Friday, June 10, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Davison Years Season Nineteen

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 Fifth Doctor
Peter Davison
Season Nineteen

Season Nineteen ran from Jan 4, 1982 till March 30 1982.  It contained twenty six episodes across seven stories.  After seven long years of Tom Baker a new man was filling in the shoes of the Doctor.  Say what you will about John Nathan-Turner's stint with the show but there were a few things he did know very well.  One of these things was marketability and dealing with the media/public.  Season nineteen is one such example of this.  The show was synonymous with Tom Baker at this point and many couldn't see anyone else as the Doctor.  Rather than cast some random person and throw him to the dogs, Nathan-Turner chose Peter Davison for the role, an actor who was already well known and loved in Britain at the time.  He also decided to shock the audience with the story Earthshock but I shall talk about that later.

Story 117

The first story is Castrovalva and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor has regenerated but is in no state of mind.  He asks to be taken to the Zero Room of the TARDIS which has Time Lord Healing properties.  Meanwhile Nyssa and Tegan find a TARDIS flight manual and attempt to fly the machine only to be hurtled towards "Event One", the Big Bang with no way of stopping it.  After not being able to find Adric they wake the Doctor who jettisons part of the TARDIS to put them out of harms way.  Unfortunately the Zero Room was part of that segment.  Nyssa and Tegan create a Zero Cabinet for him out of the doors and find a place called Castrovalva in which the Doctor can relax.  After arriving at Castrovalva, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan meet with the leader and an elderly man named Portreeve.  However, as the Doctor is resting the town starts to loop on itself now allowing anyone to escape.  Portreeve is actually the Master who has kidnapped Adric and using his mathematical skills to accomplish the loop and cause it to crash in on itself.  With help from the town's leader, Adric is saved and the Doctor finds the one way out of the town before it collapses leaving the Master behind to his fate. 

What is it with the Classic show's ability to have the first story for most of the Doctor's being not that good?  Hartnell had a great first episode but the remainder was junk.  Troughton's is lost.  Pertwee had a good first story, but everyone else since him has had (or will have) lackluster or TERRIBLE first stories.  I would say this is the weakest first story for a Doctor but 6 and 7's are worse.  There are three notable things to this story though.  First is that we get to see the Doctor sort of cycle through his previous incarnations briefly as he tries to find the Zero Room.  That was highly entertaining.  Second, you know how last week I mentioned that the Master was often in disguise and you wouldn't know it?  Well here's example number one!  Not only did the production crew use aliases to keep it a secret but the makeup job done on him cause me to not even tell it was Anthony Ainley.  Last, this is the first of many scenarios where the Master most certainly definitely is going to die then shows up later like nothing happened.  He was trapped in a shrinking town the the townsfolk actively trying to kill him and the only escape route was just locked off... yeah he's dead.  Yet somehow he's around at the end of the season.  Watch this one if it seems interesting to you.

Story 118
Four to Doomsday

The next story is Four to Doomsday and it's (fittingly) four episodes long.  The TARDIS lands on a ship that is headed for Earth and meets it's captain, a green alien known as Monarch.  Monarch has been going to and from Earth for several centuries, and has been doing the trip faster each time.  The Doctor and his companions are invited on as guests and Adric takes a liking to Monarch, eventually becoming more of his companion than the Doctor's.  The Doctor discovers that there are four distinct groups of people living on the ship from each of the journeys.  These people include Ancient Aboriginal, Ancient Greek, Chinese Mandarin, and Mayans.  Things start to go sour when he realizes Monarch is planning an invasion of Earth, that he intends to strip mine the whole planet for materials and intends to make the ship go faster than light so he can travel to the beginning of time and discover that he is God.  The Doctor also finds that the people on the ship are not descendants but the original captives transformed into androids.  With the help of the Greek android leader, the Doctor incites a revolt against Monarch eventually defeating him and sharing the truth with Adric who joins back up with the Doctor.  The androids take over the ship to find a new planet and Nyssa collapses from exhaustion at the end.

Most people really dislike this story but I really enjoy it.  I'm not entirely sure why I like it as much as I do because there are a lot of problems, such as the Doctor forgetting how space works when he goes outside without a full suit, or Tegan being able to speak a thousands of year old native dialect because she's Australian.  This is also the story that started Adric's decline into absolute annoyance as his smug attitude and whining is turned up to eleven.  However the cultural shows, the insanity of Monarch, and the covert plans in the story just made it enjoyable to me.  Check it out but you may be disappointed. 

