Wednesday, 21 November 2018
I am disappearing off on holiday to the Eternal City for the next week or so. There won't be any updates until I get back, so my reviews of The Witchfinders and It Takes You Away will be late - but hopefully worth waiting for. They will both appear on my return - which should be Monday 3rd December.
Caio for now.
Tuesday, 20 November 2018
Gavrok was the sadistic leader of the Bannermen, who were hunting the Chimeron people to extinction. The Chimeron queen Delta was the last survivor of the race, but she had in her safekeeping the egg of a new princess, from whom a new generation could spring. Delta fled to a space-port but Gavrok gave chase, issuing a bounty on her head. When Delta transferred to a tourist craft which was heading for Earth, Gavrok killed the Toll-Keeper after learning of her destination. The Doctor's companion Mel was on the same tour craft, with the Doctor following on in the TARDIS. A collision with a satellite caused the craft to crashland elsewhere on the planet - just outside a holiday camp in South Wales. Unfortunately, also on the tour craft was a bounty hunter who knew of Gavrok's reward, and he gave away Delta's location. Never intending to pay the monies, Gavrok beamed a destructive signal to the bounty hunter's communicator, hoping that the blast would kill Delta as well. This attempt failed. The Bannermen ship then landed near the camp and Gavrok led his men on a hunt for the Chimeron. The Doctor tried to negotiate with him, but to no avail. A trap led to Gavrok and his men being covered in honey and attacked by a swarm of bees. They then launched an assault on the camp, after Gavrok had placed a sonic mine on the roof of the TARDIS. The Chimeron egg had hatched, and the child rapidly grew into a young girl. She could generate a high pitched sound which the Bannermen could not stand. Her voice was amplified to attack Gavrok and his men. Stunned by the sound, Gavrok stumbled into the detonation zone of the sonic grenade and he was destroyed, whilst his men were all captured.
Played by: Don Henderson. Appearances: Delta and the Bannermen (1987).
- Henderson had come to fame as the rather seedy but philosophical D.S. George Bulman, in the spy series The XYY Man. This ran for 13 episodes between 1976 - 77. His character was then given another series, called Strangers, which ran between 1978 - 82, where Bulman was promoted to Detective Chief Inspector. Bulman then got a third series - called Bulman - in which he was no longer a police officer but investigated on his own. It ran from 1985 - 87.
- He's probably best known for his appearance as an Imperial Officer - General Taggi - in the first Star Wars movie.
One morning, Rani Chandra and Clyde Langer woke up to find their families had disappeared. They went to visit Sarah Jane Smith and her son Luke, but they were nowhere to be seen either. In fact, the pair appeared to be the only people left on the planet. They travelled into town and found it deserted. However, they soon encountered a pair of huge robots. These were hunting for something, broadcasting a message demanding the sun and the air, otherwise the missing people would not be returned. Exploring the city, Clyde and Rani discovered that there was one other person still around - a schoolboy named Gavin. A keen nature lover, who lived with a foster family, he could not explain why he had been unaffected by the mass disappearance. He ran off, and they tracked him down to a park where he liked to go. The two robots arrived, and Clyde and Rani discovered that it was not the sun and air they were looking for, but the son and heir. Gavin was really an alien, royal prince of a far-off planet from which the robots had been sent. He had been placed on Earth as a baby for his protection following an invasion, his true nature hidden by a bio-damper. Removing this allowed the robots to find him. His planet was free once again, and so the robots had come to Earth to fetch him back home to rule. As soon as they had transported him away, everyone was returned - oblivious that they have ever been gone. The reason that Clyde and Rani had not been taken was because they had earlier been grounded by the Judoon, so were not permitted to leave the planet.
Played by: Joe Mason. Appearances: SJA 4.4 - The Empty Planet (2010).
Semi-organic technology from the Stenza homeworld, which appear as a writhing mass of electrified tentacles. They are used to gather and collate information. A Gathering Coil was sent to Earth by a Stenza named Tzim-Sha to aid him in a manhunt. Random people were selected for these hunts, and they were taken back to their planet as trophies. Tzim-Sha sought to rule the planet should he be successful in his hunt for a young man named Karl, even though he was forbidden from using technological aids. The Gathering Coil first attacked a train on which Karl was travelling. Also on board were Graham O'Brien and his wife Grace. Her grandson, Ryan, had earlier discovered the pod which the Stenza had used to travel to Earth. The newly regenerated Doctor landed on the train after falling from the TARDIS. The Coil scanned Karl then departed, installing itself elsewhere in the city - Sheffield - to feed information back to Tzim-Sha.
The Doctor used her sonic screwdriver to disable it, but only temporarily. When Tzim-Sha went to Karl's workplace to abduct him, the Coil acted as a barrier to stop the Doctor and her friends from stopping him. Grace destroyed it with an electric cable, but at the cost of her own life.
Appearances: The Woman Who Fell To Earth (2018).
An ancient legend on the planet of Jaconda told of how its ruler had offended the Sun God. They sent a swarm of giant slug-like creatures to lay waste the planet to punish the people. Many centuries later, this legend proved to have been based on a real event, as one of the creatures hatched out - Mestor. Soon the whole planet was overrun with the creatures - Gastropods - and Mestor seized control from the rightful ruler. This was an elderly Time Lord named Azmael, who had once been an old friend of the Doctor. The Jacondans were enslaved, and the population began to starve as the Gastropods once again laid waste to their crops. Mestor maintained control thanks to powerful mental capabilities, such as telekinesis. He could even place his mind into the bodies of others. He told Azmael that he had a scheme to move two other worlds in the Jacondan solar system into orbit around the planet, so that they could be used as new food sources. To achieve this, Azmael was sent to abduct twin boys from Earth - Romulus and Remus - who possessed the mathematical skills to achieve this. The newly regenerated Doctor and his companion Peri gave chase, along with an Earth security officer named Hugo Lang.
On discovering that Mestor had amassed a huge number of Gastropod eggs, with especially hardened shells and which responded to heat, the Doctor spotted his real scheme. The two smaller planets would fall into Jaconda's sun, resulting in an explosion which would destroy the planet. The eggs would survive - flung out into space to colonise other worlds. The Doctor prepared an acid to attack Mestor. The Gastropod ruler transferred his mind into Azmael's body, however, unaware that he was close to death. The Doctor destroyed his original body, and the old Time Lord died, no longer able to regenerate. Mestor was expelled. The other Gastropods did not share his mental powers, and the Jacondans rose up against them - led by their new ruler, Hugo.
Played by: Edwin Richfield (Mestor). Appearances: The Twin Dilemma (1984).
- Richfield had previously appeared in the series as Captain Hart in The Sea Devils.
- Mestor's "spirit" is seen to emerge from Azmael as he dies. As he can inhabit other people's bodies, he may have simply transferred to a nearby host and so may have actually survived.
