Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Tue Jan 13, 2009 8:12 am

The Co=Ordinator wrote:Talking of which the Silva Screen Who Movie Music CD, that first came to light nigh on a year ago, is still "work-in-progress". But hopefully it will eventually see the light of day. Smile

The Barry Gray scores? Did he score both films?
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:05 am

Barry Gray, Malcolm Lockyer & Bill McGuffie.

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Zoltar on Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:27 pm

Sid Seadevil wrote:
Frank wrote:The Cushing film of DIoE is great. It compresses the story to an ideal length and then chucks money at the effects which for the time were pretty good. Yeah, I know you can see the strings on the saucer but the marvellous saucer design screams 1960s to me whereas the TV versions just look like flying pie tins. And don't forget, the Cushing films seduce us through the use of lush Technicolour and widescreen. However, the TV version is grittier and showcases the Doctor/companions relationships really well.

In the end they both have their positives and negatives.
Absolutely. In fact they're a near perfect example of how an adaptation can compliment the original without either diminishing it - or dismembering it and stamping all over it's blood soaked corpse.

Quite a neat trick actually.
Yeah, it is. And agreed. Shame that trick isn't performed more often.

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Johnstone McGuckian on Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:40 am

I love reading these reviews. They're far more interesting than anything in DWM or whatever.
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Wed Jan 14, 2009 8:34 am

Johnstone McGuckian wrote:I love reading these reviews. They're far more interesting than anything in DWM or whatever.

You, young sir, have exceptional taste.

Season 15 arriving soon!
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Sid Seadevil on Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:12 pm

Johnstone McGuckian wrote:I love reading these reviews. They're far more interesting than anything in DWM or whatever.
Agreed. In fact I'd go even further. These reviews should be in DWM.
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:24 pm

At least some of Frank's brilliant work is being published. Wink

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Wed Jan 14, 2009 3:35 pm

Too kind, chaps. And thank god for CT.
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Season 15 - Part 1: The Horror Of Fang Rock, The Invisible Enemy & Image Of The Fendahl

Post by Frank on Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:18 pm

Season 15



HORROR OF FANG ROCK - September 1977

‘That’s the empty rhetoric of a defeated dictator. And I don’t like your face, either.’

The first story transmitted under the producership of Graham Williams, 'Fang Rock' is really atypical as an example of what he would end up doing with the format of the show. Strangely it’s a slight throwback to Hinchcliffe and it’s only as we progress through the rest of this season that we’ll get a feel for how he’s going to handle things from now on. For me personally, at this point the show stopped being what is now called ‘appointment viewing’. I vaguely recall this story on transmission and the many that followed it but from 1977 through to 1980 I actually only watched the programme intermittently. I do recall feeling that ‘something’ had changed both in my attitude towards the programme and in the direction the show seemed to be going in. I had just turned 15 when this went out and perhaps it was that awkward teenage phase that both the series and me were going through that shifted my opinions at the time. However, some of the opinions still hold true so be prepared for a much bumpier ride during the Williams era.

So it’s almost business as usual here. A fog bound Edwardian setting, a ‘base under siege’ storyline and both the regulars still in place and more or less still at their peak. A Rutan scout crash lands in the sea and decides to terrorise the staff of the local lighthouse and the survivors of a shipwreck.

The production values are very good, despite received wisdom that Williams’ tenure as producer saw a rapid decline in an ability to get money up on screen. The interiors of the lighthouse are full of superb detail and are complimented with excellent period costumes and a sympathetic use of studio lighting. Basically, it’s the BBC doing what they do best with this sort of thing and this would be one of the last times we would get a period setting in a story until much later in the series history.

Performances across the board are pretty good, although there’s perhaps an element of melodramatic exaggeration creeping into the acting that gives us a sign of what’s to come later with the Williams era where it’s clear that actors determined to take it seriously and deliver their roles with conviction are reduced to actors who go right over the top and back round the other side again cos 'it’s only a kiddies show and it’s meant to be a bit like panto, isn’t it?' The worst offence here is to have a character like Adelaide just react to all the surrounding events by screaming and carrying on in a very unconvincing manner and letting the side down somewhat. It gets tiresome. There’s a gulf there between the character and how the actor is playing the role and they don’t quite meet in the middle.

One of the most noticeable things is the music. Dudley now seems to be doing this on auto-pilot and it’s notable that the role of the music in supporting the drama changes over the next few years – less specific themes and more sketchy aural wallpaper - with only a few exceptions e.g. ‘City Of Death’. I don’t know if it’s me but I get the feeling that even here Williams seems to have started a slow process of leeching out the dramatic tension from the series. And the way music colours the drama seems to be the first of many casualties.

Like ‘The Thing From Another World’ the story is primarily about fear of possession and identity theft. It encompasses the typical tropes associated with possession such as hysteria, mania, psychosis, or dissociative identity disorder. You could also address the manner in which the human characters attempt to double-cross each other and their panic about this creeping possession as a collective hysteria where the true nature of the characters is revealed as the contagion of the Rutan spreads through the lighthouse. There is also the tension between ‘the old ways’ and ‘modernism’ in the form of Reuben’s paean to the oil-fired lighthouses instead of new fangled electricity and the mythological resonance of the hidden depths of the surrounding ocean. The impact of industrialism on society is one of the themes of the story and it can’t quite decide if progress is a necessary evil or a blind alley. The boiler takes on an odd significance all the way through the narrative – is it symbolic of the price of progress as well as being an engine of possession and destruction that the Rutan cleverly exploits?

Again Leela’s character is continuing to be developed and Jameson still seems to be finding further mileage in her performance, particularly in the way she illustrates Leela’s lack of social etiquette and mangling of language - ‘Teshnician’. She is also a good counterpoint to the alleged refinement of the continually screaming and fainting Adelaide. Tom is on good form and his encounter with the Rutan on the staircase is the definite highlight here.

Overall then, it’s an exercise in minimalism and efficiency that strips away some of the Hinchcliffe excess even if the body count still remains high. As a season opener it’s modest and has perhaps been overlooked – at the time perhaps it was a case of audiences simply accepting the programme was still there, as reliable as ever. Turn the lights down, close the curtains and settle down with this now and you’ll find it’s a bit of a gem. Notes on the DVD version: There's a rather good audio commentary with Louise Jameson, Terrance Dicks and John Abbott. This accompanies a tribute to Terrance Dicks, the writer, and short piece on director Paddy Russell. Both are fascinating pieces. Finally, one of the vignettes made for the 30th Anniversary transmission of 'Planet Of The Daleks' - The Antique Doctor Who Show' - is also included. Hats off again to those clever chaps at the Restoration Team for sprucing up the pictures and sound on the four episodes.

HORROR OF FANG ROCK Region 2 DVD (BBCDVD1356 Cert U)


Last edited by Frank on Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Season 15 - Part 1: The Horror Of Fang Rock, The Invisible Enemy & Image Of The Fendahl

Post by Frank on Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:30 pm



THE INVISIBLE ENEMY - October 1977

‘Contact has been made’

Now, I know the Williams era isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and I’m always of the opinion that you can find something to cheer you in an under par story so I’m going to try and be as even handed as I can with the stories I'll review from the next few seasons. In my opinion the quality – whether that be production values, storytelling, acting etc – does go up and down rather dramatically in the Williams era but I’m trying to be fair where possible. OK. So let’s get a positive in first. The plot not being one of them, I shall keep the summary brief and then move on. The Doctor and several humans become infected by a space borne virus. He and Leela travel to the Bi-Al Foundation in order to combat the virus nucleus.

However, the opening episode is actually rather good in that it really shows off the work of the BBC Effects Unit under the very talented Ian Scoones. The shuttle sequences both in the asteroid field, being attacked by the virus and landing on Titan are excellent and there seems to have been a real effort here to raise the bar with this work. And you do have to bear in mind that when this was actually being made the production team wouldn’t have yet heard about a low budget science fiction film called ‘Star Wars’ despite received opinion that K9, the spaceships and the blaster battles were directly influenced by it. Williams just had his finger on the pulse as there’s a sense here that the programme begins its shift from adult/teen-orientated ‘monster’ stories to space fantasy aimed more at the kiddies. I’m not saying that some of the concepts and ideas that the show would go on to present are ‘childish’ in that sense but rather that the series throws off its reputation as a scare-fest entertainment and aims squarely for the younger members of the family audience – particularly those who would soon sign up for the ‘Star Wars’ bandwagon . I would say that at least Williams knew which way the wind was blowing and had the sense to recognise that and keep the ratings up and the popularity of the programme intact. Adults and teenagers might not have found much to divert them in the next few years but the kids did. This is symbolised here more than anything by the arrival of K9.

To some extent Williams' laudable ambitions were over-reaching and he was saddled with a smaller budget because of the hyper-inflation of the times. So things do often end up looking cheap and in the dawning days of ‘Star Wars’ using a vivid imagination does not necessarily mean small budgets. The crushing inflation gave less value per pound of spend and this would be evidenced on screen more so after that film’s release. This story is problematic in that, whilst the effects are good, the sets often feel a bit shabby, particularly the Bi-Al sets and the new TARDIS console. It’s a shame as Williams was trying to ride not just on the wave of 'Star Wars' and its ilk but also to tap into the burgeoning science fiction literary styles of Larry Niven and his contemporaries and certainly this particular story could have been inspired by the ‘hospital in space’ novels of James White.

