Wednesday 29 April 2020

The (Special Edition) Power of the Daleks

Out of the blue it was announced yesterday that the animated The Power of the Daleks is to get a Special Edition release in July (6th July is the UK release date).
This is a little surprising as its original release was fairly recent (2016), and we had already been told that two lost Troughton stories were to get the animation treatment this year - The Faceless Ones, which is already available, and Fury From The Deep, which hasn't even got a release date yet.
So what is so special about this that it needs the Special Edition treatment? Well, it's not just more extras - though there are some.
The sales blurb mentions that this version will have new and improved HD animation with "authentic black and white visuals". This suggests that it hasn't been merely tidied up a bit, but pretty much redone, and hints at a closer similarity to the telesnaps which survive from the story. One minor gripe I had with The Faceless Ones, which I watched the colour version of, was that the exterior scenes were all too bright and bland. It could have done with darker, lowering skies to make it more atmospheric.
No images of the new version have been released yet - only the DVD / Blu-ray cover above - so we don't have anything to compare yet. I've bitten the bullet and pre-ordered anyway (Zoom have it around £5 less than the RRP for both DVD and Blu-ray versions).
All of the 2016 extras are present.
The new VAM material includes:
  • Two new documentaries about the story,
  • Tom Baker's narrated version of the soundtrack from 1993,
  • The Peter Davison presented "Daleks: The Early Years" which came out on VHS back in 1992,
  • The Alan Whicker interview with Terry Nation (I Don't Like My Monsters To Have Oedipus Complexes) - presumably the full version of the piece, extracts of which have already appeared on numerous documentaries.
  • A 1952 episode of Robin Hood, starring Patrick Troughton (an image from which appeared in Robots of Sherwood),
  • Plus sundry news items, Blue Peter excerpts and Easter Eggs.
Worth buying this again just for that lot, I'd say.
I posted last year about the new Blu-ray season box sets, and mentioned that I'd very much like to see a Hartnell or Troughton one sooner rather than later, and they did say that they weren't going to leave the B&W seasons until the very end. I pointed out that three of the B&W seasons were pretty much good to go - One, Two, and Six. There are only 2 stories which are totally lost across these three seasons (Marco Polo and The Space Pirates), and a mere 6 missing episodes creating 3 incomplete stories, 4 of which have already been animated.
But where are we with the other three seasons (Three, Four and Five) which have suffered the most losses?
The recent releases of animated Troughton stories, plus what we know is forthcoming, have helped with Seasons Four and Five. 
In best shape is Season Five. We have 2 complete stories - Tomb of the Cybermen and Enemy of the World, 2 almost complete stories - The Ice Warriors and The Web of Fear - and we know that Fury From The Deep will be animated in its entirety before the year is out. We can add a single episode of The Abominable Snowmen, and 2 episodes of The Wheel in Space - so every story is represented in some way with visual material.
Season Four is the one which has been benefiting from the early Troughton animation obsession. Sadly, there isn't a single complete story for this season in the archives, but what we do have is The Tenth Planet, The Power of the Daleks, The Moonbase, The Macra Terror, and The Faceless Ones - all complete using a mix of animation and orphan episodes. The Evil of the Daleks, unfortunately, has only the one surviving episode, but most people think that it is pretty much guaranteed the animation treatment. (This is one of the reasons I'm surprised they've been fiddling about with Power - couldn't they have done Evil instead?).
The only stories that we are missing in their entirety are the two historicals - The Smugglers and The Highlanders.
Finally, Season Three has a lot missing from the archives, and the animators haven't gone near a Hartnell story since the regular DVD release schedule ended.
It actually has more complete stories than Season Five - The Ark, The Gunfighters and The War Machines. Four stories are lost completely however - Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Massacre and The Savages. The remaining stories are represented by orphan episodes only - Galaxy Four (1 episode), The Daleks' Master Plan (3 episodes) and The Celestial Toymaker (1 episode).
Whether or not people will be willing to buy a Blu-ray box set which comprises mostly animated episodes, we'll have to wait and see, but at the moment Season Three is the one that we're least likely to be seeing released anytime soon.

Monday 27 April 2020

Inspirations - Warriors of the Deep

A story that might have been a better fit with the previous, backwards looking, anniversary season, as it acts as a sequel to two Jon Pertwee adventures. These were both written by Malcolm Hulke and featured Earth's former reptilian masters - The Silurians and The Sea Devils.
Writer Johnny Byrne was asked by producer JNT to write this sequel, incorporating both the Silurians and the Sea Devils, having contributed stories to JNT's first two seasons (as well as having been his first choice as script editor).
Byrne would claim that this story was a reworking of a Space: 1999 script, but if that's the case then no-one knows which one he's referring to. It certainly isn't one of his own contributions to that series.
One episode which does share certain plot elements is "The Beta Cloud", written by the show's producer Fred Freiberger, which was part of the second series. This features a large monster (played by Dave Prowse) marauding through the Moonbase, with the crew making various futile attempts to halt its progress. This mirrors the Myrka part of Warriors of the Deep. It may well be that Byrne lifted little bits of other stories to make up this one. Season 1's "The Last Enemy" features a Cold War stalemate situation between two factions and the Moonbase finding itself used as a means for one side to gain a tactical advantage over the other. In Warriors of the Deep, however it is a third party (the Silurians and their Sea Devil cousins) which wants to use Sea Base 4 to set the two opposing power blocs into fighting a nuclear war.

In 1984, when this story was broadcast, the Cold War was hotter than it had been since the 1960's. The USA had Ronald Reagan as President, whilst in the UK we had Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister - a pair of Hawks. The Soviet Union saw two leaders in 1984 - first Yuri Andropov, and then Konstantin Chernenko, who only lasted 13 months before being replaced by Gorbachev in 1985. Andropov was as hawkish as his Western counterparts. The world saw a proliferation of nuclear armaments in the early 1980's, and Reagan was even contemplating taking the Cold War into space with his "Star Wars" programme. This was the backdrop to Byrne's story, where we have two power blocs poised on the brink of war 100 years in the future. The nature of these power blocs is never explained. We only ever get to see the crew of Sea Base 4, who never mention their national or political affiliation. The crew have a mix of Western and Eastern European names - Maddox, Preston, Nilson, Paroli, Solow and Vorshak. This could be a North-South conflict rather than an East-West one, as there are very few ethnic minorities amongst the crew.
The political situation in the UK was one of the main factors in this story having a terrible reputation from a production pint of view.

