After the Doctor becomes invisible, the TARDIS materializes in the middle of a vast empty room. Dodo begs that they leave, but the Doctor remarks that he’s also intangible and can’t operate the TARDIS. Elsewhere a man dressed like a Mandarin sends two clowns to greet his “guests.” Back near the TARDIS, the Doctor deduces that they’re in the realm of the Celestial Toymaker. The man himself appears and causes the TARDIS and then the Doctor to vanish, leaving Dodo and Steven alone with the clowns, who begin to play harmless pranks. The Toymaker reappears and says he’s taken the Doctor to play a game, and Dodo and Steven must play several games on their own. If they win, they’ll be given a TARDIS (which, the Toymaker adds, might not be the real one). If they lose, they’ll be trapped in his world for the rest of their lives. Plus they’ll have to win their games before the Doctor wins his or they all lose.
At the Toymaker’s house, the Doctor accuses the Toymaker of luring people into his realm and literally turning them into toys, which the Toymaker doesn’t deny. However, he admits that he’s become bored and wants to make the Doctor into his “perpetual opponent.” He tells the Doctor that if he and his companions must win all the games they may leave and the Toymaker’s world will be destroyed. He then challenges the Doctor to a very complex version of a Tower of Hanoi game that will require 1,023 turns to win. Back at the room, Steven is challenged by the clowns to a grueling version of a Blind Man’s Bluff with an obstacle course. The Doctor uses the Toymaker’s communication device to warn them that the game is more dangerous than they think, but the Toymaker quickly retaliates by making the Doctor invisible again. The clowns win the game, but Dodo and Steven find out that the clowns were using a fake blindfold, allowing them to challenge the clowns to a second round, which they win. After the victory, the clowns transform into dolls and a TARDIS appears, but inside they only find a written riddle. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Celestial Toymaker (1966)→
Dodo frustrates Stephen by being clueless to an almost surreal degree, hopping out of the TARDIS without hesitation into a jungle and thinking she can just hop on a bus back to London. The Doctor actually agrees with Dodo – at least insofar as he thinks they actually are still on Earth somewhere. Dodo, who is at least knowledgeable about animals, notes that the jungle is filled with different species from across the world while the Doctor discovers that there is no sky but a metal roof. The mystery unravels when the Doctor and the others are taken to a group of humans by alien beings, the Monoids. They are told that the ship is a futuristic Ark, taking the human race and samples of all its species away from an Earth that’s slowly being destroyed by an expanding sun to a new world much like Earth, a journey that will take 700 years. The Monoids are an alien race that migrated to Earth long ago from their own dying world and “offered” to become servants in exchange for their new home. Most of the human population has been reduced to a microscopic state and placed in stasis until the ship finally arrives at the new planet, while the humans left active are Guardians, who, along with their descendants, are expected to protect the ship. After figuring out the Guardians’ understanding of time, the Doctor deduces that they’ve wound up 10,000,000 years past the twentieth century. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Doctor Who Reviews – The Ark (1966)→
The Doctor and Steven arrive in a place the Doctor quickly figures out is sixteenth century Paris. Right away the Doctor wants to try to meet Charles Preslin, a famous apothecary (sort of the early modern equivalent of a pharmacist). Unknown to them they’ve arrived at one of the worst possible times to be in Paris this side of 1792; Huguenot noblemen are staying in the city to celebrate the wedding between the Protestant leader Henri of Navarre and the French princess Marguerite de Valois, and tensions are running high between the Huguenots and Catholics. Not knowing this, the Doctor reluctantly agrees to let Steven go sightseeing while he tries to find Preslin, but makes Steven promise not to talk to anyone unless he must. However, once the Doctor leaves Steven accidentally disobeys by getting into an argument with a bartender, which leads to him befriending a Huguenot named Nicholas. Meanwhile the Doctor finds Preslin, who is in hiding and is terrified of being persecuted by agents of the Abbot of Amboise, and encourages his research in science. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve (1966)→
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 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)→
Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss