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One of Five and two of Three

Thanks to the long flights to and from Cyprus, I was able to catch up with some more Old Who: Castrovalva, Doctor Who and the Silurians, and The Time Monster.

I re-watched Castrovalva in preparation for Time Crash, and thanks to clanwilliam and gmh who made it available to me. This was the first Peter Davison story and is one of the better ones, but a bit atypical in that the Doctor spends much of the time trying to reconstruct his own personality. Lots of lovely nods to earlier Doctors, most of which were rather lost on me in 1981. The companions are still rather feeling their way, with Nyssa being the clever one who explains everything, coming across as rather cold despite her warm and fuzzy fairy costume, while Tegan gets to be the one who everything has to be explained to. Adric seems to have rather enjoyed being tied up by the Master... The plot doesn't really make a lot of sense, but the depictions of two magical places - Castrovalva itself and the Tardis interior - are both rather wonderful, and the music and general sense of goodwill makes it still good viewing.

Doctor Who and the Silurians was the second story of Jon Pertwee's first season in 1970 (and for some reason the only TV story with "Doctor Who and" in the title). Those who have seen Quatermass are keen to point out the links; for me, it was one of the most X-Files-like of Doctor Who stories, with our team of investigators checking out mysterious happenings which turn out to have an entirely Earthly explanation (rather rare among Who stories). The first three episodes seemed reminiscent of yer standard rural horror story, but the second half, alternating between science labs and the Silurian caves, steps back into familiar territory. Very familiar in fact - there's Peter Miles, to return playing essentially the same character in Invasion of the Dinosaurs and even nastier in Genesis of the Daleks; there's Geoffrey Palmer, who lasts two episodes this time before dying horribly (he was only in one episode of The Mutants before dying horribly; and now of course he is due to return as the captain of the Titanic - spot a pattern here?); and, most surprising, there's Paul Darrow, nine years before Avon became one of Blake's Seven, being the Brigadier's second-in-command. The Young Silurian is overacting a bit though. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Spearhead from Space and Inferno, but I can see why some regard this as Pertwee's best season.

The Time Monster was the last story in the 1972 season, bringing the Master back to battle the Doctor and destroy Atlantis (for the third time). Fandom generally is rather down on this story, and I must say that the Pertwee era has been generally disappointing for me since I started re-watching. Perhaps it is an effect of lowered expectations, but I rather enjoyed it. The plot was certainly rubbish, but Jo was allowed to be a little clever and a little heroic for once, the Third Doctor much less nasty than usual (even pleading for the Master's life), the UNIT team generally on good form (Benton ending up naked a la Buffy in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered - are this and Pertwee's shower scene in Spearhead from Space the only nude scenes in Doctor Who?), and of course Ingrid Pitt and her stunning costume. Also I was intrigued by the two Tardises coming together, a foreshadowing of Logopolis and also of course of Time Crash.

These days, of course, there is a real Newton Institute in Cambridge; I wonder if its staff are aware of this story? Can't think of any others set in Cambridge apart from Shada (and the bits from it hacked into The Five Doctors).

Anyway, none of these makes my personal top ten, maybe not even my top twenty, but I quite enjoyed all three.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 19th, 2007 01:36 pm (UTC)
Castrovalva has a good first and final episode, but the section from the TARDIS materialisation until everybody recovenes in Castrovalva is possibly the dullest section of any Who story I've seen. On a similar note, the sheer boredom of the early eps of Silurians managed to single-handedly kill off a late-1990s BBC2 project to reshow all the colour stories from Spearhead From Space on.
Nov. 19th, 2007 02:14 pm (UTC)
I just re-watched Castrovalva and have to agree with you to a point, though I'd say it got a bit more interesting once Peter Davison was there to carry the show. But, on the whole, I did enjoy seeing it again.

Oddly, the one time I was in London was during this experiment. I remember staying in the hotel one night and catching Spearhead From Space. Pertwee is far from my favorite Doctor, but he does have his moments and that's an enjoyable story.
Nov. 19th, 2007 08:16 pm (UTC)
I've been re-watching Castrovalva as well, but have not got round to the last episode yet, which might say something. With both this and Logopolis I have been struck by how annoying Tegan is - she spends all her time moaning and whining but falls into the olde model of incompetent female assistant whenever she has to do anything. In contrast, the widely disliked Adric seems like a very amiable companion.

Castrovalva itself is so ponderous and badly paced. It is very noticeable how they insert a pointless chase sequence into the opening episode for no better reason than to fill out the time. Yawn. I can't but think that they should have had the big Castrovalva cliff hanger at the end of episode 2, with a BWAH HAH HAH-we meet again cliffhanger for episode three.

In The Silurians, does anyone at any point refer to the reptile people as Silurians, or as coming from the Silurian epoch? I am looking forward to re-reading the book of this (which is quite different, I recall hearing), but I may well never bother actually watching it, given the rubbishness of the Pertwee era.
Nov. 20th, 2007 03:05 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who and the Silurians is one of the few old story lines I have seen since RTE didn't show DR Who when I were a young'un
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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