Wednesday 31 December 2014

TARDIS Travels No.3

Season 2 ended with the features of the Doctor, Steven and Vicki superimposed over a starfield - heading to where? To when?

Journey 023: Northumbria, 1066, to an unnamed planet, date unknown.
Have there been any unseen adventures between seasons? Possibly.
The TARDIS materialises on a lifeless, doomed planet, which will be destroyed by natural processes in a couple of days time. There has been a great deal of debate about the title of this story - Galaxy 4. The Drahvins claim to come from Galaxy 4 - so does that mean that this planet is somewhere else? It has always seemed odd to me that this story has "Galaxy 4" as an umbrella title (and has had this almost since day one) if the action doesn't actually take place there. It is pointed out several times that the Drahvin ship is a bit rubbish - so maybe incapable of intergalactic travel. Drahva is only "400 dawns" away (i.e. 400 Drahvin days - whose duration we know nothing about. Actually, I have it on good authority that 1 Drahvin Dawn = 3 Morok Minims). Has a Londoner never said they come from London when in London? They might not say it to another Londoner, but they might to an out-of-towner - and the Doctor and his companions are aliens to the Drahvins. Personally, I think this planet is in Galaxy 4.
The TARDIS is able to provide a power boost to the Rill spaceship.
One odd thing that has always struck me - relating to the correlation between the exterior shell and the interior - is the Chumbley being heard to move around the ship in episode one. How can the Doctor and his companions hear it moving the distance of the control room (big space), when it is only travelling the distance of the Police Box width?

Journey 024: Doomed planet in Galaxy 4, date unknown, to Asia Minor, c.1200 BC.
The TARDIS materialises on the plains outside the city of Troy, on the north-west coast of what we now call Turkey. The Trojans take the ship into their city with Vicki still aboard. This story does directly follow Galaxy 4, as Vicki is still nursing an injured ankle.
Until the early 20th Century, Troy was just a myth - an epic story by the poet Homer. How ironic that Troy is pretty much accepted as historical fact today, and it is poor Homer who is now the myth. Yes, it is generally believed that he never existed as an historical figure - just the personification of an ancient oral bardic tradition.
That Troy was a city which was, at least in part, destroyed by the Mycenaean Greeks is accepted. It may not have been destroyed in quite so cataclysmic a fashion as the myth states, however. (There's archaeological evidence of later building phases). The Greeks probably diminished Troy's power, and then other factors like attacks by the enigmatic "Sea Peoples", earthquakes, and the silting up of its port all probably meant a much slower decline. No evidence for Helen. No evidence of the Wooden Horse. A ten year siege unlikely - probably a series of seasonal campaigns, with the Greeks going home in between attacks. That Troy's attackers came from all over Greece, but under Mycenaean leadership, we can accept - as most city states and kingdoms had pacts that meant if any one was attacked or went to war, the others agreed to help out.
One interesting theory about the Wooden Horse - it could be symbolic of an earthquake. The horse was a symbol of Poseidon - who was also the god of earthquakes.

Journey 025: Troy, c.1200 BC, to Kembel, 4000 AD.
At the end of Galaxy 4, Vicki wondered what strange things might be going on on Kembel, which appeared on the TARDIS scanner. She would never get the chance to know, but the Doctor, Steven and new companion Katarina find out. The story follows immediately after events in the doomed city of Troy, with Steven suffering from blood-poisoning from wounds he received in the fighting.
The Doctor has a chair that can exert a magnetic hold on whoever sits in it - never seen again after this story.
The TARDIS gets left behind on Kembel for a few episodes. The Doctor and his companions travel to Earth in a stolen spaceship - going via Desperus. They are then transported to Mira by molecular dissemination. They steal a Dalek ship to finally get back to Kembel to retrieve the TARDIS. The Daleks conveniently bring the ship to the planet under a magnetic ray, but the travellers get back into the TARDIS after Steven accidentally creates a forcefield after mucking about with the fake Taranium Core and the "gravity force" of the ship's power source.

Journey 026: Kembel, 4000 AD, to Liverpool, 25th December, 1965.
The TARDIS materialises outside a police station on Christmas Day. (It had been hoped that the cast of popular Merseyside police drama Z-Cars might appear. They didn't).
The scanner breaks down - and the camera appears to be in the roof light - as suggested in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Journey 027: Liverpool, 25th December, 1965, to Hollywood, California, late 1920's.
The TARDIS arrives in a film studio during the silent era of cinema - though "talkies" are coming in. Possibly the Hal Roach studios, judging by the presence of the Keystone Kops. Bing Crosby's presence puts this between 1925 - 1930.

Journey 028: Hollywood, California, late 1920's, to the Oval cricket ground, Vauxhall, London, 1960's.
The TARDIS materialises briefly on the pitch during a Test Match between England and Australia. The date is either August 1964, or August 1968. At the time this story was broadcast, England were actually playing Australia on their patch.

Journey 029: Oval cricket ground, Vauxhall, London, 1960's, to Trafalgar Square, London, 1st January 1966.
The TARDIS materialises briefly in the Square during the New Year celebrations.

Journey 030: Trafalgar Square, London, 1st January 1966, to Tigus, date unknown.
The TARDIS arrives on this recently formed planet, in the midst of volcanic activity. The time-meddling Monk sabotages the ship's lock - leaving the Doctor and his companions stranded outside the vessel. The Doctor uses the light from the sun, which has strange properties, refracted through his ring into the lock mechanism to effect a temporary repair.

Journey 031: Tigus, date unknown, to Giza Plateau, Egypt, c.2500 BC.
The TARDIS materialises at the base of the Great Pyramid, but is later taken into the tomb by the Egyptian workers. The Doctor repairs the lock properly. He then breaks into the Monk's TARDIS, playing about with the Chameleon Circuit to make it look like a number of objects before settling on a Police Box - to decoy the Daleks. He steals the Monk's directional control unit to use in his own ship so that they can return to Kembel.

