Continuing my binge-watching adventure through the fifty-year run of Doctor Who, we come to the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton), whose run covers three seasons and 21 serials over a total of 119 episodes. As always, I will try to keep my analysis of the characters and episodes spoiler-free so that others can experience this era of the series for themselves with a fresh perspective.
Previous entries in this series:
Embarking on a Journey into the World of Doctor WhoI. The Doctor
Journeys with Doctor Who (1): The First Doctor (1963-1966)
The transition to the Second Doctor was the first time the series employed the use of "regeneration" to change actors, and also established the tradition of each new Doctor not only looking different, but having significantly different personality traits from the previous incarnation. The lore surrounding regeneration was not yet established at this time, so the choice of Patrick Troughton to replace First Doctor William Hartnell was clearly influenced by the fact that Troughton bears some physical resemblance to Hartnell and could pass as a younger version of him. However, no apparent attempt was made to have Troughton act like Hartnell, thus establishing the tradition of each new Doctor showing markedly different behavior from their predecessor.
As a result, the First Doctor's 19th century gentleman-adventurer gave way to the Second Doctor's sardonic, comically dubious con man. Whereas Hartnell's Doctor was a curmudgeonly but sincerely protective father figure to his companions, to the point that their chafing under his guardianship was sometimes a factor in the story, Troughton's Doctor is more like an irresponsible card-hustler uncle who keeps getting his younger friends into trouble and sometimes putting them at greater risk than they want to be in. But it's all in good fun: The Doctor, although far more ethically cavalier than his previous incarnation, is also more enjoyable as a character himself. He is benignly anti-social, and bumbles into danger without much concern for himself and his companions, yet is full of smirk-worthy cons and schemes to extricate the TARDIS party from their largely self-inflicted predicaments.
He is so cavalier most of the time, in fact, that it's hard to take him seriously when he begins to show fear or alarm, usually by saying "Oh my word!": One gets the impression not that Troughton is acting poorly - because in many serials he proves himself quite talented - but rather that it's the Doctor who is hamming it up for the sake of motivating his companions, and is himself not really feeling anything deeper than mild amusement or anxiety. And it makes the Second Doctor's adventures more enjoyable on some levels, but something is lost in the process: The profound moral depth of the First Doctor, and the earnest sense of mission and humility that accompanied the best of his journeys, is totally gone. The Second Doctor is not a guardian or a scholar of the worlds he visits, but a jaded traveler seeking out external challenges to avoid rather than grow himself.
The First Doctor had gravitas, sincerity, and humanity, but these are all merely dormant potentials in the Second Doctor - present, but unexpressed. He does what is right and fights for humanity not out of some passionate sense of purpose or justice, but as a matter of form - like it's his job. You get the impression he could just as easily be doing something more trivial without feeling guilty about being derelict, but is drawn to the adrenaline and significance of important events, and sides with good as a matter of taste rather than fundamental morality. Every time the script calls for a righteous moral stand that Hartnell would have nailed with weight and stature, from Troughton we get the sense that the Doctor is going through the motions for the sake of the people around him.
We can imagine that, ironically with his more youthful appearance, this new Doctor is connected to an older and more time-worn sensibility that remains highly energetic and yet has been through far too much to feel anything very deeply. At certain points other characters with special knowledge note that the Doctor is "more than human" because of his travels and experiences, and this perhaps hits upon the subtleties of the Second Doctor's character - he is not merely smarter and better-traveled than an ordinary human, but also has far broader perspective. This Doctor is more cynical and alienated though, and is motivated more by seeking out problems to solve rather than realities to experience or witness. Whereas the First Doctor acted from a deep sense of connection to the cosmos, the Second Doctor seems lost - a wandering, errant son with mixed feelings about his roots.
Conclusions: At their very best, Hartnell's Doctor rises considerably higher than Troughton's ever does, but on average Troughton's is the more entertaining and engaged character. Additionally, the First Doctor was more important as the nexus around which his companions organized - a sort of host, or guide - while the Second Doctor is a participant in his own right in the adventures of the TARDIS gang, and often enough a shameless instigator of shenanigans. It is probably giving the writers too much credit for subtlety, but there are moments where one could swear the Second Doctor is deliberately screwing with the people around him in order to make things more interesting. So I appreciate the Second Doctor, but if I must compare the two so far, I'll go with Hartnell as the deeper, more powerful, and profound figure.
