Thursday, 26 October 2017
Inspirations - The Tenth Planet
Gerry Davis has been story editor for some months, which has involved heavily re-writing scripts credited to other people, but this is the first time he gets to have his name at the beginning of each episode instead of at the end. (Pity they spell it wrong on one episode). His writing credit is shared, however, with Kit Pedler, who came on board last season as the programme's scientific consultant. (Pity they get his name wrong on an episode as well).
As it happens, Pedler fell ill and ended up in hospital, and Davis pretty much wrote Part Four on his own. His job wasn't made any easier by William Hartnell also falling ill, and having to be written out of Part Three. Luckily he recovered in time to feature in the final episode, as something very important was scheduled to take place in that one.
As you will know, Hartnell never saw eye to eye with John Wiles when he replaced Verity Lambert as producer, and Wiles was determined to get rid of him. Things did not improve when Innes Lloyd took over, as Hartnell was ill (and ill-tempered) due to the arteriosclerosis that would eventually take his life in 1975. There had been an idea to replace him in The Celestial Toymaker. Having been made mute and invisible, the Toymaker could have brought him back with a new appearance. Another opportunity might have been in The Savages, had they cast the actor selected for the next Doctor in the role of Jano. He could have taken on the Doctor's memories and characteristics, whilst the old body died.
Davis, in consultation with Lloyd and the programme's instigator - Sydney Newman - come up with a new idea. The Doctor is an alien. We've known this since the very first episode. Why can't it be part of his physiology that he rejuvenates himself when he grows too old? In the story after this one, the process is described as a renewal, and for many years fans thought of the first transformation as a rejuvenation, rather than a regeneration. This idea does not bear too close a scrutiny, however, as it was always intended that the new Doctor would have quite a different personality from his predecessor.
Why the process takes place here and now is never explicitly stated, but it is generally assumed to be due in part to the energy draining attack by Mondas. There's no real hint of illness at the start of Part One. We may find out a little more come Christmas 2017, as this story will be heavily referenced in Twice Upon A Time.
This is the very first of what will come to be known as "base under siege" stories. We have a global event taking place - an invasion by the Cybermen who have turned up with a whole planet. Trouble is, the budget only stretches to a small guest cast and a few sets. The only way to do it is to have conflict in a small-scale, claustrophobic, setting, which can mirror what might be going on elsewhere in the wider world. Having the base located in a hostile environment means the Doctor and company can't just run away. Using a scientific-military complex as a backdrop provides us with the right ingredients for a Sci-Fi adventure serial - scientists to do the Sci-Fi stuff and soldiers to do the shooting.
The Tenth Planet is set in 1986, and features an established space programme. The Zeus IV is carrying out a regular atmospheric probe. When it gets into trouble, there is a Zeus V ready to blast-off very quickly indeed. It is mentioned that men have already walked on the Moon. 1966, when this story was produced, saw one of the busiest years for space exploration. Luna 9 was the first vehicle to make a soft landing on the Moon, whilst Luna 10 achieved the first Moon orbit. The Americans were firing off Atlas and Jupiter rockets every month, and the Gemini programme was at its peak (missions IX to XII).
One of the places monitoring the Zeus missions is the Snowcap Base, which is situated at the South Pole, and this is where the TARDIS lands. In command is an American General, and most of the scientists seem to be British. Two soldiers have speaking roles - one American and one Italian. General Cutler answers to a chief in Geneva - so presumably this is a United Nations effort. There are no Russians on view, and no mention of their space programme. Assuming that the Cold War is still on, the South Pole seems an odd place to situate your weapons of mass destruction. Another oddity is that the said WMD can blow up an entire planet, which is taking Mutually Assured Destruction a shade too far. The Z-Bomb obviously gets its name from the fact that they already had A- and H-Bombs in 1966, so "Z" just made it sound like the ultimate.
The Cybermen evolved from a discussion that Kit Pedler had with his wife one day. A medical man himself, he was concerned about what would happen if people replaced more and more of their limbs and organs with artificial transplants. At what point could they still be called "human"? The first human heart transplant was still a year away - Dr Christiaan Barnard performing the operation in South Africa in December 1967 - but the science behind it would have been known by Pedler. The first transplant of an animal heart into a human had been in 1964, and the first lung transplant in 1963. Prosthetic limbs had been around for centuries. Advances in design and effectiveness had been pushed forward following the First World War, when thousands of men returned maimed and disfigured from the trenches of Europe.
Pedler had already looked at computers when devising the backstory to The War Machines, so the idea of people having machine-minds along with their machine-bodies was an inevitable natural step.
One stroke of genius Pedler had was that these machine-men would not be stereotypical alien invaders. They did want something from the Earth, but they weren't out to kill the population. They wanted to convert us into people like them. They were so used to being free of sadness and pain that they couldn't see why anyone could find the concept horrifying.
A quick word about "cybernetics". The true meaning has become rather lost thanks to the Cybermen and the Six Million Dollar Man. The word comes from kybernetes (or kubernetes) - the Greek word for steersman or helmsman. It doesn't refer to bionic implants. Instead it refers to communication and control systems in plants and animals. Sweating when you are hot is a cybernetic process, for instance.
I mentioned above that the final episode is pretty much the work of Gerry Davis alone, as Pedler was hospitalised. This may be why the Cybermen suddenly seem to change. They stop talking about conversion, and become more straightforward invaders, determined to destroy the Earth. Interestingly, the first draft has no regeneration at the end, so neither author knew straight away that this was going to be Hartnell's swan-song.
Last week I mentioned that Hartnell became a guest star in his own show with this story. This is because his contract had run out at the end of the third season (of which the final story to be produced was The Smugglers, though it was held back to open the fourth season). For The Tenth Planet, Hartnell was contracted for the four episodes alone, just as the guest artists were.
Hartnell's illness in Part Three was covered by the Doctor collapsing and being left huddled under blankets in the bunk room, his lines being given to the scientist Barclay and to Ben. You'll notice that Ben states that the Doctor has told him things, which we never see or hear on screen. It may be whilst he is incapacitated that the First Doctor wanders outside unseen and bumps into the Twelfth.
Finally, Mondas. From the Latin word for "world" - mundus. The planet Venus is often called Earth's twin, due to its similar size, mass and composition. However, there is another ancient twin planet hypothesised - Theia. It is theorised that this collided with a body known as Gaia about 4.5 billion years ago. Rather than being knocked out of orbit to go travelling to the edge of space, our planet is made up of the combined remains of the two worlds.
Next time: A milestone story. That's right, we have our first visit to a human space colony!!!