Monday 30 July 2018

Inspirations - Carnival of Monsters

Carnival of Monsters was broadcast as the second story of Season 10, and the first adventure following the lifting of the Doctor's exile. However, the story was actually filmed immediately following The Time Monster at the end of the previous season. It marks the return to the programme of writer Robert Holmes, whose last contribution was Terror of the Autons. The director is Barry Letts, exercising his option to direct one story per season. He preferred four part stories, as he didn't really have the time to tackle anything longer.
Holmes submitted a story-line which he called "Peepshow", and the inspiration behind this was in part the series itself. Characters basically watch the Doctor's adventures on a TV screen, and Jo comments on how she cannot understand how people can get enjoyment from watching the Doctor and her being attacked and pursued by monsters.

The showman Vorg, who owns the peepshow, can even direct the action. At one point he demonstrates a control which causes the inhabitants of the device to act in an aggressive manner - giving the Doctor a fight scene as though on demand.
The Doctor likens their situation by comparing it to children looking into a rock pool at the seaside.
Letts and Terrance Dicks didn't like the story title proposed by Holmes, so Dicks picked up on one of Vorg's lines of dialogue, when he described the Miniscope as displaying a "Carnival of Monsters". Holmes was not very happy about this, preferring his original title.
The story opens with the Doctor and Jo arriving in the hold of a cargo vessel. The Doctor had been hoping for Metebelis III - the first mention of this planet in the series, and which will prove to be of some significance for the remainder of the Third Doctor's tenure. Katy Manning provided the chicken sounds, in the scene where the Doctor lectured Jo on not judging by appearances. Rather than the dominant life-form on this planet, they are only chickens, and a nearby packing case has "Singapore" stenciled on it. They are on Earth. A quick explore reveals that they are on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in 1926.
At the same time that the Doctor and Jo are discovering their whereabouts, we cut to an alien planet where the showman Vorg and his assistant Shirna are also in the process of arriving.
At this stage, we have no idea what the link between the two set-ups might be, as Vorg has yet to explain just what his machine does.

The Inter-Minorans thrive on bureaucracy - hence the decision to quite literally make them grey-faced. In contrast, the visitors wear brightly coloured costumes. They are Lurmans, and the dialogue states that they are neither human nor descendants of humans. Holmes introduces a new term for humans beings from Earth - Tellurians. This is basically Latin for "an inhabitant of Earth". Inter-Minor has been closed off for many years following a space plague, but President Zarb has decided it is time to open up the frontiers again. The Lurman entertainers might provide a distraction to keep the slave-like Functionaries distracted from civil disturbance.
Later, when the Doctor "arrives" on the planet, it might be expected that this oppression of an underclass might be just the sort of thing that he would normally object to, and do something about, but Holmes decides not to go there. One of the two junior members of the welcoming tribunal (Orum) even cracks a joke at the Functionaries' expense - an updating of the old snobbish class comment that if you gave poor people a bathtub, they'd store their coal in it. George Orwell mentions this in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) but it was quoted by an MP in the House of Commons in a debate on housing in 1926.
Orum's colleague, but intellectual superior, is Kalik, brother of the never seen Zarb. This story marks the first appearance of the Robert Holmes Double Act - in this case we get two for the price of one. These pairings are often used to provide some comic relief, and to enable the villains, or allies, to discuss the plot without resort to exposition-dumping. Here we get Vorg and Shirna, and Kalik and Orum. Both provide some humour (especially the Lurman pairing). It is clear that Vorg thinks himself the smart one, when it is obviously Shirna who has the most sense. Orum is a little bit dim, and rather meekly follows the more belligerent Kalik.

Meanwhile, back on the cargo ship, the Doctor has started to notice that things are not what they seem. There are shiny metal panels on the floors, which the crew can't see, and the passengers and crew they encounter repeat their actions every 20 minutes or so. This loop also involves an attack on the vessel by a prehistoric monster. They discover that they are on the SS Bernice, which the Doctor has heard of. It was involved in a famous maritime mystery - vanishing without trace in the middle of the Indian Ocean, on a flat calm sea, in 1926. The Doctor specifically compares this incident to the mystery of the Mary Celeste. I shan't repeat myself here - go back and look at the 'Inspirations' post for The Chase. The Special Edition DVD for this story actually has a whole extra feature on maritime mysteries, inevitably mentioning the Mary Celeste and the Bermuda Triangle. Strangely, considering they only encountered them a short time ago, the Doctor fails to enlighten Jo about what really happened to the crew of that ill-fated ship when the Daleks paid it a visit.
The Doctor and Jo soon manage to break through one of those strange floor plates, and find themselves inside the gubbins of some technologically advanced piece of machinery.
At this point we should mention the belief common to most small children that the people they see on their TV screen really live inside the television set.

Back on Inter-Minor, Vorg has finally got round to telling the tribunal about his Miniscope - just as the Doctor and Jo are realising that they are inside just such a device. And so the two seemingly separate plots mesh together. Threats against Vorg and Shirna and their machine are also threats against the Doctor and Jo. The Doctor and Jo break into another circuit, and find themselves in the middle of a marsh. This is the domain of huge serpentine monsters called Drashigs. I'm sure you already know that the name is an anagram of dishrags, as Holmes expected the VFX gang to come up with something cheap to realise them.
The marshy location was right next to where the ship was moored, along the Thames Estuary. Careful filming made it look like the ship was sailing along - but this was just the tide going by. The ship was due to be scrapped, and the DVD's making-of documentary recounts the story of how Jon Pertwee helped himself to a rather nice binnacle from the bridge, reasoning that the vessel was to be broken up anyway. However, many of the fixtures and fittings had been catalogued as they were to be sold off, so Barry Letts had to talk his star into returning it. This is just one example of Pertwee's appropriation of supposedly unwanted items from filming locations. Making his very first story, at the house used for the cottage hospital, he found an antique writing desk in the attic and got the production team to help him winch it out the window.

Whilst Jo finds herself back on the ship, the Doctor makes it to the outside world where he grows to normal size. Kalik and Orum, meanwhile, have come up with a cunning plan. Discovering that the Drashigs have broken out of their circuit and are loose inside the Miniscope, they will let them escape from the machine. The resulting chaos and destruction will discredit Kalik's brother, and naturally he would make a much better President. The plan, when you think about it, isn't all that cunning. They've sabotaged their only weapon - planting a key component amongst Vorg's belongings so he will get the blame. They are then gong to be hanging around when the monsters emerge. They even give the creatures a little help in breaking out. Vorg ends up hoist on his own petard - eaten by one of the Drashigs. Rather than get the blame for the sabotage of the weapon, Vorg finds the component and makes a hero of himself by shooting down the Drashigs and saving the day. The Doctor uses the TARDIS to rescue Jo, and then to send all of the exhibits within the machine back to their rightful places in space and time before it blows up.
One thing left hanging, which I talked about when I reviewed this story, is how the Doctor knew about the ship's disappearance if he put it back where it belonged. Did history change, or did the ship then encounter another disaster after being returned?
Discussing the Miniscope earlier with Vorg and tribunal chairman Pletrac, the Doctor gives away a little bit about his time whilst still resident on Gallifrey. He claims that he helped get the machines banned, after complaining about them to the High Council - pretty much making a nuisance of himself until they agreed. You'll recall that this story was recorded immediately following one in which he described his boyhood encounter with an ancient Gallifreyan mystic, so he's getting quite chatty about his background these days.
Vorg and Shirna are left on the planet without a livelihood, but fortunately Vorg discovers that at least some of the Inter-Minorans have a predilection for gambling. The game he plays is a variation on Three-card Monte - or Find the Lady. Three cards are placed face down, one of which is a face card (traditionally the Queen of Hearts). The cards are shuffled and you then have to pick the face card. It is a common confidence trick, originating in Spain, which dupes the gullible to this day.

