Wednesday 27 March 2019

Inspirations - The Invisible Enemy

In the latter years of the 1970's, and on into the 1980's, many Sci-Fi films and TV series insisted that some sort of cute robot be included amongst the central characters. Buck Rogers had Twiki, Battlestar Galactica had Daggit, Disney's The Black Hole had V.I.N.CENT, and so on and so forth. This was all a reaction to the inclusion of the hugely popular C-3PO and R2-D2 in Star Wars.
That film was released in the US in May 1977, and did not hit the UK until December of that year.
The Invisible Enemy was produced in April 1977, and screened that October - so the arrival of K9 in Doctor Who was most assuredly not down to the influence of Star Wars.
Besides, K9 was originally only going to appear in this single story as a one-off character - which explains why the machine is under repairs for the next story. He simply wasn't in the original story brief.
Now, Star Wars was filmed in the UK, and many of the VFX gang at the BBC would have known about the film from colleagues working at Pinewood Studios, but it is unlikely that writers Bob Baker and Dave Martin would have known much about it.
K9 is the personal computer of Professor Marius, who is played by Frederick Jaeger. Jaeger was a friend of Baker and Martin, and they had given the name Jaeger to the scientist character in their 1972 story The Mutants. He did not get the part named after him, although he had already appeared in the show back in the 1960's, playing Jano in The Savages. More recently, he had featured as Professor Sorenson in Planet of Evil.

Baker and Martin took as their starting point a story about an alien infection. Doctor Who had always shown the human race venturing out into space, colonising new worlds, but the risks of unknown viruses and illnesses posing a threat, instead of aliens and monsters, had rarely been touched upon.
The Ark had shown what might happen if a TARDIS traveller introduced the common cold to a people from the future who no longer had any immunity to it, whilst The Moonbase had featured a throwaway line from the Doctor about the TARDIS being a sterile environment, and that he and his companions were generally illness-free. Illnesses in the programme tended to come in the form of biological weapons, deliberately engineered by the enemy to attack humans - be it the Cybermen and their neuroptropic viruses, or plagues concocted by Daleks or Silurians.
The virus in this story floats about in space in the vicinity of Saturn, waiting to infect a passing spaceship which can carry it to someplace where it can incubate and then spread throughout the colonists. It is said to be noetic - relating to mental activity or intellect. After infecting a space shuttle crew, who will be tasked with setting up a home for it, the virus then attacks the TARDIS - the most intelligent thing it comes across. It quickly transfers itself to the Doctor. It ignores Leela, as she is all animal instinct and intuition. Later, it will be seen to temporarily infect K9.
The Doctor is taken over but manages to fight off its influence for a time, and guides the TARDIS to the nearest hospital - the Bi-Al Foundation which is built into an asteroid. This is where Professor Marius works alongside his computer K9. He is a dog lover, but could not afford to transport his real dog to the Foundation with him - and so built his computer in the shape of a canine, named K9.

The VFX designer on this story was the late, great Ian Scoones, assisted by Mat Irvine due to the amount of FX required. Also brought on board was Tony Harding, and it was he who designed and built K9. The first version he came up with was a large, doberman-style animal, with legs, but was then asked to make it simpler, and went for what is basically a box with a dog-like head. Adjustments had to be made as the script was developed - such as the addition of the ticker tape dispenser beneath the nose.
For a Sci-Fi show, Doctor Who had rarely ventured into outer space. Spaceships had been seen briefly in space in stories such as The Sensorites, but spaceships were usually just there to get the aliens to a planet where the real story would take place. The Wheel in Space was the first story to be set entirely off-planet, and had featured the titular space station W3, as well as the Silver Carrier rocket and a Cyberman spaceship. A number of spacewalks were also shown. A short time later we had the first real attempt at what is commonly known as "space opera", with The Space Pirates.
Much of the action in The Invisible Enemy takes place in space - either in various shuttles or within the asteroid hospital. The other main location is the refueling station on Saturn's moon Titan.
Not a lot was known about Titan at the time, so it is presented as being similar to our own moon, with no atmosphere. We now know that it is in fact the only moon in our Solar System which does possess an atmosphere, as it is shrouded in a dense orange fog of organonitrogen. (When this story was released on DVD it came with optional new CGI effects, and the black star-scape is replaced with an orange haze. Unfortunately, these changes failed to be carried through thoroughly, and there are scenes set inside the base where you can still see the star-scape through the windows). We also now know that because of this it has weather systems - a methane cycle rather than a water cycle - and the surface is not all rock and ice. There are lakes of liquid hydrocarbons.

Once at the Bi-Al Foundation, the Doctor comes up with a plan to use the TARDIS dimensional stabilser, plus clones of himself and Leela, to delve into his own body and fight the Nucleus of the virus there. This section of the story has a movie inspiration - 1966's Fantastic Voyage, which starred Donald Pleasence, Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch. The film was based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. In this, a medical team are miniaturised within a submersible craft and injected into the body of a scientist defector from the Soviet Union who has been injured in an assassination attempt. The team have to sort out a blood clot in his brain which has rendered him comatose. Among the many hazards the team has to negotiate is attack by antibodies from the body's immune defence system - just as Leela and the clone of Lowe are attacked here.

This is the first story to be produced under the vision of new producer Graham Williams. He wanted to take the show into more hard Sci-Fi areas, and it is noticeable that spaceships feature prominently in his era of the show. He had also been tasked with getting rid of the Gothic horror trappings which had characterised his predecessor's reign, as well as injecting more humour into the proceedings. Ironically, this story features one of the staples of the Hinchcliffe era - body horror and physical and mental possession. Robert Holmes is still Script Editor, after all - although he is about to step aside for Anthony Read.
One thing Williams did not like was the Jules Verne-style wooden TARDIS console room design. He asked this story's designer to return it to a more traditional futuristic look. The designer in question was Barry Newbery - the man who had come up with the wooden console room in the first place. Long before the notion that the ship has "desktop themes", the Doctor blames the similarity of the new console room to the original one on the ship's lack of imagination.
Apparently the shots of the Nucleus' eggs in their tank on Titan were derived from test footage which the BBC VFX crew had prepared for an intended Quatermass remake - presumably Quatermass II, which features alien organisms being prepared in environment tanks.
And this is the second story from Baker and Martin to feature a catchphrase from the characters. Previously they had people stating "Eldrad must live!" in The Hand of Fear, and here those infected claim "Contact has been made".
Next time: Graham Williams' third story in charge, and he just can't get away from Hammer Horror. He almost had vampires for his first story, and now we have black magic rituals deep in the English countryside...

Tuesday 19 March 2019

The Eternity Trap - SJA 3.4

In which Sarah Jane Smith goes to visit her old friend Professor Rivers, who is carrying out a series of experiments into the paranormal at Ashen Hill Manor. This old house is said to be haunted, and Prof. Rivers wishes to investigate the reported phenomena. Sarah brings Clyde and Rani along - Luke remaining at home with K9. Sarah is skeptical about the supernatural, believing that everything must have a rational, scientific explanation. Assisting Rivers is a young man named Toby, who is a firm believer in the paranormal. Rivers explains that the house belonged to a man named Lord Marchwood back in the 1660's. He employed an alchemist named Erasmus Darkening, whom he invited to stay at the Manor. Soon after, Marchwood's children - Elizabeth and Joseph - went missing, and it is said that the Lord's ghost haunts the building, forever searching for his missing offspring. Darkening was reputedly a master of the dark arts. Since this time, other people who have lived here have disappeared without trace, and the building now stands empty.
Sarah fails to see a book she was just looking at  - a history of the house - move by itself, whilst out in the garden Clyde and Rani see the fountain suddenly stop, and wet footprints appear on the pavement. Entering an outhouse after hearing the sound of a girl crying, Clyde briefly catches a glimpse of a man's face in an old mirror.

In the house, the camera covering the children's nursery suddenly cuts out. Rivers goes to investigate, and is found to have vanished when the others go looking for her. The toys in the room all start to move on their own and a message appears on the mirror - "Get Out!". Clyde and Rani then find the entrance to a secret tunnel, which leads them down into an ancient laboratory, which they realise must have belonged to Darkening. Sarah has gone out into the garden, where she is menaced by a creature with red eyes which is lurking in the undergrowth. A man in 17th Century dress suddenly appears and chases it off with his sword - the ghost of Lord Marchwood. Clyde and Rani find that the laboratory is not quite as it seems, as they discover advanced technology. Darkening suddenly appears in the room with them...
They are rescued by the arrival of Marchwood. They discover that the house is full of the ghosts of those who have vanished here - including Elizabeth and Joseph. Prof. Rivers is also present, but she has not been absorbed into the house like the others. She appears to Sarah and warns her that Darkening is coming for them. Sarah realises that the ghosts are really people trapped between dimensions. Examining Darkening's equipment, she deduces that he is an alien, who had become trapped on Earth and was trying to get back to his own universe.

Toby explains to Sarah why he studies the paranormal, despite pressure from his scientist father to concentrate on more conventional science. As a child, he had been haunted by something which came into his bedroom every night. Clyde and Rani are chased outside, and find themselves locked out and at the mercy of the creature in the bushes. Lord Marchwood once again comes to the rescue. Back in the house, Sarah has worked out that the equipment in the laboratory has allowed the creature to cross over from Darkening's dimension, and it has also given him a prolonged lifespan. Darkening is lured into a trap - forced by Marchwood into stepping into a metal circle in the floor of the great hall. His powers are drained and he is destroyed. His death frees all of the trapped people - including Prof. Rivers.
The following morning Sarah, Clyde and Rani are about to leave when Sarah points out that there never were any real ghosts in the house - but then she sees Lord Marchwood and his children watching them from an upstairs window...

The Eternity Trap was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 5th and 6th November, 2009. It sees the return of Professor Rivers, played by Floella Benjamin, who had first appeared in the closing story of the first season - The Lost Boy - and who had then featured in Series 2's Day of the Clown.
It is a highly effective haunted house story - far scarier than the later attempt by the parent programme to cover this topic - 2013's Series 7 story Hide.
Being set within the confines of the manor, there is only a small guest cast. Other than Benjamin, we have Donald Sumpter as Darkening, and Callum Blue as Lord Marchwood, with Toby being played by Aiden Gillen, who is best known for the ITV comedy drama series Benidorm these days.
Sumpter had previously appeared in Doctor Who on two occasions - as technician Enrico Casali in The Wheel in Space, and as submarine commander Ridgeway in The Sea Devils. He would later portray the Time Lord Rassilon in Hell Bent, when Timothy Dalton proved unavailable to reprise the role.
The creature lurking in the bushes is never shown. We see things from its point of view most of the time, otherwise it is just a pair of red eyes hidden in the foliage and sound effects.

Things you might like to know:

  • This is one of only two stories in the entire run of the series in which Tommy Knight (Luke) does not appear.
  • And it's the only one where there are no sequences set in Bannerman Road.
  • In 2010 a novelisation of this story was published (as Haunted House), written by Trevor Baxendale. It was aimed at people learning to read.
  • Sarah identifies the thing which young Toby saw in his bedroom as being the Trickster.
  • There is a fan theory that Darkening is actually a rogue Time Lord - extending his life as he has reached the end of his regenerations. This theory depends on some hindsight, as the Doctor at this time had made it plain that no other Time Lords existed. However, we later discover that Gallifrey was only ever hidden in a pocket universe, and this might be the dimension from which Darkening had come.
  • Ford seems to have been inspired by Nigel Kneale's spooky drama The Stone Tape, which was first broadcast on Christmas Day, 1972. The Stone Tape theory holds that a building can absorb psychic energy from its inhabitants - especially traumatic events - and may be an explanation for hauntings.

Sunday 17 March 2019

G is for... Grant, Jo

Josephine Grant - better known as Jo - was the niece of a British UN diplomat. She used this family connection to get a job with UNIT, where the Brigadier decided to assign her to the Doctor as his new assistant. On first meeting the Doctor, he presumed she was the tea lady, and she ruined one of his experiments with a fire extinguisher when it appeared to have burst into flames. The Doctor did not want a new assistant - unless it was a fully qualified scientist like Liz Shaw. The Brigadier insisted that he break the bad news to her, but her enthusiasm was such that he decided to give her a try. She claimed to have studied science at A-Level - only to later admit that she didn't ever claim to have passed. Her first assignment was to trace the Master, who had recently arrived on Earth and who had stolen an intact Nestene control sphere. All plastics factories had to be checked. Jo found the one where the Master was based, but her clumsiness got her captured. She was hypnotised by the Master into returning to UNIT HQ where she was compelled to activate a bomb. She was later attacked by a Nestene controlled troll doll, as well as almost suffocating when fired upon by a Nestene plastic daffodil.

