Thoughts on “The Chase”

“The Chase” is the eighth episode of the second season of Doctor Who (the 16th over all).  It features William Hartnell as the Doctor, and is the final episode for Jacqueline Hill and William Russell as Barbara and Ian.  It also introduces Peter Purves as the Doctor’s new companion.

The travelers arrive on Aridius.

The end of “The Space Museum” sets up the premise for this story.  Due to their previous encounters, the Daleks have deemed the travelers enemies.  They have constructed a time machine for the purpose for tracking down the TARDIS and “exterminating” the time travelers.  The episode consists of a chase through space and time.

The story begins with the Doctor fixing the time-space visualizer, which he explains is like “time television.” Each member of the group enjoys choosing an important event to watch on their new television.  However, they soon land on a desert planet, with no signs of life in sight.  Ian and Vicki go off to explore, while the Doctor and Barbara stay with the TARDIS and sunbathe.   Ian and Vicki begin following a trail (of what looks like it could be blood), which leads them to a trap door in the ground.  They enter it, but are soon trapped inside with a strange tentacled creature.

However, the time-space visualizer has not been turned off and Barbara and the Doctor witness the Daleks setting their plan to destroy the TARDIS and exterminate the travelers into motion.  The visualizer only shows past events, so they know that the Daleks are on their way to find them on the planet Aridius, but they have no way of alerting Ian and Vicki to return to the TARDIS.  They try to find them, but it soon gets dark and a sandstorm strikes, leaving them completely lost.  When morning comes, they awake to find that the Daleks have arrived.

There are many locations in this story.  The first two episodes take place on Aridius, where the travelers learn that the desert where they find themselves used to be an ocean.  They meet the fish-like Aridians, who are losing their city to the tentacled mire beasts.  The Aridians almost hand them over to the Daleks, but a mire beast attack provides the travelers with a chance to escape.

The next episode sees the chase begin.  The travelers have only a few minutes of a lead on the Daleks, and are looking for a place where they can stop and fight.  However, they materialize first on the Empire State Building, then on the Marie Celeste, so they keep on going with the Daleks getting closer each time.  Really, I could have done without 3 episode altogether. It doesn’t move the plot forward, nor did I find it that engaging.

Dalek falls off of the Marie Celeste.

Episode four begins with the travelers finding themselves in a mysterious house, later determined to be a “futuristic attraction from  the Festival of Ghana (all the way in 1996!).  This segment was more interesting to me than the previous experiences, but I was a bit confused about what the creatures in the house actually were that the Daleks could not destroy them. I did, however, enjoy the evil robot Doctor that was created at the end of this episode.  I thought that was a clever idea.

As for the rest of the story, which takes place on Mechanus, I was a bit disappointed.  The battle between the Mechanoids and the Daleks was a bit anticlimactic since the travelers were going to escape either way, so there was really nothing at stake.

I did enjoy the ending of the episode.  I was sad to see Barbara and Ian go, but I felt they got a good send off.  The scenes that Vicki and the Doctor watch on the time-space visualizer showed how happy they were to return home, and I thought that the Doctor’s speech about how he would miss them was a nice touch.  It gave the two a happy ending to their adventures with the Doctor, while still acknowledging their importance to the series.

Barbara and Ian, home at last.

Overall, I was disappointed in “The Chase.”  I felt that this episode suffered from too much filler in the story, the way that most of the early Dalek episodes do.  It takes more than just a Dalek on the screen to create an engaging story.  I also felt that some of the ridiculous ways that Daleks a defeated make them a bit more comical and less scary.  For example, a Dalek falls overboard, off of the Marie Celeste, plus the Doctor and Ian trick one into falling into the pit on Aridius.  It just made them seem like less formidable opponents.  Still, I did feel that Ian and Barbara’s departure was done well, I just didn’t feel the concept of the Daleks chasing the Doctor throughout time and space was developed as well as it could have been.

Thoughts on “The Space Museum”

 

In my quest to watch all of the episodes of Doctor Who, I am approaching the end of the second season.  I just finished “The Space Museum,” which is the seventh story of the second season (15th overall).  It still stars William Hartnell as the Doctor, with Barbara, Ian, and Vicki as his companions.

The Doctor hides inside a Dalek.

The TARDIS materializes on another mysterious planet, but this time the mysterious occurrences begin before the travelers even leave the TARDIS.  They had departed in the TARDIS from their previous adventure, “The Crusades,” still wearing the clothing of that time, but suddenly they are in different clothes and don’t remember changing into them.  Vicki goes to get a glass of water and accidentally drops the glass and breaks it, only to have the glass reassemble itself and jump back into her hand.The Doctor claims that all of this will be explained when they investigate the planet.

They exit the TARDIS to discover a building that the Doctor deduces must be a museum.  They see two men coming and try to hide from them.  However, Vicki sneezes just as the men pass.  Strangely, the men, who were close enough that they should have heard the sneeze, simply walk on, as if they heard nothing.  Soon the travelers realize that the men do not seem to see or hear them.  They explore the museum looking for answers (finding a Dalek on display along the way).  Soon they come to a room with a familiar site: the TARDIS.  Before they can wonder too much about how the TARDIS ended up in the museum, the travelers make a more chilling discovery. Next to the TARDIS are the four of them, frozen like dummies in display cases. The Doctor theorizes that they must have jumped a time track and are seeing the future.  Soon, the TARDIS and the display cases disappear and the travelers realize that they are now back to the present. They have to figure out how to prevent themselves from ending up as museum displays.

