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Mar 12, 2006

Change of Face

Well, this is my first pop at reviewing the old series so I might find it difficult to be really scathing. After all, as a ‘New-Who’ fan, my expectations of the show are different and I don’t have a ‘it’s not as good as I remember it’ card to fall back on.

Nevertheless, I can’t say I liked this. The earlier Pertwee stories I enjoy a lot: I sat all the way through The Silurians, more or less, and thought it was amazing. But The Three Doctors...not so much.

There’s a definite pall over the production; as if – since it was a gala bit – they could pass off with some 2nd rate tosh, carried along by some nostalgia. The script is the main problem but the cast certainly don’t bother.

First of all, Pertwee, seeing as he’s meant to be the current Doctor. Not the best ad for early 70s Who, this. Elsewhere, he’s great, (I don’t care about the self-righteousness) but the delivery is simply flat. Ep. 2 isn’t the worst example of this, but that’s only because absolutely nothing happens, and his reaction to finding Bessie in the quarry – sorry, world of anti-matter – sorely lacks.

Hartnell makes his single appearance, caught in a hang glider’s handlebars suspended from his garage roof and reading from an auto-cue. I’m only sorry this is my first sight of the 1st Doctor, especially seeing how everyone went into hyperbolic meltdown over An Unearthly Child. It would be rather churlish to criticise Hartnell for being too sick to take a larger part, and hard to go into any greater depth anyhow.

Troughton, too, gets a raw deal, overplaying the clown: harping on about his damned recorder and his little chit-chats with Benton and the Brig are like so much padding. No prizes for guessing which way they went for his reaction to being known as the Doctor’s assistant – it could have been subtle, or over the top. They chose the path of the eternal panto.

And Jo just hobbles about in platform boots, a blue min-dress and a Muppet-skin gilet. Traversing quarries never looked so retro.

Poor Brigadier. He’s done no favours at all: pacing anxiously about the TARDIS while his inferior officer adapts to circumstances with ease. The Brig is a lesser character by now, a pity as he was so good. Altogether, he’s ineffectual and surplus. Without contributing anything, he just wedges in five minutes more padding in with a foreshadowing of TEOTW – the upgrade of his radio.

Benton’s a much more proactive character, the one who forces Troughton and Courtney into the TARDIS, and the one who does the inevitable UNITy thing and inclines toward just blasting the thing.

Which brings us neatly onto the thing. What isn’t clear in the slightest is what it’s meant to be. Given enough clues and associations, the willing viewer can give some amount of credence to any effect. The vaguely ink blottish, 2D stain – is it meant to look 3D? Is it alive? There’s very little to go on and it never even touches on ferocity.

Omega barely even gets a look in here because I – unfortunately – read the schedule and this has to be the emptiest episode of the lot.

His staff of squashed Tesco pomegranates don’t do much for the menacing atmosphere. Astounding that Omega, power of a God and all, decide to create wobbly, chewed jellies to run his abysmal rock. There’s clearly a theme – he just like s the bauble effect. That, and he respects Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen’s opinion.

So – it’s a nightmare fast-food joint staffed by your typically degradingly-dressed sub-humans masterminding an operation to strand innocent fashionistas in a dusty quarry full of boiled sweets.

I’m sorry my first pitch is so negative – honest, I don’t actually hate the series.


Oh, don't feel bad about ripping the old episodes to pieces. That's a tradition among long-time fans. Just look at the review pages for Outpost Gallifrey, half of their reviews start off with "This one was utter bollocks."

I've found the truest Who fans(that sounds vaguely weird for reasons I can't place) have the most fun MST3K'ing old Who episodes. Sylvester McCoy's my favorite Doctor, and I cringe anytime someone mentions Time and the Rani, but I'll still watch it for a giggle.

Usually you get to a point where you watch even the poorest of episodes, because you know that most of the episodes are insanely watchable. Most of the episodes were either lacking in the scripts, or the direction, or the acting, or the production, and quite often in more than one. The point was that it was still incredibly watchable, and incredibly enjoyable. People put so much emphasis on the things which can be marked down on, and ignore quite simply how much FUN it is.

