Saturday, August 24, 2013

Underworld - "Pacified? Who did it, hmm? Who did it? I'll kill them. I'll kill them! It was him, wasn't it?"

BBC - Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide - Underworld - Details

Season 15, Story 5 (Overall Series Story #96) | Previous - Next | Index

What strikes us about this story? Well, unfortunately, it's primarily the disastrous CSO-effects that serve as the tunnels in the core of the planet forming around P7E. They look awful, and there's a lot of running around in those distractingly unreal looking tunnels. They don't make the story unwatchable, but they are certainly distracting.

Not everyone agrees, but I think they look cool.
The other things you're like to recall about this one, the nifty steampunky-looking Seers that serve the Oracle. So yeah, it's another megalomaniac computer wreaking havoc on the humanoid survivors of a (sort of) shipwreck. If that sounds familiar it's because we met Leela of the Sevateem under very similar circumstances in "The Face of Evil."

Gentleman of a certain age will remember from watching this as hormone-awash youngsters, fondly I'll wager, Leela's light tan leather outfit and the cleavage it revealed. Look, I'm not proud of how easily manipulated I was (am) by the cynical exploitation practiced by the producers of that era's Doctor Who in foisting that skimpy outfit on Louise Jameson. But they accomplished what they set out to do. When Leela gets hit with the pacifier ray and comes over a little moon-eyed for Orfe (Orfe, Orpheus ... get it? Ugh.) it's very much flirting with the gothic trope of the nubile female that falls under a spell that causes her to lose her inhibitions. Basically, I'm saying I wouldn't be at all surprised if this a polarizing story along gender lines.

They lounge like this a couple times. Not good for dramatic pacing.
But easy on the eyes. O__O
A bigger problem than the sexual politics and the dodgy effects is that large stretches of this one are just boring. Again and again through the tunnels. Here we go again all sitting around waiting for the ship to crash or explode. Here's a scene where the Doctor is fidgeting with some controls to try the reverse the airflow ("Whatever blows can be sucked," he says. Really.) in a tunnel that's being fumigated ... we watch him turn some knobs, push some buttons ... seconds tick by, he's still trying, getting sleepy ... will he succeed or not ... we're still watching ... almost done?  And then comes the cliffhanger music and credits. So the next episode can back up a couple minutes before he starts doing the HVAC work and we can watch it all again. That probably isn't so bad when you've waited a week between episodes but I'm watching the DVD in Play All mode and need to make liberal use of the FF button.

Watch this one for Tom Baker doing his thing, he's devastating funny several times throughout, but don't watch it for the story. And be ready to think, "They really thought they could get away with that?" when you seen the caves of the Underworld. This one's not as bad as the worst reviews make it out to be, but even the positive reviews acknowledge it's not going to be anybody's favorite.


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