Wednesday 30 January 2013
I was curious about who they might get to play the various characters in the 50th Anniversary docu-drama on the origins of the programme - and now we hear it will be Hogwarts' own David Bradley who will be essaying William Hartnell - seen in the programme not very long ago as the villainous Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. Personally, I think it is an inspired choice. An exceptionally good actor and, with a little help from Mr. Gorton, sure to be the perfect person for the role. Hmm? Hmm? Oh, do stop pestering me, Chatterton...
Tuesday 29 January 2013
It's with great regret that I am repeating a post title but now with an all too final set of dates attached. Bernard Horsfall has passed away at the age of 82. I posted about his contribution to Doctor Who back on 9th December, if you'd care to visit the archive on the right.
He will be sadly missed.
Monday 28 January 2013
In which UNIT is being inspected by an obnoxious civil servant named Chinn. He is not happy about the lack of documentation regarding the Doctor. American Bill Filer has arrived to learn more about the Master. To really make the Brigadier's day, there is a UFO alert. Chinn tries to shoot it down, but it seems to vanish before the missiles can hit it and it appears on the south coast, close to the Nuton Power Complex, which supplies energy for much of the country. The arrival of the craft, which has an organic appearance, causes freak weather conditions in the area. A tramp named Pigbin Josh is dragged into the craft. Deemed of no intelligence, his body is discarded - totally drained of energy. Filer races down to Nuton before the rest of UNIT and is also captured - but deemed worth holding further. He finds himself held captive along with the person he came to England to learn more about - the Master.
A message is received from the craft - a call for assistance. It identifies itself as Axos. The Doctor leads a group into the ship - comprising the Brigadier, Chinn and two of the Nuton personnel - chief scientist Winser and the director, Hardiman. A family of Axons appear - beautiful golden beings. They clam their planet was destroyed by solar flare activity and ask for time to re-energise their organic vessel. In return they offer a substance called Axonite, which can manipulate matter and energy. Chinn wants this for Britain and, resenting UNIT interference, he invokes special powers and has the regular army take charge. Jo had sneaked onto the ship after the others. She is sure she hears Bill Filer, and then sees a horrible tentacled creature detach itself from a wall. The Axon leader dismisses this as an hallucination caused by their power source. The Doctor agrees to work with Winser to examine an Axonite sample. It is not in the interests of the Axons for Axonite to be retained by the UK. They want global distribution and release the Master so he can assist with this - retaining his TARDIS so he will co-operate. The Master, however, hopes to steal the Doctor's ship. The Axonite is activated and kills Winser. Filer is duplicated and his copy sent to retrieve the substance. The real Filer escapes and his duplicate is destroyed.
The Doctor and Jo are captured. They learn that Axos is a parasitical gestalt creature, which has come to drain the Earth of all energy when Axonite is activated globally. It captured the Master and he brought it here to destroy the planet - and the Doctor. Axos wants the secret of time travel, in order to increase its feeding range throughout history. The Doctor's knowledge of time travel equations has been blocked by the Time Lords as part of his exile, but Axos can break through this. It will need the entire output of the Nuton reactor to achieve time travel capability, so one of the Axons reverts to its natural tentacled form and enters the station. The Master has brought the TARDIS to the complex and is trying to repair it when he is captured. He is compelled by the Brigadier to help. He tries to destroy Axos by channelling all the power into it at once. This disrupts Axos long enough for the Doctor and Jo to escape. Axos then channels the power back into the complex. Hardiman is killed. The Doctor joins forces with the Master - appearing to be about to escape and leave Earth to its fate. He travels only as far as Axos. He offers the creature time travel - but tricks it into entering a time-loop. The Master escapes. The Nuton labs are destroyed, but the Doctor is able to free himself from the time-loop and return to Earth.
This four part adventure was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and was broadcast between 13th March and 3rd April, 1971.
The writers were known as "the Bristol Boys", and they had submitted a comedy drama script to the BBC, based on the army exploits of their friend Keith Floyd (who would soon find fame as a TV chef). The script somehow found its way to Terrance Dicks, who felt it showed merit and so the boys were invited in and offered the chance to write a Doctor Who script. Dicks had to constantly rein in the writers' imaginations due to budget limitations - so there was no giant skull-shaped spaceship landing in the middle of Hyde Park for instance, as Dicks relates on the DVD commentary.
The story was first going to be called The Gift, referring to the Axonite, The Friendly Invasion and later The Vampire From Space - but this was thought to give the game away too soon about the Axons.
Filming took place in early January on the bleak Dungeness coastline of Kent. The shoot was plagued by a mix of weather, including dense fog and snow, with sudden thaws. As such, a line had to be inserted about the freak weather conditions in the area - meaning that Fernanda Marlowe got a little bit of extra work as Corporal Bell, after having appeared in The Mind of Evil.
The Axons, and Axos, are a great idea in principal and are very well realised. They have always been one of my own personal favourite monsters. There are different designs - the lumpy one and the one that looks like an inside out person for instance. They are quite horrifying for younger viewers. The initially friendly golden beings are quite effectively done, with the addition of globular (ping pong ball) eyes. The chief Axon male, and the voice of Axos, is Bernard Holley, who had appeared in The Tomb of the Cybermen. The psychedelic Axos interiors are achieved using a mix of models, sets and lighting effects.
Other guest artists include Peter Bathurst (The Power of the Daleks) as the pompous Little-Englander Chinn; Donald Hewlett as Hardiman; David Saville (The War Games and The Five Doctors) as Winser, and Canadian actor Paul Grist as Bill Filer. In a very early television role, as Captain Harker, is Tim Piggot-Smith, who will get a more substantial role in The Masque of Mandragora.
Roger Delgado makes his third consecutive appearance as the Master. He is intrinsic to the plot, however, and not just a bolt-on. He's the reason for Axos visiting the Earth in the first place and is instrumental in helping it in its plans, as well as helping the Doctor defeat the menace. His joining forces with his enemy in this instance is plot driven. He wants to save his own neck and is not suddenly switching sides as he did in his first appearance.
Episode endings are:
- Jo screams as she sees a hideous tentacled creature emerge from a wall in the ship...
- The Doctor has worked out what connects Axos and Axonite and explains to Jo and Filer. Tentacled Axon creatures burst in and advance towards them.
- The Master is channelling all of Nuton's power back into Axos - intent on destroying it. It will also destroy the Doctor and Jo who are still on the ship...
- The Doctor had thought he might have managed to escape his exile - but the TARDIS will always bring him back to Earth.
Overall, not a bad little story. Very good monsters and some great stuff from Roger Delgado. My one big gripe has always been the far too early reveal of the monsters - within the first couple of minutes. How much better would it have been to hold them back to the first episode cliff-hanger?
Things you might like to know:
- We get to see the TARDIS interior for the first time since The War Games in 1969 - and it is therefore the first time we see it in colour.
- We also get to see what appears to be the Master's undisguised TARDIS - a white cabinet.
- Who does Bill Filer work for? It's never stated. Is he from the US branch of UNIT, or is he from one of the other security agencies?
- Whilst we got a repainted Axon costume as a Krynoid in The Seeds of Doom, the Axons themselves have never returned to the programme - though they have been referenced in the new series by the Master and the Doctor. 2012 did see a sudden flurry of Axos activity with appearances in both the DWM comic strip and a BF audio.
- We get a good look at HAVOC man Nick Hobbs in this. He's the UNIT driver hypnotised by the Master. Hobbs would go on to play Aggedor (both times) and is one of the few people from the classic series to make it into the new one (he's Mr. Nainby in Amy's Choice).
Sunday 27 January 2013
Another very quiet week. A new publicity image was released, and we learned that Series 7 part 2 will be airing from Saturday 30th March. It's the same date for the USA and Canada.
The extras for a couple of forthcoming DVD releases have been revealed. The Ark in Space SE is going to have a new making of documentary, plus there is a feature looking at the original novels that were released during the "Dark Times" - when it looked as if the programme had gone forever.
As well as the "Airlock" episode from Galaxy 4, The Aztecs SE will include an episode of BBC 2's Chronicle series looking at the Aztecs and the Spanish invasion. There is also a feature on Doctor Who toys through the years.
Talking of DVDs, I'm looking forward to seeing the "complete" version of The Reign of Terror tomorrow. SFX have only given the release 2.5 out of 5, and have criticised the lack of any extra on the animation. They say that the direction of the animated episodes does not match the surviving instalments.
If you do want to see videos about the animation of this release, there are three out there on You Tube, released by classicdw.
See you tomorrow for Story 57 - The Claws of Axos.
Thursday 24 January 2013
In which UNIT is providing the security at a crucial peace conference in London. At the same time, Captain Yates has been tasked with the dumping of a banned Thunderbolt nerve-gas missile at sea. The Doctor and Jo, meanwhile, are visiting Stangmoor Prison to observe a new machine which it is claimed can rehabilitate hardened criminals by removing ill-will from their minds. It has been created by Swiss scientist Emil Keller and has been tested successfully in Swiss prisons. Keller's colleague Prof. Kettering is present at Stangmoor to demonstrate it. After a convict named Barnham has been subjected to the process, a journalist is found dead in the processing room. He appears to have been attacked by rats - an animal he had a morbid fear of. Later, Kettering is also found dead. He feared drowning - and his lungs are found to be full of water. The Doctor is called back to London after the Chinese peace conference delegate dies in suspicious circumstances. Captain Chin Lee blames the Americans - but the Brigadier suspects her. The Master is eavesdropping on telephone calls from UNIT HQ - and is particularly interested in Yates' mission. He goes to Stangmoor - and it transpires that he is Emil Keller. He helps stage a riot in which the convicts, led by Harry Mailer, take over the prison. Jo is taken hostage.
An attempt is made on the life of the US delegate - Chin Lee appearing to him as a Chinese dragon. The Doctor and the Brigadier arrive in time to stop her. She is found to be under hypnotic control. When the Doctor learns that Keller had a female Chinese associate, he deduces what is going on. Keller is the Master, and his machine is somehow responsible for the deaths. When he returns to the prison, the Doctor is captured. The machine contains an alien Mind Parasite which feeds on negative thoughts and emotions. It is growing stronger all the time - and even the Master is finding it hard to control. His plan is to use the convicts to steal the Thunderbolt missile, and he will use it against the peace conference. This will trigger a third World War. The Parasite will feed on all the hate and fear which this will generate.
The missile convoy is ambushed, and Yates is able to follow the convicts to an abandoned airfield where the Thunderbolt will be hidden. Yates is captured before he can report the location. The Brigadier assumes the weapon has been taken to the prison, and plans to break in.
The raid proves successful and UNIT retake the prison. Mailer is killed. The Mind Parasite is now able to transport itself around the prison using telekinesis When in the presence of Barnham, however, it becomes subdued - having nothing to feed off as it has already drained him of his criminality. Yates escapes and informs the Brigadier of the missile's hiding place. The Brigadier sets about trying to abort it - but the Master has disabled this. The Doctor and Jo go to the airfield with the Mind Parasite, held by Barnham. The Doctor plans to use the missile to destroy the creature. He offers to give the Master his dematerialisation circuit back. He is able to reactivate the abort mechanism. The Master flees in a prison van, knocking down and killing Barnham. The Brigadier blows up the missile - taking the Mind Parasite with it. Back at the prison, where Sergeant Benton has been made acting governor, the Doctor receives a mocking phone call from the Master. He has his circuit back, and is now free to leave Earth, whilst the Doctor is still in exile.
This six part adventure was written by Don Houghton, and was broadcast between 30th January and 6th March, 1971. The story exists only in black & white format but the colour has been painstakingly restored for its imminent DVD release. It will be premièred at the NFT in March 2013 as part of the BFI's contribution to the 50th Anniversary celebrations.
It is another atypical Doctor Who story, in much the same way that The Ambassadors of Death was. Take away the Mind Parasite, which isn't essential to the plot, and you have another 1970's crime caper in the style of The Sweeney or The Professionals. The Master could easily be an earthly criminal mastermind, planning a big heist. Add to the mix a couple of prison riots and a siege, with a high body count, and you have a gritty crime thriller rather than sci-fi / fantasy.
The Mind Parasite appears as a bit of a monocular brain in a jar. To add to its menace, it gets to transport itself around the prison in the later part of the story. It is not clear how its victims can exhibit physical wounds when attacked mentally - rat scratches and lungfuls of water. When he is attacked by it, the Doctor first sees a mass of flames - referring to his experiences at the parallel Inferno Project. Later, he is menaced by visions of a number of his old enemies (including, bizarrely, Koquillion). The Master sees a towering image of the Doctor mocking him - sure sign of a deep-rooted inferiority complex where his old school chum is concerned.
Dialogue states that the Keller Machine has been around for at least 6 months. The Master must have had it in his TARDIS whilst he was working on the second Nestene invasion, as he hasn't been able to leave Earth - unless he found it here subsequently. One flaw in his plan: what would he have done if the war had been triggered, and he still didn't have his dematerialisation circuit to escape it?
The Doctor appears to be on friendly terms with Chairman Mao - which does not seem to sit well at all with his character. He also name-drops Sir Walter Raleigh, who he shared a cell with in the Tower of London.
The regulars are all very well served by this story - with everyone getting a reasonable share of the action.
Jo spends much of the time trapped in the prison, and she befriends the gentle giant Barnham - played sensitively by Neil McCarthy (also in The Power of Kroll as Thawn) - as well as helping Michael Sheard's prison doctor, Summers. Yates has much more to do, being a bit of an action man. Benton is made acting governor of the prison by the Brigadier after messing up during the missile ambush.