When we looked at the very first story in these 'Inspirations' posts, we mentioned Kenneth Williams -  in reference to the schoolboy in the opening scenes. He and Hugh Paddick created a couple of characters called Julian and Sandy for the radio show Round the Horne. Blatantly gay (though one end of series episode had them introduce their wives to Kenneth Horne), they brought the language of Polari to the masses. Also known as Palare, this originated in the Romany community but was picked up by other groups, such as gay men, for use as a form of secret language. It mixed Italian, Yiddish, rhyming slang and backslang. The latter means words being reversed - such as riah for hair. It was popular among travelling fairground workers, many of whom were of Romany stock, as Vorg mentions to Shirna. Strangely, it does not appear to be translatable by the TARDIS, as the Doctor can't understand Vorg when he uses it on him. Vorg says: "Parlae the Carny?" - "Do you speak the Carnival language?", "Varda the Bona Palone" - "Look at the pretty girl", and "Niente dinari here, y'jills" - "No money to be made here. you know".
Right, I'm off to get me lills on some jarry. Next time: the real Tenth Anniversary adventure gets under way. The Doctor and Jo end up on another cargo ship - this time in space. Someone's trying to provoke a war (it's you know who), and this time he's working for them (you know who too)...

Thursday 26 July 2018

Fragments - Torchwood 2.12

In which the Torchwood team are called to a warehouse outside Cardiff following reports of strange activity. Gwen is not with them, having slept in. As they explore, they find the building to be deserted - and then come upon a number of compact explosive devices. They detonate, and the team find themselves buried under rubble. Each of them experiences a flashback to the day they came to join Torchwood...

For Jack, things began at the end of the 19th Century. He encountered a young girl who read Tarot Cards, and she told him that the century would change twice before he met the Doctor again. Later, he was chasing an alien Blowfish when he was stabbed with a broken bottle. Dying and then coming back to life, he was confronted by two women - Alice and Emily. They shot the Blowfish dead then captured Jack, taking him back to the Hub where they tortured him for information concerning the Doctor. When it became clear that he did not know where he was, they then offered him a job. Over the next few decades he was employed by Torchwood Three as little more than an assassin, as the organisation existed simply to neutralise alien threats - not to comprehend them or befriend the benevolent visitors. On New Year's Eve, 1999, Jack entered the Hub where he found his colleagues dead. They had been killed by his boss, Alex. He had used an alien device which allowed him to see the future, and he claimed that everything would change with the 21st Century, and Torchwood were not ready to face the approaching threats. He then killed himself after handing the organisation over to Jack. He determined that Torchwood would change for the better under his leadership.

For Tosh, things changed 5 years ago. She had been working for the Ministry of Defence and one night she stole the blueprints for a sonic manipulator device. She constructed one at her home. This was because her mother had been abducted by a terrorist group led by a woman named Milton, who were forcing her to provide them with the device. When Tosh went to hand it over and free her mother, the building was raided by UNIT soldiers. Tosh found herself incarcerated in a UNIT prison facility, with no hope of release. Jack visited her there and offered her a choice - stay forever in jail, or come work with him at Torchwood. He had been impressed by her building of the sonic device, as the blueprints had contained a flaw which she had spotted and corrected.

Ianto came to Cardiff after the Battle of Canary Wharf, as he had worked at Torchwood One. He wanted a new job and tried to get Jack to offer him one. He bribed him with coffee, and praised his dress sense, but Jack held firm - even after Ianto had helped him fend off a Weevil. When Jack went to a warehouse to capture a pterodactyl which had come through the Rift, he found Ianto there - having tracked the creature with his own rift detector. Ianto distracted it with chocolate whilst Jack caught the beast. Jack then relented and offered him a job. Ianto's persistence would later be revealed to have been because he wanted the resources to save his girlfriend Lisa, who had been partially transformed into a Cyberman.

Owen is at risk of decapitation as a sheet of glass is balanced precariously over his throat. He recalls how he was about to get married when his fiancee, Katie, began to suffer memory problems. Fearing some sort of brain tumour, he had his hospital colleague investigate. On the day of her operation Owen was waiting outside the operating theatre when he heard a commotion from within. Entering, he found the entire medical team dead, poisoned by gas emitted from a tentacled parasitical alien which had lodged itself in Katie's brain. Jack appeared and told him what the creature was, and how Katie could not be saved. Jack then knocked Owen out, and when he awoke it was to discover that Torchwood had covered up the whole incident. Some time later, Owen was visiting Katie's grave when he was approached by Jack. He returned the punch. Jack then told him that he worked for an organisation which tackled alien threats such as the one which had killed Katie. Owen could bring his medical skills to the team, and help stop the same thing happening to others.
Gwen and Rhys arrive at the warehouse and manage to free everyone. Outside, the find that the SUV has been stolen. They discover who is behind the bomb trap when Jack receives a holographic message from Captain John Hart on his Vortex Manipulator. John has someone with him - Jack's long lost brother Gray...

Fragments was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 21st March, 2008.
It forms the first section of the second series finale, though only the closing minutes make this explicit. As such it isn't really the first half of a two parter. What it does do is provide an origins story for most of the Torchwood team, in portmanteau fashion. We had already seen how Gwen came to join Torchwood at the start of the first season - so she isn't needed here. Eve Myles has been busy making the previous episode Adrift anyway. We knew some of Jack's backstory, as he had spoken of it to the Doctor and Martha Jones in Utopia. This episode shows the precise moment he comes into contact with Torchwood, and how they came to recruit him, and shows the kind of work he did with them. We also knew some of Ianto's story as well, as it had featured in the episode Cyberwoman. His flashback adds the origins for Myfanwy, the team's pet pterodactyl. The new stories are those for Tosh and Owen. There was some criticism from fans at the time of the way that UNIT was portrayed, being far removed from the organisation as it had existed when a certain Brigadier had been in charge. Owen's tale goes some way to explaining some of his attitudes to sexual relationships. His character seems to have changed the most due to his involvement with Torchwood, though not for the better.

There has only been a very tenuous arc running through this second season - Jack's brother Gray having been mentioned in the first episode, and the circumstances of his abduction shown in the episode Adam. The Blowfish alien is seen again from that first episode, and Captain John returns - and now he has Gray with him, seemingly his prisoner. We also see the return of the Tarot-playing girl, who seems to have lived for a very long time, but there is still no clue as to her origins.
As the episode deals very much with Jack interacting with the other regulars, there is only a small guest cast. The two Torchwood ladies, Alice and Emily, are played by Amy Manson and Heather Craney respectively. Noriko Aida returns as Tosh's mother - having previously been seen in End of Days. Alex is Julian Lewis Jones, and Katie is Andrea Lowe, whilst Milton is Clare Clifford. Jones was seen recently as the King of Atlantis in the Justice League movie. Clifford had previously played the paleontologist Professor Kyle in Earthshock.
We get the first glimpse of Lachlan Nieboer as Gray, though he and James Marsters went uncredited on this episode.

Overall, an interesting episode, comprising four short stories which range in mood from the bleakness of Tosh's to the humour of Ianto's. The conclusion nicely sets us up for the series finale, which promises the welcome return of Captain John.
Things you might like to know:

  • Ianto tells Jack that he is familiar with Weevils - suggesting that they might not be confined to Cardiff and its Rift.
  • Though it is never stated, the sonic modulator is clearly the MOD's attempt to replicate the Doctor's sonic screwdriver.
  • This is the first time that the Doctor is mentioned by name, as it were, in the series. The version of Torchwood which employs Alice and Emily is the one envisaged by Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw.
  • In the Ianto section, Jack is heard to talk to Suzie Costello. She remains the only member of Torchwood Three who never got an origins story.
  • We're told that Jack dies 1392 times between his encounter with the Blowfish in 1899 and the explosion in the warehouse.

