Thursday, December 2, 2010

200 Moments: The Second Doctor!


The Power of the Daleks
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Bragen gets an instant promotion by having a pet Dalek exterminate the Governor.
WHY: Why is a good question. Just why the hell does Bragen want to be Governor, anyway? Now, my huge personal problems mean that the idea of voluntarily taking on huge responsibility is anethama to me, but I can't see what Bragen can gain by taking over a run-down colony which is teaming with rebels who turn against even the incredibly popular Hensell. What would he get out of it apart from being the one to get the blame for the decreasing productivity, social unrest and the large number of corpses being dumped in the mercury swamps? And this is why no one ever expected him to go bad - he has absolutely no motive. Because he's a total nutter who thinks that a thriving urban rebellion doesn't mean that "the people will do exactly as they are told". When Hensell points out how utterly retarded Bragen's master plan is, Bragen has him exterminated... and then the Dalek can't help but point out that Hensell's right and Bragen shouts at it to shut up. Nevertheless, the Dalek's question is valid: why do human beings kill each other needlessly? Maybe it had been given a proper answer, the Daleks wouldn't have wiped out the population of Vulcan in a massive jihad...

The Highlanders
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Ben encounters the Doctor disguised as a redcoat.
WHY: The Highlanders is unique in being a story where the Doctor decides that the plot is simply too narrow and straightforward and decides to make things twice as complicated, putting all sorts of disguises that get him nearly lynched by friend and foe alike. For no other reason than he can, he drags up, beats up redcoats, pretends to be German, and sets every possible side and faction against each other. It's no wonder this trait was soon abandoned, since it makes him thoroughly annoying and incomprehensible, as though appearing in a completely different story. It reaches its zenith in part four when Ben is washed ashore after nearly drowning and is confronted by a redcoat. "Oh no," the sailor groans, "not after all that! I give up!" The soldier tugs off its false moustache and we discover it's the Doctor - he hasn't come to rescue Ben, or even have any reason to be at the shore, it's all one whacking great coincidence justified by his off-screen adventures, which include some rather intense arms dealing. When Ben complains at this plot flaw, our hero merely shrugs. "Who else would be walking around the jetty at this time of night dressed like a soldier who'd been wounded in battle?" Ben nods thoughtfully. "Yeah, you've got a point there..."

The Underwater Menace
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Zaroff discovers that the Doctor has escaped.
WHY: The Underwater Menace is, of course, a comedy. Maybe it wasn't meant to be a B-movie parody, but all concerned treated it like that. While everyone always mentions the cliffhanger to part three ("NOTHING IN THE VERLD CAN SHTOP ME NOW!"), but they skip the brilliant moment beforehand. The fat and very stupid high priest waddles in and explains that, when everyone closed their eyes for five minutes, the Doctor somehow managed to disappear before they opened them again! Zaroff suggests that maybe while these Atlantean morons were playing peek-a-boo, the Time Lord legged it. "May the wrath of Amdo engulf you!" the priest blubbers unhappily. "I'll take my chance!" Zaroff deadpans, channelling Bernard Black to Lolem's Manny. "NOW GET OUT!!!"

The Moonbase
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor broods over the Cybermen's plan.
WHY: Having realized that his recorder can break the sonic control the Cybermen have over their zombies, the Time Lord starts thinking to himself. Funny. "Funny." To go to all that trouble to make the men do the work. Why? "Do it themselves, easy." They're using the men as tools. Why? "Don't know." Yes, I do though! "There must be something in here they don't like." Pressure? "No, no." Electricity? "No." Radiation? "Maybe." Gravity! Now there's a thought. Gravity. "Oh yes, Gravity!" he announces, having coped with the loss of three companions by... being his own companion. And, amazingly enough, it actually works!

The Macra Terror
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor and Polly find out just what the gas mines are for and where the poisonous mists are being pumped...
WHY: It's been steadily growing obvious over the past three episodes this long-lost Earth colony is not a good place to be - propaganda in the form of lift muzak is played during the day and hypnotic gas fills the bedrooms at night. What's more, there are some giant bloody craps lurking in the woods killing anyone who strays too far from civilization. Someone is controlling the colony and using the Macra as their foot soldiers, and the Doctor and his sole remaining companion finally sneak into the secret control room where the Big Brother style leader of the colony makes his announcements - and it's a gigantic glass tank full of poison gas and Macra. A white crab fiddles with a joystick, controlling its human avatar hologram to send orders to its slaves. Looking on through a porthole Polly shakes her head. "But how long have they been there? I mean, they weren't always in control, were they?" she asked. The Doctor glares down at the monsters. "I couldn't tell you when they were first here, Polly. They're like germs in the human body - they've got into the body of this colony, they're living as parasites..." Polly realizes that the Macra are a disease that has spread to the brain. Below, the white Macra sends out its latest message. "THIS IS A HAPPY COLONY! ALL MUST OBEY!!"