Although Mrs Thatcher could have remained as Prime Minister until the Spring of 1984, she decided to call a General Election for the Autumn of 1983, which took everyone by surprise - not least the BBC who had booked studio spaces for the period when the election was to fall. Some productions were held back until after the election, and JNT could have taken this option, but he chose instead to bring production on Warriors of the Deep forward. This left director Pennant Roberts with little time to prepare, but it was even worse for VFX lead Mat Irvine. He was already held up on another production in Scotland when he learned he had only a few weeks to provide dozens of props and costumes. The Silurians were totally redesigned, making them look more turtle-like, with a thick shell-like carapace. When it became clear that you couldn't tell which one was talking, the third eye was changed to illuminate when they spoke, whereas before it had only been used as a weapon or tool. Only one rather battered Sea Devil head survived from 1972, on display at one of the BBC Doctor Who Exhibitions. This was used as a mould for the new masks. It was decided to make the Sea Devils more of a military force, with the Silurians their officer class. Fishing net dresses were out, and so they ended up being given a Samurai Warrior costume. The fins on the original Sea Devil mask were left off the new ones as they were now going to be wearing helmets. Neither of the new sets of costume fitted very well. You can often see the white T-shirts of the Silurian actors appearing when the neck piece comes loose from the back plate. Worst of all, as the Sea Devil heads fit on top of the actors' own heads, they often wobble alarmingly or simply tilt over as if they had broken necks. Costume wise, worse was to come...

Not content with having the Silurians and the Sea Devils return, it was also decided to have a brand new monster in the story - the Myrka. The Silurians had previously been seen to have a pet dinosaur, and the Myrka was to be a pet of the Sea Devils - a large underwater reptile which has a vaguely Sea Devil-ish face. A quadruped, it would be operated, like a pantomime cow, by two people - and the men selected to be inside it were William Perrie and John Asquith, who were usually to be found operating the pantomime horse in the BBC children's sitcom Rentaghost. The shortage of time in the lead up to this story going into production meant that they never got to rehearse in the costume. The first time they got inside was when they were called upon to operate it for the recording. Not only that, but the costume was still wet, and you can see green paint getting smeared on the sets and Janet Fielding's dress.
Byrne was at pains to make to make it clear afterwards that the Myrka was never supposed to look the way it did. It was only ever supposed to be seen in shadow and silhouette, as he had envisaged the Sea base to be a dark, dank, rusty environment. What he got instead was brilliant white walls, lit by floodlights. Mat Irvine recommended that the Myrka be dropped from the story, when it became clear that it didn't work, but JNT insisted on its inclusion.
Something else Byrne never scripted was the judo fight between scientist Solow (Ingrid Pitt) and the Myrka. This was the actress' own idea to do, and the director stupidly agreed to allow it. Pitt had been due to play the role of Karina, but asked for the scientist part instead.

As there were problems on the production side, so were there problems with the script. It is clear that Warriors of the Deep is intended to be a sequel to the two Pertwee stories, and only to the two Pertwee stories. The Doctor specifically refers to two previous occasions when he tried to broker peace between humans and reptiles. However, the three Silurians are referred to as the Silurian Triad, despite never being called this before. They never had names in The Silurians. Worst of all, the Doctor recognises a Silurian battle-cruiser when he sees one - despite such a thing never having been seen on screen before. The plot only works if the Doctor is referring to two previous occasions with the Silurians only, ignoring the Sea Devil story - meaning that there has been an unbroadcast story at some point.
It was during the making of this story that Peter Davison and Janet Fielding announced that this would be their last season on the show. Davison was offered a fourth year but declined, following advice from Patrick Troughton to only do three years.
Next time: the final old-style two part story of the Classic Era, written by a man whose agent was once producer of Doctor Who...

Thursday 23 April 2020

Story 218 - The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People

In which the Doctor attempts to divert Amy and Rory on a trip on their own. They decline to leave him, however, worried about what he might get up to on his own. The TARDIS is suddenly hit by a fierce solar storm, which is heading for Earth. The ship is caught up in its wake and arrives on an island off the English coast on which there is a ruined medieval monastery. It is the 22nd Century, and the monastery has been converted into a mining complex run by a company called Morpeth Jetsan. The five strong crew (manager Cleaves, Jennifer, Jimmy, Buzzer and Dicken) are mining for a type of extremely corrosive acid. To help them in their work they employ "Gangers" - short for doppelgangers. These are exact replicas of themselves, even having the same personality and memory, created from a viscous white substance known as Flesh. The Flesh avatars are created when the crew link themselves up to a vat of the substance. Gangers are regarded as disposable, being mere copies of real people, and many are killed carrying out the hazardous work. The avatars dissolve once the crew member disconnects from the vat. However, the solar storm has affected the equipment, and now four of the latest avatars are still active, despite being disconnected from their human counterparts.

Initially they find it difficult to maintain their human likeness - their flesh turning milky and smooth. Their bodies have a great deal more flexibility, allowing them to contort their necks and limbs. The Doctor pretends to be a weather specialist, come to warn them of further solar storm activity. He is particularly intrigued by the Flesh and scans it, before reaching out and touching it. He, Amy and Rory observe the process by which a Ganger is created when a copy of Jennifer is made. The second storm strikes, and everyone is knocked out. The mining equipment is damaged, and acid begins to spill from broken pipes all over the monastery. The TARDIS sinks into the ground as it dissolves beneath it. On waking up, the human crew and the Ganger avatars are scattered around the complex - and no-one now knows who is who. The Doctor regards the avatars as being just as real as the humans, with all the same thought processes. Cleaves and the others do not agree, seeing them as only copies - simple work units. Knowing this, the Gangers decide that they must fight for their survival. The Doctor realises that he must find a way to make peace between them.

Rory seems to take the Doctor's side in the argument, whilst Amy is opposed to it - seeing the Gangers the same way that the crew see them. She is jealous of the way that Rory has been standing up for Jennifer in particular. In the main dining room where the crew spend most of their time, they see that their belongings have been ransacked. The Doctor explains that this is merely the Gangers wanting to understand who they are. He hands Cleaves a plate straight from the microwave and notices that she does not even flinch, despite it being very hot. She is the Ganger Cleaves. The human Cleaves appears with an electric stun gun and uses it on the Buzzer avatar, killing him. The Doctor points out that the Gangers have hearts to stop. He goes to the TARDIS to find it almost completely buried, losing his shoes to acid attack at the same time. The Jennifer Ganger meanwhile attempts to get Rory on her side and he is taken in by her, not realising that she is actually far more militant than her peers. Unknown to Rory, she kills her human counterpart. Realising that an armed conflict is inevitable, with the Gangers out to avenge the death of Buzzer, the Doctor gathers the crew together in the vat room, which can be easily defended. Everyone is shocked when a familiar figure steps out of the shadows - a Flesh version of the Doctor...

The Doctor realises that at the same time he was scanning the Flesh, it was scanning him, and it has now produced a copy. This throws Amy into further confusion, as the Ganger Doctor acts exactly as the original, yet she still harbours antagonism towards them. She is further concerned as she has once again glimpsed the lady with the eye-patch observing her from a hole in the wall, which promptly disappeared. The Doctor then plays a trick on her by pretending to be his Ganger counterpart, just to see how she reacts. Amy cannot tell the difference, and comes to realise the error of her prejudice. She has also inadvertently told the Doctor about the events at Lake Silencio and the death of his future self - thinking she had been speaking to his avatar. Rory is tricked by the Jennifer Ganger into activating some equipment which sets up an overload in the acid pumping systems. Pressure will build up and destroy the pipelines. He realises too late that he has been tricked and that she is determined to lead a Ganger revolution. She had earlier come across a dumping area for discarded Gangers, and this has made her even more determined to kill the human crew members. She kills Buzzer.

