Saturday, 29 September 2018

CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES: THE GREAT INTELLIGENCE

I was thinking of doing an ANALYTICAL essay since it had been a while. I even had a couple of cool ideas for some recurring concepts in the show that I'd like to explore. But then I looked at this blog's stats and saw that you guys have been obsessed with CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES, lately. Particularly the one I did for River Song (which is nice to see - I really put a lot of work into that one!  Just in case you haven't looked at it, yet:   http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2017/03/chronologies-and-timelines-complex.html). So I thought to myself:  "Give the people what they want!" and decided to set myself to work on figuring out the linear history of a character we've seen several times throughout the series. 

If you'll recall the last time I wrote in this style, I pointed out how I was running out of material. That there just weren't that many returning characters and/or monsters who still needed their timelines sorted. But, upon reflection, I realized there were a lot more than I had originally believed.    

I was almost embarrassed to have forgotten about the Great Intelligence. He spans both the Classic and New Series and his story is definitely told out of order. I'm almost ashamed I haven't covered him sooner. 



UNKNOWN ORIGINS:

If you read my History of Weeping Angels essay, you'll note that I was complaining about how little we truly know about this particular species. Well, I'm about to complain even more! 

We have, at best, slight "teases" about where the Great Intelligence may have come from or even what he truly he is. For the most part, we have only seen his activities on Earth. I believe he has caused all kinds of trouble on other planets before he visited humanity.That, like so many other Who Monsters, he probably has a long history of invading and absorbing worlds. But, because the Doctor defends the Earth as well as he does, he ended up becoming stranded here for far longer than he expected.

But this still tells us very little about him. What exactly is the Great Intelligence? 

While various forms of spin-off fiction have come up with different types of origin stories for him, little is said about where he came from in the actual TV Show. The Second Doctor speaks of him as being a sort of formless mist hanging in Space that has an evil sentience to it. My guess is that this mist can look over great distances and pick out planets that it sees as worthy of occupation.

Beyond that, however, we really don't know what he is. I do like the idea the New and Missing Adventures by Virgin Books put forward. That he is part of a race of "Ancients" that existed in the Universe before us that managed to slip into our own as theirs died. But this is far from canonical. As always, I go with what is said in transmitted episodes only (for the most part). Since the show does seem to be done telling his story, we will probably never truly learn his origins.


INVASION TECHNIQUES:

The Great Intelligence looks for planets that are populated by intelligent creatures that show great potential. They must be using a decent level of technology - but it doesn't need to be that advanced. Victorian-era Earth was suitable enough. When he finds an acceptable culture to invade, he concentrates himself into crystal form and projects himself towards that planet.

It is when he first arrives on a new planet that he is at his weakest. No doubt, the long journey he has taken from wherever he was sitting in the Universe as a mist has rendered him frail. He barely has an identity of his own and must "mirror" the emotions of the beings on the world he has arrived on for a time before he can re-constitute himself.

The Intelligence will find one being in specific to form a telepathic bond with. It searches out someone who is largely anti-social. This way, the potential host will be eager to connect with him. The two of them will then go about to find a way to hybridize the local population so that the Intelligence's crystalline form can merge with the DNA of the dominant species of that world.


THE SNOWMEN 

When the Great Intelligence arrives on Earth in 1842, he adopts his usual strategy by bonding with a young boy named Walter Simeon. He then assists the boy in rising to prominence so that he can amass the appropriate resources for the Great Intelligence to actualize himself and invade the Earth.

In his crystalline form, the Intelligence is quite similar to snow (which makes sense, he has to withstand the extreme cold of outer space as he travels through it). Earth's warm climate makes it a difficult place to establish a foothold in. But, after a good fifty years, Simeon and his benefactor devise a way to overcome this limitation. Fortunately, the Doctor comes out of his funk over losing Rory and Amy and thwarts their plans.

It is, more so, by luck that the Doctor wins this battle. In fact, he makes a tactical mistake by using a memory worm on Simeon. Up until that moment, the Great Intelligence was never able to take over his host's mind. But, now that Simeon has been emptied of all memories, he can completely possess him. This seems to even open the door for the Great Intelligence to completely control the minds of other humans, too. As we will see more examples of him doing this in the future.

