, but does not notice the pure white figure studying them from across the road.

The TARDIS’s instrumentation fails due to a gravity bubble, forcing the Doctor to leave and investigate. He sees the ladies fixing the car and the white figure before returning to his console room. Once inside, he enters the police box and discovers that it is another TARDIS with a dark console room and the original police box inside. So we have a TARDIS within a TARDIS once again.

As Tegan decides to call for help, she enters the Doctor’s TARDIS just as the dark TARDIS dematerializes. As a result, she is trapped alone inside the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Cloister Bell sounds once again and Tegan investigates. Meanwhile, Vanessa follows her into the police box and finds the Master.

The Doctor and Adric investigate the police boxes, finding themselves in a near-infinite loop. The Doctor breaks out to find the police investigating Vanessa’s car, and inside it they find miniaturized versions of the original police officer and Vanessa herself.

The officers believe that the Doctor is responsible for the strange situation, and the Time Lord offers to accompany them to the station until Adric stages a diversion and they both run for the TARDIS. Upon hearing the Cloister Bell, they attempt to dematerialize but cannot leave Earth. The Doctor reconfigures the TARDIS interior by jettisoning Romana’s old room, and he sends Adric to answer the Cloister Bell while pilots the ship.

Where does Romana’s room go? Into the vortex of time and space? Recycled into the multi-spatial geometry of the TARDIS?

The bell stops as Tegan enters the Cloister Room, so Adric turns back, but Tegan encounters the other TARDIS. The Cloister Room becomes downright creepy as the Master laughs maniacally. She attempts to find her way out as the Master’s TARDIS dematerializes and rematerializes as a tree.

The Doctor reveals that he has a message from Traken, through which he deduces that the Master has killed Tremas. He knows that they cannot continue to Logopolis if the Master’s TARDIS is still within his own, so he decides to materialize under the Thames River and flush the TARDIS out. Unfortunately, he misses and lands on a nearby jetty instead. The white figure appears and beckons, telling the Time Lord that he must continue on to Logopolis. When they arrive, Tegan bursts into the console room and the Doctor declares that, based on what he has learned from the mysterious figure, he and his companions must part company. Meanwhile, the Master’s TARDIS vanishes from the Cloister Room and reappears outside, taking the form of a column.

The Doctor and his companions meet with the lead Logopolitan, the Monitor, and ask for his help with the chameleon circuit. As the Monitor works and passes the calculation on to the rest of the Logopolitans, the Master begins to kill them one by one. The Doctor recognizes the Central Register (the hub of Logopolis) as a replica of the Pharos Project from Earth, an attempt to contact alien life, before taking the calculation to the TARDIS. He locks Tegan and Adric out, then inputs the figures, but since they were disrupted by the murders, the TARDIS shrinks by half. While the assembled crowd (and the mysterious white figure) watches, Nyssa arrives thanks to “a friend of the Doctor’s.”

I kind of want the half-scale model of the TARDIS.

The Logopolitans take the TARDIS to be analyzed as the Master jeers from a secluded location. They use sonic projectors to stabilize the TARDIS as the Monitor tracks down the errors in the calculation, which they isolate to the murdered analysts. Tegan shows the corrected calculation to the Doctor through the scanner while Adric and Nyssa track down the Master; Adric believes that the white figure is the Master, while Nyssa wants to find her father. The Master uses the latter to his advantage by attracting the young woman and using a bracelet to control her.

The TARDIS is restored through the revised calculations, and the Doctor emerges shaken but unharmed. He reveals Vanessa’s death to Tegan and vows to stop the Master no matter what it takes. The Doctor retrieves his companions and encounters the mysterious white figure, whom Nyssa reveals is the “friend of the Doctor’s” who brought her to Logopolis.

The writing worked for me here. I honestly thought that the Master was the “friend” who brought Nyssa as a distraction. This twist was intriguing.

The Master wheels the sonic projectors into the calculation centers and activates them, silencing all of the calculating Logopolitans. The Master holds them for ransom until the Monitor explains why they replicated the Pharos Project on the planet. The Doctor arrives, revealing that the Master is not Nyssa’s father, and revealing that Logopolis is the cornerstone over the causal nexus. As Adric tries to reposition the projectors, the Master forces Nyssa to choke Adric until Tegan restores the devices. The Master attempts to demonstrate that his control is temporary, but the damage is done: Logopolis is dead.

