Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Volume 1.3

Continuing on from the last batch of reviews we’ve entered into the second season featuring the First Doctor. We’ve also taken a bit of a jump from the last story (The Sensorites) as the next two stories are yet to be remastered and released on DVD. So we skip past ‘The Reign of Terror’, the final story for season 1, and ‘The Planet of the Giants’ which starts off season 2 and materialize right into ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’.

Wooorp Wooorp

The Dalek Invasion of Earth

One thing that is immediately apparent in this second season is that budget has allowed for much greater production values. Instead of the usual clumps of Daleks bumping their way around small plastic sets we see large groups roving around major London landmarks having taken over the planet. A greater variety of locations and sets are used, a much larger cast of extras and some improved action scenes – such as Barbara running over Daleks with a truck.

The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara finally manage to find their way back to London after their roundabout trip through history and the universe. What appears to be modern day London soon reveals itself to be the city centuries in the future. The Doctor soon learns that he’s arrived well after The Daleks have already made contact with Earth and enslaved most of the human population. People are either forced into labour or turned into cyborg Robo-Men. The travelers quickly get split up and join the human resistance in various ways to launch a counter offensive against the invaders.

If this is sounding a damn sight more interesting than the previous stories, that’s because it IS a damn sight more interesting than the previous stories. It’s more focused, even though the characters are spread out over a wide area, with multiple plot threads that all move towards a common goal. Over the six episodes we get plenty of decent action and plot twists as the supporting cast get reduced in number leading up to the final battle. While previous creatures and characters have acted with some kind of bizzaro logic, this one as its fair share of suspense and clever concepts. Even by today’s standards it feels like an original alien invasion story.

it’s still marred by the typical problems that face the older Doctor Who stories, what the lower quality production not aging especially well it is fine entertainment. The Doctor seems to have improved on his asshole behaviour throughout the episodes, but pulls out a massive jerk move at the end when one of the companions wants to stay behind. I guess it’s what they wanted though.

The Rescue

aka ‘The Powerful Enemy’ or ‘The Doctor and Tanni’

One of the major recurring problems with the early seasons of Doctor Who is that the stories are often spread over six episodes without enough solid story to fill that amount of time. We’re left with meandering, padded stories. ‘The Rescue’ is only two episodes long, keeping things tight and focused. With Susan having departed at the end of the previous story the Doctor and companions meet Vicki, another human from a point far in the future. Vicki is stranded in a wrecked ship along with Bennett awaiting a rescue that they’re expecting in three days while being sardonically attacked by Koquillion, a native alien.

The action starts out pretty quickly with Koquillion being quick to trap Ian and the Doctor after pushing Barbara of a cliff. As the episode progresses Vicki is torn by her loyalty to the injured and controlling Bennett and the opportunity to escape Koquillion. Being a shorter story things get to the point quickly and resolves itself with a rather clever twist. As far as a drama heavy story goes it’s extremely well handled. The few sets that are used are used to good effect and overall its a good introduction to Vicki, who proves more intriguing that Ian and Barbara have been of late.

The Romans

After the very literal cliff hanger at the end of the previous story (which doesn’t lead anywhere, as usual), The Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki find themselves in Rome during the reign of Nero. Taking the sensible route they decide that a holiday is in order and promptly set themselves up in a temporally vacant house and enjoy the life of leisure. When The Doctor and Vicki decide to travel to the capital city a group of slavers kidnap Ian and Barbara and sell them.

What we get here is two different plot lines, each examining life in Ancient Rome (no doubt the producers were still under the impression that they were here to educate). Former pair get involved in political intrigue and conspiracy among the upper class while Ian and Barbara see the darker side of society as slaves and gladiators (not respectively). Both stories are interesting and provide enough twists to keep things interesting. The Doctor is especially interesting, showing more of the character who modern viewers are more familiar with by playing people of each other to his own end. Of particular note is when The Doctor gets away with having to play the lyre in front of Nero without being able to play the instrument – a crafty bit of grift that is clever and amusing.

The end of the story has amusing ties to historical events even if they turn The Doctor into something of a hypocrite regarding his no meddling in history rule (although Vicki calls him out on it). Vicki is a welcome addition to the show and has a good dynamic with the Doctor. Some of the scenes with Vicki and Barbara discussing the differences between the Earth during their time periods proves quite interesting and is something that is hopefully expanded on in the future. ‘The Romans’ carry on the higher standard set by this second season with better production values and more engaging stories.