Friday, June 3, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Tom Baker Years Season Eighteen

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 Fourth Doctor
Tom Baker
Season Eighteen

Season eighteen ran from August 30, 1980 to March 21, 1981.  It contained 28 episodes across 7 stories.  The era of Tom Baker, the longest running Doctor, has come to an end and the era of producer John Nathan-Turner has just began.  A lot of people blame Nathan-Turner for the show plummeting as far as it has and I would be lying if I didn't say he probably shared part of the blame but it wasn't entirely his fault.  He was doing the best he could do with what he was allowed to do or what he was being forced to do.  One thing Nathan-Turner DID do was bring the show into the 80's with a brand new opening sequence, keeping characters in more of the same costumes from story to story to help keep their image in mind, and he was an absolute genius when it came to marketing... but enough about John Nathan-Turner let's talk about the show.

Season eighteen is honestly not very good.  Tom Baker was DEEP into his alcohol fueled mania.  His relationship with Lalla Ward had reached a toxic level to where many times they wouldn't even look at each other during filming.  Tom Baker also sent most of the season sick and lost his curls so they had to be permed into place.  This gave the illusion that several years have passed between season 17 and 18.  The Doctor looked older and more tired.  He also went through a drastic costume change.  It used to be a lot of various colors and items but now it's all burgundy 100% of the time.  We lose Romana and K-9 during this season and we pick up three new companions in the form of Nyssa, Tegan and one of the most hated companions, Adric.  This season also had a group of stories that followed an arc.  It's not the whole season but there is the E-Space Trilogy.  Last but not least, this season brought back the Master in his final form of the Classic Show.  Anthony Ainley would be picking up the role at the end of The Keeper of Traken and would maintain that same role he loved to do till the last episode of Survival.  I love Anthony Ainley as the Master.

Story 110
The Leisure Hive

The first story is The Leisure Hive and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor and Romana are on vacation in Edwardian Brighton but leave when K-9 enters the river and explodes.  They instead go to he Leisure Hive of Argolis.  The Argolans are sterile and dying quickly due to the radiation on the planet and the Leisure Hive is doing poorly because of the competition of other Leisure complexes.  The hive's main attracting is a Recreation Generator which is able to duplicate and manipulate organic matter, but is sabotaged and kills a human tourist.  When the Argolan leader dies his wife takes his place but starts dying herself.  She asks the Doctor and Romana to help Earth scientist Hardin to help with his time experiments to fix the recreation generator to rejuvenate people.  When a murder is framed on the Doctor, an Argolan named Pangol demands that he be used in the time experiments which ultimately ages him 500 years.  It turns out that Pangol has been driven crazy from the genetic experiments trying to revive the Argolan race and plans to use the recreation generator to create a renewable army.  Eventually the Doctor and Romana are able to fix the Recreation Generator, turn the Doctor to his normal age, and help out the Argolan leader.

This one is a big confusing at parts and isn't very good in all honesty.  The high point of the story is the fact that Tom Baker ended up wearing old man makeup and beard for a couple episodes.  That's honestly the only thing noteworthy about this episode.  Give this one a skip.

Story 111

The next story is Meglos and it's four episodes long.  On the planet Tigella, there is an object known as the dodecahedron which is powering Tigella.  Half of the people worship it as a gift from the gods and the other half plan want to study it.  The leader of Tigella is having difficulty with the two factions and calls the Doctor in to help.  However, a cactus-like being known as Meglos plans to steal the dodecahedron and traps the TARDIS in a time bubble and impersonates the Doctor.  Eventually Meglos does steal the dedecahedron as the Doctor and Romana break the time bubble and are arrested for the theft.  The Doctor convinces the Tigellans that there is a doppelganger and head to Meglos' planet to stop him.  While there the Doctor learns that Meglos plans to use the power source to utilize a weapon and destroy Tigella.  He reprograms the weapon to destroy itself instead and leaves in the TARDIS watching Meglos blow himself up.  The Doctor returns to Tigella to encourage the two factions to work together at restoring their society.  As they leave, Romana receives a summons from the Time Lords that she is to return to Gallifrey.

This one honestly isn't that bad.  If anything it's just a bit long which is odd for me to say about a 4-episode story.  The story was decent and it was the second story in a row where Tom Baker had to have extensive makeup... this time as a cactus.  I'm curious if they were just doing this to torture Tom Baker or not.  The most interesting thing about this whole story is that this is the first time (and I think only time) a previous companion has returned to play a different character.  Jacqueline Hill who played Barbara with William Hartnell's Doctor returns here as Lexa, the leader of the religious group of people.  It's excellent to see her again!

