Reviewing Classic Who: Time Keeps On Slippin’
Time and the Rani. The Rani is back! She’s hijacked the TARDIS and forced the Doctor to regenerate into Sylvester McCoy. Then she kidnaps him, dresses up as Mel, and convinces him that the evil project she’s working on was actually his evil project (she is apparently not clever enough to do it herself; props for knowing her own limits, I guess). Eventually the real Mel finds the Doctor and after a moment where they are both convinced that the other is an impostor, the Doctor remembers everything (or at least most things) and proceeds to not immediately sabotage the machine, for some reason. (Maybe he likes a challenge?)
Anyway: the Rani is enslaving these feathery lizard-people for reasons unknown (she has a much more reliable servant race of bat people, and she doesn’t seem to like the feathery lizard people much), capturing geniuses from throughout time and space, and hooking them up to a giant brain, in order to perform some calculations and/or research for her. There’s an asteroid made of strange matter on its way and she has a rocket launch facility. Every now and then she kills a few feathery lizard people to continue to ensure the compliance she doesn’t seem to have any use for.
Eventually she captures the Doctor and hooks him up to the giant brain, but he’s the Doctor so he starts provoking arguments with all the geniuses, so she unplugs him, turns her back, and gets tied up for long enough for the Doctor and Mel to find the giant brain and figure out what the Rani’s plan is: she’s going to use the brain to come up with a material that can blow up strange matter, and when the explosion happens it will bond with something in the atmosphere and convert the planet into a giant time manipulator, making her arbitrarily powerful over all of time and space. “Creation is chaotic!” she says. “I plan to introduce order.”
Anyway, the Doctor and Mel escape, help the feathery lizard people throw off their exploding chains and rise up against the Rani. Their quisling leader sacrifices himself to ensure that the Doctor’s sabotage plan works, and the Rani’s bat people minions overhear her talking about her plan to kill everything on the planet, including her minions, so they capture her and plan on enslaving her and using her to fuel their scientific advances. B
2:26 am • 19 September 2014
can we talk about the 7th doctor’s title sequence? i think it may be the most 80s thing ever made.
10:53 pm • 15 September 2014 • 52 notes
Reviewing Classic Who: Charges Dimissed On Grounds Of Heroism
The Ultimate Foe (The Trial of a Time Lord, pt. 4). The last part! This one only has two episodes. We reopen on the trial, where the Doctor is still insisting that the Matrix has been rigged. The Inquisitor asks if the Doctor can provide any witnesses and he’s like “well, you abducted me out of time and the only witnesses I could provide are scattered across time and space, and some of them are dead, so no.” Then Mel and the Erudite Criminal from The Mysterious Planet arrive on the station, sent there by the Master to help with the Doctor’s trial. You see, the Master would much prefer if he were the one to kill the Doctor. The Master explains, from within the Matrix, that the Valeyard is actually an evil incarnation of the Doctor from the future, and also that the Valeyard is responsible for tampering with the evidence in the Matrix. The trial is apparently a giant farce, ordered by the High Council to hide the fact that they basically destroyed Earth in order to prevent secrets from the Matrix being leaked. (The Master is hoping that when the High Council’s corruption is revealed he will become the dictator of Gallifrey. Make no small plans!) Erudite Criminal testifies to this fact (“oh, sure, people have been entering, altering, and stealing from the Matrix for years, that stuff’s worth a fortune”). Confronted with all of this information, the Valeyard flees into the Matrix, with the Doctor and Erudite Criminal in hot pursuit.
The Valeyard’s base in the Matrix is a nightmare carnival run by exceptionally bureaucratic bureaucrats. The Doctor manages to thwart all the various illusions, with the occasional assistance of the Master and Erudite Criminal (who is now working for the Master, because obviously), and discovers that the Valeyard’s plan is not just to steal all of the Doctor’s remaining regenerations, but also to blow up everyone in the courtroom by planting a bomb in the Matrix. Apparently the Matrix screen allows explosions to pass through it, so they’d all be doomed. Fortunately, the Doctor is able to sabotage the bomb, thwart the Valeyard’s plan, and return to the courtroom, where the Inquisitor says “all charges are dismissed, because you saved the day.” The Doctor suggests that she run for President, since the High Council was deposed, and scurries off in his TARDIS with Mel.
