The Chase begins with a lengthy TARDIS scene, which warms the cockles of Sue’s heart.
Sue: I like this a lot. Everyone’s chilling out. It’s a relaxing Sunday afternoon on the TARDIS, and the kid is moaning to the grown-ups because she’s bored.
The gag about Ian’s book of monsters being too far-fetched goes down well, and, some wobbly camera work aside (“Did they install speed bumps in the studio?”), Sue laps up the witty repartee.
Sue: Are you sure this is a Terry Nation script? Isn’t it too funny and too clever to be him? Oh, I like Vicki’s trousers. I’ll be wearing a pair like that this summer.
The Space Time Visualiser reminds Sue of a Stargate (even though she’s never seen a single episode), and when Barbara describes it as a time-travelling television, she declares, “It’s a Tachyon TV!”
Sue: The Beatles? In Doctor Who? I didn’t see that coming.
Me: Yeah, the closest you’d get today would be Athlete.
Sue: I’m surprised they didn’t sue for breach of copyright.
Me: The Beatles wanted to be in it. The original plan was to have them performing at their 50th anniversary concert in old-age make-up, but they were too busy making Help! so they used this footage instead.
Sue: It’s probably for the best. How would the fans square that version of events with the fact that two of them are dead? Oh dear! Ian is doing some of the worst dad-dancing I’ve ever seen, bless him. And why is he still in his pyjamas?
When the fun and frolics are over (“I could have watched that all day”), the TARDIS arrives on Aridius, a desolate, sandy planet orbiting two blazing suns.
Sue: It’s just like Tattooinnie (sic). George Lucas is a thieving bastard, isn’t he? It’s obvious that Ian is C-3PO and Vicki is R2-D2. What a cheek.
Me: That isn’t Vicki running up that sand dune, by the way. It’s the actress who played the earwig who committed suicide in The Web Planet.
Sue: Who needs production notes when you’ve got an autistic husband?
When a Dalek emerges from a sand dune, it takes Sue a while to process what she’s looking at – even though a handful of Daleks have already appeared in this episode, including one with learning difficulties (“Is that a cock-up or a joke?”).
Sue: There’s no sense of scale. It could be a thimble or a tower block. I haven’t got a clue… Oh, it’s a Dalek. A Dalek with a nasty cough.
Me: They’re trying to top the underwater Dalek from The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Sue: So what’s next? A Dalek emerging from a lake of manure? However, naff special effects aside, that was another strong opening episode. All the opening episodes have been pretty good, haven’t they? If only they could keep it up. Anyway, if I was marking that episode on its own, I’d probably give it eight out of 10.
The Death of Time
Me: It’s time to play that age-old parlour game ‘Spot the Famous Aridian’. The rules are very simple, all you have to do is –
Sue: It’s Shelley!
Bloody hell, that was quick! Although, to be fair, I’ve been re-watching the classic 1980s sitcom which depicts an insane Tory government, spiralling unemployment and economic decline recently – you know, just to escape from reality for a bit – and Sue is over the moon when she recognises Hywell Bennet in a bathing cap.
Sue: Bless him, he’s really going for it, isn’t he? I can imagine Shelley and Martin Jarvis swapping horror stories in a 1960s pub outside the BBC.
Sue is confounded by the Daleks’ newfound ability to travel in time and space.
Sue: So the Daleks have a time machine?
Sue: How did they manage that?
Me: I don’t know! They built one, I guess.
Sue: I thought only the Doctor was allowed to travel in time? I mean, what’s to stop the Daleks going back to that botched invasion of Earth and getting it right this time?
Me: It’s a bloody good question, and one that will be obliquely addressed in about 22 years’ time (or seven if you don’t forget Day of the Daleks, which I did).
On a positive note, Sue is still impressed with Vicki. She’s especially pleased she never seems to scream (the closest she gets is a nervous giggle in episode one), and when a giant tentacle wraps itself around her throat, she doesn’t even raise her voice.
Sue: Vicki is great. She’s just as feisty as Rose and she doesn’t take any shit from anyone.
When the Daleks force the Aridians to collaborate with them on pain of death, Sue is genuinely concerned about their safety. She certainly doesn’t trust the Doctor to help the poor sods defeat their oppressors if push ever came to shove.
Sue: I love how the Aridians are unearthing the TARDIS one grain of sand at a time, and the Daleks don’t even attempt to shoot it until every last particle has been removed from the lip of the door. Such perfectionists.
Thankfully, the Daleks don’t have time to commit genocide and the Aridians are let off on a technicality. This doesn’t placate Sue, though.
Sue: Look at them, celebrating in the TARDIS without a care in the world. No one’s stopped to consider the fact an entire race is going to be wiped out because they’ve escaped from that planet. It isn’t morally right. Would Matt Smith have left the Aridians to die like that? I think not.