Cleaves has called for a rescue craft to come and take them off the island, but her Ganger counterpart has thought of this also, and has intercepted the call so that it is the avatars who are to be picked up instead. The Doctor is finally able to make the human crew see that the Gangers are a form of life deserving of recognition as individuals after Jimmy dies trying to top the acid from escaping. A video message comes from Jimmy's son, whose birthday it is. The Ganger Jimmy responds to it, exactly as his human counterpart would have done as they had shared the same memories and emotions. This leads the Gangers and the humans to cease hostilities. Jennifer is furious with her peers, still determined to kill all humans. She begins to mutate into an animalistic new form. Everyone goes to the cellars and locks themselves in - Dicken sacrificing himself to keep Jennifer at bay. The monastery is slowly being destroyed by the acid which threatens to explode and cover the island. The Ganger versions of Cleaves and the Doctor elect to stay behind to destroy Jennifer, though it will kill them as well, as the TARDIS drops through the ceiling. The Doctor, Amy, Rory, Cleaves and the Dicken and Jimmy Gangers rush inside as the Ganger Doctor operates the sonic screwdriver to disperse their Flesh bodies. Cleaves had earlier admitted that she was suffering from an inoperable tumour, but the Doctor cures her. He takes her and Dicken to Morpeth Jetsan HQ to argue for Ganger rights, after dropping off Jimmy to be with his son on his birthday.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor has the answer he was seeking to Amy's on / off pregnancy scans. She is really a Flesh copy, the real Amy having been abducted some time ago. He had suspected this for some time, which is why he had come here in the first place. The TARDIS scanner had been reading both the Flesh version and the real one, who were psychically linked. He dissolves the avatar before a shocked Rory, vowing that he will come and find her. Elsewhere, the real Amy wakes up to find herself pregnant, with the eye-patch lady informing her she is about to give birth...

The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People was written by Matthew Graham, and was first broadcast on the 21st and 28th May 2011. Graham, creator of Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, had previously contributed the underwhelming, and hugely unpopular, Fear Her for Series 2. (It was the lowest rated story of the revived series, and second lowest rated of all time, as of the DWM 50th Anniversary poll in 2014).
This story is a great improvement (not difficult) but still has a lot of problems. It's basically too long, and short of incident for a two parter. The two groups - Ganger and human - do a lot of talking about what they are going to do, but don't really get round to doing much. Only the Jessica Ganger character is interesting and moves the plot along. She's sympathetic to begin with, and you feel on her side, but then she turns into a monster - quite literally. The CGI monster version of her is extremely poorly realised. We're left with the Doctor simply trying to get two opposing factions to be nice to each other - a retread of the Silurian story in the previous season.
We also have the latest occasion of the Doctor having a duplicate - a very old idea. The cliffhanger exists purely to have the reveal of an unfinished Flesh avatar of the Doctor. There's absolutely no jeopardy, so there is nothing to resolve when the second half opens.

Much of what this story is remembered for comes in the last couple of minutes, which is surely more Moffat than Graham. The Doctor now knows about his death at Lake Silencio, and we learn that it is a Flesh Amy we have been watching for the last three stories, as well as the latter part of The Impossible Astronaut. Presumably the switch was made when Amy was abducted by the Silents in that episode. You'll recall she believed herself to be pregnant at the start of that story, but was claiming it was all a false alarm by the end. The eye-patch lady is explained, as the Flesh Amy has been getting glimpses of what the real Amy has been seeing, as Frances Barber's character has kept an eye (literally) on her.
The guest cast consists of just the five crew members and their Flesh counterparts, giving everyone two versions of the same character to play (though some of them are similar in both versions). The standout performance is Sarah Smart's Jennifer, or at least the Ganger version as the real one doesn't appear very much. As mentioned above, you really feel sorry for her and her crusade for Ganger rights, but she descends into  madness and obsession and eventually becomes a monster in more ways than one. Rory is totally taken in by her and in the hands of a lesser writer and performer this would have really annoyed - Rory coming across as stupid to believe her. But you can see why he becomes taken with her and wants to help her.
Cleaves is Raquel Cassidy. We really don't take to her at all to begin with but come to like her. Jimmy is Mark Bonnar, who is rather underused apart from the sequence where he sees his son's video message. Buzzer is Life on Mars' Marshall Lancaster (again underused), whilst Dicken is played by Leon Vickers.

Overall then, a bit of a disappointment, for the reasons given above.
Things you might like to know:
  • There is a discussion between the crew about Gangers going wrong - an earlier incident on another island. This mirrors a similar scene at the beginning of The Robots of Death, where a human crew discuss a possibly apocryphal incident involving servants going wrong.
  • Viewers in the USA had to wait an extra week between the two episodes, due to Memorial Day, to protect the ratings.
  • It is never explained just what this acid is that everyone is mining. No-one mines for acid. It seems that the substance was chosen just to add some jeopardy to an otherwise unexciting plot.
  • The curse of hindsight strikes again - why have Flesh people never been mentioned in any earlier story set after this date - or even any other story post 22nd Century since this was broadcast. Are we to assume that Cleaves and Dicken failed in their efforts at Morpeth Jetsan?
  • The Doctor asks his Ganger version to describe a Cybermat to test that he has the same memories. This foreshadows the return of the Cybermats later in the season.
  • The Ganger Doctor also speaks some lines from his previous incarnations, as he struggles to absorb so many personalities. These include "One day we will get back. Yes, one day", as spoken by the First Doctor in the very first episode; "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow", spoken (only twice) by the Third Doctor; and "Would you like a jelly baby?", often asked by the Fourth Doctor.

Wednesday 22 April 2020


If you're wondering why I haven't said anything about the on-going Lockdown Tweet-alongs to a selection of Nu-Who stories, it's simply because I don't do Twitter. I joined it a couple of years ago but never tweeted once and stopped looking at it after a couple of weeks. Just not my thing.
I understand they're very popular and have covered stories from Eccleston to Capaldi so far. Cast and crew participate. I believe they've also done a Torchwood one as well.
To be honest, I'm very choosy about what Doctor Who stories I watch and when, and have to be in the right frame of mind to re-view them, and following someone else's timetable doesn't work for me.
I tend to watch whole seasons at a time, or have an annual 'watch every story from the start' marathon over a few months. I'm not so keen on dipping into individual stories at random.
If you haven't discovered these events then you can keep up to date with them on most of the Doctor Who news blogs and websites. You can see the highlights of past events and find out what's coming up next here:

