The Keys of Marinus – Season One, Story 5

The Keys of Marinus

WhOddysseus Says:

Episode 1 Sea of Death 2 minutes 31 seconds

I can just imagine some prop person desperately trying to pull the string evenly during the close up of the sub arriving on shore.

Also this tickled my fancy: Susan “Is the lake frozen?” Doctor Who “No not at this temperature. Besides it is too warm” Made me really laugh out loud

6 minutes 5 seconds

They find the subs (which I like the look of quite a lot) and Ian says, “I don’t know if it has occurred to you Doctor but this means the place is inhabited” ahhh no kidding.

Request: Can you give me some background on Terry Nation? It feels from his writing that he/she is a veteran sci fi writer from at least the 50s. Its the dialogue driven plot to help explain details to the audience. In the vein of circa 50s movies like, “So tell me Doctor what do you make of this funny looking thing-a-ma-jig? Well Bobby that is a transamataser that ” etc etc.

13 minutes 58 seconds

Oh my! The person(?) in the acid wet suit falling down the well and the over dubbed “waaaah”… words escape me right now

17 minutes 45 seconds

Ok here goes a guess the person in the wet suit outside the door is the monk’s daughter. Let’s see if I am right

End of episode 1

My guess was wrong… unless literally stabbing your Father in the back is a considered a correct greeting on Marinus

Episode 2 The Velvet Web 7 minutes 17 seconds

Everyone goes to sleep and no one stands guard, really?

Also the soap opera like cliff hanger between episodes seems to be a common thing

Meant to say this some time ago but Doctor Who butchering Ian’s name is a nice running gag

14 minutes 48 seconds

Barbara “I believe you are under some deep form of deep hypnosis” woot!

end of episode 2

Two thoughts

First I have to believe the brains with eyes is a Doctor Who collectable

A Morphobrain. Should be a collectable but isn't.

A Morphobrain. Should be a collectable but isn’t.

Second Doctor Who goes off by himself? I smell a rat

Episode 3 The Screeching errm Screaming Jungle… oh bother!

4 Minutes 52 seconds

*sigh* and there the two soon to be damsels in distress go wandering off with only there smiles toward a dark tunnel… oh Barbara and way to leave the kid behind too

6 Minutes 00 seconds

“I’ve found the micro circuit key”… on a random statue at the end of an over grown path and the tunnel. Oh and damn it prop man with your arms sticking out of the stature stop moving so I’ll be surprised when Barbara is grabbed and the statue spins around in the rock wall in…

6 Minutes 06 seconds

…in the next six seconds

6 minutes 58 seconds

Ian “I don’t care about the micro circuit key” *smack*

9 minutes 2 seconds

Now Susan and Altoids are gone too. Well heck Ian was right not to care because the key is a fake. One get out of your next *smack* for Ian

10 minutes 27 seconds

Well that didn’t take long and I’ll take that card thank you

12 minutes 44 seconds

Right go through the doorway that just opened mysteriously after being barred without waiting for your other adventurer… I mean really now

13 minutes 10 seconds

WOOT! Here comes the knives from the ceiling for Barbara and Ian is trapped too. Is it being to picky to mention that the knives look so fake? Honestly I’m kind of rooting for the knives at the moment because if she is to stoopid to use the travel dial to escape… just saying

20 minutes 34 seconds

Clever cup ran low and you are milking the clock until the big reveal huh

21 minutes 44 seconds

Ahhh the Barbara scream now can come the big reveal

22 minutes 02 seconds

And there we are the solution to the riddle (honestly no clever points because the episode’s time is almost up)

Let me just say this now and get it over with; what a simply god awful episode. I’m trying to find something nice to say… let me think… thinking… still thinking… nope nothing. Unless I am really really really really really wrong there is no element that is a D or an A… nope I even went and checked… no one noticed the big riddle was an impossible chemical combination… no one. *smacks* all around with an extra hard one for Mr. Nation who wrote this tripe.

Am I to understand that this was a lost story arc that was found? If so I cannot help wondering if some of the faithful took up cutting to relieve the pain after watching this episode.

Episode 4 The Snows of Terror… if another wall section spins around in this episode Terry Nation I’ll pull over this car and right now!

00 Minutes 15 Seconds

A comment after fifteen seconds doesn’t bode well huh. I’m being a bit of a whinger because it does keep the story moving so we don’t watch them freeze to fainting after several minutes of staggering about the place. Just fifteen seconds and you are already passed out?

04 Minutes 58 Seconds

That’s it Ian give it to him. *faceplam* If the main characters just all went and put a pair of pants on their collective heads it would save a lot of time. You give away your travel watch, to a strange man who breaks the backs of wolves for fun, all for a ragged fur, to rush off in hopes of finding Altoids and/or Susan and/or Sabina (yes I know the names are wrong), all while leaving Barbara alone with the poster child for creepy lonely guy with a crush. WELL DONE SIR! I’m guessing the guy who breaks wolves backs is where JK Rowling must have gotten the idea for Hagrid

09 Minutes 00 Seconds

Oh for the love of… a sack of raw meat, really? Sincerely how much stupider could they make Ian look… well let’s find out

13 Minutes 11 Seconds

“Oh look a rope bridge” hmmm… wonder who is going to “ahhhhhhhhhhhh” I’m guessing the big creepy guy FWIW. First we are going to watch everyone else cross the thing slowly of course but I’m betting he takes a header. Btw he went from menacing to being a wuss awful fast.

14 Minutes 55 Seconds

Sweet (really) he was playing possum and threw the bridge down the chasm to trap them. I should have seen it coming given all the previous stuff.

16 Minutes 17 Seconds

Susan = “But they seem so life like” maybe because you and the audience can see that the ice knights are breathing and moving?

The Ice Knights of Marinus. Like a sort of chilly Monty Python.

