Thursday 28 June 2018

Inspirations - The Sea Devils


Malcolm Hulke was keen to further explore the moral questions thrown up by his earlier story, The Silurians, and so was eager to write a follow-up revolving around the Earth's original masters. Rather than feature the same land-based creatures, however, he envisaged an encounter with their marine cousins. They are known as the Sea Devils, though that name is given to them only by a deranged workman who has seen his colleague killed by them. By the time of their next appearance, a decade later, the name has stuck and even the Silurians are using it.
Barry Letts and Jon Pertwee had both served in the Royal Navy during World War II. Pertwee had been transferred off of HMS Hood just before it was destroyed by the Bismarck at the Battle of the Denmark Strait - his recollections of losing everyone he had known on that vessel upsetting him to his dying day. Throughout his time on Doctor Who, Pertwee had continued to record the hit BBC radio comedy The Navy Lark. Hulke had also served with the Navy. Though he hadn't joined the series when The Invasion was filmed, Letts would have known of the co-operation his predecessor had been given with the Army on that show. For The Mind of Evil, co-operation had been sought and granted from the RAF. Hoping to make use of more than just stock footage, Letts approached the Senior Service (the Royal Navy) to see if use could be made of some of their ships and other facilities. Permission was given - especially once the Navy heard that the other services had already assisted with the programme. The one main stipulation was that the RN would be seen in a positive light.


The Master had been captured at the conclusion to The Daemons at the end of the previous season, and it was felt that the time was right to have him return. He would be seen in captivity, but would be manipulating his gaolers and be in league with the Sea Devils. He would escape at the conclusion - so that he would be free to feature in the season finale, now that it had lost the Daleks to the opener.
Hulke had written well for the Master in Colony in Space.
Following the production of Season 8, Letts had taken a long holiday and he took Hulke's scripts with him. One of the things he wanted to change was the geological era claimed for the origins of the Silurians. This made it into the dialogue as the Doctor blames Dr Quinn for getting it wrong, and correcting it to the Eocene epoch. That was 56 to 33 million years ago - so allowed for the mammals hated by the Silurians. However, it was well after the end of the dinosaurs, so just as problematic.
The director chosen was the one from that previous Master story - Michael E Briant. He had not served in the Navy, but had a relative in the Merchant Navy and had been born in the coastal town of Bournemouth. He had a love of the sea, which helped when it later came to directing the BBC mini-series of Treasure Island (1977) and a number of episodes of 1980's yacht club-based drama Howard's Way. He has sailed round the world and written a number of books on sailing.
Briant had also worked on the last Doctor Who story to be based around the sea - Fury From The Deep - so he was familiar with the logistics of working in this environment. Rather cheekily, Briant provided the voice for the DJ picked up on the Doctor's transmitter lash-up. Letts was not happy to hear of this (much later) as this went against actors' union Equity rules.
Production order was swapped with The Curse of Peladon, as we mentioned last time - the first time that this had ever happened. The production team would be filming on the coast and at sea in the Solent (the body of water which separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland). The production swap was made mainly to try to ensure favourable weather.


The man in charge of the VFX was Peter Day. He likes to tell the story of the submarine's propeller. So does Briant. And so does Letts. Unfortunately, no two versions of the story entirely match. The one thing they do agree on is that the design Day conceived for the propeller just happened to match a top secret one being developed by the Navy, leading to interest from Admiralty spooks.
As for the real Navy vessels, Letts was informed that the fleet he wanted to film with was about to head up to Scottish waters on manoeuvres. However, were Letts to write to the Admiralty then the dates for these manoeuvres could be amended. It was to be kept under wraps that the Navy were changing their plans just so that a TV programme could be made, as this might have prompted an outcry.
The story opens with the Doctor and Jo visiting the Master in his island prison, where he enjoys a rather luxurious lifestyle. He even has a colour TV - with a promise for a second set for the bedroom.
Most of the people watching this first episode would have been doing so on B&W sets. (Due to industrial action, lots of people missed episodes anyway - prompting the use of narrated recaps before each new episode was shown).


No retrospective of Roger Delgado's Master should ever omit the Clangers sequence. Russell T Davies riffed on it when he brought the Master back - updating it to him viewing the Teletubbies. The Clangers was a BBC stop-motion puppet show about aliens, which ran for 26 episodes (and one election themed special) between 1969 and 1974. It came back in 2015, narrated by Michael Palin (and William Shatner for the US version). The band The Soup Dragons got their name from one of the characters.
The Master scheming from his island base points us to a possible inspiration for certain elements of this story. Following on from the success of the various ITC adventure series, Southern Television thought it might be a good idea to develop something similar, aimed squarely at the younger market. Southern were based in Southampton - just across the Solent from the Isle of Wight. Launching in 1968, The Freewheelers, was an action adventure series featuring a group of youngsters, helped by an older authority figure. He was Colonel Buchanan of MI5 (played by Ronald Leigh-Hunt, whom Briant would cast in Revenge of the Cybermen, and who had previously played Commander Radnor in The Seeds of Death). One-time Doctor Who companion Wendy Padbury would join the series later on. For the first couple of seasons, Geoffrey (Hepesh) Toone played a recurring villain - an ex-Nazi officer named Von Gelb. He was based in a lighthouse. His first scheme was to hijack Polaris submarines to launch a missile strike on the UK. Von Gelb was dropped when the series was sold to West Germany, to be replaced by a run of similar characters. A couple of the later villains were played by Jerome Willis (The Green Death) and Kevin Stoney (Mavic Chen and Tobias Vaughn, and another actor hired by Briant for Revenge of the Cyberman). The Freewheelers ran until 1973. Later colour episodes have recently been getting an airing on the Talking Pictures channel.


One possible inspiration for the prison governor Trenchard might be Captain Bligh, of HMS Bounty notoriety. The Doctor mentions Trenchard having governed a small colony, which promptly sued for independence. Some 17 years after the Bounty mutiny, Bligh was made governor of New South Wales in Australia - prompting a popular rebellion which saw him deposed. Of course, Captain Hart's assistant just happens to be called the similar sounding Blythe.
The Civil Servant, Walker, is just the latest in a line of similar authority figures in the series whose bureaucratic thinking rubs the Doctor up the wrong way (Chinn being the most obvious example).
The problem with restarting the Silurian ethical debate with a new set of creatures simply means that we get a retread of the previous story's arguments, rather than something new. Apart from a brief moment when the Sea Devil leader might be about to trust the Doctor, the Sea Devils seem to be a much more belligerent branch of the reptilian family. The Doctor seems to have no qualms whatsoever about blowing them up. Compare with his reaction to what the Brigadier did in Derbyshire.


The means by which the Doctor achieved this wanton destruction is that he reversed the polarity of the neutron flow in the Sea Devils' power systems. This is the only time that Pertwee utters the full line during his tenure as the Doctor. He usually hated technical jargon, but told Terrance Dicks that he did not mind this line as it could be sung to the tune of The Sailor's Hornpipe. This jig, which always proves popular at the Last Night of the Proms, was first recorded around 1770.
Once again, the Master is found to have chosen the wrong side - the Sea Devils only wanting his technical expertise to fix their wake-up machine. Just as it looks as if he might be heading back to prison, he feigns death and runs off in a stolen hovercraft - free to fight another day.
Next time: the Doctor is sent on another mission by the Time Lords, in a story inspired by colonialism, racism and Empire...

Tuesday 26 June 2018

From Out Of The Rain - Torchwood 2.10


In which a suburban art deco cinema is about to be reopened as a local history museum, which will screen vintage footage of Cardiff life. A young man named Jonathan is preparing the film to be shown. His parents are behind the cinema restoration project. He discovers extraneous footage on the film which he had not seen before - of a group of itinerant circus performers. Jonathan finds he cannot turn off the film projector, which repeats the shots of the performers. When he rushes off to deliver film to the cinema in time for its grand opening, two figures step out of the projection screen - the Master of Ceremonies and a young woman who performs a "living mermaid" act. Her name is Pearl, and her companion is known only as the Ghostmaker.


Gwen, Owen and Ianto attend the opening, and are surprised to see Jack on screen, performing in a similar travelling show. The promised views of Cardiff street life are replaced by the footage of the circus acts. Back at the Hub, Jack confesses that he did once take part in a travelling circus show, as "the man who could not die". He had been investigating another troupe known as the Night Travellers, who appeared as if from nowhere - "from out of the rain", and just as mysteriously vanished at the end of the evening. In their wake they would leave a number of missing persons.
The Ghostmaker and Pearl wander the streets and attack a number of people. Their victims have their life-force extracted, leaving them in a vegetative state without tears or saliva. The "souls" are deposited in a small silver flask, held by the Ghostmaker. Torchwood are called in to investigate these strange assaults. Jack makes the connection to the Night Travellers. Mention of the name prompts a nurse to tell them of the time she was looking after an old woman in a nursing home who spoke of them. They go to see her and she explains that she visited the Night Travellers' show as a child, and that night her family vanished as the troupe disappeared.. No-one has ever believed her.


The team returns to the cinema, but the Ghostmaker and Pearl have already been there - attacking Jonathan's parents. They also discover that more figures are missing from the footage - a couple of acrobatic clowns and a strong man. They have stepped out of the film, and the Ghostmaker intends that they should begin touring again as they did many years ago. Jonathan tells them of how he had seen Pearl at his flat, submerged in his bath tub.
jack realises that as the figures were kept alive in film, they could be imprisoned in the same way. He borrows an old Super 8 movie camera from Jonathan and they return to the cinema where the Night Travellers have assembled. Jack begins filming them, trapping them once again on celluloid. The Ghostmaker escapes outside and throws away the silver flask, its top open. Ianto manages to catch it, but all but one of the "souls" has been lost. Jack then opens the camera and exposes the film - destroying the Night Travellers. The soul is returned to its host -  a small boy who had been attacked with the rest of his family. Back at the Hub, Jack worries that there may be more footage of the troupe still out there.
A short time later, a father and son are exploring a car boot sale and come upon an old can of film. The man drops it and it opens, and across the city Jack hears a momentary snatch of fairground music...


From Out Of The Rain was written by P J Hammond, and was first broadcast on 12th March, 2008. Hammond had written the episode Small Worlds for the first series, which had been regarded as one of the best of that season. As we mentioned when we looked at that story, he was best remembered for his work on Sapphire & Steel, and this episode certainly has a flavour of that series. One of the best remembered stories from Sapphire & Steel had been the one where people's faces were removed from old photographs. In this story, we have characters who live on within celluloid images but are able to step out of the screen and take on corporeal form. When it comes to circuses, clowns have a reputation for seeming somewhat creepy, and indeed there are a couple of clown characters here, but Hammond chooses to focus on the MC, or Ring Master, of the troupe - the devilish Ghostmaker - and Pearl. Her act is to stay under water for long periods of time, and she demonstrates a sinister affinity with water - as see when she and the Ghostmaker make a temporary home in an abandoned lido. Their attacks are always conducted in the middle of torrential downpours, as thought hey can influence the weather.


The episode is much more of an ensemble piece this week, with no one character really getting the lion's share of the action. Jack does have some history with the Night Travellers, and it is Ianto who drags his colleagues along to the opening of the cinema, as he recalls it from his youth.
Quite who or what the Night Travellers are is never fully explained. There is no suggestion that they are alien in nature. Rather they seem to be supernatural characters, like ghosts. Why they steal souls, and what they intend doing with them, is left hanging as well.
The Ghostmaker is played to perfection by Julian Bleach, who would shortly be bringing Davros back to Doctor Who. He had created the award winning stage show Shockheaded Peter back in 1998, based on the 1845 German children's book Struwwelpeter, by Heinrich Hoffmann. It featured a host of grotesque characters - not least Bleach's ghostly top-hatted character.
Pearl is Camilla Power. She had been a regular in the drama series The Grand, some episodes of which had been written by Russell T Davies, and had then taken on a recurring role on Waterloo Road. Jonathan is played by Craig Gallivan - a series regular in Ruth Jones' Stella, though he also writes and directs.


Overall, probably the strongest story of the second series, and one of the best overall. There weren't enough stories with supernatural trappings. I would have loved to see Hammond get an invite to write a Doctor Who story.
Things you might like to know:
  • Hammond is pretty much retired these days, being into his 80's. His last listed credits were a number of episodes of the popular ITV crime drama Midsomer Murders - generally ones which had some spooky influences (one story - Things That Go Bump In The Night - revolves around an apparent haunting).
  • He did almost become a Doctor Who writer, back in the mid-1980's. He submitted a story called "Paradise Five", which Script Editor Eric Saward really liked - only for it to be rejected by John Nathan Turner. It was later turned into a Big Finish audio.
  • Despite getting married in the previous episode, Eve Myles is still billed as Gwen Cooper in the closing credits. Later, in Miracle Day, she confirms that she retained her maiden name.
  • Also in the end credits is a listing for Gerard Carey as Greg. He had appeared in Meat earlier in the season, but does not feature in the episode here - suggesting a possible deleted sequence.
  • Jonathan's flat is Sarah Jane Smith's attic, redressed.

Monday 25 June 2018

E is for... Emojibots


Diminutive robots which acted as an interface between a group of human colonists on the planet Gliese 581d and the Vardy - tiny machine creatures which could combine to create whole buildings. The Vardy were programmed to ensure that the colonists would be happy, but the death of one of the humans elicited an outpouring of grief amongst her friends and family. The colonists were then killed by the Vardy, to eliminate this unhappiness. The Emojibots distributed small mood display discs which automatically positioned themselves on the wearer's back - lest seeing the emotion displayed might affect one's mood. The disc would always show the true emotion which the wearer was feeling. This mood was reflected in the facial display of the robot, which otherwise resembled a small black and white space-suited figure.
The Emojibots got their name from their emoticon language.
The Doctor was able to reboot the Vardy through a damaged Emojibot - so that they no longer killed those who were unhappy. However, the creatures had evolved into a new form of life, so the Doctor insisted that the humans live in peace with them.

Played by: Kiran Shah and Craig Garner. Appearances: Smile (2017).
  • Shah was Elijah Wood's body double throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and had previously portrayed the "bedspread monster" in Listen.

E is for... Elves


When Clara Oswald was disturbed by strange noises coming from her roof one Christmas Eve, she was surprised to discover a pair of Elves, accompanied by Santa Claus. The Elves were named Ian and The Wolf. The pair bickered frequently, and Ian was jealous that his colleague had a cooler name than he. The Doctor materialised the TARDIS on the roof soon afterwards, and took Clara off to a scientific base near the North Pole. There they found the crew under attack from alien parasites called the Kantrofarri - otherwise known as Dream Crabs. Santa Claus and his two Elf assistants arrived later. It transpired that the Doctor and Clara, along with the people making up the crew of the base, were all victims of the Kantrofarri. They were lying asleep elsewhere with the creatures feeding off them, inducing an anaesthetic dream state. Father Christmas, Ian and The Wolf were all part of the dream.

Played by: Dan Starkey (Ian) and Nathan McMullen (The Wolf). Appearances: Last Christmas (2014).
  • Starkey is best known for his portrayal of the Sontaran Strax, having previously played a couple of other Sontarans during the Russell T Davies era. He also played the alien Plark in The Man Who Never Was - the last ever story of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • McMullen came to prominence for his role as Finn Samson in the E4 sci-fi comedy drama Misfits.

E is for... Ellis, John


A Cardiff businessman who was passenger on a small aircraft which flew into the Space-Time Rift which ran through the city. The plane had taken off in 1953, but landed in 2007. The pilot and passengers were met by the Torchwood team, who attempted to help them resettle in their new time. Ellis was taken under the wing of Captain Jack Harkness. He struggled most to adapt. Jack discovered that his son Alan was still alive. However, he was resident in a nursing home and suffering from Alzheimer's. He had never had any children, so there were no grandchildren for Ellis to meet. Deciding there was nothing left to live for, he decided to commit suicide. Jack explained his immortality to him, and told him that there was nothing beyond death. He eventually relented and allowed Ellis to take his own life, sitting with him in a car as it was filled with carbon-monoxide.

Played by: Mark Lewis Jones. Appearances: TW 1.10 Out of Time (2007).
  • Jones recently appeared in the Star Wars franchise, playing Captain Canady in The Last Jedi.

E is for... Elliot


Elliot Northover was a young boy who lived in the small Welsh village of Cwmtaff in 2020. His father, Mo, worked at a deep drilling project which was run by his father-in-law Tony Mack. Elliot's mother, Ambrose, ran the local meals-on-wheels service. Elliot loved literature but was dyslexic, so was rarely without a talking book to listen to. When the TARDIS materialised in the village churchyard, he and his mother mistook Rory Williams for a policeman, come to investigate the mysterious disappearance of coffins from their graves.
The drilling project had disturbed a Silurian city deep beneath the earth, and a number of soldiers had been awakened from suspended animation to deal with the threat. Everyone took refuge in the church, but Elliot slipped out to fetch his earphones and was captured by the Silurians. His father had previously been abducted, along with Amy Pond. She escaped and freed Mo, and they discovered Elliot being held in suspended animation, to be studied by the Silurian scientists Malohkeh. He released the boy once the Doctor started peace negotiations between the Silurians and the humans.
Later, once it had been agreed that the time was not right for the Silurians to live side by side with humanity, the Doctor urged Elliot to help pave the way for future peaceful coexistence.

Played by: Samuel Davies. Appearances: The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (2010).

E is for... Elizabeth R


Shortly after he had helped defeat the Carrionites, the Doctor was at the Globe Theatre with Martha Jones and the playwright William Shakespeare. The Bard was surprised to hear that Queen Elizabeth had arrived, as she never came to the theatre, but events at the previous night's performance were the talk of London. The Queen recognised the Doctor, and ordered her guards to kill him. He was forced to run back to the TARDIS with Martha, explaining to her that he had no idea why the Queen wanted him dead.


Towards the end of his tenth incarnation, attempting to delay his visit to the Ood-Sphere, he landed in 16th Century England. Here he met a younger version of the Queen and he began to woo her. This was because he suspected her of being a Zygon duplicate. During a picnic, he discovered that it was not Elizabeth who was the duplicate but her horse. The Zygon later did disguise itself as the Queen, but the real Elizabeth killed it. The Doctor encountered two of his other incarnations - one from his past, and another from his future. All three were locked up in the Tower of London by Elizabeth. However, she had not locked their cell door, and freed them when Clara Oswald arrived looking for her Doctor. Elizabeth revealed that there was a party of Zygons living in London, and they were taking refuge within a number of paintings using stasis cubes - Time Lord art. They planned to wait within the pictures until the Earth was more advanced. Elizabeth then held the Doctor to his promise to marry her. However, immediately after the service, the Doctor departed in the TARDIS with Clara and his other selves.


Elizabeth established a secret gallery where the Zygon paintings could be stored - the Under Gallery - and appointed the Doctor its custodian. Presumably it was because he never came back to her following their wedding that she was furious with him on seeing him at the Globe.
The Doctor let it be known that Elizabeth's nickname of the Virgin Queen was not accurate.
The Third Doctor had claimed to have been at Elizabeth's coronation, but he was not sure and thought it might have been Queen Victoria's.
Elizabeth's court had been selected by Barbara Wright to view on the Space Time Visualiser. She saw the Queen converse with Shakespeare and Francis Bacon. She pretended to disapprove of the character of Falstaff, as it had offended one of her courtiers, but then asked Shakespeare to write the play that would become The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Played by: Vivienne Bennett, Angela Pleasence, Joanna Page. Appearances: The Chase (1965), The Shakespeare Code (2007), The Day of the Doctor (2013).
  • Page is best known for Gavin and Stacey, the popular BBC3 comedy.
  • Pleasence is the daughter of actor Donald Pleasence. The two acted alongside each other in the portmanteau horror film From Beyond the Grave.

E is for... Eliza


When Bill Potts and her friends found a huge house to let, at a very low rent, they should have known it was too good to be true. The mysterious landlord had let the house only every 20 years, always to young people. Each time, the tenants disappeared - devoured by the woodlouse-like Dryads which infested the building. These creatures were helping to keep Eliza, the landlord's daughter, alive. She was confined to a room at the top of a tower, cut off from the rest of the house. The Dryads had turned her into living wood. The Doctor deduced that Eliza was not the landlord's daughter at all, but really his mother. As a young boy he had found some of the creatures and brought them to show his dying mother. The Doctor showed her that her existence within the house was no life at all, and she objected to her son's methods to ensure she was kept alive. Eliza decided to bring things to an end and, as she could manipulate the Dryads, she made them consume herself and her son.

Played by: Mariah Gale. Appearances: Knock Knock (2017).

Thursday 21 June 2018

Inspirations - The Curse of Peladon


With Season 8 considered a success, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks decided on more of the same for Season 9. We've already talked about using the Daleks as a draw for the season opener, and Malcolm Hulke had been approached about providing a sequel to his Silurian story. This would see the reintroduction of the Master, so that he would be around for the season finale, now that it would no longer feature Daleks. Letts and Dicks were keen to get the Doctor off Earth again, and Colony in Space had given them the perfect vehicle to allow this, bearing in mind that the Doctor was still in exile on the planet. He could be sent on special missions by the Time Lords, and two such missions were to happen this year.
Writer Brian Hayles, who had written for both the Hartnell and Troughton Doctors, had submitted a pair of story ideas in 1971. One was another Ice Warrior tale - "The Brain Dead" - and the other was a whodunnit set on an alien planet - "The Shape of Terror". This would be of the base-under-siege format, with no location filming required. Letts and Dicks liked the idea of the second submission, but did not like the monster. It was then decided to proceed with it, but to bring in the Ice Warriors into it. The Martians had proven to be very popular in their two previous outings.
The Curse of Peladon, as it eventually came to be known, would be a relatively cheap story to make, what with the reuse of existing monster costumes and its studio-bound nature - useful as Hulke's "The Sea Silurians" was to have a great deal of location filming. As it was, only one Ice Warrior costume was reused, with elements of Slaar's Ice Lord outfit being used for Izlyr.
A decision was also taken to record the story out of sequence.


Right from the beginning, some stories had been held back to be broadcast after the summer break, but stories had always been shown in the order they were made. Towards the end of the Troughton era, it had been impossible to do otherwise, as episodes were being recorded only a week or two prior to transmission. With shorter seasons, Letts was able to have The Sea Devils recorded first, but have Curse shown before it. This was because the Hulke story had extensive filming at sea, and they needed to make sure it was filmed when the weather might be fine. Letts also wanted a long enough gap before the Master was reintroduced, acknowledging he had been overused in the previous season, and it also meant that the two space-bound / Time Lord mission stories could be separated.
This would be the first story of the Pertwee era, as broadcast, not to feature any of the UNIT cast members.
Hayles' storyline featured an assembly of alien delegates gathering on an alien planet on a diplomatic mission - to decide if that planet, Peladon, should be admitted to the Galactic Federation. Initial drafts called it simply "The Curse" or "The Curse of the Peladons".
Hayles was inspired by the Sherlock Holmes story The Hound of the Baskervilles when he decided to have a supposedly mythical beast haunting the planet. As with the Conan Doyle story, the beast would turn out to be a real animal, and be the tool of a human agent. High Priest Hepesh keeps it locked away and only lets it out to do the killing for him, in the same way that Stapleton does. It may be purely coincidental, but the Doctor wears a rather Holmesian costume in this.


It was felt that having the Ice Warriors as the villains would be too obvious, and undermine any efforts to include a whodunnit element. Hayles decided to embark on some character development and show how the Martians had changed over time. The Doctor - and the audience - would automatically assume they were the bad guys, only to discover that he was at fault in blaming them initially.
The Ice Warriors are now respected members of the Federation, and have turned their back on their old warmongering ways. Slaar had been introduced in The Seeds of Death in order to develop the race further, showing different classes. He was also easier on the ear, able to converse fluently with the Doctor and other characters, whereas the Ice Warrior soldiers had been stuck with slow, whispering voices, which had to be dubbed on. Actor Alan Bennion was invited back to play the new Ice Lord - never referred to as such on screen - Izlyr. Playing his deputy, Ssorg, was another Ice Warrior veteran - one time wrestler Sonny Caldinez. He had featured in both of the Troughton Ice Warrior stories, and inherited the "hero" costume. (Caldinez had one other credit - Maxtible's Turkish servant Kemel in The Evil of the Daleks).


Another link to the Troughton era was the casting of his son David as King Peladon. He would provide some love interest for Jo Grant, though the story opens with her apparently on her way to a dinner date with Mike Yates. David Troughton had appeared as an extra in The Enemy of the World, directed by Barry Letts, and had then taken on a more substantial role as Private Moor in The War Games. Looking at his costume in this, it ought to be noted that the Glam Rock phenomenon was in full flow at this time. Troughton's outfit would not have looked out of place worn on Top of the Pops by Brian Eno of Roxy Music (and Rick Wakeman of Yes could have easily gotten away with Hepesh's robes).
The main inspiration for this story is one which Letts and Dicks have been at great pains to argue against. They state in numerous interviews and DVD commentaries that, save for The Green Death, they never actively sought out current news stories to be the basis of any Doctor Who story. They do admit that sometimes a writer might pick up current affairs by osmosis, and so these things find their way into the scripts. It is hard to believe that The Curse of Peladon was not consciously inspired by the moves to have the United Kingdom join the European Economic Community - in the same way that Hayles must surely have been influenced by the widespread industrial action which backgrounds its sequel.


In 1957 West Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands met in Rome to begin the process of forming the European Economic Community. What emerged was the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - better known as the Treaty of Rome. It came into effect on 1st January 1958. The purpose was to create a single market amongst the member states, removing trade barriers and allowing freedom of movement for goods, labour and services. The Common Agricultural Policy grew out of it. Thousands had died of famine across Europe in the immediate aftermath of WWII, and it was determined that this should never happen again.
The UK had applied to join the EEC in 1961, but the moves were vetoed by the French President Charles De Gaulle. You'll recall the scene in An Adventure in Time and Space where William Hartnell tells his co-stars they have finally made it when there is a cartoon featuring a Dalek in the newspaper - the De Gaulle Dalek. The French President was famous for exclaiming "Non!" every time UK membership of the EEC was raised. Resistance ended when De Gaulle resigned in 1969 - which prompted one of those funny quotes you may have heard. Mme De Gaulle was asked by an interviewer what she most looked forward to now that her husband was retiring from public life. After a pause she replied: "A penis". Her husband lent forward and said, "No my dear - in England they pronounce it Happiness".
Which brings us to Alpha Centauri... No - we'll get to it shortly.
The UK finally signed up to join the EEC in 1972, following a referendum in which some 67% of the country voted in favour of going in. As of 1st January, 1973, the UK was a member.
It can be no coincidence that The Curse of Peladon revolves around a proud, if archaic and backward-looking, state joining a wider confederation. Today, Gormenghast is lurching backwards...


By the time this story was broadcast, the UK had caught up with Star Trek, and from now on some of its stories have been cited as possible inspirations for Doctor Who ones - and indeed vice versa.
Many see the ST-TOS Season 2 episode Journey to Babel as a possible inspiration for Curse. It also features an assorted group of aliens on a diplomatic mission, and one of the delegates is, for a time, suspected of having committed a crime (Spock's dad Sarek).
Star Trek's influence is also felt in the manner in which the Doctor resolves this diplomatic crisis. Rather than face execution, he accepts trial by combat. He is deposited in an arena where he must fight the King's Champion - Grun. Captain Kirk was often called upon to fight aliens in similar circumstances - most notably the episode called Arena, though you might also want to consider The Gamesters of Triskelion. The one with the planet which is run like Imperial Rome - Bread and Circuses - naturally has gladiatorial combats.
We also have the fact that the organisation which Peladon wants to join is called the Federation.


Returning now to Mme De Gaulle's accent, we should mention that this is the first story to be directed by Lennie Mayne. A speaks-his-mind Australian, he was mortified when he first saw the Alpha Centauri costume. Initially it did not have a cape, and he thought it looked like a giant membrum virile. The cloak was hastily added, but Mayne just felt that it now looked like a prick in a cape. A much embroidered convention tale has Mayne urging a stronger reaction from the cast when Aggedor enters the throne room. Pertwee worked the room and after a break everyone exclaimed "Holy F***ing Cow!" when Aggedor appeared. One of the embellishments to this story is that this took place just as Barry Letts was showing some easily offended guests around the studio at the time.
Before we go, one further inspiration is the tune for the Doctor's Venusian lullaby. Pertwee was notorious for disliking scientific jargon in the scripts. He found that he could remember the words to the song by singing it to the tune of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
Next time: Pertwee remembers another bit of jargon by putting it to another tune -  and it's his most famous line. The Master finally returns to the show, and everyone -  even the monsters - is all at sea...

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Story 195 - The Unicorn and the Wasp


In which the TARDIS materialises in the grounds of Lady Clemency Eddison's country estate. The Doctor recognises that they are in the 1920's, and sure enough it is December 1926. He and Donna decide to gatecrash Lady Eddison's weekend party, and discover that the guest of honour is the celebrated crime writer Agatha Christie. Other guests include the local vicar, the Rev Arnold Golightly, historian Professor Peach, and a young woman named Robina Redmond. Also present are Lady Eddison's husband, Colonel Hugh Curbishley, and their son Roger. The housekeeper, Miss Chandrakala, raises the alarm when she finds the professor dead in the library - murdered with a piece of lead piping. The Doctor pretends to be a police officer, with Donna his assistant. He takes charge of the investigation, though Mrs Christie also starts to look into the crime.
The writer is troubled at this time as her marriage is failing, and the Doctor has noted that this is the date when she famously went missing for a number of days - found later in a hotel in Harrogate claiming to have lost her memory.
The Doctor and Agatha interview all of the family and guests, as well as some of the staff, in order to discover which of them had no alibi for the time of the murder. All claim to have been occupied elsewhere, though Roger lies about his whereabouts as he was off with his lover - the young footman Davenport. Others, like the Reverend and Robina, were alone in their rooms with no-one to corroborate their stories.
Donna explores the upper floors of the house and finds a locked bedroom. She forces the butler, Greeves, to open it for her. There are some children's playthings in the otherwise empty room. She is suddenly attacked by a huge wasp-like creature, which flies in through the window.


She uses her magnifying glass and the bright sunlight to chase the creature off. When the Doctor and Agatha arrive they find that it has left its sting embedded in the door. They then see the wasp in the corridor, and once again Donna brandishes the magnifying glass to chase it away. The Doctor takes a sample from the sting and identifies the creature as a Vespiform. These aliens can transform themselves into human beings - so anyone in the house might be the wasp in disguise.
The Doctor then comes under attack when someone poisons his drink. He rushes to the kitchen where he concocts a remedy which allows him to exhale the toxin from his body. Soon after, Miss Chadrakala is killed when the wasp knocks a stone statue off the roof, crushing her to death.
That evening, everyone is gathered for dinner. There had been talk through the day about a notorious jewel thief nicknamed "The Unicorn" who has been terrorising Society. Lady Eddison is known to possess a rare treasure known as the Firestone, and has been worrying that it might be a target for the thief. During a power cut, the assembled group hear the buzzing of the wasp. When the lights are restored, they discover Roger dead, knifed in the back, and the Firestone missing.


After dinner, the Doctor and Agatha assemble everyone in the drawing room. Between them they have sorted through the clues and deduced who the killer is. Other secrets come to light - such as Col. Curbishley's faking of a disability. He pretended to be wheelchair-bound as he was worried his wife might abandon him. Robina Redmond is revealed as an impostor. She is really the Unicorn. She returns the Firestone. Lady Eddison is then forced to admit that she returned from India some 40 years ago pregnant though unwed, accompanied by Miss Chandrakala. She locked herself away in the upstairs bedroom which Donna had explored until her child was born. It was a boy, and he was given up for adoption to an orphanage. The father had been a mysterious man named Christopher who was really a Vespiform who wanted to experience human life. He had drowned in a flood soon after she fell pregnant. He had given Lady Eddison the Firestone - really a Vespiform Telepathic Recorder. The Rev. Golightly had previously mentioned being raised by a religious order, and is of the right age. He had claimed to have overpowered some thieves in his church a few nights before - which the Doctor finds surprising for someone so timid. The stress of the incident in the church had combined with Lady Eddison's wearing of the Firestone as she read one her favourite novels - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie.


Golightly had suddenly discovered his true nature, whilst the works of Miss Christie had downloaded themselves into his mind. This was why the murders looked as if they had come straight out of one of her books. Prof. Peach had been killed as he had discovered the boy's birth certificate, and Miss Chadrakala had, of course, known of his illegitimacy. He was simply jealous of Roger having usurped his place in Lady Eddison's affections.
Deciding she is somehow to blame for the deaths, Agatha takes the Firestone and drives off into the night, pursued by the Vespiform. The Doctor and Donna give chase. At a nearby lake, Donna throws the jewel into the water - recalling that Christopher had drowned. The Vespiform dives in after it. As it drowns, Agatha begins to die, as she is psychically linked to it. Its death frees her, though the experience has left her in shock. The Doctor and Donna take her in the TARDIS and leave her at the Harrogate hotel where she will later be found, her memory of recent events shrouded.
Back in the ship, the Doctor shows Donna a paperback reproduction of one of Agatha's books - Death in the Clouds. The cover shows a close-up image of a wasp - suggesting that she might have remembered something of what happened after all.


The Unicorn and the Wasp was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on Saturday 17th May, 2008. Although not shown until half way through the run, it was one of the first stories filmed for Series 4. The director is Graeme Harper.
Ever since the series had returned in 2005, the concept of the "Celebrity Historical" had been introduced. Series 1 had seen the Doctor and Rose meet Charles Dickens, with elements of the plot mirroring some of his works. Series 2 had seen the Doctor and Rose then meet Queen Victoria. For Series 3 Gareth Roberts had written The Shakespeare Code. The dialogue for this had been liberally sprinkled with lines from the Bard's works. Roberts builds on this here with numerous references to titles of Agatha Christie works (see below). We also have a running gag where Donna forestalls some of the works she has not yet written, claiming copyright on Miss Marple and the everyone-dunnit plot to Murder on the Orient Express.
Another running theme since 2005 had been the Doctor kissing his companion - though in each case it was never a romantic gesture. Here it is done purely for laughs, as Donna has to do something which will shock the Doctor in order to make his anti-toxin work.
As well as the works of Agatha Christie, the murder mystery board game Cluedo (Clue in the US) is another inspiration. Professor Peach is killed in the library with a piece of lead piping, for instance. The game has a number of suspects, who have colour themed names, including a Professor Plum. Some of Roberts' other characters mimic these. Robina Redmond, for example, is based on Miss Scarlet, whilst the Rev Golightly is the Rev. Green. Colonel Curbishley is Colonel Mustard, and so forth. All of the murder weapons found in the game make an appearance somewhere in Roberts' story - lead pipe, revolver (Robina has one), length of rope (a curtain cord features), candlestick (on the dinner table) and knife - found lodged in Roger's back.


Choosing a giant wasp to be the story's monster derived from that book cover - a Poirot tale. The image was used on the front of the 1957 Fontana paperback. I recall seeing this very cover as a child, and initially thought that the story had giant wasps in it. Wasps also tied in with the story arc about the bees disappearing, which also gets a mention here.
Roberts stated that it was always his intention to write a very humorous episode. He was a great fan of Christie, though it was actually Producer Phil Collinson who suggested the idea of a murder mystery featuring the writer.
The guest cast is headed by Felicity Kendal, as Lady Eddison. She came to fame through the BBC self-sufficiency sitcom The Good Life, opposite Richard Briers. Playing her husband is Christopher Benjamin. He had previously been Sir Keith Gold in Inferno, but was best known as Henry Gordon Jago in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Son Roger is Adam Rayner. Agatha Christie is played by Fenella Woolgar. She had appeared on screen several times previously with David Tennant - including the 1920's set Bright Young Things, and the period drama He Knew He Was Right.
Tom Goodman-Hill is Arnold Golightly, and Robina Redmond is Felicity Jones. Davenport is Daniel King, and Miss Chandrakala is Leena Dhingra, whilst the doomed Prof. Peach is Ian Barritt.


Overall, it is a fun episode, which plays with the conventions of the typical country house murder mystery in general, and with the works of Agatha Christie in particular. There's a drinking game in spotting the novel and short story titles.
Things you might like to know:
  • There was originally going to be an opening and closing sequence featuring the Doctor and Donna visiting the elderly writer near the end of her life, with the episode as shown acting as a flashback in between. The older Agatha was played by Daphne Oxenford, who had featured as a hologram in Dragonfire. The sequences were filmed but then deleted, and the sequence with the book cover inserted later instead. You can see the deleted scenes on the Series 4 DVD / Blu-Ray box set.
  • David Tennant's father, Sandy McDonald, who just happened to be visiting the filming of the lawn party scenes, was roped in to cameo as a footman.
  • Despite a December setting, the story is clearly filmed on a warm summery day.
  • The original conclusion to the story was to have been the Doctor ramming the Vespiform with the car he was driving. Tennant objected, as this made him look like he had murdered the creature. It was changed to Donna throwing the Firestone into the water - recalling what had happened to Christopher, and also referring to water-filled wasp traps.
  • The Doctor reminisces about an adventure involving a computer kidnapping Charlemagne. This was a reference to an on-line short story called "The Lonely Computer" by Rupert Laight, which appeared on the BBC Doctor Who website in 2008.
  • You might be puzzled by Davenport's startled reaction when the poisoned Doctor asks him for ginger beer. That's because "ginger beer" was employed as Cockney rhyming slang for "queer" - so the footman thinks the Doctor is outing him (even though everyone seems to act as if his relationship with Roger is common knowledge).
  • The Doctor uses the phrase "buzz off" - referring to the noise a wasp makes. The phrase derives from the early days of the telephone, when they used to buzz instead of ring.
  • The Doctor takes the paperback book from a storage closet which has items beginning with "C" in it. These include a Cybus Cyberman chest plate, as well as the Carrionite crystal ball (referring back to Roberts' previous story. The Doctor had previously said that he was going to store this in a TARDIS attic, but it's under the console here.
  • Donna really seems to think that Noddy might be real.
  • A lot of the Christie story titles were actually added by Russell T Davies. One he decided against in the end was the controversial original title for what we now know as And Then There Were None, or The Ten Little Indians. Donna was to say: "It's like Ten Little-" but the Doctor interjected with "Niggles aside, we'd better look in the library...". 
  • And finally - the references that did make it to the screen:
  1. Donna mentions Murder on the Orient Express, not realising Christie has yet to write that story.
  2. She gives Christie the idea of an old lady who investigates crimes from her home in a small English village.
  3. Two novels are seen on screen - The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, being read by Lady Eddison, and Death in the Clouds in the TARDIS closet.
  4. The Professor exclaims "Why didn't they ask - Heavens!" as he is attacked. There is a Christie book called Why Didn't They Ask Evans?.
  5. On finding a scrap of paper the Doctor asks "M or N?".
  6. Agatha mentions Sparkling Cyanide when the Doctor is poisoned.
  7. There are yellow irises on the dinner table. Yellow Iris was the short story which was later expanded to become Sparkling Cyanide.
  8. Throughout, the Doctor is The Man in the Brown Suit.
  9. Miss Chandrakala refers to the Professor's book as a Dead Man's Folly
  10. Donna mentions The Body in the Library (Prof Peach's).
  11. The cook says that the murder has set the Cat Amongst The Pigeons.
  12. Agatha refers to the unknown killer as Nemesis, and as The Secret Adversary.
  13. She tries to explain away the giant wasp as They Do It With Mirrors.
  14. Lady Eddison says that Miss Chandrakala had an Appointment With Death.
  15. Asking for Agatha to explain what is going on, the Colonel insists she put her Cards on the Table.
  16. The house and its occupants are described as a Crooked House.
  17. The Doctor states that it has been an Endless Night.
  18. Christopher was said to have been Taken at the Flood.
  19. A character feigning disability features in After The Funeral.
  20. Going round the suspects, the Doctor mentions The Moving Finger of suspicion.
  21. Agatha says that Death Comes As The End when the Vespiform dies.
  22. Last, but by no means least, is the Doctor's contrived pun to sum up what has happened: "Murder at the vicar's rage..." - playing on Murder At The Vicarage.

Sunday 17 June 2018

E is for... Elgin


Mark Elgin was a senior executive who worked for Global Chemicals at their new plant at Llanfairfach in South Wales. He grew concerned at some of the decisions being taken by his boss, Dr Stevens, and of reports of strange deaths amongst the miners who were looking after the abandoned coal mine in the area. He was upset by Stevens' apparent refusal to lend cutting equipment to the mine when an accident occurred, which had trapped a miner and a UNIT operative - Jo Grant - in the pit. He grew suspicious of the actions of one of his colleagues - a man named Fell. He followed him to a restricted area of the plant, where he learned that the company was pouring its chemical waste down into the mine workings. Fell was about to unload a waste tank just as Jo and the Doctor were climbing up the pipe. Elgin intervened and saved them. Fell later committed suicide by throwing himself from a window. When Elgin challenged Dr Stevens about what was going on, he was subjected to powerful mind conditioning - the same process which had turned Fell into a mental slave of Stevens' boss - the company's computer.
His ultimate fate remains a mystery.

Played by: Tony Adams. Appearances: The Green Death (1973).
  • The reason we don't know what happened to Elgin is because Adams fell ill during production of the later episodes. He is last seen being subjected to BOSS' mind control, then vanishes from the story. His role is taken up by Roy Skelton, playing a new character named Mr James. James is killed by BOSS when Captain Yates breaks his mental conditioning, so this is probably the fate that would have befallen Elgin.
  • The tongue-in-cheek DVD extra Global Conspiracy? has Elgin survive the events of The Green Death. Interviewed in 2004, he claims that Dr Stevens is still alive. (He's now the Director General of the BBC).

E is for... Eldred


An elderly scientist encountered by the Second Doctor and his companions Jamie and Zoe. The TARDIS had materialised in his home, which he had turned into a museum devoted to space travel. Earth had turned its back on space exploration, and planet-wide transport was now achieved using a teleport system known as T-Mat. When the system broke down, Eldred's old friend Commander Radnor, visited and asked to use the rocket which he had been secretly building. Eldred was a champion of conventional space travel, and felt it a mistake to rely on T-Mat. He reluctantly allowed Radnor and T-Mat senior technician Gia Kelly to take over the preparation of the rocket, so that the Doctor and his companions could travel to a relay station on the Moon where the T-Mat problems seemed to originate. Eldred then joined Radnor and Miss Kelly at T-Mat control, where they were confronted first by a strange plant blight, which sucked oxygen out of the atmosphere, and then by a visitation by an Ice Warrior - despatched from the Moon to prevent the humans from deploying rain against the blight.
After the Martian invasion attempt had been thwarted, Eldred argued that the Earth needed a fleet of rockets like his to act as a back-up should T-Mat fail again.

Played by: Philip Ray. Appearances: The Seeds of Death (1969).
  • Ray played one of the jurors in the classic Hancock's Half Hour episode "Twelve Angry Men".

E is for... Eldrad


A scientist of the Kastrian race. He provided his people with special barriers which protected their world from freezing cosmic storms, as well as a silicon-based body pattern. He grew overly ambitious - seeking to take over the planet and lead it on a crusade of galactic conquest. When this was denied him, he destroyed the protective barriers. If he could not rule, then no-one would. He was captured by forces loyal to King Rokon and sentenced to obliteration. Placed in a space capsule he was launched into deep space. As life on the surface of Kastria became impossible, the capsule was blown up prematurely, with a small chance that Eldrad might survive.
Millions of years later, Sarah Jane Smith was caught up in a blasting accident in an English quarry. When found, she was clutching Eldrad's stone hand. The Doctor discovered that the hand could absorb radiation to regenerate itself. The hand possessed a blue crystal ring, which could exert hypnotic powers over humans. It compelled Sarah to take the hand to a nearby nuclear power plant where it could regenerate itself fully. The ring manipulated other people to help Sarah achieve this.
Eldrad absorbed the full output of the nuclear reactor, and was able to use his powers to neutralise an attack from atomic weapons. He regenerated into a female form - based on the person with whom he had last had contact - Sarah.


Eldrad claimed to have been executed after her planet was invaded by an enemy race. She asked the Doctor to take her home to Kastria. To protect the Earth, he obliged, but insisted that it be the Kastria of the present day. Back on her homeworld, Eldrad was shot by a booby-trap - a dart filled with an acid which attacked silicon lifeforms. She had the Doctor and Sarah take her to the lower levels where there was a regeneration chamber. Her body was destroyed, but she was regenerated as her natural, male form - the blue crystal ring holding his genetic code. The Doctor and Sarah discovered the truth about him when an ancient recording of King Rokon was activated. Eldrad discovered that his people had chosen extinction over his possible return to rule over them as a tyrant. Eldrad then decided to return to Earth and conquer that world, but the Doctor tripped him up and caused him to plunge into a deep chasm. He suspected that Eldrad might survive the fall, but would be left as ruler of a dead world.

Played by: Judith Paris and Stephen Thorne. Appearances: The Hand of Fear (1976).
  • Thorne had previously played the Daemon Azal, and the Time Lord Omega, as well as one of the principal Ogrons in Frontier in Space.

E is for... Elders


The ruling council on an unnamed planet, encountered by the First Doctor. Their people were technologically advanced, and the Elders had even been able to monitor the Doctor's travels through Time and Space. The Doctor and his companions, Steven and Dodo, discovered that their peaceful and idyllic society was based on a terrible secret. They captured primitive humanoids from a valley close to their city and drained them of their life-force, transferring it into themselves. Knowing the Doctor would never approve of this, the Elders' leader, Jano, decided that he would have his life-force extracted. Instead of apportioning it throughout the population, Jano would take all of it for himself. However, much of the Doctor's character and morality was also transposed, so that Jano came to accept the injustice of what his people were doing to the primitives. He decided to work with the Doctor to bring the transferences to a halt. He helped the Doctor and his companions break into the city, where they smashed up the transference laboratory. The Elders and their people would live in  harmony with the people they once exploited. To lead them forward, they invited Steven to stay on as their new ruler.

Played by: Frederick Jaeger (Jano), Tony Douglas, Royston Farrell, Keith Ashley. Appearances: The Savages (1966).

E is for... El Akir


Cruel and sadistic Emir of the city of Lydda. He and his men ambushed a party of English knights in the woods near the city of Jaffa. One of the party - Sir William des Preaux - pretended to be King Richard, as a ruse to allow the real King and his friends to escape. El Akir also took Barbara Wright hostage, after the TARDIS had materialised in the same woods. Sir William had her pose as Richard's sister Joanna. Both were given to the Saracen leader Saladin, but he immediately saw through the deception. El Akir felt humiliated, and vowed revenge on Barbara. He arranged for her to be abducted from Saladin's camp and taken to Lydda. She escaped and found shelter in the home of a man named Haroun. He told her that El Akir had murdered his wife and son, and kidnapped his daughter Maimuna for his harem. Barbara was recaptured, but escaped once more - given sanctuary in the harem by Maimuna. Haroun broke into the palace and killed El Akir, just as Ian arrived to rescue Barbara.

Played by: Walter Randall. Appearances: The Crusade (1965).
  • Randall had previously played Tonila in The Aztecs. He was cast in The Crusade by director Douglas Camfield, who would employ him on a further three stories of his - The Daleks' Master Plan, The Invasion and Inferno. A friend of Jon Pertwee, Barry Letts later cast him in the Third Doctor's final story - Planet of the Spiders - as he wanted his star to be surrounded by familiar faces.
  • The novelisation of this story, by David Whitaker, explains El Akir's distinctive scar. He got it from his brother, after he had stolen his wife.

Thursday 14 June 2018

Inspirations - Day of the Daleks


Day of the Daleks opens Season 9. The writer is Louis Marks, who had last written for the series back at the end of the first season, in 1964.
The previous season had opened with the introduction of a new companion, as well as a new arch-enemy for the Doctor to battle. UNIT got a makeover, and a new regular team member in Captain Yates. Looking for something to grab the viewers as the new season launched, producer Barry Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided that it might be time for the Daleks to make a return. This would be their first colour outing. The production office regularly received letters from viewers asking when the Daleks would be back, so they knew the demand would be there.
Dicks joined the programme after Terry Nation had already withdrawn permission for their use, trying as he was to launch them in their own series, but he would have been aware of the politics involved. Since Evil of the Daleks they had only featured briefly twice in cameo roles, though their last full appearance had been repeated in the summer between Seasons Five and Six - the re-screening cleverly being interwoven into the narrative of the stories either side of it.
The plan had actually been that the Daleks were to have featured in the season finale, in a story to be written by Robert Sloman and tentatively titled "The Return of the Daleks". This would have seen the Daleks invade Earth using a time machine to alter history - causing UNIT to come up against anachronistic enemies. Elements of this story would be retained by Sloman for the adventure that eventually did close the season.


Louis Marks, meanwhile, had submitted a story about soldiers from the future coming back through time to prevent a war - paradoxically causing the war in the first place. Regarded as perfectly acceptable, it was felt to be a little weak for the season opener. The decision was then taken to bring the Daleks forward - removing them from Sloman's scripts and adding them to Marks'. The soldiers would now be trying to prevent a future Dalek invasion of Earth. As the new storyline was developed, it was realised that the Daleks could not be used at all unless Terry Nation gave his blessing. Letts and Dicks agreed to meet him at Pinewood Studios, where the writer was working on the troubled ITC venture The Persuaders!. (Its two stars - Roger Moore and Tony Curtis - did not get on terribly well, thanks to Curtis' prima donna behaviour. Moore would refuse to commit to a second series with Curtis, and would shortly get the James Bond gig anyway. Jon Pertwee's brother Michael was another regular writer on the show).
As Dicks is fond of saying on DVD commentaries, the trio had champagne cocktails, and sat at a table next to Sean Connery and his then wife Diane Cilento. Nation proved to be amenable to the series using the Daleks again, and told them that he had been thinking of writing a new Dalek story himself. An agreement was reached to include the Daleks in the Marks story, and Nation was to be offered a story of his own for the subsequent season. (Now that plans for a spin-off series of their own had fallen flat, Nation knew that he could only make money from his creations through their inclusion Doctor Who).


The background to the story is similar to that of The Mind of Evil. International tensions are mounting, and there is to be a peace conference. The story was written in the middle of the Cold War, but Doctor Who tended to paint the Chinese as the possible aggressors, rather than the Soviet Union.
Only a Briton can be trusted to act as the chief negotiator in the peace process, naturally... He is Sir Reginald Styles. However, on the eve of his flight to China to bring them on board, he is attacked by a guerrilla fighter, who promptly vanishes into thin air. There is talk of ghosts, but when the guerrilla is later found to have a high tech weapon, the Doctor realises they are dealing with ghosts from the future, rather than from the past. The Doctor and Jo decide to spend the night at Styles' house - deducing that if the guerrillas failed once they will try again.
Jo assumes that, as they were going to assassinate Sir Reginald, the guerrillas must be evil. Any attempt to convince the audience watching that this might be the case is somewhat spoiled by the word "Daleks" in the story title. When they do turn up for a second attempt, the guerrillas are led by a woman - Anat. She was based on Leila Khaled. She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and had come to prominence for a number of passenger jet hijackings in 1969 / 70. She would later inspire and lend her name to a future Doctor Who companion. Anat was named after an ancient War Goddess from Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Anat is accompanied by two colleagues - Shura and Boaz. Shura may be named from a form of Islamic council (it means 'consultation'), whilst Boaz was a figure in the Old Testament - husband of Ruth and grandfather to David, and hence one of the ancestors of Jesus.


Jo is accidentally thrown forward to the 22nd Century, which is where the guerrillas have come from. In this time zone, the planet has been conquered by the Daleks, who rule through human agents and brutal ape-like creatures called Ogrons. Marks wrote the Ogrons to be canine in character. It was the story's director, Paul Bernard, who decided that they should be simian.
Reference is made to the Daleks having invaded Earth "again". That's because this story is set around the same time that The Dalek Invasion of Earth is also set, but we are clearly seeing a different version here. The Daleks have mastered time travel, and have changed future history so that their invasion is now a successful one. Presumably this is because they have dispensed with silly ideas like turning the planet into a giant spaceship, have harnessed humans to do their dirty work, and are using the Ogrons instead of the less reliable Robomen.
This is the first time the Daleks have appeared in the programme in colour, so naturally two of the three casings get painted grey and black... At least the leader gets a nice gold finish, though this will pose problems for the (anti)climactic battle with UNIT at the story's conclusion.
Up until this point all of the basic Dalek drones had been silver, with blue hemispheres on their skirts. The gunmetal grey ones introduced here will become the new standard for your basic Daleks.
Technically, we have already seen one Dalek in colour in the series - a cut-out B&W photo of one, tinted, in The Mind of Evil. It's not the first time Daleks have been seen in colour on the BBC either, as the Peter Cushing movie Dr. Who and the Daleks has already been shown, and Blue Peter featured the three casings from this story when a fan wrote in to ask if Peter Purves had been in the show, as his parents claimed.


