Skip to main content

What did you say, my boy? It’s all over. That’s what you said. It’s all far from being over.


Doctor Who
The Tenth Planet: Episode Four


Ben has prevented the lift-off which results in the ever-so clumsy “It didn’t work and now we’ve all got a chance of life!” Cutler wants the Doctor in the control room sharpish. But he’s turned into some maroon under a blanket. There’s not a chance.

Polly: But he’s ill.
Cutler: He’s gonna get worse. Get him up!
The Doctor: No need!

Yay! Hartnell’s back, and seems to have assimilated what’s been going on in his unconscious state. He knows that the plan to detonate the Z-Bomb has failed. He’s less sure of his own well being, though.

The Doctor: Oh, I’m not sure, my dear. It comes from an outside influence. Yes, this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin.

I rather like the vagueness of his explanation. The implication is that it’s Mondas causing it, but we never get any more specific than this.

Unfortunately, it’s not like the Doctor comes back to do anything dramatic. He gets shouted at by Cutler and then locked up on the Cyber ship with Polly.

Cutler: The enemy. The enemy. I’ll tell you who the enemy is. You are the enemy. You. You killed my son! My son! So now I’m going to kill you.

It’s quite a powerful outburst, and the Doctor is as impressive in non-reaction to it. Impassive and silent.

And just as the Doctor’s sudden reappearance was a blessed relief, just as the story looked like it was going to become unremittingly turgid, so the Cybermen’s reinvasion of the base reinvigorates the mix. Even if they’re only there to stir and repeat what they were up to two episodes ago.

But, it’s quite interesting to see how overtly their return is signposted as their rescuing the time travellers from death at Cutler’s hands. Who is shot dead almost as soon as they arrive (shame, that).

The Doctor: We owe you our lives. That man was going to have us shot.

The Doctor is playing for time (as he says later), but effectively he is right. Although they are nominally aggressors here, the Cybermen are not, on the surface, as unrelentingly kill-happy as they would be in later appearances. They entertain discussion, within limits.

The Doctor: Your planet is finished. It will disintegrate. We know why you came here. So why not stay and live with us in peace?

It looks for a minute as if this a dry run for The Silurians. Except that Krang has no intention of agreeing to the Doctor’s offer; he only appears to consider it in order to gain control of, and detonate, the Z Bomb.

Polly is again sidelined, sent to the Cyber ship as a hostage (where she gets head-clamped into unconsciousness), and – in contrast to her enthusiasm in the previous story – is called upon to deliver weak girly nonsense (“Ben, I’ve been so scared!”). The Doctor’s rather sweet as she is led away (“And don’t forget your coat. I don’t want you to get cold”).

Bli-mey. I look a right Hampton Wick in this get up.

But, as in the previous episode, Ben has the lion’s share of the action. He realises the Cybermen’s susceptibility to radiation (they need the humans to move the Z Bomb) and organises the revolt against them by wielding two of the nuclear reactor’s fuel rods as weapons. This a real WTF plot development worthy of the Bristol Boys. Apart from the obvious fast-and-loose approach to nuclear science, it’s unclear why the Cybermen would be more susceptible to radiation than humans. One would expect the reverse to be true, but they drop like flies. It’s not something that’s been brought back as an Achilles’ Heel, although it might have been more convincing than the recurring gold allergy. And since it’s evident that they are resistant to heat, cold, disease and bullets, radiation is a fairly big area to miss. As is sensitivity to bright light (in Episode Three).

Ben shows himself to be quick-witted and pro-active, for all his geezerly charm elsewhere. He’s in favour of sitting tight until Mondas expires, initially (showing that he fully trusts the Doctor’s wisdom in such matters) and switching off the communication device so the Cybermen can make no more threats (to give up in three minutes or that’s it for the Doctor and Polly); very Jack Bauer.


The ensuing train of plotting feels slightly clumsy, however; Cyberman Jarl attempts to gas Ben and Barclay out of the room while petulant Dyson and another bloke come up behind them and radiate the Cybermen just in time. After which the Cybermen on the ship need drawing to the base. Unnecessary as it turns out (the Doctor has already noted that the ship appears to be absorbing too much energy from Mondas). Luckily they arrive at the base just as Mondas begins to “melt”, which causes the Cybermen to do something similar; the photos suggest shrivelled heads remain.  

Ben: They must have been entirely dependent on power from Mondas.

Which is up there on the “not accounting for all eventualities” front with the Daleks relying on static electricity and the Movellans attaching their power units to their belts. It also suggests that, even if they were willing, the Cybermen could not have taken up the Doctor’s offer of shelter on Earth.

Secretary General: The Cybermen menace has ended all over the world.

