Mysterious Planet: Doctor Who: Season 23
Mysterious Planet SYNOPSIS:
The Doctor is taken out of time by the Time Lords and put on trial on a Gallifreyan space station. The court prosecutor, the Valeyard will present evidence from the Matrix to the Inquisitor and the court to prove the Doctor's guilt in breaking the first law of time involving himself in the affairs of other planets.
The court video screen shows the Doctor and Peri on Ravelox, a planet recovering from fireball devastation. The travellers find evidence linking this planet to Earth. Mercenaries Glitz and Dibber attempt to destroy a black light converter but are captured by a primitive tribe which worship it as a totem. Peri is captured by the tribe while the Doctor locates an underground city where he is arrested.
The Doctor is brought before Drathro, "the Immortal", in reality an L3 robot who rules the underground city and believes the Doctor has the intelligence to repair his black light converter power supply. The Doctor escapes and meets up with fellow escapees Peri, Glitz and Dibber who confirm Ravelox is actually Earth and Drathro is guarding secrets that will prove this.
Realizing the converter is damaged the Doctor has to convince tribe leader Queen Katryca to dismantle it before it blows up taking the galaxy with it. The Queen instead detains them and prepares to invade the underground citadel and destroy Drathro but the L3 robot is beginning his own counter attack and the Doctor must shut him down before it's too late.
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Mysterious Planet DETAILS:
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Mysterious Planet CAST & CREW
Colin Baker (Sixth Doctor)
Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown)
Lynda Bellingham — The Inquisitor
Michael Jayston — The Valeyard
Tony Selby — Sabalom Glitz
Joan Sims — Queen Katryca
Glen Murphy — Dibber
Tom Chadbon — Merdeen
Roger Brierley — Drathro
David Rodigan — Broken Tooth
Adam Blackwood — Balazar
Timothy Walker — Grell
Billy McColl — Humker
Sion Tudor Owen — Tandrell
Production Staff for Serial 7A:
Writer - Robert Holmes
Director - Nicholas Mallet
Script editor - Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
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Mysterious Planet REVIEWS
So from freezing cold old Necros to…maybe several other places including Blackpool, Magnus...before ending up 18 months later on the mysterious planet of Ravelox…or is it?
Season 23 has to be said to be an opportunity missed. They had 18 months - 18 months to get it right! Plus they were already planning and nearly in pre-production of season 23, not to mention having a very experienced and tight knit team. Ok so they now only had 14 twenty five minute episodes to play with. But they had basically 12 episodes sewn up script wise, directors allocated, locations scouted and Robert Holmes was ready to make up for the Two Doctors. Why change it???
The decree from the big bosses was tone down the violence and probably clean up the scripting. Finally they had worked out a new direction for the series with Revelation of the daleks - why not continue with the black comedy idea and tailor the characters and scripts commissioned accordingly? Plus we had nice sounding stories such as Nightmare Fair, The Ultimate Evil, Mission To Magnus, Robert Holmes Auton idea (which seemed OTT in terms of bringing back old series elements) Ian Marter's Strange Encounter and Christopher Bidmead's Penecasta - a story centred round Peri. AND NO MASTER!! All these could have been honed, perfected and really worked on. In fact the only thing that was worked on was the Doctor & Peri, they were made so much more best friends and the sixth Doctor made likable and knowledgeable finally.
But instead J-NT has decided to throw all that out the window around August '85 barely a year before they started transmission and came up with this Trial idea based on Dickens Christmas Carol, with a story set round the past, present and future Why? There was not enough time to work it out script wise let alone execute it properly and flawlessly and prove that Dr Who wasn't a tired old show battling for viewers but a rejuvenated and perfected series with plenty of mileage. Obviously the BBC bosses were putting pressure on, but all the producer had to do was agree with them and do the original season anyway. Scripts were still being considered and thrown out or replaced as late as April '86!
Again, lets throw out all the built up repertory of directors and production crew, add new sound guys, new costume people but don't tell them how to make the show look better than season 22 but make it look worse…but let's get poor old Robert Holmes who's sick anyway to write most of the damn thing, he's experienced enough, what happens? It kills him, ok it was a liver complaint or something but something like Trial wouldn't have helped. Pity Mysterious Planet, his last full script was a more average Holmes effort, but he was too sick to polish up the final script.
