Goodbye Jo, Goodbye Jackanapes: Doctor Who, Season Ten (#SFWApro)

As I don’t have enough material for a book-review post this week, how about Doctor Who? Season Ten was noteworthy for writing out Jo Grant and for losing the Master (afterRoger Delgado died in a car accident, nobody wanted to replace such a fan favorite write away).

The season kicks off in high style with The Three Doctors (all rights to image remain with current holder) in which the renegade Time Lord Omega threatens all time and space; when the Third Doctor fails to stop him, the Time Lords send in the Second and the First (though Hartnell’s health issues left him only an image on the TARDIS monitor). This was an outstanding one, though slightly undercut by the low budget — Omega’s monster servants look like they’re spackled with gumdrops. Noteworthy also in that ends with the Doctor regaining his freedom to travel the time stream. “If I exist only by my will, then my will is to destroy!”

In Carnival of Monsters, the TARDIS’ first test flight appears to land the Doctor and Jo on a cruise ship in 1937, only it seems time is repeating over and over … because the ship is actually trapped in a time-space viewer an alien huckster is using to entertain another planet. Oh, and the monsters from some of the other time-space snapshots are breaking out … This gets a bit too crowded — the issue of the aliens overthrowing their despotic leader gets very short shrift — but it’s not bad. “They’ve no sense of responsibility. Give them a hygiene chamber and they store fossil fuel in it.”

In trying to return from that adventure, the TARDIS materializes on a space freighter plying THE FRONTIER IN SPACE. That doesn’t go well as Earth is convinced the alien Draconians are preying upon Earth shipping; the Draconians, conversely, are convinced Earth is responsible. Hmm, could someone be setting the two sides against each other? This starts stiffly with the guest cast clench-jawed in intensity, but it picks up as it goes along. And I really like that Jo gets some great moments, such as blocking the Master’s hypnosis (not easily done). This included the Master, the Ogrons (their last appearance — surprisingly the new series has yet to revive them) and the Daleks; the ending sets up a battle between the Master and the Daleks but Delgado’s death nixed that (as the ending is primarily a segue into Planet of the Daleks it’s a little awkward anyway. “Allow me to congratulate you—you have the most closed mind I have ever encountered.”

PLANET OF THE DALEKS comes off as a remake of the series’ second serial, The Daleks: once again the Doctor and the Thals (the other inhabitants of Skaro) join forces to attack a Dalek citadel (where several thousand Dalek warriors are in suspended animation waiting for reactivation). Of course by this point there were lots of fans who’d never seen the original (I hadn’t) — but by the same token, I wouldn’t have gotten any kick out of the return of the Thals (“Who?”). This does have a great turn by Katy Manning, as Jo’s virtually a solo act for half the first episode. “Earth doesn’t exist — it’s a name out of old legends.”

Last and least we have THE GREEN DEATH, in which Jo gets involved in a protest against a polluting corporation, then discovers (along with the Doctor) that its pollution is breeding Giant Killer Maggots, oh plus there’s an evil computer in charge plotting to take over the world. The elements are there for a good one, but they never pull together — while the idea the maggots result from the computer’s neglect rather than intentional evil is interesting, it never gelled (it’s like The War Machines just happened to be rolling through London at the same time as the Doctor fought WOTAN). Add in heavy-handed ecological preachment (even though I’m sympathetic to the sentiments) and Jo become much more dimwitted so the Professor (whom she goes off with) can demonstrate his braininess makes him worthy to claim her affections from the Doctor. However I do highly recommend Global Conspiracy, a short mockumentary in which a reporter tries digging up the incredible truth of what exactly happened during the serial (or is it just an urban legend, like “stories of lizards in vests attacking seamen?”). It’s pitch-perfect, and hysterical. “A shame we didn’t arrange for an orchestra to play a symphony at my ascension.”

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