The Brigadier gets to don a disguise and a bit of a dodgy accent to sneak his men into the prison in a grocery van. It's him who shoots Mailer and saves the Doctor's life.
Mailer is played by William Marlowe, who will return in The Revenge of the Cybermen as Lester. Chin Lee is Pik-Sen Lim.
UNIT gets a couple of new members - Corporal Bell, played by Fernanda Marlowe, and the wonderfully efficient and enthusiastic Major Cosworth, played by Patrick Godfrey. It's a shame we never got to see any more of him.
Episode endings for this story are:
- Alone in the processing room, the Keller machine activates and the Doctor finds himself surrounded by flames.
- Senator Alcott, the US peace conference delegate, sees Chin Lee transform into a terrifying dragon creature (not!)
- Handcuffed to a chair in the processing room, the Keller Machine attacks the Doctor with BBC publicity images of many of his old enemies.
- The Mind Parasite is now mobile. The Doctor and Jo are locked in the processing room as it materialises.
- Mailer holds Jo hostage. He points his gun at the Doctor, and a shot rings out...
- The Doctor is not happy. The Master is free - whilst he is stuck on Earth - with the Brigadier...
Overall, a very adult tale. So far, we have only seen it in B&W, which actually adds to the rather grim atmosphere. A very good story for Roger Delgado, and for the UNIT crew. The cliffhangers are a little bit same-y.
Things you might like to know:
- Pik-Sen Lim was actually Don Houghton's wife.
- And Fernanda Marlowe was married to William Marlowe. He would later go on to marry Roger Delgado's widow, Kismet.
- Barry Letts was horrified by the Chinese dragon costume - made from a pink quilted material. He dubbed it "Puff the Magic Dragon", and its appearance is mercifully brief.
- This story has one of only two uses of on screen subtitles in the entire classic series - when the Doctor converses with the new Chinese delegate in his native tongue. (The other is The Curse of Fenric).
- The story went badly over budget, leading Barry Letts to drop director Tim Coombe from working on the show again - which is a great shame.
- Hayden Jones, who plays Mailer's right hand man, Lenny Vosper, was originally going to play the telephone engineer - and provide Auton voices - in The Terror of the Autons, but he was able to land this more substantial role instead.
- One of Doctor Who's biggest mysteries is about to be solved with the colourisation of this story - namely just what football team does the Master appear to support? Is his scarf black and white, or blue and white...? (He's also a bit of a King Crimson fan, if his in-car listening is anything to go by).
Wednesday 23 January 2013
And lime green is the new black, apparently. After specifically telling us that Series 7 Part 2 would be arriving in April, we have now been notified by the BBC that it kicks off on Easter Saturday - which of course is in March (30th to be precise). At least they are not messing us around this time by keeping us guessing up until the last moment.
Sunday 20 January 2013
In which a rogue Time Lord arrives on Earth determined to provide the Nestene Consciousness with a new opportunity to invade the Earth. The Master was a contemporary of the Doctor on his homeworld and they are great rivals. The Master's TARDIS materialises in the form of a horse-box at the travelling circus of Luigi Rossini. The Time Lord has great hypnotic skills and soon has the whole company in his thrall. The Brigadier has allowed the last intact Nestene sphere to be loaned to a museum, and the Master steals this. He takes it to a radio-telescope station, kills one of the crew with a matter compression weapon, and makes the link with the Consciousness.
At UNIT HQ, the Doctor finds himself lumbered with a new assistant - Jo Grant, whose uncle at the UN has pulled some strings to land her a job. Liz Shaw has returned to research work at Cambridge. Jo accidentally destroys the Doctor's work on a new TARDIS dematerialisation circuit. At first the Doctor wants rid of her, but is slowly won over by her enthusiasm. On learning of the theft of the Nestene sphere and the events at the radio-telescope, the Doctor knows that they are connected. He and Jo go there with the Brigadier and UNIT Captain Mike Yates, who was involved with the previous Auton invasion and is now on the Brigadier's full time staff. They find that one of the scientists has gone missing, and they see the corpse of the other horribly shrunken. A Time Lord appears and warns the Doctor that the Master is on Earth - and is intent on destroying him.
The Master takes over the Farrell Plastics factory by hypnotising the weak-willed owner, Rex. He uses the reanimated sphere to create new Autons. When sales manager McDermott starts to interfere he is killed - smothered by a plastic chair. Rex's father, John, decides to take the company back under his control but he too is killed - by a heat activated troll doll. When Jo investigates Farrell's factory, she is caught and the Master hypnotises her into returning to UNIT HQ to kill the Doctor with a bomb. The missing scientist is traced to the circus. The Doctor is captured but Jo frees him. They are attacked by circus people but a police car turns up to take them away. This proves to be driven by Autons. The Brigadier and Captain Yates rescue them. In high streets across the Home Counties masked men start to distribute free plastic daffodils which are incredibly realistic. A number of inexplicable deaths are then reported. When they learn that McDermott and John Farrell are amongst the victims, the Doctor and the Brigadier visit the factory. It is deserted - apart from an Auton sentinel. The Doctor finds one of the daffodils and examines it in his lab.
The daffodils prove to be deadly. They are activated by short-wave radio and spit a smothering plastic film into the faces of their victims. Those deaths so far have been due to the daffodils being triggered prematurely. The Doctor deduces that the Master will use a radio transmission to activate them all at once - killing thousands. The Master tries to kill him using a length of Nestene-controlled telephone cord. When this fails, he breaks into UNIT HQ to destroy his enemy in person. The Doctor had earlier stolen the dematerialisation circuit from his TARDIS, so the Master takes him and Jo hostage when he learns the Brigadier is about to bomb the coach in which the Autons are travelling. They travel to the radio-telescope and the Master attempts to bring the Nestene Consciousness to Earth. The Doctor is able to convince him that he is just as likely to be killed as everyone else, so the two Time Lords join forces to repel the Nestene back into deep space. The Master tries to flee and is shot down by Captain Yates. This proves to be the hypnotised Rex Farrell in a mask. The Master has escaped - but he is still trapped on Earth.
This four part adventure was written by Robert Holmes, and was broadcast between 2nd and 23rd January 1971. It is the first story of Season 8, and marks Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks' first full series in control. Elements of Season 7 had been inherited from the previous production team - such as Liz Shaw and the seven part stories.
Letts stamps his mark on the series by introducing a new companion - Katy Manning's Jo Grant - who would be much more of an audience identification figure. Despite being a member of UNIT, she doesn't wear any uniform, and she is not that bright academically. She is keen but green, having been helped into the job by an uncle who works for the UN.
There are two further new additions to the regular cast - the Master, played by Roger Delgado, and Captain Mike Yates, played by Richard Franklin.
Letts and Dicks had been discussing how the Doctor could often be like Sherlock Holmes, and hit on the idea that it would be good if he had a Moriarty figure - someone equal but opposite whom Pertwee could play against. With the Doctor still exiled on Earth, an extra story element was needed. The Master would provide a "human" counterpoint to the monsters, as well as a reason for the invasions in the first place. Delgado, who had worked with Letts before, was the only actor ever considered.
