|Dates||Jan. 19, 1984 -
Jan. 20, 1984
With Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson.
Written by Eric Pringle. Script-edited by Eric Saward.
Directed by Michael Owen Morris.
Produced by John Nathan-Turner.
|Synopsis: A power from medieval times begins to dominate the present, causing innocent war games to grow into genuine combat.|
"Personally, I rather like it..." by Nick Waghorn 10/7/98
One of a rare breed of post-Sixties two 25 minute parters, The Awakening is rather good. However, since the story uses similar plot elements to the acclaimed Daemons this is hardly surprising. Don't think that The Awakening is a shameless copy though -- the differences in length, motivation and approach release it from such a classification that can be applied to Silver Nemesis.
The plot fits neatly into its two episodes, with just the last ten minutes being rushed and the Malus giving up too easily. It is engaging early on, helped by intelligent direction, and there are enough unexplained mysteries to keep the viewer watching.
Unfortunately the risk of posing too many questions to keep the viewer glued to the screen is accentuated in this story, which as a two parter suffers from the problems attributed to this type of storytelling all the more. There is too much explanation needed and not enough time to do it in without stopping the action. Although this was fine in the Sixties two parters, which were less action based, by the time this story finishes there are still loose ends. Why does Sir George carry around the Tinclavic? Why did the Malus intermingle two time zones to bring the "benevolent" Will Chandler? Why does the psychic projection steal Tegan's bag instead of kidnapping or killing her?
Despite these niggling questions, the actual story is enjoyable. The regulars go about business as usual, with Turlough typically being the last one out of the TARDIS and Tegan needling the Doctor (however this is becoming tiresome). Peter Davison's Doctor has a brilliant scene at the end when trying to get through to the insane Sir George, and gets a rare chance to show some acid humour ("The toast of little Hodcombe,") that is more indicative of the Sixth Doctor. The supporting cast are equally brilliant, with Polly James standing out as Jane Hampden and Denis Lill as the mad Sir George Hutchinson. Will Chandler is also an interesting character -- in fact, the only substandard one is Willow, who is too much the stereotyped sneering second in command.
The Malus itself is a fine, well thought-out villain. It's nice to have a creature with a non-speaking part as this actually makes it far more threatening. Instead of babbling about military politics (i.e. the Rutans) it confines itself to bestial roars and staring with evil green eyes. As the Doctor talks to his friends in the church, he is constantly being watched by a horrific face in the background -- which is very unnerving.
The visual effects are used sparingly, and range from the sublime (the death of the Malus familiar in the TARDIS) to the ridiculous (the computer-generated stars). The sound adds to the atmosphere effectively, though it's nothing special.
Overall, a very entertaining story to watch if you have an hour to kill, and don't want to analyse the plot too closely. It's worth watching just for the chilling "Soldiers come -- Malus come," realisation scene. 7/10
Crinkley Pringles by Guy Thompson 29/11/98
Sandwiched between the promising-yet-poorly-executed Warriors from the Deep and Frontios, The Awakening demonstrates the all the strengths and weaknesses of two-part (or 45-minute) Doctor Who, which is the most likely the way in which the series will return (if it ever does). The short running-time means that there is none of the padding that often occurs in longer stories, and everything is focussed on the main storylines and there are no irrelevant sub-plots and poor excuses for characterisation that often occured in the 80's.
On the other hand, the story does seem a little condensed, and there are far too many characters, making it fairly obvious that this was originally intended to be a four-parter. The sense of evil and menace that the production team obviously hoped would be created by the Malice is also not in evidence, partly due the short on-screen time it receives, but a rather unconvincing piece of plywood with two green eyes must also take some of the blame for this.
The whole thing is essentially a slightly different twist on that old sci-fi chestnut of a great omnipresent evil taking over a quiet English village (in this case, Little Hodcombe). The Doctor soon realises what's going on when the young Will Chandler is discovered in the local church, having somehow been catapulted forward in time from 1643, the year in which the English Civil War took place, an event which is now being recreated in 1984 under the watchful eye of insane magistrate Sir George.
There are some nice touches thrown in such as not being able to use a public phone so as to completely recapture the spirit of 1643, and the production values are pretty slick, with some very nice camerawork and the 'baby' Malice inside the TARDIS looks rather more sinister than the face in the wall that the characters seem to find so terrifying.
A bit of a crappy cliffhanger aside, this is a pretty good story, it's brevity making it extremely re-watchable. It's surprising that this was writer Eric Pringle's only contribution to the series, considering how desperate the script-writers must have been that Pip & Jane Baker write three times for the series (four if you count Trial of a Time Lord, Part 14). I for one, would like to have seen more from him.
Can You Stay Awake? by Mark Irvin 8/11/01
This is easily the worst Doctor Who offering from the eighties and serious contender for the entire series. Why? I hear you ask. Because it is completely and utterly mind numbingly boring. Whilst watching The Awakening, it's difficult restrain oneself from using the fast forward button it's that deplorable. The plot is terribly convoluted and it's hardly worth the effort of even bothering to try understanding it. Apparently its about some alien force called the Malus that was chucked in an old church to weaken the Earth for an alien invasion. To be honest I don't know much about the particulars or even care for that matter.
Oh sorry I forgot, now I remember - a group people from a nerd inhabited village ride around on horses in a medieval get up playing some crappy war game. And they want Tegan. (Hmm... Obvious evidence of insanity) And a dude called Will who actually is from medieval times teams up with the Doctor. Please don't ask me why he's there cause I'm honestly not interested. Did I mention Tegan's Uncle?
Fans enjoy laying the boots into the tacky story - The Twin Dilemma; but gee whiz, at least something actually bloody happens. At least you can stay awake to the end! (Hey I just realised, it's actually called The Awakening, how stupendously ironic is that!)
Not even one the guest characters even deserves a mention, Tegan is sub par, Turlough inconsequential and although Peter Davison tries his hardest to rise above the material, he too ultimately fails.
To be blunt, I really can't think of one positive thing to say about this story.
This Awakening is most definitely not recommended, in fact I would go as far as to say avoid it like the plague. Unless of course you suffer from insomnia that is.
A Review by Richard Radcliffe
The 3rd leg of a run of stories (with no connection whatsoever) was completed at the weekend. Elsewhere I have reviewed Planet of the Daleks (too long it was decided) and Kings Demons (just the right length for our excursions). Now it was time for The Awakening. The 5 of us (Myself, Wife Ruth, EZ, Nealm and Nikita - 3) sat down ready to dissect this minutiae of Davison's last season.
After 10 minutes Nikita was restless. "It's a bit scary this, Mummy" she said, wanting to watch some Tweenies no doubt. Tiredness had taken over after a few hours on the beach, the video was turned off. Nikita was safely taken to bed without a whimper (she really was very tired), and we carried on without our tiny critic. After 5 more minutes EZ started to doze. The poor chap had seen the thing that many times before, he started to quote the lines in his sleep (and he thinks I'm an over-obsessed fan for reviewing eveything!). The ladies were getting tired too, and realizing the lateness of the hour we decided to call it a night and finish it the next day! We'd got through 15 minutes maximum.
The next day arrived and we duly finished this Season 21 combination of Historical Gaming and Pagan Manifestation. The consensus was mixed. I loved it. It's very difficult not to repeat myself with these 2-parters. I really like the format of 45 minute stories. I completely disagree with the critics who say that DW has to be 25 minute segments. Me and my wife (and any friends that are with us) most of the time watch 2 episodes of Who at a time. It's the perfect length. You are allowed to get into the story, and it very rarely outstays its welcome. The 6 parters don't drag as much when watched this way, in 3 separate sittings. The 4 parters are great, with no middle episodes to drag it down. The 2 parters are wonderful stand alone stories - there's something great about beginning and ending a story in one sitting, without that story lasting too long in any way. I believe there should have been at least 2 2-parters every season - but the Budget wasn't probably up to it, was it!
My wife thought it was wonderful and immediately gave it 10/10. She liked the Malus Monster in the Church Wall, she liked the Civil War references. EZ thought it was great too, and that's after seeing it a dozen times! Nikita quite liked it, but at 3 the story was a little beyond her. Nealm was quite critical, but admitted it was entertaining. We all decided the English Village setting was great, the Malus stuff was great, the Doctor was great, the Companions left room for improvement (but they were still funny! - Tegan's Dress and Turlough's overacting winning the day).
The Awakening is a little story that I really like. It tells its story succinctly. It populates its stage with good characters who don't get on your nerves. It has no "filler" scenes which so many other stories seem obligated to include. It leaves us thirsty for more Doctor Who, showing that a story doesn't have to be an epic to be enjoyable.
First and foremost Awakening is an Alien Invasion story, tapping into legends from Earths past. We only really see the Scout though, the messenger sent forth ahead of the rest. As befits a little story that is just fine, especially as the Scout is so memorable. I speak of the Face in the Church. When the Doctor pulls away the masonry to reveal the monster underneath it is one of those magic moments of Who. Like some fantastic fairground haunted house ride, it comes as a total surprise when the edifice appears out of the dark. The montrosity hanging on the TARDIS wall is also excellent - this is a highly unusual alien intelligence. Doctor Who has been lambasted for its poor monsters and depiction of evil too many times - this story shows some of the best manifestations of supreme Nastiness you will find.
The village of Little Hodcombe is a nice little place. The May setting provides some lush English Countryside to enjoy. The War Games are one of those strange local festivals that are indulged in quite often in such places. I was raised in such a small village. They are obsessed with Local History, and with a little slice of importance that suddenly turned their sleepy village into something of Historical Relevance. Historical events are re-enacted, combined with Pagan Festivals, with a mix of Christian Festivals thrown in. This heady mixture provides a great show, and the chance for the butcher and baker to dress up and drink lots of beer. I totally believed in the backdrop for The Awakening. I've seen it so much when I was growing up, it really does happen.
The Civil War angle was well played. The interiors of the Manor House, the elaborate lacy Collars and Musketeer type clothes - all evoked the mid 17th Century. Rather more Cavaliers on show than Roundheads, but nonetheless effective. With villagers with names like Wolsey, Hampden and Verney (good old fashioned English names if ever I heard any) the connection to the past is definitely greater than most places. I like stories that are set during, or about, the Civil War. It was a chaotic time of extremes, so much nastiness done in the name of goodness.
This is actually a good story for the Davison Doctor too. He is very much at the centre of everything and runs around everywhere striving to sort things out. The fact that it is a TARDIS trick, and the heroism of someone else, that saves the day is typical 5th Dr fare. He gets caught up in events, busies himself with running around, but never seems to have a grip on the problem - everything rather sorts itself out, and he is left relieved that he could be a part of it. I don't say this as a criticism though - I always found Davisons more human Doctor more accessible and realistic than any of the others.
The show manages to cram in quite a lot of characters for such a small story - and there are some good ones. Andrew Verney should have had more time - as should Wolsey. Sir George is sufficiently obsessive, Jane Hampden nosey. The most interesting character was Will Chandler. I remember watching it back in 1984, and really thinking he was going to join the TARDIS crew. When he didn't I was quite surprised, and a touch disappointed. He could have been a good laugh for a few stories at least. Bearing in mind Tegan and Turlough get little to do though, it's perhaps as well he got taken back to 1643.
The story is always remembered by myself too for the broken scenery. Turlough smashing through that wooden door remains one of the funniest moments of the entire series (how a door can disintegrate so spectacularly is wonderful!). There's also the Horse pulling the May Queen Carriage pulling up to the Church Gate. Thanks to Noel Edmonds I always think they should have left the bit in where the horse carries on after the Doctor, pulling the carriage after him with hilarious results!
I like The Awakening. It's a bit clumsy at times, it's a bit rushed - but it is never boring at any point - and that makes it pretty good in my eyes. 8/10
Cavalier Attitudes by Andrew Wixon 3/6/02
One of the nice things about telling a fairly long, fast-paced story over three or four episodes is that if the final plot revelations turn out to be a bit naff, you're already an hour or so into the story and so people will already (hopefully) have become so caught up in things that they'll forgive the odd wandering story strand. Running not much more than 45 minutes, The Awakening doesn't have this luxury. And so thoughts such as 'Why the hell is the Malus embedded in the church wall?', 'Did English villages really burn innocent maidens at the stake in the 1640s?', 'Why is everyone in the village bar Jane and Mr Verney going along with Sir George's lunatic scheme?' and 'That line about the invasion not happening is a feeble excuse for an explanation' probably pack more of a punch than they would have had the story been two episodes longer.
And it's a shame, because The Awakening, for all that it becomes a bit unravelled as it goes along, is a nice little story with some great images, terrific dialogue and performances, and a creepy atmosphere more redolent of a supernatural drama - it reminded me of Sapphire and Steel with the idea of the past breaking through into the present, and The Wicker Man (villagers led into nastiness by charismatic loon). Episode one is very strong on atmosphere and the inevitable collapse into technobabble as the story proceeds (psychic energy, robot probes from Hakol, Terileptils - listen to the fanboys squeal with glee! - and so on) is as disappointing as ever.
But that's not to detract from a brace of fine guest performances from familiar and unfamiliar faces, and an impressive turn from a thoroughly-at-home Peter Davison - his scenes with Keith Jayne in episode one are especially good. He sparks well off Polly James, too - why was it that so often writers would split him from the regular companions and pair him up with guest characters for large chunks of the story? The script never lets the pace drop and for once the story suits the two-episode format - doubling the length would probably have resulted in a halving of the quality.
Look too hard at most of The Awakening and it collapses into an ugly shambles. But sit back and don't think too hard about the back-story and it's a small but juicy morsel to stimulate the most jaded palate.
The Trial! by Joe Ford and Matt Link 3/12/02
I call to the stand The Awakening, a quaint little Davison two parter whose integrity has been questioned by several members of the public. You, dear reader must read over the evidence and decide for yourselves whether this story deserves immediate expulsion or crowning glory!
I call to the stand Matt, a newcomer to the site, to defend the title in question...
"The Awakening is a great little story full of great little moments. I remember watching this when I was nine years old, and even now I can remember the scary bits.
But let's take it a bit at a time. The story opens to thundering hooves, and a woman searching for Ben. Straightaway, she is attacked by Cavaliers on horseback. But wait a moment! Isn't that a watch she's wearing? Within moments of starting, the story is already presenting a question.
The TARDIS lands in a crypt under a church. There is a mysterious crack in the wall, from which, unknown to the Doctor, smoke is billowing. This one simple effect immediately sets up further questions. What is behind the wall? How did it get there? Could it be trying to get out? This one moment scared me as a kid, because it tells us nothing. Nothing at all. We just know that something bad is going to happen.
Apparitions in shadowy barns heighten the tension. The past is mixing with the present, and the fear is piling on. Will Chandler is terrified of something called the Malus, something that 'makes the fighting worse'.
The Doctor meets Sir George Hutchinson, who is leading a reenactment of the Civil War. This simple idea completely wrong-foots the viewer. We're told it's 1984, but it doesn't look like it. The whole village seems wrong somehow, and the sense of unease just gets worse. Even the sanctity of the TARDIS is violated when a gargoyle appears clinging to one of the columns. This is one of the story's strongest images. The gargoyle somehow seems to fit in there, and manages to make the usually cosy console room seem unsafe and alien.
With the first episode racing toward its conclusion, the crack in the church opens up, revealing the scariest demonic face ever! This was an image that stayed in my impressionable mind for years afterwards. That grinning mouth, those green eyes. And the fact that it could make people kill you without even moving! That made it far more scary than a Tractator creeping up behind you.
There are so many great touches in The Awakening. Will Chandler running through cornfields, with that evocative music in the background. Silver Cavaliers and Roundheads. The TARDIS dematerialising as the church collapses around it - a classic Doctor Who moment if ever there was one.
And it even ends on a joke! What more can you ask for?"
I will now here the evidence for the prosecution...
"Thankyou M'ld. The Awakening is surely one of the most heinous crimes Doctor Who has ever commited. Its crimes are without number and its villany without end (to quote one President Borusa). It is little more than a series of set pieces, a string of pretty pictures without a coherent story to put them around.
The most disturbing thing about the story is how little intelligence has gone into it, this is a story about Tegan visiting her Grandfather but as soon as they arrive and find something is afoot he is conveniently forgotten until the second episode. And I truly hate the way whenever something odd happens (like say, Roundheads appear out of no-where) all the Doctor says is "Oh it's more psychic disturbence" like that is enough of an explanation. This is a story with so little plot it doesn't deserve a wrap up, it just sort of ends.