Tuesday 24 July 2018

F is for... Family of Blood

A sadistic, war-like race, of obscure origins, which had only a very short life-span. In their natural form, they existed as green gaseous entities, but could inhabit the bodies of others. One group of the creatures encountered the Doctor and Martha on an alien world, where they decided that one of their number should take for itself the body of a Time Lord. They formed a family unit - Father of Mine, Mother of Mine, Son of Mine, and Daughter / Sister of Mine. The Doctor and Martha fled, but the Family had access to time travel technology and a stolen spacecraft. They followed the TARDIS to Earth, arriving in England in 1913. As the creatures had not seen what they looked like, the Doctor decided to transform himself into a human being for a few months, by which time the Family would have died. Using a Chameleon Arch, he became John Smith, teacher at a boys' public school. Martha got a job there as a maid, to be close to him and keep an eye on him in his human state. His Time Lord essence was deposited in a pocket watch. The Family had landed near the school. A schoolboy named Baines accidentally found his way into their ship, and his body was taken over by Son of Mine. Hunting by smell, he went back to the school to seek out the Time Lord. He used alien technology called Molecular Fringe Animation to fashion an army of living scarecrows. These abducted a local farmer, Mr Clark, who became host for Father of Mine; and a young girl named Lucy Cartwright to host Daughter of Mine. A servant friend of Martha's named Jenny became the host for Mother of Mine.

The Family were able to work out that Smith was the Time Lord they sought. They tried to abduct him from a village dance, but he was saved by Martha. They then laid siege to the school, attacking it with their scarecrow army. Father of Mine got hold of the TARDIS, to force Smith to hand himself over to them. They then took to their spaceship and began bombarding the village. Smith was finally talked into becoming the Doctor once more, but he kept this fact hidden from the Family when he went to their ship, pretending to still be Smith. He sabotaged the craft, then captured the Family. As they had sought a form of immortality, he gave it to them. Father of Mine was chained forever in bonds made of unbreakable dwarf star alloy. Mother of Mine was cast into the event horizon of a Black Hole. Daughter of Mine was trapped within a mirror - every mirror, where she can sometimes be glimpsed out of the corner of your eye. Son of Mine was frozen in time and set up as a scarecrow, watching over the fields of England.

Played by: Harry Lloyd (Son of Mine), Gerard Horan (Father of Mine), Rebekah Staton (Mother of Mine) and Lauren Wilson (Daughter of Mine). Appearances: Human Nature / The Family of Blood (2007).
  • Lloyd is probably best known for his role as Viserys Targaryen - brother of Daenerys - in the first season of Game of Thrones. He also played Will Scarlett in the BBC Robin Hood series. He is the great, great, great grandson of Charles Dickens.
  • Genre appearances for Horan include recurring roles in Outlander and Da Vinci's Demons.

F is for... Faeries

An ancient terrestrial race whose rarely glimpsed existence had fed into global myths of fairies, elves and sprites. A group of the creatures inhabited a piece of woodland in suburban Cardiff. An old friend of Captain Jack Harkness - Estelle - investigated the area in search of them. She believed them to be beautiful, peaceful creatures. Jack warned her that this was not the case, and that she should be careful. Unhappy at her intrusion into their world, the creatures attacked Estelle - luring her out into her garden one night where they killed her with a torrential downpour of rain, drowning her. Controlling the elements was just one of their powers. When a man attempted to abduct a young girl, he was attacked by a vicious wind. He then found himself followed by unseen beings. He started choking on rose petals which seemed to materialise in his throat. He sought out police custody for protection - admitting his paedophiliac tendencies to get himself arrested. The Faeries had formed a bond with the girl, Jasmine, and wanted her to join them. The man later choked to death on the petals whilst in a police cell. Jack told his colleague Gwen Cooper of an event from his past. Serving with the army in Lahore, India, in 1909, some of his men had knocked down and killed a child. Later, the entire company was killed whilst traveling on a train - choked by petals. The child who had been killed was one of the Faeries' Chosen Ones - selected to join them.
Torchwood were drawn to Jasmine after a freak gale had struck her school, summoned by the Faeries when a couple of other girls had tried to bully her. Later at her home, they attacked a birthday party for her stepfather, with whom she did not get on, killing him. Jasmine then ran into the woods to join the creatures. Powerless to stop them, Jack had to let her go.
Sometime later, Gwen was studying one of the famous Cottingley Fairy photographs, and discovered that one of the creatures had the face of Jasmine.

Appearances: TW 1.5 Small Worlds (2006).

F is for... Face of Boe

The Face of Boe appeared to be a huge head contained in a mobile smoke-filled tank. It was known throughout the cosmos, though its origins were obscure, and it was reputed to be thousands - if not millions - of years old. The Doctor had heard of it when he saw it on Platform One, which was in orbit around the Earth in the year 5 Billion. The Face of Boe had sponsored an event on the Platform - a gathering of influential figures to view the final destruction of the planet. The Platform was sabotaged by the Lady Cassandra, who claimed to be the last pure human. When her agents were discovered, she tried to blame the Face as it had brought everyone together here. The Face survived the sabotage.
Millions of years earlier, whilst he and Rose were visiting Satellite Five, the Doctor saw a news report claiming that the Face was pregnant - its child referred to as Boemina.

Some 23 years later, the Face fell ill and sent a message to the Doctor via his psychic paper to come and visit it at the hospital which overlooked New New York, on the planet New Earth. The face was being tended by Novice Hame, one of the cat-like Sisters of Plenitude who ran the facility. Hame told the Doctor of a legend surrounding the Face - that it had some great secret which it would only impart to someone like itself - a traveller who was the last of his kind. After the activities of the Sisters had been exposed, and Hame and her colleagues arrested, the Doctor went to see the Face of Boe. It told him that it was not ready to die quite yet, nor to impart its secret, and it would meet him again one last time. It then teleported away from the hospital.

The Doctor took Martha Jones to the city a few decades later, where he discovered that a terrible virus had killed off the entire planet - save for thousands of people trapped in the underground motorway beneath the city. He was abducted from the motorway by Novice Hame and taken to the Senate Building, where he met the Face. Hame revealed that she had been tasked with looking after the Face as penance for her crimes at the hospital. When the virus had broken out, the Face had protected her by shrouding her in its smoke, and it had closed down the motorway in order to save the people trapped there. It was using the last of its power to keep the motorway running. The Doctor was able to open up the motorway and free the drivers, but the life support unit of the Face cracked open. As it died, it told the Doctor its great secret - telling him "You Are Not Alone". It later transpired that this was reference to the Master, who was hidden in human form at the end of the universe in the guise of Professor Yana.
The Master regenerated and stole the TARDIS, going back to the 21st Century to set himself up as the UK Prime Minister Harold Saxon.

Captain Jack Harkness joined the Doctor and Martha in defeating him. When they dropped him off in Cardiff to rejoin his Torchwood colleagues, Jack mentioned that he was still growing old, despite being immortal, and wondered what would happen to him. He told them that as a boy he had been the first from his community on the Boeshane Peninsula to join the Time Agency. The Agency had made him their recruitment poster boy, and he had been called "The Face of Boe"...

