This Continues To Not Be A Review Blog
But equally, this continues to be a really effective way of handling a need for Tuesday content. God, what am I going to do after next week when I’m out of Last War in Albion to run? (Write more Last War in Albion, probably. The five entries I’m running now were some of the most fun I’ve had writing in the last year.)
Spearhead From Space: Fun, and with some great images, but a story we’ve largely allowed the VHS/DVD/omnibus versions of to replace the episodic structure. Watched as episodes one notices that the new Doctor doesn’t “debut” as such until well past the halfway mark, leaving Nicholas Courtney to hold down the fort. And only the mannequin scene provides us the Autons we know and love. A well-shot and reasonably fun story, but little more. 7/10
The Silurians: By most accounts a mispaced buildup with a fantastic final episode, it is in fact a subtle and lively buildup with a disaster of a final episode the implications of which have to be ignored because otherwise the Doctor becomes the willing employee of the casually genocidal. But this is splitting hairs – either way, it doesn’t quite work despite the good bits. 6/10
Ambassadors of Death: Whitaker and Hulke are both fantastic writers, and there’s more Whitaker in this story than people give it credit for. Unique among the UNIT stories in that it’s fundamentally hopeful and based on a sense of wonder, the thing the series most loses in this season and, really, the Pertwee era at large. A myriad of wonderful visual images, and John Abineri and Ronald Allen anchor it with two of the best guest performances the series ever had. A few decisions jar in relation to the rest of the series, but on their own merits hold up fine. (The bread van and the teleporting) Unlike any other Pertwee story – marvelous. 9/10.
Inferno: Not a bad story, but simply not the classic it’s believed to be. The parallel universe sequence is one of the most hackneyed ways of extending a story imaginable, and it amounts to the “we’re running out of ideas, let’s give all the actors different parts” runaround most series do midway through their third season. To see the Pertwee era doing it in its fourth story is an ill omen. With the added indignity that once back from the parallel universe in a blur of narrative momentum Pertwee has to spend most of the last episode modeling his death pose. Yes, Courtney and John are fabulous, but can anyone actually identify how the parallel universe plot impacts the resolution at all? I’d like it more if everyone else would agree to like it less. In reality, fairly average. 5/10
Terror of the Autons: The series is pulling itself apart at the seams as it tries to decide if it’s a gaudy, glam rock spectacle or a serious-minded action adventure show. But in the course of that comes this, a story where the contrasts between the two approaches end up balancing perfectly to produce something quite remarkable. It falters frequently – neither the Master nor the Doctor quite work in it – but when it’s on its game, and it is more often than it isn’t, it’s absolutely phenomenal. 8/10
The Mind of Evil: Tedious action heroics. Doctor Who is not well served by trying to be Doomwatch. Fleeting moments of glory, but they’re fleeting – the highlight is when the Keller machine is a stupid looking alien, as it’s where Doctor Who plotting finally takes hold. Otherwise, this is the point where the show moves furthest away from its actual premise and risks becoming a generic show that wouldn’t have survived the Heath government. 3/10
The Claws of Axos: The fact that it doesn’t come close to dramatically working is balanced by the fact that it’s the most visually and medially astonishing thing Doctor Who has done since the Hartnell era. Suddenly the series goes from trying to do Doomwatch to trying to make Earth as strange as it used to make alien planets. So much doesn’t work, but so much does that it sets the tone for the entire era. So the sublime and the ridiculous in equal measures. 5/10.
The Colony in Space: Awkward in places, but it doesn’t get nearly enough credit for trying to reinvent the space style of adventure for the post-War Games era. It quietly stitches together the “gritty realism” of much of the Pertwee era to date with the emerging glam stylization into something that makes a compelling and confident case for what Doctor Who can be in the early 1970s. 8/10
The Daemons: For neither the first nor last time in the Pertwee era the inventiveness of the premise covers a desperately poor script. This is mispaced at every turn, the ending doesn’t work, and it turns out the reason everyone on the show spoke so highly of it was that they rather enjoyed their holiday. Still, despite its… difficulties The Daemons does finally nail how to do the von Danniken story and the ancient god story, both of which are mainstays of Doctor Who for the rest of the 1970s. Being first is almost as good as actually being good? 6/10
Day of the Daleks: Another Pertwee story with immense successes and immense flaws, in this case the flaws fairly obviously being the Daleks themselves. The story Louis Marks wanted to write is marvelous, if, like many Marks scripts, just a bit wooden. The story we got drips with the cynicism of “oh let’s just shove some Daleks in it.” 5/10
The Curse of Peladon: Oh, this is fun. I mean, this is just fun. Redeeming old monsters, great visual design, ideas the series has never tried before (a quasi-medieval planet!), some great performances. This is just a big, sloppy bit of fun that takes Colony in Space’s approach, tightens it to four episodes, and goes just a little trippier. Let it never be said the Pertwee era can’t work. Just that it rarely does. 9/10
The Sea Devils: Many of the standards of the Pertwee era done the best they’ll ever be done. It’s too long, and the Master doesn’t improve The Silurians any, but this is solid, confident, and the one to dust off and show people what the standard issue UNIT story looks like despite not actually having UNIT in it. Unfortunately, Doctor Who still just isn’t that good at being a straight action-adventure military show. Hints that the script had a larger ambition are largely squandered on boat porn. 7/10
The Mutants: It’s a hot mess, but a charming hot mess full of ideas. Like The Claws of Axos it doesn’t work and has more ambition than execution. But there’s at least more execution here and the ideas are intelligent. Difficult to praise but easy to love, which is a statement that applies to more of the Pertwee era than it should. 8/10
The Time Monster: It’s strange, we’re so much more forgiving of bad pacing and sloppy storytelling for stories that don’t go too far and get a bit silly. But there’s nothing here that supposed classics of the Pertwee era don’t do just as badly. This story rather gets at the truth of the Pertwee era – its highs aren’t as high as other eras, and its lows aren’t as low. This isn’t actually the worst the era can throw at us, but it’s down there. And still it’s reasonably fun if you’re in a mood where silly romps are OK. Just a bit below par. 4/10
The Three Doctors: Oh my giddy aunt! There’s so much to love here, isn’t there? Baker and Martin’s unceasing torrent of ideas meets an occasion that needs to go as big as they want to. The design matches their ambition for once, and you’ve got Patrick Troughton as the main guest star. Much as I want to complain that he’s not really playing his Doctor so much as a parody of it, he’s just as good at that as anything else. The worst that can be said about it is that it feels like a Pertwee story, and even I admit that I should just get over myself on that one. 10/10
Carnival of Monsters: I feel like I should have dinged The Three Doctors to 9/10 just so that the degree to which this improves on it can be highlighted. It’s basically perfect, after all, isn’t it? A brilliant script, well-acted, and the sort of thing that only Doctor Who can do. Robert Holmes finally comes into his own here. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you’re probably in the wrong fandom. 10/10
Frontier in Space: Well, yes, the pacing is shot, but what else is new with Pertwee-era six parters? It tries, and its scope and sweep almost covers up the fact that it’s just a sequence of prison cells. One of the best examples of Doctor Who doing big sci-fi on a tiny budget and getting the balance right, with some jaw-droppingly good moments. Sleepy and not quite a classic, but very fun, even if one can’t help but feel like Delgado deserved a better final outing. 6/10
Planet of the Daleks: It succeeds at its lack of ambition admirably, and it’s not like rolicking Dalek thrills in the classic Terry Nation style had been seen in recent memory. It does successfully dust those off and do them as well as they can be done in the 1970s. But it’s still just Doctor Who and the Daleks with Pertwee subbed in for Cushing. It’s easy to see why they made it. It’s tough to see why you’d sit down and watch it now. 3/10
The Green Death: Oh, you want to love it, don’t you? The maggots are so good. BOSS is so good. The final scene is so good. And there’s probably a cut-down edit of it that consists of just those bits that’s also so good. Unfortunately, what we have is another Sloman-Letts Curate’s Egg of misjudged tone and vapid spectacle. I want to love it. I even almost do. Almost. But not quite. 6/10
The Time Warrior: The condescension with which Sarah Jane is treated is just about ameliorated by how well and quickly Lis Sladen gets her teeth into the role, leaving a well-paced and at times very funny Robert Holmes script. If you ignore Sarah and look at everything going on around her you have a classic of the era. Unfortunately, the condescending glee the script treats the idea of a feminist trying to stand up to the middle ages is there, and it just hurts. 7/10
Invasion of the Dinosaurs: Like much of Malcolm Hulke, it tries so hard. But the six-part structure and the fact that the answer to “who’s in on the conspiracy” is “everyone who’s not a regular,” and then the inclusion of Mike Yates is blown early on just kills the momentum. It’s not ruined by the effects – it’s ruined by the fact that it’s an unambitious mess that consists of “well, Malcolm Hulke writes UNIT and giant lizards well, so let’s do it again” and nothing more. 4/10
Death to the Daleks: It’s fitting that GallifreyBase’s standard for 1/10 is “I’d rather listen to a tape of leaf-blower noise,” as leaf-blower noise, turned to a low volume, would provide a white noise background almost as good for falling asleep as this story. But that means this story is better than the leaf-blower, so it must be a 2/10.
The Monster of Peladon: The nadir of the Pertwee era, and one of the all-time turkeys of Doctor Who. A well-done four-parter is stretched to six parts with no ambition and the best ideas taken out. Condescending, unintelligent, and, most damningly, barely watchable. Excruciatingly bad. 1/10
Planet of the Spiders: At the heart of this is a very basic problem: Barry Letts was a crappy writer. Around that is the basic self-indulgence of the story. There’s so much that’s good here, but it’s drowned in the problems that plague this entire era all appearing in some of their worst and most tedious forms. The result perfectly sums up the Pertwee era: entertaining but unsatisfying. An interesting but failed experiment comes to an end. 5/10
July 9, 2013 @ 1:41 am
I confess to liking Death to the Daleks a bit too much, but that's probably because my favourite shows growing up were The Adventure Game, The Great Egg Race and Now Get Out Of That, representatives of a subgenre of puzzle solving shows that are sadly lacking these days when people seem to find Total Wipeout the limit of their intellectual challenge. (Now if Only Connect could just require the teams to be answering the questions whilst also building a suspension bridge, then they might have the perfect show. For me, any way.)
July 9, 2013 @ 2:21 am
More "Last War in Albion" please: your essays have encouraged me to read all the Alan Moore "Swamp Thing," and I am now starting to work through "Miracleman" and "Animal Man." I eagerly anticipate your essay on Moorcock whose books fed me throughout my misspent youth.
July 9, 2013 @ 2:42 am
I was 8 when Season 7 started, probably the ideal age for watching Doctor Who, and so my memories of Jon Pertwee's first season are mainly dominated not by storylines or acting, but solely by how frightening it was, or how dull. Sometimes I'd watch an episode filled with nothing but padding, but more often than not there was tension, and chills, and outright fear. Mostly Season 7 was far more atmospheric than what I remember of Season 6, with a lot of the Doctor creeping through some enemy territory while I chewed my nails in a frenzy of suppressed panic. So I'd like to present my alternate take on Season 7 – a 70's Child's perspective.
Spearhead From Space – What creeped me out: Channing's inhumanly dispassionate face. The Doctor being grabbed and tied to a wheelchair. What's in that tank at the factory? Every scene with someone being hunted by an Auton. The Autons and their horribly blank faces. The moment (with creepy musical cue) when the first shop dummy moves. Pertwee being grabbed by tentacles (kids are terrified of tentacles).Scare Factor 8/10. Attention Wander Factor: 2/10 (basically any scene without the Doctor or an Auton)
The Silurians. The Silurian facial design with creepy open "sucker" mouth that reminded me of Star Trek's Salt Vampire. Any scene with the Silurians in their dark and vaguely organic base (successfully rechannelled later for the Zygons). The Doctor being zapped by a Silurian's third eye. Baker staggering about infected. Scare Factor 6/10. Attention Wander Factor 5/10 (any scene in the Control Room or chasing Silurians into barns)
The Ambassadors of Death. Scary mainly because of what the Ambassadors might rather than anything they did do. Hence any scene with the Ambassadors about to attack someone (or even just walking towards them). Scare Factor 5/10. Attention Wander Factor 7/10 (most scenes without the Ambassadors)
Inferno. Anyone being menaced by Primords. The explosions of lava and the sense of hopelessness at the end of the Parallel Earth. Scare Factor 5/10. Attention Wander Factor 6/10 (most scenes in the Control Room or when the Doctor isn't being chased).
July 9, 2013 @ 2:52 am
I may have to go back and re-watch 'The Mutants'. It's one of those ones that I know I watched in my youth, but I'd always get bored and nod off or get wrapped up in playing with my toys halfway through (I believe back then, it was Doctor Who and Robotix accompanied with a cup of chicken boullion late on a saturday night)
July 9, 2013 @ 2:54 am
Write more Last War in Albion, probably.
Good to hear!
I really find very little to argue about with you in these reviews. I rate Inferno a bit higher and The Three Doctors a bit lower. The Pertwee/Letts masterpiece is Carnival Of Monsters in my opinion.
July 9, 2013 @ 3:22 am
The only truly misspent youth is a youth you can't look back on as your misspent youth.
July 9, 2013 @ 4:52 am
For my money, the single best scene in Pertwee in terms of marrying emotional punch, plot progress, and thematic exposition is the scene in The Three Doctors where Omega takes his mask off. It's worth 10/10 for that alone.
As Doctor Who moves firmly to having the Doctor at the center of the show, we see more opportunities for showdowns between the Doctor and the Big Bad. This was one of the things that Pertwee did very well at — as you've identified, Phil, his Doctor is great when slightly off-balance. One of the unfortunate side-effects of introducing the Master is that the Master also can't change, so when he's around there's nowhere for these showdowns to go dramatically. But in stories without the Master we get great moments: Carrington in Ambassadors of Death, Mike Yates in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, BOSS in The Green Death, the Great One taking the crystal in Planet of the Spiders (my second-favorite scene in Pertwee, that monologue is fantastic).
Pertwee as a quiet moral core to these scenes is great, and if we'd had more of them his era would be much more highly thought of. Instead, HAI!
July 9, 2013 @ 5:23 am
Yup, Carnival's the masterpiece here.
So, with The Rescue and The Mind Robber also being the respective highlights of their times, in the Book of Sandifer, what story in Tom Baker's era serves the same function? Because all three of these have a meta component, commenting on the show itself or at least representing it somehow, while also serving as decent stories in their own right.
I'm thinking Brain of Morbius for the Hinchcliffe era, because the monster (Doctor Who) is a hodge-podge of everything stolen from that lorry Terrance Dicks was so fond of, and Nightmare of Eden for the Williams era, with its CEV and the likening of monsters to an addictive substance (and that shot of Rigg laughing at a television screen while a Mandrel mauls some poor innocent.)
July 9, 2013 @ 6:48 am
I will echo the call for more "Albion". A seriously enjoyable read. I love the tone you've adopted for it.
I refuse to stop loving "Invasion of the Dinosaurs". I love it. Unambiguously. Unironically. I love the stupid Dinosaurs, I love the Stupid conspiracy, and I love the hackneyed attempt and an eco-message. I revel in it. I also love Planet of the Spiders…you know what? I love Pertwee's run. I just do. He's one of the Doctor's I find it easy to sit down and enjoy. Which is weird because he's one of the "Leading Man" Doctors…and I don't typically enjoy them.
July 9, 2013 @ 7:03 am
The Deadly Assassin, surely.
July 9, 2013 @ 7:10 am
I'm very excited by "Last War in Albion" too: Moore and Morrison are fascinating as writers and personalities, and Philip's style and obsessions are marvellously well-suited to discussing them. I read Morrison's "Supergods" recently and when he talked about King Mob being his "fiction suit" for entering the world of "The Invisibles" I got intense "Mind Robber" flashbacks. There's just so much awesome crazy floating around those guys…
July 9, 2013 @ 7:30 am
"Planet of the Spiders: At the heart of this is a very basic problem: Barry Letts was a crappy writer. Around that is the basic self-indulgence of the story. There’s so much that’s good here, but it’s drowned in the problems that plague this entire era all appearing in some of their worst and most tedious forms. The result perfectly sums up the Pertwee era: entertaining but unsatisfying. An interesting but failed experiment comes to an end. 5/10"
Do you know, that mirrors my thoughts on a much more recent period-ender; here, let me show you:
The End of Time: At the heart of this is a very basic problem: Russell T Davies is a crappy writer. Around that is the basic self-indulgence of the story. There’s so much that’s good here, but it’s drowned in the problems that plague this entire era all appearing in some of their worst and most tedious forms. The result perfectly sums up the Tennant era: entertaining but unsatisfying. An interesting but failed experiment comes to an end. 4/10
July 9, 2013 @ 7:33 am
I guess I enjoyed the Pertwee era more than thee.
Part of it being my pro-UNIT bias.
I did find Colony In Space a bit perturbing thanks to it wiping out the entire native species of the planet, and the Doctor never being particularly on their side, even though they seem a bit exploited even by the good guy colonists.
And what's with the Doctor shooting down 2 Ogrons? It's not right!!!!