At some point we learn that rather than becoming the vessel for an evil slimy alien, Peri survived and married Brian Blessed (which is a little anticlimactic, really). The Doctor also gets to make a charmingly indignant speech about how the High Council are worse than the Daleks, Sontarans, etc. B+
3:19 am • 15 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Rise of the Plant Monsters
Terror of the Vervoids (The Trial of a Time Lord, pt. 3). Apparently the Valeyard is done presenting evidence, so the Doctor is providing a video from his future to prove that he’s not a meddler. He is traveling with a companion called Mel, who is pretty cool, and they have received a mayday signal from a cruise liner. Said cruise liner is transporting a sinister biologist, her sinister biology assistants, their sinister biology experiments, an innocent old man, some sinister aliens, and a mysterious investigator who isn’t as sinister as he appears. Apparently the Commodore who commands the ship knows the Doctor (as does the mysterious investigator, but he dies); apparently there’s also a murderer on the loose. It could be anyone! Everyone is sinister!
(Meanwhile, in the past (present?), the Doctor complains at a few points that the Matrix has been altered, because the evidence is different now than it was when he viewed it. By and large it seems to be pretty inconsequential, though there is a random bit where it shows the Doctor gleefully hacking apart the Communications Room with an axe.)
At some point it becomes apparent that the murderer is being helped by some murderous giant plant monsters whose costume designers were probably sacked. They want to kill all of animalkind, because all animals eventually eat plantlife, even though they generally steer clear of murderous giant plant monsters in my experience. They rack up way more of a body count than the murderer does, but the story still mostly focuses on tracking the murderer down, with a few “what are these Vervoids (that’s what they are called) up to?” moments thrown in.
Anyway, one of the sinister science assistants realizes that the Vervoids are going to kill all of human life when they get to earth, so he tries to drive the ship into a black hole. After he’s hijacked the bridge, the plant monsters flood the bridge with poison gas to kill him (then don’t bother changing course, because plant monsters), so the sinister aliens, who have elaborate breathing apparati, take over the bridge and announce that they’re hijacking the ship, because they feel like the cargo (minerals harvested from their planet) is stolen goods. The murderer subsequently murders them, so the ship is restored to the Commodore. Then the Commodore asks the Doctor to help him deal with the murderer and also the evil plant infestation, and the Doctor, in the past, says, “SEE? I was asked to help! I didn’t meddle at all!” and for some reason the Inquisitor is like “good point.”
The Doctor then lures the murderer into confessing, gets him captured, and comes up with a scheme to kill the plants by bombarding them with so much life they go through spring, summer, autumn, and winter all at once and wither away into nothingness. He does this by first turning off the lights everywhere else, then throwing the aforementioned minerals (apparently they happen to be just the tool for the job) at them.
Meanwhile, in the past, the Valeyard says “okay scratch the meddling trial, the Doctor just genocided these plant monsters. Can we change it to a charge of genocide?” Cliffhanger! B+
1:12 pm • 11 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Brian Blessed Is In This One
Mindwarp (The Trial of a Time Lord, pt. 2). Well, I say “part 2.”
The Doctor and Peri land on a planet with weird lighting effects, which happens to be the home planet of Sil, the gross little alien from Vengeance on Varos (remember him?). So he’s back! That’s pretty exciting. This is the adventure during which the Doctor is taken out of time. There is a mad scientist doing mind-transfer experiments, because the lord of the gross little aliens (who are apparently called Mentors) is suffering from brain growth in an inelastic skull (probably the result of more experiments) so he needs to put his brain in another body so he doesn’t die, because he’s ordered his bodyguards to execute Sil and the mad scientist if he dies. Which is a pretty effective motivator, I guess!
Anyway, the Doctor gets briefly subjected to a mind-control experiment, but he is freed by Brian Blessed, barbarian king, who helps him and Peri escape. Unfortunately the mind-control experiment has turned the Doctor evil, so he betrays Brian Blessed and Peri (who escape) and helps the mad scientist and Sil with their brain transfer experiments. He also uses Time Lord Insider Trading to help Sil make money off a salvage team, because he knows there’s a war coming up. Presumably this is a big deal, though the Valeyard doesn’t interrupt and point out how horrible using Time Lord Insider Trading is, which seems a little odd. (For some reason he keeps harping on the point that the Doctor put Peri at risk and abandoned her and betrayed her, which, while clearly not a very nice thing to do, doesn’t seem like EXECUTE HIM material to me. But I am not a Gallifreyan lawyer and this post is not Time Lord legal advice.)
