Saturday, June 25, 2011

Someone's Playing Games With Us



STORY 024: THE CELESTIAL TOYMAKER

This is certainly a sad case.  The four-part story known as The Celestial Toymaker has only one episode known to be in existence: Episode Four (The Final Test).  That one episode is all that remains of the first appearance of Michael Gough in Doctor Who. Although he did return in Arc of Infinity Gough was never to recreate his title villain.  He was set to return as the Celestial Toymaker in The Nightmare Fair but the story was scrapped when Doctor Who went on hiatus in 1986 and was replaced by the season-long The Trial of A Time Lord.  (Side note: curiously, although The Celestial Toymaker was to appear only once his influence is still felt today, but more on that later).

It's a curious thing about Gough.  Most people know him as Alfred Pennyworth from the Tim Burton film Batman and its three sequels (Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman & Robin).  As Alfred, he's a very good guy.  The curious thing is that for most of his career, Gough was better known as a villain: from the Hammer Horror films through Berserk! with Joan Crawford and here.  He had a stern, powerful voice and strong screen presence that denoted evil, so seeing him as the title villain may be a bit of a surprise to Batman fans who know him as the kindly valet to Bruce Wayne.  

On the minus side, as stated only Episode Four is known to exist.  On the plus side, even though only one of the four episodes remains (or at least remains for the present), that one episode is still pretty strong, with good acting and an interesting villain.

The Doctor (William Hartnell) has disappeared and been rendered mute by the Celestial Toymaker (Gough), an immortal being who creates his own world and has captured the Doctor and his Companions, Dodo (Jackie Lane) and Steven (Peter Purves).  The Doctor must play the Trilogic Game (where he must deconstruct and reconstruct a pyramid made up of ten pieces within a certain number of moves from Point A to Point C and with the lower piece always being larger than the one above it).  Meanwhile, Dodo and Steven must play a series of games set up by the Toymaker in order to recover the TARDIS.  If they lose, they remain in this world forever as the Toymaker's playthings.  If they win, the world they occupy is destroyed...along with them.  By the time of The Final Test the Doctor has made a series of moves and is close to finishing the Trilogic game, while Dodo and Steven face their greatest adversary, a large man resembling a child who goes by Cyril (Peter Stephens) whom they've encountered before as the Knave of Hearts and a kitchen boy in the preceding episodes. 

Cyril makes them play hopscotch but always rigs the game to his advantage.  Eventually, Dodo and Steven manage to win but the Toymaker has one more trick up his sleeve: the Doctor at the nearly-complete Trilogic game.  The Doctor outwits the Toymaker, but with the threat that he may return.  In triumph and safe in the TARDIS, Dodo gives the Doctor some of Cyril's sweets, and after one bit he hunches over in pain...

The curious thing about the concluding episode of The Celestial Toymaker is that anyone would think that we would imagine the Doctor would be in danger when the next title is captioned A Holiday for The Doctor.  Even if I were a child in 1964 I still would have thought, 'A Holiday for the Doctor'?  Well, I guess he'll be all right next week".   You can't have such a dramatic ending with such a silly title as A Holiday for The Doctor

Now, as for the story itself, The Celestial Toymaker appears to be a rather good story based on the villain: a being who is immortal, evil, and highly intelligent.  At the center of what elevates The Celestial Toymaker is Gough's performance.  He is a being who relishes the ability to match wits with someone of high intelligence, which the Doctor certainly is.  Unlike the bumbling Meddling Monk, the Toymaker can be taken quite seriously in his deadly intentions.  Unlike the Daleks, the Toymaker has no interest in world domination.  He merely enjoys the challenge of capturing others and forcing them to play his deadly games.  In short, Gough is a master of villainy, and in The Celestial Toymaker he gives a great performance of someone who uses his superior intelligence as opposed to brute force to get his way. 

I also have to compliment Stephens' performance of Cyril.  He was perfect as an annoying schoolboy-type who cheats his way to the top.  Curiously, the end of Cyril, although not shown, is still rather gruesome.  It's a credit to The Celestial Toymaker (and especially director Bill Sellars) that while the horror of Cyril getting it at the end is not graphic, the remains are still a bit jarring. 

I also compliment Daphne Dare's costuming, particularly of both Cyril and the Toymaker himself.  He has this Imperial Chinese-style robe that makes him look elegant yet otherworldly, while Cyril is more a naughty British schoolboy. 

Now, even within The Celestial Toymaker, as good as the surviving episode is, some things just can't be fixed.  In this one episode Dodo still appears to be totally stupid--you would think after three games she would have gained some sense in how to deal with someone like Cyril.  The fact that she still can't get it right makes Dodo exceptionally stupid, annoying, and goes a long way to explaining why she is still one of the Worst Doctor Who Companions.  Steven, no MENSA master himself, isn't much better--always growling through every part of the TARDIS hopscotch.  Perhaps this is how they were directed, and while Lane and Purves did better work than in The Ark, they still don't make the best couple.

Despite being incomplete, The Celestial Toymaker is still a strong influence in Doctor Who.  In Amy's Choice, the character of The Dream Lord was so much like that of The Toymaker that I was not the only one that speculated whether or not it WAS the Toymaker making his revenge...I mean, return appearance.  I don't know if that episode consciously drew from The Celestial Toymaker, but it is strange that both characters would have the Doctor play games in order to survive.

Overall, The Celestial Toymaker is elevated due to Michael Gough's brilliant turn as the title villain.  Even though only one episode survives, there is no reason why the first three (The Celestial Toyroom, The Hall of Dolls, and The Dancing Floor) should not be reconstructed.  HOWEVER, I understand that in Episode Two, The King of Hearts recites the nursery rhyme "Eeny meeny miny moe" with an unacceptable word in it (even in 1966 it should not have aired).  The audio release has the narration cover up this word, and should it ever be reconstructed this is one time I would not object to having it edited out.  Sign of the times, unfortunately.  However, the story itself (officially credited to Bryan Hayles but with extensive work by both Donald Tosh and Gerry Davis) still holds up well and moves to a solid ending (minus the Doctor's toothache--bad way to end).  However, in the end, it is good to see The Dark Side of Alfred Pennyworth.

7/10

Next Story: The Gunfighters

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Keeping One Eye On Things

STORY 023: THE ARK

This is the debut story of Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane), whom we met in the previous story, the now-lost The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve (or just The Massacre).  For better or worse, Dodo is one of the most reviled of Doctor Who companions, and The Ark is well, not the most liked of First Doctor stories.  I never judge something without seeing it first, and now that I have seen the four-part story collectively known as The Ark (not to be confused with the Fourth Doctor story The Ark In Space), I am in agreement with the majority on both The Ark and on Dodo. 

The Ark's first major flaw is that it really is TWO stories lumped together.  Let's start with the first two episodes (The Steel Sky and The Plague).  The Doctor (William Hartnell) and his Companions Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) and Dodo arrive in what appears to be a large nature preserve.  It's a strange one though, in that animals from various continents are living together.  While Dodo (inexplicably dressed as a medieval pageboy) believes herself to be in a London park, the Doctor soon realizes they are actually aboard a spaceship.  This ship carries all of humanity and is governed by the Guardians, with the alien Monoids as basically their servants.  The Commander of the Guardians (Eric Elliot) welcomes them, but soon he is stricken with a mysterious disease.  The mystery is soon discovered: it is Dodo's cold, to which the Guardians have no immunity from. 

Accused of trying to wipe out humanity, the travellers are taken prisoner.  Soon more and more Guardians take sick, with at least one dying.  Put on trial by Deputy Commander Zentos (Inigo Jackson), they would have been executed if not for the intervening of the Commander, ill but still in command, who instead orders the Guardians to allow the Doctor to find a cure.  He tests his treatment on Steven, who is also ill.  The cure works for him, and soon all humanity is saved.  Now humanity can find a new home (Earth having been destroyed by the Sun) on Refusis II.  They can also continue working on the statue they will place there, which will give future Guardians both something to admire and something to do while in space.  With that, the travellers wave goodbye to the Guardians and Monoids and off they go.

Now we get the second story in Episodes Three and Four (The Return and The Bomb--perhaps the most inadvertently accurate title for the series).   While it's only been a few seconds, the travellers find themselves exactly in the same place--the ship now nicknamed The Ark (thanks to Dodo's offhanded comment earlier in the story).   They realize it's been 700 years between when the left and now, so they start looking around.  They come upon the statue, and discover to their shock that now...it has a Monoid head.  They are again captured by the Monoids, only this time they are able to speak using a voice device.  The Monoids have led a coup and have taken over the Ark, keeping humanity alive to serve THEM as slaves.  The Chief Monoid (helpfully named 'One'), has the travellers taken to the Security Kitchen.  Here, the descendants connect the myths of the Travellers to the newest members, giving them hope for a counter-revolution. 

