Doctor Who Mini Reviews

A bit of background:  I have been collecting Doctor Who on DVD, well, since they started releasing the show on DVD, back in 2001, I think.  I’ve been meticulously collecting all of Classic Who (and new, for that matter), working to get all the episodes.  Not just my favorite episodes (I had bought a few favorites on VHS from BBC Video) but all of the releases for every Doctor except Tom Baker (who with seven years, seemed just too big to collect).  Over the years, Doctor Who, has always been a  high priority “must buy” for me and placed on my Christmas and birthday lists too.  Over the years, there have been a few episodes, here and there I skipped – due to lack of money and lack of interest in certain episodes.  Recently, though, I purchased four of the episodes I had previously given a miss.

Here are my mini-reviews of those episodes, chronologically:  The Gunfighters, The Invasion of the Dinosaurs, The Twin Dilemma, and Delta and the Bannermen.


Watched “The Gunfighters” this morning, the last of the four DW episodes I recently picked up, having skipped them when they came out. Oh, god, it was worse than I remembered — and I’ve always disliked it. And now I have that darn song stuck in my head. The accents are TERRIBLE, and of all the places in the ***universe*** for the Doctor to go for a toothache (presuming he has no medical facilities at all on the TARDIS) he picks the “Wild” West? The planet of the Cat Nurse/Nuns would have been better. It doesn’t even work as a pastiche of Westerns.


“Invasion of the Dinosaurs” – oh man. Well… First, the dinosaurs, are just about the worst-realized monster on Classic Who. Now, maybe it’s because we “know” what dinosaurs should look like. Or maybe it’s ‘cause we’ve been conditioned by higher-budget dino flicks (yeah, Jurassic Park & Primeval – I’m looking at you). But I just can’t take seriously “monsters” that look like they were made out of clay by a kindergarten class. However, that aside (because lets face it – you don’t watch Classic Who for the effects anyway), the plot, well… First, originally I disliked the episode for two reasons: at the time that I first saw the story, episode 1 was missing, so PBS ran the story without it. (So, it’s like “huh?”). The nice thing about the DVD, is that it is included, in both black and white and in the special features as a “colorized” version. It’s nice to actually see the first episode. The second thing I disliked about the story (when I originally saw it in the 1980s) was Capt. Mike Yates’ betrayal of the Brigadier, the Doctor and UNIT, which I thought was out of character for the straight-laced military captain. Watching the episode again – the story is a bit long, and a little weird, but it’s a scary look at what can happen when an “un-holy trinity” of a government agent (it’s Britain, so an MP), the military (an Army General), and a scientist – get together and decide to Do Evil Things, all for the “benefit” of humankind of course. ‘Course, they will wipe out billions of people to create the world they want (un-doing the present by re-creating the past). It’s a classic “ends don’t justify the means” story and weirdly enough the Doctor, the Brigadier and Sgt. Benton, end-up fighting the MP, scientist, and army general. In a show where usually the “good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one” and it works — “Inv. Dinosaurs” is, especially in Sarah Jane’s tirades, fiercely individualist. So in that sense it comes off as a strongly political but “good” episode. But I couldn’t help but think, though, that the creators of the British series, “Primeval” saw this story, and thought, “What a great idea for a series!”.  (“Primeval” also have dinosaurs being brought to the present.  Well, accidentally walking into the present, though “anomalies” that look like an updated and better CGI version of the time tunnel-like device used in “Invasion of the Dinosaurs”.  But “Primeval” also got really interesting when they started messing about with time, including characters simply disappearing – because they no longer existed, and an insane woman who wanted to kill-off all humans – by preventing their existence in the first place.)


