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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Dr. Who: The Daleks, Part 1

Meet the Daleks

I’m not going to blog-review all of Doctor Who the way I did Dark Shadows. I haven’t even seen all of Doctor Who and I don’t intend to. But after reviewing An Adventure in Space and Time and the very first episodes featuring William Hartnell that came along with it, I thought I’d look at more of these earliest episodes of a series that’s been running for slightly longer than I’ve been alive, as well as some of the other more important or interesting ones along the way.

Starting with this story that made Doctor Who a hit back in 1963 and introduced a pop-cultural icon to the world.

It’s a long story, covering seven episodes, each with its own title. I’m going to take them one at a time.

The Dead Planet

This first episode begins where the rather lackluster Stone-Age storyline left off: the Doctor, his granddaughter Susan, and their two reluctant Radiation companions, Susan’s schoolteachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, have just landed on a new and unfamiliar planet. They go to freshen up before heading outside to explore. Unseen by them, the radiation monitor–which was reading a normal level when Susan checked it a minute earlier–now rises up into the Danger zone. The group leaves the Tardis, oblivious to the radioactivity all around them.

But they do observe its effects on the environment. As they walk through  the strangely white forest, they discover that the soil is all sand and ashes and, while there is a breeze, the trees don’t move; Ian easily crumbles a branch with his fingers. They find a dead creature that looks something like a spiny armored lizard, with scales of metal. 

At the edge of the forest, they see a vast city that appears to be empty.

Metal lizard

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DART Review: The Lurking Fear

One of my favorite Lovecraft titles, if not one of my favorite stories. Written in 1922, The Lurking Fear is the tale of a long-abandoned house in upstate New York that once belonged to a reclusive and xenophobic old Dutch family all with mismatched eyes like David Bowie (one blue, one brown), horrible and mysterious deaths that occur during thunderstorms in neighboring rural shantytowns, and an intrepid investigator who brings along some extremely unfortunate companions and takes a heck of a long time to figure things out.

It does, however, have some terrific horror images that will stick with you.

Letter unfolded, article and report

You can read it online at http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/lf.aspx

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Time Team Travels: Colchester

I decided to visit Colchester specifically because of a Time Team special about the discovery of the only Roman Circus (that’s chariot races, not clowns) in the British isles at Colchester.

Colonia
Colonia

In the first century CE, Colchester was Colonia Claudia Victricensis—the city of the Emperor Claudius’s victory—or Camulodunum, a Latinized version of the city’s original Celtic name. It was the Roman capital of Britain from the 50s, built in the style of a Roman city. There was a huge temple at the city center (razed by Boudica in 60 and rebuilt), a theater, and the circus on top of the hill; the ruins of the latter only discovered in 2005.

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DART Review: The White Tree

A Tale of Inspector Legrasse

This episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre is an original story, a sort of sequel to Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu that continues the adventures of Inspector Legrasse as he investigates a report of a strange murder deep in Louisiana’s bayou. The inspector faces another cult and encounters not only a Lovecraftian horror, but an insidious evil that was quite real in the 1920s and unfortunately remains with us now.

Props for The White Tree

The White Tree begins with the now-retired New Orleans police inspector, John Legrasse (Sean Branney this time) in conversation with his grandson; the young man is keen on following in his grandfather’s footsteps and joining the police force. Grandpa wants him to go to college and take up a profession like architecture. He thinks the boy has an idealized image of the kind of work he used to do and of police officers in general.

“There’s good ones, there’s brave ones,” Legrasse tells the boy, “and there’s ones that aren’t so good and aren’t so brave…. It’s true, on the good days you get excitement. You work with good, brave men. You deliver justice. But Claude, they ain’t all good days.”

As an example, he tells the story of something that occurred in the summer of 1922, shortly before his retirement.

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Dr. Who: The first episodes

The first four episodes of Doctor Who are included on an extra DVD that comes with the BBC film about the creation and early days of the series, An Adventure in Space and Time. I’ve already reviewed the pilot, “An Unearthly Child,” which aired in late November 1963 and introduced two UK schoolteachers and the general public to a mysterious and somewhat cranky old man from another planet who traveled around time and space with his teenaged granddaughter in a police box. Now it’s time to see what happens after that.

In its very earliest days, each individual episode of Doctor Who was given its own title; it wasn’t until later that all the episodes covering one storyline had an overall name. I’ve decided to go through all three of these at once.

Last

Cave of Skulls

This episode picks up where An Unearthly Child left off, with the Tardis sitting in a desolate, sandy landscape and the shadow of a human figure nearby. We now see that it’s a caveman; the flashback that follows reveals that his name is Kal and gives us the situation that sets the plot up. In short: Kal is a scheming outsider who has recently come to the local tribe, and sees a situation he can take advantage of.

