Saturday, December 1, 2018

My Favorite Twenty Beatles Songs for December 2018


Christmas and the Holidays always make me think of The Beatles, and recently tasked myself to sit down and actually formulate a playlist ranking my favorite Beatles songs now 40 years after first being exposed to them. Not their most famous or well-regarded mind you, but the ones which take my inner Beatles Geek to the land of Looking Glass Ties. I decided ten favorite Beatles songs was too few, twenty-five too many, struggled mightily but kept it to twenty with a bonus track added just to mess with people’s heads. And had some fun with this post linking up other related oddities to make your visit worth bookmarking for future playback reference.


Yeah I know ... Everybody hates Paul 👍 But this is actually quite moving, and is believed to have sparked the "Paul Is Dead" thing in 1969, which I love. So I love this song, and Paul. Worry not  ;]

*My list both starts and ends with #20 because that one is sort of in a league of its own in terms of being revolutionary, visionary and influential. Deserves special propz -- The Beatles invented King Crimson with it, or any other experimental “art rock” approach rife with studio gimcrackery you care to name. An example thereof is supplied at the end. But my all-time #1 Beatles song must remain my all-time #1 Beatles song, a necessary relative constant which has remained unchanged since the age of 14 or 15 (re: when I first heard it over headphones while stoned) and by which all of the others in their catalogue have been evaluated. Not gonna budge on it even knowing what I know now about #20, and feel the workaround used is an acceptable compromise which won't upset the delicate balance of the Cosmos.


Missing is “A Day In The Life”, which my philosophy suggests is best heard in context of the entire “Sgt. Pepper’s” album: The function of this list is casual "just toss it on the earbuds & walk to the store" type listening. Also missing is “Strawberry Fields Forever” which upon reflection was substituted with “Penny Lane”, opting for Paul’s more subversive and less stridently obvious psychedelia, though the "Strawberry Fields" video (film, really) is my favorite of them all. Whether one likes to face up to it or not the point of "Strawberry Fields" is celebrating the acid, where "Penny Lane" is more open to interpretation (though I don't get the horses). I also have specific recollections of it playing on the radio in the car with my mom as a kid and being impressed by the piccolo trumpet ... Truth be told I actually dismissed The Beatles as AM radio pop music as a 13 year old Album Oriented Rock idiot simply because of association with it being "Mom Music". Now I comprehend that she was simply ahead of her time, or at least mine, as your mother should know.


... Mom never dropped any acid.

Also absent are the big pre-“Help!” Beatlemania pop songs, nothing wrong with them. I've just always preferred the middle-period psychedelic Beatles with odd instrumentation + Mellotron effects, and right from the start -- "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was my favorite Beatles song for the first couple years of listening even without knowing the acronym thing, or being capable of understanding what it meant. I was too young, and it slips off the Twenty list due to "Pepper" overexposure from years of working in record stores. “What’s The New Mary Jane” should likely be on the list too but I’ve only just come around to its weedy charms, where the choices on my Twenty list have pretty much been the Beatle go-to’s since puberty. That they have stuck with me for 40 years is impressive stuff. Other bands may fall in or out of favor but there will always be the elemental genius of The Beatles to come back to. Only other band I would say that about are The Sex Pistols and I mean it.


If pressed to choose my favorite Beatles album would be “Magical Mystery Tour" if allowed (not really an album, see) or "Revolver" if debating with a purist. As for my least favorite there’s no need to ponder: I despise everything about “Let It Be”, naked / dressed, period end of sentence, fuck that noise. Will take any of their pop music era collections set to a slideshow of ex-girlfriends over that bummer slog and regard the film as unwatchable. Especially the "rooftop concert", which I've always found embarrassing both in terms of concept and execution. The cops were right to shut them down. And at least make sure your guitars are in tune first guys, unless giving me a spilled bongwater seed-popping headache just by hearing it was the purpose. Hell, I even hate "I Me Mine"  ;[

Updated: I like "Blue Jay Way" more, content switched.

Which took work, as of the Four I was always a “George Man” while growing up, idolizing Harrison’s aura of quiet mystery & dark spiritual introspection. George's comparatively offbeat songs were always the high points of listening to Beatles albums in the same way Roger Taylor's songs were my favorites on the Queen albums. They were different and so was I. But have come to see the genius of Ringo Starr as a growed up human being, and would single Ringo out as the only one of the four who maintained his sense of fun right up to the end. Which probably came during “The White Album” ... Once Ringo got sick of it they were doomed no matter who’s agenda better fit the need to announce a break-up. He only came back to finish up what they’d collectively started out of love for playing music with them. Whenever Ringo gets to sing it’s also an event, though none of his cuts made my favorite twenty because they’re not. And that’s showbiz.


I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts

So, My Favorite Twenty Beatles Songs in Descending Order of Preference:











5) Rain



















(Yeah I know it's a cover. They did a lot of them early on and this is the only one I ever gave a damn about.)













Cover version by art-punk supergroup 801, with Brian Eno on vox + devices.

21) Cheese & Onions (The Rutles)

What use is great art if you can't take the stuffing out of it when in the mood. 

And speaking of messing with people's heads ...




Saturday, November 3, 2018

Glastonbury 1992: The Orb, Jah Wobble, Flowered Up, Dr. Phibes, Lush, and Carter USM

Saturdays are for cartoons & rock music, I wanted to hear more Jah Wobble on bass and remembered I had this -- A somewhat hard to find two CD set called "In a Field of Their Own: Highlights from Glastonbury 1992" recorded at the big annual Glastonbury Festival over in Britain. I believe all the acts played on the stage sponsored by New Musical Express, and the CD was pressed by NME with proceeds benefitting Greenpeace. I found it when in a fit over Flowered Up's very limited catalog and the complete live take of "Weekender" they deliver was worth the price of the set, purchased as an import at a specialty shop in 1993. My intel has it Out of Print, nobody seems to have the tracks available so I put a few favored examples on my YT for fellow devotees to enjoy.

For those unfamiliar with these very British bands, some footnotes: The original version of The Orb's track runs half an hour, unsure if this is a band-arrived at abridged version or an edit of what took place live, my ears say it's abridged by the band. Bass player Jah Wobble has one of the best names ever & was a founding member of Public Image Ltd. with my hero Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols, who got some attention on a prior blog post you can by clicking here. The likewise marvelously named Dr. Phibes and The House of Wax Equation was a trio led by guitarist/vocalist Lawrence Howard King Jr., who is serving a life term for the shockingly brutal murder of his mother in 1997. I still like the song.

And Flowered Up lead singer Liam Maher was a lifelong drug user who heartbreakingly OD'd in 2009 at age 41 after slipping following detox, shooting up at his tolerance level after getting clean. He and FU keyboardist Tim Dorney were in the midst of a Flowered Up reunion project called "Greedy Soul" which to my knowledge has never been officially released. I made a little lava lamp for one of the leaked tracks and will add it at the very end. I'd been a fan of Flowered Up since 1991, adoring their "Life of Brian" album as traditional windowpane music for such activities. And at the time of Maher's death was involved with all sorts of really pathetic substance abuse, little of which I am proud of. The shock and disillusionment which came with learning of how Maher had died helped convince me to stop dancing with Mr. Brownstone in whatever form he takes. Junk kills. If it doesn't grow out of the ground or get brewed in a vat, I don't touch it anymore. At all

If you are strung out on something please find a reason to quit. There are programs which can help, seek them out so you can live to be old & gray like me.


