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Season Four - The Smugglers
12th December 2007
In contrast to Dodo's flippant entrace to the ship, Polly and Ben are met with angry abuse from the Doctor. He conveniently explains the whole concept of the series just in case someone is tuning in for the start of this fourth year. (Although a quick look at the Doctor Who ratings of the time shows that The Smugglers hits an all-time low after being in steady decline for the whole of the third season).
The Doctor once again reflects on being on his own, but far more briefly then at the end of The Massacre which seemed relatively recent, only five adventures ago.
His new companions are sceptical about time travel for a while but they start to explore the new place they've landed in and, after meeting a man who speaks in an old-fashioned way, they are convinced.
It is a barbaric and totally male world for Ben and especially Polly, who is a far more sexual companion than we've ever seen before. However it is Ben who is the obstreporous one and despite being locked up in a prison, Polly says that being in the past is great! Until she sees the rats at least. Her lively 60s character does seem to have been watered down somewhat, though.
Episode two is a bit of a run around with more characters thrown in as the plot thickens, and episode three is more of the same, with increasing levels of violence as we head towards a potentially nasty climax.
The Smugglers episode four features lots of fights and gives a rip-roaring feel to the ending, but in terms of a resolution it seems to lack a little closure. But I suppose the baddies get rounded up and all is well. It just has that same feel that most historicals suffer, where you can never really resolve anything because its all happened before. The best we can hope for is that our heroes manage to slip away intact.
The Smugglers ends with another tenuous cliff hangar into the next story, as is becoming the norm. Suddenly the console room becomes freezing cold, because the TARDIS has landed on the coldest place on Earth. It makes you wonder if the TARDIS must become very hot when they fly close to the sun!
The Tenth Planet
The Tenth Planet has an unusual start because it takes us back in time to before the TARDIS landed. At the end of the previous episode the ship had already arrived, but this time we get a little prelude and then our heroes are seen to arrive again.
We're twenty years in the future when men still perv at women and Americans still run the world. Interestingly this story must be set in a parallel universein which NASA continued their fast rate of exploration after the 60s and 70s.
Episode one is engaging, provides some good lines and witty banter, however something about the story doesn't sit right with me.
As things moves forward, this story starts to show itself up. The script is just awful. Everyone reacts in a very odd way to the various events and to each other, and the jarring behaviour is at its least convincing when the characters are looking at the new planet. What they're describing bears no relation to what they're seeing, and what they're saying is extremely childish dialogue.
There's also no explanation as to how the Doctor knows what he knows. It's as if he made the effort to look up the events in his future history book, but it doesn't wash with the natives and no one listens to him anyway. This follows a recent pattern whereby he knows lots of plot points ahead of time.
The sight of a flying saucer landing next to the TARDIS however is fantastic!
Episode two unfolds and brings us the first alien invasion story since the Daleks' invasion. Its quite exciting but the story is a jumbled mess of ideas. If Kit Pedler is the academic man brought in to beef up the scientific integrity then how come we get wooly nonsense like Mondas 'running out of energy'? What energy? How is the planet moving through space?
The Doctor is getting an awful lot of abuse. His warnings go unheeded and he is in ill health. This way of dealing with the charcter is continued into episode three where he is completely sidelined and Ben is clearly given half his lines. Polly notes that his collapse is as if he is worn out.
Kit Pedler's dubious science lesson continues as we learn that the Earth may 'go nova'. There's not a lot to stop this story sagging in the middle as even the Cybermen have gone and Polly is reduced to making coffee.
The finale at least has a load of Cybermen and the Doctor makes an appearance to see them off, but he actually does very little and the whole story feels like a shambles.
The plot stumbles towards a conveniently easy conclusion but the final moments of this story are terrifying.
The ill Doctor is so out of sorts that he nearly strands his companions in the arctic wastes. With no explanation and hardly and dialogue, the final shocking scene brings us a collapsed and changing Doctor...
Power of the Daleks
Power of the Daleks picks up, as with so many cliff hangars, in rather different style to how the drama was left.
Despite Ben's slightly suspicious behaviour, the whole thing is rather jocular and there are some great, snappy lines from the Doctor.
