Friday, 29 November 2019

Inspirations - Time-Flight


The writer of Time-Flight is Peter Grimwade. He had directed a couple of Doctor Who stories - including the previous one, Earthshock, after spending a number of years working on the show as a Production Assistant. A complaint from him about there always being robots in stories he worked on led Tom Baker to change the scripted 'Grimwold's Syndrome' in Robots of Death to 'Grimwade's Syndrome' - another name for Robophobia.
Time-Flight was his first effort to write for the series - and it's a surprise that he was invited back. Actually, that's quite unfair, as most of this story's problems have nothing to do with the script itself. The really big problem was that Grimwade put forward a story that involved a Concorde supersonic airliner being transported back to prehistoric Earth, and the producer and script editor thought that it would be okay to produce it at the end of the season after all the money had ran out.
John Nathan-Turner, as should already be apparent if you have been reading these in order, was nothing if not a showman - keen to do anything that would garner publicity and hopefully get him some freebies into the bargain.
An airport-based story would obviously tie in with closing Tegan's story arc, what with her being an airline stewardess. Despite having been in service for more than a decade, Concorde was still a symbol of luxury and status. If they could get the real thing into the programme then this would be a major publicity coup, and show that the programme was sticking to high quality standards. When the aircraft had featured in a Bond movie, it had been footage of Roger Moore's actual arrival in the USA to begin filming that they recorded - having Moore change in to his Bond suit just before landing.
Apparently, when British Airways looked like they might not allow use of a Concorde for filming, JNT told them that Air France had already said yes - just to prompt BA into agreeing. They only agreed so long as neither BA nor the aircraft itself were shown in a negative light.
The BBC were offered a single morning with the aircraft, a spare one, to be filmed at Heathrow.


Never let it be said that Doctor Who ever trades in cliches, but there is a popular conception amongst the general public that male air stewards are often gay. We only see one male steward in this story, but the three cabin crew of the Concorde in which the Doctor and his companions travel all just happened to be played by gay actors. Most notable is Michael Cashman, he of the first gay kiss on the soap Eastenders, and who went on to become a Labour MEP. With gay actors, a gay writer and a gay producer, you might have thought that this story's reputation might have been salvaged at least a little by being championed by the series' many gay fans - but at the end of the day a generally derided  story is still just a generally derided story.
Peter Grimwade was an opera lover - German opera, if his later Mawdryn Undead is anything to go by. He has some elements of the Parsifal quest in this story, as Nyssa is drawn by an unseen force to delve deeper and deeper into the Xeraphin pyramid. On the way she meets several terrors, designed to stop her from proceeding with her quest - including dead friend Adric. She first sees an image of the Melkur - the disguised form of the Master's TARDIS as it had appeared on Traken. As she tells Tegan, the thing that came from the Melkur killed her father. We also get to see a Terileptil, from a recent adventure the two young women both shared. Then we get an image of the now dead Adric, warning them not to go any further. Matthew Waterhouse's inclusion here is entirely down to the Radio Times. These days it always comes out on a Tuesday, along with all the weekly TV and Radio listings magazines, but back then it came out on a Thursday. Viewers tuning in to see Part Four of Earthshock weren't supposed to know that Adric was going to snuff it, and the eagle-eyed might have spotted that he wasn't in the credits for the following week's two episodes. Waterhouse was therefore brought back to appear briefly as a mirage - just so he could be included in the cast listings and maintain the surprise ending of Earthshock.


Talking of Radio Times cast listings, alongside Waterhouse was one Leon Ny Tain, playing the rotund magician character of Kalid, who appears to be behind these temporal hijackings of Concorde aircraft. It doesn't take Inspector Morse to work out that 'Leon Ny Tain' is an anagram of Tony Ainley. For no discernible reason whatsoever, the Master is disguising himself as a vaguely oriental mystic, wearing a mask and fat suit. The production team seem to be labouring under the delusion that the Master was always disguising himself. We've already seen this new incarnation of the villainous Time Lord pretend to be the Portreeve of Castrovalva - but then he had a reason for doing so. He was laying a trap for people who would recognise him. The Roger Delgado Master only wore a face mask twice - in Terror of the Autons when he played a telephone engineer, and in The Claws of Axos when he pretended to be an army officer. He did employ masks on two other occasions - but it was to make folk think that other people were him - Rex Farrell in Terror of the Autons, and the hypnotised hovercraft pilot in The Sea Devils. Both times the masks were employed to create a diversion which would allow him to escape. Yes, the Master pretended to be other people lots of other times - but he didn't resort to any form of disguise save for the relevant costume to do so.
There is no way that the Master would have any inkling that anyone who knows him will pitch up on prehistoric Earth in this story - so why the deception? The script doesn't even try to explain.
The story ends with Tegan being left behind at Heathrow as the Doctor makes a hurried departure with just Nyssa on board the TARDIS. It was never intended that Janet Fielding was going to be leaving the show at this point - Tegan was always going to be brought back for the opening story of Season 20. This was simply a way to create a season break cliffhanger, rather than one between episodes or between stories, as was beginning to happen again after being common in the Hartnell and early Troughton eras.
Next time: Season 20 begins and, as it's a big anniversary, we get elements of the past in each story - starting with someone we haven't seen since the last big anniversary. Turns out tulips aren't the only things to come from Amsterdam...

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith - SJA 4.6


In which Sarah Jane Smith, Clyde and Rani rush to the landing site of a meteorite, following an alert from Mr Smith. There is a fear that it may carry alien pathogens. It proves to be harmless, but they are confronted by a woman who has also come to investigate, and claims to be helping save the planet from aliens. She speeds off in a red sports car, and later they discover that she has moved in to a house around the corner from Bannerman Road. They go to confront her and learn that her name is Ruby White and she has moved to the area because of all the alien activity which Sarah and her friends have been dealing with over the last couple of years. She cold shoulders them and orders them out of her home - accusing them of being little more than amateurs.
The next day Sarah finds herself forgetting that Luke is away at university when she talks to Rani's mother. Gita. Then she forgets K9's name when she later talks to her son.


There is another alert from Mr Smith, sending them to a junkyard where a trio of Dark Horde warriors materialise. Sarah discovers that she has forgotten to ask Clyde to bring the sonic lipstick, and she realises they are defenceless. Ruby suddenly appears and gets Clyde and Rani to help her to chase the Horde off, using a hand-held AI device to make them think they are up against superior forces. Clyde nicknames the device Mr White, after Sarah's Mr Smith.
They invite Ruby back to the attic, where she apologises for her earlier cold attitude towards them. She wants to be friends, and even Mr Smith and Mr White seem to get along. That evening, Sarah becomes increasingly worried about her memory lapses, and asks Mr Smith to conduct a medical scan on her. He notifies her that she has a degenerative brain condition. Not wishing to put Clyde and Rani at risk, as she did at the junkyard, Sarah decides to retire. She invites Ruby to her home and asks her to take over from her. After ordering Mr Smith to delete her command protocols, she gets ready to leave on an extended holiday. However, she finds herself transported to a cellar where Ruby chains her to the wall. In an alcove is a massive fleshy lump - Ruby's stomach. She is really an alien Qetesh, creatures who feed on the emotions of others. Ruby has been attacking Sarah for some days, causing her memory problems, and Mr White had tampered with Mr Smith to give the false medical scan diagnosis. She has abducted Sarah as she had led the most exciting life of anyone on Earth. Afterwards she will feed on the entire planet...


Instead of stopping alien invasions, she will facilitate them - to create more emotions upon which to feed. Clyde and Rani see a fake video message from Sarah telling them that she has gone away for good, but Clyde is suspicious as she would never abandon Luke. Mr Smith then attempts to warn him but Ruby shuts the computer down and Mr White teleports Clyde away from the attic. He finds himself in a pod floating in space above the Earth - a prison capsule from which Ruby has escaped. He has a limited amount of oxygen. Mr White had been an entertainments console left by her captors, but she reprogrammed it to aid her escape.
Worried about his mother, Luke arrives at Rani's house. Luke contacts K9 back in Oxford and gets him to trace Clyde's phone, and they discover he is in space. Rani must get her mobile close to Mr White, so that K9 can hack into it. Mr White is reprogrammed to return Clyde to Earth, but Ruby escapes. Luke, Rani and Clyde go to her house and find Sarah in the cellar, where the stomach is still feeding off her. Mr White is used to create a hologram of meteor strikes hitting the planet, and the huge wave of emotion generated is too much for Ruby's stomach to absorb. It shrivels up, releasing what it had taken from Sarah back to her. Ruby vows revenge, but is sent back to her prison in space.


Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith was written by Gareth Roberts and Clayton Hickman, and was first broadcast on 15th and 16th November, 2010. It marks the end of Series 4 of The Sarah Jane Adventures - what would prove to be the last full season of the show. Hickman is best known for being the editor of Doctor Who Magazine (from 2002 to 2007, so in post to oversee the return of Doctor Who to the airwaves, and a huge redesign for the publication). He's also well known for his design work - including the covers for the Classic Doctor Who DVD range. You'll have seen him in a few of the DVD extras as well.
Every series of SJA has had a story with "Sarah Jane Smith" in the title, written by Roberts. This is the first one not to feature the Trickster. This is the first season in which he hasn't appeared. Instead, a new character is introduced - a sort of anti-Sarah Jane Smith who at first appears to do everything she does, only better, and looks more glamorous to the youngsters. Mr White is a small hand held gizmo, as opposed to Sarah's huge attic-dwelling computer, and Ruby White drives a flash red sports car as opposed to Sarah's - a retro-looking Nissan Figaro.
After a few cameo appearances on video links in the last couple of stories, Tommy Knight returns as Luke, and K9 also features. This would be K9 Mark IV's final appearance on screen (and therefore John Leeson's final vocal work in the televised Doctor Who universe, at least to date).


We only have two guest artists in this story, principal of whom is Julie Graham. She's Scottish, so naturally her first TV work was an episode of Taggart. Genre appearances include the revamped Survivors, a remake of Terry Nation's 1970's drama series, and Bonekickers. that dreadful archaeological adventure series.
Voicing Mr White is Eddie Marsan (Mr Norrell in the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell amongst many, many others).
It's a surprise that neither guest artist has been called upon to appear in Doctor Who itself.
Overall, another quality addition to The Sarah Jane Adventures. It's tragic in hindsight, watching this knowing that Lis Sladen was already ill, as we see Sarah physically and mentally deteriorate. The title is painfully apt, as this was the last thing we had seen before Lis's untimely death.
Things you might like to know:
  • Series 5 would have bucked the trend of not having a story with "Sarah Jane Smith" in the title, as we have a record of what the unmade stories would have been called.
  • Roberts and Hickman were collaborating on another story for that season when Sladen died and production was stopped.
  • Ruby White was clearly set up for future return appearances, as the last we see of her is her vowing revenge on Sarah.
  • Clyde maintains the tradition of someone being slimed during the story.
  • Yet another reason to ignore the whole UNIT dating controversy, as Sarah states that she was 23 when she first met the Doctor. The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith shows that she was born in 1951 - meaning the events of The Time Warrior take place in 1974.
  • Julie Graham went to school with Eric Potts (Oliver Charles in Aliens in London).

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Series 12 - The Trailer


First of all, Happy Doctor Who Day. I've been watching the series since the tail end of the 1960's, and I didn't even know that was a thing, but have a happy one anyway.
Today we finally got to see a proper glimpse of the forthcoming series - glimpse being the operative word as what we have is a rather frantically paced trailer. If previous series are anything to go by, several of these clips will have come from the same few stories, usually from the start of the run.
We have had confirmation of the return of the Cybermen, redesigned once again (see above for the only shot we had of them). The participation of Stephen Fry had been confirmed a couple of days ago - along with the involvement of Lenny Henry, and both feature in the trailer. Both may well be appearing in the same story, which I suspect will be the one which debuts on New Year's Day. This is the epic James Bond-ish one (TARDIS crew in tuxedos, etc).


Two other guest artists were announced yesterday, and one of them - Goran Visnjic - was spotted in the trailer, in a story which appears to have a 19th Century setting. Might this be the Mary Shelley one that's been rumoured? (Update: no it isn't. Having rewatched the trailer the costumes are too late, and I'm hearing that Visnjic might be playing Nikola Tesla). I didn't spot Robert Glenister (making a return to the show after appearing in The Caves of Androzani).
There was one clip of a Judoon, and the 1943 Occupied Paris story was also confirmed - so we definitely have two stories with historical settings.
A few new monsters were to be seen - including something that looked a bit like the Racnoss Queen, something which is able to break into the TARDIS, a giant scorpion-like creature, and a flock of black bird-like things which can swarm out of nowhere. (Update: the Racnoss-like creature is more scorpion-like, and it's Anjli Mohindra - Rani from SJA. So this is from the possible Tesla story).
Dialogue-wise, the significant thing seems to be the Doctor fearing that something is coming after her.
A word of caution: some previous trailers have included scenes which never actually made it into the broadcast episodes.
So, what do we think? Well, I was totally underwhelmed by the advance publicity for Series 11. The trailer told us they had been abroad, and had some fancy new cameras, but little else. We then got a trailer of sorts at the end of the first episode which laboured under the delusion that we might be interested in seeing the guest artists who would be appearing - many of whom we'd never heard of. There was no sense of adventure. Nothing to excite. I remember saying at the time: why can't we have some spaceships and explosions? This trailer does make Series 12 look exciting, with proper jeopardy. And there's spaceships and explosions! The general public might actually be interested to watch this - something which Series 11 publicity failed to do. The aliens look like they might be the point of the story, not just window dressing. Hopefully things might actually be a little darker as well.
We've had a look at what Series 12 might look like, and who will be appearing in it, now we just have to see what the calibre of the storytelling is going to be - and for that we have to wait until early next year. I'm a bit more excited to find out.

Friday, 22 November 2019

Inspirations - Earthshock


Take a look at Dalek stories over the years. Unless they were written by Terry Nation, there is a great deal of diversity in the types of plots employed. Even Nation managed to give us varied story types at the beginning - compare The Daleks with The Dalek Invasion of Earth and then with The Chase. It was only really when he got stuck on "small group of military types up against Daleks in a jungle planet setting" that the similarities started to become apparent. You'll be aware of the Terrance Dicks / Barry Letts story about commissioning Nation for Season 12. They read his latest set of scripts then invited him into the office for a chat. He was told that it was a perfectly good story, and it had been a perfectly good story when he had sold it to them the year before. And the year before that...
The trouble with Cyberman stories, is that they have been plagued with "sameness" for much longer. The Moonbase is pretty much a remake of The Tenth Planet, just set on the Moon instead of at the South Pole. There's a base, and the Cybermen want to invade it - and the base has something in it to which the Cybermen have an allergy. Later, we will get two stories in which the Cybermen want to capture a space station - The Wheel in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. These space stations simply replace the Antarctic and Moon bases. Other allergies are introduced, and by 1975 they have a problem with radiation, gravitational forces, nail varnish remover, quick-setting plastic, electric shocks and gold. Only Tomb of the Cybermen (a Mummy / Egyptology pastiche) and The Invasion are different from the Cyber-norm - but even the latter sees them simply following the Daleks by having them invade London to march past a few tourist attractions.
The main reason the Cybermen never met the Third Doctor during the Pertwee era is because many of his stories revolved around invasions of Earth, and they had already done that in the Troughton era.
As Letts and Dicks planned Season 12, knowing that the series was going to move away from Earthbound stories, they decided to have a few old enemies lined up to help ease the transition to the new Doctor. Pertwee had been in the role for longer than either of his two predecessors (5 years to their 3 apiece) and was very popular with the viewing public, so it was felt that the relatively unknown Tom Baker would need all the help he could get. Time to bring the Cybermen back, as written by their co-creator Gerry Davis. The Revenge of the Cybermen turned out to be the weakest story of Season 12, mostly rewritten by a begrudging Robert Holmes, and the Cybermen slipped back into obscurity.


