Sunday, 31 May 2015

TARDIS Travels No.26

These are the final voyages of the TARDIS in what is now referred to as the Classic Series. (It's all classic if you ask me. If the New Series is the New Series, then shouldn't this just be the Old Series?). For the sake of tidiness, this will also cover the 1996 Movie (plus one other thing), so read on...

Journey 382: Segonax, date unknown, to Carbury district of England, date not known.
It's a UNIT story, so by my own rules this should be dated to the year of transmission - 1989. Things are complicated however by the inclusion of a King of Great Britain (presumably Charles III), £5 coins and so forth. We get the last glimpse of the traditional white-walled, roundelled, TARDIS console room. Just a glimpse, as it is very dark. This is to hide the fact that they filmed this sequence at an exhibition where the console was housed, and didn't want to have to erect a studio set just for this small scene. The ship picks up a message from a parallel universe, which leads it to materialise in the countryside near Lake Vortigern.

Journey 383: Carbury, England, date unknown, to Gabriel Chase, Perivale, 1883.
The Doctor aims for this specific house at this specific time as part of his scheme to help Ace. In her time, this house will be abandoned and she will set it on fire in a rage against an injustice done against one of her friends. It was thought to be haunted, and the Doctor wants to show her how it came to be so. The TARDIS materialises in an attic nursery,with the door rather inconveniently almost up against the wall.

Journey 384: Perivale, 1883, to Yorkshire, c.1945.
The specific date is not mentioned. It has to be after 1941, as the Russian soldiers are carrying rifles that weren't introduced until 1942. The Allied bombing of Dresden is not specified, but is implied. This took place in February 1945. The TARDIS lands on a Navy Base somewhere along the coast from Whitby in Yorkshire. Again, the Doctor is secretly scheming on helping Ace - this time to address issues she has with her mother. He has also worked out how she came to be at Iceworld - and who is behind it. Time to play the game with Fenric one last time.

Journey 385: Yorkshire, c.1945, to Perivale, 1989.
The Doctor takes Ace back to her home territory - the West London suburb of Perivale. The visit coincides with plans by the Master, trapped on the planet of the Cheetah people. Once the evil Time Lord has been defeated, Ace expresses no wish to stay here. It looks as though she doesn't even visit her mother. She and the Doctor head off on further adventures...

Quite what those adventures were, and how long they lasted, is up to you. There is a lot to choose from - some of it contradictory. All we can say for certain is that Ace ends up a successful business woman who does a lot for charity; that the Doctor gives the TARDIS decor a major overhaul - ditching the traditional look altogether - and that at some point he will be travelling on his own when he gets a summons to visit Skaro - to collect the remains of the executed Master and take them back to Gallifrey.

Journey 386: Skaro, date unknown, to San Francisco, California, 1999.
After the Master proves to be not quite as dead as he thought, the Doctor finds the ship malfunctioning due to his sabotage. It makes an emergency landing in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, on December 30th, 1999. TARDIS related things to note. Not only has the place been redecorated and the console room made much larger, the ship now has its very own Eye of Harmony (in the Cloister Room) to power it. May not be the Eye - perhaps all TARDISes have a fraction of it - or some sort of link to it. The Eye can only be opened by a human retina pattern. (Let's not go there...). The ship measures time with reference to Gallifreyan and Humanian eras (amongst others, presumably). It is still indestructible to bullets - shame the same can't be said for the pilot. The Doctor keeps a spare key in a cubby hole above the "P" in the sign over the doors. The clothing store has Gallifreyan robes in the Master's size.

Journey 387: San Francisco, 1999, to San Francisco, 2000.
An odd one this. The TARDIS basically goes back in time a few hours, resurrects the Doctor's new friends who have been murdered by the Master, then materialises back in the city as the clocks strike midnight - only at a different location. To delve into it much deeper than this would induce a migraine.

The Doctor goes off travelling alone - again for how long we do not know. And, again, there are a lot of his further adventures to pick from, though not quite as contradictory as the post Survival ones.
All we can say for certain is that at some point a great big war starts - or a series of wars - between the Time Lords and the Daleks.

Journey 388: Location and date unknown, to spaceship in region near Karn, date unknown.
Just to round off Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor this one. The TARDIS materialises on a crashing ship during the Time War. The Doctor has kept himself out of it so far. The ship's pilot refuses his help and the vessel crashes on Karn where, with the help of the Sisterhood, the Doctor regenerates and elects to finally go to war...

Friday, 29 May 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.9

Attack of the Cybermen (1985).
The Cybermen return in the opening story of Colin Baker's first full season. These are the same ones as seen in their last outing - The Five Doctors. No design changes to the basic models, and David Banks reprises the Cyber-Leader role. What is new here is the Cyber-Controller (even though played by the same actor as his previous appearance way back in Tomb of the Cybermen. We also get a "stealth" Cyberman - camouflaged to patrol the sewers of London. This is the same design as its peers - just coloured a very dark grey.

