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.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Doctor Who: 042 Fury from the Deep

After defeating the Great Intelligence and the Yeti for a second time in The Web of Fear, the TARDIS crew lands on the ocean near a beach. Using an inflatable raft, they come ashore near a pipeline coming out of the ocean. While investigating some odd sounds in the pipeline, they are captured and mistaken for saboteurs. Thus begins Fury from the Deep, the penultimate serial from Season 5.

Sadly, this entire serial is missing although there are reconstructions available. I watched the Loose Cannon reconstruction as well as the Joint Venture one. As always, Loose Cannon makes good use of existing material as well as other sources to give an idea of what the story might have been like.

This serial features intelligent seaweed and lots and lots of of soap suds masquerading as sea foam. Sounds like an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, huh? ;) Actually, as silly as it may sound, the story is actually pretty good and the seaweed monster is very believable, based on the little footage that exists. Oddly enough, this is one of a handful of stories where nobody dies: all the people that were taken over by the seaweed creature or sucked into the sea (or in one case walk into the sea) turn up on the main platform at the end of the serial safe and sound. :) This is also Victoria's last story. She repeatedly questions why they always turn up in the middle of trouble and eventually decides to stay behind when Jamie and the Doctor leave.

With all 6 episodes of this story missing, our total missing episode count for season 5 climbs to 23 and Troughton's totals are: 4 missing stories, 8 incomplete stories, and 51 missing episodes. Next time, season 5 comes to an end with another encounter with the Cybermen and the introduction of a new companion, Zoe Heriot, in The Wheel in Space.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Doctor Who: 041 The Web of Fear

After defeating Salamander in The Enemy of the World, the TARDIS is out of control and the crew is in danger of being pulled out the open door into the Vortex (although I'm not sure if it's been officially called this on the show, yet). Jamie manages to close to the doors, but a strange web surrounds the TARDIS and holds it captive. The Doctor manages to shake off the web and the TARDIS materializes in a London tube station which is oddly deserted and locked. Thus begins The Web of Fear, the second and final appearance of the Yeti (other than a cameo in The Five Doctors and a mention in The Three Doctors).

Sadly, like the previous Yeti story, only one episode of this story still exists in the archives. Again, thanks to Loose Cannon, the telesnaps, and a full soundtrack, we have a reconstruction of the missing episodes to enjoy. Unfortunately, this reconstruction has not officially been released by Loose Cannon, but was leaked onto the Internet.

As you may remember from my post on The Abominable Snowmen, I was not overly impressed with the Yeti despite the fact that they are so fondly remembered by fans. The Yeti in this story are much leaner and meaner and this story was much more interesting to me.

An interesting piece of trivia about this story is that the BBC got in trouble for filming in the London tube stations without permission... despite the fact that they didn't actually use the London tube stations. The sets were so realistic that after episode 1 aired, the London Underground accused them of filming there without permission. :)

This story features the second appearance of Nicholas Courtney on the series, but his first appearance as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, although he's simply Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart at this point and U.N.I.T. has not yet been mentioned. Apparently U.N.I.T. was already being planned for the serial The Invasion, so they used this story as kind of an introduction to the military being involved with the Doctor. Sadly, the Brig's first on-screen appearance is in episode 3, one of the missing episodes.

At the end of this story, the Great Intelligence gets away and the Doctor thinks they will meet again, but it never happened in the classic series although I understand it happened in some of the novels. Perhaps that's an idea the new series could pick up on.

With 5 of the 6 episodes of this story missing, our total missing episode count for season 5 climbs to 17 and Troughton's totals are: 3 missing stories, 8 incomplete stories, and 45 missing episodes. Next time, the TARDIS crew materializes on a beach near a natural gas drilling platform and discovers that something is in the pipes and they're all out of Draino in Fury from the Deep. ;)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Doctor Who and the Crusaders (Book Review)

I'm still reading the classic novelizations and I'm up to Doctor Who and the Crusaders, the novelization of the Hartnell story, The Crusade, a story which is partially missing. This is the last of the original three pre-Target novelizations which also included Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks (later renamed to Doctor Who and the Daleks) and Doctor Who and the Zarbi.

Since I read Doctor Who and the Daleks before I started this blog, I didn't do a proper book review on it, but I commented a bit on it in my post about the Peter Cushing movie Dr. Who and the Daleks. Looking back at that blog post, I noticed that I didn't actually link to my Google+ post about the novel where I had a few additional notes on it.

I fairly recently watched the serial The Crusade, so I was able to compare it somewhat with the novelization Doctor Who and the Crusaders. This novelization was written by David Whitaker who also wrote the novelization Doctor Who and the Daleks and they share many similarities. Both were intended to be standalone novels before they realized there would be a whole series of novelizations. They also both had a romantic interest between Ian and Barbara. While Doctor Who and the Daleks is completely standalone and even offers another origin story for how Ian and Barbara started travelling with the Doctor, Doctor Who and the Crusaders at least acknowledges the rest of the series and mentions several other televised adventures both in the prologue and also when Barbara is talking to Saladin (as she does in the serial). Interestingly enough, this serial takes place immediately after The Web Planet, and the novelizations were released in the same order as the serials, which is rare for the Doctor Who novelizations.

Compared to the serial on which it was based, the story is essentially the same, but many of the events are rearranged: for instance, Ian doesn't get staked out in the sand until much later in the story. There are also a number of events which occur differently in the book and in the serial: for instance, Ian never meets Saladin in the serial. The book is also much more philosophical: there is a whole discussion in the prologue about how the Doctor can change history on some planets, but not on Earth (they're really referring to our version of recorded history). Ian also has a discussion with Saladin about Christianity versus Islam versus Buddhism, etc. Some of the events in the book are probably more graphic than what would have been allowed on TV: Barbara actually gets whipped (to the point of needing salve on her wounds) in the book while she's in El Akir's harem.

This book is one of several that have been reprinted recently by BBC Books. In these, they add a celebrity introduction and a section called Between the Lines which compares and contrasts the serial with the book. These make interesting reading as well. Although the celebrity introduction in this one was not as good as the one in Doctor Who and the Daleks: the author admits he's never read any of the novelizations.

In all, an enjoyable book. These three pre-Target novelizations were reprinted as the first of Target's line of novelizations in 1973, after which they started producing new novelizations in 1974 which continued until 1994 and novelized almost all of the original stories. A dozen of these have been reprinted by BBC Books recently (6 last year and 6 this year), and I believe they have plans to reprint more. I certainly hope so as I'm enjoying them and buying them all as ebooks.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Doctor Who: 040 The Enemy of the World

After defeating the Ice Warriors, the TARDIS crew materializes on Earth in the near future where the Doctor is immediately mistaken for someone else and people start taking pot shots at him. The Doctor soon discovers that he closely resembles a man named Salamander who appears on the surface to be a benefactor to the Earth, but is slowly amassing more and more power. Salamander is The Enemy of the World.

