Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Recap: Doctor Who: "Shada" Episode 4

You know, every time I feel like this story is slowing down, I remember that it was originally meant to be broadcast every Saturday over a period of six weeks.

And I thank my lucky stars for DVD.
The episode begins with a reprise of Wilkin's overemoting shocked face....

Predating Home Alone by about a decade.
As well as a reprise of Tom Baker's description of how he tricked the computer into thinking he was dead before the oxygen shut off.

Tom Baker: "'Dead men do not require oxygen.'"

Parsons and K-9 pace around in the hold for a bit before giving up on getting out. Which is precisely when a glowing cube teleports them out.

Tom Baker: "Chris and K-9 were transported to the corridor, where they discovered the way to the control room. As they entered, the ship returned the oxygen level to normal. K-9 informed me that the TARDIS had gone. In fact, the TARDIS was on board a massive command ship. Skagra revealed little to Romana except that he needed Time Lord technology to discover what the Time Lords had hidden."

Yeah, sorry, readers, Tom Baker is going to be doing a lot of my job from this point on. And what we don't see is going to get very disappointing.

Tom Baker: "She was introduced to the Krargs, creatures made of crystallized coal. Skagra took her to an annex in the ship which contained coffin-shaped vats of heavy gas. The Krarg commander required new personnel and pushed a button near the vats."

Hey, so, I'm gonna go make a sandwich, if that's okay. Tom seems to be doing alright here.

Tom Baker: "Crystals quickly formed around a basic skeleton. Rapidly, a Krarg was formed. Then it pulled itself out of the vat. Romana was appalled. Meanwhile, on the invisible spaceship, I decided to order the ship back to its last destination. The ship complied, but as the launch procedures commenced, unknown to me, a Krarg started to form in a generation room nearby."

Okay, I'm back. Is he still going?
Tom Baker: "I was delighted, until I discovered the journey would take nearly three months."

Well, your monologue might be almost over by that point.

Tom Baker: "I ordered the ship to stop. I introduced the ship to new concepts, including switching the conceptual geometer from analog to digital mode."

Like a stereo?

Tom Baker: "And triggering feedback responses up to readings of 75-839."

Wow. That would be really impressive if I knew what that meant.

Tom Baker: "As the Krarg generation was completed, my voice was heard over the ship's intercom ordering the activation of all re-aligned drive circuits, which would enable the ship to travel anywhere in a couple of minutes."

So basically, he rewired the ship to teleport. Which is like rewiring a car to fly.

Tom Baker: "A familiar sound was heard as the ship dematerialized."

Wait a minute, Tom's narration is accompanied by the TARDIS sound. Are you telling me that the Doctor switched a few settings on a spaceship and turned it into a TARDIS?

But it's finally time for me to take over recapping duties. Clare is unconscious on the ground after that mess with the weird control panel in the wall. She soon wakes up, only to be confronted by a very angry, very alive, Professor Chronotis.

Who took the time to change clothes after his death.
Professor Chronotis: "What have you done with my machine?"

He takes a look at the control panel and presses some buttons before getting back to the most important matter at hand.

Professor Chronotis: "Tea?"

Wait, what happened to that milk Romana was supposed to bring back? You can't have lumpy tea without milk!

Tom Baker: "On the carrier ship..."

Right. I'll just finish my sandwich, then.

Tom Baker: "...Skagra was using the sphere to delve into my mind in search of the code that would unravel the secret of the book. Images were thrown up on the screen, but one word kept recurring. Skagra was frustrated at my apparent lack of knowledge, but he knew the book was the key with which the Time Lords imprisoned their most feared criminals."

Oh, like in Myst.
Tom Baker: "As the crew and I prepared to dock, the Krarg burst into the control room, determined to kill the intruders. With the help of a booster power line, K-9 was able to hold the Krarg immobile."

Back with Chronotis, he's prepared yet more tea for Clare before muttering about his current predicament.

Professor Chronotis: "Timelessness. Standing obliquely to the time fields."
Clare: "Is that what we're doing?"
Professor Chronotis: "Oh yes, and very grateful I am to you for arranging it."

Chronotis explains that Clare fiddled with his TARDIS's controls, disrupting Chronotis's personal timeline and rescuing him from certain death. This misuse of time travel isn't exactly used or explained well, but that's because Adams extracted it from his rear end to save Professor Chronotis, who was originally going to be killed off for good before Adams took a liking to the character.

Professor Chronotis: "Think of me as a paradox in an anomaly and get on with your tea."


Chronotis says that they must get the book out of Skagra's hands, and that is something Clare can get behind, even thoguh she still needs Chronotis to fill in some details.

Professor Chronotis: "It is the key to Shada."
Clare: "Oh."
Professor Chronotis: "The ancient time prison of the Time Lords."

The original line was "prison planet of the Time Lords," but Denis Carey had a bit of a problem with the line. When put next to Romana's unscripted ad-lib about being a "Time Tot," it makes the Time Lords look like they just like sticking the word time in front of things. Time Lords, time prisons, Time Tots, time capsules... Why, they probably wake up in the morning from their time sleep, get out of time bed, and pour themselves a big ol' bowl of Time Flakes. Has Chronotis been making time tea with extra time lumps this entire time?

