Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A is for... Adam (2)

Physical embodiment of an alien entity which infiltrated the Cardiff branch of Torchwood. This being could only survive if he was remembered by others. He was able to plant false memories in people through touch. Dr Owen Harper was turned into a rather gawky nerd, Toshiko Sato into a more sexualised and empowered woman. Gwen Cooper was on leave when he arrived, so everyone was shocked when she reacted strongly on seeing him. He changed her memories so that she remembered him, but unfortunately for him this led to her forgetting her fiance Rhys. Returning home and finding Rhys in her home, she called on Torchwood for help.
Concerns about Adam were planted in the heads of Ianto Jones and Captain Jack Harkness. To counter this, Adam made Ianto believe that he was a serial killer, driving him to despair.
Adam then opened up long-suppressed memories of Jack's childhood in the Boeshane Peninsula, and of the events when he lost his younger brother, Gray - abducted as a child by hostile alien creatures.
Jack had Adam locked up in the cells, and then administered the memory-wiping drug Ret-Con to his team, so that they would forget the last few days - and so forget Adam. Adam tried to survive by wanting Jack to recall his childhood memories, but he too decided to take Ret-Con. Adam simply faded away as everyone forgot him.
Little is known of his origins, but he claims to have come from the Void, and to forget him will cast him back there. This may well be the Void between dimensions mentioned in the 2006 and 2008 series.
  • The opening sequence to this episode tried to wrong-foot viewers by cutting clips of Adam into the usual footage, as though he had indeed always been a team member.
Played by Brian Dick. Appearances: Torchwood 2.5 - Adam.

A is for... Adam (1)

One of the leaders of The People, a group who believed they were travelling to another world to begin a new society. This was part of Operation Golden Age. Adam was really the writer Nigel Castle. Like the rest of The People, he was sick of the way that the Earth had been polluted, and that society was breaking down. He was upset by his fellow leader Ruth's insistence that Sarah Jane Smith might have to be killed, as she was sowing dissent. He was prepared to listen to her, and to fellow People member Mark. Like everyone else on the "spaceships", he was horrified to find that he had been duped by Sir Charles Grover. The ship they were on was a mock-up built beneath the streets of London. Instead of a new world, they would have emerged onto an Earth on which generations would have been destroyed by Grover and Prof. Whitaker, by rolling back time to some pre-industrial era.

Played by Brian Badcoe. Appearances: Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974).

A is for... Achilles

The not-so-legendary Greek hero of the Trojan Wars. Achilles was fighting with Hector, son of the Trojan King Priam, when the TARDIS materialised on the plains outside the besieged city. The appearance of the Doctor distracted the warriors - allowing Achilles to strike a mortal blow. Achilles whole-heartedly accepted the Doctor's assertion that he was the god Zeus. Achilles found that his fellow warrior Odysseus did not believe him.
Later, during the sack of the city, Achilles was killed by Priam's younger son, Troilus.

  • According to legend, Achilles was the son of the Nereid Thetis, and King Peleus of the Myrmidons. Thetis decided to make him immortal by dipping him in the River Styx. Unfortunately the heel that she held him by remained mortal and a weak spot. Instead of dying at the hands of Troilus (whom he slew) he was killed by that other Trojan prince, Paris, who shot him in the heel with an arrow.
Played by Cavan Kendall. Appearances: The Myth Makers (1965) - episodes 1 & 4 only.