Wow. I’m actually impressed with the evil here. It wasn’t direct action that destroyed a planet, but it’s still evil nonetheless.

The Master tries to use Nyssa to kill the Monitor, but the entropy has spread to his controls. Nyssa is freed from her bracelet, and the Monitor explains that since the universe has long since passed the point of heat death and is on its way to collapse, the Logopolitans have been opening temporary voids to channel the entropy into other universes. One such void is like the one that sent the TARDIS to E-Space. The Master’s interference has collapsed the voids and put the universe back on course to death. To save it, the Doctor allies with the Master – much to his companions’ chagrin – and sends his companions into the TARDIS. Tegan, however, disobeys and leaves as the TARDIS dematerializes, piloted by the mysterious white figure outside of all spacetime.

The Doctor and the Master seek out the Monitor, who reveals a plan to make the voids permanent. Before he can transmit the information to another universe through a void, he is consumed by the entropy. The Master attempts to run, but is covered in collapsing rubble. The Doctor and Tegan take the research and escape using the Master’s TARDIS, rescuing the cad along the way. They arrive at the real Pharos Project on Earth to send the information through one remaining void.

On the Doctor’s TARDIS, the mysterious white figure tasks Adric to pilot the TARDIS to the Pharos Project. As he works, Nyssa watches the entropy wave destroy part of the universe, including her home of Traken. The TARDIS arrives on Earth moments later.

Poor Nyssa.

The Doctor and the Master feed the program into the computers, but the transmission antenna needs to be properly aligned. The companions distract the guards as the two Time Lords make their way to the antenna, but the Master double-crosses the Doctor and uses the antenna to transmit a message of domination instead of one of salvation. If they do not acknowledge his rule over the universe, he will send the signal to close the void and destroy everything. The Doctor runs to disconnect the cable that could transmit the signal to close the void, and as he hangs on for dear life, he sees visions of his enemies: The decaying Master, a Dalek, the Captain, the Cyber-Leader, Davros, a Sontaran, a Zygon, and the Black Guardian.

The Master escapes, and the Doctor falls.

It is the end for him, and he is accompanied to his death by visions of Sarah Jane, Harry Sullivan, the Brigadier, Leela, K9, and Romana. The Doctor is not troubled by this however, and he smiles, for the moment has been prepared for as the mysterious white figure arrives. He is the Watcher, and has been some form of the Doctor all along. The Watcher melds with the Doctor, and the Time Lord regenerates.

The ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked more explanation about the Watcher and his meaning. As it stands now, it’s a plot convenience on the order of the Third Doctor.

But, those complaints are small potatoes in comparison to the positives. I loved how the companions truly carried this story. I also loved how the Doctor gave his life to save the universe. It can’t happen with every story, but they are much more powerful when he is willing to make that sacrifice.

So, yeah, this is a top story even without the handicap I give to regeneration stories.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Eighteenth Series and Fourth Doctor Summary

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 #97: The Invasion of Time

Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time
(6 episodes, s15e21-e26, 1978)

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Duplicitous Doctor is delightful.

Somewhere in deep space, the TARDIS is parked on an alien ship. The Doctor negotiates with the ship’s crew as Leela and K9 keep the TARDIS running. Leela tries to use the scanner, but the Doctor disabled it to prevent her interfering. The Doctor signs a contract granting him complete control over the Time Lords, returns to the TARDIS, and departs. Leela takes a dip in the TARDIS swimming pool to pass the time.

On Gallifrey, the Time Lords detect the incoming TARDIS, but they cannot determine who it is, so they increase security. The TARDIS materializes and the guards, led by Commander Andred, arrive with orders to arrest the pilot and destroy the capsule. The Doctor emerges and demands to be taken to Chancellor Borusa.

Leela is on Gallifrey? How can she be there but Sarah Jane could not?

