Skip to main content

I could stay and make coffee or something.


Doctor Who
The Tenth Planet: Episode Three


Episode Three lets the side down somewhat, after a very strong first half. A man wearing William Hartnell’s wig collapses, and that’s it for the lead character until Episode Four.

Ben: It’s the Doctor. He’s passed out. He’s ill.
Cutler: Look, I’ve got enough on my plate without worrying about him. Get him down to one of the cabins and look after him.

Which likely reflected Innes Lloyd’s position on Hartnell; get him out of the way, he’s a pain in the arse. This sets up the regeneration, of course.

Ben: He seems all right. His pulse and breathing are normal.
Polly: I don’t understand it. He just seems to be worn out.

So Ben didn’t notice he had two hearts? Maybe he didn’t back then. Bringing Hartnell back for a final story and only featuring him in three of the episodes seems like a major slap in the face, really. Even Colin was offered four.

With the Doctor out of the picture, and the Cybermen making only a cameo appearance, the story struggles to get a grip. Ben and the increasingly fraught Cutler become central, with the former even having to deliver exposition that the Doctor (apparently) told him before his stand-in fell over.

Cutler’s increasingly myopic mental state is presented with very little nuance, although I did find the order in which he presented the problems facing them amusing.

Cutler: One, my son has been sent up on a foolhardy mission and we’ve got to get him down. Two, another visit from these creatures is almost a certainty. And three, the Earth is being drained of its energy by this so-called planet Mondas whatever it’s called.  

Nothing like priorities. It’s at this point the story lurches into Dr Strangeloveterritory, but without the sense of humour or the wonderful characterisations. Cutler wants to break out the Z-Bomb (handily, they have one at the base), the doomsday weapon that “rightly primed, it could split that planet in half”. Anyone in possession of their faculties would cry-off such a decision, which is why everyone else tells Cutler not to use it, including the Secretary General, Barclay and Ben.

The Secretary General tells him he can’t use the Z-Bomb. Then Cutler asks if he can take any necessary steps to stop the Cybermen. Which the Secretary General gives him permission to do. Unfortunately, Cutler chooses to not to interpret this as “any necessary steps other than use of the Z-Bomb”. He also wants Barclay to ensure that the bomb detonates so that his son is safe, orbiting on the other side of the Earth.

It’s for Ben to steal the Doctor’s thunder regarding the fate of Mondas.

Ben: Yes, but he said that eventually it would absorb too much energy and burn itself out. Shrivel up to nothing.


Actually, I think it’s quite a good move to have the fate of Mondas announced in advance. It means that, when it comes, it’s not a deus ex machina. But it does result in most of this episode being occupied with Ben locked up, then attempting to sabotage the rocket that will launch the Z-Bomb (with Barclay’s aid; fortunately he helped design the base!) This involves more of Ben talking to himself, before embarking on the sabotage itself (with a Swiss Army knife). There’s a fine bit of stunt work when Cutler happens upon the sailor and launches him backwards over a railing.


We’re seeing the first sign of writers using Polly poorly, unfortunately. She has little to do, other than be instructed by Ben to try to persuade Barclay to help them. As she’s just a harmless bint, Cutler allows her to stay in the control room after she volunteers, “I could stay and make coffee or something”. That said, she’s willing to engage in moral debate (“one life against millions”) in attempting to convince Barclay that it’s more important to prevent the Z-Bomb from being used that saving Cutler’s son. Later, she hides under a blanket.


The Cybermen get no more than a couple of minutes of screen time, mown down by Cutler’s men who are using Cybermen weapons. It’s an effective sequence, with the now-familiar Cyber music, but they’re increasingly coming across as not-all-that, despite their being a more advanced, more intimidating bunch.

The episode ends on the rocket countdown; did Ben succeed in with his sabotage? Not all that gripping, but that reflects the episode as a whole.


