Friday, April 22, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Pertwee Years Seasons Seven and Eight

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The Third Doctor
Jon Pertwee
Seasons Seven and Eight

Season Seven of Doctor Who ran from January 3, 1970 to June 20, 1970.  It contained 25 episodes across 4 stories.  When season seven came around, you would be completely forgiven for believing this to be another show entirely.  A new production team had taken over.  This was the first season that was in color, the Doctor regenerated off screen, and the show was completely retooled from the old flying around all of space and time.  Thanks to his exile to Earth at the end of season six, the show was now about the Doctor helping out the military UNIT with the alien problem of the story.  This, as well as the decision to make most of the stories seven episodes long was done to save money.  This had the unfortunate result of making these particular stories incredibly too long.... which is honestly true of the majority of his entire era.

Season Eight of Doctor Who ran from January 2, 1971 to June 19, 1971.  It contained 25 episodes cross 5 stories.  While working on the previous season, the production team had decided that the Doctor really needed a sort of Moriarty-type figure.  Another Time Lord just as cunning but with generally devious intentions.  As such, they created the character of The Master who I generally consider a regeneration of The War Chief from Troughton's last season though that's not strictly canon.  They made Roger Delgado's Master a main character in the series and as such he appears in every single story this season.  It kind of takes out the mystery of who the Doctor is going to face off against when you make your villain a main character.  They did do a few interesting things with him this season but he truly is around a bit too much this time.

From this point on I shall be talking about every story and episode of the show.  We have recordings of each and every story/episode from this point forward.  That being said, this doesn't spell the end for the missing episodes.  Many of Pertwee's episodes were also trashed all the way until his final season.  However, black and white copies of every episode existed and the Doctor Who team created a brand new type of technology to colorize the old film.  If you happen to see any episodes that look faded or blurry it's because it's been colorized.

Lastly, while there was plenty of dialog and things going on in the Hartnell and Troughton era, Pertwee's era brought in some serious changes to the content of the scripts.  There's generally a LOT more going on in a story than there was before and as such I will probably be talking slightly longer about each story to cover even the most basic parts of it.  Just a warning.

Season Seven

Story 51
Spearhead from Space

The first story is Spearhead from Space and it's four episodes long.  After recently regenerating, the Doctor falls out of his TARDIS and ends up in the hospital.  At the same time as his arrival several plastic meteorites have fallen to Earth.  It turns out that these meteorites are power units for a creature known as the Nestene Consceiousness; a sometimes disembodied consciousness that can take control of practically anything made of plastic, including humanoid shapes such as mannequins which are called Autons.  While Brigadier Lethbridge-Steweart of UNIT and his new scientific advisor, Liz Shaw, begin investigating about this man calling himself the Doctor, a local toy factory begins production on autons created to look like and replace govenment officials.  The Doctor eventually convinces the Brigadier that he is the same man who helped him defeat the yeti and cybermen and agrees to help UNIT in exchange for assistance repairing his TARDIS.  As the autons activate mannequins to go on a killing spree, the Doctor develops a device to cut off control of the Nestene Consciousness. With help from UNIT the Doctor and Liz stop the Nestene Consciousness and save the world.

This story is good... very good.  It has some of the usual humor you get to see as the Doctor figures out his new body and personality.  Also it was a great introduction to what could very well be a terrifying enemy since not only mannequins can be controlled, though you won't really see that till next season.  This is one of the best looking stories that the classic show has ever done.  There were production issues behind the scenes and as such they couldn't record it on the usual video tape; they had to use film on locations for the whole episode and it looks great!  This episode also introduced Liz Shaw as the Doctor's newest companion.  Though she never traveled in the TARDIS she definitely pulled her weight and was one of the smartest companions he's ever had.  Also seeing this episode and understanding the Autons has made the first episode of the new show less stupid.

Story 52
Doctor Who and the Silurians
or just "The Silurians"

The second story is Doctor Who and the Silurians and it's seven episodes long.  When a nuclear power research center begins experiencing strange power outages as well as mental breakdowns among the workers, UNIT, the Doctor, and Liz sweep in to investigate.  The Doctor, suspecting foul play, begins to investigate the caves beneath the center and is attacked by a dinosaur-looking creature.  The Doctor wounded the creature and it ran away to the surface.  After some events involving men working with the dinosaurs and others investigating, the Doctor finds himself inside the base of the Silurians.  The Silurans are reptile people from Earth's far past who went into hibernation when they saw the Moon approaching the Earth thinking it would crash down rather than enter orbit.  Their hibernation machine malfunctioned and wouldn't revive them till it absorbed radiation from the center above.  The Doctor intends to have the humans and silurians work out an agreement peacably, but the higher ups in the military have another plan, attacking the Silurians.  When the Doctor hears of this he goes to warn the Silurians which eventually leads them to take over the base and force the Doctor to turn the power into a weapon to destroy mankind.  The Doctor starts to overload the nuclear reactor forcing the Silurians back into hibernation.  The Doctor stops the overload and intends to re-awaken the Silurians to attempt peace again.  However, the Brigadier has been ordered to blow up the Silurian base and does so, killing them all.

Despite the title of the episode being absolutely stupid and generally just being shortened to "The Silurians," this is yet another good story.  It is, however, honestly too long.  It drags quite a bit in the middle due to its seven episode length as most stories that are six episodes or greater.   This story was basically redone by the new show in the 11th Doctor's episodes The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood.  However, the outcome in this episode is a little more realistic.  While ending an episode on such a down-trodden note as the mass murder of a group of creatures, I honestly liked that ending better.  It's closer to the reality of what would happen if this were real.  One bizarre thing in this series is that the music utilizes some very old Middle Ages types of wind instruments when the Silurians appear on screen and it has the unfortunate effect of making it sound like a kid is playing the kazoo.

Story 53
The Ambassadors of Death

The third story is The Ambassadors of Death and it's seven episodes long.  When a space probe with three astronauts receives a strange call, the Doctor, Liz, and UNIT go to investigate.  Eventually the space probe lands but the three astronauts are taken to a facility to treat their radiation poisoning.  Unfortunately the three astronauts are kidnapped and the staff caring for them are killed.  The Doctor investigates the scene and finds that the radiation inside the holding area is far too high for a human to handle and as such the astronaut suits must be filled with alien creatures.  The kidnappers use these alien creatures to begin killing people as the Doctor uses the space probe to return to the origin of the signal.  There he finds the three astronauts alive and well but under the mental delusion that they are in quarantine.  The leader of the alien race on board the ship explains to the Doctor that he had sent three ambassadors to discuss a treaty between their people and Earth.  The Doctor agrees to bring back the ambassadors and goes to Earth.  Eventually, Liz Shaw creates a translation device for the aliens and the Doctor stops the kidnappers plans, sending the ambassadors back to their ship in exchange for the astronauts.

While none of the stories in this season are bad this one's probably the most forgettable.  There is a lot more planning and scheming as to why these ambassadors were captured but it all just sort of blends together.  It's yet another super long one that didn't need to be this long.  However the imagery of evil space suits killing people was an excellent look and has been used twice in the new show for Silence in the Library and the Impossible Astronaut.  Again, this one is pretty good and has some great parts it's just sort of forgettable outside of the space suits.

Story 54

The last story of season seven is Inferno and it's seven episodes long.  When a group of scientists with UNIT as their body guards start drilling a gigantic hole in the earth, the Doctor begins using the area's power to fix his TARDIS' console.  Due to the plant manager cutting the Doctor's power at an inopportune time, the TARDIS console transports him to an alternate Earth full of evil versions of everyone he knows.  They too are drilling to the Earth's core and are actually ahead of the regular Earth's progress.  The Doctor is captured and interrogated but eventually some green slime appears at the drill site and anyone touching it turns into a sort of blue werewolf who must survive in extreme heat.  As the drilling keeps going, more green goop appears and more people are transforming into werewolves.  Eventually the core of the Earth is breached and lava begins not only coming up the drill hole but also exploding all over the world to destroy the Earth.  As the TARDIS console in it's current state can only transport one person, the Doctor must convince these evil people who know he can't save them or their world, to allow him to return to his reality to save people that they don't care about.  A world burning to death actually becomes the Doctor's greatest fear (you'll see that coming up next season.) Eventually he succeeds in getting to the regular reality and stops the drilling just in time to save the planet.

This story is extremely good.  While it is just as long as the previous two episodes it honestly doesn't feel as long.  It's one of the few I don't mind being long.  Seeing everyone in their evil alternate form is just hilarious especially as the Brigadier has an eyepatch and Liz dresses like a Nazi.  The problem of the story is also a really good one and something I wish the show would do a little more often.  The fact that the Doctor literally can't save anybody and has to convince people to allow him to go save the people he can is an excellent dilemma to have.  The blue werewolves do look terrible, but the rest of the story makes up for that strange bit of kinda stupidity.  It's honestly one of Pertwee's best though it's not quite my favorite.  Check this one out!