Story 112
Full Circle

The next story is Full Circle and it's four episodes long.  As the TARDIS is headed towards Gallifrey, it passes through a strange space phenomenon and ends up in an alternate universe called E-Space.  There they land on the planet Alzarius.  Strange eggs have started appearing with the river fruit and one of the leaders of their societies realizes this means it's almost time for Mistfall.  The leader saves a young man named Adric from dying in the river and his dying words to the boy is that they have come full circle.  Eventually marsh-creatures appear from the river and the humand go inside the nearby star-liner for protection.  The people have been repairing the ship for a long time trying to make it ready to fly and return to their home world.  However, the Doctor discovers that the ship is ready to fly and that the leaders just simply don't know how to fly the ship and have maintained this lifestyle for years.  Upon further investigation and Romana being infected by a spider, the Doctor and Adric find out that the spider and the marsh folk have the exact same DNA.  The real secret of Alzarius is that the people have never been to their "home world."  They are the next evolution of the marsh people.  The Doctor teaches them to fly the ship and leaves in the TARDIS with Romana not knowing that Adric has sneaked on board.

This is the first story of the E-Space Trilogy.  The story is actually a pretty good one when you really think about it.  One alien race that starts off as a spider, then becomes Swamp Thing, then becomes human?  That's a really neat idea.  The most important part of this story is the introduction of Adric to the TARDIS.  Most people hate Adric because he's often very prideful, whiny, and generally annoying.  He's honestly not that bad this season.  This season he's a pretty decent addition to the TARDIS it's not until his time with the Fifth Doctor that he becomes unbearable.  This one's a pretty decent story so check it out if it interests you.

Story 113
State of Decay

The next story is State of Decay and it's four episodes long.  The TARDIS lands on a planet in E-Space which is ruled by three beings in a large tower.  The planet is mostly on a medieval level of development but yet there are some pieces of highly advanced technology around.  The Doctor and Romana investigate what may be happening to suppress these people.  At a village nearby, people are being summoned to a selection never to be seen again.  Eventually Adric is captured and taken to the tower as well.  The Doctor and Romana meet with the three lords of the castle to find that it's actually an old Earth space ship and that the fuel tanks are filled with blood.  The three people are actually vampires but something even worse is lurking below.  The last remaining Great Vampire, enormous vampiritic beasts who were the enemy of the Time Lords, is awakening beneath the planet's surface.  Adric fakes interest in becoming a vampire to help Romana escape but it proves fruitless and Romana is sent to be the first sacrifice to the Great One.  The Doctor with help from the locals infiltrates the ship and causes one of the scout ships to fly into the air and crash back down piercing the earth and the heart of the Great Vampire.  With his defeat, the three vampire lords crumble to dust and the people of that planet are free to advance once more.

This is a fantastic story by Terrance Dicks and is the second story of the E-Space Trilogy.  This was actually supposed to be part of Season Fifteen but because of the BBC running a show on Dracula at the time they didn't want it to seem like they were making fun of the show and pulled it before production which forced Dicks to write Horror of Fang Rock instead.  This is vampires done right!  The main vampire lords are creepy, the lore behind the Great Vampire is fantastic and the whole thing is well put together.  For me this is the best story of the season and I highly suggest you watch it.

Story 114
Warrior's Gate

The next story is Warrior's Gate and it's four episodes long.  With help from Adric's mathematical genius, the TARDIS is on it's way out of E-Space and into the normal universe.  However it becomes trapped in a white void between the universes and the void is shrinking.  Another ship has also been stranded in the void; it is a slaver ship which holds the lion-like Tharil race as slaves.  The Doctor searches the void and finds an archway where a battle once took place and behind are nothing but corpses and robots.  The Doctor repairs a robot who walks through a mirror and the Doctor follows.  Eventually it is learned that the Tharils used to be slavers who used their time abilities to take slaves from all over but were defeated when the slaves created the robots and have seen the error of their ways.  The current slavers are trying to get out of the void and end up blowing up their own ship.  With the slave Tharils safe, Romana decides to stay with them and help them.  The Doctor gives her K-9 and uses the knowledge the Tharils provided him to fly the TARDIS out of the void and into the normal universe with Adric.

This is the last story of the E-space trilogy and... I have absolutely nothing good to say about this really.  The plot makes little sense, the threat is minimal and it was really just a way to get rid of Romana and K-9.  There's no point in really calling it bad because at least being bad would give me something to talk about.  Its just a big void of a story just like the space they are stuck in.  I have nothing more to say here really.  This one is ONLY for someone who wants to see the whole show.

