Timestamp #144: The Mysterious Planet

Doctor Who: The Mysterious Planet
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts I-IV

(4 episodes, s23e01-e04, 1986)

 

Changes about with a darker theme tune and intricate model and special effects work. The same old creepy smiling intro remains a constant.

Swimming in effects is the TARDIS, drawn off course into a space station in the middle of nowhere. The Doctor emerges from the time capsule, confused and stumbling into a room where he is put on trial by his fellow Time Lords. The trial is spearheaded by the Valeyard and is overseen by the Inquisitor. The latter remarks that he has been put on trial once before for his meddling. He’s also been stripped of his title of Lord President of Gallifrey.

The Valeyard commences his trial of the Doctor with the tale of his adventure on Ravalox, which is contained in detail inside the Matrix. The assembled Time Lords begin to watch an episode of Doctor Who, and this whole thing goes kind of meta.

The adventure begins as Peri and the Doctor roam the forests of Ravalox, a planet virtually identical to Earth (but not in the same location) that is destined to be destroyed by a solar fireball. They are watched by Glitz and Dibber, a pair who try to shoot the Doctor but miss their respective opportunities. The travelers find a cavern, which apparently contains the L3 robot that the assassins are trying to destroy. As the Doctor and Peri proceed inside, the find a sign for the Marble Arch tube station, and Peri mourns the death of her home planet. Ravalox is Earth.

In the courtroom, the Doctor objects to what he considers a waste of time. He also questions where Peri is during this whole affair, which the Valeyard finds interesting. The Doctor has forgotten where he left her, presumably a side effect of being “taken out of time.”

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor continues into the depths of the station alone and Peri gets captured by the local natives. In the clean and shiny underground complex, the Doctor picks up a bottle of water and is apprehended for theft. Water is life, and those who steal it must die by stoning. He has a discussion with Balazar, the leader of the water guards, and discovers that the man’s job is to read the sacred texts of Marb Station – Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, and UK Habitats of the Canadian Goose by H.M. Stationery Office – before being placed for the stoning. He tries to deflect the rocks but ends up unconscious anyway.

Meanwhile, Glitz and Dibber make their way to the native village to meet with their leader. They claim that the malfunctioning navigational beacon in their village, which Katryca and her people treat as a totem to a god, is what brought the fireball to Ravalox. The assassins try to overpower their guards and fail. They are soon joined in the village by Peri.

In the courtroom, the Valeyard proposes that the inquiry become a full trial of the Time Lord, with the penalty being his death. Presumably, not just regeneration as it was before, but a full-blown execution. I guess they’re semi-serious about this (despite their previous history of asking and compelling the Doctor to interfere).

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

Officials arrive and interrupt the stoning, and the robot (“the Immortal”) demands that the Doctor and Balazar are brought before him. The Doctor is cautioned not to look upon the Immortal – “On pain of being turned into a pillar of salt, I imagine.” – before being sent into the robot’s inner sanctum. The robot, known as Drathro, commands the Doctor to work with his two human assistants.

In the village, Peri is introduced to the queen, promised many husbands, and then placed in captivity with the assassins. Glitz and Dibber share their plan to destroy the robot, but Peri balks at mass murder of the underground civilization. The captives are taken before Katryca where Glitz is chosen as a sacrifice to the god as penance for his crimes. The trio stage an escape with Glitz and Peri heading to Marb Station while Dibber destroys the black light converter tower.

The Doctor identifies the problem with the black light system, even though it is outside his area of expertise, but Drathro forbids it since his instructions are to maintain an underground civilization, not one above ground. The Doctor rigs a trap and escapes, and Drathro sends a utility drone to pursue him. During the search, Merdeen (one of the guards) tells Balazar to head for the surface. Balazar objects, but Merdeen assures him that the firestorm has been over for hundreds of years.

Balazar and Merdeen find the Doctor and offer to help him escape, but circumstances bring Peri’s team and the Doctor’s team together at the entrance to Marb Station, trapped between the armed tribesmen and the service drone. Luckily, Balazar recognizes the leader of the tribesman as his friend Broken Tooth and convinces him to shoot the drone. The tribesmen insist that the Doctor and the collected crowd return to the village.

After another courtroom interlude where the Inquisitor expresses her distaste for primitive violence, the episode continues in Marb Station with a confrontation between Merdeen and Grell, a fellow guard who overheard Merdeen’s discussion with Balazar. Drathro breaks the tension by dispatching Merdeen to find Balazar as his assistants reactivate the drone.

Returning to the village, the Doctor, Peri, and the assassins are brought before Katryca. The Doctor offers to repair the totem, but she tosses the lot in a cell. They are inadvertently freed as the drone breaks down their cell and captures the Doctor.

In the courtroom, we learn that the Matrix files are updated with the experiences of all Time Lords no matter where they are. Further, the TARDIS can act as a collection device to add experiences within its range. The Doctor questions whether or not a Type 40 TARDIS can do this without being bugged and the Valeyard deflects. Curiouser and curiouser.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

Katryca and the tribesmen pursue the service drone and disable it. They celebrate the death of the Immortal and rush off to storm Drathro’s castle. Peri sees to the Doctor while Glitz sends Dibber for some heavier artillery. The Doctor and Peri head to Marb Station to stop Tribe of the Free before the robot kills them.

Hey, he’s all heroic again! It’s about time.

Returning to the courtroom, the TARDIS evidence tapes end as Glitz and Dibber, armed with a big gun, pursue everyone else into Marb Station. The Valeyard claims that the evidence has been classified in the public interest. The Inquisitor asks if the Doctor officially objects, but he does not. Instead, he lets the Valeyard continue with the imagery collected from the Doctor’s perspective.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor and Peri are intercepted by Merdeen, and the guard claims to be hunting the Doctor. He fires his crossbow, but instead of killing the Doctor he strikes Grell, who was trying to capture the Doctor for Drathro. Meanwhile, Katryca’s group breaks into Drathro’s domain, but he kills both the queen and Broken Tooth. He sends the rest of the strike group to await culling while his assistants run. It seems that an explosion is coming.

In the courtroom, the Doctor and the Valeyard come to verbal blows over what they’ve seen. The Doctor disputes the relevance of what they’ve seen while the Valeyard claims that had the Doctor never been there, none of it would have happened.

He has a point, you know.

The Inquisitor also takes issue with censoring of the discussions between Glitz and Dibber.

 

Returning to the episode already in progress…

The Doctor returns to Drathro and tries to shut down the black light system, but the robot forbids it. The Doctor tries to reason that the robot is doomed either way, but the people who serve the Immortal can be saved. The discussion is a good back-and-forth on the value of life and finally solidifies the Sixth Doctor in the ideology of the Doctor overall.

Also, Drathro calls the Doctor out on his verbal abuse, which is fantastic.

Glitz and Dibber are in search of information so they can sell it on the black market. They find the castle entrance, presuming that five rounds rapid (The Daemons) could break it down, but Dibber objects. So, they find their way to the food chutes with Peri, Merdeen, and Balazar, but Drathro detects their intrusion and tries to kill them. Dibber blasts his way in, opening a path into Drathro’s domain, and the group join the discussion. Glitz and Dibber humorously try to salvage the situation, resulting in everyone being tied up while the assassins escort Drathro to their ship. The Doctor breaks free and tries to stop the explosion, but he is only able to limit it to the castle. The explosion also destroys Drathro, leaving the assassins a chunk of valuable rock to fund their next escapade.

In the end, the Doctor tells Balazar to take his civilization to the surface and start a new life before leaving with Peri for their next adventure.

With the episode over, the Doctor proclaims that he should be found innocent of the Valeyard’s charges, but the Inquisitor denies him his victory. The Valeyard is only getting started.

 

Not a bad story overall. The separate scene storytelling trope took a little getting used to, but the evidentiary episode was a fun adventure. The Valeyard has a point that fewer lives would have been lost if the Doctor had never interfered, but Glitz and Dibber were already on the planet and would have potentially stolen information that could have killed any number of beings. The Valeyard’s schemes appear transparent to both the Doctor and the viewer, but it’s fun to see someone using the ignorance and procedural nature of the Time Lords against them like he does.

Refreshingly, this was a low body count for this era of the show.

Additionally, the Doctor and Peri were a lot closer this time than they have been in previous adventures. It’s nice to see him being less abusive toward her.

