Wednesday, 30 October 2019
Will we be getting Series 13 & 14? Of course we will.
It was announced today that HBO have picked up all the series of Doctor Who since 2005, but the thing that is getting people excited is that they say they will also be getting three series yet to come - i.e. the forthcoming Series 12 plus two others.
Personally I don't see what the fuss is about, as Doctor Who celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2023.
We know for a fact that we are going to be getting a series in 2020, and I find it inconceivable that the BBC would pull the show so close to that landmark event. If they were going to do it, then Series 12 would have to be the end, as going into 2021 - just 2 years shy of the anniversary - would be a terrible mistake.
A word of caution about the HBO announcement, though. All we got was a couple of lines in a statement - not the full contents of the contract. The exact wording might only specify that they have an option on Series 13 and 14, if they are made. It remains a very unusual practice for the BBC to commit so far ahead, being a publicly subsidised organisation which has to invest in programmes which people are likely to watch. If Series 12 were to bomb, they wouldn't necessarily commit to any more Doctor Who.
Something else which the HBO statement doesn't state is when the possible Series 13 and 14 might be delivered. For all we know Chibnall and the BBC have agreed a two yearly release schedule for the programme - so Series 13 might not be broadcast until 2022, with only an anniversary special in 2023, and Series 14 following in 2024. Alternatively, Series 14 might be split with half, with the first part in 2023 and the remainder in 2024 - after all, we only got half a season in the 50th Anniversary year. I'd be surprised if the BBC did celebrate the 60th anniversary by then taking the show off the air, so it must surely continue into 2024.
What shape the broadcast of future Doctor Who will take remains an uncertainty, but I do think that the proximity of the Diamond Jubilee makes its continued survival for at least a couple more seasons relatively assured.
Posted by GerryD at 21:19 No comments:
Tuesday, 29 October 2019
The Vault of Secrets - SJA 4.2
In which Androvax of the Veil has escaped from prison and returned to Earth. Taking over the body of a girl, he tries to break into a vault in the basement of an old abandoned hospital. He has discovered that he needs two keys to open the vault, but only has one. He is chased off by the arrival of three men dressed in black suits, who have powerful energy weapons built into their arms. These are androids known as the Alliance of Shades. They gather up alien technology and guard it in places like this - their appearances giving rise to the mysterious Men in Black who are seen around UFO sightings. Androvax exits the girl and runs off, leaving her unharmed, and the Shades delete her recent memory.
Meanwhile on Bannerman Road, Gita Chandra is dragging her reluctant husband Haresh off to a meeting being held by BURPSS - British UFO Research and Paranormal Studies Society. The group is led by a woman named Ocean Waters and her friend Minty. Gita has been obsessed by aliens, ever since her encounter with the Judoon the year before. On their return from the meeting, they see Androvax hiding in Sarah's garden and alert her. The alien takes over Rani's body but he is chased up to the attic where he is placed in a containment field by Mr Smith. He releases Rani, then surprises everyone by asking for Sarah's help.
Androvax explains that he is dying, but has discovered that he is not the last of his race. There is a spaceship full of his people held in stasis and imprisoned in the vault at the hospital - and he wants Sarah's help in freeing them. The ship crashed on Earth some 40 years ago, and the Alliance of Shades captured it and locked it away. Sarah, Clyde and Rani go to the hospital and encounter the Shades, who are led by Mr Dread. He demands that Androvax be handed over to them, along with the vault key which he possesses. Sarah and her friends flee back to Bannerman Road where they meet Ocean and Minty, who are tracking alien signals on the street. Sarah uses her sonic lipstick to disable their scanner. It transpires that Ocean had met the Shades in the past following a UFO encounter, and this is what led her to becoming obsessed by aliens. She has the other key to the vault. As Mr Dread and his associates burst into the house, Androvax grabs both keys and runs off, hijacking Clyde's body - leaving the others about to be destroyed by the Men in Black...
Androvax has transferred to Gita's body and run off, so the Shades call off their attack. Sarah sabotages Mr Dread's car and they set off for the hospital. Dread requisitions another vehicle and follows. Sarah confronts Androvax, who has now exited form Gita. She tells him she cannot help him as the Earth could be destroyed if the Veil spaceship is released. Mr Dread puts himself into his regeneration cubicle to recharge, whilst his colleagues accidentally destroy each other when they try to shoot Clyde. Androvax takes Sarah's body and pretends to be her, so that her friends won't stop her from opening the vault. Once the doors are open, they see that the vault is hyper-dimensional - bigger on the inside - and contains many huge spacecraft. Androvax releases Sarah then locks himself in the vault. Sarah wakes Mr Dread and convinces him to help them. He gives up several hundred years of energy to teleport the Veil spaceship into space just as it begins to take off - saving the planet from destruction. Mr Dread puts himself into extended hibernation but before doing so he wipes Gita's recent memories.
Back at Bannerman Road, Ocean and Minty are dismayed when Gita tells them she doesn't believe in aliens. Ocean knows that she has been "got at" by them, but leaves with Minty.
meanwhile, out in space, Androvax leads his people to find a new planet on which to rebuild the Veil race...
The Vault of Secrets was written by Phil Ford, the series lead writer, and was first broadcast on 18th and 19th October, 2010. It is a sequel to Ford's third season story Prisoner of the Judoon, in that it sees the return of the reptilian body-swapping alien Androvax (once again played by Mark Goldthorp), and shows us the consequences of Gita Chandra's encounter with the Judoon in that story.
We also have similar scenes where one of the "aliens" purloins a vehicle from a startled motorist in each story.
The Vault of Secrets is also connected to the animated Tenth Doctor adventure Dreamland (2009), which had also featured Mr Dread and the Men in Black, this time at Area 51 in 1947. Dreamland was also written by Ford, and had featured a glimpse of Androvax's spaceship as seen in Prisoner of the Judoon.
We mentioned last time that Tommy Knight had left the series as a regular in the previous story, but Luke Smith makes a cameo already at the beginning of this story, as we see him on a video-link talking to Sarah, Clyde and Rani from his digs in Oxford.
In Dreamland, Mr Dread had been voiced by Peter Guiness, but in this story he is played by Angus Wright. Wright has voiced Magnus Greel in two audio productions for Big Finish.
Fans suspected a possible River Song connection with Ocean Waters, leader of the BURPSS group, but this was not to be. She is played by Cheryl Campbell. Minty is David Webber.
The story gives bigger roles for Gita and Haresh - for comedic effect as usual.
