Monday, July 25, 2011

TV Series Review: The Three Doctors

Wow sorry guys, I had a friend staying over yesterday and I thought I would have a chance to write this up but when I finally remembered it was one am, my computer was off and I was about to hit the sack, whoops. I know in the past when I've forgotten to review something (coughSacredBlacksmithcough) usually that means it was a rather mediocre show that just doesn't leave a lasting impression but that's honestly not the case here. Here is The Three Doctors, one of the multi-doctor Doctor Who specials featuring the second and third doctors and the first doctor in a smaller role hence the title. In a bit of a change from The War Games, this is during the time frame when the Doctor was stuck on Earth (aka, the BBC had even less budget than before), drove a yellow car named Bessie instead of the TARDIS and was working with UNIT, the UNified Intelligence Taskforce which reappeared in Nu Who (yes the UN part did originally mean United Nations) which means that one of Doctor Who's best known side characters, the Brigadier, is present and the Doctor's current companion is Jo (as well as another UNIT member, Sergeant Benton who also acts as a companion in this serial). Okay, enough set-up, onto the show!

The Three Doctors

Summary: The Doctor, working as a scientific adviser to UNIT, is having a fairly normal day when an independent researcher comes by with some strange readings and the Doctor finds that a blob monster has started chasing him around. The monsters are actually sent by Omega, a Time Lord gone renegade after he figured out how to create time travel, and when the Doctor calls on other Time Lords for help he discovers that they are too busy with their own problems to help. So instead they break a few laws and send the second and first Doctor (who gets stuck in a time eddy along the way) to the third Doctor where they can all team up and defeat Omega.

The Good: Even without knowing these Doctor(s) very well it makes perfect sense that they immediately start bickering with each other and those arguments are one of the highlights of the special (that and watching the companions deal with all of it which is also fairly amusing). The special assumes that the viewer is familiar with the above mentioned companions but even without knowing much about them they're pretty interesting, prove themselves to be capable* and Doctor Who is always much more fun when the companions can hold their own. Jo turned out to be a particularly fun character to watch (initially, before her name was mentioned, I wrote her off since she was wearing such ridiculous clothing but she seems to be just another companion who wears less than practical/fashionable clothing and manages to be awesome anyway) and, like Zoe and Jamie, I would love to see more of her in other episodes.

The Bad: The Brigadier wasn't as interesting a character as I had hoped him to be sadly (he's built up so much in the fandom to be one of the best side characters) and he actually seemed a bit stereotypical and flat, especially when compared to the other prominent UNIT character in the special, Sergeant Benton. Omega was also a flatter villain than I was expecting (then again, I usually find villains with a God-Complex dull) and the plot just wasn't as engaging as The War Games was. The plot did come through at the end of the episode but for some reason, even with the interesting characters and all the bickering, this just didn't draw me in as much as I was hoping.

The Audio: The special uses a slightly different variant on the main theme that The War Games does (not surprisingly, the theme usually changes just a tiny bit every few years) and other than that there's a ton to mention. There were a few problems with the sound in The War Games but none here, the sound effects are still pretty cheesy and for such a big and intimidating guy, Omega doesn't have a very deep voice at all, a bit of vocal dissonance there.

The Visuals: The War Games made a smart choice that the setting of the serial didn't require that many special effects, aside from one of the sets needing a more futuristic look, so that serial looked quite decent yet this one feels like a step down. Shot in color, which looks grainier than a lot of the black and white film used in The War Games, this just feels like a lower budget serial and, given that this was a special, that's probably not the case (makes you wonder how the regular episodes looked, as stated in the opening, this was when the BBC had even less budget for the show). The sets don't look as exciting (at one point it looks as if they have simply found an abandoned quarry somewhere in the UK which is probably exactly where they shot it) and Doctor Who's legendary bad rubber suit monsters make an appearance. Part of what makes the costumes so bad is that they move like, well, people wearing a ridiculous suit with limited mobility, it's almost a reverse Uncanny Valley (you just can't believe that they aren't human since they move in such a human fashion) and it's baffling why they would even bother using special effects like this and then halfway through simply stop caring about how they look. 

So the special is hardly bad or even mediocre, for some reason it just didn't click with me quite as much which could very well be because I'm not as familiar with these doctors. Not that that's going to stop me from watching even more Classic Who out of order, already have a few more waiting for me at my local library and hopefully I can get through all of them before the end of summer!

*I'm starting to think that the Classic Who companions were required to get into even more trouble than the Doctor does, at times they seem a lot more adventurous than some of the new ones.