Sunday, 30 July 2017

Inspirations: Mission to the Unknown

Mission to the Unknown is an odd beast - a single episode storyline that acts as a prequel to the 12 part Dalek epic that follows, though not immediately. There is no Doctor, Steven, Vicki or TARDIS.
Instead we get a space secret agent - Marc Cory - and his astronaut colleagues, investigating the sighting of a strange spaceship seen near the jungle planet of Kembel.
Last week, Vicki had seen this planet on the TARDIS scanner, and wondered aloud what might be happening there. We saw one of the astronauts - a man named Garvey - wandering through the jungle, seemingly obsessed with killing.
Kembel is infested with hostile plant-forms called Vargas. If one of their spines breaks the skin, victims become homicidally deranged as they turn into Varga Plants themselves. Even after death, they continue to mutate. The Vargas are not native to Kembel. They have been bred on the planet Skaro by the Daleks.

Cory is a member of the Space Special Security Service. He is one of their top agents and tells his pilot, Lowery, that he has the right to commandeer spacecraft. He also says that he is "licensed to kill" - letting the audience know exactly where the inspiration for his character comes from.
By the time this episode aired, there had been three Bond movies released in the cinemas, and the most recent - Goldfinger - had really turned the franchise into a global phenomenon. Spoofs and merchandising proliferated. The fourth movie - Thunderball - would have been due in the cinemas a couple of months later (the UK premiere was 29th December, 1965) and the publicity would already have been evident. Terry Nation had been working on a number of glossy spy-fi TV series much influenced by the success of Bond when he came up with his space secret service.
Cory's rocket has United Nations markings on its tail, as well as the Union Jack. Nice to see both geo-political entities are still present in the year 3999.

Cory discovers that the Daleks have set up a base on Kembel and have formed an alliance comprising a number of alien races. They plan to launch an attack on the rest of the cosmos - starting with the Solar System. Advanced publicity referred to this group as UGH - United Galactic Headquarters. The same publicity calls the planet Varga, so can't be relied upon. The alien representatives are called Malpha (the bald white figure with the patterned skin), Trantis (the short black haired fellow with the face tendrils), Gearon, Celation, Beaus and Sentreal. Debate still rages as to which of the other costumes these refer to. Celation will appear in The Daleks' Master Plan, but not looking like any of these, whilst Trantis will lose his face tendrils. The chap who looks like a collection of Hogwarts' Sorting Hats stacked on top of each other doesn't appear at all in the Master Plan.
Giving this group an acronymic title is yet another Bond reference, as he was facing SPECTRE and SMERSH on the big screens. Pity poor Napoleon Solo, who had to contend with THRUSH.

Terry Nation had a love of war films, and in particular those set in the Pacific arena. He loved jungle and swamp settings, and had a soft spot for hostile plant-life which he would return to many times in his writing. A swamp full of mutated creatures had featured in his very first Dalek story, as well as the planet Mechanus in their third outing. That had featured the deadly plant creatures known as Fungoids. Part 3 of The Keys of Marinus had also revolved around plants that killed. When he comes to write his greatest hits package for the show's 10th anniversary year, it will feature jungle warfare and deadly plant-life in a big way.
Cory never does manage to warn his bosses of the Dalek threat. He gets killed, with a tape recording hidden on his person. This marks the first ever story in which everyone on the side of Good gets killed.
This is also where we say goodbye to Verity Lambert, who steps down as producer. She's off to get Adam Adamant off the ground, and John Wiles takes full control of the programme - much to William Hartnell's consternation.
Despite being only one episode, with an on-screen title, there is still some debate amongst fans as to the story title. Some BBC paperwork refers to this as "Dalek Cutaway" and some people seem to think that this should be the correct title. This is clearly a production term - as we are cutting away from the Doctor's adventures to have a stand-alone one with the Daleks. Only an idiot would accept this as a story title.
Having the Daleks on their own, without the Doctor and his companions, will give Nation the idea that his creations might just work on their own, divorced from the parent programme with a new group of heroes to fight against, based on his space secret service. More of this later...
Next time - Great Zeus! It's the Celestial Troymaker...

Friday, 28 July 2017

C is for... Carstairs

A young Lieutenant in the British Army, serving in France in 1917. He and his men halted an ambulance which had been captured by the Germans, thus freeing Lady Jennifer Buckingham - the driver - and her passengers, whom she had picked up in the middle of No Man's Land. These were the Doctor and his companions, Jamie and Zoe. At the British HQ, Carstairs and Jennifer were called upon to take part as witnesses in a court martial in which the time-travellers were accused by General Smythe of being spies. Carstairs was unsettled by the proceedings, feeling the prisoners had not been given a fair hearing. He had been subjected to mental conditioning, and this was starting to break down. Speaking to Jennifer, he realised that both could not remember their recent past. He helped the Doctor and his friends escape and steal the ambulance from the HQ, and was with them when they drove through a strange bank of mist - to find themselves confronted by Roman soldiers.
Returning to the HQ they went to Smythe's private quarters and found evidence of alien technology hidden there. Carstairs' conditioning broke down fully and he accepted the Doctor's explanation that they were no longer in France but on some alien planet where a number of different battles from Earth's history were being fought in various time zones.
In the American Civil War zone, Carstairs was captured and taken to the alien command centre where he was reprocessed. He recognised Zoe as an enemy spy and was prepared to shoot her. The Doctor undid the reprocessing, and Carstairs then helped to lead the resistance movement which the Doctor initiated.
After the Doctor had summoned the Time Lords to come and stop the war games, Carstairs accompanied him and his companions back into the 1917 zone where the TARDIS lay. He then planned to go and find Jennifer, for whom he had formed a romantic attachment. The Time Lords returned him to his correct time and place in history.
His memory would have been wiped, but he had already proved himself adept at breaking mental conditioning.

Played by: David Savile. Appearances: The War Games (1969).

