I’m not sure how I missed this news. Life has been super busy. That’s the excuse, anyway.
According to the Doctor Who Newsweb site, the DVD release of Planet of Giants will have four episodes for the serial rather than the three that were originally broadcast. Planet of Giants was commissioned as a four part story, but Verity Lambert had the serial recut as three episodes. For the DVD, 2Entertain has used the original scripts to recreate episodes three and four. We are getting an entirely new episode from the Hartnell era!
Presumably, the DVD will also have the broadcast version. Still, this is exciting news and I can’t wait to revisit this story . . . and to fill a gap in my Hartnell DVD collection.
Story by Don Houghton
Directed by Douglas Camfield
Somewhere in the last few weeks I forgot to review Inferno. I watched it with my wife, but I never got around to reviewing it. Work got busy; I set up a new blog about Stephen King; you know, the usual excuses. So I apologize for my negligence. Besides, I can’t start watching Terror of the Autons until I have a few thoughts about Inferno posted here.
From the DVD: A top secret drilling project headed by Professor Stahlman is attempting to penetrate the earth’s crust, and the Doctor and Liz Shaw are on hand to observe. Tensions and professional jealousies plague the project, but things really heat up when a mysterious green substance is found leaking from the drill head. Just when UNIT needs the Doctor most, a time experiment throws him into a parallel universe where everyone he knows has changed for the worse.
This story wraps up the rather successful series seven. What better way to end a season than to destroy an alternate earth! I tell you, Don Houghton was decades ahead of RTD where over-the-top finales are concerned!
All kidding aside, Inferno was an excellent story with great pace, genuine chills, and quite a bit of heady sci-fi concepts. This was a seven part story that was stuffed full of ideas. While the monsters seem a bit arbitrary, at least they keep the tension going and provide us with a few good chase scenes. Choosing to let The Doctor see the consequences of Stahlman’s drilling via alternate universe was a fun idea. We get to see the world destroyed and we get to see the Doctor save it. Having our cake and whatnot.
Fascist UNIT was an interesting concept. Keeping with the idea that these are the same characters who developed differently due to different choices and circumstances, Liz has a good and noble core to her. The Doctor is able to appeal to her sympathies and scientific sensibilities. The Brigade Leader, however, seems to be a lost cause.
All the characters were very-well written and portrayed. The antagonism between Stahlman and Sir Keith was wonderful. Christopher Benjamin (who portrayed Sir Keith) is always a pleasure to watch.
Excellent story all-round
I’m not opposed to the monsters, but I don’t really know why there was a green slime that turned people into wolves. Something more could have been done with this.
Final Verdict: Inferno was a lot of fun. I watched it with my wife; she was captivated! A great end to a truly great season.
Directors–the visionaries behind the camera. I started watching Inferno and was reminded just how much I love Douglas Camfield. He was good at directing action and keeping a tight pace. Even in a seven (or eight) part story, his stories just crack along.
Doctor Who has accumulated a large number of directors over the years, some better received than others. From a show that developed in the 1960s these men and women helped contribute to the visual style behind television production. I thought I’d take a moment today to share my favorite Doctor Who directors. Which are your favorites?
Douglas Camfield – As mentioned before, he is good with action and pace. I don’t think there are any stories he has done that I’ve disliked.
Planet of the Giants – “Crisis” episode
The Time Meddler
The Daleks’ Master Plan
The Web of Fear
Terror of the Zygons
The Seeds of Doom
Waris Hussein – The first director for Doctor Who, Waris Hussein help shape the visual style of the show. He didn’t direct many episodes, seven of which have been lost, but his input helped make the show a success early on.
An Unearthly Child
Graeme Harper – I love that when Doctor Who returned in 2005, Graeme Harper was brought in to the director rotation. Where Harper is concerned, I love his use of sound, from using machine gun fire rather than sci-fi laser sounds, to pulling back on the music for dramatic effect.