It is directed in such a way that we are not suspicious of the newcomer and he has a lightness of touch and a brilliant presence.
The rest of the episode plays out with the colony revealing their problems and we learn of its mysterious capsule.
Finally we meet the Daleks, as never before: dormamt, dark, and impotent. Then we catch sight of a living one scuttling across the floor!
Episode two builds towards the reactivation of the Daleks and makes the audience trust the new Doctor because we know, and he knows, about the nature of the threat.
Lesterson's foolish experiments bring the wonderful reveal of the Dalek recognising recognising the Doctor, further underlining the legitimacy of the new actor in a very shrewd move.
The story and the characters are brilliant. Much meatier and more believable than the previous story. And Polly's legs are to die for.
Power episode three unfolds with more politics. It's funny, I was just thinking how much better Polly's characterisation was after going a bit girly, but then she says she will do the cleaning up of the rest room!
We learn that a Dalek gun's ball joint is actually in the shape of an extended oil tank. Dalek geeks like me this find this very interesting.
The Dalek voices have gone back to being a bit crap as in The Chase, but still it is very exciting indeed when three Daleks tell us they will conquer.
Power of the Daleks benefits from being an interesting political tale even without the alien menace. The monsters are not vital in terms of what is being argued over, but it is a superb lever to create tension because the audience knows what is coming and as the Daleks announce 'we will get our power' you can feel the doom approaching.
The next episode provides one of the most iconic moments of the series as Lesterson creeps into the capsule (which seems bigger on the inside) and finds an extraordinary Dalek production line! We have never before sneaked a glimpse of the intimate world of Dalek reproduction.
The amount of horror created by the humans in the story is significant even before you factor in the Daleks.
The finale is an epic pitch battle in which only just achieves a happy ending. Overall this story has been superb. Brilliantly acted and well written. The only down side being that it does come across as rather cheap. The inside of the capsule is not the greatest set, and it is populated with cardboard Daleks. The non-cardboard ones crash into the camera and at times nearly tip over completely.
The new team of time travellers picks their way past a dead Dalek to board the TARDIS and I feel the new Doctor has promise.
The Highlanders takes us back in time once again, and back to Earth.
As a fan of the sport myself I am pleased that after four years, the series finally makes its first reference to football, as Ben mentions the cup final!
On the subject of firsts, this is also the first time the crew have ever had a trip to Scotland. The time travellers have been to France more often!
Troughton continues to impress but it is still hard to forget Hartnell, despite an apparent effort towards the end of his reign to devalue him. I'm not sure about the new Doctor's ridiculous hat, but at least he tries on a Tam O'Shanter for variety.
"Romantic piffle," he declares at one point and seems oddly grumpy, but not in the same way as the original Doctor. But then just as I'm trying to get a handle on this new man, he decides to becomes a German, and names himself Dr von Wer! Just to underline the joke, he confirms its meaning of 'Doctor Who' to the Redcoat. It's the second time in four stories that 'Who' has been used as the time-traveller's suname.
The story is diverting but not hugely engaging.
Into the second episode we go, and out comes the Doctor's recorder in a rather gimmicky way.
It's funny that we the audience want to get to know this new Doctor but he spends half his time doing funny voices and acting strangely. I can't imagine Hartnell ever smashing some poor bloke's head repeatedly on the desk, even at his most mischievous and unstable.
Episode three moves the action to a ship called Annabell and all of a sudden elements of this are blurring into the last historical, The Smugglers only three adventures previously.
Polly has an amazingly strong part in the adventure, being both pro-active and intelligent. Ben does well too. The Doctor meanwhile dresses as an old woman, and then goes to sleep!
But at least he has a plan!
The Highlanders ends, as with The Smugglers, with a big fight and everything is tied up nicely.
Just before things get too serious, the Doctor adopts his German persona again and then the conclusion is rather hurried with Jamie rushed aboard.
The Underwater Menace
And The Underwater Menace kicks off with Jamie given a quick explanation as to the format of the show. Like each companion before, he is a little less disbelieving.
They all explore the beach and then get abducted down a lift, but new companion Jamie has little to contribute.
