The Mind of Evil, Part 1

This story is juggling two interesting subplots, and at a decent pace for a six-part story: the Doctor and Jo visit a prison where a controversial new (seemingly psychic) machine is being used to rehabilitate criminals, and the Brigadier has a dead Chinese delegate on his hands with all suspicions on Captain Chin Lee, but she may be under the influence of the same force attacking the Doctor telepathically.

Several Thousand...Filed under The Doctor’s age: when arguing here, the Doctor in a rage notes that he has “been a scientist for several thousand…” before cutting himself off.  Previously the Second Doctor had claimed to be 450 in Power of the Daleks.  The Fourth Doctor will later claim to be around 750 in Pyramids of Mars, and we’ll see the Doctor’s age jump around a bit between the Sixth through Ninth Doctors.  The show’s never directly addressed the inconsistency beyond stating that the Doctor lies (which is true).  I like to think he had years of his life literally shaved off during the Time War, but that’s just me.

Keller MachineThe Kellar Machine itself is also an incredibly interesting device.  The show does a great job of setting up this moral dilemma using a machine to seemingly remove the evil thoughts from criminals, and then to put the Doctor on the opposing side of this debate.  The way it’s seemingly attacking people psychically with their greatest fears is a great device, either drowning and rats, and seemingly fire in the Doctor’s case in the cliffhanger.  It has established exactly enough to keep the audience intrigued for the next part.  Which is where we’re at currently.

Captain Chin LeeI was initially a little nervous about Captain Chin Lee, the Communist Chinese attache to the Chinese Delegate under UNIT’s protection during his demise.  I was worried at her introduction, where she comes across a bit overly aggressive, she was going to be presented as a modern take on the “dragon lady” stereotype.  However, the story quickly takes a turn, and Chin Lee appears to be under some kind of mind control: burning documents she claimed were stolen, and apparently killing the Delegate she was protecting under a trance.  The potential for a bit of nuance here is high, and I hope the show goes with it.

Next Time Mind of Evil 27/10, even though not a lot happened, I really like the pace at which it didn’t.  We’re already at good basic set-up places for both whatever’s really inside the Kellar Machine, and the dead Chinese delegate, and what will eventually link them together.  Very much looking forward to Part 2, hope you are too!  See you then!

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Terror of the Autons, Part 4

The Master dies, or did he?  He seems to have.  Or has he?

All Going for a RideOne of the most interesting things about this episode is that, even if their first encounter, they make no bones about the Master’s contentious implied past with the Doctor.  The two seem as often friends forced on the wrong side of a conflict due to no personal animosity, having a deep understanding of one another.  The Master and the Doctor, in fact, seem to revel in their rivalry, each views the other as the second smartest person (after themselves, of course.)  The Master pretty much openly tells the Doctor this when he confronts him in his lab, the Doctor’s amusement at the chance of getting to face him again says just the same.

Master Switches SidesOne thing that didn’t immediately jump out to me in my first viewing is the 11th hour change of heart of The Master, who literally helps undo his own scheme at the last minute.  He does still try to kill the Doctor afterwards, of course, but the Master is oftentimes a recurring lesson in repeated betrayals, as we’ll soon discover.  Later Classic Doctors have varying relationships to the Master, which I’ll discuss when he returns later on, but Pertwee and Delgado are a winning combination, like Holmes and Moriarty, and pairing them together is one of the many great strengths of this story.  The other, through the Master’s own plans, reveals a terrifying implication of the Nestene: the ubiquity of plastic becomes an unexpected weakness.

Next Time Mind of Evil 19/10 for this part, a stellar conclusion, bringing the average to an impressive and as-of-yet unheard of 8.5/10.  I’m with the Doctor, I’m excited for him to run into the Master again, and he very well might in next week’s “The Mind of Evil.” (Two guesses who’s mind that is…)  Coverage begins on Wednesday, see you then!

Terror of the Autons, Part 3

The Master and Doctor continue to play cat and mouse, and the Doctor is 95% certain he’s the cat.  The Master, though, needs to clean his claws as he readies for his final showdown with the Doctor, UNIT and the Autons their pieces.

