Saturday, 23 June 2018

FIXING CONTINUITY GLITCHES - QUICK FIXES 6: WEEPING ANGELS STUFF

Since we just finished up with a Probable History of Weeping Angels (http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2018/06/chronologies-and-timelines-brief.html), I figured we should stay in this thematic vein and look at a few problems that have occurred in the stories I just arranged in chronological order. Let's see if we can sort a few things out: 


HOW DOES AMY GET PAST THE ANGELS IN FLESH AND STONE IF HER EYES ARE CLOSED?    

As we reach the latter part of Flesh and Stone, Amy finds herself in a serious predicament. The energy of the Crack in Time that was found aboard the Byzantium is expanding. She must run from it or it will engulf her and she'll be erased from time. Unfortunately, because of something the Angels did to her, she cannot open her eyes. The Doctor manages to jury-rig a homing device for her and she stumbles through the Byzantium's Infrastructure Forest trying to get back to the Doctor and River. 

It's a moment of great tension that then goes a bit weird. To heighten the suspense, Amy runs into a group of Weeping Angels. They think that she's looking at her even though her eyes are closed and they become quantum locked. She must get past them without letting them know her eyes are closed. 

Since when do Angels work this way? Shouldn't they be able to tell that Amy's eyes are closed? 

"They're scared." is the cryptic explanation that the Doctor offers. Really?! That's all you can tell us?! There's got to be more to it than that.

And I'm going to try to come up with something: 

Weeping Angels, more than likely, have a very different perception threshold than we do. They probably still see on a regular visual spectrum but they can also see time energy in some way. After all, they do feast on it so they would need a way to detect it. More than likely, they sense it telepathically. But it might also register visually for them, too. 

So, with all kinds of extra time energy surging out of the Crack, it's confusing their senses. They can't actually see properly. Panic and fear are dominating their instincts as they try to make their way to safety. So the Doctor claiming they're scared is accurate.

Partially blind, they still sense Amy in their midst as they come upon her. They can't truly tell if she's looking at them because they can't see well so they make a hasty assumption. They just decide she's staring at them and go into quantum lock mode. As Amy starts behaving in a way that seems to insinuate that she isn't looking at them, they start to disengage their protective stance. Again, they still can't see all that well because the Crack in Time is messing with their senses. So they don't disengage from stone mode completely. They're hesitant. 

Hesitant enough that River can get the teleporter working and pull Amy out in the nick of time.




HOW CAN THE STATUE OF LIBERTY TRAIPSE THROUGH MANHATTAN WITHOUT BEING SEEN? 

This is one that even Moff doesn't bother to offer an answer for. In The Angels Take Manhattan, we discover that the Statue of Liberty, herself, is a Weeping Angel of sorts. She visits Winter Quay on a fairly regular basis to help trap newcomers in vicious time loops to build up potential energy in their battery farm.

The Big Question, of course, is: how does a statue of that size travel from Liberty Island to Winter Quay without being seen? Surely, someone would notice Lady Liberty moving along through the streets of Manhattan. Something that big can't be missed! And if someone is seeing the Statue of Liberty then she should become quantum locked. She should never get anywhere near to her destination because people would be noticing her all the time and keeping her locked.

The answer, I think, lies in the ability certain Angels have with building up power. I think one of the principal reasons we see the one Weeping Angel displaying hitherto unseen abilities (coming through the video screen to attack Amy, causing Amy to turn into an Angel by making eye contact) in The Time of Angels is because she built up a lot of energy to accomplish the feats that she did. She's only able to snap necks for a bit afterwards cause she used up so much power to accomplish those tricks.

So the more energy an Angel stores up, the more abilities she can develop. I'm guessing a huge Angel like the Statue of Liberty has saved up all kinds of power. This is probably why she has grown to such enormous size. Which means, of course, that she has extra skills that regular Angels don't have.

One of those skills might be a temporary cloaking ability of some sort. I'm more inclined to believe that she can exhibit huge bursts of speed (even regular Angels move quite fast) for limited periods of time that can enable her to move past people without being noticed. We still hear the occasional loud footstep but we don't actually perceive her. Only when she wants to legitimately attack someone does she need to slow down and/or de-cloak. At that point, the regular rules apply. If someone sees her, she quantum locks. But when she's not in attack mode, Lady Liberty can move unseen for short periods of time.

Even when she's actually on Liberty Island, she needs only a nano-second of not being noticed to slip into stealth mode and head out to Winter Quay. Once at the Battery Farm, she stops and can be seen by anyone looking in her direction. Again, if she can just get a split second of being unnoticed, she can return to Liberty Island.

It would have been nice if we had gotten such an explanation right in the episode. But, alas, sometimes we fans must just work this out for ourselves. 



WHY CAN'T THE DOCTOR JUST GO MEET AMY AND RORY IN OMAHA? 

Many fans felt the tragic ending of Angels Take Manhattan wasn't really so tragic. They were sure that they had found a simple solution for the Doctor to be able to see Amy and Rory again. He just needed to arrange to meet them at some place outside of New York. Then all the time distortion and suchlike that was making Manhattan so impenetrable during the 1930s wouldn't be in the way, anymore. 

I suggest that this problem isn't something geographical. But, more specifically, temporal. Rory and Amy created a huge paradox within the temporal mess the Angels had made of Manhattan Island in the 30s. They had only just managed to escape it by returning to the TARDIS in 2012. If they got sent back to that period then the paradox they had made during their last visit would cause a sort of time field around them that would make it impossible for the TARDIS to penetrate. Or even someone as time sensitive as the Doctor to approach. He would just be repelled by the time field. Or might become deathly ill from it. Or something like that.

So, no matter where Amy and Rory go, this time field follows them and makes them unapproachable for time travelers. It's almost like a time lock of some sort that stays with them til the end of their lives. That's why the Doctor can never see them again.



Hope my explanations are satisfactory. I know some of the mis-steps Angels Take Manhattan made irritate fans to this day. Maybe this will help make sense of things....



