Thursday 26 February 2015

February's Figurines

The latest pair of Eaglemoss figurines have been released, and both just happen to come from the most recent season.
Alongside the 12th Doctor himself, we have the Half-Face Man from the opening story, Deep Breath. Considering the scale of these figures, the Capaldi resemblance is quite good, though I do think his hair is a bit too white. The story used to illustrate this figure in the accompanying magazine is Flatline. (You can make your own "Boneless" figurine by getting a photo out of DWM, cutting it out, and sticking it on a base. I have made my own Visian and Refusian as well by the way, though both do look a bit dull, being empty bases. I have to pick them up and look at the label underneath to remember which is which...).
The Doctor is wearing his white shirt version of the costume. The magazine reveals that the spangly jumper which Capaldi often wears is actually the actor's own. It may be designer (Paul Smith) but I wouldn't be seen dead in a pullover like that.
Of the 13 Doctor figures available, 7 have now been released - including all of the post 2005 ones. Wouldn't it be lovely if they also did a Peter Cushing one? (We know there is a movie Dalek due, though they are putting this down to its appearance in the background of The Chase).
The Half-Face Man has a great deal of detail in the costume. The accompanying magazine has a feature on how the effects for the character were achieved - the combination of prosthetics and CGI.
We should have also received the special base unit for the 6 special release Daleks with these figurines, but a note in the box explains that this has been delayed until next month - when we will also be getting a rather snazzy looking Terrileptil.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

TARDIS Travels No.15

Season 15, and we have entered the Graham Williams era. One of the first things he did was to get rid of the wood panelled control room of the previous season.

Journey 129: London, 1890's, to Fang Rock, south coast of England, early 20th Century.
The TARDIS goes off course, geographically and temporally - missing the opening of the Brighton Pavilion. The Doctor claims that it got lost in the fog, and implies the ship "sees" where it is going for at least part of the journey. Might be why it didn't squish the Brigadier at the end of Colony In Space. It is the Edwardian era, the first decade of the 20th Century.

Journey 130: Fang Rock, early 20th Century, to Titan, c.5000 AD.
The TARDIS often seems to spend part of its journeys travelling through normal space. This is the case here, as it picks up both a distress call from the base on Saturn's moon Titan, and an unwelcome passenger in the form of the Nucleus of the Swarm. The ship passes through a cloud in space and the virus enters the Doctor through the control console.
A new version of the "futuristic" white control room is seen. The ship did the redecoration itself. The Doctor explains that it is the time of the "Great Breakout" - when there was a rapid surge in human colonisation of other worlds - probably as a consequence of the conflicts on Earth mentioned in The Talons of Weng-Chiang and / or the glacial period in The Ice Warriors.

Journey 131: Titan, 5000, to Bi-Al Foundation, 5000.
In order to be treated for his infection by the Nucleus, the Doctor has Leela pilot the ship to the medical facility built into the asteroid K4067. The Foundation's proper name is the Centre for Alien Biomorphology. The Doctor gives the course heading WHI 1212 9990 Ex 41. Any fan of old British thrillers will know that the first part of this is the telephone number for Scotland Yard (Whitehall 1212), followed by the current 999 number plus an extraneous nought. I wonder who was at Extension 41?  Gideon or Fabian perhaps? Tom Baker used to claim he used the Doctor Who production office number and extension at TV Centre for this sort of thing.
The ship's relative dimensional stabiliser can be removed and proves compatible with the human technology of this era. It is employed to shrink the clones of the Doctor and Leela.

Journey 132: Bi-Al Foundation, 5000, to Titan, 5000.
The TARDIS returns to Titan Base so that the Nucleus can be prevented from spawning. It materialises in a different part of the base. The ship seems to know the bad guys are congregating in the corridor where it materialised before.

Journey 133: Titan, 5000, to Bi-Al Foundation, 5000.
And back again, mission accomplished. The Doctor almost dematerialised without Leela and K9, and with the end of his scarf stuck in the door. He must have had to spin like a top to get to the console without throttling himself.

Journey 134: Bi-Al Foundation, 5000, to Fetchborough, England, 1977.
The TARDIS is drawn off course by the influence of the Time Scanner being operated by Professor Fendleman. It materialises in the middle of a herd of cows. There is a time fissure in the area. These are obviously much smaller and of less concern than time rifts, like the one in Cardiff.

Journey 135: Fetchborough, 1977, to location of Fifth Planet, 1977.
The Doctor and Leela travel to where the fifth planet of the Solar System used to be. This is where the Fendahl evolved. They find that it has been destroyed and the remains placed in a time loop by the Time Lords. Like E-Space, time loops are green...

Journey 136: Location of Fifth Planet, 1977, to Fetchborough, 1977.
The TARDIS returns to the Fetchborough area where the Doctor can try to destroy the Fendahl.

Journey 137: Fetchborough, 1977, to Pluto, far future.
The TARDIS materialises on the roof of Megropolis One. This is one of a number of huge cities on a terraformed Pluto, now home to the human race. The planet is ringed with artificial suns. Everyone runs from the tax man - until the Doctor incites a revolution. Before the Gatherer fell - quite literally - none of the workers were allowed up on this roof, though parking spaces were available...

Journey 138: Pluto, far future, to unknown region of space, date unknown.
The TARDIS has materialised in space, in a region where new planets are forming. It is described as the "edge of space". (Probably the outer rim of a galaxy rather than the boundary of the universe). K9 identifies that there is a vessel nearby.