UNIT was a little undermanned, having only had the occasional "guest" captain in previous stories. Yates was introduced to give the Brigadier a regular second-in-command, and provide potential romantic interest for the new companion. Franklin joins John Levene who is now a fully-fledged regular.
One further change introduced in this story is the UNIT uniforms. Letts detested the beige ones and was keen to use ones that looked them look like conventional soldiers.
Spearhead From Space had proved to be an extremely popular story, so a sequel was rapidly commissioned. Perhaps because of all the new elements that had to be introduced, there is actually very little on screen Auton involvement in the story. They have been redesigned and can now talk. In the second part of the story they are disguised under grinning carnival masks.
The main threats now come from Nestene-controlled plastic items of different sorts - a black inflatable chair, the grotesque troll doll, the spitting daffodils and the telephone cord.
As these are everyday household items, the threat comes closer to home and is therefore scarier for the younger viewers. There were reports at the time of children being afraid to take their teddy bears to bed in case they attacked them. The use of Autons disguised as policemen also caused controversy, as the police felt it undermined their attempts to get children to trust officers if in trouble.
The Nestene creature in the first story had been a tentacled creature, and in this it appears only as a blurred energy form - a huge disappointment for non-contemporary viewers brought up on the Target novelisation.
The main guest artist is Michael Wisher as Rex Farrell. He is superb throughout. Farrell has obviously been bullied by his father all his life, and has only grudgingly been handed the reins of the family firm. Harry Towb's McDermott has been left to look after him. Farrell is weak-willed, and relishes the power which the Master gives him. As I mentioned in my recent post on Wisher, he has a cold streak to him - nonchalantly cancelling McDermott's salary and entitlements mere seconds after seeing him horribly suffocated to death. He does rebel against the Master's influence before being taken over one last time.
Episode endings for this story are:
- A UNIT ammo box, which had held the Nestene sphere, is brought into the Doctor's lab. Jo is determined to open it, and the Doctor realises that it contains a bomb...
- The Doctor and Jo are in a police car being driven away from the circus. Jo realises they are not headed into town. The Doctor pulls away a mask from one of the officers to reveal the blank features of an Auton...
- The Doctor answers the phone in his lab. It is a call from the Master, who operates a small control device. The cord comes to life and starts to strangle the Doctor...
- Back at UNIT HQ, the Doctor points out that the Master is also trapped on Earth. He is quite looking forward to their next encounter...
Overall, a very good story which establishes the template for the next season or two. The new additions are all very welcome - especially Delgado and Manning. One gripe is that the Master, after going to great lengths to help the Nestenes, so readily accepts what the Doctor warns and turns against them. In hindsight, it won't be the last time this happens. Some people have questioned certain aspects of the Doctor in this - his talk of hobnobbing with civil servants in Pall Mall clubs (when the character had always been very much anti-establishment) and his apparent relish at the rematch with the Master - who poses the risk of death to millions. With regards the latter we, the audience, are also relishing it.
Things you might like to know:
- This story has no credited director. It was directed by Barry Letts himself. He had agreed with his superiors that he would have the opportunity to direct one story per season (generally a four parter). As such, he couldn't be credited as director and producer at the same time.
- Despite the story title, it was quickly found that there was a distinct lack of Autons. The scene where Rex sees the Master animating some Autons in part one was a last minute addition.
- The quarry-set escape from the Auton policemen proved a troubled shoot. The short-sighted Katy Manning tore a ligament tripping over a boulder, and Nicholas Courtney had been taken ill and had to be doubled. Unfortunately, the double is clearly identified as he is wearing white socks - something the Brigadier would never do. There is a wonderful stunt fall from Terry Walsh to enjoy.
- Pertwee's strict adherence to the script is demonstrated in the lab scene after the troll doll has been destroyed. Yates says he went to "fetch some cocoa", to which the Doctor responds "fetch a tin of what?"
- The two hapless radio-telescope scientists are played by Andrew Staines and Christopher Burgess. Letts had used them in his first directorial Who job (The Enemy of the World) and he would use them again in his last Pertwee directorial outing (The Planet of the Spiders). Many directors used their own "rep" companies.
- Viewing figures tended to fluctuate over the course of individual stories. This story saw the figures rise for each successive instalment - the first time this had happened since The Tomb of the Cybermen.
- Regarding the Nestene creature which graced the original Target book cover, we would eventually get to see it on screen. It was used by The Mill as an audition piece to get the CGI work for the new series in 2005. It would be used as the basis for the Bane Mother in the SJA pilot Invasion of the Bane.
Saturday 19 January 2013
In which UNIT is providing security at a drilling project which the personnel have nicknamed "Inferno". Professor Stahlman is hoping to penetrate the Earth's crust in order to reach a new gas which he has named after himself. It is hoped that this will provide all of Britain's energy needs. A viscous green liquid has started to seep up one of the pipes, and a technician named Slocum touches some - causing him to become a deranged killer. There is a physical transformation as well - as he becomes animal-like. The Doctor is present with Liz. He has the TARDIS control console in a shed on the site and has been experimenting using power from the project's nuclear reactor. Another technician and a UNIT soldier are also infected by the green fluid. Their bodies generate great heat. Stahlman is becoming increasingly obsessed with his project and is pushing the drilling beyond safety levels. The civil servant assigned to the project - Sir Keith Gold - calls in an oil expert named Greg Sutton to advise him. Stahlman resents this interference. He decides to ignore the computer which is issuing safety warnings - and later sabotages it. He also becomes infected but manages to keep the transformation in check - for now.
The Doctor's experiments go awry and he, the console, and "Bessie" are transported to a parallel version of the drilling project on an alternative Earth. In this world, Britain is a fascist dictatorship. UNIT is the RSF - Republican Security Force. The Doctor is captured and assumed to be a spy. He encounters alternative versions of his friends. The Brigadier is the cruel - but cowardly - Brigade-Leader; Liz is Section-Leader Shaw; and Benton is a sadistic Platoon Under-Leader. This project is run like a labour camp. Greg Sutton is here also - a political prisoner. Sir Keith has died in a mysterious car accident. The Doctor discovers that the drilling is far more advanced here and penetration of the crust is imminent. Stahlman is pushing things forward without heeding safety warnings. The Doctor tries to stop the project but fails. With the drilling complete, powerful volcanic forces are unleashed. Many of the personnel transform into savage hirsute Primords. The Doctor cannot save this world - but can in his own reality if he can get back and stop the drilling. Liz helps him - shooting the Brigade-Leader when he tries to flee with the Doctor.