The Ice Knights of Marinus. Like a sort of chilly Monty Python.

19 Minutes 16 Seconds

Sabina slips and falls (while she screams of course) as she is being attacked…. *sigh*

21 Minutes 44 Seconds

And there is my aaaah! Right call wrong bad guy

And a great big what gives ending with Ian being set up for a crime.

Keys of the Marinus – Episode 5 Sentence of Death… remember it is all fun and games until someone falls down a deep hole while going “aaaaaaaaaahhhh” than it is just plain funny

I cannot take any more tonight…

Episode 5 Sentence of Death… remember it is all fun and games until someone falls down a deep hole while going “aaaaaaaaaahhhh” then it is just plain funny

Been about a week since I last watched Doctor Who given real life kicked it up a notch. Well to be truthful also some displeasure at this particular story along with some unneeded pressure I put on myself to be entertaining while chronicling this adventure. I fear I fell on the old crutch of humour which tends to lead one to mock rather than discuss and dare I say learn something too. Although I may keep the attempt at clever add on to the title… at least until it becomes a burden or my clever cup is empty on the matter.

* punches Ol in the bicep * OK then on with the shows

This episode was better as the main characters were not running around doing really dumb things to drive the story plot. I will say the young guard being tripped up twice into admitting he was involved felt like once to many but that is definitely a quibble. I did get a chuckle out of the trophy judges behavior. It’s a two parter so I’ll save anything else for the conclusion of things.

After taking off the clown shoes and rubber nose for a moment I did notice a few things. In “The Snows of Terror” it seems to me that the main characters purposely lead the Ice Knights to the cabin of fellow who stranded them in the caverns, basically stole their travel watches (I will do better with the names going forward) and tried to kill several of them at some point or another. When the Ice Knights showed up they promptly killed him and it sure looked like Ian at the very least was satisfied with the outcome. It seemed a big step to have the main characters to have some responsibility for someone dying and one of the “lawful good” seem to be ok and even relish it. There was quite a bit of death, murder, crime, and evil spread throughout all of the episodes as I reflect back on this one. Unfortunately at least one of the episodes needed to be taken out back and shot.

The first episode was weak to be honest and it taking a full episode to establish the quest was way to long. It didn’t make sense to me that everyone else went off, who ever lived in the pyramid, for the keys until there was only one person left. The people who came over on the glass subs across the sea of acid who never taking off their wet suits didn’t make much sense either starting wth why didn’t take the darn things off. While we are on the subject a sea of acid was a nice visual but building subs rather than planes or ships wasn’t to clever of the invaders. Also why were the invaders so determined to make it a fair fight rather than take things over by sheer numbers…. after all there is one of him and *shrug* of them.

If you took the first and second episodes and put them together the pacing would have been better. The episode about the hypno-ray that makes them think they will get their hearts desire was definitely not a full episode by itself. While it wasn’t my cup of tea, I could and did sit back and enjoy it enough to give it a pass. The brains with the googly eyes on the end of stalks is my first serious consideration for a piece of Doctor Who memorabilia and not because I liked the episode.

Now we get to episode three which I savaged and will do so again because it absolutely deserves it. They make Ian and Susan into stumble bums, the plot is anaemic, the writing lazy, the solution hogwash unless the sound was so bad I misunderstood the letters they were saying ), and the ending just *bah* . The only reason this episode had for being, other than getting another piece of the quest, is so that Ian could look clever handing the fake key to the villain at the end. This is an episode that should have never seen the light of day. If this is not generally considered one of the worst episodes I’m in for some long evenings of Doctor Who.

Alrighty then enough of that stuff. Episode four was better on reflection that I first gave it credit. Again it was the blatant stupidity of the main characters, and completely out of character up to this story arc, that had me groaning through most of it. Again it was way too long and the villain in this episode was even more of a moustache twirler than Tegana in Marco Polo. I did find it a true surprise and delight moment when the goodie goodies showed some dark side seeming to enjoy the retribution via the ice knights guarding the microkey.

That leaves us to the last two which was basically a “who done it” (I made a funny!) where the main villain, who masterminds a series of robberies/murder, turns out be a woman! I’ll admit that I didn’t figure out the bit with the quest item being in the mace which I quite liked as a solution. I also liked for comedic reasons, the two side judges over agreeing with the main judge. Unless I missed it most of the plot points made sense and weren’t at the expense of main characters looking stoopid. Given Doctor Who popped up in this episode I’m wondering if the writer was trying to make the characters/actors look bad so Doctor Who could look good. I never forgot about that fake key and just knew it was going to be part of the finale. Clever me 😉

So if you took one and two mashed them together with some tuning, banished three from the collective memory of humanity, took five and made what will now be two, shuffled four in as a run and gun for the big, literal blow off for bit of six that was left after the who done it was gutted out of it you now have an new episode three

The WhOddyseuss improved Keys of the Marinus

Episode 1 – old 1 and two tuned up and shove in the gag about the fake key in old episode two (it ties the thing together)

Episode 2 – all of the who of old 5/6 done it in a single episode time frame

Episode 3 – remove all of the plodding stuff in the cabin along with the hunt for Altoids in episode 4 turning it into just the cave bit with the kill happening there and the blow off of old 6

I did like Athos and Sabitha, but I do wish they had butched up poor Athos’ wardrobe some.

Sabitha, Ian and Altos. Let's be honest here, Altos is the least butch of the three. No wonder WhOddessyeus got his name wrong all story.

Sabitha, Ian and Altos. Let’s be honest here, Altos is the least butch of the three. No wonder WhOddessyeus got his name wrong all story.

Finally, and you must be thinking thank goodness at this point, is there some back story why main characters especially Doctor Who went *poof* from so many parts of the story arc?
Good old Terry Nation. If you want 6 episodes of rollicking adventure that doesn’t tax the brain too much he’s your man. The Keys of Marinus is Nation’s second story for the show (that’s 2 out of 5 so far, for the record) and once again he seems to have plundered the staples of adventure fiction to flesh out his concepts.

