Monday, 17 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Doctor Who: Paradise Towers Part Four

"I am Kroagnon, the Great Architect, and I will put an end to you and everyone in Paradise Towers!"

Part four picks up the plot from this point, which is good because it lays out the situation nice and simply. Then the Doctor gets caught by the Cleaner, oh noes!

The Doctor has form for gurning when he is being strangled, so it could be that this is entirely in character and not Sylvester McCoy overacting at all.

Exhibit A.

The Kangs help the Doctor get away from the Cleaner and they run away. Richard Briers comes out possessed by Kroagnon, with a silver face and an even sillier voice. His overacting is completely out of control.

Also his moustache looks less Hitlerian now, for some reason. Kroagnon has control of all the Cleaners and is now going to use them to wipeout all of the mannys in Paradise Towers.

Mel is in the water where the robot attacks her. What a silly manny, choosing to get wet like that! Mel shoots the robot with Pex's pewpewpew gun when Pex gets scared of the robot. The Doctor and the Kangs arrive at the roof and meet up with Mel and Pex.

The Kangs troll Pex for being scared, calling him "a cowardly cutlet" which is a much worse insult than "scaredy cat" since it does not contain the word "cat." For all that Richard Briers is doing his best to ruin this story, there are still good bits in it, such as the witty way that "taken to the Cleaners" is a Kang euphemism for being made unalive.

The Doctor sees this trolling of Pex and he recognises that, as long as all the groups of Paradise Towers are divided, trolling each other and noming each other, then Kroagnon can defeat them separately.
"That's Paradise Towers in a nutshell, I'm afraid. The Red Kangs didn't trust the Blue Kangs, and none of them trusted the Caretakers. And the Rezzies, from your account, prey on whoever they can and trust no one either. And all of them despise poor old Pex. Oh, the Great Architect must be delighted. How are we going to unite the people of Paradise Towers to defeat him?"

The "Rezzies" (residents) join them in the roof, as they understandably don't want to be nomed by Cleaners like Tilda and Tabby were. Like the Doctor, they have realised that they need help, and the Kangs agree to team up with them.

Kroagnon meets the Deputy Chief Caretaker, and the Deputy realises that it is not the Chief Caretaker any more (perhaps because his moustache is wrong) so he runs away. The Caretakers soon also arrive at the roof and team up with the Doctor, the Kangs and the Rezzies. Well that was easier than the Doctor thought it was going to be two paragraphs ago!

Kroagnon is alone in the Caretaker base, but even by himself he is still overacting. Nobody is offering any competition to him and it seems that nothing in Paradise Towers can stop him now!

The Deputy Chief Caretaker knows where explosives are kept, and the Doctor begins to formulate a plan. He wants to lure Kroagnon out from the Caretaker base, but he will have to use himself as bait - he knows Kroagnon will not be able to resist the chance to settle the acting contest once and for all:
"Well, you see, Kroagnon is undoubtedly a very clever and very proud being, and like many clever and proud beings likes to be appreciated by his equals. Now, I think if he had the chance to meet such a person, he would leave his lair to do so."
"Doctor, you're not going to go and..."
"I've no choice, Mel. I mean, in all honesty, I am the only obvious candidate."

Pex volunteers to help the Doctor so he can prove he is brave really. The Doctor 'phones Kroagnon up and trolls him over the TV screen, while the Rezzies and Kangs work together to destroy Cleaners with the Caretakers' explosives.

Pex pretends to betray the Doctor by telling Kroagnon where he is. Kroagnon suspects a trick but he goes along with Pex anyway, because by this stage he is supremely confident in his superior acting ability.

The Doctor tries to push Kroagnon into a hole in the wall, a callback to when the Doctor fell through it back in part two, but Kroagnon is too strong and his overacting too powerful for him to be pushed. Pex runs away at first but then manages to be brave and goes back to help the Doctor, knocking Kroagnon into the hole with the explosives but falling in himself as well.

Richard Briers has one last moment of overacting overkill (by this stage nobody can possibly be in any doubt that he is the winner) and then, just like that, it's all over. The story ends with peace in Paradise Towers.

Paradise Towers is a whisker away from being a good story, but in the end all the good bits that are in it are spoiled by Richard Briers playing the baddy about as wrong as he could have. In the end, nobody is left a winner by that.

The other actors are, for the most part, not outstanding, but they play their parts properly and don't let the show down. The exception to this is Howard Cooke as Pex, who is great and makes Pex a really sympathetic character. Scary Cat liked Pex a lot and, even though he is the bravest cat evar, he still managed to empathise with Pex trying to be brave when he was scared really. We were sad when Pex died but happy when, at the end, it says that PEX LIVES after all. Maybe he is a cat and has nine lives?

Paradise Towers contains a lot of good ideas in the writing. It is a satire on different kinds of mannys in the real world, such as the juvenile delinquent violent girl Kangs of the 1980s and '90s, the elderly mannys who are housebound Rezzies and may or may not be cannibals, and the bureaucracy-obsessed civil service Caretakers who do everything literally by the book. And then the plot is about what would happen to them if the mannys who do proper jobs and W-word for a living went away and left them at the mercy of their Hoovers. As you can see, this is a very clever idea for a story and not something Doctor Who had done before, so a big departure from the somewhat safe and formulaic nature of the previous story.

Paradise Towers has less obvious use for SFX than Time and the Rani, with most of its sci-fi setting being demonstrated in the sets themselves. While obviously not up to Hollywood movie standards, and unable to compete with the likes of Flash Gordon, Blade Runner, or Superman 3, they do the job they were designed for quite satisfactorily.

The most memorable aspect to Paradise Towers (in a good way, so not counting Richard Briers going way, way over the top) are the unique monsters: the Cleaners. They may not have the timeless, elegant design of the Daleks, but then they are not supposed to. These are not metaphors for the stylish and stylised Axis tanks, invading your country and exterminating your doods. They are boxy, cumbersome and noisy, and as such are scary not for what they look like but for what they can do... one moment they lie silently in the corner of the kitchen, then the next they roar into life and pursue you round and round the room, mew! And it can't be bargained with, and can't be reasoned with, and doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, evar, until you are NOMS!

Paradise Towers presents us with a terrifying world in which there are many Hoovers, clever enough to hunt in packs (several years before Jurassic Park would borrow that idea for its dinosaurs), and then shows us that the way to deal with them is to work together, all cats and doggys and bunnys and monkeys together, and then blow up the overacting Queen Hoover that lives in the basement controlling them.

At least I think that is the message of Paradise Towers.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Doctor Who: Paradise Towers Part Three

Part three takes us into the second half of the story, and the Doctor, Mel and Pex are all separated, with the Doctor and Mel both in danger but facing different perils.

Mel is saved when a Cleaner's arm grabs Tabby and takes her away through the wall. Pex breaks in through the door (again) and rescues Mel as the Cleaner's arm grabs Tilda as well. They wanted to nom Mel but ended up getting nomed themselves, this is a form of poetic justice. Pex is happy at having really rescued somebody at last. He doesn't realise that this is the second time he has saved Mel from becoming noms.

So that the Red Kangs can escape, the Doctor stays behind and gets captured by the Deputy Chief Caretaker, who has a name that reminds me of Stevens from The Green Death Peele from The Sandbaggers. The Chief Caretaker wants to talk to the Doctor before killing him, as he is now not sure if the Doctor is really the Great Architect or not. His confidence has been shaken by the recent events and he feels he is losing control, which the Doctor picks up on as they have a confrontation scene.

"Like everyone else you seem terrified to face up to the reality of what's happening in Paradise Towers. I mean, killing me won't help you find out who's sending out those robotic Cleaners to kill people. And that's a problem that isn't going to go away, unless, of course, you're giving the orders yourself."
"What a ridiculous idea."
"Perhaps. But I do have a better one."
"And what is that?"
"No doubt you've been allowing the Cleaners to kill off some of your people as well as the Kangs, for reasons which are at the moment beyond me but then I'm not a power crazed psychopath."
"What did you say?"
"Listen, you're going to kill me anyway so you may as well make use of my brain. What I also think is happening is that, besides your activities, is that the Caretakers, the Kangs, Red, Yellow, Blue and everyone else are being killed off without instructions from you. And that's why you're worried. You don't know who's doing it."
"Oh, don't I?"

The Doctor has rattled him even more, causing Richard Briers to start overacting badly while the Doctor stays cool, and the Chief Caretaker is only saved by the other Caretakers interrupting with the news that Tilda and Tabby have been nomed, giving him an excuse to deal with something other than the Doctor. This is the opening skirmish in an acting battle between Sylvester McCoy and Richard Briers that will slowly but surely take over the rest of Paradise Towers, and while there can only be one winner, there will be many losers.

