Thoughts on “The Romans”

The Romans is the fourth story of the second season of Doctor Who (12th overall).  It features William Hartnell’s Doctor with Barbara, Ian, and Vicki as his companions.

The episode begins with the TARDIS materializing and then tumbling off a ledge.  However, the next scene shows the travelers on a vacation in ancient Rome.  The TARDIS is okay, and they are staying in a “borrowed” villa, not far from Rome.  Vicki, however, is getting restless; she was promised adventure and wants to be involved in something exciting.  The Doctor then decides that he wants to travel into Rome.  The others want to come with him, but he will only take Vicki, leaving Barbara and Ian to relax in the villa until they get back.

Of course, the relaxing vacation soon comes to an end.  Just after the Doctor and Vicki leave, Ian and Barbara are kidnapped by slave traders.  They fought the slave traders, and it looked like they might win, until Barbara accidentally hits Ian over the head with a vase, knocking him unconscious.  Ian becomes a galley-slave, but Barbara ends up in Rome to be sold in a slave auction.  Ian winds up escaping from the ship with another slave when the ship wrecks in a bad storm.  He heads to Rome to find Barbara, who was sold to Tavius, who is in charge of purchasing slaves for the emperor Nero.

The Doctor and Vicki have had an eventful journey as well.  They come across the body of a man, just off the road, and the Doctor stops to investigate.  The Doctor picks up the dead man’s lyre and is still holding it when they see a centurion poking around in the brush along the road with his sword.  He sees the travelers and assumes that the Doctor is Maximus Pettulian, the dead lyre player.  He tells the Doctor that he has been sent to find him because Emperor Nero is expecting Maximus. The Doctor cannot resist the opportunity to meet the emperor, so he continues to pass himself off as Maximus Pettulian, even though he suspects that there may be danger ahead.

As you can see, all four characters end up in Rome, even though they take different paths to get there.  When we meet Nero, he is played as a comedic figure.  He is incredibly vain and self-centered.  The Doctor plays off of this weakness to great comedic effect to hide the fact that he cannot, in fact, play the lyre.  Once he even fools Nero with a variation of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” telling a banquet full of people that only the most sophisticated ears can hear the tune he is about to play (while he actually never plays a single note). No one, especially not Nero, will admit that they cannot hear the tune.  There is also a segment that plays like a scene out of a farce, with Nero chasing Barbara all over the palace, but running into the Doctor and Vicki instead.  The Doctor and Vicki keep just missing seeing Barbara as they unintentionally get in Nero’s way.

Nero wants to steal a kiss from Barbara.

The Doctor continues to be a rather changed man.  He seems to genuinely enjoy Vicki’s company.  He is also far more active.  When he is attacked by an assassin meant of Maximus Pettulian, he fights the attacker off himself, and boasts of his fighting ability to Vicki afterwords.  This is the first time the Doctor has actually used physical prowess to defeat an enemy.  He also continues to be more clever than everyone else around him.  He is no longer just the cranky old man who needs saving.

The character of Vicki also develops further.  She is a spirited girl who enjoys adventure.  She seems unable to just stand on the sidelines and watch events unfold.  She wants adventure, and enjoys being in the middle of things, even if they are dangerous.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode.  It was by far the most comedic of the episodes yet.  The different story lines kept the action moving, and it was clever in the ways that it brought the characters to the same place, but yet kept them apart until the end.  The only problem that I had was that there was an awful lot of death for such a comedic story.  It ends with the Doctor being unintentionally responsible for giving Nero the idea of burning Rome to the ground.  He and Vicki sit and watch Rome burn from a distance, marveling that they are watching history unfold.  There seemed to be other events that they could enjoy watching, rather than a disaster in which people die.  Still, the tone is kept light throughout, and I felt the comedy worked in the story.  I’ll admit though, that I rather enjoy the historical episodes, even though I know they weren’t as popular as the alien stories.

