Am going to be away from the interweb on a visit back home, so no updates for the next week or so. I'll be back on Sunday 6th May with the next half dozen A-Z entries.
See you then.
Wednesday, 25 April 2018
Inspirations - Inferno
The first of two stories to be written by Don Houghton. He knew script editor Terrance Dicks from their time together on the soap Crossroads. Houghton's principal inspiration was a news story he had read, concerning a drilling scheme which was abruptly abandoned. In 1961, Project Mohole was a joint venture between the American Miscellaneous Society (AMSOC) and the National Science Foundation, and they planned to bore down through the Earth's crust into the Mohorovicic Discontinuity. A site was chosen off the Mexican island of Guadalupe, and new technology was developed to allow the drilling ship to automatically maintain its position within a few hundred feet of the bore hole. The sea bed was 11,700 feet below the ship, and the drill went down some 610 feet into the sediments. The oil companies were naturally very interested in this. However, the project was suddenly called off. Officials were reluctant to give any information as to why this had happened, and AMSOC disbanded a couple of years later, which peeked the interest of conspiracy theorists. What had the scientists found that could have caused them to abandon the project after its initial success? Houghton thought that this might be a good idea for a Doctor Who story. (The official explanation for the abandonment did become available later - money).
Working titles included "Operation Mole-Bore" and "The Mo-Hole Project". Dicks quickly realised that there was not enough material to fill seven episodes. The popular late 60's drama The Troubleshooters, about the oil and gas industry, could manage it thanks to bedroom and boardroom tussles, but these wouldn't do for a family science fiction adventure series. Houghton's initial drafts concentrated solely on the disastrous environmental effects of the drilling project as Professor Stahlman obsessively drilled down to find the gas he believed would solve the nation's energy crisis.
It was Dicks who came up with the trip to a parallel Earth, where we would see what would happen if the work went on unchecked.
Alternative histories (also known as counterfactual histories) have been around in fiction for a very long time. There were a number of books which looked at what Britain might have become had the Nazis won the war. This was also the subject of the film It Happened Here, released in 1963. In 1962, Philip K Dick had published The Man in the High Castle, which depicts an America ruled by the Germans in the East, and by Japan in the West. Other examples of counterfactuals have included stories in which the Roman Empire never fell, or where the South won the American Civil War. These proved popular with the makers of Star Trek, who also did an alternative universe story ("Mirror, Mirror"), but that series had yet to be broadcast in the UK at this time, so can't have influenced the Doctor Who production team.
The alternate Earth of Inferno sees Britain not as a country which lost the last war, but one where perhaps the appeasers won out against those who advocated for war against Hitler's ideological and territorial ambitions back in the late 30's. There was a strong Fascist party in the 1930's - epitomised by Oswald Mosley's Blackshirt movement - and we know that a cabal of Conservative politicians and peers plotted a right wing coup. Edward VIII - the King who never was - was known to be sympathetic towards fascist ideals.
The Britain of Inferno is a republic. When he asks about the Royal Family, the Doctor is told that they were shot. UNIT in this world is replaced with the RSF - Republican Security Force. All of the same people associated both with UNIT and with the drilling project just happen to be in exactly the same positions in the parallel world. The Brigadier is the bullying Brigade Leader (supposedly based on Mussolini), Liz is Section Leader Shaw, and Benton is a Platoon Under-Leader. Stahlman (here Stahlmann) is still leading the project, with Petra Williams at his side. Sir Keith Gold is the ministry man in both versions - though there should be no such thing as a knighthood in the parallel Britain. Drilling expert Greg Sutton is a political prisoner attached to the project here, whilst in our reality he has simply been drafted in to give Sir Keith someone who can explain things to him, and is tolerated by the professor at best.
The one person who does not have a doppelganger is the Doctor himself - suggesting he exists in our universe alone. It won't be until 2008 that an alternative Doctor takes up residence in an alternative universe - the half human one who settles down with Rose.
We haven't mentioned the Primords so far. That's because Houghton didn't mention them either in the beginning. They were added to the story later, to give viewers a monster and to make the seven episodes more interesting and exciting. The name - deriving from "primordial" - are named only in the closing credits for parts five and six, and are never named this on screen.
We mentioned Arthur Conan Doyle's second most famous character creation when looking at The Silurians a couple of weeks ago, citing The Lost World as one of that story's inspirations. Professor Challenger features in another story which is very much an inspiration for Inferno - When the World Screamed. You'll recall that the Doctor claims that if the green liquid were not sealed in its jar it would scream, and he refers to the noise coming from the bore hole as the planet screaming out its rage. This short story was published in 1928, and it features Challenger's attempt to drill down to the mantle in order to prove his theory that the Earth is one giant living organism. His theory is proved correct and the creature is awakened. It shoots out a nasty liquid - just like that mutagenic green slime here.
1965 saw the release of a disaster movie called The Crack in the World, starring Dana Andrews as an obsessive, driven geologist who fails to heed the warnings of his younger colleague. A project to fire an atomic rocket into a bore hole in central Africa, to allow the exploitation of geothermal energy, causes a crack to start splitting the whole planet in two. A second nuclear explosion diverts the crack back towards its source, and the film ends with a huge chunk of Tanganyika being blown into space to become a second Moon. The younger scientist gets the project leader's wife at the end, just as Sutton gets Stahlman's assistant here.
Inferno enjoys a very high reputation amongst fans. Jon Pertwee chose the final episode for inclusion on The Pertwee Years VHS release, and Nicholas Courtney always claimed it was his favourite story. (Courtney's eye-patch story inspired Steven Moffat to have the whole cast wear eye-patch-like eye-drives in The Wedding of River Song, by way of a tribute to Courtney). For DWM's 50th Anniversary poll it was the highest rated Pertwee story, coming in at No.18 overall.
Personally, I do like it but don't rank it that highly. Once the Earth has been destroyed at the conclusion of Episode 6, the final part can be a bit of an anti-climax, as characters repeat things which we saw their alternative selves do a couple of episodes ago, and the Doctor wakes up and hurriedly puts a stop to things.
The making of the story was far from trouble free. The biggest problem was that director Douglas Camfield fell seriously ill after completing the location filming and was part way through the first studio recording block. He had a heart condition. As an experienced director, producer Barry Letts stepped in and completed the block to Camfield's plans. He then had to devise his own plans for the remaining blocks. Camfield's condition was kept quiet, as no-one would have employed him again on insurance grounds. His wife - Sheila Dunn, whom he cast as Petra - forbade him from dong another Doctor Who for several years due to the stress it put him under. The original choice for Miss Williams had actually been Kate O'Mara, but a more attractive job offer from Hammer came along.
