Z and L do the Who 01 – Unearthly Child to Marco Polo

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Marco Polo – human drama wins!

Minor spoilers for Edge of Destruction in the main text and major spoilers in the footnote.

So the kids and I have been running through Doctor Who from the very beginning, one episode a day, and they are loving it!  They’re totally involved in the episodes, getting scared, laughing, occasionally yelling, “That’s so cool!” and “Argh! No! What’s going to happen?!”

Interestingly, today I asked my son which of the first four stories he liked least and most. Edge of Destruction was his least favourite, but his top pick was Marco Polo. We had watched a fan reconstruction of it that used the original audio and still photos. I had very deliberately not told him what I thought of any of the stories before asking his opinion, so as not to influence his judgement.

I personally think Marco Polo is one of the best written Doctor who stories of all time. What I found interesting was that my seven year old son liked it even more than the first Dalek story, The Dead Planet. His main reason for Polo being his top pick was that it was nice to have the TARDIS crew up against humans and not monsters.

What I find even more interesting is that he rated the story so highly even though it had no moving images. It suggests that the story was good enough to reach him on some level regardless of any ‘issues’ with the presentation. Certainly I rate Marco Polo as highly as I do because it’s a wonderful character piece, wrapped in some pretty solid storytelling. It’s a prime example of it not mattering if the outcome is obvious if the journey the audience is taken on is a good one.

Even more interesting was that he rated another monsterless story so low. His main reason being it was a bit too weird and creepy. Fair comment with everyone acting out-of-sorts in the first half.

I think it can be argued that portions of the drama in Edge don’t work because the main cast is out of character for a chunk of it. They aren’t acting like the people we know, so it’s hard to relate to them. And while I don’t mind the reveal of the problem and the resolution [1], it can’t help but feel like an unsatisfactory ending.

For the record, my five-year old daughter’s picks were Edge of Destruction for least fav, and Unearthly Child for most. Her main reason for placing Child so highly was she liked the trick with the flaming skulls in the last episode. Her reason for disliking Edge was… she found the melted clock face creepy.

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Edge of Destruction – Melted clocks are scary!

I hadn’t planned on writing these up, but my son’s reactions today made me want to share his thoughts.  That’s nothing against my daughter, of course, but being a bit younger her likes and dislikes tend to be more with what visually sticks with her – like flaming skulls and clocks.

What I’ll say in favour of Edge of Destruction was after the first part they were full of theories as to what might be going on.  It was their main topic of conversation up until we watched part two.  They both enjoyed the second part, but it seems to have lost something in hindsight.

What I found intriguing was that neither of them talked much about Dead Planet.  It has some really great visuals, and they certainly reacted strongly to the drama happening throughout, but it hasn’t stayed with them in the same way.  They enjoyed it at the time, and I thought about mentioning that, but decided that it might make them want to change their initial decisions, and seeing what stayed with them is far more interesting.

S01E09 The Expedition.mp4_snapshot_07.55_[2015.09.21_23.40.49]

WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME? WHY? WHHHHHHYYYYYY?!

For the record, today we watched the last episode of The Keys of Marinus, so my kids had a little distance from Marco Polo before I asked their thoughts on the previous stories.  Can’t wait to see how they react to episode one of The Aztecs tomorrow.

Yay! I get to start one of my favourite stories on my birthday, and share it with my kids!

Best. Present. Ever!

 

 

 
 

 

 

1. It was 1963 people!  That resolution is perfectly acceptable for what was going on in TV at the time.  Space travel was all about the technical issues, the stuff that could go wrong.  This was a prime example of one little glitch and everybody dies.

Its biggest problem is that the paranoia built up in the first episode, with ideas about something getting into the ship and hiding in one of them, is far more scary and exciting.  If the crew had been reacting to some sort of unknown technical problem from the outset, and the stress had started them at each other’s throats, I think that it may have held up better.

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50th Anniversary Trailer Breakdown

Okay, seen a couple of lists about the trailer, some have drawn some pretty long bows, some have missed elements that I spotted.  So here’s my list. I’ve put up framegrabs, then highlighted and numbered most of the relevant bits.  If you click on an image it will jump to a full sized version.

I haven’t always gone for the clearest shot of an object, but this already runs to 19 images and 90 entries total, so I was trying to get the most bang for my buck. With the way I’ve presented it, you should be able to figure out where it is on screen and check for yourself.

But mostly I only cover the elements that I’m fairly certain of, there’s very little supposition in my list, and I debunk (possibly incorrectly) one or two other theories. I did skip one or two shots of Daleks where I found it impossible to narrow down the type or story.  I have no doubt I’ve missed a few things, but I think I’ve covered most of them fairly well.

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1. The policeman seen in the very first episode, An Unearthly Child. Fred Rawlings was the first actor seen in the show.