Among this tribe, the one who can make fire is their leader, but the last Firemaker has died and didn’t pass on the secret. His son, Za, has no clue how to go about it and sits pathetically rolling what looks like a humerus (upper arm) bone between his hands over a pile of twigs and invoking Orb, the sun god to give him flame. Uh, no.

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The House

This 1954 episode of the otherwise long-forgotten suspense TV show, The Web, is one of the special features on the DVD for the documentary about Dan Curtis,  The Master of Dark Shadows. It’s noteworthy because it was written by future Dark Shadows writer Art Wallace and its story bears more than a passing resemblance to one of the soap opera’s earliest plots.   Viewers of the show will find a lot that’s familiar here.

Walt Cummins at (not) The Blue WhaleThe House begins when a stranger (Charles Dingle) enters a bar in a small New England fishing village. He tells the bartender that his name is Walt Cummins and talks a bit about warm, English beer to indicate that he’s a traveler, before  mentioning that he’s been here before but not in many years.

Would the people he used to know still remember him? In particular, he asks after a woman who lives in a big house at the edge of town, Elizabeth Stover (not Stoddard).

Sure, says the bartender, Mrs. Stover still lives there with her daughter Louise even though the place “is about ready to fall down”. The funny thing is that Mrs. Stover refuses to leave her house, has stayed there for 25 years since her husband John walked out and took her jewelry with him. Everyone in town supposes that she’s waiting for him to come back some day.

Mr. Cummins smirks and says that he’ll be “a real surprise” to her.

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Master of Dark Shadows

The Gothic World of Dan Curtis

Master of Dark Shadows

The primary focus of this recent documentary about producer/director Dan Curtis is of course on Dark Shadows–as its title declares. Fair enough, since that is his most famous work and what he’s best remembered for. Fans of the show, such as myself, will be its main audience. I think that most of us will come away from viewing it satisfied in that respect.

But pretty much all the rest of his film and TV work is given disappointingly short coverage.

When he was 13, Dan Curtis’s mother died quite suddenly in front of him; this tragedy was a fact I’d never known about him before, but it’s where his story begins. Barbara Steele, who worked with him on Winds of War and War and Remembrance, and played Dr. Julia Hoffman in the Dark Shadows Revival, calls it the “defining factor of his life.”

Barbara Steele as Julia Hoffman

Steele is one of many people interviewed for this documentary. Others include the surviving members of the original Dark Shadows cast and show’s writers, Curtis’s secretary Rita Fein, his two daughters, ABC executives, media historians, and surprisingly Whoopie Goldberg.

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Cool Air

Cool Air machine

Not to be confused with the Dark Adventure Radio Theatre version of this same HP Lovecraft story that I reviewed last year.

This is a 1999 short film by Bryan Moore (who also stars in it), about the tragic Dr. Muñoz, who suffers from a peculiar medical condition that requires him to exist in an extremely cold room to survive.

First, a somewhat amusing story. I hadn’t seen the movie before I bought it. When the DVD arrived a few weeks ago, I popped it into the player and selected the “Duo-Chrome” option over the black-and-white version and started watching. There was no spoken dialog. Was this a silent film, like the excellent Call of Cthulhu? If so, then it was strange that there were no title cards or musical score; if you’re going to reproduce the feeling of a 1920s period film, you definitely need these elements, not just have no sound.

Then I had a look at the extra features. No sound on them either.

After some troubleshooting, I worked out that one of the ports for the audio connection on my TV was faulty and I plugged it into another one. Sound at last! At least I didn’t need to go out and get a new DVD player or television.

Now that I’ve viewed both versions, I do prefer the Duo-Chrome one. Colored tints on film is a special effect from the silent era. The sepia on the daylight scenes give this story an old-timey feel, but the dark blue tint on the scenes in the doctor’s cold, cold room may be my favorite thing about this film.

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An Unearthly Child

One of the extra features on the DVD/BluRay set for An Adventure in Space and Time is an extra disc containing both the rejected pilot for Doctor Who and the version of “An Unearthly Child” that aired on the BBC on November 23, 1963, as well as the rest of the first storyline.

While the script of both versions is pretty much the same, I’m going to make note of interesting differences between one and the other as I go through the story that introduces us to the Doctor and his original companions.

Tardis scene: rejected version
Tardis scene: Rejected Pilot
Tardis scene: aired version
Tardis scene: Aired Version

We start with a policeman on patrol a foggy night outside the tall, closed wooden gates of a scrapyard belonging to I.M. Foreman. He doesn’t go inside, but after he walks on, the camera “pushes” the gate open to show us something that the policeman would have found strange and remarkable: a contemporary police box sits quietly humming among the bits of scrap metal and a number of creepy-looking manikins or statues.

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