Voiced by: Struan Rodger. Appearances: The End of the World (2005), New Earth (2006), Gridlock (2007). Cameo: The Long Game (2005).
  • It is left for the viewer to decide if Captain Jack really will age into the Face of Boe. To date, Russell T Davies has vetoed anything which states categorically that he is, or that he isn't.
  • It was never originally intended that the Face would feature so prominently. Davies felt that the prop built for its first appearance was so good that it deserved to be seen more, and so added it to his New Earth trilogy.
  • Struan Rodger was finally seen on screen when he played Lady Me's servant in The Woman Who Lived.
The Face of Boe, at the Doctor Who Experience in 2016

F is for... Faber, Ellie

A young woman who was living rough on the streets of London, befriended by Clyde Langer when he found himself homeless and shunned by his family and friends. Her mother had remarried after her father had died, and she had not got on with her new step-dad. Clyde had touched an ancient totem pole in the Museum of Culture, which was really an alien artifact. A splinter stuck in his hand, and from that point on he seemed to be cursed. His mother and friends, including Sarah Jane Smith and Rani, all turned against him. Ellie told Clyde that many of the people sleeping rough had disappeared - taken away by the "Night Dragon". She thought that Clyde might be her lucky charm and improve her luck. Fortunately Sarah Jane's adoptive daughter Sky recalled Clyde getting the splinter, and she was unaffected by the curse. She helped the others realise what had happened to them. The totem was destroyed and the curse lifted. Clyde then went searching for Ellie, only to discover that this was not her real name. It was taken from a pop star poster. He then saw a truck belonging to "Night Dragon Haulage", and a homeless man told him that the drivers often gave lifts to people who wanted to start afresh in a new city. Clyde was left not knowing what happened to her, with no clue as to her real name or where she had gone.

Played by: Lily Loveless. Appearances: SJA 5.2 The Curse of Clyde Langer (2011).
  • Had the series not come to an end with the following story, Clyde's search for Ellie would have featured in a further storyline.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Inspirations - The Three Doctors

The Three Doctors was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, their third script for the series. The season beginning on 30th December 1972 would be the 10th, so Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks felt that this anniversary should be marked in some way. The actual 10th anniversary - on 23rd November, 1973 - would actually fall in the gap between the 10th and 11th seasons, and the real anniversary story was envisaged as an attempt to equal the longest Doctor Who story ever - the 12 part The Daleks' Master Plan. The director of that epic, Douglas Camfield, had a few words of advice about that. Meanwhile, Letts and Dicks looked for an attention-grabbing season opener. Season 8 had introduced the Master and new companion Jo Grant, and Season 9 had seen the return of the Daleks after an absence of several years.
The production office had often received letters from viewers suggesting a story which united all the three Doctors. These suggestions were always dismissed off-hand. Wanting their attention-grabber, Letts and Dicks decided to think about what such a story might look like, and they realised that it was not such a bad idea after all.
Patrick Troughton was sounded out about returning to the role he had quit in 1969. An old friend of Letts and Dicks, he felt that enough time had passed since his departure, and it hadn't harmed his career as he had earlier feared, so he was on board in principle. A phone call to William Hartnell found the first ever Doctor only too happy to reprise the role.

Baker and Martin were then commissioned to write a story in which all three Doctors would be required to defeat a powerful enemy. The reward for succeeding would be the lifting of the Doctor's exile on Earth, so the Time Lords had to feature. As plans proceeded two hurdles appeared. The first was that Troughton was extremely busy, and would not be available towards the beginning of production on the 10th Season. The story would need to be made much later, leaving very little time between production and broadcast. The second cause for concern was a phone call Letts received from Hartnell's wife, Heather, alarmed that he had agreed to return to the programme. She explained that Letts must have caught him on one of his rare good days. He was very ill, and most of the time he had poor memory and could be very thought disordered. She expressed her concern that he might not be able to appear. This was then fed back to the writers, who were asked to reduce the role of the First Doctor, and Dicks would further reduce his contribution to little more than a cameo.

What Baker and Martin came up with was a story entitled "Deathworld". This would see the Time Lords threatened by a Federation of Evil, led by a personification of Death. Death's Federation would include zombies and evil mythical beings such as the Goddess Kali and Polyphemus the Cyclops. The three Doctors would be sent by the Time Lords into a sort of limbo world, whose entrance was in a graveyard. The First and Second Doctors would sacrifice themselves so that the current incarnation could succeed. One image the writers had was of the Death figure playing chess, based on the 1957 Ingmar Bergman film The Seventh Seal, in which Death plays chess with a knight. The writers called their Death character OHM - the word WHO inverted. This was to suggest that he was equal but opposite to the Doctor. Barry Letts vetoed this - as he pointed out that the Doctor isn't actually called "Who". Letts also disliked the notion of the limbo world. Baker and Martin went back to the drawing board and came up with a storyline called "The Black Hole". This would feature a similar character to OHM, to be called Omega, who was another Time Lord. They had been reading about Black Holes in scientific literature, as well as theories about anti-matter. The new plot would have Omega draining the power of the Time Lords in revenge for them having abandoned him. One of their inspirations was the 1939 MGM musical version of The Wizard of Oz. The rainbow became the time-bridge whilst Omega was the wizard-like character, creating things by sheer force of will. Like the Wizard, Omega would not be all that he appeared, though in his case he is just force of will - his body having atrophied away to nothing.

Hartnell's involvement was still a worry. It was decided that he would be employed for a single day's filming, to be undertaken at Ealing Studios. The plot had the First Doctor trapped in a time eddy, and only able to comment and advise on events from the TARDIS scanner or the Time Lords' view screen. A small piece of filming took place at Hartnell's Kent cottage - shots of him strolling in his garden, which would be viewed by the Time Lords. On this day Pertwee and Troughton joined him for publicity photographs. The iconic images of the trio, one of which was used for the cover of the Radio Times, were taken in a makeshift studio set up in Hartnell's garage. For many years, fan myth had it that all of Hartnell's scenes were filmed in his garage, but this was not the case. Seated in a perspex pyramid at Ealing, Hartnell could read his lines off of cue cards. This was to prove his last acting job, and he died in 1975 during the broadcast of Tom Baker's first season.
It had been hoped that Frazer Hines would reprise the role of Jamie, and would be given a romantic sub-plot with Jo. However, Hines was working on Emmerdale Farm at the time and he was denied permission to take the necessary time out. It was still hoped that he might feature in a very brief cameo at the end, as he questioned where his Doctor has been. Much of what would have been given to Hines was redistributed to John Levene - giving Benton a more prominent role. Benton was originally going to be left behind on Earth when UNIT HQ vanished. With Hines unavailable, Wendy Padbury was considered for a return appearance as Zoe. However, Pertwee then put his foot down.
Insecure at the best of times, and unsure about sharing the screen with his predecessor, he vetoed any further inclusion by characters from before his time as he thought they would detract from the current line-up. This was his and Katy Manning's show now.

Another fan myth for many years was that the B&W sequence of Troughton walking through a misty environment, as viewed by the Time Lords, was a clip taken from The Macra Terror. Of course, it was specially shot as part of the location filming for this story - in the quarry used to represent Omega's world.
The choice of Clyde Pollitt to play one of the Time Lords was a deliberate one on Letts' part. He wanted this to be the same Time Lord who had officiated at the Doctor's trial in The War Games, as this story would see the Doctor's exile, handed down in that story, lifted. This is why Graham Leaman was also cast as a Time Lord - it was intended that he was the same one who had been seen at the start of Colony In Space.
Omega's servants were never properly named on screen. They are usually called Gell Guards, as when they appeared as part of the 1977 Weetabix Doctor Who promotion. The production team were not best pleased when they elicited howls of laughter when first brought on location.
There was some tension in the studio when Pertwee and Troughton had to perform together. Pertwee liked to learn his lines exactly as written, whilst Troughton preferred to extemporise a little - saying the gist of the line rather than as it appeared in the script. This could throw Pertwee and make him irritable.
We get a new TARDIS console room, after the last story had introduced a new set. This new one is much closer in design to the original. Barry Letts had hated the one designed for The Time Monster, and was not unduly upset when it was found to have become damaged in storage.

