Posts Tagged ‘television’

Classic Doctor Who Season 17

Sunday, April 20, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoSeason17I’m watching all the classic Doctor Who episodes. I began with the first season, from 1963. I’m not up to Season 17, which aired in late 1979 into 1980. The season is a milestone of sorts. With this season, Tom Baker began his sixth season as The Doctor, exceeding the number of seasons Jon Pertwee played the character.

The season also saw a new Romana. She’s a Time Lord (Time Lady?), remember. And, she began the season by regenerating. They never explained why. The previous incarnation (Mary Tamm) looked perfectly good to me. But, Miss Tamm wasn’t happy with the direction of her character. She was initially reluctant to assume the role in Season 16, expressing concerns that she’d be the typical damsel in distress. She was told that her character was also a Time Lord (Time Lady?), and would be an equal to The Doctor. Of course, she ended up being a damsel in distress. And, she left the show.


Rejected Romana 1

Mary Tamm later said that she’d have gladly filmed a regeneration scene, if they liked. They didn’t, and in a departure from The Doctor’s regenerations, Romana actually tried on various appearances. Initially, she took the appearance of Princess Astra, from Season 16′s The Armageddon Factor, but The Doctor insisted she couldn’t just go around copying people. She then took the appearance of a short purple woman, then a mature belly dancer, then a very tall woman. The Doctor finally agreed on the Astra appearance, and Lella Ward joined the cast as Romana.

The season had production problems late in the year. The final serial planned, Shada (6 episodes) was never finished due to a strike. The strike actually delayed the completion of the serial, but, by the time it was resolved, BBC decided to not complete the serial so that resources could be directed toward completing Christmas programming for the network.

Douglas Adams’s influence as Script Editor was evident in the first serial of the season, Destiny of the Daleks (4 episodes). Early on, The Doctor is trapped beneath some rubble, and Romana goes for help. To pass the time, he pulls out a paperback copy of Oolon Caluphid’s Origins of the Universe. In case you forgot, or never knew, Oolon Caluphid is a character from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In the Hitchhiker’s Guide, though, that particular book isn’t mentioned.


Rejected Romana 2

This does bring three fictional universes together. Doctor Who brought in references to the Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series of films, radio plays, and books as far back as Season Seven. That was never official, mostly because Kneale disliked Doctor Who, but still evident in conversation. The integration with the Hitchhiker’s Guide universe is with that franchise creator’s blessing, of course.

There is a continuity problem with the second serial, City of Death (4 episoded). At the end of Season 16, it was established that The Doctor had installed a randomizer in the TARDIS, so he didn’t know where he’d end up, and so the Black Guardian couldn’t know. Only, in City of Death, he sets the coordinates for Florence in 1505, to meet Leonardo da Vinci.

Another is Romana’s age. She gave one age (140) to The Doctor at the start of Season 16, and another age (125) to a character in the show. Just goes to show you how women always lie about their age. I hope The Doctor doesn’t get arrested by Gallifrey police on morals charges and have to tell them “But, she told me she was 140.”

Then there’s the origins of life on Earth. The Doctor visits Earth 400 million years ago, and mentions that life is about to form. He was off by a factor of nearly 10, since there is evidence of life on Earth as long as 3.8 billion years ago.


Rejected Romana 3

I did enjoy a couple of cameos in that serial. John Cleese played a man who thinks the TARDIS is a work of art in a museum. His companion is played by Eleanor Bron, who, despite her long resume, will, to me, always be Princess Ahme from Help!

Stars Wars fans would recognize Julian Glover, who played the serial’s main villain, Scaroth, as General Veers from The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, he’s had a long, successful career and you really should know him as Julian Glover, not as General Veers or the bad guy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, or the dude from Game of Thrones, or the bad guy from that James Bond movie with the Sheena Easton song, or any other particular role. He’s a good villain, but that’s because he’s a good actor.

Oh, yeah, Catherine Schell was in that serial, too. She’s hot in anything. Well, not as that hairy woman from Space 1999, but anything else.

The strike-shortened season ended with a serial based on the Greek story of Theseus, who slew the Minotaur. The Horns of Nimon (4 episodes) features a critter that looked like a space minotaur. It also had youths to be sacrificed, and a maze.

The serial that was supposed to be the season finale was Shada (6 episodes), but, as mentioned, it never aired. In 1992, the BBC filmed a narrative around the story, with Tom Baker. This was 11 years after he left the role of The Doctor, and nearly three years after the BBC stopped broadcasting the show.


Tom Baker filling in missing scenes on Shada

The episodes, with Baker’s narration was released on VHS, and later on DVD (it is still available on DVD), but that’s it. The DVD is still available for purchase.

The story, written by Douglas Adams, is so-so. A little convoluted — but what by Douglas Adams wasn’t — with typical non-realistic “Doctor Who science,” such as a carbon dating of a book determining an age of 20,000 years. Since carbon dating is based on the decay of carbon-14 and its relationship to carbon-12, you can’t have an increase in carbon-14 by taking an item back in time. It would measure the length of the items’s relative time in existence, not its age from any known point. Now, I’m not opposed to there being a way to determine that an item is from the future, but carbon dating isn’t it. Douglas Adams knew better. And, as both script author and series story editor, this never should have happened.

Oh, well. Maybe I was just expecting more, based on how much I enjoyed Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Then, I didn’t care a whole lot for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Or disappointed.

Although I did see some Doctor Who episodes with Tom Baker on PBS many years ago, so far, I can’t say with certainty that I remember any of them. And, I’ve now completed the sixth of Tom Baker’s seven seasons as The Doctor. I do recall knowing about Daleks, and since the Daleks only made two appearances during the Tom Baker years, I had to have seen at least part of one of the serials. But, I just don’t remember it.

Strange, that the years for which the classic show is known, the Tom Baker years, are years where I don’t remember them well, and aren’t particularly enjoying now. William Hartnell’s years were great. Patrick Troughton’s were enjoyable. Jon Pertwee’s were, too, although I didn’t like the idea that he was Earth-bound most of the time.

Well, there’s one more Tom Baker season to perhaps bring him up from his current standing of my 4th favorite Doctor. On to Season 18.

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Now whatever will I do with my time?

Monday, April 14, 2014 11:00 am

Here’s a little peek behind the scenes at both IMAO and at me.

You may nor realize this, but most of the posts here are written ahead of time and scheduled to appear at a certain time. None of us log in, write up a little gem of wisdom (or whatever) and sit, watching the second hand on the clock approach the 12, waiting to press Publish. And, there’s no limit to how far ahead we can write and schedule a post. That can sometimes cause little oddities or necessitate edits. Such as…

Well, here’s where we get to the peek at me. I binge-watch TV. Or, to sound like I’m not addicted, I hold TV marathons, sometimes lasting days. Or weeks.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Maybe. You see, I’ve been posting my watching of the classic Doctor Who episodes on Sundays. One week per season. And, here’s the thing: I’m done. Finished. Watched ‘em all. All 26 seasons. That means the last season’s wrap up is written and scheduled for 22 June. It also means I had to edit an entry after one of the recurring characters died recently, since she was also known outside the Doctor Who universe. Kate O’Mara played The Rani, as well as many other roles over the years.

Now, with that behind us, that brings me up to my question.

Whatever will I do with my time?

I sat down last night, turned on the TV, and had nothing to watch. An empty Hulu queue. Nothing unwatched in iTunes. Nothing in my Amazon library. No unwatched DVDs.

I’m not saying I need to watch TV. I’d read a book, but Amazon says Frank’s new book (which I’ve pre-ordered) won’t deliver until November. I don’t know what to do. For the first time in months, there’s not a bunch of Doctor Who episodes awaiting me watching them

What should I do with all this free time?

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Classic Doctor Who Season 16

Sunday, April 13, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoCast16The 16th season of the classic Doctor Who show was a bit harder to watch than the previous seasons. One of the hardest in a while. And that kind of surprised me.