Jump ahead to the next Doctor transition period, and this time Peter Davison (at least already known) is having to take over from the most popular Doctor ever, who has been in the series for 7 years. A whole generation of children know only of Tom Baker as the Doctor. They could have gone with a Dalek story in Davison's first season to help launch him, but John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward liked the Cybermen. They had access to all the Doctor Who stories in the BBC archives, and it is clear that Saward was taking notes.
Not only do we get references to previous Cyberman stories, we actually get clips from them as well. JNT was actively courting the ever growing organised fan base at this time, and was aware that the infrequent repeats of stories tended to be only of recently broadcast ones. What fans really wanted to see were archive stories from further back in the show's long history. He began by including some clips in Logopolis - of all the Fourth Doctor's companions, plus a selection of his enemies. This nostalgic clip-fest would continue in Seasons 19 (this story), 20 (the Brigadier's memories returning in Mawdryn Undead) and 21 (all the Doctors and their companions in Resurrection of the Daleks). Prior to Season 18 commencing, JNT had even managed to get a whole season of archive stories broadcast - The Five Faces of Doctor Who.
When the Cybermen recognise the Fifth Doctor, we get a short background piece about their encounters with him - leading to clips from The Tenth Planet, The Wheel in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen being shown on their scanner. The plot description which accompanies the Troughton story is actually that of Tomb of the Cybermen, but that story hadn't yet been rediscovered in Hong Kong and returned to the BBC vaults when this was made.
This scene may be the most blatant piece of Cyber-nostalgia, but Saward also works elements of previous Cyberman stories into his new story - most noticeably from Revenge. In that story, the Cybermen intended to blow up a planet which threatens them with explosives, making use of a human agent to help them. When the bomb ploy fails, they turn to Plan B and decide to crash a spacecraft into the planet instead. Earthshock also sees the Cybermen plan to destroy a planet which threatens them with a bomb, and resort to the same Plan B when the bomb is defused - only this time it's a space freighter which is to crash rather than a space station. Again they have a human agent helping them. Gold is once again a problem for the Cybermen. The Cybermen in The Tenth Planet had human hands - reminding us that they were once like us. The new design of Cyberman seen here has a transparent chin plate on its helmet, through which can be seen a humanoid jaw.
The Cyberman army is seen to be in suspended animation in silos on the freighter, and burst out of cylindrical tubes - just like the reactivated Cybermen emerging from their cocoons in The Invasion - another story in which they were abetted by a human agent.


Another inspiration for this story is Alien - the franchise-spawning 1979 movie from Ridley Scott. Saward was clearly aiming for a Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) vibe for Captain Briggs, commander of the space freighter. (I'm sure he wanted the ship to look like the Nostromo as well). What he got instead was the spectacularly miscast Beryl Reid. JNT saw his role as producer primarily as the money man, and the publicity man, leaving the actual stories to his script editors to sort out. One way of maintaining a high profile for the show in the newspapers was to cast well known actors and entertainers - whether they were right for a part or not. Reid was mainly known for comedic roles, but was perfectly capable of delivering a serious performance - just look at the BBC's adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or The Killing of Sister George to see how good she could be. Briggs is supposed to be a tough, rough, hard-bitten, freighter captain - not your gran in space.
Watching Earthshock today, you might be mistaken for thinking that the sequel - Aliens - was also an inspiration, what with Lt Scott and his troopers crashing about - but that movie wasn't released until 1986.


When the TARDIS first arrives in the cave system, Nyssa spots a lot of dinosaur fossils. This will prove to be significant later on, as the Doctor gives a lecture on the theory of how the creatures came to become extinct. He is talking about the KT Event - the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction which took place some 65 million years ago. Apart from some turtles and crocodiles, no large animals survived this event. A thin layer of sediment called the K-Pg boundary had been discovered in rock formations across the entire globe, and this layer contained the element Iridium. This is rare in the planet's crust, but is abundant in asteroids - so it was believed that the element must have been introduced from space. A vast crater was then discovered in the Bay of Mexico which appeared to have been the epicentre for the distribution of this layer, and it became accepted that a huge asteroid had struck the Earth - plunging it into a nuclear winter. Debris thrown up into the atmosphere would have reduced the sunlight, reducing temperatures, killing off plants and hence the animals which fed on them.
Other theories have emerged since, including the eruption of the volcanic Deccan Traps. This prolonged volcanic activity (it lasted some 800,00 years) would have resulted in the same nuclear winter conditions, but the extinction of species would have been more gradual. Another theory goes with multiple asteroid impacts - not just a single crashing space freighter. Others believe it was a combination of factors - asteroids and volcanoes, plus changes in sea level.


All this brings us to Adric. One of the functions of Earthshock which Saward had to include was the writing out of the series of Adric. JNT decided that he would have to die, rather than just leave to go home to Alzarius or be married off. It was clear that three companions were proving too many. Often one of them would have little to do - usually Nyssa, who gets stuck in the TARDIS building a robot-shaker machine in The Visitation, and is totally absent from Kinda while she has a bit of a lie down. Peter Davison actually fought for Nyssa to be retained on more than one occasion, as he felt she was the companion who worked best with his Doctor. The death of a companion was decided upon by JNT as he wanted the viewers to be reminded that the Doctor wasn't infallible, and that it could be dangerous to travel with him. The public had become complacent that the companions were just as invulnerable as the Doctor.
Adric wasn't the first companion to be killed off - that had been Katarina in The Daleks' Master Plan, in which companion of sorts Sara Kingdom also died. Katarina. however, had only appeared in 5 episodes, bridging two stories, and Sara had only featured in that one story, so Adric has the distinction of being the first long-running companion to be killed.


For the end credits to Part Four of Earthshock, JNT was inspired by an episode of Coronation Street. On 13th May 1964, the character of Martha Longhurst suffered a heart attack in the snug of the Rover's Return pub. The other characters who were with her in the bar didn't realise anything was amiss - thinking she had just fallen asleep. The end credits of the episode ran in silence. This had been only the second death of an established character in the programme. JNT remembered this episode and decided to do the same thing for Adric, as it was felt that the series' then current end titles music wasn't appropriate. The episode ends with a shot of Adric's broken gold-rimmed star badge against a black background, with the credits rolling in silence. Many have agreed that using the usual music would have been wrong, but just as many hate what we got. A more sombre arrangement of the theme would have been the sensible thing to have done.
(In the unlikely event that you have never seen this episode, firstly - sorry for spoiling it for you, and secondly - just turn off any music or TV you might have on in the background as you read this and stare at the above image for 45 seconds to recreate the experience).
Next time: Some idiot writes a Doctor Who story about a Concorde on prehistoric Earth, and another idiot actually commissions it. A well known villain makes a (non) surprise appearance, disguising himself for absolutely no reason whatsoever...

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Series 12 - Here Be Spoilers...


I haven't written anything about Series 12, apart from mentioning the return of the Judoon - as that was publicised by the BBC themselves. Now that we are getting closer to a possible broadcast date, it's time to start looking at what we might expect. This includes possible spoilers, and a bit of speculation / reading between the lines - so proceed with caution...