Patrick Troughton gets to play a double role in this story. Hartnell did something similar in The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve although it was never quite clear if the secondary role actually was the other character or the Doctor impersonating the other character (although the latter is implied). In this story, Troughton plays the Doctor, Salamander, and the Doctor impersonating Salamander. :) Sadly, only one episode of this six part story exists. Again, thanks to telesnaps and audio recordings, Loose Cannon can provide us with a reconstruction of this story.

This story is generally considered to be one of Troughton's best. I was familiar with this story going into it, but didn't know what to expect beyond a few brief clips I'd seen. Wow... I was completely drawn into the story even though it's a very nontraditional story for Doctor Who. I'm not sure how authentic Troughton's Yucatan accent was, but overall, the story worked pretty well. It took a bit of an odd turn toward the end of the story when we meet the "survivors" living in an underground bunker, but that was mostly explained right at the end. The last couple of episodes had me literally on the edge of my seat. :) So far, season 5 is turning out to be really good.

With 5 of the 6 episodes of this story missing, our total missing epsiode count for season 5 climbs to 12 and Troughton's totals are: 3 missing stories, 7 incomplete stories, and 40 missing epsiodes. Next time, the TARDIS materializes in the London subway where the Yeti have invaded in The Web of Fear.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Doctor Who: 059 The Daemons (DVD Review)

Another little sidestep as I catch up on my DVD watching to review the DVD release of the Jon Pertwee story The Daemons which was released earlier this year. I watched the VHS copy of this just before beginning this blog (while I was filling in the gaps of Pertwee stories I'd not seen), so it's reasonably fresh in my mind.

I'll make a few comments about the story itself, then I'll proceed to the DVD review. An archaeological dig near a town called Devil's End, a cult of black magic practitioners led by a Vicar named Magister... sounds like a case for the Doctor. :) The Daemons is considered to be one of the classic Third Doctor stories. It's a fairly decent story with lots of action, but not one of my favorite Master stories or Pertwee stories.

Pertwee's "missing" episodes are a little unique from Hartnell's and Troughton's in that while many of them were wiped, all have been recovered in some format or another. Many exist only in black and white film copies which were sold overseas to stations that didn't have color broadcasting capabilities. Such is the case for the bulk of this story. Of the five episodes, only one exists in its original 2" color videotape format. However, Pertwee's episodes were the first to be shown in the US, so some US fans videotaped the episodes onto Betamax tapes. In 1992, when the BBC was in the process of releasing video tapes of the episodes, someone got the idea of merging the luma (brightness - black and white) information from the film copy and the chroma (color) information from the Betamax tapes to produce something resembling the story as it originally aired. Along with some hand tweaking, the result was pretty decent, but not as crisp as the original episode would have been. However, it's as close as we're going to get without finding original copies of the 2" taped episodes.

There was another process that was used to restore color to an episode of Day of the Daleks, which extracted the color information from chroma dots on the black and white film copy (along with some hand tweaking). I thought this process was much more successful, but they weren't able to use it for all of the black and white copies. I presume such is the case for these as well. The episodes as presented on this DVD appear to me to be identical in quality to what appeared on the VHS release.

Stories longer than four episodes tend to get a two disc release. Since this one is five episodes long, that was the case with this one as well. The first disc contains the episodes plus:
  • Feature length commentary featuring Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), Damaris Hayman (Miss Hawthorne) and director Christopher Barry
  • Pop-up Production Notes
The second disc contains just special features:
  • The Devil Rides Out - a nice making of documentary that includes interviews with the cast and crew including the late Barry Letts (recorded for this DVD shortly before he died)
  • Remembering Barry Letts - a tribute to Barry including interviews with the man himself as well as his family and co-workers
  • Location Film - 8mm silent footage of the filming of this story
  • 1992 Colorization Test - an early attempt at colorizing episode 1 as a proof of concept (an entire copy of episode 1)
  • Tomorrow's World - a short clip on the 1992 restoration
  • Photo Gallery
  • PDF materials: Radio Times Listings
  • Coming Soon trailer for the Fourth Doctor story Nightmare of Eden
If this set has any Easter Eggs, I was unable to find them. :) As I said, a fairly decent story and generally considered one of Pertwee's better stories. It's nice to finally have it on DVD as the BBC gets close to releasing all existing stories on DVD. With Death to the Daleks having been released earlier this month (review coming soon), only two Pertwee stories remain to be released on DVD: The Ambassadors of Death and The Mind of Evil. The Ambassadors of Death was supposed to have been released last year, but issues with the color restoration delayed it and it's supposed to be released in the next couple of months.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Doctor Who: 039 The Ice Warriors

After the Doctor's encounter with the Yeti in Tibet, Jamie hopes they'll materialize somewhere warmer. I'm guessing Earth during the Second Ice Age is not exactly what he had in mind. :) Some scientists are attempting to warm the Earth and melt the ice and in the process accidentally uncover the frozen remains of extraterrestrial warriors that have apparently been frozen in the glacier since the First Ice Age. Thus begins The Ice Warriors, featuring the introduction of another recurring monster.

This is one of those stories where some of the episodes exist, but the BBC has not yet released them on DVD or even announced plans to do so. For the VHS release, they did a reconstruction/condensation of the the two missing episodes. For a DVD release, they may release this same condensation, or they may choose to animate the missing episodes, like they did with The Invasion or like they're doing now for The Reign of Terror: the original VHS releases for both of these featured linking narration for the missing episodes. Again, Loose Cannon comes to the rescue with a reconstruction of the missing episodes. I also watched the officially BBC bridging summary of the the two missing episodes which was pretty creative, but crammed two 25 minute episodes into 20+ minutes.

I've seen the other episodes which feature the Ice Warriors: season 6's The Seeds of Death (for which I'll be doing a Special Edition DVD review soon) and the Pertwee stories The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon. Sadly, they never returned to Doctor Who after the two Pertwee stories although they are mentioned a time or two in both the classic series as well as the revived series, most notably in The Waters of Mars (they are Martians, after all). They've also appeared in the spinoff media such as books and audio adventures, and there are persisting rumors that they may return to the screen in the revived series (after all, they brought back the Autons, Sontarans, and the Silurians who we hadn't seen in a long while). I'd like to see what modern special effects could make of the Ice Warriors.

