It’s all downhill from here…
It’s been one hell of a fortnight. If you read our last installment, you’ll know that Sue was admitted to hospital with chest pains a few days ago. Don’t worry, she’s going to be fine; I’ve told her that she can’t die until we reach the 1996 TV Movie, and she’s perfectly happy with that arrangement.
Me: You gave us quite a scare. Are you sure you’re feeling better now?
Sue: The doctor said I’ll be fine as long as I don’t get too excited.
Me: Don’t worry, I’ve got just the thing…
As luck would have it, Sue misses Terry Nation’s credit because she’s busy checking her phone. It’s the one and only time we have relaxed our strict ‘no phone’ policy since the experiment began, and she’s checking to see whether the vets have called. Our cat, Captain Jack, is staying in hospital overnight, and we are both on tenterhooks (more on the good Captain later).
Oh well, I’m sure she’ll spot Terry’s name tomorrow. And besides, my shoulder is still recovering from a painful injury, and I can’t rub her feet and take notes at the same time. Stop tutting at the back.
Sue: We used to have a wardrobe like that. Actually, this is 1973, isn’t it? Everyone had a wardrobe like that. And why have we never seen this wardrobe before? Have the Time Lords sent the Doctor some furniture in his hour of need? Is it a magic cupboard of some sort? What the **** is going on?
She is referring, of course, to the IKEA-style flat pack wardrobe/bed that has mysteriously become an integral part of the TARDIS set.
Sue: Is the Doctor sleeping in the control room, now? I thought the TARDIS was supposed to be massive? And where does Jo sleep? Does she curl up in a chest of drawers?
The Doctor lies down and immediately slips into a coma.
Sue: What’s wrong with the Doctor anyway? Was he shot in the head by the Master?
Me: I think so. It isn’t made very clear.
Sue: He looks fine to me. He’s probably just come down with a bad case of man flu. He’s even worse than you.
Jo decides to check the Doctor’s hearts.
Sue: She’s listening to his tummy. She can’t tell if he’s alive or not, but she does know what he had for breakfast.
The Doctor suddenly becomes covered in white powder.
Sue: That’s the worst case of dandruff I’ve ever seen. The Doctor’s goggle-eyed stare is a bit Worzel Gummidge as well. Is he going to grow himself a new head, like David Tennant did with his hand that time?
Jo switches on the TARDIS scanner.
Sue: Can’t they afford a colour television in the TARDIS? That’s a bit cheap.
As Jo takes in their surroundings, an unknown substance is squirted at the screen.
Sue: They’ve landed in the middle of a paintball tournament. Jo will need to find some protective goggles if she is seriously thinking about going outside. Not that she should. I mean, why would you?
Jo puts on a raincoat and she leaves the safety of the TARDIS.
Sue: Look at the size of that collar. If there’s a gust of wind, she’ll take off. Actually, I had a raincoat like that once. But it was the 1970s and everyone had a raincoat like that. I’m sure my collars were smaller though. It’s very windy up north.
As Jo explores the jungle, Sue doesn’t know what the poor girl hopes to achieve.
Sue: She’s in a jungle, what does she expect to find? A chemist? And is Pertwee doing a Hartnell this week? Has he got the whole week off? The lucky bastard.
As she says this, the Doctor wakes up, alone in his ship.
Sue: If Jo had waited two more minutes, everything would have been fine. That’s just typical.
Jo finds a crashed spaceship in a clearing and she decides to take a look inside. Its occupants turn up and – incredibly! – they have peripheral vision and they immediately discover Jo’s pathetic excuse for a hiding place.
Sue: Has she been rescued by ABBA?
The set is wobbling like crazy too, but we decide that this is probably intentional.
Sue: Does it remind you of all those years we spent in the caravan? We would shake like that during bad weather.
I make the obligatory bad taste joke, and then the Doctor discovers that the TARDIS is rapidly running short on oxygen.
Sue: I bet he wishes he could crack open one of the police box’s windows. Yet another TARDIS design flaw – I could make a list.
The Doctor is rescued in the nick of time by the same astronauts who saved Jo.
Sue: Oh, I remember the Thals. They’re completely useless, aren’t they?
The Doctor explains that he encountered the Thals on Skaro long ago, when he was travelling with Ian, Susan and Barbara.
