Friday 31 May 2013

Everyone's a critic these days...

... unless you work for DWM usually. I have just finished reading the latest issue, and experienced a bit of a shock. The review for the fifth volume of Big Finish's "Gallifrey" spin-off series was actually negative - and I mean really negative.
Usually, anything BF produces gets a sycophantic thumbs-up from DWM. Readers are encouraged to buy even the most humdrum of releases. "It's a bit rubbish, but still worth purchasing" seems to be the party line.
Frankly, the review pages of the magazine are often merely free publicity for BF (and BBC Books & AudioGo). There should be an "Advertising Feature" banner across the top of the page.
We do get some proper critical reviews - but these are confined to the DVD releases and new TV episodes.
The book and audio reviews (covering three or four pages on average) are okay at telling you what the release is about, but fail miserably to inform you if it's worth putting your hand in your pocket for. Considering the vast amount of new Doctor Who product released every month (a lot of it BF product) a more critical response from the programme's dedicated publication would be welcome. I read reviews elsewhere (such as SFX magazine) and they are far more honest.
Take the new book by Nicholas Briggs - "The Dalek Generation". SFX totally panned it. DWM says the pacing is all wrong, the second half unclear and the ending "barmy" - then go on to say it is "a solid and entertaining entry to the books range" -  i.e. it's a bit rubbish, but you should buy it anyway.
Now I'm not saying that every critic could or should have the exact same opinion. Two people watching / reading or listening to the same thing are always going to have diverse opinions. But please DWM, at least proffer an opinion. If you're going to use up several pages every month on  reviews, be honest. Fans have a limited amount of money to spend. Let's have more reviews that actually tell it like it is.

Landmarks No.9

The Evil of the Daleks.
In some ways more significant for what it might have been, than what it was. For its first three years, there is a feeling that Doctor Who and the Daleks are inseparable, and the programme needed the metal monsters if it was to continue. Terry Nation certainly felt his creations could survive without the Doctor, and so he attempted to launch them in a TV show of their own. He looked to America to achieve this. He had already stopped writing Dalek stories for the BBC - allowing his friend David Whitaker to write The Power of the Daleks. Now Whitaker would write the final Dalek story - the one which would see the Doctor finally defeat them and destroy their city on Skaro.
So The Evil of the Daleks was almost significant as the last ever Dalek story. As it was, Nation failed to launch his Dalek series, and the BBC discovered that Doctor Who could survive without the Daleks.
This story, and the subsequent Tomb of the Cybermen, are significant for developing their respective alien races. In both we visit their homeworlds (second home for the Cybermen) and get to meet a "leader" who is physically different from the usual members of the species - the huge, immobile Dalek Emperor and the tall Cyber-Controller.
Evil is also significant for being a companion introduction - Debbie Watling's Victoria Waterfield - and for being one of those, still rare, early examples of stories set in contemporary times. Seeing the Doctor and Jamie in a 1960's coffee bar, you realise only Doctor Who could make the contemporary somehow anachronistic.

Thursday 30 May 2013

So, was Doctor Who rubbish in the 1980's???

Interesting piece on the BBC news website, tied in with a Newsnight item.

Nice interview with Sylvester, and sage words on the effects from Andrew Cartmel. I don't have HD, so was quite shocked at just how rubbery the Destroyer was when I watched this piece on-line.
Was the programme rubbish in the '80's?  I think "fun" would be a more apposite epithet.
Yes, if I was stuck on a desert island and could only take one decade of classic  Doctor Who with me, it would be the 1970's first (Pertwee & Tom Baker, Sarah Jane Smith & Jo Grant, Delgado's Master and the Brigadier); the 1960's second (Hartnell & Troughton, Ian & Barbara, Jamie and decent Cybermen); with the 1980's bringing up the rear.
The JNT years: they were the best of times, they were the worst of times...

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Story 70 - The Time Warrior

In which UNIT investigates the mysterious disappearance of a number of scientists. The Brigadier decides to get all similar experts under one roof in order to better guard them. The Doctor joins them in an old country house, along with the TARDIS. He will be sharing a dorm with the myopic Professor Rubeish, who is suspicious of the virologist Lavinia Smith. The Doctor knows that she is not who she claims to be due to her age. Lavinia is really Sarah Jane Smith, her journalist niece. Rubeish is abducted - vanishing into thin air. The Doctor discovers that the scientists are not being taken to another place, rather they are being snatched away to another time. The culprit is Linx, a Sontaran officer whose scout ship has crashed on Earth in medieval times. He has forged an alliance with a robber baron named Irongron, offering advanced weapons in return for shelter whilst he repairs his craft. With no advanced equipment in the late 12th Century, he is forced to travel forward in time to get it - as well as the scientists who he mentally conditions to work for him.

The Doctor travels back through time in the TARDIS, following his trail - unaware that Sarah has wandered aboard the ship. She is captured by Irongron's men and at first believes that she has entered some sort of medieval recreation for tourists. Linx is concerned at her presence, recognising the synthetic materials of her clothing. Irongron plans to raid the castle of his neighbour - Sir Edward of Wessex, whose forces are depleted as his best men are fighting abroad. The belligerent Linx is keen to get involved in the attack. Sir Edward's archer, Hal, was captured at the same time as Sarah - having failed to kill Irongron when Sarah interfered with his aim. He finds himself having to fight a robot knight which has been supplied by Linx. The Doctor saves him, and he and Sarah escape. The Doctor is captured and forced to help Linx with his work. He is rescued by Rubeish - who has not been mentally conditioned like the others due to his poor eye sight. Sarah warns Sir Edward and Lady Eleanor that Irongron is being helped by a "wizard" - believing this to be the Doctor. She and Hal abduct him from Irongron's castle. He is able to tell them about the Sontaran, and he agrees to help them defend the castle.

Irongron attacks, with Linx in tow, but the Doctor uses a variety of tricks to force them to retreat. Knowing that Linx will soon be able to take off - destroying Irongron's castle as he does so - the Doctor must rescue Rubeish and the other scientists. He and Sarah break into the castle with Hal. The Doctor pretends to be another robot knight as a diversion, whilst Sarah drugs the food and Hal disarms the soldiers. Irongron is killed when he tries to stop Linx leaving. The Doctor shows Rubeish how to break the mental conditioning and to send the scientists back to the 20th Century. Hal fires an arrow which hits Linx in the Probic Vent at the back of his collar, just as he is about to take off. Sontarans re-energise themselves through this inlet. Linx dies at the controls of his ship. Irongron's castle is destroyed as the ship explodes.