  • First of three appearances in the programme for Savile. The second was as the scientist Winser in The Claws of Axos, and the most recent was as the Brigadier's replacement, commanding the UK contingent of UNIT, in The Five Doctors. He's married to Lois Baxter - Madam Lamia in The Androids of Tara.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

C is for... Carrionites

An incredibly ancient race, who derived their power from words rather than numbers. Embarking on a war with another powerful race which threatened the nascent universe, the Eternals stepped in and banished them to the realm of the Deep Darkness.
A trio of Carrionites escaped and found their way to London in the late 16th Century. They had with them a crystal sphere in which their race were imprisoned. They took on humanoid female form, adopting the names Lilith, Doomfinger and Bloodtide. Maintaining this form took a lot of energy, and so they appeared as wizened old women. The younger of the three - Lilith - was also the strongest, and she was able to retain the appearance of a beautiful woman for much of the time. To the locals of the period they would be seen as witches, and their word-science would have sounded like witchcraft.
They were able to influence people's minds so long as they had a piece of their genetic material to work with. A few strands of hair would do, attaching them to a crude facsimile of their victim to create a DNA replication module.
They thrived on blood, and Lilith would ensnare young men on whom they would feed.

They planned to free the rest of their kind from the Deep Darkness by exploiting the words of the playwright William Shakespeare, preying on the emotions he felt at the loss of his son. They first made the architect Peter Streete design the Globe Theatre with 14 sides - reflecting their home planetary system of Rexel 4. They then set about influencing Shakespeare to write a play - "Love's Labours Won" - which would contain the words needed to unlock the prison in which the rest of the Carrionites were held. When the Master of Revels threatened to stop the play being performed, Lilith stole a lock of his hair, attached it to one of their DNA replication modules and immersed it in a barrel of water - causing him to drown on dry land.
Peter Streete was driven mad by his contact with them, and they killed him in Bedlam to stop him helping the Doctor, Martha and Shakespeare - causing his heart to stop. When the Doctor identified their species, he used the power of their name to attack them. Knowing he posed a threat to their plans, Lilith stopped his heart - not realising he was a Time Lord and so carried a spare.
The play was staged at the Globe, and at the climax the cast said the lines that had been inserted. Carrionites started to materialise in their true form - large skeletal raven-like creatures.

The Doctor had Shakespeare create new words to use against them, with Martha throwing in a final "Expelliarmus!" from J K Rowling, to cast them all back into the crystal sphere and the Deep Darkness. The Doctor took the sphere and kept it locked away in a locker in the TARDIS.

Played by: Christina Cole (Lilith), Amanda Lawrence (Doomfinger), and Linda Clark (Bloodtide). Appearances: The Shakespeare Code (2007).

  • The Carrionite sphere is seen again in The Unicorn and the Wasp (by the same author - Gareth Roberts) where it is being held in a locker containing things beginning with the letter 'C'.
  • Prior to this Christina Cole was best known for playing another witch character, in the TV series Hex.
  • The story is full of Shakespeare in-jokes. The three Carrionites are obviously based on Macbeth's Three Weird Sisters.
  • The name derives from carrion - the decaying flesh of dead animals - and the birds which feed upon it, such as ravens and crows, which influence the design of their natural forms.

C is for... Carrington

When the Doctor met General Charles Carrington he was head of security for the UK Space programme. He had previously been an astronaut, and had been the sole survivor of the Mars Probe 6 mission. He and colleague Jim Daniels had encountered a race of aliens on Mars who thrived on radiation, and contact with them had inadvertently killed Daniels. Carrington kept the details of what had happened secret, and developed a pathological hatred for the aliens. He decided on a plan to destroy them.
The aliens abducted the crew of Mars Probe 7, substituting them with two of their kind who would return to Earth in their place to act as ambassadors. The astronaut on the Recovery 7 vessel sent up to make contact with the returning men was likewise abducted.
Carrington knew of the aliens' radio frequency and used it to lure them into a trap. He employed the senior scientist at Space Centre - Bruno Taltalian - to commit acts of sabotage to prevent anyone from knowing what he was doing. He also formed his own mercenary outfit made up of ex-servicemen. They were used to guard the warehouse from where he sent radio signals to the aliens.
When the Probe 7 ship landed, his men helped him to hijack it. When this plan was foiled by the Doctor, who disabled the masked Carrington and his deputy by sticking them to "Bessie" using a forcefield, he adopted a second plan - abducting the aliens from Space Centre under cover of a false fire drill.
The aliens would be kept under guard by another employee - a terrorist named Regan. He would use them to carry out a number of crimes - thefts and killings. The plan was to discredit the aliens, and then to provoke global animosity towards them. He could not see that the aliens would destroy the Earth if their ambassadors were not returned safely to them. He was utterly convinced he had a moral duty to protect the planet from them.
As the alien mothership approached the Earth, Carrington had the Brigadier and his men put under arrest, and prepared for a global TV broadcast to incite hatred towards the aliens.
The Brigadier escaped, and he and the Doctor were able to halt the broadcast. Carrington was placed under arrest, still convinced he had done the right thing.

Played by: John Abineri. Appearances: The Ambassadors of Death (1970).

  • Second of four appearances by John Abineri in the programme. He first featured in Fury From The Deep with Patrick Troughton. He returned in Death to the Daleks, and finally in The Power of Kroll.
  • For me, Abineri will always be best known as Herne The Hunter from Robin of Sherwood, but his most famous role is probably that one as the butler in the Ferrero Rocher advert - ironically set at an Ambassador's Reception.

C is for... Carmen

One of the passengers on the No.200 bus which vanished through a wormhole whilst travelling through a tunnel under the Thames. She was with her husband, Lou. She had low level psychic abilities, able to sense the fate of the planet San Helios, and the approaching alien Swarm. Lou confirmed that she picked winning lottery ticket numbers every week - just the basic £10, but every single week.
Once the bus had returned to London, Carmen had a message for the Doctor. "You be careful, because your song is ending, sir. It is returning, returning through the dark. And then Doctor... oh but then... he will knock four times..."

Played by: Ellen Thomas. Appearances: Planet of the Dead (2009).

  • Carmen sees the end of the Tenth Doctor. The Ood had foretold that his song would end soon. It is Gallifrey that is returning, and it will be Wilf who will knock four times - causing the Doctor to ultimately regenerate.
  • Carmen and Lou never get off the bus whilst on San Helios, so Ellen Thomas and Reginald Tsiboe did not get to travel to Dubai.

