Friday 30 August 2019

Inspirations - Warriors' Gate

Auteur: (noun) - from the French for "author". In cinema, an auteur is a director who has so much influence upon all aspects of a production that they can be seen as the film's author. The phrase was popularised by the director Francois Truffaut in an essay he wrote for Cahiers du Cinema in 1954, entitled Un Certain Tendence du Cinema Francais. Basically, you can look at some movies and know just from a few clips who directed it, thanks to visual style, a repertory company of regular actors, or even a concentration on the same subject matter. Terry Gilliam has a unique visual style in his fantasy films; Tim Burton movies invariably feature Helena Bonham-Carter and Johnny Depp; Woody Allen for the most part films contemporary New York set stories, featuring someone based on himself - usually played by himself.
Prior to making Warriors' Gate, his only story for Doctor Who, director Paul Joyce showed a number of films to his team by way of explaining what he wanted to achieve. Some of these films influenced the look of the story.
Warriors' Gate is the first of two stories written by Stephen Gallagher - although it was heavily reworked by the script editor (Christopher H Bidmead) and the director.
The story opens in a manner seen only once before in the series - in the story which opened this present season. Then, we had a long, slow pan across Brighton beach, taking in a number of TARDIS shaped beach tents before finally settling on the TARDIS itself. Here, we have a long, slow set of hand held camera shots exploring the corridors of a spaceship. One of the films which Joyce had shown to his team was Last Year at Marianbad (1961) which was directed by Alain Resnais. The opening sequence of the film consists of over 5 minutes of the camera exploring a huge, opulent hotel. More relevant to a Doctor Who story, Ridley Scott's Alien also opens with a lengthy sequence of the camera roaming through corridors and rooms of a spaceship - taking its time getting to the cast members.

The hotel in Last Year at Marianbad is set in ornate formal gardens - just as the realm beyond the mirror in the Gateway appears to be a stately home in similar manicured gardens. The realm beyond the mirror is also a monochrome world - and most of Joyce's film choices were B&W movies of the 1940's and 1950's.
Two films by Jean Cocteau provide inspiration for Warriors' Gate. The first is Orpheus (1950), which is set in contemporary Paris but based on the myth of Orpheus and his decent into Hades to save Eurydice. In this mirrors feature prominently. Supernatural characters can pass through mirrors to another dimension in the film, whilst ordinary mortals can't. Cocteau said "We watch ourselves grow old through mirrors. They bring us closer to death". Needless to say Orpheus doesn't have many jokes in it... In fact, all of the films Joyce chose to reference are highly regarded visually, but are criticised for being very much triumphs of style over content. Last Year in Marianbad is especially regarded as an incredibly dull movie.
The other Cocteau inspiration, especially for the leonine Tharils who appear in the Doctor Who story, is 1948's La Belle et la Bete (or Beauty and the Beast). The make up for Jean Marais' Beast is based on a lion. The Gateway is also reminiscent of the Beast's castle home.

Apart from the visuals, another theme runs through this story - namely theories of chance. The I Ching is specifically mentioned, along with the tossing of a coin to determine courses of action. The I Ching is over 2000 years old - the oldest written Chinese text - and is a form of divination. Carl Jung used it in his theories of synchronicity. At one point Romana dismisses chance as "Astral Jung!". Jung was interested in the concept of the collective unconscious. This story was originally going to be called "The Dream Time".
Some see I Ching as a precursor to modern computer logic - and we all know how passionate about computing Bidmead is - whilst others saw it as holding back technological development in China, as though a form of superstition.
Some of the character names reference scientists and cinematographers. The captain of the privateer is Rorvik (named after science writer David Rorvik), whilst his underling Sagan is named for cosmologist Carl Sagan. On the Tharil side, Biroc is named after cinematographer Joseph F Biroc, and Laszlo after his colleague Ernest Laszlo. Both of these worked with director Robert Aldrich - another favourite of Joyce.

Gallagher's initial draft was written more like a novel than a TV script. It already included some of the Cocteau imagery, which Joyce picked up on.
The production of this story was a troubled one. Joyce was very slow in organising his camera plans, and his assistant Graeme Harper had to complete these in order to be ready for studio. The complex set for the privateer was deemed unsafe, as it consisted of a lot of scaffolding which wasn't properly secured. Joyce then elected to shoot "off set" - capturing the studio lighting rig through the flooring for instance. This led to an argument with the head of the lighting team. Deciding to record the story as though it were a film led to Joyce falling seriously behind schedule. Things came to a head and John Nathan-Turner removed him from the production. Harper took over, though Joyce was later reinstated. Later, JNT had to answer to his boss as the lighting director had lodged an official complaint, and he acknowledged that Joyce had not been the best choice for a Doctor Who story. He wasn't invited back. Director Lovett Bickford had tried the same filmic approach on The Leisure Hive, and had run into the same problem of falling way behind schedule - and he also directed only the one story.

Bidmead and Joyce had reworked his material so much that when it came to the Target novelisation of this story, Gallagher reinstated much of his original ideas. JNT had a watching brief over the Target books and insisted that the novels had to reflect what viewers had seen on screen - so Gallagher had to hastily rewrite it.
At the conclusion of the story, Romana and K9 are written out of the series. K9 has been damaged yet again - this time irreparably - but he will function normally on the other side of the mirror in the Tharils' domain. Rorvik and his slave trader crew have been killed, but many more of Biroc's people remain in bondage in E-Space, and Romana elects to stay behind with Laszlo to free them. She's trying to avoid having to go back to Gallifrey (having been summoned home at the end of Meglos).
The Gateway also acts as means of exiting from E-Space back into N-Space, out normal universe, so this trilogy in a pocket dimension comes to an end. As we've mentioned before, JNT had only grudgingly agreed to a story arc, on the condition that it was a brief one.
One final reference - as the Doctor bids farewell to his companion he tells her that she was the noblest Romana of them all. This is a play on Marc Anthony's description of the now slain Brutus, in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, as the noblest Roman of them all.
Next time: an old foe returns, and gets a new body at last...

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Story 211 - Vincent and the Doctor

In which the Doctor takes Amy on a trip to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris where they see an exhibition of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. Studying one of the canvases - The Church at Auvers - the Doctor spots what appears to be a hideous, alien face in one of the windows. He quizzes art historian Dr Black, who is giving a guided tour of the exhibition, about the circumstances behind the picture, and learns the approximate date when Van Gogh painted it. The Doctor takes Amy back to the TARDIS and they travel to Auvers-Sur-Oise and arrive at the beginning of June, 1890. They must discover what it was that Van Gogh saw that day. Searching for Van Gogh they come across a street cafe similar to one in another of his other paintings and find him there - vainly trying to trade one of his self-portraits for another bottle of wine. Amy buys him some wine, and he becomes quite besotted with her due to her fiery red hair. They convince him that they are interested in his work and so he invites them back to his house. As they are about to leave, however, a young woman is attacked in a nearby street and torn to pieces, as though by a wild animal.

At the house, Vincent tells them all about his work, and the Doctor asks him if he has any plans to paint any churches soon. When he says that he has been thinking about this, the Doctor tries to encourage him to do it the next day. Amy is out in the garden looking around when she is attacked by something unseen. The Doctor and Vincent rush outside to help her, and the Doctor discovers that only Vincent can see what is attacking them. To everyone else it is invisible. They manage to chase it off and go back inside, where Vincent draws a sketch of what he saw. It is part-bird, part reptile in appearance. The Doctor leaves Amy with Vincent and returns to the TARDIS where he digs out an old piece of equipment which has a mirror attached. This can capture the image of even invisible creatures and connect to a database to identify them. He leaves the ship armed with the device and finds that it is now daybreak. In the mirror he sees the creature close behind him. It gives chase but he manages to evade it and get back to Vincent's home. Here, the device identifies the creature as a Krafayis. These savage creatures travel across space, usually in packs. For some reason this animal has become separated from its group.

