Saturday, February 25, 2012

Doctor Who #95: The Traitors

"Oh, how I shall always remember her... as one of the Daughters of the Gods. Yes, as one of the Daughters of the Gods!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 4 of the Daleks' Master Plan, an episode missing from the archive except for two brief clips. The reconstruction is online (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Dec.4 1965.

IN THIS ONE... Katarina is killed, and once the other heroes get to Earth, so is Bret Vyon.

REVIEW: So... most bloodthirsty episode yet? Sure, there are stories with more on screen deaths and certainly some with more inferred deaths, but killing two semi-companions in the span of 20 minutes? Poor Katarina never had a chance, and her death is given the most weight. After all, she was set up as Vicki's replacement aboard the TARDIS, though one can scarcely imagine the writers doing away with Vicki (or Susan) in such a fashion. Held hostage in the Spar's airlock by a convict from the previous episode, she sacrifices herself to save the others from a dreadful (if undersold) dilemma. Not sure how she knew to push the button that sucked her and the villain out into space, but it's a harrowing scene (a surviving clip), even if we don't see the actual death. A spacey sound effect and we're meant to understand she's dead. The Doctor's eulogy is rather pretty, and respects the culture she came from. (The Doctor gets a lot of nice lines in this episode, actually.) And then, according to the script and recreated in the reconstruction, we actually see the floating dead bodies, and apparently, Katarina's peaceful expression. Man, that's creepy. But the handmaiden's life had been forfeit since Troy fell, and it was her impression that this was all afterlife. Here's hoping Adrienne Hill got her check that week because Katarina doesn't even get a line. Do screams count?

As for Bret Vyon, no one considers him a companion, but he's been stealing Steven's lines and bits of business since he appeared. I guess he had to go too. And what better way to do so than by the end of sexy space Gestapo agent Jean Marsh? She's obviously a friend of his (more on this tomorrow), but she's been compromised by Mavic Chen, turning their reunion into a Han Solo/Greedo engagement. She shot first. And we don't feel all that sorry, seeing as Vyon had just killed his friend Daxtar for being in on Mavic Chen's conspiracy. If we care at all, it's probably because Vyon was played by the beloved Nick Courtney. At the time, it no doubt seemed more fitting.

Mavic Chen and Karlton are played as Richard III and Buckingham in this episode, plotting not only against our heroes, but the Secret Space Service and the other delegates of the Dalek alliance as well. Trantis, leader of the biggest galaxy involved, is a particular problem, so Chen insinuates in his reports that the taranium thieves are working for him. How long before Trantis goes the way of Zephon? The Daleks aren't big on checking the facts before executing potential traitors, and anyway, it's their ultimate plan to kill all the delegates. Mavic Chen may think he's playing them, but the Daleks are content to BE played in this matter. If these scenes are the weakest in the episode, it's because 1) there's so much action and drama in the rest, and 2) the video is missing, leaving us to wonder what the actors brought to those silent, musical moments that feel like dead air today.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Doctor's allies are being killed rather harshly, but once the shock wears off, the episode is rather business as usual. At least it doesn't feel irrelevant like the previous' Desperus detour did.


snell said...

Now is the appropriate time to ask--do you consider Katrina a full-fledged Companion? It's a matter of controversy in some quarters...

Siskoid said...

I used to. Watching the episodes in order, I'm not sure anymore. But then, my definition is fairly elastic, as I'm quite able to consider Lady Christina or Kylie Minogue companions. For me it's about intent. Were they INTENDED to be Companions, rather than whether or not they made a TARDIS trip (or a number of TARDIS trips).

For example, there's no doubt that Liz is a companion, though the Doctor didn't use the TARDIS for her entire season. I think the Brig, Benton and Mike Yates have a claim as well.

Katarina was designed as a companion, on which they gave up after less than 4 complete episodes. Based on my criteria, I think she IS a companion. Final answer.

Jeff R. said...

As time goes by, I've become more and more in favor of using the simple "Does their (actor's) name appear in the credits" rule for companion-ness.

Siskoid said...

A standard I've adopted for the new series, but which isn't relevant to the classic episodes.

Jeff R. said...

Ah; it's been too long since I've seen a classic credit sequence, I think.

In that case, I'll take "Spent enough time on the Tardis that they'd need to be shown where the bathrooms are" as the demarcation, for Classic. (Aided by the fact that classic only had one companionless-Doctor story and that story lacked anything remotely resembling the modern special companion characters...)

Siskoid said...

Engin for Companion status!