Archive for the Season 08 Category

8.5 – “The Dæmons”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 08 with tags , , , , on August 20, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 8 - The Daemons

STORY
There is an archaeological dig taking place in Devil’s End at the Bronze Age burial ground, the Devil’s Hump. A live outside broadcast is set up for BBC 3, but local inhabitants are being found dead and white witch Miss Hawthorne warns of great evil being unleashed when the dig takes place. Maybe the new local vicar will be able to put her mind at rest, or is he just another master of the Dark Arts? The Doctor and UNIT must try and stop the dig and prevent The Master summoning up an Alien Race which could spell the end for the Earth.

REVIEW
Season 8 finishes on a real high. “The Dæmons” is classic 70’s Doctor Who and a prime example of what works best in the Third Doctor’s Era. Genuinely unsettling, a story seemingly based on witch-craft and black magic, The Doctor explains it all as science and alien interference (Terrance Dicks steered it away from being too black magic related in case it was accused of being Satanist), but there is a lot of room for some supernatural thrills and chills. Gargoyle statues coming to life and references to the imminent arrival of the horned beast.

“The Dæmons” makes good use of the strength of the UNIT family ensemble cast and the background setting of the supposedly quiet English village (filmed in Aldbourne in Wiltshire) hosting the alien terror threat. There is a touch of The Wicker Man about it. Christopher Barry directs and keeps the show tight over 5 episodes, making the most of a well thought out script from Robert Sloman and Barry Letts.

The Master is back (again) but seems to have proper purpose, trying to use the power of the Dæmons for his own gain. Delgado excels as his Master revels in his appearance as a devil worshipping minister. The Brig, stuck outside the village for much of the story, is afforded great lines and directing a UNIT soldier to shoot at the dancing gargoyle Bok with the words, “Chap with wings, five rounds rapid” is genius, and rightly remembered as classic Brig. Benton and Yates along with Jo Grant make up the regulars and there are also some great guest appearances, especially Damaris Hayman as Olive Hawthorne and Stephen Thorne as the grim Azal.

Pertwee ends his second season relaxed and comfortable in the role, as do the rest of the regular cast. The Doctor is always the focal point but the ensemble work is one of the stand out features of this era. There is a real warmth and camaraderie and there is room for a little humour too. When the day is won, and The Master and his alien threat has been dealt with, The Doctor and Jo join in the village’s May Day celebrations. Yates asks the Brigadier if he fancies a dance, to which he replies that he’d sooner have a pint and they head off the the village pub, leaving the merrymakers dancing round the May pole.

RATING
“The Dæmons” is up there with the greats in 50 years of Doctor Who stories, playing to the shows’ strengths and with the cast and crew at the top of their game. It’s a story fondly remembered by many associated with the serial as their favourite that they worked on in their time on the show (there was even a Reeltime documentary Return To Devil’s End made with the cast/crew in 1993 looking back on the making of the story). I remember the excitement when “The Dæmons” was restored to colour and re-shown on TV/released on VHS, and it was much deserved. Nothing short of 10/10

Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar

8.4 – “Colony In Space”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 08 with tags , , , , on July 4, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 8 - Colony In Space

STORY
The Time Lords discover that files on the extremely dangerous DOOMSDAY WEAPON have gone missing and decide the only person who can help them is The Doctor. Granting him temporary freedom from his banishment to Earth, he and Jo Grant travel to the planet Uxarieus, 500 years in the future, where a group of Earth colonists have been trying but struggling to set up a new settlement. The International Mining Corporation have designs on the planet for commercial gain.

REVIEW
The penultimate story of Season 8 is an interesting concept. It’s a nice piece of social commentary, dealing with greedy business putting commerce before people and the effects of colonialism. Malcolm Hulke’s left wing slant is perhaps not surprising since he was a member of the British Communist Party. Its fairly overt, with the pioneers attempting to set up a new colony as a fresh start to overcome the Earth’s situation of over-crowding and pollution. But both the colonists and the original primitive inhabitants of the planet find themselves at the sharp end of trouble from the Mining Corporation and their profiteering ways.

The Doctor and Jo are quickly embroiled on their arrival and set about trying to work out why the colonists are having such a lack of success in their farming operations, when the planet should be perfectly capable of supporting life and agriculture. When the corporation find their dirty tricks (including some fairly comical clawed hands attached to mining machines) coming under scrutiny, they call on an adjudicator to investigate and make judgement on who has the rights to the land. The adjudicator appears and to everyone’s “surpise” it turns out to be The Master. Again.

Delgado is fantastic as The Master of course, but this story feels too long (again) being another 6 parter. The story seems to lose something after The Master arrives, losing the point and becoming a bit disjointed. For the first time, it feels like The Master’s appearance could have been done without. There is some point to his arrival; the Doomsday Weapon is housed on Uxarieus, in fact it’s the weapon that has been poisoning the soil and stopping the farming from succeeding. The Master wants the weapon for himself having stolen the files on it. After pitched battles, kidnaps, and discovering that the primitives were once an advanced civilisation, the Colonists ship takes the doomsday weapon off planet, piloted by Governor Ashe, sacrificing himself but removing the radiation affecting the planet and leaving his friends to be able to succeed in their new life.

There are some fine performances from a decent ensemble cast, John Ringham as Ashe and a young Helen Worth from Corrie as Mary Ashe. Roy Skelton gets to make an appearance rather than just be heard voicing the aliens. Great to see the Time Lords back in it, even if Roger Murray-Leach’s classic Time Lord costume has yet to be deigned.

RATING
“Colony In Space” could have been the classic two warring factions and The Doctor saving the day story, but it feels like it drags on over too many parts and quickly loses its point when The Master re-appears. Not a bad story, just not as good as it could have been, but it’s nice to see The Doctor back on the TARDIS and off Earth. A respectable 6/10.

Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar

8.3 – “The Claws Of Axos”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 08 with tags , , , , on May 21, 2014 by Review The Who

 

CW Series 8 - The Claws Of Axos

STORY
A UFO lands on Earth and the golden humanoid alien crew promise peace and the chance for increased food production in return for allowing them to recharge their organic vessel. The Doctor and UNIT arrive at the scene and attempt to stop greedy political power play from turning the gift of Axonite into a major threat to Earth’s safety. All goes awry when the aliens aren’t as peaceful and golden as they first appeared and The Master has been captured by them and led them to Earth. The Doctor must defeat the Axons and prevent them stealing his knowledge of time travel for their own ends.

REVIEW
The mid-way point of Season 8 is considered a bit of a classic, a well paced four parter with a lot going on. The Axons are a genuinely credible alien invader, seemingly peace loving and extending a gift to help and further humanity, the amorphous entity turns out to be rather different in both look and intent. The villainous inclinations of the Axons are matched by the greed of the Man From The Ministry, Mr Chinn, who is determined to place himself at the heart of the action as power broker and keep the gift of Axonite for Britain rather than allow it to be shared worldwide for free.

The Master is in and about it again, getting out of his depth and causing chaos. Delgado is in his element in his third story in a row, so it doesn’t feel like we’ve seen too much of him. There is lots to explore between the two Time Lords and with The Master being stranded on Earth on their last encounter, The Doctor uses him to try and fix his own out of action TARDIS. UNIT are in good form too, albeit it being kept at bay by Mr Chinn and their regular army equivalents for much of the story.

Memorable guest actors include Peter Bathurst as the detestable Mr Chinn, Tim Pigott-Smith as a regular army Captain, Paul Grist as US Agent Bill Filer who has responsibility for keeping tabs on The Master and Bernard Holley, who seems fairly ethereal as the head Axon.

In order to defeat Axos, The Doctor has to team up with The Master and work together with him. There feels like there is genuine unease at the climax as we are not entirely sure how much/who The Doctor is willing to sacrifice in order to regain his freedom and control of his TARDIS. In the end, after creating a time loop and ensuring that all trace of Axos leaves the Earth, The Doctor tries to flee himself in his recently Master-repaired TARDIS, but discovers that the Time Lords have locked it so that it will always return back to Earth.

Some of the CGI is a bit hairy in retrospect and the interior of the Axon ship is a bit of a riot of psychedelic bubbles and tendrils. The organic ship is a great science fiction conceit, but hard to pull off on a budget, although that doesn’t take away from the story. The ‘good’ Axon humanoid costumes are a bit on the basic side, as if Lycra catsuits were on a deal and came with free mad eyes, but the natural state Axon look is a great juxtaposition to that.

RATING
“The Claws Of Axos” is classic Third Doctor. Nice and tight timing and pace-wise, great story from Bob Baker and Dave Martin. Good direction from Michael Ferguson and the usual high level of production team skills from Letts and Dicks. Even slightly wonky amorphous organic tendril heavy alien costumery can’t tarnish it. A solid gold 8/10.

Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar

 

8.2 – “The Mind Of Evil”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 08 with tags , , , , on April 9, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 8 - The Mind Of Evil

STORY
Stangmoor Prison is hosting experiments with a newly developed machine which can ‘cure’ criminals of their evil impulses. The Doctor and Jo go to observe it in action, whilst the Brigadier and UNIT have their hands full providing security for the first World Peace Conference. Whilst Professor Keller’s Machine starts to exhibit some unexpected side effects, UNIT have some serious work to do to prevent the peace being disturbed at the conference as The Master reappears.

REVIEW
Season 8 continues with this Don Houghton story of mind altering, control and phobia. Roger Delgado’s Master makes a speedy return after his Auton alliance, this time bringing a mind controlling alien with him in the guise of a machine to help rid criminals of their evil impulses. The parasite inside feeds on the negative impulses of the brain. The Doctor is concerned about the machine as he can’t accept that any evil impulses removed from the villains will remain safely in the machine. Things move on with more mind control affecting events at the Peace Conference as agents are being controlled by The Master to attack delegate leaders and jeopardise world peace.

Jo Grant is settling in and her relationship with The Doctor is developing. Still early days and there is a bit of a dismissive attitude from The Doctor towards her, occasionally bordering on rudeness, as he misses the boffin chat with Liz and gets used to another new companion. There is great location filming, Dover Castle being used as Stangmoor Prison looks great and lots of UNIT action takes place there; riots in the prison, assaults when the troops take control back, it’s used to great effect. Plus there is a large cast which helps to carry it all off. Timothy Combe’s direction is brilliant also, although he sadly wasn’t to work on Doctor Who again after the budget was absolutely tanked and it ended up costing way more than it was supposed to.

“The Mind Of Evil” represents so much of what made the Third Doctor’s era what it was and it had the added bonus of getting more money spent on it than the average serial of the time, so it stands up as being a slightly more solid piece of television. They were able to get away with a bit more. While The Doctor’s phobias appear to be the things that scare him as he faces his various enemies during his adventures (fire from the recent story “Inferno”, Cybermen, War Machines or the voices of Daleks), it’s nice to see that, with The Master, it’s a giant image of The Doctor that gives him the fear, showing a bit of what it is that makes him tick.

RATING
“The Mind Of Evil” works well and there’s lots to get out of it. UNIT nicely on the boil, Jo Grant settled in, bit more of a delve into what makes The Master tick, it all rolls along nicely, even at 6 parts. There’s some great casting choices (with the likes of Doctor Who regular Michael Sheard on top form) and you can tell that it went way over budget because it looks so damned good. A top notch 8/10.

Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar

8.1 – “Terror Of The Autons”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 08 with tags , , , , on March 20, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 8 - Terror Of The Autons

STORY
A Nestene sphere is stolen by a mysterious mastermind and a new wave of Auton Invaders threaten the Earth. The Doctor and UNIT, along with new companion Jo Grant, have to fight to stop the invaders and The Doctor faces a more personal battle as an old adversary returns.

REVIEW
Season 8 kicks off with the sequel to the previous year’s opener “Spearhead From Space”. The Autons are back and this time they have a new Master. Robert Holmes delivers a great story with some superb debuts. Roger Delgado sets out his stall as The Master; all the appearance of a gentleman but brimming with menace behind the manners. “Moriarty to The Doctor’s Holmes”(TM) is the often used description of The Master and its a fair call. An intellectual equal, also from Gallifrey, he is The Doctor’s imperfect opposite in many ways. Delgado’s original Master was a welcome addition to the series and makes for a great recurring character. Katy Manning’s Jo Grant also joins the UNIT organisation in this story as does Richard Franklin’s Mike Yates. This now feels like the classic UNIT team line-up, with the Brigadier, Yates, Benton and Jo Grant. They feel like a real crew with a fuller recurring cast, rather than assorted random actors playing the UNIT faithful week to week.

We’re reminded of The Doctor’s banishment to Earth and whilst his theft of The Master’s dematerialisation circuit might not allow him to fix his own stranded TARDIS, it does mean The Master is also now trapped on contemporary Earth (whether you consider that the early 70’s or in the near future of them). Like “Spearhead From Space”, with its shop dummies coming to life, there are some great seminal moments in this serial. A plastic doll coming to life and making a killing, a plastic chair suffocating its inhabitant, plastic daffodils spraying film over the face to choke people to death and The Doctor being lassoed by living plastic rope. The cliffhanger of The Doctor and Jo’s police saviours turning out to be Autons, with a superb reveal of plastic face, still stands up today.

The Masters’ Tissue Compression Eliminator also makes its debut as his fave choice of killing method. Seeing a scientist from the radio telescope having been shrunk to death and left in his own lunch box is a chilling killing indeed. Watching this with my 9 year old son, he was in equal parts chuckling at the dubious CSO special effects but also quite taken with the story and a bit shifty about some of the deaths. It really does go for it with the whole “scaring the children with everyday things” tactic. As well as classic Autons we have the creepy big smiley faced plastic headed Autons handing out deadly daffodils and a slightly incongruous appearance by a Time Lord to warn The Doctor of The Master’s arrival on Earth. Roger Murray Leach’s seminal Time Lord attire was still some way off, and a bowler hatted, umbrella carrying gent just doesn’t cut it. There is a lot of CSO, and its fairly hokey, but that doesn’t infringe on the quality of this story.

RATING
“Terror Of The Autons” has a lot crammed into its four parts. We get a nice return of a popular enemy and some great new characters arrive who will go on to become some of the most popular (and oft revisited in books and Big Finish) companions that The Doctor has ever had. Letts and Dicks know exactly what they’re about and its a big TICK all round. A top notch 8/10.

Written and edited by Gavin Dunbar