Sue: Barbara! Oh, how I miss Barbara. Can you imagine Barbara and Jo joining forces for a story? That would be great, wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t need the Doctor at all!
The episode concludes with the Doctor revealing the presence of an invisible Dalek.
Sue: Nice cliffhanger.
Me: Aren’t you bothered that the Doctor is surprised to see a Dalek, even though he saw them last week and he’s specifically come to this planet to stop them?
Sue: He isn’t surprised to see a Dalek, silly. He’s surprised to see an invisible Dalek. Do try to keep up, love.top
As luck would have it, Sue manages to miss Terry Nation’s name during the opening credits again. The fact that I distracted her with a jelly baby is neither here nor there. And no, we don’t eat jelly babies during every episode. Just some of them.
Sue: I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen this actor in something else -
She’s referring to Prentis Hancock, who is playing a Thal named Vaber.
Me: We’ll be here all day listing everything Prentis Hancock has appeared in. Do you remember Space 1999?
Sue: No. He’s very intense, isn’t he? Is he always this intense? Does he turn it down a bit later?
Me: I won’t hear a bad word against him. Prentis is my favourite bad actor of all time.
Sue: You know, Jon Pertwee looks more and more like my late mother. It’s his grey bouffant. It’s uncanny from a certain angle.
With invisible Daleks roaming the planet’s surface, our heroes are saved from a certain death by a natural early warning system – the eye-plants.
Sue: Just make up a joke about Steve Jobs, love. I’m too tired to think of one.
Me: OK. And don’t worry, I’m sure that Captain Jack will be fine. Stop worrying about him and start worrying about Jo Grant. It’ll take your mind of things; I’m sure he’ll be home tomorrow.
The Doctor journeys to the Thals’ ship to look for Jo, but the Daleks turn up to spoil his plans. They shoot the Doctor in the knees and he is forced to walk back to their city doubled-up in agony.
Me: Ironically, this is how Jon Pertwee will end his life.
Sue: Are the Daleks going to take him to see the Master? He’s been keeping a very low profile in this story so far.
The Daleks imprison the Doctor with a Thal named Codal, with whom he has a very cordial chat about bravery and cowardice.
Sue: That was a good scene. I like this bloke – he has a Paul McGann thing going on.
The Doctor suggests that they try to escape, and they turn out their pockets to see if anything might assist them.
Sue: So, the Daleks put the Doctor in a cell without emptying his pockets first? The Daleks deserve everything they get. Although, having said that, it’s probably really difficult for them to search people with those arms of theirs. Oh, they left him his sonic screwdriver. There’s no excuse for that.
Meanwhile, Jo has been rescued by an invisible Spiridon from Spiridon.
Me: I have an incredibly vivid memory of watching this particular scene when I was three. All I know is that I was definitely ill at the time. Stomach-ache, I think. It’s a very sketchy image, but I’m definitely lying on the settee with a hot water bottle on my tummy and I can remember this moment with the floating bowl as if it were yesterday. And yet I have no recollection of the Daleks at all. Funny, that.
Sue: Either the invisible man is making some hot chocolate or he’s been draining Jo’s blood. It’s hard to tell.
The Spiridon pours the contents of the bowl onto Jo’s arm, which has been infected by a deadly fungus.
Sue: Chocolate sauce and cabbage. That’s not a good look for Jo.
As the Daleks glide around their city, Sue admires their new look.
Sue: I like the Daleks’ paint job in this story. Battleship grey makes them look like they mean business. The Daleks look a lot less scary when they are bright and multicoloured. This lot would look quite threatening in the dark.
Codal and the Doctor prepare to escape from their cell…
Sue: Wait, don’t tell me – the Doctor will reverse the polarity of something?
Of course he does.
Sue: I could write this.
The episode concludes with a second Thal spacecraft crashing into Spiridon.
Sue: The Thals may have invented space flight but they haven’t mastered space landing yet.top
Me: The most interesting thing about this episode is that it was only available in black and white until very recently.
Sue: That’s an interesting use of the word “interesting”.
This time, when the titles are running, I allow Sue to take in every detail. When Terry’s name appears, I turn towards her to make sure she’s seen it.
She has. But there’s no response. Nothing. Not even a flicker of recognition. She seems to be staring right through the screen.
Me: You’re not really concentrating on this, are you? You’re thinking about Captain Jack again. I can tell.
I don’t blame her. Captain Jack has taken over our lives. He came down with a urinary tract infection two weeks ago and it resulted in various complications, the biggest being that if he doesn’t empty his bladder every 48 hours, he’ll die. He’s been backwards and forwards to the vets to have his bladder emptied, and then he has been returned to us, dosed up to his eyeballs on different drugs, the hope being that we will eventually stumble across the correct cocktail that will allow the poor thing to urinate without his bladder spasming.
Seriously, we could write a book about feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) after what we’ve been though. Most cats get over the condition once the initial blockage has been cleared, but one per cent can have problems and Jack would have to be in that percentage. Last Sunday, we ended up driving the little fella to a specialist at 4 o’clock in the morning – in the snow – because the Valium he was on was making him hallucinate and was trying to eat lumps of coal. I’m quite sure that the stress brought on by Jack’s condition was responsible for Sue’s hospitalisation, too.
One of the vets told us that Jack would probably have to be put down, but another (much more expensive) vet seems determined to give Jack as many chances as possible. So we have been – and still are – on Cat Watch. Because we have two more cats (Rosie and Tegan), and we live in a fairly big house with several litter trays scattered around the place, we have to stay alert for any signs of Jack doing his business. If we can’t be sure he’s peed, then that cry at 6am could mean that his bladder is going to explode, instead of it meaning “I want some ham, please”. It’s a bloody nightmare.
I’m sure you came here to read about Doctor Who and Daleks and all that rubbish, but he’s taken over our lives to such an extent, the experiment has fallen by the wayside. It’s only fair that you should suffer all the details as well.
The good news is that we are currently feeling cautiously optimistic and we believe that Jack may have turned a corner. I’m doing the night shift right now – it’s 5:30am as I write this paragraph, and he’s slept through the night. This time last week, he was freaking out in his litter tray and howling like a banshee. I hope he’s going to be OK. If the problem persists, the only alternative is a very complicated operation with another set of risks. And we’d have to call him Captain Jackie, too.
Let’s just hope that it doesn’t come to that and he really does take after his namesake after all.
Anyway, back on the Planet of the Daleks, Jo is spying on some Spiridon collaborators who are dressed in purple furs. They are said to keep out the cold, but I reckon it’s to stop them bumping into each other.
Sue: So, if the natives are completely naked when they are invisible, where is this one holding his stick? It could be…
Meanwhile, the Thals are making their way through a tunnel made from solid ice.
Sue: That looks pretty good. Actually, the direction isn’t too bad. I haven’t noticed anything terrible yet, and that’s always a good sign.
Me: It helps that these scenes were shot on film.
Sue: I wish they’d shot the whole thing on film. It looks so much better. Even the crap bits look better on film.
Codal and the Doctor finally make a break for it by manhandling a Dalek as they screw with its central impulses.
Sue: This reminds me of the very first Dalek story we saw. Actually, if you turned down the colour, we could be watching a 1960s story. It feels very old-fashioned.
Me: It’s funny you should say that.
Sue: Why is that funny?
Me: You’ll work it out eventually.
As Sue ponders this – and I feel increasingly guilty about the lack of foot rubbing, despite my aching shoulder – a Thal named Marat sacrifices himself so his colleagues can escape. I feel even more guilty as a consequence.
Sue: That would have been a noble death, if only he’d actually helped them get away. But he didn’t. So it wasn’t. What a waste.
A Dalek with a laminated map stuck to its plunger informs the other Daleks that he found it on Marat’s corpse.
Sue: I want to see the scene where the Daleks searched the body. What a farce that would have been. No wonder they need henchmen. Actually, where the hell is the Master? We’re nearly halfway through the story and there’s still no sign of him.
I decide to put Sue out of her misery and I tell her the tragic story of what happened to Roger Delgado.
Sue: That’s really sad. So, did they have to write him out of this story at the last-minute?
Me: No, the Master was never going to be in this story.
Sue: What? But that makes no sense at all. They promised us Dalek/Master action last week. That’s not fair.
As Sue fumes over this, the Doctor and the Thals attempt to escape by using a lot of hot air.
Sue: I’m sure I had a Joe 90 toy that did something very similar to this.
Me: I didn’t know you were a fan of Joe 90.
Sue: I wasn’t.
The episode concludes with the Daleks about to burst in as the Doctor’s makeshift balloon slowly begins to rise.