I definitely enjoyed this serial and it was nice to see how the Ice Warriors were first introduced to the Doctor. I'd love to see the remaining two missing episodes found to make this story complete. Speaking of which, this story's return to the BBC is also interesting. The four remaining episodes were apparently stashed in the back of a cupboard of Villiers House and were found when the BBC was moving out of the facility. Another thing I thought was interesting about this story is that they changed the traditional title sequence where it displays the story name and episode number using large block letters. This isn't the first time they;ve done this, though: they did something similar for The War Machines where the titles were replaced with computer-style block letters.

With 2 of the 6 episodes of this story missing, our total missing count for season 5 is 7 and Troughton's totals are: 3 missing stories, 6 incomplete stories, and 35 missing epsiodes. Next time, Troughton plays a double role and is both the protagonist and the antagonist in The Enemy of the World.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doctor Who: 038 The Abominable Snowmen

After the Cybermen have been put back into deep freeze, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria take off in the TARDIS once more and materialize in Tibet. The Doctor discovers he's near a monastery that he's visited before, many years in the past. He has a ghanta - a holy bell, given to him for safe keeping on his previous visit during some kind of crisis (although his previous adventure there remains somewhat of a mystery). He intends to return this ghanta to the monks. When he arrives at the monastery, he has a reunion with an old friend and a meets some new enemies. Thus begins The Abominable Snowmen, the first of two adventures this season featuring a new monster, the Yeti.

Apparently season 5 of Doctor Who was an excellent time to be a tall actor working in Britain. With two appearances by the Cybermen, two appearances by the Yeti, and an appearance by the Ice Warriors (another new monster), five of the seven stories this season utilized tall actors (although The Tomb of the Cybermen was technically filmed during the filming block for season 4). The Yeti and Ice Warriors were created for this season since the Daleks were off-limits due to Terry Nation trying to sell a pilot for a Dalek series.

I was really looking forward to seeing this story: the Yeti are another one of the classic monsters (next to the Daleks, Cybermen, and Ice Warriors). Sadly, both stories in this season featuring them only have one surviving episode each. Despite being fondly remembered by fans, they don't really appear again after this season other than a cameo in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors. Thankfully, again, we have a full set of telesnaps and the audio track for the missing episodes, so reconstructions are possible. I watched the Loose Cannon reconstruction, although there is apparently an Elaphe reconstruction out there as well. As with some of the more recent Loose Cannon reconstructions, there is computer animation of the Yeti in various places. Some of it works and some doesn't, but it helps to keep the story moving. :)

To be honest, I was a little disappointed by this story after hearing all the hype over the Yeti. I'd already heard spoilers, so I knew what they were going into it: perhaps that was also a factor. It wasn't a bad story and it had its good parts, but it was just sort of middle of the road to me. Perhaps the fans' fascination with the Yeti comes from their second appearance in The Web of Fear. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing the rest of the episodes in this story, though. It was good, just not fabulous. :)

With 5 of the 6 episodes of this serial missing, this starts our running tally for season 5 and brings Troughton's overall totals to 33 missing episodes, 3 missing serials, and 5 incomplete serials. Next time, the TARDIS crew lands on Earth during the Second Ice Age and encounters The Ice Warriors from Mars.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Doctor Who: 037 The Tomb of the Cybermen (Special Edition DVD Review)

Season 4 saw Victoria's father killed on Skaro during the "final" defeat of the Daleks in The Evil of the Daleks. With Victoria's father dead, she has nowhere to go, so she joins the TARDIS crew at the end of that story. As season 5 begins (Patrick Troughton's second season and his first full season), they materialize on the planet Telos, the final resting place of the Cybermen, just as an archaeological dig discovers The Tomb of the Cybermen.

The Tomb of the Cybermen technically isn't a missing story, and since I saw it when it was released on DVD in 2001, it's a little bit of a sidestep from my "project" to fill in the gaps in the televised stories I've seen. I figured it was appropriate since I've bought but not yet watched the Special Edition DVD which recently came out and it's the next story in my sequence. Besides, I've watched every Troughton story since he took over as the Doctor because they've been missing or incomplete, so why stop now? :)

While it isn't missing, it was wiped along with all of the other material that is missing, and the story of its return is one of the more interesting. When the BBC put out the call looking for missing episodes, most of the ones that were returned were returned fairly quickly (from other departments in the BBC, from overseas affiliates, etc.). The ones that trickled in after that tended to be single episodes held by private collectors. This particular story was returned in its entirety in 1992 from a television station in Hong Kong. The BBC was already releasing VHS tapes of episodes by this point, so they did a rush job on this and released it on VHS in 1992 as a film transfer with minimal cleanup and repair (based on the available technology of the time). In 2001, it was released on DVD with much more extensive restoration (using the more advanced technology available in 2001). I've not seen the VHS release, but there is a featurette on the 2001 DVD release called simply "Remastering for DVD" which compares the two releases. There is also an easter egg on this 2001 release that shows a scene from Episode 3 processed with a fledgling version of what is now known as VidFIRE (although there seems to be no explanation for what this clip is).

When 2|entertain began releasing the Special Edition DVD's, the original intention was to revisit some of the early DVD releases which had very few special features, and add additional commentaries and featurettes to better match the current DVD releases. I'm not sure if this generally includes new transfers of the episodes or not. After the first few Special Edition DVD's, 2|entertain began polling the fans to see which stories they would like to see re-released and given the Special Edition treatment. This is how The Tomb of the Cybermen was chosen to be re-released as a Special Edition DVD. As well as the additional material included, all of the episodes were remastered and processed through VidFire. The result is as spectacular when compared with the 2001 DVD release as that release is when compared with the VHS release! The episodes are crystal clear and are probably crisper than they would have been if you'd watched it on TV in 1967!

