Monday 30 January 2017

Story 173 - The Idiot's Lantern

In which the Doctor decides to take Rose to New York in 1956, to see Elvis Presley's famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. To get to the studios, the Doctor drives a Vespa scooter out of the TARDIS. It quickly becomes clear that they are nowhere near New York. They are in London, and the city is gearing up for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. They meet Mr Magpie, who is selling TV sets for the big event. He tells them that the ceremony will take place the next day. Rose is surprised to see so many TV aerials on the rooftops, as she had always been told that people had to cram into their neighbours' homes to watch - so few were households with a set. On Florizel Street, the Doctor and Rose witness a man being bundled into a car with a blanket over his head. One of the neighbours - a boy named Tommy Connolly - tells them that this has been happening a lot recently. The Doctor pursues the car on his scooter, but loses it. Tommy's father, Eddie, orders his son not to say any more.

Intent on learning more about what is going on here, that evening the Doctor and Rose turn up at the Connolly residence, pretending to be employed by the Government to look into how the population is preparing for the big day. Eddie is clearly a bully, who terrorises his family, and so they find ways to embarrass and belittle him. It is clear that the family is hiding a secret, and that Tommy would like to talk. He tells them of the abductions, and of how people are being turned into monsters. This includes his own grandmother, who is being kept upstairs, The Doctor goes to see her, and finds that the old woman has been left completely faceless. The police turn up, led by Inspector Bishop. The Doctor is knocked out and the old woman is bundled away. The Doctor recovers and gives chase - this time seeing how the police cars enter a warehouse that has its entrance quickly hidden with a market barrow. He breaks in and discovers twenty or so faceless people held there. Rose sees a strange red glow emanating from the back of the Connolly's TV set. She goes to Magpie's shop to investigate. He tries to warn her away. One of the TV sets comes to life - showing a female continuity announcer. Rose is shocked when it starts to talk to them. It then sends out a beam of energy which starts to suck off Rose's face.

The Doctor has been arrested by Bishop, but soon turns the tables and gets the Inspector to tell him everything that has been going on. Bishop has been under orders to simply remove the faceless people, to be dealt with once the Coronation is over. Another victim is brought in - and the Doctor sees that it is Rose. The following morning, the day of the ceremony, the Doctor and Bishop go to enlist Tommy's help. They go to Magpie's shop, after the boy tells them all this happened after the neighbourhood began to take in his inexpensive TV sets. They find the faces of all the victims staring out at them from TV screens, silently appealing for help. The female face appears and reveals that she is the Wire - an alien entity who was executed by her own kind, but whose mind escaped through space. It arrived at Magpie's shop some time ago via his TV aerial. It spared his face on condition he worked for it. It is simply using the female face as an interface. It attacks them, but only Bishop loses his features, as it retreats on recognising the sonic screwdriver as advanced technology. It has Magpie transfer its essence into a portable TV set, and he flees.

The Doctor realises that the Wire intends to exploit the Coronation ceremony to harvest more people. He discovers that they are in Muswell Hill, in the north of the city, and close by is Alexandra Palace - site of one of the BBC's TV transmitters. Magpie will have gone there. They give chase after the Doctor cobbles together a rudimentary video recorder. At the Palace, the Doctor pretends to be the King of Belgium to gain access. Magpie is climbing the transmitter tower and the Doctor goes after him, whilst Tommy goes to a control room with instructions on operating the recorder. The Wire kills Magpie, then starts to feed on the mental energies of the people watching the ceremony. The Doctor traps the creature on the video recorder - intending to tape over it some time later. Returning to Florizel Street, a party is underway. All the faceless victims have been restored. It transpires that Eddie had been reporting his afflicted neighbours to the police. His wife Rita, fed up with his bullying, decides to throw him out, as the house belongs to her. The Doctor and Rose encourage Tommy not to become estranged from his father, despite what he thinks of him. Tommy is given the scooter as a gift.

The Idiot's Lantern was written by Mark Gatiss, and was first broadcast on Saturday 27th May, 2006. As with his Series One submission, Gatiss was given a period story to do - this time one set in the 1950's - an era which fascinated him. He had hoped to dramatise his New Adventures novel "Nightshade" which also features a formless energy being, which makes use of an antenna tower, and which had Quatermass influences. Quatermass was the other big TV event of the 1950's.
Asked to come up with something new, Gatiss first thought about Rock & Roll, and had an alien taking over people's minds through a hit pop song. This wasn't deemed visual enough, so TV became the medium by which the Wire would attack.
The title comes from a slang term for a TV set - in that people would sit in front of any old rubbish rather than go out and do something more interesting.

The Muswell Hill location was well known to Gatiss. One of the residents of this area is actress Maureen Lipman. She was called upon to play the Wire. Unable to travel to Cardiff due to her work commitments, she filmed all of her material at Alexandra Palace itself. If you have ever seen any archive footage of the real early TV announcers, you will know how spot on her casting was.
The cast also includes Ron Cook as Magpie, and Sam Cox as Inspector Bishop. The Connolly clan are Jamie Foreman (Eddie), Debra Gillett (Rita), Rory Jennings (Tommy) and Margaret John as Gran.
Jennings was actually in his early twenties when he made this story. Like Florence Hoath in the previous season, he was one of those actors who could play much younger roles. Margaret John had appeared in Doctor Who before - having been Megan Jones in Fury From The Deep.
Gillett is best known these days for her role as Mrs Thursday, in ITV's Morse prequel Endeavour. Foreman tends to get cast as criminal types, apt as his family grew up in that milieu in the East End of London. He wore his father's period watch for the part.

Story Arc: Torchwood is mentioned as being behind the police cover up of events.

Tardisode: Not so much a prequel this time, more what happens between the pre-credits sequence and the start of the episode proper. Grandma Connolly is sitting down to watch her new TV when strange red lightning surrounds it. She gives it a thump, then the lightning reaches out to seize her face. We then see on the screen an advert for the Coronation broadcast.

Overall, a slight disappointment after Gatiss' first series script. It didn't fare well in the season polls. In the DWM Mighty 200 poll it managed position 138, but had dropped to 195th place (out of 241) five years later with the 50th Anniversary Poll. Perhaps it's a bit too preachy (Tommy's challenging of his father). Things aren't helped by the Doctor only seeming to get really angry when Rose falls victim, like the other faceless people don't seem to matter quite so much. You'd think she was his girlfriend or something...
Things you might like to know:
  • Let's get the anachronisms out of the way first. The BBC ident seen on the screens in Magpie's shop - the "bat-wing" one - wasn't introduced until the end of 1953, whilst this takes place on 1st and 2nd June of that year. The Doctor claims to have invented the home video 30 years earlier. Yes and no. 10 years is more accurate for the video cassette, but he's right in terms of it becoming a household item. Magpie's van is four years too early.
  • If Florizel Street is in Muswell Hill, then Alexandra Palace is facing the wrong way.
  • Florizel Street was the original name for Coronation Street
  • Rory Jennings will be familiar to Big Finish fans as the voice of the young Davros in their I, Davros miniseries.
  • Viewers on 2nd June 1953 did not get to see every bit of the Coronation ceremony. The BBC weren't permitted to show the part where Elizabeth was anointed, as this was the religious bit. The rest was more about becoming a terrestrial monarch, whilst the anointing symbolised her becoming the Defender of the Faith and the head of the Church of England. It will be interesting to see if the same rule applies when it is Charles' turn. (Or William's, depending on how much longer Liz 2 goes on).
  • Programmes seen or referred to next. We see clips from Muffin The Mule; Animal,Vegetable or Mineral; and What's My Line. The Wire says: "Are you sitting comfortably...", from Listen With Mother (radio rather than TV but it will go on the telly and give Dalek voice man Peter Hawkins a good living). She also says "Goodnight children, everywhere...", which comes from Children's Hour. Fans of the VFX in Doctor Who will be familiar with the Puppet Stage, as the location where many of the model shots for the series were filmed. This space got its name as it was where Muffin The Mule was recorded.
  • Surprisingly, only the Doctor mentions the first ascent of Mount Everest - news of which reached Britain on the eve of the Coronation.
  • When it was still going to be a story about a pop song, this had a working title of "Mr Sandman". Gatiss is obviously obsessed by this song, as it will crop up in his Series 9 effort, Sleep No More
  • It was fellow writer Gareth Roberts, shortly to be given a commission of his own but at this point writing the Tardisodes, who suggested the on screen title. It was a phrase his father used to describe TV sets.
  • Gatiss put some of himself into the character of Tommy. It is obvious that he is gay, but never explicit. Some critics at the time actually liked the Connolly family material, but others found it too preachy.
  • The Wire's demands to be fed seem to have been influenced by the carnivorous plant Audrey II in The Little Shop of Horrors. You can also clearly see the reference to Kroagnon in Paradise Towers. Gatiss clearly rates this story, as the Seventh Doctor turns the tables on the Caretakers in exactly the same way that the Tenth does with Bishop in this.
  • The TV aerials on Florizel Street look not unlike swastikas - suggesting the fascistic nature of the Wire, and tying in with Eddie having fought fascism only to become a bit of a fascist himself.
  • Last, but certainly not least - the ongoing success of Magpie Electricals. Considering that this was a tiny one-man business, heavily in debt and selling TV sets for £5 when the average cost at the time was £70 - and its owner gets himself killed - the company seems to have done remarkably well for itself. It is still going strong in the 21st Century. Martha Jones has one of their TVs, and Sarah Jane Smith one of their computers. The Torchwood Hub also boasts one of their TV sets. They are still around far into the future, as a sign on Starship UK testifies. The Doctor even uses their products - such as his guitar amp - and the Eleventh Doctor's first TARDIS console used bits of Magpie products. Here's a picture I myself took, on a set visit in 2012, to prove it:

Friday 27 January 2017

January's Figurines (2)

Three figurines to round off the month. The two regular releases are the Carrionite witch Mother Doomfinger, and the Cyber Controller as he first appeared in Tomb of the Cybermen. Alongside these we get the latest of the special Dalek figurines, and what an odd one it is.
First up, Mother Doomfinger. Very well modelled, with lots of detailing in the costume. The features are good as well, and you could guess which of the two Mothers this is supposed to represent.
The only thing I would say about the Controller is that he is a bit too silver. On screen, he looked to be darker than his underlings.
The Dalek hails from Evil of the Daleks. As you can see from the pair of images below, there is something definitely amiss with the proportions. This so called "skinny" Dalek had a much smaller base for some reason.The makers, Shawcraft Models, had no records about this version. It is believed that the slimmer base was created as this Dalek would have to traverse a real Victorian house - and so fit through the doors. Up until this story Daleks had only ever appeared in studio or on external locations.
This is the Dalek that orders Victoria not to feed the flying pests, and it was last seen in the Thought Channel sequence in The War Games Episode 10. VFX maestro Bernard Wilkie salvaged it when it was then discarded, and it is now owned by movie director Peter Jackson.
Next month sees the release of Commander Azaxyr, from Monster of Peladon.

Note the single column of hemispheres on the back panel, instead of the usual double column.

B is for... Bell Plants

A large plant species which is hostile to animal life, and is native to the planet Tigella. They appear to be carnivorous. Thick tendrils at the base of the plant can ensnare passing victims, whilst a red, bell-shaped flower sprouting from the top gives the plant its name. The main body comprises folds of thick leaves, which open up to seize the prey and envelope it whilst it is consumed.
Presumably they evolved to eat smaller animal lifeforms, as they are fairly ineffectual at capturing human beings (or similar). Romana, and later a squad of Gaztak mercenaries, were able to extricate themselves from their clutches quite easily.
If they are the only hostile plant form on the planet's surface then the Tigellans would not have had too much trouble reclaiming the surface, once they had been forced to abandon their subterranean city.

Appearances: Meglos (1980).

B is for... Bell, Corporal

Corporal Bell was a UNIT member, who was based at UNIT HQ. Her role was administrative, acting as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's personal secretary. She first appeared during the period when UNIT was supervising security at an international peace conference in London, which coincided with the operation to dump a banned nerve gas missile at sea. The Master intended to hijack the weapon and use it to destroy the conference. She was later on hand when an alien spacecraft landed near the Nuton Power Complex on England's south coast. She relayed the information to the Brigadier that the craft's arrival had resulted in freak weather conditions in the area.

Played by: Fernanda Marlowe. Appearances: The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos (both 1971).

  • Yes, Bell's most famous moment is when she tells everyone about the weather down at Nuton. This line had to be added in studio after the film crew had experienced wildly varying weather conditions whilst shooting at Dungeness in Kent. A similar thing happened with The Daemons the year after, but it wasn't quite so apparent on screen and so Corporal Bell wasn't called upon again.
  • No, Fernanda Marlowe was never married to actor William Marlowe (convict Harry Mailer in her first story). He did however marry Catherine Schell (Countess Scarlioni), and later Kismet Delgado, widow of Roger (the Master) Delgado.
  • Fan fiction has given Corporal Bell the first name of Carol. Might be something to do with the 1914 Christmas Carol of the Bells, by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych. Or maybe not.

Thursday 26 January 2017

B is for... Belazs

Belazs was responsible for the day to day running of Iceworld, acting as lieutenant to its real controller - Kane. He was unable to leave the confines of his refrigerated inner sanctum, as the complex's normal temperatures would destroy him. Kane enslaved people, marking them as his own when he gave them a frozen coin that would burn the flesh on the palm of their hand. Belazs had such a mark, and she knew that Kane would never allow her to leave his service. She also harboured some unrequited feelings towards him. She was in charge of the white uniformed guards who kept order on Iceworld, and like them wore a distinctive Pickelhaube helmet.
At the time of the arrival of the Seventh Doctor and Mel on Iceworld, Belazs had started to make plans for her escape - knowing that Kane himself had a scheme to flee his imprisonment. She intended to steal the Nosferatu - the impounded spaceship belonging to Sabalom Glitz. She also conspired with her colleague Kracauer to assassinate Kane - raising the temperature in his vault whilst he slept.
The assassination failed, and Kane destroyed the Nosferatu when the staff and customers of Iceworld tried to flee in it. Knowing that she had conspired against him, Kane killed Belazs - his frozen touch being lethal.

Played by: Patricia Quinn. Appearances: Dragonfire (1987).

  • Quinn's best known role will always be that of Magenta, in the stage and screen versions of The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show.
  • She married actor Robert Stephens shortly before he passed away, and so is technically Lady Stephens.
  • Two of her nephews are members of the band Snow Patrol, and so have a Doctor Who connection of their own.
  • Belazs, like other characters in this story, is named after a film theoretician - in this case Bela Balazs (1884 - 1949).

B is for... Bedspread Monster

When the Doctor wanted Clara to use the telepathic circuits to pilot the TARDIS into her past, her thoughts of Danny Pink got in the way and the ship materialised outside the children's home where he once lived instead. The Doctor was seeking the origins of the popular fear people have of something lurking under their beds. He had developed a theory that some being existed which was so successful at camouflage that no one knew of it - having never been seen. It was the ultimate evolutionary form, since nothing could ever prey on it.
The Doctor and Clara met the young Danny - real name Rupert - and witnessed something appear in his room. When Clara and Rupert climbed under his bed, something entered into the room and sat on it. Looking up they saw a small shape hidden beneath his red knitted bedspread.
They turned away from it, and so did not see what emerged from beneath the covering. It left the room before it could be identified. The Doctor claimed that it could just as easily be one of Rupert's young friends, playing a prank - but neither Clara nor Rupert were convinced by this.
If this was one of the hidden creatures, then it, or another of its species, survived to the end of the universe.

