Over the past few weeks I've been watching several of the Classic serials, some of which I had never seen.
I started with SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE, Pertwee's debut, a favorite of mine. This was at least my third viewing of it. I have to admit that a big reason why I'm so partial to it is that it's the only classic serial shot entirely on film (16mm). But Robert Holmes's script does a fine job of introducing the new Doctor and building a sense of dread, and Liz is a strong, amusingly snarky companion. I also really love the courage of the producers to wipe the slate clean, with all new characters, new setting, and the Doctor (with a new face!) banished to Earth by the Time Lords. And in color!
THE TIME WARRIOR is another great Robert Holmes story. It begins Pertwee's fifth and final season and introduces Sarah Jane and the Sontarans. It's also the first time Gallifrey is mentioned. A fast-paced story with interesting medieval settings (the sets are well-done, especially for the BBC) and funny supporting characters, like the absent-minded and half-blind Dr. Rubeish. Sarah Jane's journalism background was quickly dropped, but it's fun to see her taking the initiative (I love the scene where she distracts a surly cook to dump sleeping formula into a pot of stew) and even saving the Doctor. This story is underrated -- I think it's one of the best.
THE WAR GAMES, a 10-part epic that concludes the Second Doctor's run. I had seen this before and didn't remember a lot of the twists. It's actually quite good for such a long serial, with some hilarious Patrick Troughton moments. I particularly love his blustering cries of "This is outrageous!!" when a military figure refuses to give him a fair trial. There's also a funny scene where he repeats a demonstration of the sonic screwdriver on a pistol to distract his opponent. The villains (especially the War Lord and War Chief) are all great, hammy fun, and Jamie and Zoe's exit is actually moving.
THE ARK IN SPACE is, again, written by Holmes. I like this one a lot, except that Sarah Jane's screaming and whimpering in the first episode quickly becomes annoying (even the Doctor basically tells her to shut up). Easily her best scene is when she gets an attack of claustrophobia in an air vent and the Doctor insults her to get her moving. I love the monsters, but the effects are awful, even for this show, with a distracting amount of green bubble wrap meant to convey a spreading virus. Still fun.
THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT is only two episodes long and takes place immediately after THE ARK IN SPACE. As in THE TIME WARRIOR, a Sontaran crash-lands on Earth, but this time it's well into the future and the planet is nearly deserted except for the Doctor and his companions and a group of doomed astronauts. Tom Baker is great, as usual, but he's doubled all over the place because of a collarbone injury.
GENESIS OF THE DALEKS, which was even better this time around. A wonderfully intense story with great cliffhangers and an awesome villain (Davros) who has yet to be topped. I wouldn't call it perfect, though: The convenient loss of the "time ring" at key moments is a lazy contrivance, and I wish Harry (Ian Marter) had more to do. The final shot is beyond weird and probably confuses people -- it leads directly into REVENGE OF THE CYBERMEN (Season 12 is continuity-heavy and the stories should be viewed consecutively).
Edited by Malmordo - 6/8/15 at 6:47pm