Archive for the Season 03 Category

3.1.5 – “Mission To The Unknown”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 03 with tags , , , , on August 20, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 3 - Mission To The Unknown

Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery are stranded on the planet Kemble, a jungle planet that has deadly vegetation that slowly turns you into one of its own kind – a Varga Plant. But the plant life is not the only threat here, for the dreaded Daleks are also on Kemble. But what is their plan that involves the outer galaxies sending delegates for a conference and, more importantly, just where the buggering hell are The Doctor, Steven and Vikki?

If anyone thought that the idea of a ‘Doctor-Lite’ episode was something Russell T Davies invented, then they are very much mistaken and seriously in need of some educating. Trust me on this; Steve Horry has made me King Ming-Mong and therefore my word is law! Plus I won’t argue with him as he is taller than me. Though I did throw the book at him the last time he got something wrong at the Geeks Inc. Doctor Who quiz night when he suggested that Season 21 was the season of returning foes for Peter Davison and not, as we all know, Season 20. Well, unless somewhere along the lines the BBC lost the classic Patrick Troughton story with the first appearance of the Tractators, so much so they forgot to broadcast it.

I seem to have gone off on a tangent here…probably because I’ve just the one episode to review and not the normal four to six that have been the standard of the Hartnell and Troughton eras.

So what’s it all about then? A one off episode set between Season 3’s first and second story, “Mission To The Unknown” begins with the seemingly dead body of Jeff Garvey lying on the floor. He awakes in pain, repeating the words “Kill…Kill…” (familiar to us all first thing in the morning). We cut away and are introduced to Marc Cory and Gordon Lowery, attempting to repair their downed ship in order to return to the mothership and report that the Daleks are on Kemble and up to no good. As they try to escape from the Varga plants, Daleks and anything that wants to kill them, the rest of the Daleks are holding a meeting with the outer galaxies, with the plan of taking over the solar system (or our galaxy as a whole) with the final vote uniting the Daleks into an alliance. Meanwhile, Cory and Lowery are forced to go on the run, their ship having been destroyed. However Lowery is now turning into a Varga Plant and eventually turns on Cory, who is forced to kill him and attempt to deliver his message to Earth warning them of the Dalek plans. Alas, Cory is discovered and killed before he can send the message away in a rocket, leaving it to appear that the Daleks have won and their plans are safe…for now.

What we have here is a Doctor Who story with no Doctor or crew in it and just 2 main actors for the majority of the story who have to carry it off. We’ve all seen that Doctor-Lite episode can work, but this is one of the lost episodes – meaning we’ve only got the audio to listen to. And that’s the main problem; “Mission To The Unknown” is one of those episodes that on audio just doesn’t work because it’s a visual episode. It needs the visuals to carry your interest, especially in a story that is lacking in anything really gripping audio wise. This episode is meant to serve as a prologue to the epic twelve part story “The Daleks’ Master Plan” yet only serves to confuse the audience who have no idea where their hero’s are right now (“Galaxy 4” had hinted the previous week that this is the planet that Vikki was looking at on the TARDIS monitor). To their credit, both main actors do their best with what they have, and try to show the emotions of being trapped on a planet where death is behind every shadow and both ‘heroes’ do not trust each other throughout the 24 minutes on screen.

This may have been intended as a filler episode for a Daleks-only pilot that Nation was mooting at the time (which Big Finish, some years later, finally released on their Lost Stories range) as this was at the height of Dalekmania. But not long after Dalekmania would begin to wane and even a Daleks-only series could not have revived it, due in part to the Daleks needing their main enemy in The Doctor. This episode only goes to show that the Daleks and The Doctor need each other (in story terms) in order for a Dalek story to work at this time in the shows history.

As “Mission To The Unknown” suffers from a serious lack of visuals and main cast, I can only really give it a 4 out of 10 for what it is solely doing within this one episode. Part of the wider story of “The Daleks’ Master Plan”, it does score higher as it gives us a hint as to the plans of the Daleks, but on its own it does not stand up to later ‘Doctor-Lite’ episodes. Actually, if you stood it next to “Love & Monsters” then it looks like an 11 Oscar Wining film that is heralded as a classic for all future generations. For that alone, it deserves an extra point. 5/10.

Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson


3.1 – “Galaxy 4”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 03 with tags , , , , on April 2, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 3 - Galaxy 4

The Doctor, Steven and Vicki land on a barren planet where two ships have crashed. One is piloted by the beautiful Drahvin, the other by the hideous Rill and their robot servants the Chumblies. It’s not long before the TARDIS crew discover that looks can be very deceiving…

So, another season opener then, one that is different from the previous two in that only a single episode of the four that make up the story still exists. As such, this review will be based on the audio book released in 1999 and the surviving episode with a cut down story that was on “The Aztecs” DVD. Will this combination help or hinder my review? Buggered if I know!

The Doctor, Steven and Vicki land on an unknown planet, where they observe via the TARDIS scanner a robotic Chumbley (as Vicki names them). While exploring the planet they meet the Chumbley in person, which is soon deactivated by the team of Drahvin who have been hiding in the bushes. Taken to their ship, they are informed that they are now prisoners of the Drahvin and the planet will explode in 14 dawns time. The Doctor is told of how the Rill shot down the Drahvin and that he can help them repair the ship to escape from the doomed world. Letting The Doctor and Steven go to the TARDIS, and avoiding a group of awaiting Chumblies trying to break into the ship, The Doctor enters the TARDIS to find out that they do not have 14 dawns but only 2. The Chumblies return with explosives, which shake the TARDIS but does not damage it. The Doctor and Steven return to the Drahvin ship but note that they do not appear to be what they seem. With the information of only 2 dawns left till the end of the world, The Doctor and Vicki are sent to the Rills ship to broker a deal, but in reality the Drahvin are plotting to break into the ship and destroy the Rill.

At the Rill’s ship, The Doctor and Vicki finally meet the unseen Rill’s, creatures of shocking appearance yet clearly intelligent and capable of kindness towards Vicki, explaining the true reason for the situation that both the Rill and Drahvin are in; the Drahvin attacked first. With the true story of the crash known to Vicki and The Doctor, they vow to help the Rill to escape from the doomed planet, giving them power from the TARDIS. The Drahvin try to take the Rill ship but fail and the Rill ship takes off. The Doctor, Steven and Vicki get to the TARDIS just in time to escape the planet, leaving the Drahvin on the surface to die in the planet’s destruction.

So after all that, what can I say about the story? “Oh dear,” is my first reaction to be honest. As many Doctor Who fans know, during the late 1960’s and 1970’s the BBC junked a lot of their series, considering them to be of no value. “Galaxy 4” only survives as one episode (episode 3 – Airlock, incomplete & found in 2011) and one 6 minute clip that exists from episode 1 (Four Hundred Dawns) that was used for another show in the 1970’s. Baring this in mind, it makes it hard to give a true indication of how the story really feels with the rest of it being audio only. Now I have listened to many audios and enjoyed them a lot (“Web of Fear” and “Power Of The Daleks” being two prime examples), but with “Galaxy 4” the lack of visuals makes what already feels like a slow and boring story into a bit of a struggle to sit through. The script is heavily padded, which spells instant death for a story made up of only four episodes.

By now, William Hartnell had made The Doctor his own and was in his element in the role. Hartnell had become the main star of the show and could do no wrong with the way that The Doctor would react to situations. Maureen O’Brian as Vicki had by this point become the substitute for Susan, right down to the scientific knowledge and getting into trouble part. The newer addition to the crew comes with Peter Purves as Steven Taylor. Purves has gone on record as saying that “Galaxy 4” was not his favourite story to film, due in part to his lines being taken from those originally written for Barbara before it was known that both she and Ian would be leaving. It is obvious in the delivery of the dialogue that it was written with a female perspective in mind which, instead of aiding the characterisation of Steven, only further hinders Purves’ performance as he tries his best with an already weak script.

The other players in the story, both the Drahvin and Rill, have their own weaknesses to contend with. The first you see of the Drahvin, you have the picture of a race of women who would not look out of place in a James Bond film (well, maybe with slightly more clothing on them than you’d expect in a Bond film). However the trouble with the idea of a race of militarist females is that while you can write some great lines for them, you also need the actresses to deliver those lines. Sadly the lines given to the Drahvin’s and the actresses used to play them both detract from the story itself. The lead Drahvin, Maaga, played by Stephanie Bidmead, sadly feels clichéd in the way she performs to camera, with almost pantomime delivery at times. The other three are not developed over the four episodes and appear to be just background dressing instead of a military fighting machine. The voice of the Rill’s does an adequate job, but being just a voice over role it does not add much to the story in the way that the voices of the Cybermen and Daleks do in the 1960’s. The Chumblies may look silly in their design, but they do what is intended of them in regards to being the robot servants of the Rill.

Written by William Emms, this story is rather poor in how it comes across on screen and in audio form. This was Emms’ first and only story for Doctor Who and, while it may not have been solely his fault, he does shoulder the blame for the poor characterisation of Steven. Instead of a total rewrite in order to develop the character, he opted instead for transplanting the original dialogue belonging to Ian and Barbara. While as this has worked at times in the show (such as “The Underwater Menace”), here it fails miserable as Steven’s lines are so blatantly written for a female character that it’s hard to miss it.

“Galaxy 4” does a lot better as a season opener when compared to “Planet Of Giants”, but it still suffers from the same padding issues as well as having been left over from the previous season block. The following stories in both cases make better openers by comparison! “Galaxy 4” therefore gets 1 mark better than “Planet Of Giants”, earning it a disappointing 5/10.

Written and edited by Alexander James Wilkinson