Monday, 22 January 2018

C is for... Cybermen (Telosian)

At some point prior to the destruction of Mondas in 1986, the Cybermen sent parties out into space to establish  colonies. These Cybermen were explorers and warriors, and so were redesigned for this purpose. They had to survive without recourse to a power supply on their home planet, and their bodies were sleeker and streamlined, with a more armoured appearance. They had a more compact chest unit and the head was now encased in a solid helmet, with the lamp-fitting now built in. Cybermen from different colony worlds evolved their design separately, leading to the diversity in looks encountered by the Doctor over the years. The planet which became the new home for the Cybermen after the fall of Mondas was Telos, and this is where their Controller based himself. Other colonies were established on Planet 14 and on Marinus.

In the year 2070, the Cybermen launched an attack on the Earth. They used a weather control base on the Moon as their bridgehead. This housed a gravity-influencing machine called the Gravitron, which moved air pressure zones around the Earth's surface to control the weather. The Cybermen landed a saucer-shaped spacecraft in a nearby crater and broke into the base, introducing a neurotropic virus into the sugar supply. Victims of the virus collapsed into a coma, with black lines visible on the skin following the nerves beneath. The affected men were then abducted from the sickbay and taken to the saucer to be mentally conditioned to obey Cyber control impulses. The Cybermen were unable to withstand the gravitational forces generated by the Gravitron, and needed these mental slaves to operate the device for them. The Doctor and his companions Ben, Polly and Jamie arrived on the Moon at this time. Despite the change in design, Polly recognised the Cyberman which came into the sickbay to kidnap one of the patients.

The Doctor was able to trace the virus but the Cybermen took over the base, using the enslaved personnel to wreak havoc on the planet with the Gravitron. The Doctor deduced their reason for employing the men. In the sickbay, Polly worked out that the Cybermen had plastic components in their chest units, and these would be susceptible to a solvent such as she used to remove her nail varnish. A cocktail of chemicals was poured into some fire extinguishers, and these were used to destroy the Cybermen in the base. The Cybermen then launched an all-out attack across the lunar surface, employing a huge laser cannon to breach the Moonbase dome. The Doctor used the Gravitron to deflect further attacks, and the machine was then brought to bear on the Cybermen and their spacecraft - sending them hurtling into space. In this instance, the Cybermen had not intended to invade the planet to live there. They merely wanted to mine it for its mineral wealth in order to survive.

Some 500 years later, the TARDIS materialised on the planet Telos, and the Doctor encountered an archaeological expedition from Earth which had come to excavate the tombs of the Cybermen, as the creatures had vanished from the galaxy. Financing the party was Eric Klieg and his partner Kaftan. Klieg was a member of the Brotherhood of Logicians, and he secretly wanted to revive the Cybermen in order to enter into a pact with them - forcing the Earth to submit to their philosophy. The Cybermen were not dead. They had committed themselves to frozen hibernation as their resources were spent. Their tombs were laid with traps which the party had to negotiate - the Cybermen wanting suitable persons to convert. The Doctor met their Controller, and encountered Cybermats, which were small metallic lifeforms which the Cybermen employed as weapons. These Cybermen had to recharge themselves with electrical power, using a large sarcophagus-shaped recharge unit. The Cybermen were forced back into their tombs, and the Doctor had the complex re-sealed. The Controller appeared to have been killed as the main doors were re-electrified, though one of the Cybermats was still active. These Cybermen were of a similar design to the ones which had attacked the Moonbase five centuries earlier, with only a different boot design and a different arrangement of cabling around their bodies.

At some point in the mid 21st Century, the Cybermen attempted another assault on the Earth, this time using a space station - the Wheel - as their bridgehead. A supply rocket named the Silver Carrier was captured by the Cybermen and its servo-robot was programmed to pilot it into close proximity to the Wheel, with a pair of Cybermen hidden on board. Cybermats were then sent across to the station to infiltrate it and destroy its supply of bernalium fuel rods. These were vital for the station's defences, as they powered its X-ray laser weapon. A shower of meteoroids were then deflected onto a collision course with the Wheel. The station crew were forced to send a couple of crew members across to the rocket to fetch its bernalium stocks. These men were placed under the mental control of the Cybermen, and were used to smuggle them onto the Wheel. The Cybermen planned to poison the station's air supply with ozone, killing the crew and then using the station to provide a homing signal for their invasion ship, but they had not reckoned on the presence of the Doctor. These Cybermen could be killed by firing quick-setting plastic into their chest units, or by means of a powerful electrical charge. Station medic Gemma Corwin sacrificed herself to alert the Doctor to the ozone poisoning plan, and he was able to have the air supply switched over to a source which the Cybermen could not access. With their scouts destroyed, the Cybermen attempted to space walk to the Wheel, but the crew were able to repel them into space, and the Doctor had the time-vector generator from the TARDIS linked to the X-ray laser to boost its power - destroying the approaching Cybership.
These Cybermen resembled the ones previously encountered by the Doctor and Jamie, but they had much more streamlined bodies, and the eyes and mouth pieces on their helmets now had a teardrop-like duct.

Some years before Mondas returned to the solar system, another group of Cybermen launched an invasion of the Earth after forming an alliance with the industrialist Tobias Vaughn. He allowed them to give him a cybernetic body, then permitted his factory compound in the English countryside to be used to stockpile a massive army of dormant Cybermen. These were then transferred to the sewer system beneath Vaughn's London HQ where they were reanimated to await the beginning of the invasion. The Cybermen established a base on the dark side of the Moon. Vaughn wanted to take control of the operation, and developed a machine called the Cerebretron Mentor which generated emotional impulses. It had been invented by Professor Watkins as a teaching machine, and Vaughn had the scientist abducted to work for him. The newly formed UNIT - United Nations Intelligence Taskforce - were investigating Vaughn and his company, International Electromatics. The Doctor became involved when he tried to visit his old friend Prof Edward Travers - only to find he had left the country and was renting his home to Watkins. Watkins' niece Isobel alerted the Doctor to his disappearance, and he and Jamie were reunited with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on leaving Vaughn's HQ building - having first met him as a Colonel with the army during the second Yeti invasion attempt.

