Doctor Who – The Seeds of Death Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Seeds of Death
  • Story #: 48
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 01/25/1969 – 03/01/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Your leader will be angry if you kill me. I’m a genius!” – The Doctor

“How do you propose getting it to the launch pad without T-mat?” – Eldred
“Just so happens I found a petrol car in a motor museum.” – Ms. Kelly
“Really? What make?” – Eldred
“I have no idea but it has four wheels and it goes.” – Ms. Kelly

“The Seeds of Death” is one of my favorite Patrick Troughton stories, and I actually like it better than the first Ice Warriors story. For a six-parter it moves at a good clip too, in large part due to the various locations – and the computer voice commenting on the world situation makes the story feel like it’s on a larger scale, not the normal base under siege. There are a few issues with the T-mat system, but that’s part of the whole point.

The first episode largely introduces T-mat and the situation, there’s the female controller, Miss Kelly, who’s about to do a shift change sending an ill-fated controller to take over from Fewsham, who is known for making minor mistakes. Miss Kelly states one day Fewsham will make a major mistake – boy is she correct! The new controller for the day is almost immediately killed by an Ice Warrior on the moon control station for T-mat, another technician is also killed, Fewsham decides to save his own skin by throwing in with the Ice Warriors, and Phipps escapes and ends-up in the solar store. Meanwhile on Earth, all T-mat deliveries have stopped, causing food shortages, chaos, and disorder (this gets worse as the story goes on – at first there’s just great concern over the lack of deliveries).

The Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime land in the TARDIS in a rocket and space transportation museum. They meet the museum owner – an old rocket scientist. Kelly and her boss arrive, and try to convince the museum owner, Eldred, to help. The Doctor finds out about the issues with T-mat, which Kelly and her boss know isn’t working but they can’t communicate with the moon station to find out why. The Doctor proposes going in person to the moon to investigate. With Eldred’s help they get a rocket ready and the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime head to the moon. The communications break down immediately.

On the moon, Phipps uses flare from the solar power generator to attack an Ice Warrior, it works for him but unfortunately knocks out the automatic homing beam for landing the rocket. Fortunately for all concerned, Phipps also tries to make radio contact with anyone, raises the rocket on short-range transmission and is able to set up a homing beacon.

After the Doctor lands he goes to find out what’s going on, but Jaime and Zoë stay in the ship to check things out and make repairs. Unfortunately, the rocket’s engines are burnt out and can’t be repaired – it’s useless. The Doctor and company will need to return by T-mat. Jaime tells Phipps that the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. Phipps has already discovered bright solar power can be used as a weapon against the Ice Warriors. The Doctor is captured by the Ice Warriors. He discovers they are sending deadly seed pods to Earth by T-mat (and is knocked out). Once T-mat is working, Kelly and some technicians arrive. Fewsham tells her that the controller went crazy and started killing everyone. Kelly doesn’t really believe it, but the Ice Warriors are in hiding.

Very soon after, Kelly meets up with Zoë, Jaime, and Phipps, and finds out the truth and that Fewsham is in league with the Ice Warriors. She also learns the Doctor’s been kidnapped. Jaime lets Kelly know the Ice Warriors are vulnerable to heat. They want to rescue the Doctor and get the heat turned up. Turning up the heating is a bit more complex than it sounds – the control is in main control with the Ice Warriors – Phipps tries to sneak in but can’t make it through the last grate. Zoë insists on trying and succeeds, with the Ice Warriors temporarily incapacitated by the heat. T-mat though is working and sending deadly seeds to earth. One kills one of the technicians in the London control office and reports come in by communications computer of deaths in other T-mat control offices. Not only that but the seeds expel a deadly foam that is causing a plant blight and absorbing the oxygen. All the deaths are from severe oxygen depletion. This, on top of the starvation and disruptions caused by T-mat not working to transport food and supplies.

Jaime and Phipps get the heat going and rescue the Doctor whom the Ice Warriors wanted to send into space. On Earth a minister shows up at T-mat control, complaining about the “unbelievable” report – he soon believes it as first the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are sent back to the Earth station and then Miss Kelly arrives, but Fewsham doesn’t follow as he said he would. Ice Warriors are sent by T-mat and attack guards, but seem to have a single goal – to get to the Weather Control station.

The fungus (foam) and seeds are becoming a real problem, and the Doctor examines it, finding it to be organic and absorbing oxygen – threatening to make the atmosphere so thin humans couldn’t live, but it would be like the surface of Mars. The Doctor also discovers the fungus can be destroyed with simple water. He sends Zoë and Jaime to tell the commander about this. Unfortunately, he’s in a meeting with Ms. Kelly and the Minister, and the computer refuses to put the call through. Zoë decides to find the weather control herself, and Jaime comes along. They make it through the foam and to weather control, but find everyone there is dead and an Ice Warrior is on patrol preventing access to the now broken machine. There’s a bit of hiding from the Ice Warrior.

Back at control, the Doctor talks to Miss Kelly and the controller, and they get a video message from the moon – which includes the homing signal for the Ice Warrior fleet, and info on their plans. Fewsham finally grows a spine, but the Ice Warrior realizes what he’s doing. Still the Doctor realizes they can put the signal on a telecom satellite and use it to draw the Ice Warrior fleet into orbit around the sun. Meanwhile, the Doctor asks about progress on getting rid of the fungus – only to discover the commander and Ms. Kelly never got the message because they were in a meeting. He also realizes Zoë and Jaime must have gone to weather control themselves. He runs off to rescue them. The Doctor is trapped at the door by the fungus. Jaime draws off the Ice Warrior and Zoë lets him in. They manage to use a solar weapon against the Ice Warrior and the Doctor gets the weather machine to make rain. The Doctor also makes one final trip to the moon where he disables the Ice Warrior homing beacon there – so the fleet will follow the other one into the sun, which it does. The Doctor also tells the Ice Warriors he’s figured out how to stop the fungus.

Back on Earth Eldred tries to convince Ms. Kelly that they need a secondary transport system as well as T-mat. Miss Kelly and the controller want T-mat controlled from Earth. The Doctor and the TARDIS crew head back to the museum and leave.

I like “Seeds of Death” – for a six parter it moves fast. Yes, the fungus is dish soap bubbles, but seriously – they did the same thing for the web/fungus in “Web of Fear” and it’s a bit more threatening here where it bubbles up to swallow people, plus there’s the whole “absorbing oxygen” thing that makes it seem deadly. Also, the first episode shows us how T-mat works, the issues of late shipments, Kelly’s professionalism, and Fewsham’s bad reputation – so when the Doctor arrives we’re actually ahead of him in terms of what is going on. This is Doctor Who showing not telling and it’s more effective.

The Ice Warriors are also held back and we only see parts, a hand, a weapon, legs and feet. Even once we know who they are, when some of the Warriors get to Earth we just see legs and huge feet stomping through the forest. This is effective, and a good way to build suspense.

T-mat is an interesting system, and the entire point of the story is no system is perfect, so secondary systems, over rides, and methods to fix things are needed. Half the story could have been told with no alien invasion at all. When the Ice Warriors do invade they hit a thinly-manned station on the moon, which is easily taken over. Fewsham isn’t the typical “guy working with the invaders” – he doesn’t have any plans to get rich, or to obtain power, or anything – he’s simply a coward out to save his own skin. And from the first episode, we know he isn’t trusted by his co-workers anyway.

This story has some brilliant direction, and a competent woman in T-mat Controller Kelly. The Ice Warrior costumes are less blocky. I highly recommend this story.

The six part story with commentary and info text is on Disc One, and the special features are on Disc Two.

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Doctor Who – The Krotons Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Krotons
  • Story #: 47
  • Episodes: 4 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/28/1968 – 01/18/1969
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“This is the most advanced machine, perhaps he can’t answer the questions.” – Gond Leader
“Of course he can, the Doctor’s almost as clever as I am.” – Zoë

“It is not patriotism to lead people to a war they cannot win.” – Gong Leader

The Doctor and his companions, Jaime and Zoë, land in the TARDIS on an alien planet. They step outside and Jaime immediately notes the smell of bad eggs, while Zoë realizes there is sulfur in the air. They explore a bit anyway and find a city and then a building, but the Doctor realizes immediately that it is a machine not a building. They see a man stumble out of the machine but he is immediately gassed and killed. A few minutes later a woman stumbles out, the TARDIS crew block the gas jets for a few moments and pull the girl free, but she is catatonic. They make their way to the Gond city, and the woman is given treatment but stays catatonic until the last episode.

The Gonds are a primative people, with no weapons. They make regular sacrifices to the Krotons, when called upon. The most intelligent, clever, and successful men and women are sent to live with the Krotons. But some of the people rebel at this status quo, especially the woman’s boyfriend who begs her not to submit to the Krotons (she does, and is rescued by the Doctor and company). Eons ago, the Krotons arrived and during the war that followed, they caused poisonous rain to fall on the planet, creating the Wasteland (where the TARDIS lands). Since the Gonds have lived within their city, being taught by teaching machines. But the machines and their knowledge is supplied by the Krotons. The Gonds themselves are starting to realize there are major gaps in their knowledge but they no way to fill those gaps themselves.

The Doctor tries to help the woman, Vana, who is comatose for much of the story, but remarks he’s not a medical doctor. Zoë tries out the teaching machine, gets double the score of even the best Gond, and is immediately called to join the Krotons. The Doctor also passes the teaching machine exams, so he is called and can accompany Zoë into the Krotons’ machine. Inside the machine, the mental power of the Doctor and Zoë is converted to energy and used to reconstruct the Krotons who are crystalline aliens (they look like big robots though). Zoë realizes they are using the mental power of the Gonds for energy. She asks why they don’t set the Gonds free afterwards (since this process doesn’t actually harm the person they get the energy from) and the Krotons are actually confused – they are simply disposing of the waste.

Jaime meanwhile, who had been watching over Vana, returns to the teaching hall, and upon learning the Doctor and Zoë are inside the Kroton machine, breaks into it. He later breaks out.

One of the Gonds challenges the Gong Leader as well as the Gong head scientist to attack and destroy the Krotons – saying they can attack with slings and fireballs. The Doctor has the Gonds make sulfuric acid after analysing the Kroton’s structure and crystal slurry in the TARDIS. (He escapes, does his analysis and then goes back to the scientist.) Another Gond suggests knocking out the pillars that support the Kroton machine from below (forgetting that it would destroy the entire hall.) The military attack is doomed to failure but doesn’t really get started, and the destruction of one pillar only makes the entire situation worse for the Gonds. But the Doctor has Jaime work with the scientist to make gallons of sulfuric acid. When Zoë and the Doctor go back into the Krotons machine, it’s Jaime who leads an attack. Zoë dumps the sample of sulfuric acid and other components into the Krotons slurry tank, while Jaime attacks the Kroton machine with the acid. Between the two attacks, the Krotons are defeated, the Doctor and Zoë escape, and the Gond Leader, having shown his idea worked rather than the pointless military attack, wins the respect of his people. The Gonds decide to develop their own science. The Doctor and company leave in the TARDIS.

I had seen “The Krotons” on PBS, and when I purchased the DVD, but I could remember nothing about it when I went to re-watch it. After several five and six-part episodes and the eight-part “The Invasion”, going back to a traditional 4-part Doctor Who actually felt a little short. But this is actually a pretty good story – the villains are not your traditional evil invaders – they are simply so alien they don’t understand organic life. In essence, they are treating the Gonds the way people treat metal, or wood, or stone – as a resource to be used. And the Gonds aren’t your traditional “stupid natives” – they aren’t that advanced, but even before the Doctor’s arrival, some are questioning the status quo. This story has some thought behind it.

Zoë is wearing a really awful plastic-looking bolero jacket over an incredibly short skirt. I know it was the 1960s and the mini was in, but come on – if you can’t sit down, the skirt is too short. There are several edits and shots of Zoë from the hips up where it’s obvious that if you saw her legs you’d also see her panties. Honestly, I own tunics and one tunic-style sweater with a longer hem than that mini-dress she’s wearing, it’s truly ridiculous. Compare the length of Jaime’s longer kilt, and you’ll see what I mean. And of course, as always in the Troughton serials, no one remarks on the strange clothes all three of the TARDIS crew are wearing.

But other than some bad wardrobe choices, “The Krotons” is a good, “typical” Doctor Who story – it won’t win any rewards or sit at the top of any “Best in Who” lists, but it’s an interesting culture, interesting aliens, some good sets, and some nice set pieces (some of the Kroton machinery and labs are pretty cool). I recommend this story.

 

Doctor Who – The Invasion Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Invasion
  • Story #: 46
  • Episodes: 8 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 2
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 11/02/1968 – 12/21/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury, Nicholas Courtney, John Levene
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“He’s a ruthless man, without moral or principles, his object is to get complete control of the electronics industry of the world.” – Professor Watkins describing Vaughn

“Now all I need is my cameras from the house and I’m all set.” – Isobel
“Now wait a minute, this is hardly a job for you.” – The Brigadier
“Why ever not?” – Isobel
“Well, you’re a young woman. This is a job for my men.” – The Brigadier
“Of all the bigoted, anti-feminist, cretinist remarks.” – Isobel
“This is no job for a girl like you. Now that’s final!” – The Brigadier
“Oh, you men!” – Isobel

“I’m sorry, Doctor, but I think those crazy kids have gone off to the sewers to get photographs of the Cybermen!” – the Brigadier

“The Invasion” is eight half-hour parts, spread over two DVDs (parts 1-4 on DVD 1 and parts 5-8 on DVD 2), and it feels really long. Parts 1 and 4 are animation and the rest are the original film/video. There is some very nice monochrome animation here, especially the shading. This story brings back Col. Lethbridge-Stewart, now Brigadier, and introduces Sgt. Benton and UNIT. The titular invasion is the Cybermen, working for Tobias Vaughn of International Electromatics.

Although “The Invasion” is long, and at times a bit clunky (there is a lot of our team getting split up, captured, escaping, comparing notes etc) what the story seems to be, more than anything, is a pilot for the early Jon Pertwee years when the Doctor is stranded on Earth and working for UNIT to stop alien invasions and plots week after week. That’s not a bad thing, or a criticism – but the long length, the modern-day on Earth setting, the invading force, the human in league with aliens – all of that will become very, very familiar in future years (and even in modern New Who it’s a pattern that’s followed occasionally).

The TARDIS is in space on the Dark Side of the Moon when a missile nearly hits forcing the Doctor to materialize – he does, and finds out he is on Earth, in “The Community” a network of factories, living quarters, hospitals and stores, where everything is owned by International Electromatics. Anyone not working for “The Company” is exiled. And the company’s security forces use lethal force against anyone they perceive is breaking company rules, regulations or policies. The Doctor and TARDIS crew are smuggled off corporation property, by a man we learn much, much, much later is an undercover UNIT operative. Although the Doctor doesn’t realise it, the man who helped him is killed by IE security troopers. The Doctor and company then catch a lift to London.

In London, they go to Professor Travers’ house hoping to replace or repair some damaged TARDIS components, only to meet Isobel, a flighty photgrapher. Isobel’s uncle is Professor Watkins, a friend of Travers’ (who has moved to the US). Isobel states both that she thinks her uncle could help, and that he’s working for IE and she hasn’t seen him for a while. Zoë poses as a model for Isobel and the Doctor and Jaime head to International Electromatics to find Professor Watkins. And thus begins a very long story.

The first four episodes are really focused on IE – who are they? Who is their mysterious manager-controller, Vaughn? Just what are they doing? And are they more than an autocratic electronics firm? The Doctor and Jaime meet Vaughn and the Doctor senses something is wrong with him. They meet Professor Watkins, and also run in to the Brigadier and UNIT – who are also investigating IE (it seems people go in but never come out, or they come out oddly changed). But because the Doctor and Jaime run in to UNIT they are away for a long time. Zoë and Isobel decide to try to find out what is going on themselves – and Zoë feeds an impossible equation to the reception computer, causing it to blow up. they are arrested by Vaughn’s private troopers and locked up. In episode 4, the Brigadier organizes a helicopter and the Doctor and Jaime perform a daring rescue. This is one of the animated episodes, unfortunately, but it’s still impressive. It’s also Jaime who discovers some crates in the warehouse on IE property actually contain Cybermen!

The second half of the story is a Cybermen story. Vaughn is working with the Cybermen, but plans on betraying him, leaving himself sole dictator of the entire world. The Cybermen have a ship in space, capable of launching ships and bombs at the Earth. They also have a hidden army in Vaughn’s facilities. But also, for some reason, they are planning on using mind control to take over Earth. They have a beam that can debilitate and control people that is amplified by the micro circuitry in all of International Electromatics products. So episodes 5-8 are really an elaborate chess game between Vaughn and the Cybermen on the one side, and the Doctor and UNIT on the other. UNIT is able to conveniently order attacks (such as one on a prison convoy that frees Professor Watkins), and work with other nations (they have the Russians launch missiles to destroy the Cyber fleet and later knock out a massive cyber bomb and the Cyberman mother ship.)

Some aspects of this story are impressive: the helicopter rescue, the Cybermen walking down the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the fight in the sewers. But others really show the show’s lack of money (Isobel and Zoë are jailed by IE and disappear for a few episodes; Jaime is injured during the fight in the tunnels with the Cybermen – and does the same thing, etc.), the UNIT men discuss attacking the IE convey, later we see Vaughn’s head security goon reporting the attack and that UNIT made off with Watkins, and we see him reuniting with Isobel – but we don’t see the attack itself. But in a way, we don’t need to – your mind fills in the gaps, and Doctor Who shows it’s stylistic roots in British theatre.

“The Invasion” is a good story, but like most Doctor Who episodes that are longer than six parts, it just feels long, and like it needed a good once over by the editor’s pen. If it was tightened-up to even six episodes instead of eight – it would be a great episode. The animation for parts one and four is good, and I think this is one of the first if not the first story to be released on DVD with animation reconstructing the original episodes that were missing. Recommended.

Both disc 1 and disc 2 have special features as well as the actual episodes.

Doctor Who – The Mind Robber Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Mind Robber
  • Story #: 45
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 09/14/1968 – 10/12/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Well, there is an emergency unit but I can’t possibly use that.” – The Doctor
“But this is an emergency!” – Zoë
“But it moves the TARDIS out of the Time/Space Dimension! Out of reality!” – The Doctor
“Well, fine, reality’s getting too hot anyway!” – Jaime

“Presumably we’ve landed. So why isn’t the scanner showing anything?” – Zoë
“Well, because, well, we’re nowhere. It’s as simple as that.” – The Doctor

“Oh, a strip cartoon of the year 2000!” – The Doctor
“But you’ve been in the year 2000, haven’t you?” – Zoë
“Yes, but I hardly had time to follow the strip cartoons.” – The Doctor
“But you had better start following this one, he’s halfway up that cliff.” – Zoë

“The Mind Robber” has long been one of my favorite Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories and one that I often recommend, because it is just so imaginative. At the end of the previous story (“The Dominators”) the TARDIS is about to be covered by lava from an exploding volcano. And of course, when the Doctor tries to dematerialize – the TARDIS doesn’t cooperate. He uses the emergency unit.

The first episode of the 5-part story, “The Mind Robber” only uses the TARDIS set, a white room, and a few robots who will be seen later. But it just goes to show how much you can do with an imaginative script and good acting, even without sets, really. After the emergency unit is used, the TARDIS is somewhat stuck – Jaime sees Scotland on the scanner and Zoë sees the city. The Doctor warns them not to go out while he checks the power, but seeing home is too much of a temptation. The two young companions do leave the TARDIS and encounter a white room, where they soon become lost in disorienting mist. The Doctor calls them back, but they can’t find the TARDIS. The Doctor is in a mental battle with the same force that tempted his companions outside. He leaves the TARDIS to find Zoë and Jaime – and the TARDIS is all white, as are Jaime and Zoë’s costumes. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS but everything is weird – the TARDIS explodes. Zoë, and Jaime as well, are stretched out on the slowly spinning, falling TARDIS console.

The Doctor and his companions are now in the Land of Fiction, though they don’t realize it at first. They start off in a maze of words and are soon encountering various characters from literature and are required to pass a number of tests (solving riddles and games and such). Toy soldiers seem to be the guardians of the place and Gulliver (of Gulliver’s travels) keeps showing up and creating a distraction.

The Doctor and TARDIS crew are charged by a unicorn (like in Jaime’s earlier dream) and when they shout that unicorns don’t exist – it freezes. They find a creepy stone house, where the first shot is through a spider’s web. Here they find a ball of twine and a maze. This leads to the heart of the maze and a minotaur, which is only seen in shadow. Again, the Doctor and Zoë use “it doesn’t exist” to stop the minotaur.

Jaime meanwhile meets Rapunzel and climbs her hair into the control room where a ticker-tape machine spits out a description of what the Doctor and Zoë are doing – which is running in to Medusa. However, rather than following “the script” and killing Medusa with a sword that has just appeared, the Doctor uses a mirror and Medusa is again turned in to stone. The Doctor and Zoë then encounter the Krakus, a strip cartoon character. Zoë fights him, flipping him over her shoulder five times, and then forces him to submit – he then becomes her servant, helping with difficult tasks. The Doctor and Zoë reach the control room where Jaime is, but Zoë is startled and runs out of the room, setting off alarms. The white robots arrive to take the Doctor to the Master.

The Doctor meets the author. This land has a library of all known works of fiction, and a master brain which needs the creative power, intelligence, and imagination of an author. The current author is getting a bit old and the master-brain wants to replace him with the Doctor. There is quite the battle between the Doctor and the Author. They conjure up various fictional characters (Cyrano de Bergerac, d’Artagnan the musketeer, Blackbeard the pirate, Sir Lancelot etc.) The Doctor has to avoid putting himself in the story because he will become fiction, but he has the Karkus fight for him and other fictional characters. The Author turns Jaime and Zoë into fiction, but the Doctor finally manages to release them. Zoë overloads the computer, and the Doctor orders the robots to destroy the computer. The Doctor rescues the Author, the screen fills with mist and smoke, and the TARDIS reassembles.

“The Mind Robber” is a witty and intelligent script that plays to the imagination. Not only is this a story set in The Land of Fiction – but the sets tend to be fairly minimalistic until later in the story, even then although the stone cottage is impressive, as is the control room and the liar of the Author and the Master-Brain, it’s still not the completely fleshed out alien landscape one would expect – but that works in the story’s favor as the Doctor and his companions encounter various fictional characters, creepy children, white robots, and robotic toy soldiers. Everything plays out like a play with minimal set dressing and because of the imaginative plot – it works. This story also has a clever and quotable script. Highly recommended.

Doctor Who – The Dominators Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Dominators
  • Story #: 44
  • Episodes: 5 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 08/10/1968 – 09/07/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Wendy Padbury
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“You wanted to destroy. Unnecessary destruction is wasteful.” – Dominator

“Dominators do not seek assistance. What we want – we take.” – Dominator

“Medical kit? Oh – it’s surprising what you can do with a few simple chemicals and a little ingenuity.” – The Doctor

I must admit I wasn’t really looking forward to re-watching this story, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I remembered. The story opens with a group of very interesting traditional-looking UFOs approaching a planet. One of the UFOs lands and the two beings inside, the Dominators, remark they have finished absorbing the radiation from the planet below. Meanwhile, a more traditional type of ship approaches the nearby “Island of Death”. The people on the ship are young thrill seekers. They crash into the Island, survive, are shocked to discover the island is no longer registering radioactivity – though it’s very lucky for them that it isn’t, and the young people are cut down by the Dominators. Their ship is also destroyed.

The TARDIS lands and the Doctor tells Zoë and Jaime they are on Dulkis, a completely peaceful world occupied by total pacifists. Unfortunately, The TARDIS didn’t land in the capital but on the radioactive Island home to a museum of war and weapons – the only place on the planet that weapons exist.

The Dominators order their Quarks to set-up drilling.

As the TARDIS crew examines the museum they are found by some people – Dulcian students and their professor. They are forcibly decontaminated, before the Dulcians realize they are not radioactive in the first place. The professor jumps to the conclusion that it takes 170 years for radioactivity to completely disappear – and doesn’t believe their could be any other explanation. When Cully, the leader of the ill-fated thrilling adventure tour shows up, they figure that the Doctor and company are his charges – remarking the existence of life on other planets has been disproven.

The Doctor and Jaime leave the education and research center, and run into the Dominators and their robot servants, the Quarks. They are taken into the spaceship, examined and tested. Only Jaime is physically examined and the Dominators assume the Doctor is the same. The Doctor also intentionally flunks the intelligent tests.

The Dulcian professor and students send first Cully and Zoë to the capital and then the Doctor and Jaime who have escaped the Dominators. The leader of the Dulcians and his council are completely useless, not believing the TARDIS crew are from another world, unwilling to investigate the Island because what they say can’t be true, and even the emergency coordinator is stubbornly unwilling to accept any new information or to check on the story that Cully and the TARDIS crew tell them.

The TARDIS crew returns to the Island. The students and the professor have been captured by the Dominators and forced to work as slaves, clearing the area near the former research/education station for drilling. One of the Dominators had ordered the Quarks to destroy the building and his commander had become upset with him for wasting energy. The one Dominator also keeps wanting to destroy the Dulcians on the Island, while the other insists on using them as slave labor to spare using the Quarks which are low on power. The two argue about this. Often.

The Dominators argue with each other a lot, and eventually argue so much in front of the Doctor and Jaime that they reveal the plot. They plan on drilling through the Dulkis’s crust, which will cause a volcanic eruption. But they are also drilling a bore hole to drop a nuclear device in which will destroy the planet and create a lot of radioactive material which they can then mine for power. They also determine the Dulcians are unsuited to being a slave labor force and plan to destroy them with their planet.

The students on the Island, the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë discover this plot. The Dulcian students had discovered an old underground bomb shelter from the days of the testing – and have used it as hidden shelter throughout much of the story. The TARDIS crew decides what they must do is dig a cross tunnel to the bore hole and catch the seed device and deactivate it. This will take a little time, so Jaime and Cully are sent out to distract and destroy the Quarks and slow down or stop the drilling. Jaime, since he was free and returned to the Island with Cully, has been running a campaign of harassing the Quarks and destroying as many as he can with unique weapons, like boulders.

The plan more or less succeeds – the Doctor catches the nuclear seed device, but cannot deprogram it because it’s sealed – so he sneaks it on the Dominators spacecraft (which blows-up in the atmosphere). Unfortunately, the drilling had started a local volcanic eruption. The TARDIS crew barely make it inside the TARDIS ahead of the lava.

“The Dominators” has some very silly costumes. The Dominators costumes look like the lightweight plastic blow-up loungers one has in a pool. The Quarks are more cute than threatening, though the ray gun effect at the beginning is truly horrific. However, the Dominator Commander is determined to not kill anybody, not out of altruism but more because he doesn’t want to waste energy. His subordinate would rather just destroy everything. Their bickering leads to their downfall, but is also really annoying (as is their shouts of “destroy, destroy, total destruction”). The Dominators are a bit laughable. The plot is actually horrific – destroying an entire occupied planet, simply for energy?

