Wednesday 14 October 2009

Reviews in Time & Space: Remembrance of the Daleks

A new little section that I’m trying out, here I’m going to revisit a series that’s extremely close to my heart, and without a doubt had a huge part in me becoming who I am today. The one, the only – Doctor Who. I’ve been watching this show since I was old enough to watch TV, and in anticipation of the 2010 series staring new 11th Doctor Matt Smith, I’ve been re-watching the older episodes to see how they still stand today. And for my first review I’m taking a look at the story that started it all for me – the 1986 4-part adventure “Remembrance of the Daleks” starring 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy. Yes, this was the very first Doctor Who story I ever watched (I think) and it’s still in my top 3 Doctor Who adventures to this date.

Set in 1963, the Doctor and his new companion Ace (as portrayed by Sophie Aldred) have returned to Earth, only to find (as is typical with all Doctor Who adventures) there is a sinister plot at hand. His mortal enemies the Daleks have returned in search of the Hand of Omega, a machine created by the Time Lords to manipulate stars. Not only that but there are two dalek factions at work – the grey/black renegade Daleks loyal to the Dalek Supreme, and the white/gold imperial Daleks, loyal to the Emperor Dalek.

This story also harks back to the very first Doctor Who adventure, “An Unearthly Child” which aired all the way back in 1963. The infamous Totter’s Lane junkyard where we were first introduced to the Doctor makes an appearance and we discover that the Doctor himself left the Hand of Omega on Earth all this time ago, and how he must now deal with these actions as the Daleks destroy everything in their path (including each other) to get their hands (plungers?) on it.

Despite the amount of throwbacks to earlier adventures, even as a child I had no trouble understanding this story as a standalone event. This is the only story since 1975’s “Genesis of the Daleks” that doesn’t suffer from what I’ve come to know as “Davros syndrome”. Maybe I should explain that a little better…since “Genesis”, the introduction of Davros has done very little for the reputation of the Daleks, basically either becoming his puppets or entirely reliant on him. My brother recently explained a fan theory to me that the Doctor’s meddling during the Daleks’ origin did affect their growth, resulting in the more desperate acts of the Daleks shown in “Destiny of the Daleks” (1979) and “Resurrection of the Daleks” (1984) to the dissolve of the once grand Dalek empire we see in “Revelation of the Daleks” (1985) and this story. After giving this idea much thought, it does work in the context of the narrative, but the truth is they were never the same after “Genesis” (which I want to add is by no means a bad story, in fact I rate it as not only one of the best Dalek stories but one of the best Doctor Who stories period).

“Remembrance” was the last appearance of the Daleks until the series was rebooted in 2005, and they certainly went out with a bang. There was quite the array of memorable scenes – the most notable and important being the epic conclusion of episode one, featuring an Imperial Dalek climbing a flight of stairs in pursuit of the Doctor. The obvious weakness of Daleks being unable to climb stairs had been addressed before, but this time the notion was crushed for good. This scene is right up there with the Dalek emerging from the waters in 1964’s “Dalek Invasion of Earth” (the single greatest moment in Doctor Who for me). Other great moments include the episode two cliffhanger, Ace beating up a Dalek with a supercharged baseball bat, the battle between the Imperial and Renegade Dalek factions, the reveal of the renegade Dalek battle computer as a brainwashed little girl (complete with Emperor Palpatine style lightning powers) and last but by no means least the introduction of 2 brand new types of Dalek, the special weapons Dalek and the emperor himself (who in the final episode turns out to be Davros – yes he’s still around, but plays a perfect part in this story).

The cast of characters is equally enjoyable. The team of the 7th Doctor and Ace works on so many different levels, appealing to both children and adults. We also have Group Captain Gilmore and the military, who confusingly go along with the Doctor since he’s the only one who actually knows anything about Daleks. “Villains” per se include fascist Ratcliffe, who allies himself with the renegade Daleks until he realises the true extent of what they are and what their plans are. The story touches on the still relevant today topic of racial hatred, with both factions of Daleks seeing themselves as very different things (and as you can see in the story, there are actually quite a few differences between them – both externally and internally!) and stopping at nothing to wipe each other out. This is an excellent reference to the Nazis that the Daleks were infact based on.

Despite the obvious lower budget the series had back in the day (the Dalek’s time controller is nothing but an ordinary plasma lamp) the show definitely had far more substance in terms of story back then. The single episode (okay okay, sometimes two) format of the story does very little for me since it lacks the trademark cliffhangers I always enjoyed seeing as a child. In conclusion if you’re new to Doctor Who I wouldn’t recommend you start here since prior knowledge of the series would add a lot to the experience of watching “Remembrance of the Daleks”, but if you have seen the series before or are just looking for a one-off story to watch I couldn’t recommend this more. A true classic.

Saturday 3 October 2009

Custom Figure: Classics Cloudburst (Phoenix)

The final Autobot pretender! Cloudburst was made using an Energon Skyblast figure, painted using Citadel colours (blood red, regal blue and chaos black). Now that the Masterforce Autobot pretenders are complete, I can turn my attention towards their sworn enemies...the Decepticon pretenders!

So far on my classics masterforce completed list is;

Not bad, not bad at all I think!