Sarah Jane Smith – Elisabeth Sladen
The Doctor -
The Doctor -
The Doctor -
Harry Sullivan -
Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart -
OTHER SARAH JANE SHOWS
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Dr WHO SPIN OFFS
TIME TRAVEL SHOWS
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
The Flipside of Dominick Hyde
THE TIME WARRIOR - Originally transmitted 15 December 1973 - 5 January 1974
And so Sarah Jane Smith enters the life of the Doctor. Admittedly, she's pretending to be Lavinia Smith, an aunt of some advanced years, at the time, but that subterfuge lasts only a few seconds as the Doctor is a fan of the old woman's writings on virology. UNIT has been losing top scientists and equipment. They have been simply vanishing under their noses and so they are bringing all the top minds together in one place to keep them safe and guarded. Sarah smells a story (she is a journalist, she informs us, a fact that quite often gets forgotten as we never see her file a story. The story proves greater than she could have imagined when the Doctor discovers that the scientists are being kidnapped through time.
Using a tracer, the Doctor travels back to medieval times where he finds that a robber baron, Irongron, has offered aid and shelter to a mysterious star warrior who has, in return, offered him weapons that will make him the most powerful man in the world. The Doctor, of course, is having none of that, as this would radically alter humanity's future.
Sarah, who has stowed away on the TARDIS, emerges to find herself in what she thinks is a tourist attraction. She is quickly disabused of the notion. The Doctor, meanwhile, discovers that the star warrior is none other than a Sontaran, a race of brutish warriors from a planet with a gravitational pull far stronger than Earth's. As a result, he is short, squat and very powerful. He is also pretty ugly. Even his supposed ally Irongron calls him toadface.
The Doctor and Sarah run around capturing and saving each other for a while before finally setting to the task of saving the kidnapped scientists, getting rid of the advanced weapons and stopping the Sontaran, called Linx, from escaping, destroying Irongron's castle in the process.
The Time Warrior is not a classic Doctor Who Story. There is a lot of running around with the Doctor and Sarah getting captured, escaping, getting captured again and rescuing each other. Had the Doctor lost his trousers at any point, it would have been a stage farce. That might have been the idea, or it might be that the story was so slight that a lot of padding had to be added. Irongron's posturing and shouted dialogue is pretty repetitive and the story does take its time getting nowhere.
Special effects-wise it's also not a high point either, though it's also a long way from the worst that Doctor Who has come up with. The falling spaceship is pretty poorly rendered, even when seen from a distance and the supposedly 'superadvanced' robot warrior that Linx creates for Irongron has to be seen to be laughed at.
However, the story did bring two much-loved elements to the mythology of Doctor Who which earn it a place of honour. The first of these is the race of Sontarans. Militarists to the core and brutal with it, they are hatched by the million to spread war throughout all the galaxies. The Doctor recognises their kind immediately, though this is the first time that we encounter them. Sontarans are one of Doctor Who's better rendered monsters, something which might explain their ranking amongst his most beloved foes when you ask the fans. Suspension of disbelief is not so hard.
The second, and most important, reason why The Time Warrior is to be remembered with fondness is because it brought in the age of Sarah Jane. From her first meeting with the Doctor, she is a bright, lively and fun character. Her teasing exchanges here are only the sign of things to come. Her first encounter with Irongron in what she believes to be a pageant or tourist attraction is hilarious and when she tries to bring feminism to the downtrodden serving wenches you get an idea of where this character is going. It is no wonder that she stayed for another 3 years and 17 stories.
"If this is a Rag Week joke, then it's not funny."
"Ooh, I could murder a cup of tea."
"You're living in the middle ages."
The Doctor takes Sarah back to present day London, only they find it deserted. The streets are populated only by looters and the army patrols that are chasing them. Taken into custody as suspected looters, The Doctor and Sarah learn that the capital has been evacuated following appearances by dinosaurs on the streets. Reunited with UNIT, the Doctor sets about capturing one of the creatures to study and Sarah tackles the problem from the angle of who might be behind it and where they're getting the power. What they discover is that the dinosaurs are being transported through time as a diversion to clear London for a plot that will change the course of time itself.
If you're going to make a science fiction show about dinosaurs then it's going to live and die by the quality of the dinos themselves. This is why Invasion Of The Dinosaurs is often thought of as being one of the worst stories of the whole show. To say that the monsters are unconvincing is to do them a disservice - they are fabulously awful. They make the acting of the cast seem foolish in the extreme. How can anyone possibly be scared of these? Truthfully - they can't.
That's a shame, because the rest of the story has a lot going for it. Malcolm Hulke's plot is pretty clever, only revealing itself slowly, over time. There are a few neat twists along the way (such as Sarah waking up on a spaceship millions of miles from Earth) and any show that is has the courage to take one of the recurring characters and cast them as a Judas within has to be applauded. It also makes the villains of the piece much less cardboard caricatures, giving them a plausible motivation for what they are doing and making some of them conflicted over the rights and wrongs of their actions.
