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Fourth Doctor: Pyramids of Mars
Definitely enjoyed this one - playing around with Egyptiana is always fun, and there's such a rich heritage of popular mythology around it, which this story makes great use of. I thought the final denouement was slightly rushed, meaning that the Doctor's method of defeating Sutekh seemed a bit hand-wavey, and the puzzles and traps in Horus' pyramid didn't really get the screen-time they deserved - the 'knights and knaves' puzzle, for example, was awfully rushed compared to its equivalent in Labyrinth. And obviously Sutekh is a bit of a one-dimensional monster, really. But overall, good stuff, with some interesting elements.

One thing that's clearly going on here is the beginnings of closure for the long-running UNIT arc. Up to this point in Tom Baker's incarnation, there's remained a continuing sense that the Doctor is still closely involved with UNIT (as, for example, in Terror of the Zygons), and and only popping off and doing other things in between. But this story begins with some outright angst from the Doctor about how he should be doing something better with his life than running around after the Brigadier, and it of course also ends up with the rather symbolic burning of a priory on the future site of the UNIT headquarters. The angst seems rather out of keeping with the rest of the story, and is arguably somewhat melodramatic on Tom Baker's part, but its story function is obviously to remind us of UNIT and establish a change in the Doctor's attitude towards his role with them. I know there's still a couple more UNIT-related stories to come, but you can really feel the gears starting to shift here.

Also fun was an explicit look at time travel theory: when Sarah Jane suggests just abandoning 1911 to Sutekh's crew and escaping to 1980, the Doctor explains that if they leave without helping to defeat Sutekh, his destruction of the world in 1911 will mean that the Earth in 1980 is nothing but a wasteland - and indeed demonstrates this directly by taking Sarah there and showing her. This constitutes the view of time travel whereby everything a time-traveller does in his or her past had already 'happened', and hence contributed to the present the traveller knew, before they actually went back in time and did it from the perspective of their own time-line. It's perfectly consistent with the Doctor inspiring the fire of Rome in The Romans, and seems to be the basic theory behind most Who time travel - although I know not in all cases.

Plus I enjoyed the rather touching moment where the Doctor mistakes Sarah Jane for Vicki Victoria, because she is wearing one of her old dresses - it's always nice to keep the continuity fires gently smouldering. And loved the following fabulously self-referential exchange:
Doctor: 'A priest-hole? In a Victorian Gothic mansion? Nonsense.'
Sarah Jane: 'You're so pedantic, at a time like this! Does it matter?'
Not to these script-writers, apparently. :-)

Fourth Doctor: The Android Invasion
Oh, this was lovely! Well-plotted, well-paced, plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing, plenty of threats and peril and paranoia - and yet so light-hearted and unlaboured at the same time. There are dozens of lovely hat-tips to other works in the general fantasy genre - like The Prisoner (isolated village populated by strangely non-human people, and I'm sure there's an episode in which Patrick McGoohan ends up fighting himself - The Schizoid Man, I suppose), The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (zombie-people rising up out of pods and pointing at their human victims) and any number of Hammer films (grumpy landlord reluctantly serving the outsider). And yet it doesn't feel slavish - it's a fresh story, all of its own, bursting with cool ideas and exciting sequences and great lines and lovely shots of the Doctor and Sarah Jane running around a beautiful Oxfordshire village in the sunshine. But along the way it draws skilfully and cleverly from a wide palette of motifs, always acknowledging the originals as it goes. How right, then, that it should have bequeathed masked androids with transparent plastic insides to The Girl in the Fireplace and a shot of the Doctor looking through a dart-board to Voyage of the Damned.

Intriguing question of the episode: when the Doctor is disoriented and semi-conscious after having his mind scanned by the Kraal, he calls Sarah Jane 'Tilly'. So who's Tilly? There's no known companion of that name, but after the reference to Vicki Victoria in the previous story we're primed for the Doctor to be referencing real people he's once known in moments of distraction. I wonder if this has ever been picked up in spin-off novels or fanfic?

