I am currently without reliable/regular internet access. Until this is remedied (hopefully this week) the blog will be on vacation. Sorry for the inconvenience, although I suspect it bothers me more that it bothers you. Seriously, can you imagine nearly TWO WEEKS without internet access?
My mission to complete a chronological viewing of Doctor Who before the 50th anniversary continues. With the completion of season nine, I’m over halfway through the Pertwee era. Unfortunately, I’m not yet halfway through the classic series.
This season was the most location-diverse season yet for Pertwee, which is a plus. Unfortunately, I struggled to stay interested in some of these stories. However, there were some interesting ideas, specifically the idea that the Time Lords were starting to use the Doctor as an errand boy. This was an inspired idea and brought some diversity to the season. So, let’s get to it.
- Day of the Daleks by Louis Marks
A renegade group from the future go up against the Doctor and UNIT in their attempt to assassinate a diplomat that they believe started a World War which left the Earth defenseless to a Dalek invasion.
I saw the special edition of this story, which included new visual effects and re-dubbed Dalek voices. The changes were excellent and really enhanced the story. It was a great idea with some wonderful performances by the guest cast. Unfortunately, I found UNIT to be a bit bumbling at times. Have I mentioned that I miss the UNIT and Brigadier from season seven? This complaint aside, this is an enjoyable story and, at four episodes, it doesn’t wear out its welcome.
My Rating: 3.5/5
- The Curse of Peladon by Brian Hayles
Forced to visit Peladon by the Time Lords, the Doctor and Jo join a conference of delegates who are evaluating Peladon’s desire to join the Galactic Federation. Unfortunately, someone is trying to stymie the efforts of peace.
I found this story to be a boring experience. For whatever reason, I could not get engaged. Maybe it was the bleak sets (well done, but the planet felt rather sparsely populated) or maybe it was Alpha Centauri’s grating voice. This story was tedium. It isn’t without its good moments, however. The Ice Warriors are in this story, but they are allies rather than villains. I loved this twist and enjoy the idea of the Doctor being prejudiced against a race that he has fought in the past, only to find they are valuable allies. I also enjoyed the Venusian Lullaby. Unfortunately, these elements were not enough to spark excitement for further Peladon stories.
My Rating: 1.5/5
- The Sea Devils by Malcolm Hulke
Despite being imprisoned, The Master has found a way to contact a colony of Sea Devils, an aquatic race of Silurians. Can the Doctor finally broker a peace between humanity and the Silurians?
There were many things to like about this story: the setting was amazing, with lots of ocean shots and even a boat chase; excellent performances; the cooperation of the Royal Navy in filming; and the return of a fascinating race. Unfortunately, the main problem with this story is that it is essentially the same story as The Silurians. The main difference is the Master working as an antagonistic force to bring war between humanity and the Sea Devils. I wanted to like this story more than I did, but The Silurians already told this story, and it was arguably better and tighter. The Sea Devils just covered too much ground (so to speak) that we had already covered.
My Rating: 3/5
- The Mutants by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
On yet another mission for the Time Lords, the Doctor must deliver a container to someone on the planet Solos. The problem, he doesn’t know who. To make matters worse, Solos is about to be returned to its native people, an act that is strongly opposed by the Marshal of Skybase One.
Did you get all that? This story is nothing if not ambitious and complex. This is a plus. There are some great ideas in this story and the apartheid allegory brings a bit of social commentary and substance to this story. Unfortunately, some of the performances are poor and the dialogue-heavy scenes feel slow and plodding. And at times, the ambition of the story is just out of reach of the production values. Make no mistake, the crew does the absolute best they can with the resources at their disposal. I found myself rooting for them and willing to forgive because, bless them, they were trying really hard. I think that is the biggest tragedy of The Mutants, it is a great script, stuffed with great ideas, and has a thought-provoking subtext, but is let down by a budget that just doesn’t quite make it, and a couple of poor performances. And it is just a bit too long.
My Rating: 2.5/5
- The Time Monster by Robert Sloman
The Master has reappeared as a professor in charge of the TOMTIT project, a project that theorizes the transportation of matter through time. But his real goal is to gain control over Kronos, a creature that feeds on time itself.
The season ends on a high note for me. I loved this story. At no point did it take itself too seriously, and as a result, it was a lot of fun. The characters were well-written and performed, the story was fast-paced, and there was a genuine epic quality about it. The Master was at his best in this story. In some ways, this story felt like the equivalent of an RTD series-long-arc, but done in six, tight half-hour episodes. Plus, baby Benton may be my new favorite character. So long as you don’t want your Doctor Who super serious, this is a great story.
My Rating: 4/5
I’ll admit outright that I thought it was good. I was entertained and even came close to tears at one point. I felt that this portrayal of the Daleks was the best the Moffat era had done with them so far, and that the Daleks were probably the scariest they have been since the 2005 episode Dalek.
