Saturday, September 15, 2012

Doctor Who: 047 The Krotons (DVD Review)

I know the title says this is a DVD review, but in addition to reviewing the DVD release, this is my first time seeing this story, so I'm going to give my normal comments about seeing the serial for the first time, as well as giving a full DVD review. First, I'm going to begin with a summary and a few comments about the season leading up to this story, which unlike, the previous season, mostly exists and has been previously released on DVD, other than this story.

Season 6 begins with The Dominators, written by the same team who wrote the two Yeti stories (under a pseudonym) and is partially an attempt to find a replacement for the Daleks, who were still off limits due to Terry Nation trying to sell a series based on them. I watched the DVD when it came out and wasn't overly impressed. The story is blase and the robots are a bit silly and not at all scary like the Daleks. :)

Following The Dominators, we have The Mind Robber, a psychological trip, somewhat reminiscent of Hartnell's The Celestial Toymaker. Frazier Hines got chicken pox during this one and was replaced in one episode and that replacement was worked into the story. :) I also watched this one when it came out on DVD, and enjoyed it.

Next up, another encounter with The Cybermen as they invade London in The Invasion. This story is one of the seminal Cybermen stories and features a scene of the Cybermen marching down the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral (almost as iconic as the Dalek coming out of the Thames in The Dalek Invasion of Earth). It also features the return of Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Gordon Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart of U.N.I.T., previously seen as a colonel in the regular army in The Web of Fear, where he'd previously met the Doctor. This also marks the first appearance of U.N.I.T., which would play a large role during Pertwee's time as the Doctor. Sadly, 2 of the 8 episodes of The Invasion are missing, although the BBC animated the two remaining episodes and released the serial on DVD a few years ago. I liked this story very much and was glad to be able to watch it despite the missing episodes.

Which brings us to The Krotons, which was recently released on DVD, just in time for my little project since I hadn't previously watched this story. This is the last complete Troughton story to be released on DVD. I thought it was fairly decent: I enjoyed it better than the Dominators. ;) A mysterious alien race known as the Krotons is subjugating a lesser race called the Gonds, taking away their best and brightest people to be "companions," but actually killing them. The Doctor and Zoe manage to get to the bottom of things and break the Krotons influence over the Gonds.

This is the first submission to Doctor Who by Robert Holmes, who would have a long association with the program both as a writer and a script editor and would be responsible for many of the best stories in the classic series. This story also features Philip Madoc who has appeared many times in Doctor Who and even appeared in the second Peter Cushing film, Dalek - Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.

The DVD release has a number of special features:
  • Full length commentary with several of the cast and crew
  • Second Time Around - a nice retrospective on Troughton's tenure as the Doctor
  • Doctor Who Stories - Frazer Hines (Part 1) - from an interview with Frazer Hines originally recorded in 2003 (begging the question of when/where part 2 will be released)
  • The Doctor's Strange Love - fans' point of view with writers Joseph Lidster and Simon Guerrier, which is amusing
  • Photo Gallery
  • Popup Production Notes
  • Radio Times Listings as a PDF
  • Coming Soon trailer for The Greatest Show in the Galaxy
With the 2 missing episodes from The Invasion, that starts the missing episode count for season 6 at 2. This brings Troughton's totals to 4 missing stories, 10 incomplete stories, and 57 missing episodes. Next time, The Seeds of Death Special Edition DVD Review, followed by The Space Pirates, the last Troughton serial that I haven't seen.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Doctor Who: Asylum of the Daleks

We've had to endure endless rumors and delays in announcing the air dates plus frustration knowing that once it did return, 2012 would only have five episodes plus a Christmas special, but finally Doctor Who has returned for its 7th Series, once again featuring Matt Smith as the Doctor. I have to say that it has been worth the wait. In my opinion, Asylum of the Daleks is probably Matt Smith's best performance to date as the Doctor: I think he's really made the role his own. The Daleks are truly, properly scary and the episode has a flavor to it that in some ways harkens back to the classic series. I'm not sure if Murray Gold is still doing the music for this season, but there's something subtly different about the music in this episode. I like the music in the previous seasons, but this music works extremely well in enhancing the mood of this story.

