Monday, December 8, 2014

ClassicWho Reviews: Robot, The Sontaran Experiment, Genesis of the Daleks, and Revenge of the Cybermen


     The Doctor is a bit confused after his regeneration. He isn’t quite sure who all these people are (although he’s happy enough to latch on to Sarah Jane with a death grip), tries on various silly costumes before dressing like a deranged hobo, and insists being grown up means being able to act childish (while throwing a slight tantrum at the Brig trying to confine him to a hospital bed). Also he shoves Harry Sullivan into a chest.

Poor Harry gets abused a lot, actually.

     However, when a mystery crops up, it immediately catches his interest. Parts of a disintegration gun (to be used in traffic, obviously) are being stolen. While UNIT moves out to protect the different factories, the Doctor gets distracted by crushed flowers and lounges around in Bessie with his hat over his face.

     Meanwhile, Sarah Jane looks into the Nation Institute for Advanced Scientific Research, known as “Think Tank”. There she learns they are testing a robot called “K1”to perform dangerous tasks, but she finds out the actual creator of the robot, Kettlewell, thought he had disassembled it. When she goes to see the robot, she finds it torn between conflicting programs to kill intruders, and to protect humans. Sarah Jane expresses sympathy, but the director of the robot program, Winters, scoffs at this.

     After she leaves, K1 arrives at Kettlewell’s place and attacks him, but the Doctor arrives in time to defeat the robot with his scarf. K1 flees, only to be handed the disintegrator gun and ordered to steal papers from a cabinet minister-launch codes for nuclear missiles!

     Sarah Jane’s investigations lead her to the conclusion that many of the scientist at Think Tank are members of the Scientific Reform society, who believe scientists should be in charge of the world.

     Also, one believes science is just too hard for girls. Sarah Jane gives a devastating burn in response, and it is beautiful.

     With the realization that Reform now has the nuclear codes and can enact their plan, it’s a race against time and a size-changing robot that is not Optimus Prime.

     This was a pretty good introduction to the Great and Powerful Tom. He was suitably manic, and his eccentric way of solving the problems just set the tone for the rest of his run.

Tom Baker, showing off the majority of his facial expressions.

The Sontaran Experiment

     Mr. Potato Head and his clones are back again! The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry Sullivan teleports to Earth from the Nerva space station (previous serial, could not find). They find Earth apparently abandoned. While the Doctor works on the teleporter, Harry falls down and Sarah Jane is surprised by an astronaut named Roth, who claims he was captured and tortured by an alien. The Doctor, meanwhile, has been captured by the other astronauts. After a rescue effort, they go back to the crevasse where Harry fell, only to Field Major Styre, a Sontaran who has been experimenting on, and killing, the astronauts. Styre has been preparing for an invasion of Earth.

     This was…apparently a fairly forgettable one, as I don’t remember much about it. Styre was suitably evil, subjecting Sarah Jane to frightening hallucinations and being pretty much a jerk (as Sontarans tend to be). The Doctor was, of course, awesome, because Tom Baker. He also takes great joy in picking on Harry.

He apparently gets excited over mines as well.

     Possibly part of the reason this didn’t make an impression on me is because of the next one.

Genesis of the Daleks

     The Doctor intends to take Sarah Jane and Harry back to Earth, but the Time Lords grab the TARDIS and land it on Skaro, telling the Doctor to stop the creation of the Daleks. The trio exit the TARDIS only to find themselves in a war zone reminiscent of a World War II movie. This is near the end of the thousand-year war between the Thals and the Kaleds. When a poison gas is released, the Doctor and Harry are captured by the Kaleds while Sarah Jane is left outside, unconscious.

     Sarah discovers the Mutos, the partially mutated victims of the war who have been abandoned by both sides. One saves Sarah from the others, but before they can make any plans, the Thals capture them and force them to load radioactive materials into a missile.

     Meanwhile, the Doctor and Harry meet the main players on the Kaled side: General Ravon, Security Commander Nyder (looking about as Nazi as they come), and Ronson, a more thoughtful scientist who discovers, to everyone’s surprise, that their captives are alien.

     Then, Davros arrives with a Dalek.


     To everyone’s further surprise, the Doctor calls it a Dalek, something that Davros had literally just come up with. A few of the scientists collude with the Doctor to help him escape and stop Davros’ experiments.

