Sunday, 13 March 2016

Story 148 - Remembrance of the Daleks

In which the Doctor and Ace travel to London, in 1963. The TARDIS materialises in the Shoreditch district, a few yards from Coal Hill School. The Doctor detects strange readings, and spots a van with an antenna on its roof. He pushes his way on board, and finds that a young woman named Allison is also monitoring the signals. The van is called to a disturbance nearby - the scrap yard at 76 Totters Lane. Allison is working for the military. In command is Group Captain Gilmore, and his men have trapped an extra-terrestrial being in a shed on the site. This proves to be a Dalek. The Doctor helps destroy it with a brace of Ace's Nitro-9 bombs. The Doctor manages to get himself and Ace seconded onto Gilmore's team, and meet his sergeant, Mike Smith, and Allison's boss Rachel Jensen, a scientist. The Doctor warns them that the planet is at risk from the Daleks. Returning to the school, he and Ace meet the headmaster, who behaves strangely. In the basement they find a transmat system. A Dalek begins to materialise, but the Doctor stops it and sabotages the equipment. He then realises that a guard would have been placed here, and another Dalek emerges from the shadows. The headmaster, under Dalek mental control, overpowers Ace and locks the Doctor in the basement with the Dalek, which then begins to float up the stairs towards him.

He is saved by Ace. The Doctor realises that the school is base of operations for the Daleks. As well as the transmat, there are signs of a shuttle having landed in the playground. Since their arrival, they have been spied upon by a schoolgirl. The Doctor goes to a nearby funeral directors' and claims a casket he left their during his first incarnation, whilst Susan was a pupil at Coal Hill. It obeys his commands and opens when he orders it to. He uses it to give Ace's baseball bat special powers. It then follows him out of the shop - floating by itself. He has it buried in a local graveyard, using a blind vicar, in a plot he ordered when he was last here. The following morning, Ace goes alone to the school and is ambushed by Daleks. She is able to destroy some with her baseball bat, and Gilmore's men arrive in time to wipe out the rest. The Doctor points out differences to Rachel and Allison between the one at the scrap yard - a grey model - with the ones at the school - white / gold versions. The latter have additional implants and upgrades. The Doctor tells Ace that there are two factions at work here - which he hadn't bargained for. The casket contains the Hand of Omega - a stellar manipulator he removed from Gallifrey. It was the device used by Omega to transform a sun and so give power to the Time Lords. The Doctor wants the Daleks to get it - but now there are the two rival factions to contend with. A businessman named Ratcliffe steals the Hand from its grave and takes it to his warehouse - where the grey Daleks led by the black Dalek Supreme have their base.

The Doctor must allow the two sets of Daleks to fight among themselves without any of his friends being hurt, or the planet being destroyed in the crossfire. He has located a vast mothership in orbit above the area. It contains the Emperor Dalek. The Emperor despatches a squad of white Daleks to the school by shuttle. With them is the Special Weapons Dalek, which has formidable firepower. The grey Daleks are defeated. It transpires that Ratcliffe is a member of a fascist organisation, and Mike is working with him. The schoolgirl was also an agent for the Supreme. The white Daleks seize the Hand and take it to the mothership. The Doctor contacts the Emperor, who is revealed to be Davros, now almost totally Dalek. The Doctor goads him into deploying the Hand. It travels to Skaro's system and turns its sun into a supernova, destroying the whole system. It then feeds back to the mothership. Davros flees in an escape pod seconds before it is blown up. The schoolgirl kills Ratcliffe then follows Mike to his mother's boarding house where Ace is staying. The girl kills Mike. The Doctor finds the Supreme and talks it into self-destructing - which breaks its hold over the girl. The Doctor and Ace stay on in London, and leave on the day of Mike's funeral.

This four part adventure was written by Ben Aaronovitch, and was broadcast between 5th and 26th October, 1988. It is the first story of Season 25 - the silver anniversary season. Unknown at the time, it is the final Dalek story of the classic era of the programme, as well as Davros' last appearance (as played by Terry Molloy).
Aaronovitch was yet another of the new writers brought to the programme by script editor Andrew Cartmel. He had initially approached the team with another story, one concerning Arthurian myth, but was invited to bring back the Daleks after a three year absence. We'll get his original idea next season. Scripts had to be vetted by Terry Nation, who had previously stipulated the inclusion of Davros in all future Dalek stories. This time, the Daleks get to be a force in their own right. Davros only pops up at the end of Part Four, when the Emperor's dome slides back to reveal him. The Emperor's design was inspired by the 1960's comic version - with an oversize dome.
The Supreme's grey army utilises props from earlier Dalek stories, whilst the white ones are a new build. The shape is distorted so that they are taller and slimmer, with a smaller circumference base. All of the Daleks struggle on the uneven road surfaces on location, giving them a strange wobbling motion.
Race and racism is a strong theme running through the story. The Daleks have always been the Nazi-like racial purists, and here their civil strife is due to the differences that Davros has created with his new superior versions. The Doctor has a conversation with a cafe worker that looks at the consequences of western tastes for sugar - leading directly to slavery. Ratcliffe is a fascist who bemoans Britain locking up Oswald Mosley and his supporters in the last war. Mike's mum has a sign in her window saying that "Coloureds" are not welcome.
The story also begins an arc that tries to re-mystify the Doctor. He seems to imply that he was around when the Gallifreyans first deployed the Hand - and why does he have it anyway?

There's an excellent guest cast present. As Group Captain Gilmore we have Simon Williams (best known for Upstairs, Downstairs). Last seen as Toos in Robots of Death, Rachel Jensen is Pamela Salem. Ratcliffe is George Sewell - usually playing cops or robbers. Mike Smith is Dursley McLinden - who sadly died only a few years later. Allison is Karen Gledhill. The headmaster sees the final appearance in the programme for veteran Who actor Michael Sheard, whilst the vicar is another veteran - Peter Halliday. John, the cafe worker, is played by Joseph Marcell, who would go on to find fame as the butler in Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The cafe owner, Harry, is Harry Fowler - who has more credits in British film and TV than the rest of the cast put together. Check out one of his early roles in the classic Ealing film Hue and Cry for starters.
As it is their swansong - until the Bronze lot turn up in 2005 - we should mention the final appearance by the Dalek Supreme - John Scott Martin. Roy Skelton steps down from doing the voices as well. (He's joined once again by Lis Sladen's husband, Brian Miller).
Usually overlooked, its is the final time we get to hear John Leeson in the classic series - this time trying to fool us into thinking that the Dalek battle computer conceals Davros.
Episode endings are:
  1. The headmaster has locked the Doctor in the basement. As he frantically tries to get out, the Dalek starts to float up the stairs towards him...
  2. Ace is surrounded by Daleks who close in on her...
  3. The Doctor thinks he has everything under control when the arrival of the Dalek shuttle shatters the school windows. He thinks he may have underestimated things...
  4. The Doctor and Ace elect not to go into the chapel for Mike's funeral service and return to the TARDIS. The Doctor reassures her that they did the right thing.

Overall, widely accepted as the best of the McCoy stories, and the best Dalek story for a long time in that they get to be the chief villains again - rather than play heavies for Davros. Some excellent effects, and a great cast. Deservedly the highest ranked McCoy story in the polls.
Things you might like to know:
  • Ratcliffe was originally gong to be called Gummer - a dig at the unpopular Tory politician John Selwyn Gummer. He quit the Church of England because they thought it was a nice idea to let women do things other than arrange the flowers or make cakes for fetes, and famously force-fed his daughter a burger in a photo op during the "mad cow disease" scare.
  • The Special Weapons Dalek was written as a huge floating gun platform, but this would have proved costly and hard to realise, so it became an ordinary Dalek with a huge cannon on top.
  • A story often told is that when the gates of Ratcliffe's yard were blown up, it attracted police and fire brigade attention - the filming coming as it did on the anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. The IRA were very active in London at this time.
  • Gilmore, Jensen and Allison have had their own spin off series produced by Big Finish for a couple of years now - they are known as the Intrusion Countermeasures Group. All three are played by the original cast from Remembrance.
  • Another oft told tale - Andrew Cartmel showed this to the Head of Drama, Mark Shivas, who took a phone call just as the scene with Ace noticing the "No Coloureds" sign came up. Cartmel insisted on rewinding so that Shivas saw this. Shivas thought that Ace should have torn the sign up.
  • John Leeson also provided the TV continuity announcer voice that seems to be about to announce the beginning of Doctor Who's first ever episode. This has, of course, led to all sorts of debate about how it can be sunny and bright at 5.15pm on a November evening in England.
  • The dating of this story is a nightmare in other ways. If it is late in the year, how long is it since Ian and Barbara left? The headmaster is recruiting for a new janitor - not for a science or history teacher post. Maybe they've just left, so he hasn't got round to reporting them missing yet. The undertaker's assistant suggests that the Hand was left quite a while ago.
  • Nothing seen before or since has explained this temporary mysterious Doctor with access to Gallifreyan super-weapons.
  • That undertaker's assistant will go on to have a lot of significance once the series is brought back, and made in Wales. He's William Thomas. He becomes the first actor to bridge the two incarnations of the series when he turns up in Boomtown, then becomes Gwen Cooper's dad in Torchwood.
  • Originally, it was going to be the Hand of Rassilon, rather than Omega. The rebel Daleks would have been blue, and the Emperor's lot red.
  • The Special Weapons Dalek will be back twice more (so far). In its last appearance, it actually gets to speak.
  • The Doctor creates a device which can disorientate Daleks. He refers to having utilised something similar on Spiridon - a reference to Planet of the Daleks, where he made a device from the TARDIS log which Jo Grant had been using.
  • Rachel mentions how Bernard is having problems at the British Rocket Group. This is a reference to Bernard Quatermass. There has been debate aplenty about the compatibility of the two series to exist in the same universe. General consensus is they can't. (The final John Mills one certainly doesn't fit, and their version of Martian history and its influence on human development also contradicts some of Who). The professor in Hide was supposed to have been Quatermass, which would have chucked several cats amongst many pigeons.
  • When Dalek was broadcast in 2005, the media raved about seeing a Dalek going up stairs. They had to be reminded of this story and the Part One cliffhanger. Of course, there had been an earlier Dalek levitation - in their last outing - that even the fans hadn't actually spotted. The effect was achieved using a modified stair-lift. 
  • There's some nice period detail here - starting with the mix of sound clips in the pre-credit sequence. Unfortunately a number of more modern buildings often get captured in the background. Note especially the sequence when the headmaster goes into the cemetery. 
  • Yes, the name on the gates of 76 Totters Lane is spelled wrong - I.M. Forman instead of Foreman. Strangely, it was painted correctly, but was repainted for some reason just before filming. And yes, it is clearly a spacious builders yard, and not a cramped junk yard.

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