Wednesday, August 15, 2012


"....maybe if I sit hunched up like this, I won't fall out of my
top so often...."
"But that'd just a myth, a story!"
"Myths often have a grain of truth in them, if you know where to look."

1) You will notice that large portions of this story look very different from previous serials. That's because, due to budget constraints, the bulk of the story was done using a model of a tunnel system chormakeyed in behind the actors. And while it is a unique look, it's not neccesarily a good look. The actors frequently look as if they're floating in space, and it's hard not to notice the sameness of all the rock behind them. Still, I give the production team credit for trying something new.

2) This is the penultimate Leela serial, and it's easy to see why Louise Jameson didn't want to come back the following season. Leela has pretty much become an infantilized child at this point, simpering and acting like a dolt and having tantrums left right and center. None of the insight and intelligence that Leela had under Hinchcliffe survives, leading us to wonder why The Doctor wants to hang with her in the first place. Plus the more modest version of the 'leather' tankini (obviously fashioned out of cloth) that covers up her butt but somehow cannot manage to sit comfortable under her bustline, resulting in many moments where we see Jameson struggling to adjust her outfit to prevent a pop-out moment.

3) Truth be told, there's a fundamental reason why I've been dragging my feet on writing up this 10 Statements is because....well, this serial is relentlessly boring. This is not like some of the later Williams serials (and trust us, we'll get to them down the line) where their awfulness bursts from the story like an overripe piece of fruit; this is a story that just sits there for long stretches and does nothing to distinguish itself one way or another. You're likely to forget it the moment the closing credits roll on the last segment.
It's not easy to float on a fabricated set....

4) Remember how I spent a lot of time talking about how Hinchcliffe frequently utilized horror motifs to liven up his tenure? Well, here we see Williams utilizing one of his favorite motifs--namely, utilizing mythology and classic literature and resetting them in a science fiction setting. There will be times where it works (wait until I sing the praises of The Androids of Tara), frequently, like here, it doesn't. This is because unlike Hinchcliffe, who found ways to obscure and change around his inspiration, Williams just marches out his inspiration aspects and asks us to marvel at how he's doing a riff on Jason and The Argonauts or Damocles or any one of a number of stories. Hell, he frequently has The Doctor pointing out the similies throughout this story.

5) You can see here that Williams has reoriented the series to become more child-oriented, which means that there's a broader sense of humor in effect. And that humor is pretty nonsensical, beginning with the opening scene with The Doctor painting....something. It's something that's still subtle at this point (it'll get reeeeaaaalllly broad once we pass the Key To Time season), but it's real jarring when placed next to Hinchliffe's more mature stories.

6) As much as I blanch at Leela's treatment and debrained status in this story, I do like the way she takes on a mentoring relationship she has with Idas, comforting and advising him much as The Doctor advises her. My favorite moment is a very, very sparse handful of positive moments arise from this mentoring, when Leela tells Idas 'The Doctor has saved many fathers,' when the young man frets over the fate of his father.
Yes, they're ribbed...for her pleasure.

7) Perhaps the oddest thing about this serial is how it carries on the borderline radical political stance that colored the previous serial, The Sun Makers. There's a moment in the third part where the story literally stops for a few minutes so that a random female Trog explains to The Doctor and Leela how they're pawns in a massive capitalist scheme where they're worked to exhuastion, the Seers orchestrating cave-ins that control the population so that the population won't exhaust their resources so that.... It's a dreadfully confusing moment that stops the painfully slow narrative flow of the story dead.

8) With all the pointless bullcrap that goes on in this story, I will say that the cliffhanger for the first part of this story is not only really novel, but plays on William's interest (an interest that is, shall we say, spottily displayed throughout his three year tenure) in hard science. The idea of the spaceship becoming a new planet due to gravity is pretty freaky, but it's very much in keeping with the physics of the situation. Were that the other two cliffhangers were as inventive.

9) Okay, the look of the Guards and the Seers (at least until they take their helmets off) are really intriguing....until you realize they have no reason to have that seven eyelets at each character's sightline. I get that, in keeping with the Jason and The Argonauts' theme of the serial, these costumes are supposed to signify that they're analogs to the Hydra, but still--what's the cultural reason for this change?

10) Even with all the mugging and dismissiveness The Doctor displays--even after he seems invested in the Minyans' quest given the part that race plays in Time Lord history--I do appreciate the way he sticks up for the Trogs and refuses to let them be ejected by arguing how they are the true race banks of the Minyans. It's indicative of these stray moments throughout the Williams stories where The Doctor isn't playing games and behaving like a goof, and is actually revealed as the Smart Crusader we know and love.

Overall...a boring, boring story that's sadly far more indicative of the Williams era that you would think. Hell, it may end up making you angry at how Williams seems to have squandered the set up he inherited from Hinchcliffe.

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