The Orb
"A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld"


Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart
"Do You Live What You Sing?"



Dr. Phibes and The House of Wax Equation
"Hazy Lazy Hologram"



Carter USM
"Sheriff Fatman"



Lush
"Starlust"



Flowered Up
"Weekender"

RIP Liam Maher 1968 - 2009



Flowered Up / Greedy Soul
"Open Me Up"

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Web of the Spider (1971) "It's Always Halloween at The Castle of Blood" Klaus Kinski Edgar Allan Poe


Web of the Spider (1971)
By Steve Nyland aka Squonkamatic

My favorite of all the Gothic European made horror films is Antonio Margheriti's "Web of the Spider" from 1971. A misfired remake of his classic 1964 masterwork "Castle of Blood", the film purports to be an Edgar Allan Poe related tale about an American journalist (Anthony Franciosa) who takes a sucker bet that he cannot stay an entire night in a secluded Victorian era mansion long rumored to be haunted. The insane Klaus Kinski plays Poe in wraparound segments and the proceedings are best described as a "Supernatural Soap Opera" detailing the fated love quadrangle which leads to murder, insanity, and a curse from beyond the grave to re-live the events once a year on All Saint's Eve.


English language distributors weren't sure what to make of the picture, which didn't have the overt exploitation which Italian genre cinema usually promised. Margheriti had envisioned the film as a 70mm roadshow type experience in widescreen Techniscope but the reduced budget forced him to fudge on some of the supernatural fireworks. The final result bears more in common with a British Hammer Films costumer than a bloodthirsty Italian shocker with nudity & gore. The film performed well enough in Europe (Italian, French, German and Spanish language dubs were created, all slightly different) but was unforgivably hacked apart by its English language sub-producers, shorn of about 12 minutes of footage and re-formatted for the grindhouse type cinemas who would screen such content in double bill presentations.


And it bombed, was quickly pulled from circulation and re-formatted yet again for TV viewing with whiplash inducing pan/scan reduction of the widescreen photography and absolutely all "adult" content removed. Relegated to Creature Feature type syndication for local channels to screen during off programming hours, which is how I first encountered it as a lad. Certain elements stuck with me: The little Derringer type pistol Franciosa is armed with, the dude with the white hair + beard (Peter Carsten) who goes down into the basement after hearing something weird, and the awesome babe (Michelle Mercier) in her buxomy push-up bra who dissolves into nothing at the end. All of which came back to me in the early 2000s when stumbling upon the film as a bargain bin box set pressing during the early era of the DVD craze. 

The Obsession. I cannot explain it, there's just something about this movie which compels me to want to know more.

To say that I became obsessed with "Web of the Spider" is putting it mildly. I *had* to find the purest most complete version and amass any data I could about the movie, to better understand what it is about the film which so fascinates me. Because in many regards it is an awful movie, certainly not the maverick artistic accomplishment that the story served as for "Castle of Blood" (or "Castle of Terror", as the British prints were named). That film is a marvelous study of darkness and atmospherics where light itself becomes a storytelling motif. "Web of the Spider" comes off as a clunky overblown soap opera by comparison, with whatever naughty intrigue would have rewarded the viewer for sticking with it has been removed.


My quest eventually led me to a large collection of different release versions of the film, none absolutely "complete" with all elements present, some with a bit more and most with a bit less. The film did receive a Blu-Ray HD treatment in 2017 but is the same cut English print which circulated for years albeit in an impressive widescreen HD transfer. Which I am nonplussed by, not even having a TV plugged in currently and screening most of my entertainment content on my fone while working on my art. I don't live in a movie theater , but did upload my favorite English language release of the film to my YouTube channel where you can see it too. And if so inclined pick up the Blu-Ray pressing linked below, which has the extended Euro print content as SD bonus content.

Will write about the film more in a future post, just wanted to get this shared up as a Happy Halloween trick or treat item for your goodie bag.



Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right - John Lydon, Public Image Ltd. and The End of the World



What the world needs today more than anything else is a stern talking-to from John Lydon. STOP what you are doing, if it is cruel or thoughtless or designed to screw people. If unsure look inside yourself and dare to be honest. Go home. Take care of your family and plan for your future, because it is coming. We did an art show on "The End of the World" last summer and one of the ideas I pursued with my own work is that it isn't going to happen. We live in a consumer oriented global culture driven by consumer priorities rather than ideological agenda. Things can't grind to a halt in the traditional notion of the world just "ending"

Whether or not we'd prefer it or not, we're going to have to come up with rent money for next month, or that mortgage payment if you are so lucky. We're going to have to keep that dentist appointment so you can chew food to continue living to make sure the check cleared. You're going to need to get those car repairs done so it can pass inspection so you can go to work and pay for it all, and again if you are so lucky. It'd be swell if a giant asteroid would target the earth and do away with such concerns, but chances are poor in such an event actually happening before the 1st of the month. Even the global powers' ability to annihilate all life in an unforgivable act of stupidity has come & gone. Though that doesn't mean they still won't give it the old college try.


We are stuck with each other, see. Unless you are fixing to go and top yourself off you're going to have to learn how to live together, somehow. Those legitimately "trapped" in dead-end lives defined by poverty or dross have my compassion. Everyone else should just STFU, go home, take care of your kids or your cat or whatever it is you take care of. Find a reason to live and let live. I have my art to fix up with, anytime I like too, and feel sorry for those who don't know the magic of such things.

All I need to be content is a table with a chair, a lamp to see what I'm doing, maybe a wall socket to plug the phone or laptop in for a charge so I can hear some music or whatever. A window would be nice. My box of watercolor crayons, some gel medium and half a thimble full of water, couple brushes and I am someplace good. No need for drugs or booze, pious religion, sports programming or other forms of personal escape. Some sex would  be great and I will need coffee, but whatever. Take your politics, insane idiots + the global chaos they spew & shove it where the sun don't shine. I'll be at the house working on my stuff.

Good to go.

For some reason that made me think of John, and how he just wants to get on with it. I've looked up to Mr. Lydon since I was fourteen and got the Sex Pistols album. Everyone should have it, and actually listen to what they had to say. People who regard John as some force of mindless destruction or sneering menace twisting young people's minds don't have a clue. If anything through the Pistols and later PIL John teaches the importance of personal responsibility, honesty, and leaving other people the hell alone to do their thing, whatever it is. Punk may have been a fad but Johnny Rotten was very real and I still dye my hair blue violet green in homage to his unflinching loyalty to humanity & determination to lead by example. Gives us a leg-up on the world, to face it's stupidity and indifference. Even if we wear a hat when out shopping or what have you, to blend in with the crowd. Like Mr. Spock, who always wore a hat when they would beam down to mix with humans.

Or better yet bring the crowd onto the stage of life with us, as equals. No hat needed then. That's what John's telling us. Gender, ethnicity, politics, fashion sense, doesn't matter: We're all equals. Or we should be, and anyone who doesn't feel that way is a tosser.

PIL on American Bandstand, 1980. It's beautiful how they brought everyone onstage with them.


I want my art shows to go like that, demolishing the boundary between viewer and artist, have come close a couple of times. BC, Fun In Space, Star Wars & Machines, sheer chaos & so much fun. I want more of that. Always more.

In spite of appearances I think this went very well for both parties; 11 minutes and worth it. What Johnny has to say is interesting and Snyder holds his own. They respected each other after even if it wasn't all hugs & kisses.

If you do watch the interview John has an interesting perspective on performing as a "band". I feel the same way about art shows. They are embarrassing. I do them because we must, it is what the art deserves & expects. The art serves no purpose without an audience and I yearn for new or different ways to find them other than standing around in the nicer shirt with the glass of wine, attempting to feign small talk to strangers while perspiring. Usually making do on four hours of sleep, counting out time until you can just go home. It becomes a recurring nightmare. "Art as Endurance Ordeal."

Longest bleep-out ever. 
<3


That Grin.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Illegal Alien (1980) Far-Out ALIEN Parody, from "Fright Show" by Starlog Video

Back to this notion of ALIEN (1979) being one of the pinnacle artistic achievements of mankind, and I am not just referring to drooling space maggots biting people's heads off. It is the totality of the production design, and how if the world created for its horror show to be confined in was not 100% convincing the whole contrivance would have fallen apart like a house of cards in a stiff wind. My particular fascination being with the Planetoid sequence where three of the Nostromo crew don John Mollo designed space suits and go out in search of trouble.

Some of the Planetoid activity which was removed from the final prints. And I want ALL of it.

Effective art is often defined by its ability to suggest or lead to other art including of a parodic or deconstructive nature. And the most thorough parodic deconstruction of ALIEN I have yet to encounter are the surviving 17 minutes of a short film called "Illegal Alien" seen on an anthology video called "Fright Show" released in 1985 by the editors of Starlot Magazine. Who essentially put out a call for short-subject horror spoof entries for distribution, and the best was "Illegal Alien". 

From what I understand via user comments on my YouTube upload of the segment, the film was created near about 1980 and ran an hour in length. I got my grubby mitts on it via a Japanese made VHS obtained back when I was collecting any horror oriented VHS I could find from Japan in particular. Did my own transfer of the tape to digital and excised "Illegal Alien" for my YouTube channel. The resolution was kept purposefully low to ward off unwelcome commercialized re-use but gets the job done, and fans of ALIEN will be impressed.

"Illegal Alien", 17 minutes.


I would love to see the complete "Illegal Alien" film, if anyone can point us in the direction please comment below. And what the hey, here's the entire hour long "Fright Show" tape, though be advised its "hosts" are about as enjoyable as standing in line at the DMV in front of the lady who keeps pointing out how long we've been waiting to her long-suffering spouse.

The complete 59 minute "Fright Show" video.




Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sundays Are For Doctor Who: "There's Tom Baker, and Then There's Everybody Else"


Sundays are for Doctor Who
Steve Nyland aka Squonkamatic, October 2018

In our neck of the woods beginning in about 1982 or so “Doctor Who” was broadcast on Sunday afternoons when an entire 4 (or six) episode serial installment would be shown in a two hour broadcast block. And it became what we did on Sundays: Set one’s self up with appropriate weedy snacks (cough) and bask in two hours of Doctor Who steampunk. Check back after if you want anything constructive out of us.

And on my ship that means Tom Baker Doctor Who, Mister. As he was the star at the time the series first appeared on our local PBS stations at 6pm weekdays, sometime around 1976. He was at it right up to the age when watching Doctor Who ceased being a cool activity, though I did stick with most of the Peter Davison era and recall certain of his episodes with fondness. But my pre-occupation is with the Fourth Doctor and specifically the era produced by Phillip Hinchcliffe with its emphasis on blending horror imagery with its cloistered low budget VTR science fiction. I availed myself of getting the old bingewatch machine going while recovering from pneumonia and figure it is as good of a traffic-driving topic to tackle as any.


Yep, I read the books too, when we could find them, and still keep my collection safe. I'm a geek for this stuff.

I am a hopeless fifty-one year old "Fourth Doctor" Tom Baker era Doctor Who nerd. And my apologies if the appreciation for the show does not extend into its modern forms. We first got to see the show as half-hour installments shown on weekday evenings with curious narration by Howard da Silva. Imagine my confusion when seeing "1776" a few years later when recognizing his voice. The show managed to skirt a "PBS, Sports or Nothing" TV viewing rule in our house up until I was 13 or 14 and learned to smuggle an old B&W television out of the attic for clandestine viewing. Though the most potent memories were of watching on Sunday afternoons, and watched it every week through our high school years. My interest waned as part-time jobs + school activities began to dominate Sunday planning but managed to get enough recorded as both audio and later video tape to make sure I got my Doctor Who fix every Sunday.


.... I could post pictures of Leela to the internet all day, really.

By then Tom Baker had been replaced by a procession of actors who gave it the old college try but could never capture my imagination, though Peter Davison came close. He reminded me of one of our more benign math teachers who had a somewhat eccentric flair about him, doing mock golf swings with a yardstick to lighten the mood during tests. But I could not "connect" with the others and had (sorry to admit it) an adverse reaction to Lalla Ward (shiver ...) which hottie Tegan from the Peter Davison years could not reverse. Even Tom Baker divorced her for real. But I'm a primate like any other male and the recurring theme of girls & pre to post-pubescent crushes was a very important component of why the series clicked with me. Most notably, Louise Jameson's "Leela" character smack-dab at age 13. Sarah Jane had been like a kid sister to have adventures with, but Leela had the aura of the hot chick from Cabin Four who made eye contact during make-out selection time at summer camp. Timing was diabolically perfect and I never recovered, still get light headed when she gets out the Janis Thorns, or threatens to cut someone's heart out <3 The character hasn't aged a day, and even the weakest of the stories used to support the franchise almost always rose above the typical mainstream dreck of the day. 

Yeah OK, Tegan had it going on for me too. Perfect 80s companion, looks like she'd just been to an Adam Ant show. Will have to look up some of her episodes <3

Girls In Space aside, that's why our dad not only put up with it but started watching along with us. You sort of had to be smart to get it and it introduced us as kids to assorted science concepts without being obvious about it. Between Doctor Who and Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" PBS won my respect and served as common ground within the household. I even pledged a couple of times during viewer drives, receiving plans for a Doctor Who scarf in return that was sadly (fortunately?) never made. My forestry professor dad ultimately being impressed enough to refer to the TARDIS in some of his classes when asking students to "go back in time" when regarding forests as populations of trees which evolve over decades. It also broke the "PBS, Sports or Nothing" rule in a superb shot of irony, though as we entered high school it became impossible to enforce the standards of that bygone era of domestic tyranny. (Joke, OK?) I had to miss most of the cool shows on weeknights or after 9pm, but he made sure we got to see Doctor Who every night and I staunchly believe that the imagination which went into the show helped steer me in the direction of a career as a visual artist prone to science fiction themes. Hell yes.