Me: The Aridians were a bunch of spineless collaborators who deserved everything they got. If they’d stood up to the Daleks, the Doctor would have helped them.
Sue: Bullshit. He’s a ****. Now stick the next one on.
Me: We can’t.
Sue: Okay, so it’s a recon. I don’t care.
Me: No, it’s the rules. We said we’d never watch more than two episodes a night.
Sue: Sod that. Look, this isn’t too bad. We should keep watching the stories we’re enjoying.
Me: Speak for yourself!
Sue: And we should spread out the stories that feel like torture.
She makes a good point (and The Chase is nowhere near as bad as I remember it), so we plough on.
Flight Through Eternity
Me: It’s time to spot the famous actor/presenter who’s doing their first bit of telly!
Sue: Is it Al Pacino?
Me: No, it isn’t the guy doing the ‘let’s have some cawfee and tawlk’ New York accent who just made a joke about a lady’s bosom on a children’s television show.
Sue: Is it the wife from Till Death Do Us Part?
Me: No, it isn’t the woman who looks like Dandy Nichols.
Sue: Is it the guy in the Stetson?
Sue: Hmmmm. Wait! I’ve got it! It’s Blue Peter!
Me: Spot on. So who is it?
Sue: It’s Noakes!
Me: You are so close, it’s ridiculous. Come on, you can do it.
Sue: Peter somebody.
Me: That’s it. Come on, think ‘children on motorbikes’ and ‘pure breed dogs’.
Sue: Peter Nolan? Norris? Morris? Peter Purves!
Sue: He’s not really an actor, though, is he? You can see why he ended up presenting children’s television, an acting career was never going to pan out for him after this performance. Still, Terry Nation should shoulder some of the blame. I mean, what else can you do with material like that? You’d have to send it up just to get through it.
The Daleks pursue the Doctor through the time vortex.
Sue: Do you know what this reminds me of? That Battlestar Galactica episode where the Cylons keep coming after the humans every few minutes, and everyone ends up pissed off or depressed.
Me: I’m pretty sure you’re the first person who’s ever compared The Chase to the award-winning Battlestar Galactica episode, ‘33’. And definitely the last.
Sue: Why don’t they stay put in the TARDIS? They’re supposedly in a life-or-death chase and yet they keep stopping to admire the scenery, which is bad enough in itself, but every single time they do this, they always find themselves in avoidable danger. It makes no sense to me. Just sit tight and lock the impregnable door! Oh look, Barbara has been caught by a sailor… Oh, and here’s the threat of some sexual violence; it’s been days since we’ve had some of that.
Luckily, Vicki saves the say (we both love Vicki) and everyone legs it back to the TARDIS, leaving the occupants of a sailing ship to deal with the marauding alien monsters who are due to arrive any minute now. Our so-called heroes don’t even leave them a note.
Sue: Wow, this is weird. A few minutes ago, someone clapped eyes on a Dalek for the first time and they laughed themselves silly, but now the standard reaction to seeing one for the first time is to commit suicide. It’s a bit inconsistent, this.
Me: Oh look, a baby death in Doctor Who. That’s nice.
Sue: The Daleks haven’t even shot anyone yet. Don’t you think they would at least try to find out what they actually are before they throw themselves to their deaths? The Daleks are on a very strict timetable, so if the sailors hang back a bit they’ll sod off in a minute. And why has the captain taken his jacket off? Is he going to jump in and save somebody? How the **** does he intend on doing that? This sequence does look expensive, though. It would be impressive if it wasn’t so silly. Oh look, a Dalek has fallen overboard for no apparent reason. And its top has fallen off, too. It must have been the one with learning difficulties.
Me: By the way, have you guessed where we are yet?
Sue: I don’t have to guess – there’s a sign on the ship. It’s the Mary Celeste.
She’s right, of course. If only Richard Martin had noticed this (although, to be fair, we are watching this on a 50-inch television screen) because the way he reveals the mystery to us is so drawn out, it beggars belief.
Sue: Classic Richard Martin.
Journey into Terror
The action shifts to a haunted house. I hate this episode with a passion that borders on the psychotic, but I don’t let on to Sue. I’ll let her discover its awfulness for herself.
Sue: Vicki and Barbara are suddenly being written as damsels in distress.
Me: There’s no consistency from one episode to the next. Although to be fair, Ian is cacking himself as well.
When Frankenstein’s monster makes an unexpected appearance, Sue doesn’t even bat an eyelid. She’s perfectly happy for fictional characters to turn up in the show, and has no problem accepting the Doctor’s insane theory about the monsters inhabiting the realm of pure human thought.
Sue: Okay, let me get this straight: Frankenstein –
Me: Frankenstein’s monster.
