Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Recap: Doctor Who: "Shada" Episode 2

In the first episode, we met three new characters. One of them is a boring human, one of them is a Time Lord who’s struggling to get the plot going, and the other is a villain going around doing… villainous things. For reasons.

If this pace keeps up, maybe the titular Shada will start being important by the final episode.
The episode begins with Tom Baker reiterating the last bit of Episode 1, where Shiny-suit absorbs information about the Doctor and then gives orders to his monstrous commander. But back in a part of the episode that was actually filmed, the Doctor and Romana are still going through books.

Romana: "Roget's Thesaurus."
Doctor: "British Book of Bird Life, in color."
Romana: "Alternative Betelgeuse."

"An early work from Praxibetel Ix. Wonderful author. Shame about his brother."
Doctor: "Time Machine."
Romana:
"Wuthering Heights."
Doctor: "'Tandoori Chicken for starters'? Huh."
Romana: "Sweeney Todd."

Hm. It's almost like this serial was running short, so they extended what should have been a short little clip of the Doctor and Romana going through books into a prolonged gag with no punchline. Get used to that.

And even after all that, there's still no sign of The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Romana's beginning to wonder if finding the book is even worth the trouble, and the Doctor reminds her that it's one of "the artifacts," which were imbued with what the Doctor describes as "stupendous power."

Doctor: "I mean, the meaning of most of them has been lost by now, but the powers remain. And the rituals."
Romana: "I just mouthed the words like everyone else."
Doctor: "What words?"
Romana: "At the Time Academy induction ceremony."

I never learned the words to my college's fight song, either.

Romana: "You know, 'I swear to protect the ancient law of Gallifrey...'"
Both: "'With all my might and main...'"
Romana: "'And will, to the end of my days, with justice and with honor temper my actions and my thoughts.'"

So... why did you only mouth the words if you knew them all?

Doctor: "Pompous lot. All words and no actions."

Romana disagrees with the Doctor's condemnation of his whole race, bringing up Salyavin, one of the Doctor's boyhood heroes.

Romana: "Really, Doctor? A great criminal, your hero?"

Well, the Third Doctor once mentioned being good friends with Chairman Mao, so there's really no surprise.

Doctor: "A criminal, yes, but he had such style, such flair, such..."
Romana: "Panache?"
Doctor: "Yes."

Yeah, but... what exactly did he do that was illegal? Rob banks? Space banks? Time banks? Assassinate Hitler? Or was he just a jaywalker? A time jaywalker?

Romana: "Did you ever meet him?"
Doctor: "I certainly did not!"
Romana: "All right."
Doctor: "He was imprisoned before I was born."

You know you have a time machine, right, Doctor?

The Doctor can't remember where Salyavin was imprisoned, though, and calls for Professor Chronotis to see if he remembers. Shock of all shocks, he does remember something. But it’s not anything to do with Salyavin; he remembered that a young man came by to borrow some books, so he might have grabbed it. Now they just need to figure out who this guy was.

Professor Chronotis: "Oh, if only I could remember. Oh, dear, I've got a memory like a... Oh, dear, what is it I've got a memory like? What's that thing you strain rice with?"

They try to jog his memory, and Romana gets a nice bit of physical comedy as she asks if the young man was tall or short while miming the opposite of what she says.

Professor Chronotis: "I remember!"
Doctor: "What?"
Professor Chronotis: "A sieve! That's what it is. I've got a memory like a sieve."

A joke that sounds like it was written by a kid. And it was; Adams recycled it from a story he wrote for Eagle and Boy's World at the ripe old age of 12.

So the Professor starts going through the alphabet in an attempt to remember the young man's name.

Professor Chronotis: "No, it doesn't begin with A. B? B? B? B? B?"
Doctor/Romana: "C?"

"Flag on the pun! New scene, first down!"
Off in the land of voiceovers, Tom Baker continues to fill in some gaps.

Tom Baker: "Chris Parsons told his friend Clare about the book. Clare decided to wait with the book at the lab while Chris went back to the college to find out more about the extraordinary illegible tome."
Professor Chronotis: "P... Q... R... X. X! Y...."

Uh, skipped a few, there.