Camfield was also permitted to retain the credit for the whole story.
More trouble befell stunt man Alan Chuntz, as he was badly injured in the leg when he failed to jump out of Bessie's way in time. Pertwee was driving, and was incredibly upset by the accident. Another stunt man - Derek Martin - had a joke played on him when his HAVOC team mates swapped his brand new car for a duplicate which they arranged to be smashed up in a faked accident.
The fall from the gasometer by Roy Scammell was the highest ever performed by a stunt man for many years. The character who falls is supposed to be UNIT Private Wyatt, played by Derek Ware, and it is actually Scammell who plays the soldier who shoots him.
One final inspiration before we go has to be yet another mention for the Quatermass serials. We have already pointed out elements from Quatermass II finding their way into Spearhead from Space. The refinery setting here is very reminiscent of scenes from the same serial. The Professor manages to wangle an invite to the Winnerdon Flats complex in the third episode along with the secretive company's PR man Rupert Ward. Ward goes off to investigate one of the chemical tanks by himself, and we see him staggering down a staircase covered in corrosive slime, having fallen into the contents. Scenes with the scientist Bromley and with Private Wyatt look to have been inspired by this.
Inferno proved to be the swan-song for Caroline John as Liz Shaw. Letts had inherited the character and felt that having two know-it-all scientists was a bad combination. The assistant should be younger and, well, dimmer - to ask more questions on behalf of the audience. As it was John was about to resign anyway, as she was pregnant. Letts preempted her, and for many years she thought that she had been gotten rid of because she hadn't been very good. This put her off attending conventions. Sadly, she departs without any kind of farewell scene. This has led some fans to prefer watching this story swapped with the preceding one, where the Doctor sort of hands Liz over to Ralph Cornish at the conclusion.
Next time: Barry Letts finally gets to start making the series the way he wants it, and some significant new characters arrive. The Brigadier gets fatigued, and the Doctor gets a new assistant, as well as a masterful arch enemy...
Tuesday, 24 April 2018
The Lost Boy - SJA 1.5
In which the TV news broadcasts a plea from the parents of a missing boy - and he looks exactly like Luke Smith. Ashley Stafford has not been seen since getting on the Bubble Shock bus five months ago, and now his mother and father, Heidi and Jay, are appealing for the public to help find him. Sarah asks Mr Smith to scan Luke, and he confirms that his DNA matches that of Ashley. The computer is unable to say why this was not identified before.
At the Jackson household, Alan has been threatening to move away from the area, concerned by Maria's new lifestyle. He relents on the condition that she tells him what she is up to at all times. Mum Chrissie then arrives, claiming that she has called the police to report Sarah. They arrive and take Luke and Sarah away. Luke is returned to his parents, whilst Sarah uses her UNIT contacts to gain her release.
The experience leaves Sarah bitter, regretting having opened her heart to the boy. This bitterness extends to his friends, as she begins to shun Clyde and Maria. Mr Smith recommends she take up an investigation to take her mind off things. Sarah goes to the Pharos Institute, run by Professor Celestine Rivers. Here she meets the obnoxious child genius Nathan Goss, and witnesses him using a headset derived from alien technology to boost his telekinetic abilities.
Luke, meanwhile, has discovered his "parents" to be cruel and domineering. Maria and Clyde are forbidden from visiting him, and he is locked in his bedroom. Mr Smith asks Sarah to steal the headset so that it can be studied.
It transpires that Heidi and Jay are Slitheen, their compression units now enabling them to fit into much slimmer bodies. Nathan is also a Slitheen - the child whom Luke had previously encountered when the Slitheen infiltrated his school. They have abducted Luke on the orders of the mysterious Xylok. When Clyde goes to the attic and attempts to get Mr Smith to help him he discovers that the computer is Xylok. It dematerialises him - imprisoning him within its systems.
The Xylok is an alien crystalline lifeform, which crashed to Earth centuries ago. Part of it was given to Sarah to help create Mr Smith, having been found after the eruption of Mount Krakatoa. It plans to release the rest of its kind from the depths of the Earth's crust by destroying the planet. Luke's mental abilities far surpass those of Nathan, and he will be used to shift the Moon out of its orbit to collide with the Earth. The headset will allow him to do this. Clyde is able to tap into Mr Smith's systems and contact his friends via the mobile phone network. Computer Programmer Alan has developed a virus which can delete any computer system. He joins Sarah and Maria as they go to the Pharos Institute to stop the Slitheen. They manage to convince them that the Xylok intends to kill them along with everyone else. They give Sarah a teleport device which enables her to return to the attic where Luke is causing the Moon to approach the Earth. She calls upon K9 to attack Mr Smith, then uses the virus to wipe its memory. She gives it a new set of directives - that it must always defend the Earth - and it helps restore the Moon to its orbit. The Slitheen return to Raxacoricofallapatorius.
The Lost Boy was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 12th and 19th November, 2007.
It marked the conclusion to the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures, and linked directly to the opening story. As such, we have the return of the Slitheen - including the child previously known as Karl. There are also links back to the pilot episode, as it references how Luke had been created by the Bane. Sarah's closing monologue is the same as that from the pilot episode.
Not only does Mr Smith, voiced by Alexander Armstrong, have more of a role to play, it turns out that it is the villain of the piece.
K9 (voiced as usual by John Leeson) makes another cameo appearance, having been seen briefly in the pilot.
The Slitheen no longer have to confine themselves to bodies of a fuller frame, but they are still out for revenge. The child had previously seen his father killed because of Sarah and her friends. One very minor gripe for this first season is the similarity of the threats. In the first story, the Slitheen had targeted the Sun rather than the Moon, and in the Trickster story the Earth had been threatened by another collision - this time a comet.
The main guest artist is Floella Benjamin as Professor Rivers. She came to fame for her children's TV work, including Play School and Play Away. A Liberal Democrat life peer, she is now a Baroness and was awarded an OBE in 2001.
The human Slitheen are played by Jay Simpson (Jay) and Holly Atkins (Heidi). Nathan is Ryan Watson. Their natural Slitheen counterparts are Paul Kasey, Ruari Mears and Jimmy Vee.
Overall, another very good episode of the spin-off series. The first episode is really quite dark and unsettling. The standard has been high throughout. The Sarah Jane Adventures managed a consistent level of quality which even the parent programme could rarely sustain.
Things you might like to know:
- In the police station we see Sarah's UNIT file - and it contains a photograph of her from The Monster of Peladon. Quite how UNIT could have obtained a picture taken in Aggedor's temple on an alien planet is never explained. Surely a photo from one of the half dozen UNIT stories she appeared in would have been more sensible.
- The UNIT dating conundrum is referenced as the file fails to pin down when Sarah was with them.
- The story title was deliberately chosen to mirror the book by Dave Pelzer, who wrote a series of autobiographical works based on his abusive childhood.
- The Pharos Institute was named after the Pharos Project which appeared in Logopolis.
Sunday, 22 April 2018
D is for... Dinosaurs
A diverse range of reptilian species which dominated life on Earth for millions of years, dying out almost overnight around 65 million years ago.
The Doctor was hoping to encounter some when the TARDIS arrived on the island of Atlantis in the late 20th Century. He would not meet any until he was into his third incarnation and in exile on Earth, however.
UNIT was called in to investigate strange events at a scientific research centre built into a cave system in Derbyshire. Two of the centre's scientists had gone pot-holing and were attacked by a large savage reptile. One was killed, and the other driven insane.
When the Doctor investigated the scene of the incident he was also attacked, and recognised the creature as a form of dinosaur - its species unknown to him. It was prevented from killing him when it was called away by a sonic signal. The Doctor deduced that it was some kind of guard, and that there were two different reptile species living in the caves - the dinosaur and a smaller bipedal race who had some advanced science. These latter were the Silurians, who had once been the dominant life-form on the planet. They had gone into hibernation millions of years ago to avoid a catastrophe when a small planetoid threatened to tear away the atmosphere as it passed close to the Earth.
The Silurians were forced to return to hibernation when the research centre appeared to be about to explode, and presumably their dinosaur guard would have gone into suspended animation with them.
After his exile had been lifted, the Doctor and companion Jo Grant found themselves on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. This was the SS Bernice, which had famously vanished in 1926. They witnessed the vessel come under attack from a Plesiosaur. The ship was actually being held as an exhibit in a machine on an alien planet. It is not known if the dinosaur had been picked up from a different point in time and placed into the same exhibit, or if it really had attacked the ship in 1926 and the two had been scooped up together.
Returning to the 20th Century from Medieval England with new companion Sarah Jane Smith, the Doctor found London to be deserted. Investigating a looters' lair, they were attacked by a Pterodactyl. Fleeing arrest by the army, who had placed the city under martial law, they then encountered a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Reunited with UNIT, the Doctor and Sarah learned that a number of dinosaur species had been appearing and disappearing throughout Central London over the last few weeks. Other species included the Stegosaurus, Triceratops and the Apatosaurus (described by Sgt Benton as a Brontosaurus).
These creatures were being brought to the 20th Century by a scientist named Whitaker, as part of a plan to evacuate London in order that a more audacious scheme could be carried out unhindered. Whitaker was part of a group who intended to roll back time to a perceived golden age, free of technology and pollution. Only a few hand-picked individuals would be permitted to accompany them - people who had been duped into thinking they were going to a new planet.
The Doctor attempted to capture one of the dinosaurs so that he could identify where the time travel technology was operating from - only for his efforts to be hampered by Captain Mike Yates, who was a member of the group. Sarah was almost killed when a captive Tyrannosaurus woke up, its chains having been sabotaged.
The Doctor put a stop to the plan, but Whitaker and the group's leader - MP Sir Charles Grover - were sent back to an unspecified time in history.
The next two dinosaur creatures encountered by the Doctor were actually genetically engineered. The Skarasen was not a native species at all, originating on the Zygon homeworld, whilst the Myrka was an unknown aquatic reptile, adapted for use as a weapon by the Sea Devils. It thrived in the deepest oceans and was susceptible to ultra-violet light. Its body carried a powerful electric charge which could kill a human.
The Rani admired the dinosaurs, and had her Time Manipulator scheme worked on the planet Lakertya she might have returned the Earth to the time of the creatures to see how they would have evolved had they not been wiped out. Earlier, she had kept a number of Tyrannosaurus embryos in glass jars in the console room of her TARDIS. When the Doctor sabotaged the ship, sending it hurtling into the future out of control, Time Spillage occurred, and the embryos began to rapidly grow - threatening her and the Master.
When River Song failed to kill the Doctor at Lake Silencio, it created an alternative world in which all of history existed at the same moment in time. Pterodactyls flew over the streets of London, nesting in the parks. People were advised not to feed them as they were regarded as little more than flying vermin.
In the year 2367, a large spaceship was found to be on a collision course with the Earth. The Indian Space Agency called on the Doctor for help. He put together a team of friends, including companions Amy and Rory Williams, and went to investigate. The ship proved to be an Ark, launched into space by the Silurians at the same time that they had gone into hibernation on Earth. It was now on its automated return journey - its Silurian crew having been murdered by the trader Solomon.
On board the ship were a number of different dinosaur species, including Ankylosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodons and Velociraptors. A Triceratops became quite friendly with Rory's dad, Brian, even playing fetch with him. The Doctor, Rory and Brian rode on the creature's back to escape from Solomon's robot servants. It was later killed by one of the robots on Solomon's orders. The Doctor managed to stop the authorities from destroying the Ark with a missile strike and sent the spaceship off to a new uninhabited planet where the dinosaurs could live, which he named "Siluria".
Following his next regeneration, the Doctor was unable to control the TARDIS and it crash-landed on prehistoric Earth. The ship was swallowed by a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was then brought forward in time to the late Victorian era when the ship dematerialised whilst still inside it. The Silurian detective Madam Vastra knew how to placate the creature, which was confined to the Thames by the Houses of Parliament. The Doctor planned on taking the dinosaur home, but it was killed by the Half-Face Man - a clockwork 'droid who required a piece of its optic nerve to repair his own systems. The Doctor deduced that the 'droids must have crashed on Earth at the time of the dinosaurs for them to have known this would be compatible.
During his fifth incarnation, the Doctor and his companions found themselves in a cave system full of dinosaur fossils. He told Tegan and Nyssa of the theories surrounding how the creatures came to be extinct, including the impact of a massive asteroid onto the Earth's surface. He stated that he had always meant to travel back and find out for himself. Subsequent events would allow him to witness what had really happened. It was not an asteroid which hit the Earth, but a space freighter from the 26th Century whose guidance systems had been overridden by the Cybermen. His young companion Adric had attempted to disconnect this device, causing the ship to hurtle back through time some 65 million years. Adric perished in the collision which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, and ultimately to the evolution of the human race.
Appearances: The Silurians (1970), Carnival of Monsters (1973), Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974), Earthshock (1982), Warriors of the Deep (1984), Mark of the Rani (1985), The Wedding of River Song (2011), Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012), Deep Breath (2014).
Posted by GerryD at 23:52 No comments:
D is for... Dill, Morton
A young man from Alabama who was visiting the Empire State Building in New York in 1966 when it saw the landing of the TARDIS, followed soon after by the arrival of a pursuing Dalek time machine. Morton was on his own when the TARDIS materialised. Seeing four people emerge from the ship, he assumed them to be making a movie - having seen lots of people come out of a small space in Keystone Kop films. He was about to take a photograph when the TARDIS dematerialised, but it was quickly followed by the landing of the Dalek craft. Again, he assumed this must be part of a movie, and he found the Daleks' appearance hilarious. He managed to miss another photo opportunity as they departed. When the rest of his tour party came back to join him, they found him trying to find a concealed trap door. Fearing he had gone mad, the tour guide was worried he might jump from the building and went to fetch help.
Played by: Peter Purves. Appearances: The Chase (1965).
- Morton appears in the third episode only - Flight Through Eternity.
- Purves had previously auditioned to be a Menoptra for director Richard Martin but had been unsuccessful. Martin took note of him, though, and cast him as Morton. The production team were looking for someone to play the new male companion, astronaut Steven Taylor - to be introduced at the end of The Chase. Martin and producer Verity Lambert were impressed with Purves and so offered him the more substantial second role over a drink in "Studio 3" - the nickname for the pub close to Riverside Studios.
Posted by GerryD at 22:16 No comments:
D is for... Dido People
The inhabitants of the planet Dido were described by the Doctor as friendly, peace-loving race. They cherished life as they were few in number. On a second visit to the planet he was therefore surprised to hear that one of them had attacked Ian and Barbara. This was an individual named Koquillion, who appeared to be an insectoid creature, armed with a bejewelled club. The Doctor recognised this implement not as a weapon but a building tool, which the Didonians had just developed on his last visit. He knew that Koquillion was really a human in disguise, as the Dido People were actually humanoid. The monstrous garb worn by Koquillion - really an Earthman named Bennett - was a ceremonial mask and robes, used in their ritual rites only.
When a spaceship from Earth crashed on the planet, the locals people welcomed the survivors as friends. A great feast was organised, but Bennett waited until everyone was gathered before blowing them up. This was to hide the fact that he had committed a murder on the spaceship. A girl named Vicki was left alive to provide him with an alibi, and he pretended to be Koquillion so that she would testify as to the cruelty of the Didonians. Bennett believed he had killed all of the locals, but as he was about to murder the Doctor two of them appeared in their shrine. Terrified, he fled and fell to his death in a ravine. The Didonians took the unconscious Doctor to the TARDIS, then destroyed the radio beacon which was guiding a rescue ship to the planet - determined that no more humans should ever plague their world.
Played by: John Stuart and Colin Hughes. Appearances: The Rescue (1965).
Posted by GerryD at 21:57 No comments:
Thursday, 19 April 2018
Inspirations - The Ambassadors of Death
There will be a number of stories during the Pertwee era where topical issues have found their way into the writing, but the topicality of The Ambassadors of Death was unplanned.
On the afternoon of 11th April, 1970, Apollo 13 blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre. Two days later the Service Module was damaged by an exploding oxygen tank. The planned lunar landing had to be aborted, and the three man crew were forced to use the Landing Module as though it were a lifeboat. They survived, and succeeded in returning to Earth on 17th April.
On 21st March, 1970, this Doctor Who story opened, and it was being broadcast through the period when the world was avidly watching as the Apollo 13 drama play out.
This story opens with a manned space mission going wrong. This is a mission to Mars rather than the Moon, however. The Probe 7 ship is on its way back to Earth, and Mission Control have lost contact with its crew. A Recovery vessel is sent up to rendezvous with it - and contact is lost with that as well.
The opening sequence features actor Michael Wisher - the first on screen appearance for the future Davros - acting as a sort of Greek Chorus, setting the scene without resorting to clumsy info-dumps. He's a TV presenter, based in Mission Control. By now the audience would be used to seeing this sort of environment, as the Apollo programme was in full swing.
The spaceship sequences are made to look as authentic as possible, with craft clearly based on the real thing - again because the viewers now knew what spacecraft looked like. They are backed with a piece of Dudley Simpson music which sounds as if it might have been inspired by Procul Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale - which was in turn inspired by Bach. 2001: A Space Odyssey had popularised the notion that classical music went with spaceships.
Once again UNIT are already involved in the proceedings, and the Brigadier is present in the control room. The Doctor, meanwhile, has managed to get the TARDIS console out of the Police Box shell, in order to carry out repairs and try to get it working again.
The previous story had been the first to be entirely TARDIS free (barring Mission to the Unknown).
The new production team did not want to have to use up studio space with the Police Box prop, or with the console room set, hence the free-standing console. It was never explained how the console could be separated from the ship.
The Doctor gets involved in the main plot after seeing the Brigadier on TV, and then hearing a bizarre signal which is broadcast to Mission Control.
The story is credited to David Whitaker, the show's original Story Editor, and it is his last work for the programme. He was asked by Derrick Sherwin and Terrance Dicks to come up with a "First Contact" storyline. Earlier titles included "Invaders from Mars" and "Carriers of Death". Once again, to minimise costs, this would be another 7 part story.
The work which Whitaker submitted was not deemed right for the new format. He was asked to do rewrites, but these were also rejected. Dicks and his assistant Trevor Ray helped as best they could, virtually rewriting the first section in order to steer Whitaker onto the correct course. Whitaker was in the process of moving from the UK so was unable to keep up with what was being asked of him, and eventually it was decided that Malcolm Hulke should be brought in to complete the bulk of the story.
What we can credit to Whitaker is the concept of aliens substituting astronauts with their ambassadors in order to make contact with the Earth authorities, and their subsequent capture and manipulation by a criminal. It was his idea that the alien ambassadors would be unwitting killers, owing to their radioactive touch - hence the "Carriers of Death" working title.
The xenophobic General Carrington being the brains behind the abduction, we can ascribe to Hulke.
Carrington's irrational fear of the unlike is typical Hulke material. Many of his stories deal with topical issues such as immigration and race relations.
The story's troubled development may explain why characters suddenly vanish after the opening couple of episodes - such as Carrington's mustachioed second-in-command - and the gangster Reegan's appearance from out of nowhere in Episode 3.
New producer Barry Letts was unhappy with the 7 episode format. True, it was money-saving. He only needed three lots of costumes and three lots of sets for his first season, but he was denied more "first nights". It was believed that the opening episode of a new story attracted more viewers, as they tuned in to see what new planets and aliens were on offer. Casual viewers then drifted away, perhaps returning for the conclusion only.
The longer stories were also harder to maintain, plot-wise. This is why we have mid-story diversions, just to pad things out and offer something fresh for the regular viewers. Last time it was a plague subplot, and this time we get to see the Doctor make a solo space flight to find out what happened to the real astronauts. He is taken aboard the alien mothership and meets its commander, learning about the ambassadors switch - and that the aliens will destroy the Earth if they are not returned unharmed. The actors who play the real astronauts also play their alien counterparts, hidden in their spacesuits.
Some reused props on show here. The interior of the space capsule was a co-production with the Doomwatch series, to reduce costs. It was also seen in their episode Re-Entry Forbidden, broadcast only a few days before it was first seen here. The spacesuit helmets originated from the 1969 Hammer film Moon Zero Two. This had been a Western in Space, its plot based on a Gold Rush scenario.
As well as the various writers involved in this production, what we see on screen can also in part be put down to the director, Michael Ferguson, and to the stunt team of HAVOC. Ferguson had worked on the series since the first Dalek story. Indeed, you could say he was the first Dalek, as it was he who threatened Jacqueline Hill with a plunger in the first cliffhanger, and it was his gloved hand which emerged from beneath the Thal cloak for the third one. That hand also tapped Carole Ann Ford on the shoulder in the petrified forest. HAVOC was led by Derek Ware. He had also been involved in the series from its earliest days - indeed he was there at the Ealing pre-filming for the first story.
The script called for a shoot-out in a warehouse, and for the hijacking of a convoy carrying the space capsule. A few lines on paper became major stunt set-pieces - especially the hijacking. As written, the lorry was to have been stopped, its occupants knocked out, and the vehicle driven off by the villains.
What we get includes motorbike spills and a helicopter dropping gas grenades, with Ware hanging onto and then falling off the skids. One of the motorbike stunts went out of control and the bike hit a member of the production team - Director's Assistant Pauline Silcock. She later lent her name to one of the disguises for Reegan's van. (The other was the AFM Margot Hayhoe).
The whole sequence sent the production over budget. Letts learned a valuable lesson when Ferguson pointed out that, as producer, it was his job to hold the director back.
As mentioned above, Reegan suddenly appears in the third episode, to become General Carrington's chief henchman. He actually seems to forget about his boss' plans, and sees the alien ambassadors as a way to make money - robbing banks etc. He's played by William Dysart, who had featured briefly in The Highlanders. His accent is hard to place, and it has been stated that he and his team were supposed to have been Irish - basically members of a paramilitary group such as the IRA. This was evidently felt to be too strong a reference and was dropped, making him a more generic gangster.
Talking of accents, Professor Taltalian sports ze most outrageous Fronch acczent since Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We won't hear the like again until Anthony Ainley attempts to convince us that he is Sir Gilles Estram.
There's a 1967 episode of The Avengers called The Positive-Negative Man which we need to mention before we close. A man named Hayworth wears rubber boots to insulate himself as he can discharge powerful electric bolts by touch. He goes round killing people, and breaking into safes. Some of the imagery from this episode has clearly made its way into this.
Finally, we welcome the return of UNIT's Benton, now a sergeant. He doesn't show up until quite late in the proceedings - hence his absence from the pre-filmed exterior stuff such as the Brigadier's attack on the underground bunker to free the Doctor and Liz. That's because he was only drafted in because director Douglas Camfield wanted to use John Levene in his upcoming story.
Next time: The Doctor sees double after parallel parking the TARDIS...
Tuesday, 17 April 2018
Story 192 - Planet of the Ood
In which the Doctor takes Donna to her first alien world. The planet they land on is the icy Ood-Sphere, which the Doctor recognises as being in the same region of space as the Sense-Sphere. As they head across the snowy landscape they come upon an injured Ood. It has been shot. It tells them that "the circle must be broken" before becoming rabid, its eyes glowing red. The creature dies, and the Doctor and Donna make their way to an industrial complex where a spaceship has just landed. This has brought Klineman Halpen to the planet. He is the Managing Director of Ood Operations. He has come to personally supervise investigations into a number of unexplained deaths, as well as a blight which is affecting some of the Ood - "Red-Eye". Halpen has brought with him his personal Ood servant - Ood Sigma. It regularly feeds him a hair restorative, as he feels stress is making him lose his hair. The Doctor and Donna manage to join a tour of the complex, and discover that Ood are sold across three galaxies, forming the Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire. The creatures claim to be natural servants, knowing no other way how to live, but the Doctor doubts that such a race could ever evolve.
Halpen is told that the deaths were caused by Ood becoming infected with Red-Eye. He discusses the problem with Dr Ryder, who asks to see inside Warehouse 15, where the source of the malady might lie. This contains a secret hidden by Halpen's ancestors. The Doctor and Donna decide to explore away from the organised tour. They find warehouses full of containers packed with Ood, ready to be transported to slavery across the Empire. They also tell of the circle that must be broken. Donna finds herself trapped in a container with Ood who are exhibiting Red-Eye, whilst the Doctor is captured by Ood Operations' sadistic security chief Kess. They escape when all of the captive Ood suddenly begin to show the glowing red eyes. Halpen orders Kess to use toxic gas to destroy them all. The Doctor can hear a strange singing, which leads him to a bunker in which he and Donna find natural Ood. They see that the creatures should have a small secondary brain which they hold in their hands. Ood Operations surgically remove these and replace them with the translator spheres. The Doctor allows Donna to hear their plaintive song of captivity.
They are recaptured as an Ood rebellion breaks out. Kess is overpowered and killed by the gas he was gong to use on the creatures. Halpen plans to destroy the whole complex - starting with the secret of Warehouse 15. The Doctor and Donna manage to convince the Ood that they are their friends. Ood Sigma points the Doctor and Donna towards the Warehouse where Halpen has rigged up explosives. The Doctor and Donna enter, and find that the secret is a gigantic brain, discovered 200 years ago under a glacier - the third component of the Oods' complex physiology. The brain binds the Ood telepathically, but an electrical force-field has cut them off from it. This is the circle which must be broken. Dr Ryder admits that he is an agent for "Friends of the Ood", and has reduced the level of the forcefield - leading to the Red-Eye phenomenon as the brain manages to exert some influence over the Ood. Halpen kills him. He is going to kill the Doctor and Donna next when he starts to feel ill. Ood Sigma reveals that the hair tonic has really been an Ood-graft solution. Halpen is turned into an Ood. The Doctor turns off the force-field and the Ood are reunited telepathically across the stars. Their slavery is at an end. Ood Sigma bids the Doctor and Donna farewell and tells them that songs will be sung about them, but it has an ominous message for the Doctor when it tells him that his song must end soon...
Planet of the Ood was written by Keith Temple, and was first broadcast on 19th April, 2008. This has been Temple's only Doctor Who story, though he did write an illustrated piece for the BBC's website later in the year. He was known to Russell T Davies through them both having worked on Children's Ward in the 1990's.
The Ood hadn't originally meant to feature in the Series 2 story The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit, but once they had been created they proved to be very popular, especially amongst younger viewers. Davies had been dissatisfied at the way they were treated in that story. They were clearly a slave race, yet the Doctor hadn't questioned this or done anything about it - which he really ought to have done. He hadn't even saved them at the conclusion. Davies asked for a story which showcased the creatures, and tackled some of these unresolved issues. The slavery aspect would be highlighted, and this is what the Doctor would fight against.
This episode was originally slated to be the second story of the season, but was swapped with The Fires of Pompeii. Watching the opening TARDIS scene, it does appear that this is Donna's first trip in the ship, and the trauma of seeing thousands of men, women and children perish seems to have been quickly forgotten.
The principle guest artist is Tim McInnerny, who plays Halpen. At the time he was trying to avoid guest star roles, but made an exception for this as it was Doctor Who, and he was getting to play an out and out villain. He had first come to prominence for his various nice-but-dim roles in the Blackadder series.
Ood Sigma is regular alien performer Paul Kasey. Kess is played by Roger Griffiths. Dr Ryder is Adrian Rawlins - Harry Potter's dad, though also remembered for the TV adaptation of The Woman In Black. Ood Operations' PR person, Solana Mercurio, is played by Ayesha Dharker. She had played the Queen of Naboo in the second of the Star Wars prequels - Attack of the Clones.
- The Doctor and Donna are once more assumed to be a married couple.
- First mention of the phrase "Doctor-Donna".
- The fact that bees are going missing is mentioned for the second time.
- Ood Sigma.
- The Doctor is told that his song will soon be ending.
Overall, a good story, but not quite a great one. As it is directed by Graeme Harper, it naturally rattles along at a fair pace. Catherine Tate continues to shine when she is given the more emotional scenes to play.
Things you might like to know:
- Russell T Davies had wanted the look of the Sensorites to be used as an inspiration for the Ood for their first appearance, and this connection led to the Doctor's reference to the Sense-Sphere in this story.
- The Doctor is delighted to see real snow - a reference to the Christmas Specials' running joke about the snow never being the real thing.
- The snowscape scenes were actually filmed on a very hot August day.
- Donna is revealed to be a West Ham supporter - an East London football team - despite being a resident of Chiswick, which is in West London. Fulham or Queens Park Rangers would be her local teams.
- Halpen's transformation into an Ood was much more graphic, but was cut back due to the early evening broadcast. It still caused the DVD release to be given a "12" certificate, as opposed to the usual PG (Parental Guidance). Some of the transformation scene had to be reshot later, but McInnerny was unavailable, so one of the production team stepped in - despite being camera shy.
- One continuity error is Solana stating that no alcohol is allowed in the complex - yet we later see the buyers clearly intoxicated and mentioning the free bar.
- There has been some discussion amongst fans about the chronology of this story and the Impossible Planet one. Pre-publicity stated that this would show how the Ood came to be enslaved - making people think it would be a prequel. That would mean that Ood are still enslaved after events shown here. This story does tell us how they came to be enslaved, as well as showing how that slavery ended.
- At the end of the story, the Doctor does not seem to have really deserved songs being sung about him. He doesn't actually contribute that much to the Oods' freedom, save for being the one who switched off the force-field - which he simply asked if he could do once the Ood had freed themselves. Dr Ryder deserves more of a song - and Ood Sigma himself of course.
- Interviewed about the notion of a subservient race - one that naturally wishes to serve others - David Tennant referenced the work of Richard Dawkins, who was married to Lalla (Romana II) Ward for a number of years, and who has a cameo spot at the end of this season.
- One of the Ood actors - Peter Symonds - once played a Zygon in Terror of the Zygons.
Sunday, 15 April 2018
D is for... Dickens, Charles
The Doctor and Rose Tyler encountered the celebrated writer Charles Dickens at Christmas, 1869. He was in the city of Cardiff on a reading tour, appearing at the Taliesin Lodge. He was feeling maudlin, conscious of his years and disturbed that he felt alienated from his family. During a reading from A Christmas Carol, he witnessed the appearance of a gaseous alien Gelth, which had taken over the corpse of an old woman named Mrs Pearce. He allowed the Doctor to make use of his carriage to give chase to the hearse belonging to Mr Sneed, who had abducted Rose and from whose funeral parlour Mrs Pearce had escaped. Dickens refused to accept the Doctor's stories of alien creatures, to the point that the Time Lord became angry with him. He was convinced that the Gelth were mere trickery. After a seance in which Sneed's maid Gwyneth made contact with the creatures, he realised that he was wrong. Such creatures did indeed exist. When Gwyneth allowed the Gelth to materialise in greater numbers - at the instigation of the Doctor - they realised that they were not the benign refugees they made themselves out to be. Dickens fled the house, pursued by one of the aliens, and witnessed how it could not survive in the atmosphere outside of a human host. It was drawn into a nearby gas lamp.
This gave him the idea to flood the building with gas, sucking the Gelth out of their hosts. Gwyneth then sacrificed herself to blow up the house and cut off their means of reaching Earth.
The encounter gave Dickens a new lease of life. He was determined to have "Blue Elementals" feature in his still unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The Doctor assured him that his work would live on forever. He decided to set off for London to spend the rest of Christmas with his family. The Doctor pointed out to Rose that this would be his last Christmas, as he would die in 1870, and Edwin Drood would remain unfinished.
In an alternative timeline in which all of history existed at the same moment in time, created after River Song failed to assassinate the Doctor at Lake Silencio, Charles Dickens was appearing on the BBC breakfast news to promote his latest Christmas TV Special.
Played by: Simon Callow. Appearances: The Unquiet Dead (2005), The Wedding of River Song (2011).
- Callow is a bit of a Dickens expert, having written a book about him as well as playing him a number of times on stage (in a one man show), on TV and in films.
- He also provided the voice for one of the Blathereen, orange-skinned cousins of the Slitheen, in the Sarah Jane Adventures story The Gift.
Posted by GerryD at 22:56 No comments:
D is for... Dicken
A junior member of the acid mining operation run by Morpeth Jetsan on an island off the coast of England. Each of the crew members used avatars composed of a substance known as the Flesh to carry out the more hazardous tasks. These Gangers had all the memories and personalities of their originals. A solar flare caused the Gangers to become independent beings, who rebelled against their slave-like status. The real Dicken sacrificed himself to slow down the Flesh Jennifer and allow his friends to escape. His Ganger survived, and was taken by the Doctor, along with crew chief Cleaves, to the HQ of Morpeth Jetsan to argue for Ganger rights.
Played by: Leon Vickers. Appearances: The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People (2011).
Posted by GerryD at 22:21 No comments:
D is for... Dibber
A young criminal from the planet Salostopus, whom the intergalactic conman and racketeer Sabalom Glitz met in prison. The two became partners in crime for a while. Dibber was with Glitz when they were commissioned by the Master to steal secrets which had been plundered from the Matrix by Andromedan spies. These secrets were hidden on the planet Ravolox - really the Earth, which had been moved through space by the High Council of Time Lords in order to conceal the theft. The secrets were guarded by the L3 robot known as Drathro, which had been tasked with looking after the Andromedans whilst they were in suspended animation awaiting rescue. The robot was powered by a Black Light Converter, which local tribesfolk revered as a sacred totem. Dibber blew this up, causing a catastrophic power build-up to begin which might have blown up half the galaxy had the Doctor not stopped it. The secrets were destroyed when the L3 melted, but Dibber pointed out to Glitz that they could make a fortune from the pieces of the converter.
Played by: Glen Murphy. Appearances: The Trial of a Time Lord (Parts 1-4, AKA The Mysterious Planet) (1986).
Posted by GerryD at 22:05 No comments:
D is for... Diagoras
When the Cult of Skaro used an emergency temporal shift to escape to New York City in the early part of the 20th Century, they made a psychic connection with Mr Diagoras. They admired his ruthlessness and ambition, and the fact that he had been a warrior - having fought in the Great War. He had started out as a building foreman, but had ambitions to one day take over the city. Diagoras was tasked with completing the construction of the Empire State Building, so that it would be ready to act as a lightning conductor for a gamma ray burst which was due to strike the planet. This would provide the energy required to create an army of human-Dalek hybrid soldiers. Diagoras had a ready supply of workers from amongst the dispossessed inhabitants of the Hooverville shanty town. Some were turned into pig-slaves, and others were used to create the new army. The Cult's leader, Dalek Sec, had a further experiment in mind - a means of allowing the Daleks to leave their protective shells. It selected Diagoras to become part of this experiment, as it merged with him to become the first of a new race of human-Dalek hybrids. Some of his humanity lingered in the new hybrid, which caused the other members of the Cult to turn on him. The Diagoras-Sec hybrid sacrificed itself to save the Doctor.
Played by: Eric Loren. Appearances: Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks (2007).
Posted by GerryD at 21:44 No comments:
D is for... Dexter, Miss
A young woman who acted as an agent for Harold Saxon. She befriended Francine Jones, Martha Jones' mother, and monitored phone calls which her daughter made to her whilst she was travelling with the Doctor. On the day after his election as Prime Minister, Saxon had her attempt to ensnare Martha - using her father as well as her mother to try to talk her into visiting their home where she could be captured. When Martha's father shouted out a warning, he was arrested, and Saxon gave Miss Dexter orders for the whole family to be rounded up.
Played by: Elize du Toit. Appearances: 42, The Sound of Drums (both 2007).
- She is credited only as "Sinister Woman" for both episodes, but du Toit was told that this was her character's name.
Posted by GerryD at 21:21 No comments:
D is for... Dexeter
The chief scientist of the Starliner community on the planet Alzarius. His researches into a spider species which laid its eggs in riverfruit, a staple foodstuff, led him to consider genetic links with his own people. He informed the Chief Decider, Draith, of his theories and asked permission to study the archives in the Hall of Books. Draith declined the request, as he already knew of the community's evolutionary secret. When a Marshchild was captured on the Starliner, the Deciders gave Dexeter permission to experiment on it. He was about to operate on it when it broke free of its bonds and killed him. The Doctor later discovered that the Starliner people were not explorers from Terradon as they believed, but the descendants of the Marshmen.
Played by: Tony Calvin. Appearances: Full Circle (1980).
Posted by GerryD at 21:10 No comments:
Thursday, 12 April 2018
Inspirations - The Silurians
As Terrance Dicks tells it, when he heard about the new Earthbound format for Doctor Who, writer Malcolm Hulke thought it a bad idea - claiming that you would only be left with two kinds of story: alien invasion or mad scientist. When you look at the run of stories from Spearhead From Space through to The Three Doctors, when the Doctor's exile is lifted, it may surprise the casual viewer to know that neither of these things feature prominently. It is claimed that the Pertwee / UNIT era consists entirely of alien invasions of the Home Counties, but this is simply not the case at all. Derbyshire isn't one of the Home Counties...
I jest. This story shows that you could have the Doctor encounter an "alien" invasion that isn't. The Silurians were already here, in hibernation for millions of years, whilst we evolved and invaded their territory. They've woken up and, naturally, want their planet back. Imagine you went abroad for a year and left your house locked up. You get back and find it overrun with mice. What do you do? Live in peaceful co-existence? I think not.
There is a mad scientist of sorts in this story, but he's only driven that way by infection by the Silurians' plague. Prior to that, Dr Lawrence is simply obsessive, hubristic and inflexible. The Cyclotron is his baby, and he has staked his reputation on it working. When it starts to fail, he cannot envisage that it is due to prehistoric lizard people, even when confronted by the evidence. He is one of those people who twist the facts to suit their theories, rather than the other way round.
As the Fourth Doctor once said (in The Face of Evil): "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't change their views to fit the facts. They change the facts to fit their views".
Before we proceed with the story, a word about what was going on behind the scenes. This is the first story to be produced by Barry Letts. He had directed a Patrick Troughton story - The Enemy of the World - during which he spent some time talking to the star about the unsatisfactory working conditions he was forced to put up with. These included giving up days off to do location filming (and missing rehearsals for the same reason), plus lack of holidays. Letts took this away with him, and from now on there would be fewer stories per season, and filming would not impact on other productions quite as much.
Letts was not the BBC's first choice to take over from Derrick Sherwin. They wanted someone else who had directed for the show - Douglas Camfield - but he declined. Subsequent events would show that this was a lucky break. If directing a story could leave Camfield seriously ill, producing the series might have killed him.
Letts had been a promising film star, but the war intervened. After serving with the Navy he went back into film, only to find his potential star status diminished. He went into TV instead, and worked on many serials in the 1950's and '60's, but decided that directing would be a safer long-term option for him. When offered the producership of Doctor Who, he only agreed on the condition that he could direct the odd story himself. As it was, he not only produced and directed but wrote for the series as well.
This was Malcolm Hulke's first solo writing credit for the series. He had tried to have stories produced ever since the programme started, but so far had collaborated with other writers on two scripts. With David Ellis he had written The Faceless Ones, and with Terrance Dicks he had written the mammoth The War Games. We should mention at this point that this story is the only one to have ever been broadcast with "Doctor Who and..." as part of its on screen title - thanks to a breakdown in communications with the people who prepared the captions. When it came to the Target novelisation, Hulke totally renamed the story as "The Cave Monsters". Good job, as otherwise it might have ended up "Doctor Who and Doctor Who and the Silurians".
One inspiration for the story is immediately apparent when we see how encountering a dinosaur whilst pot-holing has reduced one of the scientists to drawing on walls, the way that one of our prehistoric ancestors might have painted the walls of their cave. The experience has caused the man to regress - acting out a race memory. Last week, we looked at how Quatermass II had influenced aspects of Spearhead From Space. This week, it is to Quatermass and the Pit that we need to look.
The unearthing of a crashed Martian spaceship on a Knightsbridge building site triggers race memories in certain individuals. This is because the Martians, nearing extinction, had taken ape-like men from Earth and genetically engineered them to carry Martian traits, so that the race would live on through them. The people affected are then influenced by psychic emanations from the spaceship to reenact the ancient culls, which targeted those genetically different. Nigel Kneale's story was itself inspired by recent race riots - with the like attacking the not-like.
This is the first of a run of stories which is centred around a large scientific establishment, and the first of several which feature scientists striving to come up with alternative power sources. Our reliance on gas and oil was topical at the time - especially when it had to be imported and we were at the mercy of the oil-producing nations when it came to supplies and prices. A couple of years before we had Fury From The Deep, which was topical as gas supplies were switching over to safer North Sea Gas at the time, and writer Victor Pemberton wanted to tap into fears about some little understood substance being piped directly into peoples' homes.
Here we have the Cyclotron project, built into a cave system in Derbyshire. (The county is never named in the story, by the way. Liz merely states that the part of the country they have been summoned to by the Brigadier is famous for its caves. It is only in the sequel of sorts - The Sea Devils - that Derbyshire is specifically mentioned).
The first Cyclotron was invented in 1929 by Ernest O Lawrence at the University of California, Berkeley. Basically, atomic and subatomic particles are accelerated by sending them spinning round a toroidal machine, held in their circular path by a magnetic field. They are used for experimenting into the nature of particles, and have a medical application, but they don't do much for electricity generation.
Apparently Lex Luthor once used one to trigger an earthquake...
The name Silurian comes from one of the scientists - Dr Quinn. He's a particle physicist, which might explain his lack of knowledge regarding geological epochs. The Silurian Epoch began some 444 million years ago, lasting until 419 million years ago. There would have been no small furry apes around to steal the Silurians' crops back then. There was a lot going on in the oceans, but on land all we had were plants and some basic arthropods. Hulke has the Silurians co-exist with ape-like mammals and dinosaurs, so he was probably thinking of the Jurassic Epoch (201 million years ago, lasting until 145 millions years ago), or the Cretaceous Epoch which followed it, and lasted up until 65 million years ago, when a time-travelling space freighter crashed into the Earth.
We'll talk about the Eocene Epoch, and how wrong that was as well, when we get to The Sea Devils...
Quinn has been given a globe of the Earth as it was at the time the Silurians went into hibernation. This shows the land masses bunched up, before plate tectonics separated them into the "Classic Earth" design we have today. (I hope you're paying attention to all these other story references - there'll be a quiz later). The idea of "continental drift" was first espoused by a meteorologist named Alfred Wegener in 1915. He saw the continents as being like icebergs, floating on lava. Over millions of years they drifted apart from one large land mass, which later became known as Pangaea. Geologists argued about this for decades, and it wasn't until the late 1950's that people began to accept the theory. At the time of writing this story, this was all quite new.
Pangaea lay mostly in the southern hemisphere, and it formed 335 million years ago. The break up began around 175 million years ago. The name comes from Pan as in All, and Gaia, as in the Mother Earth goddess. As well as a super continent, we also had a super ocean - Panthalassa.
Silurian can also refer to the Silures - an ancient Celtic tribe who were based in southern Wales. There's a Silurian Place in Cardiff, and a Silurian Park near the bay.
The Silurians have gone into hibernation because they have observed the approach of a small planetoid which they fear will rip away their atmosphere as it passes, devastating the surface of the planet. This is generally taken to be the arrival of the Moon - but we all know that this is a giant egg laid by a space dragon. Now, there are three less nonsensical theories about how the Moon was formed. The popular one is that the Earth was hit by a smaller planet (Theia). Part of this was absorbed by the Earth, and the rest formed the Moon - which is why rocks from both Earth and our satellite can be the same. A second theory is that the Moon was formed from several smaller impacts. The third theory is that the Earth and Moon were formed simultaneously, the Earth grabbing the lion's share of material. No-one seriously believes it drifted into orbit fully formed.
Some other possible inspirations behind this story, literary this time might include Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, and Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Doyle's other famous creation was Professor Challenger. We'll be talking about him again in a couple of stories time, but The Lost World sees contemporary explorers encountering living dinosaurs. The 1925 movie version has Challenger bring a Brontosaurus back to London, where it escapes and wrecks Tower Bridge.
Bulwer-Lytton wrote a book in 1871 called Vril: The Power of the Coming Race, sometimes simply titled The Coming Race. This tells of a threat to the planet from a technologically superior master race who live beneath the surface of the Earth and who want to reclaim the surface. Vril is a magical substance that can do almost anything - a bit like Axonite - and is the source of the master race's power. It gave its name to Bovril - the popular beef extract drink. The book was very popular, especially amongst Hollow Earthers and neo-Nazis.
Bulwer-Lytton can be credited with a number of phrases which have entered common parlance, by the way. "The pen is mightier than the sword" comes from his play Richelieu; he coined the phrase "the great unwashed"; and he was the first writer to begin a story with "It was a dark and stormy night...".
As well as inheriting the Earthbound format for the show, Letts also found that Sherwin had commissioned three 7 episode stories. In order to sustain these, Dicks helped devise sub-plots, allowing the action to go off at a slight tangent for a couple of episodes. Here we have the Silurians releasing their plague bacteria to wipe out the upstart apes - giving us a medical drama part way through the story, as the Doctor strives to find an antidote. Germ warfare was as much of a concern as the atomic variety at the time.
One final inspiration before we go relates to the early scenes where a farmer and his wife encounter something nasty hiding in their barn. Many is the thriller in which an escaped convict or spy is found in this way, but quite a few monsters and aliens have picked barns for their hiding places as well. Just one example which springs to mind is a sequence from the excellent 1958 British science fiction film Fiend Without A face.
Next time: we bid adieu to one of the formative influences on Doctor Who, as David Whitaker gets his final screen credit. Sadly, what we get has very little to do with him...
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