Timestamp #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth 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.

Advertisements

Timestamp #50: The War Games

Doctor Who: The War Games
(10 episodes, s06e35-e44, 1969)

Timestamp 050 The War Games

 

We’re back to a regeneration episode and we have nowhere to go but up after The Space Pirates.

The TARDIS arrives in a war zone with a really nice shot of the materialization reflected in a puddle. The war is similar to World War I in 1917, and the travelers find themselves in an artillery barrage, discovered by Lady Jennifer Buckingham, taken prisoner by Germans, and finally liberated by British and Lieutenant Jeremy Carstairs. Strangely, both Buckingham and Carstairs have gaps in their memories.

General Smythe, the area commander with mind control glasses, has a transmitter that may be alien in nature. He asks an unknown entity for more specimens and disappears from his office. When he gets back, he holds a kangaroo court-martial for the travelers, finds them all guilty, and sends the Doctor to be executed. At the firing squad, a surprise sniper saves the Doctor, and both he and Zoe escape.

Speaking of surprises, General Smythe has what appears to be a TARDIS. Wait… what?

Jamie, assumed to be a deserter from the Highlanders, gets placed under guard with a Redcoat prisoner who thinks it is 1745 instead of 1917. Though it’s not explicitly stated, this Redcoat was apparently abducted from the same foggy battle where Jamie originally left with the Doctor.

After some shenanigans, the traveling trio escape with Buckingham and Carstairs, travel through the mists, and encounter a phalanx of Roman soldiers. After coming to the conclusion that this strange world is a combination of zones segregated by crucial wars in Earth history, they escape back to the 1917 zone and try to get a map. With the map (and an amusing sequence at the Chateau) they head toward the blank triangle zone in the center of the matrix and get captured by the Germans, commanded by another officer (von Weich) with a mind-controlling eyepiece.

They escape from that predicament and roll on to the American Civil War zone, but get besieged by a Confederate soldier and have to take refuge in a barn. A TARDIS arrives, disgorges fresh Confederate troops, and then dematerializes with a curious Doctor and Zoe inside, leaving Jamie with Lady Buckingham to be ping-ponged between Union and Confederate troops, the latter of which are commanded by von Weich. That dude gets around.

It turns out that Smythe and von Weich are engaged in a tactical competition, supervised by someone known as the War Chief. The War Chief and his peers (Chief Scientist and Security Chief) are under the command of the War Lord, who is attempting to distill a superior warrior class by pitting humanity’s soldiers against each other which he can use to spread an era of peace by might throughout the universe. May the odds be ever in their favor. In a twist, the War Chief is neither human nor whatever species the other chiefs and War Lord belong to (which the wiki refers to as the War Lords), but is instead a Time Lord.

A Time Lord: The same species as the Monk, Susan, and the Doctor. Oh, boy.

It also turns out that the TARDISes being used by the War Lords aren’t actual TARDISes, but rather are SIDRATs. They have very limited lifespans, can be manipulated from the outside, and follow the ’60s sci-fi conceit of being almost like the hero vehicle but spelled backwards. The War Chief wants the Doctor to join his cause because he really needs a better vessel to complete the War Lord experiment, and the Doctor has just the thing, which we found out that the Doctor stole from his home planet because he was bored.

Meanwhile, the companions discover that there is a resistance force among the humans. These rebels cannot be reprogrammed by the War Lords, and in his passion to track them all down, the Security Chief flashes all of the known agents across Zoe’s pretty much eidetic memory. After she escapes from the War Lords, she and Jamie spearhead a campaign to assemble the resistance forces and assault the Central Command.

The separate story lines finally collide when everyone converges on Central Command and dismantles the whole shebang. In the process, the War Chief kills the Security Chief, and the War Lord kills the War Chief. I seriously expected the War Chief to regenerate, and since he disappeared from view so quickly, I’m almost expecting that thread to come back at some point.

So, in the end, the Doctor is left with a world full of humans stranded out of time and no remaining SIDRATs to take them all home. After a lot of hand-wringing, the Doctor decides to call upon his people for help… and then runs like hell. He’s been violating Time Lord law by interfering in time since he stole the TARDIS, and his reckoning has finally come. The Time Lords return all of the humans to their homes, take the War Lord into custody to stand trial for his crimes, and drag the Doctor kicking and screaming to their door.

The War Lord’s trial ends with an attempted escape and hostage situation, but the Doctor outwits the War Lord. The Time Lords find the War Lord and his posse guilty, and the punishment is complete removal from time as if they never existed. The Time Lords then try the Doctor for his crimes. Rightfully so, the Doctor is proud of his interferences and justifies his fight against evil.

As they decide his fate, the Time Lords allow the Doctor to say goodbye to his companions before they send them home. Zoe and Jamie are allowed to remember only the first time they met the Doctor, but nothing more. They accept that the Doctor will continue to fight against evil, but he cannot be allowed to travel any longer, so he is exiled to Earth without the ability to dematerialize the TARDIS. They will also force him to regenerate.

On the plus sides, Jamie and Zoe show fantastic character in driving the resistance solution. It was also really nice to see both John Smith and the sonic screwdriver make their returns. There was also a quote in there somewhere about the Time Lords being curators over their museum of time, which seems really interesting in light of certain events in The Day of the Doctor.

On the down side, the Mexican resistance leader, Arturo Villar, was a caricature in racism. The sexism makes sense with the era, but the actor is obviously a white dude with a Speedy Gonzales accent. It made my skin crawl.

Considering the goodbyes and the regeneration, I feel so incomplete. Zoe and Jamie, two of the most likeable companions in the series so far, had all of their development erased in single moment. Only the Doctor remembers how their travels influenced their lives, but the influence and resulting changes are gone forever. The lack of proper goodbye also extends to the Doctor, where the last we see of him is a swirl into darkness. The character of the Doctor continues on, but the Second Doctor just ends.

Remember when I said that regeneration episodes were tough? This one was especially so. By the Timestamps rules, regeneration stories get an automatic +1 on the rating to compensate, but this story didn’t need it.

I still feel cheated out of a proper goodbye.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Sixth Series and Second Doctor 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 #49: The Space Pirates

Doctor Who: The Space Pirates
(6 episodes, s06e29-e34, 1969)

Timestamp 049 The Space Pirates

 

It’s the last reconstruction (yay!), but it’s a colossal let down (boo!).

Six torturous episodes short: Pirates are destroying Earth beacon stations for their argonite. Obviously, the Earth Space Corps wants to stop them, but can’t reason their way out of a paper bag. After a mess of a story that can’t decide if it’s a murder mystery, a heist thriller, or a western parody – and completely fails at reaching any of them – the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

Really, the western motif did not work for me at all, and I like westerns. Milo Clancey and the Old West-style accent were annoying, and that would be fine if it was the only acting problem in this one, but General Hermack’s character (portrayed by Jack May) makes the Shatner trope look Emmy-worthy.

The Earth Space Corps uniforms are absolutely ridiculous, as is their attitude on what makes a leader: “All this for an old man. You’re not taking any chances, are you?” gets a reply of “That is why I’m a general.” The Earth Space Corps isn’t worth a whole lot, is it?

At least the spacewalk scenes were convincing enough. They look like they were filmed with the actors suspended from wires in the studio’s ceiling with a rotated camera.

Final note: Recently, it seems that Jamie has been treating these adventures like some kind of pleasure cruise. If a place looks even vaguely inhospitable, he recommends immediately running away and going somewhere else. In his defense though, they would have been much safer during the station explosion had they hidden in the TARDIS instead of running through the station.

This was a badly executed parody of the western genre rather than a tip o’ the ten gallon toward it. I’m not keen to revisit it again.

 

Rating: 1/5 – “EXTERMINATE!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The War Games

 

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 #48: The Seeds of Death

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death
(6 episodes, s06e23-e28, 1969)

Timestamp 048 The Seeds of Death

 

In the near future, the TravelMat (T-Mat) has become the system to move things around in the future. Humans, supplies, evil alien fungal spores…

That last one is a major problem since the Moonbase, which operates as the hub for the planet’s T-Mat system, has been seized by the Ice Warriors. I’ll admit that this serial nearly lost my attention as soon as it unveiled the “base under siege” trope because over how overused it was in the last season. Luckily, this one works differently.

The TARDIS arrives in a space museum on Earth, the travelers get a convenient info dump in the T-Mat presentation, and then get confronted by Professor Eldred. He is upset that the travelers are trespassing, and is (conveniently) the only one who can pilot the rocket to the Moon after the T-Mat is cut off. His bitterness toward the T-Mat program, despite having an entire presentation dedicated to it in his museum, is based on how it ended space travel after planetary travel was made too convenient.

Commander Radnor and Miss Kelly, the upper leaders of the T-Mat program, come to solicit the professor’s help, but Eldred can’t make the flight due to his age. In his place, the Doctor, Zoe, and Jamie pilot the rocket.