There are some good, funny lines in this which don't spoil the drama.
As has become more frequent in the show, the Doctor knows all about the world they have landed on, and he already knows of Dr Zaroff.
Episode two begins with a shockingly adult sequence in which Polly is writhing, being held down as a man tries to insert something onto her, whilst the audience is afforded a view up her indecently short skirt.
Jamie has little to do but is a tough young man in the mould of Ben. Considering the new Doctor's fairly comical persona, it seems surprising that his companions are also real and gritty.
The girl Ara seems rather nice, but she is amazingly helpful for someone they only just met.
The Doctor's recorder pops out again and I'm struggling to get to grips with this gimmicky new version of our hero, including a very dodgy pair of shades he wears in epsiode three.
The story uses electronic incidental music for the first time and it does come across somewhat experimental and rather overwhelming at times.
The whole thing does seem somewhat cheap, but in keeping with the previous Highlanders it has a rather comicbook style puntcuated by adult moments of violence.
I know this story is not well loved but I find the ludicrous whimsy lots of fun, and the crazy Zaroff is utterly suited to the bizarre situation.
Jamie is likeable but not very well fleshed out and never seems to have a great deal to do.
The story kind of winds down rather than reaches a crescendo. I find it rather ironic that Zaroff is a cliched villain who would normally leave the hero to die, and leave without making sure of his victory, therefore allowing the hero to escape. And in this situation, the roles are reversed, with the Doctor not actually defeating the baddie, but just leaving him to die, and assuming nothing will do wrong. We presume the villain does die as he bobs underwater.
The time travellers all meet back up at the ship and off they go again.
Jamie comments rather sweetly on his new life and says he feels safe inside the ship. But just as that contentious subject of piloting the TARDIS crops up, the ship reacts violently and is out of control!
Just like Hartnell's finale, we have the TARDIS landing on a barren, inhospitable surface, a flying saucer landing along side it, and the time travellers enter a base through a hatch where they meet an international team of people in the future looking after important science work for mankind! Talk about unoriginal so far...! Now wouldn't it then be laughable if the story turned out to have the same baddies too?
We see glimpses of the adversaries inside their ships, sitting at screens. Just arms and pipes.... Then we see a limb and a man cries out, having seen "the silver arm!"
The eerie sound effects of the Moonbase atmosphere and the creeping realisation that their tranmissions are being monitored, and that there is someone within the base, all adds to a wonderful building tension...
Polly sees someone leaving through the the door... we know things are being moved around the base... bodies are vanishing... And this is one of the most unnerving things I have ever seen in Doctor Who.
And then suddenly, the horrendous, metallic head of a Cyberman!
That was one of the most enjoyable ten minutes of Doctor Who for ages. Truly tense and frightening.
The Moonbase builds into a brilliant action thriller. The Cybermen have infiltrated and are taking over. The humans are defeated by their invaders and the Cybermen start to take hold. But with's Polly brilliant improvisation she takes the fight to the enemey and the humans gain the upper hand and take back the control room.
Its weird how when Polly's spray gun is used, the organic parts inside the Cybermen melt leaving only the plastic exterior. It mirrors the abandoned human space suits from when the Cybermen abducted the men.
I like how each side takes the upper hand in the battle, and then right at the end of episode three we see the Cybermen on the march in force ... It looks like they will win the next round ....
The drama is great and everything is well structured although there are bits of clumsy dialogue.
Things hot up as the Cybermen bring up reenforcements and the big guns come out. These weapons don't work but the alien menace will simply rely on strength in numbers.
With a dozen Cybermen menacing the base, the threat is palpable. However if you stop to ask youself what their next move was going to be, it will spoil your enjoyment, as they had so far been defeated at every step and had run out of ideas.
But let's not quibble over a detail as this excellent story draws to a close with the Cybermen being blasted off the suface with the weapon they came to steal.
The only real question I'm left pondering is where did these Cybermen come from? As the fella says, "there were Cybermen every child knows that, but they were destroyed ages ago." So what happened after Mondas blew up? Did these ones leave their planet a long time ago and are only now returning? They were very different in design and spoke completely differently.