Whilst the Controller might be the same actor as before, the design is different. The helmet / neck / chest panel section is the same as the ordinary Cybermen, but the cranium is enlarged and there are no side handles. The frame is taller and bulkier. For the first time (apart from a post-op Toberman) we get to see the cyber-conversion process in action - with a number of captives in different stages of upgrading. This includes mental conditioning as well as body replacement surgery.
At one point the Doctor removes the face plate of a dead Cyberman - and it appears to be without any organic material within. He activates an automatic distress unit, then claims that Cybermen will drop everything to come to the aid of their stricken colleague - which just does not tie in with anything we know about the Cybermen.
The Cyberman plan is even more convoluted than some of the Troughton-era ones. Some parts of it seem to drop through a gap between the two episodes. The main aim, initially, is to prevent the destruction of Mondas (as seen in The Tenth Planet). These are time-travelling Cybermen (using stolen technology). The plan is to divert Halley's Comet to crash into the Earth - leaving it defenceless once Mondas shows up in a year's time. The Cyber-Leader has established a base on Earth - in London's sewer network (as previously seen in The Invasion). The Controller, in the far future, plans to move operations from Telos to the Solar System. Telos is being mined with explosives - so the Cybermen can observe its destruction. The Tomb of the Cybermen, meanwhile, is being sabotaged by the planet's natives - the Cryons. It is of a totally different design to the one seen back in 1967. The non-time travelling, non-space-faring Cryons have astonishingly managed to employ the mercenary Lytton from 500 years in their past to help them - he is to steal the stolen time-ship and prevent the Cybermen from going back in time. When the Doctor and his TARDIS are captured, the Cybermen no longer need the time-ship.
The Cybermen on Earth abandon their base and all pile into the TARDIS to go to Telos - despite the fact that they were on Earth for a reason. The whole saving Mondas plan seems to be forgotten about as the plot switches entirely to Lytton, the Cryons, and the three men who are attempting to steal the time-ship. The Doctor fails to save Lytton after he is captured and partially converted. The Cyber-Leader and the Controller are shot, and the Cyber-Control Centre (and presumably the tombs) are blown up. The End.

Story Notes:

  • Controversy still surrounds the authorship of this mess of a story. (You would have thought people would have been tripping over themselves to disown it, rather than claim responsibility). The credited writer is Paula Moore. She was script editor Eric Saward's partner at the time. The story is probably pretty much all his. (Remember the rule about script editors not commissioning themselves, and the fact that Saward was already scheduled to write the final story of the season - when he would be temporarily out of contract and so freelance). Unofficially official continuity adviser Ian Levene claims co-authorship, however. No doubt all of his stuff is just the interminable and obscure continuity references to earlier Cyberman stories.
  • The Controller is Michael Kilgariff. It does have to be said that he has put on a wee bit of weight over the nearly 20 years since he last played the part. Fans tend to call this the Fat Controller - a la Thomas The Tank Engine. You will notice that the standard Cyber-suit he was given was too small - note the additional material that had to be added to the cuffs.
  • He is not the only thing returning from Tomb of the Cybermen. The Telos exterior location is the same gravel pit at Gerrard's Cross used back in 1967.
  • The Doctor goes to great lengths to express his regret at misjudging Lytton - somewhat diminished when you recall (from Resurrection of the Daleks) that they didn't actually meet - apart from Lytton shooting at him from a distance in a dark, smoke-filled warehouse.
  • The Cryons were originally going to be all male, and to be the inhabitants of Halley's Comet.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Story 128 - The King's Demons

In which King John is visiting the castle of Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam. It is March, 1215. The King is seeking money for his interminable conflict with his rebel barons. When he appears to accuse Sir Ranulf of stinting on this, the host's hot-headed son Hugh loses his temper. He finds himself challenged by the King's Champion - his French bodyguard Sir Gilles D'Estram. They will compete in a joust. The contest gets underway and Sir Gilles soon gains the upper hand. They are interrupted by the sudden materialisation of the TARDIS. When the time travelers emerge, the Doctor is surprised by the King's reaction. He names them his demons, and seems to accept them without any further thought. When he learns the date, he realises that something is wrong. The King should not be here at this time.
A feast takes place later, to which the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough are invited. Sir Ranulf's brother-in-law - Sir Geoffrey - arrives at the castle. He is shocked to see the King - as he has just left him in London. The Doctor and Sir Gilles get into an argument - and a duel is proposed. The Doctor manages to disarm the French knight. However, Sir Gilles suddenly produces a distinctive black weapon - a Tissue Compression Eliminator. His features blur and change - to reveal those of the Master.

The Doctor manages to get it from him and takes him prisoner. The King orders an iron maiden to be brought in. Despite the Doctor's pleas for clemency, the Master is thrown into the device. However, it proves to be his disguised TARDIS. It disappears. The Doctor finds himself knighted and appointed the new King's Champion. The Master has not gone far, and he strives to turn Sir Ranulf and his family against the "demons". Turlough finds himself locked up in the dungeons. The Doctor meets with Sir Geoffrey and sends him off to get warn the barons of the deception. The Master has him shot as he rides away. The Doctor goes to the King's chambers and learns the truth of how he can be in two places at once. This King is really an android called Kamelion. It can alter its appearance through the mental efforts of its controller. The Master found it on Xeriphas, where it had been left behind after an earlier invasion. He plans to use it to sabotage Magna Carta in order to change the course of history. The Doctor fights a mental duel with the Master for control over Kamelion. He wins. The android is bundled into the TARDIS along with Tegan and Turlough and they depart.

