Mesomorph


Ben Chatham

April 2008

Plot:

Arriving in 1990s Dublin, the Doctor discovers a new dinosaur has been discovered – except it’s not a dinosaur, but a shape-shifting omnivore that was left in suspended animation by the Ice Age. Only it’s not in suspended animation any more, and the Mesomorph escapes the museum and starts assuming ingenious shapes in order to eat dispensable Irish stereotypes. The Doctor distracts it by crashing a bus into it and when the Mesomorph assumes the form of the Doctor, it can’t act convincingly and is frozen again by UNIT. The Doctor runs for it in the TARDIS before he picks up either a companion or any more links to Earth, and he takes the remains of the Mesomorph with him.

Story:

Mesomorph can easily be summed up as Doctor Who versus The Blob, with the added idea of the ever-changing creature can mimic objects, much like the Polymorphs of Red Dwarf. However, while the Polymorphs change their forms specifically to trick their prey into generating emotions the Polymorph can feed on, the Mesomorph merely looks inconspicuous long enough to simply eat them. This lack of sophistication means the monster is not particularly friendly to the audio medium, unable to speak, converse or do much else except force the main characters to describe its actions after the fact.

The casting of Sheri Devine right after her departure as Dara is a documented cockup (the original actress was unable to play Holbrock), but it doesn’t excuse it or the fact there’s a teenage girl called Dana in the script being played by Rachel Sommers. What’s more troubling is the fact the Doctor functions in the story perfectly well without ANY companion, further emphasizing the fact Dara was just a companion rather than anything special, despite all the efforts of the production team to make her so important. Jessica’s involvement is not well handled. After challenging Chase’s theories, she vanishes from the story and then reappears claiming to be the Doctor’s niece... as if Dara was written out of part one, but left in parts two and three and required a rapid change of name to cover it. Certainly Jessica has no obvious reason for her to suddenly stalk the Doctor, claim to be his niece and blindly charge into known danger...

Setting the story in Dublin is an interesting choice, but apart from Ireland lacking notable dinosaurs fossils, there is no real reason for the story to be there. There is no easy access to UNIT, the streets are full of criminals, homeless, sex-starved officials and incredibly vacuous teenagers – often with loud American accents and being played by Chip Jamison. Also, the plot races past slightly too quickly for it to be comfortable. Once the nature of the monster is explained, it becomes a predictable chase sequence and mini-slasher flick with various characters being slaughtered moments after being introduced. UNIT only appears briefly in the third episode, but is mentioned with irritating frequency in the first two episodes. This bad pacing and skewed priorities is typical of Drew’s work, but Medina seems to make things go faster rather than slow down.

The most annoying problem is the ‘funny’ fan in jokes, mainly involving side swipes at other science fiction shows (Blake’s 7, Thunderbirds, Dan Dare, Mandrake, The X-Files, Total Recall). Worst of all in a story that involves a dinosaur running amok in modern times, discovered via blood in a preserved mosquito, is a joke that Steven Spielberg intends to make the Fentasaur part of a Jurassic Park sequel (only five years after it was shown, so very topical humor there). It is the equivalent of the author grabbing you and shouting, “Have you guessed the inspiration yet, have you? Have you? Well, here’s a big clue...”

In fact, it becomes very confusing in a mextatextual way. If humans are so insular, how did they write and film a movie in the 1950s that predicted the modus operandi of the Mesomorph, its arrival in prehistoric times and discover its weakness to intense cold? As the Doctor notes, “This isn’t television, man!” when it so patently is...

Personal Appreciation: **
Remaking old sci-fi horror films as Doctor Who stories. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t...

Character Stuff:

The Doctor is seemingly completely and utterly and totally over Dara, though he does enjoy having some companion-substitute to baffle. He was heading for the Great Pavilion, and missing that destination and arriving in a waxwork museum makes him so paranoid he assumes he’s about to be attacked by Autons. And he’s wrong. He likes Blake’s 7, a pint of Guinness, and Dublin in general. Good for him. He carries a small rodent as alien currency, and likes candy apples. Without his companion, he is more prone to anger rather than using the charm, and is forced to call in UNIT to get him out of trouble. It’s emphasized when the Doctor uses physical violence (albeit Venusian Akido) and is quick to distance himself from humans/stupid apes. He acquired a trunk three centuries ago full of nick-knacks including bio-scanners and magic playing cards – which he used in a missing adventure with Princess Elizabeth. At the end of the story he makes a clean break of it, severing his ties with UNIT and turning down Jessica’s offer to join him aboard the TARDIS on the grounds she might have a destiny on Earth. The guilt from the creature is clearly still getting to him.