The Doctor goes with the guerrillas back (forward) to the 22nd Century in order to rescue Jo. After some capture / escape, he is tied up and has a mind analysis machine used on him to confirm his identity. This permits the series to remind the viewers that there were two other actors who have played the Doctor prior to Pertwee. This is the first example of Pertwee spotting a mode of transport which appealed to him - prompting him to ask Letts to include it in a story. One of the escapes utilises a motor-trike. Unfortunately, these do not move very fast, so the Ogron actors have to do slow-running acting to make the sequence look more exciting than it is.
Eventually freed by the guerrillas, the Doctor learns some more about the war which ushered in the Dalek invasion - the one which they are convinced was started by Styles blowing up the peace conference. The Doctor realises that it was the guerrillas themselves who started the war, as Shura was left behind after the last mission and he would have done everything he could to fulfill their aims. They have trapped themselves in a paradox.
Now, I have said this before, and I will say it again - at the end of this sentence to be exact - that for a series about a time traveller, there are very few stories across the entire run of the "classic era" of the programme which make use of Time as a major plot element. This is one of those few.
The idea has already been set up in an earlier scene where the Doctor and Jo are in the UNIT lab and see themselves standing in the doorway. You have to look to the novelisation for the full explanation for this, as Bernard didn't get round to filming the pay-off. What should have happened was that the Doctor and Jo would go back to UNIT HQ at the conclusion of the story and see themselves inside the lab - their current selves seeing their earlier selves seeing their current selves. It's what's known as timey-wimey these days.


The Doctor and Jo have to go back to the 20th Century to stop Shura from blowing up the conference. They are helped to escape by the chief human villain - the European Controller. The Doctor had earlier described him as a Quisling. This name derives from Vidkun Quisling, a fascist Norwegian officer who headed the government of Nazi-occupied Norway during WWII. He was put on trial after the war and executed in October 1945. His name is now used for anyone who collaborates with an enemy invader.
Before we go, we should mention Soldier - a 1964 episode of the TV series The Outer Limits, written by Harlan Ellison. This features a soldier from the future travelling back into the past - our present. Unlike the makers of The Terminator, Ellison did not take legal action against Marks or Dicks.
Next time: the Time Lords have another mission for the Doctor. The news these days is all about Brexit, but here's the story that was influenced by our going into the European Community...

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Something Borrowed - Torchwood 2.9


In which Gwen Cooper goes hunting for an alien creature through the streets of Cardiff. It is the night of her Hen Party, but she is going to be late. She corners the alien - which appears to be a human male - but his blood is black, leading her colleagues to surmise it may be a shape-shifter. Gwen is bitten on the wrist but Jack then appears and shoots the man dead. Jack recommends that she have her wound checked by Owen, but Gwen hurries off to meet her friends.
On waking up the following morning - the day of her wedding to Rhys - she discovers that she appears to be heavily pregnant...
Gwen contacts Jack and Owen, who inform her that some alien creatures reproduce by transmitting their eggs to a host for incubation. In this case she was impregnated through the bite. Jack recommends she postpone the wedding, but Gwen refuses. She will deal with the foetus after the ceremony. She notifies Rhys, and he is furious that Jack and her job have spoiled their big day. As neither of them has seen their parents for a while, they will inform them that they were planning to keep the pregnancy a surprise - though this will mean having to break the news later that their "grandchild" was lost. Jack sends Ianto off to buy a new wedding dress that will fit Gwen.


At the Hub, Owen carries out an autopsy on the dead man, and discovers that he was a Nostrovite. These savage creatures can take on the appearance of anyone they have seen. The male of this species plants an egg in a host body, and the female then births it by tearing the child from the host. She will do anything to get her child, and they realise that the mother will be hunting for Gwen. Tosh arrives at the wedding venue - a country house hotel. She meets Rhys' best man - Banana Boat. The Nostrovite mother - posing as a young woman named Carrie - kills and partially devours the DJ and captures Tosh and Banana Boat, tying them up in one of the bedrooms.
Rhys and Gwen are about to be married when Jack rushes in and stops the ceremony. He and Ianto rescue Tosh and Banana Boat. Ianto is forced to cut off the phones when a bridesmaid sees the DJ's corpse and alerts the other guests. The hunt is then on to identify the shape-shifting alien and protect Gwen.


The creature takes on the form of Jack and also of Rhys' mother Brenda. Bullets have no effect on it. Owen arrives with the laser scalpel he had previously used to destroy the Mayfly larva within Martha Jones. The Nostrovite may call off its attack if the foetus is destroyed. However, Owen had earlier broken his hand, and he no longer heals, so he tells Rhys that he will have to operate it. The alien corners Gwen and Rhys in an outbuilding, disguised as Brenda, and is about to attack when Jack appears with a powerful laser weapon. He destroys her. Rhys then uses the scalpel to remove the foetus.
The wedding then goes ahead, but Ianto has doped all the drinks with Retcon, so no-one but Gwen and Rhys will remember the events of the day. Later, back at the Hub, Jack digs out an old photograph. It is of him and his bride on their wedding day...


Something Borrowed was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 5th March, 2008. Ford had previously written two episodes for the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures - Eye of the Gorgon and The Lost Boy - and he would be made script editor for the show's second series. Executive Producer Russell T Davies had wanted this episode to be lighter in tone, and also to have some soap opera elements as well. As Ford had written for Coronation Street, he was felt to be the right person for the commission.
Following the trio of episodes revolving around Owen's death and resurrection, it was time to have a little fun. Though it deals with a vicious monster, who tears its victims apart, there is a lot of humour to be found in this episode - from Ianto's shopping for a wedding dress (being assumed by the shop assistant to be buying it for himself), to Rhys' exasperated reactions to events, as well as those of the respective in-laws. It is a very good episode for Kai Owen.
I have previously commented on the fact that, due to changes in format towards season-long storylines, many of the mysteries set up around Jack were left hanging. We get another one here, as we see that he was once married (in the early 20th Century, judging by the costumes).


We are introduced to Gwen's parents - Geraint and Mary. Geraint is played by William Thomas, who had previously appeared twice in Doctor Who - as the assistant funeral director in Remembrance of the Daleks, and then as the hapless surveyor in the pre-credit sequence for Boom Town. He was the first actor to bridge the gap between the "classic" and "new" eras of the series. Mary is Sharon Morgan. Both will return in future seasons. Rhys' mother, Brenda, is another returnee from the classic era of Doctor Who. Nerys Hughes had previously played the scientist Todd in Kinda. Rhys' dad, Barry, is played by Robin Griffith. This is their only appearance in the series.
The Nostrovite mother - Carrie - is played by Collette Brown, whilst Best Man Banana Boat is Jonathan Lewis Owen.


Overall, fast paced and fun. Shame there weren't more episodes like this one.
Things you might like to know:

  • Gwen foreshadows future events when she tells Rhys that nothing will stop them getting married - not if Weevils crawl out of the sewers (which will happen in Exit Wounds), or the sky is full of spaceships (as occurs in The Stolen Earth), though spaceships had previously appeared in the skies above the Taj Mahal, in End of Days, and Weevils had massed in the streets in Dead Man Walking.
  • The Sam Raimi film The Evil Dead is referenced when Rhys picks up a chainsaw to attack the Nostrovite when it poses as his mother.
  • The draft title for the story was simply "The Wedding". "Something Borrowed" comes from the old tradition of the bride wearing something borrowed, and something blue; something old, and something new for luck. This saying will be revisited by Steven Moffat for his first series finale - where the TARDIS is old, borrowed and blue.
  • Gwen is seen eating a jar of pickled gherkins on the morning of her wedding - alluding to the odd food cravings some people experience during pregnancy. This was added by Eve Myles herself. The script simply had her drinking a glass of water.
  • The first draft had Gwen and Rhys also being given Retcon, but this was changed to her declining the drug, to show that Gwen did not want there to be any secrets between her and her new husband.