Tuesday 30 July 2019

Story 208 - The Vampires of Venice

In which the Doctor attempts to bring Amy and Rory closer together with a romantic trip to the city of Venice. Earlier, he had turned up at Rory's stag do, emerging from a cake instead of the planned stripper, and mentioning how his fiancee had kissed him. Neither Rory nor Amy are happy to be going on the trip. Rory distrusts his fiancee's relationship with the Doctor, whilst she is unhappy that she is no longer alone with the Doctor. The Doctor is unhappy that Rory is not as impressed with the TARDIS as he expected him to be. The ship materialises in Venice in the year 1580, and the Doctor meets an official who tells him that the city is closed to visitors because of the plague, on the orders of Signora Rosanna Calvierri. The Doctor uses his psychic paper to give them a clean bill of health. He knows that the region should be safe from plague at this time, so becomes suspicious of Calvierri. He goes to see her famous academy for girls and sees a man attempting to speak to one of the girls, only to be chased off. Amy and Rory, meanwhile, witness an attack on a woman in the street - the assailant being a smartly dressed young man - with razor sharp fangs. The Doctor had seen the school ladies bare similar fangs when the man had tried to approach them.

The Doctor tracks down the man - a boatmaker named Guido - who tells him that he had enrolled his daughter Isabella at the academy, only for hi to be told he would never be allowed to see her ever again. He now fears for her safety.
The Doctor decides that they must find out what is going on at the school and to free Isabella, so Amy volunteers to enroll. Rory borrows clothes from Guido and together they go to the school to meet Rosanna and her son Francesco - who is the young man they had earlier seen attack the woman in the street. Rory pretends to be Amy's brother to get her accepted. That night, Amy goes exploring as Guido has told her of a way into the school grounds. The Doctor and Rory will break in through this route, whilst Guido waits with a gondola to take them to safety. The Doctor discovers a corpse which has been drained of its bodily fluids. Amy is captured and taken to a room where she will be given a blood transfusion. She kicks out at Rosanna, and the woman momentarily appears as a fish-like alien - her true form. She had damaged a perception filter which makes her appear human. The Doctor meets the academy girls and finds that they appear to be vampires - which he deduces to be caused by the limitations of their perception filters. The eye can translate everything but their fangs.
The attempt to rescue Isabella fails and she is recaptured when she is unable to go into direct sunlight, but Amy manages to escape. The next morning, Isabella is executed by being thrown into the canal, which is full of tiny flesh-eating creatures.

At Guido's home, the Doctor tells everyone that he believes they are dealing with an alien race known as Saturnyns. They come from a nocturnal ocean planet. Guido reveals that he has been stealing and stockpiling gunpowder from the city arsenal, intending to blow up the academy. They hear a noise from upstairs - even though there is no upstairs. The girls from the academy suddenly appear at the window, floating above the street. Ultra-violet light reveals that they have been transformed into Saturnyns. Guido gets everyone outside before sacrificing himself to ignite the gunpowder - killing himself and the vampire women. The Doctor goes alone to the academy and confronts Rosanna. She reveals that her planet has been destroyed when silence fell and she and her son have come to Venice to create a new race of Saturnyns. The girls in the academy had been fed alien blood to turn them into her kind, whilst thousands of males wait in the canals to mate with them - the flesh-eating creatures which had killed Isabella. Amy and Rory, meanwhile, are attacked by Francesco. In the struggle, a mirror is used to force him into the sunlight where he is destroyed.
Rosanna's scheme is to sink the city using a device hidden in the school's tower which will trigger flooding and an earthquake. The Doctor is able to scale the tower and disable the device before it can destroy the city. Her plans ruined, Rosanna elects to kill herself by jumping into the canal with her perception filter still activated - meaning the male creatures won't differentiate her from a human.
Before leaving in the TARDIS the Doctor notices a break in the clouds which looks like a crooked smile, and silence momentarily falls over the city...

The Vampires of Venice was written by Toby Whithouse, and was first broadcast on 8th May, 2010.
Whithouse had previously written the episode School Reunion for the second series, after which he had created and written for the BBC 3 supernatural comedy-drama Being Human.
Despite being hugely popular supernatural creatures, Doctor Who had only rarely featured vampires up to this point. Count Dracula had appeared in The Chase, but this had proven to be merely a robot version in a House of Horrors funfair exhibit. The Doctor likened Magnus Greel to a vampire in that he drained his victims to feed himself. The first time vampires as we know them appeared in the series was in Season 18's State of Decay, a story which had been postponed from 3 years previously when the BBC decided that it might be construed as taking the mickey out of their proposed production of Dracula and had it cut. In this story vampires were real creatures, known on many planets, whose origins lay with a race which the Time Lords had fought against millennia ago.
In the final season before cancellation, the Seventh Doctor and Ace had encountered the Haemovores, which were blood-sucking devolved humans from the far future. The Curse of Fenric recounts how one of them had been brought back through time to the Dark Ages and its travels through Eastern Europe had given rise to vampire myths there.
Another blood-drinking alien had appeared in Season 3, with the Plasmavore which appeared in Smith and Jones.

It had been decided to film the scenes set in Venice on location in Croatia. The city of Trogir offered building similar to those found in Venice, with water features that could double for canals. To make the trip more cost effective, shooting would also take place for a story to be broadcast later in the series - Vincent and the Doctor - where the Croatian countryside would double for southern France.
The main guest star, playing Rosanna Calvierri, is Helen McCrory, who had just found international fame in the sixth of the Harry Potter films - The Half-Blood Prince - in which she played Narcissa Malfoy. She would go o to feature in the final two movies of the series, and is best known at the moment for her regular role of Aunt Polly in Peaky Blinders, which is about to begin its fifth series.
Playing her son Francesco is Alex price, who had featured in Being Human as The Smith's-loving ghost Gilbert. He went on to a regular role in the BBC's adaptation of the Father Brown detective stories.
Guido is Lucian Msamati, who has appeared in Game of Thrones, whilst Isabella is Alisha Bailey.

The story follows directly on from the coda to Flesh and Stone as the Doctor reacts to Amy's attempts to seduce him by getting her to spend time with her husband-to-be. However, there is another of the short Meanwhile in the TARDIS sequences which comes in between. In this, Amy wants to know about other people who have traveled with the Doctor over the years and tricks him into getting the ship to show images of them from its data banks - namely the female ones. This scene was only available on the DVD complete series box-set, and subsequent Blu-ray release.
As far as the story arc is concerned, Rosanna claims that her people fled from "the Silence" and escaped to Earth through a crack in the sky. The city goes silent at the end as the Doctor and Rory look up at the crooked smile break in the clouds. The camera then tracks into the TARDIS key-hole, which we see also looks a bit like the crack.
Significantly, Rory Williams is now travelling in the ship, so becomes a proper companion from this point on.