Also interesting was Sarah Jane's cheerful announcement at the end of the story that she was off home, thanks, and in a taxi, not the TARDIS. She doesn't take much persuading to change her mind, but it's a nice method of keeping her character independent; reminding us that much as she likes the Doctor, she has her own life to go to.

Coolest line - the Doctor invents mobile phones:
"I always told Alexander Bell that wires were unreliable"

Third Doctor: The Time Warrior
Finally, after being distinctly underwhelmed by The Claws of Axos, I thought I'd give the Third Doctor another go, and simultaneously encounter Sarah Jane for the first time. For the record, this story also constituted my first ever adventure into Downloading Telly Off The Internet (as opposed to just watching it on YouTube or iPlayer, or being given it on a disc already burnt by someone else). I've always avoided it before, on the grounds that it seemed like an awful lot of faff - and it is. But I guess worth it if there's something you really want to see.

Three was definitely much more enjoyable to watch in this story than in Claws. He's still quite dark and serious, and obviously will never have the child-like sense of wide-eyed wonder than makes me love Four so much. But at least in this story he's friendly, polite and even quite philanthropic towards the people he encounters, which is a great improvement. And as for Sarah Jane! Oh, my giddy aunt. She is electric. The instant she appears on screen, it's like the volume, the brightness and the resolution have all simultaneously been turned up by fifty percent. She steals the show, parring beautifully with the Doctor right from the start, and even though I know her pretty well by this stage from later episodes, I just couldn't take my eyes off her. Although the Doctor isn't won over straight away, by the end of the story he actually likes her, and appreciates her help - which I really wasn't getting with Jo in Claws. Also, she has awesome flares (as does the Doctor), although I think I like her later hairstyle a bit better.

The writing seems better, too - there were plenty of good lines (including one which I recognised from swisstone's userinfo page!), the Sontaran made much more sense in medieval England than he did in The Sontaran Experiment, the overall plot worked well and the individual characters were good fun (though obviously rabid stereotypes, apparently largely drawn from the pages of Robin Hood). And I couldn't help but think that a young and impressionable Blackadder writer must have been watching when I heard Bloodaxe crowing to Irongron, "Ohh, 'tis a cunning plan, captain!"

I'll probably follow this up with the rest of Sarah Jane's Three stories as and when I get the time. But it'll still be for her sake more than for his.

And tell me, Penny, why did you evidently start writing this entry five minutes after Torchwood had started - especially given that it is actually really pretty good nowadays? Well, gentle reader, the answer is that my Sky signal is suffering intermittent interference on any channels with 'BBC' or 'ITV' in their name - particularly BBC2 and ITV1 - to the extent that they are frequently unwatchable. And I don't really have time to do anything about it just now, especially since I suspect that 'doing something about it' will ultimately involve me having to pay money to Sky to fix or replace my dish. So I'm getting by with iPlayer at the moment. But it's pretty bloody annoying, especially when you've been looking forward to a programme all day. :-( ETA: and especially when everyone on your friends list suddenly starts posting about a very exciting spoiler, and you have not seen it yet, and scream, pout, *stamps foot*.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 14th, 2008 12:32 am (UTC)
*grin* I also loved The Pyramids of Mars... it's delightfully creepy isn't it?

I think The Time Warrior shows some of the better side of Pertwee as a doctor although it's far from my favourite of his episodes. Have you seen any of the more grand-themed ones he stars in when he gets to do his whole "secret agent" thing with running, jumping, shooting and venusian karate? I think he's at his best when he's being a sort of 60s spy type character.

I've been rewatching some of the Colin Baker era episodes myself. Interesting to see them because they were so reviled at the time.
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)
Any particular recommendations for Pertwee-as-Bond episodes? Although I think I just find the Venusian karate thing a bit laughable and annoying...

There are certainly those who defend Colin Baker to the hilt, and consider him vastly under-rated. I'm kind of neutral to uninterested on him at the moment - but I guess I'll give him a go at some point.
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:06 pm (UTC)
I think the Sea Devils is perhaps his most gadget-tastic -- but the monsters are awful. Then again, if you find Dr Who turning backflips and dodging minefields to be less than ideal you probably would not like it. It's been a while since I last watched it but I think perhaps Inferno is your ideal "all action" third doctor (I'm not sure how much Liz is in that one though).