A few other Quick Fixes: 

Five: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2017/10/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes-5.html

Four: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2017/05/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes.html

Two: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2016/02/fixing-continuity-glitches-quick-fixes-2.html

I did specify "a few" so I won't bother listing all of them. If you want to read them all, they're out there. Have a look around....


  







Saturday, 16 June 2018

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WEEPING ANGELS

It is with heavy heart that I must announce that the CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES-style posts won't be around for much longer. I've covered the timelines of almost all the great recurring baddies. Unless the show creates an ongoing monster/villain/wife for the Doctor that she meets several times in a non-chronological order, we don't have much left to look at. 

We do still have the Weeping Angels, though. I'm actually a bit excited to be examining them. They're the only monster in the New Series that seem as popular as classic monsters like Daleks and Cybermen. They have definitely merited the repeat appearances they've been given. Thankfully, those appearances have not been in proper order. So now I get to fix that!    



ORIGINS

It's difficult to say how the Weeping Angels began. We know so little about them. So far, Blink has given us the most explanation about how they work and where they came from. But even that doesn't tell us much. It's believed they're very ancient. That they first began sometime when the Universe was very young. That's as much as we know. 

The End of Time - Part 2 offers us a huge tease that explains vaguely how they may have started.  Rassilon claims that a big vote was taken about breaching the Time Lock they were trapped in during the Time Wars and initiating The Final Sanction. Everyone in the High Council agreed with the plans except two members. "As a monument to their shame," Rassilon pronounces, "they shall become the Weeping Angels of Old." (or words to that effect, I'm terrible with quotes.). The two Time Lords who voted against the decision are seen standing with Rassilon in the traditional Weeping Angels pose.

Is this where it all starts? Did two Time Lords get changed into Weeping Angels and were sent back in time to somewhere near the Dawn of the Universe? Did they, after that, somehow find some way to procreate so that other Angels could stalk the cosmos? It does support a remark the Doctor makes in Blink that the Angels were originally good so there is a bit of cross-referencing to back this idea up.

The Master stopping Rassilon's plans in End of Time and the Doctor, ultimately, saving Gallifrey in Day of the Doctor may mean judgement was never passed on these two Time Lords. It's difficult to tell. Rassilon is a pretty harsh guy who likes to turn people to stone. So, even with all these events getting in the way, he may have made sure his decision was followed through. Since it's implied that one of the Time Lords was the Doctor's mother - this may be one more thing that motivates the Doctor to kick Rassilon off of Gallifrey.

Whatever the case, little is still known of where the Weeping Angels truly came from. It could've started with these two Time Lords. It could've been something entirely different.

I'm more inclined to believe that it was just some ancient race whose experiments with quantum locking went horribly wrong. That the two punished Time Lords never got properly punished. Or, if they did, they simply joined a race of Angels that were already roaming about causing trouble. But all of this is highly subjective. So if you want to think that it all started with those two Time Lords I can't really argue against you.



THE ANGELS VISIT EARTH

Once we move past the vague reference in End of Time, we don't see much of the Angels until the 20th Century. No doubt, from the Dawn of Time to The Angels Take Manhattan, they invaded a whole bunch of worlds and terrorized various cultures. But we see none of this on the show.

Chronologically speaking, the true first adventure involving the Weeping Angels would be Angels Take Manhattan. A substantial number of Angels have established themselves on Earth during the 1930s and are setting up their first "battery farm" in New York City. They are luring humans into the Winter Quay Building on Manhattan Island and subjecting them to a sort of vicious Time Loop that enables them to feed off their potential energy. As the energy builds, the Angels become stronger and stronger. 

This would be, I presume, how they take over any civilization. The Angels establish an initial power base, then expand their feeding ground. Until, eventually, the entire population of a planet is set up in such a manner. Battery farms exist everywhere and the Angels can subsist indefinitely.

Fortunately, Rory and Amy put a stop to this process in 1938. They introduce a huge paradox into the battery farm which spoils the time energy the Angels are feeding off and kills most of them.





SPECIAL NOTE: This is the first time we see Baby Angels (we'll only see them very briefly one other time in Hell Bent). We should probably speculate about them for a bit:

It's entirely possible that Baby Angels are a clue regarding the reproductive cycle of the species. The Weeping Angels were gathering a lot of potential energy from their battery farm in Winter Quay. Could it be possible that they were using some of it to propagate themselves? I doubt that Weeping Angels copulate in the way that organic creatures do, but they might use raw energy to create smaller versions of themselves that can slowly grow in size as they're fed more and more.

Having said that, Baby Angels could just as easily be a different strain of Weeping Angels. Creatures of the abstract that have just chosen to take on a smaller form. As usual, we have little or no information to go on, here.




THE AFTERMATH OF MANHATTEN

Rory and Amy's actions in 1938 certainly put a kibosh in the invasion plans of Earth, but it did not completely wipe out the Angels as the Doctor predicted. Some of them survived and continued to cause problems.

Before we get into those problems, we need to briefly divert our attention to the planet Tivoli.  At some point around this time, the Angels must have attempted to invade there, too (how could they resist? Everyone else loves to take the place over). I would doubt it was the same group that tried to invade Earth. They took too heavy a blow. My guess is that there are several groups of Angels out in the cosmos.

The attack probably took place place sometime in the late 20th or early 21st Century. Recently enough that Gibbis remembers it vividly and it has left some deep psychological scars. More than likely, the Angels scared Gibbis so much because they didn't dominate in the way that most oppressors did on Tivoli. The Angels were probably kicked off  by another group of invaders that wanted the planet. This seems to be the usual pattern of things. 

In 2007, a group of four Angels that survived Amy and Rory's Paradox had banded together and were inhabiting the abandoned Wester Drumlins House. They were living as scavengers. Occasionally sending curious explorers of the house into the past and feeding off their potential energy. By a pure stroke of luck, they do this to the Doctor and Martha Jones. They discover, of course, that the Doctor has a TARDIS and they want to use it for their own nefarious purposes. Thanks to the timely intervention of Sally Sparrow, all four Angels are now permanently quantum locked as they stare at each other in the basement of the house. These are, of course, the events of Blink.