 

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Mindwarp

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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Pop Culture Download: February 25, 2018

Pop Culture Download: February 25, 2018

 

On the Docket
(In order of discovery this week)

Series Eleven of Doctor Who has a new logo and look. – [BBC/BBCA]

Dragon Con has selected Literacy Action Inc. as their official charity for 2018. – [Dragon Con]

Lost in Space is coming back to television once again, this time on Netflix. – [YouTube]

Solo: A Star Wars Story tie-in comics and storybooks have been revealed. – [StarWars.com]

Joss Whedon has bowed out of the Batgirl movie. – [THR]

Sharknado 6 is going time traveling. – [BloodyDisgusting]

Keith DeCandido continues the 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with the mutants of the new millennium: X-Men (2000). – [Tor.com]

Read More »

Timestamp: Twenty-Second Series Summary

Doctor Who: Twenty-Second Series Summary

 

A stunning and sharp decline.

The Sixth Doctor’s full opening set was the lowest of any run to date in the Timestamps Project. After a promising start with Attack of the Cybermen and average adventures with Vengeance on Varos and The Mark of the Rani, the series nose-dived hard in the back half.

The problems are pretty much the same across the board: The stories were weak and overly convoluted, and the Doctor himself is acerbic, cynical, and downright abusive. The latter of those traits has been more often than not aimed at his companion Peri. Yes, she does bite back, but oftentimes she’s just as taken aback as the viewer at his verbal slaps.

Additionally, the stories have been continuing the John Nathan-Turner trope of high body counts. The difference between this Doctor and the previous incarnation under the same producer is that the Fifth Doctor still retained heroic traits and empathy. This Doctor has brief sparks – Timelash‘s attempted self-sacrifice is a notable example – but it’s never a sustained effort to actually be the Doctor.

It’s almost as if he’s just marking time until his hitch is up.

 

The Twenty-Second Series comes in dead last in comparison against the twenty-one previous sets. This score is over a half-grade lower than the Third Series, the Nineteenth Series, and the Twenty-First Series. All of them are tied for second to last, and the last two are the bookends for the Fifth Doctor.

 

Attack of the Cybermen – 4
Vengeance on Varos – 3
The Mark of the Rani – 3
The Two Doctors –  1
Timelash – 2
Revelation of the Daleks – 2

Series Twenty-Two Average Rating: 2.5/5

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Mysterious Planet

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Pop Culture Download: February 18, 2018

Pop Culture Download: February 18, 2018

 

On the Docket
(In order of discovery this week)

Toy Story Land opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on June 30, 2018. – [Disney Parks]

Solo: A Star Wars Story tie-in comics and storybooks have been revealed. – [StarWars.com]

 

Keith DeCandido continues 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with a look at Marvel’s first theatrical success, the Blade trilogy, from 1998, 2002, and 2004. – [Tor.com]

(Otherwise, kind of a slow but busy week for gathering pop culture news.)

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Star Wars Experiences: #SWSExperience

Star Wars Experiences

 

 

On the January 31, 2018 edition of The Star Wars Show, hosts Andi Gutierrez and Anthony Carboni asked for fans to submit their favorite Star Wars experiences (#SWSExperience):

 

I took the opportunity to chime in with mine via Twitter.

 

Timestamp #143: Revelation of the Daleks

Doctor Who: Revelation of the Daleks
(2 episodes, s22e12-e13, 1985)

 

A swing and a miss for an abusive Doctor’s last at-bat this inning.

Peri and the Doctor arrive on the snow-covered vista that is Necros. They are both wearing blue – the Doctor has a blue and gold cloak over his typical garishness while Peri is in an overcoat and beret – in honor of the planet’s traditions for mourning. While Peri complains that the garments are too tight, the Doctor engages in a little recreational body-shaming. Honestly, Doctor, Peri is far from overweight.

The Doctor has arrived to honor the memory of Professor Arthur Stengos. As the travelers plan, neither notices a hand emerge from the icy pond where Peri just threw the remnants of her lunch until the resulting large splash startles them. As they walk away, a humanoid emerges from the depths and pursues them. Hey, zombies gotta eat.

In a warmer place, planetary funeral director Jobel and his staff are making arrangements. The director is notified that the presidential spacecraft is on approach, and using gallows humor he gives orders for his staff to look their best. He also rebuffs the advances of his protégé Tasambeker, much to her chagrin. As the staff disperses, two figures bearing firearms pass their stealth checks, sneak through the center, assault guards with both energy and projectile weapons, then break into a locked room.

As the Doctor and Peri muse over the local flora, they are attacked by the humanoid from the pond. The Doctor attempts to hypnotize it, and when that fails Peri strikes the creature dead. Their exploits are captured by a local disk jockey whose broadcast is being watched by a Dalek and the head of Davros. The villains are distracted by the gunfire, and they miss the dying humanoid’s revelation that he is the product of experimentation by the “great healer.” The humanoid also forgives Peri for her actions.

The mysterious duo continues their quest, but their sneaking about is captured on video by the disk jockey. Tasambeker dispatches two of the funeral staff to find them and, interestingly, the two officials are able to walk right by the Dalek guards with a flash of identification. No exterminations, huh? Meanwhile, Davros summons Tasambeker to his chamber before contacting a woman named Kara. The discussion reveals that Kara is a food distributor who works for and funds Davros, the Great Healer. In fact, Davros takes pretty much everything she makes.

The sneaky pair finds evidence of… something… before running from guards that shoot on sight. They escape only to encounter Daleks escorting gurney and corpse down a corridor. They carry on, unknowingly being observed on Davros’s cameras, and find a room full of brains being preserved in giant glass tanks. They also find a glass Dalek containing a humanoid head. Creepy to be sure, but it gets creepier: The head recognizes Natasha, one of the rogues and his daughter, and calls her by name. He reveals that the corpses (really, beings on the edge of death placed in suspended animation) are being transformed into Daleks and he demands to be euthanized to prevent that grisly fate for himself. Reluctantly, Natasha obliges, but they are soon captured by the guards.

Oh, and Natasha’s father is none other than Arthur Stengos. <dramatic music cue>

Outside the facility, Peri and the Doctor are unable to find a door so they climb the wall instead. The Doctor continues his abusive barbs about her weight and she inadvertently destroys his pocket watch. Inside the facility, the disk jockey continues to be annoying.

Kara meets with an assassin named Orcini and his squire Bostock. She fawns, Orcini demurs, and Bostock leers. Finally cutting to the chase, Kara hires Orcini to eliminate Davros and free her supply chain. While they scheme, the Doctor and Peri continue their journey to the facility, a place called Tranquil Repose.

I agree with Peri: Yuck.

Tasambeker arrives before the Great Healer: Davros wants her to be transferred to his private staff, effective immediately. Outside, Peri spots (but does not recognize) a Dalek, followed by the spectacle of the Doctor’s face on a memorial plaque. It seems that the Time Lord is destined to die here… and he nearly does as the plaque falls on top of him.

You know, I don’t normally point out the flaws in set design, but that falling memorial was telegraphed multiple times as it swayed and swiveled on all of its seams for minutes before falling over. Downright distracting, that.

Anyway, as Peri runs to the Doctor’s aid, she is intercepted by Jobel. The Doctor emerges from the rubble unharmed – his cloak is stained with blood, but the whole event was theatrics staged by someone else – and the pair continues inside to unravel the mystery of attempted assassination. They receive a sales pitch from Tasambeker, complete with a commercial by the infernal disk jockey, and learn that only the Great Healer can erect monuments to the dead.

On the surface, Orcini and Bostock continue their mission with pomp and circumstance. They encounter a Dalek and destroy it with bastic bullets, an act that raises the alarm in Davros’s chambers. Davros calls Kara (who is deeply invested in President Vargos’s approach) to investigate her involvement, and she deflects as best she can.

Peri asks to meet the disk jockey. The Doctor agrees, though troubled that Jobel is accompanying her while he investigates the Great Healer. He’s even more troubled a few moments later as he is taken prisoner by the Daleks. Peri ditches Jobel and meets the DJ, obsessed by his patter which reminds her of home. Sadly for her, he’s only imitating what he knows from historical records of the United States.

The Doctor wakes up in the same cell as the two rogues, and they fill him in on the goings-on. As they chat, Daleks apprehend Kara and take her to Davros, Jobel schemes to take down the Great Healer, and Davros manipulates Tasambeker into killing Jobel in exchange for immortality as a Dalek. Orcini and Bostock make their way to Davros’s sanctum, stopping along the way to release the rogues and the Doctor.

Tasambeker tries to reason with Jobel in order to save his life but ends up killing him in a fit of rage. Daleks kill her shortly afterward. Meanwhile, Peri contacts the Doctor and he asks her to warn the president away. Davros dispatches Daleks to capture Peri and orders a new glass Dalek incubator to be prepared, forcing his guard to leave as Orcini makes his attempt on Davros’s life. Orcini destroys the head, but it was a ruse; the real Davros emerges (apparently unscathed by the Movellan virus), kills Bostock, and incapacitates Orcini. Elsewhere, the rogues are killed in the incubation chamber by a self-destructing Dalek (after it inexplicably levitates) and a wasteful plot.