This four part adventure was written by Robert Holmes, and broadcast between 15th December 1973 and 5th January 1974.
It is the first story of Season 11 and is significant for a number of reasons. There is a new title sequence, with camera "howlaround" replaced by the slit-scan technique to give the tunnel effect. Included is the famous diamond logo for the first time.
A new companion is introduced - Sarah Jane Smith played by Elisabeth Sladen. Sarah was intended as a much stronger female character, more independent than previous companions.
Sladen was not the first choice for the part. Actress April Walker, who had appeared on stage with Pertwee and was known from numerous comedy performances, was the first person contracted. Pertwee objected to the casting as Walker was too tall and blonde. He felt his Doctor should be physically bigger than the companion and thus appear as a more protective figure. He often described his cloak as being like the wings of a mother hen. Having a companion too close to himself, physically, diminished his authority he believed.
A new alien race is introduced - one which would prove to have an enduring appeal. Linx, the Sontaran, is played by the Australian actor Kevin Lindsay. The costume (Jim Acheson) and make up designs are superb, combining with Lindsay's performance to create one of the best realised alien creatures in the programme's history. The moment when Linx reveals his features for the first time is a classic moment for the series, and one of the top cliffhangers.
Another significant moment is the almost casual mention of Gallifrey - the Doctor naming his homeworld for the very first time.

Of the guest cast special mention must be made of David Daker as Irongron. He almost didn't get the part, Bob Hoskins having been considered first. Daker is superb - especially in his scenes with his somewhat dim lieutenant Bloodaxe (John J Carney). They have some marvellous Holmes lines - my personal favourite being Irongron's description of the Doctor as "a long-shanked rascal with a mighty nose."
Hal is played by future Boba Fett Jeremy Bulloch (who had previously appeared as the young rebel Tor in The Space Museum). He was seriously considered as a potential  second companion. The production team already knew that Pertwee would be leaving at the end of the season, and there was a strong possibility that the new Doctor might be a much older actor - who would need a younger male companion to handle the rough stuff.
Donald Pelmear's Prof. Rubeish is a bit of a mad scientist stereotype - but provides some extra humour.
Sir Edward is Alan Rowe (The Moonbase, Horror of Fang Rock and Full Circle), and Lady Eleanor is played by that chain-smoking stalwart of Albert Square, June Brown.

The Time Warrior is a quintessential pseudo-historical story. There had been one or two similar stories in the preceding years - starting with The Time Meddler - but from this point on they become much more common. Robert Holmes did not want to write a historical setting, claiming he knew nothing about castles and knights. Script editor Terrance Dicks gave him a kids' book on the subject and told him to get on with it. Some years later, when their roles were reversed, Holmes wanted Dicks to write a story set in a lighthouse. When Dicks complained he knew nothing about lighthouses... You can guess the rest.
Episode endings for this story are:
  1. The Doctor sees Linx emerge from the castle into the courtyard. Thinking himself unobserved, the Sontaran removes his helmet and his features are revealed....
  2. The Doctor finds himself at the mercy of Irongron, who raises his axe...
  3. The Doctor offers to help Linx if he releases the scientists and destroys the anachronistic weapons. Linx gives his reply, shooting the Doctor...
  4. The Doctor and Sarah bid farewell to Hal by the TARDIS. The young man watches as the blue box vanishes before his eyes.
Overall, an excellent four parter. Lis Sladen impresses from the start and the alien Linx is a fantastic character (thanks to the aforementioned combination of mask, costume and performance). Good sets and use of location filming. Despite the fact that he hasn't got long left in the series, Pertwee really gives the impression that he is enjoying this story.

Things you might like to know:
  • On the first day of filming - the sequence where Linx emerges from his distinctive golf-ball shaped craft to claim Earth for the Sontaran Empire - director Alan Bromley questioned Kevin Lindsay's pronunciation of the species name (believing the first syllable should be emphasised). Lindsay riposted that the middle syllable was the key one - and he should know as he *****ing well was one.
  • Barry Letts was never happy with the explosive conclusion to the story - some stock footage of a quarry blast being used for the destruction of the castle. When the opportunity to add CGI effects on the DVD release arose, the castle explosion was one of the shots "enhanced". Letts is reputed to have said, on seeing the results: "Now what about those dinosaurs then...?"
  • From now on we get Part One, Two etc, instead of Episode One, Two etc.
  • Steve Brunswick's sentry is quite possibly the worst actor in the history of Doctor Who... And that's saying something.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Landmarks No.8

The Highlanders.
Jacobites, pirate captains and duplicitous solicitors in 1746 Scotland. The last of the true historical stories which, despite being a regular feature in the first three years of the programme, had fallen out of favour with the production team by the time Patrick Troughton took over as the Doctor. (By true historical, I mean devoid of any fantastical elements - such as the "pseudo-historicals" in which a period or event in Earth's history is used as the backdrop to some alien activity).
Doctor Who had originally been intended as having a very strong educational element, and visits to Earth's history were an integral part of this (alternating with science-based adventures). It was no coincidence that the first two human companions were teachers of Science and History...
As time went on, the audience came to prefer monsters and alien planets, and the historicals began to lose their appeal. Interestingly, there was quite a bit of experimentation employed to make these stories more watchable - usually by the addition of strong comedic elements. Despite dark deeds and high body counts The Romans, The Myth Makers and The Gunfighters all have a great deal of humour running through them.
The historical stories just managed to make it out of the Hartnell era, and there wouldn't be anything similar until Black Orchid some 15 years later. (Though some would argue this isn't a true historical, in that the disfigured Cranleigh is used as a surrogate monster).

With their existence about to be consigned to the dustbin, we should be thankful that this particular historical story was made, as it introduces the young piper James Robert McCrimmon - arguably the second most popular companion of all time.
The partnership of Patrick Troughton's Doctor and Frazer Hines' Jamie is one of the best seen in the show - and should be used as a template for modern producers. You do not need to have impenetrable back-stories and unrequited love affairs - just a strong, loyal, funny and, above all, likable companion who travels simply because they want to.

Sunday 26 May 2013

That Was The Week That Was 26.5.13

News doing the rounds today that our beloved programme is "thunderingly racist". This derives from a new book on Doctor Who and race, written by a bunch of academics who have a bit too much time on their hands. Now the classic series did reflect the BBC of its time, when few actors from ethnic minorities could land plum television roles, and you had situations like John Bennett playing the Chinese magician Li H'sen Chang. I would argue that whilst none of this is right, Doctor Who was not alone in this. There is such a thing as historical and socio-political context. Davison's cricketing apparel is cited as reinforcing stereotypes of Empire and colonialism - cricket being the personification of racism and class division apparently. JNT put Davison in a period cricketers costume purely because Doctors always wore non-contemporary dress, and he was a fan of the game. It was a gimmick and nothing more.
The fact that there hasn't been a black actor playing the Doctor is also mentioned. I have no problems with a black actor playing a future incarnation of the Doctor - so long as he (or indeed she) is a damned good actor. What I don't want to see is tokenism - a black actor or a female one chosen just because there hasn't been one before.
The Doctor's attitude towards Martha and Mickey is also raised. The Ninth Doctor is downright rude towards Mickey - but we see that this is all a bluff and he is different with him when Rose isn't around. The Tenth is cold towards Martha not because of her ethnicity - but because he is in mourning for Rose, and he would have acted like this with whoever the next companion turned out to be. If the producers were racist, why have a black companion at all? Why bring her back in the following series, and include her in Torchwood series 2?
The last time we see Martha and Mickey, they are both strong, empowered characters - thanks totally to the influence of the Doctor in their lives. (The fact that they are gun-toting freelance monster hunters is an entirely different matter, not necessarily to do with race. Rose toted an even bigger gun).
Please note, I haven't read the book (and I don't think I want to) and am only commenting on the reported arguments. Hopefully the volume is more balanced than what has been written about in the press.

