Doctor Who: Marco Polo

The 1964 story about the Doctor meeting Marco Polo is one that’s completely lost. The BBC, more concerned in those days with economy than with archiving the shows they broadcast, taped something else over it. All that survives are a soundtrack recorded and a few still photos taken by a dedicated fan; these are used to re-create a half-hour long synopsis of the 7 missing episodes as an extra feature on the The Edge of Destruction DVD.

Marco Polo

The footprints Susan and Barbara found at the end of the previous episode have nothing to do with this story, except that they’re in a snowy mountain pass in the Himalayas.

The Doctor’s group is briefly menaced by some Mongols who think that the strangers are evil spirits, but they are almost immediately rescued by that well-traveled and famous Venetian gentleman whose name has become a popular children’s swimming game. He invites them to the safety of his caravan. Since the Tardis is still experiencing some malfunctions from the last story, they agree.

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Dr. Who: Inside the Tardis

I was puzzled the first time I watched this two-episode story. It comes in the same DVD set as the Doctor Who pilot, the Stone Age story, and the introduction of the Daleks, and yet I’d never heard a thing about it.

It’s a curious little story to come so early in the show’s development, featuring no actors except for the show’s four stars and no scenes set off the Tardis. A bottle show, primarily of interest for some character development and for our first look around Tardis beyond the control room. If you’re wondering how they eat and sleep and other science facts, this is the opportunity to find out.

Tardis lounge
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DART Review: Mad Science

Last Saturday evening at the NecronomiCon in Providence, I enjoyed a live performance of this brand new Dark Adventure Radio Theatre episode–so new that I hadn’t yet received the CD I pre-ordered. I was hoping that it would be waiting for me when I came home, but it only arrived in the mail the night before last. I’ve listened to it once.

Andrew Leman, Kevin Stidham, and Sean Branney.

It was exciting to see the live version first, and especially entertaining because this was a scaled-down production. Instead of bringing the entire cast, Sean Branney, Andrew Leman, and Kevin Stidham did all the characters — which sometimes meant there was one man talking to himself in two different voices.

Apart from the pre-recorded Dark Adventure intro theme, they also did their own “music,” humming a few notes of a traditional ominous tune to indicate scene transitions. Special effect noises were produced by two guys brought up from the audience, and the rest of us in the audience provided crowd sounds and jungle noises when prompted. As live theater, it was a great experience and a lot of fun.

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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 7

The final episode of this story that introduced us to the Doctor’s longest standing (or rolling) baddies.

Dalek - Thal battle

The Rescue

Eventually, Ian, Barbara, and the surviving Thals who accompanied them through the mountain do make their way into the Dalek city via the city’s water supply. Around the same time, Thal leader Alydon realizes that the Doctor and Susan have been captured by the Daleks (again) and gets another group of Thals to go into the city from the other side to try and rescue them.

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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 6

The Ordeal

Crawling through caves

Ordeal? Well, this is the point where the story does become something of a slog.

It’s been lively up until now, but the end of the last episode saw Barbara, Ian, and their new Thal friends off camping out in the swamp by the radioactive, glowing lake as they made their way toward the mountains to sneak in the back way to the Dalek city. The swamp and the mountain caves take up this entire episode, and go on into the next. Did they really need to spend so much time on all that hiking and spelunking?

The high points of this section occur when this group lose one or two unimportant Thals along the way.

The first extra Thal disappears when he’s sent to fetch water from the lake.

Swamp thing

I can’t believe that they intend to drink that nasty, glowing stuff that mutant monsters swim around in, but perhaps they trust their anti-radiation medication to protect them from the bad effects.

A whirlpool forms in the water. The others off in the swamplands hear him scream. When they get to the lake’s edge, he’s gone, leaving scattered water bags all over the place. Presumably, he was dragged down to his death by the giant, flattish, tentacled swamp mutant that Ian saw rising out of the water earlier.

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What We Left Behind

Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 

The DS9 space station

Deep Space Nine was my favorite Star Trek–and my favorite TV show for most of the 1990s, edging out Babylon 5 and The X-Files, although I did buy all three on DVD and do binge-watch them occasionally. It was my first online fandon. When the internet was in its infancy, I discussed episodes on usenet groups, wrote fanfic, and made friends, some of whom I still keep in touch with. There’s a little model of the DS9 space station on the shelf above this computer, and somewhere around here in a box is a collection of DS9 and B5 action figures; they started out as chess pieces (with Dana Scully as a referee), and wound up performing scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and standing in for the figures in the nativity during the holiday season.

What We Left Behind, the recent documentary about DS9 which I only just received on BluRay, has been a huge nostalgia trip for me. While watching it, I’ve been looking back as well on something I once loved and remain fond of.

Ira Steven Behr The conceit of What We Left Behind is that the DS9 writers are brought back together by a literally blue-bearded Ira Steven Behr to discuss an imagined 8th season of the show if they were given the opportunity to do one today. 

Where are the characters 20ish years later? 

And most important of all: Does Captain Benjamin Sisko come back from that overly bright, white place where he went to hang out with the Prophets in non-linear-time?

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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 5

The Expedition

Back in their underground city, the Daleks have duplicated the sample of Thal anti-radiation medicine they took from Susan a couple of episodes ago, and are testing it on a small number of their own. Monitoring the escaped prisoners in the radioactive forest, they have also observed that the Doctor and his companions have met up with the Thals. After their ambush on the Thals who came to the city for peace negotiations, they expect a retaliatory attack.

Not that the Daleks are wrong about the anticipated attack, but it’s not the Thals who are making battle plans.

Thals

The Doctor’s group need the help of the Thals to retrieve the fluid link, a little piece of machinery that makes the Tardis run, and which Ian had taken away from him when the Daleks captured him. They must go back into the Dalek city for it, but they need reinforcements. The Doctor is certain that the Thals “will triumph, with me to lead us,” and doesn’t see why he shouldn’t use them for his own ends. Barbara agrees that they need the Thals to fight to aid them in leaving this planet. Ian, on the other hand, is against asking these people to sacrifice their lives for a little gizmo that means nothing to them. There’s much debate on the subject.

The Thals have become firm pacifists since they wiped out nearly all life on Skaro with their neutron-bomb war 500 years ago, so they’re going to be tough to convince to go back to their old warrior ways.

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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 4

The Ambush

Ian in Dalek disguiseAt the end of Part 3, Ian became the first Doctor’s companion to hide inside a Dalek’s armor so that he, the Doctor, Susan, and Barbara can escape from their cell far underground in the Dalek city and make their way back to the surface without being stopped by the Daleks rolling around all over the place.

The foursome have a few close calls along the way, including an encounter with one Dalek who offers to help Dalek Ian escort the prisoners. It’s due to this conscientious Dalek making a report that the others catch on, and the Daleks attempt to keep the escapees from getting to the lift and going up to the surface–over 100 levels.  Now, finally, they’re all “Exterminate! Exterminate!” like proper Daleks. No more pretending to be nice and bringing people lunch on a tray.

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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 3

The Escape

That’s a reassuring episode title.

At the end of the previous episode, the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan had just reached the Tardis to retrieve the box containing vials of medicine that will save him and her schoolteachers Ian and Barbara from a horrible death by radiation sickness. Just as she steps out of the Tardis to return to the Dalek city, she runs into one of those “disgustingly mutated” Thals the Daleks spoke of.

By “disgustingly mutated,” of course they meant strapping blond Aryan types.

Susan and the Thal

Or, as Susan says once she realizes who this guy must be, “But you’re perfect!” (After he says “Don’t be afraid,” and she cowers and says “Don’t hurt me!” several times.)

He introduces himself as Alydon, apologizes for having frightened her when he touched her yesterday–although they never explained why she didn’t notice the big blond man in a cloak standing near her at the time. He wasn’t invisible; you can glimpse his hand when he touches her shoulder. He also reveals that he left the drugs outside the Tardis last night for her and her friends to use. Yes, left, not dropped. He’s horrified that they haven’t taken them yet.

When he hears Susan’s story about the Daleks, he asks she trusts them, and thinks that the Daleks probably want the medicine for themselves. “If they call us mutants, what must they be like?” Just in case, he gives her another box of medication for her companions, and also his cloak, before he sees Susan off to the city.

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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 2

The Survivors

Barbara meets a DalekWhile Barbara is meeting her first Dalek (although we don’t get to see it) at the end of Part 1, the Doctor, Susan, and Ian eventually return to the point where they entered the city. When Barbara doesn’t turn up, they go in search of her. Along the way, the trio comes upon a room containing monitoring instruments that appear to be in use; among these is a Geiger Counter, clicking rapidly.

So now they know all about the dangerously high radiation levels they’ve been wandering around in for the last two days and understand the significance of the ashen soil, the dead and crumbling forest, and this apparently empty city. They also realize why all of them have been feeling so strangely tired.

The Doctor posits that a neutron bomb would cause such devastation, but leave the buildings intact. I remember there being talk of neutron bombs back in the 1980s, but didn’t realize that the idea of such a nuclear weapon was around in the early ’60s. Whatever type of bomb caused this, it’s urgent that they hurry back to the Tardis and go to another place and time where they can be treated as soon as possible for radiation sickness.

Ian mentions that they must find some mercury, and the Doctor makes a confession: there’s nothing wrong with the little fluid link gizmo; he nobbled the Tardis just so they would have to come and explore the city. But now that he’s in danger, he wants to go and leave Barbara behind.

Back in the Stone Age story, I said that this version of the character is more like Dr. Smith than any Doctor I’m later familiar with–and here’s another example. But he isn’t as camp.

Susan and Ian refuse to go without Barbara, and Ian has the fluid link, so it’s useless for the Doctor to go back to the Tardis alone.

The argument turns out to be moot in any case. Before they can go anywhere, they are surrounded by oversized, xenophobic,  metal pepper-pots that hysterically shriek “Exterminate!

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