I have mentioned my increasing disappointment with the contrived nature of cliffhangers into the next story and we now get the worst so far.
We learn that the TARDIS has a Time Scanner which allows you to see into the future. But not any specific event apparently, just an ambiguous abstract limb of the next monster you will face. In this instance we see a crab's claw. Quite what use this knowledge will be is beyond me!
The Macra Terror
To my immense shock, there are new titles!
No change to the music, but the wobbly white time vortex has been beefed up, and made fully symmetrical. And another shock comes with Patrick Troughton's big face looming out of the dark. It's as if the new production team were worried that the new actor was not properly making his stamp on the show so we're given a very unsubtle reminder of his presence.
So, we find outselves in an another Earth colony, like Power of the Daleks a couple of stories ago.
Jamie arms himself with a big stick against the claw monsters to come, but I can't figure out for the life of me what the Doctor means by his reply: "These creatures are so big that they'll see us long before we see them." Surely that should be the other way around?
It's a rather enjoyable setup and a welcome rest after their horrors on The Moonbase. The Doctor's shiny suade shoes and fun with the Rough and Tumble machine are very good humoured and the character of the new Doctor finally seems to have settled down.
I'm reminded of Nineteen Eighty Four and all sorts if other things. It's not often we're shown a bleak future for a Human colony. Unlike with the Daleks recently though, these settlers have already succumbed to the alien threat it seems.
As the companions are quietly brainwashed in their sleep and announcements are made by loud speaker, I can't help but wonder how much of this story was seen by the people who created The Prisoner, Patrick Mcgoohan's series which aired a few months later.
A disturbing dimension not used for a while is that a companion has turned bad. Ben is a menace!
Chasing Polly into the constrction site we get our first glimpse of the thing which owned the claw on the time scanner. Large, and quite immobile but lurking in the dark is a giant crab!
Polly looks very cute in her new hair cut!
The build up of episode three is amazing. This episode is like a mini adventure in itself, with the Danger Gang being established and the setup explained. It has little in common with parts one and two.
The whole of the last five or ten mins has been building towards the Macra lurking and them being revived to attack Jamie. There's more of this electronic music which started a couple of stories ago and it does detract a little, but the throbbing sound effects are great.
I'm struck by how the series has changed from a semi-educational show to a pure thriller. Old 'monsters' such as Zarbi, Sensorites and even Daleks were alien cultures with a motive. But the Macra are the first ever purely monstrous enemy. They don't reason or argue or have a society, they really are just terrible things which lurk in the dark.
The Doctor describes them simply as parasites. It's good that the types of aliens in Doctor Who are diversifying beyond bi-pedal, English-speaking races.
I suppose The War Machines started this trend but in that instance it was with non-living things and it still had the talkative Wotan at the centre. The Macra Terror really represents a massive shift towards pure horror for it's own sake.
Oh dear, there's lots of singing going on in episode four. Jamie is dancing his way to freedom but Ben has betrayed him. Its an interesting escalation of events after these two companions actually squared up to each other in the previous story. Maybe a rivalry will develop?
And so, with Ben redeemed, and the crabs defeated, our time-travellers slip away. Having had a selection of ropey cliffhangars, this time we are not provided with any! Roll credits.
The Faceless Ones
Back to modern day Earth for the first time since Ben and Polly joined, back in The War Machines. Funny how the TARDIS never lands in the time of the travellers, I suppose because the temptation would be for them to leave.
Sadly Polly has gone back to being extremely girly, with a very whiney string of dialogue. I suppose we'll forgive her as she has just witnessed a murder and been chased by the killer.
The script is rather cliched but we're being fed scraps of a rather interesting plot. An alien plot I'm guessing. The man was killed beacuse he saw postcards. Are these postcards which were sent and never arrived home? Or a collection of fakes ready to be sent? An investigator is already on the case! Sent by a parent, our baddies speculate. So it's the kids which are going missing. Obviously while on some bogus holiday. The Doctor reveals the gun is not of Earth technology.
So, aliens are stealing our youth. Good riddance. I'm old now. I think they're all a menace. Just get the aliens to abduct all the C-list celebs in the world and I'll be happy.