The Intelligence has made mistakes of his own, however. He'd left too great of a critical mass of himself around the home of Captain Latimer. When Clara dies (or, more accurately, one of her splinters dies) the grief her death causes overwhelms the Intelligence's psychic receptors and causes him to disperse. More than likely, he reverts back to gaseous form and is hovering somewhere just outside of Earth's atmosphere for quite some time.

SPECIAL NOTE: It is uncertain if the Doctor willingly helps the Great Intelligence by letting him see a map of the London Underground in 1967 or if it's done by accident. As he stands at Clara's grave with the Paternoster Gang, he seems to only vaguely remember his old enemy (which makes sense - it's been centuries in his own timeline since he last fought him). But he also acts very intentionally in the way he presents the tin with the map on it. As if he knows he's helping to cement certain things that will happen in the Great Intelligence's future. So it's difficult to tell what he's up to, here. Does he know who he's dealing with and is purposely giving him a clue to his own future? Or was that all by accident? If there was a greater amount of things to expound upon, I could almost make this a POINT OF DEBATE essay! 


ADVENTURES WITH THE SECOND DOCTOR - PART 1

The Intelligence floats in space just beyond our world - trying to find a way back in. Again, he needs to form a psychic bond with someone isolated to assist him in re-actualizing himself. His brief moment of possessing Simeon's mind has benefited him greatly, though. He is now able to completely take over the minds of his hosts if he needs to.

He finds the partnership he's looking for, this time, from a monk in Tibet named Padmasambhava (who wins the "Doctor Who Character with the Longest Name" contest). Through various meditation techniques, Padmasambhava has learnt to extend his consciousness and even his lifespan. During astral projection, he makes contact with the Great Intelligence and becomes mentally enslaved to him. Although, we should note that the Intelligence's ability to control minds is not perfect, yet. Padmasambhava does manage to re-assert his identity from time-to-time.

This time, the Intelligence focuses heavily on technology to assist him in his invasion plans. He has Padmasambhava build robots to work for him and construct a specific relay point to draw his consciousness to Earth. Rather than crystal, he will manifest himself as a sort of a fungus. His plans are about to reach fruition sometime in the 1930s when the Doctor arrives at the Detsen monastery and puts a stop to it. Ultimately, he gets Jamie to smash the relay point (in the form of a small pyramid) and cut the Intelligence's connection to our world. With that bond severed, his Yetis and even Padmasambhava become lifeless.

SPECIAL NOTE 1: The Great Intelligence has met the Doctor previous to this tale. There is no specific "So Doctor, we meet again..." speech to make this readily apparent. But the Intelligence does seem to understand who he is quite quickly. Which could, if you're willing to make the stretch, indicate prior experience with him. Yes, the Doctor's appearance is different but the Intelligence probably knows about Time Lords and is aware they can regenerate. Like Time Lords, he probably uses telepathic recognition, anyway. Physical appearance has little bearing in this process. The Doctor is identified by his mind pattern.

SPECIAL NOTE 2: The Abominable Snowmen seems to heavily insinuate that the plans of Padmasambhava and the Great Intelligence take some 300 years. This would, of course, make the timeline of The Snowmen rather complicated. Was the Great Intelligence working two plans at once to manifest himself?

I'm more inclined to believe that the Intelligence makes contact with Padmasambhava shortly after his failure with Simeon. That Padmasambhava works away for a good fifty years under the Intelligence's dominion. His extended lifespan is due more to the ways in which he expanded his consciousnsess before he makes mental contact with the Intelligence (there have been real-life examples of Tibetan monks living abnormally long lives so this isn't too huge of a stretch). The Intelligence continues sustaining him artificially after he takes him over until the relay point is finally broken.



ADVENTURES WITH THE SECOND DOCTOR - PART 2

While his plans in Tibet may have been ruined, this doesn't stop the Great Intelligence from trying to establish another bridgehead to Earth. This time, we don't see how he does it.  But he definitely manages to manifest himself as a fungus on the planet's surface. He re-builds some of his technology that he first used in Tibet. Shortly thereafter, the events of Web of Fear ensue.