Played by: Kiran Shah. Appearances: Listen (2014).

  • From the tiny, out of focus glimpse we get, it does not look like another little boy, so presumably it is one of the Doctor's sought after ultimate evolutionary creatures.
  • Like his fellow countryman Deep Roy, for whom he is often mistaken, Shah has a huge number of fantasy credits to his name - having been body doubles for Bilbo and Frodo in the Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit trilogies. He was also the scavenger who tried to steal droid BB-8 in The Force Awakens.
  • The "Bedspread Monster" - the only apt title - was on display at the Doctor Who Experience last time I visited - certainly one of the more unusual exhibits.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Inspirations - An Unearthly Child

Before we look at the story itself, a quick recap on where Doctor Who came from. In 1960, the BBC's Donald Wilson formed a working party to look into ideas for new drama series. Come 1962, they're looking at the opportunities afforded by Science Fiction. Two of BBC TV's biggest hits have come via Nigel Kneale - the Quatermass trilogy, and his adaptation of Orwell's 1984. ITV have started screening Sci-Fi, either as part of the Armchair Theatre run, or with series such as the Pathfinders in Space trilogy and Out of this World, which was introduced each week by Boris Karloff.
One of the people responsible for this output was Sydney Newman, who will shortly bring his love of Sci-Fi from ATV over to the BBC.
Wilson's researchers had watched some of their rival's programmes, and decided that aliens and robots didn't work. They thought that two areas worth exploring further were Time Travel and Telepaths.
Once we get to 1963, Newman has been headhunted by Wilson to the BBC, and the Corporation is looking for a half hour family drama that will plug a gap in the Saturday evening schedules, and help stop the adults switching over to the opposition after Grandstand.
Time Travel will be intrinsic to this new show, and it will feature telepathy in its first season - albeit fleetingly.
Doctor Who is born - the story of a mysterious time-traveller and his grand-daughter, and the two hapless school teachers who get caught up in their adventures. The series will feature a strong educational remit. There will be stories set in historical periods, and ones in the future, which will discuss scientific ideas. Good job Ian is a science teacher, and Barbara teaches History, rather than Home Economics. (Saying that, some future stories might have benefited from a thrilling Bake-Off challenge at its conclusion).
There will be a third type of story - described as "sideways", as opposed to past or future. These will look at the everyday from a new, distorting angle.
The first adventure was supposed to be one of these sideways stories, as the travellers get shrunk to an inch tall and have to negotiate Ian Chesterton's science lab at the school. When it was realised that this would be too technically demanding at this early stage, the idea was put on the back burner, and another story by Anthony Coburn was brought forward to launch the series - the one we generally call An Unearthly Child.
Stories did not have overall titles at this stage, as I'm sure you know full well.

So where does this first story come from?
Pretend for a moment that you are a viewer back in 1963, sitting in front of the TV on Saturday 23rd November. You're probably a bit shell-shocked by the news of President John F Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, so are looking for something to take your mind off this terrible event. You've failed to win the Pools as well. Round about 5.15pm a new series begins on the BBC.
After the very weird music you see a policeman in a foggy lane. Is this going to be some sort of Z Cars style crime show? What's a Police Box doing behind that gate, and what's with the funny noise it seems to be making?
Suddenly we're in a school. A strange looking school, where the pupils don't appear to be wearing a uniform. Is this a Teen school-based drama?
You glance at this week's Radio Times, and there's Kenneth Horne on the cover - plugging his latest series on the Light Programme. On screen, one of the boy pupils is doing a Kenneth Williams impression.
We then get 10 minutes of Ian and Barbara, two teachers who are worried about one of their pupils - Susan Foreman. This first episode is called An Unearthly Child, so we can safely assume that refers to Susan. So far, this could be leading to some social commentary drama - where the two teachers find out about some abuse or neglect in Susan's home life, and it will all be sorted out by social services. (Imagine 48 weeks of Ian and Barbara sorting out the trials and tribulations of a teenager-of-the-week...).
Susan lives in a junk yard, with her grandfather. That's a seemingly miserable, grumpy old person, and a young trendy person keen to dive in and see what this society has to offer, and they're living together in a junkyard, with theme music by Ron Grainer. A Steptoe and Son spin-off perhaps?
Susan's home turns out to be a huge, brightly-lit, futuristic spaceship, somehow fitting inside that Police Box we saw at the start - and it can travel anywhere in Space and Time.
All those drama or comedy styles this was hinting at - all wrong. This is a Science Fiction show.

There are four great fantasy writers influencing this programme. Three English, and one French. The box that can transport you to magical worlds would appear to be not unlike the Wardrobe in the Narnia tales of C S Lewis. He happened to pass away the day before you tuned into this new show, though the news would obviously have been swamped by that coming out of Washington and Texas. The TARDIS is a time machine - so H G Wells is obviously somewhere in the mix. The Doctor dresses in clothes that his time traveller might have worn. The Doctor and Susan are separated from their own home, as though marooned on a desert island. He is like some sort of magician. Prospero to Susan's Miranda?
The French writer is obviously Jules Verne. The Doctor is certainly reminiscent of Captain Nemo. He was a scientific genius who also abducted some people so that they couldn't tell the world all about his amazing craft. He wanted to explore, without anyone knowing about him. Nemo wants to stop warfare and build some kind of utopia - ideas not unlike earlier visions for the character of the Doctor.
Doctor Who? Captain Nobody. (Nemo is Latin for Nobody, in case you didn't know).
Talking of Doctors, let's go back to that initial mystery about Susan and her strange grandfather. Susan acts as though she were a very badly briefed foreigner. She talks about the English fog like she doesn't come from England. She doesn't even know the currency. He, meanwhile, is obviously hiding something. It's the height of the Cold War, and spies are being discovered in the most humdrum of suburban settings.
Doctor Who. Captain Nobody. Dr No...

That's a heck of a lot, all going on in just the first 25 minutes. Intrigued, you tune in the following week, and the next two after that, and you get an adventure with some cavemen trying to obtain the secret of fire-making. And there aren't any dinosaurs!!!
Everyone in 1963 knew that where there were cavemen there were dinosaurs.
Raquel Welch and her rabbit skin bikini is still 3 years away, but you may have gone to the flicks and seen the 1940 version of One Million Years BC. The main star is Victor Mature, but it also features Lon Chaney Jnr in one of the few roles when he wasn't playing one of the monsters. The dinosaurs in this movie are the ordinary-lizards-with-fins-glued-on variety, rather than stop-motion animation of real looking ones. The George Pal version of The Lost World also used this lizard trick. The Doctor has a touch of the Professor Challenger about him too - another grumpy old scientist who recklessly endangers his companions in the pursuit of knowledge and discovery.
One Million Years BC tells of the ructions that occur when a stranger joins another tribe - just like Kal in An Unearthly Child. And this story is often called "100,000 BC".
Another influence - literary this time - would be The Quest For Fire. You might have seen the 1981 movie, but it comes from a 1911 book by Belgian writer J-H Rosny (really the nom de plume for a pair of brothers). This is about the conflict between nice homo sapiens and nasty neanderthals - and not a Daemon in sight.
We mentioned the Cold War earlier. It's now two years on from the Cuban Missile Crisis and people are worried about the Bomb. Everyone assumes these three episodes are set on prehistoric Earth, but it could equally be some alien planet where human-like beings are evolving. Maybe Kal's a Thal, and the Doctor's just helped the future Kaleds on the road to the technology that will one day produce the Daleks...
Equally, this might be a future Earth - one destroyed in a nuclear war. Lots of Sci-Fi stories have the "surprise" reveal that a desolate wasteland is really our world, post apocalypse. Charlton Heston finding the ruins of the Statue of Liberty on the Planet of the Apes, for instance. That movie is also still in the future, but you'll find similar reveals in any number of short story anthologies of the post war period.
Who can say how much of this was going through the minds of Anthony Coburn, Verity Lambert et al. As stated in my introductory post on "Inspirations", this is what I can see, and you might well have your own ideas. By all means, do use the Comments to let me know.
Tune in next time, when the Doctor will be in full Prof. Challenger mode, and Terry Nation really goes to town on the The Time Machine...

