The 4th Doctor – Season 17, Episode 1 – “Destiny of the Daleks” – The Limits of Logic

     “Destiny of the Daleks” is the second appearance of the Dalek’s during the 4th Doctor’s run. The first was one of my favorite episodes, “Genesis of the Daleks” that explores their origin and introduces Davros for the first time. “Destiny of the Daleks” is okay. I’ll explore why deeper into the review, but to summarize this is a story that has villains that have poor design, are never really explored and we never get to know the heroes and those assisting them. There were multiple chances to explore characters and civilizations and this episode only stuck to telling the story without going any deeper.

The episode was directed by Ken Grieve and written by Terry Nation (who as written a ton of “Doctor Who” episodes).

The story involves the Doctor and Romana materializing on a mysterious planet. From things unfold as they find themselves separated from the TARDIS. The Doctor realizes they are on Skaro as the Dalek’s are searching for Davros to help them in their stalemate with the Movellans.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Daleks – The Daleks are great. They are certainly limited by technology of when it was filmed (they can’t fly making an easy escape for our heroes at one point when they go up a ledge), but they are enjoyable in how ham the exist as a species. The design of the Daleks is distinct and their irrational hatred for anything not a Dalek (apparently with the exception of Davros) makes them hilarious in their own ways. This episode is a great example of how stupid the Dalek philosophy is. They care so much about winning and extermination they can’t even catch when a rebellion is occurring and when they are being outsmarted. On top of this they can’t go up stairs or ledges (which the Doctor uses to escape at one point) and they can only see out of their eye socket, which sticks out from the shell. The Doctor easily defeats one by putting his hat on the eye stalk leading to the Dalek panicking and being easily defeated. Surprisingly enough they do manage to be threatening early on and they are such a fun species that they were definitely a pro in this story.

Romana – This episodes doesn’t explore Romana as a character but she is always active during the episode. Most of the time she is helping the Doctor or helping to revert a genocide of some kind (The Movellans or Daleks) and it was obvious why she traveled with the Doctor. She is a character who sees the value of life and relationships and protects those around her. Her siblingesque relationship with the Doctor is great too. He is clearly the older brother as he’s been around longer but she listens and as a team they figure everything out. They are both Time Lords and there is a lot of history to get to this relationship but it is great to see in this episode.

Davros – Davros is the genocidal creator of the Daleks who the Daleks both hate and need, depending on where they are in time and space. Here their whole goal is to bring him back so they can find the Movellans. Davos is an arrogant sociopath who works because he is the mad scientist trope. Here we see that on full display as he knows his creations will rescue him no matter what the Doctor and Romana do. He is eventually defeated when they don’t see how the conflict with the Movellans could lead to a human rebellion and because of it Skaro is returned back to the status quo of inactive. Why I enjoy his character and what makes him work in this is both the Doctor and Davros are arrogant mad geniuses, but Davros is the one who has no empathy and the Doctor calls him out quite a few times in their time together. Knowing that it was this Doctor who first met Davros enriches it even more as here is where they now continue their relationship as enemies post “Genesis of the Daleks” in regards to the television stories.

The Doctor – Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor is once again shown to be one of my favorites again in this one. In this he is largely outsmarting and neutralizing foes, but he still gets a lot of good banter in with Davros, and given their history together I love how the Doctor finds humor in how unchanged the monster Davros is. It is part of what makes this episode fun. The Doctor and Davros are both intelligent, but the Doctor can think chaotically where Davros can’t and that is how the Doctor defeats both the Daleks and the Movellans as they are both logic based species trapped and consumed by it. He does the unpredictable and because of it, humanity, Romana and the Doctor win.

Okay:

The Story – The story is pretty basic. You have two logic based species trapped in a stalemate trying to use those who are more intelligent to end the stalemate. The Movellans want to use the Doctor and destroy the planet and the Daleks want to use Davros to end the stalemate. This isn’t used in any intriguing ways. We don’t really get to know any character more and the factions aren’t even explored that deeply. It isn’t awful but there is so much potential in an enemy who can fight the Daleks to a stalemate.

