Friday, 31 August 2012

Life's Not So Easy In The Year 2150 AD...

As 1965 came to a close, Aaru's Milton Subotsky exercised his option to make a second Dalek movie, after the great success of Dr. Who and the Daleks. Once again, he would write the screenplay. As the first film was an adaptation of the first Dalek TV serial, so this would be a big screen version of the second - Terry Nation's The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
Filming began at Shepperton Studios in January 1966, with a view to a summer '66 opening. The director would be Gordon Flemyng once more, and also returning from the first film would be Peter Cushing, as Dr. Who, and Roberta Tovey as Susan. Jennie Linden's Barbara would be replaced by Jill Curzon's Louise - Dr. Who's niece. The Ian Chesterton role would be replaced entirely with a new character - PC Tom Campbell, played by another comic actor, Bernard Cribbins.

Principal guest actors were Andrew Keir (the TV Tyler now renamed Wyler); Ray Brooks (David - losing his surname to Cribbins' character), and in his first Doctor Who-related role Philip Madoc (TV's Ashton character now named Brockley).
The Daleks would undergo a colour scheme change - with the majority now silver with blue hemispheres, as their original television counterparts. There would be three much more colourful versions - a red saucer commander, a black mining complex controller, and a gold one which seemed to be in overall charge.
Whilst the Robomen of the TV series had been dressed in normal, ragged clothing, the film ones would have a sleek uniform look - black PVC coveralls and with more compact helmets (with built in shades).

Plot-wise, as with the first film, the biggest differences are with the initial set up, and the introduction of Bernard Cribbins' character. A jewellery shop is robbed and PC Campbell fails to catch the thieves. Knocked on the head, he stumbles towards a nearby Police Call Box. Entering, he finds it is the brightly lit TARDIS (slightly redesigned from the first film). As Dr.Who, Susan and Louise stare at him in surprise, he collapses.
Once they get to London, in the year 2150AD, the story settles down to an abridged version of the TV tale.
Biggest differences are the removal of the Jenny character and the Slyther. Naturally there is no romantic sub-plot with David and Susan.
It is Wyler, teaming up with Susan, who borrows a vehicle and drives through a cordon of Daleks, and it is they who are betrayed by the old woman (Eileen Way) and her daughter.
Cribbins fulfils the Roy Castle comedy function - especially in a scene where he is impersonating a Roboman (trying to copy their synchronised movements). There is also some slapstick with a food machine on the Dalek saucer.
The ending is a vast improvement on the lacklustre anti-climax of the TV version. Here, the bomb releases powerful magnetic forces. Daleks are sucked into the mine shaft, and the fleeing saucer is pulled down out of control to crash into the mine complex.
The film ends with Dr. Who taking Tom back to the scene of the opening robbery - a few minutes before - so that he can apprehend the villains. The fact that there ought to be two of him co-existing at the same time is simply glossed over.

Performances match the slightly more violent and adult storyline - everyone playing their parts with conviction. The special effects highlight the extra budget allocated  to this production. The stand-out element is the Dalek spaceship. It, and the film Robomen, made it onto the cover of the original Target novelisation of the TV story. The model will be used again in another Sci-Fi film (Invasion of the Body Stealers aka The Body Stealers, Tigon 1969. It's rubbish...).

Production on the film was delayed due to a number of accidents and illnesses (adding 11 days to the shooting schedule). Cushing fell ill, and so his role had to be diminished somewhat. Andrew Keir damaged his hand in the scene where he has to smash a hole in the shattered van windscreen. Stuntman Eddie Powell, playing an escaping prisoner outside the saucer, broke his ankle as he fell from a ledge - you'll see it happen in the finished film.
Whilst the BBC is never allowed to promote commercial products, the film had no such restrictions. The breakfast cereal "Sugar Puffs" paid for the privilege of some on screen advertising - posters appear, unsubtly, in the background of two or three scenes.

Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150 AD was released in July 1966. Despite the bigger budget and heavy promotion, the box office proved disappointing. The "Dalekmania" of the previous year was already on the wane, and the opening clashed with hot weather and a certain little football competition...
The option was there for Subotsky to make a third film, but he chose not to take it up. A third film would probably have been an adaptation of The Chase.
Cushing would almost return to the role of Dr. Who in a planned syndicated radio series. A pilot was recorded, but the series never made it to air.
Bernard Cribbins would, of course, step through the TARDIS doors again, when he joined the programme as Donna Noble's granddad - Wilf Mott.

