30 Stupid Things about "The
(And 20 Cool Ones)
(But we're not telling you which is which)
(We're expecting you to work that out for yourselves)
By Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore
Previously published in Celestial Toyroom issue 461
1. Men with tiny beards in black doublets, cleaning pistols by candle-light, while Paddy Kingsland turns up the fake harpsichord, horns and woodwinds to maximum. In case you hadn't noticed, we're in the seventeenth century.
2. Terrible ForeshadowingWatch: “Strange lights in the sky never bode well for the future”.
3. John Savident does a brilliant job of conveying that the servant he speaks to has terrible breath.
4. The biggest tragedy is that the Squire and his family are the most interesting people in the story bar Richard Mace, and they're dead within the first five minutes.
5. “John [Nathan-Turner] always wanted to tie the stories together…. And it happened in several of the stories, and I had to write these links, burning my brain out… because it's completely incomprehensible coming to it cold like this” (Eric Saward, “Mawdryn Undead” DVD). This is an apt observation for the first Tardis scene here, since nobody who hasn't seen “Kinda” would have the faintest idea what they're talking about.
6. Though Matthew Waterhouse does deliver the line “and I try so hard!” very well.
7. In fact, there's so much detail on the events of “Kinda” in Part One, that it feels distinctly like a setup for something, which is never actually paid off.
8. Terrible LineWatch: “But while you were enjoying forty eight hours peaceful sleep in the delta wave augmenter, my mind was occupied. Taken over…. [by] something called a Mara”.
9. Also, Janet Fielding's Australian accent means it sounds like she's saying her mind was occupied by a marrow, which conjures up some really unforgettable images.
10. “Earth, Heathrow, 1981. Not one of the most stimulating places in the universe”. As the Doctor forewarns the audience about the quality of “Time-Flight”.
11.“A broken clock keeps better time than you do. At least it's accurate twice a day, which is more than you ever are!” Somehow it sounded so much better when Paul McGann said it in Withnail and I.
12. The expression apparently originates with nineteenth-century Austrian novelist Maria von Ebner-Eschenbach. So Tegan does have an intellectual streak somewhere.
13. Meanwhile, in the real mid-17th century, the villagers of Heathrow were involved in a legal dispute due to having dammed up the Duke of Northumberland's River, an artificial watercourse which was an important local source of water-power and a transportation link, because it was flooding their fields.
14. When the Doctor is attacked by the villagers, his opponent grabs the Doctor's celery, and, as he goes flying over the Doctor's shoulder, pulls it off his coat lapel.
15. In the next scene, the Doctor has the celery in his hand, clearly having hastily retrieved it afterwards. Which explains why he has it back when he talks with Richard Mace in the barn.
16. What is more of a mystery, however, is how the Doctor gets the celery to adhere to his jacket simply by running his finger along the back. Is Time Lord saliva sticky?
17. Terrible LineWatch II: “I wonder what they use those things for?” “I'll bet it isn't transistor radios”. “What are these words you are using?”
18. How would Nyssa know what soliton gas smells like? Do Terileptils hang around Traken peddling urns of dubious vapour?
19. Despite being unconscious, Tegan moves her head so as not to knock it against the side of the doorway the android carries her through.
20. “There are no other worlds. Any fool knows that”. Mace has clearly not read Margaret Cavendish's 1666 adventure story, The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World, widely regarded as one of the first works of science fiction and positing a Utopian alternative universe which can be reached via the North Pole. It had only just come out, though, so he can be excused.
21.“[The Doctor] likes to be mysterious, although he talks a lot about, er, Guildford. I think that's where he comes from”. Considering that Ford Prefect claimed to be an out-of-work actor from Guildford, there may be more than one sly Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference going on here.
22. Michael Melia, as the Terileptil leader, does manage to act remarkably convincingly, despite being completely encased in rubber.
23. The costume's also quite good, to be fair to it; nice gills. Although the frontal longshots aren't quite so effective, showing a rather obvious join at the costume's waist.
24. The outside of the escape pod is angled, but, when the Doctor, Nyssa and Mace enter, the floor is horizontal. However, for some unknown reason, the wall is angled to the same degree as the exterior.
25. The bigger mystery, though, is why the villagers speak in West Country accents, despite the story being set in Surrey.
26. And the forest outside the escape pod is officially the Worst Backcloth Ever. Seriously, it looks like a refugee from an am-dram production of Children of the New Forest.
27. And once again, the Curse of the Davison Era (Too Many Companions) manifests itself, as Tegan and Adric, being numerically surplus to requirements, find themselves entering the familiar “get locked up, escape, get captured again, repeat” loop, and it's only Part Two.
28. Parts Three and Four meanwhile, have endless scenes of Nyssa building her giant sonic vibrator in the Tardis, both to give her something to do and to pad out the story.
29. “It's him I'm interested in, not his horse”. We'll just let that line speak for itself.
30. Also: “It's stiff!” “You were boasting of your strength a few minutes ago. Get on with it!”
31. Why do Tegan and Nyssa share a bedroom? Lack of space is hardly going to be an issue.
32. It makes the story somewhat more amusing if you bear in mind that all the Terileptils are nude.
33. It says something about Tegan and Nyssa's relationship that Nyssa never once asks Adric what happened to Tegan, even though she last saw the two of them being taken prisoner together, and he comes back to the Tardis alone.
34. Query, what happened to all the female villagers? Did they burn them as witches or something?
35. And nobody at all, ever, remarks on the fact that Tegan is wearing a garment which is even briefer than 17th-century underwear.
36. Nyssa, meanwhile, gets by with the Doctor Who cliché that everyone assumes that anyone in trousers is a boy, even if it's got a visible bust.
37. As the villagers don't know the Squire is dead, why do they think it's such a good idea to burn down his barn?
38. Why doesn't the Doctor offer to take the Terileptil leader back in time to before Terileptil civilisation began, or into the future when the tinclavic mines were all exhausted, or something similar, rather than an uninhabited planet? It could be through some sense of morality which prevents him from aiding a criminal, though, so we'll give it a pass.
39. What happened on the Terileptil spaceship? The most likely explanation from what we see onscreen is that there was a jailbreak on the planet Raaga, where they reprogrammed an android, and stole a spaceship, but we don't get much detail in the story.
40. Going to the effort of destroying the whole human race seems a bit of an extreme measure, considering that three Terileptils and one android could probably thrive quite happily for the rest of their natural lives by just going to a remote area of England to live, enslaving a few natives for cover, and keeping their heads down, as the population of the country at that time was only 4.9 million.
41.Whose idea was the big brass peacock in Nyssa and Tegan's room?
42. “I've never been able to reconcile the Terileptils' love of art and beauty with their love of war”. This is a pretty redundant line, since we see no evidence in the story of the Terileptils' love of art and beauty, and, aside from the line about the Squire's family dying honourably in combat, we don't see any evidence of their love of war either.
43. And before anyone says that the android is evidence of their love of art and beauty, sticking a few rhinestones on a cricket glove isn't art.
44. “Now we have your Tardis, we can travel the universe and acquire androids”. Really? A device that can travel anywhere in space and time, and they're going to use it to pick up hardware to take back to 17th-century Britain?
45. Before testing her vibrating device, Nyssa clears her room of all the dreadful crockery that bedecks the shelves.
46. “I didn't realise their technology was so advanced”, says the Doctor. He's a time traveller, what does he even mean by this? Advanced for 1666?
47. “I'm fine. Just a little sad. It was such a magnificent machine”. Nyssa is so mechanical, it's no wonder she's started imprinting on the technology.
48. The scenes of the Terileptils standing around naked, huffing soliton gas. It's a drug den, people, it's a drug den.
49.Nyssa is concerned that leaving the control panel behind in the 17th century would confuse the archaeologists. She seems less concerned by the fact that they're leaving a manor house with a cellar full of alien technology somewhere in the Southwest, and a great big escape capsule in the woods nearby.
50.Throughout the story, the Doctor is supercilious, bullying, superior, annoying, thin-skinned and intolerant, and, at its conclusion, he, Mace and Tegan savagely beat up the Terileptils and leave them to literally die in a fire. And people complained that the Sixth Doctor was unlikeable!