Wednesday 26 September 2018

Blog Update 26.09.18

Just over a week and half until one of the above embarks on their TARDIS travels. The UK timeslot for October 7th has now been confirmed as 6.45pm - which is around the time I hoped it would be, in terms of competition from ITV and capturing younger viewers. The east coast of the USA will therefore be getting it at 1.45pm. (It will be 3.45 on Monday morning in Sydney, however).
I am not going to be around for the next few days, so my next post will be on Tuesday 2nd October. That should coincide with the Radio Times issue for the week covering the debut, when we should hopefully have some more substantial news about what we can expect. See you then.

F is for... Foster, Howard

Professor Howard Foster was a marine archaeologist who was step-father to Peri Brown. He was taking part in a dive on an ancient wreck off the coast of Lanzarote when the Doctor and his companion Turlough visited the island, after the TARDIS had homed in on a mysterious alien signal. The android Kamelion had brought the ship here, whilst Turlough had attempted to cover it up. The signal emanated from a golden artefact which Foster had brought up from the wreck - an object which Turlough recognised as coming from his home planet. Peri had wanted to borrow money from Foster so that she could go travelling around Europe with some friends, but he tricked her into becoming trapped on his boat to prevent her going. She stole the artefact and tried to swim to shore. Getting into difficulty, she was rescued by Turlough and brought onto the TARDIS. Kamelion then dematerialised the ship with her on board - taking it to the planet Sarn. Kamelion was really under the Master's influence once more, and he made it appear like her step-father in order to trick her into giving him the artefact. When the Master's mental control slipped, the Howard-Kamelion's face turned silver - prompting the High Priest of the Sarn people to believe he was their deity returned to them.

Played by: Dallas Adams. Appearances: Planet of Fire (1984).
  • Adams made the news shortly before his appearance in Doctor Who when he won the largest gay palimony case in English legal history. The story was still fresh enough for certain sections of the tabloid press to criticise John Nathan-Turner's casting of him in this role.
  • Feeling sorry for some turtles being kept in a pool at the location hotel on Lanzarote, Adams decided to liberate them in the middle of the night.
  • There is a suggestion in the script that Howard is an abusive step-parent, as Peri mutters about being locked in the dark by him as she wakes from a nightmare.

F is for... Fortune Teller

A mysterious Fortune Teller lured Donna Noble away from the the Doctor when they visited a market on the planet Shan Shen. When Donna proved reluctant, the woman offered a free reading as she had red hair. This proved to be a trap - an attempt to alter Donna's personal history so that she never met the Doctor. As the Fortune Teller spoke to her, a large black insect attached itself to her back. This was a Time Beetle, which had the power to alter timelines. The woman then encouraged Donna to think back to a time before her first encounter with the Doctor - the day she had gone for a job with HC Clements. An alternate timeline was established in which Donna had gone for a different job, and so had never met the Doctor during the events of her Christmas Eve wedding. She was not there to stop him when he drowned the Racnoss Queen, resulting in him dying himself. Earth was then left vulnerable to all the subsequent alien attacks - including the crash of the Titanic spaceship, the Adipose, and the Sontarans. Rose Tyler was able to help Donna avert this timeline and put history back on course. This destroyed the Time Beetle, whilst the Fortune Teller fled. The Doctor later surmised that she and the creature had been in the employ of the Trickster, who sought to create chaos from the Doctor's demise.

Played by: Chipo Chung. Appearances: Turn Left (2008).
  • Chung had appeared in the 11th, pre-finale, episode of the previous season, disguised under heavy prosthetics as Chantho in Utopia.

F is for... Forgill, Duke of

When the TARDIS materialised in the Highlands of Scotland, responding to a summons to return to Earth from the Brigadier, the Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith and Harry Sullivan were given a lift to the nearest village by the Duke of Forgill. He was on his way there anyway, in order to complain to the head of an oil company about his men trespassing on his land. The Duke lived on a sizable estate bordering on the shores of Loch Ness, which his family had owned for centuries. He appeared to be dismissive of stories about the loch's famous monster. Later, his gamekeeper - a man known as the Caber - shot and killed a survivor from one of the oil rigs recently destroyed in the North Sea. Harry was with the man, and was wounded. He was then abducted from the oil company's sickbay, and found himself in an alien spaceship resting on the floor of the loch. This belonged to the Zygons, who had the ability to take on the appearance of kidnapped human beings whose original bodies were held in suspended animation on their vessel. The Duke whom the Doctor and his companions had encountered had been a disguised Zygon - their leader Broton. Pretending to be the Duke, Broton could hamper investigations into the rig disasters. The real Duke was also President of the Scottish Energy Commission, which would give Broton the opportunity to destroy a forthcoming conference on the banks of the Thames in London, planting a homing device which would attract the Skarasen - a huge reptilian cyborg creature whose fleeting appearances in the loch had given rise to the monster myths over the centuries. The Doctor rescued the real Duke, along with the Caber and the local district nurse whose bodies had also been copied. He then blew up the Zygon spaceship. Broton was later killed before the Skarasen could attack the conference. The Duke accompanied the Brigadier and Harry to the TARDIS landing site, to see the Doctor and Sarah off on their continuing travels - berating the Brigadier for having paid for return tickets for the pair.

Played by: John Woodnutt. Appearances: Terror of the Zygons (1975).
  • Third of four appearances by Woodnutt in the series. His first was as plastics factory owner Hibbert in Spearhead from Space, followed by the Draconian Emperor in Frontier in Space. His final role was as Consul Seron in The Keeper of Traken.
  • Other cult roles include a memorable turn as the sinister butler in Children of the Stones, and as a villain in a 1973 adventure for The Tomorrow People.

F is for... Foretold

The Foretold was a supposedly legendary creature which killed people 66 seconds after they saw it. Only the victim could see the creature, which appeared as a mummified human cadaver. It would strike wherever an ancient, tattered scroll was present, its writing undecipherable. The Doctor took Clara to the Orient Express for a final journey before she went back to Danny Pink. This was a space-going recreation of the famous train. Clara discovered that there was a sarcophagus on board after one of the passengers had died 66 seconds after seeing something which no-one else could. The Doctor decided to investigate. Another passenger was Professor Moorhouse, an expert in Alien Mythology, who knew much about the legends of the Foretold. Soon other passengers and crew began to die, and the Doctor eventually managed to work out the link between them all. They all had illnesses of some kind - physical or mental. It transpired that the train was really a trap. Some unknown agency, acting through a computer named GUS, had brought various experts to the Orient Express in order that they could analyse the Foretold. They had tried to lure the Doctor here once before, in his previous incarnation, but he had taken Amy and Rory on their honeymoon instead. The agency wanted to understand the creature so that they could use its technology to develop new weapons. In order to learn about the Foretold, the Doctor had to become its next victim, so he took on the grief-filled emotions of the intended target, the granddaughter of the first victim. He then had 66 seconds to deduce everything about it. He realised that it was a soldier, kept alive artificially, and believing it was still at war. The ancient scroll was its flag. He then surrendered, causing the creature to stop as he brought its war to an end. It crumbled to dust, and the Doctor removed the alien device which had been sustaining its life. This device had also given it stealth abilities, so that could slip out of phase by 66 seconds - hence why only its victims could see it.

Played by: Jamie Hill. Appearances: Mummy on the Orient Express (2014).

The Foretold at the Doctor Who Experience in 2015 (top) and in 2016.

F is for... Forester

Forester was a ruthless businessman who entered into a partnership with a scientist named Smithers to manufacture and sell a new pesticide, called DN6. Believing Smithers' claims for his discovery, Forester sank all of his money into the deal - only to learn that a civil servant named Farrow had serious reservations about the formula. DN6 didn't just kill harmful insect life - it killed everything, and could enter the food chain to damage other wildlife, including human beings. When Farrow visited Smithers' home, on route to his holiday abroad, Forester attempted to get him to change his findings. When he refused, Forester shot him dead. He then attempted to cover up the crime - calling Farrow's superiors, pretending to be him, in order to claim that DN6 had no problems. He was going to dump the body at sea, to make it look like an accident. The Doctor and his companions were also at the house, but shrunk to one inch in height after a fault had developed with the TARDIS. They struggled against the odds to try to stop Forester and Smithers - first by trying to call for help, and then by arranging an explosion, leaving an aerosol can next to a lit gas jet in Smithers' lab.
The can exploded just as Forester walked into the room, blinding him. A suspicious local policeman arrived just as this happened and arrested the pair.

Played by: Alan Tilvern. Appearances: Planet of Giants (1964).

Monday 24 September 2018

The Mark of the Berserker - SJA 2.4

In which Sarah Jane Smith goes away for a few days to cover a story at a hospital, leaving Luke to stay with Clyde and his mother, Carla. Rani observes a fellow pupil at the school seemingly able to make his teacher and fellow students do whatever he wants. The boy, Jacob, runs to the bathroom where he sees his features change in the mirror, with white eyes and blue veins throbbing on his skin. The design on the pendant also transfer to the palm of his hand. He drops a silver pendant as he runs away. Rani pockets this and heads for home. Here she finds that her father seems strangely compliant, agreeing to everything she says. She realises that this is the work of the pendant. When her father offers to die for her, after an off-hand remark she makes, she realises the terrible power which the pendant could possess.
The next day, Clyde's father turns up at Carla's door. Paul Langer had run out on the family years ago, to set up home with his sister-in-law. Now he claims he wants to re-establish contact with his son. Clyde agrees to spend some time with him, and eventually tells him that he hunts aliens. His father refuses to believe him, so Clyde decides to take him to the attic of Sarah's home.

Rani has gone there to seek Mr Smith's help with the pendant, only to find that Sarah has deactivated the computer whilst she is away. Rani leaves the pendant there, and goes off with Luke to seek clues at the school. Clyde and his father enter the attic, and Paul pockets the pendant. Outside, they are challenged by Rani's father Haresh. Paul makes him do press-ups, which he cannot stop, and realises that the pendant has done this. Rani and Luke arrive, but Paul orders Clyde to forget about them. The two walk away, Clyde no longer knowing who Luke and Rani are...

Paul begins to abuse his new found powers, making a car salesman give them a brand new Porsche. Paul decides to take Clyde to the coast, where they used to go when he was a child. Luke tries to contact his mother, but she is busy investigating an alien creature at the hospital - a centipede-like Travast Polong. They then decide to contact Maria Jackson and her father in Washington DC, as he can hack into the UNIT database. They learn that the markings on the pendant relate to an alien race known as the Beserkers, capable of turning anyone into merciless soldiers. The pendant begins to take Paul over, mutating him as it did Jacob. He makes Clyde forget all about his mother and tells him that he is now one of his soldiers. Sarah finally gets the message to return and collects Carla. They go to the coast where they attempt to get through to Paul, rekindling his lost memories. Seeing himself in a mirror breaks the Berserker's hold on him. Clyde uses the pendant one last time to make his mother forget what she has witnessed, then throws it into the sea. Paul reveals that he has made his Carla's sister pregnant, so Clyde tells him he does not want anything to do with him anymore, and he should take some responsibility and not mess things up with his new child.
Contemplating family ties, back at the attic Sarah takes out an old photograph of her parents...

The Mark of the Berserker was written by Joseph Lidster, and was first broadcast on 3rd and 10th November, 2008. It was the first of three stories by Lidster for the series. His previous Doctor Who related credit had been an episode of Torchwood - A Day in the Death.
It is a Sarah-lite story, with the main character off on her own investigation for much of the time. In her absence, Clyde gets to take centre stage, and we are introduced to his parents, Carla and Paul.
She is played by comedy actress Jocelyn Jee Esien, and he by Gary Beadle, who had been a regular on soap East Enders.
The story is also significant for the final appearances by Yasmin Paige, as Maria Jackson, and Joseph Millson, as her dad Alan. They had left the series as regulars at the conclusion of the first story of this season, as Paige had wanted to concentrate on her studies. The schoolboy who is affected by the pendant in the opening section - Jacob - is played by Perry Millward.

The basic plot is an old one - of a magic talisman which grants whatever you want, but there is a heavy price to pay.
Overall, an okay story. Nice to see Clyde getting the spotlight at last. After Sarah herself, he is generally thought of as the most popular character in the series.
Things you might like to know:

  • As Daniel Anthony is playing a character much younger than the actor's own age, his mother here is only 8 years older than him.
  • The hospital which Sarah is visiting is said to be in the town of Tarminster. This is a reference to Terror of the Autons - as the circus where the Master was based was just outside that town. The Harold Saxon website created by the BBC for The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords stated that Lucy Saxon's father had been Lord Cole of Tarminster.
  • Mind control, and characters being compelled to forget their friends, is becoming a bit of a theme for this series. Mind control of some kind has featured in all of the stories of this season so far, and the Trickster had previously caused people to forget others when he interfered with their timelines.
  • Sarah's musings on her long dead parents prefigure events in the next story, where she'll get to meet them and learn what happened to them on the day they died.

Thursday 20 September 2018

Inspirations - Death to the Daleks

Death to the Daleks marks the latest of Terry Nation's annual contributions to the series. We didn't know it at the time, but it would be the last Dalek story before Davros came along, so in many ways it is the end of the line for the Skarosians as a menace in their own right. We won't see them like this again until 2005.
Nation submitted a fairly standard and routine plot. Daleks and human(oid)s turn up on the same planet, and fight it out. Daleks lose. In his original submission it was going to be yet another jungle planet, but that would look too similar to the previous season's contribution - Planet of the Daleks.
As with that story, the humanoids are a military outfit, here on a mission. In this instance, it is a team from Earth, who have come to this world in search of a cure for a terrible space plague. A preoccupation with plague had begun for Nation with Planet, as the Daleks had brewed up something nasty in their laboratory which they planned to release into the jungles of Spiridon. Nation would soon devise a whole series centred around a plague which wipes out most of the population of Earth - Survivors. And one of Davros' defining moments will be his conversation with the Fourth Doctor where he is asked if he would release a virus that would destroy every living thing. (He would. That power would set him up above the gods. And through the Daleks he will get that power. In case you didn't know).
The cure for the plague would be an elixir - which is where the name of this planet, Exxilon, comes from. Yet again, Nation can't resist a planet name that fits the plot, or comes from some distinctive feature of the place.