Later that morning Amy decides to surprise Vincent with a display of sunflowers - only to learn that he doesn't like them very much. The Doctor wants to start the trip to the church, where he knows the Krafayis will be waiting. However, Vincent is struck down by one of his fits of depression. The episode passes and they set off for the church, passing the funeral of the young woman on the way. The villagers seem to hold Vincent responsible, as though his madness has brought about the attacks.
The Doctor finds the process of painting to be rather slow, and indicates that he is no fan of modern art. As night falls, Vincent tells the Doctor and Amy that he can see the creature inside the church. They all go inside but are attacked by it once again. The Doctor loses his device, so they have to rely on Vincent to tell them where it is and what it is doing. It soon becomes apparent that this Krafayis is blind, which explains why it was abandoned by its pack, and why it is lashing out at people. The Doctor had hoped to capture it and take it away from Earth but in the struggle Vincent inadvertently stabs the creature with his easel, killing it.

On the way back to his house, Vincent gets the Doctor and Amy to lie down and look at the night sky, and try to see it as he sees it. The next morning he tries to give them a self-portrait as a thank-you, but the Doctor declines - knowing how valuable it will be one day. he then decides to give Vincent a gift. He and Amy take him to the TARDIS and travel to the present day Musee d'Orsay so he can witness the exhibition of his works. The Doctor has Dr Black say some words about his importance to the world of art. Vincent is taken home, his lust for life renewed. Amy insists that the Doctor return her to the exhibition, where she hopes to see many new works by the artist. She is disappointed to find the exhibition unchanged. Vincent still killed himself on 29th July 1890. However, on studying one of his paintings of sunflowers she sees a dedication on the canvas - "For Amy"...

Vincent and the Doctor was written by Richard Curtis, and was first broadcast on 5th June, 2010 - round about 120 years to the day since Van Gogh painted The Church at Auvers. He mentioned the painting in a letter to his sister on 5th June, 1890.
Curtis is one of the most famous people to have written a Doctor Who script, being best known for some ridiculously successful romantic comedies (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually - all starring Hugh Grant), plus TV comedy series such as Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley. He also wrote the screen adaptations for the Bridget Jones movies. Alongside this, he co-founded - with Lenny Henry - Comic Relief. This gave him his first contact with Doctor Who, when he commissioned Steven Moffat to write the extended sketch The Curse of Fatal Death for 1999's Comic Relief night. This also featured Hugh Grant as a future incarnation of the Doctor. Another actor who has worked with Curtis many times is Bill Nighy, who was wrongly reported as being the new Doctor back in 2005 by one UK newspaper, on the day that the BBC announced that Christopher Eccleston had won the role. Nighy features in Vincent and the Doctor as Dr Black. He declined an on screen credit.

The main guest artist - indeed the only other actor in the programme beyond some supporting cast - is Tony Curran, who played Vincent. He bears a remarkable likeness to the painter. Curran is originally from Scotland, but now lives in the USA, where he has guested in a number of popular TV series.
He plays Vincent in his native Scottish accent - leading to the TARDIS translation joke that Amy must also be Dutch as she has the same accent as him.
The notion that only Vincent can see the alien is indicative of the way that he saw the world differently from anyone else - as illustrated by the Starry Night sequence.
Curtis likes to feature social commentary within his works, as befits the co-founder of Comic Relief. With Vincent and the Doctor he wanted to say something about mental health, and depression in particular. Van Gogh suffered psychotic fits and deep depressions throughout his adult life, which eventually led to him committing suicide at the age of 37. Today he would have been diagnosed as Bi-Polar. The BBC advertised a mental health helpline immediately after the broadcast of this episode.

No story arc elements this week, although Amy is suspicious at the beginning that the Doctor seems to be treating her a lot these days (his reaction to Rory's death and removal from history last week).
Some people think that there is a visual reference to the crack in the scene where Vincent is returned to his own time following his trip to the future. There is a tree branch along the bottom half of the screen which has a similar shape.
Overall - one of the best stories from the Matt Smith era. It is gorgeous to look at and packs an emotional punch. Series 5 had been lacking some of the emotional elements of the RTD days up to this point, but I defy anyone to watch the sequence where Vincent is taken to the gallery to see how he will be remembered and not get a lump in their throat.
Things you might like to know:
  • Did you spot how I managed to get a reference to the Kirk Douglas bio-pic about Van Gogh into the story synopsis above?
  • One thing which is glossed over is the infamous story of Van Gogh's ear. In December 1888, during one of his psychotic episodes, he mutilated his ear. It is unconfirmed if he cut it all off or just part. He wrapped the piece in paper and handed it over at a brothel he often frequented. Vincent and the Doctor is set in the last few weeks of his life, after the ear cutting episode, yet he is seen with both ears uninjured in the story. There is one subtle reference to this in the episode as Amy is seen casually playing with a knife in Vincent's home, but hurriedly puts it down - presumably fearing he might use it on himself.
  • Paintings which are referenced include The Starry Night (June 1889), The Church at Auvers (see above), Cafe Terrace at Night (September 1888), Vincent's Chair With His Pipe (1888), Wheatfield with Crows (one of his last - from July 1890), plus one of his Sunflowers series. A number of his many self-portraits also feature.
  • The location filming for this story took place in and around Trogir, Croatia, alongside location work on The Vampires of Venice.
  • The museum is a composite of two Cardiff locations. The exterior is the Millennium Centre, and the interior is the National Museum of Wales. Both have appeared in various guises in the series before, as well as in the spin-off series.
  • At one point we see the TARDIS covered in posters (see image above). These were reproductions of real posters for the Cafe Au Tambourin in Paris - the first place in the city which exhibited Van Gogh's works. 
  • We've seen people and objects pass through the Vortex on the outside of the TARDIS (Captain Jack in Utopia, and later Clara in Time of the Doctor, plus an arrow in Gridlock) but paper gets incinerated.
  • We mentioned that Bill Nighy declined a credit. The last time someone famous turned down a credit on Doctor Who was also an appearance in an art gallery setting - cameos by John Cleese and Eleanor Bron in City of Death.

Monday 26 August 2019

H is for... Handbots

Featureless white robots which were used as clinical staff in the Two Streams medical facility on the planet Apalapucia. The planet was under quarantine after an outbreak of the deadly Chen-7 disease. This was known as the "one day plague" as its victims died within 24 hours. The Two Streams Facility used compressed time to allow those infected to live a full life. The Handbots were so called because they sensed their surroundings through artificial hands, which could emit a powerful anaesthetic. They also dispensed medication by darts, fired from a unit in their chest or when their heads opened up. Chen-7 only affected people with binary cardiac systems, like the Doctor. When Amy became trapped in the wrong Stream, cut off from Rory and the Doctor, he had to remain in the TARDIS and send Rory in alone to rescue her. As she did not have Chen-7, the Handbots' medication would prove fatal to her, so she had to go into hiding. The Facility's time engines masked her from their sensors. When Rory found her, she had lived there for more than 30 years, and was now an embittered older woman. She had learned to fight off the Handbots, making herself armour from their bodies.

For company she had a reprogrammed Handbot, whose hands she had removed. She had drawn a face on it, and called it Rory. The Doctor was able to locate the Amy from the earlier time period and rescue her. The older Amy had also wanted to be saved, but the Doctor could not allow such a paradox to take place. She sacrificed herself by giving herself up to the Handbots, although by removing the earlier Amy from the Facility she would never have existed in the first place.

Appearances: The Girl Who Waited (2011).

H is for... Hampdon, Jane

Jane Hampden was a school teacher in the English village of Little Hodcombe. She was opposed to Sir George Hutchinson's Civil War reenactment because of the disruption which it was causing, and her feeling that some of the participants were taking it all too seriously. Her old friend, Colonel Ben Wolsey, tried to get her to accept the war games. Jane was right to be concerned, as Sir George had fallen under the baleful influence of the Malus, a psychic alien entity which had visited the village at the time of the original Civil War battle that had been fought here. It thrived on negative emotions. It had lain dormant beneath the village church for centuries, reactivating due to the hostility being generated by the reenactment. Jane joined the Doctor in helping to defeat the Malus, which was destroyed after its link to Sir George was broken when he died.