There is a genuine urgency to the first episode as the virus possesses the humans and the Doctor and efforts are made to defeat it. It does look moody on the Titan base, if a bit cramped, with some good studio lighting adding to the atmosphere. This completely dissipates once we’re off Titan and at the Bi-Al. For me personally, Doctor Who is at its best when there is total conviction behind it, even when it is at its most outlandish. My main problem with the last three episodes is that we see all attempts at conviction, building of tension and dramatic conflict being undermined by variable acting (sorry Frederick Jaeger but you were miles better as Sorenson in 'Planet Of Evil'), unconvincing make-up that makes the virus’ victims look like they’re doing drag at La Cage Aux Folles and finally that Virus Nucleus shrimp/prawn disaster that makes Muffin The Mule look sophisticated. I know…I know there are other similar disasters in other eras but here I feel it is one element amongst many that send this into a spiral of the unconvincing.

And we could get into a real mess when we look at the science of the story. The cloning of Leela and the Doctor is done so matter of factly and so amorally, knowing the clones only have a brief life, and the process somehow recreates their clothes and Leela’s accessories. It’s as bonkers as the 'Fantastic Voyage' miniaturisation scenario. I know…I know, we usually forgive the programme its bad science as long as the rest of it is entirely engrossing. But this isn’t remotely in the same league as 'Talons' or 'Ark In Space' where we can forgive certain inadequacies because the rest of it is just so bloody good. And yet some of the CSO effects work, showing Leela and the Doctor wandering around in his brain, is actually rather good.

A shame as there are some interesting ideas struggling to get house room - the notion of viruses becoming sentient prefiguring all the nasty computer viruses that our hard drives are attacked by these days. Viruses as ideas and languages that infect society can be seen in a bizarre echo of today’s radicalising of the disenfranchised minorities in our society. A very Burroughs-like concept for a tea-time show. But for me it culminates in the sad feeling that in the end I don’t really care about the mad prawn thing threatening to dominate the universe and 'The Invisible Enemy' gives us a future where nothing of interest seems to be going on. By the time the Doctor figures he’ll just blow the virus up, I was already thinking of what to have for my tea. From this moment on it seems that even the Doctor starts to care less about all the would-be conquerors of the cosmos and if he doesn’t give a sod, then why should I? He’s more interested in chess and painting, judging by some of the TARDIS scenes in this season.

The regulars also don’t inspire much either. You’re really aware that Tom is no longer under the thumb of his previous producer and the new guy is more likely to indulge his ad-libs and tolerate his ambivalence towards the role at this time. He’s getting way too nonchalant about the things that matter to the hero of the show. And Leela is treated as a stupid thug and thus ends her really wonderful character development of the previous stories. And then there’s K9. I like the idea of K9 and the look of K9 but like most things in the Williams era it just hasn’t been thought out. We thus end up with a know it all computer on wheels that shoots people to order but can’t manage to get into and out of the TARDIS on a regular basis. He’s such a good idea that for most of the time he goes AWOL whilst the writers try to figure out what to do with him. Nice concept, shame about the realisation.

Do I like 'The Invisible Enemy'? Not really. A reasonably good first episode with some good effects work and then it all goes wrong. Baker and Martin try and throw lots of ideas at the wall and hope some of them stick so you end up with a rather schizophrenic story that can’t decide what it wants to say and a production that limps to the finishing line having fudged whatever dramatic tension there might have been.

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY (K9 TALES Box Set - Region 2 DVD BBCDVD2439 Cert PG)


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Season 15 - Part 1: The Horror Of Fang Rock, The Invisible Enemy & Image Of The Fendahl

Post by Frank on Wed Jan 14, 2009 4:36 pm



IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL - October-November 1977

‘You must have been sent by providence’
‘No, I was sent by the council to cut the verges’

An ancient skull, having downloaded the Fendahl core, is reactivated in an English country garden. Soul eating slugs get a dose of salt from old Ma Tyler and her new friends the Doctor and Leela.

The Hinchcliffe/Holmes exploitation of high Gothic finally comes to a close here and appropriately references the king of ‘extraordinary events in ordinary situations’ – Nigel Kneale. I think the story is best summed up with the image of the TARDIS arriving in a field full of cows – reality and the fantastic in context. Fendahl is a similar rewriting of human origins as posited by Kneale’s 'Quatermass and the Pit' or a neat riff on his science/supernatural play 'The Stone Tape'. If you like 'Fendahl' I suggest you give these two a watch. This is just as serious not only in its scientific reasoning for what happened millennia ago but also in its judgement of ‘the old ways’ as exemplified by Ma Tyler. She’s not reduced to a figure of fun and nor are her ideas ridiculed (see Miss Hawthorne in 'The Daemons') and again she typifies the themes of the story in that lovely scene where the Doctor wakes her from a trance state by discussing a recipe for fruit cake. The ordinary overlapping the extraordinary throughout and where the Doctor seemingly stumbles in on an already on-going situation where the characters are already established, have lives before and beyond the narrative that we see played out in four episodes.

For me, it is also trying but not quite articulating something about the power of the feminine. It’s something that the programme rarely tries and here we have several female figures – the evil goddess, the wise mother and the innocent virgin – with some of these attributes overlapping in several of the female characters. Is Chris Boucher also equating the deathly soul eater with the feminine as well as legitimising the old wives folk wisdom and savage innocence. Are they all the faces of the same goddess in fact? Is the whole of masculine patriarchal society based on the dual feminine nature of the Fendahl/woman?

I like 'Image Of The Fendahl' because it has a sense of reassurance about it in that Williams hasn’t completely thrown both baby and bathwater out at this stage. It purposefully recycles all the Quatermass/Stone Tape/ancient astronaut tropes via a contemporary setting swirling with fog and soul-eating monsters. It’s perhaps the last of a dying breed in the programme before it sets off down the literary satirical SF route in later seasons. There is a genuine attempt at creating mood with discreet use of lighting, vision mixing and that vital element – conviction from those involved. The threat is palpable and believable and realised fairly well with the Fendahleen creatures. It does veer off into camp science fantasy with Wanda Ventham’s goddess manifestation – all silver make up, ringlets and billowing robes – and the plot does a little too much side-tracking, especially the blind-alley journey to the Fifth planet. It’s quite a complex tale and requires a bit of thought to understand what exactly is going on, especially towards the end as many plot elements begin to collide and information is coming at you thick and fast.

George Spenton-Foster directs all of this with a sure hand and uses music sparingly and very well to suggest the darker undercurrents throughout. The surrealism in the images is well executed, particularly the Fendahl creatures slithering down the wood panelled corridors of a country house and the really sublime vision mixing of Ventham's face and the glowing skull. Visual effects are OK but the creatures look somewhat dated now but at the time were probably just about acceptable. Foster manages to get enough of a build up behind them to make them work even though they are ultimately fairly disappointing creations. The destruction of the house is also a very unconvincing effect at the end of episode four.

In terms of the characters, Max, Thea and Adam are a symbolic triumvirate – the misguided, the victim and the reluctant hero – and the performances all work to a degree. Wanda Ventham is going great guns until she ends up as the goddess and then doesn’t get any more lines but her couture improves I suppose, Scott Fredericks just about convinces us he can rally together a Satanist coven and be a scientist at the same time but Edward Arthur does tend to chew the scenery as the sneering anti-hero Adam and for me is the weakest of the actors in the production. Daphne Heard completely steals the show as Ma Tyler despite the reliance on the ‘mummerset’ accent. Denis Lill is good as Fendelman but the German accent instantly puts a barrier up between the performance and the audience for me because it just has ‘I’m doing my German accent’ in big red neon flashing every time he appears. As for our regulars, Tom and Louise are on good form as usual and getting their fare share of the witty lines. Alas, K9 is made redundant as the script editor and writer don’t quite know what to do with him yet. It'll be an ongoing problem for sometime.

Along with 'Horror Of Fang Rock', this is pretty much a stand out story in the season and it’s sandwiched between two examples of what would eventually be Williams penchant for the series – ambitious, satirical, futuristic tales made on a shoestring. Ah, well. I enjoyed it while it lasted.

IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL (BBCV4941 VHS PAL deleted Cert PG - Coming to DVD in 2009)
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The Rescue

Post by Frank on Tue Jan 20, 2009 5:43 am

Direct from the DWF 'Valley' thread...

The Rescue

January 1965

"We can travel anywhere and everywhere in that old box as you call it. Regardless of space and time... and if you like adventure, my dear, I can promise you an abundance of it."

Welcome to Maureen O’Brien as new companion Vicki. The two parter that introduces her to the TARDIS crew is spare and economical with a real emphasis on characterisation rather than trying to create a complex mystery. To begin with Vicki does rather step in as a Susan replacement and even though O’Brien is more than capable in creating Vicki as an individual the next few scripts will tend to write her as Susan and her lines, in the main here, are those written for Susan. But keep an eye on her because she gets into her stride as Vicki fairly quickly as the season progresses and is very much an under-rated companion in that long established line.

David Whitaker cleverly picks up from the previous story’s dramatic conclusion after an opening introductory scene with the crashed spaceship (another good piece of visual effects design from Ray Cusick) and Vicki. I love the ‘Made In Britain’ Union Jack on the rocket fin. It perhaps recognises the new found, somewhat over confidence in British design that was making the headlines in the early 1960s. It is also a reminder of the series uneasy relationship with colonialism. Whitaker’s story has a similarity in theme to Bradbury’s ‘The Martian Chronicles’ where he explored the devastating effects of American colonialism. For Bradbury’s Martian ghosts read the sudden appearance of the Didonians at the end of the story. The spaceship sets are pretty good for their time and the lighting on this serial is much improved and adds a distinctive mood to the story.

