Tuesday 27 February 2018

To The Last Man - Torchwood 2.3

In which Tosh looks forward to the revivification of Tommy Brockless, a young soldier from 1918 who has been kept in cryogenic suspension in the Hub. Once a year he is brought out of suspension for a medical check-up. This year, Tosh will be spending the day with him. Back in 1918, Tommy had been a patient at Cardiff's St Teilo's Hospital, where he was suffering from shell-shock. One day two Torchwood operatives - Gerald Carter and Harriet Derbyshire - visited the hospital whilst investigating Rift activity. They took the young man away with them, and left instructions for their future counterparts that Tommy was to be kept frozen as one day he would save the planet. As Tosh and Tommy go out to enjoy the day together, Jack and Gwen visit the hospital which is now closed and awaiting demolition. They discover that there is time seepage, as figures from 1918 are seen around the building. Tosh and Tommy, meanwhile, find themselves growing attached to each other. Owen spots this, and warns his colleague not to get too close, as the young man is only awake on this one day a year.

Back at the Hub, Jack discovers that this year is the time when Tommy is going to be needed. He is going to have to return to his own time with a Rift Key and operate it to stop the two time zones from becoming permanently entangled. Jack discovers that some three months after he was taken, Tommy was due to be executed for cowardice. When Tosh hears this she is adamant that she will not allow him to be sent back, but Jack manages to convince her that it is essential, to prevent disaster. Tommy and Tosh then spend the night together. The next day Tommy and the team return to the hospital.

Jack sees Gerald and Harriet. This is how they knew to take Tommy to the Hub - Jack told them to do it from their future. The young man is shown how to operate the Rift Key then travels back to his own time. However, on his arrival his shell-shocked state returns, and he cannot remember what he is supposed to do. At the Hub, Tosh links her mind to his through the Rift, and tells him what to do. He operates the device and the time distortion is nullified. The planet is saved, but Tosh is left heartbroken knowing that they had sent him back to his death.

To The Last Man was written by Helen Raynor, and was first broadcast on 30th January, 2008. Raynor had been a script editor on Doctor Who before becoming the first female writer for the new series, with the two-part Dalek story Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks. After this she wrote the two-part Sontaran story for Series 4.
When offered the chance to write for Torchwood, Raynor had asked for it to be a Tosh centred storyline. The previous year, James Goss had featured a short piece on the series' website about someone held frozen in the Hub who was defrosted for one day a year. 100 years would pass, but for them it would be just 100 days. This provided the starting point for this story. Raynor's other inspiration came from the stories of soldiers who were executed for cowardice in the First World War who were known to have been suffering from shell-shock - what we would now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Around 300 men were believed to have been shot by their own men for having a mental health condition. The title of the story refers to an order issued by Field Marshal Haig in April 1918 at the time of the German Spring Offensive - "Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement". As well as those executed for shell-shock, many more were sent back to the Front from hospitals, when they had not fully recovered.

In a way, the episode is a companion piece to the previous season's Captain Jack Harkness, in that it revisits an earlier time period during a time of war, and meeting a character whom one of the regulars falls in love with even though they know they are fated to die shortly afterwards.
Playing Tommy is Anthony Lewis, who had been a regular on the soap Emmerdale. He had previously featured in Children's Ward, a series for which Russell T Davies had contributed many scripts. Gerald Carter is Roderic Culver, son of the noted English actor Michael Culver, whilst Harriet is Siobhan Hewlett. Her father was also an actor - Donald Hewlett, who had featured as Sir George Hardiman in The Claws of Axos.

Overall, it is a moving little episode. The whole time distortion thing hardly matters, as this is simply a doomed romance, with some powerful things to say about the horrors of war in general, and of the Great War in particular.
Things you might like to know:

  • In the draft scripts, Tommy was to have asked about Suzie Costello, as she would still have been with the team when he was last reanimated.
  • A working title was "Soldier's Heart". This is how shell-shock was known during the American Civil War.
  • On the US DVD, the story was re-titled as "Last Man Standing", which totally misses the Field Marshal Haig inspiration.
  • When they first go for their day out, Tommy and Tosh visit the pier at Penarth. In the closing sequence, when Owen tries to comfort Tosh, they are standing beside the ceramic monument to Captain Scott, outside the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, only a stone's throw from where the Doctor Who Experience was situated. Scott set off on his final Antarctic expedition from Cardiff in June 1910, and the city used to have a huge Norwegian population - hence Roald Dahl's connection to the city.
  • At one point Tommy remarks on how silly it is for someone to save the world in their pyjamas. This is a nod to the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor defeating the Sycorax in his jim-jams.

Sunday 25 February 2018

D is for... Daleks (Part 3)

At some point during the Doctor's eighth incarnation, a series of conflicts broke out between the Daleks and the Time Lords. The Doctor tried to maintain a distance from the Time War, but was soon sucked into it - regenerating with the help of the Sisterhood of Karn into an incarnation who no longer saw himself as a "Doctor". The Daleks soon gained the upper hand in the conflict, laying siege to Gallifrey. They surrounded the planet with a fleet of saucer-like ships, and overran the second city, Arcadia. They made use of flying gun platforms in their attack. These Daleks had a new armoured appearance, with casings cast from bronze. The middle section could spin round so that they could fire in any direction without turning, and all had the ability to fly or hover. They were ruled by an Emperor, whose personal guards had black domes. The War Doctor stole a powerful Gallifreyan weapon known as The Moment, and used it to destroy both sides in the conflict - Dalek and Time Lord - as the only way to bring the conflict to an end. Or so he always thought...

When the Doctor and Rose Tyler responded to an emergency call from the US state of Utah in 2012, the TARDIS landed in an underground museum devoted to alien technology. The owner, Henry van Statten, had one living exhibit - and the Doctor was horrified to discover that it was a Dalek. The War had been time-locked, so that nothing could enter or leave, but this lone Dalek had somehow managed to break free - arriving in the Ascension Islands. Anyone who touched it had been burned alive. The creature - which was dubbed a Metaltron - was passed from collector to collector until it came into van Statten's grasp. It was kept chained up, tortured by one of his men in order to make it talk but it refused to do so. It only spoke when it recognised the Doctor. The Dalek was restored after Rose touched it, passing on some Artron energy.