Played by: Polly James. Appearances: The Awakening (1984).
  • James was the second of The Liver Birds to appear in a story alongside Peter Davison's Doctor - Nerys Hughes having previously appeared in Kinda. In both cases they act as temporary companions to the Doctor - leading many fans to comment on how this incarnation of the Doctor worked better with more mature companions.
  • Her actor son, Adam James, is an old friend of David Tennant, and appeared alongside him in Planet of the Dead, playing Detective Inspector McMillan.

H is for... Hame, Novice

Novice Hame was a junior member of the Sisters of Plenitude who ran the hospital on New Earth in the year 5 Billion. Like all her sisterhood, she was a member of the Catkind race. The Doctor met her when he was summoned to the hospital by the Face of Boe. Hame had been assigned to care for him, as it was believed that he was finally dying. She told the Doctor of the legend that the Face would impart a secret to a wanderer like himself just before he died. Hame was aware of the hospital's dark secret - the use of specially bred human beings to be used as guinea pigs in the creation of various cures. She tried to justify this to the Doctor, pointing out the millions of people who had been cured by the Sisters. After the human guinea pigs had been cured by the Doctor, the hospital was raided by the New New York police and Hame was arrested along with the rest of her order.
As part of her sentence she was tasked with the continued care of the Face of Boe.

Some 30 years after the Doctor's last visit to New Earth he returned to find the city had been ravaged by a virus which had mutated from one of the new Mood drugs which were in fashion. The Face of Boe saved her by wreathing her in his protective smoke, and together they sealed off the city's motorway, to protect the millions of people there. Everyone in the city above died of the virus within minutes. The Face of Boe knew that the Doctor had returned, and sent Hame to the motorway to find him. She found him and brought him to the Senate House where the Face was dying, having used all his energies to maintain the motorway. The Doctor freed the trapped drivers and their passengers so that they could reclaim the city. Hame was with the Doctor when the Face spoke his great secret - that the Doctor was not alone as he had always believed. Presumably Hame would have later taken on some role in the city's new government.

Played by: Anna Hope. Appearances: New Earth (2006), Gridlock (2007).

H is for... Halpen

Klineman Halpen was the CEO of Ood Operations, which marketed and sold Ood as servants across three galaxies in the 42nd Century. His family had owned the company for generations. He visited the Ood-Sphere in 4126 after one of his executives had died in mysterious circumstances, and to personally investigate the outbreak of an illness termed "Red Eye" which was causing the Ood to become aggressive. He was accompanied at all times by his own personal Ood servant - Ood Sigma. He was becoming obsessed with losing his hair, which he put down to stress, and Ood Sigma would be called upon to administer a hair tonic at regular intervals. Halpen considered the Ood as little more than animals, and was quite prepared to wipe out thousands of them if it would stop the "Red Eye" contagion from spreading. His father had shown him the gigantic Ood brain when he was a child. It had been found many years before and was surrounded by a dampening field to cut it off telepathically from the Ood. He was concerned that the field was weakening and causing the contagion. On learning that one of his scientists - Dr Ryder - was really a member of an Ood liberation organisation, Halpen killed him by throwing him off a gantry, to be suffocated by the brain. However, Ryder had reduced the dampening field, causing an Ood revolt. Halpen planted explosives to destroy the brain, and was on the point of killing the Doctor and Donna Noble, when he began to feel unwell. Ood Sigma revealed that he had been giving his master Ood graft in the hair tonic. Halpen was converted into an Ood himself. Ood Sigma informed the Doctor that he would look after him.

Played by: Tim McInnerny. Appearances: Planet of the Ood (2008).
  • McInnerny first came to fame playing the dim-witted Percy in the first series of Blackadder. He returned as another Percy in the second series, and then again as Captain Darling in the fourth. He also made a guest appearance in an episode of the third series.
  • He was initially reluctant to appear in guest roles in established series, but made an exception for Doctor Who. He has since relaxed his rule and appeared in many TV series - including Sherlock and Game of Thrones.

H is for... Hallett, Lisa

Lisa Hallett was the girlfriend of Ianto Jones - the pair having met when they worked together at Torchwood One in London. Torchwood inadvertently allowed an army of Cybermen from a parallel universe to invade Earth through a breach into the void which separated the two realities. Lisa was among those who were converted. In her case they carried out a complete body conversion, rather than transfer the brain directly into a Cyberman shell. Ianto managed to smuggle her out of the building when the Cybermen were defeated, along with some of their conversion technology. This helped to keep her alive but in a dormant state. Ianto then began pursuing Captain Jack Harkness, in order to land a job with Torchwood Three in Cardiff. This was purely so he could access their resources to find a way of bringing Lisa back. He secreted her and the conversion equipment in an unused chamber deep beneath the Hub, and then contacted specialists who could help her. One such person was a Japanese scientist named Tanizaki. Lisa's mental conditioning was getting stronger, and she attacked Tanizaki, attempting unsuccessfully to convert him. The equipment began draining power from the rest of the Hub, attracting the attention of Ianto's colleagues. Lisa captured Gwen Cooper and tried to convert her, but Jack was able to rescue her. Ianto was ordered to destroy Lisa, but could not bring himself to do it - even though Jack threatened to kill him if he refused. Jack was able to overpower her by throwing BBQ sauce over her - which made her a target for the Hub's resident Pterosaur. This gave everyone time to escape from the complex. A pizza delivery girl had found her way into the abandoned Hub and Lisa had her brain transplanted into her body. She was then shot dead by the Torchwood team.

Some time later the enigmatic Bilis Manger, who was a servant to a demonic creature called Abaddon, used the image of an unconverted Lisa to try to convince Ianto to open the Rift.

Played by: Caroline Chikezie. Appearances: TW 1.4Cyberwoman (2006), TW 1.13: End of Days (2007).

Friday 23 August 2019

Inspirations - State of Decay

It's the Vampire one. That's Vampires like the ones in folklore and horror stories, rather than aliens who feed on blood, like Haemovores, Plasmavores or Saturnyns. State of Decay claims that the universe was inhabited by a swarm of vampire creatures in its infancy, and they were wiped out by the Time Lords under Rassilon. They could only be destroyed by staking through the heart, and great bow ships were constructed which could fire steel shafts into them. All were killed, but when it came to counting the bodies, one was missing. This was the Great Vampire, their leader. Despite this incident claiming all but one of the creatures was destroyed, instructions were left in all TARDISes as to what to do in the event that Time Lords encountered them again - implying that more than just the Great Vampire might have survived. The Doctor talks of there being legends of Vampires on every inhabited world. They may have infected others before their extinction. Rassilon's crusade took place long before life existed on Earth, yet Vampire legends can be found on every continent, going back hundreds of years.
One of Britain's earliest Vampire stories comes from the North East of England, and involves a medieval monk who was said to have been more of a devil than a saint. He was said to be a drunken womaniser, who seldom obeyed the rules of his order. After he died stories began to circulate of him having been seen in the community around his monastery, and it was reported that he attacked people and drank their blood. His corpse was exhumed and was found to have little signs of decay. Rather, he looked more healthy than in life, and the mouth was blood-stained. The body was removed from its grave and burned, and the post-mortem sightings ceased. Similar tales abound from all over Europe, as well as the Far East.
The word "Vampire" comes from the Serbian Vampir, which exists in other Slavic languages. In the late 1720's, when Austria took control over Serbia, Austrian officials wrote a report on their new territory, which recorded the practice of villagers exhuming corpses to kill Vampirs.
The word first appears in English in the travel volume Travels of Three English Gentlemen, from 1745.
In early European folklore, Vampires could be anyone. They weren't just people who had led dissolute lives, though being evil in life meant that you were more likely to become a Vampire after death. If someone was suspected of being likely to return as one of these revenants, their corpse was staked to the ground, so that it couldn't climb out of its grave. Stones were also rammed into the mouth so they couldn't bite people. In some instances, bodies were buried face down, so that they would go the wrong direction when they tried burrowing their way out. All of these burial practices have been uncovered by archaeologists.