July 9, 2013 @ 7:40 am
Fun fact! The "Doctor's Reward" segment of The End of Time is actually a minute shorter than the car chase from Planet of Spiders 2, and the time from when Rose leaves and he starts staggering back to the TARDIS to when he properly starts regenerating is also a minute shorter than the amount of time from where the Doctor makes it to the TARDIS on Metebelis 3 to when he regenerates.
I'm just saying, Davies really doesn't have the record for most self-indulgent finale.
Pen Name Pending
July 9, 2013 @ 8:05 am
I loved Invasion of the Dinosaurs, though it mostly sticks out because I did not watch half of it late at night (as I do for most of the episodes) and so I was more awake and followed it better. I liked the plot, though. This is also why I plan to gradually buy the DVDs so I can watch them again and concentrate better.
July 9, 2013 @ 8:51 am
Phil, if you and I were co-writing About Time in some "Inferno"esque parallel universe, the Pertwee volume would be the one that would break up the partnership. 🙂 I couldn't disagree more with so much of what you've written here.
I mean, yes, there are some overlong Pertwee stories, with some long stretches of what you'd find to be boring if you don't like Pertwee or the setting or the situation, and what you find to be luxurious if you do and you're happy for it to last. Yes, there are many hilariously awful bits (Bill Filer, the atrocious CSO on that troll doll in "Autons," Benton in a diaper, poor Rick James), which don't add much to the "quality" of the story but can enhance the entertainment value if you're of a mind to enjoy them. Yes, there are some structural cheats like what happens in "Inferno," but is the chilling parallel universe just a consequence-free distraction from the main plot, or is it the twist that elevates this from the same-old same-old and provides its main pleasure? (Answer: B.)
I don't enjoy "The Three Doctors" much (or "The Five Doctors," for that matter), have never thought of "Colony in Space" as anything special, and while I see the merits of "Carnival of Monsters," it's just never going to be my favorite Pertwee story. On the other hand, "The Green Death" (yes, I want to love it, and I succeed with ease) and yes, even "Planet of the Spiders" are candidates for that title. Give me all the Jenny Lairds and hovercrafts you like if I get Cyril Shaps and Kismet Delgado and John Dearth and all that marvelous (if questionable) stuff with Tommy and K'anpo and Cho-Je. God, I fucking love "Planet of the Spiders," I'm sorry. Don't listen to the mean man, Bawwy. 🙂
Of course I'm sure a big part of what's happening here is that age thing again. Pertwee and Baker, especially early Baker, got to me between the ages of 8-11 and were my origin point for Doctor Who. These stories are always going to be comfort food for me and even if the ingredients aren't the healthiest, they always taste good. By contrast, the McCoy era is always going to feel a bit ersatz for me no matter how hard I try; I can like it, but I'll never love it in quite the same way.
The one thing I'd take issue with in a non-tongue-in-cheek way would be your use (and it's not just you, every critic seems to do it) of the phrase "this doesn't work." It's shorthand, I know, but it's easy for me to say "it works like crazy for me," because in so many of the cases above, it really does. What's happening is that you want it to work to entertain you (and presumably satisfy some concrete notion of dramatic quality) and I only need it to work to entertain me.
Then there's "If this isn’t your cup of tea, you’re probably in the wrong fandom" — another one of those phrases — but I could say the same to you about "Inferno" or "The Green Death." Is "Carnival of Monsters" a "better story," or more interesting fro a critical point of view, or more quintessential Doctor Who? I can see why you'd say so. Does that make it more entertaining or satisfying? Not necessarily.
Still, I loved reading your ratings and your justifications, and as I implied to BerserkRL yesterday, disagreeing and comparing notes about why is half the fun. And I'm cheered to see that we're both proponents of "Ambassadors of Death" and "The Mutants." "Difficult to praise but easy to love" is a fair assessment of the era, and personally I think "easy to love" is a far greater achievement than you might be willing to credit.
July 9, 2013 @ 10:14 am
Interesting. So, does a high Attention Wander Factor mean your attention was wandering more, or less?
July 9, 2013 @ 10:18 am
Plus, you really gotta have conejos to make the central cliffhanger of your giant, era-capping finale into a ridiculous pun.
(That's right. You gotta have rabbits.)
July 9, 2013 @ 10:28 am
For "If this isn’t your cup of tea, you’re probably in the wrong fandom", you can at least make an argument that Carnival of Monsters represents the most recurringly enjoyable aspects of the series, and thus, if you don't like the things it does/represents, you're not likely to be into the usual operating procedure of the series.
July 9, 2013 @ 10:32 am
You see, the fact that nobody can agree on what makes a good episode or a bad one, surely proves my point that there can be no such thing as an objective assessment of Doctor Who? Phil's mini-review of Pertwee's seasons doesn't quite read as if it's only his opinion. It reads quite authoritatively, and phrases like "Barry Letts was a crap writer" and "the nadir of the Pertwee era" are deliberately placed there as if they are fact, or at the very least fan consensus. I have to say that Phil's reviews don't resonate with me, not because I vehemently disagree with them, but because they don't mesh at all with how I view those stories. How I view them (or least Season 7) is how I wrote in my mini-list up-thread, because that's how they affected me then, when I was young and at my most impressionable. Those feelings will never go away, and I will never be able to see Pertwee in any other way. But does that mean my view is any less valid because I didn't watch them when I was a adult, with full critical faculties? I don't think so. I think Doctor Who cannot be divorced from the person you were when you first watched it. If you grew up with the 4th Doctor I suspect you'll tend to see successive Doctors as never quite as good, and preceding Doctors as slightly awkward curios.
Which of course is why we have "classic" and "new series" haters – people who still want more than anything to be defined as Doctor Who fans, and yet find there are seasons that they simply don't enjoy. What do you do if you can't watch, but you can't leave? Personally I ignore everything from Davison through to McCoy, because I never watched it at the time and I can't watch it now. But in doing so I sacrifice something – I am not a complete and proper Doctor Who Fan, because there are several stories I have not (and do not intend to) watch.
July 9, 2013 @ 10:53 am
Which aspects do you have in mind? And, adjusting for different opinions of what's enjoyable and taking the new series into account, are they more "recurring" and "enjoyable" than, say, a returning cast of regulars (in this case UNIT), an Earth-based setting, a large-scale threat, monstrousness spread by infection, a corrupt corporation threatening environmental stability, etc.?
I think if anything it's the opposite — "Carnival of Monsters" is unusual not just for the Pertwee era but for the series as a whole, and its strengths aren't in the things it does that are like a majority of other episodes but in the things it does that aren't.
July 9, 2013 @ 11:02 am
It constructs an interesting setting that cannot easily arise organically from within another sci-fi narrative and that probably doesn't have quite enough legs to work as an ongoing narrative in its own right. The Doctor simultaneously uncovers and disrupts the premise, then flounces on to a new story. Within it you have a focus on spectacle and the nature of storytelling.
I'd suggest this is what Doctor Who at its best does – finds a premise that it's the only show that could possibly do, efficiently take it to its limit, and then ditch it in favor of something new.
Whereas all of the UNIT material is stuff other shows can do and did do – the kiddie version of Doomwatch, basically. As I noted at the time, the UNIT era is parodied blisteringly by Monty Python five weeks before its debut. So, yes, it's good stuff, but it's stuff a dozen shows can do. I don't think there's another show in the world that could do Carnival of Monsters. It's the sort of story Doctor Who was made to do.
Pen Name Pending
July 9, 2013 @ 11:39 am
That's how I view it, and I like how everyone has their own story. (I do want to watch every episode though, although maybe not every recon.)
July 9, 2013 @ 12:10 pm
I'm on much the same page as encyclops here. Pertwee was my first Doctor (aside from Peter Cushing), so Series 7-9 had a greater impact on me than on the the typical American fan. (And my very first story was "The Time Monster," which I still unreservedly love. Minotaurs? Atlantis? TARDISes nesting inside each other? Yes, please.)
I've never understood the love for "Carnival of Monsters." It's one of the few Pertwee DVDs that I pointedly didn't buy.* (And yes, I own "Death to the Daleks," but that's because I cannot have too much Sarah Jane.) I get what it's trying to do, but this is one case in which the gulf between the story's intended scope (pun unintended) and its production values keep me at arm's length. And it's not just the Drashigs, either.
*The other two are "Colony in Space" and "The Mutants."
July 9, 2013 @ 12:28 pm
I'd suggest this is what Doctor Who at its best does
I'd agree with that. And my point is that it doesn't always achieve its best — I mean, tell me if you think the show "finds a premise that it's the only show that could possibly do, efficiently take it to its limit, and then ditch it in favor of something new" as a rule rather than an exception.
If "Carnival of Monsters" is the rule, then why rate it so highly? If it's the exception, surely it's fairer to say that if the show at its most routine isn't your cup of tea, you're better off cherry-picking the peaks than being a fan of the show as a whole.
July 9, 2013 @ 12:34 pm
I've tried. God knows I've tried. But I just can't get through them. 5th, 6th, 7th Doctor are just unwatchable for me. As I'm sad to say are most of Tom's later stories, from after Invasion of Time onwards. Anything earlier than that I can manage to watch, but it's a struggle sometimes. I guess I don't have the patience anymore!
July 9, 2013 @ 1:08 pm
the fact that nobody can agree on what makes a good episode or a bad one, surely proves my point that there can be no such thing as an objective assessment of Doctor Who?
Ow, ow, the pain. Do I really have to cite Watkins again?
July 9, 2013 @ 1:27 pm
Matthew, that really doesn't work. By all means dislike any of his Doctor Who stories, but if you want to explain your dislike you're going to have to do better than "Russell T Davies is a crappy writer". This is a guy who has written multiple highly successful, award-winning TV dramas. His work is popular with the public and acclaimed by critics and his peers. He has personally won many awards for his writing, including the Dennis Potter Award, and received an OBE for services to drama.
Barry Letts, of course, also had a long career with a track record of popular and respected work – as a producer. As far as I know, he never wrote anything outside of Doctor Who. For all that any given person might dislike some aspect of his work, for them to say one of his productions doesn't work because "Barry Letts is a crappy producer" would be daft. Similarly, I'm sure you could point to the flaws in Davies' writing that contribute to your dislike of The End of Time – even the best writer has some flaws – but "Russell T Davies is a crappy writer" is an obviously wrong statement that cannot explain anything.
July 9, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
That Watkins paper is objectively unconvincing.
July 9, 2013 @ 2:39 pm
Carnival of Monsters is the rule for Doctor Who's exceptionalism — which extends well beyond the Pertwee era.
You look at Phil's rankings for Hartnell and Troughton, and you'll see that the same ol' same ol' doesn't get the highest marks, it's the stuff like The Rescue and Enemy of the World that lights up the board. The pattern — the Sandifer Sweet Spot — hits the button a story that's utterly unique (and hence surprising) but also comments on and deforms the tropes of other genres, including Doctor Who itself, in a way that's amenable to academic analysis. This shouldn't surprise us, given Phil's training.
The thing is, the CoM-type of story pops up in every era. It may not be the cup of tea for Pertwee fans per se, but it's right in the roundhouse of Doctor Who as a whole. We really can't say the same of any of the UNIT stories.
July 9, 2013 @ 3:00 pm
July 9, 2013 @ 9:09 pm
Surely a paper disproving relativism only ends up proving relativism…by the very nature of relativism?
I stand by my conviction that if the entire human race vanished tomorrow there would no longer be a good or bad Doctor Who story.
July 9, 2013 @ 10:44 pm
I have to admit to some trepidation at this point. This is because I believe, based on your earlier posts, that within the next 24 hours I will read a positive look on a story that puts forth the definitive belief that Doctor Who fans are losers, that we will debase ourselves for the sake of getting an "in" with the show, that we form boring groups with no taste or entertainment value, that the creators (as represented by the 5th Doctor 5 months later) despise us, and that we are the types of terrible human being that would be perfectly content with seeing someone that we love reduced to a sex toy. And a positive reading on this episode might force me to require a lot of willpower to keep up the subscription that I've only so recently caught up with (as I'm putting off the pre-Eccleston content until the books arrive).
I just needed to get that out before the actual article is published.
July 9, 2013 @ 10:53 pm
@BeserkRL. The problem with that Watkins paper is that it cites examples of belief in physical facts – the world is round – that can be proven objectively. But it tells me nothing about a statement such as "bananas are horrible" other than to say that such statements are boring, so they should be ignored. It touches on morality, but only to confuse the issue by talking about translation issues. It claims to cite common examples, but then doesn't. Here's some examples. Objectively prove them:
"It is morally unacceptable to have sex with a girl under the age of 16"
"It is morally unacceptable for a man to have sex with another man."
"The current Government is useless."
"Russell T Davies is a crap writer."
"David Tennant can't act."
As they stand, they can't be proven without some qualification, which eventually shows that the statements are based on the originator's opinion. Thus:
"It is morally unacceptable to have sex with a girl under the age of 16, in this country, but not in Spain."
"It is morally unacceptable for a man to have sex with another man in many African countries, but not in the UK."
"The current Government is useless. Their recent economic policies have caused people of my economic class to lose money in real terms, although other economic classes have gained."
"Russell T Davies is a crap writer. Yes I know he's won several awards specifically for his writing, and has had several hit TV series over the last 20 years, but in my opinion he's crap and all those people are deluded."
"David Tennant can't act. See above."
July 9, 2013 @ 11:11 pm
Hey, venting is sometimes useful, and does nobody any harm here. One thought: if you think it's going to sour you on the Eruditorum, perhaps you could consider delaying reading the L&M entry until after the end of the main blog run, sometime next year?
For myself, I anticipate some disagreement with Philip, while also not holding the same opinions as yourself.
Hopefully there will be a helpline provided for those who have been affected by the issues raised in the blogpost…
July 9, 2013 @ 11:33 pm
Philip and I are never going to agree on the Pertwee era, at least partly because it was the era I grew up with. I love Inferno and The Green Death, and while Carnival of Monsters is very good, it's only about my fifth or sixth favourite story. I enjoy the self-indulgent celebratory aspects of Planet of Spiders in much the same way I enjoy Journey's End, and although much of the section on Metebelis 3 brings its overall score down, I could happily watch the chase segment repeatedly. For the record, I like (most of) the tenth Doctor's farewell tour too.
Other eras I'm much more in tune with him – I love The Rescue, for instance – but here I'm closer to generally perceived "fan wisdom".
Gotta agree on Curse of Peladon, though.
[Incidentally, I am currently reading the Vorkosigan books to my children and when I had to find a voice for Emperor Gregor that was distint from all the other upper-class Barryaran characters, I modelled it on David Troughton's King Peladon. That's worked very well.]
July 10, 2013 @ 9:36 am
He is a great writer, yes. But he has his flaws, and when he indulges them, he becomes, through the magic of alchemical regression, quite crappy indeed. Look no further than "Last of the Time Lords", "Journey's End", and, yes, "The End of Time".
He's a writer with far more weaknesses than strengths. When he's on, oh BOY, is he on, but he's off far more often, which is what led to my initial judgment of him as "crappy" (which, I admit, is somewhat unfair).
He loves Who, I know that. He has an absolute passion for it, and that's wonderful. But, more often than not, he shouldn't be writing for it.
July 11, 2013 @ 8:44 am
Claws of Axos is awesome ("like a hotdog?") I think I get flashbacks of other people's drug trips watching that.
However, gotta agree "Monster of Peladon" just stopped my "watch all the stories" in it's tracks … It's still sitting there, on the top of the things to watch, mocking me … like medicine. ugh.
July 11, 2013 @ 4:01 pm
I have to take issue with the low mark of Death to the Daleks as that is actually a story I prefer to Planet of the Daleks and possibly even Day of the Daleks. Admittedly, this may be influenced by the fact that it's one of the first stories I remember bits of from a very early age (I would have been four when it was first broadcast). I also have memories of Alpha Centauri from Monster of Peladon, so even have a bit of a soft spot for this episode (even though it is a bit of a slog to re-watch). I used to have nightmares of Giant Spiders, meeting One eyed hermaphrodites being shot at by Daleks..
Jon Pertwee's last season was really my first season and that's one of the reasons why I'll always have a soft spot for his stories.
The Pertwee era rocks and I'd increase the marks on a lot of the reviews that Phil has given. I re-watched the Daemons last night, for the first time in several years and I'd definitely make that at least and 8/10 story. The Silurians and Inferno, I'd mark both up an extra two points.. and I'd probably do the same for Claws of Axos.
At least we can agree on the Carnival of Monsters..
July 11, 2013 @ 4:45 pm
The problem with that Watkins paper is that it cites examples of belief in physical facts – the world is round – that can be proven objectively
The problem with your objection is that Watkins explicitly addresses it.
July 11, 2013 @ 4:47 pm
And as for how to prove ethical claims, we've known how to do that since the 5th century BC. We do it by showing that the alternative is incoherent.
July 17, 2013 @ 1:35 am
Of course, nobody ever seems to mention the possibility that maybe the "ghost" actually IS Grandpa Prentiss, who didn't die in Pete's World (what with priviliged access to the best healthcare technology) but survived long enough to become a Cyberman.
I mean, seriously – what if the ghosts really were the people the inhabitants of our world thought they were? Not like, Napoleon or whatever, but lovers, family, etc, all gravitating toward the people they knew in life. The ghost you see might even be your own.
July 17, 2013 @ 4:11 am
Great comment. Wrong thread. 🙂