It used its sucker arm to kill its tormentor, crushing his skull, then broke out of its cage. It absorbed the entire internet as well as sufficient electrical energy to reconstitute itself - draining the entire power supply of the eastern seaboard of America. The Dalek then began to slaughter the personnel in the museum as it made its way towards the surface. It found that it could not kill Rose after it captured her, as it had absorbed some of her DNA along with the Artron energy. Its obsession with racial purity meant that it could not live with itself as it was changed by the contact with Rose. It opened up its casing to reveal the mutant within. Believing itself to be the last Dalek in existence, and sickened by what it was becoming, it decided to kill itself - but required Rose to order it to do so. The spheres in the skirt section detached themselves and created a ball of energy which disintegrated the Dalek. The Doctor thought that he had finally seen the last of the Daleks.

However, the Emperor had also survived with its command ship. It waited on the edge of space, slowly building a new army of Daleks from human genetic material. It grew insane during this period, believing itself to be the god of the Daleks. It infiltrated Satellite 5, which broadcast news across Earth's empire, and placed an agent in charge - the Jagrafess. This creature began to manipulate the news to cause Earth to become inward looking, altering the timeline as the Doctor recognised it.
The Doctor destroyed the Jagrafess, but on his departure society on the planet collapsed. 100 years later, the Doctor and his companions Rose and Captain Jack Harkness were abducted from the TARDIS and placed back on the satellite, which was now known as the Game Station. This hosted hundreds of apparently deadly TV game shows. Victims were secretly being transported to the Dalek fleet to be turned into new Daleks. The Doctor discovered what was going on after the Daleks kidnapped Rose, and he and Jack flew the TARDIS to the command ship to rescue her.

Rose was freed, but the Daleks then launched an attack on Earth, destroying whole continents. They arrived on the Game Station to capture the Doctor. He devised a means to destroy them, but it would kill everyone on the station and half of those on the planet below. He tricked Rose into entering the TARDIS and it took her back home to present day London. Jack was exterminated, and the Doctor found he could not bring himself to use his weapon. Rose was determined to get back to the station and so opened the TARDIS console - absorbing the temporal vortex into herself. She arrived back on the station where she resurrected Jack - inadvertently making him immortal - then disintegrated the Emperor and the entire Dalek fleet. In removing the vortex from Rose, the Doctor sacrificed his own life and regenerated.

Other Daleks had also escaped the Time War, but this time deliberately so, prior to the conflict's conclusion. This was the Cult of Skaro - four Daleks led by Sec, who had a black casing. The Cult had been established by the Emperor to think like their enemies and so devise strategies for beating the Time Lords and their allies. They permitted themselves names, and were answerable to no-one - not even the Emperor. They manged to capture a Time Lord prison capsule, which they dubbed the Genesis Ark. It was dimensionally transcendental, and had thousands of Daleks troops imprisoned within it. They took the Ark with them into a Void Ship and fled from the war. A breach into the Void opened up in the skies above London, and the Torchwood organisation built a tower to reach this point. The Void Ship broke through and was captured by Torchwood, who failed to analyse it. It was only when the Doctor saw it that it was identified. The breach was further opened when an army of Cybermen from an alternative Earth forced their way through, with the unwitting assistance of Torchwood. The Cult emerged from their ship and attempted to take control, rejecting an alliance with the Cybermen. The Ark was activated after Mickey Smith accidentally touched it - transferring Artron energy, as he had also travelled in the TARDIS. The Dalek army poured out and began exterminating the population of London, and fighting with the Cybermen. The Doctor fully opened the breach and the Daleks were sucked back into the Void, but the four Cult members fled using an emergency temporal shift.

The Cult found themselves in New York in 1930. They kidnapped a number of homeless humans and transformed them into their slaves by combining their DNA with that from pigs. Attempts at creating new Dalek mutants failed so Sec devised a scheme to create an army of human-Dalek hybrids - fusing the DNA through a massive gamma radiation surge which was expected from the sun. They took control of the Empire State Building's construction in order that an aerial atop it would harness this radiation. They were helped by a human named Diagoras. Sec decided to perform another experiment on itself - genetically joining with Diagoras to become the first of a new Dalek-Human species. The other Cult members objected to this, as they could see that Sec had taken on some human characteristics and was no longer pure enough to lead them. They turned on him and chained him up. The Doctor got in the way of the radiation surge and so the army had Time Lord DNA in their mix - causing them to question the Daleks. Sec died trying to save the Doctor. The army turned on the Cult members and destroyed two of them before Dalek Caan self-destructed them remotely. The Doctor confronted Caan - now believed to be the final Dalek - and offered to take it away from Earth, but it once again used an emergency temporal shift to flee.

The shift took Caan back into the Time War, where it rescued Davros. He then set about creating a new Dalek army using cells from his own body. Caan had been left damaged and insane by the shift into the war, and could now foresee the future. The new red / gold Dalek Supreme took command of their new space station - the Crucible. Davros was tasked with devising the ultimate weapon that would leave the Daleks as the only creatures left alive in the entire universe. He created the Reality Bomb, which dissolved the electromagnetic force binding atoms together. To power it he needed to harness the kinetic energy of a number of planets, and these were removed from time and space and brought to the Medusa Cascade. One of these worlds was the Earth. The Daleks moved the planet to the Cascade then invaded. The Doctor tracked them down and, accompanied by a number of his recent companions, arrived on the Crucible.

Caan had kept secret one of his prophesies - that the Daleks deserved extinction. They tried to destroy the TARDIS with Donna Noble still on board, along with the Doctor's severed hand. The Doctor had earlier been shot by a Dalek and avoided regeneration by pouring the excess energy into the hand after healing himself. The hand grew into a half-human version of the Doctor, combining with Donna's DNA. She in turn became part Time Lord. The new Doctor and Donna brought the TARDIS onto the Crucible just as the Daleks were about to activate their bomb. Davros shot Donna, triggering the Time Lord part of her. She and the half-human Doctor then set about sabotaging the Dalek systems. The Reality Bomb was shut down and the Daleks were sent out of control. All of the planets bar Earth were returned to their rightful places and times, but the half-Doctor went further. He decided to destroy the Daleks in an act of genocide. They and the Crucible were blown up.