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Thoughts on “The Rescue”

“The Rescue” is the third story of the second season of Doctor Who (11th overall).  It is a short story, only 2 episodes long.  It features William Hartnell as the Doctor, with his companions Ian and Barbara.  It also feature’s Maureen O’Brien’s first appearance first appearance as Vicki, who replaces Susan as the Doctor’s young traveling companion.

The episode begins with a girl of approximately Susan’s age (Vicki) excited that the rescue ship has arrived.  She runs to tell her friend, Bennett, that the rescue ship has arrived, but he reminds her that the rescue ship will not arrive for 3 days.  He also warns her not to let Koquillion learn of their plans.  She contacts the rescue ship by radio, only to learn that it is still 69 hours away.  What she sees on her radar is, of course, the TARDIS which has materialized in a cave on the planet.  The Doctor takes some rock samples to determine where they have landed while Barbara and Ian explore the planet.  The Doctor learns that they are on Dido, a planet that the Doctor has visited before.  He is eager to get out of the TARDIS and meet with the inhabitants, since they are quite friendly.  However, Ian and Barbara meet a strange-looking creature who demands to be taken to the Doctor.  When Ian enters the cave to return to the TARDIS, the creature causes a cave in, trapping Ian and the Doctor inside the cave and throws Barbara off a cliff.

The same creature, Koquillion is then seen talking to Vicki.  He warns her not to leave the ship because his people have just killed the occupants of another ship that landed on the planet.  As soon as he is gone we see that she found Barbara and brought her back to the ship. Barbara learns that Vicki had been on a ship that crashed on the planet.  There was a meeting between the travelers and the people of Dido, but all of the travelers, including Vicki’s father, were massacred at the meeting.  Vicki was ill and unable to attend, and she found Bennett wounded when she woke up.

In the meantime, the Doctor and Ian are trying to find their way out of the cave. The first episode ends with Ian in a booby trap that is about to force him into a pit with a strange, dangerous looking creature.

This episode was the first episode after the departure of Susan.  The Doctor asks Susan to open the doors at the beginning of the episode, forgetting that she is no longer with him.  He also sleeps through the materialization of the TARDIS, something he does not usually do, probably due to the stain of letting Susan go.  I thought that these were nice touches to convey that the Doctor has found it difficult to lose Susan.  Hartnell’s Doctor does not often show emotion, so it was good that they found a way to show that he was, in fact, quite attached to his granddaughter, before she is basically replaced later on in the episode.

I did find it amusing that suddenly, in this episode, the Doctor is the understanding one.  Vicki is upset because Barbara shot Sandy, Vicki’s name for the creature in the pit.  Barbara thought it was going to attack Vicki, but really she had tamed him and trained him to come out for food.  Ian and Barbara leave the Doctor alone to talk with Vicki and comfort her, and he succeeds.  The loss of Susan must have really altered the Doctor because in previous stories, I think he would have been the last person you would want to comfort someone, with his generally brusque and unfeeling temperament.

This new and improved Doctor also decides to bring the orphan Vicki with them on the TARDIS.  In previous stories, the Doctor did not get too involved with the people he met on his travels.  It took many adventures before he even cared about Barbara and Ian.  Now, he decides that he cannot leave Vicki after a very short time with her.  Maybe Susan did teach him something before she left.

The Doctor is also turning more and more into the familiar Doctor; he is the one who figures out what has been going on.  He discovers that Bennett has been pretending to be Koquillion by wearing ceremonial garments of the people of Dido.  It turns out that Bennett was a prisoner and when the ship crashed he saw his way out.  He blew up the meeting killing both the humans and the people of Dido.  The Doctor is unable to defend himself from Bennett’s attack and needs to be rescued, but he is becoming more and more of the clever Doctor that we see later in the series.

Overall, I enjoyed this story.  It was short, but I found the story clever, and it was a good way to introduce the new companion.

