Timestamp Special #7: Dimensions in Time

Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time
(2 episodes, 1993)

 

Celebrating thirty years.

Starting off with a little backstory, this was shown as part of the 1993 Children in Need telethon over two nights. Both parts were bracketed by host Noel Edmonds, and the first part involved a short intro sketch with Jon Pertwee in character as the Doctor. Sadly, this was his last on-screen performance before his death.

On to the story…

The Rani is traveling with her companion, previously having captured (busts of) the First and Second Doctors in an attempt to assemble a menagerie of sentient life-forms to control the universe. That’s kind of her thing, really. Her companion checks off a Cyberman and a Time Lord from Gallifrey, noting that they need a human from Earth to complete the collection.

Elsewhere, the Fourth Doctor (in his Eighteenth Season garb) issues a warning to all of his other incarnations. It appears that he’s too late as the Rani takes aim on the TARDIS and knocks the capsule off course. Instead of landing in China, the Seventh Doctor and Ace materialize on the docks at the Cutty Sark Gardens, circa 1973. As Ace calls for help, the Seventh Doctor transforms into the Sixth Doctor, and both of them are instantly transported to (the fictional) Albert Square. The Sixth Doctor remarks that they have “slipped a groove” in time, and somehow he knows who Ace is.

This timey-wimey-wibbly-wobbliness will drive the rest of the adventure.

As Ace spots a clothing stand and a discount on a jacket from Sanjay and Gita (of The EastEnders), the Sixth Doctor discovers that they are now in 1993. The slipped groove has also slipped them two decades into the future. Just as he begins to question things, the slip happens again, leaving behind the Third Doctor and Mel. The Third Doctor believes that someone is rooting through his timeline and extracting previous incarnations and companions. The pair stop and ask two shop owners (Pauline Fowler and Kathy Beale from The EastEnders) what year they are in, and they are shocked to discover that they are in 2013.

The slips come fast and furious now, bouncing between 1973, 1993, and 2013, all in an attempt to separate the Doctor from the TARDIS and seal all of the Doctors together. One slip occurs, revealing the Sixth Doctor and Susan Foreman, the latter of whom is eager to find her grandfather, Ian, and Barbara. Another slip brings Sarah Jane and the Third Doctor back together. The next reunites the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Peri, and this time they’re under attack from the Rani’s menagerie because our heroes (in all their guises) are too close to the truth.

They face off against a host of villains from the last thirty years (including an Argolin, a biomechanoid, a Cyberman, a Mentor, an Ogron, a Sandminer robot, a Sea Devil, a Tetrap, a Time Lord, a Tractator, a Vanir and a Vervoid, and even Fifi), and after they attempt to warn Pat Butcher (The EastEnders) of the danger – a futile effort, it seems – they are trapped by the Rani outside the Queen Victoria (once more, The EastEnders).

The Fifth Doctor psychically summons the Third Doctor in his place, an act that replaces Nyssa and Peri with Liz Shaw. Liz attempts to disarm the Rani, but then flees after Mandy (The EastEnders) distracts the villain. Mike Yates arrives in Bessie and shoots the gun out of the Rani’s hands, offering the Doctor a way out. Together they flee to a helicopter and the Brigadier.

Another slip occurs, exchanging the Third Doctor for the Sixth as they reach safety. As another slip occurs, the Rani and her companion set course for the Greenwich Meridian to find their missing human specimen. In a garage, the second Romana is flushed out of her hiding spot by Phil and Grant Mitchell (you guessed it, The EastEnders), who point her to their doctor, Harold Legg. As she passes the Queen Victoria, the Rani captures her.

In 1973, the Third Doctor and Victoria Waterfield discuss the nature of the Rani as they return to the TARDIS. Time slips once again, and the Seventh Doctor lands in 1993 and encounters Leela, who has escaped the Rani after being cloned in the form of the second Romana. This is the key that the Doctor needs, since the Rani now has an extra Time Lord brain imprint instead of the human one she needed. The Seventh Doctor, Ace, and K9 rig up a device to overload the time tunnel, capturing the Rani inside while breaking the other Doctors free.

Triumphant, the Seventh Doctor and Ace board the TARDIS for their next adventure, confident in the fact that the Doctor(s) are difficult to get rid of.

 

This was fun but chaotic, and a decent nod to the franchise on its thirtieth anniversary.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time

 

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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Timestamp #97: The Invasion of Time

Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time
(6 episodes, s15e21-e26, 1978)

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Duplicitous Doctor is delightful.

Somewhere in deep space, the TARDIS is parked on an alien ship. The Doctor negotiates with the ship’s crew as Leela and K9 keep the TARDIS running. Leela tries to use the scanner, but the Doctor disabled it to prevent her interfering. The Doctor signs a contract granting him complete control over the Time Lords, returns to the TARDIS, and departs. Leela takes a dip in the TARDIS swimming pool to pass the time.

On Gallifrey, the Time Lords detect the incoming TARDIS, but they cannot determine who it is, so they increase security. The TARDIS materializes and the guards, led by Commander Andred, arrive with orders to arrest the pilot and destroy the capsule. The Doctor emerges and demands to be taken to Chancellor Borusa.

Leela is on Gallifrey? How can she be there but Sarah Jane could not?

Upon meeting with Borusa, the Doctor claims his legal right as President of the Council of Time Lords. He is very gruff and brusque with the Time Lords, who are unaware that every interaction is being watched by the mysterious aliens. The Doctor selects his Presidential chamber, including 20th century décor and lead-lined walls, and orders that Leela be given proper accommodations.