The Doctor later met someone who had been a child when the Daleks had stolen the Earth. She was Adelaide Brooke, commander of the first base on Mars. She told the Doctor of how she had seen a Dalek outside her bedroom window. It had seen her, yet did not attempt to capture or kill her. The Doctor surmised that it might have identified in her something of her future destiny.

One Dalek saucer survived, and this travelled back through time to the 1940's and the middle of the Second World War, hiding itself on the dark side of the Moon. The Daleks had hidden devices known as Progenitors around the galaxy as a safeguard for their future survival. These contained pure Dalek DNA from which to create a new army. The Daleks found one of these devices but discovered that it would not respond to them - no longer recognising them as pure Dalek. They needed the Doctor to confirm their identity to the device and so set an elaborate trap. They placed an android in Winston Churchill's team - knowing that he was known to the Doctor. They had programmed the android, posing as Professor Bracewell, to believe that he had created a new weapon for the Prime Minister - armoured robots called Ironsides. These were really Daleks, in khaki camouflage colours. They pretended to be friendly, committed to helping defeat the Germans. Churchill called upon the Doctor for advice about employing them, and they were already helping to shoot down German aircraft when he arrived. One of the Daleks remained on their saucer, monitoring what was said. When the Doctor told them he knew they were Daleks, this activated the Progenitor.

The device created a new breed of Dalek, with bigger casings in a variety of colours, denoting their function. They exterminated the Daleks which had helped create them as they were inferior to them. These new Daleks attempted to destroy London by illuminating the city during an air-raid, but Bracewell had devised a means for British fighter planes to travel into space. A squadron of Spitfires attacked the saucer and disabled the device which was powering the lights of London. The Dalek Supreme activated a bomb in Bracewell's chest, and the Doctor was forced to return to Earth to deactivate it, allowing the Daleks to escape into the future.

The new Daleks later headed an alliance of many of the Doctor's foes in an attempt to stop him from destroying the entire universe. An exploding TARDIS would wipe everything out, and to prevent this the alliance created a prison for the Doctor called the Pandorica, hidden beneath Stonehenge. The Daleks assumed that only the Doctor could pilot the TARDIS, whereas it was River Song who was flying it when it began to break up.

The universe began to unravel, until only a warped version remained on Earth. Present were a couple of stone Daleks, which were held in a museum exhibition close to the Pandorica. The prison was designed to keep its occupant alive forever, and light from it brought one of the stone Daleks to life. It nearly killed the Doctor, but was destroyed by River.

When trying to discover information about the organisation known as the Silence, the Doctor destroyed a Dalek spaceship in order to remove the data-core from one of its occupants.

Daleks could not bring themselves to destroy those of their number who had become insane. Instead they banished them to an icy planet which acted as an asylum. An energy barrier was set up around the planet, and anyone who got through this would be turned into a Dalek drone as the atmosphere was full of nanogenes - even corpses. A signal started to be heard coming from the planet - from a human. If someone could get in, then something could get out, and the Daleks feared to go to the asylum themselves. They lured the Doctor to the ruins of their city on Skaro in order to capture him, abducting his companions Amy and Rory to assist him. All were brought to a vast saucer containing the Parliament of the Daleks, which was in orbit around the planet. The Dalek Prime Minister wanted the Doctor and his friends to go to the asylum and deactivate its defences, so that they could then bombard and destroy it.

The asylum contained Daleks from all periods of their history. They were mostly inactive but were reanimated by the presence of the intruders. In the intensive care unit were Daleks who had previously encountered the Doctor, from the worlds of Kembel, Vulcan, Spiridon and Exxilon. The signal was coming from a young woman named Oswin Oswald, who claimed to be the survivor of a spaceship crash. When the Doctor finally found her, he discovered that she had already been transformed into a Dalek, but her strong will had meant that she had continued to deny this new existence. The Oswin Dalek agreed to deactivate the defences, but first it completely erased all knowledge of the Doctor from the Dalek data-base. The Doctor and his companions transmatted up to the Dalek saucer and the safety of the TARDIS as the asylum planet was destroyed. The Daleks had no idea who he was.

The Doctor later travelled to an obscure planet from which a strange signal was emanating across the entire universe. This attracted many other powerful alien races - including the Daleks. The Church of the Papal Mainframe put a cordon around the world to stop anyone going down to it, but the Doctor and Clara went there and discovered that it was Trenzalore - the location where the Doctor's grave was said to lie. The signal was translated as originating from the Time Lords. The War Doctor had encountered two of his later incarnations, who had helped him save Gallifrey by placing it in a pocket universe at the end of Time. He had therefore not had to use the Moment after all. The Dalek fleet had been wiped out in its own crossfire when the planet disappeared, and so the Daleks and everyone else believed that Gallifrey had been destroyed. Now that it was known to have survived, there was a risk that the Time War would resume. The Doctor remained on the planet to defend it for several centuries, taking him towards the end of his final incarnation. The Daleks battled all the other races in orbit around the planet, eventually taking over the Papal Mainframe. Clara Oswald talked the Time Lords into remaining where they were, and they broke contact. But first they granted the Doctor a whole new regeneration cycle, and he used his regeneration energy to destroy the Daleks.

In the first incarnation of his new regeneration cycle, the Doctor rescued a pilot from the middle of a war between humans and Daleks. Taking her back to her main ship, he discovered that there was a lone Dalek held captive there. This Dalek was heavily damaged, leading the Doctor to nickname it "Rusty". The Dalek was also claiming to be an enemy of its own people, intent on wiping them out. The Doctor hoped that if he could discover why this Dalek thought the way that it did then there might be a hope that other Daleks might be changed. He agreed to be miniaturised and injected into the Dalek along with Clara and a squad of soldiers. Within the Dalek they discovered deadly automated anti-bodies. Those killed by them were turned into a foodstuff for the Dalek.

They discovered that it was radiation poisoning from a damaged component that was making Rusty question its existence. It had seen a star being formed and thought it beautiful, and so turned against endless war and extermination. It had been inspired to fight against the rest of its kind by the Doctor himself. The spaceship was attacked by a Dalek saucer. After the Doctor and his friends had been taken out of Rusty, it broke free and killed a number of soldiers, before turning on the attacking Dalek forces. It sent a signal to the other Daleks that the ship had been destroyed, so that they could escape, then left the ship - determined to carry on its crusade against its kin.

