Monday 30 May 2016

Story 155 - Survival

In which the Doctor takes Ace back to Perivale, following her recent traumatic experiences at Gabriel Chase and with Fenric. She would like to catch up with some of her friends. No-one seems to be about, however. Ace meets one old acquaintance, Ange, who is collecting money for hunt saboteurs. She confirms that a lot of the old crowd have not been seen recently. At the local youth club, Territorial Army Sgt. Paterson is running self-defence lessons. He preaches survival of the fittest, but the Doctor recognises him as a mere bully. He has noticed a strange black cat that seems to be following them around, watching them intently, and so decides to capture it. He goes to the mini-market and buys various tins of cat food to use as bait. Shop owners Len and Harvey later find their own pet cat has been mauled to death. Ace is sitting in a nearby playground when a Cheetah-like creature mounted on a horse appears out of nowhere. When the Doctor comes looking for her, she has vanished. His efforts to catch the black cat are hindered by Paterson, in his capacity as head of the local neighbourhood watch. When the Doctor finally captures the feline, he and Paterson suddenly find themselves transported to another planet - a desolate volcanic world. They are in a campsite inhabited by Cheetah People. As they begin to toy with Paterson, the Doctor finds himself maneuvered towards a tent. Sitting within is the Master.

The Doctor creates a distraction that allows him and Paterson to escape. As they travel across the bleak terrain on a stolen horse, the Doctor tries to convince the sergeant that they have been transported to another world. They come across a rope trap, which the Doctor triggers. He is hauled up into the air. His captors turn out to be a group of young Londoners - Ace and some of her old friends who have also been transported here. Ace is later almost captured by one of the Cheetah People, named Karra. Instead of killing her, Karra seems to bond with her and Ace feels a strange affinity towards her. The Doctor and Master meet, and the Doctor learns some of the history of this planet. The Cheetah People like nothing more than to play, hunt and feast. They employ small black cats - Kitlings - which can transport themselves and their prey through space. There was once a great civilisation here, but the Cheetah people are descending into brute animalism. They are psychically linked to the planet, and the volcanic disturbances increase as they degenerate. Exposure to the planet affects those who come here. The Master is slowly turning into a Cheetah, his eyes becoming cat-like and his teeth becoming fanged. He is struggling to maintain his true self here. He needs to find a way to escape this planet before it is consumed by fire.

One of Ace's friends - Midge - is transforming. The process becomes complete when he kills one of the Cheetah People. The Master uses him to transport himself away from the planet. The Doctor realises that Ace is also transforming, and uses her to take himself and her other friends away. They find themselves back in Perivale. The Doctor must find the Master - for Midge would have brought him here as well, since the instinct to travel always takes you back to what you regard as "home". Ace brought the Doctor, Paterson and the others to where the TARDIS was - as that is what she thinks of as home. Paterson goes off to the youth club to resume his classes, refusing to accept that he has been to another planet. He thinks that he has been hypnotised somehow. At the club he finds the Master and Midge. They have taken mental control over the class members, and use them to kill the sergeant. The Doctor tracks his foe to nearby Horsenden Hill. Midge is killed when he attempts to destroy the Doctor in a motorbike joust. As the club members close in on Ace, Karra suddenly appears and causes them to flee. The Master murders her. Dying, she reverts to her original form - that of a young woman. The Doctor and the Master find themselves transported back to the planet, in its dying moments. The Doctor is now beginning to transform, but he maintains his "humanity" long enough to refrain from killing his old enemy and finds himself transported back to Perivale. He finds Ace on the Hill. The planet is gone, its inhabitants transported to somewhere else. It lives on, though, within Ace. Of the Master's fate, the Doctor knows not. He and Ace head off back to the TARDIS, and adventures new...

This three part adventure was written by Rona Munro, and was broadcast between 22nd November and 6th December, 1989.
It was the final story to be broadcast by the BBC of the original series first broadcast from 23rd November, 1963. Sylvester McCoy will be back one more time, but it is the last time we see Sophie Aldred as Ace, and Anthony Ainley as the Master. It is the last story to be produced by the series' longest running producer, John Nathan-Turner, and the final script edited by Andrew Cartmel.
For the last few years, every season was going to be JNT's final season - he was always asking to be allowed to resign and move on to other projects. Each year, he was asked to stay on, as the BBC did not have anyone else who they felt could save the programme's declining fortunes. Some people expressed an interest in taking it on, but ultimately it was felt to have run its course, and the money could be spent on other things. The decision was made to "rest " it. Owing to the production schedules, Survival may have been the last story broadcast, but the cast and crew still had another story to make. Ghostlight would be the final story to be recorded, and the team headed off on their holidays fully expecting to be back in a couple of months' time. When it came to transmission time, JNT and Cartmel knew that the series would not be coming back, and so Cartmel wrote the elegiac speech for the Doctor and Ace as they headed off into the woods on Horsenden Hill - for once these days a location actually playing itself. The Perivale scenes are filmed in Perivale.
JNT notified McCoy that the series had ended, and McCoy called Aldred to inform her. The production team had already started putting together ideas for Season 27, which would have seen Ace written out, and a new companion introduced, and Cartmel had already planned his exit, and handover to someone new - probably Ben Aaronovitch.

Munro's story had the original title of "Cat-Flap". She used a lot of imagery related to felines, and also themes of survival of the fittest from Darwinism - tying in with those of the partner story Ghostlight, also directed by Alan Wareing. The Cheetah People like nothing better than to hunt - which is mirrored by Ange's support for hunt saboteurs. The production team rise to the occasion - having adverts for the musical Cats on view, and the youth club has many posters for boxing events - tying in with Paterson's self-defence classes. The Kitling was derided at the time as a poor piece of animatronics. Had it been a dog - much larger - it would have worked better, but the prop black cat failed to convince. A real black cat is often seen, but this did not always follow direction. Another problem is the realisation of the Cheetah People. Designed by Ken Trew, they were a disappointment as they looked a bit too cuddly and not feral enough. Compare the masks with the later Cat Nuns of the 2006 series. Credit to Trew, they do actually resemble cheetahs.
Trew also designs a brand new outfit for the Master - finally getting him out of that thick velvet Trakenite costume he has worn since he was first introduced back in the closing seconds of Keeper of Traken, Special mention must be made of Ainley's more understated performance. This is how he wanted to play the part all along.
The cast includes Julian Holloway, noted for a number of Carry On film appearances, as Paterson. A credible Scottish accent. He is the son of that great actor Stanley Holloway. Karra is Lisa Bowerman. Ironically, Doctor Who will continue after this story in the form of Virgins' New Adventures range, which introduce the new companion Bernice Summerfield. When the character transfers to the audio productions, it is Bowerman who plays her, and she has also gone on to play other characters in other spin-off ranges, as well as directing some. In keeping with JNT's stunt-casting of light entertainment persons in the series, the shop owners Len and Harvey are played by comedians Gareth Hale and Norman Pace respectively. Midge is Will Barton.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor opens the flap of a tent in the Cheetah People's camp, and finds the Master sitting within - his eyes yellow and feline...
  2. The Doctor knows that one of his young friends must start to transform in order to transport them off of this planet. He is shocked to see that this appears to be Ace...
  3. The Doctor and Ace head for home - the TARDIS...

Overall, a wonderful story to end the series. McCoy, Aldred and Ainley are all great. Some lovely visual effects on the planet. After the misfire that was Battlefield, Season 26 has been a critical success, so it is a great shame that the plug was pulled at this point.
Things you might like to know:
  • For reasons never explained, Hale and Pace swapped roles at the last minute.
  • JNT's dog Pepsi makes its final cameo - eating the cat food that the Doctor has left out in Part One. 
  • Aldred was allergic to cats, so had a great deal of discomfort having to handle the feline playing the Kitling in the playground near the end of Part One.
  • The planet sequences were, as usual, filmed in a quarry. The summer heat was too much for one of the Cheetah extras. She stripped off and then stormed off the production.
  • Real animal carcasses were used to dress the location, which stank in the hot conditions.
  • The shot of Gabriel Chase, from Ghostlight, was filmed whilst the crew were away on the quarry filming location.
  • The stunt sequence of the Doctor and Midge racing motorbikes towards each other involved regular stunt performer Tip Tipping playing the Doctor, and well-known motorcyclist Eddie Kidd playing Midge. Tipping was not happy, as Kidd was not in the actor's union Equity at the time. Just the year before, the anti-union Thatcher government had broken Equity's monopoly, so the production team could use Kidd.
  • Aldred, Barton and Ainley all got their yellow contact lenses in advance so as to get used to them. It was only late in the day on location that it was decided that McCoy would also wear contacts for the climactic fight with the Master. McCoy found them intolerable in the hot and dusty conditions, not having had the chance to break them in.
  • They obviously didn't know at the time that this was to be the last story broadcast, but it does have a bit of synchronicity with the very first story - where we go from present day London to a sandy wilderness full of animal bones.
  • We never find out how the Master came to be on this planet - clearly without his TARDIS. In fact, the Master is never seen with his TARDIS after the final section of Trial of a Time Lord. Next we will see of him is on Skaro, on trial by the Daleks - where he still has odd yellow eyes.
  • Anthony Ainley had pretty much retired from acting by this point, and only agreed to reprise the Master on occasion. He was much more interested in watching and playing cricket. He had a private income, and acted as his own agent. The editors of DWM tell of how one day he would charge very little for them to publish a photograph of him, and the next to charge an exorbitant fee. He would appear as the Master one final time in the truly bonkers links for the Destiny of the Doctors video game. Sadly he was only ever given one chance to provide a DVD commentary - for his first story - before he passed away in May 2004, aged 71. His laugh will be heard in the 2007 episode Utopia.
  • Another last for this story - the TARDIS prop that had been built for The Leisure Hive - so spanned JNT's full tenure as producer.
  • One obvious influence on this story - animals on horseback hunting humans = Planet of the Apes.
  • This will be the last time that the Doctor's face appears in the opening titles until 2012. 
  • Sylvester McCoy recorded the extra closing monologue on 23rd November, 1989 - 26 years to the day since the programme first started.

"There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, where the sea's asleep and the rivers dream, people made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there's danger, somewhere there's injustice, and somewhere else the tea is getting cold.  Come on, Ace - we've got work to do..."

Monday 23 May 2016

May's Figurines

Am heading off to Rome tomorrow for the week, so no new updates until next Sunday. In the meantime, here is the latest pair of figurines from Eaglemoss.
First of all we get the Wooden Cyberman from The Time of the Doctor. I'm not keen on variants of things I already have, but this has grown on me over the last couple of days. I held it against the Nightmare in Silver model, and it isn't simply a respray. The body is properly textured, and the right arm is in a slightly different position, with the smaller gun attachment. It is also a bit taller.
Then we get a lovely Quark, from The Dominators. I am always pleased to see figurines from the earliest years of the programme. I'm looking forward to a White Robot one of these days.
The next advertised figurine will be the Empty Child. Issue 76 will see the final Doctor release - Patrick Troughton - and No.77 is a Flamethrower Dalek from The Daleks' Master Plan. The next special edition will be one of the Mire.

Thursday 19 May 2016

Story 154 - The Curse of Fenric

In which the Doctor and Ace visit a military base on the north east coast of England. It is during the height of the Second World War, and this base is the location for a new device designed to crack the German U-Boat codes - the ULTIMA Machine. This is the brainchild of Prof Judson, who is here overseeing its operation. The base commander, Millington, has fashioned his office to look like the naval headquarters in Berlin, so that he can capture the mind-set of his enemy. Millington and Judson were old school friends. The Doctor forges a document that allows Ace and himself free access around the base, Little does she know it, but the manipulative Doctor is once more inquiring into Ace's background. A group of Soviet commandos have landed at Maiden's Point on the coast nearby. They have come to steal the ULTIMA Machine. Russia and Britain are allies, but both sides are looking towards what will happen once the war is over. The Doctor and Ace visit the local church, St Jude's, and meet the vicar - the Rev. Wainwright. Ace befriends two young evacuees from London - Jean and Phyllis. They are unhappy to be billeted with the puritanical spinster, Miss Hardaker. The Russians come under attack from some unseen enemy, some of their number being found drained of blood, with wounds on their throats. Judson is also interested in the church, as it contains some ancient Viking runes in its crypt. They would make an ideal test for his machine. The Doctor notices some of the gravestones bear names of Norse descent. Visiting the beach at Maiden's Point later, the Doctor and Ace are captured by the Russians, who are led by Captain Sorin. The Doctor convinces them to let them go free. He knows of their mission, and something of the evil that is stalking them.