In the DJ’s studio, Peri warns the president as the disk jockey sets up a “rock and roll” cannon to defend against the incoming Daleks. It works until the DJ gets cocky and is exterminated. Peri is captured, as is the Doctor after hearing the entire battle on the compound’s intercom.

In his chamber, Davros entertains Kara with the “transmitter” that she gave to Orcini, revealing it to be a bomb. Orcini kills Kara as the Doctor is brought before Davros, and the leader of the Imperial Daleks gives the Doctor his best “evil plan” lowdown speech as the assassin schemes with Kara’s bomb. Davros plans to take over the galaxy with his new Dalek army while winning over the populace by eliminating famine. Of course, he’s taking the Soylent Green approach by turning people into food for the masses. After Peri arrives, a not-quite-dead-yet Bostock manages to shoot Davros’s hand off, and he pays for it by being exterminated for real this time. The Daleks squash the escape attempt and an irate Davros swears that the Doctor and Peri will become Daleks in exchange.

Despite Jobel’s death, his loyal staff have called in reinforcements: Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek arrive from Skaro and the civil war hostilities come raging onto Necros. The Renegade Daleks storm Davros’s chambers and apprehend their creator. Davros offers the Doctor in exchange, but the Renegade Daleks don’t recognize the Time Lord in this regeneration and they take Davros away.

In a nice touch of this incarnation’s caustic wit, the Doctor offers to shake Davros’s stump in farewell.

Using the gun with bastic bullets, the Doctor shoots the eyepiece off their Dalek guard before destroying it with a grenade.

(I’ve heard arguments that the Doctor doesn’t use guns, which is obviously false. I’ve also heard the argument that the Doctor only uses guns as tools, which is obviously false in this story.)

He then convinces Jobel’s staff to leave Tranquil Repose and start farming the purple flowers on the surface for food. In exchange for the Doctor’s promise to tell his order of his sacrifice, Orcini decides to remain with Kara’s bomb so he can destroy the Dalek incubation chambers. Everyone, including the Renegade Daleks, escapes just in time as the bomb reduces Tranquil Repose to shambles.

With the crisis solved, Peri asks for a real holiday somewhere fun. The Doctor agrees, deciding to take her to—

 

You know, I’m not even angry that the ending is freeze-framed as an artificial cliffhanger. In fact, I’m glad that the story is over.

The DJ is an annoying extravagance that could have been cut with no real consequence to the story. His exit was an addendum on a high body count plot that sidelined the protagonists for a long time as the plot eventually unfolded itself.

The whole thing was dragged down even further by the Doctor being abusive toward his companion. First, because body shaming her is unacceptable, period. Second, it has no narrative basis during the Sixth Doctor’s run except as an escalation of his petulant and boorish behavior.

I am beyond weary of this Time Lord equivalent of an internet troll.

The only benefit I could find to this tale was exploring the Dalek Civil War – in order to stop the Daleks, Jobel’s staff calls in more of them… that was an intriguing solution – but even that was tacked on as a means to stop the threat when the Doctor couldn’t.

 


Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

UP NEXT – Twenty-Second Series Summary

 

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Pop Culture Download: February 11, 2018

Pop Culture Download: February 11, 2018

 

On the Docket
(In order of discovery this week)

John Mahoney, the actor who played Martin Crane on Frasier, has died at the age of 77. – [THR]

Solo: A Star Wars Story premiered a Super Bowl teaser and a cinematic teaser. – [YouTube/YouTube]

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom premiered a Super Bowl trailer. – [YouTube]

Mission: Impossible – Fallout premiered a Super Bowl trailer. – [YouTube]

The Cloverfield Paradox, the third film in the super secret franchise, premiered a Super Bowl trailer… and then premiered the movie itself on Netflix right after the game. – [YouTube]

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators behind television’s Game of Thrones, have been tapped to write and produce a new series of Star Wars films. – [StarWars.com]

Keith DeCandido continues 4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch with a look at The Spirit, both the 1987 and 2008 versions. – [Tor.com]

Michael Jan Friedman is trying to fund Empty Space, a new and mysterious space adventure. The Kickstarter campaign ends on February 16. – [Kickstarter]

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