In a previous post, I mentioned the Pond Life prequel mini-series that was posted online a part per day in the week leading up to the premiere. This showed snippets of Amy and Rory's day to day life in the months between the end of Series 6 and the start of Series 7 as the Doctor pops in on them and disrupts their lives. This prequel mini-series didn't really add much to the episode, but was just good fun and a teaser for the upcoming episode. Apparently there was another prequel that was only made available to Amazon Prime subscribers and iTunes Season Pass subscribers that is actually a prequel to the events in the episode (I've also heard it's available on Zune, but I am unable to confirm that). It has been posted on YouTube, although I highly recommend going to an official source to view it.

In the description of Asylum of the Daleks, it mentions that Amy and Rory's relationship is "in meltdown" by the time Series 7 starts. Pond Life showed this but really didn't show why, although one was left to assume it was due to the Doctor's interference in their day to day lives (even though we saw no escalation of tension between them during the mini-series). This was finally addressed in the episode and the real reason comes out and it has nothing to do with the events of Pond Life.

Asylum of the Daleks has several interesting twists... Previously we've seen glimpses of the Dalek hierarchy with the Dalek Supreme and the Emperor Dalek: in this one we have the Parliament of the Daleks and the Dalek Prime Minister. We also see a new kind of human/Dalek hybrid unlike either of the ones we'd previously seen in The Evil of the Daleks or Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks.

Probably the biggest surprise was the appearance of Jenna Louise-Coleman, the actress playing the new companion who is to be introduced in the 2012 Christmas special. Considering that there have been multiple pre-screenings of this episode, I'm shocked they managed to keep this quiet. The BBC even posted an item thanking fans and the press for keeping this quiet. It's unclear if this is the same character as the new companion or just the actress playing another role although reports from the pre-screening in New York seem to indicate that Oswin Oswald is somehow the same character, rumored to be named Clara, although it's unclear how. It will be interesting to see where they go with this. If she is the same character somehow, perhaps she's another Zoe Heriot? :) When the Daleks were trying to get in and she cranked up the music to drown them out, was it just me or did the lyrics sound a little like "Come Save the Daleks..." which is what the Daleks had chanted to the TARDIS crew in the Parliament scene? ;)

Several months back, it was revealed that the production team was trying to get their hands on every model of Dalek used on the series since it began. This episode featured those Daleks. Some were seen in the Parliament scenes while others were seen in ICU where Oswin mentions survivors of Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks), Kembel (The Daleks' Master Plan), Aridius (The Chase), Vulcan (Power of the Daleks), and Exxilon (Death to the Daleks). This was a very nice touch. :)

I'm wondering if there will be any ramifications down the road from the Doctor giving Amy his device that protected him from the nanogene cloud. Although it's mentioned that he didn't need it because he is a Timelord. It was also a very nice touch how the Daleks were chanting "Doctor Who?" at the end of the episode. In all, a very good start to the season. I'm really looking forward to this season. The bar has been set... can the rest of this season keep up this momentum? :)

Friday, August 31, 2012

Doctor Who: Pond Life (Prequel Mini-Series to Series 7)

Doctor Who returns to our screens tomorrow for its seventh series since its revival in 2005. The Prequel Mini-Series Pond Life is now complete and I've created a playlist with all five parts back to back in the correct order. Enjoy. I'm looking forward to Doctor Who tomorrow!