Pond Life 5

Yesterday I asked if things were going to get darker for the Ponds. Well, so it begins. The Doctor has returned the Ood to the Collective and has come for a visit. There's no-one at home at the Pond's, so he leaves a message. He's been to the Battle of Hastings, 1066; ridden through Coventry (in the nude perhaps?); and accidentally invented pasta for what looked like Genghis Khan.
What he doesn't know is that Amy & Rory's marriage is in meltdown. He deletes the message - unaware that Amy could do with talking to him right now...

So that was Pond Life - a generally funny mini-series which shockingly turns sombre at the last minute, leading us neatly into tomorrow's Asylum of the Daleks. Quite a few press pictures which have been claimed for Asylum and for The Power of Three have now been explained (such as the image above).

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Pond Life 4

The Ood which the Doctor left behind in June, is still there in July, and has settled in nicely. It's doing all the chores, including bed-making, window cleaning, and making Amy & Rory's packed lunches. Lord knows what the neighbours are thinking... The Doctor is on the phone from the TARDIS (trying to avert an implosion) and explains that he picked the Ood up from the middle of the Androvax conflict (he of the Veil?). He'll be back to collect it that night - though not sure which night that actually is... Until then, Amy and Rory will just sit back and enjoy the service.

Looks like all these shorts are going to be humorous in nature. We know, however, that the Pond's marriage is as good as over by the start of Asylum of the Daleks (as illustrated by one of  the new clips shown on BBC Breakfast Time this morning). Will tomorrow's final part of Pond Life turn to darker matters?

Series 7 Cinema-Style Posters

Well, Moffat did promise us "Blockbuster" episodes after all. Excellent cinema-style posters for the other 4 episodes of series 7 released by the BBC today. The Dalek one was issued a couple of weeks ago, and is available as a desktop download from the official website. These others aren't downloadable yet (found these decent sized ones on the website) . Perhaps HQ desktop downloads will be made available each week as we go along.
If you look at The Power of Three one, you'll notice that Rory is wearing his nurse uniform. This is certainly the most intriguing of the images. All those little pictures are of Amy and Rory from previous stories...

Update: Please take a look at Blogtor Who site - they have much better definition versions. You'll see what I mean about The Power of Three one.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

"Now on the Big Screen - in Colour!"

The Dalek Invasion of Earth, broadcast at the end of 1964, helped cement the Daleks firmly in the public's imagination, and the BBC saw various opportunities to capitalise on their success. They were approached by a variety of manufacturers and retailers keen to have their firms / products associated with Doctor Who - and especially with the Daleks.
It was inevitable that a cinema outing would be considered. Quickest off the mark was producer Milton Subotsky, who secured the rights to make one movie - with an option on a possible two follow ups. Rather than consider an original storyline, he opted to remake the Daleks' first TV outing - enabling them to be seen in widescreen (Techniscope) and in colour (Technicolor). Apparently Subotsky paid £500 for the privilege. His production company was Amicus, which was gaining a reputation for itself as a major horror movie stable (especially the portmanteau "Tales From The Crypt" style of films). Not wishing to associate a children's production with X-rated horror films, a separate production entity was set up, called Aaru. Subotsky's co-producer was Max J. Rosenberg. The director chosen to helm the film was Scotsman Gordon Flemyng (dad of actor Jason). It was Subotsky who adapted Terry Nation's original scripts - having to condense 7 x 25 minute episodes down to an easily-distracted-child-friendly running time of about 80 minutes.

With the TV programme in almost year-round production, it was impossible to feature the television cast, and the producers wanted a big name star draw anyway. Peter Cushing, who had worked on a number of Amicus films and was best known for his Hammer Horror productions, agreed to play the lead character. He was very keen to be seen as not just a horror actor. Joining him as Ian was comic actor and musician Roy Castle. They had just worked together on "Dr Terror's House of Horrors" for Amicus, and got on very well. Jazz trumpeter Castle had been a late replacement in that film - it should have been clarinetist Acker Bilk.
Barbara would be played by Jennie Linden, and Susan by 11 year old Roberta Tovey, daughter of veteran character actor George Tovey. The principal Thal part - Alydon - would go to Barrie Ingham. (He would shortly be appearing with the TV TARDIS crew in The Myth Makers, playing Prince Paris of Troy).

