Archive for the Season 22 Category

22.3 – “The Mark Of The Rani”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 22 with tags , , , , on October 1, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 22 - The Mark Of The Rani

STORY
The Doctor and Peri land in northern England durin the first throes of the industrial revolution, where immoral Time Lord scientist The Rani is conducting naughty experiments on the locals. The Master rocks up for some reason and calamity ensues.

REVIEW
Finally, after an epic quest through the first three stories of Colin Baker’s tenure, I’ve reached Pip & Jane Baker’s first contribution to Doctor Who. I’m going to get all sweary, aren’t I?

Nah, not quite. 1. It’s too easy a target and 2. I actually went into “The Mark Of The Rani” with a bit of a spring in my step. Last time I watched it – when it was first released on DVD – I actually rather enjoyed it. I mean, it’s essentially 90 minutes of Time Lords bitching at each other, but it’s competently made – especially compared to the preceding stories – and Kate O’Mara is incredibly watchable as The Rani. I mean, she spends her screentime making an epic feast of the scenery, but I can live with that. She does it very well. Power stomping around Victorian England, bitchslapping The Master at every opportunity. She’s bloody great.

“The Mark Of The Rani” is essentially all about introducing this new potential recurring character, so it makes sense that everything else is secondary. Bringing The Master back to help define her is actually a rare-for-the-time sensible production decision, and there is something a bit brilliant about watching Antony Ainley pour on the sleezy charm, flirting ineptly as she refuses to take any of his shit. She essentially calls him out on everything that’s been wrong about the character since, ooooh, “Logopolis”? “What’s he up to? Something devious and over-complicated. He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line.” she snarls, going on to refer to him as “that idiot.” And she’s totally got a point. All of The Master’s little schemes in this one are, as she says, overly-complicated. I was going to count the number of times across the two episodes that he could have basically just, y’know, shot The Doctor and been done with it but instead twirls his moustache, does a little speech and does something stupid and overly complicated instead, but ultimately I decided that life was too short. I’ll just go with ‘a lot’. He does it a LOT.

It’s not all about Kate though. There is lot to like about this one. Don’t get me wrong, mind. This isn’t a classic. It’s never going to be a favourite, it’s never going to make the top ten, but episode one at least is terribly watchable, with lots of very good things going for it. Even the music is ace. The opening arpeggios, pads and gentle lead parts are reminiscent of Vangelis. The long establishing scene that opens episode 1, dipping in and out of mini-scenes in the Victorian mining village looks terrific, all restrained camerawork and nicely grainy. The ambient floaty synth sounds contrast really nicely with the grim, sooted-up miners, who are all northern! Northern accents! In 80’s Doctor Who! A true rarity. Admittedly they’re impenetrable comedy Geordie accents, but still, that’s sort of progress, right? And it’s dark. We see a bunch of miners go for a bath only to be immediately gassed. It’s a shame that this then cuts to a TARDIS scene, THAT bloody costume (easy target alert!) and Colin Baker throwing an over-acty strop as the TARDIS is drawn off course by a time distortion caused by the presence of a nearby time machine. Which is the first thing that really doesn’t make sense. If TARDISes are thrown off course by nearby time machines, how on Earth do they leave Gallifrey in the first place? Isn’t that a massive pain in the arse?

While we’re on TARDISes, let’s stick with the positive. The Rani’s TARDIS console room is an AMAZING piece of design. Proper amazing. It looks brilliant. Where The Doctor’s TARDIS is all sharp corners and millions of buttons, the Rani’s is all smooth contours, curves and minimalism. Yeah, it’s well 80’s, but I think it looks aces. On the other hand, The Master’s little death ray of doom is essentially a big black dildo. It’s got a bellend and everything. A bellend that opens up to squirt hot laser death at big butch miners. I can’t believe no-one on the production team thought at any point thought “Erm, guys…The Master is basically waving a plastic dick of death at everyone. We should probably change that. Tea time and so on?” Maybe it’s deliberate, I dunno. There is something quite brilliant on one level about a fruity villain pantomime sneaking around the edges of the story terrorizing people with his futuristic laser cock.

Yeah, sorry, got carried away there. At least he’s not in some lame disguise. So anyways. The Doctor and Peri go off in search of the source of the distortion while three frisky miners have a towel fight. One of them actually kicks an actual child, steals some bread and scampers off laughing. Clearly if not The Main Bad Guy, certainly a nasty little tosser. While wandering around, Peri does an environmental infodump on the effects of the industrial revolution which is so unsubtle, but still quite nice in an attempt-to-engage-with-the-concerns-of-the-time stylee. They’re watched by a living scarecrow which is never actually explained or followed up on, then the three miners mug a guy on horseback and destroy his machinery. Aha! They’re luddites. Not happy about machines coming up to the north, taking their jobs etc etc. It’s a bit Hartnell, this one. An actual semi-educational historical of sorts. Not seen one of these for a while. A couple of mysterious marks on the skin of the attackers tips The Doctor off that all is not quite what it seems and we’re off into the investigation.