Friday 20 January 2017

B is for... Beast

An incredibly ancient being which was the embodiment of Evil. The Beast claimed to predate Time itself, which the Doctor found hard to swallow.
Millennia ago, the Beast was captured by the Disciples of the Light and imprisoned at the heart of a barren planet, Krop Tor. This was placed in geostationary orbit around a Black Hole. The only way it could escape would be to smash a pair of vases in the cavern in which its was held captive. However, destroying these would plunge the planet into the Black Hole.
In appearance, the Beast was an enormous, red-skinned horned being, with a skull-like face. It could breathe fire. The Doctor speculated that it may have been the origin for Devil figures on many, many planets.
Unable to flee physically, the Beast planned to engineer an escape for its mind. It generated a power signal of incredible magnitude, as well as a gravity funnel that would allow any curious visitors to safely reach the planet.
In the year 43K2.1, an expedition arrived from Earth to investigate the power source. The Beast possessed one of the crew - archaeologist Toby Zed. It then turned their peaceful Ood servants against the humans so that they would be forced to flee - carrying the Beast's mind away within Toby's body.
At times its control over him would manifest itself physically - his eyes glowing red and strange markings would appear on his flesh.

The Doctor descended into the cavern where the Beast was held, and he quickly realised that something was wrong. The creature he saw before him was pure animal instinct, with no hint of its considerable intelligence. Thus he worked out that it was abandoning its physical shell, but its essence was somewhere else.
He smashed the vases and so destroyed the Beast's body as the planet fell into the Black Hole. The creature revealed itself on the escape ship as the markings appeared on Toby's face and he began ranting and breathing flames. Rose used a bolt gun to shatter the window, unlocking Toby's seat belt at the same time. He was sucked out of the cockpit, and so the Beast's mind also perished in the Black Hole.

Voiced by: Gabriel Woolf. Played by: Will Thorp (Toby Zed form). Appearances: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (2006).

  • Gabriel Woolf had previously voiced the Osiran Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars. The Doctor had thought that he might also have inspired the Satan myth.
  • Back in 1972, it was the Daemons whom the Doctor had thought responsible for the horned devil legends - on Earth at least.
  • Here the Doctor blames the Beast for possibly being behind the devil characters of the Kaleds and the Draconians amongst others - including the Daemons themselves, oddly enough.
  • The Great Intelligence claimed on Trenzalore that the Doctor himself would ultimately become the Beast - though this would evolve from the Valeyard.
  • The Beast was survived, briefly, by a son - Abbadon. He fell foul of Captain Jack in the Series One finale of Torchwood - End of Days
  • Rather bizarrely, in a segment of the Sarah Jane Adventures Files, in which computer Mr Smith provides the equivalent of a clips show to Luke, it is stated that the turns-out-he's-not-that-bad-really criminal Androvax is higher on the Judoon most-wanted list than the Beast, who's Mr Evil Incarnate.

B is for... Bates

A prisoner of the Cybermen, forced to work on the surface of their planet Telos. He had been partially converted into a Cyberman, given mechanical limbs. He formed a plan of escape with fellow captive Stratton. They would kill a guard and use its head as a disguise in order to infiltrate Cyber-Control as prisoner and escort. There, they would steal the Cybermen's captured time-ship. This needed three pilots. The mercenary Lytton would be the third of the crew, in an elaborate plan hatched by the Cryons, Telos' native species. The Cyber-Controller had anticipated this plot, and Bates was killed by a booby-trapped door just as he entered the base.

Played by: Michael Atwell. Appearances: Attack of the Cybermen (1985).

  • Atwell had appeared in Doctor Who once before, though his face was not seen. He played the Ice Warrior Isbur in The Ice Warriors.
  • Usually called upon to portray criminal types, he played Bill Sykes in the musical Oliver! as well the BBC classic serials adaptation of the Dickens tale.
  • For a time he played one of the Beale clan in Eastenders.
  • Between 1981 and 1993 he also had a sideline as a newspaper political cartoonist, signing himself as "Zoke" - from his children's names, Zoe and Jake.

B is for... Bartock, Danny

The Ethics Officer of the expedition to Krop Tor - the impossible planet which somehow maintained a geostationary orbit on the edge of a Black Hole K37 Gem 5. It was Danny's job to look after the Ood servants who worked in Sanctuary Base 6 alongside the human crew. When the Ood became possessed by an ancient evil force, Danny came up with a plan to incapacitate them - a psychic flare that would break the mental hold over them. This proved successful, allowing the survivors of the expedition to reach their spacecraft. When the Beast tried to undermine the humans by revealing their darkest thoughts, it claimed that Danny's secret was that he was a liar. He was one of only three survivors of the expedition, which had been sponsored by the Torchwood Archive.

Played by: Ronny Jhutti. Appearances: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (2006).

B is for... Barnham

George Patrick Barnham was a convict at Stangmoor Prison. He was the last prisoner to be subjected to the Keller Process, which removed all evil from a person's mind. The Doctor and Jo Grant were on hand to witness the operation as UNIT observers. The Doctor had serious qualms about the process. Barnham was left with the mind of a child, after every negative impulse was removed. He formed a bond with Jo and with Dr. Summers, the prison MD. Fellow convict Harry Mailer found his presence unsettling. Keller turned out to be the Master, and his machine contained an alien mind parasite that fed on evil thoughts. It became dormant when Barnham was present, as it had nothing left to feed on with him. The Doctor used this fact to employ Barnham to help safely transport the machine to a rendezvous with the Master at a nearby airfield. When the machine attacked the Master, the kind-hearted Barnham went to his aid. In escaping, however, the Master ran him over and he was killed.

Played by: Neil McCarthy. Appearances: The Mind of Evil (1971).

B is for... Barclay

A young man who was travelling on the No. 200 bus from Westminster to South London when it passed through a wormhole as it drove through a road tunnel. The bus ended up on the planet San Helios, where it came under threat from the omnivorous Swarm. He had been on his way to have a meal with a friend named Tina, who he hoped would become his girlfriend. Barclay had an aptitude for mechanics, and helped fix the bus' engines. Once the Doctor had succeeded in getting the bus back to Earth, he recommended that Captain Magambo enlist Barclay for UNIT, due to his technical skills.

Played by: Daniel Kaluuya. Appearances: Planet of the Dead (2009).

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Story 172 - Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel

In which the TARDIS crashes out of our universe to land on a parallel Earth. The ship is left with no power, and the Doctor fears they may be trapped here, but he then discovers one small energy crystal which should be able to re-power the ship in 24 hours. Stepping outside, they find that they are in London. It looks very much like the one they know, except that the sky is full of airships. Rose then spots a poster advertising the soft-drink Vitex - and it features her father Pete. In this world, he did not die young, and appears to be a successful businessman. Rose determines to go and find him, against the Doctor's advice. Mickey, meanwhile, elects to go and see if his gran is still alive. He had been brought up by the old woman. They arrange to meet back at the TARDIS the next day. The Doctor and Rose discover that everyone wears earpods, and all personal technology seems to be run by a company called Cybus Industries. Its boss, John Lumic has just arrived back in the UK on his personal zeppelin, and Pete Tyler and the UK President are summoned to meet him. Lumic is dying, confined to a wheelchair with breathing apparatus. He has designed a metal body in which to deposit the human brain, so that people can live forever. The President refuses to sanction any further work on these experiments. He leaves, intending to attend Jackie Tyler's birthday party later that evening. Lumic hacks into Jackie's earpods to download security information about her home.

Mickey finds that his gran is still alive, but before he can be properly reunited a van pulls up, and its occupants - Mrs Moore and a young man named Jake - usher him aboard. They have mistaken him for someone they know. Jake had earlier filmed vagrants being lured onto a truck belonging to International Electromatics - a Cybus subsidiary. Many down-and-outs have gone missing of late. The Doctor and Rose infiltrate the birthday party by pretending to be servants. Pete and Jackie have no children in this world - but they do have a dog named Rose. Mickey is taken to an out of the way house, and is shocked to find his double there - the person Jake and Mrs Moore mistook him for. His name is Rickey. He is leader of the Preachers - a dissident group who are struggling to bring down Lumic's empire. Mickey is forced to join them. At the Tyler mansion, Pete finds himself confiding in Rose, but can't understand why. The Preachers leave their base and follow one of the International Electromatics lorries. It goes to the Tyler home, and a number of huge metal creatures emerge. The Doctor has hacked Pete's computer, and is horrified at finding Lumic's proposals for the metal suits. He recognises them as Cybermen. The Cybermen burst into the house. The President is contacted by Lumic and once again refuses to sanction his work. He and a number of other guests are killed. Jackie is captured, whilst the Doctor, Rose and Pete flee outside and meet the Preachers. The Cybermen surround them, and refuse to accept them as prisoners.

The Doctor uses the TARDIS energy crystal to destroy them and they flee in the Preachers' van. Rickey threatens to execute Pete as a collaborator of Lumic's, but he reveals that he is Gemini, the spy who has been feeding them information for the last few months. Cybermen swarm through the streets of London, as Lumic uses the earpods to put the population into a hypnotic trance. People are compelled to converge on Battersea Power Station, which has been turned into a Cyber-conversion plant. Rickey is killed by Cybermen, for which Jake blames Mickey. The Doctor organises a plan. Pete and Rose will enter the power station pretending to be under hypnotic control, wearing fake earpods. Pete wants to find and rescue Jackie. Mickey and Jake will break into the zeppelin, which is moored on the roof, whilst the Doctor and Mrs Moore will get into the station via some subterranean tunnels. Lumic's assistant, Mr Crane, refuses to accept conversion and attacks his master. He is killed but Lumic is left dying, and the Cybermen decide to convert Lumic - to become their Controller.

Pete and Rose discover that it is too late to save Jackie, and both are captured. The Doctor and Mrs Moore find that the tunnels are full of dormant Cybermen, but they start to wake up. She uses an electromagnetic bomb to destroy one. Before it dies, the human it once was reasserts itself. Lumic has fitted each Cyberman with an emotional inhibitor, rather than surgically remove the emotions. Mrs Moore is killed, and the Doctor captured. He is taken to Cyber-Control, where he is reunited with Pete and Rose. Lumic appears - now converted into the Cyber-Controller. Jake and Mickey are on the bridge of the zeppelin, and use the CCTV to spy on the control area. The Doctor hopes that they can see him, as he has a plan to stop the Cybermen. Mickey is guided to hack into Lumic's files to locate the master code that will over-ride the emotional inhibitors. When this is activated through Rose's phone - now linked to the Cybus network - it causes the Cybermen to see what has been done to them. They go insane and self-destruct. The Doctor, Pete and Rose make their escape to the zeppelin, pursued by the Cyber-Controller. As the airship lifts off, it grabs hold of the rope ladder and tries to climb after them. Pete uses the sonic screwdriver to burn the ladder, and the Controller falls to its death amidst the burning ruins of the power station. Back at the TARDIS, Rose has revealed her identity to Pete. He cannot cope with this revelation, and walks away. Mickey elects to stay on this world - there is nothing for him back in his own London, and his gran is still alive here. He and Jake will seek out other Lumic factories, to stop further Cyberman threats. The Doctor takes Rose back home to see Jackie.

This two part adventure was written by Tom MacRae, and was first broadcast on the 13th and 20th May, 2006. The director is Graeme Harper, who had directed several stories of the classic era of Doctor Who - including The Caves of Androzani and Revelation of the Daleks. To date, he is the only director to have worked in both incarnations of the show.
After bringing the Daleks back for Series One, the plan had always been to bring the Cybermen back for the second series. We had seen a Revenge-style Cyberman helmet in Dalek, so knew they were still around. Russell T Davies realised that the back-story for the monsters from Mondas was the most complicated of any of the classic series aliens - more so than that of the Daleks. In order to avoid clumsy and convoluted continuity dumps, he decided to start with a blank sheet. No-one had done an origins story for the Cybermen on screen - though co-creator Gerry Davis had proposed one to John Nathan-Turner and Eric Saward - so this story would see how an alternative breed of Cybermen was created afresh on a parallel Earth. The series hadn't really done parallel worlds since 1970's Inferno - and RTD had a plan to leave Rose trapped there at the end of the season, with her ex-boyfriend and her parents reunited (sort of) by way of consolation for being separated from the Doctor.
There had been an origins tale done on audio - Big Finish's "Spare Parts" by Marc Platt - in which the Fifth Doctor had visited Mondas as the Cybermen were being brought into being.
This parallel Earth would have certain steam-punk features - such as the zeppelins - and the final design approved for the new Cybermen would have a slightly art deco feel. Some of the unused designs go for more body-horror, or touch on the original Tenth Planet look. The Cybermen would get their own version of Davros - a mad scientist in a wheel-chair who's obsessed with the furtherance of his race through unethical means.
One big inspiration for this story was the obsession people had with mobile phones and i-pods. What if someone could take these over - and hence take you over? The Cybermen aren't as talkative as our lot, more machine creatures, so they delete people like they would delete a file. All the technology is homogenised and compatible. And every time there's some new product, no matter how close it is to the thing they already own, everyone wants to upgrade. Time to upgrade the entire human race.

Unlike previous Cyber-stories, MacRae does not go overboard with continuity references. The Cybus subsidiary is International Electromatics - the company owned by Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion. There are no sewers involved, or bases on the dark side of the moon, and definitely no ionising of stars in other galaxies in order to infiltrate Space Wheels.
Camille Coduri gets to play a colder version of Jackie, and Shaun Dingwall returns as a more self-assured version of Pete. Noel Clarke gets to essay a harder version of his character (basically just without the comedy reactions), though it does transpire that Rickey is just as inept in some ways as Mickey. The guest cast features Don Warrington as the President, and Roger Lloyd-Pack somewhat hams it up as John Lumic. He had just featured in a Harry Potter film, with David Tennant playing his son. Jake is Andrew Hayden-Smith - like the ubiquitous Ant & Dec one of the Byker Grove cast, and more recently a children's TV presenter. Mrs Moore is played by Helen Griffin. Mickey's gran - Rita-Mae - is Mona Hammond, who had spent a long time in Walford recently. Lumic's henchman, Mr Crane, is one of those rare returnees from the classic series - Colin Spaull. Harper had used him as the sadistic Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks.

Episode endings:

  1. The Doctor and his friends are surrounded by Cybermen. To buy time, he offers themselves up for conversion. The Cybermen ignore this, intending to delete them all. Totally...
  2. The Doctor materialises the TARDIS in Jackie's flat, to reunite Rose with her mother. Mickey and Jake set off in the Preacher's van to track down Lumic's Paris factory.
Story Arc: 
At the birthday party, Pete asks a guest how things are going at Torchwood.
This story acts as the first half of a four part arc, that sees its resolution in the series finale - introducing the parallel Earth where Mickey is now based, and the alternative version of Pete.

1. The Preachers receive a briefing from Gemini, warning against Lumic's latest scheme - the Cybermen - and reports of many people going missing. We see someone who looks like a scowly version of Mickey close a laptop after this message, and he drives off in a van as the radio plays a Cybus Industries' advert promising that the ultimate upgrade is coming soon...
2. A video message from John Lumic, ordering the Cybermen to upgrade all humans. All incompatible humans are to be deleted. 

