TV Club: Doctor Who, The War Games, episodes 1-5

“The War Games,” episodes 1-5 (season 6, episodes 35-39; originally aired 4/19-5/17/1969)

At the end of the 1960s, Doctor Who was in the throes of its second major crisis, and so by extension was the Doctor himself. After three years, Patrick Troughton had decided he wanted to try other things, which meant that for the second time, the show would need to figure out how to get along without its lead actor. That in itself wasn’t such a devastating problem, since William Hartnell’s departure in “The Tenth Planet” had led to Doctor Who’s uniquely freeing solution to the problem of change, the concept that the Doctor periodically regenerates into a wholly new body with a new personality. The problem was that this time, the show itself was on the rocks. Ratings were way down—from 12 million for “The Dalek Invasion Of Earth” to 3.5 million for the least-watched episode of “The War Games,” episode eight—and there was general agreement that something major had to change, beyond even another regeneration, if Doctor Who was going to survive.

“The War Games”—the last appearance of the Second Doctor as the lead character of the show—was not meant as the story that would solve Who’s problems, or even set up that solution. Just the opposite. By the time Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke wrote the script, the producers had already figured out how to reinvent the series: The Third Doctor would be exiled to Earth starting with season seven’s “Spearhead From Space,” which would allow the show to use familiar modern-day settings to a) bring in greater relevance and sophistication to the storylines, and b) be made more cheaply. And the necessary groundwork for the Doctor joining UNIT had been laid down in “The Invasion” earlier in season six. So “The War Games” didn’t have to worry about any of that—instead, its focus is on capping off the Second Doctor era itself, and ending his story in such a way that justified the radical changes of the next season. To that end, Dicks and Hulke confronted the Doctor with a situation that was a dark mirror of his own habit of interfering in the natural course of history, and what’s more, was too much for him to handle. The Doctor fails, and he’s forced to face the consequences of his failure when he’s caught and put on trial by the Time Lords, the people he’s been running away from since before the series began.

Originally published Nov. 20, 2011 on Read the complete article.

Interview: Chris Strouth of Paris 1919

Chris Strouth has been a pillar of the Twin Cities music scene for years, both on and off stage, as a performer, designer, producer, head of Twin/Tone Records, and prime mover of museum-friendly dub experimentalists Future Perfect Sound System, among other hats. His most recent project is Paris 1919, an electronic collective that grew out of his studio-bound, largely solo sonic collages into a live band that includes Boiled In Lead’s Drew Miller, Uzza vocalist Tabatha Predovich, and drummer Eric White. And sometimes many others—at this year’s Art-A-Whirl, Strouth helped mastermind the 30-musician improvisational ensemble project Czeslaw’s Loop. With three albums of moody, post-industrial ambience already under his belt, Strouth is in the midst of signing a deal with UK distributor State 51, home to like-minded experimentalists Current 93 and Throbbing Gristle. At the Ritz Theater on Saturday, an 11-member version of Paris 1919—also including Joe Hastings of Hastings 3000 and Blue Sky Blackout’s Jon Hunt—will spin a live soundtrack to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1927 serial-killer thriller, The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog, an excellent early example of the dark, suspenseful, and macabrely funny Hitchcockian sensibility. Strouth sat down with The A.V. Club in advance of the show.

Originally published Nov. 10, 2011 on Read the complete article.

TV Club: Doctor Who, The Dalek Invasion of Earth

“The Dalek Invasion Of Earth” (season 2, episodes 4-9. Originally aired Nov. 21-Dec. 26, 1964)

When it comes to its importance to Doctor Who, “The Dalek Invasion of Earth” is way up there among the most influential serials in its history. Commissioned almost immediately after the surprise smash hit of the Daleks’ debut the year before, “Dalek Invasion” put Who in the ratings top 10 for the first time, and helped stoke the fires of 1960s Dalekmania into a full-fledged craze. (Seriously, it was a big thing—not as big as Beatlemania, but a genuine pop-culture phenomenon.) It’s also hugely important to the show’s ongoing narrative—in their first story, the Daleks were implacably evil but still small-time, not even able to travel outside their home city. “Dalek Invasion” repositioned them as Doctor Who’s first and greatest intergalactic threat—and prompted a response in kind from its title character. With a bigger budget than ever before, “Dalek Invasion” boasted the series’ first extensive use of on-location filming, allowing real London landmarks to give the Daleks’ takeover an uncanny realism and an epic feel. And it marked another milestone first: The departure of a companion. The original companion, in fact—the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, which set a precedent for how the series would work cast changes into the storyline.

Originally published Nov. 6, 2011 on Read the complete article.

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