Monday 20 April 2020

What's Wrong With... The Myth Makers

The Myth Makers, by Donald Cotton, is one of those stories which is not only lost, but there are no telesnaps and no orphan episodes or even surviving clips to give us any sense of what it looked like. There aren't even all that many photographs, so it's one of the least documented stories, visually. All we do have are 11 very short clips saved by a fan on Super 8 film.
As a Donald Cotton script, we can expect three episodes of humour, followed by a fourth episode where all hell breaks loose and many of the characters, a few of whom we've come to quite like, get slaughtered.
Last week, the viewing public would have been perplexed by the non-arrival of the Doctor and companions in a Dalek-centric episode. Tuning in this week, they might have been forgiven for expecting the TARDIS to finally materialise for the Doctor to put a stop to the Dalek plan.
Instead we get two Bronze Age warriors having a sword fight as the ship lands. The Doctor decides to step outside and ask them where they are, which seems a very silly thing to do. The Doctor doesn't seem to see any danger in placing himself into the middle of a fight. Not only that, but his sudden appearance causes the warriors to become distracted - fatally so for one of them, who we'll shortly discover is the Trojan hero Hector. Not only has the Doctor put himself into some considerable danger, but his actions have directly led to the death of a man.
The Doctor gets taken by the victor of the fight - Greek hero Achilles - to his camp, as he believes him to be Zeus. The Doctor goes along with this for a short while, which obviously stops him being killed for being a spy, but he then very quickly admits that he is not the Father of the Gods.
We here have one of Hartnell's more infamous fluffs, one Peter Purves always mentions in interviews:
"I am not a dog... I am not a god!"
Steven dons a disguise as a Greek soldier and sets off to find the Doctor, whilst Vicki gets taken into the city of Troy in the TARDIS, after the ship is found by Hector's brother Paris.
Vicki gets renamed 'Cressida' by King Priam, for no real reason other than to set up the Shakespeare gag, as she'll fall in love with Troilus and elect to stay behind with him.
In the Homer and Shakespeare version of these events Troilus is killed by Achilles when the city falls, but Cotton decides to change things to give Vicki a happy ending.
The Doctor has previously argued about changing history, and yet he seems quite happy to have the Greeks invent the glider millennia early.
The Doctor instead leaves with Katarina, a character who doesn't appear in the first three episodes. She's a handmaid of Cassandra who only turns up towards the end.
Behind the scenes, this was not a very happy production. William Hartnell had suffered a bereavement - his aunt who had brought him up had died - but producer John Wiles wouldn't give him time off to attend the funeral. This cemented his dislike for Wiles. He also felt that he didn't have a very big role in the story, and was aggrieved that the guest stars had better parts - leading him to give Max Adrian and Francis De Wolff the cold shoulder. De Wolff is also reported to have insulted his acting - stressing the first half of the word "ham-bone" whilst looking directly at Hartnell. Hartnell also sustained a shoulder injury when he was hit by a camera.
Maureen O'Brien had returned from a holiday to find that she was to be written out of the series in this story, supposedly because Wiles and script editor Donald Tosh believed that she was desperate to leave. Though very unhappy, and vocal in her criticisms of recent scripts, she did not want to leave at this time. Had she known when she was going to be let go, she would not have gone on holiday and instead would have sought new work.
Tosh bitterly regretted the way her departure was handled.

Friday 17 April 2020

Inspirations - The Five Doctors

In planning the 20th season of the programme, producer John Nathan-Turner asked his bosses if he could move the series' transmission start date back to the autumn of 1983. This way the season would be on air during the week of the 20th anniversary itself, on 23rd November. The request was turned down, as the BBC still saw Doctor Who as a key fixture in their New Year schedules. However, there was some additional funding in reserve, with the addition of some co-production monies, to record a one-off, 90 minute, anniversary special that could be broadcast that week.
Script editor Eric Saward felt that the special really ought to be written by someone who knew the series and its history well. He was too busy working on the regular season to write it himself. His first choice as writer was Robert Holmes, whose stories for the series he greatly admired. JNT had scrupulously avoided using any writers from before his time, and was resistant to using Holmes. He had only agreed to Terrance Dicks writing for his first season because the script cupboard was bare, and State of Decay was the only thing that could be resurrected in the time available. Saward eventually won him over.
Holmes agreed to the proposal, but quickly came to regret doing so.

JNT came from a production background, primarily a budgets and logistics person. Unlike most of his predecessors, he had never been involved in scripting and had little or no knowledge about writing for TV. Saward and his predecessor Christopher H Bidmead are on record as explaining JNT's role in the storytelling process - mainly to come up with things that he wanted to see included. Often these seemed to be random thoughts that had simply popped into his head, which exasperated the script editors. These story element ideas of his would come to be known as his "shopping lists", and some stories will be very much based around these - often to their detriment. We've already seen how well a story set in Amsterdam, with the return of Omega, turned out.
This time, JNT's shopping list was understandable. He wanted as many elements from the series' history as possible to be included - Doctors, companions and monsters.

Taking the Doctors first, he already had Peter Davison, and both Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee were keen to participate, having been sounded out at conventions. Only one of the Doctor actors had passed away at this stage, William Hartnell, and so it was decided to recast the role. JNT had seen Richard Hurndall in an episode of Blake's 7, sporting long white hair, and thought that he would suit. Tom Baker was initially interested, but then began to get cold feet. His unhappy departure from the series was still too recent, and he was already realising the damage to his career from type-casting. Holmes proceeded with his script, which would be called "The Six Doctors". This would refer to the First Doctor turning out to be an android duplicate created by the Cybermen, hence him not looking exactly as he had done previously.

As far as companions went, the plan was to team Carole Ann Ford with Hurndall as First Doctor and his granddaughter Susan; Frazer Hines with Troughton as Second Doctor and Jamie; Nicholas Courtney with Pertwee as Third Doctor and Brigadier; and Lis Sladen with Baker as Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith. Other companion actors such as Debbie Watling wanted to appear but had theatre commitments. Katy Manning, the obvious person to pair with Pertwee, was living and working in Australia and unavailable. Hines had just returned to his ITV soap Emmerdale Farm after a break, and was told that he couldn't take any more time off. This would lead to some rearranging of companions with their Doctors. Hines was told by JNT that if he had any days off he was welcome to join the story if only for a cameo.
Monster wise, JNT did not want the Daleks to feature. It was already planned that the 20th season would end with a Dalek story anyway - Saward's "Warhead". The script editor pushed for the Cybermen to be the chief monsters as he really liked them, and JNT agreed following the success of Earthshock. After a bad experience having to rewrite The Revenge of the Cybermen, and thinking them boring to write for, Holmes was no fan. It was also intended that the Third Doctor might meet the Autons, which Holmes himself had created.

It soon became apparent that Holmes was struggling with the story, with JNT asking Saward to give him new character and plot additions on a regular basis. Realising that the project could collapse, Saward decided to call upon a back-up writer. The obvious candidate was Dicks. He was attending a US convention when Saward called him - forgetting the time difference and waking him up in the middle of the night. Dicks initially agreed - until he learned that his was to be the reserve storyline. He felt that not only was this a great insult to Bob Holmes, it was also a great insult to himself. He told Saward to get back to him only if Holmes withdrew - and this is what happened next.
Elements of Holmes' unused script would reappear a couple of years later, in The Two Doctors.

