Doctor Who #76: The Death of Doctor Who

"On my command, advance and attack." "Align and advance!" "Advance and attack!" "Attack and destroy! Destroy and rejoice!"TECHNICAL SPECS: Part 5 of The Chase. First aired Jun.19 1965.

IN THIS ONE... The robot Doctor duplicate fails to infiltrate and kill the TARDIS crew.

REVIEW: Things are finally starting to move as both the Doctor and the Daleks make their stands on Mechanus. Even so, the robotic Doctor double plot resolves at about the 15-minute mark, and it strikes me that if there'd never been a space and time visualizer sequence back in The Executioners, The Chase might actually have been better structures. Episode 1 - The Aridius stuff until the Daleks' ultimatum; 2 - Escape from Aridius and a pit stop in New York (cliffhanger, Doctor realizes the Daleks are in pursuit); 3 - Mary Celeste and haunted house sequences, ending with Vicki left behind; 4 - Complete story of the robot Doctor; 5 - Mechonoids sequence, where a little more meat might have stretched things out to cover the missing half-episode. Let's just say there's a way to fix The Chase in editing. But yeah, at least action, jeopardy and consequences are back to the program.

Mechanus is a fairly well realized planet, with giant mobile mushrooms all over the place, threatening visitors, just not too much. Their attacks on Daleks are particularly laughable, especially since Vicki can walk away from them, though the shrooms do die an appropriately pitiable death under Dalek guns. Some of the shots are a bit cobwebby, with too much stuff in the foreground, but the cave where the TARDISeers hide out in has an artificial, children's hour, Tim Burtonesque quality to it that isn't unpleasant and the city on stilts has a vegetable elegance to its lines, like Rivendell or something. Likewise, the realization of the Doctor's robot double, while much more cleverly done than in the previous episode, remains a mixed bag. There are moments where they apparently dared to edit in Hartnell doing both sides of a conversation, and then there are close-up shots of the double in action. CLOSE-UPS! It's terribly inconsistent, and robs the story of tension when the characters can't tell which Doctor they should attack, but we obviously do. Still, the Doctor has a good cane fight with himself, ripping the robot's heart out savagely at the end, before delivering a Bondian quip (it's not just the 6th Doctor, kids). For the record, it's "I must get a doctor."

With the return of a plot to follow, also come character moments of value. Barbara stopping to empty her sensible shoes of pebbles. Ian's plan to send the Doctor into danger being met with opposition from the girls, and the Doctor slipping out to put it into action while they debate the question (the old codger is getting more heroic and proactive all the time). Maureen O'Brien once again proving she's very bad a screaming, avoiding it when she can, and letting out a long Aaaaaaaaaaaaaa when she can't. It's a strange skill to have or not have (outside of Who, certainly), but it does make Vicki one of the most fearless of companions. Even the Daleks seem more fleshed out (so to speak), with their innate claustrophobia coming to the fore, and their military chants. Is the quote above their equivalent of "I don't know but I been told..."?

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The Chase is a padded piece of fluff, but its final episodes WILL yield a story, but God! Though far from perfect (from the title on), The Death of Doctor Who still provides enough of what we like about the program to be of value, character-wise if not technically.

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