Saturday, 29 June 2013

Those 67 Faces...

Must admit I was not terribly impressed with the DWM list of 67 Doctors. Just where was the Wall's Sky Ray man??? If you are going to count the Deadringers crew - why not also The Who as brought to life by Reeves & Mortimer (above).
I'm still not happy with the inclusion of the Brain of Morbius faces. One might just be a younger version of the First Doctor, but not all of them. They're more than likely Morbius himself - he did lose the contest after all.
Some of the entries were rather obscure - schools programmes, foreign sketches and so forth.
One person on the list I disagree with entirely - the BF audio "One Doctor" played by Christopher Biggins. Wasn't he someone who pretended to be the Doctor? An imposter? Not the Doctor himself, so I don't see why Banto Zame was included. Another big cheat was the inclusion of David Bradley and Reece Shearsmith, as they won't actually be seen until November. You might as well have had "the man / woman who is going to be the 12th Doctor at Christmas" on the list as well.
One thing I was pleased to learn of was a further connection between Saint Bernard of Cribbins and the programme, he having played the Doctor in a (now lost) sketch.

The 50th Anniversary

This is rather clever. I spotted it the other day on Kasterborous. The big give-away is in the text captions at the end. See if you can spot it...

Friday, 28 June 2013

Landmarks No.15

Terror of the Autons.
Significant for the introduction of the Master, and companion Jo Grant. The Brigadier gains a Captain (Mike Yates) and so the UNIT family finally comes together.
Another excellent, somewhat controversial, script from Robert Holmes.
The return of the Autons.
Producer Barry Letts begins to direct one story per season - a condition he had made on accepting the role.
For an Auton story it has very little Auton action in it. Instead, the Master uses plastic in a variety of ways to despatch people - dolls, daffodils, telephone cords and chairs.
The story was controversial for having a policeman revealed as an Auton, and scaring children into refusing to take their teddies to bed in case they throttled them.
UNIT had always seemed a little undermanned, and it was felt that the Brigadier should have an officer under him. Previously, the role had been filled with a number of one-off characters. There was a possibility that the new man might also provide a bit of romance for the new companion.
The original choice for Yates was Ian Marter, but he could not commit to a long running role. Letts then saw Richard Franklin in a play - and his agent just happened to be sitting next to him.
There was never anyone else in the running for the Master. Once the Doctor had been identified as a sort of Sherlock Holmes character, Letts and Terrance Dicks realised he needed a Moriarty figure to act against - especially now that he was exiled to Earth. The Master was created - being given an academic title like the Doctor. Roger Delgado had acted opposite Barry Letts (even running him through with a sword).
When this story made the front cover of the Radio Times, Pertwee was furious. Delgado got the more prominent role - and Pertwee was worried that the public might think the Doctor had regenerated again.
The Autons would never appear in the classic series again. There had been a plan to bring them into The Five Doctors for the Third Doctor to fight, and JNT was planning on bringing them back to meet the Sixth Doctor, had the programme not been put on hiatus. He would have encountered them in Singapore, along with the Rani, in a story provisionally titled "Yellow Fever, And How To Cure It" to be written by Holmes.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Pertwee / Baker Regeneration

The regeneration between Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker is, I'm afraid, rather disappointing. These days we are used to volcanic, explosive transformations. Here, we get a straightforward "roll back and mix" shot, as used most commonly for TARDIS arrivals and departures. The Doctor's collar noticeably fails to match between the two actors.
A couple of clever clogs have experimented with new overlaid FX over the years - the results to be found on YouTube. Here's a couple of nice examples.

Story 74 - Planet of the Spiders

In which the Doctor receives an unexpected package from the Amazon region, whilst Sarah pays a visit to Mike Yates, who is staying at a Buddhist meditation centre in the English countryside. He had gone there to sort out his life after his dismissal from UNIT. He has become suspicious of the activities of a man named Lupton and his clique. He wants Sarah to investigate. The Doctor is conducting ESP experiments with a man named Clegg. He successfully identifies the package as containing the blue crystal from Metebelis III, which the Doctor had given to Jo as a wedding present. Jo has been forced to return it as it has been disturbing their native guides. Mike and Sarah see Lupton and his friends summon up a gigantic spider in a ceremony in the cellars of the centre. At the same moment, miles away at UNIT HQ, Clegg dies whilst gazing into the crystal. He was attached to a machine that captures mental images, and the Doctor and Brigadier see the image of spiders. The spider in the meditation centre latches itself onto Lupton's back and becomes invisible. It tunes itself into his mind. It has been sent from Metebelis III to seize the crystal.

As Sarah informs the Doctor of the events at the meditation centre, Lupton arrives at UNIT HQ and steals the crystal. He makes off in the Doctor's new vehicle. The Doctor and Sarah give chase, utilising a variety of modes of transport. The spider helps Lupton escape by transporting him back to the centre. A young man with learning difficulties - Tommy - steals the crystal. Lupton and the spider are summoned back to Metebelis. Sarah is accidentally transported with them. The Doctor follows in the TARDIS. Meanwhile, the crystal causes Tommy's intellect to grow rapidly. The Doctor is blasted unconscious by the Queen Spider's guards. As he lies comatose in a village full of human slave workers, Sarah is captured by Lupton and taken to the spiders. The Doctor recovers, thanks to a stone which counteracts the spiders' energy. From a young rebel named Arak he learns about this community. A colony ship from Earth crashed here many years ago. Some common spiders escaped from the wreck and made their home in the Blue Mountains. Radiation from the crystals found here mutated them in both size and intelligence, and they enslaved the colonists. The Doctor realises that he must have visited the planet and taken his crystal long before the colonists arrived.

The Queen Spider's position is threatened by the one attached to Lupton. She decides to pretend to help Sarah - getting her and the Doctor back to Earth, as the spiders now know Lupton didn't bring the crystal with him. The Doctor finds himself in the cavern of the Great One, the true ruler of the spiders. He finds himself powerless against its mental energies. Sarah takes him back to the TARDIS and they return to Earth. Other spiders follow them, attaching themselves to Lupton's friends. Mike and the Tibetan monk Cho-Je are blasted unconscious. Tommy holds off the possessed humans whilst the Doctor and Sarah visit K'anpo - the Tibetan master. The Doctor recognises him as a fellow Time Lord - an old hermit who acted as his guru and mentor. The Queen Spider possessing Sarah is exposed and destroyed. K'anpo convinces the Doctor to take the crystal back to Metebelis III and return it to the Great One - even though the radiation in her cave will destroy him. K'anpo is blasted by spider energy and dies. Cho-Je materialises and is revealed to be a projection of the old Time Lord. K'anpo regenerates - taking on the younger monk's appearance.

On Metebelis, the spiders destroy Lupton when he challenges them. The Doctor meets the Great One and discovers that it is vast in size. It needs his crystal to complete a web that will allow it to exert its mind over the whole Universe. It is quite insane. He hands over the crystal. The power is too much for the Great One and she is destroyed - killing all the other spiders as they are psychically linked to it. The human colonists are freed. Back at UNIT HQ some weeks later, Sarah visits to see if the Doctor has returned. The TARDIS materialises and the Doctor stumbles out, collapsing onto the floor of his lab. He is dying. K'anpo appears, and informs the Brigadier and Sarah that he will give the regeneration process a bit of a push. The Doctor regenerates into a younger, dark haired man...

