“The Reign of Terror”

Returning to normality, today I write about “The Reign of Terror!” Two episodes of this serial are, unfortunately, lost. There is plenty of other material to cover, however!

From “The Sensorites,” the Doctor has resolved to dump Barbara and Ian back where they belong. He actually manages to  land the TARDIS on Earth, but the gang quickly realizes that they are again not in the correct time and are in fact in revolutionary France. While exploring, they stumble across a seemingly abandoned house, which is actually a safe house for people hiding from the Reign of Terror. Unfortunately, soldiers discover the house, and Barbara, Ian, and Susan are captured. The Doctor is left stranded while the house is torched.

The Doctor is rescued by a small boy. Hooray! He sets off to rescue Barbara and Ian. He is waylaid by a burly man who forces him to dig a trench, along with other debtors. Why would anyone force an obviously old man to do manual labor? Anyway, the Doctor pulls one of his famous tricks by pretending to find money in the trench and then hitting the burly man in the back of the head. Ouch!

The Doctor eventually makes it to Paris, after many shots of him walking down what appears to be the same road over and over again. He cons his way into a fancy officer’s uniform, or something. In any case, it includes a hilarious feathered hat. The Doctor plays his new role very well. I was impressed.

At this point I wasn’t really caring what Barbara, Ian, and Susan were doing. They escaped from prison a couple of times, but Susan, at least, was thrown back in, because the Doctor ended up rescuing her.

The missing episodes were the ones that had Napoleon and Robespierre, and I was disappointed that I couldn’t see them in action. Actually, episode six might have had Robespierre; I don’t remember. But I definitely didn’t see Napoleon.

Long story short, everybody ends up safe, and the Doctor finally, FINALLY, accepts that Barbara and Ian are with him for the long run.

And that rounds of Series 1! I thought it was a little weird how there wasn’t a finale or anything. There was only the title of the next episode, just like every episode before it. I think that might be how television worked back then, though. Plus, there was only a gap of a month between Series 1 and 2, which also seems odd.

There is a nice little line from the Doctor, though: “Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let’s go and search for it…”

Next up: Series 2 and Planet of the Giants!

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“The Sensorites”

This serial actually had a decent, if confusing, plot. The thing that stuck out in my memory, however, was how ridiculous the Sensorites look. That’s them in the picture. What are they wearing, footie pajamas? Do all Sensorite clothes cover their feet? If not, are they supposed to be naked? And those feet! Are those just circles of cardboard attached to the actors’ feet? The masks look pretty scary, but once the Sensorites start talking their mouths don’t move much.

The pretty lame cliffhanger at the end of “The Aztecs” finds the TARDIS aboard a future-human ship. It’s been unable to get back to Earth because the Sensorites are holding it captive around their planet. The Sensorites had also driven this guy named John to madness and Susan wants to help. Susan’s soooo wonderful. She has psychic powers! Why does she get the psychic powers and not the Doctor? I don’t know. I don’t like Susan.

That’s John on the right. The funniest line in this entire serial is when one of the future-human crewmembers makes a remark that John’s hair is white, and the Doctor replies: “There’s nothing wrong with that.” This show has the best lines sometimes.

Susan negotiates with the Sensorites and everybody goes to the planet’s surface to try to solve the Sensorites’ problem. A lot of them have been dying, but nobody knows why. But the TARDIS crew quickly discovers that the water has been poisoned when Ian falls ill.

Meanwhile there’s political intrigue because the third-in-command doesn’t trust humans. I don’t know. He murders the second-in-command and takes his place, able to pull it off because (I kid you not) the Sensorites can’t recognize each other without the sashes that identify their position in government. What kind of society is that?! It’s not a society where everyone in the same class is exactly the same, like robots or something. These aliens have distinct personalities! How do the people who aren’t in government office tell each other apart? What about the children? Do they have an elaborate system of clothes–Oh my goodness. Maybe this is why they all wear footie pajamas! Because their clothes are like a second skin! I’m a genius.

Long story short, it was actually humans poisoning the water supply, and the third-in-command’s plot is foiled. The TARDIS crew sets off, and this time the Doctor is determined to get Barbara and Ian back to Earth, whether they like it or not.

Next: The Reign of Terror.

“The Aztecs”

Series 1 may have classics such as “An Unearthly Child” and “The Daleks,” but no serial so far matches “The Aztecs” in sheer enjoyability. Like “The Keys of Marinus,” the characters all split up and have their own separate stories, but frequently interact with each other. That seems to make the best serials, as “The Romans” did the same thing. I think the interaction is key, though, without it, the viewer can’t piece together what’s happening when the story keeps shifting to different viewpoints (“The Web Planet”).

I also liked this serial a lot because it places Barbara in a position of power, and not just some female being kidnapped. That’s more Susan’s role throughout the series, anyway. I don’t like Susan.

“The Aztecs” brings to the forefront a question that was only hinted at in “An Unearthly Child:” What happens if the past is changed? As time travelers, is the TARDIS crew morally obligated to prevent bad things from happening?

Summary time: The TARDIS lands in the burial chamber of the avatar of an Aztec goddess. When Barbara emerges from the tomb, the Aztecs hail her as the goddess made human, and pretty much take orders from her. Things start to go wrong when she attempts to stop the human sacrifice that is supposed to be made in her honor. The Doctor doesn’t like it because Barbara’s trying to change the past, which is obviously VERY VERY BAD, and the head priest doesn’t like it because it’s against tradition. He proclaims Barbara to be a false goddess.

Meanwhile, since they can’t stay with Barbara in the goddess chambers, the Doctor, Ian, and Susan have been taken to live in their proper places in Aztec society. Ian is assumed to be a mighty warrior and is taken to contest to be the next army general. The head priest doesn’t like that either, because his son was supposed to be the general. Ian and the son fight, yadda, yadda, yadda, Ian wins somehow. I don’t know.

Since she’s a young girl, Susan gets taken to learn the womanly arts and gets betrothed to someone? Obviously she doesn’t like that, but I don’t like Susan, so I really didn’t care about her stuff.

The Doctor is taken to an old peoples’ garden-place, where he’s free to do whatever he wants. He meets a lady and they become friends. She tells him a secret entrance to the tomb, since it doesn’t open from the outside and the TARDIS is in there. Oh, and the Doctor accidentally gets married to her.

Yes, apparently the Aztecs have this marriage ceremony where one person presents the other with cacao. They both drink together, and BAM. Married. So, the Doctor obliviously drinks the cacao and marries this lady.

This is what MADE “The Aztecs” for me. I was aware of some Doctor Who history before watching the classic series, but THIS?! The Doctor accidentally getting married is actually a TRADITION? I thought it was something unique to the new series, since Doctors 10 and 11 look relatively young. But NOOO. Even the ancient-looking First Doctor can accidentally get married! So foxy!

The four travelers are eventually reunited and Ian kicks some Aztec butt. Barbara was unable to prevent the sacrifice, which makes her a bit sad, but the Doctor cheers her up, I think. It’s weird to see the attitude the show has towards time travel in its early stages. The seriousness of it all is lifted a little in “The Romans,” though, so that’s progress.

And thus the serial ends, but not without a confusing segway into the next. The TARDIS has landed, but is still moving? What is this nonsense? Next time: The Sensorites.

“The Keys of Marinus”

I’ve realized that I should probably be talking about my opinion on these serials more than just summarizing them. That would make this whole Journey a lot more interesting! So here we go.

I thought this serial had a good idea. It’s like a Zelda game, sort of–our heroes have to collect all the Keys of Marinus before the bad guys in order to keep them safe. Or else they could be used to power up a machine that could be used to mind control the entire planet. Cool. There is also a giant pyramid which houses the mysterious machine complete with guardian old guy. So after the first episode, where their quest is explained by the creepy old guy who I immediately didn’t trust (because he blocked the TARDIS with a force field), the TARDIS crew sets off using “travel dials” (vortex manipulators?) to their first destination. And then the creepy old guy is seen attacked by one of the bad guys. So he was good after all!

Barbara had left before everyone else, and when the Doctor, Ian, and Susan arrive, they can’t find her. They are invited into a paradise-city and find Barbara living like a queen. Eventually they realize that the entire paradise is an illusion and find one of the Keys. Whee.

Thus it continues through the Forest Temple–er, I mean “screaming jungle” (Susan was doing more screaming than the jungle in that one, ugh) and the Ice Cavern–um, mountain caves. Although in the mountain caves episode Barbara is almost raped by a mountaineer. That was scary. But Ian saves the day! I always wonder how Ian manages to fight so well. I mean, he’s just a chemistry teacher! Maybe the TARDIS has some training programs. Or maybe Ian is secretly a ninja spy.

Eventually everyone ends up in another city, a real one this time. Ian is framed for murder and for stealing the last Key. The Doctor, in a display of awesomeness, manages to find the real murderer and earn everyone’s gratitude. The crew heads off with the final Key in hand.

Eager to get off the planet and get the force field lifted, the Doctor and Co. head back to the old guy’s pyramid to return the Keys. But, the old guy’s dead! He’s being impersonated by an evil dude! Ian suspects this and hands over all the keys, but replaces one of them with a fake one (oh, yeah, there was a fake key in the Forest Temple that was intended as a trap but ended up saving their butts in the end). Yeah, ever since seeing Ian take that fake Key from the Forest Temple I KNEW it would be used! There you go! The whole plot twist actually came off as cool rather than clichèd, though.

The mysterious machine explodes from the fake key, thus shutting off the power to the force field and killing all the bad guys. The TARDIS crew is free to leave, and they do! Where they end up next, nobody knows!

…OK, I do know. It’s back on Earth. Next time, the Doctor meets The Aztecs!

“Marco Polo”

Picture not available, sorry!

“Marco Polo” includes the first of many episodes, 106 to be exact, that are missing. What does that mean? In the 1960s, before the advent of convenient home viewing of movies/old television shows, many television companies, both in Britain and America, re-used their tapes. That is, they taped over old shows, because they could see no advantage in keeping them because there was no way to make them accessible for on-demand home viewing. The physical tapes were more valuable than what was on them.

All of these missing episodes fortunately exist in audio form, enabling intrepid Doctor Who fans to piece together what are called “reconstructions.” The audio of the episode is played over a mishmash of pictures taken on the set and whatever clips of the episode survive.

I personally cannot stand reconstructions; it’s too much like a slideshow for me to be interested. Like I’ve said before, I will be reading scripts instead.

So. Marco Polo. The TARDIS lands in the Himalayas, and the crew are attacked by… someone. Anyway, Marco Polo comes and rescues them! Then he sees the TARDIS and gets a “brilliant” idea. The viewer (reader?) doesn’t know it, but Marco Polo wishes to give the TARDIS to Kublai Khan to impress him. Actually I think Marco Polo might be killed or something if he doesn’t impress Kublai Khan. So that’s good.

So the Doctor and pals are dragged along as virtual prisoners. Susan makes friends with a girl who’s going to get married to a creepy old dude once they arrive in the capitol. The caravan’s being attacked by a mysterious assassin, who wants to kill Marco Polo so HE can impress Kublai Khan with the TARDIS.

The Doctor has had an extra TARDIS key this entire time (he had to surrender one to Marco Polo before), and manages to sneak everyone aboard. Except Susan, who just HAS to say goodbye to her new friend. As a result, they get caught and the Doctor has to give Marco Polo his spare key. And actually, I think he has yet ANOTHER key. I don’t know.

Anyway, they arrive in the capitol and Marco Polo presents the TARDIS to Kublai Khan, who reacts to it somehow. Kublai Khan takes a liking to the Doctor because he’s clever. They play many games of backgammon and Kublai Khan ends up losing much of his riches to the Doctor. Ian gives the Doctor the idea to offer all the riches in exchange for the TARDIS if he wins another backgammon game. Guess what? …The Doctor loses that game. So they’re right back where they started. Which is hilarious.

The guy who wanted to kill Marco Polo ends up attempting to assassinate Kublai Khan, but someone saves him. Not sure if it was Marco Polo or someone else. The Doctor gets his TARDIS back, Susan’s friend doesn’t have to marry the creepy old guy, and everyone’s happy.

Next time: The Keys of Marinus.

On the topic of missing episodes, tapes are still being found squirreled away in warehouses or peoples’ attics. Two Second Doctor serials were found very recently, and will soon be screened in Cardiff. So who knows? Maybe all of the episodes are out there somewhere…

“The Edge of Destruction”

This post will be pretty short, because I had no idea what was going on.

Suddenly, everyone in the TARDIS seems to be acting strangely! Susan attacks Ian with a knife, Ian and Barbara are very irritable, and the Doctor thinks that his human companions have caused all the trouble. When, in all actuality, it was the TARDIS warning them that it was about to go to the beginning of time, or something. Yeah, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But once the Doctor saves the day, he realizes that Ian and Barbara are actually decent people to have aboard his ship, and instead of trying to ditch them he genuinely attempts to make it back to 1960s Earth.

This serial is only two episodes long, making it the shortest yet. It also takes place entirely inside the TARDIS, giving it a confined feel. Which is pretty neat. But I still had no idea what was going on, and that pretty much spoiled it for me.

Next time, it’s the first of the lost episodes–an entire serial gone missing–Marco Polo.

“The Daleks”

When I first came to this serial, I was pleasantly surprised. I had no idea how old the Daleks were! They have truly been around since the very beginning, which is amazing.

