Tuesday 28 February 2017

B is for... Berger

Pragmatic First Officer and Chief Navigator on a space-freighter which was approaching Earth, in the year 2526. The planet was on high alert due to a forthcoming conference, and the freighter crew were worried that they would lose their bonuses for late delivery of their cargo. Little did they know that the silos in the hold contained thousands of Cybermen - a force that would invade the planet once the conference had been destroyed by a massive bomb hidden in a cave system nearby. After the Doctor had defused the bomb, he took the TARDIS to the freighter to look for the source of the detonation signal. Berger discovered that her colleague, Ringway, who claimed to have the crew's best interests at heart, was really a Cyberman agent. She and Captain Briggs tried to help the Doctor defeat the Cybermen, but they were captured. Berger was one of those left on the ship as it was turned into a flying bomb. She attempted to talk Adric into joining them in the escape pod after Lt. Scott freed them from the bridge. After the freighter had fallen back through time some 65 million years and been destroyed - with Adric still aboard - Berger, Briggs and Scott were returned to their own time by the Doctor.

Played by: June Bland. Appearances: Earthshock (1982).

  • The first of two appearances in the series by Bland. She'll return as Elizabeth Rowlinson, the blind landlady of the Gore Crow Hotel who has her sight restored by Queen Morgaine in the 1989 story Battlefield.

B is for... Beresford, Major

Major Beresford took command of the British section of UNIT when the Brigadier was called away to Geneva, shortly before his retirement. Sir Colin Thackeray of the World Ecology Bureau brought the Doctor in to help investigate the discovery of a plant form, found deep in the Antarctic permafrost. This proved to be alien in origin - one of a pair of Krynoid seed pods. This infected a scientist, who began to mutate into a Krynoid. He was destroyed when the base was sabotaged. The Doctor followed the second pod to England, and the home of the ruthless plant-obsessed millionaire Harrison Chase. After discovering that Chase was going to cultivate the creature, the Doctor escaped and went to WEB where he met Beresford. Despite being a senior member of UNIT, he was skeptical about the threat the Krynoid posed - until reports started to come in of flora-related deaths in the immediate vicinity of Chase's mansion.
He gave the Doctor some new military defoliant, and a soldier to help him deploy it, then led an assault on the house with a laser-weapon attachment. This proved ineffectual against the growing Krynoid, and so he retreated and called in the RAF to bomb the site.

Played by: John Acheson. Appearances: The Seeds of Doom (1976).

B is for... Benton

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart's stalwart right-hand man at UNIT.
Fiercely loyal, brave and dependable, he joined the organisation in its formative stages. He was with them, as a Corporal, when they began investigating International Electromatics, the computer technology firm owned by millionaire Tobias Vaughn. Benton was given a plain clothes assignment to follow the Doctor and Jamie, and to bring them to UNIT's temporary mobile HQ. Later, the Doctor's companions talked him into taking them into London as they wanted to photograph the Cybermen that were hidden in the city's sewer network.

After the Cyberman invasion had begun, Benton manned the radio which allowed the Brigadier to liaise with the missile base at Henlow Down. They destroyed the invasion fleet.
Benton was next seen at UNIT HQ during the incident at UK Space Control, when General Carrington attempted to provoke an interplanetary war. He was now a Sergeant.
He then joined the Brigadier at the drilling project nicknamed the "Inferno Project". On the parallel Earth, the Doctor encountered his alter-ego - the boorish, sadistic Platoon Under-Leader Benton, who was transformed into a savage Primord creature.

Tasked with following the Chinese Red Army delegate Captain Chin-Lee during an international peace conference, Benton was overpowered by an hypnotic force - the work of the Master and his alien mind parasite. The Brigadier wasn't impressed, and Benton hated letting his colleagues down. He took part in the convoy to transport the banned Thunderbolt nerve gas missile, and was wounded in the ambush when it was stolen. Despite his injury, he was keen to remain on duty and to help locate the missing Captain Yates. The Brigadier admired his determination to make up for his earlier failure. He was soon given temporary governorship of Stangmoor Prison, after UNIT had retaken it from a convict revolt.
When the Doctor and Jo got into difficulty in the village of Devil's End, Benton joined Mike Yates in travelling to find them - taking the Brigadier's helicopter. Benton rescued the local white witch, Miss Hawthorne, for which she was eternally grateful. She seemed to become quite enamoured of him, which he found rather uncomfortable. He proved himself an excellent pistol marksman, but prone to be susceptible to airborne cloaks. When the Doctor used Bessie's remote control to capture the Master, it was Benton who took him into custody. He missed out on the pub though, as Miss Hawthorne dragged him into a fertility dance around the village maypole.

After an encounter with the Daleks and their Ogron servants, in which Jo tried to feed him but was stopped by mean Captain Yates, Benton met up with the Master once again. He was due to take some leave, but he was dragged off to the Newton Institute when the Brigadier was called upon to act as an observer to Professor Thascales' temporal experiments. Benton grasped the concept behind the TOMTIT device fairly quickly. Tasked with guarding the device, the Master tried to trick Benton into leaving it when he impersonated the Brigadier over the phone. Benton saw through the deception immediately, when the Master referred to him as "my dear fellow" - something his commanding officer would never do. He made it look as if he had fallen for the trick, but then climbed in through a window to capture the Master when he arrived. Unfortunately, the Master trumped his "oldest trick in the book" ploy with an even older trick - the classic "pretending someone has just come into the room behind you" one.
Later, when trapped with the TOMTIT device, along with Ruth Ingram and Stuart Hyde, the machine caused Benton to regress to babyhood. On being returned to normal after the device had been disabled, Benton found himself naked but for a nappy in front of his colleagues.

When the Time Lord Omega attempted to abduct the Doctor, Benton found himself meeting the Second incarnation of his friend again. Once more, he proved more open-minded than his superior when he accepted that he, the Doctor and the Brigadier had been transported through a Black Hole to another universe. He also took the TARDIS interior in his stride - saying that nothing the Doctor did could ever surprise him. Throwing litter at alien entities was not his finest moment, it has to be said.
Some time later, London began to be plagued by appearances of prehistoric creatures. Benton suddenly found himself facing treachery in his own team, when it became clear that Yates was working for the enemy. His loyalty to the Doctor was absolute, and despite the possibility of court martial he permitted the Doctor to escape - allowing him to knock him out with his Venusian martial arts. Such was the faith the Brigadier had in his sergeant, he had Benton put himself under arrest. He rather enjoyed punching General Finch - but the Brigadier advised him against getting used to hitting superior officers.
Away from the action, Benton was renowned for the quality of his coffee. When the Doctor had to replicate the experiment that had killed Prof. Clegg, Benton volunteered to do it in his stead, as he was dispensable and the Doctor wasn't. This wasn't the only time Benton was prepared to offer up his own life for his colleagues.
With Yates retired from UNIT, Benton found himself promoted to Warrant Officer. Used to having his men follow his orders, he was exasperated by Sarah Jane Smith, as she was not a member of UNIT. The resolution to the problem of the giant K1 Robot was provided by Benton, as he recalled what Prof. Kettlewell had said about the living metal and his anti-pollution metal virus.
In the village of Tulloch, near Loch Ness, the Brigadier used Benton's friendliness with the hotel landlord to smooth their search for the bugging device they suspected was hidden on the premises.

Our last sighting of Benton - now Regimental Sergeant Major - was at the Space Defence Station at Devesham. He was based there with Surgeon Lt. Harry Sullivan when astronaut Guy Crayford re-established contact and prepared to return to Earth after going missing in deep space. He mentioned going ballroom dancing with his younger sister - the only reference to his family. Benton was knocked out, and substituted with a lethal android replica.
When the Fifth Doctor met up with the now-retired Brigadier at Brendon School in 1977, he was informed that Benton had also left UNIT, and was now a used car salesman.

