Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sergeant Benton's Double Hearts Club Band...

Back when DWM first announced there would be another big poll - this time marking the 50th Anniversary of the programme - I posted that I would be a bit disappointed to see Caves of Androzani come out top yet again. My main concern would be that people would vote it tops just because of other people's opinions - rather than actually sitting down, watching it, and considering it on its own merits.
Well, not only has Caves failed to seize the crown this time out, it has actually dropped to fourth place. My own personal favourite - Genesis of the Daleks - came above it in third place.
Second place went to Blink - making it the top "regular" story. That's because the anniversary tale Day of the Doctor is now "officially" the No. 1 adventure.
I had a feeling it would be.
I shan't go too much into the full poll, but it is worth drawing out some of the highlights (and lowlights).
If Day was favourite, The Twin Dilemma continues to languish bottom - still worst story ever.
Worst story of the 2005 and beyond series was Fear Her - and quite right too. It was voted second worst story overall.
Looking at the stories of individual Doctor's eras:
Best Hartnell at 46 is The Daleks (aka The Mutants). No's 47 & 48 are also Hartnell Dalek stories - Invasion of Earth and Masterplan respectively.
Worst rated Hartnell is The Space Museum, at 232 (out of 241).

Best Troughton: The War Games, in 12th place. This does surprise me. Too many people judge this on a single episode. I watched it again only last week, and it's 60% padding.
Lowest rated Troughton is The Space Pirates at 235. The Dominators just scrapes in above it at 234.

Best Pertwee: Inferno, at 18.
Worst Pertwee is The Time Monster (222). The old rule about stories with "Time" in the title being a bit rubbish mostly holds true again. (Even The Time of the Doctor only manages 95th place).

Best Tom Baker is the aforementioned Genesis of the Daleks.
(If this is also the best Dalek story, the two part Daleks in Manhattan tale was voted their worst outing at 208).
Least favourite Tom Baker story is Underworld (at 236).

Best Davison is, of course, still Caves of Androzani. His least favourite is, of course, still Time-Flight (fifth worst story overall).

We've already mentioned that Colin Baker's worst offender is The Twin Dilemma. His best effort is Revelation of the Daleks (in 70th place).

Sylvester McCoy's most favoured story is Remembrance of the Daleks (in a very respectable 10th place overall). Least favourite (third from bottom overall) is Time and the Rani.
Paul McGann's solo TV outing comes in at number 152 - quite a fall since the previous poll in 2009.

Christopher Eccleston's most popular story was the Empty Child two-parter (7th overall). His least popular story was The Long Game (at 205).
Tennant's best and worst have already been mentioned. In a way he gets to share the top spot.
Setting the winning anniversary tale aside for a moment, Smith's best regular story is The Eleventh Hour (at 17). His least favoured story is Rings of Akhaten (way down at 233).

We've mentioned the Daleks, so what about the Cybermen? Their best effort is Tomb of the Cybermen (23rd). Looks like the word "Silver" in the title is also a kiss of death. Worst Cyber-story is Silver Nemesis (206th). Nightmare in Silver is a mere 3 places above it.

Best Christmas Special is the first one - The Christmas Invasion (57th). Worst is Widow / Wardrobe, which sits at a lowly number 229.

Historical stories don't do too badly. Highest rated is The Aztecs (61st). Lowest is The Gunfighters (202 - so more popular than Nightmare in Silver).

Hands up who thinks Colin Baker is the bestest Doctor ever...
The other voting was for best Doctor, companion and Special Contribution. Tom Baker naturally tops the Doctors. Smith is only marginally ahead of Tennant (by less than 0.1%). Rather unfairly, the War Doctor comes out last. John Hurt is more of a guest artist, so least favourite Doctor really should remain with poor old Baker, C, who can't beat Paul McGann.
Sarah Jane Smith tops the companion poll - and quite right too. Nice to see Donna Noble come second.
Verity Lambert and RTD are first and second when it comes to Special Contribution. Hard to argue with that. One gave us the programme in the first place, and the other brought it back to us.

By the way, don't just download the full poll off the net. Buy the magazine and pore over that wonderful triple-fold cover. Sergeant Benton's Double Heart Club Band indeed.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Story 105 - City of Death

