The Three Doctors, Part 3

UNIT HQ in the black holeAt the end of the previous episode, Dr 2 lowered the Tardis’s protective forcefield. Not only were he, Sergeant Benton, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart aboard the Tardis zapped, but the entire UNIT HQ was pulled through that black hole into the antimatter universe.

Already in that antimatter universe on a rather desolate planet, Dr 3, Jo, and Dr. Tyler are taken to a sort of throne room, where they and we finally meet the person who’s responsible for all this–that splendidly voiced person in cape and impressive mask whom we just glimpsed in Part 2 (played by Stephen Thorne). He introduces himself as Omega. (“Omegger,” if you speak in a posh British accent, as he and Dr 3 do.)

Dr 3 knows who he is, but thought he’d been destroyed eons ago.

Jo and Dr. Tyler are then taken to a cell in the glittery bauble cave with doors that vanish and reappear as needed; when the door reappears to shut them in, Jo does that thing that I know from Janet Fielding’s (Tegan’s) commentaries on Dr 5 episodes drives her crazy–where they point at an action and exclaim “Look!” before it actually happens, and then it happens.

Once the humans are gone, Dr 3 and Omega have a conversation that fills us in on Omega’s backstory:

Many thousands of years ago, Omega was a brilliant stellar engineer on Gallifrey.  This desolate world was a star, and part of his job was to detonate it and create a supernova to provide the enormous power needed for his people’s nascent time-and-space travel abilities. It was a dangerous mission, but he considered it an honor as well as his duty.  Mission successfully accomplished, but the Time Lords have always assumed that he was killed in the explosion; instead, he’d been thrown into this black hole of antimatter and he considers himself abandoned by them.

Omega

“They became Time Lords,” he grumbles to Dr 2, “and I was forgotten.”

“Not forgotten,” Dr3 tries to assure him. “I’ve always looked on you as our greatest hero.”

“I should have been a god!” Omega responds, which tells you all you need to know about his mental state after being stuck here alone for so long. What he wants now is vengeance. Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 3”

The Three Doctors, Part 2

At the end of Part 1, Dr 3 and his companion Jo were zapped by the multicolored blob-thing in UNIT HQ’s lab and disappeared. It’ll be some time before we find out what’s happened to them, The Doctor and Jobut during the activity that follows at UNIT, we’re given a very brief scene of them reappearing via that beam emitting from the so-called black hole and ending up unconscious in a quarry.

Back in the UNIT lab, after theorizing that Dr 3 and Jo have been transported somewhere, Dr 2 observes that the blobby thing has “gone off the boil” and he and Sgt. Benton venture out of the Tardis.

While Dr 2 is testing blobby’s limits, the Brigadier comes in. Being somewhat preoccupied by the blob-thing inside the HQ and the attack by the glittering shrouded creatures outside, it takes him a moment to register that the Doctor is now his old pre-regeneration friend again. He asks about some of their adventures together: the Yeti, the Cybermen attack, and  the Autons story which was Patrick Troughton’s last before he transformed into “that tall, thin fellow.” But this last hasn’t happened yet for Dr 2 at the point when he was taken out of the time-stream,  and he tries to explain this to the Brigadier and avoid spoilers on what’s coming up for him. He refers to himself as a “Temporal anomaly.” Not that the Brigadier really understands this, but he’s got enough to deal with at the moment and just goes along with it.

“You’ve been mucking around with that infernal machine of yours,” the Brigadier concludes, and tells Benton, “As long as he’s done the job, he can wear what face he likes.” He suggests that Dr 2 consult those “all powerful” Time Lords.

“Not so ‘all powerful’ just now,” Dr 2 replies. “That’s why it’s been left up to me and me and me.”
Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 2”

The Three Doctors, Part 1

In 1974, Doctor Who had been a successful BBC program for nearly ten years; as November approached, the show’s producers were looking for ways to celebrate and make its 10th anniversary show a particularly special occasion. Producer Barry Letts, in his commentary on this DVD, says that one of the requests he’d heard most often from fans was an episode in which the three actors who had played the Doctor all appeared together. Everybody involved was game for it, but it took a bit of work behind the scenes to accomplish.

