Saturday, 31 December 2011

Monkey Challenge: Epilogue

So the TV series of Monkey concludes - whichever episode you watch last - with the pilgrims continuing on their way, never actually reaching India. But there is an ending to the story if you go back to the original story by Wu Cheng'en...

My copy (also titled Monkey) is a heavily abridged version of the full story of the Journey to the West, but the last 3 chapters, out of 30 total, tell the end of the story. Here's a brief overview of how it goes:

Chapter 28

Having passed through many inhospitable lands, the pilgrims finally come to one where the people are friendly.

"'Monkey, that's a fine place,' said Tripitaka, pointing to it with his whip.
'Considering,' said Monkey, 'how often you have insisted upon prostrating yourself at the sight of false magicians' palaces and arch-impostors' lairs, it is strange that when at last you see before you Buddhas's true citadel, you should not even dismount from your horse.'"

To reach Buddha's palace they have to cross a wide river. It has a bridge, but "the bridge consisted simply of slim tree trunks laid end on end, and was hardly wider than the palm of a man's hand." Monkey goes across but the rest are too scared, so they stay on the bank until a ferry appears. However, the ferry boat has no bottom.

"'You may well think,' said the ferryman, 'that in a bottomless boat such a river as this could never be crossed. But since the beginning of time I have carried countless souls to their Salvation.'"

Tripitaka still hesitates, until Monkey pushes him on board. With no bottom to the boat, he goes straight into the water and the ferryman fishes him out. From the boat Tripitaka, and the others, see Tripitaka's body float down the river. Tripitaka has "discarded his earthly body."

They then get to the Temple of the Thunder Clap and meet Tathagata Buddha, who gives Tripitaka a selection from the scrolls of the Scriptures to take back to China. However, the two spirits that hand over the scrolls play a trick on Tripitaka when he doesn't give them any gifts; the "commission" they feel is their due. The scrolls they hand over are blank.

A lesser Buddha and a character called "The White Heroic Bodhisattva" come to their aid, exposing the fraud before they get too far on the way back. Monkey takes them straight back to Buddha and they get replacement scrolls, this time with writing on them. Buddha says:
"As a matter of fact, it is such blank scrolls as these that are the true scriptures. But I quite see that the people of China are too foolish and ignorant to believe this, so there is nothing for it but to give them copies with some writing on."

Kuan-yin points out to Buddha that it took the pilgrims 5,040 days to reach the temple, and they have been given 5,048 scrolls. He suggests that it should take 8 days for them to get back to China so the two figures are equal. Buddha agrees to this, so they don't have to walk back, instead they are given 8 "Vajrapani" spirits who will fly them back to China in the requisite 8 days.

Chapter 29

Kuan-yin is apparently obsessed with some form of numerology.

"'In our Faith,' said the Bodhisattva, 'nine time nine is the crucial number. I see that the number of calamities listed here is eighty, thus falling short by one of the holy number.'"

The "calamities" here being the number of encounters the pilgrims had on their way to the temple. So presumably there would still be a number of these "calamities" that never got made into TV episodes...

The upshot of this is that they have to have one calamity on the way back, and for this to happen Kuan-yin arranges for the Vajrapanis to drop the pilgrims on their way back. They land in a river and the scriptures get wet, necessitating them being rolled out to dry in the sun. One of them is damaged when they pack them all up again.

"That is why the Lalitavistara as we have it today is incomplete, and why there are still traces of writing on the Rock Where the Scriptures Were Dried."

This done, the Vajrapanis magic them the rest of the way back to China. The delay helps the journey back to last the full 8 days.

Chapter 30

Back at the capital of China, they meet the Emperor and the priests from Tripitaka's old temple, who were alerted to his return by a pine-tree magically bending towards the east.

Tripitaka tells the Emperor the story of his travels and shows his passport with stamps from all the countries they passed through. The Emperor composes an "Introduction to Buddha's Holy Teachings" to go with the scriptures, and because he's the Emperor everyone has to say how talented he is.

Tripitaka sets about organising for the scriptures to be copied, then is about to give a public reading when the Vajrapanis arrive to take the pilgrims back to the west. Assembled before Buddha, they receive their rewards: Tripitaka and Monkey become Buddhas - Tripitaka is the "Buddha of Precocious Merit" and Monkey is the "Buddha Victorious in Strife" - Pigsy is made "Cleanser of the Altar" and has a strop about not being made a Buddha too. Sandy becomes the "Golden Bodied Arhat" and Yu Lung is promoted to "one of the eight senior Heavenly Dragons."

Finally Monkey asks if he can be released from the golden headband (or "fillet" as it is called in the book) so he will no longer be subject to the Headache Sutra, and Tripitaka points out that it is already gone.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Monkey Challenge: Monkey's Yearning

If Hungry Like The Wolf was a fine example of a typical Monkey episode, then Monkey's Yearning is a fine example of the flexibility of the Monkey format. The feel of this episode is that of a Western, with Monkey in the role of the gunslinging protagonist, only with his Magic Wishing Staff in the place of the six-shooter, and the demon-of-the-week in the place of the black-hatted antagonist.

The pilgrims meet a young boy on their travels when he steals some food from Pigsy. Monkey takes the boy home and immediately falls in love with the boy's mother - a widow. Her husband was the strongest man in the village but died when they were raided by a Tiger Demon. She abhors violence as a result, but knowing nothing of the nature of Monkey, invites him to stay.

Monkey stays to do chores and to teach the boy (though he has to get Sandy to teach him everything first), while the other pilgrims continue on the journey. Then the Tiger Demon's two hench-demons turn up and Monkey teaches them a lesson with his Staff.

Monkey has found happiness with the widow and her boy, but he cannot make a promise to her that he will never use violence. After he has confronted and defeated the Tiger Demon he realises it is not his fate to be a peaceful farmer, so he leaves the home to return to Tripitaka and the others.
The boy does not understand why Monkey is leaving, and the last thing Monkey hears from him is "I hate you!"

The other regulars besides Monkey are hardly in this story, and the demon-of-the-week only appears in two scenes (one a flashback to his killing the woman's husband), the focus of this episode is very much on Monkey, and on his relationship with the widow and her son. This really helps make this feel unlike the 'typical' Monkey plot.