I first saw Doctor Who episodes on PBS back in the late 1970s and 1980s. In late 1982 or early 1983, I first saw The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on PBS. I discovered it because I occasionally watched some of the shows the network carried, on GPTV (in Georgia, now GPB) and FPB (in Florida). And, though I can’t be sure, I think I saw some Doctor Who episodes before I saw The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Certainly, though, around the time Hitchhiker’s Guide aired, I was watching more on PBS, particularly GPTV.

What’s Hitchhiker’s Guide got to do with Doctor Who you ask. Really, go ahead and ask.

I’ll wait.

Oh, well, since you asked, it turns out that the new Script Editor for Doctor Who beginning with Season 16 was Douglas Adams, creator of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy franchise. When I discovered that, I just knew I’d love Season 16 of Doctor Who. I didn’t.

Oh, I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t love it. It was, at best, Mostly Harmless.

Maybe the problem I had with the season was K-9. I never did like that character. Or, maybe it’s Tom Baker’s habit of occasionally looking at the camera and laughing. I don’t care for that kind of stuff.

The season introduced a new character, Romana (Mary Tamm), as well as the new version of K-9, which looks to me like the same character. Romana was a Time Lord (Time Lady) from Gallifrey who was sent on a quest with The Doctor by the White Guardian. The White Guardian is … heck, I don’t know. I never could figure it out. Maybe it’s supposed to be the Gallifrey version of God.

Anyway, the White Guardian sends The Doctor and Romana on a quest to secure the parts of the Key To Time, which is … a MacGuffin, as far as I can tell. The Doctor and Romana spent the entire Season 16 searching for the thing because it was so important, and then, in order to keep it out of the hands of the Black Guardian, The Doctor scattered it back across space and time. Which is where it was to begin with.

Tom Taker sported an injury for much of the season. He was bitten on the lip by a dog belonging to one of the guest actors in the first serial, The Ribos Operation (4 episodes). They covered it with makeup for the remaining day’s shots, and wrote a rough landing into the next serial, The Pirate Planet (4 episodes), so that The Doctor would injure his mouth, creating a reason in the storyline for the wound.

The series’ 100th serial aired during the season. The Stones of Blood (4 episodes) was the milestone serial, and it aired during the shows’s 15th anniversary.

The Androids of Tara (4 episodes) appears to have been based on The Prisoner of Zenda. There’s a scene where, after he is told of the plan to have a look-alike, an android in this story, act as a decoy, The Doctor says, “It’s been done before.”

The final serial of the season, The Armageddon Factor (6 episodes) introduced yet another renegade Time Lord. Drax knew The Doctor at the Academy, and knew his as Theta Sigma. The Doctor insisted on Drax not calling him by that name, but by “Doctor” instead.

The serial concluded the season-long arc of The Doctor and Romana searching for the Key To Time, finding it, then dispersing the parts. Except for the last part, which was actually a person, the Princess Astra. Actress Lalla Ward, who later married Tom Baker, played Astra. She’d play another character in later seasons. With the dispersal, Princess Astra was restored. The Doctor installed a randomizing unit in the TARDIS, meaning he’d never know where he was heading, in order to avoid the Black Guardian, who was now after The Doctor, after the dispersal of the Key.

And that pretty much wrapped up the first season with Douglas Adams as Script Editor. I expected more. Silly me.

Maybe things will improve in Season 17.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 15

Sunday, April 6, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoCast15I’ve been watching the classic Doctor Who series, beginning with the start of the show in 1963. I’m up to Season 15, which aired from late 1977 to Spring 1978. That’s half-way through the adventures of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).

Behind the scenes, the show was experiencing some major problems. A change in the leadership of the staff running the show, as well as late delivery of scripts, plus the BBC canceling a vampire-related script because it would have aired close to major Dracula production of the the network. Add to this, Tom Baker hated the character of Leela, and the actress, Louise Jameson, took the brunt of his dislike. They finally had it out in the second serial taped (but the first serial aired), and the actors’ relationship improved somewhat. Still, Jameson left the show at the end of the season.

All the while, the British economy, under the leadership of the Labour Party, was in shambles. The show had its budget cut because of other expenses the network experienced due to the economy. In the winter following the airing of this season, the country was hit by several strikes, the “Winter of Discontent,” leading to the Conservative Party’s victory early the next year. And, in case you forgot, that’s when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. Remember the Brigadier speaking with “Madame” Prime Minsiter in Season 13? Now you know who he was talking to.

The season began with a story at a creepy old lighthouse, and people dropping like flies. No, it wasn’t Tom Stewart but an alien knocking folks off. We finally met the Rutans, who have been in a war against the Sontarans, in Horror of Fang Rock (4 episodes). At the end of the episode, Leela’s eyes changed color from the effects of an explosion. That allowed Louise Jameson to not have to wear the brown contacts she had been wearing ever since her character was introduced. And, it’s the episode where Jameson and Tom Baker finally had their confrontation.

The second serial (though the first one produced in Season 15) also introduced K-9. I know a lot of people liked K-9, but I wasn’t one of those. I remember the character from when I saw Doctor Who episodes 30-something years ago. I thought it was silly then. They did a good job of explaining why it looked like a dog: the scientist who built it always wanted a dog, so he made his robot look like one.

Fans of Sherlock, or of Benedict Cumberbatch, might find it interesting that his mom appeared in the serial Image of the Fendahl (4 episodes) as a major character. Wanda Ventham had appeared in Season Four’s The Faceless Ones. Yeah, she was hot. Oh, and she’s still acting. She and her husband recently appeared in Sherlock as the title character’s parents.

By the way, the serial Image of the Fendahl was airing during the week of Hallowe’en 1977. As such, it had a theme appropriate to that time of year. The story involved a skull with a pentagram, a seer, a coven of aliens, and a big slimy worm that looked like it was dressed for Mardi Gras.

I found The Sun Makers (4 episodes) very interesting. The script writer was having a row with Inland Revenue (the British agency that functions as the IRS does in the U.S.) and wrote the serial. In the story, those running the show and imposing the heavy taxes were overthrown. Of course, being British, they had a race of aliens running a “Company” that was responsible for high taxes. Unlike reality where it’s a government that imposes taxes. So, even though it was the British government that was imposing the taxes that inspired the script writer, the left-leaning of those involved with the show turned the villain into a capitalist venture.

The Doctor battled the Sontarans (and won) in the final serial of the season, The Invasion of Time (6 episodes). The Doctor lost two companions in the process. No, Leela and K-9 didn’t die. They stayed behind when The Doctor left, after saving Gallifrey. He also took office as President of Gallifrey. It seems that nobody thought to hold the election that was to pit The Doctor against Chancellor Goth in Season 14′s The Deadly Assassin. Since Goth died at the end of that serial, and The Doctor hopped in his TARDIS and went on other adventures, nobody assumed office. Well, The Doctor came back to Gallifrey to claim the office, since he was still officially a candidate, and, with Goth’s demise, the only candiate, he took office.

After defeating the Sontarans and saving the known universe, he left again. They kinda left it up in the air about his being president. I suppose we’ll see what happens with that — or not — as well as meet the new K-9 that was still in the box at the end of the series, when the next season starts.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 14

Sunday, March 30, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWho4LeelaI’m watching the classic Doctor Who episodes from the beginning. That’s from 1963. Been doing it for a bit now, because I’m up to the episodes that first aired in 1976-77. That’s Season 14, for those counting. Even if you’re not counting, it’s still Season 14. Math works that way: it doesn’t care about you; it still does what it does regardless of whether or not you’re paying attention.

Anyway, Season 14 is Tom Baker’s third in the role of The Doctor. And it’s the start of Elisabeth Sladen’s final season as Sarah Jane Smith. I’m gonna miss her.

