Doctor Who – tape 1790

Two Doctor Who stories on this tape, from Tom Baker’s final season.

First there’s The Leisure Hive by David Fisher. I’ve watched this once before and didn’t have much clue what was going on. Maybe this time.

It famously opens on Brighton Beach for no very good reason apart from the location filming got a couple of news stories, which incoming producer John Nathan Turner seemed to prefer over crafting meaningful stories.

Oh my giddy aunt, this opening shot is hilariously interminable. It’s an excruciatingly slow pan across the beach, showing windswept deckchairs, and s l o w l y panning past beach tents. Each time, you think ‘this time it’ll be the Tardis’ but NO! there’s another tent. Finally, after passing five tents (six if you count the one moving out of shot at the start) that’s 1’38” of a 25 minute programme spent on a totally predictable end. And at the end the Doctor’s asleep.

Still, here’s K9 and Romana (II) (played by the future Mrs Richard Dawkins, Lalla Ward – they were introduced by Douglas Adams, you know) walking along the beach being unimpressed by the delights Brighton has to offer.

K9 and Romana

Narratively, this scene really only serves to disable K9 so the story doesn’t have to make use of him.

Next, the action switches to the Leisure Hive on Argolis, a dying planet with a radioactive atmosphere that is, nevertheless, a tourist destination, albeit one that’s heading for bankruptcy.

Another race, the Foamasi, reptilian people, want to buy the whole planet, as the radiation wouldn’t be a problem for them. The Argolins don’t want to sell, especially to the Foamasi, with whom they fought a war.

The Argolins have developed a science called Tachyonics, illustrated by David Haig waving his hands about while his arms and head are seemingly detached from his body. I don’t have a clue what this is supposed to represent. Perhaps he can explain himself.

“For the next hour and a half we will examine the wave equations that define the creation of solid tachyonic images.”

Maybe not, then. It’s like a bad technobabble episode of ST:TNG.

Meawhile, something lurks unconvicingly outside the hive. Something reptilian. And it’s breaking into the hive in a rather badly directed sequence of too-cheap effects.

One of the older Argolins is dying, illustrated by some beads falling off the spiky thing coming out of his head.

Blimey the effects in this story are vague to the point of incomprehensibility. They’ve used this shot twice now, and I’m guessing it’s supposed to represent a spacecraft landing, but you’d hardly know.

We’re back to the lecture about Taxhyonics, and Pangol (David Haig) invites one fo teh audience to try out his magic arm separating box, and unfortunately, something goes wrong and he’s actually hurt.

Pangol’s mother arrives from Earth, where they’ve been doing more experimentations with Tachyonics, and have apparently mastered cellular rejuvenation, but the Doctor and Romana think the experiment is a fake.

The episode ends with the Doctor looking in the Tachyonics apparatus, and a reptilian hand switching it on, leading to a divided Doctor.

Divided Doctor

But it was a duplicate, and the Doctor’s OK.

The scientists from Earth turn up, Pangol’smother is dying too, and their magical rejuvenation technique won’t work.

One of them is murdered by the mysterious monsters, and the Doctor is implicated. Romana works with the remaining scientist to get the rejuvenator working, but they have to test it on The Doctor, and Romana’s forgotten something important…

Old Doctor

In episode three, we learn that Pangol, far from being the con of the elder Argolin, is actually a cloned Argolin created by the tachyonic generator. And now it seems the mysterious Foamasi might actually be friendly.

Foamasi

Or perhaps it’s more complicated than that. The friendly Foamasi shows the Doctor and Romana why their rejuvenator didn’t work, then head to the control room where Pangol is waiting for his mother Mena to die, so that he and his new breed of Argolins can take over, witnessed by the man from Earth.

But the Foamasi enters, attacks the earth man and rips off a mask to reveal another Foamasi underneath – Shades of V.

This also explains a scene earlier which I didn’t understand, when the earth man who ended up dead finds what I at first thought was supposed to be a dead body in a cupboard – but it was a mask. This is the problem when your production standards aren’t always up to representing your story. We were supposed to see that as a human mask, but because the usual quality of special effects is so variable, I thought it was just an unconvincing dead body.

Fake Human

The good Foamasi takes the bad Foamasi into custody, and goes to take them back to their planet, but Pangol won’t let them leave.