The TARDIS later took the Doctor back to Skaro, this time to a point earlier in the Kaled-Thal war. He met Davros as a boy, trapped in the middle of a minefield. He decided to walk away and leave him to die... Centuries later, Davros sent his henchman Colony Sarff to hunt down the Doctor. Ashamed of what he had done, the Doctor allowed himself to be taken captive and he was brought to Skaro, where the Daleks had built a new city. Clara and Missy insisted on accompanying him. Present were Daleks from all periods of their history, as there had been in their asylum. In command was a new red / gold Supreme. Davros was here, and he was dying. The Daleks destroyed the TARDIS and appeared to exterminate Clara and Missy, but the latter had managed to teleport them both to safety outside the city.

They decided to break back in via the sewer system. Missy informed Clara that Daleks were immortal, and only lost their effectiveness when their bodies deteriorated into slime, when they were flushed down into the sewers. A Dalek guard sent to investigate the intruders was destroyed by some of the still living residue which dwelt there, and Missy forced Clara to get into the empty casing to help them get into the city. The Doctor made his peace with Davros, and then decided to give him some of his regeneration energy to restore him to health. This was all a trap by Davros, who was biologically linked to all of his creations. They all fed on the regeneration energy. The Doctor had guessed the trap, however, and knew that the discarded Daleks in the sewers would also benefit. They hated those who had abandoned them, and rose up to destroy the city. The Doctor later went back and saved the young Davros, so that he would later give his creations the capacity for mercy.

The Doctor settled down to live and work at St Luke's University in Bristol, England, as he had to watch over a vault which contained Missy. He took an interest in one of the kitchen staff - Bill Potts - and decided to mentor her. She befriended a girl named Heather, who joined with a crashed alien spaceship to become its new pilot. Wanting a co-pilot, Heather began to pursue Bill through time and space, as the Doctor sought to shake her off. At one point they landed in the middle of the Dalek-Movellan war, where Heather took on the form of a Dalek to try to ensnare Bill.

Approaching the end of his life, the Doctor decided he would no longer regenerate. He encountered his first incarnation in the snowy wastes of Antarctica, in December 1986. He was also refusing to regenerate. The two then met a soldier who had been taken from a First World War battlefield by an alien entity known as Testimony. Wanting to know what Testimony was, the Doctors travelled to the planet of Villengard to seek out the greatest repository of knowledge in the universe. This proved to be a data-base created by the Dalek known as Rusty, who was still fighting against the other Daleks. The planet was swarming with Dalek mutants who had come out of their casings. Rusty allowed the Doctor to access the data-base and learn that Testimony was not a threat, but a programme to save the memories of everyone who had ever lived.

Appearances (Part 3): Dalek (2005), Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways (2005), Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006), Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks (2007), The Stolen Earth / Journey's End (2008), Victory of the Daleks (2010), The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (2010), Asylum of the Daleks (2012), The Day of the Doctor (2013), The Time of the Doctor (2013), Inside the Dalek (2014), The Magician's Apprentice / The Witch's Familiar (2015).
Cameos: The Waters of Mars (2009), The Wedding of River Song (2011), The Pilot (2017), Twice Upon A Time (2017).

Saturday 24 February 2018

Inspirations - The Mind Robber

Working titles for this story includes "Man Power" and "The Fact of Fiction".
To fully understand where this story comes from, we need to go back slightly and remind ourselves about the production of the previous story - The Dominators. Script editor Derrick Sherwin had a major falling out with writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, partly over the merchandising rights to the Quarks but mainly because Sherwin just did not like The Dominators and did not think it stretched to six episodes. He basically rewrote Episode 5 himself in order to tie the story up early, and this led to the series overall being one episode short. The following story - Peter Ling's The Mind Robber - was a perfectly good four parter, revolving around a realm of Fiction where anything could happen, so Sherwin wrote an opening segment all by himself that would lead into it. He did not have any money for this beyond the salaries of the regular cast and the TARDIS set, so chose to feature just these elements. He was able to add a monster, in the form of the White Robots. These costumes already existed, having featured in an episode of Out of the Unknown called The Prophet. There, they had been darker in colour, so they were repainted different colours to appear white on B&W television. Other than the TARDIS set, the only scenery needed was a white cyclorama, then a black void for the closing sequence where the TARDIS appears to be torn apart - leading into the first episode of Ling's story.

Sherwin and his assistant Terrence Dicks had once worked on the Midlands set soap Crossroads, about a motorway-side motel, and one of their colleagues had been Ling. On a train journey between London and Birmingham, the trio had discussed possible storylines, and Ling mentioned the fact that a lot of people thought that soap characters were real, and would write letters to them. Having a domain where fictional characters were real provided the starting point for this story. Sherwin was keen to move away from what he called "jellies in space" type of stories, and this was more fantastical than the usual output. The last time this had been tried had been the late Hartnell story The Celestial Toymaker, whose domain had been filled with living toys and deadly children's games.
The bizarre nature of the Land of Fiction proved to be a godsend later in production when Frazer Hines fell ill and had to be briefly written out. The nature of the story allowed the production team to have Hines' absence written into the plot, as Jamie is turned into a faceless cardboard cutout after an altercation with a Redcoat soldier. The Doctor has to reassemble his features like a police ident-i-kit picture - and gets it wrong. We therefore get genuine Scot Hamish Wilson playing the part over two episodes. Wilson, from Glasgow, has a much broader Scots accent than the one that Hines uses, but then a new face might bring a new voice.

Once the Doctor and his companions get to the Land of Fiction we get to meet a number of characters who originate in literature. First of all there is Lemuel Gulliver, who can only speak the words that were given to him by his author, Irish clergyman Jonathan Swift. Gulliver's Travels was first published in 1726, and became an instant success. The book comprised four voyages for Gulliver, who started out as ship's surgeon before becoming a captain. The best known section is the first - the voyage to Lilliput. There then followed a voyage to Brobdingnag, then a voyage to Laputa, Balnibari, Luggnagg, Glubdubdrib and Japan, then finally a voyage to the Land of the Houyhnhnms. These latter are talking horses, and they share their land with a race of human-like people - the Yahoos, which Gulliver mentions in this story. Whilst Gulliver begins the story speaking Swift's lines, the script later called upon him to diverge from this, so Ling wrote speeches for him to say in Swift's style.
A group of children appear, dressed in Edwardian fashion. They do not seem to derive from any one specific book, but are similar to characters found in the works of Edith Nesbit - The Railway Children (serialised in 1905 then published in book form in 1906), Five Children and It (serialised in 1900, published as a book in 1902) and The Phoenix and the Carpet (a sequel to Five Children and It and published in 1904). The children we see in The Mind Robber are not from the Nesbit books, as there are six of them rather than five.

Other characters encountered by the Doctor and his companions include the mythical Unicorn, and a couple of beings from Greek Legend - the Gorgon Medusa and the Minotaur. For the background on the former, see my recent post on the Sarah Jane Adventures story Eye of the Gorgon. The Minotaur legend states that King Minos asked Poseidon to give him a pure white bull that he could sacrifice to the god for becoming monarch. Minos liked the animal so much he decided to keep it, sacrificing one of his own bulls instead. Poseidon was offended. He made Minos' wife Pasiphae fall in love with the white bull. She got architect Daedalus to build a wooden bull which she could climb into. The resulting offspring was the Minotaur, which had to be kept in the Labyrinth which Daedalus also constructed, with his son Icarus. Fans of The Horns of Nimon will have a rough idea of what happened next. The Minotaur was slain by the hero Theseus. Some versions of the legend have the creature with a man's head on a bull's body, similar in appearance to a Centaur.
Jamie gets chased by clockwork soldiers and ends up meeting the fairy tale character Princess Rapunzel. The most famous version of her story appears in the collection of the Brothers Grimm, but the original story can be traced back to the Italian tale of Petrosinella, written by Giambattista Basile in 1634. He may have got his inspiration from an even earlier source - in 11th Century Persia. The basic story of Rapunzel is of a beautiful girl who is locked away in a tower by a witch. Her mother had craved for some rapunzel (a green leaf used in salads) during pregnancy, and her father had stolen some from the witch's garden. One day a prince comes along, and the only way he can rescue her is for her to lower her long hair down that he might climb it like a rope.

There is one character who is wholly fictional to the Doctor Who universe, created just for this story. That's the Germanic musclebound superhero Karkus. Again, this feeds into the plot as the Doctor knows everyone else is fictional and therefore can't harm him, but he has never heard of the comic strip creation. Zoe reveals he derives from the hourly telepress of her times.
Whilst the whole story has revolved around fiction and fantasy, there has to be a scientific explanation for all of this. The Doctor finally meets the Master of the Land of Fiction, who is a human being enslaved to a super-computer known as the Master Brain. Nothing of its origins is explained, but we do know it wants to conquer the Earth by transplanting its population to the Land and making them all fictional. The Master is based on the writer Frank Richards - the pen name of Charles Hamilton. Amongst his many creations was Billy Bunter - linking us back to The Celestial Toymaker, which featured the Bunter-ish character of Cyril the schoolboy. Hamilton is supposed to have written a record breaking 100 million words in his lifetime. Richards was just one of many pen names he used whilst writing over 5000 stories for various periodicals.

The Master wants the Doctor to take his place here, which he naturally declines. This leads to a final duel between them in which they summon up some other literary characters. These include D'Artagnan - hero of Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (1844). The fictional character of D'Artagnan was based on a real commander of the King's Musketeers during the reign of Louis XIV, Charles de Batz de Castelmore d'Artagnan (1613 - 1673). He has to fight Cyrano de Bergerac, who is also based on a real person - Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac (1619 - 1655) who was a noted libertine writer and swordsman. D'Artagnan turns into Sir Lancelot - from the Arthurian myths, first mentioned by the French writer Chretien de Troyes in 1170 - whilst de Bergerac is transformed into Blackbeard the Pirate. The latter is an odd choice for a fictional character - Long John Silver from Treasure Island or Captain Hook from Peter Pan being more obvious candidates. Edward Teach (or Thatch) did appear in fictionalised form, such as in an 1835 novel by Matilda Douglas, but his fictional existence has been primarily one of film and television.

There is a strongly held belief among fans that the events of this story never really took place. Everything that occurs in parts 2 - 5 are all in the Doctor's mind, as he comes under mental assault in the TARDIS in the first episode. The clockwork soldiers are supposed to be representations of the Cybermen, and the White Robots the Daleks. We only have the soundtrack to the opening episode of the next story, but it seems to pick up with the TARDIS being brought back together again, with no mention of the Master, who leaves the crumbling realm with the Doctor and his companions after the White Robots attack the Master Brain. This is used as an excuse for why Zoe later fails to know what a candle is in The Space Pirates, when she is perfectly familiar with them here. The programme itself becomes fictionalised in the first episode, as the Doctor pushes Jamie and Zoe back into the TARDIS after they became lost in the white void - and you can clearly see "Producer. Peter Bryant" on the ship's scanner...
Next time: things get back to normal as the Cybermen return for yet another invasion attempt, but get sidelined by one of the best villains the programme has ever produced, and it's the first appearance of the Brigadier and UNIT...

Wirrn Figurine

I was surprised to receive a further figurine this week - one of the special editions. Must have already paid for this before my subscription was cancelled. The figurine is a good one - the Wirrn from The Ark in Space - so I'm glad to have got it. On screen we usually only saw these creatures from the waist up, as the actors' feet could be seen shuffling them about otherwise. Only the dead Queen prop had the finished lower portion with the pincer-like bit at the bottom. Otherwise, the full Wirrn were only really seen briefly in the unsatisfying model shots in the final episode.
As mentioned before, I will still be purchasing figurines, only just the ones from the older series that I really want, so expect the occasional update.

