Timestamp #16: The Chase

Doctor Who: The Chase
(6 episodes, s02e30-e35, 1965)

Timestamp 016 The Chase

The serial has an interesting start with the whole Time-Space Visualizer bit, and it is a great plot device to start the whole “chase” part of The Chase, but they spent a lot of time on it. I did enjoy how The Beatles become “classical music” in the future.

My first thought when the TARDIS touched down on Aridius was, “welcome to Tatooine,” twin suns, desert, and all. The reveal with the Dalek rising from the sand is cool, but not as much as the one that emerged from the water in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Overall, I quite liked the story with the Aridians. It struck me as kind of the reverse of the Atlantis myth. I also liked the birth of the TARDIS’s resistance to Dalek weapons, and the clever trap to escape Aridius.

The New York sequence was humorous, as was the Mary Celeste sequence. There are a lot of Dalek shells littered through history after this serial. I wonder if the BBC used various sets that they had available from other productions. This serial had a lot of various sets and it seems like it would be more expensive than the usual Doctor Who production.

The fabricated duplicate of the Doctor was interesting, and it did lead to a clever Doctor vs Doctor fight. The mutually assured destruction Dalek-Mechonoids face-off was also quite the sight.

I did get a little excited when the Doctor asked for his screwdriver. Alas, it was not a sonic version, but my I think my parents own a set just like it so it was a nice touchstone to my childhood. I also may have missed it, but I did wonder why our heroes even leave the ship until they had a solution to defeat the Daleks? Since the TARDIS is impervious to Dalek weapons, why not arrive, wait for the ship to recharge, then leave again?

Finally, this is where we say goodbye to Ian and Barbara. While it wasn’t as moving a farewell as Susan’s, it was still very touching to see them finally make it home. They seem very happy together, and it was touching to see the Doctor’s reaction to their departure. Under that gruff exterior, he really does care.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Time Meddler

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Timestamp #15: The Space Museum

Doctor Who: The Space Museum
(4 episodes, s02e26-e29, 1965)

Timestamp 015 The Space Museum

I enjoyed that this serial had a mystery that both the crew and the audience need to figure out. The second episode started into the background, but the first episode effectively roped me in with the question of what was going on.

There were some great moments in this serial. The Doctor gives the admonition to stay close, but then it’s the Doctor who lags behind gets taken by the rebels. Later he hides in a Dalek shell, and his Yoda-like mirth made me laugh. It was really nice to have him fool the mind-reading chair, and an equally nice touch to have the “curator” get rid of him once he’s of no further use. The typical sci-fi tropes would have had the baddie just stick the hero away instead of trying to kill him off.

The action scenes during the whole cat-and-mouse chase were engaging, and Vicki is brilliant in rewiring the armory computer. She’s really climbing the ranks as one of my favorite companions.

The thing that made me scratch my head was that this was apparently all started with yet another faulty component. It seems that the TARDIS is often just one bump short of falling apart at the seams.

Last but not least, there were new Daleks in the lead-in to The Chase. Unfortunately, the head light blinking sequences are way off, and I don’t like the super-shiny collar. It’s very distracting under the studio lights.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Chase

 

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.

Timestamp #14: The Crusade

Doctor Who: The Crusade
(4 episodes, s02e22-e25, 1965)

Timestamp 014 The Crusade

It’s Julian Glover! General Maximillian Veers, Walter Donovan, and Aris Kristatos! Instead of an Imperial soldier, a Nazi, or a Soviet sympathizer, this time he’s a rather petulant King Richard the Lionheart.

Ian gets to use some of the swordfighting skills he’s learned over the last couple of years, and he gets knighted as well. The Doctor gets to display his interesting morals (once stolen clothes are fair to be stolen again), and displays a couple of character traits I’m glad have survived into the modern era (he does not suffer fools and cherishes bravery). The Doctor and Vicki really do have an adorable relationship, but the whole ruse of disguising Vicki as a boy is quite a stretch, especially given the rather conspicuous curves and facial features.

This was a simple story, but engaging and entertaining. The second and fourth episodes I watched were reconstructed from recorded soundtracks and screen caps.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Space Museum 

 

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.

 

 

Timestamp #13: The Web Planet

Doctor Who: The Web Planet
(6 episodes, s02e16-e21, 1965)

Timestamp 013 The Web Planet

This serial had so much ambition, but so little payoff in six episodes to cover a very threadbare story. The costumes were laughable, and the Zarbi noises grated on me with seconds of hearing them for the first time.