Some time later she visited Stangmoor Prison with the Doctor, in order to observe a test of the Keller Process, which drained evil from the minds of hardened criminals. Jo got caught up in a prison riot, and whilst confined to the hospital wing she befriended a man named Barnham, who was the last to undergo the process. He could placate the Mind Parasite which lived in the Keller Machine - brought to Earth by the Master. her influence over Barnham allowed the Doctor to use him to control the parasite, and Jo was saddened when Barnham was later killed by the Master.
After welcoming American agent Bill Filer to UNIT HQ, the alien spaceship Axos arrived on Earth. Jo disregarded orders to follow the Doctor and the Brigadier into the ship, where she was confronted by one of the Axons in their natural, tentacled form. She was shocked to discover that the Doctor and Master were planning to join forces and abandon the planet to Axos - but this was simply a ruse by the Doctor to trap the creature in a time-loop.
Soon after this, Jo got her first trip in the TARDIS, when the Time Lords operated it by remote control to send the Doctor to the planet Uxarieus, where the Master was planning to steal a powerful doomsday weapon. She made friends with Mary Ashe, daughter of the leader of a party of Earth colonists on the planet. She was captured by miners from IMC, only to be saved by a group of the planet's indigenous people - who took her to their city where they planned on sacrificing her. She was rescued by the Doctor.
Jo had a fascination with the occult, and so was keen to watch a TV programme about the opening of an ancient burial mound near the English village of Devil's End. The Doctor dismissed these ideas, claiming that everything could be explained by science. However, he was concerned about the dig and so he and Jo rushed to the village to attempt to stop it. Jo witnessed the Doctor being apparently frozen to death, but refused to give up on him. She called upon her UNIT colleagues for help. After suffering an accident falling from the Doctor's car, Jo decided to go alone to the cavern beneath the village church to confront the Master, who led a coven here which planned to resurrect the Daemon Azal, who had been in hibernation in the burial mound. The Master captured her and offered her as a sacrifice to Azal. When the Doctor arrived, Azal decided to give his powers to him instead of the Master. The Doctor refused them and the Daemon was about to kill him when Jo interceded - offering her life for his. This irrational act ultimately caused Azal to self-destruct.

Following reports of a ghostly visitor at Auderly House, home of a senior diplomat, Jo accompanied the Doctor on a night's ghost-hunting. She attempted to slip some food to Sergeant Benton, and was annoyed when Captain Mike Yates took it for himself. The ghosts proved to be guerrillas from the 22nd Century, come back through time to kill the diplomat. Jo accidentally transported herself to the future where she encountered the Controller of the European Zone, and fell for his charm. He was really a quisling, working for the Daleks. The Doctor followed her to the 22nd Century, where he was able to convince her that the Controller was not to be trusted.

Jo later accepted the offer of a dinner date with Mike Yates, but made the mistake of allowing the Doctor to take her there in the TARDIS. The Time Lords once again took control and guided the ship to the planet Peladon. Here the Doctor was mistaken for the Earth delegate from the Galactic Federation. He introduced Jo as a member of royalty - Princess Josephine of Tardis, as it was death for any woman not of noble blood to enter the throne room. The young King Peladon fell in love with her - reminded perhaps of his mother, who had come from Earth. However, Jo became exasperated with the King when he failed to break with ancient customs and save the Doctor from a death sentence. Jo discovered that the other delegates presumed she and the King were to marry. She later took charge of them, joining forces with the Ice Warriors to coerce Alpha Centauri into voting to help the Doctor. The King later proposed to her, and whilst she did love him, she preferred to return to Earth.
The Master had been captured by UNIT after the events at Devil's End, and the Doctor and Jo went to visit him in his island prison - only to discover that he had taken control and was about to form an alliance with a colony of Sea Devils whose shelter lay off the island. Not for the first time, Jo's expertise with escapology techniques came in handy when rescuing the Doctor after he was held captive in the prison. After a Sea Devil attack on the nearby naval base, Jo led an escape attempt, going to fetch reinforcements in a hovercraft which she piloted herself.
The Time Lords then had another mission for the Doctor - to take a message container to a young freedom fighter named Ky, on the planet of Solos. Jo insisted on joining the Doctor. She was taken hostage by Ky, but later became firm friends with him and helped him against the Earth Marshal who wanted to take over the planet and prevent it gaining independence.

Jo next found herself visiting the ancient city of Atlantis, after the Master had used a machine called TOMTIT to try to control the Chronovore Kronos. On the way there, the Master tried to kill her by throwing the TARDIS into the Vortex after the Doctor had been expelled from the ship. However, the TARDIS telepathic circuits located him and she helped get him back on board. Once in Atlantis, Jo was presented to Queen Galleia and given a suitable change of clothes. Galleia was in league with the Master to free Kronos, and Jo tried to stop him getting the crystal which controlled it - causing her to become locked in the Temple of Poseidon with its guardian - a savage Minotaur. She was rescued by the Doctor. Kronos was freed and destroyed the city, and the Master fled taking Jo with him as a hostage in his TARDIS. The Doctor threatened to Time Ram his ship with the Master's, but couldn't go through with it. Jo decided to make his mind up for him and completed the manoeuvre. Both ships were saved by Kronos, who wanted to thank the Doctor for freeing it.

When UNIT HQ came under attack from a creature which originated in the universe of anti-matter, Jo found herself having to cope with the two earlier incarnations of the Doctor - sent by the Time Lords as the anti-matter force was also attacking their homeworld. She was confused by this, until Sgt. Benton pointed out that the Doctor had looked like the Second incarnation when he and the Brigadier had first met him. Jo insisted on going with her Doctor when he elected to allow himself to be captured by the organism - finding herself transported to the barren domain ruled by Omega. The Doctors arranged for everyone taken from Earth to be sent back home - but Jo refused to leave, and the Brigadier had to step to make her go. Once Omega had been defeated, the Time Lords rescinded the Doctor's exile to Earth. Jo thought that this meant that he would leave them, but was cheered by the fact that he was not leaving straight away. As it was, Jo was to accompany him on his travels - starting with a trip to the planet Metebelis III. They arrived instead on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean in 1926. This came under attack by a Plesiosaur, and Jo and the Doctor then witnessed the passengers and crew repeating all their earlier actions - as though stuck in a time loop. It transpired that they were trapped inside an exhibit within a Miniscope machine, on an alien planet.
Breaking into another exhibit, Jo was terrified by the savage Drashig creatures. Of all the alien beings she had encountered, these seemed to frighten her the most.