The Faceless Ones
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Ben and Polly take their leave of the Doctor.
WHY: The departure of Jackson and Wright is second only to "Dodo? Who's Dodo?" as forgotten leaving scenes go, perhaps because Ben and Polly were meant to depart in the next story when the Doctor and Jamie were kidnapped back to 1866, leaving the pair with an angry policeman and an exterminated corpse to deal with. Perhaps getting a proper goodbye is better, but given that we haven't seen either of them all story, it comes as a bit of a shock that their first scene in the episode is to announce they are leaving. Achingly, the scene begins with Polly shouting "Doctor, where are you going?" and Ben adding, "Hey, come back." But of course, the moment Ben starts suggesting staying in "normal" London where there's "no monsters or Cybermen", the Doctor is suddenly crestfallen. "You really want to go, don't you?" he accuses them angrily. "Well, we won't leave, Doctor, if you really need us," Ben offers uncomfortably. As ever, Polly is the only one of the gang that can get through to the Time Lord. "The thing is," she pleads, "it is our world." The Doctor glares at them bitterly. "Yes, I know! You're lucky! I never got back to mine..." And then, suddenly he grins broadly and tells them to get the hell out of his life. "Ben can catch his ship and become an Admiral and you Polly, you can look after Ben!" he says cheerfully and hurries them away as fast as possible, before they can find out that the Daleks have stolen the TARDIS and get them embroiled in another adventure. "I'm sad to see them go," Jamie admits. "So am I," the Doctor sighs once they're alone. He may look different and act different, but just like the last Doctor, he hates goodbyes, and for the first time hasn't been able to sneak away without giving one.

The Evil of the Daleks
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor reveals his scheme to the Emperor Dalek, not expecting the Emperor to have already anticipated it.
WHY: The Daleks have been pro-active when it comes to the Doctor meddling in their plans for once. Keeping him totally in the dark, they've stolen his TARDIS, threatened his companions, and given some hints about their new plan - to create a brand new race of Daleks with all the strengths of humanity and none of the weaknesses. And, in a nasty twist, the Doctor at gunpoint must be the one to help them choose those strengths. Now the Doctor and Jamie are trapped on Skaro, in the heart of the Dalek city, with next to no chance of escape and brought before the giant Emperor of the Daleks. "So... you are the Doctor?" the massive cyborg almost laughs in contempt. The Second Doctor is strangely calm. "We meet at last," he replied. "I wondered if we ever would... The day of the Daleks is coming to an end!" The Doctor bluntly explains that the test Daleks have free will and independence and will tear Dalek society apart. "You will have a rebellion on your planet! I've beaten you and I don't care what you do to me now!" the Doctor shouts up at the Emperor triumphant. "The "Human Factor" showed us what the "Dalek Factor" was," the Dalek leader replies, unimpressed. "Without knowing, you have shown the Daleks what their own strength is!" The Doctor has been set up, so when he chose the best of humanity, the Daleks chose the opposite - their whole "scheme" has been a bluff. Rather than change the Daleks, they're going to change the humans and the Doctor's TARDIS is going to be used to change all history. "You can't make me do it!" the Doctor screams terrified, but the Emperor is quite confident. "You will obey!" Our hero's attempt to destroy his enemies has just made them more powerful than ever...

The Tomb of the Cybermen
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Jamie tries and fails to escape the Cybermen.
WHY: Tomb is not a deep story. Indeed, give it any real thought and you'll find a shockingly racist, brain-dead runaround. But I was lucky enough to see it at six years of age, arguably young enough to truly appreciate it. Empty your mind anything like logic or political credibility. Giant silver monsters are after you. You have no guns or weapons or even a way out. What more is needed? And as Toberman goes apeshit and the Cyberman need to tazer the brutha into submission, Jamie makes a run for it. He cunningly avoids the Cyber patrols and reaches the ladder and freedom... zap. A Cyberman standing in the shadows blasts him to the ground. Escape is impossible. Resistance is useless. You belong to them.

The Abominable Snowmen
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor tries to save Padmasambhava from the grip of the Great Intelligence.
WHY: Things are looking up as the ancient monk is able to resist the Intelligence long enough to have once last meeting with his friend. "I have been kept alive so many years, but now our time left is very very short. Listen carefully, intelligence... formless in space... I astral travelled..." The Doctor is aghast as Padmasambhava reveals the Intelligence has controlled his body and used his mind to achieve material form. "You must help me," the old man begs. "Yes, of course I will help you!" the Doctor replies, "But why are the monks been driven away? What is the purpose of the Yeti? Where is their control?" Padmasambhava cannot reply, having slumped dead of old age. Devastated the Doctor leaves the inner sanctum, not realizing the Intelligence has been in control of Paddy all the time and has been spun a yarn. The moment our hero is gone, the withered corpse sits up and grins. The nebulous Lovecraftian threat is not merely trying to end the world, it's getting a real thrill out of its cruelty...

The Ice Warriors
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Ice Warriors storm the Britannicus Base.
WHY: It seems that there are only two types of people in the 51st century, omnisexual sluts and emotionless computer-loved geeks. And Leader Klent generally fits into the second category, unable to believe the human brain can come up with anything faster or more useful than his frankly rubbish laptop ECCO. To him, mankind is poor substitute for machines and he's worked himself to the point of collapse, surviving only by the reviving properties of his kinky vibrating chair. And then he meets Varga the Ice Warrior, who is a bit more passionate and emotional... As Klent tries to big himself up with his numerous degrees from Cambridge, the Martian retorts "What are your qualifications for existence?" Klent protests that he is the leader who knows all the answers. "I know all I need to know," Varga retorts. "If I killed you, it would be no great loss to me." The downsizing and ruthless efficiency turned on him gives the guy a nervous breakdown. It's sort of like The Office, only quicker, funnier and without Ricky Gervais.

The Enemy of the World
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Salamander takes holocaust denial very seriously.
WHY: In an underground bunker deep beneath the uninhabitable wastelands of the planet Earth, a bloke called Swann confronts Salamander - the leader of the last surviving outpost of humanity. Swann's found a newpaper from last week with the headline saying Holiday Liner Sinks. "You say there's a global war, radiation everywhere! How can there be holiday liners? You've lied to us, haven't you?" Salamander shrugs, admitting that, yeah, he did kind of forget to mention that the war ended. "But have you any idea what happens to people who've been involved in a nuclear war? Those who are lucky enough to escape the annihilation have their bodies eaten away by radiation poisoning. They're deformed in mind and body!" OK, they might still sell tabloids but their society is evil and corrupt! This is why Salamander's had the bunker survivors triggering volcanoes and earthquakes, wiping out the mutants so Swann and pals can inherit the Earth and make a new world. "Swann, they're not fit to live! It's not murder, it's an act of mercy!" Swann, of course, is the next one to be granted such mercy... and down in the bunker, the other survivors continue to destroy the evil surface-dwellers they've never so much as seen before. Comforting thought, isn't it?

The Web of Fear
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Jamie smashes the Intelligence pyramid to no avail.
WHY: In The Abominable Snowmen, Jamie smashed a funky model pyramid and the Great Intelligence was expelled from the Land of Mortals, all the Yetis exploded, and the world was saved in one big move. Having spent two episodes discovering the Intelligence and the Yeti are back, Jamie and the audience know how save the day again - simply find the pyramid and smash it. And then, by sheer luck, they find a Yeti carrying the very pyramid. Jamie swoops in and smashes the pyramid to pieces. But the Yeti don't explode. The Intelligence is not undone. Because, living up to its name, this formless mass of Cthulu spit learnt from its past mistake. The end of the world they went to such lengths to stop has actually happened, and no one has a clue what to do now. By comparison, imagine if Rose simply cracked open the TARDIS, turned into the Bad Wolf and still couldn't defeat the enemy... now what do we do?!

Fury from the Deep
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Jamie spends one last night with Victoria.
WHY: Companion departures are usually brief and messy. The Doctor heads back to the TARDIS when suddenly the assistant announces they're staying. Maybe they're in love, or want to go home, or really fancy doing charity work. The Doctor boggles in disbelief, gets angry to cover his feelings, sobers, then walks off pretending to much more chipper than he actually is. Sometime there's foreshadowing, sometimes it's atrociously random but Victoria becomes the first character who's departure is not bolted onto an existing plot but becomes a crucial part of it. The monstrous seaweed has all been defeated at the start of the final episode. Now we are seeing everyone happy and relaxed, safe and alive. Miss Waterfield wants to stay in the swinging sixties, and the Doctor and Jamie decide to stay as well, just for a few days to make sure she'll be happy. Akward, the pair stay up late, wanting to talk - but Victoria's a repressed prude and Jamie's a hypermasculine butch boy, they spend their last conversation babbling about absolutely nothing. "Do you know what the Doctor's just gone and done? He's only gone down the beach for a swim. He gets worse," Jamie says, trying to break the ice. Finally, Jamie cracks and wonders why the Doctor isn't trying to get her to stay aboard the TARDIS. "You know what he's like, he wouldn't," Victoria sighs. "He believes in people making up their own mind." Jamie pulls his last bit of emotional blackmail - well, apart from the fact he fancies her rotten and is heartbroken at her departure, naturally - and points out Victoria's stuck in the wrong century. Victoria points out glumly she has nothing to go back for. "Aye, that's true," Jamie sighs, suddenly wanting to get the hell out of there. "Jamie!" Victoria calls after him worriedly. Jamie whirls around hopefully. "You wouldn't go without saying goodbye, would you?" she asks, hastily covering up her emotions. Awkwardly, Jamie promises to stay till morning, and the two part. All in silence, a contrast to the screams and roars a few scenes earlier. And, just as we never saw Victoria's first meeting with the Doctor, we never get to see her final goodbye to him either.

The Wheel in Space
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Cybermats attack Rudkin.
WHY: How the hell can a Cybermat be dangerous? We get told at some points that they can infect you with poison - and in their first appearance they can apparently bite you with their fuzzy teeth. Actually, it's explained that Cybermats can not only home in on brainwaves but attack said brainwaves. Enough of them can boil your brain in your skull, but this ability is only demonstrated once. The Cybermats have been wandering around the Wheel being innocent and klutzy, despite their redesign with scary blank eyes and no antennae and then the Cybermen switch them from "cute" to "lethal", just as crewman Rudkin walks straight into their nest. They zap him, forcing him to drop any weapons he can snatch up to defend himself until he's left trapped, alone, and all he can do is scream...

The Dominators
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Dominators and the Quarks are finally destroyed.
WHY: Rago and Toba are two sides of the same coin - they're both viscious, sadistic maniacs who get a kick out of killing people and want to wage war across the cosmos. But Rago long ago learned the benefits of patience and pragmatism, knowing long-term success requires self control. Toba, however, is on one long holiday of nuking inferior bipeds for the sheer hell of it, blowing up buildings and spaceships just because they're there and just because he can. Had either of the Dominators gone alone, it would have been a very different story - Toba would have killed everyone right away and conquered Dulkis, while Rago would have simply done the latter more quickly and efficiently before the Doctor could stop him. Finally, in the last episode, the duo reach an accord: Toba will concentrate on Rago's mission that will destroy everyone on the planet. It's a chilling display of how cooperation is more powerful than squabbling, but it feels right that the Dominator's arrogance costs them and they never assume that a blockhead like Jamie could simply chuck the thermonuclear bomb back inside their ship and blow them up. As they face death, it's Toba who calmly accepts their fate while Rago loses his composure and dies screaming for others to obey him. As Steven Moffat later said, it's nice to be smart... but it's smarter to be nice.

The Mind Robber
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Given control over the Land of Fiction, the Doctor immediately starts to fight his way to break free.
WHY: It's a sequence that defines surreal. Effectively a script-writing session with the Doctor being told to write his way out of story ideas, it seems more commonplace now - had the two enemies been battling via RPG, no one would have thought it strange at all. Robots about to kill Jamie and Zoe? Easy, the Karkus nukes them with his laser gun! The Karkus turns on Jamie and Zoe? His gun's out of ammo! Cyranno de Bergerac arrives to finish them off? D'artangon leaps into the fray! Who would win between Blackbeard the Pirate and Sir Lancelot? Only one way to find out... FIGHT!!! The Goodies would be hard pressed to find an excuse for such mayhem, let alone have it decided over the fate of all mankind. The whole episode could have been devoted to these celebrity death-matches, but like any Doctor Who episode, the budget is tight and it's time to cut the crap! The robots close in around the Doctor, who dare not describe his safety for fear of fictionalizing himself. "You can't save yourself this time!" But while the Doctor can't use his magical powers to save himself, he has saved Jamie and Zoe who save the day for him. What a brilliant bit of plotting there, eh, readers?

The Invasion
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Cybermen take over IE.
WHY: As many have pointed out, The Invasion could be about any damn alien monster. Vaughn's allies could have been Yeti or Daleks or Ice Warriors or anyone capable of loitering outside St Paul's Cathedral or killing shmucks in the sewers. Only one moment in the story needs the enemy to be the Cybermen. At the end, as Vaughn shouts for Packer, we wait for the goon's face to fill the circular video phone. But it's not Packer that answers the call but the blank mask of a Cyberman, tear-drop-eyes and smiling mouth staring blankly out. For a moment, it could actually be Packer, cyber-converted and demonstrating that the silver giants really are everywhere. A lot better than random characters shouting "the streets are full of Cybermen" and having to take it on trust, but hey ho...

