Tuesday, November 14, 2017

For The Love of Jon Pertwee: Why The Third Doctor, Was The Best Doctor





Over the last several years, Doctor Who, after largely fading from the public consciousness for over a decade, has become very popular again over here in the states. That is because people are really enamored with the reboot/continuation series, which started in 2005. Unfortunately, at least in this man's humble opinion, in my experience the vast majority of people who are huge fans of the new Doctor Who, that I've personally encountered, seem to only be fans of the new show. Meaning, they have either little or no knowledge or experience with the original show that lasted for the better part of three decades. And more bothersome to me, a lot of those same people show little to no actual interest in ever bothering to see the original show, at all. They have "their" Who, and that's all that matters to them.

To me, as a longtime Doctor Who fan, that is a bit of a problem. I'm going to go ahead and "out" myself right here and now, by revealing that I am not much of a fan of the 2000s Doctor Who show. I tried, watching multiple episodes of both of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. And in all honesty, I just couldn't get into it. But why the fact that it seems so many "Nu Who" fans don't really know or care about the original series bothers me, is twofold. For one thing, while I do consider the new show to be something of a "reboot", it is more what is known as a "soft reboot". Meaning that it is, in my opinion, a slight reboot of the series, and it has many (to me rather dumb) retcons and stark differences from the original show. But it is also supposed to be a continuation of the same story, the same canon. So because of this fact, I personally think that it behooves the audience of the new show, to be familiar with and care about the original show it is a "continuation" of. I have always found that you gain a far deeper respect and appreciation for a thing, if you actually know it's history, where it came from, how it got here, etc.

It just so happens that in my personal opinion, mind you, the new show, quite frankly, often comes off like badly written fan fiction. I know my saying that would certainly serve to rile up quite a lot of "Nu Who" fans. But that's not why I'm here, at all. Why I'm here, in point of fact, is to not only illustrate why the original series is crucial to at least see some of if you're a fan of the new show. But also to illuminate people to what I personally consider the strongest period of the entire franchise, centered around what has become my very favorite incarnation of The Doctor of all time: Jon Pertwee, The Third Doctor.

It is my intention and aim, therefor, to try and explain to you why he is the "best" Doctor of them all, and why, subsequently, you should care, and give his seasons, and the old show in general, a chance. So without further adieu...




The Third and Fourth Doctors.



By and large, to most of these "Nu Who" fans I refer to, the ones who love the new show but know or care next to nothing for the original, the one (out of seven) original series Doctor that they DO seem at least passingly familiar with, is the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker. Brimmed had, curly mop, acid wit, ridiculously long scarf. I will fully admit here and now, that he was my original choice for "favorite Doctor". Mainly because he was the one I had somehow seen the most of. I first became aware of Doctor Who, and saw my first episodes, at the age of 7 or 8 years old. I would sometimes go over to spend the night at my friend Harold's house, and his brother William was absolutely obsessed with Doctor Who, which they would show on the PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) channel. But they did it in a weird way, where they would show a mix of older episodes, meaning like the First Doctor, Fourth, Fifth, etc., before showing whatever happened to be the newest episode of the then current (and for a long time last) late 80s Doctor, the Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy.

So I got a pretty broad taste, though sadly, I did not get to really experience the Second and Third doctor back then. I got a taste of #'s 1, 4, 5, 6, and 7, however, and decided, for whatever reasons, that I thought the Fourth, Tom Baker, was the coolest. I did not get to see any Doctor Who again for several years, as for some stupid reason, even though she was a massive fan of most things science fiction, my grandmother arbitrarily decided that she didn't like Doctor Who, and didn't want me watching it. Later, in the late 90s, in my teens, Harold's brother William would be over visiting at their house, and would either bring down his own tapes, or rent ones he didn't have, so I then got to see other Doctor Who episodes I had not yet seen. Mainly Fourth Doctor ones as I recall, and that probably just helped drive my original love of Tom Baker more.

Now, beyond my own personal history with the series, I will say that overall, after having in my 20s and beyond seen most of the Third and Fourth Doctor stories (there's some later Baker stories I still haven't watched), that the 1970s were, in my opinion unquestionably, the best period of Doctor Who there has ever been. The stories were at their strongest, the companions were (mostly) great, and those two distinct personalities of The Doctor were by far the most popular. That is backed up by the fact that Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker are the second and first longest running Doctors in the history of the franchise. Jon Pertwee had five seasons, and his run only ended at five because he chose to walk away from it. Tom Baker then came along in 1975, and fans loved him so much he hung around until 1981, seven whole seasons.




A young Jon Pertwee acting alongside First Doctor actor William Hartnell.




My insistence that Tom Baker was the best Doctor continued well into the 2000s, until at some point in my late 20s, I started making it a point to see a lot more of the original series. Unfortunately, because the 1960s BBC were apparently short-sighted morons, they didn't bother backing up and maintaining an archive of ALL of the First and Second Doctor episodes, six seasons worth of the show. So there are many episodes or outright full story arcs of both, most especially the Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, that I will likely never see. And that sucks, really badly. As it stands, from what I've seen, I really like all four of the first four original Doctors.

In my opinion, the show made some serious leaps when it jumped into the 70s and into color, but the 60s show had a very classic feel, and some really great stories. And the first two Doctors had a singular wit and charm all their own. But upon starting to actually watch the Third Doctor's episodes (I had only really experienced him prior to that in the early 80s special "The Five Doctors"), I noticed something. Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor, was really fucking awesome! And the more I watched his stories, the more I began to gradually come to grips with a startling new reality: I became aware of the fact that the Third Doctor was actually, at least in my opinion, even cooler than the Fourth. I eventually saw all of the Third Doctor's stories, yes all five seasons' worth. And it became apparent that I did indeed have a new, and permanent, favorite Doctor of the series.




Pertwee's first companion, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw.



Now the way that the Third Doctor came about, for one thing, was rather unique and original. Anyone who has even a decent knowledge of Who Lore, knows that Time Lords, the ancient race to whom The Doctor belongs, by either natural or unnatural super-science means, each possess a set of "regenerations". Meaning that when they die, instead of dying outright, they "regenerate" into a new incarnation of themselves. This is finite, or was supposed to be, of course, with it at some point being established canon that each Time Lord had precisely Thirteen regenerations. The idea being that once they ran out, that was finally it. In addition to regenerations, Time Lords, having a different physiology than humans (two hearts, etc.), tended to live quite a bit longer than humans, hundreds of years in fact.

The way that the concept of "regeneration" came about in the show, originally, was a matter of necessity. William Hartnell, the First Doctor, was very popular, and the show itself was very popular, but he was getting on in age, and by his third season, he was in declining health, was having trouble remembering his lines at times, etc. So instead of cancelling the show, they came upon a novel idea. There had been shows that had just outright changed actors before this, but instead of insulting their audience, they devised an actual explanation for this occurring: Time Lords could "regenerate". And so the beloved First Doctor died, but while that was sad, fans now had an all new, Second Doctor's adventures to follow, and the show could carry onward this way indefinitely. Which it did, as every Doctor at some point in the series, for whatever reason, suffers a mortal blow of some sort, and "regenerates" into his own next incarnation.

 For the Third Doctor however, it was much more unique. The Second Doctor was also very popular, but Patrick Troughton, after three seasons, wanted to move on to something else, and so as his last story arc, the writers gave him this massive, ten-episode epic called "War Games", which saw aliens testing humans for strategies and weaknesses by keeping many from different times trapped in a "playing field", convinced that wars from different eras were still ongoing. The Doctor, as he usually does, got involved and interfered, and at the end of the arc, once he had more or less managed to save the day, suddenly his fellow Time Lords appeared. They were not at all happy with their renegade fellow, and thus, for the only time (as far as I'm aware) in the history of the series, a Doctor regeneration occurred without death. As punishment for his constant interference in the affairs of other planets and races, which is supposed to be against stuffy Time Lord law, they sent the Second Doctor's companions back to their rightful times, and forced The Doctor himself to regenerate. As an additional part of his punishment, they also blocked his knowledge of how to run his Timeship, the T.A.R.D.I.S. (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), and left him stranded on the planet he had shown such fondness for: The Earth.




Live and in Color?



This was all very new and a radical departure from what fans had thus far seen from the series. For one thing, when the show first began, it was intended to be more of an "educational" science fiction series, aimed at children and families. Which is why many of the First Doctor stories show him winding up back in different historic time periods of the Earth. But due to the raging popularity of the second ever Who story arc, "The Daleks" (a personal favorite of mine), monster and alien episodes quickly became extremely popular with fans, so the producers felt they should make more. The Second Doctor still retained some of the historical type of episodes, specifically the story arc "The Highlanders", where we first meet Scottish companion Jamie. But the Second Doctor really delved deeper into monster and alien type storylines, such as his biggest recurring threat, the Cybermen. But by the time the Third Doctor rolled around, the historic episodes were basically entirely gone, and in the 70s, the show gradually took on a darker, more serious tone overall.

When the Third Doctor began, it's important to note that not only was the transition from Second to Third Doctor very unique and bizarre, but the entire tone and pacing of the show was about to shift dramatically. And to top it all off, the Third Doctor also exploded for the first time into color! The BBC had previously filmed Who in black and white, because it was allotted fairly low budgets, and black and white film was cheaper to use. But with Who proving a six-year smash success for them, they finally decided to cough up a little more cash, and started using the more expensive color film. Beyond the aesthetic, however, the more drastic shift for the series, was the very important fact that The Doctor now found himself stranded on one planet: Earth.

Previously, and for the vast majority of the show's existence in fact, part of the gimmick of Doctor Who, was that he is a renegade Time Lord, who stole a T.A.R.D.I.S. because he is an insatiably curious explorer, who just wants to gallivant around studying the universe. Because his Timeship is rather old and a bit busted, he often cannot precisely control where (or when) his jaunts through time and space will lead him. But in Season 7, and for the majority of his first three seasons, the Third Doctor found himself unable to remember how to work his ship, so he was stuck on Earth, a fact he despised.




The Doctor's friends in U.N.I.T.




However, also being one to always try and make the best of his given situation, The Doctor found himself falling in with the somewhat clandestine outfit called "U.N.I.T." The United Nations Intelligence Task Force was secretly formed after the invasion of aliens in the Second Doctor story "The Web of Fear", and they later faced their first crisis, with the Doctor's help, when Cybermen try to invade Earth. The outfit is led by British Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, a stern but fair man. So when the Third Doctor turns up, he remembers "The Brigadier", but Lethbridge-Stewart doesn't recognize his new face. He later becomes convinced it's the same man, however, during the thwarting of yet another alien crisis. And so The Doctor, stuck on Earth and needing an explanation for his sudden existence there, begrudgingly comes under the employ of U.N.I.T. as it's unofficial "Scientific Advisor". The relationship between Lethbridge-Stewart and The Doctor is often somewhat comical, as the ever-serious military man usually plays the "straight man" to the flamboyant alien, as well as serving to frustrate The Doctor with his military rules and procedures. But at the end of the day, The Brigadier trusts The Doctor's wisdom, and is always there for The Doctor when he is needed. It's kind of odd, but The Brigadier is actually one of my favorite Doctor Who characters of all time.

To me, while I like all of Jon Pertwee's run on the show, these times with U.N.I.T. were some of the best. The Doctor is often at his most interesting or exciting when he is off exploring other worlds. But being forced into a new situation, where you not only had one of his more traditional "companion" characters, you also had these regulars that he worked with in U.N.I.T., who were companions in their own right too, and something of a regular cast. It also provided what I think were good and interesting challenges for the writers, who having to mostly stick to Earth (or for that matter England), had to in many ways become more focused and inventive. Consequently, I think some of the show's strongest writing and stories happened during this period.

Along with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, you also had U.N.I.T. regulars like Sergeant John Benton and Captain Mike Yates. In Jon Pertwee's first season, he is paired with Dr. Liz Shaw, who had been tapped as U.N.I.T.'s "Scientific Advisor" right before The Doctor reappeared. She is brilliant in her own right, and usually catches on to The Doctor's advanced Time Lord science fairly quickly. I personally really enjoyed her, and wish her character would have stuck around longer. At first she is more of a foil for The Doctor, the scientific skeptic of all of this U.N.I.T. nonsense, but she eventually comes to be a believer through experience, as well as developing a closer relationship with the stodgy and eccentric Doctor.




Pertwee's second companion, Jo Grant.



After Season 7, the show runners decided to get rid of Liz, not because she didn't work (she did), but because they felt like she was "too smart", and they wanted a companion that The Doctor had to explain science-fictiony things to, thereby also better explaining them to the audience too. Kind of a contrived reason, if you ask me, and worse yet, they didn't even give her a fond fairwell type of sendoff. At the beginning of Season 8, they just mention that she has move on, off-camera.

As her replacement, the Doctor is assigned a less brainy, but still fairly bright young woman named Josephine Grant, as his new assistant. What Jo lacks in Liz's raw intelligence, she makes up for by being both very resourceful when called upon, and fiercely loyal to The Doctor, whom she grows very fond of. I really like the character of Jo Grant, to be honest, as I admire her loyalty to The Doctor, and always persevering even though she is usually a "fish out of water" in all of these bizarre situations they encounter. But I think in some ways, Liz Shaw might be my favorite Third Doctor companion, because her character, in spite of her initial stodginess, is quite awesome. And her relationship as something more of an equal (not quite but close enough) with this brilliant and comparatively ancient alien Time Lord, presents a unique dynamic that you don't often see in the show.



The Doctor's single greatest nemesis, The Master.