This six part adventure was written by Robert Sloman, and was broadcast between 4th May and 8th June, 1974. As with his previous stories for the series, Sloman was actually partnered, uncredited, by producer Barry Letts. Letts also directed this adventure.
The story marks the end of Season Eleven, and the Pertwee era. It is also the last story to be script edited by  Terrance Dicks.
Had Roger Delgado not been killed in a road accident, this story would have seen a final battle between the Doctor and the Master, in which the evil Time Lord would have sacrificed himself to save the Doctor - possibly revealed as his half-brother. (The rumour that Lupton simply replaced the Master is untrue. "The Final Game" would have been an entirely different story).
The giant maggots of the previous year had proved popular with the audience, so it was only natural that spiders would make for a good monster. Visual effects devised a number of prop spiders controlled by different means. The Great One was intended to be a big hairy creature, but Letts vetoed it as too scary, and the Queen Spider was reused. Matt Irvine built a clockwork one, which was nicknamed "Boris" by the crew (from a song by, appropriately enough, The Who).
Knowing that Pertwee was more upset about his departure than he was letting on, Letts went out of his way to indulge his star. Part two comprises an extended chase sequence using a range of vehicles - "Bessie, the "Whomobile", speedboats, mini-hovercraft and a gyro-copter.

A number of actors who had previously worked with Pertwee were also brought back - John Dearth (Lupton) had provided the voice for BOSS in the previous season finale; Kevin Lindsay (Cho-Je) had been the Sontaran Linx; three of Lupton's clique (Terrence Lodge, Christopher Burgess and Andrew Staines) had appeared in other Third Doctor stories. K'anpo (George Cormack) had been King Dalios in The Time Monster. Clegg is Cyril Shaps (The Ambassadors of Death).
Stuart Fell, Pat Gorman and Terry Walsh all get to show their faces. Pertwee's friend Walter Randall plays one of the spiders' guards.
The spiders are voiced by Ysanne Churchman (Alpha Centauri), and Kismet Delgado (Roger's widow).
And, of course, it is a UNIT story. Richard Franklin is brought back to bring Mike Yates' story arc to a conclusion. The Brigadier gets to witness a regeneration (his final line a Nick Courtney addition).
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. As Mike and Sarah watch, Lupton and his friends appear to summon up a giant spider...
  2. The Doctor leaps onto Lupton's speedboat - only to find his quarry has vanished into thin air...
  3. The Doctor has followed Sarah to Metebelis III. He is attacked by the Queen Spider's guards, who blast him with lethal energy bolts...
  4. Sarah is cocooned in the spider larder. The Doctor arrives - but he is also a prisoner...
  5. As the Doctor and Sarah consult K'anpo, Tommy holds back Lupton's friends - who blast him with their energy bolts...
  6. The Doctor regenerates with the help of K'anpo. "Well, here we go again..." groans the Brigadier.

Overall, not a bad send-off for the Third Doctor. It can feel like a bit of a Pertwee greatest hits. Things flag a little once on Metebelis III with a bit of capture-escape padding. Part two is one overly indulgent chase sequence, but we can forgive it as it is a farewell gift for the leading man. As an arachnophobe, I find the monsters effectively unsettling.
Things you might like to know:
  • You wouldn't have noticed it much when watching this episodically at the time, but VHS and DVD watching shows up rather strange re-editing for the cliffhanger resolution at the beginning of part six - with extra material held over from part five inserted.
  • This is the first time that the term "regeneration" is used in the programme, in relation to the Doctor changing his form.
  • Tom Baker gets no credit for his brief appearance.
  • We get a mention of a friend of the Brigadier's - Doris - who he seems a little reluctant to talk about. It is to be assumed that she is a girlfriend, as he wouldn't act this way if it were his wife. He does marry her in the end, as seen in Battlefield
  • John Kane, who plays Tommy, was a successful TV writer (including for the archetypal sitcom Terry and June).
  • The mother of Arak (a pre-New Avengers Gareth Hunt) is Neska - played by Jenny Laird. She gives one of the most wooden performances in the history of the programme. Bizarrely, she had an acting prize named after her at RADA. One of its winners was a certain Richard Franklin.
  • Despite all the trouble this one causes him, the Doctor has another Metebelis crystal in the recent story Hide. He has forgotten how to pronounce the planet's name in the interim...
  • The Great One imitates Sarah singing the children's song "Pop Goes The Weasel". This has nothing to do with exploding mustela nivalis. Rather, a weasel is slang for a tailor's iron, and to pop means to pawn - so it's a song about impoverished Victorian workers.

Monday, 24 June 2013

The 67 Faces of Doctor Who?

Intriguing feature mentioned in the top left corner of this coming week's new DMW. I've been thinking about this and can't get anywhere near that number.
There's the eleven TV Doctors, Mr Hurt, and Peter Cushing. That makes 13.
There were two doubles for Hartnell - one of whom was clearly seen on screen. (15).
Patrick Troughton's double is seen on a couple of occasions (17).
Terry Walsh is visible covering for both Pertwee and Baker, T. (19).
Shouldn't count any of the people seen in the mind wrestling scene in The Brain of Morbius.
The Valeyard (20).
A version of the Doctor, based on Nick Briggs, appeared in the DWM comic strip. (21).
Richard Hurndall (22).
Doctor 10.5 (23).
Maybe the Flesh Doctor?
Can't count things like Meglos, or the Teselecta Doctor - because they are Meglos and the Teselecta and not the Doctor.
Come on folks, help me out here...

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Landmarks No.14

Spearhead From Space.
Doctor Who moves into a new decade, in colour, and with a new Doctor / Companion partnership (the only time there is no companion to bridge a regeneration - until The Eleventh Hour).
There is a link to the past, however, with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and UNIT.
The Doctor begins a lengthy exile on contemporary Earth.
It is revealed that the Doctor has a binary cardiovascular system (that's two hearts to you and me).
He adopts the name John Smith for the first time (it being given to him by Jamie in The Wheel In Space).
Despite it not being his first story for the programme, it is certainly the first of the really great Robert Holmes stories.
The Autons and Nestene Consciousness are introduced.
It is made entirely on film - meaning that it is about to become the only classic series adventure to get the  Blu-Ray treatment.
However - not quite as significant as you might think...
Of course, whilst broadcast in 1970, Spearhead From Space, and the rest of Season 7, are actually the final fling of the 1960's - being written and produced in 1969 - and this particular story still has Derrick Sherwin as Producer.
And whilst the stories were now being made and broadcast in colour, the vast majority of viewers continued to watch on Black & White sets (my own family didn't go colour until 1972).
Robert Holmes had written two earlier stories - The Krotons, which has some good ideas but is let down by some clichéd characterisation and poor production values; and The Space Pirates, which is pure cliché from start to finish. This story is where he finally seems to "get" the programme and he will rarely deliver another dud again.
The Autons will help launch three series - and two new Doctors - and one of the Doctor's companions will be turned into one for a period. (The Daleks will launch more series, but only one new Doctor. However, one of the Doctor's companions is turned into one of them as well).

That Was The Week That Was 23.6.13

With this week's guest presenter - Trinity Wells! Hello Trinity.
"Hello everybody! And the news is - that there is no news...
No-one has been named as the 12th Doctor.
No missing episodes have been found.
No filming is taking place.
No spoilers have been revealed.
No-one has died.
No DVD releases this week.
No DWM until next week.
Even the Sixth Doctor failed to turn up for his own retrospective at the BFI.
And finally, there have been no new alien invasions of Earth for me to report on. Funny how they stopped coming after Russell left...
Bye now. Hope to see you all again soon."

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Landmarks No.13

The War Games.
A landmark story for several reasons.
It is the final adventure for the Second Doctor, as well as companions Jamie and Zoe (save for future guest appearances).
It is the last story to be made and broadcast in black and white.
The Doctor's background is (partly) explained with the introduction of the Time Lords.
It is Terrance Dicks' first on-screen writing credit, after numerous rewrites behind the scenes on other stories.
Frazer Hines had originally intended to leave around the time of The Krotons (in one of the stories which it replaced), but he elected to stay on when Troughton informed him that he would be leaving at the end of the series - so that they could go together. Troughton had been increasingly frustrated with the quality of the scripts and the punishing work schedule. Wendy Padbury was invited to stay on and help bridge the gap to the new Doctor, but she decided to leave as well - allowing for a totally fresh start for the 1970 season.
The introduction of the Time Lords will have implications for the programme down to the present day.
There was no real reason to give away quite so much about the Doctor's background. The Time Lords could have turned up, solved the War Games and punished the Doctor - remaining enigmatic throughout, their actions unexplained. They and the Doctor could have refused to explain who or what they were - maintaining the mystery.
However, the Doctor's departure from their home planet, theft of the TARDIS and breaking of the non-interference laws are all set out. Whilst this provides explanation for the audience, it does begin the gradual demystification of the character and lead to future continuity constraints.
The Time Lord costumes will be referenced in The Sound of Drums - the young Master seen wearing one of the black and white robes.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Nostalgia Tour

Whilst researching images for my recent post on The Monster of Peladon, I was struck by a wave of nostalgia on seeing the old Weetabix collectable character cards again.
Now, there is a great deal written about the 1960's Dalekmania merchandising (there's a significant feature in the recent Dalek Magazook). There are whole websites, and books, devoted to all the merchandise released since the series came back in 2005.
The 1980's green K9, 5-sided TARDIS console and two armed Davros get mentioned a lot - entirely due to those errors.
One era of merchandising rarely talked about is the stuff covering what might be argued as the classic series best years - the later Pertwee / early Tom Baker period. Why? Because there was virtually nowt released.
And yet there were a few gems to be found during my own personal formative fan years. I do have an older brother, but he is of the "Not We", so there wasn't any Dalek material for me to inherit. (Yes, a deprived childhood).
Come with me then, if you will, on a journey back through time - to what is often thought to be merchandising's Dark Times.

The images at the head of this post were the second set of collectables from Weetabix. The first set were the full figure ones, some of which can be seen immediately above. Other characters included a Yeti, Quark and White Robot from the Troughton era. There was also Saarl (sic), which was actually taken from a photo of Azaxyr. You could also collect Alpha Centauri, Aggedor, a Silurian, a Sea Devil and an Axon monster. I had several Cybermen, and turned one into a Cyberleader (using a black felt pen) after watching Revenge of the Cybermen. The figures could stand up, and on the back of each box was a background scene to pose them against - jungle, volcanic cavern etc.
My family never bought Weetabix - until prompted by me. They never ate any of it once bought, so it was down to me to finish the contents of every box in order that another could be purchased. (I must have been a very regular youth). Naturally I would cheat a little, binning the odd one or feeding one to the dog - never appreciated - but did manage to complete both sets.

Another promotion which I collected were the Typhoo Tea photo cards, sending off for the accompanying book "The Amazing World of Doctor Who" (which is what the World Distribution annuals ought to have been like). For a couple of months, my dad was deprived of his favoured PG-Tips (he loved the chimps) just to placate me.
Talking of the annuals, they continued throughout the entire run of the programme, but were sadly lacking in much visual representation from the programme itself. What I always wanted were photos from the series - especially pictures of monsters. Before DW Weekly and the magazines born out of the Star Wars phenomena - "Starburst", "TV Zone" etc., there were very few places you could get photographs (apart from Radio Times).
Having that aforementioned older brother, who was into horror movies, introduced me to the short-lived magazine "World of Horror".

The magazine featured primarily Hammer, Amicus, Tigon films, but the first edition had a photo of Malpha, from Mission To The Unknown. Subsequent issues covered an increasing amount of Doctor Who material - even getting the above cover. The pieces were relatively text free monster galleries, but one of the last issues had a full feature on The Claws of Axos. Of course, another draw for the 10 year old me were wonderfully gory (and frequently naughty) images from what were then X-rated movies I had absolutely no chance of ever getting to see. You'll find copies of this magazine on e-bay - but for a heck of a lot more than 30p.

A particular item treasured by me was the Doctor Who Poster Magazine. As you can see, the cover was not exactly promising, and the actual poster was a publicity shot of Tom, but the reverse of the poster held a plethora of glossy photographs from the show (sadly mostly B&W). I bought my copy on a trip to the Blackpool Exhibition - a much anticipated annual event for me. Imagine my delight on a subsequent trip to obtain the second Poster Magazine - with far more colour photographs and two posters.

Soon after, those hideous Doctor Who dolls were released (including the scary Leela), and Star Wars was about to burst onto the scene - initiating loads of sci-fi magazines which featured the programme (as mentioned above). Then, in 1979, we got a publication all of our own.
It may sound a bit perverse, but in some ways I miss the relative lack of merchandising. There was stuff out there, and you really had to hunt for it (or eat hundreds of Weetabix), and it made finding things all the more thrilling. We're all a bit too spoiled these days (and a lot less regular)...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Landmarks No.12

The Invasion.
The Web of Fear might have been the dry run, or the inspiration, but this is where the UNIT story really begins. The United Nations Intelligence Taskforce is unveiled for the very first time, and it is still very much part of the programme to the present day (albeit with a minor litigation-avoiding name tweak). We know from filming that it will feature in the 50th anniversary story.
Nicholas Courtney's character gets promoted to Brigadier - defining both character and actor for the rest of their lives.
Though he won't become a regular for a little while longer, the story also features John Levene's first appearance as Benton (still a corporal).
There are a couple of iconic Doctor Who moments on show - the Cybermen in the sewers (and popping out of them) and their march down the steps near St Paul's.
This is the only outing for this particular Cyber design - the first to feature the "ear muffs".
It is the Cyberships from this story which the new series' design references (as seen in The Pandorica Opens and A Good Man Goes To War).
Kevin Stoney's performance as Tobias Vaughn provides us with one of the greatest ever Doctor Who villains.
In some ways it is the longest running story of the series (The Daleks' Master Plan being little more than a series of smaller adventures strung together, as with The Trial of a Time Lord. This is one powerful single homogeneous story-line).
And just think, The Invasion was almost even more significant - had it featured Professor Travers making his third appearance, as originally intended.

Those Monster Collection DVDs... Updated

No TW3 this week, as there really isn't anything to report on, so I will just pose the following question.
Hands up who would pre-order something that you knew absolutely nothing about? I have been keeping an eye on the forthcoming "Monster Collection" DVD sets - due for release on Monday 8th July - and am very surprised that there is still no information regarding them. No covers, no contents. Even the BBC Shop has nothing to show or tell about them, yet the release date is now less than a month away.
I certainly would not pre-order any of these discs until I am given some idea of what they are actually going to contain. Some folk must be pre-ordering, however, as the discs start to appear on Page 6 (out of 30) on Amazon's forthcoming releases section - based on "popularity", which I assume is based on advance orders.