Overall... Such a promising start, but then it gets let down by possibly the worst ever resolution of any Doctor Who story. Ever. And that's saying something. Barry Letts had the guts to destroy his parallel Earth and everyone on it - even the nice folks. RTD has the chance to show the Doctor failing for once, but opts instead for the anagram of Timelash that we do get. Nice new Cybermen - except for the feet.
Things you might like to know:
  • That ending... Mickey has developed the most incredible hacking skills - launching missiles at Downing Street amongst them. Now he manages to get sound and vision on Cyber-Control via CCTV. That's the CCTV on a zeppelin, not in the power station. And the Doctor has deduced that Mickey has done this - as opposed to running for his life or getting deleted. Lumic is stupid enough to use his birthday as the most important password in the history of this planet - that thing they always tell you never to use unless you want your bank account emptied by the Russian mafia, or your identity stolen by a 14 year old in Hemel Hempstead. Then you can just plug a mobile phone into a piece of Cyberman technology and beam a self-destruct signal that kills every Cyberman. Except the Lumic one. The Cybermen's heads explode due to the rush of emotions. Why? Why would their heads literally explode? How can an emotion - no matter how "strong" - shatter a steel casing? And whose stupid idea was it to just inhibit the emotions in the first place, rather than conduct some brain surgery? And to think we thought our Cybermen were a bit useless...
  • And let's not forget that Mickey has learned how to pilot this particular zeppelin, from a video game.
  • The first part was under-running, so the sequence with Dr Kendrick (Paul Antony-Barber) objecting to Lumic's activation of his plans, only to be deleted for his troubles, was filmed. This was used as the pre-titles sequence.
  • Graeme Harper was not happy that a photo of the new Cyberman design was released during filming, as he had gone to such lengths to keep the Cybermen from view until the big reveal towards the end of the first half.
  • JNT refused a Radio Times cover when he came to relaunch the Cybermen back in 1982, but the new Cyber-Controller was "spoiled" by the magazine with a cover portrait shot - even though he didn't appear until half way through part two.
  • There may be only a few Cyber-references in this, though other stories get a mention. Mickey mentions saving the world in a big yellow truck - the one used to open the TARDIS console in Parting of the Ways. And the Doctor's plan to get into Battersea Power Station is the one his various selves used to get the into the Dark Tower in the Death Zone on Gallifrey - entrances above, between and below. Thinking about attacking the Cybermen via the emotional inhibitor the Doctor asks Mrs Moore "Do I have that right?" - which was an identical qualm he had when the Daleks were born.
  • Other more direct Cyberman references are the units in cold storage in the tunnels (Tomb - and substitute the tunnels for sewers if you wish) and their hypnotic control over humans, as in The Invasion. In The Moonbase, Cybermen could also discharge electricity from their hands. There's also that dummy Cyberman suit on Lumic's zeppelin - a dummy having featured at the cliffhanger of Tomb part one.
  • The only bit of the "Spare Parts" audio that was actually used was the Sally Phelan segment - where the dying Cyberman remembers what it was thinking about before it was converted. Marc Platt still got a credit. Earlier drafts did include more of Platt's work.
  • Nick Briggs is a Dalek obsessive. He gets a job doing Dalek voices because he's got a ring-modulator, and he's not afraid to use it. The Daleks have a certain catchphrase, beginning with "E". He's busy rewriting Dalek history by having his voice superimposed over all classic series Dalek stories - at least on the talking books (and the special edition of Day of the Daleks, for which he can be forgiven). He gets to do Cybermen now, and they get their own catchphrase - supplanting the fist-clenching "Excellent!". The Cybermen now "Delete!". Briggs is now also rewriting Cyber history by providing "Delete!"s over all the Cyberman talking books as well.
  • Lumic does do one "Excellent!", but no obvious fist clenching.
  • MacRae was a very young and inexperienced writer when he was called upon to write this significant two-parter. He still looks like a 17 year old. RTD had taken him under his wing and was mentoring him. One does have to wonder just how much of this story is MacRae, and how much is RTD. RTD became rather notorious for his lame endings to the big stories - the over-reliance on some deus-ex-machina - and I can't help but see his hand in this part of the story. 
  • Blue Peter covered the making of this story, and presenter Gethin Jones is in a Cyberman suit for some of the scenes with the Cybermen stalking the streets of London.
  • The performers in the costumes couldn't see very well, but still had to act in unison. They were attached at the wrists with elastic bands.
  • I used to live right opposite Battersea Power Station in Pimlico. There ain't no big hill. Obviously the parallel London isn't precisely the same as ours, topographically.
  • This story was broadcast as the Cybermen were celebrating their 40th anniversary - which is why Jackie is celebrating her 40th birthday (even though she claims Pete has got it wrong). BBC4 decided to have a bit of a theme night to celebrate this broadcast on 13.05.06, with a selection of programmes looking at robots and artificial intelligence.  
  • The Cybermen have the tear-drops at the bottom of the eyes - last seen in Revenge of the Cybermen. They were absent throughout the whole of the JNT era. They only appeared in three Cyberman stories, but have come to be regarded as essential in the minds of the great Fan Collective.
  • Having Lumic in a wheelchair is a risk - drawing unfavourable parallels with Davros. It was claimed that the wheelchair was a last minute decision, as Lloyd-Pack had broken his leg just before filming. Not so - he was always going to be wheelchair-bound.
  • Is it just a coincidence that the parallel Mickey is called Ricky - the name the Doctor insisted on calling him when they first met?
  • A deleted scene at the end revealed that Rickey and Jake were lovers. We kind of get that anyway, from Jake's reaction to Rickey's death.
  • Is the shooting star as Jake and Mickey drive away another classic Cyberman reference - to the conclusion of The Moonbase?
  • Spin-offs were being considered for Captain Jack and for Sarah Jane Smith at the time that this was made, but there's no record of the further adventures of Mickey & Jake in Cyberworld as far as I know.
  • I have never understood the compulsion to upgrade constantly mobile phones or computer operating systems. I see people queuing overnight to get the latest handset or whatever, and I just don't get it. I had an old Nokia phone for many years, holding onto it long after the androids and i-phones had arrived. I was visiting the museum at Kelvingrove in Glasgow a couple of years ago, and one of the galleries had some "design classics" in it. And there was the very phone I had in my pocket on display. When I saw it, I finally realised it really was time I got a new one - my current phone being quite literally a museum piece. That's what it took for me to upgrade. I suppose that the Cybermen would probably consider me as "incompatible", and delete me...

Friday 13 January 2017

Feeling inspired...

Ever wondered just where Doctor Who stories come from? What were the inspirations or influences? What references to other things might be found within them?
You lie awake at night dwelling on this sort of thing, don't you?
No? Well tough, because coming soon is a new series on this blog - taking a look, story by story, at inspirations, influences and references to be found therein. Some influences are pretty blatant. Some might just be in my head, and the writer might totally disagree that was ever in his or her mind at the time. (They're perfectly welcome to use the Comments to put me straight).
There will be things I've totally overlooked - so you use the Comments to tell me. What do you think it was all about?
If Doctor Who isn't keeping you awake at night, it soon will be...

B is for... Bannermen

A humanoid mercenary group of obscure origins. They were led by Gavrok, and embarked on a genocidal mission to totally eliminate a race called the Chimerons. It is unclear whether this was on their own initiative, or if they were in the pay of some other power.
They dressed entirely in black, and ordinary soldiers wore narrow-lensed eye-wear. They decorated their uniforms with black and red banners - hence their name. Though appearing identical to Earth people, they had bright red tongues. and had gnarled, claw-like hands.
Their ruthlessness was notorious, as the Navarino tourists trapped on Earth in 1959 knew of them and feared them. These tourists had arrived at a holiday camp in South Wales, and had amongst them a Chimeron princess - Delta. She had an egg with her. Determined to eradicate her, Gavrok murdered the Toll-Keeper at the spaceport after he had told him where the group were going, then gave chase. He made use of an informer to locate their exact position - eliminating him afterwards, rather than pay a reward.
It transpired that the Bannermen were highly susceptible to the high pitched singing of Chimeron children. When the egg hatched into a young Chimeron female, the Doctor arranged for her singing to be amplified to overpower the mercenaries, whilst Gavrok was killed after stumbling into one of his own traps.
The Bannermen were taken captive, transported in their own ship by Delta and local lad Billy, who had decided to transform himself into a Chimeron so that he could be with her and raise the child. The Bannermen would be taken to some unspecified authority for punishment for their genocidal crimes.

