Reviewing Classic Who: Not If I Blow Up Your Home Planet First
Attack of the Cybermen. Have I mentioned how much better classic era Cybermen are than their modern incarnations? Because if so I’m saying it again. I don’t cringe when I find out they’re coming up.
The Doctor and Peri land on Earth, where a sinister mercenary criminal type (the guy who led the Dalek task force in Resurrection of the Daleks) is leading a heist which is actually meant to make contact with the Cybermen, which is actually a ruse because he’s working for the Cryons, which are the people the Cybermen nearly wiped out in order to steal their new home planet of Telos. The Doctor ends up getting captured by the Cybermen and forced to go to Telos. They aim to use the TARDIS to help them prevent their home planet of Mondas from blowing up way back in the First Doctor episode, The Tenth Planet. They’re planning to prevent that by blowing up Earth (if you recall, it basically exploded because it was too close to Earth; it was one of those “the plot would have resolved itself if nobody had been there” stories). The Doctor and Peri manage to escape with the aid of some of the Cryons who survived; one of them rigs up a bomb that will blow up the Cyber-base, thus destroying the Cybermen and preventing them from doing … pretty much anything, I guess. B
1:19 pm • 1 September 2014 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Day of the Slugmoths
The Twin Dilemma. The Doctor’s new regeneration is unstable! He tries to murder Peri, then decides that he is a threat to the universe and he must therefore spend a thousand years in a hermit cave on Titan 3, where the plot of this episode picks up. Meanwhile, a Time Lord has abducted a pair of twin supergeniuses to perform calculations that will help a giant evil slugmoth spread his slugmoth race across the universe.
The Doctor discovers that the Time Lord who is helping the evil slugmoth is his old buddy, Azmael, who appears to be working under duress, but not under so much duress that he accepts the Doctor’s help. It turns out the plan is to throw some planets into the sun; in the resulting explosion, the slugmoth eggs will hatch and be scattered throughout the universe, thus presumably repeating the cycle of “slugmoths take over a planet and destroy it.”
So the Doctor shows up on Jaconda, the planet that Azmael used to run (that was subsequently overthrown by slugmoths), and plots with Azmael to help defeat said slugmoth. Unfortunately he’s a psychic slugmoth so he learns of most of the plan to destroy him. Rather than just “kill the Doctor” he decides that he will possess Azmael, who is able to trigger a regeneration (even though he’s out of them), thus expelling the slugmoth from his brain. Meanwhile, the Doctor destroys his sluggy form with a vial of some orange substance that is never explained. Then the Doctor and Peri scurry off.
Bonus points for the Doctor’s moment of self-awareness when Peri expresses concern for his life after he has tried to kill her and generally been a jerk for the entire story: “You know, I’ll never understand the people of Earth. I have spent the day using, abusing, even trying to kill you. If you’d have behaved as I have, I should have been pleased at your demise.” B-
9:25 pm • 31 August 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Phantom of the Volcanic Hellsape
The Caves of Androzani. The Doctor and Peri land on Androzani Minor, a different kind of volcanic hellscape that is currently the location of a war that’s being orchestrated by a sinister bureaucrat (who has a tendency to turn and talk directly to the camera when he wants to soliloquy) on a Batman villain who controls the entire supply of an immortality drug. Naturally the Doctor decides to go exploring, and gets himself and Peri poisoned and captured, in that order. Fortunately, the just-following-orders general’s plan to execute the Doctor and Peri fails when the Batman villain, who is the biggest creeper we’ve yet encountered in twenty-one seasons of Doctor Who, decides that Peri is too beautiful to die, so he instead kidnaps her so he can creepily ogle her for all eternity.
Anyway, the evil bureaucrat kills the president of his civilization and subsequently gets all of his assets frozen and his office seized by his assistant, while the just-following-orders general leads a suicide attack on the Batman villain’s headquarters. The attack kills all of the Batman villain’s android guards, as well as all of the general’s soldiers, leaving the general and the Batman villain to beat each other up. The Batman villain prevails, but he is critically shot and doomed to die, lying cradled in the arms of an android guard who appears out of nowhere. Meanwhile Peri is dying of the poison the Doctor is going to get the antidote for (while also dying of), and the Doctor’s celery apparently has no effect! Fortunately he gets enough antidote to save Peri; unfortunately he doesn’t get enough to stop himself from regenerating into Colin Baker.
In conclusion, everyone we encounter dies, and the plot basically resolves itself. A bit of an anticlimactic farewell for Peter Davison. C+
(UPDATE: The original text had a poorly written line, the first ever in this series. We regret the error.)
