Classic Doctor Who Season 15

DoctorWhoCast15I’ve been watching the classic Doctor Who series, beginning with the start of the show in 1963. I’m up to Season 15, which aired from late 1977 to Spring 1978. That’s half-way through the adventures of the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker).

Behind the scenes, the show was experiencing some major problems. A change in the leadership of the staff running the show, as well as late delivery of scripts, plus the BBC canceling a vampire-related script because it would have aired close to major Dracula production of the the network. Add to this, Tom Baker hated the character of Leela, and the actress, Louise Jameson, took the brunt of his dislike. They finally had it out in the second serial taped (but the first serial aired), and the actors’ relationship improved somewhat. Still, Jameson left the show at the end of the season.

All the while, the British economy, under the leadership of the Labour Party, was in shambles. The show had its budget cut because of other expenses the network experienced due to the economy. In the winter following the airing of this season, the country was hit by several strikes, the “Winter of Discontent,” leading to the Conservative Party’s victory early the next year. And, in case you forgot, that’s when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. Remember the Brigadier speaking with “Madame” Prime Minsiter in Season 13? Now you know who he was talking to.

The season began with a story at a creepy old lighthouse, and people dropping like flies. No, it wasn’t Tom Stewart but an alien knocking folks off. We finally met the Rutans, who have been in a war against the Sontarans, in Horror of Fang Rock (4 episodes). At the end of the episode, Leela’s eyes changed color from the effects of an explosion. That allowed Louise Jameson to not have to wear the brown contacts she had been wearing ever since her character was introduced. And, it’s the episode where Jameson and Tom Baker finally had their confrontation.

The second serial (though the first one produced in Season 15) also introduced K-9. I know a lot of people liked K-9, but I wasn’t one of those. I remember the character from when I saw Doctor Who episodes 30-something years ago. I thought it was silly then. They did a good job of explaining why it looked like a dog: the scientist who built it always wanted a dog, so he made his robot look like one.

Fans of Sherlock, or of Benedict Cumberbatch, might find it interesting that his mom appeared in the serial Image of the Fendahl (4 episodes) as a major character. Wanda Ventham had appeared in Season Four’s The Faceless Ones. Yeah, she was hot. Oh, and she’s still acting. She and her husband recently appeared in Sherlock as the title character’s parents.

By the way, the serial Image of the Fendahl was airing during the week of Hallowe’en 1977. As such, it had a theme appropriate to that time of year. The story involved a skull with a pentagram, a seer, a coven of aliens, and a big slimy worm that looked like it was dressed for Mardi Gras.

I found The Sun Makers (4 episodes) very interesting. The script writer was having a row with Inland Revenue (the British agency that functions as the IRS does in the U.S.) and wrote the serial. In the story, those running the show and imposing the heavy taxes were overthrown. Of course, being British, they had a race of aliens running a “Company” that was responsible for high taxes. Unlike reality where it’s a government that imposes taxes. So, even though it was the British government that was imposing the taxes that inspired the script writer, the left-leaning of those involved with the show turned the villain into a capitalist venture.

The Doctor battled the Sontarans (and won) in the final serial of the season, The Invasion of Time (6 episodes). The Doctor lost two companions in the process. No, Leela and K-9 didn’t die. They stayed behind when The Doctor left, after saving Gallifrey. He also took office as President of Gallifrey. It seems that nobody thought to hold the election that was to pit The Doctor against Chancellor Goth in Season 14’s The Deadly Assassin. Since Goth died at the end of that serial, and The Doctor hopped in his TARDIS and went on other adventures, nobody assumed office. Well, The Doctor came back to Gallifrey to claim the office, since he was still officially a candidate, and, with Goth’s demise, the only candiate, he took office.

After defeating the Sontarans and saving the known universe, he left again. They kinda left it up in the air about his being president. I suppose we’ll see what happens with that — or not — as well as meet the new K-9 that was still in the box at the end of the series, when the next season starts.


