Tuesday, 29 November 2016

November's Other Figurines

Wasn't expecting this pair until Thursday, when they would have been "December's Figurines".
Both hail from the Classic Series, and there is a definite black / silver vibe going on.
First up we have the Sontaran Commander Linx, from The Time Warrior.
A very good model, posing with his helmet. Said helmet and collar a bit too dark, however, and for some reason no toy / model manufacturer ever seems to get a Sontaran's features quite right - despite the face being a mask. Even the Linx at the Doctor Who Experience doesn't quite look like how he appeared back in 1973-4.
Alongside him is the Supreme Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks - one of those 'only ever seen once' ones. This has the odd shape of the late 1980's Daleks - with the narrower, near vertical base. By my reckoning that's all the Supremes released now. We've still to get the Gold one from the early 1970's, but that was a leader rather than a Supreme.
Next month it's one of the least wanted figurines - a Hath.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Class 1.7 - Reviewed

The penultimate episode of the first series of Class is now out there, if you have access to BBC 3 website or the i-player service.
The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did lets us see what Miss Quill got up to whilst the younger characters were stuck in detention last time. Thanks to last week's episode, we kind of knew how this would end - as she now has gotten rid of the Arn parasite and so has free will again. She no longer has to protect Charlie.
The means of removing the Arn were convoluted, to say the least. It involved procuring a couple of items from things which only exist in the realm of Belief - hence the Metaphysical Engine of the title.
The recipe is this. Take the pheromones of an Arn - to be found in their heaven. Get a shape-shifting surgeon, who has been frozen from shape-shifting. Free them by obtaining the blood of his - or her - devil in hell. Then get the brain of a Quill. But as they no longer exist (save for you know who) get it from her goddess in her heaven.
This is all the plan of the Governors, who think that the tears in space / time at Coal Hill are not just the result of frequent TARDIS intrusions but are there for a reason and to be profited from in some way.

The shape-shifter - Balon - succeeds in removing the Arn. We get to hear about what it was that Quill lost when she was captured. Not just her freedom, but her partner as well. She's a soldier, and so is Balon, so the two of them hit it off. No inter-species mating on view, but we do get to see the post-coital aftermath. They thought they were back at the school, but turns out they were really in the Cabinet of Souls, and duplicitous Dorothea informs them there's only enough juice for one of them to get home. They have to fight each other to the death, which they do - rather than work together to try to both get home. We already know from last week how this will pan out, so this latter segment seemed wholly pointless - except to give Quill something else to get angry about and stop the episode under-running by about 10 minutes.

Personally, it has to be my least favourite episode so far. Some nice one-liners from Quill, as to be expected, but the whole thing seemed a bit far-fetched - which is saying a lot from a life-long Doctor Who fan. The idea that the things Quill needed for her cure existed only in various heavens / hells - and the Governors know this, and how to get to them - was a bit of a stretch. The episode also suffered in being totally detached from the Coal Hill setting, which up to now has been the point of the series. It felt like I was suddenly watching a different show - despite the mentions of UNIT and Zygons.
Next Saturday sees the season finale. The Shadow Kin are back, and at least three of the younger regulars all look like they might not make it to the second series.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A is for... Autloc

The elderly High Priest of Knowledge in the unnamed city of the Aztecs, visited by the First Doctor and his companions Ian, Barbara and Susan.
When Barbara became separated from her companions, and was found alone in a chamber atop the pyramid tomb of High Priest Yetaxa, he spotted a snake-shaped bracelet she was wearing. This had belonged to Yetaxa, and he took Barbara to be a reincarnation of the dead man.
When Susan was sent off to a seminary, Autloc took an interest in educating her in his peoples' ways. He was offended when she refused to marry the Perfect Victim, whose every wish was to be granted.
Barbara and he became friends, and she found him to be more open-minded and less superstitious than his fellow Aztecs - especially the sadistic High Priest of Sacrifice, Tlotoxyl. She decided to enlist his help in putting an end to human sacrifice. Determined to prove her a fake, Tlotoxyl then decided to destroy Autloc's trust in her. He arranged for warrior Ixta to strike down Autloc with Ian's sword - ensuring he would be blamed for the crime.
Fortunately, Autloc came to realise that Barbara would never do anything to harm him, and so he helped the time travellers to escape - bribing the warrior who was guarding Ian and Susan. He offered him his home and all his possessions.
Barbara had convinced him that his civilisation was doomed, and so he took himself off into voluntary exile to live a hermit life in the wilderness.

Played by: Keith Pyott. Appearances: The Aztecs (1964).

  • Pyott was the second actor of the first season to have appeared in an Orson Welles movie - Arbitan actor George Couloris being the first. He had featured in The Chimes At Midnight.
  • He appeared in a number of Hammer films - Pirates of Blood River, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Devil Rides Out.
  • Appropriately for a Doctor Who guest artist, he also appeared in a film called Sea Devils.