The TARDIS scene that follows shows a vulnerable Doctor, sleeping during materialisation and calling out for Susan and realising that of course she’s gone. Hartnell plays it very sensitively. The interesting thing about this is that he doesn’t take it out on Ian and Barbara and much of his irascibility has gone. The anti-hero is gradually being replaced by the hero and Barbara and Ian are used as light counterpoints in this scene which perhaps shows Dennis Spooner’s influence as script-editor.

We learn that Vicki and Bennett, awaiting the arrival of a rescue ship, are under threat from Koquillion, a creature native to the planet. Koquillion’s rather unconvincing costume could be seen as being deliberately fake looking simply because it actually is once the story unravels to its conclusion. Ray Barrett is very good in the dual roles of Koquillion but the disguise is obvious, the Doctor sees through him immediately and it's true that this turns out to be a whodunnit with a single suspect. When he first encounters Ian and Barbara there is a lovely split-screen effect showing them looking down upon the ship. When Koquillion attempts to kill the companions by throwing them to the Sand Beast, Barbara seems to survive intact, including her fab hairdo and later meets up with Vicki. Vicki’s short monologue explaining the deaths of the crew is really good too and just shows how O’Brien is as committed to the series as her fellow cast members. Barbara’s killing of ‘Sandy’ the pet Sand Beast is unintentionally hilarious but shows how Barbara is transforming into a very determined woman who’ll shoot first and ask questions later!

The climax in the dark, gloomy Didonian Hall of Judgment is electric as the Doctor wrings a confession of guilt from the deranged Bennett. As he realises that the man is, shall we say, a bit of a threat to him two ghostly Didonians materialise in their jogging outfits and cause Bennett to fall backwards down a cliff! Their appearance is unexplained and their ghostly activities also supposedly include wrecking the radio transmitter at the end of the story, forcing Vicki to join the TARDIS crew. It’s a bit muddled and the plot devices are too simplistic and underwhelming to qualify the two episodes as the best examples of the series so far. As an introduction to Vicki it works well and also starts to change the dynamics of the adventure format where instead of a TARDIS scene opening each story and the crew seeking to explain their whereabouts stories will start to open with other characters and establishing scenes into which our crew are then placed. The Rescue pretty much cements the entire series format from this point on.
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Season 15 - Part 2: The Sun Makers, Underworld and Invasion Of Time

Post by Frank on Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:35 am



THE SUN MAKERS - November – December 1977

‘Praise The Company’
‘Stuff The Company!’

Bob Holmes’ satire on the British taxation system. Or is that too simple a description? More on that in a moment, dear reader. The Doctor and Leela arrive on Pluto where they discover a drugged human populace labouring under the thumb of a greasy alien economist.

The Sun Makers is a wonderfully literate script brought to life on the cheap. One thing that struck me when watching it again recently was how little effort had gone into the design of the studio sets, with evidence of recycling of older sets from Ark In Space for example. When the programme was criticised and is remembered for its ‘playpen’ sets then I imagine this is what they were looking at – it’s all empty studio space and minimal build to suggest the Megropolis interiors. There’s a real lack of imagination going on and it looks a bit rough at the edges when it really needs a sense of scale. I love the use of what look like Incan sun symbols on the sets and costumes but for me this is the only element of design that really succeeds here in a purely decorative sense. There’s the obvious visual symbol of the bumble bee/hum-bug costume for Gatherer Hade but Marn looks like she’s just nipped out and bought a shell-suit. In a strange way, the fact that she’s wearing a shell-suit actually works now in context with some of themes the story is trying to discuss.

OK. For me, the taxation theme is just a bit of a red herring. Yes, there are a lot of humorous in-jokes supporting the theme but I honestly think Holmes is being far cleverer here than he’s been given credit for. He’s being incredibly prescient about the future of British economic policy and the rise of Thatcherism. It’s clear that The Company (i.e. Thatcher) has been putting down the revolutionaries on Pluto and elsewhere (i.e. the unions) and rampant market forces are subjugating the majority of the working class (sell off of public utilities and the poll tax). Holmes seems to have caught the way the wind was blowing as the Labour government reeled under pressure from the unions and hurtled towards the ‘Winter Of Discontent’ in 1978-79. And the whole theme of the birth of, and how we perceive the nature of revolutions, and who are the oppressed and the oppressors in the story echoes a number of themes in the equally satirical Carnival Of Monsters. As a political reporter, he might well have sensed that as the country struggled with hyper inflation it wouldn’t be too long before a totalitarian greengrocer’s daughter came in and sorted it all out whilst keeping those Bolshie working class people under her thumb. And of course, Thatcher’s dominance over the unions was, like the revolution on Pluto, made tele-visual. Propaganda seen on the six o’clock news by millions and used by both the oppressed and the oppressors to get across their distinct points of view.

And if we’re talking about the visual then there’s definitely the homage to Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ running throughout the episodes – from the steamer casket, to the machinery and of course the term ‘Megropolis’ suggesting that at least Holmes and Pennant Roberts knew what this one was trying to say. Where Graham Williams' view of the series and the central hero is one where the Doctor isn’t facing up to evil, revolting monsters week in and week out but rather is facing up to the ‘concepts’ of evil, the symbols of suppression and oppression, then Holmes gave him a good template to work from. Here, the Doctor squares up to the ‘in the flesh’ symbol of The Company, Henry Woolf’s wonderful Collector, who is basically a ‘market forces driven’ totalitarian slug using the power of economics to keep the rabble in place and make vast profit but he also slices through the Company’s red tape and uses the power of economics itself to topple the regime. In fact he demonstrates to the rather useless resistance how to run a revolution – not with bungled credit card fraud (loving the big Visa card, by the way) - but by understanding your opponent’s methods and being cleverer than they are. Economic sanctions, anyone? All the while, they’re making this so very cheaply under the hyper inflation of the Labour government and the miniscule BBC budget of the time. There’s a twisted irony in that somewhere.

Despite the cheapness, you can see the series really turning in another direction and Williams’ vision really starts to come through here. His aversion to naturalism does leave us with a series bursting with ideas and characters but conversely without the necessary production values to back it up. Hence the location sequences here do look like a lot of bad actors in funny costumes doing daft things and Williams knows this is what it ‘looks’ like and is instead depending on the audience to respond to the brave and literate ideas he was introducing the series to. To an extent he goes on to succeed but from now on he’s under some pressure as Star Wars hits the UK and a resurgence in good-looking space adventure dawns.

As for our regulars, Jameson is still maintaining a high standard as Leela and keeps the character interesting for now. Tom is clearly relishing the turn the series is taking and understands the way the Doctor is being transformed into the uber-nonchalant hero that beams at his opponents and offers them a jelly baby. Of course he still worries about the monsters but he's worried in a very different way. The intensity of his earlier performance during the Hinchcliffe seasons is being transformed into a parodic, Swiftian take on the hero, often relying on ad-libs and mugging direct to camera which in turn is both clever and irritating. It's symptomatic of that 'knowingness' that permeates the era and that ultimately leads to its undoing. Henry Woolf is sublime as the Collector and easily outdistances Richard Leech’s pantomimic, bumptious Hade. There are moments where Hade’s sadism is quite interesting and powerful but, for me at least, that costume undermines the threat.

The Sun Makers is the series on a cusp. Williams’ vision is coming into its own – it looks cheap and tacky but the scripts and ideas are leaping tall buildings and taking us beyond the ‘monster of the week’ format. It works here despite itself and that’s as much down to Holmes I think. However, it all moves forward in so variable a fashion and the inspired cleverness is often buried by an appalling under-appreciation of dramatic scale and tension, the use and mis-use of design and a leading actor and supporting players who are too often let off the leash. Stay tuned…

THE SUN MAKERS (BBCV7133 VHS PAL deleted Cert U)
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Season 15 - Part 2: The Sun Makers, Underworld and Invasion Of Time

Post by Frank on Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:36 am



UNDERWORLD - January 1978

‘The Quest Is The Quest’

‘Going on and on…and unable to remember why’

This is going to be hard. I’m trying my best to accommodate the Williams era, often having an internal argument over the way the producer was shaping the show, within the budgetary constraints at the time and the results he produced. So far, it’s been very up and down in terms of quality. With Underworld we reach perhaps one of the lowest ebbs of the Williams era.

No, I’m not going to have a go at the CSO. It’s clearly a design decision forced by the production having gone over budget. Sometimes, you sneakily admit that it comes off in some scenes, just about, but on most occasions it really does look so wrong. However, the series itself has always been littered with CSO nightmares and the Letts/Pertwee era is equally at fault. It gets away with it because Letts always argues that they were very much experimenting with a new technique. With Williams, it’s a budgetary decision purely and simply. And the received wisdom that watching it in black and white makes an improvement is rubbish and is a very feeble argument for the lacklustre nature of the story.

But we shouldn’t beat Underworld over the head for the CSO. No. It commits a far greater sin. It’s actually very boring, fairly obvious and lacking in drama. Plot in a nutshell – the Doctor and Leela join Jackson and his crew on a quest for a lost Minyan ship and to rescue the Minyan race banks. Throw in a mad computer and that’s your lot. Where it tries to elevate its own status is in making the plot a space-age retelling of the Jason & the Argonauts myth. It sounds better if you’re saying to the audience, ‘Aren’t we clever, re-telling a Greek myth on a Saturday tea-time?’ No, frankly, you’re not. Especially when there is a very weak coda at the end of episode four where the Doctor wistfully points out to the viewers…’oh, you’ve been watching a re-telling of Jason & the Argonauts, betcha hadn’t spotted that!’

And somewhere in the middle of this, there is a non too subtle attempt to jump on the then in vogue bandwagon of Joseph Campbell’s analysis of myths and archetypes. Star Wars ransacked that particular cupboard in 1977 and Underworld plays with a few of the scraps and throws in Time Lords as the ancient Gods to the Greeks of Jackson and Co of the R1C. Greek myth is an important storytelling element in the classic series and in the new but here it’s simply window-dressing for a dull plot about a maniac computer called the Oracle. We’ll get a similar reworking of Greek myth in The Horns Of Nimon and arguably that’s a far more interesting and entertaining story for all the wrong reasons.

It’s a shame, as the first episode is actually very good. The design of the R1C is excellent (it probably blew the design budget which resorted to the production using CSO for the rest of the episodes, I suspect) and Richard Conway’s visual effects are really very impressive, the model work almost as good as that seen on big budget productions like Space:1999. The costumes and props for the crew of the R1C are pretty good, especially the shield gun design, and there’s a pace that matches the visual excitement of that first episode.

But then we get to episode two and in the lair of the Oracle. It’s all so brown and dull just like the rags that the Trogs are wearing. I quite like the black outfits and the hoods of the slaves of the Oracle but without a good actor, used to working through masks, the threat posed by these villains is negligible. In fact, the threat from the Oracle and its slaves is so underwhelming that even the Doctor sounds rather tired when he realises he’s up against a raging machine and points the cliché out before the audience does. And that lack of threat is what is wrong here. The series needs credible, motivated and scary villains/monsters even if they’re played so over the top they become pantomimic (which they do during the Williams era, to a degree, when they do appear). Here we have hooded thugs with no charisma and a ranting computer that resembles a bad lightshow in the Top Of The Pops studio. Its other problem is that it postulates rather a lot of bad science, a Bob Baker and Dave Martin trademark, especially about the formation of planets, the nature of gravity and mass and that old bugbear, radiation. I’m not a fan of hard science fiction but where the series dips into that area I would hope that at least some of the science is basically right.

The regulars acquit themselves well, Baker’s a bit on remote control (i.e. wind him up and point him in the right direction and he’ll do OK) but Jameson holds this together with a good performance, one of very few that make an impression here, with the other being Alan Lake as Herrick. The rest of the cast are fairly unforgettable which demonstrates how bland this is. The naturalism of the previous years is gone and the satirical whimsy that replaces it does sometimes work in the hands of good writers and directors – The Sunmakers being a good example – but here it’s just a bit of food colouring to try and make a rather uninspiring cake a bit more interesting. Oh, dear. No matter how you look at it, even if it was made with the swankiest visual effects, Underworld remains a dull runaround in CSO caves and that’s a story problem not a production problem. It's also what inspires a horribly inaccurate view of the series - all running around in caves with bad costumes and acting - that comes back to haunt the series again and again.

UNDERWORLD (BBCV7264 VHS PAL deleted Cert PG)


Last edited by Frank on Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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Season 15 - Part 2: The Sun Makers, Underworld and Invasion Of Time

Post by Frank on Thu Jan 22, 2009 9:38 am



THE INVASION OF TIME - February 1978

‘You have access to the greatest source of knowledge in the universe’
‘Well, I do talk to myself sometimes’

Looking back on the Williams era, I do recall that this was a time when my viewing of the series was getting very sporadic. I would see the odd episode but not entire stories. With The Invasion Of Time I remember clearly the moment when the Sontarans appeared at the climax of episode four but I never saw the concluding episodes until many years later. My commitment as a viewer was gone and would only return in 1980. Now why was that? I had a sense that somehow I hadn't got the joke. Read on, dear reader. And, to many of us, that opting out may have been a blessing in disguise.

These six episodes of Doctor Who are clearly the point where the foundations on which the programme itself rested and the way it was received and perceived by an audience were turned on their head. Sometimes very crudely and sometimes with great subtlety. I have been rather negative about this story in the past but a recent viewing of the DVD has allowed me to soften my approach. In terms of the production, it does look rushed and hastily put together which is very symptomatic of Season 15 as a whole. The production design is often quite dreadful. Apart from the re-decorated President’s office with its cog motif lead lined walls, a crude visual symbol of time, like a broken clock, the rest of the production makes Gallifrey look like a strangely cramped and deserted airport lounge. Wincingly awful plastic loungers litter the sets, the Panopticon resembles a game show set, despite the pleasing multi-level aspects of it, and what should have been a design tour-de-force, the inside of the TARDIS, is reduced to location filmed hospital corridors and a swimming pool with the odd setting used glibly to pad out the last two episodes.

It’s also become The Tom Baker Show. It’s here that you really do recognise that the leading man has been elevated in importance and the narrative drive of the series has switched from the motives of the protagonists as a whole to the desires of the main character/actor. He gets all the best lines, the story is firmly framed from the Doctor’s perspective and the Doctor as the hero figure has been transformed into a nonchalant man about galaxy who only cares about the balance between good and evil if it’s something he can do between meals without running his appetite. And surely, if the Doctor is so nonchalant about the events around him then the audience will become equally complicit in this?

The Doctor is central to the narrative and everyone else becomes a cipher, including Leela. It’s so alarming to see Leela reduced in this way and the writers don’t care if she doesn’t get a good exit or why else would they marry her off to a drip like Andred with whom she’s had but a single conversation. It’s sloppy and thoughtless. And Rodan is the Romana 1 character out for a test drive. And they forget about her half way through the story. Chris Tranchell makes the best of Andred and gets by on his sex appeal alone. The only actors who seem to come out of this with very good marks are Milton Johns and John Arnatt. Johns is so great as the slimy Kelner who switches allegiances at the drop of a hat and is a vibrant symbol of corrupt Time Lord society where survival is the name of the game. The scenes between John Arnatt, as Borusa, and Baker are the best things in the whole story. They are played as reflective drama where two powerful individuals evoke a grudging respect for each other despite their past history. It adds depth to a Doctor that spends most of the story saying ‘ Look at me, aren’t I clever, fooling you all with my madness and trapping the Vardans.’

This could have been an exceptional story. It’s essentially about an apparently insane, god-like Doctor who sells out the Time Lords to the Vardans after ensconcing himself as Lord President. This had the potential to be 'Caligula In Space' or 'Madness Of Lord President Doctor' but it falls so very far from that because it’s too easy to spot the bluff in Baker’s performance and the Vardans are really so crudely drawn as villains, not just as bits of tin foil flummery but also in their rather dull human forms. We never know the motivation behind the Vardans and the Doctor’s plot to trap them on Gallifrey apart from it being a trap within a trap laid by the Sontarans. Is he unpicking the Gallifreyan defences just because he can? The Vardans are just….there…and they don’t do anything despite bragging that they can travel along any wavelength. The feigning of the Doctor's madness just isn't used to its full potential here and there are too many nods and winks to the audience along the way to give it any dramatic punch.

Unfortunately, the Sontarans don’t fare well, either. Yes, we see more of them this time but they end up spending episodes five and six simply chasing round the TARDIS gradually reduced to comedy monster/villains. The notion of them being a threat is all but a fleeting memory. And cockney accented Sontarans, at the time, must have sounded very strange. They still do. Dudley Simpson does have a better time with them, giving the score a signature Sontaran theme with some squashy bass synths that adds much to their impact.

There is a lot thematically here that’s interesting but it’s really hampered by the crudeness of the settings and the ciphers that the other characters are reduced to. As well as a spin on the nature of heroism and the notion of the Doctor as ‘hero’ and what it means to be a hero with an ego, with authority, pride and the notion of deceit, there’s also a great deal about world politics and the demise of the UK to almost third world status in the late 70s. At the time there were attempted military coups to replace Wilson, and this is reflected in the way the Doctor seizes power as President. The story also has a number of things to say about revolutions, dictatorships, state control and political allegiances. The banished Time Lords are Russian dissidents sent out to Siberian labour camps, the Panopticon and its Time Lord ranks yet another representation of Cold War Russia.

For me, it is the very last scene of The Invasion Of Time that neatly sums up what the programme had become at that point. Its legacy rumbles on today. The Doctor is in the TARDIS, alone again, has said goodbye to Leela and K9 and what does he do? Pulls out a massive box labelled K9 Mark II and laughs his head off into camera. To me that, and the equally infamous ‘even the sonic screwdriver can’t get me out of this’ address to the camera aren’t clever ‘breaking the fourth wall of television’ notions. They are direct assaults on the audience’s perception of the show and the narrative. For fourth wall cleverness just watch Up Pompeii because it at least gives you the reason why they did it – Frankie Howerd. Tom isn’t Frankie and the show isn’t a sit-com with a live audience in the studio but Williams and Baker perhaps would like you to think so. They see the deconstruction of narrative production as a clever acknowledgement of a sophisticated viewer. There’s a sense of overweening hubris in that final scene. ‘We’re getting away with murder and having a good laugh at ourselves, the programme and even you, dear audience, and don’t you just love it?’

It’s the last nail in the coffin of naturalism and the ushering in of meta-narrative structures and performance codes that on the one hand make the following seasons really very interesting but also on the other begin the ‘Doctor Who eats itself’ cycle that finds its apotheosis in the JNT years. At least at the end of 'School Reunion' when yet another version of K9 is constructed, we didn't see Tennant and Sladen laughing their heads off to camera. Unless they cut that bit out, thinking it was an in-joke too far. In the end it depends if you like your Doctor Who frivolous or whether you like it a bit more serious. As a teenager I found the frivolous version rather embarrassing but now I take it in my stride, understanding what Graham Williams was striving to do on an ever shrinking budget, beset by strikes and a Tom Baker who clearly wanted more say in the programme.

The DVD, boasting good picture quality (the VHS release was utterly awful) carries an interesting and lively commentary from Louise Jameson (Leela), John Leeson (K-9), Anthony Read (Writer) and Mat Irvine (Visual Effects Designer), a documentary Out of Time: The cast and crew look back at the making of this story, featuring Chris Tranchell (Andred), Milton Johns (Castellan Kelner) and Colin Mapson (Visual Effects Designer), The Rise and Fall of Gallifrey: A look at how the portrayal of the Time Lords and their home planet has changed over the years; The Elusive David Agnew in which script editors Terrance Dicks and Anthony Read try to find out who really wrote The Invasion of Time; Deleted Scenes From the film sequences for Parts Five and Six and some optional CGI effects where the tin foil Vardans just about manage to look better. Anything's an improvement.

THE INVASION OF TIME (BBCDVD2586 Region 2 DVD Cert PG)
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Season 17 - City Of Death

Post by Frank on Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:04 am

From the blog, as it was never reviewed by me on the original DWF thread.....



CITY OF DEATH - October 1979

"I say, what a wonderful butler! He's so violent!"

"Well...you're a beautiful woman. Probably."

City Of Death is a triumph despite its make do and mend origins. Considering the scripts were last-minute, balls to wall, coffee inspired rewrites by Douglas Adams, David Fisher and Graham Williams, the plotting and dialogue are what lift an already pretty good production to its legendary status in the series canon. Not only does it manage a sublime pastiche of Dashiel Hammett and Mickey Spillane but it also spins off into Pink Panther caper-movie territory with a script that gives you exceptionally funny, almost Wildean, dialogue, that's meant to be serious exposition and also an abundance of terrific throw away lines too. It also resembles Bob Shaw's comical farce The Giaconda Caper, about a psychic detective hired to discover the mystery of an additional Mona Lisa. Overall, it is the template for the Williams era, where he was struggling to make his mark on the format against budgetary problems, and for four episodes he gets it spot on, with this being light years away from the mucking about with Daleks that started the season off.

All the various elements from the production team are slotting together nicely here, creating iconic images and witty storytelling. There's the truly lovely Ian Scoones created visual effects sequences of the Jagaroth space ship hovering over, and then exploding above, the Earth's primordial landscape, the location filming in Paris accompanied by some of the best Dudley Simpson music in the series, Julian Glover pitch perfect as Scarlioni, the Tom and Lalla team at the height of their powers and then...John Cleese and the TARDIS as art object. Michael Hayes does a wonderful job of directing this, managing to contain the flippant indulgences and add in his own visual flourishes (the shot through the post card rack is pure French thriller) to serve the script well. Also throw in a delightful side-trip to Leonardo Da Vinci's studio and the BBC's usual high standards for period detail.

Talking of art, one of the major themes of the story is about how much art is worth financially as opposed to its aesthetic value. The debate is between Scarlioni, who pretty much embraces the view that the production of art is simply a mechanistic way to achieve wealth, and the Doctor, who by knowing Da Vinci and understanding the creative process, knows the true value of the work. This taps into the theories of Walter Benjamin and John Berger. Benjamin suggests being able to reproduce the image of the Mona Lisa again and again via means of technology has had the effect of that artwork losing its traditional ritual significance. Through Scarlioni's desire to reproduce the Mona Lisa the art of Da Vinci has slowly come to lose its very meaning as the importance of authenticity has become a far less integral component in investing meaning to the product itself. The writers and producers of the serial would also have been familiar with the contemporary, for 1979 at least, theories of John Berger - he takes the perspective that even if one is familiar with the culture in which, for instance, Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, one would still react toward seeing the painting based upon having seen it reproduced and placed in the context of modern culture. If one arrives to see the Mona Lisa with no knowledge of the Renaissance culture or only limited knowledge, it becomes impossible to assess the painting based upon its original aura and mystery.

In the middle of this debate is Duggan, memorably played by Tom Chadbon, who is basically the audience identification figure here as the season continues to equalise the Doctor and Romana's relationship. He is also the antithesis to the Doctor's non violent status and could also perhaps be seen as an anti-aesthete as he is not only the object of the Doctor's objections to violence but also his criticisms for mishandling a Louis XIV chair and breaking a Ming vase over Catherine Schell's head. The irony is, of course, that his punch directed at Scaroth saves the world in true Bulldog Drummond style. This is also interesting from a political point of view in that Scarlioni is positioned almost as a Thatcherite monetarist prototype, playing with market forces to accrue wealth in order to re-establish an empire. The Doctor and Romana are a romanticised, freewheeling socialism quipping their way through crisis after crisis, not overtly concerned about the ambitions of any of their opponents. Ironic in that in 1979, it was Labour who were blindly optimistic and the Conservatives who were deeply pessimistic about their chances in the election. Following that election, Scarlioni should have been a shoe-in for universal domination. I also suspect there's a subtext in there about the Common Market too.

There are some problems with the serial. The acting is decidedly tongue in cheek and if you're a fan demanding serious commitment from actors then you might find the whole 'nudge, nudge, wink wink' attitude of the production hard to take. Many of the performances do go over the top but it suits the style of the story, which comes across as Riffifi meets Inspector Clouseau complete with cod-Frenchies in stripey jumpers and berets. The effects for the Jagaroth head sported by Glover are an immediate let down and are incapable of conviction. But it doesn't matter because Glover is so attuned to the script that, as in a lot of good stories with risible effects, you're happy to ignore it. The location filming does tend to outstay its welcome with a rather overlong tour of Paris landmarks in episodes one and two where obviously the team where trying to get their money's worth out of a few days shooting. Again, the ambience created is worth having and indulgences like this can be forgiven.

City Of Death (the title surely a play on words; Paris is often known as the "City of Love" (Cité de l'amour). "City of Death" translates into French as Cité de la mort) is Williams' crowning achievement for the show and demonstrates, even if the scripts were put together at the last minute, what he and Adams could achieve with the combination of satirical, often surreal, humour, a leading man who was demanding his self-indulgence and good production values. The supporting cast are excellent, particularly Glover and Schell as the Count and Countess, an enthusiastic David Graham sports a mittel-European accent for the batty Kerensky, the direction is suitably ornate and the story is interesting and has a well-rounded, motivated villain. The time paradox doesn't quite work if you look at to too closely but it doesn't matter. This is glorious fun.

The two-disc DVD has all the episodes beautifully restored and includes;

* a wonderfull commentary from actors Julian Glover and Tom Chadbon and director Michael Hayes.
* "Springtime in Paris," a witty documentary looks at the making of "City of Death" and offers wealth of interviews with Adams and Hayes.
* "Paris, W12" provides newly unearthed, time-coded production footage from the BBC's archives.
* a collection of unused landscape and spacecraft shots and excerpts of how the filmmakers captured the chicken sequence.
* Plus a PDF of the 1980 Doctor Who Annual.

Essential.

CITY OF DEATH (BBCDVD1664 Region 2 DVD Cert 12)
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by stanmore on Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:30 am

I love City of Death. It has a cast of people with great pride in their work. I also think it's also Douglas Adams most hopeful piece of work. A fifty minute version of this would get in the new series seamlessly.
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Season 16 - Part 1: The Ribos Operation & The Pirate Planet

Post by Frank on Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:22 am

Season 16 - THE KEY TO TIME



THE RIBOS OPERATION - September 1978

‘Have you ever looked up at the sky at night and seen those little lights?’

Doctor Who does the ’story arc’ with The Key To Time…well it’s not exactly a new idea in that you could count The Daleks Masterplan and The War Games as mini story arcs in the series. But this arc moves through the entire season and for once gives the Doctor a reason to seek out danger. I’ve never been a big fan of The Key To Time season. On recent viewing, however, I’ve really enjoyed revisiting it and it’s all going quite well until you get to The Power Of Kroll and then…well…you’ll have to wait and see. Ribos has taken a very long time to grow on me. The most recent viewing was perhaps really the very first time when I could happily say that it all actually worked for me.

Plot-wise, the White Guardian gives the Doctor a task and a new companion – seek out all the scattered, hidden pieces of the Key to Time with the aid of snobbish Time Lady Romana. First stop, Ribos, where Garron and Unstoffe are trying to flog the planet to the revenge-seeking Graf Vynda-K. This involves a precious mineral, jethrik, which just happens to be…one of the pieces of the Key.

I don’t mind story arcs. However, it might have been wise to actually inform the audience why the pieces of the Key should be collected and just what this Key actually does. It all seems to be shunted to one side without a really good explanation. Once the story gets to Ribos, Bob Holmes gets to the heart of the matter. He again provides us with an object lesson in world building – Ribos feels and looks credible as a backwater planet going through its own Renaissance with its own Galileo. And that’s important in pulling the audience in and keeping them there. And like Jago and Litefoot in Talons, he again makes a double act the centre of the narrative – Garron and Unstoffe – giving Ian Cuthbertson and Nigel Plaskitt an opportunity to turn in very wonderful performances, often hilarious, sometimes desperate and moving. The fact that they are con-men makes it all the more interesting. If you haven't seen Cuthbertson in Budgie do yourself a favour and buy the DVDs because he's equally brilliant in that series too. The other pairing, of the Graff and his right hand man Sholakh, doesn’t quite come off. Paul Seed is pretty good at megalomania but he unbalances the relationship with Robert Keegan with a tad too much scenery chewing. Keegan is excellent, putting in a quiet and rounded performance of discreet menace and intensity. The Graff’s a petty villain, only interested in power but Sholakh does have some interesting character facets to him.

The narrative unfolds as if we are peeling back the layers of an onion. It starts out big - (the Guardian and the Key) - and by the end we’re focused entirely on Binro’s worldview (the stars in the sky) and Garron and Unstoffe’s Robin Hood like take on the haves and have-nots. The character of Binro is the centre of the narrative and clearly becomes the audience identification character – the sheer wonder at the scale of the universe being contemplated in an old man’s mind and of course, his satisfaction in that he was right to be curious in the first place. This view clashes with the blood and thunder of the Seer who is all antlers, smoke and mirrors and sees the world through the prism of the supernatural. A common theme in the series is embellished by a very ‘Galileo versus the heretics’ thread that effectively connects with a Renaissance battle between religion, superstition and scientific discovery where Binro is the true seer.

It also looks marvellous too with sumptuous costumes and sets that give a clear indication of money on screen, which was always something that Williams as a producer had real difficulty with. He was never consistent. It’s a very medieval Russian flavour that permeates the visuals and the candlelit Hall Of The Dead is shot in such a way that the atmosphere is so palpable. You feel the dampness of the catacombs around you. George Spenton Foster, whilst not the best director on the series, manages to make everything tangible here. And it’s here that you also now understand how the series has now transformed itself - from the high Gothic Hinchcliffe scares with monsters lurking round every corner and audience identification figures in Sarah and Leela - into 'The Tom Baker Show' where his relationship with the latest companion looks like a continuation of a bit of a giggle they’ve just had down the pub. It’s all very knowing and much as I like Mary Tamm as Romana, she’s not ‘the viewer’ as such. It’s hard to identify with her. Perhaps if they’d worked more on the idea of ‘first day at the office’ like Gwen Cooper in Torchwood we might have had something rather more convincing for audiences to latch onto. She comes across as someone who really doesn’t want to travel with the Doctor and the audience must surely have been confused as after all that’s what they wanted to do, and still want to do, week in, week out.

And that’s the biggest problem with the Doctor/Romana relationship. It’s very self-centred and as a viewer I personally cease to identify with either of them at this point because naturalism and conviction have been thrown to wolves in favour of a knowingness that signals to us our leading man and woman are just doing this for a lark. It affects the dilemmas the Doctor apparently finds himself in from here on in – at the cost of drama, he’s flippant and nonchalant when faced by something he should be truly terrified by. It sort of works if you like that sort of thing but as I’ve said before if your hero doesn’t take the threat seriously, then why should you in the audience believe in it too? Mind you, when it’s a stunt man dressed up in a rather obvious, rubbery Shrivenzale costume then you could forgive them. The monsters are now relegated to being guests on the show and not much effort is therefore made to depict them well. A cough and a spit and they’re done with. The series has switched to humanoid villains with grand schemes and the Doctor simply arrives and knocks over their little house of cards.

Ribos is head and shoulders above some of the Season 15 stories and its strengths are Holmes’ characters and themes, good guest actors, superb production values and a wordy but clever plot. The Doctor and Romana seem to be there as bystanders rather than active forces in the narrative but the script is full of good lines and situations. It’s let down by an indifferent Romana and not terribly convincing monsters. Cuthbertson, Plaskitt, and Timothy Bateson as Binro own this story completely.

THE PIRATE PLANET - September – October 1978

‘Then what’s it for? What are you doing? What could possibly be worth all this?’

Douglas Adams arrives on the scene with his first contribution to the show. The difference is pretty immediate just from a scripting point of view. Adams’ characteristically layered plotting, bluffs, double takes and deft humour drift through the episodes like a refreshing breath of mountain air. And it’s entirely suited to the Williams era and this would stylistically find its watermark in City Of Death where the dexterity of characterisation and plotting move the show out of the formulaic and into the magisterial for a brief period.

The plot concerns a planet-eating factory run by a very loud, shouting Captain Hook type who is being manipulated from behind the scenes by the ancient Queen Xanxia. She needs the energy produced by the destruction of these planets to escape her prison.

After the triumph of The Ribos Operation where the traditional nature of the series went all philosophical on us, this one is content to bring us back to a shiny, 1950s pulp science fiction universe. Very apt, as this idea of science fiction/adventure nostalgia combined with mythological symbolism is basically the winning formula that made a certain Mr. Lucas a packet in 1977. Therefore we have some very broad brushstrokes here combined with an interesting moral problem for the Doctor to solve. In order to thwart the Captain and his mining operations he has to sacrifice the comfortable lives the people of Zanak are leading. What right does he have to do so? Do the people of Zanak really care enough to back the Doctor on this one? It’s a case of Adams wondering about the motivations of the villain of the week and how the Doctor can provide a sound moral counterpoint within an interesting social context. It’s clear that Adams was concerned that the villains were defined characters with a particular point of view rather than the average megalomaniac wanting to take over the universe. Hence we get the central plot about Xanxia regenerating her body at any cost (Earth being next on the menu) and manipulating all the male characters to do her bidding whilst serving the sub-plots about the indolent people of Zanak, the Mentiads and the Captain himself.

Curiously, another thing that does stand out at this point during the Williams era is how villainy becomes an equal opportunities concept and we get to see more female protagonists clash with the Doctor over the next few years. Whether this is just a response to the rise of feminism in the late 70s, Thatcher’s domination of the Conservative party or a specific agenda for the script editor, who can tell? We do seem to get a rash of female characters who plot away behind the scenes, often changing history and society to suit their needs and controlling the situation through weaker men. The Stones Of Blood crystalises this approach more so than any other story but it can be clearly identified in other stories such as The Creature From The Pit

From a production point of view, the design is actually rather good here, particularly the Captain’s bridge and the Captain himself. There’s a good, strong use of colour in contrast to steel greys in both sets and costumes. It does tend to look a bit sparse and unconvincing in the scenes set on the surface of Zanak though but the Bridge, the engine room and the Time Dam prison of Xanxia are all well realised and money is thankfully up on the screen again. There are also the air-cars and the Captain’s robot, Polyphase Avatron, in the mix too. The air cars are hilariously bad/cheap SF tropes and one scene with Mary Tamm leaning back with her hair flowing in the wind with some obvious CSO just made me think of several Eddie Izzard sketches. And can someone tell me the point of the flying robot parrot? Location work is good, with the scenes in the mine standing out as best here and more effective than some of the scenes with the Mentiads marching through what looks like the Welsh hills!

Baker is back on form here, especially his equal indignation at and admiration for the Queen’s dastardly scheme. He’s especially good working against Bruce Purchase as the Captain who is great value but does tend to spin off into BRIAN BLESSED! territory with all of his shouty bits. His ‘by all the…..(insert ridiculously over the top description here)’ epithets do get tiring after a while and you wish the Doctor would hurry up and polish him off. It’s also Adams at his laziest in terms of writing. However, when he does get his comeuppance there is a genuine twinge of sadness at his demise when we realise how much Xanxia has exploited him. There’s also a lovely, twitchy and nervous performance by Andrew Robertson as Mr. Fibuli that acts as a good foil to the blustering Purchase. However, a rather one note performance by David Warwick as Kimus makes him looks uncomfortable in an essentially thankless role and in doing so he lacks conviction. Mary Tamm seems to have settled in a bit and doesn’t jar as much here. She’s still wandering about the place being all aloof and not particularly audience friendly but the edges are a little softer. She’s again too much of a know all to be a proper audience identification figure.

Overall, this isn’t bad at all. It doesn’t scale the heights of Ribos but it’s entertaining, well written, has plenty of ideas and is leaps and bounds better than the likes of Underworld or Invasion Of Time from the previous season. There’s a focus on the villains and why they are doing what they are doing that refreshingly reintroduces a sense of real dilemma to the proceedings. You do actually want the Doctor to be clever and outwit them this time whereas in the previous season half the time you couldn’t give a monkey’s if he bothered to leave the TARDIS or not.

THE KEY TO TIME Boxset: The Ribos Operation & The Pirate Planet (BBCDVD2335 Region 2 DVD Cert PG)
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by stanmore on Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:40 pm

Oi oi, where are the Key To Time DVD Extras additions? Eh? Eh? Wanna take it outside?
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Frank on Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:19 am

stanmore wrote:Oi oi, where are the Key To Time DVD Extras additions? Eh? Eh? Wanna take it outside?