The Dulcians are rather unbelievable too. OK, so they are total pacifists who have outlawed war and all weapons. I can actually buy that – but when they are threatened, it seems strange they would rather debate about it than take some sort of action. The Doctor warns the council of the dangers from the Dominators, but the council refuses to believe that the Doctor, Zoë, and Jaime are from another world, and they refuse to believe the Dominators intend them harm, since they won’t harm anyone else. Yet, you would think it was obvious that the TARDIS crew weren’t from Dulkis, since they are all brunette and everyone on Dulkis is blonde. And even the Dominators with their scans figure out their are two groups on the planet. Also, doesn’t Dulkis have some way of keeping track of people? You’d think they realise Jaime, Zoë, and the Doctor aren’t locals.

So this isn’t one of my favorite Troughton stories, and I’d give it probably a 2 or 3 out of 5. But the Domintor plan is horrifying and the story does actually move along fairly fast, so there is that. And it’s good to see the TARDIS crew of the Doctor, Jaime, and Zoë – my favorites of the Second Doctor’s companions.

 

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear Review

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Web of Fear
  • Story #: 41
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 02/03/1968 – 03/09/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling, Nicholas Courtney
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Web of Fear”, like “Enemy of the World” is one of two stories that was found in 2013, but whereas “The Enemy of the World” was even better than expected, “Web of Fear” is somewhat disappointing. Episodes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are the original black and white film/video episodes. Episode 3 is a telesnap reconstruction. There are no special features on the disc, except a trailer for “The Enemy of the World”. However, the film and video were beautifully restored and the episodes do look really good.

The story opens where we left off at the end of “The Enemy of the World”, with the TARDIS door open. Jaime is able to force the doors shut. Victoria shows off her new outfit, which looks awful – she looks like a Native American “princess”, complete with beads, the outfit is distracting throughout the story because it doesn’t fit at all with her character. Jaime points out the flashing light indicating the TARDIS has landed, but the Doctor insists they are still in flight. Victoria later points out the same thing. Checking the scanner the Doctor finds that the TARDIS is hovering in space. It’s caught by some sort of web. The Doctor frees the TARDIS with some gadgetry and they land.

The TARDIS crew exits the TARDIS and discovers they are in a subway tunnel (the London underground) but everything seems to be abandoned and even the electricity in the rails is turned off. Jaime and Victoria head one way and the Doctor heads a different way. Jaime and Victoria are picked up by some soldiers, taken to HQ and interrogated. When asked if there is anyone else in the tunnels, Jaime insists there isn’t – so the soldiers blow-up the tunnels, but the explosion never goes off.

Jaime insists the Doctor was in the tunnels as soon as he hears about the planned demolition. Soldiers are sent to look for the Doctor. Meanwhile, Professor Travers and his daughter, Anne, arrive. Victoria recognizes the Professor immediately from their previous adventure in Tibet. Travers soon recognizes her and Jaime as well, though he’s surprised they are no older (the previous adventure was in 1935 – 40 years ago, meaning this adventure actually takes place in 1975), Travers concludes the Doctor was telling the truth about being able to travel in time.

The Doctor meets Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in the tunnels (a character we will come to know as the Brigadier) and they return to HQ, athough, along the way, several of the soldiers die.

From here on in “Web of Fear” gets a little confusing – the Doctor doesn’t take over or even make suggestions for defeating “the menace”. The soldiers go back and forth from the tunnels to HQ to the tunnels – with more men dying each time. The fungus or web that the Yeti create with pyramid-shaped hand guns advances down the tunnels, trapping the soldiers and everyone else in HQ. By episode 6, even HQ is engulfed in the stuff. After they are trapped by the fungus, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart learns that the Doctor has a craft and he can get everyone out – but the TARDIS is stuck at Covent Garden. The Colonel leads the rest of the soldiers above ground, in an attempt to get the TARDIS from the other side. They are all annihilated by the Yeti. While the colonel leads his fruitless mission, the Doctor also heads above ground to a store house to get electronic parts. The soldier guarding him is killed. The Doctor makes it back to the lab.

The Yeti kidnap Professor Travers and Victoria, and deliver an ultimatum to the few survivors – turn over the Doctor in 20 minutes, or else. The Doctor and Anne Travers, a scientist work on getting the control box and sphere working so that they can control a Yeti (they succeed, but tell Col. Lethbridge-Stewart they failed, since he could be working for the Intelligence).

Again, various parties head into the tunnels – to scout, to try and find Victoria and Travers, etc. They meet Evans – a Welsh soldier who had been the driver of an ill-fated truckload of munitions (the soldiers were killed and the supplies destroyed by the Yeti). Evans, who first appears in the first or second episode, is portrayed as dumb and a coward. Every chance he gets he tries to run off – only to get lost and turn-up again. They also encounter Staff Sgt. Arnold, a good man and a good soldier, presumed lost in the mission to recover the Doctor’s TARDIS. Finally, they encounter Chorley, a journalist, who had run off at some point – only to get lost in the tunnels. Anne and the Doctor are able to take control of a Yeti but don’t tell anyone. The Doctor gives the control microphone to Jaime.

