Reviewed: Robot

k1-robot

Writer: Terrance Dicks
Director: Christopher Barry
Parts: 4
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan), John Levine (Warrant Officer John Benton), Patricia Maynard (Miss Maynard), Alec Linstead (Jellicoe), Edward Burnham (Professor Kettlewell), Michael Kilgarriff (Robot)

Plot Summary

While the Doctor is recovering from his latest regeneration, there are a number of thefts of secret plans threatening global security, with the guards killed. The culprit appears to be a robot, created by the National Institute for Advanced Scientific Research, however, his basic programming prevents him from killing.

Behind the Scenes:

After four years running the show, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks made the decision to move on from the show, passing the reigns to Phillip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes. Despite this, the pair cast the new Doctor, Tom Baker, to replace the outgoing Jon Pertwee, and Dicks wrote this episode. Pertwee had made the decision to move on partially due to the death of his friend, Robert Delgado, who had portrayed the Master, as well as the departure from the show of Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant. His replacement, Baker, was working on a building site at the time, and previously had played Rasputin in Nicholas and Alexander and Koura in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, which convinced Letts to cast him.

Elisabeth Sladen continued in her role as Sarah Jane, but was joined by Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan. Harry was mentioned in The Planet of the Spiders but makes his first appearance here. Marter had previously been cast as Benton in 1971, but had been unable to take the part due to other commitments. He later appeared in Carnival of Monsters in 1973 and was cast as Harry when there was the possibility of the Fourth Doctor being portrayed by an older actor.  When Baker was cast, the necessity of having Sullivan in the TARDIS was reduced, and so Marter left the series after The Terror of the Zygons.

doc and brig

This episode would also act as a swansong for U.N.I.T.  The Earth-based organisation had not been featured as much since The Three Doctors, but with the new Doctor and a fully operating TARDIS, the new production team wanted to explore new stories and new locations.  The Brigadier et al would reappear occasionally, most notably during the Fourth Doctor era in Terror of the Zygons and The Android Invasion.

Review:

Unsurprisingly, the Fourth Doctor’s debut feels a lot like a Third Doctor adventure, as UNIT are in a support role and the story is entirely Earth-based, being written by a key stalwart of the previous era.  This does damage the story somewhat, as it doesn’t help the overall atmosphere of change.

The strongest aspect of the episode is Tom Baker – he undoubtedly knows how he is going to play the part right from the off.  The manic energy he provides gives entertainment when this episode begins to flounder and struggle.  This is perhaps best demonstrated by the scene between Harry and the Doctor with the skipping rope.  This incarnation of the Doctor is remembered for being more overtly eccentric than his predecessors and a lot of

Unfortunately, the story does suffer from some forgettable villains.  Miss Maynard and Jellicoe and the Scientific Reform Society fit into the role of generic scientific baddies with the titular robot perhaps saving this story from monotony.  I am loathed to criticise the special effects of the classic era of Doctor Who, but the effects towards the end of part four when the robot grows really hasn’t aged well, and the less said with the bit with the tank, the better.  I’m intrigued to see how well they will have been to upgrade these for the release on Blu-Ray.

Verdict: A mediocre start to the Fourth Doctor’s tenure, with a strong central performance from Tom Baker. 6/10

Best Moment: The skipping scene with Harry in part one.

Best Quote: The Doctor: Never cared much for the word “impregnable”.  Sounds too much like “unsinkable”.

Harry: What’s wrong with unsinkable?

The Doctor: Nothing. As the iceberg said to the Titanic.

Next time: There’s a dinosaur in London, as the Twelfth Doctor makes his debut!

Reviewed: The Eleventh Hour

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: Adam Smith

Starring: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Caitlin Blackwood (Amelia Pond), Olivia Coleman (Mother), Marcello Magni (Barney Collins), Nina Wadia (Dr. Ramsden), Annette Crosbie (Mrs Angelo), Tom Hopper (Jeff), David de Keyser (Voice of the Atraxi), William Wilde (Voice of Prisoner Zero)

apple

“Can I have an apple?”

The casting of Matt Smith was a massive gamble.  The new production team, headed by Steven Moffat, after being unsuccessful in attempting to convince David Tennant to stay on for another series, cast the relative unknown, Matt Smith to portray the Eleventh Doctor.  Smith, who was 26 when cast, became the youngest actor to portray the Doctor, and due to his unknown status, the announcement of the casting was greeted by the headline “Doctor Who?” in some national newspapers.  The eyes of the watching public were truly on the new production team as they put their new series of the show into production.