Overall, another great story with a nice blend of excitement and humour. Mr Dread and the Men in Black never returned to the series, which is a shame. Likewise, it would have been nice to have had Ocean and Minty as returning characters in another story or two, as a rival group to the Bannerman Road gang.
Things you might like to know:
- Sarah interrupts the video link to Luke as she has to stop a NASA rover from seeing something alien on the surface of Mars - a large pyramid. This is obviously an Osiran structure - presumably the one that she and the Fourth Doctor visited in Pyramids of Mars.
- The Alliance of Shades become yet another organisation in the Doctor Who universe who gather up and conceal alien technology on present day Earth. Once upon a time there was just UNIT, but since the series returned in 2005 we can add Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith herself, and now the Men in Black - plus we have a couple of stories where wealthy individuals also have private collections of alien material - such as Joshua Naismith (The End of Time) or Parker (TW: A Day in the Death).
Sunday, 27 October 2019
Fury from the Deep on DVD
The team behind the DVD / Blu-ray releases were at London Comic-Con today, and they have announced that Fury from the Deep will be the next lost story to get a colour animated release. All we know is that it will be out sometime in 2020. Check on-line and you will see a nice little atmospheric teaser trailer for it. We are already expecting The Faceless Ones sometime earlier in the year (probably March, as that was when The Macra Terror was released in 2019).
These animated versions will certainly make the Blu-ray box set releases of Seasons 4 & 5 more attractive to buyers, being the two seasons with the greatest amount of missing material.
Fury was one of my top three wish-list stories for the animated treatment, the other two being Evil of the Daleks and The Abominable Snowmen. Hopefully they will follow in 2021.
It was also announced that the Season 12 Blu-ray box set is going to be re-released, presumably in the limited edition packaging. This will be good news for fans who thought a bit too long before deciding to purchase it, as it is currently selling for around the £500 mark on e-bay.
Posted by GerryD at 21:45 No comments:
Friday, 25 October 2019
Inspirations - Kinda
For many years a rumour was going around fandom that Christopher Bailey didn't actually exist. Some people were convinced that the name was just a pseudonym for someone else - someone already famous for something else. One popular theory was that the true author of Kinda was reclusive pop diva Kate Bush. Playwright Tom Stoppard was another contender. With its Buddhist trappings, even outgoing exec-producer Barry Letts was in the frame, as he had form when it came to writing Doctor Who stories under a pen name.
One of the reasons for this speculation was that the real writer was a bit reclusive himself. Christopher Bailey didn't give any interviews until one for DWM in 2002, and only finally appeared on camera in the "making of" documentaries for his two stories for their joint DVD release in 2011. In these, Bailey states that he did not have a happy time working on this first set of scripts, with new Script Editor Eric Saward asking for a number of rewrites. Even then, once completed, Kinda was found to be under-running and so some additional material had to be written, which was recorded during the making of Earthshock some time later.
One of the main inspirations for this story is a novel which Bailey claims not to have read. If this is the case then there is a remarkable degree of synchronicity going on. Ursula Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest was first published in 1976. It tells of an idyllic forested planet - Athshe - where the inhabitants live peaceably and know no violence. They have learned to control their dreams, entering them at will and deriving healing from them. Into this world come people from another planet who want to harvest its trees. Conflict arises between the aggressive colonisers and the non-aggressive native people. The natives resort to violence, as one of them leads a revolt to protect themselves from the invaders - and so their idyll is shattered forever.
Kinda also tells of a peaceful, non-technological people - the Kinda tribe - whose planet of Deva Loka is covered in lush forest. Dreams are important to their culture as they can share them, and never dream alone for fear an ancient evil might gain a foothold through an unshared dream. This evil is known as the Mara. A colonial expedition from an unnamed planet (probably Earth or one its colonies) arrives with a view to surveying Deva Loka to see if it suitable for full colonisation itself.
It is another alien visitor to the planet who releases the Mara into this world - the Doctor's companion Tegan, as a result of falling asleep and dreaming by herself. The impact on the Kinda is that one of them leads a violent revolt against the colonists - although Aris is possessed by the Mara, rather than leading an opposition for it has become a necessary thing to do.
Both Le Guin's novel and Kinda end with the colonial party realising the error of their ways and departing, intent on ensuring that the planet and its people are protected from further interference from outsiders.
(By the way, if you're thinking Avatar, do please remember that James Cameron has history when it comes to "borrowing" ideas. Allegedly).
Playing the leader of the expedition in Kinda is noted British actor Richard Todd - best known for his portrayal of Guy Gibson in The Dam Busters. Another film role of his was as Harry Sanders in the 1965 film Death Drums Along the River - based on characters from an earlier movie called Sanders of the River. These movies are prime examples of adventure tales of white Englishmen being the only ones possibly capable of sorting out problems for black African men. They typify the old racist imperial attitudes of their day. Todd's career faltered in the 1960's when he failed to adapt to the new social realist film-making which became the norm, and one wonders if he thought about the anti-colonial themes in Kinda and reflected on some of his earlier movies. (Probably not, as he didn't really understand Bailey's script). Todd's character in Kinda is the similarly named Saunders, by the way, and - just to confuse things - Nerys Hughes' character is called Todd.
Visually, the inspiration for the look of Kinda appears to have come from pop music videos, which were becoming more and more sophisticated in the 1980's. This was the era of the New Romantics (just look at Tegan's hair and make up in this season if you didn't already know that) and we can see how videos by bands such as Duran Duran or Visage may have influenced director Peter Grimwade.
The sequences set in Tegan's dream are particularly redolent of something that might have been shown on Top of the Pops that week.
There is some debate about who or what the characters in Tegan's dream represent. They may be the missing members of Saunders' expedition. It is said that three of them went into the forest and never returned. If they are from the party, then it looks like Saunders' group was mainly composed of senior citizens, as two of the dream figures are elderly, whilst Saunders himself is no spring chicken. There's also the issue of the Mara not being active until after Tegan rouses it - so who abducted them?
The other theory, which most people go with, is that the three figures represent Tegan's travelling companions. Adric and Nyssa are seen to be playing a board game outside the TARDIS at the start of the story, whilst two of the dream people are seen to play chess. That would make the young tormentor the Doctor, whilst the strange metal construction they sit next to would represent the TARDIS itself. Does Tegan see Adric and Nyssa like a bickering old couple, and the Doctor as a young man who goes out of his way to annoy and upset her, whilst the TARDIS is simply a heap of junk?
These three characters are called Dukkha, Anatta and Annica - which brings us to another major inspiration for this story.
Kinda is a bit like Comparative Religions 101. A lot of the names and concepts derive from Buddhism and Hinduism, whilst other imagery comes from the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament. From the latter we get evil incarnated in the form of a snake, the setting being like the Garden of Eden, and even the personification of evil (the possessed Tegan) tempting an innocent from a up tree. It's more than coincidence that Tegan drops an apple on Aris' head. By having Tegan the possessed one, rather than the usually more clumsy and impetuous Adric, we also get the Biblical notion of evil coming into the world via a woman. Oh dear.
Deva Loka is the plane of existence where gods and devas dwell in Indian religions - places of light and goodness, not unlike heaven. It appears in Hinduism and Buddhism.
Dukkha, a Sanskrit word, means pain or suffering, or simply stress from the mundane world.
Annica means impermanent, whilst Anatta means the absence of the abiding self. These three concepts go hand in hand in Buddhist thought - sometimes representing the three stages of a person's existence - youth, maturity and old age, the stages we have to pass through on our earthly journey.
The wise old woman of the Kinda tribe is Panna, and this means wisdom. Her acolyte, who then becomes her, is Karuna - compassion.
Whilst it means joy in Arabic, or eternally beautiful in Greek, Mara is also a Hebraic word for bitterness or grief. Here, it probably derives from the word nightmare, inhabiting as it does the realm of dreams.
The other major inspiration for Kinda comes from psychology. If a big pink snake isn't something Freudian, then I don't know what is. Psychoanalytically speaking, it is to Carl Jung that we should look, however. Kinda touches on the Collective Unconscious and the idea of the Dreamtime, as the Kinda tribe engage in shared dreaming only. In studying different cultures across the globe and through history, Jung noted a number of common concepts amongst them - archetypes such as the Great Mother figure or the Wise Old Man, and the symbolic resonance of natural things like water and trees. In his 1916 essay on The Structure of the Unconscious, Jung diverged from the Freudian emphasis on the Personal Unconscious, which dwelt on sexual fantasies and repressed anxieties. Big pink snakes.
Jung posited that whilst we all have a Personal Unconscious, which is formed through experience, we also have a second Unconscious which we inherit, and which we all share even though we come from different cultures, as those archetypes keep cropping up.
(The Collective Unconscious might explain the similarities between Kinda and The Word for World is Forest...).
This being a Doctor Who blog and not a psychoanalyst's couch, so you'll have to look this stuff up for yourselves if you want to understand it better).
One final inspiration for Kinda might be Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness (the basis for Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now).
This can be seen with the character of Hindle, the neurotic junior officer who becomes increasingly deranged when faced with events he can't control. heart of Darkness concerns a member of a colonial power becoming deranged and turning into a bit of a megalomaniac, personally dominating the natives who seem to see him as a god-like figure. In Kinda, Hindle gains control over a couple of Kinda captives - turning them into his personal two-man army. He does this through the old notion of a mirror capturing a person's soul. Mirrors are eventually used to defeat the Mara, in its big pink snake form, as evil is unable to look upon itself.
Next time: no more big pink snakes, thank goodness, but instead a much more conventional pseudo-historical adventure. It's 1666, so expect Great Plagues and Great Fires, but with an extraterrestrial twist...
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
The Nightmare Man - SJA 4.1
In which Luke Smith informs his mother that headmaster Mr Chandra has arranged for him to sit his A-levels a year early, so that he can go to University next year. Sarah is pleased to hear this, but points out that now isn't the best time to be discussing it as they are both tied to a Slitheen bomb. They are rescued by Clyde and Rani, who arrive armed with vinegar.
The year passes, and Luke gets top marks in his exams. He is going to Oxford University. He discusses the move with Sarah, expressing his concerns about leaving home. She gives him a present - her old car. Clyde and Rani go back to school, and Luke feels left out. He starts to think that everyone is going to be glad to see him leave, and finds they are acting coldly towards him. One night, he overhears Sarah talking to K9 about how they can't wait for him to leave. He wakes to find that this was just a bad dream - which is worrying, as he doesn't dream. He tells Rani who urges him to tell Sarah, but he thinks it is just worry about going to University. Clyde seems to be avoiding him these days. He then has another bad dream, where he is trapped in a darkened school corridor. Clyde and Rani appear and mock him, and Sarah joins in with them when she arrives. Luke then hears a man's voice, who claims that he gains strength from people's nightmares. He tells Sarah afterwards, and she has Mr Smith scan him, but nothing untoward can be found.
When he goes to visit the school he discovers that Clyde and Rani have organised a surprise farewell party for him. He dozes off, and wakes to find himself confronted by a white-faced man dressed in black - the Nightmare Man. He tells Luke that he wants to exist in the real world, and one more bad dream from Luke will allow him to cross over.
On his last night at Bannerman Road, Rani and Clyde join him for a sleep-over. Luke goes alone to the attic to record a video message for his mother, but falls asleep. He sees his friends burning mementos of him on a bonfire in the garden, and Sarah is already renting out his room to someone else. Again, everyone is glad to see the back of him. He suddenly finds himself alone in a black void, and the Nightmare Man announces that he is now real, and able to invade the waking world...
The Nightmare Man then inveigles his way into the dreams of Clyde and Rani. Clyde finds himself working in a dead end job doing night shifts in a burger joint. The only customer is an old down and out woman - Sarah Jane Smith. Rani has always dreamed of being a TV journalist, and she finds herself being dragged into her TV set to appear on a current affairs programme where she has to work with a bossy co-presenter. Sarah meanwhile has watched the video Luke made and seen the Nightmare Man appear in it. Mr Smith warns her that he is an alien entity from another dimension. K9 is able to make contact with Luke, appearing in the dreamscape he has found himself trapped within. Luke also manages to contact Clyde and Rani, who are trapped behind other doors in the darkened school corridor. The Nightmare Man has started to give everyone on Bannerman Road bad dreams, but he realises the threat Sarah poses to him. He has Mr Smith and K9 deactivated. Sarah tells him that he might as well take her as well, as she has nothing left to live for. This is a ruse so that she can be reunited with Luke and her friends, because together they have a chance of defeating the Nightmare Man.
Luke is able to help Rani and Clyde escape from their individual nightmares by each concentrating on making a door appear. They succeed, and all are reunited in the corridor, where they are joined by Sarah.
The combined will power of the four is enough to overpower the Nightmare Man, and he is sucked though a door into his own nightmare - trapped in the burger bar with the elderly Sarah telling him all about how successful her son is.
The next day Luke sets off for Oxford University in his new car, and Sarah gives him another gift. K9 will accompany him.
The Nightmare Man was written by Joseph Lidster, and was first broadcast on 11th and 12th October, 2010. It was the first story of the fourth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures - the first produced after Russell T Davies had handed over the showrunner role on Doctor Who to Steven Moffat.
Lidster had written one episode of Torchwood's second series - A Day in the Death - but had also contributed to a lot of the on-line content for Doctor Who related websites.
The Nightmare Man marks the last regular appearance of Tommy Knight as Luke Smith, although he and K9 will continue to appear in the series from time to time - even if it is just Luke making a video call to Sarah and his friends. As such, a replacement character wouldn't appear until the beginning of the fifth series, so Sarah continues her adventures this year with just Rani and Clyde.
Towards the end of 2010, viewers in the UK would get to see the new K9 Adventures series, when it was broadcast over the Christmas / New Year period daily by Channel 5.
The story concentrates mainly on the regular cast, so there are only two guest appearances worth noting. First and foremost we have the wonderful Julian Bleach as the Nightmare Man. By this time he was best known for portraying Davros in The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, having previously played the Ghost Maker in Torchwood's second series story From Out of the Rain. The Nightmare Man allowed him to show off his theatrical mime skills, as seen in his award-winning performances in Shockheaded Peter.
The other guest performer is comic actress Doon Mackichan (Smack the Pony, Two Doors Down, Toast of London etc). She plays obnoxious TV presenter Louise Marlowe, from Rani's nightmare.
Overall, a low key start to the new season - more of a psychological thriller rather than a big VFX heavy storyline as might have been expected. At the time fans were sad to see Luke and K9 apparently leaving the show. Nice to see Lis Sladen get to essay a funny character role as the old version of Sarah.
Things you might like to know:
- A line was cut from the broadcast version which implied that Luke might be gay. This had been something which Russell T Davies had intended, and the BBC had asked him to include a LGBT character in the series. As Luke is about to set off for Uni, Sarah mentions that he might get himself a girlfriend, to which Luke responds "Or a boyfriend...". This dialogue was reinstated for the novelisation of the story.
- The novel also includes a second party which Sarah organises for Luke, which has as guests a number of characters seen in earlier SJA stories or from elsewhere in the Doctor Who universe - such as Prof. Rivers and her assistant Toby, the Brigadier and his wife Doris and even Martha Smith-Jones and husband Mickey.
- There's a reference to the most recent series of Doctor Who as Sarah has Mr Smith analyse an object which comes from Alfava Metraxis (the setting for The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone).
- The series' running gag of characters being covered in slime is continued here as the vinegar attack on the Slitheen in the opening segment sees the aliens explode all over everyone.
- The Slitheen costume has had a slight modification since its last appearance in the final story of Series 3, being a much darker green.
Sunday, 20 October 2019
What's Wrong With... Planet of Giants
The biggest problem with Planet of Giants was its four episode running time. The third and fourth episodes were edited into one on the recommendation of Donald Wilson as he felt that they were dull, with little incident. The fourth episode - "The Urge to Live" - was directed by Douglas Camfield. The director of the other three episodes was Mervyn Pinfield, and he agreed to let Camfield's name go out on the credits of the recut "Crisis".
This editing caused a few plot problems, as people seem to make huge intuitive leaps based on very little evidence. For instance, telephone exchange operator Hilda Rouse seems to know that the man claiming to be Arnold Farrow is an imposter. Just how often did Farrow call Smithers and Forester for her to know that it isn't him on the line? Surely she would also have heard Forester many times on the phone, so why can't she spot that it is him - even if he is holding a hankie to his mouth?
The Doctor explains early in the story that the full size people will never be able to hear them now that they have been shrunk to an inch in height, yet goes along with a plan to use a telephone to call for help.
Before the cuts, it was the death of the cat which caused Smithers to realise that his insecticide DN6 might be more lethal than intended. On screen, this realisation just comes out of nowhere. Surely he would have conducted enough tests to have known that DN6 killed everything - even the useful insects like bees and earthworms - if they are almost ready to start commercial production.
And just what did the cat eat that had such a high concentration of DN6 that it could have killed it?
Forester's plan to dispose of Farrow's body is to make it look like he died in a boating accident. Wouldn't the bullet hole through his heart rather give the game away?
One of the problems of filming in a very small studio is apparent in episode one, when Susan spots a giant ant's egg, then sees more of them - but they are only a couple of feet away, with the ant itself plainly visible to both her and Ian.
The fly which scares Barbara dies as soon as it lands on the pile of seeds which have been coated with DN6, yet we can see the shadow of its legs continuing to move whilst it is just off camera.
At the end of episode two, Smithers unplugs the sink, and leaves the plug on the side of the sink - yet at the beginning of episode three, the plug is in the sink, as we see the TARDIS crew using the chain to climb up and down. The water flowing down the plug hole also seems to stop very abruptly, without even a drip, let alone a trickle. The sink is also bone dry immediately after use.
The cliffhanger to episode one has the Doctor urging his companions not to look into the cat's eyes - but he's doing precisely the opposite of what he has just told them not to do.
At the conclusion, the Doctor holds up the seed to show they have returned to normal size - but he obviously turns to a camera to do this, turning his back on the companions he is supposed to be showing it to.
Last, but by no means least, just what is the reason for the TARDIS and its crew shrinking? Rather than explain it away as a fault with the ship's dimension control, we get the excuse of "space pressure".
Posted by GerryD at 22:49 2 comments:
Thursday, 17 October 2019
Inspirations - Four to Doomsday
Not a lot to say about this one, actually.
Way back in 1963, Terence Dudley was approached about writing for the BBC's new Saturday teatime science fiction programme, which was just starting production. He turned it down. There are some who wished he'd keep on turning it down, but that was not to be, for he finally became associated with Doctor Who when he agreed to direct Meglos for Season 18. As with many people brought onto the show by producer John Nathan-Turner, Dudley had worked with him before on other series.
Dudley had a bit of a reputation for joining successful programmes, then running them into the ground. He took over as producer on Doomwatch, causing Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis to quit when he took it in directions they didn't want to go, then he took over Survivors, causing Terry Nation to walk away from his creation for much the same reasons. Neither series survived the loss of their creators.
Last time, we mentioned how Castrovalva was actually the fourth story which new Doctor Peter Davison recorded, by which time Eric Saward had been given the role of script editor. During the planning of Season 19, Dudley agreed to write a story, and his contribution was entitled "Day of Wrath". Chris Bidmead would have been involved in its development, but temporary replacement Anthony Root was the one who saw it through to completion under its new title of Four to Doomsday. This new title either refers to the fact that the Urbankan spaceship is four days away from Earth, or that there are four people travelling in the TARDIS now who are on route to a potential doomsday when Monarch reaches Earth. Or both.
The opening shot is of the spaceship flying over the top of the camera, so the inspiration is clearly the opening shots from Star Wars. This had been done once before - for the opening of Invasion of Time. Then, the models had been recorded on film, but here it is the less satisfying CSO / video technique, so it's not terribly impressive.
The story itself is an odd one, as I mentioned when I reviewed it many moons ago.
It basically plays like a William Hartnell story. The Doctor has three companions with him in the TARDIS and he's trying to get someone back to Earth. Instead the ship materialises in a strange environment, and the travellers set out to explore it - discovering what it is, who lives here, and what their plans are as they go along - and we accompany them on the journey of discovery as we only get to know what's happening at the same time they do. The story even ends on a cliffhanger, leading into the next story, which was a common occurrence for much of the Hartnell stories.
One is reminded of the early episodes of The Sensorites, or of The Ark.
We also get a strong educational element as with the early years of the series, with the various ethnic groupings on the spaceship and their cultural Recreations.
As Dudley was invited to contribute to the Hartnell era of the programme, it is probable that he did actually watch some of those earlier episodes, but the evidence here seems to indicate that he never stuck with the show, so was unaware of how it had evolved over the previous two decades.
If he did watch any later episodes, then my guess is that he caught at least some of The Android Invasion. Four to Doomsday and it share the androids - looking very similar in design - but with a flesh and blood villain whose look is based on an animal (rhinos then, frogs now). Poison plays a significant role in the plans of both villains, and both meet their match because of that poison, which they were going to use to destroy the population of Earth, leaving the planet otherwise undamaged for invasion and plunder.
Human-looking androids removing their faces to reveal printed circuits had been a feature of a couple of science fiction movies of the 1970's - such as The Stepford Wives (1975), based on the book by Ira Levin, and Westworld (1973), based on the book by Michael Crichton, and directed by him.
As well as The Android Invasion, Doctor Who had featured androids prominently in The Androids of Tara, but they go all the way back to when the Daleks made a rather lame copy of the First Doctor in The Chase. These days they have gone rather out of fashion in science fiction, being replaced by clones and other synthetic humanoids who are organic in nature. Note the humanoid Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica reboot, who didn't even know they were Cylons.
Next time: from a very conventional story, to a very experimental one. Tegan is lurking up a tree in the Garden of Eden, Nyssa takes a nap, whilst Adric can't keep his eyes off a big pink snake...
Wednesday, 9 October 2019
Will be away for the next week or so, which means that the next post won't be until Thursday 17th October. See you then.
Mission to the Unknown - The Remake Reviewed
Earlier this year it was announced that students from the University of Central Lancashire were going to recreate the lost Doctor Who episode Mission to the Unknown, as part of an academic exercise in TV production techniques. The project got the blessing of actors Edward de Souza, who played Space Security agent Marc Cory in the original 1965 production, and Peter Purves, who was travelling in the TARDIS at this point in time, although he did not feature in the episode itself. Voice of the Daleks Nicholas Briggs also agreed to join the team. News reports followed, along with some making-of material, and what every fan wanted to know was: when might we all get to see this? Might it turn up as an extra on a future Season 3 Blu-ray box set?
Well, earlier this evening - at 5.50pm on the 54th anniversary of the original broadcast - the episode was premiered on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel, and I've just watched it.
The version I have just watched begins with the trailer which we first saw last week, followed by an introduction from de Souza.
Normally, student drama would make me run to the hills, but this was a professionally accomplished piece of work. With no TARDIS crew featuring in the episode (which some class as a story in its own right, whereas others see it as simply the prologue to the 12 part The Daleks' Master Plan - its 13th episode, as it were) - the action centres primarily on just two actors, playing the characters of agent Marc Cory, and the spaceship captain Gordon Lowery. Here they are played by Marco Simioni and Dan Gilligan respectively. And very good they both are. Only one minor gripe - Gilligan is a young man, so it is rather odd to hear Lowery talk about working with colleague Garvey for the last 10 years. (Only other minor gripe - one of the Daleks has the bigger bumper at its base, a design which had been discontinued after The Dalek Invasion of Earth).
The episode is presented in good old Black & White, and the look of it certainly matches the original episodes we have in the archives from Master Plan. The jungle sound effects likewise.
The Daleks don't feature all that much, but they are joined by the assorted delegates of the Outer Planets who make up their alliance which plans to wage war against the Solar System in general, and Earth in particular. Paul Stenton's Malpha gets quite a lot of dialogue, and he captures the hoarse vocals of the original. Their costumes / make-up are reasonably well done, when you compare to the photographs from the original production. Sets have also been lovingly recreated from the scant visual references we have. The late Ray Cusick gets a credit.
I am generally averse to missing episodes being recreated, preferring the DVD / Blu-ray producers to go down the animated route as that way we still get to savour the vocal performances of the original actors, even if we can no longer see them. However, as none of the regulars featured in this episode, it is the one and only time that I will welcome it.
The students of UCL can get a 9.5 out of 10 from me. Do check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW8yk-m5Ig8
Monday, 7 October 2019
Season 23 Blu-ray Box Set - Reviewed
Have just spent the weekend watching the Season 23 Blu-ray box set - the Trial of a Time Lord season - which arrived Saturday morning.
Beautiful packaging as always with these box sets, looking better than the episodes themselves at times.
For what was at the time the shortest ever season of Doctor Who, the DVD release of Trial of a Time Lord had an abundance of Value Added Material with making-of documentaries for each of the sub-stories which make up the season, an in-depth look at Colin Baker's tenure as the Doctor, with specific weight given to the hiatus and then the resignation / sacking crisis, plus numerous excerpts from publicity appearances on various TV shows to promote the season.
All of these items are present and correct on the Blu-ray set as well, plus a whole load of new stuff - resulting in a 6 disc set for a grand total of 14 episodes screen time.
Before we look at the Extras, a word or two about the story itself, and how it is presented here.
Discs 1 - 4 feature the individual "stories" that comprise the trial, with 5 & 6 containing only bonus material. Disc 5 features the first 8 episodes, back to back, in extended edits. Some episodes have new material inserted which had been cut for timing, whilst other sequences derive from alternative takes - so not every episode is necessarily longer. The very first episode clearly has more trial room material, and you can see why it was excised. You'll recall that the Valeyard states that the Matrix contains all known knowledge, just before he starts showing his evidence for the prosecution. In its extended version, the Doctor challenges this assertion, pointing out that the Matrix only contains all known knowledge as known to the Time Lords, and they have a bit of an argument about semantics, before the Inquisitor shuts them up and tells them to get on with it.
The remaining 6 extended episodes are on Disc 6. The final episode clocks in at 34 minutes long.
I'm afraid to say that the inclusion of additional scenes has led to us being subjected to one of the worst VFX shots ever (not) seen on Doctor Who. Once we have the opening trial room sequence at the start of Part 9, we then see a model shot of the Hyperion in orbit above Mogar. A number of shuttle craft are seen flying around it, and the model work is truly appalling. They're recorded on video rather than film, as was the (bad) habit at this time and it all looks terrible. Blue Peter made better spaceships out of washing-up liquid bottles.
I had read in advance that this part of the story - the bit we usually call Terror of the Vervoids - was going to get updated CGI effects. I naturally assumed that these would go with the extended version of the story - but this is not the case. The updated version is an extra on Disc 3, alongside the broadcast version, and it has had all the trial scenes edited out, making it a supposedly stand alone version. This means that we actually have three different versions of what is hardly a great story to begin with on this one box set. The update involves a new set of opening titles, and just the shots of the spaceship (plus one shot of the TARDIS in space). Nothing else has been touched - including the Black Hole of Tartarus, which I assumed would get the CGI treatment. As it has now been divorced from the courtroom context, it is unlikely that I will ever revisit it. According to this version, genocide is just all in a day's work for the Doctor.
Has my opinion changed after re-watching Season 23 on Blu-ray? Actually it has - but only just. It's still my second least favourite season ever, but I did enjoy it better for having watched the Disc 5 - 6 extended version all in one sitting. I think this is the first time that I've ever watched it all in one go. It flows better, and the courtroom stuff builds in a more satisfying way.
On to the new Extras. I didn't think I'd like the Doctor Who Cookbook - Revisited piece, but it was actually very entertaining. Toby Hadoke visits Sarah Sutton (who has Janet Fielding as a house guest), Nicola Bryant (who has Colin Baker on hand), Fraser Hines and Terry Molloy, and gets them to recreate the recipes they contributed to Gary Downie's 1985 book. I wouldn't necessarily try their recipes myself - too much seafood for my liking, though I might have a go at Patrick Troughton's vegetable soup.
I thought that I might enjoy The Doctor's Table better - only to find that I didn't. There's some funny conversation, but watching other people enjoy themselves from the sidelines isn't good entertainment as far as I'm concerned. It was like going to the pub when you are on antibiotics and can't drink yourself.
The usually great Behind the Sofa sections were a little bit of a let down as well. The line-ups weren't so funny, and they didn't actually say all that much. There was too much clips and not enough comment. I complained before that Janet Fielding can usually be relied upon to dominate these, but we could have done with her here. Some of the other new material actually dates from the 2013 50th Anniversary period, but we do get a brand new interview with Bonnie Langford, conducted by Matthew Sweet. His interviews on each of these releases so far have been a highlight. Anyone who still sees Bonnie as the precocious child performer should watch this and see just how nice a person she really is, and she turned out to be a very good straight actor as well.
One thing which did alarm me, watching the newer items, is the state of Colin Baker's health. He was clearly showing the signs of Parkinson's Disease, or some similar condition, with very noticeable head shaking. Very sad to see him looking unwell.
Lastly, I do think it is a pity that they chose to release Season 23 before Season 22 (which we will have to wait at least a couple more years for at the rate they are releasing these). It's the lesser of Colin's two seasons and, even if what we see on screen has an upbeat ending, everything else about it was a bit of a downer.
Friday, 4 October 2019
Inspirations - Castrovalva
In looking for his new Doctor, producer John Nathan-Turner knew that he had to find someone who was very different from Tom Baker. Baker had been in the role for 7 years, and for many children he was the only Doctor, as they'd grown up with him. To go for a similar actor would look like copying. JNT therefore decided to go for the youngest Doctor yet and, as is often the case with JNT, he favoured someone he had already worked with. This was Peter Davison, who was best known for playing vet Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great And Small. He was working on a sit-com at the time, and when he was finally convinced to accept the role, his continuing work on the other series had to be agreed. A lucrative series of beer commercials Davison had signed up to had to be cancelled, as this would not be appropriate for someone who was about to become a children's hero.
For the costume of his new Doctor, JNT was inspired by a photograph in his office of a charity cricket match which Davison had participated in.
His commitments on other series led to there being a longer than usual gap between seasons 18 and 19. To remind the public that Baker wasn't the only actor to have filled the role, and as part of his efforts to keep fandom happy, JNT had included clips of companions and villains from Baker's era in the final episode of Logopolis - the Doctor's life passing before his eyes. JNT would then arrange for a whole series of repeats to be shown by the BBC, called The Five Faces of Doctor Who. This was the first time that archive stories had ever been repeated. Prior to this there had only ever been two repeats in the B&W period - a re-screening of An Unearthly Child immediately before The Cave of Skulls (because everyone had been distracted by the Kennedy assassination news), and the whole of Evil of the Daleks - to bridge the gap between seasons 5 and 6, and where the repeat was actually built into the stories either side of it in terms of narrative.
The 1970's had seen summer repeats (and the odd unscheduled one replacing rained-off cricket), but only of stories from the most recent season.
For The Five Faces... that first episode would get another airing, as the whole of the first story was shown, along with The Krotons, representing the Troughton era, The Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters (representing Pertwee, as well as showing the first two Doctors in colour), and Logopolis - representing Baker, but also allowing Davison to be included as the Fifth Face thanks to the closing regeneration scene.
The first story for Davison was originally going to be the one which writers Andrew McCulloch and John Flanagan had prepared as the last story for Tom Baker - the one known as "Project Zeta Sigma". This had been championed by outgoing script editor Chris Bidmead. Problems with it meant that it get being pushed back. As soon as Bidmead resigned, and JNT went off to the USA for a convention, interim script editor Anthony Root scrapped it, with the blessing of Barry Letts, who was about to step down from his watching brief over the series. Root joined the series on a short term secondment only, and never actually commissioned any new stories - only working on submissions which had already been accepted.
With the decision having been made to bridge the regeneration with a trilogy reintroducing the Master, and with Bidmead himself stepping in to write Baker's last story, he was then asked to also write Davison's debut, to more seamlessly tie up the arc.
Terence Dudley's "Day of Wrath" (soon to be renamed Four to Doomsday) was quite well advanced, it was decided that this would be the first story which Davison would actually record. His debut would be recorded fourth in production order, to give the actor time to get comfortable in the role before the viewing public would see him for the first time. This out of order production schedule was becoming commonplace, but did lead to continuity problems with Davison's hair, which had to be shorter for his sit-com role. By the time Castrovalva was made, Root had already moved on and Eric Saward had been appointed new script editor, on the strength of his Season 19 story The Visitation.
Castrovalva is the name of a hill town in the Abruzzo region of Italy. It had inspired a lithograph by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher in 1930:
This image inspired the idea of the story's Castrovalva been perched on a cliff-top. Bidmead had already decided to use Escher owing to a picture which JNT's boss had on his office wall. It was the one with the weird perspective of people going up and down seemingly impossible stairs:
Bidmead had decided to use the concept of recursion in his story. This derives from mathematics and from computer science - and we all know how obsessed Bidmead was with computing. At its simplest, recursion is when a thing is defined by itself. In order to understand recursion, you must understand recursion. That's an example of recursion. An example from Doctor Who might be the exchange between the Doctor and Jo in The Time Monster, where the Doctor tells a story involving a "thraskin". He says that this word was replaced later by "plinge". Jo asks what a "thraskin" is, and the Doctor says he's already told her - it means the same as "plinge". Their argument could have gone round and round in an infinite loop.
Bidmead chose to have the new Doctor trapped in a recursion, created by the Master using Block Transfer Computations and the captured Adric's mathematical abilities, which you'll recall we mentioned under Logopolis as being another computing reference.
Director Fiona Cumming also looked to Escher's work for the visuals, having the interior of Catrovalva look like other pieces of his work.
Escher was very popular in the 1980's as this was the era of the "executive toy" - most famous of which was the hanging metal spheres which hit each other back and forth seemingly forever once started. Escher's prints were the visual equivalent of these toys.
We don't know what JNT's opinion was on executive toys, but we do know that he really didn't like the Escher print in his boss' office. He found it's surrealist trompe l'oeil imagery irritating.
One literary inspiration for Castrovalva might well be Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, published in English translation in 1970. In this a man dreams of a city of mirrors which reflect the world around it - a place called Macondo. A mirror plays a significant role in Castrovalva, as it reflects the discord away from the Doctor, shielding him for a time. The man decides to make it a reality by building it himself. The book then tells of the trials and tribulations of the city, and numerous generations of the man's family. The ideal city reflects the real world too much, and it becomes an increasingly bad place in which to live. Once the city has crumbled away to nothing, the last surviving descendant of the founder translates an old document, which gives the history of Macando up until the time of whoever is reading it. In Castrovalva, the Doctor discovers that the town's history volumes, although supposed to be ancient, run up to the present day.
Lastly, during the early stages of the Doctor's new regeneration, he revisits some of his previous incarnations. To find his way through the TARDIS corridors he unravels the Fourth Doctor's scarf to leave a trail for himself - unravelling his old persona as he searches for his new one. he picks up a recorder - synonymous with Troughton's Doctor, and speaks to Adric in the vocal tones of the Hartnell version. He also seems to be recalling an unseen adventure in which the Brigadier helped him against the Ice Warriors. He also calls Adric 'Jamie' at one point, whilst Tegan is called both 'Jo' and 'Vicki'.
Talking with the Portreeve, he ends a story by mentioning the Ogrons and the Daleks. We don't know if he has been telling him about Day of the Daleks, or Frontier in Space. It would be funny if it was the latter, as the Portreeve is, of course, the disguised Master - who was there at the time.
The Delgado incarnation of the Master sometimes wore disguises - even of his own face.
Next time: Frogs - In - Space!!!
Tuesday, 1 October 2019
Fortean Who (Part 2)
Last time, we talked about the Loch Ness Monster being the Skarasen - cyborg-dinosaur pet of the alien Zygons. Or maybe the Borad - mad Karfelon scientist. Nessie ranks amongst the most popular of creatures known as Cryptids. Cryptozoology is a genuine science, which seeks to identify hitherto unknown insects and animals. Much is talked about the number of species which are going extinct due to human encroachment into their territory, or the effects of pollution, global warming and so forth. However, every year a number of new species are discovered in the remoter parts of the globe - the Amazon rain forest (what's left of it), the jungles of Borneo, Norfolk.
This has in part been spurred on by developments in DNA research. Just this year, an already recorded variety of lemur was found to be a brand new species of the animal. It had been known about for a long time, and looked similar to other specimens, but DNA proved it was actually genetically different enough from the more common variety as to be a whole new species.
Under the banner of Crytpozoology we also have the search for creatures thought to be extinct - and those only known about through myth and legend but which people in modern times have claimed to have seen. Two prime examples of this are the large ape-like hominids known as Bigfoot in Northern America, and the Yeti in the areas around the Himalayas.
Doctor Who hasn't so far got round to covering Bigfoot, AKA Sasquatch, but it has done the Yeti.
The ones encountered by the Second Doctor in 1930's Tibet proved to be fur-covered robots - servants of a disembodied alien entity which liked to call itself the Great Intelligence. However, at the end of the story a real Yeti is spotted by explorer Travers, and he runs off after it - so the genuine article exists in the Doctor Who universe.
The word Yeti is Tibetan and means "rocky place bear". The term "Abominable Snowman" was coined in 1921 by a journalist reporting on a recent Everest expedition who mistranslated Tibetan. Another name for the Yeti was Metoh-Kangmi (ape-man snowman). The journalist translated Metoh as "filthy", which he thesaurused into "abominable".
Strangely, when the Great Intelligence launched a second invasion attempt in the late 1960's via the London Underground network, it didn't opt to use robot Tube drivers or ticket inspectors, but stuck with the Yeti.
"Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night, can become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the moon is shining bright".
Not so much a potential Cryptid, though there are legends that people have been able to transform themselves physically and mentally into animals from every continent. These days, Lycanthropy is regarded more as a mental illness, whereby people only come to believe that they have taken on animal attributes, and don't sprout fur and fangs and slaughter their best friends whilst hiking across the Yorkshire Moors. There was a famous case from Germany in 1589, when a man named Stubbe Peeter was executed at Bedburg, near Cologne, after committing a number of murders around the area - possibly up to 25. Victims included men, woman and children, and it was said that the killer partially ate them. Under torture he had confessed to the crimes, claiming he had committed them whilst transformed into a wolf. After execution, his head was left on display atop a 16-spoked wheel - one spoke for each of his confirmed victims. His wife and daughter were also executed, as they were accused of aiding and abetting him.
A more recent Werewolf tale also comes from Germany, and that it the Morbach Monster. In the 1980's the USA had an airforce base at Morbach, where the service personnel heard local tales of a wolf-like creature which stalked the surrounding forests. One night in 1988, a commotion at one of the fences led to a guard seeing a huge wolf watching from the woods. It got up on its hind legs and ran off. Near the base was a shrine in which a candle burned constantly, and it was said that the monster would return if it ever went out. A few nights before the sighting, some of the Americans had been on their way back to the base and had noticed that the candle was not burning.
We have had a couple of Werewolves in Doctor Who, and it is always some sort of alien. On the planet Segonax the Seventh Doctor met a young woman from the planet Vulpana, who transformed into a Werewolf at even the sight of a full moon. Just a picture of one would trigger the transformation. Not sure why she came from a planet named after foxes. Lupana might have been more appropriate.
More recently we had the Werewolf which stalked the remote Glen of Saint Catherine in Scotland. This proved to be a series of hosts for an alien lifeform which fell to Earth in the glen in 1540. The monks of the nearby monastery came to worship it and abducted young boys to act as the hosts for the entity.
That quote at the top comes from the 1941 Universal horror film The Wolfman, and its sequels. Almost everything you know about Werewolves comes from this movie - such as silver being lethal, and the taint being spread by a bite - in much the same way that much Vampire lore comes from Bram Stoker's Dracula, and its many movie adaptations. Talking of which...
I recently wrote a bit about Vampires when I covered State of Decay in my "Inspirations" series of posts, so I won't cover the same ground again.
All it needs to be said is that Vampire myths are also found on every continent, and most of the stories we have heard derive from legends coming out of Central and Eastern Europe. The fear of Vampires is still pretty strong in some parts of Romania, as a recent news item about the corpse of a villager being dug up to be staked, decapitated and burnt will testify. In 2017, a curfew was imposed in a part of Malawi following a number of "vampire murders". Earlier this year David Farrant died. He gained notoriety in 1970 for instigating the hunt for the Highgate Vampire - said to be stalking the atmospheric Highgate Cemetery in North London. (If you're a London-based Vampire, it's the only place to be seen. You wouldn't be seen undead anywhere else). Farrant was sent to jail over this, accused of vandalism and desecrating graves. The story actually began a couple of years previous to these events, and a couple of miles away. A grave in Tottenham Park Cemetery was disturbed at Hallowe'en, 1968 - the corpse having a crucifix-shaped iron rod staked through it.
Many have put the Highgate Vampire scare down to the popularity of the Hammer series of Dracula films, starring the late great Christopher Lee as the Count. 1970 saw the release of Taste the Blood of Dracula (a movie where you can really play spot the Doctor Who guest star). This is the film which brings the Count to London - with a lot of the location sequences filmed in Highgate Cemetery.
Once again, Vampires in Doctor Who have tended to be of alien origins. There was once a race of powerful Vampires who were around at the beginning of the universe, and who were hunted down by Rassilon and the Time Lords. The Saturnyns in 16th Century Venice only looked like Vampires, due to a perception filter. (The look is totally based on Hammer's The Brides of Dracula). A number of corpses were recently discovered in a medieval cemetery on one of the Venetian islands, which had been staked into their graves. There is a film called The Vampire of Venice - only one letter away from the 2010 Doctor Who story title - which starred Klaus Kinski. It was a sequel to the remake of Nosferatu. Sabalom Glitz called his spaceship the Nosferatu, though that story (Dragonfire) is full of cinema references and they were probably looking for something close to Nostromo.
The Plasmavores in Smith and Jones were alien, whilst the Haemovores from The Curse of Fenric were actually a degenerated form of humanity, from an alternate far future.
Rather than look to the future, let's look to the past. Recently, Fortean Times has published a number of articles about a sub-genre known as Folk Horror. This sub-genre deals specifically with dark doings in the heart of rural England - usually to do with the maintenance of ancient pagan rites, such as human sacrifice. During the dying days of the Hippy era, some people looked to reject modern ways and concentrate on a more pastoral existence - seeking a golden age just like those nutters who wanted to turn back time in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Folk Horror said that such times weren't all that golden. There are three movies which you should see for an introduction to this sub-genre - 1968's Witchfinder General, its unofficial sequel Blood on Satan's Claw, and 1973's The Wicker Man. (God forbid you should watch the wrong the version of the latter - the abomination that is the 2013 Nicholas Cage one). The first two films are set around the time of the English Civil Wars of the mid-17th Century, and involve witchcraft (theme of the recent Doctor Who story The Witchfinders) and devil worship, whilst The Wicker Man shows how ancient pagan ceremonies can still survive in remote rural outposts, such as the fictional Summerisle.
The 1970's saw a slew of British TV dramas with Folk Horror themes - some of them even aimed at children. Prime example is Children of the Stones, but you can also count Sky (written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin) and Robin Redbreast. Anthology TV series abounded - such as Nigel Kneale's Beasts, some episodes of which touched on Folk Horror. (Check out if you can the episode entitled Baby - that one gave me nightmares back in 1976). Even those public safety information films they used to show on Saturday mornings have been co-opted. The one everybody remembers is The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water, which was designed to stop children from playing too close to the water. It's like a mini-horror film, or a segment of an Amicus portmanteau horror movie. Kids are playing by rivers and ponds, and a cowled monk-like figure lurks behind them.
What really makes it is the narration - by Donald Pleasence no less. It's one of the spookiest 90 seconds you'll ever watch. For those of you who didn't watch TV in the 1970's, at least not in the UK, you should be able to find it on You Tube - do search it out. (Another one people remember is the one designed to stop you going near electricity pylons, the dangers of which one boy learns to his cost when he tries to retrieve his frisbee...).
Last time, we talked a lot about The Daemons (probably the most Fortean of all Doctor Who stories). That too can be said to be an example of Folk Horror, with its quiet country village setting, pagan archaeological sites, and the local vicar having his very own black magic coven. (OK, so it's the Master...).
I was going to do just two of these posts, but I'm rather enjoying them, and there are some other Fortean / Doctor Who crossovers still to be explored - so keep an eye out for Part 3.
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