The planet is run by the Moroks.  They are a race that had a great empire.  The museum was built to celebrate their conquests and victories, but no one ever comes to visit it anymore.  Even the planet itself, Xeros, is an example of their conquests.  They killed the native Xerons, but let the children survive.  When they are old enough to work, they are shipped off to be enslaved. However, a few of the Xerons have avoided being shipped of and are planing a rebellion.

The Doctor and his companions are caught in the middle of this conflict, as the rebels try to help save the travelers from the Moroks, hoping they will help them regain their planet.  This seems to be the main theme of many Hartnell era stories.  The travelers are consistently ending up on planets where rebels are trying to regain control of a conquered planet.

One of the special features on the DVD proposes that this story is a parody of the typical Hartnell era story, and I can see support for that.  The Moroks are not a particularly fearsome enemy, and their name even sounds like “morons” (plus the Xerons sound a bit like “zeros”).

The first episode of the story, however, is great.  It really creates an era of mystery and the reveal of the travelers seeing themselves as part of a museum display is genuinely creepy.  The remaining three episodes, unfortunately, don’t live up to the potential of the first one, but I still found the story interesting.

Eventually, each of the travelers ends up going his or her separate way, trying to figure out how to avoid ending up as part of a museum display.  The Doctor is captured early on (and is absent for part 3).  Barbara meets a rebel in the museum, but they are trapped and barely escape the paralyzing gas released into the museum to capture them.  Vicki joins up with the rebels and initiates the revolution (and shows remarkable technological skill), by disabling the computer that controls the lock to the armory.  Ian really kicks ass in this one, often fighting off multiple armed guards, and forces a guard to take him to where the Doctor is being held.

Barbara, the Doctor, Vicki, and Ian on display.

Ultimately, the four travelers end up exactly where they didn’t want to be, about to be turned into the museum display, suggesting that it is impossible to change your actions.  The only thing that saves them is that the rebels come and free them, because the actions that they took, while leading them to the same place, affected others, who prevented the future the travelers saw earlier from happening.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode.  It’s not one of the best episodes, but I found that it held my interest.  I enjoy the way that the dynamic between Barbara, Ian, and the Doctor has developed.  I have to admit that I will be sad to see them leave in the next episode.

 

Thoughts on “The Web Planet”

“The Web Planet” is the fifth story in the second season of Doctor Who, thirteenth overall. It still features William Hartnell as the Doctor, and his companions are Vicki, Barbara, and Ian.

Ian and a Menoptera

The TARDIS is pulled off course to a mysterious planet where it lands and is left without power. The Doctor and Ian go out to try and figure out where they are and what they can do to restore power, while Barbara tends to Vicki who seems to be very sensitive to the sounds she is hearing (sounds that no one else on the TARDIS can hear). The Doctor and Ian are trying to piece together the fragments of information they are gathering: long lasting echoes, a disappearing gold pen, a pool of acid…but are having no success when they hear Vicki screaming Barbara’s name. Barbara was wearing a gold bracelet, given to her by Nero in the previous story, when she began to lose control of her arm. Eventually, she enters some kind of trance and is lead (by her arm) out of the TARDIS. Vicki awakens to find Barbara gone and the TARDIS moving, resulting in the cries that the Doctor and Ian heard.

Eventually, Barbara encounters the Menoptera, a butterfly-like species and the Doctor and Ian stumble across a chrysalis, which leads the Doctor to conclude that they are on the planet Vortis, home of the Menoptera. Eventually, all of the travelers are captured by the Zarbi who look like giant ants. They learn that they Zarbi were a relatively unintelligent and harmless species, but they are being controlled by the Animus, an alien species who landed on the planet and is now encircling it in a gigantic web. The Menoptera were forced to flee to a moon orbiting the planet, but they cannot survive there; they are in the midst of launching an attack to defeat the Animus and take control of their planet once again.

Overall, I didn’t particularly care for this story. It took me a while to sort out the different species of insect-like creatures and what was going on on the planet. I liked that Barbara became the leader of the Menoptera, after their invasion force seemed doomed to fail. She even creates their plan of attack, which showed nice character development from the more timid person who first began traveling with the Doctor. However, this episode felt like a step back in terms of the Doctor’s development. He is the reason that the Menoptera invasion force fails, because he told the Animus where the force would land in an attempt to save himself and his companions. It seemed as though most of the actions of the Doctor, Vicki, and Ian don’t particularly help anyone in this story.

However, the production values on this story seemed higher than on most Doctor Who episodes of this period. There were many different sets, some of which were a bit more elaborate than usual, and I was impressed with the insect-like costumes. You could still tell that it was clearly a person wearing a costume, but I enjoyed the costumes and they were quite elaborate. It was clear that a lot of effort was put into creating memorable alien creatures, as it was still hoped to create another alien race as popular as the Daleks. There are the Menoptera, the Zarbi, and the larvae guns. About halfway through the story, Ian and one of the Menoptera encounter a bizarre race of hopping (well, they hop when the actors portraying them remember to hop) insect creatures that are decedents of the Menoptera who fell and are living underground. I wasn’t exactly sure why they were necessary to the story, and they were the least convincing of the costumes in this story.

The hopping, grub-like decedents of the Menoptera.

This story was definitely my least favorite first Doctor story so far. It felt very slow moving, and, as I said before, most of the actions of Ian, the Doctor, and Vicki seemed rather pointless. It was only Barbara’s story that helped bring the story to a climax. The scenes on the planet are also shot through a special kind of lens, which causes parts of the image to be a bit blurry. I found the effect a bit distracting from the story, as I often found myself feeling like my contacts had slid out of place, even though I knew it was a deliberate effect. I feel like the story would have worked better as a 4 episode story, instead of six. I felt like things that could have been resolved sooner were dragged out for too long. I enjoyed the costumes, but the story itself was not as strong.