Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Story 101 - The Androids of Tara

In which the Doctor decides to do a spot of fishing - and leaves Romana to collect the fourth segment of the Key to Time. They have arrived on the apparently tranquil planet of Tara. Romana dons an appropriate costume from the TARDIS stores, and locates the segment quickly - part of a statue. As she converts it, she is attacked by a savage creature that pounces out of the woods. She is rescued by Count Grendel of Gracht, whose lands these are. He is intrigued by her - and insists on taking her to his castle. She has injured her ankle and he offers medical help. He also wants her to register the strange crystal shape she is holding. He is worried that the statue has a piece missing. It is a local legend that the statue reflects the fortunes of his family, so damage implies some misfortune.
The Doctor's fishing is interrupted by the arrival of two soldiers, armed with electric rapiers. They are General Vadek, Captain of the Royal Guard, and his officer Farrah. They take him to a hunting lodge where he meets Prince Reynart. The Doctor learns that Reynart is about to be crowned king, but his life is at risk from his most powerful noble - Count Grendel. The Count will do everything in his power to stop Reynart reaching the throne room at his appointed hour. Failure to do so means forfeiting the crown.

There is a non-functioning android replica of the Prince at the lodge, which Zadek hopes can be used as a decoy. Tara suffered a terrible plague which wiped out millions, and so they turned to androids for a labour force. At Castle Gracht, Grendel and his android specialist Madam Lamia are shocked to discover that Romana is not a duplicate. She is the double of Princess Strella, who is second in line to the throne. The Count already has the real Princess under lock and key. Grendel drugs the lodge's wine supply and abducts the Prince as well. The Doctor must get the Reynart android operational so that it can be crowned - giving them time to rescue the real one. They succeed - and the Doctor thwarts an assassination attempt by Grendel who had prepared a deadly android copy of Strella.

A plan to kill the Doctor using an android of Romana fails - resulting only in the death of Lamia. Grendel hatches a new scheme. Prince Reynart will be forced to marry Strella - really Romana. The new King will die shortly after his nuptials. Grendel will then step in to marry the grieving widow, who will herself then suddenly expire - leaving Grendel undisputed ruler. Romana and Reynart are forced to go along with this as the Count threatens to kill the real Strella if they don't. The Doctor, Zadek, Farrah and their men break into the Castle with K9's assistance and stop the sham wedding. The Doctor and the Count duel - the Doctor winning. Grendel leaps into the moat - preferring to live to fight another day. Reynart and Strella are freed. Apart from Grendel, everyone lives very happily ever after...

This four part swashbuckler was written by David Fisher, and was broadcast between 25th November and 16th December, 1978.
The story influence is an obvious one - Anthony Hope's classic novel The Prisoner of Zenda. ("The Androids of Zenda" was even a working title). In this, an English traveller in the Mittel-European country of Ruritania stumbles upon court intrigue. He is the exact double for the king, who some dastardly nobleman has kidnapped on the eve of his coronation. Naturally, he finds himself having to impersonate the royal. Sound familiar? The plot here is pretty much Zenda but with androids and futuristic versions of traditional weapons. The rapiers have electric stings and the crossbows fire energy bolts.
Both the regulars are well-served - Tom Baker getting some very funny lines, whilst Mary Tamm gets to play multiple roles. She is Romana, an android Romana, Strella and an android Strella. It's a pity that Strella is so like Romana, personality wise - she doesn't get the chance to play someone really different.

Grendel is played magnificently by Peter Jeffrey, who had previously been the Co-Pilot in The Macra Terror. A lesser actor could have really gone over the top and hammed it up, but Jeffrey pitches it just right.
Zadek is Simon Lack, who had featured briefly in Mind of Evil. Farrah is Paul Lavers. There is some nice interplay between him, Lack and Baker. Reynart is Neville Jason, who takes things a bit too earnestly. Madam Lamia is Lois Baxter, who is a little underused.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor  and his new friends discover their wine has been drugged. The Doctor staggers to the door - to find Count Grendel waiting...
  2. Princess Strella approaches the newly crowned King to swear fealty. The Doctor suddenly seizes a sceptre and launches an attack on her - to the horror of the assembled guests...
  3. Grendel casts a lance through the android Reynart and runs off. The Doctor discovers he has also recaptured Romana.
  4. The Castle is taken, the Key segment retrieved, and the King and his Princess reunited. K9, however, is cast drift in a boat in the moat.

