I take that back. They could have edited all three episodes into a single half-hour and used the other two parts for a proper villain, and not a misunderstood and lonely old lady. That’s about the only way this would have been entertaining.
Well, there’s Tarot using a silver spoon to hypnotize the antagonist into not being naughty anymore. I don’t think I’ve seen that done before.
I think that if they’d edited the first two episodes of this story into a single half-hour, it would be a lot more watchable than it is. Our son says this is very creepy, but I can only barely see that myself. Mama Doc is certainly an eccentric and weird old lady, and we know she’s up to no good, but we don’t know what she wants or what her magical powers might be. There should be a tone of malevolence hanging over this story, but there’s nothing at all there, just a batty old lady who likes playing teatime with old ceramic dolls.
Worse still, the last episode’s cliffhanger of the one doll laughing is not really addressed at all. Nothing supernatural at all happens this time, until this episode’s cliffhanger, when Mr. Sweet saunters casually into Mama Doc’s toy shop and finds Mikki and the two missing professors immobilized and dressed like dolls. It’s a strange image, but we don’t know what it means, because we don’t know who Mama Doc is or why she’s wanted to kidnap these people.
All of this could have been handled with just one little scene in which Mama Doc actually talked about her plan and explained it to her henchman. I had written previously that Roger Fulton’s comparison to Batman wasn’t fair or accurate, but this story’s writer definitely could have improved this script by watching a few episodes to see how Batman‘s writers brought the audience into the narrative and gave them a criminal scheme to follow which they could understand. Surely this improves in the finale?
Some scheduling issues required me to shuffle things around a little and set aside the next Doctor Who story until next week, so we’ll pop back into the third series of Ace of Wands for a three-part story written by Maggie Allen. According to IMDB, her freelance writing credits were not very extensive. She worked more on the production side of television as a script editor for such programs as Mogul and The Omega Factor in the 1970s and 1980s.
This story certainly starts off very odd. Everything seems a bit off; there’s nothing magical or threatening, just a very creepy old lady called Mama Doc, played by Pat Nye, who seems to run a business repairing damaged toys and, for reasons unknown, has a henchman who dresses like a policeman and kidnaps people. Tarot and his friends, including Mr. Sweet again, are looking for a missing professor and the trail seems to lead to the old lady’s shop. But it’s all done without menace or a sense of importance or weight until the cliffhanger, when the henchman grabs another character in the shop and one of the toy dolls seems to start laughing about it.
The grown-up who writes this blog thinks that this story badly needed to introduce the concept of the living doll a whole heck of a lot earlier, but the kid that I’m watching it with found it pretty amazingly effective and about jumped out of his skin when the doll started cackling. It’ll probably be a while before he’ll be ready for those Annabelle movies, I guess.
I only have time for a short post today. This is such a great little story. It’s so amazingly 1972 with its depiction of psychic powers and seances. I’ve read about an American supernatural drama called The Sixth Sense that starred Gary Collins and aired that year, and this seems incredibly similar to everything I know of that show, with mediums and spiritualists and ancient powers from thousand year-old priests taken as common and as basic as plumbers and real estate agents. There was definitely something in the air in the early seventies.
Our son pronounced this as being “bad scary,” and he spent the half hour curled up beside Mom, worried and wide-eyed about the possibility of dangerous energy from “the other side.” Great stuff.
Our son reminded us that this was not his first go-round with mummies – he’s seen them as “beasts of the week” in both The Ghost Busters and Monster Squad – but this is his first time dealing with one that isn’t played for laughs, in a proper tomb-of-the-pharaohs, supernatural-horror-from-the-grave sort of way. You add this imagery to the seventies’ interest in psychic powers and seances, and you’ve got something guaranteed to give a six year-old a good little scare.
“The Power of Atep” is written by Victor Pemberton, and it certainly got some inspiration from Hammer’s Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, released the previous year. This doesn’t have a fellow in bandages shuffling around, it has eerie voices and powers that can possess good people.
Returning to action in this episode, it’s Donald Layne-Smith as Tarot’s friend Mr. Sweet, an antiquarian bookseller who now works with a university in London. He’d appeared in at least five of the earlier, lost episodes. And this time, we get a flashback to one of Tarot’s stage acts. He had a partner on stage called Quabal, and we don’t actually see him. I don’t think our son caught that detail.
This is so much better than “The Meddlers.” It’s a more confident script with a genuine supernatural threat, and it’s far better directed. If I recall correctly, the production will disappoint a little in the next installments, but so far this is off to a fine start.