Monsters Are Real

Two brief posts again this week: the first features new(ish) adventures for Patrick Troughton’s incarnation as Dr. Who ( my first and the best, if I’m honest)

Lords of the Red Planet: this is the last Big Finish  Lost story featuring the second Doctor and is primarily the work of Brian Hayles, who also brought us The Dark Planet and The Queen of Time. Like that latter story, Lords is set during the sixth season of Doctor Who and is the ancestor of the 1969 Ice Warrior sequel The Seeds of Death.

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Lords is also the Secret Origin of the wheezing armoured Martians: genetic experiments of an evil dictator of ancient Mars. Zaadur, like Hecuba, the eponymous Queen of Time, is a rare female villain for the Troughton Era. The story is a little too long, like most Troughton adventures and the giant rocket in the final episode is a very familiar plot device (cf The Dark Planet). The fairy tale rivalry between Zaadur and her sister also jars in a season which was, tonally, largely sci-fi whimsy. In the end, the foamy T-Mat tv adventures of the Tardis trio are more exciting.

Frazer Hines again provides his astonishing impression of the Second Doctor and voices Jamie, naturally. Sadly, winsome Wendy Padbury is sounding rather elderly as teenage Zoe but this undemanding sci-fantasy melodrama passed the lengthy train journey from Glasgow to Elgin.

The Web of Fear: last weekend, I finally got my hands on the dvd release of this long-lost 60s classic. As you’ll know by now, weeks before DW’s 50th birthday, there was a surprising announcement about b/w episodes retrieved from Nigeria. After appearing on Itunes ( a platform I don’t have) two Season Five serials were made available on dvd.

I watched The Enemy of the World over Xmas 2013 and was disappointed in this sprawling, gun-waving, futuristic spy adventure. I was somewhat anxious that I might feel the same way about Web but happily, it wasn’t the case.

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I first read the story as a Target novelization in 1976 but it was a firm favourite for re-reading on a rain-lashed caravan holiday in Lendalfoot in August 1978. It didn’t quite have the potency or exoticism of its predecessor, The Abominable Snowmen but I next encountered the story when its solitary surviving first episode turned up on a VHS box set in 2003. Shortly afterward, the soundtrack was released on dvd but it was a dull listening experience.

The story is best known perhaps for the introduction of Col. Lethbridge-Stewart- later the ramrod of UNIT: a clipped and icy porfessional here who nearly ends the story on the verge of breakdown. However, there are a number of other interesting supporting characters from doomed Craftsman Weems to the cowardly driver Evans and the pompous tv reporter, Chorley. Returning guest Jack Watling plays Prof. Travers as a barking old duffer but is less convincing as the instrument of the Great intelligence. The Lovercraftian menace is far more effective as a disembodied voice, whispering from a tannoy.

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The mark II Yeti, with their glowing lightbulb eyes, seem more Muppet-like than their bearish predecessors but they are actually quite effective in a well-directed battle set-piece. Troughton is magnificent, mysterious and otherworldly in close-up. My only complaint would be weedy Victoria, in her terrible hippy get-up, who is a poor role model compared  to posh and wry scientist Anne. Ultimately, to my relief, it’s a moody, atmospheric mystery in the adult vein of Quatermass; indeed, the blackened corpse of Arnold, the Intelligence’s puppet is quite shocking. (4/5 Talmars)

There is a batch of reprinted Doctor Who novels, including three from the 90s Virgin imprint on sale this month. it occurs to me, in the wake of World Book Day, that I never reviewed the eleven reprints released last year. I may remedy that situation next month but first:

Coming soon: the 30th anniversary of the Sixth Doctor

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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