These Cybermen, who knew of the Doctor from Plant 14, were of a similar design to the ones who had attempted to take over the Wheel, except that they now had a different helmet design, with earmuff like panels on the side. The invasion plan depended on special micro-monolithic circuits which Vaughn's company had placed in all their electronic devices. A signal would be beamed from a Cybership in space which would activate these circuits, which would in turn cause the world's population to fall into a comatose state, removing any resistance. The Doctor knew how to combat this effect after his experience of the creatures on the Wheel, and so was able to protect the Brigadier's men and his companions. The army were able to shoot down the invading Cyberships with missiles. The Cybermen decided instead to wipe out all life on the planet by dropping a massive bomb. Vaughn was forced to co-operate with the Doctor to destroy their homing beacon, and the bomb and the spaceship which delivered it were blown up.

One of the Planet 14 Cybermen could be seen as an exhibit in the Miniscope belonging to the Lurman showman Vorg, and it was this version which the Doctor showed to the Time Lords at his trial, to illustrate the evils in the universe which he had battled against.
A great war was fought between Earth forces and the Cybermen around the 27th Century. The Cybermen were defeated when the humans discovered that they were vulnerable to gold. This non-corrosive metal plated their breathing systems and suffocated them. A weapon known as the glitter-gun was developed, using gold obtained from the planet Voga, which had rich deposits of the metal. The last of the Cybermen attacked and blew up Voga before disappearing from the galaxy to regroup. Voga was not entirely destroyed however. The core of the planet survived, containing the deep shelters which harboured the Vogan peoples. Voga drifted into the solar system, becoming a satellite of Jupiter.

A small party of Cybermen led by a Cyber Leader were alerted to its survival, and decided to complete its destruction. They employed a human agent - an exographer named Kellman who was stationed on a navigation beacon in orbit around Voga - to spread a virus using a Cybermat. Three crewmen were to be left alive, as they would be used to carry powerful bombs to the heart of Voga. Kellman was a double agent, however, in the pay of the Vogan militia leader Vorus to lure the Cybermen onto the beacon - to be destroyed by a missile which Vorus had built. The Cybermen took over the beacon, and the Doctor was forced to travel down to the planet's interior with crewmen Stevenson and Lester to plant the bombs. The Cybermen could not do this themselves due to the heavy concentration of gold. This distorted the Cybermen's tracking systems, allowing the Doctor and Lester to double back and use the bombs to destroy their Cyberman guards. With the bomb ploy ruined, the Cyber Leader decided instead to load the beacon with more of the weapons and send it on a collision course with Voga. The Doctor was able to put the beacon back into its orbit, and the Vogan missile was redirected to destroy the departing Cybership.
These Cybermen had been of similar appearance to the Planet 14 troops, but with corrugated ridges to the helmet handlebars and to the knee and elbow joints, and with thicker hydraulic cabling to the limbs. The Cyber Leader was distinguished by black markings to the helmet, and they had a new type of Cybermat, with an elongated serpentine body.

When the Doctor next encountered the Cybermen it was a point just before the Cyberwar. In 2526, the Earth forces had organised a conference to forge an alliance against them, and the Cybermen decided to prevent this. A powerful bomb was placed close to the conference site, hidden deep in a cave system and guarded by a pair of android sentinels. These androids destroyed a paleontological expedition, attracting the attention of Earth security forces. The TARDIS materialised in the same cave system close to where the bomb was located. The Doctor helped the security forces deal with the androids, then he set about disarming the device. The Cybermen were based on a space freighter which was approaching the planet, its hold containing thousands of dormant Cybermen who would be reactivated and sent down to attack the planet once the bomb had been detonated. The Cyber Leader attempted to override the Doctor's tamperings, but failed, and the bomb was defused. Unaware of who was behind the bomb attack, the Doctor took the TARDIS to the freighter. The Cybermen knew he was coming, having recognised the TARDIS, and they were able to access information about their previous encounters with him.

Now that the bomb had been disabled, the Cyber Leader decided to crash the freighter into the planet instead. Its navigational systems were hijacked, and the Leader forced the Doctor to take him in the TARDIS to view the collision. The Doctor's young companion Adric was left aboard the spaceship and he attempted to override the Cyberman control systems. This caused the ship to travel back in time, stabilising some 65 million years in the past. The Doctor informed the Cyber Leader that instead of destroying the humans, he had helped give rise to them, as it was this event which would wipe out the dinosaurs. Adric died in the crash, and the Doctor used his gold-rimmed star badge to kill the Cyber Leader.
These Cybermen were of a new design, with a more compact chest unit. Traces of their organic origins could be seen behind a transparent jaw piece. Though never made explicit, these Cybermen could also travel through time, as they were able to view data about the Doctor's encounter with them on Voga, though this was many years in their future.

A number of these same Cybermen were encountered by the Doctor on his home planet of Gallifrey. Cybermen had always been banned from the war games staged by the Time Lords of the age of Rassilon, but President Borusa used a time scoop to bring them to the Death Zone. The Master allied himself with one group - leading them into a lethal trap in Rassilon's tomb. Another party pursued the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith and stumbled into the path of a Raston Warrior Robot, which wiped them out. A third group attempted to destroy the TARDIS using a massive bomb.

The Cyber Controller on Telos later devised an audacious scheme to prevent the destruction of Mondas and change history, using a captured time ship. In 1985, the Cybermen set up a base in London's sewers as they had once before. Their initial plan was to divert the course of Halley's Comet to impact the planet, so that the Earth would be defenceless when Mondas arrived the following year. They captured the mercenary Lytton as well as the Doctor, who had come to Earth after tracking Lytton's mayday signals. This gave the Cybermen access to the TARDIS as well. The Controller planned to destroy Telos' surface using the mineral vastial, which became highly volatile at temperatures above freezing. The Doctor and companion Peri met the planet's indigenous life-form - the Cryons - who were fighting a guerrilla campaign against the Cybermen, sabotaging their tombs.
The Cryons had secretly employed Lytton to steal the time ship with the help of two of its crew, who had been turned into partly converted slave workers. The Doctor destroyed the Controller and a stockpile of vastial was rigged with his sonic lance to explode - blowing up Cyber Control as well as the time ship.