There were some good ideas in this episode, ideas that furthered Dalek technology and mythology. Nanotechnology that converts organic creatures to Daleks was a good idea and an interesting spin on Robomen and human replicants. I enjoy the possibility of seen more “human” Daleks in the future, so long as they don’t take the place of the pepperpots. I enjoy the idea that the Daleks who have survived The Doctor in the past have gone catatonic. And I’ll come right out and say that I don’t mind the idea of The Doctor being wiped from the memories of all The Daleks. It wasn’t until the closing moments of the episode that I realized that I was growing tired of the Oncoming Storm, “I am The Doctor and doesn’t that make you tremble” moments that have popped up in every Dalek episode since the series return. It had its place for a time, and now I’m glad it is over. So, Steven Moffat is still attempting to reset Doctor Who.
Okay, now the not-so-fun criticism. I am tired of seeing Doctor Who still exist in the RTD shadow. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy parts of the RTD era. I’m happy he brought the show back. But so much of what Moffat has done is still in response to what RTD did with the show:
- Series five was modeled on the structure of the RTD era.
- River Song was introduced (by Moffat, admittedly) in the RTD era, and has been in every Moffat series so far, present series included.
- The Big Bang was an attempt to reset aspects of the RTD era. Why does no one remember the giant Cyber Ship in Victorian England? Because The Doctor reset the universe. Why does Amy not remember the Cyberman/Dalek battle at Canary Wharf or the events of The Stolen Earth? Because of the cracks in the universe caused by the exploding TARDIS.
- The Doctor became mythic under RTD. His existence is told in stories across millions of planets across the universe. He can no longer travel incognito. Thus, under Moffat, he faked his death.
And, unfortunately, we continue to see the lingering effects of the RTD era. River Song is supposed to be back later in the series. The Daleks have now forgotten The Doctor. Moffat is still resetting Doctor Who. I understand his desire; I sympathize with him because I feel The Doctor works better when people don’t know who he is. But it bothers me that we are still looking back. It bothers me that we are still playing a retcon game.
The second criticism: Amy and Rory’s divorce. Let me be clear. I have no problem with this per se. In fact, I love the idea of exploring the lives of companions who have not had contact with The Doctor for a few years. I love the idea that for The Doctor, life continues with excitement and adventures, but for Amy and Rory, life in contemporary London is the norm. There are jobs. There are bills. There are arguments and disappointments. The Doctor doesn’t see them go through this. The Doctor leaves them at point A and picks them up again at point V, but he remembers them as they were at point A. This is a great idea and worth exploring.
Unfortunately, we don’t explore it. In fact, we don’t even see it coming. Yes, in the Pond Life webisodes we see Amy throwing Rory out, but we never see their problems develop. We never see them struggle. Like The Doctor, we only come in at point V. We don’t see the human drama and struggle that Amy and Rory have faced in their years away from The Doctor. And for people who have gone through painful, heart-wrenching divorces, a madman in a blue box didn’t show up to take them on an adventure that re-affirms their love for one another (or, in this case, a human with a Dalek-stalk in the forehead).
I understand that there probably wasn’t time to explore this dynamic. Do people watch Doctor Who for relationships or do they watch it for monsters and action? Setting up Amy and Rory’s separation would take away from The Daleks and the Asylum and Moffat’s new flirty-sexy girl. Or maybe we could have seen the evidence of the separation over the course of the next few episodes, slowly revealing the antagonism between the couple, then culminating with The Pond’s reconciliation and departure. Maybe we will get more of this. But as it stands right now, they divorce quite suddenly and out of nowhere, and reconcile quite suddenly (Despite this, I still think the reconciliation was done well). We, as viewers, get the high of the Amy/Rory relationship that we have come to love over the last two years without being subjected to too much unpleasantness of Amy and Rory not being together. We get the romantic high without really suffering the emotional low. If I were feeling more cynical, I would think I was being emotionally manipulated.
Final Verdict: Fan consensus, at the moment, rates this episode very high. People are giving it 9/10. Some are saying it is the best episode since the series returned. Some are calling it the best episode of the Moffat era and the best Dalek episode of the new series. I’m tempted to think we are all just deliriously excited that Doctor Who is back on television after a longer than normal break. It would be hard—but not impossible—for Moffat to drop the ball right out of the gate. Indeed, he has written a great opening episode that is one of the best Dalek stories of new Who. It was fun. It did a lot of good things and had some interesting ideas. I think I’d give it a seven, maybe an eight. I’ll see how it holds up on the re-watch. However, when it comes to the episode’s direction, Nick Hurran gets a 10/10.
If this episode is any indication of the series ahead, I think we can expect good things.