Oh yes it all looks pretty, there's some gorgeous location work and lovely sets but where's the substance? What about that stupid cliffhanger! Why does the Doctor walk towards the Malus? Is he that stupid? Nope, its just trying to create drama where there is none (and Polly Jame's "DOOOOOOOCCCCCCTTTTTTOOOOOOORRRRRRRR!" grates every time!). And for God's sakes... the TARDIS is a miracle of science, a marvel, so stop taking entire hordes of people inside Davison... it's not a bus you know! It's such a cop out when the only way to save people is to move them in the TARDIS. And that thing in the TARDIS, it would help if somebody would act scared of it or there was some dramatic music to prove it was a threat. Instead Davison pushes a few buttons and it pukes up green slime. End of story. Hardly gripping stuff. Although the scene that starts with Tegan trying to give it evil glares is hysterical, Janet Fielding's face acting is just awful.
And just what do the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough contribute? Admittedly there isn't much for them to do but one just seems to wander around for a bit, the other just gets locked up and used as a May Queen (burn the witch!) and one gets locked up in a shed. As a TARDIS team this ones fairly redundant. There are too many bland secondary characters vying for attention. Polly James might be great in The Liver Birds but her over eager performance here does nought for me. Nor Ben or Jack Willow, they're boring and overacted. The only person to escape this story with any credit is Will Chandler, he is so sweet but virtually ignored. A shame as he would have made an excellent companion.
Silly set pieces, no brains and a script with no decent dialogue, not Doctor Who's finest hour by a long chalk. And Janet Fielding is more shrill and irritating than she has ever been before. Why the hell couldn't she have been cremated?"
The evidence is concluded. We will now take a short recess and you can make you decision. The Awakening, saint or sinner... you decide!
An enjoyable little tale by Tim Roll-Pickering 1/5/03
The Awakening is only two episodes long but it never feels as if it is outstaying its welcome. On the contrary this story is full of events and character and in later years this story would have deservedly merited a three part slot. This is a fast paced story that combines several strong and somewhat clever ideas, most obviously the idea to feature not a historical setting but instead a re-enactment of one. This allows the story to get round any potential problems of historical inaccuracies whilst also challenging the basic morality of celebrating war.
Eric Pringle's script is a true delight, successfully managing to explain the basic concept of the Malus away whilst at the same time making everything easy to follow. The story is in many ways about how ordinary people, whether Will Chandler from 1643 or Jane Hampden from 1984, who are caught up in the events as their world around them descends into insanity. Sir George Hutchinson's scheme to recreate the events of 1643 that will lead to the Malus being fully awakened is a strong concept that shows the extent of one man's ambition and determination to achieve his ambition. There may be some scientific technobabble in this story about tinclave and psychic energy but fundamentally the tale is one more akin to black magic. It is possible to find many comparisons with The Daemons such as the remote village with a church setting, the May celebrations or the psychic energy explanation for black magic, but the story is in no way a sequel or rehash of the of that earlier adventure.
The casting for the story is good, with Denis Lill stealing the show as Sir George whilst Polly James gives a good performance as Jane Hampden. But perhaps the the most wonderful performance comes from Keith Jayne as Will Chandler, bringing to the character a primitive sense of innocence about the events going on around him and taking it all in his stride. The nearest comparison is perhaps Sir Justin in the DWM comic strip The Tides of Time and it makes for a fine contrast with the more sophisticated companions from more modern times.
The production of this story is best remembered for the outake from Part Two when the horse demolishes the entrance to the churchyard but otherwise the sets and location work are good, with all the Civil War re-enactment material feeling authentic at least as re-enactments. The direction is competent and at no point does it ever feel that the story is dragging. At only two episodes this is an enjoyable little story that deserves far greater acclaim than it has hitherto received. 7/10
Two Parts by Mike Morris (and his Invisible Friends) 3/2/04
First thing I should say is that I quite like The Awakening.
Next thing I should say is that I really, really, really don't like The Awakening.
There's time yet for a hundred indecisions, and a hundred visions and revisions... I don't know. I really don't. Sometimes I think of The Awakening, and I think it's fine, a fun two-parter with lots of good bits. Other times it pops into my head and my blood slowly starts to simmer as a nameless rage engulfs my brain. Occasionally I watch it, and spend a happy but unhealthy hour with my mood swinging back and forth like a steroid-pumped bull with a gerbil up its arse.
And so, let us go then; I've got my own You and I to put their sides across. The theory is that we will linger in the chambers of the sea at the end, and our opinions will sort of coalesce. So here we go: The Awakening, reviewed by two guys from the disturbing depths of my psyche called Bob and Taz.
(Sorry. I got the collected poems of T.S. Eliot for Christmas, you see)
WHY I LIKE THE AWAKENING by Bob
Well, what's not to like? The Awakening is a fun, fresh two-part adventure that completes its story with quickness and without any fuss. It's witty, it's imaginative, and it achieves what it sets out to do admirably.
The first episode, in particular, is great. The opening shot, of hooves thundering across the ground, is both creepy and exciting, and sets the tone for what's to come. The short format means that the Doctor and friends are thrown straight into the action, a weird environment of ghosts, visions and local people acting more and more out of character.
Although it's obvious pretty early on that something's up, the touches are achieved with pleasing subtlety. The bag-snatching scene, for example; rather than having that hunchback-bloke disappear, we see him further away than he has any right to be. It keeps a sense of confusion going for a while longer, and there's a pleasing ambiguity to everything... although something's obviously wrong, it's hard to say what or why. An example is the character of Sir George, who's unfailingly courteous and reasonable, yet obviously nuts.
The materialisation of Will Chandler is an absolutely magical scene, and his line "Doctor b'ain't a proper name, Will Chandler be a proper name" is cute. Will is a marvellous character; it's difficult to script this sort of period character without drifting to cliche but he remains utterly believable and he's beautifully played. The basic premise, of two time zones being intermingled, is a smart one. Then there's the genuinely frightening "Troopers come... Malus come" scene. It all culminates in pleasing mentions of alien planets, and a ripping cliffhanger replete with Polly James letting rip with a good old yell.