Also, watched “The Twin Dilemma”, which, actually worked better than it’s given credit for (even by me, previously). When Colin gives his “I’m the Doctor, whether you like it or not,” speech it actually comes off as a statement of identity (and pride in that identity, but not, as is often stated, of arrogance – not in context). Yes, the plot makes no sense, and goes off wildly in multiple directions (it feels like every part of this four-part story was written by a different person. It’s the “round robin” of Who writing). But the cast is solid, the monsters suitably interesting, and — once you know what’s going on, the Doctor’s wild mood swings are an interesting twist on the post-regeneration confusion that’s been a staple of “Doctor Who” since Pertwee took over from Troughton (at least).


“Delta and the Bannermen” – First, I hate the title, it sounds like a 70s British Punk rock band, and I still dislike it.  However, McCoy is one of my favorite Doctors (along with Davison and Tennant), and this was the last of his stories I needed (I have the other 11).  “Delta” is only three episodes long — yet they crammed in so many different characters, each with their own agendas and hint of a back story that the plot rapidly becomes confused.  When an entire busload of alien tourists is killed, the average viewer doesn’t even care about them, they become inconvenient extras.  Normally, Doctor Who doesn’t indulge in that type of wholesale slaughter… at least, not without good reason.  (For example, in “Warriors of the Deep” every character we meet on the seabase dies, and dies horribly — yet we care about them because we’ve spent time with the characters.  The Doctor’s last line, “There should have been another way,” echoes with meaning, regret, and pain.)  But “triumphs” are oddly un-involving too.  We, the audience, really don’t care much about Delta and her daughter surviving.  This was one story where an expansion into four parts probably wouldn’t have helped.  The story needed some ruthless editing.

First, there’s no need for the space tourists at all.  We know the TARDIS is completely unreliable — the Doctor and Mel could have just landed in Wales instead of Disneyland.  No need for the aliens, the bus, and all that.

Second, I know the beekeeper and his stories where meant to parallel Delta and her daughter – but initially, he’s not that interesting either.  His part needed to be pumped-up or dropped.  One or the other.

The two American “spies” were TERRIBLE characters.  Just awful.  Again, we have horrible accents (one thing new Who can do — better American accents.) But, the characters were such stereotypes they were almost offensive.  And they had no need to be in the story — at all.  (Yes, I know, supposedly they were chasing the downed satellite, but that was another totally un-needed plot complication).  And there was no reason for the one guy to be wearing a NY Yankees baseball coach’s jacket.  He should have been in a three-piece suit.

The central story was Delta, her daughter, and the people chasing them.  It should have focused on that.  Who were these people chasing Delta?  Why?  Some seemed to be mercenaries, others, some sort of regular space army, why the two armies?  If the story had focused on that storyline only, and excluded the rest of the junk, it might have worked much better.  Probably never would have been a classic, but it would have, possibly, have been better.

However,  having watched these, I’m thinking the six Tom Baker stories that I skipped – I should really get, and get now before the end of the year.  Those are:  ”Image of the Fendahl”, “The Sunmakers”, “Underworld”, “Nightmare of Eden”, “Creature from the Pit”, and “Horns of Nimon”.  Remember, those are stories I do not own as of yet. (When this post was originally written.)

Yet, I’m genuinely looking forward to this coming Fall’s release of:  Terror of the Zygons (the last Classic Who release), The Ice Warriors (new reconstruction),  The Moonbase (first DVD or video release of a new reconstruction), The Tenth Planet (first DVD or video release of a new reconstruction), and Scream of the Shalka (the Internet Animated episode – which I haven’t seen).