Overall, a good old fashioned adventure yarn. Nice performances and a witty script.
Things you might like to know:

  • The location filming took place at Leeds Castle in Kent. Visit today and you won't see any Germanic turrets and minarets. These were added during filming using a painted glass matte.
  • The Androids of Tara sees the last appearance in Doctor Who of actor Cyril Shaps. He first appeared as Viner, who insisted all over the place, in Tomb of the Cybermen. He returned twice in the Pertwee era - first as Lennox in The Ambassadors of Death, and then as Professor Clegg in Planet of the Spiders. In Tara, he played the Archimandrite, who officiates at both the coronation and the sham wedding. Shaps continued working up until a year before he died - in London on 1st January 2003, aged 79.
  • Early drafts had the horses mechanical and able to fly.
  • Bizarrely, there is a short story sequel to this adventure - in which Grendel recruits the Kandy Man in his plans for revenge. This is what happens when continuity references are allowed to go too far... 
  • Pay attention to the opening titles and you will see these ones differ from the normal pattern. Usually it is story title, written by, then part number. Here the latter two are reversed.
  • The once ubiquitous John Barrowman has been known to turn up on home shopping channel QVC, selling his sponsored wares. Did you know that Paul Lavers was one of the original line up of presenters on rival channel Ideal World? You didn't? And now you wish you still didn't?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The mechanical men of that densely wooded region near Nottingham...

Easter is almost upon us. Most years since 2005, that would have meant the big publicity build up to a new series (or half of one). A good time instead to take a look at what we know about Series 8 I think.
Most of the first half of the series is in the can. As with previous series, more is known about some episodes than others - usually thanks to location filming, or to guest artists having a problem keeping schtum on the various social media.
Episode 1 is, naturally, written by Steven Moffat. We know that it is set in late Victorian times and sees the return of the Paternoster Gang. If they don't have the sonic devices created by Blue Peter competition winners, then we will know the Gang feature in more than one episode. Scenes on location that were reported in the news featured Capaldi in his nightshirt riding a horse. Some newspapers stated that the villain would be Jack the Ripper. We know that can't be the case as Jack was killed by Madam Vastra back in Series 6. A black clad, wan-faced gentleman was seen on location. Interestingly, his top hat was covered in those little coloured balls that the CGI folk use. The director of this story, and the next one, is Ben Wheatley. Wheatley's regular actor Michael Smiley will be playing Colonel Blue in one of these stories.
Episode 2 is written by Phil Ford. He offered the cryptic "behind enemy lines" to describe his tale.

Coming soon to another  forest near you...
If the second episode is a bit of a mystery, rather a lot seems to be slipping out about Episode 3. The writer is Mark Gatiss. A couple of weeks ago some story titles were being bandied about on the old interweb. One ran along the lines of the title of this post - in not so many words. It may have seemed like an odd title but then one of the actors put on his CV that he would be playing Alan-a-Dale - as in one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. The real Robin might have been based upon a number of genuine historical figures, but the classic line-up of Merry Men we are used to is purely fictional. So the first part of the story title makes some sense.
Tom Riley (Da Vinci's Demons) guest stars. Working out who he might be playing seems very obvious. If he is RH, then I'll hazard a guess that Trevor Cooper (Revelation of the Daleks) could be a certain rotund friar. News came in yesterday that Ben Miller will be playing the villain. One website is foolishly predicting he might be the Master. Isn't the Sheriff of Nottingham a more obvious possibility?
Whatever the case, it's all being directed by Paul Murphy.

Episodes 4 & 5  are directed by Douglas Mackinnon. 4 is written by Moffat.
5 is written by Steve Thompson. This is the one featuring Keeley Hawes as Miss Delphox, and it is set on a strange and perplexing planet.
Location filming took place around Cardiff for one (or both) of these stories. A black clad figure with electronic implants on his face was seen, along with some oddly dressed extras, down in Cardiff Bay - an android perhaps? A Minotaur-like alien was also seen roaming a park in Bute.
We know that there is going to be new regular / recurring character named Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) in the series. He is supposed to be a fellow employee of Coal Hill School. However, he has been seen during this particular phase of filming with grey hair, and wearing the red Sanctuary Base spacesuit, worn by the Doctor between Series 2 - 7. Capaldi was also seen filming scenes with him - with those coloured CGI balls covering his chest.
The most recent episode to be filmed is Episode 6. The director is Paul Murphy once again, and it is written by Gareth Roberts.
It sees the return, after a long absence, of Jimmy Vee - Bannakaffalatta, the Space Pig, the Moxx of Balhoon as well as junior Slitheen in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Location filming saw Capaldi wearing a brown lab coat - the sort your woodwork teacher used to wear when I was a lad. There was the first glimpse of the new Sonic. Two aliens seen - one played by Vee and a blue eyed thing seen only in the shadows.

And that's it so far. Nothing overly spoilery. No returning monsters known yet. Will Capaldi demand Daleks in his first series? Will there be a new Master? How many fellow Exec-Producers will Moffat run through? How much longer will he be sticking around?
To be honest, we don't even know how many episodes there will be. Moffat has said "at least 13". Might be 13 plus a Christmas Special - or the 13th will fall on December 25th.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Story 100 - The Stones of Blood

In which the Doctor and Romana head for Earth in search of the third segment of the Key to Time. The locator brings the TARDIS to the tranquil Cornish countryside - Boscombe Moor, not far from the Nine Travellers stone circle. The wand seems to point to the circle, but the signal is slightly confused. The Doctor and Romana meet the renowned archaeologist Professor Amelia Rumford and her friend Vivien Fay, who are surveying the neolithic monument. The Professor informs them that the circle gets its name from a curious legend - that some of the stones have apparently moved position over the centuries. Whilst Romana goes back to the ship to don more practical apparel, the Doctor decides to pay a visit to Hugo De Vries - the local squire. At his home, he learns that the squire is a follower of Druidic practices. In particular, his group worship the ancient Celtic goddess Cailleach. De Vries drugs the Doctor and he wakes to find himself back at the stone circle, about to be sacrificed. Romana meanwhile has been lured away by what she believes to be the Doctor. Professor Rumford returns to the circle and her approach scares off De Vries and his followers. She frees the Doctor and he calls upon K9 to track Romana. She has been pushed off a cliff by the Doctor-apparition. She is rescued, and the Doctor suggests that someone has found a way to make use of the third Key segment - enabling them to alter perception and trick Romana.

They go to De Vries' home and find him dead. His body is horribly crushed and yet there is little blood. The Doctor had earlier noticed some portraits were missing from the hall. These are found in the cellars. All show women who have been quite powerful in the neighbourhood over the centuries, owning the land on which the stone circle lies. All bear a remarkable resemblance to Vivien Fay... They are attacked by Ogri - silicon-based lifeforms resembling monoliths, from the planet Ogros. These have been hidden within the circle for millennia - the source of the local legend. They feed on blood. K9 is badly damaged. The Doctor topples one of the Ogri into the sea.
The Doctor realises that Fay is an alien who has been living here since the circle was erected, probably to mark the location of her spaceship which is stranded in Hyperspace above the monument - hidden in another dimension of Space. Fay has been disguising herself as the Cailleach. She captures Romana and transports her to the spacecraft. K9 is repaired and the Doctor builds a device that will enable him to follow his companion. K9 must protect the Professor, who is shown how to bring him back again.

The spaceship proves to be a prison vessel. Romana is released, but the Doctor inadvertently frees a pair of Megara from one of the cells. These are bio-mechanical justice machines. They had been due to try the criminal Cessair of Diplos for a multitude of crimes - including theft of the Great Seal of Diplos. The Doctor realises that Fay is Cessair. She escaped to Earth when the craft became stranded here. Breaking the seal on their cell turns out to be a crime which the Megara must prosecute - and the Doctor finds himself on trial for his life. Megara are blindly logical and act as judge, jury and executioner. The Doctor calls Cessair as a witness in the hope that the machine creatures will recognise her as their prisoner. He fails, but when the Megara try to kill him, he pulls her into harm's way. She is knocked out. The Megara check that she is okay and in doing so discover her true identity. All travel down to the stone circle. The Ogri will be returned to their own planet. Cessair is sentenced to be transformed into a megalith. The Doctor snatches her pendant first - having realised it is the disguised third segment. Before the Megara can take action against him, he uses it to despatch them back to their own world. Back in the TARDIS, the Key is now semi-complete.

This four part adventure was written by David Fisher, and was broadcast between 28th October and 18th November, 1978. It is the 100th Doctor Who story, and the programme's 15th anniversary fell a few days after the fourth episode screened.
These significant landmarks were to be celebrated in a small opening scene where the Doctor was celebrating his own birthday. Producer Graham Williams vetoed the scene as too self-indulgent and a rather dull recap scene was devised in a plain black room - to remind viewers of the season story arc so far.
Neolithic monuments - especially circles - have fascinated writers for centuries. Many authors before and since have looked to supernatural or science fiction angles to them. For instance, the final Quatermass story had them being used by an ancient unseen alien intelligence as collection points to feed off humanity. E F Benson tells a tale of a cottage built at the heart of a huge circle which is visited by the ghosts of long dead Druids, out for further bloody sacrifices. Vivien's surname - Fay - hints at Arthurian legend. The latter part of the story, which jars somewhat with what has gone before, takes its influences from courtroom drama.

A very small cast - three of the four main guest artists being women. Cessair is played by Susan Engel. She is polite and friendly, though a little cold, as Vivien Fay. Once transformed into Cessair, her evil is restrained and not too over the top (compare with Lady Adrasta in the following season). The highlight of the story is Beatrix Lehmann as the feisty and formidable Professor Rumford, who makes for a great double act with K9. She is a joy to watch. There's not enough of her in the latter section of the story. Elaine Ives-Cameron is De Vries' fellow Druid, Martha. He is played by Nicholas McArdle. The latter pair don't make it past Part Two.
Episode endings are:

  1. Romana is lured towards the cliff by what she thinks is the Doctor. She is pushed over the edge...
  2. Vivien Fay, in Cailleach costume, pushes Romana into the centre of the circle. She operates a strange electronic lance device, and Romana vanishes...
  3. Fay - now transformed into Cessair - appears on the spaceship with two Ogri. She tells the Doctor and Romana that they are trapped here in hyperspace forever...
  4. The Doctor tries to fit the three Key segments together but doesn't quite have the knack - so Romana does it for him.

Overall, a very enjoyable story. I prefer the stuff on Earth with the stone circle - and Amelia Rumford. One of my very favourite guest characters. Just what is her relationship with / to Vivien Fay...? There is much speculation in certain quarters.
It loses its way a bit with the move to the spaceship and the legal nonsense. The Megara make for a very cheap monster, being nothing but CSO'd flashing lights.
Things you might like to know:

  • We see a dead Wirrn in the spaceship, and Romana is locked up with a Kraal android. One that looks as if it is wearing lipstick. Other creatures, including a Sea Devil, were also to have appeared.
  • The location filming took place at the Rollright Stones near Long Compton, on the Oxfordshire / Warwickshire border. The complex actually comprises three different monuments - the King's Men, the King Stone, and the Whispering Knights. It is the King's Men which features prominently in this story - supplemented by a few light-weight BBC prop stones.
  • People coming to watch the filming were bemused to see Tom Baker and K9 doing the crossword together. John Leeson was based in an OB van some distance away, but his voice was piped to the location. Tom would sit by the K9 prop and to anyone watching it looked as though it was really talking to him.
  • Season 16 is one of only a handful of seasons where Earth is visited only once.
  • This is the only story of the Key to Time arc where there does appear to be an agent of the Black Guardian at work, before we get to the concluding story. The Graff Vynda-K, The Captain, Grendel and Thawn all appear to have no inkling of the bigger picture. Cessair seems to be able to harness the third segment's powers.
  • The sequence where a couple of campers (played by James Murray and Shirin Taylor) are killed by the Ogri was a late addition - partly for timing purposes but also to make the threat of the Ogri more explicit.
  • The house used as location for De Vries' house was actually a college. Students stole the TARDIS prop for a joke.
  • The recent audio-book of the novelisation - by David Fisher - makes use of a totally revised version, rather than that published in 1980 in paperback.
  • Gerald Cross, who voiced one of the Megara, also provided (uncredited) the voice for the White Guardian in Part One.
  • Apparently Honor Blackman was approached about playing Fay / Cessair - but turned it down as Beatrix Lehmann had all the best lines.
  • Lehmann knew that John Leeson was a keen photographer (he took photos of actors for the Spotlight directory as a side-line) and gifted him a rare vintage camera.
  • The Druids were wiped out by the Romans in the First Century AD (or CE as some have it these days). Their last stronghold was in the island of Anglesey in North Wales. Those bearded muppets who turn up at Stonehenge every June 21st represent nothing more than some 17th Century neo-pagan revival. That or a range of mental health issues. New Age nonsense I calls it. Claim to be in tune with the natural forces of the Earth. Ever seen the amount of rubbish they leave behind after their gatherings? (God, you hit 50 and suddenly you're an old reactionary...).

Sunday, 30 March 2014

R.I.P. The Rani

Very sorry to hear that Kate O'Mara has died, aged 74, after a short illness. Whilst the Rani stories were never among my favourites, I did like Kate and enjoyed her performances. She was no stranger to fantasy roles. I just happened to watch Hammer's The Vampire Lovers last night, in which she features.
The Rani is one of those characters that fans often clamour to see returning. Sadly, should it ever happen, it won't be with Kate.

This comes on the same day that it was announced that classic series director Derek Martinus (The Tenth Planet, The Ice Warriors, Spearhead From Space) passed away.

R.I.P. to both.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Figurine Collection - 24.3.14

Today, the latest additions to the Doctor Who Figurine Collection arrived chez moi. Once again, please don't pay too much attention to the colour in the photos - it's the type of lighting in my house that tends to distort the colour. Figures are always more subtly hued in natural light.
The two regular releases are the Fourth Doctor as seen in Pyramids of Mars; and the skull-in-a-spacesuit Vashta Nerada from Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead. According to the accompanying magazine, it is specifically Proper Dave.
Whilst I admire the attention to detail in the figurines, actual human likenesses don't always look quite right. I never thought Rassilon looked like Timothy Dalton, for instance. Tom Baker doesn't bear too close scrutiny. My model looks as though he has nasty duelling scars down both cheeks.
Alongside these regular items, we also get the second of the special (i.e. bigger and more expensive) releases  - the last one being the TARDIS from The Eleventh Hour onwards. This time it is a rather impressive Slitheen - looking far better than they ever did on TV. The first big new monster of the revived series, they were ultimately deemed a bit of a failure - but did go on to find a more natural home with The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Next month we will be receiving a Judoon and one of the original 1963 Daleks.
According to a list I found on-line - possibly subject to change - these are the forthcoming pairings that take us through to 2015:

  • Sycorax & Invasion Cyberman
  • Ninth Doctor & Heavenly Host
  • Morbius Monster & Zygon (2013 version)
  • Special Weapons Dalek & Twelfth Doctor
  • Sea Devil (original one) and the Gunslinger
  • Earthshock Cyberman & Madam Vastra
  • John Hurt's War Doctor & Ironside Dalek
  • Draconian & the Master (John Simm incarnation)
  • Scarecrow & Fifth Doctor
  • Catkind & Clockwork Man 
I assume that "Catkind" refers to the Cat Nurses of New Earth. (Might be Brannigan). No mention if the Master is the be-suited one or the hoodie one - or indeed the dress wearing one. I do hope that Madam Vastra will be the samurai-sword wielding version from Demons Run, rather than just a Silurian in a frock.
As well as this little lot, there will be other special releases - and there are still five more not-in-the-shops Daleks to come.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Story 99 - The Pirate Planet

In which the Doctor and Romana begin their search for the second segment of the Key to Time. The location is the cold and lifeless world of Calufrax. The TARDIS landing has to be aborted when it encounters a powerful disruptive force. Romana blames the Doctor's failure to follow the instructions in the TARDIS manual. When she tries, following the instructions exactly, the ship materialises normally. Outside is not the freezing inhospitable world the Doctor expects - and he accuses her of getting the co-ordinates wrong. They are in a city. However, this temperate planet is at the precise co-ordinates where Calufrax is supposed to be. The Key tracer seems to offer no clear direction for them to follow. The signal is diffused over the entire area. The streets are littered with gemstones - some very rare and precious. One of them the Doctor recognises as being unique to a planet which vanished...
A citizen reveals that there has just been a new age of prosperity announced. These events are presaged by the changing of the stars in the skies. Romana is captured and taken to the Bridge - a huge complex which overlooks the city. This is home to the Captain, who now rules the planet after the death of the evil old Queen Xanxia. Everyone is terrified of the Captain has he has a dreadful temper. Parts of his body have been replaced by cybernetic implants. He has a pet robotic bird of prey - the Polyphase Avatron - which he uses to destroy those who fail him.

The Doctor, meanwhile, has encountered a group of people known as the Mentiads. They had come to the city to take a young man who has become like them - developing enhanced psychic abilities. At the times of new prosperity, sensitive individuals can become Mentiads. The Captain is determined to destroy them. The Doctor is reunited with Romana at the Bridge and they discover that the complex houses massive Time Jump engines. They escape back to the city and a young man named Kimus elects to show them the mine-working areas. These are fully automated and no-one is allowed to enter them. The caverns beneath the surface are cold and wet - just like the surface of Calufrax... The Doctor's suspicions become clearer. Guards attack but they are rescued by Mentiads and taken to their shelter. The Doctor tells them of his findings. This planet - Zanak - travels through space using the engines in the Bridge. It is a hollow world. It materialises around smaller worlds - smothering them and leaving the remains to be mined for minerals. Any life is extinguished. It is these mass extinctions which affect the people who become Mentiads. The Bridge must be destroyed to prevent this ever happening again.

The Doctor returns to the Bridge and learns of the Captain's plans. He now has the necessary minerals to create a device which blocks the Mentiads' psychic abilities. The engines were damaged when the TARDIS first tried to materialise on the planet - they interfered with each other. To repair them he needs quartz, and Earth will provide this. They can make one more jump. The Doctor discovers that there is more to the Captain's schemes than greed. He has been harnessing the energies of all the destroyed planets - holding them in a condensed state in a secret chamber. The energy is keeping old Queen Xanxia alive - frozen behind Time Dams at the moment just before life expires. Xanxia had saved his life when his ship crashed here years ago. The Doctor deduces there is more still. The Captain intends to break through the Dams and kill her. He is constantly tended by a rather sombre young nurse. It transpires that she is Xanxia in a new, still unstable, body. Instead of being his servant, she controls him. K9 destroys the Polyphase Avatron. The Mentiads have just enough energy to sabotage the engines just as the Captain attempts to jump to Earth. The Bridge is wrecked. Xanxia kills the Captain when he openly revolts against her. her body then fails and she dies. The Doctor uses the husks of the dead planets to fill Zanak's  hollow centre - first removing Calufrax, which he has realised is actually the second segment of the Key. The Bridge is blown up. Zanak will never more traverse the cosmos.

This four part story was written by Douglas Adams, and was broadcast between 30th September and 21st October, 1978.
When it came to writing, Adams had two main influences - his comedy heroes of the Cambridge Footlights, and science fiction. He had previously submitted a script for Doctor Who during Robert Holmes' tenure as Script Editor. This storyline involved an Ark in Space - which, of course, had already been done. I suspect this idea resurfaced in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - with the arks which contained the useful people - and the one with the useless ones, which turned out to be our ancestors. The Guide radio series was just being picked up when he was commissioned by Anthony Read to write The Pirate Planet.
Adams' main influence for this story is - you won't be surprised to learn - pirates. There's the Captain on his Bridge. He has a parrot like several pirate captains - in this case a robot laser-firing one. Its name references the traditional pet name for a parrot - Polly. Like Long John Silver, the Captain does not have his full complement of limbs. Instead of a crutch and wooden peg, or a hook for a hand, we have cybernetic additions. Instead of roaming the high seas plundering cargoes, Zanak roams space devouring whole planets.

The Captain is played by Bruce Purchase. Personally, I think he is wonderful. I love his bluster. I love his exclamations. Andrew Robinson's Uriah Heep-like Mr. Fibuli plays against him marvellously. They get some great scenes between them. Rosalind Lloyd has a bit of a thankless role as the nurse who turns out to be the reincarnation of Xanxia. She has to lurk silently in the background  for most of the story. The only other performance of note is David Sibley who plays Pralix - the young man who becomes a Mentiad. Adams might be able to conjure great concepts, but some of the dialogue is atrocious.
Episode endings are:

  1. A group of Mentiads attack the Doctor with their mental energies. K9 fails to stop them. The Doctor is attacked again and slides to the floor...
  2. The Doctor, Romana and Kimus are being chased through the mines by the Captain's guards. They are then confronted by Mentiads... 
  3. K9 has destroyed the Polyphase Avatron. In revenge, the Captain forces him to walk the plank - and he appears to fall to his death...
  4. The second segment has been retrieved, and Zanak will now have to settle in this location in space. The Mentiads use their powers to detonate explosives which blow up the Bridge.

Overall, a clever and witty script. Some wonderfully barmy ideas on show. A couple of terrible performances and some ropey dialogue. From this point on, Tom Baker's tendency towards less subtle humour becomes more pronounced.
Things you might like to know:

  • Kimus is played by David Warwick. He has the distinction of being one of only a handful of people to have appeared in both the Classic and New Series. He's the police commissioner who appears in Army of Ghosts.
  • This story has never been novelised - at least professionally. There is an Australian fan-produced version. Gareth Roberts has recently novelised Shada, and announced that he is about to tackle City of Death - so only a matter of time, one suspects, until this is finally novelised.
  • Several lines of dialogue will reappear in Hitchhikers Guide... including "Don't Panic". The planet Bandraginus V is mentioned. Hitchhikers features a Santraginus V.
  • The original story outline featured a Time Lord and temporal paradoxes.
  • Romana operates the TARDIS "by the book" - i.e. following the TARDIS Operating Manual. The usual wheezing-groaning sound is heard. Has she also left the brakes on? The Doctor does rip a page out of the manual. Later, he will use it to prop a vent open. Later still, he will throw it into a supernova when he gets annoyed and disagrees with it.
  • There is a little reference to this story in The Stolen Earth. One of the missing planets is called Calufrax Minor. A very unlucky planetary system, then.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Doctor Who Walk No.1

I decided to make the most of the lovely weather today by taking a leisurely walk along the Thames through Central London. It's a walk I've enjoyed many times, and have previously noted that it passes a number of locations that have been seen in Doctor Who. Here, then is my first DW locations walk. It follows the river eastwards from Pimlico. Why start there? Well, it's where I happen to live. The first location just happens to be right across the river from me and I see it every day:

Battersea Power Station. This was the first London landmark to appear in the programme - in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Ian notices it has lost two of its chimneys, and there is now an atomic power plant built next door. I can assure you there are no warehouses opposite the power station - though maybe there will be one in 2164. In 2006, the station featured in the programme once again - this time the location of John Lumic's Cyber-conversion factory in The Age of Steel. It also featured in early drafts of The Claws of Axos.
Continue eastwards along Grosvenor Road until you get to Vauxhall Bridge and cross over to the south bank. The remainder of the walk follows this side of the river. The next notable location we see is:

Millbank Tower - or the headquarters of International Electromatics. Tobias Vaughn's office is top floor right hand side. It is along this stretch of the Thames that the Skarasen emerges at the climax of Terror of the Zygons. As you approach Lambeth Bridge, you see the MI6 building opposite. This featured prominently in Torchwood: Children of Earth. It's where poor Ianto Jones pops his clogs. Pass through the underpass beneath the bridge.

Every time I walk past this spot, I imagine the sky full of Zeppelins. The TARDIS materialises just to the right of the snack bar - with Lambeth Palace in the background - in Rise of the Cybermen. Continue along the embankment and we are back in The Dalek Invasion of Earth territory.

