Classic Doctor Who DVD Recs – The Sixth Doctor

This post consists of my recommendations for for Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.

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The Doctor receives a distress call abroad the TARDIS from Lytton (the mercenary from the Peter Davison story Resurrection of the Daleks) who is stranded in 1985 Earth. He and Peri land in the TARDIS to investigate. When the TARDIS materialises, the Chameleon Circuit engages, however, instead of blending in to Totters Lane – it takes various extremely conspicuous shapes. The Doctor and Peri discover Lytton is in contact with the Cybermen on Telos. The Cybermen plan on changing time, destroying the Earth to spare their planet, Mondas. Meanwhile, Lytton turns out to be really working for the Cryons, the original inhabitants of Telos.

In Attack of the Cybermen, Colin is excellent – he’s outraged at the injustice of what the Cybermen are doing, yet when he discovers Lytton’s changed his ways, he also swears to help him help the Cyrons. It’s a good story, with an edge to it. The individual episodes for Colin’s first season are 45-minutes not 30; however the series still depended on multi-part stories that ended on cliffhangers.

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Vengeance on Varos has long been my favorite Colin Baker story. Varos, once a prison planet, is now one of the few sources of Zyton-7, a priceless natural resource that is needed by all spaceship. However, Sil an envoy from Galatron, has convinced the governors of Varos that Zyton-7, their only export, is worthless and he’s doing them a favor by taking it off their hands at extremely low prices. Meanwhile, the normal residents of the planet turn to television as a distraction from their difficult existence of hard labor. Two citizens, sit in their tiny living quarters, eating merger meals, and watching the punishment dome live – as rebels are punished with physical and mental torture. The Doctor and Peri join the rebels. Meanwhile, the governor does not escape, as the television viewers can also approve or veto his televised commands – and when they vote “no”, he’s tortured with electric shocks. Of course, some vote “no”, simply to see the governor tortured.

Vengeance on Varos is a commentary on televised violence, especially that of sports and reality television, so, of course, it was severely criticised for it’s violence. But the story’s secondary plot, that of a corporate entity severely exploiting a single-resource economy is also worth noting. Colin, and a strong guest cast, make the story one not to be missed.

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Timelash is a fun story, it’s light, but it doesn’t quite get into the silly territory. The Doctor and Peri, joined by a very young, Herbert (H.G. Wells), become involved in a plot involving a woman named Vena, a monster called a Morlox, an alien dictator named the Borad, his assistant Tekkar, and a time tunnel called the Timelash that’s used by the dictator as a torture device. The references to The Time Machine fly fast and furious. But at the heart, it’s a story about a young man experiencing adventure and love for the first time. Besides – it’s just plain fun to watch.

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After a hiatus, Doctor Who returned with another umbrella season, The Trial of a Time Lord, which is four stories released as a box set. Additionally, the stories were meant to be in the Doctor’s past, present and future, as well as a wrap up. With Trial, Doctor Who returned to its 30-minute format.

In The Mysterious Planet, the Doctor lands on a mysterious space station, and discovers he is to face a tribunal of Time Lords, and their prosecutor, the Valeyard. Evidence from the Matrix will be shown on a large screen. On the screen, Peri and the Doctor land on the planet, Ravalox, which was nearly destroyed by a solar fireball. The planet is really Earth, far in the future and moved to a different location in space. Peri and the Doctor discover a underground civilization, ruled by a robot dictator. Peri also discovers the Tribe of the Free, eking out an merger existence on the surface, and Glitz, and intergalactic rake. The Free invade underground, and the robot is destroyed. The Doctor claims the Valeyard is manipulating and tampering with evidence.

In Mindwarp, The Doctor and Peri arrive on Thoros-Beta, home to reptilian farmers, like Sil. Their leader, Kiv, has expanded his brain, but it is growing so big he must transplant it into another being – naturally, he chooses Peri for this. The Doctor is subjected to one of Kiv’s scientists’ machines, which causes him to act selfishly, even betraying Peri. Peri escapes with the Warrior King, Yrcanos. They stage a rebellion of the human slaves, but are captured. The Doctor, meanwhile, manages to free Yrcanos, but is pulled out of the situation before he can rescue Peri, and her mind is destroyed when it’s replaced with Kiv. Or is it?

In Terror of the Vervoids, the Doctor presents his story as rebuttal to the Time Lords. In his future, he and a new companion, Mel, follow a distress call to the space liner, Hyperion III. The distress call was sent by an undercover agent, but he’s killed before he can say much, other than a dangerous criminal may be on the ship. Meanwhile, Prof. Vasky has developed a killer plant life-form which is taking over the ship and causing havoc. Vasky, however, is the criminal the agent was looking for, and he plans to sell his plant lifeforms as slave labor. However, they are far to dangerous – the Doctor destroys them and is accused of genocide by the Time Lords.

Terror of the Vervoids actually plays out like a class British mystery. I mean, yes, with mad scientists, and killer plants, but still a British mystery.

The Ultimate Foe – Glitz and Mel arrive at the Doctor’s Trial as witnesses, as does the Master. The last two episodes of the Trial storyline explain everything that is going on, and Colin gets to deliver one of his best speeches as the Doctor:

This is the speech where Colin, and his Doctor’s pursuit of justice as well as outrage at corruption really shine.

Colin was only the Doctor for two seasons on the television series. However, he also shines in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio adventures. If you like what you see in his aired adventures, give those a try!

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Classic Doctor Who DVD Recs – The Fifth Doctor

This post consists of my recommendations for Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.