Anyway, Brian Blessed (who has sworn to kill the Doctor), Peri, and a werewolf named Dorf wander around and try to gather an army together to overthrow the Mentors. They get captured, and the Doctor eats some of Sil’s gross food and suddenly stops being evil. Unfortunately it’s too late to stop them from using Peri for the mind transfer experiments, but he does manage to free Brian Blessed, his werewolf friend, and one of the other random rebels. Dorf dies in combat, Brian Blessed is happy for his friend for dying a glorious warrior’s death, Peri gets the lord of the Mentors’ brain implanted in her (apparently destroying her old brain in the process), and the Doctor, on his way to try to prevent or undo all of this, is captured and brought to the trial.
The Doctor, who has apparently experienced amnesia following the “turning evil” part, is at this point thinking “well, obviously something sinister is going on here, and I intend to get to the bottom of it.” He’s particularly mad that the High Council is using Brian Blessed and his rebel friend as assassins—at the cliffhanger they’re about to kill Peri, Sil, the mad scientist, and probably everyone else in the room—since that is pretty obviously against the Time Lord Code or whatever. I’m sure he’ll get to the bottom of it soon!
Other highlights include Peri explaining the concept of love to Brian Blessed: “What is this love you speak of?” “It’s when you care for something more than your own life.” “But I care nothing for my life! My only desire is to die a warrior’s death!” “I guess that makes sense.” A-
11:51 pm • 10 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: The Gallifreyan Legal System Is Weird
The Mysterious Planet (The Trial of a Time Lord pt. 1). The Valeyard finally appears! This whole season is the Trial of a Time Lord story arc, which I’ve always thought of as a landmark despite knowing basically nothing about it. The Doctor has been taken out of time and is being put on trial on a space station that sort of reminds me of Red Dwarf; he was apparently informed of this trial before being put on the defendant’s stand. The trial/inquiry is presided over by the Inquisitor, a Time Lady in white, and the prosecutor is the Valeyard, who manages to look evil despite being clean-shaven. Of course all we know right now is that he wants the Doctor to be executed for violating the First Law of Time and Conduct Unbecoming a Time Lord.
This is the framing device for the main story of the episode: the Doctor and Peri land on a planet that is basically identical to Earth but the Doctor is quite insistent is not actually Earth (spoiler alert: it’s Earth). On this planet, there is an underground society ruled by an insane robot called the Immortal, and a primitive surface society ruled by a mad queen. The primitive society hates the robot, but they also worship the damaged silver spire that provides the robot’s energy source. Problematic! The robot doesn’t let people go to the surface (they believe it’s perpetually on fire so they don’t usually want to anyway) and routinely has cullings where he kills off unnecessary humans, presumably so his underground society doesn’t become overpopulated. The people on the surface … I’m not really sure what they do with their time, to be honest.
The Doctor gets captured by the underground people while trying to figure out why this planet is so Earth-like (it’s because it’s Earth), and Peri refuses to go underground so she gets captured by the surface people, along with your traditional Erudite Criminal and his Unlearned Accomplice, who are on this planet for Reasons Unknown. (The Valeyard doesn’t want the Time Lords to know why they’re there, which the Inquisitor finds highly suspicious. She seems pretty clever, really, though apparently not clever enough to demand to know why the Matrix has been bleeped out.) Erudite and Unlearned blow up the silver spire and escape, only to run into the Doctor, who has also escaped (he was being held captive by the Immortal, who wanted him to repair the faulty silver spire, despite not allowing him to go to the surface to do so). The Doctor informs them that by destroying the spire they have doomed the planet and possibly the universe to a Black Light Explosion (which is probably the silliest technobabble I’ve yet encountered in Doctor Who). The Doctor manages to shut down the system after the criminals trick the robot into traveling along with them. (We learn that what they were after starts with the letter ‘m’ and has two syllables and is almost certainly Matrix, and it’s the largest databank in the universe etc etc., and it will be worth a fortune.) Somehow shutting down the system also destroys the datastores, so the criminals only get a lump of supervaluable minerals, and then the Doctor scurries off. Also, it turns out Earth is two light years away from where it was meant to be. Mysterious!
Meanwhile, at the trial, the Doctor is like “this basically just proves that I save the day everywhere the go” and the Valeyard is like “but you also cause most of the problems! Anyway this next bit of testimony will make this inquiry DEMAND THAT YOU DIE.” Cue cliffhanger, onto the next story.
I occasionally got a Princess Bride sort of vibe, as the Doctor, the Inquisitor, and the Valeyard would often interrupt the story, either asking “how is this relevant?” or pausing to make some sort of objection. (Sometimes the Doctor objects to stopping, saying “I was rather enjoying that bit.”) B+
1:11 pm • 9 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Peri Brown and the Shapeless Blue Smock
Revelation of the Daleks. The Doctor and Peri, each wearing ridiculous blue outfits, land on a desolate snowy planet for the funeral of one of the Doctor’s friends. The planet, Necros, apparently houses some sort of giant mausoleum/cryogenic facility, and is generally quite creepy. We soon learn that there are some well-meaning rebels with questionable motives who are trying to reclaim bodies from the mausoleum, that Davros, in the form of a severed head in a jar, is secretly in command of the operation (they call him the Great Healer), and that some duplicitous and obsequious lady (and her duplicitous and obsequious secretary), who has factories that produce cheap protein matter to eliminate famine in the galaxy, is working with Davros. She’s just hired an assassin, a sort of Space Don Quixote who is a Knight of the Grand Order of Oberon, and his squire, whose name is probably not Sancho Panza but that’s what I’m going to go ahead and call him, to kill Davros, and Space Don Quixote and Sancho suspect she is probably not telling the whole truth. Got all that? Also, there’s a weird DJ who uses a variety of fake American accents to narrate what’s going on. He appears to be running a Radio Program For The Dead.
Anyway, the rebels get captured by two security guards who seem like they’re about ready to rebel. The Doctor gets captured, and Peri goes to hang out with the DJ, who for some reason is willing to announce over his loudspeaker program that the Daleks are chasing the Doctor. But it’s okay, because he has a raygun that blasts “pure rock and roll.” The Daleks come, he blows up a few of them, then gets murdered when he stands up to gloat over successfully blowing them up. So Peri also gets captured.
Then Space Don Quixote and Sancho find the prisoners and set them loose to serve as distractions. They make their way to Davros’s chamber, and kill Davros! Except it turns out it was just a robotic severed head of Davros, and the real Davros is not a severed head at all, so Space Don Quixote and Sancho get captured (we’re meant to think Sancho is dead, but he totally isn’t). Meanwhile, the rebels get killed while trying to blow up the Dalek experiment chamber, and the Doctor runs into some Daleks and tries to bluff them but ends up getting captured as well. The obsequious lady from before gloats about how once Davros is dead she’ll control the food supply for the entire galaxy, then she, too, gets captured. Everyone is brought to Davros’s central chamber, where Davros does a fair bit of gloating. Then Sancho reveals that he isn’t dead and shoots Davros’s arm off just as he’s about to activate his Daleks, and the Doctor says “Well, no ‘arm in trying.” Sancho sadly dies in this action.