Apart from the new transfer, there are a lot of special features on this set, much of it new, but most of the material from the 2001 release is retained. Let's start with a list of features from the 2001 DVD:
  • Feature-length commentary by Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling
  • Title Sequence Tests
  • Late Night Line-Up - Behind-the-Scenes at BBC Visual Effects (where the existing clips of The Abominable Snowmen episode 4 came from)
  • Photo Gallery
  • The Final End - recreation of the battle from The Evil of the Daleks, the previous story (also included on the Lost in Time DVD set)
  • Tombwatch - A panel with cast and crew recorded at BAFTA in 1992
  • Remastering for DVD - Documentary on the restoration of the story for the 2001 release including comparisons with the 1994 VHS release.
  • Introduction by director Morris Barry
  • Pop-up Production Notes
  • Who's Who - a feature on several of the early DVD's that shows brief bios of the actors
  • Easter Egg featuring an Unused Title Sequence
  • Easter Egg featuring an a scene of the Doctor and Victoria from Episode 3 which has been processed by an early version of VidFIRE
Features included on the 2012 Special Edition DVD are:
  • Disc 1 (almost identical to the 2001 release extras, minus the Tombwatch and Remastering for DVD featurettes also the Photo Gallery has been updated and moved to Disc 2):
    • Two feature-length commentaries: the one from 2001 plus a newly-recorded one with several of the actors (including Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling) plus the script editor.
    • Title Sequence Tests (same as the 2001 release)
    • Late Night Line-Up - Behind-the-Scenes at BBC Visual Effects (same as the 2001 release)
    • The Final End - recreation of the battle from The Evil of the Daleks, the previous story (also included on the Lost in Time DVD set and the 2001 release)
    • Introduction by director Morris Barry (same as the 2001 release)
    • Pop-up Production Notes (probably the same as the 2001 release)
    • Easter Egg featuring an Unused Title Sequence (same as the 2001 release, but in a different location)
    • Not technically an Easter Egg, but the Episode Selection option on Disc 1 features audio from a trailer for the next serial, The Abominable Snowmen.
  • Disc 2:
    • The Lost Giants - Making of documentary
    • The Curse of the Cybermen's Tomb - a retrospective on the Egyptian origins of the story, most notably Howard Carter and Tutankhamun
    • Cybermen - Extended Edition - an irreverent "history" of the Cybermen from their first appearance in The Tenth Planet all the way through their appearances in the revived series
    • The Magic of VidFIRE - Documentary on the restoration for the Special Edition. This seems to have replaced the "Remastering for DVD" documentary on the original release as that featurette was specific to the 2001 release.
    • Sky Ray Advert - Advertisement for popsicles which featured a Doctor Who giveaway
    • Photo Gallery (completely updated to the style used on recent DVD of a slideshow with audio backing)
    • PDF Materials - Radio Times Listings, Walls Sky Ray promotion (the giveaways shown in the advertisement)
    • Easter Egg featuring the CGI backgrounds used in The Lost Giants documentary
The Tomb of the Cybermen is a very good story and the Cybermen continue to be menacing. It's fantastic that we have this story in its entirety as it is the earliest complete Cybermen story. The Special Edition treatment really works for this story. Even if you already own the 2001 release, it's worth picking up this release as well.

Now, back to the missing episodes, starting with The Abominable Snowmen, another of the classic monsters of Doctor Who.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Doctor Who: The Clockwise Man (Book Review)

The classic Doctor Who series had several lines of books associated with it, even after it went off the air. In fact, several of these lines were what kept the flame alive with fans and enabled Russell T. Davies to bring the series back to our screens in 2005. In addition to the novelizations of the televised stories, there were Missing Adventures detailing the exploits of previous Doctors in original unaired stories, New Adventures following the Seventh Doctor and Ace (and eventually other companions such as Bernice Summerfield), Eighth Doctor Adventures which took place after the television movie, and Past Doctor Adventures which was BBC Books' version of Missing Adventures. There were also a couple of spin-off standalone novels: novelizations of radio plays, stories about the Doctor's companions, etc.

Shortly after the new Doctor Who series launched in 2005, BBC Books launched a series of original books featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler as portrayed on television by Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. These books have commonly come to be known as the New Series Adventures. These books were launched 3 at a time with the first three being The Clockwise Man, The Monsters Inside, and Winner Takes All.

I recently completed The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards. The Doctor and Rose land at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, where they discover that people are being murdered. In the process of investigating, they meet, among other people, the deposed Czar of Russia. One character referenced simply as Anna in the novel is most likely supposed to be Anastasia.

I'm not going to go into a lengthy exposition on this book, but I certainly enjoyed it. It was nice to "see" Christopher Eccleston and Rose again. I really liked Eccleston as the Doctor and felt he didn't stay long enough. The novel also featured clockwork men which were not too dissimilar to those later featured in The Girl in the Fireplace. I'm not sure if there was any connection between them, but there doesn't appear to be. The novel also mentioned "Bad Wolf", which was part of the story arc for this season: a nice touch.

I'm looking forward to reading The Monsters Inside next. Too many books to read and episodes to watch. :)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Doctor Who and the Zarbi (Book Review)

This doesn't exactly fit in with my ongoing "project" to finish watching all of the televised episodes of Doctor Who, but it does fill in gaps in experiencing Doctor Who fandom: reading novelizations of the televised stories. 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.

The first ever novelization of a Doctor Who story was 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. I actually read this one about a month or so before I started blogging, so I didn't do an official review of it for this blog. For my abbreviated comments, see my post on the Peter Cushing movie Dr. Who and the Daleks. I will say, however, that last year BBC Books started reprinting some of these older novelizations, both in paperback and e-book formats, including Doctor Who and the Daleks.

I'm reading these in the order in which they were originally published, not the numbering system that Target Books later devised or the story order in which they aired. The second novelization was of the second season serial commonly known as The Web Planet and was titled Doctor Who and the Zarbi, another Hartnell story. This novel was written by Bill Strutton, who wrote the screenplay for the televised serial, and was published in 1965 (and subsequently reprinted by Target in 1973). This is not one of the 12 novels that BBC Books has currently reprinted, although it was listed in an online poll where fans voted on which books to reprint first.

The Doctor, Ian, Barbara, and Vicki crash-land on a strange barren planet (much like the Earth's moon) when they lose control of the TARDIS. On it, they find the butterfly-like Menoptra and the ant-like Zarbi. The Zarbi, normally peaceful cattle-like creatures, have become hostile and organized while the Menoptra are attempting to re-claim their planet from the Zarbi and the strange web that is spreading over its surface. The TARDIS crew gets mixed up in this battle and ultimately get to the bottom of what's going on, as you'd expect.

