Thursday, 31 January 2019
We mentioned once before how the seasons of the classic era of Doctor Who did not conform to the pattern we see today, of significant events being saved for season finales or season openers. Other than the fact that the final story of each season between 1975 and 1979 was an extra two episodes in length, they simply didn't have season finales in the sense we know them. (It could be argued that the recent Series 11 didn't have a finale either, but that is more down to the last episode's relative weakness, rather than a lack of intent on the part of the production team).
William Hartnell handed over to Patrick Troughton at the end of the second story of Season 4, and all the companion departures / arrivals occurred mid-season throughout the 1960's. It was only when we got to the Pertwee era that companions bowed out at the end of a season - Barry Letts realising that the introduction of a new companion in the season opener was an audience draw.
When it came time for Lis Sladen to depart the programme, after a hugely successful three years, she elected to go part way through her fourth series - insisting she leave when her character of Sarah Jane Smith was still popular. It is believed the reason she did not go at the end of the previous season is that she still hoped that the proposed Doctor Who movie might still be made ("Doctor Who Meets Scratchman", which was co-authored by Tom Baker and Ian Marter, with input from its planned director James Hill).
So it is, then, that Sarah departs in only the second story of Season 14. The story is The Hand of Fear, and it is written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.
The story we got on screen was built on the remains of two rejected stories - both of which just happened to feature the demise of a regular cast member.
The Hand of Fear was originally going to be a six parter, designed to close Season 13. It would have been set in a London of the near future and was to have featured UNIT in a prominent role. The aliens were a race called the Omegans, who were a silicon-based lifeform. Society would have been seen to have collapsed, with UNIT fighting another military group loyal to the aliens. The story would also have seen the death of the Brigadier, as he flew a suicide mission to crash a 'plane into the Omegan mothership which was in orbit above the city.
Whilst Baker and Martin developed this storyline, director Douglas Camfield was trying to get his first writing commission on the series. He had earlier contributed a story set during World War II - provisionally entitled "Operation Werewolf". It didn't feature wolfmen, but was instead about a group of Nazis trying to invade Britain using a teleport device. Much earlier, Brian Hayles (creator of the Ice Warriors) had tried to get a WWII story commissioned, but the BBC of the time did not think stories set during the war were acceptable - the events of the conflict being too recent in the public's mind. (Jimmy Perry and David Croft had encountered the same opposition when they proposed a sitcom about the Home Guard in the late 1960's. They persevered, thankfully, and we got Dad's Army).
Obsessed by all things military, Camfield had a particular fascination with the Foreign Legion. He proposed a story set in a fort in the North African desert, to be called "The Legion of the Lost". Camfield had Sarah die heroically at the conclusion.
The one thing which Sladen did not want, however, was to be killed off. She did not think that this would be fair to the legions of young fans of her character.
Camfield's story never got beyond the storyline stage. He did not have any more to do with Doctor Who after this, moving on to other projects - one of which, appropriately enough, was a highly successful adaptation of Beau Geste for the BBC's Sunday evening classic serials slot, produced in 1982 by Barry Letts.
Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes, meanwhile, were having serious reservations about the shape of the Baker and Martin script. Even the name of the aliens was a problem, as the same writers had already called the villain of their 10th Anniversary story (The Three Doctors) Omega.
The story was pushed back into the next season so that a virtual rewrite could be carried out, and the episode count was reduced to four. It was quite clear that the UNIT regulars had all moved on to other work by this point, so UNIT's involvement was dropped - even though the new version was still set in the present, and involved a situation in which the Doctor would normally have involved his old colleagues.
One of the only things left from the original story idea is that the aliens - now known as Kastrians - are silicon-based.
The new story sees the Doctor and Sarah arrive by TARDIS in a quarry-like landscape - only to discover it actually is a quarry this time. They get caught up in a rock blasting accident, and when Sarah is dug out of the rubble she is found to be clutching a fossilised hand - humanoid in form but many millions of years old. She is taken to hospital where Baker and Martin employ a joke where an intern thinks that Gallifrey must be a place in Ireland. They will use the exact same joke in another hospital scene in the next season. The stone hand is found to be living matter, rather than a bit of old statue, and it absorbs radiation to reconstitute itself. Sarah has held onto a blue crystal ring from the hand, and it exerts an hypnotic influence over her - compelling her to take the hand to a nearby nuclear power station. Baker and Martin had intended this to be the same power plant they had used in their very first story - The Claws of Axos - but the name was changed slightly from Nuton to Nunton.
Baker and Martin lived near Oldbury power station, and could see it from their homes. For research they contacted the station and were invited for a tour, and the authorities were more than happy for their story to be filmed there.
Episode One ends with the hand stirring to life.
This being the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era, we can look to classic horror movies once again. "Evil" hands had featured in horror films since the silent era - usually versions of the story about a concert pianist losing his hands in an accident and having a pair transplanted from another man, who turns out to have been a murderer. The pianist then finds the hands taking over and he is compelled to go round strangling people. The Hands of Orlac is the best known example of this story. Conrad Veidt starred in a 1924 Austrian version, and it was remade by Hollywood as Mad Love in 1935, with Peter Lorre in the Veidt role. 1960 then saw an Anglo-French co-production with Mel Ferrer as Orlac. The source material is the novel Les Mains d'Orlac by Maurice Renard, published in 1920.
More relevant to this Doctor Who story are those tales of disembodied hands which go crawling around on their own. A well known example of this is The Beast With Five Fingers (1946), based on a 1919 short story by W F Harvey. It also features Peter Lorre. The plot revolves around the suspicious death of a reclusive millionaire, and the household of squabbling friends and relatives who want to get their hands on his fortune - one of whom may have murdered the old man. The classic scene is when everyone hears the dead man playing the piano in the middle of the night - but of course there is no-one to be seen when they go to look, and it is then found that someone has broken into the mausoleum and cut off the corpse's left hand. The hand is then seen crawling around the house by various parties.
In 1981 Oliver Stone directed The Hand, starring Michael Caine as a comics artist who loses his hand, only for it to take on a life of its own.
The ending to both these movies is left ambiguous, as the killer is found to be mentally unstable and so we don't know if the hand was real or just in his imagination.
However, the best known version of the crawling hand tale is probably that which belonged to Michael Gough, which sets out to get revenge on Christopher Lee in his segment of the classic Amicus portmanteau horror Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965). Peter Cushing is the tarot-reading stranger in a train compartment, who predicts dreadful things for his fellow passengers. Gough plays an artist whose work is trashed by critic Christopher Lee. Gough gets his own back by showing a group of works by another artist which Lee raves about - only to find they have been painted by a chimpanzee. His reputation belittled, Lee runs down Gough with his car, causing him to lose his hand. This then starts stalking Lee.
One final example worth mentioning is Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2, wherein Bruce Campbell is plagued by his own demon-possessed hand.
Back to The Hand of Fear, and the titular hand regenerates into the Kastrian Eldrad, who appears female but this is because of its connection to Sarah. Eldrad forces the Doctor to return her to Kastria. The planet is found to be a dead world. The Doctor and Sarah discover that Eldrad was actually a criminal, executed by her people millions of years ago, and she is responsible for the planet's devastation. Eldrad regenerates again into her original form - which turns out to be male. The Doctor and Sarah flee - leaving Eldrad to become king of a dead planet.
Sarah throws a bit of a tantrum and threatens to leave the TARDIS - and this coincides with the Doctor receiving a mental message from his home planet. He has to return to Gallifrey - and Sarah can't come with him. Baker and Martin did not write any of the closing TARDIS scene. It was written by Robert Holmes, but heavily reworked by Lis Sladen and Tom Baker themselves.
