Am going to be away from the interweb on a visit back home, so no updates for the next week or so. I'll be back on Sunday 6th May with the next half dozen A-Z entries.
See you then.
Wednesday, 25 April 2018
The first of two stories to be written by Don Houghton. He knew script editor Terrance Dicks from their time together on the soap Crossroads. Houghton's principal inspiration was a news story he had read, concerning a drilling scheme which was abruptly abandoned. In 1961, Project Mohole was a joint venture between the American Miscellaneous Society (AMSOC) and the National Science Foundation, and they planned to bore down through the Earth's crust into the Mohorovicic Discontinuity. A site was chosen off the Mexican island of Guadalupe, and new technology was developed to allow the drilling ship to automatically maintain its position within a few hundred feet of the bore hole. The sea bed was 11,700 feet below the ship, and the drill went down some 610 feet into the sediments. The oil companies were naturally very interested in this. However, the project was suddenly called off. Officials were reluctant to give any information as to why this had happened, and AMSOC disbanded a couple of years later, which peeked the interest of conspiracy theorists. What had the scientists found that could have caused them to abandon the project after its initial success? Houghton thought that this might be a good idea for a Doctor Who story. (The official explanation for the abandonment did become available later - money).
Working titles included "Operation Mole-Bore" and "The Mo-Hole Project". Dicks quickly realised that there was not enough material to fill seven episodes. The popular late 60's drama The Troubleshooters, about the oil and gas industry, could manage it thanks to bedroom and boardroom tussles, but these wouldn't do for a family science fiction adventure series. Houghton's initial drafts concentrated solely on the disastrous environmental effects of the drilling project as Professor Stahlman obsessively drilled down to find the gas he believed would solve the nation's energy crisis.
It was Dicks who came up with the trip to a parallel Earth, where we would see what would happen if the work went on unchecked.
Alternative histories (also known as counterfactual histories) have been around in fiction for a very long time. There were a number of books which looked at what Britain might have become had the Nazis won the war. This was also the subject of the film It Happened Here, released in 1963. In 1962, Philip K Dick had published The Man in the High Castle, which depicts an America ruled by the Germans in the East, and by Japan in the West. Other examples of counterfactuals have included stories in which the Roman Empire never fell, or where the South won the American Civil War. These proved popular with the makers of Star Trek, who also did an alternative universe story ("Mirror, Mirror"), but that series had yet to be broadcast in the UK at this time, so can't have influenced the Doctor Who production team.
The alternate Earth of Inferno sees Britain not as a country which lost the last war, but one where perhaps the appeasers won out against those who advocated for war against Hitler's ideological and territorial ambitions back in the late 30's. There was a strong Fascist party in the 1930's - epitomised by Oswald Mosley's Blackshirt movement - and we know that a cabal of Conservative politicians and peers plotted a right wing coup. Edward VIII - the King who never was - was known to be sympathetic towards fascist ideals.
The Britain of Inferno is a republic. When he asks about the Royal Family, the Doctor is told that they were shot. UNIT in this world is replaced with the RSF - Republican Security Force. All of the same people associated both with UNIT and with the drilling project just happen to be in exactly the same positions in the parallel world. The Brigadier is the bullying Brigade Leader (supposedly based on Mussolini), Liz is Section Leader Shaw, and Benton is a Platoon Under-Leader. Stahlman (here Stahlmann) is still leading the project, with Petra Williams at his side. Sir Keith Gold is the ministry man in both versions - though there should be no such thing as a knighthood in the parallel Britain. Drilling expert Greg Sutton is a political prisoner attached to the project here, whilst in our reality he has simply been drafted in to give Sir Keith someone who can explain things to him, and is tolerated by the professor at best.
The one person who does not have a doppelganger is the Doctor himself - suggesting he exists in our universe alone. It won't be until 2008 that an alternative Doctor takes up residence in an alternative universe - the half human one who settles down with Rose.
We haven't mentioned the Primords so far. That's because Houghton didn't mention them either in the beginning. They were added to the story later, to give viewers a monster and to make the seven episodes more interesting and exciting. The name - deriving from "primordial" - are named only in the closing credits for parts five and six, and are never named this on screen.