The season featured something that hadn’t happened in some time: an historical episode, although it’s not as historical as the traditional ones from the show’s early years. The Masque of Mandragora (4 episodes) was set in 15th century Italy, but didn’t feature any on-screen appearances by any historical characters. Leonardo da Vinci was mentioned, but didn’t appear. The story featured a young man being usurped from his rightful place as ruler by his uncle. Maybe The Doctor will take that story idea forward to the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and let William Shakespeare write something along that line. Nah. Probably never amount to anything.

One item about the serial I found interesting was that The Masque of Mandragora was filmed at Portmeirion, in Gwynedd, North Wales. That’s where the shots of The Village, from the TV show The Prisoner was filmed.

Sarah Jane left The Doctor at the end of the season’s second serial, The Hand of Fear. A pretty good, but not great, story that had a troubled history. It was originally supposed to be ready for Season 13, but the scriptwriters had difficulty with it. Along the way, the intent was to kill of The Brigadier and Sarah Jane, but that was eventually scrapped. In the end, the scriptwriters didn’t write Sarah Jane out of the series. They left that to Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, who wrote Sarah Jane’s exit.

The Doctor had his first solo adventure in The Deadly Assassin (4 episodes), a serial that brought back The Master (though in a heavily decaying state). This serial also introduced the plotline of a 12 regeneration limit for Time Lords. It seems The Master was on his 13th form already and, with no 13th regeneration, would die. Only, there was some plot device using accoutrements of the office of President to restart the cycle. Along the line, there was a presidential assassination and a framing of The Doctor, a faked death, political intrigue. Both The Doctor and The Master live to fight again. One thing, though: I never completely understood why the Time Lord President didn’t regenerate.

The Doctor picked up a new companion, Leela (Louise Jameson), in the serial The Face of Evil (4 episodes). I didn’t remember much about it — heck, I didn’t remember anything about it — but I’m thinking I had seen it before. I remember the face of The Doctor in the mountain. Unless I’m thinking of an episode of Gilligan’s Island.


Anyway, Leela joined up with The Doctor. She’s the latest hot chick to join The Doctor in his travels across time and space. The serial was written by, and the character of Leela was created by, Chris Boucher, a talented writer, but a lover of the Labour Party and a hater of Margaret Thatcher. According to one report, he named Leela after a Palestinian hijacker.

Leela ran around in her “savage” costume most of the time, except for the season’s final serial, The Talons of Weng-Chiang (6 episodes), in which she and The Doctor dressed in a style more fitting Sherlock Holmes. The Doctor didn’t wear the scarf for which Tom Baker’s incarnation was known.

As I mentioned when I started this little journey, my first experience with Doctor Who was from the Tom Baker years. So far, I don’t remember having watched any of the Tom Baker episodes, with the possible exception of The Face of Evil, and I’m still not sure about that one.

Maybe I’ll be coming up on some soon. Or maybe my memory has failed. Much like some of the control of the TARDIS.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 13

Sunday, March 23, 2014 10:00 am

IMG_0056The 13th season of the classic Doctor Who series saw the departure of some major characters. The last regular appearances of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Mister (nee Sergeant) John Benton (John Levene), and Lieutenant (Doctor) Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter).

The 6-serial, 26-episode season began with the return of The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry to the present, following up the distress call The Doctor received from the Brigadier at the end of Season 12. The first serial, Terror of the Zygons (4 episodes), introduced — you guessed it — the Zygons. In this serial, the Brigadier receives a call from the Prime Minister, whom he addresses as “Madame.” At the times the episode was recorded and aired, Harold Wilson of the Labour Party was Prime Minister. He was succeeded by fellow Labour Party MP James Callaghan a year later. When the episode aired, Margaret Thatcher was leader of the Conservative Party, but wouldn’t become Prime Minister until four years later. However, since the series was, at the time, set in the near-future, commonly accepted to be five years from the then-present, the writers got this one right.

The serial was also Nicholas Courtney’s last regular appearance as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Though there would be two more serials involving UNIT, the Brigadier wouldn’t be in either. Courtney was unavailable, so they wrote his character as visiting Geneva.

Planet of Evil (4 episodes) was similar to Forbidden Planet in that an invisible creature was killing members of an expedition to a planet. And, kinda like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in that a character kept transforming from normal-looking fellow to an ugly, hairy, evil killer.

The third serial had an interesting plot. It was called Pyramids of Mars (4 episodes) and dealt with a connection between Egyptian civilization and extraterrestrial aliens. And, if you’re familiar with Richard Hoagland’s whole pyramids on Mars thing, keep in mind that’s from after the Viking landings in July 1976. This serial aired 8-9 months before that. No one had seen images from Mars that kinda looked like pyramids. So that whole face and pyramids on Mars thing? Nobody came up with all that nonsense until later. Probably a deranged Doctor Who fan.

Oh, and The Doctor got some math wrong. He mentioned that it would take two minutes for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth. That’s wrong. At their closest approach possible, it would take over three minutes. At their greatest possible distance, it would take a little over 22 minutes. So, The Doctor had even more time than he said to defeat Sutekh.

The Android Invasion (4 episodes) featured UNIT, but as I mentioned earlier, the Brigadier didn’t appear. Harry appeared, as did Benton, as well as their android duplicates. Benton’s fate is left unclear at the end. At least, I wasn’t sure what his fate was. Benton wouldn’t be in the later serial involving UNIT.

We met yet another renegade Time Lord in The Brain of Morbius (4 episodes). There seem to be a lot of them. Morbius was a Time Lord that was sentenced to death a zillion years ago. Though the sentence was carried out and his atoms scattered across the universe, he survived because his brain was stolen and it wound up in a bowl in some lab. Kinda like Jan In A Pan from MST3K. His brain was eventually put in a fish bowl on top of a hairy critter. Kinda like Ro-Man from Robot Monster.

Morbius and The Doctor eventually had a battle on something that looked like a game console. The battle involved images of their various incarnations. We saw the faces of The Doctor (Tom Baker), The Doctor (Jon Pertwee), The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), and The Doctor (William Hartnell), plus other faces that could have been The Doctor, or Morbius. That wasn’t really clear. Anyway, The Doctor won and the fish bowl sparked and smoked and Morbius fell over, ran away, and then fell off a cliff. The Doctor died, but was revived without regenerating by some elixir of life that came from a flame that The Doctor had fixed by dropping a firecracker down the chimney. Or something.

The season ended with The Seeds of Doom (6 episodes), which was sorta like The Thing, in that an intelligent plant life from another world was found in the Antarctic and was going to get loose and take over the world. It wasn’t exactly like The Thing (any version) or Who Goes There? (the story on which The Thing was based), but there were those elements. The serial also marked the last of the stories to involve UNIT for some time. None of the UNIT regulars appeared. And, while I was anxious for The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) to get back into time and space in the TARDIS, now that The Doctor (Tom Baker) has done just that, I am gonna miss the Brigadier, Captain Yates, and Sergeant/Mister Benton. At least, we still have Sarah Jane. For now.

Speaking of whom, on to the 14th season, her last as a regular.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 12

Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWho4I’m watching the classic Doctor Who episodes because … I forget why, but I’ve started, and doggone it, I’m gonna see it through. I’m up to Season 12 now, and that means Tom Baker as The Doctor. The 12th season was only 20 episodes long, comprising five serials.

The first serial, Robot (4 episodes), indicated just how much the show changed over the first 12 years. The show was very serious when it began, with the occasional bit of levity. Patrick Troughton brought more humor to the show, as did Jon Pertwee. But right off the bat, Tom Baker was a clown. Literally. When The Doctor awoke following his regeneration, and changed clothes several times, including once coming out of the TARDIS as a clown. And, the odd getup that Baker was known for wearing was the least strange of the outfits he was trying on at the time, so the Brigadier told him it was fine and hurried him to investigate the case they had.

That serial also introduced the character Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), who would travel with The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) for the remainder of the season.