Westminster Bridge, with the Houses of Parliament directly opposite. The latter are first seen in Doctor Who in the 1964 Dalek story as the pastry cutter saucer flies over them. Big Ben's biggest role is in Aliens of London, where the clock tower is smashed by the Slitheen spaceship. Those steps in the first image are the ones that Dortmun, Barbara and Jenny are seen mounting. A Dalek trundles along the stretch of embankment in the lower image and eyes the steps - wistfully, I thought. Ian and Barbara are also to be seen running along here at the conclusion of The Chase.
Go through the underpass beneath the bridge and you come to the old County Hall building.

Oh look - a Dalek! An advert for the Film & Television Museum which is in County Hall. This is one of the busiest spots in the whole of London, because it's where the Eye is located.

Used, of course, by the Nestene Consciousness to generate the Auton activation signal in Rose. Once you've fought your way through the crowds, you pass the Royal Festival Hall. Continue on towards Waterloo Bridge and you come to the South Bank complex, containing the National Theatre and the National Film Theatre.

It's looking a lot more colourful than it did when it featured in Frontier in Space. Katy Manning tells a lovely story about a group of homeless men getting the fright of their life when confronted by a squad of Ogrons when they filmed here. Make sure you check out the second-hand book stalls under Waterloo Bridge before continuing your walk. You get some nice views of St Paul's Cathedral across the river - which features in The Invasion. More about that in a future walk. The next Doctor Who location is just past Tate Modern.

These beautiful old houses on Bankside feature in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Standing on the same spot and simply turning to the left you are confronted by:

Shakespeare's Globe. Its interior seen in The Shakespeare Code, naturally. David Tennant had his wedding reception in the bar next door, by the way. More Talons of Weng-Chiang coming up.

We're on Clink Street. Once the location for a notorious prison - and where we get that slang name for a jail from - there is now a "London Dungeon" style museum here. Many scenes from Talons were recorded along this short street, including the Doctor being narrowly missed by an axe - filmed just where the museum entrance is. Keep going towards London Bridge.

Two Doctor Who locations here - Southwark Cathedral in the foreground is where the Professor meets his doom in The Lazarus Experiment, and the Shard beyond featured as the base for Miss Kizlett and the Great Intelligence in The Bells of Saint John. Of course, the actual interiors of the cathedral were filmed at Wells Cathedral - much closer to Cardiff. Pass under London Bridge and along Tooley Street. You can rejoin the river walk by cutting through Hays Galleria. You'll see HMS Belfast, which happens to have a Doctor Who connection in that the independent video production Shakedown - which featured the Sontarans - was filmed onboard. Carry onto Tower Bridge - passing beneath it.

This is Shad Thames - location for Resurrection of the Daleks. The high walkways that once served the warehouses of Butler's Wharf are still there but the street has long been totally gentrified. Just before you pass under the first of them, on your left, is the short passage that leads to the river - where the TARDIS materialised.
You've now reached your furthest point east on this walk, so double back to Tower Bridge and cross over to the north bank. There is the Tower of London on your left - aka UNIT HQ since The Christmas Invasion - and St Katherine's Dock on the right. Go to the dock first.

You can see where the Doctor and Professor Litefoot boated to the sewer opening to rescue Leela from the giant rat in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. St Katherine's Dock also appears in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. A couple of Robomen are seen patrolling, with Butler's Wharf - where we have just come from - seen across the river. You can continue eastwards if you want to - taking in other Talons locations at Wapping and viewing Torchwood Tower at Canary Wharf. I elected to head for home - by tube from Tower Hill - so headed back towards UNIT HQ.

The Tower has been visited by the Doctor on several occasions. In a pre-An Unearthly Child story, the First Doctor got Henry VIIIth angry with him (by throwing a parson's nose at him) in order to get locked up there. That's because the TARDIS was in the Tower. During the reign of Elizabeth I, three Doctors were imprisoned there at the same time - Ten, Eleven and the War Doctor. During the reign of James I the Doctor was there and met Sir Walter Raleigh. Then, in Charles II's time, the Eleventh Doctor was locked up again - escaping by balloon, apparently.
If you want to cover the same ground, allow yourself a good three hours.