Friday, 14 August 2009

The Chase - August 2009


  1. The Daleks return!! But I'm afraid for me it is very much a damp squib.

    There are many reasons for this and, as this is a Dalek story I feel I should go into detail even though I hate to dwell on any negatives of the show I love.

    First, the Daleks themselves are a let down. Far removed from the evil, ruthless and conquest hungry creatures of Invasion of Earth, here we have them coughing, spluttering, struggling for answers to questions and generally being a bit rubbish. It's as if the production team and writer had grown bored with them so wanted to give them individual characteristics but in so doing they lost that essential genetic singularity that made them the ultimate scary fascists and thus these are probably the least menacing Daleks we will see.

    Next, the Tardis crew. They seem to change their characters for plot expediency at the drop of a hat. This is particularly noticeable in Episode 4 in the haunted house. Barbara and Ian have fought so many genuinely evil creatures in the past two years but are now both turned into gibbering wrecks by the sound of a few bats in the upper storeys of the house. WRONG!!! Vicki, too, has just bravely and intelligently hitched a ride on the Dalek time ship but is shivering at the very sight of a cobweb ridden ancient building. I just don't buy any of it.

    In this, the serial shares many similar faults with the earlier Terry Nation story Keys of Marinus and again it has the same multiple locations but at least her the simple "we're being chased by Daleks" scenario makes sense. Though they meet so many simpletons in Earths history during the chase you wonder how we survived this long.

    The episodes on Aridius and the Mechanus that top and tail the story aren't terrible but still are below average for me. And there are moments all the way through that are terribly done, such as the wall on Aridius through which the mire beast bursts. And the moment we are with the Doctor and Ian upstairs in the haunted house but can clearly hear Vicki saying a line from the next scene downstairs! Worst of all, the robot Doctor thatlooks more like me than him!!! Pulled out of the story or what!!! Have to say, over ambitious.

    There are parts that don't make any sense. For instance, if you're designing a haunted house tourist attraction why would you build a Frankenstein monster that attacks people? Maybe it's Piers rather lazy friends who built some of those Tardis design features from earlier reviews and they were in a particular hurry. Got to say, for me, episode 4 is a low point.

    Plusses? Not many for me. The Doctors grumpiness at Ian and Barbara wanting to take the chance to get home is nice, as is Vicki talking to him, saying it's their choice. Steven is quite a good bloke, if a little too much the upright hero. Peter Purves does a nice job on his first meeting, asking the travellers to say his name again.

    So overall from me a very poor 2/10 and the worst Dalek story I have seen.

  2. Fuck me! It's the Beatles!

    And Vicki successfully predicts their post-drug-experimentation influence on music in time to come with the prophetic words "I didn't know they played classical music."

    Vicki's response to Ian's line that "At least it's not a pool of acid" with "That makes a big change" provides further support to the theory that, as seen in The Web Planet and The Keys of Marinus, the oceans, rivers, and pools of most planets in the universe are filled with deadly acid rather than plain old H2O.

    Now we're back to the Daleks again, claiming that "The Doctor and the three humans delayed our conquest of Earth." A lovely line, as it suggests that the Daleks then went back and took the time to do it properly! And then a lovely cliffhanger as the Dalek rises from the sand...

    ...though in the next episode it becomes clear that it's taking some effort to do so, as it's making grunting noises as it rises.

    Something that I love about these early Dalek stories is that it's not just a gun-and-plunger. The Daleks have different attachments for their arms - a perceptor for tracking in this instance. Just this little touch makes them feel more real.

    In episode three, a couple of things stick out. The first glimpse of the Tardis in flight, for one. And the Doctor's claim that the time path detector has been in the ship "ever since I constructed it." So he built the Tardis then? Ooooh.

    Episodes three and four are both fillertastic. The Marie Celeste seems like an expensive set for only about ten minutes of screentime (unless they managed to recycle it from somewhere). It's notable only for showing that Daleks could always fly, we just never had the budget to show it. One of them is pictured hanging about at the top of a staircase while another says "You search up there." Quod Erat Demonstrandum, as the ancient Romans used to say.

    And then there's the infamous Doctor Who Robot Double. "It is indistinguishable from the original" claims a Dalek. Well, unless you actually look at it, of course. Proof that as far as the Daleks are concerned, we all look alike to them.

    If you were to cut out the middle two episodes, which really are just serving to fill time until we can get back to the story, we'd have a nice little number here.