     The Doctor and Harry manage to slip out and rescue Sarah from the Thal dome, but while there, they discover Davros providing the Thal leaders with deadly chemicals. The Kaled dome is destroyed, and the Daleks are unleashed on both the unsuspecting  Thals.

     The trio, along with the Thal and Mutos survivors, sneak back to the Kaled bunker. The soldiers are instructed to destroy the bunker, while the Doctor goes in, hoping to stop the Daleks in their tracks.

     There’s a reason this serial is held in such high regard. It gives us a very visceral look at the war that started the Dalek race, and it hits on a lot of different points of the war: the helpless victims caught in between, young people going out and dying, the horrible deaths that result, the desperation and loosening morals, and the relief when people think it’s finally over. The World War II analogues were quite obvious. Both sides seemed  represent the different terrible aspects of Nazi ideology. The Thals were the vicious, warlike people (to begin with), and the Kaleds were the ruthless scientists. Neither side was particularly good at the end.

     It also gives us a couple very iconic moments. The first is Davros’ speech about holding the fate of the universe in his hands. If the end was in his power, would he cause it? Oh, you bet he would. (As he demonstrates clearly  in Journey’s End.) It’s very chilling to watch-someone who has been so warped by war that he would kill everyone just for the sake of his ego.

     The other moment is the image of the Doctor holding the two wires together, debating with himself about whether or not destroying the Daleks while they are helpless is truly the right thing to do. (Yes, he mentions the Hitler argument during his debate.) This sets up a very common moral dilemma for the Doctor. How far is too far?

"Doctor, what vexes all men?"
"The dichotomy of good and evil?"
"You''re not normal, are you?"

     This was a fantastic serial. It introduced Davros, it showed us what circumstances it took to cause the Daleks, and it gave us some fantastic acting from Tom Baker.

10/10 would watch forever.

Something about Davros seemed so familiar...if only I could figure out what...

Revenge of the Cybermen

     If it ain’t Daleks, it’s Cybermen. I tell you.

     Our heroic trio arrive back at the Nerva space station, a few thousand years in the past, only to find wacky hijinks are afoot. A plague has hit the station, leaving them under quarantine and isolated, with only three men to continue running the beacon to warn ships away from the nearby planet of Voga. When an alien warning comes through transmission, it seems the only source could be the planet, but Professor Kellman insists that there was no life on the planet when he visited it six months previous.

     Meanwhile, on Voga, there is in fact life on the planet. The alien who attempted to warn the space station is dead; the military leader has some kind of plan, and is in contact with someone on the station. (Three guesses who, and the first two don’t count.) The Vogans (lol) are tense from the nearby Cybermen, who are monitoring transmissions.

     On the station, the Doctor realizes the Cyberman are involved; Voga is known as the “planet of gold”, and gold is known to weaken the Cybermen. The planet was a very important asset in a previous war. Then, Sarah is bitten by a cybermat, the real cause of the deaths on the station, and the Doctor manages to get past Kellman’s sabotage of the transmat system to send Sarah and Harry down to the planet, filtering the poison from Sarah’s body. Unfortunately, the two are captured by the Vogans. There, they discover there is a conflict between two sides. Vorus, the military leader, wants to stop hiding from the Cybermen, and has a plan involving the humans above. But the chief councilor Tyrum wants his people to use caution. Sarah and Harry are caught up in the fighting, while on the space station the Doctor tries to fix the transmat system to bring them back.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

     However, before he can, the Cybermen arrive on the station, so they can destroy the asteroid and the main source of weapons against them. They send the Doctor and two of the men on board to plant bombs throughout the asteroid. They have fourteen minutes to make it back to the transmat system (almost impossible), and if they try to take the bombs off, they’ll blow up anyways.

     This was a pretty fun serial. The chief of the action, however, takes place as the Doctor makes his way across the asteroid with a bomb strapped to his back. It was really a tense scene, as it wasn’t entirely clear how the Doctor would manage to get out of it. Kellman was a bit transparently evil; but on the other hand, it was nice to see the Cybermen back (even if it led to complaints that their weakness was too ridiculous.) It had a slow start, but the end was worth it.

"If you're so technologically advanced, why do we need to do this?"
"That...that doesn't...oh, never mind."

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