But Chronotis hits upon the man's identity when he hits "Y" for "Young Parsons." He gives the Doctor directions to the lab, and the Doctor gives Romana instructions to wait in the TARDIS and send out an alert signal if he's not back in two hours. So with two hours to burn, Romana has some more tea.

Romana: "Two lumps, no sugar."

Well, looks like we've exhausted every single possible permutation of that joke. Chronotis is probably out of lumpy milk by this point.

Shiny-suit exits his spaceship as the Doctor and Chris Parsons bike past each other in an ironic twist of fate. Shiny-suit is now dressed in the casual wear of his earlier victim as he goes to see Wilkin again. Wilkin tells him that Professor Chronotis is alone now, and would probably be more receptive to unexpected guests. He does not, however, tell Shiny-suit where Chronotis is. Wasn't that the whole problem? Or was Shiny-suit actually too polite to disturb Chronotis while he had guests?

As Romana heats up a biscuit in front of the heater, Chronotis informs her that they have, in fact, run out of milk.

Romana: "Oh, I should think that's the least of our problems."

"No, this serial pretty much revolves entirely around tea, so it's a pretty serious problem."
Romana is a little unnerved by the whole situation, so Chronotis decides to get her a nice spot of tea. Before remembering that they're out of milk. Romana tells him that they could get some from the TARDIS, since it might be too dangerous to go out to the store. But before Romana pops off to get some milk, Chronotis criticizes how far the kitchens are from the control chamber in the old Type-40 TARDISes.

Romana: "I've never known the Doctor to use them anyway."

Yeah, I don't think I've ever seen the Fourth Doctor eat anything other than jelly babies.

With Romana gone, the Professor takes a moment to humbug the thought of old Salyavin, as well as the inhuman babble outside the door that was never added into the audio mix. The absent voices herald the arrival of Shiny-suit... who I should probably not be calling "Shiny-suit" anymore, since he stole someone else's clothes.

His real name is Skagra. I'm not exactly sure when this fact is revealed in the show itself, since there are many chunks missing, so now's as good a time as any to start using his real name.

Anyway, Chronotis, in the kitchen, hears him enter with his babbling bag and prepares tea for his assumed gaggle of guests.

Professor Chronotis: "How many of there are you, for heaven's sake?"

That's not a mistake on my part, that's the actual line, which should be "How many of you are there, for heaven's sake?" The weirdest thing is that the mistake is written into the actual script.

Anyway, Chronotis returns with some tea, only for Skagra to outright demand "the book."

Professor Chronotis: "I don't know what you're talking about. I haven't got any books."

“None whatsoever. What’s a book?”
"...Nailed it."
Professor Chronotis: "That's to say, I-I-I've got plenty of books. What book would you like?"

Skagra demands The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey, and he whips out his silver sphere when Chronotis says he doesn't know where the book is.

Skagra: "If you will not give me the information voluntarily, I will deduct it from you."

You know, I had a roommate back in college who would use the word "deduct" instead of "deduce." But unlike him, Skagra actually is able to "deduct" information, since his metal sphere has the power to absorb minds.

As Chronotis's glasses disappear and reappear between shots, the silver sphere attaches itself to Chronotis's head and begins to drain his brain.

That thing's hard drive is going to be filled with thoughts of tea.
In the script, this is called "noodling," so I'll be referring to Skagra's ball as a "noodler." It can be a lot of fun when TV shows don't give something an official name.

Isn't that right, Sandwich Club?
As the noodling happens, Chronotis drops to his knees and makes some of the funniest noises of pain I've ever heard in Doctor Who. And if you’ve watched any pre-2005 episode, you’ll know that there’s some serious competition.

Tom Baker: "Then I arrived at the lab and met Clare. I decided to examine the book very closely."

Romana returns with the Doctor's robotic dog, K-9 (David Brierly) and a bottle of milk, only to find the thoroughly-noodled Chronotis on the ground. As she examines his body, Parsons comes along to stumble upon the scene before K-9's scans reveal that the good Professor is in a deep coma. As the tin dog continues to analyze the data, Parsons reveals that the Prof lent him a book, cluing Romana in as to this young man's identity.

After Romana confuses Parsons with her references to "the Doctor," K-9 pipes up that the Professor's mind has been extracted from his brain.

K-9: "Physical prognosis fair, psycho prognosis uncertain."

