Thursday, 13 June 2019

Inspirations - The Armageddon Factor


The Armageddon Factor saw the programme at a point of some change. Though it wasn't known at the time, this was to be the last six part story to be broadcast, and the final collaboration on Doctor Who for writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who had been regular contributors since The Claws of Axos back in 1971. Anthony Read stepped down as Script Editor, and Mary Tamm decided that she would not be talked into staying on for another season as Romana. John Leeson also decided to move on from voicing K9.
In terms of starts, this story saw the first appearance of Lalla Ward, who would go on to play the second incarnation of Romana, and new Script Editor Douglas Adams arrived to oversee the final section of the story, which would wrap up the whole Key to Time saga.
We were also introduced to the Black Guardian, as portrayed by Valentine Dyall, who would return for a trilogy of stories during the 20th anniversary season.
Of course, there was one further six part story planned for the conclusion of Season 17, but Shada was cancelled part way through the studio recording period and was never completed or broadcast.
John Nathan-Turner then took over as producer and realised that he could get seven stories per season by dispensing with the six parter - which meant seven "first nights" with their attendant publicity.
It could be argued that there was one further equivalent to a six part story further down the line - once the series had moved to 45 minute episodes. This was the three part The Two Doctors.


For their inspiration for The Armageddon Factor, Baker & Martin looked to the Second World War and the Cold War. The story sees twin planets Atrios and Zeos in the midst of a decades long war. They are basically the Super Powers America and the USSR, or Britain and Germany in WWII.
The leader of the Atrian armed forces, the Marshal, gives Churchillian speeches to rouse his people, and makes propaganda use of Princess Astra of the Atrian royal family. King George VI and his wife and daughters were often employed to help raise morale in Britain, especially during the Blitz when they would go walkabout in the recently bombed parts of London.
The story opens with a bit of propaganda, which leaves the audience thinking they are going to see a badly performed story with dodgy CSO work. It's actually a programme within the programme - a piece of romantic morale boosting, which contains the immortal line "Young men, out there, are dying for it...". The Hero is referring to the war, naturally.
For research, Baker & Martin visited a Cold War bunker near Bath, which inspired the Marshal's War Room scenes. For a war story, we never actually see any of the conflict - it's all done with computer displays and radio communications.
It transpires that there is a third force at work, manipulating both sides behind the scenes - the Shadow. This isn't a new thing for the series. Indeed, the very first Dalek story was originally to have featured the arrival of an alien race in the closing episode, come to claim responsibility for starting the war between the Daleks and the Thals. They would have reconciled the two Skarosian races, agreeing to help rebuild their planet, and it is unlikely that the series would have lasted more than a couple of seasons had this early draft been the one which was made and broadcast.
Later we had the Earth and Draconian empires being manipulated into going to war with each other, this time by the Master and his Ogron allies, who were in the pay of the Daleks. They planned to invade the galaxy once the two empires had weakened themselves through the manufactured conflict.


Once he is on the Shadow's "planet of evil" - which actually looks like a space station but is frequently referred to as a planet - the Doctor encounters another Time Lord by the name of Drax. This character actually originated in an unused version of the writers' The Hand of Fear scripts. This was when that story was a six parter, intended to conclude the 13th Season. The character was described as having a mop of curly ginger hair, but the director - Michael Hayes - must not have read that bit when he cast the balding Barry Jackson. Drax speaks with a cockney accent, having spent some time in HMP Brixton after being caught stealing parts for his TARDIS.
Drax was employed by the Shadow to build a computer called Mentalis, which runs the Zeon armed forces - the original population of the planet having been wiped out years ago (presumably by the Shadow rather than by the Atrians, though this is never specified on screen). If Mentalis is destroyed, it will trigger the Armageddon of the title, wiping out this entire sector of space.
Another long running war is referenced when Drax uses the dimensional control from his TARDIS to shrink himself and the Doctor. They then hitch a ride inside K9 to get into the Shadow's lair undetected - using K9 as a Trojan Horse. The Doctor fails to mention that he gave Odysseus that idea in the first place.


The sixth segment of the Key to Time proves to be Princess Astra - the sixth child of the sixth dynasty of the sixth house of Atrios. Baker and Martin were originally going to have the segment the Shadow's shadow. When it came to discussing the story arc with Anthony Read, it was explained to them that the Black and White Guardians were gong to be two aspects of the same character, but it was then decided to make the relationship between the two more vague.
Baker and Martin also wanted to have it made more explicit that the Shadow wasn't the only agent of the Black Guardian whom the Doctor and Romana had encountered throughout the season. As it is, only Cesair of Diplos, in The Stones of Blood, might just have been an agent, but even that isn't clear.
For the second year running, Producer Graham Williams spent a frantic few days trying to convince his leading lady to stay on the show, and for the second year running he failed. Tamm was unhappy that the character had not turned out in the way originally promised her when she accepted the role, and felt there was little more she could do with it. She half-jokingly suggested Lalla Ward as her replacement one lunch time, having seen how well Tom Baker got on with her, and was surprised to later hear that the idea was taken seriously. Tamm became the third companion to leave without any farewell scene - the first being Jackie Lane's Dodo, who disappeared halfway through The War Machines, and the second being Caroline John whose Liz Shaw vanishes between seasons 7 and 8.
Companion departures are obviously a much bigger deal these days - interminably so in the case of Clara Oswald.


The general consensus is that The Armageddon Factor is an unsatisfying conclusion to what had been a season-long story. The Black Guardian turns up at the very last minute, posing as his White counterpart, but is quickly seen through by the Doctor. The Key is then broken up and re-scattered through Time and Space, never having really been seen to do what it was supposed to do - namely restoring universal balance. Astra is reconstituted - implying that all the other segments have gone back to where the Doctor and Romana found them. This is a problem, if true, as their whereabouts are now known. The final TARDIS scenes were the first to be overseen by Douglas Adams as he took over his new role.
Graham Williams had come to the job intending to do a season-long story arc, but after Season 16 he decided it was a case of "never again". The arc had meant that he did not have the freedom to swap stories around and respond easily to production problems. By way of signifying this, the Doctor installs a new piece of equipment to the TARDIS console - the Randomiser. This will mean that he has no control over where they will land - hoping that the Black Guardian won't know where he has gone either. As it is, if you've read my post on the Randomiser back when I reviewed the Season 17 stories, the device was continually over-ridden - or just plain ignored by the writers of that season.
Next time: Douglas Adams introduces a lot more humour into the series, which is welcomed by Tom Baker, but not so much by Terry Nation...

