The Three Doctors, Part 4

At the end of Part 3, Doctors 2 and 3 willed their way out of their cell in Omega’s glittering cave hideaway and snuck back into the chamber where he harnesses the power of a singularity, in hopes of destroying it.

Omega catches them at it and subjects Dr 3 to the power of the Dark Side and a wrestling match with another creature of his making.

After a few flips, the creature gets Dr 3 into a strangle hold; it looks like he’s about to lose, and Omega gloats until Dr 2 warns him: “Destroy him and you destroy your only chance to live.”

Omega relents, and suddenly Dr 3 is back in the singularity chamber with Dr 2 and Omega, lying on the floor and gasping for breath. Dr 2 helps him up, but it’s Omega he thanks.

Driving BessieMeanwhile, the group of Doctors’ companions and friends also escaped from Omega’s cave base are running across the desolate landscape with  Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Mr. Ollis the groundskeeper until they find Bessie where Dr 3 left her parked. They all pile in and the Brigadier announces that they’re going to UNIT HQ. “It’s nearer than you think.”

Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 4”

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.”
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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.

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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.

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Die Farbe

Or, in English: The Color (out of Space)

The Color out of SpaceThis 2010 German film is at its center a faithful retelling of HP Lovecraft’s novella, moved to a new setting: Germany just before World War II and just afterwards, with a more modern framing story.

I only know a handful of German words–the useful phrases that a tourist learns while traveling, and the useless ones picked up from WWII movies–but most of this story is told so clearly in visual images or adheres closely enough to Lovecraft’s familiar tale that I can follow it without turning on the subtitles.

Anyway, the first part is in English.

Old Dr. Davis has flown from the US to Frankfurt, then disappeared. His son Jonathan (who is supposed to be American, but I find his accent extremely suspect) goes to Germany to try and find him.

Dr. DavisBefore Jonathan leaves on his journey, he speaks to an old friend of his father’s at Miskatonic U, who recalls that Dad was stationed as an army medic at the end of the War around Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. Dr. Davis hadn’t visited Germany since then and has no other connection to that country, so this is the only clue Jonathan has as to where his father might’ve gone.

Arriving in Germany, he rents a car and drives around the Wurttemberg Forest area until he encounters a detour; an empty valley is being flooded to create a reservoir. The road that used to lead through it is already impassable under water. A narrow dirt road winds around the edge of the new lake. Jonathan takes this through the forest, stopping at one point to get out and look around. The lake is visible through the trees.

PassportThere’s a feeling that something strange and unsettling is going on in this place: The wings on a dragonfly audibly snap shut when it lands on a leaf. A toad appears to be watching Jonathan from its hole.

What Jonathan doesn’t see before he gets back into his car is an American passport lying on ground not far from the road.

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K9 & Company

Sarah Jane, K9, and Brendan

The Sarah Jane Adventures were not Elisabeth Sladen’s and John Leeson’s first mutual spinoff from Doctor Who. In 1981, a single episode of K9 & Company aired on the BBC at Christmastime, featuring two of the Doctor’s most popular companions.

The show received respectably high ratings, drawing an audience of over 8 million. John Nathan Turner, the producer for Doctor Who at that time, had hopes that this would lead to a whole new series–but, sadly, nothing further came of it.

The single episode is given its own disc on the recently released BluRay set for Tom Baker’s final series as the Doctor, along with a set of related features.

A Girl’s Best Friend

The opening credits show us Sarah Jane and K9. She sits atop a stone wall in the countryside, reading a newspaper. She sips champagne at an open-air table outside a restaurant. She jogs. She drives around the country roads. He scoots along in his usual fashion. All accompanied by the theme song, an electronic, upbeat melody with the following simple lyrics (sung by John Leeson in his K9 voice–something he apparently still enjoys doing):

K9! K9! [music: blip, blip, bloop, bloop]
K9! K9! [music: blip, blip, bloop, bloop]
K9! K9! [music: blip, blip, bloop, bloop]
K9! K9! 

Good luck with getting that out of your head after you’ve heard it a couple of times.

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Dr. Who: The 10th Planet, Part 4

William Hartnell’s final episode of Doctor Who is regrettably among the lost. Even into the 1970s, the BBC was more concerned with conserving storage space and reusing videotape than preserving its archive, and the survival of those episodes that still exist is a matter of chance. When the BBC began to care about the historical importance of its old programs, restoration work often depended on still photographs or audio recordings made by early, devoted fans (See, for example, Marco Polo). In some cases, such as this, they were recreated by animation.

Part 4 picks up where Part 3 left off, with the countdown for the Z-bomb missile launch–but this time it’s in striking black-and-white toon form. The audio is a fan recording from the original episode, and the artwork is based on photos and a few video fragments. It looks very good, like a graphic novel in motion.

Animated Cybermen

The big question is: was Ben successful at sabotaging the missile’s launch before General Cutler caught him, or will both the Earth and Mondas suffer from planet-destroying level of radiation when the Z-bomb goes off?

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