Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Four (out of Five) Doctors

Latest batch of DOCTOR WHO tapes I got from the library did much to dispel the bad taste of the last batch, and cover four of the first five Doctors.

"The Crusade" and "The Space Museum" are on one tape, featuring the original Doctor William Hartnell. Unfortunately two of the chapters of "The Crusade" (chapters 2 and 4) are among the lost, but they cover for that in two ways, first by including the audio for them on a CD and second by getting the actor who played Ian Chesterton to reprise his role and describe the missing bits, plus an overall introduction. What remains is a very good adventure where the Doctor and company wind up back in the time of King Richard and get involved in his various entanglements amidst the Crusades. A lot of fun, and I'd love to see the missing bits.

"The Space Museum" takes a sharp turn to straight science fiction as our intrepid bunch wind up on a planet ruled by a warlike race who have built a museum, and thanks to odd time paradoxes know they'll wind up as exhibits if they don't change the future. A bit of an uneven serial, there were a lot of good bits but a few odd holes in the plot that were distracting. Still enjoyable, and a great surprise ending which makes me wish I had the following serial available.

"Planet of the Spiders" jumps forward a decade and is the final adventure of Jon Pertwee as the third Doctor. It was nice to see this as I actually saw most of it back when I was a kid, but never did see the final episode for some reason, just the following one with a new Doctor. The villains, crudely moving giant model spiders, are kind of lame, but there was a lot of interesting stuff as well, and it's always good to see Sarah Jane Smith and the full UNIT cast. The ending was pretty satisfying, there was a good enough reason for this to be a big enough threat to require regeneration at the end.

"The Face Of Evil" is a few more years down, with Tom Baker as the Doctor now, and the episode introducing Leela as his companion. They include a short interview that the actress, Louise Jameson, did for a British TV show at the time, discussing among other things the reaction to Leela's relative state of undress in her first few adventures. It was okay, about average for the Tom Baker stuff, showing off some of the quirky humour that I like in those, a bit over-acted in places.

Finally I had "Castrovalva", the first episode where Peter Davison takes over as the fifth Doctor. Weakest of these, but then when comparing it to some of the others I've seen recently it improves greatly. Still don't really like the companions he inherited from the Baker years here, and since this was one of those "unstable after regeneration" things he couldn't really define his own character much. I did like the Master in the first half of the serial, although for the big climax I thought he was played a lot more broadly "villainous" which didn't work (and yes, I know the character is meant to be played broadly, but there's a tipping point that was crossed there).

No more on the way in the near future, unfortunately. Based on the number of holds looks like I can expect "The Five Doctors" in about a month, "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" in early autumn and a few more late this year. Still mean to write some more about the current series (currently being re-run on Sunday nights in Canada for those who missed it) soon. Might also subscribe to BBC Kids channel which is showing it, but currently they're on late Tom Baker episodes which isn't worth it at all, especially if they continue on from there. I'll have to see if they ever go back to the older stuff. Unfortunately the only other show they have that's remotely interesting is BLACKADDER, which I've heard good things about but never watched.

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