Classic Doctor Who Season 14

DoctorWho4LeelaI’m watching the classic Doctor Who episodes from the beginning. That’s from 1963. Been doing it for a bit now, because I’m up to the episodes that first aired in 1976-77. That’s Season 14, for those counting. Even if you’re not counting, it’s still Season 14. Math works that way: it doesn’t care about you; it still does what it does regardless of whether or not you’re paying attention.

Anyway, Season 14 is Tom Baker’s third in the role of The Doctor. And it’s the start of Elisabeth Sladen’s final season as Sarah Jane Smith. I’m gonna miss her.

The season featured something that hadn’t happened in some time: an historical episode, although it’s not as historical as the traditional ones from the show’s early years. The Masque of Mandragora (4 episodes) was set in 15th century Italy, but didn’t feature any on-screen appearances by any historical characters. Leonardo da Vinci was mentioned, but didn’t appear. The story featured a young man being usurped from his rightful place as ruler by his uncle. Maybe The Doctor will take that story idea forward to the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and let William Shakespeare write something along that line. Nah. Probably never amount to anything.

One item about the serial I found interesting was that The Masque of Mandragora was filmed at Portmeirion, in Gwynedd, North Wales. That’s where the shots of The Village, from the TV show The Prisoner was filmed.

Sarah Jane left The Doctor at the end of the season’s second serial, The Hand of Fear. A pretty good, but not great, story that had a troubled history. It was originally supposed to be ready for Season 13, but the scriptwriters had difficulty with it. Along the way, the intent was to kill of The Brigadier and Sarah Jane, but that was eventually scrapped. In the end, the scriptwriters didn’t write Sarah Jane out of the series. They left that to Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, who wrote Sarah Jane’s exit.

The Doctor had his first solo adventure in The Deadly Assassin (4 episodes), a serial that brought back The Master (though in a heavily decaying state). This serial also introduced the plotline of a 12 regeneration limit for Time Lords. It seems The Master was on his 13th form already and, with no 13th regeneration, would die. Only, there was some plot device using accoutrements of the office of President to restart the cycle. Along the line, there was a presidential assassination and a framing of The Doctor, a faked death, political intrigue. Both The Doctor and The Master live to fight again. One thing, though: I never completely understood why the Time Lord President didn’t regenerate.

The Doctor picked up a new companion, Leela (Louise Jameson), in the serial The Face of Evil (4 episodes). I didn’t remember much about it — heck, I didn’t remember anything about it — but I’m thinking I had seen it before. I remember the face of The Doctor in the mountain. Unless I’m thinking of an episode of Gilligan’s Island.


Anyway, Leela joined up with The Doctor. She’s the latest hot chick to join The Doctor in his travels across time and space. The serial was written by, and the character of Leela was created by, Chris Boucher, a talented writer, but a lover of the Labour Party and a hater of Margaret Thatcher. According to one report, he named Leela after a Palestinian hijacker.

Leela ran around in her “savage” costume most of the time, except for the season’s final serial, The Talons of Weng-Chiang (6 episodes), in which she and The Doctor dressed in a style more fitting Sherlock Holmes. The Doctor didn’t wear the scarf for which Tom Baker’s incarnation was known.

As I mentioned when I started this little journey, my first experience with Doctor Who was from the Tom Baker years. So far, I don’t remember having watched any of the Tom Baker episodes, with the possible exception of The Face of Evil, and I’m still not sure about that one.

Maybe I’ll be coming up on some soon. Or maybe my memory has failed. Much like some of the control of the TARDIS.


Classic Doctor Who Season 13

IMG_005623The 13th season of the classic Doctor Who series saw the departure of some major characters. The last regular appearances of Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), Mister (nee Sergeant) John Benton (John Levene), and Lieutenant (Doctor) Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter).

The 6-serial, 26-episode season began with the return of The Doctor, Sarah Jane, and Harry to the present, following up the distress call The Doctor received from the Brigadier at the end of Season 12. The first serial, Terror of the Zygons (4 episodes), introduced — you guessed it — the Zygons. In this serial, the Brigadier receives a call from the Prime Minister, whom he addresses as “Madame.” At the times the episode was recorded and aired, Harold Wilson of the Labour Party was Prime Minister. He was succeeded by fellow Labour Party MP James Callaghan a year later. When the episode aired, Margaret Thatcher was leader of the Conservative Party, but wouldn’t become Prime Minister until four years later. However, since the series was, at the time, set in the near-future, commonly accepted to be five years from the then-present, the writers got this one right.

