A League Of Their Own – Doctor Who – tape 1646

First on this tape, from Sky Movies, it’s A League of their Own. I’d forgotten what a great film this is. Warm, funny, filled with great performances.

It’s World War II and baseball in America has shut down because all the players have joined up to fight in the war. But Walter Harvey, millionaire chocolate manufacturer, wants to do something to keep the league going, so they recruit for women’s teams.

Jon Lovitz makes a memorable impression as the sardonic talent scout looking all over for women to try out for the league. Geena Davis and her sister, Lori Petty, play, and he wants Davis, but doesn’t want Petty. But Davis isn’t interested. So Petty persuades him that if she can persuade Davis to join up, he’ll take her (Petty) as well.

They both make it through the tryouts, along with a varied group of girls which includes Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna.

Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna

There’s a lovely scene where Lovitz (with Davis and Petty) visits another town to look at another girl, Marla, played by Megan Cavanagh, who had been raised by her father, and was a brilliant batter, but wasn’t pretty, like Davis. Naturally, Lovitz passes, because they’re all assuming that people will only want to watch it for the pretty girls, not for sporting prowess, and it’s heartbreaking to see her reaction to the rejection. “Daddy, I’m sorry” and he hugs her.

Davis and Petty are obviously disgusted that Lovitz is passing on her purely because of looks, and they put their bags down, refusing to leave the gym. Then Marla’s father, Eddie Jones, talks to Lovitz.

“I know my girl ain’t so pretty as these girls. But that’s my fault. I raised her as a little boy. I didn’t know any better. But she loves to play. Don’t make my little girl suffer because I messed up raising her.”

Eddie Jones and Megan Cavanagh

Surprisingly for a sports picture, a big theme of the film is people looking after other people. More than once, characters who at first have their own interests at heart, eventually start caring about the people around them.

Tom Hanks is the washed up ball player brought in to coach the team, and he’s only there to add what little star power his name has left, and prefers to spend the games in an alcoholic stupor.

Davis takes charge of actually running the team in his virtual absence, but when he starts to notice how well they’re playing, he starts to get interested again. There’s an amusing scene where he’s trying to signal to the batter to do one thing, and Davis is giving different signals.

Duelling Signals

David Strathairn plays the lawyer who’s given the task of getting the league up and running, and he’s the one who initially tells the women that they have to wear short skirts, and all the publicity is about how girly they all are.

David Strathairn

But when the league is a success, and chocolate magnate Harvey (played, incidentally, by Garry Marshall, the director of Pretty Woman) says that they can restart men’s baseball next year because the war is going well, Strathairn doesn’t want to see the women’s league just abandoned.

Garry Marshall

After a heartbreaking scene where one of the women gets a telegram saying her husband had been killed, Davis is surprised when her husband, played by Bill Pullman, returns unexpectedly, having been injured by a sniper and discharged from the Army. Pullman is smart casting here. Good looking enough to be someone you believe Davis would marry, but also able to play either sympathetic or a weasel. I like it when you can’t make assumptions about characters from the casting.

Davis leaves the team as they are heading off to play in the World Series, and we get a montage of the first games, leaving the series tied up to the last game. Then, all of a sudden, Davis is back, ready to play. “We got as far as Yellowstone Park and just turned around again.”

It seems a bit of an odd choice to have her return as a fait accompli – I wonder if they had a scene with her and her husband and didn’t think it worked?

At this stage, Lori Petty, Davis’ sister, has been traded to another team, because she couldn’t stand being in Davis’ shadow all the time, and of course that’s the other team in the series. So it’s not team against team, it’s sister against sister.

Lori Petty

I’d honestly forgotten what a great film this is. If anything, I probably enjoyed it more now than when I first saw it.

Some trivia. The director was Penny Marshall, who also directed Tom Hanks in Big, and who also played Laverne in Laverne and Shirley, a spin-off from Happy Days created by Garry Marshall – who appears here as Chocolate Bigshot Walter Harvey.

There’s more on this tape, though. We’re off to UK Gold for some Doctor Who and Planet of Fire, one of Peter Davison’s last stories, the first appearance of Nicola Bryant as Peri, and a story that was famously shot on location in Lanzarote.

This leads to some odd choices, like this scene near the start where two characters, apparently on an alien planet, judging by the way they’re talking about fire gods, are clearly in a spacious living room lent to the film crew to film in. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the villa in which a producer stayed.

Living Room

Rather tellingly, this first scene is the only time this location is used. Everything else is either bleak exteriors or a BBC Studio set.

One of the two is Peter Wyngarde as Timanov, although the young man he’s advising appears to be called Malcolm. Maybe this is set on Earth, and Lanzarote is actually a secret hotbed of human sacrifice. (Checking iMDb it seems he’s called Malkon, but I doubt I’ll be able to hear anything by Malcolm from now on).

Peter Wyngarde

Meanwhile, two men are climbing up a hill made of some kind of volcanic rock, expecting to find their God Logar at the top. When they get there, there’s nothing there. “Logar is a myth” they say, looking quite happy that they’re not being consumed in a wrathful fire or something.