This two part adventure was written by Terence Dudley, and was broadcast on the 15th and 16th of March, 1983. It is the final story of Season 20 - though never intended as such. It introduces the short-lived companion Kamelion - the first non-humanoid TARDIS traveler since K9.
The story makes for a disappointing conclusion to the anniversary series. Even the Doctor is unimpressed at the scope of the Master's plan - to stop Magna Carta being "signed". The Doctor and he get to battle with swords - a bit of a rematch from The Sea Devils. The Fourth Doctor had been a dab hand with the sword, but we won't see another Doctor wield one until The Christmas Invasion.
As usual when it comes to historical period settings on the BBC, the costumes and sets are very good.
The story of Kamelion's genesis is well known. Supposedly a fully functioning robot, which could be programmed with speech and movement, producer JNT and script editor Eric Saward went to see it put through its paces. Both had reservations about the practicalities of using it in the studio, but JNT saw the potential. Unfortunately, one of the programmers was killed soon afterwards in an accident. Kamelion would never be able to achieve all that was promised of it.
Few people would have been fooled by Anthony Ainley's make-up and ze dreadful Fronch accent. JNT thought they would be, and to hide the fact that it was the Master Sir Gilles is billed as being played by one James Stoker - an anagram of Master's Joke.

The human guest cast is strong. Frank Windsor, best known for Softly, Softly, plays Sir Ranulf. he will return in Ghostlight. His wife, Lady Isabella, is Isla Blair (Mrs Julian Glover). Their son, Hugh, is Christopher Villiers - who was seen recently in Mummy on the Orient Express. Sir Geoffrey is Michael J Jackson, best known for a long running role in Channel 4's soap opera Brookside. The King John version of Kamelion is Gerald Flood - no stranger to TV science fiction. He had appeared in the Pathfinders series.
Episode endings are:
  1. Sir Gilles has been defeated, but it transpires that he is really the Master in disguise...
  2. Kamelion joins the TARDIS crew...

Overall, as mentioned above, a bit disappointing for a series finale. As a two part pseudo-historical story it is okay. Anthony Ainley seems to be enjoying things, but it is poor for a Master tale.
Things you might like to know:
  • We've just had the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The consensus among the historians and other experts then seemed to be that the document was important. It took a long time for its provisions to be adopted. No sooner had he put his seal to it, John asked the Pope to free him from it as he had been coerced. His son, Henry III, scrapped it at least twice during his reign. 
  • It was widely believed at the time that John did consort with demons and was on good terms with the Devil.
  • Part One of this story was promoted as the 600th episode of Doctor Who. It made little difference to the ratings. This story was the worst rated of the Davison era. Time has done it no favours. The DWM 50th anniversary poll has it second lowest Davison story.
  • One blatant anachronism is the iron maiden. They did exist in the early 13th Century though they were more popular on the continent than in England. The one featured in this is of too late a design (note it has a ruff).
  • On a musical note, despite only being two episodes long, the story had two composers - Peter Howell and Jonathon Gibb. King John's bloodthirsty song was not a period piece, but was written for this.
  • No stunt performers took part in the sword fight between the Doctor and the Master. It's all Davison and Ainley.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Wembley Arena - Symphonic Spectacular

On Saturday (23rd May 2015) I attended the first London performance of the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. Here's what I thought about it.
First of all, a word about the audience. Being a matinee a large proportion of the audience was children - always a good thing to see kids are still loving the show. Quite a few fezes in evidence. Also saw a First, Second and Fifth Doctor, plus lots of people wearing long scarves. Most people just opted for a Who themed T-shirt. Whilst very busy, there were quite a few empty seats, so far from being a sell out.
Peter Davison makes a congenial host. Quite a few jokes about the unexploded bomb alert which had seen the crew lose half a day's set up. Lots more jokes at Colin Baker's expense. Some verbal sparring with conductor Ben Foster as well. Foster wore a Fifth Doctor coat for the final piece of music.
Wembley Arena isn't laid out like the Albert Hall where the DW Proms take place. As such, the monsters which appeared throughout the show only turned up on stage or on the main floor. Those of us seated up on the sides needed binoculars to see them. Half the time, they did get shown up on the big screens - but only half the time. I only noticed the robot knights from Robot of Sherwood when they were leaving, as I was watching the screens at the time.
There were cameras around, which didn't match up with what was shown on the screens, so I assume that the performances are being filmed for either a TV screening later in the year, or perhaps for inclusion on Series 9's DVD release.
Onto the music itself. Much of it came from Series 8. The show opened with A Good Man? - the Twelfth Doctor's theme. This includes Capaldi's rousing speech against the Boneless from Flatline. Next up was Wherever / Whenever - a medley of music from four Series 8 episodes (Listen, The Caretaker, In the Forest of the Night, Robot of Sherwood).
The third selection took us back in time to the Ninth Doctor - his theme - coupled with Song of Freedom (the towing the Earth back home piece from Journey's End). Some Ood appeared on stage to accompany this bit. This went down very well with the audience - particularly as it featured Lis Sladen on screen.
The Companions was a medley comprising the themes for Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy. Then we had To Darkness. This was a suite of Dalek music. The earlier pieces which it included, from earlier Dalek stories, were great, but then it switched to music from Inside the Dalek which was unremarkable. I have never understood why the Cybermen have maintained a consistent theme since 2006, whilst the Daleks get new music which is never as good as that heard nearly 10 years ago. Naturally, there were Daleks patrolling the stage and the floor of the arena whilst this was going on.
The final piece of music before the interval was a suite from the last Christmas special, which I could have done without. Just didn't stir me at all. Quite a few people who opted to hit the loos and the snack bars before the interval crush seemed to be of the same opinion as myself. Despite gasping for a smoke, I persevered with it.
20 minutes (and two fags) later, the second half began.
First up was the excellent All The Strange, Strange Creatures. Lots of monsters prowling for this, naturally. Included were the Teller, Cybermen, Vampires (of the Venetian variety), Skaldak the Ice Warrior. The screens included a clip of Patrick Troughton giving his "There are some corners of the universe..." speech from The Moonbase - which got a big cheer.
Then we had Clara's theme - The Impossible Girl. Davison joked that if he had known that Clara was around during his tenure in the TARDIS, Adric would have kicked the bucket sooner.
Next up was one of the better pieces of music from Series 8 - the pounding 66 Seconds. This comes from Mummy on the Orient Express.
Back to the Matt Smith era with The Pandorica Suite. This included the Eleventh Doctor's theme - I am the Doctor.
The vocalist Elin Manahan Thomas then really got to shine with the beautiful Abigails' Song, from A Christmas Carol.
The penultimate piece of music as listed in the programme was Fifty / This is Gallifrey, accompanied by clips from The Day of the Doctor.
Then we had a suite of music from Dark Water / Death in Heaven. (Called the Death In Heaven Suite).
The first of the two encores was Vale Decem. Whilst written to see out the Tenth Doctor's tenure, the screens showed all of the Doctor's regenerations. Each Doctor actor got a cheer but if these could be translated into votes, David Tennant remains the peoples' favourite. The reaction to Colin Baker was priceless - almost a groan. Naturally, because he was present, Davison's appearance got a good reception.
The final piece of music was - of course - the greatest theme tune in the world. And not the tinny zither one either.
Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable show. Seat wasn't the best in the house, and I could have done with some more earlier material, but very glad I went.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Spectacularly Symphonic...

How ironic that, in the week exactly ten years after The Empty Child was first broadcast, a World War II bomb dropped during the events shown in that episode should almost scupper the London dates for the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular. Yes, it's been in the news today that a large unexploded bomb was found in the vicinity of Wembley Arena. One of the photographs I saw was eerily reminiscent of the site in Quatermass and the Pit...
The Luftwaffe are not going to spoil my enjoyment of this event - I'm off to Wembley for the matinee tomorrow. Expect my musings over the weekend.

TARDIS Travels No.25

The 25th anniversary season sees only four new stories, but one of them has a lot of TARDIS travelling in it...

Journey 369: Iceworld, date unknown, to Coal Hill, Shoreditch, London, 1963.
The TARDIS returns to the Coal Hill district of Shoreditch in London, shortly after it first departed from the nearby Totter's Lane junkyard. It materialises in an alleyway close to the school where Ian and Barbara taught, and where Susan was a pupil. There is another unearthly child at the school - this time a girl enslaved by the Daleks. We are supposed to believe that this is just a few days after the teachers stumbled into the ship - but it is obviously not winter. A new sci-fi series is coming on TV at 5.15pm - yet it is clearly bright outside. That don't happen in London in the winter!

Journey 370: Coal Hill, London, 1963, to Terra Alpha, date unknown.
Sometime in the far future. The Doctor mentions encountering a Stigorax like Fifi on Earth in the 25th Century. The TARDIS has landed in the unnamed capital city of this colony world. Blue is a forbidden colour due its association with melancholy - so the Happiness Patrol paint it pink. They have to undo this once the Doctor has toppled Helen A's government.

Journey 371: Terra Alpha, date unknown, to Berkshire, England, 1988.
Somewhere close to Windsor. The Doctor and Ace take in a jazz performance by Courtney Pine in a pub beer garden. There is a river nearby - the Thames or a tributary - beside which the TARDIS is parked. Yet again there is something wrong with the weather / daylight hours. This ain't November - no matter what the script says.

Journey 372: Windsor - river to Castle basements, 1988.
The Doctor and Ace travel to the cellars of Windsor Castle where the Queen houses all those gifts she keeps getting given - every time she goes there, every time someone comes here... They are in search of a piece of the Nemesis statue. The Doctor dons a fez for the first time...

