The Keys of Marinus

Tardis Crew

Tardis Crew in the Key of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus was the fifth story in season one of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. Written by Terry Nation this six episode story is one of the first ‘moving serials’ in Doctor Who, with each episode taking place in a different setting.

The Keys of Marinus is a bit of a whirlwind quest, with each episode seeing the Tardis crew  – and the planet-side friends they have accumulated along the way – solving puzzles to retrieve the five keys of Marinus. These quests are set against a range of backgrounds: Acid seas,  Eyestalk-brains with mind control powers, a jungle that attacks, a cold snowy mountain with a cruel trapper, and a world with an guilt driven justice system. It’s a quick flurry of setting changes, ideas, and adventure. There are also some uncomfortable moments in this story including an attempted rape and domestic abuse.

The splitting of the Tardis crew into different narratives is very much in Terry Nation’s style and each individual story remains on the underdeveloped side.  It is also clear that the budget required to hold each episode in a different setting wasn’t there – the stock footage in the snowy mountain stood out the most as a clear example of where money was trying to be saved. Similarly, the ice caves really did look like they were made of plastic wrap.

The villains at the root of this story, which force the Tardis crew on the key adventure at the start, are the Voords.  The Voords are essentially actors in wet-suits with rubber masks and hand prosthetics. They are a bit lack luster and the ridiculous costuming made me laugh, but they are effective enough to move the story forward.

Despite some of the criticisms of the Keys of Marinus, I actually really loved this story. It was my kind of adventure, character building, world exploring story. I think this is the first Hartnell story that upon finishing I thought I might actually watch again.  I don’t know if that says more about this episode about my feelings for the Hartnell era as a whole.

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The Edge of Destruction

Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan, observing the broken clock inside the TARDIS.

Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan, observing the broken clock inside the TARDIS.

Planet of Giants was the third story in season one of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. It is a short story with only two episodes and it occurs entirely inside the Tardis.  This story was made with minimal budget to fill out season one with two more episodes. This story is another one written by David Whitaker.  I loved the fact that this story begins the development of the Tardis as a thoughtful, sentient being that can communicate with its crew.

Episode 1
The first episode in this story has a very horror movie feel to it.  Distrust builds among the Tardis team, Susan attacks people with scissors, and things keep mysteriously happening without explanation. As the episode progresses the crew grows increasingly paranoid and beings to turn on reach other. The Doctor begins to blame Susan and Ian for everything that is going wrong – Susan does a fantastic job of standing up for herself and angrily highlights how foolish that idea is, and how she and Ian have repeatedly shown their  commitment to the Doctor.

Episode 2 – The Brink of Disaster
The accusing continues and Barbara continues to convince the Doctor that he is wrong.  I really enjoyed that it was Barbara who finally realized that the Tardis is trying to communicate them, and that many of the odd things going on are actually clues to show what the real problem is.  The camera work and light/dark contrast around the Doctor’s monologue explaining the problem was really striking, however the actual ‘fixing’ of the problem – a broken spring – felt fairly anti-climatic to me.

The Doctor delivers a satisfactory apology to Ian, but is apology to Barbara is pretty horrible.  It’s a best a ‘well, actually’ style explanation and I’m glad Barbara walked away from the Doctor.  His second apology wasn’t much better  – the Doctor conludes that without his accusing Barbara she would never have been motivated enough to solve the problem. My reaction to this was pretty much “UGH.” His apology was followed by a condescending remark about needing to take good care of her.  I know this aired in 1964, but some of the male/female power dynamics in this episode have not aged well.

Overall, this is a solid two part story that has a surprising amount of depth and is well done in-spite of the budget limitations.

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Planet of Giants

Susan and Ian with an oversize matchbox.

Susan, Ian, and a matchbox in Planet of Giants.

Planet of Giants was the first story in season two of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. It is a shorter story with only three episodes and it’s basic premise revolves around the Tardis and the Tardis crew being miniaturized and working to regain the normal size.