(And come on now Joey, don't be a silly moo... the Doctor walks closer towards the crack to get a better look at what's behind it. It's, you know, curiosity; he's quite well-known for it.)
Part Two is less pleasing, with rather too much running about. However the set-pieces are great and the dialogue's sharp; "You speak treason!" says Sir George and the Doctor responds "Fluently!" There's another beautiful scene centering around the May Queen, as the Doctor and Will regard the preparations and Will mutters, "They burned Queen of the May." The Doctor half-laughs and says "The toast of Little Hodcombe," completely failing to pick up on Will's horror at what he's seen. It's one of those magical moments when the Doctor's unsympathetic presence (unusual for the Fifth Doc) accentuates the emotion of the other character.
Unfortunately the plot gets a bit blurry and everything seems a bit rushed. However, ultimately, The Awakening comfortably works as kid's entertainment, and therefore is everything it should be; and it has some truly magical scenes. Overall, this is a successful two-parter and a diverting if inconsequential little adventure, lifted by at least a dozen fantastic sequences. That'll do nicely.
WHY I DON'T LIKE THE AWAKENING by Taz
No. No no no no no no.
The Awakening has a lot of good points, some great set-pieces and some good ideas are going on. However, it's nigh-on impossible to see what holds them together.
What's frustrating is that, in the midst of this appalling mess, there's a very good story trying to get out. It's well-documented that this was originally going to be a four-parter, and then got cut down. Usually in this situation it's sensible to cut out some of the story elements. In The Awakening, though, the production team took the unique step of keeping all the story elements in. Result? Half the actual story is missing, and unfortunately it's the half that explains what the hell is going on.
So we stumble from scene to scene, but no-one bothers to tell us how we get there. Why are some projections solid and others not? How was the Malus defeated in the first place? How did it meet Sir George? As it is, everything happens too fast. Part One is okay, really, but what's annoying is the sense that it would be brilliant if it was two episodes. You can even see what it would have been like; the Doctor and crew arriving as the war games take shape; slowly seeing the villagers behaving more and more oddly, and odd visions like the bag-snatcher becoming more and more common. The cliffhanger would be Tegan's encounter with the ghost. It would have been great.
Instead, nothing's got room to be breathe. We arrive at a village where "everyone's gone mad," but we don't get to see them going mad... so we don't really care. Sir George airily announces that the village has been sealed from the outside world; but we see no evidence of this, it just drops out of nowhere, and this means the story never quite creates a decent atmosphere. Fans who complain about padding should see this, the ultimate story without padding that really doesn't work. All the characters are one-dimensional, and Glyn Owen gives aspiring young actors a lesson in how to earn a pay cheque without actually waking up in the morning.
Worse still are any amount of crass scenes that don't make any sense. Characters are magically imbued with knowledge they couldn't possibly have, while others make amazing intuitive leaps of deduction. When Andrew Verney first meets Turlough he reassures him by saying, "Don't be afraid, I'm Andrew Verney"... how could he possibly expect Turlough to know who he is? We hear Ben saying "I didn't realise the Malus was so evil," but who the hell told him it was even real? The Doctor prattles about Andrew Verney sharing his suspicions with Sir George before he's even met him, and in Part One he says "The Malus is a myth," when no-one's mentioned it to him before! And then there's the scene where Polly James suddenly says, "Doctor, I've just had a horrible thought. The last battle in the war games has to be real!" Er, what? Sorry? Why? How? Uh?
And the list goes on. Cavaliers, hunchbacks, ghosts, mysterious winds, BBC Micro stars, toasters popping up too quickly and a below-average milk-yield in Devon are all ascribed to "psychic energy"; I'm guessing psychic energy can tie your shoelaces if you know how. There's the thing in the TARDIS which isn't satisfactorily explained, doesn't do anything and is dispatched by pushing a few buttons in a supreme display of pointlessness. The Doctor uses the TARDIS like a bloody bus, 17th-century kids even walking in without batting an eyelid. Turlough knocks someone out by bashing him on the head with a rock big enough to mash his skull to powder. The Doctor finds an ancient "secret" passage in two seconds flat. There's the beheading scene with the three cavaliers; it's very shocking, but immediately afterwards the cavaliers vanish and the Doctor says "The fight must have used up a lot of energy." Then, er, why would the Malus bother with a fight at all? Moments before the Doctor was saying the Malus was generating energy, by making everyone afraid!
Actually, to have so many plot holes in just two episodes is quite a feat. The sense, though, that the explanations were originally there and got edited out is what's really frustrating. The good scenes are all the more annoying because there's nothing to hold them together. Even the final scene in the TARDIS has two huge question marks; first, the Doctor says that the Malus was sent to clear the way for an invasion force, which, er, never arrived. How come? Did they get lost? Or did they realise that invading a primitive planet for no decent reason was a crap idea? Then the Doctor also helpfully explains Will's presence; "The Malus was able to intermingle the two time zones sufficiently for a living being to cross through. It must have had tremendous power." What he doesn't explain is, well, why it even bothered to do so. What was the point? Why bring a teenage kid through time? Why? Why? Why?
The Awakening is supremely pointless and The Tellytubbies has some better plotting on show. True, if you really make an effort you'll find some good scenes in The Awakening; but then again, if you're really hungry you'll find edible bits of sweetcorn in a turd. I still wouldn't recommend it.
WHAT WE THINK ABOUT THE AWAKENING by Mike
Okay. Okay. I think I've worked it out.