Update Tuesday 18th June: The BBC Shop is now listing these as to be released on 30/9/13.

Friday, 14 June 2013

That Kinky Tom Baker...

I'd totally forgotten about this until I was doing a bit of late night trawling through You Tube. Of course, the best three songs ever recorded are:

1. William Shatner's sublime rendition of "Lucy... in the Sky... ... ... with Diamonds".
2. His first officer's jaunty "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins".
3. Roberta Tovey's timeless classic "Who's Doctor Who". (Might be tuneless classic - it's a bit hard to read...).
3 and a bit. Frazer Hines' "Who is Doctor Who"
3 and another bit. Jon Pertwee's "I am the Doctor".
But I'm sure you will agree that this is right up there with them. (Sure beats Matt Smith pretending to play a synthesiser with Orbital at Glastonbury a couple of years ago).

All these hits - and MORE - are available on an exclusive 34 CD set from DrossCo Records. Not available in any shops. Send £399.99, or as much as you can afford, to my off-shore bank account, care of the Cayman Islands. Buy before July 2013 and you receive a FREE bonus disc - "Christopher Eccleston Sings Billy Bragg". Twelve of your favourite Billy Bragg songs, recorded by Chris LIVE at the Salford Labour Club.
(Buy before 20th June, and we promise not to send the 12 CD set "Colin Baker Sings Gilbert & Sullivan").
AND THERE'S MORE. For an extra £10.99 you receive an electric thing that peels potatoes very, very quickly. We don't understand it either - but it works!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Story 73 - Monster of Peladon

In which the Doctor decides to take Sarah to the planet Peladon to visit his old friend the King. The TARDIS materialises in the tunnels beneath the royal citadel, but the Doctor finds that they have arrived some 50 years after his last visit. The King is dead and his daughter, Thalira, now sits on the throne. The Federation are still present, overseeing Trisilicate mining operations. In charge of these is an Earthman named Eckersley, aided by a native of Vega Nexos, renowned mining engineers. Ambassador Alpha Centauri is also here. It is able to vouch for the Doctor when he is captured by the soldiers of Chancellor Ortron.
The mining operations are at risk, after the sighting of apparitions of Aggedor, which have struck down the miners. Vega Nexos also wants to use advanced technology - a sonic lance - but the superstitious natives are against this and suspect that Aggedor is angry with the aliens are their machines. Trouble is being stirred by a firebrand miner named Ettis. The Pel miners are being kept in check by their leader Gebek, who is a more pragmatic and reasonable man. The Federation is at war, and the mining of Trisilicate is vital, so any disruption has terrible consequences. Vega Nexos is killed by the Aggedor apparition when he tries to demonstrate the sonic lance to Thalira and Ortron. The Doctor decides to investigate and is escorted by the Queen's Champion, Blor. Aggedor appears once more and Blor is killed. The Doctor is saved by Gebek, who informs him of his peoples' woes. The Doctor has observed that the apparition is a man-made phenomenon - the projection of an image coupled with a heat ray weapon.

Relations break down further between Orton and the miners, as he tries to imprison both the Doctor and Gebek. At one point he tries to execute the Doctor and Sarah by throwing them into a pit beneath the temple. They are attacked by the real Aggedor, but the Doctor is able to subdue it through hypnotism as he had done 50 years before. Ettis leads a failed attempt to break into the armoury to steal energy weapons. Eckersly convinces Alpha Centauri to call upon the Federation for help. Whilst searching for the Doctor in the mines, Sarah stumbles upon the disused refinery control room. She is sure she sees a large figure moving around within.
A squad of Ice Warriors arrives on the planet. Commander Azaxyr is prepared to put the planet under martial law in order to get the Trisilicate mining operations up and running. Sarah informs the Doctor that the figure she had seen in the refinery was an Ice Warrior - despite their not having been summoned at that time.
The Doctor urges Ortron and Gebek to work together. If everything appears to be back to normal, the Ice Warriors should withdraw. Unbeknownst to them, Azaxyr is a member of a rebel faction who are allied with the Federation's enemies. He wants to see his people return to their belligerent ways of old, rather than act as puppets of the Federation.

Ettis steals the sonic lance and aims it at the citadel - intent on wiping out the aristocracy as well as the aliens. He does not know that Azaxyr has sabotaged the weapon. The Doctor struggles with Ettis and the machine explodes, killing the miner. Eckersley is unmasked as Azaxyr's ally. He wants wealth and power. After Ortron is killed saving Thalira, the miners are rallied by Gebek and attack the Ice Warriors. The Doctor takes control of the Aggedor apparition weapon (controlled from the refinery) and uses it against the Martians. Azaxyr is killed by the Queen's guards. Realising their plan has failed, Eckersley abducts Thalira and makes through the mines to a waiting escape ship. The Doctor uses Aggedor to track them. It kills the traitorous Earthman but dies in the struggle. Thalira offers the Chancellorship to the Doctor - but he recommends Gebek for the role.

This six part story was written by Brian Hayles, and was broadcast between 23rd March and 27th April, 1974.
It is significant for being the first proper sequel in the eleven year history of the programme. It is a general rule of thumb that sequels tend to be inferior to their originals, and this proves to be the case here.
The Curse of Peladon had been a reasonable enough story, but one often bogged down in politicking. This one has even more of it - people arguing in the mines, followed by other people arguing in the throne room, then a few more arguments in the mines. The action set pieces are a bit too few and far between.
The Ice Warriors only turn up at the end of part three, by which time we've grown a little bit too bored of the bickering Pels. Basically, the story just doesn't hold up over 6 episodes.
And all this despite a wide range of alien creatures on show. As well as Ice warriors, Alpha Centauri and Aggedor reprising from the earlier Peladon tale, we get mole-man Vega Nexos.
I saw this story on transmission, but when Weetabix did their second Doctor Who promotion - including Blor and Vega Nexos I failed to recognise either.

Vega Nexos even turned up prominently in the second DW Poster magazine. Again, I failed to recognise him - but could work out which story he came from by the background. It is likely that in the pre-VHS days I might have missed part one of this story - and Blor and Vega Nexos are confined entirely to that episode.
Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks have stated that, apart from The Green Death, no story was ever commissioned to have an overt current political theme. However, The Curse of Peladon obviously paralleled Britain's efforts to join the EEC, and this reflects the massive industrial unrest of the mid 1970's. Come to think of it, perhaps that's why I have no recollection of Vega & Blor - a local power cut in North Ayrshire...

It is nice to see the Ice Warriors back to their bad old ways, and Alan Bennion's Azaxyr is pretty nasty even before it is found that he is a traitorous rebel. He is quite prepared to execute hostages in order to resolve the protests. The character of Ettis just does not work at all - mainly due to Ralph Watson performance. He is just too mad for it to be likely anyone would actually heed what he says, let alone follow him. Watson had played Captain Knight in The Web of Fear (after Nicholas Courtney had been promoted to Colonel). The other villain of the piece is Eckersley, played by Donald Gee. His is a far more nuanced performance. His villainy is well enough hidden, and he comes across as someone who just wants to be left alone to get on with his job - even if this does make him quite cold towards the Doctor, Sarah and Gebek.
Nick Hobbs reprises Aggedor, and Alpha Centauri is realised once more by Ysanne Churchman (voice) and Stuart Fell (body).
Gebek is played by Rex Robinson, a regular performer for director Lennie Mayne (The Three Doctors and The Hand of Fear).