With the previous two Doctors, you briefly saw him run into another Time Lord or two, but really, his race is seldom seen or even heard of. But another foundation of the the Third Doctor, was the introduction of a more regular, recurring villain. They introduced the character of "The Master", a fellow renegade Time Lord who is every bit as brilliant as The Doctor, a perfect equal in some ways, but also a perfect opposite. While the Doctor seems to cherish and value all life, The Master absolutely doesn't, and only seeks to control it, as he constantly tries to attain greater power for himself. Played by the incredible Roger Delgado, The Master was, in essence, the perfect arch-villain for The Doctor. He was, in some ways, the cheesy, mustache twirling, maniacal laughing supervillain, who always seems to find a way to escape and fight another day. For one thing, that was also part of what made him awesome.  But for another, there was a lot more going on under the surface with The Master than your typical, generic bad guy.

While yes, he was usually maniacal, coming up with some new scheme or aligning himself with some other villainous threat, he could also be quite complex. He admired and respected The Doctor, even though he hated his nobility, and often tried to sway The Doctor to join him, because together they could rule the universe. And you got the feeling that The Master wasn't always bullshitting, that some part of him, deep down, was perhaps lonely, and really did want a companion, an equal, to share in his villainous glory.

There was more than one Third Doctor story arc, where you were presented with an initial villain or threat, only to have that "Dr. Wily" type moment, revealing that that bastard The Master was at it again. In point of fact, The Master first appeared in the first story arc of Season 8, "Terror of the Autons", and he subsequently appeared in eight out of the ten story arcs covered in Seasons 8 and 9. He was featured in every single story arc of Season 8 in fact, which could rightly be considered "The Season of the Master". But it honestly didn't get old during those stories, as he was always popping up in some different way, with some new dastardly plan at work. They gradually started to phase him out, not using him as much in Season 10. But sadly, his only story appearance in Season 10 would also be Roger Delgado's last, as he tragically died in a car crash in Istanbul, Turkey, in June 1973. Jon Pertwee and Roger Delgado, in spite being enemies on screen, were actually close friends behind the scenes, and Delgado's death deeply affected Pertwee.




One of my all-time favorite stories, "The Curse of Peladon".



Now while The Doctor was completely Earth-locked in Season 7 and most of Season 8, in the Season 8 story "Colony in Space", they introduced the idea that the Time Lords might fancy using The Doctor by sending him on specific space/time journeys in his T.A.R.D.I.S. Proving that while they generally seemed to be against interference, there were also apparent extreme cases where they thought it wise to step in. They just weren't going to do so themselves, so they'd send that meddlesome Doctor instead.

They did this again twice in Season 9, including one of my personal favorite Doctor Who stories of all time, "The Curse of Peladon". The Doctor and Jo Grant find themselves shunted off into the future, but to the relatively primitive, medieval type planet of Peladon. The Doctor, being nosey as usual, winds up putting them in a position where they have to pretend to be official representatives from Earth, as the Galactic Federation, a joint force of many alien races, decide whether to admit Peladon into its ranks. It's a great story, with a nice mix of medieval superstition and futuristic science fiction, and a dash of political intrigue as well. Not to mention a nice return, and even surprising evolution of the classic Second Doctor villains, the Martian "Ice Warriors".




Three Doctors, one story.



Another of my favorite episodes, once again saw The Doctor shunted off to another time and place, but this time, he was joined by his two previous incarnations, in the first story arc of Season 10, "The Three Doctors". This kind of thing would be done again, but at the time, I'm sure it was a huge deal to see all three original Doctors in one place (well, relatively speaking). The First Doctor, unfortunately, by 1973 was too old and ill to really have an active role, so instead, he appeared via a "Time Transmission" of sorts, meaning that his part was basically recorded separately, and Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee had to react to it. It's still nice that William Hartnell himself got one last appearance and bow for Who fans, before his death in 1975. And seeing the Second and Third Doctors play off of each other, one the "Cosmic Clown" and the other a "Gentleman Dandy", is really a lot of fun. Not to mention The Brigadier's reaction when he has to deal with both of them.

But the one major development to come out of "The Three Doctors", besides the spectacle of the different actors together, was the fact that as a reward for helping them save the universe from the mad Time Lord Omega, the Time Lord council finally decide to free the block they had put on The Doctor, once again leaving him free to explore the galaxy as he saw fit. Or at least, as his wonky T.A.R.D.I.S. randomly allowed him to. Even though he was now free to get the hell off of 1970s Earth again, as he frequently bemoaned, The Doctor did still continue to work with U.N.I.T. from time to time, when he wasn't off on some other world. So in the later Jon Pertwee seasons, you got a nice mix of the more traditional "Doctor popping up all over time and space" stories, as well as the occasional "Meanwhile, back on Earth" U.N.I.T. based story as well.




Good ol' Bessie.



One of the signature trademarks of Jon Pertwee's Doctor, was that perhaps more-so than any of the other Doctors before him or since, he was the consummate Inventor. Since he couldn't travel the stars, and hated being stuck on primitive 20th Century Earth, he was constantly tinkering with something or another, and his tinkering not only helped U.N.I.T. face various threats, but he also came up with some rather cool and useful inventions. He was also rather fond of telling people they needed to "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow", which for some reason became something of a trademark "saying" of his, with slight variations.

One of the most iconic of his inventions, was his beloved "Bessie", a classic "Edwardian Roadster" model car, that he had souped up to be able to travel at incredibly high speeds. The effect of him driving this old-timey car super fast could be comical, but it added to the overall charm and class of the Third Doctor. He was immensely fond of Bessie, and became very cross if she was ever damaged. Late in his run, Pertwee's Doctor even built a futuristic, winged silver flying car, which was dubbed by Pertwee himself "The Whomobile" (unofficially). As a cool bit of trivia, this vehicle, which was basically a one-man hovercraft, was not originally made for the show, but was actually commissioned by Pertwee himself, and it was so cool they wound up using it in the show.




THE Sonic Screwdriver.



Another such invention, though it had appeared before during the Second Doctor's run, was the so-called "Sonic Screwdriver". A piece of highly advanced Time Lord tech, which The Doctor claims to have originally invented himself, Pertwee's Doctor built a new, larger one that he made more frequent use of throughout his run. In fact, his Sonic Screwdriver became so iconic, that they continued using it during Tom Baker's run, and even into the Fifth Doctor, Peter Davison's run, where it was finally retired. The screwdriver could be used for a variety of effects, from disrupting equilibrium, to destructive frequencies, to hypnotism, and of course, even acting as an actual screwdriver, by sonically removing screws or bolts from doors and such. In the 80s, show runners of that era felt the tool had been used "too much" over the years, so it was retired for the rest of the decade. Though a new, more "lightsaber" looking version of it would reappear in the modern Doctor Who show.




The Doctor's third companion, Sarah Jane Smith.



At the end of Season 10, in the story arc "The Green Death", Jo Grant falls in love with an eccentric scientist, Professor Clifford Jones, who helps them face down the newest threat, and after it's all over, she chooses to leave U.N.I.T. and join him in a quieter, less life-threatening life, studying in the Amazon, in Brazil. She gets a fairly emotional sendoff, something that poor Liz Shaw deserved but didn't receive. The Doctor even later receives a letter from her, informing him that she has married Jones, and is happy and well. When Jo leaves, The Doctor, who often tries to act as if he is indifferent to his human companions (even though that's always obviously untrue), acts visibly saddened and disappointed that she won't be joining him to go explore the stars.