The Cons:

The Movellans – As said above, this episode doesn’t explore the Movellans at all. We learn they are androids but that is it. Who created them? When did they start fighting the Daleks? What are their aims beyond the Daleks? None of these questions are answered and on top of it the costumes suck. They are wearing white costumes with white bead wigs. This is an episode that basic effort was put into and it shows. There was no this was going to make great as even great actors like Tom Baker can only work with what they are given. The Movellans are such an underwritten and poorly designed species that nothing about them works. The Daleks deserved better foes. They have history behind them as to why the Doctor fears them. By the end of the episode we have no reason to truly fear the Movellans.

I would only recommend this episode to the die hard 4th Doctor Tom Baker fans. This is an average fun episode of “Classic Who” but nothing elevates it to more than that. The Movellans are just awful villains and even the Doctor and Romana aren’t given a chance to be expanded more as characters. Nothing that happens in this episode changes them and the characters that surround them, outside of the Daleks, remain unexplored. This was the return of the Davros and the Daleks and in opposition to the the Doctor they really deserved a better story and a better foe to put them in a stalemate.

Final Score:  7 / 10. In the end on okay episode that could have been so much more.

 

 

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The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Episode 5 – “Revenge of the Cybermen” – Vogans and the Cybermen

       It has been a while since I’ve reviewed an episode of “Doctor Who.” I have two bigger “Doctor Who” posts coming up with a reflection on the Capaldi Era and my thoughts of Series 11, with Jodie Whitaker as the 13th Doctor. I hope to review her episodes individually at some point too once I get back into the swing of things with my “Doctor Who” reviews. Tom Baker as the 4th Doctor is one of my 4 favorite Doctors. The others being Capaldi’s 12, Tennant’s 10 and Pertwee’s 3. Each of them captures the alien nature of the Time Lord while still having that genuine love of adventure, fun and humanity. They are the balance and this episode is a good example of that for the 4th Doctor.

The story was written by Gerry Davis and Robert Holmes and directed by Michael E. Briant.

The story follows the Doctor as he and his companions Sarah Jane Smith and Michael Sullivan find themselves on Space Station Nerva, separated from the TARDIS, which will eventually catch up to them in time. They find the station full of dead bodies and under quarantine from a myseterious plague. From here they unfold the mystery as factions on and off the station seek to commit genocide upon their enemies.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Plague Mystery – The plague mystery is great as it automatically creates stakes in the episode. Our introduction to their arrival on the Nerva Station is the Doctor and his companions finding the dead and this adds to the feeling of uneasiness that pervades the episode. You can understand why the humans are distrustful of the Doctor and his companions and as the mystery of the plague being Cybermen killing people is revealed as they wish to take control of the Station in order to take on their enemies, the Vogans who live on a planet of gold, a mineral that is one of their greatest weaknesses.

The Vogans – The Vogans are an interesting people. You can see that they’ve cut themselves off from the wider galaxy and because of it you have people who are willing to go to any ends to protect that secrecy. This isolation and radicalization is the arc that they deal with as the Cybermen’s arrival on their planet and near extermination is only stopped by outsiders (the humans on the Station and the Doctor and his companions) and as their arc ends we see them open to changing from the people they were before. I like their design as they look like regal Dwarves as most are bearded and they have strong ridges on their foreheads. This fit their look as an underground people living in secret and they didn’t feel like the make-up department was barely trying. Effort was put into creating this race and I like what we learned about them in the process.

The Cybermen – This is the first time the Cybermen were back as main villains since “The Invasion” where the 2nd Doctor faced them in 1968. Knowing that history and how iconic they’ve become as one of the Doctor’s main villain their reappearance alone was really cool. In this they don’t upgrade others, just exterminate them. We see this as it is them who are killing the people on the Station with their Cybermats (a metallic snake like creature that bites people, killing them). Their whole deal is self defense in their minds as getting rid of the Vogans and their planet of gold will make them the prominent force in the region.  They are winning through most of the episode and their invasion of Vogan goes as plan until the Doctor and the human survivors begin using the gold against the Cybermen as well as the Doctor destroying the Cyber-Leader on the Station and keeping it from slamming into Voga.

Sarah Jane Smith -Sarah Jane Smith is one of my favorite classic companions. Here she gets captured a few times but she always manages to get free (usually always on her own) and is easily one of the Doctor’s most proactive companions who isn’t a Time Lord. In this we get glimpses of just how much the Doctor and Sarah care about one another too as at one point they are trapped together and not only have to free themselves but stop the Cybermen and the Vogan rocket that is going for the Station. Besides the Doctor and the human survivors from the Station who work with the Doctor she is the closest thing this episode has to a main protagonist.

The Doctor – Tom Baker once again shows why he is one of my favorite Doctors. Here we see him figure out that the plague is Cybermen at play and with the help of Sarah Jane Smith, saves the Vogans and stops the Cybermen. He is his usual aloof self taking control of situations and his times of vulnerability really show too. When he is captured he can think his way out but he still depends on others. In this we see his humanity and that he isn’t some super hero always one step ahead. I love Tom Baker and this is a good episode to showcase why he is so memorable as the Doctor, especially since he is facing such a classic foe in the Cybermen.

Okay:

Harry Sullivan – The reason I’m putting him as okay is nothing he did really stood out this episode. I know he helped the Doctor and humans but I’d have a hard time describing any one thing he did. Sarah Jane Smith was the one who was far active this episode. Harry is also a companion I’m pretty nuetral towards. I never hated him as a companion but I was never really that much of a fan either. This episode is a good example of why. He’ll always do the right thing but he rarely questions the things around him and most of what I remember him doing in other episodes is being the muscle. I could also be selling him short but he didn’t stand out to me at all this episode and wasn’t needed in the story.

The Humans on the Station – There is the evil human who tries to kill the Doctor, who is also a professor working for a faction of Vogans who want to lure the Cybermen to the station to destroy them with the rocket and is doing it all for gold. He does change sides but only due to survival. There is the commander who stays good the entire time and is the one who redirects the Vogan missile to destroy the Cyber-Ship rather than the Station and there is one other survivor killed earlier on by the professor. The two of them are not bad characters but they don’t really grow fully beyond the stock characters they are written as.

The Ending – The ending is alright. The Doctor and Sarah save the day and stop the Station from crashing into Voga. The Voga elder stops the militant Voga from destroying the Station with the missle and the human survivors and Voga have now made contact before the Doctor and his companions make their exit on the TARDIS which has finally caught up to them in time (last episode they traveled using a Time Ring so the TARDIS had to catch up to where they had traveled to, which in this case is Space Station Nerva).

This is an episode I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Classic “Doctor Who” and those who can look past budget and love a good story. There are flaws, the Vogans should have been using gold to fight the Cybermen and them overlooking this is never explained, I guess they didn’t know Cybermen were vulnerable to gold? I loved watching classic Cybermen in action and the Doctor and his companions solving the mystery of what was going on gave the story a nice hook before we got into the action of the war between the Vogans and Cybermen that the humans were caught in the middle of.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10. Nearly great. Harry Sullivan needed more to do and I would have liked the humans on the Station to be explored better in their motivations.

12 Days of Doctors – The 4th Doctor – Season 12, Episode 1 – “The Robot” – An Attempt to Explore the Formation of Morality Through a Robot

Robot_(Doctor_Who)

We continue the 12 Days of Doctors, the count up to 12th’s first adventure with “Robot.” “Robot,” is the first adventure of and our introduction to the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker. The writer for this story was Terrance Dicks and director was Christopher Barry. How did Tom Baker do taking Jon Pertwee’s place in his first adventure? We’ll explore that in the assessment.

The story begins with the Doctor  regenerating into his Fourth Incarnation in front of The Brig and Sarah Jane Smith. They immediately get him to the doctors and Brig puts Harry Sullivan on the Doctor to watch him. Before this we see a robot infiltrate a military base and steal something. We find out from The Brigadier that Nuclear Plans for all the major powers were stolen. From here a plan is devised with Harry going undercover in “The Think Tank,” as Sarah does the same as a reporter. From here they learn of the “Think Tank’s” plan to use the Robot to destroy the Earth so that they may survive and create the race of those worthy of leading…what they didn’t count on besides the Doctor and his companions were the Robot and the Robot’s inventor Kettlewell. From here the story unfolds between the different factions and the Robot’s inner turmoil.

Robot 4

Here is the assessment of the episode:

The Pros: The Fourth Doctor / The 4th Doctor – Tom Baker is fantastic as the Doctor. He adapts to every situation, plays the fool, but also has a lot of fun along the way. He also has a pretty big ego since he only stays because Sarah and the Brig say they need him. He has great chemistry with all of them, and definitely some hangups over being trapped with UNIT for so long. This is contrasted with Sarah who is trusting and is a rule breaker like him versus Harry and the Brig who are military men of UNIT who are well intentioned but more traditional in their approaches. One of the best lines at the end is the Doctor’s recognition of the Robot’s humanity and all life’s capacity for good and evil and offering Sarah Jane Smith a jelly baby before their next adventure with Harry. He of course has one of the best get-ups too with his distinctive multi-colored scarf, long coat and hat.

The Companions – Harry and Sarah are both active in this story, in Harry’s case trying to figure out what “The Think Tank” wants, and in Sarah’s case, trying to convince the Robot not to destroy and that humanity is worth being saved. They both do their roles well and both need to be rescued by the Doctor and UNIT, establishing the threat of antagonists in the process. Also, Sarah Jane Smith is one of my all time favorite companions.

The Brigadier – The Brig is once again fantastic, though his cons are much more apparent as his distrust of people who are different than him (which the Doctor brilliantly mocks…I’m guessing he does learn based off past episodes) and manages to use UNIT to hold off the Robot.

k1 the Robot – K1 is the robot created by Kettlewell and is for all intents and purposes the child learning how to be good. It has built into it’s program to protect humanity and not to kill humans, but “The Think Tank” keeps having it go against it. This could have been handled much better, but that has more to do with “The Think Tank,” than the Robot, who actually has a pretty cool design and an interesting character arc where the hypocrisy and lying eventually makes it go mad. I wish we could have got more time of it exploring itself since I don’t remember it having any deep conversations with the Doctor, all those conversations happened with Sarah Jane Smith.

Cons: “The Think Tank” – This organization was so contrived, did they want to make them scientists, businessmen or Nazis? Did they want money or just to destroy the world? Why did they think the way they did about their own superiority? Gah, I hated these guys. Every time they were in they were an evil organization cliche and it wasn’t hammed up enough to be interesting. I didn’t care about any of them, even Kettlewell’s coming out as their leader and later changing his mind felt unbelievable. It felt driven by the plot and not the characters…which really brought down the episode in a major way. One of the more forgettable villains in Doctor Who for sure.

So how does the episode hold up? The companions are great, Tom Baker is great as the 4th Doctor, Harry is good and Sarah is fantastic…and the Robot is even good too. But the writing and “The Think Tank,” are just bad. I mean really really bad. The premise had so much promise but than the things that should be explored more (The Robot’s formation of morality) are left to the side for boring mustache twirling villainy from an uninteresting organization of baddies. This really brings the episode down. Because of this, I would hesitantly recommend this episode…there is a lot of good, but the bad is really bad.

My final score for this episode is 7.4 / 10

The Fourth Doctor