Update (8/18/2014):  I have all of Doctor Who now – I did go back and buy the Tom Baker stories I’d skipped.  I also purchased the newly discovered, previously missing, stories – “Web of Fear” and “Enemy of the World” as well as the DVDs for the stories completed with re-constructed animations (The Ice Warriors, The Tenth Planet, The Reign of Terror, and The Moonbase). – JM

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey

  • Title:  The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey
  • Director:  Peter Jackson
  • Date:  2012
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers, New Line, MGM
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Ian Holm, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Sylvester McCoy, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis, James Nesbitt, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC


“For he had seen dragonfire in the sky and a city turned to ash, and he never forgave and he never forgot.”  — Old Bilbo describing Thorin Oakenshield

“I’ve never used a sword in my life.” — Bilbo
“And I hope you never have to.  But if you do, remember this:  True courage is about knowing not when to take a life but when to spare one.”  — Gandalf

“Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check.  But that is not what I have found.  I found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the blackness at bay.  Simple acts of kindness and love.”  — Gandalf

The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey opens with old Bilbo (Ian Holm) reminiscing, speaking to Frodo, but only in his head as he goes through some of his old souvenirs of his adventures.  Bilbo’s narration includes the famous first line that Tolkien wrote about Hobbits, “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit…” and background information about the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the kingdom of Erebor.  When Frodo does arrive he brings in the mail, most of which are responses to Biblo’s birthday party — and Bilbo gives him the sign to hang on his garden gate, “No admittance except on Party business”.  The screen then transitions to the title card for “An Unexpected Journey” and young Bilbo (Martin Freeman).  This neatly ties The Hobbit in with the previous Lord of the Rings film trilogy.  JRR Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first, then The Lord of the Rings which was so long, his publisher suggested publishing it in three volumes, which became:  The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King.  Now, you can get LotR in either a single volume or in the traditional three-book version, and often it’s packaged in box sets with the prequel, The Hobbit.

In the Shire, Bilbo is standing around outside when Gandalf arrives and tries to talk Bilbo into accompanying him on an adventure.  Bilbo dismisses the idea.  Later, one by one, then in groups, a total of twelve Dwarves arrive at his Hobbit hole.  Finally, Thorin Oakenshield the Dwarven leader arrives, as does Gandalf.  The Dwarves are rather chaotic house-guests, but they tell Bilbo of their quest — to return to Erebor and re-claim their kingdom under the mountain from the dragon, Smaug.  Bilbo is reluctant.

The Dwarves sing, “The Song of the Misty Mountains”, their anthem, and each of the Dwarves stands to sing.  This somewhat convinces Bilbo, but when he gets a look at his “contract”  he’s shocked at all the ways he could die, and ultimately he refuses.

The next morning, Bilbo awakens and his home is sparkling.  He finds the contract, signs it, and runs out his door to join Gandalf and the Dwarves on an adventure.  As they travel, the scenery is beautiful and gorgeous.  Stunning, really.

One night, when they’ve stopped to camp, Balin fills Bilbo in on more of Thorin’s background.  His Grandfather and Father had attempted to re-take Moria which was filled with Orcs.  Not only did they face an horde of orcs, but a pale orc beheads the king, Thorin’s grandfather, and Thorin’s father runs off, driven mad by grief, anger, and fear.  The pale orc, Azog, also attacks Thorin, who defends himself  with an oaken branch.  Thorin rallies the Dwarves, but though they “win” the battle, the cost is much too high, with the piles of Dwarven dead on the battlefield, and the death of the Dwarves’ king.

Gandalf, Bilbo, and the Dwarves continue their journey in the rain.  Bilbo asks Gandalf about other wizards. Gandalf mentions Saruman the White, the two blues, and Radagast the Brown.  The film transitions to Radagast, who is investigating mysterious occurrences in the Greenwood.  Radagast travels by way of a sled pulled by rabbits.  The film transitions back to Thorin’s company.

Again, the Dwarves camp for the night.  Two ponies go missing.  Fili, Kili, and Bilbo investigate and find trolls.  While the trolls, are gross, stupid, and acting like the Three Stooges, Bilbo sneaks over to free the now four taken ponies.  Bilbo is caught and the trolls threaten to eat him.  Kili and the other Dwarves arrive to the rescue.  There’s a fight, but in the end, Bilbo is caught and the Dwarves have to put down their arms.  The trolls plan on eating the dwarves.  Bilbo tries to delay the trolls.  At dawn, Gandalf arrives and the sun turns the trolls to stone.  Bilbo’s playing for time had saved the Dwarves as much as Gandalf’s arrival, but Gandalf  has to point the fact out to Thorin.