Upon meeting with Borusa, the Doctor claims his legal right as President of the Council of Time Lords. He is very gruff and brusque with the Time Lords, who are unaware that every interaction is being watched by the mysterious aliens. The Doctor selects his Presidential chamber, including 20th century décor and lead-lined walls, and orders that Leela be given proper accommodations.

Once the Doctor in inaugurated, he will be connected to the Matrix, the repository of Time Lord knowledge and history. The ceremony proceeds, but once the circlet is placed on his head, the Doctor collapses in pain. He is attended to by the surgeon general, although Borusa wants him arrested (which cannot happen to the President under law), and taken to the Chancellory to rest. Leela is taken away for questioning in the matter, and when she arrives at the Chancellory, the Doctor recovers and has her expelled from the Citadel since aliens are not allowed there. Leela runs to evade capture.

At this point, everything’s playing out as if the Doctor is completely betraying Leela.

Borusa tries to call the Doctor’s bluff, but the Doctor tells him that as long as Leela remains at large, Gallifrey is in danger. Borusa leaves the Doctor rest, after which the Doctor dons his normal attire and escapes the Chancellory. He hopscotches his way to the TARDIS with Leela in pursuit, but he locks her out and then shares a secret plan with K9. While on the run, Leela stumbles into the space traffic control room and meets the operator, Rodan. Together, they note that a massive warship is approaching the planet, but Rodan assures Leela that it cannot harm them so long as the planetary transduction barrier remains in place.

The Doctor leaves the TARDIS and returns to the Chancellory just in time to meet with Castellan Kelner, who has been watching the Doctor’s adventure the entire time. Meanwhile, a guard unlocks the TARDIS, releasing K9 who stuns the guard for his trouble. K9 disables the transduction barrier, allowing the warship to approach and three aliens to materialize in the Citadel as the Doctor laughs an evil laugh.

The aliens are called the Vardans, and the Doctor entered into an alliance with them some time ago. He asks Borusa to meet him in his chambers later, and tells the Vardans that it is only a matter of time until he retrieves the Great Key. When he reaches his quarters, he explains everything to Borusa, their secret maintained by the lead-lined walls of the room. Leela was banished to protect both her and the secret. Leela convinces Rodan to join her in the Wastelands, which she believes to be part of the Doctor’s plan. The run into Andred, who lets them go but stays behind to face the invasion and keep tabs on Castellan Kelner. In the Wastelands, the duo encounters a tribe of Gallifreyan outsiders led by Nesbin. These tribe has rejected Time Lord society and live in the wild.

The Doctor and Borusa leave the chambers and meet with Kelner and the Vardans. The Doctor begins his act: He has Borusa placed under house arrest and directs Kelner with tracking and expelling trouble-making (potentially rebellious) Time Lords. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS where K9 is interfacing with the control panel. He places the circlet on the robot dog’s head, giving him access to the Matrix. Andred, in an attempt to defend his home, enters the TARDIS and corners the Doctor, threatening to assassinate him.

K9 stuns Andred before continuing his analysis. When the guardsman comes to, he realizes that his weapon is ineffective. The Doctor leaves Andred with K9 and discovers that Kelner’s men have eliminated Andred’s force. He returns to the TARDIS and explains things to Andred: The TARDIS shields them from the Vardans, and the Matrix has been invaded. The Doctor modifies Andred’s helmet to shield the guardsman from the Vardans, then constructs a plot to disable the remaining force field around Gallifrey. The downside is that only Rassilon has the power to do so, but the upside is that his being lives on in the Matrix.

Kelner and the Vardans discuss the Doctor’s erratic behavior and begin to plot against him. Meanwhile, Leela organizes the rebel tribe to stage an assault on the Citadel. The Doctor returns the Vardans and tries to earn back their trust by opening the planet to attack. He opens a hole in the shield directly above the Citadel, and a spacecraft approaches as three humanoids materialize in the Panopticon. As the hole opens, K9 leads Andred to the Presidential chambers and Leela leads the tribe to the Citadel. The Doctor returns to his chambers, prompting the Vardans to place Kelner in charge and order the Doctor’s execution, but K9 traces the Vardan signal back to its source and places their planet in a time loop.

Presuming that they have won, the Doctor, Leela, Andred, and the tribesmen converge on the Panopticon and being to celebrate, but their joy is short-lived as three Sontaran soldiers appear and take aim on the group. Well, that escalated quickly.

I did like how the Doctor immediately surrendered to save the assembled innocents.

The Sontarans used the Vardans as pawns to dismantle Gallifrey’s defenses. The Doctor hides his true identity as the Sontarans search for him, and Borusa works behind the scenes to provide a distraction. The Doctor’s group scatters while Kelner remains behind to polish boots with his tongue. The Doctor, Leela, Rodan, Andred, and Nesbin – basically, the power players in this plot – run to the Presidential Chambers and find Borusa. Hot on their heels, the Sontarans begin to assault the door, which Borusa had previously reinforced with titanium. Escaping through a secret exit, the group (now including K9) moves to Borusa’s office. The Doctor sends everyone onward to the TARDIS, then asks Borusa for the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. Borusa attempts to deceive him, but in the end surrenders the key to the Doctor, making him the first president since Rassilon to hold it.

On the way back to the TARDIS, Nesbin is killed, but with his last ounce of strength he takes down a Sontaran. The Doctor and Borusa retreat to the TARDIS with Sontarans in pursuit, and the Doctor entrusts the Great Key to Leela’s protection. As the Sontaran commander forces Kelner to widen the hole in the planetary shield, the Doctor works with Rodan to seal it. The overrides for the shield are controlled from the TARDIS, so Kelner sabotages the stabilizer banks and sends the time capsule hurtling toward a black star. The Doctor overrides the stabilizers, but that leaves the TARDIS stuck in state until the override can be, well, overridden.

Kelner gains access to the TARDIS, and the Sontarans pursue the Doctor’s group through her labyrinthine interiors. Which, in this incarnation, appear to be a series of industrial tunnels and eclectic rooms. In the workshop, the Doctor tasks a hypnotized Rodan as K9’s assistant, including possession of the Great Key, while he distracts the invaders. The Doctor’s group finds Borusa at the swimming pool, and he joins the running distraction. When Andred is inadvertently wounded, Leela takes him and Borusa back to the workshop. The Doctor meets up with them, and finds that Rodan and K9 have constructed a de-mat gun, the ultimate weapon of the Time Lords that erases its targets from all of time. The Doctor pursues the Sontaran commander to the Panopticon, where the warrior plans to destroy the Eye of Harmony, which will destroy Gallifrey. The Doctor uses the de-mat gun on the explosion, which removes the commander from time, destroys the gun, and wipes the Doctor’s memory of the entire event.

The Doctor used two different guns in this story. I really need to start a tracker of some sort.

With the day won, the now resigned President gets ready to depart, but Leela and K9 decline to follow. Leela has fallen in love with Andred, even though aliens are not welcome on Gallifrey, and K9 remains to look after her. As the Doctor flies on to his next adventure, his former companions mourning his newfound loneliness, he pulls a box out of storage: K9 Mark II.

This serial had some really good plotting and acting. It was great to see the Doctor playing such a powerful role in saving his home. I really wish that he hadn’t had the entire thing erased from his brain since the important part to forget was the de-mat gun.

It’s also time to say goodbye to Leela. Louise Jameson is a great actress, but Leela wasn’t my favorite companion. Granted, Sarah Jane is a hard act to follow, and Leela saved a couple of stories in her run. I will miss her.

The big downside to this story: The patched-in love story for Leela. It just appears as a quick method to eject her from the TARDIS, and that drags the grade down from a glowing top score to a solid four.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Fifteenth Series Summary

 

 

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 #92: Horror of Fang Rock

Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock
(4 episodes, s15e01-e04, 1977)

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A delightfully spooky and claustrophobic beginning to the 15th season.

A bright light streaks across the night sky near a lighthouse at Fang Rock, splashing down in the ocean below. The lighthouse crew – which seems really well-constructed and defined for Doctor Who cannon fodder (spoiler!) – dismisses it. The object, however, does not dismiss them. As an unnatural fog rolls in, the TARDIS materializes near the lighthouse and the lighthouse’s light goes out.