In which the Doctor and Romana visit Paris, in 1979. After a trip to the Eiffel Tower, they go to lunch. The Doctor notices that an artist is sketching Romana. Unhappy that she is aware of this, the man scrunches up the drawing and throws it to the floor. As she picks it up she and the Doctor experience a brief time disturbance. Time jumps back a few seconds. Strangely, the artist has sketched Romana with the face of a clock, with a crack across it. Elsewhere in the city, Count Scarlioni has just observed the latest experiment by Professor Kerensky, who has a laboratory set up in the basement of Count's mansion. Kerensky is experimenting with time. An argument about art leads the Doctor and Romana to the Louvre - and Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece "Mona Lisa". Here, they experience another temporal disturbance. The Doctor seems to accidentally fall against a woman - stealing her bracelet as he does so. Their odd behaviour attracts the attention of a man in a raincoat, who decides to follow them back to the cafe they were in earlier. Here, the Doctor shows Romana the bracelet, and she recognises it as an advanced alien artefact. The man in the raincoat arrives. He is Duggan, an English private detective. He has been employed by a group of art experts to investigate a number of rare and priceless works which have recently been put up for sale by Count Scarlioni. The Count seems very interested in the "Mona Lisa". It was from the Countess Scarlioni that the Doctor removed the bracelet. Two men turn up, armed with guns, and force the Doctor, Romana and Duggan to accompany them back to Scarlioni's mansion.

The Count sent the men to retrieve the bracelet and find out who they are. They are locked up in a cellar just off the laboratory. Romana spots that the room is shorter than it should be. There is a blocked off section. Duggan breaks this down and they fins a number of wooden cabinets - inside which are copies of the "Mona Lisa". Examining them, the Doctor realises that they are all originals, all painted by da Vinci. They realise what the Count is planning. The bracelet is a holographic recorder, which has been used to study the security systems around the painting in the Louvre. Scarlioni plans to steal this, then sell that and these copies to a number of buyers - all of whom will get the "original" and who will never advertise the fact they have bought the stolen work. Escaping from the cellar, the Doctor returns to the TARDIS - parked in a Left Bank gallery - and travels to Florence, 1505, to learn about the alternative paintings. He is shocked to discover Scarlioni is here - in the guise of one Captain Tancredi.

It transpires that Scarlioni and Tancredi are different aspects of one alien being - Scaroth, of the Jagaroth race. These belligerent creatures wiped themselves out a very long time ago. Scaroth is the last survivor. When his ship was destroyed on prehistoric Earth, he found himself splintered through time. There are twelve aspects to him, the latest being the Count. Each "splinter" has helped to further mankind's development so that Scarlioni will have the means to travel back in time - to stop the destruction of his spaceship. Before returning to 1979, the Doctor writes "This is a Fake" on all the panels which da Vinci is about to use to paint the alternative copies. He will simply paint over this - but in 1979 x-rays will expose the words and render the copies worthless. Romana is forced to help Scaroth / Scarlioni complete his time travel device. Their usefulness at an end, he kills Kerensky and the Countess. The Doctor has worked out that it was the radiation from the exploding spaceship which helped trigger life on Earth, so Scaroth must be stopped. Duggan joins the Doctor and Romana in the TARDIS as they travel back in time to prehistory. Duggan knocks the alien out. His time travel device automatically returns him to the laboratory. His henchman, seeing him in natural tentacled, monocular form, wrecks the device. Both die in the blast, and the mansion is destroyed.
Only one copy of the "Mona Lisa" survives the fire. Duggan is horrified that it might be one of the ones with the Doctor's handwriting underneath - but the Doctor points out that it is what is on the surface that counts most in art...

This four part adventure was written by David Agnew, and was broadcast between 29th September and 20th October, 1979. This story is the first ever to be filmed outside the UK. Production Unit Manager John Nathan-Turner (whatever happened to him?) worked out a budget that would allow for overseas filming.
The last time the pseudonym "David Agnew" was employed, the writers were the producer and the script editor - and that is the case here as well. David Fisher had submitted a story called "A Gamble With Time". Fisher was unable to complete rewrites on this, and so Graham Williams and Douglas Adams stepped in to do a page one rewrite. Some elements of Fisher's story do survive. "Gamble" also concerned an alien splintered in time, and there was the English detective (knick-named "Pug" - for pugilistic), but the setting was Monte Carlo in the 1920's rather than modern day Paris. Rather than steal and sell art treasures, the Count would have been using alien tech to cheat at the gaming tables to raise funds for his time travel experiments.
Yet again, K9 is missing - left back in the TARDIS throughout. The Doctor does say hello to him - off camera.

