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Fourth Doctor: Planet of Evil
An excellent story, which I think I enjoyed most of all for its portrayal of Sarah Jane, and her relationship with the Doctor. She was just so plugged in all the way through, constantly coming up with ideas and suggestions, and very much functioning as an equal partner to the Doctor. Take, for example, the moment when the two of them were about to be ejected into space by the Morestran captain, and the Doctor was barely conscious due to just having been shot, so that it was Sarah who took on his usual role of letting the captain know in no uncertain terms that he was about to commit murder. Although I don't mean to imply by this that she needs the Doctor to be semi-conscious for her to shine - far from it.

By this stage, Sarah clearly knows the Doctor incredibly well. She sees straight through his attempts to appear more in control of events than he really is, and is ready to tease him about it - for example, when he's having difficulty operating the TARDIS at the beginning of the first episode, or when he has no idea where they are once they've landed. But it's not all one-sided - he's learnt how she works too. When he leaves her in the control-room of the Morestran ship to go off and confront Sorenson and the anti-matter monsters roaming around the rest of it, she begins, 'Doctor...', to which he responds, 'Yes, I know - I'll take care.' The sense of his inherent alienness is still maintained by the use of an indulgent grin, as though he can't quite understand why she's so attached to him. But he knows it matters to her.

The subject-matter of the story reflects a continuing interest in energy sources after the oil-rig motif in Terror of the Zygons. The whole plot is driven by the Morestrans' ill-guided attempts to harness the energy of dodgy glowing rocks in order to compensate for the dying of their own sun, which can easily be mapped on to contemporary anxieties about nuclear power stations. And once again, the Doctor is pro-alternative energy, this time suggesting that the Morestrans harness the kinetic energy of their planet's movement for power.

It's also fun that the Morestrans bring their problems on themselves - especially through the greed of Sorenson and the stubborn arrogance of their captain. The 'alien menace' this time is merely defending itself, rather than attacking in some sort of territorial expansion bid, which makes the Doctor's position in the middle of it all particularly interesting. The Lonely God theme is prevalent here again, as he chides the Morestrans for their stupidity, and acts as a negotiating agent with the beings of the anti-matter universe on behalf of the universe we know. He even says explicitly at one point that he'd be tempted to let the Morestrans destroy themselves if it wasn't for the fact that they would destroy the whole universe at the same time. Hence, he's acting as the universe's guardian, not the Morestrans' hero.

Special effects were slightly weak when it came to representing the anti-matter monsters - but then again I thought a few lighting effects, suspension wires and variations to the film speed did a very good job of conveying the Doctor's experiences in the anti-universe, so it just shows what can be achieved even on a tight budget. The Wikipedia article is quite right about the plot resemblences to Jekyl and Hyde and the Tenth Doctor story, 42 (both especially in the final episode), although I couldn't comment about The Forbidden Planet, because I haven't seen it.

Third Doctor: The Claws of Axos
This one came my way fairly randomly, in that it was a duplicate video big_daz passed on to me. But then again, I think I've been mentally gearing up to re-discovering Three anyway, especially after exchanges like this and this. My preconceptions before watching the episode were that, much as I'd liked both Pertwee's Doctor and Jo Grant (and especially her flared trouser suits) when I was fifteen, these days I was more likely to find him patronising and unlikeable, and her weak and disappointing as a character.

To some extent, those were born out. Three can certainly be sarcastic, grumpy and snappy - and while so can Four, he does it far less frequently, and tempers it with a boyish charm that makes it almost impossible to dislike him for it. Three also shows very little real liking for Jo, and is entirely ready to drop her at a moment's notice for the sake of escaping from the Earth. Even if I don't like a companion much myself, I want to believe that the Doctor is capable of being a bit more charitable and compassionate towards them than this. Meanwhile, Jo herself often seemed rather dumb and naive, and also tended somewhat towards whining and histrionics. I'm afraid I found myself suspecting that the latter was basically because Katy Manning just isn't a very subtle or complex actress. However, with all that said I could see redeeming features to both characters as individuals, and to the way the relationship between them was portrayed.

