Reviewing Classic Who: Tom Baker Reads The Phone Book
Shada. This one was never actually broadcast, but they pieced it together using Tom Baker to narrate the missing pieces. It’s pretty clear we’re missing quite a bit still, but it’s far more watchable than the reconstructions of the missing episodes from the first and second doctor’s eras. In this one, the Doctor and Romana are hanging out with a senile old Time Lord called Chronotis, who has been pretending to be a Cambridge professor for three hundred years or so. It will later turn out Chronotis is actually the famous mind criminal Salyavin, but these days he’s just a nice old man and a good friend of the Doctor’s. (He has the ability to project his mind into other people’s minds, apparently.) Anyway, some sinister-looking dude is going around using a little metallic sphere to steal people’s brains. He’s looking to steal the famous mind criminal Salyavin’s brain, so he can use his mind-control powers to then control the brains he’s just emptied. There’s apparently a mind-control wrestling climax, where the Doctor builds himself a mind-control helmet made of electronic bits and a piece of table. Sadly I can’t really rate this one since it’s clearly not complete but it was at least reasonably entertaining. N/A
1:56 am • 21 July 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Attack Of The Nomadic Space Minotaurs
The Horns of Nimon. The Doctor and Romana crash-land on a ship captained by a fat bully that is ferrying sacrifices to an evil space Minotaur called the Nimon, who has promised a race of warmongering jerks a fleet powerful enough to conquer the galaxy if they just keep giving him sacrifices to consume. They are lead by an insane high priest whose name I don’t remember. Literally everyone else is a soldier. (Apparently there was a civil war and only the armies survived. I’m sure that’s a commentary on something.)
Anyway, the evil space Minotaur lives inside of a labyrinth, which is actually a giant circuit. He’s using the giant circuit to create a wormhole through which he can summon more of his people, who will show up and devour the life force of the planet while they send their vanguard on to do the same thing somewhere else. So they’re evil nomadic space Minotaur locusts, basically. Anyway, with the help of the plucky teenage hero, Seth, the Doctor and Romana defeat the Minotaurs. Seth becomes a folk hero in the style of Theseus, so the Doctor tells him to paint his ship white when he goes home.
Oh yeah, and the evil space Minotaurs that didn’t manage to make it to this planet blew themselves up in attempt to teleport away, because as soon as their teleport failed once they assumed it was a lost cause and tried their final contingency plan. I guess Minotaur locusts aren’t known for their intellect. B+
3:23 am • 20 July 2014 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Day of the Drug Smugglers
Nightmare of Eden. The Doctor and Romana arrive on a spaceship (the Empress) that has just materialized partially inside of another spaceship (The Hecate). We’re first introduced to the crew of the Empress as the collision occurs, largely because the navigator is clearly out of his mind on drugs. The Doctor eventually discovers that it’s a drug called vraxoin, which was supposedly eradicated “years ago,” according to Romana, which is not actually a very useful claim since she’s a time traveler.
Anyway, early on the Doctor’s primary concern is just separating the ships, which is difficult because they have materialized on top of each other, but also he wants to stop the drug runners. Complicating the earlier complications, there are also apparently some horrible monsters called Mandrels running around eating people. Meanwhile, in yet another seemingly-unrelated-but-it-turns-out-not-really plot point, this story’s accented professor, Professor Tryst, has a machine which is basically a teleporter but he claims is just a way of preserving live endangered species on data crystals. (It teleports them into the data crystal, and they can subsequently walk out if conditions are just right—for instance, when a ship has materialized on top of another ship.) And finally, further complicating the Doctor’s efforts, one of the smugglers has summoned some black-suited space bureaucrats and convinced them the Doctor is one of the smugglers. (To recap: the Doctor and friends now have to dodge bits of material overlap, angry monsters, and armed bureaucratic thugs.)
The smugglers are using the professor’s device to smuggle the drug, which apparently is what the Mandrels turn into when they die. And spoiler alert: the professor actually knows about this property and has arranged for the whole thing. But while he’s trying to get away with his accomplice, the Doctor rigs up the teleportation device to capture the fleeing smugglers. Hoist on his own petard, and all that.