It's a question of who Bob and Taz are. Bob is my inner Doctor Who viewer. You know, the fairly balanced one who leads a relatively normal life and just watches Doctor Who to pass the time. But Taz, he's the fan. He's the one really, really deeply loves Doctor Who to the exclusion of all else, except Bob Dylan, Huddersfield Town and the sound of his own voice. Now usually, Bob and Taz can come to an agreement without too much bother, and I end up with some sort of vaguely reasonable opinion. This time they're at loggerheads.
(Okay, I'll stop with Bob and Taz now. I never liked them anyway)
The thing is, The Awakening isn't that bad. It was created to entertain kids for twenty-five minutes, and it fulfils that function perfectly. The specifics of the plot are gapingly absent, sure; but the general thrust of it is rather good, there's plenty of action and a whole bunch of good scenes. So for the casual Doctor Who viewer it's fine. I can vouch for this, as a friend couldn't see much difference between this and Frontios... no, really! See, maybe the plot holes were there, but he honestly didn't care; he only noticed the good bits. The first time I saw The Awakening, I thought it was fine. And if I'm just looking for something to take my brain out of gear after work, I might still stick The Awakening on and think it's okay.
But I'm a fan, ultimately. I just don't watch Doctor Who casually, I watch it with a different eye, that can take bad visuals and ropey dialogue and dodgy acting without too much trouble, but gets rubbed the wrong way by other things. I think Doctor Who's special, and one of the things I think makes it special is the high level of storytelling skills; the short sharp quickness behind the stories, the make-a-world-in-an-hour economy that underlies it and the invention that goes hand in hand with that. If I'm trying to explain to someone why I like Doctor Who, I'll always say that the scripting and storytelling is fresh and sharp, and much more intelligent than other science fiction shows.
The Awakening isn't special and it's told incredibly badly. Too many questions are unanswered and too many scenes are unexplained; and while there's a whole bunch of genuinely brilliant moments that disguise this at first, after a while it gets to me. On a deeper level, there's something about it I really don't like; the way the script has been obviously hacked about and cut down, but all the set-pieces are retained, shows a cynical lack of respect for story that's anathema to Doctor Who. It betrays an attitude that Doctor Who is all about action and explosions and noise, and that story can be sacrificed for spectacle. That's an anti-storytelling ethos, and for a fan of Doctor Who - a programme all about the joy of storytelling - there's nothing more insidious, cold, and nasty. It loses what we call the "indefinable magic" of Doctor Who and relegates it to the level of any old kid's show.
So The Awakening's fine, really. It wasn't created to please fans and really, it shouldn't be expected to; but on a deeper, fannish level, it goes against everything that makes me love Doctor Who. Maybe I should ignore that, but I can't and won't. I'm not a viewer, I'm a fan. And so I don't like The Awakening. I really don't.
There. It's been therapeutic.
A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 19/5/04
The Awakening succeeds largely because it fulfills all the criteria of a two part Doctor Who story. It entertains and tells an enjoyable (if not altogether original) tale along the way. This is coupled with excellent location work, fine acting, and a general sense of creepiness adding much to the overall atmosphere.
Added to which the regulars all get their share of the action; the subplot with Tegan`s grandfather offering the most potential. We also get two potential new companions in Jane Hampden and Will Chandler; both well rounded characters. On top of which the special effects are remarkable, particularly the non-speaking face of the Malus. In short then, underrated, but The Awakening is a joy to behold.
A Review by Sam Swash 31/1/07
I originally bought the Frontios/Awakening video for the Frontios story, which I thought was a bit of a letdown. Anyway, back to the topic in hand, I didn't have The Awakening book so I didn't really know what to expect.
I thoroughly enjoyed the video, it turning out to be one of my favourites. This was down to many different factors. One was the location, which I thought was absoloutely superb, suiting the story perfectly. The special effects, especially the Malus, are quite something, making the portrayal of the mute face even better. Also, the usuals performed very well, all getting a share of the limelight. I particularly liked the character Jane Hampden, acted exceptionally by Polly James. I particularly like the part when Jane cheekily opens the doors of the TARDIS. Will Chandler also fitted into the story well.
I also think that one of the reasons I like this story so much is because it has a slight similarity to my favourite film of all time The Wicker Man (re-make). The relation is the part when Tegan is going to sacrificed on May Day, by getting burnt. This is just like in the film and I was thinking "Did Eric Pringle get his ideas from here?"
Anyway this is a great Doctor Who story. 9.5/10
An underappreciated gem by Basil Unsworth 26/9/20
The Awakening is honestly quite good. Being one of the first Davison episodes I saw, I still to this day think of it as one of his best pieces of acting. And each cast member give something; the only downside is having Tegan be a damsel-in-distress as her 'something' (and thankfully her scream is never a cliffhanger like with other companions). And Jane Hampden isn't as annoying as she could have been, with some strong, almost-companion moments.
One of the greatest things about the story is despite any quirks, it completely flows. After being downgraded from 4 parts to 2 (though, really, I think 3 would have suited it best) in an effort to help the writer not have to pad and make it boring, Eric Pringle delivers a script that never stops to breathe, being just an action-packed romp.
Clever directing and magnificent sets get rid of any dullness in the script and allows the viewer to just enjoy. It's a little like The Daemons, but with more science and less Master.
Starting off well with an actual reason for the TARDIS team to visit somewhere (Tegan wants to visit her grandfather), the Doctor is immediately plunged into the heart of the mischief, whilst Tegan and Turlough, though wandering somewhat aimlessly, never have boring moments, even if they don't have the greatest either. Then the end of Part 1 and the start of Part 2 is a little bit of a cat and mouse game, with Tegan forced to become a May Queen (or rather, just a sacrifice since it is July 13th).