These Cybermen looked like the ones seen during the attack on Earth in 2526 and on Gallifrey, but when one of them had its face plate removed there was no sign of organic material within. The Doctor took off the plate in order to trigger an alarm, to lure other Cybermen into a trap.
The Cybermen then decided to seize control over the Nemesis statue - formed of a living metal which the Doctor had removed from Gallifrey. In 1638 the sorceress Lady Peinforte had moulded this into a statue of herself in the pose of Nemesis, goddess of retribution. The Doctor had sent it into an orbit around the Earth, but it was due to return after 350 years. The Cybermen arrived just after it had landed - first recruiting a pair of humans whom they placed under their mental control. Lady Peinforte travelled forward in time to meet the statue, and it was also sought by a group of mercenaries led by a Nazi war criminal named De Flores, who dreamt of establishing a Fourth Reich.

The Cybermen had a vast fleet in a hidden orbit above the Earth, intending to make the planet the new Mondas once they had obtained the statue. Most of the Cybermen were destroyed by gold - either the gold-tipped arrows of Lady Peinforte and her manservant Richard, or gold coins fired by the Doctor's companion Ace using a catapult. The Cyber Leader was given the statue by the Doctor. He ordered it to rendezvous with the fleet, but the Doctor had earlier programmed it to destroy the armada. Richard then despatched the Cyber Leader with the last of his mistress' arrows.
These Cybermen had a less complex body design but retained the same helmets as the ones recently encountered by the Doctor, although these were now chrome-plated.

When the Doctor and Rose visited the museum belonging to billionaire Henry Van Statten, built deep beneath the Utah desert, they found a Cyberman head among the exhibits. The information plaque claimed that it had been found in the sewers of London, but it was of a different design to the helmets of the Planet 14 Cybermen who had allied themselves with Tobias Vaughn, and did not match the ones who had set up their base in the sewers at the time of the plan to change history and save Mondas. It actually matched the ones belonging to the group which had launched the attack on the remnants of Voga, so how it came to be found in London prior to 2011 is a mystery.

At some point prior to the 52nd Century, the Cybermen encountered their cousins from the parallel universe where a whole new race of Cybermen had been created by John Lumic. The two groups merged, so that the Cybermen of this era looked just like the Cybus versions. The Doctor and Rory Williams infiltrated the 12th Cyber Legion in order to discover the whereabouts of Rory's kidnapped wife, Amy Pond. The Doctor blew up their fleet to force them to pass on what information they knew, as they were monitoring this region of space.

The Doctor later went to visit his old friend Craig Owens at his home in the Essex town of Colchester. Here he noted strange power losses, and there were reports of missing people centred around one of the big department stores. A silver rat had been seen in the shop, so the Doctor took on a job there to investigate. One of the lifts proved to contain a teleport leading to a damaged Cybership. The Doctor believed this to be in orbit above the town, but it turned out that it was actually buried deep beneath the store. The Cyberman occupants were badly damaged and crudely repaired, and were using a Cybermat to harness electrical energy for their systems. They were kidnapping people for conversion. They claimed that they could not convert the Doctor as, not being human, he was incompatible. They wanted to use Craig as their new Controller, but his love for his baby son overrode the conversion process and this strong emotion fed back to destroy the Cybermen and their ship.

When the Doctor and Clara took her young charges Artie and Angie to visit the theme-park planet Hedgewick's World, they found it dilapidated and abandoned. A war between the humans and the Cybermen had been fought near here, won only when the humans had blown up an entire solar system. Mr Webley's waxworks contained a number of empty Cyberman shells, one of which had been adapted to play chess, with the diminutive Porridge hidden within. Before the planet had closed for business, there had been a spate of disappearances. It transpired that the Cybermen survivors of the war had set up a repair and conversion factory on the planet, and a new breed of Cybermen had been created.

These new Cybermen were of an advanced design, with much sleeker armoured bodies. They could travel at great speed, and individual components such as the head or hands could be removed to act independently. They also had the ability to upgrade whenever they encountered a setback. The Cybermen planned to use Artie and Angie as their new Cyber Planner, but settled on the Doctor instead - as they could now convert Time Lords. These Cybermen were linked to a shared command and data network called the Cyberiad. A huge army was activated, and only the destruction of the entire planet could stop them. However, a Cybermite survived. These tiny insect-like creatures were an evolved form of Cybermat, and were capable of converting people from within. The Cybermen no longer had to transplant brains or graft on cybernetic limbs and organs.

At some point the Doctor obtained the head of one of these new Cybermen. He nicknamed it "Handles" and used it as a form of personal computer. He had it with him on the TARDIS when he went to investigate a mysterious signal emanating from an obscure planet, which was being heard throughout the cosmos. This attracted many alien races, including the Cybermen. Handles failed to identify their new Cyberships. The planet turned out to be Trenzalore, and the Doctor found himself trapped there for centuries - defending its people from the assembled aliens. Handles had translated the signal and identified it as coming from the Time Lords. Cut off from Clara, Handles became a friend to the Doctor as much as a tool. It eventually wore out and broke down.

The Church of the Papal Mainframe had stopped any advanced technology from being beamed down to the planet, so the Cybermen countered this by sending down a scout made of wood, armed with a flame thrower instead of an energy weapon. The Doctor tricked it into reversing its weapon to shoot and destroy itself. Later, once the technology embargo had been overcome, the Cybermen attempted to attack in force, but the Doctor had joined forces with the Silents to repel all invaders.

Clara got herself a job teaching at Coal Hill School, and fell in love with fellow teacher Danny Pink. When he was killed in a road accident. Clara forced the Doctor to help find a way to get him back. Linking herself to the ship's telepathic circuits brought the TARDIS to the 3W Foundation, which appeared to be a form of advanced funeral complex. Many hundreds of skeletal bodies could be seen seated in water-filled tanks. One of the employees demonstrated that this "dark water" made man-made materials invisible. In charge of the place was Missy - the female incarnation of the Master. She had a Matrix Data Slice, taken from Gallifrey, and explained that everyone who had died on the planet had their consciousness stored into it at the point of death. These would then be downloaded into Cyberman bodies. Within each of the water-filled tanks was a Cyberman, its armour hidden by the dark water.

It transpired that the 3W Foundation was concealed within St Paul's Cathedral in London. The Cybermen emerged onto the streets of the city but were confronted by UNIT troops under the command of Kate Lethbridge-Stewart. To show that her forces could defeat the Cybermen, she had a broken helmet retrieved from their failed invasion of 40 years before - the Planet 14 design. These Cybermen had a new feature, however - the power of flight. They took off and a number of them self -destructed over major world capital cities, spreading Cyber-conversion nanotechnology which caused the planet's dead to be reanimated as Cybermen, their consciousnesses having been downloaded from the Data Slice. Airborne Cybermen attacked and brought down the plane carrying the Doctor and Kate. Clara was saved by a Cyberman, who proved to be Danny. He was fighting against full conversion, and asked her to switch on his emotional inhibitor. This was because he was going to take command of the army. Missy had intended to give the Cybermen to the Doctor as a present - an army to use in his crusade against evil. Danny had the army destroy itself instead, wiping out the clouds full of conversion technology before more Cybermen could be created.

Only one Cyberman was left, and it had saved Kate from plunging to her death when the aircraft had been destroyed. The Doctor realised that this had been her father, the Brigadier. Other deceased friends of the Doctor would also have been converted - including Amy and Rory.
When the Mondasian crew of a colony ship transformed themselves into Cybermen, they evolved over time to adopt the same designs as the Telosian Cybermen, suggesting that, even in isolation, Cybermen follow a logical technological progression.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Inspirations - The Enemy of the World

For many years this was the great unloved story from Season 5 - unloved for two reasons. The first is that it is the "one without the monsters". We've just had Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti and Ice Warriors, with more Yeti and Cybermen to follow, plus the sea weed creatures. The second reason is that single episode which survived the videotape purge. It's Part Three, where very little happens. Some crockery being smashed is about the dramatic highlight. The Ark may have had a Security Kitchen, but here we see Denes held captive in a Security Corridor. Nice wallpaper, mind you.
October 2013 saw the announcement of 10 lost episodes being found - and 5 of them were the remainder of The Enemy of the World. We can now see how that single episode was atypical of the rest of the story, which features helicopter and hovercraft stunts, lots of globetrotting, and the villain's underground base. The story has been re-evaluated, and now rates quite highly. Between DWM's Mighty 200 poll and its 50th Anniversary one, the story leapt from 139th to 56th.
This is the final story to be produced by Innes Lloyd, and to be script edited by Peter Bryant. The director is someone new to the show, who will go on to become one of its most influential characters.
Barry Letts had started out as an actor, but this career stalled somewhat when he returned from serving in the Royal Navy during the war. He still got a lot of work, mostly in television. What he really wanted to do was direct. Initially turned down for the BBC's director's course due to lack of experience, he persevered and finally got accepted. He knew Lloyd from his acting days, and was offered a directing job on Doctor Who.

This story was written by David Whitaker, the programme's very first Story Editor. His last two outings involved the Daleks, but here he gets to write an international espionage thriller. There are monsters - but they are all human ones.
The obvious inspiration for this is the hugely successful series of James Bond movies. The first of these - Dr No - had premiered in 1962. The most recent release when this story was broadcast had been You Only Live Twice, the fifth of the series, in June 1967. However, the sixth film - Thunderball - was already being extensively trailed, as it opened just six days after Episode One of The Enemy of the World was broadcast. The planet was in the midst of Bond-mania.
The Bond trappings are clear. As we've said, there are no aliens or monsters in this. We have a purely human villain in the form of Salamander, who presents himself to the world as its saviour - his Suncatcher satellite focusing solar energy onto the planet to aid harvests. Had this been a Bond movie, this piece of technology might have been the weapon of choice for the villain - subsequent movies in the series did use satellites as weapons of mass destruction (Diamonds Are Forever, Die Another Day). Instead, Salamander is triggering earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to undermine global leaders, in order to usurp their places - either directly or by substituting them for weak-willed lackeys, most of whom he can blackmail into doing what he wants.

The odd thing is, we never hear anything about how he manages this tectonic tampering. We see one volcanic eruption, courtesy of some stock footage, but the mechanics of it are never touched upon. How exactly do the people in a subterranean base in Australia manufacture these events on cue?
The story behind the base has precedents in Science Fiction literature. The base personnel went down there as part of some test and were then told that a nuclear war had broken out, devastating the surface. Only Salamander comes and goes, pretending that their enemies are still active and need to be attacked, and radiation levels make it unsafe for them to leave the base. A number of stories feature people hiding in a shelter, such as Level 7, by Mordecai Roshwald (1959), and a number of Twilight Zone episodes revolve around bomb shelters. These days, nuclear wars have been replaced by zombie apocalypses - so the same stories can be recycled. One story by Philip K Dick needs to be mentioned, as it features humans being tricked into thinking a war is going on above their heads when there isn't - The Defenders (1952). The Avengers included a couple of adventures involving underground bases - generally employed as a means of infiltrating the country prior to an invasion.

Other Bond trappings include the exotic locations - ranging from Australian beaches to East European mansions. We also have a range of exotic transport - with a hovercraft and a helicopter featuring in the opening installment, and mention of super-fast aircraft that can get you half way across the planet in an hour. The villain gets a henchman - the sadistic Benik. All the main Bond villains have a henchman - or woman, or both. The Enemy of the World throws in a further villain in Episode Six, as we find out that the man who has enlisted the Doctor's help - Giles Kent - was really one of the architects of Salamander's scheme, and wants to take over himself.
Kent has his own companion - Astrid Ferrier - who is unaware of his double-dealing. She seems to be modeled on Cathy Gale from The Avengers, down to the very 1960's costume based on 18th Century fashions. She flies helicopters, and can handle herself in fisticuffs with the male goons. And, of course, Mrs Gale actress Honor Blackman went on to become a Bond-girl. There's a lovely scene in one of the Mrs Peel stories where Steed gets a card from Mrs Gale, with a picture of Fort Knox on it. Steed muses: "Fort Knox... I wonder what she's doing there...?".
It should be noted at this point that the footage of the exploding helicopter is a clip taken from the model filming for the second Bond movie - From Russia With Love. (Another clip from the same filming will be used in The Daemons, co-written by Barry Letts, when he has become producer).

The twist in The Enemy of the World is the fact that villain Salamander just happens to look like the Doctor. The Doctor has already had an evil double - the Abbot of Amboise looking exactly like the First Doctor - and subsequent Doctors will encounter evil doppelgangers - e.g. Meglos and Omega.
Evil doubles are again not new in literature. In Spy-Fi movies it is often the work of plastic surgery, and in Sci-Fi it is either android duplicates or versions from alternative universes. I have just watched an episode of Lost In Space in which a parallel universe harboured evil versions of Prof Robinson and Major West, and an earlier one featured a ruthless gunslinger who was the spitting image of Dr Smith.
Last word on the Bond inspirations - Salamander sounds a bit like Scaramanga. If you squint your ears.

Before we close, a quick word about dating. Not romantic relationships, but the calendar variety. Until this story was recovered, people tried to place it in the mid to late 21st Century. Now, thanks to sharp picture image, we know that it takes place right about now. In Episode One we see that Astrid's helicopter has what looks like a tax disc - valid until December 2018. Later, base member Swann finds a scrap of newspaper concerning a ship sinking - dated Friday, 16th August 2017 - and he states how long ago that was. So this story is one of a growing number which make it hard to reconcile the Doctor Who universe with our own. Mondas did not return to the solar system in 1986, and there were no reports of War Machines on the streets of London in 1966.
Next time: the Yeti are back, and they're going Underground. A new character is going to be introduced who will have a significant impact on the programme, especially once Barry Letts has taken over. Peter Bryant gets promoted, and a couple of new faces arrive behind the scenes who will also have major roles to play as the series develops. One of them might even have helped you learn how to read...

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Figurines Update

I didn't do a figurines post in December, because I didn't receive any figurines in December. Today a larger box turned up with four figures, as you can see above.
This will actually be the last of the regular updates on these, as I have decided to cancel my subscription. I still intend to collect - only from now on I am going to purchase only those figurines I want, concentrating mainly on the pre-2005 ones. Of the set I got today, only two were ones I actually wanted - so I could have saved half the money.
The two I could have done without were those I should have got in late December - the red New Paradigm Dalek Drone with the shinier finish, as it appeared in Asylum of the Daleks, and the Santa Roboform (the version which appeared in The Runaway Bride).
Of the more recent creatures to feature in the series, the Ice Warrior Empress Iraxxa was a wonderful design, so I'm pleased to have her. The only Classic Era figurine is the original crude Auton from Spearhead From Space, with its blue boiler suit.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Story 189 - Voyage of the Damned

In which the TARDIS collides with a ship, which appears to be the Titanic. The Doctor operates some controls which repair the damage and he goes outside to find himself in a storage closet on board the ship. This proves not to be the famous vessel which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 after striking an iceberg, but a replica spaceship in orbit above the Earth. Down on the planet, it is Christmas Eve 2008 in the UK. The Doctor changes into his tuxedo and mingles with the guests, who are waited upon by golden robots dressed as angels. They are known as the Heavenly Host. He learns that this ship is part of the cruise line operated by Max Capricorn. In the main lounge he befriends a waitress named Astrid Peth, who explains that she comes from the planet Sto, as do all of those present. She got this job as she wanted to travel the universe and visit alien worlds. The Doctor also makes the acquaintance of a couple - Morvin and Foon Van Hoff, who have been ridiculed by other guests. They are wearing cowboy outfits, as someone convinced them it was a fancy dress event. The ship's historian, Mr Copper, who professes to be an expert on Earth, organises a trip down to the planet.

The Doctor uses his psychic paper to get himself and Astrid onto the landing party. One of their number is a diminutive alien with red skin, named Bannakaffalatta, and the Doctor warns that he will be noticed on Earth, but when they teleport down they find the streets deserted. The Doctor speaks with a newspaper vendor named Wilf, who explains that owing to the alien incursions of the last two Christmases, everyone has abandoned the city - save for the Queen. The party is recalled back up to the spaceship. On the vessel, a number of the Host robots have been malfunctioning. One of them kills the robotics technician. On the bridge, Captain Hardaker dismisses his officers, but an eager young Midshipman named Frame insists on staying on, following the rules. He spots a trio of meteoroids close by, but the Captain insists they pose no risk. Hardaker turns off the ship's defences. The Doctor also notes the meteoroids and checks the ship's computer to see that the shields are inactive. He tries to warn everyone but is ignored. The Captain shoots Frame then steers the ship into the path of the meteoroids, which strike the hull. Most of the crew and passengers are sucked out into space. The Captain has been killed, leaving the injured Midshipman alone on the bridge. He discovers that the Host robots are going through the ship, killing the survivors.

He manages to make contact with the Doctor, and explains that the engines are failing. The vessel will fall onto the Earth, causing massive devastation. The Doctor takes charge of a group of survivors, comprising Astrid, Mr Copper, Bannakaffalatta, the Van Hoffs and a businessman named Rickston Slade. They must make their way through the damaged vessel, always at risk from attack by the Host. Their journey takes them to a vast chasm, reaching down into the engines. The only way to cross is via a narrow girder. Morvin falls to his death when a railing gives way. As the others cross the chasm, the Host launch an attack, hovering in the air and throwing their halos which have razor sharp edges. Foon sacrifices herself to lasso one of them and drag it down with her. Bannakaffalatta reveals that he is a cyborg, and he has an electro-magnetic pulse device built into his torso. This is used to destroy the Host. However, the effort drains the device, and the little alien dies. Mr Copper takes the EMP device as it can be recharged and used again. From Midshipman Frame, the Doctor learns of a sealed compartment on the ship, which has power being directed into it. He suspects that the person behind this disaster may be hiding there. Claiming to be a stowaway and not on the passenger list, and therefore not a survivor, the Doctor tricks the Host into taking him to the compartment.

