Just a Hint of Mint (Black Orchid)

(79 comments)

And then they killed Adric. The end.
It’s March 1st, 1982. Tight Fit are at number one with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” while Toni Basil’s unforgivably awful “Mickey” is at number two. Soft Cell and Depeche Mode also feature in the top ten, while Iron Maiden pokes around just outside of it. While in real news... well, we’ve got here a story that only covers two days, so actually, based on the detailed historical research I do for these posts (aka “look the year up on Wikipedia”) nothing whatsoever happens. Queen Elizabeth opens up the Barbican the day after this story finishes. The Barbican is an interesting little thing - a massive performing arts centre full of good intentions and muddy executions. But I did see a phenomenal RSC production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream there in what a quick check of the Internet suggests was just about their final performance at the Barbican. So that was nice.

While on topic, Black Orchid! Black Orchid is an interesting beast. It doesn’t work at all, first of all, but the reasons why it doesn’t work are almost completely separate from the larger problems that Doctor Who is having in this time period and have very little to do with the story as an idea. Because as an idea, this is the story that really demonstrates how Doctor Who’s relationship with its past can and should work.

The first and most important thing to realize about this story is that it comes after The Visitation. This is a stunningly obvious point, but it’s worth stating anyway. The Visitation restored Earth’s past as a place where the series goes, much as Tegan quietly restored Earth as something that was actually important to the series, it having been almost entirely de-emphasized following The Hand of Fear. And it did so by introducing Earth’s past as the sort of place it’s been ever since The Time Warrior - a place that is visited to do muckabouts in history with cool aliens.

So when Black Orchid comes along and reintroduces the straight historical it’s every bit as much a surprise as when The Time Meddler came along and broke the straight historical. In fact, this story can be read as the inversion of The Time Meddler. In that story we’re led repeatedly to think that we’re watching a straight historical only to discover that in reality we’re watching something else. Here the production repeatedly gestures at the possibility that there is something uncanny in the story, alluding to the possibility that the Master might be involved, for instance. But instead we are repeatedly shown that it’s actually just a 1920s mystery story.

By and large, though, this is a very, very smart thing to do at this point in the series. First and foremost, it shows a relationship with the show’s past that goes beyond merely catering to obsessive fans. There was no loud clamoring for the return of the historical, which has always, within fandom, been viewed primarily as a discarded relic of the early days of the show and as something rightly phased out in favor of more monsters. This is, of course, rubbish. Although I do think that the pseudo-historical is largely a superset of the historical, the idea that the historical was a dead end for the series is simply nonsense. And so returning to it is a heartening sign that the increasing tendency towards mining the series’ past is about finding wrongly discarded approaches and not about mere fetishism. Simply put, trying a historical out is a brave move.

Secondly, however, it’s a satisfying refocusing on the small scale. Much like Kinda, Black Orchid focuses on characters. In Black Orchid’s case, however, this isn’t a choice. It’s a 1920s murder mystery - by definition a genre that requires a focus on characters. Given our premise that Season Nineteen is in part a failed attempt at making Doctor Who into a soap opera this sort of story is a real help - a reminder that Doctor Who can be about the concerns of ordinary people instead of about giant psychic snakes, historical disasters, and universe-threatening dangers. The danger in this story concerns nothing more than a family and their internal politics. One struggles to remember the last time the stakes in a story were so low. And it’s a good thing - a helpful regrounding of the series.c

It’s particularly beneficial to Peter Davison, whose Doctor is very well-suited by this downsizing of scale. As I’ve said before, every Doctor is in part a reaction against his predecessor. And so Davison’s Doctor is defined first and foremost by his comparative lack of dominating presence. One is tempted - doubly so because this story is overtly an Agatha Christie story - to cite Raymond Chandler’s description of the detective in “The Simple Art of Murder,” specifically the bit about “But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”

That is very much where Davison’s Doctor is pitched. He is not a world-saving hero so much as a good man in a not very good universe who nevertheless loves the universe and wants to explore it. And this is a very important story in developing that because it gives Davison the opportunity for a fantastic performance in a small scale. His protestations of innocence in the second episode and frustrated efforts to get out of the legal system and back to the plot are fantastic. One of the things Davison is phenomenal at is making sure every line he delivers is doing something. This is an important dramatic principle - that every line in a script should involve a character engaging in some active verb in order to attain what he or she wants. Davison, quite frankly, is far better at this than the scriptwriters, and he manages to make every line he delivers into a dramatic action. Pairing that with small stakes helpfully reinforces the character - it means that when we see him, next story, running frantically about a space freighter trying to warn people about Cybermen, that becomes a smaller and more intimate story as well.

Unfortunately, Davison is the only person whose character is helped by this story. Sarah Sutton does well enough, finally getting a story that’s largely focused on her, and she does as credible a job with playing two parts as any actress has. But the quality of her two-character turn only reveals the paucity of characterization she’s getting as Nyssa. Not for the first time the story forgets to give its characters something to do. The prospect of Nyssa trying to talk George down herself is a phenomenal scene. Instead she gets to be kidnapped and flail about. There’s even less to say about Tegan and Adric, who don’t even seem to belong in this story.

And then there’s the ending, in which the Doctor partially talks George down on the roof and then George conveniently runs off the roof and dies to wrap things up in time for the closing credits. It’s appallingly rushed and fails to provide any actual dramatic payoff to any of the events preceding it. In this regard it’s a typical failure of the sort that’s been infesting the entire season - a character drama created by people who neither understand nor care about characters.

But there’s a more fundamental problem under the hood here, which is the two part structure. It’s not, for what it’s worth, that two 25-minute episodes is too short to tell a good Doctor Who story. For one thing, if that were true it would follow that the new series must be wretched, and it’s clearly not. Rather it’s that the cliffhanger structure is absolutely murder on these stories. In this case we have a murder mystery that doesn’t get the opportunity to get underway until the second of two episodes.

The problem is that the structure that works well for longer stories, in which each episode is a distinct phase of the storytelling, is a mess in a two-parter. By breaking the story into setup and resolution Dudley squashes his entire mystery into an episode too small to contain it while having a first episode that luxuriates in the space it’s afforded to do party scenes and cricket matches. Both of which are lovely bits of texture, or, at least, would be in a four-parter where three episodes were turned over to the murder. Admittedly the murder as it stands can’t possibly sustain that either, and two episodes probably is the right amount of time. The problem is that the murder needs to happen at the 10-15 minute mark in episode one and the cliffhanger needs to be a shoved in pro forma piece instead of a turning point in the episode. This is that rare case where the episode structure is just getting in the way and a contrived cliffhanger would have been so much more preferable.