Meanwhile, the Ice Warriors have the repaired the emergency cublicles on the Moonbase and trick Earth into sending repair crews to fix the entire system. Once it’s back up, they send the evil alien fungal spores to consume all of the oxygen, destroy the climate, and kill all the humans. The “base under siege” trope is broken by having the Doctor and crew moving back and forth between Earth and the moon to stop the threat. Thank the Maker!

After defeating the spores with a torrential rain storm (that’s a lot of soap bubbles and one clean countryside), the Doctor solves the problem by spoofing the Ice Warrior homing signal and sending the entire fleet into the sun. A bit extreme, but in this case it was probably the only solution.

The comical theme for this Doctor continues with a chase through the Moonbase that includes a passageway constructed of fun house mirrors. I get what they were trying for there, but the effect tore me away from the narrative and the drama. On the other hand, Zoe and Jamie get a chance to really shine when the Doctor is injured and the companions have to fight the invasion on their own.

Watching Patrick Troughton act like he was dying in all those bubbles was kind of humorous. I was still in the story at that point, but when I realized that he was essentially a kid at bath time at that point, I giggled.

When the Doctor is revived, he calls out for Victoria: Does he regret something about how her story played, or does he miss her? In my opinion, Zoe’s a much better companion.

Finally, on an engineering note, the T-Mat cubicle doors would be much more effective if they opened outward vice inward. Even better would be for them to slide open so they can be locked but not stand in the way of arrivals or loading.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Space Pirates

 

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 #47: The Krotons

Doctor Who: The Krotons
(4 episodes, s06e19-e22, 1968-1969)

Timestamp 047 The Krotons

 

The run of entertaining serials had to come to an end sometime, I suppose.

This one opens with a young man and woman being selected to be the companions of the Krotons. When they emerge on the other side of the door they entered in the Learning Hall, the man is vaporized and the woman is saved by the Doctor and his companions. When they visit the city to tell the people what they witnessed, they get greeted by spears and fisticuffs, which excites Jamie to no end because he’s spent most of his time on the TARDIS waiting to punch someone.

The planet was the site of a war with the Krotons that nearly destroyed the Gonds and ruined the landscape. The Krotons have been hiding in their organic ship (the Dynatrope) and haven’t been seen since, but demand the top students as companions. As it turns out, they’ve been using the mental energy of these excelling academics to recharge their systems, which the Doctor and Zoe discover after being accidentally selected by the Krotons.

Thing is, the Dynatrope is already dying without the energy from the Doctor and Zoe. Downside: The resulting explosion will devastate the city and surrounding area. Jamie escapes the Dynatrope and goes to work helping to create sulfuric acid. Zoe pours a bottle into the tank that the Krotons are using for survival, and Jamie pours a large quantity over the Dynatrope. The Gonds are free and the Krotons are dead.

I really like the subtle competition between Zoe and the Doctor. I don’t like the HADS (Hostile Action Detection System) as much, although it could explain the supposed indestructibility of the craft.

Once the story’s mystery unwrapped, it’s a basic run-and-gun base under siege with the twist of a primitive uprising. It had promise, but this one was just boring.

 

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death

 

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 #46: The Invasion

Doctor Who: The Invasion
(8 episodes, s06e11-e18, 1968)

Timestamp 046 The Invasion

 

This one starts with the ending I expected from the last serial, and it kicks things off with a bang.

After the jump to the Land of Fiction and back, the TARDIS is malfunctioning. It materializes near the moon, and has to immediately dodge an incoming missile. The visual stabilizer circuit has gone bad and causes the TARDIS to turn invisible. The travelers leave to go find Professor Travers in what they think is 20th century London. They hitch a ride and the driver tells them about International Electromatics (IE), an electronics company that has bought out the locals and caused some of them to vanish without a trace. The travelers escape the IE compound, but the pursuing security guards kill the driver outside of their jurisdiction.

Professor Travers has moved to America, but his flat is occupied by Professor Watkins and his niece Isobel (played by Sally Faulkner, no relation). Watkins works for IE, but no one can reach him, so the Doctor and Jamie go there to investigate. They are subdued and meet Tobias Vaughn, non-official Bond villain and managing director of IE, who eventually gets the TARDIS circuitry to go with the strange alien computer in his closet. That computer recognizes the duo from Planet 14 (where?) and determines that they must be eliminated.