The Doctor drops Sarah off at her home in South Croydon - but she realises too late that he has brought her to the wrong place. Decades later, when Sarah returns in School Reunion, we will learn that she is actually in Aberdeen. The last we see of Sarah in this story is her walking off whistling Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me A Bow-Wow. This 1892 music hall song was written for Vesta Victoria. Like many seemingly innocent music hall songs it contains a lot of sexual innuendo - a bow-wow was a euphemism for a male member.
Sladen couldn't actually whistle, so it is director Lennie Mayne who you can hear. This was Mayne's last contribution to the series, as he died in a boating accident in May 1977. (His yacht hit a trawler in the English Channel in the dark. His body was never recovered). He uses actors he has employed in previous stories, also written by Baker and Martin - including Rex Robinson as Dr Carter, who had featured in both The Three Doctors and The Monster of Peladon, and his wife Frances Pidgeon, who had also appeared in The Monster of Peladon.
Next time: Gallifrey turns out to be a cross between Oxbridge and the Vatican, and the Doctor goes it alone against an assassin. Not just any assassin. A deadly assassin...
Tuesday, 29 January 2019
In which Sarah Jane Smith and her young companions are working in the attic when an alarm sounds. They are visited by a small man dressed in business suit and bowler hat. He claims to have come from the Galactic Alliance to pass on thanks for all the help Sarah and her team have given to protect the Earth from alien threats. The man gives his name as Rhanius - or Rani for short. Rani Chandra points out that there are now two Rani's present...
He explains that he has just come from the golf course where he was playing Brucifax and Tarbulon, then presents them all with headwear which look suspiciously like deeley boppers. He pulls up a chair and begins to tell them a story about fork handles (one that would probably have been long and rambling, with many detours) but he is interrupted when they hear the sound of breaking wind. Rhanius claims that it must be the chair, but Sarah and her friends are not convinced.
Sure enough, Mr Smith identifies the newcomer as a Slitheen. The deeley boppers are activated and cause everyone to become frozen on the spot. K9 arrives, but Rhanius puts a wheelclamp on him.
Rhanius unmasks and reveals that he is going to steal K9. Clyde is able to turn on an energy reversal device attached to Mr Smith, and Rhanius finds that he is now immobilised and his captives are free. He is sent back to where he came from - presumably the planet Raxacoricofallapatorius...
From Raxacoricofallapatorius With Love was written by Clayton Hickman and Gareth Roberts, and was broadcast on the night of 13th March 2009 as part of the BBC's biannual Comic Relief telethon. (Hickman was editor of DWM between 2002 - 2007, and with Roberts has written a number of Doctor Who spin-off materials. He was also the DVD range cover designer until 2012).
It is a mini-episode (of 5m 10s duration) of The Sarah Jane Adventures, with comedy actor Ronnie Corbett as its guest star. The SJA team pretty much play it as they would a normal episode, whilst the script is littered with Two Ronnies references.
There is the two Rani's gag, and he was famous for his rambling anecdotes sitting in front of the audience. The "fork handles" sketch is without doubt the comedy duo's best known piece. Sarah says "And it's goodnight from him..." as Rhanius is teleported away - the line Ronnie Barker always closed their show on.
Corbett was also well-known for his pro-celebrity golfing appearances, where he would often be joined by the likes of Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck.
Doctor Who has a history of association with Comic Relief going back to 1999, when a certain Steven Moffat wrote The Curse of Fatal Death, which starred Rowan Atkinson as the 9th Doctor - before he regenerated into Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Richard E Grant and Joanna Lumley.
Whilst the programme has always had links with the BBC's annual Children In Need charity event (going back to 1993's notorious Dimensions In Time), it would not provide another minisode for Comic Relief until 2011, when Moffat contributed the shorts Time and Space, although David Tennant had featured in a Doctor Who related Catherine Tate sketch for the 2007 event.
If any of the above references go over your head, just have a hunt around You Tube and you're sure to be enlightened.
Sunday, 27 January 2019
The Series 11 box-set in either DVD, Blu-Ray or Steelbook formats is already out in the UK. It has failed to dent the charts - coming straight in at No.80 in the official chart, before dropping down to No.90 this week. The set is due for release in the US in the next couple of days, and Amazon US has it listed at a discount price ($20 less than the list price).
I have to admit that I haven't bought it myself yet. I will wait and pick it up cheap later on - mainly because I am in no great rush to rewatch the series, and because I am currently rewatching the entirety of Doctor Who from the beginning and have so far only got to the mid-Troughton period - so I won't be reaching Series 11 for quite some time.
February 18th sees the New Year's Day Special, Resolution, released in the UK.
Something else I will be buying as soon as it comes out is the animated The Macra Terror, due on 18th March. I will make do with the DVD version - don't see the point in buying animation in HD - and I certainly don't want to watch a colour version of the story.
If you bought the DWM Yearbook recently you will have seen a feature on the Blu-Ray box-set releases. I was pleased to read that they will be releasing the first 6 seasons (the B&W / missing episodes era), as well as the colour ones - and they don't intend to leave them until the end.
My understanding is that the next two sets to be released after Tom Baker's final one will be the 10th, with Jon Pertwee's Doctor, covering The Three Doctors to The Green Death, and the 26th - Sylvester McCoy's final season (and indeed the final classic series season), comprising Battlefield to Survival.
The article got me thinking about what the Seasons 1 - 6 box-sets might look like. The two most complete seasons, as far as what's left in the archives is concerned, are William Hartnell's second season (Planet of Giants to The Time Meddler) which is only missing episodes 2 and 4 from The Crusade, and Patrick Troughton's final season (Season 6 - The Dominators to The War Games), which is missing 7 episodes.
Parts 2 and 4 of The Crusade exist as telesnaps, so could be released in that way alongside the off-air soundtrack, or they could be animated.
As for Season 6, the seven missing episodes comprise two from The Invasion (already animated for its DVD release) and five of the six parts of The Space Pirates. The latter poses a problem, as there are no telesnaps available for the missing five episodes and the story has very little in the way of photographic references - making animation nigh on impossible.
And what of Seasons 1, 3, 4 and 5? Well Season 1 is also very well represented in the archives. The only missing episodes are two from The Reign of Terror (already animated), and the 7 episodes which comprise Marco Polo. Six of the Marco Polo episodes exist as telesnaps, but the problem lies with the middle episode. It had a different director, who opted not to purchase these off screen images. However, unlike The Space Pirates, we have a wealth of photographic material from this story, so animation or representative images could be used to accompany the soundtrack.
Seasons 3 - 5 pose far greater problems, as this is where the bulk of the missing episodes are to be found, and fewer stories have telesnaps available.
Material currently available for Season 3 includes: Episode 3 of Galaxy Four (plus a 5 minute chunk of Episode One); Episodes 2, 5 and 10 of The Daleks' Masterplan; The Ark; Episode 4 of The Celestial Toymaker; The Gunfighters; and The War Machines. That's just three complete stories, plus 5 orphan episodes. As far as telesnaps are concerned, only The Savages has these.
From Season 4 we have: The Tenth Planet; Power of the Daleks (animated); Episodes 2 and 3 of The Underwater Menace; The Moonbase; The Macra Terror (animated); Episodes 1 and 3 of The Faceless Ones; and Episode 2 of Evil of the Daleks. That's four complete stories (thanks to animation in every case) plus 5 orphan episodes. Luckily, this time all the missing episodes / stories are covered by telesnaps.