 Of course, for the expected children's audience, the human stars were immaterial. It was the Daleks they would be paying to see. The Invasion Daleks had been built up due to the need to include all-terrain wheels, but the ones seen in the TV version of this film had been only 5 feet tall. They had been silver in colour, with blue hemispheres.
For their big screen debut, the Daleks would be specially constructed - much taller and with a range of colour schemes. There would also be a lot more of them - so no need for flat photographic blow-ups. Most Daleks have dark blue domes and hemispheres, but there are also red and black versions - denoting leaders.

Other changes were made to give them a more sinister appearance - metal claws instead of sink-plungers, and real firepower. Jennie Linden recalled in 1993 that it was planned for them to shoot flame, but this would have been unsafe for the cast, crew and the predominantly plastic sets. Instead, the film Daleks would go the opposite way and have fire extinguishers for weapons. Objects would burst into flames when fired upon, however.

Story-wise, the main changes from the TV adventure occur with the initial set up. These are not the same characters as we have seen in Doctor Who, despite re-use of names. Peter Cushing's character is really called Dr. Who. He is a bit of a cliched absent minded, eccentric professor - very much from Earth. Barbara and Susan are both his grand-daughters. Ian Chesterton visits their home as he is Barbara's new boyfriend, come to take her on a date.
TARDIS (no "the") is Dr. Who's invention, knocked together in his back garden out of bits and pieces and housed in a Police Call Box. It is still a time machine, and still bigger on the inside.
The relationship between Dr. Who and his young relatives is set up in the opening shot - as we see the girls reading weighty science tomes, whilst he enjoys Dan Dare's latest escapades in that week's 'Eagle' comic.
Ian is a comic relief character for much of the film, but does gain a heroic sheen later on. It is his bumbling antics which launch everyone on their adventure, when he accidentally leans on a control lever. (He had earlier sat on the box of chocolates which he had brought for Barbara - which Dr. Who mistakenly thought were for him).
Once on Skaro - never named - the film pretty much follows the general narrative of The Daleks - sabotaging the ship in order to explore the city, the finding of the drug phials, radiation sickness, capture by the Daleks, Susan's lone journey back to the ship and encounter with Alydon, Etc.

 The heavy padding of episodes 6 & 7 is omitted - the long trek through swamp and cavern by Ian and Barbara. Whereas we saw the swamp monster in the TV story, here it is only implied through Roy Castle's reactions and sound effects. The cavern scene with Antodus and the precipice plays out differently. In The Daleks, he plunged to his death. Here, there is a handy ledge and he clambers out unscathed - much more family friendly.
As with the TV story, the Daleks are the cause of their own demise - though in much more spectacular style. On TV, one bumped into a bit of machinery, whilst here a whole phalanx of Daleks fire on Ian, miss, and blow up their own master computer. This huge, rotating machine is one of the set / design masterpieces of this film. (Shame the TV versions never had stuff as good as this. Ray Cusick probably wept at the première,  remembering the sort of budget he was saddled with...).
If you thought the TV Thals were a bit fey - the film ones are as camp as a row of tents. Just take a look at Barrie Ingham's fetching eye-shadow and lip gloss above.
The film ends with the time travelers not quite making it home - Ian opens the doors and sees a Roman Legion  marching towards him.

Dr. Who & The Daleks was released in August 1965, and the public reaction was very good, making it one of the top grossing British films of the year. It would even generate its own merchandise, to add to the general "Dalekmania" which the TV programme was stirring up. Production on a second film was rubber-stamped - and it would have more money put into it.
Personally speaking, this is my favourite of the two films. The other one did have more money thrown at it, and is more epic in scale, but this is a brilliant condensation of the first TV Dalek tale. Exciting and with a lot of humour. Performances are pitched at the target audience, so we cannot complain, and it's nice to see Cushing enjoying himself so much on this. He selected this role for exactly the same reasons that had appealed to Hartnell - to break type-casting and appeal to the kids.
The Daleks look superb in colour, and there are great sets - the aforementioned control computer and the Skaro forest. There is a great set piece where the apparently natural mound in front of the Dalek city slides open to reveal bright lights which dazzle the Doctor and Susan, enabling the Daleks to capture them.
Not sure about the preponderance of lava lamps, though.
This film would go on to influence two recent Doctor Who developments - the Matt Smith TARDIS exterior, and the New Paradigm Daleks.