I watched The Web Planet a few years ago on DVD, and it was not one of my favorite stories: not that it was bad, but it just didn't stand out in my mind. The Menoptra were reasonably believable (although the furry body and striping of their costume reminded me more of a bee than a butterfly), but the Zarbi costumes were a bit ridiculous: as bad as the old two part horse costumes where one person is the head and front legs of the horse and the other person is the horse's behind. ;) It just seemed very unwieldy and unbelievable, even for the special effects of the time it was made. Reading the book made me re-evaluate the story and I feel like I want to go back and give it a second chance. The book consists of six very long chapters which probably corresponds to the episodes as they aired since it was a six part story. I haven't compared the book to the televised episode, so I can't say how faithful it was, but I will have to do that at some point now that I have a desire to rewatch the televised serial. :)

The next novelization to be printed was of the serial commonly known as The Crusade, which is one of the serials that only partially exists and is one of the ones I watched early on in my project. Its novelization was titled Doctor Who and the Crusaders and it was also published in 1965 and reprinted by Target in 1973.. It is one of the ones that BBC Books has reprinted. Once I read it, I'll comment on it and compare it to the televised serial since it's much fresher in my mind. :)

Friday, June 29, 2012

Doctor Who: 036 The Evil of the Daleks

At the end of the previous serial, The Faceless Ones, the Doctor and Jamie discover the TARDIS has been stolen after saying farewell to Ben and Polly in 1966 London. The Evil of the Daleks, picks up right at that point as the Doctor and Jamie chase after a lorrie carrying the TARDIS away from Gatwick Airport. Thus begins the final serial in season 4.

Again, sadly, most of this story is missing. Of the 7 episodes in this serial, only episode 2 exists, which happens to be Vicki's first on-screen appearance. Thankfully, a full set of telesnaps and audio tracks allow this story to be reconstructed. As with The Faceless Ones, I had four reconstructions to watch: the Loose Cannon reconstruction, the Joint Venture reconstruction, the Elaphe reconstruction, and an unidentified reconstruction that uses white subtitles (probably by the same party who produced the unidentified one from The Faceless Ones... this one spells Theodore Maxtible's character name as "Theodroe" in the credits). The existing episode 2 is included on the Lost in Time DVD set. As in previous reconstructions, The Loose Cannon one is probably the best overall. While some of the animation in it is a little crude, it's impressive for a fan production and helps keep the action moving.

The Doctor and Jamie manage to follow the TARDIS' trail to a Victorian antiques dealer named Edward Waterfield. While attempting to discover what Waterfield has done with the TARDIS, they are gassed and wake up in a Victorian manor house in 1866 where they uncover and foil yet another plot by the Daleks to conquer the Human race: a dastardly plan to reputedly isolate "The Human Factor", the traits that have enabled Humans to beat the Daleks time and again, so the Daleks can create super-Daleks with human qualities in order to defeat humanity. The Daleks hold the TARDIS hostage on Skaro in return for the Doctor's co-operation in isolating "The Human Factor". What the Daleks are really after, however, is "The Dalek Factor" which counteracts "The Human Factor" and will imbue humans with Dalek-like qualities (not too unlike the Robomen in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, except that they were actually being controlled by the Daleks). The Daleks plan to use the Doctor to spread "The Dalek Factor" through all of time and space so they can conquer humanity. In the end, the Daleks are defeated as the Doctor uses their plan against them and instead infects the Daleks with "The Human Factor", giving them freewill and the ability to question orders.

This is not a typical Dalek story where the Daleks come charging in and EXTERMINATE everyone. I'm wondering if this might be because this serial was written by David Whitaker, not Terry Nation. The first several episodes are more about Edward Waterfield, his daughter Victoria (who will replace Ben and Polly as the Doctor's new companion) and the owner of the house, Theodore Maxtible. I found myself liking the Victorian setting as well as Edward Waterfield, even though I had heard he didn't make it through this story. The last couple of episodes are set on Skaro and feature the first appearance of the Dalek Emperor.

Personally, I thought "The Human Factor" and "The Dalek Factor" were a little silly as plot points, but the story generally worked pretty well. As I mentioned, I was much more into the Victorian setting where most of the story takes place. In the final battle with the Daleks, Edward Waterfield is killed and the Doctor tells Jamie that Victoria will have to come with them. The final battle let the season go out literally with a blast. :) While the final scenes don't exist as aired, there is 8mm footage that the special effects team filmed while making the final scenes, so that footage gives an indication of what the final battle might have looked like on-screen. A reconstruction of this scene appears on both the Lost in Time set and on the DVD for the next serial, The Tomb of the Cybermen.

At the end of this serial, the Doctor makes a comment that perhaps this will be the final time they would see the Daleks. This was supposedly the final Dalek story on Doctor Who as Terry Nation was attempting to get a Dalek series off the ground based on a pilot he wrote. That series never materialized, and the Daleks did eventually return to battle the Doctor many times.

I enjoyed this story and would certainly like to see more episodes found. With 6 of the 7 episodes of this serial missing, our total missing episode count for season 4 goes up to 33 and our total for Troughton goes up to 28. I'm also going to begin including stats of the number of incomplete and missing serials to this tally: Hartnell stands at 6 missing and 6 incomplete while Troughton is at 3 missing and 4 incomplete at the end of season 4 (which doesn't have a single complete serial for either Hartnell or Troughton). Next time, the earliest complete Troughton serial and the start of season 5, The Tomb of the Cybermen.

Monday, June 25, 2012


I'd like to apologize for my lack of posts over the past couple of months. Real life has a way of intervening sometimes. :)

I've got several posts lined up once I get a few moments to type them up. I finished watching The Evil of the Daleks which concludes Patrick Troughton's initial season. I also read Doctor Who and the Zarbi, the novelization of The Web Planet and the second ever Doctor Who novelization. I plan to post a review of that. I'll also be watching The Tomb of the Cybermen Special Edition DVD which was released a few months ago and doing a DVD review on it. I will then resume the reconstructions beginning with The Abominable Snowmen, which I'm looking forward to.

I will also be posting a review of the New Series Adventures novel The Clockwise Man featuring the Ninth Doctor and Rose since I recently read it as well. I'm reading both classic novelizations as well as New Series Adventures since I've not read either.

So, stick with me... There's lots of interesting Doctor Who articles on the way. :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Doctor Who: 035 The Faceless Ones

When the TARDIS lands on a runway at Gatwick Airport in 1966 in front of a landing plane, the Doctor, Ben, Polly, and Jamie are forced to run for their lives. When the airport police see them, they're forced to run from the police as well. The TARDIS crew splits up and Polly hides in a hangar for Chameleon Tours, where she promptly witnesses a murder. This is how The Faceless Ones begins.

This 6 episode serial is sadly missing episodes 2 and 4-6. Thankfully, there are a full set of telesnaps and the audio track allowing reconstructions to be made. Oddly, this is the one for which I have the most reconstructions. I have the newer Loose Cannon reconstruction, the Joint Venture reconstruction, the Elaphe reconstruction, and an unidentified reconstruction that uses green subtitles (and spells Frazer Hines' name as "Frazier Hinze" in the credits). For the existing episodes 1 and 3, we turn to the Lost in Time DVD set.

