Thursday 28 September 2017

Story 183 - The Lazarus Experiment

In which the Doctor takes Martha to her next destination - and she is disappointed to find that she is back home in her flat. The Doctor reminds her that she was only supposed to have had one trip. Martha checks her messages and there is one from her mother, Francine, stating that sister Tish has a new job, and that she should look at the news on TV. They see a report featuring Professor Richard Lazarus claiming that he is going to change what it means to be Human. Tish is seen in the background - the scientist's new PR adviser. The Doctor leaves, only to return moments later - intrigued by what Lazarus has just claimed.
That evening they go to a special reception at LazLabs - the Professor's research establishment in south London. Lazarus has built a machine - the Genetic Manipulator - which he claims can rejuvenate people. He is present with one of his backers - Lady Thaw. Most of the funding has come from the Harold Saxon Foundation. The Doctor meets Tish and brother Leo, and finds that Francine seems antagonistic towards him. She wants to know who he is, and is worried that he might be distracting Martha from her studies.
Lazarus intends to demonstrate his machine using himself as a test subject. He enters the Manipulator, but something goes wrong. The Doctor intervenes to prevent it exploding.
The machine opens and Lazarus emerges - looking decades younger.

He goes up to his private office to change, accompanied by Lady Thaw. The two had been lovers, but now he is disgusted by her. She wants his machine to be for the sole use of the rich and famous. He is gripped by a terrible seizure and collapses, transforming into a huge mutated creature. It attacks and kills Thaw - leaving her body a desiccated husk. Reverting to human form, he invites Tish up to the roof. He shows her the nearby Southwark Cathedral, and explains how he sheltered there as a boy during the London Blitz. The Doctor knows that the Professor's machine should not work properly. It should have damaged his DNA. Investigating, he and Martha go to the private office and find Thaw's corpse. Examining his research, the Doctor sees that the process has activated dormant DNA. They go to the roof and find Lazarus and Tish. They see him transform once more into the mutant creature. They flee downstairs as the creature gives chase. It arrives in the reception area, killing one of the guests and triggering a panic. Leo is injured. Martha helps open the doors, whilst the Doctor lures the creature back upstairs, looking for a way to destroy it.

Blowing it up in one of the laboratories fails to stop it. The Doctor and Martha find themselves trapped in the Professor's machine, and the creature switches it on. The Doctor sabotages it, so that the effect emanates outwards and strikes the creature. They emerge to see the Professor in human form once again - apparently dead. He is taken to an ambulance. Outside, a man approaches Francine and warns her about the Doctor. He tells her his information comes direct from Harold Saxon. Furious, Francine slaps the Doctor. Suddenly they hear a commotion, and find that the ambulance men have been killed - their bodies drained like Lady Thaw's. Tish tells them of how the Professor had sheltered in the Cathedral. They go there and find Lazarus. The Doctor tries to show him the error of his ways in trying to prolong life. He has triggered DNA that has lain dormant in humans for thousands of generations. Lazarus transforms once again. Martha and Tish flee to the upper levels of the Cathedral, ending up in the bell tower. The Doctor goes to the organ and starts playing - using his sonic screwdriver to boost the sound levels. The reverberation in the bell tower affects the creature, causing it to plunge to the ground. It is killed, transforming back into the Professor. His body reverts back to its aged state.
Back at her flat, the Doctor offers Martha one further trip in the TARDIS. She refuses, stating that she will only go with him if she is no longer treated as just a passenger. He agrees. After the ship has dematerialised, Francine leaves another message on Martha's answer machine - warning her about the Doctor...

The Lazarus Experiment was written by Stephen Greenhorn, and was first broadcast on Saturday 5th May, 2007. Greenhorn is best known for his stage-play / movie based on the music of the Proclaimers - Sunshine on Leith. He has also written for the BBC Scotland soap River City, and the supernatural series Marchlands, which starred Alex Kingston. After writing a pair of episodes, Mark Gatiss gets to appear on screen, playing Lazarus. He's not the first actor to have written a story as well as playing a role in the show. Victor Pemberton had featured as a credited extra in The Moonbase before writing Fury from the Deep, and Glyn Jones wrote The Space Museum before appearing in The Sontaran Experiment.
The story features Martha's family prominently. Dad is not present, and it is the only episode of the season in which Reggie Yates gets any substantial screen time as Leo.
Instead of a preview for the next episode at the end (42), there was an extended teaser for the rest of the season, as the programme was to miss a week to make way for the Eurovision Song Contest. The "Next Time..." trailer was made available on the BBC website, and was subsequently edited onto the episode for overseas sales of the episode and for the DVD releases.

As well as the cast members mentioned above, there are only two other significant guest artists. Lady Thaw is played by Thelma Barlow, famous for a long-running role in Coronation Street. As the unnamed agent of Mr Saxon we have Bertie Carvel. He has since gone on to bigger things, having featured as Jonathan Strange in the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. He has just been seen in Doctor Foster, making him one of the most hated men on television. Carvel was supposed to return later in the series, but proved unavailable, so he was replaced by the female agent played by Elize du Toit.

Story Arc: Lots of mentions of Harold Saxon. He is said to be funding Lazarus' research, and we see his agent stirring up trouble between Francine and the Doctor.
Martha becomes a fully fledged TARDIS traveller. When they arrive in her flat, it is the morning after she first stepped into the TARDIS.
The Doctor mentions that his tuxedo tends to be unlucky, and he refers to how a previous companion's mother also once slapped him.

Overall, an okay story, serving mainly to set up events for later in the season. As such this episode performs the same sort of role that The Long Game did in the 2005 series. The monster is supposed to have Mark Gatiss' features, but I certainly can't see it. The DWM 50th Anniversary poll puts it at a lowly 200th place.
Things you might like to know:

  • The reception scenes were filmed in the Welsh National Assembly building in Cardiff Bay. A couple of years later, the James Bond producers asked to film there - for Spectre - and were turned down. When the Doctor worries about his tuxedo bringing bad luck, Martha reassures him by claiming it makes him look like Bond. The bad luck he is referring to is the rise of the Cybermen on Pete's World, when he wore it to act as a waiter. He'll have further bad luck later on, when he wears it on board the spaceship Titanic.
  • Being slapped by mothers refers back to Aliens of London, when he returned Rose to Jackie a year late.
  • The exterior of Southwark Cathedral was used for establishing shots, but the interiors were recorded at Wells Cathedral.
  • Lazarus was the biblical character who was brought back from the dead by Jesus, as recounted in John 11: 41 - 44. Professor Lazarus is believed killed, but comes back to life in the ambulance.
  • A Lazarus taxon (a subset of animal / plant life) is one which disappears from the fossil record and so is thought to have become extinct - only for it to reappear later. This would relate to the Professor triggering the activation of dormant DNA.
  • The central part of the Professor's Genetic Manipulator is a reused prop. It had previously been the descent capsule in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit.
  • It was only decided late in the day that Mark Gatiss would wear a wig as the younger Lazarus. There was no time to create a custom-made hairpiece, so Gatiss offered to hire the production team the wig he wore in The League of Gentlemen. He wore this when playing the hapless vet, who was based on Peter Davison's All Creatures Great and Small character. He charged £100.
  • The conclusion to the story, with a monster in a church, is obviously based on the first Quatermass serial. In 2005, Gatiss and David Tennant had starred in a live remake of this, and it provides the inspiration for this story's title.
  • Spinal Tap is referenced, as the Doctor turns the volume up to 11.
  • The works of poet T S Eliot are mentioned - The Hollow Men and The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.
  • A deleted scene saw the Doctor find a copy of the American Declaration of Independence in his tuxedo pocket. He claimed to have helped draft it - taking credit for the "pursuit of happiness" line. Earlier this season, he had mentioned being struck by lightning whilst experimenting with Benjamin Franklin. An out-take has Tennant and Agyeman running out of camera track before he can completely unroll it.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Inspirations - The Gunfighters