The first of the four episodes of this anniversary story starts at a wildlife sanctuary. Ducks, swans, and other birds are swimming along on a lake, and something that looks like a weather balloon, or Rover caught in a very large plastic bag, appears to be snagged just at the water’s edge.

Weather balloonAn old man in wellies and carrying a rifle–he’s the grounds-keeper–approaches to examine the box, which resembles a car battery, that’s attached to this rigging and anchoring it.

Soon after, a professorial-looking gentleman in tweed drives up to the sanctuary and is greeted by an elderly woman in a cardigan. She addresses him as “Dr. Tyler.” She’s phoned him about the box her husband found, and directs him down to the lake where hubby, Mr. Ollis, is waiting. He hasn’t touched it, she says, and asks if it’s got chemicals in it that might be a danger to the ducks. Dr. Tyler reassures her on that point and continues driving down to the lakeside.

Mr. Ollis has in fact touched the box, which starts making staticky noises. Then zap!–he disappears. The birds on the lake fly off in alarm.

By the time Dr. Tyler gets out there, he finds the box alone. There’s no sign of the groundskeeper, whom he had glimpsed at a distance just a minute before. He phones UNIT HQ.

Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 1”

Best of H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival: Vol. 2

The second part of this anthology of the best short films from the annual Festival. There are more adaptations of Lovecraft stories on this DVD than on Part 1.

The Shunned House (2012)

This is a modern-day and pretty good retelling of Lovecraft’s story. Water drips from the leaf-clogged end of a gutter spout as Uncle Eli Whipple and his nephew Robert drive up to the house and park in the street out front.

“Jesus!” exclaims Robert as he looks it over. “Did they build this place knowing it was going to be a haunted house?”

The Shunned House

I’ve been to the Shunned House. It doesn’t look like this.

Later dialog will establish that Eli often goes on this sort of ghost-hunting adventure, and his nephew enjoys going along. The pair has brought along electronic equipment and a camcorder. Robert records his uncle as they enter the house; Eli makes an introductory statement about the Shunned House’s long history of “pain, suffering, misery, death.”

The dripping from the gutter stops abruptly as they go inside.

As they go down into the basement, Uncle Eli continues to tell us pretty much the same story of the people who died in the house or suffered strange illnesses as related in Lovecraft’s original story, but with the date of events moved up from the Colonial era to the 19th and 20th century. Robert makes note of a vaguely man-shaped dark patch on one wall, but his uncle says it’s probably water damage.

They settle down to set up their equipment. When Robert turns on the EMF detector, it fairly shrills with whatever energy it’s picking up. After checking the batteries, he decides that it’s malfunctioning and turns it off again while Eli carries on with his story.

Unnoticed by either man, that dark patch spreads across the ceiling.

Continue reading “Best of H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival: Vol. 2”

Haunted Palace

This film has been on my mind for a long time. A quick search of my own blog reviews shows me that I’ve mentioned it 4 times over the past 6 years:

“The same sort of thing happened to Vincent Price and Debra Paget in The Haunted Palace, and Debra stuck around too. Portrait of Joseph CurwinI don’t know why. It never ends well. When your husband’s been possessed by an evil ancestor he strongly resembles, it’s much more reasonable to leave your stately haunted home for a little while and wait to see if he has the willpower to reassert his own personality from a safe distance.”

-2014, Night of Dark Shadows

“…the Poe’d-up Haunted Palace, starring Vincent Price and Debra Paget in a Victorian gothic version with putty-faced mutants roaming the misty streets of Arkham.”

2016, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

“…AIP’s Lovecraft-dressed-up-as-Poe Haunted Palace starring Vincent Price (which I really am going to review one of these days)…”

-2018, The Resurrected

“The film shown here is the ending of that Poe’d-up adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward,” Haunted Palace (which I really am going to review one of these days; I’ve been saying so for years). “

-2019, Madhouse

That day has arrived finally!

