Sunday, February 26, 2012

Doctor Who #96: Counter Plot

"But that will only mean mastery of this galaxy." "But a start, Karlton, a start."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 5 of the Daleks' Master Plan. Like the other two surviving episodes, it can be found on the Lost in Time DVD set. First aired Dec.11 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor, Steven and Sara Kingdom are beamed to the planet Mira where the Daleks capture them.

REVIEW: Staying in Chase mode without the benefit of a TARDIS is hard to do, but they find a way. The heroes get jumped by super-space-agent Sara Kingdom in the project accelerator... and vanish! Ok, it's not a quantum leap, but there IS some trampoline jumping involved. As the three of them get "molecularly disseminated" through space to the swampy jungle planet Mira (yes, another one, but this one's name sounds like "mire"), we first get a strange white-out effect that would work better if the actors' grimaces weren't so creepy/silly, and then Sara and Steven jumping up and down in slow motion, superimposed on outer space paintings. Thankfully, Hartnell is spared the indignity of this "effect". Sara more or less takes the place of both Katarina (she's a girl) and Bret Vyon (she's s native security service agent), and she does seem sorry for killing the latter, and maybe she's learned her lesson about blindly following orders.

In addition to boiling swamps and Daleks arriving from nearby Kembel to zap some of the disseminated lab mice (they may be hostile!), the heroes have to contend with the native Visians. Why not Mirans or something? Well, they are inVISible. Invisible aliens (and ships) are never very satisfying, but they're an idea Terry Nation will use more than once. Which makes the Doctor's identification of Mira based on its natives surprising. Apparently, there are a lot of invisible species out there. It's the nonsense evolutionary adaptation that gives evolution a bad name. Go creationism! The good news is, the Visians are fairly well realized. Sure, it's mostly shaking branches and Sara's hair lifted by fishing line, but there's a nice tracking shot of Visian footsteps being made that's really cool. I also like the Doctor keeping them at bay by savagely whacking them with his walking stick. But like the convicts of planet Desperus, there's little chance their story will be developed.

So the best parts of the episode remain those featuring Mavic Chen and Karlton, the latter of which is emerging as the power behind the throne. Mavic Chen is quite insane in Counter Plot, despairing when the taranium is not recovered at first, and after Karlton gives him the perfect spin to feed the Daleks, letting his interior megalomaniac come out. A touch of the bipolar, perhaps? Kevin Stoney plays it delightfully big, no, HUGE. It's no wonder Karlton seems to think he could bump off Chen once he's reached the top.

THEORIES: Sara reveals that she hasn't just killed a colleague in Bret Vyon, but a brother. The musical sting infers that she's talking about a blood relation, but is she really? In martial cultures, it is common to call a close colleague, someone you've trusted with your life in combat, a "brother". Seeing as they have different surnames, it is safe to assume, I think, that there is no genetic relationship between them. If you choose to believe there is, then either names are attributed differently in the future, or they are half-siblings, or one of them is married (the mutability of gender roles in the futures presented in the new series could mean either one).

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The political story is the one that keeps us watching, but in this case, the A-story still features some interesting effects (some work, some don't) and the Doctor and Steven sternly integrating Sara Kingdom into their group.


Anonymous said...

I always thought the name 'Mira', came from the Spanish for 'see' because you can't 'see' the inhabitants!

I've never watched this episode. I should find it and check it out.


Siskoid said...

You could be right, but then why not call the natives Mirans to follow through on it.

Seems Terry Nation's naming schemes hold more mysteries than it first appears.