Ol Says:

The first episode is pleasingly mental. The sea of acid is a fun idea but makes no sense if you try to think about it hard. If the sea’s acid why is the air breathable? How did life evolve? How did anyone manage to create a global civilisation? Still, as with the radiation in The Dead Planet, it’ll be forgotten about soon enough because there are exciting things afoot!

I love the fact that our ’heroes’ stumble across an old man who’s desperate for their help and the next thing we see is them buggering off as quickly as possible. They don’t even seem that bothered about it and it’s only when Arbitan forces them to help by putting a force field around the TARDIS that they agree to help.

What follows is a series of one episode vignettes as the TARDIS crew search for the circuit keys to the Conscience of Marinus, a computer that can control people. Some of these mini stories work better than others. I quite liked the Morphotron bit where everyone is controlled by slug/brains that live in jars for some reason. At least Barbara gets to kick ass by smashing the brains.

Then we have a ruin and some belligerent plants and the Doctor deciding to skip an episode or two and let the teachers deal with it by themselves for some reason. Perhaps he knew how tedious it would be? The snowy mountain episode is all about the caves again, although the Ice Knights make it more interesting than it was back in The Dead Planet. It is still just caves though.

By episode 5 we’re in a courtroom drama as Ian has been accused of murdering a guard. The twist is that he’s guilty until proven innocent. It’s a fun episode this one with the Doctor acting as advocate for Ian and various Perry Mason tropes in play. They eventually win by tricking the real murderer into revealing themselves and high tail it back to the start.

Little do our heroes know that Arbitan has been murdered by Yartek, leader of the Alien Voord. The Voord are the big bads of this world but they don’t actually appear outside of the first and final episodes. I can’t help but feel that’s a missed opportunity. They should have been behind the slug/brains and paying off the would be murderers in the courtroom drama. As it is you’re hard pressed to remember about them if you watch this weekly as it’s been a month since they last showed up. They’re not the most physically impressive monsters either, but I suppose they do the job that’s required of them.

Susan is menaced by a Voord. Sadly she gets away to screech another day.

Susan is menaced by a Voord. Sadly she gets away to screech another day.

In the end the Doctor works out that Yartek wants to control to Conscience so he destroys the Conscience deciding that it’s probably best not to keep the peace using mind control after all. You’d think that they’d make more of that. The TARDIS crew are on a quest to enable a device that is morally dubious at best.

All in all I can’t help but feel that these scripts are writing cheques that the budget can’t afford. A whole new part of the world with new settings, costumes and props every week must have been expensive. The upside is that if something doesn’t work then it’s not hanging around too long. Overall it can charitably be described as uneven but fun in places.

Terry Nation was not, as far as I know, a science fiction writer prior to his work on Who. He was best known as a comedy writer, notably working with Tony Hancock amongst others from the mid-50s onwards. It was a falling out with Hancock that led to him taking the Doctor Who job in the first place.

I think that what you’re spotting is him referencing back to the adventure serials he would have watched growing up – stuff like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. If you think about it, the cliffhanger and adventure format of those serials matches his work on the series so far and used a lot of the same tropes (the jumping the chasm seen in the Dead Planet could have been lifted from any of those).

His dialogue is really snappy and I suspect that’s years working as a comedy writer paying off.

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Marco Polo – Season One, Story Four

1.4 titles WhOddysseus Says:   One of the “lost episodes”…

Maybe it’s because I haven’t watched a Doctor Who episode in a few day or it’s because we are apparently on Earth hanging out with Marco Polo but I am really enjoying this episode so far. After watching through episode 2 I may be the eleventy millionth person who has watched Doctor Who from the start for the first time who has said the same exact thing but I’m going to say it anyway; I am enjoying this lost episode, so far, very much and probably because it is lost. It allows me to concentrate on the story rather than the over emoting 60s stage play actors, the wish we had more budget for cool stuff dated sci fi effects, and the enormous weight of expectation that Doctor Who cares on it shoulders to show me where there is a whole class of people called Whovians. To be sure now that I’ve actually “watched” these episodes I’m curious to actually see the whole thing from start to finish just the distractions are eliminated upon my first exposure to things.

Well played screen writer on your choice of a person so famous their name is an integral part of my child memories played in swimming pools. Well done on adding a mystery with a twist of intrigue aspect to things. Well done for trying to close some of the most obvious and glaring potential plot holes along with attention draining *meh*s such as explaining via character dialogue that “the water-making-thingamabob is broken” so they cannot just TARDIS themselves out of their troubles.

Thanks for keeping Doctor Who aka in my head as Ye Ole Wind/Toolbag true to form so as episode two ends with him slumped over and about to be carted into the TARDIS along with his niece, it allows me to guess that the dirty old scallywag is faking things, again, to get his way, again, so they can get the heck out of Dodge, again, all while considering with not more than a fly fart of thought what happens to Barbara and Ian, again… unfortunately knowing the number of episodes it appears I got the time honoured American Soap Opera misdirection right before they cut to commercial.   *start wtf is he talking about sidebar moment* Typical soap opera right before commercial break dirty trick “OH MY GOD JANEY!” said as if all the hounds of hell have appeared for poor Janey just as they cut to commercial, upon return from commercial break and said in cool as a cucumber voice “is that instant coffee? It tastes like real coffee”. *end wtf is he talking about sidebar moment*   After all Doctor Who pulled that stunt already with the “zomg is that a ginormous foot print in the snow much larger than a man?!?” “nah it’s just that as snow melts the foot print gets bigger”… “wait a minute what is that, oh wait it is just a man in a great big coat and hat”

For the very first time ever I had to restrain myself from watching the next episode. Real life obligations means I have to get some rest along with a sense of fairness to the adventure made me stop but I did in fact want to continue watching the story arc. My guess is Ol just rubbed his hands together and thought “Ahhh I remember the first time taste of the kool aid myself”. Not quite yet Ol as we still have to get some Doctor Who specific baggage sorted out first before we can get at that glass and the fateful moment.

I am 3 minutes and 26 seconds into episode 3 of this story arc and I just had to come write this:   You TARDISed the water solution after all you so and so’s, writers *channels the soup Nazi* (Godwin’s Law… already?) NO SOUP FOR YOU! I cannot tell you how disappointed I am at that plot twist. *clears throat and hooks thumbs in his waist coat* I will refrain from the psychometric considerations of whether or not condensation would actually form on the surfaces sitting within 3D spaces of alternate dimensions.

Less than a minute later   *gah* They are now incorrectly explaining how condensation would form on the surfaces… oh the irony. Ok, ok I’ll let it go, shut up and enjoy the show

Condensation forms on the inside... Probably best not to think too hard about that to be honest.

Condensation forms on the inside… Probably best not to think too hard about that to be honest.

Part 1 of the 3rd episode done

Hey blame the writers for all this plot hole whinging after the “Great Condensation Incident”. Why the heck doesn’t Marco Polo at the very least try the key in the lock to make sure that it opened. Wouldn’t a prudent leader go inside the damn thing to get an idea of what exactly he is going to drag into the inner chamber of his Lord and Master?

2 minutes and 11 seconds into part 2 of episode 3

Ok I lied. I WILL call shenanigans on the notion that condensation formed INSIDE the TARDIS 3D blah blah blah or not. I will refrain from explaining the why for the sake of everyone else who couldn’t give a fig about the matter and probably wondering when I’ll just shut up and let it go. Ok I feel better now let’s continue on.

4 minutes into part 2 of episode 3

So I’ve been wondering when a good time to mention this would be and it kind of is on the subtext. First I’d like to say I like the gimmick where they explain some scientific tidbit in many of the episodes. Ok way back in the very first episode I called out Susan’s comment about five dimensions. While the five dimensions is definitely incorrect, if she actually said five dimensions rather than my just thinking she did, I didn’t actual see the figure on the board she references as I had clicked back here to write some comment. So if A,B,C represent the corners of a triangle than D could make a prism and then E could represent time… no sure why that has been rolling around in my head but I’m glad I mentioned it here. Alrighty then let’s continue…

3rd episode done

Barbara wanders off… Susan’s high pitch screams… *sigh* ok I’m still not quite over the water thing.

4th episode done

The action uptick means there are long stretches of random noises and banners… not quite as entertaining and I found my attention drifting. Alright that is it for now I’ll think of something clever..ish and write it later need to grab a few more hours of sleep.

Although I would be remiss if I did not mention that there appears to be a character with an eye patch and what I believe is a primate on his shoulder in the tile for the next episode. How can it possibly go wrong with that kind of horsepower?

3 minutes 14 seconds into Episode 5 Part 1

I’m sympathetic to Marco Polo’s plight that he has these people from goodness knows where with who knows what thing as his responsibility, but his level of trust in Tegana seems out of character given the circumstances. Tegana is the chief negotiator for someone Marco’s Khan was at war with for some time. Polite and respectful makes sense but blind trust so strong Marco puts the lives of everyone in Tegana and only Tegana’s hands seems quite the tactical error. I actually to a moment to comment on Marco’s comment to Doctor Who as he hands him a sword. Paraphrasing “If you can use this as well as your tongue we cannot lose” nice!

8 minutes 35 seconds into Episode 5 part 1

Small detail really but where are the guards, servants etc in the fight with the bandits that just ended. No way in hell that someone as important as Marco Polo and Tegana wouldn’t have a small army of people traveling with them. If Tegana comes to mischief it could restart a war and Marco Polo is so important to his Khan that he is not being allowed to leave his service.

End of Episode 5

Marco’s actions are making more sense as his honor drives him to allow Doctor Who and company more freedom because of Ian’s complete honesty and the whole group’s loyalty during and more importantly after the fighting. His taking Ping’s word as fact over the TARDIS key, and he finally starts flexing his pimp hand with Tegana feels right. The earlier fight… sidebar time… don’t groan I’ll try to keep it short.

I’ve been mulling this adventure over in my mind some since it began. If I was a Doctor Who fan like you Ol, well not you specifically as I know you are almost certainly not offended by my comments. Alright let me start again on a different tack. I grew up watching daily reruns of Star Trek on local TV and a UHF station showed probably 3 episodes of Star Trek every day (the original series to be crystal). The original episodes were hacked up for more commercials. At times local sponsors would have a grand event where the episodes where shown in full. Which ones, when, and how many was frustratingly random. As I began to check off the list of complete shows I had a quiet hope that I would stumble across a “new” show. Sometimes the full version would have something I hadn’t viewed and for those few seconds it was zomgbbq time. It was never to be and after a while life kicked in and I went off to do other things.   Well as life goes with these things a number of years later I had a new side kick to hang with to introduce to the series I knew so well. One day, I was flipping through, about 35487855556 cable channels and stumbled on the Star Trek episode about the Horta. I gathered the side kick to experience the magic of one of my favourite Star Trek episodes (I really cannot articulate why) and… enough time had passed that I couldn’t help noticing the cave floors where smooth like there were on a stage floor and the rocks walls suspiciously similar etc etc etc. Well the side kick was not very impressed having grown up watching dinosaurs that felt so real you wondered how they trained them to do the stunts in the movies. He watched other episodes with mild interest because his side kick liked them when he was that age but never drank the kool aid.

