Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Story 172 - Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

In which the TARDIS crashes out of our universe to land on a parallel Earth. The ship is left with no power, and the Doctor fears they may be trapped here, but he then discovers one small energy crystal which should be able to re-power the ship in 24 hours. Stepping outside, they find that they are in London. It looks very much like the one they know, except that the sky is full of airships. Rose then spots a poster advertising the soft-drink Vitex - and it features her father Pete. In this world, he did not die young, and appears to be a successful businessman. Rose determines to go and find him, against the Doctor's advice. Mickey, meanwhile, elects to go and see if his gran is still alive. He had been brought up by the old woman. They arrange to meet back at the TARDIS the next day. The Doctor and Rose discover that everyone wears earpods, and all personal technology seems to be run by a company called Cybus Industries. Its boss, John Lumic has just arrived back in the UK on his personal zeppelin, and Pete Tyler and the UK President are summoned to meet him. Lumic is dying, confined to a wheelchair with breathing apparatus. He has designed a metal body in which to deposit the human brain, so that people can live forever. The President refuses to sanction any further work on these experiments. He leaves, intending to attend Jackie Tyler's birthday party later that evening. Lumic hacks into Jackie's earpods to download security information about her home.

Mickey finds that his gran is still alive, but before he can be properly reunited a van pulls up, and its occupants - Mrs Moore and a young man named Jake - usher him aboard. They have mistaken him for someone they know. Jake had earlier filmed vagrants being lured onto a truck belonging to International Electromatics - a Cybus subsidiary. Many down-and-outs have gone missing of late. The Doctor and Rose infiltrate the birthday party by pretending to be servants. Pete and Jackie have no children in this world - but they do have a dog named Rose. Mickey is taken to an out of the way house, and is shocked to find his double there - the person Jake and Mrs Moore mistook him for. His name is Rickey. He is leader of the Preachers - a dissident group who are struggling to bring down Lumic's empire. Mickey is forced to join them. At the Tyler mansion, Pete finds himself confiding in Rose, but can't understand why. The Preachers leave their base and follow one of the International Electromatics lorries. It goes to the Tyler home, and a number of huge metal creatures emerge. The Doctor has hacked Pete's computer, and is horrified at finding Lumic's proposals for the metal suits. He recognises them as Cybermen. The Cybermen burst into the house. The President is contacted by Lumic and once again refuses to sanction his work. He and a number of other guests are killed. Jackie is captured, whilst the Doctor, Rose and Pete flee outside and meet the Preachers. The Cybermen surround them, and refuse to accept them as prisoners.

The Doctor uses the TARDIS energy crystal to destroy them and they flee in the Preachers' van. Rickey threatens to execute Pete as a collaborator of Lumic's, but he reveals that he is Gemini, the spy who has been feeding them information for the last few months. Cybermen swarm through the streets of London, as Lumic uses the earpods to put the population into a hypnotic trance. People are compelled to converge on Battersea Power Station, which has been turned into a Cyber-conversion plant. Rickey is killed by Cybermen, for which Jake blames Mickey. The Doctor organises a plan. Pete and Rose will enter the power station pretending to be under hypnotic control, wearing fake earpods. Pete wants to find and rescue Jackie. Mickey and Jake will break into the zeppelin, which is moored on the roof, whilst the Doctor and Mrs Moore will get into the station via some subterranean tunnels. Lumic's assistant, Mr Crane, refuses to accept conversion and attacks his master. He is killed but Lumic is left dying, and the Cybermen decide to convert Lumic - to become their Controller.

Pete and Rose discover that it is too late to save Jackie, and both are captured. The Doctor and Mrs Moore find that the tunnels are full of dormant Cybermen, but they start to wake up. She uses an electromagnetic bomb to destroy one. Before it dies, the human it once was reasserts itself. Lumic has fitted each Cyberman with an emotional inhibitor, rather than surgically remove the emotions. Mrs Moore is killed, and the Doctor captured. He is taken to Cyber-Control, where he is reunited with Pete and Rose. Lumic appears - now converted into the Cyber-Controller. Jake and Mickey are on the bridge of the zeppelin, and use the CCTV to spy on the control area. The Doctor hopes that they can see him, as he has a plan to stop the Cybermen. Mickey is guided to hack into Lumic's files to locate the master code that will over-ride the emotional inhibitors. When this is activated through Rose's phone - now linked to the Cybus network - it causes the Cybermen to see what has been done to them. They go insane and self-destruct. The Doctor, Pete and Rose make their escape to the zeppelin, pursued by the Cyber-Controller. As the airship lifts off, it grabs hold of the rope ladder and tries to climb after them. Pete uses the sonic screwdriver to burn the ladder, and the Controller falls to its death amidst the burning ruins of the power station. Back at the TARDIS, Rose has revealed her identity to Pete. He cannot cope with this revelation, and walks away. Mickey elects to stay on this world - there is nothing for him back in his own London, and his gran is still alive here. He and Jake will seek out other Lumic factories, to stop further Cyberman threats. The Doctor takes Rose back home to see Jackie.

This two part adventure was written by Tom MacRae, and was first broadcast on the 13th and 20th May, 2006. The director is Graeme Harper, who had directed several stories of the classic era of Doctor Who - including The Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks. To date, he is the only director to have worked in both incarnations of the show.
After bringing the Daleks back for Series One, the plan had always been to bring the Cybermen back for the second series. We had seen a Revenge-style Cyberman helmet in Dalek, so knew they were still around. Russell T Davies realised that the back-story for the monsters from Mondas was the most complicated of any of the classic series aliens - more so than that of the Daleks. In order to avoid clumsy and convoluted continuity dumps, he decided to start with a blank sheet. No-one had done an origins story for the Cybermen on screen - though co-creator Gerry Davis had proposed one to John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward - so this story would see how an alternative breed of Cybermen was created afresh on a parallel Earth. The series hadn't really done parallel worlds since 1970's Inferno - and RTD had a plan to leave Rose trapped there at the end of the season, with her ex-boyfriend and her parents reunited (sort of) by way of consolation for being separated from the Doctor.
There had been an origins tale done on audio - Big Finish's "Spare Parts" by Marc Platt - in which the Fifth Doctor had visited Mondas as the Cybermen were being brought into being.
This parallel Earth would have certain steam-punk features - such as the zeppelins - and the final design approved for the new Cybermen would have a slightly art deco feel. Some of the unused designs go for more body-horror, or touch on the original Tenth Planet look. The Cybermen would get their own version of Davros - a mad scientist in a wheel-chair who's obsessed with the furtherance of his race through unethical means.
One big inspiration for this story was the obsession people had with mobile phones and i-pods. What if someone could take these over - and hence take you over? The Cybermen aren't as talkative as our lot, more machine creatures, so they delete people like they would delete a file. All the technology is homogenised and compatible. And every time there's some new product, no matter how close it is to the thing they already own, everyone wants to upgrade. Time to upgrade the entire human race.

Unlike previous Cyber-stories, MacRae does not go overboard with continuity references. The Cybus subsidiary is International Electromatics - the company owned by Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion. There are no sewers involved, or bases on the dark side of the moon, and definitely no ionising of stars in other galaxies in order to infiltrate Space Wheels.
Camille Coduri gets to play a colder version of Jackie, and Shaun Dingwall returns as a more self-assured version of Pete. Noel Clarke gets to essay a harder version of his character (basically just without the comedy reactions), though it does transpire that Rickey is just as inept in some ways as Mickey. The guest cast features Don Warrington as the President, and Roger Lloyd-Pack somewhat hams it up as John Lumic. He had just featured in a Harry Potter film, with David Tennant playing his son. Jake is Andrew Hayden-Smith - like the ubiquitous Ant & Dec one of the Byker Grove cast, and more recently a children's TV presenter. Mrs Moore is played by Helen Griffin. Mickey's gran - Rita-Mae - is Mona Hammond, who had spent a long time in Walford recently. Lumic's henchman, Mr Crane, is one of those rare returnees from the classic series - Colin Spaull. Harper had used him as the sadistic Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks.