Overall, a very good story (everyone loves vampires) despite having some loose ends which don't seem to be addressed - such as the canals full of flesh-eating Saturnyns.
Things you might like to know:
  • The city official who tries to stop the Doctor and friends from entering Venice was played by Michael Percival. He was the partner of Janet Fielding for many years, who played long-running companion Tegan Jovanka.
  • The Doctor flashes his library card at one point, and it bears an image of the First Doctor, as played by William Hartnell. The image is a publicity shot from The Celestial Toymaker. The card gives his name as Dr J Smith, and his address as 76 Totters Lane, Shoreditch, London. This means that the Doctor was using the "John Smith" alias long before Jamie gave it to him in The Wheel in Space.
  • The body of water into which Alisha Bailey was to be thrown, and into which Helen McCrory was to jump, was extremely cold. Not wanting the cast members to do anything she wouldn't do herself, Exec-Producer Beth Willis insisted on doing the jump herself first. They all wore wet-suits under their costumes.
  • The Doctor mentions not wishing to bump into Casanova on arriving in Venice, glad they have arrived before his time. This might well be a reference to David Tennant having played Casanova in a production written by Russell T Davies just before he was offered the role of Matt Smith's predecessor.
  • In designing the look for the female vampires, Steven Moffat wanted the classic Hammer Horror look. The film which illustrates this image best is 1960's The Brides of Dracula, which is set around a girls' school, and the vampire brides wear long white robes.
  • Whilst the planet Saturnyne is mentioned a couple of times, Rosanna's race are never named on screen.
  • It was noted at the time that both of Toby Whithouse's stories to date were centred around a school. There are other similarities in that both stories feature the boyfriend of the female companion joining the TARDIS crew - and being only grudgingly welcomed by her - and the aliens can disguise themselves as humans. School Reunion also shares themes of the impact which the Doctor has on his companions and their relationships.

Sunday 28 July 2019

G is for... Gwyneth

Gwyneth was a maid in the service of Mr Sneed, who ran a funeral parlour in Victorian Cardiff. She had grown up in the local area and had the gift of second sight - allowing her to read other people's minds. Sneed forced her to use these abilities when some of the corpses in his establishment got up and went walkabout. She was able to sense where they had gone. Gwyneth was an orphan and believed that her parents continued to look after her from beyond the grave. In capturing one of the walking dead - a Mrs Peace, who had gone to see a reading by Charles Dickens - Sneed had abducted Rose Tyler when she tried to intervene. The Doctor and Dickens traced her to the funeral parlour. Here the Doctor spotted Gwyneth's gifts when she knew how many sugars he took in his tea, as well as seeming to recognise London in the 21st Century from images in Rose's mind. The Doctor realised that this came from her growing up next to a localised rift in space / time which ran through the city.
Ghost-like creatures were emerging from the gas fittings, and it was these which were reanimating the corpses. The Doctor knew that these were alien in origin and decided to hold a seance so that Gwyneth could establish contact with them. The maid thought they were angels, sent by her parents, but they identified as the Gelth, who had lost their physical forms during the Time War. They sought refuge on Earth using the bodies of the dead as hosts.
The Doctor talked Gwyneth into opening a portal for them in the morgue area of the house, which is where their presence was most strongly felt. It transpired that they were hostile and intent on invading. After the building had been flooded with gas, Gwyneth agreed to sacrifice herself to blow up the Gelth and seal the rift. The Doctor discovered that she had actually died minutes before.
Years later, the Doctor and Rose saw Torchwood Three team member Gwen Cooper, and spotted that she looked exactly like Gwyneth. The Doctor surmised that this was some form of spatial genetic multiplicity resulting from the Cardiff rift.

Played by: Eve Myles. Appearances: The Unquiet Dead (2005).
  • Of course the real reason that Gwyneth and Gwen Cooper look identical is because the same actor was cast as both. In Journey's End, Russell T Davies decided to add some dialogue to account for the similarity as the Doctor and Rose would surely have noticed the likeness.

G is for... Gwendoline

Gwendoline was the young ward of a man named Josiah Smith, who lived in a house called Gabriel Chase in Perivale, in 1883. The house had belonged to her father, who she claimed had gone to Java. She befriended Ace when she and the Doctor arrived in the house. Ace had set fire to Gabriel Chase in her time, having sensed great evil there. The Doctor wanted her to see the nature of that evil.
Smith was really an alien who was evolving into a human being, part of an experiment by another alien known as Light. He wanted to become the ultimate human being - the head of the British Empire - and was working on a scheme to assassinate Queen Victoria.
Smith had twisted Gwendoline's mind, along with others in the household. "Going to Java" was a euphemism for being killed, as Smith had murdered her father with her collusion. The housekeeper - Mrs Pritchard - was really Gwendoline's mother, their memories blocked by Smith. Gwendoline later turned on Ace and tried to kill her and the Doctor. When Light was released from hibernation, Gwendoline and Mrs Pritchard finally remembered who they were after seeing a photograph in a locket. Their reunion was cut short when Light turned them both to stone, to stop them from evolving and spoiling his catalogue of Earth species.

Played by: Katharine Schlesinger. Appearances: Ghost Light (1989).
  • Katharine's name was misspelled as 'Katherine' on the first two episodes as broadcast, as well as in the Radio Times billings. It was corrected for the final part, and for the story's subsequent VHS and DVD releases.

G is for... GUS

GUS was a computer interface which lured the Doctor and other experts onto the Orient Express spacecraft so that they could analyse and uncover the secrets of a being known as the Foretold. This was a mummy which only appeared to those it was about to kill. Victims died exactly 66 seconds after first seeing it. GUS had attempted this on a number of other space vessels, which it then destroyed when their passengers failed in their task. The Doctor was able to deduce that the Foretold targeted people who had a physical or psychological injury, and that the creature could take itself out of phase, which was why only the victims could see it. He decided to take on the mental trauma of one of the intended victims so that he could see and analyse it himself. The Foretold always appeared wherever a tattered flag was present, and the Doctor was able to work out that it was a soldier, obeying orders even after death thanks to alien technology implanted in its body. He was able to stop it from killing him by surrendering to it. The group behind GUS had wanted this technology so they could reverse engineer it for use as a weapon. The Doctor prevented them from getting the technology and so GUS blew up the train, but the Doctor managed to get the survivors into the TARDIS and away to safety.
GUS had previously tried to tempt the Doctor onto the space-going Orient Express just after Amy and Rory's wedding, but he had decided to take them on honeymoon elsewhere instead.
The Doctor never did find out who was behind GUS, but it may well have been the Ganymede Systems corporation, whom he later encountered when they were killing unprofitable space miners by hacking their computerised spacesuits.

Voiced by: John Sessions. Appearances: Mummy on the Orient Express (2014).
  • At the conclusion of The Big Bang, the Doctor had taken a phone-call in the TARDIS asking him to investigate an ancient Egyptian princess on the Orient Express - in space.
  • The writer of Mummy was Jamie Mathieson, who also wrote 2016's Oxygen, wherein Ganymede Systems was killing its unprofitable miners. In interviews he said that he had intended GUS to be in this story as well - hence the initials of the faceless corporation.
  • Sessions had come very close to playing the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV Movie, and later voiced the villain in the BBC Seventh Doctor on-line animated story, Death Comes To Time.

G is for... Gunslinger

In order to end a long and bloody war, a scientist named Kahler-Jex experimented on a group of volunteers to create a cyborg weapon. Many died in the process. The creatures proved a great success as the war was brought to a speedy conclusion. All of the cyborgs were then terminated, but one managed to escape. This was a man who had once been Kahler-Tek. He decided to eliminate everyone who had worked on the cyborg programme and pursued the last of the scientists to Earth, arriving in the small town of Mercy, Nevada in 1870. Here Khaler-Jex had ingratiated himself with the townsfolk, giving them medicines and electrical power. Tek, meanwhile, waited outside of Mercy, as he was programmed not to hurt any innocent bystanders. He became known to the locals simply as the Gunslinger. He laid siege to the town. When the Doctor, Amy and Rory arrived in Mercy, the former identified himself as an alien doctor - which is what the Gunslinger was demanding. The townsfolk tried to give the Doctor to Tek, but the Gunslinger knew he was not the one he wanted. The Doctor discovered Jex's spaceship and accessed records of the experiments, which showed that he was a war criminal. He returned to the town and was prepared to hand Jex over to Tek. The town sheriff was accidentally killed by the Gunslinger, and it issued an ultimatum to the town to hand Jex over by noon the following day. The Doctor, meanwhile, found himself taking over as sheriff of Mercy. Although he despised Jex, the Doctor devised a plan to help him escape from the town when the Gunslinger arrived. However, Jex had come to see the error of his ways and, knowing that the cyborg would never rest in hunting him down, he decided to kill himself by self-destructing his spaceship. Kahler-Tek was prepared to kill himself now that he no longer had any purpose - but the Doctor convinced him to stay on and act as law-keeper for the town.

