Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Stop checking her teeth, Styre...even in a shapeless mac, Sarah
Jane is a keeper!
"Clock expert?"
"Horologist, actually, and chronometrist. I just love clocks: atomic clocks, quartz clocks, grandfather clocks... Cuckoo clocks..."

1) This is the first exposure I ever had to The Sontarans...and it's the serial that made me a Sontaran fan for life. Even though this is a story that was apparently thrown together half-assed because Season Twelve came up short two episodes, this serial really drives home the nightmarishness and character that makes them unique.

2) ....and I'll tell you something else. Even though this is obviously a one-piece latex mask, I prefer the Sontaran look from this serial to the harder, smoother version of The Time Warrior and the bushy eyebrowed 'groucho' versions from The Invasion of Time. This one ends up looking actually more organic, and that makes for Styre being a lot more sinister than Linx.

3) I like how this serial takes place entirely out of doors (a necessity, given its last minute creation), and is shot entirely on video. Unlike later episodes, which shoots outdoor scenes on film, this serial gives it a much more consistent look.

4) We're still at the point in the season where the writers think Harry is going to be useful--he actually plays an active part in defeating Styre--but the bulk of his onscreen time is spent literally standing on a rock watching things. It's obvious that the producers have realized what a ball of energy they have in Tom Baker, and Harry's days are numbered.
"Look, Tom, you've got to talk to the producers...they say
they're going to turn me into a goofball before getting rid of
me entirely."

5) That whole angle with Donald Douglas' Vural making a deal with Styre seems a touch...gratuitious, innit? It really adds nothing to the serial except for that one line during the pressure experiment. The idea of this one alien stalking, capturing and murdering these people not out of bloodlust or sport, but out of military curiousity, is strong enough as it is.

6) I know that the automaton was constructed the way it was due to budgetary constraints--we'll see this throughout the series from here on in--but for what it is, it's pretty cool. It does manage to be non-human, and that weird humming and beeping that accompanies it is unnerving.

Granted, I can do without those two things that makes it look like there are chopsticks up its nose, but still...

7) While it is the nightmarishness of the experiments that shook young Tom's mind like a paint mixer when he first saw this serial, I do have to wonder if we would have been better served by seeing the after-effects. The experiment with Sarah seems a touch silly, especially with that goofy headband, and the most effective is that one man near dead from hydration.
Ladies and Gentlemen--this robot is not only a deadly hunter,
but it can imitate a walrus effortlessly!

8) I know that Tom Baker broke his collarbone during shooting, resulting in some judicious editing and stand-in work...but I never noticed it until I was informed of this. So clever is the filmmaking that the injury is extremely well concealed throughout..

9) Thoughout the Hinchcliffe era, there'll be little touches that are so subtle as to almost not be noticed, and here's one....the majority of the astronauts in this serial are played by South African actors to emphasize how language has changed in the intervening years since the solar flare disaster. And I love how these astronauts' attitudes are not of joy, but of resentment--it's the sort of 'pioneer spirit' I'd almost expect from people who were born of colonists.

10) For a two part episode, there's a lot going on--primarily due to the companions splitting up so quickly. Writers Bob Barker and Dave Martin is able to cover so much ground in setting up the situation by following The Doctor and Sarah's separate threads that the meat of the story can be gotten to quickly.

Overall...given that this serial was a last minute commission to make up for a shortfall of episodes, this serial is surprisingly effective and continues to build up the mission statement of the Hinchcliffe era--horror tinged story lines inspired by classic horror tales (this one, let's be honest, is a twisted up version of The Most Dangerous Game). The fact that it is part of a set of link serials that make up one giant story is even more impressive. Some people may disagree with me, but I think it's recommended.

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