Episode endings:

  1. The Doctor and his friends are surrounded by Cybermen. To buy time, he offers themselves up for conversion. The Cybermen ignore this, intending to delete them all. Totally...
  2. The Doctor materialises the TARDIS in Jackie's flat, to reunite Rose with her mother. Mickey and Jake set off in the Preacher's van to track down Lumic's Paris factory.
Story Arc: 
At the birthday party, Pete asks a guest how things are going at Torchwood.
This story acts as the first half of a four part arc, that sees its resolution in the series finale - introducing the parallel Earth where Mickey is now based, and the alternative version of Pete.

1. The Preachers receive a briefing from Gemini, warning against Lumic's latest scheme - the Cybermen - and reports of many people going missing. We see someone who looks like a scowly version of Mickey close a laptop after this message, and he drives off in a van as the radio plays a Cybus Industries' advert promising that the ultimate upgrade is coming soon...
2. A video message from John Lumic, ordering the Cybermen to upgrade all humans. All incompatible humans are to be deleted. 

Overall... Such a promising start, but then it gets let down by possibly the worst ever resolution of any Doctor Who story. Ever. And that's saying something. Barry Letts had the guts to destroy his parallel Earth and everyone on it - even the nice folks. RTD has the chance to show the Doctor failing for once, but opts instead for the anagram of Timelash that we do get. Nice new Cybermen - except for the feet.
Things you might like to know:
  • That ending... Mickey has developed the most incredible hacking skills - launching missiles at Downing Street amongst them. Now he manages to get sound and vision on Cyber-Control via CCTV. That's the CCTV on a zeppelin, not in the power station. And the Doctor has deduced that Mickey has done this - as opposed to running for his life or getting deleted. Lumic is stupid enough to use his birthday as the most important password in the history of this planet - that thing they always tell you never to use unless you want your bank account emptied by the Russian mafia, or your identity stolen by a 14 year old in Hemel Hempstead. Then you can just plug a mobile phone into a piece of Cyberman technology and beam a self-destruct signal that kills every Cyberman. Except the Lumic one. The Cybermen's heads explode due to the rush of emotions. Why? Why would their heads literally explode? How can an emotion - no matter how "strong" - shatter a steel casing? And whose stupid idea was it to just inhibit the emotions in the first place, rather than conduct some brain surgery? And to think we thought our Cybermen were a bit useless...
  • And let's not forget that Mickey has learned how to pilot this particular zeppelin, from a video game.
  • The first part was under-running, so the sequence with Dr Kendrick (Paul Antony-Barber) objecting to Lumic's activation of his plans, only to be deleted for his troubles, was filmed. This was used as the pre-titles sequence.
  • Graeme Harper was not happy that a photo of the new Cyberman design was released during filming, as he had gone to such lengths to keep the Cybermen from view until the big reveal towards the end of the first half.
  • JNT refused a Radio Times cover when he came to relaunch the Cybermen back in 1982, but the new Cyber-Controller was "spoiled" by the magazine with a cover portrait shot - even though he didn't appear until half way through part two.
  • There may be only a few Cyber-references in this, though other stories get a mention. Mickey mentions saving the world in a big yellow truck - the one used to open the TARDIS console in Parting of the Ways. And the Doctor's plan to get into Battersea Power Station is the one his various selves used to get the into the Dark Tower in the Death Zone on Gallifrey - entrances above, between and below. Thinking about attacking the Cybermen via the emotional inhibitor the Doctor asks Mrs Moore "Do I have that right?" - which was an identical qualm he had when the Daleks were born.
  • Other more direct Cyberman references are the units in cold storage in the tunnels (Tomb - and substitute the tunnels for sewers if you wish) and their hypnotic control over humans, as in The Invasion. In The Moonbase, Cybermen could also discharge electricity from their hands. There's also that dummy Cyberman suit on Lumic's zeppelin - a dummy having featured at the cliffhanger of Tomb part one.