The story opens with the Doctor and Sarah on their way to the planet Florana (which presumably has lots of flowers, as well as an effervescent ocean you can't sink in). This means it follows directly on from the closing scene of the last story - cos that's where the Doctor said he was taking Sarah. That means we have had three stories which have run consecutively, with no gaps in between for other adventures.
The TARDIS flies too close to Exxilon, and suffers a catastrophic power failure. As with his previous script, Nation seems to have a view of the TARDIS which is unlike any of the other writers of this era. He seems to be stuck in the early Hartnell days, when the ship is just that - a spaceship. Last time he introduced us to the ship's oxygen supply, and this time we learn that the doors can be cranked open with something that looks like an old car's starting handle. It is never explained how the TARDIS, travelling through the Vortex, can be affected by the power drain in the first place.
The Doctor and Sarah venture outside and are fairly quickly separated. He is captured by the Exxilon people, who wear camouflaging cloaks and have skull-like faces, only to escape easily and encounter the Earth party. Sarah is also captured by the Exxilons, as she has strayed too close to their city. This is a forbidden zone, so she faces being sacrificed to the complex.

It transpires that the Exxilons were once a highly advanced, space-faring race, who visited many planets. They built a huge city to act as a repository for all their accumulated knowledge, giving it an artificial intelligence and means to defend itself. It promptly decided that it was superior to its makers and cast them out. On top of the city is a beacon which is the source of the power drain - designed to feed the city, as well as to stunt any future technological development which might come to threaten it. The Exxilons turned their backs on technology and degenerated into primitive, superstitious people over time.
Mention is made that the city looks like something from Central or South America - similar to an ancient Mayan building. The Doctor then goes on to say that he thinks this shows that we were once visited by the Exxilons.
This brings us to one of the chief inspirations for this aspect of the story - what is commonly known as "Ancient Astronauts" these days.
In order to explain structures which were built by the ancient Egyptians and peoples like the Mayans, a theory was formulated that they had outside help. How else could they have achieved what they did, with little technology and basic tools? Their modern descendants lacked the skills and technology to do it, so someone else must have helped. Back in the 19th Century, some writers began to point the finger at the lost city of Atlantis. This civilisation was supposed to have had advanced tech, so survivors from Atlantis must have traveled across the globe and lent their expertise.
Over time, Atlantis itself mutated to become something more than just a human civilisation. It must also have had some external help in its development. That help was extraterrestrial.

They arrived thousands of years ago and helped primitive humans to develop. Some say they are still here, having bred into the human gene pool as a means of survival. Others posit that they left, but will be back one day to check on our progress. Others, of course, say that they have done nothing but come back and check on us - giving rise to countless stories of UFO sightings and alien abductions. The two most common homes cited for these aliens are Sirius, and a Mondas-like tenth planet called Nibiru, or Planet X, which is hidden out there in deep space but is going to return to the solar system any day soon. There are those who claim that it will actually crash into the Earth, so its return will mark doomsday.
Go on-line and you will find a plethora of theories about Nibiru or aliens from Sirius, the former tied in with End of the World scenarios.
One of the people who helped popularise the whole ancient astronaut thing was a Swiss writer named Erich Von Daniken. In 1968 he published the best-selling book Chariots of the Gods?. This looked at the pyramids of Egypt and Central / South America, and other landmarks such as the Nazca Lines, and proposed that these had all been created by, or for, alien visitors. The Nazca Lines in Peru, for instance, are runways - making it an ancient spaceport. The giant animal figures in the desert nearby were designed to be seen from the air, and could not have been created by people on the ground. Some stone carvings, of people apparently wearing space helmets, and surrounded by strange patterns which looked like machinery, were clearly images of these ancient astronauts.
It might be worth mentioning at this point that Von Daniken once served time in prison for fraud and embezzlement, so it's up to you to decide if his views should be lent any sort of credence. Millions of people believe he and others to have the right idea - Ancient Aliens is currently on its 13th season on the History Channel, after all.
Personally, I think it a load of nonsense, and agree that such theories are totally ethnocentric, if not downright racist.

Anyhow, back to Doctor Who. Into this mix of Exxilons and humans, the Daleks arrive in time for their End of Episode One appearance. They also suffer from the power drain, so we have them weaponless for the first time. The cliffhanger is spoiled somewhat by their guns firing for far too long before the credits roll - showing us that they don't work. Ever resourceful, they will later switch to projectile firing weapons - which afford us the sight of them testing them on little TARDIS models. The implication is that these things come as standard on all Dalek saucers - showing us just what an impact the Doctor has had on their culture. The Daleks claim that the space plague is afflicting planets in their empire as well, but we will later learn that they have plague-missiles on board their ship - suggesting that they might have been responsible for the whole disease in the first place.
One of the humans - the gruff Scotsman Galloway - cheats his nice colleague Peter out of getting command of the mission once its commander dies, and he later tries to ally himself with the Daleks. Traitorous humans are a staple of most Terry Nation scripts.
The Doctor gets an ally once he has saved Sarah from sacrifice - a member of a subterranean faction of Exxilons who shun superstition. This is Bellal, and actor Arnold Yarrow went to London Zoo to observe bush babies as part of his preparation for the role.
The Doctor and Bellal break into the city, to knock out the beacon from within. The Daleks, meanwhile, send Galloway and Nice Peter to nobble it from the outside - planting bombs to destroy it.

We should mention that this story has been script edited by Robert Holmes, though he isn't getting any credit just yet. (Terrance Dicks is still knocking Monster of Peladon into shape). Holmes had a habit of padding under-running scripts with deadly puzzle challenges. He may have got the idea from here, if this section of the story isn't actually his to begin with. For the Doctor and Bellal have to spend an episode working their way through the city's interior, facing a number of deadly booby-traps and having to solve puzzles (mazes and odd-one's out).
We know the episodes were under-running because they had to re-edit them - moving material from one part to another. This is why we get what is probably the worst cliffhanger of all time at the end of Part Three - the Doctor being alarmed by some floor tiles. The episode should have ended with the Daleks rounding the exterior corner of the building to exterminate the Doctor and Bellal - the audience thinking them unable to get in.
The Doctor and Bellal finally get to the control centre and sabotage the city's "brain", but Galloway and Nice Peter blow up the beacon anyway. Seems odd that the city, with many defence mechanisms, should have nothing whatsoever to protect its exterior, and be susceptible to a single bomb.
Sarah and Earth girl Jill Tarrant (a permutation of that name yet again), meanwhile, have been swapping the Daleks' supply of plague-curing minerals for bags of sand. When their Skarosian guard discovers this, he promptly has a nervous breakdown and self-destructs. If this is common practice then it is a wonder that there are many Daleks at all, so often are they defeated.
Galloway comes good in the end, and keeps one of the bombs for himself - stowing away on the departing Dalek saucer to blow it, and himself, up.
The city crumbles to dust, causing the Doctor to lament that now the universe only has 699 Wonders.
This is a reference to the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World - the Great Pyramid (the only one left), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria. Nation may have been thinking of the latter when he came up with the idea of the big flashing beacon on top of the Exxilon city.
Next time: A proper sequel, as we return to Peladon, where the miners are badgering the toffs for a pay rise. The industrial action of the mid-1970's finds its way into the programme - even if the producer and script editor deny it...

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Series 11 in the Radio Times

As well as the very colourful new image above being released today, the Radio Times has a preview for the forthcoming series - 13 reasons to watch the 13th Doctor, basically.
It doesn't really say a lot, but does mention that there will be lots of monsters (just none that we all know and love), and that all 10 episodes are "stand alone" - so not just single-parters. This implies no major story arc, but we'll see. It makes it clear that you can join without having ever seen a single episode before, though there will be enough reference to the past to keep us longer term fans happy.
Item No.8 is interesting: "The mystery of the missing TARDIS continues... "
Item No.11 is the one that lets us know some of the characters / places we are going to encounter.
Mention is made of: "Epzo, a life-changing bike ride, Robertson, the Ux, Umbreen, Rosa, Desolation, Kandoka's moon and Ribbons". Of these the only one we know about for sure is "Rosa" as there is an episode based around civil rights activist Rosa Parks. Robertson, being a Scottish surname, might come from the episode in which Alan Cumming features as King James VI and I.
Today they also gave us the title for the second episode - The Ghost Monument.

