On the Occasion (part 18)

The marathon continued today at 12:45 PM PST with Planet of the Daleks (full episodic version.) Essentially the second part of the mammoth twelve-part story, now find the Doctor and Jo on Spiradon – a planet full of nasty vegetation and invisible inhabitants – along with a group of Thals and an army of Daleks (what’s the shock, they’re in the title!) I’ve heard complaints that this is just the first Dalek story retold on another planet, and while I didn’t watch them back to back I can say that I don’t see any resemblance. It’s not the greatest Dalek story, but it’s the first Terry Nation script since Dalek Masterplan. 3/5.

4:25 PM PST The Green Death (episodic version.) Very good ecological thriller – no alien menace here, it’s 100% man made (as in “man made machines to control the day… now machine controls, while the man obeys…”) Fluorescent green sludge, giant maggots, computers that hum Beethoven, and a tear jerking ending. 5/5.

8:05 PM PST The Time Warrior (episodic version.) Enter the Sontarans – squat, mean and ugly warriors from a far off planet. This one (named Lynx) is stranded in the middle ages, and is capturing scientists from the future to help him leave. So it’s up to the Doctor, along with a stow-away named Sarah Jane Smith, to thwart his (it’s, whatever) plans. Good fun – 4/5.

Now I’m skipping Invasion (of the Dinosaurs) as I recently viewed it and wrote an article for the Time Meddler’s of Los Angeles’ newsletter – The Intergalactic Enquirer (as follows…)

INVASION – by Malcolm Hulke – Part One: All is still in London. A bird tweets, a dog barks, and toys are abandoned in a park. This is the scene that the Doctor and Sarah Jane find on their arrival, but for the longest time in the U.S. we never saw this. Invasion of the Dinosaurs (along with Planet of the Daleks) was distributed as a five-part story due to one episode only being black and white. It wasn’t until the mid-ninety’s that episode one (simply titled “Invasion” to hold some suspense) finally made it stateside. Now it’s upcoming release on video gives all fans a chance to watch this often overlooked gem.

The first thing people tend to criticize about this story is the model work with the dinosaurs. Well, this is 1974 – the same year as (and no worse than) Sid & Marty Croft’s “Land of the Lost” and about two decades off from the big budget “Jurassic Park”! What makes this story a highlight is a thoroughly well crafted story by Malcolm Hulke (his last for the series.) Its not just battling big monsters in the streets of London, but there’s layers of intrigue, deception and danger – not only from the Dinosaurs, but mostly from the humans.

The back-story immediately follows the present day portion of the Time Warrior, but I’ve always felt it as more of a direct sequel – especially with the ecological themes – with the serial “The Green Death.” It also could be considered the second part of a Mike Yates trilogy – beginning with that serial (where he almost losses his mind) and ending with his redemption in “Planet of the Spiders.” It’s really only through Yates that we can feel sympathy for the other side, though it can’t be said that Yates and the others involved “went to the dark side,” they are clearly the antagonists.

But this is not a simple case of good versus evil, as say a Dalek serial would entail, its well-intentioned people going about things the wrong way working against people who are protecting a world with serious problems. The dinosaurs are a side effect and a cover for the master plan – Operation Golden Age: the turning back of Earth to pre-historic times – and the wiping out of the history of mankind. Can the Doctor stop them? How far reaching is the conspiracy? Will the rubber Dinosaurs turn off modern day viewers? (Yes; far; and some – though I wouldn’t use it to introduce someone to the series…)

This story effectively ends the UNIT era of Doctor Who. While the men uniform would return a few more times, Invasion of the Dinosaurs would be the last time the Third Doctor would work wholly with the UNIT gang. Planet of the Spiders would be the epilogue of five years worth of adventures. The Earth was in danger; the Doctor was here to save the day; UNIT was keeping the peace; and the Brigadier was going to back the Doctor if it meant having to go all the way to Geneva to get around the regular army – the formula from Invasion to Invasion (of the Dinosaurs.)

Summing up? Well… excellent story, good acting, wobbly sets and cheesy effects. It’s classic Doctor Who, and shouldn’t be relegated to the forgotten pile. If you remember seeing it years ago, take a look at it again (many stories seem to improve over time) and you may be surprised.

Oh, and I’ll give it 3.5/5.

9:50 PM PST Death to the Daleks (episodic version.) I start the day out with a fair Dalek story to one that I’ve always had a particular fondness for. I’ve heard many people complain about this one, but I think it’s a great story (but what’s with Terry Nation’s use of the surname Tarrant?) Sure there’s a couple of plot points that are dubious, but when wasn’t there plot problems??? 4/5.

Maybe I’ll finish off the third Doctor tomorrow…