When a small boy was fatally wounded by a falling bomb during the London Blitz, he was taken to the nearest hospital for treatment. However, it had not been a German bomb which had landed, but an alien spaceship. This was a Chula ambulance craft, filled with nonogenes designed to repair warriors so that they could return to the fighting. The nanogenes used the boy as a template, mistaking his gas mask for part of his anatomy. He was brought back to life with increased strength, and his touch could infect others with the nanogenes - causing them to be copied and to replicate the child. Thus, they too had faces turned into gas mask, and they carried the same injuries he had - such as a scar to the hand and serious crush injuries. Within a short space of time, every doctor, nurse and patient in the hospital was affected. The contagion then began to spread to the wider community, affecting the soldiers tasked with guarding the spacecraft. The boy, Jamie, was compelled to seek out his mother. Psychically linked to him, all the others affected asked for their mother as well. The last person in the hospital to succumb was Dr Constantine. Before transforming, he was able to point the Doctor towards a girl named Nancy, who looked after orphaned children. The Doctor realised that she was not the boy's sister, as she claimed, but his teenage, unwed mother. When the nanogenes came into contact with Nancy they were able to recognise the true genetic pattern for humans, and all those affected were changed back - old injuries such as amputated limbs even being restored.
Appearances: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005).
- Originally planning to use real WW2 gas masks, the production team found that they were now banned as they were made from asbestos. New ones were created, with baked bean tins used for the respirator section.
Sunday, 18 November 2018
I rather liked this episode. It had more of an old school Doctor Who feel to it, and I think it could easily have fitted into some of the previous Doctor's eras. It was the sort of story which Russell T Davies might have commissioned - or written himself. I could also see this sitting in the Andrew Cartmel era.
For once we got some real TARDIS action at the beginning, finally seeing the new scanner in operation. As with The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, something is able to materialise on board the ship - in this case a package from the retail company of the title. Series 11 has tended to shy away from references to the show's past, but the package the Doctor receives contains a new fez, so obviously ordered back in her 11th incarnation. However, there's also a call for help in the box - so I was reminded of the Doctor receiving messages in previous stories such as The Doctor's Wife and Night Terrors. A specific Series 4 story was also referenced, as the Doctor was about to tell her companions about her meeting with Agatha Christie after one of them mentioned wasps.
Writer Peter McTighe was able to get the Doctor and companions into the story very quickly by having them pretend to be new workers at the Kerb!am warehouse, on a moon orbiting the planet Kandoka. McTighe's other great strength was in being able to give the TARDIS crew equal weight in the story - including a much stronger role for the Doctor. She decides to investigate, and works out what is going on just as we, the audience, start to do the same. All three companions get something substantial to do - something which the writers this season have generally failed to manage. Yaz even gets to do something which a trained police officer would do. Those other writers, especially her creator, seem to have forgotten what her job is.
Robot servants going out of control and killing people is hardly an original concept. We've seen Voc Robots and Heavenly Host in the programme before. McTighe cleverly subverts expectations that the automated systems of the company are responsible. It's those systems which have actually called out for help. The real villain is a misguided anti-automation activist who has been working for the company as a maintenance man, Charlie. He is set up as a nice young man, who is in love with one of the other staff members, Kira, who works in the packing department. We are expected to see this pair united at the conclusion. Kira becomes trapped in a room with a box which contains deadly bubble-wrap. That's a sentence I never thought I would ever see myself writing. We expect the others to save her at the last minute - but this doesn't happen. Nice Kira gets killed. It transpires that Charlie has been sabotaging the robots to test his deadly bubble-wrap on some of his colleagues before he launches his master plan - sending thousands of despatch-bots out across the cosmos to deliver lethal packages. This will turn people against the company, and automation in general. It has earlier been stated that Kandoka has a 10% real people in real jobs policy, and this is what Charlie objects to. What about the other 90% who aren't guaranteed work, he wants to know.
The Doctor manages to get all the robots to deliver to where they are already standing, rather than disperse across space, and then open their boxes and pop a bubble. Charlie is standing amongst them when this happens. The Doctor and company did try to get him to move to safety, but they didn't do much more than that to save him.
There was quite a small guest list for this story. We've mentioned Charlie and Kira. There are only three others whom we get to meet. Lee Mack had more than the small cameo he claimed, playing Yaz's colleague Dan. You just knew when he started talking about his child back home that he was not long for this world. Then we had the management. The dodgy exec Jarva Slade (Callum Dixon) is clearly set up to make us think that he is going to be the bad guy. The Head of People, Judy (Julie Hesmondhalgh), is rather nice, so they could equally have had her the surprise villain.
Apparently people are claiming there is a mistake as Ryan is seen to pop some bubble-wrap at the start of the story, whereas they are all afraid to touch it at the conclusion. At no point was it ever stated that all of the bubble-wrap was deadly, so I don't see how this can be called a continuity error.
So, a better episode than some that have gone before this season. Once again there was an element of preachiness, but this didn't feel quite as intrusive this time.
We're off to 17th Century Lancashire next time, for another historical story - though not recent history for a change. The second half of this season has seen a slight upturn for me, mainly because other people are writing it. Let's hope it continues.
Friday, 16 November 2018
Writer Gerry Davis' last contribution to Doctor Who was in script editing the first three episodes of Evil of the Daleks, back in 1967, before handing over to Peter Bryant. His co-creations, the Cybermen, had last appeared in The Invasion, in 1968. Since then they had only been seen in a small cameo in the final episode of The War Games, and another in Carnival of Monsters - their first appearance in colour. Being silver, colour TV never did enhance their image that much.
Davis had revisited the series recently, but not for the TV programme. He had been commissioned to novelise The Moonbase for Target Books - appearing in the shops as Doctor Who and the Cybermen. This would have brought him into the orbit of Letts and Dicks, who were closely associated with the early run of books.
Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had considered bringing the Cybermen back for Frontier In Space, the first half of the massive 10th Anniversary celebration. They would have taken on the role which eventually went to the Ogrons in the story, being used by the Master to raid the Earth and Draconian spaceships. We know this because there exists in one of Steve Cambden's excellent books a VFX sketch from this story of a Cyberman using a gun to cut through a bulkhead door.
A Cyberman had featured on the cover of the Radio Times 10th Anniversary Special, but it had been a bit of a hotch-potch of costumes from different eras - with an Invasion helmet and a Tomb body. This variant had then been used for the first of the Weetabix promotions - with this costume coupled with a pose from the famous St Paul's Cathedral steps photograph from The Invasion - and it also formed the basis for the design of the Palitoy Cyberman (the one with a nose).
That Radio Times special edition had included a piece by Letts promising fans the return of the Ice Warriors, and of the Cybermen. However, the latter would not be back until Tom Baker and Philip Hinchcliffe's first season.
We've already said how Season 12 was to have a number of popular monsters in it, to ease viewers into accepting Jon Pertwee's replacement.
We've also mentioned the money-saving plan to have two stories set in the same location - thus utilising the main sets twice. Revenge of the Cybermen was recorded immediately after The Ark in Space, and before Genesis of the Daleks, in order to facilitate this. The latter story had to have a scene inserted showing Sarah finding some new clothes to change into in order to maintain continuity, as there was no TARDIS to explain a different costume.
Genesis had seen the Doctor, Sarah and Harry diverted to Skaro by the Time Lords, one of whom gives the Doctor a Time Ring to return them to the space station once his mission has been accomplished. The Ring malfunctions, and they arrive many centuries too early, when Nerva is fulfilling a different function - that of a navigation beacon. It is never explicitly stated, but the Ring has not gone wrong at all. This is clearly another Time Lord mission.
Davis' initial storyline involved a casino in space, which the Doctor and his companions would find to be deserted when they arrived. Robert Holmes was not happy with the scripts, feeling that the single location was not working. Presumably the Cybermen's aversion to gold was something which survived from the initial idea - as a casino would have lots of it. The deserted space station notion was also retained - in part. Instead of it being totally empty, the Doctor and his companions find most of the crew dead, with only four survivors remaining. The biggest change Holmes made was to have the whole Vogan sub-plot added. The planet of gold, with its warring factions of subterranean dwellers, never featured in Davis' original storyline.
One of the things about Cyberman stories in the classic era is that they often borrow from each other. We'll see this reach its nadir when we get to the Colin Baker era. In Revenge of the Cybermen we see the return of the Cybermats - introduced in Tomb of the Cybermen, and last seen in The Wheel in Space. They had been absent from the Cybermen's last outing. The Cybermats are spreading a neurotropic virus amongst the space station crew - victims having discoloured lines appear across their hands and faces. This artificial plague infection was seen before - in The Moonbase - when contaminated sugar had been to blame. The wheel-like space station setting is obviously similar to The Wheel in Space. The use of human traitors to further their plans comes from Tomb of the Cybermen (Kaftan and Klieg) and The Invasion (Tobias Vaughn and Packer).
The series had never featured a Cyberleader before - but that Target novelisation had. There is a black helmeted Cyberleader in the book.
The story has come in for a lot of criticism from fans - starting with the title. Revenge is a human emotion, and the Cybermen aren't supposed to have emotions. A fair point, but we could be kind and point out that the Cybermen never actually use the word, and it could refer to the Vogans' fear of revenge. As creatures of pure logic, there is nothing wrong in the Cybermen wanting to destroy the thing which caused them to lose a war - thus preventing it from happening again.
We also have the performances of the Cybermen - or rather the performance of the Cyberleader (as played by Christopher Robbie, who had previously appeared as the Karkus in The Mind Robber).
He struts about the station with his hands on his hips, getting angry with the Doctor and doing a fair bit of gloating. Again, we can excuse this if we remember that these Cybermen are the beaten survivors of that war - the pathetic bunch of tin soldiers skulking around the universe in an antiquated spaceship.
Perhaps at the end of the war the Cybermen were not able to carry out complete conversions, and so left more human elements intact. They're not as "pure" as the ones seen in the Troughton stories. It should also be noted that this is the first time that the Cybermen are voiced by the actors inside the costumes - on all previous occasions the voices being dubbed on afterwards.
When it came to making this story, Michael Briant went to the costume store where he was promised half a dozen Cyberman costumes. What he found there were in a very poor state, and so new ones were ordered. He wanted at least six, but the budget would only run to four, one of whom was given the black paint-job to become the Cyberleader.
One thing Briant did insist on was location filming in some real caves, and he selected Wookey Hole, a cave system which lies close to Wells in Somerset. A number of important paleolithic finds have been discovered here, and it is very popular with potholers. This story inspired a famous League of Gentlemen sketch - a monologue from Mark Gatiss as a rather bored cave guide, who mentions that back in the 1970's the caves he's showing had been awash with Cybermen.
The caves have a rather supernatural reputation, and this is one of the things which always gets mentioned when people talk about the making of Revenge of the Cybermen. One particular rock formation is known as "The Witch of Wookey Hole", due to its shape. Visitors are advised not to disrespect it, otherwise they may face bad luck. One of the BBC electricians put a cape and pointed hat on the Witch, and subsequently fell off a ladder and broke his leg.
Ian Marter and Lis Sladen were puzzled by a section of their script and decided to ask Briant about it later, marking the passages of concern. When they saw him later, they could no longer find the marked section in their scripts. Lis later almost drowned when one of the small skimmer motor boats went out of control. She had to be rescued by stunt man (and Cyber-performer) Terry Walsh.
Most spooky of all was when Briant did a recce of the caves. He was left alone for a time after the system had been locked up for the night, and came across a potholer. When he enquired at the exit about why someone else was down there when he was supposed to be on his own he was told that no potholer had gone in, or come out. A cave diver had drowned in the system some years before, and his ghost had been seen on a couple of occasions...
Fortunately the studio recording went a lot more smoothly. There is one sequence where we see the captive Doctor, Stevenson and Lester sitting on the floor. Lester holds his ears, the Doctor his eyes, and Stevenson his mouth. This was a visual joke on the three wise monkeys who "see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil". In Japanese mythology, the monkeys are Mizaru, who covers his eyes, Kikazaru, who covers his ears, and Iwazaru, who covers his mouth. A very similar maxim can be found in China, ascribed to Confucius. The connection to monkeys comes from the -zaru suffix of the names above, being close to "saru" - monkey in Japanese.
Briant cast the actor Alec Wallis as crewman Warner, who is seen operating the radio. Wallis had previously appeared in the programme as another radio operator - Bowman in The Sea Devils, which was also directed by Briant.
For the Vogan Guild Chambers, and Vorus' costume, designer Roger Murray-Leach came up with a figure-8 motif in a Celtic design - inspired by illustrations in the Book of Kells. When the same designer came to work on The Deadly Assassin two years later, he simply reused this design for the Time Lords, for whom it has now become more famously known as the Seal of Rassilon.
We can find an explanation for this design turning up twice in narrative terms. We pretty much know that the Time Lords have sent the Doctor to Nerva Beacon at this earlier point in time deliberately, as it would otherwise be a massive coincidence that he just happened to turn up at this crucial juncture. Besides, how could the Doctor have saved the solar flare survivors in the far future if the space station had been destroyed in the past? There would have been a massive paradox, and the Time Lords don't like these. We could perhaps surmise that the Time Lords intervened in some way to save the remnant of Voga at the end of the Cyberwar, and its natives adopted one of their symbols in recognition of this help.
Another clue as to the Time Lords working behind the scenes here is the fact that the TARDIS just happens to finally turn up as soon as the threat is over and the Cybermen have been destroyed.
There is a message from the Brigadier waiting for the Doctor inside (the ticker tape is clearly seen hanging inside the Police Box prop - ready for Tom Baker to wrap it round his neck before stepping back out). This was to have led directly into the final story of the season, which would have seen Harry Sullivan depart from the show once the TARDIS returned to contemporary Earth. UNIT would therefore top and tail the season.
Having got wind of a new Gerry Anderson series which might prove to be a genuine threat to Doctor Who, it was decided to end Season 12 prematurely and hold that final story back to open the next, which would begin earlier than usual - before the Anderson series had got started.
Next time: Hoots mon! The Doctor finally meets the Loch Ness Monster. Director Douglas Camfield makes a welcome return to the series after a six year absence (so Dudley Simpson isn't asked to do the music). Lots of Scottish stereotypes on show. There is even a Caber, but it's Harry who gets tossed...
... off the top of a barn. Honestly, minds like sewers you lot.
Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Brief synopses issued today for the final two episodes of Series 11, plus news about the festive story.
Episode 9 is called It Takes You Away, and it is set in present day Norway. The Doctor and her companions come across a boarded-up cottage in the woods by a fjord, and encounter a girl named Hanne who needs their help. There is reference to a monster lurking in the forest.
Norse mythology has lots of monsters which this story might choose to play with - having already done so with stories like Terminus, The Curse of Fenric and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. The other obvious local monsters are Trolls. The writer is Ed Hime, and Kevin Eldon is among the guest cast. He's best known for comedic roles.
The final episode of the season is called The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, and it is written by Chibnall, as you would expect. Ranskoor Av Kolos is a planet where a terrible battle has been fought. There is mention of a commander who has lost his memory (probably Mark Addy's character). The Doctor and companions receive 9 separate distress calls to come to this place (something from each of the 9 preceding episodes perchance?). Mention is made of something lying beyond the mists, and the TARDIS crew facing a "deadly reckoning". I would hazard a guess that this might relate to the loss of Grace, so the Stenza may feature. We know that they were responsible for Desolation and the invasion of Angstrom's planet, and there is a theory doing the rounds that it was they who destroyed the Thijarians' homeworld as well.
The big news about this year's Christmas Special is that there is no Christmas Special...
Doctor Who will be shown on the evening of New Year's Day instead. Last year, Steven Moffat had intended to end the 12th Doctor's run with The Doctor Falls - expecting Chibnall to want to launch his new Doctor in a Christmas Special. When Chibnall said no, Moffat hurriedly changed the ending to the Series 10 finale and then wrote Twice Upon A Time - just so that the programme would not lose the prestigious Christmas Day slot. His efforts seem to have been wasted, as Chibnall appears to have just given it away. It is claimed that the BBC are saying they (i.e. the writers, i.e. Chibnall) have run out of Christmas themes to exploit. That may well be the case, but who says the episode has to have Christmas themes? A story only has to be set at Christmas. It doesn't have to have killer trees or robot Santas. Many are saying that this latest change shows that the BBC no longer see the programme as the flagship which it once was.
This change was predicted by one of the UK's tabloid newspapers weeks ago. The same story also claimed that there would not be a full series in 2019, so here's hoping they were only half right...
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Yes, it is enough to make your head hurt. Go on-line at the moment and you will find it hard to avoid the fact that a lot of people are talking about the viewing figures which Series 11 is bringing in. There are those who point out that, in context, they are not that bad - especially when compared to recent seasons. Then there are those who prophesy doom and gloom, and the series is heading for cancellation etc.
As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. These are the figures we have so far:
The Woman Who Fell To Earth: Overnight = 8.2m / Consolidated = 10.54m / AI = 83
The Ghost Monument: Overnight = 7.11m / Consolidated = 8.67m / AI = 82
Rosa: Overnight = 6.39m / Consolidated = 8.09m / AI = 83
Arachnids in the UK: Overnight = 6.43m / Consolidated = 7.97m / AI = 83
The Tsuranga Conundrum: Overnight = 6.12m / Consolidated = 7.49m / AI = 79
Demons of the Punjab: Overnight = 5.77m / Consolidated = TBC / AI = TBC
The consolidated figure is released 7 days after broadcast, and takes into account those viewers who did not watch it live (they recorded it or streamed it) and who watched by a variety of different means (e.g. on tablet or on their phone). There will be another figure to come - the +28 day one.
These figures can be looked at in one of two ways - in the context of current TV viewing patterns, or in comparison with previous seasons.
The big mistake most people seem to be making is the latter. Apart from Xmas Specials, all other Doctor Who up to this point has been broadcast on a Saturday. Series 11 is shown on a Sunday. Patently obvious, I know, but a lot of commentators simply aren't taking this into account.
Viewing patterns for a Sunday evening are different to those for a Saturday. People go out on a Saturday night, because they don't have to get up for work / school the next day, whereas this is not the case with a Sunday. The make-up of the schedules is different. Saturday tends to be light entertainment-heavy, whilst Sunday sees more documentaries and drama serials.
It is an entirely different landscape, and you can't compare the ratings for a Sunday show with a Saturday one.
The whole point of moving Doctor Who from its Saturday slot to a Sunday one was to hep improve ratings. The programme no longer sat comfortably in the Saturday evening landscape, and things were not helped by the BBC messing around with the start times, and pushing it later and later. (It is ironic that one reason for the move was to take it away from competition with The X-Factor. The ITV talent show is in terminal decline as far as its viewing figures are concerned, with low overnight ratings, and it never did have a large +7 audience - what viewers it does get preferring to watch it live).
So, has Doctor Who's ratings improved with the move?
The answer is yes - but not by a huge margin. Not as much as I'm sure the BBC would have liked.
Series 10 had two episodes which fell below the 5 million overnight figure (The Lie of the Land and The Eaters of Light), and only one made it above the 6 million mark (The Pilot). All the rest were 5 point something million - and this is where the most recent episode - Demons of the Punjab - has come in.
As you can see from the Series 11 figures above, there has been a steady falling off of around half a million each week, apart from a marginal upturn for the episode which followed Rosa. This should have been a much higher increase, what with all the media attention which Episode Three generated. It will be interesting to see if Demons leads to the another increase, as it has also generated some discussion thanks to its subject matter.
The one figure which we really ought to just throw out is that massive consolidated for the opening episode. This was the debut of the first female Doctor, on a new night of the week, so it was always going to be high. A lot of people with no real interest in the show were always going to be nosy and take a look - so the figure was always going to be artificially bloated.
I'm reminded of the English football fans who got "World Cup Winners, 2018" tattoos, after their team beat Panama 6 - 1. It was Panama for goodness sake. The figures for The Woman Who Fell To Earth should never have been taken so seriously.
These figures were then compared to previous Doctor's debuts - but I've just pointed out that you can't compare Saturday with Sunday viewing. Then there's the fact that the means by which the viewing figures are gathered has changed totally since 2005. (There was also some gerrymandering going on, when they opted to make Tennant's debut New Earth, instead of The Christmas Invasion, just to make Whittaker's figures look better. As Benjamin Disraeli once said (according to Mark Twain): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics").
If you really want to paint this series' viewing figures in a positive light, you have stop these pointless comparisons to the past, and to consider them instead in the context of current viewing patterns.
These episodes are often the second most watched programme of the day, beating even new documentaries from David Attenborough, and they're sitting in the Top 10 for the week, beating some episodes of Coronation Street. Doctor Who is still getting audience shares of just under 30%. These sorts of figures are far more significant than the raw viewer data. They do not indicate a series in decline.
The other thing to keep an eye on is the AI (Appreciation Index) - which tells you how much the viewers actually enjoyed the episode. That AI of 79 for the Pting story is the thing that the BBC should really be worried about. Not one episode of Series 10 had an AI of less than 81, and a couple managed 85. Capaldi had only one story go below 80, Sleep No More, which got an AI of 78. That was the only story of Steven Moffat's entire tenure as showrunner to fall below 80, whereas Chris Chibnall has managed it after just 5 episodes.
Sunday, 11 November 2018
A few weeks ago I pondered if, come the end of this season, Chris Chibnall will have proven to be the weakest writer. Six episodes in, my suspicion has not changed. If anything, it seems more likely after this installment and the last two stories. This week we have a new writer on the show, Vinay Patel, and he has the script all to himself (though I suspect that Malorie Blackman can be credited with the best of Rosa).
I enjoyed Demons of the Punjab, but felt that it would have worked better as a purely historical story. It reminded me somewhat of The Massacre, wherein another country was torn apart by religious schism, and the Doctor was helpless to prevent it.
In fact, I would go further and say that Patel should have written a drama about Partition, showing its wider effects through the prism of two families on either side of the divide, and not bother to use it as the basis for a Doctor Who story. That's because, as a Doctor Who story, it doesn't quite work.
Patel is forced to include an alien presence - the Demons of the title - but they prove to be red herrings. The Thijarians (at least that's what it sounded like) were claimed to be the deadliest assassins in the universe - when it turned out they were nothing of the kind. (Nearly every threat so far this season is supposed to be the deadliest something or other in the universe, only be be shown to be patently not the case). They used to be, but that was a long time ago. Now they go round honouring people who die alone, who have no-one else to honour them. They reminded me a little of the Testament characters in Twice Upon A Time, who also appeared to be malevolent but turned out not to be. The problem was that neither of the two people we see them come to witness dying do so alone, or unhonoured.
It was pretty obvious from the start that the reason Yaz's gran married someone else was going to be because Prem was going to die. As soon as the Thijarians were exposed as not being a threat, it was simply a case of biding our time until Prem did die - and it was equally obvious that his radicalised brother Manish would be responsible (though he didn't fire the actual shot, but did call on others to do his dirty work). This left the story very much a character piece, about a doomed love affair.
As romantic, character pieces about doomed lovers go, it was very good - but was it Doctor Who? Did it need to be Doctor Who? As I said, Patel could have written a very good drama about this period of history, without aliens or time machines. The counter-argument would probably be that Doctor Who allows the general public (especially younger viewers) to be educated about periods of history they might otherwise know very little about. I have to admit, I know more about France in 1572 than I do about India in 1947 - and that's partly down to The Massacre prompting me to want to learn more. Hopefully this story will do the same for others.
The story might have benefited from a little more information about Partition. Too much background knowledge was assumed on behalf of the viewers.
One final criticism was the role of the Doctor and companions in this. Graham had some lovely moments, and we got to see more of who Yaz is, but Ryan was fairly redundant this week. Overall, we have to beg the question: what difference to events did the Doctor's presence have? She identified some alien villains, except they weren't alien villains at all. The tragic family dynamics of Prem and Umbreen played out as they were always going to play out, whether the TARDIS crew were present or not. Just as with Rosa, the Doctor, in the end, had to do nothing at all in order for history to keep its course. Using the same plot beat twice in such a short season is probably a mistake, as it makes the Doctor come across as rather impotent.
As usual for this season, the story looked gorgeous - the Punjab being played by Spain, I believe. Once again we did not have the usual end title music - but instead got the theme in the style of the score which had immediately preceded it, which was a nice touch.
A big improvement on the last couple of stories, well performed and ultimately quite emotional. Let's hope that things don't go downhill again with next week's episode. It looks like a rather silly premise, so hopefully it will be played for intentional laughs, rather than the unintentional ones of late.
Friday, 9 November 2018
As Tom Baker was going to be eased in with a season of popular monsters, it was only natural that this would include an encounter with the Daleks. Terry Nation had, after all, been contributing an annual script for the past two seasons. He duly delivered another one for Season 12. Terrance Dicks had a look at it, then went to see Barry Letts, telling him it simply would not do. Letts read it, and agreed. Nation was contacted and told that, whilst it was a very nice script, it just happened to be the same one he had sold them the year before. And the year before that. Nation went back and looked at it, and said something along the lines of "You know, I think you might be right...".
Letts, Dicks and he had a meeting and threw some ideas around, and it was the producer who suggested to Nation that he had never shown us how the Daleks came into being. Nation liked this proposal, and what he came up with was "Genesis of Terror" - which ultimately became Genesis of the Daleks, as it was felt important to have the D word in the title.
This would be the penultimate story recorded for the block of six, though broadcast fourth. The director chosen was David Maloney, who had recent experience with the Daleks (having directed Planet of the Daleks). He and new script editor Robert Holmes would have significant input in developing Nation's story.
For instance, Nation had written that the Doctor met the Time Lord agent in a perfumed garden. Maloney elected to film it instead in the middle of a war zone, setting the meeting in a mist shrouded wasteland, after showing us some gas-masked soldiers being gunned down in slow motion. Mrs May Whitehouse, the evangelical champion of the nation's morals, would soon be referring to the programme as "tea-time brutality for tots". This is the first time we have mentioned her - but sadly it won't be the last.
The Doctor was on his way back to space station Nerva by transmat, but the Time Lords have diverted his journey to Skaro - the third time he has visited the Dalek homeworld on screen. They have a mission for him again - just as they had at times during his exile on Earth (Colony in Space and The Mutants explicitly, and The Curse of Peladon implicitly). Such missions will actually come to an end in the next season. The Time Lords want the Doctor to stop the Daleks from being created, or at the very least alter their evolution in some way, so that they become a less aggressive race. They have foreseen a time when they will become the dominant species in the universe - so a threat to their own power. Prefiguring The Deadly Assassin, the Time Lords are seen to be not as aloof as they have previously been portrayed. They will interfere - provided they aren't seen to be doing it. In hindsight, this act will lead eventually to the Time War.
The transmat diversion continues the season story arc, as the Doctor fails to be reunited with his TARDIS.
We learn that we are on Skaro during the thousand year war between the Daleks' forebears and the Thals, as referenced way back in their first appearance. Many people have thought that this story contradicts established Dalek history, but this is not necessarily the case. In The Daleks, the Doctor was told about the war by the Thals, who were the distant descendants of the conflict. Their historical records tell of the war which destroyed Skaro in a day, and the Doctor sees evidence of neutron bombs having been deployed. Over such a long period of time, the history is almost certain to have become garbled somewhat. Even the name of the race whom the Thals were fighting has become corrupted - Kaleds becoming Dals. The war may have lasted for a thousand years, but both civilisations do get destroyed (almost) in a day, as we witness in this story. Both cities fall within a few hours of each other.
What Genesis of the Daleks does contradict, wholesale, is the earlier origins tale which Nation co-wrote with David Whitaker. This appeared in the TV Century 21 comic in 1965.
In the first 3-part story - titled "Genesis of Evil" - the Daleks (not Dals. If Terry Nation can forget what they were called after just 18 months, then the Thals can be forgiven for getting muddled up after decades or more) are diminutive blue-skinned humanoids, and their chief scientist Yarvelling designs the Dalek machine to act as a weapon in the war against the Thals. He's ordered to do this by the new leader Zolfian, who has usurped power from the pacifist ruler who wanted to make peace with the Thals. The latter do not appear in the strip. Zolfian also has Yarvelling create a huge arsenal of neutron bombs. Unfortunately for them, a meteorite crashes on top of the arsenal and wipes out the surface of the entire planet. Only Zolfian and his scientist survive, and they find an active Dalek machine amidst the ruins. It explains that it is a mutation caused by the radiation, which is slowly killing the two humanoids. Before they succumb, it orders them to build more of the machines to house more Dalek mutants. Zolfian and Yarvelling die, leaving the new race of Daleks to take over the planet and plot to conquer the universe. That first Dalek will command its underlings to build it a new casing, and it becomes the gold, domed Emperor of the later strips.
Just to muddy continuity further, Nation later wrote another origins story, which appeared in the Radio Times 10th Anniversary Special. This claimed that the Daleks were actually our descendants, and that Skaro was a future Earth.
As we said when looking at the first two Dalek stories, they were always supposed to be analogous to the Nazis. You'll recall that Nation grew up in Cardiff during the Second World War, with the city being bombed and the threat of invasion almost constant. From the very start they have been obsessed with racial purity, with talk of exterminations and final solutions. The ones patrolling London even appear to give "Heil Hitler" type salutes with their sucker arms. Ian Chesterton described their motives as "a dislike for the unlike".
Genesis of the Daleks takes this Nazi imagery and runs with it. Not only are the Daleks fascistic, they derive from a fascist race - the Kaleds. We see this in the uniforms, and they even give the Sieg Heil type salute. The boy general, Ravon, delivers a speech about wiping every last Thal from the face of Skaro. Then Nyder - Davros' henchman - turns up wearing an Iron Cross. You'll notice that it disappears quite quickly, as the director thought it was taking the Nazi parallels a little too literally.
Whilst short, dark haired Adolf H believed in the Aryan ideal - typified by tall blond folks - this is actually the description for the Thals. As presented here, the Thals are no different to the Kaleds. They are just as genocidal and racist, happy to use slave labour to build missiles, and we see individual acts of extreme cruelty from them - such as when the guard makes Sarah believe he is going to drop her from the top of the rocket. The Thals we saw in The Daleks were pacifist by nature, something which they would have developed as a response to the events of the war, but we can see how they have already become militarised again when we get to Planet of the Daleks.
The humanoid Daleks of the comic strip seemed to be slightly based on the Mekon from Dan Dare, having quite large heads on small wiry bodies. Davros was originally envisaged as looking like the Mekon as well. When writing Journey's End, Russell T Davies toyed with the idea of including a flashback sequence that would have shown us how he came to be the way he was - crippled and confined to a wheelchair. As it is, his origins have never been shown on screen, or even explicitly described. In his next Dalek script, Nation will have the Movellans describe him as a "Kaled Mutant", rather than just a plain old ordinary Kaled. We know that his wheelchair is based on a Dalek, but in story terms it is obviously the other way round. He's creating the Daleks in his own image.
With six episodes to play with, and actors of the calibre of Tom Baker and Michael Wisher, we have the luxury of time to witness the Doctor and Davros debate - either with each other or with themselves. The two classic scenes which everyone remembers from the story are the discussion about just how far Davros would go in pursuit of scientific knowledge - the release of the deadly virus - and the Doctor anguishing over whether he has the right to commit genocide. In the latter scene, the Doctor mentions the famous "would you kill a child..." conundrum. The Doctor refers to the hypothetical child as growing up to be a tyrant, but most examples of it usually specify the child growing up to be Hitler, so we're back to Nazi references again.
As it is, the Doctor is saved from making his decision as it looks like Davros is about to be beaten in a coup by a group of his scientific elite. A little later, a Dalek accidentally triggers the explosives in the nursery anyway - but this does not destroy the Daleks, so the Doctor would not have been committing genocide anyway.
The Daleks eventually turn on all the Kaleds - and then Davros himself, as he had made them hate everyone who was not like them. We don't get to see if they would have kept him alive in order to help them, however, as the actual reason they shoot him is because he is about to blow up their production line. The Thal survivors then seal up the bunker. The Doctor states that he thinks he has only delayed the Daleks' emergence - by a thousand years. A blocked tunnel isn't going to take a millennium to clear, so he must be referring to the fact that their creator is no longer around to refine them. Some fans have assumed that this story then changes Dalek history as we have seen it up to this point, and we should push the dating for all the stories forward by one thousand years, if they happened at all. This change in history is also why we get Davros in all the subsequent stories of the original run, when he wasn't even mentioned, let alone seen, before. This theory is easily shot down. Perhaps all of the Daleks stories we have seen already took place one thousand years after they were supposed to have happened. The delay has already happened.
One other continuity irritation this story throws up is the fact that these are the more advanced Dalek design - capable of already moving around outside. The way round this is to assume that the Daleks in the bunker eventually regress in some ways, without their creator to help them.
The story arc gets back on track when the Doctor uses a Time Ring, given to him by that Time Lord agent at the beginning of the story, to get back to Nerva where the TARDIS will be waiting...
Next time: the Cybermen return for the first time in 6 years, in a story which is written by their co-creator, who has been away from the programme for even longer...
Tuesday, 6 November 2018
Garron was an intergalactic con-man, who specialised in selling planets. He possessed a large lump of the mineral jethrik, which was highly prized. He and his accomplice Unstoffe would plant the jethrik, so that the potential buyer would believe the planet to be more valuable than it really was. They would pocket the deposit and make their escape before their ruse was discovered. Garron originally came from Earth, often reminiscing about Hackney Wick in London. At one point he had tried to sell Sydney Harbour to someone. The Doctor encountered Garron when he arrived on the planet Ribos in search of the first segment of the Key to Time. Garron was attempting to sell the planet to the Graff Vynda-K - a ruthless military man who had been deposed from his throne whilst off on one of his endless campaigns. The Doctor's interference helped expose Garron's deceit, and he had to flee into the catacombs beneath the city. Unstoffe had the jethrik, and this proved to be the disguised Key segment. After the Graff and his men had been killed, Garron tried to steal the jethrik off of the Doctor but he was able to substitute it for a piece of ordinary stone. Garron could at least console himself with the Graff's plunder-laden spaceship.
Played by: Iain Cuthbertson. Appearances: The Ribos Operation (1978).
- Glaswegian actor Cuthbertson came to fame through the TV series Budgie, starring Adam Faith, in which he played the comic-villain Charlie Endell. This led to a spin off series called Charles Endell Esq. Genre fans will also remember him as the villain in the cult series Children of the Stones. He was a baddie yet again in the late 1980's series Super Gran - playing the Scunner Campbell.
Sam Garner was a New York private detective who was employed by the rich recluse Julius Grayle to investigate a building called Winter Quay. This was in 1938. Garner went to the apartment block and discovered a room with his name on its door. Inside he found a wallet identical to his own, with a yellowed and faded copy of his P.I. licence. In the bedroom was an old man, who informed him that he was his older self. Garner tried to flee but encountered a number of Weeping Angels. Forced up to the roof, he was confronted by the Statue of Liberty, which was also an Angel. It sent him back in time so that he lived and grew old in the building, to become the elderly man whom his younger self had just encountered - with the Angels feeding off of his potential energy.
When the Doctor's companion Rory Williams, who was to suffer the same fate, jumped from the roof and created a temporal paradox, Garner and the building's other captives would never have been trapped.
Played by: Rob David and Burnell Tucker (older Garner). Appearances: The Angels Take Manhattan (2012).
The Garm was a huge canine biped, which was immune to radiation. It was employed by the company who ran Terminus to take people suffering from Lazar's Disease into the radiation-soaked forbidden zone where they might be cured. The Vanir who operated the spacecraft had a control unit which the Garm was compelled to obey. The zone was the product of the vessel's damaged engines. A previous explosion had been responsible for the Big Bang, after it fell back through time, and another explosion was imminent. This would result in the destruction of the universe. The Doctor needed the Garm's strength to operate the ship's controls and avert the disaster, but it was being impeded by the Vanir control unit. The Doctor smashed it and freed the creature. Once the engines had been stabilised, the Doctor's companion Nyssa decided to stay on at Terminus to help the Vanir cure more Lazars. The Garm would assist, but willingly from now on.
Played by: R J Bell. Appearances: Terminus (1983).
- Writer Steve Gallagher looked to Norse mythology for inspiration for this story. Garm was a dog which guarded the entrance to the Land of the Dead.
- He only intended it to be seen as a dark shape lurking in the shadows, with glowing red eyes, and was not best pleased with its realisation on screen.
Gantok was an agent for the breakaway Kovarian chapter of the Silence. He dressed like a Viking warrior, and wore an eye-drive so that he could interact with the Silents. When the Doctor went hunting for information about the group he met another agent named Gideon Vandaleur, who turned out to be a disguised Tesselecta justice machine. It was the captain of the Tesselecta - Carter - who pointed the Doctor towards Gantok. The two played a game of Live Chess, in which the pieces were electrified and the loser could be killed. The Doctor won the game but spared his life, and so Gantok agreed to take him to the Seventh Transept, which housed the skulls of the Headless Monks. Once in the Transept tunnels, Gantok attempted to kill the Doctor, but he plunged into a pit full of the skulls. These still lived, and they rapidly devoured him.
Played by: Rondo Haxton. Appearances: The Wedding of River Song (2011).
- Rondo Haxton is, of course, an alias - as he is really played by Mark Gatiss. He got the name from the Horror film actor Rondo Hatton, who suffered from acromegaly. His best known role was as the Hoxton Creeper, in the 1944 Sherlock Holmes movie The Pearl of Death.
Monday, 5 November 2018
Brief synopses released today for the 7th and 8th episodes. The first is called Kerblam! The name relates to an intergalactic retailer on an alien moon, so expect some Amazon-type satire. Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack guest star - though Mack did say that he only has a small cameo.
The other episode is called The Witchfinders, and is the one with Alan Cumming as King James. Siobhan Finneran is another guest artist in this. It's set in 17th Century Lancashire.
Mercifully, neither are written by Chris Chibnall. He isn't even co-writing. Kerblam! is by Peter McTighe, and The Witchfinders is by Joy Wilkinson.
Sunday, 4 November 2018
The Tsuranga Conundrum began with the Doctor and her companions rooting trough garbage on a rubbish-tip asteroid. If it was rubbish they were looking for, then they only had to wait a few minutes for this episode to really get going.
I thought this episode was terrible. The best bits were the scenes with the Doctor and the senior medic Astos, as she tried to take over the spaceship whilst he tried to get her to think about the other patients on board. And then they killed him off after 10 minutes.
We were left with a bunch of under-developed characters instead. Vast swathes of dialogue were info-dump or techno-babble, and did the Doctor really waste several minutes giving us a lecture on anti-matter and protons? Yaz has been asked to defend the engine - did she really need to be told how it worked to do this?
Biggest waste of space was the android character. He really had no function in the plot at all. We were told that he would be immune to the touch of the alien - but this was never followed up. Yaz simply wrapped it in a blanket and kicked it a few yards down a corridor.
There was not enough incident, and there was not enough material to sustain three companions.
Graham and Ryan got pushed into a sub-plot about a pregnant guy, so they could deliver some platitudes about fatherhood. Earlier, Yaz and Ryan stopped in the middle of a corridor - in the middle of an alien attack which is threatening to destroy the spaceship - to have a chat about the death of Ryan's mother. Like you would.
That alien was probably the worst monster the series has delivered. It was described as being the deadliest thing in the universe - but yet again Chibnall tells and does not show. The only threat seemed to come from its inadvertent threat to the structure of the ship. It pretty much ignored the passengers and crew. A bad concept, and it looked stupid as well. I suspect little kids will have liked it, but no-one else.
There were the bones of a good story here, with the TARDIS team trapped on a doomed spaceship with an alien creature, but the potential was squandered. It should have been Alien, when what we got was Monsters Inc.
The most promising sub-plot was the one involving the General and her brother, but this was poorly developed thanks to those other sub-plots and extraneous characters.
As usual it looked good, with a very nice spaceship design, but junkyard planets have been done better (viz The Doctor's Wife).
We're now half way through the season, so time to take stock. I am a little disappointed overall, to be honest. The Doctor has yet to give us anything like a defining moment for this incarnation. It is all a bit too beige. We have hardly seen the new TARDIS interior, and the theme music has yet to grow on me. I think the problem is that it doesn't start with any kind of impact, like the sting of old. I am also pining for the sort of themes which Murray Gold used to provide. The music used to be criticised in the past, but I don't see many You Tube videos of fans producing their versions of any of the new stuff. It might work in the context of the stories, but we've had nothing memorable.
There are too many companions, and the Doctor's character is still not fully formed. I also think that Chibnall needs to stop writing every bloody episode. He simply isn't as good as Davies or Moffat. There hasn't been a single alien so far that I'd want to see return.
Apart from some details of the next story, and that one story revolves around King James I, the second half of the season is pretty much a mystery. Here's hoping things get better pretty damned quickly.
Thursday, 1 November 2018
When it came to setting up Tom Baker's first season as the Doctor, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks - along with new script editor Robert Holmes - decided to populate it with some favourite alien creatures, to help ease the transition for viewers still pining for Pertwee. One of these was a relative newcomer to the show - the Sontaran. The Time Warrior had proved to be very popular with the viewers and production team alike - especially Kevin Lindsay's performance as Linx. Holmes was obviously far too busy to write their return himself, what with having to script edit the whole season, write The Ark in Space, and heavily rewrite Gerry Davis' Cyberman story. Letts and Dicks therefore turned to Bob Baker and Dave Martin, who had provided some notable stories for them in the recent past.
As we mentioned last time, the decision had been made to dispense with a six part story, partly filmed and partly studio recorded, and split this into two separate stories - a four-parter which would be studio-bound, and a two-parter which would be filmed entirely on location. This latter was to be The Sontaran Experiment, though its working title was "The Destructors".
I say filmed, but the programme was to be recorded on the new light weight video cameras.
Baker and Martin had a building in their scripts - an old ruined chapel which would house Field-Major Styre's dungeon. However, the location down in Exmoor did not have such a structure in the vicinity, and there was to be no studio work involved, so Styre conducts his work en plein air.
The main location, where the Sontaran has his spaceship, was Hound Tor - miles away from the cast and crew hotel, and set back some distance from the nearest road.
Lindsay had suffered for his art with Linx, especially in the hot studio. He had a heart problem and this, plus the costume, caused him to collapse during the making of The Time Warrior. He was keen to reprise the role of a Sontaran, and so a modified costume was created to make life easier for him. This meant a much lighter mask, and he was only required to wear his helmet over it for one brief scene - when he first steps out of his ship for the cliffhanger to Part One. Even so, when it came to lunch breaks, Lindsay had his meals brought up to him on the Tor, to save him walking all the way down to the road and back. The story goes that one lunchtime a woman came past walking her dog, and was startled to discover him sitting alone amongst the rocks.
Lis Sladen was still feeling rather insecure, convinced that new producer Philip Hinchcliffe would want to replace her with a companion of his own devising. Her opinion changed when Hinchcliffe ran all the way from the Outside Broadcast van, up to the Tor, to tell her how much he had just enjoyed her performance in a scene.
As they were playing colonists from another planet, the actors cast as the Galsec spacemen adopted South African accents. One of them was actor Glyn Jones. He had earlier written a story for the William Hartnell era of the programme - The Space Museum - making him the first person to have both written for and appeared in Doctor Who. He held this distinction for a very long time, as the next would be Mark Gatiss, when he appeared in The Lazarus Experiment, after having written The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot's Lantern. To date only one further person has managed this - when Toby Whithouse got to feature in Twice Upon A Time.
The main thing everyone knows is that Tom Baker broke his collar bone during the filming. You can see the moment on screen (and hear the crack) when Styre strikes the Doctor just after he has come to rescue Sarah from the "fear" experiment. As he had little to do on this story, but was still needed on location, designer Roger Murray-Leach volunteered to accompany Baker to the hospital, and the two bonded over the experience. This was only Baker's second story to be recorded, and he was naturally worried that they might have to recast were the injury serious. In the days before mobile phones, Hinchcliffe was unable to find out what was happening, but that evening Baker turned up at the hotel with his arm in a sling. The weather on location was cold and wet, so the Doctor was sporting a large coat. He also had his soon-to-be trademark scarf to act as a sling, so it was relatively easy to conceal the damaged arm, and Baker was mostly shot in close up from this point on.
Stuart Fell had been hired to act as stunt extra for Kevin Lindsay, as he was not fit enough to manage strenuous scenes like fight sequences, whilst Terry Walsh - who had been Pertwee's double and who had a small role as a Galsec crewman - became Baker's stunt double. This means that for much of the second episode, you are actually watching two stuntmen battling it out.
For Bob Baker and Dave Martin, their main inspiration for the story was their reading about Nazi war crimes - in particular the experiments conducted on prisoners in the concentration camps. The most notorious exponent of these was Josef Mengele, who worked at Auschwitz from 1943. He was transferred to another camp just days before Auschwitz was liberated, and managed to flee Germany at the end of the war - travelling to Argentina, then Paraguay and finally Brazil. Various attempts to extradite him - both legal and illegal - failed. He eventually headed Hell-wise in 1979 after suffering a stroke whilst swimming. Buried under a false name, his remains were later disinterred and identified in 1985.
Styre's mission is to conduct experiments on captive humans to test their resilience in the event of a planned invasion. The plot rather falls apart over this. Where is the threat from humans on a planet which doesn't have any - and why conduct experiments on humans on a planet that doesn't have any? Styre has to lure the Galsec crew to Earth to carry out his work. He is also determined to carry out all of his planned experiments, even though his High Command should be able to work out the risk from just a couple of them - yet they sit waiting for his final report. The Grand Marshall (also played by Lindsay, with a modified collar) then meekly accepts the word of the Doctor that there is a force strong enough to defeat them.
Like many great Bond villains before him, Styre also opts for the old "I will kill you, but not right now" approach - which leads to his undoing. Harry sabotages the machine which re-energises him, causing it to feed on him and he deflates like a balloon.
This is the first story since The Sea Devils in which there is no sign at all of the TARDIS - due to the on-going story arc for this season. The Doctor and his companions beamed down from space station Nerva by transmat to Earth, and they depart in the same manner.
Next time: the Daleks are back to fight the Doctor, but this time they've brought their dad...