Nicely, it appears to come across as pure historical originally, with little hints building up to "Wham! It's the Malus!" And the Malus, like the sets, doesn't need an abundance of special effects (though the smoke helps) to make it great villain because the craftsmanship and design does it alone. The introduction of Will Chandler is mostly just a mystery, if nothing else a plot device by giving the Doctor someone to talk to. And finally, there is the music which successfully creates a mysterious tone.
With the two-part format, it thankfully removes any padding that you would expect, though this does lead to a rushed ending, the biggest flaw in the script. Though it is still understandable, even if it does play loosy-goosy with the rules of how the Malus acts.
One of the things that helps strengthen the story, is it helps the season slowly become darker. Warriors of the Deep deals with strong concepts but is a little silly. This story then retains some of the silliness but moves in a more Sapphire and Steel direction with a creepy atmosphere in numerous scenes containing unusual apparitions and occurrences, keeping the previous story's war theme. Add to this, Dennis Lill does 'unhinged loon' really well. Next is Frontios, a dark and bleak story. So, this story acts as a goodbye, purely there for the fun and games as it prepares you for the turn the season takes.
"Wrestling with smoke" by Thomas Cookson 7/10/20
I thought it worth considering The Awakening as a talisman of Davison's era so far. It's very difficult getting a hold on Season 21 here. This really represents Season 21's clean, fresher side, worlds apart from its rotten, nihilistic Sawardian moments.
The Awakening has never been a masterpiece to me, but I can see it's far closer to what the era needed. There's a sad sense this era never quite forged the strong beginnings for Davison that Jon and Tom got. Only delivering poor man's versions of their greats. Four to Doomsday, a poor man's Ark in Space. The Visitation a poor man's Horror of Fang Rock. The Awakening, a poor man's The Daemons.
ADWFC president Tony Howe expressed concerns that Who's storytelling was losing something crucial under JNT's arbitrary veto on any stories exceeding four parts. Saward has said the 1980's stories couldn't continue at the same length and pace as Pertwee's era. Which almost reads an admission he was out of his depth at emulating the Pertwee stories' more complex substance and developments.
The Awakening's almost a perfect microcosm of this. A promising story downsized into a two-parter to accommodate the surrounding dreck. This needed to be a four-parter. It was instead squashed into half its length because something needed to be, and for some reason it couldn't have been Warriors of the Deep, because JNT wanted to milk its maximum fanservice. Even though a 45-minute Warriors, affording no time for Davison's obstinate procrastination, is probably the only way the story could've worked.
It becomes clearer why The Awakening feels so anomalous within this misanthropic season upon learning it was submitted in 1981 but fell by the wayside until Eric Pringle's agent lost patience and wrote in to Saward demanding the script be looked at properly. Basically, The Awakening feels anomalously upbeat because it's a Season 19 leftover surrounded by Season 20 leftovers.
Peter Davison's concerns that Tegan and Turlough's antagonistic dynamic begged too many questions why they even willingly travelled together, were finally being heard. A gentler, warmer dynamic asserted itself in The Five Doctors, hence the absence of any horrid bitching scenes here.
Otherwise it's very much a misplaced Season 19 story. Kinda's probably its closest kin, sharing similar source inspiration from Planet of the Spiders. The Malus, a being of greedy abundance that grows to gargantuan size from feeding off negative emotions.
Like Kinda, there's a worthy idea of understanding our present 'civilised' condition, by bringing ourselves intimately closer to our species' more primitive past. Living it in order to fully understand and empathise. This is rather the flip side of Kinda. Here the transformative experience of getting in touch with furious passions of the past renders the participant an unstoppable raging monster. However, ultimately the memory of his former self is enough to stall him and save everyone else. Certainly a far more uplifting message about the human experience than the previous story's nihilism.
Genesis formed the moral, philosophical foundations of Tom's Doctor, Kinda perhaps should've provided Davison with the same. It asserted the same ideals, but proscribed a more optimistic conclusion in which mutually assured destruction's averted, madness is cured and cross-cultural understanding and peace achieved. The sense of nirvana from accepting what power we have and don't in a chaotic universe plagued by sin and evil.
Unfortunately, Kinda's new direction became overshadowed by a fixation with looking back on the old. A compulsive need to swamp Davison with ancillary carbon copies of past Pertwee morality plays, and hack rehashes of Genesis' most famous dilemma, made worse by how those rehashes required him to act upon motives that made no sense without their source material. Davison wasn't allowed to be his own Doctor, as his era became a derivative merry-go-round of the show's past, drowning out more original efforts.
Evidently, Pringle wrote this back when the Doctor was still thought a hero who successfully stood against forces of evil. Probably submitted in the belief that no right-minded production team would purposefully ruin that about the character. Essentially, the show seemed only capable of being anything like its prime again if it accidentally smuggled in something that bucked the repugnant JNT/Saward direction.
Doctor Who still had potential to occasionally be something transformative. But the show and its hero were largely being curtailed into something rigid under the influence of fans like Ian Levine, insisting they knew and understood the Doctor in their limited terms, dictating how he should act in each continuity rehash. Meaning the show and hero became transformative in the worst ways, only to mould fan viewers into being more nerdish, petty, neurotic.
It seemed such fans had the idea the Doctor was meant to be a purified, saintly figure. But the point was that, like the Jedi, he'd mastered his darker nature, not purged it. That's why Genesis and Logopolis worked as tests of character for Tom's Doctor, in ways Davison's limp failures didn't. Saward assumed Tom's Doctor always easily pacified his enemies with jelly babies without ever facing tough decisions. Believing his own body-count approach was much more adult by comparison.