This story features in most people's top ten list of Doctor Who stories. It has a very clever plot, and an abundance of humour. Performances are uniformly great. Tom Chadbon's Duggan takes a little bit of getting used to - he can be quite cartoon-ish at times - but you would like to see him travel on with the Doctor and Romana by the end of the story. The stand-out performance is Julian Glover, as Scarlioni and the other Scaroth splinters. Catherine Schell is the Countess - a beautiful woman (probably). After years of providing Dalek voices, David Graham makes his second on-screen appearance in the programme, as the ill-fated Professor Kerensky.
Peter Halliday turns up as Tancredi's guard.
As well as the number of quotable lines, this story is also famous for the John Cleese / Eleanor Bron cameos in the final episode. They appear as a couple of art lovers, admiring the TARDIS as it stands in the trendy gallery. Exquisite.
Episode endings are:
  1. Scarlioni proves to be a Jagaroth, as he pulls off his face mask to reveal a single eye and masses of tentacles...
  2. In 16th Century Florence, the Doctor is confronted by Captain Tancredi. He knows who he is, and he is identical in appearance to Scarlioni...
  3. Trapped in his own machine, Kerensky is aged to death by Scarlioni...
  4. The Doctor and Romana bid adieu to Duggan at the Eiffel Tower. He buys a postcard of the "Mona Lisa" as a souvenir of his recent adventures.

Overall, one of the very best stories. Hard to fault it on any aspect. The spaceship model work is some of the finest seen in the programme. Some people moan about the Jagaroth head being too big to fit under the human mask, or question what kind of a relationship the Countess must have had with her husband, but that's all inconsequential. If you wanted to introduce someone to classic Doctor Who, you couldn't go far wrong using this as an example.
Things you might like to know:
  • Thanks mainly to an ITV strike, this story holds the record for highest ever UK audience - just over 16 million viewers for one of the episodes.
  • Both Douglas Adams and director Michael Hayes appear on screen - Adams in a bar and Hayes on the Paris Metro.
  • This was a good time for Adams. His book of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was published during the period this story aired (12th October 1979).
  • Some elements of this story will reappear in Adams' Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.
  • The first issue of what has now become DWM was published during the run of this story as well - the first ever Doctor Who Weekly.
  • Dudley Simpson's distinctive score for this story features references to George Gershwin's An American in Paris.
  • The Doctor recognises his own handwriting when the Countess shows him the Hamlet manuscript. He says Shakespeare had sprained his wrist writing sonnets. This might just be a bit of a joke on his part, but he does describe knowing the playwright as a boy as well. If Hamlet was written about 1603, this doesn't contradict the Tenth Doctor story The Shakespeare Code, as that features a younger Shakespeare.
  • The Doctor blames the year of their visit to Paris on the Randomiser - 1979 not being all that special. (I remember it. It was mostly rubbish...). The Doctor appears to disconnect the device twice - to get to Florence and then to the Earth of 400 Million years ago.
  • This is the third televised story to see the Doctor visit Paris. The last time he visited it, in The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve, the Louvre also featured - then still as the royal residence.
  • Filming abroad did not go without its mishaps. Famously, Tom Baker triggered a burglar alarm when he pushed too vigorously on the door of the gallery in which the TARDIS was supposed to be parked. Everyone did a runner, leaving JNT to sort out the authorities. Michael Hayes also had problems with the local gendarmes. He had set up a camera to check angles on shots of the Eiffel Tower. Despite the camera having no film in it, he was still forced to move on.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

DW Figurine Collection - May 2014

Yesterday I received the latest figurines from Eaglemoss - an Invasion Cyberman, the Sycorax leader (helmeted) and the second of the subscription-only Daleks.
The Cyberman marks the first release from the Troughton era. Must say the face does not look quite right (mouth and eyes are a bit too big), and it could have done with carrying a gun to make the pose look more interesting.
I was surprised to find that the "Oswin Oswald Dalek", as it is described, has flexible chains. I assumed they would have been solid and rigid. This particular Dalek I have been looking forward to least. If you have been following my occasional series looking at the Dalek designs you will know there is a huge range of colour schemes and designs to choose from. This is basically a standard bronze Dalek with a couple of bits of chain draped across. It never impressed me when it appeared on the telly, and the figure will almost certainly get pushed towards the back of the collection as it grows.
Next month - a Heavenly Host (boring) and a 2013 Zygon (good, but not as good as the originals). It should be noted that those lists originally published are now starting to vary, as we were apparently due to get the Ninth Doctor in June. Maybe he'll now join the Morbius Monster in July.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Know Your Daleks - Spaceships

AKA: Earth versus the Flying Saucers. These days the Daleks predominantly travel around in saucer-shaped spacecraft. This just happens to be how they managed to get to Earth in around 2157 to invade us - as seen in 1964's The Dalek Invasion of  Earth. Due to the SFX of the day, these appear a bit Ed Wood - pastry cutters dangling on strings in front of a photo of the Houses of Parliament, as you can see above. Their appearance is kept to an absolute minimum. Unlike the Aaru movie version of this story, we don't get to see their destruction at the climax - it happens off screen. The craft are specifically referred to as "saucers" throughout the story, and there is a distinctive Saucer Commander rank. Saucers have equipment aboard for robotising human prisoners.