That said, it is very moving and well done, with Monkey's 'emotional journey' conveyed powerfully by both the physical and voice acting. I'd go so far as to say this is one of the best of the series, and a high to end the Monkey Challenge on.

Of course there's no 'ending' to the series - no conclusion, no finale, no India. I don't even think Monkey's Yearning was supposed to be the last episode of season 2 anyway, I think it far more likely that At The Top Of The Mountain was the intended last episode.
Admittedly my only evidence for this is the presence of Buddha, who made appearances at the start and end of season 1, and at the start of season2, so it seems fitting she (he?) should return at the series end. Also I really, really don't think Mothers would have made for a satisfying ending of any sort.

Monday, 26 December 2011

On Curiosity

Look what happened to me when I investigated what I thought was a Caturday Present...

I will call him Pincat.

Pincat is a very handsome cat.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Monkey Challenge: Hungry Like The Wolf

The penultimate episode in the order I have taken for the Monkey Challenge, Hungry Like The Wolf was actually the first of the 13 'lost' episodes I saw, back in the time before they were dubbed, when a subtitled version came free with a magazine.

While with most of the other episodes that I have cited evidence for why they were not considered for the original British TV run the evidence has usually been violence - particularly the series' disturbing tendency for hangings - here it is very clearly gratuitous (if brief) nudity, combined with cannibalism - though that at least is a common enough topic for the show.

Coming very early on in the episode, the Blue Wolf Demon (head demon-of-the-week) hungers for human flesh. When he can't get it then he has a limited supply of magic elixir that can turn animals into an acceptable substitute. We see him turn a pig into a naked human woman, who is then carried off and, presumably, eaten.

This elixir comes to be important to the plot as a whole. Naturally when he hears about Tripitaka then Blue Wolf Demon wants to eat him, but his minions are typically inept at fighting Monkey and co. So Blue Wolf Demon enlists the service of his former henchman, a wolf-demon called Full Moon trying to live as a human with a human wife and half-human-half-wolf-demon son. To persuade the unwilling Full Moon, Blue Wolf Demon uses the stick and the carrot - help him or his wife and son will be killed; help him and he can use the elixir to make his son fully human.

Full Moon is tempted by the carrot, but his attempt to capture Tripitaka is swiftly foiled and this leads to the pilgrims discovering what is going on and siding with Full Moon against his former master. Using the old 'pretending to have Tripitaka as a prisoner' trick leads into the final confrontation with Blue Wolf Demon. He ends up pitting his black cloud against Monkey's white. There is, of course, only one possible outcome to the ubiquitous cloud-flying duel when the episode's run-time is almost up.

This could be considered one of the most archetypal episodes of Monkey, since it contains so many of the tropes that the series uses again and again: Tripitaka is captured and is intended to be eaten; a demon in love with a human; concludes with a cloud-flying chase scene; etc. The one I haven't touched on so far but which can't really be overlooked is this: the demon-of-the-week has a ridiculous costume.

Blue Wolf Demon is well named - he's about as blue as the Cookie Monster, in a comically unthreatening wolf costume. His minions have black versions of the same, and even Full Moon fights in his demon-form, which makes him look far less menacing than his normal appearance. Finally there is Full Moon's son, who becomes a wolf-demon whenever he sees the moon - Yu Lung acts terrified when he sees this, but he's not fooling anyone that in this guise the kid is anything other than cute.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Monkey Challenge: Stoned

While the last couple of episodes were missing any obvious scenes that may have been considered too strong for the original British TV run, this one couldn't be clearer - a scene where a demon child (so played by a child actor) is about to hang himself from a tree, and is only saved by the cavalry riding (I'm not sure that is the right word - it's Yu Lung, and he is the horse) to the rescue.

In a rarity for Monkey there are essentially two halves to the episode with two related mini-stories coming one after the other. In the first of these the pilgrims encounter a demon child who is depressed because he cannot do any magic tricks, such as turning the pilgrims into stone.

Monkey takes pity on the child and helps him to learn this one trick, and in short order Tripitaka, Pigsy, Sandy and finally Monkey himself are all turned to stone. The child is happy and rushes off to tell his father, and while he is away some passing humans find the four statues and make off with them.

In a lesser episode of Monkey this would probably be the main plank of the episode - how do the pilgrims, with only Yu Lung still at liberty, escape this predicament? I think it is to the credit of this episode that the situation is resolved speedily, with the plot never allowed to sag in the way it does in so many other Monkey episodes when they are seemingly struggling to fill the run-time.

The demon child finds the pilgrim-statues and Monkey (still able to talk... somehow) teaches him the counter-spell, so they are restored, to the amusing embarrassment of the humans who are in the process of trying to sell the statues.

The episode moves on to the second mini-story with the demon child wanting to come with Monkey (and the others) because he has been banished by his father for lying and for being unable to provide evidence that he can turn people into stone (because the pilgrim-statues were gone when the child's father went with him to see them).

The child suffers from toothache (and it's very well played - I found myself wincing in sympathy at his pitiful cries for someone to do something about the pain) and, lacking any other magics to cure it, Monkey shrinks himself to a tiny size and flies into the boy's mouth to deal with the problem the direct way.

The sets for the boy's mouth and the affected tooth don't really bear close scrutiny, operating in the same surrealist style as the giant Catfish-interior of Catfish, Saint and the Shape-Changer. Monkey encounters the source of the toothache - bacteria, now on the same scale as him, which he proceeds to beat up while listening to his theme tune. He then cements up the hole in the tooth, creating a 'filling.'

This is by far the most entertaining part of this episode. Once it is over there is just the matter of reuniting the boy with his demon father, who has become convinced that the boy has been kidnapped by the pilgrims (does he not remember that he banished the boy about 20 minutes earlier? Oh, who cares?) and who has captured the other pilgrims in Monkey's absence.

There is a neat final twist in the end, though, as when the demon father is about to decapitate Monkey, the boy turns Monkey to stone* and this makes the sword blow bounce off him. Of course the father is happy his son has learned some magic, and so all's well that ends well.