For the first time, Colin Baker’s Doctor actually FEELS like The Doctor. He’s less of a dick than he’s been for the last couple of episodes, he’s only semi-responsible for one random death and he seems to actually give a shit about what is going on around him. Hurrah. Though when Peri explains to the lord of the miners or whatever his name is that “The Doctor’s a little eccentric.” I can’t help thinking “DO YOU NEED TO SPELL IT OUT?! LOOK AT WHAT HE’S WEARING!”

So episode 1 builds nice and natural, The Doctor, The Rani and The Master have a couple of chatty confrontations where The Master fails to JUST FUCKING SHOOT THE DOCTOR. STOP FANNYING AROUND AND JUST SHOOT HIM and before we know it, it’s cliffhanger time.

So all in all, episode 1 can be filed under ‘quite good’. Or ‘I was entertained by this.’

So the less good? Well, episode 2. Oh, it’s like “Attack Of The Cybermen” all over again. Scratch that. Nothing is quite like “Attack Of The Cybermen” part two. Despite being well made, part two gets, to put it bluntly, boring. Yup, it’s an episode where a guy gets turned into a living tree and gropes the companion, and it’s boring. I know, right? It’s not a car crash like “Attack Of The Cybermen” part 2, but I just found my attention meandering away, and I found myself picking holes, and then I found myself thinking about other stuff I could be doing. The living tree thing is a shame. It’s something that has a lot of potential. I like the idea. I really LOVE the idea of the tree still being sentient, but it feels like P&J could have done more with it. A minefield full of matter transforming bombs? Brilliant. The execution? Less good. So I end up spending the rest of the story thinking about some of the stuff Alan Moore was doing at the same time with Swamp Thing, wondering what he would have spun out of that idea and kind of missing the rest of the episode, coming back only for the end when celebrity historical figure George Stephenson and, I dunno, some other guy say their farewells to The Doctor and Peri, talking about the two of them like they’re old pals rather than some people they were suspicious of an hour ago. Oh well.

RATING
Well, it probably benefits from the proceeding 8 episodes being crap, but “The Mark Of The Rani” earns the not exactly glowing title of best Colin Baker story so far. A very Hartnellesque historical, not life changing, but not terrible. And I’m in a good mood, so 5/10.

Written and edited by Steve Horry

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22.2 – “Vengeance On Varos”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 22 with tags , , , , on April 30, 2014 by Review The Who

 

CW Series 22 - Vengeance On Varos

STORY
The planet Varos: a mining planet where the mindless masses sit and watch live torture. The Doctor and Peri arrive in search of Zeiton-7, an ultra-rare mineral they need to repair the TARDIS. Calamity ensues.

REVIEW
“Vengeance On Varos” is widely seen as one of the very best of Colin Baker’s televised adventures. Having just sat through “The Twin Dilemma” and “Attack Of The Cybermen”, I’m feeling a little like that’s the equivalent of saying that being punched in one’s left bollock is better than being punched in one’s right bollock. I wasn’t looking forward to this. I wearily placed “Vengeance On Varos” in the DVD tray, worn down by an inexplicable sense of duty. With a sinking heart, I cursed Richey for his “Come write for my Doctor Who review blog! It’ll be fun!” nonsense and pressed the play button.

What happened next was…well, puzzling. “Vengeance On Varos” wins over its predecessors by not being completely irredeemable shit – hurrah – but while there is a surprising amount to admire we’re still a long way from OMFGTHATWASAMAZING territory. It confused me. Was it any good? It’s a story that critiques itself as it goes along and for the first time in many moons this is Doctor Who with something to say. These are GOOD THINGS. But they’re lost in a sea of, well, shit bits.

We kick off with Jason Connery, strung up and shirtless for the ladieez. He’s being tortured for the amusement of Varosian TV viewers everywhere. Bet my mum would like this bit. She loved Jason Connery in the 80’s. But we’re seeing this from the perspective of Actual Normal Working Class People, watching from home, complaining about low food supplies and providing a hilarious running commentary on the episode. A bickering couple with the TV on, heckling it. The sort of stuff you might yell at your own TV. As they exclaim “He’s not hurt, it’s only acting” I can’t stop myself from joining in. “Acting is a strong bloody word for THAT!” I reply. To myself. At home. Alone. As ol’ Jase continues to be tortured, we go behind the scenes to be introduced to Sil.