Played by: Andrew Brooke. Appearances: A Town Called Mercy (2012).

G is for... Gundans

When the Doctor first saw a group of Gundans he mistook them for suits of armour, standing motionless and covered in cobwebs. However, they were really armoured robots lying dormant but programmed to activate when anyone entered the great hall of the Gateway, which was a portal between the universe of E-Space and that of normal N-Space. The Gundans had been created by humanoids who had been enslaved by the lion-like Tharils. They were immune to the destructive properties of the time-lines and were able to invade the Tharil realm - leading to the enslavers themselves becoming the enslaved. The Doctor was able to evade a pair of Gundans when they accidentally disabled each other. He was then able to tap into their memory circuits to learn more about the Gateway. Their memory wafers were also compatible with K9's components, and he could use them to repair the computerised dog after it had been damaged by time-winds.

Played by: Robert Vowles. Appearances: Warriors' Gate (1981).

Thursday 25 July 2019

Inspirations - The Horns of Nimon

In the opening TARDIS scene of last week's story - Nightmare of Eden - Romana is tidying up the ship's storeroom whilst the Doctor reads Beatrix Potter to K9. One of the items she is seen holding is a huge ball of string. A label attached explains that it was a present from Theseus - perhaps suggesting that the Doctor gave him the idea which helped him find his way through the Labyrinth.
Entirely coincidentally, the following story - The Horns of Nimon - is based wholesale on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The legend goes that the city of Knossos on Crete demanded tribute from the city of Athens. King Minos of Crete had commissioned from his architect Daedalus a complex maze - the Labyrinth - in which dwelt the Minotaur, which was half man, half bull. The tribute was composed of 7 boys and 7 girls, who were to be fed to the monster every 9 years. Failure to pay would result in Knossos waging war on Athens, and Minos had the superior forces.
In his efforts to become king ahead of his brothers, Minos had asked Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull which he would sacrifice to the sea god. However, Minos decided to keep the animal, which angered Poseidon. He caused Minos' wife Pasiphae to fall in love with it. She had Daedalus build a wooden cow in which she would lie so that she could mate with the bull. The resulting offspring was the monstrous Minotaur.

Theseus was the son of the Athenian king, and he decided to put an end to the tributes. He took the place of one of the youths so that he would be sent to the Labyrinth. His father said he would look out for his homecoming. If his ship showed a white sail then he would know that his son had been successful. A black sail would mean he had failed and was dead. In order to negotiate the Labyrinth without getting lost, Theseus was given a ball of string by Ariadne. She was Minos' daughter, but had fallen in love with the Athenian prince.
Theseus succeeded in killing the Minotaur and returned home with Ariadne, creating a pact with Knossos so that it would never again threaten attack against Athens. He was so in love, however, that he neglected to make sure his ship showed a white sail. His father, King Aegeus, saw a ship with a black sail come over the horizon and, in a fit of grief, threw himself into the sea which was then named after him - the Aegean.
The Minotaur is generally depicted as being like a huge man, with a bull's head. However, Dante features the creature in his Divine Comedies and has it more like a Centaur, with a man's head and torso on a bull's body, with four legs. Some Renaissance painters also depicted it this way.
The creature had featured twice in Doctor Who before, as well as that reference in the previous story.
The Second Doctor and companion Zoe had encountered it in the Land of Fiction, so it was straight from Greek myth, like the Gorgon they also met in a maze of tunnels. It vanished when they refused to accept that it was anything but legend. Later, the Third Doctor and Jo Grant encountered a different Minotaur in ancient Atlantis. Here it was a Councillor and friend of King Dalios who had asked the Chronovore Kronos for the strength of a bull, and the fickle god-like alien entity had made him half-bull. A link to Crete was in the original script for The Time Monster but the scene was deleted where Dalios mentions Minos of Knossos as being a relative of his.

The Horns of Nimon was written by Anthony Read, who had only recently relinquished the role of script editor on the programme. His tenure had seen a move towards literary inspirations rather than the movie ones of his predecessor, Bob Holmes. Read had commissioned Underworld, which was based on the legend of Jason and the Argonauts.
This story opens with the TARDIS disabled in space as the Doctor overhauls the console. Gravitational forces draw it into the orbit of a spaceship which has broken down nearby. This ship belongs to the Skonnon Empire (named after Knossos) and has come from the planet Aneth (Athens). It contains a cargo of young people (the tribute) who are to be handed over to the Nimon (Minotaur). This bull-headed alien has taken up residence on Knossos and is offering to return the Empire to glory in return for the young Anethans, and a supply of energy crystals. Among the young people is a boy named Seth (Theseus) who plans to destroy the Nimon and free his planet from enslavement by Skonnos. Waiting for the tribute to arrive on Skonnos is the leader Soldeed (Daedalus), who is the one who has welcomed the Nimon to his planet. Only one Nimon exists on the planet, and it dwells in the Power Complex, which has two huge antennae which look like bull's horns. The complex is like a maze inside (or Labyrinth) as the whole building is one vast machine whose walls move around like the switches in a printed circuit. (This was how Read had visualised it, but the model doesn't really do the concept justice).

The Doctor and Romana help the Co-pilot of the Skonnon ship, but he repays them by flying off home with Romana now among the tributes. The Doctor and K9 patch up the TARDIS and give chase. Once in the Power Complex, the Doctor discovers the Nimon scheme. They are a race of parasites which jump from planet to planet, laying waste like locusts. One of their number is sent on ahead to form a bridgehead - promising the natives whatever they wish in return for a number of the energy crystals (hymetusite) and a supply of young people. The youngsters are killed - their life-force digested by the Nimon - whilst the hymetusite is used to power the wormholes which they use to travel from world to world. Each victim planet is abandoned just before it disintegrates - totally drained of all energy. Romana is accidentally transported to the planet which the Nimon are about to abandon - Crinoth (named after Corinth). She meets the last survivor, a man named Sezom, who had been Soldeed's opposite number there. Sezom has adapted his staff to use as a weapon against the Nimon, after adding a piece of crystal known as jacenite. Now, this is a Biblical reference rather than a Greek mythological one. Moses was famous for his staff - using it to part the Red Sea and strike rocks to produce water.
Sezom helps Romana get back to Skonnos where Soldeed finally realises he has been tricked, as he sees three of the creatures together. Seth kills him using the staff, but not before he triggers a power overload which will destroy the complex. After it blows up, the remaining Nimon are stranded on the dying Crinoth. The Doctor and Romana watch as Seth flies back to Aneth, and the Doctor mentions that he is glad that the young man remembered to repaint his ship white, as he forgot to remind Theseus about the sails - a reference to the fate of King Aegeus.
(Unfortunately, the models are so badly lit that the spaceship doesn't look any different to the unpainted ones seen earlier in the story).

There are four things which have to be spot on to make a good Doctor Who story - the writing, the direction, the design and the performances.
Sadly, three of these are a let down here. The Horns of Nimon has the dubious distinction of being the second worst rated of all the Tom Baker era stories, if we go by the DWM 50th Anniversary poll. The worst will be arriving in just a couple of posts time. Anthony Read should not shoulder any of the blame for this. On paper, this is a very good story.
He was frustrated by the director's decision to play for laughs. The story was broadcast over the Christmas period of 1979, leading many to see it as a pantomime. Just as an example, a very silly set of weird noises is played in when the Doctor is trying to get the TARDIS to work - not unlike the sound effect for Colonel Bloodnok's Stomach in The Goon Show.
Some aspects of the design are impressive, whilst others don't work at all. One of the characters, Soldeed's chief guard, has a costume which looks like it was modeled on the Sydney Opera House.
The Co-pilot, played by Malcolm Terris, actually splits his trousers at the posterior on screen during his death scene. Unfortunately, this also happens to be part of the cliffhanger - so we get to see the trouser split all over again in the reprise the following week - just in case we missed it the first time.
As mentioned, the spaceship models aren't well done - as they decided to use them in studio using video and CSO rather than have them done on film.
The Nimon heads are confusing. It was originally intended that the bull masks would be just that - masks covering another alien face beneath. This idea was dropped - so they just look like masks rather than their heads. Dancers were employed to play them, but they were put into massive platform soled footwear which limited their mobility.

The worst aspect of the production is the performances of the guest cast - and chief villain is the chief villain, the normally reliable Graham Crowden (Soldeed). On the DVD commentary he mentions an anecdote where he was once described as a ham actor - but one beautifully cooked. Crowden had actually been approached to play the Fourth Doctor, but turned it down as he did not want to make any public appearances, and wouldn't commit to more than a year in the role.
He totally overacts as Soldeed, making silly faces and silly voices. The worst of his performance comes with his death scene - though he could be partially forgiven as he honestly thought it was a rehearsal rather than the actual take, and there was no time to do it again.
Terris - another actor who is normally very good - also overacts, making the Co-pilot a pantomime villain. He even has a catchphrase - calling the tribute youngsters "weakling scum" at every opportunity.
Lalla Ward is also on the DVD commentary and she tells the story of when she, Tom Baker and Crowden went to the cinema together to see Ridley Scott's Alien, which had just opened as they were recording this story.
Baker clearly wasn't very impressed as, during one of the quieter scenes, his distinctive voice boomed out across the auditorium "Why don't they just lure the alien to the hold and BORE the thing to death?!".
Future Blue Peter presenter, and mother of popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Janet Ellis features in the story as Seth's clingy girlfriend Teka. She got talking to the VFX boys and mentioned that her dad was looking for work, having just left the RAF after a number of years. He was taken on by the VFX department and worked on a number of later Doctor Who stories. Ellis co-presented a feature on Blue Peter about the monsters which were about to appear in Season 23, in which she introduces her dad emerging from the L1 Robot.

We didn't know it at the time, but this story was to mark the end of an era in so many ways. There was to have been one final story for Season 17 - the six part Shada, written by Douglas Adams. This would be the final story for Graham Williams, and for Adams, as he was now extremely busy with the various formats of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Shada had its location filming completed, plus one of the studio recording blocks, when it was hit by industrial action. Once the strike was over, priority was given to the more prestigious Christmas shows, and Shada was eventually formally abandoned. Williams had been trying for some time to get his Production Unit Manager, John Nathan-Turner promoted to associate producer, as he had often gone above and beyond his job description to help Williams out. This request was continually knocked back, but with Williams going - and no-one else interested in taking over - JNT was offered the chance to produce Doctor Who from Season 18 onwards. As an untested producer he would have a more experienced person looking over his shoulder - none other than Pertwee era producer Barry Letts.
JNT would want to make his mark on the show by instigating a number of changes. Out would go a lot of the more overt humour. Also out was Dudley Simpson as sole music contributor, with the Radiophonic Workshop being asked to take over with more contemporary synthesised music. The title music would change along with the incidental scores. The actual title sequence would be remade, as JNT felt that the existing one now showed an image of Baker which was nearly 7 years old. David Brierley resigned as K9 voice, when he was told a requested on-screen appearance would not be guaranteed in the new season. With Shada incomplete, Brierley only actually voices K9 in two stories, as the metal mutt has lost its voice in Destiny of the Daleks, and is entirely absent from City of Death.
Next time: JNT's big changes are rung in with a story about some reptilian gangsters...

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Story 207 - The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone

In which the Doctor takes Amy to a museum in the far future. Here he sees a Home Box, the flight data recorder of an old spaceship, which is covered in strange markings which he recognises. He steals the box and they retreat to the TARDIS. In the ship, the Doctor tells Amy that the language on the object is Old High Gallifreyan, and its message - "Hello Sweetie!" - is intended for him. The recorder shows images of River Song on the spaceship which the box belonged to, thousands of years previously. There is also a set of space / time co-ordinates, and an instruction to leave the TARDIS doors open with an oxygen bridge extended.
River Song has been travelling in a ship called the Byzantium, which belongs to a rich man named Alistair. She is there under false pretences, however, as she wants to see what Alistair has hidden in his hold. She is discovered after leaving the message on the ship's Home Box - the only part of a spaceship guaranteed to survive a crash, which she knows will end up in a museum, which she knows the Doctor will one day visit. She deliberately allows herself to be jettisoned into space - where the TARDIS is now ready to pick her up. She urges the Doctor to follow the Byzantium as it flies off.
The Doctor is not happy to see her, as he knows that she seems to have knowledge of his future. Amy thinks their bickering makes them sound like a married couple. The TARDIS arrives on the planet of Alfava Metraxis, where the Byzantium has crashed into an ancient ruined building. This belonged to the long-extinct two-headed Aplan people. The planet is now host to a large human colony.
A short time later, a group of soldiers arrive at the crash site, led by Bishop Octavian. Amy is surprised to learn that they are a military-religious order known as the Clerics. Octavian reveals that River is their prisoner, released from jail to help them with a mission. River reveals that what Alistair had in his hold was a Weeping Angel.

The creature had been in a weakened state due to its captivity, but now it will be feeding on the radiation leaking from the shipwreck's engines. Octavian's mission is to capture and neutralise it before it can threaten the colony. The Doctor manages to patch in a video clip from the chamber where the Angel is being held to the Clerics' command centre. River has a book about the Angels, and the Doctor spots something odd about it. There are no pictures. Amy becomes trapped in the command centre and see the Angel approaching the camera, as though it could see her. It then emerges into the room as a 2-D image. The Doctor has read the book and discovered that an image of an Angel can itself become an Angel. Amy manages to use the video remote control to stop the creature.
Octavian leads everyone into the ruined building, which proves to be a vast mausoleum, full of statues of the Aplan dead. The Angel has escaped the spaceship and it begins to pick the Clerics off one by one. One of the soldiers, a young man named Bob, it removes his voice-box and uses it to communicate with the Doctor. Amy starts to imagine that she has rock dust in her tear drops, and thinks that her limbs are turning to stone. As they approach the spaceship, the Doctor comes to realise that he has made a huge mistake. The Aplans had two heads, yet all the statues have only the one. They are all Weeping Angels, starved and in degraded form but drawing energy from the radiation.
The Angels close in on the Doctor's party and they find that the spaceship wreck is high above them and out of reach. The Doctor destroys a light-giving gravity globe to allow them all to jump up to the hull of the craft.