Monday, 10 June 2019

What's Wrong With... An Unearthly Child


Since my last post, when I announced that I would be looking at some of the things which didn't quite go to plan, or just don't make much sense, I decided to rename the series - see above (sorry Homer).
I also had a thought about boom mike shadows, which other blogs catalogue in painstaking detail, and decided not to bother mentioning them at all. An actual boom mike in shot is another matter, however.
Our first story is, of course, that which is generally titled An Unearthly Child. I did a whole post a couple of years ago on the names of the stories up to and including The Gunfighters, so I won't be revisiting that debate again here.
William Hartnell is generally on good form here, but there is one instance when he and William Russell talk over each other when standing outside the TARDIS in the junkyard.
Just why did the TARDIS assume the form of a Police Call Box? It must have happened on this landing, as Susan and the Doctor are surprised and upset when they see that it hasn't changed its shape when it lands in the prehistoric landscape. Police boxes were not made of wood - only the doors were, the rest was concrete - yet Ian doesn't comment on this. They were already starting to go out of use and were being dismantled by 1963, being replaced with radios in cars.
Ian rightly remarks on it being strange that such a box might be located in a junkyard. There is an explanation for this. The Chameleon Circuit (as it will later be called) is on its last legs, evidenced by it breaking down altogether when the ship next moves, so hasn't quite got things right for the time period or the location.
Once inside the ship, Ian states that the Doctor closed the doors: "He closed the doors from over there. I saw him." - when in fact it was Susan who did this, as the Doctor had instructed her to do: "Close the door, Susan".
When Ian goes to operate the control there is a slight pause before the sound effect kicks in, and you can just about hear someone off camera giving him his cue.
When the TARDIS dematerialises we see an aerial shot of London (presumably Shoreditch) which implies that the ship lifts off vertically - which it doesn't do at this stage. The dematerialisation makes the Doctor and Susan ill, and is enough to knock Ian and Barbara unconscious. The lights dim, and the dematerialisation sound is heard within the ship. Whilst the noise might be heard again in the TARDIS on a couple of other occasions (such as the end of the following story), the rest of this is unique to this story. A possible explanation here is that the ship hasn't been properly repaired and has taken off when not ready. It would be some design flaw if you invented a ship which made you ill every time you used it.
The first episode ends with the shadow of a figure looming over the terrain in front of the Police Box. This was shot on a forced perspective set, so the shadow is too big.
Why does the Doctor take a Geiger Counter with him, when the ship has a built-in one - as we'll see at the end of this story?
We will be looking at some plot elements with the benefit of hindsight as we proceed with these posts - so not things which were wrong at the time, but look odd when viewed back. The first of these is the Doctor smoking a pipe. The next three episodes are all about fire, and the TARDIS crew's inability to provide it for the tribesfolk. Ian dropped his torch in the junkyard, and told Barbara he didn't have any matches when she suggested using one to find the torch. Clearly she doesn't have any either. The Doctor loses his pipe and matches when he is attacked by Kal. It seems very odd indeed that neither Ian nor Barbara smoked in 1963, a time when even doctors used to endorse cigarette brands.
As for the Doctor and his pipe, he is never seen to smoke again, or even mention having smoked.
Later Ian will make fire, in best Boy Scout fashion, by rubbing two sticks together. Why didn't he think of this when they were first locked up in the Cave of Skulls?
Just how long have the tribe gone without fire? The chronology is very hard to work out. Did Za's dad just die, taking the secret with him? If it is just the approach of their first winter without fire that the tribe is worried about then why does Horg talk about fire like it was something he hasn't seen for a very long time - a memory only the old people have? If they have gone many years without fire, why worry now - it's not as if they would know there was an Ice Age round the corner.
There is another mistimed cue as Susan screams long before the Old Woman even starts to push her way into the cave by the secret entrance. And if the tribe live here, why don't the rest of them know about the other entrance?
We have our first example of a prop which is supposed to be very heavy indeed looking lightweight, as Za and Hur try to move the great stone from the main entrance.
Talking of the Cave of Skulls, I previously mentioned that some cliffhangers were filmed afresh at the start of the following week's recording. This is noticeable when you look at the skulls at the end of Part Two, and the more plastic-looking ones at the start of Part Three. One of the skeletons seems to have managed to remain wholly articulated, but has the oddest collar bones. It looks like a single bone running from shoulder to shoulder, like something from a joke shop.
After the time-travellers have been recaptured and placed back in the cave, Jacqueline Hill stumbles over one of her lines - the one about the stone with a hole in it, which she almost gets back to front before correcting herself.
The cave on film is far larger than the cave in studio - a common issue when episodes have a mix of filming (usually at Ealing) and studio recording (in the cramped Lime Grove Studio D).
When the Doctor and his companions place the skulls on flaming torches to scare the superstitious tribesfolk, the trick lasts only until one of the torches falls over. Or rather gets yanked by a piece of out of sight string.
Last, but not least, we have the conclusion with the aforementioned radiation meter. This takes an age to register the heavy irradiation at their next landing sight - so long that Susan has had a good look at it and they have all wandered off to freshen up. It doesn't have any sort of aural alert, which seems to be another design flaw - or is it also faulty?
Apart from the naming protocol for the story, the other big debate about An Unearthly Child is just where and when it is set. Later episodes will suggest that it was prehistoric Earth the TARDIS visited, but this is never mentioned in the story itself. The Doctor states that his "year-o-meter" is reading zero and so not working, implying they have travelled in time but not necessarily in space.
One of the alternative story titles was "100,000 BC". However, there is a gap in the fossil record in Britain covering 180,000 - 60,000 BC - apparently because it was far too cold this far north at that time. There was a land bridge where the English Channel now is, and any people living in the area where London later grew would have migrated south. One popular fan theory, for those who don't think this is prehistoric Earth we are visiting, is that we are actually in the far future, when the human race has been reduced to a primitive state following some great catastrophe, such as nuclear war. Fire is a metaphor for the technology which will lead to our destruction. Another theory is that this is actually the planet Skaro they are already on - so Ian giving the cave people the secret of fire will eventually lead to the creation of the Daleks...

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Doh!


Doctor Who, even unto its present incarnation, has often got things wrong. We get ropey CGI, plot holes and weird discontinuities in the more recent series, whilst in the Classic phase of the show there were props which didn't work, actors forgetting their lines, and things in shot which shouldn't have been there. There were also many, many things which did not quite make sense. I try to be as positive as I can about all aspects of the programme - we tend to forgive flaws in the things we love - but I thought it might also be fun to highlight some of the times when things did not exactly go to plan. I'm therefore going to embark on a new occasional series looking at each story from the start, looking at what sometimes went wrong. Naturally, this will include some of Bill Hartnell's most infamous fluffs - though he wasn't the only one to trip over their tongue. We'll also have bad special effects, the occasional wobbly set (quite rare actually, despite public perceptions) and those plot holes. In many cases an argument can be found to explain the latter, and I'll try to do this as we go along.
So - not a criticism of the series in any way, more a recognition of the time and financial restraints under which the series used to be made.
Back in the 1960's video tape was so expensive that directors were rationed as to how many edits they could make, as the tape had to be reused (which is one reason why so many old programmes are lost to the archives). If things went wrong, unless it was a complete disaster, the cameras just had to keep rolling - which is why there are so many fluffs in the earliest stories and fewer as time went on. Actors quickly learned that if they wanted a scene to be redone, then they should swear very loudly.
Had it been made just a few years earlier, Doctor Who might have gone out live on a Saturday evening. When an actor dried, the Assistant Floor Manager had a switch on the studio wall which cut the sound, so that the actor could be prompted. On 30th November, 1958, an actor by the name of Gareth Jones was performing in an Armchair Theatre production called Underground. His character suffered a heart attack in the play - and Jones then suffered a real, fatal, one between scenes. His colleagues improvised around this and completed the programme. The show, as they say, must go on.
Live TV in the 1950's also meant that if you wanted to repeat a programme, such as a play, then the cast had to reassemble and perform it all over again. Occasionally, a telecopy might be made - by pointing a camera at a monitor showing the programme. This is why we still have the first two episodes of the original Quatermass Experiment serial from 1953. Unfortunately an insect decided to settle on the monitor, remaining on screen for half of Part Two, so we have a real life giant bug making an uninvited appearance long before the alien creature appears, as anyone who has seen the DVD release will know. The BBC decided not to telecopy the remaining four episodes - so this classic TV series is totally lost to us in its entirety.
In its earliest years, Doctor Who was made "as live" - in that the programme would be recorded entirely in story order in very long takes. The cameras would not necessarily cut at the end of a scene. There might be a scheduled fade to black - inserted so that foreign TV stations could include an advert break - but generally there was a roll-on. If actors had to move to another set, the camera might linger on the face of an actor who wasn't in the next scene, or on some prop or bit of set - all to give cast and cameras time to get ready to continue filming. The cast rehearsed for the week and went into studio on the Friday night - later the Saturday night - for recording of an episode that would be screened about three weeks hence. During Patrick Troughton's time, this was reduced to just one week at times. Once exterior filming came along, these sequences would always be filmed in advance of the studio day so that they could be played in during recording. The actors often had to come out of rehearsals for one story to film the exterior stuff for the forthcoming story - often sacrificing their days off as well to do this.
Music and sound effects would be played in live to the studio, rather than be dubbed on afterwards. Even the opening and closing titles would be played into the studio on cue.
Sometimes the cliffhangers would be telecopied for inclusion at the start of the next week's episode, but a lot of the time they were reenacted by the cast at the start of the following week's recording - which is why they don't always match. Of course, this was long before the days of home video recorders, and viewers weren't expected to recall exactly what the end of the previous week's installment had looked like. At least Doctor Who never went down the path taken by some of those Saturday morning cinema serials such as Flash Gordon, The Undersea Kingdom or King of the Rocketmen, when the filmmakers cheated blatantly. I recall one scene when the characters in one of these serials go over a cliff in a truck - seen clearly in the cab as it falls. Next week, they are seen jumping clear well before the vehicle goes over the edge.


