Friday, June 15, 2018

Playing this week: Doctor Who

"I hope that you enjoy the following presentation, and if you don't, I shall be terribly disappointed."
-Tom Baker, introduction to Genesis of the Daleks
It's Doctor Who movie night:  I change into my TARDIS t-shirt and leave work to head out to the Park Theatre on Cambie Street.

I get some popcorn and a drink, then head into the theatre to evaluate options for seating.  I settle on the sixth row, which turns out to be just about perfect for me:  I feel pleasantly close to the action without having to tilt my head back too far.

The seats begin to fill up until the theatre is about a quarter full.  I'm surprised by the age range in the audience, which ranges from old school fans like myself (and some a little older) down to eight or nine year olds.  There are solo acts like myself scattered around the room, but more commonly people seem to have come in groups.

Behind me, a group of six discusses the merits of the various doctors, and the potential of the new one.  They all regret the premature departure of Christopher Eccleston, and are sufficiently savvy to know the behind-the-scenes reasons.  One of them has a staunch dislike of Colin Baker, who played the sixth Doctor, and he's a bit worried that Jodie Whittaker's costume as seen in promo material harkens a bit too much back to his look.  They briefly discuss Ms. Whittaker's potential, but everyone agrees that it's too early to make any decisions based on the single word of dialogue that she spoke at the end of last year's Christmas episode - wait and see is the consensus.

The lights dim, and the show begins with an introduction by Tom Baker, followed by the edited movie version of Genesis of the Daleks.  I had thought that the composite cut was specially created for the promotional showings, but apparently it was originally shown in December of 1975.  I'm used to seeing the classic Doctor Who episodes in slightly blurry DVD transfers, but the quality of the restored version is excellent and bodes well for the Blu-ray collection.

Genesis of the Daleks clearly falls squarely into the cardboard and bubble wrap era of Doctor Who special effects, but the Daleks themselves stand the test of time surprisingly well.  Originally designed in 1963 by BBC designer Raymond Cusick for the second Doctor Who serial in the series, they're a unique looking take on the idea of warrior cyborgs.


As the title suggests, the story deals with the origins of the Daleks, the Doctor's most persistent adversaries.  The Doctor is dispatched by his fellow Time Lords to Skaro, the Dalek's original home planet, at the time of their creation.  He is charged with either reducing their aggression or discovering some flaw that can be exploited in future battles.  More disturbingly, there is also the option of eliminating the Daleks entirely by intervening at their creation so that they will never exist.

Some of the movie's elements come across as a bit camp in the modern era - for example, the TOTAL DESTRUCT button that will eliminate the Dalek production facilities gets a chuckle from the audience, and the fight scenes are not even slightly convincing.   But the performances are good, and the Doctor's moral struggle with the destruction of any species, no matter how evil, is gripping.

The movie is followed by an interview with Tom Baker, who at 84 years of age has managed to retain the rich tones in his voice that made him such a distinctive performer.  He reiterates the well-known anecdote about being taken straight from working on a road maintenance crew into the role of the Doctor.  He also speaks a bit wistfully about the passing of time and the awareness of the end being near for him.

The interview ends, the lights come up, and we file out of the cinema.

Overall, I enjoyed the evening - it was a fun way to revisit a classic episode, and I'd be happy to attend another cinema showing if the opportunity allowed.  And, really, if they release ALL the original episodes on Blu-ray season by season, that would be 26 movie presentations - how cool would that be?

I'm in - BBC, let's do this.

- Sid

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