Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Malpractice from The Doctor

I've been in pain for the past couple of days, and it's all The Doctor's fault - Doctor Who's fault that is. I've just had the misfortune of watching (part of) Doctor Who: Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150.

This 1966 installment in the franchise stars Peter Cushing (known for playing Grand Moff Tarkan in Star Wars, and for his roles in the Hammer horror films) as the Doctor, though not the Doctor as timelord, merely an old inventor adventuring with his neice and granddaughter. After a policeman (played by Bernard Cribbens - who would come back decades later as a different character - Donna Noble's grandfather) stumbles aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and co make a trip to London in the year 2150, only to find the city in ruins with the Daleks running the show and a small band of human rebels fighting the odds.

What makes this feature so terrible? Where to begin?! Maybe it's the silly sequence of the lobotomized Robomen having dinner. Or the fact that the Daleks would keep humans alive to use as shocktroops in the first place, when the aliens are otherwise so committed to extermination! How about the Daleks using oh-so-scary fire extinguishers to subdue their human foes? Or the rebel seige of the flying saucer where the humans are able to easily grab the Daleks and spin them around like trashcans playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, or sending them rolling down the boarding ramp to overturn when they hit the soil? But the worst was the Doctor himself, with Cushing playing the character (or being made to play him) as a doddering geezer who seems incapable of doing anything other than wringing his hands and pursing his lips. Say what you want about his figuring out how to pick his cell's magnetic lock aboard the Dalek ship, but most of the time the Doctor was an ineffective, passive, non-entity who rarely made the effort to do anything more than try to summon up the energy to whine.

Now, I started watching Doctor Who as a kid during the Tom Baker years, so I wasn't around to see Cushing's abomination when it first came out, and I'm glad of that. How did hear about this then? My buddy Steve, a fellow fan of the Doctor who was around when this installment came out, decided it was time to expand my Whovian education with an example of when the series didn't work. Spectacularly. I appreciate the sentiment, but it was a hard, hard lesson.

Was it all bad? No. I'm sure if you were doing your own version of MST3K, then DWDIE2150AD would be an excellent choice to heckle.

For the time being though, I think the only way to heal from this visual illness is to get a shot of good Doctor storytelling... maybe something from the 9th or 10th Doctors, like The Parting of the Ways, or Tooth and Claw, or The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit, or Gridlock, or The Family of Blood.
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