Sil is a bit amazing. A proper all-time classic villain, slimy and slithery with a genuinely terrifying laugh. He sounds and looks pretty much constantly on the brink of orgasm, flanked by his guards – a pair of super-butch oiled up, leather-clad muscle men. Nabil Shaban is clearly having a whale of a time playing him. And blimey, he throws a brilliant hissy fit. Constantly bubbling along, switching from petulant childishness to furious shitbox in the turn of a sixpence. And then as Jason Connery is about to be executed, he’s off with the scary monster giggling again, clearly ejaculating as he does so. He chews up every scene he’s involved in, clearly having the most fun EVER.

Cut to the TARDIS and The Doctor and Peri are, well, NOT having the most fun EVER. They’re bitching at each other and clearly trying to out-smug each other. Why are they even hanging out? The Doctor is a super-pompous bellend and Peri’s just…whining. They clearly hate each other. Why doesn’t she just leave him? It puzzles me. I realise this is the third episode on the trot to feature a load of aimless scenes of The Doctor dicking around in the TARDIS, doing very little, pausing only to be rude to Peri.

And then right on cue, finally, something happens. The TARDIS has gone tits-up and it becomes clear The Doctor needs a rare mineral to get things working again. A rare mineral that can only be found on Varos. CAN YOU SEE WHERE THIS IS HEADING? Surprise! The TARDIS lands and The Doctor gets sucked into the local bother. As he frees shirtless Jase and goes on the run, we cut back to our confused viewers.

“When did they last show something worth watching, eh?” one of them asks, clearly unimpressed.

I decide to have a think about this myself.

 

Hmm…

 

 

…still thinking…

 

 

 

 

…oh, I don’t know…

*picks up episode guide*

 

 

 

 

 

…well…I don’t really think “The Caves Of Andronzani” is THAT good…well, not as good as everyone makes out, anyway, so…I reckon I’ll say…hmm…”Enlightenment”. That was a cracker. Actually, “Enlightenment” was fucking great. Why am I not watching that? *Shakes fist* Anyway, 1983. That’s when they last showed something worth watching. 

I force my attention back to the story. It all gets a bit action packed while The Doctor explores the Varosian TV torture chamber. The fourth wall is broken as one of the observers points at The Doctor on the TV.

“I like that one – the one in the funny clothes!” she exclaims.

“Someone’s got to!” I shout back at her.

He’s good in the audios!” I shoot back at myself. Thank God my wife has gone out while I do this.

Jason Connery drops exposition like a motherfucker and The Doctor goes looking for the purple passage. Arf arf.

I start thinking about this one. It’s kind of good – bar the clumsy exposition, the script is good but Christ, bar some Actual Dark Lighting for once, the production just isn’t up to it. The message is completely confused. There is some great stuff in here that really is ahead of it’s time – “reality” and “constructed reality” real-life misery shows are still big business, and the commentary on video nasties still holds up. See also the popularity-chasing politicians. But it’s made in such a way that you kind of feel like all that subversive stuff has flown over Eric Saward’s head and he thinks he’s FINALLY getting to make a pre-teen Terminator. Particularly when it gets to the notorious acid bath scene and The Doctor drops a James Bond quip as a Varosian heavy burns to death. Though, having said that, The Doctor’s nonchalance as he is later led up to the gallows to be hung is pretty cool.

Then we’re on to the ending. Sil’s manipulation of the Varosians is exposed, they have a vote and choose freedom, The Doctor gets inexplicably trigger happy again – he does that a lot in this story – and we’re done. I sit there bemused, thinking how ridiculous Tennant’s awful “Man who never would” speech feels after three Colin Baker stories. “Oh well,” I think to myself, “They tried.”

Well, Philip Martin tried.

RATING
Ooh, it’s hard to mark this one. It’s so…variable. “Variable On Varos”, anyone? Some brilliant ideas, some really dodgy bits, an AMAZING villain, a ridiculously violent Doctor. Not as godawful as “The Twin Dilemma” or “Attack Of The Cybermen” but not as good as, say, the Caveman episodes of “An Unearthly Child” either. A lowly 4/10.

Written and edited by Steve Horry

 

22.1 – “Attack Of The Cybermen”

Posted in Classic Who, Season 22 with tags , , , , on February 20, 2014 by Review The Who

CW Series 22 - Attack Of The Cybermen

STORY
The Doctor and Peri are lured to London in pursuit of an alien distress signal, bumbling into an attempted armed robbery while they do so. Also Cybermen.

REVIEW
A story so mind-meltingly awesome not one, not two but THREE separate writers have argued over the credit. Three. This is clearly one of the good ones, right?

Stop laughing at the back.

Colin Baker is back! New season, new Doctor, new danger. This time around he has something of a budget. Well, more of one than “The Twin Dilemma” had. Plus there’s a new format: episodes are now 45 minutes long and there are less of them (it’s like a vision of the future…specifically 2013). When writing about “The Twin Dilemma” I made an overwhelming effort to try and embrace the positive. Watching C-Bakes’ second duffer on the trot though, it’s really, really hard to maintain the same attitude. This is a hard one to review, mainly because I got bored whilst watching it and my mind began to wander…

There is something mysterious going on in the sewers. Well, something certainly stinks. A sewer worker is attacked by something out of shot, but given that the episode is called “Attack Of The Cybermen” it’s kind of obvious that this is at least part of said attack. Whilst this is happening, we meet a familiar face; it’s Lytton from “Revelation Of The Daleks”! Hurrah (exclaimed precisely no-one ever). Nowadays he’s a gangster, planning a diamond heist with the worst team of baddies ever. Straight up. They bicker, they argue, they pose and they complain about everything. Given that they’re planning a multi-million diamond heist, they’ve got to be pretty bad-ass, mercenary types, no? Used to a bit of the rough stuff, handy in a fight, you know the type. Killers. Ruthless! Well quite early on they illustrate just how tough they are by wussing out when they discover Lytton has – oh no! – a gun!

Let’s just think about that for a minute. Gangsters. Planning a diamond heist. Who don’t like guns. What. The. Actual. Fuck?

And they get worse! They don’t want to go into the sewers to sneak in to do the job, they keep getting all nervous when they finally do get down there and claim they want to jack it in. Imagine this group of wasters in, oh, I don’t know, Pulp Fiction. Actually, that’d be kind of funny. After half an episode of their bitching and whining I’m starting to switch off. I start reminding myself I need to embrace the positive! The episode has a nice grainy film look in places, I guess. Then I notice that EVERYONE seems to be bickering. The Doctor & Peri, Lytton and his men, some random semi-converted Cyber-drones…it’s kind of draining.

As the episode progresses, we’re introduced to blacked up Cybermen stalking the sewers and my mind continues to wander. Thank god they didn’t do this in the 60’s, I decide. Combined with The Racist Toymaker and Troughton wanting to play The Doctor in blackface, the collective geek childhood would have been a lot more offensive. Blimey. Actually, they did do this in the 60’s. And it was good. Well, better than this. 8 episodes worth of good. I’m finding myself bored before the 20 minute mark and there are only 2 episodes of this.

EMBRACE THE POSITIVE, STEVE!! Well, the cliffhanger at the end of episode 1 is a bit of a cracker. The Cybermen have invaded the TARDIS! Nice. And oh no! They’re going to shoot Peri! Episode 2 begins with a a quick shoot-out and we’re on our way to Telos, second home of the Cybermen. It boggles the mind that – in a continuity-heavy episode so desperate to prove it’s credentials that it brings back original Cybercontroller actor Michael Killgariff despite the fact WE NEVER ACTUALLY SAW HIS FACE SO IT COULD BE ANYONE UNDER THERE – Telos looks nothing like the Telos seen in “Tomb Of The Cybermen”. Oh hang on, apparently they filmed the exterior scenes in the same quarry. Well, that makes all the difference. So, anyways, the Cybermen have captured the TARDIS ‘cos they need a time machine. They’ve already got one, but I suppose it’s always nice to have a spare. They lock The Doctor up with Peri and Lytton, and The Doctor and Lytton wave their willies at each other. Not literally. That’d be far too entertaining.

“The last time we met he had allied with the Daleks.” Proclaims The Doctor. BUT YOU DIDN’T ACTUALLY MEET! I reply before realising what I’ve done and feeling embarrassed.

Having reached the halfway point, I decide that when writing my review, I’ll start with some sort of structure, then ‘hilariously’ start just chucking random, disconnected observations in, as a tribute to the way this story seems to start reasonably well but turns into incoherent nonsense. If none of the alleged three bloody writers can be bothered to write something that makes sense, why the flip should I?

“The sour rank odour of death is unmistakeable” Says Lytton to, I don’t know, someone. I make a note with the words “DIALOGUE TRIUMPH” beside it.