Dicks selected the Quest structure for his story, as well as a game element. He was inspired by the Two Towers of Tolkien, and the epic poem Child Roland to the Dark Tower Came, by Robert Browning, first published in 1855.
Dicks was fond of the Time Lords, having been partly responsible for their creation, but he especially liked the darker version which Holmes had introduced with The Deadly Assassin. This led to him setting the story on Gallifrey. The recently seen Castellan from Arc of Infinity was reintroduced. Dicks originally intended the villain of the piece to be the Master. Saward pointed out that this would be a rather obvious thing to do, and Dicks readily agreed. Instead he decided to go for a more unlikely villain - someone who had generally been seen as a friend of the Doctor. President Borusa became the main protagonist, with the antagonistic Castellan being set up as a red herring.

Things did not go smoothly for Dicks either, though he proved to be far more adaptable than his old friend. The biggest problem which arose was Tom Baker's decision to pull out, after blowing hot and cold on the project for some time. This led to a companion reshuffle, with Sarah now joining the Third Doctor, the Brigadier having moved to join the Second Doctor when Hines had become unavailable for a sizeable role. JNT still wanted Baker's inclusion in some way, so it was agreed with him and director Pennant Roberts that some footage from the never broadcast Shada would be incorporated into the story, with the Fourth Doctor remaining trapped in a time eddy for much of the running time. Dicks had faced this problem before when William Hartnell's health had precluded him from playing a more active part in The Three Doctors - the story which The Five Doctors is most closely modelled upon. This footage gave fans the added bonus of the inclusion of Romana II, as portrayed by Lalla Ward. (It's unlikely she would have participated otherwise).

With other companion actors making themselves available, Dicks was able to include them in cameo roles as "phantoms", sent by the mind of Rassilon to force intruders back from his resting place. The Second Doctor met Jamie and Zoe (Wendy Padbury), whilst the Third Doctor encountered Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin) and Liz Shaw (Caroline John).
Dicks argued that you couldn't have an anniversary special and not include the Daleks in it, so it was decided to give one of them a cameo also - an obstacle for the First Doctor and Susan to get past. (Dicks also fought for the inclusion of a cameo for K9, not liking it very much but knowing that it was a popular character with the kids). With the Cybermen already in the mix, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier were given a Yeti to confront - both having first met in The Web of Fear, which is also the story which was in production when Dicks first joined the programme. The Auton sequence was dropped as being too expensive to mount on location. The Doctor and Sarah were to have come upon a deserted high street, with shop window dummies that would come to life. Some extra jeopardy was still needed for the Third Doctor and Sarah before they got to the Tower, otherwise it would have been too easy for them, so Dicks devised the Raston Warrior Robot as a cheap but effective menace.

Disliking the Cybermen almost as much as Holmes did, he took great delight in having the robot wipe out a patrol of the creatures.
It had been hoped that the series' very first director, Waris Hussein, would return to the show to direct this, but he was unavailable, now living and working in the States. Peter Moffatt was given the job instead, seen as a safe pair of hands for such a mammoth production, with a great deal of location work. This took place in North Wales, a stone's throw away from where Troughton had previously filmed The Abominable Snowmen.
A clip of the real First Doctor was added to the beginning of the programme so that he might also feature - Hartnell's farewell speech to Susan from The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Unfortunately this only served to show how not very like him Hurndall actually was. The closing music segued from the original arrangement into the current version.
The original plan was for the finished story to be broadcast on the evening of the 23rd November 1983, but the BBC then decided on a change of plan. That week was to see the annual Children In Need charity event, which was always staged on a Friday evening. The Five Doctors would be held back a couple of nights to form the centrepiece of that event. Viewers in the USA got to see it on the 23rd, making it the first ever story not to debut in the UK on BBC1 first. Some fans were further excited to see the novelisation, by Dicks, in the shops prior to broadcast. (Some of them even managed to resist temptation and not read it until after it was screened).
Next time: an exercise in how not to handle continuity. Mrs Thatcher helps to ruin a waterlogged story involving Silurians, Sea Devils, and a pantomime horse...

Thursday 16 April 2020

Story 217 - The Doctor's Wife

In which the Doctor gets mail in the TARDIS - in the form of a Time Lord message cube. These containers can carry telepathic messages. This one has been sent by a Time Lord known as the Corsair, an old acquaintance of the Doctor. He is overjoyed to learn that more of his people may have survived, as he realises that the cube originated in a small bubble universe. The TARDIS travels there and arrives on a small planetoid, covered in space junk. On landing, the ship suddenly loses power. The Doctor, Amy and Rory encounter four individuals - a man and woman named Uncle and Auntie, a younger woman called Idris, and an Ood called Nephew. Idris appears to know all about the Doctor, despite him never having met her. She is acting in a crazed, manic manner, so Aunt and Uncle are forced to lock her up.
From Auntie and Uncle, the Doctor learns that they call this planetoid House, and it sustains them. The Doctor discovers that beneath the thin shell of the planet is a mass of sentient energy. Suspicious about what is going on here, he sends Amy and Rory back to the TARDIS for his sonic screwdriver, even though he has it in his pocket. Once they are inside, House materialises as a dense green fog and impregnates the ship. Amy and Rory find themselves locked in, as House takes over the TARDIS.

The Doctor meanwhile manages to trace a number of Time Lord signals which are being transmitted via Nephew's communications sphere. He locates a cupboard in which dozens of cubes are held - messages from long dead Time Lords. Auntie and Uncle have misshapen bodies, made from spare parts of other individuals, and the Doctor recognises that Auntie has the arm of the Corsair, as it bears a distinctive tattoo. They admit that House feeds on the energy of TARDISes and lures them here to consume them. The Time Lord pilots are killed and their bodies used to prolong the life of Auntie and Uncle. House begins by removing the TARDIS' matrix - its "soul" - and temporarily housing it in one of its slaves. This is why the ship lost power on landing, and why Idris now knows so much about the Doctor. She has become the soul of the TARDIS. Now that House knows there are no more TARDISes, it plans to leave this place in the Doctor's ship to travel to the main universe in search of more sustenance. With no further use for Auntie and Uncle, House allows them to die.
The TARDIS dematerialises with Amy and Rory still trapped inside, with House in control and with Nephew lurking on board.

The Doctor must join forces with Idris / his own TARDIS to escape the planetoid and save his companions. Despite the great jeopardy, he finds it fascinating to be able to talk directly with the TARDIS matrix in a way he has never been able to communicate before. She complains that he always pushes the doors when it says "Pull" on them, whilst he argues that the ship never goes where he wants it to go. She explains that she takes him where he needs to go. She also says that he never stole her - she stole him, as she wanted to explore the universe just as much as he did. The planetoid's surface is littered with TARDIS fragments, and they realise they can build a make-shift ship out of these.
Inside the TARDIS, meanwhile, the sadistic House decides to torment Amy and Rory rather than simply kill them. They run and hide in a maze of corridors, but Nephew stalks them and House plays mind games with them, distorting space, time and senses. Amy sees Rory as an old man who accuses her of abandoning him years ago, and later as a corpse.
The Doctor and Idris build their makeshift TARDIS and she gives some Arton energy to power it. They then set off in pursuit of the TARDIS which is nearing the exit from the bubble universe. Idris sends Rory a telepathic message telling him how to get himself and Amy to safety. They follow her instructions and find themselves in the old TARDIS console room, as used by the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. Idris explains that all the old designs are stored on file.