We mentioned Arthur Conan Doyle's second most famous character creation when looking at The Silurians a couple of weeks ago, citing The Lost World as one of that story's inspirations. Professor Challenger features in another story which is very much an inspiration for Inferno - When the World Screamed. You'll recall that the Doctor claims that if the green liquid were not sealed in its jar it would scream, and he refers to the noise coming from the bore hole as the planet screaming out its rage. This short story was published in 1928, and it features Challenger's attempt to drill down to the mantle in order to prove his theory that the Earth is one giant living organism. His theory is proved correct and the creature is awakened. It shoots out a nasty liquid - just like that mutagenic green slime here.
1965 saw the release of a disaster movie called The Crack in the World, starring Dana Andrews as an obsessive, driven geologist who fails to heed the warnings of his younger colleague. A project to fire an atomic rocket into a bore hole in central Africa, to allow the exploitation of geothermal energy, causes a crack to start splitting the whole planet in two. A second nuclear explosion diverts the crack back towards its source, and the film ends with a huge chunk of Tanganyika being blown into space to become a second Moon. The younger scientist gets the project leader's wife at the end, just as Sutton gets Stahlman's assistant here.
Inferno enjoys a very high reputation amongst fans. Jon Pertwee chose the final episode for inclusion on The Pertwee Years VHS release, and Nicholas Courtney always claimed it was his favourite story. (Courtney's eye-patch story inspired Steven Moffat to have the whole cast wear eye-patch-like eye-drives in The Wedding of River Song, by way of a tribute to Courtney). For DWM's 50th Anniversary poll it was the highest rated Pertwee story, coming in at No.18 overall.
Personally, I do like it but don't rank it that highly. Once the Earth has been destroyed at the conclusion of Episode 6, the final part can be a bit of an anti-climax, as characters repeat things which we saw their alternative selves do a couple of episodes ago, and the Doctor wakes up and hurriedly puts a stop to things.
The making of the story was far from trouble free. The biggest problem was that director Douglas Camfield fell seriously ill after completing the location filming and was part way through the first studio recording block. He had a heart condition. As an experienced director, producer Barry Letts stepped in and completed the block to Camfield's plans. He then had to devise his own plans for the remaining blocks. Camfield's condition was kept quiet, as no-one would have employed him again on insurance grounds. His wife - Sheila Dunn, whom he cast as Petra - forbade him from dong another Doctor Who for several years due to the stress it put him under. The original choice for Miss Williams had actually been Kate O'Mara, but a more attractive job offer from Hammer came along.
Camfield was also permitted to retain the credit for the whole story.
More trouble befell stunt man Alan Chuntz, as he was badly injured in the leg when he failed to jump out of Bessie's way in time. Pertwee was driving, and was incredibly upset by the accident. Another stunt man - Derek Martin - had a joke played on him when his HAVOC team mates swapped his brand new car for a duplicate which they arranged to be smashed up in a faked accident.
The fall from the gasometer by Roy Scammell was the highest ever performed by a stunt man for many years. The character who falls is supposed to be UNIT Private Wyatt, played by Derek Ware, and it is actually Scammell who plays the soldier who shoots him.
One final inspiration before we go has to be yet another mention for the Quatermass serials. We have already pointed out elements from Quatermass II finding their way into Spearhead from Space. The refinery setting here is very reminiscent of scenes from the same serial. The Professor manages to wangle an invite to the Winnerdon Flats complex in the third episode along with the secretive company's PR man Rupert Ward. Ward goes off to investigate one of the chemical tanks by himself, and we see him staggering down a staircase covered in corrosive slime, having fallen into the contents. Scenes with the scientist Bromley and with Private Wyatt look to have been inspired by this.
Inferno proved to be the swan-song for Caroline John as Liz Shaw. Letts had inherited the character and felt that having two know-it-all scientists was a bad combination. The assistant should be younger and, well, dimmer - to ask more questions on behalf of the audience. As it was John was about to resign anyway, as she was pregnant. Letts preempted her, and for many years she thought that she had been gotten rid of because she hadn't been very good. This put her off attending conventions. Sadly, she departs without any kind of farewell scene. This has led some fans to prefer watching this story swapped with the preceding one, where the Doctor sort of hands Liz over to Ralph Cornish at the conclusion.
Next time: Barry Letts finally gets to start making the series the way he wants it, and some significant new characters arrive. The Brigadier gets fatigued, and the Doctor gets a new assistant, as well as a masterful arch enemy...
Tuesday, 24 April 2018
In which the TV news broadcasts a plea from the parents of a missing boy - and he looks exactly like Luke Smith. Ashley Stafford has not been seen since getting on the Bubble Shock bus five months ago, and now his mother and father, Heidi and Jay, are appealing for the public to help find him. Sarah asks Mr Smith to scan Luke, and he confirms that his DNA matches that of Ashley. The computer is unable to say why this was not identified before.
At the Jackson household, Alan has been threatening to move away from the area, concerned by Maria's new lifestyle. He relents on the condition that she tells him what she is up to at all times. Mum Chrissie then arrives, claiming that she has called the police to report Sarah. They arrive and take Luke and Sarah away. Luke is returned to his parents, whilst Sarah uses her UNIT contacts to gain her release.
The experience leaves Sarah bitter, regretting having opened her heart to the boy. This bitterness extends to his friends, as she begins to shun Clyde and Maria. Mr Smith recommends she take up an investigation to take her mind off things. Sarah goes to the Pharos Institute, run by Professor Celestine Rivers. Here she meets the obnoxious child genius Nathan Goss, and witnesses him using a headset derived from alien technology to boost his telekinetic abilities.
Luke, meanwhile, has discovered his "parents" to be cruel and domineering. Maria and Clyde are forbidden from visiting him, and he is locked in his bedroom. Mr Smith asks Sarah to steal the headset so that it can be studied.
It transpires that Heidi and Jay are Slitheen, their compression units now enabling them to fit into much slimmer bodies. Nathan is also a Slitheen - the child whom Luke had previously encountered when the Slitheen infiltrated his school. They have abducted Luke on the orders of the mysterious Xylok. When Clyde goes to the attic and attempts to get Mr Smith to help him he discovers that the computer is Xylok. It dematerialises him - imprisoning him within its systems.
The Xylok is an alien crystalline lifeform, which crashed to Earth centuries ago. Part of it was given to Sarah to help create Mr Smith, having been found after the eruption of Mount Krakatoa. It plans to release the rest of its kind from the depths of the Earth's crust by destroying the planet. Luke's mental abilities far surpass those of Nathan, and he will be used to shift the Moon out of its orbit to collide with the Earth. The headset will allow him to do this. Clyde is able to tap into Mr Smith's systems and contact his friends via the mobile phone network. Computer Programmer Alan has developed a virus which can delete any computer system. He joins Sarah and Maria as they go to the Pharos Institute to stop the Slitheen. They manage to convince them that the Xylok intends to kill them along with everyone else. They give Sarah a teleport device which enables her to return to the attic where Luke is causing the Moon to approach the Earth. She calls upon K9 to attack Mr Smith, then uses the virus to wipe its memory. She gives it a new set of directives - that it must always defend the Earth - and it helps restore the Moon to its orbit. The Slitheen return to Raxacoricofallapatorius.
The Lost Boy was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 12th and 19th November, 2007.
It marked the conclusion to the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and linked directly to the opening story. As such, we have the return of the Slitheen - including the child previously known as Karl. There are also links back to the pilot episode, as it references how Luke had been created by the Bane. Sarah's closing monologue is the same as that from the pilot episode.
Not only does Mr Smith, voiced by Alexander Armstrong, have more of a role to play, it turns out that it is the villain of the piece.
K9 (voiced as usual by John Leeson) makes another cameo appearance, having been seen briefly in the pilot.
The Slitheen no longer have to confine themselves to bodies of a fuller frame, but they are still out for revenge. The child had previously seen his father killed because of Sarah and her friends. One very minor gripe for this first season is the similarity of the threats. In the first story, the Slitheen had targeted the Sun rather than the Moon, and in the Trickster story the Earth had been threatened by another collision - this time a comet.
The main guest artist is Floella Benjamin as Professor Rivers. She came to fame for her children's TV work, including Play School and Play Away. A Liberal Democrat life peer, she is now a Baroness and was awarded an OBE in 2001.
The human Slitheen are played by Jay Simpson (Jay) and Holly Atkins (Heidi). Nathan is Ryan Watson. Their natural Slitheen counterparts are Paul Kasey, Ruari Mears and Jimmy Vee.
Overall, another very good episode of the spin-off series. The first episode is really quite dark and unsettling. The standard has been high throughout. The Sarah Jane Adventures managed a consistent level of quality which even the parent programme could rarely sustain.
Things you might like to know:
- In the police station we see Sarah's UNIT file - and it contains a photograph of her from The Monster of Peladon. Quite how UNIT could have obtained a picture taken in Aggedor's temple on an alien planet is never explained. Surely a photo from one of the half dozen UNIT stories she appeared in would have been more sensible.
- The UNIT dating conundrum is referenced as the file fails to pin down when Sarah was with them.
- The story title was deliberately chosen to mirror the book by Dave Pelzer, who wrote a series of autobiographical works based on his abusive childhood.
- The Pharos Institute was named after the Pharos Project which appeared in Logopolis.
Sunday, 22 April 2018
A diverse range of reptilian species which dominated life on Earth for millions of years, dying out almost overnight around 65 million years ago.
The Doctor was hoping to encounter some when the TARDIS arrived on the island of Atlantis in the late 20th Century. He would not meet any until he was into his third incarnation and in exile on Earth, however.
UNIT was called in to investigate strange events at a scientific research centre built into a cave system in Derbyshire. Two of the centre's scientists had gone pot-holing and were attacked by a large savage reptile. One was killed, and the other driven insane.
When the Doctor investigated the scene of the incident he was also attacked, and recognised the creature as a form of dinosaur - its species unknown to him. It was prevented from killing him when it was called away by a sonic signal. The Doctor deduced that it was some kind of guard, and that there were two different reptile species living in the caves - the dinosaur and a smaller bipedal race who had some advanced science. These latter were the Silurians, who had once been the dominant life-form on the planet. They had gone into hibernation millions of years ago to avoid a catastrophe when a small planetoid threatened to tear away the atmosphere as it passed close to the Earth.
The Silurians were forced to return to hibernation when the research centre appeared to be about to explode, and presumably their dinosaur guard would have gone into suspended animation with them.
After his exile had been lifted, the Doctor and companion Jo Grant found themselves on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. This was the SS Bernice, which had famously vanished in 1926. They witnessed the vessel come under attack from a Plesiosaur. The ship was actually being held as an exhibit in a machine on an alien planet. It is not known if the dinosaur had been picked up from a different point in time and placed into the same exhibit, or if it really had attacked the ship in 1926 and the two had been scooped up together.
Returning to the 20th Century from Medieval England with new companion Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor found London to be deserted. Investigating a looters' lair, they were attacked by a Pterodactyl. Fleeing arrest by the army, who had placed the city under martial law, they then encountered a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Reunited with UNIT, the Doctor and Sarah learned that a number of dinosaur species had been appearing and disappearing throughout Central London over the last few weeks. Other species included the Stegosaurus, Triceratops and the Apatosaurus (described by Sgt Benton as a Brontosaurus).
These creatures were being brought to the 20th Century by a scientist named Whitaker, as part of a plan to evacuate London in order that a more audacious scheme could be carried out unhindered. Whitaker was part of a group who intended to roll back time to a perceived golden age, free of technology and pollution. Only a few hand-picked individuals would be permitted to accompany them - people who had been duped into thinking they were going to a new planet.
The Doctor attempted to capture one of the dinosaurs so that he could identify where the time travel technology was operating from - only for his efforts to be hampered by Captain Mike Yates, who was a member of the group. Sarah was almost killed when a captive Tyrannosaurus woke up, its chains having been sabotaged.
The Doctor put a stop to the plan, but Whitaker and the group's leader - MP Sir Charles Grover - were sent back to an unspecified time in history.
The next two dinosaur creatures encountered by the Doctor were actually genetically engineered. The Skarasen was not a native species at all, originating on the Zygon homeworld, whilst the Myrka was an unknown aquatic reptile, adapted for use as a weapon by the Sea Devils. It thrived in the deepest oceans and was susceptible to ultra-violet light. Its body carried a powerful electric charge which could kill a human.
The Rani admired the dinosaurs, and had her Time Manipulator scheme worked on the planet Lakertya she might have returned the Earth to the time of the creatures to see how they would have evolved had they not been wiped out. Earlier, she had kept a number of Tyrannosaurus embryos in glass jars in the console room of her TARDIS. When the Doctor sabotaged the ship, sending it hurtling into the future out of control, Time Spillage occurred, and the embryos began to rapidly grow - threatening her and the Master.
When River Song failed to kill the Doctor at Lake Silencio, it created an alternative world in which all of history existed at the same moment in time. Pterodactyls flew over the streets of London, nesting in the parks. People were advised not to feed them as they were regarded as little more than flying vermin.
In the year 2367, a large spaceship was found to be on a collision course with the Earth. The Indian Space Agency called on the Doctor for help. He put together a team of friends, including companions Amy and Rory Williams, and went to investigate. The ship proved to be an Ark, launched into space by the Silurians at the same time that they had gone into hibernation on Earth. It was now on its automated return journey - its Silurian crew having been murdered by the trader Solomon.
On board the ship were a number of different dinosaur species, including Ankylosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodons and Velociraptors. A Triceratops became quite friendly with Rory's dad, Brian, even playing fetch with him. The Doctor, Rory and Brian rode on the creature's back to escape from Solomon's robot servants. It was later killed by one of the robots on Solomon's orders. The Doctor managed to stop the authorities from destroying the Ark with a missile strike and sent the spaceship off to a new uninhabited planet where the dinosaurs could live, which he named "Siluria".
Following his next regeneration, the Doctor was unable to control the TARDIS and it crash-landed on prehistoric Earth. The ship was swallowed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was then brought forward in time to the late Victorian era when the ship dematerialised whilst still inside it. The Silurian detective Madam Vastra knew how to placate the creature, which was confined to the Thames by the Houses of Parliament. The Doctor planned on taking the dinosaur home, but it was killed by the Half-Face Man - a clockwork 'droid who required a piece of its optic nerve to repair his own systems. The Doctor deduced that the 'droids must have crashed on Earth at the time of the dinosaurs for them to have known this would be compatible.
During his fifth incarnation, the Doctor and his companions found themselves in a cave system full of dinosaur fossils. He told Tegan and Nyssa of the theories surrounding how the creatures came to be extinct, including the impact of a massive asteroid onto the Earth's surface. He stated that he had always meant to travel back and find out for himself. Subsequent events would allow him to witness what had really happened. It was not an asteroid which hit the Earth, but a space freighter from the 26th Century whose guidance systems had been overridden by the Cybermen. His young companion Adric had attempted to disconnect this device, causing the ship to hurtle back through time some 65 million years. Adric perished in the collision which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, and ultimately to the evolution of the human race.
Appearances: The Silurians (1970), Carnival of Monsters (1973), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), Earthshock (1982), Warriors of the Deep (1984), Mark of the Rani (1985), The Wedding of River Song (2011), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012), Deep Breath (2014).
A young man from Alabama who was visiting the Empire State Building in New York in 1966 when it saw the landing of the TARDIS, followed soon after by the arrival of a pursuing Dalek time machine. Morton was on his own when the TARDIS materialised. Seeing four people emerge from the ship, he assumed them to be making a movie - having seen lots of people come out of a small space in Keystone Kop films. He was about to take a photograph when the TARDIS dematerialised, but it was quickly followed by the landing of the Dalek craft. Again, he assumed this must be part of a movie, and he found the Daleks' appearance hilarious. He managed to miss another photo opportunity as they departed. When the rest of his tour party came back to join him, they found him trying to find a concealed trap door. Fearing he had gone mad, the tour guide was worried he might jump from the building and went to fetch help.
Played by: Peter Purves. Appearances: The Chase (1965).
- Morton appears in the third episode only - Flight Through Eternity.
- Purves had previously auditioned to be a Menoptra for director Richard Martin but had been unsuccessful. Martin took note of him, though, and cast him as Morton. The production team were looking for someone to play the new male companion, astronaut Steven Taylor - to be introduced at the end of The Chase. Martin and producer Verity Lambert were impressed with Purves and so offered him the more substantial second role over a drink in "Studio 3" - the nickname for the pub close to Riverside Studios.
The inhabitants of the planet Dido were described by the Doctor as friendly, peace-loving race. They cherished life as they were few in number. On a second visit to the planet he was therefore surprised to hear that one of them had attacked Ian and Barbara. This was an individual named Koquillion, who appeared to be an insectoid creature, armed with a bejewelled club. The Doctor recognised this implement not as a weapon but a building tool, which the Didonians had just developed on his last visit. He knew that Koquillion was really a human in disguise, as the Dido People were actually humanoid. The monstrous garb worn by Koquillion - really an Earthman named Bennett - was a ceremonial mask and robes, used in their ritual rites only.
When a spaceship from Earth crashed on the planet, the locals people welcomed the survivors as friends. A great feast was organised, but Bennett waited until everyone was gathered before blowing them up. This was to hide the fact that he had committed a murder on the spaceship. A girl named Vicki was left alive to provide him with an alibi, and he pretended to be Koquillion so that she would testify as to the cruelty of the Didonians. Bennett believed he had killed all of the locals, but as he was about to murder the Doctor two of them appeared in their shrine. Terrified, he fled and fell to his death in a ravine. The Didonians took the unconscious Doctor to the TARDIS, then destroyed the radio beacon which was guiding a rescue ship to the planet - determined that no more humans should ever plague their world.
Played by: John Stuart and Colin Hughes. Appearances: The Rescue (1965).
Thursday, 19 April 2018
There will be a number of stories during the Pertwee era where topical issues have found their way into the writing, but the topicality of The Ambassadors of Death was unplanned.
On the afternoon of 11th April, 1970, Apollo 13 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre. Two days later the Service Module was damaged by an exploding oxygen tank. The planned lunar landing had to be aborted, and the three man crew were forced to use the Landing Module as though it were a lifeboat. They survived, and succeeded in returning to Earth on 17th April.
On 21st March, 1970, this Doctor Who story opened, and it was being broadcast through the period when the world was avidly watching as the Apollo 13 drama play out.
This story opens with a manned space mission going wrong. This is a mission to Mars rather than the Moon, however. The Probe 7 ship is on its way back to Earth, and Mission Control have lost contact with its crew. A Recovery vessel is sent up to rendezvous with it - and contact is lost with that as well.
The opening sequence features actor Michael Wisher - the first on screen appearance for the future Davros - acting as a sort of Greek Chorus, setting the scene without resorting to clumsy info-dumps. He's a TV presenter, based in Mission Control. By now the audience would be used to seeing this sort of environment, as the Apollo programme was in full swing.
The spaceship sequences are made to look as authentic as possible, with craft clearly based on the real thing - again because the viewers now knew what spacecraft looked like. They are backed with a piece of Dudley Simpson music which sounds as if it might have been inspired by Procul Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale - which was in turn inspired by Bach. 2001: A Space Odyssey had popularised the notion that classical music went with spaceships.
Once again UNIT are already involved in the proceedings, and the Brigadier is present in the control room. The Doctor, meanwhile, has managed to get the TARDIS console out of the Police Box shell, in order to carry out repairs and try to get it working again.
The previous story had been the first to be entirely TARDIS free (barring Mission to the Unknown).
The new production team did not want to have to use up studio space with the Police Box prop, or with the console room set, hence the free-standing console. It was never explained how the console could be separated from the ship.
The Doctor gets involved in the main plot after seeing the Brigadier on TV, and then hearing a bizarre signal which is broadcast to Mission Control.
The story is credited to David Whitaker, the show's original Story Editor, and it is his last work for the programme. He was asked by Derrick Sherwin and Terrance Dicks to come up with a "First Contact" storyline. Earlier titles included "Invaders from Mars" and "Carriers of Death". Once again, to minimise costs, this would be another 7 part story.
The work which Whitaker submitted was not deemed right for the new format. He was asked to do rewrites, but these were also rejected. Dicks and his assistant Trevor Ray helped as best they could, virtually rewriting the first section in order to steer Whitaker onto the correct course. Whitaker was in the process of moving from the UK so was unable to keep up with what was being asked of him, and eventually it was decided that Malcolm Hulke should be brought in to complete the bulk of the story.
What we can credit to Whitaker is the concept of aliens substituting astronauts with their ambassadors in order to make contact with the Earth authorities, and their subsequent capture and manipulation by a criminal. It was his idea that the alien ambassadors would be unwitting killers, owing to their radioactive touch - hence the "Carriers of Death" working title.
The xenophobic General Carrington being the brains behind the abduction, we can ascribe to Hulke.
Carrington's irrational fear of the unlike is typical Hulke material. Many of his stories deal with topical issues such as immigration and race relations.
The story's troubled development may explain why characters suddenly vanish after the opening couple of episodes - such as Carrington's mustachioed second-in-command - and the gangster Reegan's appearance from out of nowhere in Episode 3.
New producer Barry Letts was unhappy with the 7 episode format. True, it was money-saving. He only needed three lots of costumes and three lots of sets for his first season, but he was denied more "first nights". It was believed that the opening episode of a new story attracted more viewers, as they tuned in to see what new planets and aliens were on offer. Casual viewers then drifted away, perhaps returning for the conclusion only.
The longer stories were also harder to maintain, plot-wise. This is why we have mid-story diversions, just to pad things out and offer something fresh for the regular viewers. Last time it was a plague subplot, and this time we get to see the Doctor make a solo space flight to find out what happened to the real astronauts. He is taken aboard the alien mothership and meets its commander, learning about the ambassadors switch - and that the aliens will destroy the Earth if they are not returned unharmed. The actors who play the real astronauts also play their alien counterparts, hidden in their spacesuits.
Some reused props on show here. The interior of the space capsule was a co-production with the Doomwatch series, to reduce costs. It was also seen in their episode Re-Entry Forbidden, broadcast only a few days before it was first seen here. The spacesuit helmets originated from the 1969 Hammer film Moon Zero Two. This had been a Western in Space, its plot based on a Gold Rush scenario.
As well as the various writers involved in this production, what we see on screen can also in part be put down to the director, Michael Ferguson, and to the stunt team of HAVOC. Ferguson had worked on the series since the first Dalek story. Indeed, you could say he was the first Dalek, as it was he who threatened Jacqueline Hill with a plunger in the first cliffhanger, and it was his gloved hand which emerged from beneath the Thal cloak for the third one. That hand also tapped Carole Ann Ford on the shoulder in the petrified forest. HAVOC was led by Derek Ware. He had also been involved in the series from its earliest days - indeed he was there at the Ealing pre-filming for the first story.
The script called for a shoot-out in a warehouse, and for the hijacking of a convoy carrying the space capsule. A few lines on paper became major stunt set-pieces - especially the hijacking. As written, the lorry was to have been stopped, its occupants knocked out, and the vehicle driven off by the villains.
What we get includes motorbike spills and a helicopter dropping gas grenades, with Ware hanging onto and then falling off the skids. One of the motorbike stunts went out of control and the bike hit a member of the production team - Director's Assistant Pauline Silcock. She later lent her name to one of the disguises for Reegan's van. (The other was the AFM Margot Hayhoe).
The whole sequence sent the production over budget. Letts learned a valuable lesson when Ferguson pointed out that, as producer, it was his job to hold the director back.
As mentioned above, Reegan suddenly appears in the third episode, to become General Carrington's chief henchman. He actually seems to forget about his boss' plans, and sees the alien ambassadors as a way to make money - robbing banks etc. He's played by William Dysart, who had featured briefly in The Highlanders. His accent is hard to place, and it has been stated that he and his team were supposed to have been Irish - basically members of a paramilitary group such as the IRA. This was evidently felt to be too strong a reference and was dropped, making him a more generic gangster.
Talking of accents, Professor Taltalian sports ze most outrageous Fronch acczent since Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We won't hear the like again until Anthony Ainley attempts to convince us that he is Sir Gilles Estram.
There's a 1967 episode of The Avengers called The Positive-Negative Man which we need to mention before we close. A man named Hayworth wears rubber boots to insulate himself as he can discharge powerful electric bolts by touch. He goes round killing people, and breaking into safes. Some of the imagery from this episode has clearly made its way into this.
Finally, we welcome the return of UNIT's Benton, now a sergeant. He doesn't show up until quite late in the proceedings - hence his absence from the pre-filmed exterior stuff such as the Brigadier's attack on the underground bunker to free the Doctor and Liz. That's because he was only drafted in because director Douglas Camfield wanted to use John Levene in his upcoming story.
Next time: The Doctor sees double after parallel parking the TARDIS...