Once the Doctor in inaugurated, he will be connected to the Matrix, the repository of Time Lord knowledge and history. The ceremony proceeds, but once the circlet is placed on his head, the Doctor collapses in pain. He is attended to by the surgeon general, although Borusa wants him arrested (which cannot happen to the President under law), and taken to the Chancellory to rest. Leela is taken away for questioning in the matter, and when she arrives at the Chancellory, the Doctor recovers and has her expelled from the Citadel since aliens are not allowed there. Leela runs to evade capture.

At this point, everything’s playing out as if the Doctor is completely betraying Leela.

Borusa tries to call the Doctor’s bluff, but the Doctor tells him that as long as Leela remains at large, Gallifrey is in danger. Borusa leaves the Doctor rest, after which the Doctor dons his normal attire and escapes the Chancellory. He hopscotches his way to the TARDIS with Leela in pursuit, but he locks her out and then shares a secret plan with K9. While on the run, Leela stumbles into the space traffic control room and meets the operator, Rodan. Together, they note that a massive warship is approaching the planet, but Rodan assures Leela that it cannot harm them so long as the planetary transduction barrier remains in place.

The Doctor leaves the TARDIS and returns to the Chancellory just in time to meet with Castellan Kelner, who has been watching the Doctor’s adventure the entire time. Meanwhile, a guard unlocks the TARDIS, releasing K9 who stuns the guard for his trouble. K9 disables the transduction barrier, allowing the warship to approach and three aliens to materialize in the Citadel as the Doctor laughs an evil laugh.

The aliens are called the Vardans, and the Doctor entered into an alliance with them some time ago. He asks Borusa to meet him in his chambers later, and tells the Vardans that it is only a matter of time until he retrieves the Great Key. When he reaches his quarters, he explains everything to Borusa, their secret maintained by the lead-lined walls of the room. Leela was banished to protect both her and the secret. Leela convinces Rodan to join her in the Wastelands, which she believes to be part of the Doctor’s plan. The run into Andred, who lets them go but stays behind to face the invasion and keep tabs on Castellan Kelner. In the Wastelands, the duo encounters a tribe of Gallifreyan outsiders led by Nesbin. These tribe has rejected Time Lord society and live in the wild.

The Doctor and Borusa leave the chambers and meet with Kelner and the Vardans. The Doctor begins his act: He has Borusa placed under house arrest and directs Kelner with tracking and expelling trouble-making (potentially rebellious) Time Lords. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS where K9 is interfacing with the control panel. He places the circlet on the robot dog’s head, giving him access to the Matrix. Andred, in an attempt to defend his home, enters the TARDIS and corners the Doctor, threatening to assassinate him.

K9 stuns Andred before continuing his analysis. When the guardsman comes to, he realizes that his weapon is ineffective. The Doctor leaves Andred with K9 and discovers that Kelner’s men have eliminated Andred’s force. He returns to the TARDIS and explains things to Andred: The TARDIS shields them from the Vardans, and the Matrix has been invaded. The Doctor modifies Andred’s helmet to shield the guardsman from the Vardans, then constructs a plot to disable the remaining force field around Gallifrey. The downside is that only Rassilon has the power to do so, but the upside is that his being lives on in the Matrix.

Kelner and the Vardans discuss the Doctor’s erratic behavior and begin to plot against him. Meanwhile, Leela organizes the rebel tribe to stage an assault on the Citadel. The Doctor returns the Vardans and tries to earn back their trust by opening the planet to attack. He opens a hole in the shield directly above the Citadel, and a spacecraft approaches as three humanoids materialize in the Panopticon. As the hole opens, K9 leads Andred to the Presidential chambers and Leela leads the tribe to the Citadel. The Doctor returns to his chambers, prompting the Vardans to place Kelner in charge and order the Doctor’s execution, but K9 traces the Vardan signal back to its source and places their planet in a time loop.

Presuming that they have won, the Doctor, Leela, Andred, and the tribesmen converge on the Panopticon and being to celebrate, but their joy is short-lived as three Sontaran soldiers appear and take aim on the group. Well, that escalated quickly.

I did like how the Doctor immediately surrendered to save the assembled innocents.

The Sontarans used the Vardans as pawns to dismantle Gallifrey’s defenses. The Doctor hides his true identity as the Sontarans search for him, and Borusa works behind the scenes to provide a distraction. The Doctor’s group scatters while Kelner remains behind to polish boots with his tongue. The Doctor, Leela, Rodan, Andred, and Nesbin – basically, the power players in this plot – run to the Presidential Chambers and find Borusa. Hot on their heels, the Sontarans begin to assault the door, which Borusa had previously reinforced with titanium. Escaping through a secret exit, the group (now including K9) moves to Borusa’s office. The Doctor sends everyone onward to the TARDIS, then asks Borusa for the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. Borusa attempts to deceive him, but in the end surrenders the key to the Doctor, making him the first president since Rassilon to hold it.

On the way back to the TARDIS, Nesbin is killed, but with his last ounce of strength he takes down a Sontaran. The Doctor and Borusa retreat to the TARDIS with Sontarans in pursuit, and the Doctor entrusts the Great Key to Leela’s protection. As the Sontaran commander forces Kelner to widen the hole in the planetary shield, the Doctor works with Rodan to seal it. The overrides for the shield are controlled from the TARDIS, so Kelner sabotages the stabilizer banks and sends the time capsule hurtling toward a black star. The Doctor overrides the stabilizers, but that leaves the TARDIS stuck in state until the override can be, well, overridden.