A is for... Auntie

One of the bizarre characters encountered by the Doctor, Amy and Rory when the Doctor took the TARDIS into a bubble universe in search of another Time Lord - the Corsair.
She, Uncle, Nephew and Idris were the sole inhabitants of a planet littered with space debris. She and Uncle called this world "House", and revealed that it was a hollow planet inhabited by an alien intelligence.
The Doctor learned that there were many Time Lords here, but it turned out that they were all dead - their final cries for help saved in message cubes. House had lured them here as it fed on TARDISes.
Auntie and Uncle were spare-part people, repaired over the years with pieces of the dead Time Lords. Auntie had the Corsair's arm, for instance, as the Doctor recognised a tattoo.
House stole the TARDIS, to travel into this universe in search of more TARDISes. Their usefulness at an end, Auntie and Uncle both died once House had departed.

Played by: Elizabeth Berrington. Appearances: The Doctor's Wife (2011).

A is for... Aukon

One of the Three Who Rule, on an unnamed planet in the pocket universe of E-Space. Aukon was Chancellor to King Zargo and Queen Camilla. They were vampires. Aukon had once been O'Connor, science officer on an Earth vessel named the Hydrax. They had encountered the last of the Great Vampires - their ruler - and been turned into its servants. The ship entered E-Space where it came to rest on the planet where it was discovered centuries later by the Doctor, Romana, Adric and K9.
Aukon was responsible for selecting villagers to be taken to the Hydrax - now the royal castle - to be drained of blood to feed the Great One. He also sought people who could be turned into vampires to act as servants, but had not found anyone amongst the villagers to fulfill this role. Then he met Adric, and decided that he would join them. Aukon had a psychic link with the Great One, and was able to direct bats to act as his own servants. In many ways he was the more senior of the Three.
The Great One was about to emerge after a long hibernation in which it was healing itself, after being wounded by the Time Lords. Aukon felt it fitting that a Time Lord - Romana - should be sacrificed to mark this event.
When the Doctor destroyed the Great One, Aukon and his fellow vampires crumbled to dust.

Played by Emrys James. Appearances: State of Decay (1980).

A is for... Atraxi

An alien species which resemble large crystalline snow-flake shapes, with a huge eye-ball at their centre. The eye-ball is detachable. Their origins have never been explained.
The Atraxi run a prison. One of their convicts - dubbed Prisoner Zero - was able to escape to 20th Century Earth when a crack opened in space / time. This linked the prison to the bedroom of young Amelia Pond. The Atraxi were able to see where their prisoner had escaped to, but it took them several years to reach the Earth to recapture it. They arrived en masse above the planet and broadcast an ultimatum - either Prisoner Zero be handed over to them, or they would incinerate the Earth, arguing that its inhabitants were sheltering it. They placed a force-field around the planet.
The Doctor was able to arrange for the numeral 0 to be broadcast back at them, and the Atraxi were guided to the hospital in Leadworth where Prisoner Zero was in hiding. Once it had been taken back into custody the Atraxi left, but the Doctor called them back. He was furious that they should threaten the planet and showed them how it was defended - by himself.
The Atraxi fled.
In 102 AD, the Atraxi were part of the Pandorica Alliance, which aimed to trap the Doctor to prevent him from destroying the Universe.

Voiced by David de Keyser. Appearances: The Eleventh Hour, and The Pandorica Opens (both 2010).

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Class 1.6 - Reviewed

The latest episode of Class has now been put up on the BBC i-player service - Detained.
No Miss Quill this week, or Head Teacher Dorothea - that's for next week. Tonight we just had the five young regulars in an ensemble piece that takes place in a single room.
Quill has put everyone on detention, so they are locked in a classroom when a tear in space / time opens and a meteorite smashes them into some kind of limbo.
This chunk of glowing rock makes people tell the truth when they hold it - so each of the gang gets their moment. After reliving some significant memory, they start saying what they really feel - mainly about each other. The rock also causes them to become angry.
First up is Matteusz, who admits he's scared of Charlie. Then Tanya has a go, and tells them all how she knows they treat her like a kid. Ram and April both admit the same thing to each other - that she doesn't care for him quite as much as he does for her. Tanya proves to be the smartest person in the room, quickly working out that they can ask the rock questions whilst they are holding it, and so learn what it is, and how they can escape back to Coal Hill.
Turns out the rock contains the consciousness of an alien prisoner. He had four fellow inmates, but has killed them. It looks like this will be the gang's fate, until Charlie has his go.

