Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Review – Volume 3.3
The third Doctor, having seen off the Daemons, continues his adventures on Earth starting with an encounter with the most infamous of all Doctor Who enemies.
Day of the Daleks
While the Doctor continues to try and repair his disabled TARDIS the rest of the world teeters on the verge of World War 3. British diplomat Sir Reginald Styles is preparing to attend a peace summit with the intention of averting the conflict when he sees what he believes to be a ghost – a man in soldier garb who points a gun at him before disappearing. Although Styles dismisses it as his imagination, the Doctor hears the tale and believes something more may be afoot. He travels to Styles’ house with Jo only to find out that different factions from the future are trying to alter the past.
This stands as possibly the best story of the Third Doctor’s adventure thus far. The Doctor and Jo soon uncover the human race in the future have succumbed to an invasion from the Daleks, being unable to fend off the aliens after their own population had been decimated by WWIII. Piecing together what they can from historical records some survivors of the Dalek rule come to the conclusion that Styles sabotaged the peace summit with an explosive device and the only way to change the course of history is to stop him.
With the story taking place in two different periods of history at once this serial has a brisk pace that many of the early stories lack, and with only four episodes it never feels padded. After the Doctor has gotten to the bottom of things he begins to suspect that the rebels who are trying to prevent WW3 using time travel may have inadvertently been the ones to cause it. It’s rare that early serials dealt with causality in a serious way like this, and without the silliness of the previous episodes. The material is extremely well handled and creates an engaging story. Plus: Daleks!
If you’ve picked up the special edition of the serial, make sure you pop in the second disc for a version of the episodes with new effects and sound effects.
The Curse of Peladon
When looking back over the older seasons of Doctor Who modern viewers have to put aside their expectations of what can be achieved with special effects. In the 1970s the technology was limited and more expensive with less experienced film-makers working with it. In order to gain maximum enjoyment of the early years of Doctor Who the modern viewer needs to up their suspension of disbelief. It’s worth the effort, because these are some of the best sci-fi stories on television.
Of course when you get something as downright ridiculous of The Curse of Peladon those noble intentions go right out the window. Nothing wrong with the production values on the whole – the episode on a look isc just as solid as the rest of the series. It’s in some of the aliens that things begin to get unbearable. That damn caterpillar thing called Alpha Centuri is especially annoying. The costume looks like a distended pea stuck onto a curtain and shrills like the Steve Urkell with his nuts in a vice.
Story-wise things are pretty solid. The Doctor and Jo Grant get transported to the planet of Peladon by the Time Lords who want him to deal with a political situation. Peladon is campaigning to become part of a larger system, but different factions within the government have different agendas. To complicate matters there is an ancient legend about a monster lurking in the castle that seems to be on the prowl again (not unlike the Chamber of Secrets). Another spanner is thrown into the works when Jo Grant and the King of Peladon form a strong bond, and Jo is tempted to remain in this world to become queen.
The political intrigue angle is not completely unfamiliar to Doctor Who, but this is one of the instances where the sci-fi elements feel like a token effort, especially as so little effort has been made with the alien design. The story is worth watching for further developing the character of Jo Grant, but it offers little else of interest to modern viewers. Unless you want to laugh at Alpha Centuri.
RANDOM FACT! If the king looks familiar it’s because he’s David Troughton, son of Patrick – The Second Doctor!
The Sea Devils
The story opens with The Doctor and Jo Grant on their way to visit The Master, who has been incarcerated in an island prison after having been captured at the conclusion of the last season finale (The Daemons). The Master is the only prisoner in the high security facility where he is kept in place by CCTV, roaming patrols, guards trained to resist his hypnotic powers and even a minefield. When the Doctor comes face to face with his adversary The Master claims to be completely reformed but will not reveal the location of his TARDIS.
The Doctor also learns from the traditionally minded Colonel Trenchard that many of the ships in the area have been disappearing. The Doctor heads out to investigate only to be taken prisoner on board a Sea Fort by The Sea Devils – an amphibian race of Silurian. We also discover that The Master has been manipulating Trenchard in order to build a machine that will control The Sea Devils.
As a serial The Sea Devils doesn’t cover much in the way of new ground. Apart from the shifted setting we revisit the idea of the Silurians wanting to reclaim their planet and the Doctor sparring with his nemesis The Master. Both stories are decent in their own right, but if you’ve been watching the series up until this point the story will feel routine.
Whenever the Doctor and the Master are pitted against each other it stands out as the best part of any serial, and this is no exception. When the two Time Lords happen across a set of rapiers (in a prison?) and duel it is all kinds of awesome. Almost worth checking out just for that.