Kelner gains access to the TARDIS, and the Sontarans pursue the Doctor’s group through her labyrinthine interiors. Which, in this incarnation, appear to be a series of industrial tunnels and eclectic rooms. In the workshop, the Doctor tasks a hypnotized Rodan as K9’s assistant, including possession of the Great Key, while he distracts the invaders. The Doctor’s group finds Borusa at the swimming pool, and he joins the running distraction. When Andred is inadvertently wounded, Leela takes him and Borusa back to the workshop. The Doctor meets up with them, and finds that Rodan and K9 have constructed a de-mat gun, the ultimate weapon of the Time Lords that erases its targets from all of time. The Doctor pursues the Sontaran commander to the Panopticon, where the warrior plans to destroy the Eye of Harmony, which will destroy Gallifrey. The Doctor uses the de-mat gun on the explosion, which removes the commander from time, destroys the gun, and wipes the Doctor’s memory of the entire event.

The Doctor used two different guns in this story. I really need to start a tracker of some sort.

With the day won, the now resigned President gets ready to depart, but Leela and K9 decline to follow. Leela has fallen in love with Andred, even though aliens are not welcome on Gallifrey, and K9 remains to look after her. As the Doctor flies on to his next adventure, his former companions mourning his newfound loneliness, he pulls a box out of storage: K9 Mark II.

This serial had some really good plotting and acting. It was great to see the Doctor playing such a powerful role in saving his home. I really wish that he hadn’t had the entire thing erased from his brain since the important part to forget was the de-mat gun.

It’s also time to say goodbye to Leela. Louise Jameson is a great actress, but Leela wasn’t my favorite companion. Granted, Sarah Jane is a hard act to follow, and Leela saved a couple of stories in her run. I will miss her.

The big downside to this story: The patched-in love story for Leela. It just appears as a quick method to eject her from the TARDIS, and that drags the grade down from a glowing top score to a solid four.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Fifteenth 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 #96: Underworld

Doctor Who: Underworld
(4 episodes, s15e17-e20, 1978)

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There’s so much blue screen that, after this, the Star Wars prequels are gold.

The TARDIS is putzing about in deep space. The Doctor channels his inner da Vinci as Leela plays with the control console. We still haven’t answered the question as to whether or not she can actually pilot the blue box, but she flips a switch and the TARDIS stops. Coincidence? Fate? Sixth sense? Whatever the cause, she thinks she broke something, but the Doctor says that the TARDIS stopped because it reached the edge of the cosmos. K9 chimes in that they are not alone, which is accurate since a ship is falling into a nearby spiral nebula. The Doctor sets a course and they materialize inside the wayward craft.

At this point, I have seen so much Doctor Who that sets are starting to blend together. I know that I’ve seen this bridge before, but I can’t exactly place it.

The crew of the ship, the R1C, recognize the materialization sound as the technology of the gods. The TARDIS and her crew are in the ship’s cargo hold, and the Doctor determines that this is a ship from Minyos, a planet from the other side of the universe. The Time Lords once tried to help the Minyan society, but were rejected when the Minyans destroyed their world 100,000 years before this story. This led to the Time Lords developing their non-interference policy – the source of much Gallifreyan hypocrisy – and the Minyan survivors revile them for the catastrophe.

I’m trying really hard to avoid a Despicable Me franchise reference here. If there were bananas in this story, however, I’d be over the top.

The travelers escape the cargo bay and head for the bridge. Their arrival upsets the crew, and a “pacifier” is used to quell the hostility. Captain Jackson explains to the Doctor that the R1C has been searching for a missing ship that holds their genetic banks, the P7E, for 100 centuries. They have been surviving by regenerating like the Time Lords, but their ship is failing after so long underway. The Minyans ask if the Doctor understands how that feels, and he remarks that it is unpleasant.

Did the Time Lords alter the Minyan people somehow to give them regeneration? There was a technological component to it, almost like an impulse to start it, but the last time the Doctor regenerated, he needed the same push from K’anpo. Either the Time Lords gifted them the power, or I’m seriously beginning to wonder if the Gallifreyans are a future evolution of humanity. Not canon, I know, but still.

The Doctor hooks K9 into the helm, and the robot dog pilots them out of the spiral nebula. The detect the P7E and follow her track back into the nebula. They survive the journey, but become buried as the ship attracts a large amount of debris. They use the ship’s weapons to punch through the accumulating rock, but it damages their own ship.

And this makes no sense. But that doesn’t stop the plot (as it is) from moving on.

They break free and follow the signal to a soft planet that is forming from the debris. They crash into the planet and the shock causes a tunnel to collapse, disrupting some slave workers called Trogs. Guards are dispatched to pacify the slaves, lording over them with claims of heresy. The accused heretic’s son, Idas, runs from the guards.

Have I mentioned how much blue screen work there is in this one?

The Minyans open the airlock and blast through the rock into the tunnels, detecting signs of intelligent life. The crew leaves the ship after telling the travelers to stay behind, so the Doctor and Leela naturally follow and explore. They find Idas and lead the guards away before doubling back to find the boy inside the R1C‘s airlock. The ship’s crew explore the tunnels, and one of them, Herrick,  encounters a guard. The guard shoots, but the crewman reflects it with his shield and kills the guard. The overseer blocks the tunnel and fumigates it, effectively reducing the Trogs to the level of cockroaches.

The Doctor learns about the Trog myths from Idas, including legends of the Sky Gods (the Minyans have those too!) and the Seers who rule on behalf of the Oracle. They soon detect the fumigation gas, and the Doctor goes out to stop it, but he is overcome in short order. Nevertheless, he was successful as the gas recedes and back-flushes the system, overcoming the guards at the brig. Meanwhile, the crew frees Herrick.