I guess where my long winded ramble was meant to go was I’m trying to give my thoughts without offending anyone who is a hard core fan. It feels like I am doing so when I give a sharp poke over the cave scenery in the Dalek arc or mention the (at times) over emoting acting. In a nut shell is it “value added” or just a given you just accept the clinky bits.

Ian and Barbara in the Himalayas. Well, a drawing of the Himalayas anyway.

Ian and Barbara in the Himalayas. Well, a drawing of the Himalayas anyway.

Finished

First let me start with this: liked the Monkey dude with the eye patch… and loved the monkey with the lifelong bandit mask on his face. Just saying and I cannot be alone in this sentiment. The pictures seemed to show some random undefined white patch on the Monkey dude’s shoulder. Please tell me that was monkey poo 🙂

While the arc was a bit long, a lost episode with only sound of scuffling and banging noises to follow along for much of the last few episodes it was absolutely ( this is including the war crime level stuff involving the TARDIS, water, and condensation  🙂 ) my favourite to date. I’m a sucker for happy endings tbt… not that kind of happy endings you sicko. They wrapped it all up where everyone got or will get what they wanted in the end.

The Doctor and Marco

That WhOddysseus chap still thinks I’m a toolbag, quite likes you though. Hmm?

I like the way they handled Marco Polo specifically but not always his interactions with Tegana at times but that is nit-picking level. I enjoyed the manner in how they wrote the Khan too, books should not be judged by their covers, the budding friendship with the old scallywag Doctor Who, and the idea that the Khan was never really taken in by Doctor Who.

I’m glad you recommended not skipping it Ol

Ol Says:   Oh Marco Polo, the crown jewels of the missing episodes of Doctor Who. Or so many people seem to believe. I’m really glad that you enjoyed this one, WhOddysseus, because I find it a load of plodding, tedious nonsense.

As I’ve hinted, mine is a minority opinion compared to the majority. I don’t think that it’s a bad story, just a bit so-so. I think the main problem is that the Warlord Tegana is such an obviously out and out villain. It frustrates me no end that he gets away with trying multiple Dick Dastardly schemes with no comeuppance until the final episode.

Right, Muttley, after we've poisoned the water we'll be sure to win the Wacky Races!

Right, Muttley, after we’ve poisoned the water we’ll be sure to win the Wacky Races!

I rather liked the solution to the water issue being condensation, it chimes well with Doctor Who’s supposedly educational strand. It’s also one of the few times so far that we’ve seen something scientific that isn’t also totally fantastical (and let’s face it I mean flat out wrong, although I’ll bow to your better understanding of these things and accept that it’s still probably nonsense).

I also rather like the character stuff, even if Ping Cho is a bloody idiot, she makes a good friend for Susan and their friendship in the face of a wide cultural gulf is very sweet. The Doctor and Kublai Khan also make a nice pair, old men who are more than a little grumpy and like playing board games. Marco Polo himself is very likeable and is far more protagonist than antagonist, even though he’s the reason that the crew are stuck in this time unable to leave in the TARDIS.

Maybe if we had the video I’d think higher of this one? Certainly, everything I’ve seen suggests that this was a sumptuous production and all the sets and costumes look wonderful.

At the end it’s the way Tegana is a moustache twirling villain that spoils it for me, with a bit more subtlety and nuance in the writing I think I could really enjoy it. Maybe I just need to give it another try?

To answer some of the specifics brought up in your epic journey through Marco Polo.

The science stuff. The show was originally intended to be educational (long before the term edutainment was coined and let’s face it, that’s a horrible term) so they do try to slip some science into the stories wherever possible. Unfortunately, the writers are, well, writers. They certainly weren’t scientists or even likely to know scientists. So they busked it which is why a lot of seeming science is actually total guff. The history tends to be a lot more accurate, although it’s history from an early 60s point of view, so attitudes in academia might well have changed over the last half century.

Production values and the “Clinky Bits”. Doctor Who is an old TV show and it was always made on a tight budget. Add to that the fact that even high profile TV from that time would feel very odd and stagey to people used to more naturalistic TV like we have now. I almost don’t see it now, I don’t expect the special effects or production values to be very high and I prefer to enjoy the stories for what they are. Of course I’m aware of the difference between film and video (that hasn’t happened yet but I bet you’ll notice it when it does) but it doesn’t impact on my enjoyment of the show. What I do find interesting is the way that Who, like any long running show, is a cultural barometer and living archive of how TV used to look. It’s fascinating to think that this is how all of TV looked back in the day and either people didn’t notice, or they didn’t care. Feel free to point it out though, some of it’s interesting to see the change and some of it’s just plain funny.

And I have no idea if that’s monkey poo or not. I think we’ll have to agree that it probably is and move on with smiles on our faces.

Inside the Spaceship – Season One, Story Three

1.3 titles

WhOddysseus says:

The best way to sum up this one is… I’m really not sure.

It seemed to me that the TARDIS interior changed and quite a lot unless the camera angles just picked up different things. There was only a vague reference to it made by Barbara so maybe Im crazier than normal. When someone mentioned that their neck was sore I had a fleeting thought about Doctor Who’s fangs again. Maybe my confusion made the actor’s reactions seem out of place but throwing your watch across the room because the hand went backwards seemed excessive. Susan’s stabbing the sleeping bed with scissors and threatening the others seemed out of place too.

I think what they wanted me to take away from this arc was the ship appears to be semi-sentient with a will of its own, the insides can change as they please, and Doctor Who is a Toolbag on wheels whenever he feels threatened by things he cannot control or understand. Oh and something with great big feet and lives in the cold is about to say hi.

I'll give you Toolbag on wheels!

I’ll give you Toolbag on wheels!

Ol says:

Inside the Spaceship… Or Edge of Destruction, or Beyond the Sun… You get the picture! The titles will settle down for the most part going forward although even then there’s a couple that cause controversy.

