Thoughts on “The Daleks”

Continuing on with my quest to see every Doctor Who episode, I watched the second story, “The Daleks.”  This one features, of course, William Hartnell as the Doctor and his companions are still Susan, Ian, and Barbara.

This is, of course, the first introduction of the iconic Doctor Who villains, the Daleks.  The Daleks almost didn’t come to be.  Sidney Newman, the head of drama for the BBC didn’t want stories featuring “bug-eyed monsters” or robots.  However, they were in desperate need for a story and no other script was anywhere near completion, so “The Daleks” went into production. It proved to be a very successful episode, actually providing a large ratings boost to the fledgling program.

The show was in such a need for a serial that was ready to film that they added an additional episode to the serial, bringing the total number of episodes to 7, and I felt that this showed.  It is a good story, but it felt about one episode too long to me.  The basic premise of the story is that the Doctor and his companions have just left their encounter with prehistoric man.  Since they left in a hurry, the Doctor once again has no idea of where or when the TARDIS has landed.  We, the viewers know that there is a dangerous level of radiation on this planet, but the Doctor and his companions are unaware.  There is very little action in the first two episodes.  The first episode is spent exploring petrified forest in which they have landed.  While all four are somewhat interested in the forest, only the Doctor wants to explore the city they discover int he distance.  It appears to be abandoned, and the Doctor wants to visit it in the hopes of discovering what has happened on this planet.  Ian and Barbara refuse to let the Doctor explore the city, so his forced to manipulate them into allowing him to go; he pretends that he needs to find mercury for the fluid link, and must go into the city to get some.  The four enter the city and split up to search for the mercury. Barbara is captured by a strange creature, of which only a metal arm is visible before the first episode ends.

A full Dalek is not seen until the second episode.  The Doctor discovers that they have been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation and must leave.  He is even willing to leave Barbara behind, but Ian takes the fluid link away, so the Doctor cannot leave.  Soon all four travelers are captives, and they are all suffering from radiation sickness.  The Doctor learns that there has been a neutronic war on the planet between the Daleks and the Thals.  The radiation has caused mutations to both races.  The Daleks have become so mutated that they have to live inside their metal shells and are unable to leave the city.  They persuade the Daleks to let Susan, who is the healthiest of the group, return to the TARDIS.  The travelers had not realized it at the time, but the Thals had left them anti radiation drugs so that they would not die from the radiation.

The fundamental conflict is between the Thals and the Daleks.  The Daleks still want to destroy the Thals.  The Doctor and his companions get involved in this struggle because the Daleks take the fluid link from Ian when they capture him.  The travelers must help the Thals defeat the Daleks to get the fluid link back.

Unlike later incarnations, this Doctor is not interested in helping people.  He is not interested in protecting the Thals from Dalek aggression.  He is only interested as long as their success is necessary for his safety.  When Barbara is captured, he  is even willing to leave her behind, to save himself and Susan.

Unlike later episodes, the Doctor is not in charge.  Even though the show is called Doctor Who, the Doctor is not really the main character.  The need for a hero is fulfilled by Ian, and the group as a whole works as more of an ensemble to solve the problems they face.  The group takes on more of a family dynamic of a mother and father, traveling with a daughter and a cranky grandfather.  The Doctor actually seems rather frail, and the others often have to look after him.  For instance, the group works together to overpower one of their Dalek captors, Ian and the Doctor work together to remove the creature from the shell, and then it is Ian who climbs inside and pretends to be the Dalek.

The Doctor helping Ian into the Dalek shell.

Overall, this episode was a strong one.  I felt the fifth episode, which basically shows Ian and Barbara leading some Thals to the city through dangerous areas, didn’t really add anything to the story.  As I stated previously, I think the story would have been stronger is it had only been six episodes, instead of seven.  However, its pacing did allow for more time to get to know the characters and their personalities, which is, obviously, important when a show is beginning.

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Bring It On

Initially, when I heard that Bring It On was the latest movie to be adapted for the Broadway stage, I wasn’t interested.  I get a bit tired of the endless attempts to turn successful movies into Broadway musicals.  I’d seen the movie (and enjoyed it more than I was expecting to) when it was first released, but it certainly was not a favorite of mine.  I was thinking I just might pass this one up when I learned some thing that made me change my mind.

Cover of "Bring It On (Widescreen Collect...

Cover via Amazon

All it took was two words: Jeff Whitty. In case you aren’t aware, Jeff Whitty wrote the book for Avenue Q, my favorite musical, and won the Tony for it.  I also learned about some of the important contributions he made to the story of Avenue Q.  I figured that if he was writing the book for Bring It On, it would probably be clever and worth checking out.

A little more research revealed that the music was co-written by Tom Kitt and the lyrics by Amanda Green.  They were the team behind the High Fidelity musical.  I know High Fidelity was not successful on Broadway, but I caught a local production of it and thought it was great.  Maybe it worked best in a small intimate theatre. Tom Kitt also won a Tony for his work on Next to Normal.  The final co-writer was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won a Tony for In the Heights.

Knowing that there was all this talent behind the scenes, I decided to go ahead a purchase a ticket.  I was not disappointed.  The story does not follow the plot of the movie at all.  Kirsten Dunst’s Torrance is nowhere to be found.  Instead, the main character is Campbell, who at the start of the play has it all.  She’s happy in her life with her boyfriend (who is also a cheerleader) and her duties as captain of the cheerleading squad.  Tryouts are held to determine the squad and the final member is Eva, an inexperienced sophomore. Campbell helps her through cheer camp, preventing her from quitting by telling her that she is the sophomore spirit leader, and therefore third in line to be captain of the squad.

It’s at this point that Campbell’s world falls apart.  She learns that she has been redistricted from Truman High to Jackson, which appears to be a much more ethnically diverse school with kids from a lower socioeconomic background.  And, horror of horrors, the school doesn’t even have a cheerleading squad.

Campbell has trouble fitting in, but a fellow redistrictee, Bridget, who is overweight and was always the mascot, never a member of the squad at Truman, suddenly becomes more popular.  It is largely thanks to the acceptance of Bridget that Campbell gets to know Danielle and her dance crew.

Campbell becomes a member of the crew and is adjusting to life at her new school (and flirting with a new guy) when she learns that due to a chain of suspicious events, Eva has taken her place as captain of the Truman squad, even looking like Campbell and involved with her former boyfriend.  At this point, Campbell convinces the crew to become a squad (and tells some lies in the process), so that she can compete against Eva.

Overall, I found the musical to be very enjoyable, if not always realistic.  I’m not quite sure how Jackson got to be so accepting of students who are different, including Bridget and La Cienega, a transvestite.  The speed at which the Jackson squad becomes a great squad is a bit unbelievable too, but I’m willing to suspend reality in a musical.The ending, however, does manage to be uplifting without completely losing touch with reality.  These teens also seem to live in a world devoid of adults; every character is a high schooler.

The characters from Truman could be more fleshed out.  Campbell’s fellow cheerleaders a basically a bitch and an airhead, although they do get to be very funny. The characters at Jackson get a bit more development, especially Bridget and Danielle.

I found the second act more engaging than the first, but the play always carried me along with its witty humor and catchy songs.  Speaking of the music, the songs were all enjoyable, but there were very few standouts for me.  Most of the songs serve the plot, so they’re not really stand alone numbers.  The best songs were in the second act:  Bridget’s memorable “It Ain’t No Thing,” the inspirational “Might as Well Enjoy the Trip,” and Jackson’s performance at nationals “Cross the Line.”  The play makes good use of cheerleading stunts in the dance numbers, and a few throws even elicited gasps from the audience.

Overall, I’d say Bring It On is a fun trip to theatre.  It’s not a great musical, but you’ll have a good time and you don’t have to be a cheerleader to get caught up in the energy of the show.  It’s not profound, but you’ll leave happy.  To find out where to see Bring It On, click here to visit the official website.

Thoughts on “Spearhead from Space”

In my quest to view all of the episodes of at Doctor Who, I decided to visit the era of Jon Pertwee, the third Doctor (who also happens to be my favorite Doctor).  I watched “Spearhead from Space,” the third Doctor’s first adventure.

“Spearhead” is the first episode of the seventh season, and the first episode in color.  It also introduces a new companion for the Doctor: Liz Shaw.  Liz is a scientist recruited by the Brigadier to work as a scientific consultant for UNIT.  At first she does not believe that there is any need to protect the earth against an alien invasion.  A good section of the first episode involves a discussion between Liz and the Brigadier that is very similar in dynamics to The X-Files. Liz, the scientist, is skeptical that aliens exist, while the Brigadier, who has firsthand experience, attempts to make her see the threat.  Since this is Doctor Who, her skepticism does not last long.  Liz has firsthand experience of her own before the end of this story.

The story begins with a mysterious “meteor” shower heading towards earth.  However, these objects appear to be flying in a formation and when they land in the woods, we, the viewers, know that these are no meteors.  They look like they have been created by someone (or something) and they emit a strange pulsating glow.

At the same time, the TARDIS has materialized in the same woods, but the Doctor has just regenerated and collapses on the ground right outside the TARDIS.  He is found by UNIT and taken to the hospital.  His face is not clearly seen until well in to the episode.

At the hospital, the doctor assigned to treat him is baffled by his patient’s nonhuman blood and two hearts (the first time this is mentioned in the series).  News gets out of the man from space at the hospital, and the hospital is soon overrun by the press (and a more sinister force, as we will soon discover).  The Brigadier comes with Liz, expecting to find the Doctor he knows, but the man he finds in the hospital bed confuses him.  Although he looks like a different man, he was found with the TARDIS and recognizes the Brigadier.  The Brigadier is not quite ready to trust this new Doctor.

After this, an attempt is made to kidnap the Doctor, but he comes out of his self-induced coma in time to escape, in a comical wheelchair chase.  He heads to the TARDIS in his weakened condition, but is mistakenly shot by one of the guards the Brigadier positioned near the TARDIS.

The following episodes reveal that the mysterious “meteors” brought the Nestene Consciousness to earth.  They plan to colonize the earth.  They take over a plastics factory, so that they can manufacture autons.  They plan to replace powerful figures with auton duplicates to aid their colonization.  By the second episode of this story, the Doctor is much stronger, and it is up to him, with the help of Liz and the Brigadier to stop this takeover.

The new personality of the Doctor is clearly established in this story.  He goes into the doctor’s changing room at the hospital to change out of his hospital gown.  He finds a black jacket and hat with a black cape with a red lining.  Thus, the “dandy” is born (although those must be some flamboyantly dressing doctors at that hospital).  He also steals a car from a doctor at the hospital, of which he becomes quite fond.  He requires UNIT to provide him with a similar car in return for his services.  Even immediately after is regeneration, the Doctor shows his love of gadgets and vehicles.  The third doctor is also very active.  He is involved in a lot of running and chases, which sets him apart from his predecessors.

This episode is also the beginning of the Doctor’s banishment on earth.  The time lords have changed the dematerialization code on the TARDIS, preventing him from leaving the planet.  This banishment lasts for most of Pertwee’s time as the Doctor.

I felt that this episode was very influential of the new series of Doctor Who.  There are connections between the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Doctor’s first episodes and this one.

Spearhead from Space

Autons in "Spearhead from Space." Image via Wikipedia

The connection between the ninth Doctors first episode, “Rose,” and the third Doctor’s is the most obvious: they both fight the Nestene Consciousness and the autons in their first adventure.  The scenes in which the shop window dummies come to life are visually very similar.

The tenth Doctor appears to respond similarly to regeneration.  Both he and the third Doctor enter self-induced comas.  Unlike, for example, the fifth Doctor, they seem aware of what is going on and are able to wake themselves up for short times, if it becomes neccessary.  The connection with the eleventh Doctor is in the place from which they get their new clothing.  Both Doctors get their clothing from the doctor’s changing room in a hospital (and both are seen shirtless).

Overall, “Spearhead from Space” is a fun, engaging episode. It’s not one of the great episodes of Doctor Who, but it’s a great introduction to the new Doctor.  It moves along at a fast pace and allows you to really get to know the new personality of the new Doctor.

Thoughts on “An Unearthly Child”

The episode title screen of the very first epi...

Image via Wikipedia

I finally saw the very first Doctor Who ever.  I was pleasantly surprised by “An Unearthly Child.”  I wasn’t sure what to expect from the almost fifty year old episode, but I enjoyed it.  I thought it was an interesting choice for a science fiction show to take the viewer back to 10000 BC, instead of providing the typical futuristic adventure.

“An Unearthly Child” begins with two teachers, Barbara and Ian, discussing a strange student who seems to know a great deal more than she should, yet is also lacking in knowledge about things they would expect her to know.  It is then that Susan, the Doctor’s first companion, is introduced.  After she leaves the school, her curious teachers wait for her to arrive at the address the school has for her: an old junkyard in the hopes of learning more about their curious student.  They follow her into the junkyard, but she is nowhere to be seen.  It is then, about 12 minutes into the episode, that the Doctor is first introduced.

The Doctor tried to get rid of the two teachers, but they manage to get inside the TARDIS and the whole group the Doctor, Susan and the two teachers wind up back in 10,000 BC.  They are caught in a power struggle between two members of the tribe.  Whoever can create fire has the power and the Doctor is seen lighting a pipe, so the group is held captive as a pawn in the power struggle.

Overall, I would recommend this episode to a Doctor Who fan.  Of course, there are very few special effects and no aliens besides the Doctor himself in this, which is a big departure from the current episodes of the show.  The premise is quite simple: the Doctor and his companions are trapped and need to escape.  This episode can hold your interest with that simple premise, even though it is a problem that would probably be solved in about 5 minutes in the current episodes.  The Doctor uses no special tricks, not even his sonic screwdriver.  Actually, it surprised me to see that the Doctor was not the one coming up with all of the solutions in this episode; it’s much more of a team effort.

As an aside, I was also surprised that Ian, when he places his hand on the outside of the TARDIS, declares it a living thing.  I assumed that the idea of the TARDIS being a living thing developed as the show progressed.  I wasn’t expecting the idea to be there from the start.

A fascinating part of this episode for me was watching the pilot episode.  There are several changes between the pilot and that actually first episode.  The most notable one is the character of the Doctor.  In the pilot episode, the Doctor is quite different from the Doctor we see in the series.  Hartnell’s Doctor was always on the cranky side, but the Doctor we see in the pilot is a man who is difficult to like.  He seems to be completely lacking in the compassion the Doctor usually exhibits, and in fact came across as uncaring and mean.  He also makes a racist comment (about the savage reds), that thankfully was cut from the actual episode.