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Eye of the Gorgon - SJA 1.2

In which Clyde Langer visits his mother's friend, Mrs Randall, at the retirement home where she lives - Lavender Lawns. She tells him that the place is haunted by a spectral nun who is seen in the bedrooms at night. Clyde informs Sarah of this, and she decides to investigate for a possible story. She goes there with Clyde and Luke. Maria stays behind as her mother, Chrissie, has turned up, expecting to move in with them. Maria is angry with her for being selfish and for abandoning them, and storms out. One of the other residents of the home - Bea Nelson-Stanley - gives an ornate amulet to Luke which she had hidden in an old tree trunk, asking him to keep it safe. She only has moments of lucidity, as she suffers from dementia. The home's warden, Mrs Gribbins, spies on Bea and sees her give the object to Luke. She then runs off to report this to a nun, Sister Helena, who has been watching the place. Her Sisters have been searching the place at night - leading to the supposed ghost sightings. Sister Helena is annoyed that the amulet had not been found sooner and blames Gribbins. She is taken to a room where an elderly nun is sitting with her head covered. The old woman lifts the hood and Mrs Gribbins is turned to stone.

Back at Sarah's house, the computer Mr Smith recognises the amulet as being of alien origin. Sarah returns to the home with Maria, and they discover that Bea was once married to an archaeologist, and the amulet was found on a dig. Sarah is surprised when the old woman mentions an encounter with Sontarans in her early days. Sister Helena traces Luke to Sarah's home, and he is abducted by her and some other nuns. Clyde calls Sarah to warn her of what has happened, and they go to Saint Agnes Abbey to free him. Sarah is captured and forced to hand over the amulet, as the youngsters are being held hostage. Sarah takes Sister Helena and the ancient hooded nun to her home. The older nun is really an alien Gorgon. She is about to turn Sarah into stone when Maria's father Alan turns up, and it is he who becomes petrified.

Mr Smith confirms that what has happened to Alan is reversible, though they only have 90 minutes to save him after which the process will be permanent. Sarah believes that the amulet may save Alan, so she, Luke and Clyde head back to the Abbey, whilst Maria goes to see Bea to try to learn more about it. Whilst they are all away, Chrissie goes to Sarah's house to look for her ex-husband and her daughter and sees the petrified Alan. She thinks that Sarah has had a statue of him made as she has become obsessed by him. At the Abbey, Sarah and the boys are captured once more. Sister Helena informs them that the Abbess is growing old and will soon be too frail to host the Gorgon. Sarah is to become its new host. The amulet is used to help open a portal that will allow more of the creatures to travel to Earth. Bea confirms that the amulet will restore anyone who has become petrified, as this had happened to her, and she gives Maria a mirror as she leaves. Maria rushes to the Abbey. She uses the mirror to turn the Gorgon's powers against itself - turning it into stone. The amulet is removed and the portal is sealed. The nuns, including Sister Helena, are freed from the creature's mental domination. Everyone rushes back to Bannerman Road where Alan is saved. He is wakes with no recollection of what has happened. Chrissie turns up with accusations against Sarah, but there is now no trace of any statue so Alan accuses her of imagining things. Maria hopes that the amulet might restore Bea's memories, but this is not to be.

Eye of the Gorgon was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 1st and 8th October, 2007. Ford will become one of the series' main writers, as well as contributing a script for the second season of Torchwood, and co-writing two Doctor Who stories (one with Russell T Davies - The Waters of Mars - and one with Steven Moffat - Into The Dalek).
As with a number of Doctor Who stories, the inspiration for these episodes derives from alien explanations for the ancient myths - in this case the story of Medusa the Gorgon. It is stated here that there were once three of these creatures, as with the legends. Medusa had two sisters - Euryale and Stheno. They had the power to turn people to stone. Medusa was killed by Perseus. The winged horse Pegasus was said to have sprung from her blood, whilst other versions say that snakes grew form it. The Clash of the Titans movies have it that Perseus needed the head to counter the Kraken, but legend states that he used it as a weapon against a number of foes - including the king who sent him on his mission to destroy her, hoping that he would not return. Another tale has it that Perseus used the head to turn Atlas to stone - thereby creating the Atlas Mountains.

The story mentions the Sontarans - foreshadowing their return in Series 4 of Doctor Who the following year. This was the first alien race encountered by Sarah Jane Smith, in The Time Warrior. Bea and her archaeologist husband Edgar defeated them in Syria in the 1930's, with no mention of the Doctor's involvement.
Bea is played by Phyllida Law. She is the mother of actress Emma Thompson and widow to Eric Thompson, who brought the French children's TV series The Magic Roundabout to Britain. Law was on the original shortlist of actresses to play Barbara Wright back in 1963. Sister Helena is played by Beth Goddard. She's married to Philip Glenister, and starred opposite him in Ashes to Ashes.

Overall, another fine story, which dwells a bit more on Maria. At one point she wishes she had never got involved with Sarah, but soon comes to realise what a wonderful life she now leads, even though her home life is messy.
Things you might like to know:

  • One of the images Sarah looks at whilst studying the Gorgon is a sketch of the shield design painted by Caravaggio, which can be seen in the Uffizi in Florence. For many years this was thought to have been a work by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • The Second Doctor and Zoe had previously encountered Medusa in the Land of Fiction (The Mind Robber). There, it was a statue of the Gorgon which came to life.
  • The nuns concealing the alien Gorgon mirrors the monks shielding the Werewolf in Tooth and Claw.
  • Fans at the time thought that this might provide a prequel to the forthcoming Sontaran story - perhaps featuring the Doctor meeting with the younger Bea and her husband.
  • Visitors to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff will have seen the petrified Abbess prop during the "experience" section of their tour, as it was displayed in the dimly-lit Weeping Angels forest section.
  • The house used for Lavender Lawns will be familiar as the location used for the hotel where Donna Noble and her family are staying when London is destroyed in Turn Left.
  • There is a Sound of Music joke as Sister Helena talks about how to "solve a problem like Maria". The BBC ran one of their Saturday evening talent shows based around this musical - the winner getting the part in a West End revival. One of the judges was John Barrowman, during his 'ubiquitous' phase.

Monday 19 February 2018

D is for... Daleks (Part 2)

The Doctor had thought that he had seen the final end of the Daleks, after witnessing the civil war which destroyed their city on Skaro. He was mistaken. During his exile on Earth in the late 20th Century, whilst working for UNIT, he was called in to investigate ghostly happenings at the country home of Sir Reginald Styles. The diplomat had claimed to have been attacked by a man who vanished into thin air. The Doctor and Jo Grant spent a night at the house and discovered that the attackers were guerrillas who had travelled back in time from the 22nd Century to assassinate Styles. Jo was accidentally thrown forward through time when she operated one of their time machines, forcing the Doctor to follow. He found himself on an Earth that had been re-invaded by the Daleks. They had used time travel to undo the defeat he had inflicted on them in his first incarnation. Only a handful of Daleks were on the planet, led by the Gold Dalek. Their law was enforced by human servants as well as the brutish alien Ogrons.

The Doctor was captured and subjected to a mind analysis machine to confirm his identity, as he was not known to the Daleks in this incarnation. The Daleks in this alternate timeline had no plans to mine out the magnetic core of the planet. They were merely using slave workers to harvest minerals. The Doctor was rescued by guerrilla fighters and from them he learned how this invasion had taken place. A war had broken out after Sir Reginald had apparently gone mad and destroyed a peace conference, and the Daleks had taken advantage of the planet's weakened state. The Doctor realised that it was not the diplomat who had blown up the conference, but the guerrillas themselves - one of them having been left behind in the 20th Century determined to carry out his assassination mission. The Doctor and Jo returned to their own time to stop him, but the Daleks decided to follow, so that their new timeline could be preserved. They burst into the house, but the Doctor had already evacuated the conference delegates. The guerrilla, Shura, detonated his bomb and blew up the Daleks. Seeing what would happen if they failed to agree peace, the delegates worked to ensure that the Dalek timeline never took place.

Some time later, after his exile had been lifted, the Doctor and Jo arrived on a space freighter in the year 2540. This came under attack by a raiding party of Ogrons. The human crew of the ship saw their attackers as Draconians, however. Earth and Draconia had fought a bitter war some years before, and both races now maintained a fragile peace along their shared frontier. Recently vessels from each side had come under attack - humans being raided by Draconians, and Draconians being raided by Earthmen. The Doctor realised that some third party was attempting to provoke a new war between the empires, using the Ogrons. The culprit was the Master, utilising a hypnotic device which made people see what they feared most. He had a base on the Ogron's home planet. When the Doctor visited this, along with the Draconian Crown Prince and the head of Earth's armed forces, he found that the Master was really working for the Daleks, led once again by the Gold Dalek. The Daleks planned to push the two empires into war with each other, weakening both. They had a vast army hidden elsewhere which would then move in to conquer both empires. After exposing this scheme, the Doctor called upon the Time Lords to guide the TARDIS to where the Dalek army was waiting.

The Daleks had a base on the jungle planet of Spiridon. The Doctor and Jo found that a party of Thals was present. Inspired by the indigenous race, the Daleks were experimenting with making themselves invisible, and the Thals were intent on stopping these experiments. The invisibility worked only up to a point, as the Dalek test subjects developed a sickness and died. The planet had a core of molten ice, and this had been utilised to freeze a vast army of Daleks in an underground chamber - the army which would be reactivated to take over Earth and Draconian space. A Dalek patrol shot the Doctor in the legs, disabling him temporarily. In the cells, he used his sonic screwdriver and a tape recording machine to fashion a device which would disable the Dalek guard. Whilst controlled lowering of the temperature could put the Daleks into suspended animation, rapid freezing was lethal to them. A couple of Daleks were pushed into pools of freezing ice and this killed them.

One of these casings was used by the Thal Rebec to help the Doctor's group break back into the Dalek command centre. Their plan was to use a bomb to break open a fissure that would flood the chamber where the army was stored. The Daleks decided to employ a bacterial agent to wipe out all life on the planet's surface, save for themselves and their Spiridon slaves who would be immunised against it. A friendly Spiridon named Wester sacrificed himself to expose the bacteria in the Dalek lab before immunisation could take place. The Dalek Supreme Council sent one of its members to the planet to oversee the reanimation of the army. It exterminated the base commander for its failure to capture or kill the Doctor and the Thals. The Doctor's plan worked, and the chamber was flooded with liquid ice. The base had to be abandoned, and the Thals stole the Supreme's spaceship to get back home to Skaro.

A terrible space plague began to spread across the galaxy. The only known cure was derived from the mineral parrinium, which could only be found in substantial quantities on the planet Exxilon. A Marine Space Corps vessel from Earth landed there, only to find itself disabled by a power drain. The same thing happened to the TARDIS when it arrived. There was a city on the planet which had an energy draining beacon - a remnant of a once great space-faring civilisation which had now degenerated into barbarism. A Dalek ship then landed - and it was also affected by the energy drain. They claimed that the space plague was also affecting their colonies. The Daleks found that their weapons were useless. Their other systems operated as they used psychokinetic power. The Daleks were forced into an uneasy alliance with the MSC crew and the Exxilon natives to mine the parrinium. However, the Daleks substituted their energy weapons for mechanical projectile firing ones, enabling them to take over. For target practice, the Daleks employed small models of the TARDIS, such was the impact the Doctor had had on them over the years.

These Daleks had distinctive silver and black casings, and their commander did not have any distinguishing features to denote rank. The Daleks sent two of the marines to blow up the beacon, whilst others pursued the Doctor, who had broken into the city to sabotage it from within. They planned to load sacks of the mineral onto their ship and take off once the beacon had been destroyed. From space they would then fire a plague missile onto the surface, making it impossible for anyone else to land and get a supply for themselves. The Daleks would then be able to blackmail infected worlds into submission. The beacon was blown up, but one of the marines - a man named Galloway - stowed away on board their ship when it took off, armed with one of their bombs. The ship was destroyed before the Daleks could launch their missile. Sarah Jane Smith and one of the marines had already substituted the mineral for bags of sand.

The Daleks later embarked on a long war against the robotic Movellans. Each side had programmed their battle computers to the point of stalemate. To break the logical impasse the Daleks decided to return to Skaro, which they had long abandoned, in order to seek out their creator - Davros. He had not been exterminated by them, but had managed to put himself into a protective stasis. The Movellans sent a unit to the planet to abduct Davros - to prevent the Daleks from getting him and to make use of him themselves. Romana was captured by the Daleks and forced to join one of their slave labour squads, which were mining their way down to the level of their old city where Davros' body had been left. The Doctor recalled a shaft that would get them to the level first. Davros was reanimated but taken captive by the Doctor and the Movellans. They were unable to get him out of the city, however, and when the Daleks began executing prisoners the Doctor was forced to leave him behind.

The Daleks provided Davros with information about developments which had taken place whilst he was in hibernation. The Doctor realised that the Movellans were as much a threat as the Daleks, and had to fight against both. He put an army together from the freed slave workers, to attack and seize control of the Movellan spaceship. Davros decided to blow this up, ordering the Daleks to surround its hull with bombs attached to their casings in a suicide mission. The Doctor forced Davros to detonate the explosives prematurely - destroying all of the Daleks. Davros was then taken away in a cryogenic chamber by the slaves in the captured Movellan ship - to stand trial for his crimes against all sentient races.

When all of the first five incarnations of the Doctor were attacked by a time scoop, to be deposited in the middle of the Death Zone on Gallifrey, the First Doctor was reunited with his granddaughter Susan in a strange metallic labyrinth. Here they encountered a lone Dalek. The Time Lords of the old times had staged war games in the Zone, but the Daleks had never been used as they fought too well. This specimen had been brought here by President Borusa as part of his scheme to gain immortality. The Doctor and Susan lured the Dalek into a cul-de-sac where it was destroyed by the ricochets from its own weapon.

In their war against the Movellans, the tide turned in favour of the robot race as they developed a virus which attacked the Daleks' systems. Decades had passed since Davros had been reanimated on Skaro, and he was now held captive on a space station, frozen into immobility. The Dalek Supreme employed an army of mercenaries led by Commander Lytton to attack the station and free their creator, so that he could help them find a defence against the virus. Lytton employed replicants - clones who had been imprinted with some of the memories and the personality of their originals, but who were conditioned to obey him and the Daleks. Some cannisters of the virus were hidden on present day Earth, in an old warehouse by the Thames in London. The Doctor became involved after the TARDIS encountered a time tunnel linking the warehouse with the Dalek spaceship in the future.

The Supreme intended to capture the Doctor and his companions in order to create replicants of them. These would be sent to Gallifrey to assassinate the High Council of the Time Lords. The replicants were unstable however, their old personalities sometime breaking through. The Supreme did not trust Davros - and the feeling was mutual. The Kaled scientist feared that he would be killed once his usefulness was over, and so he began to modify some of the Daleks to obey him. The Supreme found out and sent a squad to exterminate him, but Davros released some of the virus into the space station. Unfortunately, the virus affected his life support systems as well. The Doctor used the virus to attack the Daleks who had been sent to the warehouse, and the Dalek spaceship was blown up when a replicant named Stien activated the station's self-destruct mechanism after his conditioning had broken down. Other replicants had already been left on Earth to undermine the planet, but the Doctor was sure that they would also be unstable and would be quickly found out.

Davros had managed to survive the Movellan virus and had escaped from the Dalek ship in an escape pod. He found himself on the planet Necros, where he infiltrated the Tranquil Repose funeral complex to begin experiments to create a whole new race of Daleks which were loyal only to him. These had a white and gold livery. Previously, Daleks had employed transolar disc platforms in order to fly, but Davros' new race of Daleks could now levitate on their own. For genetic material, he used the bodies stored in the complex. These new creations were mentally conditioned whilst held in glass Dalek casings.

Davros lured the Doctor to Necros in order to get his revenge on him. Two of the complex's personnel, Takis and Lilt, were unhappy at what Davros was doing and so secretly contacted Skaro to reveal the scientist's whereabouts. A squad was despatched by the Supreme to capture him and bring him back to his homeworld to stand trial for crimes against his own creations. Davros was seized and taken to the Dalek ship, which took off just before the assassin Orcini used a bomb to blow up Tranquil Repose - destroying the new race of Daleks.

Once on Skaro, however, Davros managed to turn the tables on the Supreme. He took over, once again creating a whole new army of Daleks with their white / gold livery. The Supreme and his supporters were forced to go on the run as rebels. Davros wished for his creations to have the same mastery over time travel as the Time Lords, and to this end he travelled to Earth in the 1960's to search for the Hand of Omega. This stellar manipulator device had been used by the early Gallifreyans to power their time travel experiments, and it had been removed by the Doctor and hidden in the London of 1963. Davros had made himself Emperor of the Daleks, the remains of his body now enveloped in a domed casing. The Supreme and its faction also travelled to Earth to take possession of the device.

The Supreme allied itself with a local fascist organisation, and enslaved a young girl to their battle computer - psychically linked to itself. The Doctor, now in his seventh incarnation, had planned for the Daleks to get hold of the Hand, as he hoped that they would use it prematurely and destroy themselves. He had not reckoned on two rival Dalek factions arriving to battle for it. The Imperial Daleks were victorious, partly due to their deployment of the powerful Special Weapons Dalek, which had fearsome firepower. The grey rebel Daleks were destroyed. The Doctor then goaded Davros into activating the Hand. It flew back to Skaro, where it turned the sun supernova - wiping out the entire solar system. The Hand then returned to the Dalek command ship - destroying it as well, though Davros was able to flee yet again in an escape pod. The Supreme was left as the last survivor of its race, and the Doctor talked it into self-destructing.
At some undetermined point the Daleks colluded with the Master to enable him to steal the Doctor's body for himself. A trial and execution were staged on a reconstructed Skaro, and the Doctor was given safe passage to come and remove his old adversary's remains to take them back to Gallifrey.

Appearances (Part 2): Day of the Daleks (1972), Frontier in Space (1973), Planet of the Daleks (1973), Death to the Daleks (1974), Destiny of the Daleks (1979), Resurrection of the Daleks (1984), Revelation of the Daleks (1985), Remembrance of the Daleks (1988).
Cameos: The Five Doctors (1983), Doctor Who - The Movie (1996).

  • There are two schools of thought regarding when the Davros stories take place in terms of the Dalek timeline. Some believe that they take place after all of the Hartnell, Troughton and Pertwee stories - which is why he is never mentioned. The other school of thought is that the Doctor changes things when he is sent to Skaro by the Time Lords in Genesis of the Daleks. The infighting Davros engenders means that the Daleks never get round to forming their great space empire, and also that their emergence into the universe is put back by 1000 years - so the old timeline never happens.