The serial was also Nicholas Courtney’s last regular appearance as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Though there would be two more serials involving UNIT, the Brigadier wouldn’t be in either. Courtney was unavailable, so they wrote his character as visiting Geneva.

Planet of Evil (4 episodes) was similar to Forbidden Planet in that an invisible creature was killing members of an expedition to a planet. And, kinda like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in that a character kept transforming from normal-looking fellow to an ugly, hairy, evil killer.

The third serial had an interesting plot. It was called Pyramids of Mars (4 episodes) and dealt with a connection between Egyptian civilization and extraterrestrial aliens. And, if you’re familiar with Richard Hoagland’s whole pyramids on Mars thing, keep in mind that’s from after the Viking landings in July 1976. This serial aired 8-9 months before that. No one had seen images from Mars that kinda looked like pyramids. So that whole face and pyramids on Mars thing? Nobody came up with all that nonsense until later. Probably a deranged Doctor Who fan.

Oh, and The Doctor got some math wrong. He mentioned that it would take two minutes for radio signals to travel from Mars to Earth. That’s wrong. At their closest approach possible, it would take over three minutes. At their greatest possible distance, it would take a little over 22 minutes. So, The Doctor had even more time than he said to defeat Sutekh.

The Android Invasion (4 episodes) featured UNIT, but as I mentioned earlier, the Brigadier didn’t appear. Harry appeared, as did Benton, as well as their android duplicates. Benton’s fate is left unclear at the end. At least, I wasn’t sure what his fate was. Benton wouldn’t be in the later serial involving UNIT.

We met yet another renegade Time Lord in The Brain of Morbius (4 episodes). There seem to be a lot of them. Morbius was a Time Lord that was sentenced to death a zillion years ago. Though the sentence was carried out and his atoms scattered across the universe, he survived because his brain was stolen and it wound up in a bowl in some lab. Kinda like Jan In A Pan from MST3K. His brain was eventually put in a fish bowl on top of a hairy critter. Kinda like Ro-Man from Robot Monster.

Morbius and The Doctor eventually had a battle on something that looked like a game console. The battle involved images of their various incarnations. We saw the faces of The Doctor (Tom Baker), The Doctor (Jon Pertwee), The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), and The Doctor (William Hartnell), plus other faces that could have been The Doctor, or Morbius. That wasn’t really clear. Anyway, The Doctor won and the fish bowl sparked and smoked and Morbius fell over, ran away, and then fell off a cliff. The Doctor died, but was revived without regenerating by some elixir of life that came from a flame that The Doctor had fixed by dropping a firecracker down the chimney. Or something.

The season ended with The Seeds of Doom (6 episodes), which was sorta like The Thing, in that an intelligent plant life from another world was found in the Antarctic and was going to get loose and take over the world. It wasn’t exactly like The Thing (any version) or Who Goes There? (the story on which The Thing was based), but there were those elements. The serial also marked the last of the stories to involve UNIT for some time. None of the UNIT regulars appeared. And, while I was anxious for The Doctor (Jon Pertwee) to get back into time and space in the TARDIS, now that The Doctor (Tom Baker) has done just that, I am gonna miss the Brigadier, Captain Yates, and Sergeant/Mister Benton. At least, we still have Sarah Jane. For now.

Speaking of whom, on to the 14th season, her last as a regular.


Classic Doctor Who Season 12

DoctorWho4I’m watching the classic Doctor Who episodes because … I forget why, but I’ve started, and doggone it, I’m gonna see it through. I’m up to Season 12 now, and that means Tom Baker as The Doctor. The 12th season was only 20 episodes long, comprising five serials.