Journey 032: Giza Plateau, Egypt, c.2500 BC to Kembel, 4000 AD.
The stolen directional unit manages to make the one journey before burning itself out - components from different models obviously not being totally interchangeable.

Journey 033: Kembel, 4000 AD, to Paris, 19th August, 1572.
The TARDIS materialises in a garden near the Porte Saint-Martin. Another story title that slightly misleads as the slaughter of Paris' Huguenot population is known as the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Day, rather than Eve. However, the events actually did begin on the eve (23rd August) and carried on into the feast day itself (24th), and indeed beyond.
To hide his ignorance of current affairs in France, Steven says that he has been in Egypt - suggesting not much time has elapsed since the previous story. The Doctor's later monologue suggests no intervening adventures at all.

Journey 034: Paris, 23rd August 1572, to Wimbledon Common, 1966.
Furious that the Doctor did not try to help Anne Chaplette (or any of his other Huguenot friends for that matter), Steven storms out of the TARDIS when it materialises on Wimbledon Common, South London. Instead of picking up Madame Cholet (or Orinoco, or Great Uncle Bulgaria) as the new companion, it is Dodo who joins the TARDIS crew, after entering the ship to report an accident. (The poor kid who has been run over is apparently left to bleed to death). Ian and Barbara were to have returned for a cameo appearance in this sequence - hearing the ship but arriving too late as it dematerialised.

Journey 035: Wimbledon Common, 1966, to the Ark, 57th Segment of Time.
The TARDIS arrives in a jungle habitat on the massive spacecraft that is going to take the last humans, and their Monoid friends, to a new home on the planet Refusis II - seeing as how the Earth is just about to be burnt up by the expanding Sun. A certain 2005 story will imply this is not the final destruction but an unsurvivable bout of solar flare activity. Maybe even some underhand tricks by the High Council on Gallifrey. Is Earth actually being Ravaloxed?

Journey 036: The Ark, 57th Segment of Time, to the Ark, now approaching Refusis II, 700 years later.
A very clever thing, in a generally derided story - the ship arrives back where it started (sort of) and we get to see consequences of the time-travellers' involvement. "Segments of Time" appear to be quite lengthy periods (the 51st covered everything from the Emperor Nero to the Dalek invasion of Earth), so let's assume we're still in the 57th.

Journey 037: The Ark, 57th Segment of Time, to The Celestial Toyroom (location unknown, date unknown).
The fantasy realm of the immortal Celestial Toymaker, whom the Doctor has encountered before - probably pre-Totters Lane. The TARDIS gets stolen by the Toymaker and the travellers have to play a series of games and solve puzzles to get it back. For the first time in a long time (the very first episode actually), the TARDIS is recognisable by a faint vibration. Perhaps it only does this when the Doctor hasn't switched off the power (see The Rescue).

Journey 038: Celestial Toyroom (date and location unknown) to Tombstone, Arizona, October, 1881.
The TARDIS materialises in a livery stable in the infamous town a few days before the infamous gunfight at its infamous OK Corral. (The shoot-out took place on 26th October, infamously).

Journey 039: Tombstone, Arizona, October 1881, to unnamed planet, date unknown.
All we know is that it is supposed to be a time of great peace and prosperity, and far in the future, when Doctor Who stories no longer need individual episode titles. The humanoid population of this planet has divided between an indolent, parasitic bunch led by the Elders; and a sub-class referred to as Savages who are having their life-force harvested to maintain the former. After the Elders' scheme has been stopped, Steven agrees to stay on to be the new, impartial ruler.
On several DVD commentaries, Peter Purves has suggested a new story where the Doctor returns to find he made a complete hash of it and ended up a tyrant. The new series hasn't picked up on this idea - but Big Finish have. They would.

Journey 040: Unnamed planet, date unknown, to Fitzroy Square, London, July 1966.
The first proper landing in contemporary London - so the Doctor has an "Out of Order" sign ready to stop policemen from mistaking the TARDIS for a real phone box. This suggests it has happened before. The Post Office Tower opened in 1964 - but Dodo seems surprised to see it complete. She is supposed to come from 1966, and elects to stay on here at this time rather than continue her travels. Too much time spent down the "Inferno Club", if you ask me. Date-wise, the subsequent The Faceless Ones will confirm this as July 1966 (Journey 041 will commence on 20th July, according to Ben - but that's for next time).
Sir Charles Summer mentions 16th July as falling on a Monday. This must be a mistake on his part - or it's the real start of the "UNIT Dating Controversy" - as that would make this either 1962, or 1973. Maybe he's been spending too much time down the "Inferno Club" as well...
So that's why Dodo left so abruptly when she did... Recuperating in the country, my backside. Dodo and Sir Charles - down the "Inferno"...

Friday 26 December 2014

December's Figurines - Part 2

Hope you had a lovely Christmas and enjoyed the Special. I did. It was 7th most watched programme of the day, and had an overnight figure of 6.3 million. Sounds very low, but figures were down across the board. The figures due out next week should show a marked increase as they include those who recorded it to watch later on.

meanwhile, this pair actually arrived on Christmas Eve, but I had already put the blog to bed until the Last Christmas review. These figurines were due next week, but have been brought forward due to the holidays.
First we have D84, from Robots of Death. Very well modelled. Then we have the Draconian Prince from Frontier In Space. Again, well done, with a wonderful snooty expression.
Always nice to get figures from the Classic Series, and this time both releases are from earlier eras. The next confirmed release is going to be Jabe from The End of the World. There's a bonus creature in a way, in that she is holding one of Cassandra's sabotage spiders. This shows that those lists I've mentioned earlier really have been set aside, as this figure wasn't due until Issue 67.

Last Christmas - Review

"Tangerine Dream" could have been an alternative title.
Naturally, don't read if you haven't seen this year's Christmas Special.