A is for... Ace

Travelling companion to the Seventh Doctor. Ace was a schoolgirl from Perivale in West London, real name Dorothy. She had an unhappy childhood - not getting on with her mother, who she despised. Her father has never been mentioned - so either deceased or he had abandoned the family home. Ace got into trouble on numerous occasions. An unhealthy interest in explosives saw her blow up her school's art room. On another occasion she set fire to an abandoned house - Gabriel Chase - after a friend had suffered a racially motivated attack. She and her friends would either hang out at the local youth club, or spend time on nearby Horsenden Hill. Ace always believed that her life did not really belong on Earth, and one day her real parents would turn up and take her away.
One evening she was experimenting with a new mix for her home-made explosive - Nitro 9. She was caught up in a time storm and found herself in the far future, on the planet Svartos. Here she got herself a job as a waitress in an ice cream parlour in the Iceworld complex.
It was here that the Doctor and his companion Mel met her. Her rebellious streak led to her being sacked. She then joined the Doctor, Mel and Sabalom Glitz in their quest for the fabled Dragonfire which was said to be hidden in the lower levels of the planet. At one point, Iceworld's boss, Kane, tried to recruit her into his mercenary army, but she refused.
After Kane was defeated, Mel decided to leave the TARDIS and travel with Glitz. She recommended that the Doctor take Ace with him. Though he never said anything, he knew that an old enemy was behind the time storm that had brought Ace to Iceworld.
In the London of 1963, Ace befriended a young soldier named Mike Smith. She was disgusted to find that Mike's mother did not permit coloured people to reside at her guest house. Later, she was furious to learn that Mike was a secret member of a neo-fascist group that was working against her friends. Fiercely loyal, she expected the same of others.

She could become frustrated by the Doctor's refusal to reveal details about his background. When captured by the Happiness Patrol on Terra Alpha, Ace was forced to audition for them - and revealed that she couldn't sing, dance or play any musical instrument. She loved jazz music - and Charlton Athletic FC.
As well as her Nitro-9, Ace was happy to pick up other weapons to defend her friend, who she would call "Professor" rather than Doctor. Against the Cybermen, she employed her catapult armed with gold coins taken from Lady Peinforte's home. She would usually carry a rucksack full of useful items - even a folding scaling ladder, which came in handy when attempting to escape from vampiric Haemovores.
The Doctor soon began testing Ace - finding out her fears and forcing her to face them. On learning that she hated clowns, he elected to take her to the Psychic Circus on Segonax.
When they visited the Carbury area and met the Brigadier, Ace became somewhat jealous of his friendship with the Doctor and seemed to resent him. He was happy to let her look after his old friend, once Morgaine and the Destroyer had been defeated.
At one point Morgaine attempted to break the will of Ace and her new friend Shou Yuing, and Ace appeared to almost let slip her own latent racism, though her thoughts might have been twisted by the sorceress.
The Doctor then took Ace to Gabriel Chase as it was in the late 19th Century, so that she could see the nature of the evil that she had sensed there. Ace was furious that the Doctor had done this.

It was then time for Ace to face other personal demons, and for the Doctor to confront the ancient enemy who had touched Ace's life. This was Fenric. All of the people who had gathered around a military base in NE England during WWII had been manipulated by this evil force - including Ace. She befriended a young WREN named Kathleen Dudman, who had a baby. Kathleen had just learned that her husband was missing at sea, presumed dead. Ace doted on the baby, even though it had the same name - Audrey - as her hated mother. When the camp came under attack, Ace sent Kathleen and Audrey to Streatham, in South London, to stay with her grandparents. Ace also fell in love with a Russian commando leader - Sorin. She was horrified to discover that he had been taken over by Fenric, and it was he who revealed that the baby was really her own mother. She had just inadvertently created her own timeline. The Doctor had succeeded in convincing the Ancient Haemovore that Fenric was responsible for its own pitiful existence and knew that it would attack him, but Ace's faith in him was holding it back. He was forced to attack her emotionally to destroy that faith. Fenric could then be destroyed.
After these traumatic events, the Doctor took Ace back to Perivale, in 1989. She learned that her mother had reported her missing to the Police. Few of her old friends were around, and the youth club was not the same any more. The intervention of the Master and the Cheetah People saw Ace and the Doctor transported to the Cheetah planet. Here, Ace bonded with one of the creatures - Karra - who saw in her a kindred spirit. Ace was almost taken over by the planet. Back in Perivale, she mourned Karra's murder at the hands of the Master.
Perivale was no longer home to Ace. This was now the TARDIS. She and the Doctor travelled on together for some time, but she eventually returned to present day Earth.
Ace reverted to her real name, and became a business woman - setting up a philanthropic organisation which she called A Charitable Earth.