Anywho, on to other things. Except that there is not a lot happening at present. No Who on the box, and no Who in production. Matt Smith is in the US filming Ryan Gosling's How To Catch A Monster. He caught up with his old co-star Arthur Darvill in New York, with JLC in tow. Darvill is now appearing on Broadway in the musical "Once". The above pic was tweeted earlier in the week by AD.
Another interesting twitpic I saw this week (via Tardis Newsroom) was this:

I've been wondering when we were going to get a glimpse of Billie Piper. I assume those side-burns belong to Tennant. Big question is, of course, whose is the wallet? Did Smith get sent to sit at a table by himself?

Lastly, tomorrow sees no less than four Doctor Who DVD releases. That's if you buy things the old fashioned way in "shops". The two Peter Cushing Dalek movies (remastered) are released - individually or in a box set. The Series 7 Part 2 box set is also out, the rest of us finally catching up with the US Blu-ray on-line purchasers. And then there is the Inferno Special Edition to look forward to.
DWM 461 will also be hitting the shops this coming week.

That Elusive Dalek Magazook... Updated

As regular readers will be aware, I have been bemoaning the absence of the new DWM special in all the usual shops where I buy ordinary issues and Specials. I had assumed that its release had been put back - until KORSAIR1 commented on an earlier post that they had already bought the thing. So I had a bit of a trawl round the net and have found that the distribution is very patchy indeed.
Forbidden Planet don't have it available on-line at all. Nor does the Who Shop International.
Amazon has one seller (asking £1.00 more than the cover price). Some copies have been sold on E-Bay for £10 more than the cover price. Galaxy 4 has it available for pre-order (with a release date of 29th May - though this has changed twice before).
The Blackpool Who Shop had it, but it is now sold out.
Apparently WH Smiths did not get it on its release due to a distribution problem, though that problem has (allegedly) now been sorted out.
Someone else says that it has been stocked in some Sainsburys supermarkets.
So there you go. I'd be interested to hear who else has managed to get their hands on this and - if so - where and when...

Update 29.5.13
The Magazook has now appeared on the website as released today (29th) and available to order. I pre-ordered a copy on Sunday, so perhaps my quest is nearing its end. The quest is the quest, after all...
I'm sure Homer wrote shorter epics than this.

Landmarks No.7

The Tenth Planet.
Significant for two very good reasons.
One is the introduction of the Cybermen - the second most popular monsters in the history of the programme - and the other is the first regeneration.
The Cybermen were devised by Kit Pedler, who had been brought onto the programme by story editor Gerry Davis as a sort of unofficial scientific adviser (after astronomer Patrick Moore had turned down the role). Pedler was concerned with the advances in transplant surgery. What would happen if you replaced everything that made you who you are? As well as replacing limbs and organs, what if doctors tampered with how we think and feel.
The Cybermen were created as emotionless cyborgs, a necessary step in order to survive the wastes of deep space after the planet Mondas (Earth's long-lost sister world) broke free of the Solar System thousands of years ago.
The original costumes were a bit rough and ready (with bulky chest units and helmets) and human hands were retained to show these were not mere robots. At the end of the story, the Cybermen are totally wiped out - even their planet disintegrating.
The producers of the programme had long been searching for another monster to rival the Daleks, and had been unsuccessful with the likes of Zarbi, Mechanoids and Monoids.
The Cybermen finally offered the potential of a foe that could be brought back again and again. The destruction of Mondas could be easily overlooked - they having another base on another world. (In their next appearance -The Moonbase - the question of where they come from isn't even referred to, and it isn't until their third outing that we learn of Telos).
It's fortunate that the Cybermen did prove so popular, as Terry Nation was about to withhold the Daleks from the programme to launch them in their own US series.
The first regeneration was never described as such. In Episode 1 of The Power of the Daleks, the Doctor says he has been "renewed", and the process is part of the TARDIS. Strangely, his clothes renew with his body.
Hartnell had almost been replaced during The Celestial Toymaker - turned mute and invisible, he would have been brought back played by a different actor. This was mainly due to the breakdown in the working relationship between Hartnell and producer John Wiles. Hartnell was also beginning to show signs of the illness that would eventually take his life, and was struggling with his workload.
Wiles left, and the new producer - Innes Lloyd - planned a means of replacing the Doctor with a new actor - not in a Miss Ellie / Dallas or a James Bond sort of way, but as part of his natural lifespan, he being an alien after all. It is not totally clear why the Doctor regenerates. It may be due to the Doctor simply reaching the end of his first incarnation, or Mondas' energy draining influence may also play a part.
Whatever, the TARDIS certainly plays a part, and it is significant that most subsequent regenerations take place in the ship. Indeed, the Tenth's regeneration into the Eleventh almost tears the ship apart.
There is little doubt that we would not be about to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of an active TV show if the production team in 1966 had not thought up the concept of regeneration.

Thursday 23 May 2013

DWM 461

Due in the shops on Thursday 30th May. I had really hoped for a "John Hurt is the Doctor!" cover, but it is nice to see Peter Cushing recognised prominently in this anniversary year.
And what of the Dalek Bookazine we were promised last week? (I still hate the word - so am going to call it a Magazook from now on). You've no doubt already spotted its absence from the shelves again this week.
The retailer Galaxy 4 have it pushed back to next week - to be released alongside this monthly issue.
I'll believe it when I see it...

Landmarks No.6

The War Machines.
What, you might be thinking, is so significant about this liked, but not loved, late Hartnell era story?
Well, it is the first of the contemporary Earth under threat stories - the forerunner of the UNIT adventures, and the other myriad Earth invasions (from extraterrestrial or homegrown powers).
The Doctor is either using the psychic paper (unseen) for the first time, or he has built up some influential contacts whilst Susan was attending Coal Hill School classes. Perhaps the gentlemen's clubs frequented by the Third  Doctor were originally patronised by the First.
He has easy access to the high security section of the new GPO Tower, and wangles an invite to the press launch for the WOTAN C-Day event. Sir Charles Summer is expecting him - and is quick to offer Dodo and he accommodation.
When the military and the government get involved, the Doctor's presence is readily accepted - thanks to his link with Sir Charles.
All of this presages the UNIT years, when the stories do not need to have the Doctor explaining who he is and getting locked up etc. The Doctor hits the ground running - accepted immediately so that we can all get on with the story.
The psychic paper was invented just for the purpose of speeding things up and doing away with unnecessary explanations.
The present day London locations make a welcome change from studio planets and historical settings.
This story is also the first to make use of a real-life news reader (the late Kenneth Kendall) to add verisimilitude to the events taking place on London's streets. All Earth invasion stories these days make use of this gimmick (most recently The Power of Three).
The story also marks a companions change-over - Dodo getting the worst departure ever, and Ben and Polly coming in to soon bridge the transition to a new Doctor.

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Story 69 - The Green Death

In which people descending into the disused mines of the village of Llanfairfach turn up dead - and glowing bright green. The Brigadier is frustrated when the Doctor decides to travel to Metebelis III, and Jo elects to take her leave at the Wholeweal Community in the Welsh village - run by the young Nobel Prize winning ecologist Clifford Jones. Jones is opposed to the Global Chemicals plant which has been set up in Llanfairfach. He thinks pollution from the plant is responsible for the bizarre deaths - something denied by Global's MD Dr. Stevens. Jo's first meeting with Jones proves inauspicious as she ruins one of his experiments - harvesting fungi for food. She decides to investigate the mines with an ex-miner named Bert. The Doctor has a dreadful time on Metebelis, attacked by hostile plant and animal life, but he does manage to obtain one of its famous blue crystals before heading back to Earth - and joining the Brigadier at Llanfairfach. The mine's lift is sabotaged by Stevens' chauffeur (and henchman) Hinks - leaving Jo and Bert trapped. Stevens proves uncooperative with the rescue efforts. Bert touches some glowing green slime pouring into the mine and becomes infected. The Doctor finds Jo - and they discover that the mine is infested with gigantic mutated maggots.

The Doctor obtains a maggot egg, and they escape up a pipeline into the Global Chemicals plant, assisted by an executive named Elgin. The Brigadier's efforts to investigate the plant are continually thwarted by Stevens, who has powerful friends in government. His promise of cheap, clean fuel is a lie, waste products being dumped illegally in the mine. This is what has mutated the maggots. The egg hatches and Jo is almost bitten. Hinks, who had come to the community to steal it, is killed instead. The Brigadier puts Mike Yates into Global Chemicals undercover. He is then ordered to blow up the mines. Maggots then start to emerge from the ground all over the spoil heaps surrounding the village. The Doctor discovers that Stevens is not the real head of Global Chemicals. He is in the power of its sentient super-computer, known as BOSS - Biomorphic Organisational Systems Supervisor. Stevens' mind is linked directly to the machine, and others are brainwashed by it. It plans to take over all Global employees across the planet, before taking over the world to run on rational lines.

Clifford Jones is bitten by a maggot whilst rescuing Jo from the spoil heaps. The creature which had hatched at the community is found dead. It had eaten some of Jones' fungus food. This substance can kill the maggots and cure the "green death". As he and Benton spread fungus to destroy the maggots, they are attacked by a giant fly, which the Doctor is forced to kill. Yates is brainwashed by BOSS into going to the community to kill the Doctor and Brigadier. The Doctor uses the blue Metebelis crystal to break the conditioning. He then goes alone to Global Chemicals to stop the machine. He uses the crystal on Stevens. He elects to sacrifice himself to destroy BOSS - blowing up the plant. Jones announces that he is going on an Amazonian expedition to locate a new protein-rich fungus - and he asks Jo to marry him and join his travels. She has fallen in love with him and agrees. As everyone celebrates the engagement, the Doctor slips quietly away and drives back to UNIT HQ in "Bessie".

This six part adventure was written by Robert Sloman (and an uncredited Barry Letts), and was broadcast between 19th May and 23rd June, 1973. It marks the departure of popular companion Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and is the final story of Season 10.
Letts was a keen environmentalist, and often used to bemoan the damage being done to the planet by polluting industries, as reported in The Ecologist, New Scientist and other periodicals. Wishing he could do more about such issues, Terrance Dicks pointed out that a Doctor Who story could be devised around his ecological concerns. Previous stories such as Colony in Space had dealt with similar topics. Letts and his sometime writing partner then went off and came up with this tale. Manning shared Letts views, so it made an ideal departure story for her character.
Clifford Jones (Manning's real life boyfriend at the time, Stewart Bevan) is set up as a Doctor substitute. At one point Jo actually describes him to the Doctor as "a sort of younger you". Their first meeting even mirrors her introduction to the Doctor in Terror of the Autons - she ruining one of his experiments.
As well as writing out Jo, this story also begins a short Mike Yates arc, which eventually sees his character leave the programme as well. Likewise, the Doctor's arrival at Metebelis III, after a couple of failed attempts, sets the scene for Pertwee's departure.

Principal guest artist is Jerome Willis as Stevens. He makes for a superb, purely human, villain - eventually redeemed when he breaks BOSS' mental conditioning. The computer is voiced by John Dearth, who will be seen in the programme as Lupton in Planet of the Spiders.
The story has come in for some criticism for its portrayal of the Welsh characters, who cross the border into stereotypes.
Despite this, it is one of the most popular Doctor Who stories of the 1970's - "the one with the maggots".
The creatures are realised with rod puppets (built around terrier skulls), real maggots in model landscapes, and even by the use of inflated prophylactics. The giant fly is a fine model, but the flying sequences are less successful. There is some rather poor CSO as the Doctor and Jo travel through the mine and the lift scenes.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. Jo and Bert are in the mine's lift-shaft when the machinery goes out of control - threatening to plunge them to their deaths...
  2. As the Doctor and Jo look for a way out of the mine, there is a  rockfall and they see maggots advance towards them...
  3. Jo is reading alone at the Wholeweal Community, unaware that the egg has hatched and the maggot is crawling towards her...
  4. The Doctor makes his way to the top floor of  Global Chemicals and meets the real BOSS - the computer...
  5. Yates has tried to get an executive named James to help him. The man suddenly drops dead, and Yates is confronted by Stevens...
  6. Having slipped away from the impromptu engagement party - observed only by Jo - the Doctor drives off alone into the sunset.

An excellent story with very few faults - Letts and Sloman redeeming themselves after the rather poor Time Monster which closed the previous season. Jo's departure is well sign-posted and her decision to go quite natural and unforced. The Doctor knows something's cooking, and even tries to keep her and Cliff apart. The final scenes are quite heartbreaking.
Things you might like to know:

  • Elgin (played by Crossroads stalwart Tony Adams) vanishes half way through the story. Adams fell ill and had to step down, but his scenes couldn't be redone. A new character called James (played by Roy Skelton) takes over what would have been the rest of his role.
  • The Brigadier speaks to the Prime Minister on the 'phone - someone called Jeremy. It was assumed that UNIT stories were set slightly in the future, when Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe might be PM.
  • In one of the early mine scenes, as Dai Evans is about to use the telephone, you can clearly see a disembodied arm giving him his cue.
  • Pertwee gets to indulge his love of dressing up and silly voices by disguising himself as a cleaning lady and an old milkman. Both allow for a bit of funny business - the sticky moustache and the Lady Bracknell thing with the bucket.

  • There is a very funny mockumentary called "Global Conspiracy" on the DVD release, which has some of the cast reprising their roles to talk about events in Llanfairfach in the 1970's. Clifford Jones has a veggie food empire, Elgin says he fell ill and missed a lot of the action, and Dr Stevens is MD of the BBC. Roy Evans (Bert) plays his ballet-dancing twin brother.
  • In the SJA story Death of the Doctor, Katy Manning reprises her role as Jo and we get to learn of her life after this story. She is still married to Cliff and has a brood of children and grandchildren (one of which, Santiago, joins her in this). She still fights the good fight against political corruption and ecological concerns. Quite right too. It's a wonderful story, written by RTD, and will feature as an extra on the Special Edition DVD release of this story later in 2013.

Sunday 19 May 2013

That Was The Week That Was 19.5.13

And what a roller-coaster of a week it was - though not intended by the BBC to be such (I hope). No sooner had I posted last week's news round-up than I heard about the US Blu-Ray bungle. As it was, I managed to completely avoid overt spoilers (apart from the official BBC ones) and joined the 5.46 million who watched it on transmission last night.
This figure is up quite a bit from the previous episode.
I have read that Doctor Who had 5 out of the top 10 places on i-player for the month of April. Most popular story being The Rings of Akhaten.

Funniest story of the week was the near punch-up at a Star Wars Convention in Norwich, between SW and DW fans. Not a lot usually happens in Norwich.

Sad news of the week was the passing of a number of people associated with the programme.
Costume designer for the latter Troughton era, Bobi Bartlett, died in April though the news only broke this month.

Norman Jones, who played Khrisong in The Abominable Snowmen, Major Baker in The Silurians, and Hieronymous in The Masque of Mandragora, died on 23rd April at the age of 78.

Aubrey Woods, whose superb performance as the Controller was the best thing about Day of the Daleks, passed away on 7th May at the age of 85.

And Sean Caffrey, Lord Palmerdale in The Horror of Fang Rock, died on April 25th aged 72.

The DWM Daleks special "bookazine" (dreadful word) was supposed to be in the shops on Thursday. Except, of course, it wasn't. One on-line retailer (Galaxy 4) now has it available from 22nd May. Come back next week to see if DWM have actually managed to get this into any shops.

With no "bookazine" (still a dreadful word) the award for best publication of the week goes to the latest edition of The Beano - including the reprint of the 1981 summer special which the Doctor was seen reading in The Rings of Akhaten.

Finally, with no new Doctor Who for a full 6 months, this blog can get back on track with its classic series reviews - The Green Death is next up on Tuesday, plus my new on-going series of landmark stories.

Review - The Name of the Doctor

I have come up with a conspiracy theory all of my own - namely that this semi-series has been so patchy, often disappointing, that the finale would stand out as a beacon of genius.
They needn't have bothered, if this is the case, as The Name of the Doctor didn't need to be prefigured by those lesser stories to stand out.
It is a little work of genius anyway.
I was concerned that a 45 minute story would be too rushed to deliver on the promise of answers to a few mysteries. I sat down to watch it expecting to come away disappointed yet again (too much hype about changing the programme forever) - but was won over by the first 30 seconds.
The first Doctor and Susan, stealing the TARDIS and leaving Gallifrey for the very first time. (Nice to see that he was already an old man, and had already adopted the Edwardian clobber - and Susan wasn't someone he adopted on his travels).
Later we find out that it is Clara who points him towards the right TARDIS - which does slightly diminish The Doctor's Wife where the ship claims to have chosen him as much as he it.
What the second Doctor was doing by a Californian beach (in a fur coat) I suppose we will never know.
Interesting that three of Clara's encounters with previous Doctors took place on Gallifrey. A coincidence, or something more? Probably just coincidence.
I'm a bit disappointed that of all the McCoy clips they could have used they chose the utterly stupid Dragonfire end of part one "cliffhanger". If only Clara could have fixed that...
There were lots of theories about Clara kicking about the internet, and most were smart enough to recognise the TARDIS reaction to her as significant - it hating paradoxes.
The gist of the story is that the Great Intelligence steps into the Doctor's time-stream to rewrite it - to turn all his victories into defeats. Clara follows to undo this, and is split into multiple copies that interact with the Doctor throughout his incarnations. Handily, the Doctor follows and saves her.
This all takes place on Trenzalore - where the Doctor's grave is to be found.
One thing I would say is that we hardly know Clara (and she and the Doctor hardly know each other), and it seems slightly strange that she should be the one to sacrifice herself to save him. It would have felt better had this come at the end of a longer standing companion's story arc.
River turned out to be a post-Library projection throughout. Why the Doctor could see and interact with her was never really explained - not in any scientific way at least. She implies there is something more to the connection between her and Clara than the psychic link.

The Whispermen made for creepy new monsters - but were somewhat underused. They appeared simply to be empty shells for the Intelligence to inhabit. I sincerely hope that the Great Intelligence hasn't been destroyed forever. I'd still like it to turn up one day and revisit those Yeti robot blueprints.
I loved the Victorian Glasgow sojourn for Strax, but must admit some of his one-liners were quite misplaced as the story progressed.
Some stunning visuals on display - another glimpse of pre-Time War Gallifrey, the graveyard of Trenzalore, and the Doctor's tomb - the massive TARDIS wreck.
One thing which didn't work visually was the insertion of characters into the old material. It worked with Clara and the First Doctor, thanks to a grainy feel to the image, but on the rest of the occasions it was too obviously green screen work.
I suspect a lot of people will be unhappy about the whole "Name" thing. River says it off camera, and that's your lot. Of course, I never thought for a minute that we would be told the name. Frankly, I would have been annoyed if it had been stated - as I have a belief that, rather than adding to a character, revelations usually diminish them by demystification. Leave the Doctor as "Who?" for another 50 years, please.
And talking of "Who?", what are we to make of the John Hurt Doctor? He is the Doctor, but how so we will have to wait until the Anniversary to find out. I already have my theory (it involves Guilt and the Moment), but I'm sure there will be lots more over the coming six months.
Did The Name of the Doctor change the programme forever? Personally I don't think it did.

  • The Great Intelligence rewrote the Doctor's history - but Clara undid the damage. 
  • We've seen the Doctor's ultimate resting place - but even fixed points in time can be rewritten. (It was the Eleventh Doctor's TARDIS, and there were only 11 Doctor's in the time stream seen by Clara, so unless they plan to end the series forever with Matt Smith, Trenzalore is only one possible future).
  • So there's another Doctor we never knew about? We've already had the Valeyard.
  • The Doctor's name would be revealed - but it wasn't.
Quite what the game-changer was, I'd love to know.

Friday 17 May 2013

Landmarks No.5

The Daleks' Master Plan.
Significant in so many ways.
For many years it was the longest running story (at 12 episodes). To be honest, it's really a 13 part adventure, Mission To The Unknown forming a Doctor / companion / TARDIS-less prequel.
This story will be chiefly remembered for the death of a companion for the first time. Poor Katarina (Adrienne Hill) came onboard in the previous story, but the production team had already realised that the character wasn't going to work. A character from ancient history would need everything explaining to them.
Hill's very first filming in the role was actually her airlock death sequence, on film at Ealing.
Viewers at the time would have been doubly shocked to see the apparent replacement, Sara Kingdom, also bite the dust before the end credits.
There won't be another companion death until poor old Adric in 1982, though it now happens with tedious regularity.
Episode seven - The Feast of Steven - marks the programme's first ever "Christmas Special" - in that it was broadcast on 25th December and is a bit of a stand-alone episode, with a high comedy quotient and a distinct lack of Daleks.
This episode also marks the first time that the fourth wall has been breached, as Hartnell includes all of us watching at home in his toast. I say first time, as it does happen a couple of times, less blatantly, in the Tom Baker era, when he addresses remarks directly to the camera with no other characters present.
Nicholas Courtney makes his début in the show, a few years before the iconic Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart. Courtney had earlier auditioned unsuccessfully for the same director (Douglas Camfield) but lost out to Julian Glover for the role of King Richard I in The Crusade. Camfield remembered him for the role of Bret Vyon in this.
The time-meddling Monk becomes the programme's first returning character (as opposed to a race of monsters).
This marks the late Raymond P. Cusick's final design work on Doctor Who.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

(Not) The Spoiler-Free Name of the Doctor Round-Up...

Each week during the series' run, I have been delivering a little round-up of spoiler free preview items, plus a bit of my own speculation as to what might feature. Usually, I try to include everything that is officially out there in the public domain, as well as looking at some of the cryptic items from other previews.
This week, it's just too much of a minefield to manoeuvre.
Unfortunately, the BBC seems hell bent on doing a fair amount of spoiling itself. (There's actually a conspiracy theory doing the rounds that the US Blu-Ray was released early deliberately - though I don't personally subscribe to the logic of this).
Four images were released yesterday that are pure spoiler (a couple of pictures of it, a picture of him, and a picture of there) - and even though they are official BBC America releases, I'm going to ignore them.
Likewise the implications of Steven Moffat's offer of an extra scene to be released if spoilers stay off the web - which IMHO is actually a massive spoiler in itself...

(Light) Sabres v. Sonics

This story is quite funny - from the BBC news website.

Monday 13 May 2013

Landmarks No.4

The Time Meddler
Imagine what it would have been like to view this for the very first time, without the benefit of the explanatory story title.
Audience reaction in 1965 was decidedly mixed. What were toasters and gramophones doing in 1066 Northumbria? Some people found the whole set-up intriguing - whilst others thought it just silly and switched off.
Apart from the anachronistic items, the first three episodes are a fairly humdrum historical affair - a mere backwater to the big events of that year. Everything changes with the episode three cliffhanger and Vicki's line: "The Monk's got a TARDIS!"
Suddenly the Doctor isn't the only person who can travel in time. There's another - the Monk - who also happens to be from the same planet, and has a similar space / time vessel. The Monk's is more advanced - and it is stated that his is some 50 years newer - one of the first indications as to the Doctor's longevity.
So, the first of the now commonplace pseudo-historical stories.
It is the first story not to feature any of the original companions.
Most importantly, we meet another Time Lord (the race still unnamed at this point), and see inside another TARDIS (a generic name for these capsules and not unique to the Doctor's ship).
It will take a long time for these revelation to bear fruit, but a lot of what we regard as Doctor Who today starts here.

The Doctor's Name...

Like it would be anything to do with the leak... A real labour of love though.

Sunday 12 May 2013

A wee fox's paw...

Just read (on that there has been a bit of a blunder regarding the US release of the Series 7 Part 2 DVD set. Basically, some folk have been sent it already - and so have seen the finale!!!
Quelle horreur, if you're on the production team. Merci Beaucoup if you're one of the lucky ones who's received a copy.
Naturally, the recipients have been asked not to reveal the story. If you want to wait and watch The Name of the Doctor on broadcast unspoiled, as I intend to do, tread very warily around the old interweb for the next 6 days.

That Was The Week That Was 12.5.13

Very brief one tonight. News on Monday that principal photography had wrapped on the 50th Anniversary Special. Budget cuts are in evidence as K9 Mark V is unveiled to the press...
Actually, Monday saw a sci-fi and fantasy themed dog show (this pic from the Daily Mail).

Nightmare in Silver had overnight viewing figures of 4.7 million. A very small rise on the previous week. I have read that the average consolidated mark up figure this year is down on the last (1.5 million as opposed to 2 million), so it will be interesting to see how this semi-season compares with previous series.

Lastly, the BAFTA ceremony is on the box as I type. Whilst no awards up for grabs this year, Doctor Who will be getting a mention.

She said, he said...

... very little actually. Of course, the prequel to The Name of the Doctor was never going to tell us anything significant regarding either who he is, or who she is. Worth watching, though, for spotting the numerous props and costumes from Clara episodes.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Nightmare In Silver - Initial Musings

I'm sure I am not alone in coming away from tonight's episode feeling slightly underwhelmed. We naturally expected a lot from Neil Gaiman - because (a) The Doctor's Wife and (b) he's Neil Gaiman.
Nightmare In Silver was certainly entertaining, and it bodes well for future Cyberman stories.
The new Cybermen were impressive, with lots of new attributes. If capable of moving super fast, one does have to wonder why they stomped noisily around so much. The detachable hands and heads are another neat idea. The Cyber-insects now mean that you can be infected to become a Cyberman, rather than the rather clumsy brain transplants of the Cybus days.
It's a bit of a shame that they didn't actually feature all that prominently. And whilst they are more threatening, they weren't necessarily any scarier, in the context of this particular tale - something Gaiman claimed to be in his remit to achieve.
My big problem with the whole Cyberiad is that it is just too close to Star Trek's Borg. There's the hive mind, and the scene of the Cybermen in their tomb looked very like a Borg cube interior.
The Doctor as Cyberplanner was reminiscent of Picard / Locutus.
I have to admit that I started to tire of the whole "acting with myself" bit. And why was the Cyberplanner so emotional?
One of the kids was downright annoying - and what was the point of their presence anyway. They get abducted (shades of the schoolgirl Dalek battle planner from Remembrance of the Daleks), and are then promptly forgotten about.
Same goes for the woefully underused Jason Watkins.
The punishment platoon were nothing short of cliché.
Not sure about the convenient transmatting out at the conclusion.
If the plot felt like retreading old ideas, the reuse of four locations (one for the sixth time since 2005) added to the deja vu.
A couple of groan moments were Clara's failure to see the kids when they were right in front of her, and that bit on the Moon at the start, where we got to see that there was a great big wall right in front of them. Time travel must affect your vision.
This might all sound like I hated it, but it was an enjoyable enough romp. Apart from the new Cybermen, the best thing about it was Warwick Davis' Porridge, who turns out to be a Galactic Emperor. A great performance. (Must admit I didn't clock his features on the dummy).
Perhaps it was the inclusion of he kids and the theme park locale that made me think this might have fitted the Sarah Jane Adventures more than Doctor Who.

Thursday 9 May 2013

The Name of the Doctor - Musings...

Before the spoiler-free previews start to appear 5 minutes after the screening of Nightmare In Silver, I thought I'd stick my head above the parapet and speculate a little on the series finale.

  • I don't think there is any point in searching for clues about Clara in what we have already seen. I think that whatever happens to cause (at least) three Claras doesn't actually happen until this story - as with "Bad Wolf" being cast cast back through time at the conclusion to the 2005 series. This might well be the work of the Great Intelligence who we know appears.
  • I've made my views of Clara's "paradoxical" nature known before (the TARDIS doesn't like them, that much we know, and a quote from the Doctor in DWM describes Trenzalore as being a place full of them).
  • The name of the new villains - Whispermen - does seem to imply a connection with the Silence. Trenzalore is all tied up with silence falling and it's a story arc still to be fully resolved.
  • DWM clearly states that it is a post-Library River Song. She knew the Doctor's name so it may be her that reveals it.
  • The woman in the shop who gave Clara the Doctor's phone number, and so brought them together, is surely River.
  • Regarding the name, it's either a bluff by Steven Moffat (in the same way that the Doctor would be categorically killed at the end of the last series) or it will be revealed in such a way that all the characters get to know it - but we don't. Remember: Moffat lies.
  • We've also been promised that someone won't make it to the end. Either River goes back to being dead / downloaded in the Library / killed in some other way, or it will be a version of Clara who cops it. I really can't see Moffat breaking up the Paternoster Gang. Remember: Moffat lies.
  • That Dalek play set due to be released a week later? If they do appear in this, it will be something like a pre-credits sequence only. Moffat did tease that this story would be "fan pleasing". (In this I certainly hope he isn't lying...).
  • The Whispermen look like Victorian undertakers - and a couple of Scottish actors said they filmed scenes set in Victorian Glasgow.
  • Clarence (played by Michael Jenn). The Series 7 Part 2 DVD box set has a new scene called Clarence and the Whispermen, so he must have some significance.
  • The Fall of the Eleventh on the Fields of Trenzalore? Doesn't mean it necessarily happens on his first visit. As with the Third Doctor's fate on Metebelis III (referenced this series), an initial visit might have implications further down the line.
  • A cliffhanger ending? DWM said they hadn't seen it. I think that this might well lead directly into the 50th Anniversary story. We might even get a surprise Ten / Rose appearance? It's certainly not a regeneration -  as we know Smith is in the 50th. The same quote from the Doctor about Trenzalore (mentioned above) says that his whole life has been heading there ever since he left Gallifrey - so another link in with the 50th.

Nightmare In Silver Round-Up

First and foremost, this is not The Doctor's Wife #2. It is an entirely different type of story telling and that means a different emotional resonance, and the Cybermen may be the only kiss to the past on show.
(Actually there are references to previous stories - locations, music, phrases etc).
Remember the kids from last week? Well, the Doctor is brow-beaten into letting them travel with him and Clara.
This is not as bad as you might fear, the kids not featuring too prominently.
One of them does spot a vital clue - see if you can beat them to it...
They are the reason why the Doctor visits the theme-park planet.
DWM 460 referred to Webley's World of Wonders in its preview, but everywhere else (including on screen) there is reference to Hedgewick's World.
Jason Watkins is Webley.
Odd character names - Porridge (Warwick Davis), Beauty, Brains, Ha-Ha and Missy.
Hedgewick is the owner of the theme-park.
The planet was the scene of a conflict in a Cyberwar.
The theme-park closed down after people started to go missing from its rides and other attractions.
There are old-style Cybermen in the park - assuming these are dead ones as exhibits.
One of these is a chess player (as with the famous Turk automaton. There was more to that than meets the eye as well).
Chess is a running motif.
The soldiers are using the theme-park for manoeuvres.
There is a visit to a very stage-set-y Moon.
The new Cybermen can move very quickly indeed. They're certainly more threatening, but not necessarily scarier. It's a real reboot for them.
One of their old allergies is back.
There are multiple Doctors on show.
Most, but not all, are played by Matt Smith.
There is a ST:TNG vibe (Borg stories?).
There was a mention months ago of a new Cyber-something...
Go to the red button service as soon as the episode ends for the prequel to The Name of the Doctor.

Spoilers Hurt...

The rumour has been doing the rounds for a while now, but John Hurt (seen filming at Chepstow Castle last month - pic courtesy of SFX) has rather let the cat out of the bag about his role in the 50th Anniversary story, as reported by Blogtor Who.
If you are really spoiler averse, don't check out this link:

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Landmarks No.3

The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
My third landmark story is significant for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it features the second appearance by the Daleks, of course - the first time that a monster has returned to the programme. It was always on the cards that it would be the Masters of Skaro - rather than the Voord or the Sensorites. (It's surprising to consider just how few monsters actually appeared in the first year of the show).
Secondly, this is the first ever alien invasion of Earth story - something we are very used to these days, but new then.
Thirdly, this marks the first extensive use of exterior film work. True, the very first exteriors were seen in The Reign of Terror a few months before, but this adventure makes the most of its London landmarks throughout the first half of the tale. It's also one of the very rare occasions when a quarry is actually used as a quarry.
Fourth item of significance is that this story forms the basis for the second (and final to date) Doctor Who cinema film. (Whilst the 50th Anniversary story will get a limited 3D cinema outing, it is still a made for TV venture at the end of the day).
Lastly - but certainly not least - is the first departure of one of the regulars. Not just anyone, but the Doctor's grand-daughter, Susan.
Susan is still a bit of an enigma. The fact that the Doctor seems to forget about her so quickly has led some to postulate that she wasn't actually a blood relative at all. Rather, he had adopted her during his travels and raised her as his relative. In The Five Doctors, the Fifth simply gazes at her for a few seconds, and the Second and Third don't bat an eye-lid. There's no sense of a joyous family reunion.
The "Susan not a real relative" theory fails to explain her knowledge of Gallifrey, telepathic abilities and a number of occasions when she and the Doctor specifically talk about going home - obviously a shared home.  I don't believe for a minute that she invented the name TARDIS. I think what she actually invented was the acronym rather than the word.
Would the Doctor leave a Time Lord to marry a human - knowing that she will outlive him and see everyone else she has ever known and loved die of old age?
My own theory is that one of her parents (maybe even her grandmother) was human - hence the Doctor's love of Earth - and she does not have regenerative abilities.

Monday 6 May 2013

Story 68 - Planet of the Daleks

In which the Time Lords direct the TARDIS to the hostile world of Spiridon in pursuit of the Daleks. After being injured in his struggle with the Master, the Doctor is in a coma. After the ship materialises, Jo goes off to find help - recording events for the Doctor's benefit on a small recorder. Plants spit a green liquid at her, and then start to cover the TARDIS. Jo finds a crashed spacecraft and its dead pilot. She meets the rest of the crew - Thals from the planet Skaro, led by Taron. With him are Vaber and Codal. She must remain on the ship whilst they go and collect the Doctor. As she hides, an invisible being enters and looks around. She discovers that the plant venom has infected her with a deadly fungus and collapses. The Doctor, meanwhile, has recovered but found himself trapped in the TARDIS with the air running out. The ship has been covered in plant fungus, but the Thals arrive and free the doors and release him. As they travel to the Thal craft, they encounter a defunct Dalek which has been rendered invisible. Taron explains that his group have come here to destroy a Dalek outpost, and the Daleks are experimenting with invisibility - inspired by the native beings. One of the Spiridons captures Codal. They wear large purple cloaks in order to be seen. When they get to the craft, they see it surrounded by Daleks. The Doctor is wounded and captured, and watches as the ship is destroyed with Jo still onboard.

Jo has actually been rescued by a friendly Spiridon named Wester, and he has cured her of the plant fungus. The Doctor finds himself imprisoned with Codal, and they set about finding a way of escaping. As he is trying to find a way out of the base, Jo is  trying to find a way in to rescue him. A second Thal craft crash-lands. The survivors are Rebec - who is Taron's lover - Latep and Marat. They have come to warn Taron that they have learned of an army of Daleks on Spiridon - some 10,000 strong. The Thals break into the base using tunnels through which liquid ice vents, and are reunited with the Doctor and Codal. Marat is killed. Trapped in the lowermost level of the complex, they find a massive refrigeration unit and a cavern containing the Dalek army - currently in suspended animation. Everyone escapes back to the jungle, the Doctor being reunited with Jo, and they make for the Plain of Stones as night falls. Here, the boulders trap heat during the day and emit it at night, like storage heaters. Vaber goes off on his own to attack the base but is captured and killed trying to escape. The others devise a plan to break into the base and destroy the Daleks.

Some Spiridons will be overpowered in order to get hold of their cloaks, and a Dalek patrol is pushed into an ice pool - the shock killing the mutants within - in order to obtain an empty casing. Thus disguised, they get back into the base. Wester sacrifices himself to stop the Daleks from releasing a deadly virus into the jungle which would kill all unprotected life. One of the Dalek Supreme Council arrives to take charge. It is much larger than its minions, with black and gold livery. The Thals have one bomb remaining, and it is used to break through a wall to release a torrent of liquid ice which floods the cavern - covering the Dalek army just as it was being reanimated. The Daleks abandon the base, and the Thals steal the Supreme's ship in order to get back to Skaro. Latep has developed a crush on Jo, but she declines his offer to go with them. She has the Doctor take her back home to Earth instead.

This six part adventure was written by Terry Nation, and broadcast between 7th April and 12th May, 1973. It forms the second half of an epic adventure to mark the Tenth Anniversary of the programme. Malcolm Hulke's Frontier In Space had formed the set up - providing the backdrop to events seen here and introducing the Daleks as the architects of an interplanetary war.
Despite asking the Time Lords to go after the Daleks, the Doctor seems very surprised to come across one on Spiridon - unless he is either shocked by their invisibility or his earlier injuries have affected his memory.
Terry Nation dips into his bag of Dalek writing tricks for this story - jungle planet, hostile plants, invisible creatures. The Thal leader's name derives from his own (Terry N) and Rebec from his daughter.
The first Dalek story is directly referenced, the Doctor telling Taron that he was there on Skaro with Ian, Barbara and Susan. The scene with the Dalek pursuing them up the shaft mimics the lift scene in part four of that first story. Someone has their legs paralysed by the Daleks, and someone hides in an empty casing.
Nation still has a lot to say about pacifism and bravery, again mirroring dialogue from The Daleks. There are three quiet scenes when the Doctor discusses these issues, and the possible glorification of war, interspersed through the story.

Michael Wisher again provides the Dalek vocals, as with the previous story. The Daleks are a dark grey colour, but you will see slight variations. There are several static dummies, and the one which was spray painted black earlier has recovered enough to appear later in group scenes in the base.
Wester is played by Roy Skelton (providing other Dalek and Spiridon voices) and he gets an on screen appearance as Wester dies after releasing the Dalek virus in the lab.
Bernard Horsfall plays Taron - all quiet determination. His love interest, Rebec, is played by Jane How. Prentis Hancock plays Vaber as a rebellious and dangerous hothead. Tim Preece's Codal is the exact opposite. His scene with Pertwee in the cell where they discuss the nature of bravery is a highlight. Alan Tucker's Latep (an anagram of petal - just about sums him up) is a bit wet, and you can see why Jo chose to hold off for a Doctor surrogate figure to pin her affections on.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. The Doctor and the Thals spray the invisible creature with paint - revealing it to be a Dalek.
  2. Rebec gives Taron the news that there is an army of 10,000 Daleks hidden on the planet.
  3. The only way to escape the refrigeration room is to ascend a shaft using hot air trapped in a makeshift parachute. It looks as though it will fail as the Daleks cut their way into the room.
  4. Vaber is caught by the Spiridons (ouch) and ordered to be taken to the Daleks.
  5. The disguised group are discovered when a Dalek (in a rare instance of being observant) spots a Thal boot emerging from beneath a Spiridon cloak.
  6. The Doctor shows Jo an image of Skaro on the TARDIS monitor but she chooses another destination - Earth.

Overall, a very fine Dalek story - the best of their Pertwee era appearances. Bernard Horsfall gives an excellent performance. It's a good story for Pertwee, less so for Katy Manning as Jo gets sidelined after the first episode.
Things you might like to know:

  • Some interesting aspects to the TARDIS in the first episode. We see fitted cabinets and a slide out bed in the control room for the one and only time. Also, it is implied that the TARDIS gains its air from the outside environment when landed. For a ship of near infinite size, there isn't a lot of air onboard. How do the crew survive long periods in space?
  • The black and gold Dalek - described as a member of the Supreme Council - is one of the 1960's movie props (the Gold Dalek from Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD). It belonged to Terry Nation himself. You'll notice the jam jar lights (which don't flash in synch with the vocals), and the hand torch instead of the eyeball.
  • In terms of reusing 1960's Dalek plot elements, it should be remembered that this is Terry Nation's first Doctor Who script since The Feast of Steven episode of The Daleks' Master Plan. Nation actually gave each episode a title (unaware that these were no longer used). These reveal that the planet was originally going to be called Destinus.
  • Nation's initial draft had the Thals all massacred by the end of part five.
  • Rebec was included at Barry Lett's insistence as he felt the story needed some additional female audience interest.
  • Hilary Minster plays Marat. The same director (David Maloney) will cast him as another Thal in Genesis of the Daleks.
  • The DWM comic strip Emperor of the Daleks has Davros resurrect the frozen army on Spiridon. There's a major continuity error, however, as they no longer look like Louis Marx toys...
  • There is a survivor from this conflict in the Dalek Asylum "intensive care" - though it is of entirely the wrong design (they all appear to be RTD bronze ones).