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Three Old Who stories that I've been watching.

The Dæmons, first shown in 1971, is presumably the only Doctor Who story featuring a character in the title outside the standard 26 letters of the alphabet (plus numbers and punctuation). I'm a bit stunned that it is remembered as the peak of the Pertwee era by some. It's not very good; it's not very bad either; perhaps that makes it an archetypal Pertwee story, and so those who like that sort of thing will like this sort of thing. Delgado is good; Benton and Yates are good (and this story has clearly provided much inspiration for slash writers); both the Third Doctor and Jo are bad, as usual; and the monster is just awful, as is the final twist (it is destroyed when Jo offers her life instead of the Doctor's as such self-sacrifice CANNOT COMPUTE).

This does at least mark my pasing the half-way point in Pertwee stories: of the 24 broadcast I have now watched 13 (Spearhead from Space, Inferno, Terror of the Autons, The Claws of Axos, The Dæmons, The Curse of Peladon, The Mutants, The Three Doctors, Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks, The Green Death, The Time Warrior, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs) which leaves 11. Wonder how long that will take me.

Resurrection of the Daleks: In keeping with my practice of watching the later Davros stories backwards (see Revelation of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks), I tried the Fifth Doctor's only encounter with his chief foe, from 1984. Well, its did explain the plot line about there being two different factions of Daleks, which had passed me by completely. Apart from that the story makes little sense. It is memorable for lots of big name actors - Leslie Grantham in his first TV role, apparently - all getting shot (apparntly this has the largest number of on-screen violent deaths of any Dooctor Who story) and running around for no apparent reason. When Turlough reappears in the middle of it I was taken by surprise as I had forgotten he was in it. I did like Rodney Bewes' performance. (And Sneh Gupta.)

There's some dire Doctor/Davros dialogue (note alliteration) but some good Davison moments too, like when he remembers the previous companions and incarnations, and his reaction to Tegan's farewell (and she's been laid out horizontal for most of the story and so missed most of the gore). Basically, this is one for completists. (But if you're reading this, you probably are a completist.)

Robot was the first of Tom Baker's stories as the Fourth Doctor, its first episode shown at the end of December 1974. I should really have watched it before getting the first set of Sarah Jane Smith audios, as they turn out to be a sort of sequel. It is particularly remarkable (even now, when Pertwee's Doctor is a distant memory) for Baker's jarring, eccentric performance in the title role. In the very first episode, after the hilarious costume change scene, he mimes the sinking of the Titanic while standing in a jeep. This is why Baker was and remains my favourite Doctor - the sense that he is not only a hero, but an alien hero, which only Hartnell and Ecclestone really have come close to. He turns what is basically a standard Pertwee/UNIT story into a real feast of entertainment. Everyone else is good, including the fascist scientists. (Shame about the tank and the final dodgy CSO of the growing and shrinking robot, but you can't have everything.

In summary, Robot is recommended; the other two really for completists.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 19th, 2007 03:58 pm (UTC)
Unconnected comment...

There was a piece on the The World This Weekend today that suggested that Belgium was close to splitting into two since there has so far been non agreement on a new coalition government. As someone on the ground, I was wondering what's actually going on?
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
The Spa 1000km is pootling away very nicely as I write so no civil war just yet ;P
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
Yves Leterme, who was best placed to form the government after the election, has been conducting the ensuing coalition negotiations very badly, and the King has just called a time out. But the country survived a much more protracted crisis in 1992, and my take is that splitting apart is going to be more costly to everyone than making the necessary compromise to form a government. Probably, like Guy Verhofstadt who was in a similar position in 1991, Leterme will find someone else becoming PM; Verhofstadt came back though and has been in office since 1999.

"Belgium about to split up" is one of these eternal newspaper headlines which is never true.
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)

The fascist scientists are good, but oh, my, Kettlewell? Awful performance. And the nods towards King Kong aren't subtle!

It's a story I have a great fondness for because of the lightness of touch in most of it, and for the great performances by Baker, Sladen and the actress playing Miss Winters - and the Robot looked great when it was 'normal' size (Kilgarrif's vocals for it were excellent too). It was also the start of the first doctor who I was able to follow from beginning to end...

