What’s remarkable about William Hartnell’s interpretation of the Doctor is how much of a lasting foundation it has been, after so many decades and quite a few seismic shifts in culture. Hartnell’s Doctor is an eccentric with an insatiable curiosity and willingness (if not eagerness) to meddle in anything and with anyone; who has a strong anti-authoritarian streak that drives him to talk back to tyrants, petty or powerful, and be personally, passionately outraged by any injustice, no matter how small or “necessary”; and who manages to be both inhumanly detached from events and yet endlessly compassionate, especially to the precious few individuals he deeply respects. With maybe a few quibbles, this broad description is as true for the very first incarnation of the Doctor as it is for the Doctors of this millennium. The lasting appeal of the Doctor rises from what a strong core the character has in spite of passing from writer to writer and actor to actor, and that core is, I think, largely the handiwork of Hartnell himself. Maybe the First Doctor was a crabbier and more sharp-tongued Doctor than what modern audiences weaned on the 2005 series would expect (although he certainly lightened up after the earliest scenes), but Hartnell’s description of the Doctor as “a cross between the Wizard of Oz and Father Christmas” (with a little mild forgetfulness thrown in) still rings true. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The First Doctor (1963-1967)→
It’s 1986, and the release of “Crocodile Dundee” isn’t the only thing that’s noteworthy. An international space agency has just launched the “Zeus IV” rocket on a routine mission from its base in Antarctica. Afterward the base’s crew are shocked when they spot the Doctor, Ben, and Polly sightseeing the wasteland of Antarctica. They have them brought to the base and detained. The official in charge of the base, General Cutler, wants to interrogate the Doctor, but is distracted by the mission Zeus IV is on, especially once the crew on board spot a brand new yet strangely “familiar” planet that’s near Venus and the ship suffers an abrupt and unexplained loss of power. The Doctor proves his credentials by accurately predicting exactly what the scientists will discover: a planet that resembles Earth, but Cutler is still hostile and skeptical. While the base’s crewmen investigate the TARDIS outside, they are killed by a group of cyborgs who then disguise themselves with the crewmen’s coats. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Tenth Planet (1967)→
“Art from adversity” is a tired cliche at this point, casually bandied about by all manner of creative arts professionals and self-appointed self-help gurus. If those people every wanted a Bond movie to back them up, they could do a lot worse than The Spy Who Loved Me. Nothing went right with this and it still manages to be the best Bond film in eight long years…that must’ve seemed even longer the first time around. No one sacrificed any first born children or danced in circles until the rain came: they simply struck a balance. Spy gets a lot of fan points by following the Bond Formula more faithfully than either of its Moore Era predecessors…but it also racks up a lot of my points ignoring that Formula wherever it sees fit (until the end of course…but we’ll get there).
This is not so inconceivable as you’ve been led to believe. What else are Goldfingerand On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but elaborate permutations of Dr. No? Those three films trace a clear trajectory, pulling the spy-fi genre from its Noir/Thriller roots towards the supervillain-stomping grounds usually occupied by comic book superheroes. The Spy Who Loved Me continues into territory broad enough for the new landscape of Big, Dumb Summer Movies already taking shape in the late 70s. Continue reading The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)→
The Doctor is furious when Polly and Ben show up in the TARDIS and tries to explain to them that they’re now stuck with him indefinitely because he still can’t control where the TARDIS lands. They end up somewhere on the shore of Cornwall. Although they’re shocked to be so far out of London, they still don’t believe the Doctor when he tells them that they still don’t know when they are. They go to a church where a man threatens them with a blunderbuss. From the man’s clothes, the Doctor deduces that they are in the seventeenth century. They learn that he’s a churchwarden named Joseph and he’s afraid of a pirate crew that served under a man named Avery. Unfortunately, they also learn that the TARDIS will be submerged in the tide. In gratitude to the Doctor for fixing his dislocated finger, Joseph gives him a strange clue, telling him that the “Deadman’s secret key” is “Smallwood, Ringword, Gurney.” After they leave for the local inn to wait out the tide, Joseph, who was a pirate himself under Avery, is killed by men sent by Samuel Pike, Avery’s successor as captain and who is after Avery’s hidden treasure. Pike’s goons had seen the Doctor and the others and suspect that Joseph sold the secret of Avery’s treasure to them. The pirates abduct the Doctor and wound Ben. Worse, the local squire ends up arresting Polly and Ben on suspicion of Joseph’s murder. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Smugglers (1967)→
The Doctor lands in 1966 London with Dodo. Right away the Doctor notices a newly constructed tower and tells Dodo he can sense something “alien” and “powerful” about it, similar to the feelings he had when he first encountered the Daleks. Pretending to be a scientist and his secretary, the Doctor and Dodo enter the tower and meet Dr. Brett, the inventor of a new computer system, WOTAN, that is capable of independent thought but has “no imaginative parts.” Brett boasts that WOTAN will be linked to other government and military computer systems across the Western world and even the Doctor is disconcerted by WOTAN’s capabilities.