In 2011 (if we go by the date it was transmitted) the automated prison ship that houses the Minotaur-like alien that is meant to be an off-shoot of a Nimon picks up Gibbis from his homeworld along with three humans from Earth. Gibbis sees Weeping Angels in the hotel room that is meant to be housing his greatest fear. Some might dispute that this is not a true appearance of the Weeping Angels but just an illusion projected by the prison ship. But that opinion is subjective since we do learn in another story that anything that holds the image of an Angel can become one.

Finally, there is a Weeping Angel and a Baby Angel that survived Rory and Amy's Paradox that are scavenging in New York in 2012. The Baby Angel resides in the Angel of the Waters statue. The Weeping Angel lurks in a nearby cemetery. Both play pivotal roles in displacing various characters in The Angels Take Manhattan. It's entirely possible that they actually recognize Rory and Amy for what they did and are trying to exact revenge. The Baby Angel doesn't actually realize that it set the events in motion that would lead to the destruction of the Battery Farm of Winter Quay. 



INTO THE FUTURE....

After the failed invasion attempt on 20th Century Earth and the exploits of various teams of surviving scavengers during the 21st Century, little is seen of the Angels for quite some time (at least, within context of the TV show, thus far). Their next appearance is sometime within the 51st Centurry. No specific date is given during The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, but several characters do state the century.

Prior to that appearance, we know that a huge host of Angels gathered on Alfava Metraxis and, somehow, became stranded there. We're guessing they had something to do with the extinction of the Aplans: a two-headed humanoid species that were native to the planet. I suggest that Weeping Angels arrived on the planet sometime around the 47th Century and actually accomplished what they had set out to do on Earth. The entire population was placed into Battery Farms and the Angels thrived for quite some time.

Somehow, however, the Aplans worked out a way to strand the Angels on their world before they were wiped out. We don't know for sure how as we're not sure how Angels actually travel through the Universe. It could be as simple as making sure every form of interstellar technology was utterly destroyed so that the Angels couldn't use any ships to get them off-world. Or it could be something far more complex if the Angels have some natural ability to transport themselves through space. A special jamming signal, perhaps, that nullifies that ability. Whatever the case, once the Weeping Angels had absorbed all the potential energy of the Aplans, they retreated to a temple-like structure known as the Maze of the Dead and began to decay.

A single Weeping Angel that had been held in human custody manages to commandeer a space freighter that was shipping it. The Angel intentionally crashes the vessel into the Maze of the Dead on Alfava Metraxis and the army stranded there start absorbing radiation from the ship's reactor core. Slowly coming back to life as they do.

They didn't count on a Crack in Time caused by the Doctor's TARDIS exploding to interfere with things the way it did. In the end, the Doctor fools the Angels and causes them to fall into the Crack and seal it up.  





ANOTHER SPECIAL NOTE:

In this particular story, we see the Angels displaying abilities that were, hitherto, unseen:


That Which Retains the Image of an Angel Can Become One:   We're still not entirely sure of the full extent of this power. Apparently, however, if you capture an image of an Angel in some way, the Angel can come into your location through that picture/footage. Whether it can fully manifest itself through the image or just uses it as a sort of portal to look through - it's uncertain to say. But it's definitely very creepy and makes them even deadlier than ever. 


Don't Blink and Don't Look in Their Eyes:    As if fighting a Weeping Angel wasn't complicated enough! We know that we can freeze an Angel by staring at it, yes. But now, you mustn't look into its eyes or the Angel can transplant itself into you and turn you into one of them. 

Once more, this could reveal a method of reproduction among their species. Do they do it in two ways? Can they make Baby Angels but also convert humans into Angels? As usual, who can say for sure?!   


Snap!!!   Not so much a hidden power as a deficiency. Sometimes Angels are so low on energy that they can't send you back in time when they touch you. They will, however, still snap your neck.




We don't know if the Angels have always had these abilities. They were never seen until now. Could these be skills they've developed over the 5 000 years between 2012 and the 51st Century? Do Angels evolve? Or are these tricks they've always had but we've never seen until now.  Thus far, these powers have only been witnessed in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone.






THE FAR-FLUNG FUTURE

 As has been established in other Chronologies and Timelines entries, the events of Time of the Doctor take place sometime around the 44th Century (the entry that truly commits to a date is in my History of the Cybermen series, Part 5 - http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2018/02/chronologies-and-timelines-history-of_27.html). Like several other aggressive species, the Weeping Angels respond to the distress call Gallifrey is putting out on Trenzalore and come to investigate

It is interesting to note that they are the one species that could easily slip past the forcefield the Papal Mainframe put around the planet. This says something about the nature of the Angels' power and technology. They seem to be more advanced than any other species out there.

It is also interesting to note that we don't seem to see any sort of Weeping Angel spaceship. Could my idea that they can just warp across space unassisted by technology be correct? It's entirely possible that they snuck aboard the ship of another species and traveled that way. But it's just as possible that, when they've gathered enough potential energy, they can somehow just will themselves to another part of the Universe. Which would also make getting past the Papal Mainframe's force field make more sense. Once an Angel has decided to arrive somewhere, there's no stopping it.


THE FAR FAR-FLUNG FUTURE

It is to my great shame that I must admit: I missed a Cybermen cameo when I was compiling my History of the Cybermen series a few months back. Technically, this event should also be in my Dalek History series but, in my defense, the episode wasn't out yet when I was putting together that particular chronology.

Fortunately, this cameo also involves Weeping Angels. So I can, at last, cover it here. If you want to imagine these next few paragraphs appearing at the bottom of my Dalek and Cybermen Histories - be my guest. I suppose I could cut and paste this in but I prefer to leave my acts of shame visible for all the internet to see!

It would appear that there were a set of Cloister Wars that probably happened sometime in or around the Time Wars (we see a post-Time War Dalek in the Cloisters that re-enforces this idea). Charting where this happens in Galactic History becomes a bit tricky. The Time Wars seem to take place outside of Time, itself and we can give no proper date to it. The Cloister Wars, I would imagine, happen under similar conditions. But I would like to think that there is a sort of "entry point" in the timeline where the various combatants start becoming involved with the war. The battles, themselves, take place in some sort of limbo dimension outside of time and space. There would also be an "exit point" where the war is over and various participants are now stranded in the Cloisters. We'll track these points and work out a sort of trajectory for them.