Story 119

The next story is Kinda and it's four episodes long.  The TARDIS lands on the jungle planet Deva Loka where the Doctor prepares a place for Nyssa to rest while he and Adric search the area.  The pair eventually find an Earth colonization expedition where they meet with a scientist who is working with the telepathic local people, the Kinda.  Tegan, however explores the area and falls asleep near some wind chimes not realizing the danger of those wind chimes.  Since she is not telepathically linked with someone, her mind is opened to a black void and subjected to countless horrors and mental tortures until she agrees to be the conduit for the Mara.  The Mara is a non-corporeal snake like being who wishes to become flesh and rule the world.  Eventually Tegan agrees in order to be freed and a snake marking appears on her arm.  However she transfers this mark to a male Kinda who begins running amuck.  With the help from the female leader of the Kinda, the Doctor eventually finds a way to trap the Mara by creating a circle of mirrors with the possessed Kinda inside.  The Mara removes itself from his hand and becomes a giant snake before falling back into the world of dreams.

There's a lot more going on with this story than I told.  There's stuff about the expedition team with one man losing his mind and Adric being generally annoying throughout.  Also Nyssa was basically out of this entire story for little to no reason.  Well there actually was a reason... it was called too many people in the TARDIS and they just didn't have enough for three people to have something to do.  Someone had to go soon and in a few episodes time...someone will.  This story is packed with stuff and it's actually pretty good.  The snake effect may not be the best thing in the world but the story makes up for any shortcomings.  Check this one out!

Story 120
The Visitation

The next story is The Visitation and it's four episodes long.  Tegan wishes to return to Heathrow Airport and the TARDIS actually lands there...300 years too early.  As Tegan storms out the rest go to find her but are attacked by some villagers.  Eventually a highwayman named Richard Mace offers them shelter in a nearby barn.  There they hear his tale of a comet crashing and the Doctor notices Mace's necklace is alien tech.  They find more evidence of the tech and investigate a nearby manor which has evidence of a struggle.  It is discovered that the comet was actually a ship by an alien race known as the Terileptil and he has been using an android dressed as the grim reaper to scare the natives.  The Doctor offers him a ride off planet but he refuses and insists upon killing the inhabitants of earth with a genetically engineered plague spread by rats.  The Terileptil then locks up the Doctor and destroys his sonic screwdriver.  Eventually the Doctor and his companions escape and follow the alien to London.  The five of them try to stop the Terileptil plan but the Terileptil weapon backfires and explodes causing a massive fire.  Mace says his goodbyes as the TARDIS leaves, revealing that the fire is at Pudding Lane, the location of the Great Fire of London.

This is yet another pretty decent one.  The android effects are not fantastic but the story is interesting.  The character of Richard Mace is also absolutely fantastic!  I'd have loved to see him as a recurring character because he was that enjoyable.  The most interesting thing about this story is the destruction of the Sonic Screwdriver.  John Nathan-Turner thought the screwdriver was becoming too much of a magic wand to help the Doctor get out of situations and he wanted rid of it, so it was destroyed here and didn't come back until the 8th Doctor's movie.  If he thought the screwdriver was used as a magic wand before he'd have a coronary at how the screwdriver is used in the new show.  Anyway, this one is fairly decent.  If it seems interesting to you then check it out.

Story 121
Black Orchid

The next story is Black Orchid and it's two episodes long.  The TARDIS lands in the 1920's and as soon as the Doctor and his companions exit the TARDIS they are met by a chauffeur who was expecting "the Doctor."  He takes them to meet Lord Cranleigh who invites them to his costumed dinner party.  There they meet Cranleigh's fiance, Ann who looks identical to Nyssa.  It is discovered that they are actually in the home of George Cranliegh, the famous botanist, who never returned home to England.  Ann was once engaged to George.  When the Doctor discovers some hidden rooms and hallways in the manor by mistake he finds a dead body.  Meanwhile, a man takes his costume and attacks Ann.  Eventually it was discovered that George had come home but due to his encounters in the jungles he had gone insane and was reacting towards his love of Ann.  Once George is discovered, he takes Nyssa believing her to be Ann to the roof of the manor.  The Doctor and Lord Cranleigh are able to save Nyssa by talking to George.  As Lord Cranleigh goes to thank his brother, George recoils and falls off the roof to his death. 

This is yet another one that a lot of people really dislike.  Even the actors in their commentary on the two episodes make fun of how terrible this one is.  That being said I actually found it ok.  It's not fantastic by any means but it's a change of pace with it simply being a pure historical with no alien influences.  It's been a very long time since we've had a pure historical and so few people liked this story that it's actually the last pure historical we've had.  If you're looking for something a bit different then you may enjoy this one like I have.

