Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Creature from the pit

When I was first getting into Doctor Who, "The Creature from the Pit" was just another Doctor Who story I was sitting down to enjoy. Ten years later I can look back at The Creature from the Pit and safely say that out of the first few Doctor Who story's that I saw this one had to have been the first truly bad story that I had come across, even The Invisible Enemy was better than this. First up, "Erato", what was David Fisher thinking when he came up with Erato. You only have to watch the making of feature on the DVD release of this story to know, that the Doctor Who visual effects team thought that this one was a bad idea and should only have been attempted if a lot of money had been thrown at it. The end result of the show's visual effects team's best efforts has got to be the worst alien ever in the history of Doctor Who. Having said that, given the fact that the shows visual effects team were being asked to do the impossible, it's a miracle that the end result is as good as it is, it could probably have been even worse. My other big criticism of The Creature from the Pit is the writer David Fisher's seemingly more or less complete lack of scientific principles. The obvious instance of this is when Erato launches itself into space and weaves an aluminium shell around a neutron star in order to minimise its gravitational pull (what the hell?) and allow the Tardis to pull it off course with a tractor beam (Hmm...). Some of the other things I don't like about The Creature from the Pit are that most of the characters in this story are to be honest a bit one-dimensional, with the dialogue being quite dodgy in parts (And that's me being nice about it), the wolf weeds are just plain silly and the band of thieves that feature in the story are simply stupid. Even the Doctor and Romana are poorly written for in this story. It’s obvious watching The Creature from the pit that David Fisher has written Romana with Mary Tamm's version of the character in mind, this is however not his fault as when he wrote the script for The Creature from the Pit it had yet to be firmly established as to whether Mary Tamm was leaving or not. The Doctor seams to lose his mind completely at the end of part 1 when he leaps into the pit of his own accord, knowing full well that to be consigned there is regarded as tantamount to a sentence of execution. Basically my view of The Creature from the Pit is that it’s pretty much a near total mess but there are a couple of things I like about it, the characters Oraganon (played by Geoffrey Bayldon) and Adastra (played by Myra Frances), with Adastra being excellently evil. The other thing I liked about The Creature from the Pit was the Jungle set, which was filmed at Ealing, it really did look quite impressive, it looked like the whole sequence had been filmed on location as a posed to being filmed in a studio and gave the first episode a very atmospheric quality which wasn't noticeable in the following three episodes of the story. If one word can be used to summarise this adventure it would be "disappointing", because it boasted some fine sets, good actors and a rather interesting plot with some twists, it’s just a shame that The Creature from the Pit couldn't have been better than it was.

In my next post I shall be talking about Nightmare of Eden.

Monday, 27 October 2014

City of Death: Art, Humour and Death in Paris!

City of Death is one of the most highly regarded stories in the history of Doctor Who and there are some pretty good reasons for that, one of which was the fact that one of the two writers of the story, Douglas Adams (the other was series producer Graham Williams) first love was comedy, and City of Death sees Doctor Who at its comedic high-point. City of Death is also filled with wit and intelligence as has been pointed out in other reviews of the story on other websites. a first that City of Death can boast is that it was Doctor Who's first ever major over seas filming, thanks to the shows Production Unit Manager John Nathan-Turner. The sequences that were shot in Paris give a grand feel to the story, and all the famous location landmarks are included, The Eiffel Tower and The Louvre being the main two. The score that Dudley Simpson scored for City of Death, has to be another of the memorable parts of City of Death, there is not a single piece of music in City of Death that doesn't feel wrong or out of place, the music score for City of Death has to definitely rank among the best of the music scores in the shows history. One of City of Death's most celebrated scenes is the guest appearance from comedic actor John Cleese and actress Eleanor Born. It was Douglas Adams who suggested to John Cleese that he might like to appear in Doctor Who, the scene features two art critics discussing the wonderful functionalism of a police box being in a modern art gallery. City of Death got some of the highest ratings ever for Doctor Who, at a time when ITV were on strike, and the only alternative was a blank screen. But part 4 of this story holds the record for one of the highest viewing figures that the series has ever achieved at 16.1 million viewers. City of Death explores ideas of how we value art and authenticity. Some of the characters in City of Death simply look at art in purely pragmatic terms, as simply a means to an end, while one character in the story simply looks at art as a badge of status. It's down to the Doctor to Point out the moral of the story. Art is valuable not because of what its worth but because of the human achievement that it represents. But more than anything else this story is loved for its humour. One of if not the funniest scenes in City of Death has got to be when the Doctor first meets the villain of the story and is flung in to the room and walks around on his knees, and complains about the Louis Quinze chair. You honestly have to see that scene to appreciate why its just so funny. And watch out for the cliffhanger at the end of part-one its really good, in fact pretty much all of the cliffhangers in City of Death are excellent. I've left out talking about  the plot of this story and talking about the villain of this story because I don't want to give anything away about the finer points of this story for anyone who hasn't seen it before. And if you haven't its definitely worth watching. City of Death is definitely one of the top Doctor Who stories of the last fifty-one years.

Sorry about the lateness of this post I was in the middle of Tafe assessments when I did the last one and its just taken me a little to get this one in a state I like. next Post will be about "The Creature from the Pit" which was the next story I saw after City of Death when I was first getting into Doctor Who.