II. General Observations
The Second Doctor era of the series contains vast blocs of missing episodes due to the 1970s BBC purge of their archives before they understood that the show was important. These episodes have had to be reconstructed by fans in later eras, adding up to over half of all episodes from the period and thus making it something of a "Dark Age," and as a result can be a chore to get through - especially when every episode of a long serial has to be reconstructed.
The typical format of reconstructed episodes is the original audio track played with surviving still shots from the filming, fragments of live action if they exist, captions to describe context, and sometimes fan-created animations to help depict action, and it's often more than adequate to experience the episode. Many are done well enough that you don't really remember after the fact to what extent they were reconstructed vs. original because it's easy enough to follow the story across both formats.
However, there are a painfully large number of awful reconstructions, with poor-quality, unremastered audio that sounds like the actors are talking through a drive-thru squawk box and virtually unintelligible much of the time. Additionally, and overlapping with these problems, some have very low-quality stills, or else there aren't enough of them to even be visually worthwhile and consist of little more than random shots of whatever character is speaking. Making matters worse, some reconstructions don't have contextual captions letting you know what's going on, so the progress of the story can be especially hard to follow.
In reconstructions where all of these problems happen simultaneously, you quickly get lost and find yourself listening to what sounds like Charlie Brown's teacher going "wah-wah-wah" while repeating stills of different characters pop up at intervals. Still, while you may lose the thread of the story at some points, you can follow along well enough to get a vague sense of what the serial is generally about.
Three overall trends distinguish the Second Doctor era: First, the series almost completely abandons any attempt to be earnestly educational, philosophical, or morally salutary, and instead becomes more entertainment-oriented - which, in my view, is a real tragedy that unnecessarily sacrificed some of the worthiest aspects of the First Doctor era. The result is a faster pace and more action scenes, but the price is that the best episodes are brilliant on a visceral level rather than being thoughtful, and thrilling rather than affecting. Overall the effect is to improve the quality of mediocre episodes, shift the domain of significance of the best, and make the worst into insulting cliches rather than spectacular failures born of over-ambition.
Secondly, the alleged randomness of the TARDIS's destinations in time and space becomes deprecated to virtual insignificance, with no explanation: We just suddenly find ourselves repeatedly on Earth, usually in the 20th century (both in the past and future of the series' present), often in England, and none of the events that transpire have anything to do with history. Off-world destinations are much fewer and farther between, and are almost never placed in a time context. In fact, in all three seasons of the Second Doctor's run there is only one historically significant serial, and it's only the second serial of his first season. A standard formula becomes evident: On other planets at an unstated point in time, there are political problems. OR, on Earth in the modern era, an alien invasion of some sort is happening. This is annoying.
On the other hand, the third trend is positive: There is noticeably more science in the science fiction, even though its application across serials is horribly inconsistent. Sometimes the Doctor's approach to problem-solving is quite intelligent, rational, evidence-based, and scientific, and other times everything that gets said is absolute nonsense that is a crime against reason. In some episodes it's clear that some thought was put into the physical logic of a situation rather than just making events dance on the puppet strings of plot, while in others it's pure horror anthology schlock. I do like and appreciate the space opera episodes though - they put some genuine thought into them, even though the science is never thoroughly realistic, and the writers are clearly novices to the scientific subjects involved.
The same radical swings in quality occur in terms of the behavior of supporting characters, with the best episodes reaching such stellar heights of performance that you're actually shocked to realize how good they are, and yet the worst stories plumb the utmost ludicrous depths of 1940s comic book-based radio plays targeted at children. Fortunately most of the serials telegraph their quality in the first few minutes of the first episode, so in most cases you know right away "Oh boy, this is gonna suck big time," or "Hmm, something interesting is happening here." There are, however, occasional disappointments, and a few times where suckage is portended but then they dodge the bullet.