Story 122

The next story is Earthshock and it's four episodes long.  Adric and the Doctor are having a disagreement over the attention and respect that Adric gets and he wants to go home.  The Doctor, fed up with argument goes exploring the caves outside the TARDIS only to be captured by an expedition team accusing him, Nyssa and Tegan of killing his party members.  The Doctor finds the area where the men were killed and the real assassins show themselves to be androids.  The Doctor and the expedition team stop the androids and investigate the area where they find a bomb powerful enough to destroy Earth.  The Doctor orders everyone back into the TARDIS as he and Adric diffuse the bomb.  They then track the coordinates of the signal heading to the bomb and the androids to a ship on the outer reach of space where Cybermen are planning the destruction of Earth.  The Doctor and Adric look around the ship but are captured by the crew.  It is then that the Cybermen attack and set the ship on a collision course with Earth since the Doctor stopped their first plan.  The Cyber Leader forces Adric to stay behind with the crew and makes the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan take him and several other cybermen on board the TARDIS to escape.  Adric, having learned of the Cybermen's allergy to gold, gave the Doctor his gold badge before they left.  Adric attempts to crack the code the cybermen placed on the ship but that only resulted in the ship traveling back in time 65 million years.  The Doctor uses Adric's badge to temporarily stop the Cybermen allowing the expedition team to re-take control of the TARDIS.  However in the fight, the TARDIS controls are damaged so they cannot go after Adric.  Adric is moments away from cracking the final code with a lone Cyberman left on board attacks and blows up the keyboard.  The Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan watch in horror as Adric's ship crashed into Earth killing the dinosaurs and himself with them.

This story is one heck of a ride.  When I said John Nathan-Turner knew how to surprise people, this was the story I was talking about.  We haven't seen a Cyberman story since Tom Baker's first season.  No mention was made that they would be returning whatsoever.  Also this is the first companion to die since the Hartnell era...and again no mention was made of Adric's departure.  This story was shocking as it's name suggested.  To top it off it's an excellent story.  I may have a couple nitpicks here and there such as the ship captain being miscast or the silent credits over Adric's broken badge at the end... but nothing takes away from how fantastic this story is.  This is a must-watch.

Story 123

The last episode is Time-Flight and it's four episodes long.  The TARDIS finally lands at Heathrow Airport but something is wrong.  There is a missing Concord plane and the Doctor is recruited to find it.  They load the TARDIS into another Concord to find any disturbances along the flight path, but the plane is sucked into a time corridor and ends up 140 million years in the past.  There they find the missing concord and the passengers of that ship are being used as slaves under some sort of illusion created by the mystic Kalid.  The Doctor tracks down Kalid but thanks to the efforts of Nyssa and Tegan, the telepathic power he was working with is hindered and it is revelaed that Kalid is actually the Master.  He barely escaped Castrovalva with his TARDIS badly damaged and he is stuck in ancient Earth.  He has found a power unit and needed slaves to break down the barrier to the unit.   While the Master uses the Doctor's TARDIS to try to enter the power unit and steal some parts from his TARDIS, the slaves have opened the unit for the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan to enter.  The power unit is actually a sort of group mind of aliens who lost their bodies due to the radiation on primitive earth but the Master's influence has caused half of the group to go evil.  Eventually the evil half agree to power the Master's TARDIS and the Doctor is able to get the people back to their normal time thanks to a bargain between himself and the Master for a piece of TARDIS equipment.  The Doctor programmed the equipment to delay the Master's materialization in modern Earth and the Doctor parks his TARDIS on the exact spot causing the Masters TARDIS to bounce off into another world.  The Doctor and Nyssa leave believing that Tegan is finally where she wants to be, but Tegan shows up too late to hop back on the TARDIS.

I know I talked a fair amount about the plot here but...this one is bad.  It's very bad.  There are so many things about this episode that make no sense whatsoever.  First, why did the Doctor load the TARDIS into a Concord to investigate what's going on?  The TARDIS is a ship itself  he should have just had it float up there.  Secondly, why is the Master in disguise on primative Earth?  I know the disguise is to fool the viewers but why in his reality is he in disguise??  There's just so much about this story that doesn't work.  There's only one reason to watch this and that is because Tegan leaves the TARDIS.....however she joins back up in the first story of the next season so...there's NO reason to watch this.  Skip Skip Skip!


I realize I said that the show was on the decline with last season but I've praised a fair few of this season.  The show will start taking a nosedive again next season but this season we got lot of stories that were either good or I enjoyed them far more than most people do.  It's the strongest overall season for the Fifth Doctor I believe.  It's too bad that it had to end on such a terrible one, but one terrible and a lot of actually good or decent ones is preferred to the alternative.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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