But you couldn’t tell it watching The Eleventh Hour.  In my review for Spearhead From Space, I talked about how Doctor’s debuts were much more effective if they felt like a breath of fresh air, and this episode certainly does this with aplomb.  I remember watching this episode in 2010, and Smith winning me over as the Doctor almost instantly.  The supporting cast surrounding Smith, especially Caitilin Blackwood, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, give strong performances and when Amy turns around to the Doctor and says “Why did you say five minutes?”, you completely believe that the angst and resentment behind those words.

The weakest part of the episode for me is the villain, but this doesn’t really impact on the quality of the story too much.  Prisoner Zero is a completely forgettable villain – there are so many things that can be done with shapeshifters, but this one is just…there.  That being said, I still love the moment when Prisoner Zero uses Amy’s mind to turn into the Doctor and Amelia, and the Doctor doesn’t recognise himself.  The Atraxi, whilst not the main villain seems like a rather obvious metaphor for the watching world, and whilst not exactly a menacing presence, they do contribute towards the moment where the new Doctor steps through the image of his immediate predecessor.  In this episode, with the youngest Doctor and with it following on from one of the most popular Doctors, it feels important to emphasise that this is still the same man, with a different face.

who hart

Speaking of allusions to the show’s past, the main one here is obvious – the Doctor picks his new outfit from a hospital changing room, just like the Third Doctor in Spearhead From Space and the Eighth Doctor in the TV Movie/The Enemy Within.  There are also some references to David Tennant’s time in the role, such as the sonic screwdriver, and phrases like “You’ve had some cowboys in here”.  One of the main changes is to the TARDIS, and personally, I love both the interior and exterior of this one.  The St. John’s Ambulance logo is back on the door, I love the shade of blue (it was one of the colours for my wedding!) and the steampunk interior is great.

Matt Smith

Summary: A strong opening episode to the Eleventh Doctor’s era.  Matt Smith inhabits the role quickly and the episode really romps along.  10/10

Best Moment:  This is a toss-up between entering the new TARDIS for the first time and the Doctor’s speech to the Atraxi.

Best Quote: I’m the Doctor. Basically – run.

Up next: Tom Baker’s first episode, Robot!

 

Reviewed: Spearhead From Space

spearhead

Written by: Robert Holmes

Directed by: Derek Martinus

Parts: 4

Starring: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Caroline Johns (Liz Shaw), Nicholas Courtenay (Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart), Hugh Burden (Channing), Neil Wilson (Mr Seeley), John Breslin (Captain Munro), John Woodnutt (Hibbert), Derek Smee (Ransome).

The new Doctor finds himself banished to Earth, following the events of The War Games, to find mysterious events occurring around a plastics factory…

Spearhead From Space is an incredibly important episode in the history of Doctor Who.  The star, Patrick Troughton, who had taken over the lead role from William Hartnell, had quit, citing a heavy workload, and viewing figures had fallen to the three million mark, which was a bigger problem then than now, with no catch-up television.  In fact, the BBC would have cancelled it, however, they were unable to find a suitable replacement, so Doctor Who was given a new series, with the production team deciding that constricting the stories to Earth would both save on the budget.  A new Doctor was announced, with Jon Pertwee, best known for his comedy role in radio sitcom The Navy Lark, which also featured Ronnie Barker.

However, problems did not stop with this.  The studio crews were on strike, which necessitated the entire story to be filmed on location, however, this would prove to be a godsend – the story was the first to be shot entirely on film and in colour.  This change helps Spearhead feel like a breath of fresh air, which reinvigorates the programme and would be a strong start to this Earthbound relaunch.

pertwee

Jon Pertwee’s performance in this episode is great.  He almost instantly inhabits the role as the Doctor and plays it almost completely straight, the only exceptions being when he is escaping in the wheelchair and when he is examining his new face in the laboratory.  Apparently, Peter Bryant, one of the previous producers who left early in production on this episode and had cast Pertwee, saw the early footage of the wheelchair escape and felt certain that Pertwee would be sticking to his comedic background.  The costume is superb, and as soon as he puts the outfit on, Jon Pertwee is the Doctor.