When the Doctor returns, Idas tells him about sacrifices at the Citadel, which is the punishment his father Idmon will endure for heresy. The Doctor tells K9 to find Captain Jackson while they save Idmon. Idas warns them of dragons at the entrance, but Leela makes short work of these automated defenses. They enter the planet’s core, which has null gravity, and descend to the Citadel. They are soon captured.

The sacrifice is to be accomplished by using the flame from the (ironically named) Lamp of Life to burn a rope and drop a sword (of Damocles, despite the incorrect usage) onto the victim. The Oracle, a disembodied mechanical voice, begins the ceremony. The Doctor’s group is brought to the sacrificial altar and are sentenced to death, but Idas sparks a rebellion by moving his father at the last second. Jackson and the crew arrive as the Doctor’s group flees. Herrick remains to guard their escape and is captured.

So. Much. Blue. Screen.

Such. Terrible. Special. Effects.

The free slaves explain their lives of labor, and the Doctor determines that the Trogs are really the descendants of the P7E‘s crew. They decide to seek out the Oracle by hiding in mine carts, but they accidentally fall into a rock crusher. The Doctor and Leela hold on to the edge by their fingertips – a literal cliffhanger look how clever – and the R1C crew rescues them, holding back the guards while the travelers continue their quest.

The Seers torture Herrick, but do not believe his story despite the scanners indicating that he is telling the truth. They remove their masks, revealing mechanical faces. The Seers determine that the Oracle is worth more than the genetic bank, and offer them to the R1C crew if they agree to leave. Captain Jackson concurs.

The Doctor, Leela, and Idas locate the Oracle, which is yet another megalomaniacal computer (which sounds like Gozer from Ghostbusters).  The Doctor deduces that the Oracle is programmed to protect the genetic banks at all costs, so he steals them, which brings the might of the Oracle’s guards upon them as they flee. They are trapped in a deliberate “skyfall” cave-in, but are rescued by K9.

“Gratitude is unnecessary. Speed is vital.” Nice.

K9 stops the R1C‘s departure as he detects the trap: Herrick’s prize is really a pair of fission grenades capable of destroying a small planet. It’s a bit late for Chekhov’s gun, but there it is. The Doctor takes the grenades back into the tunnels and hands them over to the guards. After Leela frees the Doctor, the travelers return to the R1C with all of the Trogs in tow. As the ship departs, the grenades explode and destroy the planet, causing a shockwave that pushes the ship out of the nebula. The ship sets course for the new Minyan homeworld as the TARDIS departs for the next adventure.

Doctor, if I may: Speaking from an era where pop culture references permeate pretty much everything, if you have to explain the reference, the effect is ruined.

The story’s premise is decent enough – it should be since it’s effectively a rehash of The Face of Evil – but the execution is terrible. The Oracle computer was a lackluster and impotent villain (particularly when compared to WOTAN, BOSS, and Xoanan), the villain’s mechanical minions (sorry) were never explained, and the plethora of parallels to the Greek myths (mostly Jason and the Argonauts) was a bit (or a lot, really) heavy-handed. At least it gave the writers a reason to reach way back into Doctor Who history with the Trojan Horse. Finally, all of that badly executed blue-screening was painful on the eyes. It was probably a great technical achievement for the time and the budget, but it was hard to watch because there was just so much of it.

Louise Jameson added a little bit of saving grace with her humorous recovery from the pacifier ray — “Who did it? I’ll kill them!” — but, sadly, it was really the only humor to be found in this story. The rest of the jokes and gags fell flat.

I give the dodgy science a pass because, over the duration of the Timestamps Project, the science in Doctor Who has been dodgy more times than I can count. It’s a hallmark of science-fiction in this era.

I was tempted to give this one the lowest possible grade, but this one was still better than both The Web Planet and The Celestial Toymaker.

Though not by much.

Thank Louise Jameson.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time

 

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 #95: The Sun Makers

Doctor Who: The Sun Makers
(4 episodes, s15e13-e16, 1977)

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This story is an allegory about something. It seems almost as certain as death, but paid annually. I just can’t put my finger on it. I suppose it will come to me eventually.

On Pluto, a man named Cordo receives word that his father has died. Strangely, he is relieved, and has his “death taxes” ready for payment to Gatherer Hade. Cordo discovers that death taxes have been raised, and unfortunately, he has nothing more to give. The gatherer increases Cordo’s working hours to compensate, leaving him with no time to sleep.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor is playing chess against K9 and Leela. They land on Pluto, and the Doctor is amazed to see that it has been terraformed with vast cities and breathable atmosphere. Leela spots Cordo about to jump off one of the buildings, and together they stop him.

Hade is informed of an airspace violation and illegal landing. Overjoyed at the revenues, he heads out to arrest the perpetrators and discovers the TARDIS. The Doctor, Leela, and Cordo run to avoid the gatherer and avoid being sent to the correction centers, which are apparently very bad. Cordo mentions the “undercity” and rumors of tax evaders and outlaws live, and the travelers offer to accompany him. In short order, they find the outlaws.

Trivia: Pluto has six suns, which the Doctor determines are in-station fusion satellites. This title inspiration never really comes to bear on the plot again.

Meanwhile, K9 gives up on waiting for the Doctor and leaves the TARDIS. The dog makes his way through the city, and Hade and his aide Marn watch the progress. The outlaws give the Doctor a task by Mandrel, the outlaw leader: He is to take a Consumcard to the Consum Bank with Cordo. If he doesn’t return by a certain time, they’ll kill Leela. As the Doctor and Cordo set out, they encounter K9. Since Hade and Marn are watching K9 on the tracker, they also discover the Doctor, who they presume is an arms smuggler. Hade decides to go to the palace and warn the Collector.