Having written about the six preceding episodes, I don’t feel I have much to add. The story was an interesting—and to me, uneven—mix of action, spy-fi, and intrigue. It didn’t feel as tight as The Silurians, despite sharing an author; to be fair, however, Malcolm Hulke was brought in partway through. I think the shift between three writers is probably the biggest problem with this story. As no one writer had complete control in shaping the vision of the story, it was a collision of styles and voices.
That said, the underlying story is good. I wouldn’t mind more stories in Doctor Who that attempt to do what this one and The Silurians did.
Malcolm Hulke proved with The Silurians he has a strong grasp of character, and that strength is still in play here. The leads interact well. Professor Cornish is a strong leader, concerned for his astronauts above all else; General Carrington is wonderfully portrayed as a man with strong beliefs acting out of a genuine, yet flawed, concern for the planet. Even Reegan is a fascinating, fully fleshed-out thug. He could have easily been a cliché, but he has his own motives for the aliens. The characters really help this story along when it loses its pace.
As mentioned before, the story itself is good. I look forward to seeing how it was novelized and whether it was tightened up any in book form.
Once more, the pace was uneven. There were some good action scenes and side-by-side with some rather dull mission control sequences. Perhaps this story, if it had a little more lead time (something that I’m sure was virtually impossible) and could have gone through another draft, probably would have ironed out some of the kinks.
Final Verdict: While I would say that The Ambassadors of Death is, for me, the weakest of the season seven stories, I wish to emphasize that I feel, in no way, that this is a bad story. So far, with only one story left (which I shall be writing about as a whole rather than episodically), season seven has been a successful revitalization of Doctor Who.
As episodes go, I think this one is the most even. It is certainly my favorite so far. We get final confirmation of what has been happening all along. Alien ambassadors have been kidnapped by humans and the astronauts are being held prisoner until their return. The Doctor, finally having all the necessary pieces of the puzzle, can now work toward a resolution. This is good stuff.
Once more, the aliens are not necessarily evil. At this point, we don’t know if the aliens were hoping to make peaceful contact with Earth or not, but the fact that ambassadors are involved means some attempt at negotiation. The aliens haven’t responded with violence, merely taking hostages of their own. They have not, however, eliminated the possibility of violence, as they tell The Doctor that they will destroy the planet if their people are not returned.
While there is not an actual invasion happening, the threat of invasion is what is driving General Carrington. It seems he was behind the abduction of both the aliens and Liz. He fears the alien ship is an invasion force and is reacting accordingly. He is being driven by fear and what he feels is best for the country he is trying to protect. It just a shame he got things so wrong.
So, the story has really picked up—for me—in the end. I’m looking forward to the resolution.
I’m not sure why I like Sgt. Benton so much. Perhaps it is because John Levene seems like such a nice guy. Perhaps it is due to his inclusion in the Tom Baker debut Robot. Benton seems to represent a regular support cast; he conveys what has been termed “The UNIT Family”. A support cast is new for Doctor Who. These are the days before we had Jackie Tyler or Craig. Old friends are a new thing because until this point we did not return to the same place twice. Things are quite different now.
What strikes me most about Ambassadors at this point is that there is more action. Ambassadors seems to draw a significant amount of inspiration from James Bond. The show is adapting and evolving. In some ways, it has moved quite some way from its origin. While I don’t dislike what they are doing with the show, it is still very different. So far, the stories have been good enough that I don’t mind.
This entire story seems an exercise in decompressed storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, there is a good story buried in here, one in which humans have kidnapped a group of radioactive aliens. The humans are developing a way to exploit these deadly aliens, to use them for their own nefarious ends. The problem is, at the current pace, I’m not sure the story needed to be seven parts long.
Granted, I’m making this criticism in 2012. Television probably didn’t work that way in England in 1970. Most-likely, the producer set an episode count and ordered a story. It would then be up to the writer to meet the episode number. With the writing issues of this story, it probably isn’t a big surprise that the pace is occasionally glacial. Still, this story could be tightened to great effect.