For their next outing, the Daleks take a leaf out of the Doctor's book and adopt a dimensionally transcendental Space / Time machine. This is known - quite unofficially - as a DARDIS. The Dalek time-ship is much more reliable than the TARDIS - it is able to gain on the Doctor's ship and, of course, gets Ian and Barbara back home at the conclusion of the story. (Landing two years late is probably due to the Doctor's programming rather than the craft itself). The craft has a central control console, and a chamber in which dubious duplicates can be manufactured. There are odd circular panels that spin, some with spirals and some with squares, and one of these counts down to materialisation. There is more than one level, as we see a Dalek descend in a lift at one point. The "DARDIS" will reappear in the 1965/66 story The Daleks' Masterplan.

Sadly, none of the three existing episodes feature Dalek spaceships - and there are no telesnaps - so we can only hear characters describing these vessels and not see what they look like. A bit of one of their craft is visible behind Steven and Sara in the image above.

Our next clear look at a Dalek craft is with the photographic material which we have for Power of the Daleks. A small vessel, that can fit into Lesterson's laboratory, it has a stubby, oval outline. As the story develops, it appears that this vessel is also dimensionally transcendental - as we see a huge production line which could not possibly fit into the small vessel we have seen in the lab - unless they knocked through into a disused bit of the Vulcan colony.

During the Jon Pertwee era, the Daleks revert to saucer-shaped spacecraft. Planet of the Daleks sees the Supreme arrive on Spiridon in the vessel above. A very simple, functional design, this double-tiered ship might be reserved for the senior Daleks, as only a few months later we have a different design which is even more basic in appearance.

Death to the Daleks sees this other saucer-like craft. The interior is devoid of any embellishment. These ships appear to contain little Police Box models, for target practice. If the two-tier ones are for the nobs, then these ones might be the workhorses of the Dalek fleet.

We then have a long wait to see another Dalek craft. The more standard spaceship design seen in Resurrection of the Daleks might not actually belong to them, of course. It is referred to as the "Dalek Cruiser", but it may have been supplied by the mercenary Lytton.

The ship that travels to Necros to collect Davros (in Revelation of the Daleks) has more of a saucer shape, nothing like the one that rescued him from the space prison.

Remembrance of the Daleks features the massive, elongated mothership - covered in a hexagonal pattern - as well as the shuttle which lands at Coal Hill School. The shuttle has a vaguely egg-box design. Does it blow the windows out every time it lands? We know it has landed at the school at least once before. Wouldn't want to be the janitor if it does.

And so we come to the new series - and the Daleks adopt the classic saucer design from here on in. They first appear in Bad Wolf. The Emperor travels in a massive version. Apart from the "DARDIS" there has never been any consistency when it comes to spaceship interiors. Throughout the RTD era, we get a standard pattern decorating the ships - a warm honeycomb pattern on the walls and pillars.

The Cult of Skaro sit out the last great Time War in a Void Ship. This spherical craft - which possesses no mass and can't be measured in any way until activated - housed four Daleks and the Genesis Ark. A bit of a tight squeeze, but then to Dalek Sec and co. it might have felt like they were in there for only a few seconds - time being meaningless in the Void.

With The Stolen Earth, the Daleks finally get a great big Death Star-like space station - the Crucible. This vessel is also the machine that drives the Reality Bomb - one of Davros' madder ideas. Who would the Daleks rant at if they were the only creatures in existence?

New Paradigm - old saucers. The one seen in Victory of the Daleks has a gizmo that can affect electricity on Earth - turning on all the lights in London in the middle off the Blitz. Sadly, the recent spaceship interiors are thrown out, and the space we see is a fairly featureless metal box.

The Dalek Parliament, rather than being based on Skaro, appears to be held in another vast saucer - in orbit above the Asylum planet.

Saucers were again seen in the last two televised adventures to feature the Daleks - Day of the Doctor and Time of the Doctor. Not spaceships as such, but worth mentioning, are the armoured flying gun platforms which the Daleks operate in both these stories.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Story 104 - Destiny of the Daleks

In which K9 has a case of laryngitis, and Romana decides to trade in her old body for a new one. After trying out a few different forms, she settles on the likeness of Princess Astra of Atrios. The TARDIS materialises on a planet with high radiation levels. The Doctor and Romana must take tablets to counteract this. Exploring, they come upon the ruins of a city. There are strange earth tremors - which the Doctor identifies as man-made. Someone is drilling deep beneath the surface. They see a spaceship land. It buries itself into the sand. As they approach, it fires upon them and they are forced to seek refuge in one of the ruined buildings. A pillar collapses, trapping the Doctor. Romana goes for help, but finds the TARDIS has been buried by rocks. She becomes aware of someone following her. The Doctor is rescued by a party of humanoids dressed in white uniforms. They are Movellans, and it was their ship which he and Romana had seen land. He is intrigued by the ease with which they remove the concrete pillar. Back at their ship, he is horrified to learn that this is the Dalek homeworld of Skaro.

Trying to evade her pursuer, Romana tumbles down a shaft. She is unhurt, but a wall smashes open and Daleks pour through. She is captured and taken to their control centre. After interrogation, she is sent to work in the mines. The Doctor has discovered that the Movellans have been involved in a long-running conflict with the Daleks. They have come here to learn why the Daleks have returned to this planet - and what they are mining for. The man who had been following Romana is Tyssan. He has escaped from one of the slave worker parties, and had actually been trying to warn Romana. He tells the Doctor of her capture.
The Doctor joins the Movellans as they break into the Dalek control centre. He identifies the area they are tunnelling towards, and recalls a direct shaft which the Daleks do not appear to be aware of. They use this to reach the area before the Daleks and discover their target - the corpse of Davros. The evil genius is not dead, however. Their arrival triggers his life-support unit and he returns to life. They move him to another location, but find they cannot get him out of the city. The Daleks break through and start to execute slave workers - forcing the Doctor to retreat. He is reunited with Romana after she feigns death to escape from her work party.

Whilst Davros learns of everything that has happened to his creations since he was forced into suspended animation, the Doctor learns of the true nature of the Movellans. They are androids - as coldly logical as the Daleks. That is why they have come here. Both races have fought their war into a logical impasse - their battle computers in stalemate. The Daleks need Davros' creativity to break this - and Movellan commander Sharrel intends that the Doctor will do the same for them. They set up the Nova Device - which will incinerate the planet's atmosphere. Davros, meanwhile, sends all his Daleks with bombs attached to their casings, to surround and destroy the Movellan ship in a suicide attack. Tyssan and the other slave workers help to overpower the Movellans, whilst the Doctor tricks Davros into detonating the bombs prematurely to destroy the Daleks. Tyssan will take Davros to Earth to stand trial - first placing him in a cryogenic suspension unit. The Doctor and Romana free the TARDIS and depart.

This four part adventure was written by Terry Nation - his final scripts for the programme - and was broadcast between 1st and 22nd September, 1979. It is the first story of Season 17, and the first to be script-edited by Douglas Adams.
This marks Lalla Ward's debut as Romana. The regeneration sequence - a bit of nonsense designed to explain the change of actor - has naturally led to all sorts of continuity problems regarding regeneration limits. Are they all regenerations? Is this a precursor to anything can happen within the first 15 hours? Why did she regenerate in the first place? They could have simply introduced her as a new character - one of the freed slave workers. Or they could have had her arriving in an unseen story between seasons. As it was, they just weren't thinking along these lines. It was just supposed to be a bit of fun.
Expectations were high after the brilliance of Genesis of the Daleks. The creatures had not been seen for four and a half years. Sadly, at the time, there was mostly disappointment. The actual storyline is not all that bad. It is the production values that let the story down. First of all, Michael Wisher proved unavailable to reprise the role of Davros. David Gooderson takes over - and he isn't a match for his predecessor. It is the same mask and chair, but both have deteriorated over the years - having languished in storage or in exhibitions. Gooderson's voice is not treated in the way Wisher's was.
The Dalek props are in a dreadful state. On location, some very rough lightweight props are used. They are obviously being carried as they move across the surface - in one case the top half being noticeably ajar from the base.
Continuity-wise, the geography is all wrong, and the Doctor seems to imply that these Daleks are purely robotic - with no mutant within.

The Movellans prove that old adage that nothing dates more than the future. They are natives of the planet Disco (in the constellation of Studio 54). Metallic dreads and spandex costumes. They are a rubbish adversary. How they could almost defeat the Daleks when you can easily knock their limbs off remains a mystery to this day. To deactivate them, you simply lift their power unit off their belt - a serious design flaw you would think they might have done something about.
The one thing I do like about them is their ethnic diversity. Sharrel is played by Peter Straker, best known from Gerry Anderson's UFO series. Agella is Suzanne Danielle, and Lan is Tony Osoba - who would return in Dragonfire (and who it has just been announced - May 2014 - will be appearing in Peter Capaldi's first series).
Deaf actor Tim Barlow plays Tyssan, and David Yip (The Chinese Detective and  Bond movie View to a Kill) is prominent amongst the slave workers.
Episode endings are:
  1. Romana is trapped at the bottom of a shaft as the walls buckle and vibrate. A patrol of Daleks bursts through...
  2. Davros begins to stir back to life...
  3. Romana is trapped in the Nova Device as the countdown approaches zero...
  4. The Doctor and Romana leave Skaro in the TARDIS.

