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The Friday Docback Votes For 'Vengeance On Varos'!! DOCTOR WHO Story #138, And More!!





11th Doctor Matt Smith (l) and 10th Doctor David Tennant (r) attend the premiere of Our Boys - a play featuring Arthur Darvill (Rory) and Laurence Fox - husband of Billie Piper (Rose).  




Current Doctor Matt Smith with Tennant-era Rose (Billie Piper) at the same event.  



-- click pics for more! -- 










Merrick here...


With a look at Vengeance on Varos, a two part Colin Baker story originally transmitted January 1985.  


This marks my first complete Colin Baker DOCTOR WHO adventure - his Doctor is the only Doctor to whom I have never been fully exposed (that sounds wrong, but you now what I mean).  


Note that, while I indicate Varos is only a two part episode (as opposed to the larger number of installments we frequently cite when discussing classic WHO), both of this story’s installments are 45 minutes or so in length...resulting in a 90 minute entirety more or less on par with many other classic DW serials.  


More Vengeance on Varos shortly.  But first...








Last week’s installment, in which A Site Called Fred’s Ken Plume and I...


-- discuss Angels Take Manhattan (did it change the overall WHOscape at all?)...


-- ponder why many viewers have an issue with Arthur Darvill’s Rory William’s character....


-- wonder if either of us would travel with the Doctor if the TARDIS materialized on our front lawns...


-- assess being ‘companion’ to the Doctor as an ‘addiction’...


-- exalt the importance of investment/ earnestness in performance in television/film making...


-- mention TIME BANDITS 


-- love DREDD 3D...


-- theorize why we likely haven’t seen the end of Amelia Pond (is there evidence mandating that she must return in order for the Moff to complete his overall vision?) 


-- ...and more! 


...can be found HERE.  Ken expressed some misgivings about this podcast in last week’s Docbacks - I actually found it to be one of our most ‘on game’ endeavors to date.  

Let us know what you think!  




THIS week’s episode (our newest installment) can be found HERE, and includes...


-- a discussion of Vengeance on Varos


-- the decline of DOCTOR WHO in the 80s...


-- violence in DOCTOR WHO - it’s not anachronistic, and its presence makes sense...


-- the Doctor as, essentially, a child... 


-- the perils of BBC’s current scheduling model for DOCTOR WHO...


-- defend Murray Gold's Moffat-era score...


-- ...and more!  


There will be farts...






Vengeance on Varos 




“When did we last see a decent execution?” - Arak (Stephen Yardley), Vengeance on Varos Part One 





Much is wrong on the planet Varos.  Political issues are now determined instantaneously by a populace which votes in real time from home.  Politicians whose agendas are overturned face summary and televised execution.  The People’s Dome of Punishment and Correction also broadcasts State executions, often shaped as entertainment for mass consumption.  State-funded scientists work to ‘transmogrify’ human beings in hideous, Mengele-like experiments.  One besieged and rapidly failing Governor (Martin Jarvis) is fending off starvation, collapse, and utter despair on Varos.  Efforts which seem futile, until the unexpected arrival of the Doctor (Colin Baker ) and companion Peri (Nicola Bryant)...



While never quite attaining the smooth level of insight and profundity advanced by some of, say, Robert Holmes’ best works (The Sun Makers -T. Baker, Story # 95),  the Philip Martin-scripted Vengeance on Varos is a powerful and even haunting tale conceived and presented in very much the same ilk.  


It’s about something.  


When I say ‘it’s about something,’ I mean the heart beating at its core is much, much more substantive than lighter-weight DW episodes featuring monsters of the month or fantastical crises.  Varos cuts to the core of a society dangerously desensitized by mass media and a resulting, almost addictive, reliance on entertainment.  It serves as both an exploration and indictment of televised information, a condemnation of those who fall under its often apathy-inducing spell, and as a tragic portrait of a populace which seems able to think only in a moment -  remaining blinded to larger concerns and critical pictures.  However relevant all of this may’ve seemed to audiences in 1985, it still resonates today...perhaps more so than ever given the rise of reality and competition shows (in the US in particular), and the often slanted information gathering process citizenry in many nations rely on when forming public opinion.  