Apart from the Judoon, we know of two other returning monsters thanks to photographs which have appeared widely on-line. Last month the Clifton Suspension Bridge was closed to traffic for maintenance, but the public were still permitted to cross on foot. What some of them got to see was Daleks - lots of them, plus a new design of Black Dalek which had more than a hint of the Resolution Dalek about its top half. Looks like the BBC took the opportunity of the road closure to do some filming. What it was for, we can't say for certain. Everyone's assuming it is for a Series 12 story. A month or so earlier, some actors were spotted on location wearing what appear to be Cyberman costumes, slightly redesigned to have a Medieval look.
Other things we know about, thanks to actors, directors and technicians putting their CVs on-line, is that there is going to be a story set in World War II Paris, based on a historical figure. This is Noor Inayat-Khan, who was with the Special Operations Executive. She was the first female radio operator sent into Nazi occupied France. Sadly, she was captured and died in Dachau concentration camp in 1944.
There's supposed to be another espionage-tinged story featuring Stephen Fry - possibly 1980's set. A prop door sign seen on location mentioned "Cyber-Security".
Earlier in the year an interview with a BBC exec mentioned that the new series would tackle some contemporary concerns, such as plastics in the world's oceans. This has prompted many to think a Sea Devil story might be on its way - or an Auton one.
Another rumour doing the rounds is that Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley will feature in one of the stories.
A week or so ago we had a very nondescript teaser - claiming that we'd hear (or see) something significant on 23rd November. Most people are assuming that this will be the first trailer. At the same time, the BBC started to say that the series will return in "early" 2020. Not Spring 2020 - which would imply a March / Easter launch - but "early" - which to me pretty much means January.
Potentially more concrete news came out today, in the form of a tabloid story (in The Mirror). Tabloid obviously translates as "take with a big pinch of salt", but apparently this particular journo has often got things right.
The Mirror story claims that there won't be a Christmas Special, but there will be a New Year's Day one again. This will be a two-parter, with the second half following on January 4th - so a move back to a Saturday. Maybe just for this episode - maybe for good. The story goes on to state that those Daleks won't be seen in Series 12 at all - they've actually filmed next year's festive special already, so don't expect Daleks until either Christmas 2020 or New Year's day 2021.
This last point might well be true, as filming a story well in advance allows the ultra-busy Bradley Walsh to get on with his many other projects in 2020.
Finally, a rather wild-sounding rumour I came across yesterday. You might recall those weird rag things in The Ghost Monument, which spoke of the "timeless child" - something which was left, like the rags, hanging in mid-air. The rags claimed to know secrets from the Doctor's past that even she wasn't aware of. Well, the rumour is that the Doctor had a whole regeneration cycle before William Hartnell came along, of which she has no memory. Speculation goes that the Doctor was born a girl in this cycle...
Interesting times ahead, I suspect. Last series I wasn't impressed with at all - purely because of the writing. I wasn't alone in that, seeing as how the series lost half a million viewers week on week as it progressed towards its damp squib of a "finale". Despite the talk of Daleks, Cybermen and Judoon, I do have reservations about this next batch of stories - seeing as how there are a number of new writers who have no genre experience on their CVs. A background in soaps, or dramas about social media, does not inspire confidence. The returning Vinay Patel wrote a lovely story about the Partition of India as experienced by one small rural family. Rubbish Doctor Who (the TARDIS crew needn't have bothered being in it) but a lovely story.
Read any interview with the great Script Editors of Doctor Who's past, and they'll all say something about the programme being the hardest one in the world to write for - with some highly accomplished authors having scripts rejected over the years.
Bottom line, I just want the programme to excite and entertain - something it did little of last time.
Let's see what Saturday 23rd November brings...

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Lost In Time - SJA 4.5


In which a newspaper article about a sighting of aliens brings Sarah Jane Smith, Clyde Langer and Rani Chandra to an obscure antiques shop. The shopkeeper appears and tells them that the article was planted by him in order to lure them here, as he needs their help. Three pieces of Chronosteel - a metal forged within the Time Vortex - are scattered throughout history, and they must be retrieved before they distort time. Before Sarah can reject the mission, the shopkeeper creates a time window which engulfs them and they vanish. After they have gone, he talks to his parrot - the Captain - telling it that they only have until an hourglass runs out to complete their task, or disaster will result.
The three friends find themselves separated throughout history. Rani is in the Tower of London in July 1553, where she finds that she is to meet Queen Jane. Clyde is in 1941, on a beach on the south coast, whilst Sarah is in a large townhouse in 1889.


Sarah encounters a girl named Emily Morris, who has come to this house to investigate ghosts. She thinks Sarah might be one, until she finds that she is real. Clyde, meanwhile, has met a schoolboy named George, and together they see a group of men arrive on the beach by boat. They turn out to be German soldiers, led by SS Lt Koenig. Clyde and George set off for the nearby village to warn the authorities. Rani is introduced to Queen Jane, and finds that she has been appointed one of her ladies-in-waiting. Jane and her nurse are fearful for the new Queen's safety, as Mary Tudor is on her way to London at the head of a large army, and there may be traitors within the Tower who favour a catholic monarch over Jane. Sarah and Emily come upon a room where they hear children's voices, and Sarah realises that they come from the future, rather than the past. Some terrible tragedy will take place in this room sometime in the future. They see the image of a girl  from Sarah's time, talking on her mobile phone. She is supposed to be babysitting, but is planning on leaving her charges alone to meet friends - locking them in the room whilst she is away.


Clyde and George meet schoolteacher Miss Wyckham, who tells them that the village has already been taken over, but they might be able to capture the Germans who are gathered at the church. When they arrive there, they discover that the teacher is really an agent for the Nazis, in league with Koenig. They have brought a device with them which will block British radar, and enable German aircraft to attack without being intercepted by the RAF. Clyde discovers that a vital component of the device is made from a strange metal - one of the Chronosteel objects. He and George steal it and escape. Koening, Miss Wyckham and the Germans retreat to the beach, but are captured by the Home Guard. Rani succeeds in thwarting an assassination attempt on Jane by one of her other maids. The blade of the knife she was wielding proves to be the second Chronosteel object.
In the house, Sarah discovers that the key to the room is the final object. Emily is able to make a link to the future to save the children, who had been playing with matches and a candle.


All three time-travellers are sent back to the present day, but at the last minute Emily keeps hold of the key - so Sarah returns empty handed. The shopkeeper fears the worst, but a woman suddenly turns up at the shop with the key. She is Emily's grand-daughter, Angela, and had been told by her grandmother to bring it here on on this day. The shopkeeper reveals that the Captain is really his commander, responsible for sending them on their mission. They teleport away with the Chronosteel.
Clyde reads up on George and finds out that he recently won the George Cross, whilst Sarah goes off to chat to Angela about the amazing life her grandmother had led. Rani reads about the sad fate of Queen Jane, but is happy that she had been a comfort to her in the final day of her short reign.


Lost In Time was written by Rupert Laight, and was first broadcast on November 8th and 9th, 2010. Laight had previously contributed the Series 3 story The Gift.
It introduced the characters of the Shopkeeper and his parrot commander the Captain. Had the series continued, they were to have returned for further adventures.
The story is made up of three individual smaller adventures - one for each of the main characters, so each gets equal screen time. Each segment is satisfying in its own right - a ghost story of sorts for Sarah, a historical adventure for Rani, and a Boy's Own escapade for Clyde - but the overarching plot also works well. Sadly Laight is no longer with us to ask, but it may have been that these three mini-stories had been considered as full stories in their own right, but weren't quite enough to fill two episode slots by themselves. Of the three, only Clyde's WWII story might have worked as a longer piece.


The Shopkeeper is played by Cyril Nri. He appeared as one of the main characters in Russell T Davies' Cucumber, and was also in the final episode of Class as the Chairman of the Governors.
The guest cast for the Sarah segment includes Gwyneth Keyworth as Emily, whilst the babysitter, Gemma, is played by Lucie Jones, who had been a 2009 X Factor contestant, and would go on to become the UK's 2017 Eurovision Song Contest hopeful.
In Clyde's story we have German actor Tom Wlaschiha, recently famous for playing the face-changing assassin Jaqen H'ghar in Game of Thrones. Miss Wyckham is Catherine Bailey. George was played by Richard Wisker, who was a regular on CBBC in the Tracy Beaker series.
In Tudor England we have Amber Beattie as Queen Jane, Elizabeth Rider as the nurse, and Fiona Hampton as the assassin maid Matilda. Rider provided the voice of ATMOS in The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky and later played Linda, girlfriend of Clara Oswald's dad in Time of the Doctor.


Overall, a very good story, the device of mini-adventures in different settings keeping things interesting.
Things you might like to know:
  • The newspaper article which brings Sarah & Co to the shop is dated 23rd November, 2010 - Doctor Who's 47th anniversary.
  • Sarah tells Emily about the Stone Tape theory of hauntings - that emotionally charged events can somehow be imprinted into the fabric of a building. This was popularised by Nigel Kneale in his 1972 TV ghost story The Stone Tape, though its origins go back to Charles Babbage, of computer fame, in 1837.
  • Lady Jane Grey was hailed as Queen on the death of Edward VI, the only (legitimate) male heir of Henry VIII. His first child, by Catherine of Aragon, had been a daughter - Mary - who was a staunch Catholic. Mary had the strongest support from the people, partly because they felt it was her birthright but also because many wanted to see the return of the old faith. Jane had gone to the Tower to prepare for her coronation, only to find herself a captive there. She was executed in February 1554.