Doctor Smoking TARDISThe writing staff has gone through great lengths to sell Jo Grant as the Doctor’s new assistant: despite her dimness, Jo is resourceful and resilient, and the chemistry that Pertwee and Katy Manning have here is noticeably different than the one he had with Caroline John as Liz Shaw, which always came across a bit stilted yet antagonistic, like the two never fully understood one another (this could argued to be intentional of the writing, but I’m not sure how much of it was scripted in advance).  I think I like Liz Shaw a bit better as a character, but Jo and the Doctor might be a better fit for one another.

Master MaskFor all the flaws of the Master as a character: his histrionics, his tendency to overplan, his absurd disguises (like the one here,) all of which are present from the very start of the character.  Another similarity to the Doctor, who became a character interpreted and reinterpreted by different actors.  It could be argued that, similar to Roger Delgado’s indelible influence on every Master who followed, that future Doctors will forever be chained to the specter of Tom Baker.  Whether that is for good or ill is a topic for discussion.

Next Time Terror of the Autons 48/10, perhaps the silliest cliffhanger so far (it’s even more ridiculous in motion, watching Jon Pertwee pantomime being choked by a phone cable,) but it’s a strong episode literally right until that moment.  Hopefully that isn’t an indicator of how part 4 turns out.  I know, but I’m not telling.  The conclusion, and the start of “The Mind of Evil” next week on Derek Who?

Terror of the Autons, Part 2

This episode we really start to get a bit more into the (largely implied) rivalry the Master and the Doctor share.  The Doctor really was in need of an archnemesis, an intellectual equal who shared all his worst traits and none of his best ones, and the Master is the perfect fit for that, and played with inimitable flair by Roger Delgado, I’ll keep mentioning that this season probably.  He murders a man with an inflatable chair, and still comes across as menacing; that’s difficult.  There’s a lot of good character work establishing Jo Grant’s earnest desire to impress the Brigadier and the Doctor.

The Doctor at the CircusAll of the best and worst traits of the Master as a character are on display here, when he describes the bomb he sent to UNIT as a “calling card.”  This, of course, was his invitation to get the Doctor to check out the circus and look for the Master’s TARDIS.  Although pride may be the Master’s weakness and curiosity the Doctor’s, both also share a weakness towards a compulsion for melodramatic flair.  I have not seen all of Season 8 yet, though I had watched this story previously, and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the interplay between the Doctor and the Master.  They’re very compelling opponents to one another.

The Master's Ugly DollAn ongoing thought I’ve had during this transition into 70’s Who is a self-awareness at the at-times questionable nature of their special effects.  In the subplot involving the Master using this grotesque killer Auton doll to kill the factory owner’s father, they make repeated mention of just how “horrid” or “ugly” or otherwise grotesque the thing is.  And it really is too.  The green-screen scenes where the doll is animated really are primitive, but they’re viscerally frightening, as are the Auton prosthetics, like the one in the cliffhanger…

Next Time Terror of the Autons 39/10, one of my favorite cliffhangers in the show, and a great second part, and keeps you looking forward to the inevitable confrontation between Doctor and Master.  Friday and Monday will conclude “Terror of the Autons,” followed by the start of “The Mind of Evil.”  The Laws of Time are Ours, and they will obey us, here on Derek Who?

Terror of the Autons, Part 1

This is perhaps the most continuity-heavy the classic show has ever gotten, requiring recall of the Doctor’s exile and his encounter last season with the Nestene Consciousness for full effect.

The Master Tissue Compression EliminatorI’m going to bring up Terror of the Autons quite a bit I imagine, and with this simple paragraph: hey, remember when the Master used to be scary?  The Master makes his first appearance this story, played by Roger Delgado, the actor likely best known for the part (The Master’s weird for a Time Lord because it’s implied many of the later actors playing the Master are actually playing specifically the Roger Delgado Master in a stolen body, so one has to look at the later performances more directly from his than the various Doctors).  The Time Lord envoy mentions the Doctor and Master being “acquaintances,” and both Time Lords have attributed weaknesses to one another (The Master’s pride and the Doctor’s curiosity).  The Master’s scheme here has both the strengths (manipulating other alien species to invade for him, the reliance on hypnosis and his tissue compression eliminator,) and the weaknesses (the intricate over-complicated planning and gilding the lily that will definitely become the earmark of a later Master evil scheme) we’ll see highlighted in later appearances.  It’s a great introduction to a character we’ll be seeing a lot more of, especially this season.  While the Doctor may have many enemies, I think the Master is his true archenemy, the singular force he matches wits with and never can truly overcome.