The Doctor and Cordo reach the bank and attempt to deposit the Consumcard. Unfortunately, the Doctor is trapped in the booth which fills with gas. He is apprehended, but Cordo escapes. The Doctor wakes up in the Correction Center with another prisoner, Bisham, who inadvertently shares just how much freedom is restricted in this civilization, including the use of a gas in the atmosphere to increase anxiety and decrease will. During their discussion, the Doctor sabotages the circuitry, which electrocutes their guard. As the Doctor’s time runs out, Mandrel orders Leela to be seized, but she fights back. Cordo returns with news of the Doctor’s capture, and Leela tries to rouse the rebels to fight with her. In the end, only Cordo accompanies her to rescue the Doctor. The duo find K9, and the dog accompanies them on their journey.

Hade and the Collector discuss how to suppress the supposed uprising. The Collector promises half of his guard to assist in exchange for a five percent increase in taxes to cover the cost. As workers fix the reprogramming circuitry, the Doctor is freed by Marn. He leaves his bag of jelly babies with Bisham, and Marn escorts the Time Lord to see Hade. The gatherer pays him the value of the forged Consumcard and forgives the offense, obviously in an attempt to instill a false sense of security in the rebels. Marn also places a tracker on the Doctor as he leaves.

Leela, Cordo, and K9 break into the Correction Center and find Bisham. They all leave to continue tracking the Doctor, who has returned to the undercity and Mandrel’s gang. Mandrel is convinced that the Doctor is a spy for the gatherer, and Leela’s group is maneuvered into a trap. Leela has K9 spring a trap of their own and the group escapes, but Leela is shot and apprehended in the attempt. She is taken to the Correction Center for medical attention, and the Collector orders her to be brought to him when she has recovered.

Mandrel attempts to torture the Doctor for information, but he is rescued by Bisham and Cordo. The three of them plan an insurrection with Mandrel’s gang against the Company. Strangely, they have no idea what the Company does or where their money goes. The Doctor tricks the trackers with a footage loop of him walking the same path.

Leela is brought before the Collector, who learns of the Sevateem and the TARDIS. He dismisses Leela and researches the Time Lords, then informs Hade of the Doctor’s true identity. The Collector orders Leela to be publicly executed, and issues a bounty on the Doctor, dead or alive, to be paid out by Hade. The commander of the guard visits Leela in the Correction Center and taunts her with news of her execution. That guy’s gonna get a taste of her knife, isn’t he?

Marn and Hade follow the false scanner trail and discover the trick. Meanwhile, the Doctor’s team takes control of the vapor towers, the nerve center for the city’s power. They learn of Leela’s pending execution by steaming, a particularly gruesome death, and K9 offers to traverse the pipes and disable the system. The Doctor then crawls to the condenser and rescues Leela, but his efforts are betrayed by an inadvertent call from Mandrel.

The rebels are clearing the atmosphere of the mind-altering gas, and the Doctor decides to take over the Collector’s public video system and announce the rebellion to the world. The Collector is informed that some of the workers are refusing to work, a side-effect of the atmosphere purification, sending the leader into a fervor.

The Doctor and Leela break into the palace and, after a rather humorous hypnotism sequence, begin to explore the Collector’s systems. They discover the Company vault and crack it, but as Leela rushes in, she is knocked unconscious by a security field. The public video system broadcasts a message that the rebellion has taken over, and in the face of a mob, Marn joins the rebels. On the roof, Hade confronts a group of workers and is tossed over the side for his trouble.

The Collector returns to the palace and the Doctor sits down for the typical fourth episode exposition. The Collector is an Usurian, and his species made a deal with the humans: In exchange for a colony on Mars to save humanity, the Usurians taxed them to the extreme. Once Mars was exhausted, they moved the operation to Pluto, and once this operation is over, the Collector plans to abandon them and move on. It’s a plan of galactic domination through business instead of war.

The Doctor inadvertently awakens the hypnotized guard who provides a distraction for the Collector to unveil his Doomsday contingency plan: A sprinkler system filled with poison that will kill every human almost instantly. Luckily, Leela distracts the guard with a knife to his shoulder, then stops the Collector from throwing the switch. As the rebels storm the palace, the Collector reverts to his natural form (a lump of seaweed) that is easily stopped.

With the threat stopped and the day saved, the travelers head back to the TARDIS. Leela and K9 pick up their chess game once again, and the Doctor flips the board by throwing the TARDIS for a loop. With mock sincerity, he apologizes and offers to start the match again.

It was a simplistic but straightforward story, but a little too on the nose with the commentary.

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Underworld

 

 

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 #94: Image of the Fendahl

Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl
(4 episodes, s15e09-e12, 1977)

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In science fiction, nothing good ever happens in a fog bank.

Two intimate scientists, Thea Ransome and Adam Colby, examine a skull they have christened Eustace. Elsewhere in the lab, Maximillian Stael and Doctor Fendelman conduct an experiment which, unbeknownst to them, spark a strange possessive effect from Eustace over Thea. It’s no coincidence that a hiker walking through the woods gets killed in the fog by something spooky.

On the TARDIS, the Doctor has torn K9 apart to fix some sort of damage. How the pooch was damaged is a mystery probably left to the expanded universe novels. Regardless, the TARDIS takes a dive as it encounters a Relative Continuum Displacement Zone – a hole in time for those of us who don’t speak Time Lord – and the Doctor tracks it to a time scanner on Earth.

I’m a big fan of the changes to Leela: Her wardrobe and hairstyle brighten her up overall, including bringing out her vibrant blue eyes. Louise Jameson has a lot wider range now as well. Was changing her eye color that significant of a game changer?