So at the beginning of Season 11, The Doctor, still working for U.N.I.T. somewhat, finds himself lumped in with another new companion. In the story arc "The Time Warrior", which introduces the villainous alien species the Sontarans (shown above), a British reporter, Ms. Sarah Jane Smith, has infiltrated a top secret science research facility to investigate the disappearance of several top scientists. She winds up getting shunted back into medieval times, along with The Doctor, and after surviving their adventure together, winds up sticking around U.N.I.T. as his newest assistant, even though she is hardly a scientist (to be fair, Jo really wasn't either). Sarah Jane would be one of the longest tenured companions of the series, lasting over three seasons, and spanning two Doctors.




One of my favorite Dalek stories.



Of course, the most famous Doctor Who villain/monster of all time, easily, are the Daleks. Spawning back from their original appearance in the second story arc of the First Doctor, these odd, robotic-speaking, "pepper-pot" looking, cyclopean mecha-terrors, became immensely popular with fans. So much so, that the First Doctor faced them in three different stories, one of which being the now mostly-lost twelve (technically thirteen) episode epic, "The Daleks' Master Plan". They would appear twice against the Second Doctor, again in story arcs where most if not all episodes are lost thanks to the BBC's negligence.

The Third Doctor was no different, of course. In fact, every single one of the original seven Doctors had at least one Dalek story. While Jon Pertwee sadly, for whatever reason, never faced the Cybermen during his run, he did wind up having a total of three (technically four) Dalek story arcs of his own. And while they're all pretty good, one of them, to me, stands head and shoulders above the rest. In Pertwee's final season, in 1974, he along with companion Sarah Jane, faced off against the mechanical monsters in the ominously titled "Death to the Daleks". My three favorite Dalek stories, are the First Doctor stories "The Daleks" and "The Chase", and this Third Doctor story. In it, the Doctor and Sarah Jane try to head for his beloved Metebelis 3 for vacation, but are instead drawn to the seemingly dead world of Exxilon. They discover (future) humans and Daleks have crash-landed there as well, as it turns out the ancient abandoned city on the planet, has a tower that powers the city itself by drawing energy from everywhere around it, even out into space. The Doctor and the humans form an uneasy alliance with the Daleks, as the monsters are rendered relatively powerless without their death rays, while the Doctor tries to solve the mystery of the ancient city.





Such nasty little buggers.



By 1974, however, after five seasons, Jon Pertwee too, was becoming tired of the role, most especially after the death of his friend Roger Delgado. It is entirely possible that he may well have chosen to do at least one more season in 1975, or even beyond, but Roger's death, I think, really stole away a lot of the life and fun of the role for him. He and Delgado were so great on screen together, playing off of each other wonderfully, always ever in the throes of their mental chess match. Delgado's Master would likely have made at least a couple more appearances, perhaps for all we know, even some half-planned epic final encounter between the two Time Lords, before Pertwee's time was done.

But his sudden death obviously cut any of that short, and thus The Master just abruptly disappeared after his turn in Season 10's "Frontier in Space", and he never reappeared again during the Third Doctor's run. The Master would indeed resurface, first as a weird looking ghoul, trying desperately to hang on after running out of regenerations, and later taking the form of another character, during the Fourth Doctor. And he would reappear again in the 80s, and again in the new 2000s series. But it has never been the same. Roger Delgado WAS The Master, regenerations be damned, and that dude owned that role for sure.

So even with a new companion on board, and his Doctor free to explore space to his heart's content, Jon Pertwee's incredibly popular incarnation of The Doctor was wrapping up. In May and half of June 1974, his final six-episode story played out. Entitled "Planet of the Spiders", The Doctor found himself having to go up against the evil of ancient psychic spiders from another world, Metebelis 3 in fact, who are bent on conquering Earth and other worlds. He winds up sacrificing himself, becoming poisoned while fighter their leader, The Great One, and he arrives back at U.N.I.T. base, with just enough energy to say goodbye before dying and regenerating into the infamous Tom Baker, The Fourth Doctor.




A tearful farewell.



 After experiencing all of his adventures, what I came to learn, and to love, about Jon Pertwee's Doctor, is that he was a man of complexity and balance. He was, in many ways, the most active and "action based" Doctor of the original series. He was very "James Bond-esque" in his dapper gentleman's manner, and while he, like any GOOD depiction of The Doctor, loathed fighting and killing, he was armed with what he called "Venusian Aikido", and rarely hesitated to use it when he needed to. He was, in that way, the most "kick ass" Doctor. But he was also incredibly thoughtful, as well as previously mentioned, a great inventor. He was, visually, inspired very much by Sherlock Holmes, in fact I think his outfits may well have come from Pertwee's own private collection.

The Third Doctor is my favorite, because not only are his stories, in general, the most well rounded (some are better than others, but there are none I dislike), but Pertwee's depiction of The Doctor, as this "Wise Silverfox" who can act cantankerous, but really loves people, is to me, THE defining depiction of The Doctor. He embodies a perfect balance of everything the character is supposed to be all about. Impossibly and eternally curious, often to his own detriment, often laughably eccentric and even arrogant, but also very affable and noble. His quick wit, his "very British" charm, the gentle but deceptively dangerous "old gentleman". His grounding on Earth for the first good chunk of his run, and his connection to U.N.I.T. as well as his companions, in some ways also serves to make him the most "humanized" Doctor.

I still love Tom Baker, and really, I love all of the first four Doctors. I even like, in varying degrees, the three 80s Doctors, Peter Davison, Colin Baker (no relation) and Sylvester McCoy, even though I feel that the series started to go downhill in that final decade. The 70s were, to me, unquestionably the height of the show's brilliance and greatness. Tom Baker brought a fresh and different energy, but while he is THE classic Doctor that anyone ever bothers to think of anymore, and his run, until near the end, was rather iconic, people also forget that Jon Pertwee's Doctor was incredibly popular, and his seasons put the show over the top in the first place. He built the foundation, you could argue, that allowed Baker and all following Doctors to succeed and thrive from. The show grew from a fun curiosity with the first two Doctors, to a British phenomenon and a household name with a worldwide audience in the 1970s. And Pertwee helped build that, he kicked it off.





Forever the best, at least to me.



Jon Pertwee would go on to success outside of Doctor Who, specifically in the family show "Worzel Gummidge" in the 1980s. But he would return to the role twice, once in the 1983 special "The Five Doctors", and one final time as a special, non-cannon appearance in the 30th Anniversary charity special "Dimensions in Time" in 1993. He also played the role on stage, and reprised the character for several BBC audio-stories. Pertwee died in May 1996, at the age of 76. He passed away before the release of the ill-fated, American produced Eighth Doctor movie (the only real appearance the poor bastard got), which is probably just as well he never had to see it.