We've been waiting a while for this character to get into his stride. As an alien he proves stronger than his classmates, and is able to destroy the entity - sending them back home. Trouble is, the prison is now short of a prisoner, and Charlie is about to be dragged back there - being the one with the most guilt. For his race, thinking about a crime is the same as committing it. Quill appears and saves him - only to reveal that this is the last time she'll be doing this. Her hair is suspiciously longer than an hour ago, and she has a livid scar on her face. Next week, we'll find out what she was getting up to whilst the gang was in detention. What we do know is that she is no longer harbouring the parasite that enslaved her to Charlie.
I must admit that most of the characters did not come out of this very well. Ram acted like a right dick, and Tanya proved to be quite racist. An episode like this usually comes quite early in a series - a chance to get dirty washing out of the way so that the characters can then move on and we can start getting to like them. Here, we seem to have gone backwards. Matteusz is the only one who seems to be really nice, so I fear he may not be long for this, or any other, world.
As the penultimate episode is Quill-centric, it leaves only one last episode in which to do some mending for the gang's supposed friendships.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Story 168 - New Earth

In which the new, tenth, incarnation of the Doctor takes Rose on their first trip together. The TARDIS takes them to the year 5,000,000,023, and the planet of New Earth. The Doctor explains that this is where the human race has made its new home. They have arrived close to the city of New New York, which the Doctor claims is actually the fifteenth version of that metropolis. Their arrival has been noticed, as they are spied on by a robotic spider. The Doctor reveals that their destination was not random. He has received a message on his psychic paper to visit a ward in the hospital nearby. The robot spider is feeding images of the pair to a basement of the hospital, where it is being viewed by the Lady Cassandra, and her servant Chip.When the Doctor and Rose enter the hospital, Chip arranges for Rose's elevator to descend rather than go up to the wards. Rose finds herself in the basement where she confronts the "last human" whom she thought had been killed. Cassandra reveals that this stretch of skin is from her back, and Chip had been able to salvage her brain.

Cassandra is aware of some conspiracy going on in the hospital and intends to find out what it is - to steer it to her own advantage. She has a device which allows her mind to transfer itself into Rose - a psycho-graft. The old body and brain matter die - so she cannot transfer back. The Doctor, meanwhile, has discovered that the message he received came from the Face of Boe, who is a patient here. He is being tended by Novice Hame, one of the cat-like Sisters of Plenitude who form the nursing staff of the institution. Hame tells the Doctor of a legend that the Face will impart a message to a lonely traveler before he dies. The Doctor is shocked to find that the Sisters seem to be able to cure many supposedly incurable diseases. The Duke of Manhattan, for instance, is being treated for the usually fatal Petrifold Regression, where the patient turns to stone. He is rejoined by Rose, and immediately notices that she is behaving strangely. Even her accent is different. She prompts him into investigating what is going on in the hospital. He discovers that there is a secret area known as the Intensive Care Unit. They break in and find thousands of cubicles. Within each is a diseased human being. Matron Casp and Sister Jatt arrive. They reveal that the humans are mindless clones - bred to be deliberately infected so that cures can be derived from them.

They had earlier discovered that some of the subjects have been developing sentience. The Doctor informs them that he is going to put a stop to their activities, and then demands to know what they have done to Rose. They deny touching her, and she reveals that she now has the mind of Cassandra. She knocks the Doctor out, and he comes to locked in a cubicle, which is about to be sprayed by a toxic mix of diseases. Cassandra sabotages the systems - inadvertently releasing all of the patients, including the Doctor. One touch from the patients transmits disease which kills in seconds. Casp and Jatt are killed as the patients pursue the Doctor, Rose and Chip. They begin to break out of the Intensive Care section and threaten the rest of the hospital. The Doctor realises that they could spread infection to the nearby city within hours. A quarantine is automatically established.

The patients represent a new form of life, so the Doctor must strive to save everyone without harming them. He insists Cassandra leave Rose. She does - only to enter the Doctor. Rose then insists that she release the Doctor, as he is needed to solve the problem. Cassandra renters Rose after briefly inhabiting one of the patients. The Doctor realises a cocktail of all the cures will be effective against the patients. The elevators have disinfectant spray mechanisms in the ceilings. The Doctor fills one of the tanks with the cure solutions and allows himself to be drenched by them. He then allows some of the patients to touch him. This cures them, and they pass the cure on through further contact. The quarantine is lifted, and the NNYPD arrest the remaining Sisters. Novice Hame tries to justify their actions, but the Doctor refuses to listen. The Face of Boe decides that he still has more life to live, and says that he will meet the Doctor one more time, when he will impart his message. He teleports away. Cassandra has been affected by her brief time in the patient, shocked by their loneliness. Chip reappears but collapses, dying. He is a clone who only has a short lifespan. He remains totally devoted to his mistress. She explains that he was modeled on the last person who ever told her she was beautiful. As a new human species is born, the Doctor convinces Cassandra that her time must come to an end. Chip elects to take her consciousness. The Doctor and Rose take her to the party where she met the person whom Chip was modeled on. This was Chip himself, inhabited by Cassandra.