The Gunfighters is the last story to have individual episode titles. It was written by Donald Cotton. His last story - The Myth Makers - had a great deal of humour, before things darkened in the final act. He pulls the same trick here, as the Doctor and his companions have arrived in Tombstone, Arizona, on the eve of the infamous gunfight at the town's OK Corral - in October, 1881.
The director, Rex Tucker, has form with Doctor Who. He was originally set up to be the first producer, but did not have much interest in the programme and was pleased to move on once Verity Lambert was brought on board. He was slated to direct some other stories, but this never materialised. As such, this is his only contribution to the show, beyond some of the initial planning meetings.
This story is the last of the truly historical adventures, in that it features real people and real events - though the events surrounding the gunfight have been mythologised over the last 130 years. There will be two more "Historicals" in the '60's - but these will be more genre pieces.

The Western was a staple of American cinema and TV. Britain had a couple of millennia more history to play with, plus lots of castles in which to film - so we tended to concentrate on knights-in-armour or costume drama set in Victorian or Georgian times. A wholly British-made western hadn't really been tried before - except for a spoof from the Carry On... team (Carry On Cowboy - 1965). 1958 had seen the release of The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw, an Anglo-American production starring Kenneth More. Interiors were filmed at Pinewood, but the exteriors were filmed in Spain - the first time that country doubled for the States. Spaghetti Westerns were still a few years away.
The British did like Western series, bought in from US TV. The Kenneth More film had been prompted by someone realising that there were some 20 hours of Westerns being shown every week on British television.
The Gunfighters is recorded entirely at the BBC's Riverside Studios, with some additional filming at Ealing.
The story begins with the resolution to the cliffhanger at the conclusion of The Celestial Toymaker. The Doctor had eaten one of Cyril's sweets then collapsed in agony. It looked like he had been poisoned, but it's just toothache. Arriving in Tombstone, the Doctor must track down a dentist. Steven and Dodo demonstrate a love for the period, and dig out stylised costumes - the sort of thing they would wear in a 1940's Hollywood musical set in the Wild West. Steven is more Nelson Eddy than Billy the Kid.
Wyatt Earp, the town's Marshal, turns up. The Doctor gives them all aliases - he is Doctor Caligari, Steven is given the surname Regret, and Dodo that of DuPont. The Doctor is showing a knowledge of German Expressionism, taking his name from the title character of the 1920 silent movie The Cabinet of Dr Caligari.

They are travelling players - Steven being a singer and Dodo his accompanist on the piano.
There's a new dentist in town - notorious gunman and gambler Doc Holliday. He was known as 'Doc' due to his dentistry, but his given names were John Henry.
This sets things up for a case of mistaken identity. The Clanton brothers are hanging out at the local bar - the Last Chance Saloon - waiting to get revenge on Holliday for his killing of one of their siblings. With them is Seth "Snake-eyes" Harper. He is an entirely fictional character. His nickname derives from gambling - snake-eyes being the term for rolling double one with a pair of dice.
Holliday takes out the Doctor's tooth. The Clantons hear Steven and Dodo mention getting a room for the Doctor, and then Harper meets the Doctor when he's alone in the dentist shop. Earp and Holliday are aware of this confusion, but choose not to say anything - prepared to take advantage of the situation for their own ends. With Holliday is his girlfriend Kate. She's based on Holliday's real partner - Maria Katalin Horony, a Hungarian prostitute better known as Big Nose Kate.
The Doctor ends up in jail in protective custody. Hartnell is really energised by having some comedy to play. The Doctor calls Wyatt 'Mr Werp' throughout, and there's the lovely scene where Steven has smuggled a gun to him in his cell and he is practising swinging it on his finger in front of Mr Werp - asking if he can do this. He then states: "People keep giving me guns, and I do wish they wouldn't!".
Later, another gunman named Johnny Ringo shows up in town. He is also gunning for Holliday, and was Kate's lover before she ran off with the 'Doc'.
John Peters Ringo did exist, and he lived for a time in Tombstone, but he took no part in the Gunfight at the OK Corral, dying a year after it. It's believed that he committed suicide.

The actual gunfight, at 3pm on Wednesday 26th October 1881, wasn't anywhere near the OK Corral. It took place on Allen Street a few doors down from the rear of the corral. The buildings we see on screen come straight from Hollywood movies. The houses in Tombstone were brick terraces, of a design you can still see in the East End of London today. Designer Barry Newbery went to Tombstone to see for himself, and decided the TV / movie versions suited the story better than the real thing. His sets were how viewers expected it all to look.
Present at the real event were, on one side, Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan and Virgil plus Holliday, who had been made a temporary Deputy Marshal. It should be stated that Wyatt was only the Deputy Marshal of Tombstone - Virgil was full Marshal. Opposing them were Ike and Billy Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and the McLaury brothers, Tom and Frank. Along with Ringo, the "bad guys" were all members of a loose outlaw affiliation known as the Cochise County Cowboys.
As you will see, some of these characters don't appear in The Gunfighters at all, and it has Morgan killed before the gunfight takes place. Like the real Johnny Ringo, he died in 1882 - shot by Ringo. The third Clanton we see - Phineas - didn't take part in the Gunfight. Bat Masterson wasn't in Tombstone in October 1881. He had been there earlier in the year but was called back to Dodge City months before the Gunfight.
The combatants stood only a few feet from each other. About 30 shots were fired in 30 seconds, at the end of which Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead. Ike survived, having run away, and he and Phineas later tried to have the lawmen indicted for murder - unsuccessfully.
Ike died in 1887 - shot dead after some cattle-rustling. Phineas died in 1906, from pneumonia. The same illness killed Virgil Earp in 1905. Holliday died in 1887 - from TB. Kate lived until 1940.

Wyatt Earp died aged 80 in 1929. He had a varied career after Tombstone, involving himself in mining and prospecting, property development, horse racing and he even refereed boxing matches. (Masterson also had a keen interest in boxing, having become a sports journalist in later life). Wyatt was a bounty hunter for a time, working with the Los Angeles Police Department. He also acted as consultant on some early silent movies - Westerns of course.
Whilst music plays an important part in all Doctor Who stories, The Gunfighters has the 'Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon' playing throughout. Tucker was inspired by the songs that accompanied some of the classic Hollywood Westerns - especially My Darling Clementine (1946) - which is about the Gunfight. The best known film version of the event is 1957's Gunfight at the OK Corral. Star Trek's DeForest Kelley plays Morgan Earp in that one. He would revisit Tombstone in the Star Trek episode "Spectre of the Gun".
Tucker had intended that his daughter Jane should sing the Ballad, but it proved to be in the wrong key for her, so Linda Baron sang it instead. Jane got to be an extra in the scene where Steven is going to be lynched. Jane would later find fame as one third of Rod, Jane and Freddy, from ITV's Rainbow.
One last thing - the name of the Corral has nothing to do with OK as in 'okay'. It's full name was the Old Kindersley Corral. The town of Tombstone maintains the myth that the gunfight took place in the Corral itself, and you can pay to see a reenactment, three times daily.
Next time, we are in an era of great peace and prosperity, but the posh folks are leeching off the poor ones. The Doctor changes his mind before initiating some regime change, and it's farewell to Steven as he gets a whole planet to run...

Sunday 24 September 2017

C is for... Chen, Mavic

The Guardian of the Solar System in the year 4000 AD. He was a popular figure, who had ensured peace in the region for many years. However, he sought far greater power and influence, and had embarked on an alliance with the Daleks. They had created a weapon called the Time Destructor, which they were going to use on an attack against the rest of the cosmos. To power it, a mineral called Taranium was needed, and this could only be found in small quantities on Uranus. Chen was able to supply this, and its importance to the Dalek scheme led Chen to regard himself as superior to the other aliens who had allied themselves to the Daleks. Fellow delegate Trantis was particularly antagonistic towards Chen, irritated by his self-importance.
The Taranium Core was stolen by the Doctor, assisted by Bret Vyon - one of Chen's own security agents. He was tasked with retrieving it. Chen's popularity was such that he was able to turn many people against the Doctor and his friends - including Bret's own sister Sara Kingdom. She gunned her brother down. When the Doctor escaped once more, Chen was in despair but his chief of security Karlton - who saw his own ambitions realised through Chen - had the Guardian claim that the mistake was really part of a plan to get the Doctor closer to the Daleks so they could get the Core back themselves.
Once the Doctor had retrieved the TARDIS, Chen was sent with a Dalek squad in their own time-ship to get the Core. This was eventually achieved in ancient Egypt.
Back on the planet Kembel, where the Daleks had their base, Chen suddenly found himself a prisoner of the Daleks along with the other delegates. Their usefulness was at an end. Not only did Chen think himself indispensable, he actually had plans to usurp the Daleks and take over the universe for himself. His sanity collapsing, he began to give the Daleks orders, insisting they obey only him.
His delusions of grandeur came to a swift end when the Daleks exterminated him.

Played by: Kevin Stoney. Appearances: The Daleks' Master Plan (1965/6).

  • One of the two greatest villains of the 1960's. The other is Tobias Vaughn, also played by Stoney. He's cast and directed by Douglas Camfield on both occasions. 
  • People who were present when this story was being recorded have stated that Stoney was wearing blue make-up. This doesn't necessarily mean that Chen is blue-skinned - there's no mention of this in the surviving episodes or on the audios of the others. It just means that blue was used for grey-scale, to give him his complexion on B&W screens.

C is for... Chellak

General Chellak was the commander of the Androzani Major military forces operating on the planet's twin world - Androzani Minor. He was waging a war with Sharaz Jek and his android army for control over the planet's Spectrox supply. This plant could be processed to create a drug that prolonged life. Jek and a businessman named Morgus had once worked together to supply Spectrox, but the two had split. Greedy to control the whole supply for himself, Morgus had tried to kill Jek, but only succeeded in scarring him, and Jek was now preventing supplies reaching Major. Morgus was powerful enough to be able to order Chellak around. Chellak was not a strong leader, but his efforts were being further hampered by his second-in-command, Salateen. Chellak did not know that he had been abducted months ago, and replaced by one of Jek's androids.
Pressure began to mount to bring the conflict to a speedy resolution, even if it meant agreeing terms with Jek. Morgus could not allow this, as he had been secretly arming Jek in order to justify the war. Chellak was ordered to make a final push to destroy Jek. Salateen escaped and informed the general of the android duplicate. Chellak sent it on a diversion whilst he led his troops against Jek's base.
This coincided with the start of a mud-burst. Jek trapped Chellak in the tunnel outside his base, where the general perished in the scalding mud.

Played by: Martin Cochrane. Appearances: The Caves of Androzani (1984).

C is for... Chela

A young man from the planet Manussa. He worked for Ambril, the Director of Antiquities. Chela had an interest in the planet's legends - especially that of the Mara. Whilst Ambril was dismissive of such superstition, Chela thought that the old myths should be respected. When the Doctor arrived and warned that the Mara were going to return, Chela chose to believe him. He decided to help him, and informed him of the Snakedancers, who included Ambril's predecessor - Dojjen - among their number. When the Doctor and Nyssa were locked up, Chela gave them Dojjen's journal to read. He later stole the key to release them, and accompanied them when they went into the hills to find the old man. From Dojjen, the Doctor discovered the means to prevent the Mara re-establishing themselves on the planet.

Played by: Johnathon Morris. Appearances: Snakedance (1983).

C is for... Cheetah People

Feline beings who were all that was left of a once great civilisation, which thrived on an unnamed planet. The inhabitants were psychically in tune with their world. They were great hunters, and bred a species of small black cat which could transport themselves through space to seek out new prey - bringing it back to the planet with them. Anyone who remained on the planet for any length of time began to turn into a Cheetah person. As their society declined, so the Cheetahs became more feral, and the planet began to die. It would be shaken by earth tremors when they fought amongst themselves. An injured Cheetah could be cured by drinking the planet's waters.
A number of Ace's friends were transported to the planet to be hunted. One Cheetah - Karra - arrived on Earth and abducted Ace. The two soon found that they shared a bond. Karra wanted Ace to join her as one of her kind. The Doctor followed, and found that the Master was trapped here. He was battling to stop himself from transforming.
To get away, it was necessary to use a Cheetah or one of the black cats - a Kitling - or someone who was becoming a Cheetah person. The Master used a young man named Midge to transport himself to Earth, whilst the Doctor used Ace.
The Doctor and Ace were attacked by Midge and the Master. Midge was killed, and Karra appeared in time to save Ace. The Master killed her, and she reverted to being a humanoid woman. The Doctor and the Master were transported back to the planet as it began to break up. The Doctor managed to return to Earth. He told Ace that the Cheetah people would have transported themselves away to a new home, so the planet would live on in them.

Played by: Lisa Bowerman (Karra). Appearances: Survival (1989).

  • Bowerman has played Bernice Summerfield - a companion created for the Virgin New Adventures novels - on audio for Big Finish for many years. She has played other parts, and directed a number of stories.
  • At least one of the extras playing the Cheetahs couldn't cope with the high temperatures when filming this story. They stripped off and quit. The costume was not popular with the production team either, as they were hoping for something less cuddly. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel had hoped for just prosthetic claws and fangs. Writer Rona Munro also expressed her dissatisfaction.
A Cheetah costume at the Doctor Who Experience in 2017.

C is for... Cheen

A young woman who was travelling on the Motorway beneath New New York with her boyfriend Milo, in the year 5 Billion and 53. She had just learned that she was going to have a baby, and they were keen to get out of the city to start a new life. Out of desperation, they abducted Martha Jones, as vehicles with three people aboard could access the Fast Lane at the bottom of the Motorway. Cheen was using Mood Patches, which Martha removed due to her being pregnant.
Unfortunately, cars in the Fast Lane were being attacked by Macra, which thrived on the toxic gases concentrated at the lowermost levels.
The Doctor and the Face of Boe were able to open up the Motorway to the sky, and Milo and Cheen were able to travel up to the city, where they would have started their new life.

Played by: Lenora Crichlow. Appearances: Gridlock (2007).

C is for... Chaudhry, Nasreen

Dr Nasreen Chaudhry worked at a drilling project near the Welsh village of Cwmtaff, in 2020. The project had drilled deeper than ever before, after the discovery of ancient mineral samples in the area. She worked alongside a local man named Tony Mack, whose son-in-law Mo was also employed on the project. The Doctor and Amy turned up at the drilling site soon after Mo had disappeared, and mysterious holes had begun to open in the ground. Amy was pulled down into one of these. The Doctor deduced that the drilling had disturbed something deep beneath the planet's surface, and this was fighting back. This proved to be the Silurians. They had a shelter beneath the village, and believed that they were under attack. When the Doctor decided to use the TARDIS to travel down to the shelter to negotiate, Nasreen insisted on going with him. Instead of a small shelter, they found a vast Silurian city.
Nasreen and Amy found themselves at the bargaining table, representing the whole of the human race. The talks broke down after Tony's daughter killed one of the Silurians. Tony had earlier been infected by her venom. It was agreed that the time was not yet right for the Silurians and the humans to live together on the surface, and so they went back into hibernation. Tony would join them, to be cured at a later date. Nasreen elected to stay with him.

Played by: Meera Syal. Appearances: The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (2010).

Friday 22 September 2017

Story 182 - Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks

In which the Doctor takes Martha to visit the original New York, the TARDIS materialising at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. It is November 1930, and the Empire State Building is nearing completion. Their attention is drawn to newspaper headlines which claim that homeless people are going missing from Hooverville - a makeshift camp set up by the destitute in the middle of Central Park. The Doctor and Martha go there and meet Solomon, who has found himself the community's leader. He explains how the people here are victims of the Great Depression. The authorities are not investigating the disappearances properly. A man named Diagoras arrives with an offer of work - clearing a blocked sewer tunnel. The Doctor, Martha, Solomon and a young man named Frank volunteer to go. In the tunnels, the Doctor finds a luminous green creature which he believes to be alien. They are attacked by savage human / pig hybrids. Frank is abducted by them. The others make it up through a manhole and find themselves backstage of a Broadway theatre. They meet a showgirl named Tallulah. She explains that her boyfriend Laszlo went missing some weeks ago. Since then someone has been leaving a flower in her dressing room, and she thinks this is Laszlo.

As the Doctor tries to ascertain where the creature from the sewers came from, Martha sees a pig-man observing Tallulah from the wings during a performance. She gives chase and is also abducted. The Doctor identifies the creature as originating on Skaro. He and Tallulah descend into the sewers. Martha has been reunited with Frank, and they are confronted by a Dalek. It selects some captives to be turned into pig hybrids, whilst others are to be used in another experiment.
At the top of the Empire State Building, Diagoras employs some men to fit metal panels to the lightning mast. When the foreman objects, he is taken away by some pig-men, who arrive with another Dalek. Diagoras is in league with the Daleks, who are responsible for the building of the tower. He is taken down to a chamber below the building where the Cult of Skaro have set up a laboratory. The leader, Sec, has formulated a new plan to ensure that the Daleks survive. It will genetically bond with Diagoras to create a new race of Human / Dalek hybrids. The Doctor and Tallulah find Laszlo, who has only been partially transformed into a pig hybrid. The Doctor allows himself to be captured, and arrives in time to see the new hybrid emerge from Sec's casing.

The Daleks reveal that a massive gamma radiation spike is due to strike the Earth in the next few hours, and panels from their casings have been fitted to the top of the Empire State Building to transmit this radiation to the laboratory. Dozens of humans are in a state of hibernation, their minds wiped. The radiation will be used to activate a genetic material which has been introduced into their bodies. They will awaken as mental-Daleks. The Doctor arranges an escape, helped by Laszlo, and he, Martha and Frank head for Hooverville. The three Dalek members of the Cult of Skaro are uncertain about the direction Sec wants to take them. As he is no longer pure Dalek, they start to conspire against him. Sec orders an attack on Hooverville in order to capture the Doctor. Solomon tries to reason with them, but is killed, which shocks Sec. The Doctor is taken prisoner, but first arranges for Martha, Tallulah, Laszlo and Frank to go to the tower to sabotage the lightning mast. Laszlo is ill, and explains that he is dying, as the hybrids only have a shortened life-span.
In the lab, Sec explains that Daleks must evolve through adopting human characteristics. They are the inferior race, and yet they thrive whilst only four Daleks survived. Daleks and humans must join in order for the Dalek race to continue. The three Daleks turn on Sec, opposed to his plans. They take him captive, and the Doctor flees. He joins Martha and the others at the top of the tower and starts to remove the panels, but is too late. The gamma strike occurs, the radiation passing through his body.

The Doctor takes everyone to the empty theatre, then lets the Daleks know where he is. Two of the Cult arrive, with Sec in chains. Dalek Caan remains in the laboratory, connected to their battle computer. The mental-Daleks also arrive, armed with machine-gun weapons adapted with Dalek weaponry. Sec attempts to reason with the Daleks but to no avail. He dies saving the Doctor. When the mental Daleks are ordered to kill the Doctor, they refuse and begin to question their orders. The Doctor explains that as the gamma strike went through him they have some of his DNA, over-riding that of the Daleks. They turn on the Daleks, destroying them both. Caan activates a signal which destroys all the mental-Daleks. The Doctor goes to the lab and confronts Caan - now the last surviving Dalek. He offers to help it, but it vanishes using an emergency temporal shift.
The Doctor is able to stabilise Laszlo and save his life, but he cannot undo the hybridisation. Frank arranges for him to be sheltered in Hooverville.

Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks was the first two part story of Series 3. It was written by Helen Raynor, and was first broadcast on 21st and 28th April, 2007.
It sees the return of the Cult of Skaro, last seen in the Series 2 finale. The episodes contain the first overseas filming for the programme since it returned in 2005. Some establishing and plate shots were recorded by a small team under director James Strong, to be later manipulated by The Mill. None of the cast went to New York.
Raynor had been a script editor on Doctor Who before writing Ghost Machine for Torchwood's first season. She was the first female writer for "new" Doctor Who, and to have written a Dalek story.
These episodes were originally to have been written by Steven Moffat, but he asked instead for a single episode story - this season's Doctor-lite one - as recompense for pulling out.
The Daleks had previously been associated with the Empire State Building - having temporarily stopped off there during 1965's The Chase.
Once the iconic building had been selected as a focal point for the story, Raynor's researches into the period brought the Hooverville settlement to her attention, and she decided to include it. Some horror movies of the 1930's provided some visual and plot inspirations. These include the Frankenstein films, and Island of Lost Souls - an adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau. The theatre setting also suggest The Phantom of the Opera.

Eric Loren plays both Mr Diagoras and the Human-Dalek Sec. Solomon is Hugh Quarshie. Now a regular on Holby City, he featured in the first of the Star Wars prequels. Tallulah is Miranda Raison, who has since gone on to become an audio companion to the Sixth Doctor. She was best known for the spy series Spooks. Playing Frank is Andrew Garfield, who has since gone on to become a major Hollywood actor. He was Spiderman in two recent misjudged attempts to revitalise the franchise. It has just been rebooted again without him. Laszlo is Ryan Carnes - best known for Desperate Housewives. We only see his handsome good looks briefly at the start of the first episode, as he spends most of the story under prostheses.

Cliffhanger: The Doctor, Martha and Frank are being held in the Dalek laboratory. Dalek Sec's casing shudders and smokes, then begins to open up. The Dalek-Human hybrid Sec emerges, announcing himself the first of a new Dalek race...
Story Arc: Nothing about Saxon again as we are in the past, but this is a direct sequel to Doomsday as this is where the Cult of Skaro transported themselves to. The Doctor had just told Martha about the Daleks at the end of the previous episode - so she recognises the name when she hears it.

Overall, there's a lot to like in these two episodes, but it is not generally liked. Checking the DWM 50th Anniversary poll I see it is at number 208, the least popular Dalek story. One of the problems is the rather stereotyped characters - especially Tallulah. The first part drags - not helped by a musical interlude - and the Dalek plan is somewhat baffling. The Cult gets wiped out too easily.
Things you might like to know:

  • The concept of mental-Daleks is hardly a new one. The Emperor's plan in Evil of the Daleks is to use the Dalek Factor to transform the population of Earth into mental-Daleks throughout its history. Other Dalek-Human slaves have appeared in the programme - being refined during the Matt Smith era as the drones with eye-stalk in their forehead and gun in their hand. Daleks falling out over their racial purity isn't new either - see again Evil or Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • Solomon is first seen arbitrating over a stolen loaf. This references the Judgment of Solomon from the Bible.
  • Tallulah got her name from the Jodie Foster character in Bugsy Malone - set around this time.
  • Frank got his name as a reference to film director Frank Borzage. His 1933 film, Man's Castle was set in a New York Hooverville. It stars Spencer Tracy and Loretta Young as a destitute couple who set up home in the shanty town. 
  • The Great Depression lasted for a decade from 1929, ending with the start of World War II. It was the economic recession triggered by the Wall Street Crash. Hooverville was named after President Herbert Hoover, who was in office at the time of the Crash. He attempted to alleviate the effects of the recession by establishing a number of massive public works schemes - most famous of which was the dam named after him. Unemployment had reached 25%. There were a number of Hoovervilles across the United States. New York had two - Central Park and Riverside Park. The biggest was in St Louis. It had its own mayor, and unlike the rest of the city was racially integrated. 
  • Viewers may have been interested in Paul Kasey's character credit - Hero Pig. In this context, "Hero" refers to a prop or costume that has to stand up to a lot of scrutiny on screen, such as a mask fitted with animatronics - as opposed to more basic versions used by extras. Note how only the one Judoon took off its helmet in Smith and Jones
  • Those movie references now. Dr Moreau was creating human-animal hybrids on his island - in his case turning animals into men, rather than the other way round. The Phantom lurks in the backstage areas of the Paris Opera, fixated on starlet Christine. The humans in the Dalek laboratory are suspended on beds from the roof, not unlike the Frankenstein Monster before it is reanimated. The Michael Crichton movie Coma (1978) is a clear visual influence for these scenes. The dance number obviously derives from the Broadway musical films - especially those choreographed by Busby Berkeley.
  • In the lift (elevator to US readers), the Doctor mentions "First floor perfumery...". This is a reference to the title music for department store-based BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? in which a lift announcer begins "Ground floor perfumery...".
  • Daleks in Manhattan got a Radio Times cover, which annoyed a lot of viewers in that it spoiled the appearance of the Dalek-Human Hybrid Sec. Russell T Davies was always keen to get RT covers and did worry about this one. As it was, the ratings were down by more than a million on the previous episode. Davies claimed that the image didn't spoil the actual cliffhanger to the first episode. I draw your attention to the Cliffhanger section above...

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Inspirations - The Celestial Toymaker

This is the first story to be produced by Innes Lloyd - according to the end credits at least - and the first to be written by Brian Hayles (which means that the story editor has had a lot of input). It was commissioned by Gerry Davis' predecessor - Donald Tosh.
The series hadn't done all-out fantasy before, so Tosh was looking for something with a surreal or absurdist streak.
As a starting point, Hayles and Tosh looked to a play by the name of George and Margaret. This was written by Gerald Savory, and was made into a movie in 1940, and if you take a look at the cast list you might notice that there's no-one named George or Margaret in it. That's because this pair of characters are expected throughout the play but never turn up. (It should be noted that Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot wouldn't premiere until 1953).
Tosh thought it would be a good idea if George and Margaret did turn up in Hayles' story. They ran their ideas past the BBC's Head of Drama, and he was happy initially. His name - Gerald Savory. However, once he saw the draft script outlines he got cold feet. This is when Gerry Davis stepped in and performed a total rewrite. Hayles was paid off, but allowed to keep the credit.

The plan was for the Doctor to embark on a battle of wills against his most powerful foe to date. This character became the Celestial Toymaker - an immortal, amoral being who played sadistic games. Those who failed would be turned into his playthings for all eternity.
Whilst he was still involved, ex-producer John Wiles had come up with an idea to get rid of William Hartnell, who had been making his life a misery. The fantastical element of this story meant that the Doctor could be rendered invisible and mute by the Toymaker, then brought back as an entirely different actor. The BBC top brass decided not to remove Hartnell - at least not yet. There is a rumour that he was issued a new contract by accident, and they couldn't go back on it.
The Toymaker - played by Michael Gough - is based on the Victorian / Edwardian magicians who dressed in Mandarin costumes - usually British or American, but pretending to be Chinese. Gough clearly isn't playing the Toymaker as Chinese, and there's no make-up to make him look Asian. Just compare with Kevin Stoney's make-up as Mavic Chen.
Some of these stage magicians favoured the turban - such as Alexander "Who Knows All" - to show how they had learned their craft from eastern mystics, but an American named William Ellsworth Robinson took on the guise of a Chinaman named Chung Ling Soo. He's best remembered for the end of his career, when he was shot dead on stage during his famous catch-a-bullet act (at the Wood Green Empire, in March 1918).
Spelt with a capital 'C', Celestial meant relating to China or its people - hence the Victorian magician's outfit. He's an immortal god-like being, so is just putting this look on for the benefit of the Doctor, Steven and Dodo.

One of the problems of the earlier drafts was that Steven and Dodo had little to do. With the Doctor made invisible and mute, allowing Hartnell a holiday, the companions are brought to the fore. They are the ones who have to play the games against the Toyroom characters to win back the TARDIS. The same four actors play all of these. The principal pair - Campbell Singer and Carmen Silvera - had been cast originally as George and Margaret, but now play the King and Queen of Hearts, Joey and Clara the clowns, and Sgt Rugg and Mrs Wiggs.
Inspiration for much of the episodes comes from children's games. Clara and Joey compete with Steven and Dodo in a sort of obstacle course - having to avoid touching the floor. Steven and Joey are blindfolded for this - so Blind Man's Buff (sometimes Bluff). Against the Hearts Family - based on the traditional playing card "face cards" - they play a form of musical chairs. Except there isn't any music, and they have to avoid the chairs rather than grab one. All the chairs are deadly, bar one. Peter Stephens is the Knave of Hearts, and he also plays another couple of characters later.
The next game is Hunt the Thimble - in this case the key to get through a door to the next challenge, hidden somewhere in Mrs Wigg's kitchen. Sgt Rugg's outfit comes from the Napoleonic Wars, and he mentions the Duke of Wellington. Mrs Wiggs appears to come out of Victorian literature - the sort of incidental character beloved of Charles Dickens. She could equally be a character from the Happy Families card game.

The first three episodes of The Celestial Toymaker are lost - some would say mercifully so. The kitchen episode on audio comprises about 15 minutes of crockery smashing, so I don't think we are missing much. For the final game, Steven and Dodo are pitched against an obnoxious schoolboy named Cyril (Stephens again). He's clearly based on Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School, the character who featured in The Magnet comic between 1908 and 1940. He was created by Frank Richards (pen name of Charles Hamilton), who some see as a possible inspiration for the Master of the Land of Fiction in The Mind Robber - the only other occasion they go for fantasy in the 1960's. After part four, in which he appears, the BBC continuity announcer had to state that the likeness was unintentional. Bunter was played on TV by Gerald Campion between 1952 - 1961. Campion appears in the never-finished Shada.
The game Steven and Dodo play against Cyril is a form of roll-the-dice game - like Snakes & Ladders - only over an electrified floor. Cyril refers to it as "TARDIS Hopscotch".

The Doctor, meanwhile, has been playing his own game - the Trilogic Game. This is based on the real Tower of Hanoi puzzle. You move a pyramid of discs around three pegs, one at a time and not allowing a larger disc to go on top of a smaller one, until the pyramid is rebuilt on peg 3. There is a legend that in a Brahmin temple in India, some priests are playing a version with 64 discs, and that when the final move is made the world will end. Apparently the mathematical solution for the minimal number of moves is 2 to the power of x minus 1, where x = the number of discs.
Harnell comes back from his holidays in time to end his game - except that to make the final move will cause the Toyroom to vanish, with he and his companions still in it. Steven gives him the idea of making the move by imitating the Toymaker's voice from the safety of the TARDIS.
The Doctor expects a rematch, but the Toymaker never returned to televised Doctor Who. He was due back during Colin Baker's tenure, in a story called "The Nightmare Fair", to be played again by Michael Gough, but the series was rested for a year and came back with the Trial format instead. The Toymaker has featured in audio stories.
Next time - there's another Holliday for the Doctor. People keep giving him guns and he wishes they wouldn't. Steven has Regrets whilst Dodo tickles some ivories, and everyone's in the Last Chance Saloon - in more ways than one...

Sunday 17 September 2017

C is for... Chase, Harrison

A plant-obsessed millionaire encountered by the Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. Chase lived on a huge estate with his own private army. When a senior member of the World Ecology Bureau who was in his pay informed him of the recent discovery of a seed pod in the Antarctic, Chase was determined to have it for his collection. He sent one of his biologists - Keeler - to the South Pole, accompanied by a mercenary named Scorby, to seize it by any means.
Back in the UK, the Doctor traced Chase after finding a plant painting in the boot of the car which had been sent to waylay him. The artist was able to tell him that it had been bought by Chase - and he hadn't yet paid for it. Chase was determined to propagate the alien seed, and was prepared to let it use Sarah as a host, after hearing how it had infected one of the scientists at the Antarctic. The Doctor had identified the pod as a Krynoid seed. These plant forms consumed flesh and blood, and destroyed all animal life on planets where they became established.
Chase composed music for his plants, and disposed of his enemies by feeding them to a compost machine which spread their remains throughout is gardens.
Keeler became host to the Krynoid, and Chase nurtured his transformation. As the creature grew, it could influence local plant-life, and Chase fell under its mental sway. He no longer saw himself as human, but at one with the plant world. He did everything in his power to protect the Krynoid. When he tried to kill the Doctor in the compost machine, he fell into it himself and was crushed to death - so ended up feeding his own garden.

Played by: Tony Beckley. Appearances: The Seeds of Doom (1976).

  • Beckley is probably best remembered for the role of Camp Freddie in The Italian Job (1969).
  • His career was just taking off in Hollywood (one of his last roles was in one of the Pink Panther movies) when he died in 1979, aged only 50.

C is for... Charlie

A pupil at Coal Hill Academy who hid a terrible secret. He was really the last survivor of an alien race - the Rhodians. He had been their prince. They were all wiped out by the Shadow Kin. Prior to this, the Rhodians had fought a war against the Quill, who they regarded as little more than terrorists. A captured Quill was genetically connected to a Rhodian, so that they could never harm them. This was achieved through the use of a parasite that was introduced to their brain. Charlie and his Quill were rescued from the destruction of Rhodia by the Doctor, and he placed them at Coal Hill. He knew that his many visits to the area had weakened Space and Time here, and the Earth needed protection from what might come through here. Miss Quill became one of the teachers, whilst Charlie became a pupil. They shared a home together.
Charlie was very naive, and had little knowledge about popular culture on the Earth. He was also gay - befriending a fellow student named Matteusz - whom he took to the school prom, and later slept with. Had he stayed at home, his parents would have arranged a marriage for him.

Charlie was the custodian of a device known as the Cabinet of Souls. This contained the spirits of all the dead Rhodians, with the possibility of bringing them all back. However, to do so would require an equal number of lives to be extinguished, and the Shadow Kin suspected that it could be used as a weapon against them. As such, they launched a number of attacks on Charlie and his friends through the space / time fissures at the school.
When the friends were put into detention by Miss Quill, Charlie revealed that he suffered from claustrophobia. An alien entity in a meteorite fragment caused them to be transported to a mysterious void. Handling the rock caused people to reveal the things they felt most guilty about - and for Charlie this was his desire for revenge against the Shadow Kin - even if using the Cabinet to do so would mean he lost the respect of Matteusz. The entity was a prisoner, and it wanted Charlie to take its place, as his was the greatest guilt out of all the group. He was saved by Miss Quill, who had now managed to remove the parasite from her brain.
When the Shadow Kin started to kill the relatives of his friends, Charlie was finally compelled to open the Cabinet, destroying them. As he had been infected by the Shadow Kin, he expected to die as well, but survived.

Played by: Greg Austin. Appearances: Class 1.1 to 1.8 (2016).

C is for... Chaplet, Dodo

Companion to the First Doctor. Dodo - full name Dorothea - was an orphan who lived with an aunt. She claimed that neither of them got on well. One day, whilst walking on Wimbledon Common, she witnessed a road accident and ran into a Police Call Box to summon help. This proved to be the TARDIS, which had just travelled from 16th Century Paris. Steven had stormed out, thinking the Doctor had sent Anne Chaplet to her death. On his return, he was surprised to hear Dodo's surname, and took it as a sign that Anne had lived. Dodo also claimed that she had a French grandfather. To the Doctor, Dodo reminded him somewhat of his granddaughter Susan.
Dodo had little respect for the rules around time travel, and left the ship before the Doctor could take readings when it landed in the biodome of the Ark, in the far distant future. She did not believe they had travelled in time, and thought they were in Whipsnade Zoo. She had also helped herself to an outfit from the ship's wardrobe - a medieval page costume. Dodo had a cold, and this proved deadly to the humans and Monoids who crewed the Ark, as they came from a time when they had no immunity to it. Dodo was horrified that the deaths were due to her. Later, she discovered that her cold had caused the Monoids to become dominant, enslaving the human Guardians.

When the TARDIS landed in the domain of the Toymaker, Dodo was shown the occasion of her mother's death - her lowest moment. When forced to play lethal games against the Toyroom characters, Dodo often sympathised with them - pointing out that they had been human once and were victims of the Toymaker. She could be impulsive - sitting on a booby-trapped chair which almost froze her to death, when she knew the chairs were deadly. She was also easily taken in by the tricks perpetrated by the schoolboy Cyril - almost forfeiting the final game.
The TARDIS next landed in Tombstone, Arizona, where Dodo revealed an interest in the Wild West, and that she had always wanted to meet Wyatt Earp. She and Steven donned stylised versions of the local fashions. The Doctor claimed that they were travelling entertainers - Dodo being Miss Dodo DuPont. She was able to play the piano in the local saloon as part of their charade. When Dodo was abducted by Doc Holliday she was able to stand up to him, even threatening to shoot him if he didn't take her back to Tombstone. This had just been a bluff, and she was relieved when he agreed to take her back. During the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, Dodo managed to get in the way and was used as a shield by Johnny Ringo, but was saved by Holliday.
On the alien planet where the Elders ruled, Dodo accompanied Steven on a look around the city, and decided to go off on her own - hating guided tours. She saw how the Elders were siphoning off the life-force of the primitive Savages, and warned the others. She was heartbroken at having to say goodbye to Steven when he agreed to stay on as the planet's new ruler.

The TARDIS next took Dodo and the Doctor back to her own time - the London of 1966. The Doctor pretended that she was his secretary when they visited Professor Brett at the top of the Post Office Tower. His new super-computer, WOTAN, was about to take over the human race, and wanted the Doctor to help it. Dodo was recruited to assist - being hypnotised over the telephone when she went to the Inferno night club with Brett's secretary Polly. Dodo's attempts to ensnare the Doctor failed, and he realised that she had been hypnotised. He broke the mental conditioning, and Sir Charles Summer agreed to send her to his home in the country to recuperate. Dodo decided to remain on Earth in her own time, and sent a message to the Doctor via Sir Charles, to be delivered by Polly. The Doctor was furious that she should want to leave without saying goodbye in person.

Played by: Jackie Lane. Appearances: The Massacre to The War Machines (1966).

  • Lane had earlier auditioned for the role of Susan back in 1963.
  • She retired from acting to become a theatrical agent, having Tom Baker and Janet Fielding on her books.
  • She's the only surviving companion actor of the classic series not to have done a Big Finish audio. 
  • Dodo's is without doubt the worst companion departure in the whole of the series - being dumped half way through her final story.

C is for... Chaplet, Anne

A servant girl from the household of the Abbot of Amboise, in Paris, 1572. She was a Huguenot, from the town of Vassy. A notorious massacre had taken place here some years ago, when the Catholic Guise killed many Protestants. Anne overheard the town being mentioned by the Abbot, and suspected that a similar atrocity was being planned for Paris. She ran away, and fell into the company of some young Huguenots whom Steven Taylor had befriended. She told them of what she had heard, and they tried to warn Admiral de Coligny, France's most influential Huguenot. She helped Steven get into the Abbot's household, where he was surprised to find that the elderly cleric looked just like the Doctor. She went on the run with him after he became hunted by both the Catholic forces and the Huguenots, who now suspected him due to his belief that the Abbot was the Doctor. Anne took Steven to the apothecary shop of Charles Preslin, where he was reunited with the Doctor. On learning the date, the Doctor sent her away, telling her to keep off the streets for a few days.
Later, in the TARDIS, Steven learned of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, and believed that the Doctor had sent Anne to her doom. However, he soon met a girl whose name suggested that Anne might indeed have survived.

Played by: Annette Robertson. Appearances: The Massacre (1966).

  • There is a fan-theory that Steven might have slept with Anne, which would make him Dodo's ancestor. Had Anne given birth to a son, and remained unmarried, this would explain how the surname got passed down.

C is for... Chantho

Last surviving member of the Malmooth race - blue-skinned bipedal creatures with insectoid features. They had lived in vast cities - known as Conglomerations - carved out of the rock on the planet Malcassairo. She assisted Professor Yana in the human outpost which was set up on the planet at the end of the universe, around the year 100 Trillion. The Professor was trying to help these last survivors of the human race reach a place known as Utopia, where other survivors might be found.
Chantho's people had a ritualised way of speaking - she prefaced everything she said with "Chan-" and ended it with "-Tho". Presumably this is where she got her name from, or it may have been that other Malmooth topped and tailed their conversation with parts of their names. Martha at one point got her not to do this, but she found it rather embarrassing to do so.
The Professor had decided that he wasn't going to go with the humans when they left, and the fiercely loyal Chantho would have stayed with him. However, Yana turned out to be the Master, having used a Chameleon Arch to turn himself into a human in order to escape the Time War. Once he opened his fob watch and became the Master once again, he turned on Chantho, attacking her with a live power cable. As she died, she was able to shoot him - forcing him to regenerate.

Played by: Chipo Chung. Appearances: Utopia (2007).

  • Chung was able to return to the programme the following year, without any prosthetics, as the Fortune Teller in Turn Left
  • Ironically, she features in the TV series Into The Badlands as a character called The Master.

C is for... Chang Lee

A young man who was a member of a street gang, in San Francisco, 1999. He and some friends were ambushed in an alleyway by a rival gang. Chang Lee was saved by the sudden materialisation of the TARDIS. He witnessed the rival gang members shooting down the Doctor. He accompanied him to hospital where he took possession of his belongings, after claiming to be a friend of his. When the Master took over the body of the ambulance driver, Bruce, he sought out the boy. The Master was able to win him over, claiming that the Doctor was evil, and had stolen the body intended for him. Chang Lee then assisted the Master in tracking down the regenerated Doctor, who was being helped by Dr Grace Holloway.
In the TARDIS, Chang Lee started to doubt the story he had been told, and came over to the Doctor's side. The Master killed him, but the TARDIS was later able to bring him back to life. The Doctor advised him not to be anywhere near San Francisco the following New Year, and Chang Lee was allowed to keep the bag of gold dust which the Master had earlier given to him, so he could start a new life.

Played by: Yee Jee Tso. Appearances: Doctor Who (The TV Movie) 1996.

Friday 15 September 2017

Story 181 - Gridlock

In which the Doctor decides to take Martha on a second trip. Once into the past, and now once into the future. He selects somewhere that he has been to recently - the city of New New York on the planet New Earth, some 30 years after his last visit. Martha is not impressed that he is taking her to a place where he took Rose. Nor is she impressed with the location of their landing - a rain-swept alleyway. She asks instead if they can go to see his home planet, but the Doctor shrugs this off. A number of wooden booths spring to life. They contain people selling Moods - drug patches which stimulate emotions. A young woman buys some "Forget", as she is sad that her family have gone away to the Motorway. The Doctor is puzzled as to why this should cause her such distress. Suddenly, a young man and woman appear and abduct Martha at gunpoint, dragging her away. They are apologetic, claiming they need a third passenger. The Doctor informs the people in the booths that they will close business immediately - or he will do it for them - before giving chase. He goes through a door and finds himself in the Motorway.

This is a vast tunnel, filled with identical van-like vehicles. The smog is overpowering, but the car nearest him opens and he is invited in. On board are Thomas Kincade Brannigan, a Cat Person, and his human wife, Valerie, along with their children. These kittens were born on the Motorway, and Brannigan explains that the traffic has been in a permanent jam for decades. Vehicles only manage a few feet per day if they are lucky. The Doctor tells them he needs to find the vehicle that Martha is on. Brannigan has friends on social media, and the Cassini sisters - really a married couple - identify the car she is travelling in. As it has three people on board, it is allowed to go down to the Fast Lane at the bottom of the tunnel. Brannigan and Valerie are frightened to follow even though the Doctor makes three, as they have heard disquieting rumours about this lane. Martha, meanwhile, has found herself captive of Milo and Cheen, a friendly young couple hoping to get work outside the city.
In the city itself, the Face of Boe knows that the Doctor has arrived. He is being looked after by Novice Hame, who had earlier tended him at the hospital of the Sisters of Plenitude. She sets out to find the Doctor.
He has decided to travel down to the lower traffic levels by dropping down through the intervening cars. He reaches the level above the Fast Lane.

Looking down into the dense smog, he sees that the base of the tunnel is infested by giant crab creatures, which he identifies as Macra. They thrive on the toxic gases. They also attack vehicles which use the Fast Lane. This is what is happening to Milo and Cheen's car. Novice Hame arrives in the car containing the Doctor and teleports him to the senate house in the city, where he is reunited with the Face of Boe. Hame explains that a new Mood patch was developed some years ago - called Bliss. It mutated into a virulent plague which wiped out the city. The Face of Boe was able to close off the Motorway - trapping everyone down there until the plague had abated. It is keeping the Motorway running, but is now dying. It uses the last of its energy to help the Doctor open up the tunnel, so that the cars can fly up into the now empty city - including the one with Martha on board. She goes to the senate house and meets the Doctor, Hame and the Face of Boe, whose tank has now shattered. Hame had once told the Doctor of a prophecy - that the Face would impart one final secret to a traveller without a home. The Face tells the Doctor: "You are not alone" before dying. The Doctor leaves Hame to help the Motorway people resettle the city, and takes Martha back to the TARDIS. He decides that she deserves to know the truth about what happened to his planet.

Gridlock was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on Saturday 14th April, 2007. It is the third and final part of a Year 5 Billion trilogy which began with The End of the World, and continued with New Earth, all featuring the Face of Boe. Davies was inspired by the traffic jams which typify a traditional British Bank Holiday. As a fan of the comic 2000 AD, he also wanted to show a cityscape similar to Mega-City One. The driver of the last car visited by the Doctor - a man in a business suit with bowler hat - is based on Max Normal from the same comic, and the computer interface who talks to the Motorway denizens - Sally Calypso - also derives from a 2000 AD character, in the Halo Jones strips.
Davies needed a monster to lurk in the bowels of the Motorway, and instead of coming up with a new one he found one ready made - the toxic-gas breathing Macra from the 1967 story The Macra Terror.

The main guest artist is Ardal O'Hanlon as Brannigan, best known as the dim-witted Father Dougal in Father Ted. There were no problems with covering his face in prostheses, as he has such a distinctive voice. He's now the head policeman on the most dangerous island in the Caribbean (having taken over as lead in Death in Paradise). Valerie is Jennifer Hennessy. Playing Milo and Cheen are Travis Oliver and Lenora Crichlow. He was a regular on Footballers' Wives (and has played a companion from the New Adventure novels for Big Finish recently), whilst she is best known as the ghost housemate Annie in Being Human.
Anna Hope returns as Novice Hame, and Struan Rodger once again voices the Face of Boe.

Story arc: Well, it is a sequel of sorts, so several links back to the two earlier stories mentioned above.
No mention of Harold Saxon per se, but the Face of Boe's last words will be prophetic for the concluding episodes of this season.
The Japanese couple have "Bad Wolf" written on a poster in their car - in Japanese.

Overall, I have always had a soft spot for this episode. Macra aside, the Doctor has a technical challenge to solve, rather than defeat a monster or villain. The plot is slight, but the characters are interesting, and the visuals are great. Often rather moving, it's hard to watch without getting a tear in the eye.
Things you might like to know:

  • Doctor Who has usually shied away from religion, but in this the Motorway inhabitants have their resolve boosted daily with a hymn. We see everyone singing along to The Old Rugged Cross, and the episode ends with Abide With Me. To think that this comes from the writer who included a "No Religion" ban on Platform One, set in the same time zone. Interesting that a particular religion has survived 5 Billion years - specifically Christianity. Were other faiths covered on days we didn't see? More likely, some religions have set up on planets of their own.
  • If you think New New York looks a bit like Coruscant from the Star Wars prequels then you'd be right to do so - the Mill took inspiration from these, as well as The Fifth Element.
  • The couple who get killed in the pre-credit sequence might also look familiar - being the pair from the famous painting American Gothic (Grant Wood, 1930). Fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show will certainly recognise this.
  • The director is Charles Palmer, who is the son of actor Geoffrey Palmer, who everyone thinks is married to Judi Dench. Palmer pere was in The Silurians and The Mutants, and will be back at Christmas 2007 captaining the spaceship Titanic.
  • Davies liked action to move up and down - hence the number of lift shaft scenes in his stories, and this inspired the Doctor's descent through the various cars. One of the cars contains the programme's first naturists.
  • The Cassini sisters (Bridget Turner and Georgine Anderson) become the series' first gay married couple. Turner was married to Frank Cox - director of The Sensorites, and the second half of Edge of Destruction.
  • Talking of The Sensorites, the Doctor describes Gallifrey just as Susan did in that story.
  • The idea for the Mood patches came from one of the first new novel tie-ins for the 2005 series - Only Human, by Gareth Roberts.
  • This was the 727th episode of Doctor Who - thus overtaking the 726 episodes of Star Trek. The Trek count included all of the franchise - DS9, Voyager and Enterprise as well as the original 3 seasons and their animated cousin.