For some reason odd Cybermen are going cybercrazy at random intervals. It’s never explained why. One punches his way out of his tomb/bed/cryogenic chamber thing, decapitating another Cyberman as he goes. I start contemplating a decapitation count. Quite a few Cybermen have been decapitated over the course of this story. Then I realise that would involve watching this shite from the beginning again and decide to table that idea. His little cyberface is covered in something that looks like a sticky white goo. Wonder what that could be? Maybe that’s why he’s peeved. Some fucker has Peter Parker’d him in his sleep.

The Doctor, Peri and Lytton are all split up and they separately meet various Cyrons. But the Cyrons are supposed to be dead! And I’m supposed to care, but hey ho. It turns out that Lytton is actually working for the Cryons. Not himself. Or something. “I realise this must be confusing for you,” one of them tells Griffiths, Lytton’s sole surviving henchman. And again I yell at my TV “Yeah, it really is. And I’m a bloody ming-mong!” Lytton needs help to steal a time vessel. Oh dear. Everyone wants a bloody time machine. I resolve that next time someone complains about a Steven Moffat plot I’m going to sit them down in front of this nonsense and leave them to it.

Lytton and Griffiths bicker a bit more. “Your function as always, Griffin, is muscle.” Lytton tells him. For 10 long seconds I wonder if anyone has written any Lytton/Griffin slash fic. I almost contemplate Googling it. Then I decide life is too short. Yet still I soldier on through “Attack Of The Cybermen”. The Cryons have very silly voices. And by God do they look bloody silly. They gesticulate badly in pantomime alien stylee, flappin’ about more than Matt Smith in a ‘romp’ episode. Though slightly more gracefully. And I’m fairly sure Matt Smith has never pointed at his crotch while talking to anyone. The Cyberplot. They intend to prevent Mondas from ever being destroyed. OH NO! So THAT’S why they stole the TARDIS! We’re reminded that they already have a time machine though. What? See also: the Cryons want to stop the Cybermen because they’re going to blow up Telos to see what that looks like before they blow up the Earth. Why do they need to do this? Don’t all explosions look pretty much the same? Is Eric Saward on Twitter? I need some explanations.

EMBRACE THE POSITIVE, STEVE!! Erm…that’s a nice synth sound when Lytton and Griffin meet Stracken and the other one. There are some nice model shots. The cybercontrol centre on Telos looks ace. Err…

The Cybermen leave The Doctor – their uber-resourceful arch-enemy- in a cell with a load of explosive materials. A load of explosive materials that only need to be heated to 10 degrees over zero before they combust.

THIS IS WHY PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE A BIT RUBBISH, CYBERMEN!

Mind you, brutally crushing Lytton’s hands is a bit more like it. Blimey, that’s a lot of blood. And at tea-time! I suppose it was the 80’s. The effect is punctured somewhat by the farty synth trumpet version of Lytton’s theme that soundtracks this scene. “Wah-wah-wah-waaaaah!” it goes, sounding like it’s been composed by a Timmy Mallett impersonator sat at his first keyboard, pulling a comedy sadface before moving on to something more serious. “Cybermen have one weakness,” says The Doctor. “They’ll react to the distress of their own kind.” Something something “what about gold?” something something etc. Then a Cryon is executed and we’re into a full-on massacre. Hmm. Oh, and then some other guys are killed as well. Some other guys with a plot that never intersects with the main plot, so I’m left wondering what the point of them was beyond adding to the body count. Is anyone still alive? WAS there any point to them? I kind of drifted off a bit. Did I miss something important? No? Jolly good.

I refocus. The Doctor contemplates how he has misjudged Lytton. Lytton the mercenary WHO KILLED A FUCKLOAD OF PEOPLE AND WORKED WITH THE DALEKS! And then The Doctor whirls around Cybercontrol shooting the shit out of some Cybermen and I start wondering how that ‘man who never would’ line in “The Doctor’s Daughter” got past the script editor. Lytton has died somewhere along the line too. Oh well. The Doctor and Peri do a runner and then those explosives are making the Cybermen go bang-bang. I assume some Cryons probably survived that story, but every other bugger is ding dang dead.

“Didn’t go very well, did it?” says The Doctor to Peri at the end, breaking the fourth wall to sum up the whole debacle quite nicely.

Oh hang on, that bit ISN’T metafictional?

Erm…ah.

RATING
So this MIGHT have been written by Paula Moore, it MIGHT have been written by Eric Saward and it MIGHT have been written by Ian Levine. If Ian Levine did write this, then I’d say it’s better than Doctor In Distress but not as good as Take That & Party. So that’d imply a strong 5/10. But it’s total cyberbobbins. I really did try and embrace the positive, honestly, I did. BUT I CAN’T. 2/10.

Written and edited by Steve Horry