Susan Perryman Is Required…
Sue: This one has Daleks written all over it. Even the titles look like they’ve been written by a Dalek. It’s so obvious.
When the Doctor complains about his irritable skin condition, which he only gets when he’s near a Dalek, Sue’s suspicions are confirmed. The Doctor decides that something is up to no good at the newly erected Post Office Tower (“It was probably sexy, once”), and he takes Dodo with him to investigate.
Sue: If this was happening today, it’d be the Gherkin.
The Doctor and Dodo manage to ingratiate themselves into the highest echelons of British society with no problems at all, which feels a little odd.
Sue: Wait a minute. Since when has the Doctor been known to anyone on earth? How is he allowed to waltz straight into this lab? Is he using his psychic paper thingy?
Me: Yes! That’s it! I mean, er, yes, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
We discover that Professor Brett has created the ultimate computer – WOTAN (with a V) – and tomorrow it will be connected to every computer in the world. All six of them. Oh, and it’s probably sentient. And insane.
Sue: So this scientist has invented the internet?
Me: Yeah, he’s the Al Gore of his day.
Later, the Doctor heads to a London nightclub to find Dodo, who went there with Polly, Brett’s dolly bird secretary. It’s fab and groovy, man.
Sue: Are the Pink Floyd in this one?
Me: Poor Steven. I bet he would have loved this place.
And then the moment we’ve all been dreading finally arrives. Doctor Who is required.
Sue doesn’t even flinch.
Me: Are you just going to let that go?
Sue: What’s wrong?
Me: Are you serious? Listen to it again.
I rewind the DVD.
Sue: Yeah? And what’s your problem, exactly?
Me: What’s my problem? WHAT’S MY PROBLEM??? They just called him Doctor Who! That’s my ****ing problem!
Sue: No they didn’t. What they said was “Doctor, who is required”. There’s a comma.
Me: There’s a what?
Sue: Doctor comma who is required. It’s fine.top
Five minutes into episode two and we are still arguing about that damned comma.
Sue: Doctor comma who is required. Live with it.
Me: Don’t you think a much more likely explanation is that the script editor thought the lead character’s name was Doctor Who?
Sue: Well, yes. Obviously. But you can work around that.
Sue is full-blown mong, now. She admits that she is prepared to work around production errors to create a more consistent show, but when I tell her that some fans spend their entire lives trying to do just that, she attempts to backtrack. And then Professor Brett says “Doctor Who” again, and there isn’t any room for a comma, a semi-colon or even a hyphen. All we have left to play with is a big, fat exclamation mark.
Sue: Oh **** off, then. Stupid idiots.
Me: Just pretend it never happened. That’s what we fans do.
Sue: I am not a fan.
The Doctor’s scenes in the Inferno nightclub lead Sue to conclude that someone was definitely taking notes when this episode went out.
Sue: I bet this is where Peter Stringfellow got his look from: long silvery hair, out-of-date clothes and a slightly sinister personality. Yeah, he was definitely influenced by this episode.
And then there’s a scene that’s just plain wrong: the Doctor hanging around outside a nightclub in the early hours of the morning, arguing about the best way to get a taxi home. What’s next? The Doctor and Dodo stop off for a kebab?
And then, in the middle of this bizarre scenario, a comedy tramp turns up.
Sue: Isn’t this a bit racist?
Me: Let’s not go there, shall we?
Before we can discuss it further, Fagin, sorry, I mean the generic tramp, is killed by some villains who look like they’ve just walked off the set of Police Surgeon. News of his death is so important, it’s front page news.
WOTAN decides to phone the Doctor up for a quick brainwashing, and Sue believes she has it all figured out.
Sue: Are the Cybermen behind this? Didn’t they take over the world with mobile phones once? Do you remember that one? John Paul was in it.
Me: Yes, I do remember. My best friend featured prominently in an episode of Doctor Who and he didn’t tell me. It’s been five years, love, you don’t have to keep reminding me. And no, it’s not the Cybermen.
Sue: It must be the Daleks then.
The Doctor manages to break Dodo’s conditioning and she is sent to the country to recuperate.
Sue: Is Dodo on holiday for the rest of this story?
Me: Dodo is on holiday for the rest of the programme.
Sue: Are you joking?
Me: No, I’m not, that’s the last we see of Dodo. Zonked out on a chair. Her departure reminds me of her arrival: abrupt and stupid.
Sue: I can’t say I’ll miss her very much. I take it that Ben and Polly are her replacements, then?
Me: You catch on quickly. What are your first impressions of them?
Sue: It’s hard to say. I wasn’t looking at them as potential companions until now. Ben’s very eager, isn’t he? And Polly is a bit of eye candy for the dads, I suppose.
