Tag Archives: elspet gray

Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity (parts three and four)

By far the most interesting thing about “Arc of Infinity” is that all the location filming was done in Amsterdam in the summer of 1982. Unfortunately, the story feels like it tries its best to have as little to do with Holland as possible in favor of deeply boring political intrigue on the Doctor’s home planet. Most of this serial’s faults could have been overcome by setting the whole story on Earth. They could have, for instance, had Michael Gough’s gone-bad Time Lord working in league with some human criminal who lived in Amsterdam to bring Omega back.

Oh yes, Omega, by far the least interesting thing about “Arc of Infinity,” or at least the way it’s presented. Not content with recasting all the characters who were seen the last time we were on Gallifrey four years before, they also recast the villain, and gave him a costume which wasn’t a patch on the iconic original that we saw in “The Three Doctors” a decade previously. I don’t think Omega’s even been mentioned in the program since 1973, but the show is working under the assumption that everybody watching the program knows exactly who he is.

In fairness, “The Three Doctors” had been repeated by the BBC a little over a year earlier, but this is part of that sense of complacency I mentioned earlier today. A little over a year is a lifetime in little kid terms; we watched that story thirteen months ago and it took a good bit of poking for our seven year-old to recall that the second Doctor teamed up with the third in the first place, let alone who the villain was. It’s here that we really start getting evidence that the people making the program are doing so for an audience that’s already completely committed, buys all the books, reads all the magazines, and can tell you who all the recurring villains and characters are when they turn up.

Mind you, I’m not opposed at all to villains and characters making return visits. Now I do think there needs to be a “ground zero” every few years, like we’re experiencing with Jodie Whittaker’s run right now, which doesn’t relive past glories for several weeks and lets a new audience in. But I like old faces and foes. However, these either need to be done as subtle winks and Easter eggs, or they need to be done properly, with an honest attempt at reintroduction. I mean, at no point in this story’s narrative do they even explain who Omega is; they just figured that all seven million who watched this on its original broadcast knew already. This will get worse before it gets better.

For what it’s worth, while our son was confused by the villain, he really did enjoy the story, and thought it was very exciting and creepy. He took the revelation of the baddie with a shrug; what really confused him was a street scene where the regenerated Omega joins a small crowd around a draaiorgel barrel organ. He’d never seen anything like that and needed to be reminded that once upon a time, we didn’t have the option of listening to music on our phones!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under doctor who

Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity (parts one and two)

For Thanksgiving, we’re watching this turkey! Gobble, gobble!

Season twenty’s where it all falls apart for me. There are still some terrific stories ahead in the next four seasons – they average about one classic a year – and some great moments here and there, but overall there’s a sense of… I guess complacency. There’s an overriding sense of “that’s good enough” in the scripting and the design and the direction.

That said, Johnny Byrne’s “Arc of Infinity” does have one nice moment in its first two parts (and I admit I cheated; the image above is from part three). There are two plots running parallel at first: a pair of young hitchhikers sleeping in an old crypt in Amsterdam, and the Doctor and Nyssa having a contest of technobabble and continuity in space. It looks like our heroes will be materializing in the Netherlands, and we hear the TARDIS sound effect… but it’s somebody else’s ship, apparently piloted by the weird turkey monster on the left in the picture above. I like the misdirection.

The turkey monster is called an Ergon, and at no point in this story does it ever move convincingly enough to fool anybody into thinking that it’s an alien monster that grew up knowing how to move its own muscles. It moves like an underpaid actor wearing fifty pounds of latex, flippers, and a tall floppy hat.

At least there’s Amsterdam, and some other notable actors, all probably also underpaid. Janet Fielding is back as Tegan, conveniently reentering the Netherlands part of the plot while the Doctor and Nyssa get to do breathtakingly boring outer space stuff on Gallifrey. Last time we were stuck here, in “The Invasion of Time”, we had a completely different set of actors as Borusa, the High Council, the Castellan (Commissioner Gordon), and the commander (Chief O’Hara). This time, a future star of the show, Colin Baker, is playing Chief O’Hara, and Paul Jerricho, who will be back in a few stories to deliver one of the all-time great bad Doctor Who line readings, is Gordon. On the High Council, there’s Elspet Gray, who was the clueless mom in the second series of Catweazle, and starred-in-everything cult TV legend Michael Gough as an old friend we’ve never heard of before.

There are five suspects in the mystery of who on Gallifrey has betrayed the Doctor. Four of them either don’t like the Doctor very much or are generally indifferent to him. One is played by an internationally recognizable actor who greets our hero with smiles and phrases like “My dear Doctor!” and is trying ever so hard to keep our hero from being executed. I wonder who the traitor could possibly be.

Leave a comment

Filed under doctor who

Catweazle 2.13 – The Thirteenth Sign

To be honest, the final installment of this charming show isn’t anything like some of the laugh-a-minute episodes from earlier in this series. It wraps up all the lingering plot threads about the lost treasure, the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac, and Catweazle’s desire to fly, but it does so with warmth and happiness instead of lunacy. It’s a little more successful than the busy conclusion of series one in that regard.

Our son loved it, and wishes they’d made more. I agree! Catweazle is a hugely entertaining show for kids and adults. It’s been one of the most satisfying purchases that I’ve made to share with my son and absolutely recommend it for anybody with children. You’ll probably like it even without kids around!

Leave a comment

Filed under catweazle

Catweazle 2.12 – The Magic Circle

Today’s episode really felt like marking time before they wrap up the series. They reintroduce the fact that Lord and Lady Collingford aren’t as wealthy as they appear, and that there’s meant to be hidden treasure on their property somewhere. Catweazle learns that something is trapping him in 1971, and he can’t use water to travel through time. And all the family catches a glimpse of the wizard for the first time. Since I haven’t used a photo to illustrate the supporting cast for this series, here they are!

Our son was so looking forward to this morning’s episode that he started humming the theme tune in anticipation. I wasn’t all that taken with this one, but he completely adored it. Part of the shenanigans involves a huge mob of cyclists racing around the village and everybody else on bikes chasing each other getting caught up in their lanes. I think that when you’re a kid, the sight of Peter Butterworth on a bicycle in his long johns swatting people with his hat because they won’t let him turn around is bound to be much, much funnier. And that’s fine, this is a children’s show and I’m so happy that he loves it.

Leave a comment

Filed under catweazle

Catweazle 2.11 – The Battle of the Giants

This one was incredibly funny! We all really enjoyed it. It turns out that Lord Collingford and Groome have been competing with each other for years at a harvest festival to see who can grow the largest marrow. (We eat a lot of zucchini ourselves. Had no idea it’s the same vegetable.) On the day of the festival, both men are intolerable, and that’s before Catweazle unwittingly drops into the middle of things. There’s a ridiculous moment where identical buckets contain Groome’s fertilizer and Catweazle’s disgusting medicine, which seems pretty par for the course, but we weren’t expecting what would happen when the vegetables get a dose of medicine.

Arthur Lovegrove has a small part as the fellow who runs the local nursery and judges the vegetable competition. His character is called Archie Goodwin, and that strikes me as a little silly. Everybody knows the only plants that Archie Goodwin is qualified to judge are orchids.

Leave a comment

Filed under catweazle

Catweazle 2.9 – The Ghost Hunters

Our son absolutely loved this episode. I thought it was pretty funny, but it never quite rises to a great bit early on. Lady Collingford has decided that their house, which has 184 rooms, is haunted, in part because she keeps hearing this peculiar sound. Elspet Gray then gives this hilarious impersonation of Geoffrey Bayldon’s “tch-tch-tch!” noise and I hooted.

This rapidly descends into the sort of “he went thataway” farce perfected on American Saturday morning shows. Lady Collingford hires famous ghost hunters, played by Dudley Foster and David Cook. They’re a couple of scam artists who have wired the house with speakers, and Cedric has decided to try and spook them with a bedsheet, and Catweazle has decided that tonight, of all nights, is the right night to ask the house’s spirits to help him find the hidden gold in the house. Our son was howling with laughter; this was clearly one of his all-time favorites. Moray Watson is playing an upper-class twit in this series, but he defines the term “long suffering” tonight.

Dudley Foster died in early 1973, only 48 years old, but he appeared in just about everything a fellow could possibly do in British film and TV before then. Foster was cast as the villain Caven in a 1969 Doctor Who serial, “The Space Pirates,” which is the last incomplete story of that program’s run. Bizarrely, Foster appears in the five episodes of that serial that are missing, and not in part two, the only episode that survives. That strikes me as a little karmically unfair.

1 Comment

Filed under catweazle

Catweazle 2.7 – The Enchanted King

Tonight’s episode featured just about the best setup for any Catzweazle episode. The Collingfords have left a TV set on to warm up while the picture clears before the match of the day, giving us the chance to explain to our son how oddly fragile TV sets used to be. Catweazle happens by as the set finally rights itself during the pre-match kiddie show, in which a storyteller host, played by Peter Bayliss, reads the latest installment of a story about a king cursed by an evil wizard and turned to stone. Catweazle thinks that this is a demon in his demon box speaking directly to him, and since, in that television way, there’s actually a sculptor in the house a few doors down talking to the Collingfords about turning them into stone…

Our son absolutely loved this episode. It’s pretty terrific even before the slapstick, because this demon box just blows Catweazle’s mind. I’m amazed by Geoffrey Bayldon’s ability to keep making the same gag – surprise at something new and modern – incredibly funny. But before long, Bayldon, Peter Butterworth, and guest star Graham Crowden, as the sculptor, are throwing plaster at each other in a studio, which had our kid howling with laughter. Then there’s another very funny scuffle at the unveiling of a statue, and a delightful coda which suggests that the tomfoolery might have been a rag week prank by students. That gave me the chance to remind him of the Avengers episode that we saw last month which introduced him to the concept of rag week!

Oh, here’s a funny coincidence. Last night, we watched a MacGyver episode that guest starred Christopher Neame, who was the main guest star in the well-known Doctor Who adventure “Shada.” Graham Crowden, in tonight’s episode, was the main guest star in the Who adventure “The Horns of Nimon,” which was the one made immediately before they started work on “Shada.” And the co-writer of tomorrow night’s Who wrote the one right before “Nimon.” If I can find a connection between the MacGyver we’re watching after that and “The Creature From the Pit,” I’ll think somebody’s trying to tell me something.

(And yes, I know Geoffrey Bayldon himself is actually in “Creature.” It’s very close, but you can’t force coincidence.)

Leave a comment

Filed under catweazle

Catweazle 2.6 – The Wogle Stone

I spent the whole episode wracking my brain wondering who was playing the superstitious developer who wants to build a supermarket, and more, on Lord Collingford’s land, and tear down Catweazle’s home, Duck Halt. It’s Kenneth Cope, of course. He had finished filming his iconic role of the ghost, Marty, in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) maybe less than a year before making this, so it’s not like he looked significantly different or anything; I’m just a dimwit. Of course I plan to show our son Randall and Hopkirk as well. Hopefully next year sometime. Tony Caunter, who we saw in the Doctor Who adventure “Colony in Space,” is in this one as well; he plays Cope’s surveyor.

It’s a more amusing episode than a funny one. The script puts Cope through the wringer of silly superstitions, including his fears of black cats crossing his path, walking under ladders, and spilling salt. Moray Watson is even more of an upper class dimwit than usual, and Catweazle, after surviving his encounter with an excavator, takes advantage of the superstitions by either resurrecting one from his time, or inventing it on the spot. It’s called a Wogle Stone, and only a very foolish builder would move one. Cope’s character may be completely corrupt and obsessed with omens and signs, but he’s no fool!

Leave a comment

Filed under catweazle