  • As the companion who was aboard the TARDIS when the series ended in 1989, Ace has had more adventures than any other thanks to all the spin-off media that replaced the show. This has often been contradictory. All that was known until recently was that she stopped travelling whilst the Doctor was still in his seventh incarnation. Had a 27th series been made, the production team had an idea to write her out half-way through when the Doctor would have enrolled her at Prydon Academy on Gallifrey to shake the Time Lords up a bit. A DWM comic strip actually had her killed off. Books and audios have had her leave the Doctor temporarily, to go off and become a gun-toting Dalek slayer. The Sarah Jane Adventures story The Death of the Doctor reveals the truth. Russell T Davies has said that he would have brought Ace into the series for a guest appearance had it continued.
Played by Sophie Aldred. Appearances: Dragonfire (1987) to Survival (1989).

Saturday, 26 March 2016

A is for... Abzorbaloff

Inhabitant of the planet Clom, which is sister world to Raxacoricofallapatorius, home to the Slitheen. The name "Abzorbaloff" is not the species' real name, but one individual who visited Earth in 2007 rather liked the title.
Posing as a man named Victor Kennedy, it infiltrated a group that was dedicated to finding the Doctor. This was LInDA - London Investigation 'n' Detective Agency. Kennedy insisted that the group use more professional means to track down the Time Lord. He began preying on group members, transforming into his fleshy green natural form to absorb them into his body. Victims remain conscious for a time after absorption, and retain their memories and willpower. They can mentally connect with each other. To stop himself from constantly absorbing all around him, Kennedy used a device disguised as a walking cane to maintain his form.
Kennedy wanted to digest a Time Lord to gain all his vast knowledge and experience.
Soon only one member of the group was left alive - Elton Pope. The Abzorbaloff pursued him and trapped him in an alley. The Doctor and Rose arrived, as she was angry that Elton had upset her mother.
The other members of the group that had been absorbed, led by Ursula Blake, joined together to start pulling the Abzorbaloff apart. He dropped his cane, which Elton then broke. The Abzorbaloff was unable to stop absorbing and was sucked into the ground - dissipating him. As the last victim, the Doctor was able to save Ursula, though she existed only as a face embedded in a paving stone.
Clom is one of the planets that Davros and the Daleks stole in order to power their Reality Bomb. It hadn't been taken at the time the Abzorbaloff was active on Earth, as he talks of returning home in triumph once he has absorbed the Doctor.

Played by Peter Kay. Appearances: Love & Monsters (2006).

  • As Kennedy, Kaye uses a sort of Received Pronunciation voice, but as the Abzorbaloff he uses his native Bolton accent.
  • The Abzorbaloff was the winning entry in a Blue Peter design a monster competition - the creation of 9 year old William Grantham. Grantham intended that it would be the size of a bus, but hadn't specified this on his initial entry.

A is for... The Abomination

The Mona Lisa's "brother" which she tried to release. He was painted by Giuseppe di Cattivo, a neighbour of Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci once borrowed some pigments from him, not realising that they were mixed with sentient rock dust that had come to Earth in a meteorite. The Abomination was so hideous that di Cattivo went mad, and the painting was locked away in the vaults of Britain's International Gallery for centuries.
When the Mona Lisa was loaned to the gallery, the proximity to the Abomination caused her to come to life. She armed herself with a Sontaran blaster, which Clyde Langer had painted into his competition-winning composition. The Abomination could only be released with an ornate puzzle box, which Sarah Jane Smith's young companions broke. However, Clyde could draw the box - which meant that it could also be brought into being. He had also drawn K9, which arrived in time to stop the Abomination manifesting itself and destroying the world.
Appearances: Mona Lisa's Revenge - Sarah Jane Adventures 3.5.

Story 149 - The Happiness Patrol

In which the Doctor and Ace decide to pay a visit to the planet Terra Alpha. The Doctor has heard some disquieting rumours about this Earth colony. They encounter the all female Happiness Patrol, and learn that sadness and misery are outlawed here - on pain of death. They also meet a pair of off-worlders, who have Sigma suffixes to their names. Earl Sigma is a young blues harmonica player, whilst Trevor Sigma is carrying out a census. From him they learn that thousands of people have disappeared since his last visit. The Happiness Patrol paint the TARDIS pink, as blue is a colour associated with depression. The Doctor and Ace are held at a waiting zone by the Patrol. They meet a man named Harold V, who once wrote jokes for the colony's ruler, Helen A. He is killed by a video game machine. The Doctor and Ace escape and split up. He and Earl Sigma make their way to the Kandy Kitchen, where they are confronted by the Kandy Man. This robotic creature looks as if he has been manufactured out of giant sweets. With him is his creator, Gilbert M. The Kandy Man is a psychopath, who creates fondant treats which can kill.

