Skip to main content

Just one small question. Why do you want to blow up the world?


Doctor Who
The Underwater Menace: Episode Two


Any thoughts that TUMmight be aiming high in any way other than budget are dashed with Episode Two. We slip into a groove of escapes, captures and attempts at reasoning with various authority figures. In its favour are Julia Smith’s ability to keep the momentum up and the performances of Troughton and Furst. What could become ponderous drivel is never allowed to fall into a rut, partly because there’s a director who cares and partly because there are performances and dialogue to keep it never less than entertaining.

Zaroff: You er like my laboratory, yes? You find all this very impressive, no?
The Doctor: Not a bit, not a bit.
Zaroff: What do you mean?
The Doctor: I expected nothing less from the great Professor Zaroff.


It’s a story that is at once inventive and knowing yet almost elementary in its B-movie plot. Like Tim Burton recreating scenes from Ed Wood’s pictures in the film of the same name.
The Doctor manages to cause a distraction allowing Polly to escape fishification and, despite Damon’s suspicion of him, he is able to question Zaroff regarding his plan to raise at Atlantis. It seems the Doctor isn’t certain of what the Earth’s core contains (he only says that it is “believed to be” a white hot molten core, so he’s obviously not been there looking for those prehistoric monsters he wants to see At the Earth’s Core). Zaroff tells the Doctor that if he can’t lift Atlantis, he must lower the water level, by draining it into the core.

The Doctor: The water will be converted to super-heated steam. The pressure will grow and crack the Earth, destroy all life. Maybe even blow the planet apart.
Zaroff: Yes. And I shall have redeemed my promise to lift Atlantis from the sea. Lift it to the sky. It will be magnificent.

Well who are we to argue with a couple of geniuses?

The Doctor: Just one small question. Why do you want to blow up the world?
Zaroff: Why? You, a scientist, ask me why? The achievement, my dear Doctor. The destruction of the world. The scientist’s dream of supreme power.


Wonderful stuff. How inspired and batty that he’s so mad he wants to destroy everything for the sheer achievement of it.

The meat of the episode has the Doctor attempting to persuade others of Zaroff’s lunacy. He convinces Ramo easily, as the latter considers Zaroff a destroyer who, “ appeals to all that is base in our people”. That said, Ramo’s willingness to sacrifice the TARDIS crew could be classed as fairly base. Troughton gets to indulge in more business as he waits for Ramo to come back to him regarding an audience with the king. He tootles on his recorder, then is told by Ramo he should don ceremonial garb for his meeting. Of course, he’s enamoured by the headdress.


The Doctor: How do I look?
Ramo: What?
The Doctor: Never mind.


When he gets his audience, the Doctor makes a point of announcing himself as a man of science. To the Atlanteans, there’s not much difference between them. We’ve already seen the Doctor struggle to be heard in the face of an advanced adversary offering the locals just what they need in The Power of the Daleks. Coming after The Highlanders’ Doctor von Wer (“Urr ay-es!”) it’s quite appropriate that he attempts to expose Zaroff’s insanity the way he does.

The Doctor: But, have you noticed his eyes lately?
King Thous: No.
The Doctor: When he talks of his project. Have you noticed his eyes? They LIGHT UP like this.
King Thous: What does this mean?
The Doctor: The professor is as mad as a hatter.

The Doctor’s about as successful as he is in Power, with Thous returning from his deliberations, Zaroff in tow, giving the cliffhanger instruction “Do with them what you will!


Elsewhere, Polly spends most of the episode having a nap in the temple (the stress of near-augmentation). Meanwhile Ben and Jamie, in an indication of just how multi-cultural the series is becoming under Innes Lloyd, meet up with Sean and Jacko when they’re sent to work at the drill face. Jacko’s on the belligerent side initially, labelling Jamie “Jock!” Sean tries to smooth over troubled waters, commenting that the Jacko is “a bit like that you see” (like what? A racist? Or just angry?)

Before long, however, they’re all getting along famously. They duck out of the work party and spend the rest of the episode exploring tunnels (including a nice time-filler rescue of Jamie from a fall to his doom) until they luckily end up entering the temple by a secret door and meet up with Polly. I like Ben’s incredulous response to Polly explaining what was to have befallen her (“A fish? Ha ha!”); it accurately mirrors our reaction to the Fish People.


I’m not sure the recovery of this one is going to be ranked as a lost gem (Episode One is much closer to that level), but it’s a lot of fun whenever Trout or Furst are on screen. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

What do you want to be? Rich or dead?