Me: Yeah, she’s alright. I guess.
As I chew on my fist, the War Machines are finally revealed in all their, erm, glory.
Sue: Oh dear. Don’t tell me – is it this week’s attempt to reinvent the Daleks? They look rubbish!top
Sue: Isn’t Ben a little short to be a sailor? He looks like he should be a jockey.
Me: He’s a bull terrier, always straining at the leash. I can’t tell if he’s overacting or just giving it everything he’s got.
Sue: Polly is a bit bland.
Me: She’s been hypnotised.
Sue: So why haven’t they hypnotised Ben? That makes no sense at all. They just assume he’ll do as he’s told, and then they leave him to it. They are either very cocky or very stupid.
Ben escapes. QED.
Me: In real life, Polly married The Celestial Toymaker. He wasn’t very nice to her.
Sue: Just one more reason to hate that piece of shit.
When a single War Machine takes on an entire army – and wins – Sue can’t get her head around it.
Sue: How is it winning? Is that steam supposed to be deadly? It looks like a mobile sauna.
Me: I don’t see how it can possibly stop someone’s gun from firing. Have we missed something important?
Sue: Those arms are rubbish. It couldn’t maim someone, let alone kill them.
Me: It’s a good job this exists. Could you imagine listening to this as a recon? It’d be five minutes of whooshing, screaming and the odd crash. It would have been a nightmare.
Sue: It’s hard enough as it is. The sound effects are doing my head in. It sounds like a dial-up modem we used to have. It’s driving me mad.
It’s all a bit of a mess, really. The director, Michael Ferguson, is trying hard, but he doesn’t have much to work with. But at least the episode ends on a high, as the soldiers decide to leg it, leaving the Doctor behind to face the War Machine alone. Or, as Sue so eloquently puts it: “It’s his Tiananmen Square moment”.top
All over London, War Machines are gearing up to wipe out humanity. To be honest, it strains credibility. So, to ramp up the severity of the threat, they hire a real-life newsreader to calm the populace. RTD used Paul O’Grady, Innes Lloyd used Kenneth Kendal. The effect is much the same.
Sue: Oh he’s real, isn’t he? That’s quite clever. He makes it feel more realistic.
The threat still feels rather vague though, even when a War Machine starts smashing up a nearby warehouse for no readily apparent reason.
Me: I am become death, destroyer of radios.
Sue: People of London – stay off the streets. Do not attempt to rescue your bins.
Me: Leave them. They’re just not worth it.
Thankfully, the Doctor comes up with an ingenious plan to deal with this nuisance. Well, it’s ingenious if your foe is stupid enough to walk straight into a very obvious trap. And luckily for the Doctor, that’s exactly what he’s up against.
Me: Look! It’s Frank Butcher!
Back at the Post Office Tower, WOTAN makes his last play for world domination.
Sue: I didn’t understand a word of that.
Me: Same here. Not a single word. Shall we rewind it?
Sue: If this was the 1960s, we wouldn’t be able to, so **** it.
The Doctor’s reprogrammed War Machine manages to get inside the Post Office Tower (“Now there’s a scene I want to see. How did it get in the lift?”), and it destroys WOTAN, who only has a human arse to protect it. Before we have time to wrap up any loose ends (like, is Brett going to be punished for all the deaths he has caused?), the Doctor legs it. You can hardly blame him.
Sue: Dodo really isn’t coming back, is she? I thought you were just winding me up.
Me: The Doctor is alone for the very first time.
Sue: It’s odd that he doesn’t invite Ben and Polly to join him. Or is it? I’m not sure.
It doesn’t matter – they nip on board when he’s not looking, anyway.
Sue: Stowaways, eh? He won’t like that.
As the TARDIS dematerialises, Nicol appears in the doorway. She tuts.
Nicol: Are you still on William Hartnell? Bloody hell, you’ll never finish at this rate!
Ha! Nicol just said “William Hartnell” instead of “the first one”. That’s a new one, dragging her to the Doctor Who Experience in London wasn’t a complete waste of time after all.top
The Final Score
Sue: It was OK. I can see what they were trying to do. It felt very modern and ‘with it’, and I liked the way they used contemporary London, but I also think the programme lost some of its mystery as a result. It didn’t really feel like Doctor Who at times – it felt more like an episode of The Avengers. The sound effects got on my nerves as well, and the War Machines were pathetic. The plot wasn’t great, but the director was trying hard. Hartnell was pretty good, too. Oh, I don’t know, let’s say -
Me: And that’s the end of season 3. What a mad, mad season.
Sue: It seemed to go on forever.
Me: Brave heart, Susan. We’re almost there.
The experiment continues…top
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