It's at this point that Parsons realizes that there's a robot dog in the room.

Parsons: "Neat!"

Romana, however, is busy being told by K-9 that Chronotis's attempts to resist the brain drain have damaged his mind. Thinking quickly, Romana gives Parsons some complicated directions to circumnavigate the TARDIS and get some medical equipment. Parsons enters the TARDIS briefly before stumbling back out, but Romana urging him to hurry up robs him of the opportunity to get a "bigger on the inside" moment.

He soon returns with the medical kit, allowing Romana to put a device around his neck in order to take over his autonomic functions, leaving that part of his brain free to hold whatever remains of his conscious mind. But Parsons points out that the human brain can't be fixed like that.

Vulcans can be remote-controlled, however.
But Romana reveals that the Professor isn't human, neatly handwaving any scientific inaccuracies away.
Tom Baker explains that the Doctor and Clare discover through carbon-dating that the book is minus 20,000 years old and decide to return it to the professor.

Minus 20,000 years old.

This is in no way possible, for multiple reasons. The biggest two reasons being that not only is carbon-dating only used on the remains of living things, but the way carbon-dating works can’t actually produce a negative number, even if the answer somehow were a negative number.

Technobabble like this is why Dr. Kaku said “almost.”
The weirdest part of this is that the "minus 20,000 years old" thing isn't even in the script. So what the hey-hey?

Tom Baker: "In the ship, Skagra was able to see into Chronotis's mind and view the professor's experiences."

Though the image is hazy, probably thanks to that memory of his, Skagra watches a student come in and take the book on accident.

Senility-Vision!
As Skagra keeps searching Chronotis's downloaded mind for information, we cut back to Chronotis himself on the floor, with his eyes moving for a second. Because the 1992 editors didn't realize that they should have trimmed the beginning of this take. Whoops.

K-9 works to scan the Prof's brain for any conscious thought, but the results are inconclusive.

Parsons: "Good."
Romana: "What do you mean ‘good’?"

And so, Daniel Hill gets a chance to launch into Parsons's big monologue.

Parsons: "Well, don't you see? When one works as a scientist, one doesn't always know where one's going, or that there is anywhere for one to go. That there aren't going to be big doors that stay permanently shut to one. But I look at all these... marvels..."

"Yes?"
Parsons: "... and I know that a lot of things that seem impossible are possible. So, good."

...

What the heck does any of that mean? Okay, I get that you're taking a second to reflect on just how amazing and ineffable the universe is... but that doesn't really answer why you think the Professor failing to get better is a good thing.

"I just really hate Professor Chronotis."
Parsons guesses that Romana isn't from Earth, either, but is interrupted by K-9's announcement that the Prof's condition is continuing to deteriorate.

"Good."
The professor will be dead soon, but there is a spark of consciousness in his mind, giving Romana an idea. She has K-9 amplify his heartbeat, and quickly recognizes the rhythm as Gallifreyan Morse. She slowly translates his heartbeats into four messages.

"Beware the sphere. Beware Skagra. Beware Shada. The secret is in the..."

But he dies before he can continue the sentence, as per the rules of dramatic tension.

Elsewhere, the Doctor is biking back to the Professor's place with the book, only to run into Skagra.

Skagra: "I am Skagra. I want the book."
Doctor: "Well, I'm the Doctor, and you can't have it."

Skagra isn't a fan of this plan, and instead prepares to noodle the Doctor.

Doctor: "I'm not mad about your tailor."

You should see his other outfit, Doctor.
As the Doctor quickly bikes through the streets to avoid the sphere, he passes the college choir on a street corner singing "Chattanooga Choo-Choo." It's pretty random, and only exists because Tom Baker met up with a few of them beforehand and suggested this scene.

The Doctor ends up losing the book in the ensuing chase and ends up ditching the bike. And I have to wonder... why did the Doctor ditch the bike, other than to set up a cliffhanger? I don't think the Doctor knows he lost the book. I mean, you'd think he'd go back for it, right? Then why does he ditch the bike when for all he knows, the book is still in the basket? Did he just give up?

Either way, the noodler corners him in an alleyway, ready to absorb his mind and leave only a fleshy shell behind.

Coming up in Episode 3! The unfilmed portions begin to emerge further while our heroes take tea.

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