Daemons: the Who crew visit classic Hammer Horror. It's really Delgado's story, Mr Magister is the only thing in it with any oomph!
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)
Bums, it was Michael Kilgarrif in the suit, who did the voice?
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)
No, he did both!
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
Ta, I was thinking it was probably Peter Hawkins or Peter Tuddenham!
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
Of the remaining Pertwees, I'd recommend The Silurians and Carnival of Monsters. Davros was a good idea in Genesis (I was too young to see that, so I saw Destiny first; viewing them in that order makes no sense at all), but later over-cooked; I feared RTD might bring him back, but not so far.
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:33 pm (UTC)
Pertwee: The Ambassadors of Death is worth your time and Carnival of Monsters is superb.

Robot: I completely agree about how striking Tom Baker is in it. Even knowing how good he'd be later I found myself spending the entire first episode thinking "That's not the Doctor!" Then at some point during the second episode he's effortlessly in charge and I switched to "Oh, that *is* the Doctor" almost without noticing the change.

Overall, Robot is notable I think not for being great but for being better than it has to be. There's a hint at interesting internal jealousies (and, frankly, kinkiness) inside Think Tank; Kettlewell's character is used very well; there are some great one-liners ("Of course -- all the others were foreign" is a line that Pertwee would have delivered with an impatience that would have ruined the gag). The Robot, floppy wrists aside, is a very physical presence; as with the early Cybermen it's striking to have something that's genuinely that big on screen. And I particularly like the end of episode two, where instead of simply having the Robot leap on the Doctor there's a two minute fight which brilliantly ends with the Doctor thinking he's outsmarted the Robot only for the Robot to turn out to have outsmarted him. It's not an all time classic but I think it's unfairly underrated.
Aug. 19th, 2007 08:01 pm (UTC)
Ambassadors of Death is superb apart from the episode where Reegan spends virtually the entire 25 minutes trying to sabotage the rocket. There are some great shots of the chemical works Space Centre, but not a lot happens.

Inferno is even better, in fact apart from the lumbering Primords it's possibly one of the best ever.

(But I am such a sucker for Season 7 generally!)
Aug. 19th, 2007 04:37 pm (UTC)
I feel I should stick up for the Daemons, but I'm pretty certain at least half my love for it is nostalgia since it was the first Doctor Who episode I ever saw. Delgado is fantastic in it, and is all of the reason that I don't like John Simm's Master as much as everyone else does.

Also as a 7 year old having the good guys win the day by being nice was still shiny and cool.
Aug. 20th, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)
Hurrah! It’s always uplifting to read a bit of love for Robot – it was the first Who I ever saw, so it’s to blame for quite a lot, really. The Robot’s on display in Blackpool, still towering, but if anything can steal the show from Tom, it’s Miss Winters (there’s a fan video setting Who clips to The Time Warp, where a shot of her rabble-rousing for “It’s just a step to the right” always cracks me up). The story has such energy and heart, and it has to win points for coming up with the Zeroth Law ten years before Mr Asimov did.

I agree with your criticisms of The Daemons – especially the famously rubbish ending – but I’d still rate it rather more highly than you do. It’s got a lot of atmosphere and great cliffhangers, though perhaps it’s best enjoyed in Barry Letts’ book rather than by watching Mr Pertwee. And isn’t it charming how in the ’70s it’s assumed the BBC would back popular science and be embarrassed by Miss Hawthorne, while today they’ve long-since dropped science and their editorial line would be to give Olive her own docusoap telling fortunes on a cruise liner? Remaining Pertwees good enough to look forward to: Doctor Who and the Silurians; The Ambassadors of Death; The Mind of Evil; Carnival of Monsters… Er… Um…

Oh, and I completely agree with you on Resurrection.
Aug. 20th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
The Dæmons
The Dæmons has its flaws, and I think most of your comments are on the nail about those specifically, but what it has going for it is a great sub-hammer atmosphere, plus the entire UNIT family (and this was hugely popular at the time). Delgado is excellent, and the story is also noteable for having a cliffhanger in which the person under threat is the villain. I will happily watch The Dæmons any day, though there certainly have been better stories.
Aug. 20th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)
Re: The Dæmons
Sub-Hammer, of course. :-S
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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