Journey 373: Windsor Castle, 1988, to Lady Peinforte's home, also Windsor, 1638.
The Doctor and Ace next travel back to the 17th Century, where (and when) the Doctor last encountered the Nemesis comet, which has returned to Earth in this vicinity in the present day - as they discover from some documents. Lady Peinforte and her manservant Richard have already left for 1988 using a magic spell (subsequently revealed to be one of Fenric's time storms).

Journey 374: Lady Peinforte's home, 1683, back to Windsor Castle, 1988.
The TARDIS materialises in the grounds this time. The Doctor doesn't recognise the lady walking the corgis - at least not at first. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to recognise any of the tourist party - despite one of them being the spitting image of Nicholas Courtney... Ace finds a portrait of herself from the 18th Century - but only if you watch the Special Edition.

Journey 375: Windsor - Castle to industrial waste ground, 1988.
The TARDIS travels to where the Nemesis comet has landed. Cybermen, Lady Peinforte and a bunch of Nazi mercenaries all turn up to claim it. One of Lady Peinforte's poisoned, gold-tipped arrows gets embedded in the TARDIS exterior.

Journey 376: Windsor - waste ground to Safari Park, 1988.
The arrow in the hull survives the journey. They have come to the safari park as this is where Lady Peinforte's mausoleum is situated. The Cybermen have brought the Nemesis statue here.

Journey 377: Windsor Safari Park, 1988, to Lady Peinforte's home, 1638.
The TARDIS makes a brief return to the 17th Century. The Doctor ponders the chess game, and Ace picks up a bag of gold coins that will come in handy shortly.

Journey 378: Lady Peinforte's home, 1638, to waste ground area, Windsor, 1988.
This time the TARDIS materialises inside the abandoned hangar-like building close to where Nemesis landed. There is a final battle in which Lady Peinforte kills herself before she can reveal details about the Cartmel Masterplan; the last of the Nazis is killed; and the Cybermen are destroyed. That arrow stuck into the ship comes in handy for despatching the Cyber-Leader.

Journey 379: Windsor - waste ground area, 1988, to Lady Peinforte's house, 1638.
Third and final jaunt back to the 17th Century. I assume Richard will take over the house now.

Journey 380: Windsor, 1638, to region of space near Segonax, date unknown.
The TARDIS is idling in space near the current location of the Psychic Circus. One of their robotic advertising 'droids manages to enter the ship as the Doctor practices his juggling skills. Or does he let it in? Bit of a coincidence he has parked up here and is practising circus skills don't you think...?

Journey 381: Segonax - region of space to planet surface, date unknown.
Despite Ace expressing her phobia about clowns, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to the planet so they can attend the Greatest Show In The Galaxy. They land a whole episode away from the actual circus site...

Silver Nemesis, with 8 TARDIS journeys within its 3 episodes, marks the final hurrah for the TARDIS in the classic series. The final season will prove to be one of the most TARDIS-lite, with only the briefest glimpse of the console room...

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.8

The Five Doctors (1983).
A brief one this. Only the second outing for the new Cyberman costumes, and already there is a (slight) bit of a design alteration. The "moon boots" of Earthshock had not been very popular, so the footwear is changed to proper boots. Other than that, these Cybermen are the same as those seen in the previous story.
No Cyberman plan as such this time, as these ones have been kidnapped from their proper time / place by Borusa and deposited in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, using the Time Scoop. It is the Time Lord President who has the convoluted scheme on this occasion. He wants the Doctor to deactivate the defences of the Dark Tower so that he can go there and claim immortality, yet puts lots of barriers in his way - such as a large number of Cybermen. He even gives them a means of tracking down the Doctor - using a homing device hidden in the recall device given to the Master.
One group of Cybermen is destroyed when it stumbles across the Raston Warrior Robot. A second batch, including one of the two Cyber-Leaders we see, is tricked into walking across a booby-trapped floor within the Tower. A third group attempt to blow up the TARDIS with a massive bomb.
One thing to note. Up to this point, the Cybermen have always been uniformly tall. There are a couple of noticeably shorter ones on view here. This would make sense if individuals are "upgraded" a bit at a time. Cyber spare parts are not all of a uniform size, apart from the head / shoulder sections.

Story Notes:

  • The Raston Warrior Robot Cyber-massacre sequences were directed by a second unit under producer John Nathan-Turner.
  • Probably the sequence people best remember, it was added late in the day as filler material.
  • The Third Doctor and Sarah were originally supposed to have met Autons instead.
  • The Raston Warrior Robot costume is one of the Earthshock sentinel androids painted silver.
  • Robert Holmes, who tackled the first version of this story, hated Cybermen - but script editor Eric Saward loved them. Holmes' initial idea was that the Cybermen wanted to identify the unique genetic element that allowed Time Lords to travel safely through time so they could use it themselves. They lured the Doctors to a planet named Maladoom, and had prepared android replicas of the First Doctor and Susan (thus explaining the different actor playing the First Doctor). Of course, Holmes kept the idea of the search for the Time Lord genetic element for his later The Two Doctors.
  • Whilst most of the Cybermen seen in Earthshock were dancer friends of PA Gary Downie, and there was some control over height casting, many of the Cybermen we see at the Welsh locations are local extras - hence the height differences.

Figurine Collection - May 2015

If you looked at my Facebook page yesterday you will have seen another image of the latest pair of figurines to arrive from Eaglemoss. Alongside the Lady Cassandra we get the Third Doctor - a very good likeness of Jon Pertwee. He's in his dark blue, red-trimmed suit from The Green Death, the story featured in the accompanying magazine. Only in his first season did Pertwee wear any kind of "uniform" outfit, as most of his fellows have done. Physically and sartorially, Pertwee changed his appearance more than any other Doctor. He is holding his sonic screwdriver - its first appearance in the figurine collection. One nice touch is the detail of the silver ring on his left hand. Just five more Doctors to be released - One, Two, Six, Seven and Eight.
The Cassandra figure is the one from New Earth rather than the original seen in End of the World - so it's her backside rather than her front. The frame is rusted. For the first time, the base actually constitutes part of the figurine. A pity they couldn't have added a little Giant Maggot to the Pertwee figure's base.
The next confirmed release will be the strait-jacketed Teller, from Series 8's Time Heist.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Story 127 - Enlightenment

In which the TARDIS suffers a power failure. As the Doctor struggles to work out what could be causing this, the White Guardian of Time appears and attempts to pass on a message. Alarmed, Turlough tries to stop this but the Guardian is able to give them a set of co-ordinates before vanishing. The Doctor takes the TARDIS to the location specified and they find that they have materialised in what appears to be the hold of a sailing ship. The Doctor and Turlough set out to explore whilst Tegan is left in the TARDIS should the Guardian reappear. He does - giving a cryptic warning. Tegan then sees a young man on the scanner, who appears to be looking into the ship and who can see her. She goes outside to look for him. The Doctor and Turlough have found the crew quarters and have learned that it is the Edwardian era. This vessel is about to take part in a race, and the Doctor has been expected. This proves to be a mix up over his title - it being also the name given to the ship's cook. An officer appears and escorts the Doctor and Turlough to the bridge, where they are reunited with Tegan. The man she had seen is Mr. Marriner, first officer of this vessel - The Shadow. They meet the captain - Striker - and the Doctor discovers that the officers are not all they seem. They appear to be able to read their minds. Tegan is feeling seasick and is given a cabin to rest in - which appears to have elements of her room on the TARDIS as well as her old bedroom back in Brisbane.
The race commences, and the TARDIS crew discover that it involves ships from different periods of Earth's history - all floating in space.

The Doctor learns that whilst the crews of the vessels are from Earth - conditioned not to realise where they are - the officers are all immortal beings called Eternals. These creatures exist outside of Time. They have long exhausted their imaginations and seek their entertainments from the minds of ephemeral beings such as humans. This race will take place through the Solar System, using the planets as marker buoys. The winner will gain "Enlightenment" as a prize. A number of the ships are destroyed as the race proceeds, and the Doctor becomes suspicious of the circumstances. He suspects that one of the captains is prepared to use any means necessary to win. Striker states that his principle rival is Captain Wrack of the pirate ship The Buccaneer. The Black Guardian finally loses patience with Turlough, who no longer wants to harm the Doctor, and claims he will be left on The Shadow for all eternity. In despair, Turlough throws himself overboard whilst they are out on deck wearing spacesuits. He is rescued by The Buccaneer. Soon after, Wrack invites all her fellow contestants to a party aboard her vessel. Striker does not intend to go, but the Doctor asks to attend in his place in order to retrieve Turlough. Tegan and Marriner will go with him. On the pirate ship, Turlough has discovered that Wrack is also in league with the Black Guardian. He is helping her to destroy the competition. He tries to ally himself with Wrack, to save his own neck.

At the party, Wrack separates Tegan from the Doctor and freezes her in time. She gives her a small red jewel, which she adds to Tegan's tiara. Tegan then rejoins the party oblivious to what she has done. The Doctor fails to get Turlough back. The boy claims he does not want to go with him and would prefer to stay with Wrack. Back on The Shadow, the Doctor works out how Wrack is destroying the other ships. She is able to focus destructive energy through the red gemstones. He realises that they have inadvertently brought one of these aboard. The Doctor smashes it, but this only multiplies the power. He must collect the shards and throw them overboard - which he does with only seconds to spare. Wrack has disposed of all the other captains and their officers by making them walk the plank into space at the conclusion of her party. The end of the race comes into view - a vast crystal city floating in space. It looks as if The Buccaneer will get there first. The TARDIS has gone missing and the Doctor asks for it back in order to try to stop Wrack. Striker reveals that he hid the ship in the Doctor's own mind. The Doctor uses it to return to The Buccaneer. Soon after, Striker and Tegan see two bodies ejected into space. They fear the worst and assume that it was the Doctor and Turlough. The pirate ship reaches "Enlightenment", so Striker, Marriner and Tegan cross over to it to congratulate Wrack. Instead, they find the Doctor and Turlough. It was Wrack and her first mate who fell into space. The Black and White Guardians both appear. The Eternals are sent back to where they came from. The Doctor is offered the prize and turns it down. He does not want to know everything there is to know. Turlough is offered a part share for helping bring the winning ship into dock - a huge gemstone. He rejects it, and the Black Guardian vanishes in flames. Turlough is now free of him. The Doctor explains that "Enlightenment" wasn't the crystal, but the choice.