Pond Life 3

This time there is no sign of the Doctor - but you can tell he's been... It's now June. Rory gets up one morning and goes to the bathroom - and finds an Ood enthroned.
(Lucky the Ponds don't live in Tooting Bec, or it might have been a Yeti!).

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Pond Life 2

Yesterday's events took place in April, and today we are in May.
The Doctor gets his timing wrong - he's just experienced episode 7.2 (we see some fleeting clips), but for Amy and Rory (and us of course) it hasn't happened yet. It's all the fault of the Helmic Regulator.
Apparently a rule is needed about the Doctor's access to the bedroom.
Naturally all the Doctor's assurances about how safe the future will be lead to another sleepless night for the Ponds.
A much slighter piece than yesterday's, but humorous none the less. That's the last of the three previously released screenshots used up, so we don't know anything at all about the parts still to come. What will the Doctor get up to in June, July and August?

Radio Times Teasers

If there is a new episode of Doctor Who on Saturday, then Tuesday is publicity day. All of the weekly TV listings magazines are released today - and we generally get some new photographs or, in previous years, a preview clip or two.
Best of the lot as far as the magazines are concerned is the Radio Times. A Doctor Who cover, brief interviews with the regulars and Moffat's personal exclusive previews. The Dalek Wallchart is on the fold-out inside covers.
Combom (who I suspect must run a little newsagents) has scans of all the listings mags including all the relevant DW pages from RT.
Moffat has given a few snippets of information about all 5 episodes - no spoilers and nothing earth shattering.

Asylum of the Daleks - The Doctor is asked by a mysterious woman named Darla Von Karlsen to help find her daughter (I assume this is how the Daleks trap him). The Asylum is regarded as a myth - a planetoid "cracked open" and filled with all the battle-scarred Daleks that even the Daleks are afraid of.
There is a major surprise just after the title sequence...

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship - The spaceship is ancient - it is implied it is 65 million years old, so these dinosaurs are not alien ones. The Doctor has to save the Earth and the dinosaurs from extinction.

A Town Called Mercy - The Doctor and his companions get caught in the crossfire between an alien fugitive and the cyborg Gunslinger. The Gunslinger attacks whenever anyone crosses the town boundary. The question is, who is the villain? The Doctor takes up a gun - so things must be bad.

The Power of Three - the black cubes turn up one day and do... nothing much. The Doctor has to wait a year for things to happen - so he moves into Amy & Rory's spare bedroom.

The Angels Take Manhattan - Nothing new to add I'm afraid. The Doctor has been visiting the Ponds for years, and they are a surrogate family for him. He doesn't notice that Amy now needs glasses to read, however. But it is all going to end in heartbreak very soon.

Also released today are the other two DWM covers (issue 451). I expected them to be Dalek variants, but they actually cover episodes 2 & 3.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Pond Life 1

Did we just see what is probably the best Sontaran adventure never shown? Don't know about you, but the brief glimpse of the Doctor's escapades in the Fire Caverns of Floridal 9 (that's what it sounded like) looked ten times more exciting than The Sontaran Stratagem or The Invasion of Time. I'd love to have seen the whole thing.
As for the encounter in Paris with Mata Hari, probably best left unseen. I had loads of jokes prepared, based around the word "crumpet" - but have decided I am far too mature to go down that route...
The "laying down tracks" was just a bit of silliness.

So that was Pond Life part 1. The Doctor is off doing stuff, and he phones Amy and Rory occasionally to let them know what he has been up to.
This was not as inconsequential as I feared. We really are seeing a unique Doctor / companion relationship here. For the first time ever, the Doctor is seen to be travelling on his own (apart from The Deadly Assassin it has only ever been implied in the past, in dialogue regarding untelevised adventures - and even then always when he is between companions). All of the other companions he leaves behind (even his granddaughter, Susan) and moves on - but with Amy & Rory he has maintained this odd on /off relationship. I can only assume it is because he has "married" their daughter - so there is very much a different kind of connection between them.
Am really looking forward to tomorrow's minisode.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Story 10 - The Dalek Invasion of Earth

In which Ian and Barbara think that they have finally made it back home. The TARDIS has materialised under a bridge beside the Thames in London. It is suspiciously quiet - with not even the chimes of Big Ben to disturb the silence. Susan has an accident which results in her hurting her ankle - and burying the ship under debris from the crumbling bridge. The Doctor and Ian set off to look round a warehouse, in the hope of finding an oxy-acetylene torch. Instead, they find the corpse of a man who is wearing a strange electronic helmet and who is armed with a whip. Ian knows he is not back in 1963, as Battersea Power Station has an atomic power plant next to it. There is a desk calendar for the year 2164. They hear gunfire, and then see a huge saucer-like spaceship fly past.
Barbara and Susan have encountered a group of men who lead them to safety in an Underground station. There is a young Scotsman named David Campbell, an older man named Tyler, and a wheelchair bound scientist named Dortmun. In their subterranean base, they also meet a young woman named Jenny.
The Doctor and Ian are confronted by more armed men wearing the strange helmets. The only route of escape is the river - but they are shocked to see the sinisterly familiar shape of a Dalek glide up out of the water.

They are taken to Chelsea Heliport, which the Daleks are using as a saucer landing site. They learn from a fellow captive that the Daleks invaded 10 years ago, after subjecting the Earth to germ warfare. Many humans have been operated upon to become Robomen - fitted with the helmets which control them - who act as a brutal police force. Others have been shipped to Bedfordshire where there is supposed to be a massive mining operation.
Dortmun has developed a bomb which he believes can destroy Dalek casings. Tyler, David and Barbara lead an attack on the saucer at Chelsea. The bombs prove useless, but the Doctor - about to be robotised - is freed. Ian hides in the undercarriage space in the confusion.
Everyone gets split up as the Daleks decide to firebomb the city. All make for the mine workings. The Doctor, Susan and David travel through the alligator-infested sewers, meeting up with Tyler. Barbara and Jenny use a borrowed lorry from the Transport Museum after Dortmun is killed. Ian is carried to Bedfordshire in the saucer. Here he has a run in with the Black Dalek's man-eating pet - the Slyther.
The Daleks plan to drop a massive bomb down a shaft they have dug, with the intention of replacing the planet's core with a propulsion device.
The plan is foiled as Ian diverts the bomb, and the Doctor orders the Robomen to turn on their creators. The mine workings are destroyed, along with the Dalek force.
Back in London, the Doctor makes a unilateral decision regarding Susan. He has seen how she and David have fallen in love. It is time for her to settle down somewhere, yet he knows she would never leave him, so he locks her out of the ship. After bidding her a fond farewell, he dematerialises the TARDIS.

This six part adventure was written by Terry Nation, and broadcast between 21st November and 26th December, 1964. Like Planet of Giants before it, it was made as part of the first season but held back. The cast all had a 6 week break after completion of this recording - though one of them wouldn't be reporting back for Doctor Who duty for another 19 years...
The success of the first Dalek story meant that a sequel was on the cards almost immediately. The BBC had retained 2 of the 4 Dalek props, plus various pieces of control room equipment, whilst 2 other Daleks were donated to Dr Barnardo's Children's Homes. These latter two props were borrowed back, and a further two new ones were built - giving director Richard Martin six usable Daleks in all. These would be supplemented, as with the first story, by full size photographic blow-ups.
As they would no longer be confined to the flat floor of a TV studio, more maneuverable wheels had to be fitted, and so the base section had to be built up to accommodate them. In plot terms, to explain the fact that they no longer needed to draw static electricity through metal floors, an energy collection dish was fitted to the back of each casing.
The other design difference was that there would now be a Dalek hierarchy - indicated by changes in colour scheme. The saucer captain would be mostly black, with alternate silver skirt sections, whilst the lead Black Dalek would be - well, black.

Story-wise, Nation was heavily influenced by the Second World War - principally the struggles of resistance movements in Nazi-occupied Europe. London is a conquered city, with the few free people fighting back from subterranean hideouts, committing occasional acts of sabotage. Many have been sent off to a huge labour camp, and there are unwitting collaborators in the form of the Robomen - to illustrate how some friends and family could be turned against their own - in this case physically as well as mentally / emotionally. There is a black-marketeer in the self-serving Ashton, who sells food to the camp inmates for their jewellery.

