Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I'm sorry...I'm laughing too hard to think up a caption.
"Since UNIT was formed, there have been two attempts to invade this planet. We were lucky enough to be able to stop them. There was a policy decision not to inform the public."
"Do you seriously expect me to believe that?"
"It's not my habit to tell lies, Ms. Shaw."

1) This is the only serial to be done wholly on film--and, truth be told, I really like the look of it. Sure, the sound quality is kinda hinky at times, but it further emphasizes the spy movie feel of this period forced upon producer Barry Letts by the severe budget cuts.

2) And here's something else I love--Caroline John as Liz Shaw. She provides a much different companion to the standard, and she seems to work really well with the more arrogant and righteous Doctor Jon Pertwee is portraying. If The Third Doctor is The Spy World Time Lord, Liz Shaw is his Emma Peel, a peer he can relate to and feel comfortable around. While I can certainly understand why Liz was given the boot after this season (when you're as smart as The Doctor, there's no need for him to explain things to you) doesn't mean I think it's a shame she only lasts a season, especially given what Pertwee ends up with.

(And yes, Avengers fans....if Liz Shaw is Emma Peel, Jo Grant is 100% Tara King.)

3) Similarly, I can understand why The Autons never made the Royal Court of Monsters--their second appearance diminished them as credible threats--but damn, they're cool. And the fact that they're just ill-fitted human vessels for a psychic entity, they'd be so much easier to do on the shoestring budget. Pity their rampage on the streets on London happens so late, because they're pure nightmare fuel.

4) ..and to be fair, part of the reason I love the Autons so much is due to the efforts of Hugh Burden, who as Channing provides a creepy and effective face to the Autons and The Nestene Consciousness. And it's not just his performance--his plastic make-up is so much more subtle and disturbing than, let's say, the facsimile General Scobie that you're never quite sure until it's made clear in Episode Three whether he's fallen in with the Autons because he's an alien...or because he's really, really wrong in the head.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Shaw...but after this year, our mandate from
the U.N. requires us to replace you with an idiot with
bigger tits."

5) You know what doesn't work--and it's something that will plague the series throughout the Pertwee era? The weird obsession with rural humor that Letts and Story Editor Terrance Dicks seems to wallow in. The subplot with the poacher and his wife is painfully unfunny, and is totally unnecessary to the story. This kind of thing is doubly puzzling given how Pertwee is a talented comedian who infuses his serials with humor that's logical to the series proper.

6) Maybe it's because my initial exposure to the Brigadier was in those two Tom Baker serials where he doesn't do much--but man, does he come off as a serious bad-ass in this serial...and because he is such a bad-ass, the whole sense of The Doctor and Liz creating their own little circle of two in opposition to him gives the series a much different least until the empty-headed doll-baby that is Jo Grant shows up next season.

7) While I understand the appeal of incorporating Madame Tussaud's into a serial about using plastic facsimiles of important government officials as part of a massive plan to take over the country, the whole concept makes no sense. Didn't someone at some point balk about the constant stream of politicians and military folks pushing out the celebrities and public personalities? And why did Channing and co. think hiding the comatose, flesh and blood Scobie in plain sight as a display? The logic problems caused by this angle outweigh the potential charm and atmosphere the wax museum scenes could contribute.

What tipped people off to the alien invasion wasn't so much
the weird pastiness of their faces, but their appalling
fashion sense....
8) The thing that strikes me about this first appearance of The Third Doctor is how there are moment where Pertwee reaches back to the earliest days of Hartnell to create a Doctor who's somewhat...contemptuous of humanity. Oh, sure, this Doctor is very civil, even friendly towards humans he knows personality--genuine warmth comes off him in waves when he first interacts with the Brigadier, and he takes a very quick liking to Liz once her intelligence is apparent to him--but he's not fond of us as a whole. There are even moments where he seems to treat the people around him like children, expecting them to fall for the simplest tricks. It's an interpretation that provides continuity while going off on its own--and I can see the seeds of my favorite Doctor, Colin Baker, in Pertwee at this moment.

9) While I appreciate the way the serial disguised that UNIT HQ at this point was just a parking garage, a utility closet and a local classroom...except for that point in Episode Four where it's rather obvious the soldier guarding the parking garage is...well, a mannequin (and not one that starts walking around in herky jerky motion shooting people with its gun-hand) dressed as a UNIT soldier.

10) Given that it was probably cobbled together from some cellophane, a glass eye, a fishtank and a bicycle pump, the Nestene Consciousness is actually pretty effective. I do wish that they didn't pull the whole 'hero tries to convince you he's being strangled by some phony-looking tentacles' trope, however.

Overall...A very cool little storyline that sets up the new status quo effectively, features a great new alien race, and has a lot of neat grace notes. Recommended.

1 comment:

  1. Re: point six, the Brig gets seriously watered down as time goes buy, but in this first season, holy CHRIST does he kick ass.