On the Tardis, The Doctor and Turlough are still a bit blue, because last episode Tegan left. Something’s up with Kamelion, the shape changing robot that’s such a hard prop to work with that it spends most if its time in any story it’s in sitting or lying immobile. This time it’s lying down, and connected to the Tardis data banks.

See Kamelion

Peri is on holiday, actually in Lanzarote, with her stepfather Howard, who’s working on an archaeological dig. Peri is bored, and she’s decided to leave the island and visit Morocco with a couple of ‘nice English guys’, but Howard is a bit of a controlling kind, and leaves her stranded on a boat so she can’t get to the airport.

Peri tries to swim to shore, but gets into difficulty, and Turlough saves her from drowning, taking her back to the Tardis to recover.

Back on the planet, the people are having a crisis of faith. Timanov has to convince the people that the God Logar is real, but the men who climbed the mountain of fire saw nothing there.

So he asks for a sign, and handily, there’s a big spurt of flame behind a grill that somehow is enough sign for them.

In the Tardis, Turlough looks through Peri’s bag of stuff, and sees a strange artefact that she took from the boat that was found with all the archaeology stuff that’s clearly not old, and has a symnbol on it. Turlough has the same symbol on his arm – a symbol we saw earlier, on the arm of the young prince on the planet.

Turlough's mark

The Doctor returns, because he’s been tracking the device, and it’s moved. Turlough tells him he found it on the shore.

Peri is having flashback dreams – I get the feeling Howard was a horrible person – and Kamelion shapeshifts into Howard – thankfully with his top on this time.

The device causes the Tardis to travel to the alien planet. It’s arrival is noticed, as they seem to be expecting ‘The Outsider’

The Doctor and Turlough go wandering outside leaving Peri with Howard/Kamelion, who starts talking like a villain. “The Tardis is at least mine.” Then he transforms again, and it’s only the bloody Master, Anthony Ainley, complete with unconvincing moustache.

Anthony Ainley

The Master has trouble controlling Kamelion, so Peri gets out, with an important part of the Tardis. Master/Kamelion pursues, but occasionally becomes a silver version of Howard.

Silver Howard

Howard/Master/Kamelion is found by Timanov, who naturally assumes he’s the outsider. All the while, the rest of the settlement find The Doctor and Turlough, and assume they are the outsider. They have technology from Turlough’s home planet Trion. Turlough orders Malcolm to take him to where Malcolm was discovered as a child. It all links back to Trion.

Peri finds Turlough and Malcolm in the Trion ship. Meanwhile Timanov has returned with the Master, and of course The Master orders all unbelievers burned.

Because they share matching marks, Turlough thinks Malcolm is his brother. And he uses the mark to persuade Timanov to let the Doctor into the Tardis.

Kamelion/Master takes Peri into his own Tardis. But the Master himself isn’t there – he’s in some other room, and clearly not in control of the Tardis.

But he’s still got the Tissue Compression Eliminator, which can shrink things down. It always looks like a sex toy to me.

Tissue Compression Eliminator

The Doctor thinks the Master needs the healing blue flame emerging from the volcano. Turlough is still keeping secrets about why the planet was important to Trion. And Peri gets away from the Master and into his Tardis, where she decides to look into the strange black box he was so worried about. She thinks it’s the control box. But no – when she opens the box, she finds, inside, a tiny Master.

Master in a Box

She knocks over the box, releasing the Master, and she then chases after him with a shoe, which sounds like the greatest thing ever, but is actually flat and dull. The Master gets away because Peri suddenly sneezes. Twice.

Turlough finally reveals why he’s nervous about making contact with the Trions – his father was a prisoner, he fought on the wrong side of a civil war.

The Master is able to use the blue flame to revive himself to full size, but he’s still in the flame when it turns yellow, and the Doctor just watches as it burns him up. Quite a dark move for the Doctor, but sadly typical of this era, with Eric Saward as script editor.

Fiery End

Turlough’s exile has been lifted, so he gets to go back home, leaving the Doctor with only Peri for company. I really like Nicola Bryant, but I think Peri was poorly written. She was a throwback to the helpless screamers that we thought we’d left behind, and coming after Nyssa and Tegan definitely felt like a backward step. That she was then also partnered with Colin Baker’s equally misconceived ‘psycho’ Doctor only made it worse. A shame, and a waste of a good performer.

Then there’s the start of an episode of The Goodies. Graham wants to launch a rabbit into space.

Bill Oddie and Rabbit

There’s a cameo appearance by the Tardis – either it’s shot strangely, or it’s very off-model.

Tardis in the Goodies

Sadly, the tape comes top an end during the commercial break.

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3 comments

  1. I liked “A League Of Their Own” until the climax. The last half hour left just a bad taste in my mouth that even thinking about it makes me want to punch someone.

      1. My loathing of Dottie’s sister meant the familial bonding didn’t work – not least with the final game. Plus, I’m fine with sentimentality, but “the old goats playing baseball” scene at the end… yuck. At least I saw it on video so I could turn down the volume and have the end credits roll in blessed silence of Madonna demonstrating that she cannot do human emotion (again).

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