Jon Pertwee is so versed in the role of the Doctor by this point that he could do it in his sleep, but you kind of get the impression that is exactly what he is doing. Conversely, everyone else seems to be really getting into it. Elisabeth Sladen enlivens proceedings immensely in her second adventure. Sarah first uncovers the identity of the scientist behind the monsters' appearance and locates the hidden base. She also shows an unfortunate propensity for allying herself with all the villains. Her relationship with the Doctor is clearly cemented even though she unsurely asks "I'm the Doctor's assistant, aren't I Doctor?"
The UNIT crew are also on top form. Nicholas Courtney is having great fun as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, his enthusiasm always bubbling below the surface, taking the stuffiness out of the character and really supporting the Doctor as he takes on his own superiors. John Levene's Sergeant Benton also displays the same enthusiasm, taking decisions that could easily lead to him getting court-martialled, but standing by the Doctor and proudly announcing that "not every sergeant gets to punch a general in the nose." Richard Franklin gets a more dignified focus as Captain Yates goes through some changes that will affect his character more than most. It is not often that science fiction series to this point would allow such development in a minor character.
Invasion Of The Dinosaurs is one of a number of stories around this time with a serious ecological theme (the other most significant one being The Green Death) and this does kind of get rammed down the audience's throat in the last few minutes, but it is otherwise a pacey and entertaining adventure that is let down horribly by the tackiness of the dinosaurs themselves.
The Doctor and Sarah take off into space again, this time ending up on the savage planet of Exxilon. The Tardis loses all power and they find themselves stranded until they can find the source of the power drain. Their plight is shared by an Earth vessel that is on a search for the antidote to a plague sweeping the galaxy. Sarah finds a great white city with a beacon at the top. This, it seems is the source of the power drain. The local inhabitants, however, don't take kindly to people wandering the city that was their greatest achievement and their ultimate downfall. Just to make matters even more complicated, a force of daleks arrive in search of the same antidote as the humans.
THE MONSTER OF PELADON - Originally transmitted 23 March - 27 April 1974
The Doctor pays a return visit to the planet of Peladon some fifty years after he sorted out the problems over that planet's application to join the galactic federation and the powers that sought to exploit its mineral wealth, calling upon the spirit of Aggedor, a monster that lived in the depths. This time around, the Doctor has to sort out some problems with outside powers that are trying to exploit it for it's mineral wealth whilst calling upon the spirit of Aggedor, a monster that....
You can't get away with changing one word of a title (Curse to Monster and using the same basic plot and characters by calling it a sequel. You especially cannot get away with it when it is this dull. The intrigues between the various factions are not particularly intriguing and drawn out to the point of tedium. There are moments when you wish that the rebelling miners would actually use the weapon that they have pointed at the citadel and put us all out of our misery. Unfortunately, before that happens the troops from the supposed allies arrive, turn out to be Ice Warriors who have rebelled and sided with the enemy. All the previously warring factions team up to fight them, but are hampered at every turn by traitors in their midst.
Monster Of Peladon is something of a forgotten story because it is nowhere near good enough to be remembered for its (very few) good points and nowhere near bad enough to be reviled.SARAH SAYS
"It's another rotten gloomy old tunnel isn't it?"
"Now just a minute, there's nothing 'only' about being a girl."
Captain Mike Yates (late of UNIT) invites Sarah to visit a Buddhist meditation centre where he has been trying to get his head together following the events of Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Something, he assures her, is going on there, something that is not good. Meanwhile the Doctor is researching psychic powers and finds the subject of one experiment dead from peering into a blue crystal from the oft mentioned world of Metebelis 3. Attendees at the centre are using the meditation techniques to create a bridge to greater powers, powers that turn out to be giant spiders, spiders that want the crystal for their Great One. They steal it, but lose it to the simpleminded janitor. In the meantime, everyone is taken to Metebelis 3 where the politics of the spiders and their human slaves takes over the tale for a while. In the end, the Doctor must take the crystal and give it to the Great One and act that will cost him his life. The head llama of the meditation centre, though, has a surprise up his sleeve
There is always a special frisson of excitement about an adventure that sees the death of a Doctor (I know that he doesn't die, he regenerates, but you get my meaning), so you expect something a bit special. You can imagine the board meeting discussing this one. "How can we really make this one memorable?" - "Let's really scare the kids this time." - "OK. What really scares kids?" - "Spiders and let's make them really big and make them sit on people's backs so that they can control their minds." Not a bad plan at all. Unfortunately, the spiders in Planet Of The Spiders are anything other than scary. That said, they do have seriously creepy voices and younger, less discerning viewers might freak out a little. The models don't move very much and look very much like poorly manipulated puppets. When they are required to move, they use their favourite superimposition technique. This technique is used a lot in this story and never well. It looks more false than in probably any other story.