Hooray! It’s this kind of pat summary (exemplified by The Moonbase) that leads to accusations of kiddification of the series in the Troughton era. And there’s certainly enough instances where it occurs that it can’t just be brushed off.

No, I ordered tea and muffins!

An earlier sequence with the Secretary General deserves a mention as, in the story proper, it’s the most striking scene of the episode.

Secretary General: Tell General Cutler there have been massed landings of Cybermen in many parts of the world. Who are you?
Gern: I am now controller of the planet. Resist us and die.

Gern’s delivery is a bit too varying in pitch for my tastes, but they way he suddenly arrives in the Secretary General’s office mid-conversation is stunning.


Which brings us to the end for the first Doctor. Ben finds him (wearing his cool fez) and Polly on the Cybermen ship.

Ben: ‘Ere, come on Doctor. Wakey-wakey. It’s all over.
The Doctor: What did you say, my boy? It’s all over. That’s what you said. It’s all far from being over. I must get back to the TARDIS immediately. And I must go alone.


While pieces of scenes exist throughout this episode, it’s from this point until the end that you most wish was fully present and correct. There’s a snatch of virtual silence where Ben and Polly are presumably watching the Doctor leaving the ship. And the Doctor in the TARDIS control room, bathed in strange lights and evocative sound effects (before admitting Ben and Polly) is an arresting sight. The regeneration itself is achieved simply but strikingly; I’m not sure having the credits with the special Tenth Planet codes was really appropriate at the end of this one, as we’ve moved on very decisively from the main story.


A big improvement on the previous episode. While the global defeat of the Cybermen is reasonable (due to being telegraphed an episode earlier), the antics on the base take more swallowing. But it’s the iconic ending of the episode that puts this into four-star territory.


Overall:


You can’t help wish that Hartnell had received a more full-on send-off but, aside from the rather egregious use of a stand-in in Episode Three, he’s on as sterling form as ever (I think Beatty has more fluffs than Hartnell). As a story, it’s definitely at its best in the escalating first half (where Kit Pedler has sole writing credit) and is at times clumsy in both plot and character logic. But Martinus’ direction, the eerie presentation of a new and lasting foe and the changing of the lead actor ensure that the story overcomes its less successful elements. The plot as a whole, and Episode Three in particular with Ben in action mode, signals the change of emphasis of the show during the Troughton years; for better or worse more action-orientated, spritely and less thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Popular posts from this blog

Ziggy smokes a lot of weed.

Moonfall (2022) (SPOILERS) For a while there, it looked as if Moonfall , the latest and least-welcomed – so it seems – piece of apocalyptic programming from Roland Emmerich, might be sending mixed messages. Fortunately, we need not have feared, as it turns out to be the same pedigree of disaster porn we’ve come to expect from the director, one of the Elite’s most dutiful mass-entertainment stooges, even if his lustre has rather dimmed since the glory days of 2012.

The Illumi-what-i?

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022) (SPOILERS) In which Sam Raimi proves that he can stand proudly with the best – or worst – of them as a good little foot soldier of the woke apocalypse. You’d expect the wilfully anarchic – and Republican – Raimi to choke on the woke, but instead, he’s sucked it up, grinned and bore it. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is so slavishly a production-line Marvel movie, both in plotting and character, and in nu-Feige progressive sensibilities, there was no chance of Sam staggering out from beneath its suffocating demands with anything more than a few scraps of stylistic flourish intact.

What’s so bad about being small? You’re not going to be small forever.

Innerspace (1987) There’s no doubt that Innerspace is a flawed movie. Joe Dante finds himself pulling in different directions, his instincts for comic subversion tempered by the need to play the romance plot straight. He tacitly acknowledges this on the DVD commentary for the film, where he notes Pauline Kael’s criticism that he was attempting to make a mainstream movie; and he was. But, as ever with Dante, it never quite turns out that way. Whereas his kids’ movies treat their protagonists earnestly, this doesn’t come so naturally with adults. I’m a bona fide devotee of Innerspace , but I can’t help but be conscious of its problems. For the most part Dante papers over the cracks; the movie hits certain keynotes of standard Hollywood prescription scripting. But his sensibility inevitably suffuses it. That, and human cartoon Martin Short (an ideal “leading man” for the director) ensure what is, at first glance just another “ Steven Spielberg Presents ” sci-fi/fantas

All I saw was an old man with a funky hand, that’s all I saw.