I would suggest the entry point would be some time shortly after the Andromedans breach the Matrix during Trial of a Time Lord. They seem to be the first species of non-Gallifreyans that find their way into the Super Computer of the Time Lords. Their actions attract the attention of Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels (and, perhaps, others that we just don't see trapped in the Cloisters during Hell Bent) and they attempt to penetrate the Matrix after them.

The Doctor dates The Mysterious Planet as being several million years in Earth's future. How valid this claim is can be hotly disputed since he makes his prognosis after the most cursory of glances at his pocket watch  But let's just say the Andromedan Breach happened sometime around then. This would indicate that Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels are all around for the next few million years. No doubt, there were times when we didn't see much of them. But they were always lurking in the shadows. Surviving.

What exactly went on during the Cloister Wars seems very abstract. But there must have been some sort of skirmish. This seems to be more than just some attempts to hack into a really powerful computer system.  But who can say for sure how it all played out.

They exit point from the Wars would be where the Time Lords are hiding near the end of the Universe. The Dalek, Weeping Angels, Baby Angel and Cybermen have been brought back into normal Time and Space but are trapped within the Cloisters for all eternity. No doubt, as the Universe expires once and for all - they will finally die with it. Not a great way to go out, though! 

But that does mean that, even at the end of the Universe, the Weeping Angels are still at work...



Thus resolves one of our last entries in the Chronologies and Timelines series. I am tempted to cover the Ood and one or two more New Series monsters that have made multiple appearances. We'll have to wait and see... 

In the meantime, here are a few other monsters I've covered. 

Daleks (first entry - just keep following from there):  
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2015/06/chronologies-and-timelines-tymecian.html

Cybermen (first entry - just keep following from there):
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2018/02/chronologies-and-timelines-history-of.html













Sunday, 20 May 2018

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: UNSUNG CLASSICS - PART 4

The scales are finally being balanced. Normally, when I post an UNSUNG CLASSIC about a New Who story, I  follow it up immediately with one from Classic Who. Quite some time ago, I had written a review on Gravity from Series 10 and ranted about how it was one of the highest points of the season. But I had never followed with something from the good 'ole days when we still used terms like "seasons" instead of "series".

The Time has come, at last, to put the Universe to right (no doubt, all of you have been feeling out of sorts all this time and couldn't figure out why!). Our Unsung Classic from the Classic Series goes all the way back to the early days of Doctor Three.



PERTWEE LOVE (OR LACK THEREOF)

If you've bothered to read my New Year's Countdown from two years ago, you saw that I was not the biggest of Jon Pertwee fans (if you haven't bothered to read it but would like to, here's a link:  http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/11/book-of-lists-doctors-from-worst-to.html). As I emphasized in the countdown, there's no portrayal of the Doctor that I have genuinely disliked - but there are some that I like less than others. So please don't think I'm some gigantic Pertwee-Basher. I still love him. There's just other Doctors that I love more. 

One of the main points I make as I discuss Pertwee in that post is that I do still think that Season 7 is an absolute work of art. Really, it's magnificent. Inferno is widely regarded as a Classic and all the other stories in the season are held in high regard. So, no Unsung Classics, here. Everything in Season 7 gets the credit it deserves. I do, however, go on to explain that I'm not happy with much else in the Pertwee Era after Seven reaches its conclusion. Most of the stories that we see after this are 6-Parters that can't really sustain themselves. It's a harsh thing to say, I know. Lots of people hold lots of nostalgia for Doctor Three - but I'm not one of them.

Before the Pertwee-Lovers get too angry with me, note that I said: "most of the stories were 6-Parters that couldn't sustain themselves'". Which implies that there are some Post-Season-7 6-Parters that do.

The Mind of Evil is one of them. In fact, it does more than just sustain itself. It's an excellent story that doesn't get half as much credit as it deserves.   



THE PROBLEMS

Okay, let's get this out of the way first. Mind of Evil is not perfect. There are a few minor issues that need to be taken into account. Some legitimate problems, if you will.

But, you know what? Many of the stories Fandom labels as Classics have problems, too. Genesis of the Daleks, for instance, has one of the worst cliffhangers in the history of the show (Sarah Jane falling from the gantry). Or Talons of Weng Chiang uses the most blatant example of plot padding ever (Jago and Lightfoot trying to escape through the dumb waiter). No Classic is absolutely perfect. So let's accept that and move past it.

The most ludicrous stuff from Mind of Evil occurs in Episode One. There are victims of the Keller Machine who get scared to death by their chronic fears. That's not too far-fetched. Scare someone enough and it will cause heart failure. What is silly is how the victims show physical symptoms of their fear. Someone with a horrible fear of rats won't suddenly get scratch marks because they're hallucinating that rats are attacking them. Nor will someone who is afraid of water drown in an empty room with their lungs soaked. That's just silly.

Mentioning that Doctor Keller had a lovely Chinese woman as an assistant also seemed like some pretty forced exposition. Like we're trying just a little too hard with the writing to get the Doctor to connect certain dots in the plot points.

The only other instance that mars my enjoyment of this story is the notorious "Master slipping on water twice" sequence that enables the Doctor to make an escape. Water just isn't that slippery, folks. Couldn't the Doctor have just thrown the desk on his rival and pinned him underneath long enough to get out of the room? Seems like an easy fix, really.


PROBLEMS OUT OF THE WAY - ON TO THE GOOD STUFF! 

With the elephant thoroughly acknowledged on it's appropriate table, we can get to the enormous amounts of praising that the story needs to have heaped on to it.

Mind of Evil is chocked full of what I like to call golden moments. Sequence after sequence that are all executed with an enormous sense of style. They're spread out all over the place. In the early episodes, we see great moments like the Doctor unable to contain his skepticism during the demonstration of the Keller Machine. Yates being reprimanded for grinning like a Chesire Cat. The Doctor getting on like a house on fire with the new Chinese delegate. Chin-Li evoking pathos as she tries to fight the Master's control as they sit in his limo.

In later episodes we get that wonderful moment where the Brigadier tries out his acting abilities as he poses as a delivery man. The actual storming of the prison by UNIT - a stunt sequence that still holds up quite well even to this day. And, of course, the classic line: "Thankyou Brigadier. But do you think, just once, you could show up before the nick of time?!"

The golden moment that truly wins me over, however, is the briefest of scenes where the Master rides to Stangmoor Prison smoking a cigar and listening to sinister music. For whatever reason, I adore that shot. This might just be Delgado's Master at his absolute best.


PLOTTING....

If Mind of Evil were nothing but a series of golden moments, I couldn't give it the Unsung Classic label. But it's so much more than that. For once, a writer decides to fill a 6-Parter with an adequate number of plot strands. There's barely any capture-and-escapes to mark time. Even the failed prison break serves an actual purpose. It gets the Master to recognize Mailer's ambitions and exploit him.

It's quite remarkable how well those various plot threads weave together to form a bigger picture and tell a somewhat complex story. Most impressive is the plotline concerning the actual Keller Machine. For most of the adventure, it seems to just be something that creates some extra danger. Only as we near the end do we see it has a better purpose than that. Once more, the Doctor uses a problem created by his enemy to hoist him by his own petards.

The other gorgeous thing that the Keller Machine Plotline creates is yet another golden moment. How can we not love it when the Doctor recognizes that Barnum is the key to immobilizing the Mind Parasite? It's almost impossible not to punch the air as he proclaims the title of the story.


KELLER MACHINE STUFF  

What we remember most, of course, about Mind of Evil are the hallucinations the Doctor and the Master suffer when the Keller Machine attacks them. The Doctor, fresh from his adventures in Inferno, still harbors a great fear of fire. It's a nice piece of continuity that gets referenced because both stories come from the same author.

But we absolutely love the rogues' gallery of enemies that start swirling around the Doctor during later episodes when he's subjected to the Keller Machine. Who knew that Koquillion from The Rescue had filled him with so much terror?!!   

Even better, though, is when the Master must face his greatest fear. The giant image of the Doctor looking down at him and laughing at him like he's the most inadequate of foes is sheer glory. 


A LITTLE BIT SAD...

Before we can truly close the book on Mind of Evil, we must mention poor 'ole Barnum. A very lovely touch to the story. He's a more watered-down (and less-over-the-top) version of Tommy from Planet of Spiders. His sense of innocence is also put to great use at the most crucial of moments.

Unlike Tommy, Barnum meets a very sad end. Like the murder of Osgood in Death In Heaven, it gets us to hate the Master all the more. But it also creates the most tragic of conclusions for an Unsung Classic. It's almost implied that someone as innocent as Barnum had no chance of surviving in a world as harsh as our own.

Fortunately, we get a nice little coda where the Master taunts the Doctor, then the Doctor lashes out playfully at the Brigadier.

Regardless of the Tragedy of Barnum, Season 8 will continue to roll on. But it almost seems like Mind of Evil should have been been in Season 7.

It fits better there....




Other Unsung Classics: 


http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/09/unadulterated-boorish-opinion-unsung.html

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2017/02/unadulterated-boorish-opinion-unsung.html






Saturday, 28 April 2018

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP 5 ONE-TIME-ONLY VILLAINS - PART 5

And so, at last, we reach Number One. Unlike other countdowns, you haven't been able to use a process of elimination to figure out who First Place is. No doubt, the suspense has been killing you so I'll get right to it: 




WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED?!    

There are any number of One Timers who have dazzled us over the years in both the Classic and New Series. I've mentioned a few of them, already, as I constructed this list. As much as I've admired their performances like so many other fans have, my choice for all-time fave is not one any of you probably suspected.

By no stretch of the imagination can we label the Season 18 story Meglos a Classic. I find it to be a half-decent story with a few fun little moments to sustain it for four episodes. Some disagree with even that and think the story is just plain awful. But, as mediocre (or even bad) as the story may be, it has a single brilliant jewel in its crown: the titular character is absolutely wonderful!

One of the things that embarrasses me the most about my Meglos Passion is that I can't, for the life of me, pinpoint why I love him so much. There are any number of really cool things about him but none of them are quite enough to truly make him the best one-time-only villain in History. I'm guessing that it is a combination of all these traits that, ultimately, puts him over the top.

Just to be concise and organized, let's take the trouble to list a few of the more prominent aspects of the character that make him better than any other one-time-only villain: 


TRAIT #1 THAT MAKES ME LOVE MEGLOS SO MUCH: 
HE DOESN'T GIVE A RAT'S ASS ABOUT TIME TRAVEL

For most other villains and/or monsters in the series (recurring or single appearance), acquiring the ability to cross the fourth dimension is their ultimate dream. And it makes sense that they want it so badly. There's so much you can do if you can control the Laws of Time.

But Meglos is way more interested in what the Dodecahedron can do for him.  Admittedly, I can see why. Such a power source, along with the screens of Zolfa Thura, will enable him to hold the Universe at ransom. It's a pretty amazing power to wield.

One would think that Meglos isn't gunning for time travel because it's just not attainable for him. But, here's what makes him so cool: Within moments of taking over that poor, hapless human that the Gaztaks kidnapped, he walks over to a nearby console and starts working equipment that enables him to trap the Doctor and Romana in a time loop. Basically, this guy has time travel abilities, already - but he doesn't really care much about it. The Dodecahedron is still his real focus. He seems to have figured out time travel stuff ages ago. He's mastered it so much that it's just a control panel or two in a disregarded corner of his workshop. To me, that gives him way more street cred than other villains/monsters that are out there. 


TRAIT #2 THAT MAKES ME LOVE MEGLOS SO MUCH:
HE'S LEGITIMATELY FALLIBLE

Like most great Sci-Fi Villains, Meglos is endlessly paranoid. He always needs to feel like he's one step ahead of everyone else. When he first meets the Gaztaks, he knows they will try to betray him. They're Gaztaks - it's what they do! So he shows that he is on to them by locking them into his lab with him for all eternity unless they obey his instructions. After revealing his suspicion of them, he thinks everything will be fine with his new-found allies.