F is for... Forest of Cheem

Three members of the Forest of Cheem were present on Platform One to witness the final destruction of the planet Earth around the year 5 Billion. Their ancestors had come from the Earth, as they were descendants of tree forms from the Amazon Rain Forest. The trio were led by Jabe, who was female. She was accompanied by the male Lute and Coffa. As gifts for the assembled VIPs, Jabe offered cuttings from her grandfather. On scanning the Doctor, Jabe discovered that he was a Time Lord - a race thought no longer to exist. This fascinated her, and so she decided to accompany him in his investigations when acts of sabotage began to cripple the Platform. Jabe used one of her lianas (a long woody vine) to capture one of the small robotic spiders which were conducting the sabotage, though she explained to the Doctor that it was customary not to expose these.
Jabe went with the Doctor to the engine room to help reset the engines after the station's forcefield had been turned off. The Doctor urged her to leave due to the great heat in the chamber, but she refused to go - which cost her her life as she burned up. Lute and Coffa managed to survive.

Played by: Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe), Alan Ruscoe (Lute) and Paul Kasey (Coffa). Appearances: The End of the World (2005).
  • Bannerman later appeared as police detective Kathy Swanson in the Torchwood episode They Keep Killing Suzie. On audio she has been playing one of the Seventh Doctor's book-range companions, the aptly named Roz Forrester.
  • For Alan Ruscoe, see the entry "F is for... Flood" below.
  • And Paul Kasey has been, for many years, the principle alien performer for Doctor Who, though he has been used in the programme less of late, moving on to roles in the new Star Wars films, for instance.

F is for... Foamasi

A race of reptilian creatures which waged a war against the humanoid Argolin people. The conflict lasted only some 20 minutes, but left Argolis' surface heavily irradiated and its people sterile. They set up the entertainments complex known as the Leisure Hive, both as a means of promoting inter-species understanding, and as a means to carry out research into alleviating their plight. The Hive began to suffer from acts of sabotage, leading to heavy loss of business, just as the Argolins' Earth agent Brock approached them with a buy-out plan. This came from a Foamasi group known as the West Lodge. This surprised the new Argolin leader, Mena, as the Foamasi were forbidden from engaging in private enterprise. One of the conditions of the sale was that the Argolins had to abandon their homeworld. The reptilian race could survive the harsh environment. It transpired that the West Lodge were a criminal group, and it was they who were conducting the sabotage to force the Argolins into selling up on the cheap. Brock was one of their number, in disguise. A government agent arrived and arrested the criminals. They managed to escape, but they were destroyed when they tried to leave the planet. Mena agreed to establish closer ties with their government, after it became known that her people could rejuvenate themselves.
The Foamasi spoke in an insect-like chitter, which even the TARDIS could not translate, though they had a small device which they could place in their beaks to enable communication with others.

Played by: Andrew Lane (Government agent), John Collin (Brock) and Ian Talbot (Klout). Appearances: The Leisure Hive (1980).
  • Writer David Fisher intended the Foamasi to dress like gangsters of the 1920's, with violin case-shaped guns. Their name derives from a near anagram of Mafiosi.
  • A Foamasi costume was later reused for one of the aliens in the BBC TV series of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

F is for... Flowerchild

One of the original members of the Psychic Circus, which once traveled the galaxy to great acclaim. When it arrived on the planet Segonax, however, it set up its Big Top on the site of a ruined temple. An ancient evil inhabited this place via a portal to another dimension - the Gods of Ragnarok. They enslaved the circus troupe so that they would amuse only them. Flowerchild and her friend Bellboy escaped into the surrounding desert, but were hunted down by the Chief Clown. Flowerchild made her way to the old tour bus which they had used to get to this planet, where she found an amulet hidden in a box. She was then attacked and killed by the robot Bus Conductor which guarded this amulet, as it could be used as a weapon against the Gods. The Doctor's companion Ace found one of her earrings, which she pinned to her jacket. Seeing this, Bellboy knew that Flowerchild had been killed, and so he elected to commit suicide.

Played by: Dee Sadler. Appearances: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988).
  • Sadler was best known at the time for a regular role in the BBC sitcom No Place Like Home, which starred William Gaunt and Martin Clunes. She is married to actor Derek Thompson - best known as Charlie Fairhead in Casualty. He's appeared in nearly 800 episodes of the hospital based drama since 1986.

F is for... Flood

A parasitical organism which inhabited the water supply of Mars. By the time a group of humans visited the planet in 2059, setting up Bowie Base One, the organism had been frozen in the polar ice cap and deep within the water table for a number of centuries. The Doctor surmised that the Ice Warriors had trapped it there. The base took its water from the ice, but used filters to make it safe. One of these filters failed, and crewman Andy Stone became infected when he ate a carrot which had been watered with the supply. He mutated rapidly - his eyes becoming white and the skin around his mouth becoming cracked and blackened. He also began to produce large quantities of water, which he used to infect a colleague, Tarak Ital. Soon the base fell under siege as others were infected. One of the crew - Maggie Cain - observed her colleague Yuri watching a video from his brother on Earth, and learned that this was a planet of oceans. The Flood, as the infection was collectively known, decided to go there. Knowing that just one drop of infected water could cause widespread contamination if it reached the Earth, base commander Adelaide Brooke decided to evacuate. However, it got to the pilot of their rocket ship and he self-destructed the craft to prevent it being used. Brooke then elected to destroy the base with a nuclear explosive. The Doctor knew that this was a fixed point in time, but decided to change things - believing that this was his right as the last of the Time Lords. The base was blown up, destroying the Flood and those already infected, but the Doctor made sure that there would be survivors, when history said there had been none.

Played by: Alan Ruscoe (Andy), Sharon Duncan Brewster (Maggie), Chook Sibtain (Tarak), Cosima Shaw (Steffi), and Michael Goldsmith (Roman). Appearances: The Waters of Mars (2009).
  • Ruscoe had played a number of roles in the series already - always under prostheses. He had appeared as an Auton, one of the Forest of Cheem, a Slitheen and the Ann-Droid in the 2005 series alone.
  • Sibtain had featured in Warriors of Kudlak, in the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

F is for... Fletcher, Carys

A young woman from suburban Cardiff who became the host of an alien parasite. This had been accidentally released by Torchwood's Gwen Cooper from a meteorite fragment which fell close to the city. Carys had been attending a night club and had gone outside to an alleyway when the parasite attacked, in the form of a purple gas. The parasite compelled her to have sex, the men being disintegrated and absorbed at the point of climax. Carys found herself increasingly unable to control the urges, and attacked her ex-boyfriend and others. The Torchwood team discovered that the parasite would eventually kill her. Locked up by Torchwood, she was able to seduce Gwen and Owen Harper in order to escape. She was traced to a fertility clinic where she killed a number of donors, before Gwen agreed to take the parasite from her. As it left Carys' body, Captain Jack captured it within a portable forcefield. Starved of a host, it quickly died, and Carys was freed from it.

Played by: Sara Lloyd Gregory. Appearances: TW 1.2 Day One.

Sunday 16 September 2018

Secrets of the Stars - SJA 2.3

In which a young woman named Cheryl makes her weekly visit to astrologer Martin Trueman. On learning that she has been putting herself into debt with these readings, Trueman breaks down and admits that he is a fraud. Standing at his window, he is suddenly struck by a blazing light from a shooting star. He absorbs the light, and announces that he has a renewed faith in his abilities.
Some time later, Trueman has his own successful show, which is taking place at a theatre in East Acton. Cheryl is now working for him as his personal assistant. Gita Chandra insists on attending, taking her family with her. Luke and Clyde go with them. Sarah also decides to attend, thinking that there may be a story in Trueman's claims. As the show commences, Sarah can see how Trueman's readings of his audience might be down to collusion from his assistant. He then selects her, and she is shocked when he starts to speak of her life travelling through space and time, even mentioning the Doctor.
Sarah stays behind after the performance to speak to Trueman, demanding to know where he gets his knowledge from. He insists that it is entirely down to the stars, and astrology. When challenged by Sarah to explain more, he becomes quite threatening, and she is forced to leave.

Realising that Sarah poses a threat to his plans, Trueman compels Clyde to visit him at his home, under his hypnotic control. He transfers some of the strange light to the boy, making him his mental slave. Clyde is then sent to Bannerman Road where he confronts Luke and Sarah in the attic. His eyes glow with an unearthly red light, and he threatens to destroy them...
Sarah and Luke manage to talk him out of hurting them, appealing to his true nature. He is freed of Trueman's influence. Mr Smith is called upon to give them a background on astrology, which exists in some form across many planets. Many reports describe something called the Ancient Lights. As the zodiac signs are patterns of stars seen from a specific location, Mr Smith surmises that there can be no real power and it must all be superstition. Luke wonders if the Ancient Lights might not come from some other universe, where such things do have real powers.
Mr Smith then shows them a TV broadcast he has just picked up. Trueman has hijacked the airwaves from the theatre, where he has a large zodiac display set up. As each segment is illuminated, anyone born under that star sign falls under his mental control. Haresh sees Gita fall under Trueman's sway, and march out of the house in a trance. All the affected people are compelled to go to the theatre.

Sarah and her friends race to the building but find that the affected people are preventing anyone from entering. Clyde manages to bluff his way through. Luke and Rani try to switch off the power, but it is protected by a forcefield. Soon everyone except those born under the sign of Taurus are enslaved - and this includes Sarah. Her attempts to get Trueman to stop fall on deaf ears. He reveals that Luke was correct - the Ancient Lights existed from the universe before this one. They are going to use Trueman to enslave all of mankind. Luke had earlier pointed out to Sarah that he does not have a star sign, as he was never really born. He will remain unaffected by the Ancient Lights. He destroys Trueman's zodiac display. The Lights are expelled from Earth, and all the people affected are freed. Trueman decides that he can never go back to his old life, and so decides to go with the Lights, his body disintegrating into light.
Back on Bannerman Road, Sarah decides that today's date will become Luke's birthday - the day he saved the human race.

Secrets of the Stars was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on 20th and 27th October, 2008.
It is basically a sequel to Sarah's penultimate adventure as a regular TARDIS traveller - The Masque of Mandragora. Russell T Davies has stated this, and that he almost had the Ancient Lights specifically called the Mandragora Helix, but kept changing his mind. In the end, he thought it was too obscure a reference, meaningless to younger viewers, and so decided to make it a completely new threat. He also felt that the Mandragora Helix would not be so easily defeated as the Lights are here. However, everything that the Ancient Lights do matches Mandragora. They want to enslave the human race, using magic and superstition.
The other inspiration for this story comes from the popularity of astrology, with millions of people reading their horoscopes in the newspaper each morning, with varying levels of belief. There are a number of astrology programmes on TV as well - and Trueman uses the medium to enslave people here.
I read recently of how one newspaper's astrologer died suddenly (not having seen it coming), and the editor basically ran the feature himself for a couple of months until a replacement could be recruited. He simply used old horoscopes from previous issues, and made others up, keeping them as vague as possible.

The main guest star is comedian Russ Abbott, playing Martin Trueman. He had his own highly popular show which ran from 1986 to 1991, before turning his hand to more serious acting. He became one of the regulars on Last of the Summer Wine for its final three years.
The only other guest of note is Carryl Thomas, who plays Cheryl. She had been a regular on the Channel 5 soap Family Affairs. A familiar face from the parent programme is newsreader Trinity Wells, as played by Lachelle Carl.

Overall, it is one of the weaker stories of the series. Perhaps having it explicitly a sequel to Masque of Mandragora might have raised it up above the humdrum.
Things you might like to know:

  • Discussing planets which have some astrological beliefs, Draconia is mentioned.
  • Surprisingly, what isn't mentioned is the Ancient Lights' similarity to the Mandragora Helix. You would have thought that Sarah would have commented on this, even if the menace was a different one.
  • We see the Doctor in the series for the first time, but only in flashbacks to School Reunion and to Journey's End. Prior to this he had only ever been spoken of.
  • The French newsreader, played by Anthony Debaeck, had previously been seen in Army of Ghosts, and would shortly be seen in Torchwood: Children of Earth.
  • Trueman tells Cheryl that she is "going on a long journey - a very long journey...". This was a reference to the Children in Need mini-adventure Dimensions in Time, where the same line is spoken by the Rani at the cliffhanger ending to Part One.
  • That the Ancient Lights came from a time before the creation of our universe is a reference to the Virgin New Adventures range of books, which Roberts wrote for. They regularly featured a number of evil forces who existed from before the Big Bang. The Beast on Krop Tor had also claimed to have existed since before the creation of the universe.

Thursday 13 September 2018

Inspirations - Invasion of the Dinosaurs

For people tuning into BBC 1 on Saturday 12th January 1974, this story was simply going to be called "Invasion" - or so they thought. The first episode decided to keep secret the fact that the invaders were dinosaurs. Only in the closing moments, as we went into the cliffhanger, would we see that there were prehistoric monsters in present day London. As such, the first episode has only "Invasion" as its title. This was the director's idea (Paddy Russell).
The writer, Malcolm Hulke, was not happy about this. He wanted the full title on screen from the start, so as to grab as many viewers as possible. In the week following the broadcast of Episode One, Hulke wrote to Terrance Dicks to complain about Russell's decision - leading to a falling out between the two close friends. Hulke pointed out that things had been spoiled anyway, by the Radio Times printing a sketch of a dinosaur to illustrate the episode that week.
As it was, Hulke would not write for the show again - though this can't be put fully down to the argument. The production team was changing, and Pertwee now announced that he was moving on as well. Not credited yet, Robert Holmes had now taken up the script editor role alongside Dicks, who was busy trying to get the forthcoming Peladon sequel to work.

The genesis of this story lay in a proposal for an adventure in which the Doctor and companion returned to the present day to find the Earth already invaded. The planet's new alien masters were based in a spaceship hovering above London, and the Brigadier was leading a resistance movement. The story was to mirror the appeasement movement of the late 1930's, when a number of high ranking people in the UK argued for making friends with Hitler in order to avoid a second world war. Not all of these individuals were Nazi sympathisers. Many just wanted peace at any cost, and were prepared to allow Hitler to annexe what he wanted in Europe to achieve this. There would have been a scene in which the UK Prime Minister would return from the alien ship brandishing a piece of paper with promises of peace - just as PM Neville Chamberlain had done on his return from a visit to Hitler at Munich.
Those opposed to appeasement knew that the Nazis were not to be trusted, and would push for more and more territory. The Doctor Who proposal went down this path, with the aliens only pretending peace when they were really planning to conquer the whole planet. They had a hatchery at the Tower of London, with huge monsters growing in eggs, ready to attack the city.
As it was, the piece of paper reference ("I have in my hand...") had already been used in The Green Death, when Dr Stevens claimed to have written confirmation of future prosperity for Llanfairfach and beyond.
Another story idea was a visit back to prehistoric times for the Doctor, after the production team had been emboldened by the success of the Drashigs in Carnival of Monsters.
These two ideas were fused to form the basis for "Timescoop", as Hulke's story was originally titled.