Thanks to a clue given to him during his first encounter with the Doctor, he uses the London Underground as a tactical point in his invasion plans. He will probably establish a foothold in Britain's capitol city and then sweep out across the rest of the world.

This time, however, he also wishes to gain mastery over all of time and space by absorbing the Doctor's knowledge into him. He has fought the Time Lord several times, now, and sees how taking all his memories from him could be of enormous benefit. Now an expert at mind control, he gets his slaves to construct special machinery to do this. The Doctor manages to secretly fiddle with the device so that it will destroy the Intelligence rather than absorb his mind. However, the Time Lord keeps his meddling a secret from his friends. They smash the machine before it can accomplish this. Which, again, sends the Great Intelligence back into space in his gaseous form.

I do believe that, at this point, the Great Intelligence has given up on conquering Earth. He wishes to go elsewhere in the Universe. However, he has been greatly weakened by all his defeats and projecting himself over great distances is too heavy of a task for him. He must find ways to build back up his strength.



BACK TO SIMEON

The Great Intelligence almost appears to have a "soft spot" for the host he first used when coming to Earth and starts his using his image, again. He doesn't actually re-create his body, yet. But when he appears to his hosts as a mental image, he uses his form.

Over the next few decades, the Intelligence finds various means to simply absorb the minds of other sentient beings into himself. This enables him to build up his strength so that he can, eventually, project himself to another world more suitable for occupation (ie: a planet the Doctor is less likely to visit). He will, however, always remember his various defeats at the Doctor's hand. Though he claims in Web of Fear that he isn't motivated by revenge - he was fibbing just a tad. Someday, he would like to well and truly crush the Time Lord.

With the creation of Wi-Fi in the 21st Century, the Intelligence sees an excellent means of taking in vast amounts of human minds all at once. This can finally give him all the power he needs to leave Earth. Using a host who he has been completely controlling since the earliest days of her childhood, the Intelligence sets up a special "dummy company" that will enable him undertake his mass absorption.

The Bells of Saint John takes place, here.

Though he is defeated, once more, by the Eleventh Doctor - the Intelligence has gained the strength he needs to leave Earth. But he does seriously hate the Doctor, now. He will go out into the Universe and wreak havoc for quite some time. But, someday, he will get his revenge.... 



MANY YEARS LATER....

It's my personal belief that, sometime after Bells of Saint John, the Great Intelligence achieves escape velocity and leaves the Earth. He conquers many more worlds and plunders their technology. This, in turn, enables him to move through our Universe in a smoother fashion. Eventually, he reaches a point where he can travel anywhere in Time and Space. He also creates a special vessel in which he can pour his consciousness into. He then makes copies of that body so that if one is destroyed, he can easily transfer himself into another. He dubs these special bodies: The Whisper Men.

For over 2 000 years, a desire to exact revenge on the Doctor still burns in his heart. Eventually, the Great Intelligence learns of the Doctor's final death on Trenzalore. Understanding the sort of rupture in reality that a time traveler's death would cause, he uses this to his advantage to create a scenario of ultimate vengeance. 

Re-adopting the shape of Dr. Simeon, the Great Intelligence goes back in time to kidnap the Paternoster Gang. He knows this will lure the Doctor into any kind of trap of his devising. The "scar" the Doctor's death will leave in time is inside the TARDIS. Even though it is also dying, the Intelligence cannot enter the TARDIS without the Doctor's help. So he takes the Paternoster Gang to Trenzalore and forces the Doctor to open the TARDIS doors for him (well, technically, the ghost of River Song does it - but that's a complicated story in itself!).

Entering the time fissure of the Doctor's death, the Great Intelligence alters the Doctor's past so that he loses to the Great Intelligence over and over. This very act erases him from existence. From this point onward, he is lost within the Doctor's timeline.But he is content with this. He has achieved his revenge.

Until, of course, Clara also enters the Wound in Time and undoes everything the Great Intelligence has accomplished. Re-setting the Doctor's timeline to the way it was meant to be. The action also turns her into The Impossible Girl and creates a mystery in the Doctor's life that he spends the better part of a season trying to solve! 

It seems that the Great Intelligence has reached his end, here. Not only did he fail to achieve his revenge. But that lust for vengeance destroyed him in the process.

The Universe has rid itself of one of its worst menaces.