... I like Scorby. He never actually kills anybody, see. Just growls a lot. They should have let him live and go straight by joining UNIT. Would have made a badass NCO. (Played by actor John Challis.)

Below is a rundown of thoughts on the Tom Baker era Doctor Who’s which I currently have at my disposal, which is sadly missing some important installments due to the BBC’s being lame on lapsing the DVD releases of the installments for North American consumers. I’m a catalog collector who wants the physical unit on my shelf & am resisting the urge to subscribe to their online viewing option via Amazon Prime’s excellent video service, instead relying on Region 2 or VHS rips to view. Get in gear, Gentlemen. I want my discs, not a stream. Got it?

****
For the record my three favorite serials in order are “The Planet of Evil”, “The Horror of Fang Rock” and “The Brain of Morbius”, though the best ever will always be “The Genesis of the Daleks”.
****

ROBOT: Pedestrian and juvenile start to Baker’s run as The Doctor is still a necessary component to why his tenure worked. Shows how functionally silly Doctor Who had existed as prior to the entrance of producer Phillip Hinchcliffe. Yet even as kiddie fare the show has a respectable body count and a genuine sense of apocalyptic paranoia in the seriousness with which the potential nuclear conflagration is regarded. It’s easy to say “The Robot is the best thing about the episode” as a functional concern but, well, it is. And thank goodness they disposed of the Who Mobile. Or whatever that thing was. Good points are in the downright butch female megalomaniac, who must be a dominatrix on the side to afford that ThinkTank lifestyle. And a decent body count of hapless UNIT commandos fried off, squashed, blown up, or in one scene picked up and downright mangled by the Robot in the show's most inappropriately perfect scene. Best thing is likely the music with that marvelous plodding Giant Robot theme. The transitional nature of the story also intrigues me about what the John Pertwee & Patrick Troughton years may have to offer, two actors I'm already partial to due to their character work in British horror films. I'm certainly more amicable to that then bothering with the reboot stages, so good art may again lead to more art as I delve deeper into that which can be seen given current means.


Now that was cool.

THE ARK IN SPACE: Dynamite low budget precursor to ALIEN (1979) and a superb testament to British made science fiction. I still cherish the memory of being too terrified to go upstairs to get something once after watching it with my family. The low budget effects contribute to the oddness going on. Low budget dogginess done away with via the sheer horror of the story premise, and all of it confined to the surprisingly convincing space ark sets by Roger Murray-Leach. The low budget does nothing to hamper my admiration for this creep-fest in space, all white and sterile other than Noah's marvelous Alien cocoon scene anticipating bubble wrap makeup. But what they did with it was so horrifying and disgusting in concept that we marvel at the performance regardless. Click here for my post on another low-budget Ark Lost in Space steampunk (well, sort of) science fiction production called "The Starlost". Which spellcheck insist on renaming "Starlets" and is about the only other show I can think of which looked anything like Doctor Who, though for all the wrong reasons. And this might be the serial that it most closely resembles with its clunky yet sterile and gleaming white sets of pre-fabricated parts. Though sadly none of the apple crate padding that "The Starlost" found dozens of uses for. "The Starlost" even managed to beat "The Ark In Space" on-air by a year, though that series was doomed from the get-go while Hinchcliffe & Baker were just warming up. Harlan Ellison RIP, that guy totally owned me and I will cherish every second of it to the end of my days.


Dallas being cocooned as food for Brett's mutating Alien egg. 
Or it will be.

I'll be writing more about "The Ark In Space" in a future blog ramble examining some of the pre-cursor science fiction or horror works which helped anticipate ALIEN roughly four years after "The Ark in Space". Both were British made productions making use of similar themes, like hibernating humans and Alien biomass playing hell with human Body Horror. Another vaguely similar take on the space station overrun by toxic goo-spewing alien life forms being "The Green Slime", and all three conclude with spaceships being blowed up real good.


Great space suits, and it looks like they're packing the Sniper Rifle weapon from the old shooter game SiN.

THE SONTAARAN EXPERIMENT: Stark, grim Steampunk post-apocalyptica. Has guys wearing space suits so an instant favorite. The shot on video texture at odds with the seriousness of the proceedings. The only all-outdoors Doctor Who episode. They don’t even see the TARDIS let alone go inside, and the proceedings look cold, windy, and like a stiff flask of something to warm the innards would be appropriate. This and "The Invasion of Time" are all I know about the Sontaarans and they still scare the piss out of me. The low budget and small cast make it a more intimate affair than most Doctor Who's, which tend to sprawl over entire solar systems or time skeins. This one concerns itself only with survival against a brutal aggressive warrior race and the desperation of the surviving human rescue team is quite convincing. That they got in & got it done in two episodes in impressive, with not one paper mache boulder or barren gravel quarry to be seen anywhere.



THE GENESIS OF THE DALEKS: The Masterpiece. All the meaningful pondering of the original “Star Trek” one-upped in three hours of sheer terror. Not one light-hearted moment in the proceedings with an implied body count in the tens of thousands. Issues of morality in war, scientific responsibility and the implications of genocide passing as low-budget entertainment aimed at family audiences. Any precept that this is “a show for kids” done away with before the first episode is more than two minutes old and a group of scifi soldiers are machine-gunned down while Trench Raiding. The late Michael Wisher's Davros is the ultimate anti-villain, a well meaning if crazed scientist so devoted to his quest for perfection that he is drawn into the inevitable madness of power corrupting absolutely. And Nyder not only has a nicely bastardized take on my own last name but is the sneering, thoroughly evil and devoted boot-strapped Nazi that the likes of Davros deserves. To this day I look for reasons to narrow my eyes and say "The Mutos start moving at night", plus "The Scoops are on their way." Other phrases too. Should be required viewing at the Academy for any fan who has not seen it, especially devotees of the contemporary re-booted Doctor Who. With a 500 word essay on its attributes due before being allowed to proceed any further, or you vill be taken out and SHOT. A British sterling example of how the writing will ultimately make or break a show regardless of how big or small its budget. Best decision? Leaving it up to our imagination to concoct just how Davros ended up in such a condition, and case in point that even the handicapped can be chillingly ruthless as the rest of us. So don't f*ck with them by parking in marked handicap spots, hear?


Nyder seems to genuinely enjoy explaining what the Mutos are. Guy rules, though sadly the producers took away the Iron Cross after episode two after deciding the point had been made. (Played by actor Peter Miles.)


Professor Kellman, synching his iPhone. Complete with OtterBox kickstand & USB.

REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN: Machine-guns + leisure suits in space. I guess the concept of catastrophic decompression due to a bullet through the hull never occurred to them. I’m also not sold on the idea of the marvelous Cybermat creation having infected the entire crew without someone noticing it. The scenes filmed on Voga also look like they were shot in some cave somewhere, lack “alien-ness” and have curiously perfectly flat floors in the big conversation scenes. The Cybermen are OK but part of the problem is that I like them more than I like the Vogans, who come across as trigger happy reactionaries uninterested in determining their own destiny. Of more intrigue are reports of the production crew bringing a hex on them when filming the cave sequences and a slough of odd occurrences which could have been potentially dangerous. Propz to Sarah Jane for the camouflage trousers, and bonus points for the recycled James Bond gadget used to update the Professor's iPhone. One of the first episodes I can recall seeing as a lad ,and managing to record on audio enough to have the very distinctive music & completely inappropriate brass-driven music score be one of my favorites. Always makes my hair stand on end whenever I hear it. Amazingly, the entire serial is available as a YouTube user upload linked below -- I've had BBC block almost every effort I've made to share a favored clip longer than about twenty seconds, so I wonder what's up.


VHS rip of the entire"Revenge of the Cybermen" on YouTube.

Click here to watch in a separate window for a fullscreen viewing option.


... And Professor Kellman, still waiting for his iPhone to synch.

TERROR OF THE ZYGONS: Could have been worse. The less they show of the Loch Ness Monster the better it works. The very phallic and hissing aliens conjure up unnatural sex, and I still recall being somewhat shocked by the sequence where “Harry” takes a diver out of the hayloft to end up impaled on a pitchfork. That this was entertainment aimed at families is remarkable, especially with the amount of very convincing screaming the Doctor engages in while being fried by Zygon biomechanical circuitry. Creepiest scene is where the Doctor puts himself + Sarah into a coma to survive suffocation (I am claustrophobic by nature and that scene freaks me out). One of the episodes which always generated the "That is sooo fake" responses in regards to its monster footage, the BBC should be commended in it's resistance to have replaced it with computer generated slop. I'd rather have a goofy looking Skarasen germane to the time the episode was made than all of the RAM drive generated creature effects since "Starship Troopers", a sentiment that the "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" franchises sadly caved on. This episode rules because the Skarasen is so goofy looking; changing that would ruin the delicate balance between "ridulous" and "silly" which science fiction must always skate. I mean, look at how it still chewed up all them girders. That thing pwnz.


Pre-ALIEN biomechanics frying the Doctor's brain, though HR Giger had already begun pursuing the concept in his own work prior to 1975.


Kid sister type Sarah Jane pondering the Abyss, and it's looking right back at her.

PLANET OF EVIL: "The Mini Masterpiece", and I will go on record as citing this as my favorite Doctor Who of them all. And it’s all about that incredible, sumptuous and very “real” alien jungle set deigned by Roger Murray-Leach for all of 500 Pounds 1975 UK money. Marvelously constructed in a studio from manufactured elements encrusted with mica and waterlogged by off-camera basin pits, enhanced by a bizarre retinue of sound effects which would put most Quake 2 level designers to shame. I’m even impressed by the juxtaposed minimalism of the Morestran space ship, easily transformed into a bare haunted house in space with a life-sucking alien menace smuggled onboard against Company policy. And then there's Salamar, the insane commanding officer who lives in his own counter-reality where his behavior would be considered "normal". Or that's my theory at least, on why his character comes off as a hyper-strung actor who'd been at the meth bottle during tea break. He's functionally insane, but gets results & the rest of the crew humors him by pretending it's not happening right in front of them. Best scene on the ship is when the Doctor ominously intones about the need for absolute scientific responsibility and the dour Professor Sorenson soberly loads himself into the disposal chute with his box of rocks.

"You're insane, Salamar."

Some ALIEN (1979) precursor ideas exist here as well. Namely the Alien menace infecting a crew member who then brings the corruption back into the spacecraft. There's a tidy disposal of a dead crew member complete with a comment about last words. And of course a barely seen Alien menace prowling dimly lit if barren corridors to suck the life out of hapless space service employees just working a dollar-a-day job, like poor De Haan above. Seems like a nice bloke to have a pint with, which is another similarity to ALIEN in its casting. No hero types or sexy space babes, just employees who find themselves in harms way due to scientists trying to cheat nature with some hair brained scheme to appropriate Alien resources.


Rampaging Martian Mummies = Winning.

PYRAMIDS OF MARS: Mummies at Mick Jagger’s house. The perfect encapsulation of the vision producer Phillip Hinchcliffe & script editor Robert Holmes had for Doctor Who's potential to reach somewhat older audiences while still keeping the kids riveted. Good steampunk scifi with an admirable scene where Sarah Jane demonstrates her ability to handle firearms. And one of the few times when as a kid I was convinced that the Doctor was going to DIE and the show would be over. No more Doctor Who because he was fried by a space alien dressed up like the Sphinx. Bonus points for the Ancient Aliens angle on the Egyptians worshipping sky gods, But the best character in the proceedings is the old poacher guy, who if you ask me should have been allowed to survive, waking up drunk to the sight of the TARDIS disappearing and the priory burning down. The best scene is the Doctor's lesson to Sarah Jane about temporal relativity when showing her what 1980 would look like if the alien menace wins the day. The title has apparently lapsed for North America and I am annoyed to have had to stream the chapters via DailyMotion than obtain my own authorized DVD just to see it again. I even tried to look up BritBox on Amazon's phone app and came up empty for anything to subscribe to. Maybe one needs to access using desktop but life is short and I got a blog to write.


For $40 I'll plug the VCR back in. Ridiculous.

THE ANDROID INVASION: Fembot episode. Our first introduction to the very British concoction known as Ginger Beer, which is a gag-reflex inducing swill which tastes like raw nutmeg ground up into battery acid. So yeah, having anyone react to its taste by saying “Delicious” would be a good indication that they have been switched with an alien robot who has taken on the appearance of a good friend. Yet for some reason I have always taken a dim view of this installment. Not that there's anything wrong with it. The plot even concerns itself with the fate of a lost astronaut, a favored topic for sure. And I do like the bit with them being fired off in re-entry capsules ala "Starship Troopers" & Quake 2 lore ... I guess I'm just not sure what it all has to do with Doctor Who as a specific blend of entertainment, which is probably why the UNIT angle was important to work in. Roots the storyline in the tradition with the earthbound scifi invasion plots which were more prevalent during the John Pertwee "Third Doctor" years. Even though it's really not. Maybe just too much going on? I'll watch it again sometime and update if appropriate.


No, not that one ...

Morbius, on the rampage where he belongs. 
<3

THE BRAIN OF MORBIUS: "The Shorter Masterpiece", and the best non-Dalek Dr. Who ever? My 3rd favorite, beaten out by the other two for lack of Leela & no studio bound jungle set which reminded me of the forest surrounding Arbutus Lodge. Not enough on that "Sargasso Sea of wrecked spaceships", but whatever: Frankenstein eaten for breakfast and coughed back up for lunch with a steampunk cyber-death edge. Reheated and served in a bucket of neon green amniotic goo with the best rampaging monster from the whole series. Two characters sport oversized claws instead of functioning hands. There's gross, disturbing and hilarious dark humor from start to finish, all played with the sobriety of a Peter Cushing Hammer Horror film. Has the best “Shuffling Igor Type” this side of Igor in “Condo”, who gives his life to save his crush-gal Sarah. The scene where he gets plugged in the gut after spilling the brain bucket onto the floor is the show’s most inventively gruesome sequence: We stood up and applauded upon first seeing it as 10 year olds, fist pumping at having finally gotten to see something really fucking cool. Best scene? Where they drain Morbius' tank of that glowing green Mountain Dew slop. Have never been able to drink the crap since. The great thing about Doctor Who was how it effortlessly circumvented our father’s “PBS, sports, or nothing” rule on television viewing by being broadcast to Americans via PBS. GOTCHA, and I am proud to repeat that he very quickly ate his crow and joined in with us, still enjoying Doctor Who for being as smart as it was now forty years later. He made the right decision by not denying us the show. To this day the one episode I always tell people they simply have to see, just because it’s all so marvelously out of control. 

Mmmmhh.

THE SEEDS OF DOOM: Finest appropriation of pre-existing forms ever, a slick and very watchable siphoning of ideas from "The Thing" and the also very British "Day of the Triffids" as the Giant Hogweed returns to call up an onslaught, threatening the Human race. The best straight-up villain in the insane millionaire Harrison Chase and the best hired goon ever with my man “Scorby”; He steals the show, with admirable trigger finger discipline and a curious habit of holding his gun at a sort of angle, unless he really means it. He should have been allowed to survive & redeem himself by joining UNIT. The Krynoid is fantastic, the Antarctic base scenes some of the best production design from the series run, and who doesn’t love a show with an eccentric artist who manned an Ack-Ack gun in its midst. Has a splendid sense of British-ness to the proceedings, with an emphasis on competitive gardening, hatted chauffeurs, concerns about pensions, respect for the arts, aggressive gooseberries, and use of the phrase "car boot" instead of "trunk". And yes, the composting machine is something I would like to have installed at the art gallery I manage. We’d keep it busy, starting with the journalist who came to our summer quarterly exhibit and then didn’t do a write-up. What was the point of that?? Off to the mulch-pile, along with any artwork from prior shows which artists have failed to remove from our meager storage facilities. 


"I'll go with the Krynoid for $200, Alex."

THE MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA: Less would have been more. Good points do exist: A character named “Hieronymus”, a villain who rolls his R’s, the scene where the Doctor startles horses by pulling a grind box toy on them, and an vaguely implied gay relationship between the effete Duke Giuliano and his male companion Marco. Though I’m confident that’s not what they were going after, and most of the observation is rooted on how this 14th century aristocrat doesn’t even have one concubine or kept mistress as part of the story. I mean, whatever, you know. To each his own, but it just always struck me as curious that the Duke didn’t have a Duchess, just Marco and the two seemed very happy together. I also like how the “brethren” do battle with staffs, like Friar Tuck, and also share a fondness for a good salami sandwich now & then. Certainly not the worst Tom Baker Doctor Who, and I’d even go so far as to opine that lousy Doctor Who beats the best of whatever else may have been on TV at the time, in Britain or here. So we watched and were glad to tune in tomorrow to see what would happen next even during this lesser serial.


Hieronymus Bosch in his little Beaker Scene.

THE HAND OF FEAR: Goodbye, kid sister Sarah Jane, and hello puberty baiting Space Babe -- Awesomely sexy female alien steals the show in her glitter encrusted body suit which crinkles & creaks as she moves, wish they'd kept her on somehow. Gave us an early look at a Scanning Electron Microscope which does not use glass slides for its “slides”, we learned, and were easier to appropriate when investigating Ancient Aliens. We also learned some basic paleontology, had a brief refreshers of both human pathology and how nuclear power plants work, and learned that Gallifrey is somewhere in Ireland. Which makes sense as that’s where John Boorman ended up, and if anyone was a Time Lord it’s Boorman. I even like “The Exorcist II: The Heretic” and can quote “Zardoz” if put to the task. Things go downhill once Eldraad reverts to his masculine self and proceeds to overact poor Elizabeth Sladen right out of the series. She was always a good screamer, a good sport, and wore the right corduroys just enough times to have prepared my 10 year old palette for Leela. But yeah, it was time for her to go just to allow the series to evolve via a new companion for a new era of viewers. In this case slightly older viewers fascinated by subjects like good looking gals parading about in leather costumes. They got it right, and the way that Sarah was allowed to exit the series actually very sweet, not to mention easier to swallow than Leela’s eventual departure.


"... You know, for a warlike crystalline superhuman life form you have pretty eyes, Space Lady."


VHS rip of Chapter One from the serial. The uploader's YT channel has the other three.

Click here to open Chapter One of "The Hand of Fear" in a separate window for a fullscreen viewing option & to access the other four chapters on the uploader's channel.


We knew it was just a mask even when we were nine, see. So letting it scare the shorts off us was fun.

THE DEADLY ASSASSIN: Fan Clubs Be Damned. One of the most unique stories from the series regardless of who was playing Who. Broke with format by not having a companion for the Doctor to explain things to and a monster played solely for scares. The “Matrix” humans hunting humans interlude is masterful surrealist television and the Master’s suicidal tendencies admirably ill-suited for family entertainment. The “Making Of” featurette on the Region 2 DVD I was able to obtain has a curious bit about the head of the Doctor Who Fan Club remarking that it’s the worst story ever with glaring inconsistencies that ruin the rest of the series, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what he is talking about. When we were kids this was always regarded as *the* episode to see after “Genesis of the Daleks” at least, representing Tom Baker’s best performance as the Doctor and one of it’s creepiest grossest villains in the cadaverous Master. So like, get a life, Bro. This rocks even if I still haven’t figured out what a “Sheboogan” is, and why they would go around shooting up the Panopticon. 


What exactly is a "Sheboogan" (sp)?


WW1 imagery always works for disturbing surrealist dream sequences.

THE FACE OF EVIL: Our first encounter with Leela’s leather costume. Von Daniken- baiting Ancient Astronaut Theory crossed with another insane computer undertaking a private little eugenics experiment. As long as it results in hotness like Leela I actually do not mind. Good steampunk scifi as armored space gloves are used for hats, computer control rooms are decorated with candles, and the first of several scenes of the scantily clad Leela under restraints. Tie that girl up and get me a feather to tickle her with. Doctor Who demonstrates that he knows how to use a crossbow, carries mechanical alarm clocks with him, and the suggestion that the backstory to the plot is based on a misadventure in the TARDIS during the “Robot” episode is a glorious example of how useful time travel can be for plot devices. I’m surprised we don’t see more of it. A childhood favorite and still admired if only for another marvelously convincing studio-bound space jungle. 

What *is* that gun supposed to be, anyway?

"Which box is larger?" The Doctor, finally explaining how the TARDIS can be bigger on the inside than how it looks from outside. And you know, it makes sense.

Click here to watch in a separate window.

