Tuesday 30 August 2016

A is for... Antodus

A member of the Thal race encountered when the Doctor made his first visit to Skaro, along with companions Susan, Ian and Barbara. Though a pacifist people by nature, Antodus was particularly keen to avoid fighting or any form of danger. He was the younger brother of Ganatus, who was stronger and more assertive. Antodus no doubt constantly lived in his brother's more formidable shadow. When younger, Antodus had a fear of the dark - talk of which Ganatus angrily defended him against. When Ganatus agreed to lead an expedition to infiltrate the Dalek city by way of the Lake of Mutations, Antodus felt compelled to join him. However, he soon grew afraid and wanted to turn back - abandoning the others. A rockfall meant that he had to go on. When the expedition reached a deep ravine, Antodus' nerve broke. He only half-heartedly attempted to get across the ravine. He fell, and almost pulled Ian down after him. Antodus cut the rope, and plunged to his death. Ganatus elected to cover up his brother's cowardice.

Played by Marcus Hammond. Appearances: The Daleks (aka The Mutants) (1963/4).

  • The movie version elects to redeem Antodus somewhat. He is still cowardly, but after cutting the rope he manages to catch hold of a ledge, and is pulled to safety.
  • Hammond seems to have quit acting in the early 1970's. One notable appearance is the Hammer film Plague of the Zombies.
  • Not to be confused with the Marcus Hammond who is a gang leader in one of the Grand Theft Auto games.

A is for... Antimatter Monster

The planet Zeta Minor lies at the very edge of the known Universe. In the depths of its jungles is a cave in which there is a pitch black pool - a gateway to the Universe of Antimatter. This is home to a creature which can straddle the two dimensions. It guards against anyone taking material from the planet, which could lead to cosmic annihilation. Generally invisible, it could appear in outline to the Doctor, Sarah and the Morestran explorers visiting the planet when fired upon by energy weapons.
The creature would kill by sucking the life-force from its victims - leaving desiccated husks.
The Doctor allowed himself to fall into the pool in order to commune with the creature. He promised that the Morestrans would not remove any of the radioactive crystals which they had mined - to fuel their dying sun. The creature allowed him to go free in order to arrange this.

Professor Sorenson became infected by radiation from the crystals. A chemical he devised could hold the transformation at bay only for a short time, and its effect diminished each time he used it. He would transform into a primordial parody of a man, and could kill in the same way as the creature from the pool.

When exposed to a radiation source, the transformation became permanent, and outline splinters were created, which roamed the Morestran ship - killing all they encountered.

The Doctor managed to capture Sorenson and took him to the cave in the TARDIS, where the professor fell into the pool. The creature allowed him to live, freeing him from the contagion, and leaving him with no memory of recent events. All the outline splinters vanished when this happened.

Appearances: Planet of Evil (1975).

  • See also "S is for... Sorenson".
  • The monster's appearance was inspired by the Monster from the Id, a piece of Disney animation in the classic 1956 sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet, whilst Sorenson's transformation comes from various film & TV versions that have been produced of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

A is for... Antibodies (2)

Lethal robotic defences aboard the Teselecta Justice Machines. They resembled electronic jellyfish, and their trailing tendrils could deliver a deadly sting. They would attack and kill anyone in the vessel, unless protected by a specially programmed bracelet. This was a bit of a design flaw, as the legitimate crew could find themselves killed if there was any kind of fault with the system - via an accident or through sabotage.

Appearances: Let's Kill Hitler (2011).

A is for... Antibodies (1)

Artificial beings created by the City of the Exxilons. They formed part of its defences. When the Doctor and Bellal penetrated to the City's control centre, and the Time Lord began to tamper with its electronic brain, the City created these creatures as antibodies to protect it from damage. They attacked the Doctor and Bellal, but were distracted by the arrival of a pair of Daleks. They were immune to bullets. The creatures would have been destroyed along with the City, once its energy-capturing beacon had been blown up.

Appearances: Death to the Daleks (1974).

  • The pair were played by Terry Walsh and Steve Ismay, but went uncredited on screen. They did get a billing in the Radio Times for Part Four as "Zombies".

Sunday 21 August 2016

Story 162 - The Long Game

In which the Doctor takes Rose and Adam to visit the year 200,000. They arrive on a space station, Exploring, they find that they are on Satellite Five, which packages news and beams it down to the Earth. The Doctor informs his companions that this is the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, but Adam points out that there are only humans on the station. Where are the alien races? The Doctor becomes suspicious that something is not quite right here. They meet a couple of members of staff - Cathica and Suki - who explain the workings of the station. Rose points out that it seems to be very hot. Suspecting that the Doctor is testing them as potential candidates for promotion and a move to Floor 500, Cathica allows them to witness their work. All the staff have implants in their foreheads, and the news is beamed directly into the brain to be edited. Watching from Floor 500 is the Editor. He detects something wrong in the news room, and starts a data search.

A promotion is announced. Suki is invited to go to Floor 500. Cathica is furious. She explains that the top floor is supposed to be gold plated, though no-one has ever returned from it. Adam feels unwell - the experience proving too much for him. He has been given a credit bar which the Doctor took from a money dispenser using his sonic screwdriver. The Doctor also gives him a key to the TARDIS so that he can rest there. However, he is more interested in learning more about the computer technology on show here. He finds that he can only get limited access to the systems, and is advised to visit Floor 16. Suki ascends to Floor 500, and finds that it is a bleak, frozen place, littered with corpses. The Editor confronts her, and tells her that he knows she is really a member of a guerrilla group - her real personality hidden beneath a fake one. The station personnel here are all animated corpses, and Suki is killed by the station's true boss...
Adam goes to Floor 16 and finds that this is the Medical Section. A nurse explains that to operate the computer systems fully, he needs one of the brain implants. He learns that the Doctor has given him enough credits to pay for the procedure, and goes ahead with it.

The Doctor investigates the heating system and finds that heat is being channeled down from Floor 500 to the rest of the station. He and Rose decide to go there. Cathica follows soon after. The Doctor and Rose are captured by the Editor and meet the real boss - a huge fleshy creature hanging from the roof, with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. This is the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe - or just "Max". The Jagrafess and the Editor have been manipulating the news for decades, holding back the Earth's development. The Editor wants to know who the Doctor and Rose are, as they do not appear in any official records. Adam tries to use a news room to download information, and the Editor sees this. He learns from him all about the TARDIS, and that they are time travelers. Cathica has been listening in, and she links herself to the station's systems. She redirects the heat back to Floor 500. The Jagrafess cannot stand this and begins to break up. The Editor tries to flee, but is seized by Suki. The Jagrafess explodes, killing the Editor. Human progress can return to normal. The Doctor is furious with Adam. He takes him back home and leaves him there. He will need to live a quiet life, now that he has the implant in his head.

The Long Game was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 7th May 2005.
It is the final appearance for new companion Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley) who only joined in the previous episode.
Once again in this first series, the TARDIS does not stray too far from Earth. All the episodes for this year take place either on or in orbit around the planet. Davies had argued that alien worlds were difficult to realise, and the viewing public would find it difficult to identify with weird alien beings. As nothing dates more than the future in film and TV sci-fi, all the crew of Satellite Five wear clothes contemporary to 2005.
Davies drew inspiration for this story from his dislike of media moguls, who only printed or broadcast the news packaged as they wanted it. The Editor is therefore an amalgam of Maxwell and Murdoch. The bloated Jagrafess is likely to be Maxwell. The Editor and his boss are playing a long game with their slow manipulation of the news - though the story title will have even more meaning by the time we reach the series finale and learn that someone is playing an even longer game.

The guest cast is a strong one. The Editor is long-time fan Simon Pegg. Suki is played by Anna Maxwell-Martin, who was just about to hit the big time soon after this. Cathika is played by Christine Adams. Pegg's frequent co-star Tamsin Greig plays the nurse. As soon as the Complete History covers this story, I'll let you know who the dog was.

Story Arc watch: The Bad Wolf TV Channel is showing news about the Face of Boe's pregnancy.
At the story's conclusion, the Doctor remains worried about what has happened on the station - hinting that we have not heard the last of this.