There were some nice moments with Barbara and Vicki comparing notes on eras they were familiar with, and the Doctor is starting to remind me of Yoda with his giggling. From the production side, I’m glad they removed the handicap of losing power to the doors trapping the travellers in the TARDIS over the years. It seems like a silly stumbling block, even though it gave purpose to the Doctor’s rings. It was good of them to acknowledge the thin air, but those jackets made me giggle over the absurdity.

I give the serial extra credit for the enthralled Zarbi called Zombo, but, honestly, I’d rather watch The Sensorites again.

 

Rating: 1/5 – “EXTERMINATE!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Crusade

 

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.

 

Timestamp #12: The Romans

Doctor Who: The Romans
(4 episodes, s02e12-e15, 1965)

Timestamp 012 The Romans

A nice humorous episode balanced with seriousness regarding the Roman slave trade. It was a true tour de force of popular Roman story tropes. The poor TARDIS keeps getting used and abused, this time falling off a cliff and laying in a ditch for a month. I loved Vicki’s energy, and the nice character moments between Ian and Barbara.

I also loved the allegory with The Emperor’s New Clothes.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Web 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.

Timestamp #11: The Rescue

Doctor Who: The Rescue
(2 episodes, s02e10-e11, 1965)

Timestamp 011 The Rescue

This one was a quick but interesting story to introduce Vicki as a new companion. She seems to be written as a direct replacement for Susan, but the Doctor treats her better. From a production standpoint, the creature designs were pretty cool, and I thought that Sandy was kind of a cute little beastie. I also like how they showed (deliberately or not) some type of TARDIS interior from outside the ship.

The story has a nice twist, but it’s also rather tragic. Overall, it helps further establish the Doctor’s view on preserving life with his anger toward the near genocide of the Dido.

There were two smaller things that grabbed my attention. First, that rocket ship has one strong antenna to survive the crash without breaking. Perhaps they should make the entire ship from that material. I’m kidding of course; they needed to show the audience that the ship was trying to communicate. Second, the TARDIS doesn’t land, but instead materializes.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Romans

 

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.

Timestamp #10: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth
(6 episodes, s02e04-e09, 1964)

Timestamp 010 The Dalek Invasion of Earth

This was a great episode cover to cover, even with the dubious plot to steal an entire planet. Every one of the characters gets a chance to shine: The Doctor works through the puzzle in the Dalek jail cell, and helps Ian understand it as well; Barbara and Susan contribute to the fight at the Dalek saucer, which speaks volumes considering the lack of empowered women in 1960s science fiction; Barbara displays her intelligence and improv skills in stalling the Daleks by playing on their ignorance of human history; and Susan… oh, Susan.

Once again, Susan is yearning to grow, but is frustrated in trying to figure out how exactly to do so. David seems like a good mentor to help her find an identity and a place to thrive. The Doctor’s grudging respect for him points to this as well, and it was heart-wrenching to see him finally let his granddaughter go. It was interesting how much Susan grew on me in the short time she was on the show. After the credits rolled, I couldn’t press play to start the next serial because I felt like I needed time to say goodbye.

Even among the secondary characters, the development was great. Particularly, I point to the wheelchair-bound scientist’s sacrifice to test his Dalek killing grenade. It was very chilling, since he died in vain.

Some last notes on characters, it was good to see the Doctor back in his signature jacket. This episode also reinforced a couple of things with his character. First, he doesn’t kill unless under a direct threat, which will be interesting to track over this project. Second, he very clearly established that he prefers the name (title?) Doctor, and not the shortened form of Doc.

Finally, William Russell (Ian) sure does like testing the limits of the sets, doesn’t he? He keeps running headlong into set pieces that shouldn’t bend, but do under the power of his spirited no-holds-barred acting style.

Production-wise, this story has a lot of action and explosive effects. The location shoots make the story feel much more open, especially in the transit to the museum. The TARDIS looked rather beat up with the windows out of place. I loved seeing the Dalek coming out of the river at the end of the first episode. That innovative idea was so exciting to me, I can hardly imagine how kids felt when this serial first aired.

The one downside to me was the slyther. It is certainly an interesting creature, though it doesn’t make much sense that the Daleks would keep a pet given their desire to destroy everything not Dalek. But that is a minor quibble in this gem of an episode.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Rescue

 

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.

Timestamp #9: Planet of Giants

Doctor Who: Planet of Giants
(3 episodes, s02e01-e03, 1964)

Timestamp 009 Planet of Giants

The companions finally made it home… sort of. Welcome to the obligatory exercise in a science fiction series for the trope of shrinking the cast. I can’t grumble too much because there are some unique elements in this version that keep the idea from being boring repetition (even though it predates many of the modern sci-fi examples I can come up with).