THE ROBOTS OF DEATH: “Less is More” and it kicks. My favorite Doctor Who adventure for many years, the first few related to my curious childhood practice of audio recording the broadcasts to cassette tape. This serial was one that I managed to get almost all of and I’d listen to it + the other recordings like one would listen to a record album. Got to know every line, cadence, sound effect and music cue before having a home viewing option and by golly, it still sounds the same. The only modern science fiction show I can think of which pursued an art deco theme with its production design complete with a massive sand miner which looks like the oversized hood ornament on the old Niagra Mohawk Building in Syracuse. I also like the idea of using bike reflectors as “Robot Deactivation Discs”, how D-84 is a “Dumb” class robot because he cannot speak, and have had impure thoughts about Leela and Toos spending time in bed together since the concept was first suggested to me by the episode in 1977. That’s a lotta steam.


"No instrument pack report yet, Sir."


THE TALONS OF WENG-CHIANG: "The Other Masterpiece." More plot and low-budget period horror pizazz packed into six episodes than all of the Hammer Horror output (up to “Vampire Circus”) combined. Best scene is where the Doctor first visits the Palace Theater and boasts of being capable of playing"Trumpet Voluntary” in a bowl of live goldfish. Second best is Leela's cold collation supper with Professor Lightfoot. ("Ah ah! Napkin.") I even give the fake giant rats a pass but lament the sight of Leela bedecked in full-body period underwear rather than something more scrofulous. About the only complaint I have about the serial is that we didn’t get enough of Mr. Sin, easily the most fascinating attribute of the story. What exactly is a Homunculus? How would it work? All we are told is that it has the cerebral cortex of a pig and duly makes piggy grunting noises when aroused to commit murder. I wish we’d gotten to learn more. Best take-away has to be Henry Gordon Jago’s phrase of “Decorate the Mahogany” as a term for recreational consumption of adult beverages in a pub or bar type setting. Quote it whenever I get the chance.


Careful With that Axe, Li H'sien.

But let's take a second to address one issue, and that is the depiction of Asian characters in the production. It is a shame that an Asian actor was not employed to play Li H'sien Chang and I believe very sternly that the producer's toes should be held over a fire about it. Like, come on. Because by doing so they made a trendy but undeniable issue of the (let's admit it) demeaning portrayal of all other Chinese characters in the film to either be stereotypical "Coolies" hustling about with their push-carts. Or bloodthirsty opium smoking Tong members out to eviscerate any Londoners who run afoul of them. My counter to such trendied arguments is that they were depicting a fictional representation of Victorian era Britain including the cultural insensitivity of the day had the film been what it was modeled after: One of those old Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce. It was pretending to be a period piece with the jazzed up steampunk scifi as a contemporary twist and thus the negative portrayal is serving a valid artistic function within the adventure's fictional narrative universe. Though it is also OK for viewers then or now to be annoyed by the depiction and to remind their fellows that we can do better.


"... It's a good knife ... Aren't you going to eat?"

HORROR OF FANG ROCK: A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers, and my 2nd favorite Doctor Who of them all after "Planet of Evil". Grim, tight, lean, and inventively staged creature feature horror movie episode, directed a woman (Paddy Russell). Leela bedecked in a snug sweater & jeans is a great idea no matter how you slice it, and her threats to cut the throats of any of the supporting cast who give the Doctor a hard time remarkably credible. Purely a horror story with a slimy creature who kills people in an engagingly horrifying manner. The set-bound location of the lighthouse is fabulously convincing and yes, even with the Color Separation Overlay footage up in the lamp room. You had to fit some of that in somewhere or it wouldn't be Doctor Who. Stuff like that is what differentiates Doctor Who from more mainstream efforts. We’re in it for the story and this was another one which made me scared as a 12 year old to go upstairs to switch the lights on and get something from our room. One of those Routan things might be lurking on the stairway. I like the "smallness" of the setting, just an island + creepy old lighthouse, and adore the infamous "Max Headroom" broadcast intrusion legend which accompanies its history. No space ships or cavernous sewers, globe-trotting pursuits or lofty idealized sets like the Panopticon. The peril very real as there's nowhere to hide, except 150 feet up in the air on the railing of a lighthouse. 

I just have this thing about foghorns + lighthouses. Call me weird, I can live with it.


The Max Headroom incident, and you cannot make stuff like this up.

THE INVISIBLE ENEMY: Kid favorite and a triumph of style over substance as there is so little. But I've loved this one since the first minute we saw that Titan shuttle. Certain friends who were bold enough and I would say "CONTACT HAS BEEN MADE ..." when encountering each other the week this one aired. Even if the monster is silly this one is very dear to my heart right down to the phonetic English language signage (“Egsit” "Ocksyjen"). The model work is passable, the space suits are fantastic, and who doesn’t like the scenes where the Doctor and Leela are cloned, shrunk to microscopic size and injected into the base of his skull. Leela has also never looked cuter than right at the beginning when wearing one of the Doctor’s hats. I like hats, and am prone to idolizing Leela in any form I can get to. Also features the same actor playing another benign scientist caught up in the mess as in "Planet of Evil", and I like how bloodthirsty K9 gets as he fries down the infected doctors at the space clinic. Who also come to the conclusion that Gallifrey is in Ireland.


IMAGE OF THE FENDAHL: Never “got” this one and rank it as one of the few Tom Baker era Doctor Who's which I genuinely dislike. About all I get from it is a misplaced Gothic horror creepfest with Freudian penis monsters and Leela looking all hot with her hair up. I will also relate the experience of watching the serial one evening as a 15 or 16 year old while consuming tequila by mixing it with (don’t yarff, it's gross) plain cold tea. I puked and puked and puked, until I couldn’t puke anymore. Hated the episode for years as a result of the association with severe nausea and I find little about it which is actually enjoyable beyond tres atmospheric nighttime photography with lots of swirling fog. Even the grim nihilistic nature of the story turns me off, with nary a single space suit, space ship, or overtly science fictiony detail aside from a glowing skull, which is cool. Many point to this adventure as the "high point" of the particular season of Doctor Who it was produced for and I have no clue exactly what they are talking about, except that they might do better watching supernatural horror movies. Particularly modernist Italian horror movies which also have extended sequences of characters flailing around in murky gloomy fog while staring into the camera looking horrified. Main point of contention may simply be that the adventure's villain is poorly defined aside from its suicidal wayward scientist with his .38 snub nose. Not exactly what I look for in my Doctor Who, so I usually look elsewhere.


"You must have salt and lime with your tequila, Doctor."

Suppertime with Mandrel, Gaudry & Veet.
Mmmmhh.

THE SUN MAKERS: Excellence in Form. The only overtly “funny” Doctor Who I genuinely admire (aside from "City of Death") with truly memorable character roles which influenced my own acting work when doing stage performance in high school & just beyond. The location filming is absolutely convincing and you really do get the feeling that the cellar dwellers really do live down in a grimy unkempt basement. On record as Louise Jameson's favorite episode and probably the one where she has the most to do. I like the wheelchair bound Controller and his noise effect generating model 9-0-9 computer, which has a file on the Doctor which would be interesting to read. I like the Doctor's forged debit card, the Gatherer's underling Marn, how the Correction Center whistles, and the little Department of Motor Vehicles window twelve feet off the floor. Best scene is when they hurl the Gatherer off the roof, which minus some stunned guards in "The Invisible Enemy" might be one of the last authorized death scenes in Doctor Who. (Correction: The simpering Professor in "City of Death" also dies horribly.) Best line is when Leela shouts "WE COULD MAKE A HOLE IN IT!" after the Collector reverts to his fishbowled poisonous fungi form. A decent give/take of the two priorities of dystopian scifi + family entertainment, with some of the best Leela moments from her time with the show.


