First things first, if you want to watch along, the episode I’m reviewing is available from Amazon. Additionally, a lot of these old Doctor Who episodes are available on YouTube or on services such as Netflix. I encourage you to watch along with me and leave your thoughts in the comments!
Secondly, a big spoiler warning for anything I say after this sentence. I’m not sure if it’s still common courtesy to put spoiler warnings on content that is almost 50 years old, but I’m going to air on the side of caution.
Disclaimers out of the way, lets watch some Who!
Quick recap: Doctor Who and his granddaughter Susan accidentally kidnap two of her teachers, Ian and Barbara, and take them on a trip through time. When investigating a mysterious planet, the travelers discover two alien races with a centuries old feud: the Daleks, silly looking robot men, and the Thals, a race of benevolent East Germans. Just as the group about about to leave the planet behind, they realize that they left an important part of their ship behind and need to venture back into the Dalek city. Ian, Barbara, and some Thals venture on a long trek to assault the city from behind, but unfortunately one of the Thals seems to have been devoured by a whirlpool monster.
In Clerks II (which I watch every Christmas), Randal states that the Lord of the Rings films are “three movies of people walking.”
That’s sort of how I felt watching this episode. They left their camp last episode, they don’t get to the Thal city until next episode. This whole episode is just them walking. However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some pretty great moments contained within.
One problem I have with this episode though, is it focused quite heavily on some Thal characters, some of whom we’ve never met before this point. So sure, I’ve figured out Alydon and Ganatus, but from this point on, I’m just making up names for the rest.
So the one Thal that drowned, we’ll call him Bob (get it?). This causes another Thal, who we’ll call Lennie is very upset by this. It’s worth pointing out that both Bob and Lennie volunteered for the mission. Rather emphatically, too.
Meanwhile, the Doctor, Susan, Alydon, and a lady Thal we’ll call Buttercup are scoping out the front of the Thal city, trying to analyze it for weaknesses. They are doing their analysis while hiding behind a rock, because the Thals have “television waves” that can see around the city in a circle.
The Daleks get some bad news. They had been planning on building a neutron bomb to needlessly irradiate themselves. Unfortunately, apparently neutron bombs take 23 days to build, and that is TOO LONG. They need to get their fix of useless deadly radiation sooner than that!
Then, back to walking! Now they are walking in a cave. Also present in this scene is more of the 1960s casual sexism that’s been rampant throughout the show, as Barbara fails to do simple things like walk and hold her foot still. The fact thatshe can’t keep her foot still is especially bad because she happens to be belaying Ganatus down a hole with her foot when she inexplicably moves it, dropping him 30 feet onto hard rock below. I hope we aren’t wiped out by aliens who then try and piece together our history using only TV and movies, because the aliens will just assume women couldn’t do ANYTHING 50 years ago, which I’m fairly certain isn’t really the case.
Speaking of aliens, the Daleks at this point realize that some of their instruments aren’t working, and it’s because the Thals are shining mirrors at the broadcast tower from about a mile away. I knew mirrors reflected light, but apparently they also reflect “television waves”. Apparently the plan was to knock out the video feed long enough for the Doctor, Susan, and Alydon to sneak into the city. They left Buttercup behind I guess, because once again, it’s the 1960s and women can’t do anything.
Rather than going straight for the objective though, they have to take a break for the Doctor to congratulate himself on how genius his “three small mirrors to block a 360 degree ‘television wave’ array” plan was. He looks incredibly smug about it, even for him. Though to be fair, if you look back at some of the other plans the group has come up with, this one looks much better by comparison. Fine, Doctor, you can have this one. You’re a genius!
Then: more walking! Still in the cave! Excitement galore!
Also, Lennie starts to panic and wants to leave. He seems to forget that just the day before he volunteered for this dangerous mission and now wants to leave because it turns out that the mission is dangerous. Then he tries to convince Ganatus to abandon the others. If anyone were to ask what happened to the companions, Lennie’s plan is to just say they were killed by Daleks. Because if you can’t convince someone of something rationally, introduce elaborate lies including murder plots, and they will be swayed for sure!
Unfortunately for Lennie, at that moment there is a convenient cave-in that prevents them from going back, so grudgingly he continues, but it’s pretty clear he has given up entirely.
Back at the city, the Doctor smugly destroys an electrical box, assuming it powers the entire city. Then he takes another brag break to describe how “using simple tools and a superior brain” he was able to…
He doesn’t get to finish bragging, because at that precise moment he’s captured by Daleks. I guess he’s not such a genius after all.
The Daleks reveal their plan to destroy a nuclear reactor the next day to further irradiate the planet, since apparently the planet isn’t radiationey enough. And even though none of them are showing any ill effects from apparent lack of radiation, they’d rather blow up their source of power than wait 3 weeks. I’m pretty sure nuclear reactors take more than 3 weeks to rebuild.
The episode ends with a 10 minute sequence of people walking. Only they come to a gap in the floor which they all have to jump over one at a time. So they come up with an elaborate system in which they will tie ropes to each other and jump across one at a time. Everyone makes it across with ease (but they all act like it was hard) except for Lennie, who I have to assume intentionally biffed the jump. Unfortunately for Ian, the two were tied together and now it looks like Lennie’s dangling weight may kill them both!
That’s it for Serial 2, Episode 6! Check back soon for more Who!
Miss one? Check out our previous episodes below:
Serial 2 – The Daleks; Part 5 – The Expedition
Serial 2 – The Daleks; Part 4 – The Ambush
Serial 2 – The Daleks; Part 3 – The Escape
Serial 2 – The Daleks; Part 2 – The Survivors
Serial 2 – The Daleks; Part 1 – The Dead Planet
Serial 1 – An Unearthly Child; Part 4 – The Firemaker
Serial 1 – An Unearthly Child; Part 3 – The Forest of Fear
Serial 1 – An Unearthly Child; Part 2 – The Cave of Skulls
Serial 1 – An Unearthly Child; Part 1 – An Unearthly Child
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