During The Third Doctor's five seasons, many new and even long-standing Who elements were added, such as the improved Sonic Screwdriver, the art of Venusian Aikido, the more fleshed out integration of the U.N.I.T. organization, and the introduction of beloved characters like The Master, Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, and Sarah Jane Smith. And many monsters, such as the Sontarans, the Silurians, the Sea Devils, the Autons, etc. came into being. His run also saw the return of the Daleks after nearly five years, as the creator of the Daleks, Terry Nation, flirted with the idea of selling the monsters rights to some American company. Imagine how shitty it would have been to NOT have Daleks as part of Doctor Who anymore. Good looking out, Terry.




Pressure points are some serious shit.



I think my only regrets about The Third Doctor, are obviously first and foremost that Roger Delgado died, and secondly, that he should have had at least one Cybermen story, but never did. Outside of that though, I would be willing to say that, top to bottom, beginning to end, Jon Pertwee's run as the beloved Doctor, was the most even, and the most steady. Tom Baker's follow-up act was filled with many highs, such as his opening story "Robot", or the season long arc "The Key to Time". But it also had more uneven lows, such as quite frankly most of his final two seasons (1980 and 1981). To me at least, Pertwee's run didn't really have any major lows or dips. All of the stories were at least solid, and some of them, I would say, are some of the very best Doctor Who stories ever told.

In closing, if you've never seen old Doctor Who at all, or just never seen any Third Doctor episodes, I'd personally tell you that you were missing out, and should definitely check them out. All of Jon Pertwee, and most of Tom Baker's runs are really worth watching, and I would even go so far as to say that while the show budget and special effects weren't what they could have been or deserved to be, the stories and acting were usually top notch, and far better, in this man's opinion, than anything the modern show has produced.

While I would honestly recommend watching all five seasons of his entire run, some of my very favorite Third Doctor stories that I would highly recommend are (in chronological order):

Spearhead from Space

The Silurians

Inferno

Terror of the Autons

The Curse of Peladon

The Sea Devils

The Three Doctors

Carnival of Monsters

The Green Death

The Time Warrior

Death to the Daleks

Planet of the Spiders

So with that, I'll bid you all farewell. Make sure to check out some Third Doctor, and classic Doctor Who in general! Spread the word! 







Roger Delgado (1918-1973) and Jon Pertwee (1919-1996)





Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Childhood Memories: MonsterVision Revisited

It all started five years ago with a little piece about this important part of my childhood. And now, it's time to revisit MonsterVision in earnest...






On Tuesday, October 16th, 2012, I first started this blog site. It was originally going to only be a place for me to talk about my passion for movies, animation, and film related topics. As such, I was going to originally name it something like "Movie Madness" or something along those lines. I'm sure I would have thought of something. But then when I was coming up with a name for the URL, it dawned on me, "Call it Retro Revelations!". And THEN it dawned on me, "Hey, that name's just vague enough, just broad enough, that I could honestly talk about whatever the hell I wanted, NOT just film!"

So there you go, and here we now are, Halloween 2017. The site is five years old, and its associated Youtube Channel is now almost two years old (hell, even the Vidme Channel is now one year old). The entire journey and experience has had its ups and downs, its good and bad. I love writing about these things that I am passionate about, or have great interest in, or fond memories of. It's a positive and constructive outlet for me, and even though these "article" format pieces I write, more often than not, take far more time than I'd like them to (and that's even considering that most of them I just sit down and write, cold, in one sitting). But I'm usually pretty satisfied with the end result, even though I often think "it could've been better". I've had high points, such as author R.L. Stine roundabout acknowledging the article I wrote on his early Goosebumps books on Twitter, and mentioning he liked it, intimating he had at least seen it and read part of it. That was a really good feeling. I've also had lows, articles that have gotten very low hits/views, where it feels like almost no one read it, which is of course what you want as an artist or writer: for people to see and share you work, your thoughts. Those haven't felt all that great.

But overall, through the peaks and valleys, I would classify Retro Revelations as a rewarding experience. I've ran into some quality people in the online community because of it, and I've gotten some good feedback and genuine appreciation for some of the thoughts and memories that I've shared. And that's what this has been, and continues to be, truly all about: both sharing my thoughts, feelings and memories of things that I care about (entertainment-wise anyway), and helping to remind people or even outright teach people and make them aware that these things exist. In that way, I consider myself, with some small degree of humility, something of a "Retro Entertainment Historian". And I'm content to fill that role, as I continue to go on this journey, and hopefully continue to build my audience, and the cool contacts and acquaintances I make along the way.



Good 'ol Joe Bob.



So getting on to the topic at hand, revisiting one of the most important things from my childhood: TNT's MonsterVision. Of the people that are even vaguely familiar with what that was, I have found that the vast majority of them associate it with the man above, Joe Bob Briggs. As I pointed out in my original MonsterVision article, I was far more into the show/phenomenon in the early 90s, before Joe Bob came aboard. But I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I do like Joe Bob! He was a funny and likeable character, and I have nothing at all against him. It's simply that when he became host in 1995, TNT started doing more modern (mainly 70s and 80s) horror films and "grindhouse" type schlock, which was more Joe Bob's gig, and didn't really do the more classic 40s-60s sci fi and monster movies that I had preferred.

Part of the reason people remember his era of MV more, is for two reasons. The first being, that before Joe Bob, it wasn't really a regular "show" per say, but rather a fairly sporadic series of monster movie marathons that TNT would do from time to time. Especially in 1994, the last year of the "original" format, where TNT would literally go many weeks, or at some point perhaps even months, before having another MonsterVision marathon (a fact that I hated). The second reason people remember Joe Bob's era more, aside from the fact that it actually became a regular, weekly show at that point, is that he was the first official and regular host. Prior to Joe Bob, MonsterVision would often not have any kind of host, or once in awhile they'd have some oddball special guest host, like Penn & Teller or Bob Denver from Gilligan's Island. For more information on the timeline, and the show in general, I highly recommend checking out James Rolfe's piece on MonsterVision over on his Cinemassacre website.



The "Classics"?



As for "MY" era of MonsterVision, as far as Rolfe and other fans can pin it down, the roots of the TNT marathons actually date back to at least 1991, if not even 1990. I remember this myself, because there are movies I know they showed, that are not listed in the timeline of "MonsterVision" marathons. So it's entirely probable that the TNT channel started doing monster movie marathons before they actually started calling them "MonsterVision". Though, then again, it's also fair to point out that monster movie marathons on television were a thing that had existed for likely decades, at least into the 60s, certainly 70s. Other channels during my childhood inevitably had marathons that were not "MonsterVision", for sure. I remember one in particular that ran for a bit, late at night as usual, where it was sponsored by some mattress company or something like that, and would have a host that would talk a bit about the movies. I also know for certain that I saw movies like the original King Kong (1933) in the 80s before "MonsterVision" existed.