Everyone goes to the Yeti’s hideout at Piccadilly Circus. Anne is happy to see her father is unharmed, and Jaime is glad to see Victoria is all right. The Doctor agrees to give himself up, and gets in the Intelligence’s machine which will drain his brain. Jaime however uses the microphone to send the Yeti he controls in and attacks the other Yeti, then destroys the Intelligence’s machine.

The Doctor is genuinely upset though, he had reversed the settings on the machine, so instead of it draining him, he would drain the Intelligence. Further, he knows the Intelligence will escape, and again be formless cloud in space. The TARDIS crew leaves – heading through the tunnels to the TARDIS.

“Web of Fear” is a bit disappointing. The Yeti, though not as roly-poly as in the surviving footage from “The Abominable Snowmen” are still not that threatening, with a rolling gait that seems to be very slow. Their attacks are not precise either, and often, the soldiers appear to be throwing themselves at the Yeti rather than actually being caught. Most of the plot involves various people going from the HQ to the tunnels on pointless missions and then either dying or going back to HQ having accomplished nothing. When the Colonel leads the mission above ground, not only is it pointless because everyone dies – but one really has to wonder why he took the risk in the first place. Yes, the few survivors needed to escape – but why not just lead everyone above ground and run like heck? Instead, the Colonel instantly believes the Doctor has a time-space craft that will rescue them all so he risks everything and every one to get to it. Later on, when the Brigadier had known the Doctor for years and several regenerations, this would have made sense – but it makes no sense when they have just met.

Most of the extra characters die in this story, especially the soldiers, though Anne, Travers, Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, Chorley, and Evans survive. Staff Sgt. Arnold had died on that earlier mission, when they encounter him it’s only his corpse, animated by the Intelligence. When the Intelligence speaks through Professor Travers, a communication box, and finally Arnold – it is spooky, but this story doesn’t have the tension of a “who is working with the Intelligence” plot it should. People mention it, but it doesn’t feel like a real threat or as paranoid as it should.

Overall, “Web of Fear” is a pretty standard story, I’d give it a 3 out of 5. It’s not helped by a telesnap-only reconstruction in the middle. With 5 out of 6 episodes of the story remaining, it’s a good candidate for animated reconstruction, and it might improve the story a bit (Part 3 is very confusing.) I don’t normally re-buy things I own, but if a special edition came out with animation and special features, I would purchase it.

 

Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World Review (Spoilers)

  • Series Title: Doctor Who
  • Story Title: The Enemy of the World
  • Story #: 40
  • Episodes: 6 half-hour parts
  • Discs: 1
  • Network: BBC
  • Original Air Dates: 12/23/1967 – 01/27/1968
  • Cast: Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines, Deborah Watling
  • Format: Standard, Black and White, DVD, NTSC

“Oh, you’re a Doctor…” – Astrid
“Not of any medical significance.” – The Doctor
“Doctor of law? Philosophy?” – Astrid
“Which law? Whose philosophy?” – The Doctor

“Years ago, Doctor, when one country wanted to invade another – it set about attacking the confidence of that country, throwing it into confusion, making it weak – and then it was ripe for takeover.” – Kent

“It’s sad, really, isn’t it? People spend all their time making nice things and other people come along and break them.” – The Doctor

“The Enemy of the World” is a tense, taut political thriller. It’s easily watchable in one go, though because of my schedule I did watch it in two parts (1-3 one night and 4-6 the next day). There’s no monsters here (other than those of the human variety), no alien invasions, no cults or sickness or viruses. It’s just about people and politics – and it’s absolutely fascinating. It also has a very strong guest cast, especially the women (Fariah – pronounced with three syllables – FAIR-REE-ah, not like Farrah Fawcett) and Astrid. But all the characters, good and evil, those “simply following orders” and those fighting back in an repressive, fascist regime, are well-drawn and well-rounded characters.

The Doctor, Jaime and Victoria land in the TARDIS on the seaside, and the Doctor immediately runs into the ocean for a dip – which Jaime and Victoria think is a bit nuts. The Doctor is attacked, a case of mistaken identity, and rescued by Astrid in her helicopter. The three are taken to Kent, the leader of the resistance against Salamander – the dictator who leads the world. Kent and Astrid insist Salamander is evil and corrupt – and he’s trying to take control of the world. The Doctor is unsure, and unwilling to involve himself in local politics (no really!). He insists on proof. Astrid remarks on the Doctor’s uncanny resemblance to Salamander (this is Troughton in a dual role), and wants him to use that to their advantage to get the evidence they need – not only to convince the Doctor, but to convince the world to do something about Salamander.

The Doctor is somewhat forced to at least try to get more information. Jaime and Victoria are sent to the Central European Zone to sneak in and get information by going undercover. Kent and Astrid provide travel documents and passage. Astrid even goes with the two to help them with the travel and to assist with getting them in. Jaime goes in and “saves” Salamander from a “bomb” – actually a clever deception organized by Astrid. Jaime gets a job as a guard and Victoria is sent to the kitchen.

The leader of the Central European Zone is Denes – and Salamander tells him that a disaster will hit his region – he can’t help it, but he can help if Denes turns total control over to him. Denes refuses – stating he wants to investigate further, doubting there will be a disaster. Extinct volcanoes erupt in the region, killing millions. Salamander has Denes arrested. He offers Fedorin his job, but also blackmails him with a file. Salamander will control Fedorin. He then orders Fedorin to kill Denes. Meanwhile, in the kitchens, Victoria meets a crusty, Cockney chef who complains about everything. She goes to bring Denes his meal, and there’s a distraction while Fariah, Salamander’s food taster, gets the hidden file on Fedorin. Fedorin goes to poison the food once it arrives again – but he can’t do it. He reports to Salamander. Salamander kills him then claims it was “suicide”.

Jaime, Victoria, and Fariah escape and meet-up with Astrid. They make it back to Kent’s with the file – and meet the Doctor. Unfortunately, Salamander’s troops are on their tail. they split up to escape, Fariah has the file – Fariah is shot in the back by Benik’s guards (the head of security at the Research Center) and the file taken.

Kent and Astrid become more insistent that the Doctor impersonate Salamander. Learning Jaime and Victoria were taken prisoner to the Research Center during the escape – the Doctor agrees to go in to get more information and release his two young friends.

Meanwhile, Salamander locks himself in the “records room” of the research center. He takes a single-person elevator/subway car to an underground bunker. There are a group of scientists in the bunker, one of whom, Colin, is getting desperate to see the surface. Salamander brings new food stores, but tells the scientists they can’t return to the surface due to the devastation from “the war”. He then orders them to continue causing the natural disasters. Swann, the scientist leader, though, finds an up-to-date newspaper that makes him very suspicious of Salamander’s version of events. He confronts Salamander, who agrees to take him to the surface to see for himself (after some very unconvincing attempts to explain away the newspaper Swann found). Once they are in some tunnels by the food store – Salamander tries to kill Swann. Swann wanders off towards the surface, and he’s found by Astrid. Although he eventually dies from his injuries he tells her about “the others”.

Meanwhile, the Doctor is now getting some help from Bruce, the World Security Advisor, who has his suspicions about Salamander – but doesn’t trust Kent at all. The Doctor convinces him he can play the part of Salamander by successfully doing so in front of Jaime and Victoria. He breaks back into character and asks Bruce to escort Jaime and Victoria safely out of the research center while he plays his part and gathers info. The Doctor discovers the research center is ordering three times the amount of food it should.

Benik gets suspicious when Salamander seems to be in two places at once. Astrid gets into the underground bunker via the tunnel – and the scientists at first fear her. When she proves the “radiation meter” is a complete fake, and explains the truth of it – they want to go to the surface, naturally. It’s a bit of a slow process. The Doctor confronts Kent – discovering he and Salamander were partners when a pair of scientists from the bunker arrive. Kent wants to take over from Salamander. There’s a fight, the bunker is blown-up, Kent’s killed, but Salamander escapes.

The Doctor says goodbye to Astrid, who now has plenty of evidence to discredit Salamander (and come clean about Kent) and have him arrested. The Doctor goes to join Jaime and Victoria at the TARDIS. Unfortunately, Salamander gets there first and non-verbally orders Jaime to fly the TARDIS. The Doctor arrives and the TARDIS takes off – Salamander gets the doors open and falls to his doom through them.

“The Enemy of the World” is a taut political epic that is ripe with applicability to our times as well. We instantly want to believe Kent and Astrid because, well, in part, it’s the type of thing that the Doctor tends to fall into (both in Classic and New Who). Astrid is also incredibly strong – not only in her convictions, but this woman flies a helicopter, she shoots guns, she defeats armed guards in hand-to-hand combat (rivaling Emma Peel as she does so) and she never once whines, cries, or complains. Even when she learns Kent, the man she’s presumably worked with to overthrow Salamander for years, has betrayed her she doesn’t stubbornly insist “he couldn’t do that” with the evidence in front of her, she metaphorically rolls up her sleeves and says, “Right, okay, so I’m in charge now, What next?” And she doesn’t get killed. Very importantly, this strong, brilliant woman doesn’t die.

Fariah, who is also Black, is also strong. She’s Salamander’s food taster (and probably his assistant as well), she says she hates him – probably more than Victoria or Jaime, yet the two times she’s pressed to explain why, she refuses, saying it doesn’t matter. There’s a whole ‘nother story there that we don’t see – which makes the world shown in “Enemy of the World” to seem real and lived-in. Yes, Salamander destroys people, good people like Fariah – and the details aren’t important. She, unfortunately, is killed. 😦

Kent at first seems like an overly enthusiastic rebel leader. He reminds me of Blake in Blake’s 7, and of course we’ve seen his type numerous times in Doctor Who in both Classic and New Who. But he doesn’t set off any alarm bells at first. When the Doctor discovers the truth – it’s a genuine surprise.

The rest of the characters don’t really fall into strict one-dimensional categories either. Bruce starts off as a black-wearing security chief, but as he learns more about Salamander (especially the deaths of Denes, Fedorin, and Fariah). he starts to question Salamander. But he equally doesn’t trust or like Kent. Ultimately, he decides he will make up his own mind if the Doctor can provide proof. In this, he is much like the Doctor who keeps telling Kent and Astrid not so much that he “can’t interfere” but he must be sure he knows what he’s doing if he does interfere.

Patrick Troughton is excellent in a dual role as The Doctor and Salamander. The scene where the Doctor is playing Salamander in front of Jaime and Victoria is particularly well-played and directed. Also, the set for Salamander’s record room, the transport tube, and the underground bunker is particularly impressive.

“Enemy of the World” is an excellent Doctor Who story and I highly, highly recommend it. This is the story that along with most of “Web of Fear” was recovered in 2013, for more about the recovery see, 9 Missing Doctor Who Episodes Found. The only minor disappointment in the DVD is that while Doctor Who DVDs usually come packed with special features, this one basically has none – the only extra is a trailer for ‘Web of Fear”, which was discovered at the same time. The film was cleaned up though and it looks great! I highly, highly recommend “Enemy of the World”.