Played by: Don Henderson (Gavrok). Appearances: Delta and the Bannermen (1987).

  • The story title - and hence the name for these characters - was inspired by the group Echo and the Bunnymen.
  • Another inspiration was Akira Kurosawa's Ran, a 1985 film in which Shakespeare's King Lear gets the Samurai treatment. In this, the King has troublesome sons rather than daughters, and their forces wear different coloured banners to indicate their particular allegiance.
  • The Bannerman helmets mark the final appearance of costume elements first seen in Earthshock back in 1982. They were also worn by the Train Guards in The Mysterious Planet in the previous season.

Thursday 12 January 2017

B is for... Bannakaffalatta

A diminutive being with bright red skin, whose head is covered in spines. He was a member of the Zocci race.
Bannakaffalatta was a passenger on the Max Capricorn space cruiser Titanic, which had set off from the planet Sto to orbit Earth on Christmas Day, 2008. When it was announced that passengers would be teleporting down to the planet for a look round, the Doctor was initially concerned as his appearance might shock the natives, but London proved to be empty due to crises that had occurred over the last two festive periods. Bannakaffalatta survived the initial disaster which befell the ship - a meteoroid strike. When it appeared that he had become injured, waitress Astrid Peth discovered that he was really a cyborg. Cyborgs were outlawed on Sto, so he swore her to secrecy. He developed a bit of a crush on her. When the survivors were attacked by the angelic Heavenly Host robots, Bannakaffalatta used his cybernetic body's power source to emit an electromagnetic pulse, which destroyed them. In doing so, he drained his power and died. Mr Copper took his EMP device and used it to fend off further attacks - so he saved lives even after his death.
The Zocci have cousins called the Vinvocci, who are taller and have bright green skin.

Played by: Jimmy Vee. Appearances: Voyage of the Damned (2007).

B is for... Bane

A species of belligerent octopoid creatures who attempted to take over the Earth by means of a soft drink. They were able to take on the appearance of human beings through holographic technology. A Mrs Wormwood set up the "Bubble Shock" drinks company in London. This drink was extremely popular. It contained traces of addictive Bane DNA. The plan was to use this to mentally enslave those who had consumed it. Only a small percentage of the population was unaffected by it as they did not like the taste. In order to study humans, Mrs Wormwood created the Archetype, made up from the combined biological data of everyone who had visited the factory on its guided tours. This boy was rescued by Sarah Jane Smith, and would be adopted as her son, Luke. She was investigating the company, having become concerned about the unidentifiable ingredients. Sarah was helped by a new neighbour - Maria Jackson - who did not like the drink, and so was immune to the enslaving process.
Bane like to hunt. When one of them fails, it is eaten by its own kind. This was the fate of a Bane who had taken on the form of Davey, a "Bubble Shock" employee, when he failed to kill Sarah and her friends.
The creatures are susceptible to certain sonic frequencies, and mobile phones were banned from their factory site. Within the factory was the Bane Mother, a huge version of the creatures and the leader of the invasion force.

Luke used an alien communications device to boost a mobile phone signal, and this destroyed the Bane Mother, wrecking the factory.
Mrs Wormwood escaped, and found herself on the run from her fellow Bane. She allied herself with Kaagh, a disgraced Sontaran warrior. She came to Sarah to ask for help, but really wanted to bring Luke over to her side - trying to convince him that she was his real mother as she had created him. She planned to activate an ancient power source which created a portal to other dimensions, but it needed a human to access it - hence her attempts to win over Luke. Sarah called upon Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart for help. They were opposed by a UNIT officer - Major Kilburne - but he was really a disguised Bane. No longer needing Kaagh, Mrs Wormwood turned against him. However, he seized hold of her and dragged her into the portal. This closed behind them, trapping them in the other dimension.

Played by: Samantha Bond (Mrs Wormwood), Jamie Davis (Davey), Simon Chadwick (Major Kilburne). Appearances: SJA Pilot - Invasion of the Bane (2007), SJA 2.6 - Enemy of the Bane (2008).

  • The Bane Mother might look familiar to readers of the Target novelisation of Terror of the Autons. The huge octopoid monster - a Nestene - on the original cover never featured on screen. CGI company The Mill took this image and created a CGI version of it as part of their pitch to secure work on Doctor Who when it returned in 2005. This was put to use in the pilot episode for The Sarah Jane Adventures, broadcast on New Year's Day, 2007.

B is for... Bandrils

A reptilian race, resembling King Cobra snakes. They inhabited a planet which neighboured Karfel, and had a long-standing trade agreement with the Karfelons to be supplied with grain. Their size is unknown, as they have only been seen on a monitor screen. The Karfelon ruler, the Borad, decided to spark a war between the two planets by reneging on the grain supplies. The Bandrils were faced with famine. The Borad intended Bandril to bomb his planet, in order to wipe out the humanoid population and leave only the dinosaur-like Morlox creatures, as he was a mutated half-Morlox himself. The Bandrils launched a missile with a Bendalypse warhead, which would kill anything with a central nervous system. The Doctor used the TARDIS to physically intercept this weapon, and the new council on Karfel sued for peace and the re-establishment of their trade deals.
The Bandrils knew the Doctor to be a Time Lord, as their ambassador stated that he would notify Gallifrey when it was believed the Doctor had been killed by the missile.

Voiced by: Martin Gower. Appearances: Timelash (1985).

Monday 9 January 2017

Story 171 - The Girl in the Fireplace

In which Mickey Smith gets a spaceship on his first journey in the TARDIS. The vessel hails from the 51st Century. It appears to be abandoned and in a poor state of repair. It is stationary, yet the engines are operating at full power. The Doctor and his companions discover an ornate fireplace just off the control room. Looking into it, they are shocked to find a blonde-haired girl looking back at them from the other side. Her name is Reinette, and she is in her bedroom, in Paris, 1727. The Doctor discovers a hidden mechanism that can rotate the fireplace, and he uses this to visit the girl. She is in bed, and the room is silent save for the ticking of a clock on the mantelpiece. Reinette informs the Doctor that it was months ago that she spoke to him through the fireplace. he becomes alarmed when he sees that the clock is actually broken, yet he can still hear the ticking. Checking under the bed, he finds an ornately dressed android is hiding there. It wears 18th Century costume, with a Venetian carnival style mask. It has been scanning the girl's brain, and states that she is not ready yet. The Doctor forces it back through the revolving fireplace to the spaceship, but it teleports away before he can learn anymore from it.

Mickey and Rose decide to go off in search of the Droid, whilst the Doctor returns to Paris - only to find that time has moved on much further. Reinette is now a young woman, about to leave this home for the court of King Louis XV at Versailles. The Doctor discovers that she is really Madame De Pompadour. Mickey and Rose discover that the spaceship has been repaired using organic material from its dead crew - such as an eyeball in a CCTV camera, and a human heart acting as a fuel pump. The Doctor returns and they learn that the ship's engines are powering temporal portals to 18th Century France, all focusing on Reinette at different stages of her life. The Droids are repair drones, using any means at their disposal to maintain the vessel. When the Doctor returns to France, Mickey and Rose are captured by the Droids, who plan to use their bodies for further components. The Doctor returns in time to save them.