Peter Davison is one of my favorite actors to have played the role of the Doctor, though in truth I don’t really dislike any of them – all the Doctors have brought something unique to the role. What I like about Davison’s interpretation of the character was his sense of vulnerability and his internal focus. Coming after Tom Baker – who was extroverted, commanding, and at times very alien – Peter was more human.

The Peter Davison years also saw closer connections between the stories, and events from previous episodes were often discussed by the characters. Every episode led into the next, and, if possible, watching all the Davison stories in chronological order is the best way to see them. Unfortunately, the release schedule for the Davison years was all over the map, and two stories were even released in collections with other Doctors. Add in various boxed sets, re-releases (as Special Editions), and it can be hard to follow. I will say this, though, at least for the US DVD releases – all the collections (box sets) are in cardboard slip cases with the discs in the same snap cases (with the same case design) as the individual releases – which means you can take them out of the slip case and shelve them chronologically (that’s how I shelve my Doctor Who), and then store the slip case someplace. Increasingly, it’s also possible to buy titles individually from on-line retailers like Amazon.

And now on to the recommendations.

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Castrovalva is included in the New Beginnings set I mentioned last time. Having regenerated after his fall from the satellite dish at the Pharos Project, the Doctor’s companions rush him to the TARDIS. However, the Doctor is weak and disoriented from his regeneration. He enters the Zero Room to relax. Adric is kidnapped by the Master (Anthony Ainley) who sets a trap for the Doctor by causing the TARDIS to head towards Event One, the hydrogen inrush (Big Bang) that created the universe. Needing extra power, the Doctor prevents the destruction of the TARDIS and her crew by jettisoning parts of the ship, including Romana’s room and the Zero Room. Needing quiet, relaxation, and peace so the Doctor’s regeneration can stabilize, his companions, Tegan and Nyssa, take the Doctor to Castrovalva. However, Castrovalva isn’t the peaceful, quiet place it seems, but rather a recursive occclusion – a time/space trap built by Adric at the bequest of the Master.

Based on the paintings of MC Escher, Castrovalva is a fascinating and unusual Doctor Who story. And although it’s Davison’s first story, and linked directly to Logopolis, it was actually filmed fourth – so Davison could settle in to the role. (Four to Doomsday was filmed first.)

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Kinda is one of my absolute favorite Peter Davison stories. Nyssa is barely in the story, which is one of the few things I don’t like about it, but as consolation, Tegan not only gets to shine, the story really focuses on her and her insecurities as an accidental member of the TARDIS crew. This story introduces the Mara, a psychically activated being motivated by the fears of those it attacks. Also, the story severely criticizes the arrogance of colonialism and it’s treatment of Native Peoples. It also brings back the blue crystals of Metebelis 3 from Planet of the Spiders. It’s brilliantly done, and the entire cast is in top form.

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Black Orchid is the last purely historical story for quite a while. The TARDIS lands in the 1925, and the Doctor and his companions are welcomed by the local aristocrats, the Cranleighs. The Doctor gets to bowl in cricket, Tegan gets to dance the Charleston, and the TARDIS crew attend a costume ball. Nyssa turns out to be an exact double for Ann, Charles Cranleigh’s fiancee. But all is not well at the Cranleigh’s manor house, and soon the Doctor and crew are involved in a classic mystery.

Beautifully filmed, with lots of great dialogue, and also short (it’s only two parts), Black Orchid is actually a gem of a story, and I recommend it highly.

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A group of paleontologists are studying dinosaur bones in a cave, when their party is attacked by a mysterious force. They call in the space marines, but they are also stumped, because they only see life signs disappearing on the scanner and yet there’s no other sign of an attacking entity. The Doctor arrives, discovers the scientists and military are being attacked by an android. The android is protecting a hatch, behind which, is a bomb. The Doctor deactivates the bomb, and then he, his companions, and the remaining group from the planet track the signal to a freighter in space. Aboard the freighter – Cybermen.

Earthshock is a tense, atmospheric story, with a famous surprise ending. And it brings back the Cybermen, who hadn’t been seen on Doctor Who since 1975’s Revenge of the Cybermen.

 

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After the tragic events of Earthshock, the Doctor needs a lighter adventure, and Time-Flight delivers. The Doctor attempts to deliver Tegan to Heathrow Airport, but arrives in the right place, but the wrong time – prehistoric times to be precise. However, a Concord plane also has arrived, having been drawn off-course by a time tunnel. Although, at first it appears a strange being called the Kalid is responsible, that soon turns out to be the Master in disguise.  The Doctor, Tegan, and Nyssa must work with the crew of the Concord and the passengers to combine parts of two aircraft and return everyone to their proper time.

Time-Flight is light, and fun, and has some great dialogue and an excellent guest cast. I’ve always enjoyed it.

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Remember the Black Guardian from The Key to Time? He’s back, and causing trouble.

In Mawdryn Undead, the Doctor barely avoids collision with another ship by materializing inside it. Because the TARDIS is stuck, the Doctor must beam down to the planet below to free the ship. However, he arrives at a public school in 1983, where the retired Brigadier is now headmaster. Yet, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart doesn’t recognize the Doctor – even after the Doctor reminds him of some of their old adventures when he looked different. The Doctor also meets Turlough, a troubled student. Meanwhile, Nyssa and Tegan take the TARDIS, which should have automatically materialized the same place as the Doctor, but arrive in 1977. They also meet the Brigadier, and an alien named Mawdryn – who pretends he’s the Doctor in the midst of a really messed-up regeneration. Tegan and Nyssa attempt to help Mawdryn, but grow extremely old very fast, then become children.

