Episode 097 – Star Trek – Series Overview – Part 1

In the first of a three part special series, Ben and Eugene look at the seminal classic:  Star Trek.

Time-Flight – Review

I suppose Time-Flight isn’t highly regarded by Doctor Who fandom, which surprises me – not because it’s good, but because it isn’t all that terrible.  There are so, so many worse episodes to come.

Reeling from the death of Adric, the Doctor decides a trip to the Great Exhibition will cheer everyone up.  True to form, they arrive at the one place the Doctor has completely failed to arrive at:  modern-day Heathrow Airport.  Tegan is finally home.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  A concord supersonic jet has gone missing and the Doctor knows where its gone. With the somewhat reluctant help of the crew of another concord, the Doctor follows the first back in time to 140 million years ago.  The less said about the Doctor’s comments on the time period, the coming ice age or the possibility of see a brontosaurus the better.

Here a mysterious, deformed conjurer named Kalid has control over a psychic mass of material and uses it to his bidding.  He creates illusions to convince the skyjacked passengers and crew of the concords that they are home and uses them to do his bidding.  He bids them to take the TARDIS.

The Doctor discovers that Kalid is not who he seems and the Doctor must prevent him from harnessing the source of power that has been brought to Earth in a wrecked spaceship.

Like the Sea Devils many years ago you can certainly tell when an outside organization lends its help to Doctor Who.  In this case, British Air seems to be getting a lot of commercial mileage out of this story.  Younger readers may not realize that, in the long-distant past, not only was man capable of going to moon, we could also fly passenger jets across the oceans at supersonic speeds.  Nowadays it seems hard to believe that a flight across the Atlantic could take less time than than security checks and layover.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the the cooperation of British Air, the special effects in this episode are some of the poorest during the Davison era.  The attempts to integrate stock concord shots with prehistoric sets is utterly unconvincing.

The story rambles on a bit and at no time do I ever feel anyone is really in danger.  Kalid, of course, turns out to be the Master who has managed to escape Castrovalva but is stranded with a disabled TARDIS in the Jurassic.  Rather than be menacing, the Master spends his time skulking around in an almost pantomime fashion and occasionally laughing menacingly.  This unfortunately sets the tone for all the future appearances of Anthony Ainley’s Master.

Perhaps the most telling example of this is the lengths the production goes to disguise the reveal of the Master at the end of episode two.  In episode one he is in grotesque makeup and his character is credited not as “Anthony Ainley” but as the anagram “Leon Ny Taiy” but in fact, during much of the episode there was no reason for him to be disguised.  He was disguised even before the Doctor arrived.  When he meets the Doctor, the Doctor is neither impressed with nor willing to surrender his TARDIS to Kalid, despite Kalid’s threats to kill the Doctor’s friends.  When the Master’s identity is revealed, the Doctor immediately surrenders the TARDIS key upon the first threat to the same friends.

In short, the Master was hiding from people who didn’t know him (and were, for that matter, hypnotized to see whatever he wanted) and, his plot was actually diminished by the act of hiding.  It was strictly put on for the audience, and that’s the problem.  When you start writing your episode around gimmicks for the fans, you’re doomed.

With Adric gone, but not completely forgotten, Nyssa got quite a bit more storyline in the episode as did, to a lesser degree, Tegan who bows out of the TARDIS crew at the end of the episode.

No, this episode is not as bad as it is often credited, but it does suffer a number of flaws that keep it in the lower half of the mediocre range.

1/4 Tenth Planet = 2.5th Planet?

I recently re-watched the Patrick Troughton story, the Invasion, which included two animated reconstructions of missing episodes.

As many Doctor Who fans know, the BBC rather mercilessly erased many of the adventures of the first and second Doctor. Fortunately, all stories have surviving audio recordings. When they did the Invasion, a classic Cybermen story, it seemed that perhaps we would at long last be able to enjoy these lost stories in something at least approximating their intended form, but then nothing seemed to come of it.