New Earth was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 15th April, 2006. It opens the second series of the revamped show, and acts as a sequel to Series 1's The End of the World. The Face of Boe, Cassandra, and the robotic spiders return from that story. It is the first alien planet to be seen in the new series. Davies avoids a totally alien world, and so has it another version of the Earth, still concerned that viewers are still not willing to accept "planet Zog".
For this season, each episode will be previewed with a short "Tardisode", written by Gareth Roberts.
Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler are seen briefly at the start, and it is implied that this is the first trip in the TARDIS since the Doctor regenerated at Christmas. Rose will later confirm this, by describing it as their first date.
Billie Piper spends much of the episode inhabited by Cassandra's mind, and affects a posher voice. David Tennant, in his first full episode, also spends some of it channeling Zoe Wanamaker.
We have a body-swap episode, set in a hospital. Hospitals have featured in the show in the past - but usually the cottage variety threatened during alien invasions of the Home Counties.

As it is a season opener, the pace is fast, and there is a lot of humour - despite the horrible premise of human experimentation. It comes across as slightly inconsequential, even though it has one big signifier for future major developments in the series.
The guest cast mostly comprise the Cat Nuns. Novice Hame is played by Anna Hope. Casp is Dona Croll. Jatt is Adjoa Andoh, who we'll be seeing a lot more of in the next series. Sean Gallagher plays Chip, and Michael Fitzgerald plays the portly Duke of Manhattan. Davies had loved the Face of Boe prop made for Series 1, and had felt that it hadn't featured enough. He decided to bring it back as part of a grander scheme. It was refurbished with new animatronics, and this time it speaks - voiced by Struan Rodger.
Story Arc:

  • The Face of Boe legend. It has a message that it will impart to a lonely traveler before it dies.
  • The Doctor has a thing about hospitals having little shops.
The Tardisode:
  • An advert for the hospital and the services offered by the Sisters of Plenitude - presented by Novice Hame. A female voice is heard to scream, and the advert cuts out...

Overall, a perfectly adequate first episode for a series. The ending is a little bit cloying. The Cat Nun masks are fantastic, and there is some great CGI on view as we see the city and the hospital.
Things you might like to know:
  • The filming on the Gower Peninsula for the TARDIS arrival site was ruined by heavy rain. What was filmed had to be redubbed, as the soundtrack was unusable. One shot lost was for the conclusion, as the Doctor, Rose and Cassandra-Chip watched a sunset before gong to the party.
  • There were to have been a lot more scenes with the Duke of Manhattan. The Duke refers to the Doctor as his lucky charm at one point, for no obvious reason. This is because one scene left unfilmed had the Doctor repair his traction winch.
  • Producer Phil Collinson did not like the initial design for the hospital, and the Mill were asked late in the day to come up with an alternative. What we get wouldn't look out of place in Dubai.
  • Once again, Zoe Wanamaker's availability was limited, so Cassandra only appears briefly. Wanamaker does get to appear as herself on screen at the conclusion, as she meets Chip and is then inspired to later create him as a clone servant. Wanamaker was appearing as a recurring character in the final episodes of ITV's Poirot at this time. Her one on screen appearance was filmed during the recording of The Christmas Invasion at Cardiff's Bar Orient.
  • The reception hall for the hospital - filmed in the Cardiff Millennium Centre - will feature as another medical facility in Series 6. It was used as the reception for the Two Streams complex in The Girl Who Waited.
  • When Rose says goodbye to her mother and Mickey before departing with the Doctor, faded "Bad Wolf" graffiti can be seen.
  • The clip of Rose snogging the Doctor was included in the series trailer, causing some annoyance to those fans who are not happy with the Doctor being a sexualised person. All the Doctors will kiss from Eccleston onwards - but always there will be an explanation that reveals that he is never the instigator. The Ninth Doctor was sucking out the Vortex from Rose to save her life, and it was Jack who kissed him. With Martha, it will be a genetic transfer to confuse the Judoon. Donna will kiss him to shock him when he needs an anti-toxin to work. Amy throws herself at him on the eve of her wedding, and it will be Missy who launches herself at the Twelfth Doctor.
  • There is other naughtiness present. When inhabited by Cassandra, the Doctor mentions parts of his anatomy that haven't been used much. Billie Piper wears a padded bra for when she is inhabited by Cassandra, making reference to like being inside a bouncy castle. A couple of swear words are neatly avoided thanks to the neat editing of conversations. Cassandra calls Rose "a little -" and it jumps to the Doctor saying "a bit rich", and when Rose realises that Cassandra is using skin from her back, she accuses her of speaking out of her - "Ask not!" butts in Cassandra (pardon the pun).
  • In the original version of the scripts, the Face of Boe was going to die, and the Doctor was not going to save the new humans. Davies changed these in order to prove Steven Moffat wrong, as he had claimed Davies tended to create characters just to kill them off in nasty ways.
  • Many of the Sisters have veiled faces. This was because only the three lead Cat Nuns had the proper prosthetics. The extras wore basic inflexible cat masks under those veils.
  • A new script editor arrives with this story - Simon Winstone. He had been involved in the Virgin Books New Adventures.
  • One of the Tenth Doctor's catchphrases is heard here for the first time - "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
  • There's a continuity error, as Rose gets into the left hand lift, but exits the right hand one.
  • A thing that don't make no sense. The Cats have the cure for every known disease, because we see the Doctor mix it up in a few minutes. Why then need the ICU patients?
  • The Doctor Who story with the most Carry On references? Some people see it that way. For a start, the illness being treated in the Tardisode is "Hawtrey's Disease". Cassandra inhabiting the Doctor certainly makes him sound like Kenneth Williams, whose doctor characters often had trouble from Matrons. "Ooh, Matron!" indeed.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Class 1.5 - Reviewed

Brave-ish Heart was screened yesterday on BBC 3. It is the second half of the story begun last weekend with the episode Co-Owner of a Broken Heart.
That ended with April and Ram traveling through a space / time rent to the planet of the Shadow Kin, whilst the rest of the gang were about to be overwhelmed by bloodthirsty flower petals.
April has gone to Mordor to challenge Corakinus, the Shadow Kin King. As the two share a heart, we know that this won't have a straightforward outcome.
Back at Coal Hill, the new Head, Dorothea, reveals her plan to force Charlie to use the Cabinet of Souls as a weapon, to rid the Earth of the petals. As a threat they weren't all that well developed last week, but this time we get to see them in grisly action.
Miss Quill wants Charlie to use the weapon not on the petals but on the Shadow Kin.

The two plot strands do not quite gel, making you think that this two-parter could just as easily have been individual episodes. The conclusion does tie the two strands together, but not in a very satisfying way. The Shadow Kin just happen to be able to destroy the petals, and April just happens to have become their new King after beating Corakinus in a rather feeble sword fight.
Of course, he can't be killed without her dying too, so he gets locked up - presumably to allow him to return yet again.
The respective dads of April and Ram also manage to transport themselves to the Shadow realm, and bizarrely seem to take this in their stride.
The character Charlie gets a bit more to do this week, but as a buttoned-up prince the actor Greg Austin doesn't. Even when his lover is being threatened with a gun, there's scarcely a hint of emotion.
The episode ends with Dorothea once more promising that she and her fellow Governors can remove the parasite which enslaves Quill to Charlie - presumably central to the season finale.
Next week's episode - Detention - looks like it might be more of an ensemble piece for the younger cast members.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

A is for... Astra

Princess Astra was the sixth child, of the sixth dynasty, of the sixth royal house of the planet Atrios. She was the last of her line. Atrios had been at war with its twin world of Zeos for many years. Astra had very little authority - acting more as a popular figurehead whilst the planet was run by her Marshal. Sickened by the constant death and destruction, she and her lover - a doctor named Merak - had planned to set up secret peace negotiations with the Zeons, but they found that their messages went unanswered. Suspecting her treachery, the Marshal decided to get rid of her by shutting her up in a heavily irradiated section of the underground city. This actually housed a transmat station, and Astra was captured by the Shadow, servant of the Black Guardian. The Doctor and Romana were seeking the sixth and final segment of the Key to Time on Atrios, and found that the tracer tended to follow Astra's movements. They suspected that she might possess the disguised segment. Astra was taken over by the Shadow and used in his plans to capture the Doctor and gain the first five segments.
On checking Astra's medical records, Merak discovered a genetic anomaly. It transpired that Astra herself was the Sixth Segment. She herself sensed this, and was transformed into the segment on touching the tracer.

It was his disregard for her death that led the Doctor to suspect that the White Guardian, when he turned up to claim the Key, was really the Black Guardian. The Doctor re-scattered the Key segments, and so Astra was restored and reunited with Merak.
Her likeness was later adopted by Romana when she regenerated.

Played by Lalla Ward. Appearances: The Armageddon Factor (1979).

  • Mary Tamm had resisted all efforts by the production team to agree to do a second year on Doctor Who. Tamm was one of those who recommended Ward to take over from her, having seen how well she got on with Tom Baker.
  • Astra's parents must have only just died - else why is she not a queen? A coronation would surely have been a great morale boost for the Marshal.
  • Astra's restoration suggests that all of the Key segments returned to the forms initially found by the Doctor and Romana - making them susceptible to the Black Guardian surely? The Doctor no doubt thought of that when he scattered them - treating Astra as a special case whilst the other five pieces got new forms. With total power over the entire universe, he may even have willed it that she was no longer a key segment.