Season Eight

Story 55
Terror of the Autons

The first story of season eight is Terror of the Autons and it's four episodes long.  When the last remaining Nestene power unit from Spearhead from Space is stolen and sabotage occurrs at a radio telescope facility, the Doctor, his new assistant Jo Grant, and UNIT are sent to investigate.  Upon his arrival, a Time Lord warns the Doctor that his old enemy the Master is on Earth and is planning to kill him.  The Master has taken over a nearby plastics factory via hypnosis and not only begins production of autons but also begins transmitting signals from the Nestene energy pod into space to summon another Nestene Consciousness.  After several attempts to stop the Master resulting in Jo being hypnotized, the Doctor being captured at a carnival, and a piece of the Master's TARDIS being stolen by the Doctor, the Master moves his plans forward.  He distributes plastic flowers to the public who begin killing people by asphyxiation.  Eventually, UNIT and the Doctor track down the Master and stop another the Nestene transmission.  Though the Master escapes he is trapped on Earth due to the Doctor's sabotage of his TARDIS.

Terror of the Autons is not only a good story but it's an incredibly important one.  To begin with it introduced the second of the four iconic companions in Jo Grant.  She was blonde, cheerful, and not overly abounding in intelligence; she's pretty much the perfect generic companion but her charisma made her stick in the public's mind.  This story also introduced the Master, a cunning and generally evil Time Lord who was the Moriatry to the Doctor's Sherlock.  It was a welcome addition and the Master would be sticking around not only for the next two seasons but would also make tons of other appearances in five different bodies even to today.  Lastly while having walking mannequins that are trying to kill you was effective, the Auton stuff in this story was more inventive and terrifying.  Killer plants, a deadly plastic arm chair, a murderous troll doll, and Autons being perfect duplicates of police officers were just a few of the reasons that the Autons were a great villain in Doctor Who.  It's a shame that we won't see them again until the first episode of New Who in 2005.

Story 56
The Mind of Evil

The next story is the Mind of Evil and it's six episodes long.  The Doctor and Jo attend a demonstration for a machine that removes the negative impulses in the brain of criminals turning them into childlike innocent minds.  However the Doctor becomes concerned when a number of deaths associated with operation the machine are reported.  Each person has been attacked and killed by their own worst fear.  Meanwhile UNIT is dealing with the security of a World Peace Conference.  One of the Chinese captains is behaving strangely and it's discovered she is under the hypnosis of the Master who plans on hijacking a missile and using the experimental machine to destroy anyone in his path with their own fear.  However, the Master begins to lose control of the machine as it lashes out and vanishes at will and leaves it behind, heading to fire the missile.  The Doctor negotiates with the Master to return his TARDIS part in exchange for the missile; the Master agrees.  In the end, the Doctor brings the mind machine with him and enables the missile self destruct taking out the evil machine with it.  In the chaos. the Master retreats with his TARDIS piece and is free to roam the galaxy.

While some people may be tired of this idea, I personally love the whole "your mind makes it real" sort of thing.  It was interesting to see that each person was being destroyed by the thing they fear most because their mind made the danger a reality.  It was also a good nod to continuity of season seven that the Doctor's worst fear was a world burning in fire  The Master's worst fear is also seen as a triumphant and glowing looking Doctor... something we wouldn't see until the David Tennant era.  It was also really nice to see UNIT, who's name is United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, actually doing something in the area of international intelligence.  It's a solid story.

Story 57
The Claws of Axos

The next story is the Claws of Axos and it's four episodes long.  A strange ship lands on Earth in desperate need for fuel.  UNIT, Jo, and the Doctor investigate and meet the inhabitants of the ship, the Axons, who offer a trade; fuel for axonite.  Axonite is a thinking particle that can replicate any matter or so they claim.  As it turns out, the ship and the people are all just parts of one single life form named Axos who intends to suck Earth dry of its nutrients and life before moving on to a new planet.  The Master, who has been captured by Axos and used his knowledge to secure his freedom, tracks down the Doctor's TARDIS in the hopes of fixing it and escaping as Axos has confiscated the Master's Tardis.  Axos becomes aware of the Doctor's time traveling and intends to use the Doctor's knowledge to extend it's feasting across all of time and space.  The Doctor realizing this, tricks Axos into linking up with the TARDIS as he and the Master work together to send Axos into an eternal time loop.  The Master flees in his own TARDIS that was released from Axos and the Doctor tries to escape Earth on his newly repaired TARDIS but lands on earth anyway as the Time Lords have placed a permanent program for the planet.