brig doc liz

The main supporting cast is very good too.  With the decision that the Doctor would be Earth-bound having been floating around in the production team’s ideas for the show going forward, Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart was introduced in The Web of Fear, and reappeared in The Invasion, played by Nicholas Courtney.  Courtney has a fantastic line in repressed frustration which he plays superbly, especially when the Doctor is in the hospital, and in his discussion with Liz.  The Doctor also needed a new companion, with Elizabeth Shaw, a Cambridge University scientist, who is more of an intellectual equal for the Doctor, who disapproves of U.N.I.T but is sufficiently intrigued by the Doctor to agree to assist him.  Liz Shaw is perhaps an under-appreciated companion, who didn’t have as much of a tenure on the show as she perhaps deserved.

This episode also introduces the Autons and the Nestene Consciousness.  One of the remarkable things about the Autons is that the design is so simple but yet so effective, and the design did not fundamentally change when they were brought back in 2005. The Autons are a seriously creepy threat, and that scene where they burst through the shop window in Part 4 sends shivers down my spine.  There is also Channing, played effectively by Hugh Burden who has an almost spectral quality about him.  This is most effectively displayed when the Doctor, Brigadier and Liz go to investigate the plastics factory, and he is staring at them through a window.

A strong opening to a bold new era of Doctor Who, Spearhead From Space kicks off a personal favourite era of the show for me. 10/10

Best Quote – Liz: What are you a doctor of, by the way?

Doctor: Practically everything, my dear.

Best Moment – The shop window dummies coming to life and bursting out of their shopfront displays.

Next up: The Eleventh Hour!

 

 

REVIEWED: The Christmas Invasion

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: James Hawes

Starring: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Daniel Evans (Danny Llewelyn), Adam Garcia (Alex), Sean Gilder (Sycorax Leader).

10“Did you miss me?”

After revisiting this one, I’m regretting ranking it quite so highly on my Christmas episodes list…

The first Doctor Who Christmas special is a fairly uneven affair, although it does serve as a good introduction for the Tenth Doctor.  The newly regenerated Doctor and his companion Rose crash back to Earth following the events of The Parting of the Ways, but any chance for rest and recovery is short-lived, as a human probe, Guinevere One, is intercepted by the villainous Sycorax, who head to Earth with their vial of A+ blood…

Firstly, the positives.  The episode is at it’s best when Tennant’s Doctor is conscious, and he certainly occupies the role with gusto, charm and with a glimpse of darkness that will be explored in later series.  It is also good to see Penelope Wilton return to the role of Harriet Jones, even if the “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister” joke wears a bit thin after a while.  The sword fight for the planet is really nicely choreographed and I like the bit with the hand.

Unfortunately, for the majority of the episode, Tennant is recovering from his regeneration, so the focus is squarely on the trio of Rose, Jackie and Mickey.  This is where Rose as a character really appears to grate on me.  At the beginning of the episode, she isn’t certain at all about the new man with the TARDIS key, which is an understandable reaction – if my best friend who I had been travelling with suddenly changed their face, I’d be a little concerned, to say the least.  However, once the Doctor is awake, Rose is suddenly fawning all over him.  This does mark a change in the Doctor-companion relationship that I’m not a big fan of, and also is the start of the Doctor and Rose smug fest that is series 2.  So stay tuned for that!  Rose is also given the opportunity to show what she’s learnt from her time with the Doctor when they are teleported but doesn’t seem to have learnt anything at all.

Jackie continues to be irritating, and the only one of this trio to escape from this episode with any credit is Noel Clarke.  Clarke himself has spoken about his change in attitude towards the role following a serious car accident that he was fortunate to walk away from relatively unscathed, and The Christmas Invasion shows just how far his character has come since Rose, and sets him up nicely for joining the TARDIS, albeit temporarily for series 2.

Sycorax_-_The_Christmas_Invasion

The Sycorax are also a pretty forgettable opening adversary.  Although they look intimidating, at no point do you feel that they are going to follow through on their threat to kill all the people with type O+ blood on the planet.  I appreciate that it’s supposed to be a Christmas episode, a bit more of a light-hearted romp, but a good villain in a Doctor Who story is something that I believe really lets down the story, in a way that someone like Kazran Sardick in A Christmas Carol makes a story compelling.  I’ll come to look at the other Russell T Davies Christmas episodes in more depth later on, but this is something that is lacking in most if not all of his era’s Christmas specials.

