So it came to my attention that, around the time I started doing my “Simpsons” write-ups, Onion AV Club writer Nathan Rabin has been doing his own reviews. This was kind of discouraging, since one of the reasons I do pop culture write-ups is to make a desperate shot in the dark toward getting a paid writing gig. And while I’m just some random person on the Internet, he gets paid for writing for a major website, which in the light of the Internet’s hierarchy means that I’m a groveling peasant and he’s a bejeweled archbishop.
So I realized that I do, in fact, own the first ten seasons of “The Simpsons,” which is one season plus what I consider to be the show’s “golden age.” Also I realized that I had actually been with the show all through that era, beginning with “Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire.” Because I can never lack excuses to waste valuable timebuild up my writing portfolio, I thought I could start doing what I’ve been doing with “Doctor Who” and just reflect on the episodes – what made them work and why I was in love with the show for so long.
The Daleks begin planning for something called “Operation Inferno” while Mavic Chen, “guardian of the solar system”, confides in an ally that he is planning to betray Earth and its colonies to the invaders in exchange for power. Meanwhile the TARDIS appears on Kembel (the planet from “Mission to the Unknown”) where the Doctor sets out to explore, leaving Steven to recover with Katarina’s help. Steven and Katarina are rescued from a Dalek patrol by Bret and Kert, two soldiers looking for Marc Cory, although the latter is killed by the Daleks. The Doctor learns that they are in the year 4000 and that the Daleks are up to something, but nobody can agree what to do as Steven, the Doctor, and Bret indulge in some alpha male posturing. To escape a fire in the jungle started by the Daleks in order to smoke them out, the Doctor and the others sneak into the Dalek base, where they and their allies have gathered again. While the Doctor disguises himself as one of the representatives, the others work on stealing Mavic Chen’s spaceship. At the meeting, Mavic Chen presents a weapon called the “time destructor” that needs a rare element called taranium, but before the Doctor can learn more his ruse is exposed. Bret prepares to fly the ship without the Doctor in order to make sure they warn Earth before getting caught, but the Doctor makes it to the ship in time, along with the taranium, which he managed to steal in the confusion. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Daleks’ Master Plan (1966)→
The TARDIS arrives right in the middle of a fight between Hector and Achilles, who are too busy to notice a materializing box. The Doctor, Vicki, and Steven watch the fight via the monitor. Right away the Doctor is eager to go out and find out when and where they are, noting that the men outside are “doing more talking than they are fighting.” As the Doctor approaches them, Hector and Achilles argue, with Hector challenging Zeus to save Achilles and destroy Troy himself. With the Doctor’s appearance distracting Hector, Achilles stabs him to death. Given the timing, Achilles right away assumes that the Doctor is Zeus in the form of “an old beggar.” The Doctor plays along, but tries to talk his way back to the TARDIS after Achilles begs him to come to the camp of Agamemnon outside the walls of Troy. Odysseus, whom Achilles contemptuously describes as a “pirate”, scoffs at the idea that the Doctor is Zeus and suspects he is a Trojan spy. The Doctor describes the TARDIS as his “traveling temple” and imperiously demands that he be allowed to leave, but Odysseus has his men take the Doctor into captivity. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Myth Makers (1965)→
On the next planet the TARDIS lands on, the Doctor is curious to find that this planet is hospitable to life yet completely silent. Setting out, they encounter a robot that senses its way by touch and sound, and which Vicki christens a “Chumbley.” They assume the Chumbley is harmless, but while exploring another Chumbley threatens them with a gun and forces them to follow it. Suddenly a group of human-looking women calling themselves Drahvins damage the Chumbley and claim that they were sent by their leader, Maaga, to rescue them – and bring them to her. Maaga tells them that they crashlanded on the planet along with the crew from another planet, who are from a “disgusting” species named the Rills, and that the planet, located in Galaxy 4, will explode in a matter of days. The Drahvins’ ship is badly damaged, enough that they need the Rills’ ship to have a chance of escaping, and Maaga adds that the Rills had caused their own ship to crash in the first place. Maaga explains that the Drahvins are a matriarchal civilization that grows a small number of men in labs for the sake of breeding and fighting. Even though the Doctor and the others figure out quickly that their society is militaristic, Maaga insists she and her crew were on a peaceful exploration mission. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – Galaxy 4 (1965)→
Vicki and the Doctor find that Steven Taylor has not only survived the Dalek-Mechanoid War, but has managed to stow away on the TARDIS. The Doctor is willing to accept Steven as a companion, with the one demand that he not call him “Doc.” Steven is completely incredulous about what the TARDIS is and does, in no small part because of what it looks like. Meanwhile the TARDIS lands on the coast of Northumbria in 1066, as a man in a monk’s garb watches, but he is concerned rather than shocked or confused, and proceeds to spy on the TARDIS’ crew as they leave the ship. The Doctor orders Vicki and Steven to stay behind while he goes to find some locals, but Steven goads Vicki into helping him do some exploring of his own. At a nearby village the Doctor meets Edith, whom he wrings some hospitality and information from without exciting her suspicions. From their conversation he deduces that the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson had recently become king of England and has yet to fight in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. Before going the sleep the Doctor hears the chants from the nearby monastery seems to slow down like a recording. Once the Doctor learns from Edith that the monastery was until recently abandoned and that the villagers have only ever seen one monk, he immediately decides to set out there to investigate.
