Bored out of her skull…
Sue: I don’t know why we’re bothering with this experiment anymore.
Sue: Well, according to some of the comments on the blog, Doctor Who is a complete waste of time now.
Me: For the last time, stop reading the comments. No good will ever come of them.
Sue: The general consensus seems to be that it’s all downhill from here. I was hoping it was going to get better.
Me: Don’t listen to them. They’re talking nonsense. There are plenty of great stories still to come.
Sue: Like this one?
Me: There are plenty of great stories still to come.
Sue: Oh, bloody hell, it’s Chris sodding Boucher again.
I don’t correct her pronunciation. That would be cruel.
Sue: It looks like this one is set on Earth. That’s something, I suppose.
We are introduced to Adam Colby and Thea Ransome, two scientists flirting outrageously over an eight million year old skull.
Sue: This guy is a bit smooth. It’s Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, isn’t it? He’s trying to seduce Valerie Singleton. Maybe he should offer her some Gold Blend coffee?
Me: That’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum.
Sue: She’s very beautiful. You can see where he gets it from.
Another scientist, the creepy Max Stael, enters Dr. Fendelman’s laboratory.
Sue: It’s a young George from George and Mildred. Hang on, what accent is that supposed to be? German? Italian? French? All of the above?
Thea is mysteriously drawn to the ancient skull, just as a hitch-hiker in a nearby wood is pursued by something threatening…
Sue: Now this is more like it. What a difference a week makes. This is proper Doctor Who again: scary, dark, and shot on film in a real location. Lovely.
The hitchhiker is killed.
Sue: And it’s always nice to see a man screaming for a change.
Meanwhile, in the TARDIS, the Doctor is up to his elbows in K9…
Sue: Has he broken K9 already? He only got him five minutes ago. I bet he couldn’t wait to start upgrading him, and now look at him. And what has Leela done to her hair? And why is she wearing another skimpy outfit? Where did she get that costume from? Did she make it herself? If she didn’t make it herself, why has the Doctor got that costume lying around in his TARDIS? And what has she done to her hair?
It’s not just Leela’s appearance that rankles Sue:
Sue: Will Leela ever say a line in this story that isn’t a question?
Pot. Kettle. Black. In a farmhouse kitchen, where all the scientists have gathered for breakfast.
Sue: Oh yes, this is very nice. Look at those lovely Windsor chairs. Steamed ash. I’m going on a course soon where I’ll learn how to bend steamed ash into…
I pause the DVD. This could take a while.
When we resume, Colby, Thea and Fendelman are discussing science and stuff.
Sue: OK, I’m confused. Is George her dad?
Me: No. They are work colleagues.
Sue: Work colleagues who just happen to live together? In a cottage? In the middle of nowhere? I see. So is there a bizarre love triangle going on here? You can cut the tension with a knife. Oh, I do love their earthenware. Very nice.
The sexual tension is so overwhelming, Colby decides to take the dog for a walk. He runs into the body of the dead hitchhiker, but Fendelman begs him not call the police.
Sue: Why is George’s tie so short? He can’t even dress himself. And where the hell is he from?
Me: That’s Denis Lill you’re talking about. He’s a bloody good actor.
Sue: I’ll have to take your word for it.
Me: He’s was in Survivors. You liked him in Survivors.
Sue: It’s his accent. It’s all over the shop. Oh, that cabinet is gorgeous. I’d love a cabinet like that.
The TARDIS arrives on Earth in search of a time scanner experiment that managed to interfere with its guidance systems. When the ship’s doors open, we can hear cows mooing.
Sue: Oh, thank God. I thought that sound meant the Doctor needed to put some WD-40 on the TARDIS hinges. That’s a relief.
The Doctor and Leela encounter a local man named Ted Moss. He tells them that a rich foreign scientist, who made his money out of electronics – which doesn’t make sense because he isn’t Japanese – is up to no good at the priory.
Sue: Well, at least we can rule Japan out. I’m leaning towards Mexico.
EASTENDERS ALERT! EASTENDERS ALERT!
She recognises Derek Martin in a heartbeat.