It really pains me to criticise the Doctor’s actions as well, but I feel his treatment of Harriet Jones, following her decision to destroy the Sycorax spaceship after they are running away is a poor one.  The Doctor had previously highlighted her fledgeling political career as leading to Britain’s Golden Age; yet here he is shown to be willing to throw that all away.  The Tenth Doctor here can be shown to be meddling in time, and the effect of this decision to bring down Harriet Jones’s government can be seen to lead to the opportunity that the Master will later exploit in series 3, and ultimately leading to his ultimate end.

2x00-The-Christmas-Invasion-Screencaps-Doctor-Rose-badwolf-tenth-rose-3530353-640-368

I accept that as the first Christmas special, it is attempting to appeal to a wide audience and I feel it does that well, and I understand the need for the Christmas references, like the killer Christmas tree.  However, things like the Pilot Fish are potentially using a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.  That being said, I enjoy Harriet Jones’ televised speech in replacement of the Queen’s Speech – “Did we ask about the Royal Family? Oh.  They’re on the roof” is a fantastic bit of a dark humour, in what is a good, if flawed, first episode for the new Doctor.

The Verdict: The Tenth Doctor’s introduction is much better when he is conscious but is let down by weak villains. 6/10.

Best Moment: The swordfight for the planet Earth.

Best Quote: “Look at these people, these human beings, consider their potential. From the day they arrive on this planet and blinking, step into the sun, there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do… no, hold on… sorry, that’s the Lion King… but the point still stands! Leave them alone!” – The Tenth Doctor

 

Reviewed: The Power of the Daleks

Writer: David Whittaker

Director: Christopher Barry

Parts: 6

Starring: Patrick Troughton (The Second Doctor), Michael Craze (Ben Jackson), Anneke Wills (Polly Wright), Bernard Archard (Bragen), Robert James (Lesterton), Nicholas Hawtrey (Quinn), Pamela Ann Davey (Janley), Peter Bathurst (Hensell) and Peter Hawkins (Dalek Voices)

“WE WILL GET OUR POWER!”

Power of the Daleks diary

Patrick Troughton’s first episode, now produced in full as animation, is a fantastic story, full of Dalek menace…

This is the first Dalek story not to feature a writer’s credit for Terry Nation, and under David Whittaker’s penmanship, the debut of the Second Doctor provides a sense of creeping dread and uncertainty about the new man in possession of the TARDIS key.  The Daleks are posing as helpful for the human inhabitants of a colony on Vulcan, but the Doctor and his companions, mistaken for an examining party sent from Earth, know better.

Firstly, the new Doctor.  The script explains that the process of renewing his appearance (regeneration hadn’t even entered the show’s lexicon at this point) is linked to the TARDIS, but his companions, Ben and Polly are untrusting initially that the younger, cosmic hobo is the same man, and the Doctor doesn’t help himself by referring to himself in the third person a lot, especially in the first part.  However, the fact that the Dalek seems to recognise the Doctor eventually seems to calm most of the doubts in their minds.  It is difficult to say much about the intricacies of Patrick Troughton’s performance, due to the animation, but the vocal performance is superb and I believe that the animation does a commendable job of capturing Troughton’s visual performance.

Within the colony, the other colonists have no reason to trust the Doctor’s protests to Lesterton’s attempts to reactivate the dormant three Daleks that have been found in a capsule, even when one of them is killed by one of the Daleks in a scene which is reminiscent of Frankenstein.  One of the best scenes in the earlier parts of the episode are where the Doctor demands that the Daleks are “broken up or melted down.  Up or down,  I don’t care whichbut destroyed!”

The Daleks sell themselves convincingly to the colonists that they are nothing but servants, which is something echoed in Victory of Daleks.  This plot shows the true cunning of the Daleks – even deprived of their gun stalks, they are still a formidable threat and remain plotting, gaining the trust of colonists very easily.  They are also seen as an aid to the rebellion against Governor Hensell, being run by Bragen and Lesterton’s assistant, Janley, which ultimately backfires as the Daleks kill indiscriminately, both members of the rebellion and the loyal forces alike.