Although Mawdryn Undead has a complicated plot, all makes sense eventually. It’s great to see the Brigadier again, thought the dates to not make sense (the Pertwee Earth-bound stories were all slightly futuristic, despite the look, and Sarah Jane states several times she’s “from 1980”, even though her first story was in 1973.) Still, it’s a solid story, which introduces Turlough as a companion, and not your average type of companion, as he’s under the control of the Black Guardian.

In Terminus, the Doctor and his companions land on a ship that’s a floating Leper Colony for victims of Lazar’s Disease. Nyssa leaves to use her skills as a biochemist to help the Lazar’s find a permanent cure for their illness.

In Enlightenment, the Doctor’s and his companions land on what they think is an Edwardian sailing ship in the midst of a race. It is, actually, a spaceship, under the control of one of the Eternals. The Eternals each have a ship from a different historical period which they are racing through space, with planets and stars as the marker buoys. The Eternals race for the prize of Enlightenment. Turlough, meanwhile, must choose – will he fulfill his deal with the Black Guardian or will he admit the truth to the Doctor about who he is, and face whatever the consequences may be of reneging on his deal.

Besides some truly gorgeous filming in the historic yachts, great historical costumes, and a novel plot, Enlightenment has some great character moments for Tegan as well as Turlough. It’s my favorite in the boxset.

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The TARDIS lands in 1215 at the court of King John, but all seems unusually strange. The King is actually a shape-changing android named Kamelion, under the control of the Master.

The King’s Demons is also only two parts, but it packs a lot of fun and daring-do into it’s short length. There’s court politics, a shape-changing android, the Master, a plot to prevent the signing of Magna Carta, and lots of singing and sword-fighting. It may sound a bit silly, but that’s part of why I love it, especially after the (good) angst of Enlightenment.

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Originally released as part of the Beneath the Surface boxset (in the Pertwee Years), I think it is now available separately – and the snapcases do slid completely out of the cardboard slipcase if you want to shelve it with the Davison DVDs.

The Doctor, Tegan, and Turlough land on Sea Base, an armed military base, that also controls the nuclear arsenal of it’s power block. The missiles are operated by a “sync operator”, a person with an implant in his head for direct access to the computer systems. Mysterious things are happening on the Sea Base. The Doctor and his companions discover the Silurian Triad leadership, and the Sea Devils are working together in their harassment of the Sea Base, however their plot is to cause a Nuclear War that will wipe out humanity and leave the Earth habitable for reptiles.

Warriors of the Deep has some great cliffhangers, and a very dark ending, where the Doctor’s win comes at a high cost – something the Doctor is very aware of, and truly upset about.

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Caves of Androzani is brilliant, simply brilliant. It does introduce Peri, but don’t hold that against this story. Sharez Jek, is a sympathetic villain, who as legitimate reasons for his feud with Androzani Major. Jek controls access to Spectrox, a life-giving drug, which is made from poisonous substances – and dangerous to mine. The Doctor and Peri come into contact with raw Spectrox and are poisoned. The Doctor must find a cure for himself and his companion.

Caves of Androzani had great style, especially the costumes. The villain isn’t evil, but someone pushed into a desperate position who reacts by going too far. Davison and Nicola Bryant (Peri) make a great team. For many Doctor Who fans, Davison’s last story is his best.

As I said at the top of this post, Peter Davison is my favorite Doctor. His last few stories are especially strong, and I often wonder what would have happened if he’d stayed one more year. Also, he and Peri have a much better relationship than Peri’s relationship with Colin Baker. I always felt that Peri needed a more “cuddly” Doctor – since she could be abrasive.

If you are interested in more Davison stories, or new ones, the Big Finish Audio Adventures include several featuring Peter Davison and various companions, including Erimem, an Egyptian princess. As with all the Doctors, there are also the out of print Doctor Who the Missing Adventures (Doctors 1-6) and the BBC Books Past Doctor Adventures (Doctors 1-7), which also feature original stories.

For more information on the Big Finish Audio Adventures see their website. Big Finish has both US and UK websites, as well as some availability through on-line and brick-and-mortar retailers such as Alien Entertainment and Forbidden Planet.

Classic Doctor Who DVD Recs – The Fourth Doctor

This post consists of my recommendations for, Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.

Tom Baker played The Doctor for seven years – still the longest run by any one actor to play the part. However, every season his line-up of companions changed slightly, which kept things interesting. I will try to keep my recommendations short, but still include all of his companions. I would also say that Tom Baker’s first and last season’s are definitely his best, and if you are a New Who fan who wants to dip into Classic Who – you can’t go wrong with picking up all of Tom’s First and Last seasons, and a few outstanding episodes like “Pyramids of Mars” and “City of Death”.

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The Ark in Space is one of my favorite Tom Baker stories. The Doctor, Dr. Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), and Sarah Jane Smith, land, in the TARDIS on an automated space station, that is carrying the remainder of humanity – who are in suspended animation waiting for their wake-up call once the planet has recovered from solar flare damage. But a space-faring insect life-form called the Wirrrn has gotten into the station’s systems and started to wreck havoc. Despite some very low-budget special effects and make-up – this is a wonderful story, and it includes Tom Baker’s Doctor’s fantastic “Indomitable” speech:

“Homo Sapiens! What an inventive, invincible species.  It’s only a few millions years since they’ve crawled out of  the mud and learned to walk.  Puny, defenseless, bipeds.  They’ve survived flood, famine and plague, they’ve survived cosmic wars and holocausts, and now here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity.  They’re indomitable!  Indomitable!” –The Doctor (Tom Baker), “The Ark in Space”, BBC 1975

Anyway, I highly recommend Ark in Space.