This past week, the Reign of Terror was released again with two episodes restored. I’m waiting for my copy to arrived next week, but this first Doctor story is a straight historical (no monsters or aliens) and is… Umm. Lets say it’s not at the top of any fan’s list of episodes they want to recover.

The choice of the Invasion made sense. Not only is it one of the most iconic Cybermen stories ever made, it’s also the introduction of UNIT, a staple of the third Doctor’s tenure. The choice of Reign of Terror is mystifying.

We’ve been told the animation is very expensive. If so, surely they should concentrate on highly sought after stories, at least initially.

Here’s the story that, to me, seems like the biggest no-brainer of the bunch: The Tenth Planet. A four-part first Doctor story with only one part missing that not only introduces the Cybermen for the first time, it ends with the Doctor’s first regeneration! That’s a story at the top of fans’ lists!

About a week ago, information began leaking out that another missing classic, The Ice Warriors was going to be released to DVD using telesnaps recreations – that is productions stills displayed on the screen while the soundtrack plays on. This is massively disappointing. Why even bother? Worse, if they release animation of a unwanted and unloved episode, why screw over a classic like the Ice Warriors? It seems perhaps we’re not to expect more animated stories.

And then a wild thing happened, this weekend at the annual Gallifrey 1 convention in Los Angeles, it was announced that Tenth Planet is the next to be animated and restored!

Hurray! But what the hell are they thinking with the Ice Warriors? Lets hope they clear this up sooner rather than later. I’m quite prepared to purchase every animation-restored episode of Doctor Who!

Announcement of restoration of the Tenth Planet.

Edit: 2013-02-18 Here’s the official mention that Ice Warriors is a telesnap reconstruction. Hat tip to Simon for finding that.

Earthshock – Review

or “How To Spring Clean a Crowded TARDIS”

I’ll start my random series of reviews with Earthshock, during Peter Davison’s tenure as the Doctor.

There’s no point in disguising it, I generally despise what happened to Doctor Who under John Nathan-Turner’s stewardship. Despising the JNT regime seems to come in and go out of vogue. I believe I can honestly say I’ve never followed the flavor of the times and have always disliked what happened to Doctor Who.

Undeniably, JNT was a long-time fan of the show and I have no doubts about his intentions or dedication to the show in light of all the crap it was subjected to; however, good intentions do not make up for serious missteps.

JNT intentionally implemented changes in the TARDIS crew. Phasing out the agreeable Doctor/Companion pairing for more fractious Doctor/multiple companions combination that, presumably allowed for more dramatic latitude. The format shows its cracks here, but fortunately, a slight relief is in the offing.

The story opens with the Doctor and the execrable Adric having a fight. Adric, complete waste of flesh that he’s been since he left Alzarius is complaining he’s always being picked on. Fair enough, but he deserves it. He’s decided that, for some half-assed reason he wants to kill the entire TARDIS crew in a dangerous return to e-space. Instead of forcefully putting his foot down (and Adric off the TARDIS at the nearest convenient uninhabited planet) the Doctor goes into an equally childish hissy fit, lands the TARDIS on 26th century Earth and goes for a walk to cool off.

I’m so glad that added dramatic tension to the TARDIS crew, it allows them to have a whole series of other excuses as to why they land at random places in the universe.

In any case, it is here that the story begins. The Doctor is drawn into a mystery concerning underground tunnels, mysterious androids (build for no apparent reason in male and female forms) and a whopping great bomb designed to destroy life on Earth. It’s here that Adric becomes useful momentarily – almost a first since he began his travels with the Doctor. What could it mean? Will Adric finally become a useful member of the crew?

The bomb defused, it would seem the story is over, but no! It is not. The Doctor, his companions and a small military force from the Earth travel into deep space searching for the signal that seemed to control the timer on the bomb.

