Doctor Who Retro Review – Volume 2.2
Almost all to soon we’re wrapping p our coverage of the second Doctor’s adventure. Despite appearing as the good Doctor for the best part of three years only six of his stories currently remain (with a seventh due for DVD release due out later this year). The cosmic jester was a hugely entertaining character to watch and the writers had gotten into the swing of things by this stage with a greater focus on monster-of-the-week narratives and more science fiction over the educational historical episodes. So for one last time let’s journey with the second Doctor.
After their dealings with The Dominators and The Mind Robber the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe find themselves back on board the TARDIS as is materializes near Earth, where they note an unfamiliar craft lurking on the dark side of the moon. They arrive on Earth needing to get some repairs done only to learn that the worlds electronics have come under control of one particular company – and something doesn’t seem right.
This is one of the many serials that have had episodes go missing over the years, but the producers have cleverly commissioned an animation house to fill in the missing episodes using the existing soundtrack as a guide. The two animated episodes of the series take a moment to adjust to but ultimately they fit in really well with the rest of the serial. With the original soundtrack in place the tone and performances fit together nicely. Being a major story from this era there’s extensive budget assigned to this particular episodes, bringing the invasion of Earth by the Cybermen to life the expected amount of scale.
The story concerns the Doctor and Jamie investigating the electronics company and the shady dealings that surround the owner of the company. It is revealed that the head of the organisation is in league with the Cybermen Master Brain and is assisting them in launching an invasion of the planet Earth. When the invasion does come in the second part of the story the Doctor reteams with his colleague from The Web of Fear, military leader Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, to force them back. Overall it’s a story that encapsulates everything that was successful about the series at this time, mixing suspense and action with a strong sci-fi leaning. At times it feels a little padded, with major events being delayed even though the viewer has long deduced what will happen. For fans of the Second Doctor there is plenty here to enjoy.
The Seeds of Death
Once again the absence of episodes leaves a gap in our knowledge. In The Invasion we had The Brig drop in and now The Doctor faces a group of Martins previously encountered in The Ice Warriors. What is made clear is that the Ice Warriors are from Mars and due to their planet becoming uninhabitable and have set their sights on Earth as their new home. It takes a couple of episodes for the serial to get to their master plan, the first couple of episodes plays things out like a horror film, and quite effectively at that.
The Doctor and his companions arrive at Earth at some point in the near future when humankind has perfected teleportation technology. Using a transmitter station located on the moon the population jump instantly to any location. When Earth loses contact with the Moon station everything on the planet comes to a standstill and the scientists race to find the reason why. Meanwhile, on the Moon base, we only see the invaders from their point of view, building up a great sense of suspense. When the humans of the base are being manipulated into assisting the aliens, and debating whether or not they can give up their own lives for the safety of the people on Earth, it gets pretty involving.
As the story continues to unroll the tone changes from horror back to sci-fi. The Ice Warriors begin their attack on Earth by spreading spores through the atmosphere to destroy the humans and simultaneously make it habitable for them. It remains interesting as The Doctor races against time to reach the Moon base and find a way to subvert the Martin’s plans, but the strongest moments are those between the unseen enemies and humans trapped in a terrible predicament.
The War Games
With this story we reach the end of the Cosmic Hobo’s run as the Doctor. In addition to this being the Second Doctor’s era it’s the 100th episode and they fully intend to make it appropriately epic. Across a ten episode narrative there’s much wider scope than usual. The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe land smack into the middle of the War World where they are captured and accursed of being spies. Something’s not quite as it seems, as the general seems capable of controlling those around him using his…um…glasses. Things get more confusing when they come under attack from soldiers from different periods in Earth’s history.
Although it takes an episode or two to get there, the basic introduction reveals that a race of aliens have a nefarious plot (because of course they do) that involves abducting armies from different points in history and pitting them against each other in what’s referred to has ‘The War Games’, which is exactly what it sounds like. Members of the alien race control matters by manipulating the humans memories and controlling them using technology located in their glasses. With the numbers against them the Doctor and his companions initiate a rebellion through restoring the humans memories and leading them in an all out attack of their abductors.
Whilst this is an epic action filled is plenty awesome on its own, there’s a second thread that’s even more interesting. The War Games are made possible by technology provided to them by a Timelord known was the War Chief. For the first time since The Time Meddler we see the Doctor come into direct conflict with another member of his race, and we also learn why he’s been reluctant to have anything to do with the other Timelords up until now. When forced to contact them it’s revealed that he’s a fugitive and now has to face his crimes. This insight into the Doctor’s past and his home planet is a great revelation that plays a big part in shaping the character that is better known to viewers of the modern era. We won’t go into details here, but by the end of the story we’re embarking on a new chapter in the Doctor’s history – so stay tuned for the next entry in the Retro Doctor Who reviews!