Observations:

Isn’t it lovely that we happen to start the story with a conversation where two people tell each other all sorts of stuff they should already know in needless detail.

Oh ***... just when you think things can’t get dumber than the muffled accoustics of a sweeping icy tundra, we have fully grown men pretending to be three-year-old Thunderbirds fans who hate Blake’s 7... Is that your knife? May I use to hack my fingers off one by one to distract myself from this inanity? No, thank YOU...

The accents are surprisingly good, all things considered. Trouble is, not everyone has them. That annoying American being an Irish Guard really stretches credibility more than the shape-altering monster. (Why, yes, he IS played by Chip Jamison, however did you guess?)

The sound design, however, is terrible – that has to be the quietest and most orderly press conference ever. You could hear a pin drop...

Argh! Why can’t anyone come up with new dialogue! Is it so difficult NOT to have the line “I’m allowed everywhere!” to be jammed into scenes?

Brilliant moment as the Doctor’s chatting to himself getting him caught.

Er, the brilliant scientist uses “a great deal” twice in the same sentence. Obviously not a genius in speech writing. Or making speaches. I’ve heard Cybermen with more emotional range.

Fentonus Rex” is treated with the respect it’s deserved by all the characters.

Sweet Onion Chutney, the fire extinguisher sound effect is someone going “Shhh!” very loudly...

Why must they insist on giving Chip Jamison these roles? He can’t act, he can’t do accents, or portray any emotion beyond ‘selfish indignation’ and then they give him a lion’s role as a blinkered moron and give him incredibly lame dialogue? Is this some kind of vendetta against the audience? Or against Chip?

Another rare case of the DWADs living up to their hype over the hideous death of the tramp.

Oh ***... could Sheri Devine play a more irritating companion than Dara? In a word? Yes. Yes she could. Jessica is a bossy, stubborn, inexplicable woman whose curiosity is not tempered by common sense and a gadfly mind with no staying power. A choice between Dara and Jessica would be easy, but a choice between Jessica and Christine would be pure purgatory... ***, I sweat with fear just thinking about it.

Why does a non-sentient carnivore need its ego stroked? Just EAT him, you stupid blob!

Even Jessica can predict the conclusion of the plot. Mind you, she gets over the Doctor dumping her so quickly I wonder if she was paying attention.

Oooh! Welsh references! Prime Ministers bugging UNIT... THIS IS GETTING SPOOKY!

Preposterous Plot Points:

If Professor Fenton Chase did get a dinosaur named after him, surely it would be a Chasosaur or something similar? Why his first name? Was the Allosaurus named after a chap called Alan? Noted paleontologists do not include Dino, Stego, Tricero or Muttabutta...

Blake’s 7 gets a part in an Irish waxwork museum? Even I, a diehard fan, find that difficult to believe. Especially as it would be off the air for the last twenty years. Come to think of it, Thunderbirds getting their own section screams ‘fan-pleasing bollocks’. Yet, Star Trek doesn’t make an appearance. ***, it’s childish, isn’t it? All crap sci-fi is rendered fictional, I ask you... yet somehow Professor X is already there. Dear dear. Sounds like a confession... And why is the mother so horrified at letting the children hear the theme tune to Blake’s 7? Is the waxwork display showing the final shootout?

Dara’s gone. So... they make the companion character exactly the same as Dara in personality and get Sheri Devine to play it. That’s like Donna Noble being played by Billie Piper. DEFEATS THE POINT RATHER, DOESN’T IT?!

So no one really knows much about UNIT... uh huh... except they deal with aliens... right. So we know nothing about UNIT except the one thing they do their ********* to keep secret at all costs.