Played by John Levene, Darren Plant (baby Benton). Appearances: The Invasion (1968), then regularly in UNIT stories from The Ambassadors of Death (1970) to The Android Invasion (1975).
  • We last see Benton lying on the ground at the Devesham space centre - dead for all we know. A very poor conclusion for such a well-loved character. All the more surprising when you consider that The Android Invasion was directed by Levene's producer, Barry Letts. Luckily his survival gets a mention in Mawdryn Undead - but his new role as a car salesman just doesn't ring true.
  • I almost began this post with the old joke: "Benton - first name 'Sergeant' - ..." His christian name has never appeared on screen, but fan fiction has gone with John.
  • If Letts was Levene's producer, then Douglas Camfield was his director. Levene had played one of the Cybermen in The Moonbase, and his next role was as one of the Yeti in The Web of Fear - directed by Camfield. He saw the potential in this very insecure young actor, and so cast him as Corporal Benton in a couple of episodes of The Invasion. Another actor was to have played the soldier manning the radio in the later episodes, but he got the sack for persistent lateness - you can guess who by noting who suddenly disappears - and Levene got a call back.
  • Camfield intended to use Benton in his next story to be directed - Inferno - so Letts had him brought back for a few episodes of the preceding story in order to better establish him as the Brigadier's No.2.
  • The way Ambassadors of Death is edited, it looks like Benton might be the person who poisons poor Dr Lennox in the UNIT cells.
  • Levene reprised the role of Benton in the first ever unofficial video spin-off - BBV's "War Time". Michael Wisher played his father. It has recently been re-released on DVD as "War Time Chronicles" with other Pertwee era BBV material. He has also made a couple of Big Finish audios.
  • Levene was based in the USA for a number of years but has now returned to his native Salisbury, Wiltshire. Check out the DVD extra by Toby Hadoke on the special edition of Claws of Axos, as well as Levene's video tours of his home town on his website (available on You Tube as well). He's a lovely guy, and gives Tom Baker a good run for his money in the English Eccentrics stakes. Chris Chibnall is a known fan of the Pertwee era - so here's looking forward to the return of Benton.

B is for... Benoit

Roger Benoit was a French scientist who was second-in-command at the Moonbase which housed the Gravitron device. In the year 2070, this machine helped control the weather on Earth by manipulating air pressure. The Doctor began searching for the cause of a mystery illness amongst the crew, and invoked Benoit's ire when he got under his feet. Later, Ben saved the Frenchman's life after he went out onto the lunar surface to repair a piece of damaged equipment. He was attacked by a Cyberman, but Ben destroyed it with a bottle of plastic solvent. Benoit was at the controls of the Gravitron when it sent the Cybermen and their spacecraft hurtling into space.

Played by: Andre Maranne. Appearances: The Moonbase (1967).

  • British TV and cinema's go-to actor for French characters, Maranne had a career spanning four decades. He's best known for playing the sensible sergeants to Herbert Lom's increasingly neurotic Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies, He also appeared in the classic Fawlty Towers episode "The Gourmet Night", and was a Spectre operative in Thunderball, amongst many, many other roles.
  • The character of Benoit was to have been called Jules, but it was found that another of the Moonbase crew already had this name. This was after his name tag had been made up. This is why he wears the little neckerchief - to hide the initial "J".

Sunday 26 February 2017

February's Figurines

Two figurines from the Classic Series this month. The first is Commander Azaxyr from The Monster of Peladon. Nearly 100 issues in, and this is the first Ice Warrior release from that era.
Joining Azaxyr is what is termed a "Suicide Squad" Dalek - from Destiny of the Daleks. It has the yellow and red bombs mounted round the bottom of the neck section. Of course, most of the suicide squad Daleks we saw on screen were the rough light-weight vacuum-formed ones. This figurine looks quite good in comparison. The accompanying magazine tells the story of the Dalek props that were available for this story, and explains why they looked so mismatched.
Next month is another Cyber-Leader - this time the one from Silver Nemesis. Then we will be getting a Marshman from Full Circle, and The Veil from Heaven Sent. I believe the next larger scale special edition is due out shortly as well - the King Hydroflax Robot.

Friday 24 February 2017

Inspirations - Marco Polo

AKA... Well, this one has always just been called Marco Polo.
First of four adventures by writer John Lucarotti, though one script will keep his name but be heavily rewritten by the Story Editor, and the final one won't even credit him - being totally rewritten by another Story Editor. Two of his stories will be inspired by countries he lived in. He moved around quite a bit.
He lived in Mexico for a time, hence his next story after this one - The Aztecs. Marco Polo comes from a geographically massive country beginning with C. That's right - Canada.
These days, the travels of Marco Polo are best known by kids from the countless TV series / movies about him. I think there's one on Netflix at the moment.
Back in 1964, Marco Polo would have been read about by every child, and studied in school.
Lucarotti no doubt saw the 1938 MGM movie The Adventures of Marco Polo, starring Gary Cooper in the title role, and with Basil Rathbone as the villain of the piece. It was MGM's most expensive film to date. An English translation of Polo's "autobiography" came out in the same year.
Whilst living in Canada, Lucarotti wrote a 15 part radio adaptation based on Polo's The Book of the Marvels of the World. Presumably Sydney Newman was aware of this.

Marco Polo is the series' first proper historical story - in that it is set at a specific point in history in a known geographical location, and there is some documentary evidence. It also becomes the first "Celebrity Historical" in that it features a real person (or persons in this case).
There was a real Marco Polo, and a real Kublai Khan, to be found together in late 13th Century China. Marco Polo's book fails to mention his meeting with the Doctor or his companions, or his temporary possession of a mysterious flying caravan shaped like a big blue box - but then there is a lot that his book omits. Of course, the inclusion of the Doctor & Co in every historical story renders all of them merely pseudo-historical. When we get to the end of the Hartnell era, real historical personages will be dropped in favour of historical genres, before being ditched altogether.
A big influence on this story is something Lucarotti will have been very familiar with - the big budget, filmed TV series made by companies such as ITC with an eye to overseas sales (i.e. America). He wrote for many of them after all. Before they got heavily into spy / crime fighter genres, these series featured historical characters such as Francis Drake, Ivanhoe, Robin Hood or William Tell. (As you can see, not always real historical characters). Known exploits would be embellished with numerous made up ones, usually with an entirely made up villain added to the mix (probably played by Roger Delgado, or indeed Darren Nesbitt).
Marco Polo had lots of real adventures, but the specifics of the caravan journey plagued by Tegana's treachery is totally invented just for Doctor Who viewers.

"Stop trying to kill us at the end of every episode, and I promise I'll put you in my book".
Over the centuries, it has been claimed that Marco's own story has been ever so slightly invented.
The basic facts of his life are that he was born in Venice in 1254. He, his father and his uncle were merchants and went to live in Constantinople for a time. (One school of thought has Marco born here, rather than Venice).They travelled to the Far East and worked for Kublai Khan, and did not return home until 24 years later. Venice went to war with Genoa. Polo used the wealth he had accumulated from his travels to pay for a new Venetian warship. He was captured by the Genoese, and spent some time in prison. This is where he encountered one Rustichello da Pisa, and he was the person who wrote the account of Polo's travels - not Marco himself.
Rustichello was not terribly reliable. We know that he took some of what Polo had told him, added some other things that he had heard about China from other sources, and embellished further with stuff he simply made up - often lifted verbatim from some of his own earlier romances. There's no record that Polo ever objected, or tried to have the book suppressed, or came up with his own definitive account. He seems to have been quite happy to let the account stand. He died in 1324, and is buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice.
The book as it has come down to us today is based on a number of different versions which were circulated over the centuries (about 150 of them, in various languages).
It has some mistakes and omissions - things he really should have mentioned. There is no mention of the Great Wall, for instance. He claimed to be best buddies with Kublai Khan, and governed a Chinese city for three years, but he is never mentioned once in the official documentation of the period - and the Chinese were renowned for their admin. He writes of the bridge that would later be renamed after him as having twice as many arches as it really had.
Other travellers who we know definitely went to China also failed to mention some of the things that Polo omitted, so he can't be dismissed out of hand, though some scholars think he never got further than Persia and got his information second hand from others.