The TARDIS lands on an unknown planet with high levels of radiation. Seeing as the Doctor was trying to get to 1960s Earth, it’s funny how after all these years he still hasn’t learned to pilot the TARDIS correctly. Susan implies that there has recently been problems with the TARDIS’s flight, and that the Doctor was actually quite good at flying it before. In any case, the Doctor is upset at even the indication that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

The Doctor is still hoping to ditch Barbara and Ian, so makes up some story about how he needs mercury for the TARDIS in order to get them to travel to the city they can see in the distance. The First Doctor is very mean and grumpy! It was quite a shock.

As they journey into the city, Susan stops and makes a remark about how colorful everything is. This threw me for a loop. I had previously irrationally imagined that the First Doctor and his friends existed in a world of black-and-white, simply because the film was monochrome. It struck me strange that Susan would even know what colors were! I think that line was put in simply to get the viewers’ imaginations going. People in the sixties had much more active imaginations than I do.

Once they reach the city, they decide to split up in search of mercury. If there’s one thing that any adventurer should know, it’s DON’T SPLIT UP!!! Inevitably, Barbara is trapped in a small room and attacked. The first episode ends with no clue as to who her attacker is except for a view of a strange probe, which later viewers know to be the first ever footage of a Dalek plunger.

Again, after the first episode I lost track of what was going on, and thus don’t remember everything correctly, if at all. Barbara definitely ends up being captured, and Susan eventually joins her, I think. The Doctor and Ian meet the Thals, who have been struggling to survive on Skaro’s irradiated surface and provide anti-radiation drugs to help the TARDIS crew. We learn that the Daleks and the Thals were once a single race, but they mutated because of the radiation. I guess.

Even though the Thals are extremely peaceful and initially refuse to resort to violence to rescue the captives, the Doctor eventually persuades them to mount a two-pronged attack. I need not point out how hilarious it is that the Doctor is encouraging violence. Actually, I did just point it out. It’s hilarious.

So the city full of Daleks is attacked, and we see the first uses of Dalek weaponry. The laser-thing makes an odd static-y noise, which frankly is the exact opposite of what I or anyone else would expect a futuristic gun to make. The actual projectile is never seen, so I assume it is invisible. The negative effect is very nice, though, so you know what’s happening. I’m glad so much stuff has been kept the same over the years.

Eventually someone figures out that the Daleks can only move via static electricity with the floor, so all they need to do to destroy the Daleks is to power down the floor. Awesome! To get to the main room, Ian decides to disguise himself inside a Dalek armor shell. Hilarity ensues. But not before we get a tantalizing glimpse of what a “real” Dalek looks like: a small black crab-like thing. It quickly scurries out of view, but I wonder if it’ll ever be featured again, or if the Dalek model will simply change to the one-eyed tentacled thing we all know and love.

Now, back to Ian in a Dalek shell. Picture it…

Bam. Now that’s awesome.

Eventually everyone ends up in the control room, having taken advantage of the Daleks lack of peripheral vision and in some cases dementia, as a couple of times a Dalek stares straight at our heroes and then obliviously slides past. The Doctor shuts off the power, the Daleks stop moving and presumably die, everyone’s happy, Susan (or Barbara? I honestly can’t remember) says goodby to a Thal love interest she acquired along the way, and the TARDIS departs, hopefully back to Earth.

It was strangely exhilarating to see the first Daleks. How could anyone have ever guessed that these huge, bulky, slow-moving salt-and-pepper shakers would turn into such an integral part of the show?

The thing that is strangest about these early episodes is that there is no music in the background, not even to transition to different scenes. “The Daleks” had this extremely creepy background noise thing that was probably the only thing that made the Daleks scary. It’s like a note being played backwards, followed by a bass note. Seriously, go and listen to it. A quick youtube search fails to find a video, but it’s playing in the background of this site: http://www.thisplanetearth.co.uk/main/index.html (full link provided so you will trust me. Or something. I dunno, it seemed like the right thing to do). Imagine THAT playing while you are surrounded by ridiculous-looking pepper shakers who are hell-bent on killing you. If that doens’t scare you, I doubt anything in Doctor Who ever will.

The website I linked to, incidentally, sells life-sized Daleks, TARDISs, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, and more! Huzzah!

As I was saying before, the TARDIS departs, ready to set sail back to Earth when–whaaaat? The ship is lurching back and forth? What could this possibly mean? Stay tuned until next time, when the TARDIS teeters on The Edge of Destruction!