Monday, February 27, 2012

Doctor Who #97: Coronas of the Sun

"You make your incompetence sound like an achievement."TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 6 of the Daleks' Master Plan. The episode is missing from the archives, so I have watched a reconstruction (Part 1, Part 2). First aired Dec.18 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor escapes Mira on the Dalek ship and creates a fake taranium core they pawn off to Mavic Chen before flying off in the TARDIS.

REVIEW: Behind that poetic title is a disappointing episode that has nothing to do with it, filled with technobabble and then more technobabble. As with the convicts of Desperus, the Visians provide a bridge between episodes, but little else. There's some invisible battling with the Daleks - it goes on a bit - during which the heroes run off, and then the Doctor surrenders anyway to gain access to the Daleks' ship so they can make a proper escape. What was the point? Aboard that ship, the Doctor cleverly makes a taranium core, and Steven fixes something aboard ship, but both these actions are technical, and the audience can't exactly evaluate how clever any of it is. The drama of Sara's fratricide is forgiven and forgotten, so no help there.

Most egregious of all, Steven uses some gravitic technology from his century to give the taranium core the right energy signature, which again, is so technical an issue, he might as well be waving a magic wand over it. The debate over how primitive his solution is compared to Sara's time (and the Doctor's, obviously) is moot because one future is the same as another to 20th-century viewers. And most magical of all, not only does Steven succeed almost at the cost of his own life (I do appreciate that he's trying too hard to prove himself), but his solution has the unforeseen side-effect of encasing him in a force field that more or less zombifies him. What the hell. He can't speak, but he can walk, and it comes in handy because it allows him to hand over the taranium and follow his friends into the TARDIS while shrugging off a Dalek attack (which neatly cures his condition). How quaint. And stupid.

Shall we get some relief from Mavic Chen, then? Well, as usual, he's as smooth as silk, but we basically get a repeat of Karlton's spin from the previous episode, and Chen lording it over the Daleks for their many failures in trying to apprehend the Doctor. They ARE starting to look rather useless. To be fair, they don't exactly buy what he's selling, but they don't argue further either. And after convincing them that he transported the heroes away before they told someone about the Daleks, his insistence that they be brought back for trial on Earth is puzzling. He now convinces the Daleks that there's a chance people will know the Daleks exterminated the traitors if they don't make it home for trial... It scarcely makes sense, and in any case, it's not an option the show is prepared to explore, so why even mention it?

REWATCHABILITY: Low - As Mavic Chen says, "Does it even matter?" Looks to me like Terry Nation didn't deliver a script on time, and Dennis Spooner subbed in with nothing new to say and kept the story going, but not moving forward much.


snell said...

"Looks to me like Terry Nation didn't deliver a script on time, and Dennis Spooner subbed in with nothing new to say..."

Of course, (undoubetedly incorrect) lore has it that Nation and Spooner were playing "DC Challenge" with the story, writing alternating episodes and trying to leave the other in a tough story spot without telling them how to get out of it.

Oh, I don't believe it, either...but it sure would explain an awful lot...

Matthew Turnage said...

I had heard that as the Beeb wanted DMP to run 12 weeks, but Nation's other scripting commitments only left him time to write six episodes, it was always the plan for Spooner to write the other six. When they realized part 7 would air on Christmas Day, Nation asked to be able to write that episode as one of his six, which meant Spooner had to write the sixth episode before taking over permanently with part eight.

Siskoid said...

Yeah, Matt, I think that's what I read. Of course, what Nation did with the "Christmas special" is an abomination, but that's tomorrow. I don't relish having to watch it today.