Journey 139: Unknown region of space, to Minyan spaceship R1C, date unknown.
The TARDIS materialises on the vessel which K9 had spotted. The Minyans recognise the materialisation sound - identified as caused by the relative dimensional stabiliser. (See above. A later story will assert that this is due to the Doctor leaving the hand brake on. If so, all the rogue Time Lords have the same bad habit...). This is because they were visited by the Time Lords in the distant past. The TARDIS provides extra power, via K9, to the spaceship in order to escape from the planetoid which has formed around the other Minyan ship - the P7E - after the R1C crash lands on it and sinks beneath its soft surface.

Journey 140: Minyan spaceship R1C, date unknown, to Vardan spaceship, date unknown.
The Doctor arranges a rendezvous with a Vardan spaceship in deep space. Leela is left in the dark (quite literally - the lights in the control room are dimmed) as to what the Doctor is up to.
Some time must have elapsed since leaving the Minyan craft, for the Doctor to have been contacted and recruited by the Vardans. No doubt Big Finish will place dozens of audios here, including one in which Leela reveals that her people go through some kind of Pon Far where they are biologically compelled to mate with the first person they meet whose name begins with 'A'. Lucky the Vardans didn't want to invade Peladon. Or Clom...

Journey 141: Vardan spaceship, date unknown, to Gallifrey, date unknown.
See TARDIS Travels No.14 for a note about GMT (that's Gallifreyan Mean Time). The ship materialises in the middle of what looks to be the Panopticon. There may be more than one assembly chamber like this in the Capitol, as the ship isn't seen when the Doctor is invested as President of the High Council, or when the Sontarans later turn up.
We see a whole lot of the TARDIS interior - a number of corridors as well as store rooms (all identical), an infirmary, a workshop, a greenhouse, a bathroom, and the subsidiary power room which has been set out as an art gallery. The art works aren't the real thing - just holographic copies. Very few distinctive roundels on show around the place. Looks more like a disused Victorian mental hospital...
Leela suddenly decides to stay and get married, and K9 elects to join her, but don't worry - the Doctor's got a spare. (K9 that is. Leelas are unique).
Season 15 draws to a close...

Sunday 22 February 2015

Story 118 - Kinda

In which the Doctor and his companions spend some time on the verdant world of Deva Loka whilst Nyssa recuperates from the effects of the robotising machine on the Urbankan spaceship. She rests in the TARDIS whilst the others explore. In a glade they come across a set of wind chimes, so realise that there is - or has been - some advanced form of life here. Tegan lies down and falls asleep, whilst the Doctor and Adric encounter an armoured vehicle which forces them to go with it. They are taken to a dome which has been set up by an expeditionary force, come to check the planet for colonisation potential. Commander Sanders has designated this world "S14". After three of the crew have gone missing, the security officer - Hindle - has insisted on taking hostages from the local population. Science Officer Todd is against this, as the Kinda are a gentle, peace-loving people. The Doctor can see that Hindle, constantly bullied and mocked by his commander, is close to breaking point. Sanders decides to go on a reconnaissance mission alone, using the armoured unit that had brought the Doctor and Adric here - the TSS (Total Survival Suit). As security officer, Hindle is left in charge. Todd explains that the Kinda are mute and seem to have telepathic abilities. They were once a highly technical civilisation, and she shows the Doctor an emblem they wear which is exactly like the DNA double helix. Hindle discovers that the two hostages respond to him when he catches their reflection in his hand mirror. He finds that they obey his orders. As his mental health deteriorates, he takes over the dome and begins to plan a campaign against an imagined enemy. The Doctor and Todd are locked up, but Adric humours Hindle and is permitted to remain at large.

Tegan, meanwhile, is still asleep and has found herself in a nightmare black void. There are three figures present, an old couple and a young man who starts to torment her. Sanders comes upon a wooden box lying on the path, left by a Kinda girl named Karuna. Opening it, it has a strange influence on him. He returns to the dome where it is found that he seems quite childlike now. Hindle wants to know what is in the box, and forces the Doctor and Todd to open it. A jack-in-the-box figurine leaps out, but then some force begins to affect the dome's power. The Doctor deduces that it must emit some high frequency sound. He and Todd are able to escape and meet Karuna who takes them to a cave to meet an old wise woman, Panna. Both of them can speak. From her they learn of an ancient evil force called the Mara that once brought destruction to the Kinda - and will do so again. She reveals this in a vision which the Doctor and Hindle can share. Panna dies, but her consciousness merges with Karuna's. In her nightmare world, to save her sanity, Tegan relents and allows the young man to hold her hand. A snake tattoo on his arm comes to life momentarily and glides onto her arm. Tegan wakes in the glade, now possessed by the Mara.

She encounters a young Kinda male named Aris. His brother is one the hostages in the dome. The Mara transfers itself to him, as it needs him to influence the tribe. He also gains a voice. He starts to incite the Kinda against the colonists. He builds a mock up of the TSS out of branches, to mimic them and show that he has as much power as they. Adric escapes from the dome in the real TSS but finds he cannot control it. It ploughs into the assembled Kinda, causing them to run in panic. The Doctor and Todd return to the dome with Adric and Tegan and find Hindle has set up explosive charges. In his madness, he plans to destroy the whole area. Todd tricks him into opening the wooden box. It is really a Kinda healing device. His mind is cleared. Realising that evil can never face itself, the Doctor arranges for Aris to be surrounded by huge reflective panels. The snake tattoo on his arm slides off and begins to grow into a gigantic physical serpent. Trapped in the circle of mirrors, it is destroyed - sent back to the black void. Tegan's sleeping in the glade alone had given it a chance to return to the real world. Sanders and Hindle are both cured, and Sanders even contemplates settling down on Deva Loka. The planet will not be recommended for colonisation. Back at the TARDIS, Nyssa has recovered, and the time-travellers depart.

This four part story was written by Christopher Bailey, and was broadcast between 1st and 9th February, 1982.
Kinda is quite unlike any story which Doctor Who had previously attempted. The closest parallel might be Planet of the Spiders, but only in terms of the influences on both stories. Whilst a big monster does turn up in the closing section, all of the threats up to this point are psychological. We have Hindle's mental breakdown, and Tegan being driven insane in a nightmare world in her own head. The Mara is simply evil, which gets personified in the giant snake. Visually, a strong influence is the biblical Garden of Eden - the lush green planet, a serpent, and Tegan tempting Aris from a tree (dropping an apple on him just to ram this imagery home). Underlying all of this, in the detail, are Buddhist concepts. There is the wheel of life, and reincarnation. Not immediately evident to most viewers at the time are many of the names deriving from Buddhism. The healing device is called the Box of Jhana (meditation). Panna is wisdom, Karuna compassion. The three nightmare figures are named after states of being - Anicca (otherness), Anatta (impermanence) and Dukkha (suffering). The latter is the young tormentor. Mara derives from a demon.
We also have some psychoanalysis in the mix with the shared dreaming of the Kinda (after Jung).
Another influence is obviously the impact of colonialism on indigenous populations and their cultures. The uniform includes pith helmets - practically a visual shorthand for British Imperialism. Richard Todd was famous for stiff upper lip colonial type roles in the fifties. His name even hints at Sanders of the River.
And does the name Deva Loka derive from Vida Loca (mad or crazy life)? Makes more sense in a way than the actual 'realm of the gods'.
Bailey was a lecturer based in Brighton. Due to his keeping a low profile regarding interviews and so forth, a rumour sprang up that he didn't actually exist - very in keeping with some of the themes in his scripts. It was believed that the name was a nom de plume for someone else - possibly someone quite famous. Playwright Tom Stoppard had intimated in an interview that he had written something for a popular TV show under another name at just this time, but did not say what - so some thought him to be the mysterious Mr Bailey. Bizarrely, another suspect was pop star Kate Bush.

There is a very impressive cast on view. Todd is Nerys Hughes - best known for The Liver Birds and then District Nurse. She has since been seen as Rhys' mum in a Torchwood Series 2 episode (Something Borrowed). Sanders is the well known movie star Richard Todd - Guy Gibson in The Dambusters is probably his most famous role. Simon Rouse plays Hindle. His best known work will start soon after this - a long running role in The Bill. His co-star in that, Jeffrey Stewart, is Dukkha. Someone else who would soon find popular fame is Anna Wing (one of the original Eastenders cast). She is Anatta. Panna is Mary Morris, in one of her last screen roles. Aris is Adrian Mills - best known for being one of the co-presenters on That's Life (a series almost as bizarre as Kinda. Imagine consumer affairs show Watchdog, but with talking dogs, boy scouts trying to eat their lunch on roller-coasters, and vegetables shaped like genitalia...).
Episode endings are:
  1. Hindle appears with the two hostages - now armed and dressed in uniforms. He announces to the Doctor and Todd that he is in command now, and has the power of life and death over them...
  2. Todd screams as the Doctor opens the Box of Jhana...
  3. The Doctor needs Panna's help if he is to defeat the Mara and stop the Kinda attacking the dome. She is dead, however...
  4. With Nyssa well again, the TARDIS crew depart...

Overall, an interesting story that benefits from repeated viewings. A lot of the depth was lost to viewers on its initial screening. The planet is obviously all studio-bound, but somehow this unreal look almost becomes part of the story. The big pink snake at the end is the only obvious misjudgement. 
Things you might like to know:
  • Yes, that snake. The one big let down of the whole production. I do not know your views on the use of CGI enhancements on some of the DVD releases. Some purists won't touch them, but I am really not going to inflict the hub-cap Dalek saucer dangling in front of a photo of the Houses of Parliament on myself when I can see instead a natty TV Century 21 style version. If you have the Kinda DVD, for goodness sake switch on the CGI option for a far more satisfying Mara manifestation.
  • Back in 1982 fans were not enamoured of this story. The DWM season poll had it in last place, though they rated Simon Rouse and Nerys Hughes. In the most recent poll (for the 50th Anniversary) Kinda is the second most popular story of this season - in 63rd position overall, out of 241.
  • Amongst the Kinda extras is a very young Johnny Lee Miller - best known these days for that other Sherlock Holmes inspired programme.
  • Nyssa sits this story out, but Sarah Sutton was still under contract so appears at the start and finish on the story. There were back stage wrangles with her creator, Johnny Byrne, regarding her becoming a full time companion. Most companions were created jointly by the producer and script editor of the day, with a writer being asked to then introduce them. Nyssa was different - being a character for a one off story who it was then decided should stay on. Byrne got a few £s for every subsequent episode she appeared in.
  • Notoriously, Matthew Waterhouse gave veteran screen star Richard Todd some acting tips during the recording of this story. This has often appeared as one of the chief pieces of evidence for the prosecution case against him. As he tells it, Todd said that he hadn't a lot of specifically TV studio experience, and so this is why he shoved his groat's worth in.
  • One thing that is never resolved is: just what did happen to the three missing crew members? No explanation is given. Did they just wander off into the jungle after opening the Box of Jhana, or did the Mara get them? Were they the three tormentors in Tegan's nightmare. A popular school of thought has it that these three are actually representative of her travelling companions. The old couple are playing draughts - as Nyssa and Adric had been as the story opens. That would make chief tormentor Dukkha the Doctor. It has been proposed that the metal structure - the only other thing in this void - represents the TARDIS.
  • Talking of the TARDIS, this is the only Davison story not to feature the control room set.
  • As well as returning for a rematch in the next season (and the inevitable BF audio) the Mara have been name checked in Torchwood - as being possible relatives to the faerie creatures in the PJ Hammond story Small Worlds.
  • I've just realised that I have managed to go this whole post without making any jokes about toy-filled chocolate eggs. Now that is a surprise.
  • D'oh!

Tuesday 17 February 2015

TARDIS Travels No.14

Season Fourteen opens with a couple of significant changes as far as the TARDIS is concerned. First, we have a new Police Box shell, after the old one collapsed during the end sequence for Seeds of Doom. We then have the Doctor and Sarah exploring the ship's corridors - coming across the spacious boot cupboard and then the new (or is it old?) wood panelled control room.
The implication is that it was an earlier room used by the Doctor, though he revisited it, unseen, in his second and third incarnations. The Doctor can pilot the ship just as easily from here, and so reconfigures the internal layout of the TARDIS (or its exterior shell) so that the main doors now lead in and out of it.

Journey 120: Antarctica, date unknown (?), to the Mandragora Helix, late 15th Century.
The ship materialises at the heart of the sentient energy helix, where there is air and a surface to walk upon. It has been drawn there deliberately. A fragment of helix energy sneaks aboard. We aren't able to tell if any journeys took place between this and the trip to Antarctica (and if there were some, how many), and so can't say if Sarah ever did get to see Cassiopeia.

Journey 121: Mandragora Helix to San Martino, late 15th Century.
The Mandragora Helix causes the TARDIS to land in this small Italian dukedom. It is the 1470's approximately, when Leonardo Da Vinci was in Milan. The helix energy ball is able to open the TARDIS doors after secreting itself inside during the journey. (Of course, Italy won't actually exist until the second half of the 19th Century, thanks to Garibaldi. Other biscuits are available).

Journey 122: San Martino, 15th Century, to England, 1976.
The TARDIS mistakes an English quarry for an alien planet... The Doctor might also be confused, and so misses the fact that the workmen are about to blast. The quarry is near somewhere called Nunton where there is a nuclear power station. Not a renamed Nuton, as some have suggested (as with Sellafield / Windscale). This is clearly not anywhere near the beautifully bleak Dungeness.

Journey 123: England, 1976, to Kastria, 1976.
The Doctor agrees to take the Kastrian Eldrad back home, and in the present day only - so it is the same date as it was on Earth. After the regenerated Eldrad has taken a tumble (quite liked her, hated him), the Doctor finds that the extreme cold has affected some of the TARDIS systems. First mention of the ship being in a state of temporal grace when in flight. Subsequently revealed to be a bit of a fib. Sarah declares that she's fed up and wants to go home - which just happens to coincide with the Doctor getting a call from Gallifrey...

Journey 124: Kastria, 1976, to Aberdeen, Scotland, 1976.
Yes, we had to wait quite a few years to find out where he had actually dropped her off. Not Hillview Crescent, Croydon, at all. I hope there was some residual telepathic translation field business still going on. Even I struggle with the Aberdonian accent. See if there is any 1970's Beechgrove Garden on You Tube if you want to see what I mean.

Journey 125: Aberdeen, 1976, to Gallifrey, date... difficult.
It is one of the great debates. Just when is Gallifrey? It often seems to mirror events on present day Earth, but some folk believe it is in the ancient past, or the far future. There was even a school of thought that said it was a future Earth, and the Time Lords are our super-evolved future descendants. That was before the new series came along.
The TARDIS is identified as a Type 40 TT (time travel) capsule and now quite obsolete. It has a trimonic lock, and the Chancellery Guards have a key that fits it. It doesn't appear to be registered in the data-banks, but then again the Master and Goth have done a lot of tampering with records (to the extent that the Time Lords don't even seem to know who the Master is).
The Doctor has visited a "cash & carry" in Constantinople at some point.

"Look behind you!!!"
Chancellor Goth - maybe the person we saw at the Second Doctor's hearing - has the ship transposed to the museum in the Capitol. One wonders what the Gallifreyan public would have made of it. Their very own Doctor Who Experience. Interestingly, the current set up for the Experience just happens to be based around the Time Lords' museum.
The Master's TARDIS is disguised as a grandfather clock, also tucked away in the museum.

Journey 126: Gallifrey, date unknown, to unnamed planet, far future.
As mentioned two seasons ago, a common theory for when the Fourth Doctor messed about with the computer Xoanon is a brief interlude during his convalescence after the last regeneration. He sneaked off from UNIT HQ's sickbay and did it. There are two other possibilities. (Three, if you count the insane one that posits that every time he regenerates, all his previous incarnations change to look like the current version).
First is that he went to this planet with Sarah during Season Thirteen, or between that season and the start of this. Just because he doesn't mention her presence, doesn't mean she wasn't there.
Second theory is that there are lots of adventures with a solo Doctor after that trip back to Gallifrey.
My own pet theory is that he visited this planet immediately before this story starts, and the process of fixing Xoanon wiped his memory of it. The TARDIS has brought him straight to the future to sort things out. Remember how the ship arrived back on The Ark 700 years later? This is why he has that knot in his hankie. He did the sidelian memory transfer on Xoanon. It scrambled his own brains a bit in the process. He staggers back to the TARDIS and does the hankie knot then collapses. The ship goes forward in time so that he can fix the consequences of his actions. That he was aiming for Hyde Park is just a scrambled memory from before he arrived on this planet the first time.
The planet is not named but we do know that Leela's people originated on Earth. Another pet theory of mine is that Mordee is the name of this planet. If you mount an expedition to Everest, you call it the Everest Expedition, don't you? So the Mordee Expedition is going to...
Anyway, despite the ship supposedly having isomorphic controls, Leela is able to work them - and get them right first time. No getting sucked out into the Vortex for her...

Journey 127: Unknown planet, far future, to similar.
The TARDIS materialises in an ore collection scoop that has been set up on a desert world. The crew of the Sandminer which is scouring the planet for minerals have it transported aboard. These craft are also known as Storm Mines. They are basically like gigantic vacuum cleaners set on blow, and push the stuff they want to harvest into these scoops at high speed.
There's no transmat technology on view, and we do see a big mechanical grab (like the ones that always just fail to nab the thing you're after in amusement arcades), so the Sandminer must park up alongside the scoop for the TARDIS and its occupants to be transferred. Must be a tricky procedure, as when they stop they normally sink...
Assuming that Uvanov and his crew are descended from Earth colonists, we are back in the future. Kaldor City gets mentioned, but it is not clear if this is elsewhere on this planet, or somewhere else entirely.

Journey 128: Unnamed planet, far future, to London, 1890's.
The TARDIS materialises in a fog-shrouded alleyway on the banks of the Thames. Victoria is on the throne, and it is after Jack The Ripper's reign of terror - so the final decade of the 19th Century. Limehouse seems to be not far distant, yet the Palace Theatre is supposed to be built over the course of the River Fleet, which went no further east than Blackfriars. Jago might just be talking superfluorescent salubrious spheroids, but the Doctor seems to agree with him. Let's just say that Robert Holmes concentrated on atmosphere and multitudinous popular period references, and did not bother to check the geography too closely.
Here endeth Season Fourteen.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Story 117 - Four To Doomsday

In which the Doctor is attempting to take Tegan to Heathrow Airport, in order for her to commence her job, when the TARDIS gets drawn off course. It materialises in a vast spaceship, which at first appears to be empty. There is no oxygen, and the Doctor must don a special breathing helmet to explore. He discovers that he is being watched by spherical monitoring devices. His companions join him, and they find that the room they have landed in contains lots of advanced equipment - some sort of laboratory. The Doctor and Tegan explore further and soon come across the masters of this vessel. They are toad-like creatures called Urbankans. Their leader is Monarch, and with him are his two ministers - Persuasion and Enlightenment. Monarch explains that they are on their way to Earth where they hope to settle peacefully. There are millions of Urbankans elsewhere on the ship. He is keen to know what current Earth customs are like, and has Tegan draw a man and woman to illustrate fashions. Meanwhile, Adric and Nyssa have encountered a man named Bigon, who claims to have come from the Athens of classical times. When the Doctor and Tegan rejoin their colleagues in a room that has been set aside for them, supplied with oxygen, Bigon explains that the Urbankans have been visiting Earth for centuries - each trip taking half as long as the previous one. Each time they have come, they have taken representative humans away with them. As well as Bigon and some of his peers, there are people from Imperial China, prehistoric Australia, and the Mayan civilisation. Persuasion and Enlightenment join them - and they now look exactly like the man and woman who were in Tegan's sketch...

The Doctor quickly deduces that there is some threat here, which Bigon is keen to warn him about, but they are constantly being monitored by the spherical surveillance devices - Monopticons. He is able to use his sonic screwdriver to disable them. The reason that the human occupants of the ship are so long-lived is that they are actually androids - programmed with the memories and personalities of the original individuals. Urbankans are also now robotic constructs. Apart from Monarch and his ministers, all the rest of the species exist as circuits stored in the ship. When Adric and Nyssa meet Monarch, he reveals that it his intention to turn the whole of the human race into androids. They will therefore never fear illness, fear or death. Adric seems to agree with his aims, but Nyssa is appalled. Monarch orders that she be turned into an android duplicate. Bigon is showing the Doctor round the ship and they come upon the conversion laboratory just in time to rescue her. She saves the Doctor from execution by disabling the android executioners. Monarch is interested in getting his hands on the TARDIS after Adric tells him of its capabilities. He wants to travel faster than light in order to go back in time to the birth of the Universe and meet its creator - who he believes will be himself. For helping the Doctor, Bigon has his circuits removed.

Tegan returns to the TARDIS and, in a blind panic, tries to dematerialise. She eventually succeeds, but the ship rematerialises in space a few hundred feet away. The Doctor is able to convince the leaders of the different ethnic groups that Monarch will never allow them to rule these groups once they reach Earth. Lin Futu, leader of the Chinese group, agrees to reinstate Bigon's circuits. Bigon informs the Doctor of a way to make the more basic androids break down, then the Doctor makes a spacewalk to retrieve the TARDIS. He achieves this by bouncing a cricket ball off the spaceship hull and letting the momentum carry him to his own ship. Both Persuasion and Enlightenment are deactivated. Monarch has a deadly poison which he has been developing, which can reduce a person to the size of a grain of rice. The Doctor secures a sample and uses it against him. It transpires that Monarch had never fully converted to android status, and is shrunk by the toxin. Bigon and the other android humans decide to seek a new home on some other world. Back in the TARDIS, Nyssa suddenly collapses from the effects of the android replication machine she had earlier been put in...

This four part adventure was written by Terence Dudley, and was broadcast between the 18th and 26th of January, 1982. It was actually the first story which Peter Davison recorded as the Doctor, and was script edited by Anthony Root - the only story he really had much input with, as he was only in post for three months and was quickly joined by full-time replacement Eric Saward.
The programme's production schedules had changed to accommodate Davison, as he had commitments to two sit-coms at the time (Holding the Fort - rubbish - and Sink or Swim - not bad).
Four To Doomsday is an odd story, in that it just doesn't seem to sit quite right in this era of the series. The more you look at it, the more it seems to be a throwback to an earlier phase of the programme - and you could quite see Troughton or, better still, Hartnell, turning up here. Dudley obviously hadn't been paying the series that much attention since the 1960's. The idea of an entire population being held in filing cabinet drawers immediately reminds you of 1966's The Ark. And the following year's The Faceless Ones. There is even the early Hartnell era's insistence on teaching us something about the historical ethnic groupings - though it is more through having to sit through the interminable "recreationals" than someone reeling off facts. These recreationals are either dances or gladiatorial games.
There is a very impressive cast assembled, one of whom is woefully underused. Stand up Burt Kwouk. Best known internationally as Inspector Clouseau's ninja manservant, Kato in The Pink Panther franchise, in the UK he is best remembered for Tenko and Last of the Summer Wine, and (certainly for me) The Harry Hill Show. [The latter had a number of Doctor Who references, including Nicholas Courtney appearing as the Brigadier. He is about to welcome the former Foreign Office junior minister Clare Short as the new Doctor, when a clumsy Earthshock type Cyberman knocks the glass presentation bowl from his hands]. Kwouk is Lin Futu, in case you were wondering. Bigon is played by Philip Locke. He had been a Bond villain - the chief henchman (so not the main baddie) in Thunderball - and the principal villain in the first of the colour episodes of The Avengers [the one where Jon Pertwee does his Field Marshal Montgomery impersonation].

Principal guest star is Stratford Johns, as Monarch. For many years he had played Chief Inspector Barlow in Z-Cars and subsequent spin-off's, and was keen to do something different. Despite the heavy make-up, he is still quite recognisable. Special mention must go to Paul Shelley, as both the Urbankan and "human" Persuasion. Enlightenment is Annie Lambert, but she doesn't get any of Shelley's dryly humorous lines.
Episode endings are:
  1. A man and woman appear in the time travellers' quarters, and they look identical to Tegan's fashion sketches. They identify themselves as Persuasion and Enlightenment...
  2. Bigon removes his face and unhooks his tunic to reveal that he is actually an android...
  3. As some of the Chinese androids hold him down, the Athenian warriors prepare to lop off the Doctor's head...
  4. Doomsday averted, back in the TARDIS Nyssa suddenly collapses...

Overall, as mentioned above, a bit of a strange one for its day. Okay, but nothing brilliant. Could have been three episodes if they had taken out most of those bloody recreationals...
Things you might like to know:
  • Four what to Doomsday, exactly? The title can be looked at in two ways. Either it is the fact that Monarch's ship is four days from Earth, and he intends to inflict doomsday on its population, or it refers to the Doctor and his companions - the four travellers who are on their way to a potential doomsday.
  • Tegan can speak an Aboriginal language, quite fluently, from thousands of years ago. No-one else of the Doctor's party can understand this language, so the TARDIS translation thing seems to be faulty - or it is being very selective in who gets to understand what.
  • Adric gets doped up on the stupid pills. Suddenly the writers - and one assumes the producer - don't have a clue what the character is about. After a promising start with the Romana-less Tom Baker stories, he suddenly starts to act like a complete dick. We could be charitable and say that his allegiance to Monarch is another example of him ingratiating himself with the villains to get in their good books whilst seeking a means to undermine them, but if that's the case then there is absolutely no evidence of this on screen. Alone with the Doctor, he doesn't own up to this being his cunning plan. No, he seems to really think that it is okay for some alien tyrant to destroy humanity and steal the TARDIS.
  • Tegan wants to warn Earth, but the Doctor - despite having worked for UNIT for several years - says that no-one will believe them...
  • It has been stated many, many times, in various guidebooks and on-line, that the maths of Monarch's visits to Earth, with the speed of travel doubling each time, simply doesn't work. The civilisations on show just do not match the dates that this implies. Therefore I won't bother to state it again.
  • If the Chinese dragon dancers hail from a few thousand years ago, why do they wear modern plimsolls, and have a costume belonging to a Kung Fu club?
  • To the best of my knowledge, the Greeks of Pericles' age did not go in for gladiatorial combat. What we should have seen was some hot, oily, man-on-man action. 
  • I am, of course, referring to wrestling...
  • If that wasn't what you were thinking of, you may now (unlike the Doctor) dream of interfering with your Monopticons...

Thursday 12 February 2015

TARDIS Travels No.13

Season Twelve saw a minimal use of the TARDIS, what with all the transmats and Time Rings. It has been the longest period we have gone through without a glimpse of the control room since that gap between The War Games and The Claws of Axos - though Season Seven at least featured the central control console. Things get back to normal with Season Thirteen.

Journey 106: Nerva Beacon, 29th Century, to Tulloch Moor, Scotland, 1975.
If you have watched the deleted scene on the Terror of the Zygons DVD then you will know that the TARDIS materialises in a forest in North East Scotland, near Loch Ness, and becomes invisible.
This is very apt. The very first ever UNIT story (The Invasion) saw the TARDIS turn invisible on its landing - and that was directed by Douglas Camfield. This is the last true UNIT story, in that it has the Brigadier as well as Benton in it - and it is also directed by Camfield. We have gone full circle in a way.
The Doctor is answering the call sent out by the Brigadier on the device he had left him - the "Space-Time Telegraph" - which gave its name to the news page of Doctor Who Monthly for many years,
I prefer to use Tulloch as opposed to the on-screen Tullock, as I'm Scottish and just don't like the alternative. (D'ye wannae fecht aboot it!?) Hotel landlord Angus pronounces it as such as well, and he should know 'cos he lives there. I suspect that the writer had a packet of a certain well known brand of marshmallow-y Tea Cakes in front of him when he wrote this. Maybe the Banks genes got the better of the Stewart genes, temporarily...

Journey 107: Tulloch Moor, Scotland, 1975, to Zeta Minor, 38th Century.
Harry has decided to let the train take the strain and has foregone TARDIS travel, but Sarah is okay about letting the Doctor take her back to UNIT HQ by TARDIS in just 5 minutes. However, the ship is going by a very round-about route - via the far future - and it picks up a distress call from the Morestran expedition led by Professor Sorenson.
First sight of that control room since episode one of Death to the Daleks. No sign of the scanner anywhere.
Zeta Minor is said to be right on the edge of the known universe, abutting that of anti-matter. This has obviously led to all manner of speculation about how many universes there are and how they relate to each other. The problem has always been - right from the Hartnell days - of writers using "universe" when they really mean "galaxy". Or "space" - as in Mondas drifting off to the edge of... And don't get me started on "Constellations". In this instance, "universe" is actually supposed to mean just that.
A black pool on this world forms part of a gateway between the two universes.

The Morestrans teleport the TARDIS onto their ship. Sarah is aboard at the time, and does not feel any of the effects of this process.
Journey 108: Morestran spaceship, 38th Century, to Zeta Minor, same.
The Doctor takes Sorenson, in his mutated form, to the black pool, in order to return to the planet that which belongs to it

Journey 109: Zeta Minor, 38th Century, to Morestran spaceship, same.
Sorenson gets ejected by the pool, or the creature which dwells within it, and is apparently unharmed. The Doctor returns him to the Morestran probe-ship, now accelerating away from the planet.

Journey 110: Morestran spaceship, 38th Century, to England, 1911.
The Doctor is brooding about his age and his job, and Sarah has found one of Victoria Waterfield's old dresses - though one we have never seen on screen. Sutekh makes his presence known by being fleetingly glimpsed in the control room by Sarah. To date we have only seen the Toymaker and the Master of the Land of Fiction breach the TARDIS - so Sutekh is obviously incredibly powerful. 
His time-tunnel has drawn the ship off course - so that it materialises in a storage room in the old priory which sat on the site later occupied by UNIT HQ. The Doctor thinks that the building would make a good base for a paramilitary organisation - he's being facetious, of course - but can we assume that this room must be the approximate location of his future lab?

Journey 111: England, 1911, to same, 1980 (deleted time-line).
The Doctor takes Sarah and Lawrence Scarman to 1980, to show them what the world will be like if Sutekh gets free. Quite how the TARDIS gets to somewhere which, technically, never exists is yet another great bone of contention amongst fans. If they have only moved in time, why are there those great big mountains? Plate tectonics don't work that fast. Has the Doctor simply taken them to a barren planetoid just to make a point - and it isn't really Earth at all? 
And when Sarah says she comes from 1980, it simply means that this is her time - when she should be living - not a specific reference to any date pertaining to when she entered the TARDIS. Attempting to use this story in the great 'UNIT Dating Controversy' is really a non-starter.

Journey  112: England, 1980 (deleted time-line), to England, 1911.
The Doctor takes Sarah and Lawrence back again.

Journey 113: England, 1911, to Mars, 1911.
Apparently under Sutekh's mental control, the Doctor takes Sarah, Marcus Scarman and one his robotic mummies to the pyramid on Mars, from whence the debilitating influence of Horus radiates to keep Sutekh captive. The Doctor makes the first comment about the controls being isomorphic -which will get contradicted in a very short time...

