Thursday, February 23, 2012

Doctor Who #93: Day of Armageddon

"Traitor? An archaic word for so advanced a... 'man' as yourself."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 2 of the Daleks' Master Plan, one of three surviving episodes from this story found on the Lost in Time DVD. First aired Nov.20 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Daleks with flamethrowers, Mavic Chen talks to a man made of seaweed, and the Doctor steals the taranium core that powers the time destructor.

REVIEW: We only have three episode of DMP on video, and the first gives us a taste of what we may be missing with the rest. While the plot is as SF matinee as Nation usually gets - if perhaps a bit more political - the acting and direction elevate the material greatly. And that's what mostly been lost along with the images. Just look at Kevin Stoney's performance as Mavic Chen. His expressions add a lot to the character, and small alien behaviors, like the way he holds his pencil and the strange language he writes in, break the dull culturelessness of most "future" episodes. It looks like Douglas Camfield might have had a lot to do with such details, as he appears to be a rather thoughtful director. Again, I refer you to the scene between Chen and Zephon, where they discuss their ambitions and Chen speaks from behind metal bars for a time, a man figuratively trapped by the "smallness" of his current domain (the Solar System) and wanting more. There are other such flourishes, like the energetic camera work when the Doctor uses the chaos of an intruder alert to steal Terry Nation's MacGuffin, the taranium core, or how each delegate exhibits movements and postures as alien as their appearances. It'd be silly if it weren't so fascinating.

The characters are mostly well served by the script. The Doctor is brave and gives Bret Vyon a good talking-to. Steven, an astronaut, admires the many ships at the conference. Bret Vyon needs to take the lead, but is nevertheless impressed by the Doctor and winds up a follower rather than a leader. Among the heroes, only Katarina seems off. I don't just mean her strange, archaic expressions, but even her delivery. Though I thought a companion from a primitive time had a lot of potential (Leela is one of my favorites, for example), if the character doesn't work, ultimately, it'll be because Adrienne Hill couldn't make it work. On the villains' side, both Mavic Chen and Zephon believe themselves equal or better than the Daleks, but of course, the Daleks plan on betraying all the delegates once they're done with them (classic). Chen is so smooth and ironic, you get the sense he knows this and is playing a longer game, though this is likely hubris on yet another level. Zephon feels entitled, but the ol' pile of animated branches is a bit of a loser, going by the profile Chen draws of him.

The production values are good, with lots of different costumes and make-ups for the delegates, a moody jungle and miniature Dalek base, and coolest of all, Daleks with blowtorches burning down the forest to smoke the TARDISeers out. Pretty impressive.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium-High - Having the video helps this episode greatly, as we can see how nuanced it is compared to the previous episode. On audio alone, we have to focus too much on Nation's wooden dialog. Here, the contributions of the director and actors have more of an impact.

9 comments:

tom said...

I am really enjoying these Dr. Who reviews! I am sure they are a lot of work to post daily, so I wanted to let you know they are appreciated. Thank You

Siskoid said...

Thank you kindly.I do wish they generated more comments, fuel for discussion, but I'm glad people are enjoying them even when they don't have anything to add.

Matthew Turnage said...

After reading your comments yesterday, I realized I liked the first episode quite a bit even though I agree with all the faults you mentioned. I just couldn't figure out why. After today's post, I think it is because I saw episodes 2, 5 and 10 before I heard the audio of the missing episodes. The direction and actors' performances in those episodes must have colored my mental picture of the audio in such a way that it papered over the flaws in the missing episodes in the same way they do the existing ones. I think I've mentioned before that I prefer the Nation-written episodes in the first half to the Spooner-written episodes in the second half, so I'm looking forward to see how much we differ on that when those episodes come around. And of course, I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on The Feast of Steven.

Siskoid said...

Yeah, that's gonna be a fun one (read: it's not, but writing the review might be).

I agree with you that while I'm not a fan of Terry Nation (does it show?), at least he's writing a Dalek story. The Spooner episodes are basically a tacked-on remake of The Chase just to extend Dalekmania a few more weeks and completely irrelevant. It'll be nice to see the Monk and all, but it's not a good fit for the larger story.

LiamKav said...

I wonder if people do what I do, which is comment after they have watched an episode, which is often months behind and so the discussion has moved on...

I do enjoy these greately as well, even though I've seen very few of the b&w episodes. I suspect that once you get to Pertwee and Baker, the comments sections will fill right up. If (and when) you get to the 9th Doctor, you'll probably be drowning in people shouting stuff. Just out of curiousity, do you know when you'll hit the new series? And when you'll hit now (ie, when you will have finished series 5), or will you not do episodes you have already reviewed?

Siskoid said...

Probably. The same thing happened with Star Trek when I hit TNG.

Too soon to the exact math, but NOW is in about 2 years.

Boosterrific said...

While we're slinging praise, I'll volunteer that I read these every day and enjoy them. But please don't mistake my silence for antipathy. Since I've seen very, very few of these episodes -- I didn't start watching WHO regulalry until Pertwee -- I've abstained from commenting because I feel I have nothing to add to the conversation. You keep reviewing, and I'll keep reading.

Siskoid said...

I wasn't fishing for compliments, but I do appreciate the fish. Thanks!

Mitchell Craig said...

I'm one of those who haven't really had much to say about your Doctor Who reviews because I've seen brief clips from some of the episodes you've showcased to date. I have seen Dr. Who and the Daleks, but I'm reserving commentary on the Peter Cushing Doctor until you get to Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D..