* All my comments from The Tenacious Tomboy about the series remembering its continuity are hereby rescinded.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Saucer of Fate

There is a lot happening in this picture that starts the story off. The biggest bit of the picture is the big purple face of the Doctor, and he is surrounded by other purple faces. One of them is the Brigadier, the others are Farmer John Breen and his nephew Ernest Breen.

On the left is the Brigadier looking at something through his binoculars, and down below him is Farmer John Breen on his tractor being surprised by a flying saucer. The last thing that makes up this picture is in the bottom-right and it is a speeding car, from when Ernest Breen is in a hurry to tell UNIT all about the flying saucer.

None of these things have happened yet because the story is only just beginning. This is a montage of things that will happen, just like at the start of some Columbo episodes, and is a clever technique to get us interested in what will happen in the story without giving too much away.

The story starts when Farmer John Breen sees a flying saucer.

""Now what in thunder...?" he muttered. "Never thought I'd see a flying saucer!""

He obviously hasn't seen the picture montage then. The flying saucer lands and Farmer John Breen goes to investigate it because he is a curious manny.

"He approached it cautiously. It was a flat disc with a diameter of about two feet. In the centre was an opening, from which there seemed to be a faint glow that pulsed."

He picks up the flying saucer because it is only little (as spaceships go) and takes it to his home.

"His wife was away shopping, so he left the object on the table while he made two phone calls. One was to the police, the other to his nephew Ernest, who was a reporter on the local newspaper."

If this story was being written now then he wouldn't need to phone a reporter because the reporter and his newspaper would already know all about it!

When the police arrive Farmer John Breen has disappeared.

"And when they finally reached the farmhouse, a puzzled Mrs Breen told them she had arrived home to find the front door open, and a note on the table from Ernest to say that he was taking the 'flying saucer' to the UNIT headquarters."

Obviously all reporters know all about UNIT headquarters and that it is the right place to take flying saucers, especially local reporters for the Coltsfield Chronicle.

"The Doctor sat up in his chair, his eyes suddenly alert. "Coltsfield? But that's only a few miles away, isn't it?" he queried. "Shouldn't this man be here by now.""

Ernest Breen has disappeared as well, after driving his car to UNIT headquarters. Jo sees it parked outside.

""It stopped there about two minutes ago," she explained. "I could see there was just one man in it, and he seemed to be pulling off his tie. Then I glanced away for a second at a heron flying past, and when I glanced back at the car - the man was gone. I couldn't believe he could slip out of the car and vanish that quickly - so I've been waiting for him to re-appear.""

The Brigadier looks at the car through his binoculars (just like in the picture montage) and then the Doctor suggests they go to the car to look at it. Even though it is only just outside they take the Doctor's car Bessie anyway. They see the flying saucer in the back seat of the car.

"The UNIT chief poked it with his cane. "Dashed odd, isn't it?" he exclaimed."

Jo, meanwhile, does something slightly more useful - she notices a clue.

""Look, Doctor," she said. "There's some lettering scrawled in the dust. It says 'Don't T-' and then breaks off!"
Dr Who reacted like lightning. He whirled, to find Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart gingerly picking up the object lying on the seat. "Don't touch it!" he barked."

I didn't know lightning "whirled." Scary Cat says the only time lightning whirls is when he has scared it and it wants to run away from him. The Brigadier has done a silly thing. Next he'll be mistaking an alien landscape for the beach at Cromer.

"The Brigadier hesitated. Then he frowned and said, a trifle huffily: "No panic, Doctor. I took a special course on mines and booby-traps.""

But did he take one on picking up flying saucers? That might have been more useful for a member of UNIT. The Brigadier is in a huff now. This would be funny except there is clearly something dangerous going on.

"The soldier stood erect, holding the saucer at arm's length before him."

The Doctor offers to carry the flying saucer instead, but the Brigadier is determined to be a source of comic relief in this scene.

""Nonsense!" The Brigadier smiled tolerantly. "Besides, you don't expect me to drive that odd car of yours, do you? I can never figure out all the dials and knobs, anyway!""

This is funny because they are right outside UNIT headquarters just now. They take the flying saucer to the Doctor's laboratory so he can examine it, then the Brigadier goes off to disappear do Brigadier things disappear.

"When the soldier had gone, Dr Who took off his cloak and hung it up. He was grumbling, half to himself: "Hm! Sometimes the military mind can be so annoying... Well, he can blame no one if he suffers any effects.""

The Doctor puts on a "protective white jacket" to go to work in. He ignores Jo until she discovers that the Brigadier has vanished. He did have time to leave them a mysterious clue in the form of a doodle.

"He laid the blotter on the bench, and they both pored over it. "Crudely done... but this could be the saucer," mused the Doctor.
"Yes, and that looks like a spaceship," put in Jo.
"Possible," he agreed. "They're linked by an arrow, see? And this black cross beside the saucer might mean - 'hands off', eh?""

Regardless of how the Brigadier had the time to doodle all this but not shout for help, the Doctor is now ready to announce what is going on in this story.

""You see, this only confirms what I've just discovered about the saucer... It's a remote-controlled trans-porter unit. Whoever touches it will suffer a molecular change that will allow them to be whisked away as captives.""

Jo asks "captives of who... and where?" while the Doctor changes from his white jacket to his "splendid" cloak, for continuity reasons.

""I am not exactly sure who," he admitted. "But I've a shrewd idea it may be the Triolites from Ur."

The Doctor decides that he is going to touch the saucer so he will be teleported away next.

"You see, Jo, I suspect they're using this saucer to catch as many people as they can... I want to get aboard to find out how many hostages there are. And when I'm ready, I want you to operate this device that I have arranged."
He pointed to what looked like a small radio transmitter. As he explained its operation, Jo listened intently, anxious not to miss any detail."

The Doctor has a plan. He picks up the saucer and gets teleported to the spaceship.

"He turned his eyes towards a control panel that pulsed with lights, and saw the shapeless grey mass of a Triolite."

""Ah, yes! You're a Triolite, all right!" said Dr Who. "Afraid of your own shadows, eh? If you were able to cast shadows, of course!""

The Doctor insults the aliens, but he is their prisoner. They take him to where they keep all their prisoners and he sees the Brigadier, Farmer John Breen and Ernest Breen.

"Without demur, Dr Who allowed himself to be strapped down beside them. But he wrapped his cloak tightly around him first, so that he could reach the controls hidden in an inside pocket."

The Doctor presses the button to begin his escape plan.

"There was a few moments' pause - and then confusion struck the ship. Alarms began to shrill as circuits exploded in clouds of acrid smoke. Flames belched from instruments all around the chamber..."

The Triolites are defeated by this and the hostages can all teleport away. I don't know exactly what the Doctor did for his plan, but my guess is he showed the aliens a confusing book.

"Jo sobbed with utter relief as she suddenly found the three men around her in the laboratory."

I suppose the Doctor doesn't count as one of the "three men" because he is a Time Lord and not a manny. Anyway, that is the end of the story. The aliens were defeated very quickly but it was only a short story and it was not all that bad really.

I have now finished all the Jon Pertwee Doctor Who stories in the book. Next time it will be the Doctor as played by Tom Baker, and the stories' pictures start to get very strange from then on...

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Found Episodes

We are all very excited cats here today, because of the breaking news that two of the Missing Episodes of Doctor Who are not missing any more!

Clever mannys have found part 3 of Galaxy Four and part 2 of The Underwater Menace. I am particularly excited because Galaxy Four is a story I have never seen any parts of, and it is one that has Steven Taylor in it!

I still haven't seen these episodes because the mannys are keeping them secret for now, but here are some pictures that have been shown on the internets from part 3 of Galaxy Four - it is called Air Lock.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Monkey Challenge: The Tenacious Tomboy

When I reviewed the episode The Fountain of Youth one of my criticisms was:
"Now I'm not normally one to quibble over the fine details of plot-holes, but I have to point out that Monkey was never a baby - he was "born from an egg on a mountaintop" and was fully grown when he burst forth from said egg. This is shown at the beginning of the title sequence of every episode!"

The Tenacious Tomboy does the opposite of that - it not only remembers that Monkey was born from a stone egg, a crucial plot point turns on this detail.

The demon-of-the-week is a Stone Ogre who jealously guards his stone flower garden and turns trespassers into stone. The 'tenacious tomboy' of the title is a strong-willed princess (similar in character to the princess in Pigsy, King and God) who tries to trick Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy into helping her fight the demon and rescue her lover, who has been turned to stone.

Things do not go according to plan - Pigsy, Sandy and the princess are all turned into stone and Tripitaka is captured by the demon who, of course, then intends to eat the priest. Only Monkey and Yu Lung are left (even Monkey's cloud is turned to stone) when Monkey realises that, because he is a Stone Monkey, he is immune to the demon's power. Being unable to turn Monkey to stone, the demon is no match for Monkey in the end.

This is an average Monkey episode, with only one of the series' rare nods towards continuity to help it stand out from the crowd, but it is overall quite repetitive of elements we have seen in the series before now.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Confused Cats

Hello everybody.

We are confused cats today. We have found a book and it is full of words and pictures that we don't understand and now we are confused cats.

Here is a picture of us with the book we found. You can see that we all have confused faces.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Claw

The first thing that I have to say about The Claw (apart from pointing out that it has nothing to do with the Macra) is that that is supposed to be Captain Mike Yates and Jo Grant in the back of the car (with Corporal Tibbins driving). The Doctor is in the car but obviously neither of them are him, and Mike Yates is said to be "the only other passenger" apart from the Doctor and Jo.

So I have to conclude that they have been forced to recast Jo (again) and Mike for this story, because they don't look at all like Katy Manning or Richard Franklin.

Katy Manning and Richard Franklin

The question now has to be: who is playing Jo and Mike? I don't know. Anyway, the story properly begins when they see sea mist from their car.

"Jo watched idly as the mist swirled towards the car. Then she stiffened. She stared with dis-belief. For the mist was taking shape - the shape of a huge claw, like that of a lobster or a crab."

The claw attacks their car. Tibbins tries to get the car out of the way but it hits them on the roof and the car stops.

"Dazed and shaken, they all scrambled from the car."

The bit where they jump away from the car in slow motion shouting "It's gonna blow!" is skipped over, which is probably for the best. But we all know that's what they did because that's how car crashes work.

"Dr Who was openly bewildered. "What - what is going on?" he asked. "Did we meet a cow on the road?"
"Not a cow - a claw!" gasped Jo."

The Doctor makes it sound as if he has often crashed his car after meeting a cow, as if this is the most likely reason for the crash. There is no sign of the claw now, but just when Mike Yates is beginning to think it was "a sort of illusion" the driver points out the damage to the roof of the car.

Oh, it looks as if their car is really a van. Tibbins is baffled.

"Tibbins took off his side-cap and scratched his head. "Nothing else could have made those marks, sir. Not trees around," he pointed out."

Mike Yates immediately turns to the Doctor to solve the mystery, because even though he was having sleeps at the time he is the Doctor after all.

""Well, since I did not actually see this - er - claw..."
"You would have, if you hadn't been snoozing in the corner," chided Jo.
He gave her a patronising glance. "My dear Jo, although I had my eyes closed, I was far from asleep," he said. "I was thinking out a rather complex wiring device for the Tardis.""

The writer of this story here demonstrates a good grasp of the Doctor and Jo's characters and their relationship. Tibbins gets the van working again and they drive off. It turns out the Doctor is here to investigate the disappearance of two UNIT mannys from Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart's "special security force" and Mike asks the Doctor if he thinks the claw is connected to the disappearances.

""Ah yes." The Doctor fingered his long chin thoughtfully. "Mist that formed itself into a claw. A claw that nips."

Another example of the writer's good characterisation of the Doctor, though I think he only strokes his chin once, rather than the six-or-seven times you might expect. The "special security force" is on an island so they go to get a boat there and meet another manny.

"At that moment, a voice blared at them with the force of a fog-horn. "Ahoy, there! Is it to the island you would be going now?""

No, it isn't Yoda from Star Wars. Much to the disappointment of Starcat this revelation was.

""Ah! Now that must be a native of these parts," said Dr Who, with sudden interest. "A genuine Scot, eh, Captain?""