The pace is slower than I've got used to and there's obvious padding.
Argh there's a monster in the filing cabinet!
Polly's been memory-wiped!
Episode one ends. Episode two begins...
Oh blimey! Everythings changing!
For some barmy reason, episode two, yes two, of this story features revamped theme music! It's all jingle jangley but I suppose seems more fitting to the extra blobby sparkles in the new graphics.
I'm rather unnerved by all these changes. I'd almost rather these new things had happened all at once but instead I find myself just getting used to one new thing and they change something else.
A personal gripe I just want to highlight. The Doctor, ancient and amazing time-time traveller that he is, falls into the same old trap regarding chamelions. Chamelions do not change colour to blend in with their backgrounds. To do so is preposterous and suggests that they not only know what colour they're sitting on, but are also aware of the direction from which they are being watched! The reality is that chamelions change colour based simply on their mood. Not as exiting as the power of invisibility but still true. Now, go out and tell all your friends the truth about these reptiles.
Ooh look, it's a Liver Bird.
The story doesn't progress a great deal. Our suspicions about Chamelion Tours seems correct and Polly remains faithful to the baddies. The Doctor isn't getting very far with his insistence about dead bodies.
Jamie has a decent amount of dialogue for the first time.
We finally see a faceless one! Or rather a back-of-the-headless one.
This is extremely boring and tedious stuff. Everything is drawn out and laboured over. By episode four the Doctor has only just convinced the man in charge that he knows what he's talking about.
However we get a wonderfully iconic cliffhangar at the end of episode four as the plane sweeps back its wings and goes into space where it reaches a flying saucer mother ship! Fantastic.
With the exception of Power of the Daleks, every adventure back to The Daleks Masterplan a dozen journeys ago has been four episodes in length. Is it any wonder that this relatively ordinary story feels stretched and slow as we only start to get some new information in episode five.
A big explosion back on the faceless ones' homeworld caused them to 'lose their identites'! Perhaps the silliest bit of science since The Tenth Planet.
It's only as I ponder the qualities of this story (some good guest stars and nice location work) that I realise we haven't seen Polly and Ben for ages! Jamie has rather nicely come to the fore and this gobby scouse girl is doing okay.
She has just been tied to a bench in a short skirt, which seems to be something of a tradition for female companions. I approve.
The end of the story revolves around this strange bluff. I cant decide if it makes any sense or not that the Doctor should be in this odd position of power, dictating how this problem will be resolved, from before being powerless.
Amazingly the aliens neither win nor lose, but simply back down and go home.
Jamie and the scouser say goodbye and have a lovely little kiss.
Thank God, Polly and Ben have showed up again. They've been gone ages.
They chat a bit about times and places. 1966... July ... As if they'd never been away.
Out of the blue, having been gone fow ages, they tell us they're staying on Earth. I'm really disappointed that, as with Dodo whom they replaced, such a likeable pair of characters have been unceremoneously dumped out of the programme.
There's an extra sad moment as the Doctor says that he never got back to his world.
It's a sudden and understated ending but before you can say 'script editor', the TARDIS is gone and the Doctor and his one remaining companion go off in search of it...
The Evil of the Daleks
The story follows on from The Faceless Ones but steps into a world in which half the Earth's teenagers have been kidnapped by aliens. Hang on a moment. Perhaps I fell asleep at some point, but haven't thousands of kids gone missing? Are they to be returned home? I can't remember if that was ever mentioned!
The story builds a little disjountedly towards the Daleks and for really the first time ever, the Doctor is not the first character to learn that the threat is the Daleks.
First the bloke in Waterfield's shop is killed by them, then we find that Waterfield and Maxtible are already up to their necks in it, and then we meet the delicious new Victoria, who is also at the mercy of these monsters.
It seems the story is happening without the Doctor! This lends a very unsettling feeling to the adventure, because how can our hero fight the enemy if he doesn't even know what's going on? Compelling stuff.
Dalek geeks note the bizarre nature of the Dalek which is bullying Victoria!