But, of course, that was never going to work in the twice weekly format where each episode is made with the assumption that the audience might have missed all or most of the other one. The second episode has to be a self-contained unit unto itself because it can’t assume that most of the audience was around the episode before like it could if the preceding episode had aired on the same day. So we’re stuck with a shape for the story that cannot possibly hold the story it’s trying to tell. While it’s difficult, given his other two efforts, to imagine that Dudley would have filled in the character beats this needed given a 45 minute single episode, or that Saward or Nathan-Turner would ever have noticed this problem and worked to fix it, the fact of the matter is that even if he’d wanted to he’d have been hard-pressed to make it work in this structure. And so while two-parters certainly can work, it’s difficult to come up with a compelling case that they can work in this particular timeslot and format.

So what we have in Black Orchid is a flawed experiment. It’s less dramatically satisfying than several less ambitious stories in its season, but one still wants to give it more credit than, say, The Visitation simply because it’s putting some effort towards trying to be a better story and missing spectacularly, whereas The Visitation is aiming at high mediocrity and falls just short of its ambitions.

One final note that needs to be dealt with, because this story is the most problematic example of something a commenter pointed out and suggested be dealt with way back in the Hinchcliffe era. Doctor Who, throughout its run, has an unfortunate relationship with physical disability, tending to equate it to monstrosity. This is, admittedly, a broad trope in action-adventure literature. But the parade of small-sized or facially disfigured people who are also homicidal and evil over the course of Doctor Who is genuinely problematic.

And it’s a particularly nasty piece of discrimination because there’s actually a metaphor to it. It’s one thing when the show just blithely reasserts classism by favoring the middle and upper class and not giving a crap about the working class. It’s another when the pattern of behavior is an active commentary. The use of disability as a signifier of evil is based on the equation of physical disfigurement with mental disfigurement - that what is ugly on the outside must therefore be ugly on the inside. Which is uncomfortably close to something like using people with darker skin as symbols of evil because white is good and black is evil.

And this story goes one step further by linking in primitive cultures - including a South American with a plate in his lip to add that extra level of exoticism and deformity. And having the deformity take place in the dark jungle at the ahnds of savages and... yuck. It’s just a pile of yuck. It’s another example of Dudley writing for the Hartnell era, except this time he’s gone back a few stories from The Savages to The Ark.

And like the crass characterization, it’s something that would easily be at least somewhat fixable. The story is fairly insistent that George retains value and worth, but then shoves him off a roof and kills him instead of dealing with the inconvenience of sorting out some resolution. Again, given Dudley’s overall skills as a writer it’s difficult to imagine that he’d have improved on this even if given the time. Especially because it could have been dealt with even in the time allotted - even a line in which the Doctor suggests that his family’s mistreatment of him is as much a cause of George’s madness as his disfigurement would go miles towards making this a better story. Instead the actions of the family are largely given a pass and George is treated as a great man brought low by circumstance to be praised for his life before his capture.

Instead we get casual cultural imperialism, scorn for the disabled, and yet another failure to actually tell stories about characters. For all that John Nathan-Turner distances himself from the Williams era he manages a remarkable imitation of its essential nature: all the right goals and nothing like the ability to pull them off.

Comments

Abigail Brady 4 years, 12 months ago

I know people call this a historical, but I still have difficulty seeing it as such. To me a historical is a story set in the past without any time-travel or monsters, and clearly George here fulfills the role of the monster, just as much as Rev Golightly does. Sure, no extraterrestrials are blamed for George's situation, but all it would take is changes to a couple of Lady Cranleigh's lines to involve aliens (and perhaps some of the unfortunate implications would be avoided?)

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David 4 years, 12 months ago

I also can't see it as a murder mystery. We know who's doing the killings from practically the beginning of episode 1 - it's the bloke who's meant to be tied up in the bedroom, who helpfully breathes heavily all the time so we know it can't be any of the other characters we're introduced too. There's no mystery in episode 2 at all - the Doctor protests his innocence fairly uselessly, then shoves everybody into his TARDIS (which in itself is no explanation at all) and meanwhile the upper classes back at the house discuss the plot.

I used to like Black Orchid but on rewatchings it really is a wretched mess. I don't think it's aiming further than The Visitation, certainly. It just wants to look pretty and play with the tropes of a 20s/30s style murder mystery but the writer hasn't the talent to use any of them properly. Where's the investigation into the murder? Where are the clues to find? Where's the list of suspects? You're right about the 2 part structure killing it because lots of episodes of Poirot, for instance, are 50 minutes and work wonderfully, especially as they don't need to pause at the 25 minute mark for an attempt on Captain Hastings' life.

But I don't see how any murder mystery elements are shoved into episode 2 either. It's just a man we know to be innocent saying he's innocent, but with none of the tension such a set-up sometimes allows, and then the plot resolves itself. And the Doctor says "What do you think he'll do when he realises he's got the wrong girl?" and runs outside to tell George... that he's got the wrong girl.

The Davo crew give this one a mauling on the commentary (though they do that to everything, and the joke wore very thin by the end of the Davo range) and, though Davison seems to think that Doctor Who can't work without any sci-fi elements (so he's anti-pure historical), his other criticisms of Black Orchid seem spot on.

You could argue it's meant to be calm before the storm of Earthshock, and it works in that sense, but I really would have liked to see Doctor Who doing a murder mystery properly. (The Unicorn and the Wasp didn't do it for me either, mainly due to... well, a giant alien wasp)

Also, this means you won't have covered the novel Divided Loyalties in the blog! (Which is meant to take place between Visitation and Black Orchid) I would have loved to know what you made of that, and the Time Lord School bits!

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Wm Keith 4 years, 12 months ago

No news? But, behind the scenes, General Galtieri and Michael Bogdanov were huddled in their evil cabal...

And you missed out completely (during Castrovalva/Four to Doomsday) the first part of this trinity of news stories which defined Britain in 1982, namely Mark Thatcher getting lost in the desert.

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Alex Wilcock 4 years, 12 months ago

This time I think you’re spot-on in pretty much every respect – especially the feint that it appears to have something ‘uncanny’ about it, which is a particularly clever trick. But there’s a lot more that’s very clever about the script that I expounded on back when I reviewed Black Orchid (along with why it’s like The Caves of Androzani , and more) – or, at least, it’s possible to read a lot more cleverness into it. Bearing in mind that it’s written by Terence Dudley and script-edited by Eric Saward, it may just be serendipity, but I prefer to think there’s something deliberately deeper about a story that appears to be just a throwaway bit of gaiety.

David above is right that it doesn’t work as an Agatha Christie murder mystery, with only one suspect in a ‘whydunnit’, but that’s part of what’s clever about it: it isn’t an Agatha Christie murder mystery at all, but Jane Eyre. For me, the really appealing thing about the story is that it looks very shallow with all the swish upper-class partying, but that masks something much deeper. The centrepiece of the social whirl is a masked ball, and the story’s theme is all about keeping up appearances and masks, literal and metaphorical: all those secrets; all those double identities; an old-fashioned Gothic Romance disguised as Agatha Christie; and it even keeps fooling us into thinking it’s a traditional Doctor Who mystery. The Doctor proving he’s not a murderer by revealing the TARDIS seems naïve to the point of barking… But in a story where everyone is concealing the truth about themselves, the Doctor being the character who demonstrates he’s ‘true’ makes thematic sense.

On the other hand, Terence Dudley’s Black Orchid novelisation – while surprisingly well-written and amusing – offers no hint of such depth and has such crawling snobbery that you want to send the whole family to the guillotine. But then, he appears to be the most socially conservative of all Who writers, as you observe above on several issues; his attitude to physical and mental ‘disfigurement’ is all the more glaring when you consider that, while Dudley’s clearly trying to write a Victorian-style ‘exotic’ secret, his story is actually set just after the First World War, when there were many terrible injuries around, making the need for concealment rather more improbable. It’s also hard not to wince when the usurping fake Lord Cranleigh stops Adric and Nyssa drinking because they’re “children” – not only is this patently untrue, but as one of them’s the spitting image of his fiancée, it suggests a rather unhealthy relationship.

And for ‘modern’ Doctor Who watchers, note that it’s a forerunner of the Russell T Davies “Celebrity Historical” in which the key character is a fictional celebrity…

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Exploding Eye 4 years, 12 months ago

I think a historical is something that could have happened anyway in the context of its setting without the Doctor's presence and without the interference of an outside agency. Although the "brother in the attic" is more a literature trope than a historical trope (and you could say that about most of the other true historicals anyway - just happening to be around when there's a handy total eclipse is both one of the biggest clichés and most unlikely set of circumstances in historical fiction, for example), it's not impossible in that world and there's no sci-fi affectation. George is superficially a monster, but he's not a cryptozoological species.

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David Anderson 4 years, 12 months ago

On the subject of Nyssa kicking and flailing instead of doing something that would resolve the plot, we are coming up to the nadir of Doctor Who's problems with sexism.
The Seeds of Death, it seems to me, is the last time Doctor Who has been for its era relatively problem free. From the start of the Pertwee era the writers have had problems with active women characters but have at least been largely good enough to understand that a main character has to pull their dramatic weight. And the actors of the companions have all been very good. Now we've got a producer and script editor who seem to think that the sole purpose of the female companions is to look good and be rescued.

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Scott 4 years, 12 months ago

The thing (well, one of the things) that always kind of annoys me about the companions of this era is that, since there's three companions around, there's never enough story for one of them, meaning that one of them always has to be sidelined -- and yet it's nearly alway seems to be one of the girls who gets sidelined, while Adric's nearly always right there front and centre.

It would be glaring and a wee bit problematic even if Adric wasn't the spotty little tick everyone loathes and wishes would go away somewhere very far indeed anyway.

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Wm Keith 4 years, 12 months ago

But isn't looking good and being rescued the sole purpose of Adric and (post-Guardian) Turlough, too?

I could probably answer this if I had actually watched this era of DW.

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Abigail Brady 4 years, 11 months ago

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Abigail Brady 4 years, 11 months ago

No, Adric is the one who pretends to betray them. Nyssa solves the problem with science. And Tegan is responsible for needlessly antagonising potential enemies.

One of the few things I liked in this story was it gave Tegan a chance to actually relax and enjoy herself, at the party.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

[T]he Doctor protests his innocence fairly uselessly, then shoves everybody into his TARDIS (which in itself is no explanation at all).

Thank you! I remember watching this as a teenager and shaking my head. How does the fact that the Doctor is an alien with a time machine that's bigger on the inside do anything to prove that he's not the murderer?!? Particularly since it does nothing to refute the main evidence against him, i.e. the fact that the murderer was wearing his costume at the time he did the killing!

(The Unicorn and the Wasp didn't do it for me either, mainly due to... well, a giant alien wasp)

The Unicorn and the Wasp only works if you see it for what it is: an affectionate parody of an Agatha Christie novel written by a fan of Dame Agatha's works. The alien is a wasp because that's a recurring motif in her work, and the dialogue frequently sounds stilted because it was more important to shoe-horn in the title of a Christie story than to be interesting in its own right.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

About Time indicates the existence of a cut sequence in which someone points out that having a time machine is not actually a defense against a murder charge. I rather wish the scene had remained - it's considerably more clever than anything in the episodes as transmitted.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

Also, isn't this the one where Adric didn't do anything at all except eat? Because Matthew Waterhouse couldn't dance so he suggested just having Adric spend the whole story standing around the hors d'oevres table?

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Dougie 4 years, 11 months ago

I've always thought that Black Orchid is a fairly blatant crib of late 60s horror The Oblong Box.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

I think David is spot-on here. I feel 60s Doctor Who was far more progressively feminist than people give it credit for (seasons 3 and 5 maybe excepted), and 70s and early 80s Doctor Who much less so. I also tend to think the trend of seeing the purpose of female characters as "looking good and being rescued" happened much earlier than this, with Jo and Sarah Jane. However, Terrance Dicks didn't count on getting the delightfully subversive Katy Manning or the charismatic, imperious Lis Sladen to take his characters and have their way with them.

That being said, at least Douglas Adams and Chris Bidmead realised Lalla Ward's puckishness allowed her to transgress against and steal the show back from Tom Baker and Graham Williams gave Louise Jameson the most overtly feminist script in the entire 1970s in "Horror of Fang Rock" so it hasn't been *all* bad (I still think the Williams era was at least partially successful, despite what Phil says ;-) ). But you're right, we're entering into even sketchier territory now.