OK, I’ll take a quick aside to say the bomb was a poorly thought-out contrivance. While I can accept that the Cybermen might be able to send a remote signal to tell the timer to start counting down, I find it difficult to believe that they built a bomb that requires that signal to continue until the bomb explodes. That seems a very poor design.

Aboard a deep space freighter we learn that the Cybermen have an army concealed aboard that were initially destined to be the occupying force to suppress the survivors of the destroyed Earth. Their backup plan, just crash the ship into the Earth. (Wasn’t that the plan that failed in Revenge of the Cybermen?)

It’s onboard the freighter that the crowded TARDIS formula really begins to shine. While the Doctor and Adric in shades of earlier more halcyon days of Doctor Who get falsely accused of causing the mysterious crew disappearances and deaths onboard the freighter, Nyssa demonstrates the ability to stay in the TARDIS and worry, while Tegan demonstrates that overalls are what you need to be “prepared” to fight Cyberman, but actually just spends her time wandering lost around the freighter. This crowded TARDIS formula really puts value on the screen, doesn’t it?

The Cybermen take the Doctor, Tegan and Nyssa back to the TARDIS to escape the impending crash of the freighter, but leave Adric and the remaining ships crew aboard so they can experience the destruction of Earth firsthand. (Once again, isn’t that exactly why their plan was foiled in Revenge of the Cybermen. Have they learned nothing?! Apparently not.)

While the Doctor and the TARDIS crew watch from space, Adric finally uses his badge for mathematical excellence to try to unlike the navigation system and save the Earth. Again, the previously less-than-useless Adric manages enough to save the day, making him, perhaps, finally worthy of traveling in the TARDIS. Alas, he’s blown into a bazillion pieces. Despite his growth as a character during this episode, I cannot stifle a cheer every time I see this episode. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with this ending unless they also managed to get rid of the (occasionally useful but always abrasively obnoxious) Tegan at the same time.

Despite any logic flaws in the story, Earthshock is one of my favorite Davison-era stories. The Cybermen have been given a complete makeover since their last appearance and are in my favorite form – although, their suits are, perhaps, a bit too baggy. They even seem mildly credible as a fighting force.

Their use of androids made little or no sense, nor did their logic that destroying a conference designed to bring planets together in a battle with the Cybermen and demonstrating their “…superior cyber technology…” would cause the planets to be less inclined to band together and beat the Cybermen.

Davison’s Doctor is mostly ineffectual with flashes of brilliance in this episode, perhaps meant to evoke the second Doctor, but it comes off an ineffectual. Luckily, Nyssa sets the bar of uselessness in this episode and even the fifth Doctor can’t limbo under that bar this time around.

I should point out that when push comes to shove, the Doctor effectively kills the Cybercontroller in a very hands on way. There was a recent controversy in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship that the Doctor wouldn’t deliberately and directly kill someone. That’s nonsense. In this episode, not only did the Doctor kill the Cybercontroller, he did it by taking his gun and shooting him repeatedly at point-blank range while the Cybercontroller was incapacitated and dying of gold poisoning – and I applaud him for doing it, but the arguments about the Doctor not killing are just unfounded.

Crowded TARDIS: 1 down, 1 to go.

Episode 096 – Man From Atlantis – Deadly Carnival

Yes, that’s right!  This episode’s surprise is that we dip into the universe-transversing well one time too many!  The Deadly Carnival is the end of the line for everyone’s favorite fish man!

Reviews? You Betcha!

As part of our never-ending efforts to expand the Fusion Patrol media empire, here is where you get your Fusion Patrol reviews!

That’s right, Ben and I watch watch lots of other shows just begging to be reviewed and this is where we’ll do it. There are oodles of bad (and not so bad) classic shows just waiting to be Fusion Patrolled – If “Fusion Patrol” can be used as a verb.

We’re not stuck up like Google! Go ahead and use our name as a verb, we won’t mind.