Sue: He’s such a terrible actor. He was rubbish in EastEnders and he’s just as bad here. He never improved over all those years, did he? Oh well, at least he’s consistent.
Derek is having a row with an old woman…
Sue: Now, that was scary. Kids would have wet themselves. Old people are terrifying when you’re really young. I bet she gave you nightmares.
The Doctor and Leela end up hiding in the bushes surrounding the priory…
Sue: I have no idea what is going on, but it’s very atmospheric and the direction is OK. But why is the Doctor eating the shrubbery? That’s a bit silly.
Night falls quickly and the Doctor and Leela are separated by heavy fog. The episode concludes with a double-cliffhanger: Leela is pumped full of lead while the Doctor is almost knocked over by a camera operator who can’t see where he’s going.
Sue: Oh, make your bloody mind up. I can’t process both of those cliffhangers at once. And what is the Doctor doing anyway? Why should I care? Cut to the credits after you fire the gun, you numpties!top
Sue: Is this Mick Jagger’s back garden again?
Me: Funnily enough, I think you’re right.
Sue: I wasn’t joking. I recognised the brickwork. Flemish bond. Lovely.
We cut to a shot of some Tarot cards neatly arranged on a table…
Sue: If you took the Doctor out of this story, it could easily be an episode of Tales of the Unexpected.
She starts to hum the theme tune (she doesn’t do the dance, thank heavens) and I have to intervene.
Me: Yes, alright, love. You’re missing the plot.
Sue: Oh, I don’t care about the plot. I’m bored of this one already.
CORRIE ALERT! CORRIE ALERT!
Sue: Oh, it’s him. Taxi driver. Bad leg. Don somebody.
Me: Did you watch Coronation Street before you met me?
Sue: Are you joking? Of course I watched Coronation Street. You were the one who stopped me, remember? You said it was just old women gossiping in corner shops and we should watch Brookside instead. I never did find out what happened to him.
Derek Martin is killed by an unseen force; when Colby discovers the body, he tells Thea that pure terror is etched into the poor man’s face.
Sue: They can’t show his actual face. He can’t do that emotion. He’s useless.
Thea faints just as the Doctor strolls into the kitchen.
Sue: Thank God. Maybe he can tell us what’s going on. I’m completely lost.
Me: I’m barely following it, and I’ve seen this before (and read the book).
Thea is surrounded by a golden glow as maggot-like creatures appear over her body.
Sue: What? Why? How? Eh?
They quickly disappear, but not before the Doctor identifies them as embryo Fendahleen, a creature from his own mythology. But Sue has other things on her mind:
Sue: What do all the yellow pens represent?
Sue: All the men have yellow pens in their pockets. The only person who doesn’t have a yellow pen is Thea. That must be important.
In the very next scene, a yellow pen is poking out of Thea’s lab coat pocket.
Sue: Hmmm… Very interesting.
Me: No it isn’t!
Sue: I bet it is.
Me: Oh, knock yourself out. I give up.
Sue is annoying me almost as much as Adam Colby is annoying her.
Sue: What a smug ****. I hope he’s the next to die. A slow, painful death would be nice. I’m not fussy, really.
Colby continues to argue with an increasingly agitated Fendelman.
Sue: Fendelman should be in a Spaghetti Western. I think he’s definitely Mexican. “Do you want some jalapeños with that, Adam? Huh?”
In the midst of all this, we discover that Stael is the member of a mysterious cult.
Sue: Where the hell did that subplot come from? Isn’t having an alien skull, wormy things and a scary old woman enough for one episode?
Fendelman suggests to Colby that humans may have evolved from aliens.
Sue: You know, I’m sure he’s a very good actor but why did they saddle him with that stupid accent? There’s no need for it.
Me: Well, his name is clearly significant. Fendelman, Fendahleen. You know…
Sue: So what? Who says you can’t have a silly name and a normal voice? Who would complain about something like that? “Oh, I don’t like this story because a man named Fendelman doesn’t have a silly accent”. What utter rubbish.
Me: It’s the 1970s. His accent is supposed to make you suspicious.
Sue: I’m suspicious of him because he’s talking with a stupid, fake accent! And where the **** is K9?