Journey 114: Mars, 1911, to England, 1911.
Sutekh is free at last, but the Doctor remembers that it will take a few minutes for what has just happened on Mars to affect what is happening on Earth. The Doctor links the ship's temporal stabiliser to the time tunnel and Sutekh gets aged to death - never able to exit the tunnel until the end of his own natural lifespan.

Journey 115: England, 1911, to Oseidon, 1975.
The TARDIS appears to materialise in the woods near the village of Devesham, close to the UK Space Defence complex. It is really all an artificial construct on Oseidon, planet of the Kraal race. The TARDIS is supposed to be aiming for Earth - for UNIT HQ. It lands where a fake Brigadier & Co. are supposed to be based. How is this possible? Does the TARDIS navigate visually? Why did the Doctor not check the co-ordinates and see that he was on an alien planet? I suspect this has something to do with the writer...

Journey 116: Oseidon, 1975, to Devesham environs, Earth, 1975.
For one story only, Terry Nation invents some nonsense about the TARDIS travelling on to where it ought to have gone, had you left the key in the door...
Bob Holmes must have been in tears when this script came in.

Journey 117: Devesham environs, 1975, to Karn, date unknown.
The Time Lords have yet another job for the Doctor - clearing up a mess that they themselves left... Karn is said to be close to where the Doctor hails from, and the Sisterhood appear to have had a long standing relationship with the Time Lords. Ex-President of the High Council - and all-round megalomaniac - Morbius has managed to survive execution by having his brain removed. The Doctor is really being called upon to be a bit of an assassin here - setting to rights that botched execution.
Any sort of dating is complicated where Gallifrey is concerned, but we know this is in the far future, as Solon supposedly comes from Earth.
The Sisterhood transport the TARDIS, by psychic means, to their temple.

Journey 118: Karn, date unknown, to UNIT HQ (?), England, 1976.
The TARDIS leaves Karn, and we next see the Doctor and Sarah being called upon to deal with some UNIT-type business. "Mrs Peel. We're Needed". Thanks to some alien influence, herbaceous borders across the Home Counties are about to become positively homicidal.
No reason at all to suggest that the ship has materialised anywhere other than its old favoured location at this point.

Journey 119: UNIT HQ (?), 1976, to Antarctica, date unknown...
The TARDIS materialises near the South Pole where the Doctor and Sarah had first encountered the Krynoid. Often taken as a glaring continuity gaffe (as the Doctor and Sarah never travelled there by TARDIS in the first place), it can easily be explained. The Doctor is said to have forgotten to have cancelled the co-ordinates. They were supposed to be going to Cassiopeia. The co-ordinates that the Doctor forgot to cancel were the original ones that would have taken them to Antarctica - when the Doctor suddenly realised that travelling by conventional means (aircraft and helicopter) would be more accurate than the TARDIS could have been. The ship is simply taking him where he originally wanted to go.

Monday 9 February 2015

TARDIS Travels No.12

This isn't going to take long...
Season Twelve is the most "TARDIS-lite" one of the lot.
When we last saw him, the Doctor had just regenerated. Robot opens with him recuperating at UNIT HQ under the care of Surgeon-Lt. Harry Sullivan. At one point he is about to disappear in the ship, but Sarah stops him. It has often been suggested that the unseen journey which took him to Leela's planet and saw him repair Xoanon took place during his convalescence - when he slipped away without anyone noticing. This is why he made such a hash of it. There is another theory - but I'll wait until we get to that later on screen journey where he puts things right.

Journey 104: UNIT HQ, 1975, to Space Station Nerva, far future.
The Doctor decides to take Sarah on a quick trip to cheer her up, and invites Harry along too as he is sceptical about the ship's abilities. It is only supposed to be a jaunt to the Moon and back, but Harry messes about with the helmic regulator and they travel far, far into the future. Nerva now holds all of the Earth's population of humans, animals and plant-life after the planet was hit by solar flares.
Instead of trusting the eccentric TARDIS to get him to Earth in order to fix the transmat, the Doctor elects to use the device to beam down - leaving the TARDIS behind.
Beaming back again after defeating the Sontaran Styre, the Time Lords intervene and divert the Doctor, Sarah and Harry to Skaro - for an encounter with Davros and his brand new creations - something called a Dalek... A Time Ring takes them back to Nerva - only they arrive thousands of years too early. It is almost certain that this is further interference by the Time Lords - as they just happen to arrive when Voga is about to be threatened by the Cybermen.
(And if Nerva was destroyed at this point it wouldn't be around for the TARDIS still to be there in the far future, and the human race might never have had its "lifeboat").

Journey 105: Nerva, far future, to Nerva, 29th Century.
Dating comes from the Doctor's original estimation of when the beacon was built. The Time Lords send the TARDIS back through time to meet the Doctor and his companions. There is a message from the Brigadier waiting for them - urging them to return. Knowing his days with UNIT are numbered, the Doctor has left the Brigadier a Space-Time Telegraph machine, so that he can summon him in an emergency - so he is clearly not planning to be based at UNIT HQ any more.

And that's your lot as far as Season Twelve is concerned. The TARDIS merely tops and tails the series. We don't get to see the control room at all. It will be back, however, in Season Thirteen...