He visits France a number of times more, keeping watch over Madame De Pompadour, as he tries to work out why the Droids are stalking her through time. He finds himself attracted to her. At one point he tries to read her mind to look for clues as to why the Droids are so interested in her, only to discover that she can also read his thoughts. A horse, which he names Arthur, wanders onto the spaceship after him. Rose goes to see the Royal Mistress to warn her and update her on the Doctor's investigations. Determined to know more, Reinette follows her back to the spaceship, just as the Doctor identifies the moment when the Droids will attack her. She is sent back to her own time, and the Doctor asks her to call for him when she comes under attack. The Doctor attempts to close the time-windows, but finds he can't as one of the Droids is still in the 18th Century. The Droids launch an assault at Versailles during a masque-ball, determined to remove Reinette's head. The Doctor arrives in the ballroom - smashing through the time-window (hidden behind a mirror) on the back of Arthur. The portals are disabled. As they cannot now complete their mission, the Droids deactivate.

It transpires that they needed her brain to complete the repairs to their ship - to fix the computer. As the vessel is 37 years old, only Reinette's brain at that age would suffice. The Doctor finds that he is now stranded in the France of 1759. He will have to live his life by the "slow path". Reinette reveals that she had the fireplace brought to Versailles, and the Doctor discovers that the link to the spaceship is still active. He offers to take her travelling through Time and Space, to which she agrees. He returns to the ship to inform Mickey and Rose, then slips back to France. However, it is now 1764. He meets the King, who informs him that Reinette has just died - her body leaving Versailles for the last time. She left him a letter, which he reads back on the TARDIS, which tells of how she waited for him. The Doctor never does work out why the Droids singled out Reinette. He leaves, unaware that the spaceship was named the SS Madame De Pompadour...

The Girl in the Fireplace was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on Saturday, 6th of May, 2006.
It is the second celebrity-historical of the season, though sadly most of the viewing public would have known very little of Madame De Pompadour, or the reign of Louis XV. Louis XIV - the Sun King - possibly, and Louis XVI, husband of Marie Antoinette, who got his head chopped off in the Revolution - probably.
Moffat took as his inspiration the story of the chess-playing automaton known as The Turk, as well as the story of a real revolving fireplace that allowed secret lovers to meet. This was after Russell T Davies had given him the brief to write a story featuring Madame De Pompadour. Davies had carried out a considerable amount of research for his David Tennant-starring series Casanova, and had become fascinated by the famous courtesan. The story was designed to show that the Doctor was capable of falling in love, particularly with someone who had demonstrated great accomplishments in a number of fields. The nature of her role at Louis' court obviously had to be downplayed due to the age range watching.
The Turk turned out to be a fake, but 18th Century Europe was obsessed with genuine automata of all kinds. Moffat also had an eye for what would scare people, after including creepy children and skull-like gas masks in his Series One script. He went for the monster hidden under the bed - something he would revisit majorly in Series 8.

As the story focuses so much on the Doctor's relationship with Madame De Pompadour, there is a relatively small guest cast list. Sophia Myles was given the part of Reinette. Tennant had worked with her once before - in an episode of the wartime detective series Foyle's War. He had found her a bit remote then. She had been at school with Ben Turner, who was chosen to play King Louis, and he was a friend of Noel Clarke. Billie Piper convinced Tennant that Myles was not really standoff-ish, and of course the pair would go on to have a romance in real life. The younger Reinette is Jessica Atkins. In a brief role, as Reinette's friend Katherine, is Angel Coulby, who was Guinevere in the BBC's Merlin series.
Story Arc: Nothing this week. Unless you count the banana references viz Moffat's season one script. No "Torchwood" mentioned, or overt links to other stories, but see below for links to the future.

Tardisode: A spaceship in the Dagmar Cluster has been hit by an ion storm. The crew try to send out an SOS. One of the survivors hears a ticking sound and screams as a shadow falls over her. We then see the face crack on an ormolu clock, sitting on a mantelpiece.

Overall, it's an excellent episode. Very clever and moving at the same time, with wonderful monster designs - both the masked and unmasked versions of the Clockwork Droids.
Things you might like to know:
  • As mentioned above, this episode doesn't contain any significant current story arc points, but it does have some ideas that Moffat will revisit, especially once he gets to run the show himself. He'll bring the Droids back, this time from the sister ship SS Marie Antoinette, in Deep Breath. The something under the bed will be the starting point for Listen. That episode also dwells on the notion of the Doctor's loneliness and unhappiness as a child - something Reinette sees as she reads the Doctor's thoughts. There will be a chess playing automaton - again fake - in Nightmare In Silver. The main thing, though, will be his fascination with the Doctor meeting a girl at different times throughout her life. Compare Reinette with Amelia / Amy Pond, and Sally Sparrow. Moffat has claimed that the novel The Time-Traveler's Wife was another inspiration.
  • It was originally intended that this would be the second episode of the series, but as Moffat added more elements to the story it got pushed back.
  • The Turk was actually created a decade or so after Madame De Pompadour's death. 
  • Poor Rose. This story immediately follows the one where she gets to realise that she isn't unique - the Doctor has had other companions, and he has left them behind. Add to this her ex, Mickey, is now accompanying them on their travels - so she doesn't have the Doctor to herself anymore. Then he obviously falls in love with this woman from History. However, as the story focuses so much on the Doctor and Reinette, she and Mickey have very little to do, so her reactions to all of this aren't made a big deal of. It turns out that Moffat had not read the ending of School Reunion, so had not included any friction between the characters.
  • Two different horses played Arthur - and one of them was actually called Arthur. The other was named Bolero.
  • An unfilmed scene had the Doctor seeing Arthur being mistreated by a servant, which is why he allowed it to follow him. Davies and Moffat toyed with the idea of Arthur staying on in the TARDIS, to be brought out occasionally in future episodes.
  • David Tennant was allergic to horses, but his main scenes on horseback were achieved with him sitting on top of a wheeled trolley, or having his face superimposed on top of the stunt rider. Of course the location for the ballroom wouldn't permit a horse to clomp around indoors. 
  • Steven Moffat was not remotely happy when the Radio Times, as part of its preview for this story, gave an in-depth account of how the horse-smashing-through-mirror sequence was filmed - this being the big hero moment of the episode.
  • Until late in the day, the script had the horse shying at the last moment and the Doctor being somersaulted through the window without it.
  • It was originally intended that the Doctor really would have been drunk on his return from the 18th Century party. Mention is made of Zeus Plugs being used as castanets. These TARDIS tools were first mentioned in the closing scenes of Hand of Fear.
  • It was only two weeks before this that the programme was insulting the Royal Family, with its reference to Princess Anne being a werewolf. Here, Camilla gets a mention, as Rose compares the future Duchess of Cornwall's relationship with Prince Charles to that of Reinette's to Louis.
  • The Droids were originally going to be faceless, with their wigs obscuring the face or simply having a dark void where the face would be, but this was deemed as looking silly so the masks were added.
  • Davies would later claim that Moffat's scripts were the only ones that he never heavily rewrote. We do know, however, that it was Davies who pushed for the contents of Reinette's letter to be heard on screen. Moffat had simply left it for the viewer to surmise what she might have written.
  • The Doctor dances yet again - something he only ever seems to do when Steven Moffat is writing the scripts. If you thought it might mean something else, well now we know.
  • The real Madame De Pompadour died from TB. She and the King stopped having sexual relations around 1750, but she arranged a number of other mistresses for him and remained a close confidante. Her main successes were in the spheres of architecture, gardening and the arts (especially porcelain manufacture). She was an Enlightenment thinker, championing Voltaire (who was supposed to appear in this episode). Her political advice to the King was generally bad - advising alliances that led to France's defeat in the Seven Years War and the loss of French colonies in the Americas. The phrase "Apres nous, le Deluge" - after us, the flood - is credited to her, said as she tried to console the King after military set-backs. The rain as her coffin leaves Versailles in the story is accurate. The King is reported to have said "The Marquise won't have good weather for her journey" as the coffin was transported away to Paris. She was buried in the Capuchin convent in the city. Some historians claim that the French Revolution can be owed at least in part to her legacy.