Frank Gatliff is Chancellor Ortron - a mean spirited man who keeps his queen under his thumb, but who redeems himself before the end. Things might not have changed that much for the better on Peladon with entry into the Federation, but at least the more extreme aspects of their religion have been toned down. Workers are subjugated and women regarded as inferior, but you don't get executed for blaspheming the temple any more.
Thalira (Nina Thomas) is a bit wet. Sarah has to talk her into believing in herself a bit more, with some words on Women's Liberation. There's nothing "only" about being a girl, after all.
Episode endings are:
  1. Ettis has sealed the Doctor and Blor in a cave. The apparition of Aggedor appears and strikes down Blor, the Doctor next in the firing line.
  2. The Doctor and Sarah have been cast into a pit beneath the temple. Aggedor lurches out of the shadows to attack them.
  3. The Doctor and Gebek break into the refinery - only to find an Ice Warrior already inside.
  4. Ettis activates the sonic lance. There is an explosion - killing him and, apparently, the Doctor as well.
  5. The Ice Warriors begin burning through the door to the refinery, with the Doctor, Sarah and Gebek trapped within.
  6. The Doctor and Sarah depart from Peladon.

Overall, a touch over-long with insufficient incident to really grab the viewer. It will be a very long wait indeed before we see the Ice Warriors again, and Peladon will only be revisited on audio and in the novel Legacy. I would dearly love to see Alpha Centauri brought back, using new costume and CGI techniques. The kids would love it.
Things you might like to know:
  • Continuity with The Curse of Peladon is achieved by using the same director and designer (Gloria Clayton), as well as having the recurring monsters.
  • Lennie Mayne's wife, Frances Pidgeon, is Thalira's hand maid in early episodes. She has a more prominent role is her hubby's later The Hand of Fear.
  • Max Faulkner, playing one of the Pel miners, gets quite noticeably killed twice in the same episode.
  • Terry Walsh is the Doctor! He's rather too obviously seen in the fight sequence just before Ettis gets blown up.
  • If you can't stand the heat, keep out of the mines. Always worked for me.
  • This is Frank Gatliff's only appearance in Doctor Who. He was quite a flamboyant character - usually dressing head to toe in black and sporting a cloak.
  • In The Curse of Peladon, Trisilicate comes only from Mars, whereas here Peladon is full of it.
  • One great mystery is how did UNIT manage to get hold of a picture of Sarah in the temple? Are we to assume that the Doctor takes souvenir photos of his travels in unfilmed scenes? (He got his library card picture taken in the Celestial Toyroom after all - plus a photo of Clara the Clown which he gave to the coulrophobic Sarah). If you're wondering what I'm talking about, watch the Sarah Jane Adventures story The Lost Boy.
  • Coulrophobia is a fear of clowns by the way.
  • And the fear of chopsticks is Consecotaleophobia. I mention this only as I found it next to Coulrophobia in a list of phobias... See if you can fit it into a conversation tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Landmarks No.11

Fury From The Deep.
Love it or loathe it, the Sonic Screwdriver is as much an icon of the show as the TARDIS and the Daleks - and this is the story in which it was introduced.
It was well-known back in the 1970's - even when it wasn't actually employed all that often - but is rarely off screen in the newer stories.
JNT rather over-reacted by having it destroyed (missing out on a merchandising opportunity as well, which was very unlike him). His reason for the axing of the Sonic was sound (pun very much intended) - claiming it made it far too easy for the Doctor to get out of trouble. (Mind you, we would have been spared Peter Davison sitting in a cell for an entire episode of Snakedance).
Lord knows what JNT would have made of more recent series. I have already posted specifically on the Sonic (tying in with my review of this very story) and made my views known therein. I've nothing against it per se, but do dislike:

  • Its overuse (generally).
  • The ever expanding list of its capabilities.
  • Using it like a magic wand.
  • The Doctor brandishing it as though it were a weapon.
The story is significant also for a companion departure - Victoria tiring of the hazards of TARDIS life and staying behind with the Harrises.
Sadly, it is Debbie Watling's only story missing in its entirety, save for a few clips.
There is a unique, for the time, TARDIS landing.
It's also a rare example of a story in which none of the characters gets killed.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Doctor Rory? Wanna bet on it?

Well you can't - bet on it that is. Bookmakers have suspended betting on the new Doctor on the grounds that they've heard that the role has already been offered to Rory Kinnear, though he hasn't accepted yet.
Might all be a reaction to a well-placed  rumour and odds open again tomorrow.
We could do with another Rory in the TARDIS, mind you.
First reaction from Mark Gatiss on the news: "I can confirm that Rory Kinnear will be the new Doctor - and I should know because I'll be playing him!" Allegedly...

Sunday, 9 June 2013

That Was The Week That Was 9.6.13

A very brief post tonight as I've only just got in from work. We are well and truly in what the media call the "silly season" - when there is very little serious stuff to report on.
If you've read my shocking exclusives on Mark Gatiss' usurpation of the programme, you'll know just how silly things can get...
A YouGov poll has put David Tennant as favourite all-time Doctor, with Tom Baker second, and Matt Smith in third position. Poor Paul McGann brings up the rear with 0%. Strangely, when the question was asked in reverse - i.e. who is your least favourite Doctor, Sylvester McCoy came top, and Matt Smith was only middling. Apparently, Tennant was tops no matter what your personal political leanings.

Talking of polls (of a sort) the bookies are still keen to take money off you by betting on who will replace Smith. Ben Daniels (whose name was linked to the role nearly two weeks before Smith announced his resignation) seems to have settled as favourite. Regarding a female Doctor, that YouGov poll indicated a majority of people want to keep the Doctor male.
There was an announcement alert yesterday - initiated by the Starburst website, apparently. Someone claimed the announcement would be timed to steal the BGT finale's thunder. The BBC had to break the news that there was no news.
Talking of the BBC, HM the Q officially opened their new London HQ this week, and JLC was one of those who got to meet her. We know EIIR watches Doctor Who, but there is no record of her enquiring about who Smith's replacement might be.

Lastly, the reproduction of the original TARDIS console created for An Adventure In Space And Time will go on show at the Cardiff DW Experience this summer - after a brief visit to the Paris ComicCon in early July. The Experience is also about to institute walking tours of the city's filming locations.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

All Roads Lead To... Who?

I haven't done a "Connections" post for a while, and BBC4 has recently given me inspiration for this. I have just finished re-watching the BBC's wonderful 1976 series I, Claudius, based on the novels by Robert Graves - which are in turn based on the (ever so slightly biased) works of Suetonius and Tacitus. I am a bit of an armchair historian, and the Roman Empire has always been of particular interest to me - especially the Julio-Claudian dynasty, who were the Sopranos / Borgias / Lannisters of their day (King Joffrey is the spitting image of the real Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus - aka Caligula - see below...).
So time for a little historical detour to look at the connections between Doctor Who and I, Claudius...