It turns out the “communication device” the duplicitous lady gave Don Quixote to inform her that his plan was a success was actually a bomb, so Don Quixote murders her for betraying him. Then the security guards from earlier reveal that they called in some Daleks from Skaro to arrest Davros for crimes against the Daleks, which, surprisingly, works pretty much exactly as planned. As Davros is about to be taken away the Doctor tries to shake his hand and then is like “oh right sorry you don’t have an arm anymore.” Then Don Quixote gives his badge to the Doctor and asks him to “tell my order how we died,” which is “I’m going to blow up this giant bomb and destroy this base. Davros gets away but it does mean all of the evil experiments Davros was doing (he was looking into ways of turning humans into Daleks) are destroyed, so that’s cool, I guess. Then Peri asks the Doctor if they can finally go somewhere fun, and the Doctor agrees, but for Production Reasons he doesn’t get to actually say where. B+
8:44 pm • 7 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Attack of the Beekeepers
The Timelash. (Note: there are no actual bees in this story.) The Doctor and Peri land on a planet he’s saved once before, only to find it’s being controlled by an insane dictator who is slowly driving its people into the ground. The insane dictator executes people by sending them into the Timelash, which is apparently a tunnel that dumps people in Loch Ness in the 12th century. (We never go to the other end of the tunnel, except to pick up H.G. Wells as a stowaway. For reals.) Anyway, the dictator’s lackey demands that the Doctor go and retrieve the magical mirror amulet (the only mirror left on the planet!) that a lady stole and ran into the Timelash with, because it’s the source of the dictator’s power. It turns out the lady bumped into the TARDIS on her way through, so she ended up in 19th century Scotland instead. The Doctor convinces her to return the magic amulet, and HG Wells stows away on board, as one does.
Anyway! From there the Doctor is betrayed (obviously) and the weird blue-skinned android minions of the dictator try to throw him in the Timelash, but the Doctor smuggled a mirror back with him, and I guess the androids are vulnerable to mirrors? For some reason? Armed with a mirror, all the rebels that were about to be sent back in time along with him overthrow the androids and seal off the inner sanctum. The Doctor steals some plot crystals from the time machine to make two handy little toys that will almost certainly never turn up again: one that projects an image of himself back in time and makes his current self invisible, and one that absorbs any energy shot at it and shoots it back ten seconds later. He takes these tools to the dictator’s chamber, where he learns he’s half human, half lizardhorse, thanks to Bad Science manipulation. (The implication is this is the villain the Doctor thwarted last time he was here, I think.) King Lizardhorse is planning to kill all mammalian life on the planet and turn Peri into his lizardhorse bride, and fill the planet with other lizardhorses. Unfortunately the Doctor destroys him with his “returns energy beams back at you” crystal, though in fairness he does warn King Lizardhorse beforehand. (He basically says “if you shoot me with your energy death beam, this crystal, which you used to build your Timelash and so should be familiar with its properties, will absorb it and shoot it back at you ten seconds later” and King Lizardhorse is like “I think you’re bluffing.” Turns out, nope.)
From there it’s just a matter of stopping the invasion King Lizardhorse provoked in order to wipe out all mammalian life (apparently there was conveniently a race of aliens nearby that had a missile that could do just that that were waiting for an excuse to invade)! The Doctor does this by throwing the TARDIS at the missile and then telling the invaders that he’s Lord President of the High Council of Gallifrey (which is probably still true) so they don’t fire any more missiles. Then it turns out King Lizardhorse had a clone, and he tries to abduct Peri again, but it also turns out that the mural of the Doctor that was uncovered earlier was concealing a giant mirror, for some reason. I guess King Lizardhorse is also repulsed by mirrors (possibly because he’s just that ugly). While he’s recoiling, the Doctor tells him that he is lonely, repulsive, unloved, and unwanted, and kicks him into the Timelash, where he implies he becomes the Loch Ness monster. Then it’s back to the TARDIS, presumably to return HG Wells back to Scotland so he can write The Time Machine about this encounter.
Also, for some reason the guards are all wearing beekeeper’s outfits. B+
10:24 pm • 5 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Mad Science and Science Thieves
The Two Doctors. A mad scientist has taken a lady from a primitive and violent race called the Androgums and given her a massive intellect! There’s no way this could possibly go wrong. Anyway, she is performing time travel experiments, mostly by stealing Time Lord technology. Apparently she’s discovered somehow that TARDISes require a Time Lord in order to function (at least the first time?) because of some sort of symbiotic thing in their DNA. So she’s kidnapped the Second Doctor by tricking some Sontarans into helping, by promising them the working time machine when she’s done. Naturally she plans to betray them eventually.
Meanwhile the Sixth Doctor, who has apparently forgotten about this ordeal, lands on the space station from which the Second Doctor was abducted, finds Jamie (who managed to survive the attack), and uses telepathy to contact the Second Doctor and find out where he’s being kept. The evil lady and the Sontarans have, for some reason, chosen to hide out in a mostly abandoned Spanish villa on 20th century Earth, so that’s where most of this story takes place.
