Reviewing Classic Who: Day Of The Silicon Jerks
The Hand of Fear. Sarah accidentally discovers a fossilized severed hand in a quarry, which possesses her and makes her into a weird cultist dedicated to the resurrection of a being called Eldrad, executed a hundred million years ago for various traitorous crimes. Eldrad apparently uses radiation to regenerate, so Sarah uses a magic ring to infiltrate a nuclear facility. The Doctor manages to free her from possession, but a random nuclear tech gets possessed instead and walks into the reactor core, thus immolating himself and furthering the cause of Eldrad’s resurrection. The resurrection completes when the facility’s director calls a nuclear strike on the station, for some reason.
Anyway, Eldrad takes the form of a silicon lady, and convinces the Doctor to take her back to her planet, because she created it and she is its rightful ruler and blah blah treachery. She gives some megalomaniacal rants on the way there, but is almost killed by a trap set millions of years ago, so the Doctor has to help her to a regeneration chamber. There she is smashed to bits and turns into an even more megalomaniacal silicon dude, who reveals that he actually wanted to conquer the universe, and he was sentenced to death for basically destroying the planet that he created millions of years ago (because he is apparently a silicon jerk).
Of course, this was a hundred million years ago, and Eldrad’s executioners apparently realized that he’d probably come back later. So they have set up a bunch of traps and destroyed themselves as a species, leaving Eldrad the king of nothing at all! Then he says he’s going to invade Earth instead, but the Doctor trips him using his scarf, and Eldrad plummets into an abyss.
Once back aboard the TARDIS, Sarah gets annoyed that the Doctor is always ignoring her, and also that she’s been hypnotized twice in the past two stories, and says she wants to leave. Then the Doctor gets a message from the Time Lords summoning him to Gallifrey, and he says “Sarah, I can’t take you to Gallifrey, you have to leave.” He dumps her on the wrong street somewhere on Earth and heads off to eat tea and cakes with the High Council of the Time Lords. Typical, really. B+
11:35 pm • 10 December 2013 • 2 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Cultists Cultists Cultists!
The Masque of Mandragora. The Doctor accidentally picks up some evil sentient alien energy from the Mandragora Helix and brings it to 15th century Italy, where a sinister cult is waiting for it to turn them into all-powerful beings of pure light. Meanwhile, the evil Count Frederico has murdered the old Duke of San Martino and is planning to murder the new duke, Giuliano. This rather complicates the Doctor’s attempt to stop the sinister cult from becoming all-powerful beings of pure light, but, probably because it happens so often, the Doctor is quite good at playing two evil parties against each other. The cultists kill the Count, stopping his evil schemes, and the Doctor convinces Giuliano to prepare for a siege from the all-powerful beings of pure light.
Meanwhile, Giuliano has summoned a bunch of luminaries from throughout Italy to celebrate his accession, and since they’re all in the castle he figures he might as well throw a masque. (And not just any masque—the titular masque!) Naturally, the cultists sneak into the masque, disguised as people wearing masks, and kill a bunch of people and bring them to the Cultist Chamber, where they prepare to sacrifice them as they complete their transformation into beings of pure light. Unfortunately, the Doctor stopped by earlier to do some sabotage. The cultists die at the peak of their ceremony, and the Doctor, who was disguised as the chief cultist, asks for a salami sandwich in a funny voice. As a reward for the Doctor’s service, Giuliano gives him a big loaf of salami and escorts him and Sarah back to the TARDIS. The Doctor suggests that the cultists will strike again near the end of the 20th century, but I think the writers probably forgot about that when the end of the 20th century rolled around. A-
1:43 am • 2 December 2013 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Doom Gardening
The Seeds of Doom. An Antarctic research team stumbles upon a couple of frozen alien seed pods, so naturally they call the Doctor in—but not before they have opened one and had one of their crew get infected by it, because that’s just how these things work. They also notified a bureaucrat who just happens to be corrupt, and who sells this information to a creepy plant-worshiping rich guy called Mr. Chase. Chase then sends his murdery minion down to Antarctica to steal the remaining pod and murder everyone there in a big explosion. This fortunately kills the infected dude, but also kills everyone hanging out with the Antarctica research team who wasn’t the Doctor and Sarah.
Anyway, the Doctor tracks Chase down to his creepy plant-infested castle, discovers that he’s a crazy plant-worshiping rich dude, and spends a good while trying to escape. The other pod opens and infects a scientist, who quickly turns into a giant tentacled plant monster with the power to command plants within about a mile radius. Then Sarah gets a message out via a crazy old lady to the Ministry of Ecology, who contact UNIT, who come in with laser guns and herbicide. Unfortunately, while the laser guns and herbicide work on plants, they don’t work on giant plant-monsters, so they call in an airstrike. Evil creepy science dude ends up falling in his own giant compost machine, the Doctor and Sarah escapes, then the airstrike actually succeeds for once! I think this is the first time in Doctor Who an airstrike actually worked. B+
2:42 am • 21 November 2013 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Frankenstein’s Plot
The Brain of Morbius. The Time Lords hijack the TARDIS and send it off to some desolate planet called Karn, which is inhabited by an evil Doctor Frankenstein (complete with dim-witted brutish servant) and a weird all-female cult that worship a Sacred Flame that produces an Elixir of Life. Apparently the weird cult used to be friends with the Time Lords but now they’re all culty and superstitious. The Time Lords should really take better care of their friends.
Meanwhile, Doctor Frankenstein is actually working for an evil brain in a jar, Morbius, who was a Time Lord who got all evil and was apparently mostly executed (except for the brain in the jar). Dr. Frank tries to steal the Doctor’s head, fails several times, then ends up putting Morbius’s brain in a plastic fishbowl. The plastic fishbowl isn’t very well designed, however, and the brain gets dropped once or twice in the transplant surgery, so Morbius wakes up dangerously unstable and mostly insane. Really dodged a bullet there! He brain-wrestles the Doctor; the process turns Morbius into a mindless brute and almost kills the Doctor. Fortunately earlier the Doctor fixed the broken Elixir of Life Dispenser, so there’s just enough left to save him from dying. Then he scurries off into time, presumably to find a plot that doesn’t pretty much resolve itself. B-
1:51 am • 14 November 2013 • 2 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Doctorganger
The Android Invasion. The Doctor and Sarah land in a perfect replica of a little village and aerospace station on Earth, populated by a bunch of android replicas of the actual inhabitants. This little village is an experiment run by the Kraals, who are planning to invade earth using androids and wipe out its inhabitants with a deadly virus, because their own home planet is dying. They’ve kidnapped and brainwashed a former astronaut to help them with this plan.
Anyway, the Doctor and Sarah are captured not too long after they figure out what’s going on; both of them are given their own little android replicas, and then both end up escaping, stowing away aboard the invasion rocket ship to try to stop the androids. They land slightly too late, and find the base already overrun with replicants, except for one key plot-relevant scientist, who helps the Doctor jam the android-controlling radio signals, thus stopping the invasion. The Doctor then reprograms his own replica to attack the boss Kraal, who ends up landing on a vial of his own virus and presumably dying painfully.
This one has some truly excellent moments involving the Doctor and his evil twin. B
6:11 pm • 9 November 2013 • 2 notes
A Poem for the Day of the Dead
Taking a brief break from Doctor Who to post a poem I wrote for the Day of the Dead:
AN APOLOGY ON BEHALF OF THE LIVING
To the dead:
I’m so sorry. You deserve better.
Not that there is any shame in death
(nor, of course, have I any wish
to cheapen mortality
by making it sound like some noble end)
but they tell me you can hear me tonight.
Maybe you can hear me every night
as I chatter on senselessly
acting as if there is not
some tremendous weight on my back.
Surely we owe you more
than some token respects,
some solemn remembrance,
then nothing more than a pointed silence
as we pretend you are no longer here.
Instead we make a virtue of “moving on,”
of ignoring the lessons that your lives—
and, yes, your deaths—
have to teach us.
So we act as though our lives
are something besides ephemeral,
as if we have time for all this petty bullshit
and idle posturing
because we decide that, in dying,
you enter the realm of the Other,
and are therefore beneath our consideration.
We tell ourselves
"There’s always tomorrow!"
because when you only count the living,
there always is.
So I’m sorry.
I don’t know if you care about being remembered,
but you don’t deserve to be forgotten—
or at least, not like we forget.
Or maybe “forget” isn’t the right word,
but cast aside, downgraded,
treated as if death has somehow made you
9:04 pm • 1 November 2013 • 5 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Grave-Robbing Archaeologists
Pyramids of Mars. On the way back to UNIT, the TARDIS gets hijacked by an arbitrarily powerful force, and ends up landing at UNIT headquarters before it was UNIT headquarters. Back then it was where an archaeologist of the fine grave-robbing tradition was keeping all of his Egyptian relics. It turns out the Egyptian myths are actually based on the Osirians, who basically fought a giant cosmic war and imprisoned Sutekh the Destroyer (better known as Set) on Earth.
The problem with these eternal prisons is they always seem to break down after a few thousand years, leaving someone else to make sure it’s either renewed, or the thing inside is killed. Have you ever noticed that? So of course Sutekh the Destroyer is about to escape, and the Doctor has to stop him. His army of mummy-robots kills all the nearby humans, and since Sutekh is arbitrarily powerful, stopping him is sort of a neat trick.
The Doctor tries a number of things, most of which don’t work, including going to the titular pyramid on Mars, which is another Zelda temple full of puzzles (including the classic ‘one guard tells the truth; one guard always lies’ puzzle). He doesn’t manage to stop Sutekh’s minion from destroying the macguffin, but he does go back just fast enough to trap Sutekh in a time loop, thus ultimately destroying him.
The moral of the story: if you’re ever an arbitrarily powerful entity, patience and thoroughness will prevent pesky bescarved Time Lords from thwarting your plans. Think about it. A-
12:55 am • 18 October 2013 • 2 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: A Brief Primer On Not Destroying The Universe
Planet of Evil. The Doctor overshoots London and ends up on a planet at the end of the universe, which is apparently home to a sinister bubbling portal into the universe of antimatter. Naturally there’s a scientist there who’s Tampering With Forces He Doesn’t Understand, and this has put the entire universe in peril. The antimatter monster has killed the rest of his party and will kill all of mankind if he doesn’t leave the antimatter behind when he leaves, so of course he doesn’t. The professor gets possessed and turns into an evil antimatter monster, who stalks and kills the crew of the spaceship that’s come to rescue the science party; meanwhile the commander of the spaceship is convinced that the Doctor is actually killing everyone with alien mind rays or something. (The commander is also going insane, for no apparent reason.)
The Doctor goes back to the planet and promises the antimatter people he’ll return the stolen antimatter to them, and after a series of wacky misadventures (read: nearly being murdered several times), succeeds. Most of the spaceship is dead, but hey, at least the universe wasn’t blown up! We need more fun cosmic horror stories in this world. B+
1:09 am • 6 October 2013 • 3 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: The Boss Monster Is Vulnerable To Bullets, For Once
Terror of the Zygons. The Brigadier apparently summoned the Doctor back to the 70s to deal with a bunch of shapeshifting aliens with a Gross Organic Spaceship whose controls are operated by being fondled in a gross way. They’ve been breeding the Loch Ness monster into a superweapon over the past several centuries, because their ship crash landed and the only possible solution is apparently for them to take over the planet violently.
After some investigating and getting himself captured, the Doctor manages to free all the people whose shapeshifty forms have been stolen and blow up the spaceship, then makes it to some energy conference in time to stop the boss shapeshifter (who, in a novel twist, is actually vulnerable to being shot to death by bullets) and the Loch Ness monster. In the case of Nessy, she’s being controlled by some sort of organic beacon thing, and the Doctor just tosses it in her mouth like it ain’t no thing, so she wanders off, her duty done. Then the Doctor heads off in the TARDIS, and convinces Sarah to tag along by promising that it will definitely just go straight to London, and not into some other horrible monstrous Planet of Evil (which, incidentally, is what the next story is called).
Can we go back to how weird it is for plain old bullets to work on the big monster of an episode? I don’t think that has ever happened in the history of Doctor Who. It’s so rare that the Brigadier even comments on it in one episode. This is history, right here. B-
10:06 pm • 1 October 2013 • 2 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Gold Gold Gold Gold
Revenge of the Cybermen. Surprise again! The Doctor and companions land on the Ark in Space several thousand years too early, only to be caught between a scheming scientist, a planet of xenophobic aliens living on a gold asteroid, and the Cybermen! The scheming scientist has been playing triple agent, working with the gold aliens to pretend to work for the Cybermen so he could lure them into a trap (Cybermen hate gold, apparently), so he could live in a castle made of gold or something after letting the Cybermen murder all of his buddies. (Spoiler alert: he dies ignobly.)
Anyway, the xenophobic gold aliens have a conveniently timed regime change, since the old ruler was dumb enough to try to lure the Cybermen into a trap, but the new one is bright enough to realize that’s a bad idea. There’s a great deal of people being captured and profoundly poor decision making on all fronts. In the end, the Doctor manages to pilot a space station out of the way of an oncoming missile, thus blowing up the Cybermen and saving the gold aliens from certain doom. Then the TARDIS finally shows up again and the Brigadier is like ‘DOCTOR HALP’ so it’s back to the 70s to save the day! B-
5:14 pm • 28 September 2013 • 2 notes