Blake's 7 1.3: Cygnus Alpha

Well, the quality couldn’t last. Vere Lorrimer does a solid job directing this one, and the night shooting adds atmosphere in spades. Unfortunately the religious cult on a prison planet just isn’t that interesting (notably, big Brian Blessed was about the only well-known British thesp who wasn’t cast in the similarly themed Alien 3).

It’s Who-central from the off with lovely lovely lovely Kara (Pamela Salem – The Robots of Death and Remembrance of the Daleks) and the Caber, I mean Laran (Robert Russell, Terror of the Zygons) noting the incoming London. Which reuses a shot from Space Fall (the spinning object is a planet, clearly one with an unhealthy speed of rotation).
The length of journey issues in this story don’t bear much analysis. It’s now four months since the events of Space Fall, and poor old Leylan has clearly been affected badly by what went down. But he’s only now sending his report? Useful for the wayward viewer, but a bit slack otherwise.

So.…

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Whoever comes, I'll kill them. I'll kill them all.

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) There’s no guessing he’s back. John Wick’s return is most definite and demonstrable, in a sequel that does what sequels ought in all the right ways, upping the ante while never losing sight of the ingredients that made the original so formidable. John Wick: Chapter 2 finds the minimalist, stripped-back vehicle and character of the first instalment furnished with an elaborate colour palette and even more idiosyncrasies around the fringes, rather like Mad Max in that sense, and director Chad Stahleski (this time without the collaboration of David Leitch, but to no discernible deficit) ensures the action is filled to overflowing, but with an even stronger narrative drive that makes the most of changes of gear, scenery and motivation.

The result is a giddily hilarious, edge-of-the-seat thrill ride (don’t believe The New York Times review: it is not “altogether more solemn” I can only guess Jeannette Catsoulis didn’t revisit the original in the interven…

Isn’t Johnnie simply too fantastic for words?

Suspicion (1941)
(SPOILERS) Suspicion found Alfred Hitchcock basking in the warm glow of Rebecca’s Best Picture Oscar victory the previous year (for which he received his first of five Best Director nominations, famously winning none of them). Not only that, another of his films, Foreign Correspondent, had jostled with Rebecca for attention. Suspicion was duly nominated itself, something that seems less unlikely now we’ve returned to as many as ten award nominees annually (numbers wouldn’t be reduced to five until 1945). And still more plausible, in and of itself, than his later and final Best Picture nod, Spellbound. Suspicion has a number of claims to eminent status, not least the casting of Cary Grant, if not quite against type, then playing on his charm as a duplicitous quality, but it ultimately falls at the hurdle of studio-mandated compromise.

She's killed my piano.

Rocketman (2019)
(SPOILERS) Early on in Rocketman, there’s a scene where publisher Dick James (Stephen Graham) listens to a selection of his prospective talent’s songs and proceeds to label them utter shite (but signs him up anyway). It’s a view I have a degree of sympathy with. I like maybe a handful of Elton John’s tunes, so in theory, I should be something of a lost cause with regard to this musical biopic. But Rocketman isn’t reliant on the audience sitting back and gorging on naturalistic performances of the hits in the way Bohemian Rhapsody is; Dexter Fletcher fully embraces the musical theatre aspect of the form, delivering a so-so familiar story with choreographic gusto and entirely appropriate flamboyance in a manner that largely compensates. Largely.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013)
(SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

Move away from the jams.

Aladdin (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was never overly enamoured by the early ‘90s renaissance of Disney animation, so the raves over Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin left me fairly unphased. On the plus side, that means I came to this live action version fairly fresh (prince); not quite a whole new world but sufficiently unversed in the legend to appreciate it as its own thing. And for the most part, Aladdin can be considered a moderate success. There may not be a whole lot of competition for that crown (I’d give the prize to Pete’s Dragon, except that it was always part-live action), but this one sits fairly comfortably in the lead.

The world is a dangerous place, Elliot, not because of those who do evil but because of those who look on, and do nothing.

Mr. Robot Season One
(SPOILERS) With all the accolades proclaiming Mr. Robot the best new show of the year, the tale of a self-styled “vigilante hacker by night and regular cyber security worker by day”, intent on bringing down E/Evil Corp, the largest conglomerate in the world (as opposed to multinational Comcast, the 2014 “worst company in America” which owns the USA Network, home of Mr. Robot), I expected something a little more substantial than a refitted Fight Club, “refreshed” with trendy (well, a few years old) references to Occupy, Anonymous/hacking incidents and a melange of pop cultural signposts from the last fifteen years. There are times when the show feels entirely suffused with its abundant derivations, rather than developing into its own thing, its lead character’s pervasive alienation a direct substitute for Edward Norton’s Narrator. And yet, it has a lot going for it, and the season concludes at a point (creator Sam Esmail’s end of first act) where it has the potential…