Friday, April 8, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Troughton Years Seasons Four and Five

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 Second Doctor
Patrick Troughton
Seasons Four and Five

Troughton's era of season four ran from November 5, 1966 to July 1, 1967.  His portion of the season was 35 episodes across 7 stories.  Season four continues to be the season of change as we have a brand new Doctor, a companion who was never meant to be a companion, and what was supposed to be end for the Daleks.  However, as I said in my last post about Hartnell, season four was one of the most devastated seasons by the lack of archiving.  There are no stories from this season that are 100% complete.  We do have two stories with the help of animation/reconstruction however.

Season five of Doctor Who ran from September 2, 1967 to June 1, 1968.  It consisted of 40 episodes across 7 stories.  Season five used to be the most incomplete season up until the 90's.  Till that point there were no complete stories of any kind, but suddenly Tomb of the Cybermen resurfaced.  This season also received a boost in 2013 when The Enemy of the World and most of The Web of Fear were found.  This season has one tiny problem; it all feels a bit samey.  All but one (or maybe 2 depending on how you think about Tomb) of the stories are base under siege stories; all but one of them are six episodes long as well.  That's not to say they are bad stories, they just seem the same.

Again, I shall only talk about the stories we can actually view, so several things I may have mentioned above we won't be able to talk about in detail.

Season Four

Story 30
Power of the Daleks

Only recently released on DVD in animation.  Will review later.

Important Notes from the missing story 31
A lot happened when The Highlanders came about.  Not only was this the last pure historical (story set in the past with no sci-fi elements outside the Doctor, TARDIS, and companions) for many many years, but it it also introduced Jamie McCrimmon.  Jamie was a Scottish highlander fighting in the Battle of Culloden.  He's extremely strong and tough while being loyal and charmingly thick.  Jamie was never intended to be a companion but because of the chemistry between Troughton and Hines, they decided to re-write the ending and bring him along.  Ben and Polly didn't come out of this well.  The rest of the season's stories were hastily re-written and much of Ben and Polly's lines were given to Jamie.  Since Troughton and Hines worked so perfectly together, Ben and Polly's clock was ticking.  Jamie is, to this day, the longest running companion that the Doctor has ever had.  He's great!

Story 32
The Underwater Menace

The first available story to us is the Underwater Menace and it's four episodes long.  I'm going to be brief here because the DVD has still yet to be released; it keeps being delayed and delayed in our region for some reason.  I shall update this once it has.  The TARDIS lands in Atlantis and deals with fish people, trying to raise Atlantis from the depths, a companion almost becoming a fish person, and the first truly insane scientist the show had seen.  He wanted to take over the world just because he thought he could.  It also has the first example of extremely over the top acting in that same scientist.

This story marks the first of three attempts to explain Atlantis in the classic show because of reasons.  Two of the episodes are missing and may be animated or reconstructed for the DVD release depending on why they keep delaying it.  The most interesting thing so far is the DVD release itself.  They were supposed to have the episodes animated and it was to be released in December 2015.  Then it got delayed to March of 2016 and the animation was stated to not happen but have reconstruction episodes instead.  Now the DVD has been delayed once more till May 2016.  We'll just have to see what it holds and how ridiculous this story may actually end up being.

Story 33
The Moonbase

The next story is The Moonbase and it's four episodes long.  Mankind has placed a base on the Moon that modifies Earth's weather patterns.  However, the people are dropping like flies.  The TARDIS lands on the surface of the moon and the four of them head into the base.  The men have been infected with some sort of virus and people are going missing.  It turns out that the Cybermen have let loose the plague as a precursor to their attack on the moonbase.  They intend to use the base's equipment to change weather patterns on Earth and destroy mankind.  It's up to the Doctor and his companions to stop the Cybermen and save the world.

This is a fairly basic base under siege story.  There is some interesting dialog when Jamie becomes ill and believes that a Cyberman is a mythical Scottish piper spirit, but aside from that bit there's not really that much to praise or condemn here.  It's basically a paint by numbers so it's just average at best.  Two of the episodes were lost and were animated for the DVD release so we are able to see the entire thing.

