Sunday 30 August 2015

TARDIS Travels No.33(c)

Series 6, Part the Second. Since we last saw the Doctor, he has been off trying to find baby Melody - but to no avail.
Journey 612: Date and location unknown to Leadworth, 2011.
Unseen, the Doctor has arrived in Leadworth or its environs prior to this, though later in Amy and Rory's timeline, in order to have picked up a copy of the local newspaper. The TARDIS materialises in the middle of the crop message that Amy and Rory have just created to attract the Doctor's attention.

Journey 613: Leadworth, 2011, to Berlin, 1938.
Mel hijacks the TARDIS and forces the Doctor to take them all to Berlin - as she just happens to make the off-the-cuff decision to kill Adolf Hitler. The ship must materialise in ordinary space / time in mid-air for it to crash through a window of the Reichs Chancellery Building. The whole issue of "temporal grace" within the TARDIS gets a mention. It first appeared in The Hand of Fear, and then arose again in Arc of Infinity, though we have seen a number of deaths in the ship since (Attack of the Cybermen for instance). Here, the Doctor says that he was simply lying about weapons not working within the ship.

Journey 614: Berlin - Reichs Chancellery to Hotel Adlon, 1938.
We've seen holograms of the Doctor appear in the TARDIS twice so far - the Ninth in Parting of the Ways, and the Tenth in Blink. These were pre-recorded messages. Now we have the interface with the ship - which takes on the form of all the most recent female companions before settling on young Amelia Pond. The poisoned Doctor dons top hat and tails to follow Amy, Rory and River to the fancy restaurant.

Journeys 615 & 616: Berlin, 1938 - Hotel Adlon to Tesselecta and back to the hotel.
The TARDIS enters the Tesselecta machine to rescue Amy and Rory. River is at the controls - surprised that she knows how to pilot the ship. She claims that it taught her.

Journey 617: Berlin, 1938, to hospital, 52nd Century.
I am presuming that this is in River's main time. She is later seen to enroll at Lunar University in 5123. The location of the hospital isn't mentioned, but the Doctor states that it is run by the Sisters of the Infinite Schism.

Journey 618: Hospital, 52nd Century, to England, 2011.
The location of the block of flats where young George and his parents live is never specified, but if the accents are local then we are somewhere in London.

Journey 619: England, 2011, to Apalapucia, date unknown.
The TARDIS materialises in a vestibule in the Two Streams Facility, a hospital complex where time runs at two different speeds, depending on whether you are in Red Waterfall or Green Anchor.

Journey 620: Apalapucia, date unknown - Green Anchor to Red Waterfall.
In order to rescue Amy from having to spend decades trapped in the Facility, the TARDIS breaks through to her time stream.

Journey 621: Apalapucia, date unknown, to spacecraft, unknown region of space, 21st Century.
At first glance the Doctor and his companions think they have arrived in a British hotel in the 1980's. This proves to be a holographic construct, and they are really in a space vessel which houses the faith-devouring Minotaur. I am presuming that this is the early 21st Century as that is when the majority of the victims hail from. The craft is in the same region of space as Gibbis' home planet of Tivoli, as he can see it out of the porthole.

Journey 622: Spacecraft, 21st Century, to England, 2011.
There is obviously an unseen trip to Tivoli to drop off Gibbis before the Doctor takes Amy and Rory to their new home in an unspecified English town or city. I presume it is Leadworth, as Rory's dad will later be found to live nearby, but this is odd as the couple already had a perfectly nice residence in the town (seen at the start of The Impossible Astronaut). The Doctor could not have arranged the house and car before this, so he must at some point afterwards go back to an earlier point in time to make these arrangements.

Journey 623: Date and location unknown, to Colchester, Essex, 2011.
There will have been many, many unseen journeys prior to this, as the Doctor has aged 200 years. The Doctor visits Craig Owens on the 18th April, 2011, and stays until the 20th. It is then time for him to go and face his fate at Lake Silencio. But there are a few other places to visit first...

Journey 624: Colchester, 2011, to date and location unknown.
The Doctor visits the scene of a battle involving the Daleks - or is responsible for this himself. This is to gain a Dalek memory core.

Journey 625: Date and location unknown to Calisto B, 52nd Century.
The Dalek memory core allows the Doctor to track down an ex-member of the Silence - Father Gideon Vandalour. He proves to have been killed and replaced by the same Tesselecta previously encountered in Berlin, 1938.

Journey 626: Calisto B to Vegas 12, 52nd Century.
The Tesselecta points the Doctor towards the Chess Pits of Vegas 12, where the Doctor meets a genuine Silence agent named Gantok.

Journey 627: Vegas 12 to the Seventh Transept, location unknown, 52nd Century.
Gantok takes the Doctor to one of the catacombs used by the Headless Monks. The Doctor collects the still living head of Dorium Maldovar.

Journey 628: Seventh Transept to the Tesselecta, 52nd Century.
We won't find this out until the end of the episode, but the Doctor takes the TARDIS into the Tesselecta, presumably back on Calisto B, which takes on the Doctor's form. The Tesselecta then travels to 21st Century Earth.
And this is where we came in back in The Impossible Astronaut. It is the Tesselecta-Doctor that is seen to die at Lake Silencio.

Journey 629: Utah, 2011, to the Seventh Transept, 52nd Century.
The Doctor takes Dorium back to the catacombs.
Next up - the last days of the Ponds...

Friday 28 August 2015

Story 138 - Vengeance On Varos

In which the TARDIS breaks down in deep space - and the Doctor does not appear to be in too much of a hurry to fix things. In fact, he seems quite resigned to his fate, living out the remainder of his regenerations aboard the ship. It is Peri who takes the initiative, fetching the ship's manual so that they can identify the problem. A mineral called Zeiton 7 is required, and they have just enough power to make it to the planet of Varos - the only known source.
Varos is currently playing host to Sil, the representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation. This repellent slug-like amphibian is determined to procure Zeiton 7 supplies for a fraction of their true worth. The planet was once a penal colony. The elite are the descendants of the guards, whilst the bulk of the population labour in the mines. The population is kept under control by a constant diet of televised horror - torture and executions. Currently in the Punishment Dome is a young man named Jondar. He tried to publicise the luxurious lifestyle of the elite. He is being tortured by intermittent laser pulses, prior to his public execution. Sil learns that these punishments are marketed and sold for entertainment on other worlds - something he would like to further exploit. He is in league with the planet's Chief Officer against the Governor.

The Governor wants a better price for the Zeiton 7, but the Chief is in Sil's pay and works to undermine him. Periodically, the Governor must go to the polls, so that the population can vote on his plans. If he loses a vote, his body is bombarded by harmful radiation. The laser which is punishing Jondar is set to deliver a deadly random pulse that will disintegrate him. Whilst the death will be quick, there will be considerable tension as the moment when it fires will be unknown. A guard named Maldak is left to supervise things. The Dome can cause hallucinations, so he thinks his helmet's protection has failed when he sees a large blue box materialise in the chamber. The Doctor and Peri free Jondar, and another guard who arrives is disintegrated by the laser instead. Jondar's wife, Areta, and a guard friendly to the couple appear. They show them a way out of the Dome. However, all of this has been witnessed by the Governor, the Chief and Sil, and the guards are sent to capture them all. The guards are the least of their worries, however, as the Dome is full of lethal traps. All of this is also being watched by citizens such as Arak and Etta. One by one the fugitives are captured, until only the Doctor is left in the Dome. He enters an area where he appears to die of heat stroke brought on by a hallucination.

He comes to just before his "corpse" gets dumped into an acid vat, and sets off to rescue the others. The scientist Quillam, who devises many of the torments, uses Peri and Areta in an experiment where they transform into animals which reflect their personalities. The Doctor frees Jondar and they manage to halt the process before it becomes permanent. The Doctor and Jondar are recaptured and find themselves about to be hanged. However, the Governor has started to listen to the Doctor and realises that his people are being cheated. The Doctor and his friends flee once more into the tunnels, but Peri is recaptured. Sil and the Chief force the Governor to endure another vote - and Peri will join him. Maldak is left to guard them, and the Governor starts to convince him that he will probably be made next Governor and will face the same fate. Maldak frees them before the radiation builds up. The Doctor, Jondar and Areta are in the tunnels, pursued by Quillam and the Chief. They set a trap of their own and their pursuers are killed by lethal stinging vines. Sil is about to launch an invasion of Varos when it is announced that Zeiton 7 has been found on another planet - so he must negotiate whatever price the Varosians want. The Governor plans wider reforms. Arak and Etta see their TVs go blank for the first time in their lives.

This two part adventure was written by Philip Martin, and was broadcast between 19th and 26th January, 1985.
It introduces the Sixth Doctor's signature villain Sil - played by Nabil Shaban. It also sees the final (to date) appearance by Martin Jarvis (the Governor). He had first appeared, under Menoptra make-up, way back in The Web Planet - although he has contributed to a BBC Radio 4 Extra Torchwood episode.
The obvious inspiration for the story is the controversy over "Video Nasties" and the general (mis) conception that TV was too violent. Ironically, the very themes explored in this story would be used against the show at the season's close.
Colin Baker's first season is often criticised for its levels of violence - and this story is often cited. The sequence with the acid bath is usually singled out. The Doctor quite clearly does not push the hapless attendants into the acid. One falls in, and pulls his colleague in after him. What does jar is the Connery-Bond quip from the Doctor afterwards. He really should be appalled rather than cracking cheap jokes.
Of more concern, as far as I'm concerned, is how the Doctor (and Peri) make assumptions as soon as they arrive on the planet. They assume Jondar to be an innocent victim, and then the Doctor disintegrates a random guard - all without knowing anything about what is going on here.
The Sixth Doctor does not gain any new fans in the first episode when he sits back and does nothing about the threat to the TARDIS. It is a problem of this entire season that the Doctor and Peri take far too long to get involved in the main plot.

I've mentioned a couple of the cast members already. Sil is a wonderful creation, superbly played, and it was only a matter of time before he was brought back. Arak and Etta - who never interact with any of the other characters - form a sort of Greek Chorus. Often they say what we the viewing audience might be thinking. They are played by Stephen Yardley (who had been Sevrin in Genesis of the Daleks), and Sheila Reid (who will return as Clara Oswald's grandmother, but is best known for the Davros-like Madge in Benidorm). Nicholas Chagrin is Quillam, and Forbes Collins is the Chief Officer. In one of his first ever TV roles, as Jondar, is Jason Connery - son of Sean - and soon to be the second Robin of Sherwood. Maldak is Owen Teale, who has gone on to great things. He hasn't been back to Doctor Who, but he did play a homicidal cannibal leader in Torchwood's first season.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor is subjected to a hallucination of being stranded in a desert. He collapses. In the control centre, the Governor directs the editor to cut just as the Doctor appears to expire...
  2. Arak and Etta see their TV screen go blank, and ponder what they will do now...

Overall, it may have its faults, but it is the best Colin Baker story. Not the best Sixth Doctor story - for reasons you will have to wait for - but the best we get from Baker.
Things you might like to know:
  • Philip Martin was best known at the time for the Birmingham-set crime series Gangsters, which starred Lytton actor Maurice Colbourne. It started off as a straightforward thriller, then just went all weird and postmodern. Martin himself appeared as an assassin who looked and acted like W C Fields. Do check it out.
  • Nabil Shaban suffers from a bone disorder called osteogenesis imperfecta. On set to assist him was his friend Tom Watt - who would become as one of the Eastenders principle cast members in its first years (he was Lofty). Like Watt, Shaban's politics are well left of centre, and he has been very critical of the BBC in the past (despite also campaigning to play the Master), and he has stated that this might be why the Corporation hasn't re-employed him.
  • The marsh-minnows which Sil guzzles were peaches dyed with food colouring. They upset Shaban's stomach - which was unfortunate as he was bound up in that costume. He suggested that they could be marketed.
  • The initial plan for Sil was that he would be contained within his tank, rather than sitting on top of it - but the practicalities of this would have been too great.
  • The model of the Varos domes comes from a Blake's 7 episode.
  • I was terrible at economics at college, but surely the discovery of new sources of a rare commodity would depress prices, rather than raise them? This only makes sense if the fresh discovery comes under a rival company's control, but this isn't stated.
  • Why doesn't Galatron just invade anyway, if this is one of their normal business practices and their fleet is on its way anyway?
  • Director Ron Jones only joined the project late in the day. The director initially scheduled to make this was Michael Owen Morris - who had helmed The Awakening.
  • The "priest" officiating at the intended hanging might look familiar. He was the oil rig survivor in Terror of the Zygons.
  • Negative reviews of this story - highlighting the horror and violence - were cut out and kept by Philip Martin and blown up, to pin to the wall of his toilet as reading material for his guests.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.17

Nightmare In Silver (2013).
It wouldn't be the Cybermen without a periodic upgrade. They've been fairly consistent since their first appearance in the new series back in 2006, but now they are much more streamlined, and have a number of special abilities.
Defunct leisure complex Hedgewick's World lies close to the location of a great war that took place between a galactic empire and the Cybermen. The Cybermen are thought to be extinct - the empire destroying a whole region of space hundreds of years ago to get rid of them.
In Mr Webley's waxwork museum there are a number of dead Cybermen. These include both Cybus and "our" universe versions. This implies that the Cybus Cybermen survived for a long time alongside the others. Then again, it might just be that the Cybermen have used any spare parts that came to hand. One of them has been transformed into a (fake) chess playing automaton.

However, there are tiny Cybermites present on the planet - capable of reanimating the shells and of creating new Cybermen. This planet had actually been used by the Cybermen as a repair facility, and there is an army 3 million strong about to be reanimated.
As mentioned above, these are much more streamlined and sculpted than the previous versions, but retain the same face and handles on the helmet. Where the Cybus logo had been on the chest is now a bright blue light. The mouth still lights up blue when they speak. New catchphrase: "Upgrade".
Special attributes include stealth mode and the ability to move at great speed. They can remove body parts, and these have autonomous life of their own. We see a head and a hand removed.
These Cybermen have built-in weapons on their forearms, and can still kill with an electric shock.
The Cybermen need a Cyber-Planner. Time Lords are now compatible for conversion, and the Doctor is chosen after an initial plan to convert Clara's young charges. When partly converted, the Doctor can access the Cyberiad - a network that links all Cybermen.
Once again, they have a susceptibility to gold, though we only see the Doctor use this to foil (no pun intended) "Mr Clever" - the Cyber-Planner part of his mind.
Despite the fact that the troops on this planet are a punishment platoon, and that the Cybermen have not been seen for generations, they have a weapon capable of destroying them. There is also a default order to completely destroy any planet where the Cybermen try to establish themselves.
An EMP pulse applied to the head can also stop them.
One Cyberman gets electrocuted when it walks into water, but it quickly adapts and upgrades to counter this.
The entire Cyberman army can be rendered immobile when the Planner is presented with a chess conundrum.
The entire Cyberarmy is destroyed when the planet is blown up - though we see that at least one Cybermite has survived.

Story Notes:

  • We all thought that writer Neil Gaiman would be a safe pair of hands to revamp the Cybermen, after the success of The Doctor's Wife. How wrong we were. It is a brilliant redesign - although a bit too close to Iron Man - but the actual story is a great let down. Annoying kids, comedy cliche soldiers, and the whole Mr Clever shtick contribute to this story being the second least liked Cyberman story in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll. It was 203rd out of 247. Only Silver Nemesis came lower - but not by much (206th).
  • Gaiman had a hand in the redesign - wanting to take them back to something akin to the early Troughton versions.
  • He had hoped to include a scene of the Cyberiad showing a collection of various earlier versions assembled. However, costumes were not available. A check with fans could have supplied these, as there are many reconstructed costumes out there.
  • The Cyberiad network sadly brings the Cybermen closer to Star Trek's Borg. The ability to adapt to weapons also mirrors the Borg.
  • Note the hand / foot holds in the Cyberman base - the design having been seen in the original Cyber Tombs. The lone Cybermite at the end also references Tomb (where we see a lone Cybermat survive).
  • Using children as potential Cyber-Planners reminds us of the Dalek use of a child in Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • As well as the earlier versions of the Cybermen in the museum, we see a few other familiar creatures - Shansheeth and Uvodni from Sarah Jane Adventures, a Blowfish from Torchwood, and some of the Akhaten aliens. There is also a God Complex ventriloquist dummy.
  • The chess-playing automaton Cyberman had only recently been used by Big Finish (The Silver Turk).
  • This is the third consecutive season where the Cybermen have featured in the penultimate episode.

Monday 24 August 2015

TARDIS Travels No.33(b)

The first half of Series 6. Unseen, the Doctor has taken Amy and Rory back home after events on the planet Ember. They identify a number of journeys which the Doctor has made through history in their absence - to the 17th Century (where he gets his portrait painted, nude, and Charles II locks him up in the Tower of London), World War II (where he is incarcerated in a German POW camp), and Hollywood in 1939 (where he features in the Laurel & Hardy movie The Flying Deuces).

Journey 581: Date and location unknown to Utah, 2011.
Specifically, it is 22nd April. Amy, Rory and River have just seen the death of the Doctor from the future. The current Doctor has responded to the same written invites as his companions.

Journey 582: Utah, 2011, to Washington DC, 8th April 1969.
In order to track down Canton Everett Delaware III, the TARDIS materialises in the Oval Office of the White House. It arrives silently, and invisible initially. The Doctor claims that the scanner does not work when the ship is invisible. Once more, River seems to know the TARDIS better, and is able to get it to work.

Journey 583: Washington DC to Florida, 8th April, 1969.
Canton joins the time-travellers as they journey to Florida, the Doctor working out an address from something which the mysterious little girl has said to President Nixon. The episode ends with the TARDIS is this location, and when we rejoin events for part two, some time has passed.

Journey 584: Florida, April 1969, to Area 51, Nevada, July 1969.
The TARDIS may have moved around in the intervening months, but if so there's nothing on screen. We "see" it next in the Doctor's cell - invisible once again.

Journey 585: Nevada to New York, July 1969.
The Doctor takes the TARDIS to intercept River's leap from a skyscraper. She is able to fall all the way through to the swimming pool.

Journey 586: New York to Cape Kennedy, Florida, July 1969.
The Doctor takes his companions to the Apollo 11 launch site.

Journeys 587 - 588: Cape Kennedy to Washington DC to Cape Kennedy, July 1969.
Presumably Amy and Canton travel by conventional means to find the orphanage. River must take the ship back to Washington DC in order to collect Nixon and bring him back to Florida to get the Doctor out of trouble after he gets arrested whilst planting his transmitter in the command module.

Journey 589: Cape Kennedy to Washington DC, July 1969.
The Doctor returns President Nixon to the Oval Office.

Journey 590: Washington DC to Graystark Hall orphanage, July 1969.
The Doctor, Rory and River join Canton at the orphanage, but find that Amy has been abducted. They succeed in capturing a Silent.

Journeys 591 - 592: Graystark Hall to Area 51, Nevada, July 1969.
The injured Silent is taken to the Doctor's cell. There is an unseen journey where President Nixon is collected once again from Washington DC - possibly en route.

Journey 593: Area 51 to Florida, July 1969.
The Doctor, Rory and River return to the location where the little girl had been kept in order to search for clues as to Amy's whereabouts, and to learn more about the astronaut suit.

Journey 594: Florida to location unknown, 9th July, 1969.
The TARDIS travels to the Silents' base, possibly still in Florida, where Amy has been held captive. It is the day of the Moon landing.

Journey 595: Silent base to Washington DC, July 1969.
Canton is taken back to the Oval Office and the Doctor says farewell to President Nixon.

Journey 596: Washington DC, 1969, to Stormcage Prison, 52nd Century.
The Doctor takes River back to prison. When the Doctor tells her that it is the first time she has kissed him, she realises that the time for her to reveal her true identity is imminent.

Journey 597: Stormcage Prison, 52nd Century, to unknown region of space, date unknown.
Rory is helping the Doctor with some repairs when he gets distracted by a combination of Amy's ever so short skirt and the glass floor of the console area... The TARDIS manages to materialise within itself thanks to some temporal glitch.

Journey 598: Unknown region of space, date unknown, to The Fancy, location unknown, 1699.
The TARDIS materialises in the hold of Captain Avery's ship, in some unspecified part of the ocean.

Journey 599: The Fancy - our universe to parallel one, 1699.
The ship goes out of control, forcing the Doctor and Avery to evacuate. The ship then travels on its own to the parallel dimension abutting this one - arriving in the hidden alien vessel.

Journey 600: The Fancy (parallel dimension), 1699, to unknown region of space, date unspecified.
The TARDIS is in space when there is a knock at the door. It marks the arrival of a Time Lord message cube.

Journey 601: Unknown region of space, date unknown, to House, bubble universe, date unknown.
The message cube takes the TARDIS to a small bubble universe, where it materialises on the planetoid known as House. This turns out to be a powerful TARDIS-eating intelligence. The planetoid is littered with the wrecks of numerous (disguised) TARDISes. We learn about the TARDIS Matrix, which is removed and deposited in a woman named Idris. This "soul" of the ship allows the TARDIS to communicate with the Doctor. She reveals that she "stole" the Doctor - rather than the other way round. Also, she is the reason why the TARDIS always seems to arrive at moments of crisis. She is annoyed that the Doctor ignores the "pull" instruction on the doors. (Of course, this actually refers only to the phone cabinet).

Journey 602: House planetoid to normal universe, date unknown.
House takes over the TARDIS with Amy and Rory trapped aboard. It takes the ship back into our universe in search of other TARDISes to feed upon. Idris is able to communicate telepathically with Rory. House is able to play with the temporal and spatial dimensions within the ship to torment Amy and Rory. The ship saves previous versions of the control room (more than have ever been seen on screen). The Doctor and Idris build a makeshift TARDIS from spare parts (showing that the outer shell does not have to be complete to function safely). They are reunited with Amy and Rory in the control room used by the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. A defence mechanism puts them back in the current control room, where the Matrix is able to re-enter the ship. It overwhelms and destroys House. Amy and Rory's bedroom gets deleted. It transpires they had bunk beds. The Doctor fails to confirm if he has a bedroom. The Matrix gives the Doctor a sign that it can still communicate with him, even though it is back in the ship.

Journey 603: Unknown region of space, date unknown, to St John's Monastery, 22nd Century.
The monastery sits on an island off the British coast. It is used as an acid mine / refinery. The acid causes the ship to sink into the ground. It later drops into the chamber where the Doctor and his companions just happen to have become trapped by the Flesh Jennifer creature.

Journeys 604 - 605: St John's Monastery to unknown location then to Morpeth Jensen HQ, 22nd Century.
The Doctor takes Jimmy to a beach to be reunited with his son on his birthday. He then takes Cleaves and Dicken to the company's HQ so they can attend a press conference and speak up for Ganger rights. Rory discovers that Amy has been swapped with a Flesh duplicate.

Journey 606: Morpeth Jensen HQ, Earth, 22nd Century, to 12th Cyber Legion, 52nd Century.
The Doctor and Rory begin their quest to find Amy by dropping in on the Cybermen, as they monitor what goes on in this region of space - 20,000 light years from Earth.

Journey 607: 12th Cyber Legion, 52nd Century, to London, 1888.
The Doctor next travels to Victorian London to enlist the help of the crime-fighting Silurian Madam Vastra, and her maid Jenny.

Journey 608: London, 1888, to Zaruthstra, 41st Century.
The Doctor next collects the Sontaran nurse Strax from the battle here.

Journey 609: Zaruthstra, 41st Century, to Stormcage prison, 52nd Century.
Rory is sent to enlist the help of River, but she declines. She knows the day has come when the Doctor will learn who she is. There is a mention of a future journey for the Doctor - taking her to a frost fair on the pre-embankment Thames in London, and a birthday song from Stevie Wonder.

Journey 610: Stormcage, 52nd Century, to the Maldovarium, location unknown, 52nd Century.
The Doctor's final on screen call is to the trading / leisure establishment run by Dorium Maldovar.

Journey 611: Maldovarium, to Demons Run, 52nd Century.
The Doctor takes his group of friends to the fortified asteroid where Amy has been held captive. There are a number of unseen journeys prior to the Doctor's arrival, as we see Silurian and Judoon forces, Prof Bracewell's space-going Spitfire fighters, and Captain Avery and his crew are also present.
Then there are other unseen journeys where the Doctor takes some of them home again, as at the conclusion of this episode, the TARDIS is in plain view - which it couldn't have been when he first arrived. River turns up and drops her bombshell...