The early 90s were, in their own way, a "magical" time for me as a kid, as I slowly grew into my pre-teen years. I didn't get my Nintendo Entertainment System console until the second half of 1990, thus I didn't get huge into video games until then. I had books and read in the 80s, but it wasn't really until the early 90s that my grandmother started getting the little "Scholastic" catalogues in the mail, and started ordering me my own books, and I started building up quite a collection. At first things like the "Boxcar Children" series and "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, and later on stuff like Bruce Coville's "My Teacher is an Alien" series, or R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps". I also gradually got more and more into music, listening to the radio on my own, and owning my first tape deck, and later "Walkman", and the first small handful of tapes/albums that were actually mine.

Even as far as movies and TV went, prior to moving into a bigger mobile home down the street (yes literally), we had always just had one television, period. When we moved around 1991 or so, I finally fully had my own room, and with it, my own little TV, where I could actually watch whatever the hell I wanted in private, the caveat being that I always had to be vigilant, because there were still things my grandmother "didn't want me watching", and thus if she ever caught me watching things she didn't approve of (for instance, MTV), under no uncertain terms, it was known that she would take my TV away. Naturally I watched things like MTV anyway, but I was, as stated, ever vigilant, and never did get caught. One of the unfortunate side effects of having such a domineering parental figure, is that it taught me to be very good at being sneaky. Not something I was proud of, but an unfortunate "necessary evil" of survival around my grandmother.




My early 90s, in a single picture.



But like I said, the early 90s are probably the time in my childhood that I am the most nostalgic about. Both because I was between the ages of 9 and 13 years old, so my memories during that era are stronger, but also because for me, in so many ways, it was a time of discovery. My childhood 80s love of dinosaurs, for example, evolved and gave way to an early 90s obsession with monsters and mythology. And in very large part, this as fueled by two things. The first, was the fact that around 1990, we finally got a VCR (yes, it took us that long, as I said, I grew up poor). So because of that, we started gradually buying VHS tapes, and among them, every once in awhile, my grandmother would let me get some monster movie, especially Godzilla, that we saw on the cheapo rack at Walmart. As covered in my original Godzilla article, I'm fairly certain that I may have seen a Godzilla movie of some sort before this as a child, but the first films of his I remember seeing, were Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966) and Godzilla vs. Monster Zero (1965), which were the first I owned on tape. These were later followed by the likes of the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1954), Godzilla Raids Again (1955), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), etc.

The other, of course, was the fact that things like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and TNT's MonsterVision existed. Thanks to those shows, a whole new world of monster movies and classic fantasy and science fiction and horror was opened to me, and I was able to discover literally dozens of films for the first time because of television in general around this time, including many that would, to me, be perennial classics that I've love to this day. Thanks to seeing the works of effects-master Ray Harryhausen, I got into classical mythology more, and through that, an even deeper knowledge of monsters and related lore. I cannot impress enough just how "Monster Crazy" I was around this time. Between a combination of Godzilla movies and others that I was acquiring on tape, seeing monster movies on MonsterVision, MST3K and elsewhere, borrowing books on mythology and monsters from the library, becoming obsessed with Goosebumps books, and of course the release of my beloved Monster in My Pocket figure line, there was more than enough going around to fuel my obsession for years.



The stuff that blew my young mind.

Good vs. Evil

Captain Sinbad was one of my heroes as a kid.



When I was a kid in the 80s, around 5 or 6 years old, I had already seen one or two Sinbad films, probably the goofy but still awesome Captain Sindbad (1963), a movie Harryhausen was uninvolved with, and my personal favorite of his stop-motion masterpieces, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958). I loved the character of Sinbad and his adventures enough, even then, that when I got my first dog at around 6 years old, a fluffy Terrier mix of some sort, I named him Sinbad. Once we had a VCR, I finally owned a copy of Seventh Voyage, which I watched a ton. And then when MonsterVision came along, I finally got to see the OTHER two major Sinbad films, also Harryhausen epics, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973) and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977). And that is to say nothing of the two films that people often consider his greatest works, Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981).



The infamous Skeleton Fight scene.

Perseus facing the Kraken.

Not Harryhausen, but still cool.



This stuff above was what really drove home my pre-teen obsession (for a bit) with Greek Mythology. In hindsight, the real stories were often not all that good, and very messed up, and the gods themselves were usually complete assholes. But the movie versions of the stories were pretty cool, and let's be honest, even in the mythology itself, the real attraction for me was the various monsters. Jason and Perseus in Harryhausen's movies were not jerks, but rather, virtuous and honorable heroes, fighting the good fight and doing the right thing. And of course, Sinbad in those films, even in Captain Sindbad, was also a great and honorable man. I've been a sucker for this type of hero, the TRUE "good guy", since childhood, hence my love of such superhero characters as Cyclops and Superman.

The last film is a bit of an oddity that I still wanted to share, because I discovered it through MonsterVision, and because it bears mentioning. Directed by George Pal, who also directed or produced such classics as The War of the Worlds (1953), The Time Machine (1960) and The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), the story focused on a Greek, Demetrius, who rescues a shipwrecked girl who turns out to be from the hidden land of Atlantis. It's actually a fairly deep and dark film, not quite the "adventure" type fare of the Sinbad movies, but the one thing really holding it back, surprising for a Pal film, is that it has lackluster special effects. Otherwise, it's a fairly solid movie that I would recommend.




Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956)

Mysterious Island (1961)

The First Men in the Moon (1964)



That wasn't all, for my Ray Harryhausen education, though. MonsterVision, at various points, also played other gems, such as the alien invasion classic Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. A film that took a slightly more sober approach to the subject, unlike some of its more hokey 50s contemporaries. Watching this as a kid, I fully believed that "oh shit, this could happen", and the scenes of UFOs trashing Washington DC were both fascinating and terrifying. Then of course there was the adaptation of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, something of a sequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which finds various characters stranded on an uncharted island. The secret of the island, is that it is home to a variety of grossly oversized species, from crabs to birds to bees, all presented here in glorious stop-motion of course. And as the castaways would discover, the man behind this bizarre supernatural phenomenon, is none other than Captain Nemo himself, hidden here, away from the world, after the defeat of his Nautilus.

Last but certainly not least, was the adaptation of H.G. Wells' First Men in the Moon, which is a fantastic and imaginative exploration film. More elaborate, of course, than Georges Melies' great A Trip to the Moon (1902), it is every bit as fun. Veteran British actor Lionel Jeffries shines as kooky inventor Joseph Cavor, a brilliant but anti-social eccentric who invents what he calls "Cavorite", a substance that resists gravity. It's a truly wonderful film, because it doesn't try to "modernize" the technology described in Wells' story. It feels like a nice little slice of Victorian science fiction adventure, which is why I love it. Seeing it as a kid, I marveled at the spectacle of it all, and the strangeness of the insectoid "Moon People", the Selenites.