The Controller, hacking your Fakebook page.  
:D

UNDERWORLD: Yeah OK, I remember this one now, and cheers to DailyMotion for helping make it happen as I'd forgotten how fond I am of it. Doctor Who as a Peplum thriller, complete with a Tree of Life, Invisible Dragons, shield battles, and an underground slave rebellion. I was just never able to score it as a pre-record when collecting the series on VHS and created a mental block to contend with the frustration. The Doctor & Leela find themselves in a clever postmodernist homage to Jason and the Argonauts + Hercules films complete with a golden fleeced Space Babe in a form-fitting space suit which is just splendid. I also think I remember why I had sort of blocked it from memory in that the serial is a very heavy on K9, an addition to the show which I never really cared for. Though after a refresher screener he's kind of a thankless deus ex machina type solution kept on hand to save the day. The serial is also blandly set in studio bound sets depicting either a decaying ancient space ship or the caverns of an accreted planetary mass surrounding its sister ship, awkwardly depicted by Color Separation Overlay like 1970s weather reporters standing in front of an electronic map. 

Which I don't mind one bit as it gives the serial a distinctively "funky" charm, and I enjoy some of the similarities to "The Face of Evil" with a divided culture. Now seeing it again as an adult I'm drawn to the forlorn claustrophobic dystopia of it all and recall being fond of the name "Trog Herrick" as a youngster. "Hercules" by another name (or Heracles, for those who have done the reading), as is the adventure's "Jason". Now fondly remembered as our introduction to the word Fumigation, which I stillenjoy dropping now and again to express something which should be eradicated. I also recall many a juvenile guffaw elicited by the phrase "Whatever blows can be sucked", which sadly proved more memorable than "The Quest is The Quest" to those friends who knew I watched the show and couldn't stand it. Though if they knew the line that meant they were watching too.


"Underworld"'s most memorable image: The Quest ship crashing into a newly accreted planetary mass, which has the consistency of breakfast cereal. Carl Sagan must have been impressed.

Click here for a public playlist I made at DailyMotion which has all four chapters of "Underworld". And word to the 3rd: There's Doctor Who galore on DailyMotion. 


Leela and pretty Rodan ... This had possibilities. Too bad none were explored.

THE INVASION OF TIME: Pull out all the stops. A kitchen sink episode with a little of everything thrown in and sadly the last adventure to feature Leela, to whom I owe my puberty. Pretty Rodan as a rookie Gallifreyan space traffic controller was also a welcome sight, but who was this Andred guy, and why did Leela decide to stay with him? Mehh. I got over it eventually and actually respect Andred as a badass who took names & wasn’t shy about pulling the trigger. And K9 too, whom I frankly never cared much for, also demonstrated a bloodthirsty side to his circuitry by gunning down a couple of palace guards in cold mechanical blood. The Doctor’s nuttiness was exactly what I wanted to see as a 12 year old, and as an adult I’ve come to appreciate the device of using a holographic art gallery to disguise an ancillary power station; I like that control switch hollowed into the Venus de Milo’s backside. And I don't know how else to say it, but I like the whole "roadshow cast" kitchen sink nature of the six episode story arc. They tried a bit of everything and it's fun to see how the TARDIS looks once you get beyond the control room. Namely an old hospital. Odd.

Clothes shopping with Leela.

THE PIRATE PLANET: Blithering idiocy but for Romana’s snug white canvas jeans, which are marvelous to behold as she walks back and forth across the sets. Or just stands there looking bored, good gracious she is something ... Though to be frank I have found myself sadly immune to the effects of Douglas Adams’ highly renowned sense of humor. Sorry. The Captain’s cyborg pirate get-up is interesting and the robot space parrot is a nice touch, but I never got the impression that the machinery he was connected to actually worked. The gangplank gag would have worked if someone had been forced off it prior to the Doctor's fate. And now that I think about it the episode does boast a rare "late 4th Doctor" serial in having a body count as at least one of the guards is executed pretty much for the heck of it. Most useful aspect of the whole show being the term “A spanner in the works”, which my teenage friends and I would use to describe the potential for things being screwed up by a simple & avoidable action. Also curious how the planet they visit + it's gangrenous matriarch's names both pretty much sounds like the word “Xanax”, implying use of a sedative narcotic which transforms one into a giggling bowl of Jell-o. 


Too bad they couldn't have kept Mary Tamm around longer. I'd have kept watching just to check her wardrobe out every week. And probably did.

DESTINY OF THE DALEKS: Remembered with fondness. The DVD actually is in print so as soon as I get my quarterly stipend I’ll order one up. One of the only Lalla Ward episodes I’m genuinely fond of, even if it was painfully obvious to us as 12 year olds that something not quite right had happened to Davros. Answer was simply that the original costume’s latex had gone bad & there was a different actor providing the voice (and, I presume, inside of the mask). But the sight of the Daleks smashing through the wall was met with a shout of triumph when were were first seeing it, as the silliness of the post-Hinchcliffe era had worn thin. We were secretly hoping that the return of the Daleks would promise more grim destruction, carnage & body counts, but alas it was not to be. Though I did like the counterposed alien androids with their dreadlocks + form-fitting white costumes, especially the hot space babe robot. Gotta have one of those along.


Impressive no matter how it came to be.

THE CITY OF DEATH: The last great Doctor Who? Worth it just for the trip back to Leonardo da Vinci’s studio to fuck up his Mona Lisa panels. And the special effects shots of the alien craft on the primordial Earth, blowing itself to bits & triggering the evolution of life on the planet. Julian Glover makes a marvelous evil menace even with this human face on. It is as if he had stepped out of a James Bond film, or would go on to step into one, and also looks great in a helmet ordering the destruction of Rebel technology. The Contessa is a decent compensation for Ms. Ward's presence, and her plus the poor professor's deaths are the last in the Doctor Who franchise which I can think of giving a damn about. (No offense, Adric fans.) I also like Duggan the square-jawed Art Detective and how he packs heat when out tracking down the latest disturbances in the art world. And bonus points for the Ancient Aliens themes running throughout, which while fictional are easier to swallow that Tsoukalos' bullshit. The episode is almost impossible to find, I had to make a bargain to have Captain Glom go on a torrent and download it for me, a solution which shames my sense of honor as a former re-seller of home video media. GET THIS STUFF BACK ON DISC GUYS. I like my physical units! and collect them like some people collect stamps.



The "Classic" Era Doctor Who IMDb reference page with links to Amazon.com's Prime Video Service where subscribers can pay BBC even more money to watch online.

Or, search your favorite title on DailyMotion.


One last look .... <3