Sunday, 17 November 2019

What's Wrong With... The Rescue


Only two episodes in length, so not a lot to go wrong with this one.
The Rescue opens with Vicki seeing something register on the scanner in the crashed spaceship which she currently calls home. She thinks that this might be the rescue ship from Earth which is due any day now. It turns out that it is actually the TARDIS which the scanner has picked up. But the TARDIS has materialised inside a cave, deep inside the mountain - so that's some scanner the spaceship has. And why isn't it trained on local space, from where the rescue ship is coming?
You can see the cave wall through the TARDIS doors.
It's a David Whitaker script, so we have spaceships that can only find planets if there is a radio beacon transmitting, even when they're a mere 72 hours away.
Just how many people were travelling in this spaceship? It seems to comprise of just two rooms and a corridor.
The Doctor describes the people of this planet as a peace-loving race, yet they have built death traps in their tunnels, need a Hall of Justice, and like to dress up as grotesque insect monsters despite being humanoid in form themselves.
It is suggested that the spikes which emerge from the wall will cause the unwary traveller to plummet to their doom - and yet we later see that the drop is only a couple of metres. The monster which lurks at the bottom turns out to be a herbivore. It is also rather easy to get round the trap - as we see Ian manage to do by simply draping his jacket over the spikes.
When we cut from the cavern to the exterior, as the Sandbeast emerges, you can spot William Hartnell and William Russell in the background, moving to their next mark.
Vicki's backstory is odd. She tells the Doctor and his companions that her father basically abandoned her whilst seriously ill to attend a party. The implication is that this feast took place not long after the spaceship crashed, so her father was leaving his sick child all alone on a potentially hostile world.
There is a trap door in the floor of Bennett's room, which enables him to sneak out and dress up as Koquillion. It would appear that Vicki has never stuck around to see Koquillion leave after any on his visits to Bennett, otherwise she would surely have spotted that something wasn't quite right - with Bennett in bed and Koquillion nowhere to be seen.
How on earth did William Russell get away with calling the villain 'Cockylickin'?
There's one mangled line from Hartnell: "You must believe what Barbara did. Try and understand, my dear, and why she did it, just for me, eh?".

Friday, 15 November 2019

Inspirations - Black Orchid


Read most reviews of Black Orchid, and you'll usually see the name Agatha Christie mentioned as an inspiration. Mrs Christie was, of course, one of the world's most prolific writers, who specialised in crime. The vast majority of her novels and short stories are specifically about murder - and they are usually 'Whodunnits'. A crime is committed, and the reader has to try to work out who the perpetrator is by following the clues unearthed by the story's investigator - hopefully spotting the culprit before they do. For Christie, the investigators were Hercules Poirot, a private detective; Miss Marple, an old lady who just happens to have remarkable insight into the way criminals think; or the Beresfords, a terribly, terribly posh crime-solving couple. There is a lot of crime / police drama on TV, and the most popular programmes tend also to be of the Whodunnit variety - such as Inspector Morse and its spin-offs, Lewis and Endeavour. Chris Chibnall's Broadchurch is another good example.
However, Black Orchid isn't a Whodunnit. We know from the opening scene that the killer is the figure locked away in an otherwise disused wing of the house. None of the other characters is ever set up as a possible killer, for us to try and work out who may be the guilty party.
What Black Orchid really is is an example of the Country House Mystery. These can often also be Whodunnits, but not always. The premise is always a group of people brought together in a country house - so relatively isolated from the wider community, where a crime is committed and someone works who did it and why, though we, the reader / viewer, may already have been told / shown.


Being a country house, the protagonists are invariably well-healed, although one of the old cliches about these kinds of stories is that it was the butler who did it. In Black Orchid, the butler is one of those murdered, and indeed all the victims prove to be servants of one sort or another.
Apart from the killer, the deranged eldest son of the Cranleigh family, all the posh folk make it to the end, and the mother, Lady Cranleigh, even seems to get away scot-free with being an aider and abetter, and so complicit on the murders.
All the trappings of a Country House Mystery are in place in this story. We have the house for a start - Cranleigh Hall; a family secret - the hidden away son; the period setting - 1920's; the clueless police; and the private investigator who works out what's going on - the Doctor. Other common trappings are the killer being masked (such as with The Cat and the Canary, probably the best known Country House Mystery) and secret panels (The Cat and the Canary again).


Before the Doctor and his companions become embroiled in the murder mystery, we have a game of cricket. This is obviously there to highlight the fact that this new Doctor is a huge cricket fan. Davison's whole image as the Doctor was based on a photograph JNT had on his office wall of the actor when he participated in a charity cricket match.
On arriving at the cricket match, the chauffeur mentions "the Master", which naturally gives the Doctor a start. He then qualifies this by referencing William Gilbert "W G" Grace - the other Doctor. W G Grace (1848 - 1915) was nicknamed "The Doctor", as he had qualified as a medical practitioner. The cricketer who was nicknamed "The Master", however, was Jack Hobbs. Hobbs (1882 - 1963) is widely regarded as the greatest cricketer of all time. He was primarily a batsman (only gaining one wicket as a bowler in his entire test career), he scored nearly 62000 runs in first class matches.
Hobbs passed away in December 1963, so you never know, he might have actually seen the first couple of episodes of Doctor Who.


The Doctor and his companions soon get to meet the Cranleigh family, and Nyssa finds that Charles Cranleigh's fiancee is her spitting image. You'll recall that Nyssa was written out of Kinda, but Sarah Sutton gets to make up for it by having a double role here.
Lookalikes and identical twins can also be a staple of murder mysteries.
Doubles are nothing new for Doctor Who. The First Doctor encountered an android duplicate of himself, created by the Daleks, in The Chase, before Steven Taylor met the Abbot of Amboise, who just happened to look exactly like the Doctor, in The Massacre. The Second Doctor later had a run in with his doppelganger Salamander, in Enemy of the World. The Fourth Doctor's face was purloined by the mad computer Xoanon, before he came across Meglos, who impersonated him to steal the Dodecahedron power source from Tigella. He and Sarah Jane Smith also encountered android duplicates of themselves, as well as of Harry Sullivan and RSM Benton in The Android Invasion. More androids on Tara meant that Romana not only met her biological double, but a mechanical one as well.


Black Orchid has the distinction of being the first purely historical story since the genre was abandoned following The Highlanders in 1967 (on the basis that the production team didn't think they were very popular, following low audience appreciation figures for The Gunfighters). Whist this is accurate, the story does have a monster of the week, in the form of the deranged and mutilated George Cranleigh. Even at the time, some people found this distasteful - presenting disfigurement as monstrous.
According to Eric Saward, who had taken over as script editor by this time, writer Terence Dudley simply dusted off an old script he had in his drawer - so Black Orchid had originally been intended as a non Doctor Who work.
The story is also a two parter - the first since The Sontaran Experiment back in Season 12.
The reason for this is that two episodes of budget was set aside in order to make the spin-off, and potential pilot, K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend. Season 19 would therefore only have 26 episodes, instead of the 28 which Season 18 had enjoyed.
Next time: Shocking events on Earth, and off it. The writing's on the wall for Adric as an old enemy makes a long overdue return...

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Empty Planet - SJA 4.4


In which Rani Chandra and Clyde Langer wake up one morning to discover that they appear to be the only people on Earth.
The previous night at Sarah Jane Smith's house, Mr Smith had been monitoring strange signals emanating from space. Initially, they notice that their families have vanished, but when they take to the streets they find that the disappearances cover the whole area. TV and radio channels show only static. They move towards the centre of London, discovering that the disappearances are ever more widespread. When they decide to head back to Sarah's home they hear a noise, and spot a boy in school uniform. They pursue him and are led to a tower block where the boy lives. His name is Gavin and he tells them that he is an orphan, living here with a foster family, of whom he has had many. He seems scared of Clyde and Rani, rather than happy to see other people.