I love the fact that he's wrong and ends up according more trust to General Grugger than he should have. At the most opportune moment, Meglos is betrayed. He was too confident in his display of power during Episode One and let his guard down further than he should have. I'm not sure why, but I really do enjoy the fact that he's capable of making such a fundamental mistake when it comes to dealing with people. He's not quite the paranoid maniac that he should be - and I think that gives him an interesting edge to his character. It makes him distinctive from so many other stereotypical villains who would've never trusted those Gaztaks further than they could throw them. 


TRAIT # 3 THAT MAKE ME LOVE MEGLOS SO MUCH: 
HE TRANSCENDS THROUGH SO MANY DIFFERENT REPRESENTATIONS

This is probably the trait I like the most about him.

By the time we reach the end of the story, Meglos has been portrayed by two actors (Tom Baker and Christopher Owen), a voice artist (Crawford Logan), and two props (a cactus and a slimy thing that crawls across the floor). Because he's a disembodied intelligence, he's very abstract. Yet, somehow, the character persists through all of his various representations.

Ironically, he's on his shakiest ground when Tom Baker is portraying the character. It seems that, as usual, Tom wants to play the role for laughs. But, for the most part, he keeps Meglos pretty straight. Even when he's covered in cactus spikes, he resists the urge to consciously make the visual look silly. It's almost as if Tom knows this is an awesome villain and doesn't want to wreck it  (mind you, it's entirely possible that he had all kinds of fights with the production team who were yelling at him to behave - that did happen a fair amount during Season 18!). 

I adore the fact that Meglos gets channeled through so many people and objects but his spirit seems to remain consistent in all of them. He's a fanatical maniac who trusts the wrong people a little more than he should. Whether he's parading around as the Doctor or a cactus or the various stages in between - this is always conveyed effectively. 


TRAIT #4 THAT MAKES ME LOVE MEGLOS SO MUCH: 
HE HAS THE COOLEST CATCHPHRASE!    

Forget "Fantastic!" or "Geronimo!".  "Reverse the polarity" or "When I say run, run!" might be a bit cool, but not cool enough. Even the Sixth Doctor's way of repeating a single word in an outraged manner doesn't quite measure up to Meglos' catchphrase:

"I am Meglos! Only survivor of my planet!"    

I love how proud he sounds when he proclaims it. Like he worked his ass off to survive and you better respect him for it. Like no one else deserved to survive but him. So much undertone seems to go into its delivery.

I also love the variation he puts into it. Those aren't his exact words every time. He might say: "I am Meglos! Last Zolfa Thuran!"or other things like that. It's nice that he mixes it up for us.

Okay, maybe the Doctor's catchphrases are a bit better - but not much! It really is a fun catchphrase. For quite some time, whenever there was a lull in the conversation among my geek friends, one of us would suddenly blurt out: "I am Meglos! Only survivor of my planet!!". We all loved the catchphrase and it would always make us laugh. The breaking of the tension would get us to find a new topic to rant about and the conversation would continue. That's how much we appreciated Meglos' proclamation! 


TRAIT #5 THAT MAKES ME LOVE MEGLOS SO MUCH: 
HE'S VIRTUALLY INDESTRUCTIBLE

As we hurtle towards the somewhat rushed ending of Episode Four, the human Meglos has been inhabiting, at last, breaks free of his will. This should be it for our last Zolfa Thuran, right? He's got nowhere else to go.

Instead, he scampers away on the floor as a plastic blob with a post-production effect over him. The Doctor explains he's converted himself into a lower light wave or something to that effect. "That would mean he's nearly indestructible!" Romana gasps.

Fan fiction has not only picked up on that statement, but there's an issue of Doctor Who Magazine that claims that a rough draft of The Lodger contained the triumphant return of Meglos (this was removed in later drafts). Just like Tobias Vaughn in my last post, this is a villain we love too much to truly let die. I, for one, would love to see him make a return appearance on the show. As much as it would behoove me to remove him from here, I'm sure he would rank quite highly on my two-time-only villain list.

Sil would probably still beat him. But, let's be honest, Sil is pretty damned awesome!




That's it for fave one-time-villains. Sorry folks like Doctor Solon or Harrison Chase didn't show up, here. But then, if you've read even a few of these, you'd know they probably weren't going to! 



Here are the rest on the List: 

Fifth Place: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only.html

Fourth Place:
https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only_28.html

Third Place:   
https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/04/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only.html

Second Place:   
https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/04/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only_23.html




Enjoy my lists?   Here's my Top Five Guilty Pleasures:   

Fifth:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures.html

Fourth:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_11.html

Third:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-five-guilty-pleasures.html

Second:
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_21.html

First: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-guilty-pleasure-1.html














Monday, 23 April 2018

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP 5 ONE-TIME-ONLY VILLAINS - PART 4

We're getting close to the winner, now. You can see that I have been making some unusual choices. This one, however, is a bit more conventional....




A SUPER OLD SCHOOL VILLAIN

Kevin Stoney's one-time-only villain contributions to Doctor Who in the 60s, to me, are near-legendary. He just had such great presence with both portrayals. He seems to stand out so much more than anyone else that got to play a bad guy during that era. Truthfully, if you're willing to watch his performance contextually, he beats most actors who have played an antagonist on the show. 

Just like Morgaine and Helen A in my last entry, it was difficult to choose which of Stoney's two characters I prefer. Mavic Chen is a delightful little megalomaniac as he tries to beat the Daleks at their own game during The Dalek Masterplan. But, for some reason, I like Tobias Vaughn just that little bit better. I'm not entirely sure why. It could be the simple reason that there exists more footage of the story. Which, in turn, gives me a stronger impression of the portrayal. I hate that it might be as petty as something like that - but it's entirely possible!

I think it might also be that Tobias Vaughn feels that little bit more accessible. Dalek Masterplan is a bit of a space opera. Chen is from the far-flung future - which makes it a bit harder to connect with him. Whereas Vaughn was meant to be more contemporary. Both are complete madmen, of course. Which means, in their own way, both are pretty remote (if you do find them relatable, it may be time for some therapy!). But a power-crazed maniac running a multi-million dollar corporation in the late 60s (possibly early 70s) is someone I can identify with just that little bit better than a sinister politician from the 40th Century. Which might be one more reason for Vaughn to win out over Chen.

