Wednesday, March 14, 2012


"We had an agreement--it followed you home, YOU walk it!"
"There are tremendous advantages for humanity in Axonite."
"Yes, tremendous material advantages, but I doubt if even Axonite could increase the growth of human common sense."

1) Let me get this out of the way--I hate Katy Manning's Jo Grant. As opposed to Liz Shaw, Jo is a useless companion who's there mainly to rival Victoria as a living scream generator. Yeah, she's got a great body, but that steel wool voice just sets my teeth on edge, and the way Pertwee guides her by the hand (because apparently Manning was so blind without glasses she had no idea where to go) just makes her appear more like a child than a spy trainee. I have no idea why this companion is so popular; this serial doesn't give me any reason.

2) Here's why I seem to prefer my Doctors more aloof or arrogant like Pertwee and the two Bakers to friendly or kindly...because of Pertwee's impatience, even contempt, for humanity makes us believe the moments where he offers to collaborate with The Master to escape from Earth, or offers an alliance with Axos in exchange for revenge against the Time Lords. The way that arrogance informs even smaller moments (I love when he's saying goodbye to everyone in Episode Four, his statement 'Goodbye, Jo. You I will miss' seems dripping with sarcasm) drives home the point that The Doctor is just Not From Around Here, no matter how he looks.

3) Man, I wish the Brigidier was as much a hard man as he is in these Pertwee serials. When he threatens people at this point in that calm, clipped British voice, I believe it. And when he shouts, you know Someone's Shit Is About To Be Fucked Up.

4) I know there are some people who think this serial is aggressively mediocre...and I'll be the first to admit that based solely on the story it's a little lackluster. But what I think elevates this is the truly wonky art direction. We're at the point in the series history where color is still a bit of a novelty, and these guys go to town imagining some insane stuff. The tones are so luridly vivid I can almost see Mario Bava coming up with the sets.

THIS is what happens when you sleep in your contact lenses.
5) And while I thoroughly understand why The Axons never got a second story (their very schtick makes their usefulness limited), I really liked how they were developed. There's something really elegant in the way these aliens are envisioned--the simple bodysuits in the swirling pastels, the golden masks with the unnerving solid gold eyes all contribute to give these aliens a real flaver....even with the visible zippers in the back.

6) Similar to Statement 4, this is without a doubt a Who serial rooted in the 60's. Hell, it's the series' version of a Romero zombie movie in that We Fuck It Up For Ourselves. The Axons are a credible threat, sure...but it isn't until Chin starts doing his best Administrative Asshole and begins distributing Axonite everywhere that the threat becomes dire.

7) Ahhhhh, yes...The Delgado Master. Is there a more effortlessly charismatic yet viciously dangerous character in Who history? There is such a naturalism to Delgado's performance that it just shows up the artificialness of both Ainley and Simm. Even in this serial, where The Master is there just to facilitate the plot, Delgado just shines.
For several years, the Doctor thought his companion was not
hot girl, but a chimpanzee....

8) Boy, I get a kick out of Paul Grist's Bill Filer. Not just because Grist is doing a parody of and American spy in the middle of a British show, but because, well, he seems to be a lot more action oriented than resident James Bond stand-in Captain Yates. Hell, I even tolerate his vague flirtation with Jo...since I was hoping that when he returned to Washington, he'd take her with him.

(And imagine my annoyance that, when sometime does show up willing to take Jo away, he's even more of a nob than she is....)

9) Apparently, this was meant to be a six-parter...and Thank God it was cut. This is a very simple story--so simple that even in four parts there's a segment in Episode Three that appears a little stretched out for time. I have to wonder if this serial would benefit even more if it had been devised as a three-parter instead of the then-standard four.

10) And here's the second Pertwee serial in a row where Pertwee is trying to convince us he's being menaced by a wrapping it around him and squirming. It still doesn't work.

Overall...while there are some wonky elements, including some scenery chewing (I'm looking at you, Peter Bathurst), this is a very simple, well executed serial bouyed by the absolutely insane and vivid set design.

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