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The Time Lords send the Doctor, Harry, and Sarah Jane to Skaro to destroy the Daleks or alter their development in some way. On Skaro, the Doctor meets Davros, the creator of the Daleks, for the first time. The story, despite some wandering around (it is a 6 parter), is extremely strong because it’s about moral choices. Again, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

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Pyramids of Mars is another Classic episode that I really love. Set in 1911, in an isolated manor house, it has elements of Classic Horror (yes, there are mummies), English cozy mysteries (most of the guest cast dies), and it’s just about perfect.  Sarah actually changes into era-appropriate clothing, so she’s wearing a white, Victorian-styled dress throughout the story. And although most of the story does take place in 1911, the Doctor also takes Sarah to alternate time and to Mars. It is simply an awesome story – highly recommended.

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The Doctor is showing off another TARDIS control room to Sarah when the TARDIS is drawn off course by the Mandragora Helix – a malevolent alien energy. They land in 15th century Italy, and become involved in court politics. The Court Astrologer is also involved in the cult of Demnos and tries to use the Mandragora Helix energy to his own devices. This episode mixes historical settings with wonderful, rich costumes, with an science fiction plot – something Classic Doctor Who did extremely well.

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Having dropped Sarah off at the end of the previous episode (Hand of Fear) the Doctor heads to Gallifrey, his home planet on his own. On Gallifrey, the Doctor tries to prevent the assassination of the President of Gallifrey, but he is too late. Accused of the crime, the Doctor dodges the accusation by running for office and also convinces Castellan Spandrell he is innocent. It turns out the Master is behind the whole thing because his body is deteriorating. The Doctor and the Master spend considerable time pursuing each other in The Matrix – the Time Lord’s computer system built from the memories of every Time Lord that has ever existed. The Deadly Assassin has wonderful pacing and timing, especially at the beginning as the Doctor is haunted with visions of the President of Gallifrey, and it’s well-worth watching.

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Talons of Weng-Chiang is an interesting episode to list – and first I wasn’t going to include it, but then I realised that if I missed it, I wouldn’t be including any episodes with Leela, and that would be a shame.  The good thing about Talons of Weng-Chiang is that it’s set in Victorian England, and the Doctor gets to play Sherlock Holmes while Leela gets to wear some gorgeous Victorian outfits. The bad thing about the episode is the end has some real issues – and the episode definitely shows it’s age, and when it was made.

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The Key to Time was an umbrella storyline with the White Guardian assigning the Doctor and his new companion, Time Lady Romana (Mary Tamm), to find and bring together the six segments of the Key to Time. Each story in the season has Romana and the Doctor looking for a segment. However, within that – each story is completely different. The Key to Time has been released twice, both in expensive box sets. However, a quick look at Amazon shows the stories can also be purchased individually.

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The Pirate Planet was written by noted humorous SF writer Douglas Adams. The plot involves a planet not just of pirates, but that is a pirate – the planet is hollow inside and can actually materialize around another slightly smaller planet, crush it, and extract all the valuable minerals and such from the planet. Most of the citizens are unaware of this, except for anyone with latent psychic ability (called Mentiads) who can sense the destroying of the life force of the other planet. The Doctor and Romana must put a stop to the Pirate Planet’s rampage, and recover the Key to Time.

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The Doctor and Romana land on the forested, lightly populated planet, Tara, and find the Key to Time right away. However, getting away from the planet proves much harder. Romana is a an exact match for the Princess Strella (and her android), and is captured by Count Grendel. Meanwhile, the rightful heir, Prince Reynart, asks the Doctor to help repair his, that is, the Count’s, android double, so the android can attend the coronation ceremony and draw off Grendel’s assassination attempts. This story is full of captures, escapes, doubles, sword fighting, dashing off on horseback, and it’s just tremendous fun and I love it. If you can get a stand-alone copy I recommend it – there’s very little connection to the Key to Time plot anyway.

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City of Death is also written by Douglas Adams, and for many it’s the classic Tom Baker episode, though it’s also somewhat unusual for the series. City of Death is set in Paris, and involves Count Scarlioni (Julian Glover), who’s really an alien named Scaroth, who’s organizing major crimes such as stealing the Mona Lisa, so he can sell his six copies of the painting – six copies that he had Leonardo DiVinci paint for him – because not only is Scaroth an alien – he was split across time, and his various parts are all trying to merge back together. However, the crash of his spaceship not only split Scaroth apart – its explosion started life on Earth. So, if Scaroth succeeded – the destiny of Earth itself would be forever changed. This story is funny, and witty, and clever – and very enjoyable.

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The E-Space Trilogy consists of three stories set in a pocket universe called E-Space.

In Full Circle the TARDIS falls through a CVE and lands in E-Space, which has negative co-ordinates. The Doctor, Romana, and K-9, land on a planet that’s approaching Mistfall – a time when mysterious creatures come out of the nearby swamps (which are clear water when it’s not Mistfall), meanwhile, the only people on the planet are castaways from a crashed starship. However, they had also come through the CVE and have no way to get back to their real destination, especially as, over the generations, they have adapted and evolved on their new home planet. Also, the Doctor picks up a new companion, Adric.

