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The Tom Baker era may be over for me, but there's a whole world of other Doctors out there still waiting to be discovered. As already stated, I'm starting my post-Baker viewing by catching up on Sarah Jane's adventures with the Third Doctor, because Sarah is the only person in the entire Whoniverse who can cheer me up in the absence of Four. In fact, in so doing, I'm picking up a thread I began in February with The Time Warrior, because even by then I loved her so much that I wanted to see where she had started out.


Third Doctor: Invasion of the Dinosaurs
It's possibly a pity for all concerned that continuing onwards from The Time Warrior meant that my first post-Baker Who was Invasion of the Dinosaurs. I mean, I tried with the dinosaurs - I really did. I even managed to enjoy the fight between the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the Brontosaurus outside the Tube station because, hell - even if it was done with badly-realised puppets, it was still a dinosaur fight, dammit! But when I progressed onto Death to the Daleks afterwards, it became quite clear that the 'special' effects in Invasion... were not merely bad (which is forgiveable) - they were bad for the time (which is not).

And that's a shame, because actually there's some good material here. The plot is quite straightforwardly political, in a rather charmingly idealistic way that I also recognise from Baker's season 12. It might seem a little simplistic now, but basic respect is due to an early '70s children's programme which set out to show that Pollution Is Bad For Our Planet, but that extremists who try to foist their solution to the problem onto everyone else are, too. What's more, there are some very neat little details of structure and setting that gently lift the production up to a higher level. For example, the way that children's paintings on the wall in the school which UNIT seem to have co-opted as their command headquarters echo the 'pollution' theme of the story: sailing-boats on a blue ocean and cacti in the desert, next to factories and aeroplanes. Or subtle little parallels being drawn between the Doctor and Professor Whittaker (the evil!scientist behind it all), when the two of them are shown in close succession getting annoyed at people interrupting their work.

My primary reason for watching, of course, was Sarah Jane, and she entirely lived up to my expectations! I noticed right back when I was watching The Ark in Space that Sarah doesn't work quite as well in off-Earth stories as she does on her home territory, where she has her own resources and her own motivations to draw on - and that rule plays very much in her favour in Invasion.... In fact, her desire to get a good story out of what is going on gives her a much-needed and very plausible reason to continue hanging around the Doctor, without having to compromise her independence of character at this stage by having her trapped with him against her will on an alien planet. Instead we can see her busily throwing herself into the action, investigating leads, asking searching questions, working out people's nefarious schemes, pulling off tricks of her own and generally demanding better treatment for all. Yet still she retains the innocence and vulnerability that makes her believable and loveable, too - like her horrified reaction when she sees a burglar who has just been looting a property killed in front of her. That balance is a winning formula - as, of course, Donna has shown recently, too.

Sarah also made a sterling contribution to my ability to reconcile to a not-Baker!Doctor - especially Pertwee, whom I'd been distinctly put off thanks to a random viewing of The Claws of Axos. One of the first moments when I found myself actually quite liking him was when I saw the stab of concern go through him at hearing that Sarah had been taken off by the crooked and aggressive General Finch. And I liked the jokey, pally relationship that's starting to develop between the two of them, too, and especially her sweet little smile when he won her the right to stay in London with the UNIT crew by saying that she is presently acting as his assistant. Yes, he may be a bit more Deadly Serious about things than Four, but there's a warm side to him too which I'm starting to like. That said, I really don't like the Venusian aikido business: it's the equivalent of K-9's laser or Ten's sonic screwdriver, making things far too easy for him and utterly wiping out any chance of the sort of suffering!Doctor material that I like so much with Four. And as for the Whomobile - WTF? This is Doctor Who, not James Bond or Tomorrow's World! And where had it even come from anyway? Why would the Doctor build it? Bring back Bessie, I say.

Invasion is, of course, also a UNIT story: which is a setting I only really have a passing familiarity with from early Baker and isolated snippets of Pertwee. Obviously, in this particular case, it meant that the emotional impact of Yates' betrayal was rather lost on me, since although I know he's a regular character, I've only seen him once before in Claws..., and had almost no sense of him as a developed character. Still, for all that, the Doctor's confrontation with him towards the end of the story was compelling, as was the tension between the Brigadier and General Finch. Particularly fascinating was a sequence at the start of the sixth episode, when the Doctor was first saved from certain death in the jaws of a Tyrannosaurus Rex by the arrival of a Brontosaurus, only then to be saved seconds later from capture by General Finch by the arrival of the Brigadier. Would the Who team really have shoved such an outright visual metaphor into the middle of their story: UNIT personnel as dinosaurs? Well, given that the only straightforward, fully Earth-bound UNIT story still to go after this one is Robot, and that was fairly obviously designed to serve as a bridging episode with a familiar format while viewers got used to a new Doctor, I think we can safely say that they did.

New Who watch notes a nice little inter-play between the beginning of this story and the beginning of The Stolen Earth. Specifically, in Invasion, when the Doctor and Sarah Jane first get out of the TARDIS and find suburban London streets deserted, the Doctor speculates that this could be because it is a Sunday; while as they move around, one of the signs of strange goings-on which they encounter is an abandoned milk-float. Meanwhile in Stolen, the apparently perfectly normal scene which the Doctor and Donna see after they step out of the TARDIS is confirmed by a milkman to be part of a Saturday... but as soon as they leave, we see his float trembling as the first signs of impending disaster strike. Just one more reason why watching Classic Who and New Who alongside each other enhances both.

The random appearances of dinosaurs and (at one stage) a medieval peasant across central London also had something of the Torchwood about it (especially End of Days); while the scenes of Sarah Jane and the Doctor exploring a London empty of all but looters in the first episode reminded me of the beginning of 28 Days Later - and also gained quite a lot in terms of desolate atmosphere, I felt, from the fact that they only survive in black and white. Oh, and poor old Martin Jarvis. He played a perfectly good role as second villain, Butler - but thanks to Dead Ringers, I simply cannot take him seriously (if, that is, I ever could have done anyway). Never mind - I am sure he is laughing all the way to his next Radio 4 recording.


Third Doctor: Death to the Daleks
Between its nicely-judged location footage, its really-pretty-decent studio sets (especially in the City) and its simple-but-effective Exxilon costumes, this story definitely comes across as having vastly higher production values than Invasion.... I particularly liked the way the Exxilons were designed to blend in so well with their planet's surface topography, actually: they definitely score over the Ood for plausible adaptation to their environment.

The story is sound enough, and I appreciated the interesting things it did with the Daleks: rendering them (temporarily) impotent, forcing them to cooperate with both their most hated enemy and what they regard as primitive beings, and even eliciting sympathy a couple of times as they are hopelessly overpowered and killed. Kudos especially for the sight of the poor, hapless Dalek near the end who has allowed Sarah Jane to escape, and who spins madly round shouting "I have failed! Self-destruct!" before blowing himself to smithereens! It was also interesting to see the TARDIS temporarily deadened, and I thought that the Doctor and Bellal's progress through the traps and puzzles in the City was a lot better handled than the rush job given to the similar scenes in Pyramids of Mars.

Sarah Jane's character continues to grow beautifully. Obviously she's on an alien planet for the first time here, but although she is really, really scared when she's trapped in the darkened TARDIS console with an aggressive alien, by the middle of the second episode she is able to joke bravely in the face of danger as she and the Doctor head down the Exxilons' tunnel system to find out what nasty fate awaits them. In fact, I think it's when the Doctor smiles at this and puts his arm protectively around her that their relationship is really cemented. And, of course, there's also some nice light-hearted banter between them at the beginning, as they prepare for what they think will be a nice little trip to the planet Florana. Oh, and the sight of Pertwee here twirling a nice multi-coloured beach umbrella reminds me - is it a rule that all Doctors have to have a comedy scene with an umbrella at some point? I can certainly think of them for Two, Four and Six, while Seven goes without saying really: so only One and Five are needed for a full (Classic) house. Equivalent scenes for them on a postcard LJ comment, please.

On the down side, though, it's a bit hard to accept that the Daleks should really be vulnerable to the same plague as the human colonists, and hence suddenly have a hitherto-unmentioned driving need for Parrinium. I also Disapproved (in a stern and finger-wagging manner) of a scene in which it was suggested that the Exxilons' ancestors had taught the people of Earth how to build the stepped pyramids of Peru, and even the Doctor said that otherwise it was a mystery how such structures could have been created, when 'primitive man' clearly wasn't capable of building them. I would say, "Gah! Bad archaeology!", but frankly Bonekickers makes it look positively sane and responsible. Oh, and finally - I know that in episode four we find out that the red-and-white geometric floor inside the City is deadly, but at the end of episode three that hasn't been established yet, and hence it makes for possibly one of the worst Doctor Who cliff-hangers I've ever seen. "Behold! Our terrifying interior décor! Duh, duh, duuuhhh!" Erm - no.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
steer
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:29 pm (UTC)
This is Doctor Who, not James Bond

I know what you mean but then I did say that I kind of liked that about three that he had an element of camp sixties spy kitsch.

By the way, you didn't mention the quite creepy deserted london part of dinosaurs which I think really is one of its great strengths in the first episode. That is genuinely quite startling and a bit scary -- kind of "day of the triffids".
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 08:38 am (UTC)
I did, briefly - see the last paragraph on that story, where I say how the black and white footage actually contributes to that.

(But don't worry - I don't expect people to read every word, and there won't be a test! ;-) )
steer
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:10 am (UTC)
*blush* So you did. I skipped that paragraph because it had the word Torchwood in it. (No really, it was subconscious, I didn't mean to). Are you watching all the "three" episodes now then?

As I've said before, I really enjoy them. Sometimes though you feel the script just says "action sequence, five minutes, run around a bit".
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:16 am (UTC)
That's a perfectly justifiable reason for skipping any paragraph, in my view!

I probably will watch all the Three stories eventually, but at the moment I'm just concentrating on his last season with Sarah Jane. After that, I'll mainly be working through the Hartnell and Troughton eras, but also mopping up those stories from the later Doctors that are available on DVD.

I am enjoying Three so far, in spite of myself. I wanted to hate him for not being Four, but actually he totally doesn't deserve that. :-) I do know what you mean about the chase sequences, though!
lefaym
Jul. 23rd, 2008 10:30 pm (UTC)
I watched both of these episodes last week myself.

I loved Invasion of the Dinosaurs, even though I dissolved into fits of laughter every time any actual dinosaurs appeared. My boyfriend hadn't seen it since he was a little kid, and when he heard that I was watching it, he said excitedly, "It had a T-Rex! It was the coolest thing ever!" This, of course, made me laugh more. :)

I agree with what you said about Sarah being at her best in earth-situations. I hadn't thought of that before, but now that I look back on it, I definitely see what you mean. You have more of that to look forward to in Planet of the Spiders, and also more development of Mike Yates as a character, which, I think, helps you understand the impact of his actions in Invasion retrospectively.

There are certainly a lot of parallels between this episode and both Robot and The Ark in Space (particularly the former), which makes me wonder if that was done intentionally to ease people into Tom Baker's Doctor by providing a strong sense of thematic continuity. It's also rather depressing though, to recognise that people really have recognised the threat to the environment for so long, and yet we still haven't fixed our infrastructure to deal with it. I also find it interesting that both Invasion and Robot seem to imply that the only way we'd get anything done about the environment is fascism-- which is just as unacceptable human-caused environmental degredation. There is at least a counterpoint to this, if you watch the third Doctor serial Inferno, which I would highly recommend if you haven't seen it-- in that one, the fascist society means that they are more efficient at destroying the earth.

That's a great point about the way that The Stolen Earth hearkens back to the beginning of Invasion. At some point I want to make a list of all the references to Old Who in TSE/JE-- there were, of course, the obvious references to Genesis of the Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, but there were so many other themes and motifs that I recognised from older episodes (although I confess I'm drawing a blank right now-- I swear, I picked up on heaps of them though! :P)

I always find the old portrayals of UNIT interesting too. I know a lot of people were upset by the portrayal of UNIT in Torchwood, in particular, with the obvious Guantanamo Bay references, but I do have a sense, while watching the old UNIT episodes, that the organisation was always living under the threat that it could become something nasty, and that it was only the Brigadeer (and by proxy, the Doctor) stopping it from tipping over that brink.

Okay, I need to get going now, and I don't have time to comment on Death to the Daleks, but I pretty much agree with what you've said anyway, and I don't have much interesting to add. :)
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 08:59 am (UTC)
Aw, that's cute about your boyfriend and the dinosaurs! Still, it's good to know that it 'worked' for kids at the time, if he still remembers it as really exciting. :-)

I haven't seen Inferno yet, but I'll bear in mind what you say when I come to it. Sounds interesting. And I just finished Monster of Peladon last night, so Planet of the Spiders is next in line - yay!

And I do think you're right about the precarious balance with UNIT. Even from the relatively limited number of their stories which I've seen, it's quite obvious that the dynamic is basically that they respond to an alien menace with poorly-thought out violence, while the Doctor points out that this won't work and / or is unwarranted, and the Brigadier concedes the point against his original judgement. I can well believe that they'd go a bit haywire without the Doc or the Brig around; and I also appreciated the way that that same basic story was played out in the Sontaran Stragem and Poison Sky episodes this season.

Thanks for all your comments - I hope we'll have more weeks when we've managed to watch the same episodes!
(Deleted comment)
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:03 am (UTC)
Bless - I'll see what I can do.
big_daz
Jul. 24th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC)
If you thought the Whomobile was annoying in Invasion, just wait until you get to Planet of the Spiders- theres a whole episode of Whomobile car-chasery in that. I think they ran out of script so they just had a big chase as a filler.

I watched this season when it was on originally and as a nipper thought the stories were ace, particularly the dinosaurs (there was a bit of a fad for dinosaurs in the early 70s, possibly due to The Land That Time Forgot). Imagine my disappointment when I saw it again years later on UK Gold and realised how bad the effects were :-S. I'd agree with Mr Steer though- the deserted London in Ep 1 still cuts the mustard.

Another thing- we got our first colour telly in 1973 (round aboout the time I turned 5 I think) so I've seen Episode 1 in colour. Go me.
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:07 am (UTC)
No, I agree about the deserted London stuff, too!

And there's a weird cognitive dissonance for me about the idea of you having seen the first episode in colour. See, I'm perfectly used to bits of things being missing - gaping holes in Classical literature, broken statues and vanished archaeology are an integral part of my job. But because of that, I'm really finding it hard to get my head around the idea that there are thousands of living people on this planet who have actually seen all the missing (or b/w only) episodes of Doctor Who. Surely these issues only affect the ancient past? Does not compute! Does not compute!
big_daz
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
In years to come, instead of having pages on the Last Surviving Veterans of WWI, Wikipedia will have pages dedicated to last surviving viewers of Tenth Planet Episode 4.

Or possibly not..
swisstone
Jul. 24th, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)
When I first saw 'Invasion of the Dinosaurs' (yes, I know, two years before you were born), I also didn't get the impact of the Mike Yates traitor scene, because he hadn't made much of an impression. I had seen all the UNIT stories from 'The Daemons' onwards, but somehow, whilst the Brig and Benton had had an impact, Mike hadn't (even though I'm sure I do remember him a bit from 'The Green Death'). Other than that, it's grand, especially with the deserted London bits in the first couple of episodes. 28 Days later is probably influenced by Who of the later 1960s and early 1970s, unless its going back to the source, which is 50s stuff like Quatermass and The Day The Earth Caught Fire.
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:09 am (UTC)
he hadn't made much of an impression

Well, yeah - in fact, the only reason I know I saw him in Claws... was because I checked on Wikipedia, and saw that he was in the cast-list. I don't actually remember him in it at all!
huskyteer
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)
I find Pertwee-era Who very rich in suffering!Doctor - my massive hurt/comfort kink is probably one of the reasons he's my favourite incarnation. He spends large amounts of his first story, Spearhead from Space, unconscious; that was, I think, the point at which I got hooked.
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
Oh, well that sounds promising - I always like unconscious!Doctor. I also noticed that we got a bit of that in Monster of Peladon, which I finished watching last night but haven't written up yet, so I shall be sure to give it due recognition in my review.
huskyteer
Jul. 24th, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC)
You like unconscious Doctors? Boy do you have Pertwee treats in store!
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)
I certainly do! At least if the Doctor concerned is sexay, anyway... I don't think Pertwee is ever going to work for me on that front - but I can still enjoy the heroic suffering anyway.
weepingcross
Jul. 24th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
Have you ever seen Toyah Wilcox talking about her reaction to the Pertwee Dr? 'You want me to follow you into that blue box? Yeah! Whatever! Wherever!'

(I may be slightly misquoting).
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
Hehehe! Well, I suppose there is a Doctor for all of us...
rosaguestlist
Jul. 24th, 2008 06:32 pm (UTC)
Hmm, Pertwee is not my favourite Doctor really. I tend to dislike the kung fu just for its violent connotation - this is supposed to be the man who never carries weapons. And, yes, Pertwee's aspirations to be an intergalactic Jeremy Clarkson are also less than engaging. I agree about the apocalyptic elements of Dinosaurs although I also tend to think that had been done better before - Web of Fear or the Dalek Invasion of Earth.

You're probably wise to stick to the Sarah Jane stories, although the Liz Shaw stories are quite good too. Just avoid the stories with the assistant-that-must-not-be-named.

- K
strange_complex
Jul. 24th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
Ah, well the delights of Web of Fear and Dalek Invasion still await me... And in the same vein, I think I will end up having to watch even the episodes with that assistant. She's in The Daemons after all, and I'm dying to see that!
(Anonymous)
Jul. 25th, 2008 07:49 pm (UTC)
Noooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

- K
(Anonymous)
Jul. 26th, 2008 05:10 pm (UTC)
Liz Shaw was a cracking companion, very under-rated IMO.

However, if you're going to watch Pertwee, you'll have to face that TATMNBN was in (if I've counted them correctly) 77 episodes (compared with 25 for Liz and 26 for Sarah).

If you leave out TATMNBN you leave out some of the best Pertwee stories. Not only the Daemons, but I'd also single out Terror of the Autons, the Three Doctors (perhaps not a great story but fantastic to see Troughton in good form in colour) and Carnival of Monsters. I feel the Sarah Jane season was not particularly strong although the Time Warrior and Planet of the Spiders are good.

And when you get round to the Sea Devils (not one of my favourites, though some people like it), watch out for a humorous connection between Old Who and New Who.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 26th, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
I see from the comment below you've already watched 'Monster of Peladon'. Are you aware there was an earlier 'Curse of Peladon' as well? Might be worth watching both before writing them up?

I'm surprised you didn't mention the scene from Death to the Daleks where the Daleks test their new weapons on a tiny model TARDIS. IMO, one of the funniest scenes from the Pertwee era!
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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