Back near the beach, Steven and Vicki encounter a man who has picked something up from the ground. Steven wrestles the object from him and discovers that it’s a wristwatch. At the monastery, the Doctor finds a phonograph playing the chants, but unfortunately he also finds himself in the wrong end of a cage trap. The following morning the Monk prepares a breakfast for him, using all sorts of twentieth-century conveniences. Elsewhere Stephen and Vicki are likewise captured and brought before the village council, who debate whether they are travelers or Viking spies. Most of the council become convinced when Vicki reveals that the Doctor, whose description Edith recognizes, is with them. Following Edith’s advice, Steven and Vicki head to the monastery and find the Monk, who claims neither he or the “other monks” saw anyone, but Steven apparently tricks him into giving off a clue that he was lying. Vicki, however, senses a trap.
Growing up I never really got into G.I. Joe, but instead was a Transformers kid. I realize now that was a mistake. After all, the fact that it was a kids’ show in a country that tolerates little or no anime-style violence or Doctor Who-style bleakness in its mainstream children’s entertainment meat that G.I. Joe couldn’t do a lot of the things you’d expect from a show about an American paramilitary organization. No storylines about Cobra supporting the Lord’s Resistance Army in order to create a power vacuum in the Central African Republic, and no episodes that show G.I. Joe storming Pyongyang to rescue a group of tortured hostages. This meant that instead the writers of G.I. Joe had to eschew the obvious and aim for the creative – and by “creative” I mean “drug-trippingly insane.”
The challenge of taking a potentially very serious topic and making it mostly toothless also meant that Cobra had to be the most bizarre, non-threatening terrorist organization ever, sort of what Al Qaeda would be if you took away their death toll and left them with nothing but their attempts at corporate branding and hip-hop. This episode more than most really reveals why that makes Cobra one of the more memorable villains to come out of Saturday mornings. Who else would steal a bunch of satellites in order to launch their own TV network? Not the Decepticons!
The Doctor installs the Space Time Visualizer into the TARDIS, which allows him to view anything that happens in the past before the TARDIS’ current “location” in time, and demonstrates it to Vicki, Barbara, and Ian by showing Abraham Lincoln speaking the Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare meeting Queen Elizabeth I, and a performance by the Beatles (playing “Ticket to Ride”, by the way). Soon the TARDIS lands in the desert planet of Aridius. While exploring Vicki and Ian find some seaweed and a trail of blood. They also stumble across a ring in the ground that opens up a trapdoor leading into an underground passage. Meanwhile Barbara and the Doctor see the Daleks through the STV, who just happen to be plotting their revenge for thwarting their plans for Earth. After setting out to find and warn the others, Barbara and the Doctor are caught in a sandstorm that buries the TARDIS. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Chase (1965)→
When the TARDIS lands, everyone is concerned when suddenly they find themselves wearing their usual clothes, not the thirteenth century costumes that they had been wearing since leaving Jaffa. The Doctor waves off their worries by mumbling something about the “relativity of time”, but then Vicki swears that she watched while a glass of water that she dropped and shattered on the floor reassembled and flew back into her hand. Through the TARDIS’ monitor Barbara notices that outside there are spaceships. Ian guesses that they’re in a spaceship graveyard, but the Doctor observes that the ships are all from different eras. Venturing outside, they find that, even though the atmosphere is hospitable to life, the planet seems dead. The Doctor is finally disturbed when Ian points out that, even though there is a layer of dust on the surface, they’re not leaving any footprints; worse, they find that someone or something had taken the TARDIS. Approaching a building, the Doctor and the others find two men who don’t seem to notice them even though they’re only a few feet away. Seeing various exhibits of technological devices, including the armor of a Dalek, the Doctor deduces that they’re in a museum. When other members of the museum’s staff appear, they find out that not only are they apparently invisible to the people but also the TARDIS’ crew can’t hear what they’re saying. Next Vicki and Ian discover that their hands pass through solid objects. Eventually they find that the TARDIS has been set up as an exhibit, but when the Doctor tries to enter he only phases through it. Not only that, but they see that their bodies are also propped up as exhibits. The Doctor that the TARDIS skipped a “time track” and that they’re trapped in “the fourth dimension.” He adds that they’re only looking at a potential future and to have a chance at setting things right they only have to “wait for themselves to arrive.” Soon enough the Doctor is proven to be right and the TARDIS’ crew find that they’ve actually “arrived.” Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Space Museum (1965)→
This time the TARDIS lands near the city of Jaffa, right in the middle of the Third Crusade. While looking around the group is ambushed by Saracen soldiers, who abduct Barbara. The soldiers also capture William des Preux, a Crusader who lets himself be captured while pretending to be King Richard I of England in order to distract the enemy, while the rest of the TARDIS crew manage to rescue William de Tornebu, a nobleman also serving under Richard. The Doctor hopes that by helping de Tornebu recover from his wounds and by returning him to Richard’s court they can get the king to help them save Barbara. At Saladin’s camp, des Preux interrogates Barbara, curious about her “strange clothes.” Barbara ducks his questions and finds out about des Preux’s charade. Concerned for Barbara’s safety, des Preux tells Saladin’s ministers that she is Richard’s sister, Joanna. Meanwhile the Doctor steals clothes for himself, Vicki, and Ian, from a merchant in Jaffa, so they can fit in. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Crusades (1965)→
Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss