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Late to the Party: Doctor Who (Fifth Doctor)

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Aug 28, 2018

The 13th Doctor will be making her glorious arrival this fall and we here at FANGRRLS couldn’t be more excited. In honor of her, and to catch up a few of our FANGRRLS who haven’t yet experienced Doctor Who, our resident Whovians will be helping some of our less TARDIS-fluent FANGRRLS get up to speed on their favorite Doctor. Since we didn’t think any of us could binge 840 episodes, 36 seasons, and numerous specials before the 13th Doctor’s arrival, we’re writing a series of special Late to the Party: Doctor Who articles.

Despite having appeared on air for almost 40 years, I’ve missed out on Doctor Who. I have seen an episode or two of Torchwood because my English host family thought I’d like it, but I found it difficult to follow. (This was before I got really into comic books and realized that if you don’t know what’s happening, you just have to go with it and assume it’ll make sense later.) When I heard the first female Doctor was coming to television, of course, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.

Our own Michelle Villanueva is a fan of the fifth Doctor, played by Peter Davison, so she set me up with one of her favorite storylines. Apparently, the older Doctor Who was highly serialized and each story took place over two to four episodes, so unlike our typical Late to the Party format, I’ll be watching four episodes that make up one long story arc.

To set the stage, let me tell you what I know about Doctor Who

  1. The Doctor is a time-traveling, dimension-hopping alien (I think). 
  2. A police box (I don’t even know what that is) helps the Doctor travel.
  3. My 14-year-old friend really likes it.
  4. The next one is going to be a woman.

So, grab a beverage and brace yourself for the finest Doctor Who episodes 1982 has to offer: Season 19, Episodes 9-12.

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Episode 9: “Kinda, Part One”

Two racist anthropologists (Isn’t that redundant? Ba-dum, kssssh!) and their scientist friend are studying a planet and its indigenous people the Kinda in preparation for colonization. The Doctor and his companions just so happen to have landed on the same planet.

The Doctor and one sidekick, Adric, encounter the anthropologists at their lab where they are holding two Kinda hostage while Tegan and the other female sidekick faint. After a group of Kinda drape a garland of flowers around her while she sleeps under some chimes, Tegan experiences a vision (or a dream or a hallucination or, or, or) where she encounters people who all have a snake tattoo and claim to be all the same.

The Doctor makes some very problematic assumptions about the Kinda. (“What could they know of molecular biology?” Yikes.) But then the scientist explains that she believes they are telepathic.

Racist Anthropologist #2 has been grappling for power the whole episode, so when the scientist dares to buck his authority, he destroys her lab. For some reason, this gives him the ability to control the two hostages who help him seize power when Racist Anthropologist #1 goes out into the field.

My Impression:

This episode was definitely better than I thought it was going to be based on the first couple scenes. Also, I… I was not prepared for the psychedelic opening credits. In fact, the person sitting next to me said, “I am not high enough for this.”

So far, my absolute favorite part of this episode is Racist Anthropologist #1. He’s this very serious, stuffy British dude, but he’s so over the top that he’s clearly a caricature. There’s a scene where he’s exercising while talking to the scientist and he starts running in place and I laughed so hard I almost passed out. 

This episode is clearly a commentary on colonization, but what felt weird was hearing the Doctor make wild assumptions about a whole species without really knowing anything. Isn’t he this super old alien guy who loves exploring? Wouldn’t he at least have met enough species to know better?

I have no idea what’s going on with Tegan and her dream world, but I think it’s all about to dovetail together nicely.

Also, the Doctor made mention of a SONIC SCREWDRIVER?! I would like to know more about this.

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Episode 10: “Kinda, Part Two”

Racist Anthropologist #2 claims he has “the power of death over all of you” now that he has control of the dome and imprisons the scientist, the Doctor, and Adric. He has two Kinda, those that were being held captive, now conscripted as soldiers who enforce his will.

Meanwhile, Racist Anthropologist #1 uses his super cool super suit to travel into the jungle to capture more Kinda (I think). A child, Karuna, and her Yoda-like mentor, who says things like, “Your doubt is the only danger,” encounter Racist Anthropologist #1 and give him a box that makes his face glow.

Racist Anthropologist #2 becomes obsessed with creating a safe zone around the dome because he’s afraid of the trees. His mental stability seems less than ideal for someone under the pressure of leading a research mission. Racist Anthropologist #1 returns just in time to keep Racist Anthropologist #2 from beating Adric and presents the box he received as a gift.

Tegan hangs out in the dream place with un-Tegan, a duplicate of herself, but neither can tell who is the original. Just by thinking of multiples, Tegan and un-Tegan create eight more of themselves before reintegrating back into a single Tegan. Then the guy who has been taunting her takes her hand in his and the snake tattoo transfers from his arm to hers. Tegan returns to the Kinda planet’s surface and touches a Kinda named Aris, transferring the snake onto him!

Oh, and the Doctor opened the box!

My Impression:

The storyline is complex, the visual effects are pretty fantastic considering the year this was produced, and there’s a good mystery the team has to solve. I like it. I still don’t know what all the different stories have to do with one another, but I’m excited to see how this all turns out.

There’s a moment in the dream world where Tegan yells at the guy who’s taunting her. He decides to punish her by plunging them into darkness. There are these trippy white outlines of their faces and bodies that sort of pulse and shiver against the black backdrop. It definitely had the desired effect of disorienting and creeping me out.

I was not expecting the layered, interconnected story that’s playing out onscreen, so color me intrigued.