Overall, what should have been a big season opener proves to be a massive disappointment. Lalla, with her costume mirroring the Doctor's, is the best thing in it. In many ways, I wish Davros had stayed dead.
Things you might like to know:
  • Terry Nation was not at all pleased at the "why don't you try climbing up after us" comment by the Doctor - as it reinforced the old "can't get up the stairs" joke and diminished his creations. From this point onwards he would be far stricter with other writers using the Daleks.
  • Director Ken Grieve (a friend and one-time flatmate of Douglas Adams) claimed that the Hitchhikers scribe wrote "98%" of this story - something which Nation never challenged.
  • Tim Barlow was a leading member of the Graeae theatre company (pronounced grey-eye). Nabil Shaban was a founding member and it has always employed disabled artists and often puts on productions which challenge prejudice around disability. It is still going strong.
  • Douglas Adams gets a Hitchhikers reference in his very first episode as script editor (the Oolon Caluphid "Origins of the Universe" joke).
  • The diminutive blue body Romana tries on is wearing Zilda's costume - from Robots of Death. Other bits of costume from this story are used to dress the slave workers, as well as a Draconian's robes.
  • For some species, being exterminated is a laughing matter...
  • K9's laryngitic croak was supplied by Dalek voice man Roy Skelton.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Know Your Daleks - No.3

The Pertwee Years
The Daleks returned after a five year absence in Day of the Daleks (1972). Fans of Blue Peter had already seen the three colourful Daleks which were to appear in that story some weeks before. The new lead Dalek is gold, with black spheres. All the other Daleks on view are grey and black - a colour scheme that will continue through the remainder of the classic series Dalek stories.
Having only three props, one of which has such a distinctive colour scheme, spells doom for how the "army" which attacks Auderley House at the story's climax translates on screen.
These Daleks speak ver-y, ver-y, slow-ly...
The lights are more flush with the dome, and the bases are slightly higher than the Hartnell / Troughton ones.

The Daleks next appear at the conclusion of Frontier in Space - and they are the same three Daleks that were seen in the previous story - a gold one who is in charge, with grey / black minions. This is the last time we will see the Gold Dalek.

Frontier leads directly into Planet of the Daleks. The Daleks based on Spiridon are uniformly of the grey / black sphere variety - including the one that appears to be in charge. These Daleks are experimenting with invisibility. The Doctor and the Thals spray paint one black. If you look closely in a group scene in the command centre, you will see that one is a lot darker than the others. In fact, there are varying shades of grey amongst the half dozen props.

There's a new cutting tool attachment - much simpler than previous versions - and we finally get to see how the Daleks get round the problem of stairs - a hover disc.

This is a simple octagonal unit. There are lots of Louis Marx toy Daleks, last seen back in Evil of the Daleks, in the huge ice cavern.

The story's final episode introduces the Black / Gold Dalek which is described by Latep as being one of the Supreme Council. A refurbished Aaru Movie prop owned by Terry Nation, it is much taller than its underlings - due to the bigger base. There are large, jam-jar dome lights, and the eye-stalk is of  a different design (a household torch being used). An impressive addition to the Dalek ranks, sadly this is its only appearance in the programme.

A unique colour-scheme for the last of the Pertwee Dalek stories - Death to the Daleks. These are silver, with black spheres. Again, there is no differentiation for the leader. One of them has orange dome lights instead of clear ones.

This story sees the Daleks lose the use of their energy weapons. They replace these with projectile-firing weapons - machine guns, basically. One further innovation to look out for in this story is a change to the Dalek POV - point of view.

During the Hartnell and Troughton periods, whenever we got to see what the Dalek saw, it was simply a black mask around a circular image. Here, the director - Michael Briant - employs a silvered tube attached to the camera.
Next time, we take a detour to look at Dalek spacecraft through the years.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Story 103 - The Armageddon Factor

In which the Doctor, Romana and K9 reach the end of their quest to locate the six segments that make up the Key to Time. The final piece lies somewhere on the planet Atrios. This world has been at war with its twin, Zeos, for many years. The TARDIS makes an emergency landing on Atrios after it is targeted by an Atrion missile. The locator wand seems to guide them to a sealed up section of the underground city - the surface being too irradiated for anyone to survive there. K9 burns a hole in the door, and they discover that there is a young woman trapped beyond. She is actually the Princess Astra, nominal ruler of Atrios. The military commander of the planet - the Marshal - has had her locked in this irradiated section in order to kill her. He is acting under some external influence.
Astra and her lover - medic Merak - want to contact Zeos in order to stop the war.
At first, the Doctor and Romana are taken to be Zeon spies. However, the Marshal suddenly changes his mind and asks the Doctor for help in defeating their enemy. The Doctor learns that the planet has only a handful of warships left. Before the Doctor and Merak can rescue Astra, she is abducted by tall black clad figures who emerge from a hidden transmat booth.
Romana discovers that behind a mirror in the War Room, which the Marshal frequently contemplates, there lies a hidden chamber. Within is a crystal skull, which acts as a communications device. The Marshal has a small black receiver hidden behind his ear. Romana then discovers that the TARDIS appears to have disappeared.

