[coming soon - more images HERE]
...with a quick look at Planet of Fire, a four part Peter Davison DOCTOR WHO adventure originally transmitted February/March 1984. This one’s from scripter Peter Grimwade, introduces hot companion Peri (Nicola Bryant), exits dour companion Turlough (Mark Strickson), euthanizes android companion Kamelion, and is also an Anthony Ainley Master story. It’s chock-full-o-madness, and still manages to evoke DR. SHRINKER as well...
...so it couldn’t possible be all bad! And it isn’t.
More on Planet of Fire shortly. But first: next week I’ll be at Comic Con. I’ll be there as me and not on AICN’s behalf, although don’t be surprised to see a few reports from my San Diego journey sneaking onto the site. Docbacker HornOrSilk has prepared a Special Edition Docback for next Friday, and be sure to check the Docback conversations at the bottom of that article for any timely DOCTOR WHO-related news. I will be monitoring the Docback as always, so Docback Code of Conduct will still be in effect.
HERE’S A RECENTLY ISSUED LOOK AT DAVID BRDLEY AS FIRST DOCTOR/WILLIAM HARTNELL
...in the upcoming ADVENTURE IN SPACE AND TIME docudrama which examines the early years of DOCTOR WHO’s creation and production. Know ye that this here image be EMBIGGENABLE! Astonishing detail...
PLANET OF FIRE
“The worst place in the universe - English public school on Earth.” - Turlough, Planet of Fire Episode Four
There’s an interesting phenomenon evident in many vintage DOCTOR WHOs - namely DW rolled out a number of solid scripts which were ultimately hamstrung by execution which didn’t do them justice.
While I wouldn’t say PoF was ‘hamstrung’ perse (it’s rather enjoyable on the whole), director Fiona Cumming never realizes the full potential of Grimwade’s script. Cumming’s work here is competent and often intelligent to be sure, but it’s rarely ‘special.‘
This said, ‘competence’ and ‘intelligence’ go a long way. What PoF lacks in presentational gusto is, for the most part, nicely counterbalanced by savvy performances and an OTT crisis of the month which masterfully blends AUSTIN POWERS level Mad Scientist shenanigans (the control of a volcano) with Classic TREKian sociology: if something nutty and huge were happening on a not entirely advanced world, how would that impact a culture/society? And it is in this thoughtful consideration that Planet of Fire truly shines.
Indeed, PoF represents what may be the series’ best use of the Master character to date (at least in my journey though the show thus far). I’ve previously commented that his circuitous approach to achieving his goals smacks of Scooby Doo or Snidely Whiplash - it’s sometimes hard to take the character seriously given his unfocused and over-produced tendencies. The same charge might be leveled here, but in PoF, the Master’s schemings are more organic and crassly manipulative than we’ve previously witnessed. He’s actively undermining a society and preying on its belief system to his own advantage. And THAT...is damn clever and evil, pure and simple.
Planet of Fire introduces companion Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown (Nicola Bryant) who here is agreeably sexy but often gratingly whiney.
One of our first glimpses of her is in a bikini - an admittedly shrewd maneuver undoubtedly intended to recruit more male viewers, although its aesthetic payoff is beyond dispute.
Peter Wyngarde (General Klytus from 1980’s FLASH GORDON movie)...
...here appears in a significant role, putting on his best LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in the process.
In what is presumably an effort to counterbalance the shameless exploitation of Bryant, PoF offers no small portion of Mark Strickson (Turlough) in trunks which are, well, distractingly, Village People tight and short. Not a criticism as much as an observation.
One could argue - and argue well - that Turlough’s exit from the show, featured in the final moments of the fourth episode, is a bit cursory...and that the Doctor’s dispatch of companion Kamelion in the same installment is equally as unceremonious (both niggles point back to PoF’s relatively unspectacular execution). But what PoF lacks in gravity it makes up for with above-average production design, and a generous portion of spectacular location photography on Lanzarote (where much of the location filming for Wolfgang Petersen’s ENEMY MINE took place).
The locale perfectly befits and accentuates the story’s subject matter, and lensing so many segments in this region brings a much needed cinematic breadth and credibility to a tale which could otherwise have felt clunky and disingenuous.
An imperfect and ill-paced story, but interesting and (for the most part) thoughtful throughout.
Planet of Fire is available on DVD HERE in the US and HERE in the UK.
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DOCBACK CODE OF CONDUCT
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.)...
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And, above all...
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