A strange noise is heard and Gavin runs off. Clyde and Rani look for him, but stop at a cafe to get some food. They hear the noise again, and a message comes over the TV, radio and their mobile phones - a voice demanding the sun and the air. Going outside they split up to look for Gavin, but both encounter giant robots - one red and the other yellow...
Gavin reappears and saves Rani, whilst Clyde also manages to evade his robot attacker. They go back to the cafe where Sarah's friends start to reminisce about their life since encountering Sarah Jane Smith. This leads them to realise something which makes them different from everyone else they know. At the conclusion of their encounter with the Judoon, they had been grounded - forbidden from leaving the Earth. This might explain why they have not been taken, but not Gavin, who claims to know nothing of aliens.
The robots burst in and corner Clyde and Rani, whilst Gavin slips away. The robots scan them, but don't harm them. They reiterate their demand for the sun and air.


However, it soon becomes apparent that what they are really looking for is the son and heir. Gavin is really an alien prince, who was sent to Earth as a baby for safety when his planet was attacked. The threat is now gone, and the robots have been sent to bring him home. Recalling Gavin's love of nature, they trace him to a local wildlife park, bringing the robots with them. However, the machines can't see him. He is wearing a bio-damper which was given to him to protect him. They convince him to remove it, and the robots tell him of his true nature, and show him images of the planet he is to rule. He agrees to go with the robots, knighting Clyde and Rani before ordering the robots to return the Earth's population.
Back on Bannerman Road they tell Sarah and Mr Smith of everything that has happened, as no-one knows they have gone anywhere apart from some lost time. Their solo adventure has brought the pair closer together.


The Empty Planet was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast November 1st and 2nd, 2010.
The story is very much a character piece for Anjli Mohindra as Rani, and Daniel Anthony as Clyde, as every scene features one or both of them. It also starts to develop their personal relationship with each other - hinting at a blossoming romance. Had the series not ended prematurely the following year, this romance would have been developed further by the production team.
Lis Sladen only features briefly at the beginning of the first episode, and the end of the second - making it a Sarah-lite story, much as Mark of the Berserker had been in Series 2, and Mona Lisa's Revenge in Series 3.
The only other cast member of note is Joe Mason, who plays Gavin, though we also briefly see Rani's parents, and Clyde's mum Carla (Jocelyn Jee Esien), who has featured only a couple of times in the series.
The story is also notable for the extensive location footage, with very little studio work.


Overall, quite a nice little episode. The first section sets up the mystery very well, and you're really intrigued to know what has happened to everyone - and why Clyde and Rani haven't been affected. It's the nature of the series that the resolution is going to be a little bit twee, but it is still good to see Clyde and Rani get so much screen time. A special mention must be made of the excellent robot designs as well.
Believe it or not, but there are no things you might like to know about this story. Lots of little continuity references, but that's your lot.

Monday, 11 November 2019

H is for... Harkness, Captain Jack


An ex-Time Agent from the 51st Century who became companion to the Ninth Doctor, before leading Torchwood 3 based in Cardiff. Jack was born in a colony on the Boeshane Peninsula. The settlement frequently came under attack by alien creatures, and during one of these assaults his younger brother Gray was taken. As he had been looking after him, Jack felt responsible for this loss. He later joined the Time Agency as one of its operatives, forging a personal and working relationship with fellow agent Captain John Hart. Following one of their missions, the Agency deleted two years of Jack's memories, which caused him to resign.
He set himself up as a con-man, and one of his schemes involved the sale of a Chula Warship - to be sold under cover of the London Blitz. Jack took on the persona of a dead US RAF volunteer. His real name has never been revealed. The warship was really a Chula ambulance, containing millions of nanogenes designed to repair injured Chula warriors. They escaped into the atmosphere and began rewriting the DNA of anyone they encountered. When Jack rescued the Doctor's companion Rose Tyler, he assumed from her anachronistic clothing that she and the Doctor were the intended buyers.
Jack was prepared to sacrifice himself to carry a German bomb into space, before it could destroy the alien ambulance. He was rescued by the Doctor and Rose and accompanied them on their travels, visiting present day Cardiff and medieval Japan, before the TARDIS and its crew were captured by the Daleks and placed on the Game Station, around the year 100,100 AD.


Jack found himself in a deadly version of the TV fashion show What Not To Wear, menaced by its robot presenters. Despite being naked, he somehow smuggled a compact laser about his person and was able to destroy them. He then joined the Doctor in attempting to defend the station from a Dalek assault. He was able to work out that the game show contestants were not being vapourised, but were really being teleported away to the Dalek fleet for conversion into Daleks. His efforts to halt the Daleks ultimately failed as the overran the station, and Jack was exterminated.
However, Rose had absorbed the Vortex from the heart of the TARDIS, and she used her powers to bring him back to life. The Doctor saved Rose but at the cost of his own life, and so he rushed away from the station with her before he regenerated - leaving Jack behind. As a Time Agent, he possessed a wrist-mounted device known as a Vortex Manipulator, which allowed him to travel in time. He used it to travel to present day Earth where he hoped to find the Doctor and Rose. However, the device left him in the Victorian era where it malfunctioned - leaving him stranded. He then discovered during a drunken brawl on Ellis Island, New York, that every time he was fatally wounded he healed, or if killed came back to life. Rose had not only brought him back to life, she had made him immortal.
He decided that he would have to live out his life on Earth until his path crossed once again with the Doctor, who might be able to help him.
Back in England, he soon came to the attention of the recently formed Torchwood organisation, who were set up to protect Britain from alien menaces - including the Doctor. Rather than be locked away, he was forced to work for them.


He was based in Torchwood's Cardiff Hub, built beneath the city's bay area, but went on missions all over the country. In the 1960's he was in Scotland, where he was tasked with handing over a number of children from an orphanage to aliens known as the 456. On the eve of the Millennium, his boss killed his entire team before taking his own life - bequeathing Torchwood 3 to Jack before he died. He had claimed that everything was going to change for the worse with the coming of the 21st Century, and believed that they were doomed. Jack then set about building a new team. In 2006 he came into the possession of the Doctor's severed hand - cut off in a duel with the Sycorax leader over London on Christmas Day. Jack kept this, as he felt it might lead to another meeting with the Doctor. When he recruited WPC Gwen Cooper to the team, it coincided with his having to kill his deputy Suzie Costello, who had become obsessed with an alien gauntlet which could revive the dead - prompting her to commit murders so that she could use it. Investigating an abandoned music hall, Jack and colleague Toshiko Sato were transported back to the Cardiff Blitz, where he met the man whose identity he had taken - the real Captain Jack Harkness.
Soon after Jack was almost killed when he faced the demonic Abaddon. On recovering from the ordeal, he noticed that the Doctor's hand was reacting, and he spotted that the TARDIS had arrived above the Hub to refuel from the space / time rift which ran through the city. He leapt onto the ship as it dematerialised, and his presence caused the TARDIS to fly to the end of the universe.


He was at last reunited with the Doctor, now in his tenth incarnation and travelling with Martha Jones. The TARDIS had recognised him as a temporal anomaly and had tried to avoid him - hence the trip to the end of time and the planet Malcassairo, home to one of the last remnants of the human race. The Doctor admitted that he could not help Jack. Jack helped the humans take off in their spaceship in search of a place called Utopia, where other survivors may have gathered. The elderly Professor Yana had declined to accompany them. He proved to be the Master, his identity hidden from himself by a Chameleon Arch. Earlier, the Doctor had been told by the Face of Boe "You Are Not Alone" - implying that he was not the last of the Time Lords as he had believed. The Master stole the TARDIS and used it to get to Earth, and the Doctor repaired Jack's Vortex Manipulator so that they could follow him. They arrived some months later - to find that the Master, as Harold Saxon, had just been elected British Prime Minister. he then arranged for the planet to be invaded by the Toclafane - cyborg remnants of the human race from Utopia. Jack was left chained up for a year in the Valiant, the Master's base of operations which had been a UNIT flying aircraft carrier.
The Master was eventually defeated and time rolled backwards to delete the year of his misrule for everyone except those on the vessel. jack was dropped off back in Cardiff, where he told the Doctor and Martha that he had once been nicknamed the Face of Boe, when he became the first person in the Boe Peninsula to join the Time Agency...


Jack rejoined his team, who were not happy that he had seemingly abandoned them. He resumed his relationship with team member Ianto Jones. He was reunited with Captain John and from him learned that his brother Gray was still alive. Later, he encountered an alien who called himself dam, who thrived on people's memories - needing to be remembered in order to exist. Adam tried to infiltrate the team by planting false memories, to make everyone think had always been with them. He was able to access Jack's memories of the day when Gray had been taken - memories which he tried to suppress. Jack was prepared to lose these again to destroy Adam, giving himself and the rest of the team the Ret-con drug, which caused memory loss.
Some time later, however, the team was lured into an ambush - a trap set by Captain John and Gray. Gray had become deranged following years of captivity and wanted revenge on his brother. He set off bombs around Cardiff, then abducted Jack and took him back to the city in the Iron Age, where John was forced to bury him alive. Jack remained imprisoned this way, dying over and over again, until a device planted in the grave by John attracted the attention of the Edwardian Torchwood team. Jack had them place him in cryogenic suspension in the Hub, to be reawakened on the day Gray attacked the city. Jack was able to overpower Gray and had him placed in cryogenic suspension, but the incident had already led to the deaths of Tosh and colleague Owen Harper.


Jack, Ianto and Gwen had no sooner got over the loss of their colleagues when the entire Earth was dragged across space to the Medusa Cascade, before being invaded by Daleks. Jack was reunited with Martha Jones, now with UNIT and who had been temporarily seconded to Torchwood. He also got to meet Sarah Jane Smith, whose exploits he had followed closely. He had left Ianto and Gwen to defend the Hub and gone off alone to help the Doctor. Jack allowed himself to be exterminated once again by the Daleks in order to remain at large on their space station - the Crucible. Here he would also be reunited with Rose, and Mickey Smith. Everyone was captured by Davros and the Daleks, but they were rescued by Donna Noble and a second Doctor who had grown from the severed hand which Jack had once kept, following a partial regeneration.
Jack returned to Cardiff after the Daleks had been defeated and the Earth restored to ts rightful location.
Whilst investigating mysterious deaths at the city's hospital, Jack was knocked out and awoke to discover that a powerful bomb had been sewn into his body. Gwen and Ianto managed to escape before it detonated, but Jack was blown to pieces and the Hub destroyed. The 456 had returned, and the British government was eliminating everyone associated with their earlier visit. Jack was rescued after he had come back to life, despite the government assassins encasing his remains in concrete. He, Gwen and Ianto went on the run, travelling to London. When they managed to get into the building where the 456 had materialised. Jack and Ianto were poisoned by toxic gases released by the creature. Jack returned to life, but Ianto perished.


Jack had had a number of relationships over the years. One of these had been with a lady named Estelle, where he later pretended to be the son of the man she once loved. Another relationship had led to a daughter, Alice Carter, and a grandson, Steven. A means of ejecting the 456 back out into space was discovered, a conflicting frequency, but it would require a child to deliver it - something which would prove fatal. Jack decided to use his own grandson to act as the conduit for the frequency. The 456 were expelled, but Steven was killed. Guilty and bereaved, jack decided to leave Earth for time - unsure if he would ever return.
The Tenth Doctor came across him in an alien bar as he visited old friends and companions prior to his next regeneration. He set Jack up on a date with Midshipman Alonso Frame, late of the Starship Titanic, who was also in the bar and feeling sorry for himself.


Jack returned to Earth, where he ensured that Gwen and her husband Rhys, with their baby daughter, were safely hidden in a remote farmhouse. Then one day, no-one on Earth died. Jack discovered that he was now the only person on the planet who could die. Gwen was forced out of retirement to accompany Jack to the USA to investigate what became known as Miracle Day. It transpired that it was created by an international conspiracy, centred on a group known as the Three Families. As Jack investigated, he discovered that he was the cause of the phenomena. On an earlier visit to the USA in 1927 he had become the lover of a young Italian immigrant named Angelo Colesanto. The two worked together and one night Angelo had seen Jack killed, before he was arrested and sent to prison for a year. On his return, he was shocked to find jack still alive, and believed him to be a devil. He stabbed him - and discovered that he could not die. He and some others - who would become the Three Families - took some of Jack's blood, and they had later used this to bring about Miracle Day - by feeding it into a strange rock formation which ran through the Earth. Known as the Blessing, this maintained a morphic field which stopped people dying. Feeding Jack's blood into both ends of the field, across the globe from each other, negated it - and mortality resumed.


At the time of writing, the present whereabouts of Captain Jack Harkness are unknown.

Played by: John Barrowman, Jack Montgomery (young Jack). First appearance: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances (2005). Last appearance: TW: Miracle Day (2011).

H is for... Harding


Lionel Harding was  senior curator at London's International Gallery. He was obsessed with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and after many years finally arranged for the painting to come to his gallery on temporary loan. His assistant, Phyllis Trupp, carried a torch for him, but her affections were unrequited, as Harding was more in love with the painted image. When Clyde Langer won an art competition his class was invited to the gallery for a special preview. When the picture was unveiled, Harding was shocked to find the Mona Lisa missing from the canvas, replaced by an image of Miss Trupp. One of the ingredients of the paint had been powder from a sentient meteorite. This had been activated by the proximity of another painting in the gallery made from the same material - a picture consigned to the vaults as it portrayed a creature known simply as the Abomination. Mona Lisa now wanted to find her "brother" and escape from the canvas for ever. Such was Harding's obsession that he agreed to help her. She could bring characters in paintings to life, as well as trap people within paintings - as she did with Sarah Jane Smith.
he finally came to see the error of his ways, and destroyed a puzzle box which she needed to free the Abomination. Once Mona Lisa was back in her canvas, Harding turned to Miss Trupp, but she had overheard him belittling her whilst she had been trapped in the painting, and so rejected him.

Played by: Jeff Rawle. Appearances: SJA 3.5: Mona Lisa's Revenge (2009).
  • Best known for a long-running role in TV News satire Drop The Dead Donkey, Rawle had previously played the young ruler Plantagenet in 1984's Frontios
  • In 2013 he portrayed Doctor Who's executive producer Mervyn Pinfield in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • He's also one of the many Doctor Who actors who have appeared in the Harry Potter movie franchise - playing Amos Diggory in The Goblet of Fire.

H is for... Hardin


A scientist from Earth who was working on experiments to help the inhabitants of Argolis. The Argolins were dying out as they had become sterile following a nuclear war with the Foamasi. Hardin's experiments were intended to hep them rejuvenate. He was working with a businessman named Stimson. When the Doctor and Romana saw a video of one of their successful experiments, they noticed straight away that it had been faked. Stimson tried to flee Argolis but was killed by a Foamasi agent, and blame for the death was placed on the Doctor. Hardin was convinced that with help from Romana he could achieve what he had set out to do. He was forced to conduct another experiment, this time on the Doctor, but instead of making him younger it caused him to age. Whilst Stimson had been motivated by greed, Hardin was in love with the new Argolin leader, Mena. His experiments were eventually successful, as he rejuvenated the dying Mena, and turned her hot-headed son Pangol, who was trying to launch a new war against the Foamasi, into a baby.

Played by: Nigel Lambert. Appearances: The Leisure Hive (1980).
  • Lambert is primarily a voice artist. One of his roles is as the Papa in the Dolmio sauce adverts. (Other pasta sauces are available).

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Death of the Doctor - SJA 4.3


In which Sarah Jane Smith gets a visit from UNIT. Colonel Karim has come to inform her in person of the death of her friend, the Doctor. Sarah refuses to believe he can be dead, as she always thought that she would somehow know if this happened, but agrees to travel to Wales with Karim for his funeral service. Rani and Clyde agree to go with her, worried that she is in denial. They are taken to UNIT's base built into the foot of Mount Snowdon. Karim explains that the Doctor's body was found by the alien Shansheeth - huge vulture-like creatures which act as undertakers. They scour battle fields for bodies in order to give them a proper burial. The TARDIS was not found with the Doctor. It is planned that his body will be fired into space in a UNIT rocket. Rani and Clyde are alarmed to find what they think are Graske working in the HQ. However, these are their blue-skinned cousins called Groske, who are not as troublesome. One of the creatures comments that Clyde smells strangely, and he notices a trace of Artron energy on his hand. Most of the Doctor's old acquaintances are unable to attend the funeral service. Liz Shaw is currently working at UNIT's moonbase, whilst the Brigadier is stuck in Peru. However, the Doctor's companion who immediately predated Sarah has been able to attend - Jo Grant.