Sue: Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and a ghost are living together in a house, yeah? This is basically Being Human 40 years early.
Dracula is actually a robot.
Sue: Okay, so it’s Being Human meets Westworld. Fair enough. Maybe this is another weird museum? Perhaps it’s a theme.
She’s furious when the TARDIS crew leave the scene without Vicki, and I have some fun pretending it’s the last time we’ll ever see her alive. She almost fell for it, too.
When the episode reveals the location for this ‘adventure’ was actually a psychopathic fun fair – the sort frequented by Scooby Doo, we assume – Sue is more than happy to go along with it.
Sue: Yeah, I thought as much. That makes sense.
Me: Doesn’t it strike you as odd?
Sue: Not really.
Me: What has Peking got to do with it? Why did they cancel an exhibit in Ghana? Why are there robots still walking around?
Sue: That’s easy. The robots killed a tourist and no one could find the off-switch, so China, who must be the world’s police – a bit like America is now – ordered an evacuation. Simple.
She didn’t really say that. What she really said was, “Who gives a shit?”
Anyway, when the Daleks announce their next location is Mechanus, Sue is thrilled to bits.
Sue: First New York and now Mykonos. This is like a travelogue!
The Death of Doctor Who
This episode makes Sue very angry indeed. The fungoids are bad enough (“Do me a favour!”) but that’s nothing compared to Edmund Warwick’s turn as the Doctor’s doppelgänger.
Sue: He doesn’t look anything like him! Why don’t they shoot William Hartnell in the close-ups? Why are they showing us somebody who clearly isn’t him? Why aren’t they shooting this guy from behind and shooting William Hartnell from the front? It’s madness! Utter madness!
Me: Perhaps it wasn’t possible to have Hartnell in two places at the same time due to the nature of the –
Sue: Then they shouldn’t have bothered with this plot! He looks nothing like him! It’s laziness or incompetence – take your pick. And now they’ve swapped the actors round! It’s as if Richard Martin’s just realised this is what he should have been doing in the first place. It’s pathetic.
And then the Mechanoids arrive.
Sue: Oh no.
Me: I know what you mean.
Sue: No, it just said, ‘Oh no’.
Me: No it didn’t, it said, ‘Follow’, but don’t worry about it – nobody understands the Mechanoids. It’s one of their least annoying traits.
The Planet of Decision
Me: It’s time to play ‘Guess the Blue Peter Presenter’ again.
Sue knows it’s Peter Purves, but her brain won’t let her say this out loud because that would be silly.
Sue: He looks like George Michael in his Faith phase.
Even when I confirm her suspicions, she still can’t get her head around it.
Sue: Is he playing a descendant of the idiot on the Empire State Building? Is this an important plot point about time travel?
Me: No, they thought Peter Purves was a good actor so they asked him back.
Me: Give him a chance.
Sue: Actually, he’s a lot better here, bordering on the very good. I take it he’s going to join the TARDIS crew, then? It’s going to be very crowded in there.
The climactic fight between the Daleks and the Mechanoids is dismissed out of hand (“Richard Martin has reverted to drawing explosions on the screen with a felt-tip pen!”) and she’s practically apoplectic with rage when she believes the last we’ll ever see of Ian and Barbara is the back of their heads as they enter the Daleks’ time machine. In fact, when the Doctor and Vicki exit stage right, Sue leaps off the sofa to protest.
Sue: They can’t do that!
When Ian and Barbara emerge from a lock-up in London to wave at an omnipresent Doctor, she’s still disappointed.
Sue: That’s better, but I’m surprised we didn’t see a proper goodbye scene. It’s very odd.
Me: That would have been too distressing, I think. William Hartnell wasn’t happy about them leaving the series, to put it mildly.
Sue: I thought he looked angrier than he had any right to be.
She isn’t a fan of the montage of still photographs that depicts Ian and Barbara gallivanting around the capital, either.
Sue: This is a bit naff.
Me: It’s supposed to express their boundless joy and excitement.
Sue: Really? It looks like Ian’s just seen Barbara get knocked over by a car.
Ian’s look of horror turns out to be a gag involving a real police box, and Sue is finally swept up in the moment. And by the time the duo relax into each other’s arms, she’s convinced they’ve been given the send-off they deserve.
Sue: That was sweet.
Me: No tears?
Sue: Not really. I’m happy for them. I’ll probably miss Barbara the most. She was brilliant.
Sue: I enjoyed that. Some of it was very witty, and even the sillier bits were fine in context. And there were some really nice moments at the beginning and right at the end. I’m a bit bored of the Daleks, though. Anyway, I’ll give it:
Sue: It’s a shame about Peter Purves, though. I thought he was going to be a proper companion. Oh well.