So enough ranting let's review the damn Mysterious Planet! First we open with a perfect example of how they should've stayed with the same look of season 22 or completely revamped the show. The opening credits. We get the same tired star field sequence, which could've been updated but without the Peter Howell music which let's face it is way better than what we got and didn't need to be updated could've lasted until the show's demise. It sounds shite and lacks impact, it's a really bad hybrid. Then we get perhaps the best ever special effects sequence the program has ever seen which must use up about two thirds of the entire season's budget as the TARDIS gets hijacked by a space station.
Then a really good set up, the Doctor is suddenly dragged up by his own people for an 'inquiry' we meet the Valeyard & Inquistor and a bunch of nameless Timelords and there's no sign of Peri and the Doctor gets to be the first one to watch the Mysterious Planet as the evidence is presented on screen for him. Colin Baker has settled down in the role both in the courtroom and in the Ravelox sequences. He blusters still, yes, but it's more lovably buffoonish, pity he's still wearing that jacket. Peri has matured too, pity she wears more clothes though and their relationship is a strong one, with plenty of mutual respect and actual friendship showed.
The mysterious planet parts start off well with the slow discovery of Marble Arch and the realisation that not only is the planet the exact same dimensions as Earth, it is in fact the planet Earth itself! Although this is revealed a lot later after a lot of boring bits. It's after part 1 it really gets boring, you can't wait for the courtroom scenes to interject with the action. If only they focused on the Matrix secrets conspiracy more. Some nice characters, such as Sabalom Glitz and Dibber as the intergalactic version of Arfur Daly and Terry…although these guys can shoot.. they are well played and are the highlight of the mysterious planet and the Guy the plays Balazar is good, despite being dressed like a six foot tall condom. Liked parts of what it was trying to do with the underground city but it just seems so flat, there's less atmosphere in this than on Pluto.
Drathro is a nice idea but badly realised and very clunky. As was the council roadwork tool used as it's "fearsome" service robot. The Holmes double acts and dialogue are there but the actors do nothing with it. All the Tribe of the Free are definitely free of acting skill, particularly the queen and the 'comedy relief' of Drathro's human helpers lacked more timing than even Connex transport. Lot of miscasting and lack of feeling are down to one thing - the director Nicholas Mallet. Yes good idea to hire someone who lacks TV experience and looks like they've only directed a couple of episodes of soap opera in their career. The incidental music is awful too, plus the annoying habit starts and continues with most episodes of this season with a big zoom in close up of Colin's 'concerned' face (he does a really bad impression of either Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker too) So can't really help but say they were woefully unprepared and it shows in mysterious planet, it really looks like the series has further reduced in quality but will give it a 4.5/10 for, I don't know, the little elements that did work.
Unless you're John Nathan Turner.
Then you'd just sit around all day moping and giving interviews to Doctor Who magazine and saying that everything is still cool and you will have a cushy job to turn up to on Monday. And lets not forget going to conventions in America, getting drunk with the fans and spending your downtime on all fours while your production manager rams his knob in your ass all night long. And this kiddies is how Trial of a Timelord came about. Seriously, do you think ANYTHING that took THIS FUCKING LONG to think up is gonna win back viewers??? Y'know why this story is fourteen episodes long? Cos JNT wanted to do a story that topped Dalek Master Plan in episode length. Sure you can call it Trial of a Timelord and make it self-referral cos it basically says what the show is now down to but what the fuck makes you think the audience are gonna tune into it for?
Colin Baker by this stage (regardless of what the fans thought - its the general public who watch the show that count) was an abomination of a Doctor. A total and utter joke. If only they had done what Russell T Davies had the brains and talent to do and just start the whole series afresh with new Doctor and new companion with interesting stories and characters we can all relate to and care about. Yeah; we REALLY give a flying muslim about the Doctor (while he is STILL being portrayed by Baker) and the bloody Timelords and the Valeyard and the Inseminator. But we're here now after our eighteen month holiday and suddenly there is bugger all stories in the emergency kit so even though Robert Holmes is diagnosed with a terminal illness lets get him to write.....
