Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen

Part One

"The welcome of a lifetime?!"

So, the first story co-written by Henry Lincoln, he of the... interesting Grail theories! Should be interesting. Also, this is a story I know relatively little about.

It's good to see the BBC continuity announcement on the new Loose Cannon recon, which looks as though it's going to be excellent. The early TARDIS scenes with the chest too, giving Victoria another chance to bond with her new companions.

The Doctor says they're assured of a friendly welcome at the monastery. No need to worry about that then! Oh, and no doubt Jamie and Victoria will remain in the TARDIS just as they're supposed to.

I like the way the episode features only the main cast for most of its duration- reminds me of early Hartnell stories! But here it helps to develop the developing relationship between Jamie and Victoria. And, far from being the terrified screamer of repute, Victoria seems to have quite the sense of adventure.

Part Two

"This wasn't the welcome I expected, you know!"

Actual footage, and suddenly it's very clear that this was filmed in Snowdonia, which unfortunately looks very unlike the Himalayas! It's still very good, though, plus we get the Doctor playing his recorder again.

We settle down to the actual plot, and it's most intriguing- who exactly is Padmasambhava, and what's that evil voice he occasionally switches to? Very creepy.

It's Jamie's plan that leads to the capture of the Yeti- he may be no intellectual but the last few stories have shown he's far from thick, despite his reputation.

Hmmm... Travers seems to recognise the word "robot". [pedantic smartarse mode] If I recall correctly from general fan osmosis, this story was supposed to be set in 1935 (although we've had no date yet). If so, it should predate the coining of the word by Karel Capek by a full three years [/pedantic smartarse mode].

Part Three

"They came to get their ball back!"

Great as these recons are, I think this is the point at which recon weariness is starting to sink in. Still, not that far to go now! Besides, this recon is quite superb, with lots of moving CGI Yeti.

The plot is thickening- I love the mysterious hand moving the model Yeti about on the board. And we get some interesting revelations about a "great Intelligence" which wants to end its days wandering space to take on physical form.

Khrisong is turning out to be a more interesting character than the simple plot-serving adversary of earlier, as he learns to trust the Doctor. It's nice to see the chatracter developing a bit.

Once again Victoria shows far more of a sense of adventure than her reputation would have us believe, trying to sneak into the inner sanctum

Part Four

"Are you sure it's quite safe?"

"Well, quite frankly, Jamie, no. But there's only one way of finding out."

We're spoiled with a fair few actual clips this episode, and a most amusing scene where the Doctor and Jamie find the TARDIS blocked by a Yeti: "What are you going to do?" "Bung a rock at it."

Interesting stuff with Travers in the cave, the pyramid glowing, and things looking generally scary. Which is good, because there's not much of a sense of threat from the Yeti so far, frankly. Either they're inactive or they just barge straight through without harming anyone. In fact, it's already part four and nobody's dead yet! Is this a record?

There's far less of the Doctor's manipulative side on display in this story, although he notably would rather trace the sphere to its source than deal with the Yeti he knows to be potentially at large in the monastery! We get an interesting moment with Victoria too: "This Doctor- is he your guardian?" "I suppose he is, in a way."

I'm beginning to quite like Khrisong, with his defiance of the Abbot's apparent defeatism- quite a turnaround for such an initially annoying character.

Part Five

"I'm going to see a very old friend."

It's a particular tragedy that the visuals for the scenes with Padmasamhava speaking through Victoria no longer exist- this is chilling enough just on audio but it would be great to see it. It's a shame that so much of Padmasambhava's dialogue is pretty much inaudible, although much of that is probably down to my hearing.

The Doctor's visited the monastery before, of course, so this is the first ever reference to an untelevised adventure. But where does it fit in? Confusingly, Padmasambhava seems to recognise the Doctor by sight ("Good to look upon your face again.") so presumably it happened since his "renewal"?

We get another slice of plot exposition here; the Great Exposition came to Padmasambhava whilst he was meditating?! That's a scary and not uncool concept.

The Doctor seems almost most more interested in Padmasambhava than Victoria's catatonic condition, and has to be gently chided by Jamie! Although this Doctor's a genuinely nice chap, and genuinely cares about his friends, he can be quite shockingly "big picture first" at times.

Everything seems to be coming to a head...

Part Six

"Such a brain as yours is too small to grasp my purpose."

Again the recon gives us a continuity announcer! "And now, Doctor Who, and the final episode of The Abominable Snowmen." Is it just me who finds it impossible not to think of the many Monty Python continuity announcer skits while watching this?

A cool Doctor / Victoria moment before he explains his plan. The Doctor essentially makes a token gesture of sending Victoria away before the dangerous stuff starts, but then cheerfully admits he knew full well she'd refuse to do any such thing!

The situation by the end, in spite of the robotic trappings, essentially feels more supernatural than sci-fi, which is not necessarily a bad thing and certainly gives this story a refreshingly different feel.

The threat is finally defeated in a satisfying way, marred only by the fact we're shown so many close-up photos of Padmasambhava which make it very clear that his aged face is a mask!

Nice last few scenes with the real Yeti and the Doctor playing his recorder again (yay!). And a nice bit of foreshadowing from Jamie: "can you not land us somewhere warmer next time?"

Overall, a nicely done story with a very different feel which, compared to certain other six-parters I could mention (The Faceless Ones, I'm looking at you!), never seemed to flag. Perhaps not quite up there with the best (I suspect because none of the guest characters were ever quite interesting or layered enough), but nevertheless very enjoyable. 4/5.

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