The Blob (1988) (SPOILERS) The 1980s effects-laden remake of a ’50s B-movie that couldn’t. That is, couldn’t persuade an audience to see it and couldn’t muster critical acclaim. The Fly was a hit. The Thing wasn’t, but its reputation has since soared. Like Invaders from Mars , no such fate awaited The Blob , despite effects that, in many respects, are comparable in quality to the John Carpenter classic – and are certainly indebted to Rob Bottin for bodily grue – and surehanded direction from Chuck Russell. I suspect the reason is simply this: it lacks that extra layer that would ensure longevity.

Are you telling me that I should take my daughter to a witch doctor?

The Exorcist (1973) (SPOILERS) Vast swathes have been written on The Exorcist , duly reflective of its cultural impact. In a significant respect, it’s the first blockbuster – forget Jaws – and also the first of a new kind of special-effects movie. It provoked controversy across all levels of the socio-political spectrum, for explicit content and religious content, both hailed and denounced for the same. William Friedkin, director of William Peter Blatty’s screenplay based on Blatty’s 1971 novel, would have us believe The Exorcist is “ a film about the mystery of faith ”, but it’s evidently much more – and less – than that. There’s a strong argument to be made that movies having the kind of seismic shock on the landscape this one did aren’t simply designed to provoke rumination (or exultation); they’re there to profoundly influence society, even if largely by osmosis, and when one looks at this picture’s architects, such an assessment only gains in credibility.

I work for the guys that pay me to watch the guys that pay you. And then there are, I imagine, some guys that are paid to watch me.

The Day of the Dolphin (1973) (SPOILERS) Perhaps the most bizarre thing out of all the bizarre things about The Day of the Dolphin is that one of its posters scrupulously sets out its entire dastardly plot, something the movie itself doesn’t outline until fifteen minutes before the end. Mike Nichols reputedly made this – formerly earmarked for Roman Polanski, Jack Nicholson and Sharon Tate, although I’m dubious a specific link can be construed between its conspiracy content and the Manson murders - to fulfil a contract with The Graduate producer Joseph Levine. It would explain the, for him, atypical science-fiction element, something he seems as comfortable with as having a hairy Jack leaping about the place in Wolf .

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.

This risotto is shmackin’, dude.

Stranger Things Season 4: Part I (SPOILERS) I haven’t had cause, or the urge, to revisit earlier seasons of Stranger Things , but I’m fairly certain my (relatively) positive takes on the first two sequel seasons would adjust down somewhat if I did (a Soviet base under Hawkins? DUMB soft disclosure or not, it’s pretty dumb). In my Season Three review, I called the show “ Netflix’s best-packaged junk food. It knows not to outstay its welcome, doesn’t cause bloat and is disposable in mostly good ways ” I fairly certain the Duffer’s weren’t reading, but it’s as if they decided, as a rebuke, that bloat was the only way to go for Season Four. Hence episodes approaching (or exceeding) twice the standard length. So while the other points – that it wouldn’t stray from its cosy identity and seasons tend to merge in the memory – hold fast, you can feel the ambition of an expansive canvas faltering at the hurdle of Stranger Things ’ essential, curated, nostalgia-appeal inconsequentiality.

That, my lad, was a dragon.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013) (SPOILERS) It’s alarming how quickly Peter Jackson sabotaged all the goodwill he amassed in the wake of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A guy who started out directing deliciously deranged homemade horror movies ended up taking home the Oscar for a fantasy movie, of all genres. And then he blew it. He went from a filmmaker whose naysayers were the exception to one whose remaining cheerleaders are considered slightly maladjusted. The Desolation of Smaug recovers some of the territory Jackson has lost over the last decade, but he may be too far-gone to ever regain his crown. Perhaps in years to come The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be seen as an aberration in his filmography. There’s a cartoonishness to the gleeful, twisted anarchy on display in his earlierr work that may be more attuned to the less verimilitudinous aspects of King Kong and The Hobbit s. The exceptions are his female-centric character dramas, Heavenly Creat

Gizmo caca!

Gremlins (1984) I didn’t get to see Gremlins at the cinema. I wanted to, as I had worked myself into a state of great anticipation. There was a six-month gap between its (unseasonal) US release and arrival in the UK, so I had plenty of time to devour clips of cute Gizmo on Film ’84 (the only reason ever to catch Barry Norman was a tantalising glimpse of a much awaited movie, rather than his drab, colourless, reviews) and Gremlins trading cards that came with bubble gum attached (or was it the other way round?). But Gremlins ’ immediate fate for many an eager youngster in Britain was sealed when, after much deliberation, the BBFC granted it a 15 certificate. I had just turned 12, and at that time an attempt to sneak in to see it wouldn’t even have crossed my mind. I’d just have to wait for the video. I didn’t realise it then (because I didn’t know who he was as a filmmaker), but Joe Dante’s irrepressible anarchic wit would have a far stronger effect on me than the un