For one thing, Three's grumpiness needs to be seen in the same light as One's stand-offishness right back at the very beginning. This time, he's not just exiled from Gallifrey - he's trapped on Earth. So no matter how much he might love the place (and he does risk being trapped in a perpetual time-loop with the Axons to save it), he's going to be a bit fed up. Which isn't to say it's an emotional state I want to see more than a couple of stories' worth of. Jo, meanwhile, does get some reasonably decent moments. She realises much more quickly than the Brigadier how the Axons have replicated the American agent (Bill Filer), and at one point also directly challenges the Doctor about whose side he is actually on. Meanwhile, he's not completely dismissive of her. He believes her when she says she has heard Bill Filer's voice in the Axon ship, even though he pretends not to in front of the Axonites, and there's also rather a nice scene when he helps bring her back from a total hallucinatory freak-out in the Axon ship by asking her Maths questions. I'd thought for a second he might actually slap her instead, so the Maths came as a great relief.

Other notable features of the story, good and bad, included:
  • Annoying incidental music.
  • A supporting character played by the chap who was Lord Meldrum in You Rang M'Lord. I think he's awesome, and deserves to have had a higher-profile career than he actually did. Also, he got to call the TARDIS an 'obsolete police box'.
  • Some quite hammy special effects - although I liked it when they blew up a Jeep.
  • Jo Grant wearing a very short skirt - she may be annoying, but she's still pretty cute.
  • Interesting little glimpses into the TARDIS - I see it still has antique furniture dotted about the place, as in Hartnell's day, while it also seems to have an antechamber between the main doors of the console room and the actual outside world, which I've not noticed in any other era, but does help to smooth over the awkward difference in appearance between the console room doors and the outside of the TARDIS.
  • Some decent scenes with the Master, although I don't think this is his best story - he's under-used, and not really necessary to the plot at all.

I will watch more Pertwee episodes at some point, but it will be for the sake of understanding the series as a whole, and particularly the build-up to Tom Baker's era and the character of the Master, rather than for his portrayal of the Doctor. In fact, I've already equipped myself with a copy of The Time Warrior - but only so that I can see the origins of Sarah Jane. Other than for that sort of reason, Pertwee is low priority, and the only other Doctor I can think of over whom I'd give him precedence is Six. Given the vast number of stories I still have to watch before that kind of play-off becomes an issue, I don't see him featuring all that much in my Who-watching any time soon.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 3rd, 2008 09:54 pm (UTC)
Claws of Axos is one of the last of Pertwee's I've seen and I don't think it was one of the best. I thought Spearhead from Space, Inferno, Terror of the Autons, The Mind of Evil, The Daemons and Carnival of Monsters are amongst his better ones.

Excellent write-ups. Can I recommend two fantastic Doctor Who Youtube videos you might like:

"Foot Tapper"

"Flight of the Darned"
Feb. 3rd, 2008 11:01 pm (UTC)
Hee, thanks! I'd seen the second one before (I think someone posted it on the doctorwho comm), but not the first, and it was hilarious!

Do I know you, BTW? I don't mind at all if not - randoms always welcome. Just curious.
Feb. 4th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
You probably don't know me. I am just a random who surfs around.

Babelcolour has a wealth of great stuff, including lots of amusing tributes to the doctors and "Every Single Story":

And, have you seen the alternative "Five Doctors"? Part One's good, but if you haven't seen it, make sure you watch Part Two, in particular don't abandon it before the 'stone' sequence starting from about 1:45:
Feb. 4th, 2008 11:22 am (UTC)
Thanks - will definitely check them both out when I get a moment.
Feb. 4th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)
I don't think the comment on yr earlier thread re Pertwee and female companions is entirely fair. Check out the Liz Shaw stories, and Sarah Jane for that matter.
Feb. 4th, 2008 11:25 am (UTC)
No, indeed. In fact, I just watched the first two episodes of The Time Warrior last night - and WOW! Sarah Jane is just fantabulous, and Pertwee is much nicer so far as well (probably helps that his TARDIS is working again). So I may have a) been over-pessimistic, and b) got off to a rather bad start with Claws of Axos. But still, it doesn't seem very promising to me that there is such a bad start to get off to...
Feb. 4th, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC)
If I recall correctly, Pertwee felt that Liz Shaw kept on upstaging him and demanded she be written out. Hence the fact that Liz is there at the end of Pertwee's first season and gone at the start of the next one - no farewell episode. I don't like many Pertwee stories (and not just because Jo Grant is the antichrist) but quite a lot of the ones I do like have Liz in them.

- K
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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