Merely so-so. Hartnell is missed and, without the Cybermen, events revolve around nutty Cutler.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I don’t need to be held together, I’m fine just floating through space like Andy.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)
Or, to give it its full subtitle, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – The Story of Jim Carrey & Andy Kaufman Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton. Carrey’s in a contradictory place just now, on the one hand espousing his commitment to a spiritual path and enlightened/ing state, on the other being sued in respect of his ex-girlfriend’s suicide and accompanying allegations regarding his behaviour. That behaviour – in a professional context – and his place of consciousness are the focus of Jim & Andy, and an oft-repeated mantra (great for motivational speeches) that “I learned that you can fail at what you don’t love, so you may as well do what you love. There’s really no choice to be made”. The results are consequently necessarily contradictory, but always fascinating.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

No, by the sky demon! I say no!

Doctor Who The Pirate Planet
I doubt Pennant Roberts, popular as he undoubtedly was with the cast, was anyone’s idea of a great Doctor Who director. Introduced to the show by Philip Hinchliffe – a rare less-than-sterling move – he made a classic story on paper (The Face of Evil) just pretty good, and proceeded to translate Robert Holmes’ satirical The Sun Makers merely functionally. When he returned to the show during the ‘80s, he was responsible for two entirely notorious productions, in qualitative terms. But The Pirate Planet is the story where his slipshod, rickety, make-do approach actually works… most of the time (look at the surviving footage of Shada, where there are long passages of straight narrative, and it’s evident Roberts wasn’t such a good fit). Douglas Adams script is so packed, both with plot and humour, that its energy is inbuilt; there’s no need to rely on a craftsman to imbue tension or pace. There is a caveat, of course: if your idea of Doctor Who requires a straig…

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

This place sure isn’t like that one in Austria.

Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Brawl in Cell Block 99 is most definitely cut from the same cloth as writer-director-co-composer Craig S Zahler’s previous flick Bone Tomahawk: an inexorable, slow-burn suspenser that works equally well as a character drama. That is, when it isn’t revelling in sporadic bursts of ultraviolence, including a finale in a close-quartered pit of hell. If there’s nothing quite as repellent as that scene in Bone Tomahawk, it’s never less than evident that this self-professedchild of Fangoria” loves his grue. He also appears to have a predilection for, to use his own phraseology, less politically correct content.

We’re not in a prophecy… We’re in a stolen Toyota Corolla.

Bright (2017)
(SPOILERS) Is Bright shite? The lion’s share of the critics would have you believe so, including a quick-on-the-trigger Variety, which gave it one of the few good reviews but then pronounced it DOA in order to announce their intention for Will Smith to run for the Oval Office (I’m sure he’ll take it under advisement). I don’t really see how the movie can’t end up as a “success”; most people who have Netflix will at least be curious about an all-new $90m movie with a (waning, but only because he’s keeps making bad choices) major box office star. As to whether it’s any good, Bright’s about on a level with most of director David Ayer’s movies, in that it’s fast, flashy and fitfully entertaining, but also very muddled, mixed-up and, no matter how much cash is thrown at it, still resembles the kind of thing that usually ends up straight to video (making Netflix his ideal home).

This is how we do action in Uganda.

Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
Uganda’s first action movie”, Who Killed Captain Alex? is a cheerfully ultra-low budget, wholly amateur picture made by Nabwana Isaac Godfrey Geoffrey. It’s the kind of thing you and your mates would make and (rightly) expect no one else to ever watch (aside from a few hundred hits on YouTube). But stick a frequently hilarious running commentary over the top from VJ (video joker) Emme, and it this home-ish move takes on something approaching the spoofy quality of What’s Up Tiger Lilly?

Nothing in the world can stop me now!

This is not going to go the way you think!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
(SPOILERS) The most interesting aspect of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, particularly given the iron fist Lucasfilm has wielded over the spinoffs, is how long a leash Rian Johnson has been granted to tear apart the phonier, Original Trilogy-lite aspects of The Force Awakens. The resulting problem is that the areas where he’s evidently inspired are very good (almost anything Force related, basically), but there are consequently substantial subplots that simply don’t work, required as they are to pay lip service to characters or elements he feels have nowhere to go. The positives undoubtedly tip the balance significantly in The Last Jedi’s favour, but they also mean it hasn’t a hope of attaining the all-round status of IV and V (still the out-of-reach grail for the franchise, quality-wise). Which is a shame, as thematically, this has far more going on, handled with far greater acumen, than anything in the interim.