Reviewing Classic Who: Cargo Cultists!
Full Circle. The Doctor and Romana have been summoned back to Gallifrey for some reason! This makes Romana sad because they’ll probably not let her go gallivanting off with the Doctor anymore, and the Doctor is like “Yeah, unfortunately they’re arbitrarily powerful, so if they want you back there’s really nothing we can do about it.” Anyway, on the way back they pass through some weird spacetime anomaly and wind up on a planet that isn’t Gallifrey, and also isn’t even in realspace. (It’s in E-Space, apparently, which is short for “exo-space.”) The planet is populated by human-like cargo cultists, who have been working on repairing their starliner for 40 generations so they can take off and return home.
These cargo cultists occasionally withdraw into their starliner, every fifty years ago, to hide from “Mistfall,” a time when allegedly-but-not-actually poisonous gas emerges from the swamps of the planet, along with some allegedly-violent-but-not-really swamp men. There are also some mind-controlling spiders thrown into the mix somewhere, who mind-control Romana for an episode or two. They are led by a triad of old men called the Deciders, the leader of whom is the only person on the planet who has access to the “system files,” which contains some grim secrets: first, that the ship is actually in perfectly good repair, but they have never known how to fly it; second, that they aren’t actually from another planet at all and are in fact just the evolved version of the swamp men, who many thousands of years ago broke into the ship and learned all of its secrets by reading the manuals.
In the end, one of the natives stows away on the TARDIS, the Doctor teaches them how to fly the ship, the two surviving Deciders decide to take off, and the Doctor and Romana reflect on how they may be trapped in E-Space for all time. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t.) A-
4:12 am • 30 July 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Attack Of The Shape-Shifting Cactus
Meglos. The Doctor and Romana tell an old friend they’re stopping in for a visit, but an evil shape-shifting cactus traps them in a time-loop and shapeshifts into the Doctor. You see, this old friend is the leader of a planet that is divided into two castes: the Savants, who are wise scientists all wearing identical blonde wigs, and the Deons, a weird religious cult that has all the power. This society relies on a dodecahedron for all their power needs—they live underground because the surface is full of angry hostile plants, so they basically need a magic macguffin to continue to exist. The evil shapeshifting cactus, Meglos, has enlisted a band of space pirates to help him steal the dodecahedron, because it also turns out the dodecahedron can be used on Meglos’s home planet to turn into an omnipotent Death Star-like entity.
Anyway, the Doctor and Romana get out of the time loop by reenacting the time loop (right?) and get down to the planet. Unfortunately, Cactus-Doctor has already stolen the dodecahedron, so when the real Doctor arrives, he has to spend an episode or two convincing them not to sacrifice him to their god by crushing him with a giant boulder. Once they figure that out he chases Cactus-Doctor back to his home planet (which is all dead except for Meglos and the Death Star device) and sets the Death Star to blow up said home planet rather than the one he was just on. The device blows itself up, along with the planet, the space pirates, and probably Meglos (but I’m willing to bet he survives in the novels, audiobooks, and/or comics).
Also, this is the second episode in which we get to see Romana trolling a bunch of bandits who have captured her, and it is still quite entertaining. (The first one was The Creature from the Pit, which I would have probably noted at the time if I knew it was going to become a thing.) A-
1:19 am • 29 July 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Tachyons? Sure, Why Not?
The Leisure Hive. New season, new title sequence and music, new outfit! The Doctor has evidently decided that burgundy is his color now, and he is proving it by taking a nap on a desolate windswept Brighton Beach, while Romana walks along trying to have fun. She accidentally blows K-9 up by throwing a ball into the ocean, so he won’t be joining us this time around.
Anyway, because apparently Brighton Beach in the winter isn’t very fun they decide to stop off at a place called the Leisure Hive, which isn’t nearly as cool as it sounds. It’s basically the educational and recreational facilities of a dying race that has renounced war after it made their people sterile. There are some sinister creeping reptile creatures that don’t do much until the last two episodes and even then aren’t really relevant, and a young heir-to-the-throne who is clearly going to freak out and lead his dying race on the warpath as soon as the current Madam Chairman dies, which, naturally, will be soon.
There’s lots of Mad Science going on here! Using tachyons to regenerate living cells, so Madam Chairman doesn’t have to die, using tachyons to clone people so they can lead their dying race on the warpath … all very exciting. At some point the Doctor gets aged 500 years, so he spends most of the story looking like an old wizard and complaining about how he’s sick of being old, but he fixes it later at the climax when the psychopathic heir seizes power and plans to clone himself endlessly. Instead he clones the Doctor endlessly. Except, since the Doctor has sabotaged the machine, it only produces temporary clones, and also he set it to rejuvenate.
Somehow Psychopathic Heir and Dying Madam Chairman are both shoved into the machine at the same time, and the rejuvenate button is hit, regressing Psychopathic Heir into a baby and curing Madam Chairman of her old age. “I must raise him properly next time,” she says. Then the lizard people show up and say “we have to talk diplomacy!” B
4:09 am • 28 July 2014
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 • 26,743 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