Jamie and the Doctor leave Vaughn and are promptly followed by suits in cars. It turns out that they are from the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), and work for recently promoted Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, who we last saw in The Web of Fear. It’s been four years since the Yetis, and the Brigadier and UNIT are investigating IE. I absolutely loved how the Doctor and Jamie try to escape, realize that they can’t, so accept their situation and start playing cards in the street.

Zoe determines that if there is trouble, the Doctor and Jamie are in it (I love this!), and she pulls a Captain Kirk on the reception computer by causing it to try solving an unsolvable problem. It goes boom, and she and Isobel are captured shortly thereafter. The Doctor and Jamie return to IE to search for the ladies, and are also captured.

After this, it’s a very Bond-flavored cat and mouse game with moles in the government and staying one step ahead of Vaughn’s plans for world domination. How is he trying to take over the world? Cybermen.

I have a long list of things I love from this serial. The Doctor’s pockets are like miniature TARDISes and are a source of unending amusement as he pulls random items from their depths. It goes well with his overall character, especially with his comic running from the shooting Cyberman and jumping at each explosion. I love seeing a modern (for the serial) era feminist working with a strong female character from the future, especially when it compares with Jamie’s period-specific sexism that seems to be integral to his character. The dynamic is fantastic, and the chemistry really makes it work.

The Bond feel is a reflection of the era and the country, and it extends beyond Vaughn to the technology and the setting overall. I like the James Bond movies, so this was fun to watch. I also like the pop culture nods (“Kilroy was here” and “Teddy Bears’ Picnic“) and the in-universe “Bad Wolf” nod in the animated reconstruction.

The march of the Cybermen from St. Paul’s Cathedral was also very similar to the march in Dark Water and Death and Heaven. It’s good to see the inspiration for those scenes. It’s also good to see the links between those modern episodes and the classic ones: The Cybermen corpses in this serial are used by UNIT to develop defenses for future invasions, and that iteration of UNIT is being led by the Brigadier’s daughter. Speaking of the Brigadier, he’s an awesome character. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in coming series.

Finally, since this is the last appearance of the Cybermen for a while, I should mention the music. I haven’t really keyed in on a lot of the background music, but I really enjoyed the theme for the Cybermen. It’s so simple, but menacing at the same time. It’s also very mechanical without taking the use of creaking and beeping sound effects. I’m going to miss it.

The only two drawbacks to this serial are writing related: First, why does UNIT continue to attack the Cybermen with pistols and rifles when only grenades and rockets are working? Second, the final rocket strikes and wrap-up scenes are kind of anti-climatic compared to the rest of the episode.

Overall, this one get a 4.5, and I round up.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Krotons

 

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 #45: The Mind Robber

Doctor Who: The Mind Robber
(5 episodes, s06e06-e10, 1968)

Timestamp 045 The Mind Robber

Picking up right where the last one ended, the fluid links go nuts again. I wonder if they’re still under warranty. As a result, the TARDIS goes nowhere. I mean, actually to a place the Doctor calls “nowhere,” but we find out later is the Land of Fiction.

Each companion sees their home on the scanner and are lured into the setting where characters from fiction are real. The TARDIS is unavailable because it appears to have exploded. The travelers are separated and start looking for each other, solving riddles along the way to find a way out of this odd little story that was actually quite entertaining once it got past the first couple of episodes.

The use of a different actor for Jamie two episodes was a nice cover for Frazer Hines, who took time off after contracting chicken pox. I also liked the stop motion for Medusa’s head, as well as the twist with the Karkus, who cannot be proven fictional (and therefore nullified) by the Doctor since he has never heard of the character. Zoe kicks some butt and saves the Doctor.

The Doctor looks like he recognizes the name “The Master”, and even seems amused by the charge of treason – “Treason, again, really?” – It’s not the same character, but, knowing the future, the coincidence is neat. This Master is an Earth-based author who was abducted and forced to rule this land. He’s looking for a replacement, but the Doctor refuses, so the Master decides to simply take over the Earth if he does not comply. The Doctor uses the power of the fictional characters against the Master to destroy the Master Brain (which controls this little pocket universe), save the companions, and escape the Land of Fiction.

Overall, the first couple of episodes were pretty bad, but the serial resolves nicely in a battle of imagination and wits. I was disappointed by the ending, or really, lack thereof. The TARDIS reappears and… credits.

At eighteen minutes, one would think that with the shortest episode ever in the history of this show, they could have spared an additional couple of minutes to write a proper ending and set up the next serial. Alas, no.

 

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

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Invasion

 

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.