The Krotons
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Jamie ambushes the Krotons to no avail.
WHY: Robert Holmes started from the beginning with a cunning plan: make your villains seem way more dangerous and epic by having them impressive to start with and then revealing they're barely working at 10% of their peak efficiency. If they get to full power, nothing will stop them - be it Autons, Drashigs, Sontarans, the Master, Drathro... you think they're bad now? And so the Doctor defeating the badguys becomes more tense and yet believable: defeating an Egyptian god is just about credible since it's established from page one the guy can't move his fingers, and STILL comes close to winning. And here, the Krotons quite casually reveal how utterly badass they are - despite being on emergency power and halved in effectiveness, they still destroyed the planet of the Gonds and enslaves the locals. And things get worse! "KROTONS CANNOT DIE. WE FUNCTION PERMANENTLY, UNLESS WE EXHAUST. THE EXHAUST PROCEDURE IS MERELY REVERSION TO BASIC MOLECULES, BUT THE MATTER CAN BE RE-ANIMATED..." Jamie valiantly tries to use logic, but the Krotons are imagination-free assholes like all Holmes villains: why are they slaughtering innocent and harmless people? "THAT IS PROCEDURE." And now we're all cheering as Jamie picks up one of the Kroton's own guns and aims it at them (hey, worked for Ben and the Cyberman!). "Hah, now we'll see if you die or not!" the jacobite shouts and gives the Kroton both barrels. The Kroton casually, undamaged in any way, bitch-slaps the Highlander and prepares to snap his neck...

The Seeds of Death
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Ice Warriors kills its way to Weather Control.
WHY: Defined so far as snake-like soldiers with a perchant for sadism, the Ice Warriors are suddenly shown to be unstoppable, wordless killing machines. The green sod strides through the foamy carpet of slime that asphyxiates any human, casually shooting down anyone it comes across. Finally as it strides through a forest, a sensible guard hides up a tree and radios to base what's going on. The hissing, gargling crocodile man lumbers down the hill, seemingly oblivious... and then it stops and turns to aim right at the tree. He is shot down instantly and, the only living thing now, the Ice Warrior lumbers off into the afternoon sunshine. No mercy. No survivors. It's not hard to see why their redefinition as heroic, sophisticated and cultured aliens was such a shock to the system...

The Space Pirates
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor's attempts to escape Alpha 4 fail totally.
WHY: Whenever they brought back the Second Doctor, they always seemed to think of him as a bumbling, idiotic clown who screwed things up and made things worse. He was no manipulative, fun-loving anarchist, but a concussed flautist with next to no people skills. Anyone who saw the surviving episode of this travesty would see just that - this Doctor is a klutz who makes Gilligan look like Blackadder. Everything he does gets him, Jamie and Zoe into worse trouble. They can't go through a door without falling into a bottomless pit or walk down a corridor without getting crushed by a landing spaceship. Here, the Doctor's show-off trick with magnets dooms the entire crew to death by suffocation. "Oh dear, what a silly idiot I am," the Doctor says quietly to himself. But while in a reunion story he'd be grinning with a naughty what-am-I-like expression, here he's agast, literally trembling with shock. He's got them all killed and he knows it, with Patrick Troughton fighting every inch against a script he despised and making their dire straights far more scary than the writer and directors would have done...

The War Games
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor, Jamie and Zoe bluff the War Lords.
WHY: It's nine episodes into the epic finale to the 1960s, and the Doctor's trapped by an advanced alien conspiracy using Time Lord technology. He can't fight these people, not without risking the greater wrath of his own people, and so the Doctor seems to have completely betrayed the last principles he has and sold out Jame and Zoe to be brainwashed and used as canon fodder. Jamie undergoes processing and the Doctor's true colours are revealed as he quickly tells Jamie everything he needs to know how to be convincingly brainwashed. "There you are, you see, complete loyalty and devotion!" the Doctor brags about his best friends as they twig to his ruse and he proves himself worthy of said devotion one last time. "Bring the girl!" he says with a clandestine wink, and the TARDIS crew perform one last bluff routine to fool the bad guys and get away scott free. There's no hint of fatigue, boredom or defeat here - these three could have kept on pulling these tricks for years. You'd never guess in one episode's time the Doctor would be dead, and the others just as bad... which makes it all the more heartbreaking.

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