Sunday, 17 June 2018

E is for... Elgin

Mark Elgin was a senior executive who worked for Global Chemicals at their new plant at Llanfairfach in South Wales. He grew concerned at some of the decisions being taken by his boss, Dr Stevens, and of reports of strange deaths amongst the miners who were looking after the abandoned coal mine in the area. He was upset by Stevens' apparent refusal to lend cutting equipment to the mine when an accident occurred, which had trapped a miner and a UNIT operative - Jo Grant - in the pit. He grew suspicious of the actions of one of his colleagues - a man named Fell. He followed him to a restricted area of the plant, where he learned that the company was pouring its chemical waste down into the mine workings. Fell was about to unload a waste tank just as Jo and the Doctor were climbing up the pipe. Elgin intervened and saved them. Fell later committed suicide by throwing himself from a window. When Elgin challenged Dr Stevens about what was going on, he was subjected to powerful mind conditioning - the same process which had turned Fell into a mental slave of Stevens' boss - the company's computer.
His ultimate fate remains a mystery.

Played by: Tony Adams. Appearances: The Green Death (1973).
  • The reason we don't know what happened to Elgin is because Adams fell ill during production of the later episodes. He is last seen being subjected to BOSS' mind control, then vanishes from the story. His role is taken up by Roy Skelton, playing a new character named Mr James. James is killed by BOSS when Captain Yates breaks his mental conditioning, so this is probably the fate that would have befallen Elgin.
  • The tongue-in-cheek DVD extra Global Conspiracy? has Elgin survive the events of The Green Death. Interviewed in 2004, he claims that Dr Stevens is still alive. (He's now the Director General of the BBC).

E is for... Eldred

An elderly scientist encountered by the Second Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe. The TARDIS had materialised in his home, which he had turned into a museum devoted to space travel. Earth had turned its back on space exploration, and planet-wide transport was now achieved using a teleport system known as T-Mat. When the system broke down, Eldred's old friend Commander Radnor, visited and asked to use the rocket which he had been secretly building. Eldred was a champion of conventional space travel, and felt it a mistake to rely on T-Mat. He reluctantly allowed Radnor and T-Mat senior technician Gia Kelly to take over the preparation of the rocket, so that the Doctor and his companions could travel to a relay station on the Moon where the T-Mat problems seemed to originate. Eldred then joined Radnor and Miss Kelly at T-Mat control, where they were confronted first by a strange plant blight, which sucked oxygen out of the atmosphere, and then by a visitation by an Ice Warrior - despatched from the Moon to prevent the humans from deploying rain against the blight.
After the Martian invasion attempt had been thwarted, Eldred argued that the Earth needed a fleet of rockets like his to act as a back-up should T-Mat fail again.

Played by: Philip Ray. Appearances: The Seeds of Death (1969).
  • Ray played one of the jurors in the classic Hancock's Half Hour episode "Twelve Angry Men".

E is for... Eldrad

A scientist of the Kastrian race. He provided his people with special barriers which protected their world from freezing cosmic storms, as well as a silicon-based body pattern. He grew overly ambitious - seeking to take over the planet and lead it on a crusade of galactic conquest. When this was denied him, he destroyed the protective barriers. If he could not rule, then no-one would. He was captured by forces loyal to King Rokon and sentenced to obliteration. Placed in a space capsule he was launched into deep space. As life on the surface of Kastria became impossible, the capsule was blown up prematurely, with a small chance that Eldrad might survive.
Millions of years later, Sarah Jane Smith was caught up in a blasting accident in an English quarry. When found, she was clutching Eldrad's stone hand. The Doctor discovered that the hand could absorb radiation to regenerate itself. The hand possessed a blue crystal ring, which could exert hypnotic powers over humans. It compelled Sarah to take the hand to a nearby nuclear power plant where it could regenerate itself fully. The ring manipulated other people to help Sarah achieve this.
Eldrad absorbed the full output of the nuclear reactor, and was able to use his powers to neutralise an attack from atomic weapons. He regenerated into a female form - based on the person with whom he had last had contact - Sarah.