So either they are in Scotland (which has certainly not been mentioned up until now) or else this manny's name is Scot.

The Doctor's face looks very similar in both the second and third pictures. Here they are side-by-side:

"The stranger was a weather-beaten old man dressed in tartan trews, a stained tweed jacket and tam o'shanter. He sported a grey beard which gave him a fierce expression that matched his raucous voice."

I think he must be Scottish since he could only be more stereotyped if he was wearing a kilt, and playing the bagpipes while drinking whisky-and-Irn Bru and eating a deep-fried haggis pie. And saying "jings, crivvens and help ma boab."
And sadly it turns out that a "tam o'shanter" has nothing to do with William Shatner.

Mike Yates asks the manny who he is. He says his name is "MacFee" and he wants to come with them, but Mike says no. He also wants to know how MacFee got past the UNIT guards.

""Och! Ye mean yon laddie with the shotgun? Aye, I noticed him as I came past... I came to get my punt and row out to check my lobster pots."

Definitely Scottish. Mike Yates and Tibbins make MacFee go away (maybe he will be allowed to come back when he is less stereotypical). The Doctor is amused.

They take a boat to the island and the Brigadier is there. Another UNIT manny has disappeared, and there was mist about when it happened. This is a clue.

There is a secret project on the island as well as a "special security force" and Mike Yates takes the Doctor to the place they power the project from.

It is a "bubble-shaped building on a height above the sea" and it turns the Doctor and Jo's hair pink! They don't appear to notice their hair changing colour or maybe there just isn't time for them to point it out because there is only 3 pages of the story left and they have not done much investigating yet.

The circle-building (which reminds me of Sergeant Major Zero from Terrahawks) is called the Power House. A technician runs out of the Power House and speaks to Mike Yates.

""Well... the output began to drop, and when I checked the power packs-"
"One was missing?"
The other shook his head. "No. But it - somehow it had been drained. Just like that. In a couple of minutes. While my back was turned.""

Glass. Bottle. Bottle. Glass. Just like that. The Doctor decides not to investigate this mystery at all.

""Coming, Doctor?" To Jo's surprise, the scientist said mildly: "No, thank you. I believe I'd like to stroll by the sea for a while."
Yates gave him a quick glance, and ran into the building."

Naturally the Doctor's odd behaviour immediately leads to him solving the mystery. The Doctor and Jo go and "stroll by the sea."

"A small boat was bobbing on the water as the man inside it leaned over to haul on a rope. "It's MacFee!" she exclaimed in a whisper."

Jo's hair is back to normal now, but the Doctor's hair is now blue! I wonder what could be causing their hair colour to change like that if it is not the "bubble-shaped building"?

Interesting theory, let's see if this manny is right. Meanwhile MacFee is fishing for nomable fish a lobster pot.

"Dr Who touched his companion on the arm. "Come. I think it's time we had a word with this mystery man," he said."

They see MacFee is putting "some crystals" into his lobster pot and the Doctor confronts MacFee.

"MacFee spun round. The pleasant lilt of his Highland accent became sharp-edged with anger. "Ah, so it is yourself, is it? Well, you interfere with me at your own peril.""

I don't think he's really Scottish. I'm a Scottish cat and I don't sound anything like that. But then I'm not a baddy in a story either. MacFee summons up the mist.

"Just as before, the mist had formed itself into a giant lobster's claw. It swooped towards the Doctor, who grappled with it."

The Doctor goes inside the mist and then he is in a spaceship.

""You like my ship, eh, Dr Who?" said a thin, hissing voice behind him.
He turned quickly. At the far end of the ship, sprawled on the gleaming metal floor and waving its claws and antennae at him, was a lobster."

MacFee is really a lobster! And a lobster with a spaceship! I didn't expect this twist. I predict the Doctor will defeat this baddy by nomming him; that's what I would do if confronted by a lobster. The spaceship is disguised as the lobster pot, so it is like the Tardis if it can fit the Doctor inside it.

""I was on a flight from my own planet, when I lost power and had to land. Fortunately, I found a power source quite handy on the island, so I have been building up reserves.""

A lot of the story is now explained. MacFee is not just a lobster, but an alien lobster! That is even more incredible (and it means that it looks as though the "aliens" manny was right). The Doctor asks MacFee about the "missing men" from UNIT and MacFee admits that he "liquidated them." MacFee gives away that he has heard of the Doctor.

"Dr Who permitted himself a brief smile. "You know about me, then?"
"As a Time Traveller, your story is contained in the recorded annals of our galaxy," said the creature. "It was from the Tardis - your own ship that looks like a police-box - that I got the idea of making my ship look like a lobster pot..."

MacFee gives a rather random and unnecessary bit of exposition about the Tardis there. He tries to make his ship take off, with the Doctor still on board so the Doctor would be MacFee's Companion in travelling around in the lobster pot having adventures.

"As Dr Who watched, the creature suddenly changed form. MacFee stood before him now, and the old Scot turned towards the instrument panel with a chuckle. "For we'll take the high road," he said."




Mewmewmewmewmewmew! What a terrible joke!

"It was then that the Doctor exploded into action."

As opposed to exploding into rage at the awfulness of MacFee's joke. The Doctor takes "a piece of bent wire" from his pocket and uses it to "thrust across the terminals" of the spaceship. This, of course, makes the spaceship "explode into showers of sparks." The Doctor jumps out of the spaceship as it explodes, presumably not looking at it as he does so.

Jo finds the Doctor "lying face-down on the beach" and she asks him "What happened?"

"The Doctor gave her a smile. "I'll try and explain later," he promised. "But do you think you can spare me another of your hair-pins? I find it very handy to have one in my pocket. They can be used for all sorts of things - even escaping from a lobster pot!""

This non-joke is the end of the story, although given how bad the last joke was it is probably for the best. There is just time for this last page to tell us that:
"The network of communications needed to track orbiting satellites is of vital importance in space programmes. America has a world-wide network of ground stations, which includes both fixed ground stations and ships. The nerve centre of the network is the Goddard Space Flight Centre, near Washington."

While interesting (and useful for any Russian spies reading this book), I don't understand what this has to do with the rest of the story.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Monkey Challenge: The Fake Pilgrims

Something's not quite right...

This is an entertaining episode which spices up a typical Monkey plot with the novelty of the demons-of-the-week disguising themselves as the pilgrims to discredit the real pilgrims and ensure they are not welcome in any of the towns or villages they pass through.
Then, when Monkey and the others are weakened, dying of hunger and thirst, they strike!

Unfortunately, there was a small but fatal flaw in the fake pilgrims' plan - they're shit at fighting. The climactic fight, where Monkey turns himself, Pigsy and Sandy into an army of tiny versions of themselves to take on the fake pilgrims and finally defeat them.

There's a double delight to the fake pilgrims - not only do they look hilarious when in their disguises, their costumes when in their real forms are among the silliest the series has ever seen - and that's saying something. The silliest has to be the one that looks like an evil clown, with a white-painted clown face and a costume seemingly just made from dozens of balloons!

For a joyfully silly Monkey episode I'd recommend this one as being up there among the best of season 2.
And no sign of any evidence that this was too violent or gory for the original TV run - one of the fake pilgrims ends up getting chopped in half by Monkey, but it's done in a cartoony fashion with no blood.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Monkey Challenge: Better The Demon You Know

Well from Between Heaven and Hell the only way to go was up. This wasn't an exceptional (or even very memorable) episode, but a breath of fresh air after last week's rubbish.

Once again we had Buddhist philosophy side-by-side with Monkey craziness, exemplified by the climax of the story when the day is saved by the intervention of a many-armed Buddhist saint/goddess* who only spares the evil-spirit-of-the-week from being sent to Hell if her son and daughter-in-law can climb a mountain to fetch some of the sacred carrots that grow there.

*Though certainly not to be considered a deus-ex-machina ending, since the invoking of the goddess was a crucial part of the plot.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Tom Baker vs the Master

Yesterday I was investigating Duncan's Doctor Who DVDs when I saw that three of them were not on the shelf, they were in a bag with some noms. I then got sleepy and discovered that the inside of the bag was a nice comfy place for a cat to have sleeps.

When I woke up I found out that the bag had been moved (and was now being played by a different bag, but things changing like that is something I am used to from actors on TV) and I was not at home any more!

I was scared for a moment but then I found out that there was going to be Doctor Who on where I was, and instead of a TV it was being shown on a projector screen. It took Duncan and other mannys a while to set this up so I had time for more sleeps but then the Doctor Who night started.

"Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly, and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history..."

...trying to get the projector to work, lol!

The Deadly Assassin is one of the best Doctor Who stories ever, it is very exciting all the way through. In part 1 the Doctor knows that the Time Lord President is going to be assassinated and at the end of the episode it looks like it is the Doctor that does it!

Of course the Doctor is not really the baddy and in part 2 we find out he was trying to shoot the real baddy but he missed. The Doctor goes into the Matrix and finds he is in a world created by the baddy and they have to fight. At the end of part 2 the Doctor is about to get run over by a train!

The Doctor and the baddy spend the whole of part 3 fighting in the Matrix. The baddy is revealed and he tries to drown the Doctor in a very scary cliffhanger.

I wouldn't have been scared if Scary Cat had been there with me, but he was still at home so I was anxious to see what happened next. I'm glad I didn't have to wait a whole week to find out, because we watched part 4 straight away.

The baddy, Goth, is revealed to only be a henchmanny of the Master, who has a scary face! The Doctor beats the Master with the help of Castellan Spandrell and Co-Ordinator Engin, who are two old Time Lord mannys, but the Master gets away in his own TARDIS that looks like a clock. Will the Master return?

Yes! The next story we watched was The Keeper Of Traken. The Master returns, played by a different actor, and this time he is trying to take over Traken instead of Gallifrey, though otherwise his plan is quite similar.

He has a henchmanny who does his work for him - Kassia the consul is, like Goth, an important manny on the planet but not in charge, and the Master's plan is for them to become the manny in charge and then the Master will get control of a source of power from them.

The Doctor has help from Adric and Nyssa in this story - they are young while Spandrell and Engin were old. The Doctor beats the Master in the end but he gets away in his own TARDIS that looks like a clock. Will the Master return?

Yes. In fact he returns before the end of the story when he takes over Nyssa's father Tremas so he is played by another actor again from now on.

I didn't think this was as good as The Deadly Assassin because it was not quite as exciting and the setting of Traken was not as atmospheric as that of Gallifrey (it was also the worst utopia ever). I may have enjoyed this more if I hadn't seen an even better story just before it, but it was still good.

Logopolis is the very next Doctor Who story after The Keeper Of Traken. I found it very hard to understand everything that happened, because it was full of science-sounding things and I am only a cat.

I did follow the gist of the story though - it was full of danger for the Doctor after he met a mysterious white manny and spoke to him in secret. The Doctor and Adric then went to the planet Logopolis but they didn't know that Tegan was on board the TARDIS too.

The Master tries to kill the Doctor by using maths to shrink the TARDIS with the Doctor inside it. There is a funny bit when the tiny Doctor sees Adric's huge face on the scanner, then Nyssa (who was on Logopolis too) and Tegan's big faces.

The Doctor makes a "DO NOT WANT" face.

He is rescued by Adric and the Monitor (Logopolis is full of old mannys and the Monitor is their leader) who use maths to save him, so maths can be used for good as well as evil.

The Master then tries to take over Logopolis. Presumably he thinks it must have some great power source like Gallifrey and Traken had, but he accidentally kills everyone because it turns out that maths was the only thing keeping them alive (or something like that, I think).

The stakes are then unexplicably raised when it turns out that the whole universe was being kept going by maths, and the only way to save it is to go to Earth and do some science there.

The Doctor and the Master have to team up, which makes for an unusual but effective cliffhanger to part 3, but in part 4 the Master, to the surprise of nobody except the Doctor, tries to take over the universe.

The Doctor beats the Master by unplugging his machine, but then he falls off the building! The white manny, the Watcher, turns out to have been the Doctor all the time, and the Doctor regenerates.

Logopolis has not been a great story up to this point, until the last scene strengthens the whole by tying it together.
The last scene is really powerful because it's the end for Tom Baker's Doctor, and the moment really has been prepared for by clever foreshadowing. So it is sad but at the same time a happy ending - a new Doctor appears.

I was very tired after watching three Doctor Who stories in a row, so I went back inside the bag to have sleeps. When I woke up again I was back home on the Buddha Cushion with my friends and my fez. Was it all a dream? Well... no, because there are photos.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Mighty Fezthulhu

Behold my magnificent fez! You must now address me as "Fezthulhu." Although I may still answer to "Great Fez-wearing Khadulu," or "Aaaaaiiiiieegh" depending on how much sanity you have lost upon seeing me. My fez does not make me any less mighty, in fact I am mightier than ever! Please now lose D100 points of sanity...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Fugitives from Chance

Pirates! Yarr!

""One-Eye! Head for the gap as she opens! Tooth! Take some men starboard and make sure no one boards. To the death, lads! Cut their livers out!""

Captain John Mander is a pirate, but he is in trouble because his ship is "surrounded by His Majesty's navy, cornered with no hope of escape." But then a space ship comes along and beams them up.

After this it is time for the Doctor and Jo to enter the story. They are in the TARDIS "on their way to Rojak in the Mentrola Galaxy" when the Doctor detects that a planet is about to blow up. He also hears a radio signal from the planet.

""Number two gunner, stand by... Mr Swanson, check positions... on target..."
"Gosh! Is that coming from the planet?"
"It is indeed, Jo, and it sounds very earth-like to me.""

The Doctor lands the TARDIS on the pirate ship and he gets knocked out and captured straight away to save time - we are two pages into the story already, have to get a move on.

"The Doctor looked around and his jaw dropped in amazement. The whole ship, the deck, the ropes, even the sails were all made of metal! But what amazed him even more was the figure he saw rising from a hatch nearby. The huge figure, the rough, violent face, the long hair and unkempt beard, it was John Mander - made entirely from gleaming, polished gold!"

I think this means the Doctor recognises John Mander, but I'm not sure. Maybe that is just for us because we saw John Mander earlier when he got abducted and he wasn't so fabulous then?The Doctor is worried about the TARDIS.

""Don't fret none, Long Nose. She ain't been scuttled. She's too valuable for that. Queer little thing, ain't she?""

He calls the Doctor "Long Nose" lol. The Doctor tries to explain about the planet being about to explode, but the pirates are more worried about another ship that wants to fight them.

""You better explain yourself, Silver Locks," said Mander."

He calls the Doctor "Silver Locks" lol. The other ship is captained by Botega and is more advanced - the radio signal the Doctor heard came from him. Mander explains:
"His ship is full of things that we don't understand. There's no sails for a start and her guns are real accurate. Last time we fought we 'ad to 'ave a removal order, else 'e would 'ave sent us down to the bottom."

Lol that last bit sounds rude. I don't know what a "removal order" is and neither does the Doctor so he asks:
""What is a removal order?"
Mander brought a small instrument out of his pocket.
"See this? If you press that button there it means you want a removal order. If they grant you one, they take you to the penance box for a spell."
"The things what run this planet. The things that brought us here."

Mander explains that all the ships on this planet were abducted from the Earth just before they would have faced impossible odds, and now they are forced to fight each other. The aliens that run the planet are "small bird-like creatures" with force fields. All the mannys get their bodies turned into different things when they are brought here.

"Some of his crew were marble, some coal, some water. Botega himself was made of glass."

This sounds perfectly reasonable to me, not to say fabulous. I wonder if any were turned into socks? After almost a whole page of exposition, the Doctor comes up with a plan to get things moving again quickly. He uses his radio in the TARDIS to contact Captain Botega to bring all the mannys in on the plan, except we don't get to know about it yet. We will have to wait and see what it is when they do the plan.

"High up among the clouds, in a city that showed the most stunning mastery over gravitational forces, a group of bird men were watching the happening with growing excitement.
"Botega's firing to miss. I up ten meggalodes."
"Mander's out to kill himself. Sixteen meggalodes he won't use the removal button.""

This sounds a lot like what happened in the Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion, only with pirates instead of Captain Kirk so not quite as good. The aliens are gambling over the mannys they are making fight. I bet the Doctor ends up making a wager with them to save everybody.

Botega's ship wins and captures all the pirates and the Doctor and Jo.

"The glass captain addressed the Doctor. "Well, we have done our part. We have fought without killing. Now you must do yours."
"Are all your men on deck?"
"Then press the button for a removal order."
"But... But..."
"Damn it, man, do as I say! We're running short of time!"

"There's only three pages left!" (the Doctor doesn't say that really.) The aliens are confused why Botega pressed the button when he won, so they investigate. This is what the Doctor wanted because now he can speak to them.

The Doctor warns them that their planet is about to blow up, but they tell him that they already knew about this and are going to use technology to make the energy blow the Earth up instead. They try to claim they are not baddys:
"We prefer peaceful coexistence."
(Starcat would like to interrupt to say this bit reminds him of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Conspiracy. Thank you Starcat, now you can go and have a sleep.)
"But our recent visits to earth have convinced us that something must be done. Already they are struggling through the rudimentaries of space travel, but at the same time they have polluted their lands and their seas, they have stocked more explosives than are needed to blow the entire planet up, and they have not progressed one iota towards any kind of emotional maturity. We have taken it upon ourselves to remove this pestilent sphere from the skies."

They sound a lot like baddys to me. Jo's counter-argument is:
""Why, you overgrown budgerigar, I'd like to wring your neck!"

Maybe not the most helpful thing to add to the conversation at that moment? The aliens show the Doctor their big Space Gun (it's not really called that, although I think it would be a better story if it was).

"The Doctor stepped forward.
"I'll make a wager you don't do it."
"A wager? You are in no position to make a wager."
"I have our lives and the lives of every person on earth against your own.""

Yay! I was right. The aliens are confident the Doctor can't win so their leader agrees. The Doctor bets they "can never destroy earth." All the mannys from the ships rush at the Space Gun but there is a force field around it so they cannot get it, and then the Doctor captures the alien leader because he doesn't have a force field.

"I knew you would have to remove your own protective force field in order to set up another round the projecto-scope."

Oh yes, the Space Gun is really called the "projecto-scope." With their leader captured the Doctor makes the aliens fire their projecto-scope in to space harmlessly, and then they have to let all the mannys go because he won the bet.

The aliens, who are called "Melovians," tell the Doctor they were fascinated by chance but they say they will be good from now on. The Doctor and Jo leave in the TARDIS.

This was quite a good story, if a bit like Star Trek, but the joke at the end is terrible (which is also like a lot of Star Trek).

""I wonder..."
"Oh nothing. I just wondered whether they'll ever invite you back there if they ever discover how to control chance."
"I wouldn't like to bet on it.""

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monkey Challenge: Between Heaven and Hell

I'm afraid that I have no choice but to give this episode a slagging as it is, without a doubt, the worst episode of Monkey - so far, though with only six to go I feel quite confident the title will not be taken from it. Or should I perhaps say I really hope it isn't, as a worse episode than this doesn't bear thinking about.

Let's start with the title - "Between Heaven and Hell" - it's bland, and tells us nothing about what we are about to see. Really this ought to be called something like Monkey's Adventures in the Land of Greedy Dicks, at least then you would sort of know what you're letting yourself in for.

The story itself, such as we may charitably call it, sees the pilgrims visit a Buddhist shrine where, for a donation, visitors may crawl through a hole to get a glimpse of paradise. Tripitaka instantly recognises it for the obvious con it is, but because there wouldn't be an episode if he didn't then he goes along with his disciples' requests to visit it.

Sandy gets stuck halfway through the hole, meaning he can't get out and nobody else can go through after him. None of the disciples are able to use their magic to free him - again, the only reason for this is to avoid short-circuiting the plot of the episode - so they will have to break the shrine's wall to get him out.

The Buddhist priest demands an outrageous sum, 100,000 of the local currency, to pay for repairs and as compensation for the loss of the shrine's income in the meantime, and then we get one of only three (small) good bits in the episode, when Tripitaka cuts through the priest's euphemisms and calls this what it is: a ransom.

There then follows a series of unfunny escapades in which they try to raise the money, with Tripitaka and Monkey acting completely out of character all the while. Tripitaka sells the horse (though gets him back by the end of the episode), and Monkey tries to pawn his magic wishing staff and flying cloud but finds no takers.

Eventually, after 25 minutes, we get to something more interesting (though that's not saying much). Pigsy is employed to change his shape and act as a decoy princess, to draw assassins away from a real princess. Initially unwilling to risk his own neck, he is tempted by the offer of half the money needed to save Sandy.

We then get the second good bit of the episode, which is the facial expressions of the actress playing Pigsy-as-princess, both amusing and characterful, and conveying well that this is not the real princess.

Monkey, meanwhile, is employed by the assassins to kill the princess, having been promised exactly enough money to free Sandy. Disguised, he attacks Pigsy-as-princess and they fight. The trope of two friends, both disguised, fighting each other, is an old one and a good one - I recall a similar tale involving King Arthur and one of his knights - but it is completely wasted in this atrocious episode.

Pigsy gets in a lucky blow and stuns Monkey, and his mask slips. Once the explanations are over, Monkey comes up with a plan to cheat the assassins out of the money - a simple one, Pigsy will just pretend to be a dead princess.

This leads on to the last good bit of this episode (and if I'm making it sound like having three good bits in an episode is a lot, please remember that it really, really isn't when taken with all the piss-poor nonsense that surrounds it) when both Monkey and the assassins double-cross each other at the same time.

Sandy, meanwhile, has manages to get out of the hole by himself, simply by starving until he was slim enough to escape. When Tripitaka, Monkey and Pigsy go back for him they find the priest still demanding the money. Monkey has, like the audience, had enough by this point, and gives the priest a beating for his greed instead.

I can see no evidence that this episode was left out of the original TV run for being too violent or gory. I think it was left out because it was shit.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Dead on Arrival

Jo feels like she has "eaten ten tons of spaghetti" because she has been in the Doctor's "molecular adjuster." It has also made her look nothing like Katy Manning.

The Doctor puts the power on "ultra-boost " when "Suddenly..... Edgar Hodges - "
I don't know what this means or who Edgar Hodges is. Professor Cat has worked out an elaborate theory which he says 'proves' that Edgar Hodges is the Master. I think that he is a silly cat and this story is off to a silly start.

Jo "desperately" searches for the Doctor. Presumably she has already looked for him at UNIT HQ before hitting on the idea of looking for him at a random church.

I think Jo says "Ohy a coffin!" which is a funny thing to say.

While this story has been very silly up until now, the bit where Jo sees her own body lying in the coffin is very scary and effective.
Jo goes "Aaaaaiiiiieegh" and I imagine most mannys would do the same. Cats, of course, wouldn't immediately recognise themselves, they would just think "Oh what a shame that a very handsome cat is dead."

The Doctor goes back to his laboratory where the Brigadier (we can tell it's the Brigadier and not some other manny with a moustache - I will explain how after the next page) is pointing at a big flashing red light. The Doctor does not seem too concerned that there is a a hole in the space-time continuum until he sees that somebody is "trying to get through" it.

This story cleverly doesn't tell us the manny with a moustache is the Brigadier, it shows us instead because we can see his Brigadier rank insignia.

And it is a good thing that is there, because there were a lot of mannys with moustaches in the '70s and it could have been any of them.

Well he played Commander Maxil, why not some manny in UNIT as well?

The Doctor was going to set up a force field but now he is getting a message to remove his force field. I suppose he must have set one up since the last page.

How can Jo warn the Doctor about the aliens when he can't see or hear her? I'm sure we will get the answers soon, there's only two pages left to go.

Removing the force field causes the Doctor to turn into a ghost like Jo. I don't know why. Maybe we will get explanations on the last page.

Yay! The Earth is safe and everything is explained. Oh wait, I don't understand anything about that explanation. Neither does the Brigadier or Jo.

The only thing that is explained is why Jo doesn't look like Katy Manning in this story. Clearly from the last picture that is because Jo is being played by Katherine Parkinson (from The IT Crowd) in this story.