"You shut your time mouth!"
Anyway, Shada seems to be a well-kept secret, for being such a high-profile institution.

Professor Chronotis: "They have been induced to forget about it."

Chronotis knows exactly why Skagra want to go to Shada, and is determined to stop him from succeeding.

Clare: "What on Earth's there?"
Professor Chronotis: "It's not a matter of what, it's a matter of who."

A Doctor Who, perhaps?

Tom Baker: "Skagra decided the Time Lord code would undoubtedly involve time."

Noooooooo, really?

Come on, Skagra. Even a Time Tot could have figured that one out.

Tom Baker: "And reviewed what he thought were my last few hours."

They mostly involved drinking tea and rifling through books.

Tom Baker: "Then he took the sphere and Romana back to the TARDIS. Chris and I left, leaving K-9 in control of the Krarg."

The Doctor and Parsons enter the space station from the very beginning of the story, though it's now considerably worse for wear. Wherever they are, Parsons is adamant that no matter what else he's seen today, they can't be light-years away from the Earth.

Parsons: "You cannot travel faster than light. Einstein."
Doctor: "What? Do you understand Einstein?"
Parsons: "Yes."
Doctor: "What? And quantum theory?"
Parsons: "Yes."
Doctor: "What? And Planck?"
Parsons: "Yes."
Doctor: "What, and Newton?"
Parsons: "Yes."
Doctor: "What? And Schoenberg?"
Parsons: "Of course."
Doctor: "You've got a lot to unlearn."

Doctor, you were singing Newton's praises three episodes ago.

The Doctor spots "IASS" on the wall, which he says stands for "Institute of Advanced Science Studies." The Doctor then quickly comes across the room from the beginning of the story, which he identifies as a Think Tank. Parsons marvels over the futuristic technology for a bit before the two of them finally notice the apparent hermit convention going on in front of them.

Hermits United. They meet up every ten years, swap stories about caves. It's good fun. For a hermit.
Tom Baker: "In the TARDIS, Skagra was pondering over the book. As he turned the pages, he realized the TARDIS's central column operated as well. When he stopped turning, the column lowed to a halt. He realized that time ran backwards over the book and that turning the last page would take him to Shada."

Okay, even Batman would call that deduction a bit of a stretch.

Back with the Doctor and Parsons....

Parsons: "What are they, Doctor?"

They were once men.

Doctor: "Victims of Skagra's brain drain. Their intellectual powers have been stolen. But their memory patterns may remain."

The Doctor suddenly gets an idea, and asks Parsons for a favor.

Tom Baker: "On returning to the command ship, Skagra informed the Krarg Commander to prepare for entry into Shada and warned Romana that she must prepare to meet one of the most powerful criminals in history..."

Sutekh? Hitler? Jimmy Savile?

Tom Baker: "...the lynchpin of his plans, Salyavin."

The Doctor hooks Parsons and one of the hermits up to the seats in the middle of the room, which will let the poor old man regain the ability to speak, if only temporarily. It ends up working, and the bearded man wakes up.

Tom Baker: "K-9's continuous blasting was still holding the Krarg paralyzed, but the creature's strength was growing."

Beardy explains that he is A.S.D. Caldera, the renowned neurologist, and the other hermits are all great scientists in their own rights, gathered by the brilliant Dr. Skagra. Caldera explains that Dr. Skagra led them all to create an electronic mind by combining all their minds into one. But when they finished the machine, they discovered that he had larger plans. Before they could do anything, though, Skagra stole their minds.

Look, I'm sorry, but even if you have the best of intentions, there are simply some inventions that will invariably be used for pure evil. Brain drainers. Death rays.

Sure, if you like.
And that goes double for the people trying to create artificial intelligence, since the prevailing tactic for preventing the AI from going rogue seems to be "We'll worry about that later."

Tom Baker: "The Krarg was absorbing all the power K-9 could pour into it. The blaster beam was now fused into the haze which surrounded the Krarg."

Again, that sure would be cool to actually see any depiction of. Storyboard, CGI, anything. In all seriousness, Tom’s cutaways are making me grateful for the portions that were actually filmed, like Caldera’s monologue.

Caldera: "He stole our brains...."

It takes a special kind of acting talent to sell a line like that.

Caldera explains that Skagra needs a single, very unique mind to realize his goal of combining all the minds of the universe into a single entity.

Caldera: "Salyavin!"

Welcome to the plot, Doctor; glad you could make it.

Tom Baker: "Realizing he had lost the battle, K-9 headed for the door, followed by the lumbering Krarg."

Having obtained the information he needs, the Doctor takes a moment to wake Parsons by feeling him up a little.

How is that not exactly what he's doing?
K-9 arrives in the room, followed by the Krarg, which is now glowing brightly from all that energy it had absorbed. Slowly, but surely, it begins lumbering toward the Doctor, ready to attack....

I think. It's hard to tell, since the Krarg has less mobility than an aluminum Christmas tree.
Coming up in Part 5! Glimpses of Shada, and more tea.

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