Additionally, with the lack of diversity in both time and space destinations, the show's ethnocentrism becomes a lot more apparent in the infrequent cases where supporting characters occur who are of other races or nationalities. British characters are invariably much more reasonable, moral, and heroic than characters of other nationality or ethnicity, and the degree and nature of difference usually follows along racial/national stereotype lines. In at least one serial, this pattern becomes so overt as to be blatantly, sickeningly racist (see the spoiler-free serial breakdown below for more details).
In terms of the overall show, the First Doctor's serials are more sincere, bolder, weightier, and more diverse in setting and plot than the Second Doctor's, despite occasionally paying the price of some spectacularly ridiculous entries. The creators of the Second Doctor's adventures apparently made a decision to be more mediocre, less imaginative, and less significant in order to achieve more consistent results, and I think that was a poor decision despite the remarkable quality of the best Second Doctor serials. My main criticism of this era in this series is thus that it lacks ambition, and would rather perpetrate cliches than risk silliness - and yet still often enough falls victim to it anyway.
This era of the series make some very puzzling priority decisions regarding villains, spending the greatest amount of time on the least interesting while introducing and then just forgetting about two highly fascinating alien antagonist races. Summation: Screenwriting and acting brilliance at times, and an increase of scientific detail in some serials, but highly questionable strategic decisions about the overall trajectory of the show, baffling priorities, and an indefensibly hemmed list of settings most likely driven by overly conservative production plans.
1. Polly (Anneke Wills)
Polly is a smart and relatively assertive companion who first joins the TARDIS crew late in the First Doctor's run and continues with the Second Doctor, but is also somewhat introverted. She comes across as genuine if a little judgmental, and is more of a self-possessed young woman than the chipper, adolescent-minded girls who are often Who companions, although (as far as I can recall) never expresses herself thoroughly or distinctively enough to leave a very memorable impression. Her instinctive dignity and bearing earns her the nickname "Duchess" from her fellow companion and implied love interest, Ben, but she also communicates a believable and sympathetic vulnerability.
2. Ben (Michael Craze)
Ben joins the TARDIS crew along with Polly, having met both her and the Doctor at the same time. He is a sailor on shore leave from the Royal Navy, and is an extroverted, plain-spoken, blue-collar guy. Apart from bluntly speaking his mind and being unafraid of a brawl, he leaves even less of an impression than Polly. However, the two of them fit together well and as a couple fill the role of companion smoothly. They are both confused by the transition from First to Second Doctor though, and Ben finds the Second Doctor somewhat irritating. Neither of them have much to offer the Doctor, and they both seem to realize that - especially after the regeneration - so when they decide to leave together it makes sense. You never really get to know them, so it's not a big deal when they leave.
3. Jamie (Frazer Hines)
We're introduced to Jamie in the last rigorously historical / educational episode of Doctor Who, taking place in the aftermath of the 1745 Battle of Culloden between Scottish highlanders and British redcoats. He is a Jacobite rebel highlander, and becomes attached to the Doctor in the course of the serial. As a war veteran and guerrilla fighter against a brutal and powerful military, Jamie is tough and somewhat fatalistic, but also undefeated and defiant even in the face of doom. Despite being totally clueless about the high-tech things going on around him, he has an eye for cutting through to the point and seeing the motives of other people, and proves invaluable to the Doctor.
Also, the writers were serious enough about the character to internalize 18th century Scottish mores into his behavior and reactions, at least to a modest extent that is apparent enough to be distinctive. However, they make him wear a kilt throughout the show, which usually looks ridiculous and serves no purpose other than to superficially advertise that he's Scottish despite Hines crafting a pitch-perfect accent. A little improbably, Jamie seems to overcome what would surely have been a deep and abiding hatred of the English pretty quickly, and doesn't seem to show any trace of it even when dealing with English soldiers in later eras.
It is fun to watch his discomfort with the greater independence of future women from those of his time, although it's shown as only mild exasperation rather than the profoundly disturbing future shock it would really have been for someone like him. He is definitely a classic companion who contributed massively to the foundations of the series in its early years, and more than rises to the standards of First Doctor companion Ian Chesterton. The most entertaining part of Jamie's character is when he expresses exasperation with something - a reaction equal parts confusion, good-natured frustration, and stoic resignation, and yet always from a position of unflappable strength.