The TARDIS next arrived on a space freighter, which came under attack by Ogrons. Jo saw them initially as Drashigs, as the Master was nearby operating a device which preyed on the fear centres of the brain. He was using this to try to set two empires at war with each other - those of Earth and Draconia. Jo and the Doctor found themselves arrested and accused of being Draconian spies. Jo was to be separated from the Doctor - sent to an Earth rehabilitation centre whilst he was despatched to the penal colony on the Moon. She was rescued by the Master, who had come looking for them after the Ogrons had brought the TARDIS back to his base. Whilst locked in a cell, covering for an escape attempt by the Doctor, Jo talked about how she came to join UNIT, and spoke about her day to day duties there. Later, at the Draconian imperial court, Jo disregarded local etiquette and spoke out in favour of the Doctor's plan - gaining a grudging respect from the Emperor himself. Jo was recaptured by the Master who attempted to use his hypnotic device on her - making her initially see him as a Drashig, a Sea Devil and as a Solonian Mutant, but she had learned some mental techniques to overcome hypnotic influence since their very first encounter.
Jo accompanied the injured Doctor after he asked the Time Lords to send the TARDIS after the Daleks, who were behind the Master's warmongering scheme. With him lying in a comatose state, Jo set off alone through the jungles of Spiridon. She became infected by spores from a fungal plant, but was saved by the intervention of Wester, one of the planet's invisible inhabitants. Jo later encountered a party of Thal soldiers, come to destroy a Dalek base on the planet. One of them - a young man named Latep - developed a crush on her, and even invited her to return with him to Skaro after the Daleks had been defeated. Jo declined. When the Doctor offered to take her anywhere she wanted, she opted to return to Earth.

The Doctor finally programmed the TARDIS for Metebelis III, but Jo refused to go with him. She had read about the work of Professor Clifford Jones, who ran a commune in the Welsh valleys. He was fighting against a new petrochemicals plant in the area - Global Chemicals - and she decided that she wanted to go to Wales to support him in his crusade. She even threatened to quit UNIT to do so. The Brigadier gave her a lift to Wales as he was going there anyway - to investigate the death of a miner  whose body had turned bright green. The Doctor was disappointed by Jo's decision, and realised that she was starting to make her own way in the world. She had earlier described Prof. Jones as being like a younger version of himself. Jo's first meeting with Cliff did not go well, as she almost spoiled one of his experiments - just as she had done when she first met the Doctor.
She and Cliff soon fell in love - despite the Doctor's attempts to sabotage their romance. Once the threat from Global Chemicals had been stopped, Cliff asked Jo to marry him - and she said yes. After they were wed, she would accompany him on an expedition to the Amazon basin to search for a new foodstuff. The Doctor gave her the blue crystal which he had found on Metebelis III as a wedding gift. Jo got her uncle to grant Cliff's commune special UN scientific status - only the second time she had ever asked him for a favour.
Jo later returned the Metebelis crystal to the Doctor, as it was frightening the native bearers on their expedition.

Some three decades later Sarah Jane Smith was contacted by UNIT to be informed that the Doctor had been killed. A funeral service was to be held at a UNIT base in Snowdonia. Jo Grant was one of those also in attendance. She was pleased to finally meet the person who had taken over as the Doctor's travelling companion. Jo had one of her grandchildren with her - Santiago. She was still married to Cliff, and spent her time campaigning on ecological issues around the globe - such as the time she had handcuffed herself to Robert Mugabe. Like Sarah, she refused to accept that the Doctor was dead - knowing that she would have sensed if this was the case. The Doctor, now in his 11th incarnation, was not dead. It was all a ruse by a rogue UNIT officer, in league with the alien Shansheeth, to steal the TARDIS. They needed the memories of Jo and Sarah to replicate the ship's key. However, their memories of their time with the Doctor were so overpowering that they destroyed the aliens. At one point Jo and Sarah had been transported to an alien planet, where Jo was disappointed to learn that the Doctor had been back in Sarah's life in recent years. The Doctor reassured her that he kept an eye on every one of his old companions, and he was proud of what she was doing with her life.

Played by: Katy Manning. Appearances: Terror of the Autons (1971) to The Green Death (1973), SJA 4.3 Death of the Doctor (2010).
  • Manning continues to portray Jo on audio for Big Finish. She has also played the spin-off character Iris Wildthyme, an eccentric Time Lady who travels the universe in a London double-decker bus.

G is for... Grace

Grace was a nurse who helped look after Sheffield bus driver Graham O'Brien when he had cancer. The two later married. She had a grown up son from a previous marriage, as well as a grandson named Ryan, who idolised her. He refused to accept Grace's new husband as his new grandfather. Grace was travelling home with Graham one evening when the train they were on was attacked by an alien machine creature - a Gathering Coil - which had come in search of another passenger. Soon after, the newly regenerated Doctor fell through the roof of their carriage. The Doctor was later taken to the home of Grace and Graham, and they joined her in searching for the alien who controlled the creature from the train - a member of the Stenza race called Tzim-Sha. He was hunting for the passenger from the train - a young man named Karl who worked at a building site. Whilst Graham was reluctant to get involved, Grace believed that they should help the Doctor. At the building site, Grace was asked to keep out of trouble but she elected to use an electrical cable to disable the Coil. She succeeded, but at the cost of her own life. Ryan was upset when his father failed to show up for her funeral.
Graham joined the Doctor, Ryan and PC Yasmin Khan on their travels in the TARDIS. When they next arrived back in Sheffield, Graham was reminded of Grace in their old house, imagining her still there and advising him. Later, the TARDIS crew visited a pocket universe inhabited by the Solitract, a being which was incompatible with the normal universe. In order to attract company, it could appear as the loved ones of people who visited - and appeared to Graham as Grace. When the Doctor was left alone in the alternate universe, the Solitract appeared as a frog, but spoke in Grace's voice.
Graham later had the chance to avenge Grace's death when they encountered Tzim-Sha on an alien planet, but he elected not to kill him.

Played by: Sharon D Clarke. Appearances: The Woman Who Fell To Earth, Arachnids in the UK, It Takes You Away (2018).
  • Grace only really appears in the first episode of Series 11. In her second story she is a ghostly vision in Graham's memory, and in the final appearance is really an alien in Grace's form.

Tuesday 12 March 2019

Short break...

Quick update to let you know that I'm awaiting a new computer (coming this weekend) so hopefully the next post should be on Sunday evening. I'll be taking a short holiday the following week, so updates won't be back to regular levels until the end of the month.