We can take it inside, outside, to the left, to the right....ohhhhh the Hokey Cokey

Extras will be covered in the last two reviews from the season. Ask and ye shall receive.
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Season 16 - Part 2: The Stones Of Blood & The Androids Of Tara

Post by Frank on Sat Feb 07, 2009 5:22 am

Season 16 - THE KEY TO TIME



THE STONES OF BLOOD - October – November 1978

We’re half way through the Key To Time arc at this stage and so far it’s been a pleasant surprise. It’s not as dull as I remember and certainly as a season it feels much more confident than some of the stories seen in the previous year. And The Stones Of Blood is an irreverent, often creepy little tale that just about manages to sustain itself until the final episode where, quite frankly, it does run out of steam altogether.

However, along the way, a number of delights are in store for us. The TARDIS brings the Doctor and Romana to Earth in search of the third segment of the Key. At this stage you could forgive new viewers for packing it all in because they haven’t a clue about the back story but there is a truly cringeworthy and rather blatant bit of exposition from the Doctor early on just to bring the newbies up to speed. And the rest of us are sitting there yelling at the screen – ‘Just get on with it! I know all this!’ Now plot wise, it's a bit confusing. Alien goddess escapes from prison ship thousands of years in the past and hides out on Earth. She possesses the third bit of the Key but I can’t even remember why she hides out on Earth and has several blood sucking polystyrene blocks on wheels as pets. Perhaps someone who actually finds the plot in the middle of it all can drop me a line. She appears to be on the run from justice machines who turn up at the conclusion in the amusing ‘Crown Court In Space’ scene.

Despite the deficiencies of the plot, it’s still atmospheric, creepy and witty and smoulders under the surface with barely repressed Sapphic desires between the three main female characters – Vivien Fay, Professor Rumford and good ol’ Romana. It’s a heady brew redolent of Virginia Woolf meets M.R James and the tension between the three women adds a dimension to the scenario that seems to hold everything in place with a supernatural force. Very J Sheridan Le Fanu, missus.

Susan Engel glows with strangely restrained camp as she makes her trouser-suited way across the fields and offers Romana a ride on her..bike. Ahem. She then sets all the ‘lesbian tendencies’ alarms off again by claiming that it will be ‘ a whole new experience ‘ for Romana. I bet it will, ducky. And the innocence of sausage sandwiches is also given a very odd twist by both Rumford and Fay when they offer one to Romana in the cottage. That and the priceless joke about Fay being a Brown Owl make this a story full of deliberate and accidental double entendre. Quite delicious. Later, as the silver painted Cessair Of Diplos, she sits there and tries to convince the justice machines that she’s ‘Vivien Fay, of Rose Cottage in Boscowan. Ask anyone, they’ll identify me’ in such an archly camp way that most of us would willingly believe her just to bask in her full on silverness. It’s such a shame that the Doctor bluffs his way through the trial and manages to defeat her. Beatrix Leahman is good value too as the no nonsense, gung-ho Rumford and I often wish they’d taken a risk and swapped her over with Romana as a companion. Could you imagine what kind of series we’d have had if it was Baker and Leahman in the TARDIS instead!

On a serious note, though, the focus on strong female characters reaches its height here and with the Druidic goddess background, the production team manage to tap into a great deal of the mythology and symbolism surrounding pagan female sexuality and fertility. It makes a welcome change and adds a further layer of meaning and echoes other, similar stories such as The Daemons and Image Of The Fendahl. It doesn’t quite aspire to the strength of themes in the latter but I’m glad it’s there.

It’s all going well, tongue firmly in cheek, with marauding Ogri attacking innocent campers and wreaking havoc with the Druid worshipping De Vries and his missus, until Romana gets transported to the prison ship. From that point on, the energy and atmosphere dissipate and we’re left for an episode and a half on a boring, white corridored spaceship in hyperspace with the Doctor trying to outwit the Megara justice machines in order to get hold of Fay/Cessair. It does get a tad boring watching a couple of floating lights having a slanging match between themselves and the Doctor. It’s a dull place to put the denoument of the story. Only Baker’s irreverent performance and the aforementioned camp silver one can keep this of interest.

Production wise, the location work is wonderfully atmospheric but terribly static. The camera barely moves at all when it should really be taking advantage of the freedom of the outdoors. But what there is is sufficiently moody, complete with crows sitting on the TARDIS roof and corner of the eye creepiness that reminded me of those classic BBC Christmas ghost stories. The design and visual effects are often uninspiring. The Ogri are a good concept but in execution are rather laughable and I doubt whether any fancy camera work and lighting would have helped. But you tend to overlook them as ineffectual monsters in favour of the ripeness of the rest of the story. And of course, the monsters have by now become mere guest artists in The Tom Baker Show. Some of the miniature effects are OK but I was never convinced by the hair-dryer spaceship hanging in hyperspace. However, some of the inlay work showing the Doctor and Romana in the windows of the ship ain't bad at all for its time.

The worst culprit on the effects front is the ‘clifhanger’ ending to episode one. Obviously, they failed to get this in the can on location and so we’re given Mary Tamm against a cliff and unconvincing CSO in the studio. Cue very odd stock fooage of waves crashing. Yes, there’s a knowingness to this being a literal cliffhanger and you could argue that this may also be an in-joke on the frailties of the show as a BBC production but it has the unfortunate effect of ruining the atmospheric build up that's achieved all shot on location.

Yet, the elements all seem to work despite some odd plotting and risible production values. Certainly, Baker and Tamm are on good form and their guest stars are more than enough compensation but even the K9 scenes with the Ogri manage to be infused with a bit of energy this time and banish some of the duller moments in the last two episodes. It’s certainly not one of the best stories in the season but it’s highly entertaining and keeps the momentum going. Writer David Fisher was a real find and managed to reflect what Williams and the then script editor Anthony Read were attempting to do with the show.

But how long can this up turn go on for, I wonder?

THE ANDROIDS OF TARA - November to December 1978

"Next time I shall not be so lenient"

The second David Fisher script of the season and it's a summery, light hearted romp that continues the good standard thus far encountered. It wears its influences on its sleeve and make no bones about being a pastiche of Anthony Hope's The Prisoner Of Zenda and the production team seize the material with relish.

The Doctor and Romana arrive on Tara, where Ruritania never went out of fashion, seeking the fourth segment of the key. They find the segment but run into the clutches of the wicked Count Grendel. He's plotting to install himself on the throne with an android double of Princess Strella ( a dead ringer for Romana ) whilst the good, and rightful king, Prince Reynart languishes in a dungeon and the Doctor helps his mates keep control of the throne with...an android double! One thing that strikes you about the story is the fantastic location filming. Right from the off we are in lush parklands and ancient castles and it's handled very well with good composition, tracking shots and some excellent night filming in the Leeds castle dungeons and on the ramparts. It all adds immensely to the production values. It's certainly one of director Michael Hayes' strengths.

The studio bound sequences are not as consistent. Some scenes, such as the lodge where the Doctor repairs the android and the lab set in Grendel's castle are over lit but all the scenes in the throne room when the Archimandrite is about to crown Reynart are full of subtle colour and shadow and are lush enough to match the location filming. A number of the action sequences are a bit clunky but I do think the sword fight between the Doctor and Grendel makes up for this. What it lacks in arrangement it makes up for with Tom Baker and Peter Jeffrey going full tilt to give it a bit of passion. Yes, it's a lightweight story but it does seem to have been handled with just the right touches and as well as lighting and Valerie Warrender's production design, the silks and brocade of the costumes by Doreen James also add that little something. Lamia's make up, for example, is a clever little touch that emphasises the embellishments in costume and set design. Visually, it all veers into camp but manages, at least, not to descend into pantomime.

It's difficult to identify a theme beneath the frills but there are some interesting notions about a technologically advanced society and its culturally backward aesthetics and the idea of using doubles to gain advantage politically must be saying something about the control of images and the way to power through mechanical and media manipulation. How can you trust anyone who uses their advanced technology to bluff their way to the throne? The regulars are good, Baker is flippant as ever but not boring, and Mary Tamm does get a chance to extend her abilities by playing the dual roles of Strella and Romana ( triple, if you count the android ). Peter Jeffrey totally steals the show, even though he's the tokenistic, moustache twirling bad guy, and manages to invest some interest in what was probably a thankless role. Paul Lavers lets the side down with a performance resembling a thick slice of ham.

Overall, you'll either love this or hate it. It could be pointed out as a poor example of Williams' output as producer perhaps with claims that the programme was descending into a pantomime like parody of its former self. That may be true to an extent but I do think there is much to enjoy here. You will not find a profound exploration of the human condition here. It's a bit of fluff, it looks good and it can put you in a good mood if you're happy to let its style over substance wash over you.

And the villain escapes with a pithy remark to camera. Marvellous.

THE KEY TO TIME Boxset: The Stones Of Blood & The Androids Of Tara (BBCDVD2335 Region 2 DVD Cert PG)
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The Romans

Post by Frank on Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:43 am

Direct from the DWF:

The Romans

January to February 1965

"Close your eyes and Nero will give you a big surprise!"

Dennis Spooner contributes another 'historical' script (or should that be 'hysterical' script given the humour in The Romans) and also becomes the series new script editor. Why fans have problems with the humour in this story baffles me somewhat. Spooner's template is his earlier Reign Of Terror where gallows humour added some levity to a fairly grim tale and here he simply uses more of it. Despite the farcical elements there are some very serious, often grim moments in the story. The entire sub-plot of Ian becoming a galley slave and then a fighter in the arena isn't exactly a laugh a minute.