4. Victoria (Deborah Watling)
Victoria is a, well, Victorian young lady of privilege (bit on the nose, right?) from the 19th century who attaches herself to the TARDIS crew due to a personal tragedy in the course of a serial. She is a painfully inconsistent character of whom the writers continually make mutually exclusive demands, at one moment behaving like a foolish, downright stupid little girl with no sense whatsoever and a perpetually anxious worrier, and the next as utterly fearless, intelligent, and adventurous in the generic mold of a Who companion. And yet they never settle on either - she goes back and forth between these attitudes according to the convenience of the plot and the laziness of the writing.
Her behavior bears no resemblance to Victorian mores in any way, apart from a few throwaway comments here and there about how she perceives the societies they visit, but in herself shows no evidence of having grown up in the rigid strictures of that culture, or of subscribing to (or even being influenced by) its values and prejudices. It was a lost opportunity that they chose to use her as just another pretty girl rather than making her a specific person with a specific context who could have enlightened and been enlightened in turn, but it was part and parcel of the series' abandonment of historical / educational narratives.
At times her behavior is so infuriatingly stupid that the viewer wants to see her get caught by the villain/monster, and it's easy to project one's own disgust into the otherwise formulaic expressions of exasperation by the Doctor or Jamie whenever she behaves stupidly. By the time she decides to leave, it comes as a relief to everyone, not least the viewer, and reportedly was also a great relief to Deborah Watling who apparently wasn't happy being on the show. Given her character's treatment by the writers, it's not hard to understand.
About the only honest, believable thing about Victoria is the manner of her departure, when she shows the emotional toll of her adventures with the Doctor and starts to show the signs of exhaustion - something that may have been a true reflection of Deborah Watling's own feelings. It's always a squandered opportunity when writers refuse to let characters act from intrinsic nature as they've constructed it, and instead just puppeteer them for the sake of plot. Victoria was a case of wasted potential.
5. Zoe Heriot (Wendy Padbury)
Zoe is a fun, cerebral, cute little kitten of a girl who we meet on a near-future space station. She doesn't have much weight as a character, but she's fun and comes off as genuine and endearing, and she's physically so small that everything she does is cute - especially in rare instances where she fights. The context Zoe comes from is that when she met the Doctor she was a genius with an eidetic memory undergoing some sort of mental training to fill her head with scientific and technical facts, and this often comes in handy when some technical fact needs to be dropped into the story without seeming arbitrary or obtrusive.
But despite her technical acumen, she has little appreciation for the broader context of events, and is very much the "nerdy" mind who sees a lot of details while not necessarily being able to cut through them to the heart of a matter. At the same time, however, she seems totally invulnerable - not strong, just unaffected. Events pass through her without leaving a trace. Nothing weighs her down, and the fears and anxieties of the moment do not tarnish her once they've been dealt with.
Spoiler-free quality breakdown of all Second Doctor serials:
The Evil of the Daleks has a relatively complex story with non-obvious twists and turns, convincing human drama, and one of the more fascinating serials involving the foundational villain of the series, the Daleks. Neither the protagonists nor the villains behave stupidly, and both seem to be urgently motivated. Much bleaker than is usual for Doctor Who. Almost all the episodes are missing, but the material is superior enough that it shines through even in reconstructions. This is where we meet Victoria.
I will say it is a little annoying that the series seems to have completely discarded the origin story established in the First Doctor serial that introduced the Daleks, and now treats them as just arbitrarily vile rather than having become that way for some specific reason, which is a bit of a racist message. They've also completely abandoned any semblance of a meaningful, consistent timeline.
The Ice Warriors is one of the most impressive, well-made, well-written, well-acted, entertaining, and intriguing serials of the Second Doctor, and it comes as a complete surprise. We are introduced to a future Earth where (according to the embryonic climate science of the 1960s) a new Ice Age is unfolding, with glaciers impinging on civilization and a beleaguered technocracy just barely holding them back.
