Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 7.2
With this batch of episodes the Doctor meets one of his most valuable and most interesting companions: Ace!
The Iceworld setting used in this serial is certainly a welcome one. The planets visited by the Doctor during the course of his adventures tend to be big, dramatic locales designed for showdowns. Iceworld is more blue collar, acting as a trade hub where all manner of aliens cross paths. It’s interesting to see how the larger galaxy functions outside of the world changing events that the story focuses on. Ruling over Iceworld is Kane, a man who must keep his body temperature in the low digits in order to survive. His touch can kill, and he keeps his workers marked with a cold burn. He keeps people cytogenetically frozen with their memories wiped for the purpose of building an army.
In a bar on the other side of Iceworld we find the Doctor meeting with his old friend Sabalom Glitz, who is indebted to Kane. Glitz tempts the Doctor with a map that will lead him to a dragon guarding treasure in the ice caverns, a sight the Doctor cannot pass up. Mel, meanwhile, meets Ace – a human girl who has found herself stranded and working at the bar. Before the end of the story the Doctor, Glitz, Mel and Ace wind up in conflict with Kane.
This story would mark the final appearance of Mel in the main canon, and it’s unfortunate that she never seemed to be anything more than a placeholder. Without ever revealing how she came to be on board the TARDIS with the Doctor the character lacked motivation. By the time we got to this point she hasn’t undergone any development and she leaves with nothing but a quick good-bye. When she was introduced it was as a recording from the Doctor’s future and it was expected that we would be filled in on the details before long. For whatever reason it never happened. Filling the spare room on the TARDIS is the newly introduced tomboy and explosives enthusiast Ace, who we’ll be hearing much more about shortly.
It is a minor point, but it is disappointing not getting to see a proper dragon.
Remembrance of the Daleks
This serial kicks of the 25th Season of this epic science fiction series in the expected way – with Daleks. Picking up the ongoing Dalek sub-plot, the civil way between the Daleks loyal to Davros and those under the Dalek Supreme is still underway. Whilst this generally isn’t a problem for the Doctor, leaving them to deal with themselves, it does tend to cause of a lot of trouble for any other planet caught in their path.
After arriving back on Earth in 1963 the Doctor and Ace begin investigating magnetic fluctuations outside of Coal Hill School (workplace of Ian and Barbara) and the junkyard where the TARDIS was hidden in the first episode. Naturally the Daleks are behind the trouble of London becomes the new battlefield in their war amongst themselves. An artefact known as the Omega device rests at the centre of the action with each faction trying to secure it for his or her own means, with the Doctor having hidden it in his earliest incarnation.
Another day, another Dalek adventure. Being set in London does mix things up enough to make this one a bit better than the previous few encounters with the cylindrical menace, and the nods to the Doctor’s past are fun for fans. The brief moments when a TV in the background features the BBC announcer that they’re about to debut a ‘new science fiction’ show is a goofy little Easter Egg that doesn’t distract from the story.
There are some cool moments with the Seventh Doctor disabling a Dalek while nattering away in his trademark manner and the explosive Ace having her first encounter with the Doctor’s greatest enemy. It’s one of the better Dalek episodes of the original series, even if they had grown a bit stale over the years.
The Happiness Patrol
This one is strange. Very, very strange. The Doctor and Ace visit the planet of Terra Alpha and find that the whole planet is enveloped in an almost morbid level of cheerfulness. Elevator music plays everywhere, slot machines hand out cheesy jokes as prizes and a secret police take care of any ‘Killjoys’ that they track down. Everything is the result of the vicious ruler Helen A who is completely obsessed with eliminating unhappiness.
Throughout the course of the story the heroes encounter more than a few strange things. The game show type scenario concocted to choose new member of the ‘Happiness Patrol’ and Helen A’s concept of what constitutes ‘happiness’ is disconcerting to say the least. Strangest of all is the ‘Kandy Man’, a giant, menacing robot who is designed to look as though he is made out of sweets and is defeated by melting him to the spot.
There’s not much to say about this particular serial because it’s so bloody hard to take it seriously. It’s not clear if it’s satire and what it’s supposed to be a satire of. Whatever direction it wound up taking the Kandy Man destroys any chance of it being taken seriously.