Adam finds the hiker’s corpse the next morning, and Fendelman suggests they cover it up to avoid the media and the police interrupting their work. He also orders an armed lockdown of the site. Just in time, the TARDIS arrives at the site of time scanner and start their search. They encounter a man, Ted Moss, who tells them about the strange happenings at the local Priory.

Stael conducts an autopsy of the hiker, but cannot determine the cause of death. The peculiar things is that the corpse is already decomposing, as though it has been sped up through time. Through an altercation between local cook and witch Martha Tyler (to my knowledge, no relation to a certain future companion or any superheroes) and a guard named Mitchell, Thea and Adam learn of the lockdown. Adam confronts Fendelman and learns of the professor’s experiments, which Adam later dismisses as absurd. Thea is not convinced, and she investigates on her own. When Thea activates the experiment, the skull effect starts again. Leela is drawn to the experiment through her sixth sense, and is attacked by Moss. The Doctor encounters the mysterious creature and a momentary paralysis before running away.

The confrontation between Leela and Moss is broken up by Jack Tyler, grandson of Martha. After Moss leaves, Jack talks to Leela about his grandmother, the old religion, and the “nasty” events in the area. Martha returns home, terrified that something “hungry for her soul” was pursuing her. Adam stops Thea’s use of the time scanner, but not before the creature kills the guard Mitchell. Thea collapses into a ball of glowing light and tentacles/serpents called an Embryo Fendahleen as the Doctor arrives. Doctor Fendelman bullies his colleagues into silence and has the Doctor locked away on suspicion of murder, but the Time Lord is quickly freed by a mysterious benefactor.

Fendelman theorizes that the skull is extraterrestrial in origin, and has located the moment of death in the timeline. That moment is at the focal point of a huge energy burst. An x-ray of the skull reveals a pentagram in the bone structure, which may be part of a neural capacitor that could signal the presence of intelligent life on the planet. Thea returns to the time scanner and sees the x-ray. Stael arrives and reveals that he is the leader of a local coven, and that Thea is the key to his power. She is his chosen one.

Then he chloroforms her.

Pro tip: Not an effective way to win friends and influence people.

The Doctor finds the lab and the skull, and the latter starts to glow. A moth to the flame, he is drawn to it, and of course it burns him. He cannot release his grip on Eustace, but Leela arrives and (much to her delight) saves him. The Doctor identifies the skull as the indestructible remnants of a Fendahl. Leela takes him to Martha, whom the Doctor rouses from her shocked stupor. Meanwhile, Stael ambushes Adam and Fendelman at gunpoint in the lab, stopping their progress with the scanner. The pair are confined to the basement near Thea, who is bound on the floor inside a pentagram.

The Doctor and Leela use the TARDIS to follow the time fissure to the Fendahl’s home planet. The Doctor discovers that the planet (supposedly a missing fifth in our solar system) has been destroyed (resulting in the asteroid belt) and placed in a time loop to prevent knowledge of the Fendahl from escaping. Apparently, that kind of madness can only be achieved by a Time Lord. You know, the non-interfering Time Lords who punish their own kind for interfering in things. They were too late: The Fendahl had already reached Earth by that point and affected human evolution.

Time Lords, man. Time Lords.

Back on Earth, Stael assembles his cult and Fendelman connects the dots: The Fendahl has used humanity in the past to regain life, and this ceremony will do the same. He begs the cultists to stop, but only earns a bullet to the head for his trouble. The Doctor  and Leela return to the Priory, meeting up with the Tylers. As they attempt to leave, they are paralyzed, and a Fendahleen is bearing down on them. The Fendahleen meets its end at the muzzle of Jack’s gun, some rock salt, and the hand of the Doctor.

I guess it was the only way, but it’s further evidence that the Doctor isn’t as adverse to guns as I hear in fandom.

The cult continues their ceremony, and the Fendahl is manifested into Thea’s body. The Fendahl transforms the cult members into Fendahleen and paralyzes Stael. The Doctor and Leela free Adam, but they cannot free Stael because of the Fendahl’s influence. Stael asks for his gun, which uses to commit suicide. The group determines that salt kills the Fendahleen, and (conveniently) the Fendahl needs thirteen Fendahleen to reach full power. The Doctor rigs the scanner to destroy the Priory, and then he and Leela retrieve the skull to remove the Fendahl’s power base. The Priory explodes, and the powerless Fendahl is destroyed.

Back aboard the TARDIS, Leela has (sadly) returned to her previous costume, but (thankfully) it appears to be better constructed and more vibrant. After a comedic bonding interlude between K9 and the Doctor, they set course for a supernova to destroy the skull.

Okay, let’s cover the positive first. Louise Jameson was better in this story than she had been in the past.

Now, the negatives.

This story is a mess. There are a lot of great elements, but it felt spotty, chaotic, and not fully fleshed out. It’s also one of the darker stories in a while, and the first I can recall with this level of gun violence (headshots and suicides). I think that the entire venture suffered from the rapid-fire attempt to coalesce the various threads into a cohesive tapestry, and I spent a great portion of this serial bouncing between boredom, confusion, and trying to make the notes for this write-up make sense so future me didn’t have to rewatch the serial to connect the dots.

Overall, I’m not a fan of this tale.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Sun Makers

 

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 #93: The Invisible Enemy

Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy
(4 episodes, s15e05-e08, 1977)

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If only that bored shuttle pilot had checked his Facebook feed instead.

While flying through an asteroid field, the duty pilot excises his boredom by shifting control to manual. Per the status quo on Doctor Who, things go awry as the ship is drawn into an anomaly and struck by an energy field.  The crew regains control and heads to Titan, where they take up arms and slaughter the shuttle’s relief team. The murderous crew has been infected by something, and they set their sights on the Lowe, the station commander. The commander discovers what has happened and sends a distress call before abandoning the station for the surface of Titan.