Back in this reality, the Doctor sets about warning everyone of what he has seen in the parallel universe. Naturally, not everyone believes him. Sir Keith has only been injured in an accident, after Stahlman paid his driver to get them lost and stop him interfering. Stahlman turns into a Primord and has to be killed - shot by the Brigadier. The creatures are also susceptible to the freezing gasses in fire extinguishers. Greg helps the Doctor shut down the drilling with only moments to spare. Sir Keith has the project closed down. The Doctor tries to escape his exile using the TARDIS console, after bidding farewell to Liz and telling the Brigadier exactly what he thinks of him - but only gets as far as the site's rubbish tip. He has to mend fences with the Brigadier in order to get help in retrieving the console - much to Liz's amusement...
This seven part adventure was written by Don Houghton, and was broadcast between 9th May and 20th June, 1970. It marks the final story of Season 7, and is the last story to feature Caroline John in the regular role of Liz Shaw.
It was a troubled production, as director Douglas Camfield was taken ill during the studio recording. He had suffered a minor heart attack. Producer Barry Letts had to step in and complete the programme using Camfield's camera plans.
Caroline John gets the final shot of the show - but not a farewell scene. She was pregnant and was planning on stepping down anyway, though Letts - not knowing about the pregnancy - informed her he would not be renewing her contract as he had other ideas about the companion role. Liz was a brilliant Cambridge scientist, who sometimes knew exactly what the Doctor was on about - which did not make her an ideal audience identification figure. Letts wanted someone who would ask the questions that the audience might want answered.
Do I really need to talk about eye-patches? You might be new to the programme, so I will say briefly that Nicholas Courtney's favoured Convention story runs that he was sitting with his back to Pertwee, Levene et al, in his Brigade-Leader uniform and make-up - which included a black eye-patch over a duelling scar. When he swirled round in his chair, everyone was wearing an eye-patch - and Courtney carried on unfazed.
Actors love roles where they get to play more than one part - especially if one of them is a villain. Hence, Courtney, Levene and John all cite this as a favourite story. They get to play nasty versions of their regular roles. Liz tends to be closer to her real world counterpart - saying that before joining the RSF she had contemplated being a scientist, and she soon accepts the Doctor's story and helps him escape, with no thought to saving her own neck. Benton is brutish and soon becomes a Primord. Of the regulars, it is Courtney who really gets to play with his alternative version. The Brigade-Leader is a bully - and like all bullies he is, just below the surface, a coward. When his thugs desert him, we see his true colours.
Considering that the programme's original remit was to have adventures set in the past, the future, and "sideways" (i.e. alternative takes on the present day) it is surprising that it took this long for Doctor Who to do a parallel universe story. It is equally surprising that we had to wait for 2006's Cybus Cybermen return story to see it again.
Guest artists worth mentioning include Olaf Pooley as Stahlman; Derek Newark as Greg Sutton; Christopher Benjamin as Sir Keith; and Sheila Dunn as Stahlman's dedicated assistant Dr. Petra Wiliams. The latter was the actress wife of director Camfield. Newark had appeared in the very first Doctor Who story, as Za. Christopher Benjamin would go on to play the popular Henry Gordon Jago in The Talons of Weng-Chiang (a role he is continuing on audio) and Sir Hugh Curbishley in The Unicorn and the Wasp.
Olaf was nicknamed Aloof by certain sections of the cast, and was not keen on the full Primord make-up.
The monsters were added just to have a monster for the sake of it, and to help with the odd cliff-hanger, but they could so easily have been left out altogether.
Episode endings for this story are:
- In the reactor room, the Doctor and the Brigadier are confronted by the savage Slocum.
- The Brigadier and Liz rush into the shed just in time to see the Doctor vanish, along with "Bessie" and the TARDIS console...
- In the parallel universe, the Doctor is attempting to fix the computer. He looks up as Benton threatens to shoot him...
- The Doctor tries in vain to stop the drilling reaching penetration - but is too late. Everyone hears a screeching sound and the Brigade-Leader points his pistol at the Doctor.
- Everyone is trapped in the Brigade-Leader's office as Primords try to smash their way in...
- Liz shoots the Brigade-Leader as the Doctor desperately tries to get the console to work - a wall of lava pouring towards them...
- Liz gets the last laugh as the Doctor apologises profusely for some nasty things he said about the Brigadier...
Overall, an excellent story. The move to the parallel universe and its warped versions of the UNIT crew help sustain the story over the seven episode length. It is interesting how we flit back and forth to see how events are mirroring (or otherwise) the events in each world. Great performances, nice model work and some fantastic stunts courtesy of the guys from HAVOC.
Things you might like to know:
- On screen, the alternative Stahlman appears to be called Stahlmann - as seen on his heat protection suit badge. However, the credits have him as Stahlman throughout. A costume mistake, or a credit caption writer one - or an attempt to show a parallel variation? None of the other characters have alternative names, and we even have a Sir Keith, despite it being a republic. Who knighted him?
- The location of the Inferno Project is a town called Eastchester, according to a deleted scene. This was cut as it featured characters listening to a radio broadcast. The voice was just too obviously Pertwee in full nasal mode - apparently based on Lord Haw-Haw.
- Stuntman Roy Scammell's fall from the gasometer was the highest such stunt fall ever at the time. Pertwee helped him set his cardboard boxes (to land on). This might have been to expiate some guilt after inadvertently running over fellow HAVOC man Alan Chuntz in a chase sequence involving "Bessie".
- The story owes its origins to a real life drilling project. It was abandoned suddenly without explanation - and so led to quite a few conspiracy theories as to what might have happened...
- The Primords are named as such in the end credits and in publicity material, but are never called this on screen.
- The Big Brother-like dictator of the parallel Britain bears a striking resemblance to BBC Visual Effects maestro Jack Kine... (An in-joke as Kine had worked on the infamous 1954 BBC adaptation of Orwell's 1984).
- Kate O'Mara was originally intended for the role of Petra Williams.
- This is one of the Pertwee stories raided for references by Chris Chibnall for his Series 5 Silurian story - the drilling project at Cwmtaff.
- This story sees the final appearance of the original 1963 TARDIS console prop.
Wednesday 16 January 2013
1970's The Ambassadors of Death saw the first credited appearance in Doctor Who of the actor Michael Wisher. He plays the TV broadcaster John Wakefield, commenting on the action at the UK Space Centre in the opening section of the story, and is on hand to host General Carrington's misguided unmasking of the aliens in the final episode. Wakefield helpfully provides a great deal of exposition that would normally have been handled quite clumsily in dialogue between characters. Fellow TV man Alastair Fergus fulfils a similar role at the beginning of The Daemons.
Wisher was born in London in 1935 and first appeared on British television in the early 1960's. His first brush with Doctor Who was actually some uncredited voice work on The Seeds of Death in 1969 - also directed by The Ambassadors' Michael Ferguson.
Wisher returned to the series in the following year, appearing as the weak-willed Rex Farrel, who is manipulated by the Master in The Terror of the Autons. Whilst at times a hapless victim, he does show a cruel streak of his own with his cold cancelling of the newly deceased McDermott's salary. By part four, he is rebelling against the Master, but dies when he is hypnotised into attacking UNIT troops whilst wearing a mask of the Master's features - a mere diversion to allow the evil Time Lord to escape.
Terror of the Autons had been directed by the series producer Barry Letts, and it was he who brought Wisher back to the programme in Season 10. In The Carnival of Monsters, he plays the scheming Kalik, xenophobic brother of the Inter Minoran President, who thinks he can do a better job. He initially forms a third of a comedic trio - with Orum and Pletrac - but his treatment of the Functionaries shows his cold heartedness. He is hoist by his own petard when the Drashigs, which he has released from the Miniscope to cause chaos and to undermine his brother's policy of allowing aliens onto the planet, promptly eat him.
Wisher stayed on for the next two stories (The Frontier in Space and The Planet of the Daleks) - providing the voices for the Daleks alongside Roy Skelton. He is particularly noticeable as the gold Dalek Supreme who turns up on Spiridon. The production team had earlier been very disappointed with the voices in The Day of the Daleks.
Wisher was brought back in Season 11 to provide Dalek voices again in Death to the Daleks.
It was his Dalek voices, coupled with his acting skills, that led to his most famous performance in the programme - that of Davros in The Genesis of the Daleks. Three other actors have essayed the role since, but none compare to Wisher. He famously attended rehearsals with a paper bag over his head in order to get used to the fact that his voice would have to do all the work. He also used a wheelchair - and wore a kilt for comfort. Sadly, he was unavailable to reprise the role when Davros was brought back.
Wisher was back in the following story - The Revenge of the Cybermen - playing Magrik, the consumptive right hand man to Vorus, leader of the Vogan Guardians.
His final appearance, without any prosthetics this time, was as the Morestran bridge officer Morelli in The Planet of Evil. He can also be heard, with an Indian accent, as another unseen character on the radio in this story.
In some ways I am glad he wasn't free to play Davros in The Destiny of the Daleks, as it was an inferior story and may have undermined that stunning original performance.
Whilst Wisher never appeared in the programme again, he did not sever his links with the programme. He did play the Dalek creator one more time - in a fan-produced stage play called "The Trial of Davros" - and he appeared in a number of the unofficial BBV video stories. These included "Summoned by Shadows" with Colin Baker, and - as the ghost of Benton's father - in "Wartime".
Michael Wisher died of a heart attack in 1995.
Monday 14 January 2013
In which UNIT are providing security at the UK Space Agency. Recovery 7 is about to dock with Mars Probe 7 which left the red planet some time ago. Communications with the Probe were lost and it is not known if the two man crew are sill alive. When the Recovery vessel docks, a strange sound is heard at Mission Control. In charge here is Ralph Cornish. The Doctor identifies the sound as a message, and predicts there will be a response. Sure enough, a similar sound is broadcast from Earth, and this is traced to a warehouse just outside London. The Brigadier and his men go there and a battle ensues. A man named Collinson is arrested, and he proves to be a soldier, secretly working under the command of General Carrington - military attaché to the Space Agency. Carrington was an astronaut himself - on the previous Probe mission to Mars, when his colleague died under mysterious circumstances. The Recovery 7 returns to Earth, and now communications have been lost with it as well. A group of armed men try to steal the capsule as it is transported to the Space Centre, but the Doctor is ale to hijack it back. When the capsule is opened, it is found to be empty.
The Doctor's attempts to decipher the strange sound are hampered by the actions of the computer expert Bruno Taltalian. He is working with a criminal named Reegan, who is also in the employ of Carrington. The three astronauts from the Recovery 7 were snatched from the Space Centre during a faked security drill. When it looks as if the Doctor and UNIT might track them down, Reegan kills the scientists looking after them and moves them to a secret location - a bunker on army land. Carrington claims that the astronauts have been infected with a contagious form of lethal radiation. Reegan sends Taltalian to the Space Centre with a bomb, intended to kill both him and the Doctor. Only the scientist is killed. Liz is then kidnapped to stop the Doctor interfering. An alien communications device is found amongst Taltalian's effects, and the Doctor works out that the strange sound heard earlier is actually the instructions on how to build a more advanced model.
The Doctor decides to make a solo flight in the Recovery 7 to try to find out what happened out in space. Reegan tries to sabotage the launch but fails. The Doctor travels to the Probe 7, and encounters a huge alien spaceship. The three astronauts are here, unharmed and unaware of what has happened to them. The alien captain tells the Doctor that three ambassadors were sent back to Earth in their place. If they are not returned unharmed, there will be war. On returning to Earth, Reegan abducts the Doctor. It transpires that Carrington had encountered the aliens on his earlier mission. They accidentally killed his colleague as they are highly radioactive - deadly to the touch. He has grown increasingly bitter ever since and now plans to trigger a war to destroy them. He will unmask one of the aliens in a live TV broadcast. Reegan uses the astronauts to raid a number of scientific establishments in order to steal isotopes for their survival. He plans to use them in other criminal schemes. The Brigadier rescues the Doctor and Liz, and Reegan is arrested. Carrington is stopped before the broadcast can take place. Cornish is left to arrange the handover between the aliens and his astronauts. The aliens decide the time is not yet right to forge diplomatic relations.
This seven part adventure was written by David Whitaker, and was broadcast between 21st March and 2nd May, 1970. Whilst Whitaker got the credit, there is very little of his work on screen. After numerous re-writes, he was paid off and the actual scripts were completed by Trevor Ray (part one) and Malcolm Hulke (parts two to seven), with a lot of input from Terrance Dicks.
The Ambassadors of Death does not always feel like a Doctor Who story. Steven Moffat has said that the first episode of Series 7 Part 2 will be a bit "urban thriller", but this beats him to it by 43 years. Imagine an episode of The Sweeney or The Professionals - but with radioactive aliens. If the astronauts really were irradiated humans, this could easily be an episode of Emma Peel era The Avengers. The story marks the first full use of Derek Ware's HAVOC stunt team. There are two big set pieces - the battle in the warehouse, and the hijacking of the Recovery 7 convoy, involving motorbikes and a helicopter. Two other stunt sequences are Liz's chase over a raging weir, and the Brigadier's rescue of the Doctor and Liz from the bunker. Producer Barry Letts allowed director Michael Ferguson to to his own thing - only to regret the hole in the budget which ensued. A contemporary, 7 episode length helped considerably to balance the books.
In the same way that the previous story had introduced a plague sub-plot part way through, this story has the Doctor take a detour off into space by conventional means in order to sustain audience interest. The alien captain is voiced by Peter Halliday. He is only glimpsed, gesticulating wildly, behind a CSO venetian blind. We only get the briefest of glimpses of the astronauts' true form.