He declares himself ruler, and uses the generator to create an army of himself (all wearing a big helmet so they don’t have to do any elaborate camera tricks when there’s more than one of them on screen). But the helmet has another use as a group of them take Romana away, then reveal they’re all tachyonic images of the Doctor.

The technobabble dialogue in this story is all fairly egregious, and bears the 8-bit fingerprints of script editor Christopher H Bidmead. “The images must be multiplied in some sort of FIFO stack” I loved all this stuff when I was 16.

Pangol wants to try again, while Earthman Hardin (I lose track of character names in these stories) wants to put the dying Mena in the generator to revive her, and in the end they both end up in the cabinet.

Adrienne Corri

“This time I must try to bring him up properly” she says, emerging from the cabinet with a baby Pangol.

The next story is State of Decay, written by Terrance Dicks. This is from later in the season. Adric has joined the Tardis crew, because nothing appeals to children more than seeing other children in their grown up drama (see also that other massively popular teen identification character Wesley Crusher).

At least this one opens with a decent establishing shot, not miles of deckchairs.

Big Tower

I really despair at every Doctor Who story where we have to establish a brand new civilisation, with all their traditions, hierarchies, history. “The Great One will need new servants at the time of arising” intones someone important, and I just don’t care. Some sort of selection of poor people happens, presumably the ‘servants’ spoken of, and nobody’s happy to be selected.

The Doctor and Romana are marooned in E-Space, unable to return to normal space. We get an insultingly poor Tardis in space, with the stars superimposed over the Tardis model – unless that’s some special attribute of E-Space.

Cheap Tardis

Landing on the planet, The Doctor and Romana go exploring, unaware that Adric has stowed away. They meet some of the peasants, who think they must be ‘Lords’ – the people in charge. The Lords protect the people from The Wasting. “What is the Wasting?” “The Wasting is… The Wasting.”

The peasants are forbidden to read, and knowledge is forbidden. Some of them are trying to recover old scientific knowledge. They’ve got some old technology. “Definitely an Earth device” says The Doctor. BBC Micro Mode 7 if I’m not mistaken.

Earth type device

It’s a computer from an Earth exploration vessel Hydrax, and they find the passenger manifest, with pictures. One of the peasants recognises them as the three who rule the planet, which would make them 1000 years old.

The episode ends with The Doctor and Romana menaced by some stock footage of bats.

Before the next episode, a small treat, with the second half of an episode of The Kenny Everett TV Show. It features Rory Bremner impersonating Russell Harty. For some reason, I don’t really put Rory Bremner into the same TV Timeframe as Kenny Everett, but there we are.

In the next episode, the Doctor and Romana meet two of the Lords. They surmise that they are descendants of the original ship’s crew, and the tower is the original ship. But they fail to notice when one of them is a little too interested when Romana cuts her finger. Haven’t watched enough Hammer films, obviously.

Adric is selected by the other Lord to be a servant, because he can tell his mind is different to the other peasants. Frankly, the Lords’ discussions about what to do with Adric have more than a whiff of Yewtree about them.

Exploring the ship, the Doctor and Romana find the control room at the top, and at the base, discover a lot of drained corpses, and the fuel tanks full of blood.

Then they go further down, and the Doctor talks about vampire myths. They meet Aukon, one of the Lords. “Welcome to the resting place.” Cue end titles.

I’m not really impressed with the quality of these cliffhangers, if I’m honest.

Aukon tells them that the Great One was what lured them into E-Space, and it promises a way out, after the ‘arising’. Trouble is, it wants to eat the Doctor and Romana’s blood.

Timelords had fought a race of giant vampires, which could suck the life from an entire planet, and had wiped them all out, except for one, which vanished.

The Tardis has information about them, so the Doctor goes to retrieve it, while Romana looks for Adric, who has been selected to become a vampire. At least the cliffhanger this time makes it look like Romana might be in danger from one of the vampires.

In the final episode, the Doctor has to rally the peasants to fight the great one. And Adric seems to think becoming a vampire might be a good thing. I always knew he was a bit Emo.

After all the hype, the Great One, when it appears, is a bit of an anti-climax – they couldn’t manage more than a hand coming out of the ground. And the Doctor kills it by flying the old ship into its heart.

The Great One

After the last episode, recording continues for a short time with a film, Power Play, before stopping, and underneath there’s part of an older film, Bachelor Mother. The tape ends during this recording.

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