Praise the Carpentry.
Sue: Anything I should know?
Me: Only that it’s late 1977 and context is everything.
Sue: I would have just turned 16. Oh look, it’s Robert Holmes; I feel better already.
The episode begins with a nervous man named Cordo standing in a very drab corridor.
Sue: This reminds me of Brazil.
Me: The country?
Sue: The film.
It’s an astute observation (it helps that she watched it recently), and Roy Macready does look like Jonathan Pryce. If you squint.
Cordo is instructed to pay his departed father’s death taxes to Gatherer Hade.
Sue: This story is very brown. Then again, everything was very brown in the late seventies. Is this what you meant by context? This story is the same colour as a Bond Bug.
Me: A what bug?
Sue: An orangey-brown, three-wheeled sports car from the seventies; like a sexy Robin Reliant. It was the exact same colour as the giant rib cage this guy is walking through right now.
The Gatherer sits behind a giant table made from real ma-ho-gany.
Sue: They could have written this story for me. I could watch this for hours. Please, keep talking about wood.
Me: Praise the carpentry.
Meanwhile, the Doctor is playing chess with K9 in the TARDIS. He tells Leela to shut up as he concentrates on his next move.
Sue: How can anyone concentrate when K9 is switched on? It sounds like the cleaners are in the studio next door.
Leela exclaims that the time rotor has stopped moving. The Doctor responds by leaping around the console room like a maniac.
Sue: Calm the **** down, mate.
The TARDIS arrives on Pluto in the far future; the Doctor and Leela attempt to discuss the prospect of going for a quick W-A-L-K without alerting K9.
Sue: We do that all the time with Buffy. But Buffy is a stupid labrador and K9 is a supercomputer, so it’s a bit silly. Cute but silly.
K9 really wants to go with them.
Sue: Just like a real dog. Always wanting to be out. At least he doesn’t moult. Oh, take him. Go on, Doctor, take him.
Sue: TAKE HIM!
But the Doctor won’t have it and he leaves the poor mutt behind.
Sue: That’s never Pluto. It looks like Birmingham.
A wide shot helps:
Sue: That really shows the scale of the place. They are trying their best, bless them, and it’s miles better than them doing it in a studio with some crappy CSO, I suppose. Where are they anyway?
Sue: You know what I mean.
Me: A tobacco factory in Bristol.
Sue reaches for a cigarette as Cordo appears on the very same rooftop. He intends to throw himself off its edge.
Sue: Tea-time suicide again. We had one of those last week. How did they get away with this?
An exasperated Cordo is at the end of his tether because he can’t pay his taxes.
The Doctor: All you need is a wily accountant.
Sue: Just ask Jimmy Carr.
The Doctor offers a conciliatory jelly baby to Cordo.
Sue: It’s a liquorice ****ing allsort again! That’s going to make things even worse.
The Doctor talks Cordo away from the edge and the poor man fills him in on the current sociopolitical climate of the planet. Cordo spots the Gatherer and he makes a run for it. After some slapstick comedy, the Doctor follows.
Sue: Tom Baker is spoiling this. He’s trying too hard to be quirky. He makes those prancing idiots on The Newsroom look realistic.
Gatherer Hade suspects the TARDIS could belong to smugglers.
Sue: Why is he dressed as a pink bee? His PA’s costume is a bit naff as well. Are fashions on Pluto based on Quality Street wrappers. Is that it?
Thankfully, the Gatherer’s costume doesn’t put her off:
Sue: He’s very good. What’s this actor been in before?
Me: Stop asking me that. Do I look like Toby Hadoke?
Leela, Cordo and the Doctor enter a large tunnel system…
Sue: The location is excellent. I didn’t know that tobacco factories had such large pipes. I guess they have to blow all the smoke up something…
Me: This is a tube station in Camden Town, I think. I’m not Richard Bignell, either.
Cordo tells the Doctor and Leela about the mysterious others: a group of tax evaders who have become outlaws.
Sue: So there’s a community of rock stars, comedians and Tory Party donors living underground? That’s, er, interesting, not to mention topical.
It doesn’t take very long for the Doctor and Leela to bump into these mysterious others.
Sue: The people who made Lost must have seen this. They even look like the others from Lost. By the look of them, I bet they smell the same too.
Meanwhile, K9 disobeys the Doctor’s orders and he leaves the TARDIS. He makes his way to Level 42…
She’s not referring to Douglas Adams.
I ask Sue if she recognises the actor playing Goudry.
Sue: Yes, I recognise his voice. Hang on… I know this…
I pause the DVD.
Sue: I’ve got it! He’s the vicar on EastEnders!
Me: It’s Michael Keating. He played Vila in Blake’s 7. Actually, this story is very Blake’s 7 in look and feel. The costumes, especially.
Sue: You’re not exactly selling Blake’s 7 to me.
For several years now, we have fed a small pack of wild cats who come and visit us each night (usually when we’re in the middle of Doctor Who). We named them Blake, Avon and Vila. Severlan died a few months ago and we haven’t seen Vila in ages.
Sue: I often wonder what happened to Vila…
Me: He probably ran away.
I press Play.
K9 arrives at the hole in the floor that leads to the others’ hideout…
Sue: This will be a challenge.
The others’ leader, Mandrel, gives the Doctor a fake credit card to use in the city.
Sue: You wouldn’t get many of those in your wallet. If you had more than one bank account, you’d have to carry them around in a small knapsack.
The Doctor visits a hole-in-the-wall, and with Cordo keeping watch, he inserts the card. A glass cubicle imprisons the Doctor and he is gassed for being overdrawn.
Sue: ****ing bankers.top
Four uniformed men arrive to retrieve the Doctor.
Sue: Why didn’t Cordo press that button and get him out? He had plenty of time.
The men take the Doctor away on a gurney.
Sue: It’s Barclaycard’s Death Squad. I bet he gets charged for being carted away. This is very similar to Brazil. And Bob Diamond’s darkest fantasies.
And then we meet the Collector…
Sue: Is he sniffing something off that paper? Is that what I think it is? What a banker.
The Collector is an insane economist…
Sue: He’s a tiny Ed Balls. He definitely livens things up a bit. It’s a very creepy performance.
Tom Baker wakes up in a straitjacket. He does a passable impression of an elephant before sitting bolt upright.
Sue: Didn’t the Doctor hang around with Houdini? He should be able to get out of that.
The Doctor has been deposited in a conditioning room with a man named Bisham. Bisham tells him that Pluto’s inhabitants are made docile with PCM (Pentocyleinicmethylhydrane).
Sue: We need a scene with some happy people in it. Just one scene would do it. All I’ve seen so far are depressives, rebels and bureaucrats. What about those in between?
Mandrel’s gang continue to bicker among themselves.
Sue: It’s Oliver Twist for middle-aged men. Mandrel is basically Fagin and the loud-mouthed woman (who really belongs on the stage, not on television) is Nancy. She’s bloody terrible.
The Gatherer decides that the Doctor is an arms smuggler, and he’ll need the Inner Retinue to deal with him.
Sue: Oh very good. Was Robert Holmes a communist?
Me: No, that was Malcolm Hulke. But Holmes received a large tax demand before he wrote this, so he wasn’t in the best of moods.
Sue: If any of the Inland Revenue saw this episode, they would have crucified him later.
Leela accuses Mandrel of cowardice. She even insinuates that he hasn’t got a penis.
Sue: You go, girl!
Cordo volunteers to help Leela find the Doctor.
Sue: He’s like Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Cordo – Frodo. Coincidence?
K9 continues to disobey the Doctor’s orders and blankly refuses to return to the TARDIS.
Sue: He really is a typical dog. Buffy is exactly the same. Aww, look at him wagging his little tail.
Shoot me now…
The Gatherer decides to release the Doctor from the conditioning centre so he can follow him and identify anyone he makes contact with in the city. But things don’t look too good for Bisham…
Sue: Is the Doctor going to leave the other bloke there? That’s horrible.
The Doctor throws a bag of sweets at Bisham’s head on his way out.