The Thing From Another World (1951)

It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)

Them! (1954)



Moving beyond Harryhausen, MonsterVision also brought me films that not only made me think, but at times, also scared the shit out of my child-self. Somewhere far too young, around 9 or so years old, I also saw John Carpenter's 1982 horror classic The Thing, which with it's paranoia and gore, practically traumatized me (though I love it as an adult, I shouldn't have been able to watch it that young an age). But the Howard Hawks 1951 adaptation of the same novella, "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell,  features a slightly altered story, where the alien found in the North Pole (not Antarctica), is a vegetation-based monster who need to essentially drink the blood of living beings, but was still every bit as scary (minus the gross-out gore) as Carpenter's film. In fact, Carpenter was a huge fan of Hawks' movie, and he made his own adaptation inspired by it.

Then there was It! The Terror From Beyond Space, which served as a prototype of sorts for the 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien. A spaceship goes to Mars, to check on a previous ship that hadn't reported back to Earth, only to find the ship wrecked and the crew dead. As they leave Mars themselves, they don't realize they've taken an uninvited guest aboard, a life form that completely drains a body of all fluids, not just blood. Obviously directly inspired by Hawks' Thing film, it also helped to established many future tropes of space-based science fiction and horror films. As a kid, both monsters really scared me, but "It" certainly had a more desperate, sombre tone.

Last, but again certainly not least, is quite probably the single best "giant insect" movie ever made, 1954's Them. The 50s had its wealth of "radioactivity gone awry" movies, and probably a good dozen giant insect/animal movies as an off-shoot of that. Most of them probably wanted to take themselves seriously, such as a movie we actually bought on tape for some reason, The Beginning of the End (1957), a Bert I. Gordon movie about giant locusts who terrorize America. Problem was, the movie had a super low budget, and stiff-as-a-board acting, so it wasn't very good. But with Them, they had a big enough budget, and a good enough script, and credible acting, that the material is done way more justice. One of the film's opening scenes, is of a little girl being found alone in the desert, traumatized by the fact that her parents were killed by "Them", which turn out to be giant ants. That scene alone sets the tone for the film, and it has remained one of my favorite classic science fiction films since.




The Giant Claw (1957)

From Hell It Came (1957)


The Cyclops (1957)




It wasn't all gold and sunshine, of course. MonsterVision also had its share of crap, movies that, even as a kid who literally ate up any monster movie I could get my hands on, would not impress me much. And this is coming from a kid who, when I first saw Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959), I ignored the shoestring budget and horrid acting, and took the plot of aliens trying to prevent man from blowing up the universe dead serious. Of the three films shown above, I will say that I actually do like, is The Giant Claw. It's cheeseball, and yes the giant space bird "from an antimatter universe" looks ridiculous. But somehow I loved it as a kid, and still have a soft spot for it today. I didn't even mind when they KEPT repeating the line "It's as big as a Battleship!" throughout the movie. Claw is one of those "bad" movies that is still fun and endearing.

I'm not sure I can say the same about the other two. With Bert I. Gordon's The Cyclops, at least, I remember having a bit of fun by giving it my own MST3K treatment (much to my grandmother's apparent annoyance). But the movie itself, in spite of having an appearance from an aging Lon Chaney Jr., is really not very good. It basically served as a prototype for Gordon's later films The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and War of the Colossal Beast (1958), both of which were better, but still very low brow. As for From Hell It Came, in spite of its foreboding title and somewhat interesting premise, that of cursed islander magic causing a tree to be inhabited by an evil vengeful spirit, even as a kid I was bored by it. It's one of those flicks where you don't actually get to see the monster much, and when you do, it basically does very little. The idea of spooky "tree people" is an interesting and rarely used one, something that carried fascination for me since seeing Babes in Toyland (1961) as a small child. But as is sadly so often the case with sci fi or horror films, the filmmakers fail to carry an interesting idea through to a good film.




The Monster That Challenged The World (1957)


Reptilicus (1961)

Gorgo (1961)



The Monster That Challenged The World is another clunker that even as a kid obsessed with monsters, I was fairly disinterested in. I even stayed up really late, like past 1am, to watch it, because I was THAT obsessed with seeing every old monster movie that I could. And I certainly wanted to like a movie about a giant killer sea-bug-thing. But it was, again, fairly dreary, and didn't have enough monster going on to really hold my interest. It's not a bad movie, just kind of a dull one. And SPEAKING of dull, yet another film that you'd think I would have loved, Reptilicus was a Danish film about a giant prehistoric lizard-thing, that spat acid and grew to bigger and bigger size. It was even self-regenerating and nearly impossible to kill. Being a Godzilla and giant monster nut, that sounds right up my alley. But again, it was a film that I found myself kinda bored by, even though I wanted to watch till the end. And that is something I will say, I rarely, as a kid, stopped watching one of these movies, even if it was bad. Similar to when I would rent a crappy game, I would still try to get the most out of it that I could. As an adult? I just don't have the time or patience for either.

On the other hand, the 1961 British Godzilla knock-off, Gorgo? Pretty solid. Still not quite on Godzilla's level, but it was actually pretty well done for its time. It also has a somewhat heart-warming subplot about an Irish boy who more or less falls in love (not romantically), with the creature they find, and feels sorry for it when adults try to turn it into a King Kong-esque public attraction. But then of course, they discover that what they've caught, huge as it was, is really just a BABY Gorgo, and London is up shit creek when Mama Gorgo comes calling. That's when it really turns into a Godzilla knockoff, as she even destroys Big Ben! Unfortunately, in my adult years, I would get around to watching another 60s British "Giant Monster" film, called "Konga", which I hoped would be a similarly solid King Kong knock off. But no, not only is a GIANT ape barely in it until the very end, but in general the movie is pretty awful. Watch Gorgo. Leave Konga alone.



Creepy.

3DTV.



While the meat of MonsterVision's output was naturally movies, they also mixed it up a couple times, by instead having marathons of the 1960s show The Outer Limits. Somewhere around this same time period, I also saw many episodes of the original The Twilight Zone, though I don't remember if they were also shown on TNT or not. But these Outer Limit episodes were specifically part of the MV set, and either way, just like with the movies, I totally ate them up. I clearly remember at least one of these marathons, I was excited because my grandmother let me stay up super late to watch most of the episodes. In both cases, for Limits and Zone, I had yet to see either in my life at that point, so again, it was a time of discovery.

I would say, compared head to head, that Rod Serling's masterpiece is the "better" show, and it was definitely more well known. But Outer Limits also has some high quality stories, and often tried to push the envelope a little more than TLZ did, perhaps to get noticed. The picture above, of the creepy ant creature, is from an episode called "The Zantis Misfits", where this small town is invaded by what are basically escaped alien convicts, who happen to be ant-things with humanoid faces. The kicker, is that these things attack people by making this god-awful, creepy as hell noise. I can't even rightly do it justice by trying to describe it, so I'd say try to maybe look it up on Youtube. There was actually another Outer Limits episode, where at one point a man on some colony on another world, runs into a cave, and runs into a giant ant-thing, with a normal ant-face, that still makes that damned sound.

