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? :)