C is for... Captain (2)

When Sarah Jane Smith and her young friends Rani and Clyde were lured to an antiques shop by a newspaper article, they met a mysterious man - the Shopkeeper - who had a pet parrot, which he called the Captain. The Shopkeeper sent them all on a quest through history to collect a number of metallic objects. They were made from Chronosteel, forged within the temporal vortex, and all had to be collected together otherwise disaster would befall the cosmos.
On returning to the present day, their mission completed successfully, Sarah and her friends discovered that the Shopkeeper actually worked for the Captain.
Some time later, Sarah discovered a baby abandoned on her doorstep. The girl caused electrical overloads when she cried. The child grew rapidly, and adopted the name Sky. It transpired that she had been bred as a weapon by an alien race of humanoids who were at war with the Metalkind. Sky elected to stay on Earth with Sarah, and it was revealed that it was the Shopkeeper and the Captain who had left the baby for Sarah to look after.

Appearances: SJA 4.5: Lost in Time (2010), and SJA 5.1: Sky (2011).

  • Had the series continued, the Shopkeeper and the Captain would have featured again. Their origins are never explained.

C is for... Captain (1)

When the Vantarialis, the most feared pirate raider in the galaxy, crash-landed on the planet Zanak, its captain was left badly injured. He was saved by the planet's ruler - Xanxia. The whole left side of his body was replaced with cybernetic implants. His ship was cannibalised to construct the Bridge, a mountain-top command centre which overlooked the principal city. Beneath, massive temporal engines were constructed, and the planet was heavily mined. Xanxia died, and the Captain took over the planet. He would announce times of new prosperity, and the populace would see the stars in the sky change as their mines were miraculously replenished.
The Captain was of a fierce temper, and sadistic in nature. He had as a pet a robotic bird of prey - the Polyphase Avatron - which he used to kill subordinates who failed him. A taciturn young nurse looked after him constantly. He had one trusted and loyal underling - Mr Fibuli - but even he was frequently bullied by the Captain.
When the Doctor, Romana and K9 arrived on Zanak, looking for the planet Calufrax in their quest for the Key to Time, they learned the truth about the planet and its leader. The Captain had turned the whole world into one gigantic time ship. It would envelop smaller victim worlds, extinguishing all life so that the resources could be plundered. It transpired that Xanxia was still alive - held in stasis by Time Dams at the moment of her death. The plundering of the other planets was to provide the power she needed to create a new, younger body for herself - that of the nurse. She had control over his cyborg components and had made a slave of him. However, he was secretly working on a means to breach the Time Dams to destroy her and free himself.
The TARDIS was used to sabotage the time engines and prevent Zanak from destroying the Earth. The Captain was heartbroken when Mr Fibuli was killed as the Bridge was crippled. When he attempted to stand up to Xanxia, she destroyed him by self-destructing his cybernetic systems.

Played by: Bruce Purchase. Appearances: The Pirate Planet (1978).

  • His cybernetic body parts give the Captain futuristic equivalents of an eye-patch and a peg-leg, whilst his robot bird acts as an electronic parrot sitting on his shoulder - all attributes of stereotypical literary pirate captains like Long John Silver. Mr Fibuli is the equivalent of Captain Hook's Mr Smee.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Ghost Machine - Torchwood 1.3

In which the Torchwood team have detected the use of an alien artefact in the middle of Cardiff city centre. As Tosh guides them from the Hub, the source is identified as coming from a young man. He manages to give Gwen the slip at the railway station, though he leaves his jacket behind. In the pocket, she finds the alien device. She accidentally operates it, and finds herself seeing the station as it was during the last war. A young evacuee emerges, lost. Not only can Gwen see him, but she can feel his fear and loneliness. He has a label on his clothes - Tom Erasmus Flanagan. Whilst she can see the boy, he cannot see her. Suddenly Gwen is back in the present day as Jack and Owen arrive.
Back at the Hub, CCTV is checked and Gwen sees that she did not go anywhere during the encounter with the "ghost". Owen looks up the name of the boy in the phone-book, and finds an address for someone of that name. Gwen and Owen pay him a visit and find him to be an old man. He recalls having arrived in the city as a child - evacuated from London, and he did indeed get separated from his friends at the station. Gwen realises that she had formed a psychic link with the past through the alien device.

The young man who had the device is identified as Sean Harris - known as Bernie. They go to look for him and find out that he is a petty criminal and a loner who is estranged from his mother. Jack decides to replicate what happened to Gwen and so the team head for the station. As they pass under a railway bridge over the river, Owen activates the device. He witnesses a young man and woman, in early 1960's fashions. She is called Lizzie Lewis, and he Eddie Morgan, and he has followed her from a nearby dancehall. When she rejects his advances, he pulls a knife on her... Owen returns to the present, shocked by what he has seen and felt. Back at the Hub, Owen starts to investigate Lizzie's murder, and tracks down Eddie Morgan's address. Jack helps Gwen with her target practice before sending her home to Rhys. She has taken the device with her, and uses it to relive happy memories of her time with her boyfriend. Owen goes to see Eddie and tells him of what he saw under the bridge. Eddie becomes angry and throws him out, but Owen then sees Bernie hanging around outside. He manages to catch him and the others join them in a pub.

It turns out Bernie knows nothing of the device's origins. He found it, and another like it, along with some strange coins and rocks in a lock-up garage. He tells them it activated and he saw a woman, whom he recognised as an old lady now, disposing of a dead baby in the river, and when he confronted her about this she gave him money not to say anything. Bernie reveals that the other part of the device does not show the past. It shows the future, and he has seen himself lying bleeding in the street. Bernie had seen what Owen saw, and had been trying to blackmail Eddie Morgan. As Gwen holds the device, she sees herself covered in blood and holding a knife. She thinks that she has killed Owen.
Eddie has been suffering from mental health problems for a number of years, and has not left his house for a long time, but he decides to go after Bernie armed with a knife. The team manage to stop him from killing the young man, and Owen takes the knife from him. He wants to hurt the old man, after what he had seen him do, but his colleagues talk him out of it. Eddie is glad that he did not kill Bernie and as he goes to hug Gwen he accidentally pierces his heart with the knife she is holding.
Back at the Hub, Jack has Ianto lock the device away.

Ghost Machine was written by Helen Raynor, and was first broadcast on 29th October, 2006. Raynor had been script editing Doctor Who prior to this.
It is a great leap forward after what has been a very shaky start to the series. As with the first two episodes, Gwen has a significant role to play, but this is the first time that the focus also shifts towards Owen Harper.
There's nothing original about having a machine that shows you the future, or the past, but this device has the added function of empathically allowing its user to experience the emotions as well. They feel as well as see.
Principal guest star is Gareth Thomas as Eddie Morgan, best known as Blake in Blake's 7. This was his only appearance in the Doctor Who franchise. He's called upon to play a seedy old man, mentally unbalanced, with a pathological hatred of women - a far cry from the more heroic roles of his youth.
The older version of the evacuee - Tom - is played by John Normington, who will always be remembered by Doctor Who fans for his brilliant portrayal of Morgus in The Caves of Androzani. This was one of his final performances.
The other guest role of note is Ben McKay as Bernie.

Overall, a much stronger episode than what has gone before, with a great guest cast.
Things you might like to know:

  • Jack teaches Gwen how to shoot a gun, after she previously said she had no firearms training. This will be necessary for forthcoming episodes where she's called upon to fire guns. The Hub has its own shooting range - in a rail tunnel.
  • Outside Bernie's flat there is some graffiti on a bin - a letter 'P' in a circle. This is left over from the filming of the Rise of the Cybermen story, as it is the symbol for the Preachers. 
  • When visiting Eddie, Owen uses the fake ID of a gas workman. Amongst his other fake IDs is one for UNIT.
  • He reveals himself to be a fan of Strictly Come Dancing, knowing it was won by a newsreader.
  • Eddie has been prescribed SSRI. At the time of writing, this is being linked with a number of homicides in the UK and USA.
  • One big continuity error - Tosh states that Eddie is claustrophobic, yet later he is said to be agoraphobic.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Twice Upon A Time

Once upon a time any preview material shown at Comic-Con had all manner of injunctions against anyone who wasn't in the hall from seeing it. Fans used to complain bitterly that they weren't allowed to see trailers or clips, and RTD and Moffat would insist stuff wasn't leaked.
Well twice upon a time, the video now gets released straight away. Twice Upon A Time is the name of the 2017 Xmas Special, Capaldi's swan-song in which he's joined by David Bradley's First Doctor and what looks to be a temporary companion - "The Captain" - played by Mark Gatiss.

Talking of companions, we also get a glimpse of Polly, and it has been confirmed that Bill will also get to say goodbye to the Doctor. If she finds out the next incarnation is a woman, she might well want to sign up to TARDIS duties once again.

Bets being taken now that the Captain will turn out to be the Brigadier's dad - hence the lack of name.
The clip begins with a scene from the second episode of The Tenth Planet - with Hartnell morphing into Bradley.

There's something about time standing still, with the Doctors stuck in a moment of time. There's also some stuff with them running through explosions, and being seen in a chamber with chains hanging down and what looks like bodies in alcoves behind.

It all looks very intriguing. No sign of who or what the enemy of the piece might be.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Deborah Watling (1948 - 2017)

Sad news to report today - the death of another companion actor. Debbie Watling, who played Victoria Waterfield during the classic monster era of the Second Doctor, has passed away.
She joined the series in Evil of the Daleks, and accompanied Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines aboard the TARDIS until Fury of the Deep, when she screamed herself out of the series. In between. she met Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Yeti, as well as a villain who looked just like the Doctor.
One of those Yeti encounters also meant working alongside her dad - actor Jack Watling, playing Prof. Travers.
Sadly, Debbie's period on the show has been one of the hardest hit when it comes to the loss of episodes from the archives, but we did get that 11 episode batch returned in 2013.
I came to the programme just after she had left - my earliest memories are of The Wheel in Space - but many of the stories featuring Victoria were novelised early on when I started to collect the Target books, so I have always had a soft spot for the character.
After leaving the series Debbie mostly worked in theatre, and she returned to play Victoria in the Dimensions In Time CiN special, as well as the video spin-off Downtime.
Fans can enjoy seeing the young Debbie if you tune into the Talking Pictures channel - where they are regularly showing The Invisible Man TV series in which she was a semi-regular.
Next time you play those DVDs of her stories which have survived, stick on the audio commentary and have a listen to what she has to say about her time on the programme. She was only there for a year, but it clearly meant a lot to her ever since.
Rest in Peace Debbie.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

July's Figurines

Three figurines this month - two regular releases plus the latest of the Dalek specials. All three hail from the Classic era of the series. First up is a Voord, from 1964's The Keys of Marinus. A preview picture of this figure seemed to be blue, but this guy is in jet black gear, the only other colour being a blob of white on the pommel of the dagger he is about to draw. The helmet is very detailed, particularly at the back. There's something quite fetishistic about him.
He's joined by the version of Alpha Centauri whom we first met in The Curse of Peladon. My photo has slightly washed out the colour - its cloak is more yellow in reality. The accompanying magazine has the making of the creature, but does not cover this story, suggesting that Aggedor or Arcturus is in the pipeline.

They are joined by what is termed an "Embryo Technician" Dalek. It's one of the classic silver / blue sphere models from Power of the Daleks, except that it has a longer arm with a basket at the end, containing the Dalek mutant. The accompanying magazine covers the making of the animated version of this story.

August sees the release of another Dalek - the wrecked version of Dalek Caan, as seen in The Stolen Earth / Journey's End. It is accompanied by Professor Yana, the human form of the Master as seen in Utopia. The next larger Special Edition coming soon is the Web of Fear Yeti.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Inspirations - Galaxy 4

Or "Galaxy Four", as it is often written. It's the sole contribution of William Emms, though he did submit other story ideas later that didn't make it into production. One story - "The Imps" - almost got made early in Patrick Troughton's run, and in the 1980's he wrote a Doctor Who make-your-own-adventure book.
It's the start of Season Three, and this is the first story properly story-edited by Donald Tosh, with John Wiles producing, though Verity Lambert hasn't left yet. They were unhappy that William Hartnell and Maureen O'Brien changed a lot of their dialogue - though Emms thought they improved some of it. Noting how unhappy O'Brien was, they decided to write her out at the next available opportunity, thinking she wanted to leave.
Peter Purves is on record as being dissatisfied with his role, claiming that he was basically given Barbara's role and lines to perform. He'd practically been leading man in his last story, but here he spends much of his time prisoner of the female Drahvins.
The main story inspiration is that you should never judge by appearances. The beautiful humanoids are the villains, and the monstrous-looking aliens are actually quite nice.

Emms' original scripts had the Drahvins all male, led by a man named Gar. It was Verity Lambert who decided that they should become female, and she introduced the notion that the Drahvin warriors should be test-tube clones, with leader Maaga the only true Drahvin. There was much in the news about the implications of mapping DNA and what it might lead to.
With their blonde beehive hairdo's, the visual inspiration appears to have come from pop diva Dusty Springfield.
Although overall story titles were never intended for the public domain at this time, there has been much fan speculation as to Galaxy 4. Presumably the events of the story take place there, though the only mention of the galaxy is that the Drahvins come from there, and it is 400 dawns away from this planet. Calling a story after the place the aliens come from would be like renaming The Moonbase "Telos", or The Dalek Invasion of Earth "Skaro", so I think we can assume this doomed planet is in Galaxy 4. It is stated often that the Drahvin ship is not very advanced, so travelling just over a year might see them still in their own galaxy - and would they really need to go all the way to a neighbouring galaxy just to find a planet suitable for colonisation?

The Chumblies become the series' first creatures who get their name from someone else. It certainly isn't what their creators, the Rills, call them. Vicki names them, from the way they move. Emms made up the name from "Chum" and "Friendly", and employed a number of made up words in his script to describe their sound and movement - like "chamble", "chutter" and "jink". They are clearly an attempt to come up something to rival the Daleks in their appearance, but they would never return to the series.
There is something about Propaganda running through the story. Maaga refuses to let her warriors listen to the messages that the Chumblies transmit - claiming they are lies designed to lure them into a trap. She frightens her troops with talk about what the Rills will do to them if they capture them - akin to how newspapers described the Germans in World War One. or the Communist threat during the Cold War. If anyone is a metaphor for communism it is the Drahvins, not the Rills. Maaga is clearly part of an elite, with the best food and weapons which are denied to her drone-like subordinates.
As mentioned above, Steven spends much of the story prisoner of the Drahvins. At one point he finds himself trapped in an airlock, as Maaga removes the oxygen. This old trick will be used by other aliens in the future - though not as often as you might think. Steven faces a dilemma - return to captivity with the Dusty Springfields, or go outside and be nabbed by the Chumblies.

The Doctor and Vicki, meanwhile, get to meet the Rills. They are a cross between a walrus and a warthog in appearance. They live on ammonia, and so have to remain in a special compartment in their ship. The Doctor is about to kill them, until Vicki learns they are not the monsters Maaga described. They agree to help the Doctor, and he them. The TARDIS is linked to their spaceship, allowing it to take off, whilst the Drahvins are left to perish as the planet disintegrates. Sadly no photos or footage exists of the climactic moments, but as the TARDIS has already left we can assume it wasn't very spectacular on screen. Probably some shaky camera work then a white-out.
The throw forward to next week's episode is interesting. Vicki notes a planet on the TARDIS scanner and wonders what might be happening there...
Next time: The name's Cory. Marc Cory. Licenced to Kill...

The 13th Doctor

Interesting to see the reactions about Jodie Whittaker taking over from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. Nice to see that most are positive. Four years or so ago, I was very much against a female Doctor, at the time when Capaldi was chosen. Well, I've mellowed to the idea since then, and would have been more surprised if they hadn't gone for a woman this time.
Making the Master female worked wonderfully. I never had a problem with Missy.
I haven't waded in with any comments in the run up to the announcement this time, as I realised it would, personally, be pointless. I'm a Doctor Who fan. Always have been. Always will be. I realised that whoever took on the role, I would be tuning in to Series 11 anyway, and writing about it on this Blog.
Jodie Whittaker is a damned fine actor. So long as Chibnall can deliver on the script side, I think the future for the programme looks good. Those fans unhappy with the choice need to give Whittaker the benefit of the doubt. The Doctor stands for many things - including tolerance and open-mindedness. Take a leaf out of his - or her - book.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

C is for... Capricorn, Max

Max Capricorn was the founder and CEO of the cruise-line which bore his name, and which operated out of the planet Sto. He was forced to prolong his life by becoming a cyborg, shielding this from his board and the public by turning recluse and only ever communicating via holograms. Cyborgs were discriminated against on Sto.
His trademark was a gold tooth which flashed when he grinned in his holographic videos. When the Doctor later met him in person, he was surprised to learn that the tooth flashed in real life as well.
When his business began to fail, and he realised that he was going to be ousted from his role, he hatched a plan to destroy the people who were out to replace him. He hid himself in a reinforced vault on one of his ships - a replica of the RMS Titanic - and set about reprogramming the robot Hosts who were supposed to look after the passengers so that they would kill. The ship's captain - Hardaker - was terminally ill, so Capricorn arranged to pay his family if he sabotaged the vessel - allowing it to be struck by meteroids whilst in orbit above the planet Earth.
The ship would then crash onto the planet, with the potential to wipe out the population.
Safe in his vault, Max would be picked up by a rescue ship and taken to the leisure planet of Penhaxico Two where he had secreted plenty of money. The board of the cruise-liner company would face massive litigation and probable imprisonment for corporate manslaughter.
The Doctor managed to get Max to leave his vault early - the ship was still holding orbit. His entire body was encased in a life-support unit, with only his head still human. Waitress Astrid Peth used a fork-lift truck to topple him down a shaft into the engines - losing her own life in the process.

Played by: George Costigan. Appearances: Voyage of the Damned (2007).

C is for... Capel, Taren

A brilliant robotics engineer, Capel had been brought up in the company of robots, with very little human contact or companionship. He related only to robot kind and came to see them as his kin. His sociopathy led to him becoming mentally unstable. He planned to start a robot revolution, freeing his brothers from enslavement by humans. Under the name of Dask, he managed to get himself a job as Chief Engineer on a Storm Mine vessel, which would spend months in the wilderness seeking out valuable ores. This would provide a base for him to create an army. He started to employ Laserson Probes to adjust the programming of the robot contingent on the Mine, overriding their prime directive not to harm humans. As the crew began to be killed off, the Doctor and Leela had to try to discover Capel's alias and stop him from destroying this robot-reliant society. The authorities were aware that he was on board, and had placed two agents amongst the crew to seek him out. They were Poul, and a disguised Super-Voc robot designated D84.
Once his identity had been discovered, Capel dressed himself as a robot and ordered the deaths of all the human survivors. The reprogrammed robots were conditioned to obey his voice.
The Doctor discovered the whereabouts of the workshop he had set up to alter the robots. Leela hid behind a panel and opened a cannister of helium gas. This altered Capel's voice so that the robots no longer recognised him. Ordered to kill all humans, SV7 strangled him.

Played by: David Bailie. Appearances: Robots of Death (1977).

  • Bailie is internationally known for his recurring role as Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. He's the mute one, with the parrot.
  • He has reprised the role of Taren Capel on audio, in the Kaldor City spin-off range, and was the Celestial Toymaker for the Big Finish range.
  • Capel's name derives from the Czech playwright Karel Capek. In 1920 he wrote a play called R.U.R. - Rossum's Universal Robots - which told of a robot revolution. From this "robot" entered the English language.

C is for... Cane Family

Passengers on the Crusader 50 shuttle tour of the planet Midnight, encountered by the Tenth Doctor. They were husband and wife Biff and Val, and their son Jethro. The planet's surface was bathed in X-tonic radiation, and no life could survive there. At first everyone got on well - after the Doctor had sabotaged the annoying in-flight entertainments system. Biff and Val told the Doctor of a visit to what they thought was a swimming pool but turned out to be merely a concept. Jethro was a somewhat moody teenager, who dressed in emo fashion, and who acted as though he did not want to be on this holiday.
Once the vehicle had broken down, and seemed to be coming under attack from something outside, tensions mounted. The unseen entity appeared to have got inside and taken over a fellow passenger - Sky Sylvestry. Biff and Val became unnerved when she started to repeat what everyone was saying. Fear and paranoia increased as Sky then spoke at exactly the same time as the others, and then began to preempt them. Jethro attempted to keep calm and act reasonably, but Val became more hysterical, triggering Biff's aggression. This affected everyone else, and the Doctor had to stop them acting like a lynch-mob as they planned to throw Sky out of the craft. The entity then moved into the Doctor himself. He would have been thrown outside if it hadn't been for the Hostess realising what had happened, and sacrificing herself to drag Sky and the entity out of the craft.
Val feebly attempted to defend their actions, and Jethro was clearly upset to see how his parents had behaved.

Played by: Lyndsey Coulson (Val), Daniel Ryan (Biff), and Colin Morgan (Jethro). Appearances: Midnight (2008).

  • Coulson is best known for playing Carol Jackson in Eastenders, notching up 913 episodes between 1993 and 2015.
  • Shortly after appearing in Midnight, Morgan was seen on BBC 1 in the title role of Merlin, which ran for 5 seasons.

C is for... Campbell, David

A young freedom fighter in 22nd Century London, part of the resistance group that was fighting against the Daleks. David was a key member of the group, which was led by the scientist Dortmun. He was from Scotland originally, and came from a rural background.
He was quick and agile, so useful for getting around the city unseen in search of food and other supplies. He was quite prepared to use lethal force against the Robomen slaves, or anyone else who he felt was a threat. He witnessed the capture by the Daleks of the Doctor and Ian, and later took part in a disastrous mission to attack a Dalek saucer. After this failure, the rebel group split up, and David found himself helping to protect the Doctor and Susan. He pleased the Doctor by bowing to his seniority, despite having the best local knowledge. As they travelled to the Dalek mining operations in Bedfordshire, David began to fall in love with Susan - and she with him. The Doctor could see what was happening. When Susan suggested running away in the TARDIS, David insisted that he had to stay and fight. The Doctor sent the pair to disable the Dalek power system, just before the bomb they were planning to use blew up their base along with their saucers.
Back in London, the Doctor realised that it would be wrong to separate the young lovers. It was time for Susan to settle somewhere, so he locked her out of the TARDIS. After bidding her farewell, he left with Ian and Barbara - knowing that Susan would create a new life with David, helping to rebuild the shattered Earth.

Played by: Peter Fraser. Appearances: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964).

C is for... Camilla

One of the "Three Who Rule" on an obscure planet in the E-Space universe. Camilla was queen to King Zargo. The planet was being held in a medieval state, with all technology banned. Peasants were taken from the village to serve the Three in the castle which dominated the area. The Doctor managed to reactivate an old computer belonging to an Earth spaceship named the Hydrax which had crashed on the planet hundreds of years ago. Amongst the crew was a navigator named Lauren MacMillan. The computer was in the hands of a rebel group, and they recognised a photo of MacMillan as their queen. The Doctor and Romana at first assumed that the Three were the descendants of the ship's crew, their names corrupted over time. Once they had visited the castle, however, they learned that they were the same people, as they had become vampires. Zargo, Camilla and Chancellor Aukon were preparing for the arising of the Great One, which slumbered beneath the castle - really the Hydrax - and which was being fed with the blood of the villagers.
The Doctor discovered that his people had once fought a race of giant vampires, which had all been slain. All except their leader. It had managed to capture the Hydrax and been carried into the E-Space universe.
Before Romana could be sacrificed, and Adric turned into a vampire, the Doctor fired one of the Hydrax's scout ships into the air. It fell back to earth and staked the Great One through the heart.
When the creature died, Camilla and her two fellow vampires were destroyed, aging rapidly and crumbling into dust.

Played by: Rachel Davies. Appearances: State of Decay (1980).

  • Camilla's name derives from the Sheridan Le Fanu story Carmilla. This vampire tale was serialised between 1871 - 2. It was the inspiration for Carl Dreyer's 1932 film Vampyr, as well as the trio of Hammer films known as the Karnstein Trilogy - The Vampire Lovers (1970), Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil (both 1971). The trilogy features a vampire Countess named Mircalla - an anagram of Carmilla.

C is for... Cameca

When the Doctor and his companions landed in an Aztec city, and became cut off from the TARDIS, the Doctor was invited to spend his time in the garden where the society's elders spent their days. Here he met Cameca. The Doctor was rather taken with her, finding her a charming companion. He was intrigued to learn that she knew the builder of the tomb in which the TARDIS was trapped - only to discover that he was now dead. She did, however, know his son and promised to arrange a meeting. This proved to be Ixta, Ian's rival to lead the Aztec army. Cameca was regarded as giving wise counsel, and even Autloc - High Priest of Knowledge - sought her opinions. When the Doctor agreed to brew a drink from her coffee beans, he found himself engaged to her. She soon realised that he would be leaving, as she watched him fashion a pulley wheel out of wood. As Tlotoxl plotted against the Doctor and his friends, Cameca elected to help Susan escape, and she interceded with Autloc after it appeared that Ian had tried to kill him. Before the Doctor left for the tomb, she gave him a token of her love for him. Once inside the tomb, the Doctor left the token behind, but then snatched it up and took it into the TARDIS with him.

Played by: Margot van der Burgh. Appearances: The Aztecs (1964).

  • Margot van der Burgh returned to the series in The Keeper of Traken, playing Consul Katura.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Day One - Torchwood 1.2

In which Gwen Cooper goes out on a date in Cardiff city centre with her boyfriend Rhys. She has not told him of her new role with Torchwood, telling him only that she has been assigned to special duties. That evening they see a massive fireball cross the sky, and Gwen gets a call to go to work, much to Rhys' annoyance. She is picked up in the Torchwood SUV and taken to the crash site of the meteor, only to discover that the army have got there first. The team take charge. As they investigate the huge boulder, Owen and Gwen lark around and a chisel breaks the rock open. A purple gas pours out and vanishes into the woods. Soon after, a young woman named Carys Fletcher has emerged from a night club. She is in an alley, leaving a voicemail for her boyfriend Eddie as he has stood her up yet again. The purple gas appears and pours into her. She returns to the club, full of pent up sexual urges. She takes a young man to the toilets and has sex with him. At the point of climax, his body dissolves into dust whilst his life-force is absorbed by Carys, who then rushes out.
The manager of the club has been spying on the ladies toilets, and reports what he has seen to the police. Torchwood soon arrive, and view the hidden camera footage.

The next morning, Torchwood attempt to locate Carys using local CCTV cameras and the national identity database. She, meanwhile, is withdrawn through breakfast with her father. Later, in the shower, she is gripped with a terrible pain. When the postman visits, she tries to have sex with him, but the Torchwood team arrive in time to save him. Carys tries to run off, but Owen has an alien device on him which sets up an impenetrable force-field. They take her to the Hub where she is locked in one of the cells. The gaseous parasite invading her body does not just make her sexually aggressive, it can arouse others in her presence. Gwen finds herself kissing Carys when she goes to talk with her. She is furious to learn that Owen and the others have been watching her on CCTV.
That evening, the team try to quiz Gwen about Jack, and she is shocked to find they know nothing about him. Tosh has found no record of him on any databases going back to the 1950's. Later, Gwen starts to research Carys' life, and Jack tells her this is why he employed her - the team needs someone who can see the human dimension. He is happy that she has Rhys in her life. When Owen goes to fetch some medical records and does not return, the team find him naked and cuffed in Carys' cell.

She has gone, taking his key. Jack tries to stop her leaving the Hub but she takes the Doctor's hand in its jar and threatens to smash it, so Jack lets her go.
They have worked out that the gaseous parasite needs sexual energy to thrive, but the process is killing its host. By way of demonstration, Own infects a rat and they see it explode.
Carys goes to Eddie's place. When he admits he was only ever using her, she kills him. She then makes for a local fertility clinic where men go to make sperm donations. She starts to kill the various patrons waiting there. Torchwood arrive and find that Carys is dying. Gwen offers to act as a new host for the gas. When it emerges and makes towards her, Jack traps it in mid air using the force-field. Deprived of a host, the gas is reduced to dust. Carys survives.

Day One was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 22nd October, 2006.
Things will be slightly complicated later when each episode of Children of Earth is subtitled Day One, Day Two and so forth.
The "Day One" here, obviously, refers to Gwen Cooper's first full day working with the Torchwood team, and the episode very much focuses on her. There is much talk of her relationship with Rhys. The rest of the team do not have anyone like him outside the organisation, and Jack stresses to her how important it is that she holds onto him. She shouldn't end up cynical and alone as they seem to be. Gwen also spends a great deal of time looking into Carys' life - friends, family, childhood. Again Jack is happy that she should do this, as he and the others often fail to think about the human dimension to what they do. They focus on aliens and technology, and eliminate or lock up threats rather than try to understand them. Gwen can see that Carys is just as much a victim as those that the sex gas kills.
We also learn just how little the team know about their own boss, so we who have seen Jack travel with the Doctor and Rose know far more about him than they do.

This is the good stuff in the episode. The actual alien menace is embarrassingly naff. Chibnall, and Davies, have decided that this is for adults, so they can do things like swearing and sex. There's absolutely no subtlety to any of this. I'm reminded of the New Adventures authors putting swearing and sex into their books just because they could, and several have since said they were embarrassed to do so - feeling like naughty school children looking up rude words in a dictionary. An alien sex gas that kills as people orgasm is a rubbish idea.
There was a serious story to be told, about how we live in a sexualised society (note Carys seeing images of partially dressed men and women in advertising all over the city centre), but this isn't the way they should have gone about it. As I said - no subtlety at all.
Carys is played by Sara Lloyd Gregory. PC Andy (Tom Price) makes one of his semi-regular appearances, as he's on duty at the club when Gwen and her Torchwood colleagues arrive.