    But they do drag it down so.

  3. Hello. It's ambiguous that line "since I constructed it". Does it refer to the Time Path Detector or The Tardis. Discuss....

  4. Yeah, I did consider the alternative reading.

    But come on, it's patently bollocks, isn't it.

  5. What is it about Terry Nation and quest stories? And Terry Nation and “Living Jungles”? And Terry Nation and Daleks? Oh no, scratch that last one.

    The Chase is pretty bad. As John says the bizarre Haunted House episode is probably the lowest point of the story (the lowest point of that episode is certainly the guest appearance of BBC Camera Five behind a bunch of Daleks). It’s a story featuring a lot of boom shots, stage hands appendages and Billy-fluff’s, a clear sign of trouble at mill. It also showcases the worst Dalek performances we’ve yet seen.

    I think it’s interesting that at a time when Terry Nation was seemingly trying to launch his Galactic Pepperpots in the US of A he chooses to turn in such a woefully derivative and tedious script, you would imagine he would want to write a corker to showcase their potential. Some of the production team’s amendments to his original script suggest that Nation had little interest in or knowledge of the format but how can this be the case when two of his serials, The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth stand almost as bench marks of quality in the series so far. This is however the same writer as phoned in The Keys of Marinus *involuntary shudder*. Actually, The Chase is a bit like Marinus, only worse. It’s been suggested that Nation was “seeing what he could get away with” with this story and unfortunately sitting through it suggests this may be true, and also that he got away with a great deal.

    I want to like the idea of a crack force of Daleks chasing the Tardis through time and space - it sounds brilliant. Sadly though the Daleks are not on form. They fluff their lines, they all talk at once, they get stuck on ramps, some of them are cardboard standees, some of them are the wrong size (borrowed from the Amicus Dalek films) but worse of all they are just not threatening.

    We start off with a lengthy sequence of the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki doofussing about on the Tardis until the Doctor gets his Time Space visualiser working and they get to see bits of history on telly. I quite like this scene but it isn’t a very arresting beginning for a story. It’s just filler really, although much more watchable filler than we’ll see later in this sorry tale.

    When the story does get going (so to speak) we have a dull story about the Tardis team getting separated on a desert planet and meeting generic alien folk. The Aridians are so lifeless and wet that the Daleks can’t turn up to exterminate them quick enough for my liking.

    Then we have two episodes of actual chasing during which we visit the Empire State Building, the Mary Celeste and a fantasy world that exists only in your mind, or possibly Ghana. The New York segment is quite fun (mostly thanks to Peter Purves), the Mary Celeste bit starts well but is killed by repeated tracking shots ending up on the ship’s sign sign, and the Haunted House... Christ that’s bad. In fact it’s insulting. Hartnell and Russell have a good laugh with the material but I can’t help feeling like the show is taking the piss out of it’s audience with that nonsense, although I know that can’t be the case.

    The final two episodes, where the Doctor and chums decide to stand and face their pursuers, would be pretty good if not for the bizarre realisation of the robot Doctor, already discussed at some length here. He seems to bear more of a resemblance to Frank Gallagher than William Hartnell. I want to believe that the Daleks, when describing their robot as identical to the original, just think we all look alike. It would be much more entertaining if the first time Barbara saw the robot she said, “Who are you supposed to be?!” Ah well.

    Once the robot has been dispatched things finally pick up. That’s four and three quarter episodes into this six part story and anyone who makes it this far should get some kind of award.

  6. The Mechanoid city, the “living jungle” (aren’t all jungles “living”?) and the big battle are all well realised. Steven Taylor is as mad as trousers and great fun. The Mechanoids are a nice design, although in practice I think they're a bit dull (and is it cynical of me to think there was more thought being put into the marketing potential than the story?).

    Ian and Barbara's departure is nicely handled and we share the doctor’s sadness at the departure of his two friends. We also share Ian and Barbara’s giddy excitement at being home again. I’ve often thought my favourite Tardis team might be the First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan (although having watched the last two series in order I think I would probably swap Susan for Vicki now) and to see that team break up is sad indeed, and yet exciting. After the last few stories it does feel like a shakeup will be good for the show. I wonder where the Doctor and Vicki will find themselves next.

    Better than: Nothing.
    Not as Good as - The Keys of Marinus OR The Space Museum.

  7. Just reading old reviews again and I've just fallen in love with a phrase - "mad as trousers" is just divine