The Vampire of popular fiction - epitomised by Count Dracula - owes its origins to the same Year Without a Summer which spawned Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Staying at Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva in 1816 with Lord Byron and the Shelleys was Dr John Polidori. He was Byron's personal physician. He had ambitions to be a writer himself. His contribution to the horror story competition from whence came Frankenstein was a tale called The Vampyre. This was about an aristocratic Vampire named Lord Ruthven. A young man named Aubrey meets Ruthven when he appears from nowhere in London society. He agrees to travel with the nobleman to Rome and Greece, where Ruthven has a series of affairs, after which the young women die. Only after Ruthven dies does Aubrey realise the link. A year and a day after his death, Aubrey is shocked to find Ruthven is still alive. He becomes engaged to Aubrey's sister, but she is found dead on her wedding night, her body drained of blood, and Ruthven disappears.
Polidori clearly based Ruthven on Byron. He is himself the Aubrey character, following the peer of the realm around Europe. Byron was well know for destroying lives as he went along - at least their reputations.
At the villa, Byron poured scorn on Polidori's story. In 1819 the young doctor published his short story in expanded form and it immediately caused some controversy. Not for the content, but for its authorship. The publishers elected to claim that it was by Byron himself, and everyone believed this as Lady Caroline Lamb had already included a character based on Byron in one of her novels, giving him the name Ruthven. It took some years before the story was properly credited to Polidori. However, he died at the age of only 25 in 1821, taking his own life by cyanide after suffering from depression and struggling with gambling debts.

Between 1845 - 1847, the story of Varney the Vampire, or A Feast of Blood, appeared in a series of "penny dreadful" pamphlets. It proved very popular. As the authors were being paid by the line, it eventually ran to 232 chapters. To pad it out, Varney travels all over Europe until its climax in Naples, where the vampire commits suicide by jumping into Mount Vesuvius after repenting his evil ways. Varney is another aristocratic Vampire - Sir Thomas Varney - who became a Vampire after siding with Oliver Cromwell and later murdering his son. This is the first popular Vampire story to have the creature described as having sharp fangs.
You can see where all this is taking us. Come 1897 Dubliner Bram Stoker is publishing his novel Dracula. He has obviously read Polidori's story and, since he worked in the theatre, was probably aware of Varney, as it had been adapted for the stage many times.
Stoker managed the Lyceum Theatre and knew noted thespian Sir Henry Irving well. Irving is supposed to be the inspiration for the look of Count Dracula, and it is believed the Count was always destined for Irving to play in a stage adaptation. Some of the story is set in Whitby, on the North East coast of England. The town is noted for its ruined Gothic abbey overlooking the harbour. Stoker spent his holidays there often. He wrote the book as a response to a particular brand of novel which was popular in England at the time - the "alien invasion" genre. That's alien as in foreigners. There was a xenophobic feeling at the time that the Empire would be undermined by the many foreigners settling to London. Because of the use of allegory, so many people these days don't realise that they are actually reading stories arising out of racism.
During his researches for the book, Stoker came across accounts of Vlad Tepes, AKA Vlad III Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, as he is more popularly known. He was a Transylvanian nobleman who helped defend his country from the Ottoman Turks, and is regarded as a hero in his native land - though one who had some imaginative means of disposing of his enemies. Impaling people on huge wooden stakes was his favourite, but on one occasion he had the turbans of some Turkish envoys nailed to their heads when they naturally refused to remove them in his presence. Dracula can mean either devil or dragon. Vlad provided a useful real life historical character from Eastern Europe to act as background to Stoker's fictional Count.

In 1922 German director FW Murnau adapted Dracula for the cinema as Nosferatu. The name comes from Romanian word nesuferitu, which means "the insufferable one" - i.e. the Devil. The problem was that the story was patently based on Dracula, but Murnau had not secured the rights from Stoker's widow. He lost a court case and all copies of the film were recalled to be destroyed. Luckily not all were burned, and we can still enjoy what is undoubtedly one of the scariest horror films ever made today.
Some time later we had a stage adaptation of the novel, which ran in London and on Broadway. Quick question: which actor has played Count Dracula more than any other? It's not Lugosi or Christopher Lee but English actor Raymond Huntley. He played the Count in hundreds of performances of the play, in England and in the USA. Bela Lugosi did take on the role in New York later, and when he found out that Carl Laemmle Jnr was going to film the story for Universal Studios, he begged for the part. It had been destined for Lon Chaney, but the Man of  Thousand Faces died as the film was being prepared. Lugosi was initially rejected for the part, but won it in the end. It became his signature role, but also doomed him to typecasting and eventual poverty and drug addiction - and Ed Wood Jnr.
Universal rather squandered the character, apart from the underrated Son of Dracula, preferring to concentrate on the Frankenstein Monster and Larry Talbot's Wolfman (the only Universal monster to be played by the same actor throughout the cycle of films - Lon Chaney Jnr).
The Count had to wait until 1958 for his triumphant return from the grave, this time in full-blooded colour and with Christopher Lee donning the cape for Hammer Studios.

We've already said something about the genesis of this story, back when we looked at the inspiration behind Horror of Fang Rock. To recap, Terrance Dicks contributed a Vampire-themed story for Season 15, the first to be produced by Graham Williams. He had seen Philip Hinchcliffe and Robert Holmes mine the horror genre for stories, including his own Frankenstein-inspired The Brain of Morbius. However, the BBC were about to embark on a lavish adaptation of Dracula, starring Hollywood actor Louis Jourdan as the Count, and Frank Finlay as Van Helsing. This was to be a faithful adaptation of the novel - indeed it remains the most faithful screen version to date - and would be broadcast over three consecutive nights in the run up to Christmas, 1977. The BBC upper echelons decided that a Vampire themed Doctor Who story might be construed as taking the mickey out of such a prestigious production, so Williams was told to pull Dicks' scripts. he quickly came up with Horror of Fang Rock instead, and there is a nod to the abandoned story by having a character named Stoker in the replacement. Fast forward three years and Christopher H Bidmead has found a dearth of scripts on taking up his new Script Editor post. He finds some old submissions, and Dicks' story is the only one salvageable in the time available. He doesn't like it, but JNT tells him to proceed with getting it ready. Dicks made the necessary changes to fit it to the new season - changing Romana for Leela, adding Adric, and setting it in E-Space. Dicks includes many of the themes you expect from screen Vampires. We have the aristocratic blood-drinkers - a King, a Queen and their Chancellor - who bleed the peasantry dry in more ways than one. They exhibit fangs when attacking their prey. Their castle doesn't have any windows but Aukon is seen to visit the village in daylight - so one aspect of the mythos is unused - that Vampires are destroyed by sunlight. At one point Romana cuts her finger on a broken glass, and the Queen - Camilla - goes to suck the wound. This is a direct lift from Dracula, where Jonathon Harker cuts his finger and the Count claims sucking the wound is a more hygienic way of treating it. Camilla gets her name from Carmilla, the 1872 novella by Irish writer J Sheridan Le Fanu. This is another of the works on the road to Dracula, introducing the female of the species in the form of the undead Mircalla Karnstein. The Karnsteins got their own trilogy of films from Hammer - The Vampire Lovers, Lust For A Vampire and The Twins of Evil. The Great Vampire is despatched by a stake through the heart, in the form of a scout ship with a sharp nose cone. Once dead, the Three Who Rule crumble to dust, as all long-lived Vampires are wont to do when they perish.

The director chosen for the story was Peter Moffatt, who had known producer JNT from other productions such as All Creatures Great and Small. Moffatt was initially reluctant to do a Doctor Who but the friendship with JNT won him over. He was sent the script and loved the Gothic horror trappings. Bidmead, meanwhile, set about changing the look and feel of the story to better match his vision of the series. When Moffatt received the updated scripts he was horrified. All the Gothic imagery had been stripped out, replaced with high tech science. He contacted JNT and said he wasn't going to do it any more, as he didn't like the changes. JNT ordered Bidmead to put back everything he had taken out and return it to the version Moffatt had originally agreed to.
As we said last time, this was Matthew Waterhouse's first story in production order. He arrived during a period of hostility between Tom Baker and Lalla Ward. Baker simply ignored him, whilst Ward gave him a telling off when he insisted on wearing his costume to lunch against the wishes of the costume department - an unprofessional thing to do, which cemented his lack of experience in her view.
Moffatt was proved right in insisting on the original Dicks treatment of his story. In the DWM 50th Anniversary poll State of Decay was the highest ranking of the three E-Space stories, sitting in the top half of the poll overall.
Next time: a lesson in French New Wave Cinema, as we take in the works of Alain Renais and Jean Cocteau whilst bidding adieu to Romana and K9...