This story marks the first time that someones says of the TARDIS that it is "bigger on the inside" - when the Third Doctor tells Benton that this is what he expects him to say. It is clear that this is the first time that Benton and the Brigadier have seen the inside of the ship - which is surprising.
The performances of the Second Doctor and of the Brigadier have been singled out for comment by fans. It is felt that Troughton does not act like any of his performances whilst he was leading the show. He becomes a sort of caricature of the Second Doctor - which we will see in his other two return performances, and which was the persona he adopted for convention appearances. The Brigadier, meanwhile, seems to be played more for laughs, and comes across as more dim-witted. His line "I'm pretty sure that's Cromer" was an ad-lib by Nicholas Courtney. Three of the Brigadier's most famous lines would turn out to be ad-libs.
Studio recording ended just two and a half weeks before the first episode was broadcast. For the first time, the end credits feature a BBC copyright with the year. For the first episode, this read 1973, despite Part One going to air on the penultimate day of 1972.
Next time: the Doctor and Jo are free to travel anywhere in Time and Space, but end up sharing a cargo hold with some chickens. Then a dinosaur shows up. Meanwhile, a pair of entertainers are having some trouble getting through customs at an alien space port. What could the connection possibly be...?

Thursday 19 July 2018

The Tudric Screwdriver

I've not said much about the forthcoming 11th Series of Doctor Who - mainly because there really hasn't been very much to say about it.
Today three of the principal cast, the show-runner and the executive producer attended the San Diego Comic-Con. Footage will no doubt follow shortly, but the BBC did take the opportunity of releasing the image you can see above, which features the new sonic screwdriver and gives a hint as to what the new TARDIS interior might look like. There are clearer images of the screwdriver, facsimiles of which go on sale in August. The design is very different from previous versions which were much more machine / tool like. The new one is clearly based on what is known as Tudric - the brand of Celtic Revival / Art Nouveau pewter-ware which was sold by Liberty & Co of London in the early part of the 20th Century. It has a much more organic look to it.
The Beeb also released a trailer featuring scenes from the new series, but it doesn't actually show a lot. Like the frankly underwhelming teaser shown during the World Cup Final, we only get to see the Doctor and the companions. I've seen images from the 2019 official calendar, which were accidentally released early on-line, then quickly taken down. Every month featured an image of either the Doctor, or one of the companions. I certainly won't be giving it wall-space, I'm afraid, as it looked downright boring. (Luckily every year we get a choice of two calendars - one for the most recent series, and one based around all of the Doctors. I'll be plumping for the latter again for 2019).
We have been promised a lot of new monsters for the new series, and that's what we really want to get a look at if the BBC want to get us excited about Series 11.
I've said all along that it will be the stories themselves that count - not the first female Doctor, or having Bradley Walsh as a companion, or what fancy lenses they have used on the cameras. Until we get some idea of what the adventures themselves are going to be like, the jury is still out as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Story 197 - Midnight

In which the Doctor and Donna visit the Leisure Palace on the planet Midnight. This uninhabitable world is bathed in X-tonic radiation, which destroys organic tissue in seconds, and there is no breathable atmosphere. The Palace had to be constructed elsewhere and lowered down onto the surface. The landscape around the complex is composed of crystals of diamond and sapphires. Whilst Donna elects to relax by the pool, the Doctor decides to take a trip to the Sapphire Waterfall on the Crusader 50 tourbus. The vehicle has sealed windows, and the tour party will only get a very brief view of the falls once they get to their destination - such is the danger from the radiation.
Joining the Doctor on the tour are Professor Hobbes, who has made a special study of the planet, and his student assistant Dee Dee Blasco. With them is the Cane family - comprising husband and wife Biff and Val, and their teenage son Jethro. The final passenger is a woman travelling on her own - Sky Silvestry. They will be looked after by a Hostess on the journey, which should only take a few hours. A son-et-lumiere show is provided to pass the time - comprising old cartoons, Euro-pop songs and psychedelic lighting, all played simultaneously. Horrified, the Doctor decides to sabotage this, and then gets the passengers to talk to one another instead.

The Canes tell everyone about some of their funnier holiday experiences, to the embarrassment of bored son Jethro, who would rather listen to his music. Hobbes and Dee Dee provide a lecture about the planet. The Doctor then joins Sky, who informs him that she has recently broken up with her partner and is enjoying travelling on her own. After a while the driver, Joe, announces that they will be making a detour to their normal route due to a rockfall. A short time after this, the vehicle comes to a halt. Hobbes announces that he has done this trip many times, and the vehicle never stops. The Doctor goes to the cockpit where Joe and his mechanic Claude tell him that they have some engine problems, but he does not believe them. He encourages them to open the window shutter for a moment so that they can look out onto the surface. Just as it closes again, Claude is sure that he has seen movement - even though nothing can live here. The Hostess gets the Doctor to return to the cabin where he tries to reassure the others, who are beginning to panic - with Val fearing they will run out of air. Something then knocks against the outside of the hull. It moves around the vehicle. When the Doctor knocks back, it seems to respond. The vehicle is then plunged into darkness as something tears away at the exterior. The Doctor discovers that the driver's cab has been totally ripped away, killing Joe and Claude.

Hobbes is shocked by these events as he has always insisted that there can be no life on Midnight. It soon becomes clear that the thing which had been knocking has now gotten inside the Crusader, as Sky begins to behave strangely. It appears to have possessed her in some way. She watches the others intently and begins to repeat everything they say - leading the Doctor to surmise that it is trying to learn to communicate with them. Her constant repetition gets on everyone's nerves. After a time, they are shocked to find that she has synchronised and is speaking at exactly the same moment as them. Fear and paranoia grow, and the passengers begin to talk about throwing Sky out of the bus. The doors can be opened safely for a few seconds due to an air seal. The Doctor naturally urges against this. His efforts to take charge only cause the others to resent him, however. It is then noticed that Sky is speaking before the Doctor does - anticipating his speech. The passengers begin to believe that the mysterious entity has moved from Sky to him, and she confirms this to be the case. His willpower is sapped, as he repeats what she says. The others then decide to throw him out of the vehicle. However, the Hostess notices that Sky is using certain phrases which she had heard the Doctor say, and realises that the entity has not transferred to him at all. Before the others can drag him to the door to throw him outside, she grabs hold of Sky and pulls her through the door instead, killing them both.
A subdued group of passengers then await the arrival of a rescue vehicle. They realise that they didn't even know the Hostess' name.

Midnight was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on Saturday 14th June, 2008.It was designed to be a very cheap episode, with a small cast confined to a single set, and to be the series' first ever "companion-lite" story. Series Two and Three had featured "Doctor-lite" episodes, which also had a minimal role for the companion (Love & Monsters and Blink). This was to enable the production team to realise 13 episodes plus a Christmas Special in the time available. For this season, it was decided to feature one story in which the Doctor would hardly appear, and another in which Donna would be mostly absent. We'll hear about the one with very little David Tennant in it next time, but Midnight only features Catherine Tate in two brief sequences which top and tail the episode, as she is seen to relax by a swimming pool.
The limitations imposed on this story by himself, allow for a highly claustrophobic little tale in which fear and paranoia run rife, and for once the Doctor gets caught up in it. His attempts to be the commanding voice of reason fall on deaf ears. Apart from some establishing shots of the Leisure Palace and Donna's pool, all of the action is contained within the Crusader tourbus. There is a brief moment when Driver Joe opens the window screen to allow us a view of the planet, but tellingly we only hear that Claude has seen something move. We all replayed this sequence in slow motion several times in the hope that there was a glimpse of some CGI creature, but of course there isn't anything to be seen.
The story is all about sound and atmosphere and performances. And what performances.

It is an excellent cast, headed by Lesley Sharp as Sky Silvestry. Davies could have gone down the cliched route of having her a very nice person taken over by the entity, but right from the off she is a bit of a cold fish, preferring her own company and not mixing with the others. Presumably this is why the entity chooses her - she has something in common with it to begin with. Professor Hobbes is played by David Troughton, returning to the series for the first time since The Curse of Peladon. The other monster on board the Crusader is Val - played by EastEnders star Lindsey Coulson. Val epitomises all the worst aspects of humanity. Close behind her is her husband Biff, played by Daniel Ryan. Biff and Val are basically the White Van couple you don't want to get stuck beside on a long journey. Son Jethro is Colin Morgan, who would go on to star as the young Merlin in the popular BBC series which began later in 2008. This was designed to plug the gap left when Doctor Who was off the air, following the end of the Robin Hood series. Jethro is a bit of a Goth, or Emo, and is much more of a sympathetic character than his parents. However, even he starts to get drawn into the paranoia, and the Doctor realises that he is fighting a losing battle when this happens. The other sympathetic passenger is Dee Dee, played by Ayesha Antoine. She manages to keep a more level head for much of the time, working things out rather than being pulled along by the others.

As far as story arc points go for this series, we get a brief glimpse of Rose Tyler calling out to the Doctor on the Crusader's TV monitors, which he fails to see, and Dee Dee has been studying the Lost Moon of Poosh. The Doctor - and therefore Sky - also mentions the Medusa Cascade.
Overall, a superb episode. Special mention for the performances by David Tennant and Lesley Sharp. It is worth watching the full length installment of Doctor Who Confidential which accompanied this story, to see the work that went into the shifting dialogue between the pair. It also highlights the sound design for this story. A very good 44th place in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll.
Things you might like to know:
  • Actor Sam Kelly was originally cast to play Hobbes, but he broke his leg just before filming and so Troughton was brought in at only two day's notice to replace him.
  • Working titles included "Crusader Five" and "Crusader 50". The 50 came from this being the 50th episode of he revived series to be filmed.
  • Midnight was written quite quickly as it had to fill a slot which was to go to writer Tom MacRae. His story - "Century House" - featured TV ghost hunters investigating a haunted house, but elements of it were deemed too similar to The Unicorn and the Wasp, and it was dropped.
  • This is the first story since Genesis of the Daleks not to feature the TARDIS.
  • And this is the first story in which the Doctor has to cope without a companion to help him since The Deadly Assassin.
  • Davies' inspiration for the repetition by the entity came from children copying what adults say as a joke - usually persisting beyond it being funny any more and becoming just plain annoying. A bit like "Are we there yet?".
  • The in-flight entertainment sabotaged by the Doctor included Betty Boop cartoons, which dated back to the 1930's, and music from Italian pop diva Raffaella Carra. Before becoming a pop star she was an actress who appeared in many Sword & Sandal epics. "Do It, Do It Again" had been her only UK hit. The light show accompanying these is reminiscent of the psychedelic oil on water images pioneered by bands like Pink Floyd.
  • The clip of Rose seen on the screen was filmed as part of Turn Left, and was done specifically for inclusion in this episode. Many people think it was simply copied from the Sontaran episode, but the reverse is actually the case. After filming it for this, it was then decided to go back and edit it into that earlier story.
  • Dee Dee quotes a poem about goblins. This was Goblin Market, written by Christina Rossetti in 1859 and published in 1862.
  • When you watch this story on DVD / Blu-Ray, or as a repeat on a cable channel or on-line service, you are not seeing it exactly as it was first broadcast. In the opening sequence where the Doctor speaks to Donna on the phone, the green-screen backdrop was briefly visible. This error was fixed later.

Monday 16 July 2018

E is for... Eyesen

Chief Prosecutor of the city of Millennius, on the planet Marinus. This was the location of the fifth and final key needed by the scientist Arbitan to operate the Conscience Machine, whose power radiated across the planet to suppress evil actions and intent. When Ian Chesterton arrived in the city he found himself in the museum vault where the key was displayed, but he discovered a dead man lying there. Someone knocked him out and stole the key, and he awoke to find himself accused of the murder and theft. He was horrified to learn that the legal system in Millennius held that people were guilty until proven innocent. The Doctor elected to act as Ian's defence counsel, whilst the city appointed Eyesen to prosecute. Unbeknownst to Ian and the Doctor, Eyesen was the mastermind behind the theft of the key. He and his accomplices - a museum guard named Aydan and his wife Kala - hoped to ransom the key for a great deal of money. Aydan had killed the man in the vault - really one of Arbitan's followers - and framed Ian for the murder. When it looked as though Aydan might lose his nerve and reveal the truth, Eyesen and Kala had him killed, as they were having an affair and regarded him as disposable. Eyesen then ordered Kala to abduct Susan to deter the Doctor from investigating further - telling Kala that she should kill the girl as she could identify her.
The Doctor was able to work out the hiding place of the key - in a secret compartment in the murder weapon itself - but he needed to catch the mastermind red-handed when he came to collect it from the guardroom. After successfully prosecuting Ian, Eyesen sneaked into the guardroom that night - only to fall into the Doctor's trap.
Ian was freed, and presumably Eyesen was then put on trial and himself sentenced to death.

Played by: Donald Pickering. Appearances: The Keys of Marinus (1964).
  • The first of three appearances in the programme for Pickering, the others being the Chameleon duplicate Captain Blade in The Faceless Ones, and the Lakertyan leader Beyus in Time and the Rani.

E is for... Exxilons

The inhabitants of the planet Exxilon had once been a technologically advanced race. They had travelled across the universe and visited many worlds, often bestowing some of their great knowledge on the native populations they encountered. The Doctor believed that it was they who had given the peoples of South and Central America the knowledge of how to construct their pyramids. The pinnacle of their achievements was the building of a huge city on Exxilon, which would act as a repository for all their wisdom. They gave it a brain of sorts, and a variety of defence mechanisms. It was powered by a massive beacon, which could draw energy to itself to feed its systems. However, the city developed an artificial intelligence which saw its creators as inferior to itself. It expelled them. Over the ensuing centuries, efforts to regain access to the city failed, and the Exxilons degenerated into a savage and superstitious state. They came to view the city as a deity, and offered sacrifices to it, declaring the region close to it sacred ground. Their High Priest became their leader, distinguishable by the red dye which stained his skin and robes. The Exxilons became hunters, leading a nocturnal existence, and wore cloaks which blended in to their rocky surroundings. Over time, some actually became petrified, as a result of their mineral rich diet.

An off-shoot clan took to living underground, evolving a smaller stature and bio-luminescent skin. They refused to treat the city as a god, and were persecuted by the surface-dwelling majority.
The TARDIS became trapped on the planet when its power was drained by the city's beacon. Also stranded here was a military expedition from Earth, which had come to look for the mineral Parrinium, source of the only known cure for a terrible space plague. Sarah Jane Smith was captured by the Exxilons as she had wandered into the forbidden zone near the city, and was due to be sacrificed. A Dalek spaceship was next to become trapped on the planet, and they lost the use of their weapons due to the power draining beacon. The Exxilons destroyed one of the Daleks and captured the others, along with the Doctor and the Earth force. When the Doctor attempted to rescue Sarah, he was also sentenced to sacrifice - by being forced into a tunnel beneath the Exxilon temple where one of the city's defensive probes lurked.
He and Sarah were saved by Bellal, leader of the subterranean tribe. The Daleks adapted their weapons to fire bullets and so took over, forcing the humans and Exxilons to mine Parrinium for them. The Exxilons asked them for help in destroying Bellal's people.
The Doctor and Bellal broke into the city and sabotaged its computerised brain, just as the Daleks blew up the beacon. The city was destroyed. The Doctor claimed that it had been one of the 700 Wonders of the Universe.
Presumably the humans would have sought to make peace between Bellal's people and the other Exxilons once the city was gone and the Daleks had been destroyed.

Played by: Mostyn Evans (Exxilon High Priest), Arnold Yarrow (Bellal). Appearances: Death to the Daleks (1974).

E is for... Eve

Sarah Jane Smith's young friend Rani was drawn to investigate reports of a "demon" which was haunting a fairground in a seaside resort. She was told about this by a friend named Sam, who now lived in an orphanage in the town. Rani decided to go and take a look on her own, having fallen out with her friends back in Ealing. She discovered that the demon was really a young female alien named Eve. Eve had been abducting homeless people and mentally enslaving them, making them ride on the fairground attractions. This was because she was really just a child, and wanted company. Her race had died out in a war, but she had been sent away in a sentient spaceship which crashed and was buried beneath the beach nearby. Eve's people could manipulate timelines, and when Rani said she wished her friends would go away and leave her alone, Eve took this literally. In an alternate timeline Rani then became a bitter old woman, living in the attic of Sarah Jane's house. A visit by a boy named Adam in 2059 allowed her to revisit the events at the funfair and change things back again.
Eve freed the people she had ensnared and set off into space to explore with two human companions - the fairground caretaker Harry, who had helped to protect her, and Rani's friend Sam.
It transpired that Adam, the boy from 2059, had been the son of Sam and Eve.

Played by: Eleanor Tomlinson. Appearances: SJA 3.2 The Mad Woman In The Attic (2009).

E is for... Evans

Private Evans was a rather cowardly Welshman who was part of the convoy bringing supplies and a new commander to the Goodge Street Fortress under central London. This was during the Yeti crisis, when a strange fog shrouded the city and Yeti began to appear in the tunnels of the Underground network. Driver Evans managed to escape when the convoy was attacked -by running away and hiding in the tunnels. The only other survivor was the Fortress' new commander - Colonel Lethbridge Stewart. Evans' untrustworthy ways led the Doctor and his companions to suspect that he might be the current host for the Great Intelligence, as various acts of sabotage struck the Fortress, and Evans disappeared into the tunnels on his own. This was merely an attempt to flee, however. Evans was present at Piccadilly Underground Station when the Doctor finally confronted the Intelligence, in the body of Staff Sergeant Arnold.

Played by: Derek Pollitt. Appearances: The Web of Fear (1968).
  • The novelisation of the spin-off story "Downtime" gives Evans the first name Gwynfor. 
  • Pollitt returned to the series on two further occasions - as a UNIT soldier in The Silurians, and as one of the mind-drained scientists in the abandoned story Shada.
  • His brother Clyde Pollitt played Time Lords (or the same Time Lord...) on two occasions - in The War Games and The Three Doctors.

E is for... Evangelista, Miss

Miss Evangelista was the personal assistant to Strackman Lux, who financed the archaeological expedition to the Library planet. In charge of the expedition was Professor River Song. Miss Evangelista was belittled by her colleagues as they thought her rather dim. She was said to have mistaken the escape pod for the lavatory, ejecting herself into space. Twice. The Doctor's companion, Donna Noble, took pity on her and endeavoured to be kind to her. Her lowly status amongst the party meant that when she heard noises coming from an adjoining room, no one listened to her. She wandered in and was killed by the Vashta Nerada, voracious microscopic creatures which swarmed in shadows. Her consciousness survived for some minutes afterwards, thanks to a data chip which formed part of her spacesuit.
A short time later, Donna was uploaded to the Library's data core where she experienced a virtual reality life, wherein she got married and had children. She believed this life to be real. One night, she saw a woman dressed in black, her face covered by a veil, in the street outside, and a message was placed through her door asking her to come to the children's playground the next day. The woman in black told Donna that this reality was false - pointing out that her son and daughter were identical to the other children in the playground. Angered, Donna pulled away her veil to reveal Miss Evangelista. Her features were horribly distorted.

She too had been uploaded to the data core, but something had gone wrong. Her features had been warped, but she had gained an enhanced IQ.
All of the archaeological expedition were eventually uploaded to the Library data core, apart from Lux. They were reunited in the virtual world where they could expect to live for as long as the Library existed, and Miss Evangelista's features were repaired.

Played by: Talulah Riley. Appearances: Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead (2008).
  • For some information about Ms Riley, I refer you to my recent piece about this story (Story 196, dated 04/07/18).

Thursday 12 July 2018

Inspirations - The Time Monster

The final story of Season Nine - though not the last to be made in the production block. The final story in production - Carnival of Monsters - will be held over until the beginning of Season Ten.
As you will recall, it had originally been intended that the Daleks would be brought back to close this run, in a story in which they manipulated time, but they were brought forward to launch the season instead. The writer of what would have been "The Daleks in London" - Robert Sloman - was tasked with devising a new storyline, this time featuring the Master. He would be joined in co-scripting this by Barry Letts, following their successful collaboration for the conclusion to the previous season - The Daemons. Once again they wanted to have a vaguely supernatural theme, touching on some ancient Earth mystery. Additionally, Letts and Terrance Dicks had been asked by fans to feature a story set in an historical period, as one of these types of adventure hadn't been done for a long time. They decided on the myth of Atlantis, and Sloman embarked on a holiday around the Greek mainland and islands for inspiration.

Atlantis - the Island of Atlas - was written about by Plato around 360 BC. He used as a source some writings by Solon from around 590 BC, who is supposed to have found Egyptian references to it. Plato claimed that the powerful island state had gone to war against ancient Athens and been defeated - demonstrating how his ideal state was a superior model. The island then fell out of favour with the gods and they destroyed it by sinking it beneath the sea. It was said to have been made up of a number of concentric islands, nestled one within the other, and been located beyond the Pillars of Hercules - our modern Straits of Gibraltar, and hence out in the Atlantic Ocean.
So, Plato was quoting from third hand accounts hundreds of years after they were first recorded. Historians have long sought to look for a real city state which may have provided the inspiration for Atlantis, but rather than look beyond the Mediterranean, they have looked within, or to the Aegean.
A popular candidate is the Minoan civilisation which dominated the region from the island of Crete.
Its power collapsed following the volcanic eruption on the island of Thera to its north. We know roughly when this eruption took place, as it led to a drastic climate change recorded by both the Egyptians and the Chinese, as well as appearing in tree growth rings and ice core samples. The generally accepted date is around 1628 BC (+ / - 65 years). Events of The Time Monster have been dated to 1520 BC, as this was the accepted date when the story was written.
The Minoan capital of Knossos was hit by a double whammy. First, as Thera was almost totally obliterated in the blast, the north facing coast of Crete was struck by a massive tsunami. Ash then fell over much of the island, leading to crop failures and famine. (The global impact of the eruption led to famine in China, and the collapse of a ruling dynasty, as well).
Today, Thera - or Santorini - has actually come to resemble Plato's description of Atlantis, in that from space it looks like a circle, with a smaller island within. The island remaining is merely the remnants of the original crater wall, and the small island at its centre is the growing dome of a new volcano, pushing its way up from the sea bed.