Overall, a fairly innocuous story that only gains any relevance once we get to see the season as a whole. A good cast. Despite the nice CGI for the station and the Jagrafess, it looks cheap. It is the lowest ranked Eccleston story in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll (205 out of 241).
Things you might like to know:

  • Sharp eyed viewers will see that the Editor is watching The Ark in Space and The Leisure Hive amongst all the other footage on his TV screens. 
  • A long game is a criminal activity, much favoured in London's gangland of the 50's and 60's. Expensive items would be bought and insured. They would then be removed from their warehouse before a fire conveniently broke out - apparently destroying them. The criminals would then collect on the insurance. It is also known as the long con.
  • As a big slab of flesh with fangs, the Jagrafess doesn't convince as the brains behind such a subtle scheme. This is something that the earlier producer Philip Hinchcliffe picked up on. He couldn't see how the hulking Kraals could create such intricate androids. 
  • It's a good job that Rose keeps mentioning how hot it is, as absolutely no-one looks or acts like it is.
  • One of the news channels is a +1 one. These are usually catch up channels, one hour behind. Why would there be a news one of these?
  • Radio Times readers were critical of the 2005 fashions on show in the year 200,000.
  • Billie Piper's costume raised complaints due its obvious branding, breaching BBC guidelines.
  • Apparently Davies had pitched this idea to the programme back in the JNT / Cartmel era.
  • Watch the Confidential programme that accompanies this episode and sympathise with Simon Pegg as he has to try to pronounce the full name of his employer.
  • To date, Adam is the only companion to be thrown out of the TARDIS. Earlier drafts did give him a less selfish reason for downloading the future tech - to get medical knowledge to save his ailing father. The comic book series "Prisoners of Time" has it his mother who is dying. After she does pass away, Adam then sets about getting revenge on the Doctor.
  • The staff on Satellite Five have a liking for Kronkburgers. This delicacy was first mentioned in the very first DWW comic strip - "The Iron Legion".

Monday 15 August 2016

A is for... Anita (2)

A member of Professor River Song's archaeological expedition to the Library, to ascertain what had happened to close it down some 100 years before. The expedition was financed by Strackman Lux, grandson of the man who had created the planet-spanning Library. Like the rest of her colleagues, Anita poked fun at Lux's secretary, the naive Miss Evangelista - something she would soon come to regret.
The team quickly came under attack by the Vashta Nerada - so called "piranhas of the air". These were flesh-eating microscopic creatures which lived in shadows. The technology of the team's spacesuits allowed the victims of the Vashta Nerada to retain some consciousness for a short time after they had been killed. Anita was their final victim. The Doctor had developed a liking for her, and her death prompted him to confront the creatures and propose a solution that would allow all the human survivors to go free, whilst leaving the Library for the Vashta Nerada to continue to inhabit.
Whilst their physical bodies had perished, all the deceased team members had their consciousness downloaded into the Library mainframe - to live on for as long as the Library remained operational.

Played by Jessika Williams. Appearances: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (2008).

A is for... Anita (1)

A young Spanish woman who worked at the Las Cadenas restaurant in Seville, Spain. She had a soft spot for an Englishman named Oscar, who was looking after the establishment for a friend. One day Oscar took Anita moth hunting, and they witnessed the arrival of a Sontaran spaceship at a remote hacienda. Oscar was reluctant to get involved, but Anita was keen to help the Sixth Doctor and his companions.
Some time later, the Androgum Shockeye arrived at the restaurant with the Second Doctor, who had been partially transformed into an Androgum. Anita alerted Oscar to the gargantuan bill which the pair had run up. When he challenged them, Shockeye killed him, leaving Anita distraught.

Played by Carmen Gomez. Appearances: The Two Doctors (1985).

  • There is a scene in part three when Mercedes Carnegie gets a cameo - throwing a rose to Dastari. She had helped with locations and translating. The flouncy dress she wears was originally to have been worn by Anita throughout the programme, but Gomez refused to wear it. No Spanish woman would wear such a dress for day to day use, especially moth hunting.

A is for... Animus

Extremely powerful parasitic creature which invaded the planet Vortis. It arrived in the depths of the flower forest, and had firmly established itself before the native Menoptra knew it was there. By this time it was too late to attack it. It turned the normally docile Zarbi against the Menoptra, forcing them to abandon their world for the planet Pictos. The Animus could generate gravitational fields, powerful enough to attract several small moons into Vortis' orbit. It could also influence people's minds using gold as a conduit. All the vegetation was cut down and fed into acid pools to feed the growth of the Animus' domain - the Carsinome. This was centred on the planet's magnetic pole.
The Animus appeared as a huge tentacled creature, residing at the heart of the Carsinome. When it communicated with the Doctor, it used a female voice.
The Menoptra returned to claim their planet, bringing with them a weapon called the Isop-tope. This was a cell destructor. The Animus was about to absorb the Doctor's mind, so that it could master time travel, when Barbara used the weapon on it - destroying it. The Carsinome dissolved, and the Zarbi reverted to their docile state.

Voiced by: Catherine Fleming. Appearances: The Web Planet (1965).

A is for... Angie & Artie

Children of George Maitland, who were being looked after by Clara Oswald. They became suspicious of Clara's eccentric new friend, and so did some research on the internet. After a time, they were able to find evidence of her travels through time with the Doctor. Some of the images even Clara could not recognise. Angie and Artie blackmailed Clara into letting them travel in the TARDIS. The Doctor took them to Hedgewick's World of Wonders - an abandoned amusement park on an alien planet. Whilst Artie was pleased to be here, Angie hated it - acting like a cliched bored teenager, of the type good writers should avoid. Artie played Mr Webley's Cyberman at chess, losing his sandwich. This proved to be an empty Cyber-suit, manipulated by a man named Porridge. However, the Cybermen were present on this planet and they abducted the children - intending to use them as their new Cyber-Planner. They then decided to use the Doctor instead.
Angie and Artie were taken home after the Cybermen had been defeated. Artie would later run rings round the Doctor, sending him off to play hide-and-seek whilst he sneaked out of the house.

Played by Eve de Leon Allen (Angie), and Kassius Carey Johnson (Artie). Appearances: The Bells of Saint John, The Crimson Horror, Nightmare in Silver, The Name of the Doctor (2013).

Sunday 7 August 2016

August's Figurines

This month we have just the two regular releases. First up is the Whisper Man, from The Name of the Doctor. The painting is a bit slapdash on this one, with the white face paint going over the collar and the underside of the hat brim. The accompanying magazine has some interesting things to say about their creation. As the masks were made from ladies' tights material, they were extremely difficult to cut, and the make up took longer than that for a Zygon. If the material laddered, they had to start all over again.
The other figurine is the Robot Mummy from Pyramids of Mars. Not a lot you can get wrong with such a basic shape. As that story was already covered in the mag accompanying the Fourth Doctor figurine, this issue just has a general article about the various races that originated on, or who have visited, Mars.
Next up will be another Cyberman - this time from The Wheel In Space.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Story 161 - Dalek

In which the TARDIS materialises in a bunker deep beneath the state of Utah, in 2012. It has been drawn here by a mysterious SOS signal.The Doctor and Rose find that the bunker has been turned into a museum of extra-terrestrial artefacts. There is a Slitheen arm, and the head of a Cyberman amongst the exhibits. An alarm is triggered and they are captured by guards. They are taken to meet the owner of the museum - Henry Van Statten. He is the world's richest man, with the power to topple Presidents, and he owns the internet. He is impressed with the Doctor's knowledge of alien objects, which beats his own expert - a young Englishman named Adam Mitchell. Van Statten has one living item in his museum, his pride and joy. He has employed a man named Simmons to get the "Metaltron" to speak by any means necessary. He has failed until now, so Van Statten decides to let the Doctor try. The Metaltron is said to have landed in the Ascension Islands back in the 1960's. Anyone who approached it was burnt to a crisp. The Doctor goes into the cage where the creature is chained up - and is shocked to discover that it is really a Dalek. Van Statten listens in as the Doctor's presence brings it to life. He hears how the Dalek should not exist - the Doctor had destroyed its entire race in a war. His own people had perished in the same conflict. The Doctor is pulled out when he tries to destroy the Dalek.

Van Statten realises he has another unique alien object to add to his collection - the Doctor. He subjects him to a torturous examination, and realises that he may be able to copyright some of the Doctor's biology. Rose forces Adam to take her to the cage, where she feels sorry for the Dalek as Simmons continues to torture it. After the Doctor left, it has refused to speak once more. Rose touches its casing, and there is a transfer of energy. Travellers in the TARDIS become imbued with Artron Energy, and this helps to regenerate the Dalek. It kills Simmons - crushing his skull with its sucker appendage. Its casing repairs itself, and it breaks free of its chains. It then starts to download the entire internet, as well as the power supply from the local area. Soon all the neighbouring states lose their power, absorbed by the Dalek. Van Statten is forced to release the Doctor so that he can help contain the creature. The Dalek soon breaks out into the bunker, exterminating everyone it encounters. It has a forcefield which eliminates bullets fired at it. Rose and Adam must get to the upper levels before they are sealed off by the Doctor - who cannot allow it to break out into the wider world.

Adam succeeds in getting out, but Rose is too late. The Doctor believes she has been killed, but the Dalek then contacts him. Rose is alive. She tells the Doctor that the Dalek has spared her, and it is changing. The Doctor realises that it has become infected by some of Rose's humanity. The Doctor opens the bunker door to let Rose out, then goes to Adam's workshop to find a weapon that will be effective against the Dalek. The creature tells Rose that it wants to see the sun. It blasts a hole in the ceiling, then opens its casing to reveal the tentacled mutant within. The Doctor arrives, ready to destroy it - but Rose refuses to let him to it. The Dalek has changed, and he is acting like the monster. The Doctor tells her that the Dalek cannot exist in this state. It asks to be destroyed, but cannot bring itself to kill itself. Rose must order it to do so. She agrees. The Dalek closes its casing, then the spheres detach from the skirt and circle around it - creating a vortex of energy. The Dalek vapourises.
Van Satten finds himself deposed by his aide, Diana Goddard, as payment for all the people who were killed by the Dalek. He will be left dumped by the side of the road somewhere with his memory wiped. Adam informs the Doctor and Rose that the bunker is about to be flooded with concrete. They decide to take him with them in the TARDIS.

Dalek was written by Rob Shearman, and was broadcast on 30th April, 2005. It is the only TV story to date to be commissioned from the author. It is the first Dalek story of the revived series, and introduces a new companion - Adam Mitchell, played by Bruno Langley (best known for a long-running role in Coronation Street).
It is the first story to be set in the USA for the new series - somewhere which will come to be visited often over the next decade.
The story takes as its starting point a Big Finish audio which Shearman had written - Jubilee - which also featured a lone Dalek being held prisoner and tortured, in this case in the Tower of London.
As plans for the 2005 series progressed, show-runner Russell T Davies found that it was expected that they would launch with a Dalek story. Senior figures at the BBC argued with him about this but he refused to allow it. The Daleks would detract from the introduction of the new companion, and the new Doctor. Better, said RTD, to hold the Daleks back until the midpoint. If the series was flagging, this would provide a second launch, or mid-season boost if things were going well.
The Daleks had become bit players in their own stories towards the end of the classic series, thanks to the introduction of the far more interesting character of Davros. RTD wanted to re-establish them as powerful adversaries in their own right, and so only wanted the one lone Dalek to feature. If this is what one could do, just wait until we get whole armies, he argued.

However, it was not always certain that Terry Nation's estate would allow the use of the Daleks. The BBC antagonised them by assuming that they could use them without asking (and paying) for them. Shearman was asked to come up with a Dalek-free alternative story-line featuring a new monster idea from RTD. These would be the Toclafane - homicidal spherical robots that actually contained the human race from the far future. Once it was finally agreed that the Daleks could be used, the Toclafane went into the ideas pending tray for use later on...
The Dalek design stays loyal to the original one by Ray Cusick. Back in the 1990's, when The Movie and the aborted Dark Dimensions were being planned, intentions had been to radically redesign them - creating "Spider-Daleks" for instance.
The new bronze Daleks are more heavily armoured than before, with thick plating and big rivets. New additions are the bullet-melting forcefield, plus the rotating mid-section that allows the Dalek to shoot 360 degrees. A use for the skirt balls is finally produced - they detach and can act as a self destruct mechanism.
We also get the new casing opening - the front neck section opening out instead of the dome raising like a lid. The decision is also taken to show the Dalek mutant right from the first story. It is a tentacled brain, with one eye, though we can see where another eye has been.

The new operators no longer need three hands, as John Scott Martin used to say. The dome and lights are now operated by remote control. From this point on, the Daleks will be voiced by just one artists - Nick Briggs - who had been voicing Daleks on audio for a number of years.
The main guest artist is Corey Johnson, as Van Statten. Goddard is Anna-Louise Plowman, and Simmons is Nigel Whitmey. If Briggs is the new Roy Skelton / Peter Hawkins, then Barnaby Edwards is the new John Scott Martin, as principal Dalek wrangler.
Story Arc elements:

  • Bad Wolf - the call sign for Van Statten's helicopter, heard as it lands at the beginning of the story.
  • The Time War. We finally get some detail about this. The war was fought between the Time Lords and the Daleks, and the Doctor is suffering from survivor's guilt as he wiped out both sides to bring the conflict to an end.
  • Artron Energy. First mentioned in the classic series, this will feature significantly in a number of stories to come.
  • Daleks - a whole new chronology for the Daleks is launched, generally self-contained from the stories of the classic era.

Overall, one of the best Dalek stories ever. Minimal cast - just the Dalek and the Doctor battling it out between them. Lots of great new attributes for the Dalek - though sadly not carried through to other stories all of them. Best performance by far from Eccleston, as we get to see just what the War has done to the Doctor. As for the ending - who would have thought they would ever shed a tear for a Dalek?
Things you might like to know:
  • Shearman jokingly called his non-Dalek scripts "The Absence of the Daleks".
  • An earlier version of the script had Van Statten's wife instead of the Goddard character, and the Adam character would have been his son.
  • Christopher Eccleston is seen to spittle at the mouth when raging at the Dalek. Director Joe Ahearne offered to re-film this, but it was felt to be in keeping with the performance.
  • Jubilee gets referenced in the name of the pizza delivery company that Adam Mitchell uses. The same company will deliver to the Torchwood team in Cardiff Bay, seemingly on a daily basis.
  • The script mentions the Dalek arriving in the Ascension Islands. There is only one Ascension Island, singular.
  • Other geographical problems arise from Van Statten's map of the USA. Some of the New England states appear to have merged together, and part of Michigan is gone altogether.
  • RTD showed the designers a Dapol toy Dalek before they started to make the new casing - to show how not to do it. He wanted to get back to the original Ray Cusick size and shape. The design had become corrupted over the years - especially in the 1980's when they became taller and thinner. Mike Tucker led the team that built the new casing. A fan's 1960's version was used as the template, from which moulds were taken. Two Daleks were built - the wrecked one, and the shiny regenerated version.
  • If you thought that Ray Cusick would have been pleased, you would be mistaken, unfortunately. He did not like the rivets, claiming they looked man-made, when a Dalek should not look like it was made by people.
  • A lot of filming for this story took place in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. It was only when they got to the location that they found out that the Dalek was almost too big to fit through the doorway at the foot of the stairwell. It scraped through - just.
  • Our first sighting of the Cybermen in the new series, though they won't make a proper appearance for another year, when they will be an alternative universe lot. This is clearly proof that the Mondasian ones are still around. The head is clearly one from Revenge of the Cybermen - note the tubing on the handles. However, the display says that it was found in the sewers of London - implying it is supposed to be one from The Invasion.
  • The 2012 date for this story will cause problems before the next series is done and dusted. How can Van Statten not know what his Metaltron is, if Daleks are going to be flying around London in 2007, then invading the whole planet in 2009?
  • The Dalek does the fan-pleasing thing of e-le-va-ting up the stairs when taunted by Adam - and shutting up the critics who persisted with the old Dalek / stairs joke even though it was quashed back in 1988. Why, though, does it not simply shoot him?
  • Adam claims there is a flight from Utah to London. There isn't one - at least direct. You can fly from Salt Lake City to Paris direct. Don't ever think this blog never imparts useful information.
  • Dalek was broadcast in the week of the General Election in the UK. It was given a special Radio Times cover - a recreation of the classic scene (not actually seen) in The Dalek Invasion of Earth 41 years earlier. It has subsequently been voted the best RT cover of all time. There was a feeble attempt to best this when the New Paradigm were unveiled, coinciding with the 2010 election. Rubbish Daleks, rubbish government.