It’s a funny little two parter this one. There’s nobody but the main characters for the first time since the very first episode and, whilst they’ve mellowed, they’re still very much butting off each other. In this one they pair off in opposition, Susan and the Doctor against Ian and Barbara. Whilst they have good reason not to be 100% trusting it’s clear that there’s something more at work here. Susan attacking Ian with the scissors, Ian losing his memory, The Doctor threatening to throw them off the ship and Barbara finally completely losing it are all actions that are out of character for these people.

There’s an enjoyable mystery here, although it plays out fairly slowly which does nothing to help. The out of character actions and other peculiarities, like the scanner showing them where they’ve been, the doors opening by themselves and, most weirdly, the clocks melting, all point to a grand resolution. The revelation that the TARDIS is, in some way, a sentient being is an idea I’ve always liked. In this case it gets inside their heads and makes them behave oddly. The actual fault isn’t some marauding malevolence, it’s the spring in a switch, which brings you back to Earth with a bump after all the far out sci-fi talk of sentient machines and the fourth universe, whatever that might mean.

I’ve always wondered, if the fast return switch takes them back where they’ve been, why doesn’t the Doctor use it to get Ian and Barbara home? Is he still concerned about them reporting him? If so who could they report him to? The police would laugh in their faces. Maybe there’s some other agency he doesn’t want finding out about his presence on 20th century Earth? Maybe the reason is that, as he gets used to them, he’s starting to rely on them and he thinks that they’ll be good for Susan. After all, he’s clearly an old man and Susan’s a teen, maybe he sees the teachers as surrogate parents / friends for Susan which is why he wants to keep them around?

It’s not a bad little story; it’s just a bit meh, as you say. It was written to save money which is why there are no guest actors and no new sets. As cheap drama goes it’s not bad and really it’s the resolution that lets it down for me.

You’re probably right about the TARDIS set changing, WhOddysseus. The early serials were recorded at Lime Grove Studio D, an old studio that was as close to being the worst place to record anything ever. It was always hot, to the point that the fire extinguishers would regularly go off in the middle of a recording simply because of the lights. Because the studio was a less than ideal shape, the sets had to be crammed in. This tended to mean that the TARDIS sets were put up in whatever space was available. Happily they were designed to be fairly modular, there’s the console and the walls with roundels on, the glass wall with computers behind and the doors. Oh and there’s the big light thing that sits over the console. These elements can pretty much come and go as needed each week. Need another room in the TARDIS? Take away the console.  Need to fit things in a small area? Lose the glass wall and computers. It’s all part of a lovely design though and I think it looks magical here and in An Unearthly Child, really cavernous and exciting.

What are your thoughts so far, WhOddysseus? You’re still not sold on the Doctor I can tell, what do you make of the rest? I’d really like to know, who would you say is the hero of the show? Of the three stories we’ve seen so far, what has worked well and what has fallen flat?

 

Stabby Sue

Try as much as you like, Susan, your hair will never be as big as Barbara’s.

WhOddysseus says:

I am surprised and delighted that Doctor Who is not being treated in what I would consider a normal manner for that period. Here is someone way more powerful and clued than those he meets showing up in a flying time machine to boot. However he is not written as a benevolent demigod pontificating about stuff like the prime directive (oh yes I did). Rather he is a bit of a pompous windbag and not above doing really unheroic things to get what he thinks is important to him and him alone. I get the feeling that they about to turn a corner with him after Susan gave him what for near the end of the last arc, His accepting even agreeing with her was a bit out of character.

The hero is probably Barbara given she gets her hands dirty on the dangerous stuff (after falling down and screeching of course) and if memory serves tends to do the right thing. A case could be made for Ian too and even Susan has her moments but tends to be yes grandpa when the chips are down.

Barbara Wright - Hero

Barbara Wright – Hero

The first episode is my favourite to date for probably the same reasons you have heard time and time again. The characters are introduced in a “it is a mystery” POV, and you are introduced to lots of new, cool things in a short span of time. Frankly the first episode not only felt like it was a different arc than the rest of the episodes of the caveman storyline it almost felt as if it was a different series even. Kind of like a Neil Gaiman story where the city flava is also a character. Please bear with me a moment. Erle Stanley Gardner, an American author famous for his mystery writing, had a pen name A.A. Fair under which he wrote a series about the Bertha Cool detective agency. I had never read an actual Erle Stanley Gardner novel until a few weeks ago other than the Bertha Cool series and only then while on vacation at the cottage. I really enjoyed them because the lifestyle is different, just after WWII, the writing shows a glimpse into another time say when my grandparents grew up in, and the characters’ lives more errm stately (there is always time to go change your outfit before sitting down to cocktails and cigarettes for example). Lovely as it dovetailed rather well with my semi-rustic cottage on the lake and an hour ride into and back for worms to go fishing was no big deal. Welp I finally went and bought some used copies of ESG books outside the series and errm they are really different and not at all my cup of tea. They have none of the “charm” of the other series… at least for me. My expectation was the Doctor Who series was going to be more like the first episode and so far that is absolutely not the case.

The Dalek storyline started out strong and that is even when I goofed up the details on what was stone, metal, and alive it still held my interest. However each episode kept getting weaker and weaker whether storyline or set until it finally clanked along to the end where a bunch of professed pacifists believe they just wiped out an entire species but shoe no more emotion than if they chose between vanilla or chocolate pudding. I cannot help wondering if they blew the budget on the first couple of episodes in the city and then rented High School stage scenery to finish things up. The fight scene… I’ve already mentioned it elsewhere.

I THINK what is happening is while I am enjoying the journey so far, really no kidding, I’ve not drank the Whovian (learned that word on Friday) kool aid. Three things are working against my tipping the glass and none are the fault of the series. First there is no Uncle Joe and Cousin Belinda just love the series to pieces influencing my wanting to like it going on, my initial and totally random expectations were wrong, and I’m watching them one on top of another (something I have to do if I want to finish any time soon.)