There are things to like about Planet Of The Spiders, such as the return of Captain Yates following his disgrace in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. It is nice to see minor characters being allowed such development. The best thing, though, is the character of Tommy, played superbly by John Kane. His childlike nature quickly endears him, especially through his relationship with Sarah, and his joy when the crystal expands his limited mental faculties is stuff to raise the spirits. When it looks like he has been killed, it is the stuff of heartbreak. Rarely do we see a better written or played single story character. That alone can forgive the serious shortcomings of the rest of the story.SARAH SAYS
"No, no, I won't have it. There is hope. There must be."
"So that's why you pinched me. I'll be bruised for a week."
The Doctor has regenerated, but it's been a pretty tough time and he is not quite as stable as he once was. There is no time, however, for him to come to terms with his new body before he is catapulted headlong into his new adventure. Top secret bases are being broken into and scientific components stolen. The thief is not human, but what is it and why does it want those specific items? Sarah, meanwhile, is investigating an organisation called Think Tank and discovers that they have links to the Scientific Reform Society and a rather large robot. The robot is responsible for the thefts and the components combine to create a disintegrator gun that allows the SRS to steal the launch codes of nuclear weapons, which they threaten to use if the world does not return to a simpler way of life.
There are a good many shades of Invasion of the Dinosaurs in Robot's plotting. After all, we have a bunch of misguided scientists planning to use their scientific breakthroughs to return mankind to a simpler way of life. Instead of dinosaurs kidnapped through time, though, they have a robot and a very impressive robot it is too. The K1 is a marvellous monster, believable and, towards the end, quite endearing (when not wiping out the planet, that is). It develops a connection with Sarah that is quite touching and certainly she is the only one that is left feeling sorry for it after its inevitable destruction. That's pretty important, because some of the other special effects at the end are pretty horrendous, most especially the use of what can only be described as an action man tank toy.
The true star of Robot, though is Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor. The inaugural episode of a new Doctor's reign is always fraught with excitement and fear. What possibilities there are (including the possibility of disaster). Fortunately, Tom Baker is a revelation, soon to become one of, if not the, favourite Doctor of all time. His shock of curly hair and bug eyes mark him out as believably alien, but there is a strangeness to the man that shines through and informs the character, something that the writers make the most of in later stories.
This is another good episode for Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah. She is one of the driving forces of the investigation and helps smooth the transition between doctors no end with her enthusiasm and ready smile. She invests her relationship with the threatening robot with all the emotion that the story needs and manages to make it a creature as endearing at its destruction as was King Kong at the top of the Empire State Building. The story also introduces Ian Marter as Harry, a bit of a stiff upper lip caricature of a companion, but welcome enough for all that.
ROBOT is a fine way for the fourth Doctor to kick off his tenure and also marks the start of the golden age of Doctor Who.SARAH SAYS
"Nonsense Brigadier, you're a swinger."
"Busy day tomorrow, I'm still a working girl."
The Doctor takes Sarah and Harry into the future, just to prove to Harry that it can be done. They end up on a spacestation that appears deserted, but in fact holds the future of the human race in suspended animation. They are not alone, though. The station has been infested by the Wirrn, a space-travelling insect race that lay their eggs in other lifeforms and absorb them. This has happened to the leader of the awakening humans and there are eggs enough for it to happen to the rest.
Long before ALIEN claimed the idea of using a human host for the incubation of the nasty, Doctor Who was doing it. Admittedly, this episode ripped the idea directly off The Quatermass Experiment. There is nothing as recyclable as a sci-fi idea. ARK IN SPACE is an excellent adventure and really kicks Tom Baker's reign into full swing. The setting of the spacestation is brilliantly realised whether it is the corridors open to space, the sleeping chambers or the stacks where the Wirrn chooses to lay its eggs.
Ah yes, the Wirrn. The insectoid race is pretty well handled by Doctor Who standards. The dead creature that the Doctor and his companions first encounter is convincing enough in its dead state, but the rampaging hordes at the end are clearly stop motion. The green slime that sets about absorbing Noah (no irony in that choice of name) is also bubble wrap painted green.
None of which matters, of course. Ark In Space is a fabulous story. It is atmospheric, tense and very scary for younger viewers. It also has wonderful flashes of humour from the central trio. Tom Baker settles into his role with indecent speed and the characterisation is set even in only the second outing. His chemistry with Elisabeth Sladen is wonderful, her enthusiasm and cheerfulness finally finding a match in him and Ian Marter makes a great third leg of the tripod. The supporting cast are excellent as well with Kenton Moore giving a fine performance as the conflicted, tortured and slowly degenerating Noah, and Wendy Williams as the icy, decisive Vira. Episode one is a complete mystery play, tense and scary. The other three ramp up the action, but never let the tension drop with a credible enemy and credible solutions leading to a credible conclusion.SARAH SAYS
"Call me old girl again and I'll spit in your eye."
"Huh, conned again."
In order to test that the Transmat beam from Spacestation Nerva (THE ARK IN SPACE) is working properly, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry beam down to the surface of the Earth. Now habitable, though a bit depressingly like Bodmin Moor in the middle of February, the planet is ready for the human race to return. There is, however, someone already there. Survivors from a ship from a human colony are being experimented on by an evil alien that turns out to be a Sontaran (The Time Warrior) called Styre. A whole battle fleet is poised to descend, but Sontarans never attack without full information about the enemy in order to ensure success of the campaign. As a result, they will arrive only when Styre's assessment of the danger is complete.
Two part adventures are not common in DOCTOR WHO and it is difficult to say whether that is a blessing or a disappointment on the evidence of The Sontaran Experiment. Whilst it is true that the tense atmosphere is very nicely built up and the story is satisfyingly nasty (the experiments that the Sontaran is carrying out all are to determine what it takes to kill a human) it makes little or no sense. The fact that there is a huge battle fleet poised to descend upon an upopulated planet is one thing, but to say that they won't move in without a favourable report from one scout is nonsensical, especially when a quick scan of the energy emissions from the surface would show that it is completely deserted.
Still, all of the pricipals perform well. Tom Baker is completely at home in his new character, whilst both Elisabeth Sladen and Ian Marter cope well with the not very heavy demands on them.
The Sontarans are very high on the list of beloved enemies of the Doctor despite only appearing in a very few episodes and the activities of the singular sontaran are nasty enough to gloss over the serious problems of the plot and produce a very satisfying, in terms of atmosphere at least, adventure.SARAH SAYS
"Harry, I am not a thing."
The Transmat beam taking the Doctor and his two companions back to the Nerva spacestation to report that the Earth is safe for colonisation again, is intercepted by the Time Lords and they are deposited on the planet Skaro. The Time Lords have decided that the threat of the daleks is to great to be allowed and so the Doctor is given the task of destroying them or altering their development so that they become something less inimical to all other lifeforms in the galaxy. Initially furious, the Doctor takes on the mission, if only because he will not be able to return to the Tardis without having done so. The planet is gripped in the final stages of a war that has turned the surface into a radiation-scarred wasteland roamed by mutations of the two main races, the Thals and the Kaleds. They now live in two protected domes, skirmishing with any weapon they can find, both searching for the technological advance that will finally destroy the other. In a top secret bunker, Thal scientist Davros has developed a missile that will penetrate the protective domes and a travelling battle unit that he believes will swing the tide of battle his way. To inhabit the battle unit, he has manipulated Thal genetics into a deformed and twisted creature that he believes to be the final evolutionary state of the Thal people. Once inside the battle units, they will be christened with the name "Dalek".
When anyone thinks of DOCTOR WHO, they think of Daleks. It was their first appearance on the 23rd December 1963 that ensured the series' survival and they had provided some of the best stories since, also providing the two feature film adaptations. Whenever a new dalek story was announced (even in the case of the new series) hopes and expectations soar, often beyond all chance of being met. Genesis Of The Daleks exceeds all those inflated hopes and expectations to the point of being very possibly the pinnacle of the entire show. There is no other word for Genesis Of The Daleks than masterpiece. If ever you need to introduce a newcomer to the worlds of the Doctor, then this is the story to use.
High praise, but this is one story in which all the elements that make DOCTOR WHO great come good all at the same time. The effect is devastating. The plot and scripts by Terry Nation are not just great DOCTOR WHO writing, but great science fiction writing. This is a story packed full of meaty ideas, all showcased in a cracking, complex and pacy plot. The prime example is the moment when the Doctor is faced with the very real prospect of ending the dalek terror forever and pauses, racked with indecision as whether he has the right to destroy a whole race, a genocide that would make him their equivalent. There is enough action for those wanting that, but the plot also has intrigues and political manoeuvring aplenty with moments of betrayal that are simply shocking.
The quality of the writing allows the actors to be at the top of their game. Tom Baker reaches heights that he was rarely allowed to equal again, Elisabeth Sladen has some of the feistiness knocked out of her by the travails that Sarah is subjected to and even Harry's square-jawed heroism seems to be punctured by the futility of the situation in which they find themselves. And then there is Davros.
Davros is the blind, crippled scientific genius responsible for the creation of the daleks. He is the Doctor pushed through to the Dark Side even more than the Master ever was. When the Doctor debates the morality of universal destruction, it is a conversation of equals and opposites and all the more fascinating for it. Davros's guile and cunning are without measure, but always with the ring of truth about them. If you accept his view of the universe then you cannot deny his motivations. The daleks as an extension of his will makes perfect sense. He is beautifully realised by both the makeup teams and the actor, Michael Wisher, who plays him. Ably assisting him is the splendidly slimy Nyder (Peter Miles who had already threatened the Doctor in Invasion of the Dinosaurs). So duplicitous is the man that you never really know which side he is on. And then there are the daleks, reduced in threat to future potential and Davros's leashed dogs, they eventually slip the leash and have the last word on their creator.
Genesis Of The Daleks is the near perfect DOCTOR WHO story and the one that all science-fiction fans should watch.SARAH SAYS
"I'll never eat oysters again."
"To destroy the daleks? You can't doubt it."
"We've failed, haven't we?"
The Doctor, Sarah and Harry return to the Nerva spacestation, but centuries before the events of The Ark In Space. At this point, it is a beacon warning space shipping of a rogue asteroid that has entered the solar system. This is the remains of Voga, the planet of gold. The inhabitants of the beacon have been wiped out by a disease that turns out to be a poison injected from the fangs of a cybermat, the metal pets of the Cybermen. As gold lines the breathing equipment of the Cybermen, effectively choking them, they invade the beacon in order to destroy the asteroid. The Vogans living on the remains of the planet have pretty much the same idea and the humans get caught up in the crossfire.
Following on from the near perfection of Genesis of the Daleks, Revenge Of The Cybermen was always going to have to be something special in order to avoid being a disappointment. Solid enough, something special it is not, the return of a favourite nemesis notwithstanding. The blood feud between the Cybermen and the Vogans is reasonably well handled, but it suffers in comparison with the standard of the other stories of its period.
At the start of a new season, the Doctor returns to Earth to find that oil rigs in the North Sea are being arbitrarily destroyed. His investigations bring him to the conclusion that it is the work of the Loch Ness Monster, an alien creature being controlled by stranded aliens called Zygons who have the power to shape shift into the visage of their prisoners and are planning a take over of the planet to replace their own destroyed one. The Doctor has to rescue the captured humans, destroy the Zygons' ship and then stop the Loch Ness monster from destroying London.
Terror Of The Zygons comes very close to being a classic DOCTOR WHO adventure. The early mystery solving tone of the first episode soon segues into more action-orientated sections as Sarah is attacked by the Zygons and the Doctor by the monster itself, all leading up to a terrific chase to London to stop the planned devastation. What pulls it up short is the Loch Ness monster itself.
The Zygon race is one of the most successfully realised of all DOCTOR WHO monsters. Their suits are magnificent, blending into the whole organic tone of their technology. They are never less than believable. The problem is that the Loch Ness monster is never more than completely unbelievable. When it is not on screen, this is a thoroughly entertaining romp, but when it appears all is lost.
It would not be surprising if a few of the Scots were more than a little annoyed at the way that their countrymen are portrayed in the story. To say that cliche is not used as a shortcut to character would be an understatement, but there is never any animosity in the portrayals and quite a bit of fun to be had. It is a shame to lose Ian Marter as Harry, but good to see Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT again. Elisabeth Sladen also makes the best of being able to play against human characters for a change as well.
Terror Of The Zygons is a good solid start to the Doctor's 13th season and hints at the pleasures to come.SARAH SAYS
"What really worries me is how they, whoever they are, or whatever they are, knew we had it."
"Now Doctor stop trying to keep me out of things."
Ohhh, why do I always get the dirty jobs?"
After a story set close to home, the Doctor takes Sarah to the very edge of the universe itself. On the jungle planet of Zeta Minor, a small group of miners has fallen prey to a mysterious monster. All but wiped out, they protect their discovery of a mineral that will make limitless power a reality with little hope of survival. Until a military ship arrives to take them to safety. Unfortunately, an unseen force drags them back towards certain death, colliding with the planet. can the Doctor discover the origin of the force and counter it in time before they become part of the second biggest bang in history?
Where Terror of the Zygons was all but ruined by one poor special effect, there is nothing to spoil Planet Of Evil. The setting of the jungle on Zeta Minor is a wonderfully realised place; hot, steamy, damp and thoroughly alien. There are few alien worlds in DOCTOR WHO that look as great as this one. That goes for the monster that is ravaging the miners. Though ripped directly off from the monster of the Id from the film FORBIDDEN PLANET, it is a shimmering red outline of hate and undeniably something very alien indeed. The setting and monster combine to create an atmosphere of dread in which the story can play itself out.
Though the plot is cobbled together from a number of sources (the transformation of the lead scientist is straight out of The Ark In Space for example), but it does play very well, at least until the military take over, that is.
Tom Baker is fully in command of his character now, and it is a measure of the makers' trust in their character that they allow him to identify more with the monster than with the humans that it is threatening. Elisabeth Sladen, on the other hand, doesn't get a lot to do in this story, one of the few times that she is underutilised by the writers.
Thanks to its marvellous setting and memorable monster Planet Of Evil plays in the mind long after the end of the last episode.SARAH SAYS
"You promised me we'd be back in London five minutes before we left Loch Ness."
"What was that? Some elfin spirit of the forest?"
"What did you do? Enter another universe and have a chat with it?"
The Doctor takes Sarah back to UNIT HQ, but 60 odd years before the military establishment are occupying it. It is owned by Marcus Scarman, an Egyptologist, recently returned from that country having discovered a lost pyramid. That pyramid, however, housed Sutekh, the last of the race of god-like Osirans, imprisoned by the rest of his kin when his dark designs threatened to enslave them all. The prison is kept in place by a signal originating from a pyramid on the surface of Mars. Scarman has been possessed by the mind of Sutekh and builds robots in the form of mummies to aid in the construction of a rocket to destroy the pyramid on Mars. When the Doctor and Sarah thwart that plan, Sutekh possesses the Doctor and forces him to take Scarman to Mars to cut off the signal.
Following on from the general creepiness of Planet of Evil, here is a very specific form of creepiness. Raiding the Hammer House of Horror's Mummy legacy, this is a very gothic story in a very gothic setting with a very gothic style. There is also a fatalism about it that matches Sutekh's fate. Humans are killed with little compunction, the Doctor matches his mind against Sutekh's and is swatted aside as if a fly, the mummies march implacably onwards in pursuit of their tasks. Anyone who saw this as a child could not have failed to be impressed by its imagery and fatalism.
Despite having its origins clearly on view, the plot of Pyramids Of A Mars is a singularly original one, although the series of tests that have to be passed in order to enter the pyramid are a time worn device that could have been usefully left out. The scripts are equally as well constructed as the plot.
The mummies are excellent. The simplicity of their form does not detract, but rather adds to, their threat. They cannot be reasoned with, pleaded with, bribed or escaped. Scenes of them waded through the undergrowth in search of Sarah are an abiding memory of mine. Sutekh is another fine creation, hidden under an outfit based on Egyptian art, he is a convincing figure that casts a long shadow over the whole story, until he takes his mask off in the final moments. Something of a mistake that and you would have hoped that they makers would have realised it.
It is quite shocking to see the Doctor so easily subjugated by Sutekh and Tom Baker plays that as well as he does every other facet of the character. Elisabeth Sladen gets to play a more active role in the plot as well.
Pyramids Of A Mars is one of the most deliberately horrifying and scary adventures that the series has ever produced and is all the more memorable for it.SARAH SAYS
"My companion? Oh, that's just the Doctor."
"Don't be pedantic at a time like this. Does it matter?"
As simple as that? ....... No, I didn't think so."
The Doctor and Sarah arrive in a small country village, but find that all is not quite as it seems. It all seems to be a bit fake. That is because it is fake, a mock up created by the race of Kraals to use to rehearse an invasion plan. The village is home to a huge Space Defence Centre and it is that which the Kraals need to destroy in order to allow their invasion fleet to land. They plan to use the incredibly lifelike androids they have created to fool the real humans for long enough to destroy the centre.
What on earth is this story doing in the peak period of DOCTOR WHO's golden age? The plot is dull and makes no sense at all. What's worse, it's written by the great Terry Nation! The few effective moments (Sarah's face falling off) are not enough to make up for the story's failings. Perhaps it was done just to remind us to enjoy the excellence on show in the other stories because it could always revert to this.
Morbius was one of the greatest criminals that the race of Time Lords ever produced. Fortunately, he was executed for his crimes, but a fanatical follower managed to procure his brain and has been fashioning a body from the parts of crew members from the ships that he manages to lure onto the barren, lightning streaked planet he is exiled on. Sharing the planet with him is the mysterious Sisterhood, a sect of women as powerful as the Time Lords and guardians of the Elixir of Life. When the Doctor and Sarah appear, Morbius wants his head as a new home and the Sisterhood assume he has come for the Elixir and so just want his head. Sarah, meanwhile has had an accident and has been rendered blind.
The Brain Of Morbius is a Hammer Horror film in space. It is the Frankenstein story retold. The body is stitched together from the body of unfortunates as the home for a sick brain. On top of that there is a deformed servant who might as well be called Igor. Despite all that, or possibly because of it, this is one of the very best DOCTOR WHO adventures ever.
The atmosphere that is generated by the makers of this episode is amazing. There is genuine horror in the living body of stitched together spare parts and the lightning streaked planet is the perfect Grand Guignol background.
There is also a superb performance from Philip Madoc as the driven, some would say insane, genius that has kept Morbius alive and covets the Doctor's head to finish his work. Morbius himself is seen as an opponent to challenge the Doctor and the final mind duel between them is not seen as a foregone conclusion. Both Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen rise to the occasion, both giving fine performances, the latter making Sarah both tough and vulnerable when coping with her blindness.
There had been horror overtones in DOCTOR WHO for some time, but this is the story in which it reaches its height, but it is also one of the very best that the series produced.
Alien pods are discovered in the Antarctic ice and the Doctor is called in to take a look. He recognises them as Krynoids, the most dangerous plant life in the universe. A millionaire plant enthusiast (for which read raving ecological maniac) steals one of the pods whilst the other is destroyed and sets about hatching it. It needs a host and Sarah is selected, but the Doctor rescues her and the millionaire's luckless servant is infected. He swiftly transforms into a plant creature capable of influencing other plant life and which, if allowed to grow and release its own pods, will eventually wipe out all animal life on the planet.
There is no need to ask where the inspiration for this story comes from as it's all in the first two episodes. The plant running riot in the frozen wastes is a direct take from the film THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, but it does then at least go on to evolve into something more original. Unfortunately, the story is somewhat stretched out into a six parter and does feel padded in places. It also finishes rather bizarrely when the threat is removed by the planes of UNIT merely bombing it out of existence. This is one of the few times when bullets and bombs are sufficient to remove the alien menace.
The Tardis gets caught up in a spiral of Mandragora Helix and takes on board an unnoticed hitch-hiker. Arriving in renaissance Italy, the Doctor and Sarah find themselves caught up in a struggle between the newly born forces of science and the still surviving forces of superstition. If the latter, now boasting the power of the Mandragora Helix energy, prevails then humanity will be plunged into an eternity of terror and darkness.
What's this, a historical story? There hasn't been one of these since Sarah's arrival in The Time Warrior and it's all the more welcome for it. The period setting lifts what would otherwise be a rather lacklustre effort up a few notches to make it quite interesting. There are a few power struggles and the slow incursion of the Mandragora energy into the political power of the age is quite well handled, but not exactly the stuff of nightmares. It is quite and interesting episode, but far from the best.SARAH SAYS
"5'4" just, and that's still not an answer."
"Forget the flattery, what do you lot want?"
"Astrology, you mean when Mars is in the house of the pram and all that stuff."
"Oh yes, just my scene."
The Doctor and Sarah arrive back on Earth and Sarah finds a fossilised hand. She is immediately possessed and takes the hand to a nearby nuclear power generator where she places the hand near to the reactor and it regenerates into a Kastrian criminal known as Eldrad who wants to return home to rule over the race that imprisoned him. The Doctor obliges, but the world is dead, the race long since crumbled to dust. Eldrad decides to return to Earth to rule that instead, but the plan is foiled. The Doctor is summoned back to his home planet of Gallifrey and knows that he cannot take Sarah with him, so he drops her off back in London.
It's the end of an era and the beginning of the imperceptible slide that was to take DOCTOR WHO from the height of its powers to the ignominy of its cancellation. With the departure of Sarah Jane Smith, things were never quite as good again. The plots remained good for a while and there were some interesting companions, but the hill turned downslope at this point. That said, the last story for Sarah Jane is a solid one, one that concentrates on her as the one who is possessed by the hand. Clearly the makers wanted her to go out on a high, which she does, despite one of the worst outfits that they ever asked her to wear, something that made her look like Andy Pandy. Elisabeth Sladen's performance is possibly her strongest outside of The Brain of Morbius, especially in the early episodes when she is under Eldrad's power.
So long Sarah, we missed you, but we never forgot you.SARAH SAYS
"Listen, I don't want to make any snap decisions, but this isn't South Croydon."
"That's not as 'armless as it looks."
"Why is she a he?"
"I'm sick of being cold and wet and hypnotised left, right and centre. I'm sick of being shot at, savaged by bug-eyed monsters, never knowing if I'm coming or going, or been."
"Don't forget me."
The Doctor is being removed from time in each of his incarnations. Some of his most loyal companions are also being kidnapped. They are all being dropped into a place on Gallifrey where battles were held between species from all over the universe. Sarah Jane meets the Third Doctor again and they travel through the zone to get to Rasillon's tomb. There they are reunited with the three of the other Doctors and the true nature of immortality is revealed to them.
A 20th anniversary only comes along once, so something special is required. Reuniting all the Doctors (albeit one with a new actor since William Hartnell was dead and Tom Baker only appearing in film taken from the unfinished story Shada) was the something special. It also allowed for some of the favourite companions to make a brief comeback as well. As a result, Elisabeth Sladen is reteamed with Jon Pertwee and the old chemistry is still there as if they had never left the screen. It really is a joy to see them back together and also some of the others such as the Brigadier. Of course, the daleks, cybermen and others also get a look in.
Of course, the plot is constructed around the need to bring all the Doctors back together, but enough of an effort has been made to come up with a compelling reason to excuse the fact that there is a lot of running around looking towards and distant tower and saying 'that's where we need to go' along the way. The cybermen are treated unconscionably, being wiped out by a single, very unconvincing, Raston robot and being too stupid to cross and electrified chess board (deja vu alert!).
There are, therefore, lots of things wrong with The Five Doctors, but we can forgive anything that brings Sarah Jane Smith back to the screen.SARAH SAYS
"No,no, it's you you."
"Thank you very much for rescuing me. Now perhaps you will explain why I am here to need rescuing."
"I can't go along there. I get vertigo."
"Oh I know. Drag you across time and space without so much as a by your leave and then leave you out when things get interesting."
30 years after leaving the Tardis for the last time, Sarah Jane Smith is investigating strange goings on in a school that was recently the site of a UFO encounter. She has an encounter of her own, meeting the Doctor again, now travelling with a new companion named Rose. Whilst battling an evil headmaster and some winged aliens, the time travellers must come to terms with emotions that have long been buried.
When the news came through that a new series of DOCTOR WHO was to be made in 2005, there were only two wishes at the SCI FI FREAK SITE. The first was "please make it good", which of course they didn't-they made it great. The second wish was "please bring back Sarah Jane", which they now have, but in a way that could never have been hoped for.
School Reunion is the best of the new style DOCTOR WHO yet, but for reasons that have nothing to do with science fiction. This is a story that is about old friends meeting, long-repressed emotions being bared and unfinished business being aired. Never have the characters in this show (or possibly any other sci-fi show) been so nakedly emotional. The whole plot about the school is in the background. This is about the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Rose Tyler.
Elisabeth Sladen is incandescent on her return, easily the best performance she has given and one that is easily enough to make hardened sci-fi geeks cry. She and David Tennant connect immediately and the such is her quality that Billie Piper's Rose is relegated to being an irritation. Even K9 gets a better showing than the current crew of the Tardis.
We can hope to see Sarah again in the future, but if this is her swansong then she, and we, could have asked for no better.
THE STOLEN EARTH - transmitted June 28th 2008
The Tardis arrives back on Earth only for the planet to disappear from under it. Unable to understand what has happened, the Doctor races to the Shadow Proclamation where he discovers that 27 planets are missing and seem to together create some sort of cosmic generator. Finding a trail, he follows it as far as he can until it runs out. Meanwhile, on Earth, Rose Tyler slips through the barriers from her universe back into ours and joins with Sarah Jane Smith, the Torchwood crew and one Harriet Jones, ex-prime minister, to bring him the rest of the way, but the Daleks are behind it all and always seem to be one step ahead.
After last week's 'best of' compilation of Russell T Davies episodes, he now presents us with a 'best of' compilation of companions and villains. Rose is back from her alternate universe, Sarah Jane Smith sweeps in from THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES, the remaining TORCHWOOD team members harness the energy of the rift (which apparently is fixed to Cardiff and not to a particular point in space), Martha Jones is based with UNIT in New York (for all those watching on BBC America) and one ex-prime minister turns up to unite them all in getting the one man together who can sort it all out. That's a lot people to deal with in one episode and it does lead to a fragmented plot and lots of repetition. When the daleks appear, for example, we see each of them going 'oh no' one after the other. When the computers link up they each go 'who the hell is that?' one after the other. Each one of them wonders in turn 'where are you Doctor?'. We're not complaining, though, as it allowed for priceless moments such as Captain Jack hitting on Sarah Jane Smith, Rose's reaction to Martha and Donna and the tension between Sarah and the other two groups' use of guns.
That said, the plot whistled by so fast that you're not left with enough time to catch your breath to think about the poorer moments. The Shadow Proclamation is a let down. We still have no idea what Davros (yes he's back and he's looking fine) is up to or what happened to the freaky psychic, mumbling dalek. Captain Jack saluting the ex-Prime Minister's declaration that her life is not important is horribly overacted, but the daleks assertion that they know who she is proves to be a running joke taken to its ultimate. And then Russell T Davies detonates his A-bomb. As if leaving Sarah Jane Smith in direct line of fire from the daleks wasn't enough, the situation the Doctor is left in might be the most stunning surprise that the show has ever pulled.
JOURNEY'S END - transmitted July 5th 2008
The Doctor channels the power of his regeneration through the hand he lost in The Christmas Invasion, enabling himself to heal without changing. That's about the only thing that does go right as the Tardis captured and powered down by Davros. Martha prepares to destroy the Earth and Captain Jack and Sarah Jane have another plan of mass destruction, but that is nothing compared to what the daleks are planning. The Doctor is powerless to stop them, but they have not counted on the power of the Doctordonna.
At the end of The Stolen Earth the possibility of a totally unexpected regeneration left us stunned and screaming at the injustice of having to wait a week to find out what was going to happen. That matter is resolved in the first couple of minutes of the episode in a fairly expected turn of events, so it feels like a bit of a let down, but the story still has places to go. The revelation of the dalek plan, nothing trivial for them - just the entire destruction of all reality except for themselves, the arrival of more companions and the small matter of a world that is far from where it ought to be.
Considering the amount of plot that there is to be resolved in this season finale, it could be forgiven for being merely a mass of action, running, technobabble and explosions and, to be fair, it is that, but it is also so much more. The scenes in which Davros confronts the Doctor with what he considers to be the truth of the Time Lord's life and legacy is pure character and there are relationship resolutions to be sorted out as well. Unexpected relationship resolutions.
There are also some more classic comedy moments such as Daleks speaking German (totally logical, but bizarre and funny all the same) and Donna desperately trying to get Captain Jack to hug her. Best of all, however, is the turn of fate that means that the daleks are faced suddenly with three incarnations of the Doctor. One they might be able to handle, but three? They never stood a chance.
From here on in, the show is going to be run by Stephen Moffatt and the decks are cleared to allow him to do what he wants. The Doctor once again has the whole universe to travel in, but true to Russell T Davies form not everyone gets a happy ending. The Doctor is left alone and Donna, well the psychic dalek's promise that one companion will die has a surprisingly cruel outcome.
JOURNEY'S END is a fitting finale not only to the season, but to the show's resurrection under Russell T Davies. It's the end of an era to be sure, but what an era and what an ending.
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