Thursday, November 13, 2014

ClassicWho Reviews: The Time Warrior, Death to the Daleks, and Planet of the Spiders

The Time Warrior

     Back in the Middle Ages, a pair of ruffians discover a crashed spaceship. The alien inside is a Sontaran named “Linx”, and he promises them his “magic weapons” if they help repair his ship.

     In the 70’s, the Doctor and the Brig are at a secret research facility, where several scientists have disappeared. He meets two scientists, Rubeish and Smith (prompting everyone asking if he’s related to her); but that night, Rubeish disappears. The Doctor manages to follow the trail in his TARDIS, and discovers that the bandit Irongron (really???) has stolen a castle, and Linx has been using it as a place to keep the scientists captive while they work on repairing his ship for him.

     Meanwhile, it appears that “Smith” is really just Sarah Jane impersonating her aunt to get the big scoop and has stowed away on board the TARDIS. Oh, Sarah Jane.

     She teams up with an archer from the neighboring lord of Wessex, who is building up an alliance to take the castle back from their absent friend.  After the confusion with the Doctor is cleared up (as cleared up as it can ever be around him), he comes up with a plan to take back the castle and deal with Linx.

"Tickle the ribs, Sarah Jane! It's the Sontarans' only weak spot!"

     I really loved this serial. It introduced our beloved Sarah Jane, who tries to argue feminist politics with a violent bandit from the Middle Ages. Pitting the irascible and egotistical Irongron against the Sontaran meant plenty of comedy, and of course the Doctor is in fine form, both in brains and ability. (He appears to be an excellent archer in this one.) This was a great way to start out Pertwee’s last season.

Death to the Daleks

     The Third Doctor dealt with Daleks a lot, didn’t he? In this one, the Doctor and Sarah Jane are on a trip when the TARDIS suddenly loses energy and lands on the planet Exxilon. When they go outside to take a look, they are separated and attacked by locals.

      Come morning, the Doctor is rescued by a group of space marines, whose own equipment failed. They are there to fetch a mineral that can cure a deadly plague. Suddenly, a saucer arrives! Guess what it looks like? The whole time, the Doctor appears not to recognize his mortal enemies until they actually leave the saucer. Luckily for everyone else, their weapons have failed just like everyone else. Unfortunately, Dalek movement is apparently done mainly by telekinesis. (No really, they have telekinesis but they mainly use it to move. Can you imagine if anyone showed them Carrie? God help us all.)

     As it appears the Daleks are after the Parrinium too, a very uneasy alliance ensues. But, as luck would have it, the native Exxilons reappear, and take them to their holy city, which is forbidden to get near. Unfortunately, Sarah Jane got near it, and is up next for the sacrifice! After wacky hijinks ensue, in which the Daleks inevitably try to betray everyone, the Doctor and Sarah Jane flee underneath the city, where a group of rebel Exxilons tell them the horrible truth: the city is alive, it has turned on its creators, and the beacon at the top is what drains energy for the city to use.

     It’s a matter of destroying the beacon, but the Daleks have, of course, captured everyone, having modified their weapons to use bullets, and are working on that same plan. They are also inexplicably using a tiny model TARDIS as target practice. Presumably they mass produce them and sell them to Whovians to fund their wars.

It's strangely adorable.

     One after another, the Doctor, followed by Daleks, make their way through the city and the logic tests it has constructed. (Some of which require legs and fingers, but we’ll just assume they blew something up to make it work.) Meanwhile, Sarah Jane and the other captive humans come up with a way to defeat the Daleks while preserving the Parrinium.

    The Daleks did feel a bit overused at this point, especially as they were a bit odd in this one. Between the bullet guns, the model TARDIS, and the one Dalek self-destructing because a prisoner escaped, they were just…strange. I mean, stranger than usual. It’s hard to understand the degree of strangeness in the mind of a raving lunatic.

     This was a decent serial, though. Sarah Jane was a breath of fresh air, as she was portrayed as being fairly clever and resourceful. Not gonna lie, Sarah Jane is one of my favorite companions. Her own series was a long time coming, and she well deserved it. RIP Elisabeth Sladen.

The Planet of the Spiders

     This serial has me torn between nightmare fuel and UNENDING TEARS.

     After the events of a serial I didn’t see, in which Mike Yates of UNIT apparently turned against everyone for no reason other than to carry the Idiot Villain ball for a while, Mike has been “finding himself” at a Tibetan monastery run by a mysterious and slightly eccentric abbot. Sarah Jane goes to visit him and to get a story about the monastery. Unfortunately, one resident, named Lupton, along with a few others, are acting…sketchy. They have secret basement rituals in which they talk to spiders. These spiders want a specific blue crystal back…

     Meanwhile, the Doctor has become quite interested in telepathy. Rather than pull out the copies of Babylon 5 he no doubt has in the TARDIS, he instead hooks Professor Clegg up to a machine. When he decides to try it out with the blue crystal Jo mailed back to him (still mucking around in the amazon, looking for mushrooms with Professor Hippie), Professor Clegg’s heart gives out from getting a vision of spiders.

     When the Doctor and Sarah Jane go back to the monastery, the blue crystal is lost, and comes into the hand of the mentally impaired handyman, who suddenly understands the book Flowers for Algernon perfectly. While the universe is in peril, Tommy READS ALL THE THINGS.

     When Lupton is teleported to Metebelis Three, Sarah Jane manages to dive in the portal and follow. The place is ruled by a legion of spiiiidahhhs. 

I saw horrifying things trying to find this...

     The blue crystals of the planet allowed the spiders to grow bigger and become sentient, which, again, is ALL OF MY NIGHTMARES FOREVER. After stirring up trouble, as usual, the Doctor goes to the mountains, where he meets an even bigger spider who wants to take over the universe. The Doctor is understandably freaked out and flees back to Earth with Sarah Jane, who unfortunately has a giant spider on her back. HOORAY FOR NIGHTMARES.

     Luckily, the abbot in charge of the institute is actually the Doctor’s old mentor from Gallifrey, who has decided to retire to Earth, because apparently at this point the Time Lords were noticing that the Doctor had lots of nice things to say about Earth. Did we have an influx of Time Lord tourists before the Time War? (NuWho mentions a “planet of coffee shops”, which I suspect is us.) Either way, the Doctor and his mentor help Sarah Jane fight off the control of the queen spider, and the Doctor plans to take the blue crystal back to the Great One—clearly he has a plan. (Meanwhile, Tommy does not in fact succumb to Flowers for Algernon syndrome, and continues to READ ALL THE THINGS.)

     Three weeks later he returns just in time for the abbot to inform everyone that he will turn into a very manic Tom Baker.

     The story as a whole was pretty decent. I thought it was a good way to wrap up Pertwee’s run. The Third Doctor makes a final sacrifice to save both Metebelis Three and the universe. (It’s also implied in other source material that it took him ten years to find his way back to UNIT. That’s ten years dying of radiation poisoning! No wonder his fourth incarnation was so loopy.) I also enjoyed the additional glimpses we get of Time Lord society, and proof that the Doctor isn’t the only crazy one from Gallifrey who isn’t out to kill us all.

     Also, there was a very long, silly chase scene in which a variety of vehicles were used, simply because Jon Pertwee liked driving cool things. Oh, Jon Pertwee. You so silly.

"Suck it, Doc Brown!"

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