The Daleks – Season One, Story Two

Featured image

WhOddysseus says:

Clue Bell Ring

  • There are more rooms than the one shown in the first story arc on TARDIS.
  • I now know how they eat via future machines that make food bars with multiple tastes.

Guesses before a reveal proves them right or wrong…

  • The planet they are on is the Earth after some *insert tsk tsk tsk event that humanity did to itself* *buzzer noise… apparently*
  • The Fluid Link leak was deliberate and caused by Dr Who *ding ding ding winnah winnah chickan dinnah*
  • Daleks are the mutants not the Thals *punches fist in the air*

Stray thoughts and questions

  • The buildings in the city are quite nice and very high tech for the period
  • The way the male teacher says “Barbara” reminds me of Night of the Living Dead when the boyfriend says, “They are coming to get you Barbara”
  • Where the hell have I seen the canister bots minus the plungers before…

    Barbara discovers that the plunger is essential

    Barbara discovers that the plunger is essential

  • Is being a pacifist a trait that a society can survive with when there are outside threats. Nice question and the answer (to me) is a big fat no.
  • Is it something to do with Britsh accents that Dalek sounds like Dar-lek and Thals sounds like Thral depending on the person

Comments

  • The male teacher picks up a wooden stick to tap a metal box… on a planet that is all metal including the animals except the dirt on the ground of course J
  • When they bit into the food bars I heard the theme from Wily Wonka run through my head.
  • The lets wander off from the other syndrome is alive and well grrr!
  • “Look at the radiation how high it is! That explains a lot like the animals turning to stone” *facepalm* x 2 (they were all metal last episode).
  • Dr Who is showing himself to be quite a butthead.

    A what-head Hmmm?

    A what-head Hmmm?

  • Nice iris movements on the bot eye.
  • Whoa the writer correctly calls the manufacture of Neutron bombs by name too.
  • Noticed the bottom left (from inside the ship) plate on the TARDIS door is damaged after Susan gets back to the ship… let’s see if it is there later on.
  • How the hell do the Thals not know about the Daleks but the Daleks know about the Thals except what they look like of course (part III of VII) comment.
  • Seems strange that Susan signed her name correctly on the note to the Thals to me (wrong means don’t trust the Dalek).
  • Static electricity drives the Dalek *gah*
  • The Dalek needing to touch the floor all the time is a no given you would have to have some kind of battery for just in cases moments.
  • No Dalek asks where the fourth for torture and questioning is during the initial part of their escape.
  • Oops forgot that they stole the Fluid Link from me. Weak plot device to move things along.
  • Nice plot twist regarding the effects of the medicine on the Daleks.
  • The Dalek choice had me wondering what direction the story was about to take on and the fact I didn’t have to wonder for the week definitely diluted the effect.
  • What exactly are the Thals and Dr Who’s group going to fight the Dalek with anyway? All I see are ropes and cloaks.
  • Apparently with sticks and metal claws pulled of animals turned to metal by the radiation in the air.
  • I’m really not sure if I’m confused or the writers are confused about everything is metal, and there is nothing alive.
  • Apparently I also misunderstood the Dalek’s choice – I thought they decided not to light off a nuke because they could cure the disease less drastically.
  • I’m sure it was done for suspense but it was painful to have to watch each and every person jump the gap until the last one’s inevitable slip and fall moment.

*Sigh* Not sure if I enjoyed this arc as much as the first one. I think the last few episodes may be coloring my views more than the start which I did like much more than the resolution. The fight with sticks and claws of few Thals against hordes of robots who are all armed with death rays and plungers of Chuck Norris, made it pretty unbelievable that the Thals could win. Also I found it surprising that after apparently wiping out an entire species our (former) pacifists didn’t seem all that troubled by it. I did think Doctor Who’s condescending even arrogant off the cuff comment about the Thals and war was neat bow on the package. I think my lesson learned is to pay complete attention to the story and not pause it to write comments and such. Also to not push through a certain number of episodes each day.

Susan is screechy in this one but she is supposed to be a young teen so that is not completely out of the norm. Barbara is screechy too but trapped and by herself… it does seem a bit much given what she is screeching over at times. Susan is the obvious choice to go get the metal box but is their last choice, silly, even given her age. She seems a bit weepy but goes anyway so I’m chalking it up to drama. She also saves their collective bacon a time or two. Barbara is always demanding to be part of the danger and also takes a “war like” position during debates. The women were shown as strong and resourceful. As the plot progressed Susan and Barbara became more and more strong. The Thal woman were non-factors.

Ol says:

I flippin’ love The Dead Planet, and yes, this is another one where there’s no fixed title. It could be The Mutants, The Daleks or The Dead Planet. I personally like the latter although I can’t argue that The Daleks isn’t the least confusing option.

This one has strong nostalgia feelings for me as it was the first Hartnell story I ever saw. I got it back in the early days of the BBC video range. It came on two VHS tapes and I watched the whole thing through as soon as I could. And it was painfully boring. Whilst TV in the 90s was slower than it is today it was still miles quicker than TV in the early 60s.

The second time I watched it I chose to split it down by episode and watch it over seven weeks as originally intended. Wow! What a difference! Maybe I was just in a more receptive mood and maybe my earlier poor opinion of it had lowered my expectations. What had been an exercise in tedium had become a tense and clever adventure. I’ve been a fan of The Dead Planet ever since, possibly too much so because it’s far from perfect after all.