It’s not all bad news: Daphne Heard’s intense performance as Grandma Tyler is rightly singled out for praise.
Sue: She’s brilliant. More of her, please. Don is holding his own as well.
Thea is abducted by Stael.
Sue: There isn’t a great deal of music in this one. It’s very quiet, even when stuff is supposedly going on. I miss Dudley’s marimbas.
The Doctor enters Colby’s lab. He is immediately drawn to the ancient skull sitting on the table, and he offers it a jelly baby.
Sue: Now he’s just taking the piss. I bet that wasn’t in the script.
The episode concludes with the Doctor touching the skull against his will. As it glows, the Doctor is consumed with pain.
Sue sums up so far:
Sue: The direction is good and it has the potential to be very atmospheric. It definitely looks good. But it’s boring. Really, really boring. It’s too adult for the kids and too tedious for the adults. Nobody wins. It doesn’t help that Tom Baker isn’t taking it seriously, either.top
I should warn you that we watched the following two episodes straight after England’s terrible performance against Italy. She wasn’t in the best of moods…
The episode recap begins with Tom Baker offering a jelly baby to the skull again.
Sue: It isn’t even a real jelly baby. It’s a liquorice allsort. For ****’s sake. Nice table, though.
Leela hunts for the Doctor…
Leela: Great Xoanon, where are you?
Sue: Stop calling him Xoanon.
Leela rescues the Doctor. She tells him that she knew something was wrong and she followed her instincts.
Sue: Finally, her psychic superpower pays off. It’s been a long time coming.
In the basement, Stael drugs Thea up to the eyeballs…
Sue: Is there someone down there practicing on a church organ? And does the yellow pen mean you are in this cult? Is that the secret signal?
Stael gloats to Thea that he will become a god.
Sue: He comes from the same country that Fendelman wants to sound like he comes from. If that makes any sense.
The Doctor revives Grandma Tyler from a coma with a recipe for fruit cake. He then explains that ghosts are the by-products of a nearby time fissure.
Sue: That’s the first plausible thing the Doctor has said in this story. Tom Baker has upped his game now that he has to play against the old granny. She’s excellent.
Stael takes Fendelman and Colby hostage in the basement. Colby acts like a wise guy, even when he has a gun pressed against his lips.
Sue: Do us all a favour and shoot him in the ****ing head. Please.
The Doctor and Leela head to the Fendahl’s old stomping ground, the Fifth Planet, in the TARDIS. The Doctor explains that the Fendahl is probably using astral projection to manifest itself back on Earth.
Sue: They are making it up as they go along. None of this connects to anything else, as far as I can tell. It’s just one bizarre explanation after another.
Leela suddenly finds herself lying on the floor.
Sue: Have we missed a scene? Is this DVD faulty as well?
The Doctor discovers to his horror that the Fifth Planet has been placed in a time loop.
Sue: Like Groundhog Day?
Me: It’s probably a bit worse than that. More like Groundhog Second. You wouldn’t be able to get anything done.
Grandma Tyler gives her nephew a lecture about evil spirits as she fills some shotgun pellets with rock salt.
Sue: I could watch a whole series with these two fighting evil in the countryside. As a series, it’s got legs.
It’s just a shame about the rest of it.
The Doctor admits that he overlooked a small detail and a power source capable of restoring the Fendahl exists in the priory.
Sue: I know exactly how she feels. It’s like England’s performance tonight. Boring.
In the basement, a gathering of hooded cult members are waiting for the big show to start.
Sue: I hope it’s not going to turn into Eyes Wide Shut.
Me: Speak for yourself.
The Tylers hear a gunshot…
Sue: The cult have just put down Fendelman for crimes against foreign accents.
She doesn’t realise that she’s right and Denis Lil has been shot in the head.
Sue: That was a bit bleak. And why shoot him and not the other ****? That makes no sense whatsoever. Hang on a minute! Maybe they are lovers! It all makes sense now!
The Doctor and Leela return to the priory in the fog…
Sue: This story has all the right ingredients but they don’t work when they are combined together. This would be a terrible fruit cake.
A fully grown Fendahleen appears to attack the Doctor, Leela and the Tylers.