And from Season 5 we have: Tomb of the Cybermen, Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen; The Ice Warriors; Enemy of the World; all but Episode 3 of The Web of Fear; and Episodes 3 and 6 of The Wheel in Space. That's 3 complete stories (4 if you count Web as being almost complete) plus 3 orphan episodes. Again, we have telesnaps for all the missing episodes / stories.
Enemy of the World got a Special Edition re-release, with extras, and I have been expecting The Web of Fear to get the same treatment, with the missing third episode animated.
I assume that more episodes will be getting animated - either complete stories such as they have done with The Macra Terror, or sets of episodes which will complete those stories which are partly covered in the archives. There is also that slim chance that other missing episodes are rediscovered.
It will be interesting to see just what the 1963 - 1969 Blu-Ray box-sets eventually look like.
Friday, 25 January 2019
Season 14 opens with The Masque of Mandragora, written by Louis Marks. This is his fourth and final credit on the series, and what an eclectic bunch of stories they have been. Some writers are synonymous with "eras" of the show, or with particular types of story - but Marks just turns up every so often with something completely different each time. We first met him back in 1964 when he was given the brief to write the "miniscules" story, (Planet of Giants), a variant of which had been on the drawing board from the very start of the programme. He next turned up in the middle of the Pertwee / UNIT action-adventure years, with a story revolving around assassins from the future and a temporal paradox (which became Day of the Daleks after he was asked to bring the Daleks back from their long hiatus).
Then he was back for the Hinchcliffe-Holmes Gothic Horror period, with the Jeckyll & Hyde / Forbidden Planet themed Planet of Evil.
He doesn't have to wait quite so long between commissions this time, as he returns for the second season in a row.
Marks was a bit of an authority on certain aspects of the Renaissance - having for time been a lecturer on the subject. In particular, he had written a paper on late 15th and early 16th Century Florentine finances. For this story, Marks was allowed to delve into his specialist subject for ideas.
But first, we get a brand new TARDIS. At least on the outside. As mentioned last time, the old Police Box prop had collapsed on top of Tom Baker and Lis Sladen whilst on location for the closing moments of The Seeds of Doom. A new box was built, which is of a lighter, brighter blue colour than the original one, as well as being slightly smaller - so easier to fit on the sets. Philip Hinchcliffe did not like the console room set, thinking it rather boring and much too big - taking up far too much studio and storage space. Designer Barry Newbery was asked to come up with a smaller alternative, and he decided on a radical rethink. Looking to the works of Jules Verne - especially Captain Nemo's Nautilus submersible - he decided on an antique wood and brass look. The Doctor claims that the new console room is actually the old console room - the one he used to use a long time ago. We see a frilly Third Doctor-style shirt, and Sarah picks up a recorder, as played often by the Second Doctor. The suggestion is that these earlier Doctors sometimes went back to it. Certain features are retained. The walls still have roundels, though they are carved out of wood, and some have stained glass inserts. The central console is still hexagonal, though the controls are hidden behind Davenport writing desk-type covers. In place of the usual glass column, we have a shaving mirror which acts as... well, just a shaving mirror. We get to see one other TARDIS room - the boot cupboard. This looks like a Palladian drawing room, with a solitary pair of boots standing in the corner.
No sooner has the Doctor taken up residence in the new / old console room, than the ship gets caught up in the Mandragora Helix - a whirlpool of sentient energy floating in space.
Mandragora is the Latin equivalent of the English mandrake - a plant which has roots which look vaguely human in form. The odd shape, plus the fact that the plants contain hallucinogenic properties, have caused mandrake to become associated with many occult practices, and it is used in magical rites. Fans of Harry Potter will be well aware of mandrakes.
It's most likely that Marks got the name from a play by Niccolo Machiavelli - La Mandragola. It was written during Machiavelli's exile from Florence following the return to power of the Medici in 1518, and the collapse of the Florentine Republic. It was first published in 1524, and is seen as a satirical parody of the Medici. It revolves around a man's use of mandrake to drug a woman he wishes to woo. The mandrake is also known as the "love plant". A revival of the play in New York in 1979 starred a young Tom Hanks as the main protagonist.
The TARDIS escapes and arrives in the tiny Dukedom of San Martino in what will one day become Italy, in the latter years of the 15th Century. The novelisation makes it 1492. This fits with some later dialogue about the guests who will come for the new Duke's investiture, including Leonardo da Vinci, who is said to be in the company of the Duke of Milan. That would be the notorious Ludovico Sforza - nicknamed Il Moro (the Moor) due to his jet black hair and swarthy complexion. He ruled until 1498 when he was deposed - dying in prison in 1508. Leonardo had first approached the Duke for work in the 1480's.
The young Duke of San Martino's scheming uncle - Count Federico - seems to have been inspired by Sforza.
The Mandragora Helix's plan is to prevent the Renaissance from taking place - leaving Earth in a less enlightened, superstitious phase which will make it easier for it to take over and enslave the human race. Renaissance means rebirth, and it is generally regarded as a period either side of the turn of the 15th and 16th Centuries when great advances were made in the fields of art, science and philosophy. Much of this was inspired by the rediscovery of ancient Rome through archaeological finds. Like the Industrial Revolution or the Enlightenment, there was no one big event which triggered it, and what we regard as the Renaissance comes mainly from how it was defined afterwards, though the name was affixed at the time, as people could see the changes that were taking place.
Mandragora plans to use a pagan cult as its bridgehead - the Cult of Demnos. They are said to date back to Roman times, and to be moon worshipers. Marks may have been thinking of the Roman Cult of Mithras when devising the Demnos group. They are led by a man named Hieronymous, who works for the Count - though Federico is oblivious to his Cult activities, and would like to see them wiped out. Hieronymous is commissioned to write horoscopes which will predict bad things for the Count's enemies - and to then assist with the prophesies coming true through some judicious poisoning. He has already bumped off the old Duke - Federico's brother - and now the Count wants the nephew gone in the same way as quickly as possible.
Hieronymous was named after the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch (d. 1516) who was famous for his surreal, nightmarish paintings.
Young Giuliano is a Renaissance Man, interested in the new sciences and learning. For his investiture he has invited many powerful rulers, as well as scientists and philosophers (like Leonardo). Once they are all assembled, the Cult of Demnos will be used to wipe them out - setting progress back for centuries.
This being the Robert Holmes / Gothic Horror era, a classic horror movie is never far away. This time we don't look to Hammer or Universal Studios, but to the smaller American International Pictures studio. Director Roger Corman made a name for himself in the 1960's with a number of low budget, but highly effective, adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories. So successful were these that when they ran out of Poe to adapt and made a movie based on an H P Lovecraft story, they stuck a Poe poem at the beginning and billed it as "Edgar Allan Poe's The Haunted Palace". It's really Lovecraft's The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Corman was able to obtain the services of Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone and Peter Lorre for his films, as well as giving young actors like Jack Nicholson their first break. One of the last of the AIP Poe-cycle was 1964's The Masque of the Red Death - which is where Louis Marks got his story title from. The film uses another Poe short story - Hop-Frog - as a subplot.
In the film, Vincent Price plays an evil Duke who parties in his castle as all around him his subjects perish from a plague - the Red Death. The movie culminates in a lavish masque ball during which a mysterious robed figure appears - dealing death to everyone he touches. He's the Red Death personified, like one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. When on his Cult duties, Hieronymous wears cowled purple robes and a golden mask, and once the Mandragora Helix permeates his body he can dispense death with lethal energy bolts from his fingertips, and his followers are able to do the same - attacking Giuliano's guests at a masque-ball in the final episode.
