Friday, 3 July 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.12

Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006).
In a way it is part two to Rise of the Cybermen / Age of Steel. These are the same Cybus Cybermen that we saw half a series ago. We saw the London army destroyed, but mention was made of other Lumic factories across the globe where other Cybermen would be waiting to emerge. (There is no mention of Cybermen anywhere other than London being activated). Mickey and Jake were last seen heading off to France to deal with the Cybermen there.
From what we can gather from this new story, the Cybermen were sealed in their factories whilst an ethical debate raged over what to do with them. Then, it was found that they had all vanished. Somehow they have managed to find a way of crossing over to this Earth, travelling through the Void between universes, thanks to a passing Void Ship. They followed it. The activities of Torchwood London allowed them to partially break through into this world, though a couple managed to get through fully. They hid themselves within Torchwood Tower and they are tasked with partially converting some of the personnel. These staff members will open the Void fully and allow the whole Cyber force to come through.
The only design difference is the built-in weaponry in their right arms. This can disable Daleks momentarily, but not destroy them. The Cybermen are susceptible to Dalek firepower, however. The parallel Torchwood have developed weapons that are also effective against them.
The Cyber-Leader is reintroduced - once again denoted by black handlebars on the helmet. We learn what we have always thought - that the knowledge and memories of a Cyber-Leader are downloaded into a new unit when it is destroyed.
These Cybermen are all sucked back into the Void when it is reopened - unable to return to the parallel Earth.

Story Notes:

  • As mentioned above, this forms the second half of an epic four part Cyber-story. Both pairs of episodes were filmed back to back under the direction of Graeme Harper. This is the earliest a series finale has been filmed, so added to the pressures of maintaining secrecy.
  • Two clues were available to fans that the Cybermen would be back for the finale - a clip in a trailer showing a Cyberman lurking behind plastic sheeting, which did not appear in the first two episodes, and a photo of Neil Gorton's studio in the Radio Times - with a Cyber-Leader helmet sitting on the shelf behind him.
  • We also knew that the Daleks were back as one of the props was used at the BAFTAs awards ceremony. Unfortunately they used the black painted Dalek Sec one.
  • When I first visited Cardiff Bay I was able to walk over the bridge where the battle sequence early in Doomsday was filmed. It has since been replaced with a trendy new one. You cross it on your way to the Doctor Who Experience. 
  • Producer Phil Cillinson wanted Mickey to be the one who saved Rose at the last minute, as this would finally dispel the "Mickey the Idiot" thing. Julie Gardner opted for it being Pete - showing that he accepted her as his daughter (even though she wasn't).
  • Rose being sucked into the Void was a combination of wire work - and being wheeled along on a tea trolly.
  • When one of the Cyberman extras failed to turn up, concept artist Peter McKinstry got to play the part - being the right height for the costume.
  • Dalek Jast was originally going to be called Rabe - but it sounded too much like Ray.

"subtle tributes to the 60's" - and Edward Burnham

Apologies if you have been waiting patiently for the 12th installment of my Cyber-Odyssey. I was going to post it tonight but I spent so much time documenting the history of London Underground's District Line on my other blog that I ran out of time.
One thing I would just like to mention is something Peter Capaldi said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly - prior to his appearance at San Diego's Comic-Con. When asked about the two-part Series 9 finale - to be directed by Rachel Talalay - he said it contained those subtle tributes to the 1960's? Presumably 60's Doctor Who, as opposed to the decade in general.
Will be interesting to see how subtle these references are.