Doctor and Jo GrantThis episode also introduces Jo Grant, the Doctor’s new companion, replacing the now departed Dr. Liz Shaw.  The Doctor initially objected to Jo’s level of competence, but the Brigadier calls out the Doctor’s (though both are guilty) lack of interest in Miss Shaw’s credentials, noting he really needs someone to pass test tubes and tell him how brilliant he is.  She proves herself both to be capable in that capacity, although she’s definitely a bit more airheaded than Liz Shaw was.

Next Time Terror of the Autons 28/10, coverage continues all this week, which will likely lead straight into further coverage of Season 8 with “The Mind of Evil.”  I’m debating whether to turn Fridays towards an element of the Doctor Who expanded universe, and, while I’ve still got some big holes in that to fill, I’ve also got plenty of other angles to approach as well.  If anybody’s got any particular favorite expanded Doctor Who media they want me to watch and talk about, message me on Facebook or Twitter with ideas!

TARDIS Departures: Liz Shaw

Season 7 marks the departure of Liz Shaw from the program and from her position as the Doctor’s “overglorified lab assistant.”

Doctor Liz and BrigDr. Shaw could never really catch a break.  Even as she had been initially interviewed as a scientist for UNIT by the Brigadier, she quickly found herself pushed out of her position by what could easily be seen as a fast-talking charlatan.  Their relationship started off a bit on the cool side, understandably, but as the stories progressed, the Doctor and Liz do develop a certain sort of working respect for one another’s talents.

Liz Shaw Doctor Pangea GlobeUnfortunately, though, Liz just as often ended up left in a subservient role to the Doctor, acting more as a damsel in distress in Ambassadors of Death than anything else.  Her presence in The Silurians is similarly muted, while Inferno has most of its time spent with the alternate-reality version of the character.  So really, if there’s any victim of these seven-parters, it’s been Liz.  Given the opportunity, she could have been another great female scientific equal to the Doctor, like Zoe or Romana.

Doctor, Liz, TARDIS ConsoleShe doubted the veracity of the Doctor’s claims of being an alien time traveler, and unfortunately never got the spin in the TARDIS she so rightly deserved.  Liz Shaw’s character had a lot of great potential that was never fully realized in the show, though she’s definitely one of the better companions, in my estimations.  When she was present, she was a great challenge to the Doctor, and, even if she wasn’t respected by the Brigadier, she often managed to prove herself.

Derek Who’s Totally Biased Ongoing Companion Ranking

(Jamie=Zoe) > Ian > Liz > Vicki > Barbara > Victoria > Steven > Susan > (Polly=Ben) > Dodo > Katarina

We’ll get to meet Jo Grant as we start Series 8 and “Terror of the Autons.”  It’s also one I’ve seen before, and the introduction of one of my favorite characters in the show.  It’s going to get very very theatrical as the Doctor is reunited with his best friend, The Master, for the first time…

Doctor Who (Classic) Season 7 Retrospective

By the Numbers

Spearhead from Space: 7.75/10

The Silurians: 7.84/10

The Ambassadors of Death: 3.14/10

Inferno: 5.28/10

Mean: 6.0075/10

Median: Inferno (5.28)

Range: 4.7 (3.14-7.84)

I think it’s hard to compare this one season against the entirety of the Sixties, it’s statistically a little behind them on average, but the range is narrower and the median story is very close to the mean (less than .75 points).  This trend is only going to go up in Season 8.

Best Doctor Moment

Doctor in Profile

The Hospital Escape, Spearhead from Space Part 2

The Third Doctor has quickly charmed his way into being one of my favorite Doctors.  He’s got a certain swagger to him, an ability to strut into a room and berate everyone until things start getting solved.  It’s an ability other abrasive Doctors (like the Sixth, Ninth, and Twelfth) tend to embrace as well, it’s seen on full display here when the Doctor steals a doctor’s opera outfit, steals a car, and drives to UNIT headquarters to berate the Brigadier.