Story 115
The Keeper of Traken

The next story is The Keeper of Traken and it's four episodes long.  The planet of Traken is the center of a peaceful Union whose planet doesn't allow evil.  When a strange creature known as the Melkur appeared some years ago it calcified immediately and has become a sort of holy statue under the care of Kassia and her daughter Nyssa.  When the TARDIS finally materializes in the normal universe, the Keeper of Traken, an aged man with access to the planet's source of power, appears and asks for his help.  The Keeper knows that his time is almost up and that Consul Tremas, Nyssa's father is to take his place, but the Keeper senses evil around the man.  The Doctor and Adric land on Traken to investigate when two men are killed.  Adric and Nyssa determine that the killing blow matched the energy of a TARDIS.  Unknown to anyone else Kassia has been meeting with the Melkur and allows it to control her mind.  Kassia then throws Tremas, The Doctor, Adric, and Nyssa in jail and convinces the council to instate her as the Keeper.  When the Keeper dies, she takes the throne but then disappears as the Melkur appears on the throne connected to the source.  Adric and Nyssa work to disconnect the source while the Doctor is transmitted inside the Melkur.  The Melkur is actually the Master's TARDIS and the Master still in his semi-zombie form from The Deadly Assassin is trying to use the source to grant him new regenerations.  Fortunately Adric is able to disconnect the source and the Doctor escapes causing the Master's TARDIS to malfunction.  Another member of the council takes over as Keeper and restores peace.  As the Doctor and Adric leave, Tremas notices a clock and becomes stuck to it.  The Master comes out of his TARDIS which took the shape of the clock and fuses himself with Tremas.  The newly bodied Master returns to his TARDIS and leaves Nyssa behind wondering where her father went.

This is a great episode and a very important one too.  First off it introduces us to the companion of Nyssa who doesn't really become a companion till the next episode.  She's bright and sweet.  Honestly she's really a great companion to the next Doctor.  This also gave us Anthony Ainley as the Master towards the end.  This ushered in a brand new set of stories featuring the Master who appears at least once per season from now (season eighteen) till season 24 and would then appear once more in season 26.  Anthony Ainley loved playing the Master and brought a theatricality to the role.  Many times Ainley's Master would be in disguise and you would have NO idea it was him until much later...whether it made sense in the story or not.  He is probably my favorite incarnation of the Master, though Michele Gomez from New Who seasons 8-10 is certainly giving him a run for his money.  All that aside, the story here is great and the revelations are certainly surprising.  Definitely check this one out.

Story 116

The final story of season eighteen and Tom Baker's era is Logopolis and it's four episodes long.  The Doctor has decided to fix the broken chameleon circuit by figuring out the exact measurements of a real police box on Earth and taking these measurements to the planet of Logopolis to find the right sequence to fix the circuit.  However the Master is somehow aware of his plan and materializes his TARDIS in the same spot causing a constant loop.  The Doctor and Adric break free only to find they have picked up a passenger named Tegan Jovanka, an airline stewardess who was legitimately trying to use the police box to call for help with her aunt's car.  Unfortunately the Master has killed her aunt so Tegan sticks with the Doctor for the time being.  Strangely the Doctor keeps seeing a solid white man staring at him in the distance.  The Doctor then decides to head on to Logopolis with Adric and Tegan and are joined there by Nyssa.  The Master has also come to Logopolis and has killed several of the planet's mathematicians.  There, they all find an exact replica of a station on Earth.  The Master questions the science as the world starts to crumble.  Apparently the universe has passed the point of entropy and would start to crumble if it weren't for the mathematical pondering of Logopolis.  Since the Master has killed some mathematicians, entropy is taking over.  Eventually the Master leaves and the Doctor learns there is a copy of their calculations and if they could get to Earth in time they could cause the real station to compute their findings and stop entropy.  The Master intends to allow entropy to destroy the planet but the Doctor gets there in time to stop him.  Unfortunately during the struggle, the Doctor falls to the ground and the Master escapes.  The white man approaches and fuses with the Doctor regenerating into his new body with Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan by his side.

This one is another fairly important story.  It introduces the character of Tegan.  She is a fiery Australian who isn't going to take any crap from the Doctor though she would like to get back to her job as an air stewardess.  This story also ended Tom Baker's run on the show.  It's too bad that the end of the most popular Doctor came with such a lackluster story.  The idea of something keeping entropy at bay is kind of neat but it just made for a very very boring story.  4 deserved a better send off than this.


Thus concludes Season Eighteen and the Tom Baker era.  This season was a very mixed bag with a lot of bad but a couple of really great episodes.  It's something that you would do best to pick and choose the ones that sound good to you unless you just want to watch it all.  It's a shame that Tom Baker's era, which had such amazing stories, ended up on the slippery slope to outright bad.  We do sort of get to see Tom Baker again in the classic series though it's only clips from the unaired Shada seen in the 20th anniversary story The Five Doctors.  However for the 50th Anniversary we were able to see good old Tom Baker once more!  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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