Saturday, 20 June 2015

Story 131 - The Awakening

In which the Doctor agrees to take Tegan to visit her grandfather. Local historian Andrew Verney lives in the village of Little Hodcombe. The TARDIS materialises in the crypt of the church, which is derelict and abandoned. The Doctor notes a number of engravings which show a devilish face. It is 1984, but the travelers are surprised to see Roundhead soldiers riding about. From the village school teacher Jane Hampden they learn that Little Hodcombe is preparing for war games commemorating a Civil War battle which took place here in July 1643. Jane tells them that Tegan's grandfather disappeared a few days ago. The travelers see what appear to be the ghosts of Cavalier troops, and Tegan has her bag snatched by a young man with a disfigured face, who is wearing ragged clothes. Chasing after him, she finds that the young man seems to transport himself great distances. The Doctor suspects that two time zones are coming into contact in this village. He meets the squire, Sir George Hutchinson, and his friend Colonel Ben Wolsey, who have organised the recreation. Sir George and his assistant, Sgt Willow, seem to be taking things very seriously. Jane and the Doctor find themselves captive. They escape through a tunnel which links Sir George's home with the church. The Doctor notices a piece of tinclavic - a soft metal found only on the planet Raaga. Some alien presence is working behind the scenes. Tegan and Turlough are also captured. He is locked up with Andrew Verney, whilst she is to take the place of the May Queen - who is traditionally burnt at the start of the games.

The Doctor meets a young man named Will Chandler, who has fallen through time from the 17th Century. He tells him of the events of the battle in 1643 - of how a huge, evil face appeared in the sky at the height of the battle. At the church, Will recognises this face when he sees the engravings. A huge crack in the church wall breaks open to reveal the same face - ten feet high. The Doctor realises that this is the Malus - a psychic probe from the planet Halkon. It was sent to Earth in anticipation of an invasion which never materialised. The probe feeds on violent and aggressive emotion. It has forged a psychic link with Sir George and is going to use the war games to regenerate itself - creating real hostility and bloodshed. Verney had discovered what was going on, and so was locked up by the squire. He and Turlough escape, and the Doctor and Jane rescue Tegan. The Malus continues to grow and gather strength, even invading the TARDIS. Events reach a climax at the church. Sir George is quite insane. Knowing that he is linked in some way to the alien creature, Will shoves the squire into the breach in the wall, killing him. Everyone flees in the TARDIS as the church, and the Malus, are destroyed - the psychic link now broken. Tegan will spend a few days with her grandfather, and then Will can be taken back to his own time.

This two part story was written by Eric Pringle, and broadcast on the 19th and 20th January, 1984. It is the third and final of the Davison two-parters, and marks the end of the 25 minute episode two part stories. Technically, the last two episodes of the 23rd Season are part of one long story.
For both the writer and the director - Michael Owen Morris - this was their only story.
The Awakening is also significant for being the final design work on the programme for the late Barry Newbery, who has been there since the very first transmitted episode.
We meet yet another member of Tegan's family, her grandfather. Her aunt Vanessa fell prey to the Master, and her cousin was enslaved by Omega.
It is the strongest of the Davison two parters, with some lovely location work coupled with the nice period detail that the BBC always did so well.
A strong cast is assembled. Sir George is Denis Lill (last seen in Image of the Fendahl). His henchman, Willow, is Jack Galloway. Ben Wolsey is another returnee - Glyn Houston from The Hand of Fear. Jane Hampden is played by Polly James - best known from the popular Liverpudlian sit-com, The Liver Birds.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor seems powerless to move as the church wall breaks open and the face of the Malus appears within...
  2. The Doctor is about to take Will Chandler home when Tegan reminds him that he promised her some time with her grandfather. The Doctor looks forward to some proper English tea...

Overall, a very enjoyable little story, with good performances, sets and costumes.
Things you might like to know:
  • A scene was filmed for the start of episode one featuring Tegan coming across Kamelion in the TARDIS. It would have been nice to have reminded the audience that he was still around, but this was cut.
  • There was some discussion about Keith Jayne - playing Will Chandler - being kept on as a series regular, as it was known both Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson would be leaving the show. Jayne wasn't aware of this at the time, but has said he would have agreed had he been asked.
  • Jayne's dialogue was written phonetically in a BBC Mummerzet accent - with z's replacing s's and double r's.
  • Eric Pringle's agent was one time Doctor Who producer Peter Bryant, who encouraged him to write for the show. One story was almost commissioned for the end of the Tom Baker / Lis Sladen period. The Awakening was originally written as a four parter. The original title of "War Game" was obviously a bit too close to something already used.
  • The names Verney, Hampden and Hutchinson all come from real Civil War personalities.
  • A few mishaps concerning horses - Denis Lill fractured a rib when squashed by a horse against a wall, and more famously there was the horse pulling the cart which destroyed the faked church lychgate. This appears in all those Out-take programmes, but was also used as in-house training at the BBC for demonstrating the dangers of working with animals. Peter Davison collected a Golden Egg Award from Noel Edmonds when it was first broadcast on his Saturday evening show - egg as in egg on your face.
  • The original VFX person allocated for this - John Horton - was replaced by Tony Harding, as Horton had previously fallen out with the director. One of the extras on the DVD release for this story sees Harding being reunited with the original Malus face prop.
  • Should you wish to pay Little Hodcombe a visit, you need to go to three different villages - Tarrant Monkton and Shapwick in Dorset, and Martin in Hampshire.

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