All four of the featured Emperors have appeared in Doctor Who - the first Emperor being Augustus, who is played by shouty King Yrcanos (Trial of a Time Lord - Mindwarp) played by the equally shouty actor Brian Blessed. Augustus was succeeded by his son-in-law Tiberius - played by the late George Baker, who was Decider Login in Full Circle. His fellow Decider, Nefred - James Bree, also in The War Games - is a physician in part four.
By the way, the Tiberius in the earlier ITV production The Caesars (1968) was Andre Morell, from The Massacre. There is a direct link between these two productions coming up...
Tiberius was then followed by Caligula - an incredible performance by John Hurt (The Name of the Doctor, and due back in the 50th anniversary story).
Once Caligula was assassinated, his uncle Claudius was proclaimed Emperor - the series titular character, played by Derek Jacobi, who was Professor Yana / the Master in Utopia.
Nero followed Claudius - played in this by Christopher Biggins. He has done a BF audio, and features in the documentary on The Romans DVD, but has not appeared in the programme itself to date.
That's the upper echelons of the Imperial family covered, now for some of the incidental characters.

In part one, we see Guy Siner (Genesis of the Daleks) as a secretary. Augustus' doomed adoptive heir Marcellus is played by a young Christopher Guard (the equally doomed Bellboy in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy).
Tiberius' beloved first wife (Vipsania) is played by Sheila Ruskin, who was Consul Kassia in The Keeper of Traken. (The Keeper himself - Denis Carey, who also appeared in Shada - is an historian in part two).
Renu Setna (the doctor who thinks Gallifrey might be in Ireland in The Hand of Fear) plays Livia's personal physician, appropriately enough. He's "coincidentally" on hand when both Marcellus and Tiberius' brother, Drusus, expire.
Also present as Drusus dies is one of his commanders - played by Frontier In Space's General Williams, Michael Hawkins.
Onto part two - and that connection with ITV's The Caesars. Kevin Stoney (Mavic Chen, Tobias Vaughn and President Tyrum) plays the exact same character of Tiberius' astrologer - Thrasyluss - in both series.

Also present on Rhodes, as one of Tiberius' slaves, is Roy Stewart (Tomb of the Cybermen and Terror of the Autons).
Another historian in part two is Donald Eccles (Krasis in The Time Monster).
In part three we get to meet Claudius' sister Livilla, played by Patricia Quinn (Dragonfire's Belazs).
Tiberius' son, Castor, is played by Kevin McNally from The Twin Dilemma, and Caligula's mother, Agrippina, is Fiona Walker - from The Keys of Marinus and Silver Nemesis.
Part five deals with the trial of Piso, who was accused, along with his wife, of murdering Caligula's father, Germanicus. Piso is Stratford Johns (Four to Doomsday). His slave is Dalek man John Scott Martin. One of his accusers, Vitelius, is played by Roy Purcell (The Mind of Evil and The Three Doctors). George Pravda (The Enemy of the World, The Mutants and The Deadly Assassin) also features.
In part eight, Count Federico actor John Laurimore plays the unfortunate Lentulus. He promises to give up his life in return for Caligula's recovery - and when the newly deified Emperor duly recovers, he expects Lentulus to honour his promise to the gods. Latep actor Alan Tucker is one of Tiberius' slaves early on in the episode.
Bruce Purchase (The Captain of The Pirate Planet) is one of Caligula's assassins - Sabinus - in part nine.
Part ten features Geoffrey Hinsliff (Image of the Fendahl and Nightmare of Eden) as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, and John Bennett (Invasion of the Dinosaurs and The Talons of Weng-Chiang) is Claudius' Greek physician.
Finally, as Terrance Dicks says (on every single DVD commentary) it was in the BBC charter that Pat Gorman had to be included in every TV programme made at this time. Sure enough, he's a soldier in part seven - even getting a line, and an on screen credit.

That spooky Caligula / Joffrey likeness..

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Story 72 - Death To The Daleks

In which the Doctor's attempts to take Sarah to Florana go awry, the TARDIS breaking down on the barren rocky world of Exxilon with a complete power failure. The Doctor is surprised at the extent of the energy drain - as every electrical system is affected. He ventures outside into the night and is captured by a group of robed figures - the planet's inhabitants. Another Exxilon attacks Sarah in the ship but she escapes and tries to find the Doctor. Next morning, She discovers a huge pyramidal city, with a great pulsing beacon on a pillar at the top. She is then captured by Exxilons. The Doctor escapes his captors and meets a party of Earth people, members of a Marine Space Corps expedition. They inform him of the Exxilon city and its energy draining beacon - which has caused them to be stranded here too. The natives worship it and anyone found near it is put to death. They have come here in search of the rare mineral Parrinium, from which the cure for a virulent space plague can be obtained. If they don't get the mineral off this world, millions will perish.
A rescue ship is heard overhead, but when the craft lands it is not of a recognised Earth design. It is actually a Dalek vessel. The creatures emerge and attempt to exterminate the humans.

The same power drain that has affected the spacecraft causes their energy weapons to fail. They have also come for the Parrinium. The Daleks are forced into an alliance with the Earth expedition. The Exxilons attack in force and one of the Daleks is destroyed, with everyone else captured. The Doctor is reunited with Sarah in their underground temple - he saving her from being sacrificed. Unfortunately, he will now join her in being offered to the city. In their spaceship, other Daleks experiment with mechanical weapons to get round the energy drain - projectile firing ones. The newly armed Daleks attack the temple and free their comrades. The MSC officer Galloway, who has taken over as leader after the death of their commander, tries to maintain their agreement to co-operate, but the Daleks no longer need allies.
The Doctor and Sarah escape into a tunnel complex, aware that this is where they were to be sent as part of the sacrificial rite. The Doctor encounters a serpentine electronic probe - part of the city's defence systems. Sarah meets Bellal - member of another Exxilon tribe who live underground and who are persecuted by the city worshipers.

Bellal explains that his people once had a great civilisation, capable of visiting other worlds. They applied all their scientific knowledge into the construction of the city. Its systems were so advanced it developed a form of sentience. So advanced was it, that it came to see its creators as inferior and so ejected them. The Exxilons turned their backs on science and technology and reverted into a superstitious, primitive state. The Doctor and Bellal will go the city to study it and find a way of disabling the beacon, whilst Sarah will try to free the MSC party.
The Daleks also intend to visit the city, and Galloway and Lt. Hamilton will be despatched to plant a bomb on the beacon. The city fights back against the Doctor and Bella once they reach the control centre after a number of lethal traps - creating zombie-like "antibodies". The Doctor sabotages the city's "brain" and Dalek bombs destroy the beacon. The city starts to malfunction. The Daleks depart, threatening to launch a plague-missile which will make it impossible for anyone to land here again. However, Galloway has stowed away onboard their craft with one of their bombs. He destroys the ship, sacrificing himself. The city - once one of the 700 Wonders of the Universe - crumbles to dust.

This four part adventure was written by Terry Nation, and was broadcast between 23rd February and 16th March, 1974. It is a fairly standard runaround. We didn't know it at the time, but it is actually the last of the old school Dalek stories. Davros would soon be introduced - often rendering the Daleks mere bit-part players in their own stories.
There are a few good ideas hidden away in the story. We get to see a couple of new TARDIS features - the hexagonal light units and the hand-crank door opening mechanism. The Exxilons are an interesting alien species, with two factions represented. The costume and make-up design is highly effective (masks by John Friedlander). They are slowly being petrified, and we see some rock formations that appear to be ex-Exxilons. The concept of a machine outgrowing its creators and rejecting them is not new, but provides an interesting backdrop to the story. Bellal is played by Arnold Yarrow.
The Daleks are at their most cunning - true survivors. They ally themselves with the humans when it suits them, drop them when no longer needed, and find an ingenious way of getting round the loss of their energy weapons. There is an explanation for them not suffering total power loss and dying - they use psycho-kinetic power. One rather odd Dalek feature is their reaction to failure - one Dalek committing suicide on losing its prisoners. The voices are courtesy of Michael Wisher.

The humans are a pretty dull bunch. Commander Stewart and his successor Railton (John Abineri, who had previously appeared in Fury From The Deep) are killed off quite early on. Hamilton and Jill Tarrant (Nation using his own name gimmick yet again) are both a bit wet. Only dour and duplicitous Scotsman Dan Galloway (Duncan Lamont, who had played Carroon in the original Quatermass series) stands out.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. The Daleks emerge from their spacecraft and open fire on the Doctor and his friends at point blank range...
  2. A snake-like electronic root rears up in front of the Doctor as he explores the tunnels beneath the Exxilon city...
  3. The Doctor stops Bellal stepping onto a patterned floor section, for no apparent reason... (Turns out it is a deadly floor. A floor of deadly death! Well spotted, Doctor).
  4. The Doctor and his friends watch as the city crumbles, and he bemoans the loss of one of the Wonders of the Universe.

Overall, not a bad little story, There is enough to keep you interested throughout. I have a personal soft spot for it. Just a shame about the incidental music.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Doctor gives one of his most succinct summations of the Daleks: "Inside each of those shells is a living, bubbling lump of hate".
  • Do all Dalek spaceships hold a stock of little model TARDISes for target practice?
  • This almost became Terry Nation's second Dalek-free story. He was encouraged by Barry Letts  and Terrance Dicks to include them in a story that was originally called "The Exilons", then "The Exxilons"
  • Regarding that very naff part three cliffhanger, the intended ending was supposed to be the Doctor and Bellal outside the city trying to work out the means of entry, with the Daleks about to round the corner and discover them.
  • The decision to have voices wailing as the city crumbles was a late one - indicating that it is a living thing which is dying. The voices were provided by some of the cast members.
  • Every Dalek in this story is destroyed. So how come there is at least one of them in the Asylum?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Mark Gatiss "confirms" next Doctor will be a woman - and he should "know" cos he's playing her!!!

"I intend my portrayal to be akin to Miss Hawethorne from that demon story - you know, the one they always bang on about." said Mark Gatiss yesterday. "That and Amelia Rumford, from the one about the big stones that eat people then turn them into giant maggots".
Gatiss was giving an exclusive interview for "Horse & Hound Bookazine" when I caught  up with him to ask about the malicious and totally unfounded rumours (started by me) that he had taken over the programme in a bloody coup at Roath Lock on Friday.
"Those executions were nothing to do with me!" he giggled, archly. "I'll be concentrating on make-up tests for the next three weeks - getting the lip shade right -  then finalising the plans for the new Doctor Who studios. By the way, are there any favourite hymns you'd like played at your funeral?".
When asked about this studio move, Roath Lock being only a year or so old, Gatiss explained that whilst Cardiff was all very well ("It's in Wales for heaven's sake!"), the crater of an extinct volcano off the coast of Japan made "a much better base for global domination... sorry, I mean TV studio...".
Steven Moffat has remained quietly stoic about all of this. That new sitcom of his - now retitled "Mark Gatiss Is A B******" is due to be screened on BBC3 this Autumn, starring Lee Mack, Will Mellor, Sheridan Smith, and BBC 3's other Will Mellor - with, ironically, Mark Gatiss playing himself, as well as everybody else. Nick Briggs will play the voice of the Daleks.
According to the Radio Times, it is due to be axed in 2015 because of falling ratings.

Landmarks No.10

The Web of Fear.
UNIT and the Brigadier start here. There had been a scant couple of stories set in contemporary times before this - starting with The War Machines and continuing through The Faceless Ones and the early episodes of Evil of the Daleks - all coincidentally occurring at the same time - but this story is where the roots of the UNIT years are really to be found.
London has been evacuated due to the appearance of a strange web-like substance, and then Yeti turn up.
The Great Intelligence is back to try again.
The army set up command in the Underground - off of which is a World War Two bunker near Goodge Street. (If, like me, you are interested in the history of London - especially "secret" London - you will know that the city is built on a number of WW2 and Cold War installations. The entire course of the Victoria tube line is determined by secret government structures).
Placed in charge of the military operations is a Colonel from a Scottish regiment by the name of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart.  He doesn't show up until the end of episode two (his boots being played by an extra) but in part three, Nicholas Courtney joins the action. The rest is history. The future Brigadier will appear with the second, third, first, fourth, fifth and seventh Doctors, making his final appearance alongside Lis Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith in the CBBC spin-off series, and will be name-checked as recently as this season's The Power of Three, where we find that the organisation he helped to found is now being run by his daughter. Looking to the future, Kate Stewart will be back in the 50th Anniversary tale.
Of course, Courtney had failed to appear in the programme back in The Crusade - the role of the Lionheart going to Julian Glover. He had appeared in The Daleks' Master Plan as the ill-fated Bret Vyon. He was nearly "ill-fated" again in this story - originally being offered the part of Captain Knight, who doesn't make it past episode four.
The set up of The Web Fear leads directly to The Invasion, which leads in turn to Spearhead From Space, and some of Doctor Who's most popular stories. Nicholas Courtney becomes one of the programme's most beloved personalities and ambassadors.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Mark Gatiss to be named Emperor of Doctor Who - "allegedly"

Shock news from a Doctor Who "insider" - "allegedly". Mark Gatiss has been "secretly" invited to become the 12th incarnation of the Doctor and to be new show-runner and lead writer. He will also write the theme tune.
"Allegedly" Steven Moffat had agreed to stay on for another twelve series - in order to tie up the Silence story arc - but arrived at work on Friday to find his belongings in a cardboard box - and Gatiss sitting at his desk looking "arch". Moffat was then escorted from Roath Lock by the armed security men whom Gatiss has employed to hunt down and assassinate staff who leak spoilers.
The move is seen as a cost-cutting exercise in this time of austerity - and an attempt to head off the Daily Right Wing Rant's fortnightly accusation that the BBC is riddled with left-leaning homosexuals who squander licence payers' money.
A BBC spokesman said - "allegedly" - "Mark will be taking over everything. His name will be changed to Augustus. He will be acting, writing and exec-producing every episode of series 8 through 20. He's also doing the costumes. We are pleased to have a left-leaning homosexual who will squander licence payers' money in charge of this flagship show. We still haven't told him that he will only get paid once, however, so please don't publish anything until he's signed the contract...".
A grief-stricken Moffat is said to have thrown his energies into rewrites on the third series of "Sherlock" - having the character of Mycroft Holmes killed in every episode, as well as developing a new sitcom to be called "I Hate Mark Gatiss".

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Story 71 - Invasion of the Dinosaurs

In which the Doctor and Sarah return to the present day and find London apparently deserted. They encounter a jewel thief, who is found dead a few minutes later - the car he was driving wrecked. In a warehouse, they disturb a group of criminals and are attacked by a Pterosaur. When they take the thieves' vehicle, they are stopped by the army and arrested as looters. Their photographs are sent to UNIT's temporary HQ where they are spotted by Sgt. Benton. The Doctor and Sarah escape and witness an attack by another dinosaur - a Tyrannosaurus Rex. In a garage, they encounter a man from the reign of King John. He vanishes, and the Doctor witnesses a temporal disturbance. The Brigadier arrives and takes them to the HQ, set up in an inner city school. Here the Doctor learns what has been happening whilst they were away.
Dinosaurs have been appearing across the city, vanishing again shortly afterwards. After seeing the medieval man, the Doctor realises that someone is bringing the creatures through time to the 20th Century. He decides to capture one and use monitoring equipment to trace the culprits. Sarah decides to do some investigating of her own - realising that whoever is behind this scheme must have a base somewhere in the city, and a power source.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, there is a traitor at work at the heart of UNIT. After he had been brainwashed by the BOSS computer and forced to try and kill his friends, Captain Mike Yates was given special leave. He encountered an ecological group - Golden Age - which has several influential members. Sir Charles Grover, the government minister responsible for overseeing the military operations, and General Finch - the Brigadier's immediate superior - are both involved. They are working with a scientist named Whitaker, who has created a device which can bring objects forward through time. Yates sabotages the Doctor's attempts to capture and monitor one of the dinosaurs.
Sarah goes to see Grover, unaware of his involvement. She discovers that their enemy's base is actually a government bunker built beneath Grover's building. She is captured and rendered unconscious - waking to find herself trapped aboard a spaceship. A young man named Mark informs her that they and hundreds of others are travelling to a new home on an Earth-like planet in a neighbouring galaxy. Sarah is suspicious. If she has been on this ship for weeks, why is a head wound she received earlier still not healed? She escapes from the ship - finding that it is a mock up built next to the government bunker. Unfortunately, it is General Finch she informs of her discovery and is recaptured.

Sarah breaks back into the mock spaceship to try to convince everyone that they are being duped. The Doctor is discredited in order to stop him interfering - blamed for being responsible for the dinosaur apparitions, but the Brigadier rebels against his superior to help him. The Doctor learns of the location of the bunker. Yates' treachery is discovered. Grover reveals that he intends for Whitaker to reverse time for everyone and everything outside the bunker. The people on the mock spaceship think they are going to a new world, free of pollution, but it will actually be a prehistoric Earth that they will be setting foot on.
The Brigadier arrives with UNIT troops to stop the scheme, as Sarah leads the horrified spaceship people into the bunker. Whitaker tries to operate his machine, but the Doctor is able to switch it off. He makes some adjustments to make it safe. Grover tries to turn it back on again and Whitaker struggles with him - realising what the Doctor has done. Both men, and the machine, vanish as they are thrown back into pre-history.
Mike Yates is quietly retired from UNIT.

This six part adventure was written by Malcolm Hulke - his last contribution to the series - and was broadcast between 12th January and 16th February, 1974.
The story was script-edited (uncredited) by Robert Holmes, who would soon take on the role full time.
It is chiefly remembered for its rather dire dinosaur puppets, but if you can get past them there is a very good story here.
The success of the Drashigs in The Carnival of Monsters the year before had lead Barry Letts to believe that a story featuring dinosaurs was achievable. Sadly, the promised realistic monsters turned out to be be very poor indeed. To be honest, it is only really the Tyrannosaurus Rex that lets the side down. The other creatures aren't too bad. The model settings for the creatures also jar with the location filming.
The first episode had the title of "Invasion" - to keep the inclusion of the dinosaurs a surprise for the audience. Unfortunately, the Radio Times gave the full story title which rather gave the game away. Malcolm Hulke hated the title, preferring "Timescoop".
Some have seen this episode titling as the cause for that first part being junked (it being confused with the Patrick Troughton 1968 Cyberman story). However, as each story has its own production code, and the Troughton story was wiped two years before this was made, this is unlikely to be the explanation.
As such, whilst episodes 2 - 6 can be viewed in colour, only a black and white version of part one exists. For the DVD release, there is a brave attempt at colour recovery - but no CGI monsters alas.

And what of the story itself? It is quite a good political thriller, with corruption in high places and within the ranks of the Doctor's own colleagues. There is a lengthy car chase in part 5, and a diversion to a spaceship for Sarah - although it is quickly pointed out that this is a fake ship. The time-frame of the scenes around her waking up on the ship mean that you never really believe that she has gone into space.
There is an excellent guest cast. Whitaker is played by Peter Miles, who had played Dr Lawrence in The Silurians and who will soon be back in his most famous role as Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks. His assistant, Butler, is played by Martin Jarvis, who had appeared in The Web Planet as Menoptra officer Hilio. He will return as the Governor in Vengeance on Varos. Grover is played by Noel Johnson, another actor who had appeared in the programme before (King Thous in The Underwater Menace). General Finch is played by John Bennett (who will go on to play Li H'sen Chang in The Talons of Weng Chiang).
The UNIT regulars are all well served - John Levene getting some wondeful material in parts 5 & 6. Mike Yates' story isn't quite over - as he will get a chance to redeem himself a little at the end of this series.
Making Sarah a journalist proves to have been a wise decision, as it means that she can get involved with the story in an entirely natural way on her own.
Episode endings for this story are:
  1. The Doctor and Sarah are being transported in an army landrover when it comes under attack - from a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  2. The Doctor's stun gun has failed to work. The herbivorous Brontosaurus vanishes - to be replaced by a T Rex.
  3. Sarah wakes to find she is no longer in the bunker. Mark tells her she is on a spaceship heading for "New Earth".
  4. Lured back to the hangar by Whitaker, the Doctor finds he has walked into a trap. Finch accuses him of being responsible for the monster appearances and orders the Brigadier to arrest him.
  5. Making his way to the bunker, the Doctor finds himself confronted by a T Rex.
  6. Sarah is reluctant to get back into the TARDIS, but the Doctor talks her into another trip with a promise of the beautiful planet Florana.

Overall, a very good story let down by its special effects (a not uncommon occurrence in the classic series). Watching it recently, I realised that there were very few occasions in which the dinosaurs interact with principal actors - so they could be replaced with CGI. Perhaps someday we will get a Special Edition. Were that to be the case, you would have one of the best of the Pertwee adventures.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Doctor's new vehicle makes its first appearance. Pertwee had commissioned this himself and asked Letts if it could be used on the show. It is commonly referred to as the Whomobile, but also goes under the name of Alien. It is never actually named on screen. The vehicle was not quite complete at the time of filming, as you will note from the temporary wind shield.
  • Barry Letts would get extremely angry when the programme was criticised for having wobbly sets. Unfortunately, when the metal shutters close in the bunker, the walls shake noticeably.
  • Another slip up to look out for is the appearance of the disabling disc on the Doctor's stun gun appearing before Mike Yates has put it there.
  • And the T Rex has too many fingers... At the time, some school children wrote to the BBC to say that this might actually be an Allosaurus.
  • Apparently Brontosaurus is now a redundant name - replaced by Apatosaurus. Don't say this blog is never educational.
  • When broadcast on PBS in the States, either episodically or as an omnibus, the B&W opening episode was omitted -  meaning you jumped in with part two and the Doctor and Sarah already being menaced by a dinosaur.
  • This is the first story to be directed by a woman since The Massacre - actually the same woman, Paddy Russell.
  • The bunker must be very big indeed, to have an entrance on Whitehall and another at Moorgate.