Episode three sets up Jamie's test and puts him centre stage. After his flirtation with the scouser in the previous story, he's now making Molly giggle. Then he gives the Doctor an earful and storms off. He's the best companion ever!
The next installment brings Jamie and Victoria together and we start to learn more of her charater.
We're also learning more about Jamie as he's revealing himself to be a gentle giant, a bit like his new mate Kemel. Jamie is also turning out quite the ladies' man, having given Molly something to giggle about, he now sets about winning Victoria's heart. And why not, she's gorgeous.
The story is like an onion and the skins peeling away reveal Terrel's mind control, and dormant Daleks ready to be impressed upon. And what an impression!
The three come to life and start to molest a chair, then the Doctor.
Finally he is ensnared on a Dalek fender and they take him off for a ride...!
And so into the penultimate episode and we find the three Daleks are children! The scene is more than a little embarrasing but the odd speech is highlighting the fact we are hearing a new voice artist - Mr Roy Skelton. He was first heard in episode one asking "who are you?" but this softening of the voice makes the newcomer all the more apparent. This is the first story since Doctor Who started to use someone other than Hawkins and Graham for Daleks.
Maxtible reveals his true colours as his motives turn out to be purely greedy and the Daleks reveal theirs in setting an explosion to destroy the house.
The surviving characters are transported to Skaro where some are the guests of the Daleks, whereas the Doctor, Jamie and Waterfield slip in via a secret passage! It's the first time we've seen the Dalek homeworld since the original story.
The Daleks show great cunning by pretending to be friendly to the Doctor, but it makes you wonder why they bother as surely the Doctor could have just been taken in at gunpoint.
Despite evading the fraud, they are soon captured and led into a giant chamber. The music pulsates, the tension is high. And then: "DOCTOR!"
Dominating the corner of the giant room is a Dalek. Twenty feet high and with pipes and wires connecting him to his network. He is clearly the king of all Daleks. But even more excitingly, the Doctor obviously knew of his existence before as he remarks on the fact the wondered if they would ever meet.
Just as you think the drama couldn't get any greater we learn the Doctor has been tricked into making the Dalek Factor and with the TARDIS, he is ordered to spread it through the entire history of Earth!
The final episode brings an air of doom.
It is strange to back in the Dalek city for the first time since the beginning, and with their hitherto unseen Emperor in all his glory, it makes for an unnerving situation.
The Daleks are fully in control of the situation, and their plans are advancing alarmingly.
Maxtible becomes a Dalek and the Doctor is next. It could all be going wrong.
The human Dalek's question of 'why?' is both amusing and slightly embarrasing but is leading to interesting situations.
The apparently Dalekized Doctor reports to Emperor but suggests all Daleks pass through his arch to return the human Daleks to their evil ways.
Of course its all a trick and the Doctor is stirring up a civil war as more Daleks become human. He forces them to go to their Emperor for answesrs but the Emperor rallies his troops.
Waterfield throws himself in front of a Dalek blast and dies, and all hell begins to break loose.
Black Daleks pour into the Emperor's room to fend off the human Daleks. The battle rages and amidst smoke and explosions, the Emperor tries desperately to make himself heard.
It is possibly the single most exciting scene in Doctor Who so far.
Although I confess to being reminded of Peter Sellers' line 'How dare you fight in the war room?'
The Doctor and company make their escape, and watch from the cliffs as building after building explodes.
I look back on this epic journey which has very little by comparison. Yes, other stories have had multiple settings, but none before had them as part of the overall plot. The Evil of the Daleks took us from the comfort of modern day Earth, to the intrigue of Victorian England, and then to the planet Skaro for an unsettling conclusion. It's been a massive adventure with interesting characters and a plot painted on a broad canvas.
The serial boasts impressive model work to accompany its impressive sets, brilliant story and strong script. There is little or nothing to find fault with.
A final end, he says. Inside, a few final explosions amidst the carnage signal the end to an excellent story and thoroughly enjoyable season.
Doctor Who has changed a lot, but by the end of The Evil of the Daleks I felt that in this story it had brought together all the elements which made the Hartnel era great, plus introduced so much to strengthen it.
I have high hopes for season five.
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