The supporting characters are all intrinsically motivated rather than being stock plot-puppets, and their actions make sense in their own human terms. Particularly intriguing is the careworn but undefeated leader of the technocrats, who strikes a remarkably Churchillian tone. But the serial also has a surprising sense of humor that pops up in odd places and really lets you know it's something different. We also meet the titular Ice Warriors, who are an enjoyable, motivated, and intelligent villain. This serial is just a pleasure to watch, and even the weird '60s costumes and obsolete technological form factors don't detract from it in any way.
In The Enemy of the World, Patrick Troughton really shines as an actor, playing a double role as both the Doctor and a charismatic would-be dictator (simply called "Salamander") in the near-future. Salamander is a passionate, inspiring leader with the stereotypic qualities of the suave but ruthless Latin, like a drug kingpin raised to the status of a global politician. He is Doctor Who's answer to Khan Noonien Singh, who debuted on Star Trek TOS just 10 months earlier than the first episode of this serial aired. To be quite honest, Salamander is more impressive than Khan, and Troughton's depiction superior to Ricardo Montalban's.
His diabolical cleverness is credible and intriguing, not merely a plot fabrication dependent on the protagonists being conveniently stupid, and in multiple scenes we get to see him employing his mind to deal with unexpected new circumstances. Another compelling character in the serial is the daring woman-of-action, Astrid, who steals every scene she's in. This serial is the apotheosis of the grounded, Earth-based, near-future strategy taken by the Second Doctor writers, and is so good that you appreciate the value of the approach even though in most other serials it's really not worth it.
The Dominators is such a slick, sardonic classic that it transcends Doctor Who, and would work equally well in just about any space-related science fiction show. There's a sleepy, peaceful planet of such tepid utopian pacifists that they look askance even at such benign motivations as curiosity and fun. Just to comically emphasize their effeteness, both men and women wear sundresses. Into this context come the Dominators - a society of brutally competitive, sadistic, power-hungry fascists who are halfway between Vulcans and Romulans in that they rigorously apply logical thought and stilted superior/subordinate dialectics to their quest for power. And between them comes the unsuspecting TARDIS crew. A whole lot of fun ensues.
The Dominators are by far the most enjoyable villains introduced in Doctor Who up to this point, because they're not just ruthless - they are actively and joyfully sadistic, revel in the destruction they cause, and are passionately motivated to seek power at every moment, including against each other. The constant struggle between the subordinate and superior Dominator is fascinating to watch, and articulated in a way that makes all sorts of dynamics possible. Moreover, the utopian society they encounter is so pathetic that the viewer actually kind of enjoys watching them run into these monstrous predators.
If it were treated seriously, the appearance of these vicious bastards amid a quiet, peaceful culture would be a source of pathos and compassion, but the story is handled with dark humor and guilty pleasure. The utopia is both so weak and yet so self-congratulatory and vain that you're forced to see some kind of sick cosmic justice in watching it trampled by people who are the exact opposite - who spend every moment in bulging-forehead-vein lust to beat others down. One could see a parable about balance, seeking challenges, and staying in tune with the forces of change that keep life vital, but really it's just a classic smashing of opposite forces together with hapless protagonists thrown into the middle. And damn it's fun.
The Moonbase is a space-based episode taking place on the Moon, and is actually pretty well-constructed and unfolds with solid internal logic. As with any scifi TV show, there are moments that have nothing to do with the laws of physics, but the supporting characters behave more or less like human beings and an enjoyable process of problem-solving is applied to the challenges the protagonists face. Moreover, the villains are also shown engaging in problem-solving, and the tit-for-tat action and reaction of the good and bad guys gives a good insight into the nature of technological endeavors.
The Macra Terror seems at first to be a standard "utopia with a dark secret" story, but things never quite go as expected. Some of the revelations are technically goofy, but it's hard to hold that against the serial given the overall effect, and the fact that all episodes have had to be reconstructed - i.e., you can't really know for sure if those moments are actually goofy, or if they're just not being communicated very well by the reconstruction format. Moreover, the utopia is genuinely creepy, with such creative touches as the citizens being expected to synchronize their work with a cheerful, sing-songy soundtrack that plays over loudspeakers. It's not a superb serial, but distinctly memorable and with worthy touches.
