By Roy Mathur, on 2022-08-02, at 23:13:52--23:58:20 BST, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show, Listen
I'm glad to be back after a little break. We are still alternating on CRRRRS between one general geek media talk episode and one retro revisit. I might have had more to say, but I'm rushing through these shownotes, which I can barely read, a couple of hours before taping this show, so... next time.
I will say it's hot and sweaty here, but that's redundant at this point. Fix the bloody planet!
Fourth Doctor: Tom Baker
Companion(s): Romana: Lalla Ward, K9: John Leeson, Adric: Matthew Waterhouse
Notable Cast: George Baker, 1931--2011, best known to me as Inspector Wexford in The Ruth Rendell Mysteries, played Decider Login.
Director: Peter Grimwade had a long career in TV before and after DW, previously worked in DW production, including model filming in my favourite episode, The Robots of Death, his first job as a director was on The Omega Factor.
Writer: Andrew Smith is still around and also wrote many audio scripts for Big Finish.
Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Locations: Alzarius: Black Park, Buckinghamshire, BBC Television Centre, Shepherd's Bush in 1980.
Broadcast: Story 111, serial 3, season 18, following Meglos covered in 448, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, broadcast from 25 Oct--15 Nov 1980.
Barbra Streisand's Woman In Love was number one, and bugger all else happened in the UK.
Summoned to Gallifrey, the TARDIS is mysteriously diverted to a planet, where the Alzarians live around a huge crashed spaceship, which is undergoing repairs, under the control of the Deciders.
Having escaped the authority of the Deciders, several children live an almost feral existence stealing from the main settlement. Amongst them is arrogant mathematical genius Adric, who believes he is destined to leave this world by other means. After a failed attempt to steal melons, he witnesses Decider Draith die in a accident while chasing him, saying, "...we've come full circle." Adric, injured, stumbles upon the TARDIS.
A new Decider is appointed; the father of one of the wild children.
Indenious Marshmen and Marshspiders menace the Alzarians.
The Doctor boards spaceship, along with a young Marshman, who is later vivisected by a scientist, to the Doctor's horror.
Romana is bitten by a Marshspider and becomes linked to the Marshmen. The Marshmen, en masse, attack the Alzarians and the spaceship, and K9 is decapitated.
Romana is later cured by the Doctor. During his lab work, he realises that the Alzarians has been stranded for thousands of years, and further that Marshspiders, Marshmen, and Alzarians, are the same species at different stage of evolution, are all native to the planet. The Alzarians, therefore, are not the original stranded colonists, but are highly evolved, fast-learning natives, who have come to believe they crashed on the planet many years ago. This explains Draith saying earlier, "...we've come full circle."
After the Alzarians drive off the Marshmen using oxygen cannisters, the Doctor helps them activate their spacehip and they take off to start a new life elsewhere. The Doctor and Romana return to the TARDIS with the remains of K9, but discover that due to a Charged Vacuum Emboitement (CVE), they are stuck in exospace (E-Space).
Why did the Alzarians bother leaving at all, when they discover that they are already on their ative planet?
On the way to answer their summons to Gallifrey, Romana expresses her reluctance to leave the Doctor and the TARDIs after their adventures. Who can blame her? Who'd want to return to the stultifying ancient Time Lords? Though the Doctor is keen to see Leela and Guard Commander Andred again (as am I).
The Doctor's cackhandedness is shown as he, despite Romana's warning, manages to cause a flash from TARDIS console. I love how simultaneously clever and incredibly reckless he can be. I can relate. Believe me, this trait is very very prevalent in my family.
Adric is surprisingly annoying from the moment we meet him. He's haughty, elitist, arrogant; actually saying the thinks he's better than his friends, and isn't beyond literally twisting a girl's arm. I think the script did nor make him necessarily unlikeable, he's just interpreted that way; perhaps though direction or the rather passive acting. In fact, had the character been constructed differently, that same script could have made him into a junior version of self-serving, ruthless, but cool Kerr Avon from Blake's 7. I asked Matthew Waterhouse about this on Twitter, but perhaps unsurprisingly, I didn't get a reply. Another problem with Adric, and it's not his fault, is the uniform, the childish star award, and the dopey haircut, don't do him any favours. No offence, Matthew!
I appreciated how horrified and disapproving the Doctor was at the treatment of the Marshmen; again that ability to see beyond the skin is an endearing and laudable quality.
And here I'm a hypocrite because seeing poor old K9 losing his head made me laugh. John Nathan-Turner really had it in for K9; first blowing him up in The Leisure Hive, now having him dismembered.
I enjoyed the horror of a giant spider emerging from a melon, and the later lab dissection of the creature; strongly reminiscent, and no doubt influenced by the scene in which Ash examines the Facehugger in Alien.
The spaceship design is effective; industrial looking bulkheads and yellow metal latticework. Not quite blue collar future, but not polished either and distinctive. Nice!
Doctor humour: he puns, "here's hopping", unsure of where the TARDIS will land.
I thought Romana's infection, shown as twining green, blue, and purple tendril designs on her skin were very fetching. Possibly cool was not what they were going for, still...
Lost in the maze of the spaceship, the Doctor says, "We're come full-circle." It's a piece of obvious and repeated foreshadowing, but you know what? In that exact moment, unnecessary as it was, I enjoyed it. That's the thing about art, isn't it? It's rather subjective.
The Marshmen suits were bad, not as awful as the creature design in The Leisure Hive, but pretty ropey. On the other hand, the suit actors obviously tried very hard to do their best. Well done, suit actors!
I found John Nathan-Turner true to his word in making Doctor Who more sciency. Phrases like "gel electrophoresis" and "morphology" were thrown about in a way that made sense. Sciency!
Though I'm enjoying the spacey metal theme music, the poppy incidental music in this story left me cold.
Like the Alien similarities, the stuck-in-their-ways Alzarians reminded me of the useless Golgafrinchans in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.