Sue: Has it got pink hair? It looks like a cross between a giant maggot and a Chinese Dragon. It’s not scary at all.
Me: Really? It scared the crap out of me when I was eight.
Sue: Seriously? I think they could have shown you anything and you’d have found it scary. It’s rubbish. It’s the alien equivalent of Ashley Cole.top
Sue: Why can’t they run away?
Me: Well, the story implies that the common dream people have, where they can’t run away from something, is derived from a race memory we have about these things.
Sue: You are having a laugh. They probably can’t move because their jaws are on the ****ing floor. This is atrocious.
Me: We’ve seen much worse than this.
Sue: Not today we haven’t.
Sue thinks she’s nailed the problem:
Sue: We’re watching two different programmes. Tales of the Unexpected and Doctor Who. This is a YouTube mash-up years before its time. And it doesn’t work.
Thea is transformed into a golden figure in billowing robes. She rises up from the floor, a giant pentangle behind her.
Sue: This reminds me of Marc Bolon at Newcastle City Hall in 1973. Gary took me to see him. Marc came up on this huge star and it got stuck. And when they finally got him off it, he was so pissed off, he starting kicking it. It was a bit embarrassing, to be honest.
The Doctor warns everyone not to look at Thea eyes.
Sue: So is this supposed to be the origin of the Medusa? I still don’t buy it.
Stael realises that he’s made a terrible mistake and he asks the Doctor to leave him a gun so he can kill himself.
Sue: You and me both, mate. Bloody hell. This isn’t for kids. This isn’t for anyone, actually.
The Doctor gives Stael the gun.
Sue: Bloody hell. You can’t throw a powerful scene like that into the middle of this incomprehensible mess. It’s not appropriate.
Colby escapes with his life, but he quickly turns on Grandma Tyler, calling her a “stupid old witch” and, even more cruelly, a “swede-bashing cretin”.
Sue: KILL HIM! Leela, stick him with one of your anus thorns.
The Doctor explains that rock salt is the perfect weapon against their enemy, and it is probably the reason why people throw it over their shoulders for good luck.
Sue: I bet it’s also the reason we use it to kill slugs.
The Doctor tells Leela the story of how the Time Lords interfered with the Fendahl on the Fifth Planet.
Sue: This is all very interesting but it’s just another idea being thrown into the pot at the very last moment. I don’t care anymore.
The Doctor suggests that Fendelman was probably genetically prepared for this moment, but then again it could just be a coincidence.
Sue: For ****’s sake. The script hasn’t got the strength of its own convictions.
The Doctor comes up with a plan. He gives Colby some instructions to perform and Leela gives the scientist a cheeky peck on the cheek.
Sue: That’s completely wasted on him, pet. Still, nice rug.
The Doctor and Leela head for the basement. They battle a Fendahleen with flasks full of salt.
Sue: Tom Baker nearly took the camera out with that shot. It would have been a mercy killing. And how did one of these things kill that hitchhiker at the beginning? He was running like the clappers but this lot can barely move.
The Doctor makes his way to the skull and he places it in a lead lined box. Tiny Fendahleen surround him.
Sue: Which one of them is dropping babies all over the place?
Thea starts floating around the priory as a disembodied ghost.
Sue: Er… why?
The Doctor has rigged the time scanner to implode and our heroes escape just in time.
Sue: They are playing Dudley’s music backwards. I like it.
Incredibly, Colby survives.
Sue: That is ridiculous. How do you let him live but kill Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum? That’s unforgivable.
The Doctor and Leela return to the TARDIS and Leela lets her hair down.
Sue: Thank heavens for small mercies.
The Doctor waffles on about dropping the skull in a supernova (“So is it indestructible or not? Make your bloody mind up”) and after some playful banter, the credits roll.
Sue: Is that it? Even K9 is hanging his head in shame.top
The Final Score
Sue: That was rubbish. And boring rubbish, which is even worse. Too many ideas that went absolutely nowhere. I don’t even know what the Fendahl is. Was it the worm, the gold woman or the skull? It made no sense. The atmosphere was nice and the sets were great, but they were completely wasted on that script. I’ve forgotten it already.
The experiment continues…top
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