The Faceless Ones takes place in the present of a 1967 British airport, and concerns a bizarre conspiracy that seems to be kidnapping and replacing people with lookalikes. Events proceed smoothly, with a nice balance of suspense and action, although the story would have probably been better suited to a show like the Twilight Zone or the Outer Limits than Doctor Who. Although there is nothing to really be learned from it - there is no philosophical, personal, or mythological insight to be had into the world of Doctor Who - the execution is nonetheless high-quality.
The Wheel in Space is where we first meet Zoe, and concerns a deep space station that finds itself under siege. The supporting characters are nontrivial and interesting, with only one instance of a character who is initially in danger of turning into an annoying cliche - but the writers seem to have figured out the danger and sidelined that character partway through before he could screw everything up. The rest are solid and enjoyable to watch, as is the application of scientific and technical logic to the story. One touch I appreciated was the use of geometry in the occasional technobabble, which is rare in other scifi TV shows - you don't hear a lot of discussion of angles, planes, and other dimensional orientations that are crucial to spaceflight in shows that are allegedly all about space. Space opera is a lot of fun when done right.
The Seeds of Death is actually somewhat prescient in that it foresaw a future where human expansion into space has stagnated, although in this premise it stopped at the Moon - and the reason is because travel to it becomes too easy via teleportation technology, so people don't do the hard work of going farther. I also like the way the teleportation process is depicted: No flashes of light, no whooshing sound - just something is there, and then it's not there. If one were to guess, that's probably what a real teleportation technology would be like. The supporting character of Gia Kelly is also impressive and interesting (and, yes, sexy - that never hurts). There is some goofiness, but nothing that really irks - although they could have made the villains a little more plausibly motivated instead of just being driven to "conquer ze vorld" as it were.
3. Acceptable/Noble Effort
The Power of the Daleks is the Second Doctor's first serial, so a general lack of coherence can be forgiven - also due to the fact that all of its episodes are reconstructions. Still, it is somewhat difficult to follow the political machinations going on, and a number of events and decisions by various supporting characters seem unmotivated or arbitrary. The Second Doctor is at his most ethically dubious here, basically acting as a shameless con artist and defrauding a planetary government in order to glean information and shape events. As you can guess from the title, the Daleks are the villains of the serial, and are actually somewhat memorable in it - particularly a drawn-out phrase used to deceive the clueless humans of the world in question: "We...are...your...seerrrrVANT."
The Highlanders is where we meet Jamie, and takes place in 18th century Scotland. It is actually kind of educational and I suppose vaguely insightful, if you're relatively ignorant about the time and place (as I am), although many specific events of the plot are either meaningless theatrical tropes or else make no human motivational sense. It's a little hard at times to follow what's going on, and also hard to care.
The Abominable Snowmen takes place in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, as it comes under siege by the mysterious Yeti. Although you can tell that there is plenty of merit in the serial, it's very difficult to fully appreciate it because so much of the serial is not only reconstructed, but reconstructed poorly with squawk-box-quality audio and in some episodes barely even any still images to go along with it. At times you can't follow what's being said at all, and the reconstructions I saw didn't have captions to help. There are some genuinely creepy moments near the end that manage to come through though, and I can only imagine they would have been very potent in the original form.
The Web of Fear is the second appearance of the Yeti, this time in modern Britain. I didn't find anything particularly worthwhile about this serial, and was somewhat bored. The introduction of a recurring British military troop with a number of WW2 movie cliches was supposed to be fun, but really wasn't. Still, I didn't see anything overtly objectionable either - it just seemed aimless and unproductive.
The Krotons is a relatively formulaic setup - a society of humans oppressed by an unseen alien force - but does add some creative touches in exploring the psychology of the aliens once revealed, based on the nature of their evolution. A mediocre but acceptable entry.
The Space Pirates is an okay space opera entry, nothing special. It is a little puzzling why craft designed for deep space are aerodynamic, have wings, and have obvious air intakes. And it's also a little ridiculous that they have a space miner / pioneer talking like a 19th century American 49er - I'm pretty sure that specific accent doesn't come from the fact of living in a frontier environment.
