The Dæmons, Resurrection of the Daleks, Robot

Three Old Who stories that I’ve been watching.

The Dæmons, first shown in 1971, is presumably the only Doctor Who story featuring a character in the title outside the standard 26 letters of the alphabet (plus numbers and punctuation). I’m a bit stunned that it is remembered as the peak of the Pertwee era by some. It’s not very good; it’s not very bad either; perhaps that makes it an archetypal Pertwee story, and so those who like that sort of thing will like this sort of thing. Delgado is good; Benton and Yates are good (and this story has clearly provided much inspiration for slash writers); both the Third Doctor and Jo are bad, as usual; and the monster is just awful, as is the final twist (it is destroyed when Jo offers her life instead of the Doctor’s as such self-sacrifice CANNOT COMPUTE).

This does at least mark my pasing the half-way point in Pertwee stories: of the 24 broadcast I have now watched 13 (Spearhead from Space, Inferno, Terror of the Autons, The Claws of Axos, The Dæmons, The Curse of Peladon, The Mutants, The Three Doctors, Frontier in Space, Planet of the Daleks, The Green Death, The Time Warrior, and Invasion of the Dinosaurs) which leaves 11. Wonder how long that will take me.

Resurrection of the Daleks: In keeping with my practice of watching the later Davros stories backwards (see Revelation of the Daleks, Remembrance of the Daleks), I tried the Fifth Doctor’s only encounter with his chief foe, from 1984. Well, its did explain the plot line about there being two different factions of Daleks, which had passed me by completely. Apart from that the story makes little sense. It is memorable for lots of big name actors – Leslie Grantham in his first TV role, apparently – all getting shot (apparntly this has the largest number of on-screen violent deaths of any Dooctor Who story) and running around for no apparent reason. When Turlough reappears in the middle of it I was taken by surprise as I had forgotten he was in it. I did like Rodney Bewes’ performance. (And Sneh Gupta.)

There’s some dire Doctor/Davros dialogue (note alliteration) but some good Davison moments too, like when he remembers the previous companions and incarnations, and his reaction to Tegan’s farewell (and she’s been laid out horizontal for most of the story and so missed most of the gore). Basically, this is one for completists. (But if you’re reading this, you probably are a completist.)

Robot was the first of Tom Baker’s stories as the Fourth Doctor, its first episode shown at the end of December 1974. I should really have watched it before getting the first set of Sarah Jane Smith audios, as they turn out to be a sort of sequel. It is particularly remarkable (even now, when Pertwee’s Doctor is a distant memory) for Baker’s jarring, eccentric performance in the title role. In the very first episode, after the hilarious costume change scene, he mimes the sinking of the Titanic while standing in a jeep. This is why Baker was and remains my favourite Doctor – the sense that he is not only a hero, but an alien hero, which only Hartnell and Ecclestone really have come close to. He turns what is basically a standard Pertwee/UNIT story into a real feast of entertainment. Everyone else is good, including the fascist scientists. (Shame about the tank and the final dodgy CSO of the growing and shrinking robot, but you can’t have everything.

In summary, Robot is recommended; the other two really for completists.

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