Now a grandmother, she is still married to Cliff Jones, and has a huge family. She spends her time travelling the globe taking part in environmental protests. With her is one of her grandsons, Santiago. Sarah is overjoyed to meet her, having heard so much about her - and Jo tells her that she has heard all about Sarah too.
Later, in their quarters, Jo admits that she also has doubts about the Doctor's death - feeling that she too would have felt it. The Shansheeth, meanwhile are using a harp-like instrument which they played at the service to examine the memories of those who took part - agreeing that these are strongest with Sarah and Jo. Clyde, Rani and Santiago follow the Groske into some ventilation tunnels and come to his den. They hear the harp music playing, which is putting Sarah and Jo into a trance. They then overhear the Shansheeth plotting with Colonel Karim to create a memory weave - stealing Jo and Sarah's memories, which will kill them. Clyde suffers another attack of Artron energy, which attracts the attention of the aliens. Escaping into the corridor, Clyde suddenly starts talking with a different voice - that of the Doctor - and notices that his hand looks like it belongs to another person. Clyde suddenly vanishes and is replaced by the Doctor. Clyde finds himself transported to an alien planet, bathed by a red sun. The Shansheeth arrive in the corridor but when the Doctor challenges them they fire energy bolts at him from their claws...


The Doctor vanishes, but is replaced with Clyde. They swap bodies a couple more times then run off with their friends. The Doctor takes Sarah and Jo by the hand and all three are transported to the alien planet, leaving Clyde back at the UNIT base with Rani and Santiago. They retreat back into the ventilation shafts to avoid Karim and the Shansheeth - taking refuge once more in the Groske's den. On the planet, the Doctor explains that he has become separated from his TARDIS by the Shansheeth. he has built a device which should get him back to Earth but he needs help with it, to prevent Clyde being transported back here permanently. Jo is upset to have learned that Sarah has had some recent encounters with the Doctor, feeling that she wasn't good enough for him to have come and found her. He surprises her by revealing he knows all about her life since leaving UNIT. He has been keeping a discreet watch on all of his old companions, and went to see them all just before his last regeneration.
They operate the Doctor's device and return to UNIT's HQ complex. The Doctor must rescue the youngsters, as Karim turns up the heating in the ventilation shafts to danger levels, whilst the Shansheeth abduct Jo and Sarah and take them to the funeral chamber where the TARDIS is waiting.


They are strapped to the memory weave equipment, which begins to absorb their memories of travelling in the TARDIS. The Shansheeth do not have the ship's key, but a replacement can be made from these memories. They recall all of their initial adventures with the Doctor, and the key begins to form. The Doctor cannot get into the room, but he tells them that they should remember everything - including their lives since leaving him. The memory weave begins to overload and threatens to explode. Sarah and Jo break free and clamber into the lead-lined casket which was supposed to have been the Doctor's coffin - just as the memory weave explodes. Karim and the Shansheeth are killed in the blast.
The Doctor takes everyone back to Bannerman Road in the TARDIS, telling Jo and Sarah how proud he is of them before leaving to catch up with Amy and Rory, who are on honeymoon. When it is time for Jo and Santiago to depart, Sarah tells her of some of the other companions she has researched - teachers Ian and Barbara, who are academics at Cambridge, Ben and Polly who run an orphanage in India, Tegan Jovanka, who works with Aboriginal peoples in her native Australia, and a woman named Dorothy, who runs the 'A Charitable Earth' Foundation...


Death of the Doctor was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 25th and 26th October, 2010.
This was the final TV script RTD wrote for the Doctor Who universe (at least to date), and it follows the previous season's The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith in having a guest appearance by the Doctor himself - in this case the new Doctor Matt Smith. That earlier story is referenced, as Clyde is still imbued with Artron energy from having come into contact with the Tenth Doctor's TARDIS.
As well as being a crossover with the parent programme in its current incarnation, Death of the Doctor is most notable for featuring the return of Katy Manning as Jo Grant - one time companion to the Third Doctor, but now grandmother Jo Jones. We learn that she is still married to Prof. Clifford Jones, and has become a fearless eco-warrior.
The story also makes reference to a number of other companions - Liz, the Brigadier, Ian & Barbara, Ben & Polly, Harry, Tegan and Ace. Some of what we hear totally contradicts what has featured in some of the novels and comic strips.
As their memories are accessed, we see a large number of clips from stories of the Classic Era which featured Jo and Sarah, plus SJA clips for Sarah's more recent memories. For Jo's more recent exploits we only get some ransacking of travel programme footage.


The guest cast is not a huge one. David Bradley makes his first appearance in the Doctor Who universe by voicing the Shansheeth leader. he'll be back in Series 7 as the villainous Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, before essaying William Hartnell in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time, then playing the First Doctor himself in Twice Upon A Time.
Santiago Jones is played by Finn Jones, who became a regular on Game of Thrones as Loras Tyrell.
Colonel Karim is Laila Rouass, who came to fame through Footballers' Wives.
Jimmy Vee is once again hidden under prosthetics as the Groske. Tommy Knight makes another Luke cameo, by appearing in a video call with the gang at the start of the story.


Overall, it's a love letter to Doctor Who of the 1970's, for many its Golden Age.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Shansheeth are quite effectively realised, but once you see them tending to only wave one arm around, you quickly spot how they were done.
  • RTD had previously considered Death of the Doctor as a title for what became The End of Time Part II.
  • This is the second time that UNIT has featured prominently in The Sarah Jane Adventures, and on both occasions the commanding officer turned out to be a villain. Major Kilburne had been a disguised Bane in Enemy of the Bane.
  • Torchwood had previously found a spaceship at the foot of Mount Snowdon, yet this is where UNIT Base 5 is located. As the Torchwood organisation was over a century old, they may have obtained it long before UNIT arrived in the area.
  • It is said that Ian and Barbara haven't aged since the 1960's. Nothing we saw on screen of their travels with the Doctor might have caused this. They are both professors at Cambridge University, though a couple of years later we find that Ian is Chairman of the Board of Governors of Coal Hill School (The Day of the Doctor).
  • Ben and Polly are still together in India, running an orphanage. The location might be a reference to the fact that Anneke Wills resided at an Ashram for a number of years.
  • In an earlier SJA story Sarah seemed to indicate that Harry Sullivan was dead. She says "Poor Harry..." when remembering him. Here she mentions his work with viruses but does so in the past tense, confirming that he is no longer with us.
  • The novel Eternity Weeps has Liz Shaw working in a moonbase for UNIT, but has her die in the early 2000's.
  • The recent trailer for the Season 26 Blu-ray box set also features Ace running the 'A Charitable Earth' Foundation. Whilst that is hardly canon, this story clearly contradicts the comic strip in DWM where she is killed.
  • During Tom Baker's time, Nicholas Courtney's absence was usually explained away by having the Brigadier stuck in Geneva. Since 2008, it is Peru where he has got himself stuck - starting with The Sontaran Stratagem. It had been hoped that Courtney could have made a cameo appearance in this story, but he was too ill. He passed away four months after it was broadcast.
  • Jo's memories include clips from Carnival of Monsters (one featuring Ian Marter in his earlier guise of Lt. Andrews in that story), The Three Doctors (including glimpses of the First and Second Doctors), The Mutants, The Sea Devils and Frontier in Space (including Roger Delgado's Master).
  • Some of Sarah's memories include clips from Masque of Mandragora, Genesis of the Daleks, The Android Invasion, Invasion of the DinosaursThe Monster of Peladon, Pyramids of Mars and The Hand of Fear.
  • A minor continuity matter is cleared up as we learn that Jo Grant did indeed visit Karfel with the Third Doctor (Timelash refers to this unseen adventure. No mention is made of who the Doctor's other companion was at the time).
  • Sarah recalls events from The Five Doctors, yet speaks of Tegan as though she has never met her. This was a problem thrown up by School Reunion, in which, despite having her owning K9 Mark III, she acted as though she hadn't seen the Doctor since The Hand of Fear.