There is a great deal of location filming in this story - with many famous London landmarks featured. Watching it for the first time, you are a little disappointed not to see a troop of Daleks on Westminster Bridge, as in the iconic photograph below:

What you actually get is the top half of one whizzing past, shot from the Embankment below. Dalek operator, and Slyther performer, Nick Evans tells the story on a recent DVD release of how the Dalek guys queued up to pee into a drain in Trafalgar Square.
For the first time ever in the programme a quarry location is employed - and it is used as an actual quarry, rather than an attempt at an alien world.
Special effects are a bit of a let down. The Dalek saucer is a pastry cutter dangling on a string in front of a photograph of the Houses of Parliament. The climactic destruction of the mine complex and the Dalek saucer is achieved through some stock volcano footage (Vesuvius' 1944 eruption I suspect) and some dialogue references. If like me you had seen the Peter Cushing movie first, this climax is crushingly disappointing.
The tentacled Slyther gets a makeover between episodes 4 & 5, as the production team were unhappy with the initial costume. It was created by the Dalek prop builders Shawcraft of Uxbridge.

Of the guest cast, Bernard Kay as Tyler, and Ann Davies as Jenny must get special mention. Both convey the psychological effects of life under enemy occupation, with survivor's guilt and an unwillingness to embark on new friendships in this dangerous world.
By splitting the regulars up for most of the story, the foursome are all very well served. Hartnell had a bad experience during the shooting of episode 3, damaging his back in a fall, which meant him being written out of episode 4. Peter Fraser, as David, gets most of his lines and role in this section.
The relationship between Susan and David is very well handled, considering that they have to meet and fall in love within the confines of this one story. Unlike future love matches, this seems real and believable. Susan's departure is signposted in dialogue from the first episode, and the Doctor sees "what's cooking" as they travel to Bedfordshire - and he's not talking about rabbit stew.
The ending is sublime, and I defy anyone to watch it and feel unmoved. The Doctor's poignant farewell speech will reappear to allow Hartnell a contribution to the 20th anniversary tale The Five Doctors, in which Susan returns.

Episode endings for this adventure are:

  1. World's End - The Doctor and Ian are about to escape into the Thames, but are stopped in their tracks at the appearance of a Dalek emerging from the water.
  2. The Daleks - The saucer is under attack, but the Doctor's robotising operation will still go ahead.
  3. Day of Reckoning - The Doctor, Susan and David are pausing for breath, unaware that a Dalek firebomb is ticking away nearby.
  4. The End of Tomorrow - Ian and his new friend Larry are stalked by the Slyther.
  5. The Waking Ally - Ian is trapped inside the bomb casing as it is lowered into the mineshaft.
  6. Flashpoint - David leads a grieving Susan away, her discarded key lying on the ground.
Overall, a very good story with great performances. The effects creak - but you can always enjoy the CGI saucers on the DVD release (shame they couldn't have done something with the volcanic climax). This story is significant for advancing the Daleks as the programme's baddies-in-chief, and for the first departure of a regular character.

Some things you might like to know:

  • Carole Ann Ford's replacement was supposed to emerge from this story - and it wasn't going to be Jenny. Another, younger character, an Indian girl named Saida, was in the original scripts, and she would stowaway onboard the TARDIS at the end. Actress Pamela Franklyn was approached about the part, but the production team changed its mind. Saida was turned into Jenny, and the part reduced somewhat.
  • Actor Nicholas Smith (Wells) was only due to appear in one episode. He is very well known in the UK for the long-running sitcom "Are You Being Served?"
  • You get an (inadvertent) insight into how sets were organised in the early days, when the Thames bridge set with its "Do Not Dump Bodies" poster is clearly seen in the background of the Bedfordshire mining complex corridor.
  • We never do get to find out what that Dalek was doing in the Thames...

That Was The Week That Was 26.8.12

Asylum of the Daleks has now received a further 2 preview screenings - one in Edinburgh, and the other at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. Matt Smith & Karen Gillan were in attendance at the latter, along with Caro Skinner. You'll see from the picture above that they arrived by DeLorean.
The Q&A session is going to be posted on You Tube - but not until 1st September.

Steven Moffat was at the Edinburgh Television Festival. He has had a bit to say about the new series and the upcoming anniversary - both at the festival and in a recent interview with SFX magazine.
On the subject of returning characters, he has ruled out the likes of the Rani, as no-one in general would know who she is. His intention is to keep Doctor Who in the mainstream public eye rather than pandering to sections of fandom (quite right too IMHO).
The only significant new series news he mentioned is that the storyline of episode 4, The Power of Three, takes place over the course of a year.

As well as new Asylum images and the "Predator" trailer, biggest news of the week has to be the 5 part Pond Life mini-episodes which commence from noon tomorrow.

We are finally going to get a Rory action figure - images of a couple of versions released this week. See my earlier post on the Bodywarmer Variations.

Lastly, we must mention the passing yesterday of Neil Armstrong. It is, of course, his iconic "One small step..." moment which the Doctor uses to engineer the downfall of the Silence at the end of Day of the Moon.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Dalek Week on TARDIS Musings

The Asylum of the Daleks is now less than a week away. The "Predator of the Daleks" trailer aired on the official website from this morning, and another publicity image has appeared. More photographs are expected from Tuesday, when the new Radio Times will feature the story (as will the other listings magazines, of course). DWM has 2 more covers to unveil, and the new issue should be in the shops on Thursday (hopefully).

This blog's journey through the classic series has now reached The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Story 10 will be posted tomorrow), and I am then going to take a look at the two Peter Cushing Dalek movies, as well as the whole 1960's "Dalekmania" phenomenon.

Alongside all this Dalek-related goodness, I will also be offering my thoughts on the Pond Life mini-episodes each day as they are released.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Predator of the Daleks

BBC have tweeted that there will be a "thrilling, explosive" new trailer for Asylum of the Daleks released at 8am GMT tomorrow - Saturday 25th August - which they have referred to as "Predator of the Daleks"...

Variations on a Bodywarmer

A few months ago I joked that we would probably get a whole load of different Rory action figures when Character Options did finally get round to producing one - bodywarmer / shirt variants.
Did I speak too soon?

The red shirt version, of course, does not match any of his TV appearances - and marriage to Amy seems to have led to him ditching this classic and underrated fashion item.
Have to admit that whilst I can see Arthur Darvill's features in these, I've no idea whose hair he is wearing...

By the way - the black / grey one is a BBC Shop exclusive.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Story 9 - Planet of Giants

In which the TARDIS suffers a malfunction after the Doctor attempts an alternative means of getting Ian and Barbara back home. A component on the central control console overheats, and the doors suddenly start to open in mid-flight. The ship materialises, but when they check the scanner it shatters. The Doctor is worried about "space pressure".
Venturing outside, the travellers find themselves in a rocky gully. The stone seems strangely regular in shape, and partly composed of a concrete-like substance - though the sand granules are like pebbles. They split up to explore. The Doctor and Barbara come upon what appears to be a dead snake - though this is then identified as a massive earthworm. Susan and Ian find large eggs - and a dead giant ant. Nearby is what appears to be a poster advertising Night Scented Stock seeds - with a Norfolk, England, address. A massive matchbox sits beside it. Ian thinks they are in some kind of exhibition such as a Worlds Fair - but Susan and the Doctor have guessed the truth. The TARDIS malfunction has meant they have landed on present day Earth - but they have been reduced in size to only one inch tall.

The ship has materialised in the cracks between crazy-paving stones, in the farmhouse garden of a scientist named Smithers. He has developed a new insecticide named DN6. A Government inspector named Farrow is visiting, and he intends to stop it going into full scale production as it doesn't differentiate between pest and beneficial insect life. This will ruin Smithers' business partner, Forester. Desperate, he murders the inspector.
The travellers narrowly avoid becoming a snack for a cat, and Ian and Barbara are carried into the laboratory of the building, after sheltering inside Farrow's briefcase. The Doctor and Susan are forced to clamber up a drainpipe to join them - emerging from the sink plughole. Barbara handles a seed coated with the pesticide and falls ill. If she cannot return to her normal size, it will kill her.
They try to alert the police by raising the handset of a telephone, but their voices cannot be heard by Hilda Rowse at the local exchange. She is still suspicious, and informs her policeman husband, Bert. Forester has tried to pretend to be Farrow on the phone to his ministry, but this hasn't fooled Hilda.
The Doctor and his companions engineer an explosion using a gas jet, match and an aerosol can. The blast temporarily blinds Forester - just as Bert arrives to arrest him and Smithers.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor reverses what he had previously done and they are returned to their normal size - saving Barbara.