Sue: That was OK, I guess. But it’s not the same when Jack isn’t here to watch it with us.top
Jack is home with us tonight and he’s currently off his little face on the cat version of ecstasy. When we begin the episode, he is stretched out on Sue’s knee, purring loudly and gripping her finger with his clenching paws. It’s so cute, I could cry.
And this time, when the titles roll, the penny finally drops…
Sue: Terry Nation! I should have guessed.
Me: Fair’s fair – I owe you a foot rub. Or Four.
Sue: I can’t move my feet when I have Jack on my knee like this. Look at him. How can I possibly move him? I can’t remember the last time he was this chilled.
Me: Just don’t say I didn’t offer.
Sue: I don’t care. All I want right now is Jack on my knee. I’ll punish you later.
As the Doctor and his Thal companions fly up a shaft in their hot air balloon, the Daleks attempt to follow them with the help of an anti-gravity disc.
Sue: Just think, if this was the new series, the Daleks could just fly up after them. Maybe it was this encounter with the Doctor that forced them to sort out their inability to fly.
The Daleks have a meeting to discuss their plans for galactic domination.
Sue: The one with the drooping eyestalk looks like he might be asleep. I hope he isn’t the one who’s supposed to be keeping the minutes.
The Doctor and Jo are finally reunited and Jo excitedly exclaims, “And then I was rescued by a bowl!”
Sue: What a great line. Only on Doctor Who.
The Thals decide to take stock of their situation as they chow down on white chocolate.
Sue: The Milky Bars are on him! His hair is the right colour for a start.
Taron tells Rebec that he loves her, and her presence on this mission will almost certainly be the sole reason that they’ll fail. In short, he’ll be far too busy looking at her tits to nobly sacrifice himself.
Sue: What a dick. He may as well have told her to stay in the kitchen on Skaro. And I liked that character, too.
Our heroes head for the Plain of Stones and Vaber freaks out again. Prentis ramps up the intensity to 11.5.
Sue: He should be shot for mutiny. He’s pulled a gun on his commander twice now! How many verbal warnings do you give a man before he blows your head off?
As night draws in, our heroes notice that they are surrounded by tiny pinpricks of light.
Sue: It’s the audience for an Orbital gig.
Vaber decides to go it alone and he runs off into the jungle with the Thal’s remaining explosives. Unfortunately for him, he is swiftly captured by some Spiridon collaborators. And one of them sounds suspiciously like Wester, the friendly Spiridon who rescued Jo.
Sue: Hang on, is the invisible man who saved Jo really a double agent? Or do the Spiridons all sound the same? And does this guy’s safety really deserve a cliffhanger? Really? Awww, look – Jack just did a little yawn.top
Sue: They should have called this one Planet of the Tinsel. I’m sorry, that’s the best I can do. I can’t concentrate when I’m straining to hear the cat.
Me: I think -
Sue: Sshhh. Can you hear him crying?
Me: No, that’s just the sound of a bird cawing on the soundtrack to this episode. He’s been cawing throughout the entire story. In fact, he caws quite a lot during every jungle-based Doctor Who story. I’m pretty sure he’s in The Daleks’ Master Plan for a start.
When Wester turns up at the Plain of Stones, the Doctor tries to brain him with a stick. Thankfully, Jo intervenes.
Sue: How can she recognise which invisible alien is which? Is it because of the unique stains on his rug?
The purple rugs have definitely become a source of fascination for Sue:
Sue: Jack would love a rug like that.
Sue: I don’t know why they don’t throw purple rugs over the Daleks. They are the perfect weapon.
And then the characters walk across a studio floor, only to emerge in a filmed location.
Sue: It looks so much better. The trouble is, when you show location footage like this, it just draws attention to how fake your studio stuff looks. They should do one thing or the other, and they should stick with it.
And then, 11 minutes into Episode Five, we reach the halfway point in the classic series.
Sue: I feel that we should do a dance or something but I’m not really in the mood. I just want Jack to have a wee.
Me: Just give me a kiss instead. I’m very proud of you for making it this far.
Sue: Halfway, eh?
Me: Yeah, it’s all downhill from here.
Sue: I suppose its appropriate that the halfway point is similar in tone to the very first episodes you made me watch. If you turned down the colour, you’d think you were watching a 1960s Dalek story with all these Daleks having long, boring conversations with each other in metal rooms. Terry ****ing Nation.