On the TARDIS, it’s moving day as the Doctor and Leela reoccupy the (improved) main console room. The Doctor complains about the color – He’s never happy with the décor, is he? – before the TARDIS stops in deep space near Titan. The Doctor intercepts the distress call and sets a course to help. They pass through the same anomaly and the Doctor is struck by the energy field just as Leela’s sixth sense kicks into overdrive. The Doctor collapses, the TARDIS arrives on the station, and the energy field attempts to infect Leela, but fails. The Doctor wakes up, but is severely disoriented, and Leela prevents him from leaving the TARDIS.

The station commander returns and kills one of the infected crew before running for cover. The surviving invaders lock him in the room and cut off the air supply. The Doctor and Leela leave the TARDIS and explore the station, and as the Doctor encounters the invaders, they mention that he is the nucleus of their new hive, and that pushes him into a possessed state. He and one of the invaders start searching for Leela.

Leela finds Lowe and helps him recover from his hypothermia in the station mess. The Doctor locates them, and one of the invaders rushes in to kill Leela. The commander tries to stop him and fails, but Leela kills him with her knife. As she rushes out, the dying invader infects Lowe. Meanwhile, Leela is nearly ambushed by the Doctor, but the Doctor forces the infection to recede before inducing a healing coma (just like he did three times before).

Leela find Lowe, who dons a set of goggles to disguise his infection and trick Leela into trusting him, and asks for help. The Doctor provides the coordinates for a medical center, and Leela (somehow) pilots the TARDIS there with the Doctor and the commander. The medical team there checks the Doctor in, gets vital information from Leela, and sends the commander to the optometrist.

I did enjoy the funny bit about Gallifrey being in Ireland.

The specialist diagnosing the Doctor, Professor Marius, only gets interested in the case when his robotic assistant reveals that the Doctor is an alien.

Welcome to the party, K9!

The diagnostic team discover the virus and the Doctor wakes up to discuss the case. They determine that the virus feeds on intellectual activity, and that Leela is immune because she operates on instinct and intuition. Meanwhile, in the optical department, Lowe infects his doctor and the pair start spreading the virus around the medical station. Leela tracks down the Doctor, but she is warned off by K9. Marius arrives and tells K9 (whom Marius constructed to replace the dog he left behind on Earth) that Leela is a friend. They examine Leela for an immunity factor, but none is present. Marius begins to operate on the Doctor’s brain, which prompts the virus to crash a shuttle into the medical center. The crash awakens the Doctor and the infected crew assault the operating theater. Marius sends K9 into battle as the Doctor asks him to clone both of the travelers. The clones are effectively photocopies, with all of the experiences and knowledge of the host, that will degrade and expire in short order. The Doctor-clone uses technology from the TARDIS to miniaturize the clones and send them into the Doctor’s body.

“Pleasant journey, Doctor,” says Marius. More like fantastic voyage, right?

The Doctor’s innerspace is a blue-screen wonderland. As they cloned travelers explore, Leela and K9 barricade the operating theater. They face off against the invaders, but K9 is infected. K9 tries to kill Leela, but she dodges and is only stunned, and the cyber-dog reboots himself to eradicate the virus. The invaders storm the operating theater, killing a medic and infecting Marius. A nurse escapes as Marius explains the situation to Lowe and finds K9 and Leela. Meanwhile, Lowe gets cloned and injected into the Doctor.

The Doctor-clone locates the virus nucleus, which tells its story as the Leela-clone eliminates the Lowe-clone. The nucleus stalls for time and, as the clones degrade, it escapes through a tear duct and is enlarged by Marius. It now has control over the macro-world, but allows the Doctor to heal.

Leela disguises herself as a nurse and rescues the Doctor as the infected escort the nucleus to Titan. They take refuge in the TARDIS, which is unable to travel since the dimensional stabilizer is still in the operating theater. K9 goes out and stuns Marius, and the whole group heads off for diagnosis. Leela left some kind of antibody in the Doctor, and he isolates it to create a cure for Marius. The medical team starts mass-producing the cure.

With the cure in hand, the Doctor, Leela, and K9 head for Titan. The infected are developing a resistance to the blaster weapons, and K9’s energy levels are low. The team sneaks in, with K9 drawing the infected away as the Doctor confronts Lowe at the hatching chamber. K9 uses the last of his energy to shoot Lowe, and the infected man falls into the swarm. Having lost the antidote in the battle, the Doctor rigs the fuel tanks to explode as Leela carts K9 back to the TARDIS. The Doctor runs back to the TARDIS, nearly forgetting Leela and K9 before collecting them and escaping just before the base explodes.

It’s really odd to see the Doctor celebrating so much about the destruction.

As the travelers wrap up their loose ends at the medical station, Marius tells them that he is headed back to Earth and that they should take K9. The dog joins the team, and the TARDIS whisks them away.

I was entertained for the most part by this one. It moved pretty quickly, and played with some wacky scientific ideas and the ever-popular epidemic tropes. Plus, K9.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl

 

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 #92: Horror of Fang Rock

Doctor Who: Horror of Fang Rock
(4 episodes, s15e01-e04, 1977)

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A delightfully spooky and claustrophobic beginning to the 15th season.

A bright light streaks across the night sky near a lighthouse at Fang Rock, splashing down in the ocean below. The lighthouse crew – which seems really well-constructed and defined for Doctor Who cannon fodder (spoiler!) – dismisses it. The object, however, does not dismiss them. As an unnatural fog rolls in, the TARDIS materializes near the lighthouse and the lighthouse’s light goes out.