Whatever the case, it was a very close race. But, in the end, Vaughn wins. 

I think one of the things I adore most about Stoney's performances are the unusual choices he makes. If I may dare dwell on Chen that little bit longer, I love the weird way Stoney holds writing utensils when he's playing him (apparently, in the 40th Century we still write things by hand - and we do it in a very unusual fashion!). He makes another strange choice with Vaughn. Throughout most of his performance, he closes one eye just a little bit more than the other. It gives him a sort of perpetual sneer that gets him to come across that little bit more arrogant and unlikeable. While on the topic of his eyes, I also love that Stoney remembers what the script said about him in Episode 1 and resists blinking as much as possible. 

It's these little things that Stoney puts into his performance that really make him rise above the rest. He is obviously someone who puts a lot of thought into his craft and it pays off. Vaughn could have been a very run-of-the-mill Pawn of the Cybermen Greedy Bastard, but he gives so much consideration to the crafting of the character that we have a hard time not completely falling in love with his villainy.   

Beyond Stoney's performance, compliments must also go to the writing. Some interesting twists are put on the character that were right in the script. Vaughn's sense of humor is one of the more interesting nuances. Like most sadists, he's in a state of glee as he inflicts pain on people - that's nothing new for a character of his nature. But I'm really intrigued by how he reacts to Zoe ruining his receptionist computer. Most megalomaniacs would be outraged by such a gesture but Tobias is amused. Having a villain who zigs during moments when we expected him to zag is a good move when you've got to stretch him over eight episodes. Things could have gotten boring very quickly with him if the writer hadn't put in these little tricks.

Some complain of Packer, of course. Why would anyone put a person so neurotic and even a bit incompetent in charge of their security? I say Packer makes perfect sense for a personality like Vaughn. He needed a whipping boy. Someone who could still, for the most part, do a decent job but would stumble up just enough for Vaughn to give him regular tongue-lashings. To me, Packer was exactly what Vaughn's distorted ego required.    

There are a few specifics moments that come together beautifully in The Invasion for Vaughn. The first is when he taunts Professor Watkins to shoot him. After administering torture so sadistic that even one of the torturers becomes a victim, he grants the professor his greatest wish. Stoney plays this moment to perfection. His rage is thoroughly convincing as he yells at Watkins to shoot him. The smile on his face as we see that even bullets can't harm his enormous ego is truly chilling. 

But my favorite Vaughn moment happens at the beginning of Episode Eight. Although it is probably done more for the sake of padding things out, Vaughn gets this great speech where the Doctor gradually wins him over. We get a gorgeous look inside his thought process and see the full extent of his selfish pride. While anyone else would strive to survive, Vaughn sees little point in saving a world that will convict him for endangering it. But then, slowly but surely, he decides to join the Doctor. Not to see justice done or to save humanity. But because the Cybermen wrecked his plans and he wants to punish them for it. He makes the vaguest attempt to gain pathos as he laments over his crushed dreams. Stoney is truly masterful as he brings Vaughn close to tears in the delivery of that speech. How can we resist him, really? 

During those sad Wilderness Years, a New Adventures novel was written that shows that Vaughn managed to survive when the Cybermen shot him. I can't blame the fan who wrote it. Tobias Vaughn is a one-time-only villain that was so good, you don't want to think he'll die. Ever. 



Stay tuned for our first-place winner. Who will it be?    


Fifth Place: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only.html

Fourth Place: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only_28.html

Third Place: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/04/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only.html     










Thursday, 12 April 2018

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP 5 ONE-TIME-ONLY VILLAINS - PART 3

The countdown continues.....




A FEMALE VILLAIN (OR, I GUESS, A VILLAINESS) 


As we continue down the list, I find myself wanting to express my love for a villain of the female persuasion. Before some of you start trying to accuse me of just trying to be a Social Justice Warrior or something of that sort (that's been going around a lot, lately, in fandom!), I did not place her here strictly because she's a woman and we need to increase villainess awareness or something like that. I really do think that, out of all the one-time-only baddies to grace the series, she is truly the third best. Gender has nothing to do with it.

It seemed most logical to pick a villainess from the Seventh Doctor era. He had the most enjoyable female enemies (although Eleven had some good ones, too). Perhaps, because his first battle was against the Rani, the writers seemed to like how he stood up to evil women. Even in stories like Silver Nemesis, where the plot wasn't as good as some of the other tales from that season - characters like Lady Peinforte could still make things that much more fun. She's not the winner of this particular award, by the way. Neither is Morgaine from Battlefield. Although, she came quite close...

When it was first transmitted, Happiness Patrol was, very much, considered a vote-splitter among fandom. You either loved it for its bravery or hated it for its camp sensibilities. There seemed to be no in-between. Over the years, negative opinion regarding the story seems to have mellowed. There's still a segment of fandom that will eternally hate it, but most people now seem to see it for the work of brilliance that it truly is.

Helen A is, without a doubt, one of the key things that makes Happiness Patrol so awesome. She is a blatant parody of Margeret Thatcher, yes. But I love that they didn't just stop there. She would've been so two dimensional if they had. But, instead, they went so much further with the character. 

Probably what I love most about Helen A is that she never does any of her own dirty work. She has a team of people who are eager to please her that will perform all those morbid forms of execution on her behalf. That, to me, is a villain with real power. She just sits in her office and puts on this pretense of domestic bliss while the real evil is executed through delegation. It's a great trait to give a baddie. Particularly when so many other villains in the series love to directly administer the pain to their victims. Helen A is far more inclined to just watch and enjoy while minions take care of the blood-spilling for her. Just like Sil, that sense of perversity at enjoying the pain of others from a safe distance makes her that much more unsettling. 

Much praise must also go to Sheila Hancock. With her garish business suit, white clown-face makeup and silly wig, one would expect her to go ridiculously over-the-top with everything. Her character both looks and is quite ludicrous. And yet, somehow, she gets us to believe in her. She keeps her performance on the right side of sincerity so that we are able to feel for her as she reaches her undoing. 