The highlight of the episode for me, however, is definitely the production line sequence.  Lesterton enters the capsule, due to increased suspicion thanks to the Doctor’s protests, to discover the Dalek manufacturing more and more Daleks, and to his impending horror, the magnitude of what he has done finally dawns on him.  Unfortunately for the colonists, Lesterton’s discovery is far too late.

The Power of the Daleks is an exceptionally strong episode, and it is a testament to Troughton’s performance that, despite his eccentricities in the first few episodes, he provides a strong performance to convince you by the end of the six parter, that he is indeed the same man who faced the Cybermen in the South Pole, just with a different face.  It is often said by actors who play the Doctor, or felt by fans, that they aren’t the Doctor until they have faced the Daleks, and so it is a true baptism of fire for him as an actor, and he comes through with full marks.

As for the Daleks, we rarely see them so devious, so patient and so cunning as we do here…and it is truly terrifying.

Verdict: An incredibly strong debut for the Second Doctor; with a strong story for the Daleks.  10/10

Best Quote: “I think we’d better get out of here before they send us the bill!” – The Second Doctor.

Best Moment: The production line scene.

 

Reviewed: Rose

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Keith Boak

Starring: Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mark Benton (Clive) and Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Nestene Consciousness)

Rose

“Nice to meet you Rose.  Run for your life!”

So, after almost sixteen years off air, apart from a brief outing for Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in 1996, Doctor Who was back on television, rebooted and ready for action.  After the failure of the TV Movie to spawn a subsequent American run series, the production team seem to have learnt some lessons when making this introduction to the world of Doctor Who a success.

In Doctor Who in general, the companion is the vehicle for the audience to see the Doctor, and in Rose, we see Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor from Rose’s perspective entirely, with us seeing Rose’s day at work in the lead up to her meeting the Doctor.  This is particularly effective, especially aspects such as the two close-ups we get of Rose’s alarm clock, which allow the audience to establish both routine and monotony of her life.  Also, by not seeing the Doctor before they meet in the basement, it allows that scene when Rose is looking for Wilson in the basement all the more creepy, as the viewer isn’t sure when the Doctor will appear to rescue her.  As someone who works in retail, I can vouch for how eerie a dark and apparently empty stockroom can be! The introduction through the character of Rose allows the TARDIS to seem almost inconsequential.  We first see it when the Doctor is delivering the “turn of the Earth” speech, which is still one of the finest in the show’s history, and we don’t see the TARDIS dematerialise until Rose is actually in it later in the episode.

Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper also have really nice chemistry together – the scene in the elevator at Henrick’s where Rose is hypothesising that students are behind what she believes to be a prank is well played by both and helps to demonstrate that Rose, who may seem to be an ordinary shop worker has the potential to be a strong companion.  The supporting cast also helps the story, although Noel Clarke’s performance is a bit weak.  Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler is great though, and I especially love how she trots out some of her lines, especially about Rose getting compensation (“…I know she is Greek, but that’s not the point” makes me laugh every time).

It is also interesting to note how continuity-light this reintroduction is.  The use of the Autons as the main villain is a callback to Spearhead from Space, Jon Pertwee’s debut story and the first episode to be shot in colour.   Furthermore, it is interesting that when Rose meets Clive, although there are allusions to previous regenerations when Clive says that the title of the Doctor is passed from father to son, the only images that we see are of the Ninth Doctor.  This helps to ease new viewers into the show, and as chance would have it, the concept of regeneration would have to be dealt with by the end of the series anyway.

Plastic Mickey

Although this is a strong episode, there are some problems that I do have with it.  The main one is the whole Mickey becomes an Auton aspect, and that infamous dustbin scene, where the special effects wouldn’t look out of place amongst some of the worst of the Classic era of the show.  I also have an issue with the way that Rose does not notice that Mickey looks completely different once he has been converted to living plastic.  In Spearhead From Space, there is an Auton duplicate of Major General Scobie, who looks almost completely identical, and I find it baffling that the production team wouldn’t go in the same direction here.  I know that Rose regards her life as boring, which is her reasoning behind leaving at the end of the episode, but not noticing this shows that she is perhaps not quite so perfect as some later stories would like to make out.

Verdict: A strong reintroduction to Doctor Who, with a fantastic lead actor and a strong companion.  8/10

Best Quote: “Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it…the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go…That’s who I am. Now forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home.” – The Ninth Doctor

Best Moment: The Autons breaking through the shop windows – another call back to Spearhead from Space, but this time actually showing the windows breaking.  This is something that the production team in the 1970s were disappointed they couldn’t do at the time, and one of RTD’s few problems with Spearhead.