Important Notes from the missing stories 34-36
There are some fairly significant things happening in these episodes and I wish we had these back in the archive...or at least two of them.  The Macra Terror while not really changing anything is probably the story I want back the most because it introduces the Macra.  The Macra you may or may not remember seeing in the Tenth Doctor story Gridlock.  The Macra in that episode were enormous crabs with practically no intelligence....not so in this story.  They are somewhat smaller, fully sentient beings, and able to breathe toxic gas at people.  The Faceless Ones sees the departure of Polly and Ben when the TARDIS lands back in London.  The Evil of the Daleks is also an important one.  In the late 60's the Daleks were massive and Terry Nation wanted to make his own series about them.  As this was his plan, he couldn't keep letting Doctor Who have them.  Evil of the Daleks was fully intended to be the last time they ever appeared on screen.  The only reason they returned was because Terry Nation never got the show started.  It also introduced a new companion, Victoria, who was aptly named because she was a Victorian girl.  Having been orphaned by the Daleks, she's also the youngest person to consistently travel with the Doctor; she was around 15 or 16 years old and is generally just a nice sweet young lady.

Season Five

Story 37
The Tomb of the Cybermen

The first story of season five is The Tomb of the Cybermen and it's four episodes long.  After adding Victoria to the team, the TARDIS lands on the planet of Telos where they join an expedition to find the Tombs of the Cybermen.  After setting off several traps and the expedition's ship being sabotaged, the Doctor decides to stay and witness the expedition fearing what their true intent may be.  He begins acting like a fool and fixing calculations behind people's backs until they unlock the frozen tombs.  It is then discovered that a couple among the expedition intend to revive the Cyberman once more so that they can dominate the galaxy.  Their plan succeeds in not only reviving several Cybermen but also the Cyber Controller, and the rodent/snake-like Cybermats.  It's up to the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria to stop these people and seal the Cyber Controller back inside his tomb.

This story was considered one of the lost great stories of Doctor Who...that is until it was re-discovered.  At that time it was re-evaluated and it's status lowered quite a bit.  It's still considered a "classic" but it's just not that great.  I honestly find this one a rather dull and boring adventure and don't see people's absolute love for it.  Yes it introduced the Cyber Controller and the Cybermats but the only other really good part is when Troughton and Hines improvised their hand holding scene for comedic effect.  Only watch if you want to...or just check out that one scene on YouTube.

Important Notes from the missing story 38
The Abominable Snowmen show the introduction of the Yeti, the Great Intelligence, and Professor Travers.  All three of these would appear later on in the season.

Story 39
The Ice Warriors

The next story is The Ice Warriors and it's six episodes long.  Scientists have been trying to slow the progress of the Earth's second Ice Age.  Two men run across an armored man frozen in the ice.  Calling it an Ice Warrior, they bring the alien back to their base to thaw it out for examination.  The TARDIS  lands outside of the base and begin to investigate their surroundings when the Ice Warrior melts and jumps to life.  Knocking out Jamie, she Ice Warrior takes Victoria hostage.  The Doctor and Jamie work together with the crew of the base to find Victoria and the Ice Warrior, who has now revived his comrades.  Eventually the Doctor and the crew must use the ion cannon that was being utilized to stop the iceberg to destroy the Ice Warrior ship thus solving the problem of both the aliens and the approaching iceberg.

This story is a key example of why I feel that 6-episode or higher stories in Classic Doctor Who can run far too long.  While the premise of story is a good one, there is a lot of running around in the middle few episodes that I skipped talking about entirely because it was inconsequential.  It's another base under siege with aliens trying to attack.  There are only three things that stand out here.  First is the introduction of the Ice Warrior race.  Second is the fact that The Ice Warriors continue to call themselves Ice Warriors later on even though they were just named by some guy who had no idea what to call them.  Lastly this story explains the second ice age is due to an decrease in carbon dioxide in the air because the plants have disappeared.... fewer plants would mean more carbon dioxide thus making the earth warmer.  For a show that was originally intended to teach historical events and scientific principles, I'm confused at how they got this bit of science so wrong.