Richard Briers is quite good when being funny, such as when reassuring the residents that "there is no cause for panic" and "there will be no cover up, no cover up whatsoever" in a not-at-all convincing manner. But he is not good at playing the serious side of the story - the character needs to be sinister to work dramatically, but he is too... sitcommy.

The Red Kangs rescue the Doctor while the Chief Caretaker is away and go back to their base, where they watch a video about Paradise Towers and from it the Doctor finds out about Kroagnon and "Miracle City", which the Doctor has heard of before and so he knows Kroagnon is a baddy. He thinks Kroagnon is here, in Paradise Towers.

The Blue Kangs arrive in the Red Kangs base and say
and then they team up. The Doctor, Fire Escape, Bin Liner, Air Duct and one of the Blue Kangs (maybe their leader, I don't know if she has a name) all go to the basement to investigate.

Meanwhile, Mel and Pex have been busy being chased down carrydoors by Cleaners, getting stuck in lifts, and presenting baking themed TV programmes. These bits have just been padding though, they have not really helped advance the plot at all.

Now they go to the roof where there is a pool of water with a robot in it. Pex thinks this is where "the unalive" live and that they don't belong there, but this is obviously just some silly manny religious belief. Even though they are at the roof there is no sign of Ceiling Cat.

The Chief Caretaker gets chased to the basement by a Cleaner. The Doctor and the Kangs see the Chief Caretaker talking to his pet. At last all is made clear: who else could it be that lives in the basement and is in league with an army of Hoover-like Cleaners? It can only be... Basement Cat!

No, it is Kroagnon.

Kroagnon decides to nom the Chief Caretaker, and Richard Briers disappears in a moment of such incredible overacting that it is as if he is competing not with Sylvester McCoy but with Colin Baker and Paul Darrow in Timelash.

However, Sylvester McCoy is not to be written off yet, as the Doctor gets caught by a Cleaner and the episode ends on him overacting enough to match anything Briers has thrown at him.

Paradise Towers has started to go a bit wrong, and has been totally taken over by this contest between the Doctor and the Chief Caretaker. A last-second equaliser from McCoy sees this episode end on a draw. Who will win the war and, more importantly, will the story be irreparably damaged as a result? Find out next time...

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Doctor Who: Paradise Towers Part Two

Not only does the Chief Caretaker have a Hitler moustache, the other Caretakers salute by doing a Hitler moustache impression. This is clearly a deliberately unsubtle way of indicating that they are obvious baddys, perhaps even a parody of the Daleks doing Nazi salutes during the Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Part two resumes with the Chief Caretaker sentencing the Doctor to death, but then he gets 'phoned to be told about the disappearance or death (we only hear his side of the 'phone conversation so we don't know which) of the Caretaker from part one. We know he knows about this already, but he has to go and investigate because it says so in the Caretaker rulebook. He leaves his deputy and one other Caretaker to guard the Doctor.

The Doctor is confused about why Caretakers would be attacked by Cleaners, but he works out that the Caretakers do whatever is in their rulebook so he tricks his guards by pretending there are rules in their rulebook to allow him to escape. This is a typical bit of Doctor cleverness and is a good scene.

There are several short scenes, almost a montage, of the Doctor and Mel and Pex in carrydoors looking for each other. The Doctor almost gets caught between two Cleaners but escapes them by accident when he falls into a hole in the wall. He ends up where the Red Kangs are.

The Doctor is starting to work out some of what is going on, and impresses the Red Kangs by making a vending machine work.

The Chief Caretaker goes to the NO ENTRY door. His pet lives behind the door and says
a lot in a scary voice. Even the Chief Caretaker is scared of it, when he is trying to give it into trouble for getting itself noms that he did not send to it. This is some ominous foreshadowing of what will happen later on in the story and adds yet more mystery - if even the Chief Caretaker is not behind the actions of the Cleaners and his pet, who or what is?

Mel and Pex get captured by the Blue Kangs. They say Pex is a "scaredy cat". He is not a cat(!) but he was scared, and is ashamed that he ran away from a war. Pex says
"I've made up for it since I was here. Since I've been in Paradise Towers, I've been brave! A hero!"
Scary Cat likes Pex. He knows that not everyone can be as brave and scary as he is, but he admires Pex for trying to be brave. Mel leaves Pex behind and, lost, goes straight back to Tilda and Tabby who still want to nom her.

The Caretakers come to raid the Red Kang's base, with a classic example of cutting through a door to get to them. Fire Escape thinks the Doctor has brought them here, but he pleads with them to believe him and to team up with him to fight the Caretakers.