Back at the base, Ace meets a WREN named Kathleen Dudman, who has her baby daughter with her. Ace becomes besotted with the child, though she dislikes her name - Audrey - as this is her mother's name. In the crypt, new runes appear out of nowhere, and some soldiers clearing tunnels nearby unearth an ancient ceramic flask. The tunnel links the crypt with the base. Jean and Phyllis go swimming at Maiden's Point and are pulled under the water. One of the Russian soldiers witnesses this, then sees them emerge a short time later. They are now vampires, and kill him. The Doctor and Ace are confronted by Millington in the church crypt. He takes them back to the base and shows them a store room full of bombs - all filled with a natural toxin that drips from the walls of the tunnel. He lets the Doctor know that he is expecting the Russian attack, and intends to let Sorin take the ULTIMA device. Hidden within it is a flask of the toxin. After the war, when Russia and Britain are enemies, a code will be broadcast which the Soviets will attempt to break. The word "love" will trigger the breaking of the flask at the heart of the Kremlin. Jean and Phyllis summon allies from beneath the waves at the Point. These are vampiric Haemovores. Their first victims are a number of Russian commandos, followed by Miss Hardaker. The Rev. Wainwright is suffering a crisis of faith. He cannot accept the deaths of thousands of innocent German civilians from British bombing. He is showing the Doctor and Ace the parish records when the Haemovores attack the church. The creatures can be repelled by faith. Sorin and his men arrive and help rescue the Doctor and his friends. Sorin has faith in the 1917 Revolution, and the Doctor in his many traveling companions.

Millington goes mad, determined to concentrate on the Russians over the new threat. He orders all chess sets to be destroyed, for no explicable reason. He captures Sorin and orders that he, the Doctor and Ace be shot - but they are saved by the arrival of more Soviet troops. The ULTIMA device decodes the Viking runes - unleashing an ancient evil force which takes over Judson. Jean and Phyllis kill Wainwright when they break his faith. They are then sent to summon the Ancient One - a Haemovore that actually comes from the Earth of the far future, when the planet is polluted and dying. The evil entity - Fenric - has it kill all the Haemovores, including Jean and Phyllis, as their work is now done. The Doctor has met Fenric before. He played chess with it centuries ago. Winning, he trapped it in the flask which was found in the tunnels. This was in the Middle East. Over time, the flask was carried through Europe to end up here - leaving vampire legends its wake. Fenric wants to battle the Doctor once more, but the Doctor has left him an insoluble chess problem. Ace inadvertently gives him the solution - the black and white pawns work together. Judson's body is too frail for Fenric so it transfers to Sorin. Ace gives Kathleen the address of her grandmother in south London and urges her to flee with the baby. She then goes to the bomb storeroom where she finds Sorin is now possessed by Fenric. It transpires that all the people they have met have been pawns in Fenric's plan to revenge himself against the Doctor - including her. The baby is actually her own detested mother. Fenric was responsible for the time-storm which carried her to Iceworld and her first meeting with the Doctor. The Doctor has always known this. He recognised the chess set in Lady Peinforte's study as the work of Fenric. Fenric wants the Ancient One to spread the toxin throughout the planet's oceans to destroy all life on Earth. The Doctor convinces it that this will create the wrecked planet that spawned it. Fenric orders it to kill Ace, but her faith in the Doctor holds it back. He must break that faith, and so verbally abuses her. However, instead of attacking her, it forces Fenric into a sealed chamber where it destroys him - and itself - with a canister of the toxin. Ace now knows of the evil forces that have been manipulating her, and comes to terms with the fact that she did once love her mother.

This four part story was written by Ian Briggs, and was broadcast between 25th October and 15th November, 1989.
Though the character was as much the creation of script editor Andrew Cartmel, and producer John Nathan-Turner, it was Briggs who had first written for Ace, so it seems natural for it to be he who brings some resolution to her story arc. This level of development for a companion is unique for the original version of the series, but will become the norm for those that will follow once the series returns in 2005.
Ace is introduced in Dragonfire, and she gives the reason for her being on the alien world as the side-effect of an experiment with her Nitro-9 explosives. The Doctor knows that it was a time-storm conjured up by Fenric. Later, the Doctor will notice the chess game in Lady Peinforte's study (Silver Nemesis). These are the only stated examples given of Fenric's handiwork. The real story arc is that of Ace growing into adulthood, and laying to rest some of her personal demons. She had a bit of a crush on Sgt. Mike Smith in Remembrance of the Daleks, but falls properly in love with Captain Sorin. She also seduces a British soldier in this story to help Sorin and the Doctor escape. Unfortunately, this latter sequence is spoiled by some woeful dialogue. She then goes on to set up her own existence - by sending Kathleen and her baby to her gran's house in Streatham.
Brigg's main inspirations for this story are three-fold. First is the wartime exploits of the Bletchley Circle, and Alan Turing's work to break the Nazi Enigma Machine - the U-Boat communications system. Secondly we have Norse mythology. Considering that the Gods of Ragnarok were the villains of the previous series' final story, it is a pity that they could not have tied this into Curse, and suggests there was no great master plan for Ace's arc. They were often making it up as they went along. Lastly, we have vampires. Haemovore means "blood-eater", and the creatures are certainly vampires - most noticeably when Jean and Phyllis are turned. Scenes cut from the final screened version showed the creatures being staked through the heart. There is a sequence in the Hammer movie Dracula Has Risen From The Grave where the staking of the Count fails to kill him as the young protagonist is an atheist, and so without religious faith. Here, any sort of faith works to hold the creatures at bay. The location of the base on the north east coast is significant, as it was at Whitby in Yorkshire that the Count first came ashore in England in the classic novel.

An excellent cast gives their all. Judson is Dinsdale Landen. Millington is Alfred Lynch. Judson has a personal attendant - Nurse Crane - who is played by Anne Reid. She will return to the series in 2007 as another form of vampire, the Plasmavore Florence in Smith and Jones. Sorin is Tomek Bork. A revelation as the Rev. Wainwright, due to him being mostly known for comedic roles or game shows, is Nicholas Parsons. Miss Hardaker will also be back - Janet Henfrey being the Foretold's first victim in Mummy on the Orient Express. One of the young Russian soldiers (Vershinin) is Marek Anton, seen only a couple of stories ago under heavy latex as The Destroyer in Battlefield. One of the young British soldiers is played by Christien Anholt, who has since gone onto work in US TV, and is the son of Space 1999's Tony Anholt.
Episode endings are:
  1. The Doctor and Ace find a dying Russian soldier on the beach. They are suddenly surrounded by his comrades...
  2. The ULTIMA machine begins to go out of control, and Millington announces that it is too late to stop what is about to happen. C/U Doctor looking worried...
  3. Judson is struck by an energy bolt from his machine. He rises from his wheelchair, eyes blazing, and states "We play the contest again, Time Lord..." C/U Doctor looking worried...
  4. Ace emerges from a swim in the sea. There is a sign nearby warning of dangerous undercurrents. Not anymore, think the Doctor and Ace as they walk away along the beach...

Overall, a highlight of the Seventh Doctor's tenure. Great cast, some fine monsters, and a genuinely creepy, moody story. What a pity things were going so well just before they pulled the plug...
Things you might like to know:
  • Like a lot of Cartmel stories, there was much pruning to keep the story to length, and this has meant some scenes don't always make sense when first seen. The Special Edition on the DVD release is definitely recommended for this. At one point this had been considered as a five part story, but Ian Briggs did not feel there was enough to warrant a full extra episode.
  • The story was originally supposed to have interior shots filmed in studio, but the director, Nick Mallett, persuaded the producer to allow him to film it entirely on location.
  • There has been some criticism of the direction / editing for the second and third cliffhangers - focusing as they do on the Doctor's facial expression, rather than on the cause of it. This was something that was taken to ludicrous extremes during The Trial of A Time Lord, when JNT wanted his then star to be showcased. There is just cause for the camera to focus on McCoy at the end of Part Two, as it is a weak ending, but it really should have settled on Judson / Fenric's face for Part Three.
  • A number of anachronisms / errors have been pointed out. First thing is that Commander Millington wouldn't have been allowed to wear just a mustache. As a naval officer it would have been full beard or nothing at all. There is a sign-post to Maiden's Point, and we all know that road signs were taken down to bamboozle potential invaders. There has also been a question about Nicholas Parsons' sermon - coming from a version of the bible not commonly used in the 1940's.
  • One anachronism that isn't - baby Audrey's Super-Ted teddy. At first glance it does look like it, but this is not the case.
  • A continuity error sees Ace mention an old house in Perivale. This is Gabriel Chase, when Ghostlight was supposed to come later in the season than this story.
  • The baby girl is really a baby boy - the son of the landlord of a pub near the BBC offices in Shepherds Bush, West London.
  • The location shooting was hit by a mix of unpredictable weather, causing all sorts of continuity problems. There was rain when they didn't want it, sunshine when they did, plus snow. The Doctor wears a duffel-coat. This was McCoy's coat to keep warm in between takes, but he felt it suited the period and so he got to wear it on screen. Other cast members weren't so lucky.
  • Claim to fame time, of a sort. Some of the location filming was done at Lulworth Cove, in Dorset. Some friends and I once got lost in that part of the world, and ended up there - because I spotted a road sign, and knew this story had been filmed there. The hotel staff I spoke to remembered this story being filmed. I stayed in the room that Sylvester McCoy had been given.
  • The filming of the underwater stuff with the Viking long boat and the submerged Russian soldier was handled as a second unit by producer JNT.
  • There are subtitles on screen when the Russians first come ashore in the story's opening moments - the first time these had been employed since the Third Doctor had spoken with the Chinese delegate in 1971's Mind of Evil.
  • The novelisation fleshes out the back-story for various characters. Nurse Crane is a Russian agent, and Millington was responsible for the accident that put Judson in his wheel-chair.
  • As Judson was based on Alan Turing, Briggs wanted to say something about his sexuality, but couldn't do so in an early evening family show at this time. He wanted it to be implicit that Millington and Judson had known each other, in the biblical sense, whilst at school.
  • There are a couple of very short Haemovores. These were played by Sylvester McCoy's sons, visiting their dad at work for the day.
  • JNT's dog, Pepsi, can be seen briefly in Miss Hardaker's garden.
  • That controversial Maiden's Point road sign (or a reproduction thereof) is now to be found in the reception area at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff. It is the assembly point for people doing the TARDIS set and locations tours.

Sunday 15 May 2016

A is for... Alydon

A member of the Thal people on the planet Skaro, encountered by the First Doctor and his companions Ian, Barbara and Susan. It was Alydon who tried to make contact with Susan as the travelers made their way back to the TARDIS on the night they first arrived on the planet. He left them a supply of anti-radiation drugs - but they did not realise their importance and left them in the ship the next morning. When the Daleks sent Susan to fetch them, Alydon finally revealed himself to her. Together they arranged for the Thals to pass a message onto the Daleks, seeking assistance, and he also gave her a second supply of the drugs, along with his cloak for shelter against the cold weather. The cloak would be instrumental in helping the travelers escape from the Dalek cells.
Alydon was the forward scout for the main Thal party, which included their leader Temmosus.
Somewhat serious and straitlaced, Alydon was easily teased by his fellows about his relationship with Susan. A young woman named Dyoni had her heart set on becoming his partner.
When the Daleks ambushed the Thals, and Temmosus was killed, Alydon was automatically made the new leader. He refused to help the Doctor and his companions retrieve the vital fluid-link from the TARDIS, which had been left behind in the Dalek city. This was because of his strong pacifist views. War had destroyed Skaro, so his people would never take up arms again. When Ian threatened to take Dyoni and hand her over to the Daleks, Alydon struck him down - proving that there were some things worth fighting for. He thought long and hard about what they should do, then announced to his people that he would join the travelers in their endeavours, and was prepared to relinquish the leadership if the others disagreed with him.
He remained behind with the Doctor and Susan to create a distraction, allowing a small group that included Ian and Barbara to infiltrate the city. He then lead an attack on the city.
After the Daleks had been destroyed, Alydon asked the Doctor to stay behind to teach the Thals, but the Doctor declined. He knew that the Thals would prosper under Alydon's wise leadership.

Played by John Lee. Appearances: The Daleks (aka The Mutants) Episodes 3 - 7 (1963 - 4).

  • Lee was Australian by birth, and spent his acting career flitting between the UK and his homeland. Other fantasy TV roles included The ChampionsDoomwatch and The Avengers. He gained some notoriety when he joined the popular soap Neighbours, as Mrs Mangel's dodgy husband, Len.
  • The hand that taps Carole Ann Ford on the shoulder really belonged to future Doctor Who director Michael Ferguson. His hand also waved the plunger at Jacqueline Hill in the first cliffhanger of the story, and was inside the joke shop glove that emerged from under Alydon's cloak for the third cliffhanger.

A is for... Altos

The First Doctor and his companions Ian, Barbara and Susan met Altos in the city of Morphoton - the first stop on their quest to locate the Keys of the Conscience machine on Marinus. He promised the travelers that he could give them anything their hearts desired. When Barbara failed to be hypnotised by the creatures which ruled the city, she saw that the young man was really dressed in rags, and what he promised them was worthless. Altos captured her and took her to the brain-like Morpho creatures, but she was able to smash their protective domes - freeing all their mental slaves. It transpired that Altos had also been sent by the Keeper of the Conscience - Arbitan - in search of the Keys, but he had become ensnared here, along with Arbitan's daughter Sabetha, whom he loved. Altos and Sabetha then joined the TARDIS crew to help locate the other Keys.
He fell foul of the evil fur-trapper Vasor, who left him tied up on a snowy mountainside to freeze to death. He was rescued by Ian. In the city of Millennius he learned of the death of his friend Eprin, another of Arbitan's agents. Ian was charged with his murder, and Altos helped the Doctor to free him and expose the real killer.
Back on the island of the Conscience machine, the Voord leader Yartek exploited Sabetha's love for Altos to force her to reveal that the TARDIS crew had the Keys.
After the Voord had been defeated, and the Conscience destroyed, Altos and Sabetha elected to start a new life in Millennius.

Played by Robin Phillips. Appearances: The Keys of Marinus Episodes 2 - 6 (1964).

  • Phillips, who died aged 75 in 2015, left the UK for Canada in the mid 1970's to become a successful and much admired theatre director.
  • Before that, he appeared in the horror anthology film Tales From The Crypt. He's the guy who drives poor Peter Cushing to commit suicide - only to rise from the grave a year to the day later to rip out his tormentor's heart. Cushing's make-up as the undead Grimsdyke was the inspiration for the ghosts in the recent Under the Lake / Before the Flood.

A is for... Alpidae

A race of small rodent-like bipeds who lived in the tunnels beneath the Earth colony on Terra Alpha. They were the planet's indigenous species, forced underground by the coming of the humans. They used the sugar-carrying pipes to travel around - and so became known as the Pipe People. The ones encountered by the Seventh Doctor and Ace had names suggestive of old Saxon - Wences and Wulfric. They joined forces with the Doctor and helped him lead a revolution that saw the overthrow of the planet's tyrannical leader, Helen A. The Pipe People used the equipment in the Kandy Kitchen to flood the pipes and so destroy the Kandyman.

Played by: Philip Neves (Wences), Ryan Freedman (Wulfric). Appearances: The Happiness Patrol (1988).

  • The name Alpidae only appears in the story's novelisation.
  • It derives from Talpidae - the family of animals that includes moles and other small insectivorous mammals.

Thursday 12 May 2016

A is for... Alpha Centauri

A delegate of the Galactic Federation from the system of Alpha Centauri - its actual name is never revealed. It was sent to the planet Peladon as part of a wider delegation to assess its suitability to join the Federation. The Doctor described it as an hermaphrodite hexapod. It does have six arms, but walks like a slug or snail on one large foot. The mouth isn't visible, the head being a gigantic eye-ball. It speaks in a shrill feminine voice, and is a rather timid creature. It is also a bit of a jobsworth, unwilling to go against strict Federation policy, and lacks imagination. Its Martian colleagues, for instance, are prepared to bend the rules in order to help the Doctor and salvage the situation on Peladon. It is easily cowed into agreeing to make a vote unanimous.

When the Third Doctor returned to the planet some 50 years after his first visit, he was pleased to find that Alpha Centauri was still there - now an ambassador. It remembered him, and so helped smooth relations with the Peladonians. It was still quite timid, and a stickler for policy and procedure. The engineer Eckersley exploited this to get it to summon Federation troops to arrive - really his renegade Ice Warrior allies. Alpha Centauri formed a bond with Sarah Jane Smith, and did show some degree of bravery on this occasion, even prepared to go against its nature to assist with some subterfuge.

The longevity of the species is considerable. When the Twelfth Doctor had to contact nearby the nearest alien race to assist in the evacuation of Mars, it was Alpha Centauri who responded. This was in 1881.

Played by Ysanne Churchman (voice) and Stuart Fell (body). Appearances: The Curse of Peladon (1972), The Monster of Peladon (1974), and Empress of Mars (2017).
  • The main difference in design between Alpha Centauri's two appearances is the cloak, as you can see above. It is a rather thin, ragged form in the first story, but has a more quilted "curtain" look for the second. Sadly the designer of the DVD covers did not spot this, and uses the Monster version on the cover of Curse. You would think that the editor of Doctor Who Magazine would know these things...
  • Rather shamefully, Alpha Centauri made a cameo appearance in the now vilified Black & White Minstrel Show.
  • When the costume was first revealed to the crew the director, Lennie Mayne - well known for his colourful use of language - couldn't help but point out its similarity to the male sex organ. The cloak was then added, but the director simply thought it now looked like a male sex organ in a cloak...
  • Readers of a nervous disposition, or those easily offended, look away now...
The "nude" Alpha Centauri, with a topless Arcturus in the background. Ooh er missus...

A is for... Allison

Surname Williams, she was assistant to Professor Rachel Jensen, from Cambridge University, who was seconded to a special army unit led by Group Captain Gilmore. In late 1963, Allison and Jensen were called upon to help investigate strange radio signals emanating from the Shoreditch district of London - the Coal Hill area to be precise. The Seventh Doctor and Ace met her whilst she was monitoring the signals in the back of a van, outside Coal Hill School.
The signals proved to be the work of the Daleks, who were active in the area as they searched for the Hand of Omega, hidden here some time before by the First Doctor. Allison and her boss had to come to terms not only with alien creatures, but two rival factions of Daleks, who had the potential to destroy all life on the planet. She stood alongside the Doctor when he brought the conflict to a close by goading Davros into activating the Hand prematurely, destroying Skaro and his mothership.

Played by Karen Gledhill. Appearances: Remembrance of the Daleks (1988).

  • Karen has gone on to reprise the role of Allison for the Big Finish Counter-Measures series of audios, which reunites her with Pamela Salem (Jensen) and Simon Williams (Gilmore).

A is for... Alistair

An incredibly wealthy businessman from the 51st Century. He owned a spacecraft called The Byzantium. At its heart was a forest of treeborgs, artificially augmented trees which produced oxygen to sustain the crew and passengers on long space voyages. Amongst his private collection, hidden in a vault on the ship, was a captive Weeping Angel. River Song managed to get an invite to travel with Alistair - so that she could obtain evidence that he was transporting one of the creatures, Alistair had his own private army, but they hadn't been warned about River's hallucinatory lipstick. River engineered an escape from The Byzantium by scoring a message into its Home Box - a sort of black box flight recorder - knowing the Doctor would see this centuries in the future and be given the co-ordinates to travel back and save her. Alistair narrowly escaped being sucked out into space when River opened an airlock. He was killed soon after when the Angel caused the ship to crash on the planet Alfava Metraxis.

Played by Simon Dutton. Appearances: The Time of Angels (2010).

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Story 153 - Ghost Light

In which the Doctor decides to take Ace to the scene of one of her darkest moments - though she doesn't realise it to begin with... The TARDIS materialises in an attic nursery. The house is Gabriel Chase, Perivale, and the year is 1883.
Downstairs, the day staff hurry out as the sun goes down, determined never to remain in the house after dark. The stern Mrs Pritchard oversees the appearance of the evening staff - strange young women who emerge from hidden panels in the walls. The Reverend Ernest Matthews arrives for dinner. he is a fierce opponent of Josiah Samuel Smith. Smith is an advocate of Charles Darwin's theories on evolution, whilst Matthews, as a churchman, is a staunch Creationist. The Doctor and Ace descend from the attic and meet the house's strange inhabitants. The butler is a Neanderthal named Nimrod. They witness he and Mrs Pritchard subduing a man named Redvers Fenn-Cooper, who dresses as though about to set off on safari. he appears to be quite manic, obsessed by the light at the heart of the dark continent. Ace meets and befriends Smith's ward - Gwendoline. The Doctor observes Fenn-Cooper being confronted by a silver snuff box, which opens to reveal a blinding light. The box has a radioactive signature.

When Ace learns that this is the house which she visited in 1983, following a racist attack on a friend, she is furious at the Doctor for toying with her emotions. He wants her to confront and overcome her demons, and is keen to know the nature of the evil which she felt in this place, which prompted her to burn it to the ground. Upset, she runs off and descends to the cellar in a lift. The cellar appears to contain advanced technology, contained within a stone vault. Ace finds two bizarre figures - one reptilian, and one insectoid, yet wearing dinner suits. They come to life and attack her, but she is rescued by the Doctor. Inspecting Smith's collection of animal and insect specimens, the Doctor discovers the comatose body of Chief Inspector Mackenzie of Scotland Yard. The policeman comes back to life, and explains that he came here two years ago to find out what happened to the owners. At dinner, Smith appears. he is light-phobic, and wears dark glasses, His skin is pale and peeling. Matthews is shocked when Ace and Gwendoline appear in men's dinner suits. Fenn-Cooper is more rational, but talks about hunting a rare creature. Later, Smith meets with Matthews privately - and turns him into an ape. In the cellar, there is a being trapped behind a locked door. It is female, and is called Control. It escapes, and Smith appears to be terrified of it. He tries to bribe the Doctor to kill it. Control releases another captive being - Light.

It transpires that Smith is an alien who has been evolving over time. The reptilian and insectoid husks encountered by Ace were previous forms, discarded as a snake sheds its skin. Light has been on a mission to catalogue all life in the universe, accompanied by two assistants. When he arrives on a new planet, he sends one of his assistants out to experience it, whilst the other is kept in his ship to act as a control element in his experiment. Smith is one of the assistants, and has now taken over. He seeks to reach his ultimate evolutionary form on the Earth - as leader of the British Empire. Fenn-Cooper has an invite to meet Queen Victoria, and Smith has brainwashed him into assassinating her. The explorer first encountered the aliens whilst on an expedition to Africa, and he helped them come to Perivale. Nimrod was collected on their arrival hundreds of thousands of years ago. Light kills Mackenzie and some of the staff out of scientific curiosity. Gwendoline turns out to be quite psychotic - her mind having been twisted by Smith. It is revealed that her father - the real owner of Gabriel Chase - was killed by Smith, and her mother is really Mrs Pritchard, who has had her memories removed. As mother and daughter are reunited, Light destroys them by turning them to stone, so that they do not change any more. Control quickly evolves, and becomes a young woman. She is befriended by Fenn-Cooper. The Doctor convinces Light that his catalogue can never be complete, as he has slept for centuries and missed many species, and those alive today are constantly evolving. Even he is changing. Light decides to destroy the Earth in a fire-storm - to stop life from evolving. Unable to cope with evolution, Light is destroyed. In the cellar - really Light's spaceship - the fire storm is stopped. Smith is captured and locked up, just as he had incarcerated Control. She, Nimrod and Fenn-Cooper decide to use the ship to go explore the cosmos. Ace now knows the nature of the evil that took place in Gabriel Chase, which will lie empty for a hundred years until it is destroyed by fire...

This three part story was written by Marc Platt - his only contribution to the series - and was broadcast between 4th and 19th October, 1989. It was the last Doctor Who story to be recorded prior to the series being cancelled, though broadcast in the second slot. It was the all-studio story made alongside the all-location Survival, which was already in the can.
Platt's original pitch had been to take the Doctor back to his ancestral home on Gallifrey - a Ghormenghast-ian Gothic mansion by the name of "Lungbarrow". The Doctor's origins would have been revealed. Mercifully, producer John Nathan-Turner and Script Editor Andrew Cartmel chose to veto this idea. Cartmel had sought to re-introduce an element of mystery about the Doctor, so a story setting out his origins would have been an utterly stupid notion.
Platt redeveloped his story to be more of a haunted house mystery. He was a great fan of Victorian Gothic literature, and his day job used to be cataloguing archives at the BBC - the inspiration for Light's mission. The other big influence on the script is the clash between Darwin's theories of evolution, and biblical Creationism - represented by high churchman Rev Matthews.
At the time of broadcast, fans were somewhat baffled by the story. It seems that the cast were similarly confused by it. It demands multiple viewings - which means that, as piece of drama, it fails.
The problem was that a lot of what happens does not have a clear explanation - the animated husks being the most obvious example. Even if you do work out that they are Smith's cast-offs, how do they come to life? Why do they come to life? The truth is that JNT wanted conventional monsters - so they are there just to perform that role.
It turns out that a lot of material, that would have helped clarify things, was cut out to keep it to three episodes. Would it have been better as a four-parter? There wasn't quite enough material to strectch it that far. There is a laughable interview with Platt and Cartmel on the DVD where they claim it is all straight-forward - they, of course, knowing what it was supposed to be all about.

The baffled cast is as follows. Smith is Ian Hogg - best known for playing policeman Rockliffe on BBC TV. Fenn-Cooper is Black Orchid's Michael Cochrane. Mrs Pritchard is Sylvia Syms. Matthews is John Nettleton. Control is Sharon Duce. Gwendoline is Katharine Schlesinger. Light is John Hallam. Mackenzie is The King's Demons Frank Windsor, Nimrod is another returnee to the series - Carl Forgione, who had been one of Lupton's circle in Planet of the Spiders.
Episode endings are:
  1. Ace has run away from the Doctor and descended to the cellar in a lift. She comes across two dinner-suited figures - one with a reptilian head, and the other that of an insect. They stir to life and lumber towards her...
  2. The lift ascends to the ground floor, and everyone shields their eyes as a blast of light emerges. Light is free...
  3. Fenn-Cooper, Nimrod and Control have left to explore the universe - the spaceship travelling at the speed of thought. Ace now knows the nature of what she felt here, one hundred years from now...

Overall, wonderful cast, lovely performances and great sets / props. Shame the story story requires interviews made years later to make it comprehensible. 80th place in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll. A lot of people mistake complexity for quality, don't they?
Things you might like to know:
  • I've mentioned some of Platt's influences above. Other obvious ones include The Rocky Horror Show - a couple turn up at a Gothic mansion and there are bizarre characters who turn out to be aliens, and someone gets eaten  for dinner. There are quotes from everyone from Conan-Doyle to Douglas Adams to the Beatles. Lewis Carroll is another big influence.
  • Platt got to unleash Lungbarrow on the world thanks to the Virgin New Adventures book series - a source of onanism for a certain segment of fandom. As I've said, spelling out the Doctor's back-story was a stupid idea. Also, the series when it came back in 2005, has totally ignored and contradicted it.
  • Platt had been submitting story ideas since 1975.
  • The final shot ever recorded for the programme at BBC TV Centre was the turning of Mrs Pritchard and Gwendoline to stone.
  • The music is by the programme's audio-archivist Mark Ayres. He admits that it doesn't always work - sometimes drowning out dialogue.
  • The establishing shot of Gabriel Chase was filmed by director Alan Wareing during the location work for Survival.
  • The TARDIS materialises with the door facing a wall. Ace jokes about the Doctor's navigation skills - despite this being the only time it has been a problem since she arrived. We won't see something similar until Fear Her in 2006.
  • The look of Light was based on Pre-Raphaelite imagery. Note the back of his costume. It is supposed to be indicative of a winged beetle.
  • Lots of wonderful imagery, but not always making sense. The eyes of the stuffed birds lighting up. dead things coming to life. How does Smith turn Matthews into a monkey? What makes the candle flare up? Why are there any day staff at all? Lots more - not least who puts Ace into her nightie?
  • Casting that might have been: Harry Enfield as Redvers, and Michael Caine as Smith, or possibly Light.
  • The husk costumes were originally going to reuse fish and frog masks from a recent BBC production of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, made by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, and featuring Elisabeth Sladen. They didn't quite fit the costumes, so new masks were made,
  • An early draft of Evil of the Daleks would have featured a Neanderthal (named Og). He would have acted as a Control to Jamie, in order to identify the Human Factor.

Monday 9 May 2016

On Target

Finally made it to the Cartoon Museum on Little Russell Street, London, this afternoon for the Target book art exhibition.
I no longer own any of the old Target novels - they got sold off when I was an impoverished student many years ago - but I do have the coffee-table Target book, and pore over the illustrations on a regular basis.
Seeing the original artworks up close and personal was a joy.

The exhibit only takes up one corner of the upper floor, but there are over one hundred pieces to look at. By far my favourites were the Chris Achilleos ones. Highlights have to be the covers for two of the very first books - The Daleks and The Zarbi. Other Achilleos covers included The Cybermen, Revenge of the Cybermen, The Web of Fear, Ark in Space, Genesis of the Daleks, The Ice Warriors, Curse of Peladon and The Dinosaur Invasion. His Day of the Daleks is also there - along with a later version. Sadly, some of the paintings were of the later, somewhat inferior, editions - e.g. The Daemons, The Three Doctors and The Doomsday Weapon.

The other artist whose work I love is Roy Knipe. His painting for The Face of Evil is a little thing of beauty. It surprised me at how small some of the images were, as I had always assumed that the covers for a book range would have come in standard size.
Beside each image was a small picture of the actual book cover, giving the artist's name, and year of production.

On one wall there were the new additions to the Target range, as three of the books have just been reissued with Chris Achilleos covers - The Visitation, Vengeance on Varos, and Battlefield. Am afraid to say the one for VoV is not terribly good - it is a poor representation of Colin Baker.
Beside these was a page from the original 1960's Dalek comic strips - the one about the space rust - so not just Target material on view.

You may have noticed a "No Photography" sign in the topmost image here. No, I didn't ignore it. The text stated that you could not photograph specific paintings up close, for copyright reasons, but were permitted to take wider shots of the exhibition.
The exhibition only has a couple more days to go. Having a copy of DWM 499 gets you £2 off the usual £7 entry fee.
Who knows when these works will be collected together again? Perhaps the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff should think about having a small permanent exhibit.

Updates on Monday

Apologies for the lack of updates over the last few days. Have had internet connection problems, and have also been a bit sidetracked by the return of Orb to the heavens...
On Monday afternoon I will be visiting the Target artwork exhibition, and in the evening will give you my take on it, as well as Ghostlight.
See you tomorrow.

Thursday 5 May 2016

A is for... Alex (2)

Father to a little boy named George, who was so scared of things that it triggered a message on the Doctor's psychic paper half way across the galaxy. Alex was married to nurse Claire, and they lived in a London tower block. They struggled to make ends meet, and were being bullied for rent by their landlord. They had tried all manner of techniques with George to try and help him manage his fears - including imagining them consigned to his wardrobe. It transpired that the boy was really an alien Tenza, with powerful psychic abilities. The Doctor noticed that Claire had not appeared to be pregnant in a photo taken just before he was supposed to have been born. His parent's memories had been adjusted so that they would accept him as their own. He transported the Doctor, Alex, Amy and Rory into the wardrobe domain, along with a number of neighbours. He then transported himself. His biggest fear was of being rejected by his parents. When Alex convinced him that he would never treat him as anything but his own child, everyone was freed, and George's terrors subsided. The Doctor promised to look in on the family when George reached puberty.

Played by Daniel Mays. Appearances: Night Terrors (2011).

A is for... Alex (1)

Personal assistant to the British Prime Minister Harriet Jones at the time of the Sycorax invasion. A resourceful young man, he was one of those transmatted up to the Sycorax spaceship as it hovered over central London. He had a translation device which allowed Jones to communicate with the aliens. It was when he no longer had to translate that Rose knew that the newly regenerated Doctor had recovered. After being returned to the city, the PM advised Alex to notify Torchwood that they could fire upon the retreating Sycorax ship, destroying it. The Doctor used Alex to plant the seeds of doubt about Jones' fitness to lead the country - bringing about her downfall with the words "Doesn't she look tired". It would have been Alex who promulgated this rumour.

Played by Adam Garcia. Appearances: The Christmas Invasion (2005).

Wednesday 4 May 2016

A is for... Albert, Prof.

One of the scientists stationed at the North Pole, encountered by the Twelfth Doctor and Clara Oswald. The Doctor and Clara travelled there after an encounter with Santa Claus on Clara's roof at Christmas, 2014. It transpired that he and his colleagues, as well as the Doctor and Clara, were trapped in a shared dream state, induced by parasitic Dream Crabs (also known as Kantrofarri). All were asleep somewhere in Britain with the Crabs attached to their faces, feeding on their brains.
Sadly, Albert was the only victim not to be saved by the Doctor.

Played by Michael Troughton. Appearances: Last Christmas (2014).

A is for... Akhaten

A malignant, sentient sun, encountered by the Eleventh Doctor. The ring system that surrounded it had previously been visited by the First Doctor and Susan. Local legend had it that all life in the universe originated here. They had seen the festival where songs were sung to the star, and to the pyramid on an asteroid which was in orbit around it. This contained an ancient, desiccated mummy, known as Grandfather. The Doctor took Clara Oswald to the festival, as her first trip to an alien world. Clara befriended the young singer Merry - the Queen of Years. She got her song wrong, and this caused the mummy to reanimate. However, it was not the real threat. It was merely a conduit to the star. Akhaten awoke, and demanded feeding. It lived on memories and experiences. The Doctor almost sated it with his many years' worth of adventuring, but this was not enough. Clara had a leaf which she kept in a book that was left by her mother when she died. It had been instrumental in bringing her parents together. She offered this to Akhaten - all of the unlived potential, an infinity of things that might have been. The star gorged itself on these and collapsed.

  • There is no thought given to how the ring system survives after its sun vanishes.

Appearances: The Rings of Akhaten (2013).

Happy Star Wars Day!

May the Fourth be with you all...

April's (Belated) Figurines

Back from my jaunt to Scotland, so normal service will resume shortly. A couple of A - Z items tomorrow night to tide you over, then Ghostlight on Friday, fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, here are the figurines that arrived last week, but were only retrieved from the Post Office depot this morning. Three of them this month - the two regular ones plus the latest of the Subscriber Special Daleks.
The latter is the Emperor's Guard, as it appeared in Asylum of the Daleks. Not sure about you, but why didn't they just give us the version as it appeared originally in Evil of the Daleks? The fact is that all of the Classic Daleks that appeared in Asylum were not shown very well at all. As I said in my review at the time, what was the point having them if they were never clearly seen, plus the scene in the ICU which was supposed to be all about Daleks that the Doctor had met earlier were all bronze RTD ones - despite them having casings available that had been on Spiridon or Exxilon.
Anyway, it's a classic 1960's one, but instead of the black dome we have a dirty grey colour, representing dust and cobwebs.
Earliest of the standard releases is the Axon man (played on screen by Bernard Holley). All very well, but surely it's the Axon Monsters that we all want to see. Perhaps we will get it in its green variant as a Krynoid somewhere further down the line. Buy two, if they do, and paint one red / orange.
Lastly, we get the most obscure of the Supreme Daleks - the black & white one as seen in Resurrection of the Daleks. On screen, it was only really seen from the neck up, or in the dimly (red) lit control room, so its nice to see it in all its rather misshapen glory. We have a rather odd neck section - which doesn't quite fit with the base, and the horizontal rings below the dome are very big. Compare the shapes of the two in the pic below. The main thing about the shape is the way the base angles outwards at the rear - whereas earlier models had a more vertical angle.

Later in May we will be getting a new Cyberman figurine. Unfortunately, it is the wooden one seen briefly in The Time of the Doctor. A rather pointless release in my opinion, when you consider all the creatures that they could have chosen - like an Axon Monster for instance...