Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Sinister Sponge

WARNING: This review contains pictures that have scary faces in them! Do not read on if you are easily scared by pictures of scary faces. Or do read on and just don't look at the pictures. I have just realised that this warning is below the first picture which contains a scary face, so you may have already been scared by it! Fortunately, the scary face in the first picture is quite hard to spot because it is faint and underneath another manny's face - one with a moustache! So you may not have seen the scary face.

This story features the Doctor, Harry and Sarah. None of them has a moustache so I don't know who the manny with a moustache is in the first picture - maybe it is meant to be the Brigadier saying "Doctor, come back at once" but the Brigadier isn't even in this story.

On the planet Inscruta, a cloud turns out to be a sponge in disguise as a cloud, and it kidnaps Sarah. The Doctor and Harry chase the sponge until they get captured by the tentacles of a giant flower.

"'Land of hope and glory! Mother of the free! How can we extoooll thee-" Doctor Who began to sing loudly, and Harry gurgled with surprise.
'Come on, Harry, louder!' urged the Doctor. 'Sing! Shout! Anything - but make it loud!'"

This could almost be continuity back to Mission for Duh; shouting loudly scares the plant so they can escape.   They find themselves escaping to "a field of what looked like giant cabbages" where they meet the Doctor's old friend Elkalor who lives inside one of the cabbages.

Scary face!

I hope that is meant to be Elkalor with the scary face, or else there is something very wrong with Harry.

"Elkalor stood there, trembling slightly. He was taller than the Doctor and thinner. His face had no chin and his neck went straight up to his beak-like nose. His eyes were set wide apart and long thin tendrils stood up on the top of his head. But what amazed the Doctor was his flesh. It was almost transparent and every time he made a sudden movement he shivered like a jelly!"

So maybe it is Harry then. Elkalor gives the Doctor the exposition for what is going on, and it makes me think that this story may have been written by Ben Steed:
"'Five Ergaps after you left, all the males were stricken by a disease that caused our feathers to fall out and our flesh to become transparent. No one could discover a reason for it, or a cure.'
The lamp on the table flickered and Elkalor paused to adjust the flame.
'It was around this time that our wives and daughters began to harrass us, began to question our judgement and authority. They would hold mass meetings in the council buildings and cause a great noise that was most distressing for us. While they seemed to get less and less sensitive to sound, we males could hardly bear to hear a pin drop.
'One of the males discovered that the women had been harbouring a giant sponge in the council hall and were communicating telepathically with it. When we objected to this they drove us from the city, with a ceaseless barrage of chattering and shouting and loud bangings. We have lived here in this patch ever since.'"

Avon: sexist or sexy? In episodes by Ben Steed, the answer is "both."

Harry begins to turn invisible like Elkalor. In the morning they get visited by their noisy neighbours.

"The sponge hovered into view, flanked by female Inscrutes furiously bashing pots and pans and shouting.
Harry started. To the right of the sponge, her face contorted into a snarl, was Sarah."

This seems to me like the least worst place to put this picture.

The Doctor communicates with the sponge and gets the exposition out of it.

"'What are you doing on this planet?' he asked.
'I am trying to build a transformer to get me back to Femizor.'
'Why have you caused this friction between the Inscrutes?'
'It was unintentional. I was contaminated by Oriolic dust beams on my way here. This atmosphere causes a disintegrating effect on male hormones.'"

That sounds made up to me. The sponge gets fed up with the Doctor's questions and begins to menace him, so the Doctor produces the secret weapon he fetched from the TARDIS earlier.

"The Doctor dipped into his pocket and produced a mouse-like creature. The sponge shrank back with a high pitched sound.
'Yes,' said the Doctor, smiling. 'The enemy of sponges through-out the cosmos - a Rhoa. If you don't co-operate I will let him loose.'"

The sponge capitulates immediately. If sponges are that scared of mouses, imagine how scared they would be of cats! It turns out that it is only a little sponge. The sponge confesses to the Doctor that it has been a naughty sponge and lets the female Inscrutes (and, we must assume, Sarah) go. The Doctor says he can cure the disintegration using the juice of the cabbages, which is handy, and all the problems are solved.

"Harry watched as an Inscrute female forced another cupful of elixir down her husband's throat.
'Somehow I don't think things round here will ever be the same again,' he muttered.
'And not such a bad thing either,' Sarah chipped in."

This picture can only come from a parallel universe where Gavin Campbell (in our world a presenter of That's Life!) played the Doctor, seen here with his Companions Manuel and Tiffany. The series also featured Peter Bowles as the Master, Arthur Lowe as Captain Lethbridge-Mainwaring, and BRIAN BLESSED as an unforgettable Davros. Blakes 7 ran on BBC1 for over 10 years and William Shatner is President of the United States of Americanada.

Maybe in that universe this story makes sense. But meanwhile, in the real world, it isn't very good.

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