The experiment to extract the symbiotic print from the Second Doctor’s DNA is apparently going to be fatal, but fortunately preparing for it also takes a long time and the mad scientist keeps getting interrupted. Meanwhile, with the help of a restaurant manager/out-of-work actor/amateur moth collector and his Spanish girlfriend, the Sixth Doctor, Peri, and Jamie infiltrate the villa and learn what’s going on. The Sixth Doctor tricks the Sontarans into thinking he’s fixed the time machine, so the Sontarans decide to double-cross the evil lady, but she’s decided to double-cross them, so she almost kills them, and the one who tries to escape discovers that the Doctor actually sabotaged the time machine rather than fixing it.
Eventually the evil lady decides to turn the Second Doctor into an Androgum rather than go along with the original plan. So she betrays her Androgum servant, whose primary characteristic is a constant lust for food, and has the mad scientist go through with the surgery. Unfortunately they’ve apparently forgotten that Androgums have giant strength, and a second surgery is required to prevent the Doctor from turning back into a Time Lord an hour later. The Androgum and the Doctor-Androgum break free and go to Oscar’s (the actor/restaurant manager from earlier) restaurant, where they eat vast quantities of food and rack up an enormous bill, and then, just as everyone arrives, the Second Doctor turns back into a Time Lord—just in time to get captured by the evil lady and the mad scientist. Then the Androgum stabs Oscar to death and runs off rather than paying the bill.
The Sixth Doctor pulls the same trick on the evil lady as he did on the Sontarans and convinces her he’s fixed the time machine, so she leaves them chained up in the basement and lets her Androgum assistant drag Jamie upstairs to be eaten for dinner. (He’s been trying, unsuccessfully, to eat every human he comes across for the entire story.) Peri helps the Doctors escape their manacles, and the Sixth Doctor helps Jamie get free from the butcher (but not without getting stabbed in the leg), and the mad scientist abruptly decides that he’s going to reject his evil ways. He gets shot to death by the evil lady, who tries to flee in the time machine, only to be blown up by the Sixth Doctor’s sabotage. Meanwhile, the Sixth Doctor uses some cyanide that he stumbles across (Oscar used it to capture moths in the first episode, for all you Chekhov’s Gun enthusiasts out there) to kill the Androgum that’s chasing after him. The Doctors exchange grumpy words and go their separate ways. B
1:09 pm • 5 September 2014
Reviewing Classic Who: Ra Ra Rani
The Mark of the Rani. The Doctor’s TARDIS gets hijacked and sent to a mining town just prior to the Industrial Revolution, where a meeting of all the greatest geniuses of said time is about to take place. For reasons inexplicable, previously peaceful and friendly miners are going on violent, machine-destroying rampages. (Spoiler alert: it’s not actually inexplicable.) Also in this mining town at this juncture are the Master, who apparently did not actually burn to death last time we saw him (no explanation is provided apart from “I’m indestructable, the whole universe knows that”), and the Rani, also a renegade Time Lord who is an amoral scientist. She is harvesting the chemicals from the human brain that allow rest to happen by abducting people at a sinister bathhouse, thus turning people into rampaging violent monsters. She needs the chemical for some plot of hers that is incidental to the story.
The Rani finds both the Doctor and the Master annoying, but the Master eventually manages to convince her that she should help him take over the planet by kidnapping and mind-controlling all of the great geniuses who are about to hang out. They spend most of the time bickering, and she probably wouldn’t have gone along if the Master hadn’t stolen the vial of brain chemicals. Every time she tries to argue he threatens to destroy it.
The Doctor manages to break into the Rani’s TARDIS and sabotage it, then does some elaborate maneuvering where he tricks the Master and the Rani inside. When it takes off it apparently launches them to the end of the universe, and for some reason one of the foetal T-Rexes the Rani was keeping in a jar earlier starts growing into an adult T-Rex and threatens to eat them. The Doctor then returns the vial of brain chemicals (he picked the Master’s pocket earlier) to the village, and he and Peri go along on their merry way.
This story also features mind-control maggots and landmines that turn people into trees. A-
1:09 pm • 4 September 2014 • 2 notes