The Doctor is seized by the black clad figures and finds himself transported to Zeos. The creatures are the mutant servants of the Shadow. This wraith-like figure is working for the Black Guardian. He has taken the TARDIS. He wants the five segments which the Doctor has already obtained, and claims to know where the sixth piece is. The Doctor is able to stop the Shadow entering the TARDIS. He and his mutants vanish, content to bide their time. Back on Atrios, Astra's discarded coronet is picked up by the locator wand. She must have had contact with the segment. Assuming that the wand will lead him to the Princess, Merak steals it and uses the transmat to follow her to Zeos. Romana and K9 follow. The Doctor has discovered that Zeos is totally devoid of life. K9 meets a super-computer called Mentalis. This has been coordinating the defence of the planet as well as the attacks on Atrios. It is the Shadow who is influencing the Marshal. He instructs him to launch an attack on Zeos in his personal battle-cruiser - promising success. Mentalis will not defend itself - and its destruction will trigger a cataclysm that will destroy this entire region of space. The Doctor uses a time-sensitive material - chronodyne - to create a temporary sixth segment in order to partially operate the Key - and is able to lock the Marshal's ship into a time-loop. Unfortunately, this loop will stretch to breaking point within hours.

The Shadow sends a mentally-controlled Astra to try to steal the Key. The Doctor deduces that the Shadow must have a hidden base nearby. There is an artificial satellite in orbit between the warring planets. The Doctor pilots the TARDIS there. Romana is captured and even K9 falls under the mental control of the Shadow. The Doctor meets a fellow Time Lord - someone he was at school with. This is Drax. He was commissioned to build Mentalis for the Shadow, but then found himself held captive. The Doctor and Drax escape when they use the TARDIS dimension stabiliser to shrink themselves to an inch tall. K9 will act as a Trojan Horse, to carry them into the Shadow's control centre. It transpires that Princess Astra is the sixth child of the sixth house of the sixth dynasty of Atrios - and is in fact the sixth segment. To Merak's horror, she is transformed into the crystal segment when she touches the locator wand. The Doctor and Drax emerge from K9, grow to normal size, and are able to snatch the Key away from the Shadow. The Marshal's attack takes place, but the TARDIS forcefield causes his missiles to be deflected instead to destroy the Shadow's lair. The Black Guardian deserts his servant and he is destroyed. Drax informs the Doctor that he will be entering into business with the Marshal. The White Guardian appears on the TARDIS scanner. He congratulates the Doctor and Romana on successfully completing their mission, and requests that the Key be handed over to him. When he seems to shrug off Astra's extinction, the Doctor suspects all is not as it seems. It is really the Black Guardian. The Doctor orders the Key to disperse itself through Space and Time once more. Merak is therefore reunited with the Princess.

This six part adventure was written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin - their final collaboration on the programme - and was broadcast between 20th January and 24th February, 1979. This is the last story to be script edited by Anthony Read. His successor - Douglas Adams - was involved in an uncredited capacity. This is also the final story for Romana actress Mary Tamm. John Leeson steps down as the voice of K9 - though he will be tempted back for Season 18 - and beyond.
It marks the end of Season 16 - the linked Key to Time season.
A disappointing end at that. Producer Graham Williams and Anthony Read stated later that the problem with a linked season was that it tied you to a certain production order.
As it is, the quest for the Key segments has been very much confined to the background up until this story. The five earlier stories really needed to have more of an overt threat from the Black Guardian - such as their respective villains being more obviously his agents. Only Cessair of Diplos might be one.
The biggest disappointment is the conclusion, where the Doctor simply re-scatters the segments after going to all that effort to collect them. It is not clear what the brief operation of the Key has actually achieved.