A season-long arc (or remaining season arc) began in The Ark in Space (4 episodes). Arc. Ark. Get it? The Doctor and his companions travel to space station Nerva (the aforementioned “ark”) in the far future and save the day. The ending leads directly to The Sontaran Experiment (2 episodes), which featured the Sontarans, the second but nowhere near the last of appearances by that group of bad guys.

Tom Baker broke his collarbone during the taping of The Sontaran Experiment, but that big, stupid scarf hid the brace he had to wear. So, +1 for the big stupid scarf.

At the conclusion, they try to get back to Nerva and the TARDIS, but the Time Lords intervene and send them on an impossible mission against the Daleks. They’d spend the rest of the season trying to get back to Nerva.

The serial Genesis of the Daleks (6 episodes), tells of, well, the genesis of the Daleks. We meet Davros for the first time. He’s the dude that created them. He’s stuck in a Captain Pike-mobile, but can talk. He does have a flashing light, though. In a mission doomed to failure, The Doctor (Tom Baker) goes back to the time of the creation of the Daleks, in order to change history. Apparently, The Doctor (Tom Baker) forgot that The Doctor (William Hartnell) told Barbara in Season One’s The Aztecs that history can’t be changed (“Believe me, I know!”).

That ends with a return to Nerva, but at too early a time. They battle the Cybermen in Revenge of the Cybermen (4 episodes). The Cyberman hadn’t appeared since Season Six’s The Invasion, excepting a brief cameo in Season 10′s Carnival of Monsters in which they played no role. There is a plot hole big enough to drive a TARDIS through in that serial. Gold is poisonous to Cybermen. Yet, some Cybermen land on a planet that’s made of gold (or has it lying around all over the place).

Remember that after first meeting then battling the Cybermen in Season Four’s The Tenth Planet, The Doctor (William Hartnell) died and renewed? Well, during this serial that reintroduced the Cybermen, between the broadcast of episodes one (19 April 1975) and two (26 April 1973), William Hartnell actually died (23 April 1975).

On that sad note, Season 12 ended, and The Doctor and his companions entered the TARDIS to head to Season 13. As shall we.

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Classic Doctor Who Season 11

Sunday, March 9, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoLogoI’ve been watching classic Doctor Who episodes. I began with the first season from 1963, and am now in the eleventh season from 1974 (mostly).

Season Eleven was 26 episodes comprising 5 serials. It featured a new opening sequence, highlighted by the classic Doctor Who diamond-shaped logo. It also introduced Sarah Jane Smith, who was with The Doctor for four seasons, the longest of any companion so far.

The first serial of the season, The Time Warrior (4 episodes), introduced the Sontarans, and featured another appearance by Boba Fett. Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars movies, made his second Doctor Who appearance. He had previously appeared in The Space Museum from Season Two. The serial also gives The Doctor’s home planet a name: Gallifrey.

The second serial, Invasion of the Dinosaurs (6 episodes), had an interesting idea in that dinosaurs were brought forward in time to the present day (1970s) and then returned, wreaking havoc in between. I think they stole this idea from Primeval by taking the TARDIS into the future and bringing the idea back to 1973. The Doctor should be ashamed of himself.

A little shame should also be heaped upon the special effects department for that serial. The dinosaur effects made Godzilla (1954) look like Jurassic Park. Barney is a more convincing dinosaur than what was done for that serial. And, in a change of recent storyline pattern, the eco-warriors were the bad guys, intent on destroying life on Earth. They did excuse them as misguided, with their hearts in the right place, though. Those wacky Brits.

A couple of old villains appeared in Season 11. The Daleks made an appearance in Death to the Daleks (4 episodes). That serial was unusual in that, for some of the time, there was an uneasy truce between The Doctor and the Daleks as they combined forces to restore power to their respective ships. At the end, of course, the Daleks are the bad guys, and as usual, are defeated. The other return villains, the Ice Warriors appear in The Monster of Peladon (6 episodes).

The season ended with the 6-episode Planet of the Spiders. I don’t like spiders. The second episode of the serial could have been called “Who. Doctor Who.” because of the extended chase scene involving a car, a hover craft, a flying car, a helicopter, and a speed boat. I could almost hear Paul McCartney playing Live and Let Die during it.

The spider effects were actually pretty good. Well, not bad. Certainly better than the dinosaurs. But some of the other effects in the serial were pretty bad. 1980 Flash Gordon bad.

The main event in the serial, apart from saving the universe again, is the death of The Doctor. He was regenerated — the first time it was called that; the transition from the First Doctor to the Second Doctor was called “renewal” — into the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker.

The Tom Baker episodes were the first Doctor Who episodes I ever saw, on PBS back in the 1970s. And, now I’m caught up to then. Well, nearly.

Season 12 looms large. To the TARDIS, to land on Earth in 1974!

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Classic Doctor Who Season 10

Sunday, March 2, 2014 10:00 am

The Three Doctors

Season Ten of Doctor Who, the classic series before the recent resurrection of the series, featured something that must have been a delight to fans of the show: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee all appearing together.

Well, “together” isn’t exactly right. Let me explain.

Season Ten, consisting of 26 episodes comprising five serials, began with an attack on time itself. And, the plot line called for the Time Lords not being able to spare resources to help The Doctor. So, they sent The Doctor. And when The Doctor and The Doctor didn’t get along, they called on The Doctor to help.

I don’t think I explained that very well. Except that’s exactly what happened. Through some Time Lord mumbo jumbo, they managed to pull the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) into the time stream of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), so they could combine forces and battle Omega, who’s a Time Lord gone mad. Or rogue. There seems to be a lot of them.

Anyway, The Doctor (3.0) and The Doctor (2.0) don’t get along, so they bring The Doctor (1.0) to keep them in line. After all, he was the mature one. He wasn’t impressed with his third or second incarnations, calling them “a dandy and a clown.” Due to William Hartnell’s health, he was only able to appear in studio, communicating via video screen with the other Doctors. Regardless, it was great to see William Hartnell in action again.

Hartnell’s appearances in the serial were his last role of any kind, not just in Doctor Who. The episodes were filmed in late 1972, and aired beginning just before New Year’s, and ran into late January 1973. Hartnell’s health continued to decline, and he was hospitalized in December 1974, and died in April of 1975.

At the end of The Three Doctors (4 episodes), the Time Lords removed the sentence of exile from The Doctor, allowing him to use the TARDIS as before. He made some trips with Jo, but returned to Earth, no longer unable to control the TARDIS. He did experience some issues with landing where he expected, but it wasn’t the completely lost in time and space situation from the first six seasons.

Being a Time Lord can sometimes be a drag.

The Master returned in Frontier in Space (6 episodes). It was Roger Delgado’s last appearance on Doctor Who. He died around three months after the episode aired while filming a movie in Turkey. Pertwee and Delgado were close friends, and Delgado’s death was one of the reasons that contributed to Pertwee’s decision to leave the role of The Doctor after the next season.

The Daleks returned at the end of that serial, and followed as the primary antagonist in the next serial, Planet of the Daleks (6 episodes). That serial was could be considered a sequel to Season One’s The Daleks, the second Doctor Who serial, and the one that introduced those characters. In Planet of the Daleks, The Doctor encounters Thals, who are still battling the Daleks after all these years.

The season ended with the departure of companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) after she married a hippie environmentalist professor. The serial, The Green Death (6 episodes) was a typical 1970s environmentalist piece. It was typical leftist promotion, with a giant chemical company actively working to poison the planet. The episode also featured a scene of The Doctor in drag. Those wacky Brits.

I’ve enjoyed Jon Pertwee’s time as The Doctor, especially since he’s able to cross time and space again. He had one more season in the role before turning it over to Tom Baker. I’m looking forward to seeing Pertwee’s last season. Not to say farewell to him, but to see him as The Doctor some more. As long as he’s in space and not doing more left-wing hippie stuff.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Nine

Sunday, February 23, 2014 10:00 am

Bessie_DoctorWhoSeason Nine of the classic Doctor Who series — I’m watching them all from the 1963 beginning — featured the return of the Daleks. And, as always, they want to exterminate, exterminate, EXTERMINATE! The season consisted of five serials, made up of 26 episodes.

It was a welcome break when the first serial, Day of the Daleks (4 episodes) didn’t feature The Master. He had appeared in all serials of the previous season. The serial was also the first time the Daleks appeared in color in the show. There were a couple of color films starring Peter Cushing, but those aren’t considered canon. They don’t count.

The serial also introduced the Ogrons, who look and dress like there were based on the Klingons from the Star Trek movies. Another instance of The Doctor going into the future to steal ideas from other shows, I suppose.

The version I watched is the Special Edition, which means they added some CGI effects. I understand there is also a difference in a scene where The Doctor battles an Ogron.

The Ice Warriors made an appearance in The Curse of Peladon (4 episodes), although they aren’t villains in this episode. It also featured Patrick Troughton’s son, David, as one of the major characters in the serial. It was an off-Earth serial, with a reference that the Time Lords directed the TARDIS there so The Doctor could solve a problem. They got the idea for temporarily paroling the hero to solve a problem by going forward in time and stealing the plot point from 48 HRS.

The Mutants (6 episodes) was another off-Earth serial, as was The Time Monster (6 episodes), at least partially. With three of the five serials occurring completely, or with a good deal of the action, off Earth, it’s almost as it was before the exile.

The Master did show up in the third serial, The Sea Devils (6 episodes), and the fifth serial, The Time Monster. The Sea Devils, which featured an aquatic race related to the Silurians, was the episode where The Doctor first uttered the phrase “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.” The Third Doctor used a shortened version, “reverse the polarity,” in other serials, including The Time Monster. That serial is the third one dealing with Atlantis, by the way. We now have three different versions of the destruction of that civilization. I’m sure they’re all true.

One other thing about The Time Monster: it featured The Doctor and Jo traveling in both Bessie and the TARDIS. Not at the same time, of course. The TARDIS did get a slight makeover inside. The original setup was nine years old by this time, and was falling apart. So, not only is it bigger on the inside, it’s newer, too.

And, we’ll be taking a trip to the tenth season next.

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To binge, or not to binge…

Thursday, February 20, 2014 9:00 am

BingeWatchingFor some reason, it’s now news to talk about binge watching.

Binge watching, if you don’t know, is watching a whole bunch of shows at once. And it’s not really a new phenomenon.

Back in the days when you recorded stuff on your VCR — Does anyone still do that? Other than Harvey, perhaps? — you could keep all the episodes together and watch them. I had a wife that did that for her stories. (That’s soap opera, for you kids.) She’d set up the VCR to record her favorite show, then watch them all. She would sometimes watch one or two, then have to fast forward back to where the tape was so that she wouldn’t record over the next episode or two before she watched it. So, binge watching was NOT the best way with VHS tapes.

TiVo solved the whole issue of only watching one or two and having to make sure you didn’t record over an episode you hadn’t watched. Then, you didn’t have to binge watch. But, it also made it easier to record a bunch of other shows. But you didn’t have time to watch them until the weekend, so that actually made for more binge watching.

Shows would come out on VHS and later on DVD, and you could buy whole seasons of shows and sit and watch them. Still can. Well, DVDs anyway.

Then came streaming. You could get Netflix and that catalog of online content. You can also get Hulu/Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime/Instant Video, Crackle, or any of hundreds of other online services and Websites.

So, binge watching isn’t new. But it’s apparently news.

In the last 24 hours, there have been a series of news stories talking about how bad binge watching is. Except for the stories that talk about how good binge watching is.

At The Daily Beast, Roland Martin has his panties in a wad over binge watching. Apparently, that’s important to him.

Then, there’s a story by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in The Independent that says binge watching is good for you.

So, who are you going to believe?

I binge watch. I’ll watch several episodes at once, whether from a streaming service, or something recorded from the TiVo. And, I’ll watch other shows as soon as they come out. It really depends on the show.

For instance, I watched every episode of Breaking Bad as soon as I could. I do the same thing with Justified. I don’t wait to watch the next episode.

Of course, after the Breaking Bad finale, I binge watched the whole series from start to finish. It gave it a little different perspective, and I enjoyed it just as much. I tried that with The Shield one time, and had to stop and go take a bath, just to get the grittiness of the show off me. I never finished binge watching The Shield, though I did watch each episode. Just one at a time.

How about you? Is this a big enough deal for you to even care about? And which way do you go?

Do you binge watch? If so, what? If not, do you think that binge watchers a bunch of sad, lonely, pathetic excuses for human beings? Or are they simply fans enjoying their pastimes in the best way possible?

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Classic Doctor Who Season Eight

Sunday, February 16, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWho3andMasterThe eighth season of Doctor Who featured the return of the Autons, first seen in Season Seven’s Spearhead from Space. It also introduced Jo Grant (Katy Manning) as The Doctor’s new assistant, replacing Liz Shaw (Caroline John) who was mentioned as having left for Cambridge. Also introduced, or maybe re-introduced, was The Master (Roger Delgado), a renegade Time Lord.

I’m kinda thinking The Master might be the same Time Lord as The War Chief from Season Six’s The War Games, but some research says it’s a different Time Lord. If that’s the case, that’s now three renegade Time Lords: The Doctor, The War Chief, and The Master. Oh, wait. I forgot about the Monk from Seasons Two and Three. That’s four renegade Time Lords. Somebody needs to get a handle on the Time Lords.

During each of the five serials (25 episodes), The Doctor battled The Master. The Doctor did finally leave present-day Earth in Colony in Space (6 episodes) when the Time Lords sent the TARDIS, with The Doctor and Jo on board, to some far off planet 500 years in the future. It seems The Master stole the plans to some doomsday weapon, so the exile is temporarily lifted, and The Doctor and Jo wind up on some planet being colonized by Earthmen in 2472. That was the only off-Earth serial in the season. It’s also the most left-leaning episode, since it was written by communist Malcolm Hulke.

Season Five is the first season to have all episodes available on Hulu. Of the first seven seasons, only Season Four and Season Five have no episodes available on Hulu. While Amazon Instant Video (and Amazon Prime) has one serial each from Seasons One, Five, Six, and Seven, there are none from Eight.

While the season was okay, there was nothing particularly outstanding abut the season. Yes, the introduction of The Master brought a major villain to the show, but if he’s not another incarnation of The War Chief, then he’s simply another version of a renegade Time Lord.

The serial The Dæmons (5 episodes) featured a community covered by an invisible impenetrable dome. I think they must have stolen the idea from Stephen King. Yes, I know Stephen King published Under the Dome in 2009, but he it’s a rewrite of an unfinished story from 1972. It’s obvious The Doctor took the TARDIS forward in time from 1971 (when this episode first aired) and stole the idea from King. He should sue.

That serial also featured a community dance. A lot of townsfolk were dancing in the street, then grabbed The Doctor and tied him to a Maypole. It seemed like something straight out of The Prisoner.

The season-long arc of battling The Master certainly made for a different style of show, and I do miss the leaping about the galaxy and across the barriers of time.

But, once The Doctor gets the TARDIS back fully functional and returns to galavanting across the universe, that’ll be the end of Bessie. Though at first I wasn’t a fan, I’ve come to like the little yellow car. I think I want one.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Seven

Sunday, February 9, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWho3The seventh season of Doctor Who (the original run, not the 2005 series) was in color. That’s about the only extra expense they put into the show. The special effects are pretty much on par with the first six seasons. That is to say, it’s 1960s British television. Only, it’s not. It’s 1970s British television, since Season Seven premiered in 1970.

There were only four serials in the season, totaling 25 episodes, the fewest number of any season so far. This would be normal, though, for the next decade and a half.

The first serial, Spearhead from Space (4 episodes), was produced in a different manner than the other episodes. It was filmed, rather than videotaped. With the move to color, the video camera operators went on strike demanding more money to operate the color cameras. So, the BBC filmed the episode, since film camera operators were in a different union. The next episode was videotaped after the labor issues were settled.

Spearhead from Space saw the return of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and the introduction of Liz Shaw (Caroline John), both of whom are full cast members. Not a particularly good or bad serial, it did feature Jon Pertwee (The Doctor in his third incarnation) battling a multi-tentacled creature, much as Bela Lugosi fighting the octopus at the end of Bride of the Monster.

The Doctor gained a car in the second serial, Doctor Who and the Silurians (7 episodes). It’s a yellow Siva Edwardian kit car, and he nicknamed it “Bessie.” I suppose this replaces the TARDIS.

In the last serial of the season, Inferno (7 episodes), The Doctor accidentally gets sent to a parallel universe where everyone’s evil. Like the Mirror, Mirror episode of Star Trek except that the bad guys had less facial hair.

Pertwee is more forceful as The Doctor. He reminds me somewhat of William Hartnell in this regard, as well in his better manner of dressing. While Hartnell was proper in his dress, appearing in the style of an Edwardian gentleman, Patrick Troughton was more Charlie Chaplin in his dress. The First Doctor never displayed fear, though the Second Doctor seemed to cower a lot. Pertwee’s portrayal is somewhere between Hartnell’s and Troughton’s.

There are reports that the showrunners had actually planned to replace Doctor Who with a series similar to the Quatermass shows that ran on the BBC in the 1950s. When the creator of the Quatermass character, Nigel Kneale, decided to not participate, they kept the Doctor Who series going, but spent more focus on Quatermass-style of episodes. Kneale did not like Doctor Who.

Being bound to earth is certainly a change, although Season Five did have five consecutive episodes occur on the planet, as was mentioned by Jamie and Victoria. The premise of the show being earth-bound due to The Doctor’s exile by the Time Lords won’t last, based on my past watchings of Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor) episodes. I’m ready for him to get back into space and time.

When I first saw the show, I was bothered by the idea of a Police Call Box being the outward appearance of the TARDIS. And, until I watched An Unearthly Child, the first Doctor Who serial, I didn’t understand that it had changed its appearance to blend in with its surroundings, and the circuit broke, leaving it stuck as a Police Call Box. And now that Season Seven has mothballed the TARDIS, I miss it.

Season Eight is next, and since I won’t be taking the TARDIS there, it’s up to Bessie.

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Not a competition

Monday, February 3, 2014 9:00 am

ThreeStoogesFootball2Some of you watched the Super Bowl last night.

I watched old episodes of Doctor Who.

I win.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Six

Sunday, February 2, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorJamieZoeI’m watching the original Doctor Who episodes. I forget why, but now that I’ve started, I don’t think I can stop. I’ve now watched six seasons, covering two incarnations of The Doctor. William Hartnell originated the role, but left the series early in Season Four. Patrick Troughton took over the role, and remained through Season Six. He left, and a new actor, Jon Pertwee takes over in Season Seven. More about the Troughton to Pertwee transition in a bit.

The sixth season consisted of 7 serials, composed of 44 episodes. Seven episodes from two of the serials are missing. The other five serials have all their episodes. And, from late Season Six on, there are no more missing episodes. That doesn’t mean they’re all available on home video.

Hulu Plus has a lot of episodes available, including 3 of the 5 complete serials from Season Six. Amazon has only one serial from the season available. YouTube has some official clips, as well as some unofficial uploads of episodes. DailyMotion has them all.

The show speaks against violence while containing much (whole races wiped out). This season, they preached against nuclear power in The Dominators (5 episodes). The race on the planet Dulkis was developing nuclear power, but realized the destructive power of nuclear weapons, so they abandoned it. They also started wearing dresses.


The show does’t say if they abandoned wind power after seeing hurricanes or tornadoes, or hydroelectric power after seeing floods, or solar power after seeing droughts, or cooking with fire after seeing forest fires, or … okay, you get my point. It’s 1968 when the shows aired, and it’s Britain, so we get hippie messages from Doctor Who, and Sean Connery quitting James Bond. I know Connery came back. I’ll see if Doctor Who keeps up all the hippie talk.

The Mind Robbers (5 episodes) is the serial that’s on both Amazon (Prime) and Hulu Plus. Not sure why, but the Hulu version is a better quality picture. It’s also an odd serial for a couple of reasons. First, there’s the odd things going on. Characters from literature are wandering around. Next, there’s the temporary recasting of Jamie. Hamish Wilson took over for two episodes when Frazer Hines was ill. The Doctor solved a puzzle incorrectly and Jamie’s face was changed. A later puzzle put it back. The character of Lemuel Gulliver (yes, from the book) spoke only lines that were from the Jonathan Swift book. The did a good job of working his lines into the plot of the story. They also did a good job of showing off one of Zoe’s other great assets besides her mind.


The episodes of that serial were shorter than normal. From what I’ve read about the serial, they needed to expand it from the original four to five episodes. Rather than write a while new chapter in the middle somewhere, they shifted the scenes around, making five 20-minute episodes rather than four 25-minute episodes. That helped explain how Frazer Hines was able to appear in an episode in which he was too sick to appear. The scene at the beginning was actually the last of the previous episode.

The Invasion (8 episodes, 2 missing animated by BBC) was one of the season’s two battles against previous enemies. The Cybermen, who appear for the third consecutive season, are the villains again. The serial also features Colonel (now Brigadier) Lethbridge-Stewart, who will turn up in later seasons. The animation of the two missing episodes is of better quality than that of The Ice Warriors from Season Five. Speaking of whom, the Ice Warriors made a return appearance in The Seeds of Death (6 episodes).

The Space Pirates (6 episodes, 5 missing) is the last Doctor Who serial with missing episodes. After that serial, all episodes exist.

The final serial, The War Games (10 episodes), was Patrick Troughton’s last during his run as Doctor Who. It also saw the end of the run of Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Zoe (Wendy Padbury), the first time a Doctor and his companions left in the same episode. This is the episode where we first find out about Time Lords. The Doctor, as it turns out, is a Time Lord who ran from his race of people because … he was bored. After calling on the Time Lords to deus ex machina his way out of an impossible situation, they put him on trial — they have been looking for him for … a long time — and sentence him to exile on 20th century Earth with his appearance changed. And he has to forget how to use the TARDIS. They didn’t actually say he would regenerate, just change his appearance. Oh, Jamie and Zoe? They were sent back to where they were when they left with The Doctor.

The sixth season was the last season in black and white. The next season would be in color. Or colour. Since it’s British and all.

After six seasons, I have to say I do like the Doctor Who character. William Hartnell was absolutely awesome as The Doctor. At least, he was to me. Patrick Troughton made the character much less serious, but did, I thought, a very good job transitioning the character. I’m curious as to what Jon Pertwee brought to the role.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Five

Sunday, January 26, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoSeason5VillainsThe fifth season of Doctor Who saw another cast change, as well as a few recent discoveries. Two recently discovered serials (or nearly-complete serials) were released on home video in 2013. The season featured two battles against the Cybermen, and two against robot yetis. More on all that in just a bit.

There were 7 serials (the fewest in any season so far) consisting of 40 episodes. 21 episodes are missing. Only two serials are complete, and one of those was only made complete in 2013 after the discovery of a copy of the episodes in Nigeria. One serial, Fury from the Deep, is missing all its episodes, the last serial to have no surviving tapes. Only two more serials after this season are missing any episodes; the rest of the series is complete.

Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) left in a late-season adventure, and Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) joined The Doctor and Jamie as the season concluded.

There were one production goof that caught my eye and ear. Jamie, who’s from 18th century Scotland, used a 19th century phrase, “gives me the willies” in The Abominable Snowmen (6 episodes, 5 missing).

By the way, the yeti in The Abominable Snowmen and in The Web of Fear (6 episodes, 1 missing but reconstructed by BBC) — the second and fifth serials respectively — reminded me of Ro-Man from Robot Monster, except for lack of a diving helmet. I don’t like abominable snowman shows unless I have Joel or Mike and a couple of robots helping me watch it.

The third serial, The Ice Warriors (6 episodes, 2 missing) has been released on home video with the two missing episodes animated. Unlike the Season One Reign Of Terror animated episodes, which looked like graphic novel style, the animation of The Ice Warriors is more like Johnny Quest or Adult Swim’s Sealab 2021 animation. The Web of Fear was also released on home video in 2013, but with reconstruction, not animation for the missing episode. I wish they had animated it.

To me, the most interesting serial was The Enemy of the World (6 episodes). Patrick Troughton played the villain as well as The Doctor. Even though the characters looked alike, they didn’t. Troughton’s talents as an actor made them appear to truly be different characters.

In the season’s 6th serial, Fury from the Deep (6 episodes, all missing), Victoria decided to remain behind, tired of the constant danger The Doctor found himself (and his traveling companions) in. As has been the pattern, in the next serial, The Wheel in Space (6 episodes, 4 missing), The Doctor gained a replacement companion for the one just lost. Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury) stowed away aboard the TARDIS after the defeat of the Cybermen, and would be part of the crew for the next season.

Now off to the TARDIS to land on Season Six.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Four

Sunday, January 19, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWho2The Classic Doctor Who fourth season was, as the third, difficult to watch. Part of it was the storylines, particularly early in the season, but most of the problem is that most of the episoded don’t exist. None of the serials are complete.

As mentioned before, the missing episodes have been reconstructed by fans using the audio from the TV broadcast (which still exists), while stills from (or representing situations in) the episodes are shown. The reconstructions are augmented with text describing the action where it’s not obvious what is happening.

There were nine serials, consisting of 43 episodes. Four of the serials were missing all the episodes. That accounted for 18 of the missing episodes. The other five serials were missing a total of 15 episodes. None of the serials were complete. Only 10 episodes exist.

The other reason that Season Four was so hard to watch were the stories. William Hartnell’s last full serial, The Smugglers (4 episodes, all missing), was about pirates. It was the first episode for new companions Polly (no last name, played by Anneke Wills) and Ben Jackson (Michael Craze). Since the Ben character was a British seaman, the pirate smugglers and ship setting fit right in. For him. I’m not a fan of the Rum And Sodomy stories, but I managed to stay awake through them.

Hartnell left the series at the conclusion of the next serial, The Tenth Planet (4 episodes, 1 missing). The missing episode from that serial is the last one, where The Doctor dies after battling the Cybermen. He is, of course, replaced by The Doctor. A clip of the regeneration (they called it “renewal” at the time) exists, so the grainy black-and-white footage of the closeup of Hartnell’s face, illuminated by a bright light, morphing into Patrick Troughton’s face still exists.

Troughton’s Doctor took some getting used to, but he actually eased viewers (okay, me) into it by getting used to it himself. He looked himself over, checked out his surroundings, and referred to his previous incarnation in the third person. It was as if he was getting his bearings, clearing his head, trying to remember things, trying to ease himself into the situation. He did a good job on that. I accepted him as The Doctor about the same time he did. In his first serial, The Power of the Daleks (6 episodes, all missing), the Daleks seemed to recognize him, so that emphasized that he was, indeed, The Doctor, despite the appearance and personality changes.

The Highlanders (4 episodes, all missing) was the only historical episode of the fourth season featuring the Second Doctor. It took place after Battle of Culloden (1746), where the Duke of Cumberland defeated Charles Edward Stuart. The serial introduced Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines), who would become The Doctor’s long-time male companion. Make of that what you will.

The Highlanders was another Rum And Sodomy episode, with much action taking place on British ships.

A science fiction staple I hate is Atlantis. I’ve never seen a good TV show or movie featuring characters from Atlantis. And, the serial The Underwater Menace (4 episodes, 2 missing) was no exception. It would have been tolerable had Joel and the Bots been there to enjoy it with me. As it was, it was as bad as Undersea Kingdom, minus the MST3K crew.

The Macra Terror (4 episodes, all missing), was the first one to feature an image of The Doctor in the opening theme. The next-to-last serial, The Faceless Ones (6 episodes, 4 missing) was actually pretty good, despite most of the episodes only being available via reconstruction. But the real reason I bring it up is because that’s the episode where Polly and Ben leave The Doctor. The action took place immediately before and ended on the same day as Season Three’s The War Machines, meaning that, as far as the normal Earth timeline is concerned, they never left. Which means Ben never went AWOL, and was spared the lash, or whatever the 1966 equivalent was.

That meant that the season would end with the entire cast — The Doctor and his companions — all being replaced. Another companion, Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling), was introduced in the final serial of the season, The Evil of the Daleks (7 episoded, 6 missing). That episode also featured the second appearance of a Beatles song. Paperback Writer was playing on a jukebox during a 1966 scene (yes, the song was current for the time in the story). In Season Two’s The Chase (1: The Executioners), The Doctor and his companions watched The Beatles perform Ticket To Ride on television.

One other thing about The Evil of the Daleks: Jamie, who’s from 1746, understood what The Doctor meant when he said some items were from the Victorian Era. In case you forgot, she didn’t take the throne until 1837.

One final note: Patrick Troughton died here in Columbus, Georgia, in 1987. There are rumors he was having sex with a fan at a sci-fi convention being held in town when he had a heart attack, but I can’t confirm that (the having sex part; I can confirm the sci-fi convention was in town). Troughton was a notorious horndog, but that doesn’t mean he was using his Sonic Screwdriver when he died.

I’m not from Columbus, by the way, but I moved to this area some years ago. And not because of the Time Lord-killing sex. That’s a bonus.

On to Season Five.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Three

Sunday, January 12, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoWatching the original Doctor Who series from the beginning is a very strange experience. I’ve not seen the new show (the 2005 revival), and, as I mentioned before, I only had previously seen some Tom Baker (mostly) and Peter Davison (very few) episodes on PBS back in the ’70s and ’80s.

I’ve now watched all of the first three seasons, featuring William Hartnell as The Doctor. And the third season was the most difficult to watch. Partly because of the 10 serials (45 episodes), only three (12 episodes) are complete. There are five episodes that still exist from three serials, and four serials (13 episodes) that are completely missing. So, of 45 episodes, 27 are missing.

Of the missing episodes, the sorta-standalone Mission to the Unknown, was animated by the BBC for inclusion on a home video release. The others have audio tracks available, and have been reconstructed using stills and snippets of video from the episodes, along with the occasional home video fill-in (some actually well done, some not).

The season featured massive turnover in the Doctor’s companions. Season Three began with Steven and Vicki, but that didn’t last long. Vicki (Maureen O’Brien) left after the Siege of Troy (the 4-episode serial The Mythmakers, all missing), being replaced by Katarina (Adrienne Hill), who was killed off four episodes later during the 12-episode serial, The Daleks Master Plan (9 episodes missing). That serial was notable for the introduction and departure of Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh), who traveled with The Doctor and Steven, just like a companion. Sources vary on whether or not to count her as an official companion. She was around longer than Katarina, who was officially a companion, so I say she counts.

"Mission to the Unknown"

“Mission to the Unknown”

Another thing about that serial was actually its prequel, Mission to the Unknown (reconstructed by BBC animation). After the first serial, the standalone episode was broadcast as part of the Doctor Who series, but none of the Doctor Who regulars — The Doctor or his companions — were in the episode. That episode was followed by the serial that saw Vicki leave, then the 12-episode The Daleks Master Plan was aired, using plot points from Mission to the Unknown. I don’t know why they didn’t include the standalone into the Master Plan serial, unless it was because they were planning to spin off characters and situations, and separated it from the rest of the serial. I’m just guessing.