"If you don't like backgammon, we could play Cluedo..."
Back to Marco Polo, the Doctor Who story. Lucarotti fits in a few things that he has read in the book. The name Tegana does feature in the book, though he's hardly a figure of significance. Polo's father and uncle do not feature. Sydney Newman has had a word with Lucarotti about the educational remit, so we get Ian knowing what happens to bamboo when you set fire to it, the pre-pantomimic version of the Alladin story, how condensation works, and a description of how assassins got their name. The last item has been questioned. It is thought that the words "assassin" and "hashish" have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Paid killers did not necessarily get stoned out of their eyeballs. Might not have been terribly good at their jobs if they did - what with all that giggling whilst they were trying to sneak up on their victims.
Ian's handiness with his fists, his knowledge about the bamboo, and his later claim to have seen ants eat their way through a house all suggest some military service in the Far East - presumably National Service.
Susan tells Ping-Cho about her home. This might be David Whitaker reminding the viewers that she and the Doctor are aliens. There will be little reminders throughout this first season.
Next time - the Quest is the Quest...

Monday 20 February 2017

Story 175 - Love & Monsters

In which a young man whose life has intersected with that of the Doctor records on his video diary his experiences of love - and of monsters. Thinking about who might one day watch his diary, Elton Pope first recalls an encounter with the Doctor and Rose in an abandoned warehouse, where he was confronted by an alien creature. He first saw the Doctor, looking exactly the same, when he was a child, and has been obsessed with him ever since. He has other passions - like football, a beer, and the music of the Electric Light Orchestra.
He was a witness to the attempted Nestene invasion of London in March 2005, getting caught up in an Auton attack whilst out shopping. He was in Whitehall a year later when the Slitheen spaceship crashed into Big Ben, and his windows were blown in when the Sycorax spaceship arrived over London on Christmas Day, 2006. Scanning the internet after this latest alien encounter, he found a blog about the Doctor, with a photo of him taken in Trafalgar Square. The blog writer lived locally - Ursula Blake. He met her, and she introduced him to a number of other people who were keen to learn more about the Doctor. These were Mr Skinner, a girl named Bliss, and a woman named Bridget. They would all meet up in a derelict library basement one evening a week to discuss their obsession. It was Elton who came up with a name for their little group - the London Investigation 'N' Detective Agency, or L.I.N.D.A.

Over time, they began to talk about other things. Bridget revealed that she had an ulterior motive for her weekly visits to London - the search for her drug-addicted daughter. Mr Skinner wrote pulp fiction, and Bliss created sculpture and poetry. They brought in their home cooking, and even formed a band. ELO covers were regularly featured. Then one day a new arrival entered the frame. A man named Victor Kennedy turned up at their meeting. He had information about the Doctor, and pointed out that they had lost sight of their initial purpose. He urged them to concentrate their efforts in locating the Doctor, using structured and methodical means. A sighting of the TARDIS in an industrial area led Elton to the encounter which he used to open his video diary. Elton ran away, and Kennedy was furious with him. One week, Bliss did not come to the meetings - nor any of the following weeks. Kennedy claimed that she had found a boyfriend and gone off to get married. He decided that they should pursue Rose Tyler instead of the Doctor. Elton met a woman, Mrs Croot, who recognised her, and shortly afterwards he encountered Jackie. He befriended her, in order to learn more about Rose.
She was heartbroken to learn that he was not interested in her at all, but was simply trying to get to the Doctor and her daughter. This had been Elton's initial intention, but he had formed a genuine affection for her. Bridget stopped coming to the meetings.

When Kennedy was angered by Elton's failure with Jackie, the group rebelled against him. He had sucked all the fun out of their meetings with his obsession to find the Doctor, and they felt he had caused Bliss and Bridget to stop coming. They staged a walk-out. Mr Skinner stayed back as Kennedy claimed to have an address for Bridget. Ursula realised that she had left her phone behind and so she and Elton went back. Mr Skinner was nowhere to be seen, but Kennedy was still there, hidden behind his newspaper. His voice seemed to have changed, and then Ursula saw his hands - now large green claws. He was really an obese, green alien. The missing members of the group were merged with his corpulent body. Kennedy had always shunned physical contact, and now they knew why. He absorbed people into himself - like some kind of Abzorbaloff. Ursula fell victim, and Elton ran for his life. He was chased to an alleyway which proved to be a dead end. He was saved by the sudden arrival of the TARDIS. Rose was furious with Elton for having upset her mother. The Abzorbaloff wanted to consume the Doctor, to take on all his knowledge and experience. He revealed that he came from the sister world to Raxacoricofallapatorius - Clom. Elton's friends had influence over the creature, and disabled him long enough for Elton to break Kennedy's walking cane - which housed a mechanism which limited his absorption. Without it, he couldn't stop and was absorbed himself into the earth. Elton revealed that he had first met the Doctor on the night his mother had died. He had come to stop an elemental shade but had been too late to save her. The Doctor was able to partially save the Abzorbaloff's final victim - the love of Elton's life. Ursula's face was preserved in a paving slab, her mind and memory intact.

Love & Monsters was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 17th June, 2006.
The idea of a story about the Doctor as he is seen by an ordinary person was an old one for Davies, and he had suggested it as a DWM comic strip. Series 2 of the programme had to accommodate 14 episodes instead of the previous year's 13, due to the addition of the first Christmas Special. It was necessary to "double-bank" a couple of stories - meaning that two adventures would be filmed at the same time. This would mean that the Doctor and Rose could only feature briefly. Tennant and Piper were making the Impossible Planet / Satan Pit two-parter when this was made. Davies could concentrate on the everyman character of Elton Pope and his brief encounters with the Doctor. A group of friends were built up around him. Davies looked to local Doctor Who fan groups for inspiration - something which would lead to some criticism of this story.
Many fans would often start off obsessing over the programme, but then would begin to share other interests and become much more of a social group - but there was always the odd member who didn't like this move away from talking exclusively about Doctor Who. Victor Kennedy was the real fan-obsessive, who could suck all the joy out of the gatherings.

Davies held back writing this script until after Blue Peter had run a design-a-monster competition, as he was going to use the winning design. The Abzorbaloff was created by nine year old William Grantham. His only criticism of the finished costume was that he had intended the creature to be the size of a double-decker bus - but his winning drawing hadn't given any sense of this scale. To play Kennedy / the Abzorbaloff, the production team turned to the hugely popular comedian Peter Kay. He had previously written a massive fan letter to Davies. It was Kay who decided on using his natural Lancashire accent for the creature, whilst Kennedy spoke in more RP tones. It was also his idea to mispronounce Eczema, to make it sound like he had a more exotic disease.
Kay's performance, and the Abzorbaloff in general, garnered more criticism for this story. Some of the humour was also frowned upon - in particular Elton's assertion that he and the disembodied Ursula had a love life of sorts...
The main guest artist is Marc Warren as Elton. At the time he was best known for BBC TV's Hustle. Making up the rest of L.I.N.D.A. are Shirley Henderson as Ursula, Simon Greenall as Mr Skinner, Moya Brady as Bridget, and Kathryn Drysdale as Bliss. Henderson was famous for a role in the Harry Potter movies, but had appeared in many successful dramas, initially in her native Scotland. Greenall was best known for his appearances alongside Alan Partridge. Drysdale was in comedy Two Pints of Lager..., which BBC3 used to show on a perpetual loop.

Tardisode: An unseen figure is using a computer to search for references to the Doctor. He comes across a homepage for a group called L.I.N.D.A. He uses this to track them to where they meet, on Maccateer Street. An old woman enters the room with a tea tray, and she is suddenly bathed in a green light. She cries out and we hear horrible slurping sounds...

Story Arc: 
  • Kennedy's computer is unable to get any more information about Rose due to a block by Torchwood. and he mentions a Bad Wolf virus.
  • Kennedy's newspaper tells of someone named Saxon being ahead in the polls.