  • The only bit of the "Spare Parts" audio that was actually used was the Sally Phelan segment - where the dying Cyberman remembers what it was thinking about before it was converted. Marc Platt still got a credit. Earlier drafts did include more of Platt's work.
  • Nick Briggs is a Dalek obsessive. He gets a job doing Dalek voices because he's got a ring-modulator, and he's not afraid to use it. The Daleks have a certain catchphrase, beginning with "E". He's busy rewriting Dalek history by having his voice superimposed over all classic series Dalek stories - at least on the talking books (and the special edition of Day of the Daleks, for which he can be forgiven). He gets to do Cybermen now, and they get their own catchphrase - supplanting the fist-clenching "Excellent!". The Cybermen now "Delete!". Briggs is now also rewriting Cyber history by providing "Delete!"s over all the Cyberman talking books as well.
  • Lumic does do one "Excellent!", but no obvious fist clenching.
  • MacRae was a very young and inexperienced writer when he was called upon to write this significant two-parter. He still looks like a 17 year old. RTD had taken him under his wing and was mentoring him. One does have to wonder just how much of this story is MacRae, and how much is RTD. RTD became rather notorious for his lame endings to the big stories - the over-reliance on some deus-ex-machina - and I can't help but see his hand in this part of the story. 
  • Blue Peter covered the making of this story, and presenter Gethin Jones is in a Cyberman suit for some of the scenes with the Cybermen stalking the streets of London.
  • The performers in the costumes couldn't see very well, but still had to act in unison. They were attached at the wrists with elastic bands.
  • I used to live right opposite Battersea Power Station in Pimlico. There ain't no big hill. Obviously the parallel London isn't precisely the same as ours, topographically.
  • This story was broadcast as the Cybermen were celebrating their 40th anniversary - which is why Jackie is celebrating her 40th birthday (even though she claims Pete has got it wrong). BBC4 decided to have a bit of a theme night to celebrate this broadcast on 13.05.06, with a selection of programmes looking at robots and artificial intelligence.  
  • The Cybermen have the tear-drops at the bottom of the eyes - last seen in Revenge of the Cybermen. They were absent throughout the whole of the JNT era. They only appeared in three Cyberman stories, but have come to be regarded as essential in the minds of the great Fan Collective.
  • Having Lumic in a wheelchair is a risk - drawing unfavourable parallels with Davros. It was claimed that the wheelchair was a last minute decision, as Lloyd-Pack had broken his leg just before filming. Not so - he was always going to be wheelchair-bound.
  • Is it just a coincidence that the parallel Mickey is called Ricky - the name the Doctor insisted on calling him when they first met?
  • A deleted scene at the end revealed that Rickey and Jake were lovers. We kind of get that anyway, from Jake's reaction to Rickey's death.
  • Is the shooting star as Jake and Mickey drive away another classic Cyberman reference - to the conclusion of The Moonbase?
  • Spin-offs were being considered for Captain Jack and for Sarah Jane Smith at the time that this was made, but there's no record of the further adventures of Mickey & Jake in Cyberworld as far as I know.
  • I have never understood the compulsion to upgrade constantly mobile phones or computer operating systems. I see people queuing overnight to get the latest handset or whatever, and I just don't get it. I had an old Nokia phone for many years, holding onto it long after the androids and i-phones had arrived. I was visiting the museum at Kelvingrove in Glasgow a couple of years ago, and one of the galleries had some "design classics" in it. And there was the very phone I had in my pocket on display. When I saw it, I finally realised it really was time I got a new one - my current phone being quite literally a museum piece. That's what it took for me to upgrade. I suppose that the Cybermen would probably consider me as "incompatible", and delete me...

Friday, 13 January 2017

Feeling inspired...

Ever wondered just where Doctor Who stories come from? What were the inspirations or influences? What references to other things might be found within them?
You lie awake at night dwelling on this sort of thing, don't you?
No? Well tough, because coming soon is a new series on this blog - taking a look, story by story, at inspirations, influences and references to be found therein. Some influences are pretty blatant. Some might just be in my head, and the writer might totally disagree that was ever in his or her mind at the time. (They're perfectly welcome to use the Comments to put me straight).
There will be things I've totally overlooked - so you use the Comments to tell me. What do you think it was all about?
If Doctor Who isn't keeping you awake at night, it soon will be...

B is for... Bannermen

A humanoid mercenary group of obscure origins. They were led by Gavrok, and embarked on a genocidal mission to totally eliminate a race called the Chimerons. It is unclear whether this was on their own initiative, or if they were in the pay of some other power.
They dressed entirely in black, and ordinary soldiers wore narrow-lensed eye-wear. They decorated their uniforms with black and red banners - hence their name. Though appearing identical to Earth people, they had bright red tongues. and had gnarled, claw-like hands.
Their ruthlessness was notorious, as the Navarino tourists trapped on Earth in 1959 knew of them and feared them. These tourists had arrived at a holiday camp in South Wales, and had amongst them a Chimeron princess - Delta. She had an egg with her. Determined to eradicate her, Gavrok murdered the Toll-Keeper at the spaceport after he had told him where the group were going, then gave chase. He made use of an informer to locate their exact position - eliminating him afterwards, rather than pay a reward.
It transpired that the Bannermen were highly susceptible to the high pitched singing of Chimeron children. When the egg hatched into a young Chimeron female, the Doctor arranged for her singing to be amplified to overpower the mercenaries, whilst Gavrok was killed after stumbling into one of his own traps.
The Bannermen were taken captive, transported in their own ship by Delta and local lad Billy, who had decided to transform himself into a Chimeron so that he could be with her and raise the child. The Bannermen would be taken to some unspecified authority for punishment for their genocidal crimes.

Played by: Don Henderson (Gavrok). Appearances: Delta and the Bannermen (1987).

  • The story title - and hence the name for these characters - was inspired by the group Echo and the Bunnymen.
  • Another inspiration was Akira Kurosawa's Ran, a 1985 film in which Shakespeare's King Lear gets the Samurai treatment. In this, the King has troublesome sons rather than daughters, and their forces wear different coloured banners to indicate their particular allegiance.
  • The Bannerman helmets mark the final appearance of costume elements first seen in Earthshock back in 1982. They were also worn by the Train Guards in The Mysterious Planet in the previous season.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

B is for... Bannakaffalatta

A diminutive being with bright red skin, whose head is covered in spines. He was a member of the Zocci race.
Bannakaffalatta was a passenger on the Max Capricorn space cruiser Titanic, which had set off from the planet Sto to orbit Earth on Christmas Day, 2008. When it was announced that passengers would be teleporting down to the planet for a look round, the Doctor was initially concerned as his appearance might shock the natives, but London proved to be empty due to crises that had occurred over the last two festive periods. Bannakaffalatta survived the initial disaster which befell the ship - a meteoroid strike. When it appeared that he had become injured, waitress Astrid Peth discovered that he was really a cyborg. Cyborgs were outlawed on Sto, so he swore her to secrecy. He developed a bit of a crush on her. When the survivors were attacked by the angelic Heavenly Host robots, Bannakaffalatta used his cybernetic body's power source to emit an electromagnetic pulse, which destroyed them. In doing so, he drained his power and died. Mr Copper took his EMP device and used it to fend off further attacks - so he saved lives even after his death.
The Zocci have cousins called the Vinvocci, who are taller and have bright green skin.

Played by: Jimmy Vee. Appearances: Voyage of the Damned (2007).

B is for... Bane

A species of belligerent octopoid creatures who attempted to take over the Earth by means of a soft drink. They were able to take on the appearance of human beings through holographic technology. A Mrs Wormwood set up the "Bubble Shock" drinks company in London. This drink was extremely popular. It contained traces of addictive Bane DNA. The plan was to use this to mentally enslave those who had consumed it. Only a small percentage of the population was unaffected by it as they did not like the taste. In order to study humans, Mrs Wormwood created the Archetype, made up from the combined biological data of everyone who had visited the factory on its guided tours. This boy was rescued by Sarah Jane Smith, and would be adopted as her son, Luke. She was investigating the company, having become concerned about the unidentifiable ingredients. Sarah was helped by a new neighbour - Maria Jackson - who did not like the drink, and so was immune to the enslaving process.
Bane like to hunt. When one of them fails, it is eaten by its own kind. This was the fate of a Bane who had taken on the form of Davey, a "Bubble Shock" employee, when he failed to kill Sarah and her friends.
The creatures are susceptible to certain sonic frequencies, and mobile phones were banned from their factory site. Within the factory was the Bane Mother, a huge version of the creatures and the leader of the invasion force.