There is little time for it though: the Ark has arrived near Refusis II.  A search party is launched to explore the planet and see if it is habitable.  ONE plots to destroy all humanity aboard the Ark and take Refusis II for the Monoids, but the Refusians (the invisible natives) don't want violent creatures here.  Assured that humans will make Refusis a more hospitable place than the Monoids, the Refusian Voice (Richard Beale) agrees to help the Doctor.  There is dissension in the Monoid ranks: FOUR believes ONE and TWO will bring about the destruction of the Monoids by actions on Refusis II, and soon they start fighting among themselves.  The Doctor and Dodo discover the Monoid plans to destroy humanity with a bomb aboard the Ark, and a desperate search begins.  Eventually they discover where the bomb is, the Monoids destroy each other, and humanity is allowed refuge on Refusis II.  The travellers leave a second time, and Dodo puts on something straight out of Carnaby Street, but now, the Doctor himself has disappeared though his voice remains...

There are so many things wrong with The Ark that it's like shooting fish in a barrel to choose where to begin.  First, let's start with the story by Paul Erikson and Leslie Scott (the latter the first woman credited with a Doctor Who story, although her then-husband Erikson has stated that it was more a deal between them to share credit and that she contributed little to nothing to the story).  As I've stated before, The Ark is really two stories connected by the appearance of the Monoids: the first two episodes dealing with the cold that Dodo has brought and that threatens humanity, and the last two dealing with the Monoids attempts to destroy humanity. 

On a personal level, I think it would have worked better if the focus had remained on the first part because the problem of Dodo's cold was resolved so quickly it wasn't worth investing any time to it.  As a side note to that, it's in retrospect bizarre to think Steven, who probably would have had greater immunity to the common cold than the Guardians, could have been just as deathly ill as the Guardians themselves.  It seems such an inconsistency that it's a wonder no one really stopped to ask how Steven was as easily affected by a cold as the Commander was (especially when he was wearing far more clothes than the Guardians, but more on that later). 

If they had wanted the Monoids in The Ark, perhaps they could have been the population on Refusis II and were attacking the humans in fear that they would destroy their world, or better yet, the Monoids wanted to take over the Ark for themselves from the get-go, rather than be the placid, mute servants of the Guardians. 

Let's now shift to Problem Two with The Ark: the Monoids themselves.  Few monsters have been as mocked and as ridiculed as the Monoids, and with good reason.   There are so many things that are just wrong with them.  First, their appearance: the Monoids are basically one-eyed beings with Beatles wigs who waddle about the place.  In Episode Four, I believe we're told that the Monoids are rushing about the ship.  The idea that these beings who can only shuffle across the floor "rushing about" anywhere is laughable--they can barely waddle, let alone run.  Even worse, their communication.  For the first two episodes, they are mute, able to communicate only with hand signals.  In Episodes Three and Four, they can no speak with the aid of voice collars, but in all those 700 years the Monoids never got around to coming up with names for themselves.  The leader was known simply as ONE, his aide was TWO, and so forth and so on.

How Erikson or Scott or director Michael Imison never thought that this come off as comedic I simply don't know.  Even worse (yes, there is an even worse to an even worse) their numbers appear on the voice collars themselves.  ONE has a 1 on his collar, TWO has a 2, and so forth and so on.  This flat-out doesn't make any sense.  Maybe the Monoids themselves couldn't tell each other apart.  This "number as name" situation leads to unintended moments of hilarity.  Take this line from Episode Four:

There is still no contact from TWO on Refusis, ONE.
As spoken by THREE, it makes it sound like the planet is called Refusis One, and for a moment there is some confusion as to where they exactly are.   I had a theory as to why ONE was the Monoid leader (besides the fact that he was ONE).  I think ONE was leader because ONE was the one who could make large hand gestures (of which ONE made more than one of...pun time now, isn't it?).  Why, one wonders (pun intended) did the Monoids never bother to gain names?  It would have made it easier to figure out which was which.  (Side note: the Daleks never had names either, but the lights always helped in distinguishing who was speaking, and they at least could move faster than the Monoids). 

Going on with the Monoids, when TWO arrives with the Doctor and Dodo on Refusis II in Episode Three (a lot of numbers there, don't you think?), first, TWO almost trips over himself in entering the empty mansion.  Then, to make matters worse, his idea of showing the Refusians who's in charge is by taking out one flower from a vase at a time and throwing it on the ground, culminating in threatening to smash said vase.  I understand Hitler used the same method when the Nazis entered Warsaw.  It all comes off as funny to the point of parody, and one can't take these monsters seriously when you're on the floor...laughing at them. 

Final point on the disaster that are the Monoids, when you've enslaved humanity, the best you can think of doing with them is putting them to work in the kitchen?  Seriously, the KITCHEN?

As a side note on the other aliens, I know Doctor Who was trying to save money on costumes and make-up by making the Refusians invisible, but for my part, I never found invisible aliens credible...it just sounds cheap (in every sense of the word).  Moreover, we just had a story that had invisible aliens (Episodes Five and Six of The Daleks' Master Plan) and I think using the same trick two stories later makes it all look repetitive. 

Now, let's go on to a problem that was not the fault of either Erikson/Scott or Imison: a birdbrain named Dodo.  There's so much wrong with her character that an entire essay could be written as to why she is one of the worst Companions in Doctor Who (both classic and revived series).  First, her accent: she's suppose to be a Cockney girl from swinging London, but her accent comes and goes throughout The Ark (sometimes within the same episode).  This may not be Lane's fault entirely: as an actress, she did as she was asked, and she was asked to add and drop it by both the director and the higher-ups at the BBC.  She cannot be held responsible for being given contradictory direction (which I imagine must have been maddening for her).  However, we might overlook her wayward East End roots if it weren't for other factors.  No one in her right mind would have allowed her to wear such a silly costume for a story like The Ark: it distracts endlessly from what is suppose to be rather serious business.  It also makes her character look incredibly stupid. 

It does not help that Dodo comes off as annoying within the first ten minutes of The Ark in her cheeriness and her accent (right down to using the word 'fab' for 'fabulous').  Moreover, there is an unpleasant shift in the relationship between the Doctor and his newest Companion.  There is an air of hostility between the Doctor and Dodo, as if he just doesn't like her and is unhappy to have her around.  Unlike his relationships with other young, female companions (his granddaughter Susan, or Vicki, or Katarina and Sara Kingdom), there is no suggestion of tenderness and/or fondness for Dodo.  Only once, when in Episode Two the Doctor and Dodo watch with concern the trial with Steven in the witness box, do we even get the slightest suggestion that they have any positive feelings for each other.  For most of The Ark, the Doctor reprimands Dodo for one thing or another (primarily her English, though why he would care more about that than her cold we never get an answer to).

Finally, Lane's actual performance leaves much to be desired.  She may have been trying to be a simply East End girl, but again she just comes off as dumb.  When she says that the Monoids look "terrifying", the line is niether delivered well or believeably. 

Not that Purves' performance is any better.  Steven has never shaken his ability to look a bit dense from his own debut story as a companion, and here, he doesn't seem to believe that they are aboard a spaceship.  How many times will it take for Steven to believe the Doctor?  When the story shifts to the struggle with the Monoids, Steven appears to be secondary to where the Guardians themselves could have had a leader of the revolution. 

The guest stars also do a lot of damage.  Elliot's commentaries as the Commander during the trial as he lay dying are bizarre to say the least, and badly acted.  He, however, is nothing compared to Jackson's Zentos.  His wild overacting in Episode One especially is something to be seen with awe.  It is just so over-the-top one wonders how they could have made him Deputy Dogcatcher, let alone Deputy Commander.  Terrence Woodfield as Maharis, the Guardian collaborator who alerts the Guardians as to the Monoids true intentions, is better but he also comes off as stupid: knowing that the Monoids want to blow them all up, why would he still want to serve the Monoids?

I want to take a digression to wonder about the Guardian's costumes.  Daphne Dare does it again: she gave the Guardians short skirts cut into straps that barely hide their underwear.  I thought the costumes were quite daring for outer space, almost provocative.  However, the Guardians must have liked them, given that they wore them 700 years later, they obviously were no slaves to fashion. 

Now, let's have some positive details on The Ark.  Tristram Cary's score (particularly in Episode One) is extremely effective: having both a familiar and otherworldly feel at the same time.   While Imison's direction of the actors was shaky, his visual effects and cinematography are some of the best in First Doctor-era Doctor Who.  The destruction of the Earth at the end of Episode One is beautifully filmed, and the imagery of the Monoid head on the statue at the end of Episode Two is quite effective (with the score enhancing the feel).