A is for... Asquith, General

Senior army officer in London at the time of the State of Emergency declared after a spaceship collided with Big Ben and crashed into the Thames. He assumed command of the military response. When the occupant of the spaceship was taken to the Albion Hospital, he went to view it - meeting Dr Toshiko Sato, who was actually a Torchwood agent.
He then travelled to Downing Street in order to confront the acting Prime Minister - Joseph Green - about his poor leadership of the situation. He met with Green, Margaret Blaine and Oliver Charles. They proved to be disguised Slitheen. Asquith was killed, and the Slitheen who had been imitating Charles then occupied his body-suit, as the General was of more use to them.

Played by Rupert Vansittart. Appearances: Aliens of London & World War Three (2005).

  • Vansittart tends to be cast as members of the aristocracy and other establishment figures. He was one of only a handful of cast members to appear throughout the whole run of popular ITV rural police show Heartbeat. He has appeared in three seasons of Game of Thrones - as a Lord, naturally.

A is for... Ashton (2)

Dev Ashton was an engineer on the SS Pentallian. This vessel used an illegal sun-scoop to harvest material from a star in the Torajii System. This proved to be a sentient sun. It infected Korwin, husband of the ship's captain Kath McDonnell. Korwin then infected Ashton, and together they began killing the rest of the crew. Only freezing could kill or slow down the infected men. Ashton chased Martha Jones and crew member Riley Vashtee into an escape pod. He activated it to send them spiraling into the sun, but they were rescued by the Doctor. Ashton was killed when he was subjected to freezing after being forced into the ship's stasis chamber, part of the medical bay.

Played by Gary Powell. Appearances: 42 (2007).

A is for... Ashton (1)

A black marketeer encountered by Ian Chesterton during the Dalek invasion of the Earth in the mid 22nd Century. He came and went through the perimeter of the mining camp in Bedfordshire - trading food for the valuables of the slave workers who were being forced to dig the Dalek mine. His only interest was his own greed, and he spared no thought for helping anyone but himself. Whilst hiding in an earth mover machine, the man-eating Slyther broke in and devoured him.

Played by: Patrick O'Connell. Appearances: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964).

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Class 1.4 - Reviewed

As with previous weeks - do not read on unless you have seen the latest episode of Class - Co-owner of a Lonely Heart.
The main focus this time is April. Back in the first episode, she found herself sharing her heart with the King of the Shadow Kin - Corakinus. He's back again - trying to get full ownership of the organ.
His influence over April is increasing - leading her to start thinking like he does, and to produce a pair of scimitars when she gets angry.
She has plenty to be angry about, as her dad has just been released from prison and has turned up in the area. We found out earlier that he had tried to kill himself by crashing their car - with April and her mother inside. This is why mum is confined to a wheelchair.
April started seeing Ram last week - and this week they consummated their relationship (in safe fashion I should add).

Elsewhere, Charlie has shown Matteusz the Cabinet of Souls, and Matteusz isn't happy at the thought that his boyfriend might be capable of genocide. The souls on release could inhabit other peoples' bodies and destroy them, or take them over. Either way, another race would die.
Miss Quill, meanwhile, has met the new Head Teacher (Pooky Quesnel, who was the spaceship captain in A Christmas Carol). There's more to her than meets the eye. She works for the Governors - the ones who had a robot infiltrate the academy in the second episode. She is concerned about flower blossoms that are unseasonably falling in the area. These things feed on blood, and are multiplying at an alarming rate. Naturally, they're alien - one blossom having fallen through one of the space / time tears.
The episode ends on a cliffhanger - with April having nearly killed her dad and cured her mum's paralysis now jumping through a tear to confront Corakinus. Ram has jumped through after her. The lethal flower blossoms are still unresolved, and the new Head Teacher claims she can free Quill from her enslavement to Charlie.
Another very good episode. If this one travels at a slightly slower pace, it's because it is the start of a longer storyline. I didn't know it was to be a two-parter when I sat down to watch it this evening.
Charlie is the one character who is least defined. Presumably, the show will focus more on him once it moves towards the final episodes.

November's Figurines

A couple of one-off aliens this month - creatures that we are unlikely to see return to the programme. The earliest is the Monoid, from The Ark. One of these did make an anachronistic appearance at Verity Lambert's leaving party in a deleted scene from An Adventure In Space and Time.
The Monoid was actually quite an effective alien design, with the eye ball in the actor's mouth. It was let down by the Beatles mop-top, and their shuffling gait.
The Vigil - from The Rings of Akhaten - are also a very good design. It is just such a pity that this design was wasted on this episode, where the Vigil simply didn't do very much at all.
Next month we are promised the Sontaran Commander Linx.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Story 167 - The Christmas Invasion