Leela is perturbed that they won’t be touring Brighton because the TARDIS decided on scenic Fang Rock instead. The Doctor, unconcerned about the vacation plans, is interested in how the working lighthouse is dark, and decides to investigate and ask for directions. Leela’s sixth sense kicks in again, and one of the keepers, Ben, is attacked by a creature in the generator room.

The travelers arrive at the lighthouse and introduce themselves before helping to fix the generator. The Doctor looks for Ben while Leela stays with Vince, the youngest of the crew. The light is restored without any assistance from the Doctor, and he discovers Ben’s corpse. The Doctor tells Vince that it was electrocution, but further investigation yields strange clues. The eldest keeper, Reuben, confronts the travelers, presuming that they may be spies for a foreign power.

Reuben tends to Ben’s corpse, Leela goes to hunt the creature, and the Doctor learns about the light in the sky from Vince. Ben’s body somehow moves to the rocks outside, but the crew can’t worry about that as a fast moving sailboat emerges from the thickening fog and runs aground. The Doctor, Reuben, and Vince search for survivors as Leela reluctantly keeps watch over the lighthouse. Leela spots a jellyfish-like creature on the rocks as the crew returns with the survivors: Colonel James Skinsale, a member of Parliament; the yacht’s owner, Lord Palmerdale; and his highly strung secretary Adelaide Lessage. The ship’s coxswain, Harker, arrives later, bearing Ben’s corpse.

Reuben assumes that the Beast of Fang Rock, a local superstition, has returned, adding further atmosphere to this already spooky and ethereal story.

As the Doctor and Leela investigate the rocky shoreline, we find out that Skinsale provided secret information to Palmerdale, which the latter hoped to sell on the London Stock Exchange for a large profit. That’s why they were traveling so fast under such weather conditions. The clues lead the Doctor to conclude that the creature is an alien invader – that the way this show works – and that it is creating the fog as a shield while it prepares to attack. Everyone else on the rocky island, as expected, scoffs in disbelief.

Reuben goes to stoke the boiler as Leela’s sixth sense flares up again. Reuben is attacked and screams, prompting the Doctor and Leela to investigate. Harker follows shorty thereafter and encounters a zombie-like Reuben – which he dismisses as a cranky, tired old man – just before the Doctor and Leela return. Harker and Leela secure the boiler room access door as the Doctor talks with Vince. Vince is being targeted by Palmerdale as an easy mark who will transmit his information to London, and the man and his money duck out onto the observation deck as the Doctor arrives. As Vince and the Doctor converse, the creature scales the exterior of the lighthouse and kills Lord Palmerdale. Meanwhile, Skinsale, who overheard Palmerdale’s offer to Vince, destroys the telegraph to prevent outgoing transmissions.

In his quarters, Reuben is role-playing as a flashlight. Yeah, he’s definitely possessed.

The Doctor hears of Palmerdale’s death and retrieves the body with Skinsale and Harker. The character of Adelaide is reduced from redshirt to apoplectic redshirt. I assume that she’s not a damsel in distress only because the antagonists aren’t taking prisoners. Harker remains in the boiler room to secure the door, but his day is ended as Reuben arrives and kills him with glee. With no one to tend the boiler, the pressure goes too low, and the Doctor and Leela respond only to discover Harker’s body. In a twist, they also find Reuben’s body, and he’s been dead for hours. The aliens are learning about their prey by assuming their form, similar to lycanthropy. The Doctor realizes that in securing the lighthouse, he has locked the danger inside with them all.

Because it can, the Reuben-alien kills Vince, and the Doctor and Leela strategize on how to defeat it. They find a distress beacon relay attached to the generator, and Leela moves everyone to the lamp room as the Doctor searches for the signal modulator. Before the survivors can leave the telegraph room, the Reuben-alien corners them. It kills Adelaide and evades Leela’s attacks. The Doctor sends Leela and Skinsale to the lamp room as he confronts the alien, which he finally recognizes as a Rutan, the foe of the Sontarans.

The Rutan and the Doctor discuss the situation: The Rutan are looking for a fall-back position as they strategically withdraw from the Sontaran fronts, and Earth is prime real estate. Never mind that the Sontarans will bombard Earth to remove the Rutans because the Rutan mothership is nearly here.

The Doctor lures the Rutan to the lamp room where Leela and Skinsale spring a flare-based trap. The fire and heat harm the alien. The Rutan retreats, and the remaining survivors devise a plan to transform the lighthouse into a laser to destroy the mothership.

A Death Star lighthouse? I can dig it.

The Doctor and Skinsale make their way downstairs to retrieve some convenient diamonds from Palmerdale’s corpse while Leela defends the lamp room. Skinsale snags the diamonds and the Doctor selects one, discarding the rest. Skinsale goes after them, and his greed kills him as the Rutan attacks. The Doctor ascends the staircase and Leela fires her weapon, killing the Rutan. The Doctor rigs the laser as the mothership approaches. They arm it and evacuate the lighthouse, running for cover. Leela glances at the blast, which temporarily blinds her, but it disperses, changing her eye color in the process. Which, behind the scenes, is a good thing for actress Louise Jameson and for fans of the hunter-companion.

They depart, leaving behind the corpses of everyone they met on this adventure, as the Doctor recites Flannan Isle by Wilfrid Gibson, another tale of missing lighthouse keepers.

As I mentioned earlier, this was a great exercise in being spooky. Between the foggy and small, isolated island to the claustrophobic lighthouse itself, this story reveled in its unnerving vibe. I loved how well the keepers were developed as secondary characters, but I found the shipwreck survivors to be nothing more than two-dimensional props.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Invisible Enemy

 

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.