Thursday 7 March 2019

Inspirations - Horror of Fang Rock

Season 14 saw the end of Philip Hinchcliffe's tenure as producer of Doctor Who. He decided to go out with a lavish production - leaving his replacement, Graham Williams, to foot the bill. Hinchcliffe had allowed The Talons of Weng-Chiang to go well over its budget. This plus spiraling inflation would pose problems for Williams in his first season in charge. He had hoped to have a themed season, coming up with the idea of the White and Black Guardians and the Key to Time as part of his pitch for the new role, but seasons had to be planned too far in advance, so this idea would have to wait until the following year. Rattled by the complaints about horror and violence in recent stories, Williams was ordered by his bosses to steer the show towards lighter adventures, with more fantasy and humour.
Robert Holmes had agreed to help bridge the transition by staying on as Script Editor for a number of stories, as a replacement for him was sought.
Straight away, Williams and Homes hit a snag. Terrance Dicks was now a freelance writer, and he was commissioned to write the first story of the new season - his first contribution since the upset over the redrafting of The Brain of Morbius. What he came up with was a story which would have fitted well with the themes of the previous two years - a tale involving vampires. Tentatively titled "The Witch Lords", this story was to have seen the Doctor and Leela encounter vampires on an alien planet.
However, the BBC were at this time planning a lavish production of Bram Stoker's Dracula, to be produced by Morris Barry (director of three Patrick Troughton Doctor Who stories) and set to star Louis Jourdan as the Count, and Frank Finlay as Van Helsing. The Doctor Who production office were suddenly told to discontinue their vampire story for fear it might be seen as a send-up of the costly new Stoker adaptation. We'll hear more about Dicks' original story when we get to Season 18...

Holmes met with Dicks and asked him for a new story at short notice, to be set in a lighthouse. Terrance Dicks DVD Extras Anecdote No 433 coming up...
Back when Dicks was Script Editor he had asked Holmes to write a story set in Medieval times. Holmes said he did not know anything about this, so Dicks gave him a copy of the Boys' Own Book of Castles and told him to get on with it.
Jump forward a few years and the roles are reversed. Dicks is asked to write a story set in a lighthouse and claims he does not know anything about them, so Holmes hands him a copy of the Boys' Own Book of Lighthouses, and tells him to get on with it...
In a neat bit of symmetry, that Holmes story introduced the Sontarans, and mentioned their long-running war with the Rutans, whilst Dicks' story actually introduces the Rutans and mentions their long-running war with the Sontarans...
The other issue at the time was a lack of studio space at Television Centre, so Dicks' story was going to be recorded in Birmingham, at the Pebble Mill studios. The director chosen for the story was Paddy Russell, who had already directed Tom Baker in The Pyramids of Mars. She discovered that a lot had changed with the actor since their last work together, and she found him a lot less agreeable. This was the beginning of the "hell to work with" period for Baker. Hinchcliffe had managed this developing trait, but for Williams it was to be a slow war of attrition which he would ultimately lose.
Louise Jameson had only initially been booked to appear as Leela for the second half of the previous season. She had been reluctant to stay on longer due to the hostility from Baker towards her character, which manifested itself in a coldness towards her as an actor. One of her conditions for doing the new season was that she be allowed to dispense with the red contact lenses which she had to wear to make her blue eyes appear brown. A sequence was inserted into the end of Horror of Fang Rock where she fails to heed the Doctor's warning not to look at the destruction of the Rutan mothership and is temporarily blinded. Her sight clears, but she has suffered a change of pigmentation in her eyes.

The inspiration for many Doctor Who stories lies close to the surface a lot of the time. Few would have failed to spot the Frankenstein story behind The Brain of Morbius, for instance. The main inspiration for Horror of Fang Rock is even more explicit, as the Doctor actually quotes from the poem which lies behind it at the conclusion. This is Flannan Isle (aka The Ballad of Flannan Isle) which was written by Wilfred Wilson Gibson and first published in 1912. Set in 1900, it tells of the mysterious disappearance of three keepers from the Flannan Isle lighthouse. The Flannan Isles lie in the Outer Hebrides off Scotland's north west coast, and are also known as The Seven Hunters. The lighthouse keepers vanished without trace in December 1900.
The Doctor quotes one of the passages from the poem:

   "Aye: though we hunted high and low,
    And hunted everywhere,
    Of the three men's fate we found no trace
    Of any kind in any place,
    But a door ajar, and an untouched meal,
    And an overtoppled chair".

The story has gone on to inspire a number of ghost stories and horror movies, plus an opera by Peter Maxwell Davies (The Lighthouse) and even an early song by Genesis.

A number of theories exist to explain the disappearances, including abduction by UFO, which is closest to what happens to the hapless crew of the Fang Rock lighthouse, who fall prey to the shape-shifting alien Rutan.
The most commonly held opinion is that the men were washed out to sea by a wave. Their log reported severe storms a day or two before Christmas. Another popular theory is that there was some kind of argument, and one of the men killed the others before doing away with himself.
Another theory claims that they were the victims of espionage - killed or abducted by German spies.
More fanciful ideas include a ghostly intervention - either the Devil himself or the Phantom of the Seven Hunters - or attack by some kind of sea monster.
Dicks chose to increase the population of his lighthouse by having a ship wreck itself on the rocks during one of the power shortages which the electricity-devouring Rutan causes. The only member of the ship's crew to survive the wreck is named Stoker - an in-joke about the story which was to have filled this slot. The passengers who survive all have some disagreeable trait, so it is clear that they are being set up as Rutan fodder, necessary to maintain the tension for four episodes.
In order to tie the story to its source poem, it was necessary for Dicks to have every character other than the Doctor and Leela killed off. However, unlike the Flannan Isles mystery, there would have been plenty of dead bodies for the authorities to find when they arrived to investigate.
Next time: the Graham Williams era really takes off with a bit of a space opera. The Doctor falls ill then goes to see a man about a dog. Contact will be made...