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Jesse 4 years, 11 months ago

When I saw this as a boy (which is the only way I have seen it; I last watched it at age 12 or 13) I thought the deformed character was supposed to be a monster -- that the historical had turned out to be a pseudo-historical after all.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

every Doctor is in part a reaction against his predecessor

This seems less true of the Tennant-to-Smith switch than of any of the others.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

I think it's more subtly true, but I see Smith's self-loathing, insistence that he's ruined the lives of his companions, and self-flagelation over making Amy wait as a direct reaction against the narcissism of Tennant's "reward."

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Sorry Phil, I'm going to have to disagree. I think Series 5 *seemed* like it was showing Smith to be full-on a reaction against Tennant, but Series 6 goes back and starts telling the same kind of story. I still think the reoccurring "self-loathing" and "insistence that he's ruined the lives of his companions" of the Moffat/Smith era is little different than Davros and The Master chewing Tennant out for mobilizing innocent people to fight and die for him.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

Hm. They have similar thematic points, I'll grant, but I think that from a character perspective there's a huge difference between other people accusing the Doctor of being a megalomaniac and him accusing himself of it.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps, but for me at least they're similar enough that I took "The End of Time" to be about Tennant finally coming to grips with and internalizing the criticisms he'd received over his life, realising how much harm he'd caused to the people close to him (and the universe in general) and that he'd need to die to absolve for it. In that context, it seemed a given that Smith's Doctor was born with the tacit understanding that this sort of introspection was behind him and something he'd already atoned for in a previous life. To have the same sorts of themes dredged up again (even with admittedly more hand-wringing and self-flagellation) it still feels like the show is going backwards and retreading (VERY) old and well-worn ground.

Hell, if you want to stretch the argument back even further you could mention Jackie Tyler calling out Eccleston for putting Rose in danger and his subsequent attempts to shelter and protect her. This has been done to death and it seems to me at least the New Series writers are out of ideas.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

I am heartsick still that I didn't find this blog until after we got to The Ribos Operation and consequently I missed the whole Leela era. In particularly, I wish I could have been present for the Talons of Weng Chiang, which a lot of people dinged for the sexism implied by the Eliza Doolittle elements. For me, however, it was the most feminist moment in the history of the series up to that point. The female companion, acting on her own initiative, tracks the villain back to his layer and nearly kills him single-handedly (and almost ending the story two episodes early)! That's more like Mrs. Peel than a Doctor Who companion!

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

I don't think Tennant internalized anything of the sort about what negative effects he'd had on his companions. Certainly, Smith indicated a higher level of guilt in Let's Kill Hitler over what happened to Tennant's three companions than Tennant himself did. The biggest aspect of Smith's Doctor that is a reaction against Tennant is that Eleven categorically rejects becoming romantically involved with the companion. Tennant fell in love with Rose, completely ignored the fact that Martha fell in love with him, and then only agreed to take Donna after clearly establishing their boundaries. Smith not only recoiled from a one-night stand with Amy, he still recoils from seeing Amy and Rory kiss. Not to mention the bits from Amy's Choice where the Dream Lord practically accuses him of being a "creepy old man" in his relations with his companions.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Smith is a reaction against Tennant in terms of 'cool'. Tennant was geek-chic with the emphasis on 'chic'; an active, dashing leading man; a centre-screen stander-up and deliverer of rousing monologues.

Tennant dressed effortlessly right on a trend that already existed, as if he was so cool that he just looked great without even thinking about it; Smith's Doctor has the running gag where he insists that something utterly ridiculous is in fact 'cool'. Tennant delivered catchphrases with verve and panache; Smith plays them like he's a Dad trying to get down with the kids; and where Tennant was supreme in his self-confidence, Smith gets gags about how even he sees glimmers of realisation that he's not as cool as he thinks he is ('Who's da man? ... okay,never saying that again.')

Smith's gawky, awkward physicality contrasts with Tennant's easily, languid style to make the action sequences much less about the Doctor's heroism and much more a sequence of sight gags where the Doctor somehow manages to save the day despite almost tripping over, bumping into, and wrapping himself around every obstacle remotely near his way.

And then there's a aspects of performance that Dr Sandifer has already mentioned where, whereas Tennant was a performer like Baker who could command the screen and focus attention on him, Smith lurks at the edges, still drawing attention, but in a much more skulky, lurking way.

Smith is defintely a clear reaction against Tennant: just not on the same axis to that along which Davison was a reaction to Baker. Davison was a reaction to Baker in terms of the Doctor's fundamental role within the programme; Smith, on the other hand, keeps much the same role within the programme as Tennant (that's the formula, now, and it's too successful to mess with: we'll have to wait for it to become a bit less popular before real experimentation will be allowed again) but is a complete and opposite reaction against Tennant in terms of the style with which he plays that role.

Every Doctor is a reaction against the previous one, but what makes it interesting is that they all react in different ways: that's what stops it from being a boring flipping just from one pole to back again.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

The biggest aspect of Smith's Doctor that is a reaction against Tennant is that Eleven categorically rejects becoming romantically involved with the companion

This of course is another aspect of the reaction against Tennant's leading-man style: of course the romantic lead gets the girl! So when Smith comes along and reacts against all of that, of course he's a fuddy-duddy old bachelor professor (albeit in a young man's body) who doesn't see the point of this 'mushy stuff' and isn't sure how to react when a girl tries to kiss him.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Also: 'Eleven'? What? There is no character in Doctor Who called 'Eleven'.

There is the eleventh Doctor. If that is who you mean, say it. Do not write 'Eleven' as if that is a character's name.

Horrible, pernicious habit.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

I guess my biggest problem is just that: The formula and The Doctor's role within it *hasn't* changed and I'd expected it to and have been waiting for it to. If Smith is indeed supposed to be marginal it seems...wrong to me for him to be thrown into the spotlight as often as he is. Unfortunately, I think the Moffat era has the same problem the Troughton one did in that it has The Doctor being played by someone fully capable of lurking at the edges and operating behind the scenes...and then it proceeds to toss him into the dashing leading man role to much awkwardness.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Also (relating back to Friday's discussion) see the sonic screwdriver: both the different ways it's used (Tennant zaps enemies with it, Smith mostly uses it to get information) and how it's held (Tennant brandishing it like a gun, even so far as to do publicity photographs back-to-back with the Master like James Bond with his pistol; Smith fidgeting with it and tossing it from hand to hand like there isn't even a right way to hold the thing).