Eldrad claimed to have been executed after her planet was invaded by an enemy race. She asked the Doctor to take her home to Kastria. To protect the Earth, he obliged, but insisted that it be the Kastria of the present day. Back on her homeworld, Eldrad was shot by a booby-trap - a dart filled with an acid which attacked silicon lifeforms. She had the Doctor and Sarah take her to the lower levels where there was a regeneration chamber. Her body was destroyed, but she was regenerated as her natural, male form - the blue crystal ring holding his genetic code. The Doctor and Sarah discovered the truth about him when an ancient recording of King Rokon was activated. Eldrad discovered that his people had chosen extinction over his possible return to rule over them as a tyrant. Eldrad then decided to return to Earth and conquer that world, but the Doctor tripped him up and caused him to plunge into a deep chasm. He suspected that Eldrad might survive the fall, but would be left as ruler of a dead world.

Played by: Judith Paris and Stephen Thorne. Appearances: The Hand of Fear (1976).
  • Thorne had previously played the Daemon Azal, and the Time Lord Omega, as well as one of the principal Ogrons in Frontier in Space.

E is for... Elders

The ruling council on an unnamed planet, encountered by the First Doctor. Their people were technologically advanced, and the Elders had even been able to monitor the Doctor's travels through Time and Space. The Doctor and his companions, Steven and Dodo, discovered that their peaceful and idyllic society was based on a terrible secret. They captured primitive humanoids from a valley close to their city and drained them of their life-force, transferring it into themselves. Knowing the Doctor would never approve of this, the Elders' leader, Jano, decided that he would have his life-force extracted. Instead of apportioning it throughout the population, Jano would take all of it for himself. However, much of the Doctor's character and morality was also transposed, so that Jano came to accept the injustice of what his people were doing to the primitives. He decided to work with the Doctor to bring the transferences to a halt. He helped the Doctor and his companions break into the city, where they smashed up the transference laboratory. The Elders and their people would live in  harmony with the people they once exploited. To lead them forward, they invited Steven to stay on as their new ruler.

Played by: Frederick Jaeger (Jano), Tony Douglas, Royston Farrell, Keith Ashley. Appearances: The Savages (1966).

E is for... El Akir

Cruel and sadistic Emir of the city of Lydda. He and his men ambushed a party of English knights in the woods near the city of Jaffa. One of the party - Sir William des Preaux - pretended to be King Richard, as a ruse to allow the real King and his friends to escape. El Akir also took Barbara Wright hostage, after the TARDIS had materialised in the same woods. Sir William had her pose as Richard's sister Joanna. Both were given to the Saracen leader Saladin, but he immediately saw through the deception. El Akir felt humiliated, and vowed revenge on Barbara. He arranged for her to be abducted from Saladin's camp and taken to Lydda. She escaped and found shelter in the home of a man named Haroun. He told her that El Akir had murdered his wife and son, and kidnapped his daughter Maimuna for his harem. Barbara was recaptured, but escaped once more - given sanctuary in the harem by Maimuna. Haroun broke into the palace and killed El Akir, just as Ian arrived to rescue Barbara.

Played by: Walter Randall. Appearances: The Crusade (1965).
  • Randall had previously played Tonila in The Aztecs. He was cast in The Crusade by director Douglas Camfield, who would employ him on a further three stories of his - The Daleks' Master Plan, The Invasion and Inferno. A friend of Jon Pertwee, Barry Letts later cast him in the Third Doctor's final story - Planet of the Spiders - as he wanted his star to be surrounded by familiar faces.
  • The novelisation of this story, by David Whitaker, explains El Akir's distinctive scar. He got it from his brother, after he had stolen his wife.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Inspirations - Day of the Daleks

Day of the Daleks opens Season 9. The writer is Louis Marks, who had last written for the series back at the end of the first season, in 1964.
The previous season had opened with the introduction of a new companion, as well as a new arch-enemy for the Doctor to battle. UNIT got a makeover, and a new regular team member in Captain Yates. Looking for something to grab the viewers as the new season launched, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided that it might be time for the Daleks to make a return. This would be their first colour outing. The production office regularly received letters from viewers asking when the Daleks would be back, so they knew the demand would be there.
Dicks joined the programme after Terry Nation had already withdrawn permission for their use, trying as he was to launch them in their own series, but he would have been aware of the politics involved. Since Evil of the Daleks they had only featured briefly twice in cameo roles, though their last full appearance had been repeated in the summer between Seasons Five and Six - the re-screening cleverly being interwoven into the narrative of the stories either side of it.
The plan had actually been that the Daleks were to have featured in the season finale, in a story to be written by Robert Sloman and tentatively titled "The Return of the Daleks". This would have seen the Daleks invade Earth using a time machine to alter history - causing UNIT to come up against anachronistic enemies. Elements of this story would be retained by Sloman for the adventure that eventually did close the season.