Luke used an alien communications device to boost a mobile phone signal, and this destroyed the Bane Mother, wrecking the factory.
Mrs Wormwood escaped, and found herself on the run from her fellow Bane. She allied herself with Kaagh, a disgraced Sontaran warrior. She came to Sarah to ask for help, but really wanted to bring Luke over to her side - trying to convince him that she was his real mother as she had created him. She planned to activate an ancient power source which created a portal to other dimensions, but it needed a human to access it - hence her attempts to win over Luke. Sarah called upon Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart for help. They were opposed by a UNIT officer - Major Kilburne - but he was really a disguised Bane. No longer needing Kaagh, Mrs Wormwood turned against him. However, he seized hold of her and dragged her into the portal. This closed behind them, trapping them in the other dimension.

Played by: Samantha Bond (Mrs Wormwood), Jamie Davis (Davey), Simon Chadwick (Major Kilburne). Appearances: SJA Pilot - Invasion of the Bane (2007), SJA 2.6 - Enemy of the Bane (2008).

  • The Bane Mother might look familiar to readers of the Target novelisation of Terror of the Autons. The huge octopoid monster - a Nestene - on the original cover never featured on screen. CGI company The Mill took this image and created a CGI version of it as part of their pitch to secure work on Doctor Who when it returned in 2005. This was put to use in the pilot episode for The Sarah Jane Adventures, broadcast on New Year's Day, 2007.

B is for... Bandrils

A reptilian race, resembling King Cobra snakes. They inhabited a planet which neighboured Karfel, and had a long-standing trade agreement with the Karfelons to be supplied with grain. Their size is unknown, as they have only been seen on a monitor screen. The Karfelon ruler, the Borad, decided to spark a war between the two planets by reneging on the grain supplies. The Bandrils were faced with famine. The Borad intended Bandril to bomb his planet, in order to wipe out the humanoid population and leave only the dinosaur-like Morlox creatures, as he was a mutated half-Morlox himself. The Bandrils launched a missile with a Bendalypse warhead, which would kill anything with a central nervous system. The Doctor used the TARDIS to physically intercept this weapon, and the new council on Karfel sued for peace and the re-establishment of their trade deals.
The Bandrils knew the Doctor to be a Time Lord, as their ambassador stated that he would notify Gallifrey when it was believed the Doctor had been killed by the missile.

Voiced by: Martin Gower. Appearances: Timelash (1985).

Monday, 9 January 2017

Story 171 - The Girl in the Fireplace

In which Mickey Smith gets a spaceship on his first journey in the TARDIS. The vessel hails from the 51st Century. It appears to be abandoned and in a poor state of repair. It is stationary, yet the engines are operating at full power. The Doctor and his companions discover an ornate fireplace just off the control room. Looking into it, they are shocked to find a blonde-haired girl looking back at them from the other side. Her name is Reinette, and she is in her bedroom, in Paris, 1727. The Doctor discovers a hidden mechanism that can rotate the fireplace, and he uses this to visit the girl. She is in bed, and the room is silent save for the ticking of a clock on the mantelpiece. Reinette informs the Doctor that it was months ago that she spoke to him through the fireplace. he becomes alarmed when he sees that the clock is actually broken, yet he can still hear the ticking. Checking under the bed, he finds an ornately dressed android is hiding there. It wears 18th Century costume, with a Venetian carnival style mask. It has been scanning the girl's brain, and states that she is not ready yet. The Doctor forces it back through the revolving fireplace to the spaceship, but it teleports away before he can learn anymore from it.

Mickey and Rose decide to go off in search of the Droid, whilst the Doctor returns to Paris - only to find that time has moved on much further. Reinette is now a young woman, about to leave this home for the court of King Louis XV at Versailles. The Doctor discovers that she is really Madame De Pompadour. Mickey and Rose discover that the spaceship has been repaired using organic material from its dead crew - such as an eyeball in a CCTV camera, and a human heart acting as a fuel pump. The Doctor returns and they learn that the ship's engines are powering temporal portals to 18th Century France, all focusing on Reinette at different stages of her life. The Droids are repair drones, using any means at their disposal to maintain the vessel. When the Doctor returns to France, Mickey and Rose are captured by the Droids, who plan to use their bodies for further components. The Doctor returns in time to save them.

He visits France a number of times more, keeping watch over Madame De Pompadour, as he tries to work out why the Droids are stalking her through time. He finds himself attracted to her. At one point he tries to read her mind to look for clues as to why the Droids are so interested in her, only to discover that she can also read his thoughts. A horse, which he names Arthur, wanders onto the spaceship after him. Rose goes to see the Royal Mistress to warn her and update her on the Doctor's investigations. Determined to know more, Reinette follows her back to the spaceship, just as the Doctor identifies the moment when the Droids will attack her. She is sent back to her own time, and the Doctor asks her to call for him when she comes under attack. The Doctor attempts to close the time-windows, but finds he can't as one of the Droids is still in the 18th Century. The Droids launch an assault at Versailles during a masque-ball, determined to remove Reinette's head. The Doctor arrives in the ballroom - smashing through the time-window (hidden behind a mirror) on the back of Arthur. The portals are disabled. As they cannot now complete their mission, the Droids deactivate.

It transpires that they needed her brain to complete the repairs to their ship - to fix the computer. As the vessel is 37 years old, only Reinette's brain at that age would suffice. The Doctor finds that he is now stranded in the France of 1759. He will have to live his life by the "slow path". Reinette reveals that she had the fireplace brought to Versailles, and the Doctor discovers that the link to the spaceship is still active. He offers to take her travelling through Time and Space, to which she agrees. He returns to the ship to inform Mickey and Rose, then slips back to France. However, it is now 1764. He meets the King, who informs him that Reinette has just died - her body leaving Versailles for the last time. She left him a letter, which he reads back on the TARDIS, which tells of how she waited for him. The Doctor never does work out why the Droids singled out Reinette. He leaves, unaware that the spaceship was named the SS Madame De Pompadour...

The Girl in the Fireplace was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on Saturday, 6th of May, 2006.
It is the second celebrity-historical of the season, though sadly most of the viewing public would have known very little of Madame De Pompadour, or the reign of Louis XV. Louis XIV - the Sun King - possibly, and Louis XVI, husband of Marie Antoinette, who got his head chopped off in the Revolution - probably.
Moffat took as his inspiration the story of the chess-playing automaton known as The Turk, as well as the story of a real revolving fireplace that allowed secret lovers to meet. This was after Russell T Davies had given him the brief to write a story featuring Madame De Pompadour. Davies had carried out a considerable amount of research for his David Tennant-starring series Casanova, and had become fascinated by the famous courtesan. The story was designed to show that the Doctor was capable of falling in love, particularly with someone who had demonstrated great accomplishments in a number of fields. The nature of her role at Louis' court obviously had to be downplayed due to the age range watching.
The Turk turned out to be a fake, but 18th Century Europe was obsessed with genuine automata of all kinds. Moffat also had an eye for what would scare people, after including creepy children and skull-like gas masks in his Series One script. He went for the monster hidden under the bed - something he would revisit majorly in Series 8.

As the story focuses so much on the Doctor's relationship with Madame De Pompadour, there is a relatively small guest cast list. Sophia Myles was given the part of Reinette. Tennant had worked with her once before - in an episode of the wartime detective series Foyle's War. He had found her a bit remote then. She had been at school with Ben Turner, who was chosen to play King Louis, and he was a friend of Noel Clarke. Billie Piper convinced Tennant that Myles was not really standoff-ish, and of course the pair would go on to have a romance in real life. The younger Reinette is Jessica Atkins. In a brief role, as Reinette's friend Katherine, is Angel Coulby, who was Guinevere in the BBC's Merlin series.
Story Arc: Nothing this week. Unless you count the banana references viz Moffat's season one script. No "Torchwood" mentioned, or overt links to other stories, but see below for links to the future.

Tardisode: A spaceship in the Dagmar Cluster has been hit by an ion storm. The crew try to send out an SOS. One of the survivors hears a ticking sound and screams as a shadow falls over her. We then see the face crack on an ormolu clock, sitting on a mantelpiece.

