The Tenth Planet

tenth

Writer: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis (Gerry Davis wrote parts 3 and 4)

Director: Derek Martinus

Producer: Innes Lloyd

Season: 4, ep 2 (5-8)

No. of Episodes: 4 (note: ep 4 is restored with animation)

Companions: Ben Jackson (Michael Craze) Polly (Anneke Wills)

Summary: The Doctor and his companions arrive at the Snowcap Base in 1986, which is supervising the Zeus IV mission to probe the atmosphere. The instruments reveal that a new planet has appeared in the sky, one with landmasses identical to Earth.  Before they can get the word out, the base is attacked and the Doctor encounters the Cybermen for the first time. The Cybermen come from the new planet, which is named Mondas.  They explain that as their bodies weakened, they created cybernetic parts to replace their weaknesses, including emotions.  General Cutler, who is overseeing the mission, receives word that that his son has been sent on a mission to rescue Zeus IV, but has died.  This angers Cutler and he attempts to use a nuclear bomb to stop the Cybermen. The Doctor has been weakened by his old age, but he is able to stop Cutler, but not before Mondas is destroyed.  This also kills the Cybermen, as they needed the planet to survive.  The Doctor takes his companions to the safety of the TARDIS, where he collapses and regenerates for the first time.

Review: The story is pretty good. Because of Hartnell’s poor health (he couldn’t even participate in the third part), it’s up to Ben and Polly to do most of the heroics.  Up until this point, I really didn’t know what to make of this duo as neither of the stories I’d seen previously really gave me time to get to know them.  Ben and Polly are still not among my favorites (Personally, I feel Polly is a waste of space), but they are good here.  Cutler is a great antagonist, as his anger at the loss of his son interferes with his rationale.

The Cybermen are a real deal-breaker for me, sadly. Their costumes are bulky and laughable. Their voices are too shrilly (although that could also be my over-sensitive ears). I’m not bothered at how the Doctor dies, as I feel it still fits his character, and he is defiant to the end.  Overall, the story met my expectations.

Overall Review: 7/10

Continuity: This is the only story where the Cybermen have names and human hands. The Doctor’s death is not called a regeneration until “Planet of the Spiders”.  Big Finish’s audio drama Spare Parts tells the origin of the Mondas Cybermen.  In “Attack of the Cybermen”, the Cybermen travel back to 1985 to attempt to prevent Mondas’s destruction, but are thwarted by the Sixth Doctor and Peri.  In the Big Finish Companion Chronicle The First Wave, the First Doctor’s death is retold from the perspective of Oliver Harper’s ghost (Oliver Harper is a Big Finish exclusive companion). The Eighth Doctor also encountered this variant of the Cybermen in The Silver Turk.

Trivia: Michael Craze met his wife Edwina while filming this story. (She was a production assistant)

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Aliens of London/World War III

slitheen(Note: Because the story took two episodes, I will review both)

Writer: Russell T. Davies

Director: Keith Boak

Producer: Phil Collinson

Series: 1, episodes 4 and 5

Companions: Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke)

Summary: The Doctor and Rose come back to present-time Earth, thinking they’ve only left for 12 hours. In reality, it’s been a year.  After her mother justifiably chews them both out, the Doctor and Rose see a spaceship crash, hitting Big Ben in the process before landing in the Thames.  The Prime Minister is missing, and the Doctor and Rose investigate.  While there, they meet Harriet Jones, MP, from Flydale North.  They discover that the spaceship is really a decoy for the Slitheen, a family of aliens from Raxacallicofallipatorius. They are attempting to create a world war and sell what will remain of Earth as alien real estate.  The Doctor helps Mickey hack into UNIT’s website to redirect the missiles so they can foil the Slitheens’ plans.

Review: When I first saw these two episodes, I actually thought they weren’t too bad.  The Slitheen were great, comical (but still menacing) monsters, even with their weakness to acetic acid. Harriet Jones is a funny supporting cast member. My only real gripe with this story is that thanks to The Sarah Jane Adventures, the Slitheen became a joke. Other than that, the story isn’t too bad.

My Review: 8/10

Continuity: “The Dominators” also has aliens attempting to turn a planet into real estate. The Doctor mentions his job with UNIT that he had during the Pertwee era and Tom Baker’s first season.  A boy is seen spraying “Bad Wolf” on the TARDIS, keeping with the season’s arc.  The Slitheen returned in “Boom Town” before becoming recurring villains in The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Harriet Jones becomes Prime Minister in “The Christmas Invasion.” This is also the first appearance of Dr. Toshiko Sato, who would later join Torchwood. Her presence here was explained in the Torchwood episode “Exit Wounds”.

Trivia: The Slitheen are the first monsters in Doctor Who to be completely CG-rendered, although technically, actors did play the humans they were disguised as.

Mark of the Rani

rani

Writers: Pip & Jane Baker

Director: Sarah Hellings

Producer: John Nathan-Turner

No. of Episodes: 2 (note: this season was the first to have 45-minute episodes, like today’s version.)

Season: 22, ep. 3 (5 and 6)

Companion: Peri Brown (Nicola Bryant)

Summary: In Industrial Revolution-era Britain, the Doctor and Peri are investigating a time distortion.  In so doing, they meet The Rani, a rogue Time Lady who is conducting experiments on Luddites using a chemical that leaves a blemish on the neck and inhibits sleep, making them more savage. The Master is also there as well, and he is the one who has caused the time distortion.  When he finds The Rani, the Master decides the enemy of his enemy is his friend and forms an uneasy alliance with her.

