Friday, 28 July 2017

C is for... Carstairs

A young Lieutenant in the British Army, serving in France in 1917. He and his men halted an ambulance which had been captured by the Germans, thus freeing Lady Jennifer Buckingham - the driver - and her passengers, whom she had picked up in the middle of No Man's Land. These were the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe. At the British HQ, Carstairs and Jennifer were called upon to take part as witnesses in a court martial in which the time-travellers were accused by General Smythe of being spies. Carstairs was unsettled by the proceedings, feeling the prisoners had not been given a fair hearing. He had been subjected to mental conditioning, and this was starting to break down. Speaking to Jennifer, he realised that both could not remember their recent past. He helped the Doctor and his friends escape and steal the ambulance from the HQ, and was with them when they drove through a strange bank of mist - to find themselves confronted by Roman soldiers.
Returning to the HQ they went to Smythe's private quarters and found evidence of alien technology hidden there. Carstairs' conditioning broke down fully and he accepted the Doctor's explanation that they were no longer in France but on some alien planet where a number of different battles from Earth's history were being fought in various time zones.
In the American Civil War zone, Carstairs was captured and taken to the alien command centre where he was reprocessed. He recognised Zoe as an enemy spy and was prepared to shoot her. The Doctor undid the reprocessing, and Carstairs then helped to lead the resistance movement which the Doctor initiated.
After the Doctor had summoned the Time Lords to come and stop the war games, Carstairs accompanied him and his companions back into the 1917 zone where the TARDIS lay. He then planned to go and find Jennifer, for whom he had formed a romantic attachment. The Time Lords returned him to his correct time and place in history.
His memory would have been wiped, but he had already proved himself adept at breaking mental conditioning.

Played by: David Savile. Appearances: The War Games (1969).

  • First of three appearances in the programme for Savile. The second was as the scientist Winser in The Claws of Axos, and the most recent was as the Brigadier's replacement, commanding the UK contingent of UNIT, in The Five Doctors. He's married to Lois Baxter - Madam Lamia in The Androids of Tara.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

C is for... Carrionites

An incredibly ancient race, who derived their power from words rather than numbers. Embarking on a war with another powerful race which threatened the nascent universe, the Eternals stepped in and banished them to the realm of the Deep Darkness.
A trio of Carrionites escaped and found their way to London in the late 16th Century. They had with them a crystal sphere in which their race were imprisoned. They took on humanoid female form, adopting the names Lilith, Doomfinger and Bloodtide. Maintaining this form took a lot of energy, and so they appeared as wizened old women. The younger of the three - Lilith - was also the strongest, and she was able to retain the appearance of a beautiful woman for much of the time. To the locals of the period they would be seen as witches, and their word-science would have sounded like witchcraft.
They were able to influence people's minds so long as they had a piece of their genetic material to work with. A few strands of hair would do, attaching them to a crude facsimile of their victim to create a DNA replication module.
They thrived on blood, and Lilith would ensnare young men on whom they would feed.

They planned to free the rest of their kind from the Deep Darkness by exploiting the words of the playwright William Shakespeare, preying on the emotions he felt at the loss of his son. They first made the architect Peter Streete design the Globe Theatre with 14 sides - reflecting their home planetary system of Rexel 4. They then set about influencing Shakespeare to write a play - "Love's Labours Won" - which would contain the words needed to unlock the prison in which the rest of the Carrionites were held. When the Master of Revels threatened to stop the play being performed, Lilith stole a lock of his hair, attached it to one of their DNA replication modules and immersed it in a barrel of water - causing him to drown on dry land.
Peter Streete was driven mad by his contact with them, and they killed him in Bedlam to stop him helping the Doctor, Martha and Shakespeare - causing his heart to stop. When the Doctor identified their species, he used the power of their name to attack them. Knowing he posed a threat to their plans, Lilith stopped his heart - not realising he was a Time Lord and so carried a spare.
The play was staged at the Globe, and at the climax the cast said the lines that had been inserted. Carrionites started to materialise in their true form - large skeletal raven-like creatures.

The Doctor had Shakespeare create new words to use against them, with Martha throwing in a final "Expelliarmus!" from J K Rowling, to cast them all back into the crystal sphere and the Deep Darkness. The Doctor took the sphere and kept it locked away in a locker in the TARDIS.

Played by: Christina Cole (Lilith), Amanda Lawrence (Doomfinger), and Linda Clark (Bloodtide). Appearances: The Shakespeare Code (2007).

  • The Carrionite sphere is seen again in The Unicorn and the Wasp (by the same author - Gareth Roberts) where it is being held in a locker containing things beginning with the letter 'C'.
  • Prior to this Christina Cole was best known for playing another witch character, in the TV series Hex.
  • The story is full of Shakespeare in-jokes. The three Carrionites are obviously based on Macbeth's Three Weird Sisters.
  • The name derives from carrion - the decaying flesh of dead animals - and the birds which feed upon it, such as ravens and crows, which influence the design of their natural forms.

C is for... Carrington

When the Doctor met General Charles Carrington he was head of security for the UK Space programme. He had previously been an astronaut, and had been the sole survivor of the Mars Probe 6 mission. He and colleague Jim Daniels had encountered a race of aliens on Mars who thrived on radiation, and contact with them had inadvertently killed Daniels. Carrington kept the details of what had happened secret, and developed a pathological hatred for the aliens. He decided on a plan to destroy them.
The aliens abducted the crew of Mars Probe 7, substituting them with two of their kind who would return to Earth in their place to act as ambassadors. The astronaut on the Recovery 7 vessel sent up to make contact with the returning men was likewise abducted.
Carrington knew of the aliens' radio frequency and used it to lure them into a trap. He employed the senior scientist at Space Centre - Bruno Taltalian - to commit acts of sabotage to prevent anyone from knowing what he was doing. He also formed his own mercenary outfit made up of ex-servicemen. They were used to guard the warehouse from where he sent radio signals to the aliens.
When the Probe 7 ship landed, his men helped him to hijack it. When this plan was foiled by the Doctor, who disabled the masked Carrington and his deputy by sticking them to "Bessie" using a forcefield, he adopted a second plan - abducting the aliens from Space Centre under cover of a false fire drill.
The aliens would be kept under guard by another employee - a terrorist named Regan. He would use them to carry out a number of crimes - thefts and killings. The plan was to discredit the aliens, and then to provoke global animosity towards them. He could not see that the aliens would destroy the Earth if their ambassadors were not returned safely to them. He was utterly convinced he had a moral duty to protect the planet from them.
As the alien mothership approached the Earth, Carrington had the Brigadier and his men put under arrest, and prepared for a global TV broadcast to incite hatred towards the aliens.
The Brigadier escaped, and he and the Doctor were able to halt the broadcast. Carrington was placed under arrest, still convinced he had done the right thing.

Played by: John Abineri. Appearances: The Ambassadors of Death (1970).

  • Second of four appearances by John Abineri in the programme. He first featured in Fury From The Deep with Patrick Troughton. He returned in Death to the Daleks, and finally in The Power of Kroll.
  • For me, Abineri will always be best known as Herne The Hunter from Robin of Sherwood, but his most famous role is probably that one as the butler in the Ferrero Rocher advert - ironically set at an Ambassador's Reception.

C is for... Carmen

One of the passengers on the No.200 bus which vanished through a wormhole whilst travelling through a tunnel under the Thames. She was with her husband, Lou. She had low level psychic abilities, able to sense the fate of the planet San Helios, and the approaching alien Swarm. Lou confirmed that she picked winning lottery ticket numbers every week - just the basic £10, but every single week.
Once the bus had returned to London, Carmen had a message for the Doctor. "You be careful, because your song is ending, sir. It is returning, returning through the dark. And then Doctor... oh but then... he will knock four times..."

Played by: Ellen Thomas. Appearances: Planet of the Dead (2009).

  • Carmen sees the end of the Tenth Doctor. The Ood had foretold that his song would end soon. It is Gallifrey that is returning, and it will be Wilf who will knock four times - causing the Doctor to ultimately regenerate.
  • Carmen and Lou never get off the bus whilst on San Helios, so Ellen Thomas and Reginald Tsiboe did not get to travel to Dubai.

C is for... Captain (2)

When Sarah Jane Smith and her young friends Rani and Clyde were lured to an antiques shop by a newspaper article, they met a mysterious man - the Shopkeeper - who had a pet parrot, which he called the Captain. The Shopkeeper sent them all on a quest through history to collect a number of metallic objects. They were made from Chronosteel, forged within the temporal vortex, and all had to be collected together otherwise disaster would befall the cosmos.
On returning to the present day, their mission completed successfully, Sarah and her friends discovered that the Shopkeeper actually worked for the Captain.
Some time later, Sarah discovered a baby abandoned on her doorstep. The girl caused electrical overloads when she cried. The child grew rapidly, and adopted the name Sky. It transpired that she had been bred as a weapon by an alien race of humanoids who were at war with the Metalkind. Sky elected to stay on Earth with Sarah, and it was revealed that it was the Shopkeeper and the Captain who had left the baby for Sarah to look after.

Appearances: SJA 4.5: Lost in Time (2010), and SJA 5.1: Sky (2011).

  • Had the series continued, the Shopkeeper and the Captain would have featured again. Their origins are never explained.

C is for... Captain (1)

When the Vantarialis, the most feared pirate raider in the galaxy, crash-landed on the planet Zanak, its captain was left badly injured. He was saved by the planet's ruler - Xanxia. The whole left side of his body was replaced with cybernetic implants. His ship was cannibalised to construct the Bridge, a mountain-top command centre which overlooked the principal city. Beneath, massive temporal engines were constructed, and the planet was heavily mined. Xanxia died, and the Captain took over the planet. He would announce times of new prosperity, and the populace would see the stars in the sky change as their mines were miraculously replenished.
The Captain was of a fierce temper, and sadistic in nature. He had as a pet a robotic bird of prey - the Polyphase Avatron - which he used to kill subordinates who failed him. A taciturn young nurse looked after him constantly. He had one trusted and loyal underling - Mr Fibuli - but even he was frequently bullied by the Captain.
When the Doctor, Romana and K9 arrived on Zanak, looking for the planet Calufrax in their quest for the Key to Time, they learned the truth about the planet and its leader. The Captain had turned the whole world into one gigantic time ship. It would envelop smaller victim worlds, extinguishing all life so that the resources could be plundered. It transpired that Xanxia was still alive - held in stasis by Time Dams at the moment of her death. The plundering of the other planets was to provide the power she needed to create a new, younger body for herself - that of the nurse. She had control over his cyborg components and had made a slave of him. However, he was secretly working on a means to breach the Time Dams to destroy her and free himself.
The TARDIS was used to sabotage the time engines and prevent Zanak from destroying the Earth. The Captain was heartbroken when Mr Fibuli was killed as the Bridge was crippled. When he attempted to stand up to Xanxia, she destroyed him by self-destructing his cybernetic systems.

Played by: Bruce Purchase. Appearances: The Pirate Planet (1978).

  • His cybernetic body parts give the Captain futuristic equivalents of an eye-patch and a peg-leg, whilst his robot bird acts as an electronic parrot sitting on his shoulder - all attributes of stereotypical literary pirate captains like Long John Silver. Mr Fibuli is the equivalent of Captain Hook's Mr Smee.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ghost Machine - Torchwood 1.3

In which the Torchwood team have detected the use of an alien artefact in the middle of Cardiff city centre. As Tosh guides them from the Hub, the source is identified as coming from a young man. He manages to give Gwen the slip at the railway station, though he leaves his jacket behind. In the pocket, she finds the alien device. She accidentally operates it, and finds herself seeing the station as it was during the last war. A young evacuee emerges, lost. Not only can Gwen see him, but she can feel his fear and loneliness. He has a label on his clothes - Tom Erasmus Flanagan. Whilst she can see the boy, he cannot see her. Suddenly Gwen is back in the present day as Jack and Owen arrive.
Back at the Hub, CCTV is checked and Gwen sees that she did not go anywhere during the encounter with the "ghost". Owen looks up the name of the boy in the phone-book, and finds an address for someone of that name. Gwen and Owen pay him a visit and find him to be an old man. He recalls having arrived in the city as a child - evacuated from London, and he did indeed get separated from his friends at the station. Gwen realises that she had formed a psychic link with the past through the alien device.

The young man who had the device is identified as Sean Harris - known as Bernie. They go to look for him and find out that he is a petty criminal and a loner who is estranged from his mother. Jack decides to replicate what happened to Gwen and so the team head for the station. As they pass under a railway bridge over the river, Owen activates the device. He witnesses a young man and woman, in early 1960's fashions. She is called Lizzie Lewis, and he Eddie Morgan, and he has followed her from a nearby dancehall. When she rejects his advances, he pulls a knife on her... Owen returns to the present, shocked by what he has seen and felt. Back at the Hub, Owen starts to investigate Lizzie's murder, and tracks down Eddie Morgan's address. Jack helps Gwen with her target practice before sending her home to Rhys. She has taken the device with her, and uses it to relive happy memories of her time with her boyfriend. Owen goes to see Eddie and tells him of what he saw under the bridge. Eddie becomes angry and throws him out, but Owen then sees Bernie hanging around outside. He manages to catch him and the others join them in a pub.

It turns out Bernie knows nothing of the device's origins. He found it, and another like it, along with some strange coins and rocks in a lock-up garage. He tells them it activated and he saw a woman, whom he recognised as an old lady now, disposing of a dead baby in the river, and when he confronted her about this she gave him money not to say anything. Bernie reveals that the other part of the device does not show the past. It shows the future, and he has seen himself lying bleeding in the street. Bernie had seen what Owen saw, and had been trying to blackmail Eddie Morgan. As Gwen holds the device, she sees herself covered in blood and holding a knife. She thinks that she has killed Owen.
Eddie has been suffering from mental health problems for a number of years, and has not left his house for a long time, but he decides to go after Bernie armed with a knife. The team manage to stop him from killing the young man, and Owen takes the knife from him. He wants to hurt the old man, after what he had seen him do, but his colleagues talk him out of it. Eddie is glad that he did not kill Bernie and as he goes to hug Gwen he accidentally pierces his heart with the knife she is holding.
Back at the Hub, Jack has Ianto lock the device away.

Ghost Machine was written by Helen Raynor, and was first broadcast on 29th October, 2006. Raynor had been script editing Doctor Who prior to this.
It is a great leap forward after what has been a very shaky start to the series. As with the first two episodes, Gwen has a significant role to play, but this is the first time that the focus also shifts towards Owen Harper.
There's nothing original about having a machine that shows you the future, or the past, but this device has the added function of empathically allowing its user to experience the emotions as well. They feel as well as see.
Principal guest star is Gareth Thomas as Eddie Morgan, best known as Blake in Blake's 7. This was his only appearance in the Doctor Who franchise. He's called upon to play a seedy old man, mentally unbalanced, with a pathological hatred of women - a far cry from the more heroic roles of his youth.
The older version of the evacuee - Tom - is played by John Normington, who will always be remembered by Doctor Who fans for his brilliant portrayal of Morgus in The Caves of Androzani. This was one of his final performances.
The other guest role of note is Ben McKay as Bernie.

Overall, a much stronger episode than what has gone before, with a great guest cast.
Things you might like to know:

  • Jack teaches Gwen how to shoot a gun, after she previously said she had no firearms training. This will be necessary for forthcoming episodes where she's called upon to fire guns. The Hub has its own shooting range - in a rail tunnel.
  • Outside Bernie's flat there is some graffiti on a bin - a letter 'P' in a circle. This is left over from the filming of the Rise of the Cybermen story, as it is the symbol for the Preachers. 
  • When visiting Eddie, Owen uses the fake ID of a gas workman. Amongst his other fake IDs is one for UNIT.
  • He reveals himself to be a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, knowing it was won by a newsreader.
  • Eddie has been prescribed SSRI. At the time of writing, this is being linked with a number of homicides in the UK and USA.
  • One big continuity error - Tosh states that Eddie is claustrophobic, yet later he is said to be agoraphobic.