Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Tenth Planet


  1. So here I am. The end of an era. And it finishes with a story that is seminal in many ways.

    First, of course, there is the introduction of the second most iconic monster in series history (and the one that scared me most as a child incidentally), the Cybermen. Their appearance here is miles away from the sleek metal clad icons of today and much has been made of their antiquated look here, complete with cycle lamp on head. However I think the bandaged look really works especially when the origins of the cybermen are revealed. "We were like you". !!! It puts a terrible image in my mind of whats under those bandages. I've always found that concept of us but surgically changed with what's seen as weakness removed to be particularly horrific. They come from Earths' lost twin planet Mondas which has returned to the Solar System and is somehow draining energy from Earth. I say somehow as I have absolutely no idea how or why it is happening and that is the huge weakness of this story. The Cybermen themselves seem equally unable to fathom it as they can't stop their planet absorbing too much and exploding!!!!!!!

    This story also uses for the first time a plot that has an isolated community cut off from help and under attack, a plot used with variations on occasion through the history of Doctor Who very effectively right up to the present day (eg The Seeds of Death, Ark in Space and many others thru to Impossible Planet and Waters of Mars). The acting of the guest cast is variable but adequate on the whole though I do find the normally reliable Roberty Beatty a bit one note and not really conveying the emotion about his sons position other than sounding slightly more angry than he did before. It's ok but I would like it to be abit more rounded as that would make me feel the tragedy of his situation more and lift the whole story.

    Hartnell, Craze and Wills are all on fine form and I wonder if the Doctors collapse in Episode 3 is to allow Ben and Polly to take over and get some audience identification to take with them and smooth the transition after the big big change that comes at the climax.

    This is of course is the first regeneration in series history and the first thing to say about it is technically it's absolutely brilliant. It is also rather moving after spending so long in the company of The First Doctor to see him go. One can only imagine what effect this had on the audience of the time, when nowadays we are so used to this concept that a regeneration is exciting. It was an incredible risk to take by the production team and can I publicly thank them as the programme I love would not have survived without their brilliance and of course the joys of the next Doctor. Thank you all involved.

    Anyway. overall this story is important in many ways, enjoyable but doesn't make great sense to me and I'll give it 7/10. And now onto the all new next chapter of our mission.

  2. The Tardis obviously homes in on life-bearing areas, despite the Doctor's inability to control where it lands. It has all of Antarctica to choose from, and arrives at the one big base!

    Which, incidentally, is filled with citizens of the UK, US, and Australia, white and black alike. A truly multinational future, in 1966. Bloody marvellous.

    I'm glad to see that the tradition of terrible accents in Doctor Who continues with this stories. By which I mean I'm not. Ahem.

    The credits are completely different in this story - dear old Innes experimenting again!

    And the Cybermen arrive. Weirdly, I find that I quite like the sing-song voices. And aren't they tall?

    Ben continues to impress, as after he shoots a Cyberman with his own weapon, he says "You didn't give me no alternative!" Lovely. Cutler compliments him on the action, but Ben proclaims that he had no choice. Strong points of view make strong characters.

    And the episode two cliffhanger: "Hundreds of spaceships! In formation!" Raising the stakes.

    William Hartnell suddenly disappears during episode three, with Ben delivering exposition such as "The Doctor said..." Smells of a sudden illness-based rewrite.

    Polly, it seems, is once again getting the drinks in. "I could make some coffee." Her PA training coming to the fore again, I see.

    Actually, I have a theory as to Polly's coffee-making proclivities. She was still slightly under the influence of WOTAN's hypnotic control when Ben jokingly said "Polly put the kettle on" in The Smugglers and she's all "Yes. I understand," and for the rest of her life she's going to be making hot drinks at any opportunity.

    And then...


  3. I'm a sucker for an arctic setting and this looks fabulous. Like The War Machines this feels, with the benefit of hindsight, like a glimpse at the future of the show. We've had Modern-Day-Alien-Invasion, now here's Base-Under-Siege. Wonder if we'll see this again.

    The concept of the Cybermen is terrific. They are a perfect blend of the ghoulish and the futurist. New Scientist meets Mary Shelley. The cloth covered faces underline their similarity to us while suggesting disfigurement. I've known people mock their clearly fleshy hands but to me it's just another illustration of how they are like us and yet not. It's body horror, pure and simple.

    And then there's the voices. Totally inhuman and without emotion. Chilling.

    It's a shame that the Doctor fades out of this story. As good as it is it doesn't do justice to the old gent as a swansong. Having said that, Polly and Ben have a chance to show their mettle. These are great companions and I'm really enjoying them so far.

    The science doesn't seem to hold up to much scrutiny and the plot isn't too strong either but I find I don't care all that much. Between the Cybermen, the arctic setting and the regeneration The Tenth Planet wins me over with it's style and ingenuity.

    And the regeneration. So exciting. So innovative. So impossible to imagine how viewers felt at the time. I'm very sad to see the First Doctor go but there has been a definite improvement in the quality of the show since Innes Lloyd took over and the future seems very exciting indeed.

    Better than: The Ark
    Not as good as: The War Machines

    So that's it for series three. A marked improvement on the second run. With a new Doctor, relatively new companions and producer and a few new writers on the books it feels as if the show is building momentum again. Exciting!