A quick look at the "Pilot" episode of Doctor Who - the first attempt at An Unearthly Child - demonstrates the way the programme was made at the beginning. The episode was recorded in two sections - firstly everything from the opening school corridor scene up to Barbara pushing her way into the Police Box on the junkyard set, then the TARDIS interior scenes were recorded in another single take. To achieve the first section in one go, the camera stays with Susan, making weird Rorschach doodlings when Ian and Barbara leave the classroom - allowing William Russell and Jacqueline Hill to move to the car sitting outside the junkyard gates. Carole Ann Ford then remains in the classroom set to be filmed for the flashback scenes. Ian and Barbara are heard but not seen in these flashbacks, as the actors are sat in that car. This first half of the episode went mostly to plan, although it was Ford who made the programme's first ever dialogue fluff - giving John Smith and the Common Men's chart positions the wrong way round, so that they have gone down the chart rather than up it. The second half of the episode had to be done three times (twice fully and once abandoned part way through), as the TARDIS doors refused to close properly. If you've seen this footage you'll know that the doors continue to open and close behind the actors, banging loudly at times, as the stagehands struggle to control them.
The episode had other problems of a non-technical nature - namely some dialogue which Sydney Newman didn't like, and some of the performances. Susan specifically states that she comes from the 49th Century, and she is seen to be wearing a futuristic silvery tabard. Newman preferred the time-travellers' origins to be more mysterious and less defined, and wanted Susan to wear conventional clothing which teenage viewers could relate to. He also disliked the way that the Doctor and Susan were played - she being a little too alien, and he being too unlikable. Newman also hated the Rorschach bit, which he found incomprehensible.
Producer Verity Lambert and Director Waris Hussein were taken out to lunch by Newman and he set out his objections to the pilot, before ordering them to remount the episode.
Next time, we'll be looking at that remount and the subsequent three episodes which make up the first Doctor Who story, and what still didn't quite go to plan...

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

The Faceless Ones - Animated


It has been announced that the next "lost" Doctor Who story to get the animated treatment is to be The Faceless Ones, which first aired over six weeks in April / May 1967. This was broadcast immediately after the last one to be animated - The Macra Terror - and was the last story to feature companions Ben and Polly.
Unlike The Macra Terror, The Faceless Ones has two episodes intact in the archives, which were released on DVD as part of the "Lost in Time" box set many years ago. These episodes will be on the new release, but as extras, as Parts One and Three are also going to be animated - making a change from previous releases of partial stories where only the missing episodes were animated (i.e. The Reign of Terror, The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase, The Ice Warriors).
This is to be welcomed, as the animated episodes of The Faceless Ones are to be presented in colour, and it has always been somewhat jarring to switch from the animated parts to the live action ones.
This should make a future Season 4 Blu-ray box set much more appealing to buyers, as it is one of the seasons with the fewest existing episodes.
No release date has been set, other than that it won't be coming out until next year - presumably late February / early March.