The fall of Helen A is what truly wins her this title. I'm always impressed when a writer comes up with a better solution to the story than to just kill off the baddie in the final episode. Helen A's defeat is, easily, the most creative of all resolutions. The confrontation between her and Seven as she tries to slip away in a shuttle is one of the best hero/villain face-offs in the history of the show (how cool is it when Sylvester produces a coin from nowhere and professes: "Two sides - one coin!") We really don't know where things are going to go with these two. To all intents and purposes, it really looks like Helen A is going to make it aboard that shuttle with just a stern lecture from the Doctor. 

And then they drop Fifi on us. Fifi, who we thought was just a side-story to create more peril and make Helen A seem more twisted and bizarre, had a higher purpose, after all. As Helen A kneels before the dying Stigorax and bawls - we can't help but marvel at the brilliance of the moment. Helen A has truly lost. There could be no worse way to punish her. 

What could have been just a cheap political satire becomes one of the best-layered one-time-only villains in all of Doctor Who. Helen A is not only a great villainess, but she beats most of the one-time-only boy baddies that have tried butt heads with our favorite Time Lord throughout the years.

I adore her.  




We'll keep the countdown rollin'.....


Fifth Place: 

http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only.html

Fourth Place: 
https://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only_28.html

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

BOOK OF LISTS: TOP 5 ONE-TIME-ONLY VILLAINS - PART 2

.... And we roll on with one-time-only villains ....   


PART 2: A "CLUNKER" BADDIE

Doctor Who has been running for so long and has produced so many episodes that it's a simple law-of-averages that it's going to, occasionally, offer up something less-than-stellar. Given some of the comments I see in fan groups, I wonder, sometimes, if there are any stories certain fans are happy with! I find, at least, that even when the show misfires - it still gives us something that's a lot better than most of the stuff that's out there in Television Land. 

Creature from the Pit might be the one exception to the rule. That really is just a horrible story that, maybe, we need to all forget. Particularly if you're Jewish!!   

What saddens me most about stories that "get it wrong" is that they can have really good elements to them that we overlook. We're so disconcerted by the overall failure of it that we miss some of its successes. My fourth favorite one-time-only baddie is a great example of this. 

I've said quite a bit about Timelash during the "Guilty Pleasure" countdown I did a while back (http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures_11.html). Labeling it a Guilty Pleasure, of course, is an acknowledgement that the story is seriously flawed. There are other stories from that era that get maligned like Twin Dilemma or Time and the Rani that I feel are not as bad as some people would have you believe. But Timelash is, most definitely a "clunker". Hidden within all that bad writing, abysmal effects and dodgy acting, however, is a gem of a one-time villain. 

Don't worry. I'm not talking about Tekker!!    

The Borad is a great villain because he has everything: cool weapons, a fun backstory and a sinister plan that wasn't quite what anyone expected. He's horribly disfigured but he'll tell you all about how that's actually made him better. Thanks to his mustakozene-80 accident, he is now a massive genius with a protracted lifespan. So what if it's given him an ugly face and a flipper?! 

He wasn't lying about that genius thing either. I count, at least, three branches of science that he excels at  (temporal physics, genetics and android technology). He kinda puts Davros to shame, really. He just built travel machines for mutants - the Borad can do way more than that!     

While there are a lot of problems with the plotting of Timelash, the way the Borad is introduced into the story through various "teases" was one of its strong points. We know that the old guy that looks like Salyavin can't really be the same person as the sinister character everyone is meeting in the Borad's private chambers. There's a mystery to be solved and it's a nice build up to his ultimate revelation when the Doctor visits him.

The explanation of his origins is also very well-handled. The central thrust of the story is that it is a sequel to an unseen Third Doctor adventure. The Borad ties into that quite nicely. He has a particular hatred for the Doctor because of the fact that he reported him to the authorities. That's always a nice extra layer to a megalomaniac. Plots of conquest are only so interesting. If there's something personal there, too - that makes the conflict even more enjoyable. 

The Borad's Ultimate Sinister Plan is another really cool nuance to him. Sure, down the road, he might sweep out into the Universe and start taking it over. But, right now, he just wants a girlfriend. He's going to destroy all sentient life on a planet to achieve that - but that's still all he really wants. By this point in the show, villains that wanted to conquer the galaxy had become a dime a dozen. So someone with a slightly different agenda was a breath of fresh air. Yes, we could argue that another evildoer lusting for Peri might be tiresome. But, really, which one of us wasn't lusting for her?! Can we really blame them?!  

Some compliments must also be paid to Robert Ashby, himself. He does a very good job working through all that heavy make-up to bring the character to life. The fact that he also does some nice stuff with a ridiculous-looking rubber flipper makes him an even more impressive actor. His deep, silky voice is probably his strongest point. Particularly since we do spend a lot of time just hearing the Borad rather than seeing him. It was a very solid piece of casting, that's for sure. 

What I like best about the Borad, however, is his Achilles Tendon. He may brag up a storm about how great it is to be half-morlox - but we all know he's just compensating. He is mortified by the way he looks (and, as cheap as the story looks, the make-up department stepped up to the plate nicely with how they did him up). Some pretty obvious clues are on display to give away that he has self-image problems, but it's still a fun way to take down a foe. The Borad's surprise re-appearance at the end of the story only works so well. But when the Doctor shouts: "You obviously haven't read the writing on the wall!" and then smashes away the painting of Jon Pertwee to reveal the mirror underneath - it's still pretty cool. The allusion that he will become the Loch Ness Monster sends fandom foaming  at the mouth, of course ("That's the Skarasen!") but I still love how the Borad is defeated. He's not actually killed - he's just sent to a place where people will doubt that he even exists. That's a far worse fate than the death for a creature of his ego.    

Hate Timelash all you want. You have the right to. It's got a lot of problems. But, if you claim that the Borad was part of that problem, we may have to step outside...





Fifth Place: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.ca/2018/03/book-of-lists-top-5-one-time-only.html