Horatio

Horatio
[Photo by Jacquelyn Griffin)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"I Never Stay Where I'm Not Wanted": "Journey Into Terror/"The Death of Doctor Who"/"The Planet of Decision" (The Chase, eps 4-6]



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Barbara Wright leaving, two cardigans shorn,
The Doctor is grieving alone and forlorn,
New companions to join him in traveling on,
Can't make up for first friends, happily gone.


***

In Journey Into Terror, the Doctor and Ian are brought face to face with, it seems, Frankenstein's Monster. After it sits up and threatens them, they flee the laboratory in which it lay. As they leave it behind, the Doctor tries to cover his obvious fear, by boasting "You know, when I was coming down those stairs, I knew that thing was going to move. I knew it." Ian replies, "Oh, did you? I didn't notice you standing around to check your premonition." The Doctor gets the last word, answering "I never stay where I'm not wanted. Come along."

***

Ian and Barbara did just that, of course--they forced themselves in where the weren't wanted, and then they stayed. We've come a long way since then. And by we, I mean the two schoolteachers, the Doctor, and the audience.

The Doctor has changed the most. From the unlikeable, paranoid old man who would kill a wounded man to facilitate his escape, the Doctor has become a kind of a hero. Not a warrior, per se--that will come later. But as I pointed out a little while ago, the Doctor has all the raw material to become Merlyn. Indeed, we viewers from a later time know that he is Merlyn. That hero's journey is well under way.

Ian has become the Warrior, but one who protects, not conquers. Always a kind man, he has discovered his limits--his anger, his occasional vanity and complacency. But he has discovered his potential to lead, to dare, to love.

And Barbara? What can I say about the woman who has been an Aztec Goddess, a French Revolutionist, an underground fighter against the Daleks, and a Roman concubine in a Carry On movie? She has been the heart of the show, brave, determined, sometimes a bit imperious, but always the voice of reason and compassion. It was Barbara who stood up to the Doctor when it was desperately needed, Barbara who taught Susan to grow up, and Barbara whose friendship with the Doctor brought out the deeply buried warmth he long suppressed.

Vicki and Steven will have to wait, I'm afraid; we need to say goodbye to these first friends.

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The Doctor reverts back to the angry old man when he realizes that Barbara and Ian want to leave him. He is, briefly, the Doctor we first saw in The Cave of Skulls. He experiences their desire to go home as a personal betrayal and a rejection of him. Barbara tries to gently explain; he can't hear her. Ian also reverts; he declare, with all the ire of his first conflicts with the Doctor, "Oh, he's as stubborn as a mule." Vicki, who in the "Lazy Sunday in the TARDIS" prelude to this story in "The Executioners," declared that "I am redundant around here," and "I am a useless person," shows that neither statement is true:
VICKI: Doctor? Doctor, you've got to let them go if they want to. They want to be back in their own time.
DOCTOR: Don't you want to go with them, child?
VICKI: What for? What would I want to be back in their time for? I want to be with you. Doctor, you've got to help them.
DOCTOR: Don't you realise, child, the enormous risks?
VICKI: But it's up to them.
And so the old magician, recalled once more to his core beliefs--beliefs taught him by Barbara and shown him by Ian--does the right thing. And, when Barbara and Ian are back home, frolicking through London, he grieves. And he smiles.

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Before I watched Journey Into Terror, and heard the Doctor declare he would not stay where he wasn't wanted, I was going to title this post "Trigger's Broom," because the show is changing almost completely underneath us. The brush, the handle are gone. Only the Doctor himself is left. Is the show still Doctor Who? Is the Doctor?



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The three episodes leading to this moment have commendable elements. The obviously fake vampire teeth on Count Dracula, the bargain-basement monster Frankenstein--these work when it is understood that we are in a horror exhibit. But why does the Monster, unlike the Grey Ghost and Dracula, fight the Daleks, and not just run on its normal track, like they do? The Doctor's wrong theory that they are in an archetype of human fear is interesting, but comically exploded, first by the arrival of the Daleks, and then by the sign.

"The Death of Doctor Who}--the first of two episodes on Mechanus is taut (barring the obvious non-Hartnell stand in as the Doctor-robot). The second episode mostly works, though the Mechanoids are, um, yeah. Still, even before the astonishingly good farewell sequence, The Chase moves through a variety of situations and locations and never gets dull--an impressive feat for a six-parter.

And then it rips out your heart. Or is it hearts?

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