Best Companion Moment

Take Us With Your Doctor

The Brigade Leader’s betrayal – Inferno Part 6

Liz Shaw, as I will be discussing in her TARDIS Departure, was woefully underutilized, but Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart was a standout supporting character this season.  However, the stoic Brigadier has his most iconic moment this season as his de-mustached evil parallel universe version, who takes every one of the Brigadier’s positive character traits (his strong sense of duty, his honor) and use them as an instrument of this fascist parallel earth’s undoing.

Favorite Monster

Tied: Autons and Silurians

It’s no surprise to me that these two monsters return in Season 8, they are well-executed, low-budget, and thematically strong and consistent.

Least Favorite Monster

The Ambassadors of Death 5 Featured

The Ambassadors of Death

Four reasons why the Ambassadors of Death are terrible:

1) They are largely without agency, used as part of a decidedly human plot.

2) They kill with a radioactive touch, simultaneously the laziest way to create a murderous special effect.

3) Their grotesque visages are hidden for the bulk of the story behind an astronaut’s visor.

4) They are actual ambassadors, in addition to being ambassadors… of death!

Season 7 in Images should be up concurrently with this, Friday we say goodbye to Liz Shaw.  Season 8 begins this coming Monday.  See you all then!

Inferno, Part 7

Oftentimes, when we’re judging a story like this, the execution comes in how the story sticks its ending.  This story ends of an action-packed and tense note, perhaps because the Doctor seems poised to save the day in the nick of time.

Portrait of a Man Slowly Turning into a PrimordThe Primords were failure as a monster in general, but in the specific case-study of Professor Stahlman (pictured here continuing his slow descent into grey fur and grease-paint) and his own devolution, it’s a success.  Stahlman’s transformation is the kind of Gothic-tinged terrifying cautionary tale that would fit well in the Fourth Doctor’s era as well, up to and including the Doctor’s repeated warnings it won’t work out.  It’s one of the types of villain I love the most, although not as much as what I call the “Robert Holmes Villain” I’ll describe later.

Doctor Venusian AikidoI liked Inferno overall, although it was a bit padded at times.  Some of these Venusian aikido sequences or the fights with the Primords, oftentimes feel this way.  Even though, some of the thematic power it has comes from repetition: in how both the Doctor and the audience knowing how the number two pipe would burst, for example.  At the same time, though, the Doctor gets a chance to recognize his agency in changing these seemingly predetermined events, a tension that the show plays with winningly in later seasons.

Next Time Terror of the Autons9/10, a really stellar ending to pull it back from the brink, pulling up the average this story to a more respectable 5.28/10.  That is it for Season 7, the first in color, the first of Jon Pertwee, and the last for Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.  Wednesday we’ll be looking at Season 7 in depth, Friday we’ll say good bye to Liz Shaw, and start the following week with Season 8 and “Terror of the Autons.”  See you all then!

Inferno, Part 6

So, instead of talking about what happens in this story (if you guessed “more of the same,” you saved yourself about thirty minutes), I’m going to talk about something only vaguely related.

Take Us With Your DoctorThe Republic of this parallel earth is ruled by some sort of Fascistic Big Brother-type figure only referred to as The Leader by the Brigadier.  In the Virgin New Adventures Doctor Who novel series “Timewyrm,” it is more than heavily implied that this mustachioed gentleman is this dimension’s equivalent to The Doctor in exile.  I find the idea of an evil counterpart to the Doctor intriguing obviously, although the show has run the gamut of actual doubles (Enemy of the World) and duplicates and clones of various stripes, not to mention whatever we’re supposed to think the Valeyard is.

Smoking Out the PrimordsThis is because most of this story is being chased around by overheated dimestore werewolves, with a brief cut back to UNIT Earth, where nothing of value is happening as well.  Which is also a decent summary of Inferno Part 5 as well.

 

 

Next Time Inferno Part 74/10 for this part.  It is the shrug of a shoulders of a penultimate episode, the kind of episode where nothing of value actually happens.  Next week is the final episode as well as the season finale, so we’ll be discussing the first year of the Jon Pertwee era at length next week on Derek Who?