House manages to trace them here and sends Nephew to kill them. The makeshift TARDIS materialises in the console room just where Nephew was standing and this destroys him. House threatens to kill everyone, but the Doctor points out a huge mistake it has made. The original TARDIS matrix is now back aboard the ship. The Doctor is able to say a final farewell to it as it leaves Idris and reenters the TARDIS systems. House is overwhelmed and destroyed.
The Doctor always knew that having the matrix inside her would be fatal for Idris, and she dies - but first gives Rory a cryptic message - "the only water in the forest is the river".
Later that night, the Doctor works alone at the console, sad that he won't be able to communicate with his ship in the same way as he could through Idris. Asking if it is still there, one of the levers moves by itself...

The Doctor's Wife was written by Neil Gaiman, and was first broadcast on 14th May 2011.
Gaiman's name had been linked with the series ever since Steven Moffat took over as showrunner, and it was originally intended that this story would feature in Moffat's first series. This was later confirmed when the Blue Peter competition to devise a "junkyard" TARDIS failed to see its winning entry feature in the Series 5.
Gaiman was forced to make some cuts to his story mostly on cost grounds. An early sequence featuring Amy and Rory in the TARDIS swimming pool was cut (mainly because Karen Gillan couldn't swim), another scene had Rory hiding in the Zero Room, and it was originally planned that Nephew would be a new design - looking like a hulking, stitched together Frankenstein Monster sort of figure. Instead, an Ood costume from stock was redeployed. Another sequence was to have been Idris turning off all the chameleon circuits on the wrecked TARDISes, leaving them all in their natural form, but the CGI costs were prohibitive.
One major trim was an opening sequence which would later appear in amended form as a DVD extra on the Series 7 box set as "Rain Gods". The Doctor, Amy and Rory where to have been threatened with sacrifice by aliens who worshipped the said Rain Gods, but would have been saved by the arrival of the Time Lord message cube.
Looking to the future more than the past, we also get the first mention that a Time Lord can change gender - the Corsair having been a woman at one point. This idea originated with Gaiman, not Moffat.

As far as this series' story arc is concerned, we only have Idris' cryptic message to consider. What The Doctor's Wife does do is look more to the history of the series, referring to earlier stories and even to the time before the series started.
It has always been stated that the Doctor stole the TARDIS, but here we learn that the TARDIS was just as guilty as he was - claiming instead that it stole him in a way. The old complaints that the Doctor always ended up in trouble wherever he went, and the TARDIS rarely went where it was supposed to go, are addressed by the TARDIS claiming that it always took the Doctor where he needed to go - suggesting it knew that bad things were going to happen on these planets, and so directed the Doctor there to sort them out.
The message cubes were seen once before - in The War Games, when the Second Doctor used one to send a telepathic message for assistance from the Time Lords. All other times the Doctor sought help from Gallifrey he was in the TARDIS, so presumably these are for when Time Lords are separated from their ships.
A more recent nod to the past is the inclusion of scenes set in the previous coral themed TARDIS console room, as seen from Rose to The End of Time Part II. Moffat and Gaiman specifically requested that the set be maintained for this story. It would later be partly reassembled at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay, which is where subsequent stories featuring it could be recorded (i.e. The Day of the Doctor). Plus, Rory gets to die yet again.

The guest cast is headed by Suranne Jones playing Idris. She had only recently played a living Mona Lisa in The Sarah Jane Adventures story Mona Lisa's Revenge.
House is voiced by Michael Sheen, David Tennant's recent co-star in Good Omens (co-written and adapted for TV by Gaiman). Sheen has quite a reputation for portraying real people - everyone from football manager Brian Clough to David Frost, Kenneth Williams to Tony Blair, the Emperor Nero (twice) to Chris Tarrant.
Uncle is Adrian Schiller, and Auntie is Elizabeth Berrington. Berrington had featured as Cherie Blair opposite Sheen, as Tony, in The Deal, and had also appeared in Good Omens.
Paul Kasey was Nephew - given green eyes this time instead of red as he was possessed by House.

Overall, an excellent story - one of the best from the Eleventh Doctor era (indeed, it was voted 4th most popular of his stories in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll, in 37th place overall). Suranne Jones gives a remarkable performance - initially quite manic but you're in tears by the time Idris dies. Sheen also provides a very good vocal performance as the totally villainous House. It's also one of those rare occasions when the three regulars all get good material to work with.
Things you might like to know:
  • One of the working titles was "Bigger on the Inside".
  • The initial idea would have been the Doctor trapped inside his own ship, pursued by an enemy.
  • The story which replaced The Doctor's Wife in Series 5 was The Lodger, so this version would not have featured Rory.
  • In the earlier version, the final scene would have been of the Doctor and Amy burying Idris' body, with a hint that House might have survived - hidden inside her.
  • The story's title goes back to the JNT era, when the producer was starting to have second thoughts about wooing the fans so much. He was convinced that someone in the production team was feeding secrets to fan groups, and so would leave things like fake story titles on the office wall to see if they got reported in a fanzine. One such bit of fan-bait was the title "The Doctor's Wife".
  • The first glimpse of TARDIS corridors since 2005, and they're a bit of a disappointment, being sci-fi cliche hexagonal ones.
  • The Doctor had previously claimed that there could be (at least) two console rooms in existence at the same time (Masque of Mandragora and The Invisible Enemy). Here it is stated that the TARDIS itself can create the rooms on its own, stores the old ones, and even has some future ones already lined up.
  • A new safety feature is that on impending break-up the occupants are automatically transferred to the current console room from wherever they are in the ship.
  • The Doctor mentions having rebuilt a TARDIS before. This might refer to his having taken it apart and put it back together again whilst in exile on Earth, or his dismantling of key components in The Horns of Nimon.
  • A Seventh Doctor comic strip ("Nineveh!", The Incredible Hulk Presents Dec 1989) had featured a planet full of wrecked TARDISes, and a villain who lured Time Lords to their deaths.
  • The argument about the door panel saying "Pull" when the Doctor always pushes them open doesn't actually make sense. The "Pull Door To Open" on a Police Box refers to the small telephone cabinet, not the main doors themselves.

Monday 13 April 2020

H is for... Hath

Piscine bipeds who accompanied human colonists from Earth to help colonise the planet Messaline in the year 6012. They breathed through special liquid filled devices when away from their natural habitat.
The mission commander was killed on arrival, and the resulting power vacuum led to an armed conflict breaking out between the humans and the Hath. Each side possessed Progenitor machines, which could reproduce their kind from a genetic sample. The war raged for only a few days, but casualties were such that by the time the Doctor, Donna and Martha arrived, everyone thought that it had been going on for much longer, as new generations of soldiers were created. Both armies had a goal - to find something known as "the Source", which they believed would give them victory. This turned out to be a terraforming device.
Martha was captured by Hath during a raid, becoming separated from the Doctor and Donna. She found that she was able to communicate with them. On discovering the location of the Source at the same time as the humans, Martha realised that the quickest way to it was over the inhospitable surface of the planet. A Hath named Peck agreed to accompany her, but he was killed when he fell into a pool whilst rescuing her and his breathing apparatus was smashed.
The Doctor activated the Source, and the planet began to change to a more hospitable environment, whilst the Hath, led by Gable, and the humans agreed to work together.
A pair of Hath were later seen by the Doctor in an alien bar where he went in search of Captain Jack prior to his regeneration, and other Hath frequented the Maldovarium when Colony Sarf went in search of the Twelfth Doctor on Davros' instructions.

Played by: Paul Kasey (Peck), Ruari Mears (Gable). Appearances: The Doctor's Daughter (2008).
Cameos: The End of Time Part II (2010), The Magician's Apprentice (2015).
  • Peck and Gable were named after Hollywood legends Gregory Peck and Clark Gable.
  • Peck's death is one of the stupidest in the history of the series. If you want to kill a fish-like creature, you don't have it drown...

H is for... Harvest Rangers

Trying to give the Arwell children the best Christmas present ever - a trip to an alien planet which was covered in snowbound forests - the Doctor did not realise that the planet he had chosen was about to have its trees dissolved by acid. This was the work of a trio of Harvest Rangers from the planet Androzani Major - Droxil, Ven-Garr and Billis. They wore yellow armour, and travelled in a large bipedal machine known as a Harvester. An incompetent trio, their sensors couldn't differentiate weapons from natural fibres, and they easily fell for a trick by Madge Arwell, who was able to take them captive and tie them up in their own Harvester. They teleported themselves to safety, whilst Madge used the Harvester to help rescue her children.

Played by: Bill Bailey (Droxil), Paul Bazely (Ven-Garr) and Arabella Weir (Billis). Appearances: The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (2011).
  • A terrible waste of three great guest actors.
  • Weir had previously played, on audio, an alternative female Doctor. She had also once been David Tennant's landlady.
  • Bazely is best known for his recurring role as gay hairdresser Troy in the long-running ITV comedy series Benidorm. He has also appeared in a Star Wars film - playing one of General Hux's officers in The Last Jedi.

H is for... Hartman, Yvonne

Yvonne Hartman was the ruthlessly efficient director of Torchwood One, based in London's Docklands. A strange phenomenon had been discovered above the area, so Torchwood had commissioned the building of the Canary Wharf Tower to reach the anomaly and envelope it. The phenomenon was actually a rift in space / time, through which a spherical object appeared. Torchwood discovered that the rift could supply huge amounts of energy which they decided to harness. Each time the rift was opened, however, strange ghostly figures started to appear all over the planet - which everyone assumed to be the spirits of the dead.
Despite her ruthlessness, Hartman liked to think of herself as an enlightened leader, going so far as to memorise the first names of all her staff.
Torchwood had the capture of the Doctor as an on-going priority, as his involvement with Queen Victoria had inadvertently led to the organisations' creation. When he tried to interfere with one of the "ghost shifts", Hartman spotted the TARDIS on a CCTV camera, and realised that he would be coming to the Tower to investigate. She took him prisoner, and asked him to help identify the strange sphere, which was defying all analysis. He told her that it was a Void Ship - designed to survive in the regions between universes. She was adamant that the shifts should continue, as the rift could free Britain from dependence on foreign oil imports, but the Doctor managed to convince her that to do so would break down the barrier between dimensions. An advance party of Cybermen took over the shift operations through converted staff members, allowing all the ghosts to fully materialise as Cybermen.
This coincided with the Void Ship opening to disgorge the Dalek Cult of Skaro.
Hartman was taken to be converted into a Cyberman. Such was her sense of patriotism and loyalty to Torchwood, she resisted mental conditioning and turned on her own new kind, helping destroy a number of Cybermen and giving the Doctor time to prepare his plan to send all the Cybermen and Daleks back in to the Void.

Played by: Tracy-Ann Oberman. Appearances: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006).
  • Oberman had just come off a long run of Eastenders, where she had played Chrissie, the second wife of "Dirty Den" Watts (Leslie Grantham). She murdered her husband in the soap's 20th anniversary episode.
  • A fan of the series, Oberman has described her appearance in Doctor Who as a career highlight.

H is for... Hartigan, Miss

Miss Mercy Hartigan was the cruel and sadistic matron of St Joseph's workhouse in London, 1851.  She had encountered a group of Cybermen who had escaped from the Void and were stranded in the city. She agreed to help them in return for personal power. She helped arrange the killing of the Rev Aubrey Fairchild, so that all of the local workhouse superintendents would gather together for the funeral. Miss Hartigan shocked the assembled mourners by turning up at the graveside in a scarlet dress. It was not just the attire which shocked, as women were not permitted to attend burials at this time. A squad of Cybermen, accompanied by Cybershades, attacked the mourners. Everyone was killed apart from the workhouse supervisors. They were placed under the mental control of the Cybermen, who wanted their young charges as slave labour to complete their Cyberking - a huge Cyberman-shaped dreadnought, with a conversion facility in its body.

Miss Hartigan was shocked to learn that she was to become enslaved to the Cyberking as its controller, but her mind was so strong that she rebelled against their conditioning. She destroyed the Cyber-Leader and took control of the Cyberking - intent of wreaking her revenge on patriarchal Victorian society. The Doctor took to the air in a hot air balloon and used an infostamp to break her mental link to the other Cybermen. Horrified at what she had become, she destroyed them along with herself, whilst the Doctor transported the Cyberking into the Void.

Played by: Dervla Kirwan. Appearances: The Next Doctor (2008).
  • Russell T Davies later stated that Miss Hartigan had been the victim of sexual abuse, which is why she hated men so much. As this was a Christmas Special, he decided not to make any overt reference to this.
  • Kirwan first came to fame playing the character Assumpta Fitzgerald in the BBC comedy drama Ballykissangel. She portrayed the same character in cameos in two other series - The Vicar of Dibley and Father Ted.
  • She wore black contact lenses when playing the Cyberking, but they did not fit very well, so CGI had to be used to black out her eyes completely.

H is for... Hart, Captain John (2)

Captain John was once, like Captain Jack Harkness, a member of the Time Agency, originating in the 51st Century. He and Jack were friends once, even becoming lovers for a time, before something happened to ruin their relationship. They became enemies, though never forgot the bond which used to exist between them.
Jack had not seen John since finding himself stranded on Earth and joining Torchwood. However, just after he had rejoined his team in Cardiff after his encounter with the Doctor and Martha Jones, Jack received a hologram message from John to say that he was in the city. The team had just investigated the death of a mugger, who had fallen from the top of a multi-storey car park. A fissure in the Rift had opened here a short time ago - which is how John got here. It was he who had killed the mugger. John invited Jack to meet him at a bar where, after a fist fight, they kissed and had a drink. At the Hub John explained that he had come to prevent a disaster in the city, as a umber of powerful bombs had been planted. The team split up to find them, but this was a ruse by John to separate them. he left Gwen incapacitated in a cargo container at the docks, shot and wounded Owen, and pushed Jack to his death from the roof of an office block. The bombs were actually components of an alien device which would lead John to a fabulous jewel. However, his deceased partner in crime (whom he had killed) had set a trap for him. Instead of providing him with the jewel, an explosive device was created which attached itself to his chest. He was shocked when Jack reappeared unscathed and learned of his immortality.
John took Gwen hostage at the point where the Rift had previously opened, as Jack intended to push him through before the device exploded. The device was coded to his genetic make-up, so Owen injected him with all of the team's blood to confuse the device. It detached itself and was thrown into the Rift before it could cause any damage. Before leaving, John told Jack that he had found his missing, presumed dead, brother Gray.
Some time later John lured the team into another trap - a derelict building rigged with explosives.
On escaping, Jack was confronted by a hologram of John who had Gray with him. It appeared that John was holding Gray captive, but this was not the case. Gray wanted revenge on his brother for abandoning him to cruel alien abductors as a child, and he controlled John through another device attached to his body. John was forced to help Gray bury Jack alive in the Cardiff of 27 AD. John threw a tracking beacon into the grave, allowing the Torchwood team of 1901 to locate him and dig him up. Jack later managed to overpower Gray and had him placed in cryogenic suspension in the Hub. John tried to argue that he would be just as hell bent on revenge if released in a hundred years, and suggested it would be best to kill him, but Jack refused to do this.

Played by: James Marsters. Appearances: TW 2.1 Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang & TW 2.13 Exit Wounds (2008).
  • Marsters is best known for playing the vampire Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel.
  • He also played recurring villain Brainiac in Smallville.

Friday 10 April 2020

Inspirations- The King's Demons

As we've previously mentioned, production on Doctor Who's 20th Anniversary season had not gone smoothly. Terminus had suffered from strike action and the need for overruns, and a decision was made to stage a remount after an overrun was cancelled at the last minute. This had a knock on effect for the remainder of the season. Some cast members who had rehearsed Enlightenment were no longer available for the rearranged studio dates and had to pull out.
One of the main problems faced by JNT and Eric Saward was the trilogy structure of these middle stories. There was no leeway to drop one of these in favour of a story from later in the season. They had to be completed in order for the trilogy to work.
The season was to have ended with a Dalek story - only to be expected in an anniversary year. Davros would also be returning, played once again by his original performer Michael Wisher. Peter Grimwade would direct, from a script by Saward written in a gap between contracts.
The knock on effect from the problems with Terminus meant that the Dalek story would have to be shelved for now, moved to the following season.
Which is why the 20th Anniversary season actually limps to its conclusion with a rather inconsequential two part pseudo-historical featuring the Master, and introducing problematic new companion Kamelion.

At the start of production on the season JNT had not deliberately set out to have it feature an element from the series' history in every story. It was merely a coincidence that we had Omega, then the Mara, then the Black Guardian, Master, and Daleks. This coincidence was commented upon by the series' unofficial continuity adviser Ian Levine, and JNT then used this in publicity as though it had been the plan all along.
The King's Demons is written by Terence Dudley, who had previously directed Meglos, then written A Girl's Best Friend and Black Orchid, the last two part story. He was an old friend of JNT, but Saward didn't care for his work at all.
The story features not only a real historical figure, King John, but a famous historical event - the signing of Magna Carta in 1215. Of course, it will transpire that it isn't the real King John at all, but Kamelion impersonating him at the Master's bidding.
John ascended to the throne in 1199 on the death of his older brother Richard (the Lionheart). In popular culture, John is best known from the Robin Hood legends. Left behind to look after the country in Richard's absence, on Crusade, he is usually portrayed as scheming to keep the throne for himself. There is a reference to this in the 1965 story The Crusade.

John is generally regarded as one of the "Bad Kings" in that his reign was characterised by constant strife both at home and abroad. He managed to lose most of Richard's territories in France, and fought against a series of rebellions with his own barons - which is the background to the signing of Magna Carta. He was actually a very good administrator, but had a reputation for petty mindedness and cruelty. He was also regarded as a godless man - prone to blasphemous remarks, not taking communion and doubting church doctrine. He is famous for losing the Crown Jewels, when a cart they were being transported on sank into the tidal mud of the Wash estuary.
Magna Carta - "Big Charter" - was forced upon John by the barons in June 1215 after a particularly disastrous campaign in France. The events of The King's Demons take place in March of that year, and the Doctor is suspicious because he knows that this is when John ought to be in London preparing to take the Crusader cross.
Magna Carta laid out a number of restrictions to the King's powers, devolving some of these to the barons. It is generally claimed to be the foundation stone of later parliamentary democracy - globally, as many nations used the British parliament as a model.
The Master's plan is to interfere with the signing (or sealing) of Magna Carta. It isn't specified if he intends that it never happens, or of he plans to alter it in some way. Kamelion is impersonating the King, not replacing him, which would be of more use to the Master. The Doctor claims that, even for him, this is relatively minor meddling. This is perfectly true, if we consider that the Master has previously attempted to hold the entire universe to ransom, and to have tried to make a pact with the Devil.
Once again the Master has a pointless disguise - as he isn't to know that the Doctor is going to turn up. He is playing a French knight named Sir Gilles Estram. Anthony Ainley was billed as "James Stoker" - an anagram of Master's Joke - to conceal his involvement in the story.

One of the first things JNT had decided on taking over as producer was the removal of K9. It was too clever, too useful, and the prop rarely ever worked properly - leading to all sorts of delays in studio. It was a surprise then to find him considering the inclusion of a real robot in the show as a potential on-going companion character. The robot's inventors had created it for use in advertising, but few offers had come in for its use. Having invested a lot of time and money, they decided to see if it could be used in film and TV and so sent brochures out to the BBC and other companies. JNT and Saward went to have a look at it and the former was impressed. he agreed to give it a role, so long as the promised upgrades were done. It could only speak in synch with a pre-recorded audio-tape and could not walk. Sadly, the robot's programmer was then killed in a boating accident, so none of the refinements were carried out by the time it came to have Kamelion in studio. What it was able to do wasn't even very good, and the prop proved to be even less reliable than poor old K9 had been.
Having committed himself, and seeing some publicity value in having it in this story, JNT then asked Saward to have it written out again as quickly as possible, and it is believed that it may have been intended to destroy it in the abandoned Dalek story that was to follow.
As it was, it would simply be forgotten about in the next two stories, with just a brief cameo in The Awakening, then forgotten about for another two stories before finally reappearing to be written out.
The cameo was recorded, but never broadcast, so Kamelion doesn't even get a mention for five consecutive stories between arrival and departure.
Clearly JNT and Saward missed a trick here, as they could have had the robot prop appear only very briefly in a static pose before transforming itself to look like a human guest actor for the rest of a story.
Next time: (nearly) everyone's back for the big anniversary special...