There he finds Max Capricorn. He is also a cyborg - something he has kept hidden from the public as cyborgs are discriminated against on Sto. He lives in a mobile life-support unit. It is revealed that his company has been failing and he was about to be kicked off the board. He therefore engineered this crash so that his successors would be held liable and be sent to jail - especially if the ship crashed onto a populated planet. Hardaker was dying, and agreed to sabotage the ship if his family were paid a lot of money. Capricorn has hidden funds off-world and plans to live a luxurious retirement. The compartment he has been hiding in is designed to survive the impact, and a rescue ship was to have come and taken him away to safety. He is angry that the vessel is still in orbit, and orders the Host to deactivate the engines. Astrid has followed the Doctor and overheard his plans. She uses a forklift truck to push Capricorn down into another chasm, but falls in after him. The Doctor takes command of the Host and has them transport him up to the bridge. Here he manages to steer the stricken vessel back up into orbit, reigniting the engines, after first calling Buckingham Palace to warn the Queen that they might crash on top of her.
The Doctor attempts to resurrect Astrid as she was wearing a teleport bracelet when she died, but this fails, and Mr Copper asks him to let her go. She survives only as a ghost of her consciousness, but is now free to travel the stars.
A rescue ship from Sto is on its way, but Mr Copper had earlier revealed that he had got his job by deception and will face a prison sentence back home. The Doctor takes him down to Earth by teleport, landing by the TARDIS which had drifted off the ship. Mr Copper has a credit card on him that makes him a rich man. He sets off to make a new life for himself, whilst the Doctor travels on alone.

Voyage of the Damned was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 25th December 2007. It was Davies' third and most successful Christmas Special, its popularity boosted by the inclusion of pop diva Kylie Minogue as its principal guest star. At the time of writing, it remains the Special with the highest audience figures - over 13 million.
The inspiration for the story came from the disaster movies which were often a feature of Bank Holiday TV - especially The Poseidon Adventure (1972). This features a luxury liner which is hit by a freak tidal wave during New Year celebrations, and ends up upside down in the sea. One of the survivors is played by Shelley Winters, and this character provided the inspiration for the Van Hoffs.
Davies plays with expectations. Rickston Slade (Gray O'Brien) is an obnoxious individual, and you expect him to come to a sticky end, but he proves to be one of the few survivors. The more likable Van Hoffs, and Bannakaffalatta are killed. The biggest surprise is the killing off of the guest star, though her spirit lives on. Other disaster movies such as The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (both 1974) killed off likable characters, sometimes just as they were about to be saved, though the more villainous characters always got their comeuppance.

Minogue's involvement stems from her creative consultant Will Baker, who was a huge Doctor Who fan and who had designed costumes for her stage shows inspired by characters from the programme (such as Raston Warrior Robot and Cyberman backing dancers). Baker approached the production team to see if Kylie could appear. Davies at first thought this would never come off, but dates in her busy schedule were found during the summer. News leaked, the BBC denied everything, and then Minogue was spotted with a diary entry reading "Talk to BBC about Doctor Who". Sadly, David Tennant's mother passed away during filming. He was given time off to be with her when she died, and stayed on in Scotland for the funeral. Scenes not featuring the Doctor went ahead during this time.
Many of the cast had previous form on Doctor Who. Mr Copper was played by Clive Swift, best known for the sitcom Keeping up Appearances. He had played Mr Jobel in Revelation of the Daleks. Captain Hardaker was played by Geoffrey Palmer. His son Charles continues to be a Doctor Who director. In keeping with all of his previous appearances in the show (The Silurians and The Mutants) Palmer doesn't make it to the end. As Bannakaffalatta we have Jimmy Vee, who had played diminutive aliens since the very first day of shooting on the revived series (being chased by Christopher Eccleston dressed as the Space Pig in Aliens of London). Foon is portrayed by Debbie Chazen, whose dad appears in The Moonbase. He's the guy who collapses after drinking the coffee in the existant Episode Two. The newspaper vendor, who was only named Wilf later, is a cameo by Bernard Cribbins, who had featured in the second Peter Cushing Dalek movie. The Queen is voiced by Jessica Martin, who had played Mags in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.

Other performances of note are George Costigan as Max Capricorn, and Russell Tovey (Being Human's werewolf George) as Midshipman Frame, whom RTD considered a potential future Doctor. Morvin is played by Clive Rowe, whilst the Host were voiced by Colin McFarlane, who would feature in Torchwood: Children of Earth, and later appear as Moran in Under The Lake / Before the Flood.
As it was first broadcast a month or so after her death, the episode was dedicated to the memory of the series' first producer, Verity Lambert.
Overall, it is a good story with a weak conclusion. Max Capricorn makes for a fairly underwhelming villain, with a mundane motive. The Host are clearly inspired by the Sandminer Robots from Robots of Death. The impressive cast and production values have meant that it is well remembered - it's the one with Kylie.
Things you might like to know:

  • For the third year running, composer Murray Gold writes a special song for the Christmas Special. This time it is "The Stowaway". Gold and his arranger Ben Foster cameo as members of the ship's band.
  • One UK "newspaper" claimed that Kylie was going to play a Cyberwoman. The same paper also claimed that Woody Allen was going to appear as Albert Einstein.
  • The name Astrid being an anagram of TARDIS caused much fan speculation. Rumours abounded that she would appear again in Series 4.
  • Frame's first name is Alonso, which delights the Doctor as he had always wanted to say "Allons-y-Alonso".
  • Wilf was originally going to be called Stan, but when Cribbins was called upon to become Donna Noble's grandfather for Series 4 this was changed to make him Wilf Mott.
  • The working title for the story was "Starship Titanic", although this had already been used by Douglas Adams for a computer game and a novel.
  • Changes which were made included Astrid originally surviving, and Buckingham Palace being destroyed, with the Queen cursing the Doctor rather than thanking him..
  • The last survivor of the real Titanic disaster, Millvena Dean, was reported to have been unhappy with the story, feeling that it disrespected the 1912 event.
  • The Catholic Church was also none too impressed - especially by the scene where the Doctor ascends arm in arm with the angelic Host. This is the second episode in a row in which the Doctor appears to have god-like powers.
  • For the first time since the series returned, the Doctor states quite categorically how old he is and where he comes from.
  • It had been hoped that Dennis Hopper would have played Mr Copper, or Max Capricorn.
  • It was also hoped that Prince Charles would have cameo'd.
  • Viewers in Canada had to wait until 2010 to see this episode. CBC just happened to stop co-funding the show at this time. They have never shown it, and it was Space who first broadcast it in Canada. A truncated version was shown in the US, cutting large sequences to fit a one hour slot including ad breaks. Scenes cut included the trip down to Earth, the Doctor trying to save Astrid from the teleport buffer, and the coda with Mr Copper. BBC America later showed the complete story.

Monday, 15 January 2018

C is for... Cybermen (Mondasian)

At some point in the distant past, the Earth had a twin called Mondas. It was identical to Earth in every way, including the evolution of a dominant humanoid race. Mondas had an erratic orbit, however, which caused it to be thrown out into deep space. The inhabitants had more advanced technology that that of their Earth cousins. Forced to endure the bleak conditions of their peripatetic existence, they realised that their race would soon die out. They therefore resorted to surgical techniques to survive. They replaced their limbs and organs of flesh, blood and bone with those of metal and plastic. To cope with their new life, the Mondasians also decided to carry out brain surgery - removing the emotions of pain and fear. Soon all other emotions were deemed weaknesses and were removed, making them creatures of pure logic. The Cybermen were born.
In appearance, they were all tall, with heart and lung functions built into a large chest unit. Their faces were covered by a surgical stocking material, in which the eyes and mouth were set - giving them a skull-like appearance. Their limbs had hydraulic attachments for greater strength. As Mondas was travelling far from any sun, they had a powerful lamp on the top of the headpiece, attached to the skull with thick handles. Their hands still looked human, though they had greater power. They carried an energy weapon beneath the chest unit.

In the year 1986, Mondas returned to the Solar System - guided there by a massive propulsion unit. Needing energy, the planet began to absorb that of the Earth. The Doctor, along with his companions Ben and Polly, was present at this time, having arrived outside Snowcap base - a space monitoring station at the South Pole. The Doctor recognised the new planet as Mondas, and warned the base personnel that they could expect visitors from it. The Cybermen arrived nearby and took over the complex. The power drain caused the destruction of the spaceship which they were monitoring. The Cybermen, some of whom had names, announced that the people of Earth would be taken to Mondas and be converted to become just as they were. They saw this as a good thing - removing despair and pain. The scout party was destroyed using their own weapons, and another squad met the same fate before they could reach the base. However, the Cybermen then invaded the planet in force. The Doctor realised that Mondas was absorbing too much energy, and would soon destroy itself - so urged patience. However, base commander General Cutler intended to launch the powerful Z-Bomb at the planet - even though it might wipe out much of the Earth as well. Cutler was killed by the Cybermen when they retook the base, but the Doctor's prediction came true. The Cybermen were unable to halt the power drain, and Mondas began to break up. They had not had time to transfer their power source down to Earth, and so the Cybermen perished with their planet.
These Cybermen had a weakness when it came to exposure to radiation.

Many years later, the TARDIS materialised in a massive colony ship which was stranded on the edge of a black hole. Gravitational distortion from the black hole meant that time moved differently at either end of the ship - minutes at the front lasting years at the rear. Crew sent to the rear of the vessel had become generations of people. A whole city was created, which the Master attempted to rule over when his TARDIS arrived there. He was overthrown, and hid in the city hospital in disguise. The colony ship was Mondasian, and evolution took the same path here. The colonists began the same process of replacing limbs and organs, and of removing their emotions. The Doctor's companion Bill Potts had been shot through the heart by one of the crew, and was taken down to the rear of the ship. Here she had an electronic heart installed. She befriended a man named Mr Razor, who turned out to be the disguised Master. He caused her to be converted into a full Cyberman, although her love for the Doctor allowed her some emotional freedom.

The Cybermen were compelled to break out of the rear sections of the ship and work their way forward, in order to convert others. The Doctor decided to make a stand to help those colonists who had established themselves in one of the upper levels. He tried to get Missy and the Master to help him. He refused, whilst she was on the point of joining him when she was killed by her earlier incarnation. The Cybermen evolved as they moved through the ship, so that the Mondasian design of Cyberman was joined in the attack by more advanced models. The Doctor, Nardole and the Bill-Cyberman were able to halt the attack, though it cost the Doctor his life. The Mondasian Cybermen could kill with an electrical discharge, and their head-mounted lamps now also contained an energy weapon - and it was one of these which was used on the Doctor. Nardole remained behind with the colonists to help defend them against future attacks. Bill escaped her Cyber-existence when she was rescued by the alien pilot who had taken on the form of her friend Heather. Bill left her Cyberman shell to travel the cosmos in spirit with Heather.

Appearances: The Tenth Planet (1966), World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls (2017).

  • The new Mondasian Cybermen were supposed to have appeared briefly at the beginning of Twice Upon A Time, but the scene was deleted prior to broadcast. This Christmas Special does include flashbacks to the original 1966 adventure. Earthshock also features a brief glimpse of the Mondasian Cybermen.
  • Peter Capaldi claimed from the outset that he would like his Doctor to meet the original Cybermen, so it was only right that he got to do so in his last season finale.

C is for... Cybermen (Cybus)

On a parallel version of the Earth, industrialist and entrepreneur John Lumic built a global business empire. He was confined to a wheelchair, suffering from a terminal illness, and his thoughts turned to the preservation of the human brain. In this way he could cheat death. At his factories in South America he began a series of experiments, creating an armoured steel body in which the brain could be housed. When the new cybernetic bodies had been perfected, he returned to the UK, hoping to convince the President to support his work. He suspected that he would be turned down, and so devised a plan to forcibly convert the population of London. He set up a conversion factory at the old Battersea Power Station and sent his lackey Mr Crane out to entrap a number of homeless people - luring them into a lorry belonging to one of his subsidiaries with promises of free food. They were then taken to Battersea where their brains were removed and deposited in the new steel bodies - becoming Cybermen. The suits were laced with an artificial nervous system. Determined to eliminate fear and pain, he included in their chest unit an emotional inhibitor. The circular panel on the chest had a letter C stamped into it - for Cybus, the name of his company.

Overpowering the populace was easy, as everyone wore earpods - manufactured by Cybus Industries - which provided news downloads as well as taking the place of telephones. Lumic used the occasion of Jackie Tyler's birthday party to launch his attack. Her husband worked for him, though he was also secretly communicating what he knew to a rebel group known as the Preachers. The President was at the party - as were the Doctor and Rose Tyler. As soon as he saw Lumic's research on Pete Tyler's computer, the Doctor realised that a parallel race of Cybermen was about to be born on this world.
Some of the Cybermen were destroyed by the energy from one of the TARDIS' power crystals, whilst another was incapacitated by an electro-magnetic bomb.
Lumic was himself converted, to become the Cyber Controller.
The Doctor was able to defeat his plans when he realised that Lumic's entire business empire was built on standardisation. He had Mickey Smith hack the computer records to discover the code which controlled the emotional inhibitors of every Cyberman and broadcast this using Rose's mobile, which was linked to the Cybus telecommunications network. With the inhibitors disabled, the Cybermen saw what they had become and suffered a fatal shock, their heads exploding in some cases. The Controller was destroyed in the burning conversion factory. However, it was realised that there were Cybus factories all around the globe, and Mickey elected to remain on the parallel Earth to stop the Cybermen from emerging elsewhere.

In the Doctor's absence, the people of the parallel world did not know how to deal with the Cybermen. They were confined to the factories, but it was argued that they could not be killed as they were a new form of life. It was then discovered that the Cybermen had vanished. Fractures existed between our Earth and the parallel one, and the Cybermen used these to travel across the Void between universes, mapping themselves onto this world as ghostly images. The experiments of the Torchwood organisation in London opened these fractures enough for the Cybermen to pour through, invading the entire planet. However, something else had come through the Void - a ship containing the last of the Daleks, known as the Cult of Skaro.
The Cyber Leader attempted to forge an alliance with the Daleks, but they declined. The original Cybus Cybermen killed with a powerful electrical charge, but they now also had energy weapons built into their forearms.

They were able to convert many humans before the Cult unleashed an army of Daleks from a captured Time Lord prison capsule. Daleks and Cybermen battled each other across London. The Doctor realised that anyone who had travelled through the Void became tainted with a form of background radiation. Were the fracture to be opened fully, those affected would be sucked back into the Void. The Doctor and Rose used the Torchwood equipment to open the breach, and the Cybermen and the Daleks were all pulled in. Rose Tyler became trapped on the parallel Earth, however, though she had her mother and Mickey with her, as well as the alternative version of her father.

Someone who had been only partially converted was Lisa Hallett, girlfriend of Torchwood operative Ianto Jones. He got a new role with the Cardiff Torchwood team, and smuggled Lisa into their base - the Hub. He employed a Japanese expert to try to undo the conversion, but she killed him and began draining power from the Hub to grow stronger. She attempted to convert Gwen Cooper, but the power was cut before this could begin. Ianto was ordered by Captain Jack Harkness to destroy her, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. Lisa was attacked by the pterodactyl which lived in the Hub, after Jack threw its favourite BBQ sauce over her. The team were able to escape, and Ianto was sent back in alone to kill her. A pizza delivery girl had found her way into the abandoned base, however, and Lisa used the conversion equipment to transplant her brain into the girl's body. She still wanted to convert Ianto, but was killed by the rest of the team.

A small party of Cybermen which had been pulled into the Void were able to escape using stolen Dalek technology. They emerged in Victorian London, setting up a base beneath the Thames. With the help of the governess of a local workhouse, Miss Hartigan, they abducted a number of children to use as slave labour to help construct a Cyber King, making use of whatever resources they could find. Some animals were converted into Cybershades, which could be used to capture or kill. These Cybermen had with them a number of info-stamps - cylindrical data packs which, when inserted into their chest units, could implant information. An overload of this data could destroy them, exploding their heads. A man named Jackson Lake, whose wife had been killed by the Cybermen, and whose son had been abducted, accidentally downloaded information about the Doctor - causing him to believe he was the Time Lord.

As the Cyberman plan neared fruition, a number of other workhouse governors were lured to a funeral and captured, adding their children to the workforce. The Cyber Leader intended for Miss Hartigan to become the controlling element of the Cyber King - a Dreadnought-class spaceship containing a full conversion factory. Her strong willpower meant that she could resist becoming enslaved to the machine, and she decided to use it to conquer the Empire. The Doctor and Jackson rescued the children before the Cyber King emerged from the river to begin attacking the city. The Doctor took to the skies using Jackson's TARDIS -  a hot air balloon - to confront Miss Hartigan. He was able to make her see what she had become, which destroyed her and the Cybermen. The Doctor then used the Dalek technology to send the Cyber King into the Void.

A group of Cybus Cybermen, under the command of a Cyber Leader, were brought into the alliance which aimed to trap the Doctor in the Pandorica - to prevent him from destroying the universe. The Pandorica was hidden in a cavern beneath Stonehenge. A Cyberman was left to guard over it, but was attacked and wrecked by local native tribesfolk. Even with its head and an arm broken off, it remained active - as did the components. The gun built into the arm could still fire energy bolts and deliver an electrical charge.

The head could move around on its own, and was capable of firing paralysing darts. The front of the helmet could open up in order to wrap itself around a new host. A full skull was seen within - showing that these Cybermen no longer simply transplanted the brain into the steel suits.
The Cyberguard was despatched by Rory Williams - or rather an Auton replica of him, also part of the Pandorica Alliance.

At some point in the far future, the Cybus Cybermen encountered those from our own universe and joined forces with them. The Cybus versions may have given the other Cybermen the idea to redesign themselves to look similar, dispensing with the redundant C-logo on the chest plate. The Cybermen of the 12th Cyber Legion, for instance, were identical in design to the Cybus Cybermen, even down to the helmet markings denoting the Cyber Leader. When the Doctor and Clara visited Hedgewick's World of Wonders, they saw a couple of empty Cybus Cyberman suits in Mr Webley's waxworks attraction, alongside non-Cybus versions.

Appearances: The Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel (2006), Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006), TW 1.4: Cyberwoman (2006), The Next Doctor (2008), The Pandorica Opens (2010), Nightmare in Silver (2013).