The Doctor, Liz and the Brigadier are all given loads to do in this - one of the few times they will get such an even share of the action. The Doctor demonstrates a new skill in managing to make a huge tape reel disappear as tough by magic. Liz again gets to be a scientist and not just a conventional companion figure. The Brigadier is not yet stuck behind a desk at UNIT HQ, being fully involved in three of the action set pieces. It is one of the best Brigadier stories there is.
Guest artists include John Abineri as the quietly insane General Carrington, driven mad by his experiences on a previous space mission. He is xenophobic, and fully believes that what he is doing is the right thing. You almost feel sorry for him at the end. Ralph Cornish is played by Ronald Allen (last seen in The Dominators). This could have been a thankless role, but he proves to be a determined, strong-willed character who is prepared to flaunt authority. Reegan is William Dysart who had appeared in The Highlanders. A ruthless mercenary, who does not share any of the General's ideals, and who sees the base criminal opportunities offered by the aliens, he makes for a charming villain. Shame we never got to see him again. Cyril Shapps plays the discredited scientist Lennox, Robert Cawdron iz ze variably awcented Taltalian, and this story sees the return of John Levene's Benton - now Sergeant for the first time.
Special mention must be made of the model shots in this story. They are superb, accompanied by haunting Procul Harum-like music. The alien craft is a huge organic creation.
Also worth noting is the fact that we see the TARDIS control console outside the ship. It is able to send the Doctor and Liz a few seconds into the future.
Episode endings for this story are:
- When the Doctor and Liz go to the computer room to see Taltalian, he pulls a gun on them...
- The Doctor realises the astronaut voices are a recording, and he orders the Recovery capsule opened.
- Liz is chased by Reegan's men - almost falling over a weir into a raging river.
- One of the alien astronauts has killed Sir James Quinlan and destroyed the contents of his safe. As the Doctor leans over the body, the alien approaches behind him, hand outstretched...
- As the Doctor docks with the Probe 7 capsule, a huge UFO approaches...
- The Doctor is imprisoned in the bunker with Liz. Reegan wants to keep him alive to build the advanced communicator, but Carrington arrives and determines that the Doctor must die...
- His work done, the Doctor leaves it for Ralph Cornish to sort out the transfer of astronauts and ambassadors.
Overall, a strong, adult storyline. Low key monsters who prove not to be monsters at all, and great special effects. The 7 part length does not prove a handicap thanks to the performances of regulars and guests alike.
Things you might like to know:
- This marks the first appearance of Michael Wisher in the programme. He is a TV announcer, who acts as a bit of a Greek chorus at the beginning of the story. He certainly deserves a post of his own - coming shortly.
- It is a bit of a family affair for Caroline John. Her actor husband - future Master Geoffrey Beevers - plays a UNIT soldier in the last episode, and her brother Nick is the Production Assistant.
- The capsule set which doubles for both the Probe 7 and Recovery 7 was a joint build with the Doomwatch team. The two production companies had decided to check storylines with each other in order to save on costs. Doomwatch were preparing a story in which a spacecraft was going to crash back to Earth with disastrous consequences for the environment (series one's "Re-entry Forbidden").
- There's a UNIT uniform variation on show, which only appears in this story - the zip up jacket worn over a polo neck.
- If you're wondering about Glaswegian actor Dysart's accent as Reegan, he and his gang were supposed to be Irish criminals - but the IRA were becoming increasingly active at this time and so this was dropped.
- The opening credits are unique for this story - with the reprise of the previous episode being shown immediately after the "Doctor Who" and the story title being split - first "The Ambassadors" then after a bit more action, the "Of Death" caption, with an accompanying musical sting.
- A few production errors to look out for - the experimental fuel mix is misspelt "Varient"; the Recovery 7 model has a different coloured nose from the full size prop; and - unless they are identical twins - the UNIT soldier on the gate at Space Centre (played by Max Faulkner) comes back from the dead to man his post in a later episode. That's dedication for you. Mind you, Max plays the same trick in The Monster of Peladon - getting killed twice in quick succession.
Sunday 13 January 2013
Very little happening in the Doctor Who world at the moment, after all the activity surrounding the Christmas episode. We are in that "calm before the storm" phase, I suspect. There won't be any new filming until April, and even the new DWM lacked any further news about the final half of Series 7.
Earlier in the week, K9 did pop up in the BBC's Stargazing Live series.
On Monday I purchased The Legacy Box. My old VHS player died a death about 4 years ago, and I decided not to replace it - so it was great to see Shada and More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS again.
I had entirely forgotten Tom Baker's wonderful introduction to the incomplete 1979 adventure.
I will be looking at both of the main features when I reach them as I work chronologically through the series. The extras are a bit of a mixed bag - some of them obviously intended for other releases. "Those Deadly Divas" is a bit rubbish - one of those cheap "get someone to watch some clips then get them to talk about them like they know what they're talking about" programmes which clutter up Channels 4 and 5 in the UK. This was obviously found not worth including at the time on one of the Rani DVD releases. Another oddly placed item is "Being A Girl on the Shada disc. A documentary looking at the role of women in the programme should surely have been better placed with a story which strongly featured female characters - one with a female villain for instance. It's nowhere near as strong as the look at race on The Mutants release. The other out of context item is the 2003 interview with Peter Purves - which really ought to have accompanied The Time Meddler, The Ark or The Gunfighters.
The best item in the box set is the superb "Remembering Nicholas Courtney". It is built around Nick's last filmed interview, which Tom Baker gatecrashes at one point. It's a shame we don't get to see more of the interview itself.
Friday 11 January 2013
In which UNIT is called in to investigate a series of problems plaguing a research centre built deep beneath Wenley Moor, Derbyshire. The experimental Cyclotron power generation system has been suffering inexplicable energy drains, there is an abnormally high level of staff sickness, and then an accident takes place in the nearby cave system. One staff member is killed, and his colleague driven insane after going potholing. The Doctor at first refuses to heed the Brigadier's summons - but Liz points out that it would make a good test drive for his new car. This is a sprightly yellow Edwardian tourer which he has named "Bessie".
The Doctor can find nothing wrong with the Cyclotron, but he does find signs of tampering with a log book. The man driven mad by his experience in the caves is now drawing strange creatures on the wall of his room - and the Doctor likens them to primitive cave drawings, as though the man has regressed to some race memory. He goes alone to the scene of the "accident" and sees a large dinosaur. An electronic sound is heard and it disappears into the darkness.
Security chief of the research centre, Major Baker, accompanies the Doctor and UNIT troops into the caves. He sees a bipedal figure and fires a warning shot, but a ricochet hits the creature. He is then attacked and injured by the dinosaur. The Doctor now knows that there are two types of creature in the caves. The bipeds control the dinosaur and must possess great knowledge and technology. The wounded creature has made its way onto the moors, and a major hunt is instigated. Senior scientist Dr. Quinn goes into the caves and enters a subterranean base. He had made contact with the creatures - Silurians - some time ago and has been shielding their activities - hoping to learn from them. They task him with recovering their wounded comrade.