While the Doctor attends the press conference announcing the existence of WOTAN, Brett’s assistant, Polly, takes Dodo to a nightclub. Dodo feels ill and remembers being exposed to a high-pitched noise while in WOTAN’s room, and then disappears after a sailor named Ben gets into a fight with a man harassing Polly. Behind the scenes of the press conference, WOTAN manages to brainwash Brett, one other scientist, and the tower’s chief of security. WOTAN declares its intent to “develop the planet further,” by naturally enslaving or wiping out humanity. It turns out that WOTAN also managed to take over Dodo’s mind, and enlists her in the goal of acquiring the Doctor’s valuable mind. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The War Machines (1966)→
This time the Doctor and his companions found themselves on a planet that appears uninhabited by intelligent life except for a single city. The Doctor sets out to explore, leaving behind Steven and Dodo, and finds himself taken to meet the Elders, who run the technologically advanced society within the city. Both the Doctor and the Elders are complimentary toward each other; the Elders claim they’ve observed some of the Doctor’s adventures and greet him as the Traveler, while the Doctor also recognizes the Elders’ planet and notes that they’ve achieved a great deal of scientific and cultural progress in a short span. However, the Elders, especially one named Jano, are elusive when the Doctor asks how their civilization evolved so quickly in the first place. Meanwhile an impatient Steven and Dodo set out on their own and find themselves stalked by people using Stone Age weapons. Before they can investigate further, they are also taken by the Elders’ soldiers to the city as honored guests and given a tour. It isn’t long, though, before Dodo stumbles across the answer to the Doctor’s questions: the Elders have been abducting people from the surrounding landscape and literally siphoning off their mental energy.
Finding his suspicions confirmed by Dodo, the Doctor rages against the Elders. Seeing a golden opportunity, Jano decides to subject the Doctor to the siphoning process, in spite of the objections of the scientists who have never subjected a strong intellect to the process before, and receive the Doctor’s intelligence himself. Unfortunately for Jano, he absorbs some of the Doctor’s personality as well. As for Dodo and Stephen, they escape from the city and are hidden in a cave system from the Elders’ troops by the “savages.” The companions learn that the “savages” used to be an advanced race with a sophisticated culture, but generations of being exposed to the process en masse has caused their civilization to regress. With their help, Dodo and Steven rescue a very weakened but still conscious and slowly recovering Doctor. Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Savages (1966)→
Well, it didn’t take them that long before they made a reference to the Odyssey.
Now I did say that I didn’t want these write-ups to be “reviews” in the strict sense, mostly because I’m more interested in exploring The Simpsons as a cultural phenomenon (but also because I think I suck at reviewing comedy, although in my defense it is one of the hardest elements of entertainment to explain). However, I should say off the bat that this episode was strange to watch, because – even more so than with the last two episodes of the first season – the jokes were few and far between. I should add right away that I think this was deliberate, and in a lot of ways the whole episode felt like more of a quasi-dramatic American sitcom than any I’ve watched yet, just with the occasional touches of the surreal made possible by the wonderful possibilities of animation. In fact, “Homer’s Odyssey” is interesting to watch just because it contains within it a couple of potential “alternate universe” Simpsons series “in utero” – one that had a more realistic and even a dramatic bent, and one that would have been a working-class comedy like Roseanne except centered around a lazy but well-meaning father instead of a hard-working but cynical mother. Continue reading Trash Culture’s The Simpsons, Season 1, Episode 3, “Homer’s Odyssey”→
Looking around their next surroundings for a dentist to help with the Doctor’s toothache, Steven and Dido find out that they’re in the town of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. Dido and Steven are equally excited, which only irritates the Doctor, still complaining about his tooth. Right away, Steven and Dido get a little too involved with their settings and Steven’s outlandish gunslinger clothing gets everyone arrested by Wyatt Earp, who is trying to keep any potential violence at a minimum since the Clanton brothers are in town and looking for revenge against Doc Holliday.Continue reading Trash Culture’s Dr. Who Reviews – The Gunfighters (1966)→
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)→
Reviews with swear words and sociopolitical analysis from David DeMoss