With time rapidly running out, Tilda and Tabby decide to nom Mel to give us a cliffhanger ending to this episode.

Part two continues the good work from part one - even as the Doctor solves part of the riddle of Paradise Towers, more mystery is revealed to us viewers like layers of an onion. There is a certain amount of padding to this episode, and the ending feels a bit like a contractual obligation cliffhanger, but this is more than made up for by some solid scenes which mix comedic and dramatic moments well, and depth is added to the character of Pex.

Plus who doesn't like a bit of 'cutting through doors' action?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat and Scary Cat review Doctor Who: Paradise Towers Part One

Paradise Towels, lol!

Many Doctor Who monsters are allegorical representations of the things mannys are afraid of, translated into a form in which they can be scary but within the safe limits of televisual entertainment. For example, most alien invasions of Earth in Doctor Who represent the fear of manny civilisation being invaded by a more technological and militarily advanced civilisation, against which they would have no conventional defence. This goes all the way back to the first such story of its kind, H G Wells' War of the Worlds.

Many of these fears are irrational, such as the Cybermannys original portrayal as a society where the (then new) science of organ transplantation had been taken to the extreme. But Paradise Towers contains a monster that is made all the more scary because it is based on a very real and rational fear: the fear that the Dark Lord Hoover wants to nom us all!

The Cleaners are obviously based on Hoover, with even the name being a shortened variation on "Vacuum Cleaner", Hoover's non-brand name. Because of this I have called in Scary Cat, the bravest and scariest of my cat friends, to assist me with this review.

Paradise Towers is the second story of season 24. It stars Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor and Bonnie Langford as Mel. It starts with a teaser scene of a manny, a Yellow Kang, being chased by voices through dimly lit carrydoors. Scary Cat, like me, is impressed with the sets and the lighting, we think it is effective in establishing the atmosphere of a dangerous place. Scary Cat even compares it to the sets used in Sapphire & Steel's first and second stories in terms of having a character all of its own.

The voices leave the Yellow Kang and for a moment she thinks she is safe, but then something else gets her in classic monster fashion! We do not see what it is yet.

The dark and dirty sets of Paradise Towers contrast with the clean and bright interior of the TARDIS, where the Doctor and Mel are. They are on their way to Paradise Towers with Mel looking forward to it. In a satire of many holidays, the anticipation will turn out to be better than the real thing. When the TARDIS arrives they go outside and immediately see it is a mess.

There is a scene with a Caretaker who has a maths name, and he is scared to be in this. This serves to build up the tension in the episode. Meanwhile the Doctor and Mel meet the Red Kangs. They claim that Red Kangs are best, which is obviously not true because cats are best!

The Red Kangs capture the Doctor and Mel and two of them establish themselves as important characters by giving their names - Bin Liner and Fire Escape - while the other Red Kangs do not. The Doctor makes friends with them by copying their movements and accompanying incidental sound effects.

We get our first glimpses of the Cleaners when we see one that has nomed the Yellow Kang and has her in its bin. Then we see them ambush the Caretaker from earlier - one sneaks up behind him while he is watching another one and he gets nomed. Clever Cleaners.

We hear the Chief Caretaker giving the exposition to us that he is sending the Cleaners to nom mannys so that they can give noms to his "little pet". I don't know what kind of pet it could be, but I don't think it could be a cat. At least I hope not.

According to Fire Escape, as well as Kangs and Caretakers, there are also Old Ones in Paradise Towers, which piqued Cthulhu's interest in this episode. But Bin Liner decides they have given enough exposition about Paradise Towers to the Doctor and Mel and so capture them again. This is a bit inconsistent, but never mind as then the Caretakers come and capture the Doctor while the Red Kangs and Mel run away.

Mel gets separated from the Kangs and meets Tilda and Tabby. "Tabby" may be a cat name but they are not cats, they are mannys and residents of Paradise Towers. It is really obvious to us that they want to nom Mel, but Mel doesn't know that yet. She just thinks they are friendly mannys who want to give her noms.

The Doctor sees pictures on the wall of a Cleaner catching a Kang. He sees it as a significant clue, reminiscent of when he saw the pictorial history of the aliens in Colony in Space, but the Caretakers don't think it is important.

Pex meets Mel.

Mel meets Pex.