He keeps the Silurian in his cottage. The Doctor guesses what he is up to due to the high temperature he notes when he visits. When he decides to hold it hostage, the Silurian kills Quinn. Baker breaks out of the centre's sickbay and returns to the caves - only to be captured. The Doctor and Liz search Quinn's belongings and find notes on prehistoric Earth, and a map leading to the base. They sneak into the base and see the Silurians and their dinosaur, and find Baker locked in a cell. They return to the centre and the Doctor discovers that the Brigadier is going to lead an armed party into the caves. To prevent bloodshed, he returns alone to the base to warn the Silurians - to Baker's disgust.
The young Silurian heir uses their technology to trap the UNIT group. The elderly leader of the creatures decides to listen to the Doctor, and frees the Brigadier's party. He recognises that humans are the dominant species on the planet and they should try to make peace. The young Silurian sees mankind as vermin which has infested their world. It transpires that the Silurians were the rulers of Earth millions of years ago, when humans were still primitive mammals. A rogue planet approached the Earth, and the Silurians took refuge in underground shelters, putting themselves into suspended animation until the planet had passed - as they feared great devastation. Their reactivation was never triggered. The activities of the centre have woken some, and they are draining off its power to reanimate more. The young Silurian infects Baker with a plague virus and releases him. When the old leader finds out, he releases the Doctor and gives him a sample of the virus in order to formulate a cure. After the Doctor has gone, the young Silurian murders the old leader.
A visiting civil servant named Masters inadvertently spreads the disease to London and beyond. The Doctor and Liz battle to come up with the antidote. The Silurians decide to attack the centre to stop them. They abduct the Doctor. When they realise that the virus will be cured, they devise another scheme. They will harness the Cyclotron to power a device that will destroy the Van Allen Belt. This will prove fatal to humans but make the planet suitable for their recolonisation. The Doctor sets up a power overload - destroying their machine and forcing them back into their base. Fearing a nuclear blast, they return to suspended animation, apart from the young leader. The Doctor halts the overload then returns to the base. The Brigadier follows and kills the Silurian. The Doctor plans to reanimate the creatures a few at a time and forge diplomatic relations with them. When he leaves, however, the Brigadier blows up the base.
This seven part adventure was written by Malcolm Hulke, and was broadcast between 31st January and 14th March, 1970. Unusually, the story title included "Doctor Who and" on screen. This would never be repeated so appears to have been an error. A new producer had just taken over - Barry Letts - and it may have been overlooked in the transition.
The seven episode format which this season follows for its remainder was introduced as a cost saving measure. The expenditure on casting, costume and sets could be spread over more episodes. The only problem with this was sustaining the story over this length. It was necessary to introduce some new plot elements part way through the story - in this case the plague sub-plot.
Hulke had earlier feared that the new Earth exile format might limit the range of possible plots to alien invasion and mad scientist. He got round this by having we humans as the invaders. The Silurians had been here long before us and wanted their planet back. This gave the story added moral dimensions.
Had the old leader survived to the end of the tale, it would have made the Brigadier's decision to blow up their base much more abhorrent, but by having the firebrand younger Silurian take over his actions can - just about - be justified. There are parallels with PM Harriet Jones destroying the Sycorax ship. Despite all the Doctor's declared intentions, sometimes you just can't take the risk.
Jon Pertwee has settled into the role very well, and we can already see exactly what kind of Doctor he is going to be. "Bessie" is introduced to show his love of gadgets and unusual modes of transport; he has no time for bureaucrats and other authority figures (including the Brigadier); and we witness his deep moral sensibilities. His previous incarnations could simply slip into the TARDIS at the end of an adventure, leaving the locals to clean up whatever mess he has helped resolve, but he can no longer do this. He has to live in this imperfect world of ours.
Caroline John's Liz is given quite a bit to do. She is a scientist and becomes frustrated when pushed into an admin role. In many ways this foreshadows what happens to most companions - a strong start, a particular set of skills etc, but soon enough they're reduced to helpless screamers.
It's a strong story for Nicholas Courtney as well, still without any regular UNIT colleagues. In this, his second in command changes for the third time. He had Captain Munro in the previous story, and Captain Turner in The Invasion. His number two here is Paul Darrow's Captain Hawkins, who is killed off late in the story.
Guest artists of note are the wonderful Peter Miles as the centre's authoritarian head Dr. Lawrence; Fulton Mackay as Dr. Quinn; Norman Jones (Khrisong in The Abominable Snowmen) as Major Baker; and Geoffrey Palmer - in the first of three doomed roles in Doctor Who - as Masters.
The Silurians are a very well realised creation - both in costume and in background and motivations. If you or I woke up after ten years and found our home overrun with mice or rats, we would feel entirely justified in getting rid of them and to take the place back for ourselves. It is little wonder that they and their marine cousins were brought back to the programme - and feature prominently today. Such a pity they dispensed with the third eye. The voices in this are by Peter Halliday.
Episode endings for this story are:
- Alone in the caves, the Doctor is threatened by a massive dinosaur...
- Liz is investigating the barn where the wounded Silurian was last seen. She suddenly discovers that it is still here, as it rushes to attack her...
- The Doctor has gone to Quinn's cottage and has found the scientist dead. The Silurian stalks towards him...
- The young Silurian attacks the Doctor with his third eye as he is helpless in a cell...
- The Doctor and the Brigadier arrive at the hospital, in time to see Baker collapse and die - the first victim of the plague...
- The Silurians have broken into the centre to abduct the Doctor, blasting him with the power of their third eyes...
- After witnessing the explosion of the base, the Doctor is appalled. He and Liz return to London in silence.
Overall, a very strong story - one of my favourite Third Doctor adventures. An excellent cast. Hulke's writing raises the Silurians above the usual monster. The sequences of people collapsing at the railway station are quite adult - more akin to Doomwatch than anything we have seen in Doctor Who so far.
Things you might like to know:
- Those railway station sequences (London Marylebone) had to be reshot as there was a problem with the original footage. Members of the production team can be seen as infected travellers - including Letts and Terrance Dicks. The ticket inspector is the assistant script editor Trevor Ray.
- This story marks the first use of CSO - Colour Separation Overlay. Letts agreed the construction of a dinosaur costume, to be worn by an actor. It was so heavy its head had to be held up by chain. Letts then had a "doh!" moment when he realised that with CSO he could have used a puppet or model one at a fraction of the cost.
- Whatever it is, it isn't a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
- And whatever it was, it wasn't the moon which sent the Silurians into hibernation - as we now have a pretty good idea of its formation.
- "Bessie" has the number plate "WHO 1". The real vehicle had the licence plate "MTR5". Letts hated the self-referential nature of the number plate - and the fact that it was actually illegal on a public road.
- When they go back into hibernation in part seven, the Silurians set their alarm clock for 50 years hence. That means they would be waking up in 2020 - which just happens to be the setting for The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood.