Thursday, 8 October 2015

Story 141 - Timelash

In which the Doctor discovers that the TARDIS is on a collision course with an artificial time corridor. This originates on the planet Karfel, where it is known as the Timelash. This time tunnel is used as a means of removing all those who oppose the government of the old tyrant who rules the planet - the Borad. Anyone thrown into it will never be seen again. There is a council on Karfel, led by the Maylin, but they have no real power. The Borad only ever appears on screen. Maylin Renis is summoned to the power room and is informed that he must divert huge amounts of energy to the Borad's sanctum. Renis has been joined by Councillor Mykros, who harbours sympathies for the rebels. Mykros realises that the diversion of power will affect the hospital - where Renis' wife is recuperating. Renis claims he cannot disobey the Borad, though he also admits his hatred for the tyrant. They do not know that the room is monitored. Renis is summoned to the Borad's chamber soon afterwards, where he is killed by being aged rapidly to death. The devious and ambitious Tekker takes his place. Maylins carry one of the two keys which operate the power exchange as a badge of office. When Renis' daughter - Vena - learns of his death, she snatches Tekker's key and throws herself into the Timelash.

The TARDIS has entered the time corridor, and the Doctor and Peri see an image of Vena pass momentarily through the ship. The TARDIS then materialises on Karfel, having traced the corridor to its source. The Doctor has visited this world before - back in his Third incarnation - and is remembered by its people. Knowing him to be a time-traveler, Tekker talks the Doctor into tracing where - and when - Vena has gone in order to rescue her and the key. Once he has gone, he attempts to have Peri captured, but she escapes into a cave system. Here she meets a group of rebels. She finds herself accepted by them when they see a picture of Jo Grant in a locket she is wearing. The TARDIS takes the Doctor to the north of Scotland, a few miles from Inverness, in the year 1885. A young Englishman named Herbert has taken a cottage here for a few months, and he has found Vena. He has an interest in the occult, and assumes Vena and the Doctor are supernatural beings. The Doctor takes Vena back to Karfel in the TARDIS, but en route he discovers that Herbert has managed to get onboard as well. Back on the planet, the Doctor discovers that Tekker has used him.

The rebels are captured, along with Peri. The Borad orders Peri to be returned to the caves with a cannister of Mustakozene-80 gas strapped to her. The caverns are also home to huge savage reptiles called Morlox. The Doctor is to be thrown into the Timelash but manages to overpower his android captor, which falls in instead. He, Mykros, Vena and the rebels are able to seize the council chamber and barricade themselves in. The Doctor and Herbert enter the Timelash so that the Doctor can obtain a couple of the Kontron crystals which power it. The Doctor aims to fashion these into a rudimentary time device. As well as enabling him to move a few seconds into the future, it can also harness energy directed towards it and transmit it back, in more powerful form. The Doctor uses it against a laser cannon which the guards try to use to break into the chamber. The Doctor goes to the Borad's chamber, and discovers that the old man is really a basic android. The real Borad is the scientist Megelan. The Third Doctor had discredited him due to unethical experiments on the Morlox. One of these experiments, using Mustakozene-80, has caused Megelan to become genetically fused with one of the reptiles - giving him great strength and longevity, but a hideous half-man / half-Morlox form. He is planning on doing the same to Peri, so that she can become his consort. He is also planning to provoke a war with neighbouring Bandril. The Karfelons will be wiped out, and only he and his consort will remain on the planet with the Morlox. Tekker has sneaked into the chamber, and when he hears this he rebels. He is also aged to death. The Borad attempts to do the same to the Doctor, but his crystal device bounces back the energy and the Borad perishes. The Bandrils have already sent a missile towards Karfel, which they cannot abort. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to intercept it - with Herbert once again onboard without his consent. It transpires that the Borad has created a clone of himself, and it was this who perished. He seizes Peri, but the Doctor returns in time to defeat him - forcing him into the Timelash. He will end up in Scotland in the 12th Century - near Loch Ness.
Mykros takes over, and sets about making peaceful trade agreements with the Bandrils. Herbert wants to stay on, but the Doctor insists on taking him home - having found out that he is the young Herbert George Wells...

This two part adventure was written by Glen McCoy, and was broadcast between 9th and 16th March, 1985.
It is McCoy's only contribution to the programme. It also marks the final work of Pennant Roberts as director.
Being a paramedic, McCoy had written a number of scripts for the hospital-based soap Angels. The first script he submitted included the Daleks - not realising Doctor Who wasn't just about them. His second idea was to take a look at the work of H G Wells, and how he might have come up with some of his plots. We have The Time Machine, obviously, with the TARDIS, Vena, and the Morlox. When the Doctor moves a few seconds forward in time, he appears to become invisible - referencing The Invisible Man. The Bandril attack on Karfel could be described as The War of the Worlds. He also throws in a second explanation for the Loch Ness Monster.
So - a good core idea, with lots of elements that should have made the story work. What went wrong?
Timelash sits in fourth last place in the DWM 50th Anniversary Poll. It has never been liked, for a number of reasons.  Script editor Eric Saward has admitted that he rather neglected it, concentrating on his own season finale, and tidying up other stories.
There is some dreadful acting on show. Some is just plain wooden, whilst Paul Darrow (Tekker) deliberately plays things over the top in full Olivier-Richard III mode. The direction is workmanlike at best. The sets are bland and over-lit. Once again, the Doctor and Peri take an absolute age to get into the plot. At one point the Doctor produces "seat belts" for the ship, in a lengthy bit of padding. As the story builds towards its climax, things drag to a halt with a TARDIS console room scene that had to be included when the second half under-ran. The Bandrils are clearly hand puppets and have no sense of scale. Are they one foot high, or 50 feet tall? There are contrived plot points. E.g. Of all the many companions to have traveled in the TARDIS, Peri just happens to have found and put on a locket with Jo's photo in it. And it was Jo who had visited this planet before.

There is one thing that is very good about this story, and that is the Borad. Robert Ashby gives a great performance, and the make up is really impressive. Mykros is played by Eric Deacon. Herbert is David Chandler. Vena is Jeananne Crowley. The rebel leader, Sezom, is Dicken Ashworth. Two short-lived characters, who are actually well acted and so worth mentioning are Neil Hallett (Renis) and David Ashton (Councilor Kendron). Underused as the public face of the Borad is Denis Carey - The Keeper of Traken and Prof. Chronotis in Shada.
A star of the future is one of the young rebels who gets cast into the Timelash in the opening moments of the story - Steven Mackintosh, playing Gazak.
Episode endings are:
  1. One of the Guardolier androids forces the Doctor towards the entrance of the Timelash...
  2. As Mykros addresses the Bandrils, the Doctor shows Peri Herbert's calling card - revealing that he is actually H G Wells.

Overall, sadly deserves the low opinion in which fandom holds it. Dull and badly structured. Dreadful production values and some very poor acting. With some care and attention it might have actually worked. There are a lot of culprits in the queue way before you get to the writer.
Things you might like to know:
  • Wells' works have appeared a few times in the programme. The Master reads The War of the Worlds in - what else? - Frontier In Space. The Seventh Doctor reads The Time Machine in The Movie. The Eighth picks up where he left off at the end of the story.
  • The first ever Dalek story is very heavily influenced by The Time Machine as well - the Thals being the Eloi, and the Daleks being the Morlocks.
  • Robert Ashby was once married to Louise Jameson - former companion Leela.
  • He is also the son of a one-time President of Pakistan.
  • And he was Pennant Roberts' original choice to play the Silurian Icthar in Warriors of the Deep. He's still acting - see the recent Kray Brothers movie Legend, starring Tom Hardy and, er, Tom Hardy. Another performance you might want to check out, appropriately enough, is an appearance in Jinnah - the biopic of Pakistan's founding leader. The title role is played by Sir Christopher Lee - his own personal favourite performance.
  • The painting of Jon Pertwee which appears in this story, taken from a publicity photo from Invasion of the Dinosaurs, was painted by US fan Gail Bennett. It was presented to producer JNT at a convention.
  • Tekker suggests that on the Doctor's previous visit he had more than one companion with him. The Third Doctor never had two companions in the TARDIS, and the fact that Jo was there has led to speculation that Mike Yates might have joined them in an unseen adventure.
  • Naturally, one of the novels slavishly attempts to plug this pointless continuity point.
  • Tekker's line about more than one companion is actually a throwback to an earlier version of the script, in which it would have been the First Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara who would have visited Karfel.
  • Just whose locket is it that Peri is wearing? Would Jo Grant have her own picture in a locket? That's what is being implied, but it is usually a loved one who carries your picture. Did Jo's mother make an unseen trip in the TARDIS, or is there something about Mike Yates we haven't been told about...
  • Paul Darrow's over the top performance is often attributed to an act of revenge for when Colin Baker featured in an episode of Blake's 7. Baker played a psychopathic, leather-clad criminal named Bayban the Butcher (in City at the Edge of the World). As "Babe", Baker had delivered a particularly bombastic performance.
  • Of course, Darrow had appeared in Who before - way back in The Silurians.
  • The implication is that the Borad becomes the Loch Ness Monster - when we all know that this is really the Skarasen.
  • Naturally, one of the novels slavishly attempts to plug this pointless continuity point.
  • Personally, I think the Skarasen simply ate the Borad within five minutes of his arrival.
  • Subscribe to this notion, and you won't have to read the book. It will be a couple of hours of your life you won't get back if you do.
  • Initially, the suggestion is that you don't know where the Timelash will deposit you. It is supposed to be random - so you could end up on an airless moon or the heart of a sun. Then it suddenly becomes just 12th Century Scotland. (Vena only ended up in the 19th Century because she got bumped off-course by the TARDIS). Does this mean that there was a colony of Karfelon rebels in Inverness-shire in medieval times?  Might this possibly explain the SNP?  
  • Fourth from bottom in a poll is actually a win for this story. When there were just 200 stories to score, it came 199th.

Monday, 5 October 2015

October's Figurines

"Who you calling squid-face, old man!"
This month's figurines arrived today. I had convinced myself that there would be an Auton accompanying the First Doctor, as the Forbidden Planet website said it had an October release date. What we actually have is the Human / Dalek hybrid Sec. (Should have actually checked the magazine numbers).
The Hartnell figure is very well modeled. This is as he appeared in The Reign of Terror, holding his walking stick. A very good likeness indeed.
You might want to position Sec, from Evolution of the Daleks, at an angle in your display, as the pointing hand is immediately in front of his face if you look at it from the front.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Under The Lake - A Review

Didn't get to see this episode until late last night, and decided to give it a second viewing this evening before giving my opinion. It certainly benefited from the second watching, as you can relax and enjoy the way the plot unfolds without having to strain for potential clues. Roughly 30 of the 45 minutes were the Doctor trying to work out just what the ghosts were about.
Some may view this as a bit of an anti-climax after the epic Davros / Dalek / Missy opener, but it is the variety of moods and styles which help make Doctor Who so unique as a drama series.

One big criticism to get out of the way first. Did you see any great big ugly alien creature in this episode? Or in the "Next Time" teaser? Of course not. They went out of their way not to show it - but said big ugly alien was in the trailers, and photographed prominently in the DWM preview piece.
I would rather have been presented with it out of the blue in next week's episode. A wholly unnecessary spoiler, which the director clearly didn't want.
This episode had enough going on with the creepy ghosts. It was a brave move to have Colin McFarlane deaded before the opening credits, with Steven Robertson following him so early on - plus having Paul Kaye barely recognisable as the Tivolian spectre. Presumably the latter will have a more prominent part to play in the second half. Will the fact he is a Tivolian have any relevance at all, or is Toby Whithouse simply revisiting a race he created for his last story.
Moffat has said that this series will have a slightly retro feel, and here we find ourselves in the old base-under-siege scenario. The format's golden era was in the Troughton years, but we have seen a few stories since 2005 that have also embraced it - most notably the equally watery Waters of Mars, and The Impossible Planet two-parter.

Ghosts have featured rarely in the show over the last 51 years. The explanation for these ones was quite convoluted - whilst still leaving a whole load of unanswered questions. Why dead people to broadcast the Dark, Sword, Forsaken, Temple message and not living beings? Is there any significance to the fact that the ghosts are eyeless and have hollow heads? Why kill only people who had read the message, and not Lunn who hasn't read it but has been told it?
Talking of Lunn, just why was Cass so insistent he didn't enter the ship? Is there more to this, or is it just a plot device to provide the Doctor with a clue. I suppose it does mean we have one character who is immune to the ghosts' threat.
Very convenient that Lunn has managed to get separated with Cass.
Special mention about the casting of deaf actor Sophie Stone. There may not be many profoundly deaf actors in the UK, but nice to see one portraying a deaf character, instead of employing a hearing actor to play deaf.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. I liked the fact that the TARDIS had turned up somewhere unplanned for a change, and the Doctor and Clara had to work out what was going on from the start, along with the rest of us.
A word about Clara. Last season she was obviously becoming addicted to TARDIS traveling. Now she is becoming positively reckless about it. This will not end in smiles.
A minor gripe regarding those prompt cards. This gag would have worked in the earlier episodes of Series 8, but the 12th Doctor has moved on since then. Has Whithouse not watched the show since Deep Breath? At least there was a fan-pleasing card, referring to him having dumped Sarah Jane Smith in Aberdeen instead of South Croydon.
Am glad they very quickly explained that this was a flooded valley, as I was going to open this review with a demand to know why it wasn't called "Under The Loch" - being set in Caithness, Scotland as it is. I had a whole "English Agenda" piece all set to go, which I will now have to keep for when they replace Capaldi with an English actor...
Talking of Caithness, did you glimpse that the base in next week's episode has distinctly Russian trappings? What's that about?
Presumably the big ugly alien is in the sealed box. Or might it actually contain the Doctor?
The cliffhanger was brilliant. Just how will the Doctor get out of being well and truly deaded? And why is his ghost only turning up now, when he "died" a long time ago?
Roll on next Saturday for all the answers.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


If you want to leave a comment on any of the nonsense I post I'm afraid that I have had to suspend that function for a day or two, due to some idiot in Russia spamming. Spent 30 minutes yesterday deleting the same comment on every post for the last 6 months, only to have twice the amount turn up this morning. Life is too short to delete all this rubbish. Basically, if you see a comment that is blatantly nothing to do with Who, ignore it. For goodness sake don't click on any of the links, unless you like your computer riddled with viruses and malware. Normal service will resume as soon as possible. I believe that Followers should not be affected.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Know Your Cybermen - Miscellany

Time for a look at all the Cyber-related stuff that didn't quite fit into the main series of posts.
First, let's take a look at a couple of the less successful Cyber-Conversions.
Above we see a Cyber-Squirrel. Extremely agile, and useful for invading arboreal planets. However, they were easily distracted if you flashed them your nuts.

Then we have the Cybershades. Rather than converting human beings, these were created using stuntmen.

Some Cyber-Pastimes:

Cyber-Dancing. There is nothing a Cyberman likes better than having a bit of a knees-up. Above, we see some of the 1980's models launching into a high kick routine, to the accompaniment of Frankie Vaughn's "Give Me The Moonlight".
They are also partial to a bit of Disco.

The Cyber-Controller had to pull out of an appearance on Strictly Come Dancing last year (an allergy to the gold lame costume), whilst the Cyber-Leader actually won Dancing With The Stars in 2012.

Here's their break-dancing routine from Opportunity Knocks in 1978. Five years before their time, they scraped second last place.


Their love of chess is known throughout the Nine Planets, but they are also big fans of the jigsaw.

"Oh-No! There-Is-A-Piece-Missing!"
These coldly logical creatures preferred single colour pictures. In the image above we see the ever popular white one.

Track and field sports can be dangerous. Here we see a Cyberman who stood a bit too close to the javelin competition. Winning a sporting event would generally prove fatal to the victor - until they decided to ban gold medals.
The Second Doctor once stumbled upon a Cyberman downhill ski race, which was immortalised in comic form.

Note the obvious jubilation of the coldly logical creatures when they think the Doctor has fallen off a cliff. Later, they will simply clench a fist and intone "Excellent!" on these occasions.


A little known fact about the Cybermen is that they do not need to eat or drink - apart from Gin.
Here we see members of the 13th Cyber-Legion about to embark on the Circle Line Pub Crawl. It'll all end in tears...

4 hours later, and this one is already feeling a little worse for wear. Unfortunately, he has also wandered a bit too close to yet another javelin contest. Double whammy.

The following morning, passing UNIT soldiers find the entire Legion comatose. Lovely leggy Isobel Watkins, of "The Daily Trash", gets the idea for a shocking expose on the growing problem of Cyber-Drunkeness. (Apparently the 2016 Christmas Special will see the Cyberiad implementing a limit on gin-drinking - which triggers a Cyber Civil War).


I wrote a whole post on Cyberships, but when you have the Doctor as your Arch-En-Em-Y, you can quite often find yourself having to make alternative arrangements to get back home to Telos after a failed invasion attempt. In the image above, we see the survivors of the 14th Cyber-Legion taking the Northern Line to Colindale, where they had hidden their escape ship in the Burger King car park. (Little do they know that it has been clamped, and they will need to fork out £80 to release it).

The 2nd Cyber-Legion had invaded South London, which has few tube lines, so they had to get the bus to their escape ship, hidden in the Ikea car park in Croydon. (Little did they know that it had been clamped, and they had to fork out £2.6s.8d to release it). The bus was quite full, so a couple of them had to phone for a taxi.

"You-Will-Take-Us-To-IKEA. How-Do-You-Spell-That? I. K.E... Oh-Clever-Clever-Clever-I'm-Sure"
This one below wishes he had gone to the Gents before they set off for Croydon.

It has recently been announced that the 22nd Cyber-Legion has won the contract from Mayor of London Boris Johnson to delete all members of the RMT Union in order to put an end to the thrice yearly tube strikes.

Fare dodgers, buskers and late night drunks will also be deleted. And people who play their i-pods too loud. That little brat in red taking the mick had better watch out as well.

Here we see another brat being marched off for maximum deletion, having dropped an empty crisp packet on a Jubilee Line train. His friend has already been killed by Cyber-Chop (the severed head is in the bag).

Another young criminal is converted.

Cyber-Crime & Cyber-Bullying:

The news is full of stories about Cyber-Criminals. Above is a typical example of the sort of cyber-bullying that is plaguing our schools and space stations. This unlucky couple had their wallets and wrist watches stolen, as well as a bag of jelly babies and a yoyo. The gentleman sustained considerable, debilitating shoulder injuries, which aggravated a recent broken collar bone. The culprits have never been caught.

And that's it for now. No doubt there are far more things to say about the Cybermen, but I really can't be bothered at this precise moment in time.
One thing I will leave you with. The threat from the Cybermen is no distant possibility. Something that might never materialise. The Cybermen are already here - hidden in plain sight...

Forthcoming Figurines

Was having a bit of a browse on the Forbidden Planet website tonight and spotted a few of the forthcoming items to be released as part of Eaglemoss' Figurine Collection. October is going to see a Hartnell figure, and it looks like it will be paired with an Auton. Sadly, not the creepy Spearhead From Space variety - a big mistake in my view.

November will then see the white / gold Dalek from the Baker / McCoy seasons, along with the Eighth Doctor - from Night of the Doctor rather than from his debut in The Movie.

The Eaglemoss Facebook page used to publish pictures of the forthcoming figurines, but mostly just does generic Doctor Who posts, or pictures of fans' collections nowadays.
Am very pleased to see that the next Special Edition will be the Emperor Dalek from Evil of the Daleks. I have been expecting them to get round to this, but am curious what they will do with the cables. Will they just dangle in space?

New Spin-Off Series Announced!

The other day I commented on the panic that has been generated by the low overnight viewing figures - and how these were absolutely nothing to worry about. Well tonight, the BBC have expressed their on-going confidence in the series, by announcing that there is going to be a new spin-off series, called Class.
It will broadcast as 8 x 45 minute episodes on BBC3, some time in 2016. It will be aimed very much at the teenage market. The principle writer is Patrick Ness, and Moffat will exec-produce.
The name derives from the fact that the series will be set in and around Coal Hill School, in the present day.
The other day, Moffat was talking about nearly putting K9 into Last Christmas, and he would love to reintroduce the character if the right story came along. This might provide just that opportunity.
The series might also allow for appearances by other characters from The Sarah Jane Adventures. Maybe we will see Courtney Woods again.
I suspect that the Doctor will get at least a cameo - either to launch the first episode, or to bring it to a close. We are promised new monsters and aliens, but hopefully some old favourites might also get a look in.
With rumours that we are only going to get half a series next year, this might go some way to plugging any gap.