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     Home »  The Tom Baker Era »  PLANET OF EVIL and PYRAMIDS OF MARS part one
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    PLANET OF EVIL and PYRAMIDS OF MARS part one Views: 635
     Sunday, March 08 2009 @ 11:09 AM EDT

    I don’t know why it took me a long time to get to watching PLANET OF EVIL but I must say, despite its rip off of Jekyll and Hyde AND Forbidden Planet, it really is very watch able and entertaining. This story along with PYRAMIDS OF MARS, and truth be told this entire 13th and even the 14th season, arguably set up DOCTOR WHO for the rest of time. Although the one female companion to one overpowering, strong physical and strong mental Doctor began in Pertwee’s era (right at the beginning of it, too), UNIT is largely missing from the bulk of Tom Baker’s era. There was ROBOT, TERROR OF THE ZYGONS, ANDROID INVASION (Heaven help it and us for watching it), and SEEDS OF DOOM and that’s it. UNIT sort of dominated most of the Pertwee era or at least it seemed that way. When he was off in time and space, however, it was one female and him (despite what the awful TIMELASH might tell us: in unseen adventures he had two companions, possibly Mike or Liz; in one BBC Past Doctor novel he meets a very Tom Baker like Rasputin with BOTH Liz and Jo Grant!). But I digress, PLANET OF EVIL and PYRAMIDS OF MARS set up the pair, one strong very alien, aloof, cold, yet sometimes warm and smiling Doctor with an almost slavishly devoted female screamer up against a very God like alien being with immense unbeatable powers…that it does very little with…except kill off almost all the major guest cast. Or as in PLANET OF EVIL, a strange unexplainable force (anti matter). Frankly, it works in these early stories because Lis Sladen and Tom Baker was just amazing to watch together or separately. Their interplay and characterizations are just well done, it carries the rip off of past stories (done much better elsewhere) without making it routine. Which is why when both are off screen, I get bored quickly. I don’t really want to see another version of Jekyll and Hyde or the Mummy again. It is boring. Which is why this is one of my least favorite times, story wise. Then they go and rip off Frankenstein (Brain of Morbius). However, character wise, this is one of my favorite times. Lis and Tom together create pure magic. Tom alone is just marvelous. As he mutters a “Yes” to Prof Sorenson’s question, “Then my experiment was a failure?” he barely talks out loud and is staring away from the man and off into the other spaces of the room. I believe that only Tom and Lis can pull off these stories more than any other Doctor/companion pairing. Sarah’s devotion to the Doctor is admirable. Yet she knows when to back off when she cannot win as when Sorensen and she are alone and he is raving.

    PLANET OF EVIL, very watch able. The forest, the sets, the tension, and back then, the deaths of almost all the guest stars was shocking, even the likable ones. Of course, at the end of the story, we see the spaceship is filled with guards again…but Dehaun’s death was shocking as he was the comic relief and likable. Nowadays, this happens all the time in Doctor Who…a lot of death, the manly joker Doctor, warning all, and girl companion, feisty and slavish to the Doctor. What was that stuff about Sarah being taken over by the force? Why didn’t Sorensen kill her? The Anti Matter stuff hardly makes any sense, nor does it align with established anti matter science or even its own internal consistency (the Doctor says anti matter and matter meet and annihilate one another…and yet…they don’t). A whole scene is taken from FORBIDDEN PLANET, not the greatest source of material as, while a classic, is not my favorite movie and frankly very talky. Again, only Tom and his interplay with Lis, is saving this. “Don’t you ever get tired of being pushed around?” “Usually I only entertain friends in the TARDIS.” “Yes, I’ll take care.” Vishinsky is also a well rounded character. Thus, this story is saved. The design is also quite good, both in the ship and on the planet. I could have done without that tracker device but there you have it.

    PYRAMIDS OF MARS I’ve only just started but I love it already, despite THE MUMMY rip off. I also cannot but help compare it to THE TOMORROW PEOPLE stories, WORLDS AWAY and REVENGE OF JEDIKIAH, which also brings me to the reason I like that show more than DOCTOR WHO, at times. I like a more than twosome team of adventurers rather than just one or two adventurers. Which is also why I prefer the two man/woman team up. Again, PYRAMIDS and PLANET OF EVIL set it up for most future DW that this should be case. Writers could not think of anything to happen to more than two characters. Ahhhwell. Anyway, the beginning is most promising as the Doctor is in a moody phase and cranky and very alien, “Something’s wrong with time and time is my business.” He’s also cold and alien in the marvelous establishing scene in the TARDIS, where he mentions Victoria once traveled with him and he’s thinking of her and of his own past, obviously, but with Tom’s acting it takes on such a dimension. Unfortunately, again, I can’t really stand it when he and Sarah are off camera, although the Scarman brothers are okay characters, with Lawrence Scarman actual companion material (well certainly he’s a lot like Harry Sullivan, Steven, and the dolt male companions from the Peter Cushing movies). A side note: until Tom’s episodes were shown in the US, the only taste of DW was from the Cushing movies. I was not impressed by the first and only mildly so by the second. It took me some time to warm to this strange show, the first British series I ever saw. The effects and music were awful compared to the shows I grew up with. Anyway, this works thanks to the building tension and the two major stars and the two major guest stars. A great first episode if not original.

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