This four part story was written by Barbara Clegg, and was broadcast between 1st and 9th March, 1983. It brings the Black Guardian Trilogy to a close. It is significant for being the first Doctor Who story to have been written by a woman. A previous female co-writer credit (for The Ark) had been purely nominal - Lesley Scott had not written any of it.
The story also had a female director - the late Fiona Cumming - as well as a strong female villain role. Wrack is played with relish by Lynda Baron - best known to UK viewers as Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, the object of desire for Ronnie Barker's stammering shopkeeper Arkwright in Open All Hours. Baron had been heard but not seen in the programme before - she sang the Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon in The Gunfighters. She returned to the programme during Matt Smith's tenure (as Val in Closing Time).
As with much of the anniversary season, Enlightenment was troubled by industrial action. The production dates had to be changed and original casting had to be abandoned. For instance, Peter Sallis (The Ice Warriors) was to have played Striker. His work on perennial sitcom Last of the Summer Wine meant that he wasn't available for the new dates, so Keith Barron took over the role. Pop star Leee John replaced David Rhule as Wrack's first mate, Mansell. John is supposed to have been told by a fortune teller that he would appear in Doctor Who. Enlightenment took the slot that should have gone to Eric Saward's Dalek story and became the last story of the season to be recorded, once a remount for Terminus was out of the way.


Two other cast members worth mentioning are Christopher Brown as the love-struck Eternal Marriner, and Tony Caunter making his third Who appearance as crewman Jackson.
And of course, Cyril Luckham returns as the White Guardian - last seen in this role in the opening episode of The Ribos Operation. Sadly, this was Valentine Dyall's final appearance as the Black Guardian. He died in 1985, Luckham in 1989.
Episode endings are:
  1. The race gets under way and a panel opens on the bridge of the schooner - revealing that they are flying through space...
  2. On the deck of the ship, Turlough can hear the voice of the Black Guardian tormenting him. Horrified, the Doctor sees him climb up onto the railings to throw himself overboard...
  3. Away from the other guests, Wrack freezes Tegan in time and places a red jewel in her tiara. Cue much malevolent laughter...
  4. Once the Guardians have gone, Turlough asks the Doctor to take him back home to his own planet...

Overall, a very good story with some fine performances and some wonderful imagery. The first cliffhanger is often cited in top ten lists for the classic series.
Things you might like to know:
  • Barbara Clegg has said that one of her inspirations for this story was the visit by some relatives who sought constantly to be kept entertained, which she found draining.
  • The original title was to have been "The Enlighteners" - beings who would have appeared at the end of the race. When the Guardians were added instead, this title became redundant.
  • As well as making it onto Doctor Who, Leee John was also told that he would appear in Coronation Street. To date, this prophesy has yet to be fulfilled.
  • Publicity pictures of Lynda Baron, John and Peter Davison taken on the TARDIS set did lead to speculation that there were deleted scenes. Episodes actually under-ran, so Clegg built up Tony Caunter's role and added all the crew room dialogue to the first episode.
  • Incidental music composer Malcolm Clarke had barely a week to score and record music for the first episode. The most distinctive piece of music in this production - that used for Wrack's party - is actually a recycled piece, taken from a documentary about Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges.
  • The Doctor discards his celery stalk at the party for a fresh piece. Some have pointed out that both stalks he wore on his lapel were actually unreal ones - the first piece having come from Castrovalva. This isn't necessarily the case, as real vegetables could have been brought into Castrovalva, and if the crew were real humans, then the ships and all they contain could also have been real.
  • The Eternals haven't returned to Doctor Who though they have been name-checked by the Tenth Doctor.
  • As with one of her other productions, Fiona Cumming put together a special edition of this story for its DVD release - a shorter (75 minute) version with CGI effects replacing the model work. The cuts aren't anywhere near as noticeable as with the Planet of Fire special version. The sequence of the rounding of Venus is actually very well done.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

TARDIS Travels No.24

Season 24, and Colin Baker has unwillingly departed the TARDIS.  The Sixth Doctor is still there, however, along with Mel - so to viewers it looks as though very little time has elapsed since the end of last season. If the books and audios are canon for you, then you know what they have been up to in the intervening time. Apparently Big Finish are going to release the final Sixth Doctor story later this year. However that goes, it has to end with him lying on the floor of the TARDIS as it is attacked by the Rani and dragged towards  Lakertya.

Journey 363: Location and date unknown, to Lakertya, date unknown.
The TARDIS is bombarded by laser fire and the Doctor appears to be injured enough to trigger a regeneration. This takes place after the ship has materialised on the rocky planet. Later, the Seventh Doctor will return to the ship to fetch a piece of equipment which the Rani (posing as Mel) needs for her work. The Doctor takes the opportunity to raid the costume store for his new outfit. Items worn by most of his previous incarnations are seen.