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Story 210 - The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood

In which the TARDIS arrives by mistake in the small Welsh village of Cwmtaff, in the year 2020. The Doctor had intended on taking Amy and Rory to Florida. The ship has materialised in the graveyard of an abandoned church. The Doctor notices strange patches of blue grass, and they see a huge drilling project in the valley below. They also see two figures watching them from a nearby hillside, and the Doctor identifies them as his current companions from their future - revisiting the scene of an earlier trip. Rory insists that Amy leave her engagement ring in the TARDIS in case she loses it. Whilst he is in the ship, Amy and the Doctor make for the drilling rig. About to join them, Rory is confronted by a young boy named Elliot and his mother, Ambrose. They think he has been sent by the police, as they had earlier reported bodies going missing from this graveyard. The surface of the graves is undisturbed, so the bodies could only have been moved from underneath. The Doctor and Amy arrive at the drilling project and meet team leaders Tony Mack and Dr Nasreen Chaudhry. They have just drilled deeper into the Earth than any previous project - attracted to this area by the blue grass. Tony and his family are the only residents of Cwmtaff now. Ambrose is his daughter, and Elliot his grandson. Ambrose's husband, Mo, also works for the project but seems to have disappeared since covering the night shift. The Doctor tells Tony and Nasreen that the blue grass was a warning, rather than an invitation. He detects underground tremors which are not coming from the drill. When it is turned off, they can still hear drilling, and scans reveal a network of tunnels beneath the site. Something is burrowing up towards them from deep beneath the surface...

Holes suddenly start to appear across the drill site, and Amy gets sucked into one of them. The Doctor, Nasreen and Tony rush outside and meet Rory, Ambrose and Elliot. They see an energy barrier cover the village like a dome. The Doctor breaks the news to Rory that Amy has been taken. They rapidly set up cameras around the village then take refuge in the church. The energy barrier becomes opaque, plunging Cwmtaff into darkness. Elliot has gone outside to find his earphones, and he is abducted by a lizard-like creature in the graveyard. Tony is attacked by another when they go out to find the boy - hit on the chest by its long tongue. The Doctor manages to capture one of the creatures as the others retreat. The barrier clears again. The Doctor has guessed the identity of their attackers, and his suspicions are confirmed when he speaks to the captive as it is is held in the church cellar. It is a Silurian, or Homo Reptilia - a female named Alaya. She claims that her settlement deep beneath the village has been attacked, their air pocket threatened. She refuses to believe that the drilling was not deliberate. Her race will retaliate, wiping out the humans who have taken over their planet. The Doctor decides that he must descend to their settlement to negotiate with them and gain Amy's release. He will use the TARDIS. Nasreen insists on going with him. Alaya will be left in the safekeeping of Rory, Tony and Ambrose. She will be exchanged for Amy if the Doctor is successful.
When the Doctor and Nasreen reach their destination they discover that it is no small settlement, but a vast Silurian city...

Amy, meanwhile, is being held in a laboratory presided over by a Silurian biologist named Malokeh. She meets Mo, who has been experimented upon. Amy manages to steal the scientists control device when he is called away by the alarm which has been triggered by the TARDIS arrival. She and Mo escape and find Elliot in suspended animation. They then find a huge chamber full of thousands of Silurian warriors, all still in hibernation. Only a small group has been revived to investigate the threat from the drilling. The Doctor and Nasreen are captured by Restac, leader of the Silurian armed forces. She is identical to Alaya, coming from the same genetic group. They are taken to Molokeh's laboratory. Back in the church Tony offers to free Alaya if she will tell him how to cure the poison that her tongue has infected him with. She refuses to help. When Ambrose finds out that her father is sick she becomes desperate. The Silurians have her son and husband, and now her father is dying because of them. She goes to see Alaya armed with a taser, determined to force their captive to help them. However, the electric shock proves fatal to the Silurian. In the Silurian city, Malokeh disagrees with Restac's plan to execute the humans. He goes off and fetches their leader Eldane, who dismisses Restac and agrees to listen to what the Doctor has to say. He insists that Nasreen and Amy, as representatives of the human race, begin negotiations for the Silurians to return to the surface. As talks progress, the Doctor then sends transport up to the surface so that Alaya can be returned to her people. Rory and the others don't tell him of her death. Restac ambushes Malokeh in a nearby tunnel and kills him for interfering with her plans.

When they arrive in the city's council chamber, Restac learns of her sister's death. She orders her troops to kill all the humans. Eldane is forced to flee with them and they take refuge in the laboratory. The Doctor and the Silurian leader agree that the time is not right for their reanimation. Perhaps in another thousand years. Eldane sets off the automated fumigation procedures, which will flood the city with toxic gasses. This will force Restac and her troops to go back into hibernation. The soldiers respond, but their commander refuses to heed the alarms. There is technology in the laboratory which can cure Tony and Eldane agrees he can stay behind in hibernation with them. Nasreen elects to stay with him, partly due to her scientific curiosity, and partly because she and Tony have fallen in love. The Doctor takes everyone else to the TARDIS. Once Ambrose, Mo and Elliot are on board, the Doctor and Amy see the mysterious crack which has been dogging their travels. The Doctor decides to investigate and reaches inside, pulling out an object he finds there. A dying Restac crawls in and shoots at the Doctor, but Rory intervenes and is shot instead - killing him. Light from the crack extends to envelope his body as the Doctor pulls Amy into the ship. He tries to make her remember her fiance, but as he vanishes so she forgets he ever existed.
Back on the surface, the Doctor tasks Elliot with helping to prepare for the eventual return of the Silurians. Amy notices someone watching from a nearby hillside - but it is only her own future self this time. The Doctor takes a look at the object he pulled from the crack, and discovers that it is a charred piece of the TARDIS Police Box shell...

The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 22nd and 29th May 2010. It marked the return of the Silurians after a 26 year absence, having last been seen in the Peter Davison story Warriors of the Deep. They and their marine cousins - the Sea Devils - had first appeared during the Jon Pertwee era, and Chibnall borrowed other elements from this period for this story. A drilling project had been the location for the 1970 story Inferno, whilst the idea of a village being cut off by an energy barrier had featured in 1971's The Daemons. The basic idea of the Doctor trying to negotiate peaceful coexistence between the human race and Homo Reptilia, but failing to do so due to belligerence on both sides, had been seen in both The Silurians and The Sea Devils. Something nasty coming up from under the ground around a small Welsh mining village could also be a description of The Green Death.
The setting of this story to 2020 makes little sense, unless it is a nod to the "near future" setting of the UNIT stories. It would seem to have been set in the near future purely so that Amy could see her future self on the hillside - first with Rory and later by herself, after Rory has been deleted from history by the crack. Quite why Amy and Rory, or Amy on her own, would go to the back of beyond just to see themselves from afar for a few minutes is never explained. We can assume it is just a very clumsy bit of plotting.

The new version of the Silurians look quite good when they are seen wearing their masks, but the idea of redesigning their faces is a bad one. The originals were very well designed, and it was intended that the new ones would look similar. However, it was decided to make them more human looking, which sadly renders them unremarkable, like dozens of alien-of-the-week creatures which show up in Star Trek and other Sci-Fi franchises. The biggest mistake is the scrapping of the third eye, on the preposterous grounds that Davros had an eye in his forehead and kids might confuse them. Half way through his first season in charge, and Steven Moffat has basically managed to screw up two classic monsters with inferior redesigns.
As only three people seem to work at the drilling project, and two of the Silurians are played by the same actress, the guest cast is relatively small for a two part story. Only one new actor is introduced for the second half, and that's Stephen Moore as Eldane. For Sci-Fi fans he will be forever remembered as the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in the BBC TV and radio versions of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
The other Silurian performers are Neve McIntosh as Restac / Alaya, and Richard Hope as Malokeh. Both will return multiple times in later series as other Silurians.
On the human front, the main guest artist is Meera Syall as Nasreen. Joining her as Tony Mack is Robert Pugh, who is rarely off our screens. As a Welsh actor it was inevitable that he would appear in Doctor Who, though it was Torchwood which got him first - appearing only briefly and under make-up in the second series episode Adrift. Tony's family are played by Nia Roberts (Ambrose), Alun Raglan (Mo) and Samuel Davies (Elliot).

As well as the return of the Silurians, this story should have been notable for one other major development - the death of Rory Williams. Unfortunately the impact of this was severely diminished by having had him apparently killed just two weeks before, and fans knew that Arthur Darvill was going to be appearing in later episodes. Casual viewers and younger fans may have been upset, but the rest of us went relatively unmoved.
When it comes to the story arc, the crack appears in the Silurian city and removes Rory from time after his death. The Doctor also gets a clue as to what is causing it, when he pulls a fragment of TARDIS from it. Even though Rory has gone, Amy's engagement ring is still in the TARDIS.
The potential is also laid for future stories set 1000 years hence to feature Silurians and humans coexisting on Earth. To date, no-one has attempted this - even though this story's writer now runs the show.

Overall, a rather weak story for a two-parter. The exact same themes had already been done better in the 1970's. As you will have read, I'm not impressed with the new Silurians at all, and Rory's demise lacks the impact it ought to have had.
Things you might like to know:

  • This is what they originally intended to do with the Silurians. So much better than what they gave us.
  • The Doctor addresses the naming controversy by mentioning the word 'Silurians' just the once, and also referring to the fact that they were also called - just as mistakenly - 'Eocenes'. The Third Doctor said they ought to be called the latter when their creator Malcolm Hulke came to write The Sea Devils. Here, the Eleventh Doctor prefers 'Homo Reptilia'. However, all the publicity material ever since has called them Silurians. 
  • Hulke had actually used the name Homo Reptilia himself, but only in his novelisation of their first appearance - Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters.
  • Malcolm Hulke did not receive a "created by..." credit, whereas Robert Holmes, Terry Nation, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis all had this for the reuse of their creations in earlier stories.
  • The council chamber location is our old friend the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, which has featured in just about every series so far.
  • Eldanes' opening narration to Cold Blood wasn't in the original script. It was added much later at the editing stage. It states that the Silurians and Humans do eventually live together.
  • The Hungry Earth had a working title of "The Ground Beneath Their Feet".
  • The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to disarm the Silurian weapons. He had never used it against guns before - and hasn't used it in the same way again since. If it can do this then why not do it all the time? More shoddy plotting is probably the answer.
  • Even worse is the sequence when the cameras get put up around the village - despite the Doctor saying the Silurians would arrive in 12 minutes. That was before they had even left the drilling project for the village proper. And then they don't even use them.
  • Whilst it was Restac who fired the shot, the blame for Rory's death really ought to lie with the Doctor. If he hadn't stopped to investigate the crack the TARDIS would have been long gone before she got to the cavern.
  • Last, but by no means least, why haven't Tony, Nasreen and all the other drilling crew been transformed into Primords? Inferno showed quite clearly that drilling too deep into the Earth released volcanic forces which could never be contained and would eventually destroy the planet. There should also be loads of mutagenic green slime coming up the bore hole. I raised this same point when looking at The Runaway Bride, where the Racnoss Queen has drilled to the very core of the planet.

Monday 19 August 2019

What's Wrong With... The Aztecs

Writer John Lucarotti was a widely travelled man. After leaving Canada he settled in Mexico for a time. There he became interested in the history and culture of the Aztecs. On being asked to come up with a second story for Doctor Who he selected this as the backdrop - so it has fairly sound research behind it. The designer, Barry Newbery, was also able to do some research, there having been a recent exhibition of Aztec artefacts at the British Museum and a TV documentary. The costumes were also looked into, but the practicalities of teatime TV in 1964 meant that the Aztecs we see on screen are rather overdressed.
They would have worn a lot less, the men in loincloths for instance. On leaving the TARDIS Susan comments on the pictures adorning the walls of the tomb they have landed in - and this is why we know what the Aztecs looked like. They left images of themselves behind.
The date usually selected for The Aztecs is around 1450. The Aztec Empire came into being in 1427 when three city states formed an alliance. We don't know which city the TARDIS has arrived in. It certainly can't be the capital, Tenochtitlan, as that was where the ruler lived, and there is no mention of him in this story. In fact there is no mention of any ruler. Each city state would have its ruling dynasty. You would think that the sudden appearance of the reincarnation of a High Priest would have led to a visit by the city's elite. In The Aztecs, the city appears to be run between the High Priest of Sacrifice - Tlotoxl - and the High Priest of Knowledge - Autloc. Though important figures, they would not be running the place between them.
Barbara has picked up a serpent-shaped armlet from the tomb, and it is on seeing this that Autloc declares her to be the reincarnation of Yetaxa. Yetaxa died around 1430, so the elderly Autloc would undoubtedly have known him. It seems odd then that when Tlotoxl starts to challenge her, Autloc doesn't simply ask questions which only Yetaxa would have known - personal stuff like who his parents were or what his favourite colour was. Instead they test her knowledge of their religion and customs - things which most ordinary Aztec citizens could probably answer.
Yetaxa was a High Priest, but later Barbara is spoken of as if she is the reincarnation of a god.
As part of the tests to prove her divinity Barbara gets to name the easier-to-pronounce deities, like Tlaloc. Jacqueline Hill isn't forced to say Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, for instance. It also seems a bit of a coincidence that Tlotoxl, High Priest of Sacrifice, has a name which is almost an anagram of the death deity Xolotl. Did his parents expect him to end up where he did?
Everyone seems to pronounce his name differently.
Talking of coincidence, Ian just happens to make an enemy of the son of the tomb-builder, whilst the Doctor makes a friend of the lady who was possibly his lover. The way she talks of him seems to suggest this.
Whilst cocoa was drunk as part of Aztec wedding ceremonies, when beans were exchanged, it did not constitute a marriage proposal - otherwise people would be proposing to each other all the time.
One other thing about the plot is the fact that whilst the TARDIS can translate language, it can't change people's appearances. The Aztecs must surely notice the pale skin tones of the new arrivals -especially when they had a prophesy about a white man with a black beard coming to visit them. All Ian had to do to overcome Ixta was to have grown some stubble.
On two occasions the camera collides with a piece of scenery, most noticeably at the end of the first episode just before Tlotoxl's big close up. He almost knocks the sacrificial stone out of position when he falls against it.
William Hartnell misses his mark and spends most of one scene with his face obscured by Barbara's feathered headdress.
Everyone struggles to make the stone which covers the secret entrance to the temple look heavier than polystyrene.
There was a problem for Newbery when the production was moved from Lime Grove to the larger studios of the BBC's new Television Centre. Some of the Garden of Peace set went missing. Luckily, some pieces of set had been built for the filmed sequences of Susan in the seminary (pre-filming at Ealing, to allow Carole Ann Ford to have a holiday during the making of this story). Newbery got hold of these set pieces and improvised. The cyclorama of the Aztec cityscape  proved to be too small for the larger studio, and at one point you can see the edge. Modern video remastering techniques have also shown up the creases in the cloth, though it's unlikely anyone watching on old 405-line TVs would have noticed.
Fluffs this time aren't confined to Hartnell, though he does get one good one:
"Susan my child, I'm glad... I'll tell you how glad I am to see you later".
Keith Pyott (Autloc) has real trouble pronouncing 'seminary' - saying "semininery" at one point.
Ian Cullen (Ixta) only just gets his line about surviving 7 other warriors out.
John Ringham (Tlotoxl) delivers: "Let there be no more talk against us that the gods are against us".
Not necessarily a bad thing, but Ringham plays him exactly like Laurence Olivier's Richard III.
And finally, the actor playing the Perfect Victim (Andre Boulay) can't act for toffee. Sure enough, his entry on IMDb states that he was active between 1962 and 1964 only, with a total of 6 credits to his name.

Thursday 15 August 2019

Inspirations - Full Circle

The first Doctor Who story to be written by someone who had actually sat down and watched it on TV was The Sensorites, by Peter R Newman. The stories prior to this one had been commissioned, and the writing begun, by people who had yet to see the first episode air - or by people who were already part of the production team. Assuming he had liked what he had seen, you could argue that Newman's story is the very first one written by a fan. However, Full Circle is the first story to have been written by someone who was a fully paid up member of organised fandom (which in those days meant the DWAS - Doctor Who Appreciation Society). Teenager Andrew Smith had been writing sketches for comedy shows in his native Scotland and had also contributed a story idea to the Doctor Who office. Script editor Anthony Read had given him very positive feedback and lots of ideas for developing his talent further without actually commissioning him, and Douglas Adams also took a serious look at his contribution. When Christopher H Bidmead took over the role, and discovered that the script cupboard was bare, he looked at some of the material that had been submitted before he arrived, and Smith's storyline caught his attention. At the time it was called 'The Planet That Slept', and it dealt with complex evolutionary processes on an alien planet. There were modern humanoids and seemingly different primitive people, and the twist would be that one race were the descendants of the other.
Smith was invited to London to discuss his story with Bidmead in person, and it was only then that the script editor realised how young he was - which only made him more impressed with the contribution. Smith hadn't yet turned 18.

Whilst the scripts for Season 18 were being developed, John Nathan-Turner had decided that he wanted a new companion. Lalla Ward had already agreed to leave the show before the end of the season - generally unhappy with the changes which JNT was making anyway. There was also the complication of her tempestuous relationship with her leading man. There would be days when they didn't talk to each other in studio other than to deliver their lines, and you will spot occasions when Tom Baker avoids eye contact with Ward. JNT's new companion would be another male one, envisaged as a sort of outer space Artful Dodger. He is, of course, the streetwise pickpocket from Dickens' Oliver Twist. It was Bidmead who came up with the name Adric - an anagram of Dirac. Paul Dirac (1902 - 1984) was a renowned theoretical physicist.
JNT, Bidmead and Barry Letts together cast Matthew Waterhouse in the role. He was working for the BBC in a junior admin role at the time and had only very limited acting experience. He had just featured in To Serve Them All My Days, the BBC's adaptation of the 1972 R F Delderfield novel about an English public school at the time of the First World War. This lack of experience would have consequences later. The way that the season was organised meant that Waterhouse actually filmed his second appearance first - State of Decay. His hair hadn't grown back since getting it cut short for the Delderfield drama, so he had to wear a wig for his first outing as Adric.
Like Andrew Smith, Waterhouse was a teenager, and also a Doctor Who fan. JNT had initially been very happy to engage with the DWAS but was starting to become wary of them, and he quizzed Waterhouse about the extent of his fandom - concerned he would act as a mole within the production team.

Last week we mentioned the conflict between science and religion in relation to the Savants and Deons in Meglos, giving the opposing views on Creationism and geophysical science as an example. The plot of Full Circle revolves entirely around evolutionary processes. On the planet Alzarius sits a huge Starliner spaceship, which crashed here some decades before. The crew came from another plant named Terradon (as in Earth-like) and look just like human beings. They are governed by a trio of elders known as the Deciders. Everyone is tasked with preparing the ship for its return to Terradon. Every 50 years or so the planet's orbit results in a period known as Mistfall, when toxic gases rise from the swamps, and at this time everybody takes refuge within the Starliner. They stay locked up inside until after Mistfall passes.
In the closing moments of Meglos, Romana had received a message from the Time Lords summoning her back to Gallifrey. She was supposed to have gone back home after the Key to Time affair. The Time Lords never actually sent her on that mission, so the White Guardian must have squared it with them later. The TARDIS is on its way home when it passes through a CVE - a spatial distortion of some sort - and ends up in a pocket universe which gets dubbed Exo-Space, or E-Space. The TARDIS lands at Gallifrey's co-ordinates, but they have really arrived on Alzarius, as it has the same co-ordinates as the Time Lord homeworld but in the negative.
It was Bidmead who proposed a story arc for Season 18. JNT was resistant, as he had seen the limitations this format had imposed on the making of Season 16. You couldn't easily swap the running order of stories, for instance. He was eventually talked round but agreed to a small arc only, of just three stories.

Mistfall is a comin' in, and the Doctor and K9 witness amphibious bipedal creatures emerge from the swamps. Smith had envisaged the Marshmen as being basically humanoid, like Neanderthals, and was surprised to see that the designers had made them look more monstrous. He spotted straight away the inspiration for them - Creature from the Black Lagoon.
The Creature was the final monster to join the pantheon of Universal Studios' horror creations. The film was released in 1954, long after the classic Universal monsters had all met their final match against Abbot & Costello. It made use of the 3-D gimmick to reasonable effect. A fossilised claw is dug up beside the Black Lagoon, somewhere in Amazonia, and a scientific party sets off to find more remains - only to discover that one of the creatures is far from extinct. The film spawned two sequels, with diminishing returns, but the original is great. It was the inspiration for the Oscar winning Shape of Water, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

As well as the Terradonians and the Marshmen, there is also a species of giant spider on the planet. The Doctor examines tissue samples of each over the course of the story and makes a startling discovery. They are all genetically the same. The Starliner hasn't been here for a few generations, it's been here for thousands of years. The original crew were killed by Marshmen, and the current lot are actually the evolved descendants of those original Marshmen. The spiders form part of the evolutionary process via a toxic bite.
The Doctor has also noticed that the Starliner people have been replacing perfectly good parts on their ship in their preparations for the great Embarkation back to what they think is their home. He discovers that the Deciders have been keeping the truth from their people. The ship could take off any time, but they have lost the first page of the instruction manual and don't know how to lift off. The Deciders are Procrastinators.
Adric has only his older brother Varsh for family, and he gets killed by the Marshmen. Earlier, Adric had mentioned a premonition that when the Starliner left he would not be on it, nor would he still be on Alzarius. he decides to stow away on the TARDIS once the Starliner has finally departed. The Doctor, Romana and K9 set off to find a way back into their own universe.
This story's effort to incapacitate K9 is by having its head knocked off by a Marshman. Oddly, it is active when needed to run around on location, but is unused when it comes to the studio where it operates better.
Smith submitted other ideas to the show, including a Sontaran story, but never wrote for the show again, despite Full Circle getting very good reviews. He went on to join the police force in London, but has recently returned to writing full time. He has had stories produced on audio for Big Finish, including that unmade Sontaran story.
Next time: fangs ain't quite what they used to be for Terrance Dicks' aborted Season 15 vampire story, which was derailed by Count Dracula himself...

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Story 209 - Amy's Choice

In which the Doctor goes to Upper Leadworth to visit Amy and Rory some five years after they have left the TARDIS. Rory is now the village GP, whilst Amy is heavily pregnant with their first child. The Doctor finds life in a small village boring, but the couple seem content enough. They sit on a bench and listen to the birds singing, commenting how there was never much time to relax like this back in their TARDIS travelling days. All three suddenly fall asleep at the same moment.
The Doctor wakes in the TARDIS and tells his companions that he has just had a nightmare which involved them. He then learns that they have both just woken up after having experienced the same dream of their future life in Upper Leadworth. The Doctor suspects some kind of shared hallucination but they then hear bird song and fall asleep - waking up on the bench in the village. Are they in the TARDIS dreaming of the village, or are they in the village dreaming of the TARDIS?
As they try to work out which is reality and which is dream, they hear the bird song once more and wake to find themselves back in the TARDIS. The ship then suffers a serious power loss. They fall asleep again and find themselves once more in the village, and this time the Doctor becomes suspicious about the residents of an old peoples' home which Rory often visits. He detects that there is something not quite right about them. On next waking in the TARDIS, they are confronted by a strange man who is dressed in an outfit similar to the Doctor's. He is extremely rude to them all, and seems to know a lot about them.

He claims that he can control dreams, and so dubs himself the Dream Lord. He sets a challenge. They must decide which is the dream and which is reality between what is going on in the TARDIS, and what is going on in Upper Leadworth. They will face a danger in each. Back in the old peoples' home, all the residents have vanished. The Dream Lord appears, now in a suit and acting like a doctor. They go outside and stop at a playground next to the old ruined castle, where they see a school party. The Doctor also observes one of the old folks - Mrs Poggit - enter the castle grounds.
On waking next in the TARDIS they discover that the temperature is falling rapidly. Without power, the Doctor rigs up a mechanical means to operate the scanner, and they see that they are drifting towards a cold star. They will freeze to death long before they crash into it. Back in the village, they discover that all the school children have vanished. In their place are mounds of dust. The Doctor challenges Mrs Poggit - or rather the alien entity inhabiting her body which the Doctor believes is giving her prolonged life, like all the other residents of the home. An eye stalk emerges from her mouth. The Doctor recognises the species as Eknodine. Through Mrs Poggit it explains that its world has been destroyed, and so they will take this planet. A passing postman is reduced to dust by the Eknodine, which can emit a disintegrating gas. The Dream Lord reappears, this time in the guise of a rich land owner. All the other old people begin to converge on the castle.

Amy and Rory escape back to their cottage home, but the Doctor becomes separated, and takes refuge in the village butchers. The Dream Lord is here, posing as the butcher. About to fall asleep once more, leaving him open to attack by the Eknodine, the Doctor manages to get into the freezer.
In the TARDIS Amy uses some blankets to make ponchos for them all as the temperature falls below freezing. The trio debate which is the dream and which the reality. Rory favours the village, though the Doctor suspects this may be more about what he wants to be real. The Dream Lord reappears on the ship and this time he states that Amy will be the one to make the choice. The Doctor and Rory fall asleep and return to the village, but he keeps Amy with him. He changes into a dressing gown, with gold medallion, in a vain hope of seducing her. In the cottage, Rory is awake but Amy remains asleep, so he drags her up to the room which will be the nursery as the old people begin to lay siege. The Doctor escapes from the butcher shop and commandeers a van to drive to the cottage to rejoin them. The Dream Lord appears in the vehicle dressed as a racing driver, but this time the Doctor tells him that he now knows who he is. Amy wakes up in the cottage. One of the old people break through the window and Rory is hit by the Eknodine gas. He dies, crumbling to dust in front of Amy. She is heartbroken, and decides that the village is the dream, as she can't live without Rory. She and the Doctor take to the van, which they deliberately ram into the cottage.
All three wake to find themselves in the TARDIS, whose power returns. The Dream Lord tells them that Amy made the right choice, and admits defeat. He vanishes. The Doctor, however, sets the ship to self-destruct. They wake again in the ship, and the Doctor explains that their recent visitor only had power over dreams - not reality - and so both scenarios must have been false.
He tells them that the Dream Lord was himself - the only person who knew and hated him that much. He had been generated by a speck of psychic pollen which they had picked up on a recent journey, and had been a manifestation of the Doctor's own psyche all along.

Amy's Choice was written by Simon Nye, and was first broadcast on 15th May, 2010. Nye is best known for scripting the BBC sitcom Men Behaving Badly.
Technically, this is the first story since 1964's The Edge of Destruction to be set entirely within the confines of the TARDIS, because all the scenes we see in and around Upper Leadworth are from a dream, and the TARDIS trio never actually leave the ship.
The episode was designed to showcase Karen Gillan's Amy Pond, and her relationship with Rory and the Doctor. Up to now, it has looked as if she regretted agreeing to marry Rory, preferring to run away and have adventures with the Doctor, but when confronted by her husband's apparent demise in the village dream, she realises that he is the one who she wants to spend her life with. The title of the story refers both to her choice between the two dream worlds, and her choice of who it is she really loves. One influences the other.
The dream worlds make for an interesting set-up for a story but as viewers who knew something of the episodes still to be broadcast in Series 5, we never accept the Upper Leadworth sequences to be real. What might have fooled some viewers was that the cold sun sections weren't real either.

The Dream Lord, played by Toby Jones, kept fans guessing as to what his true identity might be. A darker version of the Doctor caused many to think that he might be the Valeyard - the amalgamation of the dark sides of all the Doctor's incarnations who had appeared in Trial of a Time Lord. Like the aforementioned The Edge of Destruction, the answer to the mystery besetting the TARDIS crew proves to be far more prosaic. Jones is the son of noted British actor Freddie Jones. He first came to fame playing writer Truman Capote in the 2006 film Infamous, though many know him best as the voice of Dobby the House Elf in two of the Harry Potter movies. He was in the first two Captain America films (as Hydra scientist Arnim Zola), and won awards for his performance in the cult Giallo-esque horror movie Berberian Sound Studio. Another role of note was as the odious Culverton Smith in Sherlock episode 'The Lying Detective'.
As half the action takes place within the confines of the TARDIS, the story has only a small additional cast list. Mrs Poggit is played by Audrey Ardington. She previously appeared as the Abbess / Gorgon in Eye of the Gorgon, one of The Sarah Jane Adventures.
Another of the old people is Mr Naimby. He is played by Nick Hobbs, who was a regular stunt performer throughout the Jon Pertwee / Tom Baker era of Doctor Who. He is best known for playing Aggedor in The Curse of Peladon and its sequel, The Monster of Peladon. he also played one of the Wirrn in Ark in Space. One role where he wasn't hidden in a monster costume was as the UNIT lorry driver who is hypnotised by the Master in The Claws of Axos. He was still stunting as of 2019, appearing in 'The Bells' - the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones Series 8. You'll also spot him as one of the scientists on the planet Eadu in Rogue One, kind of giving the game away that they are all about to get shot down by Imperial Stormtroopers. (As soon as you see a familiar stunt performer in a film or TV show you just know that something bad is about to happen to them).

"If we're going to die, let's die looking like a Peruvian folk band".
No story arc plot points this week, for a change.
Overall, an interesting little episode, with a great performance from Toby Jones. Pity we never got to see a return for the Dream Lord. Presumably if they ever did bring back the character they would have to be a darker version of whoever the current Doctor was.
Things you might like to know:
  • Amy becomes only the second companion to get her name into a story title - the previous person being Rose. To date River Song is the only other companion character to appear in a title (in her case twice).
  • The Doctor mentions that he no longer has the TARDIS manual, having thrown it into a supernova because he disagreed with it. Two stories ago River Song told him off for not operating the ship properly, ignoring the blue stabilisers and leaving the brakes on during materialisation / dematerialisation. Previously, the manual had been seen to prop up the hat stand, and to be said to be propping open a vent. We've also seen the Doctor tear pages out of it when he disagreed with its instructions.
  • We don't know if the Eknodine actually exist, as they have only ever been seen within the context of a dream.
  • There is a reference to The Space Museum, as the Doctor includes jumping a time track as one of the potential reasons for them having had a shared dream.
  • Fans took note of the name of the old folks' home - Sarn. This was the name of the volcanic world in Planet of Fire.
  • The box beneath the console from which the Doctor removes the items needed to build the gizmo to operate the scanner has a plaque on it. This states: "TARDIS. Time And Relative Dimension In Space. Build site: Gallifrey Blackhole shipyard. Type 40. Build date: 1963. Authorised for use by qualified Time Lords only by the Shadow Proclamation. Misuse or theft of any TARDIS will result in extreme penalties and permanent exile". Obviously this was never meant to be seen on screen, unless you paused a recording of the episode - or took a look at the BBC Doctor Who website where there was a tour of the new ship's interior. Note that 'Dimension' is singular, as it was when Susan first named it in An Unearthly Child. It only became plural in 1965 when Vicki named it for Steven. The build date obviously refers to the year the programme started, and can't be a Gallifreyan year. The plaque also seems to imply that the Time Lords needed permission to operate TARDISes from the Shadow Proclamation, so must have been subject to them in some way. The prologue to the novelisation of Spearhead From Space - Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion - is the only place where the theft of the TARDIS is specifically mentioned as one of the reasons for the Doctor's trial and subsequent exile to Earth by the Time Lord tribunal. In The War Games, the theft of the TARDIS is never mentioned when it comes to the charges laid against him.