Just like Deal or No Deal. Lousy concept, lousy jokes, no real reason why it should be any good, yet you can't help but watch it. That's what Who always was about, being enjoyable, often for no readily apparent reason. So don't worry about putting it down, because you can now go on to watch Day of the Daleks, and any doubts about Pertwee Who will be cast aside into the Inferno.

PS. I'm watching Mind Of Evil from yesterday morning on UKTV Gold, and it's quite good. Utterly ludicrous concepts, yet the Master is wonderfully evil, in his fabulous suit, a lot like Simon Pegg in The Long Game.

All true of course, but another reason is the hope that just around the corner is the next certified Who "Classic".For every Monster of Peladon there is an Inferno, just as , with "New Who",for every Aliens of London there is an Empty Child.As a result our love for the series is rekindled again,of course there is also the "So bad it's good" factor to some episodes as Coleberg referred to ......Horns of Nimon anyone?

I'm still stuck in a back-log of UKTV repeats - currently watching Inferno, as it happens, and my faith in Pertwee is restored. And you're right - it's all incredibly watchable stuff.

I watched Inferno the other week. Any ideas as to the relation to the Cyberman story later in the year? I'm still a bit uncertain as to how he travelled "Sideways in time", and how he got back.

Anyway, here's a little morsel of info, it was shown in Mind Of Evil that the Doctor's greatest fear is fire, following the events of Inferno. Is this still the case through to the 10th Doctor? Could that be his Achille's heal? Something he has to face? Just a thought.

You should love Mind Of Evil. When the Master is faced with that machine, and he sees the Doctor laughing at him... So very creepy!

BTW I wasn't saying it was a "So bad it's good" situation, merely a "It's bad yet it's good". It's wonderful even though it's not perfect. The flaws just don't seem to matter so much. But yes, You keep watching because a bad episode will always have it's genius counterpart coming up.

Ooo - I wonder, on a very longshot, whether we could link this to Girl in the Fireplace? You never know..

And thanks for the thought - I'll probably manage to get onto Face of Evil sometime this week.

"Is this still the case through to the 10th Doctor?"

I doubt it, but good theory. My case is backed up by the 4th Doctor's hesitation to wipe the daleks out of existence in "Genesis of..", but 3 lives later he doesn't hesitate to erase their entire star system in "Remembrance of..." Then there's his reaction in "Dalek," when the 9th Doctor grabs the nearest large alien firearm and charges off down the corrider, only once again unable to pull the trigger. Each body has it's own distinct personality differences, and as such slightly different moral high grounds to stand on.

True, true. Still, I'd like to see some sign of weakness, and this seems ideal (or is that an oxymoron?)

I've just got to say that I hate it when people who are addicted to 'Deal or No Deal' always start off with "I know it's crap but...".

Look, DOND is the greatest studio quiz show of its age. Brilliantly directed, a fluid and unpredictable structure that results in some genuine surprises, incredible moments of tension, heart-warming community building and the genius - yes, genius - that is Noel Edmonds. He should be nominated for a BAFTA.

Sorry, I just had to say that...

I would have to say that DOND is the best studio quiz show of it age also.

Yeah, I'm one of those ones addicted to it. Me and the Mrs watch it most nights.

Hey, I love it, and I love Noel, and he should receive many awards, but you've got to admit the concept is a bit loopy. You watch it knowing that it's all a game of chance, that it doesn't matter which box is picked, because it's still down to luck. Yet it is addictive, because it's brilliantly done.

So yes, it's ridiculous, but yes, it's fantastically enjoyable. Just like a lot of Doc Who.

Going back to "The Mind of Evil",I'm not sure if fire is the 3rd Doc's achilles heel as such, he just said that it brought back strong feelings that were still fresh in his mind.The Keller machine just fed off them.As always I'm open to being corrected!;)

True, it could just be because it was fresh in his mind, but the machine was supposed to feed off his greatest fear, so it could be a fear which he still has, remembering the alternate Earth destroyed in a ball of flames.

Yeah I'd agree with you there.In the case of the other characters the Keller machine exploited their greatest fears/phobias whereas with the Doctor it fed off his fears in general.Don't forget that later in the story the Doctor was menaced by images of Daleks,Cybermen,Zarbi,Silurians and a War Machine.

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