In an effort to reverse the standard tropes of the series, Spooner has the story open with the Doctor and the companions already in situ, for several months it seems, ensconced in a Roman villa, partying and generally having a bit of fun. I think there's even a suggestion here that Ian and Barbara are now actually a couple. Spooner also plays with the audience a bit as the opening shot is of the TARDIS tumbling off a cliff. This then cuts to a shot of Ian seemingly unconscious but it is then revealed that he's blissed out on wine and lolling about in a toga. Spooner's attitude towards the story also tells us a lot about how the series has changed. Contrast the finger wagging 'don't interfere with history' stuff of The Aztecs with the rather laisez faire attitude of the regulars here and the way that now matches audience expectations. Yes, we want the Doctor and company to have adventures but we are now fairly secure that they won't get hurt. They're the regulars, for heaven's sake! Ian might well be facing the lions in the arena but the way the stock footage of some rather bored looking big cats is spliced into these scenes adds an almost Abbott and Costello irony to it all.

And yet the farcical elements work in context. Let's not forget that one of the central characters is Nero, the last of the Judo-Claudian dynasty and continued their tradition of tyrannical and extravagant rule. Episode Three's 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum' vibe is probably a fairly accurate description of the chaos and madness of court life as well as the peak of Spooner's wish to pack as much standard cliches about the Roman Empire in as he could. The farce of Vicki, the Doctor and Barbara missing each other is classy stuff and if it was made in the 1970s, Frankie Howerd would not have looked out of place. It's also full of narrative reverses too - originally Susan was the audience identification figure, Ian and Barbara the adult heroes and the Doctor is the fella who gets them all into scrapes. Looking at The Romans, Ian fulfills the role of hero facing the stock footage lions but with comedy double takes, Babs and the Doctor become citizens of Rome, as if they truly belong there. They get into scrapes but they also help lots of other people on the way. And Babs, sex siren that we've always secretly known her as, is chased round the palace by Nero! Vicki becomes the identification figure but still has a sharp tongue when dealing with Emperors. She doesn't go floppy and start screaming the place down that's for sure.

Hartnell's in his element, his comedy chops from The Army Game and Carry On Sergeant getting a thorough work out as he spends much of the story impersonating a lyre player, Maximus. He's utterly wonderful in the 'Emperor's New Clothes' faking of his lyre playing and the way he works with Derek Francis as Nero. The dialogue is cheeky and knowing. However, the humour is there to compliment the darker aspects of the drama such as Ian's slavery and Tavius revealing his Christian faith at time when such believers were persecuted by Rome. Nero's not above poisoning and stabbing slaves either. So there is a fine balancing act going on here that is kept moving by the accomplished direction of Christopher Barry. He manages to juggle the separate storylines for each of the regulars, something that is a particular strength here, and add in little flourishes, a cinema of tiny gestures that includes the model work with the on screen title ROMA, and almost revels in the way the tight budget is acknowledged.

The Romans represents further breakthroughs in the way the series format can be used and abused, it's a charming script and the cast clearly reveled in the opportunities it presented. The small budget does show in some rather small scale sets representing much larger locales but Ray Cusick shows that he can do period as well as futuristic. It may not be to all tastes but it's thoroughly enjoyable.


Last edited by Frank on Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:46 am; edited 1 time in total
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The Web Planet

Post by Frank on Mon Feb 09, 2009 6:45 am

And one more for the road!

The Web Planet

February - March 1965

"Apart from rubbing our legs together like some sort of grasshopper, I doubt if we can get on speaking terms with them."

This must have looked incredibly odd and surreal on first transmission. Perhaps one of the strangest pieces of television broadcast at the time. From our jaded 21st century perspective it has become a bit of a joke simply because it looks like a dated, surrealist panto with actors dressed up as ants and butterflies. Put yourself in designer John Wood's shoes then and I think you will at least appreciate that this six parter is painfully over-ambitious and he rose to the challenge rather well, all things considered. Richard Martin's direction is not the greatest here, especially when he uses techniques that then undermine all the perspective work in the sets. It's his worst story because it fails in so many ways visually. He tends to cut corners here and allows shadows to fall across backdrops, ignores terrible dialogue fluffs, actors to crash into cameras, and doesn't generate much menace simply because he hardly moves the camera at all. There are actors heard laughing like drains over cliffhangers for heaven' sake!

The design work on this is phenomenal, even if it does feature the sight of John Scott Martin hobbling about with ruddy big ant on his back whilst wearing a fetching black leotard. But the interiors of the Zarbi lair, the design of the Animus are really quite striking. It's probably a case of attempting to do a huge amount of work with a small budget, limited space and time and finding that then means the major elements never quite hit the highest standards already achieved in the series. Let's face it though, the Zarbi are not the Daleks and to put all your efforts into trying to make them as successful as those tin boxes from Skaro does seem to indicate misplaced faith. Their car-alarm cries, whilst initially endearing, are likely to drive you to drink by the time you've even got half way through this. Far more successful are the Menoptera and Opetra. The make-up design for the Menoptera is rather smashing and very effective, the costumes are striking and if they didn't have a tendency to lose their wings and fly somewhat unconvincingly then we'd be on to a winner. Rosyln de Winter's 'insect movement' is charming and often executed well for the Menoptera, very balletic, which is not something you can say for the Zarbi and the Optera. The Zarbi seem to shuffle along, bump into cameras and general hang around on Vortis street corners nattering to each other. I love the concept of the Optera but watching a bunch of extras bouncing about and grunting simply reduces me to laughter these days. This one is very much about the suspension of disbelief.

The plot is very slender. It's one of the biggest problems here that it is stretched agonisingly slowly over six episodes. If you look at the first episode it is horribly padded out with all that unnecessary exchange of dialogue in the TARDIS. Hartnell giggles like a schoolboy through most of this whilst O'Brien seems trapped into doing Susan hysterics and Hill goes into auto-pilot. However, the story is highly symbolic. Well, to begin with the obvious. For Carsenome read carcinoma and for Isop-tope read iso-tope or radiotherapy. Some cancer patients have described their illness as ‘a big spider across my chest’. I would argue that you could see Vortis as a metaphor for a cancer diseased body. The Animus is an alien parasite, the big black spider or web, a disease that mutates the non-aggressive into self-destructive cells, the Zarbi. It’s a metaphor for being able to experience your own body directly, at a cellular level.

The Animus is also known as the symbolic name for the masculine forces that work within a woman’s life. No wonder it speaks with a female voice. When we talk of masculine forces we can either refer to subconscious drives in your own nature or to actual male figures in your own life. It’s also linked strangely enough to symbolic figures of the Underworld – satyrs and devils for instance. So we have a female entity that is destroying a planet from the inside out by luring, Orpheus like, passive creatures into the Underworld or pit and transforming them into self-destructive devils (complete with venom grubs). The Menoptera represent the cure. They are symbolically the Anima. Symbolically seen as nymphs, valkyries, connected with the wellspring of life, capable of regenerating and revitalising the male dominated female Animus. They are also coloured white. So you’ve got white Menoptera trying to vanquish black Zarbi. So that careful attention to the shadow and light in the story does have a purpose. The Animus is defeated by the Menoptera’s isop-tope – the Anima is able to assimilate the negative self-destruction of the Animus and achieve balance. This heavy use of metaphor and symbol is also passed on into the the various cultural dialects and languages that the Animus, Menoptera and Optera use. They speak in visual metaphors. Prapillius' speech, in the temple of light, in Episode 5 is quite beautifully written and performed. And let's not forget that this was 1965. The cultural impact of the hippies was just on the horizon and there is a proto-psychedelic ambience to the story. A story with man-sized butterflies flying through flower gardens to worship a temple of light just reeks of counter-culture imagery.

Whilst I may pour scorn over some aspects of the story I'm actually, on the quiet, a bit of a fan. I love the fact that the entire society of Vortis is non-human in contrast to our trusty band of travellers. It's abstract and bizarre. As well as some barbaric wing clippings inflicted on the Menoptera, the death of the female Optera, Nemini, is really gruesome when she uses her own body to plug a hole in the rock wall through which a stream of deadly acid is flowing. Very unsettling and William Russell's performance suitably conveys this to the audience. And it's Babs that saves the day when confronting the spider-like Animus. Lofty ambitions, a story told through metaphor and allusion, super design. Verity pushes the series to its limits here and inadvertently breaks it because they never try anything of this scale again. Pity the direction and length undermines much of its effect too.

The DVD has a beautifully restored picture and sound, a good commentary with Verity, Martin Jarvis, William Russell and Richard Martin, well moderated by Gary Russell. The 'Tales of Isop' documentary is a thorough look at how the serial was made, and you get all the usual supplements of gallery, annual PDF etc.
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by Lee Carey on Mon Feb 09, 2009 10:05 am

As repeated probably far too many times over at t'other Valley, I love the Web Planet. Along with the Crusades, it is the high point of season two for me. Yes, it's over-ambitious, yes it has a slightly week first episode, but on some levels it's a surrealist masterpiece reminiscent of those old East European children's serials that dominated the 60's and 70's (and, in particular, the Singing Ringing Tree)- watching episode six on the DVD with the foreign language option and subtitles only reinforces this!

Really glad you picked up on the Animus and importance of Barbara being responsible for its defeat as well. Great review Frank. But then, they always are!-)
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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

Post by The Co=Ordinator on Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:26 pm

The Web Planet rocks. You just have to *get it* folks. Very Happy

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Re: Return To The Valley Of The Wrinklies

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