Overall, The Ark is a failure for a myriad of reasons: weak/silly monsters (candidates for Worst Monsters in Doctor Who--again for another time), a terrible Companion (again, a candidate for Worst Companion in Doctor Who) some bad acting (and quite revealing costumes--can't get over that one), and a jumbled story that would have worked better if there had been a focus to one plot or another rather than mashing two stories together. 

In the end, the question shouldn't be "Who built The Ark?" but "Who see The Ark?"  The response: "No One, No One".  "Who see The Ark?"  "No one should go watch The Ark".

Now, a bit of housekeeping.  The next story (The Celestial Toymaker) is sadly, again, another lost story, with only the last episode (The Final Test) currently known to exist.  The following complete story is the four-part The Gunfighters.  As before, a short retrospective on Episode Four of The Celestial Toymaker will be made, followed by a review of the next complete story. 

3/10

Next Story: The Celestial Toymaker

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Best Laid Plans of Daleks & Men Go Missing...




STORY 021: THE DALEKS' MASTER PLAN

From reading the outline of the twelve-part epic story The Daleks' Master Plan (which has the record for the longest story in Doctor Who*), it looked like a strong story.  However, due to the lack of foresight of the higher-ups, the story is alas, incomplete.  It has in fairness fared better than the three preceding stories (Galaxy Four, Mission to the Unknown, and The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve) in that we have any complete episodes at all.  As of this writing, a quarter of the story remains: Episode Two (Day of Armageddon), Episode Five (Counter Plot), and Episode Ten (Escape Switch).  It is rather difficult to give an overall review of The Daleks' Master Plan without actually having The Daleks' Master Plan to review.  However, since three episodes survive, I've opted to review those episodes and give an overall ranking to what remains of Story 021.  It's not a happy solution, but the best one can do under less-than-ideal circumstances. 

We need a bit of background.  The lost story Mission to the Unknown is a prequel to The Daleks' Master Plan.  The Daleks have decided they will conquer the universe (no surprise there).  The plot is discovered but those who know have been silenced before they can reveal all.  In the interim, The Doctor (William Hartnell) has lost his Companion Vicki (Maureen O'Sullivan), who has decided to stay on in Troy and take the name Cressida.  In her place, Katarina (Adrienne Hill), a handmaiden to the prophetess Cassandra, has boarded the TARDIS, in awe of the Doctor and Steven (Peter Purves).  With that, you should be up to speed.

Episode 2 (Day of Armageddon) has the Guardian of the Solar System Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney) plotting with the Daleks to conquer all the galaxies.  Of course, both Chen and the Daleks are using each other and planning to betray the other at the first opportunity.  The Doctor, Steven, and Katarina join with Bret Vyon (Nicholas Courtney) to defeat the unholy alliance of Dalek and Chen.  The main task through all of The Daleks' Master Plan is to keep the rare mineral taranium away from them.  This material will aid them taking over and destroying the universe (perhaps all time itself). 

By the time we get to Episode Five (Counter Plot) poor Katarina has died: she opened the air-lock while held captive by a prisoner on Desperus, a planet they had crashed to while escaping with the taranium, and was swept out into space.  Vyon has also died, killed by Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh), a loyal soldier in Chen's service.  A transport experiment now has swept the Doctor, Steven, and Sara to another planet, Mira, with the Daleks in mad pursuit.  On this planet, the native Visians are invisible but dangerous.  The Daleks, however, have tracked the trio down and the Doctor chillingly announces that "The Daleks have won".

Now, by Episode Ten (Escape Switch), we see the Daleks have not won.  The trio has managed to escape and now are in Egypt of the pharaohs.  In the midst of the chases, a new figure has entered the mad race: the Meddling Monk from The Time Meddler (this time he is billed as the Meddling Monk instead of just The Monk, so we can refer to him as The Meddling Monk).  He wants his revenge, but instead has gotten mixed up in the whole affair and is taken prisoner with Steven and Sara.  The Doctor has no choice but to give the real taranium core in exchange for all of them.  They manage to escape (thanks in part to local Egyptians who attack the Daleks--go Lotus Revolution!), leaving the Meddling Monk stranded on an ice planet, but the trio are engulfed by a massive explosion.

The final two episodes (the now-lost The Abandoned Planet and The Destruction of Time) wrap up the story.  In short: the Daleks are defeated but at the cost of Sara Kingdom's life (in a rather gruesome end, she ages to the point of disintegration).   With that, the Doctor and Steven are off to face another adventure.

After watching the surviving episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan, it's a credit to Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner (who wrote the scripts for this massive twelve-part story) and especially director Douglas Camfield that they don't appear as disjointed as they could have.  It helps when you have one object (in this case, the taranium core) be at the center of the story. Each of the surviving episodes has a strong and steady pace and packs a lot of information, action, and even comedy to it (the bumbling scientists in Episode 5 being the prime example). 

One of the best things about the surviving episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan is just how well-acted they are.  Stoney clearly delights in his malevolence as Mavic Chen (although the fact that a character with a vaguely Asian background is played by a European might be troublesome now, I see the character as having no real ethnicity because by this time in the Earth's future, one imagines ethnicity is rather a moot point, but I digress).  Throughout the episodes, he never shifts from being both evil and charismatic, a perfect villain to match the Daleks.  Peter Buttersworth is a delight to have back as the comic yet dangerous Meddling Monk, who is both delightfully evil and duplicitous (with the only caveat being that one wonders if he got thrown in just to be thrown in).  Courtney's Vyon is a tough soldier, a man who doesn't shrink from seeing Katarina killed because he sees the importance of sacrificing one life so that the rest can live.  This applies to himself, he too in the end sacrifices himself for the others. 

Of the performances in The Daleks' Master Plan, the best is Marsh's Sara Kingdom.  In the first episode we see her in (Episode 5), she is a no-nonsense soldier.  By the time we see the last of her (Episode 10), she is a full partner in helping the Doctor (though Marsh insists Sara Kingdom was NOT a Companion, I believe she was, but that debate is for another time).  The humanity behind the toughness of Sara came through, and the fact that she was in only ONE story but still leaves an emotional impact is testament to both Marsh as an actress and Kingdom as a character.

There are within the three episodes a few flaws.  I am not fond of invisible monsters (it screams 'cheap' and 'unbelievable'), and the wigs of the Egyptians in Episode 10 were comical (looking like they had wandered from a Beatles look-alike contest).  As a whole, twelve episodes was probably far too long (and having read the synopsis of Episode Seven: The Feast of Steven, at least one episode was totally irrelevant to the story). 

Even with the missing episodes, The Daleks' Master Plan is still a remarkably strong story that is worth restoring, with great performances by Courtney, Stoney, and especially Jean Marsh.  The Master Plan may have failed, but we treasure what remains.

Now for some housekeeping.  Story 022: The Massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve (or just The Massacre) has no known surviving episodes, clips, or even off-air recordings.  However, it is important because the next Companion, Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane), makes her debut in the story, and she will make her first full-story appearance in the next surviving story, Story 023: The Ark

7/10

Next Story: The Ark

* Here we have a curious issue among Whovians.  There is debate as to whether or not the season-long Trial of A Time Lord counts as ONE story or as FOUR.  Those who count it as 1 story will point out that at fourteen episodes it's longer than The Daleks' Master Plan.  Those who count it as 4 will argue that it can't possible be the longest.  Now, an argument can be made both ways. 

The pro-Trial group states that the story had ONE title with Episodes 1-14.  The anti-Trial group will point out that The Daleks' Master Plan had TWELVE titles but is really ONE story.  In this debate, I fall squarely on the anti-Trial side. 

With Doctor Who, titles border on the irrelevant because there has never been any consistency.  In the First Doctor's era, each episode had an individual title but was tied into one particular story until the now-lost story The Savages, which began the tradition of having each story carry an overall title and each episode being Part One, Part Two, etc. The revived series has gone BACK (to my mind bizarrely) to the First Doctor's title methods: the three episodes Utopia, The Sound of Drums, and Last of the Time Lords make up ONE story but (Russell T Davies notwithstanding), I never hear people argue they are THREE stories. (Side note: MY overarching title for these three episodes is Vengeance of The Master, since one of most iconic villains has never had the privilege of having his name on a title.  The Daleks have, the Cybermen have, the Sontarans have, even the Rani has, but the poor Master has never had any story called Blank of The Master or The Master's Blank...until now).  That being said, I believe The Daleks' Master Plan still remains the longest Doctor Who story filmed, but since it is incomplete, the longest complete Doctor Who story is at the moment the ten-episode Second Doctor story The War Games