It all plays into the essential way in which -- quite cleverly -- the creative team have managed to make Smith the polar opposite of Tennant in style, while having him still play recognisably the same role in the format of the programme.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Why would you expect it to? From the point of view of the BBC, the formula works. they get audience figures they can point to to justify the license fee, and they sell their toys to defray the cost.

Why change it?

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

I dunno...I kinda expect Doctor Who to reinvent itself every so often, especially during the Doctor/Producer transitions. Traditionally it's not been good when the show gets itself into a creative rut from an aesthetic perspective.

That aside, The Doctor as an action hero, even an awkward one, has never sat well with me. I don't feel that's the role he should play, nor do I think it's loyal to the original conception of the programme.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

Nonsense. "The Eleventh Doctor" suggests that the name is a role stepped into by multiple people - as if the preceding ten were different people. "Eleven" at least serves as a reasonably sensible nickname as opposed to a jarringly inaccurate title.

(More to the point, "Eleven" is the norm among a newer generation of fans, and I decline to be an old fuddy-duddy who insists that everyone must treat the program the way I do because I got here first. Neither formulation appears on screen. Which is more than can be said for calling the character "Doctor Who.")

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

IMO There's also the sexism of having Leela a screaming damsel in distress for much of "Talons", wholly breaking character for her and the implicit racism of doing a Fu Manchu pastiche.

I still think "Talons" is far too messy, awkward and irresponsible to seriously be considered a progressive milestone of any sort.

If we're talking Emma Peel we'd be remiss in not mentioning Sarah in "Seeds of Doom". After all, that's who her lines were originally written for.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

That's what you and I think, but I'm not convinced that's what Steven Moffat thinks.

Either way, the thematic elements are still too similar for me to ignore. I still think the New Series needs to start challenging itself a bit more than it has been.

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Exploding Eye 4 years, 11 months ago

"Eleven" seems fine to me. We all know what it means... it would be awful to be one of those pernickity science fiction fans that insists on everything being just so.

"I still think the New Series needs to start challenging itself a bit more than it has been."

Absolutely.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

"Eleven" is the norm among a newer generation of fans

A good enough reason to shun it in itself.

It is a role stepped into by multiple people: William Hartnell the first and Matt Smith the latest. Any attempt to distinguish them is necessarily non-diegetic, as diegtically they are all the same person. So, 'eleventh Doctor' is the only sensible way to distinguish which actor's version of the character you're talking about.

I would also accept 'eleventh Doctor Who'. But that takes more typing.

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Exploding Eye 4 years, 11 months ago

"A good enough reason to shun it in itself."

Why?

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh, I agree: I don't like the Doctor as action hero either. I prefer Smith, as at least he plays against the action hero role: I couldn't stand Tennant, as he embraced it (I don't think it's a coincidence that my two least favourite Doctors, not counting C. Baker, are Tennant and T. Baker, as I think they are very similar in the way they 'performed' rather than played the role, and embraced 'action hero/leading man' status).

But over the long painful years of Davies and Tennant I became aware that whatever I think, as long as the programme appears to be successful in the ways the BBC wants it to be, there will be huge resistance to any attempt to change what (apparently) works.

(I imagine that at the time Davies suggested Moffat as his successor, there were meetings with BBC executives at which the Scot was asked, 'Now, you're not going to change it too much, are you?')

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Because the 'newer generation of fans' are a bunch of annoying, barely-literate kids with iPhones growing out of their wrists. And they play their rocky-rolly music too loud.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 11 months ago

Get off my lawn. ;)

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

(And they liked Tennant's action-hero Doctor, who I despise, and thought that the whizz-bang-flash running-and-explosions-and-images-instead-of-plot Davies era was brilliant, so obviously everything they think, say, write or do is completely wrong in every respect).

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David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

Tennant's Doctor does seem to take the accusations to heart in a way that decreases the distance.
The difference is at least as much in the relationship between them and the scripts. Tennant is set up as a reliable expositor in a way that Smith isn't. Had Tennant's Doctor ever said that something was cool then that would have meant that it was cool. When Smith's Doctor says something is cool that means that it isn't. But also, I don't think Rule One: The Doctor Lies was true for Tennant. If Tennant said he didn't have a plan it meant he didn't have a plan; when Smith says he doesn't have a plan all it means is you don't know what he's going to do next.

eta: Seriously x-posted.

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David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

"it has The Doctor being played by someone fully capable of lurking at the edges and operating behind the scenes...and then it proceeds to toss him into the dashing leading man role to much awkwardness."

It seems to me rather that Smith's Doctor is lurking at the edges, except that instead of operating behind the scenes he's operating behind the dashing leading man role; McCoy hiding in plain sight by pretending to be Tennant or Tom Baker.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Except McCoy felt fundamentally guarded and mysterious, thus still alien and unpredictable. There's nothing mysterious about Smith, a consequence of the show's (to my tastes anyway) somewhat peculiar fixation on making The Doctor human, vulnerable and easy to relate to (a trend which, to try and get things back on track, begins here in the Davison era).

I feel McCoy's best stories were when he took a complete backseat to Ace or the action of the week, only revealing his true power and brilliance at the end to save the day. Smith bumbles around smashing into things and causing a great big mess, then saves the day anyway. Smith never seems to know what he's doing and cobbles together a plan at the last second. IMO he's more Jack Sparrow or Indiana Jones then Patrick Troughton or Sylvester McCoy (or even, for that matter, Lalla Ward). While that character can be entertaining to watch, it's not quite what I think of when I think of the mercurial, marginal, transgressive Doctor.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

I feel McCoy's best stories were when he took a complete backseat to Ace or the action of the week, only revealing his true power and brilliance at the end to save the day

Which stories were they? The only McCoy story I can think of where the Doctor arrives with a plan and then at the end wins by putting that plan into operation is Silver Nemesis.

All the others -- well, the classic McCoy story template is that the Doctor arrives with a plan, some unforeseen event causes that plan to quickly become unworkable (two lots of Daleks! Uexpected Russians!) and the Doctor spends the rest of the story frantically improvising in increasingly desperate attempts to stop the humans all getting killed until finally he cobbles together a plan at the last second.