2. This bike is potentially one of the most anal retentive bits of continuity.  It appears clearly in some of the set photos for An Unearthly Child, but you can’t see it in the episode.  Or maybe it’s a nod to the bike Tom Baker rides in Shada.  What? You want a bike seen on screen in an episode that was broadcast? Okay, it belongs to Pigbin Josh from Claws of Axos.  Happy?

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Classic Who – Less is More

No, I really do enjoy watching Classic Who this way.

No, I really do enjoy watching Classic Who this way.

So, it’s been less than two days since Enemy of the World and Web of Fear were released to iTunes, and I’m already seeing people posting about how they’ve watched both stories already. And unsurprisingly, some of these folks are saying, “Well, they’re good, but not that good.”

Now everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that opinion has to be fairly arrived at.  And I maintain my stance that especially on a first watch, spreading out Classic Who episodes, rather than watching them together in clumps, is the way to do it. Continue reading

Classic Who – Enemy of the World & Web of Fear!

I wrote the previous time some episodes were found about my feelings on the discovery of any episode, no matter how good or bad.  I also included in that piece advice for those wishing to experience the complete series even though so much is still missing.

This time I want say a brief word about the stories, and simply enthuse about things I’m looking forward to seeing.

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Enemy of the World – Troughton gets to show off his acting chops in this story, as he plays the Doctor and the villainous Salamander. It’s a 60’s spy thriller Doctor Who story, with a strange sf twist towards the end. It also handles things differently, by having most of the cliffhangers be about moments of surprise and emotion, rather than actual danger.

Looking forward to – I think if I were to pick only one, I’d most want to see the part six Salamander/Doctor face-off in the TARDIS. From the telesnaps it looks like they used rear projection to have Troughton facing himself, and I sort of want to see that in action.

Other than that, episodes one and five have a fair bit of action going on, so that’d be nice to actually see.  But the real strength of this story is as a character piece, and I’m so looking forward to seeing the actors in action, rather than just hearing them.

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Web of Fear – It’s the weaker of the two Great Intelligence stories, but that doesn’t make it bad. This is one that I think is likely to be majorly helped by getting returned, given its real strength seemed to lay in its visuals and atmosphere.

Looking forward to – Oh if only part 3 were moving footage so we could have Colonel Lethbridge Stewart’s first appearance, but can’t complain. Well I can, but given I never expected to see any more of this story, that seems churlish.  Besides will hopefully be able to see that next year.

On audio the last 10-15 minutes of part 4 is utterly brutal, and while it may be that the realisation on screen will be less intense than it was on audio, the surviving clips from that episode are pretty scary and left me literally open-mouthed in shock.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how it is shot.

And needless to say, while I’ve waited my whole Doctor Who fan-life to see these, I’m only going to watch them one episode a night – the way they’re meant to be seen 🙂

Dalekboy’s Linky Goodness

So, haven’t been posting here a lot because that thing called life keeps getting in the way.  You remember life.  Look away from the screen.  There it is.  Now quick, hide back here with me again.

I’ve got several pieces started here that I need to finish, but some were begun last year and I’m just not quite getting time to work on them.  Or when I have time, I’m a bit too tired.  But anyway, I have been doing some writing here and there, and I thought I might link to that, and to one or two other bits and pieces I like.

 

Get Off My Lawn, you damned nuWho kids!

Get Off My Lawn, you damned nuWho kids!

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Classic Who – The Valeyard and Regenerations

There are two things you need to know before we can talk about the Valeyard as being or idea. The first is that the concept for the character builds on, and is inspired by, the handling of regeneration from as far back as the second Doctor.  The second and more important, is that the character came up at a time when the script editor and producer were at odds with one another – drastically affecting the quality of the whole season in which the Valeyard was featured, and the way he was eventually handled.

I’m going to try to minimise spoilers, so if I’m oddly vague about something that you think is common knowledge, be aware I’m trying to let people less well versed in the show’s history still have some of these surprises.  Personally, if I know I’m going to read a specific book, or watch a specific film, I will usually avoid reading anything about it just so I can experience it as freshly as possible.  That said, some spoilers are going to be unavoidable, especially when I talk about the Trial of a Time Lord season, and the Valeyard.  There will almost certainly be spoilers in any comments.

One of the genius ideas with regards to Doctor Who was the whole concept of the lead character being able to change appearance, allowing the show a longevity far beyond what most actors would be able to achieve. Continue reading

Classic Who – The Martian Legacy

(A delayed post – I started writing this last year, then suddenly it’s the day before a new Ice Warrior story.  So here it is with a quick final edit, for those of you who want a taster for what went before.)

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Given they only ever had four televised stories (until tomorrow), it says a lot about the Ice Warriors that 38 years after their last televised adventure, they are still a popular alien race. They’ve been given a lot of life beyond those original TV tales with numerous appearances in comics, novels, and audio plays.  Here I’ll just concentrate, in as non-spoilery a way as possible, on their televised appearances.

I think the key to the Ice Warriors’ popularity is that they are a rare race within the Doctor Who universe in that their plans and motivations are different in each of the stories in which they featured.  While Daleks and Cybermen have more appearances, their stories are substantially less varied – those creations stopped being a race of aliens and became monsters – whereas the Ice Warriors changed organically over the course of their stories. Continue reading

Classic Who – Seven for the New Who Crowd.

So you like New Who, but haven’t watched any of the original series.  First up, that’s fine. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.  You don’t have to ever watch the original show if you don’t want.  There’s a lot there, 697 episodes, and chunks of those are missing!  It’s a very daunting prospect, and a very different series to the one you’ve fallen in love with.

But of course, some of you are curious about the old show, so this is for you.  It’s a list of mostly stand-alone stories, that exist in full, and have commercial DVD releases – so sourcing them shouldn’t be too hard.

I originally wanted to aim for stories that didn’t feature any of the big returning baddies, but that wasn’t practical.  Mostly these are good to great stories for a variety of reasons, including some nice character parts.  Steven Moffat has said that when you write a Doctor Who story, at the end you should be saying, “Well, there’s that feature film idea all used up!”  A few of these fit the bill.

I’ll give you a very short non-spoilery run down on each.  Just do yourself a favour – if you decide to try these recommendations don’t go reading up on them.  Don’t look them up online, or read the back blurbs of the DVD.  Try to approach them as freshly spoiler free as you can manage.

I’ve also made mention of New Who stories that have some similarities. But don’t go expecting these stories to be the same – the stories are only vaguely similar in certain rough thematic senses.  The suggestions are only there to give you a more of a hook in the absence of more detailed, and therefore spoilery, write-ups.

And also remember – with Old Who, usually best to only watch one episode a night.  Or one early in the day, and another in the evening. To do more can actually hurt the experience of otherwise good stories. Continue reading

Classic Who – Four of my Favourites

So it’s been way too long since I last posted here, mainly due to life getting in the way.  But you’re not interested in that, you want to know about some of my favourite Doctor Who stories, don’t you?  Well that’s good, because I feel like telling you about them!

Now, I need to note here that this is by no means an exhaustive list.  There are some stories I haven’t seen for decades, or in the case of a few Patrick Troughton stories, haven’t seen/heard at all [1].  It also isn’t a list of what I consider to be the best Doctor Who stories, or all my favourites, just four that I find myself coming back to again and again.

The Daleks’ Master Plan
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Classic Who – The Viewing of the Lost

I started writing this post a week or so back, and pretty much had it mostly finished when yesterday morning I found out that they’d discovered two missing episodes!

For those who are unaware, the two episodes for were Galaxy 4 episode 3, and The Underwater Menace episode 2.

The amusing thing is, they are both episodes that I don’t think are very good.  It’s the universe testing the true fans – ‘let’s see who is happy when they find out it’s these two that have been found.’

I suspect I’m a real fan, because nothing could take the shine off the fangasm I’d had from this find.  For me, any episode found is akin to winning the lottery in it’s likelihood.  Finding two is unbelievable.

Anyway, I’ve made the appropriate edits needed below.  This is basically a run down of the resources available to you if you’re curious about experiencing old Who, but aren’t quite sure how to get around the gaps caused by so many episodes being destroyed or lost.

Okay, so I suppose the first place to start is telling you what you probably already know – lots of early Doctor Who is missing.  Oh, it exists on audio, and some even have telesnaps [1], but if you listen to some fans, the loss of these episodes was as bad as any disaster in human history.  Titanic? Piffle!  The total deathtoll of all the wars in recorded history? Don’t waste my time. The Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919? A close second, but no.

Don’t you understand?  Some episodes of a television show I like were destroyed!  Who cares about all those other classic or important shows that no longer exist at all because of the cull, this is a show I liked!

Too cynical? Maybe, but if you’re one of the folks new to the fandom, you’ve probably already come across some of these people. But don’t worry, you don’t need to have your sense of perspective surgically removed to be a Doctor Who fan.

Snarkiness aside, it is a shame about the lost episodes, and possibly the best way to appreciate it is this –

William Hartnell made 134 episodes in his original run, and 44 are still missing.  That’s about 33%.
Patrick Troughton made 119 episodes, and 62 are still missing, or around 52% of his run.

So for the New Who fans, here’s the Eccleston and Tennant runs with those equivalent percentages gone.  Just try to imagine that you can never, ever, ever watch the crossed out stories again.  Oh, and that you only ever got to see them once the first time around. Continue reading