This three part adventure was written by Louis Marks, and was broadcast between 31st October and 14th November 1964.
Though filmed immediately after The Reign of Terror as part of the first year's worth of episodes, it was held back for 6 weeks to become the first story of Doctor Who's second season.
It was originally scripted and recorded as a four part story, but there were concerns about its strength as a season opener, and so the third and fourth episodes were edited together to make a tighter adventure.
The idea of miniaturisation had been around since the very beginning of the programme. This was the third attempt at this concept. Doctor Who stories at this time were intended to fall into 3 categories - those set in the past, those set in the future, and "sideways" ones. By this it meant taking the ordinary present day but adding a twist. Malcolm Hulke's  "The Hidden Planet", where everything is reversed, would have fitted this category.
It is an odd beast of a story - with the guest characters having no knowing interaction with the travellers. It's like two parallel storylines running alongside each other. The Doctor and his companions don't know anything about Smithers and Forester - who they are and why they are doing what they are doing. All they know, from observation and scientific deduction, is that a man has been killed and that there is a substance here which could kill all life on Earth. The whole Smithers / Forester / Farrow part of the story could have been lifted wholesale from an Edgar Wallace tale.

All four of the regulars are well served in this, and Alan Tilvern (Forester) makes for a suave baddie. He acts out of pure greed, whereas Smithers blindly believes that his creation will save the world, and any means justifies the end. Bert & Hilda lend a touch of comic relief to the proceedings.
The explanation for the shrinking seems very vague and unscientific - that "space pressure" - but we just accept it and get on with the adventure.
Ray Cusick designs some marvellous giant scale props and there are some great sets, such as the laboratory sink. Some of the insects come from another production, however.
This story marks the début of composer Dudley Simpson, who will go on to score a huge number of stories right through to 1979/80's The Horns of Nimon.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. Planet of Giants - After discovering Farrow's body, the Doctor and his companions find themselves being menaced by a massive moggie.
  2. Dangerous Journey - Smithers is washing his hands. The Doctor and Susan are in the drainpipe, and will be swept to their doom when he pulls the plug.
  3. Crisis - Everything is back to normal. The Doctor finds that he still can't get an image on the scanner as they materialise at their next destination.
Overall, a strange, inconsequential story, albeit with good performances and some great visual effects, that doesn't stick around long enough to overstay its welcome. It will never feature highly in best season opener polls though.

The Urge To Live.
This story has just been released on DVD, and the main special feature is a recreation of the missing episode's worth of material from parts 3 and 4. There would have been an episode called "The Urge to Live".
Most of the cut material is from part 3 and involves (a) the travellers working out what is going on regarding DN6, (b) Forester's increasingly convoluted efforts to cover up his crime and dupe Smithers, and (c) the growing suspicions of Hilda Rowse, and her efforts to make sure that the groceries get delivered on time.
In hindsight, having now seen and heard this material, one can only agree with the decision to edit heavily. The story is pretty much unaffected by the losses.

The recreation itself is, I'm afraid to say, a bit of a dog's dinner. Or perhaps an abysmally rendered CGI cat's dinner. Other missing episodes are uniformly animated and make use of the original soundtrack, but this makes use of a disparate variety of media and other sources.
There is amateurish CGI; re-voiced clips from other parts of the story with little or no attempt at lip-synch; newly filmed disembodied hands shuffling paperwork; and extreme close-ups of Alan Tilvern's face which obscure his mouth.
The voices themselves are achieved by William Russell and Carole Ann Ford recreating Ian and Susan, and new performances of the others by actors including Toby Hadoke. His Forester is actually the best of the lot.  The Hartnell impersonation by John Guilor is merely passable and then only at times. William Russell unfortunately simply sounds his age, which jars with the original material. Carole Ann Ford still sounds pretty much the same - but Susan has little to say in these missing sections. The others do not sound anything remotely like their characters.
We cannot fault uber-fan and one-time unofficial programme consultant Ian Levine for at least giving this a try. For me it just doesn't work.
It is the sort of thing you will watch once just to see what it looks and sounds like, but are unlikely to ever revisit.

PS: The DVD artwork is grossly misleading for the casual buyer, as it implies exciting giant ant attacks - whereas we know there is only the one dead example in the actual programme.