(The other classic McCoy story template is that the Doctor arrives at some place and time where he knows there's some evil to be fought but isn't quite sure of its nature, then he spends a few episodes lurking in the background observing the evil to learn its nature, before finally cobbling together a plan at the last moment. I think pretty much every story in seasons 25 and 26, bar the aforementioned Silver Nemesis, is one or the other of these.)

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Conversely, the only time I can think of the formula you posit playing out is "Curse of Fenric". I think "Remembrance" was a double-feint, where The Doctor was counting on the situation being destabilized by the arrival of the other Dalek faction to allow him to buy time (he just didn't let everyone know). Version 2 of your template seems maybe applicable to "Battlefield" at least.

"Ghost Light", by contrast, I think shows The Doctor in control all the time, but consistently unreadable, even as the last scene rolls. A similar structure, though less elegant, seems to be on display in "The Happiness Patrol".

The McCoy stories from Big Finish (which I do tend to count as his TV tenure is so brief) show his Doctor as even more marginal and manipulative, especially "Robophobia" which is damn near my favourite Doctor Who story of all.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

In the context of a Doctor Who blog, the only difference between saying "Eleven" and saying "the Eleventh Doctor" is that the latter has (ironically) 11 additional letters which don't contribute anything to the reader's ability to understand who I am talking about.

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David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

Formally Leela is often a damsel in distress. You don't notice it because Louise Jameson never plays it so that Leela thinks of herself that way.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

Funnily enough, I hated Ten too (my least favorite, even Six was better). For me, though, it wasn't the "big action star" thing, but rather the character's arrogance, self-righteousness and condescension. But I don't want to say "I hated Tennant, too" because Tennant was and is a good actor and Ten was the character he played, warts an all.

Also, another big difference between Ten and Eleven is that the latter is finally letting go of his survivor guilt. I think part of why Ten had to go (in a dramatic sense) is that he finally admitted the real secret he'd been carrying ever since "Rose" -- that he deliberately destroyed Gallifrey because the Time Lords had become monsters. And Eleven reacts against that by finally letting go of a big chunk of that guilt. It's still there, but much more restrained and subtextual. He had about three lines in "The Beast Below" ("They're all dead. It was a bad day.") and the next season it was an important issue in "The Doctor's Wife," but there hasn't been a constant drum beat of "oh woe, I'm the last of the Time Lords" as we saw in the first four seasons.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

It's interesting, this idea that Eleven is an unreliable narrator because he says "I wear [uncool thing] now. [Uncool things] are cool." Interesting because he has a tendency it seems to make such things cool just by declaration. Eleven only wore the fez in part of one episode, but it is now such an iconic image that most people who dress up as Eleven at cons include a fez as part of the costume. I'm curious to see how may "Elevens with a Stetson" I see at DragonCon this year, as opposed to "Elevens with a fez."

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh I bear no ill will to David Tennant whatsoever-He's a brilliant actor and a great guy. As for his character, he's definitely one of my least favourite Doctors. Weirdly though, I think his story was very well told and executed, it's just as a Doctor that character doesn't feel right to me.

As for nomenclature, we seem to have this trend on this blog of referring to the different Doctors by the names of their actors. It's admittedly probably not the best system, but I don't want to keep typing "The Eleventh Doctor" or "Eleven" all the time for a number of reasons. Something to mull over.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Unfortunately you're right. Another reason I adore "Horror of Fang Rock"-she doesn't play that role at all in that serial. Yet more evidence 70s Doctor Who was nowhere near as gloriously feminist as it's often thought of as being.

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Wm Keith 4 years, 11 months ago

Personally, I find that neither Moffett nor McDonald captured the essence of the role, whereas Kent-Smith's is the definitive portrayal of Doctor Who.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

Agreed :-)

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

IMO There's also the sexism of having Leela a screaming damsel in distress for much of "Talons", wholly breaking character for her and the implicit racism of doing a Fu Manchu pastiche.

Leela screamed exactly one time, in episode five of "Talons" when a rat was in the process of trying to bite her leg. The rest of the time she was vowing to hunt Magnus Greel down in the afterlife and torture him a thousand times over and things like that. http://members.wap.org/kevin.parker/chp/louise.html

(The racism I freely acknowledge, but that wasn't the point of my post.)

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Spacewarp 4 years, 11 months ago

I'm probably going to go out on a limb here, but I firmly believe that the majority of any current Dr Who audience is transitory, and the producers are aware of that and make the programme accordingly. Changing the format to suit fan tastes is unnecessary and almost certainly detrimental, as you're probably only satisfying die-hard fans (those who remember the Time Lords of the early 80s for example, and know exactly who Davros was) who are a very very small minority of your viewers. Hence you can muck about with the Doctor's personality and change his viewpoint because each season (and to a slightly smaller extent, each Doctor) is being watched by a majority of people who remember only very little of what came before. Let's face it, if every person who ever watched Dr Who continued to watch it, that would be the majority of the UK population by now, and the viewing figures would increase every year. They don't - they hover between 7 and 10 million and have done at least since 2005. That's mostly kids who start watching at 7 or 8 and tail of at 13 or 14 I'd guess.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Well no, there's also the difference that one makes you sound like an illiterate fool, and the other makes you sound like a barely-literate fool.

(The way to sound literate, of course, is to use the English language properly and NOT CAPITALISE THE ADJECTIVE honestly how hard is capitalisation?)

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Why do you think 'Remembrance of the Daleks' was a double-feint? The Doctor explicitly says that he didn't count on two lots of Daleks showing up, and there seems no reason to think the character's lying at that point; and if he were 'counting on the situation being destabilized by the arrival of the other Dalek faction to allow him to buy time' what does he need the extra time for? His original plan seems pretty simple: the Imperial Daleks take the Hand, Davros activates it, bye-bye Skaro. It's only when the wrong type of Dalek turns up in Totters' Lane that there's any complication, and the rest of the story is the Doctor's improvisation. He doesn't use the extra time for anything: the Hand has already been programmed with its Trojan horse.

Ghost Light, The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show In The Galaxy are all examples of template two: the Doctor arrives somewhere he knows something evil is going on, but he isn't quite sure what. Sometimes he has more idea than others (he doesn't seem entirely surprised to see the gods of Ragnarok, suggesting that he had a suspicion they were what stopped the Psychic Circus touring all those years ago, but he didn't know exactly how or why (and he certainly didn't know that the key was the eye, or that the eye had been hidden in the robot).

Sometimes he knows very little: Ghost Light all he knows is that something alien and bad happened there (that Ace detected the remnants of later on) and so he turns up and observes the goings-on to gather information about what it is.

What makes the seventh Doctor different from almost all the other Doctors before and since is that whereas they wander the universe, or try go go on holiday, or visit companions' relatives, or something, and get dragged into adventures, the seventh Doctor turns up specifically in order to have an adventures, and ends up having (more or less) the adventure he intended. More or less, of course, because his plan never goes quite as he wanted (it would be a bit boring if it did!) but he has some inkling of what's going on before he turns up, even if he doesn't know how he's going to defeat it.

And I say 'almost all the other Doctors' because... well, because just in the last series Smith's Doctor has started to do that same thing. The first time is 'The Rebel Flesh': the first time since McCoy that the Doctor deliberately lands his TARDIS somewhere where he knows what's going on in order to see what's what. Contrast 'Flesh and Stone', where he gets Song's distress call but still knows nothing of the nature of the threat before he arrives: he's surprised to hear about the Angel. But in 'The Rebel Flesh', he specifically goes there to see the 'flesh' become alive.

Then in 'A Good Man Goes To War' it's full-on McCoy where not only does he turn up intending to have the adventure, but he's set up his pieces beforehand. And in 'Let's Kill Hitler' he arrives to pick up Melody, who he has worked out is Amy's child and therefore River Song (though he hasn't though what he's going to do past her regeneration -- note how he's totally unsurprised by everything up to that point, but then starts improvising). And finally, of course, there's 'The Wedding of River Song' where again, McCoy-like, the Doctor turns up at the lake with a plan, that plan is totally derailed by an unexpected element (River doesn't shoot him) and he has to improvise (though rather passively, I thought) until the end when he can finally but his plan into operation.

It's pretty much 'Remembrance of the Daleks' with CGI pterodactyls.

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David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

I love Horror too and Leela is brilliant in that, but in a way it's a case in point: Leela's brilliant because of the way Jameson plays the character.

There are at least two occasions in Horror which could be interpreted as Leela needlessly and recklessly puts herself in danger (Leela goes out into the mist armed only with a knife, Leela breaks down the door). The script pulls it off because Jameson has been playing the character in such a way that we already interpret Leela's behaviour as confident and proactive rather than overconfident and silly.
Jameson plays Leela in danger in the same way as, say, Pertwee plays the Doctor in danger. She's not trying to become hero of the Doctor's story, but she never doubts whether she's the hero of her own.

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David Anderson 4 years, 11 months ago

I should add that while playing Leela that way is something Jameson has added to the script, the script does write Leela well enough that it isn't getting in her way.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

Eleven categorically rejects becoming romantically involved with the companion

Well, except for marrying one. But it is kind of a big exception.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

Total agreement on the parallels between Seven and Eleven. Going all the way back to "The Eleventh Hour," when Eleven tells Amy he wants her to come due to loneliness while discretely turning off the scanner depicting the Crack, my mind immediately went to Seven telling Fenric that of course he realized that Ace was Fenric's pawn and that he never seriously believed she just fell through an accidental wormhole into his path. Then, in the next episode ("The Beast Below"), he brings Amy to Spaceship UK in her nightgown and sends her on a mission to find out about the little girl. To me, that also invokes Seven, who often seemed to treat Ace as his agent rather than his traveling companion. Ditto sending the Last Centurion to confront the Cybermen while he was busy blowing up their fleet.

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WGPJosh 4 years, 11 months ago

I'm not disagreeing with you, but isn't this true of most of the 70s companions though? The reason they're memorable is because of how jaw-droppingly good the actors are and, very rarely, how they're written and directed. The same argument template could be used for Katy Manning and Lis Sladen and it's only by Mary Tamm and Lalla Ward (especially Lalla) the creative team caught up with what the actors were doing.

Now though we're back to the drawing board.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Would you please, if you're going to persist in using that ridiculous and irritating nomenclature, at least have the decency not to be right while you're doing it?

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

Would it be better or worse if I used the Arabic numerals instead? (As in, "when 9 regenerated into 10."):)

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David Bateman 4 years, 11 months ago

@ Philip Sandifer

Not that 'And then they killed Adric. The end.' isn't good, but 'Get off my lawn' SHOULD have been the caption. ;)

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Alan 4 years, 11 months ago

I normally get paid $150 an hour to be literate. I'm not particularly concerned with doing so for free during my leisure time.

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Jesse 4 years, 11 months ago

Two words: Roman numerals.

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David Bateman 4 years, 11 months ago

@ Spacewarp

I don't think you're out on a limb there, at least if you are I'm out there with you! In any case, TV audiences are transitory by the nature of the medium itself. Furthermore, I think the DW production office are very aware of the particular transitory nature of it's audience. Regeneration, it almost takes on a new meaning here, allows the production team a chance to press the reset button. There's also another smaller audience reset button labelled 'the anniversary special' When pressing the reset button(s) doesn't seem work anymore, the show gets put on hiatus. Also, I think the Williams era is an attempt to discover a new reset button.

Now, it's been set up that the 'death' of the Doctor at the end of New Series 6 is a narrative reset, but we'll have wait and see whether that's a feint or not, given that Steven Moffat's quite good at them, and not forgetting (I mean, how could you?) that there's an anniversary due.

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David Bateman 4 years, 11 months ago

Does this entry win the prize for the shortest story with the most comments? ;)

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Adam B 4 years, 11 months ago

Sorry for the delay in commenting, and I'm afraid this might be lost in such a long comment thread, but thank you for addressing the disability-related issues I brought up back in the Hinchcliffe days. It was very perceptive of you to do so with this story, and I think your analysis is spot-on.

I'd add more, but I'm a bit pressed for time now. I'll probably chime in the next time it's relevant, most likely 'Caves'.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 11 months ago

Funnily enough, an excellent primer for successive Doctors' reactions to their predecessors can be found in Steven Moffat's very wonderful "Curse of Fatal Death".

Although Richard E. Grant's 10th Doctor is a very forward and libidinous incarnation, by the time he regenerates into Jim Broadbent's 11th Doctor he has completely forgotten how to deal with women. His next try is again a swing in the opposite direction with the charmingly passionate 12th Doctor, Hugh Grant, while of course the ultimate reaction to "his" predecessor is Joanna Lumley's female 13th Doctor (a concept that has become strangely diluted now after the revelation of the Corsair in "The Doctor's Wife")

Arguably the transition between Rowan Atkinson and Richard E. Grant is an unusual first for the series, in that both Doctors have very similar character traits, something that would probably never be seen in the "real" Doctor Who.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 11 months ago

Why not Roman numerals? When IX regenerated into X...