The bottom picture is from one of the probably most well known Outer Limits stories, "The Galaxy Being". It's a fairly deep story, about a radio station owner who just so happens to have a "3D Television", with which he accidentally makes contact with an energy being who then transports to Earth. The alien is actually not malevolent, but that sadly doesn't stop stupid humans from attacking it. As a kid, I found stories like this, as well as the similar tale told in the film The Man From Planet X (1951), to be very sad. I really enjoyed the marathons I got to see of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, but I was also glad that they didn't do it more often, because what I really hungered for, was more monster MOVIES.




One of the Very Best things from my childhood.


Godzilla vs. Gigan (1971)

Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)



When you're talking about monsters, there is naturally only one true King of the Monsters, and that's Godzilla himself. As I've related in previous Godzilla pieces, one of the very best times of my entire childhood, the most exciting to me, were late in the original MonterVision run, when TNT would do a "Godzilla Bash" weekend. This happened, I do believe, twice. I've seen conflicting evidence, but I clearly remember one of them specifically being a New Year's Eve deal, where both the night of New Year's Eve and then New Year's Day, they just played several Godzilla movies per day/night. And looking at the calendar, it would make sense if this were accurate, because New Year's Eve 1993 actually did fall on a Friday, with New Year's Day being a Saturday. So it would totally work out as a weekend deal. Especially considering that in 1994, TNT's MonsterVision broadcasts became MUCH more infrequent.

Regardless of when these happened, what matters is that they did happen, and how much they meant to an 11 or 12 year old me. By the time the first MV Godzilla Bash happened, I had already seen the movies I owned on tape, which were: King of the Monsters (54), Raids Again (55), King Kong vs. (62), Monster Zero (65), Sea Monster (66) Megalon (73),  "Cosmic Monster" (aka Mechagodzilla, 74), and the solo Rodan (56). Thanks to MonsterVision, I was then able to fill out my "Showa Era" viewing even more, with the additions of: Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Son of Godzilla (1967), Godzilla's Revenge (aka All Monsters Attack, 1969), Godzilla on Monster Island (aka Godzilla vs. Gigan, 1971), and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). As an added bonus, they also randomly threw in the non-Godzilla related War of the Gargantuas (1966), and at some other point they showed the solo Mothra (1960) film. After this, I would have to wait until my teens, or in at least one case adulthood, to finally see the other Showa Godzilla films I had not yet seen, which were: Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Destroy All Monsters (1968) and Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1970). In the case of Smog Monster specifically, I actually had the opportunity to own it on tape as a kid, seeing it in Walmart at some point, but that just so happened to be the rare case where I saw a Godzilla movie but my grandmother didn't let me get it that time. I regretted that for years.

But let me tell you something. Those Godzilla marathons? They were heaven for me. Even if they also showed movies I'd already seen, like King of the Monsters, Monster Zero, and Sea Monster. I didn't care. I was far more interested to see the ones I HADN'T seen yet, of course. But it was all gravy to this guy. The first marathon, the one I believe took place New Years' Weekend, especially, is also where I first ever heard the (awesome) Blue Oyster Cult song "Godzilla", as they would play it throughout the night in bad ass little vignettes. Here is this wicked rock song, talking about my favorite monster of all time, paired with video clips from the films, and text on the screen describing him as this unstoppable force of nature that nothing could beat (except for an "Oxygen Destroyer in the original movie, but who's counting?). I don't mind telling you, that at 12 years old, I straight up got up and danced around the room, rocking out to that song and those videos. I thought it was some of the coolest shit I'd ever seen in my life, because it was. And it's still cool to this day. 

One of those marathons, at least, my grandmother even stayed up late with me, to help me record some of the ones I didn't have on retail tape yet. Which was cool, because even though they were taped off of TV, I still had them to watch later on. And I actually still have some of those recorded tapes to this day. Unfortunately my VCR is on the fritz and seems to want to try and EAT my old tapes now, which is extra shitty. But those things can be fixed, or replaced, one of these days when I have some extra cash. Back on point, those Godzilla marathons were a godsend to me, and some of my favorite memories from my childhood. Which, I suppose, in a way is kind of sad. But it really was that exciting and meaningful to me back then. I remember when I first learned there was GOING to be a Godzilla Marathon, I was probably beside myself, begging my grandmother "Can I please watch it?", etc.







100% Weird




There was another little footnote, related to MonsterVision. In 1992/1993 or so, TNT also had a connected show that would be SUPER late at night, like midnight or 1am, called "100% Weird", that would air after the official MonsterVision marathon was over. These movies tended to be, I guess, "weirder" or more obscure fare. But honestly, while I don't really remember all the movies they had on it, it seems odd that they weren't just part of MonsterVision, since it basically was anyway. The only movie I vividly remember seeing from "100% Weird", was Plan 9 From Outer Space. It's entirely possible I don't really remember others because my grandmother wouldn't let me stay up late enough to watch it very often. But when I watched Plan 9, and those silly aliens were talking about human beings getting to a point where they could make "Sunlight Bombs", 9 year old me was almost certainly like "OH FUCK, WE'RE DOOMED!" (not literally, I wasn't allowed to say fuck back then, not even in my head). Plan 9 was also, I'd wager, the first movie I ever saw with "living dead" characters in it, people rising from the grave, which was also really scarey to little kid me. I mean the idea is still scary now, it's just that Plan 9 is cheeseball fun now.

There were marathons that I didn't get to watch, sadly. Such as whenever they would show anything to do with Dracula, or Frankenstein, or Mummies, and other shit like that. My grandmother, as I've impressed many times by now, was a very odd duck, and incredibly inconsistent in her values and what she would or wouldn't let me watch. I couldn't see something like Dracula or Frankenstein, but she's like me watch movies like The Thing or Night of the Creeps that would give me ungodly nightmares and made it hard for me to go to sleep. Even though what they would show were not the Universal Classics, but more Hammer Horror type fare, it still sucked not being able to watch MonsterVision sometimes.

But overall, I still got to see, I'd say, well over half of all the marathons they did during that 91-94 period. I would also tell you that, overall, I was all the better for it. These films, cheesy or not, fired up my imagination, and helped to enrich an otherwise often sad and lonely young existence. As I've said before in other articles, my early 90s years were filled with Nintendo, and monster movies, and books, and cartoons (especially X-Men). And in all blunt honesty, I needed those things, because they were my escape. My grandmother had her moments, and there were times and events not related to those things, that were good times. But without those entertainment things that I now look back on so fondly, and write to you all about, I'm sorry to say that there wouldn't be a whole lot to look back fondly on from my childhood. MonsterVision was one of those things, and I'd hate to have not had it in my life, any more than I'd hate to have not had Nintendo, the X-Men cartoon, or Goosebumps, etc.





What a goofy looking fucker.



So with those sober, yet earnest words, I'll bid you all a very Happy Halloween! May the spirit of Samhain overtake you all, and may your dance with the Other World tonight be a merry and safe one! Make sure to watch or play or experience something old and awesome, in honor of your old pal "Retro". Cheers!