There are at least 9 unseen journeys after the Rani has been defeated, as the Doctor takes all of the genii back to their correct places and times.

Journey 364: Date and location unknown to Paradise Towers, planet and date unknown.
Some have suggested that the Towers is on Earth, and this is the 21st Century, but this is not clear from what we see on screen. The TARDIS materialises in a dilapidated square in the complex.

Journey 365: Paradise Towers, date unknown, to Space Toll Port G715, date unknown.
The Doctor and Mel find they are the 10 billionth customers to have passed through the toll, so win a prize of a holiday with the music-loving, time-travelling Navarino. Delta mentions some higher authority she can turn to in order to punish the Bannermen for their acts of genocide. This might well be the Time Lords. They may also hold a watching brief over the Navarino time travelling.

Journey 366: Toll Port G715, date unknown, to Earth orbit, 1959.
The Doctor is shadowing the Navarino craft and is forced to intervene when it collides with an American satellite. The Doctor employs the ship's tractor beam to stabilise the coach-shaped vessel.

Journey 367: Earth orbit to Shangri-La Holiday Camp, North Wales (in England...), 1959.
Yes, best joke of the season, especially for those of us from parts of the UK other than England - and I am sure there are Americans who don't get it. Instead of arriving at Disneyland, the TARDIS helps the Navarino craft land just outside a holiday camp near Llandrindod Wells. The Doctor is able to force grow an energy crystal in the TARDIS for the Navarino ship.

Journey 368: Shangri-La Holiday Camp, North Wales, 1959, to Iceworld, date unknown.
Some time in the very far future (two million years hence) unless Sabalom Glitz can time travel. (Actually, his presence on Ravalox might have been down to the Master, and he really comes from a time much closer to our own). The TARDIS materialises in a frozen foods shop section of this complex. There must be more to Iceworld than just cheap frozen prawns, or Crab Nebula Pasties, though it not terribly clear on screen what. May just be a cosmic motorway service station.

Mel bids farewell here, and the Doctor will travel on into Season 25 with new companion Ace.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.7

Earthshock (1982).
The Cybermen return after a seven year absence, with their most significant redesign so far. The basic shape of the helmet remains the same as the last two versions but the faceplate has some detailing - a horizontal ridge - and the jaw area is now transparent. Silvery flesh can be seen underneath. The chest unit is now incorporated into a collar section which is linked to the helmet. They no longer have the piping along the limbs. Instead, the whole body is covered in piping and cabling. The hands are five fingered and large. On their feet are what look like "moon-boots".
The Cyber-Leader still has black markings on the "handles" to denote his rank. There is also a Cyber-Lieutenant rank, though this has no distinguishing features.
These Cybermen carry laser rifles which emit a blue pulse.
It is the year 2526, and the Cybermen have turned their attention towards Earth which is about to play host to a conference which threatens to forge an alliance against them. The Cybermen plant a powerful bomb in a cave system near to the conference venue, guarded by android sentinels. An invasion force is, meanwhile, assembled on a space freighter approaching the planet. Most of these lie dormant in individual silos. A human crew member is helping conceal them.
When the Doctor deactivates the bomb, the Cyber-Leader activates his army and they plan to take over the freighter. It will be loaded with explosives and crashed into the planet instead. This plan also fails, thanks to the self-sacrifice of the Doctor's young companion Adric. The Cybermen inadvertently help the human race come into being, by wiping out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
These Cybermen are still susceptible to gold.
The Cyber-Leader recognises the Doctor and the TARDIS, and his Lieutenant has heard of the Time Lords. The Cybermen have visual records of previous incarnations of the Doctor.

Story Notes:

  • David Banks plays the first of several Cyber-Leaders. He is rather fond of the expression "Excellent!", and is not averse to a bit of fist clenching - so these Cybermen are not totally unemotional.
  • Elements from previous Cyber-stories include the Cybermen stored in their silos (The Invasion), and the back-up plan of crashing a space craft into a planet plus a human collaborator (Revenge).
  • The bodies of these new Cybermen are silver-painted pilots' flight-suits. The piping is for warmth.
  • The transparent jaws were to remind us that these are not robots, but converted humanoids. The battery packs for the microphones were positioned higher up within the helmet, but during recording the heat caused perspiration and the packs tended to slip down to the chin where they could be seen. As such, the jaws are made opaque in shots recorded later in the evening.
  • Bits of the "Nostromo" set from Alien were used for the Cyber controls.
  • Whilst a Cyber-gun prop was reused by the Silurians in Warriors of the Deep.
  • Clips are seen from The Tenth Planet, Wheel In Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. The dialogue accompanying the Troughton clip relates to Tomb of the Cybermen, but that story was still lost at the time this was made.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Don't know your Abzorbaloff from your Zygons?

Forgot I still had a link to this thing. A Nice wiki-based introduction to Doctor Who monsters and characters, based on the London tube map. Different Doctors, different lines.