In State of Decay, the Doctor and Romana land on a planet of vampires, home to one of the giant space vampires that was capable of destroying an entire planet. The Time Lords had fought a war against the space vampires. The story has some great sets and filming techniques.

In Warrior’s Gate, the TARDIS is hijacked by Biroc, a Time-Sensitive Thrall, who had been used as a slave pilot on time ships. He brings the Doctor, Romana, K-9, and the TARDIS to the gateway. There, he shows him the history of his species, their building of a great empire that collapsed into ruin, and the current status of his people as pilot-slaves. Romana and K-9 stay with the Biroc and another Thrall named Lazlo, Meanwhile, the Doctor and the TARDIS are able to return to normal space.

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New Beginnings finishes off Tom Baker’s time as the Doctor, and introduces Peter Davison as the new Doctor in his first story, Castrovalva.

In Keeper of Traken, the Doctor and Adric land on Traken, a planet so peaceful that due to the power of the Source, when evil lands on the planet, it turns into calcified statues in a garden. The current Keeper is at the end of his life, so the Union of Traken is in disarray, and the Keeper asks for the Doctor and Adric to help keep things stable. Consul Kassia marries Consul Tremas, only to discover to her horror that the Keeper has chosen Tremas as his successor. Tremas also has a daughter, Nyssa. The calcified statue, Melkur, manipulates Kassia and she gets her husband, the Doctor, and Adric jailed on false charges (this means Tremas will not become Keeper – something Kassia wants to avoid). Melkur takes control of the Source, but has difficulty controlling it. At this point, it’s revealed who Melkur really is.

In Logopolis, the Doctor decides to fix the TARDIS’s chameleon circuit, using block transfer computation. This involves finding another police box, so he materialises around one on Earth. However, it’s not a police box but another TARDIS, resulting in a complex dimensional trap.  Meanwhile, Tegan, a young air hostess wanders into the TARDIS. The Doctor, after receiving a warning from the mysterious Watcher, heads to Logopolis, a planet dedicated to pure mathematics. The Doctor meets the Monitor, and the Master stops the city from working. However, it’s quickly revealed that Logopolis was behind the CVEs, which function as drain holes to let excess entropy out of the universe. Without this safety valve, the universe begins to destroy itself. Sent to safety with the Watcher, Nyssa and Adric watch as the stars go out, including Nyssa’s home system of Traken. Discovering that the main city of Logopolis is a duplicate of the Pharos Project on Earth, the Doctor and the Master, now in an uneasy truce head there.

And that’s it, my recommendations for the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.

Classic Doctor Who DVD Recs – The Third Doctor

This post consists of my recommendations for Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.

Doctor Who reinvented itself with the appointment of Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. Forced to regenerate by the Time Lords, the Doctor is stranded on Earth with a non-working TARDIS and his knowledge of time travel is also taken from him. The Doctor becomes the Scientific Advisor to UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce), and works closely with Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, Captain Mike Yates, and Sgt. Benton. The Doctor gains a regular adversary as well, in the Master – a Time Lord set on conquering Earth (Played brilliantly by Roger Delgado). These Earth-based stories meant a bigger budget (since it was no longer required to build alien planets as sets) and frequently moved the show outside (hello rock quarries, stately manor houses, and quaint English villages). The show was also filmed/video-taped completely in color for the first time.

When I originally saw the Jon Pertwee stories, some of them I saw in black and white not color – these were 16mm film prints which the BBC sent for overseas viewing of the show. Though some of the color negatives of episodes were missing – all of Jon Pertwee’s stories exist as at least these 16mm prints. The Doctor Who Restoration Team were able to use the prints to restore Pertwee’s stories. Many of the color prints were also found, and it was the color stories that were released on DVD. In a very few cases where only a 16 mm black and white print existed, colorization techniques were used to re-create the original color versions of the episodes. Please see The Doctor Who Restoration Team website for more detail, or Paul Smith’s excellent book, Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium.

By Jon Pertwee’s third season, the Doctor was traveling in Time and Space again, at the direct request of the Time Lords, and after “The Three Doctors” (opening Pertwee’s Fourth Season) his knowledge of time and space travel was officially given back to him and his TARDIS restored to working order (or at least as working as one might expect.)

And now on to the recs.

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Consisting of two Jon Pertwee stories and one Peter Davison story, Beneath the Surface collects all the stories featuring the Silurians and Sea Devils. The DVD snap cases do pull out of the cardboard slip case, though, so you can shelve them chronologically.

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The interesting thing about the Silurians (other than it being the only story where “Doctor Who” is part of the official story title) is it’s not a story about a rampaging monster that destroys “just because”, nor is it the typical mad dictator or mad scientist plot. The Silurians have their own intelligent civilization that existed before humans ever evolved. They hid away when they expected a ecological disaster to destroy their planet (well, for several thousand years) and expected to wake up after the planet had recovered naturally. However, they’ve long overslept and are awaken by atomic researchers near their cave. The Doctor attempts to negotiate a peace between the intelligent Silurians and the Humans – but warriors on both sides interfere with his plans, and in the end… Well, the Silurians are one of the most genuinely sad creatures in the Doctor Who universe. Though parts of this story are a bit slow, it’s well worth having and watching. A quick glance at Amazon.com shows this is available both in the set and separately.