Story 40
The Enemy of the World

The next story is The Enemy of the World and it's six episodes long.  When the TARDIS lands on the beach, the Doctor gets shot at by some rebels believing him to be a Mexican leader named Salamander.  Due to the Doctor and Salamander looking exactly alike, the Doctor and his companions are roped into an espionage mission across various nations to figure out what Salamander is actually up to.  Salamander is having people executed secretly, pretty much runs the world, and can cause natural disasters on a whim.  What is his end goal?  How does it fit in with a group of people being held underground?  Why do they believe that he is scavanging the Earth after a nuclear apocalypse?  Which man just entered the TARDIS, Salamander or the Doctor?

When this story came out, like Tomb of the Cybermen, it was re-evaluated.  This one came out far better.  This story is a very unique one for early classic Doctor Who with it's focus on espionage rather than the normal science fiction stuff.  While it's not the first time a Doctor duplicate has appeared, it's definitely the most memorable.  Patrick Troughton was an amazingly gifted actor and in this story he has to play the Doctor, Salamander, Salamander pretending to be the Doctor, and the Doctor pretending to be Salamander...sometimes in the same scene.  I literally can say nothing negative about this episode and if season six's The Mind Robber didn't exist then this would be my favorite Second Doctor adventure.  Definitely check this one out!

Story 41
The Web of Fear

The last available story to us is The Web of Fear and it's six episodes long.  The TARDIS becomes trapped in a spider web looking substance in space and makes an emergency landing in the London Underground.  London has been covered with a strange fog and web-like fungus that is spreading in the Underground.  The Yeti are also mobile once again after Professor Travers activates one of the control orbs during his study.  The military are trying to stop the spread of the fungus but every attempt is thwarted by the Yeti.  The TARDIS crew, with the help of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart and Professor Travers, find the source of the issue...the Great Intelligence.  The Great Intelligence wants to drain the Doctor's mind from his body to increase his own power but the Doctor plans on draining the Great Intelligence.  Unfortunately as he cannot tell anyone this, Jamie causes the device to be destroyed and the Great Intelligence is free to return to Earth one day though the current problem is resolved.

This was a fairly good story.  I wish that we could actually see the Abominable Snowmen as this is basically a sequel to that story.  Overall it was a good experience and it introduced one of the greatest characters in Doctor Who history, Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.  He eventually becomes the Commissioner Gordon to the Doctor's Batman.  Episode three of this story is lost and rather than animate the episode they released it with a still image recreation which I found rather odd.  This one was not reevaluated when it returned in 2013.  It was a classically good episode before and it still is.  One last interesting point is the escape of the Great Intelligence.  Since he escaped you would expect for him to return later in that season or in a couple season's time so that people don't forget about them.  Not the case here.  In fact, you won't see the Great Intelligence again until Matt Smith's 2012 Christmas special.  For those keeping track, that's 44 years!

Important Notes from the missing stories 42 and 43
In Fury from the Deep, Victoria decides to leave the TARDIS because she's tired of all the peril that the Doctor's adventures can have.  The next story, the Wheel in Space, sees a new companion in Zoe.  Zoe is a girl from the future who wears cat suits, kicks butt and is as book-smart as the Doctor if not beyond.  With the arrival of Zoe comes the best traveling trio that the Doctor has had till Amy and Rory in the new show... in my personal opinion.


That concludes the second part of season four, and season five.  I can't say much about the Second Doctor's first season as I have only personally seen one story and it was only average.  His second season, however, is pretty great.  You have the overrated Tomb of the Cybermen, and the way too long Ice Warriors, but you also have two back to back absolutely amazing stories in The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear.  It was a season of change and a season of similarities but overall it was pretty great.  Definitely check out The Enemy of the World!  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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