In many ways Invasion of the Dinosaurs acts as a sequel to The Green Death, picking up some of its themes and twisting them in new ways. It also acts as the middle section of a trilogy, which reaches its conclusion with Planet of the Spiders. This arc is especially true for the character of Captain Mike Yates. He had not been all that well served since his introduction back in Terror of the Autons. A proposed romance with Jo Grant never got off the ground, and the more established character of Sgt. Benton tended to be more prominent, and was very popular with the viewers. (Pertwee used to get a little jealous at the amount of fan mail John Levene received).
In The Green Death we see Yates go under cover at Global Chemicals, only to be brainwashed by super-computer BOSS into assassinating the Doctor, and pointing his gun at the Brigadier. He is "cured" by the strange blue sapphire which the Doctor has just brought back from Metebelis III. That's the blue crystal which the Doctor gives to Jo as a wedding present, and which she returns at the beginning of Spiders - so you can see how this arc is playing out. Whilst recovering from this brainwashing, Yates has gone off to sort out his head, and has fallen in with an ecological group who have a scheme they call Operation Golden Age. They have some powerful and influential members - including government ministers, senior army officers and peers of the realm, along with the odd track and field star. They also have a scientist - Whitaker (named after David, perhaps, the man who never gave Hulke that job back in 1963/4?). Whitaker has invented a machine that can lift people and other stuff out of time, but his main ambition is to roll the whole planet back time to a previous golden age - before industrialisation and its resulting pollution. A number of people have signed up to this scheme - believing they are going to be held in cryonic suspension and placed on a fleet of spaceships, which will take them to a new Earth-like planet. They're just snoozing in a dummy spaceship, built in a Cold War bunker under London. (A very big bunker, if the locations of its entrances are to be believed. It must have a number of tube lines running through the middle of it).

This is where Hulke twists themes from The Green Death. He was obviously not that fond of Prof Cliff Jones and his Wholeweal Community cronies. Had he not gone up the Amazon with Jo, Jones might have been a willing recruit for Operation Golden Age himself. Hulke's eco-warriors are not nice people (at least those leading them aren't - the spaceship inhabitants being idealistic dupes). Sir Charles Grover MP, General Finch and Prof Whitaker all want to see the Earth free from pollution, the population of an earlier era steered onto a different path, away from mass industry. They see nothing wrong with wiping out all human progress of the last few centuries. They aren't killing anyone in their view, as they would never have lived in the first place. All very reasonable, they think. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is, at heart, a "the ends don't justify the means" tale. Even that sensible Captain Yates falls for the plan, knowing that the Brigadier, Jo and Benton would never be born, and that this is something that the Doctor would never stand for.
The "golden age" is never actually specified. Many people assumed that, as Whitaker was lifting dinosaurs out of time, that this was when they planned to go. This does not make sense, as landing the equivalent of the Golgafrinchan B Ark in the middle of an epoch of savage monsters would mean that their survival chances would be very slim indeed. At least Mark would have been able to run (and jump) away from them for a bit.
The clue to their intended landing time might lie in the second episode, as the Doctor and Sarah encounter a peasant of King John's time. This might be a more likely candidate for the Golden Age, though it was a time of war, famine and pestilence. In the end it is only Grover and Whitaker who are sent back through time. If to prehistoric times, then there is no evidence that they stepped on any butterflies. More likely they were eaten by a T Rex. If they went back to the early 13th Century, then they either ended up dying from one of the many, many illnesses on offer, or were burnt / hanged as witches.

We should say something about the dinosaurs at this point. (Sorry, but we must). The production teams of the 1960's never considered doing anything like this. The closest would be the Visians - and they were made invisible. It was only with the arrival of CSO - Colour Separation Overlay (what the BBC called it), AKA Chromakey (what everyone else called it), AKA blue / yellow screen, AKA green-screen (as it is generally known nowadays) - that tackling giant monsters on a budget became possible.
Letts had overseen the inclusion of a dinosaur in his very first story as producer (The Silurians, also written by Hulke). With CSO in its infancy, only usable with colour TV, he had learned some harsh lessons. They had built a whole dinosaur suit, to be worn by one of the VFX men, then used CSO to make it look big. Letts then had a "Doh!" moment when he realised that he could have got the same effect from a much cheaper model or puppet.
The Drashigs, as mentioned, gave the team too high an expectation. They had worked, just about, as they had only been rod or hand puppets, with no legs. Believing anything was now possible, Letts sounded out a VFX expert, who assured him that realistic dinosaurs could be achieved. The man Letts went to was Cliff Culley, who was a respected VFX designer. The problem was two-fold. First, Culley was an expert in matte and optical work, as can be seen in a number of the Sean Connery Bond movies. He was not big on models and miniatures. This led to problem number two. He farmed the work out to a sub-contractor, who could not provide what Letts wanted for the money on offer.
Some of the dinosaurs are actually quite good - the Stegosaurus, Triceratops and Brontosaurus (as they were called then). That's because they are all seen fairly static, on model backgrounds. The real problem is the T Rex, and that just happens to be the creature which appears the most, getting half the cliffhangers. To animate the T Rex, it had its control wires up one of its legs - which meant that it was not mobile. It is also not terribly well modeled, yet it gets many lingering close-ups. The other problem with the T Rex is that it sometimes gets superimposed onto film sequences, which causes it to appear to float about the screen.

"Is that supposed to be a T Rex floating over the Royal Albert Hall, Doctor?"
For some reason, that first episode of this story was deleted, whereas the other five parts survived. The version on the VHS and the DVD release is in black & white (with a grainy, washed-out colourised option on the DVD). Two rumours have done the rounds about this. One is that, having the same name as an earlier Troughton story which had been deleted, Episode One was scrapped by mistake along with its Cyberman namesake. The other rumour is that Letts went out of his way to have the whole story scrapped, in anguish over the dinosaur puppets, but to his frustration they only got rid of part of it.
When The Time Warrior was released onto DVD, with optional new CGI elements, Letts was said to have been impressed, and said to the restoration team "So, what about those dinosaurs then?".
We didn't get CGI dinosaurs when the DVD eventually came out. Looking at the story, it would actually be very easy to replace them, so I hope this is considered for when Season 11 gets released on Blu-Ray. A lot of the dinosaur sequences do not have other characters in shot. The end of part one cliffhanger, where we see soldiers in the foreground, could simply be reshot, as they did with the new scenes for the Day of the Daleks special edition. Scenes where the Doctor, Brigadier etc are in the same shot as the dinosaurs could just be cut out, they are so few, or be redone with body doubles with their backs to camera. Even the jeep driving under the Brontosaurus sequence could be remounted. All perfectly manageable in my opinion.
Next time: it's Terry Nation's annual Dalek story, this time with added von Daniken shenanigans...

Monday 10 September 2018

F is for... Flesh

The Flesh was the name given to a milky organic substance which could be programmed to mimic human beings in the 22nd Century. Workers engaged in hazardous tasks could connect themselves up to a vat of Flesh and create doppelgangers, known as Gangers, which could then carry out the dangerous work for them. These avatars held the same personality traits and memories of their originals for as long as the real people were connected. The Doctor decided to visit an acid mining operation off the coast of England in order to study the substance, for reasons he kept hidden from companions Amy and Rory.
Their arrival coincided with a solar storm which broke the link between the miners and their avatars - but left the Gangers intact as living individuals. Having all the memories of their originals, they insisted on the right to survive. Until they stabilised, the Gangers would revert to having blank white features. Conflict between the two groups soon broke out.

One Ganger - of a young woman named Jennifer - decided to lead a revolt against all humans for what they had done to her kind, discarding them to rot when they were of no further use. The Doctor touched the vat of Flesh, and it absorbed his likeness and personality, creating an avatar of him. Both Doctors then attempted to find a peaceful solution to the situation, but the Jennifer Ganger decided to sabotage the mining complex. She transformed into a hideous parody of the human form. The two Doctors swapped shoes, so that the real Doctor could see what his companions really thought of the Gangers. The Gangers decided that they too wanted peace, after a number of them had been killed, along with some of their originals. The Ganger Doctor and the Ganger Cleaves, chief of the mining operation, sacrificed themselves to allow the others to escape and to destroy the Jennifer creature.

The original Cleaves, and the Ganger of crewman Dicken, were dropped off by the Doctor at the HQ of the company, Morpeth Jensen, which employed the Gangers, so that they could tell of what had happened and to argue for Ganger rights. Another Ganger, of a man named Jimmy, had been dropped off at home so that he could celebrate his young son's birthday.
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor informed his companions that Amy was not real. She was also a Flesh avatar, having been abducted and replaced some time before. He had guessed this, when the TARDIS sensors had failed to confirm or deny her pregnancy, and this is why he had wanted to know more about the substance.
He and Rory then set out to find her, discovering her on the asteroid of Demons Run, where she had given birth to the child who would one day grow up to be River Song. They rescued Amy and the baby - Melody - only to discover that the child had been swapped with a Flesh avatar.

Played by: Karen Gillan (Amy), Raquel Cassidy (Cleaves), Mark Bonnar (Jimmy), Sarah Smart (Jennifer), Marshall Lancaster (Buzzer) and Leon Vickers (Dicken). Appearances: The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People, A Good Man Goes to War (2011).
  • Technically, Amy is a Flesh avatar from some point during The Day of the Moon right through to The Almost People.

F is for... Flemming

Flemming was the Maitre d' of the starship Harmony and Redemption, which hosted some of the richest beings in the galaxy. They were also amongst the most evil beings in the galaxy - people who had committed all manner of genocidal crimes. River Song had traveled on the vessel before and had met Flemming. When she asked after his wife he informed her that she had just been eaten by his children. River had come to the ship in order to sell the jewel which she intended to cut from from the skull of her husband, King Hydroflax - little realising that the purchasers idolised the King.
With River was another of her husbands - the Twelfth Doctor - though she did not know who he was.
She had asked Flemming to lock the storage room in which the TARDIS and Hydroflax's robotic body were trapped, but a third husband - Ramone, whose head had been taken by the robot, tricked him into unlocking it. The duplicitous Flemming then agreed to help the robot to save his own head, stealing River's diary. He planned to obtain the Doctor's head for the robot - not guessing that this was the man accompanying River. She had chosen to come to the spaceship on this particular date, as history recorded that it would be destroyed by a meteor strike, and crash into the planet of Darillium. River and the Doctor escaped in the TARDIS, whilst Flemming and the rest of the ship's passengers and crew perished in the crash.

Played by: Rowan Polonski. Appearances: The Husbands of River Song (2015).
  • Polonski had just featured in the first Kingsman movie (Kingsman: The Secret Service) before appearing in Doctor Who.

F is for... Flavia

Chancellor Flavia was a senior member of the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey. When some unknown force began to remove the Doctor from Time, in all his incarnations, she was part of the inner council which investigated the crisis, along with President Borusa and the Castellan. Flavia was seen as an ally of the Doctor, whereas the Castellan had harboured some animosity towards him.
She agreed that it seemed unlikely that the Castellan should be behind the abductions of the Doctor's previous selves, and told the Doctor that she would investigate further.
After Borusa had been unmasked as the abductor - part of a scheme to gain immortality from Rassilon's tomb - Flavia made the journey to the Dark Tower in person to bestow the Presidency upon the Doctor, insisting it was time that he took on this responsibility. The Doctor chose to run away from Gallifrey in the TARDIS, but nominated Flavia to be acting President in his absence.

Played by: Dinah Sheridan. Appearances: The Five Doctors (1983).

F is for... Flane, Zachary

Zachary Cross Flane was the second-in-command of an expedition to investigate a strange planet which was being held in a stable orbit on the edge of the black hole K37 Gem 5. The expedition was being funded by the Torchwood Archive on Earth, and they sought to discover the source of a powerful energy signal which was emanating from deep beneath the surface of the planet, which was named Krop Tor. The commander, Walker, was killed soon after their arrival, and so Flane had to take charge. He and his colleagues established a Sanctuary Base on the planet, which was prone to severe seismic disturbances. To assist with the drilling operations and carry out menial tasks, they had a complement of the alien Ood with them.
The Doctor and Rose Tyler arrived in the base, and became trapped when an earthquake caused the section of the base which housed the TARDIS to fall down into a chasm.
The expedition soon came under attack by a malevolent demonic creature known as The Beast. It took over the telepathic Ood and turned them against the humans. Flane became trapped in the control area and from there attempted to guide his crew to safety. He decided to abandon the base and evacuate everyone in their rocket. When Rose refused to leave the Doctor behind, he had her sedated and placed on the ship. The Doctor used the TARDIS to pull the rocket to safety after the Beast had been defeated, and the planet had plunged into the black hole. Flane recorded commendations for all the crew - human and Ood - who had died.

Played by: Shaun Parkes. Appearances: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (2006).
  • Parkes had worked with David Tennant on Russell T Davies' Casanova, just before he was cast as the Tenth Doctor. He would go on to star opposite Matt Smith in Moses Jones - just before he was cast as the Eleventh Doctor.

F is for... Fitzwilliam

In March 2015 Sir Ranulf Fitzwilliam and his wife, the Lady Isabella, played host to a visit by King John at their castle, a day's ride from London. Travelling with the King was the French knight Sir Gilles Estram. He and Sir Ranulf's headstrong son Hugh had a falling out, which led to the young man being challenged to a duel. They would meet on the jousting field the next day. The Frenchman gained the upper hand, and was about to kill Hugh when the proceedings were interrupted by the TARDIS materialising. The King seemed bemused by the new arrivals - dubbing them his "demons" - and they were invited into the castle. The Doctor was concerned by John's presence, as he should have been in London on this date, taking the Crusaders oath. Sir Ranulf was also concerned, as the King was demanding more money from him and accusing him of being disloyal. The truth was revealed when Sir Ranulf's cousin arrived, claiming to have just left the King in London. Sir Gilles was really the Master in disguise (never!), and the King the android Kamelion, which could alter its appearance to match what its controller willed upon it. The false King had Isabella and Hugh locked in the dungeons, but the Master released them, in order to get the family on his side and against the Doctor. The Doctor and his companions stole Kamelion and fled in the TARDIS - convincing the Fitzwilliams' that they really had been visited by demons.

Played by: Frank Windsor (Sir Ranulf), Isla Blair (Lady Isabella), and Christopher Villiers (Hugh). Appearances: The King's Demons (1983).
  • Windsor was best known for working his way up the police ranks in Z-Cars, Softly, Softly and Softly, Softly: Taskforce. He would return to Doctor Who in 1989 - as a policeman - in Ghost Light.
  • Villiers returned to the programme more recently, playing Prof. Moorhouse in Mummy on the Orient Express.
  • Isla Blair is married to Julian Glover, who played King John's brother Richard in the 1965 Doctor Who story The Crusade. Their son, Jamie, played Ian Chesterton actor William Russell in the drama about Doctor Who's origins - An Adventure in Space and Time - in 2013.

Thursday 6 September 2018

Day of the Clown - SJA 2.2

In which pupils at Park Vale school begin to see mysterious red balloons appearing around the area, as well as a sinister clown figure. One of the boys disappears after going into the woods to fetch a football. Other children begin to go missing. Meanwhile, on Bannerman Road, Sarah Jane Smith and her son Luke have new neighbours moving into Maria Jackson's old home.
At school, Luke and Clyde meet a new girl named Rani Chandra, who tells them that she wants to be a journalist. The boys discover that they have a new headmaster - Haresh Chandra - and he is Rani's father. He takes an instant dislike to Clyde, annoyed by his constant clowning around. Mr Chandra tells the school assembly that he will be assisting the police with the spate of disappearances. Clyde is summoned to the headmaster's office, and whilst he is waiting in the deserted corridor he sees the clown figure. He witnesses a friend go into a storeroom and when he fails to come out again, Clyde looks for him and finds the room to be empty.
Back at home, Luke discovers that the Chandras are his new neighbours. They have moved into the Jackson house across the road. Rani's mother Gita attempts to make friends with Sarah, but is given the cold shoulder. Gita thinks that Sarah could help her daughter in her efforts to become a journalist. Mr Chandra is not happy to see Rani with Clyde, convinced that he is a bad influence.

Whilst Luke visits Rani they discuss the missing children. Rani is convinced that something supernatural is going on, and admits that she has also seen the clown. She recalls being handed a ticket for a new clown museum which has opened in the area - Spellman's Magical Museum of the Circus. Sarah has also noted the coincidence of the clown apparitions and the opening of the museum, so they all decide to go and investigate it. Sarah seems visibly nervous amongst the clown mannequins. The museum is run by a man named Elijah Spellman, who dresses in a circus ringmaster's outfit. He gives them a guided tour, and in one room Clyde notices an old picture featuring a clown dressed like the one he saw at school. Sarah explains that it depicts the Pied Piper legend, and he was said to have stolen away all the children from the German town of Hamelin, when their parents failed to recompense him for luring away all the rats which had been plaguing them. Spellman tells them them that he is the Pied Piper, and transforms into the character from the print. He changes again into another clown - the one from the school, who is known as Odd Bob. The clown mannequins come to life as he vanishes, and Sarah and her young friends discover that they are trapped...

Spellman taunts Sarah with her childhood fears. Rani's phone rings, and this causes Spellman to freeze, giving everyone a chance to escape the building. Back home, Sarah offers Rani the chance to walk away, or to become part of the strange and dangerous world that she, Luke and Clyde inhabit. Rani chooses to join them. She can claim that Sarah is helping her with her journalistic career to cover them spending time together. In the attic, Mr Smith is called upon. He has studied the Pied Piper tale, and has traced its origins to 1283, when a meteorite fell in Germany. This is currently on loan from a Munich museum to the Pharos Institute - run by Professor Rivers, whom Sarah met when she last encountered the Slitheen. Once Clyde and Rani have gone home, Luke asks his mum about her fear of clowns. She explains it goes back to her childhood, when she had been scared by a clown puppet in her bedroom at her aunt Lavinia's house.
The next day Sarah goes to see Prof. Rivers to collect a sample from the meteorite for Mr Smith to sample. At the school, a host of red balloons descend from the sky into the playground. Anyone picking one up immediately falls into a trance. The affected children all begin to make their way towards the museum. Sarah and her friends rush there, and use their phones to freeze Spellman. However, he captures Luke and imprisons him in the hall of mirrors, where all the other missing children are kept. Realising that Spellman's power derives from people's fears, Clyde starts to crack jokes. Spellman is forced to retreat and vanishes back into the meteorite fragment. He was the personification of an alien parasite which came to Earth in the rock. Sarah locks this away as Luke and the other captive children are released.

Day of the Clown was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 6th and 13th October, 2008.
It introduces a new companion, to replace Maria Jackson. Rani Chandra is played by Anjli Mohindra. Her parents Haresh and Gita become new recurring characters. They're played by Ace Bhatti, and Mina Anwar. Batti had worked for Russell T Davies before, having appeared in The Second Coming alongside Christopher Eccleston. Anwar was best known at the time for her appearances in the Rowan Atkinson sitcom The Thin Blue Line. She later appeared in the Series 10 Doctor Who story Smile.
Floella Benjamin makes a return appearance as Professor Rivers, having been introduced in the first season finale The Lost Boy.
The story is now significant for its casting of Bradley Walsh as Spellman, Odd Bob and the Pied Piper. He was not that well known for his acting at this time, being more of a light entertainment TV presenter. He is about to return to the Doctor Who universe as Graham, one of the companions to the 13th Doctor.
Whilst the first season of the Sarah Jane Adventures had often referred back to Sarah's journeys with the Doctor, from this story on we start to delve more into her earlier history. Here she mentions her aunt Lavinia - named in The Time Warrior then seen in the K9 spin-off A Girl's Best Friend.
The clown puppet in her bedroom is significant for her as it was the first time that she thought about the fact that her parents were not around to protect her. We'll find out the circumstances of their deaths very soon.

Overall, it is quite a creepy story, let down only by Clyde's awful jokes.
Things you might like to know:

  • The inspiration for Odd Bob is pretty obvious. It's Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's It. In particular, it is Tim Curry's portrayal of the demonic clown from the two part mini-series broadcast in 1990. Odd Bob is shown to have appeared throughout history, just as Pennywise features in old photographs of Derry, Maine.
  • Sarah is seen to b looking at images of clowns on her computer. One of these is a photo of Clara, as played by Carmen Silvera in 1966's The Celestial Toymaker. Quite how an image of her could appear on the internet is never explained. Then again, UNIT had a photo of Sarah on the planet Peladon in their files in the last season.
  • Sarah is suffering from coulrophobia - the irrational fear of clowns. The name derives from the word kolobatheron, which is Greek for stilt. Presumably the first clowns were also stilt-walkers.
  • The Doctor's companion Ace had also been afraid of clowns.
  • It's probably no longer acceptable to use the term "irrational" when describing coulrophobia these days, as there has recently been a global epidemic of genuine "evil clown" sightings. It has been reported that some of these figures have attacked people, as well as scaring the bejesus out of them.
  • Haresh mentions the "mysteriously disappeared" former headmaster of the school. That was Mr Blakeman, who had been a disguised Slitheen.
  • Despite it being clearly the same house, the door number for Sarah's home changed between the pilot and the first episode of Series 1. Here, it is the turn of the Jackson / Chandra house to change numbers between seasons.
  • The Doctor has met the Pied Piper once before - at least if you count the TV Comic strips of the 1960's. The First Doctor encountered him when he was travelling with his grandchildren John and Gillian.