Mostly, they're having fun with the Doctor popping in on Amy and Rory unexpectedly, although the last episode takes a bit of a darker tone as it sets up the premiere tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Doctor Who and the Daleks (Book Review)

I recently started using Goodreads and am filling out reviews for the books I've read since the beginning of the year (mostly Doctor Who). Since I never did a proper review of Doctor Who and the Daleks (aka Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks) for this blog, I figured I'd post my Goodreads review here. For those of you who've been reading my blog for a while, you'll note that it's mostly a compilation of the comments I made previously in other blog posts and on Google+, which I collected and present here for completeness sake. :)

Doctor Who And The Daleks
Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Until video cassette recorders became available to the masses, the only way to experience an older episode of Doctor Who was through novelizations and the rare rerun (the number of reruns allowed was heavily controlled by contracts - a factor which contributed to the junking of episodes). As with modern movie novelizations, the book, while being based on the screenplay, is often different from what makes it to the screen. This can be for various reasons: the book is based on an earlier draft of the screenplay, certain scenes were unable to be filmed as originally conceived, etc. This is also true of the Doctor Who novelizations. Where possible, the author of the original story was employed to do the novelization, and many times, they took advantage of the opportunity to flesh out the story more than they might have been able to in the screenplay or the aired episodes.

This is the first ever novelization of a Doctor Who story published. It is a novelization of the second ever serial: The Daleks. At that time, the individual episodes had names, but the serials didn't have official names. While this story is commonly known as The Daleks (or The Mutants - incidentally the title of a Third Doctor story), the novelization was originally published under the title of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks in 1964 and was later reprinted by Target Books as Doctor Who and the Daleks in 1973. Last year, BBC Books started reprinting some of these older novelizations, both in paperback and e-book formats. They published 6 last year and 6 this year, so there are currently 12 out there for a new generation of readers.

In the BBC Books edition, there is an afterward that talks about how this novelization differs from the televised story and why. Since this novel was intended as a standalone book, the introduction of the main characters and how they come to be in the TARDIS varies significantly from the serial. The afterward also notes a few things that this book does first: such as a glass Dalek that wouldn't be seen on-screen until Revelation of the Daleks, a Sixth Doctor story. This book also was the first to use the word "Exterminate" which wouldn't be seen on screen until The Power of the Daleks (incidentally a chapter title in this book) shortly after this book was released. "Exterminate" actually didn't become a full blown mantra for the Daleks until later.

This particular story has been adapted to the screen twice: once for the original serial and once for a feature film Dr. Who and the Daleks starring Peter Cushing as "Dr. Who". These two screen versions and this novelization differ widely. It's been a while since I watched the original serial in its entirety, but I read the novelisation a couple of months before watching the feature film. I also went back to the original serial to compare a couple of scenes to see which did a better job: the serial, the film, or the book.

The scene where they cross the swamp near the lake and find a back way into the Dalek city was, to me, one of the big differences. In the book, it seemed much more perilous than in either the serial or the movie. I got the impression from the book that this was a large lake and the creatures in it were huge. The movie gave a slight sense of that when it shows them climbing the mountain with a matte painting of a lake vista behind them, in contrast, the serial didn't show them climbing at all. The lake creatures really weren't shown in the movie although the serials did some miniature work, which while done on a television budget, gives a better sense of danger than the movie. In the book, there is a scene where they injure one of the lake creatures and its fellows come and fight over the body of the fallen creature. This was missing from both screen versions.

I also got the impression from the book that the pipes they followed into the mountain were huge pipelines. In the movie, they were small when they sighted them underwater, and a little larger on the mountain. In the serial, they only showed a model shot of largish pipes running into the mountain (in a composited shot) and completely skipped the party climbing the mountain, jumping straight to them being in the caves. I also thought the scene in the serial where they jumped the chasm was more intense than the movie version.

I enjoyed reading this and I hope BBC Books will continue to reprint these Target novelizations. I'm buying them as ebooks and will buy every one they publish. :)

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Doctor Who: 043 The Wheel in Space

After defeating the seaweed monster in Fury from the Deep, the Doctor and Jamie leave Victoria behind and materialize on a seemingly abandoned spaceship where they encounter a servitor robot who tries to kill them. While attempting to discover the fate of the crew, they draw near a space station used to protect passing spacecraft from asteroids and meteor storms and uncover yet another plot by the Cybermen to take over the Earth using The Wheel in Space (the space station is shaped like a wagon wheel), the final serial of season 5.