Also just like to mark the passing of actor Edward Burnham, who appeared twice in the series - playing scientists of varying eccentricity both times. He was Prof Watkins in The Invasion in 1968, and Prof Kettlewell in Robot, in 1974/5. He died on Tuesday 30th June, 2015, at the grand old age of 98. If you have seen his appearances on the DVD extras for both stories, you'll know he was a bit like Kettlewell in real life.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Story 132 - Frontios

In which the TARDIS is drawn towards the planet of Frontios, in the far distant future. The Doctor is concerned as the ship has exceeded its temporal limits, something which the Time Lords would disapprove of. A powerful gravitational force is at work, and the ship materialises in the midst of a meteorite bombardment. They have landed next to a massive spaceship wreck. Frontios is home to a colony from Earth. They crashed here some years ago and their society is failing. In command is the inexperienced young Plantagenet, guided by his tougher deputy and security chief Brazen. As well as the frequent meteorite showers, there has been an increase in looting and other disorder. At first the newcomers are suspected of being behind the meteorites, which seem to be deliberately directed towards them. However, the Doctor's scientific skills are needed to improve conditions in the hospital. Whilst assisting Science Officer Range, Tegan learns that there have been some unusual, unexplained deaths in the colony over the years. Brazen ordered mine workings to be closed down after the previous leader - Plantagenet's father - disappeared whilst studying the caves. He had been buried under some debris, and when this was removed the body had vanished. Turlough befriends Range's daughter Norna, from whom he learns that Frontios buries its own dead. During another bombardment the TARDIS is apparently destroyed - only the hat-stand from the console room left standing where the ship had been.

Plantagenet is wounded and suffers a heart attack. Whilst in the hospital ward, he falls to the floor and is sucked down into the ground. Brazen must keep this from the colonists, otherwise there will be a complete breakdown in law and order. The Doctor decides that the caves must be investigated. The tunnels prove to be artificially sculpted in many sections - as though drilled and polished. Seeing these, Turlough begins to suffer from a repressed memory - some horror story from his childhood. There is a name to go with these memories - Tractators. The Doctor and his friends soon come upon these creatures - huge insectoid beings like giant woodlice, with armoured carapaces. They can manipulate gravity and can pull people and objects towards them as though magnetised. In control is the Gravis, which is distinguishable from its underlings as it has the power of speech. Tractators fashion tunnels beneath the surface of a planet which they infest, and these are used to harness their gravitational powers. Once complete, the planet can be piloted through space, in order to colonise other worlds. They have been bringing down the meteorites to "cull" the human population - the bodies of the dead and near dead being used to fashion and run mining equipment. Plantagenet is still alive. He is to take over from his father in operating one of the mining machines.

The Doctor rescues him but Brazen falls into the machine. He is able to sacrifice himself to destroy the device. The Doctor discovers that the TARDIS wasn't destroyed by meteorites. It has been broken up by the Tractators - the pieces scattered through the tunnels. The console room is found to be still intact. The Tractators are powerless without their leader, so the Doctor devises a scheme to separate the Gravis from the others. He informs it that he is a Time Lord, and the Gravis recognises his race - and realises that it has the opportunity to gain a TARDIS. The Doctor tricks it into reconstituting the ship. The rebuilding of the ship disables the Gravis, the psychic link to its fellows cut off, so the Doctor decides to take it and dump it on a barren planetoid - Kolkokron - where it will not be able to cause any significant damage. Without their leader, the other Tractators become simple burrowing creatures which should not pose any risk to the colonists. Plantagenet is able to reassert his authority over the colony. The Doctor gives him the TARDIS hat-stand as a parting gift, and asks that no-one mention that he was ever here. On leaving the planet, the TARDIS suddenly finds itself caught in a temporal disturbance...

This four part adventure was written by former Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead, and was broadcast between 26th January and 3rd February, 1984. It was Bidmead's last script for the series.
Bidmead was unhappy with some elements of the production - the Tractator design and the toning down of some grisly body horror. These he fixed when it came time to novelise the story. The Tractators were supposed to have more flexible bodies - dancers were employed to play them - and they were to capture their victims by curling around them. The costumes proved to be far too rigid for this - the actors able to flap their hands at the most. The mining machine was to have had body parts incorporated into it, but this was felt to be too horrific. As it is, we only see Plantagenet's father - Captain revere, sitting in the machine in a zombie-like trance. Production stills show that had the machine been filmed from the side, there would have been other captive humans locked into it. Brazen's death, when he is caught by the machine and causes it to blow up, all takes place off screen.
Bidmead was always good at planet-building, and Frontios has some interesting aspects. It is difficult to see how this colony could have survived four decades, however. There is a sub-plot involving an orderly named Cockerill, who survives being sucked under the ground, and who gathers a following because of this - but this just doesn't lead anywhere.
An apparent influence on this story is the classic Star Trek episode 'Devil In The Dark'. Even design elements like the spheres lying everywhere remind us of that.

The regular cast members get plenty to do in this story - with Mark Strickson's drooling nervous breakdown and Tegan's reaction to being passed off as a dodgy android - with a wonky walk and accent. Davison dons the half-moon "brainy" specs.
The guest cast is strong. Peter Gilmore, best known for The Onedin Line, plays Brazen. Plantagenet is Jeff Rawle, who will return to the Doctor Who universe in The Sarah Jane Adventures story Mona Lisa's Revenge. Norna is Lesley Dunlop, who will be back as one of The Happiness Patrol. Range is William Lucas - more on his casting below.
Episode endings are:
  1. Emerging from shelter following another of the meteorite bombardments, the Doctor is shocked to find the TARDIS appears to have been destroyed...
  2. The Doctor finds himself frozen by the Tractators' gravitational beams...
  3. The Doctor and Tegan are confronted by the mining machine, driven by the dead Captain Revere...
  4. In the console room, the Doctor and his companions must hang on as the ship begins to go out of control...

Overall, a very strong story, with interesting concepts and an unusual monster modus operandi. Peter Davison had already decided to move on from the role by this stage, but has said he might have done a further season had his second series of scripts been as good as this one.
Things you might like to know:
  • Tragically, William Lucas got the part of Range late in the day after the intended actor - Peter Arne - was murdered. On his way back to his flat after a costume fitting, he had invited a young man named Guiseppi Perusi home with him. Arne knew him and had often given him food. Perusi killed Arne and then himself - his body was later pulled out of the Thames. Lucas knew Arne and was shocked when he learned that it was his old acquaintance whom he would be replacing.
  • Another death which affected production was the suicide of the intended designer - Barrie Dobbins. His assistant David Buckingham was promoted to take his place.
  • As with a number of Davison stories, this ends on a cliffhanger which will lead into the following story.
  • The temporal boundary for the TARDIS is never really explained. Presumably this is a legal thing rather than anything physical. What is it about the tail end of the universe that needs protecting?
  • This story sees the final musical contributions by Paddy Kingsland of the Radiophonic Workshop.
  • Look closely in the opening scene when Revere gets dragged into the soil. You will see the fingers of one of the VFX assistants wriggling away.
  • A noticeable continuity error is when Tegan bars the doors to the hospital ward. She puts the bar through the middle of the door handles, but we then see it across the top. The door handles are clearly made of cardboard as well.
  • You have to wonder why they use a space with a soil floor for the hospital unit. Not terribly hygienic, and especially silly when you know the planet eats the dead and dying.
  • Never trust a reference book. About Time Volume 5 claims that this is the first of a run of four consecutive stories to have an actor with the name Maurice in it - there being no other story with someone of that name at any other time. Well, there ain't no Maurice in Planet of Fire. With Maurice Denham playing Azmael in The Twin Dilemma, you do get four out of five consecutive stories with a Maurice, but not the straight run as they claim.
  • The Federation helmets from Blake's 7 get reused for the Orderlies.

Friday, 26 June 2015

TARDIS Travels No.28

Christopher Eccleston moves on, and David Tennant begins his residency of the TARDIS, starting with the first of the Christmas Specials.

Journey 422: The Game Station, 200,100, to Powell Estate, London, 24th December 2006.
We get to see Rose's first reactions to the new Doctor in the Children In Need mini-episode (which I will be calling Born Again, as that is what BBC Books call it). This is set entirely in the TARDIS. The planned trip to the planet Barcelona gets cancelled as the Doctor suffers post-regeneration mania, recklessly speeding the ship towards Rose's home on Christmas Eve. The TARDIS is heard by both Mickey and Jackie before it is seen to materialise in mid-air, colliding with a building before crashing to a halt by the communal bins. Still one of the most impressive bits of TARDIS action we have seen in the series.
When Mickey activates the scanner, the technology is spotted by the Sycorax who transmat the ship onto their vessel. Spilt tea, heated when it lands on some of the components, provides the boost that brings the Doctor out of his comatose state.
When the Sycorax leave, they transmat everyone down to a different location  - including the TARDIS.

Journey 423: Powell Estate - Bloxom Road to the Parade, 25th December, 2006.
At the conclusion of The Christmas Invasion, the TARDIS is clearly no longer where it was earlier transmatted to. Presumably, the Doctor moved it when he went to choose his new outfit - the clothing store being the first new area of the TARDIS seen in the new series. We know that Ursula Blake spotted him in Trafalgar Square on this night, so he may have gone there by TARDIS, before settling down to his Christmas dinner.

Journey 424: Powell Estate, December 2006, to New Earth, 5,000,000,023.
After receiving a message on his psychic paper, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to New Earth, the ship landing across the river from New New York, and within walking distance of the hospital from whence the message originated. We don't know the date on which the Doctor and Rose set off - presumably December 26th, as the new Doctor would not have wanted to hang around the Powell Estate for too long.

Journey 425: New Earth, 5,000,000,023, to Scotland, 1879.
The TARDIS was aiming for Sheffield on 21st November, 1979, but lands in the Highlands of Scotland - a day's journey from Balmoral - a century too early. Had the ship gone where it was supposed to, the Doctor and Rose still wouldn't have seen Ian Dury and the Blockheads - they did not play Sheffield on that date. Some intelligent parking by the TARDIS. It does not land anywhere near where the alien threat is, but does bring the Doctor and Queen Victoria together so that he can join her party.

Journey 426: Scotland, 1879, to Deffry Vale School, London, 2007.
After receiving a message from Mickey, the TARDIS returns to Earth so that the Doctor can investigate strange goings-on at a comprehensive school. Unseen journeys here will have seen the Doctor collecting and delivering the winning lottery ticket that allowed him to replace the Physics teacher. Sarah Jane Smith finds the TARDIS hidden in a storeroom.

Journey 427: London - Deffry Vale School to local park, 2007.
The TARDIS survives the destruction of the school, and is later seen to have been moved to a park, where Sarah visits and gets left K9 Mark IV.

Journey 428: London, 2007, to SS Madame de Pompadeur, 51st Century.
Mickey's first journey in the TARDIS and they land on the spaceship, which is located in the Diagmar Cluster.

Journey 429: SS Madame de Pompadeur, 51st Century, to London, 1st February 2007.
An alternative London to be exact, in a parallel universe. Mickey gives the date from a discarded newspaper. The journey through the Void between universes just happens to take place when Mickey removes his finger from a button which the Doctor has forgotten to inform him he could have released ages ago. A coincidence, or has this actually led to their travelling here?
The TARDIS materialises by Lambeth Palace, on the Albert Embankment.

Journey 430: Alt. London, 2007, to Powell Estate, 2007.
The Doctor takes Rose home to see her mother once they leave the parallel Earth, the ship materialising in the middle of her living room.

Journey 431: Powell Estate, 2007, to North London, 1st June, 1953.
The TARDIS materialises near Alexandra Palace, close to Florizel Street, on the eve of Queen Elizabeth's coronation. The Doctor was aiming for New York in the second half of the decade. He mentions catching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. Presley appeared 3 times between September 1956 and January 1957. It was the final appearance that was the famous one - where the director was ordered not to film him below the waist, so presumably this is the show the Doctor wanted to catch. We discover that the Doctor has a moped in the TARDIS, though he gives it away to Tommy Connolly before they depart.

Journey 432: North London, 2nd June 1953, to Sanctuary Base 6, Krop Tor, 42nd Century.
The date is given as 43K 2.1. The Doctor is worried that the ship seems "queasy" - reacting to something nearby it does not like - presumably the Black Hole K36 Gem 5, though there is also some writing so old that it won't be able to translate it. When an earth tremor destroys the storeroom in which it has landed, the TARDIS falls several miles into the planet's interior. This is the first time that the Doctor states that TARDISes are grown.

Journeys 433 - 435: Krop Tor to Torchwood Archive space shuttle, 42nd Century.
The Doctor finds the TARDIS close to where he encountered the Beast and he uses it to first rescue Ida Scott (unseen) then to use the tractor beam to pull the space shuttle to safety. It then materialises inside the hold of the vessel so that Rose can rejoin the Doctor, and Ida can be reunited with her crew (unseen).

Journey 436: Torchwood Archive space ship, 42nd Century, to Woolwich, London, 2007.
Elton Pope, of LINDA, tracks the TARDIS down to the riverside area, south east of the city, where the Doctor and Rose are trying to deal with a Hoix.
An additional journey is glimpsed when Elton tells of how the Doctor visited his home in the 1970's - the night his mother died.

Journey 437: London - Woolwich to unspecified part of city, 2007.
An alleyway within running-for-your-life-from-an-Abzorbaloff distance of Macatier Street, if that helps pin it down any better.

Journeys 438 & 439: London, 2007, to London, 2012.
The TARDIS materialises in Stratford, East London, on the eve of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. The ship first materialises with the door facing a metal container, so the Doctor has to try again in order that they can exit. Later, the ship will be sent to the unknown dimension where the Isolus within young Chloe Webber sends the people and things she draws - being returned once the Isolus departs.

Journey 440: London - Stratford, 2012, to Powell Estate, 2007.
The TARDIS does not seem to have a favoured landing spot when visiting Rose's manor. It generally lands on or near the Parade, but it has recently landed up in Jackie's front room, and now materialises in a playground on the estate.
At some point - possibly between Stratford 2012 and here, or perhaps around the time of LINDA's 'Nvestigations - the Doctor and Rose have visited a bazaar on an unnamed asteroid, plus a planet that is home to flying manta-ray creatures.

Journey 441: London - Powell Estate to Torchwood Tower, Canary Wharf, 2007.
The TARDIS travels to the source of the "Ghost Shifts". It materialises in a store-room, but Torchwood staff later move it manually to another area of the complex.

Journey 442: Torchwood Tower, London, 2007, to unknown region of space, 24th December 2007.
The Doctor harnesses the energy of a super nova in order to get a farewell message through to Rose, who receives it on Bad Wolf Bay in Norway. The date is a guess - based on what happens next.
But that is for next time...

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

TARDIS Histories No.1

Regular readers will know that I recently set up a second blog devoted to my passion for History (especially local history, which in my case means London). I have now devised a means to link the two together - since there is obviously an awful lot of History to be found in Doctor Who.
Starting with 1964's Marco Polo, I am going to be looking at the historical context behind the Doctor's travels through Earth's history.
In my story reviews I have always tried to add a little bit of the historical background in the "Things you might like to know..." section, but this allows me to delve a little deeper. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.11

Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel (2006).
New Series, new Cybermen. In Series 1 we saw a part of a Cyberman - the head of a Revenge style one in a glass case in Henry Van Statten's museum. Its caption suggested it was supposed to be one of the ones from The Invasion, however.
With the Daleks dominating that first series, it wasn't until the second series that the Cybermen were brought back. As they have one of the more complex histories, it was decided to start afresh with an origins story. These would be an entirely different race of Cybermen, born on a parallel Earth.
They have been created by John Lumic, director of Lumic Industries. Lumic is dying and has been seeking ways to prolong life. He has developed an armoured body, into which a human brain can be transplanted. So, unlike previous Cybermen from our universe, only the brain is organic. The entire body comes ready built.
Emotions are inhibited by a device built into the chest.
Carried over from earlier designs are the tear-drop ducts below the eyes, plus the handlebars on the sides of the helmet. There is no chest unit - only a Cybus logo, which opens to access the emotion inhibiter.
The body is made up of steel sections, overlying hydraulic cabling.
Their only weapon is a powerful electrical charge, enabling them to kill by touch.
An empty Cyber-suit is capable of movement on its own, even responding to others.
New Cybermen retain a memory of their previous self, at least initially. They can be destroyed by an electromagnetic bomb, or by concentrated Artron Energy. The main force is destroyed when the inhibiter is bypassed. The Cybermen, realising what has happened to them, self-destruct.
Other Cybermen still exist, however, at other Cybus factories in other countries.
This two-part story also introduces a new Cyber-Controller - a converted John Lumic. It is of the same design as the ordinary Cybermen apart from a transparent brain-case, plus bolt sections on the chest where it was connected by cables to a throne-like unit. The Controller is destroyed when it falls into the exploding Battersea Power Station - which had been turned into a Cyber-conversion factory.

Story Notes:

  • Russell T Davies ensured that the word 'silver' wasn't used for the new Cybermen. 'Steel' was to be the new key word.
  • The Cybermen finally get their own catchphrase - "Delete".
  • Marc Platt's Big Finish audio Spare Parts gets mentioned in the closing credits. Very little of it is used - mainly the Sally Phelan section. There was more in the initial drafts.
  • In the early 80's, Gerry Davis - the Cyber Co-creator - proposed a Cyberman origins story to producer JNT. There is a synopsis in the DWM Essential Cybermen special edition.
  • One of the Cybermen is the then Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones.
  • To help co-ordinate their movements, unable to see clearly in their helmets, the Cybermen had their wrists tied together with elastic bands.
  • The Invasion is referenced with International Electromatics being a subsidiary of Cybus Industries.
  • The story aired around the 40th anniversary of the Cybermen's first appearance. There is an obscure nod to this with Jackie's 40th birthday party.
  • Graeme Harper was the first - and so far only - director to be brought back from the Classic Series.
  • This is the first story since Black Orchid not to feature any alien elements - these Cybermen being native to this Earth.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Series 9 Update

Thought it might be time for a brief update on the forthcoming series.
Photos emerged last week that revealed the return of Joivan Wade, who played graffiti artist and community service worker Rigsy in Flatline last season. He will be appearing in Episode 10, which has a female writer - Sarah Dollard. There has been a lot of criticism about Steven Moffat favouring only male writers during his tenure as lead writer, even inviting back writers whose work quite frankly bombed with fans, so obviously nice to see that this is finally being addressed.
Note the Doctor's new dark red coat - again linking his image with the Pertwee years.
Talking of which - did you see the Instagram picture Sean Pertwee released of himself looking like his dad? This came after his Halloween 2014 pics of himself in a Third Doctor wig and costume. Is he trying to hint something? Might he be suggesting that it is time we had a The Two Doctors style story where the Third and Twelfth meet up? Gotham is obviously keeping him very busy these days, but it would be lovely if Sean could soon play Jon.
Lastly, video emerged that shows that Maisie Williams will be playing a Highway Woman - which seems to suggest her story The Girl Who Died / The Woman Who Lived is set in at least three different time zones.
And yes, Moffat let slip that the series would start in September - then quickly recanted. The UK Bank Holiday weekend at the end of August is the most obvious start date, but the later the better as far as darker evenings go, I think. And will the next series continue to be shown in a later time slot? Something which concerns me as, without the children watching, the series withers.
Since I last looked at Series 9, wikileaks provided information about discussions concerning a movie. The BBC said no - at that time. Moffat is now committed to a 10th series.
Could the plan be to rest the TV series after 10, and then do a movie? Peter Jackson has already said he would be up for it...