As good an actor Davison was, what the show needed with his Doctor was a new story. Instead we got cheap, zombie-like regurgitations of the old. I think the realization there was no emotional story to the Doctor and companions anymore became starkly obvious in Time-Flight. Hence the ratings drop.
The Five Doctors and The Caves of Androzani provided nice old hands' reminders what it was like when the Doctor still had a character and story. Castrovalva briefly gave him one as the Doctor who avenges his predecessor, only to become undone. But without grounding for his character, sometimes he degenerated into an irrational crank.
It's immediately clear this story would've been a better, more inviting Season 20 opener and reunion with Tegan than Arc of Infinity. Likewise, had Resurrection of the Daleks closed Season 20 as intended, this might've become Tegan's departing story instead.
The Awakening never quite manages to make the Malus or its influence near as malevolent or insidious as it need to be, because the curtailed story by design isn't allowed room to build the creature up as such. Like Warriors, it demonstrates the makers' illiterate belief that they can tell a grand tragedy about someone's corruption and fall from grace by skipping to the ending and having the corruption happen offscreen via clunky hearsay. It almost plays as a meta story about staging a production of a Doctor Who historical, only for a malevolent influence to leave the actors gradually believing they are their characters.
The Awakening's meta sensibilities only barely cover the story's half-finished state. Letting its amateurish rushed nature feel a result of the in-fiction design of the games more than the production. But by design ends up too slick by half to even partway succeed as the kind of psychological drama Kinda was.
The Blue Box podcast summed the issue up. That whenever given a choice of going for nice or nasty characterization, the makers near-consistently seemed to skew nasty this season. Particularly highlighting how an imprisoned Tegan's heckled to change to period costume by a nasty guard's implied threats of a sexual nature.
Saward seemingly wanted the show to be more like The Bill, The Sweeney, or Blakes' 7's finale, and less like Terrahawks. His nihilistic legacy asserted itself aggressively this season. The previous year, he'd intended Resurrection's death-laden darkness to provide a counterweight finale to Season 20's otherwise lightweight run. Season 21's nastier overkill reeks of Saward's bitterness over Resurrection's postponement and insecure determination to this time force its effect from the outset.
So under Saward they're inclined to go for nastier characterization for the humans (to the point the monsters lose their effect). However, Dennis Lill's nastiness is supposed to be out of the ordinary here. In Spearhead from Space, we picked up on the fact Hibbert was under Channing's influence, and wasn't himself, and that after time spent away he realized his own mind again.
Here we're told Dennis Lill was similarly influenced by the Malus, feeding his nastiness. But again, nothing tipped us off of anything actually feeling out of the ordinary about those traits. They're practically fashionable this era. I would've believed it far more if Arc of Infinity's Robin was revealed as under malevolent influence, given his inexplicable narkiness, but that turned out to be his normal characterization in an era where we can barely tell one from the other.
Lill naturally makes a great villain. He made an incredible impression in Red Dwarf's Gunmen of the Apocalypse, despite minimal screen-time. But it feels like another Sawardian exercise in telling rather than showing us how 'noble' the villain is or was. It's a revelation, but a lazy, tacked-on one, when it should've resonated with the core of the character throughout.
This gets back to how the days the Doctor acknowledged his own darkness - and had disciplined and mastered it, to draw on only when needed - were long gone. Erased. Davison was a hopeless innocent, and whilst some felt there's a poignance to seeing his virgin idealistic optimism crushed, by now his bitterness had manifested in a borderline-misanthropic passive-aggression. Illustrative of how pacifism can become interfused with spiteful resentment of your own people (like The Android Invasion's Guy Crawford). Like someone who tried Buddhism, only to become more repressed, narky and insecure.
Saward didn't purge the show's kiddie ethics, he just warped them through petty fan pieties about the messianic Doctor of the past that never actually existed. It may sound macho-minded to say Davison wasn't as tough or commanding as Jon or Tom. But those Doctors were reassuring presences. Mainly because they possessed an inner darkness, and more importantly they'd mastered it.
Davison hadn't. He was a relatively fresh-faced new actor, cast precisely because he'd do as he's told. So he had no darkness initially. Then gradually Saward, despite seeing the Doctor as a useless pacifist, projected an embittered darkness of his own onto Davison. But not a mastered one. Rather a nasty, confused, frustrated, slippery, passive-aggressive misanthropy. It was never quite clear from one story to another whether Davison was meant to have purged his darkness or just repressed it. Certainly he hadn't mastered it.
With previous Doctors, there'd probably be something more poignant to the climax. A Doctor who was in touch with, and had mastered his own darkness, offering a lifeline to a man who couldn't control his. Instead, Davison comes off as shrewd but still naive and supercilious. We get no lasting connection. A sense there was never any hope of their minds meeting.
Basically, it doesn't quite feel the story reached a natural climax here, so much as everyone having to assemble here because it's the set the effects team built. There's the sense that something poignant should be taking place here. Largely because of the calibre of actors involved.
As a foray into fertile 80's roleplay gaming culture, it rarely quite comes alive in the dynamic, exhilarating, full-blooded way that Enlightenment, The Five Doctors, The Curse of Fenric or even Silver Nemesis did. But at least it's a cut above Saward's usual contributions, which resembled the most depressing live-action roleplaying games, where everyone seems determined to play the game as badly as possible, as though just wanting to lose so it can be over with.
It still manages to be an unlikely 'up' for Davison, but unfortunately an ineffectually brief one. Perhaps demonstrating that there are many reasons Davison's era shouldn't have ended up such a nihilistic zombified travesty. But sadly, this was made in a form squashed to a pulp, drowned out by the surrounding dreck, sound, fury and fanservice. Ultimately, I must file this under 'potential unfulfilled'.