The Angels soon follow, and the Doctor's party make their way to one of the control rooms. A huge panel opens to reveal a forest in an artificial environment - the means by which spacecraft can have an oxygen supply on long flights. They must cross this forest to get to the forward command deck. The Doctor has noticed that Amy has been very slowly counting down, without even realising it herself. The "Bob" Angel tells him that she has an Angel within her, and the countdown is to her death. The Doctor has Amy close her eyes. He is suddenly aware of a bright light in the control room, and sees that it is emanating from a crack like the one he had seen in Amelia Pond's bedroom. The Angels break in but are distracted by it, though they manage to pull his jacket off. He will go on ahead with River and Octavian whilst Amy will follow on with the rest of the Clerics. The Doctor suddenly returns to speak to her after she thinks he has gone. The Clerics see a bright light in the forest and one by one go to investigate. After each leaves, the remainder seem to have no recollection of those who have just left. Amy takes a quick look and recognises the crack in space / time. It is swallowing people up, removing them from time so that no-one remembers them.

The Doctor, River and Octavian reach the forward control room, but the Bishop is seized by an Angel. The Doctor cannot save him, but he gets him to admit why River has been in prison. Octavian says that she was guilty of killing a man. As soon as the Doctor looks away the Angel kills Octavian. The Doctor then guides Amy towards them. The Angels disregard her. In the control room, the Doctor has Amy and River hang on to any handrail will hold them. The engines are failing, and he knows that as soon as they stop the artificial gravity will fail. When this happens, all of the Angels fall through the forest and are consumed by the crack. Gorged on the temporal energy they held, it closes up.
Back outside, the Clerics prepare to depart, and River gets ready to accompany them back to prison. She refuses to tell the Doctor about her crime, or about their next meeting - other than to warn about the "Pandorica", which Prisoner Zero had also mentioned. The Doctor has heard of this, but dismisses it as a fairy story.
The Doctor decides that it is time to take Amy back home, and the TARDIS arrives at her home in Leadworth on the night she left. He discovers that she is due to marry Rory Williams in the morning, and is shocked when she tries to seduce him. He drags her back into the TARDIS, determined to put things right between her and her fiance...

The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone were written by Steven Moffat, and were first broadcast on 24th April and 1st May, 2010.
The story sees the return of the Weeping Angels, as well as River Song at an earlier point in her timeline than the Library two-parter, in which she was seen to die. It will transpire that every time the Doctor sees her, it will be an earlier point in her life, so her timeline is running backwards in relation to his.
This was the first story which Matt Smith and Karen Gillan worked on.
Moffat had agreed to take over show-running Doctor Who around the time that the Library story was being made, and Russell T Davies had guessed that he had further plans for River Song as a character. It was inevitable that we would get to find out how she came to know so much about the Doctor when he did not know her.
I don't think that it was any surprise either that Moffat would bring back the Weeping Angels after the huge popularity of Blink. The creatures had even beaten the Daleks as favourite monsters in polls.
When the Daleks had been brought back in 2005, RTD had elected to show how powerful just one of them could be, before unleashing huge armies of the things. Moffat had shown just a small group of Angels in their debut story, so now he too thought it was time to show an entire army of them.
The ploy did not really work as well as expected. They had been the perfect monsters for Blink, confined as they were to just one creepy old abandoned house. They don't work quite so well as an army. The degraded looking ones in the caves look okay, and they are effective in the darkened forest setting, but don't seem to sit right in a more high tech environment.

Their modus operandi seems to have changed somewhat as well. They go around breaking people's necks, whereas before they threw you back in time and fed off potential energy - the life you didn't lead. Here they are just plain killers. The business about one of them getting inside Amy's mind is new. In Blink, the whole point was that you kept looking at them as to do as the story title suggested meant they could move and grab you. Here, Amy is told to do the exact opposite - keep her eyes closed rather than open. Fans were also disappointed when they opted to show one of the Angels actually moving.
As well as Alex Kingston reappearing as River, the main guest artist is Iain Glen as Octavian. He is best known for his regular role in Game of Thrones these days. Jorah Mormont appeared in every season and was one of the few main characters to die at the Battle of Winterfell in the final season.
Alistair, owner of the Byzantium, is played by Simon Dutton, and one of his security guards - the one we see in the opening shot suffering delusions from River's hallucinogenic lip-stick - is played by Mike Skinner. He is better known for The Streets music project, which is basically just him. The director of these two episodes - Adam Smith - knew Skinner as he had directed some of his videos. The only other cast member worth noting is David Atkins who portrays the Cleric Bob, as he continues to voice the lead Angel after his character has been killed.

As far as the story arc goes, the Doctor finally sees one of the cracks which have been following the TARDIS since Amelia's bedroom, and we learn that anyone entering them is removed from time - as though they never existed. This might start to explain why Amy did not recognise the Daleks, and why she lived with an aunt - with no mention of her mother and father.
River mentions the Pandorica in relation to her last encounter with the Doctor in her timeline. Prisoner Zero had also referred to this.
Some things introduced here will take on greater importance in the future, as we will meet the Clerics and their militarised Church again next season.
The museum which the Doctor and Amy visit at the start of the story is said to be the final resting place of the Headless Monks.
We also have mention of River being in prison for the killing of "a good man", whom Octavian says many people thought a hero.
River claims that she was taught how to pilot the TARDIS by the best - adding that the Doctor wasn't around that day.

Overall, a good story but not a great one, for some of the reasons stated above. Personally, the second episode is let down for me by the coda in Amy's bedroom. It's one thing for a companion to have romantic feelings for the Doctor, but Amy comes across as a bit of a tramp here. She just wants sex with him, despite it being the eve of her wedding. I disliked the character for the rest of the season. Mini-skirted sex-mad kissograms might be fine for Coupling, but not for Doctor Who, Mr Moffat.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Curse of Graham Norton Part 2. The initial broadcast of Rose in March 2005 had been slightly marred by sound interference in the scene where Rose first encounters the Autons, then the Doctor. The sound feed from the live Graham Norton-hosted Strictly Come Dancing studio could be heard on screen. Here, just at the climactic moment leading up to the cliffhanger, the BBC in their infinite wisdom thought it would be appropriate to run a cartoon ident of Norton as an advert for his show which was to follow - completely ruining the moment. Norton acknowledged this soon after when he had a cartoon Dalek exterminate the cartoon him in his show.
  • There is a scene in the TARDIS where River claims that the TARDIS isn't supposed to make its iconic wheezing / groaning sound. It does it because the Doctor always leaves the brakes on. She also mentions the "blue stabilisers" which stop the ship rocking about, which the Doctor also ignores. This sequence was actually added late in the day when the first episode was found to under-running. It replaced another sequence which was to have been shot on the beach which had to be cancelled due to bad weather. The brakes business is nonsense, of course, as there have been other TARDISes seen and heard on screen which all make the same sound - so it's highly unlikely that every Time Lord leaves the brakes on. The man who created the sound effect - Brian Hodgson - claimed that it is the ripping of the fabric of space and time, and he should know.
  • Fans are eagle-eyed, and many picked up on the apparent continuity error in the second episode where the Doctor goes back to speak to Amy after leaving her in the forest. He was in his shirtsleeves when he left her, as his jacket had been pulled off by an Angel, and yet on his return we see a glimpse of the sleeve of his jacket. Not an error at all, this would be explained later...
  • The beach where the TARDIS lands is the same one that had doubled twice before as Bad Wolf Bay.
  • The Doctor is seen to accidentally pull a hand-strap off the ceiling in the Clerics' command centre. Matt Smith was notoriously clumsy on set and he really did accidentally break a strap in rehearsal. As it seemed to fit his character, he filmed the scene again with the strap being pulled off.
  • As well as the events of The Stolen Earth and Journey's End being forgotten - and presumably Doomsday as well if Amy didn't recognise a Dalek, the Doctor surmises that this might be why the appearance of the Cyberking over Victorian London never made it into the history books. The Tenth Doctor had been puzzled by this at the time. Moffat appeared to be using the cracks to get rid of continuity obligations - giving him a blank slate for future stories. The problem with this is that it is a house of cards. Remove just one significant story and other connected stories should also never have happened - such as the very events which led to the Doctor's last regeneration. The problem is compounded when later stories, by the same writer, acknowledge that The Stolen Earth / Journey's End did not get erased from time. Davros even has footage of his last encounter with the Doctor in The Magician's Apprentice.

Sunday 21 July 2019

What's Wrong With... Marco Polo

What went wrong with Marco Polo? Well, they lost the damned thing - that's what went wrong.
This is the only story from the first season which is missing in its entirety. All the episodes broadcast before it are in the archives, and all but two of the episodes broadcast after it survive (Parts 4 & 5 of The Reign of Terror being the only other missing episodes from Season One).
The audio exists, so we can at least hear what it sounded like, and there are probably more on-set photographs from this story than any other from the season - giving us a good idea of what it looked like. Coupled with this, we also have some telesnaps, but even these are incomplete.
Director Waris Hussein decided to buy telesnaps of the episodes he directed, but he didn't direct the middle episode - and its director, John Crockett, didn't want to buy the photo sheets covering his work. Apart from the on-set photographs, there is no visual record of fourth episode Wall of Lies.
For a number of other lost stories we have the odd clip, which often survived because it was used in another programme, such as Blue Peter. On other occasions fans filmed their TV screen with a Super-8 camera and so we have clips that way. This is one of three stories where not one single clip of any description has ever surfaced (the other two being Mission to the Unknown and The Massacre).
The fact that everything either side of Marco Polo exists has led to this story becoming one which has a lot of rumours attached to it, regarding its imminent rediscovery. When four episodes of The Web of Fear, and five episodes of Enemy of the World were rediscovered in 2013, a lot of the on-line speculation immediately before the announcement claimed that this story had also been found.
The ironic thing about all this is that Marco Polo was sold to more overseas broadcasters than any other story - so its likelihood of being rediscovered ought to be high. There were more copies of it out there in the first place.
So, as we can't watch this story as it was broadcast, it makes it difficult to catalogue errors in the way that we can with complete stories. From what I have read, the opinion of older fans who saw the story at the time is that it was pretty flawless as far as the production was concerned. From the audio we can hear that William Hartnell was on rare good form, although his exasperation at the breakdown of the TARDIS systems does sound as if he is ad-libbing somewhat, and also in the first episode he seems to suffer a fit of hysterics as he laughs his head off at all the problems that have befallen them since leaving that junkyard in Totter's Lane.
The third episode bears the on screen title Five Hundred Eyes, yet the "Next Time" caption at the end of the previous episode promised 'The Cave of Five Hundred Eyes'.
If there are flaws to be found, then it is with the story itself, something I have written about before - see my "History Without A TARDIS" post for this. Writer John Lucarotti had written a lengthy episodic drama for Canadian radio about Marco Polo before relocating to Europe, so this formed the basis for his Doctor Who story. He decided to conflate a number of elements from Polo's book The Description of the World, which wasn't written by Polo at all but was supposedly the work of a fellow prisoner to whom he told his story.
The story we see on screen is supposed to be set in 1289, and Polo is on a diplomatic mission for Kublai Khan. In 1289, he had already decided to return to Venice with or without the Khan's permission. There is no mention of his father, Niccolo, or of his uncle, Maffeo.
The escorting of Ping-Cho for an arranged marriage seems to derive from a real mission in 1292, when Polo brought a princess named Kokachin to Persia to be wed to a relative of the Khan, only for the old man to have died whilst she was still on her journey.
The route taken in this story follows pretty much Polo's first journey to China in 1275.
Some of the names of characters appear in Polo's book - Tegana, Acomat and Noghai - but they are all Tartar warlords there.
The use of 'Peking' is anachronistic. It was known as Khan-Balik or Cambalu at this time.
Susan uses some 1960's slang words - 'fab', 'with-it', 'way out' and 'dig' - which the TARDIS seems not to be able to translate, as Ping-Cho is confused by them. Susan hasn't really been heard to talk this way before - and won't be again.
Ping-Cho states that she comes from Samarkand. This is in Uzbekistan, so why does she have a Chinese name? The city is famous for its mosques, but there is no suggestion that she is Muslim. (One answer might be that she is the child of Chinese settlers in the city. It had a large community of Chinese silk weavers in the 13th Century).
The least said about a character being called Wang-Lo, the better...
One other flaw with the story is that Tegana is so blatantly a villain that it makes Polo look stupid when he continually fails to become even slightly suspicious of him, despite all the mounting evidence against him.
One thing we do know went wrong during the making of this story was the employment of a real monkey for the character Kuiju to carry around. The animal urinated profusely throughout recording.
Also, Hussein's absence from the fourth episode was not planned. He fell ill and Crockett had to step in late in the day.
Once the story was in the can, problems did not end there. Marco Polo has the distinction of being the first Doctor Who story to get a Radio Times cover. The magazine's picture editor opted for a shot of William Hartnell alongside the two main guest artists - Mark Eden (Polo) and Derren Nesbitt (Tegana). This infuriated William Russell, who felt that the show's main cast should have featured. Russell took the opportunity to lodge a general complaint to his agent about the way his character was being developed.

Thursday 18 July 2019

Inspirations - Nightmare of Eden

1979 saw the tenth anniversary of the writing partnership known as "the Bristol Boys" - who were Bob Baker and Dave Martin. After writing a crime drama together that year, the pair decided to go their separate ways. Martin wanted to write novels and plays, whilst Baker wanted to get into TV production.
Season 16 had seen the 15th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and the BBC had thrown a party at TV Centre to which Baker had been invited. He got talking to Graham Williams who informed him of Douglas Adams taking over the script editor role on the programme - and that he was looking for story ideas. They needed to be hard science fiction, and cheap.
Baker had written a well-received episode of the hard-hitting BBC crime drama Target - "Big Elephant", which had been directed by Douglas Camfield and had starred Katy Manning as a drug addict. He thought that it would be interesting to have drug addiction as a theme for a Doctor Who story. As the series had been forced to pull back on overt horror and violence, Baker thought that the BBC might not be keen on such an adult theme in a family show, and so was surprised when Williams and Adams told him to proceed.

Baker then added other elements which interested him. There would be a disaster movie plot inspired by the Airport films, and he also wanted to include a couple of personal bugbears - the difficulty in trying to get new car insurance, and horrible package holidays which he had experienced.
Airport had been a very popular movie in 1970, with an all star cast. It was about a snowbound airport having to deal with an approaching aircraft on which there was a passenger with a bomb. The film was based on a blockbuster novel by Arthur Hailey. It spawned three sequels - Airport 75 (in which a small aircraft crashes into the cockpit of a Boeing 747 - like the Hecate hitting the Empress), Airport 77 (a 747 crashes underwater) and Airport 79 - The Concorde (a Concorde gets hit by an out of control missile). It also inspired the Airplane movies.
These elements led to the set up for Nightmare of Eden. A supposedly luxurious passenger liner called Empress comes out of hyperspace in the wrong location above the planet Azure thanks to the navigator being off his face through use of a highly addictive and ultimately fatal narcotic named Vraxoin. As a result, it collides with a smaller survey ship called Hecate, and the two vessels become fused together. Vraxoin had a chemical name abbreviated to XYP, which people called "Zip". Lalla Ward objected to this name as it sounded like the exciting sort of thing children might want to take, so Vraxoin it became, although its longer chemical name could still be abbreviated to XYP in dialogue.
We see that most of the passengers sit in cramped berths, wearing silver overalls and dark glasses - suggesting that they are exposed to something like solar radiation. Later, when the Mandrel swamp monsters go on the rampage, the drug addled captain laughs as he watches these passengers being attacked. They are only steerage passengers, so who cares. The monster suits are so bad when seen fully that this sequence might also be a comment on the programme itself - viewers laughing at monsters attacking people rather than being scared or horrified.

The more important passengers aren't confined to the berths but instead have a spacious lounge to hang out in, and don't have to wear the protective gear - though we only ever see two. These are the scientist Tryst and his assistant Della. Tryst is played by Lewis Fiander, who decides to give his character the most extreme comedy German accent yet heard in the programme. As the "About Time" books claimed, perhaps he and Professor Marius of the Bi-Al Foundation, creator of K9, both attended the Ingolstadt University for Mad Scientists.
Tryst has invented a device called the CET machine - Continuous Event Transmuter. This allows sections of a planet's surface to be scooped up and saved on a laser crystal, where the flora and fauna continue to thrive. For some reason, all the planets they have visited appear to have names consisting of only three letters apart from the last one they went to - Eden. Presumably the three letters are abbreviations, so they can fit on the control dial. We see images of some of these planets on a view screen. They'll look familiar to fans of the first season of Space:1999, as clips from some of its episodes are used here - including Guardian of Piri and Matter of Life and Death.
Della tells the Doctor and Romana that one of their team was killed on Eden, a man named Stott.

The collision has resulted in a number of spatial distortions on the Empress, and also allowed the Mandrels to escape from the CET machine via its view screen. They are now roaming around the ship, killing anyone they come across. The Mandrels had originated on Eden. Stott was only ever presumed dead - killed by the Mandrels or the hostile plant life there. The Doctor and Romana have claimed to be insurance and salvage investigators, but Captain Rigg of the liner checks the company they say they work for and found that it went into liquidation 20 years ago. When challenged about this, the Doctor simply says that it is no wonder they haven't been paid recently.
He decides to investigate the Vraxoin smuggling. It must be on this ship, but scans don't show anything. Matters are complicated when a pair of officious customs officers from Azure arrive, and decide that the Doctor is the smuggler. (Both have appeared in the programme before. Fisk is Geoffrey Hinsliff, who had been Jack Tyler not that long ago in Image of the Fendahl. Costa is Peter Craze, who had appeared in The Space Museum and The War Games, and was also the brother of Michael Craze, who had played 60's companion Ben Jackson).
One of the Mandrels is accidentally electrocuted and its body decomposes rapidly into a grey ash - pure Vraxoin. It would be interesting to learn how someone first found out that the corpses of swamp monsters on a primordial planet produced a narcotic...

The director assigned to this production was the veteran Alan Bromly, who had only ever directed one previous story - The Time Warrior. This is, of course, regarded as a classic, so you would have thought that he was a safe pair of hands. Not so. That first Sontaran story had been virtually a period piece, with little in the way of special effects. Bromly assumed that production of the sow had improved since his last story, when in fact it had become more complex. He was also very old-fashioned in his ways - just at the time when Tom Baker was really making his views known during the making of the programme. Director and star did not get on at all and during the final recording block things came to a head. During the final evening's recording, the cast and crew were given an extended dinner break and returned to the studio to find Bromly gone. Graham Williams stepped in to handle the recording himself.
The VFX team were also unhappy, but this was because Williams had come up with a budget saving idea to record the models on video in the studio on the night using CSO, rather than have them specially filmed elsewhere as in previous years. The costumes for the Mandrels worked fine when the creatures were lurking in the gloomy jungle environment of the Eden CET projection, but were laughable when seen in the overly-lit sets of the space liner. They also started to fall apart quite quickly, and we see the white padding material showing through the outer layer on several occasions. When production had completed, one of the crew had T-shirts printed with "I Survived the Nightmare of Eden".

The story wraps up with the reveal that Stott was really a space security officer investigating Tryst's expedition as a source of Vraxoin smuggling, and he wasn't killed after all. He has been hiding in the Eden CET projection. Tryst is the smuggler, planning to get the drugs off the liner by transferring the Eden projection to his accomplice - the pilot of the Hecate. The Doctor uses the CET to trap the pair in Tryst's own machine when the pair try to flee.
Before this can happen, the Doctor has to lure the Mandrels back into the CET projection then stabilise it to prevent them from getting out again. He uses K9's dog whistle to round them up, and this leads to one of the sequences most cited in criticism of the programme during this period, and highlighting Tom Baker's descent into silliness. He goes into the projection and disappears from view as the monsters follow him in. We then hear him cry out: "Oh my fingers! My arms! My legs! My everything!" before emerging with his coat ripped to shreds. Tom clearly thought this was funny, but he's in a minority of one I'm afraid.
This would prove to be Bob Baker's final contribution to Doctor Who, though he has attempted to launch K9 in spin-off vehicles on numerous occasions. A new production team would soon be on its way, one which wanted to employ only new writers. Baker has claimed that he wrote to Russell T Davies when he heard the programme was coming back in 2005, but never got a response. Another new production team, only wanting to use new writers.
Nightmare of Eden proved to the final straw for Graham Williams. He had always had a rather stormy relationship with Tom Baker, whom he felt tried to boss him around and generally disrespected his authority. Things had come to a head earlier in the year when Williams had almost sacked his star, and his BBC bosses had initially agreed with him - though they backtracked when they remembered how popular he was. Baker in turn had threatened to resign on a couple of occasions. This time it was Williams who handed in his resignation. Season 17 would be his last.
Next time: Anthony Read is back with more Greek myths. However, Christmas is approaching and everyone else thinks it's panto season...

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Story 206 - Victory of the Daleks

In which the Doctor and Amy visit London during the height of the Battle of Britain, in response to a call for assistance received from wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Amy discovers that the Doctor and Churchill are old friends, and the PM would love to get his hands on the TARDIS. Churchill explains that the Doctor has arrived many weeks after he sent the call, and without the Doctor's advice he had gone ahead and agreed to Professor Bracewell's new invention. The Doctor is taken to the roof where he meets Bracewell and sees his weapon in action - shooting down German aircraft with an energy ray. The weapon proves to be a Dalek, in khaki livery. Bracewell insists that he is the inventor of the machine, which he has called an "Ironside". There are two Ironsides working in the Cabinet War Office, pretending to be helpful servants as well as weapons against the Nazis. Neither Churchill nor Amy can understand why the Doctor hates them so much. The Doctor is surprised to learn that Amy does not know about the Daleks, considering that they moved the Earth across space and invaded the planet only a year or so ago, and had previously been involved in the battle around Canary Wharf.

The Doctor urges Churchill not to trust the Ironsides and confronts Bracewell. He shows him the blueprints for his creations, and tells the Doctor that he has other ideas about space travel and advanced weaponry. The Doctor attempts to force an Ironside to admit that it is really a Dalek, hitting it with a metal bar. In a rage he accuses it of being a Dalek, at which point it and its companion declare that they have got what they came for. They show their true nature as they attack some soldiers. Bracewell insists that he created them, but they reveal that it was they who had created him. One of them blasts off his hand to reveal that he is really an advanced android, programmed with a complete personality and life story. The Daleks teleport away, and the Doctor rushes to the TARDIS where he manages to detect a Dalek saucer hidden in orbit near the Moon. He travels to the spaceship alone. He finds that there are only three Daleks remaining of the crew, holding them back by pretending that a Jammie Dodger biscuit is the button for a powerful bomb. The Daleks reveal that they have been searching the cosmos for a Progenitor - a device which contains pure Dalek DNA from which more Daleks can be created. However, their cells have been mutated, and the Progenitor no longer recognised them as Daleks. The Doctor has now identified them, and his outburst has been recorded. The Progenitor is activated, and soon after a group of new Daleks are created.

They are much larger, with coloured casings. A white one identifies itself as a Supreme Dalek. Others are identified as a Strategist, a Drone, an Eternal and a Scientist. They represent the new Dalek Paradigm. They immediately view the existing Daleks who created them as inferior and exterminate them. The Supreme tells the Doctor that they plan to travel to the future and create a whole new Dalek race. They realise that the Doctor is tricking them with the biscuit, forcing him to retreat to the TARDIS. In order to stop the Doctor from attacking them, they threaten to destroy London. Their spaceship is damaged and has limited weaponry, so they instead fire an electrical charge at the city which turns all the lights on - just as a German air-raid approaches. The Doctor contacts Bracewell and urges him to help them. One of his inventions is a device which enables aircraft to go into space. A squadron of RAF Spitfires is rapidly outfitted and sent to attack the saucer.

The aircraft succeed in damaging the Dalek device and the lights of London go out. However, the Daleks have another scheme to stop the Doctor. Bracewell has a powerful bomb capable of destroying the entire planet built into him, which the Daleks activate. The Doctor is forced to return to Earth to deal with this new threat, allowing the New Dalek Paradigm to escape by travelling into the future. The Daleks had programmed Bracewell so well that he has really come to believe in the memories they implanted into him, and Amy is able to tap into these to make him override the bomb.
A short while later he expects to be dismantled, but the Doctor and Amy realise that he is now just as human as anyone else so should have a chance to live. He can escape if he wants to.
Amy manages to stop Churchill from stealing the TARDIS key. They depart, with the Doctor still pondering how it is that Amy did not know anything about the Daleks. As the TARDIS dematerialises a crack on the wall, shaped like a crooked smile, is revealed...

Victory of the Daleks was written by Mark Gatiss, and was first broadcast on 17th April, 2010.
It was the first Dalek story since The Stolen Earth / Journey's End at the close of the fourth series. A solitary Dalek had been seen in one of the 2009 Specials - The Waters of Mars - but Russell T  Davies had considered featuring them in The End of Time, when they would have been in an alliance with the Time Lords to end the Time War. Davies contacted Steven Moffat to check if he was going to be doing a Dalek story for Series 5, and might want a gap so that they would have more of an impact. Moffat explained that he was indeed going to have the 11th Doctor meet the Daleks, so Davies omitted them from his finale.
Moffat was inheriting a clean sweep as far as the programme was concerned, able to have his own new TARDIS (inside and out) and new companions, as well as his new Doctor. He decided on a new design for the Daleks to go along with all these changes. The basic shape would be retained, but he was a big fan of the Peter Cushing Dalek movies and liked the size of the film ones, and their more colourful appearance. The movies had already influenced the design for the new TARDIS exterior.
The new Daleks would have colourful shells denoting different functions and a much bigger appearance - with thicker bumpers to increase their height. An organic eyeball was added to the eye-stalk.
The designers intended that the new props would have interchangeable utility arms, which would emerge from a unit on the back and slide round the mid-section. This idea was never put into practice, and unfortunately the tool store on the rear of the casings gave the new Daleks a humpbacked appearance.
The colour finish also gave them a plastic look, which made many people think of rubbish / recycling bins.
Moffat and Gatiss raved about the design upgrade. Fans generally hated the new Daleks, although kids seemed to like them well enough to buy a shed load of merchandise.

The story was also Moffat's first celebrity-historical, as it featured Britain's wartime leader Winston Churchill. He is played by Ian McNeice, who had performed the role in a number of different stage productions. A prolific actor, he was already featuring in the popular ITV comedy drama Doc Martin, having previously been seen in the HBO drama Rome. He was in the pilot of Game of Thrones, but the part was recast when it went to series due to McNeice having other filming commitments.
The only other guest artist of note is Bill Patterson, who played Professor Bracewell. Patterson first came to prominence in the Glasgow ice-cream wars movie Comfort and Joy, and the BBC adaptation of Iain Banks' The Crow Road, which also featured Peter Capaldi. More recently he had starred in the Phil Collinson produced BBC supernatural drama Sea of Souls.
Writer Mark Gatiss cameos as the voice of the lead Spitfire pilot.
As far as story arc elements go, we have another glimpse of the crack from Amy's bedroom, this time revealed on a wall as the TARDIS dematerialises. There is also the mystery of her not knowing about the Daleks when they have staged two recent very public attacks on the planet.

Overall, probably the worst Dalek story going in my opinion. The New Paradigm aren't stupid. They can see this isn't very good and so do a runner with quarter of an hour still to run, leaving us with the prolonged Bracewell bomb section, where the weapon is somehow defused because of his faked memories. The new saucer interior isn't a patch on the RTD ones. A really annoying aspect is the speed with which Bracewell gets a device which only exists on a blueprint built and fitted to the Spitfires in a matter of minutes. The story is just dreadfully plotted. The only good thing going here are the Ironsides, but they get bumped off far too soon. Voted the second worst Dalek story in DWM's 50th Anniversary poll at 193rd place (beaten only by the Daleks in Manhattan two-parter).
Things you might like to know:
  • The first appearance of the Daleks in the revived series coincided with the 2005 General Election in the UK - leading to the famous recreation of the Daleks on Westminster Bridge image on the cover of that week's Radio Times. This story coincided with the 2010 elections, so the public got to see the new Daleks on Westminster Bridge on a new Radio Times cover, before they were revealed on screen. Or rather on three covers, as there was a choice of a red Dalek, representing the Labour Party, a blue Dalek representing the Conservatives, and an orange Dalek representing the Liberal-Democrats - Britain's three main political parties.
  • Clearly a fan of classic war movies, Gatiss' call signs for the Spitfires include "Broadsword" and "Danny Boy". These derive from radio call signs in the 1968 movie Where Eagles Dare, which had starred Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton.
  • It's never specified where the trio of Dalek survivors come from. Where they left over from Davros' Reality Bomb scheme, or from some earlier Dalek story? If they came from The Stolen Earth story then they were created from Davros' body, and so would have been pure Kaled - which begs the question: what does the Progenitor regard as pure Dalek?
  • On the morning after the climactic air-raid we see some ARP men raise the Union Jack - an homage to the famous image of US Army soldiers raising the Stars and Stripes during the Battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945.
  • If the Air Raid Warden looks familiar, it's because he is played by Colin Prockter, who had featured as the foodstall holder in 2005's The Long Game.
  • The yellow Dalek is the one called the "Eternal". Moffat and Gatiss have both stated that they have no idea what this means - only that it sounded good.
  • For the Ironsides' subservient behaviour, Gatiss was inspired by Power of the Daleks, adapting the Daleks' "I am your servant" in the earlier story to "I am your soldier" here.
  • Churchill states that the Doctor has changed his appearance again, so has met him in at least one previous incarnation. This was never seen on screen, although the Doctor has met him in his second and sixth incarnations in novels.
  • Some of the locations used for the Cabinet War Rooms did not allow smoking, so Ian McNeice couldn't light his cigars. The cigar smoke you see in the episode had to be added by CGI.
  • The real Cabinet War Rooms never had one of those big map tables where you push models about. They were used in RAF command stations.