The Underwater Menace is a bad joke on every level. Everything about the premise is totally preposterous and laughable; the villain is a horribly stupid, unmotivated 1940s comic book cliche; both the setting and the alleged time period make no sense; the supposed history underlying the setting is ludicrous; and the effects are at times so bad they look like deliberate homages to Georges Méliès' silent fantasy films of the early 1900s. I don't know if it was in fact some art student's silly-ass attempt to be clever, but the result was contemptible. So awful it has to be seen to be believed.
The Tomb of the Cybermen. When I say this serial was racist, I don't mean they merely played to cultural stereotypes - I mean flamingly, David Duke racist. Seriously, you gotta see this shit. They had a huge, dark-skinned black man playing a stupid, childish, obedient servant who roughly grunts out inarticulate, monosyllabic responses almost like someone's idea of a talking ape, and only when prompted by his employer. All the other characters of this serial's ensemble cast other than his boss are afraid of him, and she (his boss) directs him like a dog the way you would say "Rover, sit!" But the racism and stereotyping doesn't stop there: The two human villains of the ensemble, including his boss, are both swarthy Eastern Europeans. There are some American supporting characters, and guess what they're all like - swaggering jerks. Then there is the Englishman of the group, who is - wait for it - fair, reasonable, intelligent, humane, and responsible.
And that's just the beginning of the suck. The motivations of the human villains make absolutely no sense, and make even less sense as time goes on. Victoria behaves like a complete idiot throughout, doing things for no apparent reason to put herself and everyone else in danger just because it will serve the plot. The resolutions to problems are either trivial or nonsensical, and involve no rational thought process or insight. And just in general, the whole thing seems like it was (poorly) adapted from some horror short story published in a 1930s magazine rather than written specifically for Doctor Who.
Then there are the Cybermen. This is their second appearance in Doctor Who, but the way they look has been altered to take away the main thing about their original appearance at the end of the First Doctor's run that made them creepy - the cloth face covering that made them look like burn victims. Instead their faces are now totally metal, and beginning with this serial their design degenerates into that of toys rather than horrors. Here's the original Cybermen design:
Here's the one in Tomb of the Cybermen:
Ain't scary anymore, is it? Which is doubly egregious given the price this serial pays in order to pursue a stupid-ass horror premise. Speaking of which...
Fury from the Deep is what you'd get if you combined a B-movie knockoff of The Caine Mutiny with The Blob, had it written and directed by a tag-team of Ed Wood and Uwe Boll, and then insert some of the stupidest, most nonsensical remarks ever conceived into the Doctor's mouth. The writers of this piece of shit were not aware that seaweed is a form of life, and the characters express shock at the idea - (paraphrasing from memory) "You're saying this seaweed is....alive!?" Oh, and the Doctor's objection to such a concept? "Matter cannot defeat mind!" Whaaaa? If soap suds overflowing from a washing machine is your idea of terror, this serial will definitely thrill you.
The Mind Robber...sigh. Why does every science fiction TV show that goes on longer than 1 season have to make an episode like this? Why? The TARDIS leaves the spacetime continuum and ends up in the "dimension of fiction" where fairy tales and fictional stories come alive, or some such drivel. Every show falls victim to this stupidity at some point, like some kind of infection that only afflicts TV writers: They just have to ignore the logical framework of their own creation and throw random crap at their characters. Why not just have the viewing audience draw their own stories on the screen with Crayons?
The Invasion combines two things that aren't very compelling alone into one great big (and I do mean big, as in 8 episodes of 25 minutes each) piece of suck: The military unit from Web of Fear and the new toy-ified Cybermen, now even more difficult to take seriously. Here's their terrifying new incarnation:
Gotta love those metal Princess Leia buns on the sides of the head, eh? This serial has a lot of action scenes, but they're almost all pointless, redundant, and put there to kill time rather than do anything. There's also a human villain, who isn't as bad as some of the others on the Tripe list, but is still way too incompetent to ever have gotten into the position of endangering the world in the first place. Listen for the special theme jingle for the "UNIT" military troop - it will destroy your faith in humanity.
I'm having technical issues with the final Second Doctor serial, The War Games, but since that's the only one I have left to watch, I figured I'm close enough to completing this era of the series to share my observations. I should be able to watch it soon.