Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's: "Terror Of The Vervoids"

Written by Pip And Jane Baker
Directed by Chris Clough

Melanie: “Come on, Doctor, come on hurry.”
The Doctor: “How I keep up with you is a constant source of amazement.”

In terms of keeping up, is this the strangest way to introduce a companion on the show? Yes, actually it is. Usually we’re given a back story, clear set of motives for the person travelling with The Doctor. All of that are scrapped here in favour for just getting on with things.

I really shouldn’t pay attention to negative hype. All the bad stuff I heard about Mel made me reluctant to see any story involving her but it’s a good job that I went and watched her first appearance on the show first. I’m in that minority of people who happens to like her I think. Anyone else who feels similar, can you please let me know?

What’s there to like about Mel? Well, her dynamic with The Doctor. After the rather caustic Doctor/Peri relationship, this was obviously being set up for a more fun and carefree one. Mel’s even able to boss The Doctor into exercising and while I don’t envy The Doctor for having to drink carrot juice, I did find her enthusiasm for exercise amusing. Shame I don’t share the same enthusiasm though. And the screaming I can deal with.

Of course the plus point of this story was there being a murder mystery and our new TARDIS duo being dragged into proceedings. Of course The Doctor would have to receive a muffled distress signal and naturally, Mel would have to push him to take it seriously.

After the events we saw on Ravolox and Thoros Beta, we were going to get a story where The Doctor would show unwillingness to get involved in the antics of the Hyperion 3. We’ve had to go through two stories where his involvement in events has placed him in a bad light, so would he taking a back seat help him?

Not remotely. He’s barely on the Hyperion 3 and already, both him and Mel were arrested and interrogated by Commodore Travers and Rudge. Then The Doctor made the effort to ask for a passenger list and after that, everything came to a head. He was beginning to take part even when he was insisting that he wasn’t. He even knew that the Commodore was trying to get to solve the mystery as well.

As assistants go, this was a good opening story for Mel as well. Apart from insisting on The Doctor to help with the mystery (especially as people were either dying or disappearing), Mel actually took the initiative to try and help herself.

She looked around in the hydroponic base and although Edwardes unfortunate demise could’ve been hers, what the hell did The Valeyard actually think she was going to do? Maybe The Doctor should’ve gone with her at first but don’t criticise the girl for trying to help. It’d be a lot worse if she didn’t care about what was happening on the spaceship.

A lot of stuff was actually happening on the ship and at times, it was sort of hard to keep up with certain things. The first being Lasky, Bruchner and Doland all our typical scientists who would have to make a discovery that would end up endangering everyone else on board. That also led to some divided loyalties.

Bruchner was so disgusted and distressed by the piling bodies that his solution to save everyone else (and Earth) was to try and pilot the Hyperion 3 into the nearest black hole that he could find. Not surprisingly enough, he managed to fail at that one. Lasky was too busy being blinded by her arrogance to see the error of her advancements.

Doland seemed to have some similar problems as well. There was some stuff with a tape that was to prove that The Doctor and Mel were right about an attack but it’s one of the things that this story seemed to wrap up all too quickly. Was Doland really supposed to be another villain in this story? He certainly met his death at the hands of the Vervoids.

The title creatures of the story weren’t really all that convincing. Basically they looked like giant flowers and although they did rake up an impressive body count, the voices sort of threw me off them. Plus after so much skulking about, they’re also dealt with rather quickly as The Doctor used herbicide to stop them from invading Earth and wiping out the population.

As for Rudge and the Mogarians, really didn’t care all that much. The Mogarians had a point about humans abusing the materials that they supplied but they could’ve acquired them back from Hyperion 3 in a better manner. All Rudge seemingly wanted was a nice retirement package as well and that’s hardly earth shattering, is it?

Of course this entire story was to show The Doctor in a good light. He pointed out him that he only took on an involved role when the Commodore specifically requested his help and yet this alone did not sate The Valeyard’s bloodlust in all proceedings. If anything by the end, I telegraphed exactly what he was going to do next.

The deaths of the Vervoids may not have been preventable but it didn’t stop The Valeyard accusing The Doctor of genocide. Technically, he’s right of course but what exactly would The Valeyard have done in the same situation? Probably the same thing. The Doctor did appear to have no other option and the Vervoids themselves were slaughtering left, right and centre, which The Valeyard seemed to gloss over.

Another factor in this story was addressing Peri’s death. For now, The Doctor’s still of the belief that she’s death and The Valeyard did seem to enjoy flouting that as much as often. His comments about Mel though however could’ve been what audiences might have thought at the time when watching the story. She does literally appear out of nowhere and without an explanation of her presence, it’s a little jarring but not terrible.

Also in “Terror Of The Vervoids”

Again because of the DVDs, this is titled, “The Trial Of A Time Lord Parts 9-12” when watching it.

The Valeyard: “The future? It is going to be The Doctor’s defence that he improves?”
The Doctor: “Precisely.”
The Valeyard: “This I must see.”

Apart from the fact that the story itself is based in 2986, we don’t know exactly when The Doctor met Mel and how much time passed between here and the events of “Mindwarp”.

The Doctor: “Carrot juice?”
Melanie: “It’ll do you good. Honestly, carrots are full of Vitamin A.”
The Doctor: “Mel, have you seen my ears lately?”
Melanie: “It’s your waistline I’m more concerned about.”

Commodore (to The Doctor): “Consider yourselves restricted to passenger quarters.”
Melanie: “In other words, welcome aboard.”

At this point in this show, Bonnie Langford was the only regular cast member who was born after the show had debuted on the BBC. We also know that Mel’s from Pease Pottage.

The Valeyard: “To gloss over the death of Peri, The Doctor conveniently presents us with another companion.”

Lasky: “A double pulse. What are you, a comedian?”
The Doctor: “No, more a sort of clown actually. Would you care to hear my rendering of ‘On With The Motley’?”

Honor Blackman who played Lasky is one of the few actresses who’s been on four British Institutions. Apart from this guest role, she add The Avengers, James Bond and Coronation Street to her list.

The Doctor: “It wasn’t me in there.”
The Valeyard: “Ridiculous, we all saw you. You’re hardly mistakable in that outfit.”

Vervoid 1: “It is not only that we kill animal kind, they kill each other.”
Vervoid 2: “They have no respect for any form of life. We shall resume the hunt.”

The DVD for this story has a good look into the lost season for the show as well as early interviews with Bonnie Langford.

The Doctor: “She means that too. Memory like an elephant.”
Melanie: “That’s his idea of a compliment, comparing me to an elephant.”

The DVD was released in August 2008 with a commentary from Colin Baker, Michael Craig, Pip And Jane Baker and Chris Clough.

“Terror Of The Vervoids” does well with it’s murder mystery and for the most integrates Mel as best as it can but it’s a little bit of a letdown after the previous story and I kind of wish that this farcical trial would come crashing down now. Its clear The Doctor’s being framed and obviously by The Valeyard too, so let’s be done with him already.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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