4:32 pm • 30 August 2014 • 1 note
Reviewing Classic Who: Honey, I Shrunk The Master
Planet of Fire. Remember Kamelion? He was the creepy-looking shapeshifting robot that was supposed to be a companion but they couldn’t get his prop to work so he only ever showed up in one story. Well, he’s back, and he’s hijacked the TARDIS on behalf of the Master. He needs to go to a volcanic hellscape, but first he has to stop in the Mediterranean, where Peri, a British girl with a fake American accent, nearly drowns. Turlough rescues her and brings her aboard the TARDIS. The Master seizes control of Kamelion, who kidnaps Peri for some reason and brings her aboard the Master’s TARDIS, and both TARDISes make their way to the aforementioned volcanic hellscape.
The people of this volcanic hellscape worship a fire god, obviously, and despite being a relatively primitive and superstitious society there’s lots of high tech stuff lying around. Meanwhile, Turlough is freaking out because these people have the signs of his home planet, Trion, all over the place, and he apparently doesn’t want to go back. It turns out this volcanic hellscape is a prison planet for Trion, and he and his family are political prisoners, and most of the population are the indigenous people of the planet. (Though Turlough was instead exiled to Earth, for some reason.) In this charming society, they revere the prisoners who get sent here as Chosen Ones, because they bear the sacred mark of the old tech that’s lying around. Their god is actually just “someone from Trion wearing a thermal suit to protect against the volcano.” As one does.
So, everyone is wondering why the Master is here, and why he has to use Kamelion instead of just walking around himself. The Doctor speculates that he must need the large quantities of healing gas this planet has for something. Eventually Peri gives us the big reveal: the Master, while experimenting on his shrink ray gun, has accidentally shrunk himself. She chases him around with a shoe for a while (I already like her) before he hides inside his TARDIS console, so she leaves and goes to find the Doctor.
Unfortunately, the Master’s meddling has basically rigged the planet to explode, because volcanic hellscape. So Turlough does the brave thing and contacts Trion to send a rescue ship, despite the fact that he is a political prisoner who was supposed to be exiled on earth and is therefore technically a fugitive despite the fact that he’s literally on a prison planet. Meanwhile, the Doctor and Peri try to buy some more time by delaying the explosion. Unfortunately they’re unable to stop the Master from using the healing gas to stop being a mini-Master, but they are able to kill Kamelion (here the only emotion I felt was relief that he wasn’t going to be a regular companion), and apparently the healing gas turns into regular burning gas while the Master is still being healed. He begs for help while the Doctor looks on with a horrified look on his face, and eventually burns up and dies, never to be seen again.
The rescue ship shows up, and its captain informs Turlough that former political prisoners are now free to return. He is conflicted, but he elects to return home rather than stay with the Doctor. So, farewell to Turlough! Meanwhile Peri asks the Doctor if she can tag along and he reluctantly agrees, because he can’t think of a reason why not. A-
1:12 pm • 29 August 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: They Didn’t Even Make It To The Traditional 1000 Years
Resurrection of the Daleks. The time corridor from last time is apparently a trap by the Daleks! They have secured a warehouse on twentieth century Earth, which now contains a bunch of cylinders virus that can destroy the Daleks. Meanwhile they’re attacking the prison ship that’s responsible for keeping the cryogenically frozen Davros captive, so Davros can engineer the cure for the virus. A plucky new guard, the jaded ship’s doctor, and some friends survive and spend some time sneaking around doing guerilla stuff, which ultimately leads to “let’s break into the self-destruct chamber and set it off.” They are shot down just before they are able to blow up the ship.
Apparently the Daleks are using mentally unstable duplicates to infiltrate key positions throughout the world, etc etc., so they’re planning to duplicate the Doctor and his companions so they can infiltrate Gallifrey and murder the High Council in preparation for a Dalek invasion fleet, or something. Unfortunately, as mentioned, the duplicates are unstable, and the one that’s executing the Doctor freaks out and decides to cancel the invasion. Meanwhile the Daleks decide that Davros is a liability and try to kill him, and Davros decides to kill everyone standing in the way of his capture of the Doctor and the TARDIS, so basically everyone starts killing each other. The Doctor decides to go kill Davros, but he can’t bring himself to do it because cold-blooded murder isn’t really his style. He does, however, release the virus on the Daleks on earth, and his freshly deprogrammed friend finds the primed self-destruct chamber and blows up the ship. Basically, nearly everyone we encounter dies, and Tegan is like “Doctor, I’m just going to stay on 20th century Earth because I don’t think I can handle it anymore.” He tries to convince her to stay but she runs off and he regretfully leaves her behind. I will miss Tegan, but onwards and upwards, I suppose.