The misty streets of Arkham

Continue reading “Haunted Palace”

Dr. Who: Shada, Part 3

At the end of Part 2, Cambridge University science student Claire Keighley accidentally brought Professor Chronitis back from the dead by discovering and activating the controls for the Tardis that is his room at St. Cedd’s College.

Once he’s explained that much to her–not that she understands Chronotis alive againeverything he’s saying about their present state of timelessness, he tells her:

“We must find Skagra. He has the book.”

Fortunately, Claire does know about the book, so this part isn’t completely bewildering to her. Chronotis continues to explain the situation:

Shada is the Time Lord’s prison planet, but they are conditioned to forget about it–which was why the Doctor couldn’t remember its name when he was talking about Salyavin earlier, but he knew what the name meant when he heard the professor’s dying words.

The book is the literally the key to Shada. It’s what you use to access it.

If Skagra is working with mind transference, says the professor, then he can only be going to Shada for one reason. The prisoner he wants is that Salyavin we’ve already heard about. He must be stopped.

Chronotis then boosts Claire’s intellect by entering her mind and “rearranging things,” as she later describes it, so she knows enough to help him get out of this timeless state and go after Skagra.

Over on his magnificent cartoon command ship, Skagra is explaining this to Romana. As they’re talking, he realizes that the Gallifreyan code the book is written in would have to have reference to Time, and he goes looking back through the Doctor’s memories for his last mention of Time.

Command ship

At last, he breaks the code. Time runs backwards for the book, and the Tardis is of use in unwinding it. Continue reading “Dr. Who: Shada, Part 3”

Dr. Who: Shada, Part 2

At the end of Part 1, the Doctor was attempting to crawl under a chain-link fence to try to escape a floating silver sphere intent on sucking all the information out of his brain.

Doctor rescuedFortunately, he’s rescued by Romana, who shows up in the Tardis just in time. The Doctor scrambles up off the ground and into the Tardis (catching the end of his scarf in the door) before the sphere reaches him.

This was the other scene reused in The Five Doctors, with the floating sphere effect taken out. I always wondered why the Doctor was lying down in an alleyway.

Cambridge physics student Chris Parsons has undergone some experiences in the last few hours that have totally changed his understanding of the universe. First, that strange book he borrowed from Professor Chronotis  appeared be of extraterrestrial origin. Then, he had a look around inside the Tardis, met K9, and has learned that the now-dead professor was alien and isn’t the only person from another planet hanging around Earth. He’s in for a few more surprises before the day is out.

While Romana pops out to get the Doctor, Chris remains sitting with the dead professor, who vanishes before his eyes. When the Tardis comes back, he explains what happened; the Doctor says that Chronotis must have been on his last regeneration.

Chris and Romana tell the Doctor about Chronotis’s last words: Beware the sphere. Beware Skagra. Beware Shada. The secret is in the …

The Doctor knows what Shada means and vows to get Skagra, who has just killed a very old and dear friend. Tom Baker’s Doctor tends to be flippant about whatever happens to him, especially during the latter years of his run, but for once he seems actually angry and bent on vengeance.

They all get into the Tardis to find Skagra.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: Shada, Part 2”

Dr. Who: Shada, Part 1

Not so much a lost episode of Doctor Who, as an unfinished one. Near the end of Tom Baker’s sixth series as the Doctor, all BBC productions were pretty much shut down due to a technicians’ strike. Work on this episode had gotten only as far as filming the exterior scenes in and around Cambridge, and a day or two of videotaping on sets in the studio before everything stopped.

By the time the strike had ended, too much time had passed to resume it and the episode was scrapped. For years, all of it that could be seen by the viewing public were a couple of filmed fragments recycled and repurposed for The Five Doctors (which I intend to review some time soon). That was all I’d ever seen of it.

Written by Douglas Adams and part of what was considered one of the best eras of Doctor Who, it quickly passed quickly into the legendary realm of lost TV treasures.