 

Reviewed: An Unearthly Child

Writer: Anthony Coburn, C. E. Webber (1 episode, uncredited)

Director: Waris Hussein

Parts: 4, made up of An Unearthly ChildThe Cave of SkullsThe Forest of Fear and The Firemaker.

Starring: William Hartnell (First Doctor), Carol Ann Ford (Susan), William Russell (Ian Chesterton), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright), Derek Newark (Za), Alethea Charlton (Hur), Eileen Way (Old Mother), Jeremy Young (Kal), Howard Lang (Horg)

Review:  It is a shame that the promise shown in the first part of this episode does almost melt away as we get to about the half-way stage of The Cave of Skulls, and this demonstrates almost perfectly why the BBC were prepared to pull the plug on the show in 1963.  It almost feels like the Stone Age story doesn’t have enough plot or any real compelling characters to keep your attention, as opposed to the intriguing part one.  This is not intended as a slight towards any of the actors, the director or the production team, but shows that, if the show had followed creator Sydney Newman’s vision of an educational show with no “bug-eyed monsters”, it may have ended up in Totters Lane scrapyard itself.

I don’t want to be entirely negative about the first story of Doctor Who.  As alluded to previously, the first part is great.  It is a four-hander between Ian, Barbara, Susan and the crotchety First Doctor, as the two teachers, Ian and Barbara start the episode discussing their unusual student, Susan, and her elusive grandfather, “Doctor Foreman”.  When they decide to follow Susan home, they find that she disappears into a scrapyard which contains, amongst other things, a blue telephone box and an enigmatic and unhelpful old man, the Doctor.

I just want to make a quick comment on the First Doctor, as to a modern audience, maybe only familiar with Eccleston, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi, he may seem a bit jarring.  In the first part, the Doctor is referred to as not liking strangers and he himself states that he is unwilling to divulge information about his private life to Ian and Barbara.  There is a twinkle to Hartnell’s grouchiness and, especially in the first part, he is brilliantly mysterious and there are aspects of his performance that have been picked up on by future actors, especially Tom Baker and Peter Davison.  However, later on in the story, he is almost unrecognisable as the Doctor.  Whilst watching, I noticed how useless the Doctor was, especially in the second part, and in the third and fourth parts, he is downright unlikeable in The Forest of Fear, criticising Ian’s attempts to try and get to them to escape the Cave of Skulls and later sulking because he doesn’t get his own way, refusing to help his companions.  Although his behaviour could be seen as being due to his irritation at having two more hangers on, or just because he hasn’t been travelling in time and space for very long, it is an odd decision for the writer and production team to have your lead be so irritating.

The major downside of this episode though, is that from the underwhelming cliffhanger, the episode seems overly stretched.  The story of the cavemen, a battle for power between Za and Kal centred on the quest to make fire, does not seem to be at all suitable for the opening story.  On watching this episode, I was thinking about how having a historical with no aliens could work in this episode if it was a more interesting period of ancient history, for instance, ancient Romans or Greeks.  There also isn’t a lot for Susan and Barbara to do except screech and scream – in fact, whilst making notes on this episode, I labelled Susan ‘chief screamer.’

In modern television, an opening episode such as this one may set alarm bells ringing, but Doctor Who would get lucky, with its next story, The Daleks, making Doctor Who must-watch television.

Verdict: A strong opening part is let down by an uninspiring three parter. 4/10

Continuity:

  • Susan states that she made up the name TARDIS from Time and Relavtive Dimensions in Space.
  • Certain aspects of the TARDIS are shown to have broken, including the Year-o-meter and chameleon circuit (which isn’t named as such here).   Perhaps the radiation machine is broken too, as it sneaks upwards at the end of the episode after Susan has looked at it.
  • Ian calls the Doctor ‘Doctor Foreman’ at one point, to which the response is “Eh? Doctor Foreman? Who’s that?”
  • The Doctor states at the end of the story that he can’t effectively fly the TARDIS.
  • The Doctor says to Barbara that “Fear makes companions of all of us.”
  • Ian puts his hand on the TARDIS and states that it is alive.
  • The Doctor states that he is not a Doctor of Medicine.