This story, by the way, is a perfect illustration of the problem with building a prison to house an eternal evil. The prison ship is full of malfunctions, including the vital “if the ship is boarded by Daleks looking to free Davros, kill the prisoner” failsafe on the bridge, and it’s only been 90 years. The crew think of it as tedious punishment duty. The moral of the story is always destroy eternal evil unless you are able to eternally guard it personally. A
1:18 pm • 28 August 2014
Anonymous said: I remember the days when games were about worlds you could explore and about being good, and not about who's got representation and gender this and sexuality that. I miss those days.
Those days miss you, too. I recently found a yellowed letter under one of the floorboards, and it was addressed to you and signed by those days with a tear-stained kiss of lipstick.
Meanwhile, in the present, those of us who work in the industry and who are—amazingly—able to consider more than one idea at the same time, will continue to create good games about worlds you can explore AND occasionally talk about inclusivity.
If you are feeling compassion fatigue, I think it might be okay to sit out those discussions, at least until you get your strength back. While it will be tough not having you available for close consultation, somehow we will soldier on.
3:20 am • 28 August 2014 • 8,162 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Attack of the Giant Subterranean Shrimp
Frontios. The TARDIS crash-lands on a post-apocalyptic colony where some of the last survivors of humanity are attempting to eke out an existence amidst constant bombardment and mysterious deaths and disappearances. Things are looking pretty bleak! For some reason, the Doctor actually doesn’t want to interfere, because the Time Lords will be grumpy, or something. It’s not really clear why. Anyway, after being suspected of being a spy the Doctor manages to mostly convince the narcissistic ruler, Plantagenet, and his grumpy guard captain that he’s really, genuinely here to help. Meanwhile, the TARDIS is apparently destroyed, so I guess the Doctor can’t go anywhere ever again.
Which is a good thing, because it turns out there’s a race of giant shrimp underground who have been abducting people for years, using their bodies as, uh … well, using their bodies, and using their brains to pilot excavation equipment. They’re building an elaborate network of tunnels in order to turn the entire planet into a giant spaceship, so they can fly off, steal new planets, and generally cause havoc in the galaxy. Which is bad.
Fortunately, it turns out Turlough’s people have a magical ancestral memory associated with these giant shrimp, and it comes out as he’s wandering around in the caves with one of the locals. He spends a while babbling ominous phrases and staring into the middle distance, but by the last episode he settles down enough that he cheats a game of chance, for some reason, in order to head down and help out. The Doctor, probably trying to buy time, spends a while talking to the chief shrimp pretending to be a disinterested observer. “My, what a marvelous scheme you have going here. How does it work?” He calls Tegan a defective servant-bot, and she looks a little offended but she apparently figures out that it was part of a clever ruse so she doesn’t do anything about it.
Then Turlough, the grumpy guard captain, and a bunch of redshirts show up and help free Plantagenet (who was captured earlier), so the Doctor and Tegan join them and scurry off into the tunnels. They stumble upon bits of the TARDIS, which has apparently been scattered throughout the tunnels (it’s not really clear how), and Turlough remembers that if you isolate the chief shrimp from the rest of the shrimp they all become completely harmless, so the Doctor tricks the chief shrimp into assembling the TARDIS using his mighty gravitational powers; he does so, thus rendering himself useless, so the Doctor dumps him on an uninhabited planet and scurries off, once again telling everyone not to mention this to the Time Lords, and I really hope this comes up later because (as even his companions point out) since when does the Doctor care about the laws of time?
Anyway, as the TARDIS is leaving, it gets trapped in some sort of time vortex, where it will no doubt be sucked into the plot of the next story. A-
1:16 pm • 27 August 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Day Of The Giant Evil Stone Masks
The Awakening. The TARDIS lands in a rural English village in 1984 to visit Tegan’s grandfather, except the village is currently being ruled by an insane tyrant of a local magistrate. Apparently Tegan’s grandfather discovered some ancient evil in the form of a giant stone mask hiding in a church basement, and when the magistrate found out about it he swore himself to its service, locked up Tegan’s grandfather, and orchestrated a series of wargames where he forces everyone to kill each other like it’s the 17th century. Anyway, the Doctor is able to locate it and do some wizardry in the TARDIS, saving the day. Then everyone who didn’t die in the plot boards the TARDIS for some reason and is like “hey can we just hang out here for a while?” and the Doctor is like “okay, but under protest.” A-
1:10 pm • 26 August 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: A Very Scaly Apocalypse
Warriors of the Deep. The TARDIS lands in an underwater missile base late in the 21st century. Apparently there’s another Cold War going on! (Though I guess from the writers’ perspective that’s “still going on.”) This particular base is currently being sabotaged by some enemy agents, and also is the target for a pending attack by the Silurians and the Sea Devils. Exciting times! Turlough accidentally trips an alarm while the TARDIS crew tries to find their way to the bridge, so they spend a while dodging guards and trying unsuccessfully to get back to the TARDIS. Once they’re captured the Doctor manages to convince the commander they aren’t evil, which is for the best, because that’s when the Silurian attack happens. (The traitors also start their sabotage at about this time, for some reason. They both end up dying, for some reason.)