Paul Darrow


I was sorry to hear today of the death of Paul Darrow, at the age of 78. He appeared twice in Doctor Who - first as Captain Hawkins of UNIT in the 1970 story The Silurians, and later as the villainous Tekker in 1985's Timelash.
His appearance in the latter was noted for its theatricality, as Darrow played the wicked Maylin as if he were channeling Laurence Olivier as Richard III. It was claimed that this over-acting was quite deliberate - a response to Colin Baker having gone over the top in his series, when he played Bayban the Butcher in the 1980 Blake's 7 episode City at the Edge of the World.
Darrow will, of course, be best remembered for playing the anti-hero Kerr Avon in four seasons of Blake's 7, appearing in all but the very first episode. He assumed the lead when Blake actor Gareth Thomas left the series, and indeed was the last man standing in the final episode. he reprised Avon for some audio adventures, as well as voicing other characters in the Kaldor City range of audios, which contained elements from Blake's 7 and the Doctor Who story Robots of Death in a shared universe. (Had Terry Nation got his way, the worlds of Doctor Who and Blake's 7 would have been more closely linked, as he wanted to have the Daleks feature in Star One, the finale to Season 2).
Later, he filmed scenes for the 2002 Bond movie Die Another Day, but unfortunately they were deleted before it hit the cinemas.


Paul Darrow (1941 - 2019). RIP.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Inspirations - The Power of Kroll


David Fisher's Prisoner of Zenda pastiche was at one point going to be the fifth story of Season 16, whilst Script Editor Anthony Read had commissioned a script from the veteran film and TV writer Ted Willis. He had written the original treatment for the 1950 film The Blue Lamp, in which PC George Dixon first appeared (as played by Jack Warner). Despite the character being killed (shot during an armed robbery by a young Dirk Bogarde) Willis created the TV series Dixon of Dock Green five years later, which would run for two decades.
Read discovered that Willis was having problems with his story, and the reason became apparent when the writer visited his office to discuss the matter. Willis turned up drunk - a state he was often in at this time. Read had no option but to cancel his commission and seek a replacement, so he turned to his predecessor, Robert Holmes, for help. Holmes agreed to write another story for the Key to Time arc, having written the opening segment a few months before. The only stipulation he was given by Producer Graham Williams was that he should include the biggest monster seen in the series so far. Early titles for this story included "Moon of Death" and "Horror of the Swamp".
As it was, Williams may have retained his "Producer" credit for The Power of Kroll, but he actually played very little part in it beyond the planning stages. He fell ill, and David Maloney was asked to step in to oversee the production. Since directing a number of highly regarded stories under the Hinchcliffe / Holmes stewardship of the programme, he had gone on to produce Blake's 7. Maloney's was a watching brief only, as the day to day running of the production was left to the series' PUM (Production Unit Manager), who normally handled the financial side of things. This was John Nathan-Turner, who we will be hearing a lot more about soon. JNT had worked on and off on the series since the end of the Patrick Troughton era, and had become the PUM from Image of the Fendahl.


Holmes' second Doctor Who story - The Space Pirates - had basically been a Western set in outer space. Milo Clancey had been an old 49'er, whose claims were being jumped by Caven and his men. General Hermack and the International Space Corps had been the Cavalry, trying to maintain law and order in a frontier region, like the old Wild West. Holmes looked to the Western genre once again for this new story. The "Swampies" were the indigenous inhabitants of the planet Delta Magna, and they were forcibly relocated to one of the planet's moons when it was colonised by people from Earth. They are Native Americans, forced onto a Reservation. Now the humans have their eyes of their moon, intent on exploiting its resources - as has happened in the US when something of value has been identified on Native American lands. There was no real reason for having the "Swampies" green-skinned - unless it was a clumsy attempt to parallel Native Americans who, at the time of the writing of this story, were still being called "Red Indians" or even "Redskins".
The Power of Kroll is also a (very) rough draft for what many believe to be Holmes' best ever story - The Caves of Androzani. Both stories deal with events on the moon of a planet which has been colonised, and which contains a valuable resource (methane here, life-prolonging Spectrox there). The villain of the piece (Thawn here, Morgus there) is secretly paying a gun-runner (Rhom-Dutt / Stotz) to supply weapons to his own enemy (Ranquin / Sharaz Jek) in order to provide an excuse to wipe them out. Clearly Holmes really liked this double-cross plot idea , and felt dissatisfied at having to use it for this particular story, so returned to it later when he thought he could use it more effectively. (Holmes would later say that Kroll was his least favourite story).


Back when Tom Baker first took on the role of the Doctor, he appeared in a story which was partly inspired by King Kong - the classic 1933 RKO monster movie about a giant gorilla which is found on a remote South Seas island and later transported to New York. Terrance Dicks had created a robot which formed an attachment to Sarah Jane Smith - just as Kong does with Fay Wray's character. The robot had grown to enormous size and carried her off - and everyone had felt sorry for it when it was destroyed. Robert Holmes also chose to reference King Kong, in the end of Part One sequence where Romana has been captured by Ranquin's tribe and is to be sacrificed to their god Kroll - who is supposed to be a giant squid. The sacrifice sees her tied to a stake, and her death will be screened from the tribe by the closure of large gates. The same thing happens to Fay Wray, though there it is because Kong has to be kept secure behind massive walls, whilst here it is because the sacrifice is to be faked by a tribesman in a costume.
The story plays with the series' own conventions here - we see the monster menace Romana and think it just looks like a man in a rubber suit, but it is supposed to be a man in a rubber suit. Romana states that she was convinced, but the Doctor says that it probably looked more convincing from the front. All very meta.


As we've said, the story had to feature the biggest monster seen to date, and Holmes elected to make this a multi-tentacled squid-like creature. In the days before CGI, tentacles were hard to realise, which is why the programme tended to avoid them. Back in 1965 we had the ever so slightly static Mire Beasts in The Chase, and that was it until the first version of the Nestene creature in Spearhead from Space. Even that did not work out very well, and the Nestene scenes had to be remounted during the making of the subsequent story, The Silurians. Holmes at least knew that his monster was so big it could only be realised using a model - and model tentacles are a lot easier to do (although some prop ones were used on location and in studio). The film cameraman was misinformed about the matte scenes for the shots where location work would be seen in the lower part of the picture, with Kroll inlaid above - leading to a harsh dividing line across the screen. (Hopefully this story might get some new CGI VFX for its eventual release on the Season 16 Blu-ray box set).


The guest cast list is interesting, in that it features a number of actors who have played other roles in the series, a couple of whom only got the parts because other people pulled out late in the day. Dugeen is played by John Leeson, who normally voiced K9. The robot dog couldn't feature in the story due to the amount of location filming in marshy terrain, so Leeson got his one and only on screen appearance. He replaced Martin Jarvis. Philip Madoc (The Krotons, The War Games and The Brain of Morbius) was a late replacement as Fenner for Alan Browning, who fell ill just before the location filming. He really wanted the main villain role of Thawn, but it had been offered to Neil McCarthy, who had earlier appeared in The Mind of Evil. Ranquin was John Abineri, who had appeared in Fury from the Deep, Ambassadors of Death and Death to the Daleks.
I'm sure you already know the story about the Swampies' green body make-up proving hard to wash off, and the actors and extras having to go to a nearby USAAF base to use their showers - much to the amusement of the base personnel. Tom Baker and Mary Tamm would go out drinking with Glyn Owen (Rhom-Dutt) of an evening, and at one point they gatecrashed a policemen's function, so much fun was had on location.
On his return from sick leave Graham Williams was not very happy with certain elements of the story - in particular the set design. Note the very wobbly walls and ladder in the scenes where the Doctor sabotages the rocket. He lodged a complaint with the head of the design department, after his own boss had complained about the sets.
Next time: Lots of endings, and some new beginnings. It's the last ever six part story, and the last time Bob Baker and Dave Martin collaborate on a Doctor Who story. Mary Tamm calls it quits, as does John Leeson (at least for now). Anthony Read is also off, but he is handing over to Douglas Adams. We also get to see the first appearance in the show of the future Mrs Tom Baker...

Thursday, 30 May 2019

DWM Poll


The latest issue of DWM was published today, and it includes the 2018 readers' poll results.
There were two versions of the magazine available - the standard one at £5.99, and a "Deluxe" one at £9.99. The latter included a 28 page supplement on the making of Series 11, plus a vinyl disc with extracts from the soundtrack to Evil of the Daleks and some other odds and sods.
I don't need another 28 pages about Series 11, thank you very much, and don't own a record player, so I'm sure you will have guessed which version it was that I bought today. (The £4 saving paid for the latest issue of Infinity magazine - hooray!).
Anyway. The poll had some interesting things to say about last season, which simply confirm what myself and a lot of other fans have been saying about it since the time of broadcast.
The top rated story was Rosa, with The Tsuranga Conundrum languishing at the bottom of the pile.
Annoyingly, despite it being categorically billed as not part of the series, and not even broadcast in 2018, DWM had elected to include Resolution. It came in 4th place.
The actual order is:
1. Rosa
2. Kerblam!
3. Demons of the Punjab
4. Resolution
5. It Takes You Away
6. The Woman Who Fell To Earth
7. The Witchfinders
8. The Ghost Monument
9. Arachnids in the UK
10. The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos
11. The Tsuranga Conundrum

As you can see, those stories written by Chris Chibnall all on his lonesome pretty much lie in the bottom half of the table (and most fans believe that the better parts of Rosa were down to Malorie Blackman). The guest writers being the better writers was something which we all picked up on as the series entered its second half, so it's hard to argue that our criticisms of Chibnall were either unfair or unfounded. The lacklustre "series finale" sitting in 10th position says a lot.
Were this poll to have an influence on future series would be both a Good Thing, and a Bad Thing. The Good Thing would be that Chibnall wrote less. The Bad Thing would be that we got a lot more of the historical stories in which the Doctor doesn't actually do anything.
The results of some of the other polls are also interesting, and say something about just what fans were offered last year.
Things weren't all bad for Tsuranga. The set design of the spaceship won in its section, and, bizarrely, the Pting managed to come in second in the "Favourite Creature" poll. The Kerblam! androids took first place. The DIY Dalek was third. Personally, I think this simply reflects what little we had to go on as far as the aliens were concerned this series.
Despite his stories coming in 6th and second to last place, the "Favourite Villain" was Tzim-Sha. The Dalek was second and Krasko was third - which definitely says something about how poor the threat levels were throughout the season. Krasko was one of the weakest characters of the entire run.
The favourite VFX was the new Vortex, first seen in Arachnids - with the Dalek / soldier battle second and the spaceship crash in The Ghost Monument third. You would have expected the series opener or, especially, the finale to have furnished something here. The new Vortex is nice, but hardly jaw-dropping.
Now, I didn't vote myself - I might have been tempted to submit a spoiled ballot, such was my relative apathy towards Series 11. In fact, I possibly didn't even see the poll. I find myself reading less and less of DWM these days, which is a sad state of affairs for someone who was there from Doctor Who Weekly Issue 1 back in 1979. I was really pleased to hear that Marcus Hearn, Hammer Historian, was taking over the editorship, but I haven't liked the magazine half as much since he took over. I have no interest in cosplay, so skip those features, don't buy Big Finish, so skip their many, many articles and reviews, and as for the opinions of teenagers about the show, well, I couldn't care less I'm afraid.