THE MYSTERIOUS PLANET Okay, lets blow three quarters of the series budget on that spaceship shot. Yeah that's impressive - not. And we only see it a couple of times. Oh - and Tim; that new theme music is shite. The plot for mysterious planet is totally boring. The direction is non existent - again JNT chooses one of his past mates (or lovers, you can't be sure) and its just point-and-shoot. No atmosphere or tension or anything. Which brings us back to the plot. I saw mysterious planet when it first screened, I tried to watch it again a few years ago and I even tried watching Tim's copy. Its crap. It rivals Fear Her. Mysterious Planet makes Rise of the Cybermen look like a bloody masterpiece. Glitz and Dibber? Are they funny? Sure; about as funny as cancer. Joan Simms as a villain? Yep; about as convincing as Richard Keown in a wig. This whole thing about the Earth having moved somewhere? Yeah; the viewers at home are loving this.
Eighteen months in the planning and this is what we start with. I would have started sooner and kicked Colin Baker's arse out the door as soon as Revelation finished on screen, followed by firing that egotistical hack writer Eric Saward and then given JNT more free time to enjoy what he loved doing most; nights alone with his boyfriend, a tube of lube and a giant Mr Fisty.
Zero out of ten.
I do remember one other thing very clearly though… the new version of the theme song is incredible.
It's incredible that somebody could take the most brilliant theme song ever recorded, and turn it into that stinking pile of shit! What the hell were they thinking? They took the guts out of it. It went from haunting, moody and scary to just pissy and whiny… WHY??? Reading about it recently I see that JNT had heard a demo that some guy had did, and then contracted him to him to record it properly. This guy was a rank amateur who'd just bought a 5 track recorder and had no idea how to use it… so he had 5 days to learn how to use it in his shed by recording a globally syndicated classic! Wow!
Anyway, by the time I finally got the boxset (I used it as a reward for myself for getting through exams!) my thoughts on Colin Baker had changed and it was with great anticipation that I began Mysterious Planet… after the repressed memories of the theme song were dealt with!
And I guess this is the way mysterious planet was watched by many - as given the hiatus (and the quality of Revelation, and the fact that it was penned by Holmes) this was probably the most anticipated episode since Castrovalva. Pity - cos if you're watching it with high expectations… however after the big budget model work at the start, you're in for a big let down.
Mysterious planet is not that bad, but it's just an average run around really.
There's nothing offensively horrible in it. The Doctor and Peri have clearly travelled together for a bit longer and actually look like they like each other now. The Doctor is far more tender, both in general and towards Peri, and the flow of things is a lot better for this. And there are a lot of nice "Holmesian" characters we meet along the way too - Dibber and Glitz (very much like Garron and Unhstoff from Ribos - who were great fun) are fun and enjoyable, Balazar's quite nice in his naivety and gives a very honest performance (maybe a little naff, but likable), Katryca's OK, full of bluster and OTT but it suits her - and some of her banter with Peri is great, and the runaway from Warriors Gate (aka Broken Tooth) is kind of OK too. Dratho is kind of OK too in concept, but I don't know about realisation… he's pretty clunky and very top heavy… he always looks like he's going to fall at any minute. The two guys from Bros who play Dratho's off siders aren't all that good… but they're probably better than those dilemma twins!
The plot of Mysterious Planet is fine too - it's standard Dr Who stuff… primitive planet - rebel tribe - powerful dictator - troubled power supply - rebels rising against the dictator… and throw in the fact that it's also Earth and it's been moved 3 light years (or something) and you get the makings of a good story. And even though it's all shot on video, the production comes up OK too… Nick Mallett isn't a bad Director, and his debut is fine.
But the thing that lets Mysterious planet down is the trial.
And I don't mean the constant interruptions - they're fine. Jayston is great as the Valeyard, and although the insults are childish and annoying and not hugely funny, the Doctor works really well with him most of the time. Although while we're on the trial, how would it have been playing one of the extras behind the inquisitor? Sitting there for hours on end with a massive hat on, and just turning up to the screen and back to the court every couple of minutes… now there's a job!
No, the trial bits aren't that bad… but the trial spoils the telling of Mysterious planet cos we never find out what the bloody mysterious bit of the mysterious planet is! I know it's meant as a tease - as seeds that have been planted to be resolved at the end… but it makes the story as a whole very unrewarding.
Maybe this should have been the third part of the trial - flowing nicely into part 4 where we get to know the big secrets. Maybe the return of Sil could have been a better opening story to the trial… but then again that made mysterious planet look like… well… we'll see on Monday just how bad that one was.
All up, I did enjoy watching this again - it's just a pity it's not a full story…. But because I enjoyed it (and even laughed at a couple of bits), I'll have to give mysterious planet a pass… just...