Also notable for an early conversation where Romana says to the Doctor, “I don’t think we should interfere.” To which he replies, “Interfere? Of course we should interfere! Always do what you’re best at, that’s what I say.” A-
4:01 am • 13 July 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Insane Tyrant Edition
The Creature from the Pit. The Doctor and Romana land on a jungle planet, where they find a gigantic living metallic eggshell emitting a distress call. The Doctor is promptly kidnapped and told he must die for being in the Place of Death, and Romana is … still kidnapped but slightly less so, I think. She subsequently gets kidnapped for real by a bunch of comical hairy bandits (and subsequently escapes mostly by using a firm voice and telling them they are hairy and smelly), while the Doctor is taken to Lady Adrasta. She is an insane tyrant who controls a monopoly on metal on this planet (which is apparently called Chloris); metal is apparently phenomenally scarce, etc etc. Unfortunately, being insane makes it hard for her to get along with people, so she likes throwing them in a pit in the ground where a giant green blob monster lives.
Adrasta is also super interested in the giant metallic eggshell, and is willing to do stabby coercion to make the Doctor and/or Romana tell her about it. So naturally, to avoid being useful, the Doctor jumps into the pit, then tries to climb out again, for some reason. There he discovers an astrologer who acts sort of like a Discworld wizard, who has managed to avoid being eaten by the blob monster. He also discovers the blob monster, which, it turns out, is actually just misunderstood! And by “misunderstood” I mean “literally its only means of communication is currently being used to decorate Lady Adrasta’s mantle.” But the Doctor convinces it not to kill him and promises to go get the communications device (it plays a charming game of blob monster Pictionary with the Doctor, and he remembers seeing it on the mantle).
At some point Lady Adrasta decides to head down into the Pit and kill the creature, along with all of her guards. Meanwhile the hairy bandits decide to raid the palace and steal all the metal. They find the blob monster’s communications device and get mind-controlled to bring it down into the Pit. With its voice thus restored, it explains that it’s from a race of beings that eat chlorophyll and convert it to metal, and since this planet has an abundance of chlorophyll and not much metal it decided to stop by on a trade mission. So naturally Lady Adrasta threw it in the pit, instead of making a profitable trade agreement, because she wanted to hold onto her monopoly, I guess.
Lady Adrasta loses the support of her people (who are apparently only now realizing she is a huge jerk) and also gets eaten by the blob monster, because it is understandably not very happy with its circumstances. This basically makes the Doctor the new king of the planet! He lets the blob monster free and goes upstairs to negotiate a new trade agreement.
Except it turns out the blob monster’s people, angry that their emissary was treated so, have decided to wipe out the star system of Chloris by throwing a neutron star into its sun. Using some dubious science, the blob monster and the TARDIS collectively save the day, even though the odds against succeeding were apparently 74,384,338 to 1. Fortunately, that’s the Doctor’s lucky number. A-
1:41 am • 12 July 2014 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Parisian Film Noir Edition
City of Death. The Doctor and Romana take a holiday in Paris, 1979, and get caught up in a film noir-style art heist. A sinister Count, who is secretly a green tentacle monster alien, is stealing art for mysterious purposes, and it quickly becomes apparent that he’s got more on his mind than making a 1979 detective drama happen. The Doctor and Romana discover that Count von Count has six genuine Mona Lisas in the basement. They’ve been bricked up for centuries, and Count von Count is currently planning a heist to steal the seventh. This is because he needs money to fuel his time travel experiments in the basement! But how does he know that they’re there? Does it involve time travel? Yes. Yes it does.
See, it turns out Count von Count is actually an alien who crash-landed on earth before life had formed from the primordial soup. When he took off he exploded and sent fragments of himself through time, and also irradiated the primordial soup so it went from inert matter to a living goo. His fragments have been shaping human history since its inception so he could build a time machine and go back in time and stop himself from exploding, which would also stop humanity from ever existing.
Apparently all of the fragments are kind of in communication with each other, so when the Doctor pops back to Renaissance Italy to have a chat with Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance-era Count von Count already knows who the Doctor is and does some interrogating. Meanwhile future Count von Count convinces Romana to help him build his time machine, since she doesn’t know that doing so will destroy the human race. (In fairness to Romana, it’s not exactly an intuitive leap.)
There’s a very film noir scene where the Count’s wife discovers that he’s an alien and points a gun at him and demands to know who he is, but she ends up getting killed by alien technology, which isn’t how those scenes usually go. Anyway, the Count succeeds in going back in time but is stopped by the punchy detective Duggan, who’s been hanging out with the Doctor and Romana for the whole story, punching things, busting through walls, and generally being confusing. “That may be the most important punch in history!” says the Doctor. B+
1:54 am • 10 July 2014 • 1 note
from Passing English of the Victorian Era
I’m gonna bring this back if it’s the last thing I do
come down with a case of the morbs
10:12 pm • 7 July 2014 • 24,138 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Robotic Space Egyptians vs. The Daleks
Destiny of the Daleks. Romana is apparently bored with her old body and decides to regenerate into the body of Princess Astra from the previous episode. She wears a charming pink version of the Doctor’s outfit, complete with absurdly long white scarf, which I am sad to report she does not continue wearing in future episodes.
So the first randomized journey the Doctor and Romana take lands them on Skaro, former homeworld of the Daleks and current blasted hellscape. They don’t realize that at first, of course, so they poke around in a ruined city trying to figure out what’s going on. The Doctor is “rescued” from a beam by a bunch of white-clad robotic space Egyptians, and Romana, while trying to find help, is captured by a bunch of Daleks who burst through the wall like the Koolaid Man.
It turns out the Daleks are trying to find Davros, who we last saw getting shot to death by his creations. They’re locked in a state of perpetual war with the robotic space Egyptians, because both of them are pure robot species and their computers are perfectly logical blah blah two perfect players etc etc locked in a stalemate because computer. They need Davros to make them organic again so they can win against the computer people, or something.
Anyway, the Daleks are using humans as slave labor to … move rocks around aimlessly, I guess? I’m not really sure. But the Doctor frees a bunch of them. He then explains to the robotic space Egyptians that computers can’t ever win against each other by making them play rock paper scissors against each other, and when they are about to capture him and blow up the planet, the gang of slaves he freed boards the Egyptian ship and helps disable all the robots. Davros sends a bunch of suicide bomb Daleks to destroy the ship, but the Doctor hits the detonator early and they all explode harmlessly. Then he puts Davros in a cryogenic freezing chamber and scurries off before he has to actually help the humans deal with this weird corpse-like mutant he’s foisted on them. B
2:23 am • 7 July 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: The Final Object!
The Armageddon Factor. Season finale alert! The Doctor and Romana’s find-the-object quest is finally reaching its conclusion as they hunt down the sixth segment of the Plot Artifact of Time. This time they actually sense that there is probably going to be trouble ahead before they disembark, so I guess they are capable of learning after all. They land on the middle of a planet locked in an interminable nuclear war with another planet, ruled by the peace-loving Princess Astra (played by the woman who will ultimately become Romana II) and an insane Marshall who is actually being mind-controlled by a talking jelly skull that lives behind a black mirror he likes to stare into muttering incoherently.
Anyway it turns out the war is basically a giant sham designed to wipe out both planets being organized by the Shadow, who is the minion of the Black Guardian. The Shadow and his people are sinister-looking black-robed aliens who are clearly channeling the Emperor, and I think the Shadow might also be the talking jelly skull from earlier, but I couldn’t say for certain. Anyway, for reasons that never become clear, the Shadow’s evil lair is a giant sinister funhouse maze full of wacky illusions, and he keeps trying to get the Doctor to produce the five segments to the Key to Time so he can give all six of them into the Black Guardian’s keeping.
The Doctor inexplicably runs into one of his old Time Lord classmates called Drax, who helps him build a miniaturization gun that he uses to shrink the Doctor and himself, for some reason. This was not the original plan, and the Shadow gets into the TARDIS and gets the original five pieces. The big reveal here is that Princess Astra is the sixth segment to the key to time (the sixth princess of the sixth generation of the sixth dynasty of the royal house of Atrios), and her transformation is actually kind of anticlimactic. The Shadow’s apotheosis ritual is unfortunately disrupted when mini-Doctor and mini-Drax crash the ceremony, steal the segments, blind the Shadow with plot magic, and scurry off to the TARDIS. Then the Black Guardian pretends to be the White Guardian, and the Doctor is like ‘nah, you’re too sinister’ and scatters the segments randomly throughout the universe, then installs a randomizer on the TARDIS so he can never know where he’s going next so the Black Guardian won’t be able to follow him.
To add tension to the last few parts of the story, there’s a literal ticking time bomb with ten seconds left that is caught in a degrading time loop, because the Doctor and Romana made a counterfeit sixth segment to stop it. If it blows up millions of people will die, but it’s honestly not particularly relevant to the plot. Still! B+
12:30 am • 6 July 2014 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Sinister Mining Corporation, LLC
The Power of Kroll. The Doctor and Romana continue their implausibly long streak of landing on a planet, assuming it will take them about ten minutes to find the next segment of the Key to Time, and then getting kidnapped by opposing factions, thus complicating things until the fourth episode. This time they’ve landed on a swamp planet (well, moon) populated by some garden variety Sinister Earth Mining Corporation humans and the primitive swamp-dwelling Cthulhu-worshipping green people (also known as the swampies) they sent here a hundred years ago, before they realized they could mine the planet for methane gas.
Anyway, a gun runner has just armed them with weapons, but it turns out he was hired by the Evil Local Mining Director to give them defective guns so he’d have an excuse to blow them up. As per usual, both the swampies and the miners think the Doctor and Romana are spies for the enemy and want to execute them, which complicates their efforts to stop everyone from blowing each other up. Meanwhile the miners have awakened Cthulhu by mining it for methane, which still further complicates things, because Cthulhu starts eating everyone indiscriminately.
Then the Doctor figures out that Kroll-thulhu is actually just a giant squid that ate the fifth segment to the Key to Time, so he pokes it with the plot stick until it shrinks back to regular giant squid size. Then they scurry off, leaving the sole surviving miner stuck with a swamp full of unhappy green men. B
1:03 am • 1 July 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Electric Swords and Crossbows
The Androids of Tara. In a shocking twist, the Doctor and Romana (well, just Romana, actually—the Doctor decides he’s just going to hang out and go fishing, because he’s quite sure nothing will go wrong) find the next segment of the Plot Artifact Of Time in the first episode! Unfortunately, they both end up getting kidnapped by rival sides in a political conflict on a weird Late Renaissance-era Holy Roman Empire With Electric Swords And Crossbows And Androids planet. The succession laws on this planet appear to have been deliberately written to create as much murdery political intrigue as possible: if the Prince fails to arrive at his coronation on time, the cardinal-type dude performing the coronation (who wears a lovely rainbow hat) gets to choose some random nobleman to offer the throne to, instead. And by “random” I mean “the guy who has replaced all of the palace guards with his own personal guards.”
Anyway, you have the Prince, who is the noble good guy, and the Count, who is, of course, the sinister mustache-twirling devious schemer. All of this is complicated by the existence of androids which can apparently act as unreliable but otherwise more or less perfect duplicates of actual human beings. They have limited batteries and, as I mentioned, are apparently pretty unreliable, but they’re reliable enough that when the Prince is kidnapped, in order to prevent him from showing up at the coronation, the Doctor is able to help the Prince’s bodyguards make an android duplicate of the king to show up and take his place.
Meanwhile, it turns out Romana is actually perfectly identical to the Princess, who has also been kidnapped by the Count, which basically means the Count has an even better android replicant that can’t be programmed in any way! One of the other fun succession laws in this weird kingdom is that apparently when you marry someone you get to inherit their titles upon their death, so the Count plans to arrange a marriage between the Prince and the Princess (actually Romana, of course), then kill the King (who was until just now the Prince, of course), then marry the Princess, then kill her, so he can become the King himself.
There are a few kidnappings and escape attempts, then the Doctor infiltrates the castle, has an epic swashbuckling swordfight with the Count, opens the gates to the Prince (King?)’s army, saves the Prince, the Princess, Romana, and probably some other people, and then leaves, complaining that he has not caught a single fish.
It’s a valid complaint, I suppose, but I think Tara has more problems than that, Doctor. A-
12:43 am • 30 June 2014