Thoughts on “The Dalek Invasion of Earth”

The Daleks made their first (of many) return visits to Doctor Who in this story.  It’s the second story of the second season (10th overall). The still features William Hartnell as the Doctor with Ian, Barbara, and Susan as his companions.

This story was the first to see a former enemy of the Doctor return, and it was Carole Ann Ford’s last appearance with William Hartnell.  Susan was the first of the Doctor’s companions to leave him.  A girl from this episode was originally supposed to stowaway on the TARDIS to become the new companion, but that didn’t happen.

The story begins with a mysterious man staggering towards the river, ripping off his helmet, and finally throwing himself into the water in front of a large poster that states that it is forbidden to dump bodies in the river.

The TARDIS soon materializes in the same spot.  The travelers are excited because all signs point to them having landed on a planet similar to earth.  They exit the TARDIS and discover that they are back in London.  Barbara and Ian are so excited that they fail to notice the unnatural quiet in the city.  Susan tries to climb up to get a look around, but she falls injuring her ankle. Her climb also disturbed the bridge that the TARDIS was parked under and it collapses around the TARDIS, cutting the travelers off from it.

The Doctor and Ian go off to a nearby warehouse to search for tools to help them get the TARDIS free, leaving Barbara and Susan behind.  A man comes and brings Barbara and Susan to a hiding place, explaining that they will be killed if they are found.  The Doctor and Ian find a corpse wearing a strange helmet in the warehouse and a calendar dated 2164; they decide to return to the others.  On their way back, they see  a flying saucer overhead.  When they reach the spot where they left Susan and Barbara, they are gone.

The Doctor and Ian decide to wait for the women to return.  The rebel humans were about to return for them when they realize that the Doctor and Ian are surrounded by robomen. As soon as the two realize that they are surrounded, they attempt to make a run for it, only to be confronted by a Dalek rising out of the Thames.

The rest of the plot has to do with the attempts of the remaining band of free humans to defeat the Daleks, who either kill the humans, turn them into robomen (who seem a bit like primitive cybermen), or send them down to work in the mines.  Eventually, all four travelers are separated, so the episode also deals with their attempts to find each other.

I was bit confused by the goal of the Dalek invasion.  It seems that they want to remove the Earth’s core, so that they can replace it with a power system and pilot the planet anywhere they want.  I was not exactly sure why the Dalek’s needed to pilot Earth, or why, in fact, they would even want to pilot a planet.  Maybe if I watched it again…

This episode is most notable for Susan’s departure.  She has fallen in love with one of the rebel humans, David, and he wants to marry her.  Susan does not want to leave her grandfather, but she confesses to David that she loves him too.  The Doctor hears Susan’s confession and locks her out of the TARDIS.  He tells her that he wants her to belong somewhere and David will take care of her.  She is now a woman, and she shouldn’t worry about taking care of him when she can have a home, something she hasn’t been able to have.  Before the TARDIS dematerializes, he tells her that he will return one day.

I was not satisfied with Susan’s departure.  It seemed odd for the Doctor to suddenly decide that Susan is a woman, when in an earlier episode of this story, he told her she should be spanked.  I know a lot happens between the first and last episodes of this story, but it could have been a bit more of a gradual build up.  It also seemed a bit cruel to just lock Susan out of the TARDIS, not really allowing her a proper goodbye, but I guess that’s consistent with Hartnell’s Doctor’s behavior; he’s not exactly Mr. Sensitive.

Overall, I found this story disappointing. I’d heard good things about it, but I actually preferred the first Dalek story.  It had some interesting ideas, but I didn’t find the plot particularly engaging in this one, and, as I stated before, I wasn’t satisfied with Susan’s goodbye.  I wasn’t sure that leaving her on an earth where society was in shambles with someone she barely knew was the best decision.  How did the Doctor even know that she would be safe (much of the planet’s population had been killed by plague and was living in small isolated communities)? I guess I just shouldn’t think too much about this one.