Pex burts in through the door. He is a manny who puts "the world of Paradise Towers to rights."
On the internets I have seen some criticism of Bonnie Langford's acting as Mel, but one look at the way she wordlessly reacts to Pex's introducing himself would surely silence any critics. This is a moment of light relief as Pex rescues Mel even though she doesn't know she needs rescued, and Tilda and Tabby complain that Pex has broken their door down three times before.

We see the Chief Caretaker, who is played by Richard Briers in a Hitler moustache (so we know he is an obvious baddy). He mistakes the Doctor for "the Great Architect" and seems pleased to meet him.
"No need to tell me, I know who you are. We have been waiting for this momentous visit for so many years. You are the man who brought Paradise Towers to life, the visionary who dreamed up its pools and lifts and squares, and now you have returned to your creation. You will make all those dilapidated lifts and rise and fall as they've never done before. All signs of wallscrawl will disappear from the corridors of Paradise Towers. The floors will gleam and the windows will shine, and will be made as new. Fellow Caretakers, do you know who this is? This is the Great Architect returned to Paradise Towers. Bid him welcome. All Hail the Great Architect, all hail!"

He then says they should kill him, for both an instant reversal and cliffhanger ending in one.

This ends the episode on both peril for the Doctor and an intriguing mystery - why should they be pleased to see him and want to kill him at the same time?

Part one gets Paradise Towers off to an excellent start, introducing the characters, setting and situation in a great way. The central mystery - why has Paradise Towers become so dark and dangerous - is laid out well, and although it is a little bit heavy with the exposition at times, we only get to know part of the backstory now and plenty is kept back, either to be revealed in the later episodes or for us to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps.

The Cleaners are an exceptionally scary monster for Doctor Who, although fortunately they are not as scary as the real Hoover! Still, I am glad I had Scary Cat here with me to help me be brave... I cannot see the TV screen from behind the sofa. I may be a long cat but I am not that long!

Monday, 10 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Time and the Rani Part Four

Part four begins with us recapping the brain drain of the Doctor, and I'm very surprised that the phrase "brain drain" doesn't get used at all in this story.

The Doctor's voice in the brain talks nonsense and confuses the other voices in the brain. This makes the Rani so angry she lets the Doctor out of his fridge, then he and Mel overpower the Rani and put her in in his place. Beyus comes and lets her out after they have gone.

Ever since the Rani hypno-injected the Doctor to give him amnesia in part one, he has been getting sayings wrong. Now that we are in the final part of the story, the Doctor turns this on its head by doing it on purpose - as he spins a dial to turn on the Rani's space-television he puns:
"He who dares spins."

The Doctor works out the Rani's plan and then she comes in and explains it for our benefit watching at home - it is to use science to take over the universe, the classic Doctor Who baddy's plan!

As the Doctor and Mel run away, they meet a Tetrap and Mel fires a tiny net on him to make him have sleeps. The Doctor makes two more puns at this, as if he is trying to be James Bond:
"As you snore, so shall you sleep."
"Waste net, want net."

The Doctor and Mel escape and go to the Leisure Centre Centre of Leisure to rescue the Lakertyans. By this point even Ikona is joining in with all the sayings, but the Doctor interrupts him to get the ending wrong:
"Where there's a will, there's a..."
This could be a deliberate joke on the Doctor's part so, like the others above, it will not be counted in the "Doctor getting sayings wrong count" for this episode.

Then it is back to the laboratory to rescue the geniuses from the fridges. The Doctor sabotages the Rani's space rocket launch and then Beyus self-sacrifices to make sure it is destroyed for good, but the Rani launches the rocket anyway.

This is quite a good model effect by Doctor Who standards. The Doctor's sabotage has delayed the rocket enough that it misses the asteroid it was aimed at so the planet doesn't get blowed up and the Rani's plan is foiled.

The Rani gets captured by the Tetraps when they turn on her for trying to blow up the planet they were on (another classic Doctor Who turn of events), and the Doctor has time to get one more saying wrong before the end credits. He still has a task remaining though - to get the rescued geniuses home without Einstein learning too much about the TARDIS...

Time and the Rani is an unfairly maligned story. In 2009, Doctor Who Magazine #413's "Mighty 200" poll of all Doctor Who stories up to Planet of the Dead, Time and the Rani came 198th out of 200! That puts it below awful, awful stories like Daleks in Manhattan (#152), Boom Town (#141), The Christmas Invasion (#48) and The Stolen Earth (#13). No, that isn't a mistaik... well, it is a mistaik, but it's not a typo... it is at #13, and so just outside the top 10, not #113!

Clearly we can't give any credence to this poll. It has Love & Monsters criminally high at #153, while Timelash, the second-best Doctor Who story evar, is at #199! That's almost the very bottom! Don't they know it has Paul Darrow in it? It even comes 100 places below Planet of the Dead, a story that has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.


Time and the Rani is not a great story, but it is certainly not a bad one either. It has a simple, almost archetypal, plot with which to gently introduce the new Doctor, leaning heavily on the tried and tested tropes of Doctor Who rather than trying anything too new - perhaps that was a reaction against the failure of Colin Baker's first story, which tried to be original and different in several ways, all of them excruciatingly bad.

It also uses elements from the Blakes 7 episode Ultraworld, which is a curious decision when you consider that the writers could have chosen any of Blakes 7 from which to steal - we might lament that they did not pick Powerplay, but should at the same time be grateful that they did not choose Power.

The visual effects are more successful, being some of the best Doctor Who ever achieved - from the bubble traps to the Rani's space rocket, and even the fabulous pink sky of Lakertya was done using a special effect. While obviously not up to Hollywood movie standards, and unable to compete with the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek 2 Wrath of Khan, or The Wizard of Oz, they do the job they were designed for quite satisfactorily.

The new season and new Doctor also sees the introduction of a new title sequence, which is a big departure from the previous version, but fits in very well with the new style of the show. The same is true for the new version of the theme music, which always makes me think of the late 1980s whenever I hear it. And I was only made out of socks in 2008 so that is quite an achievement!

As I said in my review of part one, I think this story (and season) is so poorly rated within Doctor Who fandom because the fans in 1987 missed Colin Baker being the Doctor so much. He was a good actor and played the part very well, so it must have been tough to see him depart and maybe equally difficult to see another manny take over from him. But I think, based on Time and the Rani, Sylvester McCoy immediately inhabits the role of the Doctor, and has the potential to be just as good as Colin Baker if the fans would only give him a chance - after all, Colin Baker began his era with The Twin Dilemma, after which it could only get better!

Can the same be said for the McCoy era?

Doctor getting sayings wrong count: 3
(Season running total: 17)

"Two wrongs don't make a left turn."
"All hands to the stumps."
"Time and tide melts the snowman."

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Time and the Rani Part Three


The episode begins with a quite lengthy reprise of the cliffhanger situation, leading up to the Doctor being stuck in a room with three hungry Tetraps surrounding him. The Beyus lets the Doctor out and gives the Tetraps some noms.

We are now over halfway through the story and the camp, colourful lighting in the Rani's laboratory has given way to dark and sinister lighting to indicate serious business is going on. The Doctor escapes, stealing an important thingy from the room as he does so.

The Doctor has escaped, but then Mel is captured straight away as if it is the rule in this story that only one of them can be free at a time. The Doctor meets Ikona and pushes a Tetrap into one of the Rani's bubble traps.

The Doctor and Ikona go to the Lakertyan "Centre of Leisure" (I'm not sure why this isn't just called a "leisure centre") looking for clues, and they see an evil disco ball. This helps restore some campness to the episode, which was in danger of falling to only Very Camp levels.

The evil disco ball releases flying things made of a special effect, and they make a Lakertyan extra go

The Rani exchanges Mel for the thingy the Doctor stole from the laboratory in a classic 'prisoner exchange' scene, like something out of The Sandbaggers, except it turns out it is a trick and Mel is really a Fake-Mel hologram that vanishes when the Doctor tries to give her a hug. Well at least that means that Burnside doesn't have to SPOILER REMOVED

Real-Mel is busy hanging upside down like a Tetrap. Does that mean she is now cat noms? Sadly I don't think we will ever know as she is soon back the right way up, making that scene a bit pointless.

The Doctor gets captured trying to get back into the laboratory to rescue Real-Mel, which mean that very little has actually progressed, plot-wise, during this episode. He gets put in the fridge with his name on it from part one, meaning that this was Chekhov's Fridge all along.

As the episode reaches its climax, the Rani goes into the secret room and we can finally get to see what is inside... it was worth the wait, because it is a big brain like in Ultraworld! And the cliffhanger ending is the Doctor's brain is being put into it, just like Avon's was!

This episode is entirely redeemed by the final few moments, in which the story reaches a whole new level of quality. While some might question the wisdom of borrowing plot elements from Ultraworld, which was only broadcast seven years before this and wasn't exactly the best episode of Blakes 7 anyway, I would counter by reminding those critics of the old cat proverb: "mediocrity borrows, genius steals."

Doctor getting sayings wrong count: 5
(Season running total: 14)

"All good things come to a bend."
"Here's a turn up for the cook."
"There's none so deaf as those that clutch at straws."
"A bird in the hand keeps the Doctor away."
"Out of the frying pan into the mire."

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Time and the Rani Part Two

Review of Part One is here.

Mel's bubble doesn't explode but it does land on some water, making for something of a damp squib of a cliffhanger resolution. Mel does get wet though, so she doesn't escape entirely unscathed. Poor Mel. Ikoma, her Lakertyan friend, rescues her from the bubble.

Scary Face!

One of the hitherto unseen monsters, the Tetraps, leaps in from out of shot and scares Mel with his scary face. Mel screams to show she is scared, but it turns out the Tetraps are little more than overgrown flying mouses - they would be no match for cats so their scariness evaporates the first time we get a good look at them. This is often the way with monsters and aliens. Mel and Ikoma run away.

The Doctor begins to suspect the Fake-Mel Rani is not really Mel because she can't remember things that Real-Mel should be able to remember. The Rani leaves the Doctor locked in her base while she goes to get some more technobabble (they use up a lot in this episode!) from her TARDIS.

Ikona helps Real-Mel sneak into the Rani's base by distracting a Tetrap. The Tetrap ends up shooting his tiny net over the Rani by mistaik because she is still dressed as Fake-Mel.

The Doctor and Mel don't recognise each other and so have a fight until they come to trust and believe they are each who they say they are. This is a well written scene and does a lot to help properly establish what the new Doctor is like, even if he is still getting sayings wrong (which doesn't get any less annoying the more he does it).

The Doctor and Mel try to work out what is going on and what the Rani's plan is. Beyus joins them and helps them by letting them out of the room so they see the fridges where the Rani keeps her geniuses. A place has been prepared for the Doctor, possibly because Borusa was indisposed. There is one door that Beyus has never seen beyond, so there is still a mystery element to the Rani's plan.

The Rani comes back so Real-Mel hides and the Doctor and Beyus pretend that the Doctor has never left the room. But the Rani sees through the Doctor's pretending and takes off her Fake-Mel wig. This isn't much of a dramatic revelation because I already knew it was the Rani.

The Doctor runs away to the room where the Tetraps have their sleeps, hanging upside down just like flying mouses do. Not all of them are having sleeps, as three of them surround the Doctor for a cliffhanger!

One of them has a derpy tongue.

This episode is a workmannylike bridge from the beginning of the story to its middle. The setting has now been established and the Doctor and his friends are starting to work at unraveling the mystery, while at the same time the baddy is trying to progress her plans.

The best bit of this part was the scene of the Doctor and Mel getting to know each other, and the worst was the reveal of the Tetraps' appearance - the episode played its hand too soon by first showing them on location, it could have been much more effective if they had been saved for the darkness of their sleeps room. This might have made the cliffhanger ending more effective also.

Doctor getting sayings wrong count: 4
(Season running total: 9)

"More hasta less vista."
"A kangaroo never forgets."
"The proof of the pumpkin is in the squeezing."
"Where there's a will, there's a Tom, Dick and Harriet."

Monday, 3 April 2017

Leave The Girl, It's The Manny I Want

I have noticed that in fan opinion polls of every Doctor Who story ever (except for the ones that hadn't been made yet), Season 24 always comes bottom of the seasons poll. Why do fans of Doctor Who dislike it so much? It is great!

While none of the stories in it are among the best ever individually (hardly surprising since they'd be competing with the likes of Doctor Who and the Silurians or Timelash, and sadly Paul Darrow can't be expected to guest-star in every story), there is a tonal consistency to the four stories of season 24 that was rarely equaled throughout Doctor Who's run - perhaps Season 18, if we ignore Meglos.

I have a theory that the fans miss Colin Baker and, as a manifestation of emotional displacement while in the Denial stage of bereavement, take it out on the early stories of his successor's era. That is my theory, and if Professor Cat tells you he thought of it first then don't believe him!

It is true that Sylvester McCoy had a hard time stepping out from under Colin Baker's shadow, not to mention his costume (lol). Aside from the triumph of Timelash, his last story was the epic 14 part Trial of a Time Lord, the longest single Doctor Who story evar, and it guest-starred BRIAN BLESSED too! How were they going to follow that?

Let's look again at Season 24 to remind ourselves how good it really is...

Big Gay Longcat reviews Doctor Who: Time and the Rani Part One

The story begins with a pre-titles sequence, a rare phenomenon in the old series, in which we see the Doctor regenerate. We don't see the old Doctor even for a moment (spoilers: it's Sylvester McCoy in a wig), which is a clever but subtle way of making the statement that this is a new era, and Colin Baker is gone for good. This is then reinforced with a brand new title sequence using state-of-the-art (for 1987) SFX and music. I think a lot of fans would have missed the old way of doing the titles that had been in use, with a little variation, since 1980 when Tom Baker was still the Doctor and Ed Straker was in charge of SHADO.

After the titles we see the Rani is keeping Einstein in a fridge. Her henchmanny is Beyus, who is an alien Lakertyan. Beyus is played by Donald Pickering, who was the obvious baddy Eyesen all the way back in the Hartnell-era episode Sentence of Death.

The Rani looks camp but I can't fault Kate O'Mara's serious acting, she puts in lots of little touches such as feeling for both of the Doctor's hearts, or her contempt for the sycophancy of her other henchmanny Urak when she speaks to him over her chunky bracelet. I wonder if it is a teleport bracelet?

Sylvester McCoy also goes straight into character from the moment he recognises the Rani - he overplays the comic side, including needlessly falling over a couple of times, but underplays the serious, intelligent side of the character.

A monster comes in and is so scary that we don't get to see it. It fires a tiny net over the Doctor to capture him.

Meanwhile, the Doctor's Companion Mel (Bonnie Langford) is on location when she sees a Lakertyan run into a trap, get caught inside a bubble and spun round and round and round through the air before exploding. This reminds me of when I was stuck in the washing machine, except with an explosion at the end instead of me being a wet and clean cat (so just as bad). There is a scary skeleton left behind.

What with the Rani's evil technology resembling things like fridges and washing machines, I hope she does not have a Hoover! That would be too scary and I would have to call in Scary Cat to help me proceed with this review.

The Rani disguises herself as Mel and hypno-injects the Doctor into being fooled by her disguise, but with the side-effect that he also gets sayings wrong. This annoys the Rani, as does his playing the space-spoons for no readily apparent reason. O'Mara does a good job of changing her voice and mannerisms when doing Fake-Mel acting.

Real-Mel saves the Lakertyan who captured her from falling into another bubble trap and they become friends. They are unaware that they are being watched by one of the Rani's monsters. Again the camera is from the monster's point of view so they remain unseen by us, no doubt being kept for a reveal of maximum dramatic momentousness.

The Doctor is suffering from post-regenerative grumpiness. He says
"Perhaps this is my new persona - sulky, bad-tempered."
So just like your last persona then?

The Doctor and the Rani (still Fake-Mel) go to the TARDIS for the Doctor to change his costume - up until this point he was still wearing The Coat. In a similar manner to when Tom Baker's Doctor first got his costume in Robot, the Doctor tries on some silly, obviously unsuitable outfits before putting on the real one.

At least The Coat is gone!

However, one way this is very different from in Robot is that the next three costumes are all clearly based on those of previous Doctors:

Finally the Doctor gets dressed properly and we can get on with the plot, although not before he gets some more sayings wrong. It is not just the Rani who is annoyed by this quirk!

Mel is chased by a (still) unseen monster into a bubble trap and bounces around inside it. It hasn't exploded yet when the episode ends, making this a very scary cliffhanger, one worthy of Hitchcock.

This is a good first part to the story. It is very camp and colourful in terms of costumes and sets - even the sky on location is a fabulous shade of pink. It is also properly dramatic, with the Doctor and his Companion separated throughout and experiencing different kinds of peril. It plays with audience expectations, such as by having the Rani's monster unseen so that your imagination helps makes them scary, and then it subverts those expectations by not even revealing them at the cliffhanger (it's what Terry Nation would have done).

If there is a flaw to this episode then it lies with the new Doctor - by having him hypnotised so early on we are not allowed to see much of his true character. I am surprised they had not learned from the lesson of The Twin Dilemma, Colin Baker's first story, in which the Doctor spent far too long acting out of character. Also he wore The Coat in that as well.

Doctor getting sayings wrong count: 5

"A bull in a barber shop."
"Fit as a trombone."
"A bad workman always blames his fools."
"I've drawn the short plank."
"Absence makes the nose grow longer."