I’ve been watching a lot of Troughton era Doctor Who recently and what struck me most about this story was how different the Tardis team feels under the first Doctor. The story is also dived into team perspectives with the Tardis crew being separated into groups of two for the bulk of the story.

Part One 
This story hinges on the Tardis malfunctioning during materialization.  Following the malfunction the Tardis team begin to explore outside and come to see giant ants, giant worms, and signage.  Both the Doctor and Susan realize independently from each other, that they have all been shrunk to the size of an inch.  Ian expresses his usual disbelief with this conclusion.

Part Two
We learn more about the ‘bigs’ in this episode.  There’s a subplot all about the development of a new insecticide which kills every type of insect imaginable.  I found this subplot a bit on the dry side, though I did enjoy the hint of environmental activism that is woven into the story.

Part Three
This episode starts with the Doctor and Susan being trapped in a drain pipe and thinking quickly to avoid drowning. I think my favourite part of this episode is watching the actors transverse ridiculously oversize props. Climbing down a huge sink chain, crossing a large notepad, and using an oversize match is pretty amusing to watch.

Overall this was an okay story, but not something I will rush to rewatch.

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The Krotons

The Doctor and Zoe

The Doctor and Zoe come up with a plan to deal with the Krotons.

The Krotons was the fourth story in season six of Doctor WHO. It was written by Robert Holmes, who would go on to become a well known script editor and contributor to the show. It’s a second Doctor story with more Zoe and Jamie goodness.

Episode 1
Troughton exploring a planet while holding an umbrella brought me so much joy at the start of this episode.  The main part of this episode is spent slowly learning about the relationship between the Gonds and the Krotons.  The story also introduces the ‘Learning Hall’ and the’ learning machines’.

Episode 2
While the Doctor is exploring the dark and musty ‘under hall’ that situated beneath the Hall Zoe starts to use on of the ‘learning machines.’ This highlights some of Zoe’s brilliance though I did cringe at the Doctor’s comment that “yes, Zoe is something of a genius, it can be a very irritating at times.” Eventually both Zoe and the Doctor enter the Kroton’s machine, which turns out to be a spaceship. We get a closer glimpse at Kroton technology and at the Kroton’s themselves.

Episode 3
I kind of adore the robotic mechanical sound of the Kroton voices. There’s a lot of Gond politics in this episode, that I found a bit on the dry side. The episode ends with a cliffhanger, with the Doctor in peril…

Episode 4
One of my favourite line in this episode came from Eelek -“I will launch a mass attack with slings and fireballs.” For some reason that phrase just tickled my funny bone – despite it not supposed to be humorous at all. I liked that throughout this story Jamie is sent on a number of errands by the Doctor, but Zoe is left to her own devices or to accompany the Doctor.

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The Brier is On

Yup, we’re talking curling here.  The Brier is the men’s Canadian championship in curling and we’re right in the middle of it right now.  Until I moved to Northern Ontario less than a decade ago I had no interest in the sport.  Looking for something to do in the winter months in Thessalon I joined a curling team and quickly discovered the charm of this very Canadian of pastimes. Now during the winter you can find me watching curling on tv, playing in the weekly men’s league in Thessalon, and joining in bonspiels (curling tournaments) whenever possible.

It wasn’t until I had played that I started taking an interest in watching the “pros” on tv.  Getting out on the ice yourself you discover just how long that sheet of ice is and how difficult it is to make the shots that those more experienced make look easy.  I’m also not really a “sports guy” – I don’t really watch any other sports much on tv.  But curling is a bit different.  The majority of the “pros” in Canada have other jobs – curling isn’t a career like NHL hockey player or golfer.  There is money in it, but not enough to sustain the average person’s lifestyle.  This makes it more “real” to me and is part of what makes it so easy to support.