I came to this story with no expectations what-so-ever. I've not heard anything about this story, good or bad, and it doesn't feature any recurring creatures, so I didn't know what to expect. What I got was a story reminiscent of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with a sinister twist. This is quite a good story and I would love to see more episodes found for it. I'd actually say it's probably the best Troughton story to this point... Let's recap quickly:
  • Power of the Daleks - pretty good... the freshly regenerated Doctor is getting his bearings and Daleks almost always make for an exciting story.
  • The Highlanders - meh... fairly run of the mill historical that introduced Jamie as a companion.
  • The Underwater Menace - pretty sound story with a mad scientist trying to blow up the Earth.
  • The Moonbase - pretty good... again, like the Daleks, the Cybermen usually make for a pretty good story.
  • The Macra Terror - fairly decent story with a cheesy monster prop.
Yes, I'd definitely say this is his best to date. Troughton has really slipped into the role of the Doctor by this point and while humorous at times, the humor doesn't seem to be quite as slapstick and over the top as some of the earlier stories. Oddly enough, while the recorder featured very heavily in several of the earlier stories, it's not used in this story at all. I definitely find myself warming to Troughton as the Doctor by this point. I'm not going to spoil this story with too many plot points, but there were several places that it took me by surprise and I would love to see it in its entirety again. It also seems to be paced fairly well and uses its 6 episodes to good advantage.

I watched all the reconstructions I had for this story and I'd have to say that the newer Loose Cannon and the Elaphe ones are probably the best. The unidentified one was good (other than green subtitles and getting Jamie's name wrong), but it used absolutely no video footage. In addition to the telesnaps and existing footage, the newer Loose Cannon one uses CGI animation for several of the scenes. The funny thing is that the effects they produced are probably better than what originally aired. ;) Loose Cannon also uses faux telesnaps in a few places to enhance the story. I wouldn't have known they weren't original if I hadn't seen the other reconstructions. The only inconsistency I found between reconstructions was in episode 4 of the Joint Venture recon: the Doctor is examining a room and pushes a button which silently opens a secret panel. In the JV one, the captions say he examines the secret area while the other 3 say he doesn't notice the panel open. The story itself bears out that he didn't notice: later he questions someone and asks for the location of something hidden in the secret area.

This is Polly and Ben's last story: when they discover they're back in the time and place they left, they decide to stay. Afterward, the Doctor and Jamie go to retrieve the TARDIS from the airport police only to find it's been stolen, which leads us to our next story The Evil of the Daleks, the 7-part finale for season 4.

With 4 of the 6 episodes of this serial missing, our total for season 4 goes up to 27 and our total for Troughton goes up to 22.

Doctor Who: Dalek Challenge Interactive Quiz

This is an interesting little interactive Dalek trivia quiz that someone put together using YouTube videos. I guess I need to brush up on my Dalek trivia since I got exterminated four times which only gives me the rank of Pig Slave. :p

It doesn't help that I haven't yet seen The Evil of the Daleks. It's next in my queue and I'll be posting my comments on The Faceless Ones soon. Until then, try this out and see how you rank. ;)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Doctor Who: Big Finish First 50 Who Special Offer

This is a great way to get caught up on some of the earlier Big Finish Titles. I used this event last year to purchase the first 10 titles in the Doctor Who range. Prices are £5/each for either a physical CD (plus MP3 download) or download only, which equates to about $8. Physical CD's will also add shipping costs, but shipping to the US is reasonable and fast.

Big Finish - First 50 Who Special Offer

Doctor Who: Region 1 DVD releases for The Krotons and Death to the Daleks

The region 1 DVD release date for the Doctor Who stories "The Krotons" and "Death to the Daleks" has been announced as July 10, 2012.

"The Krotons is the last complete Patrick Troughton story to be released on DVD. Only the incomplete "The Ice Warriors" and the recently discovered episode of "The Underwater Menace" haven't been released on DVD yet.

Hopefully I will make it to "The Krotons" before the July 10 release date. :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Doctor Who: Power of the Daleks Re-Imagined part one

This is a little different than my usual posts, but I figured I'd share it. It's a stage version of Power of the Daleks.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Doctor Who: 034 The Macra Terror

At the end of The Moonbase, the Doctor, Ben, Jamie, and Polly had seen a giant claw on the TARDIS' "Time Scanner" which showed them a vision of the future. They then materialize on a colony where everyone is happy all the time... but when the Doctor is involved, things are never as they seem... for this is The Macra Terror.

This is another 4 part serial that is completely lost other than a few censor clips and a little off-air 8mm film footage. Thanks to the off-air audio recordings, a full set of telesnaps, and the previously mentioned footage, we can turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction. As always, the reconstruction does a good job giving the flavor of this serial.

I was actually quite eager to see this story since the Macra made an appearance in the David Tennant story Gridlock. I knew the Macra monsters were a bit cheesy looking from production stills that I'd seen, but from what I can tell from the existing footage and the telesnaps, it seems that the production team did the perfect thing to increase the terror from these cheesy looking props and just show little glimpses most of the time: a claw here, glowing eyes and eye stalks there, etc. Once the first episode set the story up, I was right there in the thick of things. Also, the cliffhangers for each episode seem to have been done well and had me wanting to watch the next episode. There was a little silliness, but that seems to be Troughton's trademark. :) I definitely enjoyed this story and I now want to go back and watch Gridlock again. :)

The Lost in Time DVD set contains orphan episodes (for which this serial has none) and existing clips of otherwise missing episodes, but I wondered why it contained an 8mm clip from episode 1 showing just the opening title sequence. Then I read that this was the first serial to use the new title sequence containing Patrick Troughton's face. Up until this, the title sequence had been the same as that used on the first episode, An Unearthly Child.

With all 4 episodes of this serial missing, our total for season 4 goes up to 23 and our total for Troughton goes up to 18. There are 2 more serials left this season: the 6 episode The Faceless Ones, and the 7 episode The Evil of the Daleks.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Doctor Who: 033 The Moonbase

The Doctor, intent to prove to Jamie that he's in control of the TARDIS, decides to go to Mars only to have the TARDIS go out of control (like that's never happened before). Instead of materializing on Mars, he materializes at The Moonbase, which controls Earth's weather by controlling the tides using a device called a Gravitron. That Gravitron is what pulled the TARDIS off course. As is the Doctor's habit, he manages to arrive just in time for trouble - this time an invasion of the Cybermen intent on destroying all life on Earth using the Gravitron.

Two of the four episodes of this story are missing, so again we turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction for the missing episodes and to the Lost in Time DVD set for the existing episodes. Again, Loose Cannon takes the telesnaps and the audio track and improves on them with animated Cybermen mouths, etc. to keep the viewer interested and the end result is very good.