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This is one of my favorite Jon Pertwee stories. The Doctor is messing with the TARDIS council and sends himself to an alternate dimension, where the Brigadier and Liz Shaw serve a dictatorship. In the alternate reality, they monitor a drilling project to obtain energy from the Earth’s mantle. Although the Doctor tries to stop the project, he is unsuccessful – and the alternate world is destroyed. Returning to his reality – the Doctor discovers, to his horror, a similar project and must try to stop it. Although the story is long (7 parts), it’s brilliantly played, especially Nicholas Courtney as the “Brigade Leader”.

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After choosing this story I thought about going back and choosing Terror of the Autons instead, but I think Mind of Evil, Delgado’s second story is over all better. The Master shows up at a prison for the criminally insane with the “Keller Machine” a device that is supposed to remove criminal impulses from the inmates – so they can rehabilitated. The Keller Machine hosts a Mind Parasite. Meanwhile, the military is in the midst of dumping an illegal nerve gas missile and nearby a peace conference is going on. The Master incites a riot at the prison, steals the missile and threatens to use it against the peace conference. This story has some of the most complex action sequences in Doctor Who – with actual army officers storming the prison. That alone sets it apart.

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The Daemons is a wonderful story, simply wonderful. The entire cast, including the Brigadier and the Master are in top form. The plot involves weird goings on at a small English village, and a race of beings who basically use magic (harnessing energy in advanced ways). It’s just a great story and definitely a Classic story to have in your collection.

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This story is included in the Beneath the Surface boxset, but can be purchased separately. The Master works with the Silurians’ aquatic cousins, the Sea Devils, to sink commercial and naval vessels, and the Doctor and Jo, as well as UNIT must stop them. There’s a lot of action, plenty of great dialogue, and a great guest cast. It’s always been a favorite.

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The Three Doctors celebrates the program’s tenth anniversary and reunites William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee in a mission given to them directly from the Time Lords to stop Omega – another Time Lord. Once a great stellar engineer, who harnessed the power of the Eye of Harmony to give the Time Lords their power over time, he was trapped in an anti-matter universe. He’s gone power-mad and it will take all three versions of the Doctor to stop him. As a reward for his work, the Time Lords restore the Doctor’s knowledge of time and space travel and give him the needed working components of his TARDIS.

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Frontier in Space is another story that isn’t about rampaging monsters – it’s about diplomacy. The Doctor and Jo materialize in the TARDIS on a alien spaceship that is supposed to be hosting a peace conference between the warring Earth Empire and Draconia. However, they discover that the Master is also on the ship – using a hypnotic device to cause the Draconians to see his Ogron henchmen as humans and the Humans to see the Ogrons as Draconians. Basically, the Master is just messing with everyone in this episode. What I like about the story is that Jo – sweet, nice, innocent, Jo Grant really grows up in this episode and she kicks ass. Jo defeats the Master’s attempt to hypnotize her by mentally reciting nursery rhymes, she rescues the Doctor more than once, and she’s actually the one that helps the Doctor figure out exactly what the Master is up to – because the Master’s device causes her to see the Ogrons as a Drashig. Since I’ve always liked Jo, this story is special to me because it’s great to see her come into her own.

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The Green Death is Jo’s last story. The plot involves chemical waste killing miners in a Welsh village, mutant giant bugs, maggots, and et cetera, a giant corporation ruled by an evil computer called B.O.S.S., and a group of activists. Least you think that might be either too preachy or too silly – the cast, especially Nicholas Courtney, Katy Manning, Jon Pertwee, and the guest cast really make the plot work. There are just some wonderful moments in this story.

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This story introduces the Sontarians, another classic monster who will appear several times in the Classic series and will be brought back in the new series. It also introduces Sarah Jane Smith, arguably one of the most popular companions ever in Doctor Who. Here Sarah appears at her feminist best. Sarah, an independent reporter, sneaks into the TARDIS and is transported back to Medieval times, where she and the Doctor confront Linx, Sontarian warrior who’s crashed nearby.

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Jon Pertwee’s last story has a wonderful bittersweet quality to it, and the storyline brings in some unusual influences. I really like the Blue Crystals – which show up again in the Davison episodes Kinda and Snakedance. That the spiders are not the best effects is a given, but it’s still a great story and highly recommended.

There you have it ten recommendations from the Pertwee era. What Jon Pertwee stories do you recommend? Feel free to answer in the comments. Tune in tomorrow for more classic Doctor Who recommendations.

 

 

Classic Doctor Who DVD Recs – The Second Doctor

This post consists of my recommendations for Patrick Troughton, the Second Doctor, find recommendations for other Classic Doctors by following the links below.

One recommendation for watching Classic Doctor Who, which I forgot to mention last time, is that because many of the stories are quite long (4-6 half hour parts is average, some stories run to 7, 8, 10, even 12 parts), I recommend not using the Play All feature on longer stories, but watching the longer story over two or more nights. In general, any story that is six or more episodes long I plan on watching over two nights. For example, for a seven-parter, I’ll watch episodes 1-3 the first night and 4-7 the second night. And, of course, if you are really pressed for time, watching the classic stories one episode a night is perfectly OK – after all, the original presentation was one half-hour episode a week!

I quite like Patrick Troughton’s Doctor – and he has to be given a lot of credit, if Troughton hadn’t been so successful in taking over the role, both providing his own interpretation and creating a continuity of the character of the Doctor, Doctor Who never would have lasted 50 years, and would have, instead been a footnote in British SF history. Fortunately, Troughton did a brilliant job. Second, the Troughton era, especially when I originally saw Doctor Who on PBS in the 1980s, really was missing a lot of episodes – I think only about six survived to be shown. The Doctor Who Restoration Team has managed to rescue some stories, by completing them with the original audio tracks and animation. Also, on rare occasions stories are found in odd places. Still, out of three years of stories, back when a season was much longer as well, there are only eleven Troughton stories left.

Now, on to the recommendations.

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The Tomb of the Cybermen is an excellent Cyberman story and a great Doctor Who story. The scene of the Cybermen breaking out of their Ice Tombs on Telos is iconic, and was referenced in the Peter Capaldi story, “Dark Water”. It’s a great, and creepy, Cybermen story.

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The story introduces another iconic Doctor Who monster, though not one that is as prevalent as the Daleks or Cybermen. This story has the Doctor and his companions landing at a remote scientific base, where a frozen Ice Warrior was found in the Ice, revived, and then wrecks havoc. It’s an atmospheric story, and the Ice Warriors have a great sibilant voice.

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The Enemy of the World was found 2013, after being missing since the 1960s. More on the recovery of this story and The Web of Fear, can be found here in a story from The British newspaper The Mirror.

The Doctor and his companions, Victoria and Jaime, land on a planet for a vacation – only to discover they are on a future Earth, where the Doctor is the exact double of Salamander – who some see as the saviour of the world, who is actually a ruthless dictator who is causing natural disasters and food shortages. Once a shortage occurs Salamander steps in to “help” – but requires absolute loyalty as his price for his “help”. He’s also keeping a group of scientists hostage in an underground bunker by telling them the world has been virtually destroyed by Nuclear War. The bunker triggers the disasters. The Doctor falls in with the Resistance movement – and his resemblance to Salamander is used to gather information and defeat the villain of course. Though the plot sounds complicated and confusing – the story sparkles in large part due to Patrick Troughton’s acting chops in a dual role, and a strong supporting cast. Though the DVD has no special features, it’s well-worth getting.

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The Mind Robber is one of my top favorite Doctor Who episodes ever because it shows that an innovative and thought-provoking plot can make a story work without effects – or even a set to start. Caught by the lava explosion from the previous story, the Doctor uses the emergency dematerialization procedures. As a result, rather than moving through time and space, the TARDIS lands in the Land of Fiction. The first episode of the story only uses the TARDIS set, and a blank white room, yet it still manages to draw you in to the story. The story has the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë encountering fictional characters such Gulliver (from Gulliver’s Travels), Rapunzel, the Minotaur, the Karkus (a future comics character), etc. It’s a bright, creative, unique story.

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This story brings back the Cybermen – invading the tunnels below London, introduces UNIT which will be a big part of Jon Pertwee’s tenure as the Doctor, and brings back Nicholas Courtney – now The Brigadier we know and love, as well as introducing Sgt. Benton (John Levene). It’s an excellent tale, and really sets the stage for what Doctor Who will become for the first couple of Jon Pertwee seasons. The still-missing episodes are reconstructed with animation and the original audio recordings.

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The Seeds of Death brings back the Ice Warriors, and their second story is stronger than their first one. On 21st Century Earth, all travel is by T-mat, an instantaneous travel system for goods and people controlled by a relay station on the moon. The Ice Warriors take over the Transmat Station and use it to send seed pods that emit a deadly fungus to the Earth. Meanwhile, on Earth, Ice Warriors use a weather control system to create more trouble. The Doctor and his companions take over the weather control system and use it to destroy the oxygen-eating fungus and defeat the Ice Warriors. This is a fun story, especially as the fungus was made by using excessive amounts of dish soap bubbles. But the Ice Warriors and their plots are menacing – and it’s just fun to watch!

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Ah, The War Games. The War Games is, I think, the longest Classic Era story that still survives. At ten half-hour parts, it’s of truly epic length. However, even though there’s a lot of running around – gathering information to figure out what’s going on, getting captured, escaping, the TARDIS crew getting separated then finding each other again, the story has it’s moments. Not only that, but the last episode establishes new background information for the Doctor, including his home planet and his people – as well as his reason for running off in the TARDIS. It’s a regeneration episode also, with a bittersweet ending. I highly recommend watching it.

Finally, a couple of book recommendations – these books are invaluable resources for the fan of Classic Doctor Who.

Doctor Who the Programme Guide by Jean-Marc Lofficier is a priceless reference book. I use my original (1989) copy all the time. Because I’m actually pretty bad at remembering titles, dates, and even the spellings of actors and writers names – I use this book often, and it sits on the hutch above my computer desk with my dictionaries and other reference books. My original copy is a standard paperback size. The new Fourth Edition (by Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier) is a trade paper. Both however list every classic story, the story codes, the individual episode titles for the older episodes that had them, the complete guest cast per story with the actor’s names, and a brief, factual, knowledgeable summary of the story.  There’s no editorializing about the stories, no pointing out costume zippers being visible, or boom shadows in shots, no snide comments – basically, it’s just the facts, which makes for a great reference book – and I really, really, really wish a similar non-opinionated, factual book was available for the new series.  Anyway, Doctor Who the Programme Guide is a book I cannot recommend highly enough – you’ll going to want to buy a copy for yourself.

Classic Doctor Who DVD Compendium Every Disc – Every Episode – Every Extra by Paul Smith, is exactly what it says on the tin – and it’s extremely useful. I’ve used this to determine – Is there a regular and a Special Edition version of a story? If so, what’s the difference between the different versions? Also, I’ve used it to figure out where a particular DVD extra is. The Doctor Who DVDs are loaded with extras – commentaries, making of specials, commercials featuring the actors, in character, from other countries, parody shorts, then and now location visits, etc. This wonderful, and well-researched book lists all that information in a large-format paperback that’s easy to flip through. It must have taken many, many, many hours of research to compile. My only gripe, is the Compendium, is organized alphabetically. Though I understand why it’s organized that way (it is, after all, a reference book) – I would have preferred to see it organized chronologically (by the date the episodes aired, not the DVD release date), but that’s just me. It’s a wonderful book, and should be on every Classic Doctor Who fan’s shelf.

Agile Update – Week 7

This week was hit and miss – some projects went well, others, not so much. I had horrible writer’s block for most of the week, but I did manage to get three blog posts done. I have good news as I have been asked to speak on a podcast – more details as I get them, but I’m super excited and honored. I’ve also started working on cross-indexing this blog. I’m adding links to other blog entries when those entries mention another post or review. Cross-indexing is supposed to help with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and engagement. We’ll see how it works.

In terms of professional development, I finished reading the January issue of the STC (Society for Technical Communication) magazine. I finished my homework, assignments, quiz, and skills review for chapter 6 of the InDesign book for class, and started my mid-term project.

I was going to go to my yoga class (really!) but it was cancelled this week. And, alas, I didn’t get any exercise done on my own. I’m still recovering from my cold though, and the extremely cold temperatures does not help at all.

And if anyone wonders why I do these updates, an important part of this system, is to track your progress towards your goals, and to reflect weekly on what you’ve done and what you still need to do or that you could do better. Thank you all for listening and for the encouraging comments.

Oscars 2015 Ceremony and Wrap Up

I watched the OSCARs last night – all of it, from 8:00 pm to 12:09pm (EST). It’s sad when you get to the last couple of awards and all you’re thinking is, “Is it over yet? I want to sleep!”

This year’s OSCARs seemed almost a throwback to the infamous 1970s OSCARs when political speeches dominated the acceptance speeches. However, I felt that it was nice, or at least, different, to see some thought-provoking references to topics as diverse as:  Women’s Rights (specifically equal pay); racism – how far we’ve come, yet how far we still need to go; teen suicide; Alzheimer’s disease; ALS; and as always the importance of allowing creative people to be creative and achieve their dreams (or at least to stop crushing those who try).

I also watched the Red Carpet preview – which was as annoying as usual. But I thought this was interesting – Lady Gaga, looking very much like a member of DC Comics Royal Flush Gang:

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Speaking of, OMG – after teasing us all night that she was going to perform, her Sound of Music Tribute was brilliant! In short, Lady Gaga nailed it – proving for once and for all – that gal can sing!

But it was a night for good music – from Neil Patrick Harris’s opening song and dance tribute to film, (nearly spoiled by Jeff Black’s scripted interruption, which was not funny – at all,) to the fun and bouncy live performance of “Everything is Awesome” and the very moving performance of “Glory”, which literally had audience members in tears, and, of course, Lady Gaga’s performance – it was a great night for music.  That it was supposed to be a night dedicated to film seemed to slip the minds of whoever wrote the show (because, yes, such awards shows are scripted.)

Neil Patrick Harris did a good job hosting, though having him come out in only his underwear on film’s biggest night, in front of all his more powerful, and no doubt much richer colleagues, in a word, sucked. It felt like one of those teen dreams you always hear people talk about, where the person shows up to school or a job interview naked. It was just wrong. I was embarrassed for Neil Patrick Harris, I didn’t find it funny at all, it was cruel, and it went against what turned out to be a theme for the night – the triumph of the little guy against all odds. Which is it Hollywood – encourage the “weird kids” who dream big? Or act like the popular kids who bully and tease and make the lives of the “weird kids” miserable?

Next, let’s talk about Patricia Arquette. During her OSCARs speech she talked about wage equality for women. You go girl! It was awesome! Cynics are already criticizing her brave move, pointing to the high wages of the entertainment industry. However, First, she wasn’t specifically talking about her industry – her comment was about all women – no matter what they do. Second, women are notoriously underpaid in Hollywood and in the American Entertainment Industry, especially when compared to their male counterpoints. When George Clooney demanded and got $1 million dollars an episode for E/R, Julianna Marguies asked for a raise. Not only did she not get the raise, she was fired for “causing trouble”. And actors, working actors, do not make as much money as you think they do. Sure, A-list Hollywood superstars get million dollar contracts, but the guy playing “storm trooper #3” or “woman in crowd”? They’re not pulling down multi-million dollar contracts. And all actors do contract work – 4-6 months on any given movie is the norm. My guess is you don’t get a 401k when you only work for six months at a time. One of the reasons many established actors (male and female) go into television late in their careers is they can pull down a decent wage, the hours are better and more predictable, and the stream of money coming in is also predictable – something that’s necessary for future planning.

But anyway, enough ranting. This year’s OSCAR’s saw several films bringing home the gold, rather than a clean sweep by any one film – a result I usually think is more fair, and more realistic in honoring the creative talent of film. Films that won awards included:  The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, and Whiplash. Eddie Redmayne won best actor. Sorry, Benedict Cumberbatch. I saw both films, and they were both excellent. I actually think it was in some ways a pity that they came out during the same year, and competed against each other at the OSCARs – because both deserved the win.

Here’s the full list of winners:  2015 Oscar Winners, from The Guardian – Film.