Overall, it is the Marmite of Doctor Who stories. You either get it or you don't. You either love it or you hate it. Personally, I find it funny, clever, and moving. The material with Camille Coduri is fantastic, especially the way Jackie preempts each of Elton's various stages of establishing contact.
The DWM 50th Anniversary poll had it at 220nd out of 241. There are clearly a lot of Victor Kennedys out there.
Things you might like to know:
  • Davies originally intended that Elton would have experienced more of the Doctor's adventures throughout his life - including events from the Classic Series. A birthday party would have been interrupted by the Dalek incursion at Coal Hill School, his mother would have been killed by a Nestene daffodil, and he would have seen the Skarasen surface on the Thames.
  • Elton's alien experiences make use of footage from the episodes Rose, Aliens of London, and The Christmas Invasion. The Auton attack was intercut with new footage featuring Warren, and some people find it more exciting than the original material.
  • Davies had used the acronym L.I.N.D.A. in a previous writing job. The children's series Why Don't You...? had featured the Liverpool Investigation 'N' Detective Agency.
  • Mrs Croot is played by Bella Emberg, for many years a foil to comedian Russ Abbott - such as Blunder Woman to his Cooperman (a cross between Superman and comic magician Tommy Cooper, for those lucky enough not to be in the know). She featured in the Classic series on a couple of occasions - as a nurse outside the hospital in The Silurians when Major Baker dies, and as one of the kitchen wenches in The Time Warrior. She was supposed to reappear in The Runaway Bride, but the sequence on a London bus was cut.
  • Further inspirations for this story from Davies, knowing that the Doctor and Rose would be largely absent, were episodes of Buffy and Star Trek: TNG, in which the main characters were only briefly seen whilst the plot focused on minor characters observing them from a distance.
  • Peter Kay did not feature in the Tardisode. In the actual episode, there is no green glow when the Abzorbaloff attacks, but it may occur when he transforms from his Kennedy disguise.
  • First mention of what will be Series Three's story arc - mention of the politician Mr Saxon in Kennedy's newspaper. Torchwood will also prefigure this, with "Vote Saxon" posters visible in the latter couple of episodes.
  • The alien creature in the abandoned building has come to be known as the Hoix. It was made up of miscellaneous bits and pieces created by monster maker Neil Gorton's team. It was producer Phil Collinson who insisted that it be given a name. The name only appears in the credits, and it won't get called a Hoix on screen until the finale of Torchwood's second series, when Owen Harper encounters one. We'll see it again as part of the Pandorica Alliance.
  • A lot of people criticise the blue bucket / red bucket Hoix sequence, as it looks silly. The whole point is that this is how Elton is remembering it for his video diary. It isn't necessarily what actually happened. Besides, if it's good enough for Scooby Doo...
  • The scene where Elton describes having to devise a rudimentary pulley system to get out of bed after the Sycorax spaceship blasts in his windows was going to be cut, but Executive Producer Julie Gardner insisted it be kept in.
  • At one point Elton was going to be female. The role was then offered to Peter Kay, but he had just played an "anorak" character on Coronation Street and thought the roles too similar. Besides, he wanted to play a villainous role.

Thursday 16 February 2017

B is for... Bennett (4)

Mason Bennett was a geologist who was part of the crew of the Drum, an underwater base situated on the floor of a flooded valley in Caithness, in the north of Scotland, in the year 2119.
This was a mining operation, run by Vector Petroleum. Investigating a village that had been submerged when the valley flooded over a century before, the crew had discovered an alien spacecraft and brought it aboard the Drum. The commander, Moran, was killed when its engines fired. He appeared soon after in ghostly form, and began to kill off other members of the crew.
When the TARDIS arrived, the Doctor decided to investigate the spacecraft's initial landing. He travelled back to 1980, taking Bennett and colleague Alice O'Donnell with him. She was killed by the occupant of the craft - which was really an alien hearse. This was the Fisher King, who was creating the ghosts in order to transmit a psychic signal to his kind to come and rescue him - and to take over the planet.
The Doctor sent Bennett back to 2119 in the TARDIS using an emergency protocol, whilst he remained in 1980.
Bennett later admitted that he had loved O'Donnell, but had never told her - so he made sure that colleague Lunn didn't make the same mistake as he, and would tell fellow survivor Cass that he loved her.

Played by: Arsher Ali. Appearances: Under The Lake / Before The Flood (2015).

B is for... Bennett (3)

Mia Bennett was one of the crew of the doomed first human settlement on Mars - Bowie Base One. Mia hailed from Houston, Texas, and was a geologist like her father. She hoped to demonstrate that Earth plants could be grown in Martian soil. The Doctor met her, and her colleagues, on January 21st, 2059 - the date he knew would witness the destruction of the base with all hands.
As the last of the Time Lords, he decided to change this fixed point in time and save the crew. Mia was one of those he was able to return to Earth in the TARDIS - changing her history. Traumatised by events at the base, she ran off into the night. Fellow survivor Yuri Kerenski went after her to console her. It is unknown what impact her survival would have made to future history.

Played by: Gemma Chan. Appearances: The Waters of Mars (2009).

B is for... Bennett (2)

Jarvis Bennett was the commander of Space Wheel W3. He was a rigid, unimaginative man, who found it increasingly difficult to cope when his ordered domain came under attack. The crew had noticed small drops in air pressure, soon after an abandoned spaceship - the Silver Carrier - drifted close to the Wheel. Jarvis decided to blow the craft up, as it posed a collision risk. He was stopped when someone on the ship signaled to them. This proved to be Jamie McCrimmon. He and the comatose Doctor were brought on board the station. Some time later, one of the crew discovered a new lifeform - small metal creatures. These destroyed the Bernalium supplies, which were needed to power the station's X-Ray laser - its only defence. Jamie had disabled the weapon to prevent the station personnel from destroying the Silver Carrier, as the TARDIS was still aboard. Jarvis accused him of being a saboteur belonging to a group who were opposed to space exploration. The station was then threatened by a meteor shower.
Jarvis refused to connect the strange sequence of events - even when urged to do so by Dr Gemma Corwyn, whose opinion he normally accepted without fail.
It soon became clear that the Wheel was under attack from the Cybermen. As events escalated, Jarvis' mental state deteriorated. He finally broke on learning of Corwyn's death, and left the command area to challenge the Cybermen single-handed. They killed him.

Played by: Michael Turner. Appearances: The Wheel In Space (1968).

  • Jarvis Bennett is just one in a long line of seemingly unsuitable commanders of bases, usually picked on by Cybermen. His society has all manner of safeguards designed to monitor, analyse and protect people's mental wellbeing - and yet they put him in charge...

B is for... Bennett (1)

One of two survivors from a spaceship crash, marooned on the planet Dido. The ship had left Earth for the planet Astra in 2493. A number of crew and passengers survived, including Bennett, a girl named Vicki and her father. One night, whilst Vicki lay ill in bed, a great feast was arranged by the people of Dido. There was a massive explosion and everyone at the feast was killed - except for Bennett, who was left barely able to walk. When Vicki recovered, Bennett had to tell her of her father's death. He claimed that the natives had killed the Earth people, but one of them - Koquillion - would protect them both until a rescue ship arrived. Koquillion would visit the crashed ship and converse with Bennett in private.
When the TARDIS arrived on Dido, the Doctor recognised the planet as he had been here before. Hearing of the explosion he was shocked, as he had found the natives to be a peace-loving people. His suspicions were aroused when he learned of Koquillion's monstrous description - a spiny insectoid being. On going to Bennett's room he found it to be empty. A tape recorder played back his voice - ordering anyone who tried the door to go away. The Doctor then located a hidden trap door, and followed a passage to the Dido Hall of Justice. When Koquillion arrived, the Doctor saw through the disguise. Koquillion was really Bennett, wearing ceremonial robes. Didonians were similar to humans in appearance. Bennett revealed that he had committed a murder on the space flight. He engineered the crash, then caused the explosion which not only killed the other humans but seemingly all of the natives as well. Vicki was left alive to provide him with an alibi when the rescue craft arrived.
Bennett attacked the Doctor, but was stopped by the sudden appearance of two Didonians. Seeing them, he backed away in terror and fell to his death.

Played by: Ray Barrett. Appearances: The Rescue (1965).

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Inspirations - The Edge of Destruction

AKA Inside the Spaceship...
... Because the whole story takes place within the confines of the TARDIS. This two part story, written by Story Editor David Whitaker, owes its origins to the fact that Doctor Who almost got axed after just 13 episodes. The cost of the TARDIS set, amongst other things, gave the BBC cold feet.
As we had already been given one story going into the past, and another going into the future, this potentially final slot would go to a "sideways" story. There was no money for additional sets, nor monster costumes, nor guest artists.
As it was. a further 13 episodes were agreed, but the historical epic of Marco Polo was still a couple of weeks away from readiness. Whitaker stepped in to write a story featuring just the four regular characters They would be faced with a puzzle that would lead to them learning more about themselves - and the Doctor would learn more than he knew about his own ship.

When last we saw them, the travellers were leaving Skaro. There was an explosion, and they were thrown to the floor as the ship was plunged into darkness.
Edge of Destruction opens with the aftermath. First Barbara wakes up - seemingly in a daze and unsure of where she is. She sees Susan, who is standing groggily by the console. It's when Ian gets to his feet that things seem oddest. He recognises Barbara, and then recalls Susan - but speaks as if they are still at Coal Hill School and quite unfamiliar with each other. He talks in a strange, almost mechanical way - as though he is not himself.
Later, the TARDIS crew will speculate that something has gotten inside the ship - some alien presence - and we, the audience, start to think that maybe one of them has become possessed. This is why reviewers of this story often mention "Who Goes There?", by John W Campbell Jnr. It's the novella, first published in "Astounding Science-Fiction" magazine in 1938, that was filmed three times as The Thing / The Thing From Another World. This tells of an isolated scientific outpost which discovers a crashed UFO. The occupant is not dead, and it has the power to imitate people and animals.
If we thought that it was Ian who had become possessed, just wait until you see what happens to Susan. She goes totally out of character. She becomes moody and withdrawn, openly hostile towards the two teachers, and at one point comes close to attacking Ian with a pair of scissors. She'll hold these threateningly when speaking to Barbara also. The teachers are scared, but she is homicidally paranoid.
The Doctor finally picks himself up off the floor, but he is having none of this alien possession nonsense. Quite simply the teachers have sabotaged his ship, to force him to take them back to the London of 1963. He seems to be quite lacking in the imagination exhibited by the others.

Each of the two episodes comprising this story is directed by a different person. Episode One is by Richard Martin. He makes great use of lighting, and the TARDIS console room - almost always described as "brightly lit" - becomes filled with ominous shadows. It becomes a haunted house, with ghosts potentially lurking close by.

Strange things then start to happen, and the supernatural elements of the first half episode get pushed down in the mix. The TARDIS decides to make itself known as the fifth character in this drama. People get a shock when they approach certain parts of the console. The scanner shows what seems to be a random selection of images - a nice forest, a nasty looking jungle, then a sequence moving out from a planet to its solar system and beyond, until there is a blinding flash. The doors open when there's a nice picture, and close when the jungle is shown. Later, a clock face will melt, as will the dials on everyone's watches.
Whitaker is now looking at the nature of time, and it's a good bet that he has read or seen on stage or screen some J B Priestley. He wrote a number of plays about the nature of time - most famous being An Inspector Calls (1945). In this, the said police inspector arrives unannounced at a rich family's home, investigating the suicide of a destitute young woman. He shows how each member of the family knew her, and contributed in some way to her sad demise. It then transpires that the woman has been found and has died only after the inspector had called. He appears to have visited them from out of the future.
Priestley was influenced by a number of writers who argued against the straightforward linear movement of time - one moment following inexorably after another. They posited that time was more fluid, and ran at different speeds for different people in different places. These writers included French philosopher Henri Bergson (try "Time and Free Will", 1889, for starters). You might also want to have a go at John William Dunne's "An Experiment With Time", 1927. In this, Dunne sought to explain a number of precognitive dreams he had experienced, and came to believe he was experiencing time in a non-linear fashion. Deja Vu, anyone?

I mentioned above the TARDIS becoming the fifth character in this drama. It has often surprised me that the fan groups who stage Doctor Who stories live haven't had a crack at this one. (Okay, Daleks sell more tickets). This story would be perfect for the stage. One main set, with a small bedroom one to the side, and just the four actors. You can be in the pub in an hour as well.
Ian and Barbara trying to work out who they are in relation to each other, and where they are, reminds one of Luigi Pirandello's absurdist work Six Characters In Search Of An Author (1921). This baffled audiences when first performed, but a few years later Pirandello added a foreward to the play text to explain where he was coming from. In this, a group of actors are rehearsing a play (by Pirandello) when six people wander on stage - each a family archetype (father, mother, son, daughter and so forth. This particular TARDIS crew have also been seen as family archetypes, with Ian the dad, Barbara the mum, Susan the teenage daughter, and the Doctor the granddad or odd uncle). The six characters have come from an unfinished work, and want resolution as to who they are. Once they've finally gone, even the director within the play hasn't a clue if they were real or not.
The play has inspired many other writers - with characters who think they are characters and not real people, or real people who discover they are just characters.

As the story draws to a close, all of this new stuff also gets shoved out the way, and we head towards a good old-fashioned rational explanation for everything weird that has happened. The TARDIS has a form of sentience (described like Artificial Intelligence), and it has been trying to warn them all that they have been heading towards destruction. Time - as in linear, measurable time - has been taken away from them (the melting clocks, plus the ship's warning alarm sounding more frequently) in order that they would become aware of time. (I hope you're following this at the back). The bit of the console that's safe to approach houses something called the Fast Return Switch. It has gone a bit wonky. The spring has become stuck, and the ship is hurtling back through time to be destroyed in the explosive birth of a new solar system - even though solar systems aren't necessarily born that way.
Yup, it was a broken spring all along.
Soooo disappointing of Whitaker to collect together all these inspirations, then have the ending such a mundane anti-climax. The resolution may be a bit rubbish, but the journey has been worth it. We've had a story that allows us to get to know a little more about the companions, and the TARDIS is coming forward as something more than just the magic cupboard that gets them all from A to B. The seeds of the telepathic circuits, translation circuits, and The Doctor's Wife start here. The Doctor also has some of his rougher edges smoothed off. He'll be much more appreciative of the school teachers from this point on.
Next time - back into history, with the first real historical person. Except it won't be...

Saturday 11 February 2017

Story 174 - The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit

In which the TARDIS materialises in a storage bay, and the Doctor is worried that something may be wrong with it. Emerging, he and Rose find that they are in a Sanctuary Base - structures designed for hazardous regions. This is Sanctuary Base 6. In one of the main rooms they see graffiti scrawled on a wall - the words "Welcome to Hell" and a language which even the TARDIS cannot translate. The Doctor deduces that it must be incredibly ancient. They are confronted by a group of Ood. These are bipedal aliens with large bald heads and a mass of fleshy tendrils where their mouths should be. They communicate using hand-held spheres, which appear to be grafted onto their faces. The base security chief, Jefferson, arrives with his team, and they are shocked to see the new arrivals. They are taken to the central command area, where they meet the rest of the crew. This comprises science officer Ida Scott, archaeologist Toby Zed, ethics officer Danny Bartock, and trainee engineer Scooti Manista. In charge is Zachary Cross Flane. All are shocked to see them. Rose queries the howling gale she can hear outside, so Ida opens the roof panel. It is the Doctor's turn to be shocked, as they appear to be on a planet that it is in a fixed geostationary orbit close to a black hole.

Ida explains that the planet has no name, but legend calls it Krop Tor - the bitter pill. It was claimed that the black hole - K37 Gem 5 - was a demon, and it spat out the planet as it was toxic. Zach tells them that they discovered a funnel of stable space reaching out from the planet to a region beyond the black hole's influence, and used this to land here. A number of the crew died in the process - including the original commander. A power source of great magnitude has been detected, and they have come to drill down into Krop Tor to locate it. The base is struck by an earth tremor, and part of it collapses into a ravine. This includes the storage bay where the TARDIS had landed. The Doctor and Rose are trapped here. That night, Toby is alone in his room studying ancient pottery sherds when he hears a sinister voice addressing him. The entity possesses him. His eyes turn scarlet, and the script on the pottery appears on his skin. Scooti is making sure the base is secure when she hears someone exit through an airlock. Looking outside, she sees Toby standing unprotected on the surface. He motions for her to join him. When she refuses, he breaks the window with the power of his mind. The breach alerts everyone, and they find Toby in a corridor, claiming not to know what has happened. When they search for Scooti, they see her lifeless body floating outside towards the black hole.

A number of strange things have been happening. Rose hears a voice on her phone, and Danny hears the computer state "He is awake" instead of its normal door access wording. One of the Ood had also said something similar. The Doctor and Rose learn from Danny that the Ood are a subservient species, who thrive on being told what to do. They are telepathic, and monitors suggest that something is shouting in their heads. The drill reaches its destination, and the Doctor insists on joining Ida on the descent. Donning spacesuits, they travel down the shaft and emerge in a vast cavern, which shows signs of the ancient civilisation which once lived here. There is a huge metal hatch in the ground, covered in the ancient language. Toby becomes possessed once more - witnessed by Jefferson and Rose - whilst the same force takes over the Ood. Their eyes glow red, and they start to attack the crew. They claim that the Beast has arisen, and in the cavern the hatch begins to open...

The lift cable snaps, leaving Ida and the Doctor trapped. In the base, the crew have to defend themselves against the Ood, whose translator globes have the power to electrocute. Toby seems to have been freed of the malevolent presence. Zach is isolated in the command area. Danny comes up with a means of disabling the Ood, but he can only use it from Ood Control. He, Rose, Toby and Jefferson must get across the base whilst avoiding the Ood. They take to the airducts. Zach must aerate these section by section to allow their progress. The Doctor decides to descend into the pit which has been revealed by the opening of the hatch, using the lift cable. In the airducts, Jefferson sacrifices himself to hold back the pursuing Ood - dying when Zach removes the oxygen. Unbeknownst to the others, Toby has remained possessed all the time. Danny's plan - to broadcast a psychic flare that will disable the Ood - works. Zach announces the evacuation of the base using their shuttle rocket.

When the cable runs out, the Doctor decides to drop into the darkness. He falls and lands on a shelf of rock. There are two ornate vases on plinths, and on the walls are drawings that depict a huge red devil and the black hole. He discovers that the beast is close by - a massive, horned being with skull-like features - which is chained up. Rose refuses to leave the Doctor, and the others are forced to drug her. She wakes in the cabin of the shuttle. She threatens Zach with a nail gun, but he refuses to let her go. He has lost too many people already. The Doctor hears the rocket take off. He has heard the Beast speak through the Ood, and knows it to be highly intelligent, and yet what he sees in the pit is pure animal. He realises that this is only the shell, and that the Beast's mind is elsewhere. If he smashes the vases, the planet will tumble into the black hole - but so will the rocket. He elects to do this. In the rocket, the creature manifests itself once more in Toby. Rose fires the nail gun at the cockpit window, and unlocks his safety belt. He is sucked out into space, to fall into the black hole. The Doctor finds the TARDIS as the planet begins to fall out of its orbit. As the rocket crew prepare to die in the black hole, the ship is seized by a tractor beam generated from the TARDIS and pulled towards safe space. The Doctor calls to say that he was able to rescue Ida, but did not have time to save the Ood. After returning Ida to her colleagues, he and Rose continue on their travels.

This two part adventure was written by Matt Jones, and was first broadcast on 3rd and 10th June, 2006. Jones was a long time fan of Doctor Who and had written a number of New Adventures novels and short stories. He was best known at the time of his commissioning for the Channel 4 series Shameless, and the ITV series P.O.W. He had also worked on Children's Ward, as had a number of new series writers. To date, The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit are his only Doctor Who TV episodes, though he would go on to write a Series 2 episode of Torchwood after this.
These episodes see the first visit to a wholly alien planet in the revived series. One of the cliches that the series had hoped to avoid was the "all alien planets look like quarries", but here they embrace that. The cavern sequences were filmed in a Welsh quarry, but the use of establishing CGI vistas, plus night filming, allowed them to get away with it.
It will probably surprise you to learn that these episodes were supposed to be quite cheap ones, as a lot of money was going to be held back for a later story. This is why we have the small cast. The alien servitors were going to be the Slitheen, so recycling existing costumes. The Beast wasn't going to be a CGI devil. That later story was shelved, and its replacement became the cheap one, so more cash could go into this. Russell T Davies insisted that the Doctor's relationship with Rose would be pivotal to the defeat of the Beast. It's his belief in her - after all the talk throughout of belief systems - which prompts him to smash the vases that hold the Beast captive.

The cast might be a small one, but it's a good one. Jefferson is Danny Webb, who is rarely off UK TV screens. He was the sole survivor of the penal planet in Alien 3. Zach is Shaun Parkes, who had appeared alongside David Tennant in Casanova, and would go on to work with Matt Smith on police series Moses Jones. Ida is Claire Rushbrook. Toby is Will Thorpe - a regular on Casualty. Scooti is MyAnna Buring, and Danny is Ronny Jhutti. Paul Kasey is the lead Ood, who are all voiced by Silas Carson (Star Wars Episodes 1 - 111, and the Adherents of the Repeated Meme in the previous season). Voicing the Beast is Gabriel Woolf, who had been Sutekh in The Pyramids of Mars back in 1976). His presence in the cast list led many to believe that the last of the Osirans would be back in this, and in a way he was - as the Fourth Doctor names him using some of the Beast's aliases.

Story Arc: The expedition is said to have been sent by the Torchwood Archive, and the Beast claims that Rose will die in battle very, very soon...
  1. Captain Walker is given his mission to find the power source on the planet orbiting black hole K37 Gem 5. He is shown a notebook full of some ancient writing and informed of many superstitions surrounding the planet. He passes the notebook to an Ood as he leaves, and it says "And the Beast will rise from the pit...".
  2. On a spaceship, an Ood hands a case to a man named Curt. It contains the personal effects of the late Captain Walker - including the notebook from the previous prequel piece. As he leafs through it, a monitor flashes up the message "The Beast is awake. He shall rise from the Pit". Controls move by themselves and the book bursts into flames. When a colleague arrives she finds Curt deranged, with the strange alien script on his skin.

Overall, a very good two-parter that builds well, and goes at a gallop in the second half. A great cast and some fine VFX. We'll be seeing more of those Ood soon - as well as one of the Beast's relatives.
Things you might like to know:
  • In creating the Ood, Davies was influenced by the Sensorites, from the 1964 Hartnell story - hence the telepathy, big bald heads, and the tendrils here replace their fluffy beards. The influence will be reinforced in their next outing.
  • As a pre-existing monster, using the Slitheen costumes might have been cheap, but Davies felt that they might take over the story.
  • Ideas for the Beast when this was still an inexpensive show - a young girl or a little old man. The former idea was dropped when the expensive Episode 11 was ditched, and Fear Her was brought forward from Series 3 to replace it.
  • VFX firm The Mill came up with a black hole that was based on how scientists think they might actually look. This was deemed not quite visual enough, so something more akin to what Disney's The Black Hole had shown was created instead.
  • As you will see from the Tardisodes, both were prequels, and show that there were two commanders before Zach got the job. The Beast also seems to be able to influence things over a very great distance - all the way to Earth - which the episodes themselves don't seem to suggest. Some dialogue referring to the second Tardisode was cut from the broadcast episooes.
  • Rose picks up on the slave status of the Ood straight away, but the Doctor doesn't even comment on it. Ordinarily, this would have been the thrust of the whole story. Davies was troubled by this from the outset, which is why he started planning a follow up in which these issues would be raised.
  • In Canada, The Impossible Planet was followed by a three month break before The Satan Pit was broadcast - acting as a mid-season cliffhanger.
  • When the second episode's title was announced, a small number of people - the kind who ban their kids from reading Harry Potter in case it inspires them to sacrifice the family cat to Beelzebub and take up Black Magic - voiced their concerns. Back when Victor Pemberton had wanted to call his story "Colony of Devils" the title got vetoed for fear of offending the religiously sensitive - becoming Fury From The Deep instead. Move ahead a little and they can get away with Daemons, but the Master's coven isn't allowed to gather in a church crypt - it has to be a cavern under the church. The very next year, "Devils" is allowed, so long as they're "Sea" ones. Chris Boucher, however, won't be able to call his first story "The Day God Went Mad". It gets stuck with Face of Evil. Thankfully, Doctor Who can now happily have Satan Pits and God Complexes.
  • Mind you, The Satan Pit was broadcast in the week containing the 6th of the 6th, 2006...
  • Horned demons mentioned on screen - those of the Draconians, Daemons and Kaleds. The Tin Vagabonds get another mention in the first series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, where Sarah states that she has encountered them.
  • The closing TARDIS scene - the "stuff of legends" bit - was the last thing Billie Piper recorded before her departure from the series. There was a wrap party for the series after this. David Tennant had to sneak out of this to film a secret scene to be added at the end of the season - Donna Noble's sudden appearance in the TARDIS. Will Thorp and MyAnna Buring had to get up early the next day to jump into a swimming pool - to film their floating in space sequences.
  • The Sanctuary Base corridor set was used throughout the Series Two junior "making of" series - Totally Doctor Who. One of the presenters of this will get a crowd scene role in the next story, as well as having to perform at one of the Doctor Who Proms as part of his Blue Peter duties.     

Monday 6 February 2017

B is for... Benik

The sadistic henchman of Salamander, the Mexican entrepreneur who wanted to become ruler of the world. Theodore Benik was Salamander's deputy, and was based at his Kanowa research centre in Australia. Benik took charge of his leader's personal security guards, and used them to eliminate his enemies. He took great pleasure in doing so. When Jamie and Victoria were captured, it was clear that Benik would employ torture to make them talk - specifically targeting Victoria. Despite his lofty position, he had no idea of the full extent of Salamander's schemes. He knew of the assassinations and blackmailing, but was quite unaware of the secret chamber built deep below the research centre, where a group of people had been duped into causing natural disasters in the belief that they were attacking enemies following a nuclear war. Neither did he know that Salamander's rival Giles Kent was really a co-founder of this scheme.
Once Salamander had been exposed, Benik was captured by the Security Chief, Donald Bruce, and was last seen pleading for a fair trial - something he never gave to any of his own victims. The implication is that he won't get one.

Played by: Milton Johns. Appearances: The Enemy of the World (1967/8).

  • This is the first of three villainous roles for Johns in the series. All three are quite different characters. Benik is downright nasty. Guy Crayford (The Android Invasion) is a bit of a dupe, manipulated by the Kraals. Castellan Kelner (The Invasion of Time), meanwhile, is an obsequious politician who will side with whoever he thinks is ahead - even if they are aliens invading his homeworld.
  • Johns is one of that select group of Doctor Who actors who has also played an Imperial Officer in the Star Wars Universe. He is Captain Bewil, seen reporting to Darth Vader in the Carbonite chamber in The Empire Strikes Back.
  • He has also appeared in the X-Files - in the first movie Fight The Future.

B is for... Bellows

Fiona Bellows was one of the scientists at the Arctic research base which was visited at Christmas, 2014, by the Doctor and Clara. Four of her colleagues were in the sickbay with parasitic creatures stuck to their faces. Everyone was surprised when Father Christmas and a pair of Elves turned up soon after. The Doctor was able to demonstrate that the four figures in the sickbay were really Bellows and her three still active crew mates. They were trapped in a dreamscape created by the parasites - alien Dream Crabs. This dreamscape was eventually broken, and Bellows awoke to find herself at home with her family on Christmas morning. Confined to a wheelchair in real life, Bellows had imagined herself with full mobility in the dream world.

Played by: Maureen Beattie. Appearances: Last Christmas (2014).

  • Maureen is the daughter of Johnny Beattie, who is showbiz royalty in Scotland.

B is for... Bellboy

One of the founding members of the Psychic Circus. His speciality was robotics, and he built and maintained the robotic clowns, as well as a number of other automatons. These included a Bus Conductor and a huge robot which later became half-buried in the sands of the planet Segonax, where the Circus made its home.
The Psychic Circus had previously embarked on many long tours throughout the galaxy.
On Segonax, the Circus people became enslaved by an ancient powerful force for evil - the Gods of Ragnarok. They corrupted the Circus, forcing the crew to kill guests for their entertainment. Bellboy and a girl named Flowerchild escaped and ran into the desert. He sacrificed himself to allow her to get away, but she was killed by the Bus Conductor robot. Bellboy was captured by the Chief Clown and returned to the Big Top, where the Gods punished him. A broken man, and distraught at Flowerchild's death, he programmed his own robots to kill himself.

Played by: Christopher Guard. Appearances: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988).

  • Guard's brother Dominic had previously been in Doctor Who - as space pirate Olvir in Terminus. Dominic's partner, Sharon Duce, would go on to appear as Control in Ghostlight in the following season to Christopher's appearance, whilst his own partner at the time - Lesley Dunlop - had been in Frontios, and would make a return appearance in The Happiness Patrol.

B is for... Bellal

A native of the planet Exxilon, Bellal belonged to a subterranean faction which opposed the majority surface dwellers. His group had evolved to be smaller, and their bodies had a natural glow. They did not believe that their great City should be revered as a holy thing, nor that sacrifices should be made to it. Bellal rescued Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor from one such sacrifice, which involved them being sent down into a cave system to be destroyed by one of the City's defensive automated roots. He joined forces with them and a group of Earth marines against the Daleks, who had allied themselves with the other Exxilons. The surface dwellers wanted the humans and Daleks to help them exterminate Bellal's people.
Bellal joined the Doctor in breaking into the City. At one point he became mesmerised by its defences and was compelled to shoot the Doctor with a Dalek gun, but the Doctor was able to break this mental conditioning.
Once the City had been destroyed, Bellal and his people would have gone on to help other Earth people collect the mineral Parrinium which they needed to combat a space plague.

Played by: Arnold Yarrow. Appearances: Death to the Daleks (1974).

Thursday 2 February 2017

News Update

Haven't said anything about "news" for a while - mainly because there wasn't any really, but the last week has seen some major announcements.
First of all, I was naturally devastated to hear of the passing of John Hurt at the weekend. One of my favourite actors, it was wonderful to see him become part of this mad old show that we all love - and as a Doctor as well. Apparently he was overjoyed that he got to play "Doctor Who". As much as I loved The Day of the Doctor, there is so much of his earlier work I admired - be it his appearance in Alien, or his take on Caligula in I, Claudius, or his performance as Timothy Evans in 10 Rillington Place, or as that infamous naked civil servant Quentin Crisp. So many other performances of note. He'll be sadly missed.

Then, just a day or two later, Peter Capaldi announced that his next season will be his last. A great shame, as he will only have done the three series, and I would have liked to see more of him.
He bows out at Christmas this year.
Mark Gatiss has announced that the Doctor will be meeting up with the Ice Warriors (hopefully plural this time) at some point in Series 10. BBC America says this commences on April 15th - so the UK should look to that date as well.
It has also been made known that Chris Chibnall's Series 11 won't be shown until the Autumn of 2018. Filming won't start until the New Year, with the new Doctor making his first appearance on December 25th and the regeneration.
An announcement as to who this might be won't be made for 6 months or so, so don't bother with all the bookmaking / odds-on favourites stuff going on at the moment. All the usual suspects have been dragged out - including the ones from when Capaldi got the gig. Because of her Broadchurch connections, if they do go for a female Doctor, Olivia Colman obviously stands a very good chance.
Back in November, one UK newspaper quoted one of those fabled "insiders" as saying that Bill would go out with Capaldi and Moffat, to give the new show-runner a blank page with his new series.
Interesting times ahead.

Inspirations - The Daleks

AKA "The Mutants".
Before we look at the story itself, a quick word about where writer Terry Nation came from. He was born in 1930 in a suburb of Cardiff - Llandaff, where many an episode of the post-2005 series and its spin-offs has been filmed. So he was an impressionable youth when the Second World War broke out. Between 1940 and 1944, his home city was bombed repeatedly. At the same time there was the constant threat of invasion. The Germans weren't just enemies, as any child of that period would have told you, they were intrinsically bad. Downright evil. Once the full horror of the Nazi regime had been exposed at war's end, the total evil was revealed. It was only to be expected that when this Cardiff youth wrote about evil beings they would have more than a hint of Nazism about them. After the success of his first Doctor Who script, Nazi surrogates invading Britain was an obvious next step. We'll come to that in a few week's time, but first he has to invent them.
It ought to be mentioned at this point that there was one other major influence on the young Terry Nation - cinema. Many's the time the air raid warning sounded when Nation would be sat in the local movie house enthralled by what he saw on the big screen - often when he should have been in school.
A writing career brought him to London in the 1950's, but it was as a gag writer that he started out, rather than the author of drama (Sci-Fi or otherwise).
He claimed that he got his first break when he sold a joke to Spike Milligan, who felt sorry for him as he looked hungry. He joined Associated London Scripts, which is where he came into contact with a number of Doctor Who's initial writers.
1962 saw him working, fairly unsuccessfully, for Tony Hancock. When Hancock moved away from the BBC, and from Galton & Simpson and from Sid James, his career took a downward turn. A 1963 tour with Hancock saw the comedian often drop Nation's jokes in favour of his old material. ("And what of Magna Carta..? Did she die in vain?!" I doubt if Nation's stuff was that good, so no wonder Hancock reverted to the old stuff).
Asked to write for Doctor Who, Nation discussed it with Hancock, and he argued against it - claiming it was insulting to ask a writer of his "caliber" to write for a kid's show. Nation turned down the gig, but was then promptly sacked - so rushed back to his friend David Whitaker to see if the job offer was still on the table. It was - and The Daleks is the result.
The ghost of Hancock lingers around the series to this day. His one-time agent is Steven Moffat's mother-in-law, and his brother, Roger, became the guardian of the Daleks' legacy as Nation's terrier-like agent.

