Thursday, 16 August 2018
1973's Planet of the Daleks was Terry Nation's first solo contribution to the series since 1965, when he had penned Mission to the Unknown. He had come up with many of the concepts for The Daleks' Master Plan, though it was mostly scripted by Dennis Spooner, Donald Tosh and Douglas Camfield.
David Whitaker had then taken over writing for the Daleks, before they were removed from the programme altogether. This story also marked the first time that an adventure specifically designed to feature the Daleks had been written since Evil of the Daleks, since they had only been a late addition to what became Day of the Daleks.
As we mentioned last time, this story forms the second half of a bigger anniversary tale. Frontier in Space had shown the background to the invasion which the Daleks intended to launch on the back of a manufactured war between Earth and Draconia. That story had ended with the Doctor badly wounded, and using the TARDIS telepathic circuits to ask the Time Lords for assistance - guiding him after the departing Dalek spaceship.
One of the first problems we hit is that the new storyline pretty much dispenses with that set-up. There is no dialogue concerning the events of the previous 6 episodes - no mention of the Master or of the Draconians at all. The Gold Dalek is absent from Spiridon. Nation seems to have simply set out to write his own story, with no regard as to how it fitted with Malcolm Hulke's narrative. The Episode One cliffhanger even has the Doctor shocked to find that there are Daleks on this planet - even though he specifically asked the Time Lords to take him to the Dalek invasion base. What few links there are we can safely attribute to Terrance Dicks.
What we do get is Terry Nation ignoring everything that has happened in Doctor Who since he last wrote for it. This is mainly down to the fact that he has obviously never kept up watching it, being too busy working on various ITC Spy-Fi series or failing to get the Daleks a series of their own.
Never one to overthink an idea, he delivered to Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks a greatest hits package featuring elements of his old 1960's stories. He originally titled it "Destination: Daleks", and so set it on the planet Destinus. You'll recall that he was the chief culprit when it came to naming planets after their chief characteristic. Skaro was scarred by war, Aridius was dry and arid, Marinus had its acid sea, Mira was swampy, and Desperus was full of desperate criminals. Nation also gave each episode its own title, unaware that this practice had died out in 1966.
The story begins in the TARDIS, and Nation has some outdated views on just what the Doctor's space / time machine exactly is. To him, it is just a glorified spaceship. Back in The Chase, he had the Doctor claim that they would all suffocate if he suspended the ship in space for any great length of time - suggesting that it carries a finite oxygen supply. The Monk is later congratulated on getting round this, by developing a form of "drift control". In the opening episode of this story, the TARDIS becomes encrusted with a mass of vegetable spores - which is enough to cut off its oxygen supply. Nation thinks that the ship has to draw its air from the outside. But how can it then run out of oxygen? If air can't get in, then where does the air that was in the ship escape to? Or did the comatose Doctor manage to snore it all up? (Maybe - Pertwee did have a mighty nose). We see a hitherto unseen secondary oxygen supply - three cylinders of air which are clearly not bigger on the inside. Two of them are empty and the third has only a tiny amount left in it.
The scanner was definitely colour in The Three Doctors, but now it is black & white. Perhaps the Doctor is trying to save money. (Cue very old joke about buying a black and white dog cos the licence is cheaper...).
The Doctor is rescued by a party of Thals - the race who have never featured in any other Dalek story since the first one he wrote. They are led by Taron - a name well known to Nation fans as he uses some permutation of it in most of his writings. Terry N becomes Taron, Tarrant and so forth. And Taron's love interest, Rebec, gets her name from Nation's daughter Rebecca.
It turns out that these Thals know all about the events of that first Dalek story, as they have heard of the Doctor and the TARDIS, and know that he had three travelling companions - whom the Doctor then name-checks.
We should point out that Spiridon is a jungle planet - at least while the script needs it to be. Nation loves his jungles. The forest on Skaro was never called a jungle, but that is what it looked like, and we had a lengthy march through a mutation-filled swamp. Once we get to later Nation-Dalek stories, he uses jungle settings for Mechanus, Mira and Kembel. Nation was a huge fan of cinema in his youth, skipping school during the war to watch movies as often as he could get away with it. He clearly liked war movies, as he uses tropes from this genre throughout his work, and it would not be much of a guess to say that he loved war films set in jungle terrain - with John Wayne et al fighting the Japanese. There is a lot of jungle guerrilla warfare going on in these six episodes.
Meanwhile, Jo, whose idea of jungle-suitable clobber includes a rain mac over a padded jacket and woolly gloves, has gotten herself infected by the nasty Spiridon plant life - the same ones who smothered the TARDIS. They are named Fungoids - the exact same term used by Ian Chesterton to describe the massive mushroom-shaped plants on Mechanus.
Nation also likes his hostile plant life. Apart from the Fungoids, he also had strangling vines in the third episode of Keys of Marinus, and the Varga Plants in Mission to the Unknown. The Slyther had a touch of the vegetable about it come to think about it. As well as the spore-spitting Fungoids here, we also get the Eye-Plants, and another plant which sends tendrils out to grab any unwary Thal soldiers who may be in the vicinity.
The natives on this planet are invisible, and the Daleks are studying them so that they too can become invisible. Again, this isn't new for Nation. He had previously introduced the Visians of the planet Mira, who were also invisible.
Some other recycling includes:
A Thal falling in love with the Doctor's companion (as with Ganatus and Barbara in The Daleks).
From the same story we have one of the characters hiding in a Dalek casing, and just as we think they have been blown up by real Daleks it transpires that they got out in the nick of time.
Then there is the escape up a shaft (a lift in the first story and an air duct here), with a lone Dalek in pursuit - which is destroyed when someone drops something down on top of it.
Also from The Daleks we have speeches about war / pacifism - between the Doctor and Codal and later the Doctor and Taron here, and between Ian and Alydon in the earlier story).
This is the first time since that The Daleks that one of the regulars is shot and wounded by a Dalek, producing paralysis in their legs (Ian then, the Doctor himself now).
From The Dalek Invasion of Earth we get the use of plague as a weapon. Here, the Daleks intend to release a plague into the jungle which will destroy all life not immunised against it. Plague will come to be an obsession for Nation, as we will see when we look at later stories by him, and of course he will later write a whole series about a plague-decimated Earth (Survivors).
Two earlier Nation-Dalek stories featured the Doctor locked in a cell and having to use his scientific knowledge to work out the means of escape.
From Mission to the Unknown we have the secret mission going wrong when the ship crash-lands (Marc Cory's then, the Thals' now), as well as the Daleks using their firepower to destroy a whole spaceship.
An unintended homage to Evil of the Daleks, for which Nation can't be blamed, is the inclusion of Louis Marx toy Daleks in the grand finale. (The person who can be blamed is Cliff Culley, who was also responsible for the dinosaurs in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and the Action Man tank in Robot).
Even the Peter Cushing movies get a nod, as one of Nation's Dalek props from the films gets a black and gold respray (plus jam jars on its dome and a torch stuck on its eye-stalk) to become the Dalek Supreme. Nation hated the idea of an Emperor Dalek - his lead villains were always Supremes. The first appearance of the Supreme is even accompanied by a little music cue from the first movie, courtesy of Dudley Simpson. From The Daleks' Master Plan we get senior Daleks exterminating their underlings when they screw things up.
We mentioned above that this is a jungle planet - but only when the script needs it to be. In the second half of the story the idea of an ice volcano is introduced, so Spiridon suddenly gets an icy location wasteland right next door to the hot and steamy studio jungle.
The word allotrope is mentioned - specifically an allotrope of ice. This word was first coined by a Swedish scientist in 1841, to describe how some chemical elements can exist in different physical forms. The most obvious one is carbon, which can be coal, graphite or diamond. Water doesn't count (even though it can be gas, liquid or solid) as it isn't an element but a compound (hydrogen and oxygen).
The liquid ice proves to be the means of defeating the Daleks, as a Thal bomb is used to blow a hole in the chamber where the Dalek army is stored, causing it to flood with ice. Earlier, the Doctor claimed that extreme cold kills Daleks, yet this freezing deluge is said to only put the army back into hibernation.
Whereas Barbara and Ganatus spent a lot of time together on Skaro, long enough for romance to realistically blossom, Latep seems to fall for Jo after about 5 minutes. The poor boy seems to think that Jo will give up TARDIS travel and go live with him on Skaro on the strength of their brief time together.
Jo then shows a remarkable knowledge of the TARDIS controls, as she is able to summon up a picture of the Earth on the scanner. Why? - because that's where she wants to go.
Next time, Jo returns to Earth, and this time she is staying put as she meets a younger, sexier version of the Doctor. The Doctor is envious, but it is other people who turn green...
Tuesday, 14 August 2018
In which the Doctor and Donna explore an exotic market on the planet of Shan Shen. Donna wanders away from the Doctor and encounters a fortune teller, who is strangely insistent that she have a reading. Once inside, the fortune teller begins to ask her about her life - especially as it relates to the Doctor. She asks what Donna thinks her life might have been like had she never met him. Donna is aware of a scuttling movement behind her back. Suddenly a large black beetle-like creature leaps onto her back, and Donna finds herself transported back to a day long before she encountered the Doctor. She had the offer of a job with HC Clements, but her mother insisted that she take another job in a print copy shop, which she feels is more suited to her skills. Instead of turning left, and going to HC Clements - which leads to the Doctor - Donna gives in to pressure and turns right instead...
That following Christmas Eve - 2007 - Donna is at the pub drinking with her friends. One of them seems unsettled, continually staring at her shoulder. Another friend calls everyone outside, and they see a massive star-shaped craft gliding over the city - the Racnoss Webstar. It begins to fire lethal energy bolts at the city below, but is then shot down by the army. Running towards the river, Donna sees some soldiers removing a dead body. A UNIT soldier radios his HQ to announce that the Doctor is dead - drowned before he could regenerate. A blonde-haired young woman runs up to the cordon and asks Donna about what has happened. When she tells her of the man's death, the woman walks away.
Some months later, Donna finds herself out of a job, as the draining of the Thames on Christmas Day has caused economic upheaval in the city. There is a story on the news about a London hospital being transported to the Moon. The sole survivor tells the interviewer that trainee doctor Martha Jones was one of those who perished trying to save others, along with a journalist named Sarah Jane Smith and her young companions.
Going out for a walk, Donna encounters the same young woman she had seen that night - wearing the identical clothes. She too seems perturbed by something on Donna's shoulder. The woman tells her that she and her family should get out of London next Christmas, and seems to know that she has a raffle ticket which has a Christmas hotel break as first prize. Donna's ticket does win, and so she, Sylvia and Wilf all head for the country. On switching on the TV on Christmas morning they see a news bulletin about a Titanic replica spaceship heading for central London. The maid who delivers their breakfast is the next to see something on Donna's back, and this time she catches the briefest glimpse of a black shape. Rushing outside, they see a mushroom cloud rise on the horizon. London has been destroyed.
Homeless, they are sent up to Leeds, where they find that they have been billeted in a house which they have to share with two large families. Their sleeping space is the kitchen. Whilst Wilf attempts to keep everyone's spirits high, Sylvia sinks deeper into depression. Promised aid from the United States is cancelled after that nation sees millions of citizens perish - their fat transformed into swarms of tiny creatures.
One evening they hear gunshots in the street outside. Troops are firing at their vehicles, whose exhausts are pumping out toxic fumes. One of the soldiers aims his rifle at Donna - claiming to have seen something on her back. Donna then sees the young woman again, and goes to speak to her. The night sky is lit up by a wall of flame, which burns away the smog. The woman tells Donna that the Torchwood team achieved this, but at the cost of their own lives, whilst their leader was taken away a prisoner of aliens called Sontarans. The woman tells Donna that none of this was ever supposed to happen - that she was supposed to make sure it didn't happen. She tells Donna that a time will come very soon when she will come with her, as she needs her help.
Donna goes to visit Wilf one night soon afterwards. He is stargazing. As they talk, he announces that the stars seem to be going out. Donna sees whole sections of the night sky turn black. The woman appears - and Donna knows that it is time for her to go with her. They go to a military base where Donna sees lots of equipment linked up to an old Police Call Box. Nearby is a ring of large mirrors. In command is a soldier from UNIT - Captain Magambo. The woman tells her that time has gone wrong, but they can set things right by sending her back in time to the moment when things changed. The mirrors allow Donna to see the black beetle on her back. She agrees to go, thinking that this world will die but she will live. As she departs, the woman tells her that she must also die.
Donna finds herself back in 2007, on the day that she turned left instead of right. She must stop herself doing this - but is horrified to find that she is miles away from where she ought to be. With time running out, she realises what she must do. As the woman said, she must die so that the world she came from can never exist. Unable to get to the location where she and her mother are about to turn, Donna jumps in front of a lorry. Seeing the traffic jam build up, Donna ignores her mother and turns left - towards HC Clements and the Doctor. As the other Donna lies dying, she sees the woman for the final time, and she whispers something in her ear...
Back on Shan Shen, the beetle drops dead from her back, and the fortune teller runs off. The Doctor arrives and Donna tells him of what she has experienced - recalling all of her alternative existence. The Doctor identifies the dead insect as a Time Beetle, which the Trickster has been known to employ to alter timelines. He is intrigued by the description of the blonde-haired young woman. Donna never knew her name, but she informs him of what she whispered in her ear. She said the words "Bad Wolf". Alarmed at what this might signify, he rushes outside and finds that all the text surrounding them has altered to the words "Bad Wolf" - even on the TARDIS. Asking what this means, the Doctor tells her that it might be the end of the universe...
Turn Left was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on Saturday 21st June, 2008. The episode is designed to set up the season finale and the return of Rose Tyler, and features a lot of the story arc elements. Series 2 and 3 had featured episodes in which the Doctor and companion had hardly featured, due to double-banking. For Series 4, Davies went with a story in which Donna featured only a little (Midnight), and another in which the Doctor hardly appeared - this one. David Tennant is only seen briefly in the opening sequence, then again for the conclusion once Donna has broken free of the Time Beetle. He doesn't even feature as his own drowned corpse.
A number of Series 3 and 4 stories are referenced as we get to see alternative outcomes - what might have happened had the Doctor not been there to save us. These are all Earthbound stories - beginning with The Runaway Bride, where Donna first appeared. By not getting the job at HC Clements, someone else has been dosed with Huon Particles. That person has not told the Doctor when to stop, and he has drowned as the Racnoss lair beneath the Thames Barrier has flooded. We then see that the draining of the Thames has had implications for the city, with traffic banned from crossing it. The Thames drained in the real timeline, but does not seem to have had the same impact.
We then learn that the Royal Hope Hospital had Sarah Jane Smith investigating instead of the Doctor when it was transported to the Moon by the Judoon, and she is killed when the air runs out, along with Martha Jones, Luke Smith and his friends.
The Titanic spaceship then does crash into Buckingham Palace, wiping out London. In Voyage of the Damned the collision was supposed to destroy the entire planet. The augur Lucius Petrus Dextrus in The Fires of Pompeii had told Donna that she has something on her back - and now we know that it is the Time Beetle which certain individuals can see. He also told the Doctor that "she is returning" - a reference to Rose. Once the Noble clan are relocated to Leeds, the Adipose are activated in the USA instead of London, leading to millions of deaths. Sylvia mentions the disappearance of the bees once more. Despite the destruction of southern England, the Sontarans still go ahead with their attempt to turn the planet into a clone-feeding planet using ATMOS devices. Presumably Luke Rattigan had other factories in the north of the country. Instead of the Doctor, it is the Torchwood team who defeat them - costing Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones their lives, with Captain Jack Harkness taken back to Sontar as a prisoner. Lastly, Wilf sees the stars going out - which foreshadows Davros' Reality Bomb in the next story.
Clips from all these stories are used throughout the episode, sometimes inserted into the action and at other times translated to TV news reports.
A special mention must be made of the core cast - Catherine Tate, Jacqueline King and Bernard Cribbins. All give exceptional performances. Joining them are Chipo Chung as the Fortune Teller. She had previously appeared in Utopia as Chantho. Noma Dumezwemi makes her first appearance as UNIT's Captain Magambo, and Joseph Long plays Rocco Colasanto, head of one of the families whom the Nobles have to share digs with. He'll be back, as the Pope, in Extremis.
Overall, a great episode with wonderful performances. It's a what if...? story, which the series has never really tackled before. You could argue that it is also a clips show, but that does it a disservice. US television often resorts to this kind of episode, but it usually involves the characters sitting around reminiscing as an excuse for a cheap episode. Here we have a strong story in its own right.
Things you might like to know:
- The Trickster who is behind this plan to alter time is a character from The Sarah Jane Adventures, in which he appeared three times. He thrives on chaos, and has previously targeted Sarah Jane as she is an ally of the Doctor. He made it clear that he really wanted to remove the Doctor to create maximum chaos.
- Another link to a previous story is the inclusion of UNIT's Private Harris. He's the one who reports the finding of the Doctor's body. He had earlier appeared in the Sontaran two-parter.
- The Christmas Invasion also gets a nod when the BBC news reader states that images of the Titanic are coming from the Guinevere range of satellites.
- Owing to a mistake, the extras who turned up to appear in the Shan Shen market scenes were informed that they were gong to get more money. When they learned that it was not as much as they were led to believe, many of them left again.
- Sarah Jane Smith is said to be working for Metropolitan magazine - a reference going back to Planet of the Spiders. Which also featured large black arthropods which clung to people's backs and became invisible.
- This is the second episode to feature Rose tending to someone who has been run over by a car, in both instances the result of alternative timelines. The other is, of course, Father's Day.
- Most of Billie Piper's scenes were shot early in the series' production. She claimed that she had forgotten how to play Rose, and had to watch some of her old episodes.
- Davies was so far behind schedule writing this episode that he had to miss a scheduled appearance at the National Television Awards. Part of this was down to rewrites necessitated by the death of Howard Attfield (Geoff Noble).
- The latest issue of DWM was released on the Thursday between this episode airing and The Stolen Earth. It was rebranded Bad Wolf magazine on this occasion - in keeping with all the text transforming to this phrase at the conclusion of the episode.
Sunday, 12 August 2018
Fenner was the second-in-command on the methane refinery which had been set up on the third moon of Delta Magna - the Earth colony world which was his home. He had a dislike for the green-skinned native Delta Magnans who had been displaced to this satellite centuries before. When his colleague Dugeen discovered that a spacecraft had landed in the nearby swamps, Fenner and the refinery boss Thawn went out hunting for its occupant, fearing that it might be the notorious gun-runner Rhom-Dutt. They captured instead the Doctor, who had come here in search of the Fifth Segment of the Key to Time. Though he hated the "Swampies", he drew the line at exterminating them, as Thawn wished to do. After the refinery's activities woke up the slumbering giant squid Kroll, all of Fenner's crew mates were killed - Dugeen by Thawn. and Thawn himself by the Swampies - leaving him the sole survivor. The destruction of Kroll meant that the refinery programme would no longer be viable, so he was out of a job. The Doctor recommended that he get to know the natives whilst he waited for a rescue ship to arrive from Delta Magna.
Played by: Philip Madoc. Appearances: The Power of Kroll (1978 / 9).
- Final appearance by Madoc in the series, whose first contact with the programme was through the second of the Peter Cushing Dalek movies, where he played the black marketeer Brockley. He first appeared in the TV programme as Eelek in The Krotons. This was followed quickly by his role as The War Lord in The War Games. He returned to the programme as Mehendri Solon in The Brain of Morbius - his favourite role in the show.
- He was a late replacement for the part of Fenner. Due to a misunderstanding, he was unhappy with the part as he believed he had been offered the more substantial role of Thawn.
Redvers Fenn-Cooper was a well known explorer and big game hunter, who traveled extensively in Africa. One day he had come upon a spaceship belonging to the alien entity known as Light. The experience had driven him temporarily insane. The ship had been carrying out a survey of all lifeforms in the universe. Two alien creatures were employed to carry out the survey - one that would go out and interact with the environment and evolve to mimic the dominant lifeform, whilst the other would remain aboard the ship unchanged to act as a control specimen. The survey unit had the spaceship transported to Gabriel Chase, a house in Victorian Perivale, where he took over the household of a Mr Pritchard. He assumed the persona of the gentleman Josiah Samuel Smith. Seeking to elevate himself further, he hatched a plan to assassinate Queen Victoria and take over the British Empire. Fenn-Cooper had an invite to Buckingham Palace, and Smith had brainwashed him into wanting to kill the monarch. The control specimen managed to escape, and rapidly evolved into a young woman. Fenn-Cooper found himself falling in love with her, and decided to take her to the Palace instead of Smith. Once Smith had been overpowered, and Light destroyed, Fenn-Cooper decided to explore the cosmos with Control in Light's spaceship.
Played by: Michael Cochrane. Appearances: Ghost Light (1989).
- Cochrane had earlier played Lord Cranleigh in 1982's Black Orchid. His older brother Martin appeared in The Caves of Androzani, as General Chellak.
The Fendahl originated some 12 million years ago on the fifth planet of Earth's solar system. It was a gestalt creature which consisted of a humanoid core, with twelve huge snakelike feeding parts, known as Fendhaleen. It came into being when evolution took a wrong turn - leading to a creature which lived on death - consuming even its own kind. Fearing it might one day consume all living things in the universe, the Time Lords intervened and had the planet destroyed, imprisoning its remains in a time loop. However, the Fendahl core had managed to escape. It moved to Mars where it wiped out emerging life there, and then passed on to Earth. Here, it was caught up in a massive volcanic eruption in central Africa, and was apparently destroyed.
However, the skull was discovered by an expedition led by Adam Colby, and financed by the industrialist Professor Fendleman. It was brought to England, to Fendleman's home on the outskirts of the village of Fetchborough. There was a rift in space / time in the area, which the professor was studying using a time scanner. The skull had a pentagram on its crown, which acted as a form of neural relay. The Fendahl had been influencing the human race over the centuries, in order to provide a means for its resurrection. Fendleman was part of this scheme, as was one of his scientists - Thea Ransome. She also had a pentagram on her skull, and had been selected to act as the creature's new host core. Another of Fendleman's team - Max Stael - was secretly leading a black magic coven in the area, and they intended to help resurrect the Fendahl.
One of the adult Fendahleen was killed when hit with shotgun cartridges filled with rock salt. When Thea transformed into the Fendahl core - appearing as a beautiful golden being - Stael killed Fendleman. He then took his own life rather than be turned into a Fendahleen. This weakened the creature, as it needed all thirteen components to attain full strength. The Doctor was able to steal the skull, then rig the professor's equipment to create an implosion - destroying the house, the core the Fendahleen within. The Doctor then deposited the skull into the middle of a supernova, destroying it utterly.
Played by: Wanda Ventham (Thea Ransome / Fendahl Core). Appearances: Image of the Fendahl (1977).
- Second of three appearances in the programme for Benedict Cumberpatch's mum. She had first appeared in The Faceless Ones ten years previously, and would return to the programme for Time and the Rani.
The Deputy Controller of the Central European Zone, Fedorin was blackmailed into killing his boss - Alexander Denes. The would-be world dictator Salamander was determined to take over the World Zones Authority, and was doing so by eliminating his political opponents. One of these was Denes, who was known to be an ally of his rival Giles Kent. Salamander first had Denes' authority undermined when he arranged for a volcanic eruption to occur in his region - blaming him for failing to heed his warnings and therefore of being responsible for the great loss of life. Fedorin was then told that Salamander had incriminating evidence about him, which would be released if he did not murder Denes. He was given a phial of poison to carry out this act. However, Fedorin lost his nerve and informed Salamander that he could not go through with it. Salamander then poisoned Fedorin's drink, claiming that he had committed suicide.
Played by: David Nettheim. Appearances: The Enemy of the World (1967 / 8).
Thursday, 9 August 2018
When it came to working out how best to celebrate Doctor Who's 10th Anniversary, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks looked to the programme's past. One of the things they considered was the fact that there had been a mammoth 12 part story during the William Hartnell era - The Daleks' Master Plan.
What if they were to embark on an epic of similar scale for Season 10? Both men knew the director of that earlier story - Douglas Camfield - and so they had a word with him about how he had coped. He told them to run a mile from another 12 parter. It had been extremely hard work - especially when the principal writer had produced very little in the way of a workable script. Camfield and then story editor Donald Tosh had had to virtually write the episodes not being written by Dennis Spooner themselves. The story simply hadn't sustained itself over the 12 weeks. Of course, Camfield had the additional problem of the way the programme was made back in the mid 1960's, where recording had to be done "as live", and with limited VFX available. The series could now utilise CSO, and episodes could be filmed out of order. (This story was recorded before The Three Doctors, though it was the third story broadcast). There was also the major matter of the smaller season.
Taking Camfield's advice on board, Letts and Dicks decided on the next best thing. Two 6 part stories that could have a linking element - so they would be the equivalent of a 12 parter.
The first half would feature the Master, who would be involved in some suitably grandiose scheme. It would transpire that he was really working for the Daleks, and this would lead into a Dalek story proper.
Following their discussions with Terry Nation regarding his giving permission for the Daleks to be added to what would become Day of the Daleks, the writer decided that it might be fun to revisit his creations for himself. His efforts to spin them off into their own show were now well and truly buried, and they didn't make him any money if not in use on Doctor Who - always a consideration for Nation. He agreed to write a new Dalek story himself for the tenth season, with an option to have first refusal on any other one each year thereafter.
The writer chosen to script the first half of this double story was Malcolm Hulke - a safe pair of hands and very good friend (and one-time landlord) of Dicks. Not only would he provide an exciting set of episodes, it was known that he could inject some social comment into the proceedings.
His last outing had been Colony In Space, which had a lot to say about pollution, self-sustaining farming communities (good) and big industrial corporations (evil).
For the Master's scheme, they looked back to that earlier Dalek story. Then, they had been intent on waging war against whole galaxies. Hulke took this notion and then took a look at current world events. This was 1972, and the Cold War was in full swing. What if some third party were to try to heat it up?
This wasn't a new idea by any means. You just have to take a look at the James Bond movies to see that. An obvious example is You Only Live Twice, where Blofeld attempts to stoke a war between the USA and USSR by sabotaging their respective space programmes. His spaceship is hijacking their craft, disguised as the opposite side's on each occasion. SPECTRE are being employed, or are partnering, China in this. From Russia With Love features a SPECTRE assassin (Red Grant) who carries out a number of killings and places the blame for each on either the western security forces or the eastern ones.
So, the Master is Blofeld, the Daleks are the Chinese, Earth is the USA, and the Draconians are the Russians. That makes the Doctor James Bond, and not for the first time. He's the independent agent who is able to look at events from an outside perspective, and work out what is really going on.
Hulke throws in some additional elements, such as the internal politics of the Earth Empire. We have a Peace Party, whose members are sent to life-long imprisonment on the Moon without fair trial. The President does not hold absolute power. She has a very vocal opponent who is out to unseat her - so there is still some sort of democratic process. However, her chief opponent is the one who she has to work with most closely - the representative of the Military, General Williams. You could probably guess from what we see on screen that she and he have some sort of a history. The novelisation delves into this a little deeper. They were romantically involved but political opponents. He was given his role after a bitterly fought election, as a way of appeasing both sides. This would explain why she works alongside someone who seems to go against her every decision. She wouldn't have given him the job willingly.
On the opposite side of the Milky Way we have the Draconians. They are clearly based on Shogunate Japan. They are a proud warrior race, led by an Emperor - though he rules only through the support of other powerful families. Other warlords can depose him and install their own dynasty if he shows weakness. The Cold War evolved out of the ashes of World War II, but in Frontier In Space we have a situation where the two sides have actually gone to war against each other in recent memory. The USA and USSR preferred to fight each other by proxy - bankrolling and supporting opposing sides in a number of regional conflicts.
Fans of Babylon 5 will be very familiar with the lead up to that earlier war. One suspects that J Michael Straczynski was paying close attention to this story when it aired on PBS in New Jersey. The whole thing began as a misunderstanding. The Earth ship on its way to establish contact with the Draconians had its communications disabled due to an ion storm. The Draconian ship was a battle cruiser, approaching with its gun ports open. General Williams was in command of the Earth vessel, and he assumed they were going to be attacked - so launched a preemptive strike. The Draconians had used a battle cruiser simply because this is how a noble of the court would travel, and open gun ports were a sign of respect. Replace Draconians with Minbari, and you can see how they match.
Doctor Who doesn't just take inspiration from other sources. Such a long-running show provides inspiration for others as well.
That the Daleks might be lurking somewhere in the background might have been guessed at by the inclusion of the Ogrons. They are being employed by the Master to carry out pirate raids on ships belonging to both Earth and Draconia. Inspired by his own personal hypnotic prowess, he has devised a machine which stimulates the fear centres of the brain - making people see that which they fear most. Strangely, this makes Jo see a spaceship she has never seen before turn into another spaceship, which she hasn't seen before either. It is also fortunate that the Earthmen and the Draconians fear each other so much, otherwise the spaceship crews might be reporting attacks by spiders, snakes, wide open spaces or clowns, to name just a few of the most common phobias.
Later, the Master tries his box of tricks on Jo, and she is able to withstand it - but not before she sees him turn into some of the aliens she has met recently (a Sea Devil, a Mutt and a Drashig). This is an element of the story arc / character development which Letts and Dicks succeed in threading through the entire Pertwee era. Jo was hypnotised by the Master on her very first meeting with him, and here she is standing up to him in what will prove to be their final encounter.
As it was, the Ogrons were a late replacement for the Cybermen. If you have a copy of Steve Cambden's book The Doctor's Affect, turn to Chapter 24 and you will see a VFX sketch which shows a Cyberman burning through a bulkhead door. This was drawn up for this story. The reason that they did not appear in the end was down to the costumes being found to be in a dreadful state in storage, and not the old insistence by Terry Nation that they should never appear in the same story as his Daleks.
Talking of VFX, the Ogron eating monster was so bad that director Paul Bernard kept its appearance to an absolute minimum - a few brief glimpses on location. Removing it from the studio session would add to the appalling mess which is the conclusion to this story. First of all, the Draconian Prince and General Williams rapidly become best friends when the truth about the start of the last war is revealed. The Prince was on Earth for ages prior to this, but they never mentioned it then? One minute the Doctor is a dangerous spy and the next everyone is listening to him and believing his every word. The episode ending is then totally botched by Bernard. The director of the following story - David Maloney - went back and tried to salvage it, but it is still confused and unsatisfying. The Doctor is supposed to have made himself look like the Dalek leader, using the Master's hypnotic device, which causes the Ogrons to run off. The Doctor and Master have a scuffle, in which the Doctor is wounded. Jo takes him into the TARDIS. On screen, we don't see the Doctor turn into the Dalek, so the Ogrons seem to panic and run away for no real reason. There is a slight scuffle between the Doctor and the Master, but the latter then simply vanishes.
This is particularly annoying as, with hindsight, we know that this was to be Roger Delgado's final performance as the Master. He had already agreed to be killed off in the series as it was preventing him getting other work - people assuming he was working on the show full time rather than just the occasional story. As it was, Delgado went off to Turkey to make a movie and was killed in a car crash.
The link to the next half of the story is the Doctor asking the Time Lords for help in following the Daleks to their base...
Next time: Now That's What I Call Daleks! Or Terry's Old Gold...