Saturday, February 4, 2012


"No, look like a Monk...your buddy The Master
looks first like a businessman, then like a gay pirate, and
finally a homeless politician."
"That is the dematerializing control, and that over yonder is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy. Now please stop bothering me."

1) I know we're in that phase of the Hartnell era where the Doctor was softened and became more of a kindly figure--but damn I'm loving this Doctor. Yes, he's lacking the sinister edge of the first three stories, but Hartnell's displaying a wicked sense of humor with a crotchety edge that's hilarious. Seeing him handling new companion Steven is the point where I'll even say that, stray moments like that speech in 'Edge of Destruction' nonwithstanding, this is the best Hartnell's been. There is so much to like from this Doctor during this serial throughout.

2) We're now deep into Vicki portion of the Hartnell years, and the weird thing is I get a stronger sense of a bond between the two of them that I ever got from Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford. Granted, part of that may be how we see a meaty lil' exchange up front between the two just talking...and part may just be that Maureen O'Brien doesn't look more like an alien than Hartnell does.

3) We're also introduced to Peter Purves' Steven...who, judging solely from this, is like Ian only without Ian's fire or tendency to punch things that needs punching. Sadly--as we'll get to when I cover 'The War Machines' soon--inconsequential companions are going to be business as normal over the rest of Hartnell's years.

4) Once more, we've got more of the production staff trying to compensate for Hartnell's increasing dementia. Not only do we have a couple of stumbling line readings, we've got him absent from Episode Two, with only an overdubbed line or two indicating The Doctor's presence inside a prison he was put there by The Monk....

"I am so relieved to have you here, my dear...I feared
they would replace my granddaughter with a lizard or a
bat or something as bizarre looking as she was..."
5) ...and speaking of The Monk, I love this character. He's a magnificently created opponent that follows one of the primary rules of villian-making--at no point does The Monk think he's a bad guy. Even though his motivations for mucking about in time is clearly simple thrill-seeking and trophy-hunting (an argument can be made that The Monk is nothing more than a history fanboy), in his mind he's helping humanity along to greater heights. In his way, The Monk is the first true Dark Mirror to the Doctor, and the best until The Delgado Master comes along. And having Peter Butterworth give a smug, self-satisfied performance makes him all the more fun to watch.

6) You know, in a world where The Doctor is treated like an all-powerful super-hero who Knows Everything About Everything, I like watching a Doctor who can be overpowered, who can be tripped up, and more importantly has to use his brain to stop someone who appears to have all the cards...and who chooses not to obliterate his foes, but finds a way to stop him with an eye toward hopefully teaching him a lesson.

7) If the Vikings in the real world acted like the two Vikings in this story...well, no wonder they got their asses handed to them.

"I am looking at you with my invisible eyeglasses, child...and
they're X-Ray...."

8) I rather liked Alethea Charlton's Edith. She manages to have chemistry with pretty much everybody who crosses her path (her interaction with Hartnell is particularly amusing), and she seems to be the one person who's on top of everything. Considering how many of these supporting characters are cookie cutter voids, having someone smart and clever in her way is refreshing.

9) I suspect that it's just me looking at a 1965 serial through 2012 eyes, but that 'atomic cannon' and its 'neutron bombs' don't look very convincing to me.

10) At its core, this serial keeps sight of something that was lost during the lion's share of John Nathan Turner's era, and became overblown to the point of parody during Russell T. Davies....that the series is supposed to be fun. Yes, the stakes are serious, and there is some drama, but at no point does Dennis Spooner's script lose that sense of how cool it is to be bopping around time setting things straight.

Overall....a really great, fast paced, and fun serial bouyed by some great performances and a super-cool villain (who did not become The Master, Mike). And on top of that, it's got some historical significance in the development of the series, as it introduces the first non-related peer of The Doctor. Highly recommended viewing!

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