Varos matters, and does so with a highly-enjoyable package featuring exceedingly competent guest performances by the afore-mentioned Martin Jarvis as Varos’ Governor, and Nabil Shaban as unhinged Galatron Mining Representative Sil... unnerving slug of an ass whose callously Machiavellian tendencies often gum up the works more than instigate.  Polar opposites in their screen presence (Jarvis is tired, soft-spoken and refined, Shaban hyped-up, loudly maniacal, and gleefully chewing scenery), the two work brilliantly - both separately and in tandem - as a point/counter point.  They are Vengeance’s underlying survey of order-vs-chaos, selflessness -vs- selfishness, made manifest.  


Produced shortly before the unfortunate budgetary slide which resulted in the emasculating cheapening of DOCTOR WHO in general (the McCoy years), Varos is reasonably well mounted and employs several styles - from nicely lit cinematic action to deliberately stagey cutaways featuring every-folk Arak (Stephen Yardley) and wife Etta (Sheila Reid) watching narrative proceedings from their humble quarters, and voting to influence outcomes.  They represent, in a real sense, the viewer...or what the viewer could become with a few tweaks and nudges.  Grounding this story through their eyes, and the story’s final movements in which they react soberly to an unexpected outcome televised before them, is one of classic DOCTOR WHO’s more affecting moves.  Smartly conceived, and well played.  


The TARDIS has an operator’s manual!  Which the Doctor reluctantly consults in Vengeance on Varos. 



COLIN BAKER’S DOCTOR.  I do realize there are Baker-era episodes before and after Varos, so this story may not have given me my fullest/best sense of Colin Baker’s Doctor.  With this caveat in mind...I was quite impressed by C. Baker’s take on the character.  Quite. He brings a slightly withdrawn air to the role - often as if he’s observing from afar, with a barely contained holier-than-thou attitude which occasionally bursts to the surface.  Sometimes in smug and acidic ways.  Sometimes in violent ways.  This to me, very much honors the personality traits of Doctors who’ve come before, but re-shapes the distribution of these qualities in a well-considered, even inspired way to present a Doctor who (see what I did there?) is comfortably familiar, yet remains in many ways unique. 


My sense of C. Baker’s Doctor from VoV?  Tread never know what you’re going to get from his Doctor, and whatever you end up with might mean trouble. Folks who’ve recently complained about eleventh Doctor Matt Smith’s edgy/violent proclivities during Season/Series 7 should note that, in Vengeance alone, six guards are dispatched either directly, or indirectly, as a result of the Doctor’s designs. 



It’s my personal belief that the ‘vengeance’ referenced in the story’s title may actually refer to the Doctor’s vengeance against the Varosians who are not only standing in his way - but interfering with a ‘better way of things’ on the planet. 


I like this vibe of unpredictability in the Doctor, and have always found the Doctor character (on the whole) to be most compelling when we sense he’s containing rage or aggression or frustration.  This is wholly logical for an entity who has lived for hundreds and hundreds of years - and wants the best for the universe but often sees its denizens at their worst.  Why WOULDN’T he be frustrated...passionate...infuriated...when he’s seen the wonder of what can be, and the reality of what often is?  In this story, at least, Colin Baker captured this inner-conflict very nicely...and I very much look forward to further exploring his tenure as the Doctor.  A number of Docbackers recommended I begin with Attack of the Cybermen (Story # 137) - time simply did not allow.  However, the suggestion has been noted and AotC (Attack of the Clones!?!?) has been placed on the very short list, and will be Docback fodder within the next few weeks.  


It  took me the better part of of Varos’ first hour to actually settle into this story, and to find the rhythm of Ron Jones’ direction.  Jones, who brought us Frontios (Davison. Story #132), ultimately handles the material here crisply and wisely, and seems to more fully embrace the the spirit of the piece as Martin’s script fleshes out its ideas and becomes more sure footed within itself. I’ve seen some online disparagement of Jason (son of Sean) Connery’s turn as Jondar the rebel here - I found his lines to be hilariously (and quite purposefully) overwritten, and deftly performed by Connery.  He’s spinning his character as a young man whose communication patterns have been completely shaped by word choice and announcer presentation he’d hear on television.  Like Jarvis’ Governor and Shaban’s SIl, Connery serves as an embodiment of this story’s thematics.  Which is in no way inappropriate, given that Vengeance on Varos is, when all is said and done, essentially about how people are shaped, not shaped, or can be misshapen by the media they’re regularly served.  


A not entirely even, but extremely well-considered and memorable installment, the recently restored Vengeance on Varos is now available on DVD HERE in the US, and HERE in the UK.  






Extras include...




Nice or Nasty (29:39)


Presented by Matthew Sweet


Insight into the making of Vengeance on Varos from...


-- writer Philip Martin 


-- Eric Saward (Script Editor) 


Saward says that DOCTOR WHO never came out of BBC’s Chidren’s Department - it originated from a department called Series and Serials.  He indicates that, when he joined the show, no one ever said “Bear in mind, it’s a children’s programme.”  


...”I think it had always been made as an adult’s programme.  With a fun or an exciting element for children that was there - and a bit for the adults above it.”  


So, why do people lkeep telling me it’s a kid’s show?  



-- Sheila Reid (Etta) 


-- Nabil Shaban (Sil)  - 2003 interview 


-- Jonathan Gibbs (Composer)




The Idiot’s Lantern (7:31)


Presenter Samira Ahmed examines DOCTOR WHO’s long-standing use of television within DOCTOR WHO’s narrative landscape. 




Extended and Deleted Scenes (17:43) 


That’s a fair amount of omitted material for a story which already has a 90ish minute running time...




Behind the Scenes (4:53) 


-- Raw material nabbed during the filming of Vengeance on Varos...




Outtakes (3:08) 


-- Flubs, bloopers. misfires.





Trailers (0:43)


-- Vintage promo from Varos’ original broadcast.




Continuities (:37)


-- BBC’s intro announce for its transmit of both Varos episodes. 




Tomorrow’s Times: The Sixth Doctor (12:56)


Amassed feedback of reaction to C. Baker-era DOCTOR WHO via the British Newspaper Archives in London. Presented by Sarah Sutton.  




News (1:09)


-- A vintage news report regarding the casting of Colin Baker as the Doctor




Breakfast Time (5:44) 


--Vintage BBC morning show interview with Colin Baker.




Saturday Superstore (15:07)


Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant appear on a Saturday children’s show.  Baker discusses how his take on the Doctor character was developed, and how his “bad taste” costume came about per John Nathan-Turner.  Includes phone calls from viewers, one of them being the Master.  (“Where is calling from?  I’ll bet he reversed the charges...” insists Baker.)  In another humorous moment, Bryant presents a swag bag filled with Peter Davison DW merch as Colin Baker looks on with (feigned?) incredulity.  Ahhhh, BBC...


Surprisingly interesting feature.  


Colin Baker seems to favor this card from young fan Peter John Wilcock





French & Saunders  (7:33)


Featuring an UNTRANSMITTED FRENCH & SAUNDERS sketch (recorded 25 January, 1987) in which George Layuton appears as the Doctor.  



In the sketch, the filming of a DW episode proves exceptionally difficult.  





Photo Gallery (6:41)






-- Radio Times Listing 


-- BBC Enterprises Sales Sheet 




Coming Soon (1:07) 


Trailer for   The Ambassadors of Death - (HERE in US and HERE in UK).  








Glen Oliver




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[Season / Series Seven Docbacks - MOST RECENT DOCBACK IS HIGHLIGHTED]


The Coming of Season/Series 7

Asylum of the Daleks 

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

A Town Called Mercy 

The Power of Three 

The Angels Take Manhattan 






"The Impossible Astronaut"

"Day of the Moon"

"The Curse of the Black Spot"

"The Doctor's Wife"

"The Rebel Flesh"

"The Almost People"

"A Good Man Goes To War"

"Let's Kill Hitler"

"Night Terrors"


"The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" (2011 Christmas Special)  





"An Unearthly Child" (Story #1)

"The Daleks" (Story #2)

"The Edge of Destruction" (Story #3)

"Marco Polo" (Story #4)

"The Keys of Marinus(Story #5)

"The Aztecs" (Story #6)

"The Sensorites" (Story #7)

"The Sensorites" (Story #7 - full DVD release) 

"The Reign of Terror" (Story #8)

"Planet of Giants" (Story #9) 

"The Dalek Invasion of Earth" (Story #10)

"The Rescue" (Story #11) 

"The Romans"  (Story #12) 

"The Web Planet" (Story #13) / SHERLOCK - "A Scandal in Belgravia" (Story #4)

"The Crusade" (Story #14) 

"The Space Museum" (Story #15) 

"The Chase" (Story #16) 

"The Time Meddler" (Story #17) 

"Galaxy 4" (Story #18) 

"Mission to the Unkonwn" (Story #19) 

"The Myth Makers" (Story #20) 

"The Gunfighters" (Story #25)

"The Tomb of the Cybermen" (Story #37)

"The Mind Robber" (Story #45)

"The Krotons" (Story #47)

"The Seeds of Death" (Story #48) 

"Spearhead from Space" (Story #51) 

"The Colony in Space" (Story #58) 

"The Daemons" (Story #59) 

"Day of the Daleks" (Story #60) + Preview of the DotD Special Edition

"The Three Doctors" (Story #65) 

"Carnival of Monsters" (Story #66) 

"Death to the Daleks" (Story #72) 

"Invasion of the Dinosaurs" (Story #71) and SHERLOCK: "The Reichenbach Fall" (Story #6) 

"The Android Invasion" (Story #83) and SHERLOCK: "The Hounds of Baskerville" (Story #5) 

"The Face of Evil" (Story #89) 

"The Robots of Death" (Story #90) 

"The Talons of Weng-Chiang" (Story #91)

"The Sun Makers(Story #95)

"The City of Death" (Story #105)

"Nightmare of Eden" (Story #107) 

"Kinda" (Story #118)

"Snakedance" (Story #125) 

"The Five Doctors" (Story #129) 

"The Awakening" (Story #131)

"Frontios(Story #132)

"Resurrection of the Daleks" (Story #134) 

"The Caves of Androzani" (Story #136) 

"Time and the Rani" (Story #144)

"Paradise Towers" (Story #145) + New WHOvian Documentary / Newsbits

"Dragonfire" (Story #147) 

"The Happiness Patrol" (Story #149) 

"The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" (Story #151) 

"Doctor Who: The Movie" (aka TVM) - McGann) 


Merrick's Personal Journey With The Doctor (How Merrick Got Hooked On DOCTOR WHO)

DOCTOR WHO Title Sequences & DW At Comic-Con 2011

"The Crash of the Elysium" (Manchester version - interactive DOCTOR WHO adventure)

Why Eccleston Left, Here Comes Caroline Skinner, And Season/Series Six Part 1 on Blu-Ray And DVD

New Trailer For Season/Series Six Part 2

The Companions of DOCTOR WHO + New Trailer & Artwork For Season/Series 7  






1) a Docback should be about completely open and free discourse regarding all things WHO with, obviously, some variation on subject matter from time to time - the real world intervenes, discussions of other shows are inevitable, etc.)... 

2) matters of SPOILAGE should be handled with thoughtful consideration and sensitivity.  Posts containing SPOILERS should clearly state that a SPOILER exists in its topic/headline and should never state the spoiler itself . "** SPOILER ** Regarding Rory" is OK, for example.  "** SPOILER ** Battle of Zarathustra" is fine as well.  " **SPOILER** Why did everyone die?"  Is NOT good.  
And, above all... 

3) converse, agree, disagree, and question as much as you want - but the freedom to do so is NOT a license to be rude, crass, disrespectful, or uncivilized in any way.  Not remaining courteous and civil, as well as TROLLING or undertaking sensational efforts to ignite controversy, will result in banning.  Lack of courtesy may receive one (1) warning before a ban is instigated.  Obvious Trolling or Spamming will result in summary banning with no warning.  One word posts intended to bump-up any Docback's figures on AICN's "Top Talkbacks" sidebar will be considered actionable Spam - they not only complicate efforts to access Docback from mobile devices, but impede readers' abilities to follow or engage in flowing conversation. 
In short, it's easy.  Be excellent to each other.  Now party on... 
Readers Talkback
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