The first serial, Robot (4 episodes), indicated just how much the show changed over the first 12 years. The show was very serious when it began, with the occasional bit of levity. Patrick Troughton brought more humor to the show, as did Jon Pertwee. But right off the bat, Tom Baker was a clown. Literally. When The Doctor awoke following his regeneration, and changed clothes several times, including once coming out of the TARDIS as a clown. And, the odd getup that Baker was known for wearing was the least strange of the outfits he was trying on at the time, so the Brigadier told him it was fine and hurried him to investigate the case they had.

That serial also introduced the character Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), who would travel with The Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) for the remainder of the season.

A season-long arc (or remaining season arc) began in The Ark in Space (4 episodes). Arc. Ark. Get it? The Doctor and his companions travel to space station Nerva (the aforementioned “ark”) in the far future and save the day. The ending leads directly to The Sontaran Experiment (2 episodes), which featured the Sontarans, the second but nowhere near the last of appearances by that group of bad guys.

Tom Baker broke his collarbone during the taping of The Sontaran Experiment, but that big, stupid scarf hid the brace he had to wear. So, +1 for the big stupid scarf.

At the conclusion, they try to get back to Nerva and the TARDIS, but the Time Lords intervene and send them on an impossible mission against the Daleks. They’d spend the rest of the season trying to get back to Nerva.

The serial Genesis of the Daleks (6 episodes), tells of, well, the genesis of the Daleks. We meet Davros for the first time. He’s the dude that created them. He’s stuck in a Captain Pike-mobile, but can talk. He does have a flashing light, though. In a mission doomed to failure, The Doctor (Tom Baker) goes back to the time of the creation of the Daleks, in order to change history. Apparently, The Doctor (Tom Baker) forgot that The Doctor (William Hartnell) told Barbara in Season One’s The Aztecs that history can’t be changed (“Believe me, I know!”).

That ends with a return to Nerva, but at too early a time. They battle the Cybermen in Revenge of the Cybermen (4 episodes). The Cyberman hadn’t appeared since Season Six’s The Invasion, excepting a brief cameo in Season 10’s Carnival of Monsters in which they played no role. There is a plot hole big enough to drive a TARDIS through in that serial. Gold is poisonous to Cybermen. Yet, some Cybermen land on a planet that’s made of gold (or has it lying around all over the place).

Remember that after first meeting then battling the Cybermen in Season Four’s The Tenth Planet, The Doctor (William Hartnell) died and renewed? Well, during this serial that reintroduced the Cybermen, between the broadcast of episodes one (19 April 1975) and two (26 April 1973), William Hartnell actually died (23 April 1975).

On that sad note, Season 12 ended, and The Doctor and his companions entered the TARDIS to head to Season 13. As shall we.


Classic Doctor Who Season 11

DoctorWhoLogoI’ve been watching classic Doctor Who episodes. I began with the first season from 1963, and am now in the eleventh season from 1974 (mostly).

Season Eleven was 26 episodes comprising 5 serials. It featured a new opening sequence, highlighted by the classic Doctor Who diamond-shaped logo. It also introduced Sarah Jane Smith, who was with The Doctor for four seasons, the longest of any companion so far.

The first serial of the season, The Time Warrior (4 episodes), introduced the Sontarans, and featured another appearance by Boba Fett. Jeremy Bulloch, who played Boba Fett in the original Star Wars movies, made his second Doctor Who appearance. He had previously appeared in The Space Museum from Season Two. The serial also gives The Doctor’s home planet a name: Gallifrey.

The second serial, Invasion of the Dinosaurs (6 episodes), had an interesting idea in that dinosaurs were brought forward in time to the present day (1970s) and then returned, wreaking havoc in between. I think they stole this idea from Primeval by taking the TARDIS into the future and bringing the idea back to 1973. The Doctor should be ashamed of himself.

A little shame should also be heaped upon the special effects department for that serial. The dinosaur effects made Godzilla (1954) look like Jurassic Park. Barney is a more convincing dinosaur than what was done for that serial. And, in a change of recent storyline pattern, the eco-warriors were the bad guys, intent on destroying life on Earth. They did excuse them as misguided, with their hearts in the right place, though. Those wacky Brits.