Invisible spaceship

Other recreations have been attempted over the years, but at last in 2017, someone took the trouble to piece the filmed segments together, and fill in the sections that were never done with animation. The surviving actors returned to do voice-work for their characters, and there’s a nice surprise at the very end that they certainly wouldn’t have been able to do in 1978.

Continue reading “Dr. Who: Shada, Part 1”

Best of H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival: Vol. 1

Sad to say that, before 2014, the HPL Film Festival didn’t release annual DVD compilations of the best films presented each year, but they did release a 2-volumn collection of the very best from the 1990s up to 2012.

Derailed (2010)

This spooky and atmospheric 18-minute French film is one of my favorites on this first DVD.

EricEric, who seems like a nice young man, arrives in Paris one evening to see his girlfriend. She’s not at home, so he phones her while standing outside the front door of her apartment. As he leaves a voice- message for her, he sees that she’s in the cafe across the street, on a date with another guy. She receives and rejects the message he just sent. There’s nothing for him to do but go home. Unfortunately, he misses the last train out that night.

While waiting on the empty station platform for the first train in the morning, he hears a voice from somewhere down the open dark tracks: “Aidez!” (Help me).

He first tries to tell the station guard about it, but the guard is seated in a booth behind thick glass with a faulty microphone, and thinks Eric wants a time table. No help there.

After hearing the voice a few more times, Eric investigates for himself. He leaves the platform and walks down the rail line.

When he calls out to the person to try and locate them, the voice responds–but it changes from the bleating plea for help we’ve been hearing to an inhuman wail so loud that Eric covers his ears and runs in terror.

At this point, we see who’s screaming (I don’t know if Eric does): A woman with some kind of glue-like gunk on her face that partially covers her mouth.

Eric takes refuge in a parked train engine, where he finds a homeless man who’s also hiding and seems to know what kind of creature he’s dealing with. “Shut your eyes and you’ll get away from her,” this man advises.

Dead end

When Eric hears the shriek again, he leaves the engine and continues running. But instead of returning to the platform, he’s going the wrong way, away from the station. He ends up crossing a pedestrian footbridge and going through a tunnel; he’s trapped when he finds the other end of the passage is shut off by a locked chain-link gate.

It’s his turn to shout “Help me!” as she catches up with him.

As she comes closer to kiss him with her mucky mouth, Eric remembers what the other man said about shutting his eyes…
Continue reading “Best of H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival: Vol. 1”

The Ballad of Tam Lin

I had never heard of this obscure 1970 film until I read someone else’s review of it last fall. I was so intrigued by the description that I sought my own DVD copy to watch. As the narrator explains early on:

“There is a story in verse that belongs to this part of the country, the border of England and Scotland. It is hundreds of years old. It tells the adventures of a young man held in thrall by the Queen of the Faeries… A dangerous lady. It is called the Ballad of Tam Lin.”

Tam Lin panel

The film retells this old folk ballad in a modern setting. It is Roddy McDowall’s only film as a director (It was his work on this that kept him from playing Cornelius in Beneath the Planet of the Apes).

The film begins with a young black man in cool-cat 1960s clothes playing a sultry sax while sitting in the front hall of a grand London townhouse on a staircase beneath a crystal chandelier. He’s seen through a glass panel with frosted images painted on it which depict people wearing medieval clothes and enacting key scenes from the old ballad–and also showing us the plot of the story we’re about to see.

The camera then takes us upstairs past the chandelier and into a vast white bedroom containing a vast white bed. Two naked people recline beneath the sheets, Tom Lynn (Ian McShane) and Michaela “Mickey” Cazaret (Ava Gardner). They have the following post-coital conversation:

Tom: “I love you.”
Mickey: “I’m immensely old.”
Tom: “It doesn’t matter.”
Mickey: “It doesn’t matter to you. You grow older every year. I grow older every sordid second.”

He insists again that it doesn’t matter. She grows more beautiful with age.
She responds, “I love you…. I will love you and leave you for dead.”

Tom and Mickey

He should be paying more attention to her side of the conversation, but he’s too young and besotted. Instead, he kisses her, and they go at it again.

Continue reading “The Ballad of Tam Lin”