That way I can say I stole the TARDIS.

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SK 4 years, 11 months ago

Oh, and I can hardly let a mention of the Barbican go by without mentioning Unit Four + Two.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 9 months ago

Philip Sandifer:
"even a line in which the Doctor suggests that his family’s mistreatment of him is as much a cause of George’s madness as his disfigurement would go miles towards making this a better story"

I agree.


David:
"the Doctor says "What do you think he'll do when he realises he's got the wrong girl?" and runs outside to tell George... that he's got the wrong girl."

A shame. That line was Davison's single BEST moment in the whole story, the point where he finally wrenched out of his coma-like shell of excessive politeness (something no other "Doctor" would have ever exhibited). I mean, an brief instant, he was ALMOST Tom Baker! No, it's gone again...


Philip Sandifer:
"About Time indicates the existence of a cut sequence in which someone points out that having a time machine is not actually a defense against a murder charge. I rather wish the scene had remained - it's considerably more clever than anything in the episodes as transmitted."

I thought it WAS there! Except, an instant later, the other policeman arrives to say they've had a phone call from the Manor, a 2nd body has turned up. And THAT proves The Doctor was telling the truth about events at the house. This, of course, could have happened without him showing them the inside of the TARDIS-- something Tom Baker went to such absurd lengths NOT to do in "PLANET OF EVIL". (WHO ever that was Peter Davison was playing, I really don't think it was The Doctor. Not unless he was in a 3-year-long waking coma.)


Alex Wilcock:
"The centrepiece of the social whirl is a masked ball, and the story’s theme is all about keeping up appearances and masks, literal and metaphorical: all those secrets; all those double identities; an old-fashioned Gothic Romance disguised as Agatha Christie; and it even keeps fooling us into thinking it’s a traditional Doctor Who mystery. The Doctor proving he’s not a murderer by revealing the TARDIS seems naïve to the point of barking… But in a story where everyone is concealing the truth about themselves, the Doctor being the character who demonstrates he’s ‘true’ makes thematic sense."

A long-winded review at Page Fillers pointed out so much interesting stuff about the twisted behavior of the Cranleighs, reading it was more interesting that watching the story itself. I suppose sometimes it's easy to second-guess after-the-fact, but sometimes you just have to think the original writers and story editors weren't doing their jobs.

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 9 months ago

WGPJosh:
"I also tend to think the trend of seeing the purpose of female characters as "looking good and being rescued" happened much earlier than this, with Jo and Sarah Jane. However, Terrance Dicks didn't count on getting the delightfully subversive Katy Manning or the charismatic, imperious Lis Sladen to take his characters and have their way with them."

I swear, something must have happened in recent years, I always remember people knocking Jo Grant for being an airhead, but lately, Katy Manning is being held up as a pinnacle of a progressive, forward-thinking, independant woman. Which, she sort of was in "AUTONS" and "MIND OF EVIL" (coupled with that adorable sweetness and seeming ineptness-- but boy, did she ever try hard!).

Watching Sarah recently, it's mind-boggling how someone who puts on about being competent and independant keeps being kidnapped and brainwashed so often, even in "TIME WARRIOR", her debut story. And it seems to me Lis Sladen's main contribution was "softening" her, as the later Sarah was always said to be more like the real Lis than that chip-on-her-shoulder feminist was at the start.


"That being said, at least Douglas Adams and Chris Bidmead realised Lalla Ward's puckishness allowed her to transgress against and steal the show back from Tom Baker and Graham Williams gave Louise Jameson the most overtly feminist script in the entire 1970s in "Horror of Fang Rock""

Romana is SO good in Season 18 it just makes it all the more criminal that JNT booted such a fantastic character and actress off the show-- especially considering what he replaced her with. (And that also goes for John Leeson & K-9.) And, I love seeing Leela dressed like an AVENGERS girl. Should have had more of that. Imagine her & The Doctor visiting swinging 60's London (and Patrick Macnee as a guest-star-- heehee).


Alan:
"The female companion, acting on her own initiative, tracks the villain back to his layer and nearly kills him single-handedly (and almost ending the story two episodes early)! That's more like Mrs. Peel than a Doctor Who companion!"

YES. And as I said, look what she wore in the following story.


"There's also the sexism of having Leela a screaming damsel in distress for much of "Talons", wholly breaking character for her"

Well, to be fair, she DID have a giant rat biting her at the time.


"If we're talking Emma Peel we'd be remiss in not mentioning Sarah in "Seeds of Doom". After all, that's who her lines were originally written for."

Are you sure? I thought it might have been done for Joanna Lumley & Gareth Hunt. Purdey had a MUCH sharper tongue than Cathy & Emma combined.


David Anderson:
"Formally Leela is often a damsel in distress. You don't notice it because Louise Jameson never plays it so that Leela thinks of herself that way."

"Do not worry, Doctor. I will protect you."


WGPJosh:
"The reason they're memorable is because of how jaw-droppingly good the actors are and, very rarely, how they're written and directed."

I've always read that Baker & Sladen, like Macnee & Rigg, re-write their dialogue during rehearsals. Macnee said in an interview, "There NEVER WAS any great writing."

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Henry R. Kujawa 4 years, 9 months ago

Dougie:
"I've always thought that Black Orchid is a fairly blatant crib of late 60s horror The Oblong Box."

HAH!!! YES! That's exactly what I said when I reviewed that film at Amazon.com. The thing to do is watch "BLACK ORCHID" was a warm-up, then watch the Price film. Indicentally, there's one major logic snafu in there that could have been fixed weith the simplest of rewrites. WHY didn't they rescue Edward after he was buried?? All they had to do was go to the cemetery, and discover-- OH NO!!-- grave-robbers got their FIRST. So it wouldn't have been their fault. (And such a scene would have been hilarious.) Sadly, all the Louis M. Heyward productions were deeply in need of more work than they got. "OBLONG BOX" only happens to be the most entertaining of them.

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Samuel Whiskers 2 years, 9 months ago

I could only accept the criticism that disability-equals-bad if all of Doctor Who's villains were disabled but most of them are able-bodied. Having the occasional disabled villain might just demonstrate an equal opportunities approach to villainy.

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