Sue: (as Bisham) How am I supposed to eat these with my hands tied? I don’t even like liquorice!
The Gatherer tells the Doctor that his arrest was a terrible misunderstanding brought about by a computing error.
Sue: They had a NatWest.
Leela, still on the Doctor’s trail, orders K9 to stun a guard.
Sue: How can this guard not hear K9 coming? Do the drugs they pump into the air conditioning mess with your hearing?
The Doctor and the Gatherer banter over some raspberry leaves (a scene that Sue enjoys a great deal). On his way out, the Doctor offers the Gatherer a sweet.
The Doctor: Humbug.
Sue: Now he’s confusing licqourice allsorts with humbugs! Oh, I see. It’s because the Gatherer is dressed as a giant humbug. I get it now.
Leela, K9 and Cordo save Bisham from undergoing his conditioning…
Sue: The Doctor will be pleased. He’ll get his “jelly babies” back as well.
Cordo suggests that they follow the P45 return route.
Me: That reminds me – it’s my last day at work on Friday.
Me: Just think, starting from Monday, I can give this experiment my undivided attention.
Sue: Does that mean I’ll have to watch more episodes a week?
Me: Yeah, no more days off for you. Sorry. We might even finish by October. Imagine that: life without Doctor Who.
Sue: The quicker we finish this, the quicker you can divorce me.
Me: Yeah, and then I can crowd source some funding for the inevitable sequel: ‘Adventures with the New Wife and Blake’.
The episode concludes with Leela and Co. confronted by a vehicle carrying two guards.
Sue: A golf buggy with a mattress tied to the front? Scary stuff. I’ve got to say, aside from the odd joke here and there, this is very average so far.top
I should warn you that Sue had a bad day at work, and she wasn’t in the best of moods when we watched this episode. If only I had some PCM handy…
Sue: This is ridiculous!
K9 has stunned one of the guards. The other guard gets out of his buggy and looks behind him.
Sue: What the **** is he looking for? And if this is K9′s POV, it’s nowhere near where it should be. The direction in this scene is atrocious.
Leela’s gang commandeer the buggy.
Sue: They should spend Part Three executing an Austin Powers three point turn.
There’s some casual sexism about lady drivers, which gets up Sue’s nose, but worse is yet to come, as the buggy is driven towards the bodies of the two guards…
Sue: They’ll have to get out and move them. Oh wait, that edit suggests that they just ran them over. Nice. I’m not convinced that the buggy would have made it over them, but there you go.
They hurtle down the corridor, guns a-blazing, at a cool 5 mph.
Sue: It’s not exactly Star Wars, is it?
Me: It isn’t even THX-1138.
Sue: The direction in that scene was awful. Just awful.
But it’s not all bad news: when we make it back to the studio, and Mandrel threatens to torture the Doctor with a red-hot poker, everything clicks into place for Sue.
Sue: That was a very good scene. Let’s have more scenes like that, please.
Leela is brought before the Collector…
Sue: I like the little fella. Is that his real voice or is he just putting it on?
Me: (as the Collector) I don’t know. Good, isn’t it?
I find it impossible not to impersonate Henry Woolf (badly) whenever he’s on screen. I can’t be alone in this, can I?
Sue: I like the sound effects on his computer. What happens when he gets an email?
The Doctor plants the seeds of revolution in the others’ minds.
Sue: It’s very topical, this one. Nothing much has changed. The Doctor should come down here and sort our fat cats out.
Meanwhile, Leela has been strung up at a 45 degree angle…
Sue: I bet that would be good for your bad back. I could make you one, if you like.
Me: I think I’d rather suffer with the back, thanks.
Leela is threatened with the steamer…
Sue: What’s the steamer?
Me: Swedish waterboarding.
Large portions of this episode amuse Sue (intentionally); she loves the interplay between the Gatherer and the Collector and she believes that Tom Baker is on his best behaviour this week and taking things much more seriously.
The bad guys gather for Leela’s public execution. Attendance is poor; the Gatherer suspects it’s because people can watch it on the telly for free.
Sue: They should have made it pay-per-view. They missed a trick there.
