Sunday, 8 December 2013

What to Watch Next: The End of the World & The Curse of Peladon

"I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an Eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable in the long past, has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe." - T. H. White

Doctor Who has generally had to be fairly careful about the "alien cantina" scenes. They're very expensive - RTD had to cut down his basic idea for the end-of-season Shadow Proclamation finale due to budget, which is how we ended up with that minimalist white set instead, and why it took so long to build up the resources for something like "The Rings of Akhaten" without blowing the budget on costumes. Whereas the "no more than three monsters in one shot" cliche in the pre-1990 stories is a byword.

But a couple of times the show really has gone out there to show off new effects and goodies; "The End of the World" had more effects shots than any other episode since, even the recent 3D production, what with Cassandra and robot spiders. But its alien costumes were real, and honestly, for background characters who we're not even meant to be concentrating on, they look fab. Whereas "Curse of Peladon", after a few years of budget-cautious Earth-set adventures, was finally doing groovy aliens in space again, and in colour this time. Ice Warriors! A machine creature! A fluffy horned teddy bear! Alpha Centauri! It's all there for the sake of showing off, and neither story exactly has the most cast-iron of plots, but the eye-candy's quite nice. Just because of its relative length, "Curse" gets better marks for its treatment of aliens-as-alien and thinking about how they might differ from humanity (and the Ice Warrior fakeout does work very well on this score), but RTD does his best in forty-five minutes, with plenty of satire to help smooth things along.

Jo's reaction to meeting aliens is a lot more open and quick-witted than Rose's, to be honest (imagine Billie Piper pulling off the "I'm an alien princess, yes" charade for as long as Manning has to keep it up), but then Jo has had a bit of practice by this point and Rose hasn't yet, so it's not very fair to compare on that score.

The End of the World

The sheer number of aliens you can get into one shot these days
"Toxic music video"
 Sad to say, yes it is relevant; quite apart from the song appearing in this story, it inspired the lasers sequence in "The Doctor's Daughter". So if you didn't appreciate that, you know who to thank now.

"The Tragedy of Richard III"
Zoƫ Wanamaker has been in an enormous number of things that aren't DW and Harry Potter; a lot of it's been stage experience, and she was in the Royal Shakespeare Company for years. In 1983, she took the part of Lady Anne in "Richard III", for the BBC's ambitious attempt to film the entire canon (the quality is a bit variable, but they finished the project and that's saying a lot.) It's Shakespeare, so it's naturally worth a proper look, but if you just want to see her, Anne's standout scene starts around the ten minute mark. Richard III is Ron Cook, the bloke who played Magpie in "The Idiot's Lantern".
(And it was produced by Shaun Sutton. Otherwise known as one of the better Heads of Drama for the BBC, and the person who suggested to Barry Letts that a relative unknown named Tom Baker might be a good pick for the part of the Doctor...)

"Lego Star Wars Cantina scene"
So we're obligated to have a version of this here somewhere, but at least we can pick a version that knows it's being silly.
As performed by Mark Davis, better known as Richard Cheese.

When Rose mentions hearing about the sun expanding on television, this is the programme she's talking about - it is, or was, a ten minute children's show that serves as a sort of primer to news shows (these days it's on CBBC, although they've cut it up into minute segments so it's not much like watching the news any more). This 1999 one is about the right date for Rose to have seen, and offers an idea how astronomy can be fit into a news segment...

"Tony Hancock"
Forest of Cheam.
Yeah. Sorry.

Tony Hancock's still worth a look though. It'll save time when we get to the entry for "Dalek".

The Curse of Peladon

And there's better shots from Peladon, but look how alien Jo seems in this shot. Terrific framing
"The Persuaders - Title Sequence"
Finishing up its single-season run just as this story was coming to a conclusion (it aired Fridays, so the finale aired the week after our episode four), this Roger Moore-Tony Curtis ITV vehicle was another of Lew Grade's ITC action-adventure goodies. An arrangement of this had made it into the charts the previous November and was still going steady.

"Politics of Doctor Who - BBC News"
Fun fact: if you type "Britain EEC" into Google's video search, this comes up as the second result. We're kind of hoping that's skewed by enthusiasm from the anniversary.
It's a well intentioned segment, if hopelessly wrong (the two Peladon stories aren't individual episodes, that's 21st century terminology, and "Planet of Giants" has a perfectly solid claim for being the first DW story where corporate thinking was the big bad.) Still, the basic point that the show not only can but ought to be capable of readings on multiple levels is all to the good. And Alpha Centauri in prime time again. Whoot.

"Raiders of the Lost Arc - stuntfighting commentary"
You have, in all probability, already seen the scene in "Raiders" where sometimes-Ice Warrior Sonny Caldinez gets beat up by Karen Allen, so here's Harrison Ford chatting about it. Since we're doing Lucas anyway...
(Though Caldinez gets more to do in "The Man With The Golden Gun".) 

"God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen"
Ever tried finding an underproduced version of a Venusian lullaby? At least this is roughly in the same tempo as what Pertwee sings in episode three. 

And on that note:

"Blackadder's Christmas Carol"
Like this, but painted gilt
Which is arguably not festive in the slightest, but that's rather the point of it. Anyway, the most surreal bit of a rather surreal retelling is a flashforward to a future England, in which the Arcturus costume has been remodeled to serve as the life-support system for Nursie...honestly, it's easier to just watch it to pick up the essential idea. It's not like the story's unfamiliar.

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