A couple of old villains appeared in Season 11. The Daleks made an appearance in Death to the Daleks (4 episodes). That serial was unusual in that, for some of the time, there was an uneasy truce between The Doctor and the Daleks as they combined forces to restore power to their respective ships. At the end, of course, the Daleks are the bad guys, and as usual, are defeated. The other return villains, the Ice Warriors appear in The Monster of Peladon (6 episodes).

The season ended with the 6-episode Planet of the Spiders. I don’t like spiders. The second episode of the serial could have been called “Who. Doctor Who.” because of the extended chase scene involving a car, a hover craft, a flying car, a helicopter, and a speed boat. I could almost hear Paul McCartney playing Live and Let Die during it.

The spider effects were actually pretty good. Well, not bad. Certainly better than the dinosaurs. But some of the other effects in the serial were pretty bad. 1980 Flash Gordon bad.

The main event in the serial, apart from saving the universe again, is the death of Doctor Who. He was regenerated — the first time it was called that; the transition from the First Doctor to the Second Doctor was called “renewal” — into the Fourth Doctor, played by Tom Baker.

The Tom Baker episodes were the first Doctor Who episodes I ever saw, on PBS back in the 1970s. And, now I’m caught up to then. Well, nearly.

Season 12 looms large. To the TARDIS, to land on Earth in 1974!


Classic Doctor Who Season 10

The Three Doctors

The Three Doctors

Season Ten of Doctor Who, the classic series before the recent resurrection of the series, featured something that must have been a delight to fans of the show: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, and Jon Pertwee all appearing together.

Well, “together” isn’t exactly right. Let me explain.

Season Ten, consisting of 26 episodes comprising five serials, began with an attack on time itself. And, the plot line called for the Time Lords not being able to spare resources to help The Doctor. So, they sent The Doctor. And when The Doctor and The Doctor didn’t get along, they called on The Doctor to help.

I don’t think I explained that very well. Except that’s exactly what happened. Through some Time Lord mumbo jumbo, they managed to pull the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) into the time stream of the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), so they could combine forces and battle Omega, who’s a Time Lord gone mad. Or rogue. There seems to be a lot of them.

Anyway, The Doctor (3.0) and The Doctor (2.0) don’t get along, so they bring The Doctor (1.0) to keep them in line. After all, he was the mature one. He wasn’t impressed with his third or second incarnations, calling them “a dandy and a clown.” Due to William Hartnell’s health, he was only able to appear in studio, communicating via video screen with the other Doctors. Regardless, it was great to see William Hartnell in action again.

Hartnell’s appearances in the serial were his last role of any kind, not just in Doctor Who. The episodes were filmed in late 1972, and aired beginning just before New Year’s, and ran into late January 1973. Hartnell’s health continued to decline, and he was hospitalized in December 1974, and died in April of 1975.

At the end of The Three Doctors (4 episodes), the Time Lords removed the sentence of exile from The Doctor, allowing him to use the TARDIS as before. He made some trips with Jo, but returned to Earth, no longer unable to control the TARDIS. He did experience some issues with landing where he expected, but it wasn’t the completely lost in time and space situation from the first six seasons.

Being a Time Lord can sometimes be a drag.

Being a Time Lord can sometimes be a drag.

The Master returned in Frontier in Space (6 episodes). It was Roger Delgado’s last appearance on Doctor Who. He died around three months after the episode aired while filming a movie in Turkey. Pertwee and Delgado were close friends, and Delgado’s death was one of the reasons that contributed to Pertwee’s decision to leave the role of The Doctor after the next season.

The Daleks returned at the end of that serial, and followed as the primary antagonist in the next serial, Planet of the Daleks (6 episodes). That serial was could be considered a sequel to Season One’s The Daleks, the second Doctor Who serial, and the one that introduced those characters. In Planet of the Daleks, The Doctor encounters Thals, who are still battling the Daleks after all these years.

The season ended with the departure of companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) after she married a hippie environmentalist professor. The serial, The Green Death (6 episodes) was a typical 1970s environmentalist piece. It was typical leftist promotion, with a giant chemical company actively working to poison the planet. The episode also featured a scene of The Doctor in drag. Those wacky Brits.