The TARDIS model is back! I also thought it was refreshing for the Doctor to change his wardrobe a bit by exchanging his coat for a cloak. We also find out that bad things apparently happen when the TARDIS doors open during transition.

This one’s essentially an industrial thriller story, and even though it’s not particularly deep one, I still had a lot of fun with it. The effects are the highlight, and you can tell that the cast had fun as well. So did the set designers. But all that plus the character ingenuity can’t overcome a really shallow story.

 

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

 

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.

Timestamp #8: The Reign of Terror

Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror
(6 episodes, s01e35-e40, 1964)

Timestamp 008 The Reign of Terror

This was a nice recovery from the drudgery of The Sensorites. I enjoyed that the Doctor was in left in peril, and the fire over the closing credits for the first episode was an especially nice touch. I also liked the location shooting and the use of an actual historical setting, building a beautiful kiss with history in this serial.

The incidental music was great as well. Bursts of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem I know best from Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, helped set the mood. I also believe that I caught riffs of the main title theme in the Doctor’s whimsical walking music.

Addressing the story, it was good to see Hartnell’s duplicitous First Doctor being outwitted, crossed, and played by the people of the era. That makes a ton of sense to me, since the Doctor and his companions, for all their knowledge, are truly the aliens in every serial. It was also good to see that the Doctor and Ian made up after sharing this adventure and proving the relationship amongst this cast.

Episodes four and five are missing in this serial. The animated reconstructions are pretty good, but have a weird fascination with shots of eyes and lips. I won’t hold that against the serial in my final rating.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – First 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.

Timestamp #7: The Sensorites

Doctor Who: The Sensorites
(6 episodes, s01e29-e34, 1964)

Timestamp 007 The Sensorites

This story is essentially a parable about fear, from humans losing complete control of their autonomy to the Sensorites being afraid of confrontation and the dark. The serial is driven by the Sensorites and their fear of losing their molybdenum (“moly-mol-minerals”; poor William Hartnell) resources through betrayal of their trust in human explorers.

There were some great character building blocks. Susan is developing telepathy, and I wonder if it’s something in the Time Lord DNA. If so, does the Doctor share that skill? I also really enjoyed seeing Susan spread her wings a bit in facing off with her grandfather and demanding some space to run. She’s growing up physically, and yearns to grow emotionally.

I liked that they established the Doctor’s apprehension with weapons. I also enjoyed seeing the origins of the Tenth Doctor’s description of Gallifrey, even though it isn’t called that yet.

Despite those positives, this serial really drags on, and the unfortunate thing about watching something that doesn’t entertain is that you start to really pay attention to all of the flaws. First is that this serial is almost like a blooper reel for the entire first series. There are so many production errors, and they’re very noticeable. The guest stars can’t help distract from the verbal stumbles from Hartnell and Carol Ann Ford because the guests were terrible and single-note.

The second major flaw is costuming. The alien costumes are terrible, even for the 1960s, but they do remind me of the Ood (from the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctor eras) with the overall design, transmitters, and telepathy.

Third, I really had an issue with Susan and Ian making fun of the Sensorite “flip-flop” walking style. It flies in the face of the overall mythology I’ve come to expect from the later years, and seems uncharacteristic of characters who were earlier celebrating how much they’ve grown as people.

The writing problems didn’t stop there. I got hung-up with the way that Susan shows momentary interest in the spectrograph, and then rudely interrupts Ian as he’s explaining it. I also had a problem with the Sensorites not being able to tell one another apart by anything more than their rank insignia, but they have no problem making direct telepathic calls to one another or reading text on paper. The removal of the TARDIS lock to prevent the Doctor’s company from leaving also felt weak.

The “creature” in the aqueduct is never really explained. I can infer that the growling was man-made, and that the claw marks in the Doctor’s coat were from the spears, but it would have been nice to have it acknowledged.

I know that I’m beating up on this serial. There are a lot of great ideas and concepts here, but they’re lost in long, drawn-out delivery. It’s not terrible overall, but merely boring and exaggerated with a ton of squandered potential.

It didn’t help any that the Doctor’s anger at the end toward Ian is quite unexpected and makes no sense. Everyone agreed at the start that the voyage has been good for our heroes, but Ian is frustrated in not being able to steer their own course. I wonder if the Doctor is projecting his frustration with Susan’s growth onto Ian.

I certainly hope that The Reign of Terror rings out the first year of Doctor Who on a high note.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror

 

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.