You might enjoy The Daemons -- slightly kitsch horror of the Dennis Wheatley school -- though it's not him in full James Bond mode.
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
I have seen and enjoyed Sea Devils, but it was half a lifetime ago. And I do really enjoy the sort of action sequences Tom Baker does. But I think the difference is that they seem really quite hard and gruelling, and often he's clearly having a pretty rough time of it at the hands of whatever villain he's grappling with. From what I know of Jon Pertwee: Action Hero!, though, it seems all rather more cartoonish.

Kitsch Wheatley-esque horror sounds ace, though!
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:23 pm (UTC)
Ah... Sea-Devils has mines blown up with the sonic screwdriver, machine guns, hover craft -- actually isn't it also sea devils that has a chase on jet-skis? I know what you mean about cartoonish. In my mind it's filed with "Men from Uncle" and "Our Man Flint" under "over the top gadget based spy drama".
Feb. 14th, 2008 08:34 am (UTC)
Pyramids is a classic, and Sutekh has the creepiest of voices.

I remember being scared at the end of part 1 of the Tiem Warrior where he takes off his helmet to revela that his head is the same shape! Who'd have predicted that then?
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC)
Ah, well the helmet-lifting thing was kind of lost on me, 'cos I'd already seen The Sontaran Experiment. But I did think it was quite clever the way they left you guessing about what he actually looked like for ages, and then had the 'big reveal' as the cliff-hanger for the first episode.
Feb. 14th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC)
Point of order on 'Pyramids': The Doctor mistakes Sarah for Victoria, not Vicki - Victoria was a companion of the Second Doctor.

You are the only person I've ever encountered who likes 'The Android Invasion'. I think it's the weakest story by far of that season, and a throwback to the Pertwee era. (Not that I don't love the Pertwee era, but by '76 its time was done, and Baker had moved on to other types of story.)

Yes, I did take that line from 'Time Warrior'. And yes, Sarah is great in it, and pretty good the rest of the season. 'Monster of Peladon' has a marvellous Sarah bit in the middle, which is the only reason for watching that story.
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
1. Oh, yes - that makes much more sense, because the style of the dress is entirely in keeping with what Victoria wore, and not Vicki at all. I really thought he'd said 'Vicki', but I must have misheard.

2. Yes, I found some quite negative reviews of it, browsing around the place, which mainly focussed on holes in the plot, and the implausibility of various of the characters' actions. But although I like those elements to be at least vaguely watertight, it's not the primary reason I watch Who - I'm in it more for the development of the Doctor and the companion as characters, and the general exploration of alternative worlds and concepts. Both of which this story had in plenty, I thought. Also, I didn't think the plot-holes were that gaping, and in fact thought the whole thing was quite carefully worked out and structured.

3. Will look forward to the rest of the season, then!
Aug. 24th, 2008 11:28 am (UTC)
The Doctor mistakes Sarah for Victoria, not Vicki

Purely for the record, I'm just watching this story at the moment as part of the Sci-Fi channel's Bank Holiday Doctor Who marathon, and I can see now how my misunderstanding over this arose. When Sarah first comes into the console room wearing the dress, the Doctor actually does say "Hello, Vicky" - but he then goes on to explain that the dress belonged to Victoria, who used to travel with him. So I wasn't completely tripping when I thought I'd heard him say 'Vicky' (or 'Vicki') - it's just that he was using it as short for 'Victoria'.

Just clearing that up!
Aug. 24th, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC)
(Checks DVD.)

So he does. Which suggests that Bob Holmes had forgotten that there'd been a Vicki and a Victoria in the show's history.
Aug. 24th, 2008 01:42 pm (UTC)
Yes, it seems so. Either that or he's trying to suggest the Doctor himself is so distracted by his melancholy musings that he's conflating the two. But merely having forgotten seems more likely!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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