Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Randomiser - 50 Years of Doctor Who Stories - Part 2

On Day Two of our random journey through 50 years and 11 Doctors, we have a couple of episodes that are historically important because of two very different reasons. One introduces a major villain, a new companion and a recurring character, or ‘semi-companion’ if you will. The other never got broadcast, well, it was never actually made.

Terror of The Autons

The opening story of Season 8 proved to be significantly important for a number of reasons – it introduced the characters of The Master, played by Roger Delgardo, as The Doctor’s best enemy, and Jo Grant (Katy Manning) as The Doctor’s best friend.  Richard Franklin also made his bow as Captain Yates, as the producers decided to lock the revolving Captain door that had existing during the previous year.  More common soldiers were used as monster fodder instead.

The Doctor has a new assistant. But that’s not all – there’s a robbery in the UNIT vaults and a mysterious man, with a beard, is going around hypnotising people and using his horsebox as a base for all sorts of unspeakable deeds…

I suppose you could call this story a ‘sequel’ to Spearhead From Space, as The Master steals the remaining Nestene unit that originated from that story.  That's where the similarities end though, as Terror of The Autons seems like a very plodding story and, in all honesty, a bit of letdown after the brilliant Season 7.  That’s not to say this story doesn’t have it’s good bits – I LOVE the way in which The Master was introduced, immediately after the opening titles in Episode 1 (which hooked in viewers into the mystery of ‘who is this man?’ right away).  The introduction of the Time Lord, bizarrely dressed like John Steed from The Avengers, was a nice moment too. Though I’m always amazed as to why they keep trusting The Doctor to do their work for them, when they’re not all that keen on him? Couldn’t they have spared a few more Time Lords to help him out? The use of his TARDIS would have helped too! Okay, okay, I know it wouldn’t have made the story what it was, but a line here or there to explain their unhelpfulness would have helped!

Other bits I enjoyed: The Chair of Death!!! (and The Master’s line “He sat down in this chair and…he just slipped away”) The highlight of the episode though was the rapport between The Master and The Doctor, talking like two Gentlemen, going over a restaurant menu, as The Master is threatening to kill him and to destroy the world.  Brilliant.

Sadly, as mentioned, the story doesn’t seem to match up to some of it’s great lines.  I felt the plot just petered out as The Master changed his mind about having a group of creepy big-heads taking over the world (why anyone would take a flower off them, I've no idea) and the Auton threat itself seemed to be a shadow of what it was in Spearhead.

Overall, an interesting enough watch for historical purposes, but a story that is probably forgettable.

Shada

SHAAADAAAAAAAAA! Shouts Tom Baker as he introduces this BBC video from 1992, surrounded by Doctor Who monsters. When he’s not looking seductively into the camera, or taking the piss out of the surrounding monsters (I beat you…and you. And you too!) he provides the linking narration in an attempt to ‘flesh out’ the story.

Shada is (in)famous for being the only Doctor Who story that was left unfinished, because of a strike at the BBC at the time.  As it is, only about half the story exists, what with them filming scenes out of order, the linking narration, kind-of works in attempting to piece the story together.

The Doctor and Romana are in Cambridge after they receive a message from fellow (retired) Time Lord, Professor Chronotis (magnificently played by Denis Carey). The Professor wants The Doctor to return a book he took from Gallifrey, but someone else is after it, because it could be the key to taking a grip on the universe…

The story starts off well, the first 3 parts in particular are really enjoyable, but the latter 3 tail off, partly because of the lack of footage, but I think mostly because it isn’t really that interesting. Written by Douglas Adams, the story has been released on a number of platforms, including on audio (with the 8th Doctor and Romana) in book form and a vast number of fan videos and reconstructions.  I think it’s fair to say that it probably isn’t Adams’ best work for Doctor Who, but that’s like saying that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is disappointing because it’s leaning a bit.  The first 3 parts alone have that ‘Adams magic’ that put most stories in the last 2 years of Tom, in the shade. Or Shada, if you will.

We’ll never know how the story would have really shaped up and it’s a great shame that it was never completed. We can only guess from scripts, books and audios as to what the story could have been like. We’d have no idea about how it would have looked, or how it would have been acted and directed. Aspects like that mean everything to a story, even one with a dodgy plot, so because I felt that it ‘petered out’, I also realise it doesn’t necessarily mean that it actually would have.

I would say this is the version you should watch and with it being out on DVD now, it’s easy enough to obtain.  Oh and if you do manage to watch this – look out for the cliffhanger at the end of episode 1, where The Doctor climbs over a fence, only for him to, quite clearly, place his leg underneath the fence to look like he’s ‘trapped’ as a massive beach ball is bearing down on him.  It’s very funny!

Shada is something that started off well, but thanks in no small part to not being completed, didn’t fulfil its potential.

Come back tomorrow for more instant reviews on two more random Doctor Who stories. These quick reviews are the Doctor Who blogging equivalent to showing respect by stepping on a grave, but we'll persist nonetheless.

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