So what of the story itself. Nation was a very good plot deviser, but had little time for dialogue or for description. Designer Ray Cusick claimed that Nation would sketch only the most basic description of a locale or piece of equipment in his scripts, leaving him and his colleagues to visualise them fully and make the damned things.
Of the Daleks themselves, the main thing Nation stressed was that they should not have arms or legs, and so not look human-like in any way. By way of movement he suggested the Georgian State Dancers, who he had seen on TV. They had stiff gowns which reached down to the floor, and when they moved they seemed to be gliding. Cusick did not base his design on a pepper-pot in the BBC canteen, but he did use one to illustrate their motion to a colleague.
The name "Dalek" Nation claimed to have got from looking at the spines of a couple of telephone directories on a shelf - but no UK volumes are known to have had these letter sequences. Another version of this story has it a pair of encyclopedias. Nation admitted he made this up as a good story for the press. "Dalek" is an old Slavic word meaning "far" or "distant", however. Somehow I don't think Terry was aware of this, but who knows what they talked about at A.L.S. as they were bouncing ideas around.
Once he had his villains, Nation then had to come up with a story to put them in.
It's still 1963, so the shadow of the Bomb hovers over all. The Daleks won't be purely robotic. They are just mobile life-support systems for the survivors of a nuclear war. Verity Lambert had to stress this to Sydney Newman, as he was fiercely opposed to having any BEMs in this show (as in 1950's B-Movie Bug-Eyed Monsters). There are two races of survivors on this alien planet. It has been scarred by war - so let's call it Skaro. (Nation will be the king of naming alien planets after some significant feature about them or their people).
Both sets of survivors are mutants. In the case of the Daleks, the mutation has become stuck, due to their harnessing themselves to technology and trapping themselves in their machines. The Thals, meanwhile, have seen the mutation go full circle and they have become beautiful, blond haired humanoids. They are peaceful and pacifist, whilst the Daleks retain hatred, fear, xenophobia. It is their mentality which makes the Daleks the Nazi surrogates.
They have a dislike for the unlike, as Ian puts it, and want to embark on a genocidal purge of these people who are nothing like them - even though once upon a time they were very much the same.

Through the course of events in The Daleks, the Thals will be taught that they will have to fight if they want to survive. Their pacifism will get them killed. It's the Doctor and a couple of Earth people who show them this - which doesn't say much for human nature.
Nation will have seen any number of movies - Westerns in particular - which have a similar theme. A small community will be threatened by a bunch of baddies (probably led by Brian Donlevy) and someone - usually a stranger in these here parts - will bring them together into some kind of fighting force so that they can defend their homes and rid themselves of the black-hatted villains. Sometimes it will take seven of these out-of-towners to achieve this, in magnificent fashion. (The Daleks will eventually get black hats - but not until Evil of the Daleks).
Last time we mentioned that the Doctor had a touch of the Professor Challenger about him. Literature is littered with obsessed scientists putting people, including themselves, at risk in order to learn something new. The Daleks begins with the Doctor spying an interesting-looking city, and he is determined to give it a closer inspection. When his companions say no, he goes as far as sabotaging his ship to get his own way - putting even his beloved grandchild in harm's way. The Doctor is assuming that the people who built this city must be scientists, and so must therefore think exactly as he does - so no way will they be belligerent and murderous. He doesn't learn from this experience, for he'll still be making the same mistake towards the end of this incarnation (see The Savages).
Time then to mention The Time Machine. Nation will certainly have read the book, but it will be the George Pal movie that will probably be at the forefront of his mind when writing this story. Released in 1960, it sees the time-traveller witness a nuclear holocaust before being thrown into the far future to see the results of the conflict. The Eloi are all blond and beautiful and pacifist - though mainly because they have been bred that way. Their food is prepared for them. They don't have to work, and so can spend their time in a vacuous indolence. The time traveller is shown ancient records of this people. The people manipulating them are mutated creatures that live in an underground city. They are the Moroks, and they use technology whilst the Eloi have none. The Moroks feed on the Eloi.
The parallels are there, but it is by no means a wholesale lift. The Thals might look like the movie Eloi, but they have a hard life, are usually self sufficient, and they have minds of their own. The Daleks do not prey on them. There's no symbiosis between the two races.
They have a shared history and clearly know of each other, but there can't have been any contact between them for generations.
This story started life as a six parter, but the uncertainty over the programme's continuance led to it gaining a seventh episode. Watching it now, it looks like padding, but the whole ordeal thing is one of the basic forms of story-telling. It used to be claimed that there were only a handful of basic story concepts (the quest, the revenge, the reunited family etc), and every drama was simply a combination of these elements. Disregarded now, as there are too many exceptions to this theory. To fill two episodes, Nation sends some of his characters off on a trek through a hostile environment. It is a varied hostile environment at least - with monster-filled swamps and deadly caves. One character is even set up just so he can fall down a hole - because he hasn't bought into this new "we have to fight now" ethos. To make it even more interesting, he is the sibling of one of his fellow trekkers.
I'm surprised Nation didn't have Ian and Barbara's group plant a bomb when they broke into the Dalek city. Where Eagles Dare and The Heroes of Telemark are a few years away from a screening at his local cinema, but he would have known about real life sabotage missions from the war.
Instead they have to struggle further to get into the heart of the city, only for the Daleks to get killed by one of their own bumping into a bit of machinery.

It must be noted that Terry Nation did not leave much of his working-out behind him. It is often extremely difficult to know what is his, and what has gone in from the story editor. It would seem from later Dalek stories that the static electricity stuff has come from David Whitaker, though it has been claimed that this actually came from Mervyn Pinfield. The TARDIS food machine - capable of dispensing bacon and eggs flavoured Mars Bars - is definitely one of Whitaker's. Food machines will be providing full Sunday dinners by the time he gets to The Wheel In Space.
As mentioned above, Nation did not like to go into too much detail in his scripts.
The Daleks are wiped out at the conclusion of this story, after the series' first use of the dramatic Countdown to Oblivion. We know they will be back, with far more Nazi imagery and allusions to HG Wells' other famous novel. (I'm thinking War of the Worlds, but Things To Come also sees a society which has survived a cataclysmic war dividing between those who embrace technology and those who oppose it - so another inspiration for this story). Back in 1964 (as this story has straddled the New Year) the viewers knew this was always going to happen. Despite seeing them destroyed, they ignored what they had watched, and wrote in and asked for a rematch - and the production team were on to it in a flash.
It might have been a different story if the original ending had been retained, however. That's the one where the Daleks and the Thals settle down to live in peace and harmony, with the leader of the Dalek Council showing Alydon how you go about growing food using synthetic sunlight, and Ganatus taking some Daleks on a nature ramble round the Lake of Mutations after they solve that reliance on static electricity business.
For it was originally intended that the war that started all this was the result of a third party. The Daleks blamed the Thals, and the Thals blamed the Daleks, but a spaceship would turn up with another bunch of aliens who would admit it was all their fault, they fired the first missile. Now they are very, very sorry, want to be forgiven, and hope that the two Skarosian races will become friends.
Had they gone with this draft of the story, Doctor Who would probably have ended in 1964.
Next time - The Thing From Another World, and a haunted house.