Leela is perturbed that they won’t be touring Brighton because the TARDIS decided on scenic Fang Rock instead. The Doctor, unconcerned about the vacation plans, is interested in how the working lighthouse is dark, and decides to investigate and ask for directions. Leela’s sixth sense kicks in again, and one of the keepers, Ben, is attacked by a creature in the generator room.

The travelers arrive at the lighthouse and introduce themselves before helping to fix the generator. The Doctor looks for Ben while Leela stays with Vince, the youngest of the crew. The light is restored without any assistance from the Doctor, and he discovers Ben’s corpse. The Doctor tells Vince that it was electrocution, but further investigation yields strange clues. The eldest keeper, Reuben, confronts the travelers, presuming that they may be spies for a foreign power.

Reuben tends to Ben’s corpse, Leela goes to hunt the creature, and the Doctor learns about the light in the sky from Vince. Ben’s body somehow moves to the rocks outside, but the crew can’t worry about that as a fast moving sailboat emerges from the thickening fog and runs aground. The Doctor, Reuben, and Vince search for survivors as Leela reluctantly keeps watch over the lighthouse. Leela spots a jellyfish-like creature on the rocks as the crew returns with the survivors: Colonel James Skinsale, a member of Parliament; the yacht’s owner, Lord Palmerdale; and his highly strung secretary Adelaide Lessage. The ship’s coxswain, Harker, arrives later, bearing Ben’s corpse.

Reuben assumes that the Beast of Fang Rock, a local superstition, has returned, adding further atmosphere to this already spooky and ethereal story.

As the Doctor and Leela investigate the rocky shoreline, we find out that Skinsale provided secret information to Palmerdale, which the latter hoped to sell on the London Stock Exchange for a large profit. That’s why they were traveling so fast under such weather conditions. The clues lead the Doctor to conclude that the creature is an alien invader – that the way this show works – and that it is creating the fog as a shield while it prepares to attack. Everyone else on the rocky island, as expected, scoffs in disbelief.

Reuben goes to stoke the boiler as Leela’s sixth sense flares up again. Reuben is attacked and screams, prompting the Doctor and Leela to investigate. Harker follows shorty thereafter and encounters a zombie-like Reuben – which he dismisses as a cranky, tired old man – just before the Doctor and Leela return. Harker and Leela secure the boiler room access door as the Doctor talks with Vince. Vince is being targeted by Palmerdale as an easy mark who will transmit his information to London, and the man and his money duck out onto the observation deck as the Doctor arrives. As Vince and the Doctor converse, the creature scales the exterior of the lighthouse and kills Lord Palmerdale. Meanwhile, Skinsale, who overheard Palmerdale’s offer to Vince, destroys the telegraph to prevent outgoing transmissions.

In his quarters, Reuben is role-playing as a flashlight. Yeah, he’s definitely possessed.

The Doctor hears of Palmerdale’s death and retrieves the body with Skinsale and Harker. The character of Adelaide is reduced from redshirt to apoplectic redshirt. I assume that she’s not a damsel in distress only because the antagonists aren’t taking prisoners. Harker remains in the boiler room to secure the door, but his day is ended as Reuben arrives and kills him with glee. With no one to tend the boiler, the pressure goes too low, and the Doctor and Leela respond only to discover Harker’s body. In a twist, they also find Reuben’s body, and he’s been dead for hours. The aliens are learning about their prey by assuming their form, similar to lycanthropy. The Doctor realizes that in securing the lighthouse, he has locked the danger inside with them all.

Because it can, the Reuben-alien kills Vince, and the Doctor and Leela strategize on how to defeat it. They find a distress beacon relay attached to the generator, and Leela moves everyone to the lamp room as the Doctor searches for the signal modulator. Before the survivors can leave the telegraph room, the Reuben-alien corners them. It kills Adelaide and evades Leela’s attacks. The Doctor sends Leela and Skinsale to the lamp room as he confronts the alien, which he finally recognizes as a Rutan, the foe of the Sontarans.

The Rutan and the Doctor discuss the situation: The Rutan are looking for a fall-back position as they strategically withdraw from the Sontaran fronts, and Earth is prime real estate. Never mind that the Sontarans will bombard Earth to remove the Rutans because the Rutan mothership is nearly here.

The Doctor lures the Rutan to the lamp room where Leela and Skinsale spring a flare-based trap. The fire and heat harm the alien. The Rutan retreats, and the remaining survivors devise a plan to transform the lighthouse into a laser to destroy the mothership.

A Death Star lighthouse? I can dig it.

The Doctor and Skinsale make their way downstairs to retrieve some convenient diamonds from Palmerdale’s corpse while Leela defends the lamp room. Skinsale snags the diamonds and the Doctor selects one, discarding the rest. Skinsale goes after them, and his greed kills him as the Rutan attacks. The Doctor ascends the staircase and Leela fires her weapon, killing the Rutan. The Doctor rigs the laser as the mothership approaches. They arm it and evacuate the lighthouse, running for cover. Leela glances at the blast, which temporarily blinds her, but it disperses, changing her eye color in the process. Which, behind the scenes, is a good thing for actress Louise Jameson and for fans of the hunter-companion.

They depart, leaving behind the corpses of everyone they met on this adventure, as the Doctor recites Flannan Isle by Wilfrid Gibson, another tale of missing lighthouse keepers.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a great exercise in being spooky. Between the foggy and small, isolated island to the claustrophobic lighthouse itself, this story reveled in its unnerving vibe. I loved how well the keepers were developed as secondary characters, but I found the shipwreck survivors to be nothing more than two-dimensional props.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy

 

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 #59: The Dæmons

Doctor Who: The Dæmons
(5 episodes, s08e21-e25, 1971)

Timestamp 059 The Dæmons

 

It was a dark and stormy night, almost the setting for a Doctor Who Halloween Special, but aired in early summer.

Professor Horner and his team are excavating a site called Devil’s Hump, and they are surrounded by a series of events that are like magic. The local village witch, Olive Hawthorne, comes out to protest but is ignored, so she returns home and goes to visit the vicar, a new man named Mr. Magister, who is really the Master. Also, she’s immune to his hypnotic powers, unlike everyone else in the town.

Turns out, the Master is attempting to summon a demon. Well, a race of demons. Well, really an alien race that looks like demons that are kind of like scientists that run experiments on civilizations. They’ve been on the planet for 100,000 years, and when the experiments are deemed successful, they spark a technological revolution. When the experiments fail, you get Atlantis.

Anyway, this serial is an exercise in Arthur C. Clarke’s third law of prediction: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The Dæmons have been around for so long that they’ve been worked into our mythology, and when they appear/disappear, it requires a conversion between energy and matter. That energy release when they shrink resulted in a shield dome being constructed around the village. The Doctor helps UNIT cut a hole in it so they can keep the gargoyle Bok busy while the Doctor attends to the larger Dæmon named Azal. The Master and the Doctor negotiate with Azal as to who will serve it best, and it sides with the Master. Jo offers to sacrifice herself to prevent Azal from killing the Doctor, and that somehow short circuits Azal’s brain. Azal explodes, the Master is finally captured by UNIT, the Doctor and Jo dance around the maypole, la fin.

It was an interesting idea, but it felt poorly executed, and I think a lot of that is because of the sensitivity at the time regarding demons and the supernatural on the BBC. This story could be done now and not feel so awkward or ham-fisted, but I think the prevailing culture crippled the story’s potential.

There were some good points, like the realistic special effects (the helicopter shot, originally sourced from From Russia with Love, and the church explosion) and the continuing thread of the Master biting off more than he can chew, but then there were also some really bad points, such as the resolution. The threat was stopped by accident, and if Jo hadn’t been there, the Doctor would have failed to stop the Master from taking over the world. Similarly, the Master was captured by Sgt Benton’s good timing.

This story also has a few potential links to the future of Doctor Who. First, Bok is apparently made of stone. Are the Dæmons precursors or ancestors to the Weeping Angels? Second, the UNIT sergeant who builds the force field defeating contraption is named Osgood. Is he related to the current personal assistant at UNIT who saved the world? Both of them are scientists and they both wear thick-rimmed glasses.

The Master offered the villagers anything they wanted for the price of their servitude, and I heard echoes of Needful Things.

Finally, UNIT needs to stop shooting things. It hardly ever works.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Series Eight Summary

 

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 #58: Colony in Space

Doctor Who: Colony in Space
(6 episodes, s08e15-e20, 1971)

Timestamp 058 Colony in Space

 

I really don’t like the Time Lords.

The Master is still mucking about in space and time, and the Time Lords reinstate the Doctor’s mobility to stop the next evil scheme. The Master has stolen the plans for a Doomsday Weapon, and only the Doctor can stop him from acquiring and using the device.

The TARDIS spontaneously dematerializes with the Doctor and Jo inside and travels to the planet Uxarieus, where a colony of humans has been established, but the colonists don’t trust the government back on Earth. In this future, the Earth government is a repressive bureaucracy that thrives on red tape. Meanwhile, the Interplanetary Mining Corporation (IMC) is trying to jump the colony’s claim and mine the planet for duralinium, which is needed on Earth. Since the colonists get in the way, the IMC is trying to scare them off. They call for an adjudicator to settle the issue, and it so happens that they send the Master.

And that’s the weak frame for the rest of the plot.

The story follows that there once was a powerful race of beings on the planet, but they developed the Doomsday Weapon – a device with the power to destroy a star – and then squirreled it away because nobody really needs that much power. The weapon’s presence led to the decline of the society, and they regressed to being primitives that hide in caves. When the Guardian, who leads the remnants of the ancient civilization, hears the tale of the Master and the Doctor, he destroys the weapon and his people to save the universe.

On the upside to this story, Jo visits the TARDIS, gets her “bigger on the inside” moment, and rapidly learns what it means to be a Doctor’s companion. From the story perspective, it was good to see that the writers didn’t rest on the trope of everyone in the party of evil completely believing in the thing that is evil: Caldwell was a great foil for the captain’s plans.

I also thought that the model work was great in this story, and I loved the IMC ship exterior.

Now, the list of negatives. First, the Time Lords, who are just playing games with the Doctor at this point. They reinstate his mobility to serve their needs because… what, they can’t simply pull the Master back by themselves? They can’t meddle in affairs of time and space, but they can send the Doctor, who they exiled as punishment for meddling in time and space?

No wonder he’s bitter about the exile. I would be too if they kept being hypocritical about everything.

The effects with the TARDIS were rather shoddy, from the *poof* materialization/dematerialization (it used to fade in and out) to the remnants of the Troughton-era control room (the roundel wallpaper was okay for the low-res black and white days, but with higher production values, the set deserves better).

This Doctor is a lot more physical, which is fine, but he’s a lot more prone to assaulting people. He uses his Venusian karate/aikido again here multiple times, and while the self-defense argument is on the table, he’s far more aggressive than his predecessors (and the successors with which I’m familiar). It feels like they’re trying to bring in the Bond fans, which almost matches up with the debut of Roger Moore in the famous role. I see a lot of similarities in Roger Moore’s Bond and Jon Pertwee’s Doctor.

Overall, a weak framing story, but a decent showdown with the Doctor, the Master, and a not-quite-dead-yet race of superior intelligence.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Dæmons

 

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 #38: The Abominable Snowmen

Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen
(6 episodes, s05e05-e10, 1967)

Timestamp 038 The Abominable Snowmen

 

The Doctor is excited to be back in Tibet, has a Holy Ghanta to return to the local monastery, and the adventure begins with murder. The Doctor’s warm furry coat gets him confused with the real monster of the week, the Yeti, who is actually pretty convincing for the 1960s. Meanwhile, the local monks are battling the Yeti, who is a robot being controlled by Padmasambhava, the High Lama of the monastery, who is himself being controlled by The Great Intelligence.

The Great Intelligence… wait, I know that one! This nemesis has something for the cold, doesn’t it?

It’s a pretty simple story from there: The Great Intelligence wants to take over the world and our heroes unlock the puzzle to stop it. Cue the big explosion at the end to wrap it all up. Victoria continues to grow on me with her desire to explore and strength of character. Jamie is still doing his thing as the vocal compass of the team.

Overall, it’s a good story and an entertaining time.

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors

 

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.