Obviously, the DWAD production team believe Tom Baker is right over the English language and it is pronounced “Sham-meel-ee-on” rather than “Kam-eel-ee-on”.

Colonel Chrichton is answering the phones? What cutbacks have UNIT being suffering?

Why is an archaeologist so fascinated in paleontology?

Notable Dialogue:

Just one of countless gratuitous uses of the title:
DOCTOR: You’ve unleashed a Mesomorph onto your world!

DOCTOR: I’m known as... Smith. Doctor John Smith.
CHASE: An obvious alias if I’ve ever heard one.
DOCTOR: Use them often, do you?

JESSICA: What were you looking for?
DOCTOR: My lucky deck of cards. I know this great trick where I can guess the card YOU picked, plus the next three cards that lie under it!
JESSICA: Is this going to help up take out the Mesomorph?
DOCTOR: No, but it’s a great ice-breaker at parties. Princess Elizabeth could never figure out how I did it.

Chase, master of the deadpan put down:
JESSICA: Many of your works postulate theories as to why certain species equipped to handle certain climates migrated to different locations. This discovery of yours would certainly validate those claims except that there is no way that creatures such as what you have discovered should be found here. They’re more native to a jungle region.
CHASE: They moved.
JESSICA: Then they were the dumbest creature ever to walk the Earth

DOCTOR: What is a Virgin store? Or do I not want to know?

BUS DRIVER: You say he’s your uncle?
JESSICA: That’s right.
BUS DRIVER: You’re not adopted?
JESSICA: No.
BUS DRIVER: Shame.

The Doctor finally lets rip:
DOCTOR: Professor Chase! I am sorry that your little discovery has managed to get up and walk away without you being the wiser for it! I am sorry that your name will not be etched on the winds of time with Darwin and Leekey and such! But most of all, I am TRULY sorry to see that despite ALL the years of education you’ve obtained, you can still manage to be a complete IMBECILE!!!

The last time the DWAD UNIT team do... anything.
CHRICHTON: Well, it was nice working with you again, Doctor. Perhaps we can do so again?
DOCTOR: Unless we’re working on jigsaw puzzles, Colonel, I hope you’ll understand when I say I hope we’ll never work together again.

Cliffhangers:

  1. The Doctor notes that the glass casing formerly holding the Fentosaur was broken from the inside, not the outside. The “remains” – really a mesomorph – have broken free and left the Natural History Museum to unleash chaos on Dublin. Best place for it, really.
  2. Jessica is startled as a homeless man is consumed by his cardboard box, only for said box to change shape into a monster and charge at her. She narrates this and screams for the Doctor. Thrilling.
  3. Jessica asks to travel with the Doctor but he refuses and encourages her to remain on Earth and continue her work rather than abandon it. “What an odd fellow,” Jessica muses as the TARDIS takes off. “He must be from Wales.”

What Could Have Been Done To Improve It:

- Set it somewhere else. Or just give up on the accents.

- Have the Mesomorph intelligent enough to assume human form earlier in the plot for a bit of body-snatcher paranoia.

- A more interesting conclusion.

- Colonel Chrichton does something worth meriting his last appearance in the DWADs

The Party Line:

Probably the weakest story of the thirtieth season, but only because there are so many heavyweights surrounding it, Mesomorph owes a lot to movies like The Blob and other 50’s B-type classics If you’re into that sort of stuff, you’ll have a great time with Mesomorph. If not, then you may be in for a let down. But the scene where the homeless man gets eaten is great, crunching and all!

The Awful Truth:

Mesomorph could never have worked the way it should – it’s a paranoid slaughter fest with an ever-changing monster. It needs characters and victims we care about, it needs to be set against a realistic backdrop and it needs to be a genuine threat. With a solo Doctor in a Dublin written clearly by someone that’s heard it’s in Ireland but isn’t a hundred per cent sure, and a monster that seems to prefer shape shifting into dinosaurs, this story is stillborn despite it’s clear potential. Mesomorph has to be one of the forgotten stories of the Coburn Doctor, which is a pity. It’d probably make a decent 45 minute episode for the new show.


Last updated: Tuesday, April 1, 2008