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Episode 11: “Kinda, Part Three”

At first, the Doctor and the scientist think that the box was just a Kinda style jack-in-the-box, but then they go on a wicked trip where they see the Yoda-like wise woman and Karuna beckoning. The Doctor realizes the box has connected them to the Kinda and they escape the dome to search for the wise woman. Instead, they find Aris, who can now speak, which apparently fulfills a prophecy. (Gotta love the convenience of prophecy.) Karuna saves them from the death sentence Aris issues.

Racist Anthropologist #2 wants to blow up the dome because “then we’ll be safe forever and ever.” So, with the help of his friends, he sets up a bomb that would have a 30-ish mile destruction zone.

The Doctor and the scientist find the wise woman but are quickly pursued by Aris and all the Kinda he has enthralled. He wants to kill the “not-we,” but for some unclear reason, he instead redirects the mob toward the dome. 

The wise woman, the Doctor, and the scientist walk into a bar. Not really. It just sounds like the perfect set up for a joke. What they actually do, though, is figure out that Aris is possessed by an entity called the Mara. And then the wise woman dies.

My Impression:

First off, the wise woman is hysterical. She clearly doesn’t much care for men and every time she calls the Doctor an idiot, he totally winces. I love a powerful woman who doesn’t have time for a man questioning her methods.

What I’m less enthusiastic about is it seems like the story is headed in the “Colonizers aren’t the real bad guys; this demon capable of possession is the real bad guy” direction. Hopefully, that will not be the case and instead, it’ll be like, “JK JK, it’s both.”

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Episode 12: “Kinda, Part Four”

Don’t worry! The wise woman didn’t die! She merged with Karuna and now Karuna is both herself and the wise woman. She tells the Doctor and the scientist that the only way the Mara could have entered this realm was through an opening in the dreaming, created by an unconnected mind. “Of course, Tegan,” the Doctor says as if there were any reason to think these two things were connected. (They are, of course. I just don’t understand how the Doctor knew.)

He finds Tegan still asleep under the chimes. Karuna shares that the chimes are used for collective dreaming, never for a single person to dream, but that’s exactly what Tegan did.

At the same time, Aris/the Mara attacks the dome with all the Kinda following him, but Adric has just escaped the dome in a super suit. He and Aris battle, but Adric is too afraid to really control himself. The Kinda all run away and a wounded Aris escapes.

The Doctor, the scientist, Aric, and Tegan all get inside the dome, which is rigged to blow up at any second. The Doctor tricks Racist Anthropologist #2 into looking into the box, which is a Kinda tool that heals the mind, and he becomes a rational racist anthropologist.

The Doctor declares, “The Kinda are a very sophisticated people,” and then rallies the troops to get a bunch of large mirrors because evil cannot look upon itself. Again, I have no idea how he would know this, but maybe it’s something from a past life.

They lure the Mara into their makeshift hall of mirrors and it separates from Aris. In a move Aladdin’s Jafar would later claim he’d invented, the Mara grows into a giant snake, but then looking at itself makes it disappear.

Karuna now says that the Kinda are free of the curse of time (I don’t know what that means) because the Mara is the one that starts the clocks.

Racist Anthropologist #1 and #2 are reunited in their newfound sanity and decide to leave all of the prior days’ events out of the official record. The scientist tells the Doctor she’s going to recommend that her people not colonize the planet.

The Doctor and his companions fly off in the police box.

My Impression:

Ugh. The thing I didn’t want to happen happened. “Colonizers aren’t so bad! It’s these damn body-jumping demons you gotta worry about!” While that is a pretty convincing argument, it also seems like it was the existence of an unconnected mind that let everything come to pass. I’m looking at you, Tegan. So, who’s the real problem? The Doctor and his companions gallivanting through time and space? The colonizers trying to steal land?

I love the snake puppet that they make for the Mara so much. Sure, it looks completely inanimate and never once blinks, but damn, that’s some fine crafting.

I’m guessing the Doctor has established himself as particularly intuitive and particularly adept at working things out, but there are definitely some jumps that he makes in this story where I can’t help but wonder how he got to the conclusion he did. He’s always right, of course. (But hey, if that mirror thing works, I am on board with mailing a million mirrors to my enemies.)

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Overall impression:

I am pleasantly surprised! I was not hopeful for what 1982 Doctor Who had to bring to the table, but this was pretty damn good! While I may not love the final reveal that the true villain is a demon and not the people attempting to steal the planet from a species they consider not to be civilized enough, the way the story was told was a lot better told than I had expected.

“Kinda” reminded me of Star Trek: The Original Series, but mixed with "The Scary Door" (a fictional spoof of the Twilight Zone enjoyed by Futurama characters). I enjoyed the abundance of ST: TOS style tropes, including psychedelic effects, lots of power shifts, possessed people, reincarnation, and more.

One of the quirks I really like about the Doctor is that he learns a coin trick from Adric and then the coin trick becomes a vehicle for connection throughout the storyline. It shows that the Doctor is capable of learning and growth, but can also be playful and clever. He also seems to genuinely want the best for everyone, but he also seems a bit… arrogant? Like maybe he thinks he knows better than everyone? But, also he does? It reminds me of more-relatable Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Plus, I really like how coordinated his clothing is. How does one pull off a vaguely Christmas-y outfit complete with a holly-esque boutonniere? With a Panama hat, obviously.

While I don’t think I’ll be adding the 1982 series to my regular watch list, the next time I’m sick I think I’ll settle in for a hardcore binge so I can get to know the fifth Doctor a little better.