This is the second Cyberman story in the 4th season, the first being The Tenth Planet which introduced the Cybermen. While The Tenth Planet was Hartnell's last story, it was still in the 4th season. Apparently the script for The Moonbase was commissioned while The Tenth Planet was still airing due to positive fan reactions to the Cybermen. It was originally written with just Ben and Polly as companions and the introduction of Jamie required the script to be reworked a bit so that Jamie spends part of the story in sickbay and takes some of Ben's lines for the rest of it. :)

The Cybermen are probably the second most popular of the Doctor's foes, behind the Daleks (who will also make a second appearance during the 4th season). However, unlike many of the other recurring foes, the Cybermen have a slightly different appearance almost every time they appear with the "handles" on their heads remaining one of the constants. In this case, the sock puppet faces from The Tenth Planet have been replaced by more realistic looking metallic helmets/heads. Their voices are also quite different in this story and I found them a little hard to understand at times. Fans have explained the changes in the appearance of the Cybermen: they are cybernetic and are constantly upgrading themselves to be better. This explanation mostly works, but I won't nitpick. :) The Cybermen in this story are certainly even more impressive and alien than the ones from The Tenth Planet.

I said I wasn't going to nitpick, but there are a couple of plot points in this story that don't quite work for me:
  • Polly, upon first catching a fleeting glimpse of a Cyberman, tells everyone it's the Cybermen. They comment that the Cybermen were all killed, then seem to forget about the Cybermen.
  • In Polly's second encounter with a Cyberman, where she got zapped, she definitely caught a good look at her attacker and knew it was a Cyberman, but again when she's talking to everyone, she seems to forget and they again comment on how the Cybermen were all killed. It seems to take them a while to come back to the realization that it is indeed the Cybermen. :)
  • I thought it was a little unrealistic to have the Cyberman hiding in the sickbay on an exam table covered with a sheet, although I did get a kick out of him almost knocking the exam table over when he leaped off of it. :)
  • Many comments are made about the Cybermen being killed when Mondas was destroyed in The Tenth Planet, but there's never really any explanation for how these Cybermen survived.
  • The Cybermen want to destroy all life on Earth, not for revenge, but to eliminate all threats. That seems a little weak for a reason. I guess they need some reason though, unlike the Daleks, who just want to exterminate everything that's not a Dalek. :)
  • After the Doctor defeats them, the Cybermen ships are seen hurtling out of control presumably into the Sun, but I'm not sure what's to keep more Cybermen from returning and attacking the moobase... perhaps these were the only two Cyberman ships in the area?

Now that I've nitpicked, let me say that I did enjoy the story. :) It was very suspenseful and had good pacing. Even with the minor points I mentioned above, it mostly worked and told a good story. :) Besides, the spacesuits in this story were at least a little more believable than what they used in The Web Planet. ;) I also thought it was interesting that the Cybermen know the Doctor even though they've never met this incarnation: "You are known to us." The Daleks also seem to know the Doctor most of the time after a new regeneration.

At the end of this story, the Doctor turns on the "time scanner" to get a glimpse of the future, something he doesn't use very often because it's not reliable (and here I thought the TARDIS was 100% reliable...). On the time scanner, they see a giant claw and the end of the credits promise The Macra Terror for next week. Fortunately we won't have to wait until next week... It will be the topic of my next blog post.

With the 2 episodes missing from this serial, the total for season 4 goes up to 19 and Troughton's total goes up to 14. We have three serials remaining in this season which all having missing episodes. :(

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Doctor Who: 032 The Underwater Menace

The TARDIS materializes on a deserted beach near a dormant volcano, but all is not as it seems... for this is the gateway to the fabled lost continent of Atlantis, the setting for The Underwater Menace. Only one episode of this four part serial was thought to exist until late last year when a second episode was found along with an episode of the Hartnell serial Galaxy 4. Unfortunately, the newly found episodes have only been screened to a limited number of people and the rest of us have to wait to see them until they are released on DVD, probably some time next year. That is... unless you're lucky enough to be able to attend a screening of them next month in Cardiff. The rest of us can watch a clip from episode 2 on YouTube, though.

Episode 2 of this serial marks the earliest surviving footage of Jamie and the earliest complete Troughton episode (although again, episode 3 is the first I'm able to see for now). Until episode 2 is made available to the masses, we have to turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction for episodes 1, 2, and 4 and to the Lost in Time DVD set for episode 3. I also had the Joint Venture reconstruction of this serial for comparison. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's sometimes helpful to see multiple reconstructions as they have slightly different takes on certain things.

This serial has a little bit of everything: Atlantis, a mad scientist, and fish people. :) Speaking of fish people, I've heard that Troughton and several of the production team were not very happy with the fish people, both their costumes and their method of "swimming" (in the air using wires and slow motion). Apparently this story was cancelled due to fears over the cost of implementing it, then when its replacement fell through, it was reinstated and the episodes were filmed just a week before being aired. Even though the effects might not have been superb, given what was available at the time on the budget they had and under those time constraints, I thought it worked fairly well.

The Loose Cannon reconstruction is fantastic as usual. I love the way that Loose Cannon goes the extra mile in their later reconstructions (one of the reasons they revisited some of the early ones). They attempt to add some variety to what would otherwise be just a slideshow, by using animation and clips from other sources (other parts of the same story, other stories, and sometimes even other shows or movies) where appropriate. In this serial, they used the original telesnaps, but added a layer of animation to give a little movement: examples include animating the lights in the lift, the needles on the power dial, the water dropping in the fish tank, water flooding from the idol's mouth and eyes, etc. All of these add an extra dimension to keep the viewer involved in the story and serve to give a better flavor of what the original story may have been like.

In my earlier posts, I noted how Hartnell had grown on me while watching his serials for this project. Troughton hadn't been having the same effect on me, but I wasn't sure why until I saw episode 3... I think the problem is that Troughton is a comedic actor and much of his comedy is in the expressiveness of his face, where a lot of Hartnell's expressiveness was in his voice. Either that or perhaps I had seen more of Hartnell before starting this project, so it was easier to imagine him from just his voice and limited telesnaps. Either way, Troughton seems to suffer more from having just an audio track and telesnaps than Hartnell.

At the end of this serial, Jamie comments on the TARDIS not being under the Doctor's control... The Doctor, intent to prove him wrong, decides to go to Mars. The TARDIS goes out of control (big surprise) and winds up on the Earth's Moon in 2070 where we have the Doctor's second run-in with the Cybermen this season (and ever) in The Moonbase, our topic for next time.

