Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Krotons Episode Four

The one where the Gonds are finally liberated from the Krotons...

In episode 3, Eelek claims that the Gond Council has taken a vote in Selris's absence and elected him as leader, thus ousting ol' scrunchy-face. But here, Selris claims that leadership of the Council is hereditary, and so his son Thara will be next leader. If this is the case, then how and why did the Council hold a leadership election at all? If they were looking for a new, young, fresh, robust, strong and stable leader, why not just turn to Thara, who has been just as outspoken about the Krotons - if not more so - than Eelek? A bit of muddy world-building from Robert Holmes there, I fear.

For the first time in the story, the Gonds get to lay eyes on their Kroton masters when one of them comes out of the Dynatrope to demand that the High-Brains (the Doctor and Zoe) are bought to them. Why they didn't just use the booming voice we witnessed in episode 1, I'm not sure, but the emergence of this crystalline creature certainly strikes awe into the people. Seeing the Kroton shuffle down the gangway, its skirt swishing, struck me as terribly silly. They really are terrible in long-shot!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Krotons Episode Three

The one where the indigenous Gonds foment a rebellion against the alien Krotons...

Writer Robert Holmes continues to develop his debut story into a quintessential Doctor Who plot by having the Gonds form a rebellion against the oppressive Krotons. It's only taken them thousands of years to get around to this, and only then when the Doctor has turned up to coax questions out of them. Although it has to be said that Thara was onto something from the very first scene, before the TARDIS even arrived.

Which makes it a little puzzling why it is Eelek who suddenly emerges as the rebel leader, seizing control of the Gond Council from Selris to lead his people into war. The last time we saw Eelek - in episode 1 - he was a resolute supporter of the Krotons and the Gonds' subservience, insisting that "no one defies the Krotons". Now, suddenly, he's changed his tune completely and wants to launch an all-out attack on them. Nothing has happened to show why Eelek has had such an about-turn in allegiance, and his role in events seems forced and unnatural. Surely it should be Thara leading a revolution, seeing as he's been questioning the Krotons from the very start? And wouldn't it be more fitting for leader Selris's son to be the one to depose him and lead the revolt? It seems like a major narrative misstep by Holmes.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Krotons Episode Two

The one where the Doctor and Zoe accidentally create the Krotons...

I've never really thought about it much before, but the title The Krotons is really pointless, isn't it? It tells you absolutely nothing about the story, because the word "Kroton" doesn't mean anything to anyone, unless you're a Brazilian educationalist. You might guess that there's an alien species in the story called the Krotons, but you can't be sure, and even their name doesn't tell you what sort of alien they are. It's actually a rare example of a Doctor Who story being named after a monster we know nothing about, and learn nothing about from their name.

The Daleks is the obvious similarity, but stories such as The Sensorites, The War Machines, The Ice Warriors, The Dominators, The Daemons, The Sea Devils - even Doctor Who and the Silurians - all tell you a little something about the titular creatures, whether they be sensitive, war-like, domineering, aquatic, demonic or icy! I can only think of Meglos as another example of a story title named after a monster which means nothing before you've watched it. And let's be honest, Meglos doesn't really mean very much after you've watched it either...

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Krotons Episode One

The one where the TARDIS lands on a planet that smells of rotten eggs...

Oh no, not another futuristic sci-fi story with bland humanoids in rubbish costumes. I had quite enough of that with The Dominators, and right from the very first scene this is looking like it's going to be more of the same. OK, Bobi Bartlett's costumes could never be as downright awful as Martin Baugh's curtain skirt abominations, but these people look like a cross between Thals and Xerons, with a splash of Sensorite thrown in. And we all know that a splash of Sensorite is never a good thing...

The first scene made me instantly wary, compounded by the pretty poor standard of acting on display too, particularly from James Copeland's Selris (does every planet have a Scotland?) and, after meeting him later in the episode, James Cairncross's Beta. It's all so stagy and heightened, everyone is pronouncing and declaring rather than performing. The most natural performer is Philip Madoc, but he's kind of gone to the opposite end of the spectrum and seems like he's on Valium.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Invasion Episode Eight

The one where UNIT and the Cybermen finally clash - on screen!

"We must destroy all life on Earth completely," mumbles the Cyber-planner at the start of the episode, a clip I remember vividly being in BBC2's 1992 documentary Resistance is Useless. Back then I wondered what the bloody hell it was, and 26 years later I'm still wondering...

After Zoe gets the overwhelming approval of every male in the British military thanks to her sharp intellect and figure-hugging catsuit ("Can't we keep her, Sir, she's much prettier than a computer!"), we're subjected to a few more interminable walkie-talkie exchanges between platoons and bases before the real action for the serial finale kicks in.

Monday, July 09, 2018

The Invasion Episode Seven

The one where the Cybermen seem to totally disappear...

Ah, so the Doctor's OK and will be in this episode after all! I suspected that Patrick Troughton was due an untimely week off when I saw the Doctor collapse toward the end of episode 6, but it was just a bluff! However, numerous other characters do take a substantial back seat in this episode, namely Jamie, Isobel and Professor Watkins. After they've escaped the attack on Travers' house early on, none of them appear again.

It's a strange turn of events, some of which makes sense, some of which doesn't. Frazer Hines had a week off during episode 8, and so only appears in pre-filmed inserts for that episode, but quite why he's totally removed from the action here is a little bewildering (plus, Packer's men shoot at Jamie four times, but if one bullet hit him at that proximity, surely all four could have?). Isobel is said to be tending to her wounded uncle, who we still haven't seen speak to one another, and it seems we never will, because Edward Burnham doesn't appear at all in episode 8. All very curious...

Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Invasion Episode Six

The one where the invasion finally begins...

"Isobel, where are yoooooo!" hoots plummy thesp Robert Sidaway as Captain Turner and his men search the sewers for Jamie, Zoe and Isobel. I like the tentative romance that Derrick Sherwin has sketched in between Turner and Isobel, and although it doesn't go very far, there's an obvious attraction, and it makes a pleasant change for Doctor Who to take moments to flesh out characters like this, such as in the scene near the end where Turner joins Isobel at the window at dawn.

The scenes in the sewers are directed and lit beautifully by Douglas Camfield and Robbie Robinson, and the silver giants look truly eerie emerging from the gloom, their chest plates flashing and their powerful, implacable silhouettes picked out in the dark. I've always maintained that the Cybermen looked their best in black and white, and never quite recaptured their 60s spookiness in colour, and this is a prime example.