What do you make of a story that technically never really happened? Apart from the closing few moments - when Clara decided to return to travelling with the Doctor, and so confirmed her on-going presence for Series 9 - everything we saw was a dream.
Just when you thought the dream was over, it turned out you were wrong. This allowed the programme to continually play with us. With all the speculation that Jenna Coleman was on the point of leaving, it appeared that she was going to do so as an 80-something year old woman, that the Doctor had missed the last 62 years of her life. This would have been a good way to write out a companion - but, of course, Clara's unseen life - though interesting - sounded decidedly lonely. It would not have been a good way to write her out.
One of the dreams within a dream saw her reunited with Samuel Anderson's Danny Pink. Lovely to see him again.
Assuming that the memories contained within the dreams are retained, it means that Clara got to have one last idyllic day with him - a chance to say a proper goodbye that was denied to her in the final episode of the series. Danny gave her a means to carry on with her life - don't forget him but don't dwell. Five minutes a day.

The base-under-siege format may have its critics (I love them) but in this, thanks to the continual shifting of reality / dreams things were kept interesting. The creatures - Kantrofarra, or Dream Crabs - were very well realised. Some might argue that they were a bit too close to the Face-Huggers of the Alien franchise - but the plot actually pointed this out. Michael Troughton's Professor Smithe specifically pointed this out, and the film was on Shona's Xmas Day to do list (along with Miracle on 34th Street, which this also referenced - people trying to work out if someone who claims to be Santa really is Santa). (Before we knew Clara was going to be sticking around, I was looking at Shona and Ashley as potential new companions. Either would have been very good).
Moffat has a knack for creating creatures with an idiosyncratic modus operandi. The Kantrofarra attack when you think about them - lying dormant when ignored.

Many of us were naturally worried about the whole Santa thing. Nick Frost was excellent. Santa's inclusion was explained perfectly well within the narrative. If you are at the North Pole on Christmas day, he's sure to be in mind. The Elves provided a little bit of comic relief, but not much, and just dropped out of the plot once they'd done their bit of fooling about.
Some of the CGI left a bit to be desired. Compare the wonderful model work in the opening two episodes of Seeds of Doom with the first views of the base, and the reindeer worked okay flying about but not so much in the bucking-Rudolph scene.
Capaldi was on top form as usual. Only the Twelfth Doctor could get into an argument with Santa Claus. His obvious joy at flying the sleigh was great to see. It looked incongruous - whereas we wouldn't have batted an eyelid had this been Tennant or, especially, Smith. Hopefully we'll see a few more flashes of fun from him in Series 9 (though please don't drop the curmudgeonly Doctor altogether).

In the past, Steven Moffat has struggled with Christmas Specials. Either he nails Christmas, but forgets it's a Doctor Who story, or it is a Doctor Who story that clumsily shoehorns Christmas in.
This year he seems to have got the balance right - a scary story with creepy monsters, where the fact it is Christmas is intrinsic to the story. There was a little continuity to deal with - the Doctor and Clara revealing their respective lies, and Danny's farewell - but not enough to have alienated the casual viewer.
Overall, an enjoyable episode.
And what are we to think of that tangerine left on Clara's window-ledge? Might it be, just possibly, that Santa Claus really does exist? Or is that just a dream...?

Tuesday 23 December 2014

A Merry Christmas, One And All!

Next post is going to be my look at this year's Christmas Special - Last Christmas. No doubt forums will have already deconstructed it line by line and scene by scene, but I have managed to get away with knowing next to nothing about the story. Which is nice. I am going to take a leap, however, and say that I do expect that Clara really will go this time - mainly because of that title for the Series 9 opener - The Magician's Apprentice. Surely has to be a new companion introduction piece with a title like that.
I'm hoping to post on the night itself (no work this year for a change - hooray - and I promise to stay off the booze until after. Well, during... If it descends into incoherent ramblings you'll know which. What do you mean "how will we tell"?...).
Anywhos, for now let me take this opportunity to wish you all at home a very, very Merry Christmas.
Here's a reprise of a video I featured a couple of years ago at this time - a little remembrance of recent Christmases Past.

A K1 for Christmas - December's Figurines

If you are wondering why the Figurine Collection posts have been a bit tardy these last couple of months, it's because they have been going to another address and it takes time for me to arrange to collect them. The next batch - which includes D84 from Robots of Death - should hopefully come direct to my own address, so will feature on here pretty much as soon as I get them.
I knew about the Fifth Doctor and Ironside Dalek releases, but was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely K1 Giant Robot in the box as well - the latest of the occasional larger special releases.
I wasn't too happy with the photos that I had seen of the Davison figure - the face looking a bit too full. However, when you get to handle the thing and scrutinise it properly it is actually not that bad - especially in profile. The accompanying magazine has chosen to link this figure with the story Enlightenment - though the pose is probably the most neutral one you could get - simply standing with hands in pockets.
The Ironside was one of the few good things to come out of Victory of the Daleks. An adaptation of the earlier standard Bronze figurine (it also lacks the usual hexagonal base) we get the little covers over the lights, the khaki tool belt, and the Union Flag beneath the eye-stalk.
It is hard to go by the lists that found their way onto the internet when the releases first started - a few swaps having taken place and complete changes such as turning the Voc Robot into D84. However, there is a strong possibility that the next standard Dalek released (as opposed to the limited subscriber ones) will be a 1970's grey one.
The K1 is beautiful. Hard to go wrong with the sculpt for a robot, especially on this bigger scale. The last special was the Cyber-King, and whilst a perfectly good Cyber-King, it was not top of our wish list by any means - whereas this was.

Sunday 21 December 2014

TARDIS Travels No.2

Season One ended with the TARDIS dematerialising from the forest at the conclusion of The Reign of Terror - the Doctor telling his companions that their future lay in the stars...

Journey 009: France, July 1794, to England, 1964.
The location is somewhere on the south coast - as civil servant Arnold Farrow mentions his boat being moored nearby, and he is going to explore the waterways of France. For contemporary stories where the specific date isn't given a mention, let's assume the present day as the story was broadcast. Something goes wrong and the ship materialises only a couple of inches in height. It has landed in between garden paving stones. Have there been any unseen adventures between the seasons? Nothing on screen to suggest this, and the Doctor is wearing the cloak he had worn in the previous story in place of his usual coat.
The reason for the shrinkage is given as "space pressure". Susan says that the landing is one of the most dangerous times. The scanner blows out.

Journey 010: South coast of England, 1964, to London, c. 2174.
The ship materialises (silently again) under Hammersmith Bridge. (Actually filmed under Kew Railway Bridge, though to get any view of Battersea Power Station from the angle seen on screen they really ought to be in the vicinity of Grosvenor Bridge - the railway bridge that serves Victoria Station). The windows are open on landing - so the exterior shell doesn't necessarily impact on the interior - the control room does not have little windows in it after all. A calendar is found for the year 2164, but the plague bombs started to fall 10 years ago, and it is unlikely anyone was still producing calendars as the world's population died in their millions - so the year must be around 2174. (The production team obviously wanted it to be a nice round number of years in the future. Terry Nation actually favoured 2142 - making it an anniversary of the London Blitz).
The scanner wasn't working at the end of the previous story, and the Doctor says he still can't see where they are, suggesting no intervening stories.

Journey 011: Hammersmith, London, c. 2174, to Dido, 2493.
The TARDIS materialises in a cave in the mountains overlooking the settlement and the crashed spaceship from Earth. Vicki provides the date. It is unlikely such a small craft would travel very lengthy voyages. Despite what Susan said about the dangers in making a landing, the Doctor sleeps through this one. The ship can land on its own - only needing the Doctor to turn off the power. The Doctor doesn't just know about Dido, he recognises it and so must have been here before (see pre- Totters Lane adventures in the previous post).

Journey 012: Dido, 2493, to Latium, July 64 AD.
The ship materialises on a narrow ledge, then falls into a gully. The travellers base themselves nearby in a villa whose owner is away. Quite what the army of slaves who manage the estate think of this is conveniently glossed over. The villa is a good two day's walk from the city of Rome. We know the date from the inclusion of the Great Fire of Rome. (Of course, Nero was not actually in Rome when the fire started. He was criticised at the time for not rushing back to the city).

Journey 013: Latium, 64 AD, to the vicinity of Vortis, date unknown.
The ship dematerialises from its 45 degree angle. It seems to materialise in space above the planet then be drawn down by the influence of the Animus.
Journey 014: Vortis orbit to planet surface, date unknown.
Yes, two distinct materialisations occur at the start of The Web Planet. The Doctor clearly states that they have materialised for a split second before coming under the Animus' influence, but the ship is also then seen to materialise as normal on the planet's surface.
The TARDIS is later manhandled by the Zarbi into the Carzenome. It gets moved outside again at the conclusion of the story. (The Carzenome hasn't withered around it - the terrain is all wrong).
As well as being able to intercept the TARDIS in flight, the Animus is also able to drain power from the ship. This only affects certain systems, however, as lights and life support seem normal. Vicki restores the affected systems accidentally. The ship is impervious to the Animus' weapons, and the Zarbi are unable to enter it. The Doctor says the interior of his ship is "inviolable". (In later eras it will be like Liberty Hall). His signet ring can bypass the lack of power to the doors.

Journey 015: Vortis, date unknown, to Palestine, 1191.
A forest outside the city of Jaffa during the Third Crusade. The proposed peace treaty involving marrying Princess Joanna to Saladin's brother took place around October, 1191. The eventual treaty (1192) left Jerusalem in Islamic hands, but with concessions not to impede visits by Christian pilgrims.

Journey 016: Palestine, October 1191, to Xeros, date unknown.
The TARDIS initially lands ahead of itself - jumping a "time track" - so that it makes the same landing twice. The first time, the Doctor and his companions are insubstantial - not being seen by anyone or able to physically interact with anything. They become substantial when the ship makes the landing it ought to have made, an hour or so later. The Moroks move the ship closer to the entrance to their museum. In an alternate timeline, which is deleted, the ship ends up inside the museum as an exhibit.

Journey 017: Xeros, date unknown, to the Sagaro Desert on Aridius, date unknown.
The TARDIS becomes buried by a fierce sandstorm. The Daleks are able to locate it and force some Aridians to dig it out. Good news for the Doctor and co., but bad news for the Aridians who are promptly exterminated. The Doctor has a TARDIS Magnet which can locate the ship. (Later he will build this into a wristwatch, but it becomes a separate piece of equipment again during the Fifth Doctor's time).

Journey 018: Sagaro Desert on Aridius, date unknown, to Empire State Building, New York, 1966.
The TARDIS materialises briefly on the viewing platform at the top of the building. Tourist Morton Dill conveniently provides the date. Ian and Barbara could jump ship here - but naturally they are not going to desert their friends.

Journey 019: Empire Sate Building, New York, 1966, to the "Mary Celeste", Atlantic Ocean, 1872.
It is late November or very early in December, as the ship was discovered abandoned on 5th December. The location is around 600 miles west of Portugal.

Journey 020: "Mary Celeste", Atlantic Ocean, 1872, to Ghana, 1996.
A funfair "Frankenstein's House of Horrors" to be exact - part of the Festival of Ghana which has been cancelled due to international tensions. For a time, the Doctor believes they have actually materialised in some kind of Jungian "Collective Unconscious".

Journey 021: Ghana, 1996, to Mechanus, date unknown.
The Mechanoids arrived on Mechanus some 50 years previous to this story. The planned colonisation never happened because of a war that Earth became embroiled in. Steven Taylor has been captive here for two years, when the conflict was still going. Using hindsight we could postulate a series of conflicts - the Dalek or Cyber wars perhaps.

Journey 022: Mechanus, date unknown, to Northumbria, 1066.
The ship materialises on a rocky beach. The Doctor deduces the date to be late summer from the weather - "A balmy night...". The Battle of Stamford Bridge which preceded the Norman Invasion took place on 25th September, 1066. The TARDIS is unaffected by being submerged in the sea when the tide comes in. We discover that the TARDIS is not unique. By removing the dimension control, the interior of a TARDIS can be rendered the same size as the exterior shell.

Season Two ends with the TARDIS embarking on Journey 023...

Story 111 - Full Circle

In which the Doctor receives word that he must return Romana to Gallifrey. She ought to have gone home after the completion of the Key to Time mission. The Doctor sets the co-ordinates, but the TARDIS then passes through a CVE - Charged Vacuum Emboidment. This is a portal to another universe - in this case the pocket universe known as E-Space or Exospace. The Doctor is not aware of this initially, and the ship materialises at the programmed co-ordinates. Instead of the outer region of Gallifrey, however, they have arrived on the verdant planet Alzarius. The Doctor quickly realises what has happened. Alzarius is home to a colony of people from the planet Terradon, who live in and around their vast Starliner craft. They fear a time called "Mistfall" when the atmosphere becomes poisonous, and they have to retreat to the safety of the Starliner. The ship crash-landed here some time ago, and the people are preparing for the day when they can finally return to Terradon. Some of the younger members have rebelled against their society and live independently as Outlers. They are led by Varsh. His younger brother, Adric, wants to join. To prove himself, he agrees to steal some river-fruit. He is caught by one of the Deciders - Draith. Three Deciders lead the colony. "Mistfall" suddenly begins, and Adric sees Draith pulled under the water. His dying words are that Adric should inform scientist Dexeter that their people have gone "full circle". Draith  had earlier become concerned by some of Dexeter's findings - something he had found in some of the fruit.

As the people rush back to the Starliner before it is sealed, the Doctor and K9 witness reptilian bipedal creatures emerge from the marshes. Adric finds his way to the TARDIS. The Doctor decides to go to the Starliner. He breaks in, and is followed by an inquisitive young Marshman. Adric wants to find his brother and so Romana gives him a device that will locate the TARDIS again. Unable to go to the Starliner, Varsh decides that they must seize the TARDIS instead. The Marshmen manhandle the ship, with Romana and the Outlers still aboard, to the cave where the young people had been living. Their stock of river-fruit bursts open and large spiders emerge. One of these bites Romana. Both the Doctor and the Marshchild have been captured. The Doctor meets the Deciders - Nefred, Garif and Login. Login has just joined them - to  replace the missing Draith. Login's daughter is one of Varsh's group. The Marshchild has been given to Dexeter to experiment upon. It escapes and kills the scientist, before accidentally electrocuting itself. The Doctor is curious why the colonists continually repair and replace perfectly good components, and starts to wonder just how long the Starliner has been here. Adric manages to activate the TARDIS and it materialises in the Starliner. Infected by an alien poison, Romana leads the Marshmen on an attack on the vessel - helping them to break in. They seem to have a compulsion to get onboard.

The Doctor examines Dexeter's work and makes a remarkable discovery. The Terradonians, the spiders, and the Marshmen all share the same genetic code. He begins to see the meaning behind Draith's last words. He succeeds in formulating an antidote to counter Romana's infection. Pure oxygen is uncomfortable to the Marshmen and it is used to force them out of the ship. Varsh is killed during the fight, as is Nefred. The dying Decider informs his colleagues that they can never go home to Terradon, as they never came from there in the first place. The original crew died centuries ago, and ever since then evolution on Alzarius has gone round in circles. The reason that the Starliner is continually repaired is that the vital take-off instructions were destroyed. No-one knows how to begin the process. The Doctor shows Login and Garif how to do this. The Alzarians take off in search of Terradon, to hopefully settle there. The Doctor, Romana and K9 must try to find another CVE in order to escape back into their own universe. Adric has left them a present - an image translator which works with the negative co-ordinates in E-Space.

This four part adventure was written by Andrew Smith, and was broadcast between 25th October and 15th November, 1980.
Smith had submitted story ideas for the programme before, and had received some positive feedback from then script editor Anthony Read. Christopher Bidmead was impressed by Smith's latest idea - "The Planet That Slept" and invited him in for a meeting. He was surprised to find that the writer was still in his teens. He celebrated his 18th birthday on a visit to Black Park for the location shoot of his story.
Full Circle launches a three story arc - known as the E-Space Trilogy. This would see the writing out of Romana and of K9, and the introduction of a new companion. Adric was originally envisaged as a sort of "Artful Dodger" character - something which never really materialised on screen. He's a bit light-fingered only in his opening story.
The role went to Matthew Waterhouse, who was working as a clerk at the BBC at the time and who had very little acting experience. A lot of scurrilous things have been said about how he came to be cast, but he was auditioned by JNT, Barry Letts, and director Peter Grimwade, and all agreed he was the best person seen. We know of one other person who was auditioned - Bernard Padden. He was cast instead as Tylos, one of the Outlers. Waterhouse was a fan of the programme - even having a letter published in Doctor Who Weekly, written before the first issue had even been published. A lot of publicity at the time concentrated both on him and Andrew Smith - both young fans fulfilling their dream of working on the programme.
The story can be quite complex at times, as we are drip fed information about the nature of evolution on Alzarius, but there is also a traditional monster to keep younger viewers happy. The Marshmen are clearly inspired by The Creature From The Black Lagoon. There are also some impressive clockwork spiders.

The impressive cast includes George Baker as Login, Alan Rowe as Garif, and James Bree as Nefred. Bree had appeared as the Security Chief in The War Games, and this was Rowe's fourth - and final -appearance in the show. Varsh is played by Richard Willis. It's such a pity that the production team opted for the wrong brother... Willis, who had starred alongside Patrick Troughton in The Feathered Serpent, would be married to Kate (The Rani) O'Mara for a time. Draith is Leonard Maguire, and Dexeter is Tony Calvin.
Episode endings are:
  1. Hidden in the reeds, the Doctor and K9 see the Marshmen rising from the swamp...
  2. Romana picks up one of the river-fruit to defend herself against the spiders. The fruit bursts open and a spider leaps onto her face. She collapses to the ground...
  3. The infected Romana opens the Starliner doors and the Marshmen enter the vessel...
  4. K9 confirms that they are trapped in E-Space unless they can find another CVE...

Overall, a very good story with a lot of interesting science. There's a mystery about the life on Alzarius which we get to work out alongside the Doctor, rather than simply have him tell us what's going on. The first story of the season that really feels like a break from the previous regime. Even the title is a break with tradition. The JNT era will generally avoid the "Doctor Who and the Something of Something" type of title.
Things you might like to know:
  • E-Space is green.
  • Bizarrely, the TARDIS scanner shows what ought to be outside, rather than what is actually there. They see the outer wastes of Gallifrey, rather than the Alzarian forest. The scanner has always been a rather inconsistent device. For the most part, it seems that the camera is in the light on top of the Police Box shell. Note how the Doctor asks Susan to step back so he can see her better, at the conclusion of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In other stories - such as The Three Doctors, however, the scanner is able to show the ship's exterior as though the camera were a few feet away. in Colony In Space it was colour, yet on Spiridon it was black and white. (Maybe the Doctor swapped over as the licence was cheaper...). One day I'll have to do a whole post on this.
  • Adric's name was devised by Bidmead as an anagram of physicist P.A.M. Dirac, who in the 1930's predicted the existence of antimatter.
  • Andrew Smith went on to become a police officer. He is back writing again for Doctor Who - for the Big Finish range.
  • As well as reminding us of the Key to Time season, the conclusion of The Invasion of Time is also referenced when the Doctor talks about looking forward to seeing Leela and Andred again - and that K9 can meet his Mark 1 twin.
  • Gallifrey's binary co-ordinates are given as 10-0-11-00 by 02. This was previously established in Pyramids of Mars. This is also where the Missy Master tells the Twelfth Doctor that he can find Gallifrey in Death In Heaven, so she's claiming it was back where it started.

Thursday 18 December 2014


Dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... There has been a bit of a dearth of comments recently for this wee old blog of mine. Have you pudding brains nothing to say? Whenever I log on, I get to see all sorts of interesting statistics - such as which country is viewing the most (Hello USA!) and even which browser you are using (Firefox has overtaken Google). Some of you are actually Google+-ing my posts. I have no idea what this means but assume it is something nice.
Anywhos, next time you do choose to Google+, why not say why? Maybe there's something you totally disagree with, or have an alternative take on. Maybe there's something I've missed (Pah! A likely story...).
A very good friend of mine, the other day, in the pub, tried to push me towards Facebook. (He's just joined it - Mr Marcel Van Limbeek, sound engineer, Tori Amos and others. Did you know I once helped Tori Amos move house? True story).
I've always intended to make my fortune from developing an anti-social network, where people can go who want to be left alone and can ignore the rest of the cosmos - though by its very nature it would be a bit hard to market... Would being on Facebook make a difference? You tell me.
In the meantime, comments always welcome.

TARDIS Travels No.1

Before we begin our look at each of the TARDIS' on screen journeys through Space and Time, it might be useful to consider what we know of where it might have travelled before we first caught sight of it, sitting in a corner of I.M. Foreman's junkyard at 76 Totters Lane. How did it get there? Thanks to The Name of the Doctor, we know that the Doctor was already well into his first incarnation when he and Susan "stole" the ship from a repair bay in the Capitol on Gallifrey. It appears he was guided to that particular Type 40 time capsule by Clara Oswin, and that the ship itself deliberately allowed itself to be taken (The Doctor's Wife).
We know that the ship did not travel directly from Gallifrey to London, 1963, as a number of other journeys are mentioned very early on by the Doctor and Susan - which must pre-date Totters Lane, as they are obviously news to Ian and Barbara.
As the series has progressed, more and more unseen adventures get a mention. It is not always possible to deduce exactly when these took place. Only when a specific companion is mentioned as having been present can we be clear, or if a companion is the one telling a third party about it - e.g. Rose telling Mickey about Woman Wept in Boom Town. We know that the Doctor's unseen visit to Karfel was in his Third incarnation - thanks to someone having painted his portrait, and a locket with Jo Grant's picture in it. We assume that it was in his Fourth incarnation that he got drunk with Azmael on a previous visit to Jaconda if we take the Doctor's "couple of regenerations ago" literally - and, frankly, because it sounds a lot more like the Fourth Doctor than any other up to this point.
Between Gallifrey and Totters Lane, a handful of journeys are definitely known. The majority of these seem to have been to different periods of Earth's history.
Susan sees a mistake in a book about the French Revolution and this, along with the fact that it is supposed to be the Doctor's "favourite" period, implies they visited France at this time before Ian and Barbara were taken there. This might have been when the TARDIS disguised itself as a sedan chair. The Doctor met Pyrrho - founder of scepticism. Perhaps that was when the TARDIS appeared as an ionic column. (These disguises could equally have been entirely different visits). The Doctor and Susan also encountered Henry VIII, when the ship needed to be retrieved from the Tower of London. We also know that the Doctor and Susan experienced a Zeppelin air raid, and that the Doctor was with James Watt when he had his revelation about the potential of steam power. At some point, he was given an ulster coat by Gilbert and Sullivan.
When we get to that encounter between the Doctor and the Mountain Mauler of Montana, however, this could well be an unseen adventure post Totters Lane - as he is speaking to Vicki, and Ian and Barbara are not present to give us any clues one way or the other.
Of the few non-Earth destinations visited by the TARDIS prior to London, 1963, we have a trip to the planets Dido, Quinnis, and Esto. Susan claims to have seen the metal seas on Venus. A more recent mention of the early travels of the Doctor and Susan came in The Rings of Akhaten.
And so, onto the televised journeys of the TARDIS.