In which the TARDIS crash-lands in the middle of the Powell Estate, on Christmas Eve. Jackie and Mickey have heard its approach and are there to see it arrive. They are shocked when Rose introduces the stranger who emerges as the Doctor. He collapses and has to be put to bed. Mickey takes Rose shopping. As they pass through a street market, a group of figures dressed as Santas are playing carols. Their instruments conceal weapons, and they come under attack. The figures are flattened by a falling Christmas tree, brought down by their own guns. Rose and Mickey hurry home, and discover that a new tree has been delivered. Jackie thinks it came from Rose, but this is not the case. The tree suddenly starts spinning, its edges razor sharp. It advances towards them. They barricade themselves in the bedroom where the Doctor is lying. He suddenly wakes up and destroys it with his sonic screwdriver. They all go out onto the balcony and see the Santa Clause figures watching from the street. The Doctor threatens them, and they dematerialise. He explains that they are just the "pilot fish". Some greater danger is approaching.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Harriet Jones is being rushed to UNIT HQ, which is hidden beneath the Tower of London. Contact with the Guinevere One probe, launched for Mars, has been lost. Mission controller Daniel Llewellyn is also brought to the HQ. The probe has actually been dragged inside a huge asteroid which is travelling towards the Earth. Contact is re-established, and TV viewers across the globe see a quartet of alien beings on their screens. As dawn breaks on Christmas morning, the asteroid arrives in the skies above central London. Shortly afterwards, millions of people across the planet come under some strange kind of hypnotic control - compelled to climb up onto the roofs of their homes and workplaces. Harriet's PA, Alex, has a translation device which can interpret the aliens' language. They demand to speak to the planet's leader. Harriet assumes this role. She, Alex, Llewellyn, and UNIT Major Blake are all teleported up to the heart of the asteroid, which has been hollowed out for use as a spaceship by the Sycorax.

Llewellyn has worked out that the aliens have used a blood sample housed in the probe to influence all the people with a similar group to fall under the hypnotic control. The Sycorax leader demands millions of human beings as slaves, or those affected will be made to jump to their deaths. He kills Major Blake and Llewellyn. Rose decides to take the still comatose Doctor into the safety of the TARDIS. Mickey attempts to tune the scanner into the TV networks, and this technology is registered by the Sycorax. They teleport the ship up to their craft, leaving Jackie back on the ground. When Rose steps outside to see what is keeping her, she finds herself captured by the skull-faced aliens. Mickey also emerges, but is able to shut the TARDIS doors behind him. Rose attempts to bluff the Sycorax into leaving the Earth alone. As she speaks with their leader, Alex suddenly notices that the translation device is no longer needed. In the ship, the Doctor is waking up - roused by some spilled tea.

He emerges from the TARDIS, overjoyed to see Rose and Mickey, and to meet Harriet Jones again. He totally disregards the Sycorax leader - more interested in his new appearance and what kind of a person he now is. He quickly demonstrates that the "blood control" is phony. It can hypnotise, but can never be used to make people kill themselves. He releases the affected humans from its influence.
He then challenges the Sycorax leader to a duel with broadswords. The winner takes the planet. They fight, and their struggle takes them out onto one of the wings of the vast spacecraft. The Sycorax leader lops off the Doctor's left hand - but he reveals that within the first 15 hours of regeneration his body still has remarkable healing energies - and the hand grows back. The leader is defeated, but then tries to attack the Doctor as he walks away. A well aimed satsuma, produced from the pocket of his dressing gown, plunges the leader to his death. The Doctor tells the Sycorax to leave and never return, and to let it be known that Earth is defended. They all teleport back down to the ground, along with the TARDIS, as the Sycorax ship leaves orbit. Harriet then orders Alex to give an order to Torchwood. Massive laser weapons open fire and the retreating alien ship is destroyed. The Doctor is appalled, and decides to bring Harriet's premiership to an end with a few words - suggesting she is not up to the job. That evening, the Doctor selects a new set of clothes, and then joins Rose, Mickey and Jackie for dinner. Rose has fully accepted that this man really is the Doctor, and they plan their next travels together.

This 60 minute Christmas Special was written by Russell T Davies, and was made as part of the second series of Doctor Who. It was broadcast on Christmas night, 25th December, 2005.
It is the first of what will become an annual event, and introduces viewers to the Tenth Doctor for the first time, apart from his brief appearance in the Children In Need mini episode the month before. UNIT return, and it is established that they are based under the Tower of London.
Christmas Specials will also see the introduction of action set-pieces for the TARDIS - in this case it materialises in mid-air and bounces off walls before colliding with the bins on the Powell Estate.
This extra episode in the production schedule would mean that a later story in the season would need to have minimal input from David Tennant and Billie Piper - so the "Doctor-lite" stories begin here also.
By this stage, the third series had already been commissioned, as well as another Christmas Special for 2006 - so Davies was able to begin planning more complex story arcs. Harriet Jones' fall from power, and the Doctor's lost hand, would be instrumental to the Series 3 conclusion for instance. Indeed, this story sows the seeds of the Tenth Doctor's eventual demise.
Davies sat down to write The Christmas Invasion with a number of aims in mind. First of all, it had to be big and bold; then it had to introduce a new Doctor; and finally it had to satisfy the casual viewer who might not usually watch the series but would do so on the day families sit down to watch TV together - so no excessive continuity references. Oh, and it also had to be very Christmas-y.
We get Santa assassins and killer Christmas trees in the first 20 minutes.

Penelope Wilton returns as Harriet Jones, now Prime Minister. Davies chooses to have this much loved character turn out to be not quite so nice a woman as the one encountered by the Doctor and Rose in Downing Street. Arguing that the Doctor isn't always around to help, she elects to destroy a retreating spaceship - a deed inspired by Mrs Thatcher and the sinking of the Argentinian warship Belgrano. He also has a dig at perceived notions that UK leaders blindly follow their US counterparts when it comes to waging war. Bush Jnr and Blair seem not to have watched this bit of the episode.
Other cast members are Adam Garcia as Alex, Daniel Evans as Llewellyn, and Chu Omambala as Major Blake. The Sycorax leader is played by Sean Gilder. He had a particularly bad time of it under his prosthetics and thick cloak, as the sword fight was filmed during very hot weather.
Story Arc elements:

  • It is an organisation called Torchwood which Harriet has Alex call upon to blow up the Sycorax spaceship.
  • The 15 hour rule for regenerations.
  • The Doctor loses a hand, which falls somewhere in London.
  • The Doctor triggers the election for a new Prime Minister.

Overall, a cracking 60 minutes. Great SFX, and the right mix of humour and adventure for the post boozy-dinner audience watching on the night of first broadcast. The Doctor is left in bed for two thirds of the episode, but it makes his entrance all the more impressive.
Things you might like to know:

  • For the first time in a long time, the Doctor will be billed as such in the closing titles - not as "Doctor Who". Tennant specifically requested this, in the same way that his future father-in-law had done when he took over from Tom Baker.
  • The middle-eight in the theme music is re-introduced.
  • Murray Gold also writes a song especially for the episode - Song For Ten. It is Tim Phillips who sings it in the programme as broadcast. On the later CD release, Divine Comedy lead Neil Hannon sings it, with new lyrics.
  • It will become a running gag that snow falling at Christmas is never really snow. In this case, it is dust from the vapourised spaceship which falls on the Powell Estate.
  • We see another room in the TARDIS - the clothing store. This is just a redressed control room set. Pay close attention and you will see items from earlier stories - such as Steven Taylor's stripey jumper.
  • The Sycorax make for very good villains, and yet have never been brought back save for cameos. They form part of the Pandorica Alliance, and one of them is in the bar where Captain Jack will pick up Midshipman Frame.
  • The name Sycorax derives from Shakespeare. She was a witch - mother to Caliban in The Tempest. She doesn't appear - only mentioned. We will later discover that it was the Doctor who gave the Bard this name.
  • The problems with Guinevere One were topical at the time, as the previous Christmas had seen the loss of the UK's Beagle 2 probe, which crashed on its landing on Mars.
  • Llewellyn works for the British Rocket Group - set up by Bernard Quatermass. It had been referenced in Doctor Who once before - in Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • Major Blake points out that the Sycorax do not look like Martians - suggesting an unseen Ice Warrior story. Either that or the Doctor simply showed them what they looked like. UNIT will later somehow manage to get hold of a photograph of Sarah Jane Smith taken in the Citadel on Peladon.
  • We learn that the TARDIS telepathic circuits need the Doctor to be conscious to work - so he must act as a conduit.
  • It is suggested that Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, is a real person. The Doctor claims he is a nice man, as though he has met him.
  • At some point the Doctor has seen The Lion King, as he quotes from it when speaking to the Sycorax leader.
  • The Doctor's bringing down of Harriet Jones does rather contradict his earlier assertion that she ushered in some sort of golden age, as she could only have been in power for a matter of months.
  • A deleted scene had the Doctor trying to say his predecessor's catchword "Fantastic!" but failing, due to getting used to his new teeth. The pay off would have been when he does get to say it at the end.
  • Also deleted was the Doctor explaining his new accent - claiming that it came from Rose, who had imprinted herself on him like a chick just emerged from its shell.
  • The "15 hours after regeneration" rule has now been taken by fans to explain how Romana can try on different bodies at the beginning of Destiny of the Daleks.
  • The Doctor is known to be an excellent swordsman - having learned from one of Cleopatra's guard commanders. He has been seen to put his fencing skills to use against the Master in The Sea Devils, and again in The King's Demons, and against Count Grendel of Gracht, in The Androids of Tara.