Only 2 of the 6 episodes from this story exist: episodes 3 and 6. These two episodes appear on the Lost in Time DVD set and for the remaining stories, we turn to the Joint Venture and Loose Cannon reconstructions. Loose Cannon has not officially released this reconstruction, but it was leaked onto the Internet. I have to say that this is one of the better ones from Loose Cannon. It makes very good use of animation and existing footage. I'm looking forward to an official release of this at some point.

This serial introduces a new companion, Zoe Heriot. Zoe is probably every bit as brilliant as the Doctor and provides a good foil for him. Unfortunately, poor Jamie is now "the dumb one" that they have to explain stuff to. :) I think the team of Zoe and Jamie is probably my favorite from the Second Doctor, although it might just be because most of the Troughton stories that exist feature that team. I love one of the Doctor's lines from this serial: "Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority." ;)

Apparently, the Doctor has a habit of pissing off station commanders and driving them insane. The commander in The Ice Warriors didn't go insane, but he did get pissed off at the Doctor quite early on before finally trusting him while the commander of the drilling station in Fury from the Deep and the station commander in this story both lost their minds to some degree or another. One of the DVD documentaries on The Krotons referred to this season as the "base under siege" season. ;)

With 4 of the 6 episodes of this story missing, the total count of missing episodes for season 5 comes to 27 and Troughton's totals are: 4 missing stories, 9 incomplete stories, and 55 missing episodes. Fortunately, season 6 looks a little better with only 2 incomplete stories. Next time, season 6... beginning with a summary of the serials leading up to the first story I haven't seen, The Krotons, which incidentally recently came out on DVD, so I'll give a full DVD review in addition to my normal comments. Sounds like a long post coming up... :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Total Recall (Book Review)

Total Recall
Total Recall by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With the recent remake of the Total Recall movie, I've seen several Philip K. Dick eBook special deals. I'd never actually read any of his works despite the fact that several of them have been made into blockbuster films that I've enjoyed (i.e. Blade Runner, The Minority Report, Paycheck, etc.). I was in a class in college that read The Man in the High Castle, but I dropped the class before we got to it, so I have a trade paperback edition sitting unread on my shelf (among many I intend to read "someday").

So, when I saw this movie tie-in edition of "Total Recall", I figured I'd pick it up and give it a try. The original short story was called "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale," but this version is simply titled "Total Recall." It bears little similarity to the films other than the basic premise of Rekal (Rekall in the movies) and implanted memories. The movies take the secret agent part of the story and expand it into an action film. The story also has a nice twist at the end. I very much enjoyed the story and plan to read more Philip K. Dick in the future.

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Doctor Who: The Monsters Inside (Book Review)

The Monsters Inside by Stephen Cole is the second novel in the Doctor Who New Series Adventures and features the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler, as portrayed on TV by Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. It also features a second encounter with the Slitheen, as well as another family from Raxicoricofallapatorius, the Blathereen. This book was also the first story featuring Rose, televised or otherwise, to not take place on Earth. The first line of the book is "Wherever it was, it wasn't Earth." and the acknowledgements thank Russell T. Davies for allowing the author to take Rose to her first alien planet.

I was very impressed with this book. I think the author of this book did a much better job of capturing the characters of the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler than the previous novel, The Clockwise Man. It definitely had me hooked from very early on and was very much along the lines of what I would have expected to see on-screen. Interestingly enough, the Blathereen are mentioned again on The Sarah Jane Adventures, and the planetary system this story takes place on, Justicia, is mentioned in the episode Boom Town which makes this the first novel to be referenced on-screen.

Next up, Rose and the Ninth Doctor return to Earth and team up with Mickey Smith in Winner Takes All, the final novel in the first batch of New Series Adventures to be released.