Review: While season 22 wasn’t all that great, it does have a few gems.  And this is one of them.  Kate O’ Mara is excellent as The Rani.  She is a delightfully hammy mad scientist, and I love her dry wit.  I wish the Rani had shown up more often, as she was such a great foe.  The Master and The Rani are great together, and their bickering is the best part of the story.

The Doctor is truly at his best here.  Yes, there’s the bickering with him and Peri, but by this point, it’s handled the way it should be.

My only real gripe is the sole cliffhanger. It’s really one of the worst I’ve seen. It feels as if they were thinking “We have to create peril some way. I know, let’s do something with the slightest bit of dread!”.

Overall Rating: 8/10

Continuity: The Rani would appear again in “Time and the Rani”. Although both the Rani and Peri mention the Master’s apparent demise in “Planet of Fire”, we’re not told how he escaped.

Trivia: This is the final classic story to be directed by a woman.  This would not happen again until the New Who story “Blink”.  Kate O’Mara also played Caress Morrell in Dynasty and Alexis Colby’s sister as well.  She played Laura Wilde in Howard’s Way and played alongside Colin Baker in The Brothers.

The Ambassadors of Death

ambassadors

Writers: David Whitaker (note: The original script was written by David Whitaker and intended for the Patrick Troughton era.  However, his rewrite proved unusable.  Trevor Ray, the assistant script editor at the time, wrote the first part, while Malcolm Hulke and script editor Terrance Dicks wrote the rest.  David Whitaker received onscreen credit because this was his last story for Doctor Who)

Director: Michael Ferguson

Producer: Barry Letts

No of Episodes: 7

Season: 7 , ep. 3  (12-18)

Companions: Dr. Liz Shaw (Caroline John) and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)

Summary: Three astronauts have been sent to recover a Martian probe and disappear.  In their place are three alien astronauts who consume radiation and are unknowingly part of a conspiracy.  The Doctor and UNIT must cooperate in order to investigate and discover the real astronauts.

Review: It’s a well-known fact that every script used in a TV program is the work of a committee rather than the single writer that is given credit.  You might think this story is a mess with three actual writers, but it’s actually not bad. This is probably one of the most action-packed stories I’ve ever watched from the classic series. Liz and the Brigadier are at their best. This story shows just how intelligent she is and she and the Doctor work well together. I also like the fact that we never see what the aliens look like, save for the spacesuits.

This story is not without problems. It is quite slow, particularly in the first three parts.  I actually think this could’ve been written as a four or five-part story. But it’s still worth watching, so I say give it a try.  (Note: This title was restored for the DVD version so that the colorization process was less “washed out”.  

Overall Rating: 7/10

Continuity: The Doctor appears to be holding a grudge from when the Brigadier destroyed the Silurian base in “The Silurians.”  This is the only story where the TARDIS’s console is actually seen outside the TARDIS. “The Christmas Invasion” also had aliens intercepting a Martian Probe.The audio drama Red Dawn also had a manned mission to Mars.  Sgt. Benton made his return to the show in this story. (he had previously appeared in the first ever story to feature UNIT, “The Invasion”. The Companion Chronicles drama The Last Post ties into this story.

Trivia: Originally, the human scientists involved in the conspiracy were meant to be Irish, however, since The Troubles were going on, this was changed.  An unusual title sequence was used for this serial, with the sequence cutting off after the show’s logo, repeating the previous week’s cliffhanger, then returning to the titles for the serial’s name, writer and episode number. Also, Private Johnson was played by Geoffrey Beevers, who would later go on to play The Master in “The Keeper of Traken”.

 

The Faceless Ones

faceless

Writers: David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke

Director: Gerry Mills

Producer: Innes Lloyd

Season: 4, ep. 8 (31-36 note: only parts 1 and 3 still exist)

No. of Episodes: 6

Companions: Ben Jackson (Michael Craze), Polly (Anneke Wills), Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines)

Summary: The Doctor and friends arrive at an airport on the exact same day Ben and Polly started their journeys with the Doctor. There, they discover a string of disappearances associated with a company called Chameleon Tours. They discover that the company is actually a front for aliens who are stealing the passengers’ and personnels’ identities.

Review: Season 4 was a season of transition. This episode was written to sever the final ties to Hartnell’s era by the departure of Ben and Polly.  The story itself is actually pretty good. The Doctor is on his game here and shows off his investigative skills very well (I love it when he plays detective!). My only gripe is that Ben and Polly are barely in it.  Once Polly is rescued, they practically disappear from the rest of the story.  As such, I feel the departure should’ve happened right after that, in the second part.

Overall Rating: 7/10

Continuity: This is Ben and Polly’s final story with the Doctor. According to the Sarah Jane Adventures episode “Death to the Doctor”, Ben and Polly are married and now run an orphanage in India.  Ben mentions the Cybermen, who they encountered in The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase. Ben and Polly leave the Doctor on July 20, 1966, the exact same day The War Machines takes place.  The ending with the TARDIS being stolen leads right into the final serial for season 4, “The Evil of The Daleks”.

Trivia: Michael Craze and Anneke Wills’ contracts were up with part 2 of this story, which is why they do not participate for the rest of the story. It is the first story to open with Delia Derbyshire’s arrangement of the theme, used through “The Horns of Nimon”. (The arrangement would’ve been used for “The Macra Terror”, the first story to feature the Doctor’s face in the credits, but there was a production error) Pauline Collins, who plays Samantha Briggs, was offered to continue the show with Samantha becoming a new companion, but declined.  She would return to the show in the Tenth Doctor story “Tooth and Claw”.