Louis Marks, meanwhile, had submitted a story about soldiers from the future coming back through time to prevent a war - paradoxically causing the war in the first place. Regarded as perfectly acceptable, it was felt to be a little weak for the season opener. The decision was then taken to bring the Daleks forward - removing them from Sloman's scripts and adding them to Marks'. The soldiers would now be trying to prevent a future Dalek invasion of Earth. As the new storyline was developed, it was realised that the Daleks could not be used at all unless Terry Nation gave his blessing. Letts and Dicks agreed to meet him at Pinewood Studios, where the writer was working on the troubled ITC venture The Persuaders!. (Its two stars - Roger Moore and Tony Curtis - did not get on terribly well, thanks to Curtis' prima donna behaviour. Moore would refuse to commit to a second series with Curtis, and would shortly get the James Bond gig anyway. Jon Pertwee's brother Michael was another regular writer on the show).
As Dicks is fond of saying on DVD commentaries, the trio had champagne cocktails, and sat at a table next to Sean Connery and his then wife Diane Cilento. Nation proved to be amenable to the series using the Daleks again, and told them that he had been thinking of writing a new Dalek story himself. An agreement was reached to include the Daleks in the Marks story, and Nation was to be offered a story of his own for the subsequent season. (Now that plans for a spin-off series of their own had fallen flat, Nation knew that he could only make money from his creations through their inclusion Doctor Who).

The background to the story is similar to that of The Mind of Evil. International tensions are mounting, and there is to be a peace conference. The story was written in the middle of the Cold War, but Doctor Who tended to paint the Chinese as the possible aggressors, rather than the Soviet Union.
Only a Briton can be trusted to act as the chief negotiator in the peace process, naturally... He is Sir Reginald Styles. However, on the eve of his flight to China to bring them on board, he is attacked by a guerrilla fighter, who promptly vanishes into thin air. There is talk of ghosts, but when the guerrilla is later found to have a high tech weapon, the Doctor realises they are dealing with ghosts from the future, rather than from the past. The Doctor and Jo decide to spend the night at Styles' house - deducing that if the guerrillas failed once they will try again.
Jo assumes that, as they were going to assassinate Sir Reginald, the guerrillas must be evil. Any attempt to convince the audience watching that this might be the case is somewhat spoiled by the word "Daleks" in the story title. When they do turn up for a second attempt, the guerrillas are led by a woman - Anat. She was based on Leila Khaled. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and had come to prominence for a number of passenger jet hijackings in 1969 / 70. She would later inspire and lend her name to a future Doctor Who companion. Anat was named after an ancient War Goddess from Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Anat is accompanied by two colleagues - Shura and Boaz. Shura may be named from a form of Islamic council (it means 'consultation'), whilst Boaz was a figure in the Old Testament - husband of Ruth and grandfather to David, and hence one of the ancestors of Jesus.

Jo is accidentally thrown forward to the 22nd Century, which is where the guerrillas have come from. In this time zone, the planet has been conquered by the Daleks, who rule through human agents and brutal ape-like creatures called Ogrons. Marks wrote the Ogrons to be canine in character. It was the story's director, Paul Bernard, who decided that they should be simian.
Reference is made to the Daleks having invaded Earth "again". That's because this story is set around the same time that The Dalek Invasion of Earth is also set, but we are clearly seeing a different version here. The Daleks have mastered time travel, and have changed future history so that their invasion is now a successful one. Presumably this is because they have dispensed with silly ideas like turning the planet into a giant spaceship, have harnessed humans to do their dirty work, and are using the Ogrons instead of the less reliable Robomen.
This is the first time the Daleks have appeared in the programme in colour, so naturally two of the three casings get painted grey and black... At least the leader gets a nice gold finish, though this will pose problems for the (anti)climactic battle with UNIT at the story's conclusion.
Up until this point all of the basic Dalek drones had been silver, with blue hemispheres on their skirts. The gunmetal grey ones introduced here will become the new standard for your basic Daleks.
Technically, we have already seen one Dalek in colour in the series - a cut-out B&W photo of one, tinted, in The Mind of Evil. It's not the first time Daleks have been seen in colour on the BBC either, as the Peter Cushing movie Dr. Who and the Daleks has already been shown, and Blue Peter featured the three casings from this story when a fan wrote in to ask if Peter Purves had been in the show, as his parents claimed.

The Doctor goes with the guerrillas back (forward) to the 22nd Century in order to rescue Jo. After some capture / escape, he is tied up and has a mind analysis machine used on him to confirm his identity. This permits the series to remind the viewers that there were two other actors who have played the Doctor prior to Pertwee. This is the first example of Pertwee spotting a mode of transport which appealed to him - prompting him to ask Letts to include it in a story. One of the escapes utilises a motor-trike. Unfortunately, these do not move very fast, so the Ogron actors have to do slow-running acting to make the sequence look more exciting than it is.
Eventually freed by the guerrillas, the Doctor learns some more about the war which ushered in the Dalek invasion - the one which they are convinced was started by Styles blowing up the peace conference. The Doctor realises that it was the guerrillas themselves who started the war, as Shura was left behind after the last mission and he would have done everything he could to fulfill their aims. They have trapped themselves in a paradox.
Now, I have said this before, and I will say it again - at the end of this sentence to be exact - that for a series about a time traveller, there are very few stories across the entire run of the "classic era" of the programme which make use of Time as a major plot element. This is one of those few.
The idea has already been set up in an earlier scene where the Doctor and Jo are in the UNIT lab and see themselves standing in the doorway. You have to look to the novelisation for the full explanation for this, as Bernard didn't get round to filming the pay-off. What should have happened was that the Doctor and Jo would go back to UNIT HQ at the conclusion of the story and see themselves inside the lab - their current selves seeing their earlier selves seeing their current selves. It's what's known as timey-wimey these days.

The Doctor and Jo have to go back to the 20th Century to stop Shura from blowing up the conference. They are helped to escape by the chief human villain - the European Controller. The Doctor had earlier described him as a Quisling. This name derives from Vidkun Quisling, a fascist Norwegian officer who headed the government of Nazi-occupied Norway during WWII. He was put on trial after the war and executed in October 1945. His name is now used for anyone who collaborates with an enemy invader.
Before we go, we should mention Soldier - a 1964 episode of the TV series The Outer Limits, written by Harlan Ellison. This features a soldier from the future travelling back into the past - our present. Unlike the makers of The Terminator, Ellison did not take legal action against Marks or Dicks.
Next time: the Time Lords have another mission for the Doctor. The news these days is all about Brexit, but here's the story that was influenced by our going into the European Community...

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Something Borrowed - Torchwood 2.9

In which Gwen Cooper goes hunting for an alien creature through the streets of Cardiff. It is the night of her Hen Party, but she is going to be late. She corners the alien - which appears to be a human male - but his blood is black, leading her colleagues to surmise it may be a shape-shifter. Gwen is bitten on the wrist but Jack then appears and shoots the man dead. Jack recommends that she have her wound checked by Owen, but Gwen hurries off to meet her friends.
On waking up the following morning - the day of her wedding to Rhys - she discovers that she appears to be heavily pregnant...
Gwen contacts Jack and Owen, who inform her that some alien creatures reproduce by transmitting their eggs to a host for incubation. In this case she was impregnated through the bite. Jack recommends she postpone the wedding, but Gwen refuses. She will deal with the foetus after the ceremony. She notifies Rhys, and he is furious that Jack and her job have spoiled their big day. As neither of them has seen their parents for a while, they will inform them that they were planning to keep the pregnancy a surprise - though this will mean having to break the news later that their "grandchild" was lost. Jack sends Ianto off to buy a new wedding dress that will fit Gwen.

At the Hub, Owen carries out an autopsy on the dead man, and discovers that he was a Nostrovite. These savage creatures can take on the appearance of anyone they have seen. The male of this species plants an egg in a host body, and the female then births it by tearing the child from the host. She will do anything to get her child, and they realise that the mother will be hunting for Gwen. Tosh arrives at the wedding venue - a country house hotel. She meets Rhys' best man - Banana Boat. The Nostrovite mother - posing as a young woman named Carrie - kills and partially devours the DJ and captures Tosh and Banana Boat, tying them up in one of the bedrooms.
Rhys and Gwen are about to be married when Jack rushes in and stops the ceremony. He and Ianto rescue Tosh and Banana Boat. Ianto is forced to cut off the phones when a bridesmaid sees the DJ's corpse and alerts the other guests. The hunt is then on to identify the shape-shifting alien and protect Gwen.

The creature takes on the form of Jack and also of Rhys' mother Brenda. Bullets have no effect on it. Owen arrives with the laser scalpel he had previously used to destroy the Mayfly larva within Martha Jones. The Nostrovite may call off its attack if the foetus is destroyed. However, Owen had earlier broken his hand, and he no longer heals, so he tells Rhys that he will have to operate it. The alien corners Gwen and Rhys in an outbuilding, disguised as Brenda, and is about to attack when Jack appears with a powerful laser weapon. He destroys her. Rhys then uses the scalpel to remove the foetus.
The wedding then goes ahead, but Ianto has doped all the drinks with Retcon, so no-one but Gwen and Rhys will remember the events of the day. Later, back at the Hub, Jack digs out an old photograph. It is of him and his bride on their wedding day...

Something Borrowed was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 5th March, 2008. Ford had previously written two episodes for the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures - Eye of the Gorgon and The Lost Boy - and he would be made script editor for the show's second series. Executive Producer Russell T Davies had wanted this episode to be lighter in tone, and also to have some soap opera elements as well. As Ford had written for Coronation Street, he was felt to be the right person for the commission.
Following the trio of episodes revolving around Owen's death and resurrection, it was time to have a little fun. Though it deals with a vicious monster, who tears its victims apart, there is a lot of humour to be found in this episode - from Ianto's shopping for a wedding dress (being assumed by the shop assistant to be buying it for himself), to Rhys' exasperated reactions to events, as well as those of the respective in-laws. It is a very good episode for Kai Owen.
I have previously commented on the fact that, due to changes in format towards season-long storylines, many of the mysteries set up around Jack were left hanging. We get another one here, as we see that he was once married (in the early 20th Century, judging by the costumes).

We are introduced to Gwen's parents - Geraint and Mary. Geraint is played by William Thomas, who had previously appeared twice in Doctor Who - as the assistant funeral director in Remembrance of the Daleks, and then as the hapless surveyor in the pre-credit sequence for Boom Town. He was the first actor to bridge the gap between the "classic" and "new" eras of the series. Mary is Sharon Morgan. Both will return in future seasons. Rhys' mother, Brenda, is another returnee from the classic era of Doctor Who. Nerys Hughes had previously played the scientist Todd in Kinda. Rhys' dad, Barry, is played by Robin Griffith. This is their only appearance in the series.
The Nostrovite mother - Carrie - is played by Collette Brown, whilst Best Man Banana Boat is Jonathan Lewis Owen.

Overall, fast paced and fun. Shame there weren't more episodes like this one.
Things you might like to know:

  • Gwen foreshadows future events when she tells Rhys that nothing will stop them getting married - not if Weevils crawl out of the sewers (which will happen in Exit Wounds), or the sky is full of spaceships (as occurs in The Stolen Earth), though spaceships had previously appeared in the skies above the Taj Mahal, in End of Days, and Weevils had massed in the streets in Dead Man Walking.
  • The Sam Raimi film The Evil Dead is referenced when Rhys picks up a chainsaw to attack the Nostrovite when it poses as his mother.
  • The draft title for the story was simply "The Wedding". "Something Borrowed" comes from the old tradition of the bride wearing something borrowed, and something blue; something old, and something new for luck. This saying will be revisited by Steven Moffat for his first series finale - where the TARDIS is old, borrowed and blue.
  • Gwen is seen eating a jar of pickled gherkins on the morning of her wedding - alluding to the odd food cravings some people experience during pregnancy. This was added by Eve Myles herself. The script simply had her drinking a glass of water.
  • The first draft had Gwen and Rhys also being given Retcon, but this was changed to her declining the drug, to show that Gwen did not want there to be any secrets between her and her new husband.