The company finds the nearby troll hold of  treasure and weapons.  They discover three fine Elvish swords, Gandalf takes one, he gives Thorin another, and Bilbo takes a third, a knife that is just the right size for him to use as a sword.

Radagast arrives and tells Gandalf that a darkness has fallen on the Greenwood, and spiders have invaded it.  a dark power, the shadow of an ancient horror, the Necromancer is now there.  Wargs (giant wolf/dog-type animals) and orcs attack, and the ponies bolt.  Radagast draws off the Wargs.

Gandalf  leads the Dwarves to a secret passage, Thorin covers the retreat.  Suddenly, someone arrives and attacks the orcs, a group of Elves.  Gandalf  leads the Dwarves through the path and they arrive in Rivendell.

Elrond arrives, he is back from hunting Orcs.  Elrond and his Elves exhibit impressive horsemanship, and Elrond’s red-tinged armor is gorgeous!  Elrond greets Thorin by name, and by the names of his father and mentions knowing his grandfather.  The Elves offer the Dwarves food and shelter.  Thorin reluctantly accepts, still holding a grudge against Elves because they did not aid the Dwarves when Smaug attacked Erebor.

Elrond recognizes the Elvish swords that the Dwarves found, telling Thorin his is, Orcrist – the Goblin Cleaver, and he tells Gandalf, his is, Glamdring, the Foe Hammer.  Elrond tells them a little of the swords’ history.  Bilbo looks up with expectation, but he’s told his “sword” is too small to have done great deals, that it is probably a “dinner knife” or child’s toy.  The Dwarves are treated to a meal and music, but are uncomfortable.

Elrond explains the moon runes on Thorin’s map to Gandalf and Thorin.  Elrond discovers the company’s quest and refers to Gandalf as a “Guardian of Middle-Earth”.  Gandalf shows the Morgul blade to a council of  himself, Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman, as proof of Radagast’s news that something is going on in the Greenwood.  Saruman dismisses this news, and Radagast himself, but Galadriel takes Gandalf more seriously and offers her help if he should ever need it.

The Dwarves leave Rivendell, and continue their journey.  On a black mountain cliff, in the rain, they wander into a battle between storm giants.  Bilbo nearly falls from the cliff.  In rescuing him, Thorin is nearly lost.  In a fit of anger, he tells Bilbo, “He’s been lost, ever since he left home.  He should never have come.  He has no place amongst us.”  The Dwarves move into a cave to rest.  Bilbo’s about to leave, to go home, but he talks to Bofur who convinces him to stay, then his sword glows blue – indicating orcs or goblins nearby.  The company is attacked by goblins (orcs).  The Dwarves are captured, but Bilbo is over-looked and left alone.  There, he is attacked by a goblin and fights, then falls down a cavern.

The captured Dwarves are brought to the Goblin king.  Thorin comes to defend the Dwarves.  The goblin king threatens to send Thorin’s head to the pale orc.

Bilbo wakes in the dark.  He sees Gollum.  Gollum loses the ring while attacking a goblin, which he drags back to his underground pond to kill and eat.
Bilbo finds the ring, and pockets it.
Once Gollum has killed the goblin, Bilbo’s sword ceased to glow blue.  He and Gollum meet. Slowly Bilbo and Gollum get into a game of riddles.  Biblo asks Gollum to show him the way out if he wins, and if  he loses, Gollum wants to eat him.  Gollum alternates between his “Gollum” and “Smeagol” personalities throughout the scenes between he and Bilbo.  It’s extremely well done!

Since Bilbo wins the game, Gollum must show him the way out.  Gollum also realises with a panic that he’s lost his precious, and also realises that Bilbo has it in his “pocketses”.