Journey 001: 76 Totters Lane, London, 1963, to an unknown location on Earth, c. 100,000 BC.
This dematerialisation is unlike any that will follow. From what we see on the scanner, the ship seems to take off vertically - the surrounding streets seen from above and diminishing. The ship will travel upwards only very occasionally in the future. The lights dim. Most significantly, the take-off seems distinctly uncomfortable for the Doctor and Susan - and renders Ian and Barbara temporarily unconscious.
The landing location is not known. (We are only taking the date from an alternative story title).
As well as the Chameleon Circuit breaking down, the Yearometer has also failed.
We now know that the reasons that the Doctor can't pilot the ship accurately are three-fold:
1. He doesn't fully understand it.
2. The TARDIS is nearing obsolescence and had been in for repairs when taken.
3. Sometimes the ship takes him where he needs to go, rather than where he wants to go.

Journey 002: Earth c. 100,000 BC to Skaro, date unknown.
The TARDIS materialises in the middle of the petrified forest on Skaro within seconds of leaving its last destination - the Doctor and his companions are practically still out of breath from fleeing the Tribe of Gum. The radiation meter takes its time to register, and only flashes. (There really ought to have been some audible alarm as well - maybe another technical failure).
The Doctor makes a number of excuses for not knowing where - or when - they are, and for being unable to get back to the London of 1963. Is there really no star chart / navigation system on board?

Journey 003: Skaro, date unknown, to location unknown - possibly the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago.
The stuck Fast Return switch has taken the TARDIS back towards the creation of a solar system. The date above refers to our own, if it was heading back to Earth, though the scanner implies that it is Skaro's system. Only a bright light can be seen from the TARDIS doors when they open.

Journey 004: Location unknown to the Himalayas, 1289.
On landing, the ship suffers a catastrophic power failure. Coveted by Marco Polo as a gift for Kublai Khan, the ship is manually transported across the Plateau of Pamir, the Gobi Desert, then through Tun-Huang, Sinju, Cheng-Ting and Shang-Tu to arrive in Peking.
When travelling across the desert, condensation forms inside the ship - so the systems do at least appear to be waterproofed.

Journey 005: Peking, 1289, to an island on Marinus, date unknown.
The TARDIS appears to materialise silently - something it will do occasionally throughout the Hartnell era. This is the first time we have not seen the ship arrive at its new destination at the end of the previous adventure - so scope for unseen adventures between? Unlikely, as Ian is still wearing the previous story's costume. Also, later on in The Sensorites, the Doctor and his companions will reminisce about their adventures so far and this implies no unseen stories at this point.

Journey 006: Marinus, date unknown, to Mexico, c. late 15th Century.
The TARDIS materialises in the tomb of Aztec High Priest Yetaxa. There is nothing to suggest that this is the Aztec capital - present day Mexico City - as there is no mention of any ruler. Montezuma or one of his fellow kings would surely have wanted to meet the reincarnation of Yetaxa.

Journey 007: Mexico, late 15th Century, to Earth spaceship in the vicinity of planet Sense-Sphere, 28th Century.
Another reason for believing that the Doctor and Susan have not done a huge amount of travelling, other than through Earth's history, is the puzzlement the Doctor experiences when arriving on Captain Maitland's spaceship. They have landed and yet are still moving. Seems to be the first materialisation on a spaceship.
Back on Skaro, Susan explained that the TARDIS lock had a defence mechanism, whereby if the key wasn't fitted exactly right, the lock would melt. The Sensorites simply remove the whole lock. When Ian suggest breaking the down the doors, the Doctor states that this would destroy the internal dimensions - maybe rendering the craft the same size inside as out, as will happen later on.

Journey 008: Earth spaceship (?), 28th Century, to France, July 1794.
The Doctor and his companions viewing the departure of Maitland's ship on the scanner does seem to imply that they are not actually on it themselves. Has the TARDIS possibly been manhandled down to the Sense-Sphere unseen? Maybe taken down to have the lock re-affixed.
The TARDIS materialises in a forest somewhere to the north of Paris (Stirling / Le Maître can take them part of the way on his route to the Channel - and Barbara conveniently points it out on a map). The date can be fixed from the inclusion of Robespierre's downfall in the story.

Season One ends with the TARDIS dematerialising from the French bois on journey 009 - but that's for next time...

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Story 110 - Meglos

In which the Doctor receives a request for help from an old friend. The message comes from Zastor, leader of the planet Tigella. The vegetation on this world is so hostile that the humanoid inhabitants are forced to dwell in an underground city. This is powered by the Dodecahedron - a mysterious device which fell from the skies centuries ago. It is starting to fail - and this is why Zastor has called upon the Doctor, who has visited Tigella before. Tigellan society is strictly delineated between the superstitious Deons - who worship the Dodecahedron and believe it was a gift from their god Ti; and the technological Savants, who believe only in science. Zastor's role is to mediate between the two opposing groups. Opposed to the Doctor's summoning is the Deon leader, Lexa.

A spaceship belonging to the mercenary Gaztaks lands on the neighbouring planet of Zolfa-Thura. This was once home to a powerful, war-like race which wiped itself out centuries ago. All that remains of their civilisation are the Screens - whose purpose is long forgotten. One last Zolfa-Thuran has survived, however - Meglos - and it has commissioned the Gaztak leader, General Grugger, to obtain a 6 foot tall humanoid and bring him to the planet. Meglos dwells in a control centre which is hidden beneath the Screens. It emerges from the sands. In their natural form Zolfa-Thurans resemble xerophytes, but have the ability to change their form provided they have a host to copy. Meglos informs Grugger and his lieutenant Brotadac that it intends to imitate the Doctor in order to retrieve the Dodecahedron from Tigella. The abducted humanoid - from 1980's Earth - will provide the general body form to copy. Meglos then puts the approaching TARDIS into a chronic hysteresis - a form of time-loop.

Meglos adopts the Doctor's likeness and it has Grugger transport it to Tigella. Meglos is able to shrink the huge Dodecahedron to small size in order to steal it. The Doctor and Romana manage to break out of the time loop by breaking the pattern of their repeated actions, and the TARDIS materialises on Tigella. As the city systems begin to break down, the Doctor finds himself accused of the crime. Romana is captured by the Gaztaks and forced to lead them to the city. One of the Savants - Caris - meets Meglos and realises he is an imposter when his skin reverts to its cactus-like appearance. Romana gets free of her captors after leading them into the midst of some carnivorous Bell-plants, and she manages to reach the city. She meets Caris, and they are just in time to prevent the Doctor from being sacrificed by Lexa in an attempt to appease Ti. Lexa is killed saving Romana during a Gaztak assault at the city entrance.

Grugger takes Meglos back to Zolfa-Thura. The Screens are actually part of an awesomely destructive weapon which is powered by the Dodecahedron. It will be used to destroy Tigella. The Doctor and Romana travel to the planet in the TARDIS, accompanied by Caris and a Savant colleague named Deedrix. The Doctor elects to impersonate Meglos to learn its plans. He succeeds in having Meglos imprisoned - as the Doctor - before being captured himself when seen wearing a coat the Meglos-Doctor had just given to Brotadac. K9 leads a rescue and Meglos flees back to is control centre. Before his capture, the Doctor had managed to sabotage the Screens - so that when they activate it will be Zolfa-Thura that will be destroyed. The Earthman has been freed, and everyone flees in the TARDIS back to Tigella as the Screens blow up - destroying Meglos and his Gaztak allies.

This four part adventure was written by John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch, and was broadcast between 27th September and 18th October, 1980. The writers are still today better known as character actors. Whilst script editor Christopher H Bidmead was happy with the story, producer JNT was not. It does seem to be a throwback to an earlier era. It would certainly fit quite comfortably in the previous season. The idea of a society split between religion / superstition and science / reason is not a new one - even for Doctor Who. The story struggles to fill four episodes. The reprise at the start of part four is quite lengthy - always a sign of an under-running script. The Doctor and Romana are stuck in the TARDIS for the whole of the opening episode, and much of part two. The manner by which they break free of the time loop is ridiculously simple - acting out the events within the loop to break it.
Meglos is also let down by its casting, and some of the visual elements. The Quantel VFX system is again put to good use, and a new system called Scene Sync is employed to provide moving CSO shots, but Tigella is clearly dangling above Zolfa-Thura on wires at one point, and the studio jungle is overly lit and never convinces. The Tigellans are too simplistically sketched in. Grugger (veteran actor Bill Fraser) is lumbered with a stupid costume and blatantly false beard. His performance suggests someone who doesn't really know what he is doing - or cares very much about it. He certainly doesn't convince as a ruthless pirate warlord.

The story's biggest (actually only) significance is in bringing back original cast member Jacqueline Hill. Rather than reprise former companion Barbara Wright, she plays Lexa. She does okay with a thankless role. Lexa's sudden self-sacrifice to save Romana is badly shot / edited - it is almost missed - and just comes out of nowhere. Edward Underdown, as Zastor, gives a very weak performance - but this can mostly be put down to his failing health. One of the better performances comes from Freddie Treves as Brotadac. He just seems to be enjoying himself and relishing the part. Caris is Colette Gleeson, and Deedrix is Crawford Logan. The Earthman, who gives the impression of having wandered in from a sit-com in a neighbouring studio, is played by Christopher Owen.
Episode endings are:
  1. Grugger and Brotadac are amazed to see that Meglos has transformed itself to look exactly like the Doctor...
  2. Romana is captured by the Gaztaks, and Brotadac orders her killed as she has seen too much...
  3. The Doctor is tied to an altar with a massive boulder suspended above him. The ropes holding it up are burned away one by one...
  4. The Tigellans will need to start reclaiming the surface of their planet. The Doctor offers to get the Earthman back home before he left...

Overall, a largely forgettable story - the weakest of the season. At least Tom Baker gets to play a nasty doppelgänger. The cactus make up is very effective - except when Tom's wrists show. For all its faults, the story does feature one of the best lines in all of Doctor Who - Zastor describing the Doctor thus: "Some fifty years ago I knew a man who solved the insoluble by the strangest means. He sees the threads that join the universe together and mends them when they break".
Things you might like to know:
  • Meglos' voice is provided by Deedrix actor Crawford Logan, uncredited. 
  • It was claimed in the press that Bill Fraser only accepted his role if he got to kick K9 - which he does indeed get to do.
  • The story appears to pick up immediately after the events of the previous story - with K9 being repaired after blowing up on Brighton beach.
  • At one point the Doctor states that he wasn't allowed to see the Dodecahedron on his previous visit, yet later says he remembers seeing it.
  • It is highly unlikely that the Gaztaks are time travellers - so this story must be set in 1980 from whence the Earthman has been abducted.
  • Why go to all the bother of getting someone from Earth? Surely there are humanoids much closer to hand - the Tigellans for instance, or even one of the Gaztaks themselves.
  • The writers were worried that Freddie Treves might take offence when he realised his character's name was an anagram of "bad actor".
  • Brotadac covets the coat worn by Meglos as the Doctor - hoping he will get it when he "stops playing the Doctor". Ironic, considering what was soon to happen...
  • I'd be quite happy with Brotadac's own coat - its the one worn by Peter Halliday when he played Pletrac in Carnival of Monsters.
  • Flanagan and McCulloch submitted one other storyline to the programme which nearly became Peter Davison's first outing - "Project Zeta-Sigma".
  • Gareth Roberts originally planned for Meglos to return as the protagonist in Series 5's The Lodger. One reason for the change was that the cactus-like Vinvocci had just been seen a few months before in The End of Time.
  • Thanks be to Ti!