This one's... ok.  There's nothing bad about this story but there's nothing outstanding about it either.  The designs of the Axons were weird in a good way and I always enjoy when a hero teams up with a villain for a greater cause.  There's just nothing too outstanding about this one to really say.  One thing noteworthy is that this story was directly referenced in Season 3 of New Who, which is strange for one of the stories that isn't considered an absolute classic story.  If you like hero/villain team ups then you may enjoy this one. 

Story 58
Colony in Space

The next story is Colony in Space and it's six episodes long.  When the Time Lords discover that someone has stolen the plans to a doomsday weapon, they believe the Doctor is the only one who can help.  They temporarily reprieve his exile and send him and Jo to another world.  On this planet there has been a struggle between a group of colonist farmers whose crops have been failing lately and a group of ruthless miners who know the wealth beneath the planet's crust and are using scare tactics to get rid of the colonists.  Tensions rise between the groups and Earth sends a judge to mediate between them.  Unfortunately the man who arrives is the Master.  While the Doctor goes to investigate the city of the primatives who live on the world, the Master learns of the primative's history.  The primatives used to be an advanced society who build a powerful weapon but the weapon destroyed their society and has been irradiating the ground.  The Doctor must stop the Master form obtaining the weapon and help the colonists fend off against the miners.

Pertwee's Earth-bound stories are generally far better than his space stuff.  If this were in any other Doctor's tenure then it would probably be the most generic episode in their run.  However this is the 3rd Doctor's first foray into another world so it's interesting to see him without the UNIT family.  The truly bad thing about this episode is that it starts the quick decline of the Time Lords from being techno gods that could wipe away an entire group of people from history with little to no effort to being blundering imbeciles.  There is no reason that the Doctor is the ONLY man who can help them.  The power and intelligence we saw from the Time Lords in The War Games is long gone and they're only going to get worse.

Story 59
The Daemons

The last story of season eight is The Daemons and it's five episodes long.  When an archeological dig at the "Devils Hump" gains national attention, the Doctor and Jo rush there to stop the dig.  At the same time, the Master has disguised himself as a local vicar and is, along with some followers, trying to summon a force of evil in the caverns below the church.  The Doctor is too late to stop the dig and the ground shakes as the Master successfully summons a being known as Azal.  UNIT attemps to follow but are trapped behind a force field originating from the church. The Doctor and Jo investigate the dig site to find a spaceship.  The Doctor explains that it is from a race of aliens known as Daemons who have used Earth as a sort of testing ground and as such have slipped into Earth's mythology and are generally considered to be the Devil by most accounts.  The Master summons Azal a second time and asks for power to rule over Earth but Azal senses the presence of the Doctor and wants to see if Earth is even worthy to hand over to someone else.  Later, the Master captures Jo and summons Azal once more to sacrifice Jo to him.  The Doctor appears as UNIT finally gets through the force field and faces a gargoyle creature created by Azal.  The Doctor and the Master both plead with Azal to leave Earth and to give over his power respectively.  Azal decides that the Master is to get this power and attempts to kill the Doctor but Jo steps in front of him telling Azal to kill her instead.  The selfless act confuses Azal who goes into a rage and explodes taking the church with him.  As the Master attempts to escape, UNIT captures him and takes him away.

This is a really good story and Doctor Who's first foray into Satanism.  It's a fan favorite just because of how rarely Doctor Who goes into this particular area.  The special effects aren't anything fantastic, and the monster designs are fairly laughable but it's still a good story.  This is the story which started the "five rounds rapid" line that gets used off and on in relation to the show.  Also if the story sounds somewhat familiar to fans of the new show, that's because it was basically recycled for Season 2's episode "The Satan Pit" where the 10th Doctor meets a creature and states he influenced Earth's evil in mythology the same way Azal did.  If the Doctor trying to stop the Master from summoning the Devil and gaining his powers sounds like a fun ride to you then check it out!


That concludes seasons seven and eight of Doctor Who.  They were two incredibly important years full of many significant changes.  This ushered us in to black and white, added more meat to the storylines, added another iconic companion, and added the Master.  While neither of these seasons had any truly terrible stories several of them were far too long or just mediocre.  I honestly wish they had made Silurians and Ambassadors into five-part stories and given us a second four-part story for season seven.  Either of these seasons are really good jumping in points with Doctor Who.  Since absolutely nothing carried over from the previous seasons except for the TARDIS, you can easily jump in with Season 7 or Season 8 and not be missing anything if you can't quite stomach black and white.   Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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