Leela’s casket is plunged into a hidden chamber.
Sue: So it’s a public execution where you can’t see a damn thing? What’s the point in that? Is it really any wonder that nobody bought tickets?
The episode concludes with Leela about to be steamed alive.
Sue: I’ve seen better. The script was quite funny, though. It actually cheered me up a bit.top
Between Parts Three and Four, Sue played a tennis match for her local team. She took her frustration out on the balls (which wouldn’t be the first time), and she’s in a much better mood as a result.
Sue: It’s still very average. Thank God for Dudley Simpson – he’s making it seem much more exciting than it really is.
The Doctor rescues Leela from the steamer while Mandrel monitors the city’s PCM levels.
Sue: He should keep his eye on its bit rate, too.
When all the fuss has died down, no one can find K9 anywhere and everyone starts calling for him.
Sue: How can they not hear him coming? He is obscenely loud. I won’t mention it again. It’s pointless.
And it’s not just K9. When the Collector starts spinning round in his chair, it’s just as bad.
Sue: Imagine what it would be like if they both appeared on-screen at the same time…
The Doctor and Leela hypnotise one of the Collector’s guards. Incredibly, Sue doesn’t recognise Stuart Fell.
The Doctor and the Collector go head-to-head.
Sue: I love the Collector’s eyebrows.
Me: Remind you of anyone?
Sue: Yeah, I’m not stupid, you know. He’s supposed to be Denis Healey, which is bang out of order, actually. You might want to pause this…
We get into an animated discussion about how amazingly cool Denis Healey really was, and how Robert Holmes should have sucked up his tax bill and stopped moaning. The discussion ends with this statement from Sue:
Sue: It’s because this programme is made by middle class ****ers for middle class ****ers. Pay your ****ing taxes.
Me: OK, calm down.
When I resume the DVD, Nicol walks in.
Nicol: What’s going on?
Sue: We’re watching an episode of Doctor Who where the bad guy works for Barclays Bank.
Nicol: Are you serious? Have you seen the news?
Sue: Barclays in the future is even worse.
Nicol can’t resist joining us for the last five minutes…
Nicol: Why is everyone dressed as a jockey?
She’s referring to the Gatherer’s PA, Marn.
Sue: All she needs is a hat and she’s good to go in the 4:15 at Kempton.
Meanwhile, up on the roof, the Gatherer is hoisted up by a gang of revolutionaries.
Sue: Nice Frankie Howerd impersonation, there.
They throw him off the top of the building. And then they cheer.
Sue: No way! Did that just happen?
Nicol: That’s Bob Diamond next week.
When Nicol sees the Collector for the first time, we get our second – and wholly independent – Austin Powers reference. Coincidence?
Nicol: It’s Dr Evil’s Mini-Me.
But even Nicol is enjoying this. And as the Doctor and the Collector battle it out, I notice that Sue has a huge grin on her face. And when the Collector starts to lose the plot, she is positively beaming.
The Doctor: What’s contingency plan B?
Nicol: He’s like George Osborne – he doesn’t have a Plan B.
The Collector is so stressed by the Doctor’s meddling, he shrinks back into a Usurian.
Nicol: So the planet was taken over by some green poo? That’s embarrassing.
Sue: I’m not impressed. That was silly. They didn’t need to do that.
The Doctor, Leela and K9 prepare to leave Pluto…
Nicol: You didn’t tell me that K9 was in it! I would have come down earlier if I’d know that. I love K9.
Me: Well, that’s certainly news to me. You can always watch the next one with us. You’ll love it.
Sue: It’s nice to see the Doctor getting a send-off for a change.
Me: Yeah, waved off by a bunch of murderous psychopaths. It’s lovely.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and K9 resume their game of chess. K9 claims he will achieve checkmate in six moves.
The Doctor: Do be quiet, K9.
Sue: It’s too late now.top
The Final Score
Sue: The last episode nudged it above average. The script was very witty and the villains were excellent. However, the execution was a bit dull and the direction wasn’t good at all. It’s was alright, I suppose.
The experiment continues…top
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