Overall, one of the many misfires in the first half of Season One, as the show struggles to work out what it is and what it should be doing.
Things you might like to know:

  • An early episode title was "New Girl", which as well as referencing Gwen as the new member of the team could also have referred to the new life that the parasite initially gave to Carys.
  • The first episode established that team members often removed alien technology when they weren't supposed to. Seems that Jack does not have a great deal of authority over his team. This will play out in later episodes.
  • The Doctor's severed hand features. Jack is prepared to let Carys loose onto the streets rather than lose it. When she smashes the container and Jack picks up the hand, there is a brief snatch of the Doctor's theme.
  • Russell T Davies did subsequently admit that the premise was laughable. Apparently the episode was supposed to have been much more light-hearted, but most of the humour was cut as drafts proceeded. It might have worked better later in the series and more tongue in cheek.
  • There's a photograph of Torchwood House noticeable in the Hub.
  • Fans of filming locations might like to know that the alley where Carys encounters the gas is the same one where Martha Jones first sees the TARDIS.
  • The scene where the team discuss Jack was a late addition, suggested by Jane Tranter, BBC controller of fiction.
  • The exploding rat was achieved by cutting away from a real one to, appropriately enough, an inflated condom filled with red dye and chicken offal.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Inspirations - The Time Meddler

It's the final story of Season 2, written by Dennis Spooner who has now stood down as Story Editor to go off and join Terry Nation on more lucrative ITC film serials. His replacement is Donald Tosh, who doesn't have to do too much with these episodes - trusting his predecessor with delivering workable scripts. John Wiles starts to shadow Verity Lambert as the new producer.
The story starts with the Doctor and Vicki on their own. Ian and Barbara used the Dalek time machine to get home last week. Astronaut Steven Taylor was last seen stumbling through the jungles of Mechanus, cursing his panda mascot. However, whilst the Doctor was saying his goodbyes, Steven had chanced upon the TARDIS and he is still on board. He's welcome to stay, so long as he doesn't call the Doctor "Doc". When Steven asks what a particular control on the console does, the Doctor has this brilliant response:
"That is the dematerialising control. And that over yonder is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy. Now please stop bothering me."
We then have a story set back in historical times - except Steven doesn't believe they have time travelled. The ship lands on a beach, and Vicki finds a Viking helmet - leading to that classic Hartnell line to the incredulous Steven: "What do you think that is, a space helmet for a cow?"
The Doctor gets separated from his companions and soon finds himself at a farmstead. Here he meets Edith, and from her learns that they have arrived in the North East of England, in the year 1066.
Steven and Vicki meanwhile encounter a Saxon peasant, who drops a modern wrist watch. The Doctor listens to the chanting coming from the nearby monastery, and hears the singing wind down like a slow gramophone record - for that is exactly what it is.

Viewers at the time were naturally puzzled by all this. Up until now, the Doctor had adventures in space, with aliens, or he went back in time and had adventures with human villains. The only Science Fiction elements of these latter stories were the presence of the TARDIS and its occupants.
The Time Meddler presents a third line of story telling - what we now call the pseudo-historical. Here, the historical setting merely forms a colourful backdrop to an alien incursion story. Why should aliens only invade in the present day, or be encountered in the future? The purely historical stories will shortly be phased out all together, and eventually be replaced by this new sub-genre.
Here, the rogue element responsible for the anachronistic technology is the Monk, played by Peter Butterworth. He is a time-traveller, and the Doctor deduces straightaway that he is someone who likes to meddle with history.
The Doctor sits out the second episode - locked in a cell and so giving Hartnell a week's holiday. This means that Peter Purves, in only his first full story, is called upon to take the lead in the investigations into the mysterious Monk.
Things start to get complicated when a Viking scouting party turn up. Time for the history lesson.

Earl Harold Godwinson was the most powerful man in England, after the King. Edward the Confessor died at the beginning of 1066 without naming an heir, and Harold was voted into the role. Some time previously, Harold had spent some time in northern France, and it was claimed - by the Normans - that he had promised to uphold Duke William's claim to the English throne. When he learned that Harold had been crowned, William planned for invasion. At the same time, King Harald Hardrada of Norway made his own claim to the throne.
The Time Meddler only touches on these machinations. There is no King Harold, and no battles at Stamford Bridge or at Hastings. Events take place in Northumbria on the eve of these.
The Doctor learns that the Monk intends to destroy King Harald's Viking fleet, and so eliminate the need for Harold to march north and fight just before the Normans land. The Battle of Hastings was reportedly a close run thing, so the Monk's argument is that a stronger Saxon force will be victorious.
He gives as the reason for his plan that this will prevent many of the future wars between England and France. This should lead to technology advancing faster - citing as an example Shakespeare writing his plays for television rather than for the stage.

Steven and Vicki discover that the Monk is no stranger to meddling in history. They follow an electrical cable into a stone sarcophagus in the monastery chapel, and find themselves in a TARDIS. Not only is the Monk a time-traveller - he is of the same race as the Doctor. His ship is full of loot, and his notebook tells of using anti-gravity lifts to help build Stonehenge, meeting Leonardo Da Vinci to give ideas about powered flight, and depositing money in a bank so that he can travel forward 200 years and collect a fortune in compound interest. His TARDIS is of more advanced design, and the Doctor believes he must be about 50 years his junior.
This is monumental stuff for the programme. Up until now, it had been implied that the Doctor had built the TARDIS himself. He and the machine were unique. Now we learn that he is just one of a race of time-travellers.
Needless to say, the Monk's temporal tamperings do not succeed. He first of all tries to get Edith's husband, Wulnoth, to help him - only to make him suspicious. He then tries to trick the Viking scouts into helping him destroy their own fleet.

There is some talk about what would happen if the Monk did succeed. Earlier stories had implied that history couldn't be changed, that something would correct its path. Here, the implication is that history can be changed, and Steven's and Vicki's memories would simply change to match the new history.
As it is, the Saxons find and kill the Vikings, whilst the Monk retreats to his TARDIS - only to discover that the Doctor has sabotaged it by removing the dimensional control. The ship's interior is now the same size as the exterior. It's a bit of a risk, the Doctor leaving the Monk in 11th Century England - he could still do some damage. As an exile, he can't take the Monk back to their own planet and hand him over to the authorities, which would have been the safest thing to do.
Before we close, a word about that space helmet for a cow. From what little evidence we know, Viking helmets did not have horns. At least not those worn in battle. Horned or winged helmets may have been used in a ritual context only.
Next time, looks can be deceptive...