Structurally this is very clever. There’s the story of exploring the petrified forest and the Dalek city, getting captured and escaping to safety. Then there’s the story of the daring raid through the mountains and into the heart of the city to defeat the evil Daleks once and for all. The seven episodes split four into the first segment and three into the second.
The first episode is a marvel, despite being pretty action free. I love the idea of the petrified forest where everything is stone (and I’m fairly sure they state it as being stone from the start, I think it’s just the beastie that’s metal and the implication is that it always was metal) and then the view over the city is awe inspiring. One of the all-time great special effects in Doctor Who and so massively enhanced by the booming thwoooiinnngggggg music/sound effect that accompanies it.

Thwoooiinnngggggg indeed!

Thwoooiinnngggggg indeed!

The next three episodes reveal the Daleks themselves. It’s, for me at least, a classic design. It makes little or no sense (how on Skaro does a Dalek build anything?) but in pure looks you can’t beat it. They can be a bit clumsy and it’s clear that the script at some point says “The Dalek snatches the letter from Susan”. They do their best but the on screen result doesn’t really work. There’s also a glimpse of the inside of a Dalek which smartly leaves a lot to the imagination rather than showing us a poorly realised prop.

It’s nice that the Daleks aren’t shown to be out and out evil until the closing stages of the story. They’re very ambiguous in the opening half and it’s only when they realise that they can’t survive without radiation that they decide that genocide’s a reasonable answer.

The second segment of story is Ian and Barbara’s field trip with the Thals. This is packed full of the adventure serial tropes like animal attacks, caves, jumping over chasms and noble self-sacrifice. It’s a perfectly good example of what it is but it’s nothing special. The episode that seems to consist entirely of caves drags in particular. And then there’s the big final battle. The Thals do manage to win despite having no weapons. The Daleks’ vulnerability has been noted earlier in the story though so really all the Thals are trying to do is sabotage the power supply rather than fight a pitched battle.

It’s a very good point that the pacifist Thals don’t seem that bothered by the genocide they’ve committed. Sure the Daleks were not nice but that’s not exactly justification for wiping out an entire sentient species.

There are some very tasty directorial flourishes in this one. I love the Dalek’s-eye-view stuff as I previously mentioned the shots of the city are excellent. Less inspiring are the flat cardboard Daleks used to bulk out the numbers in the control room shots. Still, you can’t have everything I suppose.

All in all, it’s not perfect but it’s a lot of fun, if you pace it out properly.

Trivia – The Daleks were nearly designed by Ridley Scott who was working at the BBC at the time.

An Unearthly Child – Season One, Story One

Title Card

WhOdysseus Says:

General observations

  • Each story has multiple episodes.
  • Missing episodes are not always Hulu’s fault sometimes they are just missing.
  • It is a Police Box not a phone booth apparently.
  • Susan’s make up and the poses she is in when we are introduced to her listening to a radio make her look robotic.
  • Dr Who has small fangs but I’m not quite sure if it is his actual dental work or meant for the show.
  • The Special Effects are fine for the time the episodes were made… so far
  • On the Police Box the sign said free to use by the public… could you actually use Police Boxes to make calls to each other back then?

Specific Comments

  • Dr Who is a bit of an arrogant bastard in this one.
  • The TARDIS idea is a nice one but where do they eat, sleep, poo because all I saw was a control room?
  • The idea that everyone understands everyone’s speech and concepts is a weak but ok to keep the plot moving.
  • Susan says you need D and E in addition to A,B,C to explain a problem in class. D = time (ok) and E = space (buzzer).
Susan

Susan is wrong for wanting E apparently…

  • The male teacher’s disbelief was a tad long but I saw myself in him. When confronted by a great unknown go for the BS button first
  • Female talking to wounded male “I know his name it is friend” pure awesome sauce moment for me.
  • The passage the old woman enters the cave they are captive is ginormous and pretty easy to find by following the breeze. It makes Dr Who and friends seem idiots.
  • The chase at the end was pretty lameThe women did scream more and there was the obligatory trip during a chase but at least in this episode the smartest person is arguably Susan (excluding Dr Who), all the women tended to virtuous except one, all the men tended to heel except one.
The TARDIS and our heroes.

The TARDIS and our heroes.

 Ol says:

An Unearthly Child… Or The Tribe of Gum or 100,000 BC. Fandom has never quite settled on a name for these first few stories.

The first episode is really good, spooky and mysterious. The police box would have been a common sight in 1963 and yes, there’s a phone behind the sign on the door but it only connects to the local police station. It was mostly for police to keep in touch before radios became standard issue. The box was somewhere for a cuppa, or in extremes to use as a cell whilst waiting for backup. It’s weird to me that police boxes were as rare when I was growing up in the 80s as phone booths are now.

The other three episodes concern cavemen. Quite well spoken BBC cavemen but hey ho. Conventional fan wisdom says that after the first episode this story gets less interesting. I disagree; I like the caveman episodes, particularly the bits where the TARDIS crew are forced to work together to escape from the cave of skulls. There’s a good amount of character work in these episodes as we learn about The Doctor, Susan and the teachers.

There’s the bit where the Doctor considers murdering the injured Za (it might not be Za, I can’t remember) because he’s slowing them down but Ian stops him. It seems that the Doctor has as different a morality as the teachers do when compared to the cavemen. Not necessarily better though, but arguably more practical.

Trivia

  • This first story has a woman producer and an Asian director. In 1963.
  • They filmed the first episode twice after the BBC head honcho behind the idea of Who didn’t like the first go. The doctor was far too scary and unlikeable apparently.
  • These episodes (and the rest of Doctor Who for a long long time for that matter) were recorded as live with multiple cameras and only one break in a recording session. Which is a stupid way to make television.

The WhOddyssey Begins!

TARDIS Open

For those of you who have read the About page, hello again. For those of you who haven’t this is a Doctor Who rewatch blog. I managed to persuade an American friend of mine, known as Whodysseus, to watch Doctor Who all the way through from the beginning on the promise that I’d talk about each story too. So each story will have at least two posts, one from Whodysseus and one from me giving our respective thoughts about each story.