Sunday, July 5, 2009

classic who: the brain of morbius and the seeds of doom

We've finished another season of Classic Who, and somewhere halfway through the next one, SarahJane will move on and Leela will show up. All I know about Leela is that she marries a Time Lord-- in the Ten Doctors comic, she's got something like fourteen kids and is very old, but still a warrior.

Anyway, we started with The Brain of Morbius! Which was not so crazy as it seemed. Actually, it was kind of like watching Dark Shadows-- alot of standing around in Gothic settings, talking about one thing and meaning another. So the Tardis lands on a stromy planet that has a ship graveyard and a bunch of headless bodies on it, and though the Doctor is feeling cranky and thinks it's the Time Lords using him as their errand boy again, and is determined to not do anything at all, just to spite them, Sarah Jane immediately finds a body and they're in trouble. The rest is alot of back-and-forth between Solon, a semi-criminal follower of the worst mad Time Lord ever (the Mobius of the title) who's trying to build a body to bring his master back, and the Sisterhood, a group who look like the ones in The Fires of Pompei, and worship a holy flame that produces an elixir of life. Their flame has been dying down, and they're almost out of the elixir, which means they're almost out of eternal life, and things get tense when they start to think that the Time Lords are trying to steal it from them. They don't like Solon, and he doesn't like them, but with the Doctor and Sarah Jane going back and forth and the two sides having cross purposes, they start to work against eachother. Meanwhile, Solon builds his monster, though he had to give up the idea of using the Doctor's head for it. I don't think Morbius's massive glowing and pulsing brain would fit into it anyway.

Sarah Jane gets to be pretty resourceful in parts, though for a big chunk near the end, she's been blinded and blunders around getting into trouble, too. But she saves the Doctor, who gets to bea tricked and manipulated alot this story, and that's fun. The Doctor, meanwhile, does alot of solo running around trying to restore sarah Jane's eyes, which is both proof that his own safety comes after that of his companions, and that the companions are his weakness-- Solon sends him to the Sisterhood to get her fixed, but it's a lie that's supposed to get him killed and out of the way. And this is the only time so far that the Doctor has outright tried to kill someone: he makes a poison glass and lets it get to Solon.

The monster is creepy and neat and cheezy all at once, and I think it'd make an excellent action figure if they start making classic monsters. Morbius is megalomaniacal and whiny, and doesn't really do much because of brain damage; first he's trapped in a jar, then he's dropped on the floor, and it's probably true that he was already mad.

Overall, the story is a direct ripoff of Frankenstein, if it was set on a remote planet in the vecinity of Gallifrey and if the monster was being built to hold the brain of a crazy ex-cult-leader. Not bad, but a little confusing needlessly, and not as original as some.

And then we had Seeds of Doom, which was kind of like two related three-parters. The Doctor and Sarah Jane go to the antarctic (without the Tardis for some crazy and unexplained reason) to help some scientists with a weird new plant they've found, and wind up trapped by weather in a research station, which is always fun plotwise (like the Ice episode in X-Files). Side note: in this half, Sarah Jane wears cute little bright yellow overalls, which are entirely useless against and arctic blizzard, and a fur coat alot like the one Donna wore in the Planet of the Ood. The Doctor wears what he always wears, and I love that temperatures never seem to bother him. It's another of those little touches that remind us that he only looks human-- though in these classic episodes, he eats pretty frequently, as opposed to the new ones, where he doesn't much, and usually avoids eating all together.

Anyway. The scientists have found this weird pod about the size of a softball, and it's germinated in the warmth and taken over one of the crew, turning him into the broccoli from Garth Merengie's Dark Place. And then into a blobby green mansized creature that starts sabotaging things and killing people. back in England, a leak in the Ministry of Environment (I wonder why they aren't working with Unit here?) tells a manic and extremist plant collector / plant rights activist / lunatic about the new plant, and he pays alot of money to get his best mercenary there to get the plant for him, ignoring that it's an alien creature that eats animal-things (instead of the usual animal-thing eating plant-things).

The first half ends with the plant-dude blowing everything up, but not before the mercenaries get the second pod back to the crazy collector dude. Sarah gets to change into a different weird seventies outfit that looks like it has too much pattern and too many hems in it, and then they're off to find who took the other pod. He's encouraging it to take someone over, and tries to give it Sarah Jane, but the Doctor saves her, and leaves it to take over someone else. Side note again: the Doctor is very angry and yelly, like he's channeling Six over here, and punches alot of people rather than building clever machines or something.

So the scientist is taken over and the baddie feeds it and nurtures it into the full-size Krinoid. There's an old lady who is what I want to be when I grow up: a little batty and silly and vague, but cherrfully serving as a spy and loveing every minute of it. She gets information to Sarah, and then takes her message back to the Ministry, which brings in Unit. There's no Brig (I miss the Brig), but there's some other dude from Unit who can't pronounce the word "fire", and they show up and start attacking the estate-sized monster with the vaguest laser cannon ever. To no avail.

After alot of being trapped inside the estate, alot of plants coming to life and trying to strangle them, alot of running down halls and escaping monster tentacles, and several attempts to wood-chipper the Doctor and turn him into com-pos-t for the garden, eventually the massive creature is killed by fighter jets.

The monster is mostly dumb, but when it gets up to estate-size, there's a pretty nifty shot where it looks like c'thulu humping a mannor house that looks pretty cool. I couldn't immedaitely see how it was done, so that adds a little reality to it, you know?

The story was neat, but I'm not sure how I feel about four being angry and violent; that's not his thing, usually, and it bugs me. The monster was an actual threat, and it's one of the few times when the Doctor couldn't fix things-- it took the big guns of Unit to get anything done. And it sure was a big bang to end the season on. Literally.

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