Monday 28 April 2014

Another Scottish Doctor...

Thought you might like to see this. Of particular interest to me as the town of Kilwinning just happens to be my birthplace. A wee place - most folk pass through going somewhere else. There's a rather lovely old ruined abbey to see, and just outside the town is Eglinton Castle - famous for the Eglinton Tournament (1839). Blue Peter did a thing about that. As well as my own good self, the poet Robert W. Service lived there for a time - the "Bard of the Yukon" who wrote The Shooting of Dan McGrew (Service's father was born in Kilwinning).

More than happy to give the Ardrossan & Saltcoats Herald a nod. (To access the article, there is one of those annoying questionnaires. Just click "No").

Story 102 - The Power of Kroll

In which the Doctor and Romana seek out the fifth segment of the Key to Time on one of the moons of Delta Magna. Due to the marshy terrain, K9 is stranded in the TARDIS. The Doctor is shot at by crewmen from a refinery which is located out in the bay. They arrest him and take him to the complex. Romana, meanwhile, is captured by the green-skinned natives who dwell in the marshes. They plan to sacrifice her to their god Kroll. The Doctor finds that he was mistaken for a notorious gun-runner named Rhom-Dutt who is rumoured to be supplying weapons to the natives. The refinery boss, Thawn, hates the natives. He derides them as primitive "Swampies". They were actually the original inhabitants of Delta Magna, but were forcibly relocated here after the planet was colonised by people from Earth. The Doctor learns of the sacrifice, and deduces that Romana is to be the victim. He slips away from the refinery and rescues her. The creature which was about to attack her proves to be a native in a costume. They find an ancient text which tells of their removal to this moon and about Kroll - a giant squid which swallowed a sacred idol.

The Doctor is puzzled by the huge quantities of methane which the refinery is processing. It turns it into food for the increasing population of Delta Magna. The bay should not produce anything like this quantity. The refinery crew start to register huge displacement on the bed of the bay. The whole topography changes. As the Doctor and Romana flee from the native settlement they discover that Kroll is no mere myth, as it rises up from the bay. It is a massive squid, with tentacles a mile long. The native leader, Ranquin, takes the appearance as a sign that their planned uprising against the refinery crew will be a success. Rhom-Dutt has provided a number of weapons to them. The Doctor now knows where the methane is coming from. Kroll has lain dormant for centuries, and the refinery activity has now woken it up.

The weapons he has supplied prove to be useless, and Rhom-Dutt finds himself captured along with the Doctor and Romana. They are going to be executed by being stretched to death, but the Doctor manages to free them. Rhom-Dutt is killed by Kroll when it next appears. It transpires that Thawn has secretly funded the gun-runner. The guns were never supposed to work - only to give the refinery boss an excuse to exterminate the natives. Thawn is going to redirect a missile to destroy their settlement when Kroll attacks it, but the Doctor sabotages it. Kroll then attacks the refinery - attracted by the machinery. Ranquin is killed by the creature. Thawn then dies at the hands of the new, more progressive leader, Varlik. The Doctor uses the locator wand on Kroll, as he has realised what has made it grow so large. The idol it ate was the fifth segment. The creature vanishes. Varlik and the refinery crew will need to live and work together more harmoniously from now on.

This four part adventure was written by Robert Holmes, and was broadcast between 23rd December 1978 and 13th January 1979.
Back in 1969, Holmes had used the Western genre as an influence in his story The Space Pirates. There are Western influences here as well - with the exploitation of the "Swampies" mirroring that of native Americans. General themes of racism and colonialism are present throughout.
Another influence is King Kong - in the scenes at the end of part one where Romana is due to be sacrificed.
In some ways, this story acts as a dry run for Holmes' far superior 1984 story The Caves of Androzani. Both stories feature gun-runners whose paymaster proves to have ulterior motives - namely offering an excuse for war. Both stories take place on the satellite of a densely populated Earth colony.
Even in these CGI days, Kroll remains the largest monster in the history of the programme. It is a very good model, but unfortunately due to a filming problem, it does not fit with the location shots. There is a rather harsh dividing line between the live foreground and the model work.

The story sees the final appearances in Doctor Who of two actors who had previously guested on multiple occasions - John Abineri (Ranquin) and Philip Madoc (refinery deputy Fenner). Madoc was reportedly unhappy, as he had thought he was going to get the part of Thawn - which went instead to Neil McCarthy. With K9 stranded in the TARDIS, John Leeson gets a chance to appear on camera - as refinery worker Dugeen. Rhom-Dutt is played by Glyn Owen. Varlik is Carl Rigg.
Episode endings are:

  1. Tied to a post in the sacred enclosure, Romana is menaced by a squid-like creature...
  2. A pipe in the refinery breaks open and a massive tentacle emerges. Crewman Harg is dragged to his death...
  3. As the Doctor and Romana row away from their pursuers in a canoe, they see Kroll rise up out of the swamp before them...
  4. With the fifth Key segment obtained, the Doctor and Romana return to the TARDIS.

Overall, it has the look and feel of the end of season show where the money has run out. An unusually poor contribution from writer Holmes - though, as I have said, it shares elements with his most popular work. An interesting location, making a change from quarries.
Things you might like to know:

  • The Sixth Floor at the BBC (i.e. management) were not impressed with this story. They thought that it looked cheap. A wobbly rocket silo set and a badly cut out countdown panel were amongst the items cited.
  • Holmes was originally only supposed to supply one story for Season 16. A story by Ted Lewis named "The Shield of Zarak" fell through. As it was a late replacement, Kroll was pushed back from the fourth slot to the fifth.
  • Another indication that this is a late replacement is the episode running times - which only average 21 minutes. There are some lengthy reprise sequences at the start of parts 3 and 4 to help pad things out.
  • Location filming took place in Suffolk. Famously, the green dye which covered the Swampie actors would not wash off, and so the actors and extras had to have special chemical showers at a nearby RAF base.

Thursday 24 April 2014

Know Your Daleks - No.1

Posting about the figurine collection the other day, and re-watching William Hartnell episodes, got me thinking about the way the Masters of Skaro have changed over the years. The changes in design of the Cybermen are far more obvious, but when you look at those old stories you quickly see how much the Daleks have also evolved. There are some quite significant changes, including different ranks, as well as the odd adaptation such as new pieces of equipment.
Here's the start of a new occasional series - looking at the real evolution of the Daleks over the last five decades.

1. The Hartnell Years:
The first ever Daleks to appear are uniformly silver with pale blue spheres. This design is unique to The Daleks aka The Mutants aka The Dead Planet (1963 - 64).
There is no differentiation in rank with this lot. Ian, when hiding in a Dalek casing, informs one of the aliens that he is moving the prisoners on the instructions of a ruling council. This is either a very lucky guess - or Susan / the Doctor has fed this piece of information back to him - both having been taken to the Dalek command area prior to their escape from the cells.
Things to note are the lights on the side of the dome - fully spherical - and the simple mid-section. A pair of plain wide metal bands above and below the gun / utility arm section.

The fourth episode (The Ambush) sees the first of many adaptations - a cutting device in place of the sucker on the utility arm.
There were four Daleks built for this story. Their numbers are bulked out by full-size photographic blow-ups - noticeable on DVD reviewing but not so when this was first broadcast on the old 405-line system. After filming, two props were retained, and the other pair given away for charitable purposes - on the proviso that they could be recalled by the BBC for use at a later date.

For both storytelling reasons and the practicalities of location filming, the Daleks underwent a redesign for their next story - The Dalek Invasion of Earth. From a story point of view, they were only supposed to be able to travel on the metal floors of their city in the first adventure - utilising static electricity. To get round this, energy collection dishes were added to the back of the casings. To manoeuvre the streets of London, larger wheels were required and so the base section was built up considerably - giving them a dodgem car appearance. Apt, considering that it was the smell of dodgems that first gave the Doctor and his companions the idea that they utilised static.
There are six Dalek props on show. Five of them are standard versions - still silver with pale blue spheres. The sixth prop appears in two different guises as senior Daleks.

In part two, we see a Saucer Commander (it also makes it into part three but only thanks to the reprise from the previous episode). This has a black dome, with alternate black and silver skirt sections. Saucer Commanders were probably discontinued by the Daleks due to their inability to see rebels releasing all their prisoners immediately behind them. It is noticeable that when we next see the occupants of a Saucer - in part four, when it attacks the dustcart in which Barbara and Jenny are travelling - there is no sign of this class of Dalek.

This is mainly because this particular prop has been fully painted black and is now the commandant of the mine area, and apparently leader of the whole invasion force.
One other thing to take note of in this story are the Dalek eye-stalks. For this story, apart from the two senior variations, the stalk itself is black and the eye-ball unit is silver.

Surprisingly, the next big changes in appearance don't even feature in a Dalek story. The Space Museum has a cameo of a unique Dalek design. At first glance, it is one of the ones from the very first story - but the eye-stalk is black and the eye-ball silver. It is an Invasion Dalek, but minus the bigger bumper and the collection dish. The Dalek exhibit is the last time we will see that simple metal banded mid-section until Asylum of the Daleks   - or is it...?

At the conclusion of the story we see the (now standard) vertical slats round the mid-section for the very first time. Note that the eye-ball unit is still silver, and there is a black stalk. This particular Dalek will feature in the next story - The Chase - but not throughout. It appears in the scene which the Doctor and Barbara witness on the Space / Time Visualiser, and again on the deck of the Mary Celeste - but  nowhere else.

Of the Daleks which make up the time-travelling execution squad, there is no visually different commander. These are all silver / blue sphere versions for the most part - with black eye--ball units. The dome lights have changed since the first two stories. They are now hemispherical. One of the Daleks has a gyroscopic motion detector in place of its sucker on the utility arm. In a couple of sequences, a pair of slat-less Aaru Movie Dalek props bulk up the numbers. They have their bases removed, however. A cardboard cut-out Dalek descends the lift shaft in the "DARDIS" at one point - and it is one of the ones from the very first story.
See if you can spot the Special Stealth Dalek - which is disguised to look like a TV Camera...

There is a new Dalek leader in episode one - referred to both as the Supreme Dalek and the Dalek Supreme at different times throughout the story. It is mostly black, although - unlike its predecessor - the mid-section between the gun and utility arm is pale blue.

One  further adaptation to look out for in The Chase is the dish-like Electron Unit which one of the Daleks uses in the cave on Mechanus.

The Hartnell - Dalek era comes to a close with Mission to the Unknown and The Daleks' Master Plan. The Daleks seen in The Chase have now become the norm - including the Supreme Dalek. Photographic material is scant for these stories (I only say that the Supreme has a pale blue mid-riff because that's the colour of my figurine).

One final adaptation worth mentioning is the addition of flame guns, in place of suckers, when they burn down the jungles of Kembel.
So, the Daleks have changed  in nearly every appearance so far. It is the fact that they have retained that basic malign pepper-pot shape that means their variations aren't as noticeable as the Cyberman redesigns. You'd have to be a fool to muck about with that...
Next time: the Troughton era.

Caution: May Contain Hath...

An advance look at the War Doctor figurine from Eaglemoss. Last month I listed all the proposed releases up to number 39. I have come across another list that goes from 40 - 71. As before, these pairings are all subject to change.

  • Genesis Dalek & Doomsday Cyberman
  • Third Doctor & Krillitane
  • Delgado Master & Max Capricorn
  • Emperor Dalek (Remembrance) & Seventh Doctor
  • Terileptil & Gold Dalek (Day and Frontier in Space)
  • Cassandra & Moonbase Cyberman
  • Smiler & First Doctor
  • Saturnyne & Voc Robot
  • Hath & Remembrance Dalek
  • Second Doctor & Vervoid
  • Dalek Sec Human Hybrid & Tenth Planet Cyberman
  • Sixth Doctor & Red New Paradigm Dalek
  • Axon & Sutekh
  • The Destroyer & Jabe
  • Sharaz Jek & Snowman
  • Eighth Doctor & Rose Auton 
Some interesting releases. The Remembrance Emperor has "Davros" in brackets after it - so it might have the lid open. Will the Saturnyne be the natural form, or Francesco? Capricorn and the Hath we could really do without.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

April's Figurines

Just the two regular releases this month - numbers 18 & 19. The original version of the Dalek from December 1963 - described in the accompanying magazine as a "Skaro City Dalek" - plus a Judoon. Always nice to get something from the Classic era of the series.
The 20th release next month is confirmed as a Sycorax. Hopefully there will be another one of the special edition Daleks in May.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Story 101 - The Androids of Tara

In which the Doctor decides to do a spot of fishing - and leaves Romana to collect the fourth segment of the Key to Time. They have arrived on the apparently tranquil planet of Tara. Romana dons an appropriate costume from the TARDIS stores, and locates the segment quickly - part of a statue. As she converts it, she is attacked by a savage creature that pounces out of the woods. She is rescued by Count Grendel of Gracht, whose lands these are. He is intrigued by her - and insists on taking her to his castle. She has injured her ankle and he offers medical help. He also wants her to register the strange crystal shape she is holding. He is worried that the statue has a piece missing. It is a local legend that the statue reflects the fortunes of his family, so damage implies some misfortune.
The Doctor's fishing is interrupted by the arrival of two soldiers, armed with electric rapiers. They are General Vadek, Captain of the Royal Guard, and his officer Farrah. They take him to a hunting lodge where he meets Prince Reynart. The Doctor learns that Reynart is about to be crowned king, but his life is at risk from his most powerful noble - Count Grendel. The Count will do everything in his power to stop Reynart reaching the throne room at his appointed hour. Failure to do so means forfeiting the crown.

There is a non-functioning android replica of the Prince at the lodge, which Zadek hopes can be used as a decoy. Tara suffered a terrible plague which wiped out millions, and so they turned to androids for a labour force. At Castle Gracht, Grendel and his android specialist Madam Lamia are shocked to discover that Romana is not a duplicate. She is the double of Princess Strella, who is second in line to the throne. The Count already has the real Princess under lock and key. Grendel drugs the lodge's wine supply and abducts the Prince as well. The Doctor must get the Reynart android operational so that it can be crowned - giving them time to rescue the real one. They succeed - and the Doctor thwarts an assassination attempt by Grendel who had prepared a deadly android copy of Strella.

A plan to kill the Doctor using an android of Romana fails - resulting only in the death of Lamia. Grendel hatches a new scheme. Prince Reynart will be forced to marry Strella - really Romana. The new King will die shortly after his nuptials. Grendel will then step in to marry the grieving widow, who will herself then suddenly expire - leaving Grendel undisputed ruler. Romana and Reynart are forced to go along with this as the Count threatens to kill the real Strella if they don't. The Doctor, Zadek, Farrah and their men break into the Castle with K9's assistance and stop the sham wedding. The Doctor and the Count duel - the Doctor winning. Grendel leaps into the moat - preferring to live to fight another day. Reynart and Strella are freed. Apart from Grendel, everyone lives very happily ever after...

This four part swashbuckler was written by David Fisher, and was broadcast between 25th November and 16th December, 1978.
The story influence is an obvious one - Anthony Hope's classic novel The Prisoner of Zenda. ("The Androids of Zenda" was even a working title). In this, an English traveller in the Mittel-European country of Ruritania stumbles upon court intrigue. He is the exact double for the king, who some dastardly nobleman has kidnapped on the eve of his coronation. Naturally, he finds himself having to impersonate the royal. Sound familiar? The plot here is pretty much Zenda but with androids and futuristic versions of traditional weapons. The rapiers have electric stings and the crossbows fire energy bolts.
Both the regulars are well-served - Tom Baker getting some very funny lines, whilst Mary Tamm gets to play multiple roles. She is Romana, an android Romana, Strella and an android Strella. It's a pity that Strella is so like Romana, personality wise - she doesn't get the chance to play someone really different.

Grendel is played magnificently by Peter Jeffrey, who had previously been the Co-Pilot in The Macra Terror. A lesser actor could have really gone over the top and hammed it up, but Jeffrey pitches it just right.
Zadek is Simon Lack, who had featured briefly in Mind of Evil. Farrah is Paul Lavers. There is some nice interplay between him, Lack and Baker. Reynart is Neville Jason, who takes things a bit too earnestly. Madam Lamia is Lois Baxter, who is a little underused.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor  and his new friends discover their wine has been drugged. The Doctor staggers to the door - to find Count Grendel waiting...
  2. Princess Strella approaches the newly crowned King to swear fealty. The Doctor suddenly seizes a sceptre and launches an attack on her - to the horror of the assembled guests...
  3. Grendel casts a lance through the android Reynart and runs off. The Doctor discovers he has also recaptured Romana.
  4. The Castle is taken, the Key segment retrieved, and the King and his Princess reunited. K9, however, is cast drift in a boat in the moat.

Overall, a good old fashioned adventure yarn. Nice performances and a witty script.
Things you might like to know:

  • The location filming took place at Leeds Castle in Kent. Visit today and you won't see any Germanic turrets and minarets. These were added during filming using a painted glass matte.
  • The Androids of Tara sees the last appearance in Doctor Who of actor Cyril Shaps. He first appeared as Viner, who insisted all over the place, in Tomb of the Cybermen. He returned twice in the Pertwee era - first as Lennox in The Ambassadors of Death, and then as Professor Clegg in Planet of the Spiders. In Tara, he played the Archimandrite, who officiates at both the coronation and the sham wedding. Shaps continued working up until a year before he died - in London on 1st January 2003, aged 79.
  • Early drafts had the horses mechanical and able to fly.
  • Bizarrely, there is a short story sequel to this adventure - in which Grendel recruits the Kandy Man in his plans for revenge. This is what happens when continuity references are allowed to go too far... 
  • Pay attention to the opening titles and you will see these ones differ from the normal pattern. Usually it is story title, written by, then part number. Here the latter two are reversed.
  • The once ubiquitous John Barrowman has been known to turn up on home shopping channel QVC, selling his sponsored wares. Did you know that Paul Lavers was one of the original line up of presenters on rival channel Ideal World? You didn't? And now you wish you still didn't?

Wednesday 9 April 2014

The mechanical men of that densely wooded region near Nottingham...

Easter is almost upon us. Most years since 2005, that would have meant the big publicity build up to a new series (or half of one). A good time instead to take a look at what we know about Series 8 I think.
Most of the first half of the series is in the can. As with previous series, more is known about some episodes than others - usually thanks to location filming, or to guest artists having a problem keeping schtum on the various social media.
Episode 1 is, naturally, written by Steven Moffat. We know that it is set in late Victorian times and sees the return of the Paternoster Gang. If they don't have the sonic devices created by Blue Peter competition winners, then we will know the Gang feature in more than one episode. Scenes on location that were reported in the news featured Capaldi in his nightshirt riding a horse. Some newspapers stated that the villain would be Jack the Ripper. We know that can't be the case as Jack was killed by Madam Vastra back in Series 6. A black clad, wan-faced gentleman was seen on location. Interestingly, his top hat was covered in those little coloured balls that the CGI folk use. The director of this story, and the next one, is Ben Wheatley. Wheatley's regular actor Michael Smiley will be playing Colonel Blue in one of these stories.
Episode 2 is written by Phil Ford. He offered the cryptic "behind enemy lines" to describe his tale.

Coming soon to another  forest near you...
If the second episode is a bit of a mystery, rather a lot seems to be slipping out about Episode 3. The writer is Mark Gatiss. A couple of weeks ago some story titles were being bandied about on the old interweb. One ran along the lines of the title of this post - in not so many words. It may have seemed like an odd title but then one of the actors put on his CV that he would be playing Alan-a-Dale - as in one of Robin Hood's Merry Men. The real Robin might have been based upon a number of genuine historical figures, but the classic line-up of Merry Men we are used to is purely fictional. So the first part of the story title makes some sense.
Tom Riley (Da Vinci's Demons) guest stars. Working out who he might be playing seems very obvious. If he is RH, then I'll hazard a guess that Trevor Cooper (Revelation of the Daleks) could be a certain rotund friar. News came in yesterday that Ben Miller will be playing the villain. One website is foolishly predicting he might be the Master. Isn't the Sheriff of Nottingham a more obvious possibility?
Whatever the case, it's all being directed by Paul Murphy.

Episodes 4 & 5  are directed by Douglas Mackinnon. 4 is written by Moffat.
5 is written by Steve Thompson. This is the one featuring Keeley Hawes as Miss Delphox, and it is set on a strange and perplexing planet.
Location filming took place around Cardiff for one (or both) of these stories. A black clad figure with electronic implants on his face was seen, along with some oddly dressed extras, down in Cardiff Bay - an android perhaps? A Minotaur-like alien was also seen roaming a park in Bute.
We know that there is going to be new regular / recurring character named Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson) in the series. He is supposed to be a fellow employee of Coal Hill School. However, he has been seen during this particular phase of filming with grey hair, and wearing the red Sanctuary Base spacesuit, worn by the Doctor between Series 2 - 7. Capaldi was also seen filming scenes with him - with those coloured CGI balls covering his chest.
The most recent episode to be filmed is Episode 6. The director is Paul Murphy once again, and it is written by Gareth Roberts.
It sees the return, after a long absence, of Jimmy Vee - Bannakaffalatta, the Space Pig, the Moxx of Balhoon as well as junior Slitheen in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Location filming saw Capaldi wearing a brown lab coat - the sort your woodwork teacher used to wear when I was a lad. There was the first glimpse of the new Sonic. Two aliens seen - one played by Vee and a blue eyed thing seen only in the shadows.

And that's it so far. Nothing overly spoilery. No returning monsters known yet. Will Capaldi demand Daleks in his first series? Will there be a new Master? How many fellow Exec-Producers will Moffat run through? How much longer will he be sticking around?
To be honest, we don't even know how many episodes there will be. Moffat has said "at least 13". Might be 13 plus a Christmas Special - or the 13th will fall on December 25th.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Story 100 - The Stones of Blood

In which the Doctor and Romana head for Earth in search of the third segment of the Key to Time. The locator brings the TARDIS to the tranquil Cornish countryside - Boscombe Moor, not far from the Nine Travellers stone circle. The wand seems to point to the circle, but the signal is slightly confused. The Doctor and Romana meet the renowned archaeologist Professor Amelia Rumford and her friend Vivien Fay, who are surveying the neolithic monument. The Professor informs them that the circle gets its name from a curious legend - that some of the stones have apparently moved position over the centuries. Whilst Romana goes back to the ship to don more practical apparel, the Doctor decides to pay a visit to Hugo De Vries - the local squire. At his home, he learns that the squire is a follower of Druidic practices. In particular, his group worship the ancient Celtic goddess Cailleach. De Vries drugs the Doctor and he wakes to find himself back at the stone circle, about to be sacrificed. Romana meanwhile has been lured away by what she believes to be the Doctor. Professor Rumford returns to the circle and her approach scares off De Vries and his followers. She frees the Doctor and he calls upon K9 to track Romana. She has been pushed off a cliff by the Doctor-apparition. She is rescued, and the Doctor suggests that someone has found a way to make use of the third Key segment - enabling them to alter perception and trick Romana.

They go to De Vries' home and find him dead. His body is horribly crushed and yet there is little blood. The Doctor had earlier noticed some portraits were missing from the hall. These are found in the cellars. All show women who have been quite powerful in the neighbourhood over the centuries, owning the land on which the stone circle lies. All bear a remarkable resemblance to Vivien Fay... They are attacked by Ogri - silicon-based lifeforms resembling monoliths, from the planet Ogros. These have been hidden within the circle for millennia - the source of the local legend. They feed on blood. K9 is badly damaged. The Doctor topples one of the Ogri into the sea.
The Doctor realises that Fay is an alien who has been living here since the circle was erected, probably to mark the location of her spaceship which is stranded in Hyperspace above the monument - hidden in another dimension of Space. Fay has been disguising herself as the Cailleach. She captures Romana and transports her to the spacecraft. K9 is repaired and the Doctor builds a device that will enable him to follow his companion. K9 must protect the Professor, who is shown how to bring him back again.

The spaceship proves to be a prison vessel. Romana is released, but the Doctor inadvertently frees a pair of Megara from one of the cells. These are bio-mechanical justice machines. They had been due to try the criminal Cessair of Diplos for a multitude of crimes - including theft of the Great Seal of Diplos. The Doctor realises that Fay is Cessair. She escaped to Earth when the craft became stranded here. Breaking the seal on their cell turns out to be a crime which the Megara must prosecute - and the Doctor finds himself on trial for his life. Megara are blindly logical and act as judge, jury and executioner. The Doctor calls Cessair as a witness in the hope that the machine creatures will recognise her as their prisoner. He fails, but when the Megara try to kill him, he pulls her into harm's way. She is knocked out. The Megara check that she is okay and in doing so discover her true identity. All travel down to the stone circle. The Ogri will be returned to their own planet. Cessair is sentenced to be transformed into a megalith. The Doctor snatches her pendant first - having realised it is the disguised third segment. Before the Megara can take action against him, he uses it to despatch them back to their own world. Back in the TARDIS, the Key is now semi-complete.