Overall, it's an excellent episode. Very clever and moving at the same time, with wonderful monster designs - both the masked and unmasked versions of the Clockwork Droids.
Things you might like to know:

  • As mentioned above, this episode doesn't contain any significant story arc points, but it does have some ideas that Moffat will revisit, especially once he gets to run the show himself. He'll bring the Droids back, this time from the sister ship SS Marie Antoinette, in Deep Breath. The something under the bed will be the starting point for Listen. That episode also dwells on the notion of the Doctor's loneliness and unhappiness as a child - something Reinette sees as she reads the Doctor's thoughts. There will be a chess playing automaton - again fake - in Nightmare In Silver. The main thing, though, will be his fascination with the Doctor meeting a girl at different times throughout her life. Compare Reinette with Amelia / Amy Pond, and Sally Sparrow. Moffat has claimed that the novel The Time-Traveler's Wife was another inspiration.
  • It was originally intended that this would be the second episode of the series, but as Moffat added more elements to the story it got pushed back.
  • The Turk was actually created a decade or so after Madame De Pompadour's death. 
  • Poor Rose. This story immediately follows the one where she gets to realise that she isn't unique - the Doctor has had other companions, and he has left them behind. Add to this her ex, Mickey, is now accompanying them on their travels - so she doesn't have the Doctor to herself anymore. Then he obviously falls in love with this woman from History. However, as the story focuses so much on the Doctor / Reinette, she and Mickey have very little to do in this story, so her reactions to all this aren't made a big deal of. It turns out that Moffat had not read the ending of School Reunion, so had not included any friction between the characters.
  • Two different horses played Arthur - and one of them was actually called Arthur. The other was named Bolero.
  • An unfilmed scene had the Doctor seeing Arthur being mistreated by a servant, which is why he allowed it to follow him. Davies and Moffat toyed with the idea of Arthur staying on in the TARDIS, to be brought out occasionally in future episodes.
  • David Tennant was allergic to horses, but his main scenes on horseback were achieved with him sitting on top of a wheeled trolley, or having his face superimposed on top of the stunt rider. Of course the location for the ballroom wouldn't permit a horse to clomp around indoors. 
  • Steven Moffat was not remotely happy when the Radio Times, as part of its preview for this story, gave an in-depth account of how the horse-smashing-through-mirror sequence was filmed - this being the big hero moment of the episode.
  • Until late in the day, the script had the horse shying at the last moment and the Doctor being somersaulted through the window without it.
  • It was originally going to intended that the Doctor really would have been drunk on his return from the 18th Century party. Mention is made of Zeus Plugs being used as castanets. These TARDIS tools were first mentioned in the closing scenes of Hand of Fear.
  • It was only two weeks before this that the programme was insulting the Royal Family, with its reference to Princess Anne being a werewolf. Here, Camilla gets a mention, as Rose compares the future Duchess of Cornwall's relationship with Prince Charles to that of Reinette's to Louis.
  • The Droids were originally going to be faceless, with their wigs obscuring the face or simply a dark void, but this was deemed as looking silly, so the masks were added.
  • Davies would later claim that Moffat's scripts were the only ones that he never heavily rewrote. We do know, however, that it was Davies who pushed for the contents of Reinette's letter to be heard on screen. Moffat had simply left it for the viewer to surmise what she might have written.
  • The Doctor dances yet again - something he only ever seems to do when Steven Moffat is writing the scripts. If you thought it might mean something else, well now we know.
  • The real Madame De Pompadour died from TB. She and the King stopped having sexual relations around 1750, but she arranged a number of other mistresses for him and remained a close confidante. Her main successes were in the spheres of architecture, gardening and the arts (especially porcelain manufacture). She was an Enlightenment thinker, championing Voltaire (who was supposed to appear in this episode). Her political advice to the King was generally bad - advising alliances that led to France's defeat in the Seven Years War and the loss of French colonies in the Americas. The phrase "Apres nous, le Deluge" - after us, the flood - is credited to her, said as she tried to console the King after military set-backs. The rain as her coffin leaves Versailles in the story is accurate. The King is reported to have said "The Marquise won't have good weather for her journey" as the coffin was transported away to Paris. She was buried in the Capuchin convent in the city. Some historians claim that the French Revolution can be owed at least in part to her legacy.