With 2 episodes of this serial missing, the total for season 4 goes up to 17 and the total for Troughton goes up to 12. Hopefully more of his episodes will be found and we can complete several more of his serials. There are a number of 4 and 6 part serials that are missing 2 episodes, so it wouldn't take much to complete those if the right combination of episodes were found. :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Doctor Who: 031 The Highlanders

Continuing on in Season 4, we come to The Highlanders, which introduces the character of Jamie McCrimmon to the TARDIS crew. I was actually looking forward to this story since this is the first appearance of Jamie, Troughton's longest running companion, who would travel in the TARDIS all the way until Troughton's last story, The War Games, missing only the first Troughton serial, The Power of the Daleks.

Sadly, very little footage exists from this serial, just a few seconds in the first episode, mostly from the Australian censor clips. Fortunately, we do have the audio track and telesnaps available to make reconstruction possible. For this serial, I had two different reconstructions available, the older Loose Cannon reconstruction and the Elaphe reconstruction which pairs the telesnaps with the BBC narrated soundtracks -Frazier Hines narrating in this case. The telesnaps are much clearer in the Elaphe, but the newer Loose Cannon one also promises higher quality telesnaps. Hover over the picture here to see the difference. I think for the earlier LC recons, they scanned the telesnaps from Doctor Who Magazine, but later gained access to higher quality images. I'm trying to get a copy of the newer reconstruction and will revisit this story at that time.

My impression of this story was sort of "meh"... Perhaps my expectations were too high, but to me, it seemed to be a fairly run of the mill historical: it wasn't bad, it just wasn't great. The introduction of Jamie was the best part, and Jamie wasn't yet a companion, so his interaction with the Doctor was not what it would later become. I'll have to admit that, being an American, I'm not that familiar with this period of history and most of my knowledge of this period is from movies such as Braveheart, Rob Roy, and Highlander (that last was a joke - "There can be only one!"), so I'm not sure how accurate the history in this story is, although the history itself is very peripheral to the Doctor's story. Perhaps if some episodes of this story are found, or after rewatching, my opinion of this story will improve.

The advantage of watching multiple recons is that they sometimes explain things a little differently and sometimes clarify things that another recon may take for granted. Such is the case in this episode when Polly is practicing with the knife in the barn: the LC recon says she stabs a few times, then drops the knife as Kirsty comes in (leading me to believe she was clumsy) while the BBC narration explains that she dropped it in disgust at the thought of having to actually stab someone with it. The Loose Cannon team tried to add some variety to this recon by adding some clips from movies in a couple of places instead of showing the static telesnaps. The scene of the ship in the fog with the water moving worked, but the scenes of people running around on a boat during the long fight sequence in episode 4 didn't work so well, and I enjoyed the telesnaps in the Elaphe recon better. Perhaps the later LC recon improves on this sequence. :)

One other thing I noticed: in my comments about The Smugglers, I noted that Polly kept being referred to as a "lad", but I don't remember them intentionally dressing her up as a boy. That was actually referenced in this serial: when Kirsty brings in clothes so they can disguise themselves as orange sellers, Polly makes a comment that the last time she was in the past, she spent most of the time dressed as a boy. I don't know if that plot point was left out of The Smugglers, if it was purely visual and didn't make it in the recon subtitles, or I just wasn't paying attention. :p

With all 4 episodes of this serial missing, that brings the total for season 4 to 15 and the total for Troughton to 10. These are going to rack up fast this season. :(

Next time, we travel to Atlantis and encounter a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world in The Underwater Menace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Doctor Who: 030 The Power of the Daleks

Slipping back into the normal timestream, we return to the series with Patrick Troughton's first outing as the Doctor, The Power of the Daleks. This story again, is sadly lost, although we have snippets from other programs as well as a few off-air 8mm clips. Most of this material was included on the Lost in Time DVD covering the Troughton years although a few additional clips were discovered shortly afterward and appeared in featurettes included with the DVD for Genesis of the Daleks and also on the DVD for Terror of the Vervoids in The Trial of a Time Lord box set.

Thanks to the existence of audio for this story, telesnaps, and these clips, we can again turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction to give us some idea of what this story might have been like. The story picks up with the regeneration of the Doctor from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton that we saw in the end of The Tenth Planet. At this time, it's not called "regeneration", but will later become known as that when the Doctor regenerates from Jon Pertwee to Tom Baker in Planet of the Spiders. Ben and Polly are amazed to see the Doctor change in front of their eyes. Polly continues to believe that this new person is still the Doctor despite his erratic behavior. Ben is much more skeptical, though.

The "Power" in the title would seem to be about the Daleks conquering, but is literally about power as in electricity although it's technically a double entendre and stands for both. :) A scientist discovers a capsule containing inert Daleks and figures out how to provide power to them to revive them. I thought the serial started a little slowly, even with the Doctor's regeneration, but by the time it really got going by episode 3, I was completely into it and it turned out to be a fairly good Dalek story. I'd love to see it in its full glory. Perhaps some or all of the episodes will come to light one day. There were only a couple of plot points that didn't completely work for me: there is no explanation of how the capsule got there, why the Daleks are inert, how they survived (the armor would survive unpowered, but the creatures inside wouldn't necessarily), and how they reproduced themselves (again, the armor is obvious, but the creatures are not). Apparently some of this is answered by one of the novels.

I've heard and seen many references to Patrick Troughton playing the recorder, but I've not seen much of it in the few stories of his that I've seen. Early on in episode 1, he rummages around in a trunk and pulls out the recorder. It's even used as a plot point a couple of times during this serial (i.e. to unlock the jail cell). He also plays it several times idly during this serial.

I found it very interesting that this story actually provides a precedent for the duplicitous behavior of the Daleks in Victory of the Daleks. Hearing the Daleks in this story say "I. Am. Your. Ser-vant." definitely reminded me of "I. Am. Your. Sol-dier." in Victory of the Daleks. The Daleks in this story may not have been serving tea to Winston Churchill, but they were serving beverages using trays attached to their sucker arm. I'm sure Mark Gatiss had this in mind when he wrote Victory of the Daleks.

In all, a very good serial, although a little slowly paced at first. Not having the visuals for this one hurts a little as Troughton's voice is not quite as distinctive as Hartnell's when compared with the rest of the cast in this one, and sometimes I had trouble identifying who was speaking.

The 6 episodes of this serial brings the total for season 4 to 11 and starts Troughton off with 6 missing episodes. :( I also forgot to mention that Hartnell's grand total of missing episodes is 65.

Next time, Jamie joins the TARDIS crew in The Highlanders...