It is claimed that when Robert Holmes discovered how many different authors Marks had used as sources for his story, he is said to have told the writer he would have given him only a fraction of the fee.
Before we close, a quick mention of the location filming for this story, as well as the lavish costumes. Unable to go to Padua or Urbino, the production team went to Portmeirion in Wales - best known for its portrayal of The Village in The Prisoner. This tourist village was built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis over a period of 50 years on the Gwynedd coast, using architectural salvage and new builds based on architectural designs from all around Europe - giving much of it an Italianate feel. Barry Newbery set up a fake Roman ruin for filming. Sir Clough liked it so much he asked if it could be kept - only to learn that it was made from lightweight materials that would never have survived their first Welsh winter.
Costume designer James Acheson, meanwhile, tried to get his hands on some costumes from the Italian film industry. He was promised some from a production of Romeo and Juliet. Excited to think these to be from the award winning 1968 Franco Zeffirelli production, he was disappointed to discover that they came from the lesser regarded 1954 Renato Castellani adaptation.
Next time: Sarah Jane Smith bows out, with a bow-wow. There's a beast with five fingers on the loose, in a story whose development is far more interesting than what made it to the screen. Oh yes, and Eldrad Must Live!...
Tuesday, 22 January 2019
In which Rani's mother, Gita, is working late in the evening at her florist shop when she is visited by a new customer. This is Mrs Wormwood - the disguised alien Bane who had attempted to take over the planet using the soft drink Bubble Shock, and who was responsible for the creation of Luke Smith. Luke has recently been having nightmares about her. Rani alerts her friends when Gita fails to come home, so they go to the shop. Sarah finds a hidden message on the cheque which Mrs Wormwood wrote for Gita, and this leads them to an industrial estate. Here they find Rani's mother, as well as Mrs Wormwood. She asks them for help. Ever since the failed invasion, she has been on the run from her own people who will kill her if they capture her. To prove the point, a number of Bane arrive and attack. Mrs Wormwood saves Sarah, and she is taken to Bannerman Road. Here she is placed in a containment field by Mr Smith, as Sarah does not fully trust her. She claims to have come to warn Sarah of an alien threat. Centuries ago a destructive creature named Horath was defeated. It could not be killed, so its body and consciousness were separated. She claims that the Bane have found the consciousness, and are now looking to reunite it with the body, which was buried somewhere on Earth.
The location is to be found described in the Tunguska Scroll, which is now in the custody of UNIT at its high security Black Archive. Sarah decides to call on her old friend retired-Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart for help in accessing the Archive - leaving Luke and Clyde with the captive Mrs Wormwood. The Brigadier helps Sarah and Rani break into the complex, and they steal the Scroll. They are pursued by Major Kilburne, who commands the Archive. Back at the attic, Mrs Wormwood manages to convince Luke to let her go, playing on the fact that she gave life to him and promising to make him powerful by her side. The Bane attack, but they are saved by the arrival of the Sontaran Commander Kaagh, who they had encountered a few weeks ago. He is now working for Mrs Wormwood.
Everyone flees to Gita's shop to hide out. Kaagh appears and takes Luke hostage, and Mrs Wormwood seizes the Scroll. Luke is taken to the industrial estate where Kaagh has his spaceship hidden. The Consciousness of Horath is downloaded into the Scroll. Luke tries to run off, and Kaagh gives chase, but Mrs Wormwood stops him from shooting the boy. She really does want him to leave Earth with her, and sees herself as his true mother. Back at Sarah's attic, Mr Smith is asked to help find where Mrs Wormwood might have taken Luke. Major Kilburne arrives, but proves to be a disguised Bane. The Brigadier shoots him with a gun hidden in his walking stick, allowing Sarah, Rani and Clyde to escape. Mr Smith had guided them towards an ancient stone circle which Clyde recalls visiting on a school trip. They hurry there and find Mrs Wormwood, Kaagh and Luke about to open a portal to another dimension where Horath is to be found. The circle has a forcefield around it which only humans can cross - which is why they needed Luke to insert the Scroll into the central stone. Kaagh feels humiliated by Mrs Wormwood, and decides to turn against her. Before she can kill Sarah, after being rejected by Luke, Kaagh grabs hold of her and they fall into the portal. Sarah destroys the Scroll, leaving Mrs Wormwood and Kaagh trapped in the other dimension. Everyone returns to Bannerman Road where Sarah says goodbye to the Brigadier.
Enemy of the Bane was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 1st and 8th December, 2008. It marks the end of the second series of The Sarah Jane Adventures. It is notable for the appearance of Nicholas Courtney as the now retired Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart - his final on-screen appearance in this iconic role, having first appeared as the character 40 years previously.
The story acts as a sequel both to the pilot episode - Invasion of the Bane - and to the Series 2 opener, The Last Sontaran. In the latter story, Kaagh had been despatched back to Sontar in disgrace. Here we learn that he could not return home due to the humiliation of his defeat by children, and so had become a sort of mercenary - which is how he came to be working with Mrs Wormwood.
She had last been seen about to flee the exploding Bubble Shock factory.
She is once again portrayed by Samantha Bond, and Kaagh is again played by Anthony O'Donnell.
UNIT Major Kilburne is played by Simon Chadwick. He turns out to be a Bane in human disguise, but the real Major is in charge of the Black Archive. Here it appears to be a large complex in the middle of the English countryside. When we next see it, it is located under the Tower of London and is part of UNIT HQ. Presumably it was relocated thanks to the ease with which Sarah and Rani managed to break in - albeit with the Brigadier's assistance.
Overall, a very satisfying end to a stronger second season. Great to see the Brigadier get one final outing, though a pity he didn't get to reappear in the parent programme.
Things you might like to know:
- Exec Producer Russell T Davies originally intended this story to feature the return of Martha Jones. When Freema Agyeman proved unavailable, the Brigadier was included instead. This is therefore the second time that the Brigadier was brought back as a second choice - Mawdryn Undead originally due to have featured Ian Chesterton.
- The Brigadier is critical of the way UNIT is run these days. This may refer to the way they were portrayed in the Torchwood episode Fragments, where they can hold people indefinitely without trial. Later, his daughter Kate will take over, and shape the organisation along lines which her father would have approved of.
- Series 1 had also featured the same alien menace from the first episode reappear for the finale (then it was the Slitheen).
- Kaagh destroys Sarah's sonic lipstick, but at the conclusion at the stone circle she reveals that she has a spare.
- There is a Torchwood reference when Sarah tells Rani that the UK government has known about aliens since Queen Victoria's time.
- Luke and Clyde get slimed when the attacking Bane are destroyed. This will become a running gag throughout the rest of the series, as they, and sometimes Sarah and Rani as well, get covered in goo from an exploding alien.
Thursday, 17 January 2019
So, there are these polar scientists and they come across something alien buried in the ice. They take it to their isolated base and what they've brought back proves to be merely dormant. It returns to life, and is found to be vegetable-based but carnivorous. An alien creature then stalks the base looking for blood.
Then we have this plant-obsessed millionaire living in a big English mansion, and he falls under the mental control of an alien plant-form which fell to Earth. It compels him to feed it and it grows to giant size, threatening to demolish the house. The heroes who become trapped in the building use a new high powered defoliant against it. The story features an eccentric old lady who is equally plant-obsessed, but one of the goodies.
That first paragraph is me talking about the Howard Hawks movie The Thing From Another World. And the second paragraph is a brief summary of "Man-Eater of Surrey Green", an episode of The Avengers.
Doctor Who during the latter half of the 1970's adopted a pattern of five 4-part stories, with a 6-parter to conclude the season - starting with this season. Script Editor Robert Holmes did not like 6-parters. He felt that they required padding as the narrative couldn't be sustained for nearly two and a half hours. Holmes advocated splitting the narrative into a linked 2-part section, and a 4-part section. Look at the way The Talons of Weng-Chiang has the first four episodes revolving around the Palace Theatre, before moving the last two parts to Greel's new hideout. The Invasion of Time has four episodes of Vardans, then suddenly introduces the Sontarans once the Vardans are defeated and the action moves inside the TARDIS. The latter part of Shada, had it been completed, moves away from Cambridge into outer space. The Armageddon Factor is actually split into three sections - two episodes apiece set in different locations - Atrios, Zeos and finally the Shadow's planet.
This splitting of the narrative to different settings can first be seen with The Seeds of Doom.
Writer Robert Banks Stewart had written what was supposed to be the final story for the previous season - Terror of the Zygons - although it had been held back to open Season 13. Deeming it a success even before it had aired, he was invited back to write another story by Holmes and Producer Philip Hinchcliffe. Once again, he asked for an Earth-based setting. As director Douglas Camfield had realised Zygons so well, he was commissioned to direct Stewart's new story as well, and he in turn invited back composer Geoffrey Burgon, making this a bit of a reunion.
It would also prove to be the swansong for all three on Doctor Who. Camfield, who directed the filmed action sequences for the very first Doctor Who story - An Unearthly Child - way back in 1963, and who got his first director credit the following year with the third part of Planet of Giants, moved on to other things. He did attempt to write for the show after this - in particular a Foreign Legion-set story that would have seen Sarah Jane Smith killed off. Robert Banks Stewart did start to write a third story - "The Foe From The Future" - but it was never finished and Robert Holmes used elements of it for his own The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
Taking Holmes' advice about 6-parters, Stewart set his first two episodes at the South Pole, at a scientific research base. The team find a gourd-like pod, which leads them to believe that there was vegetation in the Antarctic thousands of years ago, judging from how deep it was found in the permafrost. The scientists learn that it is not dead but dormant, and it grows under ultra-violet light. One night it splits open and a tendril shoots out and attaches itself to the arm of one of the men. He becomes infected and starts to turn into a Krynoid - a hostile plant-based life-form which is carnivorous. Back in London, the World Ecology Bureau have called upon UNIT's scientific adviser for advice about the pod. Why they should think to do so is never explained. It's only when the Doctor has already been called in that he identifies it as alien. By the time he and Sarah get to the South Pole the scientist has already been infected and is mutating into a Krynoid.
These two episodes do seem to be inspired by that movie mentioned above - not the first time that the programme has looked to John W Campbell Jnr's novella Who Goes There?. This story was first published in the August 1938 edition of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, under the pen name of Don A Stuart.
The story tells of a group of scientists in the Antarctic finding an alien spaceship buried in the ice. They accidentally destroy it when they try to melt the ice, but then find the body of the occupant nearby. When it thaws out, it begins to devour the crew of the polar base and then mimics its victims. It can shape-shift as a person or an animal and is telepathic - so can retain its victim's memories, and the story is basically about paranoia as no-one knows who can be trusted. John Carpenter's 1982 version - The Thing - is much closer to the original story than 1951's The Thing From Another World. This earlier movie was directed by Christian Nyby, whose contribution is usually overshadowed by Howard Hawks' involvement (it was his production company).
In 2018 it was discovered that the novella was actually a shortened version of an earlier unpublished full novel - the original manuscript being found amongst Campbell's papers. There are moves afoot to have this published soon. In the 1951 film, the alien does not shape-shift, but it is found to be a plant-based creature. The lead scientist even tries to grow mini-aliens from spores it produces in the greenhouse, feeding them from the base sickbay's blood stocks.
Back to The Seeds of Doom... The Doctor knows that Krynoid pods, like policemen, always travel in pairs, and sure enough he unearths a second one. This is stolen by a scientist named Keeler and his mercenary companion Scorby. They have been sent by the plant-obsessed millionaire Harrison Chase, who favours flora over fauna, and wants the pod for his private collection.
Episodes 3 - 6 move the action away from the South Pole to Chase's mansion back in England, and this is where The Avengers comes in.
"Man-Eater of Surrey Green" was written by Philip Levene, and was first broadcast in the UK in December 1965 as part of the show's 4th season - the B&W Mrs Peel season. Botanists are going missing all over the Home Counties so Steed needs Mrs Peel to help investigate. They find the wreck of a crashed space test-flight, which appears to have collided with a large plant-form. Part of this plant has been found by a plant-obsessed millionaire named Sir Lyle Peterson. It has telepathic powers and it has taken him over. He has all his estate workers busy cultivating it, and it has also taken control of the missing botanists to help its plan to take over the world. The plant eats people.
It is eventually killed by weedkiller after its vines and tendrils have enveloped Peterson's house, with Steed and Mrs Peel trapped inside. (Earlier in the episode, when they discover that there are plants floating around in space, Mrs Peel makes the bizarre claim that scientists believe that the dark patches seen on the Moon's surface are thought to be vegetation...).
I've read an awful lot of stuff about Doctor Who over the years (as you might have gathered reading this blog) and one thing I notice about this story - The Seeds of Doom - is that The Avengers' episode is rarely mentioned in relation to it. I suspect that this is because it is not so much an homage, as an outright steal. There are just so many similarities. Not only is Harrison Chase the sort of villain whom Steed and Peel met on a regular basis, we also have the eccentric Amelia Ducat. She is the sort of character who also features regularly in The Avengers. She paints flowers and plants, but fancies herself as a secret agent. "Man-Eater of Surrey Green" features the equally eccentric botanist Dr Sheldon - an elderly female character who provides some light relief.
Of course, The Avengers episode is by no means itself original. Where else have we seen a spaceship crash back to Earth bringing a plant-based alien life-form with it? One that devours people as it grows? Nigel Kneale might have bemoaned the fact that Doctor Who often pinched his ideas, but so too did The Avengers on this occasion.
UNIT make their last appearance in the show (until 1989). Nicholas Courtney was still treading the boards in The Dame of Sark, so proved unavailable yet again. After their rather shoddy treatment in The Android Invasion, John Levene and Ian Marter obviously didn't feel like coming back, so we get a replacement Brigadier character - Major Beresford - and a new, short-lived, Sergeant named Henderson.
Another farewell is to the TARDIS police box prop. It collapsed on top of Tom Baker and Lis Sladen when they were recording the final scene of the story, and so plans were made to build a new one for Season 14. That final sequence has caused some puzzlement, as Sarah claims the Doctor must have forgotten to reset the co-ordinates (the TARDIS materialising at the South Pole instead of some alien paradise planet). However, the Doctor and Sarah never used the TARDIS to get to the South Pole in the first place - they went by aeroplane. This continuity error is easily explained away if we assume that the Doctor was going to use the TARDIS and set the co-ordinates, but then changed his mind as the ship does tend to be a bit unpredictable when it comes to navigation.
Next time: Astrological capers in Renaissance Italy. Mandragora swallows the moon, but the Doctor would rather have a salami sandwich...
Tuesday, 15 January 2019
In which Sarah and her young companions investigate a temporal anomaly in a derelict shop. A schoolboy named Oscar passes through the anomaly, and they realise that it is a portal to the 1950's. Sarah decides to take him back through and discovers that the portal comes out on a hillside overlooking the village of Foxgrove. This was where she lived as a baby, and where her parents were killed in a road accident - on the very day the portal leads to, 14th August, 1951...
Sarah returns to the present day and closes the anomaly. That night, she reminisces about the parents whom she never got to know. She decides that she cannot pass up the opportunity of meeting them, and so dons an appropriate dress. Luke interrupts her, guessing what she intends and warning that it may be a trap. She insists on returning to the shop to reopen the portal, and Luke goes with her. Passing back into 1951, they head down to the village, observed by Oscar.
The following morning Clyde finds Sarah's home empty, and Mr Smith does not know where Sarah and Luke have gone. He fetches Rani, and they search the attic - finding that the box given to Sarah by the Verron Soothsayer has become active, as it had when the Trickster had tried to remove Sarah from time. They guess where Sarah and Luke have gone and hurry to the shop. At the village, Sarah finds a fete in progress, and meets her parents - Eddie and Barbara Smith. They have baby Sarah with them in her pram. Sarah introduces herself as Victoria Beckham, and Luke as her son, David. She wants to know how her parents could have come to abandon her when they drove off to meet their deaths, so decides to help out at the fete. Luke sees Oscar, and starts to follow him. Sarah disables her parent's car, so that they will no longer be killed, then she and Luke decide to return to the portal entrance on the hill. The weather suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Clyde and Rani see Oscar emerge from the portal in 2009, and are shocked when he reveals that he is the Graske, Krislok, in disguise. They run off and discover time changing around them. When Sarah and Luke arrive back in the present, it is to find London in ruins. In saving her parents, Sarah has changed history...
The Trickster appears and informs Sarah that Foxgrove lies on a weak point in time. By changing her parent's history, she had allowed him to materialise back in 1951 and ravage the Earth for the last 50 years. Sarah and Luke rush back to 1951 to find a way of preventing this future from happening. Rani and Clyde are trapped in the new future however, protected by the Soothsayers box and so are unaffected by the changes. Rani sees her mother Gita working in a slave party, overseen by Krislok. She has no knowledge of who Rani is, as her daughter was never born in this timeline. Gita tells them of the legend of the day Sarah Jane Smith handed over the world to the Trickster. They discover that the Graske is no more than a slave himself. He had been about to die in a spaceship crash when the Trickster had offered him his life in return for serving him. He asks for the Soothsayer's box in return for reopening the portal, to allow Rani to travel back to 1951 to help Sarah and Luke. Clyde agrees to give it to him.
Rani travels to the village and is able to find Sarah and Luke. When they learn that Victoria Beckham is really named Sarah, Eddie and Barbara come to realise that she is their grown up daughter. Rani warns Sarah that the legend stated that the Trickster arrived through the Abbot's Gateway - part of a ruined monastery close to the village. Sarah uses her sonic lipstick to repair her parent's car and they drive off to meet their fate. The Trickster is materialising in the Gateway when he realises that his plan has failed. He fades away. Back in 2009, history begins to reassert itself. Clyde gives Krislok the box, giving him freedom from the Trickster. Sarah, Luke and Rani return to the present day and the portal is closed. Sarah has the consolation of having met her parents, and of knowing that they did not abandon her but instead sacrificed themselves to save her and the future.
The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on 17th and 24th November, 2008. It acted as a sequel to Roberts' Series 1 story Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane Smith, and saw the return of Paul Marc Davis as the Trickster, and Jimmy Vee as the Graske, Krislok, from that story.
When Sarah was first introduced, in 1974's The Time Warrior, it was stated that she had an aunt named Lavinia. Later, we learned that Lavinia had brought Sarah up after the death of her parents (suggested by the K9 & Company spin-off and confirmed in The Day of the Clown earlier in this series). Here we discover that Lavinia was Eddie's sister.
Eddie is played by Christopher Pizzey, and Barbara Smith is Rosanna Lavelle.
The story has themes in common with the 2005 Doctor Who story Father's Day, in which Rose Tyler sought to save her parent who was supposed to have died - causing a disruption to the timelines.
Things you might like to know:
- At one point Sarah thinks that the Doctor might have come to help out, as she sees a Police Call Box in the village, and we hear a hint of The Doctor's Theme. This turns out to be a real police box, however.
- Foxgrove appears to be in Hertfordshire, as Luke picks up a copy of The Hertfordshire Times.
- Rani has been told about the Doctor and the TARDIS by this point, as she mentions them. She will finally get to meet him in the third part of the Trickster Trilogy - The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith - in the following series.
- Sarah was born in May 1951. She claimed to be 23 during The Invasion of the Dinosaurs - thus making that story set firmly in 1974. This further proves that the UNIT stories were set at their time of broadcast and not in an indeterminate near future.
- Sarah says of her aunt Lavinia that she was never in one place long enough to lick a stamp. This is exactly what Lavinia said of her niece in the K9 spin-off.
Sunday, 13 January 2019
When the Doctor investigated a group of guerrilla fighters who had travelled back from the 22nd Century to assassinate a leading diplomat, his companion Jo Grant was accidentally thrown forward to the future by one of their time machines. To get her back, he accompanied the guerrillas on their return to their own time, and found the planet to be under the rule of the Daleks. They had changed history and reconquered the planet following a series of global wars - the blame for which was allegedly due to the diplomat, Sir Reginald Styles. In command of the Dalek forces was the Gold Dalek. It acted as governor of the planet. It knew of the Doctor but did not recognise him in his third incarnation, so authorised the use of a mind probe to ascertain his identity. The Doctor managed to escape with the help of the guerrillas, after they learned of his experience fighting the invaders. He was able to work out that the guerrillas had themselves been responsible for the wars, and so travelled back to the 20th Century with Jo to put history back on course. The Gold Dalek led an assault party after them, in order to make sure their version of events took place. They were destroyed when the guerrilla Shura blew up the mansion where a peace conference was to have taken place.
In the year 2540, the Doctor discovered that someone was trying to provoke a war between the rival Earth and Draconian Empires. This proved to be the Master, who was using a hypnotic device to make his Ogron servants appear as humans or Draconians to each other when they raided their spaceships. The Doctor traced the Master to the Ogron home planet but on arrival he was captured by a squad of Daleks. They were behind the Master's scheme - intent on invading the galaxy after the two Empires had destroyed themselves in warfare. The Daleks had come to the Ogron planet to check on progress, and the squad was led by another Gold Dalek. After it had left to report back to the Supreme Council on Skaro, the Doctor got hold of the Master's hypno-device and used it to make himself appear as the Gold Dalek, in order to force an Ogron guard to release him.
Voiced by: Oliver Gilbert and Michael Wisher. Appearances: Day of the Daleks (1972), Frontier in Space (1973).
Colonel Godsacre was the commander of a British expeditionary force encountered by the Doctor on the planet Mars in 1881. He and his men had discovered an injured Ice Warrior in hibernation in the South African veldt. After it was reanimated it offered to help them travel to its home planet where great riches were to be found. They called the creature "Friday" and helped it repair its spaceship. The Doctor noted that Godsacre tended to defer to his Captain, Catchlove. This was because Catchlove knew of the Colonel's shameful secret, which gave him power over him. Godsacre had once attempted to desert. He had been caught and hanged, but the execution was botched and he survived. The soldiers inadvertently reanimated Iraaxa, Empress of the Ice Warriors, which is what Friday had intended them to do. She reanimated more of her people, and they went to war against the soldiers. Catchlove took Iraaxa hostage, intending to flee the planet on his own. Godsacre shot him dead, then offered his life for that of his men. Impressed by his honour, Iraaxa spared him. In return, he promised to serve her until death. He and his surviving men would have left Mars with the Ice Warriors when rescue ships from Alpha Centauri arrived.
Played by: Anthony Calf. Appearances: Empress of Mars (2017).
- Calf had previously featured in Doctor Who as the squire's son, Charles, in 1982's The Visitation, one of his first TV appearances.
A trio of ancient beings encountered by the Doctor on the planet Segonax. The Psychic Circus had set up its big top on top of some ruins which acted as a portal to the Gods' domain. They craved entertainment, and enslaved the circus performers to this end. Visitors to the circus were forced to participate in acts played out before a seemingly normal human family, comprising a mum, dad and daughter. These were just the personifications of the Gods. If they did not like the acts, the participants were killed. The Doctor was able to pass between the dimensions and found himself confronting the Gods in an ancient arena, where they appeared in their true form - masked and robed living statues. The Doctor performed a number of magic tricks to keep them diverted in order to buy time, as companion Ace and a circus employee named Deadbeat sought a powerful amulet which could be used as a weapon against them. Once he obtained this, the Doctor used it to redirect their powers against them, destroying them and their arena. The Doctor claimed that he had been fighting against the Gods all his life.
Played by: David Ashford (Dad), Janet Hargreaves (Mum) and Kathryn Ludlow (Girl). Appearances: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988).
Diana Goddard was one of the personal assistants to billionaire Henry Van Statten, based at his private bunker built deep beneath the Utah desert. The complex contained a museum of extra-terrestrial artefacts, including one live exhibit - a Dalek. Goddard had seen how other PA's could be instantly dismissed, their memories wiped as they were dumped on the road at the whim of her employer. As such, she was determined to keep on his good side and work efficiently. The museum was visited by the Doctor and Rose Tyler, after the TARDIS had picked up a distress signal coming from the Dalek. The creature managed to escape and it killed most of the people in the bunker. The Doctor warned that if it got outside it would wipe anyone it encountered. However, the Dalek had become infected with human traits after the contact with Rose which had regenerated it. It elected to blow itself up rather than lose its purity. After the crisis, Goddard - disgusted that his actions had led to the deaths of so many people - had Van Statten deposed. He would have his memory wiped and be left dumped on a roadside somewhere.
Played by: Anna-Louise Plowman. Appearances: Dalek (2005).
- Plowman is married to actor Toby Stephens (son of Dame Maggie Smith and Sir Robert Stephens, who played Bond villain Gustav Graves in the final Pierce Brosnan 007 film). The pair starred together in the pirate series Black Sails.
Thursday, 10 January 2019
It was a dark and stormy night...
Actually, it was a dark and stormy year. Welcome to 1816 - the Year Without A Summer. The previous April had seen the biggest volcanic eruption in some 1300 years - that of Mount Tambora in what was then the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). This event led to a volcanic winter, lowering global temperatures and resulting in freakish weather across the planet for the next 18 months. In Europe, summer never came. It remained cold and wet and crops failed, leading to famine and civil unrest in many countries. It wasn't all bad news. A chap in Germany invented a prototype bicycle, when there weren't enough oats to feed the horses, and JMW Turner got some spectacular sunsets to paint. Lord Byron won't have known what the weather was going to be like when he booked himself a villa in Switzerland for the summer. Villa Diodati lies on the shores of Lake Geneva. Tourists staying in nearby hotels hired telescopes in order to catch a glimpse of the infamous poet, and his equally infamous house guests. Present were Dr John Polidori, Byron's travelling companion, as well as fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his soon-to-be wife Mary Godwin, plus her step-sister Claire Claremont (who was hoping to rekindle a romance with Byron).
The weather was so bad that the group of friends had to spend a lot of time indoors, and one way of passing the time was a scary story competition. Polidori came up with The Vampyre - based on Byron himself. For many years it was believed that the mad, bad and dangerous to know poet was the actual author. Mary Godwin, meanwhile, devised the story of Frankenstein - a scientist who attempts to create new life from the bodies of the dead. There's a lovely sanitised version of these events as a prologue to James Whales' 1935 movie Bride of Frankenstein. Elsa Lanchester plays Mary, before later reappearing as the titular Bride.
Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, was first published anonymously two years later, with Mary Shelley credited as author only from the second edition in 1823. She was inspired by a number of sources, including the story of Pygmalion. The Swiss setting came from where they were staying, as well as it being a location for some of her father's works. She was aware of the electrical experiments that had been conducted by Luigi Galvani in the latter years of the previous century - experiments which had led some followers to attempt to reanimate the bodies of executed criminals.
Mary Shelley's own life story also fed in themes of death and guilt.
The Brain of Morbius is, of course, the Frankenstein Doctor Who story, wherein a mad scientist makes a monstrous body in which to house the brain of a renegade Time Lord. We don't know for certain how many of the Frankenstein trappings were in writer Terrance Dicks' original story. His version had the Time Lord's body being built by a robot servant, using whatever it could find to make a patchwork creation, not having any sense of aesthetics. It simply used what was practical. Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes had reservations about the robot being realised in a studio, and certain aspects of the plotting. Dicks had gone off on holiday and couldn't be contacted, so Holmes was told to start redrafting. It was he who came up with the human scientist building the body. When Dicks returned, he read the new draft and was furious at what Holmes had done to his story. He argued that a brilliant scientist would never have created the patchwork body, for instance. He eventually told Holmes to take his name off the story, telling him to "use some bland pseudonym instead". When he discovered that the story as broadcast was credited to one Robin Bland, he found it hilarious, and the rift with Holmes was healed.
What we see on screen is a Robert Holmes story, so we can safely assume that much of the more explicit Frankenstein references came from him. He looked not so much to the book, but to the movie versions of the story - especially the Universal Studios series of the 1930's and '40's (from Frankenstein in 1931 to House of Dracula in 1945), and to the Hammer series, which ran from The Curse of Frankenstein in 1957 to Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell in 1974.
The first two Universal films feature the creature's creator, Henry, whilst the next two feature Henry's sons, as the franchise wanted to move things to contemporary times. No Frankensteins feature in the final three movies - just the creature, which led to the popular misconception that Frankenstein was the name of the flat-headed bloke with the bolts through his neck. Hammer chose to have Peter Cushing's Baron as the protagonist in all their movies, whipping up a new monster each time.
The Universal movies created the idea of the mad, amoral scientist, which was picked up with a vengeance in the 1950's after the world entered the atomic age. All the 1950's Sci-Fi movie mad scientists owe a debt to Baron Frankenstein. One of the archetypal amoral scientists of the golden age of Sci-Fi is the one played by Walter Pidgeon in Forbidden Planet - one Dr Morbius...
The Brain of Morbius' mad scientist is Mehendri Solon - played impeccably by Philip Madoc. Solon was a follower of the rogue Time Lord Morbius, who had been President of the High Council. He had craved even more power and had promised his followers access to the Sacred Flame on the planet Karn, which produced an elixir that greatly prolonged life. Captured by the Time Lords on Karn, Morbius was executed - but Solon managed to remove his brain and keep it alive before his body was vapourised. Hammer did the same trick when they had the Baron's brain transplanted into a new body by one of his acolytes at the conclusion of The Revenge of Frankenstein - a body which just happened to look very like Peter Cushing.
One of the elements which comes from the movies is the hunchbacked assistant - generally known as Ygor. In the original James Whale film, this character is actually called Fritz (played by Dwight Frye. He returns in a number of later films in the franchise as other characters, and had previously portrayed Renfield in the Bela Lugosi Dracula movie). The Son of Frankenstein, the third installment, does introduce a character named Ygor - a murderer who broke his neck when hanged but who did not die. He's played by Lugosi. He has befriended the monster and wants the new Baron, played by Basil Rathbone, to make it well again - mainly so he can use it to kill the people who tried to hang him. Ygor is in the next film as well (The Ghost of Frankenstein), at the end of which he has his brain transplanted into the monster, and Lugosi goes on to play the monster in the fourth film (Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman).
In The Brain of Morbius, the Ygor figure is Condo - a character of brute violence as well as having an affectionate side, as he takes a bit of a shine to Sarah.
The Sacred Flame is in the care of the Sisterhood of Karn. The elixir has meant that they can live forever. The inspiration for this part of the story derives from H Rider Haggard's She. She: A History of Adventure was first published in 1886. That's She, as in She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. The tale tells of explorers coming across an African civilisation ruled by a queen named Ayesha who is immortal. Her kingdom lies beneath a dormant volcano, and she gets her longevity from bathing in a pillar of fire which has magical properties. There have been a number of film versions of the story - the best known of which is the Hammer one from 1965 starring Ursula Andress as Ayesha. Peter Cushing is the leader of the expedition. I should point out at this juncture that director Christopher Barry had hoped to get Cushing to play Solon or, failing that, Vincent Price, who worked a lot in Britain in the 1970's.
Another cinematic version of She you may have seen is the 1935 one starring Randolph Scott and Nigel Bruce, which relocated the action to a lost civilisation in the Arctic.
For much of the action in The Brain of Morbius, Sarah is blind. When she first realises this she becomes a little self-pitying and mimics a flower seller - "buy some lovely violets...". This may be just coincidence, but Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady is a Covent Garden flower seller - and that musical is based on George Bernard Shaw's play of Pygmalion, the classical original of which was one of Mary Godwin's inspirations for Frankenstein...
We can't leave this look at The Brain of Morbius without mentioning its most controversial sequence. (Controversial for fans that is. Mrs Whitehouse really started to go to town on the programme following this story's broadcast). The Doctor and newly reanimated Morbius fight a mental duel, in which they force each other back through previous incarnations. After we see Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee, we get a number of other characters (all played by members of the production team). Hinchcliffe and Holmes maintained that, as far as they were concerned, these figures were earlier versions of the Doctor. When the first regeneration took place back in 1966, David Whitaker originally had the Doctor say that he had been renewed several times before - so the Hartnell Doctor was not the first. However, this dialogue was cut from later drafts of The Power of the Daleks, and The Three Doctors explicitly states that there have only been two Doctors before the Pertwee one. As it is Morbius who loses the contest, and not the Doctor, these other figures have to be his earlier selves - despite what they intended at the time.
Next time: The Thing From Another World meets an episode of The Avengers, as not everything in the garden is rosy for the Doctor and Sarah...
Tuesday, 8 January 2019
The Doctor first encountered Sabalom Glitz, who hailed from the planet Salostopus in Andromeda, when in his sixth incarnation. He and Peri had come to investigate the planet Ravolox, which had the same mass, rotation and angle of tilt as the Earth, yet lay on the other side of the galaxy. Glitz was there with his young associate Dibber, sent by a mysterious backer to steal some data files from an underground bunker. A career criminal, Glitz was prepared to lie, cheat and even kill to achieve his goal, and would do anything for money. When brute force failed, he would attempt to charm his way to success, but this failed to act on Queen Katryca of the Tribe of the Free, who could see that he was nothing but a rogue. Glitz joined forces with the Doctor when it suited him, but later abandoned him when he saw the chance to trick the L3 robot Drathro into giving him the data files he sought. The files were ultimately destroyed when the robot burned up, but Glitz was consoled by having the remains of the power mast, a black light converter, which it had used - composed as it was of a valuable mineral.
The events on Ravolox - really the Earth of the far future, transported across space by the High Council of Time Lords to hide the fact that the data files contained information stolen from the Matrix - formed part of the evidence used against the Doctor during a judicial inquiry into his meddlesome actions. When the inquiry turned into a full-blown trial and the Doctor faced the death penalty for genocide, the Master brought Glitz to the space-station where the proceedings were taking place to act as a witness for his defence. It was the Master who had employed him to steal the data files. Glitz joined the Doctor in the nightmare world of the Matrix, created by the Valeyard - the prosecutor who turned out to be a future incarnation of the Doctor. Once again, Glitz appeared to be helping the Doctor, but he was still working for the Master. He gave him a copy of the data files, but these proved to be a booby-trap prepared by the Valeyard, and the Master and Glitz became trapped in the Master's TARDIS by a limbo atrophier. Once the Valeyard had been defeated, the Doctor asked the court to be lenient with Glitz.
Some time later, now in his seventh incarnation, the Doctor and his companion Mel visited the Iceworld complex on the planet Svartos. They encountered Glitz in one of the restaurants. He had had his spaceship - the Nosferatu - impounded as he could not pay the landing charges, and he had even been forced to sell his crew into slavery with Iceworld's ruler, Kane. Kane was going to turn them into a mindless army once he got free of the complex, which was really his prison. Glitz had been duped into buying a map, which was supposed to lead to a fabulous treasure hidden in the lower levels of Svartos. However, it was said to be guarded by a dragon. This was really a bio-mechanical creature which housed the power source Kane needed to reactivate his spaceship. The map had a hidden tracker device, enabling Kane to discover the dragon's whereabouts. Once he realised he had been tricked, Glitz attempted to run off in his ship but was stopped by one of Kane's officers who wanted it for herself. It was later taken by a group of customers trying to flee Iceworld, but Kane destroyed it. Once Kane himself had been destroyed, Glitz decided to commandeer his ship - renaming it the Nosferatu II. Mel decided to join him on his travels in order to keep him out of trouble, whilst the Doctor traveled on with a new companion, a worker from the restaurant named Ace.
Played by: Tony Selby. Appearances: Trial of a Time Lord [Parts 1 - 4, 13, 14] (1985), Dragonfire (1987).
Group Captain "Chunky" Gilmore led the Intrusion Countermeasures Group - a British scientific-military organisation which was a precursor to UNIT. Gilmore had as his chief scientific adviser Prof Rachel Jensen. In late 1963, the Group were called in to investigate strange radio signals coming from the Shoreditch area of East London - emanating from Coal Hill School, and a nearby junkyard in Totter's Lane. The Doctor arrived in the area soon after, accompanied by Ace, and he inveigled himself onto the investigation. At the junkyard, he identified the alien life-form which the Group had cornered in a shed as a Dalek. Gilmore was forced to accept the Doctor's help when it became clear that he had knowledge of the Daleks. He clearly reminded the Doctor of his old friend the Brigadier, as he called Gilmore "Brigadier" at one point. As the Doctor struggled to stop two rival factions of Daleks from destroying the planet in their hunt for the Hand of Omega, which he himself had hidden in the district many years ago, Gilmore discovered that he had a traitor in his midst. His seemingly loyal sergeant, Mike Smith, was secretly working for a fascist group who wanted to ally with one of the Dalek factions. Gilmore was forced to relieve him of duty, but later attended the young man's funeral after he had been killed by a Dalek agent.
Played by: Simon Williams. Appearances: Remembrance of the Daleks (1988).
- Williams came to prominence in the long-running drama Upstairs, Downstairs, playing James Bellamy. He is the brother of the poet Hugo Williams.
- His son, Tam - now also an actor - played one of the Coal Hill schoolchildren in this Doctor Who story.
- The Intrusion Countermeasures Group have been revived in recent years on audio by Big Finish, with all the original TV cast reprising their roles.