This four part adventure was written by David Fisher, and was broadcast between 28th October and 18th November, 1978. It is the 100th Doctor Who story, and the programme's 15th anniversary fell a few days after the fourth episode screened.
These significant landmarks were to be celebrated in a small opening scene where the Doctor was celebrating his own birthday. Producer Graham Williams vetoed the scene as too self-indulgent and a rather dull recap scene was devised in a plain black room - to remind viewers of the season story arc so far.
Neolithic monuments - especially circles - have fascinated writers for centuries. Many authors before and since have looked to supernatural or science fiction angles to them. For instance, the final Quatermass story had them being used by an ancient unseen alien intelligence as collection points to feed off humanity. E F Benson tells a tale of a cottage built at the heart of a huge circle which is visited by the ghosts of long dead Druids, out for further bloody sacrifices. Vivien's surname - Fay - hints at Arthurian legend. The latter part of the story, which jars somewhat with what has gone before, takes its influences from courtroom drama.

A very small cast - three of the four main guest artists being women. Cessair is played by Susan Engel. She is polite and friendly, though a little cold, as Vivien Fay. Once transformed into Cessair, her evil is restrained and not too over the top (compare with Lady Adrasta in the following season). The highlight of the story is Beatrix Lehmann as the feisty and formidable Professor Rumford, who makes for a great double act with K9. She is a joy to watch. There's not enough of her in the latter section of the story. Elaine Ives-Cameron is De Vries' fellow Druid, Martha. He is played by Nicholas McArdle. The latter pair don't make it past Part Two.
Episode endings are:

  1. Romana is lured towards the cliff by what she thinks is the Doctor. She is pushed over the edge...
  2. Vivien Fay, in Cailleach costume, pushes Romana into the centre of the circle. She operates a strange electronic lance device, and Romana vanishes...
  3. Fay - now transformed into Cessair - appears on the spaceship with two Ogri. She tells the Doctor and Romana that they are trapped here in hyperspace forever...
  4. The Doctor tries to fit the three Key segments together but doesn't quite have the knack - so Romana does it for him.

Overall, a very enjoyable story. I prefer the stuff on Earth with the stone circle - and Amelia Rumford. One of my very favourite guest characters. Just what is her relationship with / to Vivien Fay...? There is much speculation in certain quarters.
It loses its way a bit with the move to the spaceship and the legal nonsense. The Megara make for a very cheap monster, being nothing but CSO'd flashing lights.
Things you might like to know:

  • We see a dead Wirrn in the spaceship, and Romana is locked up with a Kraal android. One that looks as if it is wearing lipstick. Other creatures, including a Sea Devil, were also to have appeared.
  • The location filming took place at the Rollright Stones near Long Compton, on the Oxfordshire / Warwickshire border. The complex actually comprises three different monuments - the King's Men, the King Stone, and the Whispering Knights. It is the King's Men which features prominently in this story - supplemented by a few light-weight BBC prop stones.
  • People coming to watch the filming were bemused to see Tom Baker and K9 doing the crossword together. John Leeson was based in an OB van some distance away, but his voice was piped to the location. Tom would sit by the K9 prop and to anyone watching it looked as though it was really talking to him.
  • Season 16 is one of only a handful of seasons where Earth is visited only once.
  • This is the only story of the Key to Time arc where there does appear to be an agent of the Black Guardian at work, before we get to the concluding story. The Graff Vynda-K, The Captain, Grendel and Thawn all appear to have no inkling of the bigger picture. Cessair seems to be able to harness the third segment's powers.
  • The sequence where a couple of campers (played by James Murray and Shirin Taylor) are killed by the Ogri was a late addition - partly for timing purposes but also to make the threat of the Ogri more explicit.
  • The house used as location for De Vries' house was actually a college. Students stole the TARDIS prop for a joke.
  • The recent audio-book of the novelisation - by David Fisher - makes use of a totally revised version, rather than that published in 1980 in paperback.
  • Gerald Cross, who voiced one of the Megara, also provided (uncredited) the voice for the White Guardian in Part One.
  • Apparently Honor Blackman was approached about playing Fay / Cessair - but turned it down as Beatrix Lehmann had all the best lines.
  • Lehmann knew that John Leeson was a keen photographer (he took photos of actors for the Spotlight directory as a side-line) and gifted him a rare vintage camera.
  • The Druids were wiped out by the Romans in the First Century AD (or CE as some have it these days). Their last stronghold was in the island of Anglesey in North Wales. Those bearded muppets who turn up at Stonehenge every June 21st represent nothing more than some 17th Century neo-pagan revival. That or a range of mental health issues. New Age nonsense I calls it. Claim to be in tune with the natural forces of the Earth. Ever seen the amount of rubbish they leave behind after their gatherings? (God, you hit 50 and suddenly you're an old reactionary...).