Setting the Key aspects aside, it is not a bad story in its own right. Two planets at war, but with a couple of twists. One of the planets is actually now lifeless, the war being waged by a computer. Another twist is that there is a third party hiding in the shadows, stirring things up.
For a six parter things do not drag too much. This is partly due to the action being split between the three planets - episodes one and two on Atrios, three and four on Zeos, and five and six on the "Planet of Evil" - the Shadow's domain. Dialogue makes this out to be a planet, and it has rocky interiors, but the model makes it look like a space station.
Talking of models, there is some good work on show. Wisely, the battle sequences are depicted purely through the radar plots on the screen in the War Room.
The Marshal is played by John Woodvine. A very fine actor, he dominates the opening episodes but is then sidelined in a time loop for the second half. The Shadow is William Squire. The whole realisation of this villain is very good - from the vocal performance to the costume, with its skull-like face. The wet Merak is Ian Saynor, and the camp as a row of tents Shapps (the Marshal's second-in-command) is Davyd Harries. Drax is played as a Sarf London wide-boy by the late Barry Jackson. (He is supposed to have picked up the accent in a well known South London penal institution).
Someone who will figure large in the future of the series (and in the life of its then star) plays Princess Astra - Lalla Ward. Initially, another rather damp performance when she is playing the worthy royal. Once she starts getting tortured and mind-controlled, Ward has something to get her acting chops into.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor and Romana rush back to the TARDIS - only to discover that it has vanished...
  2. In the transmat booth, the Doctor overhears Romana state that he has walked into a trap. Sure enough, there are two mutants behind him. They all vanish...
  3. In his command ship. the Marshall launches his attack against Zeos - not realising that this will trigger Armageddon for this region of space...
  4. As the TARDIS approaches his domain, the Shadow revels in the fact that the Key to Time will shortly be his...
  5. The Doctor had intended that Drax shrink the mutant guard, but instead he turns the dimension stabiliser on them both - shrinking them and leaving the TARDIS door ajar...
  6. The Doctor intends to keep out of the Black Guardian's way for a bit by fitting a randomiser unit to the TARDIS guidance systems.

Overall, the story must be judged on its job of finishing off the six story Key arc. In this, I think, it fails. As a stand alone story, with the Key aspects removed, it isn't all that bad.
Things you might like to know:
  • Mary Tamm decided to leave because the role was not turning out the way it had been sold to her. She expected to be more of an equal with the Doctor, but felt that Romana was slipping into companion cliché behaviour. She subsequently stated that she would have come back for a regeneration scene had she been asked.
  • Lalla Ward is descended from George Plantagenet - the Duke of Clarence drowned in a butt of malmsey by his brother Richard III. She was born Sarah Ward, daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor. "Lalla" came from her attempts as a small child to say her own name.
  • This may have been the last work by the Bristol Boys - Baker and Martin - but Bob Baker would go on to have one further story produced in his own right - Nightmare of Eden - in the following season.
  • An early story suggestion was that the sixth segment was going to be the Shadow's shadow.
  • It is suggested that the disguised Key segments all go back to the same places and times that the Doctor found them - hence Astra being returned to existence. There seems to be an obvious flaw in this if the locations are now all known. Perhaps Astra was an exception permitted by the Key - being a living being - and that new hiding places were found for the segments.
  • Drax refers to the Doctor as "Theta Sigma" - which some people at the time took to be his real name. As was later confirmed in The Happiness Patrol, it is only a school nickname. 
  • Thanks to the cancellation of Shada, this is the last ever six part story.
  • Graham Williams was ill during the early stages of production. Former director David Maloney stepped in to help with the preliminary work.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Know Your Daleks No.2

The Troughton Years
The Daleks only made two appearances in the Troughton era, before their creator tried to hawk them around American TV networks - fortunately without success. Despite this, there are some notable variations on show - significant enough to be revisited in the 2005 series.
The Daleks which appear in Troughton's very first story - Power of the Daleks - are all uniformly of the silver / blue sphere variety, as last seen in the later Hartnell stories.
Three of them are seen without a gun unit for part of the story. Gun-less Daleks are a rarity - we won't see another until 1975. It is interesting to note that when they adopted those flame guns on Kembel, they replaced the sucker arms rather than their energy weapons.
The only utility arm variation we see is the net-like scoop which the Daleks use to transfer the genetic mutations into their shells.

This is the first story to make use of the Louis Marx toy Daleks (in the conveyor belt scenes). The proportions are noticeably different from the real thing.

Onto The Evil of the Daleks, and we see a couple of new additions to the Dalek ranks.
Most significant is the introduction of the Emperor. It is a huge immobile Dalek, without any weapon or utility arm. It is black and white in colour, though two of the spheres - roughly where the gun / arm should be - are yellow. A number of cables link the Emperor to, presumably, the Dalek data-banks.

Whilst the majority of the Daleks on view are of the silver / blue sphere variety, there is another variation with the Emperor's special inner retinue. These bodyguards have a black dome.
There are more Louis Marx toys on show in the climactic battle scenes.

Our last sighting of a Dalek in the black & white era of the programme is the one seen on the thought channel during the Doctor's trial by the Time Lords. It marks the final outing for the standard silver / blue sphere model (until the Doctor visits the Dalek Asylum, that is).
Up to now, variations in rank could only be achieved by painting all, or part, of the Dalek black. With the move into colour with the advent of the Pertwee era, we will see a much wider range of chromatic variation...