Playing curling is different than other sports too.  It is a sport of graciousness and sportsmanship taken to a higher level.  Games always start with a handshake and “good curling” with the opposing team members.  If the game is nearing the end and it is unlikely that one team could catch up then they shake hands and concede the game – before the technical end of the game.  Now if I happen to catch a hockey game it seems ridiculous watching the underdog continue to try to score when they’re down 5 goals and there’s 2 minutes left in the game.  Imagine if they just shook hands and conceded the game!  That is class.  And at the end of the curling match it is tradition to sit down with your opponents, enjoy a beverage and spend some time together.  From what I hear this happens even at the top levels of curling competition. The community aspect of the sport is as much a part of the game as what happens on the ice.

The other great thing about curling is that people of all ages can enjoy playing the game.  Delivering of rocks can now be done using a “stick” so that the player doesn’t have to get down in the hack, avoiding all that bending and getting back up off the ice. In our club we have people in their late eighties still getting out and playing each week.

Curling is a community activity that provides all sorts of benefits to the members of that community.  I’m glad I discovered this, even if it came a bit later in life!

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The Invasion

This is the third story in season 6 of Doctor Who.  It features Troughton‘s Doctor with Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot as the companions.  In this story we get the second appearance of the Brig (yay!) and the version of the Cyberman seen in this story was used up until Earthshock in 1982. Episodes one and four of this eight part story are considered missing – but there are animated versions of those parts available.

Episode 1
More animated Troughton! My first exposure to animation of the missing episodes of Doctor Who was the 2016 release of Power of the Daleks in animated form.  This episode reminded me how much I actually enjoy the animation as a replacement for missing episodes. I really love the black and white animated Tardis. The animation of the Tardis crew is a bit clunky in parts, but it overall it does an effective job of conveying the imagery of the story.

Episode 2
I loved the background music in this one, particularly the music which accompanied the Doctor and Jamie when they were being followed and taken to UNIT – the music combined with the 1960s computers and SF costuming help were some of my favourite parts of this episode.  This is the only Who story with music composed by Don Harper. I also enjoyed Zoe blowing up a computer by overwhelming it with logic.

Episode 3
Kevin Stoney‘s performance as Tobias Vaughn was the standout part of this episode.  The evil, scheming, company owner is well done. The bit about his two offices being identical and standardization as the key to success is a well done gentle hat tip to the coming Cyberman in the episode.

Episode 4
Another animated episode, complete with a daring helicopter rescue by UNIT. The cliffhanger ending is the Cyberman reveal, which actually looks fantastic in animated form.

Episode 5
My favourite part of this episode is the rage from Isobel and Zoe when they are told they shouldn’t do something because they are women, and their response to being told that men are ‘better’ at that kind of thing. So much rage, snark, and wit from Zoe and Isobel in that scene. The fact that they then leave to ‘prove the men wrong’ also made me smile.

Episode 6
I found this episode a little slow paced. But it’s worth sticking through to get to the monumental scene of the Cyberman bursting out of the sewers and taking on London.

Episode 7
Back the sewers! This time its the Doctor navigating the underground to get back to Vaughn’s control area. We’re into the earth defending itself from the Cyberman phase of the story – with a lot of UNIT action and defense planning. Plus Zoe does some quick math and the UNIT team listens to her advice, a win for team Zoe.

Episode 8
More rockets, counter attacks, and scrambling to prevent the Cyberman taking over earth. And UNIT pulls out a bazooka which I kind of love the ridiculousness of.

Overall, there is a lot of greatness in this story.  I loved the Brig and both Zoe and Isobel have some quality segments where they actually engage with Cyberman and do their own thing.

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Down the Classic Who Rabbit Hole: The Mind Robber

I’ve gone through all of the Classic Who DVDs owned by my public library.  And I caved and purchased a subscription to Brit Box so I can continue watching other episode of Classic Who.    I’m going to try to keep informal notes about my viewing experiences of Classic Who.  This is partially just to get me writing more on the Oslicken site again but also as a way for me to engage with a show that I love so much.

The Mind Robber

This is the second story in season 6 of Doctor Who.  It features Troughton‘s Doctor with Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Heriot as the companions.  The story takes place in the Land of Fiction, a place of fantasy outside of regular time and space.

Part 1
Troughton goodness all around.  The cliffhanger – the Tardis exploding – was a really well done dramatic end to this segment.  The ear piercing scream from Zoe combined with music adds an added element of suspense to the cliffhanger.

Part 2
We have arrived in the land of fiction, “a place where nothing is impossible.” Immediately all of the Tardis crew are separated and put into physical danger. This episode introduces an array of people popping out of the woods in the Land of Fiction to engage with the Doctor. These brief interactions are filled with riddles, quirky characters, and puzzles for the Doctor to investigate. I found the part where the Doctor had to put together Jamie’s face both amusing and so very strange.  This segment makes more sense once you realize that during this story Frazer Hines was ill and was then replaced for part of the serial by Hamish Wilson. It’s a bit clunky but the face puzzle works to explain why Jamie looks different for a couple of episodes. This episode also introduces the ‘Master’ as the figure plotting against the Doctor.

Part 3
Rapunzel, Gulliver’s Travels, and Medusa oh my! The Tardis crew keep bumping into storybook characters and begin to learn more about the strange storybook land. This episode fell a little flat for me and felt like a whole lot of filler. This fits with the fact that they had to add an additional episode to this story in production, resulting the story being overstretched.

Part 4
One of my favourite parts of this episode is seeing Zoe be all badass and kicking the butt of Karkus, a comic strip character.  Zoe defends the Doctor and generally rocks in this part of the episode.  The nature of the Master is finally revealed and we begin to understand that he wants the Doctor to replace him as the author being the Land of Fiction. I love that this world is entirely driven by imagination and potential of the human mind, it shows both the whimsical potential of the mind but also the darker possibilities of imagination.

Part 5
All the storybook characters reappear in this episode as the Doctor and the Master continue to battle for control and escape within the Land of Fiction. I love some of the costuming and props in this episode.  The classic robots and the glowing plastic ball type computer are my favourite. The destructor beam that comes out of the robot’s chest is complete with lights and sound effects that bring me a whole lot of joy.

Overall – 4/5.

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Diseased

I don’t know about you but right now I’m feeling underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the same time. It’s not really a good feeling. There are so many things to think about – to be worried about – in our world today. And there don’t seem to be a lot of answers or solutions. I work in an organization focused on wildlife preservation and the outdoors and we do lots of great work. At the same time I wonder (doubt?) if it’s enough. Things are changing at a rapid rate and we are still doing destructive things to our environment – our world and even beyond. To be honest it’s way too much for me to think about most of the time and I’m one of the ones who often buries my head in the sand and just tries to forget about it all. That adds to my feeling of uneasiness though and there’s the guilt that comes along with it.

But there are so many things to try to tackle and ignoring the issues is so much easier. There’s mental health/addictions, political termoil, nuclear threat, hunger/poverty, technology and its part in the destruction of real social networks, economic uncertainty, lack of connection to nature, food security/mass farming, water shortages, drug resistant disease, increased weather related disasters and more.

Art by Susie Campbell

Recently our city of Sault Ste. Marie was featured in a W5 documentary about the opiod crisis which has grasped many cities around the country. So many people are dealing with addiction issues and the availability of these extremely potent, often fatal, drugs are putting a massive strain on addicts, their families and the underfunded system that is supposed to try to protect people from themselves. The statistics are staggering and the stories about people who live right here in our city, who are dealing with this on a daily basis, made it real for many in our community who didn’t know, or didn’t want to believe that there’s a problem. I think many people’s eyes have been opened. Unfortunately it will likely be just another issue to turn a blind eye to after the initial shock wears off. Even worse, there are many around who think that it’s the addict’s fault – that they don’t change their ways because they don’t want to. Or that addiction isn’t a “disease” because the person made a choice to start doing drugs. This black and white way of looking at things isn’t the addict’s reality though. There are many issues including poverty, mental health issues, social issues etc. that feed into it. Sure it may have been a bad decision to start doing drugs but that doesn’t mean that addiction isn’t a true disease, any more than cancer, diabetes or schizophrenia are real diseases. And there’s still this perception that if it’s “in your head” it’s not a disease. I know first hand that people experiencing any sort of mental health issue can have very real symptoms that are just as debilitating as diabetes, a broken leg or even the flu. The reality is that all pain is “in your head” since without the brain you wouldn’t feel pain – whether that pain is being triggered by you leg, your lungs or your mind. It is an extreme over-simplification to only attribute illness to some organs and not others.

We all have stories of people who are close to us dealing with difficult things in their lives. Just this week a family member was suicidal and in need of police and medical intervention. Another friend is having to go through yet another round of chemotherapy to try to keep the cancer that is spreading through her body at bay. All difficult and overwhelming situations.

But I guess in a few days I might have buried my head in the sand and things may look rosy again.

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This Parenting Thing

Being a parent is hard – any parent will tell you this, and it is true some of the time of course.  Most people know that being a parent will be difficult before they become one, I was no exception.  But for me the parts that are hardest aren’t what I expected them to be.  Sure, there are the sleep deprived nights, the endless diaper changes and sometimes crying that goes on longer than you think you can bear.  But there are other aspects of having a little one around that affect a person – maybe on a deeper level – that I for one hadn’t really taken much time to consider and caught me off guard a bit.  Having a child will likely change your perspective on a lot of things.

You will want to spend time doing things that you didn’t like doing before, just because you will enjoy those things with your child and see the excitement in their little face. The time that we spend together playing with playdough, colouring, stacking blocks is a lot of fun.

You also might find that you approach the world differently in general.  I’ve realized that overall my approach to life has been to try to convince myself that I don’t really care about results – and if successful in that approach then I really have nothing to lose – within reason of course.  In the end it meant that I didn’t have to worry as much about the potential results of what I did or my actions, allowing me to focus on experiencing life and less worrying about potential failures.  For someone like me, who is generally fairly motivated to take action and complete things I set out to do, this works.   In many ways it’s an easier and calmer way to live for me, and it turns out, much more difficult to live by when you have someone who looks up to you, relies on you for everything.  Taking a risk becomes more difficult with the knowledge that another life is completely reliant on you.  It was an eye opening experience to discover some of these things that were going on in my head that I didn’t even really realize were there at the time.

Now I will try to take the important parts – the parts that allow a calmer way of living – and integrate them into the greater reality of parenting and life in this day and age.   Perhaps the need for peace and the need for security can co-exist in a more natural way.  And of course I’ll continue to enjoy playing with toys and an energetic and imaginative toddler.

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B is for Biking

Photograph of bike

New bike!

Until this year I hadn’t rode a bike since I was a teenager.  Even as a kid my bike exposure what some what limited, I grew up on a hilly country road so going for a bike ride wasn’t something we didn’t do on an every day basis. There was one summer where I biked to the next concession every day for a couple of weeks to cat sit.  That was my first experience biking beside a highway and really turned me off biking on unpaved shoulders.  I also biked occasionally in town when visiting my Grandma.

Since our move into town in January Andrew and I have been talking about biking and this Spring I got a bike! The Soo has some surprisingly bike friendly areas – the bike lane on Queen Streets makes a bike ride to my work not so hazardous and the hub trail is a great way to explore the city on a bike friendly path.  As a family we’ve been using our bikes to visit local parks and playgrounds.  It’s been a joy to explore our neighbourhood via bikes and to find new places for us to play as a family.  I’ve also loved looking at the gardens on the numerous side streets we’ve been biking down.

Next week, while Little Miss is staying with her grandparents, I’m hoping to bike to work a few times.  I love the idea of an active commute and seeing the city from a different perspective.

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