I’ve enjoyed Jon Pertwee’s time as The Doctor, especially since he’s able to cross time and space again. He had one more season in the role before turning it over to Tom Baker. I’m looking forward to seeing Pertwee’s last season. Not to say farewell to him, but to see him as The Doctor some more. As long as he’s in space and not doing more left-wing hippie stuff.


Classic Doctor Who Season Nine

Bessie_DoctorWhoSeason Nine of the classic Doctor Who series — I’m watching them all from the 1963 beginning — featured the return of the Daleks. And, as always, they want to exterminate, exterminate, EXTERMINATE! The season consisted of five serials, made up of 26 episodes.

It was a welcome break when the first serial, Day of the Daleks (4 episodes) didn’t feature The Master. He had appeared in all serials of the previous season. The serial was also the first time the Daleks appeared in color in the show. There were a couple of color films starring Peter Cushing, but those aren’t considered canon. They don’t count.

The serial also introduced the Ogrons, who look and dress like there were based on the Klingons from the Star Trek movies. Another instance of The Doctor going into the future to steal ideas from other shows, I suppose.

The version I watched is the Special Edition, which means they added some CGI effects. I understand there is also a difference in a scene where The Doctor battles an Ogron.

The Ice Warriors made an appearance in The Curse of Peladon (4 episodes), although they aren’t villains in this episode. It also featured Patrick Troughton’s son, David, as one of the major characters in the serial. It was an off-Earth serial, with a reference that the Time Lords directed the TARDIS there so The Doctor could solve a problem. They got the idea for temporarily paroling the hero to solve a problem by going forward in time and stealing the plot point from 48 HRS.

The Mutants (6 episodes) was another off-Earth serial, as was The Time Monster (6 episodes), at least partially. With three of the five serials occurring completely or with a good deal of the action, it’s almost as it was before the exile.

The Master did show up in the third serial, The Sea Devils (6 episodes), and the fifth serial, The Time Monster. The Sea Devils, which featured an aquatic race related to the Silurians, was the episode where The Doctor first uttered the phrase “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.” The Third Doctor used a shortened version, “reverse the polarity,” in other serials, including The Time Monster. That serial is the third one dealing with Atlantis, by the way. We now have three different versions of the destruction of that civilization. I’m sure they’re all true.

One other thing about The Time Monster: it featured The Doctor and Jo traveling in both Bessie and the TARDIS. Not at the same time, of course. The TARDIS did get a slight makeover inside. The original setup was nine years old by this time, and was falling apart. So, not only is it bigger on the inside, it’s newer, too.

And, we’ll be taking a trip to the tenth season next.


Washington’s Birthday (2014)

George WashingtonYou know what today is, right?

If you said “Presidents Day,” you need to be beat with a stick. Several sticks. With knots in them so they hurt really bad.

Today is Washington’s Birthday.

Now, I know, George Washington’s birthday is actually February 22nd. That’s not until Saturday. But, there is a federal holiday called Washington’s Birthday, and it’s to honor George Washington. And the name of that holiday is … Washington’s Birthday.

So, why does everybody call it Presidents Day? Well, not everybody does. Witness me. And, I hope, you. But there are a lot of folks running around loose that call it Presidents Day. You know what we call dumbasses like that? Dumbasses.

This day is set aside to honor the first President of the United States, George Washington. He was instrumental in the founding of this nation, and if anyone deserves a holiday, it’s him.

Washington’s Birthday was the fifth national holiday established, after New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. It was one of the holidays picked for a Monday observance in 1971 when they started screwing around with federal holidays, and making some fall on a Monday. Along with Washington’s Birthday, the holidays Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Columbus Day were also moved to Mondays. The first four holidays and Veterans Day kept their regular days.

If you want one of “those people” that are always correcting others for things … you know, like I’m doing right now … and you want a link to throw at people, use this link to United States Code 5 U.S.C. 6103.

Why am I like this about Washington’s Birthday? That’s the wrong question. The right question is: why aren’t you?