Tuesday 5 March 2019

The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith - SJA 3.3

In which Sarah Jane Smith's recent actions cause her young companions to become suspicious. Luke, Clyde and Rani believe that Sarah is hiding something from them, so one evening they decide to ask Mr Smith to trace her car. They see that it has stopped in the centre of town and set off to follow her. She is traced to a restaurant, where they see her having dinner with a man. She is on a date. Clyde hears a strange wheezing, groaning sound in the distance. Back at the attic, Mr Smith lets slip that Sarah has been tracked, so she decides to tell them about her new boyfriend - Peter Dalton. She decides to introduce him to Luke, but wants to keep her alien-fighting life a secret from Peter. Clyde and Rani are still suspicious, and want to know more about him. They go to his home, and find it deserted. At another dinner date, Peter proposes to Sarah. He gives her a ring with a red gemstone, which affects her mind. She tells Clyde and Rani that Peter's home is empty because he usually lives in a flat nearer to his work. She announces her forthcoming wedding, and that she is totally giving up her work with aliens. Mr Smith attempts to warn her and Clyde about the ring she is wearing, but Sarah orders him to shut down permanently.

Two weeks later, the attic is cleared, and Sarah and her guests assemble at a country hotel for the wedding. Clyde has brought K9 along. Luke becomes angry at the hostility which Clyde still bears towards Peter. When the point comes in the ceremony when those present are asked if there is any objection to the wedding going ahead, the doors burst open and the Doctor dashes in. A fierce wind blows through the room and K9 announces alien activity. Suddenly the Trickster materialises in a white costume. He, Sarah and Peter then vanish...
Luke, Clyde and Rani find themselves alone with K9 and the Doctor, all the other guests including Rani's parents having disappeared. They discover that they are trapped within a second in time - and Sarah and Peter are trapped in a different segment of time with the Trickster. The Doctor tries to get his TARDIS back. Sarah realises that she has been duped by the ring and takes it off. Peter reveals that he had fallen down the stairs one evening, but had been saved from death by the Trickster, who he really believes to be a benign creature. The Trickster tells Sarah that her friends will only be released if she agrees to marry Peter and give up her old life.

The Doctor confronts the Trickster and identifies him as belonging to the Pantheon of Discord - a group of alien creatures who thrive on chaos and want to break through into this universe. The Trickster wants Sarah to stop defending Earth so that the planet will be left open to alien attack. He warns the Doctor that he knows that "the Gate" is waiting for him. The Doctor manages to retrieve the TARDIS, but is unable to stabilise it. As Clyde tries to get inside he is blasted by Artron energy and thrown back. The Doctor had said that Arton energy could be used against the Trickster, so Clyde pretends that he wants to join him. When he grabs the creature, he weakens him with the energy he had absorbed from touching the TARDIS. Sarah manages to convince Peter that the only way to save her friends is if he renounces his pact with the Trickster - even though this will mean his death. Peter proves his love for her by agreeing, and he throws the ring at the weakened Trickster, who vanishes screaming in agony. Peter disappears as time reasserts itself. Sarah is reunited with Luke, Clyde, Rani, K9 and the Doctor. The guests reappear, none the wiser for what has just happened. Sarah announces that the wedding is off.
Back in the attic later that day, the TARDIS materialises. The Doctor emerges to say that he would never leave without saying goodbye. Luke, Clyde and Rani get to see inside the ship. They want to go for a trip, but Sarah refuses - pointing out that Clyde and Rani have been grounded by the Judoon. The Doctor departs, telling Sarah that their paths are sure to cross again...

The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on the 29th and 30th October, 2009. It forms the third and final part of the Trickster trilogy, the character having appeared in the previous two seasons in stories with Sarah's full name in the title, and all written by Roberts. It is significant for having the Doctor make a full appearance, making it a proper cross-over story. The Doctor had never featured in Torchwood as that was a series intended for post-watershed adult audiences, and the BBC did not want to encourage younger viewers wanting to watch it. (This is also why Doctor Who Magazine had not featured that spin-off series to any great extent).
2009 was the year when Doctor Who would not have a full series - just a number of specials spread through the year leading up to David Tennant's departure from the role, so having a cross-over episode meant a little bit extra Doctor Who for fans. In fact, this story was recorded after The End of Time, so marked the last time Tennant played the Doctor (prior to returning in the 50th anniversary story). According to Tennant his last lines as the Doctor were "You two with me. Spit spot!".

The principal guest artist, laying Peter Dalton, is Nigel Havers. Paul Marc Davis once again portrays the Trickster. Zenia Merton plays the Registrar. Best known for her appearances in Space:1999, she had also played Ping-Cho in Marco Polo back in 1964.
Overall, a special episode with a heartbreaking finale.
Things you might like to know:
  • Nicholas Courtney was due to reprise his role as the Brigadier as a guest at the wedding, meaning he would have got to appear with the Tenth Doctor. However, the actor suffered a stroke just before filming and so was unable to participate. The character is said to be back in Peru (as he was during the recent Sontaran invasion attempt) so unable to attend the wedding.
  • When Peter comes to visit Bannerman Road Sarah has just received a package containing a centipede-like alien. This is a Travast Polong, which had been mentioned in the Series 2 story Mark of the Berserker.
  • It had been planned for the Trickster to make a fourth appearance at the conclusion of the fifth series, in a story to be called "The Battle of Bannerman Road".
  • The conversation between the Doctor and Sarah at the end of the story mirrors that between her and the Fourth Doctor at the conclusion to The Hand of Fear.
  • The "Gate" to which the Trickster refers would turn out to be the Immortality Gate, which the Master used to turn the world's population into versions of himself.
  • We learn that K9 has a hover mode, though it is never shown on screen. The day after part two of this story was broadcast saw the showing of the first episode of the K9 spin-off show, in which the new version of K9 Mark I was often seen to fly.
  • The Trickster mentions that the Doctor once held the Key to Time in his hands - referring to the Season 16 story arc.
  • The TARDIS prop seen here is actually the new one built for Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor, but with the St John's Ambulance sticker removed.

Sunday 3 March 2019

G is for... Governor (of Varos)

Like all his predecessors, the Governor of the former penal colony of Varos was elected to the post from amongst the officer elite. Conditions were harsh, and the people discontent, so a programme of televised torture and execution was devised to keep the populace under control. Governors also had to submit to televised votes. A vote against them saw their bodies bombarded by harmful radiation. Most died after just a couple of these procedures. This meant that few officers wanted to be promoted to the role. The Governor who was in place when the Doctor and Peri arrived on the planet, seeking one of its minerals to repair the TARDIS, had already faced two defeats. A representative of the Galatron Mining Corporation was on Varos, attempting to push down the price of their ores. This was Sil, a member of the Mentor race. He was in collusion with the Governor's Chief Officer, to keep prices low. The Governor attempted to gain more for their mineral, Zeiton 7, which brought him into conflict with Sil. He failed a third vote, but managed to survive. The Doctor was able to convince the Governor that he could get higher prices and so alleviate the hardships faced by his people. When Sil and the Chief staged a coup, the Governor was faced with a fourth irradiation, which would surely have killed him. However, he was able to make one of the officers rebel and free him - after convincing him that he might be next to face this impossible role. The discovery of Zeiton 7 on another planet gave the Governor the leverage he needed to get higher prices out of Sil, and he put an end to the televised transmissions from the Punishment Dome.

Played by: Martin Jarvis. Appearances: Vengeance on Varos (1985).
  • Third and final (to date) appearance of Jarvis in the show. He first appeared under heavy make-up in The Web Planet, playing the Menoptra captain Hilio. His second appearance was as Butler, assistant and henchman to Professor Whitaker in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

G is for... Goth

Chancellor Goth was a high ranking member of the High Council of Time Lords, and political leader of the Prydonian Chapter - the same house to which the Doctor had belonged. he was widely tipped to succeed as President when the present incumbent stepped down. On the day this was due to happen, the President was assassinated, with the blame being placed on the Doctor, who had come to Gallifrey after experiencing a vision of the event. Goth was eager for the Doctor to be tried quickly and put to death, but he claimed the Presidency himself and so was able to remain at large to investigate further. he knew that the real assassin had actually been someone standing close to the President. It transpired that the Master was back on Gallifrey, working on a scheme to extend his life. Knowing that the Master had access to the Matrix, the Doctor mentally joined with this in order to find out where he was hiding. The Master's assassin was also in the Matrix, and was hunting him. This proved to be Goth. When the Master realised that Goth had been defeated, he tried to trap the Doctor in the Matrix - fatally wounding Goth in the process, as he was of no further use to him. The dying Chancellor was found in the catacombs, where he revealed that he had found the dying Master on the planet Tersurus. He smuggled him back to Gallifrey to help him, as he had learned that he was not going to be chosen as the new President. The Master had merely used Goth so that he could gain access to the Presidential regalia, which would have enabled him to access the Eye of Harmony and so gain a new regeneration cycle.

Played by: Bernard Horsfall. Appearances: The Deadly Assassin (1976).
  • Fourth and final appearance by Horsfall in the series, all in stories directed by David Maloney.
  • His second appearance was as one of the Time Lords at the Doctor's trial in The War Games, leading many fans to assume that this character was also Goth.
  • Tersurus is the setting for events in the Comic Relief adventure "The Curse of Fatal Death", wherein we learn that the indigenous population communicate through breaking wind.

G is for... Goronwy

An eccentric old man who lived in the Welsh countryside, where he kept bees and made honey. He got caught up in an alien incursion when the brutal Bannermen, led by Gavrok, arrived in the area in search of Delta, last but one of the Chimeron race. Goronwy gave shelter to the Doctor and his friends, and allowed him to set a trap for the Bannermen. This involved luring them into a storeroom where they were covered in honey, before being attacked by the bees. The Doctor had earlier noted that the Chimeron life-cycle was similar to that of terrestrial bees. Goronwy seemed to take all of the strange happenings in his stride.

Played by: Hugh Lloyd. Appearances: Delta and the Bannermen (1987).
  • There is a popular fan theory that the enigmatic Goronwy might have been another Time Lord in self-imposed exile on Earth, like K'anpo in Planet of the Spiders, or Prof. Chronotis in Shada.
  • One of Lloyd's last roles was as a Time Lord in the fan-made film "Devious", which concerns an intermediate Doctor between his Second and Third incarnations.

G is for... Gorgons

An ancient alien race which had visited the Earth thousands of years ago. They inhabited human bodies, giving them a prolonged lifespan, and they had the power to turn people to stone. It was they who gave rise to the Greek myth of Medusa and her sisters. The last of their number was being looked after by the nuns of the Abbey of St Agnes. She was dying, and wished to reopen the portal which had brought her to Earth so that others could follow - but the talisman needed to do this had been lost. It had been found in the Middle East in the 1930's by an archaeologist named Nelson-Stanley and his wife Bea. She now lived in an old people's home, and the nuns of St Agnes had traced the talisman there. Bea gave the object to Sarah Jane Smith's son Luke for safekeeping. He was later abducted by the nuns, and Sarah was then captured when they came to her home - when Maria Jackson's father Alan was transformed to stone. The nuns intended to use Sarah as the new host for the Gorgon. She was able to use a mirror to cause the Gorgon herself to turn into stone, and the talisman was removed to stop the portal from re-opening fully. The nuns were freed from her influence. The talisman was able to restore Alan Jackson.

Played by: Audrey Ardington. Appearances: SJA 1.2: Eye of the Gorgon (2007).

Friday 1 March 2019

Inspirations - The Talons of Weng-Chiang

During rehearsals for The Robots of Death, Tom Baker was introduced to a man named Graham Williams. He was rather taken aback to learn that Williams was about to become his new producer.
The BBC had bowed to the pressure of attacks by Mary Whitehouse and her ilk, and had decided that a change of producership was needed on Doctor Who. Williams had been developing a new hard-boiled detective drama series which was to rival competition like The Sweeney - Target - which he hoped to produce. He suddenly found himself being taken off the project and moved over to produce Doctor Who, whilst his role on Target would go to Philip Hinchcliffe. A swap, basically.
Season 14 would therefore be Hinchcliffe's last, and he decided to go out with a bang. The final story of the season was to be the third commission from Robert Banks Stewart, who had written the previous two season finales (though Terror of the Zygons had been held back to launch Season 13).
Banks submitted a story titled "The Foe from the Future", whose villain was masked. The writer then got up in work setting up his own projects and had to pull out of further development on this story.
With the clock ticking, Hinchcliffe asked his script editor Robert Holmes to write the season finale himself, as there was not enough time for anyone else to do it. Holmes took some of Banks' ideas - such as the villain being masked and hailing from the future, but the rest is all his own material. he and Hinchcliffe had originally envisaged the Doctor's new companion to be a sort of Eliza Doolittle character, from Victorian times, whom the Doctor would mentor. The Victorian era was a favourite of Holmes' and he decided to cram in as many Victorian Gothic elements as he could.

Back in 1970, when planning Season 8, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had discussed how the Doctor had more than a hint of Sherlock Holmes about him, with the Dr Watson role going to the Brigadier. This had prompted thoughts of introducing a Professor Moriarty character to become his arch-enemy - equally clever but on the side of evil. This, of course, led to the creation of the Master.
In Talons, the parallels with Sherlock Holmes become even greater, as the Doctor steps from the TARDIS into the fog-shrouded alleyways of Victorian London in a deer-stalker hat and cape.
As with any six part story overseen by Bob Holmes, Talons has a main setting for four of the episodes, before transferring to a new locale for the other two, to give the viewers something new and stop the story dragging. The first section of Talons is set in and around a music hall - the Palace Theatre. A hugely popular BBC TV series of the time was an entertainments programme called The Good Old Days. This was filmed as though it were taking place in a Victorian music hall, with the artistes and the audience in appropriate period costume. There was a master of ceremonies - Leonard Sachs, who had appeared in The Massacre and would later play one of the incarnations of Borusa - would amuse the audience with amazing alliterations. In Talons, this role is replicated by the theatre owner Henry Gordon Jago. Comic magician Ali Bongo (real name William Oliver Wallace) was brought in to act as magic supervisor for the sequences where we see Li H'sen Chang performing his act. Bongo used to wear a turban, and to sport a drooping oriental moustache.

Chang is based on a number of Victorian and Edwardian stage magicians, most of whom were really Caucasian artists who dressed as Chinese, and often acted as such outside the theatre to maintain the illusion. China was so little known that the general public could believe that people really did have supernatural powers there. Probably the most famous of these was Chung Ling Soo. He was born plain William Ellsworth Robinson, in Westchester County, New York, in 1861. He began his magical
 career on stage at age 14 under his own name, before adopting a more exotic Arabian persona. The famous magician Ching Ling Foo advertised that he would offer $1000 to anyone who could replicate his tricks. Robinson had worked out to copy the illusions, but failed to get the reward. Around 1900 he got a job at the Folies Bergere in Paris, and created a new act based on Foos - changing his name to the similar sounding Chung Ling Soo. Famously, Soo died on stage when he performed his illusion of catching a bullet between his teeth. This was on the stage of the Wood Green Empire in London, in March 1918. When he called for the curtain to be lowered, it was the only time he ever spoke English in public. In Talons, Chang performs a "catching a bullet" trick with the Doctor. A number of stage magicians have died performing this. In 1820 it was the magician's assistant, Madame Delinsky, who perished, whilst Arnold Buck died when, in 1840 the volunteer from the audience invited to load the gun replaced the bullet with some nails.

The theatrical setting allows Holmes to add another classic Horror character to be added to the mix - the Phantom of the Opera. The villainous Magnus Greel, a war criminal from the 51st Century, has been transported back in time to the 1800's, and the journey has left him horribly disfigured. He has lost his Time Cabinet, but has given Li H'sen Chang enhanced mental powers, after Chang had saved him when he arrived in China. Chang has hidden him away in the cellars beneath the Palace Theatre, after tracking the missing cabinet to London. Greel uses illusions to make it seem as though the cellar is haunted - to scare people away - but he also emerges from to time to time to prowl around the theatre at night. The Phantom of the Opera was written by Gaston Leroux, and was first published in serialised form from September 1909 to March 1910, with a book form later in 1910. It tells the story of Erik, a murderous music lover who lives in the ancient vaults deep below the Paris Opera. He champions the talents of a young singer, and kills anyone who prevents her gaining stardom. It was first filmed in 1925 by Universal, starring Lon Chaney, gaining a remake from the same studio in 1943 with Claude Rains. A Hammer version in 1962 featured Herbert Lom as the Phantom, and Patrick Troughton has a role as a rat catcher in the sewers. It is probably best known nowadays for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which has been running somewhere in the world since 1986, and was filmed in 2004 with Gerard Butler as the Phantom.

Greel kills people in order to drain their life force to keep himself alive. He preys on young women, and a number of them have been reported missing in the area around the theatre in recent weeks. This prompts Casey, the stagehand, to surmise that "Jack" might be back. This is a reference to Jack the Ripper, who murdered five prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of East London between August and November, 1888. He was never caught, and many are the theories as to what his real identity might be. Some claim he killed far more than the five women attributed to him. The method Greel uses to despatch his victims leads the Doctor to describe him as a "vampire" - enabling Holmes to add Bram Stoker's Dracula into the mix. More on him next time.

The setting for Talons is said to be Limehouse, which lies just a little further east than Whitechapel, although the Doctor and Professor Litefoot's description of the theatre's location actually places it closer to Holborn, as the old River Fleet never extended so far east. If the Venerable Bede really did share a salmon from the Fleet with the Doctor then he must have taken it up to the North East of England, as there is no record of Bede ever leaving Tyneside. Limehouse was the location for London's Chinatown in Victorian times. Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes visit an opium den in the area in one of his stories - The Man With The Twisted Lip. Limehouse is also the setting for many of the stories by Sax Rohmer, which chronicle the dastardly machinations of the super-villain Fu Manchu. As well as a criminal mastermind with control over Chinese secret societies like the Tongs, Fu Manchu is also a brilliant scientist, who prefers to do away with his enemies through exotic poisons rather than bullets or knives.
The character first appeared in 1913 in the novel The Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu, which was comprised of a number of linked short stories published the year before. Fu Manchu's nemesis is the Scotland Yard detective Nayland Smith, who is assisted in his exploits by Dr Petrie, who narrates the story - just as it is Dr Watson who narrates the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The Watson / Petrie character in Talons is given to Professor Litefoot. Greel is clearly based upon Fu Manchu, with elements of the Phantom and Dracula thrown in for good measure.
The machinations of Fu Manchu have been filmed on a number of occasions, including Boris Karloff's portrayal in The Mask of Fu Manchu in 1932, but Christopher Lee is probably best known for playing the character in a number of movies - five in all.

The Talons of Weng-Chiang remains a very popular story amongst fans, although it has come in for criticism for its portrayal of the Chinese, and its use of white actors playing Chinese roles. As well as the main role of Chang being played by John Bennett, we clearly see stuntmen Max Faulkner, Alan Chuntz and Stuart Fell made up as Tong members. Critics need to be reminded that it was made at a time when minorities were still being stereotyped in film and TV, and "blacking up" was an accepted theatrical tradition. Doesn't make it right, but it is a product of its times.
The pairing of Jago and Litefoot continued years later when the characters were resurrected by Big Finish audio productions, and there was even talk at the time of them getting a spin-off show.
Next time: the Graham Williams era begins as it means to go on -  with a crisis. Instead of vampires, we get creepy goings-on in a lighthouse...