Gandalf arrives to rescue Thorin and his Dwarves.

Bilbo escapes a wrathful Gollum by squeezing through a tight passage in the rock – so tight the brass button pop off  his waistcoat (or vest).  The ring falls on his finger and he’s dropped into “wraithworld” without warning or understanding.

Fighting the goblins, the Dwarves and Gandalf move to escape but they are confronted by the goblin king.  Gandalf defeats him.  The Dwarves and Gandalf, however, fall off a wooden bridge, into a cavern and land in a heap.  They run for the exit.

Bilbo, in the wraithworld, sees the Dwarves running by, who, naturally don’t notice him.  Bilbo is unable to kill the helpless and pathetic Gollum.  This will be very important later, in The Lord of the Rings, where Bilbo’s mercy has great consequences.  Bilbo runs for the exit, and Gollum doesn’t really know what’s happened.

In the woods, Gandalf counts the Dwarves, sees they are all there, then asks after Bilbo.  Bilbo takes the ring off and appears.  Wargs and orcs attack, Bilbo kills a warg.  The company escapes into the trees.  Gandalf speaks to a Monarch butterfly to call for help.  Azog arrives.  Gandalf attacks the wargs with fire, setting pine-cones alight and throwing them.  Bilbo and the Dwarves also throw flaming pine cones at the wargs.  But the forest of trees bursts into flame and the Dwarves nearly fall off  the cliff.  Walking through the pale trees, Thorin attacks Azog, the pale orc.  Azog strikes back and knocks Thorin out.

Bilbo attacks the orc sent to take Thorin’s head and kills the orc.  The Eagles arrive to rescue the Dwarves.  The Eagles attack the wargs and orcs.  One eagle picks up the still unconscious Thorin in his talons.  All, including Bilbo, are rescued.  The eagles carry everyone to a rocky cliff face at the top of a mountain.  Gandalf goes to check on Thorin and heals him.  Thorin is grateful to Bilbo for saving him, and admits to being wrong about him.  From the cliff, they can see Erebor, the Lonely Mountain.  Under the mountain, is Smaug.

I enjoyed The Hobbit.  Yes, it is a long film, and  there are several complex action sequences, as one would expect from Peter Jackson.  But the emphasis and heart of the film is the characters, especially, Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin.  Tolkien’s original novel is only about 300 pages, and it’s a straight-forward, there-and-back again tale of adventure.  So, I wondered how Jackson was going to take that and make first, two films, and later, it was announced, a new trilogy of films. However, one of the things he does in An Unexpected Journey is he changes the emphasis of the Dwarves’ quest from one for gold — the gold horded by the dragon, to a quest to re-take their home.  Making the quest about home means it’s easier to identify with the entire story, and it gives Bilbo a reason to accompany the Dwarves on their quest.  He tells Thorin that he has a home but he will help Thorin take his home back, if he can.  Bilbo can understand and emphasize with Thorin’s quest to take back his home.  I’m hoping 2013’s The Desolation of Smaug will also be as good, though I have no doubts that it will be.  Anyway, this film is excellent, highly enjoyable, and highly recommended.

New Zealand again plays Middle-Earth, and the scenery is stunning, absolutely stunning. Howard Shore’s score, which I was anticipating last year almost as much as the film itself, is perfect.  It’s new, but has a quality that lets you know this is the same Middle-Earth as in Lord of the Rings, though a younger, more innocent time, with only a hint of the darkness to come.  And the Dwarves’ choral piece, “Song of the Misty Mountains” is beautiful, I really loved it.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Cloud Atlas

Colin Salmon – Twitter Quote

I love Colin Salmon’s tweets!

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‘>Twitter Quote

River – the Doctor – A Complicated Relationship



“Not those times. Not one line! Don’t you dare!”

“Don’t you dare!”

It hurts. But it’s their hurt. Their life. Their marriage. 

I love this!