One of the rare occasions during a CHRONOLOGY AND TIMELINES essay where we actually see a definite ending to the being we are chronicling. This wasn't one of the more difficult timelines to set up, but I do hope I managed to reconcile a few of its inconsistencies effectively. Particularly the idea of getting The Snowmen and The Abominable Snowmen to work a bit better within each others' contexts.   

As I mentioned in the intro, there are a few more timelines for me to sort out. I'll probably do another one of these soon... 







Monday, 3 September 2018

UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION: WAS IT REALLY SO BAD? WARRIORS OF THE DEEP

Not quite a new type of essay, but a new series that I'll be featuring in my UNADULTERATED BOORISH OPINION style of essays. 

This will be similar to the "Unsung Classics" that I, sometimes, like to write about but it will have its own slant. While an Unsung Classic is a great story that should have gotten more props than it deserves, "Was It Really So Bad?!" is about stories with legitimate problems to them that I feel have been blown out of proportion. They're not quite Guilty Pleasures (we've written about those in a BOOK OF LISTS series. Here's the first of the five - just keep clicking to the next entry if you want to keep going:  http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2016/05/book-of-lists-top-five-guilty-pleasures.html). Guilty Pleasures are legitimately bad but I still like them, somehow. A "Was It Really So Bad?" story may have misfired on a few fronts but I still wouldn't call it a legitimate "clunker". It's still actually quite decent most of the time. But, because of a few rough patches, Fandom has decided that it absolutely sucks. My point in this particular type of essay is to try to build a bit of a case in the tale's defense. 

If you think the story I'm defending stinks then I probably won't change your opinion. But I'll still enjoy the cathartic value of stating what I think about the whole thing and how much it irritates me that fans crap on something that was actually half-decent. 


WARRIORS OF THE DEEP - WAS IT AS DEEPLY CRAPPY AS THEY CLAIM? 

It's the mid-80s. We've all just settled down from a really fun anniversary celebration that wasn't big on plot but still hit all the right notes with nostalgia. Season 21 comes along a short while later and we're all anxious to see what it holds. "Hooray!" We rejoice, "The Silurians and Sea Devils are coming back!"

What ends up hitting our screens, however, doesn't make us rejoice so much. There are a few glaring problems with Warriors of the Deep that let Fandom down so much that they turned on the whole thing rather quickly. So much so, that it tends to make it on to a lot of peoples' Worst of Lists.

This can happen when an old monster is brought back and the story is a bit lacking in places. Even in the New Series, we've seen this occur. Sontaran Strategem/Poison Sky, for instance, was a passable tale. But, because it had Sontarans attached to it, our disappointment becomes magnified. An okay story becomes more heavily reviled because it failed to re-introduce an old foe effectively.

I suggest that Poor 'Ole Warriors of the Deep got hit that way, too. If we can look past a few things and get over that it's not the best story featuring Silurians and/or Sea Devils (though, it's not the worst, either) then we actually find that there's still a fair amount of decent things about it.



THE GOOD STUFF

There's an interesting behind-the-scenes story that many fans feel contributes quite strongly to the detriment of Warriors of the Deep. Johnny Byrne, the author of the story, specified in the script that Seabase 4 should be very dark and gloomy and appear very worn down. It was meant to symbolize how the Cold War, itself, had gone on way more than it should and was causing everything to decay. The production team, for whatever reason, chose to go another way with it. Which is, ultimately, how things go in the Biz. What you write on the page doesn't always make it to the screen. Johnny Byrne, however, ended up having so many problems with this that he never contributed again.

But, as much as Byrne's specifications might have helped contribute to the atmosphere of the adventure, I don't think that going against his wishes did any actual real damage (though some fans would like to think otherwise). The truth of the matter is, the sets to Warriors of the Deep look great. Aside from a wobble here and there during action sequences and some very obvious 80s digital images on display screens, they hold up quite well. Everything looks pretty slick, really. So we shouldn't complain too hard that Byrne's vision wasn't accomplished. Cause what we did get was still quite impressive. So let's brush aside that Popular Fan Objection here and now. Sea Base 4 might not have looked the way it was intended to be - but it still looked pretty good. Some might even say awesome. 

Another great strength to this story is pacing. Earthshock set this interesting precedent in the Peter Davison Era. If a famous monster from the past was coming back, then the whole plot needed to feel like things were moving very quickly. There was a stronger emphasis on action and there might even, perhaps, be a bit of grittiness to the whole thing. Warriors of the Deep accomplishes this quite well. It doesn't quite "hit the ground running" like Earthshock or Resurrection of the Daleks did. We do get some establishing scenes that move a little more lazily. But that sense of pace does start kicking in fairly early in the game. Once the TARDIS confronts the defense satellite, a very nice sense of urgency ensues. The scenes are stacked against each other quite effectively for Parts 1 and 2 as things propel at a very good speed. That idea of the TARDIS crew always being in peril is well-established in the first half of the story. We really are whisked along quite nicely in the adventure. But things feel more tense than normal. Which, again, is the way things seem to work when Doctor Five is dealing with a returning monster. Honestly, those first 2 parts of Warriors of the Deep are pretty damned solid.

Some folks get upset that the Silurians have shells, now. That it's a blatant attempt to cash in on the Ninja Turtle Fever that was going on at the time. I'm not sure how valid of an issue that is. The costumes for both species actually look quite good. There's a bit of a problem with the heads here and there - a Silurian mask was not put on properly at one point. And the heads of the Sea Devils are actually hats that hang off the artistes poorly, sometimes. But these sort of problems happen quite often in Classic Who. I find it hard to get too caught up in it. But I do think that the updates that were done to both creatures were very strong.


THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF 

For me, Part Three is where some real problems start to arise. The cliffhanger to Part One was great. That was actually a really good fight sequence. But Part Two's ending signposts a big issue on the horizon. The sequence of events is well-written. We are genuinely concerned for the Doctor and Tegan as they get trapped on the wrong side of the bulkhead. But the execution of that scene falls very flat. And much of the direction in Part Three continues suffering.

The real problem here, of course, is the Myrka. Even by Classic Who standards, the visual is just too embarrassing to handle. Again, as a concept, it works well. It's nice to see a very different kind of monster trying to be created. But what we actually get is laughable. It's just difficult to handle a pantomime horse with any degree of seriousness. It doesn't help that several cringe-worthy visuals happen around the thing, too. Our first sight of it through airlock doors that are blatantly not made of metal is pretty ludicrous. As is the "fight" that Ingrid Pitt is meant to have with it before she perishes. It's all pretty awful. This is a legitimate Fan Objection that I can't really dismiss. The Myrka really does ruin things for a bit.

What Fandom doesn't seem to notice is that the writing is also only doing so well in this episode. Warriors of the Deep, I feel, would have worked so much better if they had started doing those three-parters in the McCoy era right here. Byrne is really trying to sustain the episode when there isn't quite enough plot. There's some structural issues, too. The most blatant being just how long it takes for Commander Vorshak to get from the bulkhead to the Bridge. Watch it for yourself. Everyone else displaces themselves quite quickly after the Myrka and the Sea Devils break through. Vorshak just seems to stroll along during all the peril. Did he stop for a bowel movement or something?  

There's another really silly writing choice that gets made that I feel needs to be highlighted. When Nilson is uncovered as the traitor - no one thinks to disarm him. Wouldn't that be the first thing one would do in a military operation when someone is suspected of treason?!  Instead, Nilson makes his escape and leads us to a very weak cliffhanger.

Really, for my money, Part Three is where things go off the rails for a bit. Most complaints that are leveled against it cannot be disputed. This is where Warriors of the Deep becomes legitimately bad.

Does it stay bad, though?

I don't think so....


BACK ON TRACK

It's almost like Part Four brushes the third part's dust off of itself and gets back on its feet. Quite mercifully, both Nilson and the Myrka are dead. The issues they created die with them and we can get back to the real plot.

The pace really starts to pick up again. Some quick captures and escapes happen to pad things out a bit but not too much. As is often the case with Doctor Five Returning Monster Stories, there is a nice moment where the Doctor abandons his gentle disposition and "lets rip" for a few minutes with unadulterated outrage. This time, though, his target is humanity, itself. He is truly disgusted by Preston's desire to wipe out the enemy with hexachromite (which, admittedly, could have been introduced more subtly in Part One!). It's quite the speech that sits almost as strongly as the verbal attack against the Cyber Leader in Earthshock. I'm very impressed by it.

The tension that ensues once the hexachromite is released into the ventilation system is extremely well-performed. Those last few minutes of Tegan and Turlough running around trying to save the Silurians while the Doctor attempts to stop the missile run really are frantic. Our three leads sell the moment very well and we're even holding our breath a bit.

Again, we can make a bit of an Earthshock comparison, here. This final scene is extra effective because it actually works against itself a bit. There are two well-placed contradictory elements going on. Which makes the peril of the moment all-the-more effective. In Earthshock, they're trying to save Adric. But, at the same time, they can't. If they do, established history could be corrupted. In Warriors of the Deep, they want to preserve what remains of the Silurian Triad - but also can't. Because, no doubt, Icthar will try some other way to wipe out humanity if he survives. This is actually some pretty solid writing. It tears us in two different directions and makes the climax of the story that bit more exciting.

The ending of Warriors of the Deep does take a pretty big risk. Some feel it didn't work. I, however, am of the "This is a Super-Cool Ending" Camp. But then, I also liked the broken math badge in Earthshock. So maybe I'm just a sucker for when the show tries to stray from its regular "well, we saved the day lets go back to the TARDIS" formula. Because the Doctor looking over the devastation and pronouncing: "There should have been another way." is absolutely spectacular. It really rams home what the whole story is trying to say about War. The Cold War, in particular. That, basically, we need to find a better way.

A bit corny, perhaps? Probably. But, sometimes, corny is nice...



ONE LAST FAN OBJECTION TO DISMISS....

Okay, I've made my case. Aside from some bad stuff in Part Three, I think this story does half-decently. A lot of the Popular Fan Objections have, by my definition, been cut down to size (you may think otherwise, of course - and you're perfectly welcome to your opinion!).

But there is one last complaint to deal with. It doesn't refer so much to the specific story, itself. But rather, how the story affects the larger scale of continuity.

We seem to be under the impression that the Doctor, in this point in his timeline, has met the Silurians and Sea Devils on three occasions. Those incidents were all shown onscreen in Doctor Who and the Silurians, The Sea Devils and Warriors of the Deep. Some confusion ensues, however, when references are made in Warriors of the Deep to Silurians and Sea Devils that don't seen to make sense. The Doctor claims to have knowledge of Myrkas, Triads and has even met Icthtar. But we never saw any of this happen in those two previous tales. Fans are angered that Warriors seems to have gotten its continuity wrong.

The answer is simple, really. I go into this in far greater detail in my the CHRONOLOGIES AND TIMELINES that I do about Silurian History (I'll post links at the bottom of the essay), but Warriors of the Deep is referencing untelevised encounter(s) that the Doctor has had with the Silurians. It's entirely possible, in fact, that the Silurians and Sea Devils that we see in this story have absolutely no knowledge of the onscreen adventures the Doctor had with them. In the same way that the Silurians we've been seeing in New Who don't seem to know about the groups of Homo Reptilia he's met in the Classic Series. These are creatures that have been living in hibernation chambers scattered throughout the planet. It's likely that there's not a whole lot of communication going on between them. So the Doctor's encounters with them can be very isolated. 


THE FINAL ANALYSIS

Now we have, officially, dealt with all the problems and strengths of Warriors of the Deep. I'd like to think that my analysis has shown there are far more positive points to the tale than negative. Not sure if you see that, yourself. But, as I said earlier, if I didn't change your mind on the matter - the cathartic process of it all was still nice! 

Nonetheless, I hope I've helped you to re-evaluate things a bit.




That's all for now for this new series. Hope you've enjoyed it. From time to time, we will look at other stories that I feel have always gotten more flack than they deserve (you can bet that both Twin Dilemma and Time and the Rani will show up here, someday). I look forward to ranting further on such matters....   

Want a bit more elaboration on those unseen Silurian/Sea Devil stories?  Here are links to my Comprehensive Homo Reptilia History:  

Part 1:   
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2017/09/chronologies-and-timelines-probable.html

Part 2: 
http://robtymec.blogspot.com/2017/10/chronologies-and-timelines-silurian.html