Monday, 21 July 2014

Know Your Daleks - No.8

The Smith Years.
The last instalment of this handy guide to the Daleks ended with the entire race being wiped out - again... How would they be brought back for Series 5? Very badly, it turns out.
Things start out well with the introduction of the Ironsides. Basically bronze Daleks in khaki camouflage, and with webbing pouches and a little Union flag where the name tag is usually to be seen. I like the little blackout covers for their dome lights. The Daleks have invented a robot copy of Prof Bracewell and programmed him to believe that he invented them. At least I think it is a copy of a real person. Would Churchill employ someone with no history so close to his war cabinet - no matter how good his ideas?
Actually, it isn't clear where the Ironside Daleks have come from. Are they survivors of the Emperor's fleet (from Parting of the Ways), or are they survivors from the destruction of the Crucible? The Progenitor does not recognise them as Daleks - they need the Doctor's oral testimony that they are who they claim to be. This might be explained if they were Emperor survivors - as they had human DNA traces. However, the Crucible Daleks came directly from Davros - a Kaled - so surely recognisably Dalek?
Depends on what you think of Davros. In Destiny, the Movellans described him as a "Kaled Mutant" - so perhaps not pure Kaled.

Once the Doctor has (quite clumsily) shouted out that the Daleks are indeed Daleks, the Progenitor activates. Apparently there used to be lots of these little pepper-pot things, but now this is the last one. The Progenitor creates a whole new bunch of Daleks - the New Paradigm - and this is where things start to go awry.
The Dalek is a design classic. The New Paradigm take that wonderful design and trash it. Instead of war-ready, bolted, bronze bodies, they now look like they are made of plastic. The profile is all wrong - they've now gone hatchback. There are 5 new Daleks - each of a different colour. The Supreme is white, the drone red. The others (Plastics, Tins and Mixed Paper & Cardboard) are yellow, orange and blue.
Reaction to the new design was not mixed. It was fairly heavily anti. It is to be noted that they have been shoved into the background of late, with the RTD bronze Daleks dominating the last few stories they have featured in.

The Paradigm make a brief return as part of the Pandorica Alliance.

The white Supreme casing then appears in The Big Bang now transformed into a stone Dalek. Earlier petrified by the unravelling of the Universe, the light from the Pandorica animates this museum exhibit.

Series 6 only features a cameo from one of the New Paradigm, at the beginning of The Wedding of River Song.

And so we come to Asylum of the Daleks. More Daleks than you can shake a Perigosto Stick at. Just a shame we don't really get to see the classic series models. The Asylum is populated mostly with bronze Daleks. There's the odd New Paradigm. Classic models such as the Special Weapons and RTD's personal copy of a 1970's version just don't get any screen time. Biggest disappointment is the Intensive Care Unit - where we are specifically told that these are the Daleks which have encountered the Doctor. Despite having versions of the real thing to put on show, they're all bronze ones. The "Oswin Dalek" is yet another bronze model - with a big chain draped over it.

Bronze Daleks make up the bulk of the Parliament. The New Paradigm Daleks have had a respray - the paintwork is now metallic so they look less like they are made out of plastic.

The Prime Minister is simply a Dalek mutant in a glass tank.

As we are back into the Time War, only the bronze Daleks are to be seen in Day of the Doctor. One thing of note, however, is the pilots of the flying gunships. They have black domes - like the Emperor's personal guards of the Eccleston finale.

When the Radio Times put Doctor Who on its cover early in December 2013, the Doctor was pictured standing in the doorway of the TARDIS flanked by New Paradigm Daleks. When we got to see the last Christmas Special, however, it was more bronze versions which predominated. Time of the Doctor also featured a new Dalek weapon - a massive version of their own exterminators.
And that's the story so far. The recently released trailer for Series 8 shows that the Daleks will be back fairly soon. And guess what? It'll be the bronze ones yet again...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Figurine Collection July 2014

Latest figurines arrived this morning - the War Doctor and the Special Weapons Dalek. I haven't been terribly impressed with the capturing of people's faces in the range so far - especially Timothy Dalton's Rassilon. However, I showed the War Doctor figurine to a colleague (not a fan of the programme) and asked if he knew who it was - and he recognised John Hurt. It is a very good likeness.
As for the Special Weapons Dalek, my only criticism is that it is a bit too clean. When seen in Remembrance of the Daleks it was all oil-stained and grubby.
Next confirmed figurine in August will be a Scarecrow from Human Nature / Family of Blood. With it should be the Ninth Doctor, from what I can work out. Either that or the Ironside Dalek. September definitely sees the release of the Morbius Monster figurine.

New Trailer - Key Points

Most of the new trailer features the Doctor / Clara / TARDIS, but there are a few new things to get excited about. The creature above, with eyes on stalks, comes from either episode 4 or 5. It was seen on location -sans spacesuit - when filming took place in a Cardiff Park. I suspect it may be the Steve Thompson story.

This is from the Gareth Roberts story, as this creature was seen alongside another creature played by Jimmy Vee. Lots of people pointing out the similarity to a games character (Garrus from Mass Effect).

I think this might be from Deep Breath, as we know that this story is certainly set in Victorian times. Robots do feature fairly prominently in other stories of Series 8, however.

Daleks - as we knew from the teaser the other day. Believed to be Phil Ford's episode 2. The bronze ones, you'll notice. The New Paradigm have been conspicuous by their absence of late - no sign of them in the closing stories of the Matt Smith era.

Without doubt, the Mark Gatiss Robin Hood story (episode 3).

The opening episode again? If so, this might also be mechanical. Silurians and dinosaurs obviously just go together.

I recall similar scenes in the trailer for Series 5 and getting terribly excited - and the episode turned out to be a great disappointment. Hopefully not so this time - please...

Monday, 7 July 2014

From Script To... Internet

Apparently the BBC are about to launch a new Doctor Who competition. It is open to anyone (of any age in any country). Only condition is that you must have had a script accepted and filmed for Series 9.
Four lucky winners will be selected to have their scripts left in the back of a taxi and published in their entirety on the internet a full two months before broadcast.
A BBC spokesman is purported to have said:
"We're getting so much better at spoilers, we needed to take things up a level. To begin with, it was just photos of Jimmy Vee having a fag in costume on some Cardiff industrial estate. Guest stars and extras then started tweeting important plot points. We slowly began publishing photos and releasing clips that gave away masses of information. We didn't think we could beat having a whole un-broadcast episode released on DVD the week before transmission - but now we will be giving some lucky writers to opportunity to have the entire plots of their stories spoiled. 2015 is, of course, the 10th anniversary of the return of Doctor Who to our screens - so we are also working on a deal allowing the final episode of the series to be released free with every packet of Cornflakes* the week before the series starts. I'm sure you'll agree it is much more exciting than getting Matt Smith back for a multi-Doctor story..."
Of course, we all know who is behind this latest BBC spoiler screw-up, the Machiavelli manipulating Steven Moffat's downfall from within in order to seize power for himself. Marcelo Camarago? An anagram of Mark Gatiss (only with some different letters...).

* Other breakfast cereals are available.

Know Your Daleks - No.7

The Tennant Years.
Last time out, the sole surviving Daleks in the Universe appeared to have been wiped out of existence by the Bad Wolf Rose. So, how to bring them back for Series 2?
The conclusion to Army of Ghosts introduces us to the Cult of Skaro. These four Daleks escaped the Time War in a Void Ship. They have names, and were encouraged to think differently from their fellows - for the success of the Dalek race. Dalek Sec is black, denoting leadership, whilst Caan, Jast and Thay are ordinary bronze versions of the type introduced in the Eccleston stories.
They have with them the Genesis Ark - which we initially assume to be Dalek tech. It is actually Time Lord in origin, though Dalek-shaped for a reason. It is a prison, containing thousands of bronze Daleks.

The utility sucker arm has a new attribute. These Daleks can absorb knowledge directly from a human mind - seemingly sucking the life-force out with it. Another new attribute is a built-in time travel facility. The Cult escape being sucked into the Void by activating an Emergency Temporal Shift.

In Daleks in Manhattan, we find out where (and when) they got to. They have gone back to the 1930's, to New York, where they have manipulated the construction of the Empire State Building in order to harness an imminent gamma radiation storm. They've been abducting the city's dispossessed, turning some into Pig Slaves, whilst many others have had their minds wiped clean - soon to become a human-Dalek army thanks to that gamma radiation burst.

The new army have weapons which are part Dalek energy weapon and part Thompson sub-machine gun in appearance.
Dalek Sec decides to take this hybridization further - physically merging with human helper Mr Diagoras to become the first Human-Dalek Hybrid. Humanoid in form, Sec retains the single eye and residual tentacles of the original mutant.

To convert the gamma radiation, the other Cult members have had to sacrifice skirt panels. These have to be affixed to the antenna at the top of the building.
Before discovering that it is the Daleks he is up against once more, the Doctor finds organic material in the sewers - discarded remnants of failed experiments. This genetic material is tested and catalogued as being type 467-989, which originates on Skaro.

Dalek Jast replaces his sucker arm at one point with a syringe containing chromatin, which aids Sec's transformation into the hybrid.
Caan, Jast and Thay all rebel against Sec - he has moved too far away from "Dalek" - and overthrow him. The army fails when the Doctor's DNA gets caught up in the mix, so they are all destroyed. Thay, Jast and Sec are all killed. The last (apparently) Dalek in the Universe - Caan - does another Emergency Temporal Shift...

... right back into the middle of the Time War. In The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, we learn that Caan saved Davros but has ended up totally mad, his casing blown wide open. He has also developed the power of prophecy.

There is a whole new Dalek army - created from Davros' genetic material, so Kaled in origin. Davros isn't in charge, though. We meet a new Supreme Dalek. This one is red and gold, with large clamps front, back and sides between the dome and the mid-section. (These are a vestige of earlier designs, including one with a globular top section).
Most of the Daleks "manning" the Crucible have star-shaped metal prongs in place of suckers - which operate their various machines.

Last time we saw Davros, there wasn't very much left of him. This inconsistency has troubled some people. Not I. Personal theory imminent.
In the same way that the Time Lords resurrected the Master, and Rassilon in his prime, so the Daleks enlisted Davros when he was at his peak. His hand is missing - so after the events of Revelation. This is the Davros who went to Skaro a prisoner, and ended up as Emperor. What better version of their creator would they choose to help them in the Time War?
The new mask is modelled on the original Davros - and Julian Bleach seems to look to Michael Wisher in his performance as well.
Davros is about to activate his bonkers Reality Bomb - destroying everything beyond the Medusa Cascade, so we must assume the entire Dalek force is amassed here. Doctor 10.5 and Doctor-Donna destroy them all - so it looks like the entire race is wiped out - again.
How will they get out of that one?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Invasion - Revisited?

Have been poring over those photos on Walesonline and noticed a detail in the image above. That head on the ground is clearly from an older model of Cyberman. When coupled with the fact that this little bit of Cardiff is supposed to be imitating the area around St Paul's Cathedral in London leads us, naturally, to some sort of connection with the 1968 Troughton tale The Invasion.
Of course, it isn't anything new for a Cyber-story to revisit previous adventures. (Attack of the Cybermen manages to reference just about all of them - very badly).
There is some speculation that this is the season finale. It is certainly the final recording block - according to the last issue of DWM. From what I can gather, however, there are only nine clear cut stories prior to this. We don't know how many two-parters there are - so trying to work out the real episode count for Series 8 is still a problem. The only thing confirmed so far is that Deep Breath - to be broadcast on 23rd August - is a single, albeit "feature length", episode.

Story 107 - Nightmare of Eden

In which the luxury space-liner Empress emerges from hyperspace above the planet of Azure - and collides with a smaller craft called the Hecate. The two vessels become fused together. A short time later, the TARDIS materialises on the liner, and the Doctor and Romana meet its Captain, Rigg. The Hecate pilot, a planetary surveyor named Dymond, travels over to the Empress.
Pretending to be salvage experts, the Doctor and Romana learn that the Empress navigator, Secker, had been acting very strangely just before the collision - in a totally complacent state. He simply didn't seem to care about what he was doing.
It is discovered that Secker had a supply of the drug Vraxoin hidden aboard the vessel. This is one of the most addictive substances in the galaxy, and whole societies have been destroyed by it. Secker wanders into the unstable zone where the two craft are merged and is soon found badly injured - his body mutilated by large claw marks. He dies soon after.

The Doctor has Rigg escort him to the Power Unit. The way is blocked by the unstable interface. When K9 cuts through a wall panel, they are confronted by a savage hairy beast. It is beaten back and K9 reseals the breach. One of the first class passengers is a biologist named Tryst. He has invented a machine - the Continuous Event Transmuter, or CET - which is able to capture small sections of a planet's surface on laser crystal. The flora and fauna contained within continue to thrive. The creatures which are roaming the Empress are Mandrels - denizens of the planet Eden, which was the last world visited by Tryst's expedition. The collision has allowed some of them to escape. Tryst's assistant, Della, informs the Doctor and Romana that they had lost a colleague on Eden - a man named Stott. He vanished, and is assumed to have been killed by Mandrels or the often hostile plant life of that planet. Throughout his investigations, the Doctor has seen one of the passengers following him and acting suspiciously.

Two Customs Officers arrive from Azure - Fisk and Costa. They discover that the Doctor has traces of Vraxoin on him. This was from his earlier discovery of Secker's supply - but Fisk assumes that he is the drug smuggler and orders his arrest. The Doctor and Romana flee into the Eden CET projection. Here they discover that Stott is not dead. He is really an undercover agent, investigating the Vraxoin smuggling. He had been shot at and left for dead on Eden. It is Stott who has been trailing the Doctor.
The Doctor goes to the Power Unit to separate the ships. A Mandrel is electrocuted when it attacks him, and the corpse reduces to a grey ash - raw Vraxoin. This is why scans for the drug have so far failed.
When the two vessels are finally separated, the Doctor finds himself on the Hecate. He discovers that Tryst and Dymond are in league with each other - they are the drug smugglers. They are going to transfer the Eden projection from the Empress to the Hecate by laser. The Doctor rids the liner of the marauding monsters by luring them back to the CET machine. He then rigs the machine so that the laser transfer reverses. Instead of Dymond and Tryst getting the Eden data and fleeing in the Hecate, they find themselves back on the Empress trapped within a projection  - and Fisk and Costa can step in and arrest them.

This four part adventure was written by Bob Baker (his one and only solo contribution to the programme), and was broadcast between 24th November and 15th December, 1979.
It is ironic that this story features the word "Nightmare" so prominently in its title. There are so many things wrong with it - performances, costumes, FX. A pity, as the actual story as written is a good one, and it is rare to see Doctor Who tackle serious current issues like drug abuse.
The story is notorious for the sacking of its director during the second studio block. Alan Bromly had earlier done some good (but not great) work on The Time Warrior. Bromly was a bit old fashioned in his style and tended to work rather slowly - which soon got on the nerves of the show's star amongst others. Tensions mounted, tempers flared, and the atmosphere on set became somewhat toxic. Producer Graham Williams had to dismiss Bromly, then step in and complete the recording himself (uncredited). These events also had the effect of finally convincing Williams to quit at the end of the season.

There are some good actors in this - but their performances are terrible a lot of the time.Tom Baker is overindulged - allowed some woefully unfunny material. David Daker was superb as Irongron in Alan Bromly's first story, but has very little to work with here. As Captain Rigg, he's drugged part way through and so just acts drunk for the second half. Jennifer Lonsdale (Della) is wooden. Geoffrey Hinsliff had been great in Image of the Fendahl. Worst offender is Lewis Fiander as Tryst. He has this dreadfully unrealistic pantomimic Germanic accent. One can only assume that the director gave permission for this - so Bromly's sacking is certainly deserved if only for this. Better performances come from Geoffrey Bateman as Dymond, and Barry Andrews as Scott.
The models are shot on video. Williams was happy with the results, as they looked okay and this was far cheaper than separate filming. Designer Colin Mapson was not so pleased. The model effects do look cheap in comparison with earlier stories such as Frontier in Space.
Then there are the Mandrels - one of the daftest monsters to have appeared in the programme. An alright design, poorly realised. They just about work when seen in the gloom of the Eden projection, but fare worse in the over-lit liner corridors.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor and Rigg remove the wall panel and a savage creature lunges out to attack them...
  2. Pursued by the Customs Officers, the Doctor and Romana leap into the Eden projection...
  3. As the two vessels separate, the Doctor suddenly fades away...
  4. All the CET projections will be returned to their correct places. Romana tells the Doctor that she knows of one animal that might feel at home in an electronic zoo...

Overall, best to stick to the novelisation...
Things you might like to know:
  • If you have looked at the recent DWM poll, you'll see that having "Nightmare" in the title is tantamount to the kiss of death...
  • Costa is played by Peter Craze. Brother of 1960's companion actor Michael, he first appeared in Doctor Who back in The Space Museum as one of the young Xerons.
  • Space: 1999 fans would have recognised most of the other planets which Tryst has saved on his CET machine - as they are all clips from that programme.
  • The drug was originally going to be nicknamed "Zip", but it was thought this sounded a bit too "hip".
  • At one point Geoffrey Hinsliff calls Tryst "Fisk" - which is, of course, his own character's name.
  • According to Colin Mapson, in the making of doc on the DVD for this story, cast and crew were given T-shirts printed with "I'm Relieved The Nightmare Is Over" when the story finally wrapped. Someone send one to Neil Gaiman...