The Doctor and Earl escape by using fizzy lemonade to stick the Kandy Man's feet to the floor. Ace, meanwhile, has met a disaffected member of the Happiness Patrol - Susan Q. Both are captured and informed that they will be forced to participate in auditions at the Forum. Unsuccessful candidates face death. The Doctor is able to rescue them and they take refuge in the tunnels which run beneath the city. These are home to rodent-like bipedal creatures - the Alpidae. They were the original inhabitants of the planet, forced underground by the coming of the Earth colonists. Helen A has a pet Stigorax named Fifi. These are savage canine creatures. Helen A sends Fifi into the tunnels to flush out the Doctor and his friends. Earl uses his harmonica to cause sugar stalactites to collapse on top of it.

A demonstration is planned, by workers from outside the city. Helen A sends a pair of snipers to attack them. The Doctor challenges them to kill him. They can kill anonymous figures at a distance, but not when forced to look them in the eye. The Doctor then starts to undermine the Happiness Patrol. He acts very happy indeed so that they cannot arrest them - which makes them miserable and so guilty of the very thing they persecute. As the colony starts to break down, Helen A decides to flee. The Kandy Man takes to the tunnels, and the Alpidae flood them with boiling sugar, destroying the cyborg. Helen A finds that her consort, Joseph C, has run off in her private escape shuttle with Gilbert M. The Doctor confronts her and she insists that she was right in forcing people to be happy. A dying Fifi crawls from the tunnels, and Helen A breaks down in tears - finally realising the importance of sadness as part of a range of emotion.

This three part adventure was written by Graeme Curry - his only work on the programme - and was broadcast between 2 - 16th November, 1988.
It is an all studio affair, its filming going to make the other three-parter, Silver Nemesis. Everything about the story reminds you of a comic book world. The city looks like a stage set. All the action seems to take place in a single night. The costumes are over the top - with the Happiness Patrol wearing clothes, wigs and make-up that are far too young for the generally mature ladies who make up the unit. The Kandy Man is a crazed Bertie Bassett. Performances can be a little over the top as well. This all makes things look unreal - which is not a bad thing. The artifice works. What Helen A is doing here goes against the natural order of things. You cannot force people to be happy all the time. Helen A is clearly inspired by the then current British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Most of us saw this at the time, but the media took until only a couple of years ago to get the hint. Many also see a gay parable. Gilbert and Harold are quite camp characters, and run off together at the end.
Gilbert is played by Harold Innocent, and Harold by Ronald Fraser, a veteran comedy actor. Main guest artist is Sheila Hancock as Helen A. There are two returnees to the show - Susan Q is Lesley Dunlop, who had appeared in Frontios; and last seen as Trau Morgus in The Caves of Androzani, John Normington is Trevor Sigma. Richard D Sharp plays Earl Sigma. Two of the Happiness Patrol - Daisy K and Priscilla P - are Georgina Hale and Rachel Bell respectively.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Kandy Man informs the Doctor and Earl that he likes his victims to die with a smile on their faces...
  2. The Doctor arrives at the Forum where Ace is due to audition, and sees the doorman painting the letters "RIP" over a picture of the last performer...
  3. Ace paints out the last of the pink on the TARDIS exterior. She asks the Doctor if he is alright, and he replies that "happiness will prevail"...

Overall, rather a good little story. It all looks artificial, but this actually works in the context of the story. A great cast. This comic-book bizarre feel is what Andrew Cartmel wanted for the series.
Things you might like to know:
  • The working title for this story was "The Crooked Smile". This becomes the name of the Killjoys' newspaper.
  • Director Chris Clough wanted to film this story using unusual camera angles, and wished it to be made in black & white. When Sylvester McCoy learned about this after the event, he wishes that Clough had got his way. He was unhappy with the stagey sets.
  • Clough provided Fifi's modulated roars.
  • And his wife is the public address voice.
  • Confectioners Bassetts were not all pleased with the realisation of the Kandy Man, and wrote to complain to John Nathan-Turner. The BBC responded that no offence was intended, and assured Bassetts that the character would never be used again. 10 years before, Bassetts had been very pleased with the programme, as they are the manufacturers of Jelly Babies.
  • The Kandy Man was originally scripted as a doughy-looking man in a lab coat and big red glasses. He was supposed to be a scientist's brain transplanted into a marzipan body.
  • The Kandy Man never did return, except in prose. Bizarrely, Count Grendel of Tara employs him in his plans to seize the throne once again. Some fans should never be allowed near a type-writer...
  • Earl Sigma was originally going to be a trumpeter. Richard D Sharp couldn't actually play the harmonica, so it gets dubbed on after.
  • Andrew Cartmel found himself on Newsnight a couple of years ago to talk about the Thatcher allusions in this story. As I mentioned above, this was obvious to us watching at the time of first transmission, but no-one in the media was really paying attention then.
  • In 2011, the then Archbishop of Canterbury mentioned the story in a sermon when talking about "happiness".
  • Look on-line and you'll find some photos of the Kandy Man with a slightly different face design. The metal brackets which look like a moustache and beard were added to hide the actor David John Pope's features. Some scenes of the character without the brackets can be glimpsed in the finished programme - namely when the Kandy Man is in the pipes.
  • The Pipe People have old Saxon names. The term Alpidae comes from one version of the script, plus the novelisation. It doesn't get used on screen.
  • The writer originally wanted more of the Forum to be shown - with lethal outcomes to failed talent acts. This idea was already intended to be a big part of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy, so was left out. Curry did get to address some of his pet hates - like lift music.
  • If it hadn't been for the Seoul Olympics, this story would have closed the 25th season.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

March Figurines

I was going to bring you The Happiness Patrol tonight, but I'm under the weather with a rotten old cold. So much for the first day of Spring.
Hopefully you'll get to see it mid-week, along with some more A to Z items.
In the meantime, here are the latest figurines from Eaglemoss. First we have another character from the most recent series - Colony Sarff from the opening Dalek two-parter. Quite a colourful costume. On screen, the filming and lighting made his robes look black.
Then we have another reptilian character - one of the original (and best) Silurians, from 1970.
Next issue will see the release of another Dalek - this time the black & white Supreme from Resurrection of the Daleks.

Friday, 18 March 2016

A is for... Abigail

Temporary companion of sorts to the Eleventh Doctor, Abigail was a young woman from the Earth colony Sardicktown. Terminally ill, she had allowed herself to be cryogenically suspended as collateral on a loan to her family from Elliot Sardick, who ran the community. His son, Kazran, became besotted with her. When the Doctor and young Kazran needed one of the freezer cabinets to transport a sick cloud shark, they used hers. It was found that her singing could calm the creatures.
Abigail - surname Pettigrew - was released from her cabinet on a number of Christmas Eves over the next few years. Each time saw her move closer to her death. She fell in love with Kazran on the various trips organised by the Doctor - usually to different places and times on Earth. On one occasion she got to meet the descendants of her family.
After attending one of Frank Sinatra's parties, she told Kazran the truth about her condition. He knew that her next release would be her last and so distanced himself from the Doctor - eventually becoming a miserly, embittered old man like his father. In order to save Amy and Rory, and a spaceship full of people who were about to die when the vessel they were on crashed, the Doctor helped redeem Kazran. Abigail was released one last time - on Christmas Day for a change. Her singing helped to sooth the turbulent skies and so aid the ship to make a safe landing. She and Kazran enjoyed one final day together, flying through the air in a carriage pulled by a shark.

Played by Katherine Jenkins. Appearances: A Christmas Carol (2010).

A is for... Abbot of Amboise

French Catholic churchman who, in 1572, was involved in a plot to assassinate the leading Protestant statesman Admiral de Coligny. The Doctor's companion Steven Taylor met a servant girl who had run away from his household, after hearing threats of a massacre of the Protestant Huguenots. When Steven met the Abbot, he discovered that he was identical in appearance to the Doctor, and for a time he thought it was his friend masquerading as the cleric. When the assassination failed, the Abbot was blamed, and killed on the orders of Marshal Tavannes.

  • No images of the Abbot exist, as this story is entirely lost apart from the soundtrack and a handful of photos.
  • There never has been anyone with the title of Abbot of Amboise. The story contains a number of real historical figures, but he is not one of them.

Played by William Hartnell. Appearances: The Massacre (1966).

A is for... Abaddon

A vast grey horned demon that was unleashed on Cardiff after one of the Torchwood team was tricked into opening the Rift which runs through the city. This was the work of the enigmatic Bilis Manger, who the team encountered, unchanged, in both the present day and during the Second World War. Abaddon's shadow instantly killed anyone whom it touched. Many more were killed as it stomped across the city, flattening buildings. Captain Jack Harkness lured it towards him on a piece of waste ground by the docks. As he was immortal, its efforts to suck away his life-force ended with the demon's own destruction.
There is no mention of these events following Abaddon's demise, so closing the Rift may have reset things in the city.
Abaddon was one of the names which the Doctor gave to the Beast on Krop Tor. Other than their size and the horns, the creatures were not the same, physically. They may be related beings from the ancient dark times at the beginning of the Universe.

  • Mentioned in both Christian and Jewish texts, Abaddon is either the name for the bottomless pit of Hell, or a demon from the pit, associated with plagues of locusts.
  • Jack's climactic encounter with the demon took place on the site of what is now the Doctor Who Experience.

Appearances: Torchwood 1.13 - End of Days.

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.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

TARDIS Tour - March 2016.

So you're probably wondering: he's been there before; he's written about it before; he's shown us some of his snaps before... What's there new to say?
Well there's this:

And then there's this:

Yes, they've done something a bit different with the TARDIS set tours this year. On my last two visits to Roath Lock, we had to sit outside the TARDIS whilst smaller groups went inside to have a look round. One of the Experience crew would then try to get some conversation going - favourite Doctor, favourite story / episode - that kind of thing.
The other day, though, we instead got a presentation from one of the DWE crew about the TARDIS police box props, Daleks and costumes, as well as some background stuff about the Experience itself. The Rigsy-painted TARDIS box was there, plus Clara's costume from Face The Raven / Heaven Sent, plus the Raven's birdcage. (Anyone thinking the birdcage was the same one that held the wizened old Doctor in Last of the Time Lords will be wrong).
A Dalek was then disassembled for us to root around in. One without the complex remote control additions, I should add.

Hardly changed at all since 1963. I got to fondle the sucker and move the gun stick and utility arm. Strange how the simplest things can make you so happy...
There were a couple of Daleks on sentry duty outside the TARDIS set as well, one a rather battered version - though not Rusty from Inside The Dalek.

After the presentation my group then entered the TARDIS. Obviously, the other half of the group had the talk when they came out. I'm glad it was this way round, as the presentation might have been just a tiny bit of an anti-climax after spending time in the actual TARDIS console room. It always amazes me how small the control room feels, thanks to the lenses they use on the show that make it look it far bigger. In a way, the TARDIS is smaller on the inside...
Here are some pics. The Doctor's guitar was there, but I didn't manage to capture it on film (or android phone rather), but you will notice a copy of one of Rembrandt's self-portraits. Or was it a portrait of the artist by the Doctor, in the Dutchman's own style...?

You don't just stand by the console. You get to go up to the higher level, then descend to the area underneath.

The tour took an hour from start to finish, including getting there and back. That comprised about 20 minutes with the presentation, plus about 15 minutes on the set itself - more than enough time to have a good look round. And if you miss anything, there's always the next TARDIS tour scheduled for - well, who knows? Filming will resume in May so the set will be pretty much busy from then through to the end of 2016. The DWE won't have anything new to show us before then either, what with no new Who until Xmas, so my next visit isn't likely to be for another 18 months or so. Mind you, Cardiff Bay in the summer is lovely. I might just go back then, even if there isn't a set tour.
Before I sign off, here's a couple of shots from the outside of the TARDIS set.

Check back in a day or two for the latest of my story reviews (held back from last week) - Remembrance of the Daleks. And I'm still putting that A - Z list together. Decisions, decisions. Does Cully get a post on his own, or do I lump him in with Dulcians...?

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Doctor Who Experience March 2016

What better way to spend one's birthday than a day out in Cardiff, and a visit to the Doctor Who Experience (plus a tour of the TARDIS set). Birthday presents to yourself are often the best. Regular readers will know that this is not my first visit to either. I have made four TARDIS tours - three at the new Roath Lock studios, plus the initial visit to the Matt Smith version at the old Upper Boat studio complex, when I attended the first ever official BBC-sanctioned convention at the Millennium Centre in March 2012, out of which this blog was born. I'll save my TARDIS tour for a later post in a day or two, and concentrate on the DWE for now. This is my first visit since it was announced that the Series 9 props and costumes would be going on display.

First of all, I'd like to mention how busy it was - considering my visit was on a weekday and not during school holidays. There were lots of kids present - school outings. Why on Earth did we never get to do anything like this when I was a lad? A whole bus load of excited kids went through just before my party entered the adventure part of the Experience. This remains the same, with the Gallifrey Museum theme, and efforts to find three crystals which will save the TARDIS from Time Squids. Adults all kindly allowed the youngsters present to do the crystal finding. By the way, the waiting point to go into the Experience is now walled off from the rest of the reception area - and it is the wall which appeared in Heaven Sent - the one with the window that Rassilon gazed through.

Once out of the adventure section, it was into the display area. Last time, I had already had my TARDIS studio tour, so could browse at my leisure, but this year the studio tour followed, so I only had about 50 minutes to look around. A lot of changes have been made. Downstairs still has the various TARDIS control rooms and Police Box props, plus items from An Adventure In Space and Time. These include a Menoptra and 1963-style Daleks.

Where the Doctor costumes used to stand there is now the green screen area where you can get a photo taken. The costumes have moved upstairs, where the main monster exhibits reside. On my last two visits, the centre of the upper area had the Silents in their time-ship. Now a lone Silent joins the ranks of miscellaneous monsters like a Sontaran (2008 version), the Abzorbaloff and a Hath. Costumes and props from Series 8 now dominate the central space.

Both the Teller and the Foretold were absent on my last visit. The Cybermen get their own line up - all post 2005 apart from one of the 80's versions. They still have a display case of heads from earlier models.

There used to be a display of Daleks in a circle, with the new series Davros amongst them. They've moved, and now form  two ranks on either side of the entrance into a separate section where the 2015 exhibits are housed. One thing that's nice to see is the Terry Molloy version of Davros appearing in the Experience. You'll have noted his Remembrance appearance above. The Emperor Dalek used to be there but with the dome closed. But he is also present as he appeared in Resurrection.

Like I said, the Daleks line up on either side of the way into the newest exhibits section.

Before we run the gauntlet and enter the new section, I should just mention an area where you can learn to walk like a Cyberman or a Scarecrow, with a video tutorial from monster-wrangler Ailsa Berk. I elected to give this a miss, walking like a Scarecrow as I do at the best of times.
Into the new zone, and first up you enter Davros' intensive care unit from the opening two episodes of Series 9. I saw this space before - at the Festival last year. They've changed the lighting from green to blue.

Around Davros are the Doctor's costume from this story - the hoodie / checked trousers one - plus the open Dalek casing that Clara was in. Pass through the ICU and there are more things of wonder from last year's series.

As well as the Mire, a Sandman, the Fisher King and the Veil, we have a Zygon, Odin's costume plus a number of Time Lord outfits and Clara's little blue waitress number. There's even the dying Doctor's tattered outfit from Hell Bent. I was disappointed that Colony Sarff was only represented by his costume, and not a full figure with prosthetics.

A good idea to have the new stuff set in its own area, I think. Once you've seen the new items, it's exit through the gift shop. I didn't buy anything for a change. The new series box set isn't out until Monday, and there's a new book I fancy (the 365 days one) not due until Thursday next week.
As I mentioned in my last post about the DWE, if ever you are in Cardiff and don't have the money to take the Experience, it is worth popping into the reception area. For free you can see a trio of Daleks, a classic era Ice Warrior, a Weeping Angel and a Smiler, plus one of the police box props. Sadly, Tricey has been removed.
To round this post off, a trio of classic monsters from the main exhibition area. 

The Web of Fear Yeti, the K1 Robot, and another Ice Warrior. Next post will be my most recent TARDIS studio set tour...