The Doctor and Jo discuss Thera after he has woken from a nightmare in which he has seen the Master towering over him, in an ancient temple. The dream included a trident-shaped crystal and images of volcanic activity. Clearly it is too much of a coincidence that he should have such a dream, so it looks like evidence of the telepathic abilities shared by Time Lords. The Master is concentrating so hard on his plan that the Doctor picks it up, mentally. The Doctor wants to know more about the recent volcanic activity recorded in the newspaper, and so declines the chance to visit the Wootton Institute near Cambridge to witness a demonstration of the TOMTIT device. This stands for Transmission Of Matter Through Interstitial Time. The Brigadier decides to co-opt Benton into accompanying him instead. It is a flaw in the scripting that the Doctor should not put 2 + 2 together, and work out the possible connection between what the Master might be up to and a new Time related piece of equipment. The Doctor wastes time finishing his TARDIS detector - only for it to point straight towards TOMTIT. Meanwhile, over at Wootton, the Master is posing as the Greek scientist Professor Thascales to develop TOMTIT, along with his assistants Ruth and Stu. Again, it seems odd that the Doctor hasn't read any papers on TOMTIT and noticed the name of its creator - Thascales (or Thascalos) being Greek for Master. (There is a Derby based IT consultancy firm called Thascalos Ltd. Has anyone notified UNIT?). Actually Kyrios, or Kurios, would have been a better match than Thascales.

The Doctor isn't the only person being somewhat inattentive around here. Ruth and Stu never comment on the Professor's roving accent, and the Head of the Institute only starts querying how the Master got a job there in the first place after things have gone pear-shaped - describing TOMTIT as nonsense when it has obviously been there taking up space and resources for some time. The Brigadier doesn't bat an eye-lid when the Professor starts shouting "Come, Kronos! Come!" in the middle of his demonstration.
Yes, the Master has a plan. He wants to control a powerful being called a Chronavore, who goes by the name of Kronos. It had previously been imprisoned on Atlantis through the use of a trident-shaped crystal, and he has got his hands on this. His plan initially fails as the real crystal is back in time in ancient Atlantis, in the Temple of Poseidon. Poseidon is often shown with a trident - hence the shape of the crystal.
The mythical Kronos was the king of the Titans, and son of Uranus and Gaia. He overthrew his father and took over the heavens, but was warned that he would one day be deposed by his own sons. To prevent this, he ate all his children. When it came to his sixth son, Zeus, the baby was swapped for a stone, which Kronos swallowed instead. Zeus grew up secretly on Crete and he gave his father an emetic which caused him to disgorge the other children he had eaten, including Poseidon and Hades. The stone - the Omphalos - was deposited on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. The children then ganged up on dad and overthrew him, along with the rest of the Titans - imprisoning them in Tartarus. Kronos, in this story, has a habit of eating people - inspired by the myths - and Chronavore is Latin for Eater of Time. Shame they couldn't have stuck with the Greek theme (or Cretan Jazz, as Jo might have called it).

The Master's Plan B is to bring the High Priest of the Temple - Krassis - forward in time to the 20th Century to learn from him the secret of how to contain the Chronavore. The Doctor has finally turned up at Wootton now, and noticed that the Professor's computer, linked to TOMTIT, is the Master's disguised TARDIS. He has his own TARDIS sent for, to be brought by Captain Yates. He has an eventful journey getting from UNIT HQ to Wootton, as elements of the discarded Dalek story come into play. In messing about with time so that their 22nd Century invasion was a success, the Daleks caused all sorts of temporal anomalies to occur - with people and things being brought to the present day from Earth's past. Yates first encounters a knight on horseback (the filming of which did not go to plan, and the horse was injured). Next he is attacked by Roundhead soldiers, from the 17th Century. Finally, the Master summons up a V1 "doodlebug" flying bomb, to blow up the convoy. This sequence has caused some consternation for fans, as a local farmer (presented as a bit of a simpleton yokel - a recurring problem throughout this era of the show) recalls how a doodlebug fell here back in the war - the implication being that it is the same bomb. But if the Master took it out of time to the 20th Century, how could it have fallen back in the 1940's to be remembered by the farmer?
After three episodes of UNIT / Cambridge shenanigans, we get the fourth part, which is set almost entirely inside the TARDIS - or rather both TARDISes. The Doctor tries to land his ship around the Master's to stop it from leaving, only to end up inside it. And the Master's ends up inside his. (And yes, we will be revisiting this story when it comes to looking at the inspirations behind Logopolis, which Letts also had a hand in).

Earlier, we had a rather nonsensical sequence when the Doctor tried to interfere with the Master's scheme - the building of the time-flow analogue. As might have been guessed, this was inserted due to the episode under-running. The Doctor claims that he and the Master used to build these things at school to upset their respective time experiments. The Doctor takes a number of household items, which Stu conveniently has lying round his bachelor pad, to create something which looks like a trident. Apparently, apart from some tea leaves, the materials themselves are, well, immaterial. It is the shapes and their ratios which count.
Anyway, back to the TARDIS within TARDIS within TARDIS episode. Some fans dislike this, feeling that it is a whole episode of padding, but I have always liked it. The interplay between the Doctor and Master as the former tries to lecture the latter, only for his efforts to be thwarted, are rather fun. It's a whole episode of Roger Delgado getting to be clever and funny.
The last two episodes finally see the action move to the studio-bound city of Atlantis. The designers have also gone for the Minoan look, with costumes and sets clearly based on the discoveries of Sir Arthur Evans during his excavations at Knossos. Unlike the wall paintings Evans uncovered, the ladies of the Atlantean court wear dresses that go above the bosom - though Ingrid Pitt's fights valiantly against this. (Her cat, by the way, was not very well behaved and continually scratched her, and it took a distinct dislike to Delgado).

Some cut dialogue had King Dalios claim that King Minos of Knossos was his cousin. Knossos is raided once more by the script as the crystal in the Temple is guarded by a Minotaur - the legendary half-man, half bull. This one, played by both Dave (Darth Vader) Prowse and stunt regular Terry Walsh, isn't the Minotaur (which means "Bull of Minos"). It's just a Minotaur, created by Kronos when a young nobleman asked for long life and strength. Greek gods were notoriously fickle. The reason two people played him was because Prowse refused to do the fighting, insisting he was an actor and not a stuntman. The despatch of the creature was inspired by bull-fighting matadors, as the Doctor waves his hankie at it and quotes yer genuine Spanish.
If there is one scene from this story which is guaranteed to be picked out for praise, it is the one with the Doctor and Jo locked up in the dungeons, where he tells her of the childhood incident on Gallifrey when he went to see an old hermit. If I were to remind you that Letts was a practicing Buddhist, then you'll realise that the story he tells is lifted from a Buddhist tract - the Lesson of the Lotus Flower.
There was more cut material which would have given us more of a build up to the death of King Dalios. On screen, he just gets thrown into the dungeon and promptly dies. The Master finally gets to release Kronos, having seduced Queen Galleia and seized power. In revenge for its imprisonment, it destroys the city - by dangling from a kirby wire and flapping its wings. Of course, just the year before, and from the same authors, we had an entirely different account for the destruction of Atlantis, which an even earlier story had simply put down to volcanic activity. Steven Moffat would later play with this discrepancy by having all three versions as really having happened.

Ruth, Jo and the Doctor are all making eye contact with Benton - but I can't say the same for the Brigadier...
Did we mention that Benton had earlier been turned into a baby? Best not. Now, there is a lot of talk about the break up of the "UNIT Family" when looking at Season 10. Roger Delgado was killed soon after working on Frontier In Space, and then Katy Manning left at the conclusion to The Green Death. Pertwee then used these, plus the impending departure of both Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, to reason that it was time for him to relinquish the role of the Doctor and leave as well. This story was produced in such a way as to release Courtney, Levene and Franklin after the pre-filming and first studio recording block. As such, this story was the last time that the entire UNIT Family - if you take it to include Delgado - were all together in the same studio at the same time.
So, lots going on in what is a very bitty and rather clumsily plotted story. If Letts and Sloman hoped that lightning would strike twice, they were very much mistaken.
Next time: it's the story that everyone thinks of as the Tenth Anniversary One - except that it wasn't. We will be talking about Ingmar Bergman and The Wizard of Oz, as we welcome back Bill Hartnell and Patrick Troughton to the show...