Another companion, Dodo (like the bird), joined at the end of The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve (4 episodes, all missing), an historical serial about, you guessed it, the St Bartholomew’s Eve Massacre. At the end, they tied Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane) to one of the characters in 1572 Paris, and had her accidentally joining The Doctor and Steven around the universe.

There was one other historical episode, but it was awful. Atrocious. Even — dare I say it? — bad. The Gunfighters (4 episodes) took place in 1881 Arizona, in the little town called Tombstone. Yes, it was their Gunfight at the OK Corral episode. Star Trek did a better job with it. They got it all wrong, from the reason for the gunfight, to the participants, to who was killed, to … well, they got it all wrong.

Oh, and the usual horrible British-as-Western accents. Apparently, the BBC couldn’t find anyone who could do an American accent free to appear on Doctor Who. And, the writers couldn’t find their Encyclopedia Britannica to look up anything about the Gunfight.

Steven (Peter Purves) left at the end of the next-to-last serial of the season, The Savages (4 episodes, all missing). Dodo left at the end of the last serial, The War Machines (4 episodes), which took place in 1966 London. Two characters from that serial, Polly (Anneke Wills) and Ben (Michael Craze), accidentally left with The Doctor as the episode, serial, and season ended.

A little more about The War Machines. The plot was to hook up computers from all over the world together (pre-Al Gore Internet?). Oh, and the central computer decided to take over the world and enslave humanity. Kind of a pre-Terminator Skynet. And, next time you’re on Jeopardy and the answer is “The only serial of the classic Doctor Who series where The Doctor is called ‘Doctor Who,’” you’ll have the question ready.

Oh, that season was hard to get through. Some of the stories were okay, but the reconstructed episodes are often hard to follow. I find it necessary at times to read synopsis after reconstructed episodes to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I often do.

Funny thing, though. I had understood that William Hartnell left at the end of Season Three. I wasn’t expecting him at the opening of Season Four. Well, now I am.

Time to tune the Roku to the TARDIS and see how that worked out.

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Classic Doctor Who Season Two

Sunday, January 5, 2014 10:00 am

DoctorWhoSeason2CrewMy venture into the world of Doctor Who (explained here) continued into the second season. I was under the weather in the days after Christimas, and spent lots of time doing nothing but relaxing. TV was always an option, and I watched several episodes of the show.

The second season was 9 serials comprising 39 episodes. Almost all the episodes exist — only 2 are missing.

The cast changes started. The entire complement of companions was changed by the end of the season.

Carole Ann Ford, who played Susan Foreman (the Doctor’s granddaughter) left early in the season because she was displease with the development of the character. They wrote her out by having her fall in love with a farmer and having the Doctor decide she needed her own life, so he left her behind as she pleaded with him at the door of the TARDIS.

In the next serial (The Rescue, 2 episodes) introduced Vicki (no last name) played by Maureen O’Brien. I read reports that the producers wanted her to cut her hair and darken it, leading her to tell them that if they wanted someone that looked like Carole Ann Ford, they ought to sign Carole Ann Ford. She kept her hair.

Late in the season (The Chase, 6 episodes), Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill) and Ian Chesterton (William Russell) left the show. The Doctor allowed them to take a Dalek time machine and return to their own time. Sorta. They returned to 1965 London, having left 1963 London two years earlier. I wonder how they explained their disappearance from the school where they were teaching, along with one of their students. I also wonder how they knew the song Ticket To Ride. During the first episode of the serial, they all watched The Beatles performing that song on television. Barbara and Ian seemed to know it. Considering they left Earth in November 1963 before With The Beatles (the group’s second UK album) has been released, and over a week before I Want To Hold Your Hand was released, there’s no reason for them to be familiar with the song. Unless The Doctor had one heckuva iPod.

They picked up an astronaut, Steven Taylor (Peter Purves), who stowed away aboard the TARDIS after the most recent defeat of the Daleks (The Chase). Purves got the job after having appeared as a rube from Alabama atop the Empire State Building earlier in the Dalek series that saw Barbara and Ian leave the show (The Chase).

The season had three historical serials, The Romans (4 episodes, during the time of Nero), The Crusade (4 episodes, 2 missing but reconstructed via stills and the audio soundtrack, dealing with Richard I and the Third Crusade), The Time Meddler (4 episodes, set just before the Battle of Stamford Bridge).

There were two serials featuring the Daleks, The Dalek Invasion of Earth (6 episodes, ending with Susan’s departure) and The Chase (6 episodes, ending the Ian’s and Barbara’s departures). The Dalek Invasion of Earth would later be the basis for the Dr. Who movie, Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. starring Peter Cushing (the RiffTrax crew recently had fun with that one).

The really cheesy giant ants (the Zarbi) in The Web Planet gave me a chuckle.


The giant butterflies (the Menoptra) in that serial were also kinda funny, as were the Optera (not really caterpillars), who where wingless butterflies with faux Japanese accents. Maybe the accents were supposed to be faux Chinese. It’s hard to tell which particular Orientals were being insulted by the actors, but I lean towards the Japanese.

I gather that the Daleks are the most popular villains in the Doctor Who universe. I still think they’re silly, and get tired of them wanting the Doctor and his companions to be exterminated, exterminated, exterminated.

Oh, well. I’ll watch Season Three and see what happens. I know that the Second Doctor is in Season Four. I’m curious to see the regeneration, which so far, hasn’t been mentioned. Every threat to the Doctor’s life has seemed to be permanent. Perhaps they hadn’t thought if it yet, and won’t until they figure a way to write out William Hartnell.

For now, it’s back to the TARDIS.

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Classic Doctor Who Season One

Sunday, December 29, 2013 10:00 am

IMG_0525I mentioned a this past week that I was watching the classic Doctor Who episodes. Harvey asked me to let him know if I found any redeeming qualities in them. After watching Season One, I’ll give my impressions and perhaps answer his question.

I mentioned that I was only able to watch some episodes, since not all are available.

Turns out there are more of those than I thought. Hulu carries many episodes from the first season, but some episodes are missing from their lineup. Some, Hulu just doesn’t carry (not sure why, but there’s probably a good reason). Some simply no longer exist, after the tapes were destroyed. But, it seems, the Doctor Who world (that is, the shows legions of fans, not Gallifrey) won’t let a silly thing like episodes not existing stop them.

Here’s the deal. While Hulu carries 23 episodes from Season One, a total of 42 were made. Of those remaining 19 episodes, 10 exist, and 9 are lost/destroyed. But, I’ve watched them all. Kind of.

Turns out that DailyMotion has a lot of episodes available, including those missing-from-Hulu ten from Season One, plus two others that were reanimated by the BBC; those look like some of the Japanese cartoons you’ll see on Adult Swim. That left seven missing episodes. Some fans have obtained the audio (the videos were destroyed, but audio tracks still exist) and made movies using stills from the missing episodes.

All that means I’ve now watched all 42 episodes from Season One.

To answer Harvey’s question, I’m not sure if there are redeeming qualities. But, I find the show oddly appealing. It’s a little silly at times, cheaply made like most TV from that era, particularly British shows. Some shows are played for laughs, others try to be serious.

One of the criticisms I read of The Reign of Terror series was that it expected the viewer to know some actual history about the French Revolution. And any show that treats the audience as if they’re at least half-way intelligent can’t be all bad.

In the first season, I learned why the TARDIS always looks like a Police Call box (the thingy that makes it change appearances to blend in with its surrounding broke after it landed in 1963 London), saw the Doctor’s first encounter with the Daleks (I still they they look silly, with the plumber’s helper coming out the front), heard him give a full name for himself (“John Smith,” but he wasn’t serious), and learned that the Aztecs spoke with British accents.

Redeeming qualities? Other than expecting the audience to have a little bit of sense, there’s not much. But that, in and of itself, is head and shoulders above just about everything you see on TV today.

I’ll watch at least another season of cheesy episodes. But, unless you really want to hear about it, I’ll keep the reviews to myself.

For now, excuse me. I have a TARDIS to catch.

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