At least it is different, though. This isn’t an alien invasion; it is a covert group using alien prisoners as weapons. This is a great idea to explore, especially as it has the potential to become somewhat personal for The Doctor. He is trapped against his will. He has fallen in with an international military organization. He could very easily become a weapon. Thankfully, The Brigadier offers him a certain degree of autonomy, but if he had fallen into different hands, The Doctor’s fate could have been quite different.
According to various sources on the internet, episode 3 was the final episode of the serial that David Whitaker contributed to. In fact, I’m rather curious how much of the final product is Whitaker’s and how much can be attributed to Malcolm Hulke, Trevor Ray, and Terrance Dicks. According to A Brief History of Time (Travel), Derrick Sherwin (the producer who commissioned Whitaker to write this story) wasn’t happy with the approach of Ambassadors. I haven’t yet, however, found any information of what the original approach was. Many of the changes that Hulke made(according to above sources) seem trivial: renaming characters, renaming the fake businesses on the side of a cargo truck, changing one character’s nationality. I would love to see a more detailed list of the changes. If anyone is aware of one, let me know.
As for the episode itself, things are growing quite grim. The body count in this one is high, and two thugs are dumped in a quarry. I’m still not quite sure what is happening, but it seems UNIT (an international organization) is at odds with the British military, which is trying to keep this entire incident as quiet as possible. The astronauts, if they truly are the astronauts that were sent in the original shuttle, seem to be infected with a type of radiation that is incredibly deadly, and seems to need more radiation to sustain itself.
This is a darker story than I expected. Even though I think the pace needs tightening, there is enough mystery and suspense to keep me interested.
Much like the previous episode, the pattern here seems to be space control stuff, action sequence, and finally, intrigue. Thankfully, the space control sequence is a bit shorter in this one, and it leads to the successful re-entry of the shuttle. In theory, this marks the end (or at least, the drastic reduction) of the control scenes.
While I enjoy the action sequences—in this episode, the villains attempt to steal the shuttle—they do lend to an uneven pace. Granted, I think this episode was a step up from the previous. It seems as if the first mystery (the malfunction of the shuttle) is about to lead to a new mystery, one that involves some sort of para-military conspiracy.
Thus far, the Pertwee season seems to be working quite well. Each story has been markedly different from the previous. I have no idea where this story is going, and that is exciting.
Written by David Whitaker; Directed by Michael Ferguson
From the Doctor Who Reference Guide:When all communication is lost from Mars Probe 7 shortly after it leaves Mars and begins its trip back to Earth, a second craft is launched to investigate. As Recovery 7 docks in space, it too loses all communication…
The Doctor and UNIT are given the task of investigating the mystery as Recovery 7 returns to Earth. It appears that no one can be trusted as the space capsule is hijacked from its UNIT convoy with military precision. What has happened to the missing astronauts? Could this be a secret invasion from Mars, or is the enemy much closer to home?
Another seven part story. Well, the last one cracked along well enough.
The first thing that stands out is that David Whitaker wrote this story. Well, sort of. It seems the story was heavily rewritten. So, despite Whitaker being one of my favorite Doctor Who writers, it seems I shouldn’t get my hopes up for this one. Even Whitaker is said to not have liked the end result.
The second thing that stands out is a certain unevenness in the first episode. We start with a slow, suspenseful build-up around the Mars Probe 7 and end with a shoot-out in a warehouse. I think part of my problem with this episode is the first half, which alternates between Probe 7 and mission control. I have found that I rarely enjoy stories that involve large amounts of mission control action. I think I was tainted by an X-Files episode in the first season. It was called Space, and it involved an ex-astronaut who was being haunted by some sort of ethereal alien which was causing said astronaut to sabotage a current mission. We had lots of footage of extras huddled around control panels and monitors as they listened to transmissions of the space shuttle. We had lots of footage of worried faces, but little action. Much like scientific experimentation, I’m not sure that mission control scenes lend themselves to compelling drama.
Or maybe The X-Files just did a pathetic job with it. There was a bit of mission control stuff in The Tenth Planet, and I recall liking that well enough. However, that story had the Cybermen in it. Maybe that is what was missing here.
Six more episodes to go. I shall try to remain optimistic.