And then a Dalek runs into some polystyrene rocks.
Sue: It was never going to make it through that tiny gap. That was just asking for trouble.
But Sue perks up when the Thals finally start listening to her and they throw purple rugs over the Daleks whenever they get the opportunity.
Sue: The entrance to the city looks like the entrance to the tube.
Me: The London Underground?
Sue: No, Channel 4′s The Tube.
Me: Oh yeah.
The Daleks are preparing to unleash a deadly plague (“Terry Nation loves a good plague”) but Wester removes any ambiguity about himself when he sacrifices himself to stop them. When he dies, his true features are finally revealed to us…
Sue: With a face like that, you can see why they’d want to be invisible.top
Jack is curled up on Sue’s knee. Today he is on the cat equivalent of diazepam and Sue’s feet are out of reach again as a result. I tried. Really, I did.
Sue: The Daleks are pushovers, aren’t they? You just have to get behind them and hang on a bit. No wonder they are so desperate to become invisible – it will stop people laughing at them.
The Dalek Supreme’s spaceship arrives on Spiridon…
Sue: That’s a great design for a ship.
Me: That was designed by a 10-year old child. I’m not joking.
Sue: I don’t care – it looks great. It references the original Dalek design and yet it has a nice simplicity to it. Can you buy this ship as a toy?
Me: Give it time.
And then Supreme Dalek reveals himself…
Suddenly, apropos of nothing, Jo is chatted up by a Thal named Latep.
Sue: Jo could do a lot better than him. Even Mike Yates would be better catch than him. He looks OK, I suppose – he’s a bit too Keith Chegwin for my taste – but he’s far too wet.
When we get our first decent close-up of the Dalek Supreme, Sue doesn’t disappoint.
Sue: It’s an Everready torch! They haven’t even tried to hide it. Did a 10-year old design this as well?
The Supreme Dalek isn’t happy with the progress report he is given by one of his subordinates, so he exterminates him.
Sue: He’s the Daleks’ Darth Vader.
Jo and Latep abseil into the Dalek city and Latep is very quick when it comes to helping Jo down.
Sue: Watch the hands, sunshine. You’re not married yet.
When we see the frozen Dalek army, Sue is impressed. For a few seconds at least.
Sue: That doesn’t look too bad.
Me: Are you serious? Are you actually looking at it?
Sue: I don’t see the problem. Oh, hang on, I see what you mean. They don’t look right, do they? They are too pointy at the front.
Me: They’re toys!
Sue: Well, what else could they do? They weren’t going to build 10,000 Daleks, were they? At least they aren’t using cardboard cut-outs this time.
The episode concludes with a lacklustre explosion and a some very lukewarm jeopardy. When the dust finally settles, the Doctor warns the Thals not to glamourise their exploits when they return to Skaro.
Sue: That was quite profound.
Me: Yeah, it’s just a shame that the Doctor’s dialogue is drowned out by what sounds like a very randy elephant.
Sue: I like the message though – don’t turn this story into a movie. I can buy into that.
Latep (or Lametep as Sue now refers to him) asks Jo to return with him to Skaro.
Sue: Oh no, she’s actually going to leave with him, isn’t she? Why would she want to live on a planet with Daleks living on it? Why doesn’t the Doctor tell her that Skaro is a dump? They probably won’t be able to land the ship properly and she’ll die before she sees the shit hole she’ll end up living on. It’s Susan all over again! Jo deserves better than this.
But no. Jo Grant blows him out. Phew.
Sue: Lametep doesn’t look pleased. It’s going to be a long journey home for Cheggers.
And then, just when we think it’s all over, the Supreme Dalek rushes out of the jungle to have one last go.
Me: Sorry, love, this story is actually 18 episodes long. Ouch!
I think I actually deserved that cushion.top
The Final Score
Sue: That was average. It went exactly how I thought it would go. The only real surprise was that the Master wasn’t in it. And that wasn’t even a good surprise. Some of the performances were OK, and the direction was fine given the ridiculously over-optimistic script, but it didn’t do anything for me. It could be that I’ve got other things on my mind right now, but I’ve forgotten it already. And I can’t say I’m overjoyed to see Terry ****ing Nation back again. I didn’t even get a foot rub out of it. Please tell me that he isn’t back for good.
The experiment continues (cats permitting)…top
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