newmoonstar: (Doctor Who: Ian & Barbara)
[personal profile] newmoonstar
My sporadic Classic Who Watch continues! I've seen almost all of the First Doctor's era (as far as one can be said to have seen all of it, considering half of it is missing) but I skipped a few serials back when I started, & it's long past time I went back & watched the darn things at last! I'd been saving 'The Keys of Marinus' for a treat, since it's my favorite TARDIS crew, but I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag.

I don't mind an old-fashioned 'quest' narrative at all, & in fact I think it's great excuse to go have adventures through exotic locations, & I'm surprised they don't do it more often! I think the designers did a fantastic job creating all the different environments. The first episode was totally squee-worthy: I'm not a snotty person who scoffs at miniature models, & I think they have a charm that CGI doesn't- I love the fact that you can tell human hands made them. The purpose of visual effects is to communicate the story, and these do, so it's good enough for me. Nowadays I think TV relies on CGI too much- they'd probably have used it to show the forcefield around the TARDIS if this had been made now, but the actors just miming feeling around it did the same job just as effectively. The studio sets were really awesome in the first ep too. I love the jagged, triangular rocky landscape, the acid sea, & the cool building with the colonnades that vanished into the distance. I LOVE the painted backdrops of the Hartnell era. They were in these tiny little studios, but these paintings were so gorgeous, & really do give you the suggestion of a whole great wide world existing in these stories. You know they're backdrops, but you know that in a play in a theater too, & it doesn't hurt the illusion of reality. It engages the viewers' imagination to fill in the blanks in their minds' eye, & I just think that's so cool. I love that about the first season. It's such an exercise in creativity. And it looks groovy! That whole retro-futuristic thing they had going on is just the best. And of course, this TARDIS team is the cutest little family ever, & it's just lovely to watch them interact with each other. Susan was kind of hysterical in much of this, but Barbara was so great at being a mum to her & reassuring her & calming her down that I was okay with it, because it was nice to see them together. (Though I thought it was kind of odd when Ian & Babs told Susan she's imagining the plants grabbing her- in 'The Daleks' they were still new to time & space travel, but they've encountered weirder stuff than that by now!)

The second part I liked a lot too- the sets & women's dresses in the beginning were very pretty, the folklorist in me is tickled that the old folk motif of fairy glamour showed up in a sci-fi story. And that Barbara got to take the 'fairy midwife' role- I actually started a novel using that archetype as a teenager, but I couldn't figure out a good way to end it- too bad fairies don't live in convenient, smash-able jars like the evil brain snails in episode two! Heehee. I love when Barbara kicks ass & saves the day, especially when she still manages to stay calm in dire situations & do her best to help other people around her even when she herself is in danger. That's why she's my hero. <3

Unfortunately, Barbara didn't get much chance to do either of those things in the next two episodes. They were really the unfortunate part of this story, because they were totally wasted in having Barbara be the damsel in distress who must be rescued by Ian. *headdesk* Why would you waste them on plot like that?? Ugh. Ian & Barbara are usually intelligent, pragmatic characters who can totally carry episodes on their own, but I was like "oh god, please bring the Doctor & Susan back soon if this knight & damsel bullshit is all we're gonna get out of this!" And it was. The third episode I could have forgiven, because the killer plants were a cool idea, and one episode full of 'knight & damsel' can be regarded as a misfortune, but TWO such episodes begins to look like carelessness. They were both SO stupid in the fourth episode I could barely believe it.

I mean, most of season 1 you spend shouting "don't split up again!" at the screen, but this was just ridiculous. At a certain point, you feel like Barbara wouldn't even bother to scream anymore, she'd just turn & look into the camera like she was on The Office! It just didn't make the least bit of sense for Ian to be all over-protective of Barbara, almost to the level of needing to take a valium, only for him to turn around and say, 'you just stay here in this deserted cabin with this shifty guy we don't know!' when they have absolutely no evidence that this dude didn't just murder all their friends! And for Barbara, who clearly can tell this guy is hiding something to just be like 'okay Ian, I'll wait here with this probable axe murderer I don't trust, while you go out looking for our friends, because I'm just girl, & couldn't possibly go out into the snow with you! That's a mans job!' is even more ridiculous. (Yeah, okay these aren't direct quotes, but that's basically the gist of it.) At this point, they should DAMN WELL know bad things happen when they split up. But then, they're TOTALLY SURPRISED when creepy cabin in the woods trapper dude IS an axe murderer! And of course, Barbara, (who's like the queen of outwitting baddies by thinking on her feet) simply can't defend herself! And luckily Ian comes to her rescue at the last moment! (Are you sure you're writing about Barbara, Terry Nation? Seems more like some B-movie scream-queen to me...) The whole thing is just embarrassingly un-creative cliched crap. I'm so sorry my favorite characters had to be in it. And mores the pity, because a snow-bound landscape is a great concept that could have been used very interestingly, story-wise, but alas not. Even the part with getting the key was ruined by bringing the evil trapper-dude along- no one predicted he'd try to kill them again by cutting the bridge?! REALLY?! From now on I'm going to refer to the fourth ep as 'The One Where Ian & Barbara's Brains Temporarily Leaked Out Of Their Ears for a Half Hour'. O_o

Though it was a bit of a disconcerting shift in tone after all the breathless adventuring, the fifth episode was much better, being a courtroom drama that restored both the Doctor & actual intelligence to us once again. And once again, props to the design team for their groovy retro-futuristic city. I love that all the environments on Marinus are so different from one another. It's really been a pet peeve of mine in sci-fi universes that most planets only have one culture, language, and climate for an ENTIRE PLANET. That's not how planets work, lol. Marinus is one of the few I've seen with a realistic variety, & I hope we'll see more diverse settings like that again someday. I was also very thankful Barbara got her brains back in this ep. Finally! (I'm inclined to ignore the fact that the wife's delayed reaction to her husbands' death was a total give-away of her guilt- I blame the director for letting and or/telling the actress to wait so long before screaming- it really looked like she was waiting to make sure he was dead before putting on a show of grief, but I'm assuming the actual script would have meant to keep the audience guessing as to whodunnit. Unless Terry Nation was just really phoning it in with this whole thing...)

And then in the last ep Ian got his brains back too, hurrah! For a minute I was worried that they'd actually had him give the last key to that Voord, who was SO obvious under that cloak that Ian could never fall for it, even if he weren't so damn skeptical. I actually clapped when he revealed he'd given him the fake, just because I was like "finally, something these characters would ACTUALLY DO!" And then they saved the day, & it ended up all happy, as usual, and thank god I can now pretend the middle of this story never happened! Somehow, it's always harder to forgive crappy episodes with your favorite characters than crappy eps with other characters. :\

But onto some Seven & Mel and some Three & Jo next!
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