As is traditional, the Doctor tries to convince the human Commander to reason with the Silurians, but the human is like “no must use violence!” and then when violence fails the Doctor says “I warned you.” There’s a great deal of lizardman-on-human violence, resistance is crushed, the survivors surrender and are brought to the bridge, and the Doctor recognizes the Silurian commander as the one he dealt with last time. Since then, they’ve decided that the best way to be a peaceful, honorable race is to start a global thermonuclear war and have the humans wipe each other out. Apparently it doesn’t count as genocide when you’re not technically pulling the trigger!
So, in the face of wiping out the human race, the Doctor and friends retreat to the chemical store room, where the base keeps giant vats of chemicals that will kill off all reptilian life while leaving mammals unharmed. Everyone except the Doctor is like “finally! a weapon we can use against them!” and the Doctor is like “These are noble races! They’re smarter than your puny ape brains will ever be! We can’t just kill them!” Then Turlough says, “Noble races or not, they are about to destroy a planet,” and the Doctor is like “Fair enough.” He looks around for a less murdery alternative, but doesn’t find one, so they flood the station with lizard-killing gas. The Doctor hopes that “you will imminently die if I don’t tell my friends to turn off the gas” will convince the Silurians to back down, but nope! They are very committed to destroying the human race. So they all die of gas, the Doctor and the Commander work together to cancel the missile launch sequence, and the world is saved, but with a pretty hefty body count, so the Doctor is pretty sad about it. B-
1:18 pm • 25 August 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: The Castellan Still Didn’t Do It
The Five Doctors. What better way to celebrate 20 years of Doctor Who than to bring all the old Doctors together to wander around in some abandoned quarries? Thankfully, some sinister fellow in a shady dark room is abducting all the Doctors from their respective time zones and placing them in a place called the Death Zone. Each time he abducts them he also gains a charming little painted miniature and places it on a glowing game table.
We learn from the various Doctors and their companions (Sarah Jane Smith, the Brigadier, and Susan) that there’s a thing called the Game of Rassilon, and this place used to be a place where evil Time Lords would send people to fight to the death for sport (hence the name). So it’s full of all sorts of devious traps and monsters that the Doctors manage to outsmart or avoid, on their way to the tower at the center, which is the Tomb of Rasillon.
The High Council of the Time Lords has decided to summon the Master to go save the Doctor, and has promised him a full set of regenerations if he agrees to help. So he goes along and all the Doctors except the First disbelieve him or refuse his help, but he actually plays nice for the bulk of the plot, as far as it goes. (He does try to escape using the transmat device the High Council gave him, but the Fifth Doctor steals that and goes back in his place, and spends the rest of the story trying to figure out which High Councillor has decided to become an insane megalomaniac this time. Once again we’re meant to suspect the Castellan; this time he is summarily executed and the Doctor is like “well that makes no sense” and continues his investigation.) Anyway, eventually the Doctors all reach the central chamber, where they learn that anyone who claims the Ring of Rassilon will gain immortality. The Master tries to claim it, but the Brigadier and the Doctors subdue him, and Tegan and Sarah (no relation to Tegan and Sara) tie him up.
Back in the Lord President’s chambers, the Doctor realizes that President Borusa is probably the evil one this time around. Borusa goes into a rant about how he doesn’t want to have to step down from the office and how he should be president and etc., mind-controls the Doctor, and goes to the chamber to claim immortality. The disembodied head of Rassilon appears and is like “So you want immortality?” and Borusa is like “yes please” and Rassilon is like “are you sure?” and Borusa is like “pretty sure” and Rassilon is like “are you absolutely positive?” and Borusa is like “yes I am absolutely positive” so Rassilon gives him the ring, and he puts it on, and it turns out “immortality” is being transformed into a sculpted Time Lord bust on the side of the tomb. Then Rassilon asks if anyone else would like immortality and the Doctors are like “no, I’m good,” collectively.
Then the Lady Chancellor shows up and informs the Doctor that the High Council has appointed him Lord President using their emergency powers, and he says “Great! As my first act of office, I’m giving you full deputy powers until I return to Gallifrey. Meanwhile, I’m going to go gallivanting around the galaxy in my TARDIS.” All the Doctors and their companions are returned home, and the Fifth Doctor reassures his companions that he has no problem invoking the wrath of the Time Lords by continuing to wander aimlessly about the galaxy. A
10:00 pm • 24 August 2014 • 1 note